§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee,—(Viscount Peel.)
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, I am sure the House is anxious to get on with this Bill, and I will undertake to occupy very little of your Lordships' time.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
May I interrupt the noble Earl for one moment? I am extremely sorry to say that my noble friend Lord Curzon is forbidden by his doctor to attend your Lordships' House to-day. He had, of course, expected to be here to speak on the question about which the noble Earl is to address your Lordships.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
I do not intend to go at all into the question of Home Rule—it is only very distantly related to the matter before the House—although I am bound to say that one or two remarks that fell from my noble friend Lord Londonderry yesterday were of a somewhat provocative character. However, that does not at all matter. I do not intend either to discuss the Irish Convention. All that I want to do is to explain as shortly and as well as I can why it is that, although I am a very ardent Home Ruler, I find it quite impossible to share the views expressed on this Bill as far as its relation to Ireland is concerned by Nationalists, many of whom are my personal friends and with some of whom I have been very closely related.
I admit that this question is involved in difficulties in its application to Ireland, owing to a situation which has arisen, and which, in my opinion, never ought to have been allowed to arise. There is nothing so useless as talking about what might have been. At the same time it is impossible to understand the frame of mind in which the Irish people are now without a very slight reference to events which have occurred since the commencement of the war. Just before the war, in 1914, a Home Rule Bill was put upon the Statute Book. All I want to say about that is that it is 766 an infinite pity that the Unionists of Ulster could not then have come to some arrangement short of absolute partition. I am not going to argue the matter at all, and I am not impugning their motives. I am only saying that if they could have done so, this political question would have been put out of the way and we should not be now in what I deem to be a very unfortunate position in which a Home Rule Bill, a political reform, and this Bill, which deals purely with military matters, have come into Parliament so closely together that they may be almost considered to be part and parcel of one measure. That is certain to be misunderstood in Ireland, and it makes the question, difficult and complicated as it was before, complicated still further. Then came the war, and at the commencement of the war Ireland was really very keen. There was great enthusiasm in Ireland in favour of the war, but, by a series of, to me, almost incredible blunders on the part of the then military authorities, the growing flame of enthusiasm in Ireland was put out by plentiful bucketsful of official cold water. The enthusiasm was so far quenched that it was impossible for the late Mr. John Redmond or his brother, who was killed in action, or his son, who has rendered distinguished service, or for others to rekindle the flame of enthusiasm in Ireland. That was a pity.
Then I come to 1916, when the Military Service Act was applied in England. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne told us yesterday that he did not think that the gain which might have been made at the time by applying it to Ireland was worth the difficulty and trouble that it would have caused. In that I have to differ from him. I admit, of course, that the question of man-power was not nearly so important then as it is now. The fact that you might have obtained 200,000, 300,000, 400,000, or 500,000 men from Ireland did not matter so much then as it does now, but you would have established the principle and we should have been relieved from the dilemma that we are now in of having to deal with this Bill relating to military matters entirely and with the political Bill almost simultaneously. I think that His Majesty's Government at that time were misled by the Irish representatives in Parliament. I do not think that the Irish Members understood the feelings of the country. I know they were strongly opposed to applying the Act to Ireland, and I think in that respect His Majesty's 767 Government were very badly advised by them. The Government were misled again in the estimate they formed of the strength of the Secessionist Party in Ireland, the Sinn Fein. Irish Members attached scarcely any importance to it at all. They thought it was not worth bothering about. Well, they were wrong. It had considerable strength, and matters culminated, as your Lordships all know, in an abortive rising and a lamentable loss of life that could have been avoided, and ought to have been avoided, if proper precautions had been taken.
The total result of all this is that you have produced a condition of sentiment and feeling in Ireland which is very, very difficult indeed to deal with, more especially perhaps because the Irish people are perfectly convinced that the Government—former Governments, the present Government, and any Government of this country are absolutely devoid of purpose, and do not know their own minds and have not sufficient firmness to carry out their intentions. Then we come to that almost laughable farce of creating what was called "a favourable atmosphere" for the Convention. An atmosphere that was supposed to be favourable to the Convention was manufactured by allowing Ireland to get almost entirely out of hand, and by allowing the people to persuade themselves that they could laugh at the Executive and defy the Government with impunity. It would be impossible to imagine any atmosphere that could be less conducive and less useful to the labours of a body of Wren entrusted with the serious matters which were referred to the Irish Convention. I do not want to pursue that. It is useless erring over spilt milk. All I want to say to the House is that the mike was spilt. It need not have been spilt, but it was spilt and it turned sour, and the total result is a sulky discontent and doubt on the part of the Irish people which it is exceedingly difficult to deal with.
1 have approached this question of applying compulsion to Ireland now fully aware that it is much more difficult than it might have been, infinitely more difficult than it was after the Sinn Fein Rebellion, and still more difficult than it would have been in 1916 when the Military Service Act was applied to Great Britain. At that time Ireland fully expected it. Great numbers of people in Ireland were absolutely insulted because it was not applied. They 768 argued that if they were wanted they would have been taken, and because the Act was not applied to them it really meant that the Government did not think the Irish were as valuable to them as Englishmen, Scotsmen, or Welshmen. Irishmen were quite ready for it, and the fact that it was not applied to them has rankled in their hearts ever since.
After all, the one question is whether this Bill is necessary. I am not going to argue that, because the House is fully agreed that it is. It is a question whether its application to Ireland under Clause 2 is necessary. I do not bother my head about whether it is advisable, or whether it is easy or difficult. If it is necessary it is advisable, and if it is necessary it must and can be carried out, however difficult the operation may be. In my opinion it is absolutely necessary. In the first place—it is a small matter, I admit—Ireland is at the present moment full of British refugees. Ireland has been turned into a sort of luxurious "funk-hole" for Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Welshmen who wish to evade service in the war to which they would be liable if they remained in England, and they are contaminating the Irish people. I want to see them taken out of Ireland, and I do not see how they can be unless they are made as liable to serve in Ireland as if they were in Great Britain. But a much more important reason is, it seems to me, that to apply the provisions of this Bill to Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Welshmen, involving great hardships and great sacrifices, and let Irishmen go scot free is absolutely unfair, unjust, and impossible. It is not a right thing to do, and it ought not to be done.
