§ House again in Committee (according to order).
§ [The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Consideration of Clause 2 resumed.
*THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE rose to move the following Amendment—
Page 2, line 33, after ("sessions") insert ("Provided further that any Bill—
§ (2) Any question whether a Bill comes within the meaning of paragraphs (a) (b) of subsection (1) of this section shall be decided by the Joint Committee.")
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, the object of the Amendment which I have on the Paper is to provide that in certain cases to which I shall presently refer the procedure contemplated by Clause 2 of this Bill shall not apply, or at any rate shall not apply to the full extent. I can well understand that there should be a considerable difference of opinion as to the measures which might properly be exempted from the full operation of this Bill. I can understand that. there should be a difference as to the measures themselves and as to the manner in which they might be so exempted, but what I am quite unable to understand is that any one should have the courage to say that no measures whatever, no matter of what importance, are to be treated otherwise than in the ruthless manner provided for by the second clause of this Bill.
§ It is necessary while we arc discussing these points that we should bear in mind what Clause 2 treatment really involves. It is not necessary that I should elaborate this fully, because we are most of us familiar with the Bill. It is enough to say that under Clause 2 a majority of the House of Commons has only to insist for two years upon any measure for that measure to become law, not only over the heads of your Lordships' House, but over 101 the heads of the country. And it is necessary to bear in mind that the majority which may bring this about may be a wholly insignificant majority in point of numbers. It may also be a majority having no relation whatever to the number of votes by which it is supported in the country. It may be a majority reflecting the gross anomalies of our electoral system as we know it to-day. In fact, it is not too much to say it may be a majority representing only a minority of the votes of the electors throughout the country. Then, my Lords, it may be a precarious and dwindling majority, a majority no longer in what the Prime Minister describes as the "plenitude of its powers." Again, it may be an ill-assorted majority, not representing some great concentrated body of public opinion, but a majority representing, as it were, a patchwork of causes and political creeds. And finally it may be a majority which has been returned not upon one issue, but upon half a dozen different issues. A majority so composed may have been secured by those methods of curtailing discussion, in the House of Commons with which we are becoming more and more familiar with every year that passes. From such a majority under this Bill literally nothing—nothing whatever—is safe. The most fundamental issues are at its mercy. It may insist upon the passage of measures inflicting irreparable injury upon our most cherished institutions. The Crown is not safe, the Constitution is not safe, the Union is not safe, the. Church is not safe, our political liberties are not safe—literally no institution, however much revered and respected in this country, is beyond the reach of a majority of the kind which I described just now. If any noble Lords disagree with my account of the way in which the clause will operate, I trust that as this discussion continues they will be good enough to tell me at what point I have gone wrong in my estimate.
§ As a climax, even this Bill which we are now discussing, for which the Government claim to have received a definite mandate from the people of this country—even this Bill may be fundamentally altered. It is revolutionary now, but it may be made much more revolutionary if it suits you to do so. There is no doubt about that, because some audacious Peers upon this side of the House put the noble Viscount opposite under a sort of cross-examination, 102 and we elicited from him—he was rather a good witness from our point of view—that if the sit nation altered in such a manner as to be inconvenient to his Majesty's Government, His Majesty's Government did not desire to be hampered by any pledges as to what they might do or might not do in regard to the further limitation of the powers of this House.
§ We are of opinion that this procedure is of a very violent description, and wholly and utterly unfair as between the two Houses of Parliament. And, my Lords, we say there is no decently governed country in the world in which you will find a counterpart of the kind of system which is going to be introduced by this Bill. It involves a complete overturning of our present Parliamentary system—the system under which this House has hitherto claimed and exercised, although very rarely its undoubted right of reserving measures for the final arbitrament of the people of this country. And finally let me say that in our view the revolution is a wholly unnecessary one, because we on this side of the House fully admit that some readjustment of the relations of the two Houses is necessary and because it is notorious that we are ready to meet you in a reasonable spirit if you desire to take that task in hand. I have dwelt upon these considerations because when we plead that in certain cases and with regard to certain measures the procedure of this clause shall not apply, it is necessary to bear in mind how violent, how reckless, the procedure of this clause really is.
§ But, my Lords, we have read the Bill a second time, and we therefore do not ask you to expunge that procedure from the Bill. We only desire to suggest that certain measures in certain circumstances should receive a somewhat less drastic treatment, and for all other measures we are, I will not say content, but we are ready, to make the best of the meagre opportunities which the Bill still leaves us until such time as the Constitutional question has been further and more completely dealt with.
§ What, then, are the measures for which we claim an exceptional treatment? To most of our minds it will at once have occurred that, above all other measures, measures affecting the Constitution of this country are entitled to some protection of this kind. There is a difference between altering ordinary 103 legislation and altering the machinery by which all legislation is made. And, my Lords, in claiming such treatment for Constitutional measures we should only be following the example of all properly-governed countries. I do not think I shall be contradicted by noble Lords opposite when I say that you may search in vain amongst the Constitutions of foreign countries, or indeed of our own Colonies, for a system under which Constitutional legislation is placed upon exactly the same footing as ordinary legislation. At any rate you will find that the distinction, if not universal, is almost universal, and that the safeguards against ill-considered change in regard to Constitutional legislation are so strict as to be in some cases almost prohibitory. That is notoriously the case in regard to the Constitution of the United States, and I think it is also true of the Constitution of Belgium. At any rate of this I am sure, that you will search in vain for a system under which Constitutional legislation is left entirely at the mercy of one House of Parliament.
§ I say frankly I wish we could have suggested to your Lordships' House a formula under which Constitutional legislation would have been specially protected as such, but I am bound to say that the difficulty of devising such a formula seems to me insurmountable. In the first place, we in this country have no written Constitution to protect, and therein we differ entirely from other countries having a written Constitution. In the case of this country a great many of the rights which we regard as Constitutional rights are derived, not from a written Constitution, but from the common law, and it would therefore be, I am constrained to admit, impossible to devise any form of words which would protect, as such, Constitutional legislation from the kind of treatment which we so much apprehend. All, therefore, that we feel we can do is to enumerate certain cases in which we claim that special treatment should be provided for, and to specify certain contingencies in which such treatment should be insured.
§ As to our reservations, if your Lordships will be good enough to look at the Amendment on the Paper you will see that our list is a short one. In our view a long list would be undesirable, and for this reason. If we specify a great number of subjects and then go on to say that any legislation 104 in any way affecting those subjects is to be taken out of the scope of this Bill, it is quite obvious that we open out a very large field indeed, and we encounter the kind of difficulties which in my belief we should have encountered if we had accepted the Amendment proposed last night from the Benches behind me by my noble friend Lord Halifax. Apart from this the result of a large enumeration of measures of that kind would, in our view, be not only to take too much out of the Bill, but it would also have another effect which we should deprecate—I mean that it would certainly create suspicion and apprehension in the minds of all those who found that we had not made any special provision for the protection of their interests. Therefore, my Lords, so far as enumeration goes, our list is a very short one.
§ We say, in the first place, that measures affecting the existence of the Crown or the Protestant succession thereto are to be exempted, and that measures establishing a National Parliament or Assembly or a National Council in Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England, with legislative powers, shall also be exempted, and we suggest that in those cases no Bill shall be presented to His Majesty or receive the Royal Assent until it has been put to and approved by the electors of this country. I do not think it is necessary to detain your Lordships by a statement of the reasons for w inch we desire that an exception should be made in favour of measures affecting the Crown. I can conceive no objection to our proposal unless it be a repetition of the objection which we have already heard to other proposals made on this side of the House—namely, that it is preposterous to suppose that any legislation which any British Government was likely to make itself responsible for would be calculated to affect or to impair the position of the Sovereign of this country. I am far from suggesting that I regard such legislation as highly probable, but I do think it not irrelevant to say that many things are happening to-day which the Liberal Ministers who within my recollection used to sit upon the Benches opposite would have regarded as wholly inconceivable, and it does not seem to me altogether unreasonable to imagine that the progress which the Liberal Party has made might be continued with even accelerated speed. We, at any rate, attach great importance to the question of principle involved in this Amendment, and we hold 105 strongly that the first exemption—that having regard to the existence of the Crown and the Protestant. Succession—should be introduced into the Bill.
§ Now I pass to the second subject for which we demand special treatment. In that case, at any rate, we are certainly not dealing with an imaginary or a remote danger. Home Rule is at our doors. So far as we understand the intentions of His Majesty's Government, they hope by the year 1914 to have carried a Home Rule Bill without reference to the people of this country. Is our demand that a reservation should be made with regard to Home Rule so unreasonable? The country has twice pronounced clearly against Home Rule, and what is there that you can appeal to for the purpose of convincing us that the country has changed its mind? There have been three General Elections. The Parliament of 1906 was—I am quoting the words of the Prime Minister—"disabled" front dealing with the question of Home Rule. What of the Parliament formed after the election of January, 1910? You had in the meanwhile resumed your liberty to deal with Home Rule. You had to resume it. You would never have obtained the support of your Irish supporters if you had not formally resumed the right, to deal with Home Rule. But do not tell me that the election of January, 1910, turned upon the question of Home Rule. We all know what the election turned upon. It turned upon the rejection of the Budget by the House of Lords. It was admitted to turn upon that by noble Lords opposite, and we are constrained to admit that they were right. Well, what of the second election in 1910? I know quite well that the noble Viscount will cite the speeches of his colleagues to show that Home Rule was more or less present to their minds at the time of the election, and they will probably cite our speeches, which they are very fond of doing, in this connection. But, my Lords, the fact remains that at the time of the second election of 1910 the attention of the voters of this country was concentrated, not upon Home Rule, but upon what noble Lords opposite described as the conflict between the Peers and the people. That was the issue which they forced upon the country. I say then, so far as these three elections are concerned, that I can find no mandate for the reintroduction of the measures 106 on Home Rule which the country formally rejected, and still less can I find a mandate for the introduction of some entirely new sub-genus of Home Rule of the kind which we know occupies a great deal of space in the minds of noble Lords opposite, but which they have never been at pains to explain either to us or to the country.
§ Only one word more about Home Rule. I know that what His Majesty's Government desire with all their hearts is a settlement of the Irish question. I am glad to see that the noble and learned Lord (the Lord Chancellor) nods assent. But is this the way to get a real settlement of the Irish question? Speaking for myself, I would say that if this issue were to be put fairly and squarely before the electors, if the electors were to decide against us, I should acknowledge that we had done all we could, and I would endeavour to make the best of the new order of things. But the case will be wholly different if Home Rule has been foisted upon the people of this country and especially upon the Irish Loyalists, not as the result of the deliberate judgment of the country, but foisted upon them as the outcome of a transaction in the Lobbies of the House of Commons. A measure of Home Rule so passed will, I am deeply convinced, be no settlement., and will never be accepted as such, either in this country or in Ireland.
§ For measures coming within these two categories we suggest that resort to the Referendum should be obligatory. I may be asked why we want the Referendum. This is not the occasion for a disquisition upon the merits of the Referendum, and all that I will say with regard to it is this, that, desiring as we do to find a way out of these great Constitutional deadlocks, the Referendum seems to us not only a way, but the only way, of ascertaining with any approach to accuracy whether the people of this country want or do not want a particular measure. It seems to us the only way of obtaining a decision focussed upon a particular point and disentangled from all the other different issues which may be in the minds of the people at the time—it seems to us the only corrective of those anomalies of our representative system of which I spoke a moment ago—a system under which, as we know, a vote in the House of Commons may represent anything between, say, 2,000 or 50,000 votes in the country. And lastly the 107 Referendum commends itself to us because it seems to us in accordance with common sense that when there is a persistent difference between the two Houses of Parliament the last word should be said by the people of this country. What is the attitude of noble Lords opposite towards the Referendum? As was truly said by a noble friend of mine on the Back Benches yesterday, they are by no means opposed in principle to the Referendum. The difference between us and them is a question of degree. They desire that if it be used it should be used in exceptional circumstances and upon, grave issues—I think that is their usual formula. At any rate, in their eyes the Referendum is not a kind of unholy thing to be brushed on one side as inadmissible. It is a mere question of the extent to which it is legitimate and proper to introduce it into our Parliamentary system.
§ Then I may be told—I think I very likely shall be told—that while we are contemplating recourse to the Referendum there is at this moment no machinery in existence for applying it. That is quite true. But my answer to that is that there is not the slightest difficulty in providing the machinery of the Referendum. There are serious difficulties and serious differences of opinion with regard to the occasions upon which it is proper that the Referendum should be used, but the machinery of the Referendum is a comparatively simple matter, and if noble Lords opposite will give us the slightest encouragement we are perfectly prepared to introduce a few days hence a Bill dealing with the machinery of the Referendum. My noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh has a Bill dealing with the machinery of the Referendum which is still before your Lordships' House, and my noble friend Lord Saltoun, who had an Amendment upon that subject, has also proposed a scheme of his own. Therefore I shall not be at all intimidated if I am told that we are out of order in introducing the Referendum because there is no Referendum Act upon the Statute Book.
§ In these two cases we suggest that the Referendum should be obligatory, but there are many other cases in which we think that in certain circumstances and under certain conditions resort might be had to the Referendum with great advantage. What we suggest is this, that when a 108 Bill has been referred to the Joint Committee, of which I shall say a word presently, and when the Committee are of opinion that the Bill raises an issue of great gravity and one upon which the judgment of the country has not been sufficiently ascertained, then the Bill shall go to the Referendum. In our view this procedure is the most reasonable which can be suggested for deciding whether a particular measure is one which should go to a Referendum or not. I do not know whether the converse proposition is likely to be asserted. Shall we be told that although a measure is admittedly grave and although the electors of the country have never had it submitted to them, nevertheless such a measure ought to go through merely because it has been supported two years running by a bare and perhaps accidental majority of the House of Commons? In our view a carefully constituted Committee is the proper mode of deciding whether in these cases a Referendum should be had or not. We found, I will not say in existence, but at any rate in existence upon the Paper of Amendments, the Committee proposed by my noble friend Lord Cromer to deal with certain questions arising under the first clause of the Bill, and it seemed to us convenient and reasonable to adopt that Committee for the purpose which we have in view. My noble friend's Committee is designed to be an impartial Committee, an experienced Committee, carefully chosen and within Parliament, which I know is a condition to which noble Lords opposite attach importance. But, my Lords, we have not yet arrived at any final decision as to the manner in which this Committee should be constituted. We are not particular as to the constitution of the Committee provided it is impartial and independent and within Parliament. I see that my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn has an Amendment on the Paper suggesting a Committee composed differently from the Committee of Lord Cromer. I do not think we care very much which Committee may be chosen. There is a great deal to be said for the Committee recommended by Lord St. Aldwyn. It, perhaps, meets the rather extraordinary objection that was raised the other evening to Lord Cromer's Committee by, I think, the noble Viscount, who told us that it was impossible to form a good Committee of the kind suggested by Lord Cromer because parliamentary politicians might be divided into 109 the three categories—cranks, nobodies, and partisans.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friends behind me think the noble Viscount did use the expression "cranks, nobodies and partisans." At any rate, Lord St. Aldwyn's Committee would be less open to that imputation, whatever it is worth, and we are quite ready to discuss it when we come to Lord Cromer's Amendment.
Assuming then that we have a fairly constituted Committee, a strong and independent Committee, would the task which we are going to assign to it be one of such insuperable difficulty? Why should it be? They have to decide two points. First, Is the issue a grave issue? I think we could easily find two or three members of this House to whom we should all be quite content to entrust the decision on that point. The second thing they have to decide is, Has the issue been adequately submitted to the judgment of the country I dare say there would be differences of opinion as to that, but surely in all these questions the quality of common-sense which we rather pride ourselves upon possessing in this country would come into play, and you would get, certainly I should think in nine cases out of ten, a perfectly reasonable and satisfactory decision. I would ask noble Lords to remember this also. Supposing the Committee does not decide in your view or in ours quite wisely in a particular case what is the worst thing that can happen under our proposal? The worst thing that can happen under our proposal is that the measure goes to a Referendum and is pronounced upon by the people of this country. The thing does not end in the triumph of the House of Lords, it does not end in the triumph of the Committee, it ends in an appeal to the voters of this country, and that is the idea which, strangely enough, the Liberal gorges of noble Lords opposite seem to rise against with unvarying disgust. In our view a Committee of this kind, appointed, remember, at the beginning of each Parliament, not each session, set up at the beginning of each Parliament with the concurrence of both Houses, representing all that is best in the way of knowledge and experience and impartiality to be found in the two Houses, and empowered to decide, not the fate 110 of the Bill but whether the Bill should go to a Referendum or not—a Committee of that kind would, in our view, be an extremely valuable addition to the Parliamentary machinery of this country.
I am obliged to anticipate objections which may be raised to our scheme, and I am led by what has been said during the recent debates to anticipate another objection. I feel sure that we shall be told that a Committee of this kind is a very new and startling and reprehensible innovation. I think we shall be told that it is a dire thing to put the Houses of Parliament under the yoke of a Committee of this kind, that it will be a kind of super-Parliament—something never dreamed of in the history of our political existence. I make one rejoinder, and one rejoinder only, to that objection should it be made. It is not for you to complain of us for introducing innovations. It is you who in this Bill are introducing the most tremendous innovation which has ever been proposed to the Parliament of this country. It is you who are going to get rid of the Constitutional check afforded by the existence of a Second Chamber with real powers. It is you who are going to allow a casual majority in one House of Parliament to deprive the people of this country of their Constitutional right. And if the remedy which we propose for this state of things seems to yon strange and distasteful, pray do not forget that it is you who are introducing the poison which that remedy is designed to counteract.
Then, my Lords, there is one other objection which I am obliged to anticipate. I think we are likely to be told that this plan for a Joint Committee would work unfairly as between the two great political Parties. I have seen the objection put this way. While the Liberal Government is in power, we are told that there would be differences between the two Houses and that the Joint Committee would be constantly invoked. It is said on the other hand, that if the Conservative Party were in power and this House still contained an overwhelming Conservative majority, there would be no differences and therefore no appeals to the Joint Committee. That is an objection which is very likely to be made. But there is surely an answer to that. In the first place, not only with regard to this matter but with regard to all the questions which we have lately been debating, it seems to me 111 that noble Lords opposite are never able to take more than the narrowest Party view of the issue. Surely what we have to think of is not merely whether this Party or that will score two or three points in the political game. What we have to think of are the interests of the country. And looked at from the point of view of the national interest, is it not quite clear that safeguards of the kind which we are suggesting will be much more necessary when you are in power than when we are in power? I do not know whether I need press that further, but I, for one, am deeply impressed with the truth of what I am saying.
But if that answer does not seem sufficient, I suggest another. The objection which I am endeavouring to deal with is based upon the assumption that we still have our present overwhelming majority in this House, and that therefore the conditions must, always be unfair so far as this House is concerned. The remedy is in your hands. You have only to carry out your pledges and to proceed with the reform of this House, and if you do so, and do so, as the Prime Minister tells us you intend, within the compass of the present Parliament, you may have the question settled and this House constituted fairly as between the two Parties before a single case can arise under the clause which we are now discussing. For it must, not be forgotten that the finding of the Joint Committee could not take place until after the three rejections and the two years have passed—that is to say, I suppose somewhere about the year 1914, by which time you will have had ample time to try your hand at the task of House of Lords reform.
