§ Debate on the Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading, viz., that the Bill be read a second time this day three months resumed (according to Order).
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, as I understand that a considerable number of your Lordships are anxious to speak in this debate, may I ask the noble Viscount opposite if it would not be for the general convenience of the House that we should meet at three o'clock instead of half past four both to-morrow and on Thursday?
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY)
I should have thought that what the noble Duke asks is perfectly reasonable, and that it would be convenient to meet to-morrow and on Thursday at three o'clock.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, in the observations that I shall address to you upon this Bill I shall not attempt to deal with the larger and wider issues which relate to the establishment of a separate Parliament and Government for Ireland. My opinion on that subject remains the same as it was nearly forty years ago. When I was Irish Secretary in 1874 it fell to my lot on behalf of the Government of the day to oppose a Resolution for the introduction of Home Rule in Ireland. I still believe that the institution of an Irish Parliament, with an Irish Government responsible to it, would weaken the United Kingdom and therefore the Empire, would be a retrograde step in our history, would be injurious to the minority in Ireland, and so far from improving the relations which exist between Great Britain and Ireland, would add friction and trouble to those relations. I will say nothing more upon the subject; nor will I turn aside to deal with the tempting problem which my noble friend Earl Grey presented to us last night with such ability—the subject of federation for the United Kingdom. I think myself there is a great deal of difference between the circumstances of the Dominion of Canada, extending as it does widely across a continent, and those of a small compact unit like the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. But I will not attempt to deal with the noble Earl's speech further than to say that I entirely agree with him in the conclusion at which he arrives, that, whatever the merits of federation may be, this at any rate is certain, that this Bill, so far from being a step in the direction of a federal system, would be an absolute block to a federal system, for whoever heard of commencing a federal system with a unit which so far from being able to contribute towards federal expenditure, is not able to bear even the cost of administering its own affairs.
I propose to confine myself, as far as I can, solely to the question of the finance of this Bill. The whole subject of the Bill is too large, I venture to submit to your Lordships, for any one of us to do more than to attempt to take a portion of it. My part, I fear, is complicated and dry, but of its importance no man can doubt, for finance must be the keystone of any proposal of this kind, and if the finance of the proposal is bad, as I hope to prove that it is in this case, the Bill itself must 519 fall to the ground. It is a remarkable fact that no one in Ireland, so far as I am aware, has approved of the finance of this measure. Last night Lord MacDonnell declined to go into the subject because he considered that could be more fitly done in Committee. That, of course, might be right in another place; but I submit to your Lordships that we at any rate could not deal with this matter in Committee because it would be impossible according to the custom of many years for your Lordships to make such alterations in the financial proposals of this Bill as would be really different from their present form. I take it, therefore, as it stands.
Lord MacDonnell and Lord Dunraven last night equally denounced the finance of the Bill. Both knew something of Ireland from different points of view. But that is not all. Mr. William O'Brien, the Leader of the Independent Irish Nationalists, denounces it as bad from top to bottom, and says it would be unfair to England and Ireland to pretend that as to finance, and the powers of the two Parliaments, and the relations between them the Bill could be accepted as a full and final acquittance for their national requirements. Mr. John Redmond, himself an author of the Bill, says it is only a provisional settlement, and that the financial provisions are not so generous as he could wish; that the Bill would not give Ireland that complete and immediate control over all her finance which he would have been glad to see; but it did not profess to be a final settlement of the financial relations. Lastly, if any one of your Lordships will turn to the Report of the able Committee presided over by Sir Henry Primrose, fully representing Irish as well as other interests, which was established by His Majesty's Government specially to consider this question, he will find that His Majesty's Government have absolutely rejected the proposals of the Committee. We have been asked to hope that this Bill will establish friendly relations between Great Britain and Ireland, that it will, in the words of the noble Marquess opposite, remove the intolerable burden of Irish debates in the House of Commons, and that it will give to the British taxpayer a certain knowledge of his future liability to contribute for Irish purposes, which will be confined to the commencing bonus, if I may so call it, of £500,000 a year, gradually diminishing to nothing. 520 Those are the hopes which are held out to us from the passing of this Bill.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I interrupt the noble Viscount for one moment? What I said was that the contribution would begin by £500,000, after three years reducible by £50,000 a year until it reached £200,000.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I am sorry for the mistake. I should have said, gradually diminishing to £200,000. Now let us see whether, in view of the opinions I have quoted and the facts of the case, these expectations are likely to be realised. I think it has recently come into Mr. Redmond's mind that for many years past he and his friends have held out to the people of Ireland expectations of a millennium of material advantages to be derived from Home Rule. Railways are to be nationalised, mountains are to be afforested, great river valleys are to be drained, every community has been led to expect that some particular thing which it wants will be secured under Home Rule, something of which it has hitherto been deprived by the grasping Treasury in London. I ask your Lordships whether there is any chance under the finance of this Bill as it appears in the Bill itself that these expectations can be realised. We are told that the revenue of Ireland may increase. I think it is more likely to decrease under Home Rule. But supposing that it increases, that increase will go, not to the benefit of the Irish Parliament, but into the coffers of the Imperial Exchequer. Is it possible that all the blessings which are anticipated can be realised out of the bonus of £500,000? I almost hesitate to talk of an increase of taxation by an Irish Government in Ireland, because for years past one lesson which has been dinned into the ears of every Irishman is that he is over-taxed already. But supposing an Irish Government did try to impose an additional tax, where is it to come from under the limitations of this Bill I Can it come out of the Customs and Excise I The limitations are so strong that though the Irish Government might attempt to increase, let us say, the duties on tea and sugar, if supporters of noble Lords opposite persuaded the Imperial Chancellor of the Exchequer to establish a free breakfast table Irish expectations from tea and sugar would be entirely disappointed. Spirits have been 521 a strong item in Irish revenue. Well it is a remarkable fact that whereas the taxation on spirits rose between 1895 and 1911 by forty per cent., the proportionate receipts from that taxation diminished by no less than £1,250,000. You have taxed spirits up to the hilt in both Ireland and England.
Does anybody think that Irish farmers would be willing to assent to the expectations which are held out to us in England of heavy taxation upon agricultural land? Can any one believe that they would assent to the imposition of the sort of rates we have to bear in England for elementary education? There is just this possibility for an Irish Government. They might increase the price of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor; but, unfortunately, most of the sellers of intoxicating liquor are warm supporters of the Home Rule Party. Then the last resource might be, no doubt, direct taxation. It is in the power of the Irish Government under this Bill so to manipulate the scale of exemption and abatement in the Income Tax, the rate of the Super-Tax, and the rates of Death Duties, as to impose an almost intolerable burden upon the more well-to-do classes of the community. But even when they had done that they would not raise much money by it because the wealth of Ireland is not sufficient to enable them to do so. I venture to maintain, and I do not think any one who goes into the question can contradict me, that under this Bill there will be no resources in the power of an Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer which will enable him anything like to fulfil all the expectations that have been held out of benefits for Ireland ender Home Rule. But that is not all. One thing will be taken away, and that is the advantage which Ireland now enjoys from the Imperial credit in the issue of Loans for such purposes as land improvements, labourers' cottages, sanitation, drainage, and other matters of that kind. Under this Bill these Loans are no longer to be issued by the Public Works Loans Commissioners or from the Local Loans Fund on the Imperial credit. The Irish Government, will have to find the money for the purpose, and it must necessarily be able to offer, owing to its limited powers of taxation, only a limited security. Is it not certain that its credit will be much lower than that of the Imperial Government; and that therefore Irish borrowers will have 522 to pay far higher rates for Loans than have hitherto been asked? Therefore I venture to submit to your Lordships that these provisions of the Bill as it, stands can only breed discontent in Ireland.
And how is that discontent likely to be assuaged Yesterday the noble Marquess gave us some very plausible reasons why forty-two Irish Members should be retained in the British House of Commons. He said that taxation and representation ought to go together. Well, my Lords, if His Majesty's Government had adopted the recommendations of their own Committee there would have been no question of that kind. The Irish Members would have disappeared. The noble Marquess said that the removal of the Irish Members from the House of Commons at Westminster pointed to separation. Perhaps it would; but so does the institution of a separate Parliament and Government for Ireland. He said—and this was a most extraordinary assertion—that the presence of the forty-two Irish Members in the British House of Commons would aid the adoption of a federal system. Well, the Transvaal, for example, was granted responsible local government by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Government without anything of the kind, and that did not prevent, the Transvaal joining the South African Union in common with other units on a proper basis. No, my Lords, these may be plausible reasons, but the real reason for the presence of the Irish representatives in the British Parliament is this: they are to act as agents of the Irish Government with the British Treasury. The noble Marquess spoke of them as a microcosm of Ireland. I think he mistook the word. He meant an Irish microbe devastating the British Constitution.
What will these agents do? There will be no division of parties. One and ail will vote together in a raid on the British Treasury. They will simply go to the Prime Minister of the day and they will say to him, "Our Irish finance under this Act is very difficult. We want further aid, and you must give it to us either by grant or a guarantee or something of that kind. There is a critical division coming on; forty-two votes will make a lot, of difference, and if you do not give it us there may be unpleasant results." That will initiate a series of blackmailing acts on the British Executive and the British Parliament 523 which I venture to say will be the worst form of political corruption. Here will be these men coming from a country which does not contribute to Imperial expenditure deciding some grave question of Imperial policy by their votes. Here will be these men, having a Government of their own with which British Members will have nothing to do, supporting a Government in power at Westminster which may be odious to the majority of the British electorate. Here will be these men, with whose local affairs, local taxation and local administration no British Member can in the least interfere, deciding by their votes matters of British local administration, taxation, and expenditure with which they have not the faintest moral right to interfere at all. I venture to say, my Lords, that that will be an intolerable position for Great Britain, as a very short working of the Act will prove if ever it comes into force.
Now let me turn to its effect upon Ireland. The Postmaster-General, who, in financial matters, conducted this Bill with the greatest ability through the House of Commons, used what appears to me to be a very wise expression. He said that a position of self-reliance was the only position compatible with the status of self-government. Does this Bill place the Irish Government in a position of self-reliance? It does nothing of the kind. I have suggested to your Lordships what I believe will be the way in which the inclusion of the Irish Members in the British House of Commons will work. That is not self-reliance. Why has the wholesome principle so strongly advocated by Mr. Gladstone in both the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893 been departed from in this measure? He insisted that Ireland under Home Rule should be self-supporting. He insisted that she should also contribute to Imperial expenditure. But under this Bill not only does Ireland not contribute to Imperial expenditure, not only does she not bear one penny of the burden of National Debt, although she owed £130,000,000 of it in 1817, but £2,000,000, and I think I shall show more, are to be paid yearly by the British taxpayer for Irish administration. I think that it will be something more than £2,000,000, because between the present time and the date of the passing of the Bill, if it ever does pass into law, it is perfectly certain that the expenditure on Irish Estimates will rise, while it is probable that the Irish revenue, 524 in anticipation of Home Rule, will diminish. Further, my Lords, as time goes on and the period arrives for the consideration by the Irish Government of the question whether it will exercise its option of taking over the reserved services or not, the Irish Government will be quite clever enough to exercise that option at the precise moment when the reserved services have reached their highest amount and are on the point of beginning to decline.
Then there is the question of the Constabulary. The noble Marquess opposite used rather a remarkable expression in his speech last night. He told us, I think, that in his opinion it will be a long time before a centralised Police force can be dispensed with in Ireland. Now the Constabulary under the Bill is to be controlled and managed for six years by the Irish Lord Lieutenant. I do not understand what that means. Will the Lord Lieutenant act on his own initiative under the instructions of Ministers in Downing Street, or will he be merely the mouthpiece of the Irish Government, acting on the advice of his Ministers? If the former, it will certainly soon come to the latter position. If the Lord Lieutenant ventured to use the Constabulary in any way in any matter of importance of which his Ministers disapproved, the Ministers would very soon bring him to book by resigning their offices; Parliament would stop supplies, and the administration would be made unworkable. You cannot rely upon an Irish Lord Lieutenant as the controller and manager of the Irish Constabulary during a period of six years. But, however that may be, it is probable that the expenses of the Constabulary will considerably increase during the six years. There may be trouble in Ulster, and in other parts of Ireland there may be discontent with the working of the Bill. The Irish Nationalist Party will not be so unanimous in the Irish Parliament as they are in the present Parliament. There will be factions of various kinds, and factions in Ireland are apt to make it very unpleasant, as the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Morley) knows, for the Government of the day in its work of maintaining order. Therefore the cost of the Constabulary will be at the end of the six years more than it is now, and I believe that the whole subsidy imposed on the British taxpayer will be much nearer £3,000,000 than £2,000,000.
525 We are told that at present at any rate the cost of Irish administration is a million and a-half more than the yield of the Irish revenue. Why is that? It was not so a few years ago? The common accusation of the Party opposite is that this excess in Irish expenditure is due to extravagance on the part of the Unionist Government in attempting to kill Irish Home Rule with kindness. That is a mistake. Undoubtedly Unionist Governments did increase public expenditure in Ireland, but that was necessary because under the working of Mr. Gladstone's Land Acts private expenditure had largely disappeared. But, more than that, it was wise, because that expenditure was made in accordance with true economical principles. It was made reproductive, and, as everybody knows., the improvement in the condition of Ireland during that time has been enormous, and only the other day His Majesty's Government admitted that the revenue in Ireland had increased lately by £700,000 a year. What is the cause of the present deficit? It is the want of financial foresight on the part of His Majesty's present advisers. What they did was to add to the cost of Irish administration by deliberately including Ireland in the Old Age Pensions Act and the insurance Act. That cost amounted to something like £3,000,000 a year, or double the amount of the deficit. I am not about to suggest to the House that, if a Unionist Government had been in power and had passed measures for old-age pensions and insurance, they would not have extended them to Ireland. Of course they would because, as hitherto, they would have dealt with Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. But the principle of His Majesty's Government is to deal with Ireland as a separate country. Knowing as they did that they would very soon be forced to bring in a Home Rule Bill; knowing, as they did, the expenditure that would be imposed on the country by those Acts, why did they extend old-age pensions and insurance to Ireland, a separate country in their opinion? Not at the request of the Irish Nationalists.
There is a passage in the report of the Government Committee on this subject which I should like to read to your Lordships. They say—If Home Rule had been granted to Ireland before the passing of the Old Age Pensions Act it is very doubtful indeed if an Irish Parliament would 526 have in that regard followed the example of Great Britain. So much has almost in terms been stated in public speeches by the leading Irish politicians. It is absolutely certain that the Act would not have been so costly as to absorb at one stroke nearly one-third of the total revenue of the country.I believe that to be absolutely true, and all I have to say is that when His Majesty's Government appeal to the British taxpayer to help Ireland by bearing a deficit of £2,000,000 for an indefinite time and, as I believe, permanently, they ought at the same time to tell him that the deficit is due to their own want of financial foresight in their legislation. But, of course, my Lords they have been, so far as the Imperial Parliament is concerned, absolved from the consequences of their action by the fact that the Imperial Parliament has ratified it, and therefore, in my opinion, if Home Rule is to be accepted for Ireland, it will be only fair that the Imperial Parliament should provide proper aid to Ireland in starting on her new path in the shape of taking over some of the burdens of the extravagant expenditure which has been incurred.
But there are two ways of doing that One way is that suggested by the Committee. They propose that the whole of the old-age pensions in Ireland existing at the time of the passing of this Act should be taken over by the Imperial Exchequer, and that, if anything more is necessary to establish an equilibrium in Ireland between expenditure and revenue, part of the Constabulary pensions existing at the same date should also be taken over by the Imperial Exchequer. The advantage of that proposal is that it automatically puts an end to the subsidy from the British taxpayer to Ireland and places the Irish Government on its own financial resources. His Majesty's Government, on the contrary, propose that a subsidy which they call £2,000,000 a year, but which I believe will be nearer £3,000,000, shall be permanently—I say permanently, because what can be more vague than the suggestion that the time may come when Irish expenditure might be less than Irish revenue?—given to the Irish Government, who may do with it exactly what they like, subject to the individual interests protected by this Bill, I submit that it is grossly unfair that the British taxpayer should be saddled with that subsidy when the causes which have made that subsidy necessary have expired. I submit also 527 that nothing could be more opposed to the lesson of self-reliance which you should teach and to the position of self-reliance in which you should place the Government of Ireland.
The Committee, in their Report, use such wise words on this matter that I will venture to read some of them to your Lordships. The principle of the Bill is that the British Government is to have the odium of levying the taxes in Ireland and that the Irish Government are to spend them. That is the division of labour. The Committee say—It is most objectionable that revenue should be raised for Irish purposes by an external authority through duties the character and amount of which will be determined, not by reference to Irish needs or predilections, but by reference to those of another and different people.And they go on to say—The first principle of sound government is that the same authority which has the spending of revenue should also have the burden, and not infrequently the odium, of raising that revenue. That one should have the unpopular duty of providing the means and another the privilege of spending them is a division of labour that leads to disaster. The lesson which is required to bring home to the individual Irishman in concrete and palpable form is that, before any money can be expended by the Irish Government, he must first pay his share of that money in taxation. We believe that this lesson cannot be effectively taught if the Imperial Parliament retains the power of collecting and imposing Irish taxes.I do not think a more forcible argument could be adduced from a financial point of view against this Bill with regard to Ireland. But it is certainly not less important that the responsibility of maintaining a proper relation between expenditure and ways and means, and of adjusting taxation to the economic needs of the country should be thrown on the Irish Government. The more we denounce the cost of Irish administration as extravagant, the more we are bound to induce the Irish Government, by every means in our power, to rely on their own resources. This Bill does nothing of the kind. What will be the position of the Irish Government? It will be guaranteed by Great Britain a revenue of a certain amount. It may divert the application of that revenue, subject to individual interests, in any way it pleases. But that revenue will come in whatever the Irish Government does. If the Irish Government, by wise administration, by prudent legislation, increases the prosperity of the country and therefore increases the revenue, 528 the surplus of the revenue will go, not to the Irish Government, but to the British Treasury. If the Irish Government, by maladministration, by foolish legislation, injures the country and decreases the revenue, the British Treasury will bear the burden, and not the Irish Government. And, further, my Lords, there will be this astounding result, that the Irish Government, so far front being induced to effect economies in their total expenditure, will be absolutely tempted never to effect such economies, because a reduction of their total expenditure would bring the time for a revision of the financial arrangements of this Bill, which might make Ireland pay for her own expenditure and possibly even make a contribution to the Imperial Exchequer. That is not a position in which any Government should be placed if it is anticipated that that Government will really benefit the country over which it is put to rule.
But if I may detain your Lordships a little longer there is still one point to which I should like briefly to refer—a point which, I am bound to say, appeals greatly to myself as having been for seven years connected with the administration of the Exchequer. It is the question of the relations between the British Chancellor of the Exchequer anti the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, and what is called the interlocking of their respective duties in the administration of finance and taxation. It seems to me an essential part of any such system of government as is proposed by this Bill that there should be a clear-cut division between the powers and duties of the local Government and the Imperial Government, and between the finance of the local Government and the finance of the Imperial Government. What would happen under the provisions of this Bill? The financial arrangements of the Bill are so complicated and so difficult that it is not easy fully to appreciate them. They never will be fully appreciated unless, unhappily, they should ever come to be actually worked.
