§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, in moving once more the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill, it would in no case be necessary for me to enter into a close or detailed description of the measure, and it is still less necessary when we look at the Motion which the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition has placed upon the Paper, because that Motion, in terms, expresses no opinion whatever upon the merits of the Bill, but simply states that there is no evidence that the country approves of it, and that therefore it ought to be submitted to the country again. I will ask the attention of the House to the Motion of the noble Marquess directly. But first I will remind your Lordships, in the roughest possible outline, what the essential provisions of the Bill are. This Bill proposes to institute an Irish Parliament composed of two Houses elected by different constituencies, and to create an Executive responsible to that Parliament. Great Imperial questions are withheld from the consideration of that Parliament, the discussion or settlement of religious questions is excluded from its purview, and a number of important subjects which have been dealt with by recent legislation of the United Kingdom are reserved from its consideration. The Lord Lieutenant ceases to be a member of the Government of the day, the number of Irish Members in the House of Commons is greatly reduced, and in the last resort the stamp of subordination is set upon the Irish Parliament by the existence of the power of veto. The scheme of finance in the Bill hinges mainly on two facts—namely, the collection of all taxes by the Imperial authority, and the transfer of a fixed sum from the British to the Irish Exchequer for the purposes of the Irish Government. That, in the briefest outline, is the framework of the Bill.
There is a further reason, my Lords, why in moving the Second Reading it is not necessary to discuss once more the details of the clauses. On the last occasion the objections taken in this House to the Bill were to a large extent objections of detail. The principle of self-government for 870 Ireland received substantial support from many who at ordinary times give very small assistance to His Majesty's Government—both from the right rev. Bench and from the Benches opposite; but in spite of that fact your Lordships did not choose to go into Committee to discuss the details of the Bill, and it met its fate on the Second Reading. I think it is clear that the Motion of the noble Marquess opposite, so far as it is concerned at all with this question of Irish Government—as to which I shall have to say a word later—is mainly founded upon the refusal of Ulster to accept a scheme of Home Rule. Nobody supposes that the noble Marquess would say that this Bill ought once more to be set before the electorate for its approval merely because its scheme of finance seems to sonic people unwise or because it is not thought reasonable to set up a separate Irish Post Office. The noble Marquess's Motion is founded upon the objections of Ulster.
We have given respectful attention to the objections which have been stated by those who are entitled to speak for the four counties in the North-east of Ireland, and we note that those objections are not admittedly founded upon a dread of actual oppression either by law or by processes of administration by the Irish Government. They hold that the outrage upon them is completed by the mere passage of such a Bill as this. One Member of Parliament in another place, who is entitled to represent the Irish view, said that the creation of an Irish Parliament is in itself an attack upon Ulster, justifying, I presume, such reprisals as Ulster may think fit to make. One might assume that those reprisals would take a form only too familiar to us in the past—the form of assaults upon Roman Catholic or Nationalist workmen, of attacks upon hostile processions, and possibly upon hostile property. Such demonstrations would be put down, as they have been put down in the past, by the Police, and they would excite no sympathy in any quarter in this country. For after all, my Lords, it takes two parties to make a Civil war, just as it takes two to make any kind of quarrel; and the mere fact that assaults of that kind might be committed, regrettable though it might be, would not justify the opponents of the Bill in calling our attention to the great gravity of the situation created by the hostility of Ulster.
871 But we have more authentic information of what Ulster means to do if this Bill is passed. We have probably all of us read the speech which was delivered by Sir Edward Carson on Saturday last on the famous anniversary of the 12th of July. We all of us admire—I yield to none in admiring—the personal qualities of Sir Edward Carson, and I yield to none in the respect which I entertain for the convictions which he holds; but as to whether the advice which he has given to his compatriots in the North of Ireland is prudent or practical advice is a matter which has to be considered. In the first place, I note in passing that Sir Edward drew attention to the fact that there was a majority of English votes against the Second Reading of this Bill in another place. That seems a strange boast coming from a Unionist. I should have supposed that the essence of the Union, as it is regarded by the Party opposite, is that there is no difference whatever between the votes either of individuals or of different districts throughout the United Kingdom; and to point to the fact that English votes preponderate one way whereas Scottish or Welsh votes preponderate in another scents to me to hold lightly or cheaply the principles upon which I always supposed that Unionism was based.
The advice which Sir Edward Carson gives and the prophecy which he makes is that when this Bill becomes law the Province of Ulster will be invited by a self-constituted body to pay no more direct taxes. The Province of Ulster contains a large number of persons who are not likely to be swayed by the advice given by such a self-constituted body; but there are in Ulster a number of persons, perhaps even a numerical majority of adults, who may feel disposed to follow it. But, my Lords, what will be the result if that advice is followed? Some of the direct taxes, as we know, are trivial—taxes on armorial bearings; taxes on dogs, which I think in Ireland are rated at 2s. a head; and so on. The main subject which one may assume that Sir Edward Carson had in his mind was the income Tax. Those who pay under Schedule A and Schedule B and to some extent under Schedule D of the Income Tax—those who pay as landlords, who pay as working farmers, or who pay on the profits of their trade—may no doubt be advised, and in some cases induced, to withhold the payment of their tax. But, 872 as your Lordships know, a very large proportion—I do not know what proportion but a very large proportion—of the receipts from Income Tax are tapped, so to speak, at the source, and therefore would not come under the operation of such a proceeding as this. And then, as we know, in the matter of indirect taxation it would equally fail to be effective. It is not to be supposed that the consumption of whisky or of porter or of tea and sugar is likely to be reduced or affected by a desire to diminish the British revenue collected on behalf of Ireland. I confess, therefore, that, formidable though this threat sounds, when one considers the comparatively limited number of persons who would be likely to be affected by it and the comparatively limited number of subjects to which it could apply, the threat seems less awe-inspiring than it undoubtedly appeared when uttered on an Ulster platform by so eloquent a speaker as Sir Edward Carson.
We appreciate, and in some degree we sympathise—I can honestly say that I sympathise—with the objections of Ulster to such a measure as this; but I am bound to point out that those objections are not, so far as I can see, and so far as I am able to understand, founded upon anything which could be described as a principle. That is where the analogies which it has been attempted to frame between the attitude of Ulster and the attitude of other communities who have revolted or have threatened to revolt appear to me altogether to break down. The analogy has been quoted—it was quoted, I think, in debate in another place—of the American Revolution. Quotations were made from speeches by some of the great men who were prominent in that Revolution, who said that they did not wait for serious oppression but acted in opposition to the assertion made by the British Government and in defence of a great principle. Well, there was a principle there. Whether the attitude of the American Colonists was right or wrong, they disputed the right of the Imperial Parliament to tax them, an unrepresented community. But what principle is involved in the objection of Ulster to a Parliament sitting in Dublin? I can understand the existence of a strong preference for representation at Westminster, but there is no principle involved in that. There exists, I know, a keen dislike to individual members of the Irish 873 Nationalist Party, like Mr. Dillon or Mr. Devlin; but there is no principle involved in that. Those are both questions of individual preference.
If there is any principle whatever involved in this opposition, it is one which I do not think ought to be dignified by the name of a principle at all—it is the sentiment of hatred for the Roman Catholic Church. As to that I can only say that if the voters of Great Britain thought that the inhabitants of Ulster or the four counties were liable to fall, I will not say under a system of oppression conducted by the clerical party in Ireland, but even under any kind of disadvantage or disability, I believe that England, Scotland, and Wales would be at once in a blaze against this Bill. Perhaps not the strangest, but at any rate one of the most remarkable features in our national character is the intense Protestantism of these three portions of the United Kingdom, and—I do not hesitate to say it even in the presence of noble Lords who are Roman Catholics—the mistrust which the average citizen in this country feels of the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant sentiment in this country is far too bigoted; for some of 113 on both sides remember the intense difficulty which we found, difficulty which for a long time seemed absolutely insuperable, in correcting the merely offensive phrases in the Royal Accession Declaration, even without in any sense weakening the force of the declaration of Protestantism made by the Sovereign. Some of your Lordships, perhaps, recollect the occasion of the Eucharistic procession in the autumn of 1908, which, as I happen to know, threatened a graver menace to the order of this metropolis than anything which has occurred since the great Reform demonstrations of 1866. Therefore if there over the country now an obvious apathy with regard to these fears of Ulster, it is founded on the fact that people in England, Scotland, and Wales do not believe that the North of Ireland stands in any peril from the Roman Catholic Church.
It is worth noticing that the stronger is the case for the Ulster argument, taken alone, the weaker thereby becomes the case for this General Election which the noble Marquess in so many words demands. An election, or a referendum if you will, on this question would be of no service 874 to the Ulsterman who takes an extreme view of the establishment of an Irish Parliament. If the Ulsterman believes that he is going to be placed under the heel of moonlighters or of Roman Catholic priests—and I do not know that he would draw a favourable distinction in favour of the latter—if he believes that the establishment of this Parliament is going to place him in that position it will be no advantage and no consolation to him to know that a certain number of crofters in Ross-shire, and of agricultural labourers in Suffolk, and of miners in Glamorgan, whether you appeal to them by election or by referendum, are willing to sacrifice him. My Lords, if the Ulster contention is a sound one, if we are asking the Ulsterman to subject himself to a harsh and cruel tyranny, we have no right to do it because a majority of the electors of this country desire it. Assuming it to be morally wrong in itself, it would remain morally wrong however large the Parliamentary majority that desires it. More than that, we know that those who are best entitled to speak for Ulster, men like Sir Edward Carson himself, and like Mr. Walter Long—whose absence from Parliamentary discussions we on this side regret, I am sure, as much as any of your Lordships—have scouted the idea that the verdict of a General Election would be taken by them as final, exactly in the same way as they have scouted the idea that the exclusion of the four counties from the administrative area of an Irish Parliament would in any way, of itself, reconcile them to the Bill.
We cannot disguise from ourselves that in placing this Motion on the Paper—a Motion which, taken by itself, might almost seem to indicate a not unfavourable future for this Bill—the noble Marquess is in reality making a demonstration not so much against this Bill as against the Parliament Act under which this Bill has come before your Lordships a second time. We are told that the Bill has not been before the country, and that therefore it is reasonable that it should go there. How often have Bills of great importance been placed before the country before they have been passed? I think it would be easy to exhaust the instances by counting on the fingers of one hand. But the creation of an Irish Legislature and of a responsible Irish Executive have been, as we maintain —I do not desire to enter once more into 875 the interminable discussion of how much or how little the electors knew before the last General Election—before the country, and were known to be the settled policy of the Liberal Party if we were returned to power. For this reason I cannot regard the Motion of the noble Marquess as being anything but a renewed assertion of the pretensions of the majority of your Lordships' House on which we all had so much to say during the passage into law of the Parliament Act. We described it then as a modern assertion.
I repeat once more that it is an absolutely modern assertion which the House of Lords of forty years ago would have not thought of making. And in proof of it I ask your Lordships to consider briefly the circumstances of the Parliament of 1868—Mr. Gladstone's first great Government. The General Election of 1868 came as near to being a referendum election as any which has taken place in this country. Before Parliament was dissolved Resolutions had been moved for the abolition of the Irish Church, and those Resolutions formed the main subject placed before the electorate of the country; and when Mr. Gladstone came into office with a majority of 121 his first step in the session of 1869 was to bring in his Bill for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, which, after various adventures, was passed by your Lordships' House. It might have been held—I think your Lordships now in the House would have held—that this had practically exhausted Mr. Gladstone's mandate. You would have considered yourselves entitled to deal with any other measures which Mr. Gladstone thought fit to introduce much as in recent Parliaments you have dealt with ours. And yet during the sessions of 1870 and 1871 the whole system of elementary education in this country was entirely remodelled and placed on a different basis; the whole land system of Ireland was dealt with, in many respects in a manner unpalatable to the majority of your Lordships' House; short service in the Army was introduced; religious tests were abolished in the Universities; the ballot was introduced for Parliamentary elections—considered by the Opposition of that day as an infinitely bolder and more dangerous step in advance than the abolition, for instance, of plural voting could possibly be considered by anybody to-day; and, in addition to that a Licensing Act was passed, and a Mines 876 Regulation Act, and a number of other measures, all of which excited acute Party controversy. I do not mention the abolition of purchase in the Army, because that, as we know, was carried in the end by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. And yet, my Lords, we are told that to attempt to pass in two sessions four measures such as this Bill, the Welsh Church Bill, the Scottish Temperance Bill, and the Plural Voting Bill, is piling an amount of work upon Parliament which it has never been asked to undertake before, and that the effort to consider and pass these measures in two years is an outrage on any system of Parliamentary Government. Consequently before any of these measures can become law, although this Parliament is not far advanced in years, the noble Marquess considers himself entitled to ask for a Dissolution.
Yes, my Lords, we regard this Motion as little more than a protest against the Parliament Act. We have none of us ever pretended or stated that the machinery set up by the Parliament Act is an ideal machinery. Any final settlement of that question ought to be one which would produce equality—I mean a reasonable degree of equality—between the two Parties as regards the two Houses. The Parliament Act was simply, and no more, the result of that collision between the two Houses of Parliament which might easily have taken place in 1861 at the time when the repeal of the Paper Duty was thrown out; and it might easily have taken place in 1871 over the measure which I mentioned for the abolition of purchase in the Army. In the first case it was avoided by a financial expedient, and in the second case by the employment of the Royal Prerogative. And the collision, therefore, did not take place until the rejection of the Budget of the year 1909–10, which—and I believe in saying this 90 per cent. of noble Lords opposite would agree with my view —represented the most flagrant act of political unwisdom ever perpetrated by any political assembly in any part of the world, at any rate since the Polish Diet ceased to exist at the end of the eighteenth century. We are told that the system under which Bills come forward under the Parliament Act is an unreal system. Reality, I suppose, only existed when months could be spent in another place in the consideration of a Bill and the effort to improve it, only to find that the 877 Bill was summarily rejected almost at the moment of its arrival in your Lordships' House.
I remember an old story of one of the French Kings, who in a dangerous illness was attended by a doctor who was more remarkable for his skill than for his acquaintance with the ways of the Court of Versailles, and who kept on saving "His Majesty must do this," "His Majesty must not do the other." The King said nothing, but after the doctor had left he lay with his face to the wall and muttered over and over again to himself the word "Must," "must"—a word which he had never heard before. And I cannot help thinking that the feeling of at any rate some noble Lords in this House about the Parliament Act is not altogether unlike that of Louis XV when for the first time he heard the unpleasant word "must" addressed to him. The possession and the exercise at will of arbitrary power, which this House possessed for so long, is not an easy or a pleasant thing to part with. I shall doubtless be told that that is a most unfair description, because this House never has claimed arbitrary power but has always shown itself desirous of giving way to the clearly expressed will of the country. Yes; but the decision of what is a clear expression of the will of the country has been regarded as an appanage of the House itself. And it is for this reason that, supposing there was no Parliament Act and I was told that in the event of a General Election returning a Liberal Government once more to power this Rouse would pass a Home Rule Bill—well, my Lords, without impugning for a moment the veracity of anybody, I can only say plainly that I do not believe it. I know how many loopholes there are for evading such a consequence as that. The number; the source of the majority—to go back for a moment to Sir Edward Carson's boast that more English Members voted against the Second Reading of this Bill than voted for it—might be held to destroy its validity; the composition of the majority. Any one of those points might be, and as I firmly believe would be, if a Bill had to go through its ordinary course, be taken by this House, not perhaps to justify the refusal to read such a Bill as this a second time, but to justify its alteration in Committee to such an extent as to make it in the opinion of its promoters worthless, and leave its pro- 878 moters confronted once more with the task of going to the country—perhaps fruitlessly again—for a confirmation of their action in bringing in the Bill.
It is complained that these proceedings are a farce because a Bill of this kind cannot be amended in the House of Commons. Supposing the Bill could be amended in the House of Commons, I wonder in what terms the complaints would he uttered then. If a Bill could be introduced and passed through the House of Commons in one form one year and come up here with the same title but entirely different in substance in the second year, then you would be entitled to accuse us of setting before you a purely bogus scheme for prolonged consideration and delay in arriving at a conclusion, because the subject to be considered would have changed as the sessions passed along. That would have been a legitimate charge of unreality against the Parliament Act. Then it was said that the possibility of making suggestions in another place was an unreal and valueless privilege because the suggestions would not he accepted, and therefore it was futile to take any advantage of that power. So far as that argument is a good one, it is a good argument, against the taking of any Committee stage on any subject, from the side of the minority. Being a minority you cannot rely upon carrying any particular Amendment or any particular suggestion that you may introduce. But how can it be maintained that there is no advantage from the point of view of public discussion in arguing point by point the various matters on which the two sides of the House differ? It may be and it often is, in Committee that you do not get precisely what you want, but you often get something else, not precisely in the terms in which you asked for it, but something which cannot be described as being of no value. At any rate, even if the possibility of making suggestions which would be considered in this House is regarded as rather derogatory to the dignity of the House of Commons, we here need not take any attitude of that kind, because the fact of those suggestions being made is in itself a tribute to the value of our debate here.
Then it is argued that, after all, there is no moral force behind a Bill of this kind because it is passed by a miscellaneous majority, not homogeneous, not, indeed, 879 of the same mind on all the subjects which some of its members would like to bring in. The support of Irish Nationalists, we are told, is purchased by their adhesion upon other matters in which they are not particularly interested. Well, my Lords, that argument may at any rate be given a somewhat wider application. I notice that the Irish Unionist Members—sixteen, I think, they are in number, without counting the two University seats—vote on all occasions with the Front Opposition Bench. If I look at those sixteen Members, I dare say as individuals they are, besides being obviously Unionists, in the main Conservatives. But are their constituents Conservatives? I do not think it would be found that a large number of those who return to Parliament some of the Unionist Members for Ulster would go very far, or take very much trouble, on behalf of the Welsh Church. I do not know that all of them would go very far or take much trouble on behalf of the licensing policy favoured by noble Lords opposite.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
As a former Unionist Member for Ireland in the other House I beg to say that they have always taken the line of supporting the limitation of licences in Ireland and in England too. They did not vote against the licensing clauses of the famous Budget.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I hope the noble Duke will give us before long a longer maiden speech than he has favoured us with at this moment. But without reference to any one great measure, my point was simply this, that it would be altogether impossible to include as Conservatives in the ordinarily understood sense of the word a very large number of those electors who support the Ulster policy of the Front Bench opposite. One more argument which is used to emphasise the unreality of our present proceedings is that it is improper to pass a Bill of this kind so long as no scheme of reform has been brought forward, and, indeed, carried into effect, for your Lordships' House. On that I may say, in the first place, that I cannot imagine any reformed House of Lords which would arrogate to itself the power of demanding something like an annual Dissolution of Parliament. But apart from that, it is surely equally true to say that it is very difficult, if not actually impossible, to reform this House, or even to bring forward a scheme for a reformed House of Lords, until you know what the 880 constitution and composition of the House of Commons is going to be in the future. It is surely obvious that the future of a Second Chamber must depend to some extent upon the composition of the Lower House, and that so long as it is not known whether you are going to have 100 Irish Members in the House of Commons or forty, or, as noble Lords apparently now would prefer, none—so long as you do not know that, it is not altogether easy to say what the precise composition of this House ought to be.
