§ LORD GLENCONNER
My Lords, I rise to move that a tumble Address be presented to His Majesty for His Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne. The brief sentence with which His Majesty opens his gracious Speech is a satisfactory prelude to the beginning of another year. Peace must ever be the greatest element in the prosperity of a country. Your Lordships will welcome the information that it is the intention of the King to go to Paris at an early date to return the visit paid by the President of the French Republic to London last year. You will, I am sure, share the feeling expressed in the Speech from the Throne with regard to the cordial relations between France and this country. The good understanding between the two countries began when the noble Marquess opposite (Lord Lansdowne) was at the Foreign Office. The cordial relations that he initiated have continued to the mutual advantage of the two countries, and the diplomatic co-operation between them, especially in the last year or two, has contributed and helped to promote the spirit of conciliation in the Concert of the Powers.
For many years it had been a belief in diplomatic circles, and perhaps generally, that any resettlement or liquidation of the Turkish dominions in Europe would give rise to great and probably irreconcilable differences of view between the Great Powers. When people are actually confronted with difficulties which have been thought insuperable, they either surmount them by rising to the occasion with an effort and a capacity of which they had not previously been deemed capable, or they may find some way which had not been foreseen of evading or circumventing the difficulties. In the recent crisis the Powers found peace in the second and less glorious of these two alternatives, and they have pursued it with a moderation and patience and a desire to keep the peace which have been not without merit and which have been successful. They did not themselves attempt a settlement of the Turkish dominions; they left it to be arranged by others—that is to say, by the Balkan States and Turkey. The Great Powers 6 reserved to themselves only the questions of Albania and the Ægean Islands. We ourselves have comparatively remote interests in the settlement of Albania, and our part has been confined to promoting agreement between the Powers on the various points that have arisen. As regards the Ægean Islands, we have no ambitions of our own. Some of the Islands have considerable strategic value, and our desire is that, whatever change in the ownership of the Islands takes place, it should not be such as to disturb the strategic position in the Mediterranean, which has so much interest for us as being the great trade route to the East.
The reference in the Speech to a Bill to insure greater safety of life at sea gives hope that new methods may be devised to achieve this important object. I turn for a moment to India, whose prosperity so largely depends on a generous distribution of rain in the autumn. While most parts have received the due amount, the United Provinces are suffering from drought, and the necessary assistance is being provided in affected districts. Proposals for the reconstitution of your Lordships' House fulfil the promise made some time ago by the Government. Both Parties are equally committed to reform, and the principle is no longer a contentious matter. The country will be prepared for an increase in our naval expenditure. I rejoice to know that no effort will be spared to maintain our Navy in a condition of unquestioned supremacy.
And now, my Lords, I approach the longest and most important paragraph in His Majesty's Speech, which relates to the government of Ireland. The letter of the noble Earl who lately adorned the Woolsack (Earl Loreburn) gave hopes that the gravity of the position might he relieved by the time of the opening of a new session. His Majesty's Government have made great efforts to come to an agreement, and the weighty words of the King express an earnest wish for a lasting settlement. This, end, however, has not been so far attained, and a man must be either a fool or blind who does not see the clouds that are gathering. Both sides desire the better government of Ireland. The responsibility which to-day rests with His Majesty's Government may be in other hands to-morrow. It is, therefore, the interest of both great Parties to find 7 a way out of the difficulty. Government by coercion is a hateful necessity and an expedient of doubtful success. To avoid the coercion of Ulster and to fall upon the necessity of using coercion for the rest of Ireland would not solve the question of Irish government. I trust that conciliatory counsels will prevail and a solution be found that will relieve the apprehensions of one Party without disappointing the hopes of another. The chasm that lies between the two Parties should not be unbridgeable, and I believe that the work of this session will be disappointing to the electors if a settlement is not reached. Is a great and generous race to be split up into hostile camps upon this question? My Lords, I do not despair. I began my speech upon the note of peace abroad. May I conclude it with the expectation of peace at home? I thank your Lordships for the kind consideration and patience with which you have heard me. I beg to move.
§ THE EARL OF CARRICK
My Lords, in rising humbly to second the Address to His Majesty for his gracious Speech from the Throne, I feel sure your Lordships will extend to me that consideration which is proverbial on these occasions, especially as I have had to take the place of my noble friend Lord Stanmore, whose absence we all regret, on account of indisposition. Since his mantle has fallen on my shoulders, I regret it the more as his ability to carry out this honourable duty did not come with it.
In relation to foreign affairs, I should like to associate myself with all that has been said by my noble friend the mover of the Address, and I feel confident that your Lordships will agree that this country has been steered through a course where there are many rocks by the able administration of our Foreign Office. That serious conflicts should have occurred in Europe without the intervention of the Great Powers is, in itself, strong proof of the conciliatory yet firm administration of our Foreign Office, as well as the friendly co-operation with the Powers. While this country has been fortunate in its successive capable Foreign Ministers, a breakdown might occur at any moment in the course of negotiations with any Power, with all of whom, happily, as the gracious Speech points out, we are on friendly relations. Is it not essential, my Lords, that we should 8 be prepared for such an eventuality as a recourse to arms? And therefore in the Estimates for the year there will be found an increase over previous years which will provide for strengthening our Navy.
It seems deplorable that such large amounts require to be spent by this as well as the other countries of Europe in armaments, but more especially by this country, having to provide, as we do, for a naval superiority. It is, however, a form of insurance for the continuity of the trade and welfare of the Empire. When this naval expenditure and the increase which the Government will ask for is considered in the light of an insurance only, it should be regarded as a necessary premium to pay for the security that it affords towards the safety of these dominions. This increase, however, need not be considered as a progressive one. Indeed, it is to be hoped that before long the way may be cleared for some reduction in the expenditure on armaments. Again, I would like to suggest for your Lordships' consideration that part of this increase is due to commitments already agreed to in the last two or three years. Furthermore, the increases in the Estimates are not all due to the expenditure on naval armaments. There are several Bills to be introduced dealing with social reform which will require financing, and therefore form part of the increases in the Estimates. Three great measures—the Government of Ireland Bill, the Welsh Church Bill, and the Plural Voting Bill— have already been before your Lordships' House, and it is a master of extreme regret that they have not received that careful consideration, deliberation, and revision which constitute one of the primary functions of this House.
Now, my Lords, in regard to the Government of Ireland Bill, it is to me a deplorable matter that on each occasion it has come before this House it has been met with a refusal to allow of its discussion. Whatever may be the merits or otherwise of the Bill, your Lordships could have given the measure further careful deliberation and discussion than it was possible for it to receive in the House of Commons. In this House your Lordships can carefully deliberate, clause by clause, and it is seldom that any great measure has not received considerable and necessary amendment before leaving your Lordships' hands. 9 But in the case of the Government of Ireland Bill its title was practically the only basis of discussion. The Government, on each occasion on which the Bill has been brought to your Lordships' House, would, I have no doubt, have been quite prepared to consider Amendments which your Lordships could have brought forward with a view to strengthening the Bill, either in the form of safeguards for a minority or for improvements in the methods of Government; and would, I feel sure, have been prepared to make concessions with these objects in view, while maintaining at the same time the main principles of the Bill. Had your Lordships accorded the Bill a Second Reading, the various debates in Committee would have then raised points which could have formed a basis for discussion at any suggested conference. I have no doubt that such a conference would immediately have been proposed, and its outcome would probably have resulted in a measure being placed before Parliament more generally acceptable in many respects. I cannot help having a strong personal feeling that had your Lordships taken the Bill into Committee, and even then rejected it, the passions which have been roused in the North of Ireland would not have received the same force, because I am confident that debates in Committee would have paved the way for conciliation and concession without departing from the principles of the Bill. Its rejection without a Second Reading has, unfortunately, raised hopes in the minds of some Irishmen in the North that the Government may not proceed further with the Bill. But there would appear to be no other course open but to place it before Parliament once again, and, in the first instance, in its present form. It is, however, not yet too late to amend the Bill, and when the measure comes forward again may I ask your Lordships to gravely consider the steps you may propose to take, and the responsibilities which will be upon this House if the measure is rejected without full and careful deliberation, especially of any suggestion which may be sent up from the House of Commons. While in accord with the principles of the measure, there are details in it which require that considered deliberation which this House is so well qualified to give it.
I now turn to another topic of primary interest, and that is the revision of the 10 Second Chamber, in relation to winch your Lordships will be asked to consider a measure which is in fulfilment of a pledge of the Government, and that measure deals with the reconstruction of the Upper House. I think it is a matter of agreement on all sides that the Second Legislative Chamber of Parliament requires careful and deliberate reconstruction for the better safeguard of the Constitution of this country as well as a closer knitting together of the King's Dominions beyond the seas with the Mother Country. Personally it is my sincere hope that in any such reconstruction there may be found to be included among the Assembly representatives of the whole Empire.
A Bill dealing with naturalisation—one of the highest importance to the Empire— has been foreshadowed in His Majesty's Speech. This measure will be the first Imperial measure dealing with the whole of the self-governing Dominions beyond the seas, and in principle has already received the cordial support of their respective Governments. At present a citizen of one of these British Dominions is not necessarily a British subject, and he is frequently at a great disadvantage in consequence. For example, he has no claim upon the services of the British Consuls, nor the protection of the Mother Country. By this proposed measure any citizen in any of the Dominions will be eligible for naturalisation as a British subject after fulfilling the required qualifications as to residence and so forth, in exactly similar manner as if he had fulfilled those qualifications here at home. This power of naturalisation will not, however, take away from each of the Dominion Governments their own respective powers of granting citizenship within their own Dominions, and under their own terms of qualification. This measure is the outcome of the Imperial Conference of 1911, with the concurrence of the respective Governments, and is a beginning, I hope, of many more measures of a similar nature for the strengthening of the Empire.
