§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh O'Neill
On a point of Order. Before the Committee stage is entered upon, as this is a Bill to confirm an Agreement, am I right in assuming that no Amendment can be made to the Schedule which sets out that Agreement?
The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct. It is a well-known practice of this House that where there is a Bill to confirm an Agreement made between two countries, it is not competent to amend the terms of the 1518 Agreement. The Committee can either accept or reject it.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
Further to that point of Order, would it be possible to discuss the Schedule, but not to move Amendments to it?
The right hon. Member would be perfectly in order in giving reasons why the Committee should not accept the Agreement, even though he could not amend it.
§ Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ CLAUSE 2.—(Confirmation of agreements and provisions for giving effect thereto.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Ross
In this Clause we have a provision to annul Articles 6 and 7 of what is called the Treaty formed between this country and the Irish Free State in 1922 in the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act. That implies that we shall give up the rights which we have up to now possessed for the use of three ports in the territory of what is now to be called Eire. Those ports are Lough Swilly, in the North, and Queenstown and Berehaven in the South. To everyone who is acquainted with naval strategy in the most elementary sense, up till now our safety has depended to a very great extent on those ports being available for the use of our flotillas for the protection of our food supplies.
§ Sir R. Ross
Surely I am able to discuss, when certain Articles are repealed in the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act of 1922, the repeal of those Articles rather than the positive form in which the other Agreement comes? Of course, I bow to your guidance in the matter.
The hon. Member can discuss the points either now or on the Schedule, but if he discusses them now, it cannot be done again on the 1519 Schedule. I thought they would come better on the Schedule.
§ Sir R. Ross
I am content to discuss them now, as there is a lot of other matters to raise on the Schedule. It is, of course, unfortunate, as hon. Members opposite have already noted, that a matter of this importance, dealing with a very large sum of money, should be reached at this late hour, and it is also illogical, because in this Bill I see the sparks which may raise a conflagration, and so appropriately the Fire Brigades Bill should have come after that, and when the Fire Brigades Bill has passed through this House, it has not passed through with the accustomed celerity with which we generally associate fire brigades. These are matters of grave importance, however, and this is the only opportunity that we shall have of raising detailed points upon them. The importance of the ports which I have mentioned has, I think, been increased by the growth of air power, because they are some of the very few ports that should be entirely immune from air attack, and it is very desirable to have ports where ships can work up without being liable to that form of hostility.
I do not propose to elaborate this matter, which was put very clearly by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) on the Second Reading of the Bill, but to his arguments very little reply was made. We were told that it was an act of faith. If it is not an act of faith, it implies a change of naval doctrine. Are we not going to have one word from the First Lord or from any of the Ministers associated with the Admiralty as to the naval reactions that must follow our being deprived of the use of these ports? So far, we have had nothing, and the technical side has been entirely neglected. We are told we cannot depend on being able to use them in the future. The alternatives, in the case of neutrality being declared by the Irish Free State in time of war, are three, and they have already been enunciated. Either we are driven to invading Eire in order to secure the ports, or else we suffer a stranglehold on the life line by which our food is brought to this country, or, thirdly, we shall be approached—and I have little doubt about this—by the Government of the Free State, even by de Valera's Government, which will say, "Oh yes, you may 1520 use the ports, but on conditions. There is just one condition precedent, and that is that partition should be brought to an end."
Let us examine the probabilities of our being allowed to use the ports by any Government of Eire. We are told that our relations are friendly. Well, I have read with some attention the Debates in the Dail on this Agreement, and I cannot see much reflection there of the suggestion that our relations are friendly. In fact, Mr. de Valera spent a lot of his time pointing out how easy it was for him to declare neutrality, and his embarrassment was whether he could still continue to sell food to this country and remain neutral. Some very significant things were said on that occasion. I have in my hand the Official Report of the Debate in the Dail Eireann, on 29th April, when Mr. de Valera, speaking about the cost of retaining the ports, used these words:It is true it is going to cost us something to maintain these ports. Why do we not let them become derelict? We have the right to do so if we wish. There is no condition to the contrary, express or implied. We could let them go but in our own interests we dare not do so. Why? Because in the first moment of war they are of such tremendous importance, either to Britain or to enemies of Britain that if we had not some means of keeping out those who might want them in their own interests, they would be used by them.Of course, it is quite clear that those who might want to use the ports in their own interests include this country. To complete the picture we find, turning column 427 of the report, that in the same speech Mr. de Valera went on to show what little fear he has of danger from a foreign Power, that is a Power other than Britain because obviously these ports if they were put in a state of defence could be defended by the British Navy. But the defence of British commerce apparently is a very different thing. He said:As I have often said before, any attack on us by a foreign Power could not be ignored by Britain because if this country was taken by a European Power, if possession of our harbours and territories was taken, then Britain would be in a very parlous condition indeed.
Mr. de Valera, at all events, realises the importance of these ports. He continued:
Britain, therefore, could not ignore that and in her own interests "—
I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the succeeding words:
—" and not for love of us, any more than anything we would do would not be for love of Britain but for ourselves—under those conditions, Britain would have to do her utmost to prevent such an attack so that whether she willed it or not, the force of circumstances would make her an ally of ours in our defence.
So they are preparing to fortify the ports but not necessarily in order that we can use them. They are counting on Great Britain defending them, in case a foreign Power should have envy of them, but there is the admission from Mr. de Valera that anything that he would do for the British, would not be done for the love of Britain but for themselves—for the people over whom he is Prime Minister. If anything can give away the case which has been put to us as to the use of these ports, I should have thought that statement would do so. It has always been part of the policy of those who desire to put Ulster under the heel of Southern Ireland to wait until this country is engaged in war. They have always said, "That is the time to do it." Hon. Members may remember Mr. Cahir Healy, a very honest opponent of our's, who formerly represented Tyrone and Fermanagh. I challenged him across the Floor of this House whether he did not suggest that that was the correct policy. He did not deny it. He admitted that those were the views which he held. I take next a speech which was made by Mr. Sean T. O'Kelly in 1936. Since then, I may remark, the spokesmen on that side have rather quieted down, but speaking on 19th July, 1936, Mr. O'Kelly, who has occupied the position of Vice-President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, and is close in the counsels of the people with whom this Agreement was made used these words:
There will be no cessation of the fight until the people of Ireland are satisfied that Irish independence and Irish unity have been achieved and won to their satisfaction. It Will be well for her "—
that is England—
to realise that she has Ireland to reckon with and that Ireland will not be there as a friend, so long as England countenances partition in this country. England made partition, using Craigavon and the Orangemen as useful tools and until England realised that it would be more profitable to discontinue using these tools, she would probably continue to support partition. It is up to us, to prove to her that it is to her disadvantage and I would personally welcome the opportunity of showing her that it is to her disadvantage, whenever she gets into political
and especially international trouble again. In any opportunity that arises, we will use it to show England that it is greatly to her disadvantage to support partition and keep it alive in this country and that it would be better for her, as well as for us, to see unity and complete independence restored in this country.
