§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY had the following Notice on the Paper—
§ To ask whether His Majesty's Government will lay before Parliament forthwith—
- 1. The proposals as to the Government of Ireland which were made by Mr. Lloyd George to Sir Edward Carson and Mr. Redmond for communication to their respective supporters, together with a statement as to the authority upon which these proposals were made; and
- 2. The Report of Lord Hardinge's Committee relating to the circumstances which led up to the recent rebellion, and also the latest information in the possession of the Government as to the spread of disaffection in the three southern provinces of Ireland.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I will detain you only a few minutes at this late hour, but the circumstances of the situation in Ireland, and I may add in Parliament and in the Government, are so grave that perhaps I shall be forgiven if I call attention to this subject. This is a moment of very important decision, and it seems to me of first moment that accurate information should be placed at the service of all those who have to decide. I may give as an instance that I am informed, through the usual channels, that there is to be an important meeting of a great political Party, consisting of members of the House of Commons, in the early days of next week. I suppose that this meeting will be addressed by Ministers of the Crown, and that those who attend will be told a great many things which they do not at present know; but it will be rather difficult for them to take decisions upon information supplied at the last moment. They will be called upon to form a judgment upon the statement which is made to them—a statement of facts which are at present very mysterious, and which must be to them very novel unless, as I hope, His Majesty's Government are willing to give the information for which I have ventured to ask.
§ First of all there is the question, What is the character of the proposals which Mr. Lloyd George laid before certain persons in Ireland? There are several editions of those proposals current—certainly two. There was an edition communicated to the Press, and there was an edition contained in Mr. Redmond's statement on the 12th of this month to his colleagues in the representation of Ireland. I do not want to detain your Lordships at this moment by any careful analysis of those documents. But it appeared in one of the documents that all the great difficulties of the adjustment of the government of Ireland which follow upon exclusion, and with which your Lordships are familiar from the debates which took place in this House two years ago, are to be reserved not only until after the war, but until after a conference of all the Dominions, which is to discuss and arrive at a new Constitution for the whole Empire. That proposal appears in Mr. Redmond's speech. It does not appear in the proposal communicated to the Press.
§ But there is a more important difference. There is the real status which the six excluded 494 counties are to hold under the scheme. In the Press communiqué there was to be a sort of local option for the six counties, which were to be allowed severally to come in or to keep out of Home Rule as they pleased. That did not appear in Mr. Redmond's edition, which stated that the six counties were to be excluded as a whole during the war emergency period—a purely temporary exclusion. I need not tell your Lordships that this was not the view indicated by Sir Edward Carson to his friends. He told them that the exclusion of the six counties was to be permanent. Now here is a profound difference, which goes to the very root of the settlement. I need not tell your Lordships that all of us who sit on this side of the House have always looked upon the position of the Protestants of Ulster as a matter undoubtedly of importance in a Home Rule settlement, and that there should be any ambiguity on that vital head when these great decisions are to be taken, I am sure your Lordships will agree, is a most deplorable circumstance. I ask that these matters should be cleared up once and for all by laying Mr. Lloyd George's proposals, the proposals he made with great circumstance and pomp, before Parliament. They have been laid before the Nationalists of Ireland; they have been laid before the representatives of Ulster; but they have not been laid before Parliament. I ask your Lordships to agree with me that this should be done.
The next point is, What authority had Mr. Lloyd George to make these proposals? That, again, is a mystery. We heard from my noble friend Lord Selborne the other night a statement of the reasons for his resignation, and he stated that he had never contemplated that Home Rule was to be immediately introduced when he agreed to Mr. Lloyd George's mission. There is no question whatever that all the editions which have been laid before the public agree in one particular—that Home Rule is to be brought immediately into force; differing diametrically from what Lord Selborne conceived to be the state of things when he agreed to Mr. Lloyd George's mission. What authority, therefore, I ask, had Mr. Lloyd George? By whose authority was he acting when he laid these detailed proposals before these various bodies? Surely that is not an unreasonable request. It seems elementary. A distinguished Minister of the Crown makes proposals of the most vital
character, touching—except the war itself—the most burning question of contemporary politics; he makes these proposals to various persons in Ireland, and none of us know by what authority he was acting. What had Mr. Redmond to say upon that? He said—
Mr. Lloyd George has formulated on his own responsibility a proposal which we may fairly regard as the proposal of the Government.
