§ 7.43 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 5, to leave out from the beginning to "that" in line 6, and to insert:(1) It is hereby recognised and declared.Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss at the same time the next two Amendments in lines 10 and 12. These three Amendments, which are related to each other, are really drafting Amendments, designed to meet a point raised in Committee last night in regard to this Clause where, as 346 at present drafted, instead of using the ordinary phrase, "It is hereby enacted," or as the case may be, we use the expression "Parliament hereby" It was said that the form of words at present used was unusual. I would not, I think, have withdrawn it for that reason alone, but the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) pointed out that, whilst of course it is the fact that Parliament consists of the King, the Lords and the Commons, it might not be realised by all people that that was so, and that they might think that the departure from the usual language had some significance and implied something which it was not intended to imply.
We recognise the importance of that point. It is, of course, of the utmost importance that the position of the Crown should not be involved one way or 347 another in legislation of this kind. The point having been made, I thought it right to withdraw the form of words we had used and to substitute a more normal phrase. We have retained the other distinction in the Clause, that we recognise and declare certain things, and with those I think the House will agree.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I should just like to say "Thank you" to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for meeting us on this point. In my opinion, it is more than drafting, and the Bill as it will be amended, in line with the suggestion put forward from this side of the House, makes clear that there is no distinction to be drawn in this Clause between the King on the one hand and Parliament on the other. It is quite clear to lawyers that Parliament does include the King; but, after all, in the course of history, particularly in Stuart times, the term "Parliament" was often used as meaning not that. I think this does improve the Bill, because it removes any possibility of this Clause being misunderstood in this connection, and I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for meeting us in this way.
§ Mr. John Beattie (Belfast, West)
I cannot in the same tones or the same words extend my gratitude or thanks to the Government. I think that the position now created drives the wedge of partition more deeply into the body of Ireland. I do feel that this Government has done a very——
§ Mr. Speaker
That has nothing to do with the Amendment under discussion, which is merely a drafting Amendment to substitute the words "It is hereby recognised and declared" in place of the words "Parliament hereby." We have not yet reached the Third Reading.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I thought the hon. Gentleman was about to ask a question, following the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) on Second Reading and during the Committee stage, that of course a Bill of this kind does not commit future Governments. The hon. Gentleman says that this alteration of wording makes a significant change which the Attorney-General did not seem to understand. I should like to know whether this change involves anything 348 of the nature suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry, or whether it would take away from future Parliaments the right to make a change.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In page 1, line 10, leave out "(b) declares," and insert: "(2) It is hereby declared."
§ In line 12, leave out "affirms," and insert: "it is hereby affirmed."
§ In page 2, line 3, leave out "paragraph (a) of."—[The Attorney-General.]
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
I do not propose to raise again the controversial issues which occupied us during the two days of our Debates. I should like to draw attention to some points, as I think points of great importance, which seem to have been rather obscured by those Debates; points on which I hope we shall fix our attention as we leave the Bill, and which I hope all instructed persons here and elsewhere will in future bear in mind.
This Bill results from a decision which, as so many of us have said, we all regret: the decision of the Government of Eire to leave the Commonwealth. We all recognise that Eire was free to leave the Commonwealth. In the words of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), the Commonwealth is a voluntary association and if a nation wants to go out, none of us would bar the way. But that decision being made, we had to settle the future relations between the people and the Government of the new Republic and the people and Government of this country—of what kind was it to be?
In considering that problem, the Prime Minister said last autumn that we must think of the ties of kinship and the traditional and long-established economic, social and trade connections based on common interest. He went on to say:The United Kingdom Government are at once with the Government of Eire in desiring that close and friendly relations should continue and be strengthened."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 1414.]349 That was the starting point of this Bill. I think that perhaps its most important single purpose is to lay it down that, although Eire has ceased to be part of His Majesty's Dominions, yet it is not to be treated as a foreign country and the citizens of the new Republic shall not be aliens in our land; we decided that international law was made for man and not man for international law.
That new departure has been endorsed in every quarter of the House. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington said that the special relationship existing between our two countries, the constant coming and going of citizens between Ireland and the United Kingdom, would make it ridiculous for either country to treat the people of the other as aliens, if by any reasonable means that could be avoided. He thought that this was a reasonable means, and that is why he gave support to the Bill.
The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) even found a precedent. He went back nearly 200 years to 1761, and found some countries, united by a dynastic tie, which decided that their citizens should not be foreigners in each other's countries. He ended by saying that the line we are taking rested on the far firmer and surer basis of common sense. I think it is a great thing that the whole House is agreed on this new principle of mutual benefit, both to the new Republic and to the United Kingdom, and I hope that the people of the new Republic will also think that it is a great thing we have done.
One other point has struck me about our Debates. Unsolved Irish problems can still rouse passion, as they have done in times gone by, but I venture to think that there is no one in this House today who believes that force can help to solve these problems in any way. Not even my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) doubts that force would make them worse. No one believes that any minority should be coerced. We all believe that the hope of progress lies in better understanding and in co-operation to promote the common interest which our peoples share—to battle together against poverty and ignorance, and the other problems which we still must face. We think that this Measure provides a practical and reasonable solution 350 for practical problems for which we are not responsible but which we have to solve. We hope that it will be so accepted here and elsewhere, and in that hope I commend the Bill.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
The Dominion Secretary has certainly found eloquent words with which to grace the last stages of our discussions on this Bill. I, for one, found myself completely in agreement with all that he said. None the less, it is for me and, I think, for most of us a melancholy occasion. I so much hoped that this last tenuous thread would hold until such time as the forces on both sides gathered to bring us closer together. It is an unhappy reflection that at much the same time as one of our partners in the Commonwealth family has definitely decided to stay, another should have decided it prefers to go. However, that is the decision and we must take it in the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has taken it tonight. Therefore, I want to add nothing that can possibly cause any dissension at this stage.
I think it is probably true that patience is the strongest ally of statesmanship. At least, if we can show ourselves patient in these events, the reward will perhaps come a little later on. My chief regret is that I think it is making it more difficult for North and South to come together, which is a solution, whether our friends in North and South believe it or not, which the ordinary Englishman would most like to see. It is a pity, but nothing is unalterable in time, and maybe changes will come about to make that possible.
I wish to add only this. If only in Dublin they will understand the spirit in which this House has sought to deal with this Bill, I feel that much of their recent eloquence would not have to be repeated. Maybe, if they could capture the tone which these poor, limited Englishmen sometimes contrive to produce—I must be careful here—I was going to say the brilliance, or something like it, might be a little tempered with the thought that perhaps the people with whom they do not agree might also have a point of view. If each could be persuaded that the other has a point of view, we should reach a stage in Irish affairs which, unhappily we 351 have not yet unhappily arrived at. This Bill is a phase which has to be gone through to bring us to the port we want to reach, and I join with the right hon. Gentleman in supporting its Third Reading.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
When this Bill came before the House for its Second Reading it was introduced in a felicitous and wise speech by the Prime Minister. Similarly, we have had wise speeches as we take leave of it and send it to another place. I must say that I share the regrets that are being expressed that we have this Bill at all. I am not seeking to be embittered about the reason for this Bill having to come before us, but certainly the reason was not one of our making but was brought about by those who had taken the decision to remove a Dominion from the family of nations of our Commonwealth. How far the reasons for that are bound up with competitive political considerations in Eire none of us, I am sure, will be wishing to enlarge upon now. The fact is that the decision was taken and it was necessary for this House to do something about it. The something we have done is included in the compass of a very small Bill, important though it is.
I made reference to the fact that the atmosphere at the beginning of the proceedings on this Bill and the atmosphere now is very calm and peaceful. I think there could have been very much more of that kind of spirit during the whole proceedings on the Bill had it not been for some of the terms used in the Bill itself and the fears that have arisen as a result of some of these terms being used, which might, if proper consideration had been given to the drafting, made it much more universally acceptable to this House. We know that it was inevitable that we should make declarations about recognising the position of Eire, and I believe it was equally necessary that we should make a declaration about the position of Northern Ireland. But I think that the declaration in relation to Northern Ireland, in putting it on record thatin no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be a part of His Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.352 is perhaps the bone of contention which has caused the greatest apprehension.
Although we are told by Ministers of the Crown—and I accept their assurances—that this does not bind us finally in any way the words themselves do seem to be very firm and definite and intended to last. When better feelings have been developed between Northern and Southern Ireland, and the time comes when there may be a possibility of them coming together, it is regrettable that the Parliament of Northern Ireland will be the arbiter. The reason I regret that the Parliament of Northern Ireland is mentioned in this way is because a Parliament is an instrument and an instrument is something which is subject to change at any time. There is a fear in the minds of those who can speak with much more authority about Irish matters than I can that when anything is required to be done to make things more certain for one party in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Parliament can be manipulated to that end. That is something which to us all is a matter for great regret.