I fail to understand the views of those Nationalists, who, while approving of the war, disapprove of the application of this Bill to Ireland. They say that they approve of the war, and that it is a just war. Some of their friends have sacrificed their lives, some of them are risking their lives for the cause. Yet, although they say it is a just cause and are willing to risk and lose their lives for it, they say at the same time they will oppose conscription in Ireland to the bitter end. That is a frame of mind which I cannot understand. They say that voluntary recruiting in Ireland was so mismanaged by the War Office that it was practically put an end to. I agree. But what on earth has a comparatively small matter like that got to do with the 769 tremendous issues that are at stake at the present moment? They say conscription cannot be imposed on Ireland without the consent of an Irish Parliament. In the first place, they forget that they all accepted and approved of the 1914 Act, according to which an Irish Parliament could have no voice whatever in the question of applying conscription to Ireland. Even if they are right, and if conscription ought not to be applied to Ireland without the consent of an Irish Parliament and an Executive responsible to it, that is at the present moment merely an abstract proposition. There is no Parliament in Ireland; there is no Executive. They know perfectly well that the one thing that will turn the balance in our favour, or prevent the balance going against us—and the whole issues of the war are now trembling in the balance—is man-power. They know that conscription is necessary to obtain the manpower, and they are going to sacrifice everything that they hold dear and sacred, a war which they think is just and right, for and abstract proposition namely, that if there was in Ireland a Parliament and an Executive responsible to it, conscription could not be forced upon Ireland without its consent. I confess I do not understand it. They may be right in the abstract proposition; but what we have to do is to deal with the circumstances as they are, and those circumstances are that man-power is urgently required; that without sufficient man-power we may be beaten in this terrific, this titanic struggle; and that the Imperial Parliament at present has an absolute right to enforce conscription in Ireland as well as in any other part of the United Kingdom.
I know that some friends of mine think that in accepting Clause 2 of this Bill they will be betraying Irish interests and Ireland's rights. I disagree with them entirely. I maintain that in agreeing to Clause 2, as I do, I am not betraying Irish interests but I am safeguarding Irish interests; I am not betraying Irish rights, but I ton ensuring Ireland that she will get her rights. I know that if in this struggle Ireland does not pull her full weight and do her duty, a state of feeling will arise towards Ireland in Great Britain of such intensity and of such a character that, although you may pass a Home Rule Bill, there is not the remotest chance that such a Bill will work smoothly and beneficially in Ireland for very many years, if not for generations to come. Those are the 770 reasons, put as shortly as I can, why I am in favour of applying this Bill to Ireland.
I find it very difficult to look beyond anything except the tremendous issues which are at this moment at stake. If I can look any further. I look to the future of Ireland. We are fighting for the life of Ireland just as much as we are fighting for the life of Great Britain or of the British Empire, or of Belgium, or France, or Italy, or anywhere else. We are fighting for ideals which he very close to the Irish heart, for Ireland has a soul which is above mere material conceptions, and everything that Ireland holds true and sacred in the world is involved in this struggle now going on against the power of brute force brutally applied. If Inland does not take her full part and do her utmost in such a fight, site will be false to herself, false to her own false to her own soul, degraded among the nations of the earth, and, what is perhaps worse, degraded, when she comes to her senses as she surely will, in her own eyes. Therefore, for the sake of saving my country from that fate, I am in favour of applying coercion to Ireland.
I have only one word more. The noble Viscount who introduced the Bill yesterday told us that some interval—I think he said a considerable interval—must elapse before the provisions of the Bill could be put into absolute operation in Ireland—machinery has to be set up—and he expressed a hope that during that interval voluntary recruiting might take place. I hope so too. I think it may. I think it may be encouraged to take place in a very considerable volume if three conditions are observed. You must give every encouragement you possibly can to the volunteers. You must consider Irish feelings and Irish sentiments—fads, if you like to call them so. It does not matter whether you understand them or do not; you must consider them. They were not considered in 1915, and recruiting failed. Do not let that happen again. Give every possible privilege and advantage to the men who come forward voluntarily. Let them choose their own regiments, encourage them to fill up the vacancies in the Irish regiments which have fought so gallantly and suffered so tremendously, encourage them to fill up the gaps which have not been filled to the infinite shame of their kindred in Ireland. If they want to call themselves an Irish Brigade, let, them do so; even if they are half a dozen brigades, what does it matter? I will go so far as to say that 771 if they wish to be brigaded with the French or with the Americans, let them be brigaded with the French and the Americans. Do whatever you possibly can to encourage voluntary recruiting, but make it absolutely clear at the same time that those who do not come themselves will infallibly be fetched. There must be absolutely no doubt in the minds of the Irish people about that.
I think also that you ought to tell them what the nature of the machinery is to be, and what sort of Tribunal they will have to appeal to. Let them feel certain that they will be fairly and justly treated. Among the labouring class recruiting has been good all through. Do not let them be afraid that when one bread-winner has gone voluntarily another who is indispensable to the working of the litle farm may be taken also. Give every privilege you can to the volunteer. Make it perfectly certain that those who will not go voluntarily will be forced to go. May I further impress upon His Majesty's Government what naturally they will not accept, and what I do not say is my opinion, that the Irish people are absolutely convinced that what the Government say about these things is "bluff," and that the Government can be out-bluffed. Do everything that you possibly can in your power to make the people of Ireland understand that this is final, and that if they do not volunteer they will be taken. If these steps are adopted, if they are certain that they will be forced to come if they do not volunteer, if they understand the nature of the Tribunal to which they will have to appeal and are made to feel that they will be justly and fairly treated, and if men who come forward voluntarily are given every possible privilege and advantage, I believe that you will find in the long last that the number of men you have to force to come will not be very large.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, as I am one of the very few members of your Lordships' House who has had any official connection with the Government of Ireland, I feel I might to say a few words upon this subject. I agree very much with what was said by my noble friend Lord Dunraven in dwelling upon the mistakes that have been made at an earlier stage of this matter. Therefore I need not repeat what he said, especially about the saddest of all those mistakes—the discouragement given to 772 Mr. Redmond's projects for enlisting Irish sympathy in 1914. I agree also that it is impossible to exaggerate the strength of the arguments that may be used in support of bringing Ireland within conscription. It is not necessary to recapitulate those arguments. We all know what people will feel in England and Scotland and Wales when they see Ireland left out. But one has to look at the other side of the case. And if you consider the arguments that exist against including Ireland, I do not think there can be very much doubt which way the balance inclines.
Let me add that I entirely agree with the view that it must be, under any system of Home Rule, within the reserved powers of the Imperial Parliament to apply conscription to every part of the United Kingdom. That was contemplated in the three Bills—the Bill of 1886, the Bill of 1892, and the Bill which is now on the Statute Book. And it clearly inheres ill the conception of the relations of Ireland to the United Kingdom that, naval and military, affairs belonging to the Imperial Parliament, the power of conscription must go with them. That, as a mere legal proposition, I think can hardly be contested. But that is not enough to enable us to solve our present difficulties. We may be very much disappointed at the attitude of the majority of the Irish people; we may think that they are very unreasonable; but, after all, what we have to do is to look at the facts. We must take the facts as they are, and not as we would wish them to be.
The real question is this. What help towards man-power, which we all admit to be necessary, will you get by applying conscription to Ireland? I think the more you look into the difficulties that beset the matter the less you will expect to gain from the application of conscription. Look, in the first place, at the conditions of Ireland as compared with those of the other parts of the United Kingdom. You have not in Ireland, except in a very few districts, any manufacturing population whose superfluity can be drawn upon for military service. You have practically no mining population; and we know what immense strength we have succeeded in drawing from the miners of Northumberland and other parts of England and Scotland. There is nothing of that kind in Ireland. The population is almost entirely agricultural, even in Ulster where manu- 773 factures are most developed. And it is not only an agricultural population, but, as was, I think, observed by my noble friend Lord Lansdowne yesterday, it is very largely a one-man-farm country. There are comparatively few hired labourers compared with the numbers in England and Scotland, and the farms are very largely worked by single families, the older man relying, and in fact relying mainly, upon the assistance of his son. You must also remember that for years before the war there was a large adrift of the younger part of the population to other countries. That emigration was stopping of its own accord shortly prior to the war, but it had been so large for years before that it left Ireland insufficiently supplied. There was no overplus of labour, although there was, as there is always elsewhere, a certain amount of local labour about the small towns.
