HL Deb 11 February 1914 vol 15 cc56-144

Debate on the Amendment moved by Viscount Midleton to the humble Address resumed (according to Order).


My Lords, I thought that the most notable part of the gracious Speech from the Throne was that passage in which all His Majesty's subjects are earnestly entreated to try if they could not, by some method of consent, settle this pressing and dangerous question that is now before Parliament. It was a memorable passage and will, I believe, be remembered hereafter—long after the difficulties which now confront us have disappeared—as an instance of a courageous and honourable departure from the hitherto observed practice. I desire, my Lords, in what I am about to say—and it will not be very long—to adhere to the spirit of the gracious Speech, and to refrain from saying anything—certainly from saying anything intentionally—which can cause disturbance to any noble Lord in this House; because we all, or most of us, have for a long time taken sides upon this question, and after so long an association it is not always easy to see more than one side of a question in which you are deeply interested.

I believe, my Lords, that the desire of the country at large is, if possible, that this trouble should be settled now and by friendly arrangement. I have no wish to make any criticisms upon the speech of the noble Viscount opposite, but his proposal that there should be a dissolution of Parliament at this juncture really does not offer any solution at all. It is merely postponing the question and not doing what we ought to do—addressing ourselves to it, and making a common effort towards some accommodation. I think also that it is unreasonable to ask that Parliament should be now dissolved. Will your Lordships consider for a moment what has been the course of events I will travel over it with the utmost brevity. There have been two efforts twenty or more years ago to settle this question, and in each case there was, conscientiously I have no doubt, an absolute refusal even to entertain it. Then, when the Bill was brought in in 1912, that refusal was persisted in. In the House of Commons the Amendments that were brought forward were not brought forward with a view to amending and accepting, if possible, the Bill, but with the perfectly legitimate object of destroying the Bill in Committee. And when the Suggestion Stage came no one had a suggestion to offer among those who are opponents of the measure.

The Bill came to your Lordships' House, and I cannot sufficiently regret that in two consecutive years your Lordships refused to go into Committee upon the Bill. Doing so would not, in my humble judgment, have in the least affected the right, or the power, or the propriety, if you thought fit, of throwing out the Bill after it had undergone examination in Committee. It would have been perfectly easy to reserve that right, as was done with the Education Bill of 1906. But your Lordships did not think fit to do that, and the country missed an opportunity of being instructed and enlightened by the debate that might have taken place. But, instead of that discussion, a course was taken which, I think, was unprecedented—at least unprecedented for generations. For the first time for centuries there were heard in Parliament and outside threats of insurrection and of civil war if the Bill were not withdrawn or Parliament dissolved. Arms were imported, men enrolled, and a Provisional Government was announced. And, my Lords, Conservative Statesmen, one after another, gave promises to support those revolutionary movements if the Bill were passed into law.

Now, the Irish question is a serious question, but it seems to me that these proceedings have raised a still more serious question. We have all been brought up—at least I have been brought up—to believe in Parliamentary government, in Constitutional government, in this country. And we have been in the habit of telling people who have many grievances and hardships to complain of—and there are too many, I am sorry to say—that they ought to endure what fortune brings them, and look for relief to the constitutional interference of Parliament. The law-abiding habits of the community have been a very great safeguard for progress. But we have had lately many warnings that these law-abiding habits are in process or in danger of being relaxed. There have been railway strikes and coal strikes, there were very serious disturbances in Dublin, and most tumultuous agitation in South Africa. There are grave social and political questions now close upon us, and will certainly require to be settled within a short period of time. Are they, too, to be settled by revolutionary methods? It is dangerous to cut adrift from the traditions of order and to deprive Parliament of the moral authority which hitherto it has enjoyed in this country, and I believe that there are very few levelheaded men in this country who do not feel very grave misgivings in regard to the precedent which has been in this way established.

In these circumstances one Party, unfortunately, were left alone to propose remedies for the mischief in the government of Ireland which every one admits, and they were confronted by an unprecedented kind of opposition, however sincere your tribute may be to the genuineness of those who took those steps. In those circumstances I really do not know what course there was for those who believed in the necessity of Home Rule in Ireland, except to proceed as best they could with the measures which seemed to them the most just. But during the last six or eight months there have been indications of a more or less uncompromising spirit, and I think the first glimmer of hope came from a remarkable speech made by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition in this House in the month of July last. He indicated in that speech that he was not at all averse to a larger measure of self- government or to Devolution, and he spoke also of Federation, and said that if any Ministerial proposals for that purpose were brought forward he would receive them with the utmost readiness, and, I think he said, with a sincere desire to find in them a solution of the difficulties in which we find ourselves. That speech made a very great impression in the country; it certainly made a very great impression upon my mind—a greater impression the more I thought of it; and I hope it may be possible for the noble Marquess, either to-night or at some early date that he may think convenient, to develop what he said. Because, although it is a most excellent thing that the Government intend, as we have been told, to make their own suggestions for the amendment of the Bill, it would not be a compliance with what the country expects or what has been adumbrated in the gracious Speech from the Throne if suggestions did not come also from the responsible men who are upon the other side of the House.

My view is—I am sorry to say it is not shared by the great majority of your Lordships—that this Bill is a good Bill. I had a share in preparing it. I heartily supported it. I know that it was most honestly intended, with every anxiety to avoid the smallest injustice or hardship either to the people of Ulster or to any other people in Ireland. But there is undoubtedly something better, and that would be, if it were possible, to obtain a settlement by consent. What is the real danger, my Lords, in Ireland? I do not think the real danger is so much, certainly not exclusively, that there will be bloodshed and civil commotion, although that would be a very grave calamity, if it took place. But the real danger is prolonged discontent and disloyalty in that country, which would affect not only Ireland and its inhabitants, but would affect the position of this country in Europe and in America. What is to be feared is racial and religious animosity, which is the, most distressing form of animosity. We are told that Ulster will never submit to this Bill if it is passed; but if it is not passed, do your Lordships suppose that the remaining three-quarters of Ireland will accept with equanimity the disappointment of their hopes, after the cup has been placed to their lips and then has been dashed to the ground?

The noble Viscount opposite said that it was the fault of the Government that this dilemma had been presented to the country, and others have said, though I think not in this House, that Liberals have bartered the public interest in order to obtain a lease of power, and that our long-sustained crusade in favour of Home Rule has been little better than an electioneering device. I do not think anything so harsh has been said in this House, but it is the commonplace of orators elsewhere. That is an unjust accusation, because the problem is as old as the hills. But even if it were a true accusation, the situation still remains. Ulster says, we are told, that she will give us no peace if the Bill is passed, and your Lordships will readily believe that Ireland will give us no peace if the Bill is not passed. My Lords, every instinct of prudence and of patriotism and of good sense points to the duty of arriving at a settlement by consent, if that settlement can be obtained. We are told that it is impossible. I believe that it is not impossible if there is good will, and I should like to offer a few observations upon that subject. There are some things which are common ground, or almost may be treated as common ground—the breakdown of business to a large extent in the House of Commons by reason of overwork, the excessive strain put upon Ministers, and the only relief, I believe, that can be imagined is to separate the business which is common to the whole of the United Kingdom from that which is particular to different parts of the country, to delegate the latter and to retain the former in the Imperial Parliament. I have often urged this, my Lords. I have referred to it in this House more than once in former times, and I have urged it in the country, and I believe that there are very few reflecting people now who are not prepared to consider what is called the idea of Federation. The noble Marquess, as I have already said, has offered it a welcome. Others throughout the country have done the same There is certainly a strong claim advanced in Scotland, and has been for years, in favour of Devolution of business for Scotland, and the same is needed for England as much as it is for any part of the United Kingdom. If that principle were adopted, we should be already half-way toward a fair basis for consent.

Mr. Austen Chamberlain pointed out not long ago that if there were only one sub- ordinate Assembly established for Ireland alone it would occupy a unique position alongside of the Imperial Parliament, and he thought that it might seek to rival the Imperial Parliament and to grasp new powers, whereas if the system were extended throughout the whole of the United Kingdom all the subordinate Parliaments would fall into their place and would be unable to escape from the reality of their position. Now, my Lords, that is not a reason for resisting the principle, but it is a reason for asking assurances that the principle should be extended to other parts of the United Kingdom. How many of the objections that have been made in regard to Ireland would fall away at once if this method were adopted? It could no longer be said that Ulster was turned out of the Imperial Parliament, for the whole of Ireland would then be represented in the Imperial Parliament in full numerical proportion. It could no longer be said that the Irish nationality was invested with some peculiar sanctity different from that of England and of Scotland, because all would be treated upon the same footing. Nor could any one then complain that Irish Members of Parliament were allowed to vote upon English questions while English Members of Parliament were not allowed to vote upon Irish questions, for none of them would be able to interfere with the business of the other except in the Imperial Parliament if the question should arise there. This Bill is, in my view it always has been, a stepping-stone toward a system such as I have described. If there is anything in it incompatible with a federal solution—I think there is very little—then it can be eliminated or amended, and you might get a binding agreement that other Bills would follow it without delay.

That leaves untouched the great difficulty in regard to the safeguarding of the rights and liberties of the people in Ulster, and also their objections to this measure. Surely they cannot claim, and your Lordships cannot claim for them, that the devolution of business all over the United Kingdom, or Federation if you please so to call it, ought to be abandoned and the efficiency of the Central Government thrown to the winds merely because of any caprice or of any hereditary dislike or distaste toward others in the same country. A proposal has been made for excluding Ulster, if Home Rule should come, from the scope of the Bill. I believe it would be impossible to effect any settlement, to begin with, upon those terms. But the noble Marquess opposite has, I think, expressed his distaste toward any such idea, and Sir Edward Carson has, in the most explicit terms, said that it was quite an impracticable idea and that it would be destructive of Home Rule. It has been advocated avowedly as a means of destroying Home Rule, and except in that sense it is genuinely felt that if we are to have a system of Home Rule at all, a system of self-government in Ireland at all, you cannot begin it by excluding a great part of the country like Ulster.

My Lords, I cannot believe that the fears of those whose cause has been so ably supported in this House are insuperable. They declare their loyalty to the Crown and their desire to remain a part of the United Kingdom. When the necessity is so great they cannot desire to make all settlement impossible by asking more than is really necessary for their own liberties and their own protection. What are the apprehensions of those who are alarmed in Ulster? They have never been formulated. Is it that unjust laws may be passed which will be oppressive to them? Is it that the administration may be unjust and unfair? Is it that the exercise of patronage would be unjust, or all of those things? What is the kind of wrong that they fear? I cannot think of any other than those which I have already suggested to the House. There is no aspect of government in which it is not possible absolutely to ensure fair play by appropriate provisions, at the same time keeping the representatives of the whole of Ireland inside of the Irish Assembly. You might for at all events a term of years give to the majority in the Ulster area a veto upon all new legislation to affect that Province. You might require that there should be a Minister charged to administer all the departments, or any special parts that were thought right, in the Ulster area who should be acceptable to the majority of the members for that area. You might give a board of patronage, to be appointed by any Imperial authority, and surely there must be some just men even now left in the United Kingdom.

The one thing, I venture to think, that is to be desired is that, while rigidly safe- guarding them from the possibility of either unjust laws or unjust administration, Irishmen should meet for common counsel and co-operation, and thereby, by degrees it may be, efface the estrangement which has hitherto prevailed among them; and when the term of years appointed in the Act should have elapsed, then some future Parliament, in an atmosphere less heated by passion than, I am afraid, is likely to be the case now, would be able to reconsider the whole subject, and I have no doubt in my own mind that, after some years of experience, there would be no longer a desire on the part of the people of Ulster to withdraw from the community of their fellow-countrymen. My Lords, I believe it is in Federation, if what I have described may aptly be so expressed, that the solution of this difficulty is most likely to be found. If there is any other, we have been told already by the highest authority that the Government are prepared fairly and openly to consider it.

I submit to your Lordships and to those who take a different view from myself in regard to this question, that there is a duty upon everybody to try and contribute ideas and suggestions, as well as to ask for the opinions and ideas of others. It is not enough to say, "You have introduced three Bills—we will have none of them—pray proceed and bring forward a number more Bills or proposals, while we say absolutely nothing and do not contribute by our wisdom to the enlightenment of the community." I have no right whatever to ask anything of your Lordships except what I always receive, your indulgence when I am addressing you; but I submit to your better judgment that the time has come when the stage of reticence ought to be abandoned, and when everybody should bring forward his views, as I have endeavoured briefly to state mine. If that is done, I am perfectly certain that in the multitude of counsellors there will be wisdom. Neither this that I have suggested, nor the Government Bill, nor the Government's new suggestions, whatever they may be, will have any real prospect, at all events for a considerable time, of restoring peace to Ireland, unless there be a spirit of conciliation and of good will. The spirit is everything, and I hope that your Lordships will contribute to the formation of a public opinion in the direction I have indicated.


My Lords, we always listen on this side of the House with attention and interest to anything that falls from the noble and learned Earl who has just sat down. He is a past master of the arts of persuasion, and when I say arts, I do not mean artifices—I mean real persuasion proceeding from genuine conviction, the kind of conviction with which he has addressed your Lordships to-night. Personally, I feel that we owe the noble and learned Earl a debt of gratitude for this at any rate—that it has been to him, more than to any one other man, that has been due the remarkable awakening of public opinion which has taken place during the last few months with regard to the gravity and extent of this great Irish difficulty. The noble and learned Earl is in favour of friendly arrangement. So we all are. And he has done more. He has given to the House an outline of the kind of arrangement which he carries in his mind. I shall venture to say a word or two about that presently, but I should like before I go further to comment just for a moment upon the speech made last night by the noble Viscount opposite.

The noble Viscount (Lord Morley) was very hard upon my noble friend Lord Midleton for having made what the noble Viscount described, if I remember rightly, as a partisan speech. Well, my noble friend stood at this Table to press once more for that for which we have pressed from the first—the reference of this question to the electors of the country; and he was obliged, in order to make his case, to use arguments which no doubt have been used upon Party platforms, but which from our point of view have lost none of their cogency, and which I may be permitted to say I thought my noble friend marshalled with extraordinary skill. What other course was open to my noble friend? The conversations of which we have heard so much had failed. That was a matter of notoriety. And although we must, of course, respect the bond of secrecy under which those conversations took place, one is at least justified in saying this, that if they failed it was not from any want of good will or good temper on either side, but obviously because fundamental differences were encountered—differences which must be fatal to agreement whether the negotiation is carried on from one platform or another platform or from one armchair to another armchair

We learn, however, from the noble Viscount that the last word has not yet been spoken. The noble Viscount called your Lordships' attention to the language of the gracious Speech from the Throne, and, indeed, as the noble and learned Earl said just now, no more solemn or weighty words have ever been addressed by the Sovereign to Parliament at the opening of the session. What was the noble Viscount's contribution to that friendly settlement which the noble and learned Earl desires? He made, so far as I was able to follow him, no contribution whatever. He told us that schemes for the solution of the Irish question were flying about as thick as motes in a sunbeam, and that His Majesty's Government intended, I think he said, to make a selection from those schemes and to propose something to Parliament before we are any of us much older.


I think my literal language was "submit suggestions."


I take the noble Viscount to mean suggestions in the sense of the word as it appears in the Parliament Act. That is probably his meaning. But what form those suggestions are to take the noble Viscount did not attempt to tell us. My noble friend behind me asked very naturally for information, and surely it is not too much to expect that His Majesty's Government, having had this question before them for more than two years, should be in a position to tell us, in outline at any rate, what really is the policy, which they intend to submit to Parliament. We had, indeed, the remarkable promise made not very many days ago by the Chief Secretary, who announced that the Prime Minister would before long inform the world what were the terms which had been offered to Ulster and refused by the people of Ulster as a settlement of this question. The noble Viscount said that the announcement would be made, I think, at an early date. But time, I venture to suggest, presses. I doubt whether His Majesty's Ministers even now realise the extreme urgency of the question. Is it not a terrible thing that we should be talking of the imminence of civil war, and talking, not idly, but with the knowledge that the facts really justify this dreadful apprehension? And yet, my Lords, language is used by members of His Majesty's Government quite inconsistent with the belief that they realise how near at hand this danger is. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, who, I believe, will follow me this evening, said not long ago that there was still a good deal of time left before the danger of civil war could arise. There are other speakers, members and supporters of the Government, who tell their hearers that everything is going on quietly and smoothly in Ulster, that men are attending to their usual avocations, and that there is nothing to suggest the proximity of civil war. I cannot help thinking that one might say of this movement which is proceeding in Ulster that it is impelled by a tide which is "too full for sound or foam," and it is that tide which is at this moment carrying everything before it in Ulster.

Meanwhile, what was the position with which my noble friend behind me had to deal when he rose to speak last night? Here is a Bill—I am going to put forward a number of propositions which I do not think noble Lords opposite will deny—here is a Bill which has never been seen by the electors of this country. It is a Bill which is to revolutionise the relations of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. It embodies a policy which has twice been rejected by the people of this country—a policy which is disapproved of by a majority of the electors of England. It imposes new financial obligations upon the people of this country; it is believed by a great many of the best judges to be an unworkable Bill, and any one who has taken the trouble to read the Report of the Primrose Committee will remain of that opinion. It is a Bill which is designed to rob Ulster of more than one-half of her representatives in the British House of Commons, and to oust her from her present position in the Commonwealth of this country; and it is so bitterly resented by the people of Ulster—that part of the province which we usually describe as Ulster—that they have put into the field an army of over 100,000 disciplined men and accumulated a guarantee fund of over a million pounds sterling. That Bill, if matters are to proceed upon their present lines, is to pass automatically into law within a few weeks or months of the present date, and, so far as you are concerned, it must pass into law unamended. Those are the circumstances in which the noble Viscount who sits by me rose to enter once more his plea that the Bill should be referred to the people of this country before it proceeds further; and can any one find fault with him because he supported his case with all the energy and weight of argument which he could bring to bear upon it?

