§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.4 a.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Oliver)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Bill is an omnibus Measure and contains a number of separate matters, many of which, I am glad to say, have the agreement of the Government of Eire. The principle of the Bill is to remove for limited purposes a number of restrictions which are imposed on the legislative powers of the Parliament of Northern Ireland by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. The Act of 1920, which originally applied to the whole of Ireland, has applied only to Northern Ireland since 1922. It established a Government and Parliament in Northern Ireland within the framework of the United Kingdom, and, whilst reserving certain powers, such as defence, currency and foreign affairs to the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom, it did transfer other powers to the Government and Parliament of Northern Ireland in respect of such matters as health, transport, agriculture, and law and order.
§ Mr. Oliver
If the hon. Gentleman likes. It was discovered that the powers which the Northern Ireland Parliament possessed had a very restricted effect, and, in some instances, almost made it impossible for them to deal with their own domestic affairs; and, as a result, it has been necessary from time to time to enlarge the legis- 1468 lative powers by a series of Northern Ireland (Provisions) Acts, the first of which, I think, was passed in 1928; one in 1932, and one in 1945; and, in addition to that, there have been Clauses in certain United Kingdom Bills which make it possible for the Northern Ireland Parliament to legislate in those matters in which they have powers pertaining to that particular legislation. But all these provisions have not interfered with the main structure of the 1920 Act. Nor does this Bill interfere with the main structure of the 1920 Act. All that it does is to enable the Parliament of Northern Ireland to enact similar legislation to that which has been enacted in this House relating to the reorganisation of public services, and also with regard to limitations of actions, and matters of that description; and, of course, it will also enable the Government of Northern Ireland to give effect by legislation to agreements with the appropriate Departments of Eire for schemes of public utility which will operate on both sides of the border, and to schemes generally of that effect. Other Clauses of the Bill transfer to Northern Ireland two small offices which were reserved for the Government of the United Kingdom and which we feel ought now to be transferred. In addition to that it extends to Northern Ireland Part III of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, which deals with the permanent stopping up of highways closed under emergency powers.
That is a short résumé of the Bill, and now I should like to make some observations in respect of each of the Clauses. Clause 1 of this Bill enables the Parliament of Northern Ireland to make legislative provisions for hydro-electric, drainage, water and other schemes to be operated on both sides of the border in conjunction with the Eirean authorities. The Clause is particularly required for a joint hydro-electric and drainage scheme to be installed at Lough Erne, which is wholly within the area of Northern Ireland; but a part of the catchment board is in Eire. It goes out to the sea through Eire territory. In addition to that, it is required to rebuild the bridge over the River Foyle, between Strabane in County Tyrone and Lifford in County Donegal. Schemes of this character must benefit both bodies, north and south of the border. I am glad to say that this particular Clause and others have the agreement and support of the Eire Government.
1469 Clause 2 arises from the provisions in Section 5 of the Government of Ireland Act, which prohibits the Parliament of Northern Ireland from making laws transferring property without compensation. The courts have held that "compensation" in Section 5 means full compensation. The effect of those provisions is to make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Government of Northern Ireland to reorganise their public services, since any law of their Parliament providing for the transfer of property to any new authority would be likely to be declared invalid on the ground that the compensation prescribed was inadequate, or that no compensation was prescribed at all. The view of the Government here is that the Government of Northern Ireland should have the opportunity to carry out measures such as we have carried out here.
This Clause makes a distinction between revenue and trading services and non-trading and non-revenue producing services. Clause 2 (1) provides that when in connection with reorganisation of services it is desired to provide for the transfer of property to a new authority, a law of the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall not be declared illegal on the ground that the compensation prescribed is inadequate; provided that where the property is transferred from a local authority in connection with the transfer of public utility services any outstanding debt or liability of the local authority as public utility undertakers must also be taken over. That Subsection, of course, is confined to the transfer to an authority for the provision of public inland transport or port facilities, and of gas and electricity.
Clause 2 (2) deals with the transfer of property from local authorities in connection with non-trading and non-revenue producing services; for example, health services. Here there would normally be no case for compensation where the local authority is, at the same time, being relieved of their duties to provide the service or services with which the property was connected. Therefore, Subsection (2) waives the restriction in this case accordingly. The purpose of Subsection (3) is to meet any doubts about the validity of certain Northern Ireland legislation of this kind which has already taken place. Clause 3 enables the Parliament of Northern Ireland to do what we have done with respect to our aged 1470 judges, namely, to fix an age limit for their retirement. That Clause is self-explanatory.
Clause 4 is required because the restrictions in the Government of Ireland Act about the taking of property make it difficult to bring voluntary hospitals within a unified scheme, and also make it difficult to legislate with regard to private practices. Unfortunately, this class of case does not come within Clause 2, to which I have referred. In our view, the Parliament of Northern Ireland should be free to introduce legislation comparable with that which this House has passed within recent dates.
The purpose of Clause 5 is to enable the Parliament of Northern Ireland to provide for the counting of war service and other service with the Armed Forces, and certain other services, for superannuation purposes under the Northern Ireland Superannuation Act. Thu again enables legislation to be brought into line with that passed in Great Britain.
Clause 6 arises from the intention of the Northern Ireland Government to bring rail and road traffic into a unified service. One of the railways in Ireland is the Great Northern Railway of Ireland, part of which operates in Northern Ireland and part of which operates in Eire. This Clause will enable the proposed new central authority to take over the railway property in Northern Ireland and to join in the operation of a through service with Eire across the border; and it will aso be possible for the Parliament of Northern Ireland to legislate for their new transport authority to join in a through boat service to this country. I am glad to say that this Clause also is satisfactory to the Government of Eire.
Clause 7 enables the Parliament of Northern Ireland to consolidate and amend their existing legislation on the lines of our Limitation Act, 1939, which, as no doubt the legal Members of the House will recall, limits the time within which actions may be brought in our courts. The Parliament of Northern Ireland have power to legislate on ordinary matters of limitation, but have not power to legislate in respect of the Crown or Crown property. Therefore, this Clause will enable them to include in their legislation provisions about the Crown corresponding to those which we included in our own Limitation Act, 1939.
1471 Clauses 8 and 9 provide for the transfer to the Government of Northern Ireland of the Registry of Deeds and the Registry of Land. These two offices were reserved to the United Kingdom Government under the Act of 1920. However, inconvenience has been experienced by this reservation, particularly in connection with the complex subject of land registration, and there is no reason why these offices should not now be transferred to the Northern Ireland Government. Provision has been made for the interests of the staff who would be transferred to the Northern Ireland Parliament and they will not be prejudiced. In the event of any disagreement arising which cannot be settled by agreement there is the right of appeal to the Civil Service Committee of Northern Ireland.
Clause 10 provides that the Northern Ireland Parliament shall have certain powers in regard to the repealing of Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament. The Northern Ireland Parliament at the moment can repeal or alter Acts of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed before 1920 if they have the power to pass legislation in that particular matter Also they can alter and repeal Acts of Parliament passed since 1920 if there is a specific provision inserted in the Bill enabling them to do so. What they cannot do is to alter a subordinate instrument under an Act of the United Kingdom passed since 1920, and, therefore, this Clause alters that very anomalous position.
Clause 11 is inserted to remove doubt about the validity of the war time fire service legislation in Northern Ireland, which was similar to our own. I understand that this legislation is necessary otherwise the legislation passed in the war years might be challenged on the grounds that it deals with matters arising out of a state of war, which is one of the subjects about which the Northern Ireland Parliament is not entitled to legislate.
Clauses 12 and 13 are miscellaneous in character. Clause 12 extends to Northern Ireland with adaptations Part III of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, and will enable orders to be made for the permament stopping up of highways which have been stopped up under emergency powers. These powers will expire on 31st December of this year. The safeguards provided in that Act, in- 1472 cluding the publication of the proposals and the reference to the War Work Commission, will apply as they do in Great Britain. The Clause is required to enable a number of roads which have been closed in the vicinity of airfields in the occupation of the Royal Air Force to be kept closed, and any closing order under this part of the Bill as extended to Northern Ireland will be made by the Home Secretary in consultation with the Secretary of State for Air and representatives of the Northern Ireland authorities. This application is strictly limited in time and any proposals for orders must be published not later than 24th February of next year.
Clause 13 extends Section 2 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1945, in order to enable an Act of the United Kingdom to be modified by the Governor of Northern Ireland in Council where functions conferred on one authority in Northern Ireland by such an Act have been transferred to another authority. Section 2 of the Act of 1945 in its existing form relates only to transfers between the Ministers or Departments, and the Amendment will enable the transfer of functions, which local authorities in Northern Ireland hold under legislation of the United Kingdom Parliament, to be dealt with in a similar way. The other two Clauses, 14 and 15 are the usual Interpretation and Short Title Clauses and will require no explanation from me. I think I ought to observe, as I said in my opening observations, that this Bill does not affect the structure of the 1920 Act, and it is being promoted after consultation with Northern Ireland. It enables the Parliament of that country to bring its law into line with Great Britain and I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 11.27 a.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill, is to be congratulated on the very clear explanation of its Clauses, especially in view of the arduous labours to which he was subjected in this House in the early hours of yesterday morning. As he has explained, this Bill is of an enabling character, and some of its Clauses are inserted for the removal of doubts as to the legislative powers of the Government of Northern Ireland. It 1473 is perfectly obvious that in any federal system where a hard and fast line has to be drawn between the powers of a central legislature, on the one hand, and a local legislature, on the other, from time to time questions are bound to arise as to the extent of the powers committed to either of those two parties.
This is one of a series of Bills which has been required from time to time to enable the Government of Northern Ireland to keep abreast with modern social legislation in the light of economic, technical and social developments which were not foreseen at the time when the original Act of 1920 was passed. For our part, we on this side of the House will give our support to the Bill. The Clauses which it contains are not only harmless enough, but in our view are in all respects beneficial to the common men and women of Northern Ireland. In fact as the Under-Secretary has explained to the House, some of these Clauses are the subject of agreement between the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government of Eire. They bear witness and testimony to a new and laudable spirit of co-operation and good will between those two countries.
§ Mr. Peake
Clauses 1 and 6 are the subject of agreement between the two Governments. Clause 1 enables a hydroelectric scheme for Lough Erne to be developed, and Clause 6 is to enable road and rail transport in Northern Ireland to be brought under unified control. I will not examine the other Clauses in the Bill, but I will just mention that Clause 2 is devised to enable the public services in Northern Ireland to be re-organised without the payment of full compensation, that is to say—to take, as an example, what happened in this country—to enable electricity undertakings to be transferred to a central authority, on the basis not of full compensation for the transferred assets, but upon the basis of taking over the net outstanding debts of local authorities. Clause 4 is designed to enable the health services of Northern Ireland to be re-organised on the same basis as in this country. It would enable voluntary hospitals to be taken over, as has happened here. The other Clauses are of a machinery character and are, in our opinion, all designed for the better government of Northern Ireland.
1474 The Under-Secretary of State made no reference—and I was a little surprised that he did not do so—to an Amendment which has stood for many months upon the Order Paper, in the names of nearly zoo of his own supporters and of a number of Members of the party who sit below the Gangway on this side of the House. His failure to refer to it made me wonder if this was a real revolt or merely a demonstration.
§ Mr. Peake
I wondered also whether perhaps the bad boys had been seen by the headmaster and had decided to think better of their attitude. Anyhow, we shall find out in the course of the Debate whether there is a genuine desire to obstruct the passage of this highly beneficial Bill and to deny to the people of Northern Ireland the benefits which the Bill will confer, simply because some hon. Members opposite do not like the party character of the present Government of Northern Ireland. I have been endeavouring to ascertain the nature of the complaint. The Amendment is drafted in wide terms, designed undoubtedly to attract as many people as possible who have a grievance about Northern Ireland to its support. The Amendment suggestsThat this House declines to give a Second Reading.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of Order. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether we are not discussing the Motion, "That the Bill be now read a Second time?" Is it in Order for the right hon. Member to deal with an Amendment which has not yet been moved?
§ Mr. Speaker
It has been the custom to do so. I have often heard Ministers refer to an Amendment which is on the Order Paper. It is quite in Order.
§ Mr. Peake
I am surprised that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) should have endeavoured to prevent my referring to an Amendment which has the support of no fewer than 200 Members of his own party. The Amendment suggests:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which enlarges the legislative power of the Parliament of Northern Ireland until such time as in the opinion of this house the Parliament of Northern Ireland so administers the Government of Ireland Act, 1475 1920, as to provide democratic liberty and equality for the people of Northern Ireland.I imagine that there must be some suggestion there that the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act which has existed in Northern Ireland since 1923 is objected to. Upon that point I would only say, let us remember the events in this country in the year 1939 and the passage of the Prevention of Violence Act, which was found necessary that year in order to check a series of dastardly outrages perpetrated in this country, which were intended to destroy many of our public services. In the early months of that year there were I.R.A. terrorists at large in this country. Much damage was caused to property and to life and limb. The police knew who were the men likely to perpetrate those outrages but, on account of the wise provision of our common law that guilty people shall be acquitted rather than that innocent people shall be imprisoned without good cause, the police were unable to take effective action before those outrages occurred.
What was the remedy taken by this Parliament? It was not to provide for the detention of those people without trial. It was merely to take the power to deport those terrorists back to Eire, whence they had come. Let it be noted, therefore, that, in consequence of that action by the British Parliament, these thugs and gangsters were left at liberty in Ireland. Is it to be wondered at, with a land frontier extending for many hundreds of miles and never able to be properly guarded, that it should have been necessary for the Parliament of Northern Ireland to exercise powers to prevent similar outrages occurring there? Let it also be noted that the Government of Southern Ireland have for many years past enjoyed and exercised precisely similar powers of detention without trial within the boundaries of Southern Ireland.
It is also suggested, I believe, that there is some feeling regarding the local government franchise in Northern Ireland. I should have thought that that was a matter which might well be left to the authorities in Northern Ireland, to decide for themselves. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It must always be remembered that the higher standard of living and the far better provision of social services in Northern Ireland proves a constant attraction to immigrants from the South. 1476 Therefore, I think it is not in the least to be wondered at if the local government franchise, or even the Parliamentary franchise, is not given automatically or immediately to residents in Northern Ireland. I should have thought that, in accordance with true democratic principles, we might leave the Parliament of Northern Ireland to decide for itself the appropriate form of local government franchise. No doubt we shall hear more of those points from hon. Members who have put their names to the Amendment. I have little doubt either that hon. Members who sit behind me and represent Ulster constituencies will be able to give them a very effective reply.
For our part, we shall support the Bill. Northern Ireland stood loyally beside us in the war and shared our burdens. Without the ports of Northern Ireland we should never have withstood the submarine peril in 1941 and 1942. Any Measure which conduces to the good government of Northern Ireland, and which also shows a new and happy sprit of collaboration with the Government in the South will have our wholehearted support.
§ 11.39 a.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
Before this House can agree to grant additional powers to the Parliament of Northern Ireland the great majority of Members on this side of the House—and, to be fair, I believe a considerable number of hon. Members on the opposite side—will, I think, need to be satisfied on three points. They will need to know whether the dictatorial powers at present exercised by the Home Secretary of Northern Ireland are justified or whether they are merely a weapon against political opponents. Secondly, they will want to know whether the express provisions of Sections 5 and 8 of the Government of Northern Ireland Act against religious discrimination are properly observed or whether the Government of Northern Ireland are fostering religious discrimination for party purposes. Thirdly, they will want to know whether in Northern Ireland both Parliamentary and local elections are democratically and fairly conducted?
When the Government of Northern Ireland come to this House as a subordinate Parliament to ask for further powers, it is perfectly right and proper for this House to exercise its undoubted con- 1477 stitutional right to require from the Government of Northern Ireland an account of their stewardship. I am sorry to see that the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) appeared to suggest that that was something improper.
There are particular reasons why we should be careful that we do not in this Measure grant these powers without proper inquiry. How can we give powers over transport unless we have first assured ourselves that the Parliament which is to exercise them is democratic and is subject to democratic criticism? How can we transfer civil servants who have served this State loyally unless we can be certain that they will not in their old age be victimised on account of their religious convictions? How can we allow local authorities to administer a health service unless we are assured that these local authorities really represent the people over whom they rule?