My Lords, Parliament is to be asked to provide Government loans for the East African Protectorates, and I feel sure your Lordships will be pleased to hear that the commercial production of these Protectorates has now reached a stage where the facilities for transport are considerably overburdened. Roads, railways, harbours, 11 and other means of communication are urgently needed to cope with the increasing output of the commodities produced in these countries. Especially so is this the case in Uganda, where the cotton-growing has now reached a stage which makes Uganda cotton a feature in the market. These loans will not, however, be a burden upon the taxpayers.
In order to relieve congestion and avoid delay in the King's Bench Division provisions to carry into effect the recommendations of the Royal Commission are being made by keeping up the number of Judges to eighteen. The administration of justice in this country has always been held in the very highest esteem, and long delays and serious inconveniences to litigants require to be remedied by the measures proposed.
A Bill dealing with the housing of the industrial and agricultural community is of extreme importance to the welfare, not only of the industrial and agricultural classes, but also to the industry of this country. It is well known that agriculture is the staple industry of any country, and on its success depends largely the success of the other industries. Now, the housing of the agricultural classes plays a very important part in the success of agriculture. Where labourers are properly housed, there they make their home, and take an interest in the particular farm on which they are employed; they settle down, and are not merely migratory labourers, who become more expensive to the farmer in the end than the regular employee whom he knows and trusts. This housing question, then, is a large factor towards the success of agriculture. So, correspondingly, is it necessary to provide proper housing for the industrial classes, for, if the agricultural community succeed, each member of a farmer's family has more to spend on increased labour implements, articles of clothing, small luxuries, and so on, which means extra work for industrial classes. Consequently, again, it is equally necessary for the Latter class to be properly housed in a place which they can look upon as home, near their permanent work. Permanent skilled labour is a strength to industry, and therefore the housing schemes should go far to assist our industries to greater strength and production.
12 Dealing with young offenders between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, a Bill is foreshadowed to still further prevent these young offenders from becoming hardened criminals. The means suggested in the measure will provide for longer periods of probation; for magistrates being given powers to allow extended time for the payment of fines; and, further, for an extension of the Borstal system for those who have been already convicted on two or three occasions. My Lords, it is my great pleasure and honourable duty to humbly second the Address to His Majesty.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Lord Glenconner.)
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
rose to move the official Opposition Amendment as follows—But humbly represent that it would be disastrous to proceed further with the Government of Ireland Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the people.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it will be, I am sure, a matter of regret to the House that the Leader of the Opposition is not able in the course of business on this occasion to rise and fulfil the usual agreeable duty of expressing the sentiments of your Lordships' House to those who have moved and seconded the Address. Although I cannot speak with his authority, I should be ill representing the feelings of the House if I did not congratulate the mover on the becoming and persuasive manner in which he addressed himself to the task. At the same time I condole with your Lordships on the fact that, even though I may not fall short of him in the dignity with which he has addressed himself to the particular point which is uppermost in all our minds, I fear I shall fall short of him in the brevity with which he addressed your Lordships' House. With regard to the seconder, his appearance and the sentiments which he delivered on the chief question of the day gave him, I am sure, especial interest in this House. When 13 I see the serried ranks of Irish Peers sitting behind me and think of him, I believe the only Irish Peer on that side of the House—like Horatius confronting the vanguard of his foes—I can only hope that in some future debate he will be encouraged by his reception on this occasion, and not leave unanswered the large number of attacks, which at present go unanswered, from this side of your Lordships' House.
§ The change in the course of business is one which I believe is an innovation on the procedure of a great number of years, and it marks, as the speeches which have just been made have not marked, the gravity and the exceptional nature of the position in which we find ourselves. It is not merely exceptional; it is unprecedented. It is for that reason, and because we desire, at the earliest moment, and with all the authority which can possibly be given to a Motion of this character, to challenge the whole procedure of the Government, that we invite your Lordships, for the first time, I believe, for thirty-seven years, to ask His Majesty to reject what, so far, is known to be the advice of his constitutional advisers, and to express our opinion that it would be disastrous to proceed further with the Government of Ireland Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the people. I dare say I shall be told from the Government Bench that this proposition has been already put forward and already disposed of by the Government. I will venture so far as to state what I believe to be the view of the Prime Minister on this subject. He has told us that when the Veto Bill was introduced it was clearly realised that it was a machine intended for use, and that the first use which everybody would have assigned to it was the passing of the Government of Ireland Bill. He called in witness my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, and other leading members of this Party, as having expressed at the General Election in 1910 the certainty that the Bill would be so used, and he held that the electorate were fully warned. He added that we were the unconstitutional Party in advocating a further reference to the people in entire divergence from the principle of representative institutions.
§ Now I might challenge all those statements, but I propose, though I do not accept them, to accept them for the purpose of our argument to-night, and to show, if I can, that even on the statements 14 of the Prime Minister and of the Government they have no course by right, by precedent, or in honour but to refer this Bill to the people before it is passed into law. Now take the two points which appear in the gracious Speech from the Throne. What was the contention of the Government at the time of the Veto Bill as to the future conduct of business in Parliament? This House was to have its powers reduced; this House, ineffective, as they stated, for the purpose of due revision, was to be so reconstituted as to be made equal to the task. My Lords, for three sessions they have gone through almost every other item of legislation which was on their programme. They have flown electoral kites; they have dealt with education, with doles, with works, with roads, with almost everything else; but this one obligation which the Prime Minister himself described as an obligation of honour has been left to the fourth session. It is now, in pursuance of the pledge to the electors, brought forward—at what moment?—when, the door having been locked all this time, the steed has been stolen. The measure which this reconstitution of the House of Lords was intended to influence is brought forward at a time when this House can no longer influence the chief measure in the Government programme. That is a breach of faith with the constituencies. I challenge it as a direct evasion of the pledge on which the Veto Bill was obtained from the constituencies at the election of 1910.
§ There is another point. The grave words, on which I would ask your Lordships to allow me to comment in a few moments, indicate a change of policy on the part of the Government. How often in this House, how often in the debates of 1910, did the Government promise the country that once the malign influence of the veto of the House of Lords was taken away the Government would pass their Bills through the House of Commons with a reasonable feeling for amendment, with a determination for accommodation with their opponents and with special regard to the views which would arise in the country during the two or three years of the passage of the Bills? We believed, of course, that they intended it. We had in mind the grave warning addressed to them and the country by both the Prime Ministers on the Liberal side who had previously been concerned with Home 15 Rule Bills. Mr. Gladstone in 1885 and Lord Rosebery in 1894 both warned the country that a Liberal Government would be unwise to attempt the settlement of this Nationalist demand in any case where they were dependent on the Nationalist vote. Lord Rosebery took his own prescription. And in passing I might, I am sure, express the regret of your Lordships at the reasons which cause the noble Earl's absence to-day. Mr. Gladstone, unfortunately, did not. The present Government took it in full, for as long as they were independent of the Irish vote, from 1906 to 1910, they never introduced this question at all. This Bill is not the result of a Liberal victory at the polls, but the result of failure and the loss of Liberal seats at the polls, which no longer left them free agents and forced them, as they have done, to enter upon the Parliamentary discussion bound hand and foot by pledges which they could not possibly escape. Did it ever occur to any elector in 1910, after the promise they had given, that for fifty-five days this measure would be discussed in Parliament and would be driven through the House of Commons without, I might almost say, the smallest change in deference to the views of more than half the representatives of Great Britain?
§ Now that is all changed. The Speech from the Throne indicates in the clearest manner a complete change of policy from this cast-iron system under which we have laboured since the Home Rule Bill was introduced. His Majesty's Government have made a deathbed repentance. I do not twit them with that. The matter is far too serious. But I think we have a right this evening to obtain from them in the clearest manner what is the meaning of the words which they have advised His Majesty to put into the gracious Speech. Nothing I can say will add to their difficulties. Approaching this matter from the outside, I think that every member sitting on this side will feel that the House is going to deal with a position in which it has been made perfectly clear that if the rights which the minority ask for are going to be conceded it cannot be done with out impairing the efficiency of the working of the Bill, which all the supporters of the Bill have declared to be bound up with taking the Bill almost as it stands. I cannot help saying that nothing has yet fallen from any Minister 16 which mitigates in the slightest degree the hostility which we feel on this side, root and branch, to the whole principle of the Bill. There is nothing in the Bill at present that serves any fresh Imperial purpose. The Bill fits into no federal scheme. It surrenders important principles without securing any prosperity which has not been secured by the British connection under the present administration. Beyond that, it has produced already a crop of troubles which bid fair to remove the salutary effects of many years of concession and philanthropic legislation.