Now, my Lords, let me outline, if I may, what I understood to be the attitude of His Majesty's Government up to the time when it was qualified, as it certainly has been qualified, by the speech of the noble Viscount opposite. The terms offered to us by His Majesty's Ministers and by their Nationalist allies—because it is impossible to dissociate the proposals made by Ministers from those made by the men who hold the fate of Ministers in their hands—were of the following nature. There is, they tell us, to be a national Parliament for the whole of Ireland and a national Executive responsible to it. The Unionists of the whole of Ireland are to be handed over to the mercies of that Parliament. It is explained that special terms, unspecified, may possibly be given for a portion of Ulster, the extent of which is also unspecified. In the next place, it is suggested very distinctly that we of the Opposition are expected to assist in bringing about a settlement on these lines and to assume responsibility for it. Now, my Lords, that is a responsibility which it is impossible for us to accept. These terms contain no attempt to provide protection for those Irish Unionists who happen to reside outside of Ulster. They contain no mitigation of the dangers, political and strategic, which we foresee from the establishment of a quasi-independent country upon the flanks of the British Isles. Thirdly, they fail to meet the wish of the men of Ulster to be left outside the scope of any arrangement which may be come to. Up to that point, I am bound to say the prospect appears to me to be as hopeless as it can possibly be. It has, however, been, I think, to some extent affected for the better by the speech of the noble Viscount and by the speech of the noble and learned Earl; and I now desire to address myself for one moment to the suggestions which the noble and learned Earl threw out a few moments ago. He did me the honour of referring to a speech which I delivered in this House in the course of which I made some reference to the possibility of a solution of this question upon the lines of Federation or Devolution. I am sure the noble and learned Earl does not desire to read into my speech more than I really said. I have not got it by me, but of this I feel quite sure, that I did not say more than that I was perfectly ready to consider with an open mind any proposal which might be formulated by His Majesty's Government for a federal solution of the Irish question. But, my Lords, this Bill is not a proposal for the solution of the Irish question on federal lines. Far from it. A noble friend of mine who is not here to-night, Lord Grey, who has made Federation a special study of his own, told your Lordships in my hearing that if there was to be a federal solution of the Irish question the first thing he wanted was to get this Bill taken out of the way, because it was impossible to fit it into a federal scheme. Then we had rather an illuminating reference to Federation, or, perhaps I ought to say, to Devolution, from the Prime Minister the other day. He said he was entirely in favour of dealing with this question upon the lines of general Devolution. Then what did he go on to say? He said, But on two conditions. Ireland is to be dealt with first, and our treatment of Ireland must be of an exceptional kind, suited, I think he said, to her economical, social, and geographical peculiarities, or words to that effect. So that you have absolutely no security that anything that is contemplated by the Prime Minister and his colleagues is really of a kind that could be used as a basis for a consistent and well-ordered system of Devolution applicable to the different parts of the United Kingdom. But, my Lords, I have no desire, none whatever, to throw cold water upon these proposals, but I do venture to say that, if you have them in your mind, it is your business to put them forward and not ours. This crisis, as has been said again and again, is not one for which we are responsible, and if a means of extricating ourselves from it is to be found, the responsibility for the initiative rests, as I think the noble Viscount frankly admitted last night, on noble Lords who sit on the Benches opposite.

Then the noble and learned Earl made some special and interesting suggestions with regard to the treatment of Ulster. As far as I was able to follow him, his prescription, if I may so call it, is a variety of that which has been christened, I think by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as "Home Rule within Home Rule." The noble and learned Earl thought that some arrangement might be come to under which Ireland, so far as the form of the settlement went, would be treated as a single unit, but that within that unit Ulster might be given a very large measure of practical autonomy. He threw out the idea of a special Minister for Ulster responsible for certain departments of the Public Service, and he also suggested that, while Ulster would be represented in the Dublin Parliament, the Ulster members of that Parliament might be permitted to have something like a veto upon all legislation affecting the Province of Ulster. I listen with much appreciation to all these proposals, because they show how far we have travelled since the days when this Ulster movement used to be described as one of mere brag and bluster. It is no longer a case, if I may borrow a quotation from my noble friend Lord Midleton, of eradicating the Ulster spirit, as suggested by Mr. John Dillon; for we now have almost effusive protestations of tenderness with the Ulster spirit and Ulster susceptibilities. Now I do not say for a moment that these concessions would not be very material and very important concessions. They would be also, of course, very notable subtractions from the powers of the Irish Government, and I do not know how much unity would be left in Ireland under an arrangement of the kind that has been sketched out. One thing, at any rate, is certain—namely, that these proposals constitute a conclusive justification of our attitude and of the attitude of Ulster in resisting the Home Rule Bill as we have known it up to the present time. If a measure with proposals of this kind in it would be a wise and statesmanlike measure, it surely follows that the Bill without those provisions must be regarded as not very wise and not very statesmanlike.

If I may come back for a moment to the scheme of the noble and learned Earl, I would venture to point out one or two considerations. In the first place, would an arrangement of the kind which he outlined be likely to meet the desires of Ulster? What Ulster wants is to be left out altogether, to be left as now, responsible to the Government here and not in any way mixed up with a Government in Dublin. She asks for a real exclusion, a complete exclusion. The noble and learned Earl offers what I should describe as a kind of constructive exclusion, accompanied by an abundance of safeguards. Here may I say a word as to what the noble and. learned Earl attributed to me in regard to proposals for excluding Ulster altogether from the operation of the Home Rule Bill. The noble and learned Earl is quite right in saying that I had expressed no great affection for an arrangement of that kind. From our point of view it would be an objectionable arrangement, because, as the noble Viscount said last night, it presumes the existence of a Home Rule Parliament, and we are against the setting up of a Home Rule Parliament. And from the point of view of the Nationalists I have no doubt an arrangement of that kind would be objected to because it obviously constitutes a very great encroachment upon the unity of Ireland.

I have, however, always said, and I have never made any secret of my own opinion, that if the complete exclusion of Ulster were to be offered to us, if it were to be accompanied, as it must be accompanied, by consequential alterations and the revision of the present Bill, if it is accompanied, as I think it must also be accompanied, by new precautions for safeguarding the interests of those Unionists who do not happen to be within the excluded area, then I should be prepared, subject, of course, to a careful examination of the new provisions which would have to be drafted for the purpose, to consider a proposal for excluding Ulster. And for this reason only, not that I like it on its merits, but because it seems to me, at any rate, preferable to the Bill now before Parliament and pre-able to the other and much more dire alternative—the alternative of civil war. But, my Lords, I am afraid that, although Ulster might conceivably be prepared to accept an arrangement of that kind, she is not very likely to listen to you if you go to her with a proposal which will be in effect this—that she shall put her neck under the Home Rule yoke on the condition that we pad the yoke as carefully as we can so that it may not gall her withers too much.

I confess, however, that I mistrust these complicated schemes, with all their elaborate safeguards—the privilege given to the Ulster members of asking for a veto upon legislation affecting them, and the like. I mistrust them because, like the noble and learned Earl, what I want to see is a lasting settlement of these questions, and because I am convinced that these complicated arrangements, with all these reservations, are not in the least likely to afford you the lasting settlement you desire. I am not going to weary the House with Colonial precedents. My noble friend Lord Midleton referred to that subject last night. But any of us who have watched the history of our Dominions across the seas knows perfectly well that the rights of disallowance which are reserved under the elaborately drawn Constitutions that have been given to those Dominions are really worth very little more than the paper on which they are written when the right of disallowance is invoked by the superior Government for the purpose of going counter to any movement which has a large measure of local support. You will find, at any rate in Canada, about which I know rather more than I do about the other Colonial Dominions, that several of the most powerful Ministers the country has known have sustained political reverses from which they never recovered owing to attempts to insist upon these rights of disallowance against a strong body of local feeling in the provinces. It has been said, and I think said truly—I forget who is responsible for the saying—that in Canada disallowance, whenever local feeling really runs high, has ceased to be a living force. My Lords, in all this I am disposed to think, not only of our own intense desire to be rid of a troublesome question, but of the duty which lies upon us not to saddle those who will come after us with an unworkable system under which will be renewed hereafter, perhaps in an aggravated form, the friction which gives us so much concern to-day. I would, indeed, sooner that these attempts should fail altogether than that they should end in some vamped up and insincere agreement which would be palmed off upon the Nationalists because it gave them in form the appearance of a united Ireland under a Home Rule Government, and which would be recommended to the people of Ulster because, although it brought them within the Home Rule net, it gave them in substance something almost indistinguishable from autonomy.

Meanwhile we continue to press our demand for a General Election, and I would venture to say to noble Lords opposite—whatever your scheme is, in whatever garments you propose to dress up your Home Rule policy, send it to the people and ask them what they think about it. We have been told in this debate that the matter has already been before the electors of this country. I make noble Lords opposite a present of a speech which I delivered in 1910 and which I observe is quoted by the Prime Minister and his colleagues on every occasion when they have occasion to deal with these matters. If they would give me a small royalty every time they used the quotation I should be a very rich man indeed. I remain proud of the prevision which I then exhibited. But, my Lords, this Bill, at any rate, has never been before the electors of the country, nor can the electors of the country ever have had a suspicion that its introduction was likely to produce the results which it has produced in Ulster. If in 1910 the voters had been told that they were voting for or against civil war, the result of the election would, I am convinced, have been very different from what it was. The noble Viscount asked us in what respect would a General Election advance matters for us. He took three alternatives. He said "You may have a tie, or nearly a tie, at the next election, in which case you will be left exactly where you are." "Or," he said, "the Government may win the election, in which case Ulster will go on righting all the same." "Or," he said, "the Opposition may win the election, in which case they would have to subjugate the rest of Ireland just as we may have to subjugate Ulster."


I did not use the word "subjugate."


I will use any other word the noble Viscount likes better. I will say "subdue." With all possible respect to the noble Viscount I do not think that is quite clear thinking, and I want to examine for a moment the three alternatives as he presented them to us. Suppose the election resulted in a tie? Well then we should know that opinion in the country was evenly divided, and I am convinced that no circumstances would be more likely to lead to an accommodation of some kind, when votes were evenly balanced and when reasonable men would feel on both sides that some way had to be found out of the difficulty. Then I take the alternative that we are supposed to win the election. "In that case," the noble Viscount says, "You will have to put down resistance from the rest of Ireland and your case will be just as difficult as ours." I do not in the least pretend to be over-sanguine, and I do not deny for a moment that the failure of the Home Rule Bill would be likely to lead to a certain amount of trouble in the Nationalist parts of Ireland. But I think the noble Viscount is altogether wide of the mark when he compares the kind of trouble which might arise in that case with the kind of trouble which he and his friends will have to deal with in Ulster should this Bill be forced through Parliament. Let me use a very homely illustration. There is a great difference between telling a man that he is not to have a new coat and tearing off his back the coat which he is already wearing. That is what you are going to do in Ulster, and the reason why the resentment in Ulster is so intense and so irreconcilable is that the people of Ulster feel that you are taking away from them something that they have got and driving them into a position which they regard, and I think not without good reason, as an intolerable and odious position. Then I take the remaining alternative. Supposing we lose the election? "Ulster," says the noble Viscount, "will go on fighting all the same." Now I do not for a moment expect that the instant the result of the election was declared in your favour thereupon complete calm would at once arise in Protestant Ulster. You have allowed the temperature to get much too high for any result of that kind to happen. But I do hold strongly that the position both here and in Ulster would be entirely changed if a General Election had shown that the great majority of the voters of this country were in favour of your Home Rule Bill. I dare say my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke might not be ready to lay down the tomahawk which he was ready to brandish last night; but a complete change for the better in the situation would beyond question be brought about. Of that I have no doubt whatsoever. There are some people who tell you that you should never know when you are beaten. I believe those are wisest who know when they are beaten, and if we were beaten and beaten fairly you may depend upon it we should loyally accept the verdict and do our best to conform to it.

One word more. I want to go back for a moment to the position which would arise outside Ulster in the event of the defeat of the Home Rule Bill. I know that the noble Viscount has very serious apprehensions as to that, but I suggest to your Lordships that we have a right to appeal to our past experience in this matter. Home Rule was dangled before the Nationalists of Ireland in 1886 and in 1893. In spite of that, when you came into office in 1906 your Chief Secretary announced that he had found Ireland more calm and contented than for the last 600 years, or some such period of time. And Ireland remained calm and contented without Home Rule between 1906 and 1910, and she would be calm and contented at this moment if you had not thrown down as an apple of discord this miserable Bill. Yes, my Lords, the mischief arose at that disastrous moment when, in circumstances which have often been referred to, you became, I think I may say unwilling, converts to Home Rule. The noble and learned Earl referred to that incident. I forget how he put it, but he protested very much against the idea that there had been anything in the nature of a transaction between His Majesty's Government, of which he was then a member, and the Nationalist Party. I should like to read to the noble and learned Earl two short quotations which seem to me to sum up the whole story. In April, 1910, Mr. Clancy who is, I understand, a gentleman of considerable importance in the Irish Party and speaks for them, used these words— I rise on behalf of the Party with which I act, to say that we intend to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill [the Finance Bill], and I may say at once that the reason why I do so, and why we do so, is entirely unconnected with the merits or demerits of the Bill. I frankly confess that up to a very recent date I felt convinced that we should be obliged to take the opposite course…Happily, we find ourselves in a position to take the course which I have announced. The unmistakable declaration of the Prime Minister on Thursday night has, in my opinion, completely altered the situation. That was the view of the Irish side. A year after that one of the noble Viscount's colleagues, Mr. Hobhouse, used these words— Next year we must pay our debts to the Nationalist Members, who were good enough to vote for a Budget they detested and knew would be an injury to their country. There you have it, the testimony of the high contracting parties on both sides, and the whole thing, I will not say signed, sealed, and delivered, but clinched as firmly as any one could wish.

I have only one word more to say. I think the greatest justification for the Amendment of my noble friend beside me is to be found in the very short sentence, exactly one line in length, in which His Majesty informs us that "proposals will be laid before you for reconstituting the Second Chamber." In different circumstances I might have ventured to comment upon the somewhat tardy recognition of the principle that debts of honour cannot remain indefinitely unpaid. I might have said something of the moment chosen for the payment of the debt. I might have said something as to the futility of beginning to set up a reformed Second Chamber after great Constitutional reforms have been forced through Parliament by methods with which we are now familiar. And I might have said a word as to the prospects of this Bill—its chance of finding its way on to the Statute Book, and the possibility that after all it may not get very far beyond the Ministerial shop front. But I welcome your announcement that you are going to bring in a measure to reform the House of Lords. It is a distinct admission that an efficient Second Chamber is an essential part of our Constitution. It is an admission that Parliament at this moment is not properly constituted, and therefore not competent to do the work which is entrusted to it, and you therefore stand convicted of having brought this country to the brink of civil war by forcing on legislation at a time when, by your own showing, the Constitution of the country is in suspense. We have been favoured by one or two Ministers with glimpses of the reconstituted Second Chamber. It is to be, we are told by one of the noble Viscount's colleagues, "thoroughly democratised." It is to bear no resemblance to this House as we now know it, and I suppose I may assume that, on the other hand, it is not going to be a mere pale reflection of the House of Commons, elected by the same electors, swayed by the same impulses, and manipulated by the same methods by which that Assembly is manipulated. Is it conceivable to any of us that if you had a Second Chamber of such a kind in existence that Second Chamber would not be entrusted with the duty of demanding an appeal to the people of this country in such a case as that with which we are dealing to-night?

This Bill is one which the electors have not seen. It is a Bill which would never have been heard of if you had kept your large majority in 1910. You forgot to mention it in your addresses. It is not the Bill of 1886. It is not the Bill of 1893. My noble friend demonstrated that with, I thought, extraordinary closeness of argument. It is certainly not the Bill of 1907, the Bill which you introduced when you were free men and before you had entered into these transactions with the Nationalist Party—the Bill of which the Chief Secretary said, in introducing it, that it did not contain a touch, a trace, a hint, or a suggestion of any new legislative power or authority. That was your idea of the kind of Bill to bestow upon Ireland when you were free men; and now we realise that your Bill in its final shape will not even be the Bill of 1912, but a wholly different measure. No, my Lords, this Bill is going to be a compromise of equivocal origin, unlike any other Constitutional legislation with which we are familiar in civilised communities. And in those circumstances we suggest to you that as democratic Ministers and straightforward men the proper course for you is to frame whatever amendments you consider necessary in order to make the Bill less intolerable than it is now and then in that final shape to refer it to the judgment of the people of this country.


My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Marquess in the remarks which he has made on the constitution of a new Second Chamber, because it is obviously impossible to speculate upon the nature of those proposals until they come before the public. But the speech of the noble Marquess was full of other topics which are highly germane to the purpose. Not the least impressive part of the speech of my noble and learned friend who resumed the debate to-day was this, that we should regard the stage of reticence as over and endeavour to discover what was in each other's minds on this great question of the future government of Ireland. The noble Marquess certainly has contributed some things that are of much interest. He told us to-night, guarding himself carefully, that as regards what he called "federal proposals" his mind was open. He spoke also of possible alterations in the present Bill which would have at least a chance of disarming his opposition. They were, in substance, the total exclusion of Ulster, and, as I gathered, some provision for the safeguarding of the minority in other parts of Ireland. The noble Marquess did not go into detail about those alterations, nor tell us how far they extended—I am speaking now of the minority parts of Ireland other than Ulster—or what changes in the Bill he thought they required. But he did tell us that it was the duty of the Government to take the initiative in making any proposals which might become the subject of effective discussion.

There is one thing which has impressed me very much in the course of the speeches which have been made, not only in this House and in the other House, but throughout the whole of that long course of public discussion that has been going on for some months, and it is this. If you can get something like a common principle on which it is possible to negotiate, you know the basis on which you can make concessions and the limits within which you can carry on discussion; but if there is any obstacle in the way of an understanding or the adoption of a common principle, then such discussion is idle. If I ventured to criticise the speech of the noble Marquess my criticism would be this, that, notwithstanding its suggestiveness on other points, I fail to find any clear indication of his willingness to meet us upon a common principle or any common basis on which we can proceed to further discussion. I do not say it is not there, but I have not seen it, and it has been definitely excluded in many other speeches.

I will try to make clear what it is I have in my mind, and for that purpose let me take first some of the points which have been made. One point—and it goes very closely to the point on which I am about to touch—one point is this, that these propositions have been launched without the electors having been consulted. You base the demand that there should be a General Election forthwith, as the foundation of your case, first, on the ground that the electors have expressed no opinion on the general principle of Home Rule. Now this question is no new one. It assumed concrete form in its remedial shape twenty-eight years ago, and there was an Irish question before that. But to my mind the vice which pervades the whole of the argument against this Bill is this, that it ignores the tremendous question affecting Ireland as a whole which underlies the remedial plans which have been brought forward, and treats it as if the only thing we have to consider is the case of Ulster.