That, then, is the policy—" Wait until there is an international war and then you have your chance to bring pressure upon Great Britain." Of course, the form of pressure to be adopted will probably include the use of these ports. We are told to trust Mr. de Valera, but what of his successors? No Government in that part of the country has failed to dishonour the pledges of its predecessors. I should have thought that in the pride which they take in what they are so fond of calling their national spirit and their national institutions, would have prevented that, but we know what has happened? Hon. Members will recall how Mr. Redmond was repudiated by Mr. Cosgrave, and how Mr. Cosgrave was repudiated by Mr. de Valera, and I should think that whoever comes after Mr. de Valera will probably repudiate him if he thinks there is any advantage in doing so. Those are the facts. I should be interested to hear what excuse is to be offered for throwing away vital interests of ours, merely, as far as I could judge from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on the Second Reading, because Mr. de Valera said that these vital rights—vital to the people of Great Britain, as well as of Northern Ireland—we re distasteful to him and his colleagues.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
As a humble Member I shall do my best to answer the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) on the reason for handing over these ports. The hon. Member has been associated with the Admiralty. All my life until I came to this House I was associated with the artillery who were responsible for the defence of these ports, and I think it is within the recollection of representatives of the Admiralty that the artillery were very much against holding on to these ports in the first instance. I would first deal with the case which was put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) on Thursday last that the Irish delegates who concluded the former Treaty did not want the ports. I can understand that that was so. They did not want to undertake the defence of these ports. They were 1523 faced with the task of organising the Government of their country. The ports were of no interest to them then and they were glad to have the responsibility taken from them. But when the Government was organised and the country became settled, it was not I think so much a matter of change of Government policy, as a matter of evolution. The Government of Ireland began to see that the defence of the country was part of their job.
That is a matter, however, which I will leave to the Committee to decide, and I now come to a matter which is of great interest, namely, the question of the practical defence of these ports. Can the defence of these ports, as far as artillery is concerned, be undertaken with a hostile Ireland behind them? Those hon. Members who have seen fortified ports know that the days have long gone past when it was possible to defend a port with a couple of stone forts at the entrance to a lough or harbour. It is a much more complicated matter now. Huge areas have to be occupied with gun emplacements. That is the first problem which faces the artillery, and it is a problem in which, I think, the Admiralty take comparatively little interest. I go further and say that in some cases the Admiralty when asked to take over the fortification of ports have refused to do so, and have left it to the artillery. I am not complaining of that, because it is the job of the artillery, but I should like to deal with this particular point about the defence of Ireland. If you have a friendly Ireland, which is a Dominion, which is satisfied with the proceedings of this country, then there is no object, as far as I can see, in holding these ports.
§ Sir R. Ross
The point of my remarks was that you have not a friendly Ireland, and that they are not satisfied.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
I am trying to deal in a practical way with two points, first, whether you have a friendly Ireland and, secondly, whether you have a hostile Ireland. I am a little more optimistic than my hon. Friend in thinking that some day we may have a friendly Ireland. Dominions have control of their own ports. What would happen if we had a 1524 hostile Ireland and we retained the ports? With a hostile Ireland, and these ports in our possession extending to two, three or four acres, with their gun emplacements in various parts, the ports would be absolutely untenable. A few howitzers planted in the hinterland, which the forts could not touch, would make the ports absolutely untenable. That is the artillery point of view, and I think that anybody who has any knowledge of the matter must realise that fact. When you get into the whole complicated system of the process of sighting guns as they are nowadays, the difficulty is very much increased. As a comparatively humble officer of the Royal Artillery I know that the problem of defending these Irish ports exercised the minds of the artillery to a very considerable extent. Some of my colleagues who were themselves Southern Irishmen and who served in the artillery were very much worried about the defence of the ports. I should like, in conclusion, to express my thankfulness that the problem of the defence of ti le ports has been so satisfactorily settled.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
In saying a few words on this subject I must confess to a feeling of very deep sympathy with Ulster and all that she has stood for, and will continue to stand for. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly, speaking professionally and from other standpoints, that the fears expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) are not necessarily groundless but they must be received with great sympathy and understanding, in view of all that has happened between this country and Ireland. As far as my own personal experience of these ports goes, and it goes back to the year 1890, I should like to say that they are vital to us in regard to any menace which may come against our trade and the safety of this country.
Arguments were put forward the other day by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), with his usual skill, but he did not provide any solution whatever. He frightened all of us, or he frightened a good many of us, but he provided no solution. How have these ports been utilised since 1922? The British Fleet which used the ports for a century or more with the greatest possible effect from the point of view of training the Fleet, has never used the ports during all 1525 the years since 1922. They have been under care and maintenance parties, and have not been of the smallest use. The Southern Irish attach such great importance to them that there was a fear, and not an unnatural one, that if the ports were used there would be a very serious and perhaps a very deplorable incident, which would make conditions between Ireland and this country even worse than they have been. That only goes to show that Ireland has been unfriendly in consequence of our retention of the ports.