My Lords, what do the Government intend by the words which they have put into the King's Speech? The Speech says—
efforts which have been made to arrive at a solution of the problem by agreement. …
We should like to know the nature of those efforts. If there have been negotiations we should like to know what suggestions or proposals have been made. Your Lordships have a right to know. No Government can put this into the King's Speech without telling to every one of your Lordships and to the public as much as should be known to any man sitting on this Bench. I would ask Ministers to be a little more precise than they have been on previous occasions. Is it not time to cease playing with fire in this matter? All this boxing of the compass and telling us negatives—that within the scope of the Bill there is nothing which the Government will not concede in order to secure the wishes of the minority—is useless. We want an affirmative. You know what Ulster asks. What are you prepared to give? You know what the minority in the rest of Ireland fears it will suffer under this Bill. How are you going to protect them? My Lords, we view the present situation of tension in the North of Ireland as one of the extremest gravity. The Government appear to think that so long as they do not mobilise the Aldershot Division or put the Brigade of Guards under orders they have the situation well in hand. I venture to address to them the emphatic warning that they have aroused passions there which may not subside and may not be kept in check as easily as they suppose; and they have there a magazine into which they may throw a spark at any moment which may become beyond control. I do appeal to them not to palter with the question
to-night, but give us a chance of seeing whether there is any common ground on which we can meet. The difficulty is yours, not ours. Our only interest in it is to try and avert an overwhelming danger. There is one thing I would say, and in this I believe I shall have the support of every man in this House. If any change is to be made the interest of this House is that it should be in the direction, to use the words of the gracious Speech, of "a lasting settlement"—not merely the salving of a Parliamentary difficulty and the leaving of a lasting sore.
§ I am afraid I must say that at the outset we are suspicious of these proposals for compromise—suspicious of them because they do not come as the result of the yielding of the Government to reason and argument. They come merely as a means of escape from a serious danger and the feeling which must be uppermost in their mind that a very little might cause a state of facts to arise in Ireland equal to the troubles which have arisen in some of the Eastern parts of Europe which have been for months the subject of their protest and reprobation. I ask them to carry back their minds to where we stood in 1910, and, although I do not wish to trouble the House with any details of the Bill which I can avoid, I want to point out in three or four particulars how completely the promises which the Government made to the country have been nullified by subsequent events. Take two questions—representation and finance. On both of those the electorate have some right to be heard. The electorate had only one guidance as to what this Bill might be, and that was by seeing what had been proposed in the two previous Bills. In the first of these Bills the Irish representation had been eliminated from the House of Commons; in the second it had been at first "in and out," but subsequently it was proposed to have eighty Members from Ireland in the House of Commons for all purposes, and it proved the death-knell of the Bill. His Majesty's present Government propose now to reduce the representation of Ireland from 103 to 42, a representation which is either too small or too great—too small if you consider the weight which Ireland may legitimately have in Imperial affairs; too large if you consider that her own local affairs will be entirely apart from ours while she will be voting on every gas and water or other much more important Bill 18 connected with this Kingdom. The electors do not need to be told that a majority of 42 sufficed to keep Lord Beaconsfield in power for six years, and that the Bill of 1893 was carried through for several months by a smaller majority. By what right do you pledge the electorate to the view that their affairs can be properly controlled when the dice can be loaded by this continual influx of 42 Members from Ireland who have no local interest here whatever, when their only expression of opinion was that they rejected that proposal when it was before them and it was not renewed for nearly twenty years?
§ Take then the question of finance. I will not labour any of the details. Generally speaking there was but one idea in the country, and that was that the finance of the Bill would give autonomy to Ireland and that Ireland would pay her bills. By this measure she does neither. By the Bill of 1885 Ireland was to pay £1,800,000 towards Imperial revenues. By the Bill of 1894 she was to pay £2,250,000. Her prosperity has greatly increased since; but by this Bill we are to pay her £2,500,000, and not then to be wholly quit of our bargain. Can you tell me any Minister who, in any speech on the subject of all others on which the people of this country have a right to be consulted, ever indicated that this extraordinarily one-sided arrangement was going to be substituted for the proposals in the previous Bills for which several noble Lords opposite were responsible?
And then what of your promises with regard to the minority? I should like to say a word or two for the minority in Ireland outside Ulster. I am not impeaching—I have not the smallest doubt of— the absolute good faith with which the Government addressed themselves to the task of safeguarding the minority inside or outside Ulster. But is it the fault of the electors that they could not forecast the safeguards which would be in a Bill which they had never seen? In previous Bills Mr. Gladstone tried experiments such as having a nominated Second Chamber with a number of members elected from the Irish Peerage, a £20 franchise, control of the Judiciary, and there were other attempts to protect the minority. All those safeguards have been swept away, and the minority stand face to face with men in whom they have no confidence, and whose capacity for government may well be challenged. They have nothing to
protect them except the promises of Mr. Redmond. Mr. Redmond in 1897 promised just and generous treatment to Unionists under the Local Government Bill of that year. I remember a remarkable speech made by Mr. Forster at a period of the greatest tension in Irish matters, when the question of releasing Mr. Parnell had been raised. Mr. Forster said—
I agree with none of his opinions; I have been bitterly opposed to him; but I would have taken his word.
I think, my Lords, we might have taken Mr. Redmond's word. But could he have given effect to it? What has been the result of previous promises? In regard to local government, the result has been, after fifteen years, that in the Province of Leinster 12 Unionists are returned out of 233 members to the county councils; in the Province of Munster 2 Unionists out of 227 members; in the Province of Connaught 1 Unionist out of 142; and there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Unionist electors in the City of Cork who have on all the boards, something like 150 altogether, only 2 representatives. Yet in that very county, a county with which I am connected, it has been ascertained, I believe without doubt, that these Unionists who have no representation at all, and to whom you propose to give no representation in the Parliament which you are going to set up, are paying at this moment half the rates and taxes of the whole county. And this is done in the name of Democracy!
§ And then what is the nature of the Nationalist Government under which you are going to put them? Two months ago Mr. Bonar Law made a speech in Dublin, and two or three days later the Chancellor of the Exchequer took him to task. He said that Mr. Bonar Law had spoken without any sympathy for the housing of the people when he was within a few hundred yards of the worst housing in Europe. Yes, the City of Dublin, controlled by a Nationalist Corporation for the last fifteen years, has 70,000 persons living to the number of three, four, five, and six in a single room. The rates are 10s. 10d. in the £, and thirteen members of the Nationalist Corporation are said to be owners of from one ho thirteen of those very tenements. The rates of the City of Limerick are 11s. 4d. and those of the City of Cork 11s. 9d. in the £. One turns with a sigh of relief to the City of Belfast, where 1,000—not 70,000—persons live in 20 single rooms, and where the rates are 7s. 1d. in the £. Well might it be said, as was said by some one, that the Nationalists have never had a chance to govern Belfast. If there had been a Nationalist Corporation there for the last fifty years there would have been no Belfast to govern. I cannot help thinking with a certain amount of pathos of the fact that you should have to go back to the constituencies, when you do go, and tell them that all your good intentions and all your promises with regard to the minority outside Ulster have only amounted to this—that when the time comes Mr. Dillon and his friends can carry out what they have threatened recently, that "when we come to power those who set themselves against the will of the people will be remembered." They will be remembered!
§ I am trying not to use any language of exaggeration. I do not suppose that they are going to be hunted out as the Dutch under Alva or the Huguenots were by the Edict of Nantes: but I do suggest that under a Nationalist Government all the small pressure which can be exerted, and which has been exerted wherever they have had the power, will be exerted to drive the Unionists out of the country— the sort of pressure which results in every case in the preference, whatever his qualifications, of a doctor holding popular opinions for every appointment to a doctor with greater qualifications but of different opinions; in the promotion in every case of a Nationalist clerk to any position to which a Unionist clerk might well have aspired—all the various chicane by which men of small outlook can goad men who are accustomed to the freedom and to the fairness of English life to go out of the country. Will that be a result on which you will pride yourselves? Three hundred thousand people—as big a population as that of Cornwall, or Monmouthshire, or Aberdeenshire—are to have no refuge except the removal of themselves and the change of their business and their habits. Remember, my Lords, the minority of Ireland, even outside Ulster, have no reason to be ashamed of their record in the service of the British Crown. If you go to the Senate, or to service abroad, or to service in the Army, you will find that the Unionists outside Ulster, for their numbers, can give a record which will vie with that of any similar body of men throughout the United Kingdom.21
§ We come, then, to the great transcendent question of all—the question of Ulster. We need not fear, I think, very much as to the coercion of Ulster. His Majesty's Government seem to realise that they cannot proceed without Ulster, and if they cannot settle the question with Ulster they will have to go back. But my point to-night is, Did they realise that three years ago? Could they tell the constituencies that which they did not believe themselves? My Lords, they have scoffed throughout at the intentions of Ulster and the crisis which might come in Ulster. The general attitude of the Government has been exactly the reverse of that of the witty priest who described the final defeat of James II as having been a quarrel between a Scotsman and a Dutchman in which Irishmen were not concerned. They have had the view that the difference between Ulster and the Nationalists of the South of Ireland was a difference between two classes of Irishmen who might break a few heads, but a quarrel in which England was not much concerned. My Lords, they do not hold that view now. I do think a grave responsibility rests upon them that they have not been willing to listen to the warnings from this side. I have not been many years in this House, but I have never heard a debate on this subject in which Members behind me here have not in the gravest and most vehement way warned the Government of the danger into which they were running. No one more so than my noble friend Lord Londonderry, and even in this decorous atmosphere I can recall many speeches of his which have been greeted with contemptuous smiles from noble Lords opposite. I can even remember at this moment members of this Government whom I have seen individually regarding as a matter of regret or amusement that one so well versed in the conditions of the North of Ireland as my noble friend should suffer from such vain hallucinations.