One other observation suggests itself to me. If you are afraid of our plan working unfairly as between the two Parties, are we not entitled to say that we provide a precaution against that in the shape of the Joint Committee? We postulate that the Joint Committee shall be fairly constituted as between the two Parties. That is a sine quâ non. and is clearly intended by my noble friend's Amendment, and by the Amendment of Lord St. Aldwyn, and if you have a perfectly fair Committee you may trust that Committee to see to it that the machinery of this clause is not unfairly used.
Let me say one word more on this point. If you still think that our proposal really will work unfairly as between the two Parties, 112 we are quite ready to examine, with the utmost respect, any suggestion that may be made for the purpose of removing that unfairness. For myself I would go almost any length to meet that, charge of unfairness, and if noble Lords opposite—I do Rot venture to assume that they will do so—would entertain and discuss with us this proposed procedure we would do anything in our power to make it work with absolute equality between their Party and ours. Our point of view is, of course, not the same point of view as that of noble Lords opposite. We are thinking of the great danger which may arise during the interval when the House of Lords is as we see it to-day, but shorn of all its powers, and the time when that new House of which noble Lords hold out hopes has been constituted. And we desire to provide precautions that shall prevent the hasty passing of dangerous and ill-considered measures during that interval. I can understand that noble Lords opposite may have in view a different contingency. They are, perhaps, thinking of a time when both Houses might be of one mind—a Conservative majority here, and a Conservative majority there, and when consequently it would be the minority which would need protection. Now it certainly would be a strong thing to suggest that when both Houses of Parliament are agreed the decision of the two Houses might be reopened on the motion of a minority. But if that is really the danger which noble Lords have in view, I think we should most of us be quite ready to say that, at any rate so long as this House remained unreformed, a reference to the Joint Committee might be demanded either by a minority—of course, a substantial minority—of the House of Commons or by the Speaker of the House of Commons on behalf of such a minority, in spite of the fact that there was a majority in both Houses in favour of the measure under discussion. And it seems to me that if some provision of that kind—I dare say noble Lords might suggest a better one—were to be introduced, not one word could be said against, the absolute fairness of the procedure which would take place under this clause as we propose to amend it. I see indeed that my noble friend Lord Cromer intends, in the Amendment which he will move hereafter, to propose that the Joint Committee might be set in motion in certain cases by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
In conclusion, I hope I make it clear that in any case what will be demanded will be, not the Referendum as a right, but merely a reference to the Joint Committee, which might or might not decide that a Referendum was proper or desirable. I hope I have said enough to show that there is something, at any rate, to be said for the principle for which we are contending—namely, that certain measures, and other measures in certain cases, should receive a treatment less violent and drastic than the treatment provided by this clause. We have made the proposal which seems to us best to meet the case, and we conceive that it is a proposal which does not involve the destruction of the Bill, and which does not involve the retention by this House of any rights in excess of those which it at present unquestionably possesses. But, as I have already said, if other proposals are made with the same object we are ready to discuss them with an open mind. I do very earnestly trust that we shall be met by helpful criticism, and not by that merely destructive criticism which is all that we have up to the present been able to elicit from the other side. I trust that we shall not be told. as we have been told two or three times, that the precautions which we suggest are uncalled for because this Bill merely stereotypes the existing relations of the two Houses of Parliament as interpreted by reasonable men. That is an argument which I hope noble Lords will forgive me for saying convinces no one, and I cannot bring myself to believe that they themselves are convinced by it. I hope that, at any rate in the discussion which commences this evening, that argument is not the one upon which His Majesty's Government will rely.
Page 2, line 33, after ("sessions") insert (Provided further that any Bill—
§ (2) Any question whether a Bill comes within the meaning of paragraphs (a) (b) of subsection (1) of this section shall be decided by the Joint Committee").—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN)
My Lords, it would be quite impossible for the most censorious opponent of noble Lords opposite to find any fault with the temper and the spirit which have marked the noble Marquess's speech, more especially the closing portions of it. But I think he is unreasonable in this. He asks us who have got our own plan-bad if you like, but the definite plan, the definite proposals in the Bill—to transfer our energies to the construction of this new piece of machinery. I do not think he is justified in expecting that of us. The noble Marquess began by saying the Bill is a monstrous innovation. I believe the historian will say that the most gigantic of all the innovations of the last two years is the noble Marquess's own Bill for the reconstitution and reform of this House.
This Amendment really may be divided into two sections. The first portion provides that any Bill affecting the existence of the Crown, or making a national Parliament and so forth, should be subject to particular treatment. But then in subsection (c) to which the noble Marquess has naturally and properly devoted the most operative portion of his speech, he raises the question of the Joint Committee. As for the first set of proposals the first concerns the succession to the Crown. Well. I cannot imagine a House of Commons passing a Bill impairing the existence of the Crown or the Protestant succession thereto. You cannot conceive a House of Commons which is not as devoted to the Monarchy as this House is to-day. I cannot speak, of course, of two or three centuries ahead; we never can be sure of what will happen. But if there ever came a period when the House of Commons passed a Bill affecting the Protestant succession or the existence of the Crown, the Sovereign would have nothing to do but to change his Ministers. If your Lordships opposed such a Bill the Sovereign would change his Ministers, and you would then find whether that House which had abused this Bill in a way which to us 115 to-day seems so repulsive had or had not the opinion of the country behind it.
Now let me pass on to the second subsection of the noble Marquess's Amendment—any Bill which "establishes a National Parliament or Assembly or a National Council in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, or England, with legislative powers therein." He very naturally defended that exclusion from the operation of the Bill by saying that Constitutional changes in nearly all other countries—perhaps he said all other countries—are regarded exceptionally, and that exceptional provision is made for dealing with any Constitutional change that opinion may demand. The noble Marquess at once saw a difficulty—I will use a stronger word, an impossibility—when he said that you cannot define, you cannot discover, the draftsman cannot invent a formula to distinguish a Constitutional from an unconstitutional change in a. country like our own. If you have a written Constitution it is quite easy to know whether the proposed change is Constitutional or not. That does not apply to this country, which lives under an unwritten Constitution, and which has hitherto distinguished between the Constitutional and the unconstitutional by custom and not by formula.
Then the noble Marquess dwelt, not at all at excessive length, on self-government for Ireland, and he assumed, wrongly, that I should open my observations by reading out extracts from speeches made by my colleagues, and perhaps from some by noble Lords opposite. His point is that we have no authority for thinking of a Home Rule Bill, and that the country has not been consulted upon it and did not dream of a Home Rule Bill, If that be so our electors must be really the most extraordinary dupes that could be found in any country. I am not going to quote a number of passages, but. I cannot resist quoting two passages from the noble Marquess himself. He said at Glasgow in November,1910—What will happen supposing this new dispensation comes into force? Home rule will go through at once without limber ado. Next time, in 1913, it goes through.I wonder whether the people of Glasgow believed the noble Marquess? Having explained this in the North he then went to the South, to Portsmouth, and what 116 did he say at Portsmouth? I will read it to you. He said—If the Government are returned to power the Nationalists will be paid in full and will get Home Ride of the Parnellite type.When a man of the noble Marquess's prominence and influence warns the electors fully in that way, are we to suppose that they paid no attention whatever to what he said? That is the only quotation with which I will venture to trouble the House upon that point.
I must say a little more about Home Rule. I think I may say that no Member of this House, present at all events, knows as well as I do the difficulties of constructing a scheme of Home Rule. I have been in two Governments representing the Irish Administration and I was concerned in the manufacture of two such Bills. Therefore I am well acquainted with the enormous difficulties and complexities that have to be surmounted in the construction of a Home Rule Bill. The noble Marquess deprecated the constant measurement of things by Party calculations and computations, and for a moment I would ask you to suppose that a Home Rule Bill would be brought in, not because we are said to be dependent on the Irish vote, but because some of us are convinced and have been convinced for a great number of years that improved government in Ireland is absolutely essential. I will not now trespass on the patience of the House by going into a. discussion of Home Rule on its merits. That will be quite proper when the Home Rule Bill comes before this House. I think it has been said in this House, "We do not know what Home Rule Bill you are going to produce." Quite true. The noble Marquess, at all events, knows that Cabinets do not hatch a Bill a year before it is required by Parliamentary necessity, and I am glad he did not raise that point, which really is an absurd one. Whether Bills are Tory or Liberal Bills, they are constructed after Cabinet discussion and infinite discussion with draftsmen, and so forth, and to ask us how what sort of Bill we are going to bring in is unreasonable. The noble Marquess, however, told the electors at Portsmouth that it was going to be a Bill of the Parnellite type. We shall see.
Then, my Lords, there is one point—not a very palatable one—I would like to make. Agreeing with the noble Marquess 117 in desiring a pacific agreement, if it can be possibly obtained, I must point out that to insist on reserving for this House a deciding voice in reshaping the government of Ireland appears to me as maladroit. What has been the record of this House, and the record of its voice in Irish affairs during the hundred years since the Union? What has been the mainstay of all those prejudices and passions, religious and otherwise, in this country but the policy almost uniformly pursued in this House? The opinion of Ireland has been recklessly disregarded for the best part of that 100 years. There has not been a single representative of the great bulk of the Irish population in this House. There is not one to-day. How could Irish legislation be other than ignorant and mischievous and retrograde when you in this House and your fathers were so ignorant of and un-concerned with the opinion and sentiment of Ireland? It cannot be denied that the mischief of absentee Irish landlordism has been aggravated by the mischief of an absentee Parliament, because that is what it has come to.
I turn now to the next subsection—subsection (c)—of the noble Marquess's Amendment. I have studiously considered this part of the noble Marquess's scheme, and I say that it is a direct and plain traverse of the Pill. The noble Earl, Lord Clanwilliam, said last night that he only abstained from voting against the Second Reading of the Bill because he looked to noble Lords opposite to make root and branch Amendments in it. This is indeed a root and branch Amendment. What is the foundation of it? It is not so much an Amendment as a great scheme, and it involves a complete distrust of the ultimate judgment of the House of Commons. It is a plain denial of the principle of the Bill, which is that after two years of discussion the ultimate judgment of the House of Commons does represent the real opinions of the electors. The noble Marquess said that he and his friends are not bound to the Amendment of my noble friend on the Cross Benches (Lord Cromer), and they are prepared to consider the Amendment put down since Lord Cromer's by Lord St. Aldwyn. The difference, as the House knows, is that according to Lord Cromer's Amendment the Joint Committee is to be composed of seven men chosen by the Speaker and seven chosen by the Lord Chancellor.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
Under my proposal the fourteen are to be chosen jointly by the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker. Lord Heneage has an Amendment to the effect mentioned by the noble Viscount, but my Amendment says jointly.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY of BLACKBURN
The Amendment has taken a modified form, quite rightly, in the hands of my noble friend. Lord St. Aldwyn's Amendment proposed a Joint Committee. I do not apologise for going into this detail, because my argument, although it does not turn upon that alone, affects that. He proposes a Joint, Committee consisting of the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords, the Chairman of Ways and Means of the House of Commons, a Lord of Appeal to be chosen by and from the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and other Peers of Parliament holding or having held high Judicial office, and an odd member to be appointed by the Speaker.
Personally I am indifferent as to how this Committee is to be formed. However composed, let us see what it is to do. It is to decide, without appeal, as I understand, first, whether a general Bill raises an issue of great gravity; secondly, whether they think that the judgment of the country on that Bill has been sufficiently ascertained; and thirdly, whether it is in their view an occasion for a Referendum. Now, these 15 gentlemen, and they alone, are to be the judges. They oust—and this is not a bit of exaggeration—the responsible Ministers of the Crown; they override and supersede the House of Commons; they are clothed with a power which your Lordships have long ago ceased to maintain in its panoply—namely, the power of compelling an operation which is in effect tantamount in its essential features and practical effects—I mean the Referendum—to a Dissolution. Does any noble Lord say that he is in favour of giving this House the right of compelling a Dissolution? You no doubt did it eighteen months ago, not with a very good effect; but here it is suggested that it does not matter what the House of Commons thinks, no matter what the Ministers think, this Committee are to decide upon any question which is referred to them and their decision shall be final and conclusive for all purposes, 119 and shall not be questioned in any Court of Law. Can we imagine a single Bill being rejected three times in this House which does not raise an issue of great gravity? Noble Lords will be disparaging this House very much if they look forward to a time when it will reject a Bill three times unless the issue is a grave one. Then I must remind the House that the procedure under the noble Marquess's Amendment will only arise when the Bill is ready for submission to the Sovereign.
There is another point to be considered. There may be a General Election in the middle of the discussion of one of these disputable Bills. Many Amendments in this House and in the other House turn on the necessity of interposing a General Election in the course of the debate. Suppose that a Bill has been discussed and rejected twice, and there is a General Election for other reasons; and suppose that the Government are returned to power with a majority showing that they have the public confidence. According to the Amendment of the noble Marquess, however, the Joint Committee is, in spite of the fact that the majority of the House of Commons and the Government have the support and the confidence of the country, to be able to say that the opinion of the country on this Bill has not been ascertained. You are giving the Joint Committee an authority to override the verdict of a General Election, and you are erecting an impossible tribunal to decide two impossible questions—what is a matter of gravity, and whether the opinion of the country has been ascertained.
Does any noble Lord pretend that such a Committee, not appointed by nor responsible to the House of Commons, not responsible to anybody, is a democratic expedient? All political definitions are uncommonly hard, and I certainly do not mean to try my hand at a definition of Democracy, because we are not to-night dealing with definitions, but with things and actual facts. In all seriousness do you reasonably expect that the House of Commons, chosen only six months ago, after months and months of incessant public discussion, is going to part wholesale with its own supremacy—it was a conspicuous issue at the election—and then to entrust its proceedings under penalty of an appeal to the country to this Committee? I cannot think so. Can any one 120 seriously pretend that any single elector in any constituency was thinking, when he gave his vote, of this scheme? He had never heard of it. When you reprove us for confusing the issues there was not a single elector—I am not sure that there were many of your Lordships who assented to the Second Reading of the Bill—who thought for a moment that the end of it was to be a supersession of the House of Commons and the erection of the supremacy of this House through the medium of a Joint Committee. I am certain that prospect was in no one's mind, though I will not say it was not in the mind of the noble Marquess.
I have been reproached during the last few days, not too severely, for being unwilling to compromise and concede. Compromise and concession are, of course, two jewels of Parliamentary statesmanship, although they do not involve the very highest and most ideal virtues. But will anybody say that I am showing an uncompromising and non-conciliatory spirit when I say that the Government cannot accept for an instant this Amendment? It is impossible to concede it without teasing sip the whole policy, purpose, and principle of our Bill. Therefore I say, at all risks and hazards and with sincere regret—if the refusal by the Government of this Amendment precludes what the noble Marquess spoke of, consultation and discussion—it is impossible to concede it, and I really believe that not one of your Lordships in candour can say that we could possibly accept any such scheme as this.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Your Lordships will have noticed on the Paper an Amendment standing in my name following that which we are now discussing. As the Amendment of the noble Marquess covers the Amendment with regard to Ireland which I have put down, and as I am informed that my contemplated Amendment would not be in order, I think it right that I should rise at the present time, not only to give support generally to the Amendment of my noble friend, but to devote myself to that part of it in connection with Ireland which I and my friends from Ireland, and I think I may say the whole Unionist Party in Ireland, feel is the crux of the situation with regard to this measure. Mr. Balfour very truly stated, in the Albert Hall, that if there 121 had been no question of Home Rule there, would have been no Parliament Bill, I believe that view is endorsed by every Unionist; indeed, I doubt very much if any member on the Government Bench will contradict me in that statement. Consequently we in Ireland regard this Parliament Bill as embracing a measure of Home Rule, to which we shall offer, not only now, but at every stage so far as possible in the future, our most strenuous and vigorous opposition.
It has been said, especially last night in connection with the discussion on Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, that it is the object of His Majesty's Government, by means of this Bill, to carry through Parliament measures which have never been brought before the people of this country or their opinions asked upon them. That, I think, was the line taken by the right rev. Prelate and by other noble Lords who spoke in connection with Disestablishment. But, my Lords, if it is important that the question of the disestablishment of the Welsh Church should be brought forward prominently before the people before it is carried into law, how much more important, then, is it to insist on the question of Home Rule being brought, before the people of this country before it is passed, when we remember that on the two occasions during the past twenty-five years on which it has been put forward clearly the people have spoken in no uncertain terms with regard to it and decided that they will not have Home Rule? The noble Viscount, in the course of his remarks in relation to Ireland, twitted the noble Lord with regard to the charge of the Unionist Party that Home Rule had not been brought forward prominently by the Liberal Party at the last General Election, and he alluded to two speeches of my noble friend behind me. My noble friend was perfectly right in what he said. He was forecasting what would be the action of the Government if this Bill became law.
May I ask the noble Viscount opposite, Why did the Prime Minister and his colleagues make no mention of Home Rule in their election addresses to their constituents? Mr. Asquith made no mention of it in his election address. On the contrary, he kept it entirely in the background until he was heckled by one of his audience, and even then, if I may say 122 so, he only gave an evasive answer, so anxious was he to keep it in the background. But Mr. Asquith was not alone in not mentioning Home Rule in his address. I notice that the Home Secretary, and Mr. Pease, Mr. McKenna, Mr. Herbert Samuel. and even the Minister most concerned, Mr. Birrell, thought Home Rule of not sufficient importance to be mentioned in that important document issued by candidates to their constituents. Liberal candidates also followed the example of their leaders. The addresses of 510 Liberal and Labour candidates at the last General Election have been examined, and in 269 cases—more than half—no reference to Home Rule was made. I think we are justified in saving that the leaders of the Radical Party, if they had intended by means of the Parliament Bill to carry Home Rule, ought in common honesty to have brought this matter prominently before the constituencies.
Now, my Lords, I wish to say why we in Ireland, who know Ireland and have studied the Irish question, think it our duty to oppose this Bill by every means in our power. In the first place, we maintain that it is not for the good of Ireland, but is a measure to be passed to recompense Mr. Redmond for having, contrary to the wishes of the people of Ireland, supported the Budget Bill, and since that time maintained in office the present Government. Why do we oppose this Bill? We oppose it because we who know Ireland know that if Home Rule is granted to Ireland there could only follow ruin, disaster, bankruptcy, and, in all probability, civil war. That is the opinion from the Irish point of view. But, my Lords, there are other views taken by English and Scottish people. What is going to be the financial position of Ireland if Home Rule is given? I can tell you what that position will be. After a short period of Home Rule there will be nothing but bankruptcy in Ireland, and English and Scottish people will have to put their hands very deep indeed into their pockets in order to find financial assistance for Ireland to put it back into anything like the prosperous condition that Ireland at the present moment enjoys. At the present time we are waiting to hear the Report of the Financial Committee which has been sent over to Ireland, and it will be very interesting indeed if noble Lords who follow me will tell me that the statements I make 123 with regard to the financial position of Ireland are controverted by that Committee.