What, at any rate, is pretty clear is that the financial powers of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer will be very limited. If he does happen, through the ingenuity, which, as an Irishman, he would naturally possess, to hit upon some new and useful source of revenue to Ireland, he will be liable at any moment to be deprived of 529 that source of revenue by the grasping hand of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer appropriating it for Imperial purposes. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer will be in this position. His finance will be troubled and harassed by the necessity of consulting, and if possible agreeing with, the Irish Chancel or of the Exchequer. Take this case. I suppose the present Chancellor of the Exchequer if he did not always spend snore than he ought, might possibly consider, at the request of his supporters, the institution of a free breakfast-table by the abolition of the duties on tea, sugar, cocoa, and other things. If he did that, the Imperial revenue levied in Ireland would be decreased by the amount of tax on those matters which would be due to Ireland. He would have to make up that amount of loss to the Irish Government by imposing taxation on some other articles. Does anybody suppose that the forty-two Irish members would not take very good care that that taxation was imposed in a manner that would not in any way touch Ireland? Then, again, supposing the Chancellor of the Exchequer, agreeing with noble Lords on this side of the House, proposed what I believe is the latest phase of Tariff Reform—a Customs import duty on manufactured goods. It would not be a very easy matter if he was his own master to settle such a tariff. It would be doubly and trebly difficult if he had to settle it with the assent of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, as no doubt he would have to do, or he would be subject to opposition from the Irish Members in the House of Commons.
Take another case. Supposing we were involved in a war and had to raise Imperial taxation. Well, our wars have been generally unpopular in Ireland, or at least the Irish Members have said they were. I do not think in those circumstances the duties of the collectors of Imperial revenue in Irelanl would be made easier by what I may describe as an unsympathetic attitude of the Irish Government and of the officials of all grades in the Irish service. But take a more difficult case still. The time may come—it is somewhat long delayed—when the question of local taxation in Great Britain will really be taken in hand by the Government. The cries of the ratepayers may induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day to propose some aid to local rate- 530 payers from taxation. But the services which will most require aid in England and Scotland, such as education and highways, will, in Ireland, be Irish services, the whole cost of which would, under this Bill, be borne from Irish sources. Supposing the Chancellor of the Exchequer tries to levy an Imperial tax on Ireland to aid these British service. At once you have an Irish grievance. Money is to be levied for a purpose from which Ireland would get nothing at all. At once you have a demand for a subsidy from Imperial sources for Ireland and a return to that system from which you profess that this Bill will deliver us, or else you complicate the financial arrangements of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer and compel him so to raise his aid for local taxation as to impose it solely on Great Britain.
I could go on for the rest of the evening suggesting cases in which there would be friction and difficulties of this kind between the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain; but I think there can be no doubt in the mind of any one that this Bill absolutely provides opportunities for such friction. How are they to be dealt with when they arise? There will be disputes, perhaps, not only between the officials but between the two Houses of Commons on the subject. Are these to be settled by that remarkable tribunal, a Board of Exchequer? Consider the questions that Board will have to decide—what is the cost to the Exchequer of Irish services at the time of the passing of the Act; what is true Irish revenue; what is or is likely to be the cost of a transferred service; whether a tax imposed by the Irish Parliament is substantially the same as an Imperial tax; whether it is a protective tax or not; what are its proceeds as distinguished from the proceeds of an Imperial tax of which it may form a part; what is the loss to the Imperial Exchequer by the retention or discontinuance of an Imperial tax by the Irish Parliament; and lastly, when the true Irish revenue exceeds the cost of Irish services, and the time has arrived for revising the financial provisions of the Act. Those are all questions of the utmost importance as between the two Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland. They will give rise to endless differences of opinion.
531 What is the Board which is to decide those matters? It has no staff; it has no office; it has no salaries; it does not even get the pay of a Member of the House of Commons. It is composed of two Irish Treasury clerks, who will vote according to the ideas of the Irish Treasury; of two British Treasury clerks, who, of course, will vote precisely in the opposite direction, and of whom we were told in another place that they will be under the direction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day; and the chairman is to be some important person, but where he can come from I do not know. He cannot come from either Great Britain or Ireland if he is to be accepted as impartial by either country. I would suggest for the consideration of His Majesty's Government that he might be taken from the Isle of Man. Now, it is really proposed that such a Board as this is to be the arbiter of finance to two democratic Assemblies like the British House of Commons and the Irish House of Commons. Can any one for a moment suppose that either House will accept its decision as satisfactory, even if aided by the legal guidance of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council? Why, all these matters, and numberless others, will be fought out again both in Dublin and at Westminster. And here again you will have not a decreased burden from Ireland to the House of Commons, but an increase of friction and an increase of debate. That is the effect of the whole of this Bill.
There are, I know very well, difficulties in the government of Ireland; but these difficulties to my mind will be largely increased by such a measure as that which is now before your Lordships' House. I think this measure is framed, not to work, but to pass. Its working is in the future should it become law. Its working depends, not on the will of His Majesty's present advisers, but on the use which may be made of it by politicians in Ireland; and of this I am quite certain, that Mr. Redmond and his friends would never have agreed to such a measure as this if they were not certain that, through the leverage of the Irish Parliament and the forty-two Irish Members at Westminster, they could convert it in the future into any form they desire. If I could for a moment put myself into the place of the noble Marquess opposite, if I could really believe that the institution of a Parliament in Dublin and a Government responsible to it were not only advisable but 532 necessary for Ireland, then I will frankly say that I should vote against this Bill. What I would vote for in that case is the arrangement that was suggested by the Committee whose advice the Government absolutely neglected. That Committee, at any rate, recommended a system which gave a clear-cut division between Imperial and Irish finance. It provided that Ireland should levy its own taxation, depend upon its own taxation, and spend its taxation as it chose. It took away Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament, in accordance with what I believe still is the opinion of the noble Viscount opposite, and finally, by a fixed grant automatically coining to an end it did give real relief to the British taxpayer in the future from any further demands from Ireland. I do not say there were no objections to that proposal. Of course, there were grave objections to it, but in regard to one objection, the institution of Customs Houses between the two kingdoms, I do not believe the scheme of this Bill will get rid of the evil one whit more than the scheme proposed by the Committee. But I cannot put myself into the place of the noble Marquess. I do not believe in the wisdom or the necessity of establishing a separate Parliament and Government for Ireland.
The noble Marquess last night warned us in solemn accents of the trouble that might ensue among the majority of the population of Ireland from disappointment and resentment if this Bill were destroyed. He used words which, if they had been used by Lord Londonderry, would have been denounced in every Radical newspaper as an incitement to rebellion. I was not frightened by those words. I heard them in 1886, and I know that by resolute government for a short time fears of that sort may be rapidly put to an end. Nor can I believe that they were really felt by His Majesty's present advisers. If they were, is it possible that between 1905 and 1910 they would have dropped Home Rule absolutely from the Liberal programme? I believe that the meaning of the demand for Home Rule and its extent has changed materially during the last twenty years. Forty years ago in the minds of not a few of the population of Ireland Home Rule meant a separate national existence, and by the very fact that they have introduced this Bill as a remedy His Majesty's advisers show that 533 in their own opinion it is now nothing of the kind. Home Rule then became, in the time of Mr. Isaac Butt and his followers, a demand for a separate Parliament and a Ministry responsible to it, but with much larger powers than the present Bill gives. I believe that the meaning of Home Rule in, Ireland has now still further changed. I think it has long been little more than a feeling that Irish affairs have been somewhat neglected by the Imperial Parliament. Only last night the noble Marquess himself showed how little justification there is for such a feeling now. He told us of increasing prosperity in Ireland, and of the measures passed by both political Parties in this country which had in many parts of Ireland turned poverty into prosperity, and he told us that many of these measures were part of the Nationalist programme. No one can deny that during that period the Parliament of this, country has dealt with Ireland according to her needs and has recognised that her needs and requests are not necessarily the same as our own.
If I were asked what I would do my suggestion would be to pursue the same policy patiently, and further to extend the principle of popular local government which is embodied in the Irish Local Government Act of 1898 in the direction suggested, I think, by the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches last night (Earl Grey) possibly through provincial councils or agencies of the kind, but at all events by the substitution of popularly-elected authorities for the boards in Ireland—now anachronisms—to which so much of the local administration of the country is entrusted. I think such councils might have no small powers of local administration awl legislation such as is entrusted to Scotland with regard to Private Bill legislation. I think that if the Parliament of this country steadily pursued that policy any desire in Ireland for a separate Parliament and a separate Government responsible to it would soon be a mere survival of the past.
This Bill no doubt comes to us supported by large majorities in the House of Commons, but to what are those majorities due? To the suppression of free debate. I know something of the House of Commons, and I am convinced that if there had been the same opportunity for 534 free discussion of this Bill in the House of Commons as was given to Mr. Gladstone's Bill in 1886 this Bill would never have come to us in its present shape, if indeed it had come to us at all. Why has that free debate been suppressed? Not because the House of Commons was pressed with work, but because Ministers wished to take an unfair advantage of the Parliament Act and overloaded the session with three great measures, one of which has now, I am glad to say, happily disappeared. A Bill passed in this way through the House of Commons cannot be regarded as the deliberate expression of the mind and judgment of that House, It has no authority except that of the Cabinet and the Irish Nationalist Party which support it. I venture to say that if a Bill so framed, resting on no better authority than that, and relating to a subject of infinite importance to the United Kingdom and the Empire, is forced on the Statute Book without the express consent of the constituencies, the responsibility for any trouble and disaster which will follow must rest with the Government alone.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just resumed his seat has rendered this House one service as to the value of which we should all agree. This House has a high reputation for the power which it occasionally exhibits in debate, and the noble Viscount to-night has nobly sustained that reputation. His great power as a debater, his high reputation as a financier, and the weight he carries as one of the advisers of the nation all combine to make his speech a powerful one. Into what he said about the Parliament Act and procedure I do not propose to enter, but the noble Viscount indicated at the end of a stream of destructive criticism a constructive element which was in his mind. He told us what his policy with regard to Ireland was, and for a moment seemed to associate himself in some particular way with the speech delivered by Earl Grey last night, but only for a moment, for a speech more destructive of Earl Grey's ideas I cannot conceive. The noble Viscount would have none of Home Rule in a general sense, but was prepared to go this length. He was actually sanguine of what would be the result if we continued to pursue the policy which the Unionist Party have hitherto pursued, and to develop the policy of the Local Government Act, 535 with the addition of something in the direction of what Earl Grey indicated. I am far from sanguine, and am not prepared to say what would be the result.
I sat, as the noble Viscount did, in the Parliament of 1886 which threw out the Home Rule Bill of that year, and I sat through the Parliament of 1893, when again a Home Rule Bill was destroyed. We have now reached a third stage; but, during the long interval that has elapsed between, this is certain, I have witnessed the fortunes of the political Party with which I am associated ebb and flow, and have seen them very low and remain so for a long time. Liberalism was not in favour in the country; but one thing affected me, and that was the intensity of the devotion with which four-fifths of the people of Ireland waited during that period for Home Rule, and if your Lordships think any particular plan like that foreshadowed by the noble Viscount will be successful I have the strongest conviction that it is the vainest ideal. We listened last night to the speeches of Earl Grey and the Earl of Dunraven. Both adopted a different attitude from that indicated in the speech to which we have just listened. Both believed in a large measure of self-government, and both insisted that the time had come when it must be recognised that the policy of the Unionist Party had become a hopeless policy. Earl Grey, in an eloquent speech inspired by that noble tone which we all appreciated although we may have disagreed with his argument, spoke of his desire that this question should be settled by national consent, and I wish I could believe that prospect was near at hand. It is a prospect of which we should not allow ourselves to despair. He spoke of Ulster, and suggested that the North-East of Ulster might be made into a province akin to the provinces of Canada, and should be given a Constitution something akin to those provinces, and so put on a federal basis with the rest of Ireland.
I have not Lord Grey's advantage of a great knowledge at first hand of Canada, but I have some knowledge of it. I have also, like him, had a great deal to do with the Canadian Constitution, and for an even longer period. For thirty years—most of that time spent at the liar and latterly as a Judge—I have had constantly under examination and investigation the inter- 536 pretation of that Constitution, and I wish to point out why the idea which the noble Earl has put before us is an idea which on the face of it will not work. The Constitution of Canada has succeeded because of its vast territory and the immense resources which have given rise to wealthy men in most parts of the country and especially to the possibility of direct taxation. The result was that it has been possible for the provinces in Canada to go for their support to direct taxation alone. The Dominion Government has great powers of legislation affecting the provinces; but direct taxation is left to the provinces; and the provinces have no power to go beyond direct taxation. If they tried to raise a penny by indirect taxation their act would be invalid, as being ultra tires. Apply that to Ireland. Ireland is not a rich country; on the contrary, it is a very poor country so far as the number of rich men is concerned. In a country like that taxation must necessarily be in the main indirect. We have actual estimates upon that subject. The whole direct taxation of Ireland does not amount to more than £1,000,000; it could not be made more than £4,000,000, while the cost of the Irish services alone, excluding the transferred services and the deficit, amount to £7,000,000. How would it be possible to set up the analogy of provincial government, which implies direct taxation? How would it be possible to apply it to the circumstances of Ireland? The thing is out of the question; and although we considered among many other things the Canadian system in the fashioning of this Bill, we were bound for that reason to reject the idea.
The matter does not stop there. The noble Earl seemed to suggest that the relations of the provinces of Canada to the Dominion formed some precedent which might be profitably studied as regards the relations of the Irish Legislature to the Imperial Parliament. But if the Dominion Parliament by its legislation trenches upon subjects which belong to the provincial Parliaments it at once finds its legislation invalid as being ultra vires, and its Acts have been set aside scores of times. Such a position we could not tolerate for a moment. I ask your Lordships to observe that under this Bill there is no such thing possible as an ultra vures act on the part of the Imperial Parliament. 537 Its legislative power, its supremacy, its legal efficacy are preserved in express terms, and it remains, as it is meant to be, a supreme Parliament. It is proposed only to hand over certain legislative powers to be exercised locally.
If you cannot legislate for Ulster on the analogy of the provincial Parliament, what can you do? A second proposition that has been made by other speakers is that you should leave Ulster alone. I wonder if any one who listened carefully to the speech of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal in moving this Bill could have failed to realise how impossible that is. It is a point which has not, I think, received sufficient attention. My noble friend pointed out that the legislation of Ireland is 'wholly different from the legislation of this country. Under the Land Act you have got a wholly different system from anything with which we are familiar. Certainly the laud question in the rural parts of Ulster is not less acute and not less different from our own system than is the land system in other parts of Ireland. If the question were mainly that of the land, there would be no more intense Nationalists than the men of Ulster, because of their views about the land. You have a special Court which has to administer the Land Acts. Supposing, you take Ulster out of the purview of this Bill. Suppose you were to put Ulster under the British Government, what would be the consequences? You could not set up in a small part of Ireland the whole of that expensive machinery. I am not speaking of the land alone, but of local government, education, the Congested Districts Board, and all the vast congeries of subjects that present very little analogy to what we are familiar with here, and which are administered by a wholly different executive and in a wholly different fashion. We might put Ulster in England or make it a part of Scotland, but I venture to say it would be useless, and I therefore dismiss the notion from my mind.
I come now to a question which brings me nearer to the general plan of this Bill. Why should we refuse to grant Home Rule to Ireland because of the objection which Ulster has to a change in the system? It is always difficult to prefer the interests of a part to the interests of the whole. I respect thoroughly the feelings that I know many men in Ulster and many of your 538 Lordships have upon this subject. I realise the intensity of those feelings, but I have a strong impression that they depend upon a too contracted view of history in this matter. The objections of Ulster have not always been the objections of Ulster. Ireland had its legislative institutions since the days of the Plantagenets. She had two Chambers—Lords and Commons, and although it is true that under Poynings' Act, and under the Act of George I, which gave rise to even greater feeling in Ireland, the powers of the Legislature in Ireland were subjected to those of the British Legislature, Ireland had always enjoyed its own Legislature clown to the time of Grattan's Parliament. When the agitation arose about Grattan's Parliament it arose because it was considered that the British Government had treated Ireland badly, that the legislative power of the British Government had been exercised to injure Ireland in the matter of her woollen trade, her shipping, and her coinage. Why did the agitation for Grattan's Parliament become so acute? It was the outcome of the work of those volunteers who owed their origin largely to Ulster. Ulster was in the very forefront in the agitation which took place for the change which was made in 1782. The intense feeling which has arisen in parts of Ulster about this Bill is a growth of comparatively recent times. It has arisen during the nineteenth century; it has become intensified during the last sixty years, and the measure of its rise is the rise of the religious question. I am not a believer in the theory of separation on the ground of religious feeling alone. I believe that these troubles will pass away. I am led to the conclusion that, at least as regards Ulster, we have no right to assume that the objection is a permanent one, or one which should be allowed to stand against the proposals in this Bill.
Why is this Bill essential? It is essential on two grounds. The first of them is one which has been touched upon by the noble Viscount, but I must touch upon it from a different point of view. He spoke of the Report of the Primrose Committee. That was a very remarkable Committee and a very remarkable Report. That Report pointed out that there was a situation of the utmost gravity that was arising with regard to Irish finance under the existing system, and that nothing short of radical treatment would be sufficient to deal with 539 it. The Primrose Committee advocated conclusions which seemed to imply treatment so drastic that we did not feel ourselves at liberty to deal with them. Nothing short of Colonial Home Rule would have met satisfactorily the recommendations of that Report. Again, the Committee in their financial estimates hardly took into account certain increases in the charge of this country for the benefit of Ireland which were imminent; and we felt that they had underestimated what we should have to pay under the system they supported, and yet the grave reasons they alleged for their drastic demand remained. They pointed to the change which had taken place within the last fifteen years. Fifteen years ago income and expenditure in Ireland more than balanced, but since that time, while Irish revenue has gone up by 28 per cent., Irish expenditure has gone up by no less than 91 per cent. They pointed out that the cost of the Post Office had gone up by 74 per cent., a change that was not justified by the circumstances of the country. If that be so, then there is something wrong, and the Committee traced the evil to the fact that Ireland is in political partnership with a nation which is increasing rapidly in wealth and prosperity and is reaching a standard of living far in excess of anything that Ireland could hope to keep up, unless she was to maintain the position of a mere pampered dependant looking for sustenance and maintenance to the rich country with which she was associated. That is a position which has been repudiated by a vast majority of the people of Ireland, and, I think, repudiated in a way that does them credit. It is humiliating to preserve a dependent position, and you have the voice of Ireland declaring in most unmistakable terms that she would rather face the situation as she can with freedom than remain in the shackled, the increasingly shackled, position to which this state of things condemns her.
There is another reason why the situation cannot remain as it is, and that is the situation in this country. The noble Viscount referred to the state of business in the House of Commons and the little time that could be found for the discussion of this Bill, as though that was something casual and in the power of the Government to alter. If you look back at the legislation of the last twenty years, you find that phenomenon constantly occurring. In 540 Parliament we have a congested centre where Members not only discuss Imperial affairs, but find it convenient to discuss local affairs also. Some remedy is necessary if the Imperial Parliament is to continue to discharge its functions, and it is because of the recognition of that we have thought it right to frame our Bill on a footing which gives a chance of devolution not only in the case of Ireland but—it may be in different forms and in varying shapes—to other parts of the United Kingdom.
I think my noble friend Lord Grey in his speech last night was rather led away by words as distinguished from things. He laid hold of the expression "national," as used by my noble friend who leads the House. No doubt there must be an element of what is national if you are to satisfy a nation, but there is no inconsistency between nationalism and what he means by federalism, if you mean by federalism the devolution to a nation within the ambit of a sovereign Parliament of as complete control over its own affairs as you can give it. You may do it under this Bill, and apply it, with such variations as may be necessary, to other parts of the United Kingdom until you get an Imperial Parliament which is free to deal with Imperial matters. The theory of the Bill is this—devolution, retaining Imperial supremacy over the Legislature, over the Executive, and over the Judiciary.