It is clear that it has been decided that this Bill is not only not to be passed, but that once more it is not to be discussed in detail. There have been pleas in both Houses for some form of conference to deal with this question of Home Rule. Pleas have come from independent members of your Lordships' House; pleas have come from independent members of the Nationalist Party, who are certainly not excessively friendly towards His Majesty's Government; but, so far as I know, no response to any invitation of that kind has come from anybody entitled to speak on behalf of the Opposition. We have done our best in framing this Bill to put forward what we hope to be a reasonable and a practical measure. But certainly we do not pretend for a moment that this is the only Home Rule Bill, I would even say the only kind of Home Rule Bill, which Parliament might be asked to consider. In some respects the difficulties of framing a Constitution for Ireland in relation to England are unique—unique partly from the particular situation of these Islands in relation to each other, and still more owing to the history of the last 300, or, if yon like, 500 years. But so long as the Irish minority is supported by the Party which happens to be in a minority here now, so long as it repeats that it will recoil from no action, whatever may be the result of such action, even to the loss of many lives, so long as that action prevents the institution of any kind of Irish Legislature and Irish Executive—because the names that we are using in this particular Bill do not in themselves matter—then there is no common ground upon which the Parties can confer, and it only remains for this Bill to proceed on its course until it completes its journey as a constitutional Statute under the law of Parliament.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Crewe.)881
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE rose to move the following Amendment—
§ That this House declines to proceed with the consideration of the Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I am sure the House will excuse me if, in moving the Amendment which stands in my name, I do not follow the noble Marquess even over the very brief résumé which he gave us of the contents of the Bill upon the Table. The noble Marquess quite rightly inferred that my object in making this Motion is rather to call attention to the question of procedure. As to the contents of the Bill—I do not say for a moment that the contents of the Bill are not material even to the Motion which I am about to make—I leave them willingly to the speakers who will follow me. The noble Marquess expressed a very unfavourable opinion of this Amendment, but I observed that he stopped short of suggesting to us what course we ought to have followed. I infer from the tenor of his speech that in his view it would be proper for us to give the Bill a Second Reading and to proceed to the discussion of its details in Committee. If we took that course, we should be doing two things neither of which I venture to think your Lordships are prepared to do. You would, in the first place, be accepting the principle of this Bill; and, in the second place, you would be acquiescing in the treatment which has been meted out to your Lordships' House. I do not think we could do either of those things without a serious loss of self-respect.
§ My Lords, this Bill is, in the view of most of us, detestable in its principle, pernicious in its leading features, and inexcusable owing to the circumstances in which it is brought forward. Six months ago—I do not think it is more than six months ago—your Lordships refused to live a Second Reading to this Bill. We stated our objections with great fullness, and I must say, looking back at that debate, that I never remember a more one-sided discussion in this House. I think only two, certainly not more than three, Cabinet Ministers favoured us with any observations upon the Bill during the course of a four nights' debate. Will any one suggest that we should this evening take back that decision, that we 882 should, in effect, express repentance and regret for the action which we then took, and admit that it was either ill-advised or inadvertent? Has anything happened to justify such a change of front on the part of your Lordships? In Parliament we have been marking time; but we have learnt a good deal during the last six months. We are better able than we were to recognise the value to this House of those second and third stages through which this Bill has to pass before it can become law under the Parliament Act, and we are also better able to estimate the value of the pledges which were given to us when those discussions were in progress.
§ I am not going to weary your Lordships by reading extracts to the House. I will merely recapitulate with the utmost brevity half a dozen pregnant sentences which fell from the lips of Ministers at different times while the Parliament Bill was under discussion. We were told that there was to be long delay and consultation between the two Houses. We were told that opportunities would be given to us which would preclude the possibility of arbitrarily smuggling into law measures condemned by public opinion. We were told that this House was to be so generously treated that the House of Commons would be embarrassed, hampered, and fettered at every moment by the elaborate safeguards and precautionary provisions which the Bill set up. It was said that every Bill was to pass through the ordeal of full discussion during three consecutive sessions of Parliament, and was to take all the risks which such delay and discussion involved. And, my Lords, when some of us ventured to suggest that it would be possible under the Parliament Act to press several important and controversial measures simultaneously through Parliament, we were met with the retort that it was so difficult to get even one controversial measure through Parliament that our apprehensions were utterly groundless. Finally we were told that the powers left to us—the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack used the phrase—were "menacing and formidable," and one of his colleagues added that they were in his view "excessive and unreasonable." We are now in a position to contrast these promises and undertakings with the manner in which they have been fulfilled.883
§ There was one point upon which I think few of us were in doubt. I believe every one had it in his mind that under the Parliament Act there was, at any rate, some certainty that a measure the provisions of which had not been fully discussed in one session would have the undiscussed provisions examined in a subsequent session of Parliament. Let us see how the Bill on the Table fared in this respect. In the last session no less than twenty-four clauses escaped without any discussion at all. Do not let us be told that they were trivial or unimportant clauses. I will not give a full catalogue of them. But amongst them were clauses dealing with the subjects prohibited to the Irish Parliament., with the exception of trade outside Ireland; the provisions respecting the position of Irish Ministers; the powers of the Irish Parliament over Money Bills; the number of Irish Members at. Westminster and the mode of their election; the taxing powers of the Irish Parliament, with the exception of the general power of altering Imperial taxes; the question of the concurrent powers of legislation reserved for the Imperial Parliament, and the whole of the schedules dealing with the distribution of the seats in the Irish Parliament and for Irish representatives at Westminster. The system under which we are now living precludes the discussion of these omitted questions. I say deliberately that it precludes the discussion of them because yon can have no real discussion unless you have the power of amendment. There can be a discussion, but it is not an open and free discussion, and it is a discussion without the possibility of amendment, because, as the noble Marquess well knows, Amendments upon any of these points would mean that the Bill had lost its identity and with its identity had lost the immunities of the Parliament Act.
§ The absurdity of this arrangement was so obvious that in order to meet it His Majesty's Government have invented this new "Suggestion Stage" upon which the noble Marquess relied just now. I noticed the other day the account which the Prime Minister gave of the operation of this Suggestion Stage. It was, he said, for a two-fold purpose. In the first place it was "to enable Parliament to correct patent mistakes acknowledged on all sides in the structure or form of the Bill," and, in the next place, "to meet possible 884 developments in the direction of compromise." Let me say at once that so far as the Suggestion Stage offers facilities for the correction of patent mistakes we do not feel the least grateful for the opportunity offered to us. That, if it is a concession at all, is a concession to His Majesty's Government. It enables them to correct in the second year the bad workmanship of the first. But we are not concerned, and it is no favour to us that His Majesty's Government should be given the chance of correcting blunders of their own. Then, my Lords, as for the opportunities of compromise, what we understand by compromise is the kind of arrangement which can be made when the two Parties meet on equal terms and are able to effect an amicable adjustment of the difficulty. But under the Government's Suggestion Stage the two Parties do not meet on equal terms. One Party meets with a halter round its neck and the other is in a position to dictate terms. Therefore the Suggestion Stage fails to give us any advantage worthy of the name. The point is one of the utmost practical importance, because in our view the great value of the Committee and the Report stages, which are superseded by this new Suggestion Stage, is that when you are dealing with an imperfect measure—and we believe this to be a very imperfect measure—its imperfections are brought to light during the ordeal of open discussion which, until this new dispensation arrived, Bills had to go through in the other House of Parliament. Many of us can recall Bills which survived the ordeal of Second Reading but which came to grief because they were not able to stand the ordeal of open and unfettered discussion in the Committee stage. That is the real ordeal which, under the Parliament Act, the Government are able to shirk. It comes to this—that the opportunities promised to us are really worth little or nothing, and that the Government of the day have only to put a Bill on the Parliamentary rails in the first session and sit tight while the Bill gradually matures and comes into operation in the third session of the same Parliament. All the subsequent intervening stages are little better than a farce.
§ But I do not complain of His Majesty's Government because they claim that this Bill should derive some of the advantages, at any rate, of the Parliament Act. The Parliament Act is on the Statute-book, 885 and, whatever we may think of the methods by which it found its way there, we have to accept it for better or worse. But I do say we have a right to expect that, if His Majesty's Government are going to use the Parliament Act to the full extent, they ought at least to apply it with some regard to decency. It is not enough to rely upon the letter and to pay no attention to the spirit of the Statute; and I suggest to noble Lords opposite that in relying on the letter of the Statute they are setting a bad example to their successors who in conceivable circumstances may find it convenient to take a leaf out of their book.
The great and dominant fact with regard to the Parliament Act is surely this—that when it became law the noble Marquess and his colleagues never for a moment suggested that it left the Constitution in the shape which they desired it to assume. They admitted, not on one occasion, but on innumerable occasions, that the question of the powers of this House and its Constitution were intimately connected. I need not cite the often cited Preamble of the Act—the Preamble on the strength of which Parliament accepted it. I need not cite the frequent admissions that the reform of this House was a matter of urgency and did not brook delay. When I see on the Front Bench opposite the predecessor of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack (Earl Loreburn) I am almost tempted to remind the House again of his historical and perhaps not quite felicitous reference to the "twin Bills." But the successor of the noble and learned Earl made an even stronger statement at an earlier date but on the same point. Speaking on the subject of the Veto Resolution, he used these memorable words—
This policy is a single policy. It is in my view not a Veto Resolution and then, as a separable part, a reconstituted Second Chamber. It is both; the two form organic parts of one whole.
There he went one better than the twin Bills of his predecessor. The noble and learned Viscount then went on to say—
Do not let us fall into the mistake of thinking that we can separate the policy into two independent parts.
That is exactly what His Majesty's Government have been doing; and I cannot help thinking that the House must have heard with something like amazement the brand-new dilatory plea put forward by the noble
Marquess opposite. He put the sponge over all those old pledges. He said: "Of what use is it to talk about the reform of the House of Lords until you know what sort of House of Commons is going to emerge out of the scramble?" That put back the question of House of Lords reform indefinitely; it is no longer a debt of honour to be paid off in the lifetime of the Government; it may be set back to the Greek kalends.
§ But His Majesty's Government went even further. Not only were we promised a reconstituted House of Lords, but we were given in these debates some idea of the bases on which the new House of Lords was to be constituted. It was to be small in numbers, the hereditary principle was to disappear, the two Parties were to be evenly balanced, and the House was to be entrusted with functions, neither few nor unimportant, proper to a Second Chamber in a democratic country. Those were the Prime Minister's words, and they spell a strong House of Lords. Not a House of a kind that you could flout and disregard, as you flout and disregard this House of Lords; a House of Lords you could not ride roughshod over in the manner in which you ride roughshod over us. Do you think, if the House of Lords were constituted like that, that they would allow themselves to be put off with your precious Suggestion Stage? I do not believe it would be tolerated for a moment. These two measures should have been, if possible, advanced side by side. I am willing to admit that it might have been difficult to do this; but then I say if they were not run side by side it was your bounden duty to proceed with the second measure as soon as you possibly could. Your first effort should, I suggest, have been directed to that, and, during the interim, you would have been well advised if you had concentrated your attention upon overtaking some of those large arrears of useful legislation which have notoriously accumulated, and allow more controversial measures to stand over for a time. Our complaint is, in the first place, that you are, as I have shown your Lordships, almost cynically prolonging the interim, and in the second place that you are making use of the interim in order to pass a number of highly controversial measures precisely of the character you solemnly assured us were not the least likely to be dealt with in such a manner.887
§ Do not let us be told that there is no time for dealing with the question of House of Lords reform. We are to have a colossal Education Bill. The Lord Chancellor has promised us a great measure of reform of land transfer; another of his colleagues a vast scheme of agricultural reform which is to uproot and get rid of the present system. If there is time for these things, why is there not time to deal with the question of the House of Lords? What His Majesty's Government have been doing in defiance of their pledges has been to start three first-rate measures in the first session. One of them, not owing to any fault of their own, they were unable to proceed with—but there remained two first-rate measures, to which they added a third, the Scottish Temperance Bill, which, judging from the reception it received in this House, was never regarded by any one as a measure to which the Parliament Act could with any decency have been applied. You launch your measures. You sit tight. You decide what provisions you will discuss, and how much time shall be given for discussion. Meanwhile the Bills move on automatically, until in the course of time they take their place on the Statute-book as measures so immaculate that during their passage through Parliament it has not been necessary to make a single alteration or erasure in any of them.
§ And no aggravation is wanting. The noble Marquess spoke just now of the mandate of the Government. I have no time to go over that much worn part of the case. I should have been quite ready to argue that there could not be much of a mandate for a measure which the Prime Minister in his last four election addresses thought it convenient to omit altogether from mention. Be that as it may, I am prepared to argue that there can be no mandate for the Bill on the Table. It bears no resemblance to the Bills of 1886 and 1893, still less does it bear any resemblance to the Irish Councils Bill of 1907, which presumably represented the real frame of mind of His Majesty's Government at that particular period. What makes the matter worse is that by no stretch of fancy can this Bill be described as an ordinary Bill. It is a Bill which in most countries would be described and treated, not as an ordinary Bill, but as an organic Bill dealing with the machinery of government, raising great constitutional issues, and as such deserving of special treatment.888
§ Another point: How do we stand with the country in regard to this measure? The noble Marquess derided a passage in my right hon. friend Sir Edward Carson's speech, in which Sir Edward referred to the fact that there was a majority of votes in England in favour of the maintenance of the Union. The noble Marquess seemed to think that that argument had no relevance. He said it was a singular argument for Unionists to use. I think it is a particularly appropriate argument. This is a Bill that proposes a dissolution of partnership, and are we to be told that the senior partner, the predominant partner, as I suppose lie would be called, is not entitled to have a voice in the transaction? What is more, the voice of the predominant partner is making itself heard more and more distinctly. Have noble Lords opposite kept their eyes on the by-elections? There have been 24 since the Home Rule Bill was introduced. We went into those elections with eight Unionist and sixteen Liberal Members of Parliament. We came out with a majority of one on our side. Are not these facts relevant when we recall another pledge given to us, again by the Prime Minister, that no Bill was likely to be passed through under the Parliament Act unless it had the unswerving support of the House of Commons coupled with that of a stable majority of consistent public opinion in the constituencies? I do not think the by-elections augur very well for the stability and consistency of the support given to His Majesty's Government by public opinion in the constituencies.
§ But the worst aggravation of your conduct is, I venture to think, your treatment of Ulster. Ulster was described last year by a right rev. Prelate as grim, determined, and menacing. Is she less grim, determined, and menacing now? I wonder what reports the Government receive from their representatives in Ireland on that subject? Cannot they see what is happening in Ulster? Will not they see what is happening there? One of the colleagues of the noble Marquess not very long ago expressed his opinion that the Ulster difficulty was a pure myth. I almost suggest to the noble Marquess behind me (Lord Londonderry) that his friends in Ulster might take for a legend and inscribe on their banners the words which Cleopatra addressed to Antony at a critical moment in her fortunes, "Not know me yet?" The grievance of Ulster 889 is not merely that you are abandoning her, not merely that you are depriving her of a part of her representation, but that you are going to place her in subjection to the Nationalist majority, and that you are going to do that as part of a very thinly-veiled Parliamentary transaction. It is the price of the phalanx which saved your Finance Bill from defeat, the phalanx which has saved you repeatedly when you were in direst distress, and the support of that phalanx was given, as one of the members of it said in the House of Commons, for reasons entirely unconnected with the merits or demerits of the measures. I know that if I were to suggest, or if it were suggested in Ulster, that there was anything like a compact between the parties I should be met with an indignant repudiation. I am not particular as to the use of the word "compact"; but there is a practice familiar to diplomatists and usually described in the words do ut des. That is what is happening. Each side delivers the goods. The Nationalist Party deliver their seventy or eighty votes, and you are going to deliver, when the moment comes, the loyalists of Ulster to such treatment as the Ancient Order of Hibernians choose to mete out to them.
The noble Marquess dwelt on the groundlessness of the fears of Ulster. He asked whether there was any analogy to justify them, and he suggested that the one sentiment with which Ulster is inspired is a bigoted detestation of the Roman Catholic Church. I regret that the noble Marquess should have given the weight of his authority to such a theory as that. But Ulstermen know from experience what they may expect from a Nationalist Parliament and Executive in Dublin. Let me give the noble Marquess an analogy, not wholly uninstructive. What of the analogy of the Irish Local Government Act of 1898? I am sure he has not forgotten "the words of love then spoken" by representatives of the Nationalist Party. What has been the result? My noble friend Lord Midleton told the House last session that in Munster and Connaught, out of 366 members of the county councils only three Unionists were elected; and the Nationalist Party now make it their boast that the whole of these county and district councils have become what they call a network of Nationalist organisation. If that is what has happened under Home Rule on a small scale, what do you suppose
will happen under Home Rule on a larger scale? I believe the Ancient Order of Hibernians will be the piper who will call the tune if this Bill becomes law. The Order has had the good fortune to secure, under your Insurance Act, a princely subsidy which has largely increased its membership and added to its already considerable power and position in the country. Let me read a sentence from a newspaper which, I am told, represents the opinions of the Order. It runs thus—
To-day the alleged leaders of the Irish nation are protesting their love and loyalty to England, but the younger generation is getting ready. In such cases it is the younger generation which counts. The Parliamentary Party has no power to bind them, and they will not be bound by any pledges the Parliamentary Party may give. They are heirs to a great tradition, descendants and legatees of the generation that waged all implacable war on England, and they will carry it on with what weapons they may. Ireland can wait until the present decrepit compromise—
that is your Bill—
is settled one way or another; but her hands will not be tied and her children will never rest content with English domination, even though it wears a green robe and has its headquarters in Dublin.
Do not tell me after that that the apprehensions of Ulster are without foundation. When you judge Ulster severely because she announces that she is going to offer resistance to the introduction of this new system of government—when you judge us hardly for saying that we will in present circumstances support Ulster whatever steps she may be driven to take, you forget what Ulster has got to fear, and you leave out of sight her moral right, not to dictate what is to be done for the rest of Ireland, but, so far as she is concerned, to resist by every means in her power the infliction of this monstrous indignity upon herself. The noble Marquess favoured us with some ingenious conjectures as to what Ulster might or might not do. I am not in the secrets of the Ulster leaders, but I can tell the noble Marquess what Ulster will not do. She is not going to run away, and she is not going to accept the position which this Bill will assign to her; and if that is so, she will remain a standing menace to the pacification of Ireland, which is one object with which this Bill is introduced by His Majesty's Government.