One of the most distressing things in dealing with Northern Ireland is the careless way in which they have flung away the powers entrusted to them by this House. I would have thought that the most vital power which a Parliament can possess is the right to make laws for the liberty of the subject. Yet under the Northern Ireland Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act, first temporarily and then finally, the Government of Northern Ireland has handed over to the Executive the right to make every law affecting the life and liberty of the individual.
I do not want to be unfair and so I will just describe the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act in the words of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Home Affairs in Northern Ireland. He said:It gives the Home Secretary power to do whatever he likes or to let someone else do it for him.It is curious in a way that these things have never come to the ears of the party opposite. I remember that the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) spoke very feelingly in this House about the freedom of the Press. He told us that he hoped the House would not consent to an inquiry into the Press because he feared that this would in some way prejudice what he believed to be an absolute democratic right. Then he went off for a holiday in Northern Ireland. But did he not 1478 realise that in Northern Ireland the Home Secretary, by a rule not made by Parliament but by the Home Secretary himself, can prohibit at will any newspaper with which he disagrees, that anyone can suffer a long term of imprisonment for having a so-called seditious book and that possessing a book issued by the Left Book Club is among the terrible crimes for which people have actually suffered terms of imprisonment? But the right hon. and learned Gentleman was able to disregard all that and give an interview to the "Belfast Telegraph," in which he said that it was complete nonsense to suppose that there was anything undemocratic about the Northern Ireland administration.
We consider that there is something undemocratic about an administration which possesses these powers. We consider that no Parliament is entitled to further powers which allows its Executive to ban at will any political party and which allows the Executive to intern without trial its political opponents and often to intern them under very terrible conditions. Anyone who knows anything about Northern Ireland will remember the hulk "Argenta" riding in the roads outside Belfast and on her decks men, like beasts in cages, and among them, a Member of this House. There are powers to detain men without trial, to arrest men without a warrant, and, most peculiar of all, to arrest a suspected witness. What a terrible crime to be suspected by the police of being a witness. If one is suspected of being a mere witness one can be brought before a magistrate, but one is forbidden by a law made by the Northern Ireland Home Secretary to be accompanied by one's own legal adviser. One may he questioned and if one refuses to answer any questions, even one which incriminates oneself, one can be subject to 14 years' penal servitude. All the evidence that can be brought at one's trial is merely a certificate from the magistrate that one refused at a private interview to answer questions.
We are not prepared without further explanation to grant powers to such a Government, particularly when those powers have been so obviously used not against the I.R.A. but against political opponents. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that powers of deportation and' exile were necessary to deal with thugs 1479 and gangsters, but who are the thugs and gangsters against whom Northern Ireland has to fight? Mr. de Valera was elected a Member of the Northern Ireland House of Commons. An order was made that if he dared to approach the precincts of the Parliament he would De arrested. He entered his own constituency and served a month's imprisonment for that offence.
§ Mr. Bing
The hon. Gentleman should not be so impetuous; I am just working up to 1938. Even when Mr. de Valera was the President of the Council of the League of Nations he would have been subject to two years' imprisonment if he had passed through Northern Ireland on his way to the League.
They say that these powers have never been used against trade unionists. Who is the best known trade unionist in Northern Ireland? The late Mr. Jim Larkin, a native of Ulster, who was forbidden by the Ulster Government under ban of imprisonment from ever visiting his home. Since the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) wants a modern illustration, in 1942, Mr. Gideon Close, the present President of the district committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in Belfast, saw fit to make some criticisms of the war effort of the Northern Ireland Government. He suffered for that 11 months imprisonment without ever having it disclosed to him why he was "put away." These powers have even been used by the Northern Ireland Government against their own supporters when they become too obstreperous. There was a policeman—a Mr. James Mulgrew—who was—there is nothing peculiar in this in Northern Ireland—a member of the Orange Lodge. As the House will realise, the Home Secretary of Northern Ireland made special arrangements by which there was a special Lodge to which members of the police and the magistracy could belong. In the course of his duties in this lodge this policeman was concerned with the candi- 1480 dature of an unofficial Unionist candidate for Parliament. What happened? He went inside for eight months. He came back and since the election was now over and that they did not want to lose the services of this policeman, he returned to the police force where he served for another 12 years.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act is not used against political opponents. Let me give a quotation from the "Irish News" of 14th March, 1942, chronicling what might be called, "the day's raids":Yesterday's raids included visits to the homes of the secretaries of three divisional Labour Parties, the home of an Independent Unionist and the homes of members of the Labour and Socialist movements.So much for the Northern Ireland Home Minister's statement in the "New Statesman":I aver most positively that no man has ever been affected by the Special Powers Act because of his labour or trade union sympathiesThat is what is said for the English audience. The real position is that disclosed in the Northern Ireland House of Commons. There the Attorney-General takes a quite different view. He says that the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act is for quite a different purpose. Speaking as late as February, 1947, in the Northern Ireland House the Northern Ireland Attorney-General said:The Special Powers Act will not be repealed until there is a complete change on the part of a section of the population in their attitude towards this Government——not the House will note in their attitude towards the I.R.A., or their attitude towards the constitution, but in their attitude towards a Tory Government.
But, despite the obvious inaccuracy, the obvious overstatement of the Northern Ireland Home Secretary, despite the regrettable fact, for example, that in the pamphlet issued by the Northern Ireland Government, Martini-Henry Carbines last manufactured in 1887 and which formed part of the arms of the Ulster Volunteer Forces are shown on page 7, this House would make a mistake if it treated too lightly this question of the I.R.A., or if we were to disregard altogether the documents which have been published. What we should do is to see whether in fact this continuing sore which affects political 1481 life in Ireland is not produced or aggravated by the action of the Northern Ireland Government itself.
I come to Section 5 of the Northern Ireland Act which contains provisions against sectarianism. Let us see how these are carried out. This is particularly important when we are transferring civil servants from our own administration to that of Northern Ireland. As early as 1925 the Minister of Agriculture was explaining that he was not going to observe any question of equality between the religions in his service. He said:I have 109 officials and as far as I know there are four Roman Catholics. Three of them were civil servants turned over to me whom I had to take on when we began.Eight years later we have a Minister indignantly denying that he was carrying out the provisions of the constitution. Mr. J. M. Andrews, then Minister of Labour, and later Prime Minister, said:Another allegation …I hope the House notes those words—Another allegation made against the Government, and which is untrue, is that of the 31 porters at Stormont, 28 are Roman Catholics. I have investigated the matter …What a job for a Minister of Labour, an inquiry into a man's private religion—and I have found there are 30 Protestants and only one Roman Catholic, there only temporarily.It is a short step from this build-up of sectarian hatred to the point that is reached when, speaking in the constituency of the hon. Baronet the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross)—and as far as I know from that date to this never denied by him—the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland said:I recommend people not to employ Roman Catholics who are 99 per cent. disloyal.
§ Sir R. Ross
Will the hon. Member say when and where that statement was made? What was the time and the date?
§ Mr. Bing
It was made in March, 1934, at a gathering in Londonderry, and it was very soon followed up by action elsewhere. I have here a photostat copy of an introduction card from a labour exchange sending mill girls to Messrs. Lamonts mill in Belfast. On the front it says:If the worker is not engaged, please state the reasons overleaf.Scribbled across the back is that one word "religion." The incitement of the 1482 Prime Minister is followed up by the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister—a Ministerial appointment in Northern Ireland—who supports his incitement, for, under the curious heading of "Offences against sobriety," he circulated a notice saying:Any member of the Orange Institution found frequenting Roman Catholic public houses"—[Laughter.] "is guilty of conduct unbecoming an Orangeman, and a charge to that effect may be brought against him and will be dealt with according to our laws——according to the laws of a secret society of which the police and the Cabinet are members. The statement goes on:This resolution will be strictly enforced in future.Hon. Members may laugh at things of this sort, but in Northern Ireland they have a very serious effect. Within a little time after the issue of that statement a man entered a Catholic public house and murdered the owner.
§ Mr. Bing
When the matter came to be tried, the Attorney-General confessed quite frankly that the situation was such that, if you happened to belong to a particular faith you were liable to be murdered. The actual words with which he opened his closing speech to the jury were:Members of the jury, in this case the motive is, as lawyers would say, 'at large.' The murdered man was a publican and a Roman Catholic, and therefore liable to assassination.[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but it shows to what lengths sectarianism can go. This unfortunate man had had some premonition of his fate, and had telephoned the police and asked that policemen should be sent to the public house. Three police came in and spoke to him, and then went outside. While they were outside the door the murderer entered, shot the man, and then left. After the trial, there was some criticism that the police were unable to arrest the man as he left or to identify the man at an identification parade, and the Lord Chief Justice, speaking to the jury, said there was no doubt that many of the 1483 police, and not only those three members of the Force were living at the time in a state of terror of their lives, and that the jury must not criticise them with undue severity. But what was the terror which was affecting them? The terror, not of the I.R.A., but of a secret society to which police and magistrates and members of the Government belong. I he Belfast coroner said at the inquest on the 1935 riot victims that the blame must lie on public speeches made by men in high and responsible positions. The right hon. Member for North Leeds was defending the Special Powers Act. Speeches like this made by independent coroners do not threaten public safety. Yet the Special Powers Act still contains the provision that the Government can prohibit the holding of any inquest they like.
Let me show the effect of this sectarianism in practice by taking three consecutive Questions asked in the Parliament of Northern Ireland on 13th October, 1938. The first was a question regarding a boy of 15 sentenced to a year's imprisonment under the Special Powers Act, and the Home Secretary explained that it was necessary to lock him up in a common gaol with common criminals. The second dealt with a man sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for possessing seditious literature—I believe a copy of Dorothy Macardle's "Irish Republic published over here by Gollancz, and obtainable in the Belfast Public Library. The third was about a former Unionist Member of Parliament who had said at a public meeting:I advise everyone here to beg, borrow, or steal a revolver, rifle, or gun, as they are likely to need them in the near future.To that, the Home Secretary replied that this must have beenmerely one of those exuberant oratorical flourishes not uncommon at political meetings.Who can doubt that when on the one side, one party is free to exhort its followers to take up arms, when every attempt is made to stir up religious hatred, there are a few desperate men who take arms in their own hands and do something violent and dreadful?
It would not be so difficult if it were possible for anyone to have any faith in the democratic machinery for changing the Government of Northern Ireland. Over a period of time, however, the Northern Ireland Government have altered 1484 the franchise law in favour of the wealthy and with the object of disenfranchising the poor. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he suggests that we should not look at what are the franchise laws in Northern Ireland. This is the supreme Parliament. It is our duty to see that the Government of Ireland Act. 1920, is carried out, not only in the letter but in the spirit in which it was intended.
§ Mr. Bing
It seems to me immaterial whether it is the local or the Parliamentary franchise. We are at this moment giving powers to the local authorities but, before we do so, we have the right to know whether or not they are representative bodies. Over a period of time the Government of Northern Ireland have been pursuing a policy of giving plural votes to corporations, to business concerns to company directors, and taking away votes from the ordinary man in the street. That, in the Northern Ireland House of Commons, was advocated as early as 1928 as the right and proper thing to do. The then Home Secretary, speaking on business votes and the votes of company directors said:These two classes of persons represent what one might describe as strong financial interests in the country, and so are entitled to preferential treatment.One can see the extent of this preferential treatment by analysing the registers in one area. I have chosen the register in Derry City. For our Parliament there are 28,350 residential votes and 35 business votes; for the Northern Ireland Parliament, which is supposed to be upon exactly the same basis as this Parliament, there are not 35 business votes but 1,072. There are not 28,350 residential votes but only 27,007. What happens when one comes to local government? One finds there that there are at this moment only 15,900 people entitled to vote in the local government elections, only just more than one-half of those who are entitled to vote in our Parliamentary elections. Of those 16,000, some 3,000 more are returned soldiers who are due for disinfranchisement because they cannot find a separately rated building in which to live. The Northern Ireland Elections and Franchise Act of 1946 has 1485 deprived of votes people who enjoy votes in this country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)
Can the hon. Gentleman give way for one moment? I think he is misrepresenting the last picture. I understand that in local government elections ox-Service men and women have definitely been given the vote.
§ Mr. Bing
I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not studied more carefully the provisions of his own Parliament before intervening in the Debate. As a temporary measure in the last election, ex-Service men were permitted to vote, but they will not be permitted to vote in any subsequent election. That is why, as I was trying to explain, this figure of 16,000 represents an additional ex-Service man's vote of some 3,000 who will disappear from the register. Under the Elections and Franchise Act a company has ten votes, but for any returned ex-Service man now there is no vote—no vote for anybody who is not living in separately rated premises. We have the position in which the franchise is reduced to the state which it was in shortly after 1840.
Of course, in conditions like this everybody admits that democracy becomes a farce, and not only on our side of the House but on the other side as well. I can give the exact date and the exact place to the hon. Baronet who was inquiring earlier. In his own constituency, at the, Apprentice Boys' Luncheon on 16th June, 1938, one of the most respected Members of the Northern Ireland House, the late Mr. G. E. C. Young, said this:Some people speak about voting against their consciences. My conscience never troubles me when I vote for the Northern Ireland Government. I was told I should have to learn all about unemployment insurance and the Transport Act. You have only to hoist the 'orange and purple' and stick to it, and I have had as easy a political career as any man in this room.It is only a quarter of a century ago that this Parliament entrusted certain powers to a Parliament in Northern Ireland. As a result of the exercise of these powers, today in Northern Ireland individual liberty is at the whim of the Executive. Imprisonment without trial or exile without a hearing awaits the opponent of the, Government; today religious sectarianism, officially banned by the Constitution, is everywhere rife and 1486 encouraged even by members of the Cabinet. Today, the most fundamental perhaps of all democratic rights, the right to vote, has been taken away from hundreds of thousands of poor people and given instead to wealthy corporations.
We are asked today to give further powers to a Parliament which has done this for democracy. I think this House should only do it on one condition, that the Northern Ireland Members repudiate all these undemocratic practices and promise immediately to reform their state. I hope that, when they speak, hon. Members opposite will not deal entirely with the past. There were things in the past done on both sides in Ireland which it will be better for all of us to forget. In the heat and passion of civil war, things were done which we all look upon—[Interruption.] Does the noble Lord wish to say something?
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I was saying that it was very interesting, in view of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, and that I was glad that at long last he has admitted that in Southern Ireland people in the past have been murdered because they were Protestants and Unionists.
§ Mr. Bing
I always feel it is a little impertinent for a Member who has so recently come to this House as myself to indulge in any controversy with the noble Lord, who has been here a long time, but if I might say this to the House as a whole, I think we should be very wrong if we were to allow this Debate to turn into a competition of atrocity stories.
§ Mr. W. F. Neill (Belfast, North)
Will the hon. Gentleman quote some cases of murder from the other side of the picture, so that this House would be able to judge correctly?
§ Mr. Bing
The hon. Gentleman would appreciate, if he had the opportunity of being here more often, that this is not the Council Chamber of the Belfast Corporation, and here we must keep rather strictly to the Debate. I think it would be much better if we were to fix our minds on this: that on both sides in this conflict there 1487 were men who fought, who were prepared to sacrifice everything—their lives, their health, the happiness of their families—for what they believed to be right and just. What we should try to achieve in this House today is to see if we can in some way do something to bring these men together. I believe that if they can be brought together Ulster will enjoy as great a future as her past.
Any legislation we pass today must have one prime object—the destruction of blind sectarianism. This sectarianism can be ended in this House today. Hon. Gentlemen who sit above the Gangway on the opposite side of the House are all Members of the same party as the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. If there came from that Front Bench one word of condemnation of sectarianism, what a difference it would make. Is there one hon. Member on the benches opposite who believes in his heart that Roman Catholics are in fact 99 per cent. disloyal? Is there not then to be found one hon. Member who will get up and state that what the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland said was wrong and should be withdrawn. Is there one hon. Member on the other side of the House who believes that every provision of the Special Powers Act is justified? Then are we not to find on the opposite side of the House one hon. Member who will get up and denounce even one provision of that Act? Is there one hon. Member opposite who does not believe in the democratic principles of "One man, one vote"? Then are we not to find someone who will get up and denounce the Northern Ireland Elections and Franchise Act, 1946.
What we say today on this little Bill affects not one small province of the United Kingdom. It proves to the world what value we set upon democracy. I have no doubt of the attitude of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have set in the forefront of their programme Christianity and political liberty. Now is the time for them to show it. The one question in this Debate is whether hon. Members opposite put the principles of liberty, democracy and religious freedom before party advantage.
