§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill, which has for its prime object the re-establishment of an Irish Parliament. Though I must not spend too much time in retrospection of events ranging as they do over hundreds of years and familiar to those of your Lordships who have dipped into the history of the political relations between this country and Ireland, with all its records of crimes and of blunders committed on both sides, yet it is due to the House to say something of the long chain of events which leads us to introduce this measure in its present form. First and foremost, the Parliament sought to be established by this Bill is not an independent Parliament of the kind which Ireland for long possessed, or at any rate claimed to possess, and her actual possession of which was agreed to for a limited time by all parties in this country. Through the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries this Parliament at Westminster, deeply actuated by economic jealousy, refused the claim of the Irish Parliament, and Lord-Deputies and Lord-Lieutenants, from the days of Sir Edward Poynings downwards, acted in Ireland in the spirit of Westminster. Irish legislation was during all those years ultimately framed by the English Privy Council. Then, as your Lordships will remember, in the year 1719 Parliament, at that time settling down to the rule of the House of Hanover, finally, as it thought, declared the subordination of the Irish Parliament to the Parliament of this country, both in its legislative and its judicial functions.
421 There is no need to glance over the proceedings of the next sixty years which ended in the Declaration of Independence of the Irish Parliament—that Declaration illuminated by the gorgeous eloquence of Grattan. But I would ask your Lordships to note that then, as often since, the political relations between the two countries took their colour from political events which occurred outside the confines of either. The Declaration of Irish Independence followed hard on the heels of the Declaration of the Independence of America, and we all know that, largely owing to the great strength of the Irish Volunteer movement, this country did not find itself in a position at that time to question the Irish demand. But I wonder if the House remembers the astonishing unanimity with which that demand for independence was granted. In creating the famous Parliament of 1782, if I remember right, it is the fact that the measure—which, of course, passed the House of Commons easily—passed this House with but one single dissentient. It is open to anybody to say that that was a Protestant Parliament. Of course it was a Protestant Parliament; but for the purpose of the moment the fact has to be considered that it was an independent Parliament, and its relations to the British Parliament, although it was intended to define them, were never as a fact cleanly defined. To speak of that Parliament, Grattan's Parliament as it is popularly called, as a total failure would be a really ludicrous overstatement. Its final doom became certain for three reasons. In the first place, there was a quarrel over the question of the Regency, which showed the monstrous inconvenience which a dual control of a matter of that kind within the ambit of these islands would be likely to cause. In the second place, its fall was due to the complete impossibility, as Mr. Pitt supposed, of reforming the Irish Parliament either generally or in the particular matter of Roman Catholic representation. And in the last place, of course, its fall was due to the rebellion of 1798.
Now, again, we have to look outside these islands for what may be called the causa causans. It was, of course, the French Revolution which gave its colour to some extent to the Revolution of 1798 and gave life to it, and above all else it was the dread of French Revolution principles and the dread of active revolu- 422 tionary interference which more than anything else brought about the Act of Union—far more that, I am afraid, than any real and definite prospect of thereby ensuring the prosperity of Ireland. Of course, hopes of ensuring that prosperity were both entertained and expressed by the promoters of the Act of Union. The speeches of that time are full of promises of equal treatment, of participated benefits, and of actual identification of interests. I am not going to weary the House by any lengthy examination, or with the briefest possible examination, of how far the history of the last century bore out those promises. I suppose, if I did, that my interpretation of that history might sharply differ from that of some noble Lords opposite; but we can all, I think, agree in giving all parties and all statesmen credit during those troublous years in Ireland of the nineteenth century for good intentions. From 1800 onwards Ireland was frequently misunderstood, was sometimes elbowed aside, but was not wilfully oppressed. The Coercion Acts, for which both English Parties were responsible, were certainly designed to repress crime even if sometimes they did not do very much more than curtail liberty.
But let us, passing over the actual history of those years, judge by results as we know them now. How far has the process of identification of Ireland with Great Britain gone in practice? First take legislation; and let me give the House one or two facts to show how far in this so-called United Kingdom—or United Kingdoms in the plural as they were called, I believe, during all the discussions on the Act of Union—how far legislation differs as between the component parts of the United Kingdom. How do we actually stand in regard to what were called the "equal laws and inseparable interests" which were foreshadowed by the promoters of the Union? although as a matter of fact at that time Great Britain simply dictated the terms of Union, and Ireland, altogether unlike Scotland ninety years before, came in as an inferior partner controlled by a British Executive. How do we stand to-day? First, of course, we find ourselves with altogether distinct Irish Estimates, approved by the British Cabinet and submitted to a Chamber mainly British. Then, again, half the public Statutes that are passed through Parliament here apply only to some part of the United Kingdom. In the five years 423 from 1906 to 1910, 269 public General Acts were passed, of which 104 did not apply to Ireland at all; 34 of those Acts applied to Ireland only, and 131 applied both to Ireland and to some other part of the United Kingdom. Thus you will see that one in two of all the Acts passed by the Imperial Parliament is either entirely British or entirely Irish, and only one Act in two which is applicable to any other part of the United Kingdom is also applicable to Ireland. If you analyse any previous period within the last thirty or forty years you will find results which are equally striking.
Take another test. Instead of taking the number of laws, take some of the subjects in regard to which the laws differ as between the different parts of the United Kingdom. Passing by the absence of a State Church in Ireland, note that Ireland has an altogether different marriage law, a different system of education, a totally different system of police and of the administration of justice, an altogether different land system, a different Poor Law, a totally different licensing system, and different enactments on such subjects as lunacy, industrial schools, fisheries, and I know not how many more. I dare say it will be said that all this is excellent evidence that under the present system Parliament carefully considers the various needs of the different parts of the United Kingdom. I have no doubt that has always been Parliament's desire, but as a matter of fact its fulfilment has been entrusted in the case of Ireland to a large British majority, mostly uninformed of the facts, altogether unconcerned in the results, and completely unaffected by the failure of any particular Statute.
To pass to administration, how far has the identification gone between administration in the sense that is to say that the Executive is immediately responsible in small things as in great to the elected representatives of the people? I can only state my own considered belief founded on personal experience. When I went to Dublin twenty-one years ago as Viceroy in company with my noble friend the Lord President it did not take me long, even with such experience of affairs as I then had, to realise that what we were actually carrying on was a system of Crown Colony Government. It was so 424 almost nominally in the days of plantations, and it has been so for the last century. The truth is masked by various phenomena peculiar to the particular case. It is often masked when the Chief Secretary is the principal figure in the Irish Government, and sometimes, as he often has been, the only Cabinet Minister. It is masked by the frequent presence in the House of Commons of that Chief Secretary side by side with other Ministers whose responsibilities to Parliament are real and continuous. It is masked, of course, by the presence in the House of Commons of a number of Nationalist Members, highly conspicuous Members of that Assembly in their different ways. But the fact remains, and I challenge contradiction of it, that the real Government of Ireland, however sympathetically or however intelligently from time to time it may be conducted, is in its essence an arbitrary Government from the outside. So that when a Unionist Viceroy, Lord Dudley, repeated the aspiration that Ireland should be governed according to Irish ideas he was generally regarded by noble Lords opposite as thereby showing himself a renegade from Unionist principles. If Parliamentary representation is to be regarded as tantamount to self-government, I will take another parallel. I assert, again without any fear of contradiction, that if you were to add to the House of Commons a handful of Members representing Ceylon and the Straits Settlements, or another handful of Members representing the West India group of islands, I have no doubt you would succeed thereby in disorganising and possibly ruining altogether the government of those islands, but you certainly would not make them self-governing by so doing. They would still be, as they are, Crown Colonies. No, my Lords, Ireland—by whose fault does not matter—has never become an integral part of Britain; her Government has in essence remained a Colonial Government, and Ireland has never become an integral part of the United Kingdom because the principle of Irish nationality has altogether refused to die.
We are told again and again that in reality there is no Irish nation, and I have noticed during recent debates that several speakers have reproduced the argument on which Mr. Pitt leant heavily at the time of the Union—namely, that a country without an Army and a Navy 425 of its own ought not to be dignified with the title of a nation. In the recollection of a great many of us here, both Bulgaria and Rumania were in that position; they had no independent forces of their own. It is not so very much earlier that Greece was in the same position, and I do not know who is going to defy either to Bulgaria, or Rumania, or Greece the style and title of a nation. This fact of the undying nationality of Ireland is the first that emerges from any wide study of history; and the second fact, not less relevant, is that without a single exception, so far as I know, the various benefits conferred upon Ireland by the Imperial Parliament during the last half-century have all formed part of the Nationalist programme and the Nationalist propaganda. I will not dwell upon the Land Acts, or upon the Labourers Act, or upon the establishment of an Irish University; but noble Lords opposite take to themselves great credit for the various Land Purchase Acts. We all know, for instance, that the Act of 1885 will keep green in the most literal interpretation of that phrase the name of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Ashbourne) who sits on the Front Bench opposite. We certainly do not forget the great measure of 1903 associated with the name of Mr. George Wyndham.
Yes; but, after all, land purchase was always one of the prime articles of the Nationalist faith. You have only got to read, you have only got to gland at the speech which Mr. Parnell made in another place on the Second Reading of the Land Bill of 1881 to see what the policy and hopes of the Land League were with regard to land purchase; and when Mr. Gladstone in 1886 added a great land scheme to his Government of Ireland Bill of that year, a scheme which offered to the owners of land in Ireland the strongest inducement to sell their land which they have ever from that day to this received, the inclusion of that in Mr. Gladstone's Bill was justified by satisfying one section of the Nationalist demand. I have never disputed that on this particular question of land purchase, just as also for a long time on the question of Irish University education, the Liberal Party here erred in the too rigid application to Ireland of the Liberal code as interpreted in Great Britain. But then it is a strong part of our case that the substitution of any form of Government 426 from outside for that of a Home Government has not always led to sound results, and if the Party opposite think that they have cut a better figure than we have in this particular part, it is only because in order to play it they attired themselves for the time being in Nationalist garb. On these two facts—the fact that Ireland is a nation, and the fact that experience has shown that Irish opinion has pointed the safest road in recent Irish legislation—this measure now before your Lordships' House is founded. Of the provisions which stamp the proposed Parliament as a subordinate Parliament I will say a word later.
But I wish first to pause at one aspect of it—namely, that its application is to the whole of Ireland, not to a part but to the whole, including the North East. I certainly have never said, and. I do not think that any Minister has said, a disparaging phrase regarding the position of that part of Ulster. There has no doubt been criticism of individual performances, and exception may have been taken to particular language used on certain occasions; but the whole attitude of the rank and file, inspired by those narrow but profound religious beliefs which have played so great a part in shaping the history of the three kingdoms, can only be regarded with respect however much we may deplore it. Any attempt at argument beats in vain against the massive rock of prejudice, which treats Rome as the great enemy and which treats the South and West of Ireland as being simply enslaved to Rome. We have asked—I hope it may be believed we have honestly asked—for sonic indications of the lines on which it is believed and feared that the Protestant minority will be oppressed. If the full exercise of public worship, if the marriage law, if the education of children and the title to hold public office of any kind—if all these are carefully safeguarded against that exhibition of bigotry which we ourselves do not believe will follow the passing of this measure but which some noble Lords fear may, what is the means by which oppression of the Protestants either in the North or the South is to be brought about? We have never been told; we are only asked if we believe that the men of Ulster are such fools as to wait until something oppressive is done, and whether they will not anticipate possible action by rebelling beforehand. This all may seem very 427 hopeless for the future administration of Ireland, but one can only trust that it may not prove to be as hopeless as it looks. Meanwhile on the other side we are seriously assured by those who are entitled to speak for the rest of Ireland that they cannot and do not ask for the granting of self-government to a dismembered Ireland.
But, my Lords, leaving out for a moment this question of the possible attitude of individuals in Ulster, I would ask the House to consider the subject from another side. I have just reminded the House that as we are now, Irish legislation runs on altogether different lines from British, and also that Irish administration is completely separate both in its purpose and in its operation. Supposing any further changes were to be made, the kind of change which might be brought about by agreement on both sides, it is quite possible that the whole of the wide area covered by Irish Private Bill legislation might be handed back to Ireland. The deduction that we make from all these facts is that the one remaining element of the political fabric—namely, a representative body—ought also to be restored. Noble Lords opposite do not agree, but on this particular point of Ulster I would ask them to note this—that nobody has ever hinted that any part of the completely separate treatment which now exists for the two countries could be applied except to Ireland as a whole. You have, of course, special problems of poverty, salient in some districts below a certain valuation and consequently administered by the Congested Districts Board; but if you take a broad view either of legislative or of administrative activity, all the divergencies existing between England and Ireland entirely disappear within the bounds of Ireland herself. All Acts of Parliament, whether beneficial or mandatory, all administrative Orders which are not actually parochial in character, have been applied to Ulster precisely in the way that they have been applied to all other parts of Ireland. What is the conclusion? It is that the reluctance of Ulster to be included in the Bill cannot have any political or any social foundation. It is simply built up as a part of an aloofness which is partly racial and partly religious, and while it would obviously be folly to under-rate an obstacle of that kind it cannot of itself justify us in reverting to a policy of despair.
428 Now I pass to the limitations which are proposed on the new body expressive of its subordination to the Parliament of the Empire. I need not enlarge upon the general power of veto which the Bill contains—a power of veto to be used, like all such powers, in restraint of flagrant action but not of action which the superior body merely dislikes or thinks unwise. But I would note, speaking in general terms, that the Crown, the Army and Navy, matters relating to peace and war and treaties, titles of honour, the law of treason, the law of naturalisation and kindred matters are agreed to be outside the scope of the Irish Parliament. Beyond this, the exclusion of external trade, exterior postal services, to say nothing of the services specially reserved, as to which I shall have a word to say in a moment, indicate a substantial distinction drawn in this Bill as between Ireland and other self-governing parts of the Empire. The reserved matters include, in the first place, the collection of taxes; secondly, the subject-matter of the great beneficial Acts of the last decade—Land Purchase, Old-Age Pensions, Labour Exchanges, and National Insurance; thirdly, the Constabulary; fourthly, the Savings Banks and Friendly Societies; and, fifthly, public loans.
So far as the Royal Irish Constabulary is concerned, in six years the service is to become Irish, and with various limitations the other reserved services may be taken over in time by a resolution of both Houses of the Irish Parliament. I cannot, however, leave this branch of the subject altogether without laying my own tribute of respect and goodwill as a former Viceroy before the Royal Irish Constabulary. There may be forces in other countries which are more generally acute than the Royal Irish Constabulary in the discovery of criminals, although as a matter of fact the R.I.C. have boasted some very notable detectives; but no force anywhere stands higher for loyalty to its chiefs, for discipline and devotion to duty, and for humanity in the discharge of its duties. In times of greatest stress the Royal Irish Constabulary has done itself the greatest honour. Its semi-military character has, of course, been the result of the history of the country. Whether that particular character will be permanent it is idle now to discuss. I am bound to say, however, that Irish conditions would have to alter 429 greatly before Ireland could altogether dispense with a centralised Police force. It may, perhaps, be permitted to doubt whether Ireland will ever come to the system of borough and rural Police with which we are so familiar in this country. Under our plan the Lord Lieutenant is relieved from the rather anomalous dual position which has never added to the convenience of any occupant of the office on either side—that of being at the same time the representative of the Sovereign and a Minister, sometimes a Cabinet Minister, under a Party system. By this measure the Lord Lieutenant is to hold his office for six years, presumably surviving a change of Ministers in this country, and, like the Viceroy of India, he will be bound to no Party. The heads of Irish Departments will be his Ministers combined as the Executive Committee, who will be, in fact, the Local Government of Ireland.
The Parliament is designed to consist of two Houses, and I believe that the wisdom of instituting a Second Chamber will be proved in the results. The House of Commons will contain 164 Members, giving an average of 1 to about 27,000 of the population; and in the nine constituencies which have more than two Members they are to be elected under a system of proportional representation and by the transferable vote. As to the Second Chamber, to be styled the Senate, the two objects served by such a body are the prevention of too hasty legislation and the admission to Parliament of some individuals who for various reasons might not care to contest seats in the larger Assembly. This House of forty Members, nominated for the first five years so as thereby to secure the representation of different interests, afterwards would be elected for the four Provinces by a system of proportional representation, and is designed with the hope of achieving the two objects which I have mentioned. The Senate is subject to certain disabilities in respect of Money Bills for which a great many Constitutional precedents might be quoted, and a point worth noting is the adoption of a plan which your Lordships will remember was conspicuous in the South Africa Act and has been talked of in relation to even more august Assemblies—namely, that of a Joint Session of both Houses and a joint vote in the event of disagreement between them.
430 We have had to face the exceedingly difficult problem of Irish representation in the Imperial House of Commons. Ought it to be abolished, as was proposed in 1886? Should we revert to what was called the "in and out system," endeavouring to distinguish between British matters and Imperial matters and calling in the Irish Members only for the latter, or should the Irish Members, in whatever numbers, sit for all purposes? Nobody can forget—I am certain my noble friend behind me (Lord Morley) does not forget—that both in 1886 and in 1893 there were no clauses that created greater doubts or dissensions than those which dealt in entirely different ways with this problem. In this measure, realising the objections which have been raised to the plan of exclusion on the grounds, first, that it would appear to involve a practical separation of the two countries; secondly, that it would violate the canon that taxation and representation go together; and, thirdly, that its adoption might block any further advance in the direction of a system of federation—realising also the insuperable objections which could be named to the "in and out system," we have here favoured a system of limited representation, forty-two in number, for all purposes. I do not know whether noble Lords opposite would be at all disposed to take the view which was taken by Mr. Pitt in 1800—that the number of Irish Members was of itself of little importance because if, as he said, there were enough to state the interests and convey the sentiments of Ireland it was a vain attempt to aim at theoretical perfection. In our opinion the number of forty-two satisfies those conditions named by Mr. Pitt. It does not, of course, pretend to satisfy a population scale, which would give, I think I am right in saying, sixty-four Members; but without departure from the current system of election for the Imperial Parliament we believe it will provide the House of Commons with something of a microcosm of Ireland which will be competent to speak for Ireland as a whole.
At this point I ought to mention the question of the Judiciary. I have had the honour of being on terms of friendship with not a few members of the Irish Bench, men who would have done honour to any tribunal of any period of history. If the Irish Bench has been the subject of more comment, not all of it good-natured, 431 than other similar bodies have, there have at any rate been a great many more of them to criticise. I remember being told by a distinguished legal authority in this country that at the time he spoke there were twenty-eight Judges of the High Court here, but that if our Bench were manned on the Irish scale in proportion to population there would be, not twenty-eight but 112; and this figure, as my friend went on to point out, would work out very unfairly for England because in this country there is such a much larger proportion of heavy business cases occupying a great deal of time that the 112, so far as sitting was concerned, would be in a poor position as compared with their Irish brethren. This anomaly has somewhat, as we know, been rectified, but I think that its long existence has helped to form—
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My recollection is that it was about the year 1894. I cannot say for certain, but I will tell the noble and learned Lord afterwards if be likes who made it. I was saying that the existence of that anomaly has, I think, helped to form the general Irish opinion that the Irish Judges, while enjoying a precisely parallel immunity from outside pressure and from irresponsible criticism that their brethren enjoy in England, ought to be Irish officials appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and, as we propose here, removable only by a vote of both Houses of the Irish Parliament. In the Parliament of 1782 the Irish House of Lords was the Court of Final Appeal, as Ireland Lad long before claimed that it was. Since the Union your Lordships' House has been the Court of Final Appeal for Ireland as well as for England. Now it is designed that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the Imperial Court of the highest authority, should undertake this dignified task. To the Judicial Committee also is entrusted the duty of determining any constitutional points on questions of interpretation which may arise, and which are referred to the Judicial Committee with the consent of His Majesty's Ministers here.