Ireland cannot support herself financially at present, and has to be assisted by England, and if Home Rule is granted, naturally in the course of events without that assistance—because if once she is a separate country I do not suppose that England or Scotland will assist her as they do now—Ireland must become bankrupt. At the present moment there is a deficit, and there must be a still greater deficit if English assistance is taken away. The result will be increased taxation upon that most industrious and most profitable part of Ireland which contributes no less than two-thirds of the general revenue of Ireland. Under the present system I have no doubt Ulster is capable of paying that large amount; but if more taxation is imposed upon her she will not be likely to be able to meet it, because capital will not be invested in Ulster in future. It will vanish, and you will have that industrious part of Ireland, now paying two-thirds of the general revenue of Ireland, finding herself absolutely unable to pay anything like that sum. Then, my Lords, the prosperity of Ireland at the present moment is due entirely to the credit that Ireland can get by being associated with England. It has had a vast sum of money advanced to it for various purposes—land reforms and other improvements—because she is connected with England. Separate that connection, and at what rate of interest can money be borrowed? I do not know any one who would care to invest money in Ireland at anything but a very high rate of interest, if even then, when the administration of Ireland is being entrusted to the tender mercies of a body of legislators sitting at College Green, who have shown their capabilities by being themselves absolutely bankrupt in their own financial funds and having to appeal to America, and who have also made bankrupt a number of what were previously industrious and prosperous tenants by inducing them to invest their money, and lose it, in the notorious Plan of Campaign. I ask you whether, with that body of men sitting at the head of a Parliament at College Green, it would be possible for Ireland to borrow money at any rate of interest whatever?
When I last addressed your Lordships' House and devoted the greater part of my 124 speech to the danger involved in Home Rule, the Lord Chancellor, the following day, criticised my observations, and declared that he considered that the case against Home Rule was weakening in the minds of many Conservatives. I was not in a position then to controvert that statement of the Lord Chancellor, but I take the opportunity of controverting it at the present moment, and I would ask the noble and learned Lord, when he replies, whether he can tell me the name of a single Conservative who has ever said one word in public in favour of what is known as Gladstonian Home Rule. I am not prepared to deny that the feeling against Home Rule is not so antagonistic as it was in 1893. The reason is not very hard to seek. It is because the question of Home Rule has not been prominently brought forward before the people of this country since 1893. The year 1893 is a long time ago, and since then a new generation has arisen, and that new generation has learned to believe, not having heard anything of it, that it is merely a thing which has been heard of in the past but will never appear again. It has been kept steadily in the background, and one of the colleagues of the noble Viscount opposite told the English people that they might sleep soundly in their beds because Home Rule was nothing but a "bogey"
Is Home Rule nothing but a "bogey" now, with this Parliament Bill before us? If the noble Viscount thinks Home Rule is not going to occupy a very prominent place in the minds of the people of this country he is making a very great mistake. I can assure him that the people of England, who have not had Home Rule brought prominently before them for nineteen years, are slowly but surely awakening to this danger. In the North of Ireland the people are not only aroused, but are wide awake. I am receiving daily—and my noble friend Lord Templetown will tell you the same—resolutions and communications declaring that at all costs the Protestant people in the North of Ireland will not accept Home Rule. They naturally feel very strongly on the subject, and I can assure your Lordships of this—and I speak with a due sense of responsibility—that if a Home Rule Parliament is created at College Green, and if that Parliament endeavours to administer the affairs of Ireland from College Green without the opinion of the country having been taken 125 on that question, His Majesty's Government will have the rudest awakening that ever a Government have had in the course of modern history.
Now I want particularly to ask one question of the noble Viscount, and that is how he and his colleagues propose to maintain—they certainly will not improve—the present prosperous condition of Ireland if they grant Home Rule to it? The noble Viscount seems to think that if Home Rule were granted to Ireland the millennium would appear. Will be tell me if he can make Ireland more prosperous than it is at the present moment? The noble Viscount seemed to attribute what he called the unfortunate condition of Ireland to the question of absentee landlords. I am going to prove, before I sit down, that the present condition of Ireland is thoroughly prosperous; but even if it were a fact that Ireland was in an unfortunate condition it could not be attributed to Irish landlords, because there are so few of them now. It is the tenants themselves who own the land at the present time, and they will tell you that they are enjoying a prosperity second to none of the tenants in Great Britain.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
When I spoke of absentee landlords and the mischief that they had done, I was not thinking of the landlords of to-day. On the contrary, I was assuming that this House, in legislating for Ireland, had committed a vast number of tremendous errors, and was responsible for the historic misfortune of Ireland. I do not tax the landlords of to-day. I am very glad they are out of Ireland.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I do not follow the noble Viscount in that, but still I do not agree with him. I am correct in this, that there are no landlords to denounce now because they have sold their land to the tenants. But I do ask, How are you going to maintain or increase the present prosperity of Ireland if you establish a Parliament on College Green? The prosperity of Ireland at the present moment is of an almost phenomenal character. I can tell the noble Viscount that there are men returning from America, of all grades of opinion, political arid religious, who went away from Ireland some years ago, and on returning they are delighted to see the extraordinary changes 126 which have taken place. That is admitted, I believe, even by the leaders of the Nationalist Party. These men came back from America, and what do they see? They see those who were occupiers of land when they left now the owners of it, developing to the best of their ability their own land, enjoying thoroughly the responsibility that accrues to ownership, and if you ask any of those men themselves they will tell you that they are in a most prosperous condition. What, again, will the Americans tell you? They will tell you they have observed the cause of technical education steadily advanced in Ireland during the years they have been absent from it. I believe in all the important towns there are technical schools for the improvement of the mind of the younger generation, which will make them still more attached to the holdings in that part of the country in which their lot happens to be cast. When these men to whom I refer left. Ireland what did they see? They saw people then living in mud cabins who are now occupying comfortable cottages, all built by money advanced from English credit.
Let me now turn to the congested districts. I am sure you will be glad to hear that even in that part of Ireland, which appeared at one time a barren district, the condition of the people is steadily improving. The people are now able to develop the resources of the industries connected with their place, and I believe at the present moment those men are making the most of their opportunity. My Lords, all that has been done by money advanced to the congested districts by means of credit with England. There is another thing which I think will show the prosperous condition of Ireland. I turn to what I consider is the best barometer of the financial position of the working classes—the amount of money they have invested in the savings banks. I do not think that any one will deny that that is a sure criterion as to the welfare of the poorer classes, because those are the banks in which they invest their savings. Let me show you the improvement that has taken place. I will take the amount of money invested in the savings banks in Ireland in the year 1881, and compare that year with the present. In 1881 there were £3,800,000 in the savings banks. On December 31, 1910, there were nearly 14½ millions, an increase of about 127 £11,000,000. So, too, it will be found that an increase of the people's savings has also taken place in the congested districts. In those parts—the poorest and most poverty stricken parts of the country—the savings banks deposits have gone up from £300,000 in 1881 to nearly £2,000,000 in the year 1907. How do noble Lords opposite propose to continue that satisfactory state of affairs if a Home Rule Parliament is granted? Remember, my Lords, that the whole of this prosperity is due to the Act of Union, and that the prosperity has taken place since.
It may be said, "Let us try a measure of Home Rule, and see whether we cannot do something." If His Majesty's Government try such an experiment with a country prosperous as Ireland is at the present moment I can only say that they will be undertaking the most risky experiment that will ever have been known. But it is not an experiment. There was a Parliament on College Green—Grattan's Parliament—which sat from 1782 to the year 1800. What was the condition of Ireland under Grattan's Parliament? There was lawlessness in every part of the country. There were no less than fifty-four Coercion Acts, the climax being the great rebellion. Let me read to your Lordships what was the opinion of Mr. Lecky, whom I am sure you will accept as a great historian with regard to Ireland. He says of the unfortunate condition of Ireland in the year 1798 under a Home Rule Parliament—Agriculture had ceased; its implements were destroyed; the sheep and cattle had been plundered and slaughtered; the farmers were homeless, ruined, and often starving. Misgovernment and corruption, political agitation and political conspiracy, had done their work, and a great part of Ireland was as miserable and desolate as any part of the habitable globe.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I have not the volume, but the noble Lord will find the quotation in Fisher's book at page 269. I took it from that, and it is quite correct. But there is even stronger evidence of the lamentable condition in which Ireland was left after the Home Rule Parliament. What did Lord Chancellor Clare say, a man of great authority, who lived on the spot? This 128 is what he said, that before the Act of Union was passed Ireland—had not, three years of redemption from bankruptcy or intolerable taxation, nor one hour's security against the renewal of exterminating civil war.Surely that experience cannot be ignored. With that experience as to what Ireland was under a Home Rule Parliament, to drag Ireland down from her present prosperous position and restore her to that appalling state of lawlessness and misery would not only be a folly, but a crime of the deepest dye. The Prime Minister, in the course of one of his speeches dealing with this question, said that it would be easy for a Government following this one if they chose, to reverse their legislation and go back to the old state of things. I suppose he means to restore Ireland to what it was under the Union. That is a remark with which I cannot agree. He says that in ninety-nine cases out of 100 it is possible. Whether that is right or wrong I do not know, but this is most certainly the hundredth.
Mr. Asquith may talk very lightly, with regard to domestic legislation, of a succeeding Government being able to reverse it; but how would be propose to abolish a Parliament which had been established on College Green? How would Mr. Balfour, supposing he came into office with a mandate from the country to reverse that policy, commence to repeal the repeal of the Union Act. If a Parliament had sat even only for a very short time in Dublin it would have been created with all the dignity, pomp, and paraphernalia associated with Parliament. Posts would have been created, administrative offices established, and Acts of Parliament passed. What would have to be done? There would have to be a repeal of the Act, a repeal of all the Acts that had been passed. and there would be all the difficulty of undoing what had been done in that short period, and I do not believe that such a thing could be brought about without there being civil war in Ireland.
Another question I wish to ask is this. What is going to be the outlook of the loyal Unionist minority in Ireland? Mr. Redmond did not hesitate once to say that they would be overborne by the strong hand. That does not give them great confidence in the creation of a Parliament dominated by Mr. Redmond on College 129 Green. But what I want to point out to your Lordships, and through your Lordships to the people of this country, is that there are two Mr. Redmonds—Mr. Redmond who speaks in England and Mr. Redmond who speaks in Ireland and America. In England Mr. Redmond is all toleration—toleration is to be shown to the Unionist minority, toleration is to be shown to the Protestant minority. But, my Lords, how will that toleration be carried out? I remember well, when the Irish Government Bill was being brought forward and doubts were expressed as to the representation that the Unionist minority would have on the county councils, that Mr. Redmond assured them that they would have their share of the representation. But what happened? On the county councils in the whole of the three Provinces of Ireland, excepting Ulster, there are only sixteen Unionists. Mr. Redmond, having achieved his end, did not hesitate to boast that the county councils, on which there are hardly any Unionists, had proved a network of national organisation. How are we to look to Mr. Redmond for toleration when we have that experience before us? We feel perfectly sure, that being the experience with regard to the election of the county councils, that there would be the same measure of toleration meted out to the Unionist minority if a Home Rule Parliament were established on College Green.
Then we are told that in all probability, if Home Rule is granted, safeguards in the shape of guarantees would be introduced. But, my Lords, are we justified in believing in these guarantees any more than we are in believing Mr. Redmond's promise of toleration? We know that the national organisation would find a way to avoid the guarantees. We had here, if you remember, in the course of the Spring a debate following one in the House of Commons on what is known as the famous McCann case, and a more shameful case of cruelty at the hands of the Catholics to a Protestant was never known. Yet the Government took no part with regard to it, and the situation remains at the present moment exactly as it was, showing to my mind how perfectly possible it is for the Nationalist Party, if they choose, to avoid any safeguard they like. I want to bring before your Lordships a speech made by Cardinal Logue to show the manner in which the Protestant minority would be treated by the Catholic majority should 130 the question arise of money for the purpose of promoting education naturally of an undenominational character. What does Cardinal Logue say with regard to the new National University? I think this is a quotation which ought, not only to be brought before your Lordships, but ought to be brought prominently before all the Protestants of England and Scotland. He says—They gave what they hoped to be a Pagan University, but, please God, we will turn it into a Catholic University. They have brought a Mahommedan institution into this country, but turn loose upon it a lot of fine, young Irish Catholics, and they will soon make it a Christian institution. That is what we will do with this new University. No matter what obstacles the Nonconformists of England may have inserted in the constitution of the University to keep it from being made Catholic, we will make it Catholic in spite of them.How can we, with that before us, put any faith whatever in any guarantees which may be called safeguards? I venture to say they would be absolutely worthless and I shall be glad to be contradicted if I am wrong.
May I again advert to the speeches of Mr. Redmond in Great Britain. He has always spoken here, as I said, with feelings of moderation and loyalty. But let me remind you of one of Mr. Redmond's speeches delivered only four years ago in Ireland—at Wexford. He then said—We tell her (England) frankly that the choice of weapons with which we work will be a mere question of expediency with us. We tell her that we to-day hate her rule just as much as our forefathers did, and that we are as much rebels to her rule to-day as our forefathers were in 1798.Yet this is the man who promised toleration to the loyal Protestant minority in Ireland, and for whom this Bill is to be passed. There is another speech of Mr. Redmond's to which I wish to allude. He would have you in England believe that all he requires in Ireland is a subordinate Parliament, a Parliament partaking in no more active legislation than that of a Province of a Dominion. That is what he would have you believe when he is throwing dust in your eyes. But this is what he says when lie is talking to the people of America—We demand an Irish Parliament for Irish affairs, and subject only to the Irish people. Less than that we do not ask, and less than that we shall not accept. They ask us to demand more; and I answer, in the words of Parnell, Let us get this first and then demand more.'131 I ask whether the Government consider that any Bill which may be introduced on the lines of Mr. Redmond's English speeches can be considered finally when we have regard to his Irish utterances? I have ventured to point out to your Lordships that Ireland will be bankrupt and ruined, and England in all probability put to considerable discomfort, if a Home Rule measure is passed. I do not believe that the people of Ireland who are contented now and prosperous, as I have shown you, desire to have Home Rule, and if they were permitted to speak freely I think they would say so. Of course, I merely give my opinion? but that is also the opinion of people who know Ireland thoroughly well. Yet you are proposing to restore Ireland at all costs and hazards to that miserable state of affairs which existed before the Union.
I have heard it rumoured that if your Lordships refuse to pass this Bill 500 Peers will be created to swamp the present majority in this House. I cannot believe such a rumour. I cannot believe that any Prime Minister who recognised the responsibility and the dignity of his great position could be found who would do such an absolutely unconstitutional thing and make this country the laughing stock of every nation in the civilised world. More than that, I believe that no honest straightforward Prime Minister would contemplate so revolutionary an action as to smash this Constitution at the bidding of a man who has told him to toe the line, and I believe no patriot could be found who would undertake so dastardly an action as to lay the foundation stone of the disintegration and the dismemberment of the Empire. Any honest and straightforward Prime Minister who desired to grant Home Rule to Ireland, and desired at the same time to act in the best interests of the country, would in a straightforward manner put the question fairly and honestly before the people of this country, and ask them to give him the power to bring in a measure of Home Rule. That would be an honest and straightforward course, and if the country endorsed that appeal from the Prime Minister, fatal as I and my friends behind me believe it would be to Ireland, we should only have one thing to do, and that would be to bow to the will of the people when that will had been expressed.
132 Will the Prime Minister take that line? I believe he will not, because he knows full well, when he casts his mind back to 1886 and to the election of 1895, when Home Rule was fought as a clear issue, that the people with no uncertain voice would declare their detestation of any measure of Home Rule for Ireland, once the arguments for and against Home Rule were clearly and fairly and honestly put before them. What is it that we, the loyal Unionist Protestant party in the North of Ireland, ask? We only ask to be allowed to continue in the future, as we have been in the past, part and parcel of England and maintain the Union under which we have prospered and lived happily, and not to be handed over to the tender mercies of a body of people who have never concealed their detestation of you and of that loyal minority in Ireland who are devoted to the Throne and devoted to England. The loyal Unionist population of Ireland appeal to England now as they did in 1895. They ask you to allow them to remain part and parcel of your Constitution. In the words of their great Order, Quis Separabit? England's answer, I am confident, in the future will be what it has been in the past, that we will not separate Ireland from England, for—In fortune and in fame they're boundBy stronger links than steel,And neither can be safe or soundBut in the other's weal.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, I do not rise to reply to the noble Marquess, because I confess although I have no authority in the matter, I should have thought his speech was quite irrelevant to the issue before us. It would have been a powerful speech if we were discussing the Second Reading of a Home Rule Bill; but we are not discussing that, and it is not relevant to the issue which we are now considering whether Ireland has or has not been prosperous since 1801, and whether the people of Ireland ought or ought not to be content with the treatment they have received. All that may come up on a future occasion, but it has nothing to do with the question which we have now to consider.
The question we have now to consider is whether under any circumstances, and with any modifications, and subject to any conditions, the Amendment which the 133 noble Marquess opposite proposes to introduce in the provisions of this Bill may be entertained, and I confess on that subject that I listened with regret to the unqualified opposition of my noble friend the Leader of the House to the proposition of the noble Marquess. I know the immense difficulties that are involved in that proposition. I know it is novel. I know the expense and turmoil and confusion which might follow the adoption of his proposal if it were put into operation. But, despite all these circumstances, there appears to be much in what the noble Marquess has submitted for your consideration which deserves your attention, and we must not shrink from it because it involves novelties and disturbs our traditional belief, or because it opens before us a vista of future political life with which we have not been familiar in the past. If the occasion demands it, we must face novelties.
I submit—and my noble friend below me will agree—that we are considering to-day a very serious change, an alteration of our procedure which might justify the contemplation of novelties, strange and unfamiliar though they may appear to be. What is the proposition underlying the Bill? I ventured, when I addressed your Lordships with reference to the first clause, to say that I could not conceive of the possibility of the adoption of the principle which the noble Earl on the Cross Bench proposed in reference to the conduct of financial legislation. Financial legislation must be settled peremptorily; it must be settled within the year, and considerations of finance as well as the respect due to the representatives of the people in the matter of taxation require that the financial legislation of the country should be practically the exclusive work of the House of Commons. It grew up to be so, and it was recognised to be so, not merely out of considerations of the right of the people to say how they are to be taxed, but from considerations of political expediency and political management.
But these motives, as I ventured to say in speaking in reference to the first clause, do not apply to the consideration of general legislation. General legislation is rarely in such a hurry. General legislation may be considered on all sides. It may be deferred and brought up to be reconsidered; and the real question which we have to 134 determine is whether, under the provisions of the Bill now before us, we have sufficient reason for confidence that the legislation of the future will always be found conformable to the will of the nation, or whether circumstances may arise under which it may be desirable, if not necessary, to go beyond the machinery of this Bill in order to ascertain whether that conformity exists. The principle of the Referendum is an appeal, as my noble friend said, against the authority of the House of Commons, but it is an appeal from the House of Commons to the electorate at large. It is a democratic appeal; an appeal to all those who have been recognised as fit to join in the election of members of the House of Commons; and to appeal from a subordinate body, however illustrious, and however noble its history, to the power which creates that body is not in itself a necessary degradation. No doubt it involves the confession that that subordinate body cannot, as my noble friend said, be always trusted. Is that confession something which no fact can substantiate? Are we by our past experience, or by the experience of free political communities elsewhere, justified in coming to the conclusion that the House of Commons, even in the first fulness of its life when fresh from the constituencies, necessarily reflects the mind of the nation?