We know what the result was of the attempt in the seventeenth century to govern Protestants by Catholics in the North of Ireland. We know the appalling failure in the eighteenth century of attempting to govern Catholics by Protestants throughout Ireland. It seems almost impossible to believe that at the very moment when the Foreign Secretary was exhausting all his ingenuity and pledging the whole
strength of this country to avoid this sort of thing—the placing of men of great determination of one faith under men of equal determination of another faith in a third-rate town in the Balkans—that this Government were gaily attempting to carry this out, against all our protests, in the first city in Ireland. I do not know whether I may take it that His Majesty's Government are now convinced that this is not only a serious, but the most serious, question which arises under their Bill. But if they are, I will spare your Lordships any quotations even from members of the Government up to recent moments, regrettable as I think them. It is, after all, only two years and a half since the Chief Secretary himself said of the Ulster trouble—
I apologise for using the Word 'religion.' These men have no more religion in these matters than billiard balls which meet in collision with one another on the billiard table.
It is only six months ago that he said that all this talk about civil war is "essentially dishonest." Last month Mr. T. W. Russell, who, I admit, has made a good many speeches from every standpoint on this subject, talked about "cheap treason" and proposed to apply the Crimes Act to Ulster. It is only a few days since another not very well-known member of the Government said that the whole thing was "bluff," and on behalf of His Majesty's Government he assured a large meeting that they were not going to be bluffed. I will even pass over this, as I think, deplorable speech, to the speech which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made on December 30 last, in which he talked of the whole Ulster profession as "a nauseous hypocrisy," and declared that the only thing which was exercising the Ulster leaders was that patronage in Ireland was passing "from the hands of the swells to the hands of the people." I pass that over, because I cannot but believe that in council the Chancellor of the Exchequer must display more of statesmanship than he does in his diatribes on platforms, delivered at a moment when from the gracious Speech we are led to believe that negotiations were going forward by his chief with the very men whom he was holding up to ridicule and reprobation. There is one witness I hope I may call as to the change of opinion by the Government regarding the gravity of the Ulster question, and that is the noble Earl the late Lord Chancellor.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I beg the noble and learned Earl's pardon if I said the Government. He was a member of the Government. But the point I want to make is this, and it is a most grave one. The noble and learned Earl was responsible for the introduction of the Bill of his colleagues. The noble and learned Earl evidently then held the opinion, because the frankness of his disposition is universally recognised by the House, that the Bill did within limits all that was necessary for the protection of the minority in Ireland. Can any member of the House suppose, when looking back at the remarkable letter written by the noble and learned Earl four months ago, that in the interval he had not found—there is no doubt that he did find —that the whole question had assumed a gravity which altered the perspective from that which he imagined it to be at the time he assented to the introduction of the Bill? And what is the corollary of that? It bears directly on the Motion which I venture to submit to your Lordships. How could what was not known to the Lord Chancellor, the head of the English law, with the whole of the official information at his back, be known to the constituencies in the country, who had no idea in 1910 of the gravity and magnitude of the Ulster question, who are now seized with it, and who surely should be consulted before you take definite steps upon it?
I said at the outset that I was not very much afraid of attempted coercion by the Government. The Government have had some opportunities lately of showing their views with regard to strong measures of force where there has been riot or disorder. In South Africa two years ago the soldiers were called out and an impending riot of great magnitude was quelled. That was when the late Home Secretary, now Governor-General, was responsible. I do not think that any official ever wrote so many letters of explanation and apology for having maintained the law under the advice of his own advisers as did the present Governor-General of South Africa. The same has occurred only a few days ago. I give no opinion on the deportations, but the moment the news came over here the head Government Whip rushed to a meeting and declared that the Governor- 24 General had nothing to do with this, that it was entirely the work of his advisers, and that the Government must not be charged with any vigorous action taken. And what occurred in Ireland itself last December? A strike of great magnitude had been going on. The leader of the strike, who by the member of the Government who took charge of the prosecution, the Attorney-General, was described as a "wicked and dangerous criminal," was brought to trial. He was convicted by the jury, and sentenced by the Judge. There was, let us say, a whimper of dissatisfaction, and the Chief Secretary rushed to say that he would "see justice done"—justice done in a matter in which the Government had themselves initiated the prosecution, and as to which there was no doubt as to the integrity of the Judge; and this man was immediately released. I am not challenging; the result, but I must say that it does not strike me that a Government which will not face a strike or trouble of that kind is cast in such heroic mould that it is likely to make war on the 100,000 men who represent the Ulster volunteers.
But, my Lords, the safety of Ulster does not depend, I venture to say, on the temper or the forbearance of any Government. If I may use well-known words I would say with all truth and gravity, "Ulster has saved herself by her courage, and I believe she will save Ireland by her example." We have only to consider what will be the result if you leave these men face to face in any form with a Nationalist Government. It was regrettable the other day—on November 17 last—that Mr. Dillon, who will, of course, hold high office in the Irish Government if your Bill should ever be brought into force, said—The spirit shown by Ulster was an intolerable one and it had to be put down and eradicated.That is the Nationalist temper, and that is the spirit in which the advisers of George III provoked the American Colonies. You will have to sit by with these things going on at your door because all these safeguards are so much waste paper. Whoever heard of the Dominion Parliament in Canada vetoing one of the local Parliaments in regard to a measure of local importance? Who has heard here of the Imperial Parliament vetoing the Dominion Parliament? Who supposes, whatever be the view of His Majesty's Government about the deportations, that they are going 25 to veto the view of the majority in South Africa? Therefore I urge the Government, as I did at the outset, not to let this fire grow until it becomes beyond management.
Before I sit down I should like to say one word with regard to the head of the Irish Party with whom you propose to make this bargain. Mr. Redmond bulks in all your addresses and has figured in your promises to the country as a sort of residuary legatee of Mr. Parnell, but it is difficult at present to see how far the bargain you have made with Mr. Redmond can be kept. He is in no power in Belfast. For four months consecutively of tension and strife in Dublin he left Dublin entirely in the hands of Mr. Larkin. He has never shown that he is able to lead any number of men in Dublin in this great industrial crisis. At this very moment he has been flouted in the City of Cork by a man— Mr. O'Brien—who on every platform is denouncing the Bill and the settlement you have made with Mr. Redmond. And beyond those three, there is this further fact, which any student of the Irish Press must see very clearly. There has arisen in Ireland a more extreme party, the American portion of the Ancient Order of Hibernians—the Sinn Fein party—who will not accept this as a settlement, who have asked for that separation which they have been promised in every speech made for consumption on American platforms, and who are waiting to see the policy for which they have paid so heavily and for which they have waited so long.
What is the support which Mr. Redmond has behind him? The two greatest supports of Mr. Parnell were the land tenants and the Catholic Church. Take, again, the Irish newspapers. You will find hardly an issue of any prominent journal dealing with the subscriptions and support of the Parliamentary Party which does not regret what it calls the "selfishness" of the land tenants, who, having purchased, are now no longer keen about political movement and excitement. I speak with all reserve of the position of the Roman Catholic Church. They were the head and front of the movement for Home Rule so long as they believed that poverty and oppression and ecclesiastical subordination were the result of the English connection. I do not suggest that they have so changed their view that at this moment they would give a different vote from that which they have given before, but I say that 26 those who were earnest and active Home Rulers in the interest of their flocks realise that they are surrounded by a contented and prosperous tenantry. They now see that plenty has come from England, and that if there is to be poverty it will be when Ireland is left to her own resources. And now that they realise that there is an earnest desire in the Unionist Party for denominational education, and that it is those who are opposed to us who will secularise education and thereby take from the Catholic Church in the end that which is the greatest source of her influence, I think that where they have been mandatory they are now doubting. At all events you will not find in the record of the past three years that they have led the struggle, even though they may have gone on peacefully still assenting to it. I say that the disposition of Mr. Redmond's troops is in every respect different from that of Mr. Parnell's. I say that what you told the country in 1910 is now a stale story which is worn out. It is said that old men and old nations live in the past. I think the same should be said of old Governments. I invite His Majesty's Government to live in the present. I invite them to take the circumstances of 1914, and to allow the electors the chance of pronouncing upon them.
The conclusion which I think you must draw from this review which you have allowed me to give of the changed conditions since this Bill was introduced is that the Government have genuinely tried to carry out their pledge to the people by introducing legislative autonomy in Ireland; that they have failed to constitute Parliament as they promised it should be constituted for the revision of their Bills; that owing to the bargain they have made they have hitherto been unable, however desirous, to meet the legitimate objections which in the Parliamentary course of any measure must naturally arise; that in regard to representation they have wittingly or unwittingly adopted the one principle against which the electors have on two occasions decided; that with regard to finance they have made an arrangement the reverse of that which obtained in both the previous Bills; that having introduced a measure which was intended to safe-guard the minority, they have had to throw overboard the minority outside Ulster; and that having introduced this 27 measure in the interests of peace, they have driven to arms nearly a quarter of the population of Ireland. With all that I have no doubt they will say, What advantage do you propose to give us if we grant you a General Election? Will you then assent to the Bill? The Government know that they have the pledge of the leaders of this Party that the undertakings into which we have entered with the people of Ulster cease should the General Election result in the firm expression of the opinion of the country in favour of the Bill. Secondly, they have the fact that they will be able to go in future, not merely on surmise, but on some certainty of what the opinion of the country is. Thirdly, even if they cannot justify in their own hearts, which I believe they cannot, the contention that they are not bound to seek for a fresh mandate, I think they will show that they have taken to heart the remark made by Lord Salisbury in one of these debates, that "Kings and Parliaments should observe the fundamental understanding of the compact under which they rule."