May we fairly regard it as "the proposal of the Government"? That is what he stated to his friends—quite differing, of course, from my noble friend Lord Selborne. Lord Selborne stated that Mr. Lloyd George was not a plenipotentiary, and that his business was to inquire and to report to the Cabinet. So that, gleaning what information we can from the various persons who have addressed the public, we find an absolute mystery as to what authority Mr. Lloyd George was acting on when he made these detailed proposals to the contending parties in Ireland.
§ What I have said is not the most important part of the inquiries I have ventured to put upon the Paper. The most important point is, What is the condition of Ireland at this moment? What is the condition of the country to which it is proposed immediately to grant self-government? The public is in a condition of ignorance upon the subject, and, if I may say so respectfully, so are your Lordships. The House must remember that there is a censorship in force, and all the information as to what goes on in Ireland is not allowed to appear in the public Press. I do not want to say anything in the least polemical or disrespectful of His Majesty's Government; but the existence of this censorship throws upon them a very special responsibility. I do not complain of this censorship. It is very likely perfectly right. But if the ordinary channels of information are not allowed to operate, then there is a tremendous responsibility thrown upon the Government not to keep their countrymen in ignorance of vital information when great decisions have to be taken.
§ The question is, What is the condition of Ireland? I think your Lordships all remember the speeches which Mr. Redmond made during the early months of the war. I have in my mind especially the speech which he made on that celebrated 3rd of August, 1914. That speech was hailed, 496 and rightly hailed, with the greatest satisfaction by almost every man of all Parties throughout the country. Mr. Redmond spoke of how the old bitterness which had existed in Ireland for many years had passed away. He did not conceal from himself that some years ago there would not have been anything like that feeling; but now (he said) everybody was united to rally round the country in the great war. That was the speech which Mr. Redmond made—I am sure quite honestly—in 1914. That was the picture of Ireland; and if we had been called upon to grant Home Rule to such an Ireland as that—though I do not mean to say that many of your Lordships who are Unionists would have agreed to it in principle—we would have thought that there would have been comparatively little danger, under proper restrictions, if such a policy had been carried out.
§ What has happened since? Has there been any oppression in Ireland? Has there been anything done since those speeches which might properly be resented by the Irish people? No. Ireland was governed very badly. I do not attribute that to the noble Lord (Lord Wimborne), if I may say so in his presence. I believe that had his advice been followed things would have been much better in Ireland. Ireland was very badly governed, but it was not oppressively governed. It was governed by Mr. Birrell with the advice of Mr. Redmond and Mr. Dillon. That went on. Nothing was done to oppress the people of Ireland. And then, like a thunderclap, came the rebellion, and it appeared that so far from being entirely friendly to this country, so far from all the bitterness, which we, of course, deplore, having passed away, the old spirit was there. That is a most serious state of things. His Majesty's Government very rightly appointed a Committee, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Hardinge, to inquire into the state of things out of which this rebellion had arisen. Where is the Report of that Committee? I ask the Government in no spirit of offence, Is it not truly wonderful that the country should be asked to consider a profound modification of the government of Ireland when the Committee which the Government themselves appointed to inquire into the condition of opinion in Ireland has never reported?497
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My noble friend says I ought to have stated that the Report has not been published. I presume he means that it is in existence but has not been communicated to Parliament. That may be so. I ask that it should be communicated to Parliament. But that is not all. It is not merely that, after Ireland had been governed since the war began with every desire to meet the wishes of the Irish people, a rebellion ensued. But every day since that rebellion was suppressed things have grown worse there. We want to know—and, after all, the public has a right to know—how much worse they have grown. What is the state of opinion in Ireland? We know that the few misguided men whom it was necessary to execute as leaders of the rebellion—extraordinarily few compared to the number of innocent persons on the other side who were shot—have excited an enormous amount of sympathy ill Ireland. They have been styled martyrs, not merely by the ordinary people, but, I believe in more than one case, by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, men who have an enormous influence on public opinion in Ireland.
Your Lordships know at any rate to some extent what has happened. Sinn Fein has become the predominant faith in three provinces of Ireland. What are the political opinions of Sinn Feiners? Why, they are for separation. They are not satisfied with Mr. Lloyd George's proposals—whichever edition of them is correct; they are not content to follow Mr. Redmond; they are for separation; they are—I must use the word—enemies of this country. Every day their organisation is increasing and their numbers are being augmented. I am informed that some of the very men who were imprisoned by Courts-Martial for having taken part in the rebellion, and are now being released, have gone back to Ireland, where in Sinn Fein uniform they are organising the country against the Government. How far has that gone?