I know it would not be in Order to go back on the Amendments which were moved to Clause 1 yesterday, but if, for instance, we had inserted the words "people of Northern Ireland" instead of "Parliament of Northern Ireland" I believe that many of the apprehensions felt on this side of the House would have been met. Instead of that we are laying it down that whenever the time comes when there may be a rapprochement between Northern and Southern Ireland the arbiter is to be the Parliament of Northern Ireland. It is, of course, true that the action of Eire in going outside the Commonwealth has put off the day when all within the borders of the Emerald Isle might come within the jurisdiction of one Parliament. There is no doubt that that day has been considerably postponed because of the action taken by the Government of Eire. I hope, however, that that day will not be too long postponed, for it is logical and reasonable to expect that there should be unity of all within the boundaries of the island we know as Ireland.
By sticking rigidly to the term "Northern Ireland" we impose upon those who will have to make a decision at the appropriate time the necessity for keeping to what is laid down in the Bill. 353 I accept the statement of Ministers that the normal way of reaching decisions of this kind is through a body of representatives elected to Parliament. But in the days and years that lie ahead there may be a change in practice and in outlook, and I regret that we are tying down those who may have to make the decision. To many the Parliament of Northern Ireland is suspect. I am not saying that I agree or disagree——
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
Come down on one side or the other.
§ Mr. Mathers
In making a declaration on that topic I will go only so far as to quote the old Scottish proverb:There's aye some water where the stirkie droons.That might, alternatively, be rendered, "There is no smoke without fire." The statements we have heard about actions in Northern Ireland in the political sense cause us some regret, and lead us to doubt the use of words in the Bill which bind so firmly those who are to succeed us. However, I hope that the spirit in which the Bill has been dealt with in the House will be recognised by all on on the other side of the Irish Sea who have to come under its terms. I still look forward to the day, which is longed for by many Irishmen, not only in Eire, but elsewhere, when there will be real unity in the Emerald Isle and when those who live in that island will be able so to conduct themselves and manage their affairs that they will, at long last, achieve that unity in Ireland which seems so logical.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I think it unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) should have taken the line that he has taken in his speech. It is unfortunate because the matter referred to was so fully dealt with yesterday that it seemed unnecessary to drag it out again. The right hon. Gentleman had no reason whatever to suppose that the Parliament of Northern Ireland will do anything improper. That suggestion was unreasonable in a Debate of this kind, in which we are all trying to do our best to adopt a conciliatory attitude.
No one could have listened to the discussions on this Bill without realising 354 that there is no one in the House who really likes it, or would have introduced it if it could possibly have been avoided. Of course, no one denies the complete right of the State of Eire to go out of the Commonwealth if it so chooses. It is laid down in the Statute of Westminster that any Dominion can leave the Commonwealth if it so wishes. But I remember that when we were discussing the Statute of Westminster in this House——
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
On a point of Order. In this Bill there is reference to the Republic of Ireland. Is it in Order to introduce any reference to a State of Eire which is not in the Bill. We are discussing the Republic of Ireland
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I must be permitted to hear what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to say. I gather that he is perhaps going to draw some comparison.
§ Sir C. Headlam
All I said was "When the State of Eire decided to become an independent republic." If the hon. Member had listened to me he would have understood—or he might have understood.
I do not suppose it occurred to many of us when we were discussing the Statute of Westminster, indeed I do not suppose that it occurred to any of us, that any Dominion would wish to leave the Commonwealth, and it is a great disappointment to many of us that that has been the case with the new Republic in Ireland.
§ Sir C. Headlam
I think that it is a pity that if the State of Eire felt that it should become a republic it should not have adopted the same course as India, and remained a republic within the British Commonwealth. Personally, I do not much care about that kind of position. It seems to me that the best form of Government in the world is the constitutional monarchy of this country, and it is a real disappointment to those who feel as I feel that India should have decided to become a republic and no longer to owe direct allegiance to the Crown. But India does at any rate remain within the Commonwealth.
The State of Eire, however, has decided to become entirely independent of the 355 Commonwealth. It can only remain independent, if one examines the real facts, so long as this country is in a position to protect it. It is perfectly obvious that if this country ceased to be British, if the British nation succumbed in any great war, the independent Republic of Ireland would not exist for long. We now know that had Hitler won the war there were not only to be gauleiters in this country but there was to be one in Dublin. It is obvious that should anyone defeat us the independent Republic of Ireland would most certainly come under the same dominion as that under which we should come. The independence of Republican Ireland is, therefore, rather a make-believe business.
From this country's point of view, nevertheless, the fact that the greater part of Ireland should be independent is a matter of great concern strategically. This question has not been raised, so far as I can remember, in the course of our Debates on this Bill, but it is and must remain a matter of vital importance to us. That is why it is so essential to us that no kind of action should be taken by the new Republic of Ireland which would in any way threaten Northern Ireland—the Six Counties in the North—so long as they wish to remain within the King's dominions.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)
Did I gather that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman thought that the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow was rather unfortunate, having regard to the circumstances? If so, does he think that he is choosing a better line?
§ Sir C. Headlam
I think that I am choosing a very sound line, which might have been taken by the right hon. Gentleman. It is not provocative, it is pointing out facts and is not insinuating anything against anyone, which is what the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be doing in his speech.
In view of the institution of an independent Republic in Ireland it is quite illogical on our part to allow Irish citizens to have the same privileges as British citizens—we are all agreed on that—but most of us realise that because of the juxtaposition of the two countries and because of the economic links which unite them, it is the only sensible policy to 356 adopt. This House is wise in having decided to accept the Government's proposal to that effect. I should have been quite prepared to treat the Irish Republicans as aliens; it would be reasonable to do SO. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] For the reason that they are not citizens of the Commonwealth. But I quite realise that that would be impracticable and lead to more difficulties.
I could not, however, vote for this Bill unless it contained Clause 1 (1, b). That seems to me to be essential. It was necessary to reaffirm the position of the Northern Counties as still belonging to the British Commonwealth of Nations and as being within the King's dominions. I do not think that the wording of that provision could have been very different. As it stands it certainly does not in the least mean that the separation between the two sections of the Irish people should be permanent. Some Members have, in the course of the Debate, tried to suggest that that was the intention or meaning of the words in the paragraph to which I am referring. I do not agree in the least with that suggestion. Everything that has been said by the Government spokesmen has demonstrated quite clearly that they at any rate are not in favour of the permanent partition of the country. From our side, the same hopes have been expressed—that sooner or later the two sections of the Irish people will come together again and form a united country. I hope profoundly that if that day ever comes, they will decide no longer to be an independent Republic but to become once again a Dominion within the British Commonwealth.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Delargy (Manchester, Platting)
Before this Bill leaves us on its journey to another place, I must say a few words. They will be few, and this time at least they will not be controversial. Most of the Clauses in this Bill have my full support. As the House knows, there is a part of one subsection to which I am most strongly opposed, and my hon. Friends and I endeavoured to have it altered during the Committee stage. We were not successful, but we did our best, and the House and the Government heard us with fairness and not, I think, without sympathy.
I do not think that we should oppose the Third Reading of this Bill. It was not easy or pleasant for my hon. Friends 357 and myself to oppose the Government in the various stages of this Bill. We did it because we felt obliged to do it, because we believed we were right. I am sure that the Government will ultimately agree that we were right. I am convinced that in the long run they will be rather pleased that a handful of us followed the difficult course which we did. Many Members have expressed regret, as well they might, that this situation has been forced upon us. It has been suggested several times from the Front Bench that the severance of this last link with the Commonwealth came as a shock and without warning to the Government. If that is correct, it is a very serious statement. I feel that some communications must have passed between the two Governments, and if that is so—I do not know whether it is or not—in view of the deep feeling which has been aroused in this matter, perhaps the Government would consider issuing those communications in a White Paper.
This Bill will shortly become law. We must make the best of it. But, above all, it is the duty of everyone who has any influence at all, here in Britain or in Dublin or in Belfast, to use that influence towards calm and discretion. In any upheaval it is always the innocent who suffer most. It is always the poor and the minorities who suffer first and who suffer most.
§ Mr. Delargy
It is always the poor and the minorities who suffer first and who suffer most. It is our duty and the duty of those responsible in the North of Ireland, as well as in the South, to protect the innocent and to preserve peace. God grant that the day will soon come when all Irishmen can live together in harmony in their own fair country.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)
It would be untrue to suggest that Northern Ireland welcomes this Bill. It would be much better if conditions had remained the same as they were before 18th April and Eire were still a part of the British Commonwealth. I mistrust republics. So many of them start off fairly, as they did in Spain and Germany, and afterwards become police States. Words such as "graft" and "political boss" never started under constitutional monarchies. I read only this morning 358 in the newspaper suggestions that if Mr. Costello had not declared Eire a Republic, Mr. de Valera would have done so and forced his hand, and that both Mr. Costello and Mr. de Valera were afraid of the extremists in their own country. I sincerely hope that Eire will never go the way that Spain has gone.
Speaking on Clause 1 yesterday, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) certainly spoke the truth when he said that the number of Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland was increasing. I wish I were able to say that the number of Protestants was increasing in Eire. Their numbers have gone down from 320,000 in 1921 to 180,000 today. As a result of Clause 1, I think these numbers are likely to fall still lower if we are to take the situation in the urban council of Athy, County Kildare, as any indication. When Mr. Nolan, the chairman of that urban council, criticised the Protestants in Athy and threatened them——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now going far beyond the confines of the contents of this Bill. I hope he will not proceed on those lines.