We have to remember that we cannot do anything which will reduce production. To keep up the level of agricultural production is one of our greatest problems, because we do not want to be obliged to spend any more of our shipping upon importing food than is absolutely necessary, in order to make all the shipping free for bringing in troops and munitions from America. That being so, is it not clear that very large demands will be made for exemption by the agricultural population, and that these demands will necessarily have to be granted, because it will be perfectly impossible to allow any of these farms that are producing potatoes, or the dairy farms, to go out of productive tillage? And therefore the number that you will get by applying conscription, with the requisite exemptions, will be much smaller than any one might expect, merely from looking at the population of the country.
Now look at another aspect of the question. I think it was adverted to last night by my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, and I think also by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. What are you to do about your Tribunals? Where are you to get the machinery for your Tribunals in a country like Ireland? The local authorities will be nearly all against you. Outside North-east Ulster the local authorities are almost entirely Nationalists, and the rising tide of Nationalist feeling, be it well grounded or not, be it reasonable or not, is there. This rising tide of National feeling will tell upon these Tribunals, and you wilt not get 774 Tribunals, unless they are constituted of military men or landowners, to resist that pressure of local opinion which is so alarmingly strong in Ireland, the strength of which is almost one of the evils of the country, so that people are afraid to stand up against whatever is the swelling tide of the moment.
The root difficulty of Ireland is the difficulty that you always have the mass of people against you. That has been our difficulty in administering the Criminal Law; you could not get juries to convict; and it is the difficulty one always meets in Ireland. Unfortunately past events have made the population in Ireland antagonistic to the law because it is the law, and you do not find the people ready to give that willing, hearty support to a law because it has been [...]enacted by Parliament, which we can happily look for and find in England, Scotland, and Wales.
I understand that at present the attitude of the bulk of the people in the three Provinces of the West and South, and I presume also in some of the Ulster counties, like Donegal and Cavan, is going to be one of passive resistance. The word has gone round that conscription is to be resisted in every way that it can be passively, but we cannot be sure that there may not be places where collisions will occur, and we may be pretty sure, as was said by the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) yesterday, that there will be a very great desire on the part of the young men to evade conscription. They will take to the hills. It will be difficult to find them, you will have to put constables on their tracks; in fact, this whole thing will have to be worked—I am sorry to say it, from all the information that reaches me from Ireland—by the soldiers and the police, and you will not be able to conduct it as we have happily been able to do it in England and Scotland.
We had two very important testimonies last night to the attitude of Irish opinion on this subject, partly from the noble Marquess opposite and partly from Lord Oranmore and Browne. I was greatly impressed, as I suppose all your Lordships were, by what Lord Oranmore told us about the decision that was arrived at by a Committee of the National Convention with regard to the application of conscription to Ireland. If that Committee, which consisted of members of both parties, with 775 a number of Unionists upon it, unanimously came to the conclusion that conscription could not be applied without the consent of an Irish Parliament, that is a serious consideration. [A NOBLE LORD: No.] Well, so I understood Lord Oranmore—I have the words here, and can read them if desired. They did not report that an Irish Parliament must first he brought into being—that is quite true. But they thought it would be exceedingly difficult to enforce conscription at a future time without the consent of an Irish Parliament, and that seems to show what is the problem you have to deal with at present. The conclusion of the Committee was that in practice it would be impossible to apply conscription without the consent of an Irish Parliament.
The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, who spoke last night with an earnestness, simplicity, and force which I am sure impressed us all, told us that the heart of Ireland was with us, and that they had had evidences in the Convention of a loyal attachment to the United Kingdom. I have no doubt that he had it in the Convention; but can we take it that the Convention represents what is the sentiment of a large part of that population in Ireland which has unfortunately been swept away by the Sinn Fein movement? Can we take it that we can rely at this moment upon an active and cordial support to any enforcement of conscription on the Irish people? All our evidence is to the contrary. You will get fewer men than you expect; you will meet with much resistance, there will be many delays before the men can be obtained; and the men, when they come, will not be willing. I am sure that we do not wish to have reports made to other parts of the world of what would happen if a strenuous and solid passive resistance were applied to conscription in Ireland, and if we had the soldiers and police everywhere forcing men in. We should be compared with those countries of Central Europe in which, under the influence of national sentiment, resistance has been made, and is made, to service in their armies. The comparison will be made; and however unjust the comparison may be, however unjust we know it to be, nevertheless we should be unwilling that such a comparison should be made.
I cannot help thinking of the Irish prisoners who were in the year 1915, or 1916, tempted by the Germans to be 776 disloyal to the Crown and to break the oath of allegiance which they took. Your Lordships will remember that an Irishman came with the Germans to tempt these men; and von will remember also the way in which the men, with very few exceptions, repelled those temptations and spurned the idea that they would be faithless to the Flag under which they had enlisted. I think that nothing touched us more; and the fact that these men were immediately punished by being given harsher imprisonment for their loyalty forms one of the blackest spots on the German military character. That was so. There never have been better soldiers than the Irish soldiers, more valiant or more loyal. No part of the United Kingdom has ever done more to sustain the credit of the British Armies on many a field than they have done. But those were men who enlisted voluntarily. They were not brought in under compulsion. Can you be sure that the solders yon will get under compulsion will be inspired by exactly the same feeling as that which inspired those gallant Irishmen who refused the temptations to which I have referred?
Something has been said about the effect in other countries. I do not like entering into a consideration of how these things will affect other countries, because we ought to be able to do what we think best ourselves without regard to their opinions. But as the subject has been raised, I may say that there is abundant evidence that the attitude of the Irish Home-Rulers in Australia, who are a large element in New South Wales and an element to some extent in other States, was an important factor in inducing the rejection of the two referenda on conscription. There was a strong development of Irish feeling there which did affect us and did injure us, and did to that extent prevent us from getting as many men from Australia as we might otherwise have obtained. With regard to the United States, I do not think it can be doubted for a moment that to enforce conscription without having given Home Rule will have a bad effect upon opinion there. The less instructed people in the United States have not yet arrived at the point of understanding—although we are hoping that the Irish Convention will give them the means of understanding—that for some time past this has not been a question between the two islands; that the people of this island, by a large majority, are willing to concede the demand of Ireland for any reasonable measure of self- 777 government which is compatible with Imperial control; and that it is now a question of endeavouring to adjust the relations between that part Of Ireland which desires to have Home Rule and that part which does not desire to have it. I know that by this time the most instructed part of American opinion understands the matter, but many do not; and when they hear that conscription is being imposed by the Imperial Parliament upon Ireland, and is creating passive resistance there, and that the expected grant of Home Rule has not yet been made, I fear that there will be among that less instructed opinion, as well as certainly among Irish-Americans, a very strong recrudescence of feeling against this country. But do not suppose for a moment that this will interfere in the least with the action of America in the war. I feel sure that it will not make the slightest difference to America putting forth her full strength and ardour in prosecuting the war; but it will to some extent interfere with that growth of cordiality and confidence which has been rapidly increasing in the American people towards Great Britain. In so far it will depress our best friends in America, raid is therefore to be much regretted.