As the ports are now useless and have not been used for many years, the least that we can do is to make an effort once more to approach Southern Ireland and make her friendly to this country. If the ports remained in our hands as they are at present and Ireland was not with this country in any crisis that came along, it would be impossible for us to use the ports. Take the port of Berehaven. It is surrounded by hills in such a way that we should need a large military force in order to control it. That in itself is quite sufficient to put the idea of retaining the ports under present conditions entirely out of our thoughts. I see very grave risks. The argument which is put forward that Ireland may like to use these ports as a means of bargaining with us on the subject of partition, must be given close consideration. I am fully prepared to accept that and to go forward with this act of faith, whatever it may bring about. Let us see whether we cannot start a new era of friendship with Ireland. I see no reason why that should not come about. Personally, I am prepared to face any of the risks that have been suggested rather than the risk of leaving the ports in their present condition.
§ Sir David Reid
May I ask the hon. and gallant Member whether the approaches to these ports from the North to the South can be adequately defended against submarines or other naval attack if the ports cannot be made use of?
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
I am asked whether we can defend our trade routes and so on without the use of these ports. The answer is that if we did not have them under our complete control we should be in very great difficulties in defending our interests. There can be no possible shadow of doubt about that. I said in my short speech that they are 1526 vital to our interests when our trade and our safety are menaced.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) has raised a very important point, but I think the argument which he put forward has been effectively answered, first, by my hon. and gallant Friend the,Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage), speaking from the point of view of an artilleryman and, secondly, by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish), speaking as a sailor with great naval experience. Both those hon. and gallant Member spoke from the point of view of naval and military requirements and strategy, which are of such concern to my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry. In order to explain the attitude which the Government have taken up I might add a few words of further reply. My hon. Friend is concerned with the security of these islands. It was with the security of these islands that the Government were mainly concerned when they examined this problem during our recent negotiations with the Ministers from Eire.
I do not deny for one moment the great importance of the three ports of Berehaven, Queenstown and Lough Swilly from the strategical point of view. If the Government had had the opportunity of maintaining our occupation of those ports, and of maintaining our other rights under Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty, with the good will of the Government of Eire, we should not have sought any alteration in the position as it was left by the Treaty. But that was not one of the alternatives before us. This Government, as is well known, is a Government of realists. We had to consider the two real alternatives which were presented to us. If I may put those alternatives very briefly, they were as follows. In the first place, we could stay in the ports, we could maintain our other rights under Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty, but not with the good will of the Government or the people of Eire. Hon. Members, with the exercise of a little imagination, will appreciate that our occupation of those Irish ports touched the Southern Irish people at a point where they feel very strongly and 1527 where they are very sensitive. They regarded that occupation as an infringement of their national freedom and as a continuation of the old subjection of them to their more powerful neighbours across the Irish Channel. They resented the continuation of that occupation and those other rights contained in Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty. To quote Mr. de Valera himself, speaking a few days ago in the Dail, he said:I know of nothing that menaces the possibility of permanent good relations with Britain so much as these Articles.I think we have to face the fact that we could have maintained these Articles, but with an increasing resentment of them on the part of the Irish people. They would have been a permament barrier to those good relations between our two peoples which we desire to see and which are so very important from the point of view of strategy and the security of this island in time of emergency and in time of war. Therefore, the other alternative which we had to consider was that of withdrawing from the ports, of abrogating Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty, and of removing that obstacle to good relations between the two peoples, with the faith that by that.act of withdrawal and abrogation we might create conditions which would produce a new friendship, a new trust, and new co-operation between the peoples of the two islands. I know that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Londonderry is rather sceptical—and he quoted speeches to support his scepticism —as to the possibility of that friendship growing between the two peoples. I can only say that the Ministers who were concerned in these negotiations, after discussing this question very closely and very thoroughly with the Irish Ministers who were in London, got the impression that the removal of this obstacle would be a real contribution towards the establishment of better relations between the Southern Irish and ourselves. Just as my hon. and gallant Friend can make quotations from speeches, some of them dating a long way back when conditions were rather different, which seem to support his contention—
§ Mr. MacDonald
I said that some of them dated a good way back—so also I could give quotations to show that, I believe even in the last week, this action has tended to establish better and more friendly relations. I shall not weary the Committee with the quotations now. I only want to say this. These were the two alternatives put forward. My hon. and gallant Friend has spoken about the view of the Admiralty when he had every reason to know what that view was. When we were considering the two alternatives, we took the advice of our naval experts and the Chiefs of Staff. We put these alternatives before them from the purely military point of view, and we were advised that if the choice lay between staying in the ports and maintaining these rights and having thereby a permanently resentful and hostile Ireland, and coming out of the ports and creating conditions of friendship and cooperation, then it was in the interests of the security of this island that we should choose the latter alternative. From the military and political point of view we decided that this was the right course in the interests of that very security about which my hon. and gallant Friend was so concerned.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Colonel Gretton
The hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) made a large assumption when he spoke about the Irish ports having no background of friendly support and discussed their fortification with guns with a hostile people behind them. My hon. and gallant Friend the \leather for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) pointed out that these ports are vital to our defence. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister said the alternative was either vacating the ports with the good will and co-operation of the Irish people behind us, or retaining the ports and having a hostile people and Government of Southern Ireland. In choosing the first alternative on the advice of the Admiralty the co-operation and good will of the Irish people are exactly what the Government have not got in this Agreement. They have not any undertaking of co-operation and support, and there is no indication of it. They are assuming that they have bought something by these great concessions which is not apparent in the Agreement, and the House has been told nothing except the very sanguine statements 1529 made by Ministers on the Front Bench. What has taken place this evening only emphasises the very uncertain position in which we are left in the matter which my hon. and gallant Friend, speaking from the naval point of view, has shown is vital to the defence and safety of this country. The Government have made great concessions hoping that all will be well, but there are no undertakings. We are told that there are no secret agreements, and there is nothing settled between the Government in Dublin and the Government in Whitehall except what is set out in the Agreement. I am afraid that this Debate will only add to the disquietude and discomfort which have already been created on this question in many quarters.
§ Clauses 3 and 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ FIRST SCHEDULE.—(Agreements between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Eire.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Schedule be the First Schedule to the Bill."