§ Sir W. Smiles
This matter arose in the course of the Debate yesterday, and was referred to by the hon. Member for Rochdale. However, I shall leave it at that. As the number of Roman Catholics has increased in Northern Ireland, I am certain that thousands of them voted in the last election for the Union. I have heard criticisms today of the Government of Northern Ireland. I should like to put on record in this House that Roman Catholics are better treated in Northern Ireland than in England. Take the financial contributions to education——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Those detailed questions really do not arise on the Third Reading of this Bill. I am sorry, but the hon. and gallant Member must not proceed with them. They clearly do not arise.
§ Sir W. Smiles
The right hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) criticised the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and I was alluding to the action of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in looking after their minorities. At any rate, I do not intend to delve into the past in the same way as the hon. Member for 359 Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) did yesterday. I should not go into the passionate reasons why Northern Ireland still desires to remain a part of the United Kingdom. I appreciate that it is very difficult indeed for people who live in counties like Cornwall and Norfolk to understand our position. They have not had to resist constant attempts to drive them out of the United Kingdom by intrigue, bribes or threats.
Our first loyalty is to the United Kingdom and to the British Commonwealth, and we realise in Northern Ireland that whatever party occupies the Front Bench opposite is His Majesty's Government. We on this side are Conservatives, and we have opposed very many of the Government's Measures, but I hope that when we have opposed them we have been constructive and not destructive. I have fought elections in England and I have fought and seen elections in Northern Ireland. I remember that in 1931, the Socialists lost their election. When they came back they were dignified in their loss. In the same way, when we lost the last election we on these benches were also dignified. I am surprised, when things are said in this Debate against the Northern Ireland Parliament, that people who lost their election in Northern Ireland last time should come running over here like crybabies and complain.
§ Sir W. Smiles
I consider that this Government has been very generous indeed to the citizens of Eire. I think the English people are generous and tolerant, and the same applies to the Scots and the Welsh. I do not intend to say those words again, because we in Northern Ireland say that it is very dangerous to give people too good a conceit of themselves. I never intend to say anything against people such as the citizens of London, particularly in view of their sufferings so bravely borne for five years during the war. How can we be anything but glad to be connected with people like them? At the same time, we wish no ill to the new Republic of Ireland when assent is given for it to be called by that name. I hope that they 360 will prosper. I hope they will be happy, but never to reign over us.
We in Northern Ireland appreciate that the taxation in Eire is lower than it is here. Their Income Tax is 6s. 6d. in the £ and ours is 9s. in the £. We have had a capital levy or a Special Contribution here. They have not had one in Eire. At the same time, being an agricultural country, the food is better there than it is in London. There is no need for this country to starve, but at the same time I expect that we shall all have to tighten our belts. The people in Northern Ireland would much sooner live with the people of Britain in food-rationing conditions, than in affluence with Eire. We are not prepared to sell our birthright for a mess of pottage. It is fair to thank every party—I know it is dangerous and it embarrasses one's political opponents to thank them—in this House, because all have helped to put this Bill through and to make Ulster's position clear. I take this opportunity to thank all in this House who have helped.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I have no doubt whatever that the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) was intending to make a helpful and co-operative speech, but if that is the best he can do, and the best contribution he can make to a very difficult situation, I hope I shall not be here when he is in a mood to make a dangerous or mischievous speech. For my part I have not had the opportunity of taking part in any of the Debates on the Committee stage of this Bill. Not even an Irishman would want to create the atmosphere of a Donnybrook Fair the morning after. I certainly have no intention of doing so, but I spent the week-end in Dublin, returning only today, and I should like, not having had an opportunity before, to take advantage, so far as the rules of Order permit, of the Third Reading of the Bill to indicate my own view.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said that this was a melancholy occasion. There is no reason why the attainment of full and independent sovereign nationhood by any people which desires it should be regarded as melancholy, and certainly not in this House. The question whether the occasion is melancholy or 361 not from our point of view depends on whether the event we are legislating today to recognise is one that brings the two nations nearer together or puts them further apart. This matter is not one which really depends upon symbols. Undoubtedly to the greater part of the Commonwealth of Nations the Crown is a symbol of unity, but anyone with any idea of the history of this matter would have no doubt that to what is now the Republic of Ireland the Crown has been another kind of symbol—a symbol reminding them of seven or eight centuries of history which they rightly or wrongly believe was a period of tyranny and oppression. It can well have been that what is a symbol of unity to so vast an area as the Commonwealth of Nations could be better dispensed with in the case of the Republic of Ireland, provided the result were to bring the two nations closer together and not to drive them further apart.
The melancholy feature of these proceedings is that what might so easily have been a Measure to bring the peoples together has been unnecessarily changed into one that drives them apart. Do not let us deceive ourselves. I am not arguing now whether the Measure is better, or seeking to say who is right or who is wrong. I am sure that no one in this House has any doubt that the presence in the Bill of parts of Clause 1, and perhaps the whole of Clause 1, is the only thing which the great majority of the people of Ireland are conscious of today. Without it, the Bill would have been a great healer. It does not matter whether it is very logical or whether it is very consistent. What was desired on both sides was to prevent the occasion of the repeal of the External Relations Act in the Republic of Ireland from driving the nations further apart than they need go.
The constitutional machinery set up in the Bill was admirable for the purpose, and was enthusiastically welcomed on this side and on the other side of the Irish Channel because it meant that whether they formally went out or formally stayed in, they would not have been a foreign country and that their citizens were not, from our point of view or from theirs, to be aliens or foreigners in this country. If the Bill had stood there and had not contained this offending Clause, this would not have been a melancholy occasion at all. It would have been an occasion 362 for mutual rejoicings on both sides of the dividing sea. It would have been perhaps the first occasion in the whole history of Anglo-Irish relations in which the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom were completely at one.
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that in the Republic of Ireland there is a very great desire, even now, to be friends with us. They do not regard the repeal of the External Relations Act as being the occasion for further hostility, suspicion or fear. They thought it paved the way by removing what was, to them at any rate, the obnoxious symbol and substituting a real association of peoples. We all stood to benefit by that. What has prevented it? Clause 1 of the Bill. Try as I will, I cannot understand why it was necessary to put it in. It seems clumsy to convert what might have been a unifying act of statesmanship into a new Irish quarrel, in order to enact a Clause which we ourselves declare does not alter the law and does not bind anybody.
There are times when we have to take risks in all sorts of directions in order to effect a change in the law that we believe to be necessary, or to make sure that a thing is permanent if we believe that it ought to be permanent. When we say that what we are doing cannot bind a subsequent Parliament and cannot even bind a subsequent Session of this Parliament, and when we add that what we are doing effects no change in the law, it passes all understanding to realise why it is necessary to pass a Clause like that if the result of so doing is to betray the constructive purposes which we had in mind when the Bill was devised and laid before the House. It may be that it is not intended to be only declaratory or not to make any change in the law. In the Debate yesterday my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General used some phrases which I found difficult to understand. It is true that I am only quoting from an intervention in somebody else's speech. He said:This Bill affirms the solemn intention of all parties represented in this Parliament that Northern Ireland should not be excluded from the United Kingdom without its consent. It affirms that as being the view of all parties in this Parliament, knowing, however, that every subsequent Parliament will be free, if it so desires, to come to a contrary conclusion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th May, 1949; Vol. 465, c. 131.]363 I do not understand how an Act of Parliament declares the intention of parties. I cannot think of any other Act of Parliament which was expressly intended in the opinion of anyone to give effect in so many words to the opinion of parties. What parties are bound by this Bill? The Labour Party? I do not know. It may be so, but I do not think that we have reached a stage in this country when any Act of Parliament will bind the policy of any political party in the State. Our Constitution does not recognise parties. It seems to me that if the intention of putting his declaratory Clause into the Bill was to bind the future policy or recommendations of all parties or any party, it is singularly ineffective to do so.
I am certain that there will be many people in many parties who will think that the partition of Ireland was right in principle and ought never to be changed, and others who will think that it was wrong in principle, ought never to have happened and ought to be changed as soon as possible. I do not know anybody who thinks it ought to be changed by force, but it is idle to say that the intention of an Act of Parliament is to bind the hands of political parties as to what policies they will recommend in future. I rejoice that that should be so, because if that were effective through this Bill, it would mean that the Clause is far more than declaratory. Constitutionally it cannot be anything more.
This is what I understand is said about it in the Republic of Ireland. They do not quarrel with the constitutional interpretation. They do not pretend for a moment that the repeal of the External Relations Act or the passing of this Bill could in the least affect the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. They did not accept that the Government of the United Kingdom, even this Government, could step in and do anything about it now. However, this is the reason why they object to the Clause. They say that by putting it into the Bill in this declaratory form we are re-enacting after a quarter of a century something which we always opposed, giving it new legislative sanction, giving it new moral authority, lending it the support of groups which never gave it support before. For that reason, they say, it makes the progress of united feeling in 364 Ireland more difficult. I saw placards on the walls in Dublin in connection with their recent elections. One of them was a quotation from James Connolly, who was executed in 1916. The quotation was only one sentence:The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland.[An HON. MEMBER: "And the world."] On that basis they were building up relationships between North and South. The trade unions were undivided, most of them at any rate. The Trades Union Congress had much in common in social legislation, and they exchanged ideas and met together at conferences. They always managed to leave aside controversial questions of politics and religion. They say, however, that to put in this Clause and re-enact it with all the authority and moral prestige of a Labour Government in this country, which has always been against it, is to make it much more difficult for them to proceed with this peaceful and constructive work which might have ended partition by agreement.