I have one or two words only to say with regard to a question which has been brought into this matters—namely, the question of the connection of conscription with Home Rule. It has been suggested that there is some mystery about it; hut surely the connection is a perfectly plain and simple and natural matter. The connection lies in this—that we desire to overcome the obstacles which now exist to the enforcement of conscription; that we desire to remove the state of mind in Ireland which is an obstacle to conscription; that we desire to get the Irish people into that state of mind in which they will not only admit conscription as reasonable, necessary and proper, but—and in this I join heartily in the hope of my noble friend Lord Dunraven—that they will volunteer.
Here, again, let us look at the facts. The majority of the Irish people have been expecting Home Rule for several years past. In 1914 the Bill was placed on the Statute Book, but the operation of it had to be postponed. It was a controversial question, and it was thought proper that the Amendments which were necessary, being controversial, could not well be dealt with in war time. But can anybody deny 778 after all these years that Home Rule has become inevitable? Be it good or be it bad, it is on the Statute Book; and I do not suppose that there is any one in your Lordships' House who thinks we can repeal the Act of 1914. If that be so; and if, in fact, so far from its being a thing to be postponed until after the war we have now Ministers in the other House actually treating it as a war measure, and saying that Home Rule in some form or other has to be passed because it is necessary for the prosecution of the war—that is what I understand; I may be mistaken, but that scents to me to be the upshot of the arguments which proceeded from some Ministers in the other House of Parliament—if that be so, is it not well to do it quickly, and to do that which must be done with a good grace?
My noble friend Lord Lansdowne said yesterday that we ought not to be asked to rush a Bill through hastily. We ought not, of course. It would be no use passing a Bill which was not calculated to work. We must carefully consider the measure. But, after all, this is not an entirely new matter. It is thirty-two years in this month since the first Home Rule Bill was brought up in 1886. That is about half the working life of a man. For thirty-two years this question and all that it involves has been before the mind of the country. Three Bills were brought into Parliament, and those Bills were debated, the first, in the House of Commons, at immense length, the second and the third at even greater length in both Houses. And on the top of all this we have the Irish Convention which has been sitting for eight months; it has tabled its scheme, which is now before His Majesty's Government. Surely it is hardly possible that any question could have received more consideration; and if, after all this consideration, we are not able within a comparatively short space of time to work out a reasonable, practicable method, it will reflect very little credit upon our skill. Therefore I cannot help hoping that both in the interests of voluntary recruiting and in the interests of ultimately getting conscription—because it was clearly admitted in another place that you cannot begin to conscript in Ireland at once; a great many preliminary arrangements have to he made and hundreds of things have to be done—some attempt will be made at once to soften and remove the state of feeling which now constitutes the 779 obstacle to requiring Ireland to do what is her duty, just as much as it is the duty of Britain. Is it not time for us to try and prepare and enact a measure which will mark an advance towards peace in Ireland—a measure which will cut the ground from under the feet of the agitators who are endeavouring to distract Ireland and make her disloyal; a measure fitted to create an atmosphere of good will, and bring about the hearty co-operation of Ireland in a cause which ought to interest her as much as it interests us—the maintenance of liberty and justice throughout the world?
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
My Lords, I intend to take up your Lordships' time for only one minute. The noble Viscount who has just sat down referred to the Report of the sub-committee of the Irish Convention, of which I was a member and to which I was one of the signatories. I intend doing so, because I think there is such an amount of misapprehension existing with regard to that Report and also because it has been wilfully misinterpreted by the Nationalist Party in another place. Lord Oranmore, in the course of the debate last night, read to your Lordships the conclusion to which we came in that sub-committee on the subject of conscription, but at the risk of wearying your Lordships I will read it to you again—Assuming that a scheme of self-government for Ireland be adopted, including the establishment of an Irish Parliament and an Irish Executive Government responsible thereto, we think that it would in practice be impossible to impose a system of compulsory service in Ireland without the assent and co-operation of the Irish Parliament.As to whether, as an abstract proposition, it would be desirable, by vesting these powers in the Imperial Parliament, to secure united and simultaneous action in this direction in both islands, it is, we thins, unnecessary for us to express an opinion, as we think it would be impracticable effectively to enforce such a demand, except with the approval of the Irish Parliament, without which the action and efficient co-operation of the Executive could not be secured.Indeed, it scents to us a direct consequence of the creation of an Irish Parliament that any measure of this character must be submitted to the Irish Parliament before it could be enforced on Ireland.We desire to emphasise the fact that the above report deals only with one aspect of this very difficult and important question, and that we were not able in the time then at our disposal to go into the possibilities of joint action by a common War Council of the two Governments, or as to the effect of there being hereafter a Federal Constitution for the British Isles.My Lords, that Report purely and simply 780 refers to the fact that whenever in its wisdom, or otherwise, His Majesty's Government choose to set up an independent and subordinate Parliament in Ireland, in our opinion it would be absolutely impracticable, not to enforce conscription, but rather to carry it out in Ireland without the consent of that Parliament. In other words, you would hand over to Ireland the whole machinery of government. She would have the Executive, the Judiciary, and perhaps the Police—although I hope not—the whole working part of the Government; and with all that power in the hands of the Irish Parliament, however much you might be able to enforce conscription, you would be unable to carry it out. The sub-committee never expressed one word as to the desirability of conscription at the present time or one word as to setting it up. For my own part, if such a wish had been expressed in the Report I would never have signed it. I myself have always been in favour of conscription for Ireland, and still am. I do not speak for others, but the chairman, Lord Desart, authorises me to say that he agrees with what I have said with regard to the wording of our Resolution. It deals only with an hypothetical Irish Parliament.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes. I believe that many of your Lordships would have been glad if, as Lord Salisbury hinted yesterday, this Bill could have been passed without discussion at this critical time. Probably there are several Amendments we would like to see adopted. Certainly there are several assurances which we should have liked to obtain from the Government, more especially with regard to agriculture and Ireland, but all such things seem to me to be small and almost a mockery at a time of real national emergency. The Secretary of State for War alluded yesterday to the gravity of the military situation, and there can be no doubt that the situation is grave. He also pointed out the vital necessity of providing all the men who can be spared, and gave the most weighty reasons. I am sure that every one agrees with everything said by the noble Earl.
The military position as it now stands—and it ought to be carefully observed and borne in mind—is this. Our troops have fought most magnificently during the past few days against what Sir Douglas Haig said the other day were overwhelming odds, 781 and as we know now, happily, our gallant French Allies are coming to their assistance. I believe the fighting during the last few days will add imperishable glory to our troops both in the field and in the air, but our troops have been forced slowly backward, and they have been obliged to abandon important positions won in the past at very heavy cost of life. So far no vital point has been reached, but we must remember that vital points are now being menaced and that this retirement cannot be carried very much further. We have to hold the enemy, and to do that we want every man who can be spared from non-essential work in the country, because it is certain now that these operations must be protracted. More than that, it is not sufficient to hold the enemy. We must be prepared to strike a great blow against the enemy if we are ever to win the war.