§ The Leader of the House asked what Ulster was going to do. May I retort with another question, What is His Majesty's Government going to do? We have had a formal announcement from the Chief Secretary that British bayonets are not 891 going to be used for the purpose of coercing the men of Ulster. Then what are you going to do? If not bayonets, when, where, and how are you going to deal with the serious problem which beyond all question confronts you as soon as this Bill is within measurable distance of becoming law? But I desire very much that it should not be supposed that the attitude we are taking up is an attitude of mere obstruction, or that we suggest for a moment that you ought to withdraw this Bill altogether from the operation of the Parliament Act. We suggest a course which we believe to be perfectly compatible with your policy and greatly to the public interest. We suggest that before the Bill becomes law automatically you should dissolve Parliament and refer this Bill to the electors; or, if you prefer it, that you should take the opinion of the country by means of a referendum, as the noble Marquess suggested a moment ago. I make no apology for mentioning the referendum. We have had a great many discussions about it in this House and out of it. I remember that the Prime Minister at one time was certainly not wholly unfavourable to the idea. He said that our Party system had been developed in recent years with a rigour and inelasticity not on the whole conducive to the best interests of the country. Those are admirable words, if I may he allowed to say so. He objected to the use of the referendum for every-day or trumpery or trivial matters and I venture to think he was perfectly right. But he went on to say that he did not exclude the referendum for special, rare, exceptional and conceivable cases of constitutional difficulty. I say the whole of the Prime Ministers conditions are present here. The case is exceptional and rare, and it deals with a constitutional difficulty, and if the example of our own Dominions is worth anything, I think the noble Marquess would find that in many of them a case of this kind would, beyond all question, form the subject of a referendum.
§ I suggest to the Government that the advantages of such an appeal as I advocate, either by means of a General Election or a referendum, would be many and obvious, and that the disadvantages are not apparent. I will assume that you have a General Election and win, and come back with a sufficient majority. You will have sacrificed absolutely nothing. Your Bill will still remain under the Parliament Act, and the first and second passages will still 892 be so much to the good. The Royal Assent could be given without the change of a day in the date. On the other hand, you will gain advantages which seem to me priceless. You will know for certain that you have not misread the opinion of the people of this country, and we shall know that the country is not with us and we shall govern ourselves accordingly. The noble Marquess suggests that Ulster will always remain irreconcilable. I have no doubt that there are many people in Ulster whose deep detestation of Home Rule is undying. But you will not have in England or Ireland against you that great body of men who at this moment feel that they are being tricked and jockeyed under the Parliament Act; and if the character and intensity of our opposition is affected, it seems to me that the opposition of Ulster would inevitably be to some extent affected also.
§ Now I take the other eventuality. Supposing you go to the country and lose. You will have been saved from a blunder, the most stupendous and deplorable blunder that any Government has ever committed: the blunder which you will have committed if in one way or another you coerce Ulster only to find out that all the time the feeling of the majority of the electors is against you. Conceive the feeling that would arise in Ulster. Conceive your own position, if, after blood had been shed and lives lost, you found you had make a mistake—not only an unpardonable but a futile mistake. I do entreat you to take these things into consideration.
§ There is another contingency which I hope you will not overlook. Suppose you refuse us a General Election and you settle down to serve out your five years term of office. In that case this Parliament will expire in the last days of 1915. But before that time comes the position might have changed very materially indeed. The Irish Parliament will have been summoned. Assuming that this Bill became law at the end of May next year, the Irish Parliament would be summoned at the beginning of January, 1915. It might by Order in Council be summoned earlier, but as I read the Act it could not be summoned later than about May 5, 1915. That will be about eight months before your five years comes to an end. Now when the Irish Parliament is summoned the whole of the 103 Irish Members automatically vacate their seats, and are replaced by forty-two other Members. 893 The immediate result of that is that fifty of your devoted henchmen in the House of Commons are wiped off the slate. Half of your majority disappears. Then you go to the country and take the General Election. Supposing you lose twenty-five seats, counting fifty on a Division. Your majority will have disappeared altogether, and in the meantime you will have provoked something like a rebellion in Ulster, and you will have sown the seeds of animosities which may endure for generations. Is that a position which Ulster could accept? Is it one which we could accept? Is it one which you would find altogether to your taste?
§ Then, my Lords, let me say one word in regard to an argument which the noble Marquess I think did not use, but which is constantly used. We are told that if Home Rule is not given to Ireland there will be a far graver difficulty than the Ulster difficulty to be encountered in the south and west of Ireland. I believe this argument to be an absolutely fallacious one. The rest of Ireland has prospered during recent years as no other part of the United Kingdom has prospered, and as few countries in the civilised world have. I will call only one witness in support of this view—the Chief Secretary. Mr. Birrell said the other day that a new Ireland had grown up since the days of Mr. Balfour. He said that he found evidences of a new life, of a new spirit, that there was a new literature, that the country was covered with thousands of cheerful homesteads, that new Universities were growing up, and that a new Irish movement full of national sentiment, national pride, and national feeling was arising. All perfectly true, I have no doubt, but all this has happened under the system which you are going to break up and get rid of altogether, and you are going to substitute for it a system which is untried, which is on the face of it less advantageous to the people of Ireland, which is adversely criticised by many of the ablest members of the Nationalist Party, and which is accepted by the rest as a payment on account, with their tongues in their cheek. The difference between your policy and ours is that we desire to preserve a proved success while you desire to impose a system which we believe is predestined to failure.
§ Now, my Lords, I have only one other observation to make. We are told that it is impossible to leave things alone. We are told of the congestion of Parlia- 894 ment, that decentralisation is necessary, that Parliament must be relieved. We object to this Bill because we are convinced that it will afford no relief to Parliament, but that, on the contrary, almost every line of it is calculated to produce friction and difficulty. We do not believe it will bring us one step nearer to that larger and more complete measure of devolution which so many of the best friends of Ireland desire. We know, at any rate, that my noble friend on the Cross Benches (Earl Grey), who is, if anyone is, an ardent supporter of the principle of federation, regards this Bill not as a step likely to facilitate federation but as an obstacle in its way, which would have to be removed before anything could be done to bring about the kind of federation that he desires. His Majesty's Ministers, I am convinced, have thought out their scheme of federation about as much as they have thought out their scheme for the reform of your Lordships' House. Whenever their scheme of federation is produced I, for one, am ready to treat it with the utmost respect and a desire to find in it a solution of the difficulties with which we have for so long contended.
§ But with regard to this Bill, do not let it be supposed that our attitude is merely an attitude of obstruction. If the country wants this Bill we are ready to let them have it. We ask you to put the question to the test, and we are ready to abide by the decision. You may say that a General 'Election is costly, troublesome, and disturbing, but what is that compared with the tremendous stake for which you are playing? Let me say again that His Majesty's Government, by adopting the course we advocate, run absolutely no risk except the risk of finding out that they are labouring under a mistake and being saved from its consequences. From my heart I believe that the request which we make is a fair and reasonable request. And above all it is a democratic request; and therefore we appeal to you, as the champions of democratic principles, not to turn a deaf ear to our prayers, and not force this Bill upon the people of this country until you really know that they desire to have it.
To leave out all the words after ("That") for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution, viz.: ("This House declines to proceed with the consideration of the Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country").—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, the noble Marquess closed his speech with a recommendation to His Majesty's Government to submit this Bill to the opinion of the country. The reason for that recommendation in the noble Marquess's opinion was that a sufficient authority had not been given by the constituencies for the introduction of this Bill. I am within the recollection of all your Lordships when I say that before this proposal of legislating on Home Rule was considered, the Prime Minister declared that the intention of the Liberal Party was to legislate on the subject of Home Rule if they were returned to power at the General Election. It will be in the remembrance of the noble Marquess that he himself gave notice to his adherents that if the Liberal Party were returned to power at that General Election, one of the first things they would do would be to introduce a measure of Home Rule. I respectfully submit that ever since that time it was common knowledge in the country that the Liberal Party had been authorised to legislate for Home Rule, and that every request since then that has been preferred to His Majesty's Government to take the opinion of the country upon this Bill was only an endeavour to reverse the decision which was come to at the poll in the year 1910.
The speech of the noble Marquess will be read with regret, if not with disappointment, by every Liberal, and by that large and growing body of Unionists who would be glad to see this Irish question settled on terms fair and equitable to all concerned. I was prepared, when I heard that this Bill would be brought up a second time in your Lordships' House, to develop still further the points which I submitted for your consideration in February last. I then endeavoured to submit to your judgment four propositions. I endeavoured to show that there was urgent necessity for substantial changes in the government of Ireland; that that urgent necessity had been admitted by the leaders of the Conservative Party in both Houses; that the necessary reform could not be carried into effect unless the principle of representation were introduced into the Irish Government; and, lastly, I endeavoured to show that the framework of the Bill before your Lordships' House enabled you, if you were so disposed, to introduce into the Bill any improvements or changes which in the 896 course of the debate you might consider to be necessary. The noble Marquess, in the course of his speech, stated that he, during the debate last February, heard no representations from this side of the House which seemed to him to be deserving of notice. Of course, in regard to what I said myself, I am a partial witness; but I did not notice on the part of the noble Lords who took part in that debate any attempt to answer the suggestions and the arguments which I then brought forward. Through the action and the course which the noble Marquess has taken to-night, it is, of course, useless to attempt to justify this Bill to your Lordships, or to defend its provisions; but I cannot help comparing in my own mind the atmosphere prevailing in this House to-night with that which prevailed when this question was last before your Lordships.
When this question was before the House on the last occasion there was a spirit of conciliation and good feeling prevalent on both sides of the House. No one who had the privilege of listening to him on that occasion will soon forget the elevated and impressive eloquence of the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York, in which, recognising the difficulties with which the question was beset, he counselled patience and toleration and compromise. What has been the history since then? I speak without fear of contradiction when I say that on the part of the Government anti on the part of the Irish Nationalist Party there have been expressions of the utmost willingness to consider every and any proposal for amendment which the Ulster Unionist Party might bring forward, provided it were consistent with the essential principles of Home Rule. How were these advances received by the Unionist Party in Ulster? It is common knowledge that they were received either in sullen silence, or that they were rejected with contumely. And now what are the circumstances? We have it stated in the public Press that preparations have been made for armed resistance, and that the intention of the Ulster Unionists is to deluge Ulster with blood if this Bill is carried into law.
I think myself that too much is made of these Ulster preparations. I think, if your Lordships read carefully the debate in the House of Commons on October 29 last, you will find that the Ulster Unionist 897 demands are not really so extensive and so exacting as the noble Marquess believes. You will find it there stated, on the authority of the Ulster leaders, that they do not fear any religious persecution, a persecution which is entirely foreign to the Irish Catholic nature. Neither do they fear anything like legislative persecution, because against legislative persecution they are safeguarded by the provisions of the Bill and by the ever-watchful superintendence of this Parliament over the subordinate Irish Parliament. What they do profess to fear is administrative persecution, administrative oppression, which may, they say, be exercised outside the law and contrary to its provisions. I myself have no fear that such administrative oppression would be exercised; but if that be the kind of persecution which the Ulster Unionists fear, and if their desire be to live in peace and amity with their fellow-countrymen, what is there to prevent them making the suggestion that in order to provide concrete and material safeguards against such persecution there should be created in the four counties of North-east Ulster an independent administrative enclave. Why should not that proposal be brought forward by Ulster now if they wish to avoid the evils which the noble -Marquess thinks are impending? If such a proposal as that were brought forward, I myself would find from my own experience sufficient reasons for giving it favourable consideration. I should consider in no niggardly spirit what measure of power should be conferred upon such an administrative entity. It would administer its own local affairs—affairs connected with local government, with education, science and art, with agriculture, and technical instruction, possibly with public works, and with such other matters as would be ordinarily discharged by a local body. The allocation of funds might be in proportion to the ditties devolved and the moneys transferred to the Irish Parliament under this Bill; and the patronage of local appointments might follow the devolution of duties. But it would always be under the control of the Irish Parliament. Ulster would remain an integral part of Ireland for all purposes of administration common to the whole country. I consider that if any body of Ulstermen were anxious to put an end to this controversy in terms of fairness and equity, it is in that direction that they should seek for a solution; and 898 if such a solution were sought by the people of North-east Ulster I would give the assurance for myself and for the few friends who think with me to help as far as we could to bring this groundless quarrel to a close, in the hope of full reconciliation in the years to come. But I would at the same time insist upon the due representation of North-east Ulster in the Parliament at Dublin for more reasons than one. I would insist on it because I think that not only would it be right that the Ulster representatives should be present there to watch over their own interests and to give their counsel and advice on Irish affairs generally, but because their presence in the Parliament of Dublin would afford some representation to the Protestant minority in the rest of Ireland—a representation which, as the Bill now stands, the minority will not be able to procure on the basis of population. Also I would insist on it because the presence of Ulster representatives in Dublin would make for mutual understanding and the establishment of that goodwill which would render unnecessary the perpetuation of special arrangements in the four Ulster counties.
My Lords, if this Bill had gone into Committee and if anybody had made such a proposal as the one I have now outlined, he would find in me a supporter. Your Lordships know my opinion that the Bill, as it is before your Lordships now, requires amendment on the financial points. I would say that it also requires amendment in regard to the larger representation of minorities. Something might be done by going further with the principle of proportional representation, which is embodied in the Bill; and more might be done by going back to Mr. Gladstone's Bill of 1886, and by providing for the representation of the Irish Peerage in the Irish legislative body to give that additional representation of the Protestant body in the Catholic Provinces which would not otherwise be found. Those are the things that might be provided for if the Bill were given a Second Reading, and if it were the intention of this House not to protract this pernicious quarrel but to settle it once for all on a basis of mutual toleration and of mutual compromise. This question, in my opinion, never will be really and truly settled except upon that basis. I think it is a monstrous thing, an abhorrent thing, that Ireland should enter upon her new life, that she should 899 begin to practice her recovered liberties, at the cost of the estrangement of the grandchildren of those Irish Volunteers whose names are a household word throughout Catholic Ireland. I believe if Irishmen were allowed to settle their own differences without the constant irritation of men who do not really understand the intimate feelings which animate the Irish Catholic, his intense desire for fellowship with his Northern fellow-countrymen. If we were let alone to manage our own affairs and not to have the Irish question made the shuttlecock of Parties in this House, I believe that you would have in Ireland the growth of a sentiment and a spirit upon which the Government of Great Britain could rely.
The noble Marquess referred to the Ancient Order of Hibernians in terms of depreciation and dislike. I do not know that I have ever met one of them, but I know the spirit which animates them, and I can assure the noble Marquess that the spirit which animates them is not one of disloyalty to the British Crown. I feel strongly upon this subject, and I sincerely resent being deprived of the opportunity of discussing in Committee the real questions which require settlement. I regret, I repeat, that our country and our cause should be made the shuttlecock of Parties, and that, instead of discussing the question of Irish Home Rule, we should be drawn into the vortex of disputes regarding the Parliament Act and such matters of high Imperial policy upon which the prominent statesmen of the country should be engaged, and not upon matters of Irish local government. My Lords, I am sorry that the debate should end in this way, and that this conflict should go on for another year. I can only express the fervent hope that Ulstermen and the men of the rest of Ireland will put their heads together, consider what it is they really want, and then ask your Lordships' House for it.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, as was quite natural, the noble Marquess, in moving his Amendment, addressed himself rather to the Parliament Act and its defects than to the Bill for the better government of Ireland; and with all the criticisms that the noble Marquess made upon the Parliament Act—indeed, I think with regard to any criticisms that could be made on that Act—I most 900 cordially and entirely agree. But at the same time I cannot vote for the Amendment. Towards the close of his speech the noble Marquess made an appeal that this Bill, before it goes automatically on to the Statute Book, should be referred to the people at a General Election or by referendum. I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of that, but that does not exactly fall in with the words of the Amendment, which are, "That this House declines to proceed with the consideration of the Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country." That is quite another thing. With that I, of course, could not agree, because it debars this House for an indefinite period from in any way considering this Bill, never mind what suggestions may be made for its alteration or what suggestions may be made for its drastic amendment. We have, I suppose, certainly some months, possibly a year, of breathing space before the curtain rises on the final act of this—shall I call it tragedy or a farce? A farce it certainly is, so far as the procedure in Parliament is concerned, and a tragedy it may possibly become.
I frankly admit that the prospects are not very bright, but still I am sufficiently optimistic to hope, and even to believe, that common sense and statesmanship may yet prevail, and that steps may be taken to find a possible solution to the question involved in the Bill before the House. It is to that possibility that I want to address myself. I see no object in going into the general question of Home Rule. When this Bill was before this House last January I then endeavoured to the best of my ability to give the House my reasons for the strong conviction that is in me that a settlement of this question is necessary, not only for the welfare and the development of Ireland, but for the welfare of Great Britain, for the restoring of efficiency to Parliament, and for progress towards the great ideal of a more closely connected Empire. I endeavoured then to combat what I know is a delusion—that the great majority of the people of Ireland are disloyal, and that they have any desire or intention of persecuting or ill-treating the Protestant minority. I maintained then, and I maintain still, that the Bill before the House does not make a final settlement and is not even constructed on lines that can naturally 901 develop into a final settlement; and I am of opinion that it requires drastic amendment. I voted for the Second Reading in January last because I thought that a way might be opened for large amendments in the and for the very obvious reason that it is far easier to amend a Bill than to amend an Act. I am not going into any of those matters again; I should only repeat myself. I wish to confine myself to the possibilities of a peaceful settlement by conciliation and compromise of the problem involved in Home Rule.
I must express my regret that His Majesty's Government have during the last six months done nothing to try and inaugurate a settlement of the question by conference and by consent; they have done nothing whatever, as far as I can see, to deal with a situation which certainly is one of considerable gravity and which may become a situation of actual menace. I look upon that as culpable neglect on the part of His Majesty's Government, because the situation, complicated as it is, and even almost desperate as it may seem to be, does not, I believe, preclude a peaceable settlement. I would ask your Lordships to try and look at this question, for a moment at any rate, in its naked integrity, and strip from it all passion and prejudice and Party considerations. The question is infinitely larger than is suggested by the title of the Bill; it is not merely a Bill for the "better government of Ireland." You will never have in Dublin a Parliament satisfactory to the whole of Ireland unless supremacy over that Parliament is vested in an efficient Parliament here working under a balanced Constitution. That I am perfectly sure of. The problem therefore involves the question of the reconstruction of this House and the efficiency of Parliament. You never will have efficiency in the other House of Parliament until Parliament is relieved by devolution. Until the foundations of our own House are firm and secure, it would be the merest folly to talk of adding another story to it and thinking of any representation of the great Dominions overseas. Until this question is settled the whole progress of the Empire is hung up. Until it is settled you never can have ascertained the real balance of political opinion in this country; you never can gauge the volume and strength of conservative feeling; 902 you never can have real representation; you never can have any certainty that the real will of the people is carried out. It is therefore not merely a question of the better government of Ireland, but a great national and Imperial question.
What is the attitude of the two great Parties towards this question? There can be no doubt, I think, that the attitude of this House in January last was that it had got to be settled, that it was necessary that a settlement should be arrived at. So many notable speeches were delivered in this House on that occasion that there can be no doubt about that. That, I believe, to be the conviction of the great majority of Conservatives and of Liberal Unionists also throughout the country. They want a settlement; they see the necessity for a settlement of this question. And what is the position of the Party opposite? I know it is constantly said that the Government throughout have been acting under compulsion. I do not wish to argue whether that is so or not, or to what extent it is true; but surely it cannot be denied that they have, at any rate, acted also on conviction and of their own free will. They know and believe that this question has got to be settled. So far the two Parties are at one. I do not, of course, mean to say that they touch each other as to the exact nature of the kind of settlement that ought to be made; but they are at one in believing that a settlement is necessary, and that it ought to be a settlement subject to certain conditions—a settlement not made by force, but arrived at by consent.
