§ 2. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,410,955, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, in substitution for payments due from the Government of the Irish Free State."
§ First Resolution agreed to.
§ Second Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed," That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
The Government do not usually like presenting Supplementary Estimates, and they present this one with even greater regret than usual. It is made necessary because of the default of the Irish Free State Government under a number of heads. I should like to say immediately that the Government feel deeply sorry at the state of affairs which exists between the Irish Free State and ourselves, especially after the high hopes, which, I think, we all entertained, that the foundation had been laid for far happier relations during recent years. We desire nothing but complete friendship with the people of the Irish Free State. We remember that they are not only citizens of a great self-governing Dominion, but that they themselves have been a parent stock of the population in other Dominions. They, too, are a mother country, and we are anxious that a satisfactory and fair settlement of the present disputes should be reached at the earliest possible moment. It may be a controversial subject, but, at any rate, I would claim that the Government have shown a conciliatory spirit throughout the matter. I do not intend to cover the ground again here, but my right hon. Friend has a certain reputation as a negotiator. He is always doing his best to get a reasonable settlement, and I think that he has maintained that reputation in this instance. I repeat, that the Government are anxious to get a satis- 974 factory settlement of these matters as soon as possible, not simply because difficulties like these are troublesome, and not simply because some of the economic consequences are unfortunate, but also because any disturbance of the good relations between the people and the Government of the Irish Free State and ourselves is a matter of deep concern to every Member of this House.
This Estimate is in order to meet deficiencies in certain funds as a result of the default of the Irish Free State. It is divided into three sub-heads, the first of which is "Land Purchase." The Estimate is to provide, the sums necessary in order to repay advances which have already been made and to provide for further payments which will be necessary to meet deficiencies in the income of the Land Purchase Fund. Hon. Members will see that there is a difference between the sum which is to be provided and the total amount due from the Irish Free State. The sum to be provided under this Estimate is £2,288,000, whereas the total sum due under the head of "Land Purchase" from the Irish Free State amounts to £2,966,000. The explanation of the difference in those figures is that the liability of the Consolidated Fund is to a certain extent limited. The details are set out in page 5 of the Supplementary Estimate, but I will say a word or two upon each of those details in explanation.
In the first place, as regards the Act of 1891, which was amended in 1896, the liability of the Treasury extends to making up any insufficiencies in the fund to meet dividends and sinking fund payments to the extent of 1 per cent., but in addition, under the Act as it was amended, the tenant purchasers have been paying an additional quarter per cent. which goes to the repayment of capital, but that additional quarter per cent. is not guaranteed in the same way. Under the Acts of 1903 and 1909 the liability of our fund only extends to meeting any insufficiency in the payment of dvidends. It does not extend to sinking fund payments in those two cases. Thirdly, under the Acts of 1903 and 1909, the National Debt Commissioners have authority to invest sinking fund moneys in further advances to purchasers, and the Treasury is advised that they have no liability to meet the interest on those 975 cash loans. Finally, there is a small sum of another £2,000. The Land Purchase Funds have certain small amounts of working capital which earn interest, and that sum also has to be taken into account in calculating the total deficiency. That is the explanation, in brief, of the difference between the sum which we are seeking to provide, and the total sum which is due from the Irish Free State under the item "Land Purchase." I would draw the, attention of the House to the paragraph which says:The fact that these sums are excluded from the amount provided in the Estimate does not, however, in any way affect the liability of the Irish Free State Government to pay over the whole amount … of the Land Purchase Annuities due.There is a second sub-head which is described as "Annuities under Certain Acts," and those Acts are set out in page 4—The Public Offices Sites (Dublin) Act, 1903, and so on. It is necessary in this Estimate to provide for the total sum which is due from the Irish Free State under the sub-head. Finally, the third sub-head is described as "Appropriations in Aid of Civil and Revenue Votes," and the two principal items there are the cost of Royal Irish Constabulary and ether pensions, and the sum required to meet what used to be the Irish Free State contribution towards the payment of interest and sinking fund on Bonus and Excess Stock under the Land Purchase Acts. The House will see, on page 5, that a sum of £247,554 has been received from the Irish Free State during this year under that head. Molt of that is made up by two months' payment in respect of Irish Constabulary pensions which was made at the beginning of the financial year. In addition to that sum, which lightens the deficiency, the House will see that on page 4 there is a list of "Anticipated savings on other Sub-heads of the Vote concerned," and as a result of those two sets of figures we can reduce the amount which is necessary under the third sub-head to £1,103,652. To sum up the position, the Supplementary Estimate will provide for approximately £3,411,000, as against a total sum due from the Irish Free State under those heads of £4,113,000.
The House will remember that the holders of Irish Loan Stock were paid when payment was due, and, of course, 976 the other payments have been met, but the Government were anxious that the burden of those payments should not fall upon the taxpayers of this country. They were anxious that, at any rate, as much of the burden as possible should be saved to the taxpayers of this country, and therefore we asked the House to pass the Irish Free State (Special Duties) Act, the purpose of which was to raise revenue on certain imports into this country with a view to meeting those payments. In addition to the sum which has been raised under the Special Duties Act must be added the sum raised upon Irish imports under the Import Duties Act since 15th November. The total sum raised in respect of both of those Acts up to 10th December was £1,357,160, and the Customs estimate of the yield to the end of the financial year—though naturally the estimate is of a very rough nature because the experience of these duties has not been a very long one. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."] In reply to the interjections perhaps I may say that the figure apparently already exceeds some of the expectations of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. The calculation, rough as it is, is that something in the neighbourhood of £2,500,000 will have been gathered by the end of the financial year.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Can the hon. Gentleman say by how much the £2,500,000 is less than the amount of the indebtedness of the Irish Free State? Is it not, roughly speaking, about £2,000,000?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
As far as the subheads of this Estimate are concerned, the figure, if it proves correct, will fall short of the Irish Free State State dues by something like £1,500,000. That is the reason for the Supplementary Estimate, and I hope that the House will give it to the Government to-night.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.- Colonel Moore - Brabazon) upon the effect of his speech at the close of the last Debate on the Irish Import Duties in the fact that he has brought up the Under-Secretary, who has moved so delightfully the Supplementary Estimate on this occasion. I regret equally with the hon Gentleman the necessity for the Supplementary Estimate. It is a large sum of money—£3,411,000—which we are asking 977 the British taxpayer to pay in order to meet the so-called deficiency payments to the Irish Free State, although we have been told in each Debate that has taken place up to now that the British taxpayer would not be asked to pay a penny. That has been said emphatically by the Secretary of State for the Dominions on each occasion we have discussed the question of the Irish Free State and its payments. Among the many blunders of the Government, this is one of the most ridiculous and the least defensible we have had. The Government have never attempted to negotiate this business to a settlement. From the very beginning there was nothing in the nature of negotiations, as the Secretary of State and I understand negotiations, and whatever reputation he had—and I have admitted his reputation in negotiation—he has lost it in what took place with regard to the Irish Free State and its deficiencies.
This matter was undertaken by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, and another Member of the Government. I wonder sometimes how far the Secretary of State for the Dominions was able to have his own way in the business. I have repeatedly admitted his ability as a negotiator. I have always understood that he had a reputation in the trade union movement for wanting peace and avoiding war, but either he or someone else has never sought peace in this matter. They have brought about an economic war. Sometimes I feel that it is other Members of the Government who are more responsible than the right hon. Gentleman. We have had experience of some of the lawyers in the Government. There is one lawyer who is flying every other day to Geneva and back, who has lost the prestige and reputation of this country in foreign affairs. There is another lawyer who went to Dublin, the right hon. noble Lord the Secretary of State for War. We all remember that a few years ago he gave advice on another Irish question which cost this country a tremendous sum of money. I doubt the judgment of some of these men, and I feel that they have had a hand in the business.
There were no negotiations. Immediately almost, without attempting to settle the matter, although the British Government admitted that there was a dispute and were prepared to go to 978 arbitration, and although the Irish Free State Government were prepared to go to arbitration, there was legislation. When it came down to that point, I suggest that it would have been wisdom on the part of the British Government to have accepted the suggestion of Mr. de Valera. I have said on other occasions that I would have accepted his suggestion, because I have never doubted that we had justice on our side. I would have immediately accepted the offer to go to arbitration that was made by Mr. de Valera when this matter was partially negotiated.
§ Mr. LUNN
I have said all the time that I would have taken the offer of Mr. de Valera, although I would prefer an Empire tribunal, if it were possible. But there is no Empire tribunal set up. There has never been any agreement for an Empire tribunal. That has never been agreed upon. Therefore, I would not have allowed Mr. de Valera to have any reason for suggesting independence or separation from the Empire on this particular issue. I would have accepted his suggestion for arbitration, because I believe, as the Secretary of State for the Dominions believes, in the justice of our claim in regard to these financial matters.