Under this Bill you have true devolution as distinguished from true federation. I do not like names in describing Bills. I would rather not use the word devolution at all, but one must have some expression to distinguish devolution from federation. The best example of federation is the United States Constitution. You will see how radically this Bill differs from that. The United States Federal Parliament cannot interfere with the jurisdiction of the State Legislature. If it does, its legislation is at once declared invalid by the Supreme Tribunal; nor can the Federal Judiciary interfere with the decision of a State Judge. There is not interference of any sort or kind. The relation is that of co-ordination, which is the basis of federalism, and we felt that that was something quite impossible and not to be looked for in a Constitution such as we were seeking to set up in Ireland, and which might form a model for setting up similar Constitutions in 541 other parts of the United Kingdom. What makes Imperial legislative supremacy certain under this Bill is that every British Statute is intra vires and cannot be changed on the ground that it is ultra vires, and the power of the Imperial Parliament remains by express declaration unimpaired. The proposition that you cannot interfere when once you devolve is one which must be taken with qualifications. If you have successfully devolved to a local Legislature and things are working well, you attain the object at which you are aiming, and you do not require or desire to interfere. In that sense de facto supremacy is diminished. But if, on the other hand, things do not go well, and there are Acts which have to be vetoed and executive dealings to be controlled, those powers of control remain intact and can be put into operation.
The noble Viscount spoke of the forty-two Irish Members in the Imperial House of Commons as agents to make raids on the British Treasury. Whatever may be their tendency they will be here for a totally different purpose and a vital and necessary purpose—to give reality to and to maintain the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, which is to remain the Imperial Parliament not less after this Bill is passed than before it comes into operation. As far as legislation is concerned there is not only the power of veto but another very real power, and that is the power of the Judicial Committee which is authorised and entrusted with the duty of considering the validity of legislation even in advance of Bills becoming law. That is a new power in this country, but very familiar in connection with the Canadian Constitution. As regards the executive supremacy, the peculiarity of this Bill is that tae Irish Executive is a statutory Executive. It cannot go beyond the provisions laid clown in the Statute. The Viceroy holds his office as a non-party official representing the Crown, and not any political Party in the State. All federal powers and those not delegated remain in the Crown and are subject to Imperial direction. In that respect the Bill makes a great advance in the skill of constitutionalists over the Bills of 1886 and 1893.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is in the very forefront of the Bill. Then, my Lords, the advantage you get froth that is that the two Executives are interlaced and one has to rely on the other, and a good thing it is. The Irish Sheriffs who execute the orders of the Courts will have to rely for some years at least upon the Royal Irish Constabulary, which is an Imperial force. The Irish Legislature, in gathering its taxes, will have to rely on the Imperial tax-collector; and so far from taking the somewhat gloomy view which I think suggests itself to the noble Viscount over that arrangement, I take a hopeful and a sanguine view. I believe they will come together and that they will have this analogy at least to carry them, that as the interlacing of legislative and executive power has worked well between the Dominion and the provinces so it has every chance of working well here under the provisions of this Bill. The judiciary is again under the ultimate Imperial control because the power of appeal is greatly extended beyond what it is at present to this House on its Judicial side, and these extended appeals are so possible that every question of importance can be taken to the Judicial Committee which will sit as an Imperial Tribunal and review the judgments of the Courts below. It is essential that this part of the Bill should be understood.
Now I wish to address myself to the specific topic of finance. With a measure devised such as this, what form of financial arrangement is possible? It is perfectly plain that you must, in the first place, deal with the situation as you find it. What is the situation here? All the taxes levied in Ireland are Imperial, and they are levied by the Imperial Parliament. There is no other Parliament to levy them. Therefore the Bill starts off by doing this. It sets up an Irish Exchequer, and it sets up a very important body—the Exchequer Board, which has very material functions. The cost of those services which are Irish—that is to say, the general services of Irish Government apart from the reserved services such as old-age pensions, national insurance, the Land Acts, Constabulary, 543 and so on—is ascertained at the time the Bill comes into operation by the Exchequer Board, and their cost is made a charge upon the entire revenue of Ireland and the United Kingdom. In other words, they are charged on the Consolidated Fund. What will happen under the system the Bill sets up would be this—that all Irish taxes will have to be paid into the Imperial Exchequer; that out of the Imperial Exchequer there will be paid the Transferred Sum, which will consist of three elements: the amount of money which represents the cost at the time of the measure coming into operation of these Irish services to which I have referred, the addition which is made in order to give Ireland a surplus with which to work—beginning at £500,000 a year and diminishing after three years by £50,000 a year until it reaches £200,000 a year—and in the third place what the Exchequer Board certifies to be the amount of Irish taxes collected by the Irish Legislature, gathered for them through the Imperial tax-gatherer, paid into the Exchequer, and then the amount paid out to the Irish Exchequer. That is necessitated because the Imperial tax-gatherer collects these taxes; they go into the general Exchequer, and on the Consolidated Fund of the general Exchequer there is charged this Transferred Sum which includes the three elements of which I spoke.
Observe the great advantage that that gives Ireland, at any rate at the start off. The Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer will have a guaranteed revenue sufficient to meet his Irish services as they exist to-day, and they are fairly expensive to-day, with a surplus which is added to enable him to have a margin. The other taxes stand in this fashion. The balance of the Imperial taxes go likewise into the Imperial Exchequer, but when they are there they do not nearly amount to what is necessary to make ends meet in Ireland. So far as the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer is concerned, he is secure and safe, but that £1,500,000 deficit, which is the estimated deficit for the year we are entering upon, plus the margin of surplus, will have to be provided for out of the surplus of Irish revenue, and, as to the rest of the deficiency, it will be made up, for a long time at all events, out of the Imperial Revenue. The position is shortly this. We found ourselves in view of the Report of the Primrose Committee and our own investigations, face to 544 face with one of the most serious financial situations that it was possible to realise—a, situation which tended to get worse rather than better. The legislation which has been passed, and other legislation for which the Party to which the noble Viscount belongs is directly responsible, has done a great deal to create the financial situation to-day.
I am sure that it will be generally agreed that the state of Ireland to-day is very much better than it was twenty years ago. If we have spent money we have spent it wisely. We are face to face with a condition of things in which it is well to spend more; but, we have secured this, that at least we put some limit to the loss. The noble Viscount asked what prospect there is of the deficit ever being wiped out. I think there is a very considerable prospect having regard to the improved circumstances of Ireland. Of late years the revenue of Ireland has increased by something like £200,000 a year. That does not seem a large amount when you have to multiply it by twenty-five to get any analogy between the revenues of Ireland and the revenues of the United Kingdom. Although it would be sanguine to expect that that amount will be maintained during all the years which are ahead, I think there is no reason to despair. By that means and others which the Bill provides it is possible to look forward to a time when Irish revenue and expenditure will balance. If things work well, we shall desire, when the time for the revision of the financial relations comes, to give Ireland further control over her own financial affairs; if things do not work well we shall remain masters in our own house and the matter will have to be one of settlement by mutual consent.
The present cost of Irish services is estimated at something like £7,000,000, and the cost of the reserved services for which the United Kingdom will pay under this Bill is £5,000,000. To-day we are paying nearly £12,500,000 and receiving from Ireland only £11,000,000. Under the financial provisions of this Bill we shall do precisely the same thing until the time for revision comes, and the only additional payment we make wilt be for the surplus, which will come down to £200,000 a year. The noble Viscount said that was too small a surplus to enable an Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer to turn round, and that he would require much more to meet the various 545 demands made upon kiln in Ireland. There are no doubt people who have extravagant expectations as to the financial result. I believe, however, that you will have Irishmen able to direct their attention to Irish matters with a standard of administration and economy which is not the standard in England. Practically now the standard in Ireland is that which obtains in England. Irish matters are not discussed in detail in the House of Commons. We have got out of our obligation by saying, "You shall have whatever we do." That a monstrous system if a nation is ever to look forward to having its own financial independence.
If a nation is to look forward to having financial independence you cannot do it a greater injury than to get these ideas into the heads of Ministers and people: and if this Bill does nothing else it will do great good if it puts it into the head of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer that Irish standards and not English standards must regulate his expenditure. On the Estimates in imposing taxes and in the exercise of the powers to make adjustments, he will have large scope within which to model his expenditure as he pleases. The financial machinery of the Bill is directed entirely to the management of the finances of a Parliament winch exists by devolution and on a footing under which some functions, at all events, will be left to be performed by the Imperial Parliament. I do not think we should have done better if we hail followed the recommendations of the Primrose Committee, nor do I think that the deficit of £2,000,000 is likely to be exceeded. There however, no limit to the amount which this country is likely to have to pay if the standard of social reform rises in this country and you want to apply it to Ireland without reference to Irish requirements. There are certainly some things which will come down. The cost of old-age pensions will begin to diminish substantially; there will be certain charges in connection with the Land Acts; and the time will come when the Irish Parliament, desiring, as it will do, to make ends meet, if only for the purpose of getting its own affairs more into its own hands, will strain every nerve and make every effort to secure economical administration, and we have provided in the Bill machinery which will enable them to take that course. Such difficulties as may arise we can contemplate with equanimity.
546 The truth is that the machinery provided under this Bill is much more precise than that contemplated in the Bill of 1886 or that of 1893, when the Bill was altered and the financial relations between the two countries underwent a change. It is possible to make every sort of criticism on a measure of this kind if your belief is that nothing of the sort could work, if von believe that Ireland will mismanage her affairs. If you believe that the Irish people will use anything given them as a measure to extort further concessions and to give further trouble, then no defence of the Bill in detail, no attempt to justify its provisions, can make any impression. I despair of converting your Lordships to my own point of view, but dealing with the matter on the footing on which the noble Viscount dealt with it and taking the provisions as they stand by themselves, I say that the Bill represents a carefully-considered endeavour to devise machinery which should work with the minimum amount of possible friction.
The system is a new one, but it is a necessary system, if you are to make the advance that many of us have in view. In his eloquent speech last night Earl Grey spoke of the future. He spoke of a Parliament free from the congestion of business that exists at the present time. I share Lord Grey's aspirations. I look forward to the time when we shall see the Imperial Parliament free from the weight which bears it down to-day, which is destroying its great reputation, and causing something of a scandal, in that we cannot discuss in any adequate degree the most important affairs of the world. Foreign policy, Imperial policy, the state of things that concern defence, and all the matters that go to our very existence as a nation, and the pride of our place among the great peoples of the earth are not being considered by Parliament as they should be, because we have not the time, but are borne down by this great press of business which ought to be disposed of. It is said that the Government of the day controls Parliament and moves the Legislature to its purpose. I think that is an imperfect diagnosis. What is true is that, owing to the impossibility of getting legislative business properly considered in Parliament, there has been on a vast scale delegation by Orders in Council, Provisional Orders, Departmental Committees and other methods, of what is in the legislative power 547 and capacity of the Executive of the country. I think it is a great evil that the changes in the law which are made nearly every week should take place without that scrutiny and debate to which they are entitled in Parliament. It is true that Parliament is, and will be, unable to deal with these things until you assume a different attitude altogether to that which is prevalent in the minds of the great majority of this House with regard to this Bill. Somehow or another we have to deal with this question. This Bill represents an attempt—the first attempt—in that direction, and it is because it is an attempt which, if carried, would make possible still further progress in the same direction that I commend it to your Lordships.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
Your Lordships can well understand the hesitation with which one of the Spiritual Lords of Parliament enters upon a discussion of a question on which Party divisions are so clearly marked. Few votes, I suppose, are more closely scrutinised and few more strongly criticised on one side or the other. But there are matters, I think, outside the limits of the concerns of the Church and the social and moral condition of the people affecting, and profoundly affecting, the history and welfare of the whole nation on which, perhaps, we may without presumption say what we think. I have, indeed, no right to speak for any of those who sit on the Benches behind me. Some of them take a very different line, but I hope that what I have to say may be found to express the opinions of a very large number of fair-minded citizens of this country elsewhere. I have neither the wish nor the competence to follow the noble Lords who have just spoken in such extremely able and important attack and defence on the actual provisions of this Bill. I desire rather to call the attention of the House to one of those broader and simpler issues upon which, after all, our judgment must depend, and which are apt sometimes to be obscured by discussions of details however necessary and important these are.
Let me say at the outset that I approach this question with a strong bias in favour of some measure of self-government for Ireland. I think that there are few of us who can deny that there is a real and 548 an urgent Irish problem or believes that we are likely to advance towards its solution by merely repeating, "We will not have Home Rule." Nor do I think that it is sufficient to have a policy, however generous, of promoting the economic welfare of Ireland. I cannot resist much of what was urged with so much eloquence by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack—that some recognition must be found for the persistent and sustained desire of the majority of the Irish people to have some liberty to manage their own affairs in their own way. I will go further, and agree with what has been said on both sides, that some measure of Home Rule is necessary not only to meet the needs of Ireland but to meet the needs of the Imperial Parliament. We agree that the burden of business laid on the House of Commons at the present time is too heavy for it to bear, but I cannot resist suggesting to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, if he will allow me to do so, that the evils of which he so eloquently complained might be mitigated by a little economy on the part of His Majesty's Government as to the number and character of the measures that they ask the House of Commons to accept. The chief remedy by which it is sought to relieve this congestion of business—the constant use of the guillotine and time-table—obviously only increases the evil, largely depriving the House of Commons of its functions as a deliberative Assembly and interfering not only with the deliberative but the administrative functions of the House. Is it too much to say that it partly explains the increase—as some people think, the sinister increase—of the power of the great administrative Departments? Nothing could be worse than that the House of Commons should lose its full control of public administration. I think we must also admit that the congestion of business does partly account for what must perhaps be described as the growing distrust among many people of the efficiency and importance of the House of Commons.
I agree strongly that the time has come, probably has come long ago, when the Imperial Parliament ought to be relieved by some system of delegation or devolution—words matter very little—by which the concerns of each component part of the United Kingdom can be considered and dealt with by local assemblies. I do not think that 549 we need be alarmed by the pictures drawn of the effect upon the unity of the Kingdom. Facts must be faced as they arise. Our central Government, which had its foundations in local government, has become somehow top heavy, and to conserve its own work and credit it must lay hold of the old foundations once again. Certainly nothing could be more fatal to the cause of the unity of the Kingdom than the failure of the Imperial Parliament to maintain its great functions of caring for the welfare, the defence, and the Imperial and international relations of the Empire as a whole. If, therefore, this Bill had been so constructed as to lead the way towards strengthening the Imperial Parliament by the growth of local Legislatures, I should have viewed it with the greatest sympathy, but I cannot but agree with what has been most ably said, that it seems rather to obstruct than prepare the way for such development.
The Bill contains provisions that could not possibly be extended to similar Legislatures in other parts of the United Kingdom, and those provisions affect not only those specially Irish questions to which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has rightly called attention, but the principles on which the measure of devolution is constructed. These financial provisions as to Customs and Excise and the public services, such as the Post Office, could not possibly be transferred to other bodies. Above all, and this goes to the root of the matter, I should have thought that in delegation on a large scale, consistent with the true supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, only those matters that were expressly defined should be delegated to the subordinate Legislature and that all the others should be reserved for the Imperial Parliament. This Bill is constructed on the opposite principle, and only those matters that are expressly defined are entrusted to the Imperial Parliament, and the rest are reserved for the Parliament in Ireland. I think it is surely obvious that if this Bill became law the Irish Parliament would have a position of distinction—one might say of privilege—in comparison with any other local Legislature that might be created. My own feeling, therefore, is that this Bill would be a block rather than a first step in the way of relief to the Imperial Parliament.
550 But I am well aware that, in view of the actual situation with which we are confronted, such remarks must appear almost abstract and academic. That situation is governed after all by one dominant factor. My desire is to recall the attention of the House to that central fact, which is, of course, the invincible repugnance of Ulster to this Bill. By Ulster, of course, I mean, as we all mean, a general expression to describe a body of our fellow-citizens in Ireland entitled to our respect by their loyalty, their character, their place in the life of Ireland, and their contribution to its prosperity. The very safeguards which are inserted in this Bill are a proof of their title to be heard with great respect. So far as I know, these safeguards are a quite unique feature in any scheme for the creation of a subordinate Legislature. They mark this problem to be one unique and unprecedented in its character. Moreover, the claims which are urged on behalf of the majority of the Irish people, which, as they were urged by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack command my own sympathy, find an echo in the claims of Ulster. I mean nationality, distinctive character, treasured history, deep and passionate desire. Lord Dunraven, in his speech last night, told us that the description of two nations in Ireland was a political fiction. I do not know how far that description of the noble Earl's would he endorsed by his fellow-citizens in the north-east part of Ireland.
Behind all these glowing periods used by the Prime Minister and Mr. Redmond there stands this figure of Ulster, grim, determined, menacing. It is the skeleton at the feast of these sanguine hopes. We may not like it. Frankly, I do not like it. It carries marks of religious and racial bitterness and suspicion. It uses language about disobedience to the law, which must provoke disquiet and dislike in the minds of all who care for the good government of the country. I am not competent, because I have not shared in the experience of the history of these Ulster people, to decide whether or not their fears are groundless. All these things seem to me to be somewhat beside the point. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has drawn the conclusion from history that the antagonism of Ulster need not be permanent. We all hope that it need not be permanent, but the point is that it is 551 present. It is here and now and real. It is there. No eloquence can exorcise it, no special pleading can evade it, and I would venture to add, no true statesmanship can ignore it.
I used to consider that this attitude of Ulster was something of a scarecrow, made up of old and out-worn prejudices, phrases, and traditions. I have sometimes been tempted to use the language of good-natured banter used by Lord Ribblesdale last night about this parade of marchings and counter-marchings, and the like, but I cannot resist the evidence of men who are in close touch with these people of Ulster, men whose judgment and fair-mindedness I respect, who assure me that they are, of all men, the least likely to be drunk with the wine of words, that they are men who, of all other men, mean and do what they say. And I would like respectfully to ask His Majesty's Government whether they in their heart of hearts do really think that this attitude of Ulster is mere bluff, and that it does not represent a most serious and most imminent problem. If this be true, if Ulster means to do what it says, then the results are certainly such as no citizen can contemplate without grave concern. It would be wasting your Lordships' time to dwell in any detail upon these possibilities, and it is hard to avoid the appearance of exaggerated language. But, surely the most moderate of us must at least admit that it would mean an administrative strain which would force into flames the embers of racial and religious bitterness.
It might mean—God forbid that it should—actual bloodshed. If so, on whatever scale it was, it would send a current of shame and indignation running through the whole country, and if Ulster takes to blows they may be very easily resisted, but they will shatter all those hopes of a united Ireland upon which the noble and learned Viscount has discoursed most eloquently, and they would create another of those tragic memories which have clone so much in the past to darken and embitter the history of Ireland. This is the risk—I would not put it as more—which we are running. In view of it, I confess that a good deal of the discussion which passed here yesterday, though to a less extent to-day, seems somewhat unreal. This is a risk which cannot be forgotten, which cannot be fenced, which must be faced.
552 I admit, every one must admit, that there are circumstances in which a Government is entitled and bound to run this kind of risk. At the present time I think we all feel that there is a call upon Governments to stiffen rather than to slacken their determination in the presence of threats of disobedience or disorder. I will go further and admit that there is one condition which would justify in my mind His Majesty's Government in running the risk of the forcible coercion of Ulster. That condition is that they should have received from the people of this country an authority, clear and explicit, to undertake that risk. Has that condition been satisfied? That is the question which troubles me, honestly anxious to look at this matter from a fair and impartial point of view. Was it met by the proceedings of the last General Election? It is perfectly true that the Prime Minister gave notice that if his Party were returned to power they would be free to raise again the question of Home Rule, but there is a great difference between the abstract question of Home Rule and a concrete Home Rule Bill. Even so, the question was no sooner raised than it was rather put into the background by the Prime Minister himself and most of his followers. In any case the force, reality, and the gravity of the attitude of Ulster was not before the minds and imaginations of the people at the last election. Has the condition been satisfied in any since then? I have no skill in the analysis of the results of by-elections, but my impression is that in by-elections since there has been much more of Food Taxes and the Insurance Act than of Home Rule.