Now I must set before the House briefly the financial provisions of the Bill. I say 432 briefly, not because the subject is in any way unimportant, because in fact there are obviously no more grave matters in the Bill than these, but I have spent so much time in speaking of the political side of the measure that I must leave it to some of my noble friends to give more time to the details of the financial clauses. Those clauses number from 14 to 26 in the Bill, composing, as your Lordships have seen, a large part of it. The system which they embody may appear to be an intricate one, but I venture to think it will be found after debate to be as simple as any of which the circumstances admit. The important thing to bear in mind is that there are two leading facts in our financial scheme. In the first place, the collection of all taxes in Ireland is worked by the Imperial Government; and, secondly, the British Exchequer every year pays a fixed sum, entitled the Transferred Sum, to meet the expenses of Irish Government. But first you must note the medium in which this machinery is to work. In 1886 and 1893, when different settlements, though neither of them absolutely permanent in character, were put forward, there was in each year a surplus on Irish revenue over expenditure on Irish Government. Now there is a deficit, into the causes of which it is not necessary to go, but it is estimated for the current year at a sum of £1,500,000. May I remind the House that this deficit will in no case, if matters remain as they are, tend to diminish. Therefore if the proposals in the Bill appear to involve a heavy loss to the British taxpayer it is not quite honest to tell that always suspicious person that he is being made in some way the victim of a new charge by this Bill, because he will have to meet that charge in any case and he might have to meet a great deal more, whereas by the Bill he gains a certain knowledge of how he stands and what his future liability will be, that liability being £500,000 for three years, diminishing each year after that by £50,000 until he finds himself paying £200,000.
Certain powers of taxation or of remission of taxation are of necessity reserved to the Irish Parliament, enabling it to secure some advantage from economical administration or, at need, to raise further money for Irish wants. But there are many things which it cannot do. The Irish Parliament cannot impose separate Customs duties, and it may only add to 433 existing Imperial Customs or Excise duties. The power of varying Income Tax or Death Duties is closely restricted. Stamp Duties cannot be touched, and the power of permitting drawbacks on articles of Irish production or manufacture in jealously guarded. Your Lordships will observe, on looking at the Bill, that the Transferred Sum is subject to certain fluctuations and possibilities of reduction if Irish revenues are affected either by the reduction of an Imperial tax or by the imposition of any tax by the Irish Parliament excepting those on beer and spirits exceeding 10 per cent. of the Irish product of that tax. I do not dwell at this moment upon the arrangements made to meet exceptions to the general rule that for Customs and Excise purposes articles taxable in the two countries are treated alike; but I may point out that some of those provisions which seem extremely intricate and elaborate as one reads them have for their object the securing of information upon the real revenue derived from these sources in the two countries, and that information, as I am told, is particularly needed for various purposes altogether outside this particular Bill. It is important to note that the Transferred Sum takes over the liability of the existing Guaranteed Funds, consisting of Exchequer grants in respect of Irish land purchase. All questions relating, not merely to the Transferred Sum but to the various relation, between Imperial and Irish taxation—or British and Irish taxation if you prefer so to call it—are committed to the final arbitrament of a small body called the Joint Exchequer Board, which is a Committee consisting of representatives of the two Treasuries with an independent Chairman. A body of this sort is an absolutely necessary wheel in, the machine, and even though some of your Lordships may criticise the financial proposals I cannot imagine that any serious objection will be taken to its inception as part of the scheme which we have put forward.
The only other point that I need mention is this. Whenever the time conies that the Irish revenue is found to exceed Irish expenditure on Government services so that Ireland might make a contribution towards the general expenditure of the Empire, or at any rate of the United Kingdom, then the financial relations between the two countries will stand to be reconsidered, and in order that Ireland 434 for such a reconsideration may be fully represented in proportion to her population a special deputation of Irish Members would be formed to sit in the House of Commons here for that particular purpose.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I think the number would be sixty-four in proportion to the population of Ireland—that would mean an addition of twenty-two.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Would they vote only on readjustment of relations or would they be members for all purposes?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I suppose the House of Commons would inform them through the Speaker or through the Government of the day. Such in general outline are the provisions of this Bill, accompanied by various clauses on which I need not dwell which are designed to secure the position of existing Judges and officials. I suppose that in the course of the debate we may expect to hear complaints from the Benches opposite of the scanty consideration which this measure has received in another place and of the use of the "guillotine closure" in passing it. We cannot be greatly moved by any general allegation of that kind because, to be effective, the charge must depend on specific instances, and I cannot help thinking it will be found on examination that every really important provision of the Bill received in its passage in another place a reasonable degree of discussion. I say that partly for this reason, that no one who has followed the course of the debates in another place can fail to be impressed by one fact—that a great number of the Amendments which were proposed nominally upon points of detail went in reality to the very root of the measure. Safeguards were to be instituted; the free exercise of administration, the free play of legislation, were both to be fettered—not, when one came to look at it, because serious danger was anticipated from the action which might be taken 435 either legislatively or administratively in relation to the particular subject under discussion, but because the Irish majority are not fit to be trusted either to legislate or to administer at all. The real basis of most of these minute and meticulous discussions was simply that there ought not to be any kind of Home Rule at all.
There is, however, one aspect in which this measure ought to be regarded apart from its actual effect as an enactment—namely, its possible relation to further projects of devolution and also of consolidation which have been described by the term of "Home Rule all round." What, for example, is the bearing of this Bill as it stands on a possible extension of self-government to Scotland? It is interesting to note that of the last five Prime Ministers, including my right hon. friend who now adorns that office, three have been Scotsmen. Of those three it would not be reasonable, no doubt, to expect from Mr. Balfour any approval of any system of Parliamentary reform. But of the other two, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was always one of the leading advocates of general Home Rule; while my noble friend Lord Rosebery, in his speech on the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill in 1893 in this House expressed his hope in that direction; and in the following year, in the debate on the Address, he used these words, which I venture to quote because to my mind they precisely represent our position in the matter. After pointing out the claims of Home Rule first to give satisfaction to Ireland, and, secondly, to be applied for the good of the Empire at large, he went on to say—And lastly, I view it from the higher imperial grounds, because I believe that the maintenance of the Empire depends, not on centralisation but on decentralisation, and that if you once commence to tread this path you will have to give satisfaction under the same conditions, certainly to Scotland, possibly to Wales, not in the same degree or possibly in the same fashion, but so as to relieve this groaning Imperial Parliament from the burden of legislation under which it labours.Those words accurately describe the hopes and intentions of His Majesty's Government to-day. The burden laid on the House of Commons, altogether apart from the exceptional circumstances of this moment but laid in any ordinary active year, is by general admission an intolerable burden. Scarcely less heavy is the load cast upon the Government Departments. If this way, and 436 we believe it to be the only way, of seeking relief is followed, it surely is not in the least necessary that a slavish copy either of this measure or of any other Imperial measure or foreign Constitution must be hammered out for Scotland or for Wales. What is there to prove or even to make it probable that for these islands, uniquely divided as they are geographically and historically, a special federal system, if that is the proper term for it, cannot in due time be worked out with full regard to the different conditions of the parts and of the relations of the unit to the overseas Empire? To attempt such a task in a single Bill would be the act of an idiot. I dare say the problem of England, which in some matters is beginning to be tired of not being altogether mistress in her own house, is in some ways the most difficult of any. But it was imperative to begin with Ireland, because even if no further step forward be taken for some little time it would be idle as we think to attempt to continue her government upon the existing lines. I have no doubt noble Lords will not agree with and may even ridicule such a statement as that.
But in conclusion I should like to ask noble Lords opposite in all seriousness, Do they look forward with satisfaction or even with calm to the future of Ireland if they succeed in destroying this Bill? Noble Lords and their friends draw tremendous pictures of half Ulster in revolt against the Irish Government. Have they attempted to figure what would be the feeling and conceivably the action of the majority of the Irish people if they had to admit that the road of Parliamentary action was finally closed? It would be no case of frantic uprising of Republican conspirators, but the organised demand of a large community, very likely associated with no disloyalty to the Crown or to the Constitution of the Empire, backed as it would be by the sympathy of an equality if not a majority of their fellow-citizens in Great Britain, and possibly finding expression in Wales, which would make the administration of Ireland practically impossible. What in the event of the failure of this Bill or of some such Bill is the programme of the Opposition? Apparently it is to wean Irishmen from their political aspirations by lavish expenditure. The taxpayer here may have something to say upon that. He might even have something to say upon the issue of a vast amount of Stock at a 437 serious loss to complete with rapidity the system of Irish land purchase; and even that, taken alone, would not go very far in hypnotising Irish opinion. I confess it seems to me that there is no sillier error than that of those who assert that a purchasing tenant in Ireland thereby ceases to be an Irish Nationalist. I dare say you could produce instances. There are people everywhere to whom the jingling of guineas is the only sound that appeals to the ear, and who take no interest in their country or its fortunes. But if you succeed in closing the gate which now stands open you may see what Ireland, including the tenant purchasers, will say.
The indomitable persistence and the untiring hopefulness of the Irish townsmen as well as countrymen in their political faith is a wonder—almost, I think, one of the wonders of the world. See now what the strength of the demand is. It is not only the return at the last election of eighty-four Nationalists or even the majorities by which those Members are returned. In Cork and Limerick and in the Harbour Division of Dublin Nationalist stood against Nationalist. No Unionist appeared against I hose two Nationalists in any of the three. In the most Radical constituencies in the North of England, or in such constituencies as St. George's Hanover Square, or the Strand, if you could imagine an internal contest of the same kind, an opponent would certainly appear and he would probably have a very fair chance of success. But in Ireland so overwhelming in those cases is the majority that it was not even worth the while of any Unionist to come forward. Noble Lords opposite in the welfare of their domestic conflict have thrown aside the one weapon which for this purpose appeared to us to be their most valuable one. When Mr. George Wyndham spoke at Limerick in October of last year he said—When Unionists return to power the first item in their programme will be to carry a Tariff Reform Budget. [Cheers.] If the Home Rule Bill had been defeated Ireland, with a full representation in the Imperial Parliament "—I always thought that the reduction of the Irish representation was one of the articles in the bill of fare of noble Lords opposite—would receive all the benefits of safeguarding her industries and be in a position to see that the tariff, which was undoubtedly coming, was framed with due regard to her peculiar interests.438 Where are those peculiar interests now? The Unionist Finance Bill which is to make Irish agriculture flourish—and we know that agriculture is the prime industry of Ireland—by imposing duties on foreign produce will be put down for Third Reading at the Greek Kalends.
My Lords, the fate of this Bill before us on the Table is no doubt sealed. The Motion placed on the Paper by the noble Duke ensures that. I have as great a respect as Burke himself for what he described as "the temperate, permanent, hereditary virtue of the house of Cavendish," and I am quite sure that the noble Duke who is to move the rejection of this Bill will perform his task with fairness and a full sense of his responsibility. But I should like to ask him, and the noble Lords who will later assist him in his bloodthirsty task, to bear in mind that if this measure is rejected here it will still be alive and before the country, and I appeal to them in all seriousness to turn over in their minds during the long period which must then elapse before the measure becomes law any method by which, without altogether destroying its substance, it can be made less alarming to its most bitter opponents and in particular to the Protestants of Ulster. I can assure the House that any proposals advanced in this spirit will receive our most careful, earnest, and friendly consideration.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Crewe.)
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, as the noble Marquess who has just resumed his seat has told you, the duty which devolves upon me this afternoon, is, I regret to say, somewhat of a hereditary one. But strong as the reasons were at the time my predecessor brought a similar Motion before the House of Commons in 1886 and before your Lordships' House in 1893, I think I can confidently assert that those reasons are as strong to-day. The noble Marquess opposite, at the conclusion of his speech, threw out what was either a challenge or a suggestion, but which certainly contained a reminder that the Government since Home Rule was last before the country and before your Lordships' House had passed the Parliament Act. We on this side require no reminder of that fact. It is one with which we are well acquainted. We are finding in the almost daily occurrences of Parliament and the 439 daily degradation of the House of Commons abundant food for reflection. I can conceive of no possibility or combination of circumstances which, however limited and attenuated your Lordships' rights and privileges may now be, would justify your Lordships in passing this Bill, or even in giving it a Second Reading.
The noble Marquess at the beginning of his speech referred to a number of Acts, with neither the number nor the nature of which I venture in the least degree to quarrel. But he claimed after enumerating them to have made out, as far as I could follow his argument, that they displayed an entire lack of identification between the English and the Irish people, and that therefore it was an impossibility for the Imperial Parliament sitting here at Westminster to legislate satisfactorily for Ireland. I venture respectfully to say to the noble Marquess that I doubt if he proved quite enough. Did he make out to your Lordships' satisfaction that the legislation to which he referred—I think only since the year 1906—was a failure, and that there was no possibility of the Imperial Parliament being able to legislate for the good of Ireland as well as for every other portion of the United Kingdom? I venture to assert that the noble Marquess did not press his argument home, and that he did not convince your Lordships that the Imperial Parliament has failed in the duties for which it is responsible. He also claimed that we were suffering in the past from the undying nationalism of Irishmen, a thing that we over here are ignorant of and cannot comprehend. I would like to ask him the simple question, how does this Bill remedy that state of things? Do you under this Bill recognise any nationality at all?
I shall have occasion to refer to this question again, but I would like now to make an allusion, not to the extensive range of history which the noble Marquess covered, but to some more immediate questions which deeply affect any such proposal as we are now considering, and also to the circumstances in which this Bill has come before us. Since Home Rule was last before the country and before Parliament there have been, as your Lordships full well know, two developments of the most supreme importance. We have seen the Union of South Africa and the Commonwealth of Australia. It is no purpose of mine to-night to attempt any comparison of what is contained in 440 those two measures, except perhaps so far as their internal effect is concerned if you could possibly contemplate any comparison between Bills different in themselves but which confer practically the same powers upon South Africa and Australia as the Bill which is under discussion in your Lordships' House to-day proposes for Ireland. Nothing could be clearer than that the Bills creating the Union of South Africa and the Commonwealth of Australia are completely and in every essential almost impossible for Ireland. Can any reasonable being for a moment suppose that such a Bill as I now hold in my hand could have been suggested by any responsible statesman as a means of solving the difficulties in South Africa or Australia?
But I wish to lay stress upon what led up to the passage of those two Bills in the Imperial Parliament. In the case of Australia the official act leading up to the establishment of the Commonwealth was the meeting of the Statutory Convention in 1897. That Convention produced a draft Bill, and that. Bill was submitted to the Legislature of the different States and amendments were made to it. The amended draft was considered by the Convention; the Bill was again altered and submitted to the State Legislatures, and after prolonged negotiations an agreement was arrived at. The Bill was then submitted to a referendum, and was carried by large majorities in each of the five States. In the case of South Africa a National Convention produced a draft Bill, and that Bill was laid before the four Colonial Parliaments. The Convention again met to discuss the amended draft; it was again submitted to the Parliaments, and in the case of Natal there was a referendum. In both those cases it was not until those elaborate precautions had been taken that any Bill was submitted to the Imperial Parliament for their ratification. It is hardly necessary for me to ask you to contrast the proceedings which have taken place in connection with Home Rule and the proceedings which led to the introduction of that legislation in South Africa and Australia. It is, indeed, difficult to ascertain the precise degree of affection which His Majesty's Ministers entertain for the principle of Home Rule. One can only judge that their affection and their regard for the introduction of this new Constitution for Ireland are somewhat dependent upon the state of their majority in the House of Commons. I am not at all 441 sure that the Prime Minister, had he been able to continue in a position of not being dependent upon the Irish Members, would have been so keen as he apparently is to-day for the introduction of such legislation.
The noble Marquess threw down a challenge—a somewhat courageous one, I am bound to admit—in which, far from there being any apology or defence for the use of the guillotine and the closure, he seemed to regard it as a rather satisfactory weapon for Parliamentary, warfare. No one acquainted with the House of Commons can deny that to at any rate a reasonable extent the Government of the day must have the means and the power of overcoming undue and unreasonable obstruction. But it is a very different thing to find on some occasions, even before the Committee stage of a Bill had been started—certainly in the case of this Bill after it had been in Committee but a very few days—a Host drastic time-table drawn up and the Bill forced through under those conditions. Not only has the time-table had a disastrous effect upon the debates, but its inevitable effect on the House has been demoralising and disastrous. I now come to the challenge which the noble Marquess threw out. As far as I could gather, the suggestion was that every matter of importance had come up for discussion in the House of Commons and been considered. I do not presume that he wishes to shelter himself under this, that in the Second Reading debates a reference may have been made to many and possibly to most of the leading principles in the Bill. But what is important for your Lordships to remember is that many matters have not received any discussion at all. I will, if I may, give instances. I cannot give a complete list now, although I am perfectly willing to provide it if necessary. I think I can give your Lordships a sufficient number of subjects of first-rate importance which have certainly received no discussion in detail. The question of the retention of Old Age Pensions, National Insurance, and the reserved services were not discussed. Then there is the collection of taxes, and also the relations between Great Britain and Ireland as respects Customs and Excise duties—Clause 16, a most important clause and one likely to give rise to the greatest possible difficulties in the future. I understand no reference was made to it at all. The question of Irish representation at 442 Westminster; the Irish Exchequer and Consolidated Fund—that is Clause 21; concurrent legislation by Imperial and Irish Parliaments—Clause 41—were never discussed. The important matter in connection with Clause 41 is that under subsection (2) the Government legal advisers claim that they have the greatest safeguard for the prevention of hasty and crude legislation taken in conjunction with the power of the Lord Lieutenant for exercising his veto.
Another clause which received no discussion at all was Clause 47, which allows a very considerable number of subjects of first-rate importance to be discussed and settled by Order in Council. I presume that Orders in Council are and must be necessary in certain cases, but I think it will be within the knowledge of all members of your Lordships' House and especially of those who have sat in the House of Commons that proceeding by Order in Council is a most unsatisfactory way of doing business. I venture to say I have made out a case to show that, whatever may have been discussed generally, there are certainly a very large number of subjects which never received discussion at all. It might be suggested and I think has been suggested that what has already taken place in the House of Commons is almost a sufficient justification for the rejection of this Bill. But I hope that your Lordships, in spite of the limited and curtailed nature of your privileges, will not allow this opportunity to go by without taking full advantage of such powers as you still possess. It is unnecessary for me to say that, in contradistinction to the House of Commons, your Lordships' House possesses the right of free discussion.
In referring to certain prominent features of the Bill I do not wish to institute any comparison in detail between this Bill and its two predecessors. When we come to examine it, both in its relation to Ireland and in its relation to the United Kingdom, we find the same fallacy and the same inherent impossibility in carrying it through. This Bill, like its two predecessors, halts between the grant of responsible self-government and the retention of legislative and executive unity for the United Kingdom. Either you go too far or you do not go far enough. You give with one hand, but you provide elaborate precautions for the prevention of the free enjoyment and exercise of the powers and 443 dignities which you confer. It may be only a small matter, but it is one of passing interest. We find in this Bill for the time the use of the expression "Irish Parliament." In 1893 Amendments were moved to substitute "Parliament" for "Legislature"; "Senate" for "Legislative Council" and "House of Commons" for "Legislative Assembly." Those Amendments were resisted by the Government of Mr. Gladstone and were rejected. I do not know whether noble Lords opposite and Nationalist Members think that because this Constitution is to be glorified by high-sounding names thereby some more intrinsic importance may be attached to it. Whether the Second Chamber is called a Senate or a Legislative Council, I doubt whether there would be any more inducement to any self-respecting member of the community to take a seat in it. But whether that is of importance or not, I venture to point out that it is an indication of what the noble Marquess referred to as the undying desire for nationality which had been presented.
I am quite prepared to take this Bill as it stands and test the question of nationality by the proposals which are contained in it. The Bill creates an Irish Parliament which shall have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Ireland, and then follow a page and three-quarters of limitations, followed by Clause 3 for the prohibition of laws interfering with religious equality. I know that necessarily, in comparing this Bill with any Colonial Act, the analogy does not go further than the steps that are taken by which the authority of the English Crown and Parliament are asserted, but certainly in no act granting independent nationality could we imagine there would be clauses containing such a number of restrictions. Could any self-confident, self-reliant nation think that it was going to spring into existence when it found that it was not allowed—at any rate for a series of years—to deal with the question of land, to collect its own taxes, or for a period of six years, and even doubtfully then, to manage its own Police; that it was declared by a public Statute to be incapable of managing its Post Office, savings banks, or its friendly societies. It is not allowed to make laws dealing with treason, treason felony, alienage, naturalisation of aliens, or to deal with trade outside Ireland. It cannot even be trusted to deal 444 with its own postal services unless they are purely confined to Ireland. It may not deal with coinage, with trade marks, or merchandise marks, or copyright, or patents. It is a little difficult to imagine what the legislative functions of the Irish Parliament may be. In fact the only way in which you can arrive at what the legislative functions of this new Parliament may be is by a process of negative surmise. It is impossible to admit the idea or the principle of Irish nationality if in the very forefront of your Bill you place these restrictions, restrictions which are quite illusory and in the opinion of the minority in Ireland quite useless for the purposes of their protection and defence.