I am one of those who have taken the case of Ulster from the beginning with the utmost seriousness. I know many of these men, akin as they are to my own countrymen in the North. I know their earnestness, and I know their seriousness. I also know this, that their minds are pervaded, I think to an altogether undue extent, with the old ascendancy spirit, with the old notion that a Catholic is not quite the same kind of human being as a Protestant. I know that religious feeling has entered into this question to an extent which distorts broad judgment on grave business transactions. In saying that I do not wish to disparage the earnestness of the spirit which has brought so many together in opposition to Home Rule. I also know that there is in Ulster a powerful minority—a minority not any less keen than the majority on the other side. I am aware that that minority is a minority which will express itself, and which, if you had your way and Home Rule was passed with Ulster excluded, would make not only its voice but its influence felt in a very unmistakable fashion. I am not sure, if "Home Rule within Home Rule" is objectionable, "Ulster within Ulster" might not prove more objectionable still.

I speak of the larger Irish question. Grave as the difficulty with Ulster may be it is a difficulty that is not so great as the proved difficulty of the rest of Ireland. Your Lordships have not forgotten the days when Lord Beaconsfield dissolved Parliament upon the Irish question in 1880. You are not oblivious of the years that followed, of the way in which social disorder was piling up on social disorder until we had cause to despair of government in Ireland. The Land League was rife, and safety for life and property in many places had ceased to exist; and the trouble was one so acute that finally it gradually came to this—you had a people divided from the administration of their own concerns, and until you bridged over the gap which separated the people from their Government you would not get matters right. Nor was that spirit in those days in Ireland one of mere perversity. We are apt to forget that until 1800 Ireland had always had Parliamentary institutions—part of that time a really strong Executive of her own, and during the whole of that time Parliamentary institutions, her Lords and her Commons. And the Ulster volunteers have not been heard of for the first time, for in those days it was the Ulster volunteers who did much to bring about many of the concessions of Grattan's Parliament. I only refer to that to ask your Lordships to dismiss from your minds the notion that this agitation for Home Rule and its support in this country is something which has been lightly taken up, and which may be expected to disappear. Existence under a system of self-government is normal throughout Ireland, and it is only for a little more than a century it has ceased to exist—a century which has been enough to show that the sentiment remains deep-rooted. It is a matter of sentiment in Ulster also, but matters of sentiment may assume deep reality; and I trust we may never go back to the state of things which obtained up to 1886 when Ireland was without hope at every point and at every turn. You have the evidence of the earnestness of her people in saying that it is a system of self-government they want.

The noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) remarked in his speech upon the fact that Ireland had been comparatively quiet in recent years. She has been comparatively quiet, and why? Because the goal has been coming nearer and nearer; because, even though the cause of Home Rule was in the hands of one great Party only, another great Party of the State was making concession after concession. The Government gave to Ireland a large system of local government, and that Government also gave to Ireland a large system of reform in her Land Laws. The old Irish Land Laws ceased to exist, and Ireland felt that the very fruition of the policy of Home Rule was accompanying the approach of the principle itself, and thus with the anticipation and satisfaction of the national sentiment so near at hand, there came some of those changes on which the people of Ireland set store. But can you arrest all that? Can you dash this cup away and not anticipate the consequences? Quite true there are fewer landlords in Ireland to-day, but Ireland has a debt to this country of something like one hundred millions of money at least, the compensation paid to these landlords. At every turn you have the same difficulties which you had before, and I would ask your Lordships in discussing these matters not to fix your attention upon Ulster. I ask you to fix your attention, not upon the rest of Ireland to the exclusion of Ulster, but upon Ireland and Ulster as a whole. No other way is sufficient.

The case which the noble Marquess has put is, therefore, a case which leaves us in obscurity about this—does he or does he not recognise the great evil of which I have spoken as one which calls for redress? The principle of this Home Rule Bill has not grown up suddenly. It has grown up in the course of these matters of which I speak. It has become a matter of settled conviction with us, at all events, that you cannot deal effectively with the Irish question except upon the basis of a measure of this kind. That has been a conviction which has obtained since 1886, a conviction which holds now more strongly than ever. Not only has it been a conviction of the Party to which I belong, but it has latterly been the conviction of the electorate. It is quite true, as the noble Marquess said, that twice the electorate rejected the Home Rule Bill, but that was a good while ago. In 1906 Home Rule was not an issue before the electorate, but the electorate had it in their minds that the Party whom they were returning to power by an enormous majority had Home Rule as an integral part of its policy and would sooner or later introduce it.

And then, again, at the elections which followed, the question was not discussed much, simply because the majority had made up their minds about it. Lord Willoughby de Broke, in speaking yesterday, touched upon what he considered was the indifference of the electorate. I do not think the electors are indifferent. I think they have thought of this question so much, they have heard it discussed so copiously, that they have made up their minds upon it. They certainly quite acknowledge that this question was a more or less prominent one. I was not struck with the indifference of the electors, but I was struck with this, that they had considered it and come to a conclusion. The recent by-elections point to that. Where we have lost seats—the Party to which I belong—at all events the people who voted against us, the Labour element, have been strong on the side of granting Home Rule. I need not go further with regard to that after the way in which it was dealt with by my noble friend the President of the Council in his speech yesterday. The fact remains that this question is no new question. The policy has become a root one with the electors, and they say little about it only because they have made up their minds about it; and we in coming here are not coming with some new and arbitrary proposal, but we are dealing with something which can be well decided and adjudicated upon. So much for the principle.

Then the noble Marquess says, "You have not submitted this Bill to the electorate." No, this specific Bill has never been before the electorate, but other Bills to which this is the corollary have been, and the electorate have had the points with which this Bill deals largely discussed. By the Constitution of this country the course which the electors take is not to fashion the details of a Bill, but, having settled the principles, to leave it to their representatives to fashion out the Bill itself. That is what has been done in this case, and that is why the electorate are satisfied with the course we have taken. In that condition of things, observe what obscurity there is about the real point. The real point is this. If we are right in our view that we not only have the authority of the country, but that no other remedy will suffice—that the principle has been fully discussed and accepted—the question arises at once, are you prepared to recognise, even to some extent, that that principle is now an accepted one? Of course, if you discuss this question as though it were only the question of Ulster and nothing else, that is tantamount to saying you do not accept the principle. But if you believe that there is a larger Irish question, an Irish question just as urgent as the question of Ulster, and that the only question is how Ulster, and, if you like, the minority, may be safeguarded, then we get somewhere near an agreement upon a principle.

What I complain of a little in the speech of the noble Marquess, although he has gone further than most of the other speakers on his side, is a want of agreement upon the principle, a want of definition of the extent to which he is prepared to accept it, and the extent to which he is not prepared to accept it. If he is not prepared to accept it at all, if he holds that nothing ought to be done, then negotiation is no use; but if he recognises that opinion has changed in this country, that things are not what they were, that there has been an advance in public opinion, and that even those on his own side recognise that the Irish question must be dealt with in a different way from what it was dealt with in days gone by, then the time has come when we should expect from him some recognition of a basis of common principle on which we can discuss the question. So far from thinking that the noble Marquess was entitled to reproach my noble friend the President of the Council for suggesting that the expressions of opinion had to come from that side, the first and root matter is that we should have some intimation from the Unionist Party that they are prepared to meet us on the question of principle. When that is done then we can get on, but until that is done progress becomes impossible. It is putting the cart before the horse to go into details of negotiation if there is some root obstacle. If that be so, where do we stand at the present time? The Amendment which has been moved proposes to refer this whole question to the country. I will indicate why I venture to think that that is an impossible thing. It has been discussed and so far settled in the country. We are now in a state of detail and not of first principles. So far as the recent General Elections are concerned, I think we are entitled to claim that it is now a settled matter that there must be some great new departure in dealing with the Irish question, and it must be upon the principle of conceding self-government to Ireland.

Then, my Lords, we come to the more difficult question about Ulster. I admit, as I have already said, the force of the case about the reality of Ulster sentiments, but I also say that there must be a limit to the extent to which that sentiment ought to be allowed to prevail. I add this. There is a deep responsibility upon the leaders of the Unionist Party not to fan that sentiment in Ulster unduly, but to do their utmost to keep it within bounds. What are the bounds? Ulster is not justified in saying she will not send representatives to a Parliament in Ireland, because in sending representatives to an Irish Parliament she can still, so far as I know, be safeguarded, and safeguarded fully, in her rights and privileges and in the preservation of individual liberty. Therefore I emphatically impress upon the noble Marquess that no statement about the exclusion of Ulster can be a satisfactory statement unless he can show some reason for saying that Ulster bases her case on something more than mere sentiment, that she bases it upon something real which precludes her taking part in representation in an Irish Parliament. Questions of sentiment are, no doubt, questions of very great importance, but you cannot let them go against the whole well-being of a nation. In this point not only Ireland and Ulster are concerned, but the United Kingdom. I agree with my noble and learned friend that we have a strong case, a case based upon the necessity of relieving Parliament here of much which has been an incubus on its proceedings. We believe that the opposition of Ulster can be very greatly reduced, and I think it is incumbent upon those who have influence in Ulster to lead the people there to look upon the question as a practical one.

Now, my Lords, what is the real attitude of the Opposition? The truth is that their attitude is difficult to define, because it is a divided one. Some there are who say, "We will do nothing; we object to the principle in toto." Others there are who will go a certain way, and will be willing to concede the principle if only terms are added which render it nugatory. Others there are who discuss it in a fashion which is vague and indefinite and make it very difficult to come to close quarters. There are yet others, I hope, who are prepared to accept the great advance that has been made in the public attitude toward the Irish question, and the necessity of examining this matter as one of principle on which agreement between the two great Parties in the State is not hopeless. That is the point on which I rose to address your Lordships, because if we can come to an agreement about the principle, then it seems to me we are out of, at any rate, the region of hopelessness. If it were for the sake of peace many of these things which the noble Marquess has discussed to-night would be easy of attainment. The first thing to know is that we both have the same object in view; and therefore any concession which is offered must be accepted, not as a confession that the Bill is a bad one, but as the price of a settlement, and a permanent settlement if that be possible, of a great question; and it is on that ground, and only upon that ground, that, speaking for myself, I am inclined to go far from the terms of the present Bill. To secure a settlement one would be willing to reconsider much, but let it not be imagined that the Bill is to come to naught.

My noble and learned friend also referred to the question of Federalism. I have heard many speeches made in which Federalism has been referred to, but I am not certain that even the noble Marquess was quite clear in the way in which he was using the word "federal" on this occasion. No doubt you could set up a federal system on the basis of Devolution, as in the Imperial Colonies. Federalism there, like everywhere else in the world, consists of this, that a number of small Governments are given certain powers to deal with local affairs, and the Imperial Parliament retains the rest of the power. What my noble and learned friend suggested is, that we should resort to a system of Devolution which is not inconsistent with what is commonly understood by Devolution; that we should give to Ireland such a system of self-government as could be applied to the other parts of the United Kingdom. My noble and learned friend said you need not do everything all at once, you could begin with Ireland; and I think it appears on the face of this Bill, and from what was said at the time of its introduction, that that is what it means—to give to Ireland what can be given to the other parts of the United Kingdom, and to treat each according to their necessity. That is a matter on which the noble Marquess had an open mind, and that would deal with the matter more effectively than any federal system.

I feel that about this controversy we ought not to despair. I know that I am sometimes considered to be an optimist in public affairs. I dare say I am. But I have been deeply conscious of the difficulties which have attended the present controversy, and deeply conscious of the difficulties which have separated Parties. I think that these difficulties have arisen largely from an indisposition to accept the fact that public opinion has advanced, and that certain things are settled now which could not have been regarded as settled twenty, or even ten, years ago. To-day we stand face to face with a new situation, and I think we should be under a deep responsibility if we did not rise to the consciousness that the situation calls for new views and a new attitude. If I am right in my interpretation of what has taken place in the last few years, the principle of self-government in Ireland is no longer a notion. If that principle is accepted it may be possible to make very large concessions as regards Ulster, and further safeguards if they are required about the Protestants in the rest of Ireland. The one thing needful, the first thing needful, is that we should see that we do not keep further apart from the facts that the state of public opinion warrants, and if we can come together even to that extent then I think that the words of the gracious Speech from the Throne, interpreted as they were in the fullest spirit by the Prime Minister in his speech last night, will have been justified.


My Lords, no doubt many of your Lordships who have listened to the speech of the noble and learned Viscount will be more enlightened than I am as to the precise intentions of the Government. He has told us that concessions to Ulster must have a limit. Apparently everything is to depend on the acceptance of the principle of Home Rule. Ulster is to have her liberties guarded by various changes and concessions. I want to make this observation, that if that is the noble and learned Viscount's interpretation of the initiative of the Government in making proposals, I am afraid they will not carry us any further in the path of compromise, concession, or agreement. The noble and learned Viscount gave us an excursus into the history of Ireland during the last twenty-eight years, and he told us that Home Rule had been an integral part of the programme of the present Government for no less than twenty-eight years. I should have thought it would have occurred to him, in reviewing the vast changes that had taken place in administration and in the laws of Ireland during that period, that perhaps some other method of treating the Irish question was necessary than the one that was applied with such ill success in 1886 before all these tremendous changes took place. The noble and learned Viscount did not really address himself with any solidity, I thought, to the question as to whether these matters could be submitted to a General Election. In fact, it is very curious to observe the tone taken by the Government on this question of a General Election. They adopt what I should call a rather confidential tone of discussion upon it. They seem quite ready to enter into discussion with us on the matter, but they say, What is the use of it? It will settle nothing; nothing will be done.

Now I am not going into the alternatives which have been fully dealt with by the noble Marquess, because I think that in all these argumentations and discussions, whether from the Prime Minister or the noble Viscount opposite, the real point has been missed or has not been dwelt upon. The question is not for us in this House or in the other House to say what an election is going to settle or what changes will take place afterwards. The point is whether we have the right to press immense changes of this kind on the peoples of these countries without having fairly and fully consulted them. Besides, is it really conceivable that no changes will take place when the people have been consulted? The situation must have changed. Yet the noble and learned Viscount and others speak as if the conditions could be the same to-day as they will be when that appeal has been made to the people.

The noble Marquess, I think, complained that this Bill, or a Bill of this nature, had not been submitted to the people. With great respect to the noble Marquess I go much further than that, and I say that at the election in 1910 the most deliberate care was taken to avoid these matters of Home Rule being presented with any force or fullness to the people. The Prime Minister, in one of those remarkable speeches of his, searched high and low for evidence, and the very fact of the paucity of that evidence is explained by the fact that he had to go back to the speech of the noble Marquess, about which the noble Marquess has made so generous ah offer to the other side. But I dwell less upon the offer than upon the principle, and that is that if only a mention is made of a great measure of this kind in the speech of one of the leaders of the Opposition, that I was almost going to say disqualifies the Government or makes it wholly unnecessary for them to insist upon it in their programme.

I pass by as almost irrelevant the fact that Home Rule was not mentioned in many addresses of members of the Cabinet, although I think it was the most remarkable coincidence of political evasion I can remember in any democratic Government. Talking of the weight and volume of attention directed to that subject, I will only say this, that if one-tenth of the energy displayed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in criticising the alleged delinquencies of the highest orders of the Peerage had been devoted to the question of Home Rule, the situation would not be that in which we are forced to find ourselves to-day. But I must make this apology to the Prime Minister that he did introduce one new piece of evidence into his argument that this matter had been submitted to the people. He said, "Before the Parliament Bill was brought in, when the Resolutions were introduced in 1910, an Amendment was moved to exempt Home Rule from the operation of the Parliament Act, and that was refused"; and according to the Prime Minister the refusal to exempt Home Rule from the Parliament Act was an indication to the people of this country that after the election that followed this matter was to be introduced and passed with the assent of the people. If that doctrine is really to be agreed to, and if it is to be admitted that any measure not exempted from the Parliament Act—and there are not many—may be passed through both Houses without being submitted to the assent of the people, then I think it is really necessary no longer to speak about democratic government; and instead of introducing the elected element into this House you had better introduce the hereditary element into the other House.

I listened with increasing interest to the new versions which new members of the Government are always giving of the omission in 1906 of Home Rule, which was, according to the noble Viscount, an integral part, although not mentioned, of the policy of His Majesty's Government. According to the Prime Minister, Home Rule was not pressed forward in 1906 because they had concentrated upon Free Trade. My impression as an electioneerer was that they had concentrated on Chinese Labour. I let that pass for the moment. But it is a most singular paradox that really we owe most of these difficulties in the Home Rule Bill, not to the success of the governing Party in 1910, but to their failure; and if they had maintained that stupendous majority of the Radical millennium in 1906 we should be hearing as little about Home Rule between 1910 and 1914 as we heard about it between the famous years of 1906 and 1910.

I should like to be permitted to examine, I will not say the sincerity of the proposals of the Government, but the question whether we should look at them with suspicion or not. May I refer for a moment to the manœuvres of the Prime Minister in the autumn on this subject. He made a very curious set of speeches. At one time he seemed to advance in the region of concession; at another time he seemed to recede; and one's instinct, which in these matters is very often stronger than reason, seemed to suggest that there was some unseen force behind which was checking him at the very moment he appeared to be willing to move in the region of concession. The limits on his action were highly restricted, and although I admired immensely the ingenuity and dexterity with which he receded from one position to another, it gave one the feeling that, tied as he was to some authority behind, he really could not give full freedom to any desire of concession that he might himself possess. And, my Lords, when speaking of this question of a General Election I wish I felt that the reasons alleged by the Government to-day were the only ones that are preventing them from appealing to the people. I am afraid that there is another objection behind; that if we had no Plural Voting Bill on the Table we should find the Government far more ready to accede to a General Election, and that behind all these solemn phrases about the resources of statesmanship, which are generally used by politicians in distress, we see peeping out the face of the political partisan.

Now, as far as one can gather, examining with some care all the loquacities and volubilities which have been poured out so freely on this subject, the only distinction between the statements made by His Majesty's Government now and in the autumn is this, that they have at last recognised that the duty of initiative rests upon themselves. In six months it is something gained for a Government in this country to recognise that they have the responsibility for governing the country; it is one of those elementary propositions of which I am glad they have obtained full knowledge in the last six months. But I am a little set back by the astounding spirit of levity with which some of those proposals and concessions are put before us. We are told that if these concessions are made they must not be taken to suggest that there is any imperfection in the Parliament Act. This insistence on the virtues of the Parliament Act is really almost an obsession with the Government; it has become a matter of almost amazing vanity. They admit that the Parliament Act, or even the Home Rule Bill may have blemishes, but they are only such blemishes as are incident to all human things; and that is really equivalent to saying that they really have no blemishes at all.