I am not surprised that my noble friend Lord Selborne said that no man contemplated an election in Ireland at this moment. What would be the result of an election there? I am not sure that the result of an election in the three southern provinces of Ireland at this moment would not be the return of more members favourable to Germany than to this country. I ask the Government whether they will produce the facts on 498 which we can form an opinion. Are the people of this country to be told that Home Rule, self-government, is to be granted to a people who are in such a condition as that? I cannot believe it. To whom are we going to grant Home Rule? Are they to be loyal subjects of the King, or are they to be the King's enemies? I repeal, We ask the Government for Mr. Lloyd George's proposals; we ask the Government for Mr. Lloyd George's authority; we ask the Government for Lord Hardinge's Report; and we ask them for a general statement giving us, as far as they can, the latest information as to the true condition of opinion in Ireland.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I think that the noble Marquess and his friends are well aware that in the opinion of His Majesty's Government no public advantage can be gained from a discussion of this matter to-night, except the gratification of a natural and easily understood curiosity in view of the reports of events which have recently appeared in the newspapers. On the other hand, we believe that a discussion of this kind at this particular moment may do definite harm to the cause of national unity. But the noble Marquess and his friends have apparently held that a postponement of this discussion until some day early next week would be disastrous to the country. The noble Marquess has not precisely explained how, beyond stating that a Party meeting to be held at the Carlton Club is entitled to use your Lordships' House as a channel of information in order that the gentlemen who attend it may not be taken by surprise, but may receive sufficient information before they hear their political leaders state their case. In these circumstances I can only give such an answer as appears to me possible in reply to the noble Marquess.
The sole preoccupation of His Majesty's Government in this matter, as in others, is the successful carrying on of the war, and after the lamentable rising which took place in Ireland at Easter had been put down and as the weeks passed it became a matter of serious consideration to the Government how the government of Ireland was best to be carried on in a manner least hampering to the conduct of the war. To some that problem appeared perfectly simple. The general adminis 499 tration of Ireland, it was supposed by not a few, could be carried on by the official Departments still existing there in the absence of the political heads who had resigned, and all civil jurisdiction throughout the country could be suspended. That was what appeared to not a few the proper method for carrying on the government of Ireland during the progress of the war. On the other hand, there were some who foresaw difficulty in taking this simple course. The period under which that system was to endure was, in the nature of the case, undefined, and it might be long. It was impossible, indeed, to say that the period might only be the period until the signing of peace. That might be an extended period; but it was quite clear that the mere signature of peace need not be the signal for a complete change of the system of government in Ireland. It was argued by those who held this other view—also a numerous body in the country—that a mere continuance of that form of government might have a dangerous bearing upon moderate Nationalist opinion of Ireland—which, by common agreement, has played a creditable part throughout the war—with the result that some Nationalist opinion, now moderate, might tend to become more extreme, and that therefore no slight danger attached to what I have spoken of as the simple course.
It is important to remember—it was not, I think, entirely recognised by the noble Marquess in the animated observations which distinguished the latter part of his speech—that you cannot divide opinion in Ireland into two classes, with a dark broad line between them, all the people on one side of the line being enthusiastic loyalists and all the others rebels, but that opinions in Ireland are shaded off like the colours of the prism, with every variety of view, starting at one end from the most extreme holder of Fenian or Clan-na-Gael views and passing through a series of shaded lines until you come to the most enthusiastic type of loyal subject of His Majesty, of whom I am glad to hope there are many. That being so, and those differences of opinion existing, people began to ask, Is it not possible at this time to solve this problem of the manner of carrying on the government of Ireland throughout the war by bringing parties in Ireland together? and, as is well known, the Minister of Munitions was asked to undertake a mediating task. Of the personal qualifications 500 of my right hon. friend as a negotiator I need not say anything. They are well known to the country, and have been proved. He also possessed the special qualification of having been one of those who took part in July, 1914, in the Conference held at Buckingham Palace, so that he was acquainted with not a few of the initial facts belonging to the problem.