§ Mr. LUNN
Upon the question of the Annuities. The right hon. Gentleman knows my views upon that matter. What happened? Without very much discussion, with very little negotiation, a Bill was presented to the House in order to impose Import Duties upon Irish produce. That Bill was carried through the House, after many days of discussion. That was a Bill which, perhaps, has caused greater bitterness and ill-feeling than most forms of legislation that have been brought before the House. The first Bill was not satisfactory. Therefore, on 8th November, the Secretary of State came forward with another Measure in order to double the duties that had 979 been enforced in July. Although I believe that other Members of the Government are at least equally responsible, the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs cannot escape responsibility for what has happened. He is in charge of this business and in charge of the Department. Therefore, whatever blame has to be placed upon an individual Member of the Government, it, naturally, has to be placed upon his shoulders. He has seen the consequences of this legislation all the time. On 8th November, when we debated the subject, it followed a Debate on unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman's first words, in introducing his proposal to double the import duties on Irish Free State produce, were:This is a subject which, it must be frankly admitted, does not tend to further employment.He visualised the position clearly. It has not meant more employment. It has meant diminished employment in this country. It has added to our unemployment, because the Irish Free State are not purchasing from us what they were purchasing before. In my own industry, the mining industry, we are suffering tremendously in certain areas through the loss of contracts as a result of the Government's policy. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:We would welcome any and every opportunity of negotiation to bring this unfortunate dispute to an end.The Under-Secretary of State has said the same thing, in so many words, to-night; that is, if we get our own way. That is what they mean. There is no question of negotiation, no question of meeting the other side. If we can drive home our own position, if we can have the way we desire and the arbitration we desire, then we are prepared to negotiate on those lines. Those are so many empty words. The right hon. Gentleman also said:We intend to take all the steps that are open to us to obtain what we believe is due to us.There was the peaceful mind, the sweet reasonableness, the anxiety for negotiation. We passed the legislation, and the result has not been what we were told it would be. We expected to receive £5,000,000 from the Irish Free State up to now, but we have received only £1,300,000. We were not going to ask for 980 one penny from the British taxpayer. To-day, the Government are asking for £3,500,000 from the British taxpayer to meet the deficiency. I suppose it was never anticipated by the Government, although it was stated by various speakers, that there would be reprisals and retaliation. There have been reprisals and retaliation, and a good deal of it. The Irish Free State Government have met the position so far as their own people are concerned. I understand to-day that there is no desire on the part of the Irish Free State Government to negotiate on Land Annuities. There is no desire on the part of the Irish people to go to arbitration. I also hear that the people of Ireland are better off economically than they were before. I see in the newspapers that the Irish peasants are getting better food than they were getting before. I also see that they have found markets for their butter in other countries, even if they cannot come here.
There is another important matter, and that is that while our railwaymen are fighting daily and hourly against a claim for a monstrous reduction in their standards of life, in the Irish Free State they have a truce, they have a peaceful settlement for their railwaymen for some time to come. Therefore, I suggest that it is not going to be an easy matter to secure a settlement from the Irish Free State Government. The point with which I am concerned is the point that I have made before. The Secretary of State for the Dominions said:the Government, having made up their minds definitely and clearly to say that the British taxpayer shall not bear this burden …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1932; cols. 263–269, Vol. 270.]I hope that he will be able to justify his action in coming here to-day and asking the British taxpayer to find this money. We have said before, and I say it now, that this business was bound to create bitterness, ill-feeling and hatred. I wonder what our own people will say regarding this claim for additional taxation in order to meet what, I suggest, has been a blunder on the part of the Government in not securing a settlement before they introduced legislation. There can be no peace in this matter until both sides meet. However that end is to be brought about, it must be brought about. That is the way that disputes are settled. The matter ought to be settled by arbi- 981 tration. While I would prefer an Empire Tribunal to settle the matter, I would not object to an international tribunal. I believe in the justice of our case, but I would have the matter arbitrated upon at the earliest possible moment, and I should like to see the Government attempting to bring that about. Expressing my personal feelings, I wish to see the Irish nation a part of the British Empire. I have no desire to sec it separate or independent, but I think we are seeking that ourselves in attempting to justify Mr. de Valera on this particular issue. I would point out also that there can be and there will be repercussions in various parts of the world. During the Debate on War Debts, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) said:as long as the ridiculous dispute with Ireland continues, I am sure that we shall be jeopardising our chances of convincing the American people that we are entitled to give up paying our debt to America."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1932; col 371, Vol. 273.]I agree with that statement. There is, I believe, a larger population of Irish people in America than in Ireland, and this dispute is bound to have its effect. Therefore, I urge upon the Secretary of State that the Government should take up a different position in regard to Ireland, that they should endeavour to secure peace, that they should endeavour to open negotiations with the Government of the Irish Free State. This bitterness, hatred and ill-feeling which now exist will continue until we negotiate a settlement. Therefore, I urge the necessity upon the right hon. Gentleman of taking steps towards a settlement. Instead of asking our people to meet this deficiency, he should seek a means of going to arbitration and seeing that this matter is settled satisfactorily, not only to us but to another part of the Empire, the Irish Free State.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
I congratulate the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) on one thing, and that is that he does admit the justice of our case. Other hon. Members below the Gangway do not admit the justice of our case, and while there may be good reasons why the constituents of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) should be taxed for the benefit of the Irish Free State people, I hope his con- 982 stituents will take note of his attitude. I do not want to impose any further taxation on the people of this country in connection with this matter, and I am convinced that the Government have gone the best way to avoid it. The hon. Member for Rothwell, in this matter, takes the side of Mr. de Valera and is encouraging him to hold out. He admits the justice of our case and supports an Empire tribunal, but just because Mr. de Valera is holding out against the National Government the hon. Member supports him. I will not argue again the question of the legality of the agreements. That is admitted by almost everyone perhaps with the exception of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), who still contends that these agreements are not binding.
§ Major HILLS
The hon. Member for Bridgeton and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) of course think that these agreements are not legally binding. The hon. Member for Rothwell takes a more reasonable and a more national view of the situation and considers the interests of our own people more than hon. Members below the Gangway. Why are 'we wrong in this matter? Where has the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs gone wrong He is an able negotiator. He started with no prejudices against Mr. de Valera, but he met a gentleman with whom a settlement was impossible. Anyone who reads this document and realises all the excessive claims which have been raised by Mr. de Valera must recognise that a settlement with that gentleman was impossible. The right hon. Gentleman has gone as far as he possibly could. After all, you are not always obliged to arbitrate a claim in which you are clearly in the right; you can insist on payment. You arbitrate a doubtful claim, but where you are clearly in the right, where all the world acknowledges that you are in the right, there is no room for arbitration. The right hon. Gentleman has, however, waived all that and has agreed to arbitration. The whole matter between us is whether it should be an Empire tribunal or any outside court or arbitrator, or any other outside body. I support the action of the Dominions 983 Secretary. He is right, and he has behind him the great body of opinion in this country. His position is in line with the best opinion of international jurists, that all inter-Imperial disputes should be settled within the Empire. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol East (Sir S. Cripps) shakes his head. The late Lord Phillimore, who was not a member of the Conservative party but a great lawyer and a great international lawyer, told me more than once that he would never agree to a dispute between Empire members going to the Hague Court or to any foreign tribunal.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I shook my head against the proposition that it was a matter of international law. There is no international law upon it. It was Lord Phillimore's opinion.
§ Major HILLS
I quoted the opinion of a great international lawyer as bearing upon an inter-Imperial dispute. Mr. de Valera is trying to treat this matter as an international question. It is not an international question: it is an inter-Imperial question. The hon. Member for Rothwell complains that the action of this country has created bitterness. Debt collecting is always a bitter matter. No one likes to pay up, and in this case the one who is paying up feels it very sorely. But somebody must pay up, and it is either those who are so fortunate or unfortunate as to live under the rule of Mr. de Valera or it is my constituents and the constituents of other hon. Members. It may have created some bitterness, but I should feel far more bitter if the whole of the burden was to be put on the taxpayers of this country. I want to get as much as I can, and I hope that we shall in time collect the whole of the amount. Hon. Members opposite do not support the collection of the money in this way. They object to the charge being made on the British taxpayer and yet boggle at the means which the Government propose for collecting part of the charge. If we carry out their views to their logical conclusion, the whole of this charge will be cast on the taxpayers of this country. I want to collect as much as I can, and I hope we shall be able to collect more when a more reasonable attitude prevails on the other side of St. George's Channel. I do not rule out 984 that probability, but until that time comes I do not see how we can do other than try to save the pockets of the British taxpayers as far as possible. The right hon. Gentleman has gone to the limit of concession. He should go no further. I support the Government in the action that they have taken
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
It must be agreed that the present state of affairs is deplorable and everyone would like to see it brought to an end as soon as possible. The way in which this dispute has arisen is well known to the whole world. We were surprised when Mr. de Valera declared his intention of defaulting on the land annuities, and the hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East (Sir S. Cripps) is unfair to the Dominion Secretary when he says that he has made no efforts in the direction of arbitration or negotiation. The whole House has admired the Secretary of State for the Dominions for the efforts he has made. There has been no attempt to stand on dignity. He has made every effort to get this matter settled in a reasonable manner. I am glad that the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) has declared his preference for an Empire tribunal, and the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) has given some reasons why an Empire tribunal should settle inter Empire disputes. There is still another reason. We should always bear in mind the implications which would follow from a resort to a tribunal outside the Empire, the effect it would have on other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It would be difficult for one part of the British Commonwealth of Nations engaged in a dispute to suggest going outside the Empire to some foreign tribunal without considering the result such a move would have on the other members of the Commonwealth.