Now at a time when Irishmen are being conscripted in America, in the United Kingdom, in Canada, and in New Zealand, it is most difficult to believe that Irishmen in Ireland will not be ready to support their own kindred in the war. If they fail to do so, then the fact that they were false to the cause of liberty at a crisis in the history of the world will never be forgotten, as the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, said, and they will incur the resentment of every man of every allied nation who has fought and suffered in this war. The Irish, as we know, are a chivalrous people, and are also a sentimental people. Their honour at this moment is at stake. Is it quite impossible that before active steps are taken to enforce conscription in Ireland a strong appeal should be made to what Lord Dunraven calls the soul of Ireland? In the position in which the Empire stands to-day I feel that our only course is to support the Government and give it everything it asks, and I am sure the House will be willing to do this. The Government alone understands the full extent of our national needs, and we must trust it implicitly to use all the large powers which this Bill will confer in order to secure the final victory of the Allies.
THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, I desire to limit myself entirely to the question of the application of this Bill to Ireland. I am not going to enter into the question of its application to the rest of these islands, but, as an Irishman, I want most urgently to express the hope that 782 His Majesty's Government realise what they are up against. If this Clause 2 had appeared in a Bill two years ago I should have welcomed it enthusiastically. At that time militant service could have been introduced into Ireland, I am perfectly confident, without the least trouble and without any bloodshed. A great deal of water has passed under the bridges during those two years, and Ireland is in a very different position to-day from that which she was in two yews ago. Then I felt so confident that firm government and the application of military service to Ireland would be her salvation that I ventured to call upon Mr. Duke, who had just taken office, to express the hope that he would recognise the errors which had led to the fall of his predecessor, and that we might anticipate in future firm government with justice.
I do not know whether it was in consequence of that interview, but almost immediately afterwards I received an invitation from his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant asking me to come and see him. He asked me to speak perfectly frankly, and I impressed upon him then the view which I hold now, that military service ought to have been brought forward at that time. Of course my advice, and that of many others, was not followed. Now, at a time when it is far more difficult than it ever was in those days, the Government are doing what many people asked then to do two years ago. Lord Derby last night spoke very determinedly, and with great eloquence and great earnestness he told us that the Government were resolved to carry this Bill out no matter what happened. As a loyal Irishman I accept that. Anything I cart personally do, and I am sure I am speaking for all the loyalists also, I and we shall do to assist the Government. At the same time I want them to realise that they are asking for tremendous sacrifices on the part of the loyalists of Ireland, because we shall make ourselves uncommonly unpopular. We shall be going directly against popular feeling, and we can only say that those of us who feel, as my noble friend Lord Dunraven has remarked, that it is necessary to carry out this policy of the Government, ask them to recognise the sacrifices we are making. We feel that it is a very serious sacrifice that we shall be asked to make.
What is the cause of all this trouble in Ireland, for years and years and years 783 past? Is it not due to the fact that the Irishman has been absolutely misunderstood? Even my noble friend Lord Dunraven stated he could not understand how it was that an Irishman who said he was in favour of the war could absolutely refuse to allow his countrymen to be enlisted for that purpose. I think Lord Dunraven really knew. The explanation of it is simple. You may take the illustion of a thoroughbred, high-spirited horse which, when he feels the grip of a skilful rider, is as mild, quiet, and gentle as possible. Let a rider who is nervous and who is not quite certain of his own mind get on the same horse, and there would be fatal consequences very likely. That is Ireland. There is no logic about it. It is simply and solely that they have for generations been trained to hate England, and if they feel they are ruled properly they yield, but if they are ruled weakly and unjustly they kick. At this moment you have, by mismanagement, united against you all except the ultra-loyalists of Ireland. I believe that at this very moment, in the Mansion House in Dublin, the Nationalists, the Sinn Feiners, and the Labourites are meeting to oppose this Bill unitedly, and my own feeling is that Ireland was never in a more dangerous condition than she is in at this moment. At the same time I am not going to say that the Bill is not necessary. I suppose it is necessary. I take it for granted that it is, and, if so, I am sure all loyal Ireland will do what it can to assist.
But I would ask His Majesty's Government what they really intend to do, because I feel, with other Irishmen, that we have BO often been told that they intend to do this and that they intend to do that, but they do not do it. I would ask them, What do they mean to do when they have obtained these powers? Do they seriously mean to enforce them or do they not? We were told when the Bill was first introduced in another place that they were going to enforce everything, that they were not going to yield one jot. Yet what do we see? We know they have made concessions. They may he wise or they may be unwise—I am not going to argue as to that—but having said they were not going to make any concessions, they do make concessions to conscientious objectors and the clergy, and it may be to others. That is a most important point. Are they going to adhere to the Bill as it passes through Parliament and enforce the Act in Ireland 784 as it is enforced in England, or are they-not? If they do not intend to enforce it, why raise the temper and the animosity of all Nationalist Ireland unnecessarily, because they need not have done it at all? Why unite against them the Sinn Feiners, the Nationalists, and the Labour Party in Ireland? They need not have done it, unless they have made up their minds as to what they really intend to do. Do they propose to hold the Military Service Act over the disaffected as a rod in pickle, and not put it into force until the Home Rule Bill has been passed, or not? That is a most important thing. If so, I say that will only be playing into the hands of the extreme parties who would welcome such a standing stimulus to hatred of England and all her works.
On the other hand, do they think that after the Home Ride Government has been established the British Government will be able to put the Military Service Act into force without trouble and without bloodshed? All this we do not know. If so, let me assure them that they are sadly mistaken, and that the probable consequence of such an action would be the passing of a Resolution in the Irish Home Rule Parliament of complete separation from England, notwithstanding the Act which the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, mentioned, an Act which does not allow military matters to be discussed. They will not mind that; they will pass the Resolution. Do the Government intend to wait until the Home Rule Parliament is established and then appeal to the Irish Legislature in a friendly manner to put the Military Service Act into force? If so, I fear they will be gravely disappointed. I doubt very much whether, after months of bitter hostile agitation against England, the representatives of Ireland would be in a sufficiently calm and sober frame of mind to forget and forgive the past, and to act the part which indeed would be the wise thing to do but which I fear can hardly be expected of them in view of the past history of my unfortunate country.
What then can be done? The only thing I see is to put the whole responsibility on the Government. It depends entirely on them how they carry this thing out. It can be done if they realise what they are up against, if they realise that quite possibly there may be bloodshed and fighting, as they say on another front, and that it might require a large number of troops to 785 get these recruits. If, however, they see their way to do that, and are determined to do it, it can be done. But for God's sake do not let us have weakness, any more giving in, but make up your minds what you want to do, and do it.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF KINTORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Extension of obligation to Military Service.