What would be the position of an Irish Prime Minister if on some future occasion there is a renewal of the Colonial Conference? Will the Prime Minister for Ireland be allowed to take part in those deliberations, or will Ireland be left unrepresented altogether? What position will the Irish Prime Minister occupy? With regard to any question of Imperial defence he would be told he was not required, and that he had better wait outside while that was discussed, and as to Customs Unions or postal facilities he would take no part. My Lords, it is impossible to conceive that a measure designed, as the noble Marquess said, to recognise the nationality of Ireland can in any degree be said to recognise that nationality if it comprises clauses of this character. It is easy enough for members of your Lordships' House or of the House of Commons to say that new conditions will prevail in Ireland and that they accept this Bill. They may say so at the present moment, but it is not so long since that we heard a very different cry. I make no reference to what has been said, but by what possible means can you accept that on the assurance of men who, as they know full well, have no right to bind their successors in the least degree?
On this question of Ireland as a nation I would like to ask the Government for some further information as to the position which will be occupied by the Lord Lieutenant under the future conditions. To say the least of it, he is placed in a somewhat ambiguous position. Under certain conditions he has to act on the advice of his Irish Ministers; under another clause of the Bill as now presented he is to act 445 on the instructions of the English Ministers. This we are told is one of the principal safeguards. It needs no great stretch of imagination to see that the position of the Lord Lieutenant might very easily, and very probably would, become an extremely difficult one. Your Lordships can easily picture to yourselves the position of a Parliament fettered by these restrictions; but however much they may be fettered in legislation there is apparently nothing whatsoever in the Bill to fetter them in administration, and on the whole the danger which many who are well qualified to speak apprehend Loin this measure is not the danger of legislation but the far greater danger of administration. Say on, some small question of administration the advice of the Irish Ministers is one way and the instructions of the Imperial Ministers are another. It is not very difficult to imagine that a deadlock will ensue, and if the instructions came from His Majesty's present advisers, among whose many qualities courage is not one, in all probability they would at once defer to the advice of the Irish Ministers. But I hope that still further information will be accorded to us in the course of this debate as to what the duties and the responsibilities of the chief Executive officer in Ireland are to be.
I hope that it may be possible during this debate for further information to be given to us as to how the reserved services are to be administered. As your Lordships are aware, the reserved services cover rather an extended area, to say the least of it—land purchase, the collection of taxes, the Constabulary, and the savings bank. The definite question which I would like to ask is this, Who is to be responsible to the Imperial Parliament for the administration of these services? Some answers have been given in the House of Commons, but there is apparently the greatest ambiguity on that subject. I believe that the Chief Secretary did make some rather general reply to the effect that a Minister would answer any question which might arise, but it is not only the case of a Minister answering Questions across the floor of the House of Commons. That Minister must have the means of getting information and of carrying out the duties of these reserved services, and the bald question which I should like to ask is, Is it the intention of the Government that Dublin Castle should continue 446 to exist in order to provide work and occupation for the Chief Secretary for Ireland? Under the Act it is quite clear that there must be, I will not say in your Lordships' House, but in the Imperial Parliament, somebody who is able to deal with the ordinary questions of administration. We are, I think, entitled to know what is the view of the Government in this respect. It is not my intention, and I hope it is not necessary for me, to go into the constitution of this Bill, because I desire to base my advice to your Lordships to reject this measure on the great fundamental ground that this Bill cannot possibly bring a solution of the question. I hope I have said enough to convince your Lordships that as far as Irish nationality is concerned it is unreasonable to expect that any self-respecting or self-reliant nation should be satisfied with the proposals to which I have already referred.
I should like to turn to the Imperial aspect of this question. As the noble Marquess informed us, there had been a variety of views on the question of the retention of the Irish Members. In 1886, eighty Irish representatives were to be returned to the House of Commons, and the Irish representative Peers were to cease to sit in your Lordships' House. In 1893 there were to be eighty Irish representatives in the House of Commons, and twenty-eight Irish Peers. These were not to vote or deliberate on purely British matters. That is what was generally known as the "in and out" clause, and it was subsequently abandoned. Now we are to have forty-two Irish Members in the House of Commons. The noble Marquess informed us that the number of forty-two was fixed because Mr. Pitt had advised it. I am afraid until I have had further opportunities of studying Mr. Pitt's reasons it is impossible for me to say whether those reasons are sufficient to commend themselves to your Lordships. There is also another question the noble Marquess referred to. One of the most extraordinary provisions in this most remarkable Bill is, I think, that in certain conditions—I admit possibly most improbable conditions—it is contemplated that the Imperial Parliament shall issue an Order in Council summoning a delegation of twenty-two Members to the House of Commons—twenty-two in addition to the forty-two who will be already sitting there. How, or why, the Executive of the Imperial 447 Parliament should be the best authority to judge of the names and the qualifications and the capacity of the delegation which it is to choose one fails to understand. One would have thought that, if a delegation were to come at all, it might have been chosen by the people whom it was going to represent. But as far as I am aware this delegation is to be nominated, not by the Irish House of Commons, but by the English House of Commons.
This question of the retention of the Irish Members has been dealt with often, and I do not know that there is very much more to be said on the subject; but I venture to quote a speech which was made some years ago by the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Morley) when he spoke at Newcastle on April 22, 1886. I should like to quite candidly explain to the noble Viscount that I am not using this quotation as a charge of inconsistency. I have no wish to endeavour to score a cheap Parliamentary point by pointing out that in the year 1886 he advocated one course and is supporting a diametrically opposite course to-day. There is one further explanation. I think it fair to quote this pretty well in full and to give the full sense of the importance with which I wish to rely upon it although special reference is made to circumstances which are not apparent to us to-day. My reason for making this quotation is that I believe that nowhere in the English language is there a more striking condemnation, not of any one particular set of proposals, but of the general proposition which is now before your Lordships. The noble Viscount said—I do not care what precautions you take. I do not care where you draw the line in theory; but you may depend upon it—I predict—that there is no power on earth that can prevent the Irish Members in such circumstances from being in the future Parliament what they were in the past, and what, to some extent, they are in the present, the arbiters and masters of the English policy, of English legislative business, and of the rise and fall of British Administrations. You will have weakened by the withdrawal of able men the Legislature of Dublin, and you will have demoralised the Legislature at Westminster. We know very well what that demoralisation means, for I beg you to mark attentively the use to which the Irish Members would inevitably put their votes—inevitably and naturally. Those who make most of the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster are also those who make most of their being what they call a real and effective and a freely and constantly exercised veto at Westminster upon the doings at Dublin.That is as true to-day as it was then. I venture to say the circumstances of the 448 two Bills are not the same, but the general purpose of this Bill—namely, of giving powers of legislation to a separate Parliament in Dublin and of retaining Irish Members here for all purposes—is as much covered by what the noble Viscount said at Newcastle in the year 1886 as was that of the Bill of that year.
It is unnecessary for me to point out the obvious absurdity that, while we have no right or claim under the provisions of this Bill to interfere with domestic affairs in Ireland, yet at present, whatever may be the ultimate views—and I think from the final observation of the noble Marquess we can conclude that the idea of federalism is by no means fully developed as yet and that we will have to wait some time before we see that development—whatever may be the ultimate views of the Government with regard to federalism, the Irish Members will, if this Bill becomes law, have as much right to interfere with the domestic affairs of England, Scotland, and Wales as they have to-day. Those who base their justification of a policy of this sort on the ground that the Imperial Parliament will thereby gain relief must, I think, be doomed to feelings of considerable disappointment. The noble Marquess opposite made a few allusions to the financial proposals of this Bill. I am afraid I cannot agree with him that they are comparatively simple once they are explained. I have done my best to comprehend them and to look at them purely from a business point of view, but it has been impossible for me to realise or appreciate their full importance. I know the House will be glad to hear that my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn who will, I understand, speak first to-morrow, will devote himself to a discussion of those proposals. In those circumstances it is not necessary for me to go into any great detail. I will only make one observation on the general character of the proposals. As your Lordships know, a Committee was appointed by the Government, under the Chairmanship of a most distinguished Civil servant, to investigate this question and draw up a series of suggestions for the guidance of the Government. Many of your Lordships know that a Committee tinder the guidance of Sir H. Primrose would not do its work in any way except thoroughly and conscientiously. But that Report was rejected, and up to the present, and I presume for some time longer, the 449 evidence and that Report are not to be published. I do not think that is a very satisfactory starting-point for the financial arrangements between the two countries.
I will do no more than briefly indicate what are, to my mind, some of the inherent vices of the scheme. It is complicated and involved, and, as far as one can see, contains no inducement whatsoever to administrative or effective economy. The responsibility is divided, and there is, as the noble Marquess told us, a novel principle introduced into this Bill—namely, that of the Joint Exchequer Board. As far as one can gather the duties and the obligations of that Board are contained in this Bill itself, but the Bill contains no provision for either the salaries or the management of the work of that Board. I can only presume, from that not being provided by the Bill, that it is the deliberate intention of the Government that the Joint Exchequer Board should be over and above the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Treasury. There are apparently no means under the Bill by which the action of that Board can be brought before tee House of Commons and discussed. That is a principle entirely contrary to our existing Constitution and usages. I am not going to dilate upon the merits or demerits of our present financial system, but at any rate in theory, and I hope in practice, it is impossible that money should be voted for any service unless it is expressly voted to that service by a resolution of the House of Commons. Furthermore, under our financial system as it has grown up and developed it is the duty of the House of Commons to trace that money through its various courses and see tint it has been spent in the way Parliament directed. That principle, again, is entirely ignored under the Bill. These financial proposals contain a principle hitherto condemned in this country. Certain services have to be paid for and the money is handed over in a lump sum to the Irish Exchequer, but there is no obligation on.the Irish Parliament to spend that money on the services for which it was designed to be spent by the English Parliament. That system is bound to lead to waste, and, I venture to think, to extravagance. It is a system which cannot possibly lead to proper control either by the Departments concerned or by the House of Commons in the future.
450 Then, again, it has always been alleged by the supporters of the Home Rule movement that, though Ireland was a poor country and England a rich one, the poorer neighbour necessarily had to live up to the standard of her richer sister. There may or may not be truth in that. There is great probability that there is much to be said for the contention, but the point I wish to make now is this. Assuming that to be true, and that economies can be effected in Irish administration, should not the first charge upon such economies be the deficit which is placed on the people of this country? But until three years, at any rate, have elapsed no revision can take place, and it is impossible that the English taxpayer will get any relief in respect of that deficit, whilst he has no reason whatsoever to expect that Ireland will make any contribution to her own defence and to that of Great Britain or the Empire as a whole. This system is complicated; it may possibly involve the erection of costly Customs barriers both in this country and in Ireland. If the Irish Government availed themselves of the powers which they would possess under this Bill to vary Customs within certain limits, it would be necessary that this costly system should be set up. I venture to say that on the question of finance as well as upon the questions of administration and Parliament itself little or no justification has been advanced by the supporters of this measure. It certainly does not satisfy the demands of many Irishmen; it certainly does not relieve the Imperial Parliament of many of its labours and yet, my Lords, this is a Bill which the Government are attempting to force through a mutilated Parliament, a Parliament which they are under a debt of honour to reconstitute and which, by their own admission, is not capable of dealing with questions of this magnitude.
The Government are attempting to force this Bill through Parliament clearly without any expressed mandate from the country, and, moreover, when—and this is to some extent in reply to the question with which the noble Marquess concluded his speech—judged by all the ordinary standards Ireland is happy, contented, and prosperous. Further than that, the Government are attempting to drive this Bill through and to impose it upon a portion of the country which certainly by every means it has in its power has shown that it will resist it to 451 the utmost. It is not for me to say whether Ulster is right or wrong. Ulster has spoken emphatically for itself. But at any rate you, the Government, have no right to ignore the question or to treat their protestations as mere "bluff." You and you alone have got to take the responsibility for your actions. You cannot claim that you do not know the real facts of the case. They are perfectly plain to you, and whatever may be the result you and you alone are responsible. I admit that, big as this subject is, far reaching as its consequences are, it has not been possible for me to do adequate justice to those who desire to maintain the union of the two kingdoms, but I trust I have said enough to justify myself in making this Motion to your Lordships and I trust most emphatically that your Lordships will reject this Bill on Second Reading.
To leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months").—(The Duke of Devonshire.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, in rising to take part in this debate my mind naturally goes back to the debate which took place in this House on the Home Rule Bill of 1893. On that occasion I had the honour of seconding the late Duke of Devonshire when he moved the rejection of the Bill. It is a great pleasure to me on this occasion to perform the same duty for my noble friend who has just sat down. The measure which is now under consideration differs in many respects from the Home Rule Bill of 1893, but having listened with the greatest possible admiration to the eloquent and able speech of my noble friend, and also having studied the debates which have taken place in another place, it appears to me that the arguments against Home Rule, strong as they were twenty years ago, are even stronger now. I think this Bill is likely to be shattered by the power of oratory used against it by those who are attacking it, while owing to the structure of the measure it places those who are defending it in a very weak and untenable position.
Having studied this measure I cannot discover from any of the provisions of the Bill what material benefit can be derived to any part of Ireland. It has many objections; it bristles with points and provisions which are likely to lead to irritation between Great Britain and Ireland, and cannot possibly prove of any material benefit to 452 the latter country. There is no finality about the Bill. I think even the most ardent supporter of the measure would write in the largest letters across every page of it, "Want of finality." You have heard many arguments in support of it. The most persuasive argument which has been used was by the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty on the introduction of the Bill, when the Prime Minister and the First Lord foreshadowed the scheme which I suppose is looming in the distance. We were led to believe that this wide and important measure is preliminary and fragmentary in comparison with the much larger and wider scheme of extending local self-government to different parts of Great Britain and Wales. The noble Marquess made some allusion to this in the course of his speech this evening, but he did not go quite so far as his colleagues in the other House.
We heard something about possible Houses of Parliament, not only for Scotland, but for York and Lancaster and the Midland counties of England and for ninny other parts of Great Britain. I have been looking forward with considerable interest to hear something further with regard to this scheme which apparently His Majesty's Government had in their mind. I am bound to confess the first thing that struck me was this—that if you are considering a scheme for further extending local self-government to England and Wales, why do you not now take into serious consideration the demands of the province of Ulster? Ulster, as the noble Marquess stated, is different in race and in many ways from the South and other parts of Ireland, and I cannot imagine why the claims of Ulster are not considered when the loyalists of Ulster, who represent the commercial enterprise, wealth, and energy of Ireland, implore to be allowed to remain under the government of Great Britain under which they have lived, thrived, and prospered beyond all expectations. After this persuasive argument, the most persuasive I have heard for this Bill, I cannot help thinking that the self-government scheme is in the very dim future, and in all probability will receive the same sort of treatment at the hands of His Majesty's Government as they have thought fit to mete out in the Preamble of the Parliament Act.
The first question I put to myself is, Who wants this measure? Of course, we all know that the answer from the opposite 453 side is that this measure has been produced because of the desire on the part of the Parliamentary representatives from Ireland. I may appear to be presumptuous in venturing to express an opinion and a conviction which I hold very strongly and which I formed in Ireland, that the cry for Home Rule does not emanate from the democracy of Ireland. During the time of my Viceroyalty in Ireland I took special trouble to ascertain as far as possible the genuine feeling of the people. It is, I know perfectly well, some years since I had the honour to be officially connected with Ireland, and perhaps I am speaking of what might very well and properly be termed somewhat ancient history; but during my term of office I did my best to ascertain the feeling of the country. I made extensive tours through what had recently been the most disaffected districts, and I think my noble friend Lord Londonderry, whom I succeeded in the Lord Lieutenancy, will bear me out that at any rate during the whole part of his Viceroyalty some of the districts in certain parts of Ireland were very disaffected.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
We heard of crimes of the most diabolical character taking place almost daily. I need not dwell upon that now; but owing to the firm administration of my noble friend, with Mr. Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland, and also the sympathetic administration in doing what they could to develop the industries of the country, which firm administration was carried on throughout the six years the Conservative Party were in office, that phase of things and the unsatisfactory condition of the country almost entirely disappeared. The noble Marquess opposite succeeded me, and almost immediately after his taking up office either he himself or the Chief Secretary gave public expression to the absolute peace which they found the country to be in at that time.
I will venture to tell your Lordships what my experience was in travelling through districts which had very recently been in an extremely unsatisfactory condition. I took every opportunity of conversing not only with people connected with the Irish Government but people connected with and living in those particular districts. The answer I received was invariably the same. A Roman 454 Catholic priest, amongst others in the country on whom I called and who offered me hospitality, in the course of conversation on general political affairs gave me this answer, "The people about here"—and I think he said "and throughout the whole of the country"—"are sick to death of political agitation and their one desire is to be allowed to live in peace." This answer was invariably given to me on every occasion and in every district I travelled through. Of course, that was in the year 1891; but I was very much struck by a speech delivered in the House of Commons by a personal friend of my own in the course of the debate on either the Second or Third Reading of this Bill. It so bears out the opinion I formed from my own experience that I should like to read a short extract from the official report of that speech. I refer to General Sir Reginald Pole-Carew. He said—I have the honour of living in Ireland when I am not in this country, and I live in the South of Ireland. We have heard a great deal about the North in these debates and very little about the South. My humble experience in the South of Ireland is that, so far from Home Rule being likely to give contentment to five-sixths of the people….even in the South of Ireland, if the hon. and gallant gentleman were to live as I do among farmers and go about and talk to them—I grant you singly, because if you get two together they dare not give an opinion—if you get them alone they tell you they are living now in fear and dread of getting Home Rule.The speech of my hon. and gallant friend in the House of Commons completely bears out the opinions which I formed myself. I entirely agree with his statement that you get much more genuine information from conversing with people in Ireland individually rather than collectively, for reasons which must be well appreciated and understood by my noble friends from Ireland, whom I see around inc. Those people who suffered the tortures of being boycotted and the terrorism of the moonlighter or the hired assassin are not likely easily to forget the experience which they have been through. Furthermore, I greatly fear that under the most favourable of circumstances yet another generation may pass away before people in certain parts of Ireland entirely recover from the intimidation which was brought to bear upon them under the auspices and at the instigation of the National League.
Now I should like to turn my attention to one or two provisions of this Bill. Every clause of the Bill is open to attack, 455 and it is impossible for me in the time I have at my command to go through at any length the various clauses. I should like to call attention to one—the proposal to retain in the British House of Parliament forty-two Irish Members. I think here we might have very great difficulties to contend with, inasmuch as you would have sitting in the House of Commons forty-two Irish Members with full powers, not only to take part in the debates, but to vote on matters which do not belong to Ireland and relate simply to Great Britain and Wales. Whether that would be a cause for irritation is more a question for the House of Commons; but I think there is a much more important point to consider. I presume His Majesty's Government have two chief reasons for introducing this Bill. One I have already alluded to—because they wish to meet the desires of the majority of the Parliamentary representatives from Ireland. Another reason, I take it, is that they wish to alleviate in some way the congestion of business in the House of Commons. I am quite sure that all of us will sympathise with any attempt to lighten the burden of the hard-worked Members of Parliament at the present time, but I trust we are not for ever going to live under the present regimé. I trust that every session of Parliament is not likely to be of from nine to fifteen months duration, and that we shall not for ever be under a Government afflicted with so insatiable a thirst for experimental legislation. I trust that the Parliamentary representatives for Great Britain may not in the future be so heavily burdened with work as they are now. I am one of those who have very great confidence in the sound sense of the people of England, and before very long I hope a different state of things may be brought about.
I am speaking from memory, but I rather think Mr. Gladstone spoke very strongly against any such proposal for the Irish representation in the House of Commons. I think he went so far as to say that in his opinion the result of such procedure would be that the predominant Parliament would be in Dublin and the Parliament at Westminster would occupy a subordinate position. I think it very probable that such might be the case. The Irish Members would have every opportunity of taking an active part in the debates in the House of Commons, and they might produce a similar state of things to what we are 456 witnessing at this moment. We have had a good deal of experience lately of a Government supported by a majority consisting of minorities. If there are forty-two Members I imagine there would possibly be thirty-two Nationalists to ten Unionists, and it is quite within the range of possibility that we might again see a similar phase to the one that has now arisen. I have said already there is no finality to this Bill. In due course of time the Irish Parliament will pass their Bill, or whatever the mode of procedure may be, asking for further extensions of the present Bill. I do not know whether the Radical Party in the future will act on the principles they are acting on now, but if they do you will again be approached by the Irish Members, of course in a thoroughly constitutional manner, saying that under certain circumstances they hope soon to see the severance of the legislative tie which connects Ireland with Great Britain, and if they act in the same way it must end in the separation of Ireland and Great Britain.