I was very much surprised that the noble Marquess opposite, who marshalled his arguments with uncommon gravity as well as force, did not refer to the recent experience in Australia. That experience is most significant and most instructive. A little more than twelve months ago there was a General Election in Australia conducted according to all those traditions of elections which we regard as fulfilling a complete scheme of democratic organisation, and there issued from those elections a majority, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, of a substantial character supporting a Labour Ministry. I think it happened in April of last year. The Ministry issuing from that election, supported in both Houses, proceeded to submit to the Legislature of the Australian Commonwealth Bills which they held embodied the policy which had been approved by the Australian electorate. Those Bills passed by substantial majorities; but inasmuch as they involved changes in the Constitution of the Commonwealth, inasmuch as they were concerned with the 135 relations between the Commonwealth and the States composing it and also had to do with the organisation of Labour, it was necessary, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Act, that those Bills should be referred to the judgment of the electorate at large. A Referendum was held, and the result was that those Bills, which had been most successfully carried through the Commonwealth Parliament by a Government supported by large majorities in both Houses, were rejected within twelve months of the General Election by a very strong majority of the electorate of Australia. Could anything be more conclusive? Here was a democratic House of Commons working under the best possible conditions, with no arguments against its authority to be derived from the difference in sizes of constituencies, or from the existence of plural votes, or from any other of the drawbacks which attach to our political institutions—this Parliament so issuing from the electorate of Australia carried through all its stages legislation which, being immediately submitted to the electorate, was repudiated by the electorate.
The experience is significant and instructive in other ways as bearing on the general question of the Referendum. It may be said to dispose of the argument that no Ministry could survive a rebuff so given to it by the electorate when appealed to. For we find in fact that Mr. Fisher's Ministry is going on the same as before. They simply recognised that they had gone beyond the mind of the country. Their counsels may be right. It may be that a year hence, or two years hence, or five years hence, what they propose will be supported by the majority; but for the moment they went beyond the mind of the people, and they have acquiesced in that fact and are going to try and educate the nation up to the point they desire to attain. I understood the noble Viscount to agree with me, but I think he dissents. Does he think it would be convenient for us here to have legislation which went beyond the mind of the nation without any possibility of arresting it? If what could be done in Australia could be repeated here, we should, surely, have done something to avoid it if it could have been avoided. Assume that you are going to instal in the Statute Book Statutes of which the electorate at large disapproved. That is what might happen. That is what did happen in the case of Australia, 136 and that is what we ought to try and prevent here.
You have not the security, even in the first flush after a General Election, not even on a question which has been prominent at the election, that the answer of the House of Commons when it is appealed to would be that of the electorate at large. It is a puzzle which there is often great difficulty in apprehending, and yet it ought not to be particularly difficult to understand how that might come to pass. I always myself seem to see it best in a simple example. Take the City of Sheffield. The City of Sheffield is divided into five constituencies, and has five Members. It happens that in two of those divisions there is a large majority of the electorate one way, and in the other three constituencies there are small majorities of the electorate the other way. The result is that the mind of Sheffield is represented by three Members against two, the three being elected by small majorities, and the two by large majorities. When you put the figures together you find that the two have got the real mind of Sheffield behind them, so that the mind of Sheffield is misrepresented in Parliament. So the mind of the nation has been misrepresented in the past, and might be misrepresented in the future. It is against that difficulty that we want to guard ourselves.
My noble friend will say there are sufficient safeguards in the Bill as it stands. He will say, Have we not got two years' delay? Is not there ample opportunity for discussion in the House of Commons and in the Press? Shall we not have consultations, deliberations, conferences? Is there not throughout the course of Parliamentary life a consciousness on the part of members of the House of Commons of an outside world, with which they will have to come into contact again, and which would prevent them from abusing their present powers if they have reason to think, or to suspect, that they are going in any way beyond the opinion of the country at large? And will not these two years serve to bring out that difference, if it exists, and save us from the calamity which otherwise might be before us? My Lords, as to that feeling on the part of Members, that a time of punishment may conic, I will ask my noble friend to remember, and I would ask noble Lords also 137 to remember, the history of the Parliament of 1900. The Parliament of 1900 was elected upon one issue, and it used its powers, as is now confessed, to pass certain great Acts which were not wholly approved by the electorate, and 1906 was the punishment—the reparation demanded for that abuse of power. The abuse of power was apprehended whilst that Parliament was going on., but it did not stay the use of the power; and I am afraid our security that the power will not be abused while it is possessed because there is to be an election a year after, or because there is discussion going on without, or because a vigilant Press is watching us, or any other reason of that kind, will not be of much use to us. We have all heard of the guillotine, the suppression of debate, and other things, in the House of Commons—painful evils which have grown upon us.
What is the real secret of the demoralisation against which accusations are brought so freely, but in which both sides are equally involved? Is it not the decay of the Parliamentary spirit? That is what we feel—that there is a decay of the Parliamentary spirit, through not recognising that there are others besides ourselves, the necessity of giving and taking, of compromise and conciliation, and that instead of that there is a perseverance and resolution to go on on the lines you have laid down. This decay has been fomented and strengthened by the great change which came upon us in 1886, and subsequent years. Let me refer you to what happened under two-Member constituencies with two candidates running, Liberals or Conservatives as the case may be, one an old-fashioned moderate Liberal and the other an advanced Liberal. They held their Party together and each felt the necessity of going one with the other, and so Liberalism by itself under that system had the bringing of two elements always into its own Party, and the same with the other side. But when you get an issue fought by one man and that issue supported by an organisation such as the Party caucus, you begin from the beginning, not in a temper of conciliation and cooperation, but in a temper of opposition, and that injures the Parliamentary spirit, which injury has been traced in Parliament since. Now what hangs upon this? The vision of debates and consultations and conciliation and I know not what processes before the two years are up, it is more or 138 less agreed we shall not have, and we shall be spared if after the first year we do not find introduced bald divisions and nothing more, and the affirmation at one stroke—quite easy to do—of the Bill passed in the previous session. Debates and conciliation, which my old friend Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman so sincerely hoped for, are things which von cannot be certain of realising. On the contrary, they are things which most probably will be put on one side, and this notion that after two years you will ripen into something by the rubbing together of thought and thought, it may be in the smoking room or elsewhere, is one which we cannot dwell upon as giving us sincere confidence.
Let me refer to the latest incident—I do it with regret—illustrating our Parliamentary decay. A Bill of tremendous moment, involving possibly the well being. of our whole industrial community, has been introduced into the House of Commons. Those who know, or at least who by previous study are entitled to speak with authority on the subject, affirm that that Bill contains proposals which, if not wisely handled, will lead to most lavish waste and the painful demoralisation of our industrial people. Whether that is a sound judgment or not I do not know, but it is put forward by responsible persons to whom you cannot but listen with respect. And this Bill, which took three years, according to its author, to frame, which has not been before the public three months, which has received the most casual discussion, because during those three months we have been engaged in many other things—this Bill it was proposed, before entering into Committee, to submit to a system of guillotine operations. That is what I call the latest, and perhaps the most painful, illustration of the decay of the Parliamentary spirit.
Does the proposal of the noble Marquess opposite give us any hope of finding an escape from this domination of what, after all, is not the will of the people? know the immense difficulties involved in its adoption, but, as I said before, I am not going to shrink from considering it because it is difficult, especially when I recognise the fact that the principle of the Referendum has been adopted in most of the democratic communities of the world and has made most rapid progress 139 amongst our own kinsmen and our own fellow-subjects overseas. I will not refer to the history of Switzerland and the. State Constitutions and Municipal Constitutions of the United States, but you will find that over and over again the Referendum is invoked in those countries in order to correct the miscarriage of ordinary legislative, action. Mr. Bryce, in his most valuable book to which we all refer much to our advantage, gives an abundant accumulation of evidence substantiating what I have said with regard to America. The principle of the Referendum ran, especially through the Western States, like wildfire as a means of correcting what had proved to be the miscarriage of legislation; and our own fellow-subjects in Australia, as I have already said, have embodied it in their Constitution. If it were adopted here it would be a slur, no doubt, on the House of Commons if it should turn out that the House of Commons had gone beyond the national will; but, after all, what we desire is that the nation at large should govern itself. It should be the electorate to whom we should look for the government of the nation. I do not mean to say that you will find the last word of truth in the decision of the electorate, but it is the best you can get. It is far better than that of this House—and having said that may I, without disrespect, say, far better also than that of the House of Commons. Though it would be a slow, almost unintelligent, turning over of considerations one way or the other which would be involved in bringing to the determination of a question the half-instructed opinion of the nation at large, yet you would, after all, get at something of the authority of a real determination. It is the determination by the mass of the nation, imperfect as it may be as a means of ascertaining the ultimate truth, by which we must be governed as we go on. Can it be introduced—I come back to that point again and again—without absolutely reconstructing this Bill?
There are two ways in which the Referendum can be invoked, or, at least, two ways have been suggested. One is by the institution of some special authority such as was proposed by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches and by the noble Viscount opposite—a Committee which shall determine. Another proposal was that involved in the Bill of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, 140 whose voice I wish we could hear in these Debates. On personal and public grounds it is a calamity that he is not here. In his Bill he proposes that a vote of this House, or a vote of an adequate minority in the House of Commons, should be able to bring about a Referendum. I am not sure whether something might not be done to combine these two methods of action, and if I were free to construct the process myself I should also proceed to amend the conditions under which the Referendum should be applied. The noble Marquess opposite proposes to make it apply necessarily in the case of the Protestant succession to the Throne, and in the case of what may be roughly called Home Rule legislation. The second provision I would myself remove altogether—the provision requiring that Home Rule should necessarily be submitted to a popular vote. I am not saying that Home Rule is not a very grave matter. It possibly ought to be submitted to a popular vote. But I should leave that question, if I had the construction of the Amendment, to the Committee or other authority or joint authority which will have to determine its application. Why not leave out these Constitutional changes, which you cannot define, when you have, through the operation of the proposed authority, a means of securing that if the case is sufficiently important there will be a reference? I say this in spite of all that has been said by the noble Marquess who has just sat down.
I think my noble friend below me would be amply justified in saying that at the last election Home Rule was specifically before the electorate. It was so, because those who opposed the present Bill pointed out most vigorously that Home Rule was in its train, and they did all they could to move the minds of the electorate to vote against candidates of the Government because those candidates were not only pledged to the Parliament Bill but to the Home Rule Bill that would follow. I therefore say, not presuming to prejudge the question here whether under a Reference to the people any particular scheme of Home Rule would be approved or not, that you cannot bring it out and say that by special exception and necessity it must be so referred. It should depend on the character of the Home Rule measure that is brought forward. If it involves some very great novelty which nobody had ever 141 heard of before, then undoubtedly the Committee, or whatever authority was invoked to determine the question, would hold that it should go to a reference. If it merely proceeded on old lines, then the warning to the nation was sufficient to preclude any presumption that they did not understand it. Then there may be other matters leading to the determination as to when the Referendum should be required, but you gain nothing by the insertion of those necessary references of Constitutional questions. You may have very important questions which are not there included, and you may bring in under that proviso as it stands questions of comparative insignificance. I think you may leave it to the class of cases to be considered by the authority. Now as to that Authority. Of the proposal of the noble Earl on the Cross Bench we shall no doubt hear from him a further explanation. To my surprise he has told us this evening that he adheres to the fourteen members of the Committee—
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
I have not finished my sentence. If the noble Earl will permit me to finish he will then see whether I am right or not. I understood him to say that he adhered to the principle of the election of the fourteen members jointly.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
I am very glad to hear it is not so. Anyhow, fourteen, whether elected jointly or severally, seems to me too large a body to be entrusted with the difficult functions to be given to them; and even the more limited Committee of the noble Viscount opposite I would reduce by cutting out—I say it with all deference to the noble Earl presiding over us this evening—the Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons and the Chairman of Committees here. I would have a Committee of four at the outside. I am a little doubtful about. the Lords of Appeal—I will let that pass however—but I would have a limited Committee of three or four at the outside. Further, I would not have them take action 142 unless upon a vote of this House or some appeal by a minority of the House of Commons such as is provided for in Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Bill. Under these conditions the process would still be one which may be described as a revolution. But I think under the conditions I have suggested the reference would only arise on rare and distant occasions when the gravity of the issue involved justified the reference being made. At all events I would have the proposal considered. I would like to have it considered as some way of getting out of what promises to be a very bitter controversy, involving issues we would all like to remove from our public life, and also a way of escaping from the real perils of a miscarriage of legislation such as I attempted to describe at the commencement of my speech, such as have occurred elsewhere, and such as would have occurred in Australia but for the existence of the Referendum there.
There are before the nation many large and extensive schemes of legislation. Some people are alarmed at what promises to be the taxation proposals of the future; some are afraid of the introduction of a large addition to our electorate, and no doubt I have bugbears and terrors of my own. I see also before us a large quantity of legislation of the most doubtful character which requires the most careful attention. Legislation, it has been said, proposes now to take care of us from our cradle to our grave. That is not enough, because some of the legislation which we have in front of us begins before the cradle is in existence. We have not quite got to the length of legislation laying down what men shall marry what women, but we have got pretty nearly as far as this—that certain men shall not marry certain women. Then there is the case of the children, the taking away of children from parental authority and control, the removal at the national or local expense of all destitution, and the physical and moral ill which arise from evil habits and evil traditions—the extent of these. proposals before us come under a name which was much abused centuries ago and which perhaps may be likely to be abused now—"benevolences." These "benevolences" threaten most seriously to interfere, not only with the self-respect, but with the absolute means of keeping together the industrial body of our nation as a, self-sustained and self-sufficing people. We, or those who come after us, will have 143 to be on the watch and to be very careful. For myself, I cannot but think that we should not reject any safeguard, however novel or strange, which might secure that. the legislation of the next generation shall go soberly and steadily forward according to the will and ascertained opinions of the mind of the nation at large; and, proceeding from experience to experience, so working out the future that it may be a worthy continuation of our past.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, the noble Marquess's Amendment deals with a great many grave matters besides the one that is commonly called Home Rule, and I have no doubt there are many in this House who will deal with those other matters in the noble Marquess's Amendment. I hope noble Lords in England will remember that what really touches us to the quick is the fact that a National Parliament, or Assembly, or a National Council, can be established in Ireland under this Bill without any reference to the people at all. We are often reminded, and we have been reminded by both noble Viscounts on the Government Front Bench, that it is because of our action with regard to referring the Budget to the people that we have the Parliament Bill brought. before us. But I think it is hardly fair upon us in Ireland that coupled with the Parliament Bill should be a pledge to the Nationalist Party that they are to have Home Rule. That pledge is as much part of the Bill as the Bill itself.
The noble Viscount said that the electors must be dupes if they did not understand that Home Rule was put before them at the last General Election. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, referred to many election addresses and speeches made by Government supporters and Ministers, in which the question of Home Rule was not mentioned in any way whatsoever. Then the noble Viscount referred to two speeches made by Lord Lansdowne, one in Scotland and one at Portsmouth. But the result of the election at Portsmouth was that a Unionist Member was returned, and I think we may congratulate ourselves that the reference to Home Rule which the noble Viscount tried to father on to the noble Marquess made us win the election at Portsmouth. Let us look for a moment at the history of the Home Rule question as dealt with by the Liberal Government. 144 In 1886 the Home Rule Bill which was then brought in was rejected by this House, and most deliberately rejected by the country. Then another Bill was brought in and passed in 1893. That was also thrown out by the Lords, and at the General Election the action of this House was fully justified. But there was another Bill that nobody has mentioned. That was another attempt of the Liberal Government to bring in Home Rule for Ireland. I am referring to the Councils Bill which was brought in by Mr. Birrell. What happened to that Bill? It was opposed by the Unionist Members most strongly in the House of Commons, and then there was a sort of informal National Parliament held in Dublin on the Bill. It was rejected there, and practically torn up and thrown in the face of the Minister who brought it forward. Yet, my Lords, with that experience before them the Government now try by an indirect means to force Home Rule upon us in Ireland. It is true there is to be some delay. What the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, said about that in his Second Reading speech I should like to mention. He said—I must again remind the House what the Bill [the Parliament Bill] does. The House of Commons has to pass a Bill three times; it is rejected here twice; two years must elapse; so there is no sudden flood tide.Then he said that to suppose that a Home Rule Bill would go through those two years unchanged and unmodified would be really to show a curious ignorance of legislative conditions in this country.
But, my Lords, during that term of two years I do not suppose the question of Home Rule would be discussed at all. There might be some very important measure brought forward which would overshadow in the minds of the electors of Great Britain the question of Home Rule, and the Home Rule Bill might, so to speak, go into the background for a time. But those two years would gradually, but surely, elapse, and the Home Rule Bill would be imposed on the country by the Government, and could be imposed on the country under the terms of this Bill, without amendment, no matter what speeches had been made against it, and I do not suppose His Majesty's Government would take much notice of any disturbances or rows there were in Ireland during that time. That is what we feel in Ireland with regard to Home Rule. We have a most profound 145 mistrust of the Government upon this question, because we know perfectly well the coalition that exists between them and the Nationalist Party, and I begin to think, and a great many have begun to think, that but for the Nationalist Party forcing the hands of the Government we should not have hail this Parliament Bill brought up to us so soon, or it would not have been of such a very drastic character.
I am not going to abuse my fellow-countrymen the Nationalists, nor rake up the statements which have been made by them in America, Canada, and. Australia, and also, when it suits them, the conciliatory statements they make when they speak to the electors in this country; but I must point out this, that Mr. Redmond has said again and again in Ireland that his public policy was to make English government in Ireland dangerous, difficult, and impossible. I do not think noble Lords on the other side of the House will contradict that statement. And it is to this man and his followers that the management and the government of Irish affairs is to be handed over! That is not, to say the least of it, a pleasant prospect for us Unionists and loyal people in Ireland, and I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that the one million Protestants in Ireland are, the great majority of them, entirely against the granting of any measure of Home Rule whatsoever.
There is another aspect of the Home Rule question to which I should like to draw the attention of the noble Viscount. I allude to the financial aspect. I am not going to say a word as to the financial relations between the two countries, as shown by the Royal Commission appointed by Mr. Gladstone. I admit that since that time we have had a great deal of money granted for different purposes in Ireland. I admit that we have had the Board of Agriculture, and technical education, and that money has been fully furnished. We have also had large sums of money to carry out the purchase of land in Ireland, and also for the compulsory suppression of congestion in the west of Ireland. But there has been a Committee recently appointed by the Government on this question, and what I complain of is that the Prime Minister has said that nothing will be known to us as to the findings of that Committee. Their sittings, I suppose, have been going on, but nothing 146 whatsoever is to be known. The only inkling that we have had about the matter was in a speech by Mr. Birrell. He said it would be a hard matter to fit in—speaking of the findings. I believe the words were, "It would be a very tight fit." I do not think that is satisfactory at all. In fact the Government are keeping the whole question of Home Rule in the dark as much as possible, because they know perfectly well that if this Bill is passed, which I hope it will not be, in its present state, they can slip it in with the greatest of ease and that it will be imposed upon us. I was glad the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, admitted, in his speech on the noble Marquess's Amendment, the enormous difficulties in the construction of a Home Rule Bill. I quite agree with him, and I think he will find that the enormous difficulties which will accrue will be the difficulties of finance, because, as the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, has pointed out, if the credit of this country is taken away from us I do not know at all how on earth any Home Rule Government is going to carry on.