I need not trouble the House with quotations. The notable speeches that were delivered by the noble Marquess opposite, by the Leader of the Opposition in the other House of Parliament, by the Chief Secretary, by the Postmaster-General, and by many others will well be within the recollection of the House, all pointing towards a desire for a settlement by consent. Why is nothing done towards bringing about a settlement by consent? What have His Majesty's Government done? Absolutely nothing. His Majesty's Government have bound themselves by the terms of the Parliament Act to bring in a Bill a second and a third time without altering a letter or a comma. To get over that difficulty they invented a very ingenious but absolutely useless piece 903 of mechanism called the Suggestion Stage, and they made that Suggestion Stage ridiculous by nominating themselves as the only people who were to settle what might be suggested. Many valuable suggestions have been made out of doors, suggestions which would, I dare say, have satisfied many of the objections raised in the North-east corner of Ulster, but of what avail is that when they cannot be discussed in Parliament? What is the use of asking the people of Ulster who protest against this Bill to say what they want in the way of safeguard when their views cannot be discussed in Parliament? As long as the attitude of the Government is that this Bill as it stands is a letter-perfect Bill, and as long as they exercise absolute censorship and say "Nothing shall be considered in the other House of Parliament unless we think it ought to be considered," the Suggestion Stage is a mere farce, a mere theoretical dodge. It comes to nothing. His Majesty's Government have done nothing, and they alone have the power to do anything effective. Even if they do not care to extricate themselves from a great difficulty, or to extricate their country from a great difficulty—even if they think that the turn of fortune's wheel may relieve them of ultimate responsibility, surely they have no right to leave such a legacy to those who may become responsible hereafter!
My Lords, why has nothing been done? I must turn for a moment to the position in Ireland. In the first place, in my humble opinion the fundamental mistake that has been always made in dealing with political reform in Ireland is that Governments have taken the initiative in framing the measures. You will find throughout the world every conceivable variety of local self-government, of devolution, of autonomy or whatever you please to call it, varying to any extent, the only similarity being that in all cases where a community desire local self-government or an extension of local self-government the initiative has come from the community making the demand. The people have met and consulted and considered the matter, and have drafted out, perhaps roughly but still fairly distinctly, a plan upon which legislation could be erected. That is the course that was adopted in respect of a most vexed question—the transfer of land in Ireland; that was the course adopted by Mr. George Wyndham, a great 904 statesman and a great benefactor to Ireland, and whose death is a great loss to this country. What did he do? He said "Confer on this matter; try to come to an agreement; and if you can come to an agreement I will try to act upon it." Irishmen did confer, they did come to an agreement, and the Chief Secretary did act upon that agreement, the result being the best Act that ever was passed for Ireland, an Act which, if it had not been scandalously interrupted, would have by this time absolutely settled one of the great questions in Ireland. That method of procedure, I understand, is not going to he adopted by His Majesty's Government, even in the case of the land. I understand that a Land Bill is to be introduced and left to us to wrangle over. That is certain to introduce Party politics and Party prejudices. That is not the wisest course to pursue. But let that pass. I ask your Lordships, Why was not the method of procedure that was so eminently successful in the matter of land purchase in Ireland adopted in the matter of political reform?
I am bound to say in all honesty that I am afraid the Parliamentary Party Ireland, the Nationalist Party, are very much to blame. Unquestionably such was the temper of the people all over Ireland—North, South, East, and West—not so very long ago that a calm and friendly discussion of the question of political reform would have been welcomed, and it would have succeeded, just as the Land Conference succeeded, in a formulated agreement. At that time the faith of the Nationalist Party was a sound and orthodox faith. Unfortunately for Ireland the Party fell into grievous heresy, and lost a great opportunity. They have made great mistakes—I am sure with the best intentions, but still mistakes—very grievous to the cause they had at heart. They should have maintained their independence. They forfeited it by a strict alliance with one of the great political Parties, thereby committing Ireland to facts and principles contrary to the welfare of the country and to the nature and consciences of the people. They crippled their own activities and were accessories to the killing of land purchase. They might have been a National Party; they preferred to be a Nationalist Party, most unfortunately dominated by a secret and purely sectarian society. They sought to obtain Home Rule behind the backs of the people by Parliamentary 905 manœuvring— possibly, my Lords, in certain circumstances a proper policy and the only policy to pursue, but surely absolute folly considering the consensus of opinion which certainly would have been expressed in Ireland and which would have carried absolute conviction to the two Parties here and to the whole population of Great Britain.
A treat opportunity was lost, and what is the result? This Government, and any Government, find themselves confronted with an opposition of at any rate a very formidable character in the North-east counties of Ireland. A question, difficult and complicated enough in itself, has been made unnecessarily difficult and complicated. Dead and dying passions and prejudices have been galvanised into life. I am not going to try to analyse the opposition in Ulster and go into its merits and demerits and its causes, except just to say this, that the theory so industriously put about in Great Britain that the majority in Ireland are aliens to the minority in race and ideals and economically and socially is perfect nonsense. Historically and ethnologically and in every other way it is not true; it is a mere modern invention. I do not want to labour that; it is sufficient for my purpose that the position in Ulster is serious. I would lay down three propositions which I think govern the case. First of all, that these three or four counties in Ireland cannot possibly be permitted to stand for ever in the way of the progress of the Empire, the restoration of the efficiency of Parliament over here, and the welfare of Great Britain. They must eventually listen to reason. Secondly, that as regards this Bill as it stands and the procedure adopted towards this Bill the people of Great Britain will not allow the employment of force to coerce Ulster; and, thirdly, that this matter cannot be left to be fought out in Ireland alone. The idea of an. Irish Parliament struggling into a very difficult life in the midst of ill-feeling, ill-will, and possibly serious not and disorder, is to me monstrous and unthinkable. Those propositions are, I think, sound. Is then the matter before us hopeless? I think not. I can see no reason why the differences, acute as they are, should not still be settled and adjusted.
I wish to make three short quotations to your Lordships. I want to call your attention first to a very notable utterance 906 made in Edinburgh on June 13 by Sir Edward Carson. He said—What the Nationalist Party wanted was not local government, but to be a separate nation from the United Kingdom. If Mr. Redmond wanted an extension of local government there would be no great difficulty in dealing with that, if it was to be taken as a final settlement of the Irish question, but what Mr. Redmond wanted was to get hold of them and to put them under his ideas of a nationality. What he wanted was something totally different from what any colony had ever granted to its provinces.May I examine into that for a moment? What are we to understand by "nationality"? Surely we are not to quarrel about the exact meaning of a word. "Nationality" is about the vaguest term there is. Are the subjects of the Crown all of one nation? We know they are not. Are the people of the United Kingdom all of one nation? So far from it that we have never been able to invent a word expressive of that conception; and a nameless thing is nothing. I will take an example. I do not know whether the leader of the Opposition in the other House is an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman, or a Canadian, and I do not suppose he knows himself. In fact, I do not know whether my noble friend behind me here is an Englishman or an Irishman—I do not know what his nationality is. The truth of the matter is that Ireland always has been, and is, and always will be a nation. A nation connotes individuality, and that individuality and nationhood cannot be taken away by a war, or by confiscation, or by enactments of Parliament. All that legislation can do is to grant or take away or define the symbols, the outward expressions, of nationality.
I think that Ireland is perfectly justified in expecting that her individuality, her nationality, should be indicated in a grant of local self-government. What is local self-government? I suppose it is an exercise of certain legislative and executive functions by the people of certain areas. What on earth is the difference? Surely if the old time-dishonoured practice of settling affairs in Ireland by encouraging Irishmen to fight each other is to be adopted, for decency's sake let us have something more definite to fight about than the meaning which this or that dictionary may express of the term "nationality." Sir Edward Carson says that there would be no great 907 difficulty in dealing with the question of local self-government, but that "what Mr. Redmond wanted was something totally different from what any colony had ever granted to its provinces." I think it is allowable for me to transpose those words from the negative into the positive sense, and to say that in Sir Edward Carson's opinion there would be no great difficulty—in other words, a discussion would be possible and perhaps profitable—if the demand was not different from what any colony had ever granted to its provinces; if, for instance, the demand was that the Irish Parliament should be on a basis analogous to the status of, say, the Parliament in Quebec.
May I contrast that with two quotations from two politicians as far removed from Sir Edward Carson in almost all respects as are the poles asunder—I select Mr. T. P. O'Connor and Mr. Joseph Devlin. What did Mr. T. P. O'Connor say at Ottawa not so very long ago? He said that—his mission was to secure Canada's approval of a Federal scheme of government for the four kingdoms of the British Isles, such as the Provinces in Canada enjoy under a central Government.Sir Edward Carson would be prepared to discuss and to go into conference, I presume, as long as it was on the basis of the powers which the Provinces in Canada enjoy under a central Government. That is exactly what Mr. T. P. O'Connor says they want. And what did Mr. Devlin, speaking at Townsville, in Queensland, say? He said this—What I hope to see is that we shall have a Federal system which will enable England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland to have councils or parliaments to apply themselves to the purely parochial and domestic work of their respective countries, leaving the Imperial Parliament to transact the purely great but purely Imperial functions of the nation.Surely if you eliminate passion and prejudice and Party considerations, there is no practical difference between the views expressed in those three speeches. They all point in one direction, and in the one direction, as I believe, in which salvation is to be found—that is of a settlement on Federal lines by consent.
It is true that Sir Edward Carson said that the Nationalist Party want Ireland to be a separate nation. I do not know, of course, what the Nationalist Party want but of this I am absolutely certain, that 908 the huge majority of the people of Ireland do not want separation. Under a Federal system the most valid objections raised in Ulster would disappear. There would be no question of separation, of loss of citizenship in the larger sense, of the deprivations Sir Edward Carson seems to dread. My Lords, putting Ireland out of the question altogether if you so choose, I feel sure that among all thinking men in this country, of all political shades of opinion, there is a strong desire that this question should be settled. I think I have shown by those three quotations that a settlement by consent on Federal lines is certainly not impossible. Is no effort to be made before this Bill comes up for a third and last time to bring about a conference to try and settle this question? If such a conference succeeded it would open the way to a solution that everybody would he desirous to see. If the conference failed, it would at any rate have this advantage, that it would point out clearly and distinctly the points which are irreconcilable, and we should then know exactly where we stand.
There is a great responsibility upon the shoulders of two men—upon the shoulders of Sir Edward Carson and of Mr. John Redmond. I do not know whether they will rise to the sufficiently high level of patriotism. There is a much greater responsibility upon the shoulders of His Majesty's Government. I do not know whether they will have the necessary prudence and the necessary courage to act. But this I do know, that it will be a discredit to them, and, what is far worse, a disgrace to statesmanship, a crime against civilisation, if an honest and sincere effort towards settling this question by consent through a conference is not made before the Bill comes up to this House for the third and last time.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD
My Lords, I approach this question as one of those many Home Rulers who would enormously prefer that it should be settled by way of conference and conciliation, and that it should be settled in its natural and close connection with those other constitutional questions which are before us, and which are equally incapable of being solved by any Party victory on one side or the other. I agree with very much of what has been so well said by the noble Earl who has just sat down. My disagreement with him is 909 almost limited to one point. I cannot believe, as he seems to think, that the Government regard this Bill as a word-perfect Bill, or that there is any sort of unreadiness upon their part to meet any overtures that may be made. The matter is not one for any exchange of recriminations, but I certainly was under the impression—speaking on this particular point from a purely impartial point of view—that if there was to be conference and conciliation, the next move rather lay with the Opposition than with the Government. However that may be, I hope myself that the end will yet be of that nature, and on that account I regret all the more that on this occasion the Bill should have been met by an Amendment from the noble Marquess opposite which, if I may respectfully say so, seems to be little more than an expression of a wish that the Irish question could be shelved.
Supposing there were a General Election to-morrow, what issues would be before the electors? We should have the various aspects of the land question before them, we should have the Insurance Act, the Marconi affair, the rival land policies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Marquess opposite; we should still, I suppose, have Tariff Reform; and we should have the question of Welsh Disendowment, which comes, I believe, far more closely home to the imaginations of most people in England than do the fears of Ulster. In fact, there is every prospect that at the next General Election the confusion of issues will be greater than ever before, and it seems to me all but unmeaning that we should talk of referring this question to the electorate by means of a General Election. If in that election the Government should win, it would be ridiculous to speak of their victory as a verdict for this particular Bill. If in that election they should be beaten, it would be equally ridiculous to claim upon the other side that it was a verdict against the principle of Home Rule. After that election there is only one thing which we could guess—and we can safely guess it now—as to the opinion of the average elector on this question. It is that he believes the Irish question is a real question, a question which ought to be resolutely met and solved, and he hopes that the statesmen who rule over him will settle it for him. Beyond that I do not believe that the opinions of the 910 average elector go, or will ever go, however many General Elections we may have.
The noble Marquess made a reference to the possibility of a referendum to the electors as a substitute for a General Election in this matter. I may be wrong, but I do not think that the referendum is within the four-corners of the Amendment which the noble Marquess moved. I confess at once that the referendum is to me a far more attractive suggestion, but there is this difficulty about it. I do not see how the referendum can be made a clear and definite pronouncement. Do you mean to refer to the electors the decision upon the principle of Home Rule, or the decision upon the particular form which Home Rule should take? Those are two very different questions. As I said just now, I believe that the electors elect Parliament to settle these difficult questions for them. Whether it would be, as the noble Marquess says, democratic I do not know and do not care; but I am sure that it would not be, as a rule, statesmanlike or just or courageous for Parliament to throw back on to the shoulders of the electors the responsibility for settling the very questions which Parliament is expected to solve. Should this Bill be submitted to the judgment of the electors by a single vote taken on the Bill as a whole, then I submit that you will be asking of the average voter a judgment which you have no right to ask from him; you will be asking the man, who can have no means of judging, a large number of highly difficult questions which puzzle even noble Lords in this House. Above all, you will be putting on him the responsibility of saying what really is the true weight to be given to the fears and to the menaces—if I may use that word in no offensive sense—of Ulster. That is a question which the average elector is totally incapable of deciding. Should the average English elector vote in favour of the Bill, as I am rather inclined to think he would, it could not really be said that Ulster would cease to have precisely the same reason for protesting against the Bill that Ulster has now. Speaking, perhaps, rather hastily about the suggestion which I think many noble Lords must have been surprised to hear to-night from the noble Marquess, there is a real objection, as it seems to me, to referring to the electors the decision upon a particular Bill, unless by some means or 911 other you are in a position to assure them that the measure represents the principle upon which it is based in its most perfect and best-considered form. On that condition, and I should be inclined to say on that condition only, can the suggestion of the referendum, any more than that of a General Election, be, if I may respectfully say so, considered a right way of meeting this question.
I believe it is really common ground between us on this side of the House and, I will not say the whole of the noble Lords opposite, but certainly a large section of them, that there is this Irish question pressing upon us and demanding settlement. I am not going to range very widely over that great question, but there are still, I think, a few remarks that can be made upon the subject which have not been made very often before; and I am going to ask permission to make some of those remarks, which, to save time, I shall not attempt to weave into any very connected argument. I have often been impressed—I hope your Lordships will not think it at all a fantastic or unreal consideration—by the intimate connection of this question of self-government in Ireland with the question of national defence and of the security of these three kingdoms. Many noble Lords opposite are, as I frankly confess I am myself, desirous that the defence of this country should be provided for by a system of national training and national service in which every man who was capable would be compelled to take his part. Under the present system of Union, about which we used to be asked to entertain such almost reverential feelings, you could not possibly extend such a measure to Ireland. Nor, if you abide by the present system of the Territorial Force on the voluntary basis, under the present system of government would any statesman dare to extend the Territorial Forces Act to Ireland. The effect of the system of government under the Union is actually this, that so long as it lasts in its present form it is impossible that the United Kingdom can draw for defensive purposes upon the forces—and I believe they are of a very high quality—which Ireland can supply. Noble Lords opposite, with the experience which many of them have had of soldiering and of the British Empire beyond the seas, know well enough the real practical importance 912 of sentiment in a matter such as this, and I put it to them, Is it not practically certain that Ireland could be made a source of great additional strength instead of a source of real strategical weakness to the United Kingdom and to the Empire if we only ceased to treat the spirit of Irish nationalism as something compounded of absurdity and treason, and recognised it as something very natural and quite inevitable and honourable, something which we could turn just as easily into a strength as into a menace to the Empire?
Now, my Lords, that leads me to say a few words in relation to the Nationalist Party, with whom I am proud to have had many associations 'for many years. I confess that I was very much surprised and even pained when I heard the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition use language which seemed still to contend that the whole spirit actuating the Nationalist Party and the Nationalist movement was one of deadly hostility to this country and something which could justly be called disloyal. I was a good deal relieved later, because it seemed to me that the noble Marquess answered his own suggestion. That imputation of disloyalty upon the whole Nationalist movement did duty when it was necessary to contend that the people of Ulster would have grave cause to fear under Home Rule, but directly the noble Marquess had to deal with the suggestion that there might possibly, if this measure be rejected, be rebellion or disorder to deal with in the rest of Ireland, then we had at once put before us the picture—I believe a truer picture—of an Ireland which in recent years had become so contented, so full of happy homesteads, that the mere idea of disloyalty and rebellion was an absurd suggestion. It is difficult for an uninformed Englishman to gather from the speeches of those who know Ireland what the real condition of affairs there is. But it is not possible for him to believe that both these contentions can be true, and it is possible for him to believe that they both are wide of the mark.
One of the most extraordinary facts to my mind in the whole situation is the miscellaneous—I would almost say incompatible—elements out of which the Nationalist Party is very solidly 913 welded together. You have among them men of the most radical and most conservative cast of mind. You have Protestants and Catholics, and among the Catholics clericals and strong anti-clericals. You have temperance advocates, and the strictest devotees of the liquor trade. I might continue the list; but one striking instance, which occurs to me because I saw him just now at the Bar, is that of a gentleman whose chief political creed outside the question of Home Rule is that property in land is criminal, and that all property in land should at once be confiscated. That gentleman sits and holds an influential position as a Nationalist Member of Parliament by the votes of constituents most of whom have recently acquired the freehold of their farms. I have pointed out what extraordinarily diverse elements are combined together in the Nationalist Party. There is another fact in regard to it to which I should like to refer. The Nationalist Party contains, as I strongly believe, men of character and ability, whose merits have not been sufficiently recognised in this country. But it contains others. I speak with respect and liking for some of the gentlemen to whom I am about to refer, and I am saying nothing more in regard to them than what they have most frankly said about themselves when I say it is also the case that a considerable proportion of the representatives of Ireland are men who have not that status and position in their own neighbourhoods, or that experience and attainment and capacity which might be expected of the chosen representatives of a people. Yet these men are chosen, and chosen often without a contest or the possibility of a contest, while constantly the very men who, under a normal and healthier condition of society, would be leaders of Irish life and thought and politics are set aside, and, as we have been told, excluded even from their boards of guardians and their county and district councils.