I should like to say a very few words with regard to what I think is the most important question of all, that is with regard to the North of Ireland. The loyalists of Ulster, as I have said, represent the wealth, energy, and commercial enterprise of Ireland, and they have expressed in the most unmistakable terms their loathing and abhorrence of the very idea of this Bill. They beg and implore to be allowed to continue under the Parliament of the United Kingdom. They have proved their loyalty to us over and over again. Are you going to kick these people out and drive them from the United Kingdom against their will to live under a Government which they look forward to with loathing and abhorrence? I say that if by any dire contingency His Majesty's Government continue in the wild course they appear to be adopting, and if by any sad disaster they attempt to compel by force of arms these loyalists of Ulster to be driven out from the United Kingdom, they will be endeavouring an impossible task. These men enjoy the sympathy and the practical support of the entire Unionist Party; and if it comes to bloodshed in Ireland those who will be most guilty of plunging that country into a state of chaos, disorder, and ruin will be those on the opposite Bench who have not the courage to face a difficult situation in time. I beg to second the Motion that my noble friend has moved.
My Lords, we are all very much obliged to the noble Marquess for the historical facts which he put before us at the commencement of his speech. I would first like to ask him this question, Is the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under this Bill to be the representative of the King.
That is rather an important point, because at the present moment the King's representative has to be a member of the Protestant faith. Do you propose under the Bill that a Protestant King may be represented by a Roman Catholic. Is that so?
We have had from the noble Marquess and the noble Duke two very interesting speeches. I do not propose to discuss any of the clauses of this Bill. My main motive in rising is to support the noble Duke's Motion. He gave us a complete analysis of what the Bill is. The noble Marquess said that he supposed he would hear in the course of the debate that certain portions of the Bill had not been discussed by the other House. As a matter of fact, I think 120 lines of it were discussed, and 1,400 lines of it Lever were discussed at all.
We have been told several times that this Bill is asked for by the Irish Party because they wish Ireland to become a nation. If we follow legislation we find that both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party in this country laid it down as a great principle that the two denominations in Ireland should be on equal terms, and now in this Bill we who are living on equal terms with the other denomination are to have that taken away from us. I do not wish to say anything that would hurt the feelings of Roman Catholics. I live surrounded by them and am on the very best terms with them, but I live on the very best terms with them for the very reason that we are all living under the Imperial Parliament. The Nationalist Party are very optimistic, and I think the Liberal Party are equally so. We are asked to believe that Ireland will become entirely changed. We are asked to put 458 aside all the old phases of history, and the old periods of agitation and intimidation—which I have never suffered from myself, but which people do suffer from in some parts of Ireland—we are asked to put aside all that and to believe that Ireland is going to become like any other country. I am afraid we should require very great faith to be able to do that. I go further, speaking not only for the Protestant minority in the country but to a very large extent for a great many Roman Catholic friends and Roman Catholic farmers. We heard just now, what we in Ireland know so well, that when you talk to people individually they are very glad to tell you that they do not wish this legislation, and. I will take it upon myself to speak in that sense. There are a great many who want to enjoy the material benefits of living under the Imperial Parliament and who do not want to put themselves under the bane of a Parliament of their own in Dublin.
I was very glad to hear the noble Duke take up the English point, because there is not only an Irish point to this Home Rule question. There is a very strong English point too. Surely among other things it means the breaking up of the United Kingdom absolutely. The noble Marquess who introduced the Bill read a quotation from Lord Rosebery showing that Lord Rosebery at a certain time advocated Home Rule for Scotland. Are we to understand from that that the Government are going to bring in Home Rule all round, and that this is the first instalment? I wonder what Scotland would say to an instalment of this description, fettered and limited and tied. We are told to trust Ireland and to trust the people of Ireland, but you by your Bill show that you distrust them from the very first clause to the last. The Irish people are not to be allowed even to collect their own taxes. I do not like to read from speeches as a rule, but I want to read one little statement reported to have been made by the Leader of the Nationalist Party when the Unionist Government passed the Local Government Act of 1898. This is one of the greatest foundations of our distrust. This is what Mr. John Redmond is reported to have said on September 13, 1898—We desire toleration in the public life of Ireland. For my part, and I know I speak in the name of the Parnellites of Dublin, I would be willing to give them a fair, I would even say a generous, share of representation.459 Now turn to the other side of that and see what is the result of the Local Government Act. There are 952 Nationalist members of county councils in Ireland. And what number have we got? We have 130. That is the sort of thing we have got to face. Human nature never can resist spoils. They rushed in and got elected, and having got elected they have kept there and nearly the whole of the administrative power of Ireland at this moment is centred in the Nationalist Party. Now they want to get all the legislative power as well. I ask any fair-minded man to say whether we have not got some cause to complain and to resent and try and stop what will be under this Bill our political and administrative disruption altogether. No man in any Party—I do not care who he is—can control the spoils and what other people want.
I want to give four very salient reasons why I am going to vote in support of the noble Duke's Motion and against this Bill. I shall vote against it first because it is a Bill without a clear mandate from the people. It was brought in to satisfy a debt, and because the Nationalist Party went into the Lobby and supported the Budget of 1909. This is the first payment of the debt under the Parliament Act and a shattered Constitution. The second reason I am going to vote against it is that such a vast change ought not to be carried without an appeal to the electorate of this country. I cannot understand the Government, in a great constitutional question of this sort, maintaining that they are governing for the people and yet not allowing the people to have a voice in this question, which not only affects this country and Ireland, but the whole of the Empire. The Leader of the Opposition in another place said that if we went to a General Election and the General Election was against us we would accept the decision. My third point is that the passing of this Bill would mean the breaking up of the United Kingdom; and my fourth point is that it would not be a message of peace to Ireland.
Do you for one moment suppose, these clauses being drawn as they are and all these obstacles put in the way, with a separate Parliament and an Executive responsible to that Parliament and with forty-two Members sitting in the Imperial House of Commons, that this Home Rule Bill if it passed would be received as any- 460 thing else but an instalment of future action? It is obvious that the safeguards which the noble Marquess read out to us are only so much waste paper. The whole danger of the Bill and the whole strength of the Bill lie in the separate Parliament and in the Executive under its control. I believe that there are, as I said just now, plenty of my Roman Catholic friends in Ireland who do not want the Bill but who have not the courage themselves to come out and say so and join issue with us and live contentedly on what the Imperial Parliament is willing to do for them.
§ LORD ABERCONWAY
My Lords, I do not attach very great importance to Home Rule as an instrument for the final reform of social or political life in Ireland, but having taken part in public life since 1880 in the House of Commons and having seen the transformation of the Irish question since Mr. Gladstone brought in his first Home Rule Bill, I am confident that the question must be solved in the direction of giving Ireland a certain amount of political independence. I was struck by the tone in which this debate was opened to-night and by the calm consideration which noble Lords are bringing to bear upon this complicated question, contrasting with the somewhat excited, I was going to say hysterical, enunciations on both sides to which we used to listen in the House of Commons five-and-twenty years ago. The feuds of centuries have been laid at rest, and this question of Irish Government is discussed now from a businesslike point of view. We no longer talk of the massacres of Elizabeth and Cromwell or of the dynamite conspiracies of Ford and the Fenians in the 'eighties.
The question has now reached a point at which it appears to me a practical solution is possible. Ireland has become a sane and a sober nation. The delirium of centuries has vanished, violence has disappeared, and both political Parties are prepared to consider what compared with former demands is a moderate and reasonable measure of reform. I should think there are not six noble Lords in this House who have voted for both Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bills as I have done. I have been in pretty close touch with the feeling of the country as a Member of the House of Commons for many years on this 461 question, and I venture to say that after twenty-seven years of animated and full discussion the country is perfectly ripe for a measure of this kind. Every card has been played on both sides for and against Home Rule, and if I am asked what is the real opinion of the country on this question, quite apart from by-elections and from the majority in the present House of Commons, I should say that the opinion of the average man in the street is one of comparative indifference to Home Rule. He is rather sick of the subject and regards it as a thing that must come to pass, and he is only anxious for it to be carried with as little friction and as little violence to the Constitution as possible. He looks upon the altered social condition of Ireland, upon the increase of educatior amongst the people; he knows that Ireland is vastly richer than it was a generation ago; he knows that agrarian crime has almost ceased, that land legislation has entirely transformed the political currents of opinion in Ireland; and with 300,000 peasant proprietors owning and farming their own land, with a multitude of old-age pensioners, the average Englishman thinks, and justly thinks, that you have a great conservative body of opinion in Ireland which will secure Ireland in future from all revolutionary propaganda. In fact, I believe that if you had Home Rule you would find in another generation that Ireland was one of the most stolidly conservative countries in Europe, which is always the case where you have a large body of peasants owning the land which they farm. This will constitute an army of defence against all rash innovations; it will secure the British connection. It will do more than that; it will create a new party cleavage in Ireland. The Nationalist Party will disappear, and you will have instead a party of the country and probably a party of the town, and you will no longer be faced in this country with those problems of separation which have done so much to prejudice this question for more than a generation.
Further than that, your average Englishman dislikes the present Parliamentary situation. He feels that the Irish in the House of Commons are not "playing the game" as he has been brought up to think it ought to be played. Every man who has sat in the House of Commons knows exactly what I mean. He knows that the 462 Irish may be in the House of Commons but they are not of the House of Commons; they do not sympathise with our Constitution, and what is more both sides of the House dislike—and the noble Duke gave forcible expression to-day of that dislike—any idea of the Irish holding the balance in our Constitution. The Irish to-day can make a Ministry or they can unmake a Ministry, and it is perfectly notorious that the present Government could not hold office and carry their legislative programme if it were not for the pledges the Irish Party have given to support them. That is not a political situation which commends itself to the average Englishman, nor does he like the over representation of Ireland in the House of Commons. He dislikes the small constituencies, and the fact that Ireland should return Members who can outvote Members representing the largest industrial centres in this country. He remembers the achievements of the Irish in the past in the way of obstructing legislation, and the congestion of business and the guillotine, all of which are rendered necessary by the present congestion which is caused by the presence of the Irish and the insistence of Irish demands in our British House of Commons. On the other hand he, or his father, has seen during the last century no less than twenty-eight independent Legislatures created in the British Empire, and all those have been created without friction and with complete loyalty to the Empire, and he thinks why should he be afraid of another? Twenty-nine will not make very much difference. Then, again, he has seen the Union of South Africa, one of the most startling experiments in our history, successfully carried out—far more dangerous and startling, as it was said to be at the time, than any measure of Home Rule which is likely to be given to Ireland. That is an extreme case, but we all remember the language which was used by Mr. Balfour in the House of Commons on the South African Confederation. He prophesied untold evils none of which have come to pass, and I fancy that the average Englishman takes the same view of the dangers of separation that he has been told so much about, and that he disbelieves in them.
The question of Home Rule to-day has, I am glad to say, been approached entirely from the point of view of detail. The noble 463 Duke, whose very interesting speech opened the door to speculations as to the future policy of his Party in case the Conservatives should again soon hold office, said nothing to startle the country on the question of separation. He abandoned the old warning that home Rule must mean the disintegration of the Empire, and wisely; because I venture to say that all reasonable politicians have now abandoned that idea. He dealt with the question entirely upon details. He said the Bill was unworkable; but he admitted by implication that a workable Bill could be produced, that Home Rule was possible, and I hoped to hear something from him as to what he would have considered a rational and workable Bill. His criticisms were mainly directed to the shortcomings of the Bill before us. As far as I could gather, he considered that the Bill did not go far enough. He objected to the reservations he referred to, and in fact there was not one of his points that could not be answered by this—that if the Bill went no further than it did it was because the Irish representatives were content with it as it stands. They have got what they asked for, and if noble Lords opposite are discontented with the small measure of justice Ireland appears to them to have received, let them refer to the Irish representatives and ask them whether or not they are content.
One can hardly help remembering the history of the Conservative Party in connection with Home Rule, and when one does so there is quite a good deal of light thrown upon the line evidently going to be taken by noble Lords on this debate. In 1885 Lord Salisbury and Lord Carnarvon undoubtedly entered into certain negotiations with Mr. Parnell which might in certain circumstances have led up to some measure of Home Rule. In 1902 and 1903 Mr. Balfour and Mr. George Wyndham were engaged upon a somewhat similar enterprise, and noble Lords will remember that in 1910, when the Veto Conference was proceeding, from which we moderate men hoped for so much but which unfortunately failed, it was notorious that negotiations were at all events considered by the Conservative Party with a view to bringing in some scheme of Home Rule which was then to be called devolution. Noble Lords have only to refer to the newspapers published at that time to see that nearly every Unionist newspaper dis- 464 cussed the question calmly and fairly with a view to getting some measure of devolution which would practically amount to Home Rule. Surely this is an occasion on which the Unionist Party might take the country into their confidence and tell us how far they would be prepared to go with a scheme of devolution. They cannot think that by rejecting this Bill they bang and bolt the door against Home Rule in any shape or form. Quite apart from the Parliament Act, they must feel that this question has got to be solved by legislation, and having abandoned the hard and fast idea adopted by some of their supporters that Home Rule means Rome Rule and disintegration of the Empire, they might let us know what measure they would support if they were in power.
But why reject this Bill on Second Reading? It is capable of amendment. No one has suggested that it is a perfect measure, and this House has some weeks during which it might devote itself to reshaping the Bill, except, of course, so far as the financial provisions are concerned, and letting the country know how far they are prepared to go in the direction of Home Rule. I should imagine from a purely Party point of view and for embarrassing the House of Commons you could not do a more skilful act than hang up the Bill for some weeks and send it back to the House of Commons somewhat drastically amended. Personally I should not like to see the Government embarrassed, but having regard to the present position under the Parliament Act and the relations of the two Houses it is perfectly clear that the simple rejection of this Bill would not retard the cause of Home Rule, and it would probably prevent any modified measure being introduced which might satisfy noble Lords opposite.
The question of religious prejudice has, I am glad to think, not been referred to in this House. It was used for all it was worth in the House of Commons, but to-day it no longer appeals to anybody. Ulster, a prosperous Province of Ireland is largely Protestant, but at least one-half of the inhabitants are Catholic, and we do not believe for one moment that the cause of Protestantism in Ulster or in Ireland would suffer by Home Rule. I sympathise with the Protestant element in Ulster. I think they are men whose help 465 and influence is an Irish Parliament would be of the highest value. We do not intend to injure Ulster. The reservations giving the House of Commons certain control are quite enough to protect Ulster from any attempt to treat her unjustly; and, after all, Ulster is not the richest Province in Ireland. She comes second to Leinster, and her population has diminished by emigration by something like a million during the last fifty years; and, further, Ulster has made out no case for exceptional treatment, and the Bill does as much justice to Ulster as to any other Province.
The criticisms to-night show that really, so far from having omitted to safeguard Ulster, the Government have gone almost too far in protecting minorities. Complaints were made that an Irish flag might fly on College Green, but as has been pointed oat a Welsh flag has been seen flying in Downing Street and a Scottish flag over Dover House at the Scottish Office. There is no doubt that the Irish Catholic constituencies will, as hitherto, send Protestants to Parliament, and those of us who have lived through a generation of this question feel that now the Nationalist demands are moderate, and both Parties are forgetting feuds, and that the condition of Ireland has so materially changed, this House would he doing a wise thing in accepting the principle of the Bill, and if possible amending it in some of its details, and not lose this great opportunity of placing itself once more in line with a popular movement. If I may venture to say so as a new member of this House, for this House to place itself in a position of constant antagonism to public questions which have been debated for a generation and which are now in process of solution does not conduce to its influence in the country, and every man on whichever side of the House he sit must feel that he has in his heart a desire to make the House of Lords a legislative unit of the Constitution in harmony with the drift of popular opinion. Holding the views I do on this subject, I venture to hope that before this debate has come to an end there may be some change in the attitude of the Leaders of the Party opposite towards this Bill, and that the Bill may, after all, be read a second time.
§ [The sitting was suspended at a quarter to eight and resumed at nine o'clock.]466
My Lords, so much will be said later by the numerous speakers to follow that I do not propose to go into any of the bad points of this Bill. Before the debate is finished they are certain to be adequately dealt with, if not exhaustively. I think no one will deny that this Bill may correctly be described as bristling with bad points. So much so that I think almost any committee of impartial men could devise a better Bill, if they set their minds to it, than the one now before your Lordships' House. But quite outside the merits or demerits of this measure, the outstanding fact remains that it has been framed and designed entirely in the interests of one section of the Irish people and against the interests of the other section. Any Bill framed without the consent of both sections of the Irish population must, according to my mind, be foredoomed to failure. Let it once become law, and then I think it will be an absolute disaster.
My Lords, who wants Home Rule? I have no doubt that Mr. Redmond would tell us, as he has been telling the English people, that the great Irish race, at home and abroad, are simply panting for this measure. As for the Irish abroad, I am not competent to speak; but I do say this, that this Bill concerns the Irish who live in Ireland far more than it does the Irish who live out of Ireland. What. about the Irish who live in Ireland? Is it proved that the great Irish race at home are panting for this measure? In the first place, the minority of that Irish race have ever since this Bill was first suggested expressed by every means in their power their determined hostility towards it. That leaves us with a majority of 3,000,000 or so of so-called Irish Nationalists. What is the truth about them? It is open to anybody who cares to brave the terrors of the Irish Channel to go over to Ireland and find that out for himself. He will see a great deal in a week, and hear more. For my own part, all I can say is that I have been living in Ireland continuously for the past nine months, and to the best of my knowledge and belief there is no genuine enthusiasm whatever for this measure but a considerable amount of enthusiasm against it.
I will quote to your Lordships, if you will allow me, some words from the recent Manifesto of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland issued in December last; but 467 before I do so I had better, perhaps, say that I am not an Orangeman myself and not even a Mason, but I quote the words simply because they express and coincide entirely with my own personal view on the subject. The words have reference to this present Bill, and they are as follow—Its only real friends in Ireland are men too ignorant to understand its ruinous consequences to their country; or men who, baring nothing to lose, think they have everything to gain by revolution; or, further, men who hope to use it to extort from England fresh concessions even more consistent with their anti-English sentiments.The first two classes, those who are too ignorant to understand the Bill and its ruinous consequences to their country and those who have nothing to lose and think they have everything to gain, comprise the bulk of the agricultural supporters of this measure. If you go into any of the rural parts of Ireland you will find plenty of people ready to shout for Home Rule; but if you ask them what they are shouting for, all they can answer is "Home Rule." They do not know the provisions of the Bill, or anything about it in fact. They are absolutely ignorant about it. The third section are those who hope to use it to extort from England fresh concessions, and these, as far as I can make out, comprise the greater part of the educated Home Rulers. They are ready to accept this Bill, bad as they know it to be, simply as a stepping stone to something further.
Are the tenants who have purchased their farms clamouring for Home Rule Are the big traders, merchants, and business men pleading for it? Do the old-age pensioners desire it? I think not. Mr. Redmond has hinted, and other speakers have hinted, more than once lately that should this Bill not pass into law—or, to use some of the soul-stirring words that one hears, "should the cup of freedom be again dashed from the peoples' lips"—the consequences will be serious. We all know what that means. It means that Mr. Redmond and the other patriotic gentlemen associated with him will do their utmost to stir up agitation. Their efforts will doubtless meet with more or less success. Agitations are, unfortunately, still rather popular in Ireland. But whatever the agitation may be which will follow the failure of this Bill, it will be as nothing to the general upheaval that is bound to follow its passage into law. I do not wish to say a word against any of my fellow-country- 468 men, but I think it is only fair to say this—that in making a comparison between the two sections of the Irish people, surely it is not right simply to compare them on the basis of the numbers alone belonging to each section. I know that the proportion is about three to one if you compare these two sections. But if you take almost any other method of comparison besides numbers—such as education, surely the most important qualification for a people desiring self-government—the result will be different. If you take comparison by education, by progress, by industry, by loyalty to England and the Empire, you will find that in most cases it is the minority that will come out first and the majority that will come out second, and often a bad second at that. Is it right then, is it wise, is it expedient under those circumstances to try to force the minority to submit to the yoke of the majority? For if this Bill becomes law it will be a yoke and nothing but a yoke on the minority, and we of that minority are under no delusion as to what our position under this Bill will be. We for all practical purposes might just as well have no representation whatever in the proposed Irish Parliament as to be in it but without having a vestige of legislative power.