Now I should like to say something as to the wish for Home Rule by Ireland at large. By Ireland at large I mean the majority of the population. I leave out altogether the million Protestants. I am sure noble Lords will remember that in Parnell's time the driving power behind the Home Rule question was the land question, and if he had not had the land question. behind him he would not have had the driving power he did have with regard to Home Rule. The land question is slowly—too slowly, alas! owing to Mr. Birrell's last Bill—being settled. I say without fear of contradiction that among the farmers and peasants who have bought their land and are now settled: upon their own property, so to speak, the wish for Home Rule, to put it as low as possible, is not nearly as keen as it was; and I can tell noble Lords that in my own part of Ireland if you were to hold a meeting there you would not get the large farmers and respectable tenants to come and listen to a man urging Home Rule. I say further—and I speak under correction from my noble friend beside me, Lord Clonbrock—that in the west of Ireland, where the purchase of land has been going on much more slowly and where the United Irish League is rampant, if you were to ask a farmer whether he would rather have Irish 147 Home Rule or his land, he would say, "I would rather have my land and be left alone to look after my own affairs, and not have politics interfere with me." That obtains in the part of Ireland in which I live perhaps more than it does in the West.
From a business point of view, what on earth do we gain by severing the bonds that tie us to this country? We are united to the greatest Empire the world has ever seen, and we are helped and financed by the richest Treasury that Empire has ever known. Individual Irishmen are taxed like individual Englishmen, but if Home Rule is imposed upon us and any part of the credit we now have by being attached to the British Treasury is withdrawn we should indeed be in a poor position. I ask noble Lords opposite, supposing we had Home Rule, who is going to lend Ireland a single penny of money to carry out any large public works, and where is she going to get the credit to borrow money? We are as determined as ever to oppose any form of Home Rule. I should like to allude to the statement the Lord Chancellor made—it was alluded to briefly by the noble Marquess—in his Second Reading speech on this Bill. He said—They know the policy of the Government involves Home Rule for Ireland; not only so, but I venture to say tint when that subject comes forward we shall find a very different tone and temper towards it from the country at large and from the Conservative Party than prevailed in the unhappy efforts which we made before. The younger members of the Conservative Party are largely in favour of some measure which may be fairly called Home Rule, and some of the more experienced and leading members of the Party are so too.That is a starred speech. It has been revised by the Lord Chancellor. I can only say that I have met none of the younger members of the Conservative Party who are in favour of Home Rule, and I think it has been pretty clearly shown what the leaders of our Party think.
Ireland is perfectly peaceful and prosperous now; yet we are to be suddenly plunged into political turmoil, and God alone knows how it will end. The Government have refused every Amendment to this Bill. The noble Viscount has got up time after time and said the Government cannot accept this Amendment and that 148 Amendment. I feel that this is not the place to fight Home Rule, that England is not the place in which to fight it, and that resolutions and speeches are of no use whatsoever. But I do not intend, so far as I am personally concerned, to say anything more about Home Rule. I intend to go back quietly to Ireland and organise and prepare for the worst, not in the least hoping for the best, and to use arguments that I hope in the future will be somewhat stronger than amendments and resolutions. I think the noble Viscount knows and understands what I mean. There are many people in Ireland who are quite determined to resist the matter to the utmost. After all, that is a straightforward and fighting policy to take up, and it is one that will commend itself, I think, to the noble Marquess beside me, and to those who live in the North of Ireland. Ulster is pretty strong and determined yet, and those who live in the scattered parts in the South are going to help all they can to support Ulster in this old fight against separation from this country in any shape or form.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I have the honour to be an Irish landlord at the present moment—I hope not altogether an absentee one—and I can assure noble Lords behind me that I fully sympathise with them, and as far as I may be allowed to work in co-operation with them I shall do so to the best of my power. But I am anxious that any observations I make to your Lordships' House tonight shall be on the Bill before us as a whole, because I think it would be a misfortune if it went forth that the debate we are now carrying on was only a Home Rule debate. I only mention Home Rule in order to protest as strongly as I can against a doctrine which has been enunciated not for the first time in this House—the doctrine laid down by the noble Viscount opposite, that as the Opposition had given a certain amount of prominence to the Home Rule question it must therefore be assumed to have been before the electorate. It is perfectly true that we did refer to it on many occasions. I did myself—not altogether, I admit, very successfully—as I felt that I was to some extent put into a difficult position. I might recall that at a meeting which I held an interrupter got up, when I was referring to the question of Home Rule, and said— 149I have every reason to believe that you are not a particularly untruthful person, and I would ask you; Can you honestly say that the question of Home Rule is before us when not a Liberal candidate within miles of where you are sitting has mentioned it in his election address?I admit that was a very difficult argument to deal with, and the man himself—he was only an ordinary individual—afterwards told me—Yon know as well as I do that Home Rule has not really been placed before the country at this election. There are thousands of us who object strongly to your fiscal policy but who have a stronger objection still to Home Rule, and though we are going to vote for the present Government on account of your fiscal policy, if we thought for one moment that Home Rule was going to be put forward by them we should give our votes to you.That, I have no doubt, was repeated in thousands of instances, and I take this opportunity of protesting most strongly against the doctrine that because the Opposition warned the country of the effects of legislation of this character that proves that Home Rule has been considered by the country at large.
I would like to make reference to a remarkable statement which fell from the noble Viscount in regard to subsection (a) of the Amendment of my noble friend. The Amendment, as your Lordships all know, affects the question of the Crown and the Protestant succession. The noble Viscount brought forward as a reason that it was not necessary to put this in the Bill, that no Parliament was ever likely to do such a thing in the future. That is an argument which we on this side cannot accept. We have to be prepared for every possible contingency or emergency that may occur, and, as noble Lords opposite never cease from reminding us we have now got fixed and stereotyped relations existing between the two Houses. This is not solely a question affecting the House of Lords. It affects the Commons; it affects the electorate of the country; and as such, particularly on a question affecting the existence of the Crown and the Protestant succession, we should be especially careful to avoid bringing the Sovereign's name in at all. The noble Viscount said, and of course historically and constitutionally we accept his authority—and I believe that constitutionally and historically he is correct—that it would be constitutional for the Sovereign to dismiss his Ministers on any question 150 affecting the Crown or affecting the succession. But to have had that used by a member of the present Government, which relies, or professes to rely on the deliberate opinion of the country—to say, "Our defence of the existence of the Crown or the Protestant succession rests upon the possibility of the Sovereign himself taking action in this matter—
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
If so, let me take up that interruption. The Government obviously must rely on the House of Commons, and if a Minister introduces a Bill affecting the existence of the Crown or the Protestant succession is it possible to assume for one moment that the Sovereign's Ministers would give him advice contrary to that which they are giving to the House of Commons? It would be utterly impossible for a Minister to give advice of one character to the House of Commons and advise his Sovereign to the contrary. I venture to say that at this period of our history, having heard such a doctrine from such an authority as the noble Viscount, we have some right to make a protest against the exclusion of this subsection on the ground that it would be the prerogative of the Sovereign to be able to dismiss his Ministers and consult the people on the matter personally. After all, a fundamental difference exists between those on the Bench opposite and noble Lords on this side of the House. Noble Lords opposite appear to imagine that as soon as an individual is elected a member of the House of Commons he at once, and for all time he may serve there, is blessed with a species of superhuman ability. I trust that I shall never be one who would in any way speak disrespectfully of an institution in which I had the privilege and honour of serving and for which I have feelings of profound respect, but I do venture to say that noble Lords opposite are sometimes inclined to add too great a value to the mere fact that a man serves in the House of Commons.
151 The noble Viscount opposite constantly reminds us that we must not diminish the privileges of the House of Commons. As far as I am aware, no suggestion of that sort has ever been made from these Benches. Certainly there are many of us who would not hesitate for one moment to sever our connection with our Party if we thought that any such attack was made, or intended to be made, on the privileges of the House of Commons. What we are anxious to do is to be able to help and assist members of the House of Commons by furnishing them with the means and opportunity of gathering more directly than they can to-day what the direct opinion of the country is on these great subjects. We must all admit, I think with some feelings of alarm, that the efficiency of our Parliamentary machine is in considerable danger, and that it will be still more endangered by this Bill many of us feel certain. I am not now speaking of the efficiency of this House, but with reference to the House of Commons itself. The inevitable effect of this Bill being passed in anything like its present form will be to cram alt immense amount of legislation into the first two years of the existence of any Parliament.
Though it is not altogether germane to this Amendment, I confess I heard with some alarm last night the refusal of the Government to consider the Amendment which was moved by Lord Malmesbury with reference to the use of the closure and the guillotine and the various other methods which are commonly employed for the expedition of business in the House of Commons. Those methods will increase, I am confident, as the legislation grows during the first two years of a Parliament. We are bound to see much legislation hurried through in the first two years of any Parliament in order that it may be ready to comply with the provisions of this Bill. That makes it more necessary than ever that every effort should be made to obtain what is the well-considered verdict of the country upon many of these matters. Many of us welcome these proposals by which great Constitutional questions can be removed from the operation of this Bill, not because they are big Constitutional questions, but in order that they may be referred deliberately and seriatim to the judgment of the country, if it is so desired. But as a matter of fact the mere existence of this machinery would probably act in 152 the way of preventing Bills being introduced unless the Government had reason to believe that they would commend themselves to the majority of the country. As it is now, Bills not always very well considered and involving great issues are brought in and hurried through. Occasionally they are rejected by your Lordships' House, but often they are not. I sat for twenty days this session on a committee in order to attempt to ascertain what was the intention of Parliament in an Act which it passed twenty years ago. The Bill was hurried through to some extent, but, so far as we could find, there was no deliberate intention on the part of the Government of that day of creating the evils which subsequently arose out of it. That shows the inadvisability of hurried legislation, and I can only hope that the Government will hold out a helping hand and enable us to do something. not only to make this Bill more workable, but—and this is a matter to which we attach infinitely more importance—to improve the efficiency and the good working of the whole of our Parliamentary machine.
§ [The sitting was suspended at a quarter to eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
My Lords, the great hostility with which we Unionists in Ireland regard this Parliament Bill in its present form is largely caused by the fact that we look upon it simply as a machine created at the instigation of Mr. Redmond to ensure him securing Home Rule for Ireland without the will of the people first being expressed upon it. It is all very well for noble Lords opposite to continue to say that the opinion of the people was expressed on Home Rule at the last General Election, in spite of what has already been said by noble Lords on this side of the House. True it is that we did our best at the last General Election to try to show the people that Home Rule was in danger of being forced through by the present Government, but at the same time we found it very hard to make them believe that fact when there was no mention of Home Rule, as has already been said, in the election addresses of the Party of noble Lords opposite. We therefore welcome this Amendment of the noble Marquess, as it will at all events guard us against the very obvious injustice of having Home Rule forced upon us without 153 the people first being allowed to pronounce upon it, an event which we believe would bring disaster to our native country—disaster which would shake the very foundations on which the British Empire has been built.
So obvious, indeed, is this injustice of forcing Home Rule upon us and disfranchising the British electorate on the matter of Home Rule, and so unconstitutional, that I do not believe even the present Government would attempt to do it if they were their own masters in the matter, though as far as the Constitution is concerned it appears to me that the Government regard it very much in the same light as a small boy would regard a new watch—namely, as something to be pulled to pieces and broken up. But we know very well that they are not their own masters in the matter. We in Ireland know that our interests are being sacrificed and heavy burdens of taxation imposed upon us, simply that Mr. Redmond may be handed down to posterity as the man who obtained Home Rule for Ireland; and we know that he has every intention of seeing that the Government carry out his wishes in the matter. Mr. Redmond has been trying for some time past to smooth the path of the Government by allaying their fears and the fears of the British people. as to what would be the ultimate result of Home Rule. He has told them, and told the people in this country, that Home Rule means loyalty to the Crown, a strengthened Empire, and fair play and toleration to minorities. I have no doubt that it is very convenient for noble Lords opposite and their Party to believe these sentiments, as it soothes for the moment those fears which I believe they really possess at the bottom of their hearts as to the ultimate success of Home Rule. But it would be well for them to ascertain first if these sentiments are backed up by the people in Ireland whom Mr. Redmond and the Nationalist Party pretend to represent.
Mr. Redmond states that Home Rule means loyalty to the Crown. Yet it is a very curious fact that his own constituents in Waterford held a large meeting on May 21 to protest against the addresses of welcome which were being drawn up to be presented to His Majesty the King on his approaching visit to Ireland; and also we find in the speech of an Irish Member 154 of Parliament at a large demonstration held in Dublin on Coronation Day words to this effect—King George of England was a foreigner, and with his personality, if he had such a thing, no Nationalist was concerned.The rest of his remarks I would particularly commend to noble Lords opposite, for I am sure they will appreciate them. He said—For them in Ireland he was only a figure-head of that guilty institution of clever and unscrupulous men called the British Government.Again, Mr. Redmond spoke at Woodford on May 27 and said that Home Rule meant a closer union. "It is not a weakening," he said, "but a strengthening of the Empire." Yet we find that a significant resolution was proposed at a large meeting in Dublin, at which I may mention a letter of apology, or a. telegram I think it was, was read from no less a person than Mr. William Redmond. The resolution reads as follows—Resolved, that the right of Ireland to have government solely by the people of Ireland is inalienable, and that no man can fix a boundary to the progress of Ireland's Nationhood.And yet Mr. Redmond declares that he is not a separatist! The resolution goes on—And further resolved, That we rejoice at the success of all sections of our fellow-countrymen in the United States to oppose any alliance between that country and Great Britain—a proposal equally inimical to the peace of the United States and the liberties of Ireland.We find that resolution supported by a man called Dr. McCarten, who used these words—England's greatest enemy to-day was Germany, and Irishmen, if they were active enough, could have the co-operation of Germany if things developed as they were going at the present time.Yet Home Rule means a closer union! It is not a weakening but a strengthening of the Empire! Just to complete that ceremony and to show how much closer the Union would be under Home Rule, they finished, as they have done so often recently, by burning the Union Jack.
I am sorry to weary your Lordships with quotations, but they are necessary to show how Mr. Redmond's remarks in this country are interpreted by the Home Rule party in Ireland. Mr. Redmond tells us—he is loud, in fact, in his protestations 155 —that Home Rule means fair-play and toleration to minorities. He is quite hurt when we in Ireland do not believe him, and yet at the same time he remains chairman of a League which is expressly organised to defy the forces of law and order in this country. That League tyrannises over and terrorises those peaceful and law-abiding citizens who prefer to obey the law of the land rather than to obey the law of the United Irish League. Mr. Redmond said—Let them ask for any legislative safeguards they like, and he would accept them.Perhaps noble Lords opposite will notice that he does not think the people have any right to a say in the matter at all. It is Mr. Redmond alone who has the power to grant us these safeguards. There is only one safeguard that we in Ireland require, and that is the safeguard which we have at the present moment—namely, the Act of the Union. We have no intention of ever allowing ourselves to be separated from this country. Loyalty to the Throne, fair-play to minorities, and the strengthening of the Empire is what we are told Home Rule means. Yet we find a Major McBride, of South African fame, but who, mark you, at the present moment is a favourite protegé of the Redmondite Corporation of Dublin—we find him being received with loud applause by a large Nationalist gathering in Dublin when he declared—They should strike how they might and when they might against the Throne and the cursed British Empire, and for the freedom of Ireland.Is it any wonder that we in Ireland decline to believe a man whose protestations are so inconsistently carried out by the Home Rule Party in Ireland? But most of all is Mr. Redmond anxious to try to persuade the people in this country that there is no Ulster question. I have noticed also that members of the Party opposite, whenever they did mention Home Rule on an election platform, which was but seldom, tried to dismiss the Ulster question by saying that the Ulster opposition was confined only to a small band of Orange bigots. I am an Ulster man and I am also an Orangeman, and I emphatically deny that Orangemen are either few in numbers or bigots.
The guiding principle of Orangeism is to uphold the civil and religious rights of 156 all men, irrespective of their party or their creed. But the greatest mistake that is made is to say that the opposition in Ireland is confined to Orangemen. Orangemen are doubtless there, well disciplined, well organised, and ready to perform any duties that may become necessary in the disastrous event of Home Rule ever becoming law. As regards the number of the Orangemen, I would like to say that perhaps the best way for noble Lords opposite and their Party to ascertain them would be for them to come over to Ireland on the coming July 12 and see for themselves the numbers of Orangemen at the various county meetings that will be held, and also see for themselves the completeness of their organisation and their stern determination never to have Home Rule. But the opposition to Home Rule in Ulster, and indeed all over Ireland, is of a far wider scope. It embraces all creeds and parties, who are now banding themselves together to show their determination not to allow Home Rule to become law, and in the event of its becoming law to resist it to the utmost of their power. This is rapidly being brought to light in the case of the public at large by the formation or the restarting of Unionist clubs in Ireland. Not only is it false to say that there is no Ulster question, but the Ulster question is as burning to-day as it ever has been in the past, and if one of the real reasons of the Government for opposing the Amendment of the noble Marquess is to smuggle a Home Rule Bill through Parliament without first consulting the electorate, then they will end in plunging a part of the United Kingdom into a state of turmoil, strife, and bloodshed, if not indeed an actual state of civil war.
These may be very serious sentiments to bring forward, but I am sure noble Lords who come from Ulster will support me when I say they are uttered in all solemnity and with some knowledge of the preparations which are now going quietly forward in Ulster to resist Home Rule, and, in the event of its becoming law, to refuse to acknowledge any Parliament which may be set up in College Green, or to obey its laws, or pay its taxes. My Lords, I will not detain you at any greater length, but I will say, in conclusion, that if the Government cannot cast off the yoke which now binds them and break away from the line which I am sure by this time they are very sorry to be toeing, they will 157 bring to pass a great national evil which will involve them in a disaster far greater to themselves than the one they are now trying to avert, of being turned out of office by 70 odd Irish votes which they have bought at so humiliating and so grave a price.