The truth is—I think it is a significant and rather painful truth—that the people can scarcely be brought at the present time to take serious interest in the proceedings of the House of Commons. There are no doubt many reasons. One of them, I believe, certainly is that an increasing number of people are much more profoundly interested in questions that concern their social and industrial welfare than they are in questions of a more exclusively political kind. But I think there is another. It is the effect, not wholly unforeseen, of the Parliament Act, under which the country is at present governed. For the first three years of a Parliament's life we are seeing that great measures will he crowded on the stage. Already—no 553 wonder the Lord Chancellor complained of the business the House of Commons has to get through—National Insurance, Home Rule, Disestablishment and Disestablishment in Wales, extension of the franchise, these great measures are hurried across the stage by every device that the stage manager can command. The leading actors appear to be perplexed and mechanical in the rendering of their parts; the supers—I hope private Members will not resent such a description—are obviously bewildered. They are merely moved automatically about through the wings and the Lobbies. But what about the spectators, the people of the country? I think many of them give up, unconsciously, the attempt to understand the play, and console themselves with the reflection that there is an interval of two years between the acts. Honestly I do not believe that this is au exaggerated picture. Those of as who do not mingle very constantly with politicians cannot but be conscious of a growing apathy in the public mind in regard to the momentous measures which are presented to Parliament. It is an apathy to which the most rev. Prelate behind me called striking attention not long ago in an address which was widely circulated. The public mind cannot take in measures that are introduced with such bewildering rapidity. They come to feel that they will go through automatically and the y honestly do not follow the debates or realise the great issues that are at stake.
I apologise for this digression, though the matter is serious enough. But its object has been to enforce the question—Have the people, with full knowledge of the issues involved, authorised the Government to undertake the risk of coercing Ulster? If not, ought that risk to be run until the necessary authority has been received? It may be said, What difference would be created in the attitude of Ulster if a General Election resulted in a majority for the Government? I think the difference would be very great. In the first place, so far as I understand it, the resistance of Ulster at the present time is due not so much to the attitude of the people of this country as to what they regard, rightly or wrongly, as a conspiracy between a Government protected by the provisions of the Parliament Act and the Nationalist Members in the House of Commons. I am not for a moment saying it is a just criticism; but remove that 554 suspicion and the position of Ulster must be profoundly modified.
In the second place, what is more important is that the serious resistance of Ulster would be futile without the moral support of at least one of the great Parties of this country, and may I recall your Lordships to the remarkable exchange of challenge and response which passed across the floor of the House of Commons recently between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister asked, Would the Opposition continue their support to Ulster if a General Election resulted in an endorsement of the Home Rule Bill? The Leader of the Opposition replied that they would not. I do not suppose that the question was lightly put or that the answer was lightly given. It certainly seems to increase the responsibility of a Government in withholding from the people their chance of deciding, with full knowledge of the facts as they are and of the consequences as they will be, whether or not the resistance of Ulster, if need be, will be forcibly set aside. The question, then, which I would respectfully put to His Majesty's Government is—and I think without presumption I might say that behind this question there is a large bulk of thoughtful and independent citizens in this country—Will they undertake to refer this Bill before it becomes law to a General Election? If they will, then personally I should be most willing to vote for its Second Reading; if not, I do not see what alternative the House has but to vote against the Second Reading. That seems to me, in the grave and imminent circumstances, to be almost the only course that any Second Chamber of independence would adopt. It is true that we are no longer able directly to refer this matter to the people, but at least we can give the people time to think, time to understand what is its stake, and we can submit this Bill to a period of delay during which the accidents and exigencies of politics may give to the people a chance not only of reflection but of decision.
I hope I have not said a word that exceeds the restraints which are rightly expected front those members of the House among whom I sit. I would not wish to close with a note of mere opposition. Personally I cannot but share with other noble Lords who have spoken, and notably the noble Earl, Lord Grey, the hope—perhaps it 555 would be more true to the facts to say indulge the dream—that both Parties might make an effort to approach this problem with a desire to settle it by conference and by consent. It cannot be ignored; it must be solved. I am willing to believe that the new language of the Nationalist Members in the House of Commons is due not to a mere political situation, but to a new spirit of reasonableness and moderation. I am certain that many people, even within the ranks of the Party of noble Lords opposite, look upon Home Rule now with eyes very different from those with which it was viewed, say, twenty years ago. It would indeed be a misfortune if Party divisions prevented the citizens of this country from looking the problem of Irish self-government fairly in the face, not as something at all costs to be set aside, but as something if possible to be settled, as it ought to be settled, for the common good. At least I can honestly say that there is no one, not even upon the Government Bench, who is more anxious than I am to see this problem justly and peaceably settled. Only I cannot persuade myself—I wish I could—that the policy of pressing this Bill through without further reference to the country is the road along which the fulfilment of these hopes and wishes can be found.
My Lords, I do not propose to enter closely into the details of this Bill, much less to enter upon the grave financial and constitutional problems which have been so ably dealt with by preceding speakers. My chief wish is to point out the feeling which exists about this Bill and the whole question of Home Rule in my part of Ireland. It is often said that a new generation has sprung up since 1893, and that former opponents of Home Rule are becoming lukewarm in their opposition to it. I have been at a great deal of pains to ascertain the opinion of all classes in my part of the country, and I am convinced that that is an absolute fallacy. On the contrary, I am sure that many former supporters of Home Rule are now doubtful about it. As an instance of that I may tell your Lordships that a large farmer said to me only a few days ago, "Many are wavering, only they are afraid to let it be known publicly." That they should be afraid is not a matter of wonder to anybody who knows our country and remembers the influence that the United Irish League has and the obloquy, boycot- 556 tings, and possible outrage to which any opponent of it is likely to be exposed.
The most rev. Prelate asked just now, "What are you afraid of?" I put aside the religious aspect altogether. I think too much is made about that. We have always lived in our part of the world on perfectly good terms with our Roman Catholic countrymen, and I know many Roman Catholics who are as much opposed to Home Rule in any shape or form as any noble Lord in this House. But we look with apprehension on the threatened commotion that will be raised in other parts of Ireland, and we fear that a recoil from it may follow which would materially affect our lives and properties in the isolated position in which we are. Apart from this, even if all passes away quietly, we are afraid of two things especially under this Bill—over-taxation and increased agitation. The financial provisions of the Bill are so inadequate to the requirements of the Public Service, from what we have heard, that increased taxation appears inevitable. On what is it to fall? The noble Viscount spoke about a Land Tax being so unpopular among the farming class that it was not likely to be proposed. But the difficulty of raising money is so great that that is exactly what we are afraid of.
It must be remembered that, although a good many landowners have sold their property, there are still a considerable number who have not, and those who have sold parts of their estates still retain their demesnes and home farms, and in addition to those there are the large farmers and those who have purchased their holdings. It is the latter class to which a good many of those who have become lukewarm on Home Rule belong, for the good reason that they have now something to lose. There may be also ingenious modes of taxation invented to press especially on political opponents, leaving others comparatively free—the Super-Tax, increased Income Tax, and other burdens of the kind. There have been ominous hints held out that it will be remembered who were the friends and who were the opponents later on. In any case, the money will have to be got somewhere. We cannot believe in the promised economy in public expenditure. In the first place there are too many supporters of the Nationalist Party wino will be clamouring for what they look upon as an 557 Eldorado, a place under Government, and their wishes can only be fulfilled by either creating fresh posts or displacing the present holders of official positions by putting them on pension. In addition, there are the many projects which were spoken of by the noble Viscount—the nationalisation of railways, arterial drainage the encouragement of manufactures, and so on. Where is the money for all these things to come from? Undoubtedly the borrowing powers of the Irish Exchequer will be very limited if they no longer have the English Exchequer at their back We are also afraid, with good reason, of increased agitation.
We are assured by friends of the Bill that old days are going to be forgotten and all ancient animosities put aside, and that the millennium will come about under this Bill. But the land question still remains. There are many covetous eyes directed on the land that is still held by the owners and the large farms still existing, and so far from ceasing it is probable agitation will increase. Supposing an agitation of that kind arises, how can we hope for adequate protection from an Executive responsible to a Parliament elected under the direct influence of the United League and the Ancient Order of Hibernians? Speaking in the House of Commons in October last the right hon. gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland said—I regard executive authority conferred upon this Irish Parliament, responsible to the Members of that House and country which elects them, as in my judgment one of the most important and indeed absolutely essential operations of the Home Rule Bill.Therefore in the event of agitation we should have an Executive indifferent to our interests, if not absolutely hostile. We have had some experience of lenient dealing with agitation in past years and have suffered under it, but we prefer the temporary rule of King Log to the permanent rule of King Stork.
We have been told that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament will be maintained in the event of future legislation through the veto of the Lord Lieutenant. We are told that this will he a safeguard, but at the same time we are told by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons that it would seldom if ever be exercised. It is quite easy to understand that it would seldom be exercised; for how the unfor- 558 tunate Lord Lieutenant is to elect, whether he is to act under the instructions received from the Imperial Parliament or on the advice of his Irish Ministers has never been made clear. That it may not be required is another matter. It is rather hard for us to imagine that the Irish Parliament on its election soil I have arrived at such a pitch of sinless perfection and infallibility that they will never do anything that can be called in question, and it is easy to believe that some friction may spring up between the Parliament here and the Parliament in Ireland. The Irish Parliament may pass some measure which contains provisions not absolutely illegal as exceeding the powers conferred on the House by this Bill, but which might be deemed tyrannical and oppressive by the Imperial Parliament, and if the Lord Lieutenant then exercised his veto, would not this be immediately followed by increased agitation with regard to which the majority of tine House of Commons in Ireland and t he agitators would take the same view? What, then, becomes of our safeguards? We should no doubt be saved from the provisions of the Bill after it had been rejected, but the agitation, which might be just as bad, would remain. These are some of the reasons why we most strongly protest against being deprived of the protection of the Imperial Government. We have been constantly faithful to the connection with England; we have incurred obloquy from our fellow-countrymen in consequence, and we think we have a claim to the support of our fellow-subjects over here.
But apart from apprehensions affecting our property, there are other points as to which we believe this measure might be detrimental. There is the question, for instance, of education. The system of education has been a marked and signal success in Ireland, but we are told by the resident Commissioner of Higher Education that there are many points in which increased expenditure is absolutely necessary. We want to know how the money for that is to be obtained. Also there has been a report that the whole system of education is to be revised and recast from the beginning. We dread the confusion that would arise if this were to happen, and the effect it would have on the religious teaching of children of our own faith and also on the children of the Roman Catholic faith. There was a warning to this effect issued not 559 very long ago by a high dignitary of the Roman Catholic church.
It is for these reasons that we look upon the passing of this Bill with the utmost apprehension. We object to it as to a certain extent weakening the tie which binds the two countries together; but still more, we look upon it in this way—that it will be only considered as an instalment, because it seems impossible that the present Leader of the Nationalist Party would have accepted such an imperfect measure except on the ground that any one step forward, however short, brings a man nearer to the goal, and also gives a firm and secure foothold for another and further step onwards. We are assured that our fears are vain, and that everybody will be so contented with this Bill that there will be no question of opposition or ill-feeling at all. But it is hard to reconcile tin se professions of satisfaction with the utterances of prominent members of the Nationalist Party addressed to other audiences and the claims made to a measure directed more and more towards the independence of their country. If we are told that these must be received with a certain modification as being made to suit the temper and feeling of the people and that we are to take them with that modification, why are we to place more implicit confidence on the utterances as to the perfect contentment and satisfaction that exists with regard to this Bill addressed to a different audience? Why are they not to be subject to the same modification? We therefore fear that this Bill will be used only as a lever to extort further concessions more directly tending towards separation. We cling to an intimate connection with this country. We wish to remain closely united to the centre of the great Empire which our countrymen have done so much to extend and consolidate, and we claim as our birthright that no distinction should be drawn between us and our fellow-subjects, and that we should be allowed to remain, as they are, under the protection and control of the Imperial Parliament.
My Lords, I desire to look at this question from a point of view that has not yet been touched upon by any one. I refer to the commercial relations existing between Great Britain and Ireland, which I consider are endangered by this Bill. In a paper very 560 widely read in Scotland—namely, the Glasgow Herald—there was an interesting article some months ago headed "A Foretaste of Home Rule." This article quoted extracts from the Freeman's Journal of that period. We are all agreed that the Freeman's Journal is a strong supporter of Home Rule and of the Nationalist Party. The article had to deal with the cattle trade of Ireland, and this is what the writer in the Freeman's Journal said, talking about the embargo on Irish cattle, which was then in full force—The change that is needed is simple and obvious, simply that Ireland should not be treated as a foreign country. Clare has the same right to a free trade in cattle with Great Britain as Aberdeen has.Then the Glasgow Herald commented on this, and said—The point is that while the Irish Home Rulers want Ireland to be treated like a foreign country for political purposes, they Will not face the economic consequences of their own suicidal policy. They want to manage their own affairs without Great Britain's interference, and at the same time desire to retain the fullest advantages of the Union.If this Bill becomes law, and I assume His Majesty's Government intend that it should become law, what political pressure will the Irish Parliament be able to bring to bear upon the English Board of Agriculture? Very little. Irish cattle will have no more chance of being admitted into the ports of Great Britain than Canadian cattle have had up to the present time if there is any suspicion of disease in Ireland. It has been computed that the Irish cattle trade with Great Britain is worth £15,000,000 a year to Ireland. Is any clearer proof needed of the dependence of Ireland on Great Britain? Apart from its geographical situation and such considerations, it is obvious that Ireland's manifest destiny is to remain within the United Kingdom.
As I understand it, this Bill is a first step towards Ireland being separated from the United Kingdom. Being an Ulsterman, I should like to saw a few words upon that question. I listened with great attention and pleasure to the speech of the Archbishop of York as regards Ulster, and I cordially agree with what he said. It seems to me that the hardest task His Majesty's Government have set themselves is not how to take Irish affairs out of English hands, and that is hard enough, but how, having once done that, to unite under one Government the Ulsterman 561 and the Nationalist, between whom temperament, tradition, and religion have set up such serious obstacles. We seem to forget over here that the Ulsterman is different from his countrymen in the West of Ireland. We may say-that the Ulsterman is the willing partner in the Union, and that the Nationalist is the unwilling partner, and whatever arguments may be used for releasing the unwilling partner from his obligations, it is a far more difficult matter to insist on releasing the other partner who is content with his position. Great Britain may have the power, she may even have the right to dissolve her partnership with Ulster, but I think it is perfectly clear that she has not the right to tie up Ulster in a new partnership with someone else against her consent. As a writer in The Times has put it very graphically—Conceivably we may divorce Ulster as Henry VIII divorced Queen Catherine, but we cannot thereupon marry her to another bridegroom against her kill, not even if we secure her interests under the most advantageous marriage settlement which the ingenuity of lawyers can devise.I understand that His Majesty's Government have no intention of allowing Ulster to place her case before the electorate of Great Britain. If I am correct in my surmise, it must follow that Ulster must rely upon herself and, as has been said, pursue the argument to its logical conclusion. Have His Majesty's Government ever contemplated such a possibility? What does pursuing the argument to its logical conclusion mean? The only remedy an Ulsterman has, I say, is force. There is no other. I am certain, and I speak as an Ulsterman, that no one in the North of Ireland desires war; yet if the worst comes to the worst that is their only remedy, and it seems to me that if this Bill becomes law as it is at present under the Parliament Act, Ulster is slowly but surely drifting to that awful calamity. I am told that this is "bluff" on the part of Ulster. Speaking as an Ulsterman and knowing full well the seriousness that may be put upon my words, I say in all sincerity that if His Majesty's Government think this is bluff, I can assure them they are profoundly mistaken. There are two courses open to the Government. One is, they can exclude Ulster from the provisions of the Bill; the second course is to adopt the federal system which the noble Earl, Lard Grey, pleaded for so eloquently last night. I see in the papers that the Leader of the 562 Nationalist Party has said over and over again that he will not take this Bill if Ulster is excluded from its provisions. He has said he will not consent to the dismemberment of Ireland; that his aim and object is to have a United Ireland. I can understand that perfectly; but I would say to Mr. Redmond, When has Ireland been united? Except for a brief period when Grattan's Parliament was in power, you have to go back to the days of Brian Boroimhe before you can say Ireland was united; and I doubt if you could say that even at that time the North of Ireland owned allegiance to Brian Boroimhe. I frankly admit that Ulster has no right to dictate terms to the rest of Ireland; at the same time I maintain that the rest of Ireland has no right to dictate terms to Ulster. Ulster has a perfect right to accept or reject this Bill for herself irrespective of what the rest of Ireland may or may not wish. I may be told that because, roughly, half the representatives of Ulster are in favour of Home Rule, therefore Ulster cannot he excluded. My answer to that is this, Is the representation of Ulster the correct one? A redistribution of seats in Ulster according to population would tell a somewhat different tale. If His Majesty's Government want to know the real feeling there they can perfectly well submit this Bill to a referendum in Ulster.
Now I come to the federal system, which appears to me to be the only practical way out of the difficulty. For myself I believe that union with England, all things considered, is the best for Ireland; but sooner than see the awful calamities that civil war brings on a country, I would be willing to try the federal system. It has been foreshadowed by a Cabinet Minister, in a speech dealing with the policy of the federal system for the United Kingdom, that the populous counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire might one day have their own separate Parliament. How much stronger is Ulster's case? Surely to any ordinary man it would appear that not only has Ulster the same right to manage her own affairs as either of the two counties I have mentioned, but an even stronger right to reject a Bill which would place her under the control of a Parliament elected by an overwhelming majority of Roman Catholics in the South and West of Ireland. Ulster claims no ascendancy over Ireland, but merely to be allowed to live as she 563 has lived, at peace and in charity with the rest of her neighbours. She does not wish to coerce the rest of Ireland. If this Irish question is ever to be settled it can only be done, in my opinion, by consent. The land question, which racked Ireland for something like a century, was settled by consent. Is it too much to hope that some day this question also will be settled by consent, that some day it may be possible to give a system of government to Ireland which will not only satisfy the Nationalists, but not do any injury to the Ulsterman As I have Bald, I believe the Union is, after all, the best policy; but I frankly wish to say, that if a scheme of federal government is brought in which can satisfy both parties without doing injury to either of them, I am perfectly willing to give it my favourable consideration.
THE EARL OF WICKLOW
My Lords, I am glad to think it is the intention of your Lordships to reject this Bill, and on the principle that it is supposed to he no use to flog a dead horse perhaps further argument may seem unnecessary. But all the same, I think your Lordships will perhaps agree that it is desirable that we who represent Ireland on these Benches should not on this occasion give a silent vote, but should do our best to place upon record some of the reasons which have led us to adopt an attitude of uncompromising hostility to any proposal for granting Home Rule to Ireland. I think it will be generally conceded that before embarking on a fundamental change in the Constitution of the country it is desirable to try to find out whether such a change is likely to be beneficial, and whether the people of the country are more or less unanimous in their desire for such a change. It strikes me that there would be considerable doubt as to whether Home Rule is likely to be beneficial to Ireland.
The Leaders of the Nationalist Party in another place have been asked on several occasions what in their view are the advantages which Ireland can receive under Home Rule which she does not receive under the Union, and, as far as I know, no answer to that question has ever been vouchsafed. In the absence of any reply to that question, it is, I think, a permissible inference that the advantages which these gentlemen have in their minds are of such a nature that they cannot prudently be displayed in the light of day. I think that 564 they are probably advantages which could only be enjoyed by professional politicians, and in which the country as a whole would probably have no share. At any rate there can be no doubt whatever that the people of Ireland are very far from being of one mind on this question. A large and important section of the population of Ireland, comprising perhaps the most prosperous, the most progressive, and the most industrious people in the whole country, have declared with no uncertain voice that under no circumstances will they submit to Home Rule in any shape or form; and in the rest of Ireland, where Nationalists are generally returned to Parliament, I doubt whether you would find one single constituency where anything like unanimity on this question exists. In many of those constituencies you would probably find something not very far from a fair division of opinion, and it is my conviction, a conviction which is probably shared by many of your Lordships who have any connection with Ireland, that even those voters who are in the habit of returning Nationalist representatives to Parliament are actuated not so much by any strong desire for Home Rule as by a fear of the secret organisations which unfortunately dominate the country. I will go further and say that if this Bill is killed, the news of its demise will be greeted by many Nationalist electors with something not unlike a sigh of relief.