Mr. de Valera has definitely and deliberately chosen his own policy. We regret that it is a policy which rather tends to estrangement and bitterness. It has been said already that the dispute has led to bitterness. I am thankful that on this side of the channel there is very little bitternesss. The people of this country have treated the matter with remarkable restraint, have kept their heads, not given way to passion on a matter where passions might easily be 985 aroused. The proof of that is that at the present moment there is just as much willingness to settle by arbitration or negotiation as there was when the dispute began. When parties to a dispute really want to come to an agreement some accommodation can always be found, but when you have a dispute in which one of the parties is not willing to come to an agreement you very often find that the first cause of the dispute is enlarged and other matters brought in, whereas if there is a real intention to come to an agreement the desire is always to narrow down the points in dispute rather than enlarge them.
That is what has taken place in connection with this dispute. Matters have been brought in which are quite outside the original cause of the difference between Ireland and ourselves. Still there is a readiness to respond to any move on the part of the Irish Free State, to negotiate matters which can be negotiated and to arbitrate matters which can be arbitrated. I am not referring to questions which are really outside any arbitration or negotiation, questions which are matters of history, such as the over-taxation of Ireland in years gone by. These have been brought into the dispute, although they are quite foreign to the. original dispute. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. M. MacDonald) said that we all hoped after the Treaty that better times were coming, that better relatons would exist between Ireland and ourselves, that old memories would recede further into the background. It is a matter of great regret to us on this side of the Channel that this dispute should have occurred. In all our political history I suppose that no political party has done more, or has worked harder and made greater sacrifices in the cause of Ireland, than the party to which I have the honour to belong. I may, therefore, more freely say that we have seen as history has unfolded itself step by step in this dispute, that something in the nature of the action taken by the Government was inevitable. We have approved of that action, very distasteful as it was to us. In these circumstances I really feel that there is very little to be said now, except so far as we can send a message to Ireland that we have no bitterness on this side and that we are perfectly willing, as we were at the start, to arbitrate and negotiate as reasonable 986 men, and that we will wait patiently and hopefully for a response from the Irish people.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I regret that the Parliamentary Secretary, instead of the Secretary of State, opened this discussion. The Parliamentary Secretary placed the matter before the House in a competent and purely business way. He cut out from his speech all those delightful homilies we have had on previous occasions when this matter was before the House, about the sanctity of treaties, and how business arrangements once entered into must be maintained for ever and ever; that a word once given must be kept for ever and ever, etc., etc. Perhaps these may come at a later date in the course of the discussion. I must say I come to my contribution to the discussion with less enthusiasm than would have been the case if I had been stimulated in advance by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions on the importance of honour and the keeping of promises. I have always treated the right hon. Gentleman's opinion as being of the highest importance. I miss it today. I am afraid I have got to ask him if he is satisfied with the results of his sermonising to myself, and to the Irish people.
I suppose the right hon. Gentleman was present in the Cabinet when the question of the American debt was under discussion. Some future generation in Parliament will demand the publication of papers on that discussion. I would like to have heard, or seen, the remarks of the Dominion Secretary on the American question. I am told, but there may be no truth in this, that the reason why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not being allowed to have the papers with reference to the 1923 discussion on the American Debt is because several of the Members of the Cabinet expressed themselves in somewhat frank and free terms. When it comes to frankness And freedom of expression I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions has no superior, and I would have liked to have known if his remarks on the American Debt question contained the same moral principles as he has enunciated here in dealing with 987 the Irish question. The American Debt has made a considerable difference in the situation. If the British Government can seriously consider the "bilking" of a debt of some £29,000,000 per annum, then we cannot stand on a very high pedestal and lecture the Irish people on defaulting on a debt of £3,000,000, particularly when the Irish people have something in the nature of a principle on which to stand—a principle which has been accepted and enunciated by the Irish people when they returned the Government of Mr. de Valera to power.
I have never entered into arguments on the relative merits of Empire and international tribunals. I have taken the view that the two matters of the Oath and the annuities were inextricably bound together. There is no possibility of submitting an oath to arbitration by any tribunal, and if the Oath question cannot be submitted to a tribunal the annuities question, which is intimately associated with it, cannot be submitted to a tribunal either. Obviously, it is just trickery for the British Government to talk about an Empire tribunal. What is the essence of the Irish Government's demand?—a democratically elected Irish Government. It is that it shall get rid of all symbols, bonds and debts which indicate that Ireland, in the eyes of the world, is in a status subordinate to Great Britain. That is the essence of the attitude on which Mr. de Valera was elected. He was to demonstrate in the eyes of the world that Ireland is not subordinate to Great Britain and is an equally independent and sovereign nation. He took these outstanding things—the symbol and the cash payments which indicated the subordinated position of Ireland to England. He said: "These are to cease from now henceforth." Then our Government came forward and said, "We are prepared to discuss these things; we are generous and open; we are prepared to go to a tribunal, but it must be an Empire tribunal," which is simply a reassertion of Ireland's subordinate place, that she has no right to stand as one of the nations of the world on an equal footing with England before an international tribunal.
The Government rushed at once to an international tribunal in the matter of their dispute with Persia. They recog- 988 nised Persia. Persia is not in the Empire. She is an independent sovereign country with equal rights to Great Britain in world affairs, and so they went to an international tribunal. But Ireland's status is somewhat lower and she must go to the tribunal to which you say she shall go. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) regards Mr. de Valera as not a man with whom you can negotiate on this matter. I think that is a very high tribute to Mr. de Valera. Mr. de Valera says, "No, I have no right to negotiate away the things that Ireland asked me to maintain." What we are discussing here to-day is a failure, from the practical point of view. Ireland says, "We will not pay," and England says, "We will make you pay." To-day the fact that the Government come forward with this Supplementary Estimate is the intimation to the world that we cannot make Ireland pay. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon suggested that my attitude was to make the British taxpayer pay. That is a matter for argument. It is really our nation which is paying this. Whether that be the true position, or not, the fact remains that the Government find that the duties are not collecting the amount.
§ Mr. MAXTON
They are falling very far short. I say frankly that my attitude would not be to make my constituents pay the interest on these Land Annuities. My attitude would be quite distinctly this: I would say to the people who hold the stock concerned, "We guaranteed you interest on these moneys on the basis of certain conditions. These are conditions which no longer exist. You have had your interest for a reasonable time, and you have done reasonably well out of it."
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
Mr. de Valera is collecting the annuities. Does he not admit that the annuities are due by the fact that he is collecting them?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I think Mr. de Valera is entitled to argue that the people who are using Irish land have a right to pay to the Irish State for the use of Irish land. That does not compel him to admit the duty of Ireland to pay rent to foreign 989 bondholders. I was in the middle of stating what my attitude would be. I said I would intimate to these bondholders that the conditions under which they were guaranteed their interest and that money are now changed, and that the British Government must intimate to them that it could no longer be responsible for the payment of that interest. I see one or two of my hon. Friends shaking their heads as if that was an impossible position. The great characteristic of the present state of society in which we are living is that, if we are to carry on at all, there must be repudiation and cancellation of bargains made some years ago. A trivial one like this is merely a drop in the general bucket of repudiation and cancellation.
Behind it all there is the long-drawn-out history of antagonism towards Ireland. I have been reading with very great interest and some pleasure in the last two days a very interesting book called "Ireland for Ever" by a gentleman called General Crozier, who played a not unimportant part in the happenings in Ulster and Ireland generally in the period when the Irish trouble was at its height. He shows very clearly in that book, writing from the Imperialist point of view, how ill-feeling has been fostered over the years, between this country and Ireland, that always this House, in response to Irish agitation, was prepared to do things for Ireland, to grant them this and to make the other concession, but was never prepared to give Ireland the one thing that it wanted, recognition as an independent nation. Over the years there has been a long series of mistakes and troubles and quarrels and shootings and debts, all because we believed that as a nation we could beat an unwilling nation into voluntary and hearty cooperation with this country. You do not get hearty co-operation between two nations by methods of coercion. You cannot possibly get it by methods of coercion, whether those methods are physical force methods or economic warfare. We tried physical force methods and they failed. Ireland beat us.
Ireland could not be forced into surrender by the most coercive measures that we could bring against her. The Government are finding it impossible to coerce her now by economic methods. The first blows of the tariff duties were a stag- 990 gering blow to Irish agriculture, but the Dominions Secretary knows that Ireland has rallied from the blow, that she is reorganising her economic life in a very capable and probably successful way, reorganising it on the assumption that she can have a complete economic life without dependence on this country. She is going to win out, and she will make herself a self-sufficing economic unit. Why cannot this House recognise the logic of the facts and say, "All right. We have struggled for hundreds of years to coerce Ireland by one way and another, but we have failed and we are failing now." At first it was a 20 per cent. duty that was to do the trick. Then the duty was increased to 40 per cent., but with the 40 per cent. duty the Dominions Secretary has to come to us and tell us that that is not enough, and that he will have to get something additional out of the Exchequer.