That is what seems to me to be so sad about it all. Here was a situation in which was the desire and the opportunity to bring great healing to a centuries-old quarrel, to bitterness and passion and mutual recrimination. To throw that all away for the sake of a mere declaration, which does not alter the law and which does not tie the hands or bind the mind of anybody, seems to me to have been a tragic blunder of the first order. Many of us will find it difficult to explain why it was put in. I do not think the matter has ever been really explained.
That is all I wanted to say. If I had been here yesterday I should have most certainly voted against the inclusion of Clause 1 in the Bill. I do not propose to take any such course today. I would prefer that, in spite of all that has occurred, we should use this moment in the spirit of my hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy) who made so helpful and generous and constructive a speech. I hope that in the end nothing may be lost, but, if it is not to be, I think we shall need to conduct our international relations—because that is what they now are—with a greater spirit of tact and understanding than that which has led to the inclusion of this Clause in the Bill.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has treated the House to one of his delightful disquisitions which we have in this House from time to time. He is always interesting and he has just come back from Dublin where, no doubt, a little extra inspiration has been infused into his thoughtful examination of this difficult and embarrassing relationship to which he has referred.
I am indeed in a condition of great melancholy this evening in addressing the House. I spent my younger years in Ireland. I served in the Irish agricultural movement for several years. I was associated with a distinguished patriot of the past, Sir Horace Plunkett, and I worked with the Irish Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction and with the Congested Districts Board. After all these years, and having taken part in constructive agricultural organisation in Northern and Southern Ireland, I look upon the detachment of Eire from the Commonwealth of Nations as a tragedy of the gravest kind in our time. I have spent a great many years of my life in the promotion of various movements in the Empire. I served in one of the Dominions for several years, and in nearly every movement in this country during my time to strengthen the unity of the Empire, and when I reflect upon the modest part which I have played it is a matter of profound grief to me that a country which has made such a contribution to the progress of the Empire in the past, should now be detached from it in these sad and depressing days in which we live.
I was particularly gratified at the way in which the Bill was presented to the House by the Prime Minister. We ought to be proud of our Prime Minister on occasions of that kind. His presentations are always made with that genial, kindly and considerate measure of good will which makes the whole House feel the sincerity and constructive purpose of whatever communication he makes to the House. I was also delighted at the way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) followed the Prime Minister's introduction of the Bill. The atmosphere of the House has, on the whole, been 366 extremely kind to this difficult and tantalising question of the relations between Northern and Southern Ireland, and I was particularly glad that the hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy) decided not to divide the House this evening on the Third Reading of the Bill.
When I reflect how many Irishmen in my time have done so much in various parts of the world for the Imperial cause, the cause of the Commonwealth as it exists today, I feel how sad it is that while no doubt the spirit of kindly feeling and good will will still survive as between Eire and ourselves in this country, nevertheless it is a pity that the work which those men achieved is now detached—at all events, in substance detached—from this country and their own country. Think of the contribution that has been made to the advancement of the British Empire by Dublin University. Years ago, the Indian Civil Service was recruited in a large measure from that University. Think of the contribution made by those who went to the old Royal University of Ireland, now the National University, in Dublin. Think upon the wisdom and statesmanship shown by a great many Irishmen in the Dominions and throughout every country in the Colonial Empire. This is indeed, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington said, a melancholy occasion in this House for those of us who were born in Ireland.
I should like particularly to say how much I endorse the expression of good feeling in all parts of the House with regard to the future relations between Northern Ireland and Eire. It was my work in the past to organise a whole variety of agricultural activities in Northern Ireland as well as in Eire, and I found the people of Ulster genial, kindly, understanding and hardworking; perhaps more vigorous in character than my own people in the South but, nevertheless, people of whom any nation might be proud. The only suggestion I would make to my Ulster friends is this: That as far as is consistent with the decencies of life, all the acerbities between one religious outlook and another may be entirely washed out of public life in the future.
Many of us in this House have received complaints from people in Ulster of what might be called unfair treatment of 367 Catholics by the Protestant community with regard to public appointments and of preferential treatment in various respects in public life in the Six Counties. Those complaints may have been exaggerated, I think, but I would appeal particularly to my right hon. Friend the senior Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill), who is so conspicuous in the promotion of the interests of Ulster, who has served this House so well and who was at one time Speaker of the House of Commons in Ulster, that, with all his friends, they will do everything in their power to soften these bitternesses, forget the past and unhappy historical memories, and to do everything which lies within their power to work for the good government of Northern Ireland. That is the appeal I make to my hon. Friends.
I was sorry that in the process of the Debate some bitter references were made and, occasionally, perhaps there was a little provocation. In Ireland that kind of provocation has been welded into our history for 700 years and the sooner it is eliminated—and I hope this Measure will make some contribution towards its elimination—the better it will be for Ireland, and, I think, for Western Europe as well. Eire can play a considerable part in the development of Western economic and social life. We had in this House last night a distinguished statesman who dwelt on the importance of Western Europe being co-ordinated with all its economic power to maintain the future of European organisation. I hope that North and South will fulfil the hopes expressed in the closing sentences of the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington, and that the deep feeling that pervades all this question will have hopeful reactions in a country which is still a great country, a lovable country, a country whose people have throughout the world played a conspicuous part in the progress of our times.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Beattie (Belfast, West)
On the examination of the amended Bill now before the House for Third Reading, I must say that I regret that the attitude of the Government has been such that the Bill is in its final stages and will become an Act of Parliament. But in that amended Bill one thing of 368 a concessional nature has been granted. I notice that in paragraph (b) of Clause 1 the grand title of Northern Ireland has been given to the Six Counties of North-Eastern Ulster. That title is not in keeping with its proper designation. The most northerly county in Ireland is Donegal, which operates under the Republic of Ireland. One would have thought that, with all the Parliamentary draftsmen and the legal knowledge and ingenuity at the disposal of the Government, they would immediately have seen that anomaly now appearing in the Bill.
At least one thing they have done, whether they know or not. No longer can these separatists in the North-East corner of Ulster classify themselves as "Ulster." That designation of these citizens of the six North-Eastern counties known under this Measure as Northern Ireland has gone for ever. "Ulster" must be dropped because it no longer applies to them. This area has been designated as Northern Ireland, subject to English support in every way. But we have not put in, that it is subject to a guarantee for the minority within these Six Counties, by this authority sitting here. I would have liked to see some form of words in this Bill that the minority must be guaranteed the rights and protection of this Parliament which is now transferring the power from themselves over to the Government of Northern Ireland. That I have not seen in this Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but that being so, he is not entitled to refer to the matter as it is not in the Bill.
§ Mr. Beattie
Pardon me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I was referring to what the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) said. He says "They are not doing it." I do not want to be unduly long in my deliberations and criticism of this Bill as it now stands. But before I make any further criticisms of the Bill I would ask the House to pay strict and due attention to the thoughts and opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). His clarification of the position was 369 worthy of consideration by the Government. He may be a minor unit within the Government Party, but there is wisdom in minor units of the Government as well as in the super-heads of the Government. Many times it is wise to take the opinions and aspirations of the back benchers, and I can assure the House that this Bill does not purport to represent the opinions of many of them that I have heard.
The Republic of Ireland was proclaimed on 18th April, and on the proclamation of that Republic they took up the position of opting out of the Commonwealth. That is the interpretation I have received from this Government of the reason why this Bill is now before this House. But did they study and consider the reason or the cause of 75 per cent. of the Irish counties opting out of the Commonwealth? Do they not know, as well as I know, that no nation which is in splinters can keep in the Commonwealth? The real cause of the opting out of 75 per cent. of the Irish counties is due to the Ulster Tories. If they had come in with the rest of Ireland, there is no reason under the sun why we could not be allowed as a nation to take our full part and play our full part in co-operation with other nations throughout the world. The people who are kicking the props from under the British Empire are not in the Republic of Ireland. It is the Tories in the Six Counties of Ireland. Those are the people to blame. Those are the people who denied us the right of the ports in their failure to recognise the citizenship and value of unity within the country in which they are earning very good livelihoods.
I wish to put at rest the mind of every hon. Member. So far as I am concerned I have done one man's part in trying to bring to the notice of this Government, whose authority it is to which I have to appeal. I have appealed to them from the Irish Labour movement of the Ireland that is now being mutilated by the British Labour movement. I have appealed to them to try to avoid such a mutilation. The ear has not been given to me. I have to return to Ireland. I am going back in a few hours a sadder but wiser man. I ask hon. Members to think of Socialism throughout the world—international brotherhood, the brotherhood of man. 370 What have we found today when an appeal has come from one section of that brotherhood to another section? Instead of giving the ear to them, they have given the ear to the Tories, the reactionary party of this country and of every country throughout the world.