§ 12.13 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh O'Neill (Antrim)
I was very surprised, after the exhaustive speech 1488 which the hon. Member has just delivered, to find that he had not moved the Amendment, which is on the Order Paper. Is some other hon. Member opposite to move for him? What has happened?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I asked if there had been a crack of the party whip, a very inoffensive remark to make in this House to anyone who knows what it means.
§ Mr. Bing
If the right hon. Gentleman really requires an answer, and does not put the question forward as a debating point, I would say that we on this side are considering the convenience of this House. We desire to have the Debate in the form in which it will be of the most practical value. We are anxious that this matter should be discussed, and that hon. Gentlemen should have a full opportunity of answering.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I am afraid that most Members of this House and the public outside will think that something has happened between the putting down of the Amendment and today, to account for the fact that it has not been moved.
§ Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)
On a point of Order, if an Amendment is being brought forward, it is in Order to debate it and refer to it, but if an Amendment is not to be moved, is one in Order in discussing it?
§ Mr. Speaker
Everything that is relevant to the Bill which is before the House is in Order. Therefore, if the Amendment is in Order, the hon. Member was in Order.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am sorry, but I did not make myself quite clear. If it is understood that the Amendment is not to be moved, then is it still in Order to discuss it?
§ Mr. Speaker
All these matters indirectly affect the Second Reading of the Bill, and therefore it is in Order.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
Whether the Amendment is to be moved or not, I should like to ask the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) this question: Does he still 1489 believe in the terms of the Amendment? I presume that he does, judging from the tenor of his speech. If that is so, I must say that we cannot understand why the Amendment has not been moved.
This Debate is, in fact, on a subject which occupied a great deal of the time of this House for over 40 years at the end of the last century and the beginning of this. On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Members, I welcome this Debate, because those for whom I speak have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. It is high time that the present generation in Great Britain should know something about the facts of the political set-up in Northern Ireland. Even the constitutional position is often misunderstood—the position in which Northern Ireland is a federal unit within the United Kingdom. This misunderstanding on the part of British people is very curious, when one considers how prominent are federal systems within the British Commonwealth. The hon. Member for Hornchurch has made a very bitter attack upon the Ulster Government—
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I do not think that he and his friends have chosen the occasion very well, because I do not think that there can be any controversy with regard to the merits of the Bill itself. It deals with such matters as have been referred to, various modifications and extensions of powers of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. One or two Clauses, as has been mentioned, deal with matters common to both North and South, and, as has been indicated, it is proposed that there shall be mutual arrangements regarding transport, etc., between the two Governments in Ireland. Yet the hon. Member would apparently desire to hold up all this, deny these advantages to the people of Ireland, both North and South, until such time as, in his view, the Northern Ireland Government behaves itself.
Suppose the hon. Member had moved his Amendment, and that Amendment had been carried, what would he do? How does he propose to compel the Parliament of Northern Ireland to behave itself? Would he be in favour of interference by this House in the affairs of another Legislature, duly constituted by this House in the proper process of law? We see a 1490 good deal of interference in these days with legislative assemblies in other countries. We know the Hitler technique—
§ Mr. Crawley (Buckingham)
Does the right hon. Member deny that this House has a great responsibility towards the Government of Northern Ireland?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
Let me finish. We know the Hitler technique. We know the modern Russian technique under which you interfere with matters concerning other Parliaments. Would the learned Member propose to do that?
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
On a point of Order. In addition to reading his speech, is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to say, "You interfere"?
§ Earl Winterton
Further to that point of Order. May I point out that it is singularly ungracious of the hon. Gentleman to call attention to the reading of a speech, as the same was done by the Minister?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
A lot of water has passed under the bridges of British constitutional history since the days when, by our folly, we lost the American Colonies. The hon. Member for Hornchurch has not answered that question.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I assume he would not be in favour of arbitrarily interfering with the functions of a subordinate Parliament, but would he be in favour of abolishing the Parliament of Northern Ireland altogether and administering Ulster directly from this House? Would he be in favour of that? Would he be in favour of putting us back into the condition which existed before 1920?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I can tell the hon. Member that if any British Government were to come forward with a serious suggestion to the Government of Northern Ireland that they should go back to the position which existed before 1920, it would be considered most seriously in Northern Ireland. Lastly, would the hon. Member for Hornchurch be in favour of compelling the majority of the people in Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and go into the Parliament of Southern Ireland? If the hon. Member 1491 really believes all he has said about the misdeeds of the Ulster Government, then the position is so serious that he must have some constructive suggestions to make about what should be done. He has no right to make the sort of speech which he has made without saying how he proposes to meet such a terrible state of affairs.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I will recall to the House one or two matters. What is this Government and Parliament of Northern Ireland?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
They were created by the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 which set up two equal Parliaments in Ireland, one in the North and one in the South.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
No, of course not. because Southern Ireland has gone out of the Empire since then. The Act created two identically equal Parliaments. It created partition to get over a long struggle between two different conceptions of life, just as today we are going to solve the Indian problem by partition. But the people of Ulster never wanted this Parliament. They were perfectly content with their position as part of the United Kingdom. They desired passionately to remain directly governed by this House, as they had been for 120 years. The present Parliament of Northern Ireland, which so much displeases the hon. Member for Hornchurch, was forced upon the people of Northern Ireland against their will in 1920 in order, as they were told, to try to bring about a settlement of the Irish question.
Who are these Ulster people who are behaving so badly and who are doing such terrible things? They are your own kith and kin. They are the descendants of the English and Scottish settlers who were sent to Ireland in the time of 1492 James I to take over the lands forfeited to the Crown after the Irish wars in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. My own county of Antrim was settled almost entirely from Scotland. Considering that it is only 15 miles from the Antrim coast to the coast of Argyllshire, it is not surprising that it was settled from Scotland. The county of Armagh was settled by people from the West of England. That is why to this day cider is still made in the county of Armagh. The county of Londonderry was settled largely by the great London City Companies. Hon. Members may not realise that before the settlers were sent to Northern Ireland from Great Britain the county of Londonderry was called Derry. It is still called Derry today by many, but after the London Companies had been granted land there, it was called Londonderry. To this day, it has a very close association with some of the great City Companies in London. James I sent these people to hold the fort in Northern Ireland for Great Britain. He must have been a far-seeing man, for the Ulster bridgehead proved of incalculable value in the second world war between 1939 and 1945. Without the Ulster bridgehead, the battle of the Atlantic, as my right hon. Friend has said, could never have been won; the food ships could never have got into this country; the American troops could never have got here through the narrow North Channel, which was the only safe approach to this Island at that time.
I would like to come to some of the substantial points which have been raised. First, with regard to the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act. This was passed to meet a grave emergency. That emergency was a rebellion by I.R.A. which was designed to overthrow the young State of Northern Ireland. The details of that campaign of rebellion are given fully in the booklet published recently by the Northern Ireland Government and circulated to Members of this House. I was in Belfast in those days. I remember the terrible conditions which existed There were murders of policemen nearly every day and, unfortunately, murders of Unionist Members of the Northern Ireland House of Commons who were friends of mine. This Act was introduced in those days, and, admittedly, it gives extraordinary powers. It gives powers of imprisonment without trial, exactly as Regulation 18B 1493 did in this country during the war. Unfortunately, Special Powers Acts are nothing new in the Government of Ireland. Every British Government, whether Conservative or Liberal, over a period of 40 years in the last century and at the beginning of this one, passed various Special Powers Acts.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I am merely stating the fact that they passed them. There were coercion Acts, Acts providing for trial without jury, Acts providing for the super-cession of the ordinary courts of law, for military courts and for martial law, and all these things were done by this British Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not this one."] I do not mean this particular Government. All these Acts were passed by the British Government of those days, who had to govern Ireland; and, as we have heard, Southern Ireland, menaced equally by the I.R.A., had to pass Acts containing very similar powers.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me? In this expensively-produced pamphlet issued by the Government of Northern Ireland, they give reasons for introducing these Special Powers Acts and they give reasons for retaining them then, but they do not suggest any kind of reason for retaining them now. Can the right hon. Gentleman give a reason?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I think that perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman has not read it as carefully as he might have done. The reason given for retaining that power now is that, in the opinion of the Minister for Home Affairs in Northern Ireland, the I.R.A. menace is still a menace, and that it would be unsafe at this moment to deprive the Government of special powers for dealing with that menace. Even more recently, there was an Act passed only eight years ago by this House giving special powers to deport I.R.A. terrorists who were bombing and murdering in this country. So far as its effect on Northern Ireland was concerned it meant that many terrorists returned there and the Northern Ireland Government had to do something about it.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me why when Tom Mann went to Belfast to go to a funeral he was met at the docks by a detective, conducted 1494 to the funeral and conducted hack again to the docks; and why Jim Larkin, a trade union leader, was prevented from entering his own country?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
May I point out that the hon. Member to whom I have been referring made a speech with which I profoundly disagree and yet I never interrupted him while he was making it? I think that hon. Members should allow me to make my speech.
There is nothing new in a Special Powers Act for the people who have to govern Ireland, whether British Governments or Governments in Northern or Southern Ireland. All have had to take special powers to deal with very serious circumstances, but there is one suggestion which I would venture to make to the Government of Northern Ireland on this matter. I think, in the case of an Act of this kind, which admittedly infringes the liberty of the subject and conflicts with our ideas of constitutional propriety, that it should again, as it was when it was first introduced, be made the subject of annual review by Parliament, as was the case with Regulation 18B in this House. I myself am a great believer in the blowing-off of steam by Members of Parliament. It does a lot of good, and Debate never does any harm, and I would strongly suggest to the Northern Ireland Government that this Act should be reviewed annually. I should like to add that the fact remains that no single person at this moment is interned under that Act. All have been released. An hon. Member opposite referred to people being interned because they were trade union leaders. That is a complete misapprehension. If they were interned, and they were trade union leaders, it was not because they were trade union leaders but because there was some other fact connected with the safety of the realm which warranted their internment.
One hon. Member has referred to the local government and Parliamentary franchise in Northern Ireland. The position regarding the Parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland is that, during the first eight years of that Parliament, the elections were held under the system of proportional representation. This was done under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which laid down that P.R. 1495 was to be the system of election. After the period, I think of eight years, the Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland were to abolish it. Much as I know hon. Members opposite dislike P.R.—as I do, and I know that the Labour Party is definitely against it—there is this to be said for P.R.—it is a system which correctly records the proper representation of minorities. When P.R. was abolished in Northern Ireland for local and Parliamentary elections, the constituencies were redistributed and it has happened, as I know was intended, that the minority for whom the hon. Member speaks obtained and have today under the system of single-Member constituencies exactly the same representation in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland as they had under P.R.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I do not know whether hon. Members are suggesting that P.R. should have been retained, but the Government of Northern Ireland were absolutely within their rights when they decided that the system of single-Member constituencies was a better one. The Parliamentary franchise for the Parliament of Northern Ireland is absolutely fair, and gives minorities no disabilities whatsoever.
With regard to local government constituencies, it is quite true that in Northern Ireland there are some constituencies where the Nationalist Party may have a numerical majority, but where the Unionist Party have a majority on the council. The reason for that is because, in qualifying for the vote, rateable value has to be taken into consideration under the Statute which governed the situation when the constituencies were created in 1923. When they were created, local government inquiries were held in every county, and a Commissioner, a distinguished King's Counsel, who, incidentally was a Southern Irishman, was appointed to conduct the inquiries. But the inquiries were boycotted by the Nationalist Party; they would not come and give evidence. They thought, of course, that the Parliament of Northern Ireland would probably succumb to the rebellion which was taking place within its borders, and for years they boycotted the Parliament. Their Members did not 1496 attend. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey) did not attend this House for 20 years, I think it was—[AN HON. MEMBER: Ten years."]— because he disapproved of sitting in a British Parliament. Everything was boycotted by the Nationalists, but now, having taken no part in the impartial inquiry that was set up, they complain that the constituencies do not suit them.
Another grievance is made out of the fact that the Ulster Parliament did not follow the example of this Parliament and assimilate the local government and Parliamentary franchise in 1945. Why should they? They have powers for local government franchise, but there was no demand for it. I know a good deal about the inner history of this question of the assimilation of the local government franchise in Great Britain. I was a member of the departmental committee set up by this House during the war under the chairmanship of the Registrar-General. That committee consisted of two Members of the Conservative Party, two Members of the Labour Party, and two Members of the Liberal Party. Our terms of reference were to try to find the best way of producing quickly an up-to-date register on which an election could be held. We decided that the only way to do this was to make use of the system of national registration. At the same time, we pointed out that it would be almost impossible, in the time available, to prepare a separate local government register, and that the simplest thing would be to hold both classes of elections on the same register. Apart from the matter of machinery, I doubt very much whether the question of assimilating the two registers would ever have been raised in this country. There was no more public demand for it in Great Britain than there was in Northern Ireland.
I now come to what is, perhaps, the gravest charge of all which has been levelled against the Ulster Parliament. It is that they are carrying on a system of persecution of the Roman Catholic minority in their area. That is a very serious charge, a very terrible charge, and one which I utterly, completely, absolutely and categorically deny. It forms the main theme in the pamphlet which was sent to all Members of Parliament the other day by the Irish Anti-Partition League in connection with this Debate. That pamphlet purported to refer to a large number of 1497 acts of intolerance, bigotry, religious persecution, wrong verdicts by juries, and unjust sentences. But there was one very curious thing about that pamphlet. It did not refer to one single suggested injustice after the year 1935–12 years ago. The Irish Anti-Partition League, with all the resources at their command, could not find one instance of injustice later than the year 1935.
To my mind, one very significant thing about that pamphlet—a very simple thing —was that the postage stamp upon it was that of the Government of Southern Ireland. In my view, that entirely let the cat out of the bag. The hon. Member for Hornchurch may not realise this. I can see that he is a very sincere young man. His motives are excellent, but he may be a little bit simple as regards Irish affairs. It is obvious to me that those behind him in Ireland are mainly members of a Southern Irish organisation whose object is not to remedy the so-called grievances of the minority of the North, but to drag Ulster away from her allegiance to this country, and to put her under the jurisdiction of an anti-British Government 'n the South. Why, otherwise, should this document have come from Southern Ireland, stamped with a Southern Irish postage stamp?
I have had the pleasure and privilege of living in Ulster all my life, and have seen at first hand and at close quarters this question of the unfortunate religious differences which exist. I have always found that Protestants and Catholics get on perfectly well together. On my own farm, I employ both Protestants and Catholics, and I do not think that there is an employer in Northern Ireland, whether he be a farmer or a business man, who does not do the same. I, personally, have never come across any discrimination of any sort or kind. The hon. Member for Hornchurch referred to speeches made by various Ulster Ministers. I say quite frankly that I deprecate speeches by anybody, particularly by Ministers, in disparagement of one religion as against another. But, without excusing it, I must say that we have to remember that sometimes, as the hon. Member himself stated, and as is well known, conditions in Northern Ireland have been terribly serious. Terrible things have been done, tempers have been roused and things have been said on both sides in heat which were not meant. I have no doubt that many 1498 of the things which have been said have since been greatly regretted. I personally have never come across this so-called religious persecution or discrimination in Northern Ireland.
I would like to give the House a few examples within my own personal knowledge to disprove a lot of what the hon. Member has said. I am going to give solid definite facts and figures. In my own county of Antrim, in my constituency, is a very prosperous country town with about 14,000 inhabitants. Its name is Ballymena. That town is mainly composed of Protestant inhabitants. A year ago, the mayor of Ballymena retired and a new mayor had to be elected. The Protestant council elected a Roman Catholic mayor, and he is the mayor of Ballymena at this moment. Here is another definite case. The chairman of the local rate-aided hospital in Ballymena, in a district which is predominantly Protestant by an immense majority, was for many years a respected Roman Catholic councillor. He did fine service during the war. He raised money for King George's Fund for Sailors. He was, and is today, greatly respected by all religious groups and creeds.
I will give another example. Hon. Members know that about two years ago all the evacuees from Gibraltar who had been in London during the bombing, were sent to camps in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, many of them are still there because they cannot get back to Gibraltar owing to the lack of accommodation. When the Gibraltar evacuees arrived in Ulster, rapid arrangements had to be made for accommodating them, for putting them in camps, looking after their welfare and so on—an important piece of organisation. The man who was chairman of that organisation for the welfare of the Gibraltarians in my county of Antrim is a Roman Catholic. A few months ago the post of district inspector of police in one part of my county became vacant. The district inspector under the Ulster Police would be equivalent to more than a head constable; he would be equivalent to a police officer in this country. A new district inspector was appointed. He was, and is today, a very excellent and much respected Roman Catholic. To go wider still, the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland was Sir Dennis Henry, a Roman Catholic, and the first Permanent Secretary of the Board of 1499 Education in Northern Ireland was Mr. Bonaparte Wyse, a Roman Catholic.