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Sir R. Ross
The only portion of this Schedule to which I shall address myself to-night is the Trade Agreement. It is an Agreement of extraordinary application which, if it had come before the House in the form of a Bill, would have taken weeks of discussion before it was settled. It is an Agreement of considerable commercial importance to every part of the United Kingdom, and therefore I make no excuse for discussing it shortly, hoping to get some assistance from the hon. Member who is to reply for the Government on these trade matters. The Trade Agreement, although it is important to every part of the country, is of much greater importance to Northern Ireland than to this island, because much the larger proportion of the trade of Northern Ireland used to be with the Free State, and the hope which we have all had was that when a settlement or agreement came to be made with Southern Ireland as many as possible of those duties on both sides would be abolished, that there should be freedom of trade throughout Ireland, and that partition in a Customs 1530 sense and as regards the restriction of trade might be abolished to a greater degree to please us.
What we also hoped was that this Agreement would be upon a basis of strict mutuality, that the advantages would be equal for one side and for the other. The duties which were put on as a reprisal and which have been alluded to as the penal duties which are abolished by this portion of the Schedule were put upon Irish cattle and agricultural produce with a view to raising from the Customs the moneys which the Government of this country said at that time were due from the Irish Free State, as it then was, to us. Not unnaturally, the Irish Free State put on a lot of duties in reprisal. Those duties affected us in Northern Ireland far more than they affected anyone else. They naturally affected Northern Ireland's trade because that was the part of the country which did the greater proportion of trade with the Free State, and we suffered very serious losses. No sort of compensation came to us for that, because although we were gaining financially in this contest between the Free State and the United Kingdom the profits went into the Treasury here and the losses on our side came out of the pockets of traders in the North of Ireland—also traders in the United Kingdom, but particularly in Ulster, where we suffered very considerably. Therefore, we had hoped that the least we should get would be restoration to a position which was no worse than that in which we had been before this trouble began. I do not question the policy which produced it; it was an absolutely proper policy, and one which was necessary at the time and possibly is still necessary. I do not wish to suggest that there are no good points in the Trade Agreement, because I think that the part of it dealing with agricultural imports is admirable. The principle of control of agricultural imports from Ireland is good and is admitted. I do not say that it is entirely in our favour, possibly there are greater advantages to the other side in connection with agriculture, but it is not one on which we can make any complaint, and we are very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and those who have acted with him in working out such a sound Agreement.
Even on the other side, the Board of Trade side, there are points of ad 1531 vantage. Particularly I would allude to the obolition of the Customs Emergency Duties in Article 5, the modification of the package duty in Article 6, and to the other directions in which obstacles to retail trade have been quite materially lightened. So far as I can judge in construing an extremely technical and complicated Agreement—it is not long since this Agreement was published, and there has not been much time to get technical advice from people interested in the various duties with which it deals—nearly all the goods which were normally supplied from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland have now a higher duty then they had in 1932. That is a great injustice. For instance, linen has a higher duty and so have shirts and collars. They are all in Schedule V with many other things which generally come from us; whereas, the things which are normally supplied from Great Britain and not from Northern Ireland seem to have got off much better. I do not say that they should not have got off better, For instance, boots are, I think, in a better position than they were in 1932, and, of course, coal is in the best position of all.
It is said that this was necessary to some extent in order to protect new Irish industries. We are told that people have been encouraged to support factories in what was the Irish Free State and that, having been so encouraged, a reasonable chance must be given of carrying the factories on profitably or with success; but I do not think that this is so. An instance which I should think would occur to one fairly soon is that of biscuits. Biscuits were subject, upon import from the United Kingdom to Eire, to a duty of 3½d —that is to say sweetened biscuits. If you exported a ton of them into Eire the duty payable would be £32 13s. 4d. whereas if you imported a ton of Irish biscuits into the United Kingdom the duty would be only£5 They are, therefore, in a six-times better position. As regards the new industries, Jacob's biscuit factory is one of the largest biscuit factories in the British Isles and has been going for some years, since well before the War, and they have brought biscuits into this country in large quantities. In his reply I should like the Minister to address himself to this point, because it seems entirely at variance with the statement 1532 that such protection as they have is entirely in connection with new industries.
I cannot, at this late hour, deal with the various items about which nothing can be altered, but I would like some explanation of why, in addition, there are various small but irritating restrictions which work only in one way. For instance, commercial travellers going from Eire into Northern Ireland do not have to pay any duties on their cars, but our commercial travellers are subjected to irritating restrictions if they take their cars, even for a temporary period, into Southern Ireland. Take the case of furniture removal; it has been arranged that furniture which has to be removed from Eire into Northern Ireland can be taken only by an Eire firm. One would think that the reverse would apply, but it does not. Furniture moved the other way about can be moved only by an Eire firm. So they get it both ways. That is a most astonishing thing.
It is said that the Prices Commission will put many of these matters right, but the Prices Commission is a body in which I cannot say I have very much confidence. I have already suggested to the Dominions Secretary -hat there was a time when one of his clan would not have cared to be judged by a member of the clan of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell), because there was a certain amount of mutual criticism between the two clans. I do not think that our chances, in front of a committee of gentlemen in Dublin set up to see that they take care of Eire industries, are going o be any better; and we have no representation whatever on that Commission, as far as I know. If, therefore, that is held out to us as a hope, it is going to be a very faint hope. This agreement has been a bitter disappointment. The enormous sum of nearly £1,000,000 of public money has been forgiven to Eire, and one had hoped that we should get an equitable result from that, and that, having stood the brunt of the economic war for six years, we should be put back in at least as good a position as that in which we were before it started; indeed, I think it would only have been common jus-ice to put us in a better position. It seems to me, judging as best one can a long and complicated agreement, that we are in a definitely 1533 worse position, and that it is not likely to get any better as the result of this agreement.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Sir P. Harris
Naturally we on the Liberal benches, and certainly I myself, do not view with favour any restriction of trade. We would like to see a free exchange of goods between Great Britain and Ireland, and the removal of all these barriers, whether between Great Britain and Eire, between Great Britain and the Dominions, or between Great Britain and foreign countries. But we have to he realists, and to recognise the principle that Ireland, as I still prefer to call it—the Irish Free State—is a Dominion.