At times during the consideration of this Bill I thought that I was about to see the Tories and the Government Front Benchers going across and throwing their arms around each other, kissing each other and saying one to the other, "God bless you." The Tories have now declared that they have won a great victory through the influence of the Front Bench which is representative of the great Labour movement outside. I am sorry that the day has arrived when I have seen this Tory and Socialist combination getting together with the one common thought of the defeat of the Irish working class.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That question does not arise on the Third Reading of this Bill. I have given the hon. Gentleman a good deal of latitude. He must deal with the contents of the Bill.
§ Mr. Beattie
I am very grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but with the tragedy now taking place in the life of my motherland, I hope that if I have said anything contentious, this House will allow men to say that I feel sorry and that I wish to withdraw.
I want to say that we shall still go on. We shall continue our fight for independence for 32 counties. I wish to tell the Secretary of State for the Home Department that I am not a believer in physical force. I believe that force never was the solution of any problem. Force will never provide the solution of the Irish problem. It will only set it back. My only wish in this hour is that something at the moment unknown, something super or some super individual, will come with a solution whereby we as Irish from North and South can join together for the good of the whole. That is my one desire.
In my last remarks I wish to say that I know that very great risks have been 371 taken during the passage of this Bill by hon. Members on this side of the House. I know that the disciplinary rules of the Labour Party have been broken, but principles sometimes are greater than parties. I want to thank those courageous Members who have defied party discipline and helped me to register a protest on behalf of the Irish nation. I hope that the powers that be, who carry the authority of discipline, will recognise that the courage and devotion to the cause of unity for Ireland which was shown by those hon. Members was justifiable. Finally, I wish to say that this House has given me and my colleagues a very patient hearing. I leave this House as I say, a sadder but wiser man. I hope that the day is not long distant when something will come whereby happiness will be brought not only to me but to the people of Ireland as a whole, so that we can call ourselves Irishmen not only in 75 per cent. of the country but in 100 per cent.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
I am not going to say anything to disturb the harmony of the proceedings which has hitherto prevailed. In fact, I can honestly say that I never said anything in this House to cause bitterness in any way whatever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] No, never.
There are certain points which I must discuss in connection with this Bill. First of all, the point was raised last night, when I had not the opportunity of being here, concerning the title "Republic of Ireland." That is the title which is given in the Bill and to which I strongly object. I do not often have the audacity to interrupt the Prime Minister in this House, but, in spite of myself, I did so during the Second reading Debate, when the right hon. Gentleman said:The fact is that the name 'The Republic of Ireland' is that selected by the Irish Government. It has been embodied in their legislation, and when any country adopts a name it is really a matter for that country alone—'Here I intervened, saying "No." The Prime Minister replied:I think it is.I then said:It affects another country.The Prime Minister said:I know, but the hon. Member was given certain names at his baptism and it would be 372 quite improper for me to call him out of his name."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1861–2.]All I can say is that the name that Eire adopted on her baptism, if we go back to the new Constitution of 1937, was the word "Eire," and, had it been possible for me to be here last night, I should have moved an Amendment to the effect that the title should be not "Republic of Ireland" but "Republic of Eire." I should have done so on the very solid grounds that, when the constitution of 1937 was recognised and ratified, we inserted in the law of May, 1938, the word "Eire," which was fully accepted by Southern Ireland, and it was then stated that the word "Eire" was the word which included the territory which had formerly been known as the Irish Free State.
I therefore cannot understand why the Government should insist upon this title "Republic of Ireland," because this title of Eire has for many years been associated with the Government of Southern Ireland. Further, I think that in the past the term "Republic of Ireland" has been shown to be very dangerous. Mr. de Valera, in accordance with the first clause of the Constitution of 1937, claimed that that title included the whole of the islands and territories of Ireland, and it was on that ground—and here is the danger which may arise again—that Mr. de Valera intervened and protested against the landing of American troops in Northern Ireland. He protested here at the Dominions Office in London, and also through Mr. Brennan, the Eire Minister in Washington. I foresee a similar danger arising in future by the use of the term "Republic of Ireland." The Minister for External Affairs in Dublin had stated most emphatically that, when the Republic of Ireland is admitted to the society of nations——
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
On a point of Order. May I ask for your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? Is not the hon. Gentleman addressing himself to what is purely a Committee point in what he is now saying, and is it not a point which has no connection whatever with the Third Reading of this Bill?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am afraid I cannot agree with the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) is addressing 373 himself, if he will forgive me for saying so, at far too great a length, to his objection to the term "Republic of Ireland." That term is in the Bill, and he can, of course, object to it if he wishes, but perhaps he need not do so with so many apt historical and other references.
§ Professor Savory
I accept your very kind suggestion, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have no intention of detaining the House at any great length, but this is an important point, and I think that the point of Order raised by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) was a very frivolous one. I listened with great patience during the whole of the Second Reading Debate and heard the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) speak for 48 minutes without any interruption, and I think that I might be allowed to develop my subject without frivolous points of Order being raised. What we are discussing is the whole title of the Bill, and I was giving my reason for preferring the title "Republic of Eire" to the present title. After all, the word "Eire" is associated with the country throughout the world. The word appears on every postage stamp. Therefore, if they adopt it on their stamps, why cannot they adopt it in connection with their Republic and call it "The Republic of Eire"? That is the first point I desire to make.
Subsection (1, b) has been attacked on several grounds, but the strongest argument that weighs with me is the fact that the existence of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland has been recognised no less than three times in the most solemn way and accepted by Southern Ireland; first of all, in——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Again, I do not think we need go into all the history of which the hon. Gentleman wishes to remind us. The Bill makes certain provisions; the hon. Gentleman is entitled to accept or reject them, but he is not entitled to go into details of past history to which, apparently, he desires to refer.
§ Professor Savory
I am not going into history, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I am sure you will allow me to make just the one point that this State of Northern Ireland was definitely, absolutely and voluntarily accepted by the Irish Free State in 1925, and that, therefore, I consider it a 374 breach of faith to go back on that extremely solemn agreement which has not yet been in existence for even a quarter of a century. That agreement ratified the existence of the Six Counties and the existing boundary was accepted freely and voluntarily.
We have heard a good deal about compulsion and threats. But this was done on the initiative of the Free State itself, and accepted of their own free will by overwhelming majorities in both Houses of the Southern Parliament, in the Lower House by a majority of 55 to 14. How can we go back on that solemn agreement? How can we now throw that voluntary agreement into the melting pot and say that we refuse to accept subsection (1, b) which does nothing more than ratify that agreement? I welcome the subsection because it puts into writing what the Prime Minister promised to us verbally, first of all, in reply to a Question by my right hon. Friend the senior Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill), and then, later, in a reply to a Question put by myself. He twice insisted that this guarantee was accepted by the Government. Therefore, all that this subsection does is to put into writing the promise officially and solemnly made here to Northern Ireland.
Like many speakers here, I do not attach very great importance to that guarantee. We all know that this guarantee given by one Parliament can be overthrown by another. If we go back and consider guarantees, what could have been more solemn than the article in the Act of Union which guaranteed as essential and permanent the maintenance of the Irish Church? That article was said to be essential and permanent. That has gone, and we know perfectly well that Her Majesty strongly objected because it was guaranteed by a Coronation Oath. The words formed part of her Coronation Oath. I am not speaking in favour of it one way or the other. I am only referring to this historical question to show that there is no such thing as a legal guarantee, because one Parliament cannot hind another.
We have no written Constitution like that of the United States where they can appeal to the Supreme Court against any law they consider unconstitutional, or anything of that kind. Parliament is supreme, and this guarantee or moral 375 satisfaction can be swept away by a subsequent Parliament. At any rate, while we are giving all these immense privileges under the Bill to Southern Ireland, surely the least we can do is to give this moral satisfaction to the country which is stopping with us and which desires to remain as part of the United Kingdom and part of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Do we realise what we are giving to Eire under this Bill? Any citizen of Eire who resides in the United Kingdom—this is a Clause in the Bill—on 31st October can be at once put on the Spring register, or if he resides for one night here on 30th April, can be immediately put on the Autumn register. You are giving them an immense concession. If you are willing to take the risk, that is your affair. All I can say is that we have acted with extraordinary generosity. [An HON. MEMBER: "We always do."] We always have so far as Eire is concerned. All I ask is that we should show this same generosity in accepting this guarantee which you are giving to Northern Ireland. We have heard a great deal tonight, especially from the hon. Member for West Belfact, about the evil of this Clause because he says that it breaks up a certain country—it breaks up Ireland; but was Ireland ever united?
§ Professor Savory
No, never, except during those years, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim told us in his able speech on Second Reading, between 1800 and 1920 when she formed a part of the United Kingdom. It has been said that this Clause is wrong because it breaks up an island, that Ireland is one whole. The island of San Domingo——
§ Professor Savory
That consists of two independent republics, one of French origin and the other of Spanish. Why must we insist that because a country is an island it must have exactly the same government? We tried the experiment after the Battle of Waterloo of forcing Belgium and Holland into one country. History was against us—three hundred years of history were against us—and the 376 union broke down in 1830 after only 15 years. We had to recognise two independent countries—the independent country of Belgium and that of Holland. There is exactly the same difference between these two nations of Northern and Southern Ireland as there was between Belgium and Holland.