All this talk about persecution is so much nonsense and wind. The real trouble is this. Roman Catholics of the type to whom I have referred, who cooperate, are taken into the life of the community; they are welcomed and respected, and they get on. Everything works smoothly. The trouble is that the great bulk of the Roman Catholic minority in Ulster refuse to co-operate. They will not play their part in the life of the country. They stand outside everything. They clamour for some chimera of a united Ireland. They are always having grievances. There are in Northern Ireland some fine, splendid, decent Roman Catholics for whom no one has a greater admiration than I. I hope the time may come when co-operation will increase and when we shall be able to get rid of this position in which the minority are always putting up grievances and very seldom co-operating.
To find persecution one should go to the continent of Europe where there was persecution of the Jews, concentration camps, massed deportations of millions, as the wretched Germans of today have been deported from East Prussia into a little contracted Germany, about which the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) knows so much. That is where the real persecution is taking place today—where there are refugees of all kinds, and displaced persons, misery, hunger and want. Yet the hon. Member for Hornchurch tries to convince the British House of Commons that that sort of thing is going on in Northern Ireland. It is absolutely unjustified and utterly untrue, and will not bear one moment's close investigation. The minority in Ulster are fortunate, indeed, in living in a land where the reign of law rules and where the ordinary canons of civilisation and justice exist.
§ 12.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
The speech which we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) was the sort of statement we should expect from such a respected Member of this House. I wish the controversial speeches in the Northern Ireland Parliament could always reach the level which the right hon. Gentleman has set today. I am afraid the con- 1500 troversy there is still on a much more bitter level. It may not be the fault of any one side, and memories are long in Ireland. I do not want to go back too far into the old controversies which were so bitter in this House and elsewhere on the Irish issue in the old days, but the fact remains that much of what we are discussing today arises out of that old political controversy. The Government of Northern Ireland itself was a part of the compromise which was reached, whether rightly or wrongly, and arose out of the political conflict and the bitter civil war and rebellion.
But that was 25 years ago, and we are entitled in this House to look today at what has been achieved in the way of reconciliation in Northern Ireland. After all, when the Government was set up there, there was bound to be a minority, a religous and political minority, which was bound also to be a permanent minority, and could never hope to gain control of the Government of Northern Ireland. In what way did the dominant party, the Unionists of Northern Ireland, try to treat the minority? Have they treated them with conciliation? Have they treated them in such a way as to call forth the co-operation which the right hon. Member for Antrim so wisely said he wanted? One may dismiss the Special Powers Act as necessary for dealing with terrorists—a small minority, but, nevertheless, important. But the case which the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) made is a case which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman fully met.
I listened with great interest to what the right hon. Gentleman said about proportional representation and the changes in the method of electing in local elections, but I am afraid I was not convinced. If I may consider that question of local government first, again I would say that, if, in the Northern Ireland Parliament, they spoke in the same temperate terms as the right hon. Gentleman, their opponents might feel less hopelessly frustrated. Here is a quotation from the Chief Whip of the Unionist Government in Northern Ireland. I take it from the "Northern Whig":The best way to prevent the overthrow of Government by people who have no faith in the country and have not the welfare of the people of Ulster at heart is to disfranchise them.That was not the reason the right hon. 1501 Gentleman gave for altering the franchise in local elections. It was that there was no need to follow the example of the Government here. But the Ulster Unionists' Chief Whip's statement was a deliberate and bold and callous statement that the franchise was being altered in order to disfranchise political opponents, and when statements are made like that by a Government who have a permanent majority in the Parliament of Northern Ireland, who can do what they like with the religious and political minority which must be their opponents, are we not entitled here to take the objective view, and to think that that majority is determined to ride roughshod over their political opponents?
The right hon. Gentleman's statement about proportional representation did not seem to me to be convincing. He told us that it had been dropped by the Government of Northern Ireland and that, in spite of that, the representation of minorities had remained the same. May I suggest that he is assuming there exactly the state of affairs I object to—that the Unionists are a permanent institution and the permanent Government of Northern Ireland, and that there could have been no change in the 25 years between 1920 and the present day-27 years, to be exact?
I submit that proportional representation was dropped in Northern Ireland because of the fear that if the minorities were fully represented their powers would grow and that the unassailable position of the Northern Ireland Unionists might some day be undermined if the Opposition had some possible hope that some day they might manage to increase their representation in the Northern Ireland Parliament. I think the case of local elections there is really terribly discreditable to a parliament of a British government. If we take a town like Derry, which has been referred to, there is no doubt whatever that the alteration from proportional representation, and the altering of constituencies, has resulted in the over-representation of the Unionists and in the under-representation of their opponents.
§ Sir R. Ross
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? It he will compare the representations for Derry after P.R. was abolished I think he will find that they are exactly in the same proportion.
§ Mr. Roberts
I will give these figures. I again quote from the Belfast "Northern Whig." I am quoting from 1936 figures. The Nationalist votes were 9,482, which provided eight councillors, and the Unionist votes of 7,531 provided 12 councillors. So that the majority of votes gained a considerable minority of councillors.
§ Sir R. Ross
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has quite taken the point. The point I thought he was making was that the abolition of proportional representation with regard to the Parliament of Northern Ireland has had an unfortunate effect on the representation of minorities. I was trying to point out to him that it had no effect in that way whatsoever. He has quoted figures in connection with local government, which is, of course, an entirely different matter.
§ Mr. Roberts
I had, as a matter of fact, passed from the Ulster Parliament to local elections, and I had hoped that the hon. Member was doing me the justice of following my speech sufficiently closely to see that that was so. I had passed to local government and the use of proportional representation in local government elections, and the re-arrangements of the constituencies. I was quoting figures to support my contention that the new system gave the Unionists a majority of the councillors with a minority of votes—a very skilfully arranged piece of work. I repeat, that I think there is no justification whatever for that sort of thing to be done in a country like Northern Ireland where there is an overwhelming majority, taken over the whole country, of one party; and that that must lead to a sense of political frustration, a belief amongst the minority that they are hopeless. The inevitable result, especially in a country like Ireland, where hotheads are very numerous, is that political frustration creates a type of terrorist movement, which some of the other undemocratic actions of the Northern Ireland Government have justified. Before passing to the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act I should like to point out this about proportional representation. It has succeeded in giving stable Government in Southern Ireland for a great number of years. In spite of the civil war which preceded the establishment of that Government, in spite of the tendency for Irishmen to hold very independent political views, proportional representation has worked very well in 1503 Southern Ireland, and has given stable government; and I do not think the case for abolishing it in Northern Ireland has been made out, at any rate today.
I should now like to pass to the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act. I was very glad that the right hon. Member for Antrim did give one concession, namely, that this should be subject to an annual review by the Ulster Government. In passing, I would point out that Southern Ireland, Eire, have recently dropped their special powers, for the time being, and that we have also dropped our special powers. I do not quite understand the argument, either in the brochure sent to us by the Northern Ireland Government, or in the speech of the right hon. Member when he says that all of the detainees have now been released in Northern Ireland, and, at the same time, tells us that the I.R.A., or some other terrorist organisation, is re-organising and planning new activity. I should have thought that if the detainees had been released the Ulster Government must believe that the situation has eased. But apparently not. Apparently they release these dangerous men just at a time when the I.R.A. is re-organising.
Apart from the word of the Ulster Government that such re-organisation is going on, not one particle of evidence has been produced, either in the Parliament of Northern Ireland or in the brochure which has been sent round, that the I.R.A. is contemplating further activity. I do not know whether it is or not. I can only judge by what I am told. There is not one particle of evidence that that is so. There is, on the other hand, the evidence that the Eire Government believe they can suspend, or drop temporarily, these special powers. I ask whether Northern Ireland might not make the same gesture of at least suspending the powers in the meantime. But, no; there is no conciliation in Northern Ireland, whatever the right hon. Member for Antrim says here. What does the Attorney-General say in the Debate on this issue? Not an inch will he give way; not a comma will he alter in these powers which have been built up year after year, and increased until there is nothing which I imagine the Russian Government would want which is not there for the Ulster 1504 Government to use.—[Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but the stories in Russia and Ulster in that respect are very similar indeed. There is a perfectly normal code of law in Russia—
§ Earl Winterton
In justice to the Government of which the hon. Member is such an enthusiastic supporter, would he also mention the case of Palestine?
§ Mr. Roberts
It is out of Order in this sense, that in many countries where there is this bitter opposition to the regime there is the normal law which, very frequently, has perfectly open trials and so on; and there is parallel with that the Home Office law, such as we had during the war, by which, under regulation, the Executive's power is complete over the individual. That is exactly the position in the Soviet Union today, and it is also the position in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Roberts
And in Palestine. The justification is that these powers are necessary to deal with lawlessness. My contention is that their continued retention, along with the rest of what has been said in this Debate today, creates lawlessness; that it creates a sense of complete political frustration; that it creates a belief that justice, administration and democratic methods are all weighted against the minority, and are all used by the dominant power to make the minority's position impossible. There is nothing new in saying this. This has been the Liberal point of view for long enough. It was pointed out in regard to special powers in the committee on civil liberties which investigated this matter in 1936—and it has been pointed out by others—that the very existence of these powers, together with the other administrative and political discrimination which exists, is the very thing which is likely to create and to maintain that lawlessness which I, with all other hon. Members of this House, would deplore.
For 25 years this experiment has been tried. To some extent it has been successful, but I do not think we should 1505 register our view in this House today that we are content with the situation as it is in Northern Ireland. I cannot believe that the Home Secretary, who has the greatest belief in the maintenance of individual liberty, can be content with the situation as it exists in Northern Ireland today. I do not know what his influence can be in that direction, but I do believe that this Debate will have had a very valuable effect if it moderates the Ulster Government's excessive use of these powers.
§ Mr. Roberts
Well, in the Debate to which I have already referred the Attorney-General ended his speech on what seems to me to be just the note which I deplore. He ended by saying that he imagined it would be necessary to keep these special powers, perhaps for 50 years, or perhaps for 100 years. I am surprised to find Conservatives—
§ Earl Winterton
Are we seriously asked to believe that it is the policy of the Liberal Party to say that at the present time no special powers are necessary? If that is so, why have they not more constantly attacked the British Government for the very special powers affecting the liberty of the subject which they possess? What is the point of the hon. Member's argument?
§ Mr. Roberts
We have opposed special powers. Perhaps I could draw the attention of the noble Lord to a Bill which has appeared in another place, sponsored by members of my party, to try to establish a number of personal liberties on a firmer foundation than they stand at present in this country. I draw his attention to that piece of activity the part of the Liberals. We have supported every attempt to safeguard personal liberty in this country, and, in any case, where does the noble Lord stand? Whatever may be my position or that of my party, how does he justify his position as a Conservative in supporting these powers in Northern Ireland when he attacks the Government opposite for disregarding the personal liberty here in this country? We get the strange position that Conservatives who are all for personal liberty have a blind eye to its absence under a government of their own type in Northern Ireland. Because this point has been raised I will quote a speech which I am afraid will 1506 raise a little controversy, though I had decided on the whole not to do it:If they cannot have it by the veto of the privileged they will have it by the veto of violence. If constitutional methods serve their ends they will be constitutional. If the law suits their end they will be law abiding and they will obey the social order when it means the order of the Tory Party.That is a quotation from a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he was a Liberal and when he believed in liberty for Ireland as well as liberty in this country.
§ Mr. Roberts
Yes it is some time ago. He was a very forceful personality in those days. I would have liked to quote some more things which he said about the Conservative Party, but I am detaining the House too long. I hope this Debate shows the very real disquiet in this House at the situation in Northern Ireland, and I hope we may be told by the Home Secretary in reply that he, at any rate will use all his influence to liberalise the regime as it exists there today.
§ 1.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Mulvey (Fermanagh and Tyrone)
It is not my intention in this Debate to go exhaustively into the question of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act. That subject has been dealt with already by some hon. Members. However, I should like to mention that we have been told by hon. Members opposite and in a brochure recently issued by the Government of Northern Ireland that the I.R.A. commenced reorganisation at the end of the war. That is over two years ago, and in the meantime it is a remarkable fact that the judges at assize courts in cities three times in the year, and practically twice a year in every county in Northern Ireland, have congratulated the grand juries on the peaceful and orderly conditions that exist everywhere in Northern Ireland. In addition to that we have the announcement of the Northern Ireland Minister of Home Affairs, so far as I can recollect, that he was prepared, notwithstanding the release of a number of the detainees in Belfast, to consider main the release of more prisoners. In view of these circumstances, it is difficult for the ordinary man to credit this statement that 1507 the I.R.A. are active and are organising in Northern Ireland. I have lived in Northern Ireland and I know practically every county in Northern Ireland. I am in association with people, including politicians, and I have never heard any suggestion about reviving the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland. In fact, I think this is a pure myth got up by hon. Members opposite or Tory Members in Northern Ireland.
My object in this Debate is to put before the House some examples of the principles—if I may call them so—of civil administration in Northern Ireland. There is absolutely no doubt that when hon. Members on both sides of this House hear the situation in regard to local government and the Parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland they will agree that the functions of the Government in these respects are not being conducted on a democratic basis. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) during this Debate told us that the minority were getting the same representation today as they got under the system of proportional representation which was provided for Parliamentary and local government elections under the 1920 Act. I think he has made a mistake there, because under proportional representation in his own county of Antrim before that system was abolished a Nationalist Member was returned, but now no Nationalist Member can be returned for that county.
The county has seven Unionist Members, each of whom represents a unit of 22,486 of the population, while the remaining 39,860 Nationalists in the county of Antrim are left unrepresented. That in itself shows that if proportional representation, which I think has been defended by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northern Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), had been retained it would certainly have done much to ease the tension and the disagreeable state of affairs that exist in Northern Ireland in regard to Parliamentary and local government representation but would not alter the demand of the people for whom I speak.
§ Major Haughton (Antrim)
I think it is unfair to say that the Roman Catholics in County Antrim are unrepresented. I 1508 do my best on occasions to represent them.
§ Mr. Mulvey
I have no doubt that the junior Member for Antrim (Major Haugh-ton) does represent the Nationalists of County Antrim, but the facts are as I have stated. No doubt he will be an admirable representative for them in his position as Member of Parliament.
Then there is the position in regard to County Down. In County Down there are two Nationalist seats and the constituencies are so framed as to give a unit of 26,336 Unionists one Member, while the remaining 32,269 Nationalists are not represented by a Nationalist Member. In County Fermanagh the Nationalist population of 30,196 can elect one Member to two Unionist Members elected by 24,373 Unionists. The Parliamentary seats in Londonderry City are so divided as to give 18,000 Unionists the same representation as 29,000 Labour and Nationalists. In County Armagh, where the Nationalist population is 49,475, the county returns one Nationalist Member to Stormont and it takes a much large number of votes to return that Member than it does to return the two Unionist Members for that county. I do not intend to labour this question any further. I will just make a further reference to Fermanagh where the local government constituencies have been divided. Before doing so I should like to state that one of the conditions of voting in Northern Ireland is seven years' residence there for those who come from outside the area.
Let me remind hon. Members that there are many like myself who have a recollection of the South African war in which this country was engaged. One of the causes which led to that war, as can be ascertained from the Library, was that the controllers of South Africa in the Transvaal area refused to allow British settlers to have a vote until they had had seven years' residence in South Africa. Is it not a sad commentary on the administration of this House that the subordinate Parliament in Northern Ireland, practically 50 years after the South African war, is carrying on a system in regard to voting which the Government of this House would not tolerate 50 years ago? I should like to mention that the first Legislative Measure introduced by the Northern Ireland Parliament was the Local Government Bill, 1922, and that it 1509 provided for the redistribution of electoral areas. They made their division in such a way that minorities are in control in predominantly Nationalist counties and that Nationalists and Labour people have not the representation that they should have. Is that in accord with the principles of democracy? What would be the views of hon. Members if that system were attempted by any party in this country. Gerrymandering was introduced shortly after the passage of that Measure. Let me give the House some idea of how the gerrymandering works out.