§ Sir P. Harris
This is a step forward in that direction, not only from the point of view of Great Britain, but from the point of view of the Irish Free State. We have to recognise that, although these tariffs may be put on in Eire against this country, they are equally put on in Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, and also in the great Indian experiment. In these cases there is the principle of preference, and the very fact that the Irish Free State also is accepting that principle means that she is willing and anxious to come into that great family of nations, the Commonwealth of the British Empire. That is a great step forward. We recognise that we have to take this agreement as a whole, for better or worse. We recognise that it has been brought about after a long and bitter struggle lasting over two years, and, that being so, I think that the Government and the Dominions Secretary are entitled to get this Bill through as, if you like, part of the price that we have to pay for a very valuable contribution to the peace of the world, a step towards good will between this country and the Irish Free State.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
If I, as a Welshman, have the temerity to intervene in this discussion on the dispute between the Irish people and the English people, it is only to point out that the people of South Wales have had to pay heaviest of all for that dispute. There has been no difference at all between the Welsh people and the Irish people. We recognised that the Irish people were entitled to get the rights of nationality.
§ Mr. Griffiths
And the Scottish people too, when they ask for it. It is actually the South Wales miners who have very largely paid for the dispute, because the result of putting on those very stupid duties against Ireland was that Ireland put on heavier duties on South Wales coal. As a result, pits closed down and men were put out of work. The Board of Trade records show that as soon as those duties were put on, when that stupid quarrel began, the miners began paying the full price, and continued to do so until a coal-cattle agreement was made, to restore some of the markets. One thing we welcome in this Bill, which we hope will pass very quickly, is that it does restore something like a decent relationship between the Irish and the Welsh people commercially. The natural market for Welsh coal, which is the Irish market, was cut off overnight. Now it has been, for some time, restored, and in so far as it makes that an assured market, I want, as a Welshman, to welcome the Agreement.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Captain Euan Wallace)
I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has referred to the coal-cattle agreements. I am sure he will recognise that, very shortly after this unfortunate dispute began, we in this country tried to minimise its effects on the coal trade in general, and the Welsh coal trade in particular. These coal-cattle agreements have been going for some time, and it would not be unfair to call them the forerunners of this very fine Agreement which my right hon. Friend has made. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) has made some general criticisms of the Trade Agreement. I do not propose at this late hour, and in view of the discussion there has been on Second Reading, to inflict on the House any general review of the trade situation between ourselves and Eire, or the general objectives at which the Trade Agreement aims.
§ Sir D. Reid
What we want explained is why the Welsh miners were restored to the pre-1933 position and we in Northern Ireland were not.
§ Captain Wallace
I intend to come particularly to the position of Northern Ireland under the Agreement. I was just going to say that I do not propose to discuss the general objectives of the Trade Agreement, but to confine myself to the points raised by my hon. and gallant Friend, which deal with the effect of the Trade Agreement on Northern Ireland. He started by referring to the special duties, and he expressed, if I understood him right, some disappointment that the Government of Northern Ireland did not secure some share of the proceeds. The answer is that these duties were authorised by this House for the specific purpose of making good any direct loss to the revenue of the United Kingdom on account of the refusal of the Government of the Irish Free State to pay the annuities.
I think the House will recognise that it would be entirely inconsistent with the expressed intentions of Parliament that any share of those duties should have been made available for payments to people who suffered indirectly; and, what is more, I do not believe that the Government of Northern Ireland have ever put forward a claim in that regard. I am glad to say that my hon. and gallant Friend went on to admit that there were some good things in the Agreement. There are even some good things in that part of it which has been negotiated by the Board of Trade. He was perfectly right in saying that Northern Ireland will derive great benefit from the abolition of these irritating little taxes which have been taken off under Article 6.
But I must attempt to controvert the contention of my hon. and gallant Friend that, while we ourselves in the United Kingdom will be, as a result of the passage of this Measure, better off than we were before the trouble, Northern Ireland will be worse off. He referred in particular to boots and shoes on the one hand, which we in this country send to Eire, and shirts and linen goods of that kind on the other, which Eire gets or used to get from Northern Ireland. One answer to his contention—and it is the same one that he advanced on Second Reading—is that while reductions of duty are obtained under the Agreement in Article 10 and the Fifth Schedule both on boots and shoes and on linen goods and shirts, the former, that is our boots and shoes, are still liable to quantitative re 1536 striction which did not exist before the economic war, while my hon. and gallant Friend's linen goods and shirts are entirely free from any such restriction. In the case of boots and shoes there is no guarantee that there will be any expansion in that trade until the quantitative restrictions are removed under the Prices Commission review, while the trade in linen goods and shirts is free to expand immediately and to obtain all the benefit to be derived through the duties on these particular goods being halved.
In the second place it is true that while now Great Britain exports boots and shoes direct to Eire, and the trade from Northern Ireland is small, the chief reason why we included boots and shoes in the Fifth Schedule is that Northern Ireland formerly enjoyed a very substantialentrepot trade in footwear and it was actually the Government of Northern Ireland which included them in the list of goods upon which they would like immediate concessions to be obtained. I do not think therefore that it is too much to say that it was at the wish of Northern Ireland that these things were put into the Schedule.
§ Sir D. Reid
It is not a question of the Government of Northern Ireland. We are here representing our constituents. The Customs duties are not the province of the Government of Northern Ireland but of this House. We are here representing our constituents and the Government of Northern Ireland is out of it.
§ Captain Wallace
I appreciate my hon. Friend's point of view, but I do not think that he would really blame His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom for paying some considerable attention to the views of the Government of Northern Ireland during these intricate negotiations. Northern Ireland will also benefit particularly from the coal provisions in this Agreement. Under the coal-cattle Agreement only coal which entered a Free State port secured the benefit of the special terms. From now onwards it will be perfectly open to Northern Ireland to take any advantage they can from anentrepot trade in coal which happens to enter the whole island of Ireland through an excellent and well-equipped port on the Northern side of the boundary.