§ 1.—(1) Every male British subject who has, at any time since the fourteenth day of August nineteen hundred and fifteen, been, or who for the time being is, in Great Britain, and who at the date of the passing of this Act has attained the age of eighteen years awl has not attained the age of fifty-one years, or who at any subsequent date attains the age of eighteen years shall, unless he is for the time being within the exceptions set out in the First Schedule to this Act, be deemed, as from the date of the passing of this Act, or as from that subsequent date, or, if having been within those exceptions he subsequently ceases so to be, as from the (late on which he so ceases, as the case may be, to have been duly enlisted in His Majesty's regular forces for general service with the colours or in the reserve for the period of the war, and to have been forthwith transferred to the reserve:
§ Provided that—
- (a) If it appears to His Majesty at any time that it is necessary so to do for the defence of the realm, His Majesty may by Order in Council declare that flu, foregoing provision shall, as respects men generally, or as respects any class of men, have effect, as from a date to be specified in tire Order, as if any age specified in the Order not exceeding fifty-six years were therein substituted for the age of fifty-one years, but where it is proposed to make any such Order as aforesaid, a draft of the Order shall be presented to each House of Parliament, and the draft Order shall not be submitted to His Majesty in Council unless each House presents an Address to His Majesty praying that the Order may be made; and
- (b) as respects any person being a duly qualified medical practitioner, the foregoing provision shall have effect as if the age of fifty-six years were therein substituted for the age of fifty-one years.
§ Provided that the foregoing provision shall be, without prejudice to any undertaking recognised by His Majesty's Government and for the time being in force, whereby it is provided that any released or exchanged prisoners of war shall not serve in His Majesty's Forces during the present war.786
§ (3) All the provisions of the Military Service Acts, 1916 to 1918, as amended by this Act, shall so far as applicable, extend to men to whom this section applies in the same manner as to men to whom section one of the Military Service Act, 196 (Session 2), applied.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER moved to amend the proviso in subsection (2) so that it would read: "Provided that the foregoing provision shall not apply to any prisoners of war released or exchanged under a promise not to serve in His Majesty's Forces during the present war."
§ The noble and learned Lord said: The Amendment that I propose here is the only one that stands in soy name, and it is proposed for the purpose of securing against the operation of this Bill any prisoner of war who has been released from Germany under a promise that he will not serve in the Army. As the Bill stands such a man is liable to be conscripted unless he has been released under an undertaking recognised by His Majesty's Government and for the time being in force. But if he has been released by tire bare promise given by himself he becomes at once subject to the provisions of this Bill and may he compelled to serve, and if he is again captured as a prisoner will assuredly be shot. I cannot vouch for the cases of the men to whom such conditions would apply, but I have been informed of one particular case of a man who was over here and was exempted under the Statute of 1916 who would, I think, have certainly come under this Statute as it stands. I understand, too, that there are other men who have been interned in Holland who are sometimes liberated in order to come home, to see their people, under a promise that they will return. Such men directly they come here would be within the provision of this Statute, and would be compelled to serve and break an honourable undertaking, honourably given. I think we should all be sorry if any Englishmen was compelled to do that. I do not think it can possibly on the widest assumption affect many men, and I am quite satisfies that every member of your Lordships' House would be only too pleased if it was possible for all the men who are at the present moment prisoners in Germany to be released and sent home under a promise that thee would not serve again. We should have them home and know they were relieved from the barbarities they have endured. I helps the Government will see their way to accept this Amend- 787 ment, and if the words do not commend themselves no doubt better words could be found by the Report stage. I think, however, the Amendment as I have prepared it, is sufficient.
Clause 1, page 2, line 17, leave out from the word ("shall") to the word ("serve") in line 21, and insert ("not apply to any prisoner of war released or exchanged under a promise not to".—(Lord Buckmaster.)
§ LORD LAMBOURNE
Can any addition be made to the noble and learned Lord's Amendment, to include escaped prisoners?
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It may be convenient if I read Section 8 of the Act referred to in subsection (2) of this clause—Nothing in this or the principal Act shall operate so as to render liable to military service any person who has at any time since the beginning of the war been a prisoner of war, captured or interned by the enemy, and has been released or exchanged.The noble Lord has only just handed in his Amendment, and there is some difficulty in dealing with it on the spur of the moment. Section 8 of the previous Act is repealed and is to have no effect in this present Bill, subject to this proviso—Provided that the foregoing provision shall be without prejudice to any undertaking recognised by His Majesty's Government and for the time being in force, whereby it is provided that any released or exchanged prisoners of war shall not serve in His Majesty's Forces during the present war.That is to say, that the Government do undertake that any arrangement that they recognise, under which prisoners of war have undertaken not to serve, shall operate. But it must be recognised by the Government. The noble Lord, I understand, by his Amendment wants to take away that power from the Government altogether, and he wants the exemption to apply to anybody who has made any arrangement, or who says he has made any arrangement, whether it is or is not recognised by the Government.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Yes, it is limited. That is to say, any private undertaking without proof—and it is difficult to prove that such an undertaking has been given—is to he recognised, and the man is to escape service. I hope that your Lordships will not accept any such Amendment. Looking to the past, there are a good many men who were taken on board some of these vessels by raiders, and who were retained for a few hours as prisoners and then told that they could go if they agreed not to serve during the war. There seems no particular reason why arrangements of that kind should be recognised by His Majesty's Government. Moreover, in so many of these cases where a man appears and says he has entered into such an arrangement there is no possibility of showing whether such an arrangement was actually made. I may add, in passing, though I admit the precedent is a bad one, that the Germans do not themselves recognise in any way any arrangements entered into by escaped prisoners. The noble Lord said that it was a great hardship because in some cases if these men were made to serve and thereby broke their pledges they were liable to be shot if captured. As a matter of practice that does not arise, because in any such case if the Government are satisfied that an arrangement had been entered into a man would never be asked to serve on the same Front, but would be fighting in a different part of the world. Therefore there is no hardship, and I hope that the noble Lord will allow the Government themselves to be the judges of whether they should or should not recognise any such arrangement as having been entered into.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The noble Viscount has not, I think, made it quite clear to the House whether the Government takes power to consider individual cases or whether it merely considers classes of cases under arrangements made with a belligerent Government through the medium of a neutral. I am bound to say that unless His Majesty's Government takes power to consider cases of individuals such as those mentioned by my noble and learned friend behind me. I think that individual instances of great hardship must probably occur. The sort of case mentioned by my 789 noble friend was that of a man who has been interned in a neutral country and has been allowed to go on leave from internment for a short time to this country for urgent domestic affairs under a promise to return. If such men were liable to arrest on arrival in this country in order that they might be taken off hand for His Majesty's Forces, it clearly would mean that the neutral Governments would cease to give any permission of the kind. That might or might not be a very important matter. I confess that, speaking generally, unless His Majesty's Government reserve to themselves the power to consider individual cases in addition to classes of cases, great hardship will result.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I can reassure the noble Marquess on that point. The Government certainly retain power to deal with individual cases, and they have in the past frequently dealt with these individual cases and have recognised arrangements that have been made with individuals, who have not been called upon to serve. I think that answers the point.