In County Tyrone, which I represent we have experienced the after-effects of the gerrymandering. A Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament has been the architect of the gerrymandering machine. He contends that people who paid the most rates should control in the different counties, but it is disputed that his party pays most rates. The manner in which he worked was to pick out a group of townlands in which there was a Unionist majority. The number of electors in that unit was, say 1,000, and it got a Unionist representative. Alongside he picked a larger unit with 2,000 electors, largely Nationalists, and they got a Nationalist Member. In this way one Unionist vote had the same representation value of two Nationalist votes.
It was the Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) who recently wrote to the newspapers and alleged that had Nationalists recognised the local government inquiries after the gerrymander the position might have been different from what it is. In Fermanagh and Tyrone the Nationalists did not, at the outset, co-operate in this move, and for this reason, that only two weeks' notice was given of the inquiries. It was exceedingly difficult in that short time for them to prepare schemes and have them ready for submission to the inquiry. It is an established fact that for weeks before that—and prior to the announcement of the inquiry, the Unionist Party had their schemes cut and dried for the areas that have been controlled by the Unionists since.
I should like to give results of the Unionist redistribution scheme of some of those other public bodies. Tyrone County Council, elected on P.R. prior to the redistribution, consisted of 11 Nationalists and q Unionists, and now, for 70,595 Nationalists and Labour, there are 11 1510 members, while the Unionist minority of 56,991 in the county get 16 members. Local electoral divisions have been increased or decreased as it suited the Unionist purpose. Strabane Rural Council, which had always a Nationalist majority until this re-division, is now under Unionist control. There, 8,730 Labour and Nationalist elect 8 members, while 8,411 Unionists elect 12 members. Fermanagh County Council, which on the P.R. vote elected 11 Nationalists and 9 Unionists—has a Tory majority on the Council, while Tories in the County constitute the minority of the population and the minority of the electorate. 30,196 Labour and Nationalists elect 7 members on the local County Council, while the Unionist minority of 24,375 elect 13 members. Nationalist majority representation on other public bodies has been changed, following the re-division, to put the Unionist minorities in control.
Nationalists held the view that it would not be possible to gerrymandering the Omagh rural council area, but in that view they were mistaken. In the Council previously Nationalists—18,000—had 24 members and 11,000 Unionists had 15. As a result of the gerrymander, 18,466 Labour and Nationalists have 18, and 11,579 Unionists have 21. They are controlling the councils. That is the way in which the gerrymandering works. Now as regards the contention of the hon. Member for Queen's University in regard to the Nationalists failure to attend the inquiries, let us see what was the result in Derry and Omagh where the Nationalists put in schemes. These Nationalist schemes were put in with an eye to uniformity in the number of electors—with well-defined boundaries—but both of them were turned down. Derry had 21 Labour and Nationalists on the Council and the Unionists had 19. The result of the gerrymandering so far as Derry is concerned is that 18,492 votes secured 12 representatives and that 29,321 Labour and Nationalist votes secured eight Members.
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member, but would he state the basis on which he is making these calculations of majorities and minorities?
§ Mr. Mulvey
On the basis of population, and, if necessary, I can supply the hon. and gallant Member with the rating strengths. I should like to put before the 1511 House how the Unionists have controlled these public bodies and worked those councils. It will be in the recollection of hon. Members that long before there was any division of Ireland there was the Local Government Act, 1898, which provided for the establishment of labourers' cottages in Ireland. Powers were given to the rural councils in Ireland to proceed with the erection of labourers' cottages. That Act, passed in this House, was rightly regarded as a great boon to the Irish working man and various councils in the South and West of Ireland immediately availed themselves of that Act and proceeded with their cottage schemes. It was only in the North of Ireland that the Tory-controlled councils refused to put the Act into force. They were influenced by the fact that people who probably did not see eye to them in politics would have the advantage of the schemes. Playing the same tune, their Parliamentary representatives in this House had opposed that Local Government Act just as the same Parliamentary representatives at later stages opposed old age pensions, national health insurance and other schemes of social reform.
It was only in Omagh and Lisnaskea rural councils in Northern Ireland that the labourers' cottages scheme was put into force for the reason that those two councils were under Nationalist control. In spite of the Unionist opposition on both councils, the councils proceeded with the schemes, and in both areas hundreds of cottages were erected. What is the position in regard to the tenancies of these, cottages since those councils came under Unionist control? Every vacant cottage has been given as far as possible to a Unionist. It does happen that when a man who occupies a cottage dies, his widow gets the cottage, but if his widow dies and his son makes application for the cottage, his son is refused the tenancy. That is in so far as the Nationalists are concerned. Take the case of a Unionist tenant. His widow gets the cottage. When his widow dies and the son applies for the cottage, he gets it. Therefore, the son of a former Unionist tenant gets the cottage and is kept on in succession, but that is not so in the case of a Nationalist. We have had cases of that kind in the Omagh rural district. It is a means of preventing the Catholics getting the cottages. I am sorry to introduce religion. I should like here 1512 and now to say that nobody abhors religion in politics more than I do. As a matter of fact, whenever I speak publicly I try as far as possible to have that nefarious practice discontinued but, unfortunately, because of the expressions which there have been against the Catholic religion in Northern Ireland, it is necessary to put these facts before the public. We cannot evade mention of religion.
These cottages are very badly needed all over Northern Ireland. These councils have been under Unionist control for over 20 years and have never put up a labourers cottage scheme in any area, and the result is that our young men and the working-class people have to leave the country and come across here. In relation to these cottages and their occupation by Catholics or Nationalists, may I draw the attention of the House to this tit-bit of news which came to light some time ago and which originated at the West Tyrone Unionists' annual meeting? There was a resolution—I have the names of the proposer and seconder—to be sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs in Belfast, urging on them to put forward a cottage scheme but that that scheme must not be under the same regulations as were connected with previous schemes so that it would enable the Unionist councils to give the cottages to whom they liked. The statement says:We find that in certain districts cottages are required by Unionist labourers but we hesitate to invite representations as we know there will be a flood of representations from the Nationalist side and our political opponents are only awaiting the opportunity to use this means to outvote us in divisions where majorities are close.That went with a covering letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs in which it was stated:If the Ministry would be good enough to change the regulations as we have suggested, this council and all other Unionist councils in the country can erect cottages and let them to the most deserving"—I emphasise, "most deserving"—without being under an obligation to accept any particular tenant. We would like to point out that a large number of applicants for cottages in county Tyrone are either Free State Roman Catholic labourers, or the families of such labourers who are definitely hostile to the Unionist Party and to the Northern Government.'That is an insight into the mentality of the Northern Ireland administration. In the towns which were under Nationalist 1513 control—in Omagh, for instance, in which the Unionists constituted only one-third of the population, the Nationalists were in control until gerrymandering—notwithstanding the scheme put forward by the Nationalists, the Ministry in Belfast adopted their own party scheme. Prior to the change of control in Omagh the Unionist working classes received a proportion of the urban council houses, numbering about one-third. What happened? When the Unionists came into control, not one house was given to the Nationalists. That continued for some years and eventually that was somewhat relaxed. Some i6 houses were built, and as a result of private representations to members of the council, two Nationalists were given tenancies of houses. It has since then become the recognised rule that in the event of a Catholic or Nationalist tenant vacating the house, the house is given to an applicant of the same religion and political colour. I am sorry to say that quite recently even that undertaking has not been observed.
As to public appointments, in Northern Ireland these are on a religious basis. It is perhaps the only place in Europe today in which a man's religion is a bar to employment in the public service. If I mention one instance of this mentality, it should be enough to satisfy the House. Some years ago in Belfast there was a vacancy for a city clerk. One of the most efficient men who could have been found in the United Kingdom came from Barrow-in-Furness. Actually before his application was put in he received notice that he was not going to get the position. Later he learned that he was not to be appointed. Why? His wife happened to be a Catholic. That demonstrates the mentality of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Cole (Belfast, East)
I am a member of Belfast Corporation, and that statement is absolutely untrue. I can give absolute proof that that is not the case.
§ Mr. Mulvey
In deference to the hon. Member's wishes, I will send the statement to him, and that should satisfy him. Four Catholic employees were thrown out from Tyrone County Council, and replaced by Unionists. Ex-Service men, such as doctors and others, notwithstanding their ability, have been excluded from appointments on the grounds of religion. In Enniskillen the position of workhouse porter was refused to a 1514 Catholic ex-soldier although he had been recommended by the examiner of the Northern Ireland Ministry. He was discarded simply because of his religion. The same story can be told of hospitals and regional educational authorities. The Northern Ireland Act of 1920 prohibited the Northern Ireland Government from giving privileged preference on account of religion, but we see how this is ignored in the instances I have quoted.
I feel that the gracious statement of his late Majesty King George V, in opening Belfast Parliament, reflected the view at the time of the Government in this House when he said that he wished that Parliament would be made an instrument of happiness for all parts of the community, and that it would be managed with due regard and fairness to every faith and interest. In spite of that wish, everything possible has been done over the last 25 years to strike at the Catholics of Northern Ireland, and to deprive them of the right of control in counties where they form a majority of the population. Perhaps this cannot be wondered at in view of the incitement and statements of the former Premier of Northern Ireland urging his followers to ignore Catholics and saying that his Parliament existed as a Protestant Parliament for Protestant people and in later statements by Northern Ireland Ministers. As a result of the introduction of the company votes in the Franchise Act Nationalist strength in some areas has been very much weakened, particularly in the town of Enniskillen. Those companies valued property at £60 and the manager could then go to the town clerk and have the company registered for the purpose of voting The result is that for that £60 valuation there are six votes for the employees of the company and it is well known all over Tyrone that this is used to strengthen the Unionist vote. The actions of a Government who are acting in this way should seriously be considered the administration here. In view of the fact that certain services are to be transferred by this Measure to Northern Ireland, I hope the Government will facilitate me in putting down certain Amendments to Clauses on the Committee stage.
In conclusion, on the question of the Franchise Act, the Chief Whip of the Northern Ireland Government, when that Act was going through, actually said in 1515 defending it, as reported in HANSARD (Northern Ireland), last January:If universal sufferance was given, we would lose three of our Border Counties.Therefore, the people are to be deprived of votes. The Government in Northern Ireland, in connection with the gerrymandering of the franchise, have made the position there the most undemocratic in the British Commonwealth today.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
On a point of Order. This Debate is developing into a Debate quite apart from the context and structure of this Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary gave us a full statement but the subsequent speeches have been dealing with matters which, in my judgment, are extraneous to the Bill.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
The question of the hon. Member is not a point of Order. It seemed to be a slight criticism of the Chair which I am sure was not intended.
§ Sir P. Hannon
I apologise at once for any apparent criticism of the Chair, but this Bill deals with administration in Northern Ireland.
§ 1.59 p.m.
§ Lieut. Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)
I am gratified at the number of Members who are present today. So often I hear it said in other places, "You live in Down, that is part of Eire." I am glad that misapprehension does not exist in this House today. In this Debate it is not the actual Bill which is being attacked, but the Unionist Government in Northern Ireland who are to administer it. That is a Government which, up to date, has refused to sell its birthright in the British Empire for a mess of pottage or any meals in the restaurants of Dublin.
I will start by trying to answer some of the points made by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). I might call him a banshee because a banshee is a very aristocratic ghost in a lot of cases. I might call him the banshee of Horn-church because he has raised a lot of points which I, who live in Northern 1516 Ireland, have never heard of before. I would start by contradicting one statement of his. In his mention of the Orange Order, he said it was a secret society. [AN HON. MEMBER: "It is."] If he will go and look up the Encyclopaedia Britannica—it is a long time since I looked at it—I think he will find that in the definition some of the first words are that it is not a secret society. I am a member of the Orange Order, and very honoured to be one, and I say definitely that it exists for two things—to uphold the British Constitution and the Protestant religion. It certainly does not exist, as some people were trying to make out, to persecute Roman Catholics. There was another statement made about the Government in Northern Ireland. I would ask the hon. Member for Hornchurch, how much do you give in this country to Roman Catholic schools? You give 50 per cent. in England, Scotland and Wales—
§ Sir W. Smiles
—and in Northern Ireland we give 60 per cent. I am sorry, I made a mistake about Scotland. We actually give more towards Roman Catholic education in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland than is given in England.
§ Mr. McEntee
Is that not due to the fact that in Northern Ireland the proportion between the two religions is entirely different from what it is here?
§ Sir W. Smiles
I think it is due to the fact that the Government of Northern Ireland introduced it against a lot of opposition and insisted on it being passed.
I see the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) opposite. He and I are about the same age. I believe he and I, when we were boys, both worked in the same firm in the North of Ireland. When I was there, I saw no religious discrimination against any worker of any kind. When I served my time I believe that there was no religious discrimination in that firm, or in any firm that I know of today. If he thinks I am wrong, he can get up now and say that I am mistaken. No, he does not. Then I heard a statement made about certain things supposed to have been said by the present Prime Minister of Northern Ireland He has not spoken to me about it himself, but I understand from others that at that 1517 time there were letters sent to him, when his children were young, saying that they would be kidnapped, and he thought.t wise at that time to be careful whom he employed and that included, I admit, Roman Catholics.
We come to another point about this Government which is supposed to be so retrograde. At the present moment, in another place, there is a Bill going through for the reform of the transport services here. A great many years ago that Government nationalised the road transport in Northern Ireland and is proposing to do something on the same lines with the railways. I am stating those facts because, when I hear such statements from the other side, it is as well to put some of these facts on record. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) mentioned the Mayor of Ballymena and others, and I turned over in my mind if I could remember in County Down any of these cases of religious discrimination. Immediately it came into my mind that in County Down, which is predominantly a Unionist and Protestant county, the present chairman of the county council is a much respected Roman Catholic from Newry. He is respected by everybody and the question of religion, so far as I know, never arose at all.
The suggestion was also made that among the Civil Service or the Royal Ulster Constabulary there is some sort of religious discrimination but, so far as I know, when a district inspector is a Protestant, the chief sergeant is a Roman Catholic, and vice versa. I know that when I meet policemen or civil servants I have not the slightest idea of what their religion might be. A suggestion was made that the Government of Northern Ireland attacked the trade unions. During the war I had a small appointment in the Ministry of Aircraft Production in Northern Ireland, and I used to meet every week or fortnight the members of the trade unions there. I met men just as prominent in the trade union movement as Mr. Close mentioned, by the hon. Member for Hornchurch. I met Mr. Madden, Mr. Louden and Mr. Grey and I can remember a good many others. I had not the slightest idea what their religion was. We met together to do our best to devise methods for winning the war, and that was all we thought of at that time. I know that during the war sometimes there were suggestions, which 1518 never came to anything more, of sabotage in some of the factories. Who investigated them? I can remember the C.I.D. men coming over from Scotland Yard to investigate. It was so important that any people who were put in gaol, or anything like that, were put there under orders given by the Home Secretary here.
I have never heard of many of these things mentioned by the hon. Member for Hornchurch. I am just the same as you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or any hon. Member of this House. As soon as I see a police car, automatically my foot comes off the accelerator. If I see a policeman standing outside my car while I am changing a couple of books in the library at Belfast, I get a little nervous lest he is taking my number. But the average man in the street who lives in Northern Ireland knows nothing about those things. I had never seen a plain clothes policeman until the Lord President of the Council came to my home in Donaghadee, when I saw one for the first time. As for free speech, it is suggested that there is no free speech in Northern Ireland. I can assure this House that if any hon. Member went to the Custom House steps in Belfast they would hear a mass of bitter invective or else elegant phraseology—it just depends which side you are on. Any Member of the Government who is thinking of a seaside trip might take a post-graduate course in abuse before he goes down there.
If anybody took a Gallup poll in Belfast and asked of the people coming up the street, "What do you know about the Special Powers Act of 1922?" they would find that, just like myself before I heard this Debate was coming on, a great many of them know nothing at all. I admit that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but I have done my best to find out something about it and to learn something. You would almost imagine that the hon. Member for Hornchurch suffers from some sort of phobia about the Six Counties of Northern Ireland. He shows a curious way of adoring the country he was born in; at any rate I think it is a pity that it has affected him in this way. There is a difference between Northern Ireland and England. I do not disguise the fact. This House appreciated it the other day when it refused to introduce conscription into Northern Ireland. I think even the film magnates, who are not supposed to have great intelligence, recognised it when they 1519 produced a film like "Odd Man Out" which is, I suppose, not characterised by that exact enthusiasm for historical veracity that is displayed in all the films they make, including "The Private Lives of Henry VIII."