But these concessions are so hedged about with conditions that I really want to know in the course of this debate whether those conditions still remain or whether they have been relaxed, because, in my humble judgment, if those conditions are still insisted upon by the Government it is really almost futile to talk about conces- sions or agreement. Now, in the autumn we were told on the highest authority that all these conditions were to be subject to the setting up of an Irish Executive and an Irish Parliament in Ireland. I am bound to say that if you agree to that you seem to me to agree to everything. And the other condition was this—and it seems to me a most astounding position to lay before a Party who style themselves Unionists—that not only were they to accept that condition but they were to accept Home Rule. Not only Home Rule was to be passed, but the Unionist Party were to be humiliated—an astounding demand, I think, to come even from a foreign Government. And when I look at the demands of Mr. Redmond—and, after all, they must be taken into consideration in this connection—Mr. Redmond's demands are quite the same. I want to know if those demands of Mr. Redmond have been in any sense abated, because if they have not been abated then, my Lords, it becomes almost futile to talk about agreement or about concession. How is it possible for any Unionist to assent to any measure of Home Rule on a basis of this kind? It is almost a contradiction in terms to ask a Unionist to become a Home Ruler; yet it is the least almost of their demands. And may I say this, that powerful as is the case of Ulster, and concentrated as opinion has been upon it, my objections as an Englishman are almost as strong on the question of Home Rule as if Ulster did not exist at all; and that is a matter that is sometimes lost sight of in these discussions.

I do not want to go too much into the details of the Home Rule Bill, but I confess that the idea to me of forty-two Irishmen managing their own affairs without complete power to manage my own is in itself so intolerable a condition that even if Home Rule brought the utmost loving kindness between the two sections in Ireland I should be compelled, as an Englishman alone, to oppose it. But I know that the situation is even worse than this. I know that our affairs will be dealt with, not on their own merits, but solely as they may be a pawn in the game possibly between contending factions in order to wrest more demands out of this Government as regards Home Rule, because if there is anything which any critic or student of affairs knows, it is that the Home Rule Bill, extraordinarily ingenious as it is in construction and in attempting to meet all sorts, I will not say of difficulties, but points of view, is far more intended for passing through a House of Commons than it is intended for working. It is because of these many imperfections that any body of forty-two men from Ireland are almost bound to ceaselessly demand changes in it, and for that reason, as a first instinct of Parliamentary tactics, to use the home affairs of England, as I have said, merely as a pawn in the game. And I object, too, that our own countrymen from our own purse should have to pay a heavy dole to Ireland, and in spite of the Army and Navy being kept up for the Imperial service not a single penny of that cost will be contributed by Ireland. I do not want to multiply the reasons I have of objection, but they remain absolutely unmoved by any considerations of what has been offered.

The noble and learned Earl introduced a subject of which we have heard a great deal in this debate—the question of Federation. It is an interesting subject, and in any academic assembly I should be extremely interested in discussing it. But is it seriously suggested that now and in the present situation Federation is a cure for these ills? Whatever view you take about the presentation of the Home Rule Bill to the electorate, is there any one on either side who will suggest that the question of Federation has been discussed by the electorate? How many electors even could explain or tell you the meaning of the word Federation? There are many things possibly attractive about Federation, but the difficulties are stupendous. No one has ever, it seems to me, considered the simple question—no one has really answered the simple question—how are you going to have Federation with so dominant a unit in it as England is compared with the three other small units? The only man who has dealt with that is Mr. Churchill, and he, with characteristic courage, has undertaken to carve up the body of England into several portions. I only refer to this in order to maintain that at this time Federation is academic. You cannot deal with it—you have no right to deal with it—at the present moment, until it has been fully and fairly placed before the electorate of this country.

I do not want to deal with the innumerable other suggestions made by the noble and learned Earl. They seem to me to offer a considerable opportunity for the present Cabinet to occupy their time and avoid disagreeable discussions and quarrels or ill feelings between the members of the Cabinet on financial and naval matters. But let me allude for one moment to some of these concessions. There is the exclusion of Ulster. Well, I have supported the exclusion of Ulster simply and solely on this ground, that I believe it is one of the best ways of killing the Home Rule Bill that could possibly have been devised. I was never under any delusion myself that Nationalists would frankly accept the exclusion of Ulster and build up a State of their own without that rich and wealthy Province. Then one of the most remarkable suggestions I have heard in the course of this discussion—I think it was not made in this House—was that Ulster should be excluded with the option of inclusion. An amazing position. I do not know at what time Ulster was to be allowed to use this wonderful option of inclusion.

Now, all these things may be good or they may be bad—I think them very impossible myself—but without a General Election, as the noble Marquess has said, and without these matters being submitted to the people, it is wholly impossible either for the Government or for the Opposition to agree to them; and if really there was to be an agreement I say with all respect to the two Front Benches in this House or the other that I think the book written by Mr. Belloc would be fully justified. He wrote a work in which he attributed the whole working of the Constitution in this country to the efforts of the two Front Benches to keep the power in their own hands and effectually prevent the people from having any voice whatever in the conduct of their own country. I feel forcibly the difficulties of the opposite solution. I feel the difficulties of the South and West of Ireland, but I can only deal with this matter very shortly. If the position is so impossible; if you cannot exclude Ulster, and if, supposing you do not give Home Rule, you have difficulties with Nationalist Ireland, I should have thought the simple suggestion would be to have maintained these two different and warring factions in a larger unity and to provide them with peace under the general ægis of the united Parliament. Anyhow, whatever may be done in another Assembly, I think it is very obvious that nothing can be done in this. Twice has this House refused to pass the Home Rule Bill on the very best ground, in my humble judgment—on the ground that this Bill or anything like this Bill has never been submitted to the electors of this country. That being so, and that being the very ground on which this House refused the Bill, this House would indeed be stultifying itself if it accepted a solution of this kind, which certainly, whatever may be said of the Home Rule Bill, has never been submitted to the electors of this country.

I know that some persons attempt to excite our fear and tell us that if an agreement of this kind is not come to armed revolt will break out in Ulster, and the only way to deal with these matters would be to put down this revolt by force of arms. The noble and learned Earl—as did the noble Viscount also, I think—said that he had never been under any illusion as to the strength of the feeling in Ulster, and that having had the experience of two Home Rule Bills before he was not very likely to underrate it. The only charge I can bring against the noble Viscount is this, that he kept those communings of his own within his own breast, and he never gave them that forcible expression, which no one can give better than he in writing or in speech, as warnings to his fellow-countrymen. But I can say this at least—I will not say in acquittal of Ulster, but in justification of Ulster—Ulster would have been very wrong if she had kept her preparations to the last or placed any doubt upon her attitude. She has done nothing of the kind. From the first she has made her position entirely clear, and from the first any fault or failure to recognise the strength and the force of that decision must fall with full and tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of the Government, who were either misinformed or do not attach due weight to the information they then received. I submit, too, that no charge can be brought against us on that matter, because the responsibility for things which have arisen, which we are now asked to compromise, is due wholly to the action of the Government in the last few years. They are due to the fact of the complete surrender to one portion of the Coalition which is necessary to keep the Government in power. I say also that they are due to the absurdities of that ridiculous instrument of government, the Parliament Act, which the wear and tear of political strife will soon destroy.

It is quite true, I think, that there has been displayed a good deal of popular indifference within the last two years to the Home Rule Bill. The interpretation put upon that by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack is that it is res judicata, and that therefore the electorate need pay no great attention to it. My interpretation of it is rather different. It is an interpretation which does some credit to the practical sense of our people. They are not going to pay any attention to the Bill during the absurd manœuvres of the Parliament Act. They realise that the House of Commons has been reduced, as every Member of it knows, to an absurdity by the necessity of passing this measure without changing a syllable, without changing a letter, three times before it becomes law. And they know well that the duties, so far as that is concerned, of Members of Parliament in reference to the Parliament Bill during the last few years could just as well have been discharged by an assembly of sandwich-men labelled and walking through the Lobbies. But I believe now that a change is coming, and that public opinion is paying a very deep and different attention to the matter than it has been doing during the last few years.

Now, is there any fear of force being used to coerce Ulster? My Lords, I do not believe there is the least chance of anything of the kind. I know that Parties alter their positions as regards their principles. I think you may have observed in the Liberal Party during the last three or four years a great deal of change as regards the principles of individual liberty and individual property; but I refuse absolutely to believe that any Party constituted as the Liberal Party is can possibly imagine that it can, without destroying itself as a Party, use force in order to drive people out from the Constitution of this country. There would be a breaking, a smashing-up, in the component parts of the Liberal Party more tremendous and more far-reaching than the great rending of 1886. I was going to ask whether really it was possible to conceive that our Army that has been so much abused by the Nationalists for their conduct in the Boer War was now at last going to be led against a real enemy, the Ulstermen, at the behest of the Liberal Party. The whole thing is inconceivable. It is just as inconceivable as our sending our vessels of war to America to bring out the 50,000 heroes in Philadelphia who announced their intention of fighting for the Nationalists in the coming war. Is it possible that they are going to bring themselves to give the British Army the horrible alternative either of mutiny or of shooting down their fellow-countrymen? I regard these things as chimerical, and I think they may be absolutely dismissed from our minds in trying to see a way to deal with this matter.

There is a third reason I think I may allude to, and it is this. Even if any Government could be so wicked as to indulge in such a course of conduct, that Government would feel, if they were to use force against Ulster, the rising fury of their own countrymen, who would demand of them far more than mere exclusion from office. I think it is not hard to see the course of events in the future. I never thought myself that any concessions would be made or offered until we got nearer, I will not say to the appointed day, but to the time of action. The Government are, I recognise, in a terrible position—a position terrible to any Government. On the one side they have the alternative of losing their Nationalist supporters and losing office, and on the other side they have the horrible alternative of coercing Ulster. What they will do, I imagine, is this. They will go on making concessions and offers of concessions, and after another six months we shall get a little further. They will use every effort to persuade our Party to accept some form of Home Rule by persuasion and cajolery, and when they are faced at last by this terrible alternative, and when they have exhausted all the arts of persuasion and cajolery, then, I believe, they will be forced to go to that election which they are so naturally and so humanly reluctant to face.


My Lords, I am rather inclined to agree with the words of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that we should not forget that there is not only an Ulster question, but a question which concerns the whole of Ireland. The position of Unionists in the South and West of Ireland has for the last twelve months been a very difficult one, and it seems to me that the difficulty is getting greater day by day. Because the Unionists in Ulster have been able to co-operate and to threaten armed resistance in the case of the passage of the Home Rule Bill, it seems to me that this is regarded by the Unionist Party in England as being not only the dominant, which it is, but the sole, issue of the Irish problem worthy of consideration. Whenever I open the newspapers and gaze at the political news, or whenever I read a speech from one of my political leaders, it is invariably under the heading "Ulster Crisis."

Now I yield to no one in my admiration of the wonderful measures which the Unionists of Ulster have taken to defend themselves against the fate which they think may await them under this Bill, but I submit that there are other phases of the Home Rule question which are well worthy of the consideration of the country. I am glad to say that one or two of these phase have been mentioned by the speakers to-day, but we do not hear at all in the same way as we did in an earlier stage of the discussion of the fact that if Home Rule is granted it will be used only as a lever to obtain further concessions until at last the Nationalists attain the goal at which they are aiming—the complete severance of every link which binds the two countries together. That has been expressed two nights ago by Mr. Maurice Healy. He said that the present Home Rule Bill was a small geranium placed in a pot, but it would soon outgrow that pot and be placed in a bigger one. We have not heard that this Bill means injury to England as well as disaster to Ireland. We have not been reminded, except in the speech of the noble Viscount just now, of the heavy pecuniary liability which will befall the taxpayer of this country should the measure become law. Hardly any mention has been made of the fact that while English or Scottish Members cannot take any part in the Irish Parliament, there will be forty-two Members from Ireland in the Imperial House of Commons, perhaps able to pass legislation in this country against the majority of their representatives. And, above all, it has not been impressed upon us what will be the disgrace of this country if she forsakes those who most require her help—the scattered Unionists in the South and West of Ireland whose ancestors were placed there in the past to keep the country for her, and who have faithfully discharged the trust which was committed to them.

I know the great difficulties in the way of the leaders of my Party. I have no wish to embarrass them. They must decide what is the best way to play the cards which they have. But when I hear this talk of the surrender of the Unionists in the South and the West, I begin to wonder whether it is not time that we took action for ourselves and tried to obtain the best terms we can from our new masters. We have heard of conversations which have taken place. It is supposed that those conversations have at any rate led to the consideration of the exclusion of Ulster, and we know that that course is openly approved of, is openly spoken of, as a means of peace by many of the leading newspapers in the country. Only to-day I was astonished to hear the Leader of the Opposition state that if this was adopted, new precautions for safeguarding the interests of those who are outside Ulster would have to be provided. New safeguards! Paper safeguards! The noble Marquess himself has told us what is their value. When I hear of these conversations in another place between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, when I recognise that they may mean the exclusion of Ulster and that we are to be offered as a sacrifice on the altar of this unholy alliance, I cannot help wondering if we Unionists are not somewhat like the oysters in "Alice Through the Looking-Glass." Your Lordships may remember they were asked to go for a walk with the walrus and the carpenter. The object of these two individuals was the same, but their attitude was different. The carpenter was ruthless. I think he may be taken to represent the Prime Minister. The walrus was more sympathetic. Your Lordships may remember how he addressed the oysters— 'I weep for you,' the walrus said, 'I deeply sympathise' With sobs and sighs he sorted out those of the largest size, Holding a pocket handkerchief before his streaming eyes. My Lords, I cannot believe that this represents the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition in another place. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition in this House told us to-day that he strongly objected to the exclusion of Ulster. I am not astonished to hear it. I think the noble Marquess would do so on many grounds, but when I remember that he has a large property in Ireland I cannot forget that he might be one of the large crustaceans who would suffer in that way, and I have not learned that the noble Marquess is in any shape or form a recruit to the Suicide Club.

My contention is that no exclusion of Ulster should take place as an alternative to a General Election, but because I say this It does not mean that I am so much afraid of the exclusion of Ulster as many other people in Ireland. It seems to me that on the whole the Unionists in Ireland would be no worse off, and might, perhaps, be rather better off, if Ulster were excluded, because in the first place we should find the Nationalist spider doing her best to attract the Ulster fly into her web. In the second place, we know that we should have ample hostages in the North which might make our position more secure in the south; and, in the third place, we feel pretty well convinced that the only thing which would induce the Nationalists to accept such an arrangement would be a largely increased subsidy which would render it less necessary for them to impose vindictive taxation upon us. In fact, I think if Ulster were excluded, the Unionists in the rest of Ireland might be allowed to live in the same way as the Uitlanders were allowed to live in South Africa before the Boer War. That would not be an enviable fate, but it would be enviable in comparison with what our fate would be under the Home Rule Bill if it is allowed to become law.

What every Unionist in the South and West asks for is for a General Election or a referendum. We do not care which it is. We know that His Majesty's Government object to an election, because they think it would do away with that sort of odour of sanctity with which they have clothed the Parliament Act; and however much they may use it for ordinary matters it is not an Act to be used where matters of life and death are concerned. The government also told us that it is no good having recourse to a General Election because we should not be prepared to abide by the result. The answer to that has been given so often that I am ashamed to repeat it. The classic in this connection was uttered in the French Chamber when some Deputy was advising the abolition of the punishment of death. The reply given on that occasion was, "Que messieurs les assassins commencent." Before we Unionists can be asked to agree to abide by the decision of the General Election it is only fair to know whether the Nationalists also are prepared to abide by that issue.

But I am prepared to go further than that. I believe that if this matter were submitted to a General Election and decided against us we should have no option but to accept the verdict of the people. I can only speak for myself, but I am certain that there are very many Unionists—the vast majority of the Unionists in the South and West—who agree with me, and even as far as Ulster is concerned I am inclined to think that if there were a decisive majority against them they would find it difficult to maintain their present attitude. I do not say we should surrender at discretion. That would be too much to ask. I think at least as good terms ought to be offered to us as were offered to the men of Alsace and Lorraine when those provinces were ceded to Germany. I have not the particulars of the Treaty of Paris here, but I think we should be allowed to opt for nationality, and every facility should be given to those who opted for England to dispose of their property, to remove their businesses, and obtain employment for that which they had lost on the other side. It would be a terrible alternative—on the one hand our homes, our businesses, our associations from childhood, the Ireland we love so well; and on the other hand England. Yes, my Lords, for those who chose Ireland would, I fear, be amongst the most bitter enemies of the country which had forsaken them.

I do not believe we shall be called upon to make such a choice. I feel convinced that if this matter is submitted to the judgment of the people of the country they will decide by no uncertain voice that we have a right to remain citizens of the United Kingdom. And by so doing they will not only lift from our shoulders a great burden, but they also will be secretly thanked by many Nationalists who, though they are afraid to say so, dread the Home Rule Bill and the taxation which they know they would have to suffer under it. Before I sit down, I should like to say one word with regard to the speech of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn. I am of opinion, like him, that in a federal system is perhaps to be found a solution of this question. Whether we like it or not, we could not refuse to accept a system which was to be applied equally to all parts of the United Kingdom, but that system would have to be applied simultaneously to them all. Thus, perhaps, peace might be obtained. But if, on the other hand, the Government persist in the course which they have undertaken, they will not only as a result have civil war, but they will also have retarded the peace, the progress, and the happiness of Ireland for over a century.


My Lords, I would not venture to address your Lordships to-night on this subject were it not that I wish to place before you as clearly as I can the reasons why we in Ulster object so forcibly to this Bill, and why we are prepared to resist it. I think it must be clear to every one that the real reason why Ulster has determined to take up arms, and, if need be, to fight for her rights, is solely and entirely due to the result of the Parliament Act. Formerly the minority in Ireland could appeal to your Lordships' House, and your Lordships had the power of referring a Bill which the minority disliked and dreaded to the electorate. That power is now gone, and Ulster has realised that all along. Ulster has been perfectly clear in the attitude she has adopted. She has never waited for anything to turn up; she has been perfectly consistent ever since it was obvious that this Bill would become law under the Parliament Act. Although the noble Viscount who spoke quite recently was of the opinion that no Government would ever commit the crime of using troops to coerce the people of Ulster, yet I venture to say that if Ulster had acted on that principle in the belief that she would not have to fight for her existence the condition would be very different now from what it is—very different.