Our course is absolutely clear. It may be that the composition of this House is imperfect for the revision of such a measure. It is certainly the fact that our powers are inadequate to do what we should have done three years ago—refer this Bill to the people. It may be that His Majesty's Government will meet us, as I regret to say they have met almost every remonstrance and strong expression of opinion from this side of the House since the change in the powers of the House, in a very different spirit from that which they did before. But, my Lords, I submit that we have a duty to perform not merely by the Sovereign to whom we owe allegiance and by those who have gone before us who have never feared to put on record their views on such a point, but we have a duty also to perform by the constituencies of this country who have on two previous occasions accepted your Lordships' advice and have followed, to their own great advantage and to the success of Ireland, the caution which was inculcated in them by your Lordships' House. I beg to move.
To add at the end of the Address, "But humbly represent that it would be disastrous to proceed further with the Government of Ireland Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the people."—(Viscount Midleton.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY)
My Lords, I can associate myself with the noble Viscount in his cordial appreciation of the manner in which the Address has been moved and seconded. I am sure both sides of the House felt that that duty has not often, if ever, been more satisfactorily and genially carried out. We have no quarrel with the noble Viscount for making an innovation in the procedure of this House in the debates on the Address. It is an innovation, and the noble Viscount told us that he thought this innovation was justified by the remarkable occasion upon which this House now reassembles. I entirely agree that the occasion is remarkable—deep, critical, and momentous. But we inferred from that that the noble Viscount would have dealt with his Amendment in a manner worthy of the situation which, as he thought, justified him in bringing it forward at this moment. Did he take a line of that kind? I think even noble Lords opposite will feel that the substance of the noble Viscount's speech, perfectly lucidly and effectually presented, was not really connected with the particular demand on this occasion. It was moulded on the lines of Party controversy.
When I saw this new procedure was to be taken I hoped it would be taken in the spirit of the last two or three lines of a paragraph in the gracious Speech. I believe that both in this House and in the country the hearts of all who read the Speech will echo this language—It is My most earnest wish that the good will and co-operation of men of all parties and creeds may heal dissension, and lay the foundations of a lasting settlement.I had hoped that the noble Viscount to-night would begin in that spirit, and that the debate would be marked by that spirit. I did not quite understand the point of the noble Viscount's language about my noble friend Lord Loreburn. The noble Viscount commented on a Home Rule Conference, and then he put a question that amazed me extremely. He asked me to tell him what were the proposals, proceedings, and results of the conversations which we all know have been going on between some leaders of the Unionist Party and the Prime Minister. I wonder if any of those who have had conversations with the Prime Minister would have gone to them if they had not been fully assured that the whole proceedings were in the strictest sense secret and non-committal? 29 When the Prime Minister proposed an open and frank interchange of views, instead of shouting from platform to platform, that was exactly what he meant, and what I am sure Mr. Bonar Law meant—namely, that the proceedings were to be secret. Therefore it would be a violation of all secrecy and all the rules of any such conversations if I were to divulge them.
The noble Viscount said he would pass over incidents, discreditable as he thought to some members of the Party here, but his idea of passing a thing over is to reproduce it in capital letters. Then I was pained that he should accuse some of us, myself included, of smiling when speeches were being made by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry. That we should be forbidden by the severe canons of the noble Viscount from listening with anything but rigorous severity to any overstatement of the case, of which I am sorry to say the noble Marquess was not infrequently guilty, and that to smile should be imputed as a matter of discourtesy astonishes me. The noble Viscount said that no member of the Government had realised the vast importance of Ulster. He could not have taken a more unlucky occasion for making that gross misstatement. I was Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1886, and the day after the Home Rule Bill of that year was rejected there broke out violent riots, ending in a considerable loss of life in Belfast. That was my first lesson, and it is one I have always retained. Then again in 1893 my noble friend the Leader of the House (the Marquess of Crewe) and I, in the preparations it was our duty to make against a repetition of the performances of 1886, acquired the best means imaginable of learning what the temper and dangers of Ulster might be. That is one illustration of the loose style in which the noble Viscount conducted this discussion.
About Ulster I am not going to say much, not because I do not feel as deeply as he does about it, but you must be very careful in dealing with Ulster and discussing and making proposals with reference to it, that in meeting one evil, or rather I would say, one exhibition of the sense of wrong —the iniquity, if you like, of our Bill—you do not create a worse grievance elsewhere. The figure is well known of a metal plate with a bulge in it, and you come down with a great hammer and the bulge reappears in another portion of the plate. So here, if you mismanage whatever adjustment may 30 be necessary, you may find that the last state is worse than the first, bad or unsatisfactory as that may be. The noble Viscount talked of our want of "sense of responsibility about Ulster." You may thick as ill of the Government as you like, but you cannot, and do not, believe, even in your most hostile moments, that we who are responsible for the state of Ireland do not feel the full weight and the full burden of the momentous task that we have undertaken. You know that we are not the men to undertake a task of this sort and think it is mere child's play. Some of us who have had to do with Home Rule Bills before, at all events are not likely to fall into any error of that kind.
I would like to ask a question of you. Are you sure that you have no responsibility and that you have always recognised it? I think not. Are you sure that your attitude has not fanned the flames of violence in Ulster? Would it be very wonderful if angry men were to translate language used by many noble Lords opposite and their supporters in the Unionist Party into the language of incitement? I cannot doubt that has been so. It is terrible and most extraordinary that this want of a sense of responsibility on the side of the Unionists in the language they have used about Ulster is connected with a religious quarrel. I could not have believed that a political movement, to which I give no ill name, in itself should have been undertaken in connection with the most hateful of all quarrels in civilised countries—quarrels of faith and creed. When the language of intolerance is heard in Ulster I understand the reason for it there, but what I cannot understand is that people in this country should lend themselves to one side in this dreadful religious feud.
Why do you not realise Nationalist sentiment? For the very same reason that you quarrel with us for not recognising loyalist sentiment, so-called, in Ulster. Why do you not comprehend Ireland as a whole? Why do you consider the Irish question as being the Ulster question? It is far more than that. If you do not agree with our scheme for the better government of Ireland, you might at least take the preliminary step of considering Ireland as a whole. Your Lordships ought to know how the Government stand in regard to the Home Rule Bill. The position is soon stated. The air is full of schemes and proposals floating like motes in a sunbeam. 31 The Government admit there is a responsibility of their own in judging, adopting, rejecting, or inventing proposals, not because they admit that our own Bill is not the best way of dealing with this great difficulty, but for the sake of peace. We desire peace, even by the payment of a price. Just as we ask others to pay a price, so the Government are prepared for the sake of carrying forward the good will and co-operation referred to in the Speech, to pay a price. These responsibilities the Government will carry out by laying suggestions before the House of Commons without unavoidable delay. I am sure the House will recognise this. We have no motive for procrastination or for any delay that can be avoided; and, subject to the inexorable requirements and exigencies of finance, we shall submit those suggestions at the very earliest date those conditions will permit. Meanwhile, no channels will be closed; all avenues are open.
Let me say that when we talk of peace as being the great and paramount object of all that we are doing and proposing, we are not meaning peace merely in the sense of the prevention of sanguinary collision between the forces of order and the forces of disorder—though that is highly important. There is a sense of peace more important still, and that is that there shall be an atmosphere surrounding this Bill when it comes into operation which shall conduce to its smooth and harmonious working, and that an end shall be put to a condition which is fatal to that smooth and harmonious working if the present feud continues.
I wonder whether the House recognises the enormous advance. It is said quite truly in the Speech that the important men who have had conversations did not agree to come to a solution; but there is an immense advance, and I hope the House will see the full meaning of it. There is an immense advance, because when you remember that the conditions, the terms of peace, are the exclusion of Ulster, under any conditions you like— well, exclusion from what? Exclusion from an Irish Parliament. Therefore, by pinning yourselves to the demand for the separate or exclusive treatment of Ulster you are taking for granted, you are admitting, if this new arrangement is proposed by the Government and accepted by Parliament—you are admitting that an Irish Parliament subsists. It seems to me 32 that cannot be denied. What does that mean? What do I mean when I state that? It is the price that your Party are willing to pay for peace. Reading more copiously than I like to speeches in the journals and so forth, I cannot understand what you mean by pressing as you do for the total exclusion of Ulster. You are assuming that there is a Parliament from which Ulster is to be excluded, and that is the price that some of you, at all events, are willing to pay.
Now I will turn to the substance of the Amendment before us—a General Election. What would a General Election do? First of all, what is the reason for it? Why should there be a General Election? The reasons given by the noble Viscount are merely debating points. There is nothing in them at all. Never in this House nor in the House of Commons has it been contended that there ought to be a Dissolution because one Party, representing the Ministerial body, had either made false professions or imperfect professions at the election. That I regard as idle. What reason is there for a Dissolution? This Parliament is just three years old, I think. You see contention in the country. I do not deny that, but I do not know whether any one will say—I am speaking of England and Scotland—that there is great passion sweeping over the constituencies. Those who know most of electioneering are unable to deny that there is no such feeling.