Again, in our own time we have seen Norway break away from Sweden. Scandinavia might be said to be one in every way—in race, language, speaking broadly, and religion—far more than Ireland, yet Norway has separated from Sweden, with the happiest and best of results. Britain herself has at last been forced to adopt the unanimous recommendation made years ago in the Samuel Report; Britain has had to recognise the partition of Palestine, and seen at last that it is impossible for Jews and Arabs to live together under one State. That was pointed out years and years ago, and at last by bitter experience Britain has been forced to accept that result. Is there any greater difference between Arab Palestine and Jewish Palestine than between Northern and Southern Ireland? The difference is essentially the same. Then again, for how long did Britain protest against the partition of India? She has now been forced to recognise that there is an essential difference between Pakistan and India, even though Pakistan consists of only one-twentieth of India.
§ Professor Savory
My only purpose in referring to India was to point out that the question of the partition of Ireland, which is reaffirmed by Clause 1, has precedents in our own time, which we have been compelled to accept. We have therefore been compelled now, under this Bill, once and for all, to accept in the division of Ireland——
§ Mr. Speaker
That would have been a very good argument on Second Reading, but it is not quite so good on Third Reading.
§ Professor Savory
I am very sorry that I was not able to catch your eye on Second Reading in order to make these remarks then. I shall, of course, obey your Ruling. All I wish to insist upon is the absolute necessity for this division, which has become more necessary today 377 since Eire has set itself up as an independent Republic. How can we expect Northern Ireland, which wants to belong to Britain, which has never deserted her but always stood at her side, to allow itself to be forced, or how can Britain for one moment bring herself to force Northern Ireland outside the United Kingdom, outside the Commonwealth of Nations, in order to become part and parcel of an independent Republic? It is unthinkable. Therefore, the Prime Minister, backed up by a very marvellous speech from the Lord President, has adopted this necessary solution, which is surely quite unavoidable.
However much we in Northern Ireland do our best to live on good terms with Southern Ireland, yet, as our Prime Minister put it so well, we are not in a position to share the same flat, although we can live as friends, side by side, in two separate houses, with a very pleasant garden between us, and we can exchange very amiable conversations over the garden wall. So far as I know, nothing provocative has been said by Northern Ireland during this Debate or during the whole of the General Election which took place last February. I think that one of the most notable Southern Irishmen has expressed the case for Clause 1 (1, b) far better than I could do. John Horgan of Cork, the life-long friend of Parnell, the man who has written that very interesting book "From Parnell to Pearce," the man who was the intimate friend of John Redmond, and who himself is a life-long nationalist, writing in "The Tablet"—surely a paper which will not be suspected in any way whatsoever by any hon. Gentleman opposite—said:Partition is a domestic problem which has its roots in fundamental religious, social and historic differences which have existed for hundreds of years, and in which loyalty to the British Crown is the major test applied … It was not the much-abused Act of 1920, but the Treaty of 1921, negotiated by the Sinn Fein leaders themselves, which divided the country into two absolutely separate units, but it was the subsequent agreement of 1925, freely ratified by the Parliaments of Great Britain, the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, which finally fixed the boundary between them.Here is an ardent Nationalist, a man whose whole life has been devoted to Ireland as a nation, writing these words only a week or two ago in "The Tablet." 378 If I were to try my very best I could not improve on this very exact, true and perfect language. Those are the reasons for inserting Clause 1 (1, b) in the Bill.
We would welcome unity, but it must be unity within the Commonwealth of Nations. We would welcome Eire if she came back and joined us in order to become part of the United Kingdom. That is the only way to bring about the unity between the two countries, but so long as this independent Republic exists, so long as the Union Jack is burned, as it was the other day in front of Trinity College, in the streets of Dublin, we cannot join that Republic. It is absolutely out of the question. In fact, this bulwark of the boundary, to which so much attention has been paid, is the one barrier which protects everything for which we live. Our whole interest, our whole affection and our whole desire is to remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth of Nations, and not to be hurled against our will into a Republic which has thrown off the allegiance of the Crown.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I, like many other hon. Members in this House tonight, wish to associate myself with the expression we have had from the Opposition and from the Government that the Government of this country in introducing this Bill, apart from the disputed Clause, were doing a generous act towards Irishmen here and to the people of Ireland. I agree that it was not their fault that precipitated the necessity for the Act, and if there is one thing about which I have been depressed more than anything else—and I have expressed it repeatedly in Ireland—is that Mr. Costello should have chosen the moment he did to declare a Republic of Ireland.
In my travels throughout the world I spent some time in Australia. I was in every town in Australia, and I have often thought that what was good enough for West and South Australia, for Victoria, for New South Wales and for Queensland—Queensland with its teeming population of Irishmen—could be equally good for the people of Ireland. I wish they had remained within the Commonwealth, because I believe there was gradually growing up in Northern and Southern Ireland a desire to come together in some friendly association.
379 One of the things of which I am more afraid than anything else in the state of the world today is that by paragraph (b), which I have opposed, we might give excuse for a section in Southern Ireland who are anxious to re-form a forceful movement in that country. I see it as a danger.
I was present at a meeting in Dublin six or seven weeks ago when the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) was addressing it, with several other speakers. It was an anti-partition meeting. Apart from the arguments used, there was a speech by one speaker who was anxious to impress the audience with his desire to do something of a forceful character now against Northern Ireland. The audience which packed the Mansion House gave very little support indeed to what he said. He was rather annoyed. One could see that from his position on the platform and his approach to the subject. He repeated the phrase time and time again that he was tired of talk and wanted action. Throughout the hall there was no applause from that vast audience. His speech may have brought to their minds recollections of the civil war which was such a bloody struggle.
§ Mr. Beattie
I think the hon. Member will agree that I said at that Mansion House meeting what I have said here this evening, that force was no solution of any question.
§ Mr. McGovern
I shall say again what I did say, that all the speakers except one spoke in that vein, and the one exception was very poorly received by the audience. A very responsible man in an early Eire Government was talking to the late James Maxton and myself in his room for a matter of two or three hours on the position in Ireland. He said, and I believe it to be absolutely true: "You know, the people of Ireland are finding it very difficult to settle down. We have a large section of young men and young women in this country who, even if they could get what they want by constitutional means, do not want it that way. They must die for it."
I think that that is inherently true of the Irish nation and of a large section of its younger people. Unless they can win by forceful means what they are out to achieve they reject it for the sake of 380 using force. I have warned responsible people in Ireland, in this country, and elsewhere in the world to discourage any talk of force at the present moment. Any forceful movement that develops in Ireland will act as an under-cover movement for a gangster set who will be out to destroy the fundamentals of democratic life throughout the world. In Ireland, there is that section.
I have always deplored the hatred which has been in evidence between the North and the South. It is fundamental that we cannot hate strongly and build well. People who hate cannot construct because they concentrate every fibre of their being and mentally and physically pour everything into the struggle of hatred, and they cannot therefore throw their wills, their minds and their constructive powers into the creation of something which is worth while. I have had great experience in the political and religious movement. I have had my struggles from the early Socialist days. During the Spanish Civil War when I took my stand against the bestiality of General Franco, I had to fight against people in the Church. I have never retreated from the position which I took up then. I have never apologised for always fighting for my right to think and act as I felt in my own heart and mind. I have never objected to a spiritual reprimand in the field of religion, but in the field of politics, I am prepared to use my own mind and to fight for my right to carry through my ideas to the bitter end no matter what the cost.
In Northern and Southern Ireland there has been too much living in the past. What is the only hope for Southern and Northern Ireland? I want to say this to Northern Ireland hon. Members. I have never stood for any attempt to force Northern Ireland into a union. I could go back in history and show that the minority in Ireland tried to coerce the majority in the very early stages; from that has come a tremendous amount of our troubles. A section in Ireland thinks Clause 1 (1, b) is wrong, but they may not establish any more. I am prepared to say that. It has already been stated by the Prime Minister. In that situation, the Bill goes through and is placed on the Statute Book. To me 95 per cent. of it is good and worth while. This country can be generous and tolerant.
381 I do not think Englishmen are half as bad as they are said to be. As a result of my association with them, even as a Scotsman I would not exchange my birthright in this country, including England, for anything else in the world. It is one of the greatest countries in the whole universe with its spirit of toleration, its compromising spirit in politics and its adjustments to changed conditions. In spite of all that, I still urge Irishmen to try to evolve a real basis of spirit and religion and of toleration for one another, allowing each other to have private views, and to try, too, in the political and economic field and in the field of developing the arts and talents to co-operate in the interests of the people of the world and of lasting peace.