My Lords, can it be said that the electorate of this country ever realised that this Home Rule Bill would mean civil war? Does any one think, if the electorate had realised that the only way of passing this Home Rule Bill as it is at present is by coercing Ulster and using the British Army, that they would have given a mandate for this Bill? The noble and learned Viscount seemed to suggest, if I am not wrong, that the resistance of Ulster was one merely of sentiment and nothing else. Sentiment, I admit, plays a very large part with the Irish nation, but any one who has taken the trouble to study Irish history, especially the history of Ulster, will realise this fact, that Ulster in the past—although I do not care to dwell on the past history of my country— had to fight for the rights and liberties she now possesses; and she is never going to give up those rights and liberties without another fight. We are told that if this Bill were not to pass—I am assuming it is submitted to the country and the country gave a verdict against it—there would be outrages, and there might be a revolution in other parts of Ireland, in the South and West. No doubt there would be some disturbance; of that there is little doubt; but that there would be a revolution or a real armed resistance to the verdict of the country I cannot for one moment agree. And for this simple reason, which I venture to say is always overlooked—it has been overlooked with regard to this Bill and with regard to this question of Home Rule—that the driving force for Home Rule is not nearly as strong as it was.

What was the driving force of Home Rule in 1886 and 1893? It was the land. That was the force more than anything else. If Parnell had not realised the power of the Land League as far as agitation or the obtaining of land, which was really the driving force for Home Rule, was concerned, I have little doubt that we should have heard less about it than we have heard. We are told that a system of Federation may be the only solution of this difficulty. It may be so. It may be that we shall come some day to a system of Federation; but I challenge any noble Lord in this House to get up and tell us that this Bill is any sort of scheme of Federation at all. I must admit I cannot see it. We are told by noble Lords opposite that the Union has not been a success, that it is the cause of much of the trouble in Ireland. I, for one, cannot admit that. Take the whole history of Ireland for the past 600 years or for the past 800 years, and you will find, without hardly any exception, that the only real prosperity Ireland has ever enjoyed has dated from the last twenty-five years.

We are told that the Nationalists have a passionate desire for Home Rule. That they have a passionate desire for this Bill I rather doubt, because, my Lords, the only Nationalist body in Ireland of which I know who have expressed an opinion on this Bill and who have put it in writing is the General Council of the Irish County Councils. Every one will admit—noble Lords opposite will admit—that that is a truly representative Nationalist body. They met in April, 1912, and discussed this Bill, and any one who takes the trouble to get their report and to read it will perceive that in no unmeasured terms they objected to the financial proposals of this Bill, and it is rather interesting to see why they objected. In one short sentence they give their reasons for objecting to the financial terms of this Bill. It is this— In our view increased taxation is the key-note of the financial provisions of the Bill. That is their opinion of the Bill which you propose to give to them; and that is the opinion of Ulster as well.

His Majesty's Government have brought in a measure to give Ireland a subordinate Parliament. They have estimated, in a manner somewhat difficult to understand, the revenue of Ireland and the cost of the administration of Ireland, and they have struck a balance and have given something over. Any further expenditure Ireland requires for any local service she has to find herself, and there is no question about it that if she has to find it herself she will have to tax her own people. Now I, for one, have always held the view that one of the chief reasons why Pitt was so anxious to pass the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland was this, that he wished to place the taxpayers of Great Britain and Ireland on one common footing. I have always understood that the taxpayer in Ireland pays no more into the Imperial Exchequer than any taxpayer in either England or Scotland—in fact, I think under the Union he pays in some respects somewhat less; but under this Bill we have not only to pay what we always had to pay before, but we have to pay for any other expenditure that we may require; and I personally, and certainly the Party in Ulster to which I belong, entirely object to that. We have never asked for, we do not desire, any special treatment. We do not seek for any ascendancy over any one in Ireland. All we ask, and it has been our contention all along, is, "Leave us in the Union under which we have prospered. If you wish to give Ireland Home Rule, if you wish to give Ireland a Parliament to manage her own affairs, it is not for us to dictate to the rest of Ireland; but if you do that, though we object to it, though we think it is bad for the country, yet if you are going to do that you must leave us out."

The noble Lord who spoke just before me alluded to the position of those Unionists who are outside Ulster, and though I frankly detest the idea of Ulster being excluded, because I think in many ways it is an absolutely unworkable scheme, yet I detest it in a sense still more because it seems to me to leave the rest of the Unionists in Ireland to fight their battle alone. We will never get a peaceful solution of the Irish question—and that there is an Irish question no one will deny—unless both Parties in the State can come to some agreement, and can meet on some common ground. I venture to say that the only ground on which we can ever come to a peaceful solution of what is called the Irish question is a basis of a form of government by which you will secure equal rights for all classes in Ireland; and I do not honestly believe that by granting Ireland self-government you will be able to arrive at that equality and equal treatment to all classes which we all so much desire.

A further word, if I may, on the question of the resistance of Ulster. I am sorry that the Radical Press for the past year should have stated over and over again that our preparations and our resistance in Ulster was all bluff and bluster. Some of us in Ulster have had the honour of serving in His Majesty's Army; some of us have had the honour of serving on active service; and it is somewhat strange that when men who have served their King and country, men who have the greatest respect for the Service to which at one time they belonged, have signed a Covenant which may entail upon them the necessity of taking up arms against the Army in which they at one time served, that this should be taken as mere bluff and bluster. I merely say this because I want the British public, if possible, to realise, even at the eleventh hour, that our feeling in Ulster is one which goes far deeper than most people would imagine. You do not get men to walk night after night four or five miles along a muddy road, after a hard day's work, to be trained, to be drilled to shoot, merely for nothing; you do not get men to give up their spare time to learn something of the art of war; you do not get men who are prepared to give up a portion of their hard-earned wages for the purpose of providing themselves with equipment or other military material—you do not get men to do this, my Lords, for mere bluff and bluster; and I would with all my heart that His Majesty's Government had realised this fact before now.

It is very hard to believe that His Majesty's Government, if the worst comes to the worst, if no settlement can be arrived at, really do intend to employ the British Army to coerce Ulster. They can do it, they can flood Ulster with British troops, they can keep a garrison on a war footing in Ulster as long as they like, unless public opinion in this country prohibits them; but even assuming that they can do that, even assuming that they can absolutely coerce Ulster, and, may be, force her inhabitants to leave the country—even when they have done that, what result have they got? They will have left in Ireland such a legacy of hatred for what they have done that it will take centuries for the memory of that to be effaced, and all hope, all chance of any peaceful settlement of this question will be gone from Ireland for ever.


My Lords, it seems to me that if the Parliament Act is to continue always to regulate in this country our Parliamentary procedure the result will be that every Bill with which your Lordships do not find yourselves in agreement will be most likely debated at least five times, if not more, in each House of Parliament. The result of this may possibly be to make every one more familiar with the question at issue, but it will certainly make it increasingly difficult for those who take part in these debates to make a single remark which has not already been made over and over again. And in this connection I am really sorry for His Majesty's Government on this occasion, because it seems to me that that difficulty must press more hardly upon them than it does upon your Lordships on this side of the House. I can think of innumerable objections to the Home Rule Bill, any one of which we on this side might take as our theme, but I cannot think of one single advantage which can by any possibility be accorded to the Home Rule Bill. The noble Viscount opposite, in his speech yesterday, did not tell us of one single advantage which in his view could result to anybody, to Ireland or anybody else, from the passage of that measure.

The noble and learned Earl who used to occupy the Woolsack in your Lordships' House put his finger upon what I think is, perhaps, the only possible advantage which can be claimed for the Bill when he said it was desirable to clear from the Imperial Parliament the obstruction to which the Irish Nationalist Members inevitably give rise. I should agree with the noble and learned Earl were the Bill going to clear the Irish Nationalist Members from the Imperial Parliament, but there will be enough left there to make themselves fully as objectionable as they have been in the past. The noble Viscount expressed himself as very much distressed that your Lordships on this side of the House seemed to be unable to sympathise with the idea of Irish nationality. Well, my Lords, we have seen murders committed in the name of Irish nationality, and we have seen defenceless people boycotted. We have seen lonely houses fired into, and dumb animals mutilated. And we have seen a Party maintained in another place by Irish American money. But we have never seen a movement in connection with the idea of Irish nationality which is in any way worthy of respect.

I wonder whether it has every occurred to His Majesty's Government to think that their position at the present moment in the eyes of the world must seem to be a little bit ignominious. We have the spectacle of the Government of a great Empire toeing the line at the bidding of Mr. John Redmond, and kept in office by the votes of men who have never lost a single opportunity of proclaiming their hatred for the Empire, and for everything for which the Empire stands. To my mind the position of His Majesty's Government seems to be a little bit undignified; but that position, I think, is a happy one compared with what the position of His Majesty's Government will be if they succeed, as they very possibly may, in lighting a conflagration in Ulster which they will be quite unable to put out.

I should like to say a word or two about that portion of the Irish loyalists with whom, naturally, I am most concerned—the loyalists in the South and West. These people are scattered and are not able to make their opinions heard like the people in Ulster. They are not able to gather together for their own defence, but they are every bit as violently opposed to the principle of Home Rule as any Unionist in Ulster, and they probably have more to fear from the passage of the Home Rule Bill than has anybody else. It is the existence in Ireland of this scattered Unionist population in the three southern provinces which to my mind will make it absolutely impossible to arrive at any settlement of this question by consent. If the population of Ulster was exclusively Unionist, and the population of the three southern provinces exclusively Nationalist, it might be possible to arrive at a settlement by what is known as the policy of the exclusion of Ulster. But you cannot separate Ulster from the rest of Ireland without inflicting an abominable injustice, on the one hand, upon the Nationalist population of Ulster, and, on the other hand, upon the Unionist population of the three southern provinces.

I do not believe, my Lords, that the Prime Minister will be able to produce any suggestion which can possibly be expected to lead to a settlement of this question by consent. The Government acknowledge that when they came into office and took over the management of Ireland they found the country in a condition of peace and prosperity which it had never been known to enjoy before; and during, I think, nine years of office they have succeeded in bringing affairs in Ireland to such a pass that we are almost face to face with the prospect of civil war. It seems to me that the only honourable course which the Government can pursue is to acknowledge that they have made a mess of their attempt to deal with the Irish question, and to make room for those who certainly could not possibly make as great a mess, and might have a reasonable chance of repairing the mischief which has already been done.

It has been argued that if we have a General Election it will do no good; that we shall be where we were before. But if that election was honestly and fairly fought on the question of Home Rule, and on that alone, and if His Majesty's Government were once more returned to power, although no one can deny there would be still grave difficulties to face, surely the Government would be in a better position to face those difficulties. They would be able, at any rate, to say that they had a mandate for that policy and intended to pursue it, and I should imagine their hands would be enormously strengthened. On the other hand, supposing that the Unionists were returned to power. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said that to disappoint the Irish people now of their expectation of Home Rule would be to go back twenty years or more to the old days of the bad times in Ireland; and I think he gave us to understand that it would be as difficult a task to restore order in the South of Ireland under those conditions as it would be to coerce Ulster. I do not think the noble and learned Viscount has lived in Ireland, and he may not know quite so much about Ireland as he thinks he does, if I may say so. We who live in Ireland—and I think my noble friends from Ireland will bear me out—do not believe that the average Nationalist is so tremendously keen on Home Rule that he will put himself out very much to make a fuss if he does not get it. And I do not think that the Unionist Party would find it very difficult to settle any little disturbances which might arise in the South and West owing to the death of the Home Rule Bill now before Parliament. I have no doubt that the Irish American paymasters would be excessively annoyed, and very likely Mr. John Redmond and his colleagues in another place might be obliged to bustle about and try to stir up a disturbance, but I feel convinced they would not have very much success. I have ventured to occupy your Lordships much too long. But is it too optimistic to express the hope—the hope which, I think, is shared probably by more than half the population of these islands—that even at the eleventh hour His Majesty's Government will have the courage to acknowledge that their policy has been a failure, and to submit the whole question to the judgment of the electorate?

[The sitting was suspended shortly before eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]


My Lords, I would not have ventured to address your Lordships to-night had I not considered it my duty to say all I could to prevent the passage into law of the Home Rule Bill, which must inevitably, to my mind, bring about a state of civil war in Ireland. I will go further and say not only in Ireland, but, I believe, in England as well. I would also like now and here to refer to a remark which dropped from the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, with reference to the unconstitutional method employed by the people of Ulster at the present time of crisis. May I say that in my view the position we have had to take up in Ulster is the direct and immediate effect of the passing into law of the Parliament Act. Before the passing of that measure your Lordships' House acted as a kind of buffer. Since the passing of that Act that buffer, or safeguard, has been removed, and now any section of the community which objects to the passing of legislation must of necessity defend itself. It must, in fact, practically fight for its own protection.

May I ask your Lordships to-night to consider this question, Who wants Home Rule? The preponderating class in Ireland is admittedly the farmers. Do they want Home Rule? Certainly the farmers who have purchased under the Land Purchase Acts do not. They are perfectly content with their lot, and they know quite well that if Home Rule were to come into operation it would only bring agitation and discontent, and would generally upset the economic conditions of the country. As for those who have not purchased under the Land Acts, may I say in regard to them that I think one can very safely gauge the extent to which an individual or a community wants anything by the amount of money with which that individual or community is prepared to back-up the demand. Mr. John Redmond and his associates in the Nationalist Party are never tired of telling us that these men are clamouring for Home Rule. How much do they subscribe to Mr. Redmond's Home Rule Fund? The sum of their contributions, I believe, works out at 3d. per man. Remembering that, I do not think it can fairly be said that these men are particularly anxious for the supposed blessings of Home Rule.

Then there is the business community throughout Ireland. What is their attitude towards Home Rule? Do they want it? Your Lordships will remember that the great meeting which took place in Belfast a month or two back, and was attended by 7,000 business men, condemned the Home Rule Bill root and branch. And, besides that, there was the remarkable document signed and published by all the principal business men of the South and West of Ireland, in which they condemned the Bill in no uncertain terms. We now come to those who want Home Rule, or who profess to want it. There are, first, those who possess nothing at present, and therefore have nothing to lose by Home Rule. Then there are the Nationalist Members of Parliament, and, lastly, there is a band of agitators in Ireland and in America. I ask, Are His Majesty's Government prepared to plunge the country into civil war to appease such a small community as that? I would remind your Lordships that no resolution that has ever yet been passed in favour of the Home Rule Bill has been without a rider to the effect that supporters of the Bill accepted the measure simply as a stepping-stone to total separation and independence.

Now may I allude to what is going on in Ulster. Home Rule is the sole topic of conversation there. Nobody thinks or talks of anything else, and the question that is asked all the time is, How can we best save ourselves from it? Drilling goes on night and day. Recruits are still joining the volunteers, and the battalion which I have the honour to command—a battalion recruited entirely from labourers in the country—is over 1,500 strong to-day. Some of these men walk four or five miles every night after a hard day's work in order to engage in drill. I ask your Lordships to remember that no special attractions are provided to induce them to come. There is simply a bare hall, where, as often as not, no fire is provided; there is simply a gas jet or a lamp to light the place. There is nothing to eat or drink—in fact, as I have said, there are no attractions. Yet these men, animated by a sense of duty, come night after night to drill. I only tell your Lordships this in order to show you the spirit which inspires them. It is the same with the women of Ulster. They are joining the men in preparing for anything that may happen. They are forming themselves into ambulance corps all over the country, and are working hard in learning first-aid to the wounded and nursing. Moreover, dressing stations and hospitals are being prepared all over the country, so that if the worst comes Ulster may be ready for the struggle. All this vacillation, all the pretence of providing adequate safeguards, on the part of His Majesty's Government only tends to raise the temper of the people of Ulster, and I submit that you cannot allow the temper or the blood of a community such as this to rise and then expect to be able to quell it by a stroke of the pen or by a mere order. These men have been, and still are, under the control of the responsible leaders of the movement. They have faith in their leaders, and they look to them to lead them to victory and ultimately to peace. They look to their leaders to defeat this great conspiracy of the Home Rule Bill; and I would warn your Lordships to-night that if the leaders were to show the slightest hesitation, or if the democracy thought that they were being deserted by them, then these men would take the matter into their own hands. That is truly a most serious condition of affairs. The self-control which has been shown up to now, both by men and women, has been to my mind simply extraordinary and deserving of the highest praise; but if these men once ceased to obey their leaders, as they are doing implicitly to-day, the result could only be disastrous.

The Prime Minister tells us that he proposes to bring forward fresh safeguards at some future date. I believe that all these safeguards, of which we hear so much, are worthless. Once a Home Rule Parliament was set up in Dublin the safeguards, I am afraid, would be consigned to the waste-paper basket. The reason is a simple one. If we in Ulster protested against any measure which was passed by a Home Rule Parliament, I understand that under the present Bill we should have the right of appeal to the Parliament at Westminster; but if the Parliament at Westminster supported our appeal and sought to bring pressure to bear on the Government in Dublin the Home Rule Government would resign and chaos would ensue, because no other Government could be formed in Ireland. In a speech which he delivered the other day Sir Edward Grey asked us this question, What do you fear? I think the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, asked us much the same question to-night. The first answer to that is that we fear nothing that we can see. I have no doubt that the Home Rule Parliament would be on their best behaviour for the first year or two. They would attempt to lull the British public into the belief that they were going to be fair and honest and just to everybody. But after a time they would begin to retaliate on the Protestants in the North of Ireland and in the rest of Ireland. There is no possibility, to my mind, of introducing any safeguards which would prevent a Home Rule Government interfering with our Church and our schools, and imposing unjust laws and unfair taxation on Protestants in the North and in other parts of Ireland. There are more ways of killing a cat than drowning it in cream, and I have no doubt that the ingenuity of the Nationalist Members of Parliament would very soon find a way round any safeguard that His Majesty's Government may seek to include in the Bill to-day. If His Majesty's Government are prepared to introduce such a great number of safeguards, what is the use of having a Home Rule Bill at all? Why should the unfortunate taxpayer in England be mulcted of several million pounds a year for that sort of thing?