There is no branch of literature in which I take less interest, and which is to me more distasteful, than electoral calculations. I dare say I have used them myself in earlier days. But let us measure the excuse brought forward for dissolving Parliament by the evidence of strong movements and upheavals in the constituencies. Your Lordships will pardon me for these figures; they are not long, but they are very pithy upon this point. And may I put in this point? During the passing of the Parliament Bill through this House I think I myself said you will have an opportunity in the interval between the second reading and the second rejection of taking the feeling of the country, and hearing the whole thing canvassed and discussed. There has been a certain amount of testing. During the recess there were seven by-elections. In five of the seven the representation remained unchanged; in two the Unionist Party gained. For the 33 purposes of this discussion on the Home Rule Bill, though not for general Party calculations, you cannot deny that it is fair to count Labour and Socialist representation along with Liberals. Has there been any evidence from by-elections of a change in the judgment and opinion of the country? Five out of seven remain unchanged. But that is not all. Some 47,000 votes were cast for Home Rule, and 30,600 against it.
Now compare the glaring colours and passionate conjectures of platform and Press with those cool facts and figures. In August, 1913, when the last recess began, Scotland sent 59 Liberals to the House of Commons and 13 Unionists; Wales sent 27 Liberals and 3 Unionists; England— the predominant partner — sent 216 Liberals against 248 Unionists; and Ireland, as we all know, sent 83 Nationalists and 18 Unionists. There has been no change since to speak of. Scotland now has 58 Liberals and 14 Unionists; Wales has 27 Liberals and 3 Unionists; and England, it is true, has 215 Liberals and 249 Unionists instead of 216 Liberals and 248 Unionists. Can any one contend for an instant that there has been any wave of antipathy or fury, if you like, against the Government's policy in Ireland? There is another point to which I would like to call the attention of the House. If you have an election to-morrow you cannot isolate the question of Irish Government. Even the most guileless Unionist must be aware that to dissolve the House of Commons on the Irish question would be to expose two-and-a-half years' work in Parliament to the risk of wreckage. That is not to be denied. You might say an election was lost or won on the Insurance Act; but you would claim it as having been fought on Home Rule. Whatever you may say of the election of December, 1910 —you may deny it was an election for Home Rule if you like, but the most courageous man will not deny that it was a vote for the principle of the Parliament Act.
What is your demand for an election now? In 1910 the country pronounced in favour of the Parliament Act. Not content with the election on which that Act was fought for and won, you are now covertly insisting on another battle being fought to see whether the electors in 1910 meant what they said. All I can say is that if we acted on a principle of that kind we should be exposed to a charge of 34 treachery which would make the electors despair of Parliamentary machinery. I cannot imagine a more fatal step than that. Now, if I am not wearying the House I should like to say a little more about a General Election. You speak as if a General Election was a sure way out of all our national difficulties—because, remember, the difficulties are national; they are not ours only. Three different effects might come from such an election. There might be a continuance of the present deadlock. Secondly, the Party of noble Lords opposite might win, and you would then have to govern four-fifths of Ireland after an election—and we all know how passions are roused and heated during elections—after an election in which that portion of Ireland had been disappointed. Thirdly, suppose we win— suppose the Government get in again. Why should that make Ulster change her attitude? If the Covenant binds them to-day, why because England's voters had done what Ulster would consider—what I am sure the noble Marquess opposite would consider—a very stupid and perverse thing, should they change their mind? What confidence can we have that they would tear the Covenant up supposing we won the election?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
If the noble Viscount asks me what the position of Ulster would be in case the Party opposite were returned to power, I would say it is prefectly impossible to answer. In the first place, we should like to know whether the General Election was going to be fought on Home Rule and Home Rule only; or on Home Rule with the exclusion of Ulster; or whether any red herrings would be drawn across the line by Mr. Lloyd George. It is impossible to answer the question until we know on what grounds the General Election will be fought.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I am not sure that I see the point. I put the plain question; I did not mean to provoke the noble Marquess into an answer. But I must ask myself, Would the Covenant be torn up or not, supposing we had a majority? Do not they tell us that their sense of wrong—which is a different thing from violent action, of course—their sense of wrong would be as hot on the morrow of an election if it turned against them as it is to-day? Well, I have gone through the three possible results of the election— one, stalemate and deadlock; two, a 35 victory on the part of noble Lords opposite; and, three, that we should win. But what does that mean for us? The country—I beg the attention of noble Lords opposite to this—the country would in the third event have voted its approval of our policy—our policy, even if not of the Bill. Then what is to happen? We should come back here and we should spend two more years, at any rate, in passing a Bill of which the country had approved all the time. I do not know if I have made that clear. That is what it would be.
Now, what would be done in this House and by your Party? The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, on the occasion of our last debate here, told us in language which was very remarkable and very interesting— and I think it will be a classic piece in this controversy—that in the event of the result of a General Election being to indicate substantial approval of the measure of His Majesty's Government he will be prepared—and his noble friend Lord Lansdowne—to advise your Lordships to go into Committee on the Bill and to endeavour to remove some of the blemishes and undesirable features by which it is characterised, and to ask all parties to join in the endeavour to shape it into a more passable and palatable measure. Palatable to whom? That is what will reward us for advising the King to dissolve the House of Commons—that when we have gone through all the turmoil of an election and succeeded in getting a majority for our policy and our Bill, we are then to come here, and the best you can promise us is that you will do what you can to shape the Bill and make it palatable to yourselves.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Oh, no. I have often had occasion to explain those remarks before, and I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving me the opportunity of explaining them again. My idea was no more than this—and every noble Lord knows it to have been no more than this—that in the circumstances I was then describing the House of Lords would turn its best abilities, accepting the judgment of the country, to remove from the Bill all the blemishes, imperfections, and injustices of which no one is more conscious than the noble Viscount himself—and which, in the course of the speech he is delivering, he has again and again put before us—and by these means to shape it into a form more palatable to Ireland, to England, and to the country as a whole.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Will it be more or less like a Home Rule Bill when it has come out from that process, I wonder? I have said one or two things, not from any merit in the speaker, but they are of some importance, and I respectfully commend them to your Lordships' notice. I confess that I am disappointed with the spirit in which the noble Viscount opened this debate, and I believe that many of your Lordships on the other side of the House must feel the same. I believe that the whole country, Liberals or Tories, or neither—nondescript—all agree in the wish expressed in the sentence in the Speech, and that there will be bitter disappointment—it will not be at our cost—if the line which is going to be taken by the Unionist Party is to be the meagre, the violent, the bitter—yes, bitter—line taken by the noble Viscount. I think there will be a severe disappointment, and I can only hope that those who sit with him and by him will show that such disappointment is unnecessary.
My Lords, I began by talking of the gravity of the moment which has been so inadequately recognised by the noble Viscount's attack. Do not let us think that it is in these two islands only that our proceedings in both Houses are being watched. Our kinsfolk all over the globe are watching with a vigilant and inquisitive interest what we are doing. And not only they, but our foreign friends and enemies —if enemies we have—are watching with the same vigilant wonder and interest to see whether the political genius of England, which, no less than England's feats of arms, mighty as they are, has built up and organised forms of just, wise, and peaceful good government all over the globe, has become so poor in political resource, so narrow in political aim, as to be baffled and broken down by the Irish case. I do not want to lecture, but forgive me if I add that British political common sense and determination are as much an element of strength in our dealings with the world as great fleets or great British commanders. Faith in British wisdom may well dwindle if it is observed that we cannot arrive at a peaceful and orderly settlement of a struggle in which every party to it, Irish or English, is only anxious to arrive at a fair and just conclusion. That is the question we are going to settle within the next six months at Westminster; and I repeat the hope that noble Lords in the 37 Unionist Party—they may not approve of the Bill; that is another matter—will at all events bring themselves to cooperate and work with every effort in their power in the task of bringing about a healing and durable settlement.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I think your Lordships will agree in the tenor of the peroration of the noble Viscount inviting his fellow countrymen to apply all their abilities to the settlement of this question. From the Speech from the Throne the direction in which His Majesty's advisers hope that these abilities will be employed is apparent. I cannot—nobody who has studied the spirit of that Speech can—possibly regard it as anything else except an expression of lack of confidence in your own particular measure; a confession of failure on your own part to carry the sense of the majority both of Parliament and of your fellow countrymen with you; and it is a piteous appeal to Unionists to try to help the Government out of the difficulty which has been their creation, and their creation only. You found, by your own admission, a state of peace and prosperity in Ireland which was never before equalled in the whole history of the country; you have deliberately created all these evils which you describe in the paragraph in the King's Speech; and now you come to us and ask us, in order to get you out of your troubles, to give up treasured principles and to unsay things we have been saying for the last 100 years.
You say in the Speech that you want to have a peaceful settlement of the Irish question, and the suggestion from these Benches, which was put forward in the Amendment moved by Lord Midleton in that fine speech to which I desire to pay my humble tribute—and I desire to associate myself entirely with that Amendment —the suggestion in answer to your prayer for peace is that we should have a General Election. Every one knows perfectly well that a General Election in itself is not going to secure for all time the well-governing of the realm. But what are the alternatives to an appeal to the country? You must either go on with your present attitude towards Ireland and towards Ulster; you must carry your Bill, and force it upon the North of Ireland if you can; or else you must have what is called a settlement by consent. Now I propose very briefly to deal with both those alterna- 38 tives before coming back to the alternative of a General Election. I say that your whole attitude towards Ulster has been unsympathetic—I do not say it in the offensive sense, though I do not very much care if I do—your whole attitude towards Ulster has been unsympathetic and unintelligent in the highest degree. You evidently had no idea of the depth of feeling of these people, and it is only just now that the feeling of Ulstermen and the organisation which they have set on foot has received the slightest sympathetic reference in any single speech of any Cabinet Minister. It is only just now, when they find that Ulstermen are really in earnest, that they have begun to mention Ulster at all in a serious way in their speeches. But I think the cruellest thing of all in regard to Ulster is the way in which Sir Edward Grey talks about these people. Sir Edward Grey urged, in a speech that he made somewhere or another the other day, that the present state of tension should be deliberately kept up by His Majesty's Government in the hope of inciting these men in Ulster to some act or other which might be construed as an act of insubordination or riot, and which, therefore, could be dealt with by the armed forces of the Crown. All I can say is that if that is the kind of language and attitude he adopts towards foreign nations, it is more by good luck than good management he has got through all the foreign difficulties we have had in the last few years.