Then there is another point which I will ask noble Lords opposite who may be in favour of this measure to consider carefully before they give their vote. What is bound to be amongst the first results of the passage of this Bill? I think noble Lords are well aware of what is certain and bound to occur in Belfast and elsewhere in the North where the religious difference is very acute should this Bill become law. There will be attacks on Roman Catholics and counter attacks on Protestants, followed by wholesale and general rioting. Is it not likely that if this occurs—and it is bound to occur—the overwhelming but backward Roman Catholic population of the West and the South will be inclined, and not for the first time, to retaliate with interest on the Protestants who at present live peaceably and happily in their midst? I say this as a member of one of the small Protestant communities at present living in the West of Ireland. I live on the very best of terms with all my Roman Catholic neighbours. I have no personal reason to apprehend the passage of Home Rule, for I am in the fortunate position of being able to leave the country at any time should I 469 think it necessary to do so. Also I have sold most of my land. I have retained only some 200 acres of what we in Ireland call demesne lands, and which in my case consists mostly of rocks and rabbits, and is, therefore, not likely to excite the cupidity of enterprising Home Rulers in search of plunder.
I say that this is a very real danger, and I ask noble Lords not to dismiss it lightly. The benefits to be expected from this great measure are shrouded in obscurity, even if they exist at all. But I venture to think that the harm and misery that it is bound to cause must be obvious to any one who has eyes to see and ears to hear. If the demand for Home Rule came from a united Ireland, whatever my own personal opinions might be on the subject, whatever I might feel about it, I should be most, reluctant to speak against it; but I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the country at present is totally and entirely unfit for any such thing. The present ill-will, distrust, and bitterness which unfortunately exist between the two sections of the Irish people must first be allayed and forgotten. A short time ago this happy state of things seemed to be within measurable distance of fulfilment. The action of His present advisers has reopened the old wounds afresh and revived half-forgotten prejudices. Time, my Lords, will again heal these reopened wounds; time will repair the damage done, but only time and peace can do it. Should His Majesty's Government elect to try instead force, should they persevere with this Bill, then all I can say is that they will be deliberately letting hell loose in Ireland, and I venture to think that such action, among other things, is bound to bring on them their due reward.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, I am going to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill. I myself cannot support the Amendment of the noble Duke, not because I think the Bill is a workable measure or because I think that it can lead to a satisfactory and therefore permanent settlement of the fish question, but simply because the Bill is conceived in recognition of the principle of devolution, a principle the adoption of which I believe to be essential for a great many reasons. I believe devolution to be necessary, not by any means only for the welfare of Ireland but for the welfare of the United Kingdom, 470 for the restoring of efficiency to Parliament, and for the permanency of representative institutions, and I do not believe that, without the adoption of the principle or devolution any scheme or any device ever will bring closer together the component parts of the Empire. It is for these reasons, my Lords, that I go so far as to, support the Second Reading of the Bill. I hope the House will do the same. I hope, at any rate, that your Lordships will not adopt an attitude of absolute sterile negation to the underlying principle on which the Bill is founded.
I was very glad to see that the noble Duke, in moving his Amendment, based it nearly altogether upon the demerits of the Bill, and did not take up an absolutely non possumus attitude towards the foundation principle of the Bill. My Lords, I would ask you in considering this question to consider the great change that has taken place since a Bill of this nature was last in your Lordships' House—a vast change for the better in Ireland and a great change for the worse over here. Thanks very largely to beneficient legislation mainly carried out by the Unionist Party in Ireland Ireland has become a new Ireland. Class animosities, due to agrarian disputes have died out. So have religious animosities arising from the same cause, though efforts to revive them have been lately made, and unfortunately with success. Ireland no longer seeks to gain her ends by violence, but employs peaceful and constitutional means. Land purchase and t he principle of conciliation have changed the whole face of the country in Ireland and the whole temper of the people. What is the change that has taken place here? To what a lamentable condition have our Parliamentary institutions become degraded. The House of Commons has ceased to be a legislative Assembly in any sense of the term. Those are the words used the other day by the Leader' of the Opposition in another place, and I do not think anybody can say they are exaggerated. The other House has ceased to be a representative Assembly in any sense of the term. This House has been mutilated out of all recognition. Party politics have degenerated into mere opportunism. One of the greatest historical Parties of the State has become a sort of patent log-rolling machine. The people's representatives in Parliament represent the Party Whips, and not the people.
471 The whole system has broken down, and the reason for the breakdown appears to me to be very obvious. In the first place, the system has broken clown because it is absolutely impossible for Parliament to deal with the multifarious mass of business that comes before it. Parliament has got to deal with the affairs of 45,000,000 of people in these islands almost clown to the minutest details. Parliament—the House of Commons—surely ought to have the opportunity, but never has the opportunity, to deal with such important matters, for instance, as the finances of India, where there are 315,000,000 of people for whom Parliament is ultimately responsible. In great matters, such as defence and protection, Parliament is the guardian of 19,000,000 of our fellow-subjects in the great oversea Dominions of the Crown. Altogether Parliament is more or less, to a greater or less degree, responsible for 414,000,000 of people, and I maintain that it is utterly impossible for this Parliament or for any one Parliament, to fulfil its duties to so great and varied an Empire as is ours.
Well, my Lords, one of two things must happen. Either Parliament must seek relief by delegation, devolution, to subordinate bodies and so raise itself to the real position of an Imperial Parliament, which it only nominally occupies now, or it must sink down to the position of an Assembly occupied with comparatively unimportant and minor affairs, whilst the expenditure of all our vast revenues and the conduct of every vital and important matter affecting the United Kingdom and the Empire will fall definitely into the hands of a small and irresponsible oligarchy, as unfortunately is the case now. The incompetence of Parliament, the natural and inevitable incompetence of Parliament, to deal with the mass of matters that comes before it is one of the causes of the breakdown; the other cause is discontent in Ireland. The Irish people are naturally a conservative people, a law-abiding people, respecting law and authority and constitutional methods. I do not mean "conservative" in the sense of belonging to this Party or any other or any section of any Party; I mean conservative in the broad sense of the term, a desire for progress and reform in preference to spasmodic attempts at revolution—I mean conservatism as a principle affecting the conduct of human affairs 472 under a democratic form of Parliament. That is the natural characteristic of Ireland. But all that is wasted and thrown away because of your refusal to deal with the natural discontent of the Irish people. Until this question of Home Rule is settled you never can have Ireland free to develop its own resources; you never will have Ireland free to take her natural and proper part in the politics of the United Kingdom; you never will have great questions affecting Great Britain and affecting the United Kingdom settled as, of course, they ought to be settled, purely on their own merits; you never will have Parliament raised to a condition in which it can give adequate and proper attention to the affairs of the Empire. Those are my reasons for voting for the Second Reading of this Bill.
The case for Home Rule seems to me to be so absolutely overwhelming that it would be almost a waste of time to argue in favour of it. It is absolutely overwhelming unless it can be proved that the grant of Home Rule would entail calamitous and fatal disasters to Great Britain, or that it would entail gross injustice. I have listened to speeches and I have read speeches—columns and columns of speeches in the newspapers—and I maintain that it cannot be proved that the grant of Home Rule would have any of those disastrous consequences. What are the usual objections raised against the principle of Home Rule? I think they are that it means the disintegration of the Empire and dismemberment of the United Kingdom; and that the Irish people are so essentially disloyal that they cannot possibly be trusted—and a curious double and self-destructive argument is used. It is said, in the first place, that the Irish people in Ireland do not want Home Rule at all; and, in the second place, that they not only want it but want it in the most extreme form. As to Home Rule meaning the dismemberment and the disintegration of the Empire, if I am anything at all in politics, which is doubtful, I am an Imperialist, and I think that the working out of that ideal to something definite has fallen to the lot of the Unionist Party. I think the Unionist Party know what Imperialism means. They see that in the Empire there is a great world power making for peace, progress, and civilisation; they want to co-ordinate the forces of the Empire, to focus the ideal, and to draw the Empire closer together; and if I understand the 473 argument, their position is that in order to do this you must have a centre, a solid nucleus, in the shape of a United Kingdom. Well, my Lords, I quite agree to that.
I think that a United Kingdom is essential as a centre of a united Empire. But when people go on to argue that the grant of Home Rule would have a disintegrating effect there, I think they are absolutely wrong. As a matter of fact, the legislative Act of Union did not produce unification. Ireland was more truly in unity with Great Britain before the Act of Union than she has ever been since. What sort of a union is it? After all, stripped of all its trappings, it is a union sanctioned by force. That is not a real union. It is a sham union, and a sham union is not a solid foundation on which to erect the fabric of Imperial unity. Now, my Lords, you ca a have a real union if you wish to have it; you can have a real union based on community of interests and on mutual respect if you undertake to allay the legitimate discontent, the political discontent, that exists in Ireland. The Imperial mission that has fallen to the lot of the Unionist Party is a great mission. But how can you possibly carry it out unless you first put your own house in order at home, and unless out of the Constitutional chaos that exists here now you produce order and stability? I shall be told in the course of the debate, I dare say, that I am talking nonsense in talking about a real union based on community of interests and affection. The argument generally is that such a union is impossible, because Ireland is disloyal to the core. My Lords, Ireland is not disloyal—discontented, certainly, but not disloyal. The argument generally is that if you grant Ireland a Parliament and an Executive subject to it, she will use that Parliament and that Executive to make her disloyalty more effective than it is now; that if we were unfortunately involved in a great war Ireland would sympathise with our enemies, and open her ports to succour them.
Ireland is not disloyal. She is discontented, but I will not quarrel about terms. Say she is disloyal; but disloyal to what—disloyal to a system of Government that was forced upon her against her will; disloyal to a legislative system under which it is impossible for her to have adequate attention given to her requirements; and disloyal to an administrative system which 474 is not suited to her and over which she has practically absolutely no control. But as to disloyalty in the sense that the charge is now made, I maintain that Ireland has never shown such disloyalty. Ireland has struggled for Ireland for the Irish, but she has never shown any desire for an invasion, and has never shown any sympathy with a foreign fleet. Strangely enough, the only exception is Belfast. Speaking of 1796 Lecky, who is a trustworthy historian, says—All the evidence we possess concurs in showing that the great body of the Catholics did not show the smallest wish to throw off the English rule It is a memorable fact that Cork, Galway, and Limerick, the great centres of Irish Catholicism, vied with one another in 1796 in proofs of loyalty when the French Fleet was on the coast, and it is not a less memorable fact with regard to the towns that the town which showed the worst spirit was undoubtedly Belfast.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
Yes; and Lecky says that the then Lord Lieutenant, Lord Camden, described Belfast as the only town where a bad disposition had been shown. I make no deductions; I am only mentioning a curious fact.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I want to draw attention to the fact that that was before the Act of Union.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
Certainly. Ireland was loyal to the Sovereign she deemed to be her rightful Sovereign and suffered for it. All will agree that Irish soldiers have ever been lavish of their lives, and have never been untrue to the trust that has been reposed in them. No, Ireland is not disloyal; she is discontented from causes which it is in your power to relieve. Really, is not this charge of active disloyalty based on an absolute negation in regard to the Irish people of the ordinary attributes of human beings? You say people are discontented, and you say, at the same time, If we removed the cause of the discontent they would remain just as discontented as they were before. You say they are disloyal to the system of Government, and that though the system of Government is amended according to their wishes they will remain disloyal. You say that they are a people who have a grievance, and if the grievance is remedied they will be just as discontented as before. Surely that is an argument that is contrary absolutely to all 475 human experience, and especially to the experience we have in the development of our own Empire.
Will your Lordships consider the history of Canada? The analogy between the circumstances in Ireland and the circumstances which at one time existed in Canada is extraordinarily close. The family compact, as it was called, in Upper Canada and the ascendency party in Ireland are almost identical in their views and objects. Lower Canada was discontented, and showed her discontent in precisely the same way as it has been shown in Ireland. Juries would not convict; there was jury-packing, cattle-driving, and intimidation of all kinds. The minority there claimed then, as do the minority now in Ireland, the sole title to loyalty. The majority were stigmatised then, as the majority are in Ireland now, as rebels and traitors. The minority declared then that if the Mother Country forgot them they would take care of themselves, and, if necessary, call in foreign assistance. It was said then, as it is said now, that "concessions would remove the only check to the tyrannical power of the dominant majority, a majority in numbers only, while in wealth, education, and enterprise they were greatly inferior to the minority." Those words used long ago in the House of Commons by Lord Stanley are, I think, almost identical with the words which we hear over and over again by Unionist speakers now. It was said then, as is said now, that concession would mean the persecution of the loyal minority, would break up the Empire, and reduce Great Britain to the condition of a second-rate Power. Just the same prophecies that were made then are made now. The same false idea that force is the only remedy, the same distrust of giving powers to the people to remedy grievances existed then as now.
And what happened? In Canada every one of those prophecies was, of course, proved to be false. The concessions were made and self-government was, after a time, given, and Canadians have become the most loyal subjects of His Majesty the King. My Lords, would not the same thing happen in Ireland? Why should it not happen in Ireland? The Irish people are a kindly people and a forgiving people. When you say that no relief from their grievances, no concessions of what 476 they want would turn disloyalty into loyalty you ascribe to them attributes which are absolutely unhuman. You have no right to do so. We have every right to assume that if legitimate grievances were remedied in Ireland the effect would be the same there as it has been in every other portion of the Empire. After all, supposing it is an experiment, is it not an experiment worthy trying? It would not fail. But if it did fail, what then? Would the consequences be so very awful? What do you think that an Irish Parliament without any military forces whatever could do? We are told it would pass resolutions. My Lords, do you really think that if a great Power was contemplating war with us it would attach any importance to a cartload of resolutions? No. If the worst came to the worst, if our Fleet lost the command of the seas, worse things might happen to us than a landinp, on the coast of Ireland.
Then there is the double argument that the Irish do not want Home Rule at all. My noble friend Lord Zetland used that argument to-night. He said they did not want it, and that the only way to ascertain really what they want is to interview them individually and in strict secrecy —a formidable undertaking seeing there are over four millions of people. Personally, I rely on the fact that for generation after generation the vast majority of the Irish people have sent their representatives to Parliament for the one sole purpose of obtaining Home Rule, and I believe they do want it. I have heard many speeches devoted to the idea that the Irish do not want Home Rule, and others devoted to the idea that Ireland wants complete separation. But you cannot have it both ways. If you say that Ireland wants complete independence, do not say that she is quite contented as she is; and if you say she is quite contented do not say that she insists upon the most extreme form of Home Rule that can possibly be devised. As a matter of fact, the explanation is very simple. There is no agitation in Ireland such as there used to be, and the reason is this, that agitation in Ireland came from two sources—one, agrarian discontent; the other, political discontent. By the agrarian legislation which has been carried out mainly by the Unionist Party you have dried up, or nearly dried up, one source of agitation, and, of course, the total volume of agitation 477 is by that much the less; but the other source—that is, political discontent—remains constant, and always will remain constant until you take measures t o remove their just complaints. At least be just to Ireland in this matter. Religious animosity has been fanned into an absolutely unnatural flame. To that iniquity do not add the iniquity of trying to excite the Irish people to unnatural agitation. If in your unwisdom you are obliged to deny them a small measure of autonomy, at any rate do not pretend that they do not want it simply because they ask it now in a peaceable and constitutional manner.
The last argument is the argument that the Catholic majority dominating a Parliament and an Executive in which they are a vast majority will proceed to gratify their desire to persecute the Protestant minority. The Catholic majority have no such desire. All the perfervid speeches that we read on the subject are mere rhetorical attempts to give some substance to pure imagination. I cannot go into history, but I am certain that any man who has studied the subject will agree with me that it is true all through the pages of Irish history that the Irish Catholics in matters of religion are the most tolerant people on the face of the earth. I will only point to two facts. One is that during the very short period of Catholic ascendancy when Ireland had a Parliament almost exclusively Catholic, the first thing that they did was to enact absolute liberty of conscience and liberty of worship all over Ireland. And I think f might call attention to a curious fact—namely, that this dread of persecution is felt only in that part of Ireland where the Protestants are so strong, and so numerous, and so concentrated, that they are perfectly well able to take care of themselves. That fear is not felt anywhere else. Does it not rather look as if this fear of persecution was simulated and assumed for political purposes? I do not so much blame the Protestants in the North in this matter. I blame much more the secret Catholic society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians. I do not blame the Protestant, the protagonists of anti-Home Rule; for, after all, they want to defeat Home Rule, and they know quite well that the best way to defeat it is by dividing Ireland. But this Ancient Order of Hibernians, a secret society exclusively Catholic, are, or are supposed to be, Home Rulers. They must know, for all history proves it, that in 478 striking a strong discordant note, as they have clone, they are doing their best to I divide Ireland into two camps, and are taking measures which have always been successful in preventing Ireland from getting her just dues.
Why on earth does any one suppose that the Catholic majority have any desire to persecute the Protestant minority? This idea, or this conception of the Protestants in Ulster being a sort of projection of England, or of Scotland, into Ireland is not an Irish idea. It is a purely British invention. It is a sort of British patent that is brought out every now and then for political purposes when it can be done successfully. It was brought out during the debates on the Disestablishment of the Church, and Mr. Disraeli confuted it. "I am not prepared to admit," he said, "that there are two nations in Ireland. I look upon the Irish nation as one people." Mr. Disraeli was perfectly right. This fiction, this idea of double nations, or two nations, was not true when the representatives of 143 corps of Protestant Yeomen met in the Church at Duncannon and passed a resolution that. "as men, as Irishmen, as Christians, and as Protestants" they rejoiced in the relaxation of the penal laws passed against their Catholic fellow-countrymen. Had Orangemen no sense of Irish nationality when they offered the stoutest resistance to the Union? I do not know what it may be in other countries, but in Ireland the cleavage of religions and the cleavage of political parties have never been identical. Religion has been mixed up with land; but with politics in Ireland, never.
I deprecate as strongly as I can these efforts that are made to create differences which-do not naturally exist, and I deprecate them all the more strongly when the differences are based on religion and on a vaunted superiority of race. Almost every time I read a newspaper, and in almost every speech that I hear delivered, I hear the same thing—that the community in the North-Eastern counties of Ireland have got a sort of monopoly of energy and enterprise, that t hey are a superior race, living amongst a people infinitely inferior to themselves. Unionists say that they do not want ascendancy; but, my Lords, every speech they make reeks with the spirit of ascendancy. Even the other day, speaking at 479 Edinburgh, Mr. Bonar Law described the minority as superior in character and in everything that constitutes the strength of a nation. It is not true. If it were true it would be a very unworthy boast to make. Are we entirely to forget that every trade and industry in Ireland was at one time stamped out deliberately except one—namely, the linen trade in the North of Ireland, in Belfast? Are not we to remember that the penal laws which crushed all vitality amongst the great hulk of the people and all energy and enterprise had no effect upon the Protestant population in the North? Belfast is enormously prosperous, and all Ireland rejoices at it. It is due largely to the enterprise of the population but to geographical position and other natural causes also. You cannot make these differences. As a matter of fact, the interests of the North of Ireland and the interests of the other parts of Ireland are identical. It has been said—Sir Edward Carson made a point of it the other day—that the people of Belfast would suffer under an Irish Parliament, where, of course, the agricultural interests would largely be dominant. I do not believe there is a shadow of foundation for any fear of that kind. Ireland is almost feverishly anxious to recreate her industries and to foster and increase those industries that she has. If an Irish Parliament were to institute a lower standard of factory legislation in Belfast the obvious effect would be that the artisan population in Belfast would leave Ireland. The very last thing that an Irish Parliament would wish to do would be that. You Unionists are so inconsistent. You say that Ireland wants complete independence; that she is perfectly contented as she is; that she is discontented but that if you remove the causes of discontent she would be more discontented than ever. In one breath you say that the Nationalist Party will not hear of contracting Ulster out of the Bill because they know perfectly well that the Irish Parliament could not exist for a week without the riches of Belfast.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
Very well, then; but do not say at the same time that the very first thing that an Irish Parliament would do would be to destroy the riches and prosperity of Belfast.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Where would the revenue come from in Ireland if it did not come from Belfast?