The noble Marquess opposite spoke of the proposals of Mr. Lloyd George as though they had been initiated by him and set forth for acceptance to the leaders of the different parties in Ireland. The statement of the noble Marquess is liable to mislead, although I know that this was far from his intention. The proposals—if that is the word to use—were the result of discussions, not only with Sir Edward Carson and with Mr. Redmond, but with a very large number of other gentlemen—some of whom, unless I am mistaken, were members of your Lordships' House—representing a number of different opinions and different localities in Ireland. What, however, is important to remember is that these proposals as they appeared later on to the public were the suggestions coming from a mediator; they were not terms put forward by an arbitrator. It is exceedingly important, if I may impress it on your Lordships, to bear that in mind, because the impression created by the speech of the noble Marquess is, I think, of an entirely different character. He spoke of these proposals as though they had been put forward, to take or to leave, to Sir Edward Carson and to Mr. Redmond by Mr. Lloyd George himself. The correct way to look at the matter is this: that the proposals were made with and through those gentlemen, who, if they found themselves able to concur in them, were presumably able to set them before their supporters with a good hope of their being approved in the country.
The noble Marquess has asked me a number of questions, so I will venture to ask him and his friends one. Do he and his friends raise objection to the approval of the terms by the two Parties in Ireland? Is that the purpose of the noble Marquess's thirst for knowledge—simply to raise objection to the possibility of these terms being approved by those who are most competent to speak for Irish opinion? So far as this part of the subject is concerned that is really the whole story. I do not enter, of course, at this time into any of the particular details belonging to this 501 branch of the subject. They are still under discussion, and nobody can attempt to deny the difficulty which surrounds not a few of them. That is obvious to everybody. Therefore this evening I do not propose to enter into any detail regarding the suggestions which noble Lords have seen in print.
The second Question of the noble Marquess refers to the Report of Lord Hardinge's Committee. He appeared to assume that the country would be asked to take decisions upon these important matters of Irish government without having had the chance of seeing this Report. The noble Marquess's fears are in this respect unfounded. The country is not being asked to take any decision about Irish government, nor can it be until a measure is introduced into Parliament dealing by way of amendment with the Home Rule Act as it now stands on the Statute Book. I can assure the noble Marquess that it will not be long before Lord Hardinge's Report is issued. It is now being prepared for issue. I am not able to name the date, but I hope it will appear shortly; and the statements therein contained will no doubt be of assistance to Parliament and to the country in deciding how the government of Ireland is to be carried on in the future.
Then, in the third place, the noble Marquess asks me what is the latest information in the possession of the Government as to the spread of disaffection in the three southern provinces of Ireland. The noble Marquess knows, and other noble Lords opposite who have had to do with Ireland know, that it has never been the custom to publish the confidential reports received from the Police authorities in different parts of Ireland, and I cannot imagine that any departure from that practice, which has proved in the past to be salutary, is likely to be engaged in now. And when the noble Marquess spoke, again in animated terms, of what he describes in his Question as the "spread of disaffection," I could not help feeling that he was putting the very worst possible colour upon reports which he and his friends may have received from Ireland; and I noticed the enthusiasm with which his rather lurid pictures were cheered by the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, who does know Ireland, and has, as we all know, a considerable personal interest in the country. In my opinion the suppression of the rising of two months ago in Ireland 502 was carried out with signal humanity and moderation.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I do not believe that there is any country in Europe or out of it, whether the form of government be a Monarchy or a Republic, where a rising of such a character would have been put down with so little bloodshed and with so rare a recourse to the capital penalty.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Of that I am firmly convinced. But it would be idle to deny that in some parts of Ireland, and in some classes, there is felt a degree of sympathy, which cannot be considered by reasonable people as wholesome, with not a few of those who took part in the rising. It may be said, no doubt, that the case of some of those who were engaged in it is not undeserving of sympathy from the fact that they were very young and may have been dupes of those who were either merely designing or else were dangerous fanatics. But it is the case—and it is an old story in Ireland—that the tendency, after a rising of this kind has been put down, is towards a certain sympathy with those, or at any rate some of those who took part in it, to an extent which is not intelligible to the English mind. Something of the same kind was visible in France after the great rising of the Commune in 1871, of which this affair in Dublin may be considered to be a very pale shadow. Wishing at least as strongly as the noble Marquess to avoid anything in the nature of a polemical discussion to-night, I do not desire even to indicate the different conclusions which people of different views and minds may be disposed to draw from that fact. If I were to attempt even to describe those conclusions, I should be getting on to contested ground. I merely desire to point out that such a fact as that may cause people to arrive at quite different conclusions of policy as to the course that ought to be adopted, the country being what it is and the condition of affairs what we know, in regard to the future government of Ireland, and in particular for its government during the period of the war. I do not think that I can usefully add anything to the replies 503 which I have given to the noble Marquess's Questions. He will, I fear, consider them rather barren and inadequate, but I do not think they could be materially added to without entering upon that controversial ground which he has expressed his desire to avoid and upon which I am particularly anxious not to tread.