HC Deb 08 June 1939 vol 348 cc767-70

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.


Motion made, and Question proposed. That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision for civil defence, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of grants to the Government of Northern Ireland towards the expense incurred by that Government for the purposes of civil defence, so however that not more than seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds in all shall be paid during the four financial years ending with the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and forty-three, and not more than fifty thousand pounds shall be paid in any subsequent financial year."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[Captain Crookshank.]

11.15 p.m.

Mr. E. Smith

I think we are entitled to a statement on this Resolution, and I hope that we on this side will oppose the Resolution. More and more people in this country are becoming concerned about the extent to which our people are having to subsidise Northern Ireland, and the present proposal will mean that this country will be subsidising Northern Ireland to the extent of £187,000 a year. I and many other people who have discussed this matter with me, as well as a number of my hon. Friends, are of opinion that the time has arrived when Northern Ireland should stand on its own. The Military Training Act has not been applied to Northern Ireland, and I and many of my hon. Friends take the view that Northern Ireland ought to be financing itself, or, if it cannot do so, should be prepared to agree to consultations and negotiations in order that the whole of Ireland may be governed by a Government representing the whole Irish people.

11.17 p.m.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

I sympathise with the view expressed by my hon. Friend, and certainly this Motion raises some very important questions. The Home Secretary will have to tell us whether the proportion in the case of Northern Ireland is commensurate with that given to this country. It also raises political questions, and strategical questions as to whether the need of Northern Ireland is as great as that of this country. I understood, however, at Question Time, that the Prime Minister promised that a full opportunity would be given, and, as long as it is understood that these matters can be discussed in Committee, I would advise my hon. Friends to take no further action now.

11.18 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

This is not an occasion for going into very much detail, and I think that probably the more convenient way would be to follow the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Davidson

In the event of this Resolution being passed to-night, I take it that it will be impossible for anyone to suggest or move or speak with regard to any reduced sum?

Sir S. Hoare

The hon. Member will be unable to increase the sum, but will be able to move a reduction.

Mr. Benn

If another place is entitled to pass resolutions that public money should be spent, surely this House can at least pass a motion to reduce public expenditure.

11. 19 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan

Surely the position as stated by the Home Secretary is a very narrow one. The House in itself is not entitled to reduce the sum, and I agree that, once the Resolution is passed, we have to a large extent committed ourselves to the principle. All that we can do on Monday is to criticise the way in which the money will be spent. I agree, however, that we ought to let this Resolution go now, but for reasons different from those which have already been given. I do not want to see the members of my party thrust into a very awkward position with regard to Ireland, and it is for that reason that I would not ask them to criticise it, but I have grave doubts about the position, and I shall watch it very carefully when we come to examine it on Monday.

11.20 p.m.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

I recognise the value of the intimation made by the Home Secretary and I accept the advice of the much more experienced elder statesmen of the House, but my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) and I have been very anxious about this Resolution. We are opposed to a Government being so weak that they have practically to buy allegiance from small areas because of their incapacity in government. I suggest that their continual pouring out of money in certain sections of the Empire is creating dissension in other sections of the Empire, and is a sign of bad management. It is a sign that the Government cannot legislate execpt by buying allegiance from people who should give that allegiance because of good government.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.