There is no doubt whatever that the situation which you, the Government, have created is entirely due to the passing of the Parliament Act. You have resolved constitutional government in this country into a pure question of powder and shot; and you can go over to Ulster, if you can, and make war on these people and try to pass your Bill in that way. A real first-class, genuine, civil war, with the whole of one part of the nation ranked like one man against the whole of the other part of the nation—that is a calamity; but there is something very dignified about a civil war of that type, which cannot be said about the present position, where we are asked to utilise the armed forces of the Crown simply to carry out the decrees of the dominant political caucus of the day. I should think better of you if some of you intended going over to Ulster and taking the same risks as the soldiers you propose to employ. That would be more dignified than sitting in 39 your bureaux with your portfolios in one hand and your Marconi shares in the other, and asking the soldiers of the King to go over to Ulster to fight against men who have done nothing else but stand up for themselves. In the name, not only of justice to the Army, but in the name of the whole British race, I desire to enter my most emphatic protest against the employment of the armed forces of the Crown to carry out the will of the dominant majority in the House of Commons. I do not deny that there may be times when the Army can be used, though we deplore it, in support of the civil power; but I say it ought not to be used in that regard unless the action taken has the full consent of the whole nation and of both Houses of Parliament. We have a weapon in our hands which we can use, and I beg your Lordships seriously to consider this. I say that we ought to deal with the Army Annual Act in such a way as to make it impossible for the Army to be used in such a way as noble Lords think. If nobody else will deal with it in this way, I shall in the meantime consider whether it is not possible to amend the Army Act in such a manner as to frustrate the sending over of the Army to Ulster to coerce these Ulstermen.
Now we come to what is called a "settlement by consent." I do not exactly know who is going to consent, but you have got to get the consent of several parties. I will not pursue that very far, but if you are going to get a settlement by consent this settlement must be of one kind or another. It must be the inclusion in the Bill of safeguards to Ulster, or else it must mean the exclusion of Ulster from the Bill altogether. I say that both of these are equally bad statesmanship. They cannot possibly lead to what you could call a permanent settlement of the Irish question. As to the first, I do not believe that the men of Ulster are at all likely to agree to any safeguards which you propose at the eleventh hour to put into a Bill which we were assured some years ago was the very last word with regard to the government of Ireland. Ulster is not likely to agree to those things. In the words of a great statesman, "She is not at all likely to be argued into slavery."
The other type of settlement by consent to which your Lordships may be invited to agree is what is called the exclusion of Ulster. I say here and now that as far as I am concerned I will have nothing to 40 do with the exclusion of Ulster from the Bill. As Lord Morley said just now, it admits the principle of Home Rule for Ireland. It admits the principle of setting up a Parliament in Ireland; and as an Englishman, if every member of the Ulster party were to come here and the whole of the official Unionist Party besides and say that here was a proposal for the exclusion of Ulster with which they were satisfied, I, for one, would not agree to that. I will never vote for any Bill which contains the setting up of a Parliament in Dublin; and to vote for the Bill as it stands, with Ulster excluded from it, is the equivalent to voting for Home Rule for Ireland. But, apart from one's membership of the Unionist Party, which is nothing at all except that I regard the Unionist Party as an instrument for preserving the Union between Great Britain and Ireland, how can this House possibly ask the electors to agree to what is called the exclusion of Ulster until the electors of the country have had an opportunity of reviewing this position for themselves? Our whole contention has been for the last two years, in the two rejections of this Bill we have had in this House, that the electors of Great Britain and Ireland have not been properly consulted with regard to passing Home Rule for Ireland. If that is true, then they cannot possibly have been consulted with regard to a Bill important alterations in which we have not even seen and which have not even been drafted. If the electors have not agreed to this Bill, they certainly cannot have agreed to what is virtually a totally new Bill for the exclusion of Ulster, or anything else; and I say we owe it to the electors of this country before any agreement is arrived at to submit that agreement to the constituencies themselves to see whether they will ratify it.
Now, my Lords, we come back to the proposal for a General Election. This is a proposal which is viewed with very great interest, and a lot of questions have been asked about it by the noble Viscount opposite and particularly in the Radical newspapers. I am perfectly prepared to admit that a General Election is only a temporary expedient. No one can possibly tell what will happen at the next General Election. It is next door to impossible to give any pledge beforehand with regard to the General Election. It depends on the way in which that election is carried on. 41 It also depends very much on the state of the Parties after the General Election is concluded. It may well be that the result of the next General Election will be inconclusive. It is quite true that the electors as a whole are apathetic about the Home Rule question, just in the same way that they are apathetic about a good many other questions. I believe that the prevailing note in the country is intense dissatisfaction with both Houses of Parliament and all Parties in the State. I do not believe that the electors take a very great deal of interest in the doings of any one here. I always take the opportunity of speaking to electors of all kinds and descriptions, both collectively and individually, and I will tell you perfectly frankly what is the prevailing note that I find. They think that the Government is dishonest, and that the Opposition is not particularly whole-hearted about anything; and they are all profoundly dissatisfied with the Government and the Opposition, and with the Labour Party for not having properly pronounced their condemnation on the private financial speculations of Cabinet Ministers. There is no Party in the State now who can expect to have an overwhelming majority unless they are prepared to take a very strong line about something or another.
But we will come back to the ordinary possibilities of a General Election. Putting aside what is really the views of the electorate, either the Government must win or else the Unionist Party must win. What you keep saying is, If the Government win are you going to back up the Ulster people any more? You say, If the Government win it probably will not be any good. No, I do not think from your point of view that it will be any good. But though you may win fifty General Elections, you will still have the Ulster feeling to deal with. If the next General Election is won by the Radical Party you are perfectly entitled, if you like, to construe that as an act of declaration of war by the vast majority of the English, people against Ulster and in favour of Home Rule. You are perfectly entitled to draw that conclusion from a Radical victory at the next General Election. If that does take place, I myself, as an independent Unionist, shall certainly still be on the side of the Ulster people, because I do not think that any quantity of General Elections can turn right into wrong, or 42 wrong into right. Home Rule would be quite as great an evil after the next General Election. But, of course, I cannot pledge what is to be the official Unionist Party attitude. I understand Mr. Bonar Law says that the countenance of the official Unionist Party to the active resistance of Ulster would be withdrawn if the next General Election went against them, and I have no doubt that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition will have something to say about that later.
A very favourite form of argument is to take the other possibility and say, "What are you going to do supposing the Unionist Party win the next General Election? You will have a difficulty just the same with the Nationalists." Now, I would ask the noble Marquess and noble Lords opposite to kindly answer this question: Do you seriously mean to assert that the Nationalist agitation—the wounding of dumb animals, firing into dwelling-houses after dark, moonlighting, and all the rest of it—is comparable in any way to the Ulster movement? Do you believe that the methods which have been employed in the past by the Nationalists, by the Land League, and so forth, to gain Home Rule for Ireland have received the same kind of assent from serious people in this country as the Ulster movement has received from serious people in this country to-day? It is not the same thing at all. Some of it may have been sincere, but the Nationalist movement for Home Rule and the methods they have employed to carry it out cannot be considered equally with the Ulster movement. You have spoken disrespectfully of it from time to time, and your supporters are doing so now in the country. Lord Midleton recited the speeches so well that I need not pursue that. But there is one speech he did not mention, delivered by Mr. Devlin the other day, in which he still clung to the theory that the Ulster movement was "bluff." We will not speak disrespectfully of certain aspects of the Nationalist desire for Home Rule for Ireland in the past; we believe that some of it at the time was genuine, and was dictated by the appalling prospect of Ireland at the time. That might have been genuine. But our contention now is—the contention of those who support the Union—that everything that was legitimate and genuine in the Nationalist movement for Home Rule for Ireland has 43 been entirely removed by the wise, firm, and generous application of the Act of Union which Ireland has received during the last twenty-five years, and to which no one more than noble Lords opposite, their friends, and Nationalists as well, have borne frequent testimony.
We are told that, after all, we may not win the next General Election. I do not know, but I do not believe you will win the next General Election unless you go to the country and ask from them a clear and unmistakable mandate for pursuing, and, if necessary, enforcing—though we do not think that will be necessary—the policy of Pitt and the Act of Union, which is the only policy with regard to the government of Ireland that has ever brought anything like success. And in this matter it is not extravagant to ask that we should be guided by the advice of Mr. Balfour, who understands as much about Ireland as any man living. I do not know whether you have read that exceedingly able pamphlet of his entitled "Nationality and Ireland," in which he says that the only thing is to give the Act of Union a chance, and give those benefits which we have been able to give to Ireland under the Act of Union time to run on without casting about all over the country for different means of governing Ireland.