§ LORD FABER
My Lords, I listened this afternoon with very great interest indeed to the speech delivered by the noble Viscount who leads this House, a speech made in answer to the closely reasoned and very conciliatory speech of the noble Marquess who leads this side of the House. Perhaps what interested me most in the whole of the noble Viscount's speech was the answer he gave to that important question which was raised in the first paragraph of Lord Lansdowne's Amendment—I mean that paragraph which asks if the Crown and Prerogatives of the Crown are to be interfered with without an appeal to the people of this country. The answer the noble Viscount made to that question so far as I could gather it—and there is a good deal in it—was that if the people of this country have made up their minds on such a subject as that an agreement between the two Parties in this House would not be of much avail, because it would be swept away. The noble Viscount then went on to deprecate the possibility of such an idea being entertained by the present House of Commons and the people of this country. I confess at once that until the last few months I should have agreed thoroughly with the opinion expressed by the noble Viscount on that point. But lately I have taken the opportunity, in an educational sense, of reading some of the out-and-out Socialistic newspapers of the day. All I can say is that there are writings in them of a kind that I had no idea of at all, and if the noble Viscount can spare a little time to read those newspapers I venture to say he will be thunderstruck by some of the articles he will find in them. I hope he will endeavour to do so, because I tell him quite frankly that what I gathered came upon me in a new light altogether, and I have learnt a great deal since I began to read those newspapers. The noble Viscount's remarks lead me to wonder whether we do enough to try to educate the masses of this country. Are we to try to educate them, or are we trying to keep the people of this country quiet by what I would call a system of bribes and 158 doles? Are we resorting to the panis et circenses of the great Roman Empire of Old days? We all know what the result of that process was in those days, and if we rely on doles to the people I do not know what as a nation we shall become in the future.
The old-age pension system in a certain sense, and also the recently introduced national insurance scheme, may both be described as doles. Of course, there is a great deal of good, as well as a great deal that one must admire, both in the old-age pension system and in the newer insurance scheme. The blot on the old-age pension scheme, as was pointed out in this House when it was under discussion, is that it was not made contributory, and therefore to a great extent does away with thrift, because a man who is of a saving disposition up to the age of sixty is faced with the drawback that if he goes on saving up for another ten years he does not come in for the old-age pension given by the Government when a person reaches seventy years of age. It seems to me that lately we have been inclined to try to find out who are the saving people, the hard-working people, the people with brains, who by reason of their virtues and their industry have been able to amass a certain amount of money. We then in some degree proceed, by means of such things as Death Duties, Super-Tax, and so forth, to take away from people who have been hard-working all their lives some of their carefully accumulated means, and give that money to people who have not worked so hard, to people who have no brains, and in some cases—and I am glad of these—to people who are afflicted by misfortune. I am afraid, however, that the number of unfortunate people who benefit by the money taken away from the hard-working and saving members of the community is very few. Now that we are getting to the end, as it appears to me, of the possible doles, I should like to know what will happen when we have nothing more to offer. Shall we be at the top of that slippery slope that we sometimes hear of? When the people get on that slippery slope will their leaders, however daring they may be, however intelligent and however desirous of stopping a fall, be able to save them? I would point out that at any rate the history of nations does not teach us that they would be able to do so, and I am afraid if we rely upon doles and such 159 things instead of upon education we may get into a very parlous condition.
The next question the noble Marquess asked was that relating to the setting up of an Irish Parliament. Was the proposal of the Government to establish a separate Parliament for Ireland to be submitted to the people of this country before being passed into law? The noble Viscount took up the position that he did not think that was necessary, because in his opinion during the last two elections, at any rate, the Irish question had been fully before the constituencies. In the election at the beginning of the year 1910 I had the opportunity—an opportunity I was very glad to take—of attending some big mass meetings in some of the largest towns in Yorkshire, and I can say for certain that in January, 1910, the Irish question was not before the constituencies in the true sense. I cannot answer for the election at the end of the year 1910, because I did, not take much part in it, as I was not in good health at the time and was not able to do so. But I repeat that my experience was that at the beginning of 1910 the Irish question was not before the constituencies. I would ask the noble Viscount whether lie thinks that many of these big questions that come before us in Parliament are thoroughly understood by the constituencies. The ordinary voter is a man of few brains who has about 25s. a week and several children to keep. He has not much room to think of anything but money and money's worth, which is food. He has not room for much patriotism and the higher politics. Let me put it in another way. Does the noble Viscount think, for instance, that the constituencies generally—and I would take voters from the highest to the lowest on this question—understand the true inwardness and importance of pensions?
We have heard all over the country from Mr. Lloyd George, who brought in the Old-Age Pensions Act, which I agree is a good Act, that the cost is £13,000,000. It is nothing of the sort. It is £13,000,000 per year, which is a very different thing, because it means, if capitalised, £400,000,000 at least. I very much doubt, if you were to put a straight question to 99 out of every 100 voters, whether they would understand the magnitude of the old-age pension scheme. They would 160 merely say that the cost was £13,000,000. When the ordinary man in the street speaks of the way in which all gilt-edged Stocks, Consols and so forth, are falling he does not appreciate that this is one of the great reasons for the decline. I say again that the cost is not £13,000,000, but £13,000,000 per year, and an annuity of £13,000,000 would cost about £450,000,000. It is such big schemes as these that upset the finances of the country. If the Insurance Bill introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is passed into law it may cost another £300,000,000 or £400,000,000 when put into proper shape. That would mean no less than £800,000,000 for those two schemes if we regard the cost in the light of an annuity purchase. This makes me wonder whether electors in this country, especially in big towns, where people are not so highly educated and have not an opportunity of learning these things, quite know what they are voting about. Is it fair to say that on a question such as Home Rule, and other questions equally interesting, they knew what they were voting for in the last two elections? I doubt it. It would be very much better if they had an opportunity of saying what their mind is about such a big question as Irish Home Rule.
The noble Viscount holds out no olive branch to us, and I am sorry for it. I am the more sorry because I fully believe he would like to do so, and I have always thought so. I know there are difficulties in the way of that. He dislikes the Committee that is to be proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, because he says—and I think he made a point there—that if we appoint a Committee and just at the time of a General Election the Committee comes into play, its opinion might override that of the electors who had just elected Members to Parliament. I think, from my point of view at any rate, there is something in that point. What I would say is this. It occurs to me that the Irish Bill is the crux of the question. If we knew what the Irish Bill which the Government intends to bring in would be, if we thought it was going to be a fair Bill, having regard on the one hand to the desire of Ireland for a certain amount of Home Rule, and, on the other hand, to the natural desire in this country not to give doles amounting to many millions of pounds a year to Ireland if they want to have a separate entity of their own, speaking for myself 161 alone I think we might come to a possible arrangement on the Irish question. If we came to an arrangement on the Irish question on fair lines we should then, to use a Yorkshire phrase, be "up against" the House of Lords question. We might very easily settle that by agreement between the two Parties, and then, and only then, should we escape from the one-Chamber government which is threatening us. One-Chamber government if it comes will last for some years at any rate, and from all points of view will bring nothing but disaster to this country.
§ THE EARL OF CLANWILLIAM
My Lords, in supporting the Amendment of the noble Marquess I wish to confine my remarks to that part of the question which deals with Home Rule, and I wish to add my protest to that of the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, against the remark which fell from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack the other day, that the opposition to Home Rule was weakening. So far as my knowledge goes, the opposition to Home Rule is growing in intensity day by day and hour by hour, certainly in Ireland, which, after all, is the country which is most concerned in the question. The opposition to Home Rule, I believe, arises from two factors. The first is the fear of religious persecution—fear which is not based on any hypothetical cases which may arise in the future, but on facts which have actually taken place in the past, which must be fresh in the memories of your Lordships, and which are certainly ever present to the minds of the Loyalists who live in Ireland. The other factor is the fear that those who assume the reins of government in Ireland under the Home Rule Bill will raise taxes which will be unjust and ruinous to the Loyalists and to the manufacturers.
Home Rule has not been a live interest of late years. Since 1893 it has not occupied a very prominent position on electioneering platforms, and if you do not talk to electors at election time about a subject which, perhaps, does not actually affect them at the moment, they are very apt to forget all about it. Since 1893, moreover, a new generation has arisen to whom Home Rule is practically unknown, and who do not understand the misery and the ruin which it would entail if it were introduced. But if Home Rule were made a clear issue again I am quite 162 sure that the result would be the same as it has always been, and that it would be rejected by the electors of this country. Therefore I think it is all the more important that Home Rule should be made a clear issue, and I must confess I would have preferred an Amendment which dealt with Home Rule alone and did not mix it up with other matters. That would have made it a perfectly clear issue before the electors. It would also have forced the Government's hand. It would have shown what was their real intention, which, I believe, is simply to use this Parliament Bill as a shield to home Rule. I regret, therefore, that we have not been able to do so. I understand that the Amendment which stands in the name of the, noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, next to this on the Paper—Page 2, line 33, after ("sessions") insert ("Provided further that the provisions of this Act shall not apply to a Bill to establish a separate Parliament and Executive for Ireland.")is ruled out of order, and if that is the case I think it is all the more essential that some safeguard such as is provided in this Amendment should be introduced into this Bill. It would be very unjust to the electors of this country that any Home Rule at the present time should be rushed through, as I expect it would be under this Parliament Bill, before the electors of this country have had an opportunity of understanding what a Home Rule Bill would mean, and of studying and examining it. As I have said before, it is new to a great many of them, and it would be very unfair to Loyalists in Ireland, whose lives would not be worth living and whose property would be confiscated under a Home Rule Bill.
I do not believe this Parliament Bill would ever have seen the light of day if it had not been for Home Rule. Noble Lords opposite are never weary of telling your Lordships that the real reason for this Parliament Bill is that your Lordships had the temerity to refer the Budget of 1909 to the electors. They are always ready to talk about the will of the people, and yet somehow or other when an attempt is made to put it into practice they seem to take rather a different view of the matter. But, of course, His Majesty's Government are not their own masters. They cannot do what they want, and they are hampered by their own supporters. Who, my Lords, are the real obstructionists of their policy, 163 and who have been for years the true obstructionists of Liberal legislation?—not your Lordships' House but the Nationalist Members of Parliament, these so-called supporters who must be satisfied one way or another, and the one way by which His Majesty's Government propose to satisfy them to-day is by giving them a Home Rule Measure. In 1909 His Majesty's Government found themselves in the same predicament. They had to placate another section of their supporters, and in deference to the wishes and demands of the Labour Party they passed the Budget of 1909. To-day they propose to placate another section of their Party by passing a Home Rule Bill, and this Parliament Bill, my Lords, I believe to be nothing more or less than a cloak to Home Rule.
I would like to ask His Majesty's Government a question with reference to the subject of taxes in Ireland—namely, how they propose to improve the present state of prosperity in Ireland. Where is the money to come from? They can only raise taxes in the country, and the field of taxation is, after all, a very limited one. They can either tax a few people who have got a certain amount of money in the country, or the manufacturers. That must come to a very speedy end. Do His Majesty's Government propose that under a Home Rule measure they should empower a Home Rule Government to institute a tariff between Ireland and England? I do not see how they are going to raise their money in Ireland. The manufacturers would soon be ruined by extra taxation, and if they propose to allow a tariff to be raised, that tariff would very soon kill every industry in Ireland. It would be very interesting if His Majesty's Government would enlighten us in any way as to how this question of finance is to be carried out. Is the whole of the onus of taxation to be thrown on the English taxpayer? It is commonly said that it would cost the taxpayer another 3½ millions sterling a year to carry through a Home Rule Bill, and, there is a rumour that it would cost 6¼ or 6½ millions sterling, which capitalised is a sum of 200 millions. Is that what it is to cost to placate one section of His Majesty's Government's supporters in another place? It would be very interesting if we could be informed on this matter. After all, it has a direct bearing on the question, not only so far as people in Ireland are concerned, but so 164 far as people in this country are concerned. I think that if they pass this Parliament Bill His Majesty's Government will be in a fair way to ruin Ireland, just as they are at the present moment in a fair way to ruin England by their Budget of 1909.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, in his address this evening the noble Viscount who leads the Government in this House stated that no member of your Lordships' House was in a position to speak for the great majority of the people of Ireland. I believe the noble Viscount meant that no member of your Lordships' House was qualified by his previous political experience and knowledge of affairs to assume that position.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
The noble Lord is entirely in error. I never said that nobody in the House was better qualified than I am to speak for the people of Ireland, or knew more of them. What. I said, and adhere to, is that nobody knows better than I do, and has had better opportunity of knowing, the difficulty of constructing a Home Rule Bill.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I think the noble Viscount is labouring under a misapprehension of what I say. I understand the noble Viscount to have said that no member of your Lordships' House was competent, from political experience and knowledge of Ireland, to represent properly the feelings of the majority of the Irish people.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I must then beg the noble Viscount's pardon. I was going on to say that I could claim no such qualification to speak for the people of Ireland, but that I am an Irishman by birth, by extraction, and by sympathy, that I have had in recent years much experience of Irish affairs, and that I think these credentials entitle me to speak on behalf of my fellow-countrymen and my co-religionists on this important matter. I feel at the same time that I am trespassing upon your Lordships' indulgence because I have a consciousness that, according to the strict rules of order, I am not entitled to address you in the way that I propose to do; but as the noble Marquess, Lord 165 Londonderry, has made what one might call a Second Reading speech on a Home Rule Bill, and has given forth to the country his special views upon the Irish question, I feel myself bound to take the earliest opportunity available of explaining what my views are upon these points.
The noble Marquess began his speech—at all events I shall venture to take up this point first—with an estimate of the character of the Irish Parliament, and he quoted Lecky with the object of showing that that Parliament fulfilled none of the objects or purposes which a Parliament Wright be expected to fulfil. I was greatly astonished that any noble Lord should venture to pass such a criticism on Grattan's Parliament as we have heard to-night from the noble Marquess, because the facts of history are patent, and since the publication of Lecky's great book they are known to a very large audience indeed. May I read from the second volume one or two extracts which will show the noble Marquess bow utterly mistaken he has been in his appreciation of that Parliament. In regard to law and order, which the noble Marquess stated were not preserved in those days, I find on page 493 the following passage—The roads,' said one traveller, are almost invariably excellent. The inns are furnished with every accommodation that a traveller not too fastidious can require. … Travelling is perfectly secure. … Footpads, robberies, and highwaymen are seldom heard of except in the vicinity of Dublin.' The splendour of the capital was indeed out of all proportion to the wealth of the country; but it at the same time indicated clearly an increasing industrial activity.Lecky goes on to state—page 494—the condition of things at that time—In 1790 Sir John Parnell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated in Parliament that it was his pride and his happiness to declare that he did not think it possible for any nation to have improved more in her circumstances since 1784.'That was said in 1790, during the time of the Irish Parliament; and further on I find that Lord Clare is quoted as having made these remarks—I am bold to say there is not a nation on the habitable globe which has advanced in cultivation and commerce, in agriculture and in manufactures, with the same rapidity in the same period.And the last quotation I will give is a statement made by Cooke, who was the Under-Secretary of the time, of the Union. This is what he said— 166What is meant by a firm and steady administration? Does it Imam such an administration as tends to the increase of the nation in population; its advancement in agriculture, in manufactures, in wealth, and prosperity? If that is intended, we have had the experience of it these twenty years; for it is universally admitted that no country in the world has made such rapid advances as Ireland has done in these respects.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
May I ask the noble Lord whether there were no less than 54 Coercion Bills passed in that time?
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
Those are details I have had no opportunity to look up. I have only had a slight opportunity since the adjournment of looking up the subject; but if on matters on which the noble Marquess has made certain definite statements I find, on the authority of Lecky, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Under-Secretary of the day, that those statements are not accurate, I think I may fairly infer that if I were able to make further inquiries I should find more inaccuracies in the noble Marquess's statements.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
The noble Lord has not replied to my query whether there were not 54 Coercion Bills.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I am unable to reply, but I will make inquiries on the point, and I have no doubt I shall find some inaccuracy in the noble Marquess's statement. I now come to the question of finance. The noble Marquess has stated that a Parliament could not be run in Ireland because Ireland is in a bankrupt condition. What authority has he for saving that? The only authority he can appeal to are the financial figures produced by the Treasury. These figures show that two or three years ago the Irish revenue collected in Ireland was 11¼ millions, while the expenditure in Ireland was well under 10 millions. During the last two or three years, as we all know, certain irregularities have occurred in the collection of the revenues owing to the rejection of the Budget by your Lordships' House. Within the last two years there has been shown in the statements of the Treasury a certain deficit, but that matter is now under inquiry by the Committee appointed to look into the matter, and the conclusions of that Committee should not be forestalled or anticipated by any statements one way or the other. If I were to hazard 167 a statement I should be inclined to say that it will be found by careful inquiry that the income and the expenditure of Ireland, even taking into account the payment of old age pensions, would come out about equal.
But, my Lords, I take this point of view in Irish finance. Under the Act amalgamating the two Treasuries, the taxation and the expenditure in Ireland were made indiscriminate—that is to say, taxation was to be at the same rate as in Great Britain, while there was to be no restriction of Irish expenditure to Irish revenue. Irish expenditure was to be regulated, not in accordance with the income from Irish taxation, but in accordance with the necessities of the Irish situation. Under the Act uniting the two Treasuries Ireland is entitled, if the necessity of her situation requires, to have, let us say, 12 millions spent upon her, even though only 9 millions or S millions is collected from her. From the time of the Union of the two Treasuries up to the present time the collection of revenue from Ireland has been, roughly, about 550 millions sterling. Of that amount more than one-half has been contributed to England, and less than one-half has been spent upon Ireland. Those figures show that, even if Ireland was in deficit at the present time, regard should be had to the amount she had contributed to Great Britain, and the deficit should be made up with no degree of stinginess. The noble Lord referred to the great increase of deposits in Irish savings' banks. There is another aspect to that matter. Has the noble Lord ever asked himself why is it that the deposits in savings' banks have increased so enormously, while the interest paid upon those deposits is only two or two and a-half per cent. Does it not suggest that there is in the minds of the Irish people some suspicion or mistrust attaching to the existing Irish Government. Does it not suggest that if another method of administration were introduced in Ireland that money would be invested in more paying securities? That, at all events, is the view which I take of the situation.
But there is another aspect of the debate to-night. We have heard a good deal of the "loyal minority," and we have heard a good deal of the oppression and the spoliation to which the "loyal minority" would be exposed in case Home Rule were introduced in Ireland. The "loyal 168 minority" suggests that there must be a disloyal majority, and underlying the speeches I have heard to-night three principles were apparent. One is that the majority in Ireland are disloyal to the Throne; the second is that if the majority were in power they would oppress and despoil the minority; and the third, which some noble Lords have suggested rather than uttered, is that Irishmen do not want Home Rule as much as they did. Now, my Lords, not one statement has been made to-night which was not based on one or others of these principles. Not one other argument has been used, unless indeed we may count as an argument the aspersions which noble Lords have thrown so freely to-night upon the Irish political loaders. This last argument I may clear out of my way by saying that in all great political movements history takes small account of the criticisms of political partisans upon their political opponents, and I do not think on this occasion I need forestall or anticipate the verdict of history upon that matter.