Probably the best short answer that I can give to my hon. and gallant Friend's 1537 contention is to quote five things that the Agreement has done for Northern Ireland. First of all, there have been certain adjustments in the financial relations between the two countries which have not been wholly to the disadvantage of Northern Ireland. Secondly, there have been immediate modifications of duties on certain goods of special interest to Northern Ireland. Thirdly, it has been agreed that the Government of Northern Ireland will enjoy what I might describe as some measure of priority before the Prices Commission. Fourthly, we have agreed that, if the Government of Northern Ireland finds itself in difficulties over this trade Agreement with the Government of Eire, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will invoke the consultation provision which exists in the Treaty, and that will enable us to appear as the friend and ally of Northern Ireland in these discussions.
Finally, I may, I hope, be forgiven for referring to the advantages which we think the Agreement will confer on Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom which are not really found within the four walls of the Agreement itself. We heard a good deal in the Second Reading Debate of the new feeling which we hope this Treaty will engender. As far as the trade side of it is concerned, it is only fair that I should say, speaking for the Board of Trade, that during the whole of the negotiations that we have had with the Irish Free State Government during the coal-cattle Agreements we have always found that they and their officials were not only as good, but better, than their word. Therefore, I think there are considerable advantages to be obtained which cannot be set down in Clauses or Schedules; and in enumerating those five benefits which Ulster will derive from the Agreement, I was only quoting from a speech by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland on 26th April.
§ Second Schedule agreed to.
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be now read the Third time
§ Sir R. Ross
It is no fault of mine that I have the exhausting task of addressing the House again and again on the same evening. I had hoped that the Third Reading would have been postponed until to-morrow, as was originally intended, and as I think would have been preferable. However, much as I regret having to keep hon. Members a little longer, I do not think they will ever get rid of about £I,000,000 of public money with greater despatch than at the present moment. This Agreement has been greeted with pathetic optimism by the British Press. On every occasion when all the differences between this country and Ireland have been settled once and for all it has always been greeted with optimism and satisfaction by the British Press. That has happened on numerous occasions within our memory, and it will happen again.
The peculiarity of the discussion on this Bill is not so much what has been said as what has been left unsaid; and the first of these factors is: how was it that we have not a better bargain in the circumstances? Mr. de Valera was in a position of the very greatest difficulty. He had started to get markets other than this country. He had ried to get coal which was better than Welsh coal; and had failed. He was dependent on the Labour party in Ireland for his majority, and hon. Members opposite know how poor the social services are in Ireland. Mr. de Valera has supported Franco and the Italians in Abyssinia, and organised labour in Eire has boycotted the Senate elections under his new Constitution. It strikes me as peculiar that we should have been driven into achieving what the Bill has achieved, considering the great advantages which I should imagine His Majesty's Government in this country had over the representatives of Southern Ireland who came to see them.
We must not forget one thing, and that is that the opposition to Mr. de Valera has been destroyed. The great point in their policy was always that an agreement of this kind should be come to, and certainly no Government of that part of the country could have hoped to have had an agreement which was more favourable to what they wanted than this Agreement. The people who are put out into the wilderness and who were on the point of securing a majority in the Dail at the 1539 next election are the people who have always stood for honouring the conditions of the Treaty, and the party favoured by this Agreement are those who have torn the Treaty to tatters.
An interesting speech was made on the Second Reading Debate by the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Maxwell), who knows Southern Ireland and the county of Cavan as well as anyone. He said with perfect truth that an end of the trouble would come at a time when the people in the South of Ireland realised their common interest with the United Kingdom. The whole argument with which this Bill has been supported has been that it may be a bad bargain, but that at all events it secures the good will of the people of Eire. Good relations can generally be secured on one of two bases, either the affection or the respect of the other people. I do not think that you have the affection of the people of Eire or of Mr. de Valera, and I rather think that by making a financial bargain which is almost unexampled—
§ Mr. J. P. Morris
The hon. Member has mentioned the word "bargain" several times, but is he aware that two Royal Commissions, the Bryce Commission and the Primrose Commission, reported in 1892 and in 1898 that Ireland had contributed to the Exchequer £2,000,000 a year more than she was liable to contribute over a great number of years?
§ Sir R. Ross
My hon. Friend is going back to the Bryce Commission, entirely ignoring all the Land Purchase Acts on which this debt was produced. The debt was acknowledged by everyone in authority in Ireland and by Members representing the Irish constituencies here as a sacred debt, and it was after the Bryce Commission that it was contracted. If the hon. Member cannot think of a more effective interruption than that, I think it would have been better for him to have remained in his place. As regards the question whether we have succeeded in getting their affection and in gaining friendly relations, Mr. Lemass, another of those who were parties to this Agreement, went back to Ireland and did not say, "We have come to an Agreement generous on the part of the British Government." No, he said, "We have won the economic war." As a matter of fact, they had lost it, but they were given 1540 the fruits of victory. As regards the question that this Agreement, if it is to be of any good, must produce friendly relations, I will read Mr. de Valera's own words in the Dail last week, when he said:First and foremost of those matters in dispute was that outrage to which Deputy Larkin referred—the Partition of our country. No Irishman who wanted to establish good relations between Britain and ourselves or between ourselves and Britain could ignore that. Remember that promises between Governments are not the things that matter. Treaties and signed documents are not the things that matter.What matters most in the relations between countries is the fact that those countries have common interests, and that there are no disputes which prevent those common interests from getting their full attention. No Irishman could hope to establish good relations with Britain, really and fundamentally, as long as that outrage on our nationality and on our people persists.There you have, from the mouth of Mr de Valera himself, the statement that good relations have not been established between this country and the country which he represents. As to his further grievance, in regard to Partition, no one throughout this whole Debate—and many have spoken about the Bill being a step towards the end of Partition—has mentioned the decisive verdict of Ulster on that point, the general election which was so definitely against any question of Partition being considered that it was surprising even to the most optimistic of us. There is nothing which we in Ulster would wish for more than to have a "good neighbour" policy with the people who live in the same island, and with whom we are perfectly content to be on the friendliest terms we can get, in spite of the constant spate of criticism, and the encouragement of every disloyal element in the country.