The noble Marquess who introduced this Bill made an observation in his speech on which I should like to say one or two words. He said—There is no sillier error than to suppose that, because a man purchases his holding, ho ceases to be a Nationalist.I venture with very great respect to suggest to the noble Marquess that that is not quite the case. I do not think that it is a silly error. It is a fact, and the best proof that that is so is the fact that the Nationalist Party in another place have taken very good care to assist His Majesty's Government in putting a stop to land purchase. The noble Earl, Lord Grey, in his speech yesterday said lie thought that if Home Rule was passed it might lead to a rapprochement with the United States of America. I think the noble Earl got his idea from something which has been said by Mr. John Redmond. No one can doubt the desirability of a rapprochement, if that is necessary, with the United States of 565 America; but even if the Irish-Americans were disposed to be reconciled by the passage of a Home Rule Bill in this country, the Irish-Americans, after all, ace not the American nation. I world not wish to say anything in the least disrespectful about the remarks of the noble Earl, for I. have the utmost admiration for the services which he has rendered to the Empire, and I know his sincerity and the enthusiasm which he feels for imperial ideals.
It strikes me that an impartial observer of this controversy might not unreasonably express some surprise that Irish Unionists seem rather more afraid of trying the experiment of Home Rule than of continuing under the uncontrolled domination of the unscrupulous political cabal which in this country has usurped the functions of a Ministry. For my part, I must say that the prospect of escaping from the domination of noble Lords opposite and of their colleagues in another place possesses considerable attraction for me. I think on the whole it is the only bright feature in the Bill. But, my Lords, there are to my mind matters more important than the temporary inconveniences and evils which result from bad government. I suppose that in no part of His Majesty's Dominions is there more enthusiasm for Imperial ideals than among the Unionist population of Ireland. We are very proud of being Irishmen, but we are, I think, immeasurably more proud of being able also to call ourselves English, or perhaps I ought to say British. We are immeasurably more proud of being citizens of this great Empire which our ancestors as much as yours have done their best to build up. We have often been referred to by our political opponents in Ireland as "the English Garrison" in that country, and although we are at least as much entitled to call ourselves Irishmen as any of the representatives of Ireland in another place we are not ashamed to be called the English Garrison in Ireland. There have been English garrisons in many parts of the world, and I do not know that any member of such a garrison ever had cause to feel anything but proud of his position.
But we should be a poor garrison if, seeing in these Home Rule proposals what we think is a conspiracy to undermine the very foundations of the Empire, a conspiracy fostered by that legacy of bitter spite which has come down to us from the bad old days of British misrule in Ireland, 566 financed by the enemies of England abroad and aided and abetted, I am sorry to say, by the cupidity and the love of office of right hon. gentlemen at home—we should be a poor garrison if, seeing that conspiracy we did not do our best to warn the people of England of the danger they are being led into by those who ought to know better. My Lords, I shall vote against the Second Reading of this Bill with the utmost confidence that if it is submitted to the electors of this country, as I think it must be submitted soon, they will reject it with no uncertain voice, and I think that we may look forward then to seeing Ministers who have not been ashamed to be kept in office by the votes of those men who have never hidden their hostility to England overtaken with a full measure of that just retribution which I think they most richly deserve.
§ [The sitting was suspended shortly before eight o'clock and resumed at nine o'clock.]
§ EARL BRASSEY
My Lords, as a loyal follower of Mr. Gladstone in years long past, I venture briefly to address your Lordships in support of the general policy of Home Rule for Ireland, to which it is sought to give effect in the Bill before your Lordships' House. I shall vote for the Second Reading on broad grounds. In the Committee stage, which, as I regret to know, we shall not be permitted to reach, I should have taken an independent course. I look back to the time and to the circumstances under which Mr. Gladstone declared for Home Rule. There was need for his enthusiastic advocacy of change in the principles and methods of government in Ireland. Here, in the Imperial Parliament, we were paralysed by obstruction. The conditions in Ireland were without parallel in any country in the civilised world. Everywhere, except in North-East Ulster, the people were poor, discontented, disloyal, lawless. In that dark period in the history of Ireland Lord Spencer was Lord Lieutenant, and as a member of the Cabinet, with exceptional responsibility, he showed unflinching courage. He favoured a policy of conciliation. He preserved an equal mind, and he declared for the policy of self-government. The influence of Lord Spencer in Irish affairs was commanding. His support of this policy had a great effect on the thought of the day.
567 A generation has passed. By the measures devised by Mr. Gladstone and by the Land Purchase Act which we owe to the Conservative Party, we have dealt with the chief grievances of former years. The desire for self-government has not abated. It has been constantly expressed by overwhelming and undiminishing majorities. My Lords, we are bound to deal with the Irish demand. Ulster bars the way. Mr. Asquith and his colleagues have admitted that the Ulster difficulty is real and grave. With goodwill on both sides, it should not be insuperable. Mr. Redmond has tendered the olive-branch. He has asked that the past should be forgotten. He has appealed to the men of Ulster to join in governing their common country. In the United States, with a population drawn from every nationality in Europe; in South Africa, with the Boer and the Briton; in every new country where the settlers necessarily come from many lands, men work for the common good. Why not in Ireland? If our hopes should not be realised, the legislation to which your Lordships' approval is now asked can be amended. In Canada, when self-government was first granted, Ontario and Quebec were thrown together. They are now two provinces. If need were, we could deal similarly with Ireland.
There is a point of view from which both sides in politics may stand on common ground. Under existing conditions Ireland holds the casting vote in the Imperial Parliament, decides as to the rise and fall of Ministries, and controls the destinies of the Empire. We cannot in honour reduce the number of seats, unless as part of a general settlement accepted by the people. A redistribution of seats is essential to the good government of the Empire. I will not insist on the possible advantages to the Party to which the majority of your Lordships belong. It is surely time to deal with Ireland. Early in his career Lord Beaconsfield had studied Irish history. Speaking in the House of Commons in 1843 he said—Believing that Ireland is governed in a manner which conduces only to the injury of both countries, I hope the time will come when a party framed on true principles will do justice to Ireland and put an end to the state of things that is the bane of England and the opprobrium of Europe.Not long ago the settlement of the Irish question was advocated in powerful journals 568 on both sides in politics. The letters of "Pacificus" were published in The Times and commended in leading articles. It was pointed out that the inherent difficulties in the solution of the problem had disappeared. To-day, when statesmen at home and beyond the seas are seeking by every means to bind together the Empire, let us not longer delay to apply the wisdom of Parliament to the framing of a measure which will secure true union with Ireland.
My Lords, we hear less to-day of separation. It is impossible. We have the Army, the Navy, the Constabulary, and the power of the purse. England is the chief market for the spare produce of the Irish farmer. Our hopes are high that, under a Government in sympathy with popular sentiment, our fellow-subjects by nature warm-hearted, will be as loyal to the Throne in their own country as they are in the Empire beyond the seas. I have seen a thousand men wearing green scarves march in procession through the streets of Melbourne to do honour to their revered Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. In no part of the Empire has self-government failed. I feel assured that it would not fail in Ireland. I should not vote for self-government unless I sincerely believed that it would make for material progress and conduce to social peace.
My Lords, we can no longer appeal to your Lordships' House to restore the question of Home Rule for Ireland to an electorate which has twice rejected it in a most emphatic manner, owing to the fact that the promoters of this Bill have taken care to deprive your Lordships of that power, and have, with callous indifference to the wisdom of our forefathers, destroyed our Constitution which it took them generations to build up. But we do earnestly appeal to your Lordships to use what powers are left to you, and to delay this Government for Ireland Bill, which is really more obnoxious than the two previous Home Rule Bills, as long as you have power to do so, in the hope that the electors of this country may be given a chance of saving our country of Ireland from the greatest calamity which could befall it. The noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, when speaking last night, said that he was going to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, but he also told us that it was a bad Bill. He then 569 turned round to noble Lords on this side of the House and charged us with being inconsistent. He said that we claimed on the one hand that there was no demand for Home Rule, and on the other hand that Home Rule meant complete separation. I am unaware, my Lords, that we have ever said that there is no demand for Home Rule in Ireland. But we do say, and say most emphatically and with conviction, that the demand for Home Rule in Ireland is far less insistent now than it has ever been before.
The noble Earl admitted that there were two forms of unrest in Ireland—an agrarian unrest and a political unrest. He admitted also that the agrarian unrest had been largely settled by the land legislation of the Unionist Government—that is, by the Land Purchase Act of 1903; and it is true enough. The whole driving force which Mr. Parnell had behind his Home Ruled movement was the fact that he was able to tell the people in Ireland that Home Rule meant land purchase, and the noble Earl admitted that that question is largely settled. Surely, then, it is reasonable for us to suppose also that those farmers who have I benefited by land purchase have ceased from agrarian unrest and from the demand for Home Rule. The fact of the matter is, my Lords, that many farmers are now terrified at the prospect of this Bill becoming law, for they fear that they may be subject to extra taxation, and they also fear the agitation of the landless men directed to appropriating their farms. But there is one thing by which we can gauge what is the real demand for anything —that is, what people are prepared to pay for it. Mr. Redmond has enlightened us on what the Irish people are prepared to pay for Home Rule, for he said in 1910, when the election was on, that the Nationalist Party would have been bankrupt if it had not been for the support that they had got from America. It may interest your Lordships to know that with the greatest difficulty £2,000 was obtained from Ireland for the Party funds. The Nationalist drink bill in Ireland is something like £13,000,000—just think of it, £13,000,000 for drink and £2,000 for national independence ! Or, let me put it in another way—£3 per head of the population for drink, and less than half-a-farthing for "Ireland a Nation." Yet we are told that Ireland is demanding Home Rule !
570 The noble Earl also referred to the political unrest. It is that political unrest to which we refer when we say that the demand for Home Rule in Ireland comes from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which I am glad to hear the noble Earl holds in as much hatred as do, and from the Clan-na-Gael. He also stated that Ireland was one nation. All I can say, my Lords, is that if Ireland is one nation, it is destined to have a very early downfall, for we are told that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Also it will require more than the words of the noble Earl to make the people of Ulster believe that they derive their origin from any other than the British nation, or that they are in any way connected with the Celtic race. Again, we are told that we have no right to disbelieve the statements that we are to be fairly treated under Home Rule. We have been told by Mr. Redmond that this Bill is a regular magician's wand, and that immediately on the passing of this Bill it will turn hatred into love, lawlessness and disorder into law and order, and discontent into content. Well, my Lords, we all know our Mr. Redmond, but we know him in very different ways. His Majesty's Government have good cause to know him, for the simple reason that he can turn them out of office at any moment if they do not do his bidding—a fact to which the production of this Bill is solely due. To the English electors he posed as the champion of loyalty and as the peacemaker of Ireland, and would have us believe that he is only too anxious to give fair-play and toleration to minorities. Yet we in Ireland know him as Chairman of a League which ever since its foundation has both practised and preached the doctrines of intolerance, boycotting, and intimidation; to say nothing of all the bitter speeches which he has made himself against British rule.
And we do not forget that Mr. Redmond has told us that Ulster is to be overborne with a strong hand. He tells us now that this Bill is to bring contentment to Ireland, loyalty to England, and toleration to minorities. My Lords, do you believe it? I dare say you do, but do you expect us on this side to believe it? Did not he tell us the same thing when t he Local Government Act was passed? Did not he tell us then that he believed in giving us a fair and even generous measure of representation under the Local Government Act, and what has been the result? In the Provinces of 571 Munster, Connaught, and Leinster, out of 719 representatives on county councils, 703 are Roman Catholics, and 16 are Protestants—a proportion of representatives for Roman Catholics of one for each 3,625 of the population, and for Protestants of one to 15,888. This contrasts very differently with the way in which Catholics are treated in the Province of Ulster, where the proportion of representation is one Roman Catholic to 162 of the population, and one Protestant for each 7,206. Is it fair to ask us to believe the man now whose only qualification to be believed is that if he is telling us what is right now he must have been telling us what was absolutely wrong for the last twenty five years? But for once, my Lords, Mr. Redmond has told the people of this country quite definitely and clearly what Protestants may expect under a Home Rule Government. In an article in the Review of Reviews he says this—They have been placed in a position of independence, and have been allowed almost without a break the privileges of ascendancy. They, perhaps, naturally cannot bear the thought of losing that ascendancy, and being put in a position of mere equality with the rest of their fellow-countrymen.What does this mean? What can it mean? There is no Protestant ascendancy now. Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom which has no Established Church, and therefore all sects are on a more equal footing in Ireland than they are in any other part of the United Kingdom. There is only one office in Ireland to which Roman Catholics cannot attain, and that is the office of Viceroy. Well, in England a Roman Catholic is not allowed to be Lord Chancellor. Therefore, my Lords, the English Roman Catholics have just as great a grievance as the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and yet we have no complaint of ascendancy in England; and I have already shown that the Roman Catholics have more than their fair share in the local government in Ireland.
What, then, is this ascendancy which Mr. Redmond admits he is going to take away from us? It is nothing more than this. It is the right that we Protestants in Ireland enjoy as being members of a Protestant Kingdom, and it is those rights which this Bill now proposes to take away from us. The utmost care has been taken that no Amendment has been allowed to be put into this Bill to preserve those rights, and every care has been taken that nothing has been inserted in the Bill which would in 572 any way weaken the domination of the Roman Catholic Church in a Home Rule Parliament. For how is that Parliament to be composed? There is to be a Lower Chamber of 162 Members, which it is admitted will be almost entirely Roman Catholic, and when it was proposed that they should be elected on a system of proportional representation Mr. Redmond would have nothing to say to it, although he accepted later a small scheme of proportional representation which has no other effect than the effect of saving Mr. Devlin's seat in West Belfast. Then we have a Senate which is composed, as Mr. Healy has told us, or which is likely to be composed, of forty lunatics. Now for that Senate of forty Members Mr. Redmond allows a system of proportional representation, but if there is a difference between the two Houses it is to be settled by a Joint Session, and you will have forty Members conferring with 162 Members. When it was pointed out that that was obviously unjust and an Amendment was proposed to increase the Members in the Irish Senate Mr. Redmond again would have nothing to say to it.
Then we also have, as the head of the Government in Ireland, a Viceroy, but for the first time, under this Bill, he is now allowed to be a Roman Catholic. This in itself is utterly inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, even if it is not a violation of that Bill, and it is to,this Government that it is now proposed to hand over the Protestants in Ireland. Have we Protestants in Ireland the right to be citizens of this Protestant Kingdom, or have we not? If we have not that right what, then, have we done that we are now to be cast off and handed over to a Roman Catholic Parliament? We remember, if you have forgotten it, that it was your ancestors who sent our ancestors over to Ireland to uphold Protestant interests there and to maintain English interests in that country. Have we betrayed that trust? What, I ask, would the Protestant supporters of the Government say if the Government were to announce that the Bill of Rights was now out of date and that the Protestant Succession was no longer necessary? We tell the Protestants of this country that we have as much right to protection under the Bill of Rights as they have, and even more so, for it was in Ireland that our ancestors held the field against James II and secured for ever for you the Bill of Rights, and broke the power of the Roman Catholic Church. What, then, 573 have we done since then that we should deserve now to be thrown out of this Protestant Parliament where we can be secure under that Bill of Rights, and the Protestant Succession placed, as Mr. Redmond admits, under the domination of an admittedly Roman Catholic Parliament.
Perhaps it is difficult for the people of this country to understand why we Protestants in Ireland dread so much being placed under a Parliament which is essentially a Roman Catholic one, for in this country religion and politics are not necessarily mixed up as they are in Ireland. This country also being predominantly Protestant, the Church of Rome does not hold the same power as she does in Ireland. Individually, Roman Catholics and Protestants in Ireland can live peaceably and contentedly side by side, and they do so, and they are the beat of friends, but only so long as they are ruled by a firm Government under an Imperial Parliament by Protestants, and I firmly believe many Roman Catholics dread the idea of the Church of Rome getting control of secular affairs. But so long as the doctrines of the Church of Rome are what they are, and so long as she continues to issue decrees such as the Ne temere decree and the Motu proprio decree, which have been fully discussed in this House on a previous occasion, so long will Protestants in Ireland decline to give up the rights they enjoy under the Bill of Rights. Would any Government dare to repeal the Bill of Rights and do away with the Protestant Succession in this country? Yet that is exactly the position which we Protestants in Ireland feel we have been placed in to-day, and we appeal to His Majesty's Government, at all events before such a step is taken, to ask the electors of this country whether it is their wish that we should be so treated. Should the electors decide that it should he so then it will become, as Mr. Bonar Law has told us in another place, Ulster's affair, and Ulster will say to these electors, "You may have a right to cast us out of your Parliament, bat having done so we will not allow you to dictate to us to what Parliament we are then to owe our allegiance; and should you attempt to do so it will have to be by using troops to shoot down men whose ancestors went to secure for you the Bill of Rights and the Protestant Succession two hundred years ago." The noble Marquess who leads this House wound up his speech by an appeal to the Opposition, especially to the repre- 574 sentatives from Ulster, to use the interval which must elapse before this Bill can become law in devising some scheme which would make this Bill less obnoxious. I will conclude by telling him that in Ulster, at all events, we decline to waste valuable time in working our a problem to get the Government out of its difficulties, but we shall use to our utmost the time that is at our disposal in preparing for eventualities which must occur should they attempt to force this Bill upon us.
My Lords, I regret that I cannot believe that there is no danger of separation in ease of this Bill passing. On the contrary, I believe that the chief fault of this Bill is that there is no finality about it. It is a dangerous step on a slippery slope, and will ultimately make our position in war untenable. The step down that slippery slope can never be retraced, and I think there is imminent danger of separation eventually ensuing. What our position will be in time of war in case we reach separation, is what I want to take up your time with, for a few minutes. Naval officers have constantly been in the habit of discussing the probable trend of events in the case of our being at war with a first-class Power, but they have been chary of publishing their opinions on the probable effects of Home Rule on naval strategy, because they think that their doing so might be considered as savouring of politics. This is a mistake on their part. So far as England is concerned, it is chiefly a naval and military question, and the sooner war courses are commenced at our naval ports for the purpose of studying it, the better.
Naval strategy as affected by Home Rule was discussed last year in the November and December numbers of the United Service Magazine. General Sir Thomas Fraser has written a book on the military question. I myself think that there would be no difficulty about passing this Bill for Ireland if Ireland were thousands of miles away and not close to us, and provided that the Ulster question could be satisfactorily settled. If this semi-independence is granted to Ireland a new chapter of strategy must be studied by both naval and military men. For instance, this Bill gives the Irish Government jurisdiction over railways and the power to nationalise them. All transport would then be in their hands, and even if the Irish Government remained 575 loyal, there would be the disadvantage of a divided authority, or of having two Civil Governments in time of war. If during war the Civil authorities do not guard railways, tunnels, and bridges, in an efficient manner, they may be blown up.