§ LORD BERESFORD
I hope the noble Lord will be very clear about this. A parole is an honourable engagement, and because Germans break their honourable engagements I hope that we shall not do the same thing. At the same time I quite agree that the Government are the best judges of the position, but they should be very careful that, where it has been definitely stated by the men on their being allowed to go back home that they will not fight, the honourable promise should be respected.
§ LORD LAMBOURNE
I also want to press the case of the escaped prisoner who has been shut up for one or two years. Do I understand that his case would be favourably considered by a Tribunal? Otherwise it would be exceedingly hard on such a man.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not think the case mentioned by my noble friend arises. An escaped prisoner is not a person who makes an arrangement with the Government from whom he escapes, and therefore there is no bargain.
§ LORD LAMBOURNE
But he is a man who, if he is sent back to fight and is captured, will certainly be shot by the Germans.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
I wish I could accept the Government's assurance that this clause as it stands will be adequate, but I cannot. As I understand the noble Viscount, he points out that the proviso of Section 2 of the Act of 1916 ceases to have effect, and all these men are brought at once within the ambit of the Statute, and that the only people who are exempted are the people who are exempted under the succeeding proviso. That succeeding proviso does not in terms—I think the noble Viscount admits it—apply to a man who has been released on an individual parole. What it does apply to is the case of a man who has been released under general Government bargains made on the one side and the other, and that is not the case to which my Amendment is intended to apply. My Amendment has no application except to prisoners of war, to unhappy people who have been enabled one means or another to escape and get back here with the promise that they would not serve again. When you bear in mind, as you must, that this promise is essential under the words in which I have framed my Amendment, that it must be proved, that it is not enough for the man to say he has done it but that he must show that he has done it and be believed—when all that is remembered I say that in common honour, duty, and obligation we ought, for the sake of our own reputation, not to compel him to break his word and serve again.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I think that I made it quite clear that under the proviso in the clause the Government have full power to recognise an arrangement of that kind if they choose, and no doubt each case will be gone into on a proper basis.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 59; Not-Contents, 29.791
|Finlay, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Esher, V.||Mowbray, L.|
|Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) (L. Privy Seal.)||Goschen, V.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Peel, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Wellington, D.||Anslow, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Armaghdale, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Basing, L.||Ranksborough, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Cawley, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Brassey, E.||Charnwood, L.||Roundway, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Colebrooke, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Desborough, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Elphinston, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Grey, E.||Harris, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Hylton, L. [Teller.]||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Lucan, E.||Islington, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Leith of Fyvie, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Middleton, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Sumner, L.|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)||Sydenham, L.|
|Crewe, M.||Beresford of Metemmeh, L. [Teller]||Lambourne, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Boston, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Cottenham, E.||Buckmaster, L [Teller.]||Parmoor, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Sempill, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Denman, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Iveagh, V.||Forester, L.|
|Knollys, V.||Forteviot, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)||Terrington, L.|
|Llandaff, L. Bp.||Weardale, L.|
|London, L. Bp.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
Before we pass from Clause 1 I should like to ask His Majesty's Government a question, and if a favourable answer is given I think it would be a matter of general satisfaction. Under Clause 1 practically every man between the ages of 18 and 51 is deemed to be enlisted as a soldier, and the effect of that is that there is to be a general comb-out so as to give us what naturally everybody in this House desires, a large number of recruits. That comb-out, we understand, will apply to Government offices, various businesses, miners, and every other trade in this country. It is the general belief—and we are encouraged in that belief by what we read in the newspapers—that a great many men from this country, as well as Scotland, and perhaps Wales, have gone over to Ireland to evade conscription. To those men it is a matter of absolute indifference whether there is Home Rule or not, whether there is a Parliament in Dublin or not; practically they do not care anything about Clause 2 of this Bill. 792 What, I think, is very important is that those men should be got hold of now and made to do their duty, which they have endeavoured to avoid doing up till now. Will the Government, either under this clause or, if necessary, under Clause 2, take steps at once, so as to provide a comb-out, with a very narrow tooth comb indeed, of all those who have gone over from this country to Ireland to avoid doing their duty? If we get an assurance from His Majesty's Government to that effect, I am sure it will meet with the approval of every one in this country, and by doing so the Government will be able to get a very large number of recruits.
§ LORD PARMOOR
There is a question which I want to put to the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill. If he looks at the form of Clause 1, subsection (1), he will see that every male subject within the given ages shall be deemed to have been duly enlisted into His Majesty's Regular Forces, subject only to this, "unless he is for the time being within the exceptions set out in the First Schedule to this Act." If the noble Viscount will look at the First Schedule 793 of the Bill he will see that it varies from the Schedule set out in the Act of 1916 by not including among the exceptions those men who have obtained exemptions from the various Tribunals. I hove had a very large number of letters asking me whether it is the intention of the Government that, although Tribunals have given the exemptions, yet those who have been exempted by the Tribunals should still be liable to military service. I think the real answer to it is this, that although the list of exceptions in the First Schedule has been altered, the matter is dealt with by Clause 4, subsection (5), which appears in effect to have the same operation as though the exempted persons have been put among the exceptions in the Schedule, as in the old Act. I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether that reading is, in his opinion, correct, as I am sure, if he could make that statement, it would calm a great many fears which the Bill has aroused in its present form.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I will deal with the question asked by the noble and learned Lord first. I am advised that his interpretation is perfectly correct, and that in Clause 4, subsection (5), it is true that men holding certificates of exemption fall into the Reserve, but that while they hold those certificates of exemption they shall not be liable for service with the Colours. I think that deals with the point of the noble and learned Lord, and will satisfy him that these men are free from service while they hold those exemptions. The other point, to which the noble Viscount (Lord Galway) made allusion, is this. I think he asked that His Majesty's Government would give an assurance that persons in Ireland who would have been liable in England but had escaped from England to Ireland should be dealt with under this Bill.
I asked whether it would be possible to get back from Ireland men who were not bona fide residents in that country, but who had gone there to escape their duty; and I suggest that they could be got at by means of their registration cards.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I think I can satisfy the noble Viscount by telling him that this is being done through the Courts in Ireland. Where the men have escaped registration 794 the position is, of course, more difficult, but those are also being dealt with.