Why cannot he admit defeat now? He cannot collect the money by economic devices. The public opinion of the world would not allow him to attempt to collect it by forcible methods. Why cannot he say to Ireland, "We recognise you as an independent nation, and we are prepared now to enter into discussion with you, to give you the fullest recognition and status that you can possibly want?" Once that is done I believe that you can open up a new era in the history of the relationship between Ireland and this country. Until you have granted the Irish people the one thing that they want, your relations will be one continued story of complications, difficulty and ill-feeling. I urge the Dominions Secretary to alter his policy, to get away from the idea that he is the big strong man representing the big strong Government of a big strong nation that can impose its will on a small people, and to make up his mind that numbers and strength, financial or numerical, cannot achieve anything. The one thing they cannot achieve is destruction of the spirit of nationality in the breasts of people who really believe in it.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE
There are one or two points in the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) to which I wish to refer. His argument might apply if the Irish Free State were not in the British Empire, but I would remind 991 him that the Free State is still a part of the Empire, and that the rest of the Empire expects the Free State to behave as a member of that Empire. The hon. Member repeatedly used the expression, "The Irish people." Let me remind him that there is Ulster. At the last election Mr. Cosgrave, who governed Ireland for 10 years and observed the Treaty and acknowledged that the annuities were a lawful debt to the taxpayers of this country, obtained very nearly as many votes as Mr. de Valera. In speaking of the Irish people, the hon. Member must remember that fact also. It is true that there are very nearly as many supporters of Mr. Cosgrave as of Mr. de Valera, and those supporters are anxious and willing to continue to be members of the British Empire, and to meet their just liabilities to this country.
Mr. de Valera gives away his case by collecting these annuities. He admits they are legally due to someone. To whom are they due? To the British taxpayer who advanced the money in order that the Irish tenant farmer might obtain his land on cheap and easy terms. It is that generous treatment by this country that Mr. de Valera and his followers are trying to ignore. We must also remember that while Mr. de Valera's aim is not to remain in the British Empire but to declare the Free State a republic, at the same time he wishes to retain the advantages of being in the Empire. We know that under the Statute of Westminster the Free State has the power to become an independent State. Why should the hon. Member for Bridgeton urge with so much passion that we should grant to the Irish Free State the power to become an independent country? It has the power under the Statute of Westminster. Why try to knock at an open door?
My hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) made a statement with which I cannot agree. He spoke of the Liberal party as having done more for Ireland than any other party. I would remind him that in 1906, after a long period of Conservative rule in Ireland, the Liberal Chief Secretary for Ireland said that Ireland was never so peaceful or prosperous as in 1906. For 10 years the Liberal party ruled Ireland, and at the end of that time had to 992 send gunboats up the Liffey to batter down some of the buildings in Dublin. That was the result of 10 years of Liberal Government.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
If that is the way the hon. Member thinks that history is written I am afraid it will take too long to try to correct him.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
It was the phrase used by the hon. Member that reminded me of what occurred. But that is the past. We do not feel any bitterness, and why should we? We want to make a fair and generous settlement with Mr. de Valera. But, as my hon. Friend has said, it is impossible to make a bargain or an agreement with another party when that other party is determined not to make a bargain. We have heard on all sides that Mr. de Valera is impossible. One of the best speeches on this subject was made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), with whom we can seldom agree. It was his expression that Mr. de Valera was "impossible," and he knew well all the negotiations that have taken place with Mr. de Valera. There is nothing to be done now but to stand firm. We have an unanswerable case. My right hon. Friend the Dominion Secretary has shown the utmost patience, and I hope he will continue as he has done.
§ 7.25 p.m.
Before the Dominions Secretary replies I would like to offer a few observations and make a suggestion. I could not help noting that the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) in his speech said that the Irish people were doing well in agriculture, and that the Irish labourers were well paid and had improved their position. That hardly seems in consonance with the view that great bitterness has been aroused. This deficit which the British taxpayer has to meet is a very considerable one, and if it is a fact that the Irish people are reorganising themselves and doing well, I cannot see any reason why the Dominions Secretary or the Government should not increase the duty on Irish cattle coming into this country. There is a great difference between the wage, less than £1 a week, of the Irish labourer, and that of the British agricultural labourer. Therefore I do not think that an increased duty would be unjustified, 993 looked at from the point of view of British agriculture and the collection of the debt.
I beg pardon for having strayed from the path of order, but I thought that as this £3,000,000 was a very large sum one might offer a suggestion as to how the gulf might be bridged and a lesser sum be required from the British taxpayer. That is the only reason that makes me a little reluctant about this Vote, though I heartily support the attitude of the Dominions Secretary in the matter.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Colonel GRETTON
The history of this Irish question has always been the same. I have been in this House since the last century. We were told then by the Irish party that if we gave way in this respect and that, all would be well in Ireland. The Liberal party believed that story and adopted that view of the situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) wisely and properly remarked that the results of Liberal policy were seen in Ireland during the War when hostilities broke out in Dublin and elsewhere. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It cannot be denied. The Liberal Government were in office for a number of years and that was what happened. However, I do not wish to go into these matters now, but it is no good hon. Members raising the old arguments on that point such as we have heard this evening. The facts are there.
The Dominions Secretary who is mainly responsible for this Vote has been put into the same dilemma as others who have had to deal with Irish affairs. He has been almost subservient in his offers to negotiate so long as the negotiations could be consistent with the terms of the treaty. According to the treaty the Irish Free State, for the present at any rate, is one of the Dominions and has all the powers of a Dominion, but the present Government in the Irish Free State is not satisfied with that position. These circumstances do not seem to be appreciated by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). The Dail have passed an Act annulling Section 2 of the Irish Constitution Act—an Act which was the result of the treaty and embodies it— 994 and they have set on one side Commonwealth status. That Act of the Dail when it is no longer delayed by the constitutional action of the Senate will become effective. I think that will be in November, 1934, or rather less than a year hence, and Ireland will then be an independent country not bound by the treaty in any way.
To come back to the question of this Vote, what could the Dominions Secretary have done except what he has done? I think that he will be able to show to the House that the Imperial Conference in 1930 unanimously agreed that in any case of disagreement or difficulty arising between different parts of the Empire, an Empire tribunal should be set up to deal with that dispute or difficulty. That tribunal is to be constituted within the Empire and the Irish Free State representatives at that conference are not recorded as having made any opposition to that proposal. Mr. de Valera's Government know very well that the Dominions Secretary is bound by the resolution of the Imperial Conference and by the terms of the treaty, and he has in fact no legal right to accept any form of arbitration in connection with this question outside those terms. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in that respect.
I do not understand how the hon. Member for Bridgeton makes out that the Oath and the annuities are part of the same subject. The Oath has been done away with. It has been abolished by an Act of the Dail. I believe that Act is law at present; at any rate it is on the way to becoming law. But that has really nothing to do with this case, and no one wants to raise that question now. In this case we are dealing with a debt incurred under certain conditions and with the fulfilment of an obligation. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor said that it was a debt owing to the British taxpayer. Perhaps he forgets that this money was raised on the money market here for the special purpose of enabling Irish land to be handed over to the occupiers of that land in Ireland. The money is not owing to the British taxpayer but to those who subscribed the very large sum necessary to enable those occupiers to become freeholders.
The rights of landowners were taken from the previous owners and handed over 995 to the occupiers, who, when they completed their purchase agreements, became the owners of the 'arid and had all the rights of ownership, subject only to the payment of interest which was at a very low rate, and 1 per cent. as sinking fund. What is the attitude of Mr. de Valera towards this payment It is said that during the recent General Election in Ireland, in many districts candidates put forward to the occupiers of land the suggestion that if Mr. de Valera were elected they need no longer pay the annuities. It does not appear that Mr. de Valera ever said anything of that kind. What he said was that he would no longer pay the annuities to the British Government; that he would no longer collect these annuities for the benefit of those connected with the British Government but he is collecting them for the benefit of the Government in Dublin. What is happening now? The British Government guaranteed that very large sum for the purchase of Irish land. That guarantee goes on to-day, and it is in respect of that guarantee that the present position arises. We have to meet the guarantee, and that is the reason for this Vote.
I ask, again, what could the right hon. Gentleman the Dominions Secretary have done other than what he has done? If there is an attempt to place this charge upon the British taxpayer he is bound to resist it, and it is quite certain that Mr. de Valera's Government never had any serious intention either of making these payments or of negotiating. They have never shown any intention of seriously negotiating the matter or making a settlement. In the mood in which the Dominions Secretary was I am sure that he would have listened to any plea as to difficulties in making these payments owing to agricultural depression in Ireland. I am sure that he would have been willing to consent to something in the nature of a moratorium. But that was not the kind of plea made by the Government in Dublin. They took up a non possumus attitude. They did not want to pay and they would not pay and they only suggested arbitration of a kind which was unacceptable. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman was bound to do the best he could to collect as much of these payments as possible in 996 another form, and consequently the duties were charged.
We all regret that state of things. Those of us who have been familiar with Irish affairs now for many years have always regretted these disagreements and quarrels with Ireland, and it has not been from any wish of ours that they have taken place. Unfortunately, they have taken place and what has the right hon. Gentleman done in these circumstances He has collected nearly one-half or perhaps more than one-half of what is due and to that extent the British taxpayer will be relieved of this charge. I am not going into the kind of arguments raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton as to who pays the duty. In some circumstances no doubt it is possible to find cases where the duty is not paid by the importer, but I would point out that Mr. de Valera's Government in Dublin is giving bounties on cattle and other agricultural products sent over for sale in this country. These help payment to be made of the duties which are being collected, in lieu of the annuities which ought to have been paid. It is a very remarkable position, and I do not think that hon. Members or the Irish people quite realise what is happening in Dublin, but in the stress of circumstances that is the course which the Irish Free State Government have taken.