I could say much more, but I do not want to prolong the Debate. If there should be any hope on anybody's part that this Bill is a step towards putting Ulster under the control of any Dublin Parliament, I can assure hon. Members and those in other places, that our determination to preserve our liberties will stop at no sacrifice. [An HON. MEMBER:" Is that friendly? "] Am I not friendly? If I wish to preserve my own liberty have I not a right to do so? The hon. Member opposite will take care to preserve his. He will fight for his, and so will I fight for mine if I have to do 1541 so. This is the old procedure of trying to get the friendship of the people of Southern Ireland by means of British generosity. It was tried in the old Nationalist days again and again. Things were done for Southern Ireland which were not done for Northern Ireland or the people of this country. Then there was the Treaty in which great sacrifices were made by this country. After the Treaty there was the release of Southern Ireland from any responsibility for their share of the National Debt, much of which had been incurred in their interest. Then there was the Statute of Westminster which, in effect, released them from the Treaty. Now there is this Agreement. We are told that it will lead to good relations. No one hopes more than I do that that will be the case. No set of people have more to gain than the people of Ulster from being able to live quietly and on good terms with the people in the rest of Ireland. If this Agreement leads to that end I shall be glad, but that it will do so, I have the gravest doubts.
§ 11.7 p.m.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I wish to echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) has just said, namely, that those of us who represent Northern Ireland have no other wish than that this Agreement should prove successful and bring about better relations between the United Kingdom and what was formerly the Irish Free State. Of course we who live rather near to these things and who recollect former controversies cannot help remembering that there have been many agreements in the last generation between Great Britain and Southern Ireland. Each has been hailed at the time as the end of an age-long controversy, but something has always happened and more extreme parties have arisen, and none of those agreements has lasted. I hope this Agreement will have a more fortunate career. There is just one point with regard to the question of partition to which I should allude. One should remember, and I think the British people and even Members of this House sometimes forget it, that the present partition of Ireland is not based on any one-sided arrangement made by this country. It is based upon agreement freely entered into by the three parties concerned in the partition—the Governments of the United Kingdom, of 1542 what was the Irish Free State and of Northern Ireland.
Partition was recognised and provided for in the Treaty of 1921. It was there provided that if Northern Ireland wished for separate treatment it had the right under the Treaty, by an Address to His Majesty, to vote itself out of the Treaty. It did so. Furthermore, the Treaty provided regular machinery for defining the boundary between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland. That machinery for defining the boundary was eventually, after some difficulty, set into operation, but before the boundary was finally settled, there was a tripartite agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Free State and Northern Ireland. When that agreement was made it was prefaced by the words, "United in amity," or words of that kind. That agreement in 1925 by the three Governments finally determined the boundary between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland.
In other words, the Partition which exists to-day is the result of free, open agreement between the three parties concerned. Consequently, when it came under discussion the other day between the British Ministers and the Southern Irish Ministers, it was utterly and completely outside the province of the British Government even to discuss the matter, and they quite rightly said that this matter could be dealt with only in discussions between the three parties who had formerly reached the arrangement which at present exists. Any other reply on the part of the British Government would have gone to the very foundations on which our Empire is built up, namely, the free and unfettered decision of any self-governing unit within the Empire. Northern Ireland has been created by the United Kingdom Parliament as a subordinate self-governing unit within the United Kingdom and as such no change in its status can ever come about except by its own consent.
§ 11.13 p.m.
§ Sir P. Harris
It would be unfortunate if this Bill passed from this House without a few words from these benches. It is, perhaps, unfortunate that a Bill of great constitutional importance should go through the House of Commons at 11.15 p.m., but there is a desire that, for 1543 the good effect it may have upon the relations between the two countries, there should be no unnecessary delay. The responsibility for the terms and conditions of this Bill must rest with the Government. The Chairman of Ways and Means has, quite rightly, ruled that we cannot amend the Bill. It is not customary to amend a Bill which is part of a treaty; it must either be accepted or rejected. We on these benches are not attracted by many of the details of the Trade Agreement, but the fact that it is going to improve the trade relations is something in its favour.
One characteristic of this Bill which makes it different from almost every other Bill dealing with the Irish problem is that it has been brought about, not as the result of pressure, but as the result of an agreement voluntarily arrived at by both parties in a spirit of good will. I think that is the approach which we should make to the Bill. Let us hope that it will be a new dispensation. Hitherto, for two or three hundred years, a policy of resolute government and of pressure has been tried, and tried in vain. For years, this country resisted the appeal for self-government for the Irish people. For years, it was a controversy which divided the two great political parties in the State, and which was the cause of fundamental differences.
Let us now hope that Ireland, or Eire as they like to be known in these new times, will become a contented part of the British Commonwealth. I do not suppose that Eire will be prepared to accept that phrase, but I hope it is a step in that direction. As far as hon. Members on these benches are concerned, we recognise that mistakes have been made within the last two years on both sides, and we would have liked an ending of the bitter controvesy about the annuities at an early date; but we are prepared to give the Government credit at any rate for an attempt to create a better spirit between the two countries, which we hope will be an example to Europe of the strong being generous to the weak, an example perhaps which will be followed by some of the great Continental nations.
§ 11.17 p.m.
As one of the two or three Members now in the Chamber who were here when the Home Rule Bill was introduced by Mr. Asquith 26 years ago, per 1544 haps I may be allowed to contrast, with thankfulness, the change in the attitude of our discussions, the change in the spirit of the House, and, I hope it will be, the change, too, in the relations of this country and Eire, and the whole of the relations of the British Commonwealth, which is marked by the way in which this Bill has reached this stage. At that time, feeling was so intense that ordinary Members of the two parties in the House would hardly have any dealings with one another. To-day, we have listened with respect to the criticisms of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) and other hon. Members who have spoken on behalf of Northern Ireland. Those who remember the debates of those days must feel, from the altered spirit of the hon. Members' criticism, and especially from the hope expressed by the hon. Baronet for good relations in Ireland, a great hope for the future. I think all hon. Members, even those who have doubts, feel that this House should part with this Bill with a profound feeling of hope. We all desire that this better relationship which is coming into being shall be permanent for the good of this country, for the good of Eire, for the good of the Imperial Commonwealth, and for the peace of the world.