The conclusions that I wish to draw from the state of facts that I have tried to put before you are these. Surely this diverse character of the Nationalist Party and the other characteristics that I have dwelt upon must bring home to any man who thinks about them the deep-seated-ness, the persistence, the almost invincible character of this claim which has been maintained in season and out of season, through so many years—the claim of Irish nationality and the claim of Irishmen to 914 manage their own Irish affairs. It has also, I think, another aspect. Surely it is idle to bolster up the fears and apprehensions of people in Ulster and other Unionists as to what might happen under Home Rule by a reference to anything that you may criticise or dislike in the present methods of the Irish Nationalist Party. I say again that I speak with nothing but honour and admiration for the persistent fight that that Party has kept up. Still I am perfectly aware that there are many incidents in the campaign for Home Rule in Ireland which a great many people very naturally point to as examples of the narrow-minded or unjust things which they think will be done in Ireland under Home Rule. But, my Lords, is it not really certain under Home Rule that the people of Ulster, if they themselves are united, will be in all probability the most powerful single section in the Irish Parliament? Is it not absolutely certain—and this is, to my mind, even of more importance—that within a very little while after the passing of Home Rule the natural leaders of Irish society, those many men of high character and great ability, respected by their neighbours, who are now set aside from taking part in the public work of Ireland because they are tied and bound by the traditions of Unionism, will take the places that they are so well qualified to fill as leaders of Irish public life?
I, like the noble Earl who last addressed your Lordships, am one of the people who do not regard this question as standing alone. I hope this measure, if it is carried, will be an instalment of the larger scheme which, though not demanded for all parts of the United Kingdom on anything like the same grounds of urgency that Irish Home Rule has been demanded, I believe to be necessary for the good government of the United Kingdom. I am plot going into the arguments for Home Rule all round, but I want to point out, very briefly, in what way the suggestion of a larger scheme of devolution, as it seems to me, affects the position of Ulster and the position of the Irish Unionists generally. In the first place, I should imagine that it might have some sentimental effect upon them. So far as sentiment is concerned, it would be one thing to have the sort of separate treatment that might be given to a larger Isle of Man, and another thing to stand upon exactly the 915 same footing as Scotland and England. But there are much more serious practical considerations. We refer very much on this side to the continued supremacy of the Imperial Parliament as a safeguard in some sense against possible abuses under Home Rule. The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, if Home Rule existed—its over-riding power—we should all hope would not often, if ever, be put into actual force; but nevertheless the existence of that power would have a reassuring and a restraining influence, if people felt convinced that the Imperial Parliament could and would in case of necessity intervene. Now an Imperial Parliament limited solely to looking after the common affairs of the three kingdoms, to doing Imperial work, could and would, if necessary, intervene effectively in Ireland. But an Imperial Parliament fully occupied with the domestic concerns of England and Scotland, and hoping not to be troubled any longer with Ireland also, would not be looked to as an equally efficient safeguard.
I want, if I may very briefly, to indicate the relations of the present Bill to that larger scheme to which the Leader of the Opposition referred this evening in terms, I think, of greater sympathy than some of us had previously known that he felt. The noble Marquess said that the present Bill in its main outlines could not fit in with a Federal scheme for the whole of the Kingdom. I am not going to attempt to thrash out that exceedingly difficult question, but I would like to suggest the line on which I think that question must be examined. I suppose we shall all agree that what is vital to this Bill, not in every detail but in broad outline, is the distribution of powers and functions which it makes as between the Imperial Parliament and Government and the proposed Irish authorities. The question whether this Bill would fit in to a larger scheme I suggest resolves itself into this. Is the distribution of power as between the Imperial and subordinate authority the same as it would require to be in the larger scheme of Home Rule all round? Whichever country, whichever kingdom, you take, I suggest that there is one guide that would have to be followed in that distribution of power. A very large part of the administration, the greater part, in fact, of the domestic administration, of each kingdom at the present time 916 is conducted by separate Executive authorities. A very large part of the legislation of the three kingdoms in this one respect runs, in spite of the Union, on altogether distinct, and even sometimes divergent lines; and I think in examining what are the powers that would be necessary under any scheme of Home Rule to be given to a subordinate Legislature, if you took as your clue the functions of government which are actually carried out by different administrative authorities to-day, you really would find that the distribution of powers in this Home Rule Bill is not very different from what it would have to be made by any statesman who proposed to give a measure of self-government to Ireland at all, and that it runs very closely upon all fours with the distribution of powers which under Home Rule all round would have to be effected between the Imperial authorities on the one hand and the three subordinate authorities of England, Ireland, and Scotland upon the other.
I do not know whether I have made my meaning plain on that point, as I have condensed my remarks so much, but I certainly will not attempt to amplify what I have said. I will only add that for my part I support this Bill upon two grounds quite equally. I support it because in my opinion it is a good first step towards that larger scheme of devolution which the future good government of the whole of this Kingdom and this Empire seems to me so urgently to demand; and I support it no less upon its own merits by itself and because I sincerely believe that it will be a step towards the revival of a sounder and more united national life in Ireland.
§ [The sitting was suspended shortly before eight o'clock, and resumed at nine o'clock.]
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
My Lords, I rise full of that diffidence which is natural, I think, in one who addresses your Lordships' House for the first time. During the few remarks I have to make I hope you will forgive me for my temerity in venturing to take part in this debate. I do not intend to dwell on the general features of this Home Rule Bill, because these have become, I may say, ancient history. They have been discussed at great length both here and in another place, and also in the country at large. I only wish, therefore, to dwell upon one point—a point which I think I know particularly well. That is the most grave 917 danger that the present Government is incurring in proposing to force this measure upon an unwilling people in Ulster.
Without undue egotism I think I may say that I speak on this subject with a certain amount of knowledge. I am an Ulsterman. I have lived in Ulster for most of my life, and for twelve years or more I represented an Ulster constituency in another place. After hearing the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, at the commencement of the debate this evening, I really wonder if His Majesty's Government understand the gravity of the case which confronts them. As I have said, I imagine I know the Ulster people fairly well. I remember even now, though I was then a boy, the intensity of the feeling which was aroused in Ulster in the days of the Home Rule Bill of 1886, but the feeling which existed at that time is not to be compared for one moment with the intensity of feeling which is displayed in Ulster at the present time.
The noble Marquess opposite said in the course of his remarks that he did not know what principle the Ulster Unionists were working on. The noble Marquess dwelt a great deal on the question of principle. He referred to it in various ways, but I am bound to say that none of his arguments convinced me in the slightest degree. I do not think I can describe the principle which is the basis of Ulster's opposition better than by referring to the Solemn League and Covenant which was signed by such an enormous number of men and women in Ulster last year, and which, I am proud to say, I signed myself. If your Lordships will bear with me for a minute I will read an extract from that document—We do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant to stand by one another throughout this time of threatened calamity and defend for ourselves and our children our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom.After a reference to the proposed Parliament in Dublin the Covenant proceeds—And in the event of such a Parliament being thrust upon us we mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognise its authority.If that is not a principle sufficient to stir up the great majority of the people of the Province, I want to know what principle is? That document has been signed by 918 people who are Irishmen, who are Ulstermen, who know the dangers which surround them, who have the most absolute abhorrence of this Parliament which His Majesty's Government wishes to force on them, who know the class of men which will compose that Parliament, who know the forces which will elect the members of that Parliament, who know the hostility which those forces—the people opposed to them—have always shown to their most cherished ideals, and who will absolutely refuse to submit to a Parliament in Dublin until compelled to do so by sheer force of arms. I know it is a grave thing that I am saying, but it is well that His Majesty's Government should realise the real feeling of Ulster.
In his introductory speech the noble Marquess opposite referred to a speech which had been made by my very old friend Sir Edward Carson, and he threw some doubts on the practicability of a policy of non-payment of taxes by the people of Ulster. He did not refer, however, in any shape or form that I can recall, to the fact that should this Bill become law the Ulster Unionists propose to set up a Provisional Government for Ulster; nor did he refer in the slightest way to the steps which the Government will take to meet the dilemma in which they will be placed by the creation of that situation. I do not know, none of us know, what the Government intend to do; but I am bound to say it is my absolute conviction that should this Bill become law Ulster will carry out her resolve to the letter. It is customary on the part of supporters of His Majesty's Government to refer to us Ulstermen from whom they differ in political opinions as bigots. Well, who are these Ulstermen? They are descendants of the same flesh and blood as yourselves. They are members of the great Anglo-Saxon community who went over there some hundreds of years ago to help you to hold Ireland for yourselves; they have stood by you faithfully ever since through times of stress and peril; they have borne unflinchingly any amount of ignominy, obloquy, and sneering from those who differ from them; they have shed their best blood for your Empire; they have never indulged in those crimes of shooting into cottages, of cattle-driving, and other similar things which have marked the progress of the Nationalist Party in Ireland—that Party which the 919 Liberal Government is so glad to be supported by; and they have never indulged in jubilation on hearing of the defeat of British soldiers in the field. They come from the old Cromwellian stock, and most of them hold Cromwellian ideas still steadily in their minds. They are one of the few peoples in these islands who have really the courage of their own convictions, and they are not to be turned for one moment from their determination.
A noble Lord whom I see opposite went, I believe, on the tour which members of the Eighty Club made through certain parts of Ireland last year. I only wish he had come to Ulster. It is not too late now, and if he would come later on in this year I should be glad to offer him any hospitality that lies in my power. If he could see some of the big meetings that take place in the North of Ireland I am sure they would impress him as they have impressed most deeply other visitors to Ireland. From an educational point of view it would be worth the noble Lord's while to do this, although I am not quite sure whether for us Ulstermen the time for big meetings is not past, and that we have not now to devote ourselves purely to the task of putting our organisation in thorough working order to resist the great peril with which we are faced. Be that as it may, my offer stands good if the noble Lord chooses to accept it. I have attended most of the great meetings myself and have been absolutely astonished by the whole-heartedness of the people of Ulster, by the spirit of self-sacrifice which they display, and by their splendid unanimity. There you see, marching side by side, gentle and simple, rich and poor, employer and employee, farmer and farm labourer, and the remnant of what used to be called the landed gentlemen, for I am glad to say that most of the land in Ulster now is owned by the former tenant farmers. There is no division in their ranks, and it is not a political question in the ordinary sense of the word which thus unites them. I know it. I have fought several hotly-contested elections in the North of Ireland and can tell your Lordships that the people there are prepared to sink all their differences—the differences which separate classes in this country—purely in the interests of the maintenance of the Union. Those are the kind of people on whom His Majesty's Government are proposing, by means to which I need 920 not refer, to thrust a Home Rule Bill which is literally abhorred.
What will be the result? I cannot say. I do not believe that any member of His Majesty's Government can say either. But I think that at this stage we who oppose this measure with all the strength we possess have some right to ask His Majesty's Government to state what they intend to do, should this Bill become law, in face of the resistance of Ulster, which will be maintained. That is really all I wish to say to-night. I can assure your Lordships that I speak from the bottom of my heart on this subject. As I have said, it is a subject of which I know something, and it relates to a people of whom I am proud to be one. It relates to a people whom I honour and respect. It relates to a people whom I love.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I am very proud to follow the noble Duke in the patriotic and eloquent speech he has just addressed to you, and I think your Lordships ought to be very much obliged to him for having brought the House back to the bed-rock of reality. The noble Marquess who opened the debate this evening thought proper to make merry at the expense of the Unionist Party in the House of Lords because they have been brought face to face with a word which sounded rather strange to their ears—the word "must," the word which fell so strangely on the ears of the French Monarch. Nobody likes being made to do something that he dislikes, and the noble Marquess is perfectly entitled to enjoy any triumph that he may feel at having placed us in a position which we hate. When we find that the fact that we are not getting our own way about the Home Rule Bill is fraught with such grave dangers to society generally, I can only say that it makes the position still more unpalatable.
What I want to know is this. Do His Majesty's Government think that the Unionist Party here are the only Party who are not going to get their own way? If so, they are greatly mistaken. A very unaccustomed sensation is about to be experienced by the Radical Party in this country. For the first time in the whole of their career they have been brought face to face with a set of circumstances from which no threats, no cajolery, no analogy about Colonies, no majority, no Limehousing, no whitewash, no hushing-up, none of the other means and devices 921 which they are always employing, will save them. They have to face the issue of Ulster which the noble Duke has just placed before your Lordships with so much earnestness and sincerity.
We heard just before dinner a very long speech from Lord Charnwood, and into the latter part of it with regard to the Territorial Army in Ireland I will not follow him. The first half of the speech was directed to the general tenor of the Amendment of the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition in this House, and the whole of that part of the noble Lord's remarks was redolent of that fine Radical mistrust of the electors of the country which has characterised the present Government ever since they came into office a few years ago. Every conceivable device one can think of for bringing this issue before the people was reviewed by the noble Lord in turn. First of all there was the ordinary and legitimate device, which I for one favour, of a General Election, but with that he would have nothing to do. He showed a sort of leaning towards the referendum, but finally he decided that that also was a highly dangerous form of procedure, and so he returned to the device of the conference or the compromise. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, so well analysed what is necessary to precede a compromise that I need not follow him into that, but although the noble Marquess was himself a member of a conference not very long ago I do not think he will consider me impertinent if I suggest to him that the people of this country have not got a very great appetite for conferences between members of the two Front Benches at the present time, and what all white men wish to see is that this matter should be fairly fought to a finish. They would sooner see it fought to a finish at a General Election, but if that means of settlement is denied to us, then we must fall back on the only other means at our disposal.
It is very interesting at this time of day to see the Radical Party standing up for the doctrine of passive obedience and divine right. They are the descendants, in the political theory at any rate, of those who used to deny the divine right of kings. We on our side are the political descendants of those who maintained the divine right of kings. We will continue to vindicate the principle that there is no divine right in any political caucus, and 922 certainly not in the Radical caucus as it exists at the present moment. We have heard something this evening about the theory of the mandate. I quote from the works of Edmund Burke with the most profound reserve in the presence of the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, who I notice has just entered the House. I agree with what Mr. Burke said about mandates. The theory of mandate is very easily overdone. Mr. Burke said that mandates are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land and arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and basis of our Constitution. That sounds rather formidable, but it is quite a different thing from what you are trying to do now, which is to prevent this issue by every means in your power from being placed before the electors of the United Kingdom. You can prove by any sort of dialectical political philosophy you like to employ—and we have heard a great deal too much of that in relation to this Home Rule question—that you have a mandate for a policy which you forgot to mention at successive elections in your electioneering addresses. We have heard the argument so often in this House that it would not be useful to waste time just now in combating it. But even if you push the theory of mandate to its most extreme limit you will never be able to convince your fellow-countrymen that if at the General Election you received a mandate to pass a Bill to separate Ireland from England—a Home Rule Bill, or call it what you will—at the same time you received a mandate to put that Bill into force in face of the kind of resistance that you are threatened with from the people of Ulster at the present time.
The electors were never told at the General Election when you sought their votes that you were going to employ force to coerce Ulster, and that you were going to insist on forcing this Bill through Parliament by means of the Parliament Act, no matter what was the strength and character of the resistance it might meet with from Ulstermen. On the other hand, you may try to justify your policy by throwing the theory of the inundate to the winds and saying that it is one of the theories of Government that you represent the people who have placed you in power, and that they have got to be contented with the manner in which you represent them. You may go on to say, as the 923 Prime Minister has said in another place, that the only way of settling what is called the Irish question is by passing the measure that is now before Parliament. There is one question you never answer. It is a question which has been asked in the House and on public platforms in the country hundreds of times, and it will be asked again. It is this—If you are burning inwardly with an intense conviction that the only way to deal with Ireland is by giving that country Home Rule, why in Heaven's name did you not pass a Bill for Home Rule for Ireland through the House of Commons when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman came into power in 1906 and you had the opportunity to do so, seeing that you possessed an absolute majority, which was free from all the disabilities that obtain at the present time? I should be very much obliged if some noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite would be good enough to answer that question, and explain why the idea of Home Rule was postponed by the Radical Party—publicly postponed—until Mr. Asquith smelt powder at the General Election of 1909 and went down to the Albert Hall and did what the Radicals always do when they get into a mess, began to offer Home Rule to the Irish Nationalist. Party in the fear that unless he secured their support in the new Parliament his majority might not be so great as it otherwise would be. I know what the answer to this may be. It is that if you had brought forward the Home Rule Bill then, under the Constitution as it then existed and had existed for hundreds of years, you would never have been able to carry it. I am perfectly prepared to accept that statement; and, if that is your attitude in regard to this matter from a Constitutional point of view, you have succeeded in proving to demonstration that your only chance of carrying home Rule for Ireland is by setting up single-Chamber government in this country. The historic Constitution under which this country has been governed for so many years, and which has been a model for all other countries, has been the one thing which would not admit of you satisfying the demands of the eighty gentlemen whose support you look to in the House of Commons to enable you to carry other legislation.
Nobody who has studied the general effect of, and the influence exercised by, public opinion in this country from an 924 historical point of view can possibly deny that if at any time it had been ascertained beyond doubt that the vast mass of public opinion was really rapturously in favour of Home Rule for Ireland any Party would have been able to carry it, Constitution or no Constitution. It has been stated, I think in the House of Commons, that if the Unionist Party—it is an assumption very difficult to imagine—had passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland through the House of Commons, of course the subservient Unionist majority in the House of Lords would have immediately passed it without question. All I can say is I should just like to have seen the Unionist Party in the House of Commons try. I am sure the noble Marquess will not think I have the least desire to be offensive in that remark, because I am sure I have not. I want, indeed, to take this opportunity of paying my humble tribute of gratitude to him for the magnificent and uncompromising defence which he has made to-night in this House of the principles of Union, a defence which will be exceedingly valuable in the future, supposing—though such a thing is not in the least likely to happen—there should be any wavering among our own supporters. We have proved on a great occasion, however, that the House of Lords is no mere appanage of the Carlton Club, and that when feeling really runs high this Assembly is an independent Assembly. I think, therefore, that a Unionist leader who tried to pass a Bill for the separation of Ireland from England would find himself in a very equivocal position.
But you, his Majesty's Government, have chosen the other course. You have chosen the only course which was open to you to pass a Home Rule Bill. You have chosen the course of hamstringing the Constitution of the country, and noble Lords opposite have to take the responsibility for what they have done. It is no use labouring the point that the people of Ulster, as it is called, are going to resist by every means in their power the imposition upon them of the authority of a Parliament in Dublin. My object in coming here to-night was to tell noble Lords opposite and their friends that they will not have to deal with what are called Ulstermen supposing they pass this Bill into law without a reference to the electors of this country and it comes in the last resort to a trial of physical force. Some 925 of my friends and I, among whom I am proud to number the noble Duke, the Duke of Bedford, and several members of Parliament, have instituted a league called the British League for the Defence of Ulster and the Union. In case noble Lords opposite do not know the address of this League I will tell them that it is No. 25, Ryder Street, curiously enough next door to a gunmaker's shop. I can assure no-ale Lords, however, that this circumstance is an accident and not a design. What I do say with all seriousness is that if the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, would like to come round to the office of the League at any time he likes when it would be convenient for him to meet me there by appointment, I will tell him what we are doing. There is one reservation I must make. I shall not tell him bow many men I have on my side, because it might not be advisable at this juncture for him to know that. But if he will come round I will place him in possession of information as to exactly what I and my friends are doing and intend to do. If he chooses then to send the Police to inquire further into what we are doing, we shall be very happy to meet them. I think noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite would be astonished if they knew the amount of influential support this movement is receiving from all classes of our fellow-countrymen in England, Scotland, and Wales. I wish with the greatest sincerity in the world to tell His Majesty's Government from my personal knowledge that supposing they resolve to try conclusions with the Ulstermen without first giving the British electors a chance of deciding about this Bill, they will find themselves out not only against Ulster, but against all those in England, Scotland, and Wales who value the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. This movement has been enormously strengthened, fortified, and encouraged by the fact that His Majesty's Government were not only going to try a break up the Union, but because they had abrogated the Constitution of this country in order to attempt to carry that into effect.