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
All these fears and differences, my Lords, exist only in the field of imagination. Nothing on earth would persuade me that if the legitimate objections that have been raised by the people of Ulster to this Bill were satisfied the people of Ulster would refuse to lend the weight of their authority and help to what would be the moderate constitutional party in an Irish Parliament, the party that with their help would be unquestionably the largest and strongest party in that Parliament. Nothing will ever persuade me that if agitators would leave them alone the Protestants of Ulster, if these legitimate objections were met, would maintain this absurd theory of two nations, which is only invented to make discord where accord would naturally be.
I have said what I can, and I hope not at inordinate length, on the general principle of Home Rule, and why I am so strongly in favour of it, and why I feel constrained to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. But when I contemplate the way in which principle is set out in the Bill I am afraid I have nothing favourable to say. What are the usual objections that have been raised by the Unionists of Ulster and elsewhere? That a Bill of this character ought not to be passed through a mutilated Parliament. With that I agree. Personally, I have the strongest objection to putting an Irish Parliament at the tender mercies of an absolutely unrestricted and probably very Socialistic House of Commons. Then the methods pursued by the guillotine, and so on, in the other place have been strongly commented upon, and it is said that a Bill of this kind and character ought not to be passed without its being submitted to the people, to the electorate. I see great substance and validity in all these objections, and with a great many of the criticisms of the Bill I entirely agree. I am not going into any details, details that would be material at the Committee stage; but I should like to give my two principal reasons why I am perfectly sure that this Bill would never lead to a satisfactory and permanent settlement of the question. In 481 in the first place, I do not think the Bill provides a sufficient check on administration. It ought not to be necessary, but it is necessary now. The Ancient Order of Hibernians to which I alluded just now is a very formidable body. It returned under the Insurance scheme as consisting of 130,000 members; it is a purely Catholic society, a secret society. I do not for a moment believe that it has any bloodcurdling oath. It is no menace, of course, to Great Britain, nor is it any menace to Protestantism as such; but it is a menace to good administration in. Ireland. It is not out for blood; it is out for plunder. It is a predatory association prowling about for jobs under the cloak of religion. It will die out in time because its policy and methods are contrary to all that is best and strongest in the Irish character. But it is well organised, powerful, and rich, and when Protestants and Unionists in the North see the way in which Catholics and Nationalists in the South have been treated by this Society, simply because they objected to the methods of the society and because they stood for good administration and fair play and for Ireland for all Irishmen—I can quite understand that the Protestants and Unionists in the North, when they see the way that. men like Mr. O'Brien have been treated, are uneasy, and I think they have got ground for uneasiness, and until by good administration confidence is secured in the Irish Parliament there ought to be some more efficient check than the Bill contains in the shape of a stronger Upper House or in some other shape. I think even the authors of the Bill themselves admit that this Bill is pretty hard to understand. It is rather complicated, and to an ordinary intellect like mine in some respects very obscure.
I do not know what the real intention of His Majesty's Government is in the Bill. What is your intention? Is the status of a Dominion Government your ideal for Ireland? If it is, why does not the Bill say so? Why do you not put it in the Bill? I gather from a speech of the Chief Secretary made the other day that fiscal autonomy is not your ideal. Well, according to the Chief Secretary fiscal autonomy is not your ideal but according to the Bill it is. If, it is not, what on earth does Clause 26 of the Bill mean? The Bill, at any rate, contemplates fiscal autonomy for the Irish Parliament after certain conditions have 482 been complied with. I quite admit the conditions are, in my opinion, absolutely impossible. They never can be complied with. But still you put this fiscal autonomy in as a bait in your Bill in order, I suppose, to attract the Irish people. Then what are your conditions? The conditions are that Ireland has, in the view of the Exchequer Board, to show a surplus over all the expenditure on Irish services, and to provide a proper contribution, whatever proper contribution means, to the common purse. How is the Exchequer Board constituted? There are two members of the Treasury, two members of the Irish Government., and one member appointed by the Crown.
THE EARL or DUNRAVEN
He is, of course, appointed by the Prime Minister of the day. We know the Treasury pretty well in connection with Irish finance. It will not be a very easy thing for the Irish Treasury to show a surplus over expenditure. The Irish Treasury and the Prime Minister of the day will always have a casting vote on the Exchequer Board, and in any case it is certain that Ireland can never obtain this fiscal autonomy that is dangled before her unless it happens to meet the convenience of the Party in power at the time over here, How on earth do you imagine that Ireland is ever going to fulfil these conditions? You have entailed a certain standard of living in Ireland. By a system of bookkeeping which I venture to say would not be passed by any impartial and competent auditor, you make the Irish account show a deficit. You make no allowance whatever for having taken from Ireland in the past a great deal more than you ought to have taken in justice to Ireland. Nothing in the world is more difficult than for a nation to reduce the standard of living that it has been accustomed to. It may do so, but it will take a long time. You have quite properly safeguarded the interests of the Civil servants, and no economies and retrenchment can be made in that direction for a considerable time. You 483 give the Irish Parliament no freedom of range in the matter of taxation. A beggary £200,000 a year is all that Ireland will have after a few years for the development of her resources. How possibly can the financial provisions of this Bill, do you imagine, enable Ireland to fulfil the conditions imposed upon her? I cannot help thinking that His Majesty's Government know perfectly well that they never can do so.
I am forced to the conviction that this fiscal autonomy which is certainly contained in the Bill was never intended to come into operation, but is merely a matter of window-dressing. It is a fraud upon the Irish people. The Prime Minister, in the speech he made in introducing the Bill, evidently had a federal arrangement in his mind. While recognising to the full the priority of Irish claims, he has always presented this as a first step, and only a first step, in a larger and more comprehensive scheme of some kind. If it means federation I am entirely in agreement with the Prime Minister. I believe that a federal system is the only system that will reconcile objections and give satisfaction. But this Bill is not constructed on federal lines. You give over to Ireland the Post Office. I do not know why—I suppose because the Post Office makes a loss in Ireland. Of course you subsequently put in all sorts of restrictions. But still you do give her a separate postal service, and that is incompatible with federalism. You give her control over Customs; it is perfectly true that, having done so, you immediately take it all away again. But, still, you give a paper control over the Customs which necessitates a Customs cordon, and that, again, is absolutely incompatible with federalism.
I should like, if I could get it, a straight answer to a straight question. What really is the Government's objective? Is your objective the status of, say, a Dominion Parliament? If it is, I maintain that that status will never by any possibility be arrived at under this Bill. If it is not this, is it federalism? If it is, then all that you can say about fiscal autonomy is mere pretence, and the federalism is pretence too, because this Bill never can be made to fit into any federalism applicable to other parts of the United Kingdom. When von bring in what the Prime Minister calls his larger 484 scheme, then if this Bill has become law this Bill will have to be repealed because this Bill is an absolute bar to federalism. The Bill is a makeshift. It proceeds on no definite principle. It leaves such huge questions as fiscal autonomy, independence, repeal of the Union, or a federal union to be thrashed out by the two Parliaments. It makes for friction, not for a settlement. It is not fair to the Irish people. It does not give an Irish Parliament a hundred to one chance, strive as it may. Some day or other, and the sooner the better, this question has to be settled, and not only the Irish question, but much larger questions—the constitutional question and the Imperial question. They all hang together. This Irish question has got to be settled. Unquestionably the best way of settling it would be to bring about a settlement by consent. When summing up on the Third Reading of the Bill in the other place the Leader of the Opposition said that no man would be more pleased than he if this problem—he quite properly used the word "problem"—could be settled by consent.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
The Postmaster-General and the Chief Secretary both spoke practically to the same effect. Well, my Lords, why not try to make a settlement by consent? Why not accept the bed-rock principle in this Billdevolution—and then in calm and dispassionate conference see if an agreement by consent cannot be arrived at. At any rate, I shall vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, and I shall do so for the reason that the Bill is founded on a principle that must certainly be adopted sooner or later. I hope your Lordships will give a Second Reading to the Bill and proceed drastically to amend it. I venture to point out that not only can your Lordships amend the Bill, but you can make the date of the Bill coming into operation dependent upon anything you like. I would venture also to ask this House to consider the circumstances in which we are now placed. We can no longer absolutely reject the Bill. We can only delay it. Of course, it is possible that 485 delay may have the same practical effect as absolute rejection, but that is a chance, a gambling chance, and this is a matter far too important to gamble about. The question now before the House is whether this Bill is, or is not, to become law. It is a question whether the Bill, which we nearly all think a very bad Bill, ought to become law, or whether a better Bill, or, if you like it, a much less bad Bill, is to become law. I do think, while this House ought to do all in its power to have restored to it or to some differently constituted body the proper powers and functions of a Second Chamber, that situated as we are now the most patriotic part for this House to play, and that which is its duty, is to try and make this Bill a better Bill, or, if you prefer it, as little harmful a Bill as you possibly can.
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion before your Lordships' House for the Second Reading of this Bill, Although I support that Motion I agree with my noble friend Lord Dunraven that there is a good deal in the Bill which needs amendment, and which, if, your Lordships allow it to pass into Committee, I shall do my best to have modified. But I think that the framework of the Bill is good and that it admits of Amendments being introduced, and in regard to finance of such suggestions being made to the House of Commons as will satisfy noble Lords who have not a rooted objection to the creation of a subordinate Parliament in Ireland. The speech of the noble Duke who moved the Amendment exhibited, if I may be permitted to say so, an admirable avoidance of those topics which in our Irish debates in this House usually produce irritation amongst Irish Members. I shall endeavour in the remarks which I shall address to your Lordships to follow the noble Duke's example, and only address to you such observations as will appeal to your reason and may be weighed in reason's balance.
In that spirit, my Lords, I submit for your acceptance this proposition—that urgent necessity exists for a substantial reform in the system of Irish government. I am sanguine enough to hope that that proposition, taken by itself, will receive support from all quarters in this House. But with your Lordships' permission I propose to support it by a few reasons 486 appealing on the one hand to authority, and on the other hand to the existing condition of government in Ireland. The appeal to authority consists in this, that ever since the rejection of Mr. Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill there has been an admission, more or less tacit but always an admission, that everything was not well with the state of government in Ireland. I have here an extract from a manifesto addressed by Mr. Chamberlain to his constituents immediately after the failure of Mr. Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill, in which he points out to his constituents what should be the objects that at the approaching election they should hold in view. He said—The objects to be kept in view are, first, to relieve the Imperial Government by devolution of Irish local business, and to set it free for other and more important work; secondly, to secure the free representation of Irish opinion in all matters of purely Irish concern and the introduction of a fair field for legitimate local ambition and patriotism, and to bring back the attention of the Irish people, now divided by a barren conflict in the Imperial Parliament, to a practical consideration of their own wants, and their own necessities; and, lastly, by removing all unnecessary interference with the Trish Government on the part of Great Britain to diminish the causes of irritation and the opportunity of collusion.To ensure these objects Mr. Chamberlain said—It will be expedient to establish a complete system of popular local government alike in its main features for England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. But apart and beyond a purely municipal organisation of the kind, I believe that a larger arrangement will be found safe and desirable under which, subject to the concurrent and supreme authority of the Imperial Parliament, the various portions of the United Kingdom shall be enabled to exercise greater influence over administration and over legislation for their specific needs.That was Mr. Chamberlain's attitude regarding Home Rule for Ireland in 1886, and in 1893 he defined it still further. In an article contributed to the Nineteenth Century in April, 1893, Mr. Chamberlain said—When English Home Rulers speak of giving to Ireland the management of its own affairs they ought to say they propose to give to Ireland the management of such of its affairs as can be handed over to an Irish Assembly without any risk or danger to the country, and I hope I may add without the loss of honour that would be involved if the property and the liberty of Her Majesty's subjects were not fully safeguarded. With an intention so expressed every Liberal-Unionist will readily agree.Thus, my Lords, some twenty-five years ago you had Mr. Chamberlain, who certainly was amongst the protagonists of Liberal Unionism, putting before his 487 constituents a scheme of Devolution and of Home Rule which does not differ very materially from that which was indicated by the Prime Minister on the First Reading of this Bill. I think I am justified in saying that so far as Mr. Chamberlain and his followers went, the necessity for a substantial improvement of Irish Government was present to their minds at that time.
I Would also quote for your Lordships' information a piece of evidence which I take from a speech delivered in this House on February 17, 1905, by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition and whose absence from the House to-night we all sincerely regret. The debate was in connection with questions which arose over the scheme of Devolution which had been shortly before published under the auspices of my noble friend Lord Dunraven. In the course of the debate the noble Marquess, referring to the system of government in Ireland, made the following observations—Anyone who has studied that question"—[the question of Irish Government]—"is aware that there is room for considerable improvement in that old-fashioned and complicated organisation. I think I ought to explain that I say this to your Lordships with the knowledge and the concurrence of my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland.I may add that substantially the same thing was said by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons a few days later. My Lords, I draw from these statements the inference that seven years ago the Leaders of the Liberal Unionist Party in both Houses of Parliament were of opinion that substantial reforms were necessary in the system of Irish government. I shall deal presently with the character of the reforms which it was then thought might be most suitably introduced, but for the moment my object is to insist upon the fact that the Liberal Unionist Party in both Houses of Parliament some seven years ago were unanimously of opinion that substantial changes in the system of Irish government were necessary.
Now I come to the evidence tending in the same direction which arises from the facts of Irish government. Students of constitutional history will admit that in every properly organised Administration all the Departments of the State may be grouped under four divisions—the Legislative Division, the Judicial Division, the Financial Division, and the Administrative Division, including, of course, the 488 Executive. Now what is the condition of Ireland in regard to these four Divisions? We all know that Ireland has no Legislative Division of any kind—not even for legislation in regard to Private Bills, as Scotland has. Ireland's legislative work is done for her here in Parliament, and with what result? My noble friend Lord Dunraven has made allusion to it. We all know that Ireland's public legislation cannot be carried out as it is wanted, that it has to bide its time, and that when it finds time it only does so at the expense of the legislation of the sister countries. We know that Irish legislation is carried through in a skimped and hurried manner, and always in the dim light of half knowledge. And if that be true of Irish public legislation, still more true is it of Irish private legislation, which is conducted under onerous, inconvenient, costly, and dilatory circumstances, as every Irish interest having private legislation to carry through can sorrowfully testify. And, my Lords, if Ireland suffers in these respects, so does Great Britain in as great if not in a greater degree. In truth, as my noble friend Lord Dunraven has suggested, the incapacity of the Imperial Parliament to discharge the duties now falling upon it is notorious, and is becoming more notorious as years pass on. The work of a session is never finished within the session, and the resulting injury to the State and the losses to private enterprises are incalculable. We know that drastic measures taken to correct the evil have been only very partially successful. I hope I do not exceed my privilege of speech, but I venture to say that in the House of Commons liberty of speech is now restricted within narrow limits, while the rights of private Members have shrunk to small dimensions. It seems to me that we are within measurable distance of the time when if the public and necessary business of the State is to be done in Parliament, Ministers and the Departments they control must necessarily become Dictators, and popular government in Parliament a make-believe and a pretence.
From that lamentable condition of things no means of escape exist, so far as I can see, except that suggested by my noble friend and by many others outside Parliament—namely, the devolution of Parliamentary powers to subordinate Legislatures. By recognising the Irish claims for a subordinate Legislature your Lordships will be taking, in my 489 humble judgment, an effective step towards a reform most necessary and salutary in the interests of all pas of the Empire. Whether this Bill affects that reform in the most suitable manner, opinions may differ; but surely it is a matter which cannot be settled, and cannot be decided, without discussion, without examining the Bill in detail, and seeing how far it is suitable or unsuitable and how far it can be made suitable by amendment. At all events, the Bill is the product of careful thought in another place. It comes to you with the verdict of the overwhelming majority of the Commons House of Parliament, and I believe I am justified in saying that by as great a majority of Members from purely British constituencies as has carried some of the greatest measures upon the Statute Book. Therefore I say, with all possible respect and submission, that this Bill ought not to be rejected by your Lordships without at all events that careful examination which can only be done in Committee.
I pass over the Judicial Division of the Irish Government, for whatever complaints may be made against it on the ground of expensiveness or on the ground of improper distribution of minor patronage, it is, at all events, an efficient instrument of government, and therefore safe from any criticism on my part on this occasion. I may also pass over, equally briefly, the Finance Division of Irish Government, for the Irish Government has had no Finance Division since the Fiscal Union in 1817. The Irish Government merely receives money, expends it in accordance with the orders it receives, and accounts for it. Further than that it has no responsibility. Could any finance arrangement be more conducive to increasing the power of the bureaucracy or more destructive of the spirit of self-government and self-reliance than such an arrangement as that?
Lastly, I come to the Administrative Department of the Irish Government. This Division comprises some forty-six Boards and Offices over the greater portion of which the Irish Government has no effective control whatever. The control exercised in Ireland by the Lord Lieutenant over numerous Departments of the State is now far less than it was fifty years ago, when Ireland was said to be governed by "Larcom and the Police." it is less than it was twenty years ago, 490 because in the attempts made within the last twenty years to popularise Irish Government certain Departments have been cut off from such supervision as there was, and entrusted with a sort of quasi-independent Government agency.
Excluding the Police and the Judiciary, the most important boards in Ireland are the Local Government Board, the Department of Agriculture, the Board of National Education, and the Congested Districts Board. I think that there is no sphere of rural or urban life in Ireland which one or more of these boards within their jurisdiction does not touch. Over these Departments the Lord Lieutenant, in whom nominally is centred the administration and control ref the whole organisation, has absolutely no control whatever. The Chief Secretary, it is true, is president of one board and chairman of another, but I doubt whether he or any of his predecessors has ever presided at a meeting of any of these boards. If I were to go through the list I should find some boards constructed on the extraordinary principle of balancing Protestant against Catholic, and thus introducing into the administration that religious difference which has been the bane of Ireland throughout the centuries.
It was the opinion of Mr. Balfour, expressed in his speech in the House of Commons on February 22, 1905, that the proper way of reforming Dublin Castle was by increasing the power of the Chief Secretary and his Under-Secretary and thereby getting a stronger grip on the various Departments of the "complicated system," as he called it, which prevailed. It is not unnatural to think that if you have a strong Chief Secretary and an Under-Secretary working together in harmony with the Lord Lieutenant, they might soon introduce a proper system of co-ordination, and wheel these various Departments into line, enforce control, and instil them with the common policy. I thought so too. It was one of the illusions that I took with me to Ireland twenty years ago. But I am now a wiser man. I know now, and I now admit, that I overestimated the power and the strength of these boards in Ireland to resist any sort of subordination of that kind. The disintegrating power in Dublin Castle had gone too far, the process had already reduced the Lord Lieutenant to a dignified figurehead, and it had even made such headway in an insidious way in undermining the 491 influence of even the Chief Secretary as to deprive him of a large portion on of his control. Mr. Birrell himself admitted as much in his speech on the Third Reading of this Bill in another place. My observation of these boards had convinced me before I left Ireland that no scheme of administrative reform which depends on bureaucratic reorganisation for its success, or which has not behind it a popular backing has the least chance of success in an attempt to establish in Ireland a Government that is satisfactory to the Imperial Parliament or acceptable to the Irish people. But the attempt will, in my belief, be most successful if it has behind it a popular backing. Only allow Irishmen of all classes and of all creeds to come together, and give them important work to do in the interests of their country and of the Empire, and you will be surprised with the splendid work they will do, and do in a friendly and patriotic spirit.
These are the observations that I desire to address to your Lordships on the general aspect of the case. My object was to show that the necessity for change in the system of Irish Government had been recognised up to quite recent times by all Parties in the State; that the existing circumstances of Irish government do urgently call for substantial change not only in the interests of Ireland but of Great Britain; and that no change which aims alone at strengthening the Irish bureaucracy or which fails to introduce the representative element into the Irish Government has the least chance of success.