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I do not think that, whatever the noble Marquess intended to do, he has given any information which will have been very novel to your Lordships in reply to what has been said. But I must take exception to the rebuke which he addressed both to my noble friend to-night and to myself last night as to the public disadvantage of these statements, and I will do so by calling attention to his own record in these matters. As long as a year and a-half ago the noble Marquess protested against my bringing forward the question of the rise of the Sinn Fein movement in Ireland and the encouragement which was given to it by the inaction of the authorities, and indicated that I was doing no public service by that reference. But when the outbreak took place and the subject was discussed in your Lordships' House, I was twitted from the Government Bench on the fact that we had not initiated discussions upon the matter; that, whatever we had done in private, we had taken no public action during the time these private warnings had been given. I do not think the noble Marquess recollects that pressure was brought to bear upon us when the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, brought forward his Motion. We were told by a private but perfectly open communication that it was undesirable for the Government to enter into the subject because Lord Hardinge's Committee had been appointed. But Lord Hardinge's Committee having been appointed, and your Lordships having been told that you ought to be dumb until after it had reported, the Government set to work on vital subjects without waiting for the Report of Lord Hardinge's Committee. And now to-night we are told again that it is premature for us to bring these matters up. I want to make it perfectly clear what it is we desire. My noble friend Lord Salisbury wanted to ascertain the facts. We are quite aware that we are exposing ourselves to the charge of obstructing, or of saying things which may make more difficult, an arrangement which the Government desire to make.
504 We challenge the action of the Government on two main grounds. First in reference to the Prime Minister's statement that this is the best time to attempt an arrangement of this kind. I do not believe a worse time could possibly have been chosen, because nobody knows the conditions which are obtaining in Ireland except the members of His Majesty's Government, who are learning them only by degrees. Secondly, I think the Government have made the greatest possible blunder by doing everything in their power to belittle the rising. The noble Marquess said with great force that nothing could exceed the humanity with which the whole business had been treated in Ireland. But owing to the fact that in all their communications they endeavour to belittle the rising to the level of a street riot, this, instead of obtaining for them as it might have done the sympathy of the world for the leniency with which the rising was put down, has obtained for them comments, entirely unmerited, on their severity and left a false impression on neutral nations and in America.
I know that the noble Marquess's colleagues have taken great credit to themselves because some assimilation between the opinions of rival Parties in Ireland has been come to. I do not want to go into that, except to say that when one Party believes the arrangement to be permanent and the other Party believes it to be but temporary, it is very easy indeed to come to an agreement. But how long will that agreement continue? I am not going to say a word about Mr. Lloyd George as a negotiator, but if you look back to the record of his negotiations in labour disputes or other matters, whatever we may say of his enthusiasm and ability, or the manner in which he has temporarily composed differences, you will find that in every single case he has done so by taking very short views of life; and in this Irish question I believe you will find that this apparent concurrence is to be numbered not by months but by days. The noble Marquess rather wondered that I cheered the statement which my noble friend Lord Salisbury made. I did so because I do not think he overstated the case. We are warning the Government because we believe that while you are talking here the pro-German party in Ireland is organising. We believe that every day you protract these negotiations is a day of additional danger to this country. 505 We believe that if in the end you put the power into the hands of Mr. Redmond you will be putting it into the hands of men who, by the best evidence we can get, will not return one-third of his supporters if you dared to go to an election. We believe that Lord Salisbury's statement is not an overstatement—that you are going to have a pro-German majority in Ireland if you hold an election at this moment. And we believe that the reason of that is this, that instead of putting down the rising and continuing to govern you have allowed all those who, as the noble Marquess opposite said, are graded off into various shades of Opinion, to throw themselves on the extreme side, which they are doing by hundreds and thousands every week; and you will not arrest that by hastening to give what will be regarded, not as your gratuitous contribution towards the settlement of the country, but as the reward of successful rebellion and as the vantage ground for further agitation.