The Russo-Japanese and the Balkan wars have recently shown us how absolutely necessary secrecy is to success in time of war. How will the British Government be able to ensure it when dealing with Ireland if this Bill passes? How will it be able to check the dissemination of war news? All telegraphs and wireless in Ireland would be in the power of the Irish. They could tap all the news and forge false orders to our Fleets. Recollect that the Atlantic cable ends in Ireland. Direct communication with America might be cut off. It is a rule in war that any man found tampering with telegraphs is hanged on the nearest tree. In case of war all our look-out stations and telegraph wires would be put under martial law, and any one unlawfully interfering with them would be instantly executed. This may sound rough to peaceful ears, but once our people are starving they will be quite as fierce as starving men of other nations. Would the Irish Government permit such proceedings in Ireland? To starve England, it would be necessary for our enemies to get sonic sort of command over the Atlantic, either by ships or by naval bases, and history shows that whenever our opponents thought that they had a chance of success they have endeavoured to establish a base in Ireland, whether they were Spaniards or Frenchmen.
The Government have not thought fit to ask their Committee of Imperial Defence what the effect of this Bill is likely to be on our naval and military situation. They certainly would have done so if they expected a favourable answer. Even if Ireland became loyal, the difficulty of getting two Civil Governments to work together would be immense. One of the chief secrets of the extraordinary successes of Frederick the Great and Napoleon was that in time of war they took complete charge of the Civil administration. So far I have assumed that Ireland, as a whole, would remain loyal to England during a war with a first-class Power. I regret to say that I do not think it at all likely that she would. A study of the speeches of some of the Irish leaders shows that they speak in three voices—one voice for the British electorate, a second voice when 576 begging for money in the United States, and a third voice when speaking to Irishmen in Ireland. Nothing less than complete independence has been insisted on in many of their speeches. Home Rule is looked upon as only a stepping stone to a separation. Can you expect loyalty from people who have received pay from Patrick Ford?
It is true that this Bill gives the Irish Government no control over troops or warships, but in six years time it is to have the control of the Police, a body which only requires artillery to complete it to become an efficient army. There is also no check on the numbers of those Police who could be enlisted, and if there was it would be probably evaded. If the Ulster men are subdued, either by British bayonets or by the threat of using British bayonets, they will look upon Englishmen as traitors, and they will hate us with a holy and well-deserved hatred for which you will have to go back to the history of the seventeenth century to find a parallel. When Belfast has been ruined by Dublin taxation the resources of that magnificent harbour, with its ship-building establishments, will be at the disposal of an enemy. If we pass the Home Rule Bill, England will incur the hostility of the whole of Ireland. It will be idle to look for help from Ulster or from t he Unionists in other parts of Ireland after we have bet rayed them.
It is assumed by the supporters of Home Rule that if this Bill passes. Ireland will be for ever contented, and that no disputes will arise between the two countries. They are living in a fool's paradise. Why, the Bill itself is full of points in dispute. It is asking too much of human nature to expect that a Home Rule Bill, if passed, will put an end for ever to all Irish claims on Great Britain. The maritime position of Ireland, when separated from us, would enable her to bring us to our knees by the mere threat of an alliance with a Foreign Power. Time after time we should be forced to submit to any demands the Irish might choose to put forward. However extravagant they might be, her claims would have to be satisfied. A neighbour of mine told me that an Irish workingman of his acquaintance boasted that, "If this Home Rule Bill passed, Ireland would become the richest country in the world." He was asked how he made that out. "Because England," he replied, "will be obliged to give us everything we ask for."
577 Major-General E. S. May, in a lecture on "Ireland and National Defence." which was printed in the January number of the Royal United Service Institution journal, stated that among other quaintly-worded aphorisms that were submitted to the Lords and Commons on the 12th of January, 1688–9, just after William III came over, there was one which said—Without the subjugation of Ireland, England cannot flourish, and perhaps not subsist. For every harbour in Munster would he more prejudicial to the trade of England than either Sally (in Morocco) or Algiers ever was, that island being so situated that England cannot trade with Spain, the Levant, Africa, the East Indies or West, without sailing almost in view of the Old Head of Kinsale, so that England must traffic at great disadvantages, hazardous and charge in armed and double-manned vessels, or with great convoys. Add to this that Ireland would be always in close touch with the enemies of England and yearly supply a vast number of able bodies to annoy it.Every word contained in this quotation is as true now as it was 225 years ago. It has been pointed out that the commercial interests of Ireland are all in favour of continuing in close alliance with England. The Government have never got rid of the idea that politicians hold the same views as commercial men. Unfortunately, the interests of commercial men and politicians have not always been, and will not always be, in accord with one another. Theorists have assumed that because autonomy has worked well in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it would work well in Ireland. But Ireland is only 12 miles off, while the centre of Canada is 3,000 miles, Australia is 11,000 miles, and New Zealand 12,000 miles off. There is no similarity in the conditions, either political or strategical.
When Mr. Gladstone brought in his Home Rule Bill he pointed to Norway and Sweden and Austria and Hungary as examples worthy of imitation. Norway has since claimed and obtained complete independence. To emphasise this they have elected a King of their own. In Austria-Hungary there are several nationalities, who are only restrained from flying at one another's throats by the tact and ability of the present Emperor. There is no union of hearts between Austria-Hungary; no love lost between the Austrians and the inhabitants of Bohemia, nor between Slays and Hungarians. Many students of the politics of Central Europe believe that the death of the Emperor will be the signal for war and political separation. Of late years all the small nationalities ant have had autonomy 578 granted to them by their more powerful neighbours have, if contiguous to one another, claimed and obtained complete independence. In 1898 Crete was granted autonomy under a nominal Turkish suzerainty, which was treated with contempt. Since the present war broke out, large numbers of Cretan volunteers have joined the Greek Army, and are now lighting the Turks. In 1866 there were Turkish garrisons in Belgrade. There were riots; the Servians agitated for the removal of the troops. They left. Since then Servia has been at war with Turkey on three different occasions. Their troops are now blockading Adrianople. Moldavia and Wallachia were made autonomous under the Sultan's suzerainty early in the last century. Later on they secured complete independence under the name of Roumania. In.1877 they went to war with Turkey, and the efficiency of their troops saved the Russian Army from destruction after its repulses at Plevna. Northern Bulgaria was constituted an autonomous principality by the Berlin Treaty of 1878. The Southern portion of the present Kingdom of Bulgaria was granted autonomy in the same year under the name of Eastern Roumelia. Both were to be under the suzerainty of the Sultan. Subsequently they declared themselves united. In 1908 they obtained complete independence. A Bulgarian Army is now holding Turkey by the throat in front of the lines at Tchatalja.
Autonomy has been a success in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and it may yet be a success in South Africa. But these countries are thousands of miles away. Ireland is only 12 miles distant, and is far more intimately connected with naval strategy. The question of home Rule should be studied not only in Bluebooks but in maps and charts. In the case of a war in the North Sea few merchant ships would dare to navigate it. It would be full of mines, torpedo boats, and submarines. Merchant ships would run the risk of being fired at at night or in a fog by any war-ships, friendly or hostile, that they might happen to come across. The warship, for her own safety, would open fire if in doubt. Site could not allow any vessel to approach her that might carry a hostile torpedo. There would be many repetitions of the Dogger Bank business between the Russian Fleet and the Hull trawlers. The result would be that all our 579 food would have to be landed at our Western ports, thereby greatly increasing the strategical importance of Ireland. In former wars Bristol always flourished because of the risk of navigating the Channel near to the enemy coasts of France and Holland. Had Ireland been hostile, Bristol commerce would have suffered as much as the Channel trade.
My own view is that our chief danger would be, that the enemy's merchant-ships, when converted, or when being converted, into hostile cruisers, would make use of the Irish ports for mounting their armaments, refilling their coal bunkers, and obtaining food, ammunition, and other necessaries. They would then sally forth to intercept our food supplies and the trade that is to pay for those food supplies. Ireland would not suffer if its food supplies were interrupted to the same extent that England would. They would only have to eat their own cattle, pigs, and potatoes instead of exporting them. A long war might affect them, but a short war would not do so to any great extent. If Home Rule is granted, a three-Power standard, instead of a two-Power standard, must be kept up. It would be cheaper to continue land purchase. The late Lord Cawdor, who won the affection and confidence of the Navy during his term of office as First Lord of the Admiralty and who must have discussed this question with many naval officers of distinction, warned the country of this danger in two speeches that he delivered at Leeds and Haverfordwest in December, 1909. He said—If you establish Home Rule, you will have to double the requirements of your Navy, which is quite as much as you can bear to-day.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD EMMOTT)
My Lords, in this debate I follow two noble Lords who are wholehearted opponents of this Bill. Lord Farnham made one remark which interested me a good deal. He said the real test was what a man was ready to pay for his belief, and he instanced and compared the amount that was spent on drink in Ireland with the amount that was subscribed for some organisation whose name I did not exactly catch, but which was, at any rate, a Home Rule organisation. But I think if he would compare the amount spent on drink in this country with the amount that has been subscribed for furthering the cause of Tariff Reform he would also find 580 that there was a very considerable discrepancy between the two sums. I was very sorry that the noble Lord raised the question of religious prejudice, but I do not intend to follow him into that part of his speech. I have listened with great interest to the first sustained debate in this House since I have had the honour of being a member of it, and it is with a great deal of diffidence that I take part in it. I cannot attempt to rival the eloquence, the distinction of phrasing, or the argumentative subtlety of many of the speeches which have preceded mine. I shall content myself to-night with stating, as simply and as plainly as possible, the reasons that make me, twenty-seven years after Home Rule was first—shall I say sprung upon this country?—a stronger Home Ruler than ever, and I will state why I am confident that whatever happens now in this House, or whatever happens to this Bill, Home Rule is not only advisable but must inevitably come.
As I have listened to speech after speech the impression has grown upon me that the main fundamental difference between the two sides of the House in regard to this matter is the question whether if the present condition of affairs in Ireland could only last the demand for Home Rule would disappear. And yet, my Lords, decade follows decade, General Election follows General Election, and von have the same return of four to one Members coming from Ireland to this Parliament in favour of Home Rule, and the one question which decides the fate of every election in Ireland is not our political controversies but the single question of Home Rule. Yet after that, noble Lords believe that if only a few more years are granted then the demand for Home Rule will disappear. But for that belief I cannot help thinking that your Lordships might have read this Bill a second time, and I honestly wish that you had read it a second time and proceeded to discuss the details in Committee. I venture to say, even from the standpoint of the Opposition, that noble Lords opposite have more to gain by taking that course. This year it is obvious that the Government must have every inducement to meet noble Lords on any point which is not fundamentally opposed to the principles of the Bill. When the Bill comes up here again the inducement to meet noble Lords opposite will be less, and if it conies up a third time it may be very small indeed.
581 The fact of the matter is, so far as I can judge public opinion in Great Britain, Great Britain no longer fears Home Rule. A good deal of complaint has been made of the apathy with which the electors of Great Britain have viewed the discussion of this measure. I do not think that in any single by-election in Great Britain since this Bill was before the House of Commons it has been stated in any paper that Home Rule has been the great subject on which the election has turned. I do not wonder that the people of this country should be accustomed to the idea of Hone Rule. With the recent example of the success of autonomy in South Africa with the threats of breaking every law with which this great campaign commenced, with the discovery that the loyalty of Ulster is contingent on Ulster still having her own way, the eyes of Great Britain have, I think, been opened. Great Britain no longer fears, if it does not indeed welcome, this Bill. I admit that it would he intensely difficult for noble Lords opposite to break away from the feelings of Ulster. As a moderate member of my own Party I have often deplored the influence and effect of small fanatical sections in the Party, and it must be the same in every Party.
If I may use a homely but no unexpressive phrase, I would say that Ulster relatively to the rest of the Unionist Party is always a little ahead of the band. It has been so in the past. Readers of that very interesting biography of Colonel Sanderson that was issued a year or two ago will remember how in the later years of his life he constantly spoke and insisted on, as I think he phrased it, the necessity for "gingering" the late Lord Salisbury, then the Leader of the Conservative Party. That means, of course, that he found it difficult to keep his Leaders up to his pitch of opinion in regard to Ireland. So I say that relatively to the bulk of the Unionist Party Ulster is always something above concert pitch. That has been shown in many ways. It is not an unfair statement, I think, to make that of the last three Unionist Chief Secretaries in Ireland two of them were vehemently distrusted by Ulster, and I am not quite sure that the utmost confidence was always placed even in the advice of the Lords-Lieutenant of the time. I remember in regard to sympathetic treatment of Ireland during the Unionist Administration an Ulster Member making use of the phrase, "This 582 rotten sickening policy of conciliation," and that phrase has stuck in my memory ever since. I admit that Unionist policy is very different now. The completion of land purchase is now its first plank. And may I say, in parenthesis, that before the Bill of 1903 was introduced I was strongly in favour of land purchase, and it was a real pleasure to me to do what I could to help pass that Bill through the House of Commons. I believe that the completion of land purchase is absolutely essential to the settlement of the Irish question.
In a book recently published, called "The Case against Home Rule," there is a very interesting introduction written by Sir Edward Carson. Sir Edward Carson is a perfectly sincere man; he is as sincere as he is courageous, and he is as courageous as he is able. I am quite sure that what he says he means, and he now says that completion of land purchase is to be the first plank in the Unionist programme for Ireland. But I think it is only fair to point out that that has not always been Sir Edward Carson's view. I remember years ago—and I have turned up the reference—that Sir Edward Carson went down to Oxford (the exact date was May 2, 1903) to take the place of Mr. Wyndham who, at that time, was Chief Secretary, and who was unable to go to some political function there. Speaking at the meeting Sir Edward Carson said—He wished Wyndham was there to explain to them the great benefits that Ireland was going to receive, or, at all events, thought it was going to receive, from the passage of the Irish Land Bill. He knew something of Irish Legislation; he lived through it fur some forty years. Indeed, he might say that for several years ho lived by it. Ho only desired to say this, that as regards the Irish Land. Bill lie should give it the minimum of his support.And I presume the vehemence with which he used the word "minimum" is reflected in the fact that it is actually in italics in The Times. He said he should give it the minimum of his support, and he should do so because of his official position, and for the reason that he knew of no other alternative. I do not give that quotation because I want to raise the question of ally unhappy personal relationships that may have existed in the then Unionist Government, but I do raise it in order that I may point out the way in which the man who is now admitted to be the Leader of the Ulster Party received the Land Bill of his own colleague in 1903.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
May I interrupt, as I know the speech quite well, and what Sir Edward Carson then said. He was responsible for the sale of land belonging to Trinity College, and he had to see that they got the best advantage from the sale of that land in order that their income might not be reduced.
§ LORD EMMOTT
That may explain what was then in Sir Edward Carson's mind, but it does not do away with the fact that I am venturing to put to your Lordships, that Sir Edward Carson was not then a supporter of the measure of which he is now a strong supporter. Nor was he a supporter of the policy which he now says must be carried to its logical conclusion, and which he says is the very first item in the Unionist programme. That is the point that I am making.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I said he was speaking as trustee of the property of Trinity College at that time, and he was watching over their interests with regard to their income. I admit I am speaking from memory, and it is a long time ago.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I quite accept that from the noble Marquess; but may I remind him that Sir Edward Carson was at that time Solicitor-General.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I do not know which interest he ought to have placed first. But, at any rate, he was Solicitor-General, and the words, although I do not want to deal with them at length with regard to any question of personal relationship, were very remarkable words for any member of the Government to use with regard to a Government Bill. The whole of that incident is significant to me as to how unsafe a guide this Ulster spirit, if I may so term it, is to Unionists of a wider outlook and broader mind. It is true that their spirit is a little chastened and a very generous policy to Ireland is now advocated. First of all, there is the completion of land purchase, to which I think we are all agreed; secondly, generous subsidies for every purpose, and so long as Food Duties were not subject to the chance of a second election Food Duties were to be put in such a shape as to be most advantageous to Ireland.
584 I do not doubt the sincerity with which these offers are now made, but I want to say two things about them. First of all, Nationalist Ireland is convinced, and I am inclined to think rightly convinced, in spite of the attractions of the wealth that is to be hers if the Unionists win at this great contest, as to the real motive power which will dictate the Unionist policy if they should come into power. The second observation that I would venture to make on it is this. Money doles, however lavish, will not kill the soul of a people. The Irish people, with a genius for politics, have been kept in leading-strings for generations, and have been driven into an attitude of hostility and criticism of every Government, and have been deprived of the power which they ought to have enjoyed to work out their own salvation in their own way. Against this I believe honestly that the soul of the Irish people revolts. You cannot satisfy such a revolt either by resolute government or by the most lavish of subsidies. I venture to say also that even material prosperity, important as that is for Ireland, will be built on a much surer foundation if it arises from the fact that she is to have the management of her own internal affairs. I put it to you, my Lords, Is this Ulster spirit as we have known it in the past and as we have feared it may be in the future, a safe one to follow? It is now plain beyond all doubt that Great Britain is not alarmed at the Home Rule Bill. It looks with apathy on it, as you say; with acquiescence, if not with approval, as we say; and I frankly confess I wish the Party opposite had the courage and the statesmanship to emancipate themselves at this moment from this Ulster spirit, and to give this Bill a Second Reading and see what measure of agreement we might be able to obtain in future stages.
Now, my Lords, to turn to another point. The most rev. Prelate, whose remarkable speech we all listened to with such close and interested attention before dinner, made a very strong point of the question of whether there ought not to be another General Election before this Bill becomes law. He evidently thought that there was an element of unfairness in attempting to pass this Bill under the protection of the Parliament Act without another appeal to the country. I am not going, in referring to this argument, to make any use of the obvious tu quoque in 585 reference to 1902, because I think two blacks do not make a white. This is a serious matter, and I want to meet it as fully and fairly as possible. The real point is this. Did the constituencies understand that His Majesty's Government, if they were successful in passing the Parliament Act, intended to bring in a Home Rule Bill without a further appeal to the country? On that matter I have a very definite opinion. I venture to say—and I am going to give my reasons for this statement—that not one in 100,000 electors did not understand that Home Rule would immediately follow the Parliament Bill. I do not think a single member of your Lordships' House dare stand up in his place and say that he did not believe it was going to follow.
I am a new member of this House, so new a member that I took part as a successful candidate in the last General Election. In my election address, if you will pardon a personal reference for just one moment, I said that all questions differentiating the Liberal and Progressive and Conservative Parties depended on a settlement of the Parliament Bill. In enumerating those questions which depended upon it I mentioned Home Rule first. Not satisfied with that, I frequently argued it upon the platform. I am perfectly sure that my constituents understood it, and that nobody could say that they were deceived, or outraged, or hoodwinked, or betrayed by what has since taken place; and the proof of that is this, that when I had the honour of being made a member of your Lordships' House there was, of course, a by-election, and at that by-election, although a Conservative was returned, he was returned by 12,500 votes, which we may say were against Home Rule, as against 18,000 votes which were cast for the Liberal and the Labour candidates, who were both strong Home Rulers. I apologise for saying so much about myself, first of all because I am a very subordinate member of the Government; and, secondly, because at that time I was not a member of the Government at all. But I made my own position so clear that when this controversy that has arisen about the mandate for this Bill sprang up I was amazed that the point could even be raised.
I remember what occurred in 1910 when the Resolutions on which the Bill was founded were before the House of Commons. A specific Amendment was moved when 586 I was in the Chair in another place, excluding Home Rule from the operation of those Resolutions. The subject was debated; the Amendment was refused by Mr. Churchill, then Home Secretary, I think, on behalf of the Government, because of the fact that with the greatest success self-government had been granted to South Africa by administrative action with which your Lordships' House could not interfere. Sir Edward Carson followed him, and he said, "You mean to sneak this Bill through." Those are his actual words, and I quote the words because by using them he indicated that he expected at that time that this Bill would follow. In fact, the whole of the debate was carried out on that supposition, and the Division was taken under that impression. But in order to make assurance doubly sure, I myself conducted a search in the columns of The Times as to what was actually said. Of course, I could not go through all the speeches. The action of the Prime Minister in regard to this matter he stated himself at considerable length in another place. I do not want to weary your Lordships by quoting that here. But lie mentioned the matter at least four times in speeches in different parts of the country, and there was the fatuous heckling, reported in every newspaper throughout England, which made quite clear, I think, what the position was.