It is, as I say, most unfortunate that there should be this constant jarring and disputing in regard to these questions. We have always been told that the Irish people wanted amity with this country. They now have self-government and freedom which they formerly demanded. The period which is yet to run as regards these land annuities is some 30 years which is not very long yin the life of a nation. As to the other payments which are in question, they are on account of pensions and pensions are a terminable liability. These are all temporary and passing phases, and one would think that those in charge of Irish Free State affairs would look a little further ahead and take a broader view of this question in view of the fact that all these liabilities will come to an end within a comparatively short period. I do not know what hon. Members above the Gangway intended in the attack which they made upon the Dominions Secretary but I venture to think that that attack was quite ineffec- 997 tive. It had nothing to do with the facts of the case unless it is suggested that every demand which is made upon this country, whether right or wrong, reasonable or unreasonable, must be submitted to by us.
The remarkable circumstance in this case is that the Dominions Secretary is making more resistance than any British Minister has made for some years in connection with such matters. On more than one occasion representatives of the Irish Free State Government came over to London by invitation to negotiate and Mr. de Valera's representatives apparently expected to receive the surrender of British Ministers when they came here. That was what they had to become accustomed to. But the right hon. Gentleman is not giving way on this occasion. Nor can he give way, if he is to have regard for the interests of the British taxpayer. Much as I regret the situation which has arisen and the necessity for the action which has been taken, I think that the right hon. Gentleman, in circumstances created for him and created against his will, had no course to take other than that which he has taken. We shall have to support. him in passing this Vote and in the other action which he has taken to collect, as far as possible, the deficiency in these annuities.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I would like to make an appeal to the other side. We are blaming de Valera for his attitude in this matter, but let us remember that for 10 or a dozen years de Valera has put this view before the Irish people, at election after election, and at the last election they gave him power to take the stand that he has taken. De Valera has the people, or a majority of the people, behind him—certainly he has the biggest party—and we have to look upon him only as carrying out what he promised the people he would carry out. I am not agreeing with his attitude. I agree that these debts are honourable debts, and in ordinary circumstances they ought to be paid, but seeing that the Irish people have been led into their present position, I would appeal to the Government to consider whether they are acting wisely in taking the stand they have taken. The figures given by the Under-Secretary of State show the total yield to be £2,500,000, and there will still be a deficit of £1,500,000 998 if we get the full yield expected, so we are going to carry on this economic war for a, long long period, and instead of narrowing the gulf between us and getting better relations with Ireland, I can see it widening. If the Irish people are able to carve out their own destiny and leave us on one side, we shall lose not only our money, but the good feeling that we ought to expect from the Irish people.
I suggested on another occasion that although we were in the right, seeing that we were the more powerful nation, at least we could bend down graciously, and that we could, on the case that we have, allow it to go anywhere. I know very well that the understanding is that it ought to go to an Imperial tribunal, but seeing that we cannot get the other side to view it in that light, and everyone believing that we have an exceptionally good case, why cannot we say to de Valera, "Well, if you will insist upon it, though we know we are in the right, we are prepared to let it go anywhere, and to be judged by anyone." Then see how far he will go. In place of that we say, "No, we can force it by other means. We are the big powerful brother, and we are going to have it out of you." The Dominions Secretary, I believe, started with the belief that he could get the money in a short time, but events have proved him wrong. Is their anyone, in any, family or any assembly, who is not from time to time in the wrong? In this case, rather than go on as we are going on, creating further enmity with the Irish people, I would ask those on the Government side of the House, and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), who has just spoken, and who is always known as a Die-hard, at. least in his older days, not; to follow that policy which has been his guiding spirit all his life.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I should be sorry for the hon. Member to tell me what the guiding spirit of my life has been.
§ Mr. TINKER
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has always been known as belonging to the Die-hard group of Conservatives.
§ Mr. TINKER
Judging by the speech to-day of the right hon. and gallant Member, he has got the Die-hard spirit at the present time, and he is urging the 999 Dominions Secretary not to relax in the least, in spite of all the trouble, but to stick to it and get our pound of flesh. That is what I mean by the Die-hard spirit. But in social life you cannot follow out that kind of spirit. There are times when you have to give way, even though you are in the right. You have to say, "The other man is unreasonable, but I must bring him round by trying to persuade him that at least I am generous." The Government to-night, with their all-powerful majority, are in a position to show that spirit to the Irish people.
I am an Irishman, and I am conversant with the Irish feeling in this country, which is that de Valera is in the wrong. They think he ought to pay, but they also recognise the chaos we are in; and it would be a fine gesture to those people in this country if the Government would say, "We recognise the difficulty of getting this money by the methods we have hitherto adopted, and we are prepared to go anywhere." I know we are in the right, but at a time like this, when the world trouble is so great, we should do all we can to link with us the Irish people.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
We had to-day a very clear statement from the Under-Secretary of State, and it was very typical of the statements that we get from the Government on almost every subject. A Minister gets up and says, "Our affairs are in a terrible state, and the Government are following a certain course." They never offer us any hope that they are going to get anywhere. They have no remedy for the present conditions, but they intend going on in the same way. We have an example of that when we come to deal with unemployment, and we have a very emphatic example of it to-day. The Government to-day, through the mouth of the Under-Secretary of State, said, "We regret very much that we have to bring forward this Supplementary Estimate," and we agree with them in regretting it. The hon. Gentleman said he would not go into the past or deal with how the matter arose, but here was this trouble, and he was obliged to ask the House to vote this money, which is to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers; and with that he sat down. He 1000 made no suggestion that anything was going to happen in the future, and we understand that this tariff war is going to continue right the way along. I always understood that it was a kind of brilliant raid by the Dominions Secretary, but now it seems to be settling down into a sort of trench warfare, and trench warfare, of course, is extremely costly to those on both sides of No man's land.
I think the Dominions Secretary will realise the different atmosphere of the Debate to-day as compared with previous occasions. We have not had very much to-day about solemn treaties and obligations.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
There is no question about that. I am only drawing attention to the different atmosphere. When this question was discussed in November, the right hon. Gentleman said:Agreement having been made between representatives of two Governments, after days and weeks of negotiation, and solemnly ratified and proclaimed to the world as a final financial agreement, we had no reason to believe then, and we have no reason to assume now, that those agreements were not legally and morally binding."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1932; col. 266, Vol. 270.]That was repeated a great deal on the last occasion, but it is not repeated so much just now, because the whole attitude of people towards financial agreements solemnly ratified seems to have changed to a startling degree in the last month. We had responsible Conservative politicians talking in a remarkable way about the American debt settlement. On that settlement, a settlement made by representatives and solemnly ratified and proclaimed as a financial settlement, we have paid, it is true, but we paid with a reservation. We said, "This is the last payment of its kind, and the whole matter is to be opened up again." I warned the right hon. Gentleman that he was taking up a high line on this matter, and that, although this nation was a creditor as regards the Irish Free State, we were a debtor nation as regards the United States of America. We warned him that if he took that very high line, it might be awkward and that we might have to eat humble pie later. Now the right hon. Gentleman has his colleague coming down here and talking 1001 in a very different strain, and we had better realise that all over the world the question as to whether there should not be a review of agreements, however solemnly ratified, is being discussed and canvassed.
§ Mr. HOWARD
That is another matter. The Irish people did not ask for a review, but simply repudiated.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member has misrepresented what happened. The Irish people were willing to go to arbitration on the matter. I have followed this question very closely, and it is admitted on all sides that the issue is as to whether the matter should go before a Dominions tribunal or another tribunal.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member must follow this question more closely. There was a discussion the other day in this House in which the point was made by a right hon. Gentleman sitting near the hon. Member that we agreed too quickly to honour our obligations, and that France and Italy, by holding out longer, got better terms from the United States than we did. That has not been thought to be repudiation, but merely that they wanted to negotiate. We say that here is a matter for consideration and negotiation, and the sooner it is recognised that this Irish case is not a single case standing alone in a world where all the rest of the people are solemnly being bound by their obligations, the better. All over the world, and in other British Dominions besides the Irish Free State, you will find people claiming that, owing to the change in commodity values, they have a right to a revision of their agreements.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
It is curious that when debtor nations talk about a settlement, they always mean that their obligations should be ended. They say, "Let us have settlement," but you find that they really mean that they want to stop paying altogether. Whatever may be the hon. Member's ideas on repudiation, that attitude towards debts was not so obvious in this House on earlier occasions when we were discussing this Irish question; 1002 and, as a matter of fact, many hon. Members in this House would have been scandalised then at the suggestions with regard to international obligations which have been made by responsible people in this House and in the country generally, as well as in the Press, during the last few weeks. I think there is in this matter a certain degree of obstinacy, on the part, no doubt, of both Governments, and we want to know to-night whether we are going to stand pat on this question, whether we are going to have a continued obligation on the people of this country to pay this money, and whether we are going to have a continuation of the tariff war between the United Kingdom and Ireland.
In these matters we cannot stand still. A question which begins with a discussion on economic matters is apt to shift to political matters, and similarly questions which begin on the political side tend to go across to the economic, and we may find that if this economic trouble goes further we shall get a very serious political situation. The line which the Government have taken in this matter has been that put forward by the right hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), that is, that we must put these people in their place. The same line has been taken with regard to the Congress party in India, and it is not really a statesmanlike attitude. I noticed, by the way, that the right hon. and gallant Member repeated that there was an obligation to go to an Empire tribunal. I thought that that had been cleared up and that it was recognised now that there is nothing whatever in any agreement to prevent this country and the Irish Free State going to any tribunal that they choose.