We want Eire and Northern Ireland within the unity of the Western World. We want them because they are of us, in spite of all that has been said, and in the struggles which are developing today we need them to pull their weight and apply their strength. I hope that, in spite of the political circumstances which have taken Ireland out of the British Commonwealth, they may yet see their way with the evolution of time to re-enter this community of nations and rejoin us as a Dominion with a right to rule their own affairs. I hope that the people of Northern and Southern Ireland and every responsible person in that country and in this country will work for the unity of that nation and the unity of the world as a whole.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gage (Belfast, South)
With every word of the sincere speech that has just been made I and, I think, every hon. Member of this House will agree. Certainly for myself I have no wish at this late stage of the Bill to enter into anything controversial. Not even the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) for once will draw me into controversy, though I venture to commend to his attention a passage in a sensible and responsible leading article that appeared in the "Irish Times" on 11th May which every Irishman should read. It is true that these words were applied by the writer to Mr. Costello, but I feel certain that had he known of the vehement championship of the hon. Member for West Belfast, he would have applied them equally to him. What the writer said was this: 382In a recent speech the Taoiseach declared that Ireland had made a great deal of noise in the world and proposed to make even more noise. In our opinion and, as we believe, in that of hundreds of thousands of reasonable Irishmen, there has been far too much noise already, and not nearly enough common-sense.That was in one of the leading journals in the South, a wise and sensible paper.
I want to turn for a moment to the really tragic occasion which this Bill signalises, the departure of Eire from the Commonwealth. I think there are many Irishmen, not only in this country but in Southern Ireland, who are themselves deploring that. No one reading the Irish Press and following Irish events recently could doubt that there are hundreds and thousands of Irishmen in Ireland, as indeed, the "Irish Times" says, who are deploring the departure from the old association, often violent, often turbulent, but with always underlying it a vein of affection and certainly a vein of amusement.
Singularly inappropriate is the occasion—when countries are drawing together and when it has been said with the approbation of both sides that the time is coming when nations will have to surrender some portion of their sovereignty—that Ireland has chosen to go out on its own path. The trouble with Irish politicians, as has often been said, is that they cannot forget the past; they are so busy looking over their shoulders that they do not see the difficulties ahead. It is really paradoxical to an Irishman that a country with so many kings to the acre should choose to be a Republic.
It is fairly simple to an Irishman to understand the peculiar accident—because it almost is an accident—of how it came about. Hon. Members will remember that when Mr. Costello came to power after 17 years in Opposition, he did so upon the votes of Irishmen, and there were many of them, who looked forward to an era of friendship with this country. I read nearly all of the Irish papers in the election as well as Mr. Costello's election address and those of many of his supporters, and every one stressed the importance of drawing closer to Britain. I, for one, believed that the old bitterness which my generation had known was dying away.
I believe that Mr. Costello came to power on that plank in his platform. But then, after he got into power that able and sincere man—because he has 383 always been quite sincere in his views—Mr. de Valera sought to retrieve his fallen fortunes by what we know as the partition issue. At that time partition as an issue in Southern Ireland was completely dead. Nobody really took any interest in it, but he revived it. Of course it was an astute political move and it became necessary for Mr. Costello to counter it. He thought he could do so by repealing the External Relations Act.
I do not know this, but I know Irishmen and I know the way they think, and I should not be surprised in the least if Mr. Costello and Mr. McBride never thought that they would have to implement that and become a Republic. If you treat a country as spoilt children they are apt to become spoilt children. They may well have thought that if they said they were going to repeal the External Relations Act, it would not happen again as it had happened so many times in the past; that they would be called to a conference and told, "Do not do this dreadful thing; if you do not do it we will give you within reason what you want." I think that that was the way their minds were working.
But unfortunately for them, this Government—and it does the Government credit—did not yield in that way. So they found themselves with a Republic which I do not believe they wanted and which I do not believe many of their followers wanted. Therefore, when I read in the Press last week that Mr. Costello had charged the Prime Minister with stupidity, political cowardice and trying to snatch an advantage in the forthcoming General Election, although I am no supporter of the Prime Minister, I could not help feeling that those words might more appropriately have been applied to Mr. Costello himself.
By doing that they perpetuated, at any rate for many generations, the Border that they are so anxious to get rid of. But worse than that, they have inflamed the country—I think there is little doubt of that. Ireland is a country that is very easy to inflame. It is, perhaps, one of the few countries in which one can very quickly work up a passionate zeal for abstract constitutional issues. An Irishman will forget all the economic matters—his bread and butter—if you can wave a good robust constitutional issue in front of him. He will grab his gun or 384 whatever he has got and without thinking he will set out on a crusade. That is a dangerous thing to do. Many Irish politicians have done it, and the trouble is that many of them have not lived to regret it. Nearly always, as I think Mr. Costello himself must be thinking, the thing comes back. Whoever gets advantage out of it, it is very rarely the Irishman who started it.
I hope I have not spoken with any bitterness. If I have, I would only say in extenuation that it is difficult for a person who lived through the Rebellion of 1916, who saw the burnings and the murders, who lived in the trouble, entirely to eradicate the feeling of bitterness. It is difficult for us all to do it. I tried to do so, and if I have said anything with any bitterness I should like the House to think that that bitterness is reserved for those people—the politicians—who have brought ruin to my country.
I should be less than human if I did not feel in my heart anything but affection for that lovely land; for the people amongst whom in my youth I spent so many happy days. That is the feeling, I think, that we in Ulster have for our cousins across the Border. It is true that at times we have seen the beautiful landscape dimly through a mist of blood, but we like to forget those days; we like to forget the bitterness that we once felt. If the people in the South have made their decision and have decided to take the road—the lonely road—that leads from the Commonwealth, I hope that we in Ulster will wish them God-speed, even though we shall never travel that road with them.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Maclean (Glasgow, Govan)
I think you, Mr. Speaker, and the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) are the only Members who sat in this House when this phase of the Irish troubles began. The one thing that strikes me while this Bill is going through the House, is that the Labour Government, formed out of the Labour Party, should be taking an entirely different attitude towards Ireland now from that which was taken by the Labour Party in the House of Commons in 1918. That is what vexes me. I am not against the Irish in the South or the Irish in the North. I would 385 like to see them coming together. It was a mistake that they were divided. I believe they could have had a better united Government had they not accepted what was done, in order to stop the fighting in those days.
The Labour Party were not a Government but an Opposition of between 40 and 50 hon. Members, and they did their best to try to bring about satisfaction and peace between the two parties in Ireland. They endeavoured to get the Government to treat the matter in a manner which would be humane, but the Government at that time went beyond itself and there were burnings and murderings all over Ireland by the troops sent there after the conclusion of the 1914–18 war. The Labour Party endeavoured time and time again, to bring about some method whereby peace could be established and the two parties be brought together and Parliamentary measures taken for a satisfactory settlement between the two sections. The Government of today have taken up an entirely opposite attitude to that taken up by the party at that time.
§ Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)
I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend but in that Debate, Arthur Henderson said:I must say here in the name of the British Labour Party that we have not lost our faith in the principles of self-government or the principles of self-determination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd December, 1919; Vol. 123, c. 1210.]I wonder whether if he were here today, he would deny that same right to Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Maclean
—and the self-determination of nations was the principle of which Arthur Henderson was speaking when he used those words. I will quote a resolution passed by the Labour Party in those days. It may be past history, but it is at least worth remembering. A Motion was put on the Order Paper by the Labour Party regretting that, in view of the deplorable conditions of force in Ireland, there was no expressed intention on the part of the Government to make a real effort towards reconciliation and settlement by meeting in conference the elected representatives of the Irish people—that is, the North and the South—and 386 exploring the position by means of every possible avenue. There was a delegation sent to Ireland for the purpose of making inquiries into the allegations that were being made. I was asked by Mr. Arthur Henderson to go on that delegation. I declined, and when he asked why, I told him that I had been taking such an active part in Parliament on the Irish question that any report signed by me would be looked upon as a prejudiced report; and he agreed.
When that report was brought back to this country it was submitted to a special conference of the Labour Party at a hall in London. The report was accepted by that party, and resolutions were passed outlining the attitude which the delegates thought that the Labour Party ought to adopt. The Cabinet of today has gone in direct opposition to the decisions of Labour in those far-off days. I want this to be borne in mind, that those resolutions have never been rescinded at any succeeding Labour Party Conference. I wish to raise my voice in support of any attempt to bring about peace in Ireland. I will not join in the provocation which is given in some parts, not only of the country but of this House, but I will raise my voice in an endeavour to get peace between all sections in Ireland so that it will become a happy country once again. I hope that the Cabinet will bear it in mind.
I voted against the Bill when it first came before the House. I will vote against it tonight if the House is divided. The feelings that I had in those days 30 years ago, with regard to the Irish question are still with me. I believe that the Irish question can be solved without fighting, without any attempt at physical force, but by getting the parties together in a manner that would enable them to talk peacefully about that which will be likely to benefit the whole of the Irish nation. That has never yet been attempted by any Government which has been in power in this country.