Believe me, my Lords, the electors—I speak for a great many of them—will understand that. The reason why they have been hanging back with regard to this question is that they are not quite sure whether you mean to go on with the Act of Union, or whether you are coquetting with Federalism or some other kind of government. What the ordinary man in the street does not understand—and I thank the Lord he does not—is going to your political opponents with a sword in one hand and an olive branch in the other. They only understand methods of a more sledgehammer type. If we go to the electors with a sword, or even with a tomahawk, in both hands this time, and say, "We stand for the Union and nothing else but the Union, and we mean to apply it with all the persuasion and at the same time all the moral force at our command," I believe, if you will allow me to say so with great respect, that is the only chance you have, not only of getting an electoral victory—which does not matter in the least—but of governing Ireland and the United Kingdom in the future. We have 44 the means, as I believe, of bringing the Government to the country. We ought to shrink from no means to do so; and I am perfectly certain it will be understood by the people of this country. It will be understood by them, because any one who has studied this recent movement in favour of Home Rule and compared it with others knows perfectly well that the present attempt to pass Home Rule for Ireland, although it has been nearer to success—I grant you that—than any other, has lesser men behind it, has been supported by more dishonest methods, and is a baser political conspiracy than has ever been before attempted to break up the unity of the United Kingdom.
THE DUKE OF PORTLAND
My Lords, only once before have I ventured to address this House. I am no great lover of speaking, but I cannot keep silent now on a subject which appeals very strongly indeed not only to my imagination but also to my sympathy and to my ideas of justice and of common sense. It appears to me that in continuing to pursue their present course with regard to Ulster, and that course without a General Election, His Majesty's Ministers must either be wilfully blind or absolutely reckless with regard to the result of their policy. Sympathising as I do with Ulster in the hour of her need and dire necessity, and being extremely anxious to see for myself on the spot the real state of affairs and to hear the opinion of those who from their intimate acquaintance with that Province are well qualified to form a sound judgment on that subject, I gladly accepted a recent invitation to visit the North of Ireland.
It would, of course, be ridiculous for me to pretend that from a short visit I obtained a close or profound knowledge of the North of Ireland, but it is not necessary to be there very long—five or six days are quite sufficient—to be absolutely convinced by what one sees and by what one hears of the determination of the great majority of the people never, under existing circumstances, to submit to Home Rule. After I returned to England I attended a great meeting at Nottingham. I should like to tell your Lordships more or less what I told my audience there, and I ask leave to do so. I said that for the first time for centuries the country is face to face with civil war, for no other reason, as I can see, than that the Government decline to consult the electorate on the question of Home 45 Rule. It is really incredible that such a state of affairs should exist, and should exist for such a reason in a democratic country like this. I said that I believed that the Government must have been fully aware of the preparations which have been made in Ulster to resist Home Rule at any cost, because those preparations have been made quite openly and without any concealment whatever; and those preparations, too, as is well known, have been going on for some considerable time. I said at Nottingham that I believed the Government have wilfully misled the people of this country with regard to those preparations; and I said that they have held up to ridicule the fixed, and in my humble opinion the righteous, determination of the loyal people of Ulster under no existing circumstances to submit to the rule of Mr. Redmond or the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
My Lords, it is very far indeed from my wish to say anything whatever offensive, but may I remind you of a Latin phrase, Suppressio veri et suggestio falsi. That seems to me to have been somewhat the policy of the Government and of newspapers which support the Government with regard to the preparations which have been made, and which are being made, in Ulster. If bloodshed is the result of the blind and misleading policy of the Government and the Chief Secretary, then I say that the blame—a blame too terrible to imagine—will be theirs, and will be theirs alone to bear. Whilst I was in Ulster I saw with my own eyes the preparations that are being made, and heard with my own ears the opinions of those well qualified to speak. It is no exaggeration whatever to say that vast preparations are being made, not by irresponsible men or by men who are untrained to military exercises or who are unaccustomed to the use of military weapons, but by men who know their work and who are well trained in military exercises. Those preparations, I believe, are now nearly complete. There are about 100,000 volunteers, and recruiting, I am informed, is soon to come to an end. The wooden guns which we read so much of in certain papers and which were made so much of by the Government, if they ever really existed, are absolutely, I believe, now a thing of the past. At all events, I did not have the opportunity of seeing them myself. Modern rifles have taken their place, and those who rely on the false information which has been spread will have a 46 desperately rude awakening indeed when the time comes for the firm and determined men of Ulster to carry out their just resolve.
Whilst I was in Ulster I had the advantage of receiving information from the lips of those who had lived all their lives in the Province, and who on that account have the whole question at the tips of their fingers. They told me over and over again that the majority of the people of Ulster would never submit to Home Rule. A gentleman with an enormous stake in Belfast told me—and I may say that I implicitly believed him—that Belfast would sooner submit to bombardment than submit to Home Rule. He was certain that the results of Home Rule would be far worse than even a bombardment. That man, I may say, employs no fewer than 8,000 men. I saw whilst I was in Ulster a parade of that very fine body of men, the East Belfast regiment. There were about 3,000 or 4,000 men present that day. They were men of all classes; there was even an M.P. among them; there were clergymen, doctors, professional men, merchants, artisans, workers from the shipyards, workers from every industry in Belfast in the ranks. None were smiling, my Lords; all their faces were hard and determined. It is no joke to those men; they do not regard their soldiering as play, for they are resolved to fight and to die sooner than submit to the Government's proposals. Men after a hard day's work walk five or six miles to drill; often they walk that distance in snow and pouring rain. Men of wealth submit to be drilled by poor men; masters are drilled very often by their butlers and their valets; they fall in and are drilled exactly like ordinary army recruits. In Ulster to-day men are valued for their soldierlike qualities and military efficiency; those come, indeed, before mere wealth or mere position. Whilst I was in Ulster there was a Church service. The Primate of All Ireland preached the sermon, and men of all denominations, Presbyterians and other Nonconformists alike, sunk their religious differences and attended that service. Never, I believe, has such a thing happened before. The hatred and the dread of Home Rule has broken down all barriers; every Protestant sect is at one in its fixed determination that Home Rule shall never become law. The women are even more determined than the men; they regularly subscribe their money to the funds which 47 have been raised, and encourage the men to do what they consider to be their duty by every means in their power. Football matches have been abandoned; it is considered that this is no time for sport or other games. Drill, and drill alone, occupies the attentions of the people.
I attended whilst in Ulster a luncheon given to 500 delegates from every part of the Province. There, again, was the grim resolve—no Home Rule. Country and city are in agreement. I attended a meeting in the Ulster Hall, and there was a larger meeting still, outside in the street—I believe there were at least 20,000 people there, all firmly and absolutely determined never to have Home Rule. I spoke to the workmen in the shipyards and to the workmen in the mills. Their one and only answer to my question—because I went over to Ulster to gain as much information on this important subject as I could—was, "We will not have Home Rule." The absolute order that has been kept is most remarkable, and, indeed, most impressive. There is at present no sign whatever of disorder or riot; they resist all provocation, however annoying that provocation may be, and I believe that on some occasions it is very annoying indeed. The discipline and self-restraint of these men is simply perfect, and I believe that this discipline and this exemplary behaviour will endure to the end. The men leave no stone unturned, and they take every precaution to secure success.
The people of Ulster—I should like to lay special emphasis on this—make no demand for ascendancy over others. They are merely determined, and in my opinion rightly determined, to guard their own freedom and to preserve their just rights. May I say that I consider that if these people were negroes in Africa or Jews in Russia all political Parties in this country would extend to them their sympathy and their support. Why, I ask, should that sympathy and that support be withheld from our own kith and kin? And why should these loyal men of Ulster be made mere pawns in a paltry Party game? My Lords, I apologise for taking up your time, but never in my life have I been so forcibly or so gravely impressed. That is my excuse for addressing you this evening. I believe that we are confronted with the imminent prospect, not only of civil war, but also of the breaking up and the ruin of our great British Empire. It 48 is incredible, as it seems to me, that the Government should have stirred up this intense, determined, and bitter feeling in Ulster, and can now apparently find no way out of the difficulty in which they have got themselves. Yet there is a way out for them, and that is by an appeal to the people of our country.
A most terrible responsibility appears to me to rest on the Government, more terrible in my humble opinion than any other that has faced Ministers since the days of the great American War when we lost our Colonies. Quite a different problem is now before the Government than they have ever had to face during their considerable term of office, for they are now face to face with angry, desperate, and extraordinarily determined men— men who are out for a fight, and for a fight to a finish, and who are determined to make an end to the existing policy of Home Rule. I implore you not to belittle the crisis that is before us. It is no use whatever crying "Peace" when there is no peace. I wish, my Lords—and I say this with all sincerity—that you, especially those noble Lords who sit upon the Government side of the House, could see what I saw a very short time ago in Belfast. The scales, I believe, would fall from the eyes even of those who are wilfully blind. I beg you and the people of our country to take warning in time.
"Wait and see" is an absolutely futile policy. It is a fatal one, too. It always has been; it is doubly so now. The danger is at your very doors, and the sands have almost run out. We may differ on the subject of Home Rule, but there can be no possible doubt whatever that the majority of the people of Ulster are determined to retain their freedom at any cost to themselves. Is it justifiable, then, to plunge the country into the untold misery of civil war and to run the terrible risk of bloodshed, without an appeal to the people of this country? Is it right to raise hatred so bitter that it will never be appeased? Is it wise, I say, to commit such a blunder and such a crime?—such a hideous blunder as will never be forgotten, such a crime as will not be forgiven for generations to come and one that the historian of the future, however lenient he may be, will find it impossible to condone or adequately to condemn.
The further Debate adjourned till to-morrow.