I and those who are acting with me have the most profound sympathy and the very greatest respect for the Ulstermen. But supposing that the whole of Ulster were in league with the Nationalist Party in Ireland to carry Home Rule for Ireland, our opposition to Home Rule would not be 926 weakened, but strengthened, because we should consider the danger then to be all the greater. I dissociate myself from those who are trying to put the Unionist Party in the position of making this an Ulster question only. As far as I am concerned it is not an Ulster question; it is a question of the Union or separation. We are not going to talk at any length about this Bill to-night because, with the exception of the clauses to which the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition has referred, it has been talked about pretty considerably in another place as well as in this House. But what we do feel about this proposal to separate Ireland from England is that if you are going to have separation at all let it be a complete separation without any of the disabilities which attach to England, Scotland, and Wales under the present proposal. I would far sooner that Ireland were cut adrift altogether to pay for herself and to govern herself without being subsidised from this country and sending over forty-two Irish Members to keep a perpetual control over our concerns. But first and foremost with an increasing number of people on this side of the Channel stands the principle of the Union and nothing but the Union, and we say that we will not submit to Home Rule or to any substitute for Home Rule either for Ireland or for any other part of the United Kingdom, now or at any other time; that our alternative for that is the good old government which used to prevail, and will prevail in the future, of King, Lords, and Commons at Westminster; and that we do not wish to see these islands submitted to any other authority. And I sincerely trust that in the future, on the Unionist side at any rate, there will be no tampering with the principle of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. That is our alternative to the proposals of noble Lords opposite.
Every conceivable form of governing Ireland has been tried, and the only form that has at all approached a success is that which has prevailed under the Act of Union, and that has only been a failure according to the degree in which the idea of separation has received countenance and encouragement from responsible statesmen in this country. If you want any testimony for that, please do not quote Unionist leaders in either House of Parliament. All you have to do is to look at 927 the speeches of Mr. Birrell, and of Mr. Redmond and other Nationalist leaders, and there you will find a receipt that we handed over to them in 1906 an island more peaceable, more prosperous, and more contented than it had been for a great many centuries. That in the speeches of the Nationalist leaders and their friends is a complete vindication of the success that has attended the Union. We are also told that if we intend to beat off this Bill by appeal to physical force—by the sword—in Ulster, there will be a rising of the Nationalists on the other side. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition has dealt with that situation so much better than I can attempt to do that I would refer noble Lords who were unlucky enough not to hear the speech to the report that they will see to-morrow morning. But do your Lordships not think that men who will draw the sword in order that they may step outside the United Kingdom are not likely to receive such a measure of sympathy from this country as those who are prepared to draw the sword in order to remain inside the United Kingdom and the British Constitution? It is a different thing altogether. But, even supposing that they are prepared to throw on one side all the material prosperity which has accrued to the South of Ireland in virtue of the Act of Union, in virtue of Mr. Wyndham's Act, and to take up arms against the Union, if we are going to have Civil war at all I would far sooner have a Civil war to keep part of the Empire together than see a Civil war with the idea of breaking up the Empire, and allowing one of the most important parts of the United Kingdom to secede from the remainder.
The noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, made some very interesting remarks, with which, with great respect, I thoroughly agree, in regard to the analysis of the term "nationality." The whole claim for separation—for any sort of Home Rule of which we have ever heard—has been based from first to last upon the idea, the ultimate idea, of Ireland being a nation. Lord Dunraven said with great truth that to analyse the term "nationality" and to define it in a dogmatic manner was an exceedingly difficult thing to do; but, at any rate, you will agree that Ireland is either a nation of herself, or she is not a nation except in so far as she is a member of and part of the English nation. In the latter case she cannot possibly have better 928 terms than she is having at the present moment. She has got representation, and over-representation, in what used to be a free Parliament and will be a free Parliament when we have reformed the House of Lords and given it powers proper to a Second Chamber. But if Ireland is a nation, then that is all the more reason why we should govern this nation from Westminster. We do not propose to allow on our most vulnerable flank a separate existence to a nation whose very leaders have constantly declared war upon this country. All their speeches are saturated with the most disloyal utterances. You cannot get away from that. Have you not heard of the men who are steeped to the lips in treason? Is not His Majesty's Government supported in the House of Commons at the present moment by a gentleman named Lynch, who fought on the opposite side in the Boer War and has declared his intention of attacking us again as soon as the opportunity offers? If that is the kind of nation Ireland is, do you think we are going to hand over Ireland to a Government of her own in order that she may carry out the principles of Mr. Lynch and his friends? I think not. If I may once more quote from Mr. Burke, I should say with him that the close connection between Great Britain and Ireland is essential for the two countries, and that at bottom Ireland has no other choice except to live and to die with Great Britain.
The best question in my humble judgment that has been asked since this debate began has been put by Lord Lansdowne. We shall not get an answer to it, but I will just ask it again. What are you going to do? Has it occurred to you that by prolonging this suspense you are doing a thing which must militate against the prosperity of Ulster and the rest of the United Kingdom, that you are doing a thing which is equivalent to sitting on a volcano, and that you are exasperating the people in the North of Ireland in such a way that even the dignified and restrained resistance which they are offering at the present moment might be well excused if it broke out owing to the tension which the Government are keeping up for no apparent reason except to keep themselves and their friends in office? Every moment of suspense to which Ulster is submitted increases the responsibility of His Majesty's Government. We are told that there will be a difference of date between the passing 929 of the Bill into law and the time at which it becomes operative. I shall not be considered unduly incendiary if I say that the Ulster people, dignified and restrained as they have been, are not likely in their present temper to recognise any nice distinction between the time that the Bill passes into law and the time that it becomes operative. As soon as the Bill receives the Royal Assent and becomes an Act of Parliament they will not be going too far—I do not say what they will do, and I will not incite them to do anything—but they will not be going too far if they regard that as an open declaration of war against Ulster on the part of His Majesty's Government. That is the moment we shall have to look out for trouble in Ulster.
We are now getting to that stage in the constitutional readjustment which was foreshadowed by some of us on this side of the House when the Parliament Act was being passed. It is that you are placing the Monarch in a much greater position of responsibility than he has ever been placed in before, because the people of this country will not have, and do not mean to put up with, single-Chamber government, and they have always shown that there must be some authority which get-at-able behind the will of the representatives they send to the House of Commons. Under the old Constitution the House of Lords used to be the buffer between the House of Commons and the Monarch. Our only resort now is to go straight to the steps of the Throne in the hope that we may get our grievances redressed in that manner.
I should very much like to hear before the end of this debate whether you really intend to persevere in your attitude towards Ulster at the present moment. We can quite understand that a Government fresh from the constituencies with a large majority in both Houses of Parliament, who had obtained, if such a thing can be obtained according to the rules of the political game, a clear mandate for Home Rule for Ireland, might receive such a measure of support in this country that would dissipate the promised armed resistance of the Ulstermen; but you must be quite aware that that condition of things does not prevail at the present moment. Do you really think that you are strong enough to go on goading these people into resistance to an Act of Parliament? 930 Do you think that your whole record of government since you have been in office is sufficiently based upon public confidence to enable you to do such a thing? Are you satisfied with the results of the by-elections for one thing? Do you think that a Government, with Consols at the present price, and with a Chancellor of the Exchequer who does not know the difference between a speculation and an investment—he has told us he does not—is the kind of Government that can coerce these people in the North of Ireland? Do you think that, a Government who, with all the forces of the Crown, the policeman, and the gaoler behind them, cannot manage a handful of women is going to manage these hundreds of thousands of Ulstermen? It is all very well for you to laugh, and I am not going to make a speech about women's suffrage now; but your record of the way in which you have treated these women does not entitle you to the amount of public confidence you ought to enjoy if you are going to try to coerce the men of Ulster. I shall be very glad indeed if, before the end of this debate, though I do not expect it in the slightest, we hear from some noble Lord opposite what it is that the Government propose to do.
My Lords, I feel that little further can be said on the subject of the Bill now before the House than what was said in the debate of January last. Our objections to its provisions remain unimpaired, and we are convinced that the feeling against it among Unionists in Ireland is as strong as ever, nay, even stronger as time has gone on and they have had more opportunities of considering its details. I say this, and I wish to impress it upon this House and on the country, because an impression seems to have got about in some quarters that opposition to Home Rule in Ireland is weakening except in the North. I am convinced that nothing can be further from the truth. Since the debate in January I have spent practically all the time in Ireland. I have had repeated opportunities of conversing with people from all parts of Ireland, and I have been assured by all that Unionists in the East, South, and West of Ireland feel as strongly opposed to it as any one in the North. On the other hand I have been assured that there is weakening on the other side, that many former supporters of Home 931 Rule now look with anything but favour on the Bill before the House, and are not by any means anxious to see it on the Statute Book. This is said to be especially the case with the agricultural class, which I need not remind your Lordships forms the largest part of the community. The reason given is tolerably plain. Those who have profited by the Land Purchase Act, and purchased their farms are now in a comfortable position and are not anxious to change it, and they look with some apprehension on what may happen in the way of increased taxation. They prefer to remain as they are, and those who have not yet purchased are looking forward to doing so and being placed in a similar position.
It may be asked, Why do they not come forward and say so? My Lords, there is such a glamour about the mere name of Home Rule, associated as it is in the Irish mind with all manlier of golden dreams and Utopian speculations, that anyone who has once been a professed Home Ruler, but now disapproves of the present Bill, is afraid of the obloquy and perhaps more serious consequences to which he would be exposed if he gave any publicity to his views and was considered a renegade to his former faith. I began by stating that there was little new to be said in opposition to this Bill. But we feel bound to reiterate our objections to its provisions, in the hope that our continued protests may have some effect upon the people of this country, and induce them to look more closely into the matter and refuse to abandon us in our hour of need. For we, the comparatively few and scattered Unionists in the East, South, and West of Ireland, appeal to them for protection on the ground that why we need it is that we have been consistently faithful to the connection with England, believing as we do that it is of vital importance to both countries that the Union should remain unimpaired.
It will naturally be said, "Why do you require protection? What are you afraid of Have you not the assurance of the leaders of the Nationalist Party that if Home Rule is once established all past differences of opinion will be forgotten, all causes of discord will cease, and all will be encouraged to work loyally together for the good of their common country? Have you not, moreover, the safeguard of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament?" 932 I am sure, my Lords, that this forecast of a happy state of things embodies the wishes and hopes of the leaders of the Nationalist Party and that they would endeavour as far as they could to bring it about. But past differences are not so easily forgotten, and there have been ominous hints from other prominent members of the Party that it would be remembered who were their friends and who were not. Moreover, there are other sources of discord which give rise to apprehensions. As I have said before in this House, what we chiefly dread is renewed and increased agitation and over-taxation. For the land question still remains, and many covetous eyes will be directed to the amount of land still held by landlords and large farmers. Now we feel to a certain extent secure under an Executive responsible to the Imperial Parliament, even under one which has dealt as leniently with agitation as the present Government. But what security shall we have under an Executive responsible to a Parliament elected under the auspices of the United Irish League and the Ancient Order of Hibernians? It is administration which we fear rather than legislation. But there is a certain danger about fresh legislation. It may be directed specially against our interests, and, in any case, if a difference arises between the Imperial Parliament and the Irish Parliament as to the merits of any measure passed by the latter and the Imperial Parliament insist on their supremacy, a state of discord and turmoil would result in which the Irish Executive would be on the side of the malcontents.
Then as to over-taxation. The financial provisions of this Bill are so miserably inadequate to the requirements of the Public Service, that recourse must be had to increased taxation, and one of the few modes in which fresh taxation can be imposed is by a tax on the land. I do not attach so much importance as some do to religious differences. I have many Roman Catholic friends who are as much opposed to Home Rule as I am, but still the religious question does somehow come in in some shape or other in all Irish affairs, and may do so, for instance, in matters of education, to our detriment. There is no finality about this Bill. It falls so short of what has been demanded, that it must be clear that the Nationalist Party accept it only as an instalment, as a sort of stepping-stone, from which a longer 933 and a stronger step can be taken, always in the direction of separation between the two countries. I have said nothing as to the feeling in the North of Ireland. I am in no way connected with the North, and have no authority to speak for it; but no one can be blind to the serious dangers which may arise in that quarter. Nor is the danger confined to Ulster, for any disturbance there may cause a rebound in other parts of Ireland, winch would endanger our fives and properties. It is no doubt a political maxim that the minority ought to give way to the majority. But if the minority refuse to give way the only solution is force.
It is, of course, in the power of the Government to force the minority to give way, and they would ultimately succeed in doing so. But at what a cost! I would ask His Majesty's Government most seriously to consider whether the ultimate benefit which in their opinion would accrue to the two countries by this grave constitutional change is so certain and so extensive as to warrant its being enforced on loyal subjects of His Majesty the King—who only ask to remain as they are—by armed conflict, bloodshed, and loss of life. I wish earnestly to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to this aspect of the question now before us. They have no doubt stated that it is not their intention to employ the forces of the Crown against the people of Ulster. But if not, how do they propose to effect their object?
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
My Lords, I hope your Lordships will extend to me that indulgence which you always give to one who addresses you but rarely. It is now more than eight years since I last spoke in your Lordships' House, so it cannot be said that I have trespassed unduly on your attention, and I should not have intervened in this debate were it not that I think I approach this matter from a standpoint and with a personal experience rather different from that of the majority of your Lordships. I propose to address myself this evening, not to the Bill which is before your Lordships, but to the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Marquess; and if I may paraphrase that Amendment, its purport is that the will of the people should be ascertained upon this Home Rule Bill, and that when it has been ascertained it should prevail.
934 Perhaps after eight years in Australia I have become unduly saturated with democratic ideas. But from my Australian standpoint the necessity of consulting the people before any great constitutional change is adopted seems to me so self-evident a proposition that it hardly requires argument; and in Australia the right of the people to be consulted is so jealously safeguarded that no constitutional change can take place without the will of the people having been first ascertained upon it. Now, under our Constitution there is only one method by which the will of the people can be ascertained, and that is by the process of a General Election—and what a clumsy process that is, after all. It is dubious in decision; it is open to any one to challenge the issue upon which it is being fought; and local circumstances may so deflect public opinion in a district that the real question at stake is absolutely lost sight of. Such as it is, however, it is the only method available.
May I illustrate my argument from the position in which I find myself to-day. I was in. England last in 1911, when the Parliament Bill was before your Lordships and going through Parliament. I was precluded by the fact that I held His Majesty's Commission from taking any part in the debates upon that Bill in your Lordships' House, or voting upon any question in connection with it. But if I had been in a position of greater freedom I should have stated that I felt bound by the verdict of the preceding election. The will of the people upon that Parliament Bill had, in my opinion, been ascertained at that election, and that will should necessarily prevail. That, indeed, was the predominant issue at stake. But I come back after two years and I am asked to believe that all these other issues which are now crowding in upon your Lordships one after another were also under review at that election and received the sanction of the electorate. I am personally unable to accept such a suggestion. And even if they did, are not the circumstances entirely altered from the time of that election? Home Rule must largely depend upon the provisions which are contained in the Bill itself; and the attitude of Ulster, of which we have heard so much to-night, must surely largely distinguish the position now from what it was when the Bill was first before your Lordships.
935 Now, how would such a question be dealt with in Australia, and how have they in fact dealt with such questions in Australia? I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I dwell a little upon this point, because it is surely wise in these democratic times and when our own Constitution is in a state of flux that we should see how our democracies across the seas safeguard themselves from the possible tyranny of Parliament. You must remember, my Lords, that the Constitution which exists in Australia is a Constitution of your own making; it is a Constitution which received the sanction of the Imperial Parliament; but under it no constitutional change can take place without a reference to the people. The process is briefly this. Amendments are proposed to some clause in the Constitution, and those are embodied in the form of a Bill; that Bill goes through the usual stages, through both Houses, and is then referred to the people for their assent.
While I was in Australia there were three occasions on which this reference to the people was employed. The first was some years ago, and as it related purely to a matter of machinery I will not further dwell upon that, but I quote it for this purpose—that it shows how the Australian people have determined that not one jot or tittle of their Constitution shall be changed without their having a voice in the matter. But since then there have been two other occasions, and I think they will exemplify the danger of a Government imagining that it for all time reflects the will of the people. I will quote them because I think they are pertinent to this debate. In 1910 the Labour Party came into power in Australia with an overwhelming majority. It proceeded to transact the business it had to do, to carry out the programme which it had laid before the electors; and in 1911, the year after, it referred, in the form of a Bill, the main plank of its programme to the electors. That reference to the people resulted in an equally overwhelming majority against the policy of the Labour Government. Let me pause there for a moment. In April of 1910 you have a Government brought into power by a majority which, in those small majorities of Australia, was an overwhelming one in both Houses. They proceeded during the course of that wear to elaborate their programme and to bring their measures into the shape of 936 Bills. They referred the main plank of their platform to the people for their assent, and in the following April, only a year after, the people who had returned them by that overwhelming majority said, "No, we will have nothing to do with what you put forward as the main plank of your programme." If it was ever suggested over here that a year after a Government had been returned to power it was possible that the country might have changed its mind, any one who made such a suggestion would be laughed to scorn. Yet there it is in Australia as a fact, that within a year the country refused to accept the main plank of the Government's platform.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Will the noble Lord tell us whether anything had happened in the meantime to confuse the first and direct issue and, second, how that issue was actually presented to the electorate?
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
I am very much obliged to the noble Viscount for having interrupted me. So far as I am aware, between 1910 and 1911, when the verdict of the country was taken upon that piece of policy of the Labour Government, nothing passed which would in any way conflict the issues. In the first place, the Labour Government came in on the general issues of a General Election, on no one particular plank but on the general policy of the Labour Party as contrasted with the general policy of the Liberal Party—the Liberal Party is there more or less what we should know here as the Conservative Party. Then in 1911 the Bill which was passed by the Parliament dominated over by the Labour Party was put in the form. I think, of some three or four questions, embodying its main proposals, to the electorate, and the electorate on those three or four questions which were supposed to embody the proposals of the Bill passed by the Labour Government decisively rejected it. I hope the noble Viscount is satisfied with the answer I have given him.