We want to look at the actual effect upon the well-being of the people of this country and of the Irish Free State. The calculation was that the effect of these duties would be much more severe on the Free State than they have turned out to be. It was thought that the Irish Free State might find no markets at all for their produce. I understand that they have, and that they are, for instance, selling their butter in Belgium, Germany and France. The economic pressure has not been sufficiently great to swing public opinion away from Mr. de Valera. I imagine that that was the calculation of 1003 the Government, in taking this line. We never supposed that the right hon. Gentleman took this action as if he were putting the bailiffs in or as if he were taking the part of a debt collector. He wanted a settlement, and it was thought that economic pressure might bring it about, but it is clear that that is not happening. People who are well informed tell me that there is no swing away from Mr. de Valera at present. Other people now say that there is a swing towards him. However that may be, there is no effect of bringing the Irish Free State to its knees. Therefore, we are brought to a position when there does not appear to be any immediate likelihood of a solution or a settlement of this problem, and we want to know from the Government what the next move is.
A further point is the effect on our own trade. I should like the Dominions Secretary to give us some estimate of what our losses have been. We have heard of the losses sustained by our coal trade, and we know that the fall in our exports to the Irish Free State are somewhere in the region of £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 in October, 1932, as compared with 1931. It is now becoming abundantly plain that this method will not collect the debt. It may collect part of it, but when the House was asked to agree to these duties it was assured that the Government meant by their action definitely and clearly to say that the British taxpayer should not bear this burden. There is no sign that we are not going to share this burden, or that our share will not be a heavy part of the burden. We cannot tell exactly what proportions of these duties have been paid by the people of this country and the people in the Irish Free State, but leaving that out of account, and even supposing the whole of the duties have been paid on the Irish side, we are still left with a heavy burden of between £1,500,000 and £2,500,000. We want to know from the right hon. Gentleman how he will carry out his assurance. He was most emphatic. He said:Believing, as we do, that the British taxpayer should not be called upon to bear this liability, what other means are open to us than the course we have adopted? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1932; col. 271, Vol. 270.]1004 If the course which he has adopted has not worked, we are entitled to ask him what his policy is. I suggest that so far from matters having improved since the putting into force of his policy, they have got steadily worse. We shall get an increasing bitterness and an increasing estrangement between the two countries, and I want to know what the outcome is to be. There is a great deal of shortsightedness on the part of the Government in dealing with these matters. It is the same when they deal with the Indian question. A number of people will get up and say that they are going to take strong measures, and they claim a certain success up to a point, but they never go beyond that point. They never show what is going to happen next. It is exactly the same with their handling of the Irish Free State. They can put on duties like this and carry them on for a time. As we agree that we are going to work with the Indians in India, so, whatever happens, we cannot avoid living as next-door neighbours to the Irish Free State. It is not the part of a statesman merely to look forward to the next six months or the next year; he has to look ahead and see what the course of events is to be in the future.
We on this side have never suggested that Britain has not a good case in this matter. There is a good case for all the creditor countries all over the world. They have a very good case in law, honour and everything else, but the debtor countries say either that they cannot pay, or that they will not pay, or that, if they do pay, it will be too great a sacrifice for them. I do not think for a moment that in the modern world it is possible to isolate one particular case and say that, because of certain features of it, it is an inviolable bargain. We cannot say that we must have the letter of the bargain with the Irish Free State and at the same time ask on grounds of equity to be let off payment to the United States. It is not only a question of the American Debt. I believe that we shall have to deal very soon with the whole range of, not only War Debts, but of business obligations and long-term debts of every kind.
We may say that we consider that this country is a creditor rather than a debtor country, and that therefore we shall stand pat as a creditor country. I think that that is an extremely dangerous attitude 1005 for this country to take up, and it is not very likely that any of the great creditor countries will be able to stand against public opinion throughout the world in favour of the debtor countries. Therefore, we feel that this is a matter which should and might have been dealt with at an earlier stage. When the right hon. Gentleman comes before the House and brings us the first fruits of his policy, it is a demand for a Supplementary Estimate which contains within it the knowledge that the British taxpayer is to be called upon to pay a large amount, and we are entitled to ask him how long this is going on and what his policy is for the future. Is there any policy at all on the part of the Government other than a day-to-day business of trying to collect debts and breaking up the Empire?
§ 8.12 p.m.
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I do not want, by a long speech, to prevent the House coming to a decision, which I am sure they are ready to do. I want to answer the few questions which were directed to me during the Debate. I want immediately to correct my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) and the previous speaker, and to say that at no stage during the Irish Debate have I predicted or assumed or anticipated that we would obtain the full amount. It is not true, and I was most careful at the onset to say that we would obtain it if we could.
I could not have said it. What 1 did say, and what was made perfectly clear, is that we would take all the steps that we could to see that the British taxpayers were not called upon to meet the obligation.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
May I quote the right hon. Gentleman's actual words, because 1006 they are emphatic. In the Debate on 8th November, he said:… the Government having made up their minds definitely and clearly to say that the British taxpayer shall not bear this burden … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1932; col. 269, Vol. 270.]That is what the Government made up their minds to say, and it was their responsibility to take the necessary steps to obtain the amount.
I am quoting from the OFFICIAL REPORT in July, when I made it perfectly clear thatWe intend by this Bill to recoup it if we can."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July; 1932: col. 528, Vol. 268.]I followed that up in November by indicating that I was continuing that process. I am sure I should be misinterpreting the feeling of the House if I were to enter into any further discussion on that point. The Opposition have indicated clearly and definitely what their view is. The hon. Member for Rothwell says that, as a result of our policy, Ireland was never happier than now, and in order to emphasise it he drew attention to the position of the Irish railwaymen. I make no comment on that except to say that the OFFICIAL REPORT will indicate what he said. He knows much more about the Irish railway position than I do. At all events, he said the Irish labourer, the Irish railwayman and the Irish people in general are really having a good time as a result of our policy. Very well. If that be his position, why should we quarrel? Then the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) said that he had difficulty in appreciating the position because the people of this country will be called upon to pay. Lest this should be reported to the ordinary man in the street, I mean the working-man, the trade unionist, I merely indicate that a sum of £5,000,000 is owing to this country, and that in our judgment it is a debt which the British people should not be called upon to pay. Those who entered into an obligation have repudiated it, and we are taking the only steps open to us to see that the British people do not pay. The figures since I increased the duty justify the action which I took and show how wise I was. Hon. Members opposite said: "If you increase the duty, you will get less." Prior to the increase of the 1007 duty we received on an average £75,000 a. week. Since I increased the duty the average has been £120,000 a week. If they are complaining because I am obtaining more for the British taxpaper, then I am not in the least disturbed. That being the only point raised in this Debate, I am sure it would be unwise for me to prevent the House going to a Division, and I have no further comment.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I think I have seldom heard, on an important matter, a Minister of the Crown make a speech which is so contemptible. He is treating a subject-matter of the greatest gravity, between two nations, as one for indecent levity, and if he thinks this side of the House is going to be satisfied with such a reply be is gravely mistaken; and I, too, shall he gravely mistaken if his speech does not have a very adverse effect in Ireland to-morrow. He dealt with only one point—that of the £5,000,000 which is owed, and said the British people should not be called upon to pay. With that we agree. What is the actual position? The money is being put aside in a suspense fund in Ireland, awaiting the decision of an arbitration. If the right hon. Gentleman likes to accept an arbitral tribunal from outside the Empire, and is certain his case is just, lie can get the money to-morrow from Ireland. The reason why the money is not coming from Ireland, on the offer of Mr. de Valera, is because the right hon. Gentleman will not take the steps that are necessary to decide the justice of the case on one side or the other.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The answer would be, "Probably very little," if I answered that question. The question which has to be decided by the House sooner or later is a much more important one than that of the mere collection of a sum of money. As some hon. Members have already pointed out, Ireland has perfect freedom to leave the Commonwealth of Nations if she wishes. The question is, "What do we wish Ireland to do?" and upon our conduct towards Ireland will depend the decision as to whether she does leave the Commonwealth of Nations or not. However right we may be, however convinced 1008 we may be of the justice of our cause, it is perfectly clear, if we look the facts in the face, that the present course of events is driving Ireland away from the Commonwealth of Nations. We are bound to face that fact, whether we think it is a wise action on their part or a stupid action, and I suggest that the matter upon which the House has really got to make up its mind is how far it is worth going in order to keep Ireland within the Commonwealth of Nations. An hon. Member opposite says that we cannot do it, whatever we do. People who take up that fatalist attitude will naturally say, "We will treat the Irish as foreigners and continue to treat them as foreigners, and the sooner they go out of the Commonwealth of Nations the better." That is not the view I take. I believe there is a very good chance, every chance, if we are reasonable, of Ireland remaining within the Commonwealth of Nations, and if there is that chance I think hon. Members would all desire to take it. I do not think there is in any part of the House any difference over the question that if an association with Ireland can still be maintained we all want it.