In regard to the argument that the Irish majority are disloyal to the Throne, I respectfully submit to this House the following considerations. In recent years the veil which had hung for so long over the true facts of Irish history has been largely withdrawn, and one can now see more clearly than before what is true and what is false. From that fuller knowledge I venture to affirm that after the early days of the Plantagenet dynasty—certainly after it had ceased—the Irish people as a people never revolted against their English King, although they frequently revolted against the executants of his Government in Ireland. There is no more severe critic of the Irish and of Ireland than Froude, and this is what he says about Irish resistance to Dublin Castle Rule up to the end of the 17th Century—If the Irish were left with their lands, their laws, and their creed, their chiefs were willing to acknowledge their English Sovereign; the Irish were not to be blamed if they looked to the Pope, to Spain, to France, to any friend on earth or in heaven to deliver them from a power which discharged no single duty that rulers owe to their subjects.That is Froude's judgment on English domination in Ireland up to the 17th century, and that judgment is confirmed by Edmund Burke in his letter to Sir Hercules Langreshe. Coming to later times, the impartial and well-informed Lecky 169 tells us that this general charge of disloyalty was not true in the 18th century, and not even true in 1798, when parts of Ireland rose in rebellion.
My Lords, the Irish were loyal to Charles I. They were loyal to James II, although he was personally not very deserving of their loyalty. They were loyal to the House of Hanover. This is what Lecky says about their loyalty at that time—More than eighty years had now passed by since any act of rebellion or conspiracy or political turbulence had been proved against Catholics in Ireland. They had maintained an absolute, unbroken tranquillity during the Scotch rebellion of 1715, during the expedition organised against the house of Hanover by Alberoni in 1719, during tile great rebellion of 1745, during the long and desperate war that terminated in 1763, and amid all the complications that had since arisen.The next King who came to Ireland was George IV, and him the Irish received in a manner which we all know. Coming to our own days, do we not remember the affectionate greeting which was given to Queen Victoria when, after a period of 50 years, she visited Ireland, which had greatly longed for her presence before? And those who among us witnessed the reception given to King Edward and Queen Alexandra, not only in the great centres of population, but in the remotest districts of Connaught, could not fail to perceive that the Irish people were loyal to their King. I have to ask your Lordships' pardon for inflicting these details upon you, but when I find reference made by noble Lords to the "loyal minority" I wish once for all to point out that the suggestion that there is a disloyal majority is not true or in accordance with the facts of history.
I pass on to the second point—namely, that the Irish Roman Catholics would oppress the minority if they had the power. The only occasion on which the Irish majority had power and control in Ireland was in the reign of James II during the Parliament of 1689. I can only appeal to Lecky, who gives an impartial and fair account of how the Irish Roman Catholic Members of that Parliament acted, for proof that religious animosity and racial antagonism have no great influence over the Irish race. The animosities of the seventeenth century are now a distant memory. The root and foundation of the quarrel between England and Ireland was the oppression associated with the occupation of land. From the 170 beginning of England's connection with Ireland down to the present time, the entire stream of Irish discontent can be traced to that one source. No attempt was ever made to remedy Irish grievances on that point until the Government of Mr. Gladstone in 1870 took the matter in hand, and since then I am glad to say there has been a gradual improvement. The principles of land settlement have been laid down, and although those principles are being very slowly carried into practice, they must work out to their ultimate conclusion; and that being so, I submit that statesmanship mid commonsense dictate that the Protestants and Catholics should be no longer kept apart, but that they should be allowed in co-operation with each other to learn those lessons of self respect, self-reliance, and toleration which one is so competent to teach the other.
I find, from my experience of Irish life, no substantial reason for the fear which noble Lords express that the majority would oppress or despoil the minority. It is a remarkable circumstance that these expressions of fear do not come from those provinces in which the Catholics are in a vast majority, but we always hear them from Ulster, in which the Catholic and the Protestant populations are nearly equal. The fear, where it exists, I trace in my own mind to a sort of consciousness that the harsh treatment which Roman Catholics received in the past might impel Roman Catholics in the present to acts of retribution. That I think is bad psychology. But it goes against self-interest. I believe that the line of cleavage in an Assembly in College Green would be entirely different from a religious line of cleavage, and that it would follow a very much more healthy and beneficial line. And I believe that this would be greatly promoted if, by a system of proportional representation, all parties in every province were enabled at the polls to make their voices effectively heard.
No one is more ready than I am to admit the great advantages that have come from remedial legislation, and I admit that the Irish people have been drawn closer to England by such Acts as the Local Government and the Agricultural Departmental Acts, the Act of 1903, the Old Age Pensions Act, the Labourers' Cottages Act, and the University Act. But noble Lords completely misrepresent the Irish nature and the facts of Irish life when they assert that the 171 ill-treatment and the misrule of centuries can be removed by a few well-considered measures of law. Those noble Lords are mistaken who can bring themselves to believe that the Irish people's natural desire for self-government is weakened because tardy justice has been done on a few points. Have those noble Lords seen the Irish Registrar-General's last Report? And if they have, do they fully realise the unspeakable tragedy that underlies these words which I quote from that Report—The Returns as quoted and published show that the total number of emigrants, natives of Ireland, who left Irish ports from May 1st, 1855, to the end of December, 1910, amount in the aggregate to 4,187,443.That is a number all but equal to the entire population of the island at the present time.
What will be the verdict of history on an Administration which has such a horrible result as that to show? In vain will you search the pages of history, ancient or modern, for such a result of British or any other administration. And the irony of the situation is this, that noble Lords opposite, the representatives of the "English Garrison," who have carried out that system now come and ask England for an extension of the life of the system which has had such a result. My Lords, I pray that the answer of England will be, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?"
No, my Lords, we know far too much of the Irish administration to weaken in the least degree in our desire for the self-government which now, at long last, seems to be within our reach. I cannot speak for the Irish Parliamentary Party, whom I regard with much sympathy, but whose counsels I have never shared. And perhaps the reason is that I, wishing to benefit Ireland no less than they have looked at this question from the Imperial point of view, from the outside, while they, who have borne the heat and the burden of the day, naturally look at it from the Irish point of view, as it was most natural they should. But now I am disposed to think that we are not so far apart, that in essentials we agree, while I know perfectly well that I am in general agreement with a great body of men—Nationalists and Unionists, Ulstermen, and men from the other three provinces, Catholics and Protestants—who wish to see this question settled in a fair and reasonable way. And in this connection I welcome more than I can say the expression of opinion from such an authority as the noble Lord, Lord Faber, that such a 172 settlement should be considered as one way of approaching the solution of our Constitutional difficulties. While we admit the excellence of some recent laws, we affirm that these laws are not being carried out with the sympathy with which they would be if we ourselves had the control. We challenge the entire fabric of Irish government—that "old-fashioned and complicated organisation," as the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition described it in this House in February, 1905, and an organisation such that, if any of your free Colonies were subjected to it, they would rebel in a year. We know that attention is not paid to questions which intimately concern the well-being of our people. We know that money is being mis-spent while there is a multiplicity of objects on which it could be well spent. We know that our people's children are being badly educated while their fellow children in Great Britain are being well educated. We know also that there is a vast reserve of administrative ability among us which is lying at present untapped and turned to no account. We object to being dragooned by English Departments on matters where our own knowledge is greater than theirs, and our ability to turn that knowledge to use is no less than theirs. We do not ask for the repeal of the Union, nor do we ask for the control or management of, or interference with, any service which is concerned with great affairs of State, or with matters touching the three kingdoms. That we willingly leave to the Imperial Parliament, in which we only ask to be fairly represented as we shall continue to bear our share in all Imperial taxation; and speaking personally for myself, I am willing that Irish finance should be connected with the finance of the Empire in the same intimate and dependent way as the finance of an Indian Province with that of the Indian Empire.
We offer all reasonable guarantees to the minority over and above what I should regard as already sufficient—the guarantee of this all-controlling and predominant Parliament. We maintain that it is in the interests of the Imperial Parliament, which is overweighted with business with which it cannot deal, that the performance of purely local Irish business should devolve upon a subordinate Irish Legislature, which alone can gee to its due performance, and to which, I infer from subsection (b) of the Amendment of the noble Marquess, he would not object if only legislative functions were withheld 173 from it. If I am right in that inference, may perhaps say, in passing that I do not envy the reflections of those who wrecked the Irish Council Bill, because we Irishmen would be in a very different position in Parliament to-day if we could show three years' successful work under that Bill as a reason for giving us larger powers. But, however that may be, we see no reason or justice in your denying to us those opportunities of bettering ourselves which you have granted to the component provinces of the Overseas Dominions. Finally, we think that in the concession of our demand, a demand which is approved by the Parliaments of the Overseas Dominions, in extolling whose good sense and political wisdom you have this last few weeks exhausted the language of praise, will be found, not only a reconciliation of two peoples already too long estranged by evil counsels, but an abatement of Irish hostility abroad and the consolidation and the strengthening of our Empire at home.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord who has just sat down will acquit me of any disrespect for him or his somewhat impassioned argument if I ask leave of your Lordships to recall the debate to the rather larger ground upon which it started this afternoon. At the commencement of our proceedings the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, in a speech which I venture to think for lucidity and moderation and persuasiveness even the noble Marquess has seldom surpassed in this House, submitted certain proposals to your Lordships. Those proposals were made after full consultation with those who usually act with him, and I believe they represent the sense of the large majority of those who sit on this side of the House. They were suggestions to meet dangers by which, if the Bill of his Majesty's Government should become law, we feel this country would be confronted—the danger for instance, that measures of first-class importance may be passed by the present majority, or in future by any majority in the House of Commons, behind the back and without the approval of the people of the country. The noble Marquess is not the only speaker who has called attention to that danger. I am very sorry that I was not fortunate enough to hear the speech of Lord Courtney this afternoon. It was a, remarkable speech, I am told, which might very properly 174 give cause for thought to the occupants of the Front Ministerial Bench. No one is more distinguished for his staunch Liberalism than Lord Courtney, or more willing as a rule to find reasons for supporting His Majesty's advisers, and yet I am told that he described the danger to which have been alluding as grave, and that he said the need for precaution was great. And if such words can emanate from such an authority as Lord Courtney, they at least are worthy of serious and sober attention from those who are forcing through this measure.
When the noble Marquess resumed his scat we had a speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Morley. I hope I am not speaking disrespectfully of that speech if I say that it appeared to me to leave the main argument of the noble Marquess altogether untouched, that it was weak and inconclusive in its criticism of details, and that in its final passages it was obdurate in temper, although it never failed in courtesy of tone. If we had in this country the practice which prevails in France and certain other foreign countries of printing public speeches and placarding them on hoardings, so that they may be read by the electors, I could wish for nothing better than that the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, and the reply of the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, should be so treated and placed side by side.
Now, may I briefly take the propositions of the noble Marquess and the replies given to them by the noble Viscount. The first proposition of the noble Marquess was that any Bill which affects the existence of the Crown or the Protestant succession thereto should not be passed without reference to the people. The justification of such a proposal was obvious. It is this. It rests on the doctrine which all of us willingly agree to, that the Monarchy in this country reposes in the last resort upon the will of the people; that it ought to be surrounded with the fullest securities you can devise; and that no better security can be o provided in the future as in the past than the confidence and support of the majority of the electors. One would have thought that the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, would have found no difficulty in accepting this proposition. He had not a word to say against it, it is true, but all he said was that the House of Commons was not less devoted to the 175 Throne than your Lordships, and that he could not imagine any House of Commons indulging in legislation such as that alluded to in this Amendment. Nor can I at the present time. But, after all, are not noble Lords opposite always telling us that we are legislating now, not for the immediate or present but for the distant future—that they are putting permanent features into the Constitution of this country.
While I am fully prepared to agree with what the noble Viscount said about the existing House of Commons, I cannot forget that there is in existence a powerful body—the Social Democratic Federation—not without representatives in the House of Commons, the main plank of whose platform is the abolition of the Monarchy. I cannot help remembering also that there is an hon. Member in that House possessed o of considerable influence in the country who has said, as recently as during the past year, that he regarded the existence of the Monarchy as a proof of lunacy among the people; and only the other day, with reference to these proposals with regard to your Lordships' House, the same hon. Member—I am referring to Mr. Keir Hardie—said:When coronets go into the melting-pot the Crown bad better beware.No doubt a foolish and demented utterance, but still it was the utterance of a man not without influence and not without a great following in many parts of the country. And, moreover, in reading the debates quite recently in the House of Commons, I noticed that when a speaker on the Unionist side alluded to the possibility that a majority might wish to abolish the Monarchy in the future, the remark was greeted with a "Hear, hear" from one or more of the Labour Members. Therefore I would not be quite so confident as the noble Viscount about the House of Commons. We all of us wish to safeguard the Throne, and I should have thought there would be no difficulty in acceding to this portion of the noble Marquess's Amendment, because, after all, the only safeguard of the Throne is the assurance of the support of the majority of the people of this country.
The second proposal of the noble Marquess was that no Home Rule Bill for Ireland or for any other portion of the United Kingdom should be passed unless 176 it was certain that it was demanded by a majority of the people. The noble Marquess pointed out that on the two last occasions when a Home Rule Bill had been before the country it had been rejected. He challenged the Government to say that Home Rule had been as a main issue before the country at the last election, and he definitely disputed the contention that a vote had been given in its favour. What was the reply of the noble Viscount to that? In the first place, he argued that Home Rule had been before the country, and, by a strange method, quoted from a speech of the noble Marquess himself. No doubt it was a great compliment to the noble Marquess to be told that he decides the issues that are to be placed before the country at a General Election by the Government, and we welcome it on that account, though we regret that the people did not attach more importance to the utterances of the noble Marquess. But we attach greater weight to what we find in the speeches and in the election addresses of members of His Majesty's Government. When we recall the fact that in, I believe, only eighty-three election addresses of Liberal Members of Parliament was any mention of Home Rule made, that it was absent from the address of the Prime Minister, from that of the Home Secretary, who seldom omits anything that is likely to be attended by personal or Party advantage, and, mirabile dictu, absent from the address of the Irish Secretary himself, who might reasonably be supposed to take at any rate a passing interest in the subject—when we remember that Home Rule was conspicuous by its absence from the addresses of all these gentlemen, I think it becomes impossible to argue that it was, in any fair use of the term, a main issue before the country.
The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, then went on to an argument which, with all respect, I thought more extraordinary still. He said there was a particularly good reason why your Lordships should not be allowed any voice in any future settlement of this matter, and that reason was that the policy of this House had been one of passion and prejudice in regard to the Irish people, and that we have in the past thrown out so many measures for their relief. I need hardly call your Lordships' attention to the hopeless irrelevance of this remark to start with.
177 What has it got to do with the question whether in the year 1914—because that would be the date—home Rule shall or stall not be referred to the electorate before it becomes the law of the land? Obviously there is no connection whatever between the two situations. I submit to your Lordships that it is not only irrelevant but invidious and untrue. This House is not the only House of Parliament that has refused measures put forward for the relief of Ireland. The House of Commons has been particeps criminis with us, if, indeed, there has been a crime. How often were measures for Catholic emancipation and other proposals subsequently passed into law refused in the House of Commons before they came to this House? Indeed, looking at the record of this House, I should feel disposed to take the very opposite line, and to say, having regard to the natural prepossessions of your Lordships, that you have been distinguished in a remarkable degree by the abnegation with which on many occasions you have been willing to pass measures extremely distasteful to yourselves because you felt that they had been required in higher interests than your own. I recall only last year an. Irish Land Bill which was most seriously disapproved of and dissented from by many noble Lords from Ireland, but we placed it on the Statute Book because we were told that a measure of that sort was demanded by the representatives of Ireland and should not be kept off the Statute Book by any action of ours. I do not think, therefore, in a retrospect of the past, that this House has any particular cause for self reproach as regards Ireland.
It is true that on one occasion we did thwart what were alleged to be the wishes of Ireland, but that is a case to which the noble Viscount, purposely perhaps, did not refer. That was the occasion on which we rejected a Bill introduced by the noble Viscount himself, conferring Home Rule on Ireland, and nobody who remembers the cheering crowds in Palace-yard and Parliament-square when that decision was given out and the reception that that vote met with in the papers the next day will accuse the House of Lords of having on that occasion stood in the way of the wishes of the great majority of the people of this country. Yet the argument of the noble Viscount with regard to Home Rule had great value, if I may be permitted to say so, in one respect, when he contended— 178 whether on account of your prepossessions or prejudices or not—that you had no right to have any voice in the future settlement of the Irish question, for was he not making the most frank admission we have yet had that this is a system of single-Chamber government which the Government are setting up? Therefore we now know that Home Rule is intended to be carried without the intervention of your Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
The noble Lord is pressing the point a great deal too far. The point was that this House is reserving to itself special powers of Referendum in respect of Ireland.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I will come in a moment to the point about this House reserving to itself special powers of Referendum in respect of Ireland, because I shall presently contend that the power proposed to be reserved to the Joint Committee is not a power reserved to this House, and that it is a travesty to so describe it. I do not want to misrepresent the noble Viscount, and I am glad he disclaims the interpretation which I have, no doubt erroneously, placed upon his observations, but I thought he meant that your Lordships were disabled by your past history from having a fair right to speak on a Home Rule Bill should it come up to the Second Chamber. I am glad to know that the noble Viscount does not mean that, and I will gladly pass on to another portion of his remarks.
The noble Viscount reserved his chief batteries for the main proposal of the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne—namely, the proposal that a Joint Committee or a tribunal shall be set up, to which shall be referred the question whether the particular subjects specified in Lord Lansdowne's Amendment shall or shall not go for their final decision to a poll of the people. Now, what is the proposition of the noble Marquess? It is this, that to meet the certain dangers of a period of single-Chamber government the Referendum, as it is vulgarly called, should be applied in a very limited number of cases, and he proposes a tribunal to decide the question whether certain measures are or are not of the character specified. There are two proposals before us for the constitution of such a Committee. There is the proposal of the noble Earl, Lord 179 Cromer, who originally suggested that the Committee should consist of fourteen gentlemen, seven from each House of Parliament. Then there is the proposal of Viscount St. Aldwyn for a smaller Committee, what I may call a more official and a less political and less partisan Committee, consisting of six persons, three from each House with the Speaker in the Chair. If I may at this stage express a personal preference, I think I should be inclined to-day to support the noble Viscount's Committee, but I bind nobody but myself in saving that, and I recall that the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said that he held himself quite free, when at a later stage we come to Lord Cromer's Amendment, to consider in favour of which he would be disposed to vote.