We have always been prepared, and we are prepared still, to consider any measure for the better government of Ireland, but what we object to, and what we join issue with the Government over to-day, is this particular Home Rule Bill, which we believe, so far from making for the better government of Ireland, will spell ruin and disaster to the country. To-night we have been asked by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, and also by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to help forward His Majesty's Government with the scheme. Most of us, I suppose, if not all of us, are prepared to consider some form of extension of local government, but I would remind the noble and learned Earl of the fate of the Irish Councils Bill. In Ireland the Nationalists absolutely refused to have that Bill at all, and until you can get the Nationalist Members of Parliament to accept some proposal of that sort I cannot see the use of our being asked to put it forward. If both Parties in this country are convinced that it is necessary to relieve Parliament of a large amount of the work it does at present which is purely local in character, then I see no reason why some form of extension of local government should not be instituted to ease the pressure at Westminster. But to come forward now and simply for the reason that Parliament is overworked, to commence with wretched Ireland and destroy the Union, which has brought peace and prosperity to the country, is an extraordinary method of proceeding with the matter.

I began to-night by stating that I believe civil war to be inevitable if the Home Rule Bill is placed on the Statute Book. Would your Lordships consider what effect civil war will have on the finances of the country. It has been said, and truly said, that if 5,000 men of a foreign invading Army could be landed on the shores of England our financial credit would suffer a tremendous blow, if not an irretrievable one. If that is true of invasion, what can be said of civil war? Nobody could say how great the effect of civil war would be on our finances, but it is certain that the bank rate would leap up, and that the prices of food and other commodities would rise, and I believe we might even see a perplexed and embarrassed Radical Administration introducing a measure of Tariff Reform. I remember the late Lord Goschen, I think in a speech in your Lordships' House, accusing the Party who introduced Tariff Reform of "gambling with the food of the people." His Majesty's Government are not guilty of gambling with the food of the people, but—and this is far worse—they are certainly guilty of gambling with the lives of the people. Moreover, I am afraid they are not actuated by the same high motives as were those politicians of whom Lord Goschen spoke, and who only wished to consider the welfare of the people of this country.

There is only one more thing I wish to say. I still am a soldier, and at the same time I try to take up a position as a civilian at the present moment. There is a paragraph in the Army Act which deals with the grievances of officers, and it says that if an officer has a grievance he has the right of appeal through successive stages till he can go at last to the foot of the Throne. That section of the Army Act is considered by the authorities to be so important that it is communicated in the King's Regulations and is read out every three months. I cannot believe that in a crisis of this sort when it is a question of civil war, when it is a question of our retaining our citizenship and our self-respect—I cannot believe that there can be one law for soldiers and another law for civilians. At the present moment, when we in Ulster have a grievance, His Majesty's Government have shattered the Constitution and have destroyed one estate of the realm. We have appealed to one of the other two estates of the realm, and they have turned a deaf ear to our appeal. We now appeal to the last estate of the realm—namely, the Throne itself. We present our humble duty to His Majesty, and as loyal and dutiful citizens we ask him to assist us in this time of our stress and difficulty.

After the passage of this Home Rule Bill—if the Government force it through without the election which we demand—what then? Are His Majesty's Government going to invade the North of Ireland with an Army and engage in a war of extermination? Do they imagine for a minute that the business is going to be over quickly? If they do they will find that they have never made a bigger mistake in their lives. Directly the Army was withdrawn the men of Ulster would be up in arms again against the dictates of a Home Rule Parliament. So His Majesty's Government would have to make Ulster iterally an armed camp, not for days or months, but for years, and instead of getting, under Home Rule, a peaceful Ulster, you would get a second Poland.


My Lords, the speech delivered last night by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, will I am sure have received considerable attention from your Lordships, and I trust that it will receive as much attention from the electors of this country. The noble Viscount stated very clearly, not only his justification for the Government's Home Rule proposals which are now under consideration by the House, but at last he acknowledged on behalf of His Majesty's Government that the occasion was deep, critical, and momentous; and, more than that, he justified our demand for a General Election. Let me remind your Lordships what the noble Viscount said. He stated— Whatever you may say on 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. Then he went on to say that in 1910 the country pronounced in favour of the Parliament Act. On a former occasion I challenged the noble Earl who, I believe, is head of the Gladstone League to say what he would have done if an elector had said to him, "I am in favour of curbing the power of the House of Lords, but I am not in favour of Home Rule." I understand that the noble Earl is to address the House to-night, and I trust that he will then produce some speech made by a responsible Minister of the Crown in which the electors of the country had clearly pointed out to them that at the last election they were not only voting for the Parliament Act, but for a Home Rule Bill which they had never seen and which had never been explained to them. If no statement of that kind can be produced it is perfectly obvious that the claim made by His Majesty's Government that the last election of 1910 gave them a mandate for Home Rule must fall to the ground.

The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack stated this evening that the question of Home Rule was no new one and that it might be considered as settled. I should have thought from most points of view it certainly could have been considered as settled, but in another sense, because on the last two occasions on which a Home Rule Bill was placed before the country the electorate refused altogether to accept it. The claim that the country has now decided in favour of Home Rule requires a considerable amount more proving than the noble and learned Viscount managed to achieve in the House this evening. I venture now to bring this point before your Lordships. A change in the Constitution of any country is considered to be a measure entirely different from any other. There is not a single member of this House or of the other House who will deny for one moment that Home Rule does effect a great change in the Constitution of this country. I issue a second challenge to His Majesty's Government. Can they produce in any single democratic country an instance in which a constitutional change has been introduced and carried into law under the same process as is proposed in the case of the present Home Rule Bill? Very recently a change in the election of the Senate of the United States was carried into law. We have recently welcomed as an addition to this House a noble Lord who is, perhaps, the greatest living authority on the American Constitution—Lord Bryce. I venture to suggest that His Majesty's Government should ask Lord Bryce to explain to this House in what way that constitutional change—not a very large one, it is true—was carried into law in the United States. Are His Majesty's Government proposing to carry a constitutional change in the same way? The safeguards that are introduced in the American Constitution before any constitutional change can be carried into effect are so intricate that it requires someone of Lord Bryce's knowledge to explain them clearly to this House. I understand that it requires the assent of three-fourths of the representative Legislatures of every part of the United States, and also a majority of, I think, three-fourths in both Houses of the Federal Parliament. Is that the method which His Majesty's Government propose to follow in carrying Home Rule into effect? I venture to think that the methods by which this constitutional change is to be carried out in this country have much more similarity with the methods of Mexico, and perhaps have been brought home from Bogota.

The supporters of His Majesty's Government call themselves the democratic party. What right have they to introduce a change into the Constitution of the country before consulting the electors, not only on the principles of the change, but also on the details themselves? In the United States, and I believe in every other democratic country—I stand under correction from His Majesty's Government—it is absolutely necessary not only that the principles of a great constitutional change must be approved by the electors, but that the very details themselves in all their bearings shall be submitted to the electors before they are carried into law. What is the position in the present case? The principles of the Home Rule Bill were never put before the electors at the last election at all. The Bill had not even been drawn at that time; at any rate, it had never been published. So far as the details are concerned we do not know them fully even at the present moment. It requires rather a stretch of the imagination to believe that the electors can have approved of the proposed constitutional change, either in principle or in detail, when no member of this House, I believe, at the present moment knows its exact limits.

The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, asked last night, "Of what use is a General Election?" What a question to ask! Is it nothing to His Majesty's Government that they would be able to say, "We have put before you our proposals, not only in their general principles but in all their details, we have given you every opportunity of considering them; the Opposition have had every opportunity of pointing out the dangers and disadvantages involved; and you, the electors of this country, have approved of the measure we propose. We are therefore merely carrying out your orders, and the responsibility is yours, not the Government's." That is the position in which an election, if it resulted in the return of the Party now in power, would place the Government. We are told that Home Rule cannot be postponed because there is such an insistent demand for it in Ireland. It is rather a curious commentary on the insistent demand in Ireland that for the first five years during which this Government were in power nothing whatever was done in regard to Home Rule. The insistent demand for Home Rule was brought home to me the other day by a characteristic story which was told me by a friend who lives in the South of Ireland. He said to one of his tenants, "I suppose you are in favour of Home Rule?" The answer was characteristically Irish. "Well, you see, sir," said the tenant, "Home Rule is like Heaven. We all want to get there, but when it gets quite near we want to put it off for awhile." So much for the insistent demand for Home Rule.

I pass by the opposition of Unionist members of the House of Commons, merely remarking that the figures of the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, have proved conclusively that England, the predominant partner, is represented by 249 Unionists as against 215 Home Rulers. That hardly looks as if the predominant partner was in favour of Home Rule at the present moment. But in making this calculation the noble Viscount included the Labour Members, and said that for the purpose of his argument it would be agreed that the Labour Members were in favour of Home Rule. Is he quite sure about it? The Labour Members have once voted for self-government. They approved of self-government in South Africa. What has happened in South Africa? The Labour Party have now realised that by the change in the Constitution of South Africa measures have been carried of which they do not approve, and which they have no power whatever to prevent. Exactly the same measure, so far as self-government is concerned, is now proposed for Ireland. Who are to be the heads of the Irish Government? Presumably Mr. Redmond and Mr. Devlin. Do they take such an enormous interest in Labour politics that the Labour Party is very likely to give them full self-government? I believe I am correct in saying that neither Mr. Redmond nor Mr. Devlin dared to show his face in Dublin during the recent strike. Let me quote from a newspaper which is certainly not a supporter of the Unionist Party—the Westminster Gazette. Talking of South Africa it said that if self-government did not include the liberty to do what critics in the Mother-Country might think wrong and inexpedient it would be a meaningless phrase. Now the Labour Members will begin to consider whether self-government in Ireland may not produce a situation similar to self-government in South Africa, and I venture to think that the Labour Members may consider once and twice before they are prepared to give full self-government to Ireland on South African lines, or even on slightly different lines.

We cannot in this House take up the position which can be taken, and must be taken, by every Unionist Member of the House of Commons, that we are elected by Unionist votes and are not entitled to give up the principle of the Union until those who have returned us to Parliament have agreed that that principle should be abolished. It is true that we have no constituents, but, at any rate, we have consciences. I venture to ask your Lordships, Do you really believe that this Bill, however altered, will "heal dissension and lay the foundations of a lasting settlement?" Do you really believe that if Ulster is excluded under any terms whatever it will make for a lasting settlement of the Home Rule question in Ireland? Do you imagine that if Ulster is coerced it will heal dissension in Ireland? I do not think there is a single member of this House who can in his conscience say that he believes any one of these things to be true.

And what of this Bill? It is, as I have pointed out, a great change in the Con- stitution of this country. As such it should make a permanent change, and one that tends to a lasting settlement. There is not a single financier on this or the other side of the House who is prepared to say that the financial provisions of the Home Rule Bill are workable or sound. There is not a single Federalist, headed by Lord Grey, who does not but think that the present proposal is a blot on any federal system or system of devolution, whichever you may call it, that may be extended to the whole of the United Kingdom. I venture to think that there is not an honest man who believes that this Bill would either bring peace to Ireland or prosperity to those who live in Ireland, or that it would have any real effect in lightening the labours of Parliament. Even His Majesty's Government themselves have acknowledged that this Bill is by no means as perfect as they would like to make it. They have acknowledged that in saying that they are prepared to accept any amendment or alteration of it which might tend to make it better. Is that the way in which to bring in a great constitutional change?

The noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, in a very weighty speech, said that he believed agreement was possible. I venture to think many of your Lordships will agree that it might be possible for all parties to come together and to make a settlement of this question, but not on the lines of the present Home Rule Bill. I do not go so far as an American in one of the great liners in which I recently travelled, who came up as the captain was pointing out various landmarks, and asked, "Is that really Ireland?" The captain replied, "Yes, that is Ireland." The American then said. "I take off my hat to the one country in the World that is fortunate enough not to be governed by Irishmen." I think that American had some knowledge of Tammany Hall methods. As I have said, I do not go so far as that; but to imagine that any settlement can be arrived at on the basis of "Ireland a nation" presupposes several things. What do you mean by a nation? Do you mean a geographical expression? because, if so it is perfectly obvious that the whole of North America should be considered as one nation, which we all know it is not. Do you mean that the people who inhabit a country should be of common stock? That, very obviously, does not apply to Ireland. A large part of Ireland is peopled by entirely different stock from the rest. Do you mean that they should have the same religion? Do you mean they should have the same outlook? Do you mean they should be engaged in very much the same profession? Not one of those things can you apply to Ireland as a whole. A large part of Ireland is agricultural; another large part is commercial. Before we can consider what we mean by Ireland as a nation we have first of all to realise what we mean by the term "nation."

I go much further than many of your Lordships. If I thought that this Home Rule Bill was a really good one, I should still demand a General Election, and I should demand it for this reason. I do not believe that either House of Parliament, or even both Houses of Parliament when they agree, have any right to carry a great constitutional change in this country until they are absolutely convinced that the nation itself approves. It may be that I am still too democratic for this House. An ancestor of mine a hundred years ago was considered almost a revolutionary—he was considered too much of a Whig to sit with his Party—because he held the same views as I hold to-day. He held that in any great change it is the right of the country to be consulted by its statesmen and politicians. It is an odd commentary that I, a Conservative, should be pressing that the country should be asked their opinion on this question, and should be pressing that it should be asked at the hands of what is called a Liberal or a Radical Government.

My position is strengthened by this fact. I am convinced that this Bill is a bad Bill, an unjust Bill, and a Bill that will do great wrong; and I should feel that if I did not oppose it to the utmost of my power I was committing a crime against my conscience and neglecting my duty. I venture to point out to your Lordships that, although the power of this House has been considerably curtailed, there is still a certain amount of power left to it—the power of delay, the power of refusing to accept a Bill if it has been altered and therefore, no longer comes under the provisions of the Parliament Act. Power entails responsibility, and if your Lordships are prepared to accept a Bill which you have the power to stop, then on your shoulders must rest the responsibility for the consequences if that Bill is passed into law. I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke that a General Election makes no difference. If the country, after this Bill has been placed before it fairly in all its details, which has never happened yet, has an opportunity of considering the question fully, and has heard it debated by all the great parties—if then the country approves, in my view the responsibility of the consequences is transferred from the shoulders of Parliament to the shoulders of the electors. In that case it appears to me that we are justified even in voting for a measure of which we strongly disapprove, because we believe then that we are merely carrying out the wishes of the nation; but, until that moment has arrived, to allow a Bill of which we disapprove and which we believe to be wrong to get through Parliament is, as I have said before, a crime against our conscience and a neglect of our duty.

It is a curious coincidence that next year the country will be celebrating the 700th anniversary of the granting of Magna Charta. If this be the last act of the House of Lords as we know it, it would be, in my judgment, still carrying out the policy which this House has as a whole carried out during its long career in supporting the wishes of the nation and endeavouring to secure the liberties of the people, by insisting that any Home Rule Bill, whether it be good or whether it be bad, whether it be approved of by one House or by both Houses, must, as being a great change in the Constitution, be submitted to the people before it is carried into law. That is why I very strongly support the Amendment now before the House, and I trust that your Lordships will venture to submit a humble petition to the Throne that the people be consulted before any great constitutional change of this character is carried into effect.


My Lords, notwithstanding the grave words in the Irish paragraph of the gracious Speech from the Throne, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Ministers of the Crown are not yet fully aware of the gravity of the impending crisis in Ireland. May I recall to the House the conditions under which the Loyalists of Ireland have had to conduct their battle during the last eighteen months or two years? Throughout that period up to a very few days ago their protests and their arguments have been met by a consistent attack on the part of the Government and Home Rulers generally, to the effect that they are merely a set of bluffing braggadocios. Again, whenever some reasonable attitude has been assumed towards Ulster and the Loyalists by one Minister, within a few days or a few weeks that Minister has been contradicted flatly by one of his colleagues. Quite recently the Prime Minister made some sympathetic references to the convictions of these Northern Loyalists. Within a few days one of the Prime Minister's principal colleagues called these same men "nauseous hypocrites." These Ulstermen feel that that shows a lack of candour on the part of the Government, and it also convinces them that there is no evidence of unity on the part of the Ministers of the Crown. That, indeed, I should imagine, is sufficiently obvious from the fact that between 1906 and 1910 not a finger was raised to promote Home Rule, which now they tell us is all essential to Ireland's pacification and success. And incidentally during those four years there was scarcely a whisper amongst the Nationalists at the Government refraining from bringing in a measure of that kind.

I ask members of the Government what they consider the effect of the policy of scorn and ridicule has been upon the minds of these Ulster people? They are serious people; they are sober-minded people; they are spirited people; they are people of great and deep convictions. What has been the effect upon their minds? While they have realised that they are being treated either as clowns or as pawns by those responsible for this Bill in this country, they cannot forget—indeed, they are not allowed to forget—that the promoters of Home Rule in Ireland tell people who object to the Bill as not going far enough that once the principle of the measure is conceded, once they have gained half, in a very short while they will achieve the whole, and that whatever safeguards are introduced, the powers of the executive administration added to the powers of the Irish representation at Westminster will be sufficient to wring out of Great Britain in the future what the Government is not anxious or ready to grant to-day.

This flippant attitude towards these serious men has, not unnaturally, developed into positive distrust of the Government. Moreover, it looks to me as though these Ulster people, with whom I am in no way connected, but whose opinions and views I have recently had some opportunity of studying, are justified in what they are saying—namely, that the Government has pursued a deliberate policy of exasperation towards them. Clearly the Government has been playing for time and playing with time. The Government to-day, tardily perhaps, is occupying strategic positions in the North of Ireland, is moving troops with strategic objects in view. The Government, again tardily perhaps, taking objection to the importation of arms into the North of Ireland, has instituted a rigorous search at the Customs there to prevent that importation. That may be right and it may be proper, but there are volunteers in other parts of Ireland, as well in the South and in the West, so well organised apparently that they have got periodical literature of their own; but no such care is taken to prevent the importation of arms to persons in Cork, Waterford, or whatever place it be, as is the case in the North. I do not complain. I dare say they do not complain in Ulster. But it adds to their view that they are not being equally treated, and that they are being heedlessly exasperated by this differentiation. Everybody knows that letters passing through the post are opened. There is a regular system of opening letters sent from certain well-known persons in Ireland to other well-known persons. Whether this be connived at by the Post Office or not I do not know. Certainly whenever the Post Office receives, as it has done, complaints on the subject, we are told, just like we are told about our telephone complaints, that we are under some misapprehension. Finally, there is a costly and elaborate system of espionage established throughout the North of Ireland. It may be perfectly legitimate, but it does not bear out the sentiment of friendliness which we have heard during the last two or three days.