The question is. Is the same sort of thing to happen here? Because if my belief is right, in 1910 the present Government were returned upon the issue of the Parliament Act, but they seem to take that same election as proof positive that the people have assented to all the other 937 issues which are now being brought forward. May I return to the history of the years after tin?, rejection on that referendum From the years 1911 to 1913—the other day—the Labour Government in Australia continued in power with unabated prestige and with undiminished powers; and then in this year, as perhaps some of your Lordships are aware, there was both a General Election and another referendum on the same issues which were placed before the people some two years ago. I half fancied that the noble Viscount, when I was putting before him what happened in the referendum of 1911, thought that the issues were not put so clearly in 1911 as that the country might think they were the same issues as those for which the Government was returned in 1910.
Let me tell your Lordships what happened in this particular year. In the referendum of this particular year, so jealous was Parliament of the Australian people having full information on the issues involved in the same Bill which was passed in 1912–13 as that rejected on the referendum of 1911, that a pamphlet was issued and circulated to every voter in Australia containing the arguments—the authorised arguments—in favour of the Bill on the one side, and the authorised arguments as against the Bill on the other side; and so the matter was fairly and squarely placed before the electors. And what was the result of this last General Election and this last referendum? The Labour Party were rejected by the small majority of one, and the referendum, so far as I can gather—the complete figures ate not yet to hand—has been again decisively rejected. With regard to the General Election it is to be noticed that, as far as the figures are concerned, the Labour Party has suffered its main defeat in the State of New South Wales. Now, anybody who has been in New South Wales recently will know that there are local conditions at the present moment in that State which would militate against a Labour Government; and I believe that if those local conditions had not existed, so far from the Labour Government having received a defeat in the State of New South Wales, they would have actually maintained their position; and you would have had the curious fact of a General Election resulting in the return of a Government 938 to power while the people at large rejected the main plank of that Party's platform.
My Lords, do not these facts—because they are facts—form cumulative evidence in favour of important constitutional changes being submitted to the judgment of the country? The question of a referendum is hardly one that is germane to this debate. But I can quite conceive it might be said that the conditions of which I am speaking and the conditions in our country to-day are scarcely parallel. It might be suggested that Members of Parliament in Australia are not quite as much representatives as Members of but House of Commons purport to be to-day; but, my Lords, apart from the domination of a Party caucus, I believe they are just as much representatives, and not delegates as some people might suggest. For instance, the referendum is not the initiative. Members of Parliament in Australia do not go with a direct instruction from their constituencies to vote on certain subjects, but they go and initiate legislation; they are free to do that, and then subsequently it is open for the people at largo to say whether they will or will not accept it. There is one other objection that might be urged against the parallel of those cases which I have been suggesting and our own position—namely, that in their case there is a written Constitution and in our case an unwritten Constitution. It is the very fact that writing has been introduced into our Constitution that necessitates an Amendment such as the noble Marquess has moved to-night. And I think the further answer to that would be that when the framers of the Australian Constitution drew up their Constitution they were convinced that there was a moral obligation on the part of a Government to present any change that they proposed in the Constitution for the consent of the people; and realising, as they believed, that there was that moral obligation, they converted by Statute that moral obligation into a legal obligation. I believe that moral obligation is still upon any Government in this country to-day, and that they are bound morally, as Australian Governments are bound legally, to submit any important change in the Constitution to the judgment of the country.
The two points I have endeavoured to bring before your Lordships are these. First, the precaution that is taken in 939 Australia to ascertain the judgment of the country; and, secondly, the warning that it gives us that the country may disapprove of the policy of a Government even after the very shortest lapse of time. May I bring one more Australian piece of evidence before your Lordships? It has more of a personal touch. In 1907 there was in Queensland a severe political crisis on the question of the two Houses, and I personally came in for severe criticism with regard to the action which, as Governor, I took at that time. But I am not concerned to defend myself from that criticism, nor is it really a matter which is of any interest to your Lordships' House; but the main principle which I endeavoured to set before myself at that time—and I think the noble Marquess who leads this House and who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies will agree—was that so grave a matter should be submitted to the judgment of the country. Now, my Lords, that submission to the judgment of the country resulted in a decision which was adverse to the Upper house. But what did the statesmen in Queensland do when they were returned again with directions from the country that the Lower House was to prevail, and not the Upper House? They did not endeavour to abolish or emasculate the Upper House. They had too great a respect for the sovereignty of the people. But they proceeded to pass an Act that where the Upper House had twice rejected a Bill that had been sent up to them by the Lower House, then the matter should be referred to the people. My Lords, if the Parliament Act of 1911 had been passed on these lines there would be no necessity for any protest on our part on this side of the House, nor for any Amendment to be moved by the noble Marquess, and we should not be indulging in this, what I might term as a farce or make-believe, but the Bill would as a matter of course be submitted to the judgment of the country. In the light of the experiences which I have laid before your Lordships and from sincere conviction, I find I have no choice but to support the Amendment of the noble Marquess.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (EARL BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, I think it is now some fifteen years since the noble Lord who has just sat down and I worked as friendly enemies upon one of the great administrative bodies in the county of London, and I hope he will 940 therefore allow me to offer him a hearty welcome back to England after a singularly successful time as a Colonial Governor. I only regret that from what he has just said we shall probably be as much separated during the debates in this House as when we served together on the London School Board. We have all listened with interest to what the noble Lord has been able to tell us of the constitutional position in the Federal Government of Australia and also the various conditions in the different Colonies. On a good many of the points which he raised we shall be very glad to meet him when once more this House is engaged upon the discussion of a referendum. But will he allow me to say that there are two lessons which I should have thought he would have brought home with him from the great Dominion of Australia. One is that not one of those Colonies would have tolerated the existence of a hereditary Upper Chamber; and the other is that there is not a single one of all the various Parliaments of Australia which would not have passed a resolution in favour of the Bill which is now being dealt with by your Lordships' House
The noble Lord who spoke to us with so much knowledge of Australia, if he will allow me to say so, is not perhaps so fully acquainted as other members of your Lordships' House with the history of what has happened in this country during the last few years. The Parliament Act became law in the year 1911, and the noble Lord must know that that Act was not made law for its own sake, but in order that it might be used; and from the very moment when it was proposed and explained to the people of this country they knew perfectly well that the Home Rule Bill was one of those measures for which the aid of the Parliament Act would be invoked.
There never has been, on the part of noble Lords opposite or on this side of the House, any misunderstanding upon that point. Both the Welsh Church Bill and the Irish Bill were Bills which everyone knew at that time His Majesty's Government would bring forward and pass into law under the provisions of the Parliament Act. And we know, as the noble Lord himself acknowledged, that the people of this country gave their direct authority for the passage of that measure, and we claim that the passage of the Parliament Act, which was placed before the country as deliberately as any measure could be 941 at any General Election, involved their approval for other things for the purpose of which the Parliament Act was brought forward.
In those circumstances we ask why it is that the noble Marquess asks for another General Election upon this occasion? When is the demand of noble Lords opposite for General Elections upon Liberal Bills going to stop? Will they ever be content to let any Liberal Bill go through this House without having a General Election upon it? That just shows the difference between the treatment this House gives to Conservative Bills and Liberal Bills. While the noble Lord was away measures were introduced which had never been explained to the country. This House passed them without amendment and almost without discussion. But when it came to Liberal Bills this House entered upon a very different course; and we really come to-night to the old quarrel, familiar indeed to those who have taken part in debates in this House for the last seven years, that there should be some equality of treatment between Bills presented by a Liberal Government and those presented by a Conservative Government.
Now, we have had a most important declaration from the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, a declaration upon which should have liked to say something. It was a direct challenge to His Majesty's Government, and it was a direct challenge upon very different terms from any which have yet been presented by any member of the Front Opposition Bench. Perhaps it would he desirable that it should be answered upon an occasion when the noble Marquess is himself present. [The Marquess of LANSDOWNE had temporarily left the House.] But let me say something, at any rate, upon the challenge which the noble Marquess threw out to us upon the question of the by-elections which have taken place during the last few months. We had one special example of a by-election, particularly interesting at the moment. When the House last had this very Bill before it your Lordships threw out the Bill by a large majority one day and the next day Londonderry returned a Nationalist Member of Parliament, and the consequence was the Province of Ulster was represented in the House of Commons by 17 Nationalists and only 16 Unionists. That was the answer which Ulster made to the action of your Lordships' House.
942 Since that time there have been a certain number of by-elections, to which I am anxious to draw the attention of this House, and in connection with which appropriate comments have been made by various Members and various organs connected with the Opposition. Lord Robert Cecil, speaking of the Midlothian by-election, said that its majority was against the Insurance Act and the land taxes, and accurately reflected the opinion of the country upon Lloyd George finance and philanthropy. And the Morning Post said that "the question which will bulk largely in the contest—at least, the question on which most votes will be turned—will be the Insurance Act." Here is an important gentleman of considerable experience, the secretary of the Lancashire and Cheshire Working Men's Federation. He said—Nothing had exercised so great an influence against the Liberal Party as the Insurance Act, to which was attributed the Unionist successes at by-elections";and so it goes on, one organ after another and one statesman amongst the Opposition after another, all speaking with the same effect, until we come to Mr. Bonar Law himself who used this phrase only last year:Mr. Asquith said, and I agree with him, that the by-elections had not been fought on Home Rule, or the issues before the House of Commons.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
If the noble Marquess specially wishes me to refer to Altrineham I will try to oblige. Here is a quotation from The Times of May 30 this year—It is practically certain that the Insurance Act agitation was the chief factor in Mr. Hamilton's striking success; but it was not the only one.and so, my Lords, I could go on.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
There were several more, no doubt. But the noble Marquess's chief organs of the Press say it is chiefly the Insurance Act, and I am sure the noble Marquess would not wish to contradict the Leader of his Party.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think Mr. Hamilton made Home Rule one of the leading planks of his platform on that occasion.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I am afraid the noble Marquess must settle that with Mr. Bonar Law. I will not interfere in a domestic question of that kind. The noble Marquess mentioned twenty-four by-elections. I am afraid my figures may refer to an earlier date, but I take the 9th of June this year. Up to that time there had been twenty-three by-elections, at two of which there was no Liberal candidate at all; but in the twenty-one remaining by-elections the votes which bad been given for Home Rule candidates were 121,000, and the votes which were given for the Unionist candidates were only 105,000. In those circumstances I venture to say that it is not difficult for noble Lords opposite to fall into the mistake of attributing too much influence to the speeches and the agitation made on behalf of the Unionist Party in Ireland.
But as the noble Marquess is again in his place., let me turn back to the other point, the point of the question of Ulster and the General Election, of which, in his absence, I ventured to say it was not only an important declaration but a different declaration, as I understood it, from that which has yet been made by the Party opposite. The noble Marquess used terms urging upon His Majesty's Government to have a General Election, He said that if we did have a General Election and the result was in favour of His Majesty's Government "we shall govern ourselves accordingly." And he went on to say, "If the intensity of our opposition is affected, it stands to reason that the opposition of Ulster will be affected too." I do not suppose I attribute too much importance to that in saying that I understood him to say that in the event of a General Election returning a Home Rule Government to power the Opposition would withdraw their hostility to the Home Rule Bill. But, my Lords, that is very different from the message which Mr. Bonar Law sent on Saturday last to Belfast. I quote from The Times of this morning. In his speech Sir Edward Carson said—Mr Bonar Law gave him this message, that, so far as he was concerned and speaking on the part of the whole Unionist Party, in the present circumstances, whatever steps they might feel compelled to take, whether they were constitutional or whether in the long run they were unconstitutional, they had the whole of the Unionist Party under his leadership behind them.Nothing about the General Election in that.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Earl rather slurred over the words. "in the present circumstances."
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
Those words do not appear in the resolution submitted to the meeting moved by the Marquess of Londonderry.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
It is a most valuable contribution to the discussion if the words "in the present circumstances are to be taken to mean that after a General Election Mr. Bonar Law and others will withdraw their support from the Ulster Members. Then, indeed, a new stage in the controversy has been arrived at. But that is a different position from that taken up by the noble Duke, the Duke of Abercorn, in to-night's debate. He said that nothing but the force of arms would persuade them to agree to the passage of the Home Rule Bill. And I am bound to say I think it would have been fairer to Ulster if the words "in the present circumstances" had been explained to them as meaning that if a General Election took place and the Liberal Government were returned the support of the Unionist Party would be withdrawn from them. That is not, at the present moment at any rate, the idea of the position of the Ulster Members themselves. I shall venture to give your Lordships a series of quotations from them. They were asked whether they would advise Ulster to submit if the Home Rule Bill is approved by the country after a General Election. Mr. Fetherstonhaugh, K.C., said he believed. Ulster would reject the advice, if given, "unless the Bill be very different from the present one." Captain Craig said "he would never advise Ulster to submit to Mr. John Redmond." Mr. Moore, also an M.P., said that "in his opinion no British Party had a right to sell Ulster while ten men held rifles." And so on with one important person after another. I would also venture to quote Mr. Walter Long, in whose statement again, there was no mention of a General Election. In the course of a statement which was issued to the Press on the Parliament Act and which appears in The Times of June 7 this year, Mr. Walter Long said—It must not be thought that I am suggesting that, whatever the result of an election may be, the people of Ulster and the Unionists of Ireland will assent to Home Rule.945 I think that is remarkable. He added—They will never do this, and any Government which determines deliberately to force upon Ireland a measure in any way similar to the present one must face this fact and be prepared to deal with it. In my humble opinion Ulster is right, and, as I have frequently said in Parliament and outside, she has my sympathy and will have my support.Then we understand that Mr. Walter Long will not have the support of the Opposition if a General Election has taken place and the result is to place a Home Rule Government in power in this country. I venture to say that the debate which has taken place this evening has justified itself if it has made perfectly plain to the people of this country that that is now the attitude of the Opposition and that the words "in the present circumstances" in the message to Ulster meant that if a General Election took place that support would be withdrawn.
There were one or two other points referred to by the noble Marquess opposite. He seemed to think if the Second Reading had been accepted by your Lordships' House this afternoon, that then, the principle having been accepted, it would be impossible for your Lordships' House at a later period to deal with this Bill as you would wish. I confess I do not share that opinion. I have no hope that the noble Marquess would call me in to draw an Amendment, but I can imagine that it would be possible to draw up an Amendment—a reasonable Amendment—to the Second Reading of this Bill, in which, while this House held itself free to reject the Bill on a further occasion, it expressed the desire, by going into Committee and making those Amendments it thought proper, to expose what in its opinion were the improprieties and impossibilities of this Bill. I do not think such a step as that would have in any way bound this House to accept the Bill or give it a Third Reading. But, as I say, I have no expectation that the noble Marquess will call me into consultation in that way, because of a subsequent phrase in his speech in which he alluded to the debate which took place earlier in the year on this same Bill, and referred to the fact that two, or at the most three, Cabinet Ministers had taken part in that debate. I know that my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack took part in the debate; I remember it was introduced by the Lord Privy Seal, and wound up 946 by the Lord President of the Council, and I have a painful recollection of having addressed the House myself. Therefore at, any rate, four Cabinet Ministers addressed the House on that occasion: and no doubt when we four meet in the privacy of our room we shall consult as to which speech it was that has entirely faded from the recollection of the noble Marquess. At any rate we shall be free to point out that it is not only one speech which has faded from the recollection of the noble Marquess, but half the second speech, if not the whole of it.
There was in a later passage of the noble Marquess's speech a desire expressed to see the rest of the constitutional proposals which His Majesty's Government were anxious to introduce with regard to the constitution of this House. It was very flattering to His Majesty's Government that there should be this anxiety on the part of noble Lords opposite to see that Bill. I only hope that when they do see it their welcome to it will be as warm as their desire is to see it on the present occasion. I confess, however, that have some doubt upon that point. I am afraid that their desire to see it to-day may, when they actually see it, be changed into a welcome less warm than that which the noble Marquess seemed ready to give it to-day.
Apart from what has been said with regard to the Parliament Act, most of this discussion has turned upon the treatment of Ulster. I am not anxious to refer to other arguments which have been addressed, not to this House but to audiences of His Majesty's subjects, referring to the readiness of some loyal subjects of His Majesty the King to transfer themselves to the rule of a foreign power. No doubt the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, will dissociate himself entirely from that desire on the part of some of those with whom he acts in Ireland; and I will not either say anything upon the gross personal attacks which have been made upon His Majesty the King.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I certainly have the quotations. I have a number of them. There is Mr. Hamilton [2020;] and there is Sir John Ballentine.
§ [†] See Earl BEAUCHAMP'S explanation at commencement of succeeding day's sitting.947
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
When an assertion like that is made I think it ought to be qualified. I have taken part in all the demonstrations in connection with Ulster and have never heard any attack made upon the King. All I say is that the King has no more loyal subjects than the men of Ulster. When a noble Lord makes a statement like that, he should substantiate it.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I said the noble Marquess would dissociate himself from that; and if he reads the Manchester Guardian he will see what was said by Mr. Hamilton on the point.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I want it to be made perfectly clear that anything I have to say upon this subject is at the wish of noble Lords opposite. There was Sir John Ballentine at Ballymena, who said—They only pledged their loyalty to His Majesty King George as long as he remained Protestant. But if lie came to Derry followed or headed with the Harp without the Crown there would be thirteen apprentice boys to be found who would again close the gates.Then there is the other reference, which I am really most unwilling to read, but it comes from an Orange Lodge near Belfast, which noble Lords can see in the Manchester Guardian of the 26th of May, and I really hope that reference will satisfy them. If that does not I will give yet another. At the meeting of the 948 Londonderry Orangemen Captain Watt, J.P., is reported in the Belfast News Letter to have said—It had been said they wanted another King William III. Well, let them take care that the present King is not to be another King James, but he would ask them to give King George a chance before they came to any decision.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Are we to understand that those are the passages which the noble Earl relies upon for his statement that some people have made gross personal attacks upon His Majesty the King?
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I have given the noble Marquess the reference in the Manchester Guardian, and I had hoped that that would have been sufficient. It is with the very greatest reluctance that I read anything of the kind, because I think it is desirable that no further publication should be given to this than is necessary. I would prefer, if the noble Marquess would allow me, to hand him over this quotation, which I am quite ready to read but which I think it is undesirable I should read. It is entirely at the disposal of the noble Marquess if at any time he wishes to see it; but I think he will agree with me, when he has read these observations, that, no further publication should be given to them than can possibly be helped. And I venture to call every member of this House to witness that these quotations which I have read have been dragged from me with the greatest reluctance, after a passing reference to them.
Now I turn to the question of Ulster and to the answer made to this House by Londonderry after this House had rejected the Second Reading of this Bill. Ulster now returns to the House of Commons 17 Nationalists to 16 Unionists for that Province. The noble Marquess told us that one of the reasons why Ulster objected to the Home Rule Bill was that she knew from experience what she had to expect from the Nationalists of Ireland. I confess opinions on such a question will naturally differ, but we have plenty of authority for saying that there are a great many precedents showing that there need be no fear of what might be the result. There is a Mr. Grubb, who is in business in Tipperary, and who has been chairman of the Tipperary County Council. He testifies to the effect that he has lived all 949 his life in the district, and he is sixty-seven years of age; that he could not remember any acts of intolerance by Roman Catholics towards Protestants; that in the district Protestants had been elected to posts carrying considerable salaries; and he gives other testimony to the same effect. Further, it was only at the end of last week there was a letter in The Times from Mr. Bullock, in which he bore testimony to the general goodwill with which he is received by his Roman Catholic neighbours. I am not sure that one could say the same thing of the conduct of sonic of the Belfast public authorities with regard to Roman Catholics.
