§ Mr. LANSBURY
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he has any statement to make as to the situation in relation to the Irish Free State?
The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
Yes, Sir; I have to inform the House that the Government have received, through the High Commissioner of the Irish Free State, and have accepted, an invitation from Mr. De Valera, for a preliminary discussion as to the present difficulties between the two countries in relation to negotiations 1589 in connection with the Ottawa Conference. As a result, I propose to cross to Dublin to-night, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. Mr. De Valera has agreed to resume the conversations in London on Friday.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On that, may I ask, first, whether Lord Hailsham accompanies the right hon. Gentleman, not as Minister for War, but as an ex-Lord High Chancellor; and with your permission, Mr. Speaker, may I say that I think the whole country will congratulate both Mr. De Valera and the right hon. Gentleman on coming to this commonsense agreement?
With regard to the first part of the question, Lord Hailsham is accompanying me as a Member of the Cabinet.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House what the agreement is that has been reached with Mr. De Valera?
I never mentioned any word of agreement. I said that the Government had received an intimation from Mr. De Valera, through the High Commissioner of the Irish Free State, that he desired consultation on the difficulties that arose from my statement, repeatedly made in this House, that it was impossible to conduct further negotiations either here or at Ottawa while the present attitude was adopted. The Government have also reiterated repeatedly that so far as they were concerned they were not opposed to any discussion. Mr. De Valera having intimated a desire for discussion and having intimated also that he himself would come to London on Friday to resume the discussion, the Government felt, and rightly felt in my judgment, that they had no alternative but to accept that invitation.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I want to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the line he has taken in meeting Mr. De Valera. Do I understand that the Government have now departed from their previous policy, which was to refuse to discuss while the Irish Government went ahead with the deletion of the Oath?
There is no departure of any sort or kind. The British Government never refused to discuss. They never received an invitation to discuss prior to this. The Irish Government prior to this, acted on their own without, consultation with us. On that intimation being made, we declared our policy and our intention. We had never departed from that. We have not departed now. That is the first invitation we have received. But I would respectfully suggest that if, as I hope, it is the desire of everyone for common sense—[An HON. MEMBER: "And common honesty!"]— and common honesty to triumph, it will be far better to have no further discussion in the House now.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
Do we understand that the Government do not depart from their original attitude, and that there will be no concessions in the matter of the Treaty; that the Treaty stands?
The Government's position has been repeatedly stated by me on behalf of the Government. That position is known here; it is known in Ireland. But we have never refused this Dominion, and we would not refuse any other Dominion, an opportunity to discuss any point of view that may be put forward.