I quite admit that there are, I will not say a lot but a few people in Northern Ireland, who wanted the Nazis to win the war, and who said, and still say, that the atrocities and the mass murders by the Germans which took place are merely British propaganda and that there is not a word of truth in them. When one says, "Did you see the film of Belsen?" the reply is, "All that is just another example of propaganda." There are people there who hate England and who hate the Union Jack. It is no use my repeating a lot more information which hon. Members have already had in this booklet which was sent to them.
This Bill has been introduced because the Government of Northern Ireland want some progress. I am quite sure that the Home Secretary would not have introduced this Bill, or have been a party to it, if he had not thought it would be for the good of the people in Northern Ireland. It will have the effect of giving more and greater opportunities for the two Governments in Ireland to work together in improving the conditions of the people. We are able to work together in Ireland in sport. Why not in local government also? This Bill should make for a greater feeling of amity between the two Irelands. I have no doubt that politicians in Eire, when they are short of ammunition, will say, "The roads leading to the Old Head of Kinsale are in such a bad condition because the Union Jack floats over Londonderry." The drawing of that sort of red herring across the scent is done by politicians all over the world. At all events, no one will care a "tinker's cuss" about that.
As the Home Secretary has said, the Bill gives a lot of opportunities. It will improve the drainage of the six counties of Northern Ireland around Lough Erne and will make for a better hydro-electricity supply in Eire. When we run short of coal, I nope that the people in Eire will let us have a little electricity. There is no doubt that the T.B. homes and hospitals in Northern Ireland are not as they should be in quantity or quality. This 1520 Bill is putting it within the power of Northern Ireland to improve them and take them over from the municipalities and county councils. I hope that in the future we shall have much better homes and hospitals for these T.B. patients.
Anyone who is interested can read the Debates at Stormont on 18th and 25th February. I do not want to quote what was said there; it is terrible reading. Some of the atrocities quoted in the Northern Ireland HANSARD might have happened oh the North-West Frontier of India. Of course, English history as depicted in Eire is quite different from that which is depicted in history books in England. History is different in whatever country one lives. It would be a good thing if a lot of history books were burned. I believe that a lot of the trouble began in 1935, with shots upon a Unionist procession in Belfast. That gave the first provocation. I have heard an hon. Gentleman say that Eire has suspended her Special Powers Act. I think that is a splendid thing, and I hope that our Home Secretary may be able in the future to do the same. At any rate, I think that the attacks that have been made on this Bill, or rather on the Government of Northern Ireland, are quite different from what is actually contained in the Bill itself. Attacks are made upon the Government of Northern Ireland, whose only crime—some people think it is a crime—is that they want to stick to the United Kingdom, and even to the Government on the benches opposite, with all its faults, and still remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
§ 2.16 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
I do not, at any rate, suffer in any way from the taint that appears to attach to the Roman Catholic religion. I was born and baptised a Protestant. I was born in Eire. I lived in many parts of Eire and never once did I see a person insulted because of his religion, whether he was Catholic or Protestant. I have lived in Northern Ireland, and I have worked there and travelled there. It is true that I worked there a long time ago, but I have been there many times since then. The hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) is what I was, a Member of the Orange institution. He says that that institution is not secret, and he refers 1521 to the "Encyclopaedia Britannica." When I was a member at all events it was enjoined on me that it was, and that I must keep it secret, and that if I did not I must beware of the consequences. That is a long time ago but I do not think it has altered one iota since then.
My hon. Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) has already referred to the speech of the present Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The hon. and gallant Member for Down explained it by saying, "I have not spoken to him myself, but somebody told me that he had about that time received a threat from the I.R.A. that his children might be kidnapped. I presume that as a consequence of that he made that speech." That is not the reason which the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland himself gave why he made this speech. The quotation from this speech is this:Many in the audience—that is the audience to whom he was speaking—employ Catholics, but I have not one about my place. Catholics are out to destroy Ulster with all their might and power.That is the reason which he himself gave. Would the hon. and gallant Member dare to say to me, a Protestant, that that is true? It is deliberately untrue, and the man who made it knows it to be untrue. Again, later, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland said:When I made that declaration last 'twelfth'—The hon. and gallant Member will know what the "twelfth" is, when they march by, as provocative as they can possibly be, with their Orange banners, three or four drums, beaten not with drumsticks but with canes, and with one or two fifes to make a band, and when they throw stones at every Catholic street as they pass by—
§ Mr. McEntee
I said that I am speaking about a long time ago. I can only hope that there has been some improvement in that condition, but I saw something nearly as bad comparatively recently—not 1522 many years ago. In regard to this idea about Catholics and Protestants living in amity, they would have lived in amity had it not been for speeches such as that which I have quoted. There are many others which I could quote. There is not an Orangeman on the benches opposite who would deny that that is true.
§ Mr. McEntee
The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland said he had made his statement after careful consideration. He said:What I said was justified. I recommended people not to employ Roman Catholics who were 99 per cent. disloyal.That is a gross untruth. Every hon. Member opposite knows it to be a gross untruth. I am speaking as a Protestant. Can anybody wonder that when statements like that are made the Catholics resent it? Can anybody wonder that decent Protestants resent it, as I do?
I ask the Home Secretary whether he intends to make any inquiry into the truth of these things. These things can be proved or disproved. I say without hesitation that if a public inquiry is held it will be welcomed. I do not mind whether it is held by Catholics or Protestants as long as they are men of integrity whose word can be accepted. I am sure that there is not a knowledgeable Catholic in Northern Ireland today who would not welcome such an inquiry. Most Protestants would welcome it also. There would be a few people in high positions who would not welcome it because they know that every effort has been made and is being made to gerrymander—that is a word which has been used over and over again—the constituencies locally and nationally, juries have been selected by the process of rejection.
§ Mr. McEntee
That is an admission If it is on both sides, let it be tested. Let us find out which is the worse. If it is on both sides, in neither case can it be justified. It is wrong and we ought to see that this kind of thing is not continued. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) said at least one thing which I was glad to hear. I should have been very glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Down say something like it. The right 1523 hon. Member for Antrim said that he agreed that there was no real need for a continuance of this thing or, at least, that it should be tested every year. Let that be done. It would satisfy some people like me.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I would like to make it clear that I said I thought it would be much better if it was re-enacted every year. I do not think I said that I thought there was no necessity for it. I cannot judge that.
§ Mr. McEntee
No, of course. It should be re-enacted every year if there was necessity for it. At any rate, it should be tested every year. It would be helpful in convincing people like myself who are honest in their desire to help Northern Ireland. I have lived amongst the people of Northern Ireland, I know them and I like them. The right hon. Gentleman gave two instances where Catholics and Protestants lived together in amity. He gave the instance of the first Lord Chief Justice and that of the mayor of some town the name of which I cannot remember. I do not know, but I think that if inquiry is made it will be found that both of them were Tories.
§ Sir W. Smiles
In the case of the Chairman of the Down County Council, I believe, though I have never discussed it with him, he is a Nationalist.
§ Mr. McEntee
I was not referring to that case. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not too sure about it himself. He is not prepared to say. I suggest that hon. Gentlemen opposite know that these suggestions are true.
I do not want to vote against this Bill. It is a good Bill which will be helpful to the people of Northern Ireland and also to those of Southern Ireland. Why should we have to vote against it? Two hundred Members of this House have put on the Order Paper what amounts to a rejection Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman who questioned whether we were going to move the Amendment knows the procedure. In the past I have put my name down to an Amendment for the rejection of a Railway Bill, for instance, when the reason was not because I wanted the Bill to be killed, but because I wanted to draw attention to an abuse by the railway 1524 company which took place between Liverpool Street and Chingford, where I live. In the same way, I do not want to have to vote against this Bill. I would hate to vote against it, because I believe it to be a good Bill.
I ask the people who are responsible for the Government of Northern Ireland to reconsider their position. ft hon. Members opposite are not prepared to give a fair show to all the people in Northern Ireland, not only the 200 Members who have put their names to this Amendment, but a large majority of the Members of this House will vote against them to very much more purpose than the defeat of a Bill like this. I ask in all earnestness, and I am satisfied that I am right in asking, that they should reconsider their relations with the people they represent. They should not allow anybody to make speeches, such as I could quote literally by the dozen from the Prime Minister and many Members of the Government in Northern Ireland past and present, including some who are not Ministers, which are a deliberate incitement for the destruction of the Catholics. I do not intend to vote against this Measure and I hope that nobody else will take that course. However, I want to take the opportunity of making my protest. All the 200 of us are not fools. We are men and women, many of whom have come up from below, as I have. We have come up from below by force of character, if hon. Members wish to call it that, and we are determined that the kind of conduct which has gone on in the past, and is still going on, in Northern Ireland, shall not continue.
I beg that in the interests of common decency the Government of Northern Ireland should be reformed. The intimidation of people with whom they do not agree should be stopped. Their policy should be reformed and they should try the other method. I do not want to see the I.R.A. surviving, but I say that you can go into Northern Ireland and see a police force, and Orange institutions, probably 90 per cent. of whose members are armed to the teeth, provocative, intimidating and stirring up strife, and you can go across the border into Eire, and walk from one end of the country to the other—
§ Mr. McEntee
I am sorry if any words of mine appeared to be offensive to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. They certainly were not meant to be offensive to anyone. I say that one can cross the border into Southern Ireland, walk through every county, every village and hamlet, and not meet an armed policeman. The I.R.A. were just as anxious to upset the de Valera Government—and I have no use for the de Valera Government—as they were to upset the Government of Northern Ierland, but they did not keep up all these armed forces, all this pretence, this victimisation and provocation, such as one finds over the border in Northern Ireland. Here, in this country we have armed gunmen all over the place, not organised, perhaps, but at any rate dangerous, but we do not send out our policeman armed—
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask the hon. Gentleman a friendly question? Is he seriously suggesting to this House that the Eire Government have no special powers, or that, if they have such powers, they are not exercising them?
§ Mr. McEntee
I did not say a word about special powers. I am simply saying that we do not see an armed policeman from one end of Eire to the other. They deal with the same movements, the same dangerous movements which most of us hate, as I do myself, but they deal with them in a way that has proved to be more effective than use of armed partisans such as one can see every day all over Northern Ireland. I hope that we shall see some kind of reform and some better spirit on all sides. I agree that this problem is not all one-sided, but it is very largely one-sided, and I hope we shall see some great improvement as a consequence of this Debate.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
I have been in this House for quite a long time, but I never remember a Bill being discussed when so few remarks related to the matter contained in the Bill. Since my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate from this side of the House made his speech, I do not think that anything has 1526 been said from the opposite side of the House, and not very much from this, concerning the Bill itself, because the entire time has been taken up in discussing what are transferred services. This occasion has been used by hon. Members who, for political reasons, dislike the Unionist Government of Northern Ireland, to discuss matters which are normally out of Order. That is what they have been doing, and they have been doing it without much consideration as to what the consequences will be. I can think of nothing so likely to encourage anyone who is trying to restart the I.R.A. as the kind of speeches that have been made by hon. Members opposite. If they think that they are by that kind of speech making it possible for the Special Powers Act to be suspended, they are quite wrong. That kind of speech will probably make it necessary to keep those powers all the longer.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) said in a light-hearted way that he did not see what evidence there was of I.R.A. activity. North Cumberland is unstirred by the chances of such outbreaks. I would refer him to the events of 1916, when Mr. Birrell, an eminent Liberal, saw no signs of trouble in Dublin and Southern Ireland, when, as a matter of fact the rebellion which broke out in 1916 was entirely because—[interruption.] Constant interruptions are made by hon. Members, not one of whom has discussed the Bill. There has been a whole catalogue of speeches from the other side against the powers which have been given to a Parliament—one of the few Parliaments which has decided to stand by this country. The attitude of hon. Members opposite is a fine example of the spirit which is preventing our having another community living on friendly terms with this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Bunkum."] Southern Ireland, as originally constituted, has been given all these powers and many more, with the enthusiastic assent of hon. Members opposite, and so it is, as it always has been, hostile to this country.
It was said by the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) that there are no armed police in Eire. No, but they have got an entire army to deal with internal trouble, and it does not seem to be used for any other purpose. [Horn. MEMBERS: "So have you."] We have no control over the British Army. The 1527 Government of Northern Ireland has to preserve order by the use of such powers as are at its disposal, and they are the constabulary and the special constabulary. The Government of Northern Ireland have been elected by the people of Northern Ireland, and there is far less doubt as to their commanding a majority of the people of Northern Ireland than there is about this Government here. That is certainly so. [Interruption.] An hon. Member.says something about being unopposed. There is no harm in that. If people want to oppose anybody, they can do so if they so desire.
On the question of free speech, I think that we on this side of the House would be most grateful if we were able to have the facilities which are enjoyed by the constitutional Opposition in the Parliament of Northern Ireland. They have not been curtailed in any way, and they make the most violent and provocative speeches, as anyone can see from the newspapers. The only complaint we have had recently as regards their treatment of our officials is that one of the more truculent of them complained of dumb insolence on the part of the police. That is a complaint more normally associated with that mythical character Colonel Blimp, but it seems to be the only kind of complaint they can make. They are not guillotined; they do not have the Closure Motion to stop them speaking, and the freedom of the Press is complete. As I have said, with regard to the constitutional side, the Nationalist and Labour Opposition are encouraged, because there is a tendency, when they cannot get their own way, to boycott the Legislature. Of course, as regards the unconstitutional side, that is an entirely different matter. It is very difficult for hon. Members of this House to understand that the Nationalist Opposition in the Northern Ireland Parliament is not an Opposition such as we know it. Whether it be Labour or Nationalist; it is an Opposition which says that the Parliament itself has no right to exist. That, in fact, is a kind of political fifth column.
§ Mr. Beattie
The Opposition of the Northern Ireland Parliament, of which I was a leader, never made any such statement. Labour's view is that as long as the Constitution of Northern Ireland remains they will honour it, but that when the people change that Constitution, they will honour the people's wishes also.
§ Sir R. Ross
That is a magnificent intervention by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Beattie), who showed his respect for constitutionalism by voting against the Royal Address of Welcome to Their Majesties on their return from South Africa. That does not seem to suggest that he considers the constitutional position to be one of which he approves. I cannot imagine anyone who claims to be a constitutionalist voting against a simple, courteous and loyal Address such as that, and yet the hon. Member, together with those Nationalists who hold the view that there should be no Government of Northern Ireland, went into the Lobby against the presentation of such an Address.
The position of Nationalists in Northern Ireland is generally clear and sincere. Both the senior hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Cunningham) and the junior hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey), whose sincerity I have never for a moment questioned, wish to see the Free State tricolour flying where the Union Jack now flies. They are so sincere in their views that for 10 long years they could not square their conscience with taking the oath of allegiance. They owed no allegiance to His Majesty and no loyalty to the British Constitution. But the war being over, and after a period of due reflection which lasted for 10 years, and which cost them their salaries as Members of Parliament during that period, they have come in and taken the oath of allegiance. I am sure that, unlike one of their colleagues who boasted of his insincerity, they have taken their oath of allegiance with sincerity. At the same time, they would like to see all British rule and all British connections severed. Our chief claim is that we are West Britain, that we stand by the British, and that we are friends of England. That is our chief fault. If we were not that, we would not be so objectionable to them.
On the other hand, there is the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). His motives seem to be rather different. He appears to be entirely irresponsible. In any Debate in which the subject of Northern Ireland comes up, he is always the first to introduce the question of religion. He was the first to do so today, as he was in the recent Debate on conscription. Of course, that is the kind of thing that 1529 can produce, and has in the past produced, the sort of troubles which we had in 1920 and again in 1935, and which began by Loyalists objecting to being fired at by the other side.
§ Mr. Bing
Since the hon. Gentleman has mentioned my name in this connection, perhaps he will allow me to put to him now a point which I put to him in the conscription Debate. Will he now disown the statement made by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland that 99 per cent. of the Catholics are disloyal? It was he who said that first, and not I.
§ Sir R. Ross
That point is very easily dealt with. It is perhaps unfortunate that every Catholic in the Northern Ireland Parliament voted against a Loyal Address being presented to Their Majesties. So far as that particular instance is concerned—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—I will answer in my own time; I am not going to be shouted down by hon. Members opposite. The statement made about 99 per cent. of the Catholics being disloyal was the result of the Press saying that the Catholics were too per cent. Nationalists, that they disliked being alluded to as disloyalists, and wanted to be referred to as Catholics. There are many members of that faith who are perfectly loyal.