But when I turn to Mr. Balfour, whose speeches during that election were, I think, more fully reported than those of any other statesman of the time, I find that as reported in The Times—they are not always, of course, fully reported—at least three-fourths of Mr. Balfour's speeches were actually given up to arguing against the Parliament. Bill because under the protection of the Parliament Bill Home Rule could be put through without any appeal to the country. I have here a whole series of extracts, but, of course, I am not going to weary your Lordships by reading them. I went into the matter with some care, and I will venture to read this one, which seems to make the position clear. It is in the form of a letter, dated December 12, 1910, in The Times. The letter is to Mr. C. S. Parker, then a Unionist candidate, and in it Mr. Balfour said—The avowed intention of the Government is in substance to abolish the Second Chamber, and then without any reference to the electors to grant a sweeping measure of home Rule to Ireland, in obedience to the orders now dictated to them by the leader of the Irish Party.587 Lord Lansdowne's observation on this matter was that Mr. Asquith made it perfectly clear that it was intended to deal first of all with the question of Irish Home Rule, and it is very well known to your Lordships that every hoarding was placarded with the Dollar Dictator placard, and if that placard had any meaning at all it meant that Home Rule depended on the Parliament Bill. It seems to me impossible, in face of this really considerable accumulation of evidence, to imagine that any of the voters cast their vote at the last General Election under any mistake as to what the Government meant in regard to Home Rule.
This is a Second Reading debate, and we are concerned more with the general principle of the measure than with any detail. There is, indeed, still less occasion to go into detail because this Bill is to be rejected. I do not want to occupy much of your Lordships' time, and I will content myself by showing why, with my recent experience, I am a stronger Home Ruler than I was. I have had a good deal of experience of the congestion of business in another place, for, of course, my old post brought me into close relation with that question, and I confess that serious as has been the language used in regard to this matter in your Lordships' House I do not think it has been at all too serious. My own view is that it is leading us into a very difficult situation. The House of Commons has ultimate control over, and would, had it time like to discuss, the various interests of a world-wide Empire; our relations with our Dominions, which are growing every day more important; the fiscal and commercial and general affairs of our Crown Colonies, which are situated all over the habitable globe; the finances of the United Kingdom and of its parts; the detailed administration of Government Departments of three, and in some cases of four, nations, for Wales has separate Departments already in regard to some questions; and the legislative requirements of four constituent portions of this realm, often diverse, and constantly increasing in complication. No other legislative Assembly in the world attempts to deal with half as much, and some method of lightening its work must be found, or there will be a Parliamentary breakdown or else a great increase in the already too great power of the Cabinet.
588 Every conceivable device to shorten debate has been resorted to, except, perhaps, the one of a time limit for speeches; and that I venture to say would not do very much, because speeches are already shortening themselves without any special provision. The "jumping kangaroo" has been invented, and the kangaroo is not so black as it has been painted. More important, of course, is the dreaded guillotine. Now as to the guillotine, I have often heard debates on the question, and what usually happens is that the Leader rises and makes a Motion for closure by compartments, making a statement that under the special circumstances of the time he has no alternative. The Leader of the Opposition follows him, and he generally takes the line that whatever has been the excuse in the past for the use of the guillotine there is no excuse on this occasion, and he says that it is an outrage on the liberty of the subject and an insult and degradation to the House. Presently, these two right hon. gentlemen change sides, and the one makes the speech of the other. That really is not an unfair statement of what takes place. I confess that my sympathies are invariably with the Opposition, but my reason usually with the Government. The guillotine seems to me to resemble the definition which the small rascal gave of a lie—an abomination to the Lord but a very present help in time of trouble. But, seriously, my Lords, I do not think that the House of Commons under present conditions can dispense with these methods. I wish it could. The country even now thinks that the House of Commons talks too much and does too little, and there is one thing that will never be forgiven by the electorate to the House of Commons, or, at any rate, the House of Commons with a Liberal majority, and that is that it should show itself impotent to pass legislation.
Let me say one word as to why I believe the guillotine to be necessary. There was a very excellent article in the Round Table Review of December, 1911, which is by general consent a great addition to our periodical literature of recent years, with a wealth of statistics, and written in a thoroughly impartial spirit, and therein is set out the whole question. From that article and from my own knowledge of procedure I have gathered this one fact, which is the all-sufficient fact—that the time occupied on other than Government 589 Bills is about eighty days in an ordinary session. In a session of seven months there are, allowing for a very moderate holiday at Whitsuntide and Eastertide, about 135 working days. The sessions from 1851 to 1874 were rather under 120 days, and those from 1875 to 1894 about 135 days in length. Now 135 days is a long enough session if there is no autumn session; and autumn sessions are very undesirable. If eighty days are required for business other than legislation, there are, obviously, only fifty-five days left for Government Bills. The Budget Act of 1909, of which I have some recollection, occupied sixty-nine days, and a great many of these days extended to 6 or 8 o'clock in the morning. That Budget was passed without any guillotine. The Education Bill of 1902 occupied fifty-two days, and that was passed with guillotine. The Home Rule Bill of this year took the same time—namely, fifty-two days, and was also under the guillotine. Without the guillotine not one bit, contentious measure could be passed through the House of Commons in a year. I admit it is unsatisfactory and undesirable. I should be glad to see it abolished. But it cannot be abolished until the method of criticism is altered. The difference between the old method of criticism and the new is this, that now in Committee every Second Reading point is debated over again, whilst in the old days when the Second Reading was passed the principle of the Bill was accepted, and Committee criticism was confined to questions of machinery.
In the face of this statement—and I do not think I have exaggerated it at any single point—what remedy is there for this state of things except the one remedy of devolution? What permanent remedy is there? It is because this Bill is in the direction of devolution that I am a strong supporter of it. I know the objections that may be made. It is said that there are reserved services, and there are many points in which Irish questions may still be discussed, even if this Bill is passed. Yes, my Lords, but the Bill will do something, and it goes in the right direction. I hope, further, that it is also a first step towards a greater devolution. In any case, we have this problem of an over-worked Parliament, and devolution is the only permanent remedy that can be adopted for that. I want to press this upon your Lordships, that, granted 590 those two points, with devolution you must have a measure giving at least this quantum of Home Rule to Ireland, and if that is the case Ulster's non possumus cannot be maintained against a measure which is necessary for the smooth and effective working of the Imperial Parliament.
My second reason in regard to Home Rule is this. When I held my last post in another place I learned a little better how Ireland suffers under the present system. She suffers in many ways. There is no time to discuss administrative affairs, for only three days are allowed to Supply, and when it comes to legislation Ireland suffers in the inevitable scramble for time in regard to legislation. In the introduction to the "Case against Horne Rule" Sir Edward Carson says that the way in which element education in Ireland has been neglected in Parliament by successive Administrations is a scandal. It is not only a question of time. In regard to the question of education, surely an Irish Parliament could manage the matter, probably with a good deal more sympathy and better than an Imperial Parliament, because in the Imperial Parliament there are after all, a great many members who are more or less necessarily out of sympathy with an entirely denominational education, and education in Ireland must, I think, be a purely denominational one. It has taken seventy or eighty years to bring about University reform, and I am afraid it may take a long time to bring about reform under present conditions in elementary education in Ireland. But I think perhaps the strongest reason of all is this, that in legislation common to all the kingdom, such questions as finance and social reform legislation, it is almost impossible to propose what is fair at the same time for England and for Ireland. That point was so well discussed by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack that I will not further detain your Lordships in regard to it. On account of want of time, lack of understanding and the difference of conditions making similarity of treatment unsatisfactory, I support this Bill as a means of leaving Ireland to work out her own salvation on her own lines.
I have one word to say about the effect of the Bill on the safety of the Empire. We who support this Bill are called optimists. If it does work successfully 591 certainly the Empire will be stronger under it. It is said that this measure of Home Rule does not resemble a measure of Home Rule in any other part of His Majesty's Dominions. That is quite true, and that is because the circumstances of Ireland do not resemble the circumstances in any other part of His Majesty's Dominions. But the main argument is this, that there is no instance of a breakdown in the grant of autonomy to a white population the majority of whom are in favour of the change, and with goodwill and good sense on both sides I believe that this Bill will work with great satisfaction to all concerned. I want to say one word about this very difficult Ulster question, for I do not desire to belittle its importance and I do not in any way scoff at the difficulties which it raises. The majority, I believe, of the Irish people are anxious to work on terms of harmony with Ulster, and it is quite clear that if Ulster agrees to so work there must be a new grouping of political questions, for Home Rule disappears as a dividing line. The second point I would like to make is that if Ulster is going to resist I think it must be before she is hurt, and I cannot believe that the hard-headed men of Ulster are going to run such a tremendous risk. Under these circumstances I deplore the incitement by men in responsible positions here which has been uttered to the people of Ulster.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Will the noble Lord tell me who has done it in this House? Can he name anybody?
§ LORD EMMOTT
I was using the most general language, and I will send the noble Marquess any number of extracts showing that it has been done.
§ LORD EMMOTT
No, I beg your pardon. I said the incitements which have been in some quarters made to the people of Ulster. I did not say in this House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
We are not Ulster. Will you kindly give the date, because you have no right to make these statements here unless you can verify them.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I do beg your Lordships to look at this matter apart from prepossession. Why has Great Britain taken this matter so calmly, to come back to my old point. I believe the reason is that fair and open-minded people with some recollection of recent history find the threats now uttered by Ulster inconsistent with Ulster's past. They know that there will be a new Constitution sanctioned by Parliament if this Bill is passed. The Conservative Party who railed bitterly at disloyalty against the old Constitution are now declaring that they will support Ulster in any action against the new Constitution, however extreme that action may be. People who were ready enough to recommend shooting in regard to disloyal Nationalists now defy the Government to shoot if Ulstermen rebel against the new Constitution, and a plain Britisher with these facts before him is sorely puzzled as to why it has been in the past the quintessence of political depravity for a Nationalist to be disloyal to a Constitution which Ireland has tried for 100 years and which he dislikes, and why it will be a noble and patriotic action for Ulstermen to rebel against the new Constitution which has not been tried for 100 days.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I am trying to put the case of the average straightforward Britisher. He is puzzled as to why it is such a wicked thing to have been disloyal in the past to the old Constitution, and yet that it will be a noble and patriotic thing to be disloyal to the new Constitution before it has been tried. That is really the question that Ulster must answer and answer satisfactorily if Great Britain is to be wakened out of her apathy. I apologise for detaining you so long, my Lords, but in conclusion I repeat my regret that this Bill has not been 593 allowed a Second Reading. I am consoled by the fact that failure to pass it at all here or under the Parliament Act can only he an episode in history. The rejection of this Bill will not kill the demand for Home Rule. It will not bring good government to Ireland; it will not give her people the responsibility which they ought to have; it will not relieve, but acid to the congestion of Parliamentary business here. I look forward with hope and confidence to a day, not far distant, when this Bill, or if by any chance this Bill disappears when another not less just and generous, will become law in Ireland, and Ireland will be able to work out her own internal problems in her own way as a loyal, prosperous, and contented portion of the British Empire.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I am sure you will not think any apology is due from the noble Lord who has just sat down for his intervention in this debate, because he has certainly endeavoured to grapple with the many points of the Bill, which we are not always fortunate enough to find members willing to examine honestly. I hope he will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him into all the points which he cited as justifying pressing forward the Bill under existing conditions. I candidly confess that I can see no common ground between myself and the noble Lord in that respect. He has told us that this Bill was thought about and was mentioned on certain platforms, and he told us that this he was one of those who put it in the forefront of their programme at the General Election. If I may say so, that does not move me in the least. The fact remains that this measure was huddled amongst a mass of other measures which composed the Government programme, so numerous and so important that here we are almost in the month of February only completing the session of last year. When the noble Lord says he does not believe one in 100,000 electors was not aware that he was voting on Home Rule, I will undertake say, on behalf of the part of the country with which I am connected, that there was not one in 10,000 electors who contemplated Home Rule seriously. They were engaged in thinking about tariffs and churches and the House of Lords and other questions that were brought forward by Liberal candidates, and the Government were content to obscure the issue if they only could come forward without; making 594 Home Rule an item of their programme. I do not suppose there is one noble Lord on the Ministerial side of the House who does not believe that the most fatal thing that could happen to this Bill would be to send it to a referendum into which no other question entered.
There is another question which depends upon the same point. We all know that in 1892 the measure which was placed before the country—and nobody was more urgent in putting it forward than the noble Viscount, the Lord President—may be said to have been approved by a large majority of the constituencies. If the measure introduced in the following year was approved at all, what happened when it came before the country afterwards? The electors in 1892 did not know that the measure would involve the presence of the Irish Members to vote upon their affairs while Irish affairs were left entirely free to the Irish Parliament. They knew nothing of the finance, and very little of the position of the minority. The Bill was one of which if the electors ever considered it amongst themselves in principle they may be said to have approved, hut the measure when submitted to them was believed to be disastrous by the vast majority of the electors of this country. That is the position now, we believe. The two admirable speeches we have listened to from the Ministerial side shirked the main and vital points of the Bill. The Lord Chancellor went off on two points and discussed with great knowledge the veto which is given under the Bill. Nobody denies that there is a veto in letter. Is that veto effective? In spirit can it be used? The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was in his place a few minutes ago. Where is he in this matter? Will he be advised by his Irish Ministers or will he be the servant of the British Executive? The Lord Chancellor made an extraordinary admission to-night which the late Lord Chancellor for Ireland on this Bench, Lord Ashbourne, took note of at once. It appears that the English Ministry will have to give orders over the head of the Irish Ministry to the Irish Executive.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Viceroy in future will be in the position of the Viceroy of a Dominion. The Bill provides that instructions are to be given which will contain the delegation of the authority of the Crown to the Viceroy so appointed. If the noble Viscount considers 595 the grant of Parliamentary government to the Colonies he will see that there is always a large discretion allowed as to what is to be intimated from the Imperial Government on appropriate occasions. Of course when a Constitution works smoothly the occasions for interference are very few indeed, but at other times when necessary those powers have been freely used. But the point is that there is this power in the Bill, and the newly-appointed Viceroy of Ireland will be in the same position.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The power is there, but will the Viceroy ever be able to use it? Is it really supposed that the Viceroy, who is to act with regard to the Executive on the advice of the Irish Ministers, will suddenly turn round and say, "Power has been delegated to me by the Sovereign, and by that power I now order your Executive to do that which you, my Irish advisers, have advised me I am not to order"? I think it was made clear in the course of Lord St. Aldwyn 's speech that there is no occasion in which the absurd anomaly which is endeavoured to be put on the Irish Viceroy could be made effective, and we know as a matter of fact it never would be made effective. Though the power may be reserved, as the Lord Chancellor says, and the power is there, we have only to go to the evidence of the Foreign Secretary to know that it is not intended to be exercised. That is the language used in another place by the Foreign Secretary. They are not powers of practical application, without which the future position of the Government of Ireland will indeed be a dangerous one.
There is a second point that the Lord Chancellor put. I do not intend at this time to attempt to follow it in detail, but there is a difference between Lord St. Aldwyn and himself with regard to the finance clauses of the Bill; and I may be permitted to make this observation, that if the principle on which the Lord Chancellor expects finance to lie administered by the Irish Government becomes effective this Bill will be the most unpopular one which has ever been planted by the British Parliament upon the Irish people. I remember that in the year 1893 I had the honour of being followed in debate in another place by the Lord Chancellor, and he took exception then to a statement which I made in considerable detail to the effect that the finance of the Bill of 1893 was such 596 that it would cause immense restrictions of the possible activity of the Irish Government, and therefore would be a most unpopular Bill. The noble and learned Viscount was then on a different platform. He then said there would be a plethora of riches in Ireland under that Bill. That was his description of the Bill of 1893; yet that Bill was one which everybody, Radical or Conservative, Nationalist or Unionist, admits would have ruined Ireland and which speakers to-night admit, would have caused an extraordinary limitation of the development since found possible in Ireland. The Lord Chancellor now says what an education it will lie to the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer. How wise he will become when his wings are clipped. What a good fortune it is that Ireland should begin in this moderate manner, and not with a spendthrift idea such as he put before us but which would lead to a higher standard, the British standard, that is—the standard of the welfare of the nation. But would that be popular? Would it be acquiesced in by those forty-two Trish Members who will have nothing to do at Westminster except to see that Ireland got what she wanted I do not think the Lord Chancellor quite saw where his own argument carried him. I would commend him with great respect to what was the state of things twenty years ago. He should consider the advantages which lie expected in 1893, and, bearing them in mind, should see that we whose prophecies were then ignored have some right to be listened to to-clay when we prophesy that disaster and disorder would follow this Bill in a direction which he does not contemplate.
Both of the speeches we have heard tonight from noble Lords opposite fell short in one great point, and that is that they failed to grapple with the cardinal change in the position of Ireland. Lord St. Aldwyn put the point a great deal better than I can. It is remarkable that speakers have not thought it desirable to address themselves to the point which he made. Lord St. Aldwyn's point was that everything which made the desire for Home Rule a reality and not merely a sentiment has been destroyed by the measures of the last twenty or thirty years. The other night the Prime Minister in the House of Commons committed himself to the view that the work of the last thirty or forty years had been such as to "raise the Nationalist movement from the 597 stage of sentiment and aspiration to what it is to-day-an organised, a practical, and an inevitable reality." I think if he knew Ireland a little better, if he had had any experience Ireland thirty years ago, he would have said the exact opposite. If you go back into past history, as the noble Mat guess who moved the Bill did the other day, you may make any case you like. I am certainly not going to struggle over, what was done centuries ago, and for which neither we nor the other side of the House are responsible but if we are attacked on what was not done in Ireland in the first half of last century I wish that somebody would be pleased to turn on the RÖntgen rays of modern political science and see if he can justify the social conditions which were allowed to obtain during the first fifty years of the century in this country.
But, my Lords, progress since that period in Ireland has been remarkable. If I may look back I will trouble your Lordships with a quotation from the remarkable speech by Mr. Disraeli in 1845. After speaking then of the starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, he went on to say—If you have a strong Executive a just Administration, and ecclesiastical equality, you will have order in Ireland, and improvement of the physical condition of the people will follow. Not very readily perhaps. What are fifty years oven in the history of a nation? What is put is that if these recommendations are adopted then after fifty years the men who shall succeed the present generation in Parliament will find the people of Ireland a contented and thriving peasantry.My Lords, we have not reached our goal yet. But there is not a man fifty years old in Ireland who can even remember the days of ecclesiastical inequality in Ireland. There is not a man fifty years old who has ever had to pay a rent unless he was content to do it, except by the settlement of the Judicial Court. Under the influence of the legislation of the last thirty years—it is really quite immaterial for us on this occasion to consider whether it came from one Government or the other, or whether it was due to your principle of fair rent, or our principle of land purchase, or whether it was the Liberal abolition of the Established Church or the Conservative advocacy of denominational education—whatever it has been, the facts are there. The Church difficulty is gone; the land war is dying; congestion is doomed. Ireland is the only country in the world that I know of which has less than 3,000,000 of an agricul- 598 tural people that has received either in remission of rent or old age pensions a sum in their pockets of £7,000,000 a year. The result of that we know in the oft quoted statistics of the savings banks and the other banks, which are the witness of prosperity.