I will add one or two points which the noble Marquess, I hope, will study, and will bring to the knowledge of his colleagues. In the first place, I assure him that in many parts of Ireland the position of loyalists and of the loyal Nationalists who co-operated against the Sinn Feiners has been rendered precarious. I assert that life is in danger in many parts of Ireland where it was not in danger a fortnight ago. I assert that all the arms have not been recovered, and that those which have been recovered are found to have had an origin which should cause the noble Marquess to look with very grave concern on some whom he is inclined to trust. I assert also that these things cannot be known because of the necessary operation of the censorship. I have in my possession copies of documents which I do not impeach the Government for not publishing, but which, if they were known in this country, would have a very serious effect on public opinion as to whether in these circumstances we are wise in taking any power out of the hands of the Central Government. Every day these things are getting worse, because it is believed that the British Government are going to make a complete surrender of power. You are building your house on sand, and if you complain again that we have not warned you, or if you complain that we on these Benches have interfered to stop delicate negotiations, we reply that the important thing is that the Government should face 506 the facts, and that the country should know to what it is committed by the intolerable position in which the critics of the Government are put by the statement that if they do anything to embarrass the Government it may have a disastrous effect on the conduct of the war.
What I would urge upon the Government is that they should no longer delay to govern in Ireland. Why has there been an absence of a Chief Secretary and a Lord Lieutenant for two months? It is two months since there was any Executive officer in Ireland. We are not asking for a continuance indefinitely of Martial Law. It is perfectly possible to govern Ireland without a continuance of Martial Law to an indefinite period. But you must have the proper officers, and you are bound to make these appointments. Let the Government turn to the ordinary work of governing Ireland. Let Mr. Lloyd George, if he is to take up the reins at the War Office, take up that business and leave this process of negotiation, which is at this moment doing nothing but mischief. I say this because I am convinced that, whatever you may be able to do after the war, you cannot afford at this moment in Ireland to weaken the authority of the Central Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I feel that if I allow this conversation to end without saying a few words I may seem to be wanting in respect to noble Lords on the other side who have raised this important question. The first Question placed on the Paper by the noble Marquess opposite raises two quite distinct issues. He criticised with a rather unsparing hand the proposals which are usually described as the proposals made by Mr. Lloyd George to the representatives of the different Parties in Ireland; and then he asked upon whose authority these proposals had been made. I venture to submit to the House that any discussion of these proposals at the present time would he not merely inconvenient to Ministers, but most disadvantageous to the public interest. And for this reason. These proposals have not yet been disposed of by the Cabinet. They only came before the Cabinet at quite a recent date. It was not until after the Whitsuntide recess that the matter was submitted to them, and even at this moment there are points which I can certainly say seem to me to be of vital importance which are still undergoing 507 examination by the Government. In these circumstances, to have in either House of Parliament a heated discussion upon the details of the proposals seems to me to be in the highest degree inadvisable.
My noble friend, I thought, rather gave away his case when he made it a subject of complaint that several editions of these proposals had appeared in the Press. That is quite true. There have been several editions, and they show discrepancies at several points. What does that prove? It proves that the whole matter is still in a fluid state, and that no proposals have yet been stereotyped. If that is the case, and I hope your Lordships will take it from me that it is so, does not that by implication answer the other point with which my noble friend dealt—namely, the question of the authority for these proposals? There can be no Government authority for proposals of this kind until they have been considered, dealt with, and accepted by the Government; and, as I venture to tell your Lordships, that is not the case, because the examination of these proposals is still proceeding. I will not add to what the noble Marquess who leads the House said just now as to the origin of these various schemes. They emerge, I think not unnaturally, from the consultations which have been taking place—consultations certainly authorised by His Majesty's Government, but consultations which in no way bind His Majesty's Government, and for the details of which they can accept no responsibility. I sum up by saying that as we have not accepted these proposals we cannot be regarded as having in any way authorised them.
508 Then my noble friend asks for further information with regard to the condition of Ireland. That is, I think, a very reasonable request. I certainly am not going to lay myself open to the charge of belittling the rebellion. I have never belittled it. I have always regarded it with feelings of the gravest anxiety, and I am not going to complain of the description which my noble, friend Lord Midleton gave just now, speaking with a knowledge which he possesses to an exceptional degree of the present condition of many parts of Ireland. I admit frankly that before we make any proposals to Parliament we shall have to satisfy Parliament that our proposals are adequate having regard to the present condition of Ireland, and having regard to the precautions which we may think it necessary to take in order to prevent a recurrence of these lamentable disorders. But, my Lords, at this moment we are not asking you to accept any proposals, and, therefore, it seems to me that the moment has not come when we need enter into details as to the state of Ireland or as to the precautions by which our proposals will have to be accompanied. I admit readily that that will form a vital and essential part of our case, and we shall be ready to deal with it at the proper time. Let me, in conclusion, say that if we do not seek to prolong this discussion, it is certainly not because we have any idea that this question can be dealt with without the fullest possible discussion in Parliament. We certainly have no idea of evading that discussion.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.