In short, these people have gathered the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that the object of the Government is not be avert civil war but to make certain that they shall be able to defeat it. That is a sheer abrogation of statesmanship on the part of the Government. I am not yet sufficiently clear as to whether the recent pronouncement will tend to ease the situation. Personally I am rather inclined to doubt it. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack accused members on this side of the House of being divided on the Irish question. Indeed we are not divided on the Irish question. The only Irish question before us is the Home Rule Bill, on which the Unionist Party is united. When proposals are made from the other side we shall be able to place concrete facts one before another, and then see whether we are divided or not. What does the Government offer. More delay, that is certain. And, of course, in Ireland they will say that four months ago Lord Loreburn proposed some measure of accommodation in a general fashion. Four months have elapsed, and now we are told that another six or eight weeks are to elapse before anything is produced. The Prime Minister has said that, owing to Supplementary Estimates and so forth, the earliest available opportunity in the other House will be probably after the end of the financial year, six or seven weeks hence. Well, we are not troubled with Supplementary Estimates in this House. Could not the Leader of the House present these alterations here? Are these alterations ready, or are they not? Is the Government still beating about to try and find some issue from the dilemma? And even if the Government thinks it would be either inconvenient or improper for the noble Marquess opposite to make a statement about these proposals here, there is a very simple exit from that difficulty—namely, that the Home Rule Bill should be reprinted as a White Paper and not as a Bill, with the Amendments and consequential Amendments embodied therein. That is a point upon which I think Parliament as a whole, and, still more, the people in Ireland who have got this matter on their minds and in their hearts, are entitled to information at the earliest possible moment.

Let me go back to the effects of the Government's strategy upon the minds of these Irish Loyalists. They look upon Sir Edward Grey's proposal of "Home Rule within Home Rule" as a mere illusion, because they know that it is governed by what Mr. Dillon and Mr. Devlin have repeatedly told them—that if once they can get the half-measure, the Executive in Ireland and pressure in England will soon secure them their complete ambition. And, moreover, those people to whom these problems are problems of life and death look back with greater scrutiny to the recent past than many of us are inclined to do. We are told—the noble and learned Viscount told us very specifically to-night—that representations made by us will receive sympathetic attention. May I respectfully remind the Lord Chancellor that we were told the same thing the very day the Bill was introduced in the other House of Parliament? What attention did those representations receive? These promises to be reasonable did not begin in the gracious Speech from the Throne yesterday. They began two years ago in Ministerial utterances. What are the results of those promises? Every Amendment brought forward from the Unionist Benches in the House of Commons was defeated—every one of them—Amendments about Education, the Judiciary, the Police; Amendments dealing with that grotesque anti-federal part of the Bill relating to Customs, Excise, and the Post Office; Amendments dealing with the Exchequer Board; Amendments dealing with all the English or British aspects of the Bill; Amendments dealing with the safeguards which we tried to add in the other House for the Loyalists in the West and in the South of Ireland—these Amendments were not only defeated, but defeated with contumely and with scorn. That was our experience of the tangible reasonableness with which we were so freely regaled. That, may I add, was the reason why the Suggestion Stage was not made use of last year. Lord Loreburn said, Why did not we use the Suggestion Stage? But it was no good. We had every reason to suppose that the Amendments would be more sympathetically received than they were during the previous year.

Well, Ulster is asking why the Government is now assuming this guise of reasonableness. They are asking why Ministers are contradicting one another so freely. Is that not clear? I will give a case in point. Sir Edward Grey made a very conciliatory speech. It was either contradicted a few days before or afterwards by Mr. McKenna who made a blood-and-thunder speech in South Wales, or Sir Edward Grey was contradicting Mr. McKenna—it is immaterial which. These Ulster people are asking why Ministerial statements during the last few months have been so regularly in conflict. The reason is, of course, that the Government's mind is not clear on the subject. The Government has not got confidence in the position it occupies to-day; and with that knowledge the Government knows it has not got the moral force of the country behind it. We all know that the Government is just manœuvring for position. Can we be surprised that these men profoundly distrust the Government?

It would be easy to go into the English or British objections to the Bill. First, it is anti-federal. If the Bill passes as it stands no federal system in Britain is possible. It would be easy to show how disastrous would be the effect on the House of Commons here of the forty-two vultures—as I heard a Liberal member call them—who would be sent over from Ireland. I am not going into the English side of the question at all. But let me remind the House that the fundamental objections of Ireland to this Bill still remain the objections of the North, of Belfast for instance, to the idea of being subordinated to a Nationalist Government. Belfast is the greatest town in Ireland. It occupies a great position there. Its material position is well shown by the Poor Law returns. Here are the latest returns. For every pauper in Belfast and district per 80 of the population there are two in Dublin and three in Cork. I think Lord Midleton referred last night to the housing question in Belfast as compared with Dublin. It is not that the housing in Dublin is bad. It is not for that reason alone that this sentiment exists in Belfast against being controlled by what I call the Dublin temperament. It is because these Belfast people believe that Dublin housing and Dublin conditions are bad; because those who control them they believe to be incompetent and also to be not suitable for matters governing questions of that kind.

The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack used a phrase which I should like to quote. He said, "Sentiment cannot be allowed to override the wishes of a nation." I cordially agree with that proposition as a whole. But applied to this case the noble and learned Viscount, if I may say so with respect, is begging the question. It is not a question of Ireland being one nation. Ireland now is and always will be two nations; and when you say that "sentiment must not override the wishes of a nation" you must apply that equally to the nation which lives in the North as to the nation which lives in the South. The fact is that on questions of the flag, of sovereignty, of allegiance, you cannot argue sincere men out of their position. These are matters which are not governed, and never have been governed, either in my own country, Scotland, or in Poland, or in Denmark, or in Greece or elsewhere, by cold logic when you have men who are prepared to make the supreme sacrifice of laying down their lives for and on behalf of their allegiance.

I cordially support the Amendment which has been moved. Our request for a General Election is not being put forward at the last moment. We have asked for it and have claimed it ever since this Bill was brought in behind the backs of the electors. We have claimed it throughout. We asked the Government to dissolve, that would not have delayed the passage of the Home Rule Bill for an hour. If the Government are justified in their claim that the support of the electorate is behind them, why did they not have a January election? If they had come back to power they would have had the greatest triumph the Liberal Party has had since 1832. If they had been defeated they would have been saved from a crime greater than any party in this State has ever contemplated for 200 years. Why not, indeed? Merely because, as these Ulstermen believe, the Government had not got confidence in their own case. The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, last night reminded us—warned us, indeed—that if trouble breaks out in the North of Ireland it will not be confined to that portion of the country. But that is what we have been saying on a thousand Conservative platforms throughout the country, and indeed it is far more serious than the noble Viscount himself seems to contemplate. He said that people were looking on abroad and elsewhere with "inquisitive interest." Other people are looking on with ever-deepening indignation at the way in which the Government are shilly-shallying with this desperate subject. Lord Morley himself was warned twenty years ago, when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland, but an appeal to the electors prevented him having the necessity of coercing Ulster.

In my opinion the danger is greater to-day than it was twenty years ago. Furthermore, in my opinion—and I was greatly struck by this when I was touring in Ireland recently—the effective demand for Home Rule in Ireland is much less than it was twelve or fifteen years ago. A great deal has been done in those years. The Land Act of 1903, which came into operation in 1904 and which has been practically suspended during the last two years, has in eight years placed on the land something like 300,000 occupying freeholders—the men who have cultivated that land. That was done by the last Government. The present Government has carried it a stage further, a great stage. The improvement in labourers' cottages in Ireland has been a very great achievement, I venture to think. The present Government has removed an old standing grievance in Ireland by establishing a Roman Catholic University. Local Government has been extended; the Congested Districts Board has been increased in its power, and all through British credit has been placed behind Ireland to an extent never known before. That, in my opinion, so far as my observation goes—and it is confirmed in all parts of Ireland—has decreased the effective demand for Home Rule, and many people who are stanch Home Rulers on the platforms in Ireland to-day would by no means be sorry if this "ideal" Bill fails to pass. And while I say with confidence that the demand for Home Rule is decreasing, I say per contra that the objections to Home Rule in the North and amongst the loyalists are deeper than ever, more deep-seated than they were in 1886 or 1893.

No, it is not merely an "inquisitive interest" that these problems arouse. The interest in the Army and in the Navy, the dangers and the difficulties which this Bill, if it becomes an Act, is going to bring upon the forces which the present Government has succeeded so much in attenuating—these things are going to be far more serious than the noble Viscount led the House to understand; and it is not only in the Dominions, but, perhaps more serious still, in the Dependencies that the reverberations of civil war will make themselves most felt. The Government are in danger—unless they have the courage to do what many of them are most anxious privately to do—of breeding a festering sore which will canker the life blood of our British politics if they continue in their present determination to force Home Rule upon Ireland at the point of the bayonet.

The Nationalist Members of Parliament tell us that the object of Home Rule is the pacification of Ireland. Can they seriously put that argument forward when they must see that the result of Home Rule as it is at present before us must be to produce not merely turmoil and strife, but internecine war of the most desperate degree? If the Government are determined to do that and to force this Bill through as it stands, let them say so. If the Government have business alternatives to propose, let them say so. But do not go on shilly-shallying and trying to gain time. Every day that you waste still further exacerbates these serious sober men who now, as you all know, are prepared to lay down their lives. Every day and every hour that is wasted increases the danger of some sporadic outbreak, and when such contingency as that arises the matter may spread so quickly that no amount of conciliation; no offer of compromise, may be sufficient to heal the wounds. I say that if the Government are going to persist they must allow the responsibility to be shared by the electors of the country as a whole. Secure the assent of the country if you can. Let them judge. They have never had a chance of pronouncing an opinion upon this Bill. The Lord Chancellor said that other Home Rule Bills had been before the electorate. This one has not. What was the fate of the other Bills? Defeat. And the fact that two Home Rule Bills have been defeated is no justification for your having introduced a third without the assent of the electors. I say that we are entitled to demand an appeal to the people. No Ministry, especially with the Constitution in abeyance, has the right to inflict upon the country the inconceivable horrors of civil war.


My Lords, I should hardly have ventured to intrude upon this discussion the question of the exclusion of Ulster had it not been for the speech made by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, in which he mentioned it as a question possibly of practical politics. Though I, like every other Irishman, am most earnestly desirous that some method of peace may be obtained, it seems only right that before any question of compromise is considered we should also see what difficulties, what insuperable difficulties, lie in attaining the compromise by means of that exclusion. I speak as an Ulster Covenanter; and although I do not propose to read to your Lordships the whole of the Covenant, I will quote a few lines of it with the intervening words omitted so that I may point out to you the difficulty that lies in the way of us Covenanters accepting the exclusion of Ulster according to our oath.

The words which appear to me to form the kernel of the Covenant are— We men of Ulster do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn covenant to stand by one another in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. Now, my Lords, I do not for one moment suggest that any Covenanter would consider for an instant the question of breaking the Covenant, but there are many people who are not Covenanters who are looking for some means of peace and who do not realise what the Covenant is that we have sworn, and how impossible it is for us to break it. Some people say, on account of the words "We men of Ulster," that the Covenant only applies to the men of Ulster. "We men of Ulster" is a collection of four words which describes us Covenanters. If the sentence ran, "We men of Germany" or "We men of France" the argument and the pledge would have been precisely the same, except that it would have meant a body of Germans or a body of Frenchmen had sworn to take all means necessary to defeat the conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament. "We" is the nominative; "men of Ulster" describes us Covenanters; and the active verb is found in the sentence "We hereby pledge ourselves to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland." I see no other way of reading the Covenant truly, and no Covenanter can dissociate himself from that which his own oath imposes upon him.

The oath was drawn up by one of the Council of Five. It may be presumed, my Lords, that they knew what they were doing. We Covenanters, Ulstermen outside Ulster, signed the Covenant, and in the words of the Covenant we have sworn to stand by the Covenant, and we know the Covenanters in Ulster will stand by us. It is impossible to think that any such exclusion will ever be accepted by the Covenanters in Ulster. If it were asked of us Ulster Covenanters to make such a sacrifice to secure peace, we should be absolutely unable to do so. If we were ever called up as witnesses in a Court of law, a cross-examining counsel could show up our evidence as unreliable, a Judge could refuse to accept our evidence as true. If we were to do such a thing as that, it would be the worst which has been done in Irish history. We Unionists in Ireland have behind us the melancholy and base story of 1800, and no one expects us to make it even more base by the story of to-day.

But, my Lords, there is even another and a greater reason why the exclusion of Ulster could not be accepted, and that is that it would be an act of betrayal baser than any that has ever happened in the history of Ireland. Let us assume for one moment that the Home Rule Bill is passed. I ask, What will be the position of those Unionists living outside Ulster if Ulster herself deserted them? To any Irishman such a question does not need a reply; but as I have the honour to address an assembly of your Lordships who come chiefly from England and Scotland, I will endeavour to put it as concisely as I can. It is no use trying to hide the fact that the hatred of the two political parties now in Ireland—whether you call them Unionists and Nationalists, or whether you call them Protestants and Catholics—is intense and ineradicable. If Ulster were excluded, the Nationalists would feel that they were deprived of their national entity, and their hatred of the Unionists would be intensified. If Ulster were excluded, I believe the lower classes of the Ulstermen in Ulster, by way of appeasing their conscience towards those Ulstermen they had deserted, would make life unbearable for the Nationalists in Ulster, if they did not even drive them across the border. But, my Lords, if Ulster remains true to herself, and, according to the oath of the Covenant, elects to swim or sink with the remainder of Ireland, there remains no choice before His Majesty's Government but that of Dissolution or civil war. I do not think that any man in his senses will believe that for this Bill this Government would in any circumstances whatsoever commence a civil war. I believe, in spite of what Mr. Devlin says, that from the inception of the Bill the Irish Nationalists were given to understand that if the resistance of Ulster proved to be a real and formidable thing they would have to accept Home Rule without Ulster. If your Lordships will forgive the vulgarity of the phrase, I believe His Majesty's Government is "bluffing" and will bluff to the last moment, and then will offer a compromise to Ulster, and then, if no form of compromise is accepted, they must appeal to the country rather than face civil war.

I know we shall have thrown in out teeth what I venture to think was an unhappy performance of the Ulster Member in another place voting for the Agar-Robartes Amendment for the exclusion of the northern counties. The reason given was that it was a wrecking Amendment, an Amendment to wreck the Home Rule Bill. I do not think that can be repeated by the Ulster Members, because if they did so, they might find themselves in the impossible position of either having to refuse that for which they had asked, or having to accept a concession against the meaning of the oath of the Covenant. I know some people say that if Home Rule is passed, Covenanting members of both Houses of Parliament would be justified in voting for the exclusion of Ulster. It seems almost impossible to me to remain patient under such a provocation. Do these men forget that they have sworn to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland, and do they fail to realise that by accepting the exclusion of Ulster they facilitate the setting up of a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland? And not only do they facilitate the setting up of a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland, but, as Lord Morley told us yesterday, they acknowledge the principle of Home Rule although Ulster is excluded from it.

But let us suppose for a moment that the skies would fall, and that if the exclusion of Ulster were offered, the Covenanters inside Ulster would accept it—I am making what is to me an absolutely impossible suggestion—what would be the position of those Ulstermen who, while living and pursuing their vocations outside Ulster, signed the Covenant? Those responsible for the Covenant would hardly say that the Covenanters outside Ulster signed the Covenant against the wishes of the Ulster Leader. Could the Ulster Covenanters forget the oath, "We pledge ourselves to stand by one another"? If Ulster accepted exclusion would she be fulfilling that oath to stand by Ulstermen outside Ulster? These men are already marked men in their Nationalist neighbourhoods. What would their position be if Home Rule came and their fellow- Covenanters more fortunately placed were hugging themselves in their personal safety and left them to look after themselves? Are the dark days of 1880 forgotten? There are men living who remember that bad time, men and women who were the victims of those outrages; and in the full knowledge of these consequences would it be possible to believe that the Covenanters living inside Ulster would abandon those outside to a fate like this? The Ulstermen drew up the oath; the Ulstermen signed it; the Ulstermen allowed those outside Ulster to sign it, and in consequence of the wording of the oath the Ulstermen outside did sign it. I cannot believe under any circumstances whatever, until they are released by a General Election, that the Ulster Covenanters will ever accept a solution which goes so absolutely against the spirit and the letter of the Covenant.

An argument has been brought forward that the Covenanters are not bound by the Covenant if Ulster is excluded, because in that case Home Rule would be no longer Home Rule for Ireland. The wording of the Covenant is to take all means necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland, and, whether Ulster is excepted or not, that Home Rule Parliament would be in Ireland, although Ulster was free from its domination. I have detained your Lordships on this one point perhaps too long, but I feel justified in trying to point out to you the difficulties there are in the way of the solution of this problem by the exclusion of Ulster. We Ulster Covenanters I believe to be the dominant factors of the situation. We are bound, by the most solemn oath of our generation, to refuse any compromise such as the exclusion of Ulster, and therefore there only remain to the Government three courses. The first is the withdrawal of the Bill; the second, the submitting of the Bill to the opinion and the judgment of the people; and the third, following the most disastrous course of all, which must end in the arbitrament of civil war.


My Lords, the words which I shall address to your Lordships to-night, though they shall be few and detain you but a very short time will, I hope, be thoroughly consonant with that passage in the gracious Speech from the Throne which deals with the question of Ireland. I think that from every quarter of the House it has been generally recognised that the desire for mutual concession is one which is made under circumstances of particular appeal and authority, and it is with the wish to say no word which could in any way detract from that authority that I shall venture to address your Lordships to-night.

May I in the first place offer a word of very warm welcome to my noble friend opposite, Lord Crawford, whose participation in the debates of this House for the first time I am sure was heartily welcomed, by members on both sides. It is a special pleasure, if he will allow me to say so, to an old college friend of his, as I am myself, to offer to him that welcome, and I think I heard in some of the strictures which he addressed to His Majesty's Government some echo of the strictures which he used to address to me while we were members of the same club in Oxford when he thought my views were far from the orthodox Conservative character. And if, my Lords, I venture to think that it is no small gain to your Lordships' House that talents and ability of no small order should be contributed by him to our discussions, he will perhaps allow me to express the regret that they are added to a Party which in our view at any rate already possesses almost a superabundance of them, and which is able to bring into discussions in this House controversial abilities with which we sometimes find it difficult to cope with our attenuated numbers.