The hon. Member for West Waltham-stow tried to make out that the only members of that conviction who got office were Tories. That is not true. I have known many civil servants who were Catholics. For instance, there was Mr. Bonaparte Wyse, who was head of the education department. I have served in a district where both the county inspector and the district inspector were Catholics, and very good officers they were. Many people of that faith have no politics at all, and certainly no Tory politics.
Then there was the attack on the Orange Order. This Order has, apparently, been held up as a monstrous concern which aims at persecuting others. The only positive evidence we have of that is a statement by the hon. Member for West Walthamstow that, when he was a member of it, he went in a procession and threw stones in Catholic streets.
§ Sir R. Ross
I understood that the incident had taken place in a procession of which he formed part, and that that was why he saw it.
§ Mr. McEntee
I said that I was in d procession and saw it. That is one of the reasons why I left the Orange Order.
§ Sir R. Ross
I entirely accept everything which the hon. Gentleman says, but he certainly gave a most unfortunate impression—although I would never have thought it of him—that he went about throwing stones in this manner. I have been a member of the Orange Order for many years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Why shame? Hon. Members opposite admit the right of anybody to become a Freemason. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Why should they object to anyone becoming a member of this Order? It is probably because they know nothing about it. At all events, if we compare the objects and purposes of this Order with those of say, the Fabian Society, we find that the more patriotic and worthy objects are those of the organisation to which I belong, and I am prepared to stand by that. To say that they go about throwing stones at people because they are of another faith is entirely untrue in my experience, arid I think my experience is a great deal more than that of the hon. Member for West Walthamstow. Political processions are not confined to one side or to one point of view, and normally the processions only go through areas where similar views are held. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] So as not to offer provocation. We have heard a lot about provocation. Hon. Members may have heard that processions have been attacked, and the trouble which began in 1935 was owing to the attack upon such a procession which was shot at and people were hit. In the ordinary course, a Hibernian procession goes through a Hibernian quarter and an Orange procession goes through an Orange quarter. It is always rather resented by people if some other political party procession goes through their area.
A lot has been said about gerrymandering and other such subjects. I would have expected something a little more forceful from those who put their names to this Amendment than we have had today. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey) spoke at con- 1531 siderable length, giving a lot of figures and dealing largely with the allocation of cottages and with who was to be the workhouse porter in Enniskillen. I did not follow some of his figures. As regards representation, if he will consider his own representation of 57,000 votes in Fermanagh and Tyrone, and more than 90,000 votes in my constituency, he will find that Fermanagh and Tyrone have fewer votes per Member than any other borough or county constituency in Northern Ireland. If he compares the number of electors in Fermanagh and Tyrone with those in County Down or Antrim who have two Members, he will find that is true.
All sorts of questions and quotations were brought forward by the hon. Member for Hornchurch. Nothing was too remote to create ill-feeling. Nothing that could exacerbate the relations of the two communities was left out. Speeches by men long dead, some of them made nine years ago, extracted from their context, were dug up by the hon. Member. For his attack upon the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, he had to go back about 15 years.
§ Sir R. Ross
Why should not property be bought for Protestants? [Laughter.] That is very funny, no doubt, but, considering there has long been an organisation for buying property for Catholics, I cannot see any objections to a similar organisation for Protestants. We have been told that Catholics suffer frightful hardship. The great difficulty in Northern Ireland is not that they leave Northern Ireland, but that they come in., They never seem to wish to go to the ideal land of Fire. On the contrary, the only problem about the transfer of population is that they keep wishing to come into Northern Ireland. Sixty thousand came in from Eire during the war period, and there would be more if it were not for the system in vogue.
I must not detain the House any longer, although there is still much which could 1532 be said with advantage. I have seldom heard a more misleading account of matters than we have heard today. For instance, one would think that the whole question of the Derry Corporation had been completely transformed when the number of members of the Corporation was reduced from 40 to the present number. It was a Unionist corporation before, and it still is. The Acts which are administered, the ordinary local government Acts, have never been complained of until very recently when the question of rating valuation arose. The problem would exist in this country if it were not for the complete impossibility of composing the lists, as was found by the Government in this country. I do not know whether there is any complaint about the abolition of the lodgers' vote, but that is a matter which was subject to the gravest abuse here and in Ireland. Otherwise, I cannot see what particular objection there is. We have a system of which there was never any complaint, and which this country has had only recently. We used constantly to be abused for being a "rubber stamp" and merely passing legislation that was passed here. We are now abused for not being a "rubber stamp," and our chief fault is that we are not Socialists. Apparently, if we were a Socialist Government we could probably do anything we pleased without hon. Members opposite being in the least upset about it. This Bill is needed. It is a Bill against which not one word has been said today. As I say, we are always friendly to Great Britain whom we are determined to support, but we have never had one word of thanks for that from the back benches opposite. We have had nothing but abuse, but we are accustomed to it and we consider it of very small importance.
§ 2.59 P.m.
§ Mr. Delargy (Manchester, Platting)
Since this Debate began—indeed, ever since I first heard there was likely to be an opportunity of debating this matter concerning the Six Counties of Northern Ireland—I have been extremely curious. I have been curious to know what hon. Members opposite would find to say. One or two of the hon. Members who speak in this House on behalf of Ulster Unionism are my personal friends. I know them to be sincere, intelligent and experienced men. Precisely because I knew 1533 them to be intelligent, I wondered whether they might discover some argument that was novel, some statement which might have about it the freshness of interest; whether they might utter just one word of regret for the abuses which they know—which they must know—have taken place and are taking place in the province from which they come. Everyone will agree with me that we have heard nothing new, that we have heard not one word of regret; that, instead, we have had to listen to some specious arguments, the same threadbare excuses, to some peculiar statistics, to all the same old cant and claptrap that sickened me 20 years ago. Of course, I ought to have foreseen it.
I ought to have realised that the arguments of even the most intelligent persons must necessarily be restrained and stale and unconvincing when they are endeavouring to defend a quite indefensible case; and the case which hon. Members opposite have tried to defend today is, by every test, quite unworthy of their efforts. Indeed, most of their arguments had already been prefabricated for them and sent by post to Members of Parliament, and issued in a most peculiar pamphlet which ought to take its place amongst the classics of inaccurate special pleading and false testimony. I need hardly say I refer to this fantastic document that I have here, this brown paper, this monument of ruin, which has been issued under the auspices of the Northern Ireland Ministry of Home Affairs, and which not only strains our credulity to breaking point but underestimates even our knowledge of the subject.
I read this pamphlet with very great interest. In fact, I began in my own copy to make some marginal notes. I stopped when I discovered that I was making so many notes that I was about to produce an amended document a lot longer than the original. But even to my unpractised eye there are in every paragraph, or almost every paragraph, in that peculiar document, the gravest distortions of truth. When I regard the nine photographs of the dumps of arms which are alleged to have been taken from private houses I see not the slightest effort at proof that they were taken, indeed, from those houses, and the photographs are not even dated. However, I shall say nothing more about that miser- 1534 able publication. By now, I hope, most hon. Members will have received a reply to it, a reply entitled, "The Six Counties," issued by the Irish Anti-Partition League which, no matter what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) may say, is not a Southern Irish organisation. It has no affiliations whatever with Southern Ireland. It is purely a Northern organisation, as the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do, and its chairman is the Leader of the Opposition in the Northern Ireland House of Commons.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
May I ask the hon. Gentleman why it was posted in Eire? Why does it bear an Eire stamp?
§ Mr. Delargy
I personally do not know why it was posted in Eire, because I did not post it, but I have a suspicion that it was posted in Eire in order to get round the postal political censorship of Northern Ireland.
§ Professor Savory
Surely, the hon. Gentleman knows that the Post Office is Imperial? It has nothing whatever to do with the Northern Ireland Government.
§ Mr. Delargy
I am perfectly well aware that the postal service in Northern Ireland is Imperial. But since the matter has been raised—and I do assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I had not intended to raise the matter—I do state categorically that it is a fact that there is a political censorship of mails in Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Government; and one of the most respected Members of the Northern Ireland House of Commons has even offered to produce the name of the gentleman who is the head of that particular censorship department So much for that. I hope that most hon. Members will have received the other publication to which I referred. I urge every hon. Member of this House to read both publications side by side, to compare one with the other, and then to decide for themselves which of these two documents is speaking the truth.
I should now like to say a word or two about points which have been raised by hon. Members opposite. The point has been made by successive speakers opposite—who wished to defend the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act in Northern Ireland—that it had to be intro- 1535 duced there because desperate men are at large, armed with pockets full of bombs, who are trying to overthrow the Government by force. They told us, as their pamphlet told us, that the year in which the Act was introduced, 1922, was a year of great upheaval; that there were enormous numbers of murders committed. This pamphlet tells us that there were 232 murders. What it does not say, of course, is that the large majority of those 232 people who were murdered were members of the minority, and were so murdered by hirelings of the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I speak as a responsible representative this House, and I am perfectly willing to send to any hon. Member the names and addresses of nearly 170 of those 232 people who were butchered in that year. So please do not say I am talking nonsense, when I know perfectly well what I am saying.
§ Mr. Delargy
As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) said, if this Debate is to develop into a swapping of atrocity stories, it will do no good at all.
§ Mr. Delargy
Who began it? This brown paper issued by the Government of Northern Ireland; this miserable thing began it. In any case, without even going into who was or was not killed in those years—
§ Mr. Delargy
Of course I started it in this Debate, and it is a perfectly legitimate point to make, since the whole reason given for the introduction of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act was the upheaval in the year in which the Act was passed. Surely, therefore, I can comment on the events of that year? In any case, 1536 this is 25 years later. And what shall we say of a Government which has had an uninterrupted tenure of office with, as the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) said, a bigger and stronger majority than any party has had in this House during the same time, but which after 25 years, with all those advantages, not only has not abolished that Act but has added to it year after year; which has stated, through the mouthpiece of its leaders, that it may now be regarded as a permanent part of the system in Northern Ireand? What shall we say of that Government? Does it not, by that very fact alone, stand self-confessed of being unable to govern its State in a normal and democratic manner?
It has also been stated today by two hon. Members opposite that these desperate I.R.A. men are now re-arming and re-organising, and again endeavouring to overthrow the State, and that, therefore, this Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act must be kept in force. Yet, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone pointed out, it is only a few weeks ago since it was publicly stated that things were quieter than ever; that there did not seem to be the slightest reason for thinking that there was likely to be any outbreak at all by the I.R.A. That was not stated by a Labour Member; it was not stated by a Nationalist Member; it was not stated by a back bencher. By whom was it stated? By the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland. A few weeks later, having made a statement that on the strength of that he had released a certain number of political prisoners, he now has the effrontery to tell us that the I.R.A. are doing what he said a few weeks ago was false.
The right hon. Member for Antrim mentioned a point about which I speak with very great reluctance and with marked diffidence. He denied that there was any persecution of the people in Northern Ireland on account of their religion. Had it not been mentioned I myself certainly would not have introduced it. I have never stated it on a public platform and I hope I never do, but some answer must be made here. I must speak with restraint because I have certain memories which are still fresh. I have seen people evicted and their furniture burned; I have seen relatives of my own maltreated, and on that account all 1537 I wish to say—and I would be wrong if I did not say it—is that if the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to believe that there is no persecution of Catholics in Northern Ireland he is not only making a statement which nobody believes but at which even his own supporters would sneer.
In order to prove that there is no discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland the right hon. Gentleman produced, after a vast amount of search and after, no doubt, being carefully briefed by his experts, four examples in all the six counties of Northern Ireland to prove that there is no discrimination in choosing for jobs on account of peoples' religion. What has he produced after all his results? He produced the mayor of a small country town, the chairman of the Commission for Refugees from Gibraltar, one district inspector of police and some civil servant now dead of the good old Irish name of Bonaparte Wyse. That is the best he could do to prove to this House that there is no discrimination. It is a very poor best, and I think he would have been well advised not to have introduced the subject at all, or, if he introduced it, not to try to defend it because his own arguments defeat his own case.
In any case the right hon. Gentleman himself let the cat out of the bag when, after telling us there was no such persecution taking place, and after he told us he deprecated the remarks of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, he finished up by saying practically the same thing. Here is what he said, for I took down his words:Nevertheless it must be said that the bulk of the Catholics in Northern Ireland refuse all co-operation with the Government.The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) tried to give the House the impression, that although these abuses might take place and although certain repressive acts of this nature might he in existence, very few people knew anything about them and they were very little used, one confessed that he did not know one of his own statutes until he heard the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) today. He told us he did not know so many things were happening in Northern Ireland. He did not know his own legislation, and in order to prove his point he instanced in a very jocular manner how he himself was nervous when he met a policeman in 1538 Britain and if he was driving his car he took his foot off the accelerator. And he went on to give us other excruciating excuses.
What he did not tell us was that these policemen were armed. He did not tell us either that at the slightest trouble at any meeting these policemen cairn, out in armoured cars with steel plating sides and bomb proof netting on the top. I have not yet seen that in the Strand He did not tell us that these policemen numbered 3,000. He did not tell us that behind these policemen was another police force, the special constabulary, who are paid by the Northern Ireland Government, armed by the Northern Ireland Government and who number 13,000 men. Imagine, 16,000 policemen to control a State whose total population is no larger than that of Glasgow; and the hon. Gentleman cannot see any difference between those police and the police we see peacefully circulating in London.
I must now try to reply to one or two points which have been made by the hon. Member for Londonderry. He said that my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-church had introduced this subject of religious persecution. What are we to do? Everyone who has studied the facts of the case, and everyone who has lived in Belfast for a few months, knows that religious persecution takes place. Are we always to keep quiet? Who introduced it first? It was not my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] It was introduced long before he did so. He referred to the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Beattie) who voted against the Loyal Address, and hoped to persuade the House by so doing that the friends of the hon. Member in the Northern House of Commons were the 99 per cent. disloyal people about whom we have heard so much today. He did not say that during the Debate upon the Loyal Address, Nationalists and Labour Members made it perfectly clear that they were voting against presenting a Loyal Address to their Majesties—several of them said that they did so most reluctantly—because they represented a section of people who had not the elementary rights of most of the subjects of their Majesties.
§ Sir R. Ross
I have here the HANSARD report of that Debate, from which it appears that only one Member spoke 1539 against the Loyal Address. All the others had gone out. I do not think the hon. Member could have been speaking from clear recollection.
§ Mr. Delargy
I have a very clear recollection of it.
I hope that this Debate has done something to enlighten hon. Members upon the peculiar state of affairs in Northern Ireland. The biggest difficulty in speaking about these matters, either in this House or outside, is the appalling ignorance that prevails about it. If I were asked to say where people could be found who knew less about Ireland than elsewhere, I should say it would be among Members in this House. Every country under the sun seems to have its own specialists, experts and bright boys who can tell the House all about Poland, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Argentine, and the hinterland of China. Whenever I have endeavoured, in my usual shrinking manner, to say a word or two about Northern Ireland I have been treated as an amiable eccentric.
The eyes of many hon. Members are fixed so steadfastly upon the ends of the earth that they have not noticed what is going on under their noses. Hon. Members are usually extremely busy telling other nations what to do and what Governments they should choose for themselves, but have not found time to examine the one State on earth for which they have a direct responsibility. That appalling ignorance is by no means confined, to the back benchers. We must remember that this business of Northern Ireland is our responsibility. It is wrong to regard it as a religious squabble. It is false and mischievous to regard it as a problem which concerns Irish people alone. Everything which is done there—all these injustices, these iniquitious special powers, all this abolition of all that has been essential in British law for 1,000 years, the faked elections, the display of armed terror—is done in our name and with our authority, and very largely with money supplied by us.
Without our connivance, tacit or expressed, this state of things could not have endured in Northern Ireland as it has done during the last 20 years. Some of us thought that something might have been done during the last two years, with a Labour Government in Office, because 1540 surely if there is one party in this country which ought to have some obligations in the matter it is the Labour Party. When the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, was debated—the Bill we are discussing is merely an Amendment to it—the Labour Party officially, enthusiastically and unanimously opposed it. I was reading the speeches of that Debate the other night, and I was very deeply impressed by the Labour speeches, so impressed that I thought it would be a good thing to extract them and make them into a volume to present to the Home Secretary.