I come now to the question whether the changes proposed in this Bill are appropriate to the existing condition of things in Ireland, or whether they are so inappropriate that your Lordships would be justified in rejecting the Bill without a Second Reading. What are the main features of this Bill? They may, I think, be stated in ten propositions. With your Lordships' permission I will mention the main features of the Bill, to begin with, and then I shall take them one by one and express my opinion upon them. The first, is the maintenance of the supreme power and authority of the Imperial Parliament over all persons, matters, and things in Ireland. Second, the creation in Ireland of a subordinate Parliament consisting of two Houses, with an Executive responsible to it and with 492 power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Ireland, and restricted in its administrative and in its legislative functions to purely Irish affairs. Third, the reduction of the Irish representation in the Imperial House of Commons to forty-two members. Fourth, the delegation by His Majesty the King of the Executive power in Ireland to his Lord Lieutenant, who shall act in accord with the advice of the Irish Ministry unless His Majesty thinks otherwise, in which case the Lord Lieutenant shall act in accordance with His Majesty's instructions conveyed by His Majesty's Government. Fifth, the temporary division of the Irish Administration Department into two classes, one class to be called the transferred services and the other class to be called the reserved services—the transferred services to be handed over to the control of the Irish Parliament and the amount estimated for expenditure on each in the year the Bill passes; the reserved services to be retained under Imperial management until taken over by the Irish Government in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and while so retained to be financed as in the case of the transferred services. Sixth, the grant to the Irish Parliament of the power to impose taxes outside the scheme of Imperial taxation in Ireland, and to increase in certain respects the rate of Imperial taxation without varying the commodities taxed; all taxation, whether Imperial or imposed by the Irish Parliament to be collected by Imperial officers and paid into the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, from which the Irish Treasury is to be paid. The next feature of the scheme—the seventh—I gather partly from the Bill and partly from the Postmaster-General's exposition of its financial policy. It is that as the revenues derivable from Ireland are now estimated to be less by about £1,500,000 than the expenditure upon her, Ireland is held to be indebted to the Exchequer to the extent of that deficit, and in order to liquidate this deficit the normal increase in the Irish revenues are to be appropriated by the Imperial Exchequer to the Irish revenues and the expenditure balanced. When this equilibrium has been established a new financial arrangement is to be made with Ireland which will provide inter alga for the payment by Ireland of a contribution for the common purposes of the Empire but so long as that financial equilibrium is not established the Exchequer is to grant to Ireland an annual surplus of 493 £500,000, diminishing by £50,000, to make allowance for the fact that Ireland is to be relieved from any contribution to the Common Fund for common purposes. Eighth, a Joint Exchequer Board to be created for the purpose of defining the contribution of the Irish revenue, and determining questions concerning finance which may arise between Great Britain and Ireland and appeals from the Irish Exchequer Board to the Privy Council. Ninth, the Judicial system will remain as at present, except that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is to be substituted for the House of Lords as a final Court of Appeal for Ireland. The tenth and last feature is the provisions for safeguarding rights, and provisions with regard to the Irish Constabulary and the Metropolitan Police.
Those are, I think, the main features of the Bill. I do not trouble your Lordships with details; and I ask you to consider as to each of them whether it would be right or reasonable for your Lordships to deny the Bill a Second Reading. Consider, first, the question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Any and every scheme of reform that could be devised must preserve that condition, and your Lordships' objection to it can only be based on the supposition or on the belief that the provisions of the Bill are inadequate to effect the object in view. But, my Lords, that is disputed. I personally for one dispute it, and surely if it be disputed it is a matter for serious argument and consideration here. To say that your Lordships would be justified in rejecting it without any further consideration would be I, with great respect, urge an unreasonable proceeding.
Then take the next point, the creation of a Parliament in Ireland with an Executive subordinate to it. I have submitted reasons to your Lordships for thinking that no scheme of reform can possibly be introduced into Ireland with any hope of success which does not include the creation of a Statutory body of this kind. To that Statutory body, the Executive must be subordinate if all the difficulties to which Grattan's Parliament succumbed are not I again to be repeated. But whether or not the Statutory body is to exercise delegated authority, and whether or not it is, as in this Bill, to be a Parliament endowed with original functions but subject to 494 limitations and under the absolute control of the Imperial Parliament is a matter for consideration and discussion. Much can be said on both sides as to whether you should have a scheme of devolution, or whether you should have this scheme of a limited and restricted Parliament. But that some body of the kind, some statutory body, must be established in Ireland is, I submit to your Lordships, beyond the region of doubt. I myself am very much inclined to go further than the Bill does in giving representation to the minority. I think that the system of proportional representation which is accepted by the Bill for the Senate might with great advantage be extended to the House of Commons. But that is a matter also for discussion, for reasonable compromise, and surely it is not a matter that should be rejected without any further consideration by your Lordships' House.
The next head is the reduction of the Irish representation in the Imperial Parliament, and I presume that that will meet with acceptance in this House. As to the delegation of the King's powers to the Lord Lieutenant, practically the existing state of things is preserved with the exception that if the Crown raises no objection in individual cases the patronage will ordinarily be exercised on the advice of the Irish Ministry instead of, as at present, on the advice of the Prime Minister or of the Chief Secretary. Such a change as that, I submit respectfully, would not justify your Lordships in refusing a Second Reading to the Bill. Neither would the provisions of the Bill dealing with the Irish Departments afford any justification. As to the transferred and reserved services I myself think that in certain points the plan admits of amendment, but these are matters for discussion and for reasonable compromise.
The provisions regarding taxation essentially differ from the existing condition of things only, it seems to me, in two points—namely, the power given to the Irish Parliament to impose taxes outside the existing scheme of Imperial taxation and the power to increase the rates of Imperial taxation without varying the commodities on which the taxes are levied. My Lords, so long as the new taxes are not differential in their character or in their incidence, so long as they do not discriminate between classes and interests— 495 and these points are safeguarded in the Bill—I venture to think that there is no substantial reason why the liberty given to the Irish Parliament to impose taxation should not be allowed. While presiding in 1911 over a Committee of Inquiry into the constitutional differences and difficulties in the Isle of Man it came to my notice that this system of imposing taxation by the local legislative authority was in force. In the Isle of Man, as your Lordships know, there is a system of local autonomy, and power is vested in the legislative body to vary the rates of Imperial Customs duties levied in the island. Now, my Lords, if a system of that sort is already in force and in practice near your doors, is there in the nature of things any reason why you should not consider whether or not it might be safely extended to Ireland. Is it reasonable to reject it without discussion—discussion which does not bind you to accept it if on examination you do not like it?
In regard to financial matters generally, your Lordships have no longer the control over finance which you once claimed, but there is no reason why you should not consider the finance of this Bill, and if you are dissatisfied with it you could suggest to the House of Commons reasonable Amendments. I confess I am dissatisfied with the finance of the Bill. I think that it labours under a dominant mistake—namely, the mistake of assuming that Ireland is indebted to Great Britain. I should be very glad indeed to have the opportunity of stating my view of the case on behalf of Ireland before your Lordships, but that could not be done on such an occasion as this. It is essentially a matter for Committee.
There are a few other points that I should like to touch upon, but time presses; and I now content myself with thanking your Lordships for the patience with which you have heard me and with expressing the fervent hope that you will give this Bill a Second Reading. If you do not give this Bill a Second Reading and if it passes into law I greatly fear, my Lords, that before the tribunal of History your Lordships' House will not avoid responsibility for having helped, through your omission to act now, to impose upon Ireland an imperfect measure. If, on the other hand, you give it a Second Reading and consider in detail what its defects are and remedy 496 them as far as possible, you will not have curtailed your right when the Third Reading comes of rejecting the Bill if then it seems right to you to follow that course.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, I cannot confess that the interesting speech which the noble Lord has just addressed to the House has convinced me that it is my duty to give a vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. I do not propose to follow him in the many Committee points that he raised, but I should like to go straight for one moment to the speech made by the noble Marquess in introducing the Bill. The noble Marquess informed the House that Ireland had never been an integral part of the United Kingdom, and that because the Irish nationality had refused to die the Bill which is now under the consideration of this House had been introduced. If Ireland has never been an integral part of the United Kingdom I maintain that it should be our ambition and our effort to pass legislation through Parliament which would make it into an integral part of the United Kingdom.
There are two great opposing principles of local self-government which we have to consider. One is the principle of nationalism, and the other is the principle of federalism. A system of local self-government based on the principle of nationalism leads to separation, but based on the principle of federation leads to unity. The noble Marquess informed us that this Bill is based upon the principle of nationalism. I am opposed to this Bill because I am a convinced Federalist, and because I believe that this Bill, being based upon the foundation of nationalism, is one which this House ought not to accept. My noble friend Lord Dunraven made a speech which I confess interested me greatly, but I must say that I was surprised at his conclusions. He made a strong speech by way of criticism, not only of points of detail, but of points of principle against the Bill, and then he informed us that he was going to vote for it. He told us that the federal system was the only system that could give satisfaction to Ireland, and he also told us that this Bill was a bar against federalism, and that if we are ever to have a federal plan in the United. Kingdom this Bill must be repealed.
Lam opposed to this Bill because, as Lord Dunraven has pointed out, it is not suited 497 to the federation of the British Isles. I agree with him that it sets up a barrier which must be removed before the federal principle can be applied. It is because I am convinced that, so far from being conducive to harmony and peace, this Bill would promote discord and tend to Civil war that I shall vote against its Second Reading. I am aware, as my noble friend Lord MacDonnell has pointed out, that a great responsibility rests upon this House in deciding the character of the response it shall make to the request of the House of Commons that we should pass this Home Rule Bill. I take it for granted that we shall reject it; and I cannot help, if I may be permitted to do so, congratulating the noble Duke who moved the rejection of the Bill upon the admirable speech which he made—admirable in tone, admirable in matter, and without one word in it which could be regarded as offensive by any one of his opponents. But although I take it for granted that this Bill will be rejected, I think it would be a serious political misfortune if we were to allow the impression to be created out of doors that those of your Lordships who are opposed to this Bill have no alternative policy. While I hope that this House may decide that this Bill cannot be accepted as a satisfactory or final settlement of the long standing Irish question, I also hope that a clear and positive message may issue from the Unionist Leaders in this House which will convince the people of Ireland that the Unionist Party as a whole are prepared to assist in some other form of settlement which may be more safely relied on to promote the well-being of Ireland and to increase the security of the Empire as soon as this Bill is cleared away. This is the third time that the House of Commons has sent up to this House a Bill supported by an overwhelming majority of Irish representatives.
§ EARL GREY
Quite right. I should not have forgotten that, because I had the honour to be the Whip for the Party in the House of Commons that threw out the Bill of 1886 in the other House. This is the second time that the House of Commons has sent up to this House a Bill supported by an overwhelming majority there; and, as Lord MacDonnell has pointed out, a refusal to meet a request so urgently and repeatedly made can only be justified by clear reasons 498 of high State policy. Well, both the first and the second Home Rule Bills were refused by the electorate by large majorities, after they had had abundant opportunity of being fully educated upon the subject; and I an confident, however necessary it may be, admittedly, to settle the Irish difficulty, that if the people are only allowed to have an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon this Bill this measure will be rejected by as equally emphatic a majority.
§ EARL GREY
When Mr. Gladstone introduced his first Home Rule Bill I had the honour of a seat in the House of Commons. I was one of his supporters, and I can claim the distinction of having been the first Liberal who sounded the note of revolt against his policy. His policy was opposed on two grounds mainly. The first ground was that the grant of an Irish Parliament of any sort at that time appeared to be, or would have proved to be, an immoral surrender to the forces of lawlessness and of agrarian spoliation. That was the moral reason for opposing the Bill. The second chief ground for the opposition to Mr. Gladstone's Bill was that it invested the Irish Parliament proposed to be created with a status more closely resembling the status of the Dominion Parliament of Canada than that of a province in a Federal Dominion. To grant Ireland such a status instead of only a provincial status was regarded as fatal to the safety and integrity of the United Kingdom and to the security of our Empire.
Since the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893 were thrown out by overwhelming majorities of the people of the United Kingdom much has taken place. The policy of land purchase, to which my noble friend Lord Dunraven has referred, has created a new Ireland. A new respect for property has taken the place of the old agrarianism. When I was in Canada in October, 1910, Mr. T. P. O'Connor visited Ottawa and informed the people of the Dominion that the process of turning Ireland into a peasant proprietary had transformed it from a land of paupers and slaves into a land of prosperous freemen. The people heard with delight that a new day had dawned on Ireland; and Mr. T. P. O'Connor having declared that his mission was to secure Canada's approval for a Federal 499 Government of the United Kingdom for federal affairs, or, in other words, a duplication in the United Kingdom of the principles under which they were so contentedly living in Canada, the audience at the conclusion of his address passed subscription lists round with the result that the splendid sum of $11,000 was subscribed. Referring at the same meeting to the effect of the Land Purchase Act, on the 300,000 peasants, who under its provisions had become the owners of the land they occupied, Mr. T. P. O'Connor said a new Ireland would grow up on foundations based upon peasant proprietary, the surest and best foundation of national prosperity, national wealth, and national citizenship. Is it not a pity, my Lords, that His Majesty's Government have not been a little more industrious and zealous in promoting and finishing the work of land purchase of which Mr. O'Connor has given so great a description?
If we can accept, as I believe we can, this testimony of Mr. T. P. O'Connor, confirmed as it has been to-day by my noble friend the Earl of Dunraven, as to the quieting and transforming effect of Irish land purchase on the Irish character, we are, I think, justified in assuming that a wise and well considered measure of conferring upon Irishmen powers of managing their own local and domestic affairs, which would have been in 1886 nothing less than an agrarian outrage, has now become a safe and a moral policy. I would go further and say not only a desirable but a necessary policy. The result of a quarter of a century of active controversy has been to establish, I venture to say, a pretty general public opinion, a unanimous opinion almost, in favour of limiting such powers as may be granted to Ireland to powers similar to those delegated by the British North America Act to the Canadian Provinces. I do not wish to take up the time of the House unduly, and I must apologise for trespassing on your Lordships' indulgence, but there is one remarkable fact in connection with Mr. Redmond in October, 1910, in America, reported in the Daily Express, which I desire to bring before the attention of this House. In this interview Mr. Redmond is stated to have declared—Our demand for Home Rule does not mean that we want to break with the British Empire. We are entirely and thoroughly loyal to the Empire as such, and we desire to strengthen the Imperial bonds through a federal system of Government.500 He went on to say—We are willing to forego the right of making our own tariff and are prepared to abide by any fiscal system enacted by the British Parliament. Also we are prepared to bear our full burden with England, Scotland, and Wales in supporting such Imperial charges as the Army and Navy, which is not done by the Colonies.Also he went on to say—We want Ireland to control for herself such local measures as do not in any way concern Great Britain. We are strongly in favour of a federal Empire, and once we receive Home Rule we shall demonstrate our Imperial loyalty beyond question.One object in calling the special attention of the House to what Mr. Redmond said is to point out that he further stated that after Home Rule comes one object for which we shall work is a closer Anglo-American understanding, and he said we shall do our best to strengthen the Empire by bringing America and England closer together. I do not think that there is any one who will not say that that policy would be a beneficial and wise policy for the United Kingdom and for the Empire. But it may be asked, Is Mr. Redmond to stand by this declaration that I have quoted? That I cannot say. I am not in Mr. Redmond's confidence, but my impression is that whether he is prepared to stand by this declaration or not depends in a large measure upon the Unionist Leaders. If the Unionist Leaders desire, as I am sure they do, to settle the Irish difficulty the conditions to-day would appear to be favourable for the passing of a Federal Home Rule measure after the barrier set up by the present Bill which we are now discussing has been removed.
Having said so much, it is evident that I am in favour of such a measure of Home Rule as will give the Irish people the power to manage their own domestic affairs, but under conditions which will tend to increase the self-respect and the prosperity of the Irish people, to promote the unity of the United Kingdom, and to bring additional strength and security to the Empire. It is impossible for any one to have lived, as I have, for seven years in Canada without realising the advantages of the federal system. It is a system which combines local autonomy on domestic matters with unity of government in matters of common interest. It works admirably to the advantage of all concerned. If I should be asked to explain what I mean by the federal system, let 501 me quote the definition of the historian Freeman—A Federal Government in its perfect form is one which forms a single State of several nations.Under the federal system as it exists in Canada, each Province has exclusive control over its domestic affairs which has been delegated to it by the Federal Dominion Parliament. A Legislature subordinate to the Dominion Parliament exists in each province for the administration of its delegated power. Provinces like Ontario and Quebec, as dissimilar from each other as North-East Ulster is from the South and West of Ireland, each manages their own domestic affairs, and each returns a representation to the Federal or Dominion Parliament in proportion to their population. This Federal Parliament is responsible for the general well-being of the whole Dominion. It fixes the tariff; it administers the postal services; it provides for defence; it safeguards trade; it assists agriculture, and it performs all those functions of government which have not, been specifically delegated by Act of Parliament to the subordinate Provincial Governments. Catholic Canadians of French descent live quietly next to Protestant Canadians of British descent, and each, secure in full enjoyment of their provincial autonomy with regard to their domestic affairs, are united as brothers in safeguarding and extending the national interests of Canada.
Apply this system to the United Kingdom and the day will come when, if I may again quote the graphic language of Mr. T. P. O'Connor, there will not be the Green above the Red or the Red above the Green, but the Green beside the Red and the Red beside the Green, with liberty and loyalty combined. Ireland might possibly consist of two Provinces under a federal system—the North-East of Ulster would form one Province, and the rest of Ireland another; and just as the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec stand in friendly relation one to the other and are joined together by the common interests they have in the Federal or Dominion Parliament at Ottawa, so the Provinces first of Ulster and secondly of the rest of Ireland would each have exclusive control over their own domestic affairs and be joined together by their common interests in making the Parliament of Westminster as efficient as possible for prompting the 502 prosperity of the whole of the United Kingdom. That would be a form of Home Rule to which I venture to contend no exception could be taken by the people of Ulster, whose approval of any new form of Government that may be invented for Ireland is just as important as that of the Nationalists of the South and West. It is quite possible, that the people of Ulster might desire after a few years' experience of this federal scheme to merge their Province in that of the rest of Ireland.
The financial clauses of the Bill, which I think constitute the most important clauses of this measure, were touched upon cursorily by Lord MacDonnell. I should like to point out that under the federal system in Canada the public mind is not harassed and irritated and annoyed by attempts to ascertain from what part of the Dominion the national revenue comes, or in what part of the Dominion it is spent. The statesmen of Canada are ever on the watch to promote the consolidation of the Dominion and to discourage any such attempts. As to localising the revenue and expenditure, it does not matter to those engaged in promoting the unity and well-being of the whole from what part of the Dominion the national revenue comes. Similarly if the federal system as practised in Canada were extended to the United Kingdom there need be no elaborate balance-sheets showing the indebtedness of the various parts of the United Kingdom. For instance, a man who smokes a pipe of Imperially taxed tobacco in Dublin contributes as much to the Imperial revenue as the man who smokes the same tobacco in Edinburgh or London, and the amount contributed to the Revenue by the Dublin smoker would not be credited to the account of Ireland in making up the balance sheet of the United Kingdom, or put down as a set off against Imperial money spent in Ireland. At least it would not if the same practice prevailed in Ireland as that under the federal system in Canada. Under the federal system of Canada a contribution is made by the Federal Government to the Provincial Government calculated on the basis of population at so much a head, and where the circumstances justify it—as they would in the South and West of Ireland—special assistance is given to a particular Province from federal funds. If a similar system were applied to Ireland a far more satisfactory financial 503 relationship would be created than that which would be established by the financial clauses of this Bill. I am aware that I am dealing with this subject very cursorily, but it is impossible to deal with it, particularly at this late hour, otherwise than cursorily. But I think I have said enough to convince the House that the federal plan has advantages which entitle it to be preferred to the plan of the present Bill.
Under the present Bill the Ulstermen will be coerced to come under an Administration in which they will be at best a hopeless and helpless minority. The proposal to force Ulstermen against their will under the rule of the Nationalists, who outnumber them in the proportion of four, or certainly three, to one, is a proposal which I am confident the Government will never be able to enforce. The difference between the Ulstermen of the North-East of Ireland and the Nationalists of the South and West is almost as great as that which exists between the French-speaking Canadians of Quebec and the English-speaking Canadians of Ontario. Let us assume for a moment that the French-speaking Canadians of Quebec were three to four times more numerous than the English-speaking Canadians of Ontario, and let us assume that the Dominion Parliament were to propose that the rights of local government now possessed by the men of Ontario should be transferred to a Legislature in which it is true they would be equally represented with the men of Quebec, but in which the men of Ontario could never hope to obtain more than a comparatively small and hopeless minority. What would His Majesty's Government think would be the result? Would such a proposal tend to harmony or to civil war? I have no doubt as to what would happen. I am as confident as I stand here that the men of Ontario would resist this invasion of their rights if necessary by force of arms, and I am also confident that every member of the English Liberal Party who is faithful to his old traditions would extend to them their sympathy and perhaps some of them their personal support.