I congratulate the noble Earl also upon having already assimilated one common custom in this House. He has already found that the rules of order which strictly govern debate in another place do not apply to this Assembly, and it was only in the latter portion of his speech that he turned to the Amendment which we are nominally discussing. With regard to two other points which he raised, let me say something at once. He made some accusations with regard to the conduct of the Post Office in Belfast which are, I confess, entirely new to me. They are of too vague a character for me to deal with to-night. But will he allow me to express the hope that he will put some Motion on the Paper dealing with them in some more specific terms, in order that the matter may be dealt with in a more authoritative way than I can do without notice to-night.


I did not expect or ask the noble Earl to reply to that point. Official complaints have already been sent to the Postmaster-General.


I am much obliged to the noble Earl, but I think it is also desirable that the matter should be brought up in this House where, as he knows, we have plenty of opportunity for discussing grave charges of that kind. With regard to the request which he made to His Majesty's Government that they should produce in this House at once those suggestions which have been adumbrated by the Prime Minister before they are introduced into another place, I am afraid I can hold out no hope that he will meet with satisfaction. After all, we are dealing with a Bill which originated in another place. In the view of His Majesty's Government that is the proper place to deal with the subject, and it is there that the matter will be dealt with by His Majesty's Government.

In the course of this debate, although we have heard a good deal of other subjects, the matter of a General Election has received comparatively small attention. But before I turn to that there are two or three other questions which have been touched upon with which I am anxious to deal at once. There was one noble Lord, who has since been followed by others, who dealt specially with the point that His Majesty's Government did not deal with the Irish Home Rule Bill until the year 1910. I think it was the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition who said that during the time that His Majesty's Government were free men they contented themselves with introducing the Irish Councils Bill, and it was only afterwards that they brought in the Home Rule Bill. I venture to think, on the contrary, that a careful consideration of the historical facts dealing with the situation would show that His Majesty's Government were not free men during the Parliament of 1906. For if noble Lords opposite will carry back their recollections they will remember that before the General Election of 1906 Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman specifically and carefully said that in the event of the Liberal Party being returned to power they would not introduce a measure of Home Rule. That was why they introduced the Irish Councils Bill, which the noble Earl opposite very properly reminded us was stated by the Irish Secretary to contain no particle or measure of Home Rule. Of course it did not. His Majesty's Government were not free men at all. But before the General Election of 1910 the present Prime Minister resumed the freedom of the Liberal Party, and said that from that time they would hold themselves free to deal with the question of Home Rule.

My Lords, we are anxious, naturally, to make the most of everything which has been said by noble Lords opposite which tends towards any settlement of the question. We notice with the greatest pleasure the fact that the mere discussion of the exclusion of Ulster from an Irish Parliament is itself an admission that noble Lords opposite have so far departed from the standpoint of years ago that they now are ready to contemplate the existence of an Irish Parliament in Dublin.


Not voluntarily.


I quite agree. Voluntarily or otherwise, I would be the very last to minimise in any way the value of such a standpoint as that which would allow noble Lords opposite, even if it was against the grain, to contemplate the existence of such a Parliament. I only regret, when the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition went a little further and spoke of the safeguards which he would demand for the South and the West and the East and the middle parts of Ireland—safeguards which evidently might be obtained, in his opinion, and which if they were obtained would be sufficient for their welfare—that he did not think apparently that it was possible that similar safeguards might be introduced for the North-eastern provinces at the same time.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I am sure he would not wish to misrepresent my noble friend, and, of course, I speak with diffidence in his absence. But I do not think he used the words attributed to him. What he said was that it would be his duty to consider any suggestions which His Majesty's Government put forward.


I have no wish to exaggerate what was said, but I do desire to put this forward, that the noble Marquess himself did contemplate that it was not impossible that safeguards of some kind, perhaps of an extreme kind, were possible, and I regret that it did not occur to him that, if they were sufficient for those who were living in the rest of Ireland, safeguards of a similar character might be introduced for those who lived in the North-eastern provinces.

While the Amendment which is before your Lordships' House has dealt chiefly with Dissolution, the debate has turned very largely upon the exclusion of Ulster. That is a point from which I wish to turn in order to discuss the Amendment. And here we have the three alternatives which have been mentioned by more than one of the speakers in this debate. First of all, the possible result, supposing there was a General Election, of a tie. In the event of a tie, then the noble Marquess opposite contemplated the passage of a measure which reasonable men of all parties might agree to. I wish I could think the noble Marquess thought that there was a large number of reasonable men who sit on the benches behind His Majesty's Government. I fear that he thinks their numbers are very much larger on the other side of the House, and that we might not agree upon what he thought was a reasonable measure to be submitted to the Houses of Parliament. But there were the other two possibilities. First, | that noble Lords opposite would be returned, in which event they would be faced by administrative and financial difficulties of the very gravest and most serious kind; and I suppose that if they won they would also introduce without delay into another place measures which would bring about a system of Tariff Reform in this country. But if, on the other hand, His Majesty's Government were to win, let me ask noble Lords opposite to contemplate exactly what would happen. In the first place, under the provisions of the Parliament Act His Majesty's Government would lose the whole of the advantage of the two years which have passed. Noble Lords opposite, I think, are apt to forget what are the exact provisions of the Parliament Act with regard to measures such as this which we are now discussing. Supposing there was a General Election and we were returned to office. We should have once more to begin with the whole dreary business of these Bills being introduced and passed through three successive sessions.


Would not the noble Earl be dealing with a reconstituted Second Chamber, which would have run some course?


If we came back into office and then brought in our proposals for the reconstitution of the Second Chamber, I can imagine that they would be rejected by this Chamber, and it would be only after we had got through our suggestions for the reconstituted Second Chamber that we should get on with the Home Rule Bill. Well, supposing there was a General Election this year, there would be no possibility of bringing it to a final conclusion until the year 1916. That seems to me to be a very large demand to make. The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, was anxious last night to make his meaning plain with regard to the way in which noble Lords opposite would deal with the Home Rule Bill if it was reintroduced by His Majesty's Government after they were returned to power. The manner in which he has dealt with that question has been made plain by his use of the word "palatable." Unfortunately there will be two points of view in regard to the Bill when it is once more introduced. Amendments which the noble Earl might quite honestly and fairly think dealt with small matters, points of detail, might seem to us to deal with matters of very real importance, matters which affected sentiment, things to which he, perhaps, attached less importance. We should therefore once more be reduced to the point at which we were two years ago, and that, we say, is a position which we are not ready to accept.

One result, as we understand, of a successful General Election from our point of view would be that the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, and the Unionist Party would reconsider their attitude with regard to Ulster resistance. I wish I could think that the people of Ulster would have as much respect for the opinion of the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition as we have who sit upon the Front Bench opposite him every day during the Parliamentary session. I think it is very doubtful indeed if the people of Ulster would be seriously moved in their determination to resist the Home Rule Bill by the attitude which was taken up in the matter by the noble Marquess. We know that they say to-day that their opposition to the Bill will be determined, resolute, and formidable. I think, even if the noble Marquess were to withdraw his contingent approval of their action, that it would be no less formidable or no less resolute than it promises to be to-day.

After all, we have had some experience of the effect of a General Election upon noble Lords opposite. I must remind noble Lords, especially may I say the Front Bench, of what happened on a previous occasion. We had a General Election on the Parliament Bill, but even that General Election upon that particular Bill scarcely secured the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House. Who is there who had any responsibility in the matter who can ever forget the anxiety of that night when the Parliament Bill came up for its Second Reading in this Chamber? Who is there who can possibly forget the anxiety with which we watched as noble Lords issued from the one or the other Division Lobby? Was the advice of the noble Marquess going to be followed, or was the Parliament Bill going to be rejected, and with it the consequent creation of a large number of Peers forced upon His Majesty's Government? My Lords, those of us who remember those anxieties are not likely, having gone through that experience, to welcome or even to put ourselves into such a position as to go through a similar experience again.

We know that a General Election on one particular Bill does not necessarily involve the passage of that Bill in the form in which it is introduced by His Majesty's Government. Why, my Lords, we need not only refer to the second election of 1910, we can go to other General Elections and see how small an effect they have had upon the legislative action of your Lordships' House. We all know the large majority with which the Government was returned in 1906. They came back and I suppose that of those election addresses, to which noble Lords pay now so much attention, there was hardly one which did not deal with plural voting or with education. The Education Bill perished before it left this House; the Plural Voting Bill met with even shorter shrift; the Licensing Bill two years afterwards was secretly murdered, not in this Assembly, but in a private house in London. Having had this experience of the effect of a General Election upon your Lordships' House we are, not unnaturally I venture to think, unwilling to entrust ourselves once more to such a course and on this occasion without further explanations from noble Lords opposite. I would venture to hope, rather than urging upon your Lordships a coarse to which His Majesty's Government is opposed, that the Home Rule Bill may yet be considered by your Lordships' House in the light of the passage from the gracious Speech from the Throne to which I have already referred. As I went through the streets of London last night I noticed, as most of your Lordships, I am sure, did, the posters on which were printed the words "Grave Words in the King's Speech." My Lords, they were grave words; and having heard them read I venture to hope that we may mark them, learn them, and inwardly digest them. I am no pessimist in this matter. I venture to hope that, by the good will of men of all Parties, we may still see the Home Rule Bill passed into law, and that it may bring peace with honour to both political Parties in Ireland, and in this country, too.


My Lords, I listened with the greatest pleasure to the conciliatory language of the gracious Speech from the Throne, and to the fine speech of my noble friend Lord Glenconner in proposing the Address. That passage in the gracious Speech seemed to me to indicate on the part of Ministers a determination to use the utmost reasonableness, patience, and candour in the endeavour to arrive at a peaceful issue out of this matter. It did not seem to show on the part of Ministers any disposition to buy off an opposition of which they were afraid at the cost of any sacrifice of principle. I am quite sure that noble Lords opposite will recognise that distinction, and I believe they will agree with me. We have heard, if I may say so, in the course of this debate from noble Lords opposite a certain amount of that kind of language which in approaching the possibility of a settlement they themselves found so reprehensible in the Prime Minister when he spoke at Leeds. But I believe none the less that noble Lords opposite fully recognise that if a satisfactory and peaceful settlement of this question is to be found, it will demand of them no less than of His Majesty's Government a considerable departure from the position which of old they have occupied.

I hope that what I am going to say will not be misconstrued. I have for the Covenanters of Ulster that full and deep respect which a man can have and often does have for those to whom in the last resort he will find himself in deadly antagonism. I look upon the possibility of civil war with exactly with same horror with which every noble Lord in this House regards it. But there is one possible event which would be but little better than civil war, if at all, and it is that the Parliament and Government of this country should by the menace of armed resistance be driven from the course which they themselves think to be just; be driven either to postpone the settlement of a question which demands settlement, or to accept some compromise which would be no settlement at all. An issue of that kind, my Lords, would be in a sense and in appearance for the moment a victory to noble Lords opposite, but it would be bought at a price which neither they nor the country would desire to pay, because—and I do not think the seriousness of this consideration can be over-rated—it would, at a time when the whole social life of this country is a good deal disturbed from many other causes besides those which arise in Ireland, establish and consecrate the organisation of forcible resistance to the Crown as the most effective of our Constitutional methods of procedure. I do not wish for many reasons to amplify or elaborate that reflection, but it is a very serious consideration indeed, and as such I am sure noble Lords opposite will fully recognise it.

Now may I say a word or two about two or three of the ways of issue which have been suggested out of the present situation. Suppose first that, as the phrase is, this Bill is submitted to the electors of the country. The electors, as we all know perfectly well when we meet them in real life out of doors, are not particularly anxious that this Bill should be submitted to them, but are wanting very particularly and very earnestly that, if possible, their statesmen should settle this question for them. Suppose that it is submitted to the electorate, and that you, my Lords, who sit opposite secure an overwhelming majority. Can it really be supposed that that would be any sort of settlement of the Irish question? I do not think that you yourselves have any confidence that it would be so. I am not going at this late hour to give any of the reasons why I feel convinced that it would not be, except just I one which is nothing more than a personal impression.

You cannot, I think, by any momentary success that you might secure, put back the Irish question where it stood, say, after the election of 1895, or, say, even five years ago. I had the honour of supporting Mr. Gladstone in the House of Commons in 1893 when he passed through that House his second Home Rule Bill. I confess I never felt confident for a moment that that Bill would have been passed by Mr. Gladstone's supporters if they had not in their hearts thought then that it was going to be thrown out by your Lordships' House. I never felt—no man felt—that the bulk of the Liberal Party at that time was heartily, convincedly in favour of the principle of Irish Home Rule. Can any man say that about the situation at the present day? I have not the slightest doubt, not one of you has the slightest doubt, that at the present moment the Liberal Party of England is heartily, sincerely, loyally attached to the principle which this Bill represents. It is not what I may call the machine, the electioneering element, of the Liberal Party, but it is the sincere, the weighty, the forcible portion of that Party, the brain and the heart of the Liberal Party in this country, which is committed in some form or other to the cause of self-government for Ireland. For that reason and for a good many others I do not think you can suppose that by any victory that could be secured at an election you would have got the Irish question out of the way.

But there is one other issue from this difficulty which has been suggested, on which, though I speak with some hesitation, I would like to say one word of warning. I am not quite sure that the passage of this Bill with the exclusion of Ulster from its operation would not be the very worst result of our present proceedings that could possibly come about. In the first place, I think that it would possess in the highest degree that very dangerous character of being manifestly a concession not to reason, not to any principle, but a concession to force—a way of buying peace whatever the price of peace might be. In the second place, it would seem to me a most gross injustice to that minority in the South of Ireland whose case against the Home Rule Bill has always appeared to me one that demanded even more sympathetic consideration than that of the people of Ulster, who, after all, to some extent are numerous enough and concentrated enough, if the worst came to the worst, to give a good account of themselves. But, more than that, I believe that the passage of Home Rule with the exclusion of Ulster from it would be a heavy defeat to all that is sound and good, if you will admit for a moment that there can be anything sound and good, in the Nationalism of Ireland; that it would be a great victory to all that you yourselves most fear and dread in the Nationalism of the South of Ireland. Nobody could think for a moment that it would make the government of what remained of Ireland under Home Rule more successful, more enlightened, and just, and wise. I believe that it would be a long step towards depriving Home Rule for Ireland of the merits which we on this side claim for it, and a long step in aggravation of all the evils which noble Lords opposite ascribe to it.

And then, after all, mere exclusion of Ulster would leave absolutely untouched the most ancient, and in my humble judgment far the most weighty and respectable, of all the objections which you have ever urged against Home Rule—that objection is, the tendency which you discover in Home Rule to separate Ireland from the United Kingdom. I think that you have exaggerated that tendency, my Lords. But I do not think it is possible to deny that there might be some threat to the real unity of the United Kingdom arising out of the setting up of a self-governing Ireland which should be, as it were, an anomalous, formless, shapeless annex to the structure of our Imperial unity. And I do not think it can be denied that that objection to Home Rule would be very greatly diminished, if not entirely done away with, if England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales should take, on equal terms, their part in an Imperial Parliament having charge of their Imperial concerns, each country having its own domestic Legislature to look after domestic matters.

Now, what is the position at the present moment in regard to this suggestion of Federalism? The present Ministry, I believe I am right in saying, are as a Government committed to the principle of Federalism. Many of them, at any rate, have announced clearly that Federalism is what they ultimately desire. The most important of the Irish Nationalist leaders have for many years been advocates of the federal solution. The bulk of the Scottish Members of Parliament, the overwhelming majority of them, have committed themselves to their demand for Home Rule for Scotland, which, coupled with Home Rule for Ireland, which they also support, necessarily involves a federal scheme. And numbers of Unionists in this country and in Ireland have—I do not wish to overstate their case at all, but let me put it that they all would choose this as the lesser of two evils, the lesser, possibly of two great evils—have in some measure expressed their readiness to accept the federal solution as the most tolerable change that can be made in the Constitution of this country, if a change is to be made at all.

Surely in these circumstances it is time that we seriously began to consider what the federal solution means, and recognise it now and at once as a true and probably the only way out of the present grave difficulty. I do not want to make light of the apprehensions which Unionists of Ulster and other parts of Ireland feel as to possible misgovernment under Home Rule. I do not want to make light of the antagonism which exists between them and Irish Nationalists, but I do not think I misrepresent them in saying that behind these feelings, deeper and stronger than them, lies that repulsion in the minds of loyal men from being, as they put it, deprived of their British citizenship, cut off from this United Kingdom—a repulsion which they could not entertain, at any rate in the same degree, against a scheme of Federal Home Rule. I think it is hardly to be doubted that the adoption of the federal principle as the best principle on which our further attempts at settlement should go will greatly ease all those difficulties which are supposed by some people to relate solely to what I may call the local question of Ulster.

At this late hour I am not going to develop that vast subject further. There are only two brief remarks that I would make upon the federal question which I submit we are now driven to consider seriously, and about which I venture to say that we shall be paltering with the present terrible danger that confronts us if we do not on both sides consider it very seriously indeed, and endeavour, if possible, to promote a solution on those lines. It has been said that the question is too complicated. Of course it is a momentous question, but surely the complexity of it has been a good deal over-rated. I do not think that upon a careful study of what it involves it can really be said that the federal proposal, momentous as it doubtless is, exposed to many objections from this and that quarter, as it doubtless is, has anything like the complexity of detail, anything like the amount of labour for the draftsman and expert, anything like the amount of work in Committee and in the Houses of Parliament, which is involved in any great measure of social reform, say' like National Insurance. One last word. I meet many people who put this whole suggestion aside by saying, "Yes, that is very good in principle, and we should like a federal system, but you cannot do everything at once. It is a habit of the people of England to do things step by step." Yes, my Lords, it is. It is a good habit, and it is a venerable maxim that we should, when possible, do things step by step. But when one of the steps is either civil war or the capitulation of the Government of this country before a threat of civil war, then, my Lords, I submit that for once a jump, and a long jump, might be permissible.

The further debate adjourned till to-morrow.

House adjourned at half-past Eleven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.