But really what happens is that this question, so far as Ulster is concerned, narrows itself down to one of whether religious persecution is possible in the British Empire in the twentieth century. Is there any instance of religions persecution in Western Europe since at any rate the days of Louis XIV? But I would remind noble Lords opposite that those persecutions in the time of Louis XIV or Charles V were really instigated by Governments; and it is inconceivable to imagine that there should be to-day religious persecutions which are not instigated by Governments. And if the suggestion is that these religious persecutions are to take place at the instance of any Government, let us at any rate remember who will he the people who will be responsible for them. Whoever may be Prime Minister in Ireland, whether it is Mr. Redmond or Sir Edward Carson, he must be a man trained in the imperial Parliament here, a man who belongs to the twentieth century and not one who belongs to the fifteenth or tenth century. I think that disposes at once in plain terms of the proposition as being really unthinkable to-day. At any rate, I am entitled to remind your Lordships that the watchword of the Liberal Government for many years past has been Civil and Religious Liberty, and if they thought there was any probability of that liberty being violated they would not support this Bill as unanimously and as passionately as they have done during the last twenty-five years.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down said that the country had given the Government a direct authority for this Bill. As 950 to that I am only going to make the statement which the noble Marquess made in moving the Amendment before the House, that in four election addresses of the Prime Minister the question of Home Rule was not mentioned in any way. As to the statement which the noble Earl made with regard to attacks upon His Majesty the King, I must remind him that he dragged in that matter and that he made a most extraordinary statement, backed up by extracts from the Manchester Guardian of sayings by people of no authority in the country and of whom we should take no notice. I think the observations of the noble Earl on this point deserve only a most contemptuous reference on my part, considering the position the noble Earl occupies. The noble Marquess who brought in this Bill said that the Amendment was founded on the objections of Ulster. But surely there are a great many other people who object to this Bill besides those who live in Ulster. There are the Unionists of the South and West of Ireland who have objected, and consistently objected, to this Bill. Then we have heard, in an excellent speech from Lord Willoughby de Broke, that there are many other people outside that little place in Ryder-street, which he mentioned, who object to the Bill.
I take strong exception to what the noble Marquess said when he introduced the Bill. The whole of the discussions of this Bill in another place have been reduced to a perfect farce; they have been absolutely useless. With the Parliament Act in force Bills are introduced into the House of Commons, and with the aid of the kangaroo closure they are passed and sent up to the House of Lords for the express purpose of being rejected. They are eventually to be passed into law, we are told, by an automatic process. What I feel with regard to this matter is that the people of the United Kingdom are not governed by Parliament but by the Cabinet, who are kept in hand by the phalanx the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, mentioned in his speech. I think that is an intolerable yoke. The electors of this country hardly realise that by an automatic process a Bill, or Bills, vital to our Constitution will be passed into law. There is to be no appeal to the country no matter what the Bill is, as long as there is a working majority in the House of Commons.
951 The noble Marquess the Leader of the House mentioned a number of Bills which Mr. Gladstone's Parliament passed when it came into power in 1868. He said there was no question then of going to the country. But I must remind him that on two Home Rule Bills they had to go to the country, and the result was given in a very definite manner. There was then a clear expression of the will of the country. In March last at the Hotel Cecil Mr. John Redmond obligingly disclosed the intention of the Government by describing the two or three steps of this Bill as an automatic process; and I feel that the whole matter is a tacit understanding between the Government and the Nationalist Party. The Government say, "Keep us going and we can give you Home Rule." "All right," say the Nationalists, "and in return we will help you to pass your other Bills." This arrangement, my Lords, is worked for all it is worth. You have only to glance at the Divisions in the House of Commons in this and the last session to see the truth of what I say. Is it any wonder, then, that those who understand the whole of this arrangement should denounce it, and that Ulster should be arming and drilling at the present moment to resist a measure brought in and forced upon them in such a way?
The Prime Minister gave a promise that there should be full opportunity for discussion in the House of Lords; but this discussion is absolutely valueless, for we know perfectly well that whatever changes we made in this Bill could not be accepted while the Irish Party dominate the situation. As we know, there has been a new stage introduced into the procedure in the House of Commons, and that is the Suggestion Stage, and the suggestions are to be sent up to our House to deal with. But it must be noticed in the case of this most important Bill to give a Parliament to Ireland there was no Suggestion Stage at all. Not a comma has been allowed to be altered in this Bill, which reaches us in exactly the same condition as we dealt with it last year.
Now as to the Bill itself. I think myself, and many Irishmen think, that it is a bad Bill. It is not a settlement of the question. It makes for friction, and the two Parliaments, the one in England and the one in Ireland, must always and con- 952 tinually be at loggerheads. And there is another thing that has not been touched upon in this debate. Instead of Ireland taking part in the advancement of this great Empire, she will stagnate. Her Parliament will be occupied with business more akin to the working of a parish pump than the expansion of trade and Empire, and I feel myself, as an Irishman who takes a great interest in the affairs of the country, that we are being degraded by being offered such a Home Rule Bill as this which has been forced upon us. The financial provisions of the Bill will cause everlasting friction between the two countries, because the Imperial Parliament will collect the Customs and Excise and dole out certain sums to Ireland. And what have we to offer when we want to borrow money to carry on public works? We have no security to offer whatsoever. If the Irish Parliament imposes taxes it will be a super-tax over and above the Imperial taxes, and this will be perfectly intolerable. I have always maintained, and I stated it publicly at the time of the Financial Relations Committee, that Ireland is taxed beyond her taxable capacity. There is every likelihood that Imperial taxation will increase. We shall have to bear that; and if we want money for ourselves to carry on our own affairs we shall have to be taxed over and above that.
To me it is most extraordinary, and I am sure it is thought so by many noble Lords from Ireland and others, that not one of the Nationalist Party has explained, extolled, or even mentioned the provisions of this Bill to the Irish people. They are absolutely in the dark with regard to what this Bill contains. There is a sort of sentiment, I admit, which has been fostered for years and years, which says "We want Home Rule"; but they do not know what is in this Bill, and there will be a rude awakening when they do arrive at it. This measure was very well described by Mr. T. W. Russell, the Government's most faithful friend, when he said in Dublin in February last that the Bill would do to begin with. That is practically true. There is no finality in this Bill. You think that by it you are going to settle the Irish question, but that is not the opinion of others besides those who are in the Nationalist Party in the House of Commons; it is not the opinion of their supporters in Ireland. I will give you one instance of that. Professor Kettle, speak- 953 ing at a lecture given to the members of the Young Irish branch of the United Irish League at the Mansion House, Dublin, on April 4, said the Bill was "a transition Bill." and they should deliberately face and accept sacrifices and speed onus far as they might the transition period.
My Lords, you are not closing a chapter of Irish grievances. You are opening another one of Irish trouble even more serious than before, and at a time when my country is quiet, when we have never known such prosperity, when the land question is on its way to settlement, or was on its high road to settlement but for that Bill which unsettled it. At this time you come down on us with this Bill which the Irish people know nothing about and force it on us. Is it unnatural that those who have some knowledge of the Bill should resist it to the very utmost? You have not even had the moral courage to get rid of the Irish Members entirely at Westminster. You will have forty-two of them remaining there; and you may be sure that in future there will be no question of Nationalists and Unionists in that Party. When they want anything for Ireland they will vote solidly, especially when it is a matter of getting more money from this country. In my opinion I hose Irish Members will he a perpetual thorn in the side of any Government. I should like to say one word as to this Parliament which is to be set up in Ireland. I do not anticipate, and I do not wish to say anything about, religious persecution in Ireland. Like Lord Clonbrock I live amongst my Roman Catholic tenants and have never had any trouble whatsoever with them, even during the worst times. But you must remember, my Lords, and I address myself particularly to the Front Bench opposite—that the future Irish Parliament will be a Roman Catholic Parliament. Roman Catholics will dominate the situation, and when it comes to the giving of appointments or the exercising of any patronage which the Ministers of that Parliament will have, we may take it for granted that it will be made perfectly clear that "No Protestants need apply."
THE EARL OF MAYO
You ask me why? We have a fairly good experience on that question with regard to the Local Government Act in Ireland. I think three 954 Protestants are elected on the local bodies out of I forget how many members of the county councils.
THE EARL OF MAYO
Of over 300 members in the Provinces of Munster and Connaught, only three Protestants were elected.
THE EARL OF MAYO
I have no doubt they do the same thing there. But I am talking of the Irish Parliament, which is a much more serious affair. Our only experience so far is of these county councils. I myself put up for my county council when the Local Government Act came into force, but I had not the smallest chance. I then put up for the district council, and they had a meeting on the side of the road and said to me, "You would not join such a small thing as this?" "Oh, yes," I said, "I will put up." They said, "If you say you are a Home Ruler you will be elected." I said I could not say that, and that settled the matter as far as I was concerned; and then a reverend gentleman gave his parishioners the word and I was not elected. I maintain, no matter what you say, that there are only two parties in Ireland—the Roman Catholic Party and the Protestant Party—and those will be the two parties if there is a Parliament in Ireland, and the Catholics will be supreme. I only mention this as a fact, and a very prominent fact, when we come to talk of the government of Ireland. I wish to say this in conclusion, that I have been very much heartened by the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke. I feel that we have friends over here and I feel that we want friends, because the minority in the South and West are left certainly without very much protection in this matter. I gladly give my vote fog the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Marquess.
§ EARL GREY
At this late hour I do not propose to occupy your Lordships more than a few moments; but I desire to make one or two remarks in consequence of the speeches made by the noble Marquess who moved the Second Reading and by the 955 noble Earl who spoke last from the Government Bench. I hope the noble Earl will not think that I am wanting in respect towards him if I say that his speech is a melancholy illustration of the way in which Party politicians are led by appearances and not by facts. The noble Earl actually seemed to believe that because Londonderry returned a Nationalist at the recent by-election there was no life or seriousness in the Ulster question. There are two landmarks plainly discernible in the misty outlook before us. They are these: First, that the four counties of Ulster will not have this Home Rule Bill; secondly, that the public opinion of this country will never allow any Government, however strong, to force this Bill upon the acceptance of the Ulster people.
I had, before the noble Earl's speech begun to think that this Bill in itself was practically a dead measure. I hold it to be a very very bad Bill, and that the more it is understood and explained the more patent will it be that it violates every principle of constitutional freedom such as I have always believed, up to now, it was the chief pride of the Liberal Party to support. But the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, in a tone of melancholy optimism, told us that it took two parties to make a war. That, coming after the Prime Minister's nodding of the head and the Prime, Minister's and Mr. Birrell's speeches led me to believe that the noble Marquess agreed with them that it would be impossible for his Government to endeavour to force this Bill upon the acceptance of the Ulster people. But after the speech of the noble Earl I do not feel quite so certain. The noble Earl, in answer to Lord Chelmsford, on whose admirable speech the House is to be congratulated, said there was not a Legislature of Australia that would not pass a Resolution for the Home Rule Bill. I can quite understand that. But is there a single Legislature in Australia that understands this Home Rule Bill?
The noble Marquess and the noble Earl are agreed in this, that the Ulster people are resisting this proposal, not on any ennobling principle, but, as I think was said, simply from a bigoted, narrow hatred of other religions. I do not believe that that is the only reason why Ulster is opposed to Home Rule. You may regret religious bigotry, you may regret 956 the belief that exists among Orangemen that their neck is going to be placed under the heel of the Roman Catholic priests, but you must recognise the fact that that belief does exist and has to be dealt with by statesmen. The reason why I do not hesitate to call this a very bad Bill, a Bill which no Liberal ought to support, is this. It violates in its own terms the cardinal principle of the Bill, which aims at giving large communities living tinder exceptional conditions autonomous rights over their own affairs. This Bill does not do anything of the sort for Ulster. Ulster now enjoys powers of local self-Government such as are given to it by this Parliament. Under the Bill Ulster is not going to have any control over its local affairs. You are taking from Ulster her autonomous rights and giving Dublin the right to govern Ulster in the management of her own local affairs. I know enough about Canada to assert that if you were to tell the people of Quebec that they would be governed in their local affairs by Ontario, or, on the other hand, if you were to tell the people of Ontario that their local affairs were to be governed by Quebec, you would have a state of things there which would tax all the ingenuity of His Majesty's Canadian Government.
What does this Bill do in addition? At the same time that it places the people of the four counties of Ulster, so far as their local affairs are concerned, under the control of Dublin, it inflicts this great wrong upon them—it robs them of the protection to which they are entitled in this Parliament. Under this Bill you are reducing the representation of Ireland by 50 per cent. below the amount to which it is entitled by population. The noble Marquess rather chaffed the Unionist Party because of their views upon the question of the representation of Ireland, and I regret that his views received some support from the speech to which we have just listened. The noble Earl does not want to have any Irish representatives in Parliament. I think he is in an almost unique position if he desires anything so extremely impossible or contrary to the public interest. The noble Marquess says "What do the Unionist Party want? Do you want 103 Members, or do you want 43 Members?" I will tell you what Unionists want, if I may venture for a moment to speak as a Unionist. We want an Imperial Parliament with a number of 957 representatives from Ireland in proportion to the population, on the principle of equality with other parts of the United Kingdom.
The noble Marquess pointed out that Sir Edward Carson had declared that the predominant partner had a majority, and that the representatives of England were opposed to this Bill. "What fine Unionism is this," says the noble Marquess. "Fancy boasting of your Unionism and yet attaching so much importance to one part of the United Kingdom and having no regard to the others." If I may again give utterance to what I believe to be a sound Unionist principle, I say that Unionists believe that every vote should have an equal value; but if I look at the representation of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland I find this, that there is no part of the United Kingdom where the electors are so faithfully represented as they are in England. When I go to Scotland I find that, under your principle of representing local majorities only and not endeavouring to represent the whole population, one Radical vote is equal to four Unionist ones. When I go to Wales I find that one Radical vote is equal to six Unionist votes; and when I go to the South-west of Ireland, where the Unionists number one-fourth, or certainly one-fifth, of the total electors, I find there has not been for the last quarter of a century a single Unionist representative.
One reason why I support with all my heart the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition is that I do not believe that this Parliament is a faithful representation of the electoral body of the United Kingdom, and I feel convinced that great mischief will ensue if, without full knowledge that yon have the majority of the people behind you, you endeavour to force this Bill upon the people of Ireland. I agree with the noble Earl who spoke last that there is no finality in this Bill. If there is no finality in this Bill it is an injustice to Ireland. Fancy, when the noble Earl has to pay a tax levied on him by the Imperial Parliament and there are only forty-two Irish Members in the House of Commons—and he wants none—can you conceive anything tending greater to discontent and agitation than the fact that the Imperial Parliament in which the great Irish people were represented by 50 per cent. less than their proper measure is endeavouring to force 958 odious taxes upon a people who do not wish to pay them?
THE EARL OF MAYO
I only said that the present Government had not the moral courage to get rid of the Irish Members.
§ EARL GREY
I hope that means that the noble Earl has no desire to get rid of the Irish Members. It is desirable, in the interests of Ireland as well as of the United Kingdom and of the Empire, that Ireland should be represented in the Imperial Parliament in proportion to her population. I say there is no finality in this Bill. As the late Lord Ashbourne would have said, "What a fine sentence this would be for a green placard: The under representation of the Irish in the House of Commons is not justice to Ireland and is not justice to England." Then this Bill, I venture to contend, rests upon a purely wrong basis. It is based on a separate nationality. How can you safeguard a measure which is based on the national requirements of Ireland alone? I do not see how you can avoid tending towards separation and possible disruption. What we want is a Bill dealing with the wrongs of Ireland based on the requirements of the United Kingdom, based on a measure of devolution to which the noble Marquess referred in a manner which made me cherish the hope that a large measure of devolution for some parts of the. United Kingdom might be adopted as the policy of the Unionist Party.
The noble Lord (Lord Chelmsford) appeared to think that all forms of Home Rule were necessarily wrong. I hope we may be able to convert him from this most erroneous view. This home Rule Bill is detestably and deplorably wrong. But there may be other forms of Home Rule which may be as right as this Bill is wrong. The noble Lord's experience in Australia, I dare say, has caused him to believe, as my experience in Canada has led me to believe, that the application of the Federal principle to the United Kingdom is a perfectly fair and just policy. What does it do? First of all, there is absolute finality about it. Secondly, you establish a central Government with absolute power over every part of the United Kingdom; and while you delegate to your subordinate Legislatures powers to manage their own local affairs, you keep, certainly according to the precedents in Canada, power in the Federal Parliament. I am sure the noble 959 Lord will be a supporter of me in this, that the Federal solution involves the necessity of a Second Chamber. Now, I have been waiting for a long time to see the Party opposite supplement the promise in regard to the Second Chamber which is contained in the Preamble of the Parliament Act. There has not been a sign of it, and I do not know when we may expect to see it; but if we have the Federal solution it involves the establishment of a Second Chamber which shall be a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature. For that reason alone I commend it to my noble friend.
What is the position to-day in this country? You have absolutely no check, no safeguard, upon the excesses of a lopsided and unbalanced House of Commons. There is no other country of which that can be said. The Federal solution gives you a safeguard in the establishment of a Second Chamber, and probably an additional safeguard in the establishment of a Supreme Court. Then it removes congestion; and some people hope that it may settle the woman question by leaving them to deal with their own affairs, but not giving them the franchise for the Imperial Parliament which has to settle all questions of defence. Then I would also point out that if you were to settle the Irish question you would strengthen your land party in Parliament. What is the weakness in England to-day? It is that you have got an urban party with a power far in excess of the rural party. Settle the Irish question, and you will find that the greatest supporters of a rural party in England will be the Catholics, the Celtic representatives, that come from the South and West of Ireland.
I am encouraged to hope from the noble Marquess's speech that we may be on the eve of new developments. I feel so certain that this Bill never can become law, or, if it becomes law, will never become operative, that I find it difficult to convince myself that the Government are really determined to push themselves further and more deeply into an impossible position. What are you going to do? The noble Earl wanted to know what the Unionist Party were going to do after the next election. We want to know what His Majesty's Government are going to do before the next election. Are they going 960 to withdraw this Bill? Let them recognise they have made a very bad investment; let them face their loss and tear up their Bill, and make a new approach on lines that would conduce more to the freedom and benefit of Ireland. I sincerely hope they may be able to do something of the sort. There have been suggestions of a conference and compromise. Why do not His Majesty's Government appoint a Commission forthwith to look into the matter in order to know what the facts are in the event, at some future date, of applying the Federal solution, which is the best solution of our constitutional trouble? Let them withdraw this Bill, and give hope to Ireland that there is a measure pending which will enable us to obtain, by the general consent of all Parties, a settlement which will lead to the prosperity and welfare of that country.
§ The further debate adjourned till Tomorrow.