I ask, Why apply to Ireland a method against which their sense of justice would revolt if it were applied to Ontario? I would then ask His Majesty's Government, if it is their desire to meet the long-standing 504 cry of the Irish people to manage their own affairs in the same way that the people of the various States of America and of the various self-governing Dominions manage theirs, why not proceed on the federal lines which are working so successfully in our self-governing Dominions? I have suggested that Ulster might be a separate Province. Well, Ulster has a larger population than seven out of the nine Provinces in Canada. Ulster is a larger Province than several of the States of the American Republic. Why not give the Ulstermen of the North-East the same rights of local self-government as are enjoyed by the men of Ontario; and the Nationalists of the South and West the same rights as are enjoyed by the men of Quebec. Follow this course and you will meet the Irish demand for self-government in a way which will satisfy the sentiment of the democracies of the United States and of the oversea self-governing Dominions, and will at the same time put an end to a century of misunderstanding and make the United Kingdom united not only in name but also in fact.
Let us look at the question for one moment from the standpoint, not of Ireland, but of Great Britain and of the Empire. Let me point out how the federal solution would affect Great Britain. I do not think your Lordships will dispute my assertion when I state that the present position is intolerable. The supreme sovereignty of the State is vested in a single Chamber, which is so congested that it is unable to find time to perform the constitutional function of even discussing adequately the legislative proposals submitted to it by the all-powerful Cabinet. Another result of the present position is that Parliament has no time at its disposal to give consideration to the many needs of the people as to which legislation is urgently desired. There is much to be said on this subject, but perhaps it will suffice if I say that one result of the federal solution would be to relieve Parliament of the congestion which is at once stifling to our liberties and unresponsive to our wants. The federal solution would help to make, not only Parliament master of its own time, but it would enable England to be mistress of her own house; her Church would not be disestablished, nor would her schools or her licensing laws be controlled against her will through the votes of outside people who should have 505 no interest in our local or domestic affairs. The fact that the people of Ireland under the federal system would have the same exclusive control over their local affairs as people in England have over theirs would entirely change, in my opinion, the attitude of the Nationalists of Ireland towards Imperial questions.
What is the greatest danger at the present moment to the strength and security of the Empire? The greatest danger, in my opinion, is the fact that we have in the House of Commons about eighty Members, counting 160 on a Division, who are ever ready to throw their influence against the best interests of the Empire. What would be the result under the federal system? The eighty most dangerous and powerful enemies of the Empire—namely, the Nationalist M.P.'s—would be transformed into forty enthusiastic friends. The Catholic Celt of the South and West of Ireland—I am sure the Irish Peers will confirm me in this—is by temperament, by religious instruction, and by interest the most conservative unit in the United Kingdom. He is opposed to Socialism, to secular education, to Land Taxes, to Free Trade. The fighting position taken up by the Leaders of the Unionist Party is to me absolutely incomprehensible, for it compels their natural allies to fire into the backs of their own troops. What can be more fatal? Federate the United Kingdom and this destructive fire which is at present annihilating your own forces will be directed from a position shoulder to shoulder with your own men against a common foe. To continue a day longer than is absolutely necessary in your present hopeless position appears to me, from a Party point of view, if I may venture to say so without being rude, to be crass stupidity.
But I do not approach the consideration of this question from the standpoint of Party. While I believe that the federal solution will help the Unionist Party; will help England; will help Ireland; my main reason for advocating the federation of the British Isles is because of the increased strength and security it would bring to the Empire. In the interests of the Empire I feel very strongly that it is imperative that the Irish question should be settled on lines which will satisfy the sentiment of the oversea democracies, both in our 506 self-governing Colonies and in the United States. Every one, I think, will agree that it is most important and in the highest interests of the Empire that there should be the friendliest, feelings of generous affection and goodwill, not only between the self-governing Dominions and the Motherland, but between America and England. I believe it is as much to the advantage of America as of England that there should not be the shadow of a cloud on the unity of purpose that binds together the English-speaking peoples of the world. I need not elaborate this point. We are all agreed upon it. A heavy shadow at present exists, and it arises from our treatment of Ireland. The endeavour of the Irish-Americans to force into the new President's Cabinet an Irish American who may use his influence in the Cabinet for preventing the realisation of the Arbitration Treaty with England and against a friendly attitude towards England generally, which was referred to in the cable of The Times Correspondent at Washington the other day, may be accepted as an illustration of the fact that between England and America stands Ireland. If this be so, is it not our duty to remove the obstacle that prevents that relationship with America from being that which we all desire?
I am glad to believe that an increasing number of your Lordships are visiting Canada and the other Dominions yearly, and when you go there you will find an almost universal sympathy with the Irish movement in favour of Home Rule. Practically every American, every Canadian, and every Australian is a Home Ruler. The young and the growing self-governing Dominions are practically unanimous in their desire that Ireland should have the same powers of local self-government as are, as I have already pointed out, possessed by the men, for instance, of Ontario and Quebec. Is it not desirable that we should range ourselves in line with the universal sentiment of the self-governing Dominions and of the United States if we can possibly do so, and by a generous and sympathetic recognition of the Nationalist demand for Home Rule attempt to win back to England the affection and goodwill of the Irish people all over the world? What a happiness it would be for Ireland, what a happiness it would be for England, what a happiness it would be for the whole of the English-speaking race, if this great and happy 507 reconciliation could be effected. I do not think it would be impossible to conceive any higher or more valuable ideal for the attainment of British statesmanship than that of bringing about a reconciliation, not only of Ireland, but of the Greater Ireland across the seas. To obtain such a reconciliation, it is worth while running some risk and paying a high price. I maintain, my Lords, that it is in our power to-day to obtain such a result on terms which, so far from involving us in any sacrifice, would bring great relief and an increase of new strength to the State, and which once accomplished would bring, not only to the United Kingdom, but to the whole English-speaking people advantages and blessings the value of which it would be difficult to compute.
In conclusion, may I briefly enumerate some of the reasons why the federal plan is entitled to preference over the plan embodied in this Bill? First, the federal plan follows established precedent. It is a plan which has been proved to work smoothly and well in our self-governing Dominions. Secondly, it gives Home Rule in a manner that ensures, not only the possession of liberty to the people, but the growth of loyalty to the State. Thirdly, it would give to the people of England the power, which is now denied them, of managing their own local and domestic affairs. Fourthly, it would also necessitate the immediate establishment of a Second Chamber which as a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature would restore to our Constitution the balance which has been removed. Lord Curzon the other day appealed for a settlement of the question of defence by general consent, on the ground that this was a subject which could never be solved by one Party alone but only by the combination and co-operation of patriotic men. The question of Ireland, the question of the House of Lords, still more the question of the House of Commons, which although it is now the sole depository of the supreme sovereignty of the Empire can no longer be regarded as a National Council or as a deliberative Assembly — all these are constitutional questions of the highest importance which the interests of the Empire and the safety of the Crown require should be settled in a way that will meet the general acceptance. If constitutional changes are to be accepted by the people as a satisfactory settlement, they must be the expression of a people's 508 convictions and not the hated symbol of a Party victory. Why cannot we follow the example of Canada, South Africa, and Australia? When the Constitutions of these self-governing Dominions were to be remodelled men of both Parties, selected because of their width of vision and of their high patriotism, met together and, sinking for the time being their Party differences, worked together in order to create a Constitution which might be trusted to secure the permanent well-being of the State. If ever there was a time when the necessity of the United Kingdom called for the co-operation and combination of patriotic men, that time would seem to be the present. It is a trite remark, my Lords, that Party government can only be tolerable if it effaces itself in the presence of national peril, and it is because we are confronted with danger both within and without that I would respectfully impress upon your Lordships that your first duty to the State is to reject this Bill of evil genesis and pregnant with disastrous consequences, and then, following the example of Canada, Australia, and South Africa, combine together with the object of securing such constitutional reforms as appear most likely to ensure the permanent well-being of the United Kingdom, of the Empire, and of the whole of the English-speaking people.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
My Lords, I am sure I shall be in sympathy with the general sense of the House if I say that I admire the speech which the noble Earl has just delivered. I am also sure that my noble friend will absolve me if I do not follow him into the federal system which he explained so clearly to us. It is not only that these things are too hard for me, but also, as one of the speakers on the other side said this evening, the present state of affairs with regard to the Irish question is not quite ready for the federal system which Lord Grey contemplated. Nor will I follow him into the statistical calculation of the psychology of the Irish M.P.'s which will be brought about by such a federal system. But I confess that I was somewhat surprised that, after telling us that in the Colonies and in America there was very great sympathy with Home Rule and urging us to give some message of reconciliation to the Colonies and America on this question of all-round Home Rule, in his concluding sentences he should urge that we should reject this Bill.
509 I remember very well the debate in 1893. In that debate Lord Rosebery told the House of Lords that it was not the Bill but the policy which was at stake. I think we have come back to that now. You have the two great Parties of the State disagreeing as to the best way of managing Ireland and arranging the longstanding difficulty of Ireland. We on this side submit one way of settlement and you on that side will have nothing to do with it. I am not going to take your Lordships much into history. But I would remind you that in 1801 Lord Clare, immediately after the Union, argued that the Union should be accompanied by a very considerable extension of local self-government. Nothing was done at that time, but between 1836 and 1893 twelve Bills dealing with local government extension for Ireland were submitted and rejected, and four Bills were dropped altogether. Had some of those Bills been successful and Lord Clare's advice been followed, it is quite clear that Ireland would have been much more prepared for the grant of an independent Legislature, the grant of a Parliament of its own, than it was either in 1886 or in 1893. But since 1893 a great deal has been done in that direction. You have had a considerable extension of local government, and, as has been alluded to to-night, since 1869 there has been a succession of Land Acts, one of which, whose author I do not see in His place, will redound for long years to come to the credit of Lord Ashbourne. That did a great deal. I think it was Lord John Russell who said that in Ireland the land was the life, and Mr. Froude in the early 'seventies spoke of its (Irelands) land system as the "secret splinter in the wound." Well, my Lords, it is common knowledge how much has been done with excellent economic effect in this all-important matter. The noble Earl on the Cross Benches made a quotation—I am not sure that he was not quoting Mr. Redmond—that a new Ireland had been created.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
Mr. T. P. O'Connor said that a new Ireland had been created. That, of course, may have been the colouring that Mr. T. P. O'Connor, as an accomplished author, infused into his discourse. But still, no doubt, as far 510 as Ireland goes the state of things is very different to-day from what it was; and it is not too much to say that the land question which in 1886 bewildered and baffled Mr. Gladstone may be said now no longer to exist. That, mainly, is my position to-night—that Home Rule has now become largely an administrative and fiscal question. I believe it is in that light that it presents itself to what I may call the average constituencies of England, Scotland, and Wales; that is, in the constituencies where there is not a very large or impressive Irish vote. Home Rule has become a comparatively sober affair. To quote Lord Rosebery again, the Cerberus of Irish discontent has become a comparatively mild-mannered creature. Then another statement was that the age of romance seems over in Ireland. I think that exists now only in the excellent school of young Irish poets. No greater contrast I think can be imagined than the contrast between such men as Swift and Flood and Grattan, O'Connell and Parnell, and the two Mr. Redmonds. The earlier men were cast in the heroic mould; the latter in the municipal. I do not say they are the worse for that; indeed, to that extent they are much better to deal with.
Now, my Lords, we on this side at all events have always tried to deal with and settle the Irish question by creating a legislative body to deal with Irish affairs. That, practically, is the Bill before you, and that is the Bill of which the noble Duke moved the rejection a few hours ago. Let me here compliment the noble Duke on the way he did his task. He had all sorts of hard things to say about the Bill, but he said them in a very admirable way. I do not know that he made good all his points. I shall have to speak about some in a minute, but I was rather surprised at his main point. He has himself made a great deal too much, or a great deal too little, of nationality and how far the voice of a people is to be considered. I should like to remind the noble Duke that in 1885 his distinguished predecessor, who was then Lord Hartington, avowed in connection with Scottish Disestablishment and Welsh Disestablishment that the voice of those who were affected was to be respected. I put it to the House that nobody here will challenge the fact that since the Liberal Party, rightly or wrongly, took up the question of an 511 independent Parliament for Ireland the voice of Ireland has neither faltered nor weakened.
I come back for a moment to the noble Duke. I will not follow him in what he said against the Bill and as to what had been done about South Africa and Australia. He seemed very much enamoured of the delays, the conferences, and the considerations which had led up to the arrangement made for South Africa and Australia, and he found fault with us for an enthusiastic impulsiveness in this case. But those were comparatively new questions. He seemed to forget that the Irish question is something like 100 years old. I do not think you can take it all ab ovo as to Ireland in the way in which it comes before us. But, after all, is this such a very bad Bill? Is it so self-defeating, so unsound, so teeming, as I think the noble Duke said it was the other day in Yorkshire, with distrust of the people it is intended to benefit, that is the Irish people? The noble Duke was very much upset about that to-night. He said, "This is too bad; you have not trusted them, you have not given them anything." I wonder what he would have said if more had been given. After all, the main point is not what the noble Duke thinks about that, but what the Irish people are prepared to accept. Therefore I think that particular point of the noble Duke's we may put upon one side—at least I can.
Now I will go back to the true policy of what is being proposed. I shall stick to that, and I shall remember that this is a Second Reading debate, which spares me going into details which have been very well gone into by other people and which I know will be adequately handled by both Lord St. Aldwyn and the Lord Chancellor to-morrow night. I am reminded that Lord Thring in 1883, on this same point, said that in twenty-five years of his own experience of Parliamentary debates he never remembered a Bill of first-class importance which was not described by the Opposition for the time being as crude and crazy. We know well enough that these sorts of representation are the savour of the salt of Party politics. I do not object to it at all, but, to keep to the metaphor of salt, I take those sort of views as to craziness, unsoundness, and rottenness, and all the rest of it, cum grano salis. Another point which the 512 noble Duke made, and which no doubt we shall hear repeated constantly, is that this Bill was insufficiently discussed. After all, it was discussed for fifty-two days, and the amount of discussion which is to be given to anything is a matter of opinion, and I even say largely a matter of temperament. Some people going to visit their solicitor, or their physician, even their bailiff or their head-keeper would spend an extraordinary time over it, and some people who might discuss briefly and simply a given thing will go over and over it again and again before they make up their mind about it. But if you really look at what the discussion was on the Bill you will see that most of the clauses were pretty well discussed. Another point is that people like discussing at great length any subject which can be treated by means of the well-worn platitudes of that particular subject. Being familiar it lends itself to more or less original or more or less varied metaphors, or perhaps it encourages a few little jokes. When you come to really difficult matters there is not so much stomach for discussion. I have a little paragraph here from the Morning Post which complains, in the same way as the noble Duke did, that no discussion had taken place on several complex things. The noble Duke cited some; but I am convinced that unless they were brought up as actuaries most people would shrink from discussing them.
I turn to another charge made by the noble Duke, which no doubt we shall hear repeated in all sorts of forms during the remaining evenings of the debate. The noble Duke said there was no mandate. I do not like the word "mandate," and I suppose if noble Lords opposite think that the actual Bill in its final form, after having passed both Houses of Parliament, must be presented to every elector of the United Kingdom and Ireland at a General Election the contention might be technically upheld, but I really do not think the constituencies would take that view. Ever since Mr. Gladstone broke up the Liberal Party in 1886 the official Liberal Party has had what I suppose constitutes a mandate for Home Rule, and it has been everybody's opinion that sooner or later Home Rule was bound to be a cardinal feature of their policy. It was perfectly well understood by the electorate at large. In 1887 Lord Salisbury himself said that the one word "Ireland" summarised politics; 513 and this is what Mr. Chamberlain had to say about it in 1893—We are face to face with the great fact that the great majority of the Liberal Party are pledged to the principle of Home Rule, and have been strenuously endeavouring during the last seven years to make it a cardinal feature of Liberal policy.In face of that I do not think it is much use saying that nobody knew anything about what was going to take place.
Speaking now as a mere Englishman I should like to turn for one moment to the question of Ulster. I cannot speak with the special information which, no doubt, could be given by Lord Willoughby de Broke or Mr. F. E. Smith, who went over the other day to advise them on their military tactics. But it is common knowledge, suppose, that the North-East counties of Ulster—that is, four out of nine, I think—hold very different notions from the other parts of Ulster where the Unionist vote is not so pronounced, and from the rest of Ireland. That being so, as I understand, if the desire of the majority, constitutionally expressed and given effect to by this Bill, were to prevail, we are to have civil war. In the words of Lord Ashbourne in the debate of 1893, the Bill is the "torch of civil war," and I am sorry to see for a good many weeks past that "Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right" is the cliché upon which, or the thesis upon which, leading articles have been written and advice has been given and speeches composed. Now, will Ulster be right? I do not know what the noble Duke thinks about it, but he knows something of a part of the country where we both live, and I do not think that noble Lords opposite will find that that is the view which will be taken in the quiet villages and boroughs or in the busy market towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire and Westmoreland.
I do not know that I heard the noble Duke or any speaker on that side say so, but I suppose we shall hear what was said in the House of Commons—namely, that the safeguards which the Government, recognising to the full the difficulty of the Irish question, have seen fit to introduce into the Bill are not adequate. Mr. Balfour to this extent did admit that some safeguards had been put in. He did not like them. As usual, they were of a different 514 character from those that he in the same circumstances would have put in. But what he said was that he did not want, or nobody wanted in Ireland, to live in fortresses or behind palisades—in effect I suppose the same thing is meant by Mr. F. E. Smith and Sir Edward Carson, for, as you see, the metaphor is military. But, still, with that caveat against a sort of Masterman Ready existence behind a stockade Mr. Balfour admitted there were safeguards. But Sir Edward Carson, as I understand—and I shall be interested to hear what noble Lords opposite understand—took the view pure and simple that, "We do not care what safeguards you put in; what we won't have is the Bill." That is a very legitimate and proper attitude, and I assume it is the attitude of most of the noble Lords opposite; but if that be so, if this Bill cannot satisfy Ulster, I am inclined to think that in the long run Ulster will have to be satisfied with the Bill, it seems to me, out of sympathy as I am with the drillings and the counter-marches, and the taking of salutes, and all the rest of it. I do appreciate the Ulster difficulty and the sincerity of its disapproval, and if I thought that the effect of the passage of this Bill would be to prejudice irretrievably later on a settlement by consent of the Ulster question, I do not say I should vote against the Bill—I should not—but I should consider whether I should vote at all. I do not myself see, if this Bill went through and you got the financial system of the new order of things into proper working order, though it must be to some extent a time of experiment and difficulty at first, why some settlement by consent of this Ulster difficulty should not be arrived at.
I suppose it is an axiom, or perhaps a copybook formula of political science, that those who would estimate the political and material conditions of a people should not fix their attention too much on the form of the governing body but upon the general welfare and the consent of the governed. Judged by the material standard; by the great increase of prosperity which the last twenty-five years have seen; by the better agricultural conditions of which I have been a witness, for the Yorkshire market I happen to own is the first big one that taps the Irish supply; by the co-operation of all parties for agriculture and for public works; by the 515 comparative success of local government—by, in short, all the material signs of a better state in Ireland, I quite agree that one might very justly say that all that being so "Leave us as we are; why touch us?" ["Hear, hear."] I like that cheer. But it is when you come to the other side and pass away from the material conditions of the country and examine the moral and political conditions that you are brought face to face with the steady, unresting, uninfluenceable, unmitigated-by-this-prosperity demand for self-government. I confess, having watched what has been done in Ireland, having watched the operation of land purchase, having realised that these Acts must have ranged on the side of a settled order of things hundreds of men now doing well with their holdings and in settled homes, that one might have thought they would have preferred to be left under existing conditions rather than be plunged into somewhat uncertain conditions, and that in these circumstances the Irish vote would have been changed. But not a bit of it. All this time, accompanied by this increase of material prosperity, you have, as I 516 say, this unresting, this unflinching, uninfluenceable demand for self-government. But you will throw out the Bill, of course. Your protestations, your speeches, your attitude since 1886, as it seems to me, leave you no other course. The stone of Sisyphus will again rebound down hill. Perorations are not in my line, but in looking through the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons in 1893 I came across the speech of a splendid Irishman, the late Lord Russell of Killowen. He said—The claim of Ireland for self-government has survived many and great calamities; it has survived emigration; it has survived famine; it has survived the hateful moods and tenses of coercion; it has survived the errors of its friends.My Lords, I believe it will survive your action when you throw out this Bill, and it is in that confidence that I shall give an unqualified support to the Bill and to His Majesty's Government.
§ The further debate adjourned till to-morrow.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past Twelve o'clock a.m. till a quarter past Ten o'clock a.m.