Very few of the hon. Members who took part in those Debates are here now, but I am very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) who is now the father of the House. I would at any rate remind him that he said that he would never have voted for that Measure unless he had thought that it would be for the union of the country. He must have been very disappointed since, for the union he hoped for did not come about and the party he supports is chiefly responsible for the dissension and has used its power in a way the noble Earl must himself very much deplore.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
There are very few of us now who sat in the House in the old days. There is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and myself and a few others. The old Irish days have a rather sad aroma for us. I cannot help thinking with some emotion this afternoon of many of whom I was a humble opponent but who were great personal friends of mine—Flavin, Jerry MacVeagh, John and Willie Redmond and others. I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy) will not think I am being discourteous if I say that there is a slight declension in Irish Nationalist eloquence since those days, but in one respect the hon. Member is fit to be compared with the Irish element of those days, and that is in his great personal charm and also in his not having been quite sure of the time at which he had undertaken to sit down, both very characteristic of the old Irish days.
I am in the same position as the Under-Secretary, who introduced this Bill in a most competent speech. We came down here this afternoon—perhaps we had not 1541 got our eyes open—supposing that we were dealing with a Bill which has been promoted, it is true, by the Northern Ireland Government but to which the Southern Ireland Government are very favourable as it makes admirable working arrangements in certain respects between the two countries. But it was very obvious from the speech of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), about whom I propose to say a few words, not all of a friendly character, that he had a very different idea. I do not ask the Home Secretary to answer this point but it seemed to me that he must have felt that this was a colourable imitation, it was so ferocious, of the point-counterpoint of a Socialist Party annual conference.
§ Earl Winterton
I did not expect any loud cheers. I read carefully what hon. Members do at their conferences. I have not read such ferocious speeches anywhere except at a Socialist Conference as those I have heard this afternoon from both sides of the House. I do not suggest for a moment—it would be most wounding and injurious to do so, and extremely wrong and discourteous—that the hon. Member for Hornchurch was not perfectly sincere, but I agree with my hon. Friends on this side of the House—here I come to a more serious note—that he has done very real Mischief to the cause of good feeling between this country and not only Northern Ireland but Eire, by the way in which he has given the lead and the line in this Debate. In justice to my hon. Friends who come from Ulster—and I am proud of having Ulster blood in my veins—it was not by their wish that the Debate took this line. [Laughter.] Certainly not They wished this Bill to be what the Under-Secretary of State said it was, and which it is, as the Home Secretary will tell hon. Gentlemen opposite, a Bill for better administrative means for the Government of Northern Ireland and, incidentally, for Eire. As, however, the hon. Gentleman has chosen to make these observations I will reply in my very mild manner to some of the charges which he has made.
The hon. Gentleman's main charge was that the attitude of the Northern Ireland Government had been antidemocratic, and he based it on what was 1542 obviously his only case, namely, that they had excessive powers. To use a hackneyed phrase, any visitor from another planet hearing his speech would have supposed that the only Government in the world which had special powers was the Government of Northern Ireland and that this was a unique example. He did not make the slightest reference to the fact that the Eire Government had similar special powers—
§ Earl Winterton
That is not the case. The hon. Gentleman must be aware of the laws in Southern Ireland—whether you call them special powers or not. He must be aware also that certain books are not allowed to be imported into that country, books which the Vatican have said they do not like. I am not attacking the Catholic religion, but if that is not an instance of suppression, I would like to know what is. And he has never referred either to what is being done by the Palestine Government. The hon. Gentleman gave the impression that his idea was that the Northern Ireland Government thought that Ulster was not fit for democracy. The same argument might be applied to the Palestinian Government. It might be asked, why are Jews unfit for democracy and governed in the way they are? The answer in all three cases—Northern Ireland, Eire and Palestine, is that the Governments of those three countries are faced with a small or large murderous and fanatical minority, who would, if those Governments were not armed with those special powers, kill everyone in high office —[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and everyone associated with the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Hon. Gentlemen know that is true. Ask' any Member of the Eire Government, anyone in Palestine and anyone in Ulster, and no one knows it better than anyone who has had experience of those three countries.
I would say that both in the case of Northern Ireland and, in recent years—if I may be permitted a reference to the matter because one has to be careful how one speaks of a friendly Government—it is equally true of Eire, that those powers, at any rate in the last few years and during the war and since, have been 1543 used with discretion, tact, and with the greatest possible humanity. I would say it in respect of both Governments, and I deeply regret that the hon. Gentleman should have made the kind of attack he has made this afternoon—of course supported by the extremists and those who represent the extremist point of view in Northern Ireland, a minority—I am not suggesting that they belong to the murderous minority but they belong to a very ferocious minority. [Laughter.] Of course, supported by the representatives of what is undoubtedly—if hon. Gentlemen who laugh do not like the word "ferocious" let me say a very extreme minority, a much more extreme minority than anything we have in this country.
§ Earl Winterton
I was not referring to Palestine, I was referring to Northern Ireland. I only want to say one other thing in reply to the hon. Gentleman's speech. He made all sorts of charges which have been refuted by my right hon. Friend behind—[Laughter.]—I have noticed with great interest in this House, it I may be permitted an obiter dicta, that when hon. Members opposite are flummoxed by a speech they meet it with shouts of laughter. But when they read HANSARD they will find a speech of high statesmanship which completely answers the charges which have been made. I wish to say a word on this delicate question of religious freedom. I think my hon. Friends behind me will accede to what I am going to say. I dislike religious bigotry of any kind in any country. Speaking generally I think credit is due to both the Northern Ireland Government and the Southern Ireland Government for' doing their best—at any rate in recent years—to mitigate it.
§ Mr. Stokes indicated dissent.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) shakes his head, but I am going to try to persuade him that what I have said is true. There has been a very real endeavour by the Government of both countries who are both dependent upon the votes of the people and have to have regard to all the circumstances—I think both governments have done their best—to reduce the amount of religious feeling that exists in those two countries. Also by way of obiter dicta 1544 I deplore these dissensions in the Christian Church because I believe that not many years and perhaps even months are going to pass before the Christian Church will be the bulwark against something which, I need not mention to the hon. Member—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Just wanting war."] No, and I think hon. Members will not disagree, I want to see a community of Christian belief and endeavour in this country and in Western Europe for purposes which I hope and believe are both honourable and proper—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Throughout the world."] And throughout the world, I could not agree more with the hon. Member. For those reasons I deplore in any part of the British Empire, any feeling between Protestant and Catholic.
Like my right hon. Friends on the bench beside me I was really astonished that the hon. Member for Hornchurch did not move the Amendment. His explanation for not doing so was most inadequate. The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) tried to explain it by saying that, so long as an Amendment was put down, that was all that was necessary. I never heard a more strange expression of opinion. Anyone who knows the hon. Member, and who has watched his progress in this House, would be the last to accuse him of want of political courage. If I may use the phrase, I think this afternoon he approached the road to political cowardice, and I would commend to him as an instance of political courage the attitude of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie). There was no doubt about what his action was to be. He is the opponent of the British Empire—
§ Mr. Beattie
That is not the case. I am a Labour and Socialist representative in this House and also a Labour and Socialist representative in Northern Ireland.
§ Earl Winterton
I understand that with great courage, because of his convictions, the hon. Member refused to vote for the Loyal Address to His Majesty which was put forward in the Northern Ireland House of Commons. I was commending him in acting up to the spirit of his convictions. He voted against it; he showed courage. Hon. Members say "Withdraw." There is nothing to withdraw. 1545 It is a statement of fact. I am paying tribute to his courage. He voted against the Loyal Address to His Majesty in order to make perfectly clear—so that no one could misunderstand—what his real political convictions were. His attitude was admirable from the point of view of political courage compared with that of the hon. Member for Hornchurch, who, after a speech in which he attacked the Northern Ireland Government from one end of his remarks to the other, sat down after making them without moving the Amendment. I wish we had had the Amendment before the House. I and I am sure the people of Northern Ireland, would like to see who are for and who are against this Bill.
I must end as I began, by saying that it is a deplorable thing that on the occasion of a Bill brought forward to improve the machinery of Government in Northern Ireland, a Bill which—I can perhaps speak more frankly than the right hon. Gentleman—has not only the assent, but one might almost say the enthusiastic assent, of the Southern Ireland Government, a Bill which is doing the sort of thing which in the old that we ought to be attempting to achieve —more co-operation between Northern and Southern Ireland—hon. Gentlemen opposite should have chosen to try to turn it into a stamping ground for their peculiar political views, gross prejudice and gross hatred of the Government of Northern Ireland. I make this observation; it may be a wounding one, but it is a very sincere one. I do not include those like the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) because I know he has strong views on religious grounds, and although I do not share them I admire his courage. I cannot help thinking that some of the others who lent themselves so enthusiastically to this Amendment attacking the Northern Ireland Government, did so for quite different reasons, for the same reasons that they attack the policy of the Foreign Secretary. They did so because in general the policy of the Northern Ireland Government has been one in support of the British connection, of what the majority of us on both sides of the House stand for in this House, and because the Northern Ireland Government has shown a record of patriotism which might well have been followed by some hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ 3.39 P.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I were discussing the course of today's Debate, I asked him, in opening the discussion, to explain the Bill, and to do nothing else. I say that in justice to him, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) alluded to the fact that my hon. Friend did not make any references to the Amendment in the course of his speech. I thought it would be as well to hear what the persons who had attached their names to the Amendment had to say before I replied to them. That, I gather, is a view which is not held on the Front Opposition Bench. They think that the duty of the Opposition is to oppose. It is not my duty to oppose an Amendment until I know what the reasons are for moving it. As it has not been moved, I shall not now be called upon to give those reasons.
There was also some suggestion that pressure had been put on my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) not to move the Amendment. The hon. Member for Hornchurch is a free member of a free Assembly, and today he has exercised his freedom in the way he has thought best without any pressure being brought on him to adopt one line or the other. He is responsible for relieving me from the task of replying to the Amendment by not moving it. The discussion today is not about these two hooks, both of which I have read with the greatest interest. I saw that it was said the other day that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) had warned budding politicians not to keep newspaper cuttings. I can well understand why the right 'hon. Gentleman gave that advice. I wish that it would be followed by all persons, of both points of view, in Ireland.
There was a famous occasion when a Member of this party had to negotiate with an Irish statesman. He had been talking to him for three days and he was asked at the end of that time how far they had got. He replied, "We have not got to Oliver Cromwell yet." I could not help regretting that the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) thought it necessary to go into the story of the settlements and the plantations. I cannot help thinking that while some of those actions may be responsible for today's 1547 Debate, it is about time that we tried to talk about Ireland in the light of the 20th century.
I do not know the political and religious views of any man or woman mho serves in my Department. I recollect that when I was elected to a great municipal office one of the officers came to me and said, "It will be such a pleasure to serve under, you because you and I hold the same political views." I said, "That is a very improper remark for an official to make to a chairman of the authority. It is my job when the council has passed a Resolution to see that it is carried out. It is your job, while you draw the council's salary, to see that it is carried out. I have no concern with your views all the while you adopt that attitude." It is a bit of a shock to a mere Englishman to discover that in Ireland—
§ Mr. Delargy rose—
§ Mr. Ede
I cannot give way. I have only a few minutes. It is a shock to discover that there are places—and I use the plural—where apparently one knows the religious views of an inspector and a sergeant of police and where one arranges that they shall never attend Communion together. That was what we were told. I regret that apparently such suggestions can be made.
This Bill represents an effort to allow the Northern Ireland Parliament to do some of the things which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have tried to prevent us doing in transport and in health, and, therefore, so far as that is concerned, I commend that part of the Bill whole-heartedly to the opposite side of the House. I cannot help thinking that I need not commend it to my hon. Friends behind me. There are other parts of this Bill which help in the economic development of both Northern Ireland and Eire, and, for the first time, as far as I can trace it, both Governments wish that this economic co-operation should not merely be commenced but should be enshrined in the Statute Book. That, I venture to say, is a considerable advance that all of us ought to welcome. I believe that, if we can arrange for a closer understand- 1548 ing of the problems that confront both these parts of a very small island, we shall do a very great deal towards removing some of the bitterness which has existed in the past, and which has found some expression here today.
Apart from that, there are certain very necessary alterations in the machinery of Government of Northern Ireland which the development of social services and other legislative matters have made desirable. These we do by this Bill. It seemed to me that the one point that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-church which might possibly be a justification for withholding consent to the Bill was the fear which he expressed that certain civil servants in the employ of the United Kingdom Government might suffer disability for their religious or political views if they were transferred to the Northern Ireland Civil Service. I think that the transfer of these people will be a very good test of the sincerity, which I do not doubt myself of the remarks offered from the benches opposite to the effect that, in fact, no persecution exists. I am quite sure that, if it could have been given even a colourable suggestion, it would lead to very considerable misgivings on the part of this House in transferring any further functions to the Northern Ireland Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), who, I understand, is a brand plucked from the Orange burning, asked me to hold an inquiry—
§ Mr. Ede
I am surprised that my hon. Friend thinks that he is anything but young now. He asked me to hold an inquiry into the matters that have been raised by my hon. Friends behind me. I have no power to hold such an inquiry. Rightly or wrongly, this House has specifically delegated to the Northern Ireland Parliament the oversight of certain matters. I have no more right to inquire into how they discharge their functions in that matter than I have to inquire into the way in which the Dominions of South Africa, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand discharge the self-government which this Parliament has, in time passed, bestowed upon them. I have no such powers. As far as the powers 1549 which are vested in me are concerned—and I still have certain powers which I have to discharge with regard to Northern Ireland—I endeavour to discharge them without fear or favour, affection or ill will, and without inquiry into the religious or political views of the people affected, because, to my mind, any such inquiries are an outrage in a free democracy.
I hope that this Bill which, after all, has not been attacked—no one has said a word in opposition to any of the proposals in it—may receive a unanimous Second Reading from the House. I trust that not one voice will be raised when Mr. Speaker asks if there are any "Noes." If hon. Members like to conduct the battle of the brown and yellow books, I would suggest that the Smoke Room is the appropriate place for that. However, let us not shut our eyes to the fact that there are misgivings among hon. Members of this House. Two hundred names do not appear on the Order Paper unless there are misgivings. My contacts with the Ministers of Northern Ireland have been very happy. They have pointed out to me how advanced and Socialistic they really are. They have nationalised transport, and they desire to carry it further. This Bill will enable them to do so. They expressed to me—and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity—the wish that the government of Northern Ireland may be conducted without the use of special powers, because those powers will no longer be needed.
I thought that the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) made a suggestion in regard to that matter which was both statesmanlike and wise. It is not for me to make any suggestions to Northern Ireland about matters over which they have complete control, and I hope that no Minister of the Crown belonging to this Government will ever put himself in the difficult and humiliating position of offering suggestions on matters that are not within the purview of his office. I think that I am entitled to say as a Member of this House, and not, for the moment, as Home Secretary, that the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion seemed to he one that would ensure an automatic review of this matter from time to time, which would relieve us of some of the anxieties here. Those of us who sat in the last Parliament know how 1550 every year when Regulation 18B came up for confirmation, there was a Debate in which hon. Members on both sides of the House who were greatly concerned about the liberty of the subject, raised issues, and compelled my right hon. Friend who is now the Lord President of the Council to justify the continued use of those extreme powers.
There is a certain nostalgic atmosphere about such a Debate as this. I used to watch from the gallery in the place which is now destroyed, the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), when he was a very junior Member of this House in the days when the picturesqueness of Parliament was greatly added to by the presence of the Irishmen whom he has named, and of some others. I recollect, for instance, hearing the Second Reading Debate of George Wyndham's Irish Land Bill, when Timothy Healy delivered a speech which, for pathos, I imagine has never been excelled in the history of the House.
§ Mr. Ede
Occasionally those speeches were tinged, if not dominated, by a power of invective that has not been heard in this House since the late Philip Snowden left it, and today we have had some return to invective on both sides. I sincerely hope that, as a result of today's Debate, we may be able to feel that matters which have disturbed people have been ventilated, that in this free Parliament it is still possible to speak on matters—I am not questioning your Ruling, Mr. Speaker—which appear to be a very great distance from those contained in the Bill, even though they may be remotely connected with the issues involved, and that, as a result, both the Parliaments that exist in Ireland may have the opportunity of working more closely together in certain important economic matters than they have been able to do before. I thoroughly commend this Bill to the House as a workmanlike Measure to that end.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Michael Stewart.]