It is an act of faith, but it is even more, I believe, an act of good will. We must all be grateful to the Dominions Secretary for his patient labour in this cause, to the Prime Minister for the eminent part he has taken, and, may we add, to Mr. de Valera and his colleagues and all others who have contributed to make an Agreement which will surely be a landmark in the history of the Empire.
§ 11.21 p.m.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
Perhaps I may be allowed as an Irishman representing a large English constituency to say a final word in relation to this Bill. I would like at once to express my appreciation of the kindly sentiments which have been uttered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill). His speech is an indication, I hope, of the spirit which will prevail in the future between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. I also appreciate what my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry has said, and I hope that the natural doubts which he entertains regarding the operative effect of this great constitutional 1545 change will not be borne out. We have in this House of Commons for two generations been battling over the settlement of this Irish question, and for the first time in this long and tragic story the Prime Minister of this country has taken his courage in both hands and dealt with the question on constructive, hopeful, and inspiring lines. Having given many years in my early days to Ireland, I would like to express, on behalf, I believe of the mass of my fellow countrymen throughout the British Empire and in the United States, profound appreciation of the way in which this difficult, embarrassing, and thorny question has been handled by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State during the recent conversations.
Those of us who have been identified with the Irish question for so many years and who desire that this long controversy should be brought to a happy and satisfactory conclusion will rejoice to-night in the Third Reading of this Bill.
In my early days I was one of the hon. secretaries of a movement which aimed at what was called the establishment of devolution in Ireland. My right hon. Friend will perhaps remember the days when Lord Macdonnell was Under-Secretary in Dublin. A whole series of efforts has been made from that time to this. All these bitternesses and asperities have been roused again and again by controversies which, I hope, will now pass into the oblivion of historical obscurity. We in the House of Commons are, I hope, putting an end to this long, outstanding series of differences, thus telling the world that at last British statesmanship has risen to a full sense of its responsibility in regard to Ireland, and that this question has been brought, on a judicious examination, to a conclusion which will gain the respect of the whole world. Those who have been familiar with Irish affairs will recall how much in the War and subsequently British statesmanship was embarrassed by the interference of Irish discontent in a thousand directions throughout the Empire and in foreign countries. We hope that this great measure of amelioration, this great measure of friendship, will now at last settle these long-outstanding differences.
Speaking as one engaged in British industry I look forward to the Trade Agreement embodied in this Bill as the beginning of a more vitalised and rapidly 1546 expanding trade between the two countries. We have lost millions of pounds in trade between Ireland and Great Britain during the last 10 or 15 years. So far as I can ascertain, the feeling in Ireland is undergoing a most happy and hopeful transmutation. The attitude of the Irish people, according to every source from which I can get information, is becoming more friendly, and more anxious to develop better relations, and we look forward to more helpful trade relations in the future.
We in this country have a great deal to gain by making our trade situation with Ireland better; Ireland has much to gain, also, by the opportunities afforded by the relief from the duties imposed by this country. I am confident that we are beginning a new regime in the relationship of the two countries, and the effects of that relationship will not be confined to the limits of Eire and Great Britain, but extend throughout the world. Nations will see that British statesmanship is at last competent to deal with a domestic situation in its own Commonwealth to the betterment of the two peoples concerned.
§ 11.28 p.m
§ Mr. M. MacDonald
The Government deeply appreciate the friendly words which have been used about this Bill on its Third Reading in so many quarters. We appreciate especially the sincere good wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill). The hon. Member for Londonderry and his friends have been critical of certain aspects of this Agreement. We all know how keenly he feels about this matter. We all know how closely it touches his constituency and neighbouring constituencies, and I am certain that no one in the House resents his making these speeches on the subject at this late hour. We admire his persistency in speaking and his restraint in not speaking a great deal longer or more often.
I want to say only one or two sentences on the question with which he was concerned in his last speech, that of partition. He has said that while it is being claimed for this series of Agreements that it is going to establish a new friendship between Eire and this country, that will not be so, because we have already been 1547 told by the leaders in Eire that there cannot be friendship as long as partition lasts. The House has got to face the facts; certainly we on this bench do not wish to run away from them. It is true that Mr. de Valera, in the course of our negotiations, said, "There cannot be any complete and permanent friendship between the peoples of the two Islands as long as partition continues." Well, partition is not altered in any way by these Agreements or by this Bill. The attitude of this Government to that question was made perfectly plain, not only in the negotiations, but also by the Prime Minister in his speech the other day, when he said that we could not consent to any modification of the position between Eire and Northern Ireland which had not the consent not only of the people and the Government of Eire, but of the people and the Government of Northern Ireland. Therefore, this Bill makes no alteration whatever in the relations between this Island and that other part of the United Kingdom, the six counties of Northern Ireland.
Nevertheless, in spite of what my hon. Friend has said, the Bill makes a difference to the relations between Eire and this Island, because, besides partition, there were three other outstanding questions, three other major matters of dispute between the two countries, when these negotiations started. They were our occupation of the Treaty ports, the financial dispute, and the tariff and trade. Every one of those points of dispute will be removed if this legislation goes through the two Parliaments, and removal of these disputes is bound to improve very considerably the friendship, trust and co-operation between the two peoples.
In conclusion, I would only echo the words which were spoken by the last speaker; I do not think that the good effects of this Bill will be confined to these two Islands. The greater friendship which will flow from these Agreements will be extended to people who live far beyond these Islands. In some parts of our Dominions there are large populations of Irishmen, and to-day they are rejoicing in these Agreements. Our relations with those Dominions have always been excellent, but they will be a little more excellent as a result of the 1548 removal of ancient matters of dispute between Eire and the people of this Island.
There are other countries outside the Empire; there are the United States, where Irishmen take a great part in foreign affairs and in politics, and in moulding the international relations of that country. One has but to read the American Press to see how this series of Agreements has resulted in improving the friendly relations which exist between the United States and this country. It is because of the very wide and far-reaching effects of this legislation that I am confident that the House will give it now an unopposed Third Reading.