The difference between us and those who sit on the other side of the House is that we are prepared to make almost any sacrifice on smaller matters to attain that end. We believe that if these smaller matters are sacrificed that end can be attained, and that is the point the House has got to face. These questions concerning the collection of sums of money are really comparatively unimportant, and it may occur that other questions which may arise will also be comparatively unimportant against the really big, main issue we have to determine; and I feel confident that if only we get down to the one fundamental question, sweeping aside the less important matters, we could then come to some decision as regards the relations between this country and Ireland. Whether this matter is negotiated in one way or another, whether we have a Dominion tribunal or a tribunal from outside the Empire is a comparatively unimportant matter beside the great issue of whether Ireland remains in the Commonwealth or not.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) made a speech which, I am sure, will be accepted by every 1009 American Senator as an admirable model of what to say when debtors do not pay. It would be exactly the speech which any creditor could make at any time if for any reason his debtor did not pay. It was a speech which, I say with respect, I do not think assists in the solution of this problem. If we are going to stand pat on the position that we now take up, there is an absolute certainty of driving Ireland out of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We have tried repression before. It has always failed. We have now tried economic pressure upon Ireland in order to bring her nearer to our point of view. I do not think that any bon. Member believes that if the duties are put up to 60 per cent., 80 per cent., or 100 per cent., they will bring Ireland one whit nearer the point of view that we take.
We have to accommodate our ideas if we want Ireland to remain within the Commonwealth. I hope that this House will look upon this immensely grave matter from the point of view of coming to a decision, which it will have to come to sooner or later, as to whether Ireland is wanted to remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations. If the House decides that Ireland is wanted, I ask hon. Members to brush aside the smaller matters and to give way on them for the sake of achieving a settlement which will accomplish that which all of us desire. I do not desire to detain the House, but I wanted to make an appeal to hon. Members to look at this matter from a broad point of view, and not from a mere narrow and niggling point of view such as that put forward by the Dominions Secretary.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I want to emphasise the appeal that has been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol Sir S. Cripps). While I do not altogether agree with him, there was behind his appeal a statesmanlike attitude. The Dominions Secretary has treated this House to-night in what was described in not too extravagant language by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol as a "contemptible" fashion. Without joking, I say that he seems to be losing his nerve. The last time he spoke on this matter he bobbed up and down, as some of us said, like a, human yo-yo. It was not we who criticised him the most for that. The 1010 hon. arid gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) administered a very striking rebuke. The points which were raised by various hon. Members received no reply. The Dominions Secretary picked out one or two points in a very ordinary fashion and said: "That is our reply." He made no attempt to frame a reply to meet the Debate. It is not good enough.
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I am sure that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) does not want to misunderstand my attitude. The points that he raised about our dispute with Ireland are not relevant to the present issue, as he knows. Therefore if I had attempted to deal with the whole of the political issues which are in dispute, I should have been legitimately ruled out of order by Mr. Speaker, and, moreover, it would have been unfair to other hon. Members. I want to assure the hon. Member for Gorbals and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) on this point that I dealt with the financial issues because that is the only matter involved in the Estimates. I will only say one sentence on the political issue raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals. Just as I said previously, so I say now, that on the political and the economic issues the Government are still prepared, and I hope will always be prepared, to enter into an arrangement that will enable Ireland to remain a member of the British Commonwealth. I could not give the arguments to-night for reasons that will be appreciated by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I cannot accept that. The right hon. Gentleman the Dominions Secretary will have it in mind that we were very careful when this Vote was allowed to go on to the Report stage, that it should be debated from the aspect dealt with by the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke before me and that dealt with by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). Hon. Members who took part in the Debate on unemployment insurance yesterday well remember the latitude that was allowed by Mr. Speaker, and we were assured that the latitude allowed to-day would be no less wide. We expect some reply, in view of the changed circumstances—because there are changed circumstances. 1011 The American situation has changed the circumstances. Hon. Members cannot get away from that. It is common knowledge that there was a section of the Cabinet in favour of not paying the American Debt. It is common knowledge, and will not be denied, that the Treasury would not have been averse to not paying. It is not denied that in this House men of character and capacity on all sides would have voted for the nonpayment of the American Debt upon a free vote of the House. The hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) might not have put it that way, but he is in constant touch with good, honest Conservative opinion and he knows that what I am saying is perfectly correct. Government supporters on the back benches would have voted for the nonpaying of the American Debt, if there had been a free vote of the House and they knew that they were not embarrassing their Government.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
There was a strong and reasonable opinion for non-payment of that debt, not only in this House, but in the "Economist" and certain other papers which do not wish to embarrass the Government. I am not thinking of the papers that attack the Government in season and out of season. I do not think that it can be denied that it has been intimated in almost as plain language as you can get that this is the last time that the money will be paid on the old terms. Is that denied?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
No one who read the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deny that this is the last payment on the old terms. It is not said that this is the last payment, but the last payment on the old terms. What does that mean? It means that the bargain made by the Lord Privy Seal is to be ended because it cannot be carried out. Then Ireland comes along and says that her debt has to end.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
You are collecting taxation. Nobody has answered this 1012 argument: you put on duties rising from 20 per cent. to 40 per cent. I agree with the last speaker that the problem of the tribunal, while it is great, is subsidiary to the larger problem. Nevertheless, it is important. These amounts have to be paid by someone. They have either to be paid by certain people in Britain, or they have to be paid by certain people in Ireland. I think they will have to be paid by a combination of both. The Irish Government can quite correctly collect the money and proceed to hand it back to Irish interests that have to pay the tax. As long as you impose this 40 per cent. tax and set out to collect it from their people, they are entitled to re-collect it and pay it back to the people upon whom the burden has been imposed. In addition to that, a nation at any time is entitled to collect rent, if it cares to do so, for any land within its own borders.
The Dominions Secretary has not faced up to the new issue at all. I know it is the case—indeed, it would be surprising if it were not—that quite good and substantial reasons and excuses can be found for saying that the question of the American Debt is different from that of Ireland, but in the great world outside, which is really the judge, people do not look at this question in the same way in which we in this House of Commons look at it. This is a serious and menacing problem. People talk about what is to happen in the future. I know little about the inside movements of diplomats and financiers and so on that go to make for war, but anybody who listens to the speeches that are made nowadays will not deny that they are hardly ever free from the menace of war. Is there any man who can lightly contemplate a hostile Ireland in the event of a war—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I opposed the War, but everybody in this House who has been in the Army knows that the great bulk of the Army was composed of Irishmen, including Irish Roman Catholics, and you could never have carried on the War without their backing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense !"] Hon. Members say that that is nonsense, but I say that there were far more Irish than Americans fighting, and they fought longer. It is sheer prejudice if that is denied. The Dominions Secretary need not be annoyed at 1013 these interruptions; I do not need them for the purpose of going on with my speech. There is this point about yesterday, that we did not debate this matter last night, although we could have done so and inconvenienced everyone in the House by keeping the Debate going until one or two in the morning. The test of human beings and their relationship to one another is that decency should never be badly treated, but decency has been treated wrongly to-night. Apparently decency is treated as softness, but, if we had liked to do so last night, we could have kept the Debate going at the cost of inconvenience to Mr. Speaker and to every official. We decently decided merely to register a vote and depart, and now we are treated to the off-hand and flippant reply that we have had to-night. The merits of the question have not been debated. The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) raised a point on which he was entitled to a much fuller reply; and my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and others have raised points which demanded reasonable and substantial replies. We have not been treated properly.
There are Irishmen in every one of our Colonies; Ireland is a very powerful influence in the affairs of the United States of America; and in the various things that this country is going to do within the next few years Irish public opinion will play an important part. A Government that. makes a hostile Ireland is a stupid Government. You are going to save a miserable million or two, but you have never been told the cost of collecting this money, or the cost of administration; you have never really got at the proper facts. You may save £3,000,000, but what is that in comparison with creating a hostile Irish opinion in every part of the world? What is it in comparison with creating a hostile movement of that kind in every part of Britain? For an hour or two we were discussing an Austrian loan. How easy it was for the Government to get it through, without a single vote against it. But, when it comes to Ireland, there is nothing nasty or abusive enough for some people to say, and there is no question that appears to be more easy to ride away from.
if a Conservative had been handling it, it would not have been handled in this 1014 way. I remember one right hon. Gentleman who occupied a Cabinet post—a Conservative of Conservatives—the late Lord Brentford—who used to get up and threaten what he would do, but he never did it; he always kept just going, but never actually doing it. He was more sensible; he knew human beings. He was a Tory, and I say that, if my right hon. Friend had been a Conservative, he would not have done this. Behind all this—I say it for the first time, but it is my belief, possibly drawn from me for the first time—behind all this is a desire to play up to the Conservatives. Everybody who knows about religious matters knows that the most dangerous thing in religion is the convert. My right hon. Friend is the convert, playing up to be looked upon as a decent fellow because he has gone a step further than the others went. But no one among the Conservatives, who knows Conservative opinion, who knows Irish Conservative opinion, would have done what be has done. They would possibly have made strong speeches, and uttered threats, but they would never have shut the door down like this. Conservative interests are involved here. If Ireland goes outside the Empire, as it is likely to do, Conservatives have great financial interests in land right throughout the Free State. No Conservative would have lightly handled the situation.