I hope, therefore, that something will be done to soften any ill feelings and bad temper that have grown out of the difficulty; that something will be done—not this Bill—which will bring about peace in Ireland. This Bill will not bring about peace in Ireland. I hope that something will be done in the interregnum, between the passing of this Bill and any dispute 387 and trouble arising, to work out a plan that will enable North and South to come together. I hope they may come together not only as friends but also as nationalists, desirous of seeing Ireland not a split nation but "a nation once again," which can take its place among the nations of the world. So far as the British race is concerned Ireland can take its place with Great Britain in helping to raise our Colonies and other far-flung dependencies to a position which will make Great Britain the greatest power for peace in the world.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
Great though my respect is for the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), with his long experience of this House and of public life, I should most respectfully say to him that I disagree, and I feel that the general spirit of the House is in disagreement, with stirring up over a period of a generation of 25 or 30 years these battles, troubles and disagreements of the past. My study of history teaches me this, if nothing else. It is inevitably a game that two can play at and neither of the parties to the game are ever benefited by so playing.
I should like to pick up the general spirit which has animated the House tonight, which was redolent in the speech of the hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy) when he urged us to use any influence we had towards calm, discretion and moderation. I feel that amidst the strong feelings which hon. Members have expressed from one side and another, that spirit which he tried to evoke has not failed to find resting places in their minds. I therefore start, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) started, by saying that there is a general feeling of melancholy that the situation should have arisen.
I wish to say in answer to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who asked why there should be sadness at a State having obtained complete nationhood, that our sadness in that regard is for the reason that we believe strongly and firmly that complete nationhood can be obtained within the Commonwealth as it exists today. Equally, from the other aspect, we feel the sadness expressed by my hon. Friend the 388 Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) when he gave us the picture which he is well qualified to draw of Ireland as a great mother of overseas development now separated from so many of her sons. Therefore, I do not think that that sadness and melancholy is something which we should at all regret being present in our minds.
In these circumstances, it is generally admitted—I do not think that on this part of the Bill any speaker has said anything to the contrary—that it is no unworthy gesture on the part of this country that we have meted out and displayed to the citizens of Eire the treatment which is proposed in this Bill. I hope this will be the only word of repetition in which I shall indulge, but I do think it is worth saying again that, at a time in the development of our Commonwealth when there are many difficult problems arising, for this country to have said "We will not trouble about the repercussions of these problems; we shall, although you have left us, treat your citizens as if you had not," is something which will be remembered amongst the generous gestures in the history of the world.
Like so many speakers, I want at this stage to deal with this matter as briefly as I possibly can, and I try to look at the point as objectively as it is given to any of us to do. I come to the question whether, in these circumstances, it was necessary to have the Clause about Ulster in the Bill, because that is the point on which there is difference, and because the point of view of those who think it was necessary should be considered.
No one can deny that a great change is being faced—the departure of what is now the Republic from the Commonwealth. After a series of agreements and changes in relationship over a period of years, when this further change took place, if there had not been a clear declaration as to the position which then ensued, I can imagine endless opportunities for trouble, debate and discord arising. It is not a matter which we can afford to leave in doubt. Everyone must know exactly what is the position that is left. Again, looking at it from the commonsense point of view, it has never, believe me, been a policy that paid to attempt to placate one's critics by hurting or being unfair to one's supporters. Those are the three points that I see.
389 I have been most struck by the speech of the hon. Member for Platting and by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Belfast (Mr. Gage). They have both enough imagination to see the new trend which I hope I see in the movement of thought in the world. Up to a few years ago, it has been thought that independence required to be accompanied by a separation or by a division from other people. I believe that the inexorable development of history and total war is beginning to teach people that separation is not the inevitable concomitant of freedom, and that we must be prepared to reconsider once again whether a centripetal instead of a centrifugal approach is not going to work for the greater happiness of mankind.
Therefore, when we talk, as we have talked with sincerity about the hope of agreement coming between North and South Ireland, the background to that hope in Ireland is, as my right hon. Friend said, that the part which is now a Republic may realise that it is not necessary for all time to remain parted from us, and, in that way, that we may get a basis on which agreement can be reached. But that is the only thing that we can contemplate, agreement coming, as we hope it may, by the path I have indicated. We cannot for a moment contemplate turning out against their will our fellow citizens at this time.
I have certainly tried, and I hope I have succeeded, to speak without rancour and without any party approach to the matter I am discussing. I feel that we have made a great effort to meet the new situation, and I assure those who feel strongly on the matter that it will not be any conduct or feeling of ours which will add to the difficulty or rancour at the present time. It is in that spirit that I ask, on behalf of those who sit with me on this side, that the House will give the Bill a Third Reading and pass it tonight.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
The Debate we have heard in this House this evening has shown a sincerity of feeling and a desire to say nothing that shall make the path of anyone difficult in the future which do credit to every hon. Member who has been present in this debating Chamber. We have heard 390 speeches of great eloquence and of simple sincerity of feeling from both sides of the House, and there has been a genuine effort on both sides to say nothing that will make the working of these Islands in the future more difficult than the circumstances of our time inevitably ensure that it will be.
If I may, I should like particularly to allude to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) which seemed to me to be a speech of great statesmanship. He told us the other night that he had an Irish father and a Scottish mother; apparently he has been able to appreciate from that inheritance the way in which the English mind works. He said that the English had occupied both his countries. May I say that as an Englishman I have sometimes felt that both the races from which he comes had pretty effectively occupied my country. But tonight he said one thing which I hope will live in the memory of everyone who heard it because I believe it is the best guide to the way out of the impasse which has existed in Irish affairs for far too many hundred years. He said that we cannot hate and build constructively. I believe that one reason why the English have modestly done a little in the world is the fact that they are such poor haters that they cannot keep their hatred up for very long. That has been, I think, the key-note of the discussion we have had.
The hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Gage) also made a remark which, I think, was exceedingly helpful. In speaking of the people in the other part of Ireland, he alluded to them as cousins across the Border. So far as I know, on neither side of the Border is there any bar to marriage on the grounds of consanguinity between cousins. I hope that if we can support the approach on the basis of cousinship it may be even more helpful than on the basis of brotherhood or sisterhood. Let us try to recognise the facts of the situation and move as steadily as we can, not advancing into the future backwards but trying to go into the future looking forward, to the better things that we can achieve if we will occasionally forget some of the things that have made our life in the past difficult.
My hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy) asked me one direct question, and I think that as the question 391 has been asked quite plainly and fairly it should be as fairly and emphatically answered. He asked me if before Mr. Costello spoke there had been any documents passing between the two countries of Eire and the United Kingdom indicating that any pronouncement was going to be made. I am authorised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to say this: There were no documents; there were no conversations. My right hon. Friend was in Dublin on the day the report of Mr. Costello's speech came through, and it came as a complete surprise to him. The question was asked and I have endeavoured to answer it plainly and, I hope, without any show of resentment. It was a question of fact and I have tried to answer on the basis of fact and nothing else.
It is a heavy and responsible task to make the last remarks on behalf of His Majesty's Government in a Debate of this character. I want to express my thanks to all the Members of the House who have participated in the discussion for the way in which they have made the task of myself, and, I imagine, of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, comparatively easy in these difficult circumstances. This is a very great and generous act towards Ireland. I do not believe that at any previous time in the history of the world a great nation, for we are still a great nation, probably greater in some way than ever we have been before, has been able to see an action like that which precipitated this Bill and has been able to take the line that we have taken. We have said: "Well, we are sorry that you have gone. We ourselves do not believe that you are more completely a nation today than you were before 18th April; we do not believe that you are more a nation today than Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand, or South Africa, or India, or Pakistan, or Ceylon."
§ Mr. Ede
Well, I am an Englishman, and a modest one, and I was trying to keep that out. It could only be a Welshman, a member of a Principality, who reminded me of it.
We have taken that line. But we have said more than that. We have said: 392 "You have desired to cut the last thread, but we do not bolt any door. You can come into this country on the same basis as you did before you went out." I say that that is completely unprecedented. It is an indication of the greatness of this nation that it can make such a gesture instead of saying and doing things which make life in the future more difficult. I sincerely hope that in a little time, when some of the words that have recently been uttered have been forgotten, or at least when perhaps the hollowness of some of them has been discovered, it will be possible for those who have received these benefits to recognise how great they have been.
I am bound to say that I do not think we could have left this matter without saying something about those people in the sister island who desire to remain a part of the United Kingdom. There again we have bolted no doors; we have shut no doors; in fact, there has been a general expression tonight from both sides of the House that, in spite of all that has been said and all that has happened, the way to union and unity may be found. Let this be said, too, that if at any time the Republic of Ireland desires to re-enter the Commonwealth she will find that the door is open, that there will be a warm welcome, and that no questions about the past and the recent events will be asked.
This is a problem that has baffled the statesmen of this country for over 700 years. Many people have found in it the graves of their reputations. We desire that nothing shall be said tonight in this Debate, and that no action shall be taken, which will make anyone regret that he has participated in the Debate or has taken part in the action that must follow on the Debate. We earnestly hope that Irishmen on both sides of the Border will realise the attitude that the United Kingdom has adopted on this issue, and we pray that as the realisation of what we have done comes home to them, they will find that this country and this Commonwealth is wide enough and wise enough, and generous enough, to welcome into its companionship all those who share, as these two nations do share, a belief in the democratic way of life and in the Christian basis of society.