But let me suppose for a moment that a Committee on the lines of the proposal of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, was constituted. It would, as I have said, consist of six persons three from each House—with the Speaker presiding. Under the present conditions it would consist of two open supporters of the Government, one open supporter of the Opposition, two neutrals, and one gentleman, who might belong to either party, nominated from the House of Commons by the Speaker. It is impossible to say that such a tribunal as that is otherwise than an impartial tribunal, and in any case it is not true to say that the dice would be loaded in the interests of your Lordships' House, for, if anything, the balance would tend rather in the opposite direction. Thus, if you have a Committee constituted like this you have a tribunal which would represent equally and impartially both Houses of Parliament. The House of Lords would not be in a majority upon it, nor, ostensibly, would the House of Commons, but the advantage would be given to that House because the Speaker who obviously carries an authority greater than any other man that would be upon it, would have two votes—his own and, in the event of an equal Division, a casting vote as well. What I am trying to do is to paint the Committee as my noble friend would call it into existence, and then I shall contrast that with the picture, or rather the caricature, given of it by the noble Viscount. Remember also that this Committee cannot sit of its own accord. It can only come into existence, under the terms of the latest form of the 180 Amendment, on being summoned either by a Resolution of either House of Parliament, or by the Government of the clay on the motion of a Minister, or upon the initiative of the Speaker, acting either on his own account or upon the request of a certain number of members of the House of Commons.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
I have not put in that the Committee should be summoned at the request of a minority of the House of Commons.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I beg the noble Earl's pardon. In so far as it can be brought into being upon the initiative of the Speaker, no doubt he would be susceptible to approach from members of the House to which he belongs.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
This Committee, thus composed and summoned would not decide upon a great or I illimitable range of questions. Its attention is confined not only to a limited number of cases per se, but also to cases which have-been three times passed by one House and three times rejected by the other. Accordingly the tribunal would meet on rare occasions for carefully defined objects, and under the most stringent safeguards. That is the Committee, as I understand it, which has been proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn. Now observe what I just now called the caricature of it which has been presented by the noble Viscount the spokesman of the Government. I will quote his words. Be said that this Committee—would oust the Ministers of the Crown and override and supersede the House of Commons.The noble Viscount evidently meant something by that, because he cheers the remark. Well, to me it appeared that the only sense in which the Committee could possibly "oust the Ministers of the Crown and over-ride and supersede the House of Commons" would be in the event of the Ministry or the House of Commons abusing 181 their authority and utilising a transient and possibly an insignificant predominance in the House of Commons to force into law measures which might not be approved by the country. I hope I am not misrepresenting the noble Viscount. I trust I am delivering what is a fair criticism upon his remark.
It is really important that we, should meet the noble Viscount, because I see quite clearly that the representation, or misrepresentation, of our tribunal or Committee will be the platform upon which his followers will argue the case in the country, and it is for that reason that I am trying at as early a stage as possible to emphasise that we do not accept the picture of the noble Viscount. Then his second point was that this Committee would be clothed with powers tantamount to Dissolution and a General Election. That raises the whole question of what the Referendum is. The Referendum, in our opinion is not tantamount to a Dissolution of Parliament or a General Election in any sense of the term such as the noble Viscount implies. The Referendum is proposed by us because you decline for five years to give us a chance of a General Election. That is the point. Hitherto we have always had a security in the background. It was rarely utilised, but in the event of doubt whether a measure was acceptable to the people machinery existed by which there could be a reference to the people, or by which a measure could be delayed until the people could finally pronounce upon it. Because you deny us that liberty, because you are going to cripple the House of Lords of that power, we have been compelled, some of us very reluctantly as I shall show in a moment, to accept the Referendum.
Finally the noble Viscount made use of the astonishing remark that the creation of this tribunal would not only destroy the supremacy of the House of Commons but would take away the supremacy of the house of Lords. Well, I thought there was not much of that left to your Lordships' House now. I do not think the supremacy has ever been a very substantial one, and, as we understand it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to strip us of the last vestiges of that supremacy, if the setting up of this Committee can fairly be described as divesting us of any residue that is left I am sure 182 your Lordships will be quite willing to pay that price for the additional security that the country would obtain. But the speech of the noble Viscount has had one effect, it has finally converted me to the Referendum. I confess to being one of those who have never been much enamoured of the Referendum, though I might say that I am not in the least impressed by the popular arguments against it, such as its alleged cost, the frequency of its use, or the reluctance of voters to go to the poll. Those arguments never impressed me in the slightest degree, because they seemed to be derived from analogies not in the least pertinent to this country. I have always admitted in Inv own mind that the Referendum was a great experiment, a great innovation, for which no precise parallel can be found in the experience of any other country and file effects of which in our own country would be uncertain.
May I venture for a moment to allude to a personal matter? I did some years ago, as many of us have done in our salad says, commit myself to an expression of opinion about the Referendum in a magazine article which I think has been quoted in the House by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, and which I believe was made somewhat free use of by members of his Party at the last election. I do not object to quotations being made from that article, though it was written in different circumstances and in reference to an entirely different situation—and with much of it I am still in agreement—but when I contemplate the policy of the Government, when I hear speeches like that of the noble Viscount this evening, so contemptuous of any suggestion on our part to take the will of the people, so inconsistent, as they appear to me, with tine democratic principle, I am compelled to reconsider my own position and views with regard to the Referendum. Hitherto we have had no need of the Referendum or anything like it in this country because our Constitution has provided us with the necessary securities and safeguards. There has been no need to go to a poll of the people, because in the back ground there has always been the opportunity for taking the will of the people. But now that you have destroyed that security and abolished that safeguard, those who hold the same views as myself are driven, reluctantly but logically, to the conclusion that something must be 183 set up in the place of that which you destroy. I honestly and deliberately say I know of no machinery which can possibly be set up by any Government, or any security which can take the place of that which we are losing, other than the Referendum such as it appears in the proposal of the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne. Therefore when there is submitted to the House a proposal such as that for the Referendum, closely defined, narrowly restricted, incapable, so far as I can see, of being abused, and only set in operation by a competent and impartial tribunal which can only itself be started in an authoritative way, then I give my adhesion to the proposal of my noble friend, and I am confirmed in that attitude by the arguments—a mixture, as they appeared to me to be, equally of violence and of weakness— which have been directed against it in this debate.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I should abuse your Lordships' kindness if I made anything like a second speech, but I should like to point out this to the noble Lord who has just sat down. He accused me of caricaturing the tribunal. I said I was quite indifferent as to which of the two forms of tribunal was adopted by the supporters of the Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Curzon, is really caricaturing the operation under Lord Lansdowne's Amendment. What will happen? A Bill is passed through the House of Commons, proposed probably by a Minister and approved by a majority of that House. Then who is to move the reference to the Joint Committee, which may, if they think fit, end in a Referendum? What is the Committee to do? Here is a Bill passed three times in the House of Commons, and three times rejected by your Lordships. Then you have, if you think fit, by a Resolution to request the Joint Committee to set to work. The House of Commons will not set the Committee to work. The Ministry will not set the Committee to work. Why should they? They have passed their Bill, and sent it up to your Lordships. But the Committee have to determine whether or not the issue in the Bill is a question of "great gravity," and whether the opinion of the people upon it has been sufficiently ascertained. The noble Lord really missed the whole point of this. You are entrusting this Joint Committee, constituted as you please, with certain powers, and it is 184 against the application of the powers of that Committee that I, at all events, protest. That Committee, not caring what the House of Commons think, or what the Ministry think, and not responsible to anybody, has to decide whether or not the Bill is one of such gravity, or the evidence of popular support is so weak, that a Referendum should be taken. That is what I think the noble Lord did not quite understand.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I understood perfectly, and I accept the definition of the operation of the Committee given by the noble Viscount. I agree entirely with what he has said, that these are the functions which we propose the Committee should perform. But the point where we differ is this, that the Committee in the last resort, by whatever authority it may be summoned, is only to decide whether the question shall go to the people. It does not itself decide the question; it is only a vestibule to the hall in which the people are sitting. That is all, and it is the people who sit in judgment in the hall who are the final tribunal. The Committee have only to open the door which gives access to the hall.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
One single question. How is the question of "great gravity" to be determined after your Lordships have rejected a measure three times? Are we to understand that your Lordships are guilty of such levity that you will reject a Bill three times and then apply to this Joint Committee to find out whether the subject is of "great gravity" or not?
My Lords, I listened with much attention to the eloquent and impassioned speech of the noble Lord, Lord MacDonnell. He is as fully entitled as any one to speak on Irish affairs, but I am sorry I cannot agree with him. If I believed that a separate Legislature for Ireland would solve the land question, would put an end to all strife and bitterness in the country, I would be inclined to vote for Home Rule. The noble Lord referred to the loyalty of the Irish nation, and quoted pages out of history to show that loyalty. I, for one, do not wish to disparage my own country. I am as fond of my own country as is the noble Lord, though I take a different view of the policy to be adopted. 185 It is quite true that when the Sovereign comes to Ireland he receives a good welcome. I do not for a moment deny that, but when one talks about the loyalty of the country one has to remember speeches made by prominent Nationalist Members. I do not say speeches made in the House of Commons, but speeches made sometimes in Ireland and sometimes in other parts of the Empire. Those speeches do not breathe that loyalty which the noble Lord says the Irish nation possesses.
The noble Lord, Lord MacDonnell, said something about the financial arrangements between Great Britain and Ireland, and, after quoting statistics, practically stated that if Ireland was given Home Rule she could run a Parliament of her own without any grant at all from the Imperial Treasury. I am not a financial expert. I am not in a position to challenge the figures produced by the noble Lord, but there are many financiers who do not agree with his statements. There have been articles in financial papers clearly pointing out that if Ireland is to get. Home Rule it must mean either a considerable reduction of expenditure, which is extremely unlikely, or else a considerable grant from the British Treasury. It is an old subject, and has been referred to over and over again in this debate. The Party of noble Lords opposite are never tired of telling us that they had a mandate for Home Rule at the last election. I think it has been shown that that is hardly the case. But was there represented at the last election to the electorate the possibility, you might almost say the probability, of a grant from the British Treasury having to be given to Ireland in order to carry out Home Rule? Really the whole question of Home Rule is a financial question to an enormous extent. Surely a question of this sort, which affects over 4,000,000 people in Ireland, which affects their property there, you may say their whole life, and, which must inevitably mean, from what I hear, a heavy contribution from the taxpayers of Great Britain—surely that ought to be put as a clear issue to the people.
One word about Ulster, from which province I come. It is said that we Ulster men are bigots. That is hardly a fair thing to say about us. We are just as fond of our country and just as proud of being Irishmen as the men from Minister, or Leinster, 186 or Connaught, but because we happen to take a different view as to the policy to be pursued in Ireland for the benefit of Ireland we are put down as bigots. It has been said that the Protestant minority will not suffer if Home Ride is granted. That may or may not be so. I must say I doubt it. It is not many years ago that the leader of the Nationalist Party, talking about the Unionists in Ulster, made use of these words—After all, they are only a handful even of the Protestants of Lister, and I fear they must be overborne by a strong hand.I submit that before Home Rule is granted the people of this country should be consulted.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
I would crave your Lordships' attention for a few moments while I explain why I find considerable difficulty in supporting the Amendment. I say this with the greatest respect to the noble Marquess, because we must all admire the admirable patience and temper with which he has conducted this debate. The difficulty I find myself in is that I do not quite understand from the speeches that have been delivered in favour of this Amendment how much of this proposal the noble Marquess intends to be permanent, and how much of it he only intends to meet a state of things which may be created if the Parliament Bill passes into law. I understand that the Referendum portion of the noble Marquess's proposal is to be more or less permanent, but I should very much like to know whether the noble Marquess proposes that the principle of the Joint Committee pervading the whole of our Parliamentary institutions is to be a part of the permanent settlement of the Constitutional question proposed by the leaders of the Opposition. It seems to me not impertinent for a member of the rank and file to ask this question, because this is a very grave crisis, and I believe that this House will only gain credit in the country if every man speaks for himself for the moment and says that which he considers best for the real benefit of the country. I know there is considerable difficulty in doing that, because, if we on this side all agree with the noble Marquess, according to the Radical newspapers the Conservative side of the House of Lords immediately becomes a "Tory caucus." If we disagree with the noble Marquess, the Radical newspapers next morning come out with "Revolt of the 187 backwoodsmen," and suggest that there has been a general undermining of the authority of the leaders of the Unionist Party, that the Tory Party is all at sixes and sevens, and so on.
If you are going to have a Second Chamber at all, the Second Chamber must have the power of reserving measures dealing with the Crown, Home Rule for Ireland, and other grave matters on which the electors have not been consulted. Noble Lords opposite seem to think it is unnecessary that particular attention should be drawn to these matters. I was going to remind them of the position they are in with regard to their connection with Socialism, only the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, has done it more eloquently than I could attempt to do, so I will not deal with that. But when you do talk to a Socialist, a Fabian, or whatever other name he will always begin by saying that he belongs to no political Party at all, but lie always finishes up by voting for the Radicals.
With regard to Home Rule, the reasons for referring it to the people before it is passed into law have already been eloquently stated. The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, says that this desire to pass a Home Rule Bill—which is in all probability about to be given effect to by the Radical Party if they get their own way—is, after all, nothing new, but an ancient conviction to which he, at any rate, has always been consistent. I agree with him with regard to himself, because he has always been a consistent Home Ruler, but at the same time if this desire to give Home Rule to Ireland is an ancient unalterable conviction on the part of the Radical Party, it seems very strange that it was pushed into the background in 1906 when the Radical Party had a majority independent of the Irish Party. It was only when the Prime Minister began to smell powder just before the 1909 election, and was warned that the Budget was not likely to be so popular as he thought it might be, that he found it necessary to go to the Albert Hall and revive the promise of a Home Rule Bill for Ireland. It is quite obvious that anything to do with the Crown, or Home Rule for Ireland, ought to be referred to the people. But are noble Lords quite sure that this Joint Committee is not 188 coming between you and the power of this House to refer what you may consider to be Home Rule for Ireland but which the Joint Committee may not consider to be a measure of Home Rule for Ireland? That point I wish to put to your Lordships, especially as both sides of the House appear to have considerable difficulty in inventing an authority, whether a one-man authority or a Joint Committee, to decide what is or what is not finance. I say that the same difficulty will arise in a Joint Committee saying what is or what is not Home Rule for Ireland. I am old fashioned enough to think that the House of Lords, or the Second Chamber, is, after all, the right body to say what is or what is not Home Rule for Ireland. It is quite true that I voted for Lord Cromer's Amendment to the first clause of this Bill, because, as I said at the time, I can conceive there may be circumstances in which it might be desirable that somebody should be empowered to define what is or what is not a financial measure; but I am not at all sure that we shall not get ourselves into a very serious difficulty by having assented to the principle of a Committee of this kind, especially after the remarks made by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, and others on this and on the other side of the House, which show how exceedingly difficult it is to set up any body to adjudicate upon an important matter like finance.
There is one other thing I should like to bring before the notice of those who have been responsible for the framing of this Amendment. If these references of matters to a Joint Committee is going to be a permanent part of your settlement of the Constitutional question, then I say that that dimishes the power of the House of Lords by taking away from it the principal function of the Second Chamber, which is to decide what Bills are or are not meet to be referred to the people. If this is your idea of anything like a permanent settlement of this question, I say it entirely precludes the possibility of any reform of the House of Lords. I have myself assented to a reform of the House of Lords, but only on the understanding that a reformed Second Chamber should enjoy the full powers which the Second Chambers of all other countries enjoy, and which are at the present moment enjoyed in the Second Chamber of the Transvaal.
189 One more matter upon which I have a certain amount of misgiving with regard to this Amendment as a permanent settlement of the question is that it contemplates the Referendum as a universal solvent of all matters in dispute between the Upper Chamber and the House of Commons. For my part I have given a qualified adherence to the Referendum, thinking, as the Prime Minister does, that it may be unwise to absolutely rule out all cases in which the Referendum might possibly be applied. I have always thought that the Referendum ought to be kept pretty much in the same way as I believe the birch-rod is now kept in a modern educational establishment—to be used only on grave occasions when all other means of persuasion have absolutely broken down. If it is proposed to put all matters of dispute between the two Houses willy nilly to the Referendum—
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
But it is only grave matters which the House of Lords has ever referred back, or ever will refer back under any conceivable system. Therefore if we are to be made responsible here and now for taking a Referendum on all and sundry matters in dispute between the two Houses, it is exceedingly difficult for me to support this as a permanent solution of the question, because I was quite convinced by those brilliant articles which Lord Curzon used to write for the National Review against the Referendum. I am in exactly the position which lie appeared to be in until a few minutes ago of not being particularly enamoured of the Referendum as a means of settling questions of dispute between the two Houses. Let me say that I do not criticise this Amendment in a captious spirit. It is only because I want information on this subject, particularly after the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, has told us that this is the platform on which we shall probably have to defend our position before the people. If that is so, I should like a platform which is a little less complicated. It is perfectly easy to criticise an Amendment of this kind, and I know that one retort may be that I have no alternative of my own. But my alternative to this or any other question in this connection is a perfectly simple one, and it is the integrity of the functions of 190 the British Constitution. Believe me, that is the best answer that the Unionist and the Constitutional Party can possibly make. When I say the functions, I say nothing about the men who will fulfil those functions, and I believe the argument will be accepted by the people. I believe also that sonic day, sooner or later, perhaps sooner than people think, we shall be working under a Second Chamber based upon public confidence, which will be strong enough to fulfil all the functions which history and experience agree are provided in the bi-cameral system in every country where that system prevails.
THE DUKE OF MANCHESTER
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships very long, because nearly everything I wanted to say has been said, but there are two points that will, perhaps, bear discussing a little more. I am extremely sorry from my point of view, and I consider it a great mistake, that there have been any other Amendments on the Paper except the one now before your Lordships. I think our position would have been far stronger when we came to be judged by the country if nothing but the real essential things contained in this Amendment had been put before the country, and if your Lordships' powers of debate had not been dissipated over such a huge number of questions.
The particular cases mentioned in this Amendment are of the greatest importance. I think the House has passed too lightly over the first subsection of the Amendment. I think it would be a terrible thing if the burden of the responsibility for sending a Ministry to the country, as was suggested from the opposite side of the House, was thrown on to the Sovereign instead of on our shoulders, which are accustomed to bearing what abuse is necessary. Many people will agree with me that the Sovereign must at all costs be kept out of political troubles of that description, and that his position must not be made in the slightest degree more difficult than it is already.
With regard to the second subsection, which I will not go into although I feel as strongly on the subject as my fellow Unionist Peers in the North of Ireland, this is really, in my opinion, the crux of the whole of this debate. Although this is not the moment for a Home Rule debate, yet one knows—and I feel that it is almost 191 indecent to draw the veil that has been kept over this—that Home Rule is the purpose for which this interregnum is created. I feel certain, and I know a great many people who feel certain, that this Bill is only a cloak for a Home Rule Bill to be hurried through Parliament in the next two years. I am convinced that what has already been said this evening by Lord Mayo on the subject of Home Rule is very much the case. I live not only in the North but in the West of Ireland, and I know that the people who are now landowners are very far from having the same desire for Home Rule that they had. The case for Home Rule is very much weaker than it was when it was thrown out by the people of this country, and the case against Home Rule, while just as strong in the North of Ireland, is far stronger than it has ever been before in other parts of Ireland.
There is only one other thing I want to say, and that was rather to point to a remark that fell from the noble Viscount who leads this House. He made use of a very curious expression, and as curious expressions have been to a certain extent 192 brought up and held against certain members of this House, perhaps it would not be out of place if I reminded your Lordships of this expression from the leader of the Democratic Party in this House. In his speech this afternoon the noble Viscount used the words, "the penalty of an appeal to the country." That sounds a very curious way of expressing the democratic view. It seems to me that if any Party should support a desire to send questions to the country, it should be the Party which arrogates to itself the title of the Democratic Party. For myself I think I am, and a great many of the noble Lords here consider that they are, just as democratic, though, perhaps, not as violent as those who arrogate to themselves that title. I thought I would like to remind your Lordships of that expression, as it might possibly be useful when it comes to saying that the People's Party is entirely on the opposite side.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before Twelve o'clock, till Tomorrow, Four o'clock.