The whole method of approach has been wrong. The total debt is £4,900,000. You have collected, or intend to collect, £2,500,000, and there is the balance that you cannot collect. For the sake of this sum of £2,500,000 you carry on a vendetta which is ruining you in every quarter of the world and making you an object of ridicule in America and of contempt in many quarters. A wise and decent nation would have said: "We will keep the door open. We will not be the first to do the wrong thing." The debt may accumulate from £4,000,000 to £8,000,000, but even that would be less costly to us than doing the wrong thing to a nation which, though small in numbers, has perhaps a greater influence in the world than many others. It is a world tragedy. I do not want to see a war in Ireland, because I know that religion will enter in, and you will arouse flames which will not easily be quenched. I do not blame the Dominions Secretary in one respect. He 1015 is not the free man that he would have been in a Labour Government. A wise man would not hesitate to retrace his steps and begin again on a surer and firmer foundation.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I did not intend to take part in this Debate, and I only intervene because of certain interruptions that have been made. I know as well as anyone the old difficulty of the Irish question, and I am not anxious, in the changed conditions of the English nation, to arouse the antagonism of the Irish race. I certainly felt that the responsible Minister would have been able to make a more conciliatory statement than he has made. I know it is a delicate problem. [Interruption.] I have heard the whole Debate except when you spoke. I came in expecting to hear you and you had sat down. I asked if you had finished, and I was told "Yes." I thought it was an interruption, but I found you had made your speech.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I must remind the hon. Member that I have not made any speech.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I certainly expected that the right hon. Gentleman's speech would have been of a statesmanlike nature. We have a most unfortunate vendetta. It has been said that, if the Irish people did not pay, a certain line of action would be taken to ensure that they did pay, and we set about putting on tariffs. There has been a question of 20 per cent. and 40 per cent. Is it now to be a question of 100 per cent? We are told that the special duty on Irish imports has produced £1,357,160. We have heard to-day that we have lent money to Austria and that there is no possible chance of ever getting it back, but we must resuscitate her banking interests and put her on her feet again and make her financial position assured.
What is the difficulty that confronts the National Government? It is merely the question of a tribunal. It should surely not be beneath the dignity of a Minister to say: "If our case is a fair and honest one, we are not afraid of it going before any tribunal." Mr. de Valera, if I understand him aright, demands a tribunal outside the Empire. I believe that, for the sake of peace, when men of all nations are so anxious to bring about a better understanding in the world, the 1016 British Government ought not to be afraid of facing the issue even though this tribunal should be outside the British Empire.
I believe the Dominions Secretary has done his best under most difficult circumstances, but I cannot for the life of me understand why we cannot settle this matter in the same way that other difficulties are settled. The Irish race all over the world can and will create difficulties. I believe the days of difficulty with the Irish people ought to be gone for ever, and that we ought to be working in unity. No statesman should stand on his dignity so much as to bring back the old feeling of distrust which has been passing away. I feel that to-day public opinion all over the world is waiting for a statement to be made in the House. The question of the tribunal is only a matter of form, and, if the Minister would rise to the occasion, we could get honest men in other nations to adjudicate on a difficult problem and settle the question once and for all.
If we want to get an Ireland reconciled, we must show that we wish for reconciliation. I think that we have been injudicious. It would be deplorable to say too much in regard to the Irish question. I do not wish to stir up throughout Lancashire, Yorkshire and the North any bitterness, but I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions to make a stronger effort to try to settle the Irish question, and to do away with the vendetta which is going on against a trading nation so close to our shores. Whether we like it or not, the Irish nation, until it severs itself, once and for all, from this land, must be treated in a different way and freed from this vendetta. I want to see the good will and prosperity of both the Irish and English peoples, and it is because of that fact that I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not wish to arouse religious feeling. My 35 years in the Irish movement have shown me the bitterness of the past.
I looked with pleasure on all the improvements as they came along. Even the settlement with which we are now dealing was looked upon by Irishmen as one of the finest pieces of diplomacy effected by the British Government. I recognise all those things. I know how much people outside are hoping and living for the time when an expression 1017 of opinion will come from the Government of this country giving hope to the Irish people. Hon. Members on the opposite benches have laughed when we have spoken of the sacrifices of Irishmen during the war. Right through the ages Britishers and Irishmen have fought side by side in defence of liberty. Surely, in the common fight of life, we are not going to measure nations by pounds, shillings and pence to-day. The question of money values is a thing of the past. Love is the essential thing to-day in the attitude of nations, and it can be made more binding and stronger by getting rid of the old vendettas and animosities which have obtained in the past. The Ministers of the National Government must recognise that the world has changed and that we are in a new era. The British nation wants all the support it can possibly get in the long travail and reorganisation of the nations of the world, and it is because of that fact that I make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. I am not anxious in the future to see any bitterness among the English and Irish races throughout the world.
I am living in the hope that in my day I may be able to see, as I have seen in the past, many changes. I hope that we may be able to march along the road of progress, and that the hand which is held across the Channel will not make the position more embittered, but will enable the vendetta to cease. The Irish people look forward to the day when Ireland will be a nation again. It is the cry of the Irish nation and the feeling of the Irish nation all the world over. Where is there a Britisher who is not proud of his nation, and where is the Irishman who is not proud of the land which gave him birth? The British nation is a wealthy nation and can get rid of the difficulty of the £4,000,000 per annum. It is not a large sum for the British nation to wipe out. It would demonstrate the good friendship, honesty and sincerity of the British nation the world over. It would be a far greater triumph for the British nation than exacting payments under this system from an Ireland which is not able to pay.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HALES
I feel that it is essential to-night that I should put before the House the feelings, not only of the Empire at large but of foreign nations which I have 1018 been privileged to visit during the last five months. It has been pictured to us that we are ridiculed in America and held in contempt by the rest of the world. It has been my privilege to discuss this matter with hundreds of people during the last five months, and I can tell the House candidly and sincerely, that the only adverse criticism of the Secretary of State for the Dominions was that his journey over to Ireland was a loss of dignity. Right away down to the Dutch East Indies, through Malaya, India and to the East, everyone is of the opinion that we have shown too much conciliation, that we have gone out of our way to satisfy Ireland, and that, after all, it is not a question of the Free State but of one man who is leading the nation to disaster. I believe that a referendum to-day in the Free State would show an absolute majority for the paying of the just debts and carrying on as they did before under President Cosgrave.
The idea of going outside the Empire for arbitration is rather ridiculous. Abroad it is felt that this is a matter which should not be put to arbitration either inside or outside the Empire. It has gone on for 10 years without trouble, absolutely honestly kept as a bargain, and why any difference should be made because of a change of Government no one outside can understand. It is supposed that we are compelling Ireland to remain inside the Empire. I feel that the British Empire is held together by silken cords, and not by compulsion. What would happen if we were to offer to Norway, Sweden and Denmark the same privileges which Ireland has had? We should find that Ireland, within 24 hours, would say, "Do not go outside; we will pay our debts and continue inside the Empire." I feel, however, that if the Secretary of State for the Dominions would take the advice which I gave him three months ago and apply a duty of 100 per cent. on Irish goods this matter would be settled in a week, because the matter would become so grave and serious that this Iberian gentleman would be given marching orders.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it in order, Captain Bourne, to refer to the head of one of the units of the British Empire in the terms of contempt used by my hon. Friend?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I did not hear the remark which the hon. Member made, but I would point out that in referring to the heads of any Government in the British Empire, it is customary to treat them in this House with the same respect which we would pay to the head of our own Government.
§ Iberian country. I do not wish to keep the House any longer, but I would like to emphasise that the conduct of these negotiations from the very beginning has been looked upon throughout the Empire with satisfaction and respect.
§ Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 180; Noes, 26.1021
|Division No. 31.]||AYES.||[9.5 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Hales, Harold K.||Petherick, M.|
|Apsley, Lord||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh' pt'n,Bilst'n)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Harnley, Dennis A.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Hartland, George A.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Barrle, Sir Charles Coupar||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Ramsden, E.|
|Bernays, Robert||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Blindell, James||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Ray, Sir William|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Holdsworth, Herbert||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hornby, Frank||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Remer, John R.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Howard, Tom Forrest||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks.,Newb'y)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Burnett, John George||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Iveagh, Countess of||Salt, Edward W.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A, D.||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Redcliffe)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Janner, Barnett||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Cooke, Douglas||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Scone, Lord|
|Copeland, Ida||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Selley, Harry R.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Cross, R. H.||Knebworth, Viscount||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Levy, Thomas||Slater, John|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovll)||Liddall, Walter S.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield. Hallam)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Llewellin, Major John J.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Denville, Alfred||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Dickie, John P.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Soper, Richard|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Donner, P. W.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Stones, James|
|Doran, Edward||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Storey, Samuel|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||McKie, John Hamilton||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Elmley, Viscount||McLean, Dr. w. H. (Tradeston)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Magnay, Thomas||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Entwistle, Cyrll Fullard||Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot||Templeton. William P.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Morrison, William Shepherd||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Mulrhead, Major A. J.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Munro, Patrick||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt- Hon. Sir John||Natlon, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||White, Henry Graham|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||North, Captain Edward T.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Nunn, William||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Granvllie, Edgar||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Palmer, Francis Noel||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Penny, Sir George||Mr. Womersley and Dr. Morris-Jones.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Banfield, John William||Jenkins, Sir William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Buchanan, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York., Don Valley)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lunn, William|
|Daggar, George||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Edwards, Charles||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. John.|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
Question put, and agreed to.