Look at the growth of trade in the last seven years—25 per cent. Money is pouring into the country. I remember being placed on an Irish Commission when Lord Spencer was Lord Lieutenant to examine into the condition of the gaols, and I think I am right in saying that as the result of this prosperity two-thirds of the prisons of the Ireland of thirty years ago have been closed. Is there any case, my Lords, in the history of any nation in modern times, unless it be in Egypt under the administration of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Lord Cromer), where you can show so great a progress? Happy is the people which is in such a case. Then may I put this one question, and I ask some member of the Government to answer it. Mr. Balfour, in the other House of Parliament, put five questions, all with the object of asking whether the extension of autonomy under these conditions had ever been successful; and I would ask quite a different question. I ask the noble Viscount opposite whether he can tell us any case in the history of the world where a nation which in thirty or forty years has shown such progress as Ireland has remained permanently disaffected, disturbed, and distempered, or even asking for autonomy. I should like to know the answer to that question. When we look back and see that the tale of years asked for by Mr. Disraeli is not complete, and when we know that even within ten years we may hope to see land purchase concluded, congestion dealt with, and education brought up to the British standard, are we not justified in retorting upon the noble Lord who has just sat down by asking whether we have not a right to ask for a few more years to see the completion of the policy for which Great Britain has made such gigantic sacrifices, and in which the minority of Ireland have so large a stake?
I know it will be said that if the state of Ireland has so much improved this is just the moment to show the spirit of generosity and to show yourselves ready to take advantage of the improved feeling which exists between the two parties. One would be glad to catch even at that straw 599 in this emergency, but what is the practical bearing of it? Can the Irish people be expected to unlearn in a few months the teaching which has been so liberally administered to them for the last thirty or forty years, and which has been continued even up to the present day? Taking each of the points with which the Irish Executive will start equipped, I ask, Will there be gratitude for any of these things which I will name? Take the land. The view which would be taken of that by the Irish Executive is that the landlords have disgorged something which they have enjoyed for a long period and that the money which is to lie paid to the State will bring the British nation into the unenviable position of mortgagors. Or take again the finance. The £100,000,000 may become £200,000,000. I see constantly that at Irish meetings this great financial boon is discussed simply as a tardy recognition in the twentieth century of the necessity to pay off a debt for all the disabilities which were put upon Ireland in the eighteenth century. Or take, again, the fact that Ireland will be the only Dependency which makes no contribution to the Army or the Navy. Lord Mac-Donnell did not repeat it, I think, in this House last night, but he wrote to the papers to explain that if Ireland was not going to pay a contribution we were only in reality repaying the debt we owe to her for overpayment of revenue during the greater part of last century. How can you expect gratitude when a man of that importance teaches doctrines of this kind? That furnishes every Irish association or politician with what is the matured reflection of a Minister of Lord MacDonnell's eminence. In the same way, on this question of representation at Westminster I have not heard anything in reply to what was said by Lord St. Aldwyn. Recollect that while these Irish representatives are free to interfere in our business here, in which they have no share, they will continue to carry on their own without interference from us. But whenever there is a question of dispute you will be told that the forty-two Members do not, as in fact they do not, represent the full weight of Ireland by population or even by contribution.
On the other hand, there has been hardly one word said in this debate as to the position of the minority under the 600 Bill. I know that we are asked to take on trust all that has been said, and kindly said, by some of the Irish Members and generously said by members of His Majesty's Government on this subject. Take the past. What did Mr. Redmond tell us in 1888? We were told when we gave the Irish their Local Government Bill that the Nationalists would use all their power and influence to see the Act worked in a spirit of generosity to all creeds and classes, and there were promises to the minority of a fair and even generous share of representation on the new bodies. I hardly like to weary your Lordships with the fact as to how that has been carried out, but let me give the figures. If only the Press would publish these figures throughout the United Kingdom I cannot think that at any public meeting it would be believed that the minority could expect generous treatment or even fair treatment under this Bill. What are the figures? In the Province of Munster there are two county councillors who are Unionists out of 223; in Connaught, one out of 143. On the boards of Guardians in Cork there is no Unionist out of the 102 members. In the rural district there is no Unionist out of 63 public representatives. On the Corporation of Cork there are 2 Unionists out of 56. None the less it has been computed that the Unionists pay one-half of the rates and taxes in the Province of Munster. This has gone on up to the other day. Lord Bandon, whom I saw in his place a short time ago, has been chairman of the Town Commissioners for a very long period at his own place at Bandon, and on Saturday last I saw in The Times that Lord Bandon was requested to state whether he would or would not support Home Rule in your Lordships' House, and on his saying that politics had never been brought into the proceedings of the Board, and that he would give no pledge, he was immediately dismissed from the chairmanship. That is the spirit which, notwithstanding any asseverations to the contrary that we have heard, will reign when this Bill is in operation. "In vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird." This method of treatment has had direct instigation by members of the Cabinet on the Bench opposite.
What is your proposal about the Senate? Knowing that throughout the South of Ireland there would not be a single Unionist representative the Govern- 601 ment proposed that the Senate, the one check on a Chamber in which it was well known no Unionist or Protestant in the South of Ireland could expect to be heard, was to be placed in the hands of the Nationalist Party for nomination. Such a proposal has never been made in any Act of Parliament before, and it could only have the result of making it perfectly certain that in the Second Chamber as in the First there would be no representation of Unionists. I wonder how men of fairness and impartiality brought themselves to put such a slur on the minority in Ireland—a minority who for their numbers can show an undue proportion of men who have served this country in the highest offices abroad and at home, in the field, at the Bar, and in the Senate, as compared with any body of men in these islands. You have no right to say to these men that they should pay half the rates and taxes, refuse them all representation in the Lower House, jerrymander them out of representation in the Upper House, and make them hewers of wood and drawers of water to men whose loyalty, if any, is of yesterday, and whose capacity for government is still unproved to-day. That is my protest for the minority.
What of the majority? It is supposed that the majority are at one about this Bill. You ask us to accept this majority of 110 in the House of Commons as conclusive. How was that majority made up? It was made up of all the men who think this is a final measure and who genuinely believe, as the Government profess to believe., that it will be accepted by all parties. It was made up also of all the men like the First Lord of the Admiralty, who has openly said that he looks upon Home Rule as a stepping-stone to federation. It also included men who had committed themselves to the doctrine that there are no bounds to the onward march of a nation, and men who, up to 1910, said they were not here to apologise for the Fenian movement, but believed in the separation of Ireland from England until Ireland was as free as the air we breathe; also the men who thought ample guarantees were wanted for the minority, and those who thought, like Mr. Dillon, that such safeguards could never be operative on behalf of those who put themselves against the will of their countrymen. We are asked to take this heterogeneous mass of men, bound by the temporary sentiment of 602 a Parliamentary crisis, and accept their hasty proposals as a clear and permanent solution of our difficulty in Ireland. I am afraid we cannot believe that this majority are at one in the work. There are some wonderful gaps in their ranks. Where are the heads of the Catholic Church who in 1886 and 1893 made so great a presentment at a time when their flocks were suffering what they are not suffering now, and when their minds were absolutely at one with the Government of the day? Where are all the great commercial men, many of whom spoke out and believed then there was more prosperity to be got from an Irish Executive than they found was to be got from an English one? Where are all the American paymasters? They are ominously silent. Is it supposed that all these classes believe the Bill is a final settlement? Not only these people but many more accepted the Bill of 1886 and the Bill of 1893, which, it is now admitted, would be absolutely ruinous to Ireland. The noble Viscount (Lord Morley) shakes his head. Let me have half-an-hour with him on the Finance Act, and I will show him, with the greatest respect, that he has no leg to stand on, and that Ireland would have been bankrupt many times over. There is not a man in Ireland who has gone into finance who does not think that the greatest friends to Ireland in 1893 were the members of your Lordships' House who threw out the Bill.
The Government misconceive the position in the present, and I think they have also forgotten the history of the past. What was the reason the Union in 1800 failed? It failed, as I think everybody will agree, because the British Government neglected to put into operation all the changes and amendments which had been earnestly hoped for and prophesied as the result of the Union. The recollection of the Union among the Irish people is a recollection of disappointed hopes and broken pledges, and it remained a sore for many years. The Government are sailing the ship of State into the same breakers to-day. They cannot believe that the hopes which have been held out will be carried into effect, or that the pledges which have been given can be made good. The noble Lord made one slight effort, but otherwise no supporter of the Bill has mentioned a single advantage from an Irish Parliament which she 603 could not and would not obtain from an Imperial Parliament. I will sit down now if anybody will mention one such advantage. Therefore all the hopes of a millennium, on which every Irish speech has been framed for the last thirty years, are doomed to disappointment, and the pledges which have been given obviously cannot be made good. I hope your Lordships will see that in that there lies perhaps the greatest danger, even if we accept the doctrines of the Lord Chancellor and the view that this is to be an education to the Irish from which they will emerge better and wiser men.
On the other hand you cannot get away from the fact that, in order to carry out the Bill, you are about to revive theological differences which have long been silent and raise animosities of race which have almost died out. You know what is the risk in Ulster. I confess I deeply regret that my noble friend behind me had to enter so closely into the question of differences between creeds. Those questions have been dying out in Ireland, and why? Because for the last forty or fifty years the old system, tried for a short time in the eighteenth century, in the time of James II, of putting Catholics over the heads of Protestants and which was terminated by the Protestants by the sword, has ceased. In the same way in the following century for a long period Protestants were allowed to rule Catholics under laws which are now considered obsolete and destructive, with deplorable results. That very prosperity which has been gained in the last half century by an absolutely impartial Administration, by an outside force which was not concerned to support either one creed or the other, you are now proposing to destroy, and to light again all the fires which have long died out. I think that is a destructive proposition.
I venture to submit that this Bill is not progressive but reactionary, and must lead to disorder and trouble. It has no precedent for the welding together of nations in any modern case which can be cited. All the countries on which Mr. Gladstone relied in introducing the Bill of 1893 have fallen apart. Norway and Sweden, on which he dealt for five minutes of his eloquent speech, have gone asunder. Austria and Hungary it is not for me to discuss, but certainly we do not see that that Union 604 is carried on with such an absolute absence of friction as we have been led to hope from this; and when the Lord Chancellor said to-night you will always have difficulties when you prefer the part to the whole, I wonder he did not think that was the whole essence of the case against this Bill. You are treating the interests of a part of the Empire against the interests of the whole. You are preferring the prejudices of the few to the welfare of the many. That was not the way in which Germany built up her great Empire in the last half-century. It was not the way in which Italy became a kingdom, but it is the way in which, 200 years ago, the Netherlands fell from being the greatest Power in Europe to a third-rate place. I cannot help thinking that, looking to the history of Europe alone, we may be assured that this great change, if it be carried out without regard to the unfortunate methods which have accompanied it, will be to the discredit of the British Parliament and the dishonour of the British nation.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD
My Lords, the unofficial supporters of the Government in this House are relatively few, and your Lordships opposite, I am sure, will not think it unnatural if some of us show a readiness to express our individual convictions on this matter which in my case, at any rate, might otherwise seem unbecoming. I need not say that I do not rise at this late hour to follow the weighty speech of the noble Viscount opposite. I wish, if I may, to speak not so much of the details of this Bill as of the problem which will remain when your Lordships have rejected the Bill, and to look at that problem chiefly from the point of view of the British Empire. Of course I do not know Ireland as do noble Lords opposite whose homes are there. There is one direction in which, perhaps, I have some peculiar knowledge of Ireland. I have had the honour for many years of friendship with a great many Irish Nationalists, and at one time some years ago I came into very close contact with Nationalist agitation in the disturbed districts of Ireland, seeing it on the sordid and brutal side and also upon that better side to which, I think, Englishmen sometimes are not too generous. If this were merely a question of justice to Ireland I should vote for the Bill with enthusiasm as a measure too long delayed, and with the conviction, which nothing I have heard in this debate has shaken, 605 that it will bring about a great appeasement of the existing state of feeling in Ireland, that sharp severance of religion from religion, and class from class, of which, I believe, the Union is not the remedy but one of the fundamental causes.
I think noble Lords opposite must feel conscious in this debate of the great change that has come over the aspect of this controversy since 1893. For one thing, the theory, if I may so call it, of the inveterate enmity of Ireland towards England is gone—gone at any rate from the minds of Englishmen, although, I believe, there are some Irishmen in whom it is still kept alive by bitter memories. The British Empire has prospered so much by a bold course of treating inveterate enemies as friends, and actually converting them into active friends. The Nationalist movement in.Ireland has changed during a generation from a hostile and rebellious movement, as it once was, into a claim on the part of Irishmen to take their place on terms of relative equality with Englishmen in a common civilisation, and in the same Empire of which they form part. Still more, I think what used to be the foundation of the Unionist creed has been greatly shaken. It used, I think, to be assumed by most Unionists, and by most Englishmen, almost as a self-evident proposition, that the Union of Parliaments was the best means of securing unity of feeling and of action between the two peoples for their common ends. Can we any longer think it is so, looking at the rapid growth and development of unity between different parts of the Empire, the political connection of which now consists of little more than a common loyalty to the person of the Sovereign?
There is one supreme test of the effective unity of a people for common purposes, and that is the measure in which they can be relied upon to act together in the event of war against a common enemy, and I do ask your Lordships' full consideration of this fact, which I have not heard Previously alluded to in this debate, that, whereas in this country we are able for purposes of defence from time to time to avail ourselves of the counsels of a General who twelve years ago was commanding an army in the field against us, yet within the boundaries of this so-called United Kingdom there is 606 one large part to which you dare not apply the provisions of Territorial Forces Act and to which, if it falls to the lot of some noble Lord opposite to introduce some larger and more far-reaching measure of national defence, he would not, I think, under present conditions apply that measure. Are there any of us who really doubt that under Home Rule, with whatever friction this new machinery may work in some respects, we should gain an immense accession of strength in that direction?
Let me turn to the legislative relations of the two countries. In a very short time your Lordships will, I presume, receive a Bill deeply affecting the constitution of the National Church of England—a Bill which you will complain, and be entitled to complain, has largely been made possible in the House of Commons by the votes of Irish Roman Catholics—votes given by men who can by no possibility have any real understanding of the English Church question. I think you will complain of it. But, my Lords, that is the Union, and that is the very principle of the system which applies to Irishmen in a way which from their smaller numbers is far more oppressive, and against, which Irishmen for generations have protested and are likely to continue to protest. But it is not only friction which the legislative union has produced. It has conduced surely a great deal to the exhaustion, almost the threatened collapse, of our Parliament here. That is a subject which has already been dwelt upon in this debate. Some noble Lords have spoken of it as a matter which has become noticeable in the last year only and under the present Government, but it is really an old story. Nearly thirty years ago Mr. Gladstone, in his emphatic way, exclaimed "Parliament is over-weighted, Parliament is overwhelmed," and the evil has gone on growing since that time. We have needed measures of social reform entirely neglected. We have other measures passed, such as the Insurance Act—passed when occasion offered, but without anything like the adequate discussion we should all have desired. We have great Imperial questions which can hardly be brought to the notice of the House of Commons. We have the House of Commons absolutely failing to discharge what used to be considered its primary, and still is its most important, function, the supervision of the expenditure of the country, passing large parts of the Estimates of the year at the rate sometimes 607 of millions a minute. We have the private Member of Parliament reduced to a position of the greatest impotence and insignificance. We have in our General Elections a welter of confusing issues which make the people's will at a General Election sometimes almost unmeaning. We have, lastly, as it seems, the task of administrative Government and legislation growing to such proportions that for the Cabinet as a whole or the Prime Minister to exercise the control once demanded of them has become a superhuman task.
I do not want to put too much stress upon a single cause, but undoubtedly the combination in a single Parliament of the highly different business of three countries, differing in their institutions, conditions, laws, and administrative systems, is beyond all question a powerful cause contributing to this immense strain upon our Parliamentary institutions, and a cause for which thinking men have long been feeling increasingly that a remedy must be found. Looking outside the United Kingdom there is surely pressing upon us, coming nearer and nearer, the problem that was once regarded as something academic and belonging almost to dreamland—the problem of how to create an Imperial Government which would really represent and be able to govern the British Empire. The last few months have brought that problem palpably nearer to us. Your Lordships must have noted with much interest the proceedings and the utterances of the present Government of Canada. How soon it will come upon us we cannot tell, but it is perfectly possible that in a very short space of time we may really be confronted with the problem of how the Governments of the different Dominions are to be enabled to work together with us by some effective common institutions, and that demand, whenever it comes, all of us in this country will be ready to meet to the best of our power. In the meantime there is this indispensable first step lacking. We do not possess in this country a real Imperial Parliament—a Parliament which can give adequate attention to the problems of Empire, which ought to bulk large in its deliberations. We have a Parliament the election to which and the proceedings of which at present serve only in a very inadequate degree to keep the British electors aware of, and in touch with, the problems of that Empire to whose greater union and efficiency we all look forward.
608 There has been a great deal of controversy as to the meaning of the last General Election in regard to this problem of Home Rule. It is undoubtedly true that Home Rule was not before the electors at the last General Election in the sense that it was much talked about or that the electors wished to hear much about it. I venture to think that many of them felt that twenty-seven years of discussion of Home Rule might suffice. It is, at any rate, unquestionably the fact, as my noble friend behind me insisted just now, that every intelligent elector in this country knew that a Home Rule Bill was bound to follow hard upon the Parliament Act, and in voting for the Government he at least acquiesced in its being so. I go further and say that very few felt any alarm or resentment at the prospect that it would be so. I believe that the people of this country, many of whom would not set much value upon their own individual judgments upon the question of Home Rule, regard it as a problem which has got to be set tied, and which they are content should be dealt with by statesmen whom they trust, and that, above all, they would desire to see it dealt with by the united statesmanship of this country in a conference in which all the great interests concerned were really represented, and in which the element of Party warfare was as far as possible eliminated. That I believe to be the position of the average elector to-day,
There are two alternative things which may happen. The Bill may be passed after all under the operation of the Parliament Act with or without the interposition of another General Election, in which, in all human probability, many other issues would be before the people—Tariff Reform, Women's Suffrage, and I know not what. The Bill may be passed under the Parliament Act with or without an election as a contested measure by the preponderating votes of a single Party. It would pass without the grace of general consent and without that improvement in detail which, to my mind, it would very conceivably gain if it were the joint product of the minds of many statesmen representing many different points of view; and it would pass, which to my mind is the most serious thing of all, as an isolated measure and not as the first part of a much greater whole of constitutional reform which is necessary to complete its opera- 609 tion. On the other hand, you may, in a General Election, defeat this Bill; but you will not then have got rid of this problem; you will only have delayed its solution.
I should like to refer to one other point— the problem of Ulster, a problem which I think no man who has not lived in Ulster ought to belittle, and which, I would add, with all respect to the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York, no man who has not lived in Ulster ought to run the risk of over-emphasising. Put upon the ground of what I may call their separate national feeling the claim of Ulstermen to override altogether the corresponding feeling of the greater part of Ireland seems to me extravagant and indefensible, but put forward in relation to a measure the principles of which were accepted it would demand from us the most sympathetic consideration. But in any case this is one of those matters in which we have much to gain if on the rejection of this measure renewed conference on this whole problem were possible. I entertain a strong suspicion, further, that Home Rule would be regarded even by the people of Ulster in a very different light if it came before them, not in its isolation, but as part of a larger scheme for the government of the United Kingdom and of the Empire.
My Lords, I rose mainly because I wanted to add my single voice to the many 610 voices which I am glad to say now have expressed the feeling—strong, ham sure, among those of us who on this side are going without hesitation to vote for this Bill in all its stages, however many times it is repeated—how infinitely better it would be if the Opposition would express their willingness to consider this vast question in conference such as that to which I have alluded. We know that the Government are willing to meet them, and we are perfectly certain that the statesmen of Ireland would welcome far more readily that kind of solution of this question than that which now offers itself to them; and I think we may be perfectly certain that the whole country would welcome such a solution with unspeakable relief. Whether we can hope for that eventual solution or whether the matter is to be fought out on Party lines with the possible result of the defeat of this Bill, which can merely mean postponement of the issue and nothing more—however it is going to end, I shall myself gladly give my vote for this Bill as at least and at worst a long step forward.
§ Further debate adjourned until To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before Twelve o'clock, till Tomorrow, Three o'clock.