I wish to put in a request on behalf of a class of men who are affected by Clause 1. who have shown their willingness to do their best for their country, and to whom on public grounds, apart altogether from personal grounds, some consideration might be given. I refer to Volunteer officers who have qualified themselves by attending classes and schools, men who have thereby become entitled to an outfit allowance—or, if that definition is not strict enough, then it would be easy to find words which would accurately describe what I mean; but I put it in that way—an officer who has qualified himself, by attending classes and schools, to command men in a military formation. As soon as their exemption certificates cease those men are liable to be taken by the National Service representative, handed over to the posting officer, and put into the ranks. The officer has taken the trouble to prepare himself for the command of men. All that time will have been wasted, as also will be the trouble and money spent by the Government in providing these classes. It seems to me to be a pity to take a man who has fitted himself to command men and put him into the ranks without giving him a chance of taking commissioned rank in the Regular Army. Therefore I would ask the National Service Minister to consider, in consultation with the War Office, whether some arrangement cannot be made by which Volunteer officers such as I have described might not be exempt from being called up by the National Service representative unless they are wanted for commissioned rank. That is the only thing for which I ask. I am anxious about this because unquestionably the War Office lay some stress upon the Volunteer Force. Only the other day an Order was given to release all the D class men; that is, men who have either declined, or been unable, to take on for the period of the war. But when the present difficulties arose the War Office at once cancelled that Order and directed that the D class men were not to be discharged. That, I think, is proof positive that the War Office appreciates the importance of the Force. As a matter of fact, the Force is now doing important work at various places along the coast and on the coast defences; and what I am afraid of is that, if the Force is denuded of its officers, it 795 cannot be of the same effective use as the present Commander-in-Chief unquestionably expected and hoped it would be. If the present Volunteer officer cannot be kept where he is unless he is wanted for the commissioned ranks of the Regular Army, I am very much afraid that the Force will he irretrievably weakened.
§ LORD NUNBURNHOLME
As Lieutenant of one of the counties on the coast that have been mentioned, I should like to emphasise the remarks which my noble friend has made. We have a very efficient Volunteer Force on the East Coast, and at the present time they are doing very important work. Many of these officers have given their time and services since the beginning of the movement, and have spent a great deal more than by merely attending drills. They have helped to raise the units which are now more or less proficient; and I hope that His Majesty's Government will consider the position of these men.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My noble friends have raised the point that Volunteer officers shall not be taken for service unless they are wanted as commissioned officers, so that their particular qualifications may be used in the Army. I should have thought that this was rather a matter for the War Office than for the Ministry of National Service. All that the National Service Department does is to decide what men are to be raised, and then they are handed over to the War Office; and we must assume that the War Office makes the very best use of the material it receives. Considering the necessity for officers, if they take men who are capable of holding commissioned rank I think we may take it that these men will receive that rank when they enter the Army. Although I am sure that my noble friends will not expect me to give any definite pledge, I shall be pleased to place the matter fully before the Director of National Service.
I am obliged to the noble Viscount. But may I point out what is the procedure adopted? The National Service representative sends a calling-up notice. All he wants is to get every man he can, and he does not care where the man goes—whether into the ranks or into the commissioned ranks. When the man receives his notice he is called before the posting officer. That officer has no power 796 to put the man into the commissioned ranks; he simply posts him to any arm of the Service he thinks best. But if the National Service representative gets direction from above, he will have power to avoid calling up the men whom I have described.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The posting officer is, of course, an officer of the War Office. As far as the National Service Department is concerned, it is not responsible for the way in which the men are dealt with after they have once been handed over to the Army.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I venture to enforce what has been said by Lord Harris and Lord Nunburnholme? Speaking on the Second Reading yesterday I called attention to this point, which I am certain is one of very great importance. Of course, we altogether apprehend that the noble Viscount does not think it right to speak definitely at this moment on behalf of the War Office, but I desire to enforce the plea that he will state the case to them, because undoubtedly what would happen at this moment is exactly what my noble friend opposite has said—namely, that a man possibly holding field rank in the Volunteers is automatically called up and automatically becomes a private in the ranks of the Army unless some special steps are taken to safeguard him. I wish some representative of the War Office had been here to tell us that such steps would be taken.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I greatly regret that no representative of the War Office is present, but my noble friend has undertaken that the matter will be laid before the War Office forthwith, and that a report of what has been stated will be placed before them with a view, if possible, of doing what is suggested.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Power by Order in Council to apply Act to Ireland.
§ 2. His Majesty may by Order in Council extend this Act to Ireland, and this Act if so extended shall, subject to such modifications and adaptations as may be made by the Order for the purpose of making it applicable to Ireland, have effect accordingly.
§ An Order in Council under this section may, as respects the civil court before which proceedings in respect of any offence punishable on summary conviction under the Reserve Forces Act, 1882, the Army Act, the Military Service Acts, 1916 to 797 1918, or this Act, or any orders or regulations made thereunder, are to be brought in Ireland—
- (a) make special provision with respect to the constitution of the court; or
- (b) assign any such proceedings to such civil court or court, as may be specified in the Order.
Page 2, line 35, leave out ("Act, 1882") and insert ("Acts, 1882 to 1907")
Page 2, line 39, leave out ("or") and insert ("and").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ On Question, That Clause 2, as amended, stand part—
§ LORD BERESFORD
I should like to say a few words on Clause 2, but it is very difficult in speaking on this clause not to make a more or less Second Reacting speech, because there are so many things mired up in it. I think it is deplorable that the Government should have mixed up the Home Rule Bill with the Conscription Bill. It has been said that there was some mystery about it. There is no mystery at all. The Government thought that they could not carry one thing without the other; but I am afraid that the Government by their action will set the whole of Ireland against them, which has not been the case previously. They have always had the loyalists with them. In fact, the whole policy with regard to Ireland for the last ten years can only be described as a policy of "funk." It is a schoolboy term, but it is the only term which in my opinion adequately expresses what has occurred in Ireland, When Ulstermen armed, the Government showed that class of policy. When the Nationalists objected to anything, the Government again showed a policy of funk, because they were afraid of losing votes. If there is one thing which does bring down the contempt of the Irish race it is a timid policy with regard to any affairs which the Government decree concerning them.
I believe now that the Nationlists will oppose conscription. It is certainly very suspicious that all the Nationalists have gone over to Ireland to meet the Sinn Feiners, with that idea in their heads, which they have declared fully; and I am perfectly certain that the Unionists will oppose Home Rule. By their action the Government have landed themselves in 798 greater difficulty in Ireland than they have ever been in before; and there I entirely agree with Lord Meath, who pointed that out. We could have had conscription early, and indeed a great deal of volunteer service at the beginning of the war, when the Irish were so stupidly mismanaged by the military authorities and by the Government. We certainly could have had it after the Rebellion. The greater part of the population thought it would then come, and the larger part thought it would be very good for the country. Speaking of the Ulstermen, I cannot ever forget, and they can never forget, the shameless story of the long list of broken pledges, broken promises, and broken agreements that have been made with Ulster. The fact is that the Government for the last ten years have been exploiting the patriotism of Ulster, thinking that Ulstermen will always come in and agree to do anything out of pure patriotism.
I noticed that my noble friend Lord Derby said yesterday that he would always be a Unionist. I shall always be a Unionist. I am not going to stultify myself in any degree. I have fought six contested elections on the Unionist platform; but I am not going to hamper the Government. I will not vote for any Home Rule Bill, but I will vote for conscription, because I am certain that if we do not get the men we shall lose this war, and that the country which will suffer most for that will be my own country, Ireland. Of course, all this question is one of expediency. The Government all along in Ireland have had in view what was expedient, with the idea of getting votes to keep them in power. However, when one's house is alight it is no good arguing as to how it caught alight. The best thing is to get together and try to put it out. During a debate which we had a short time ago the question of Clare cropped up, and the Government actually told us that their policy was to let things get so bad that the whole country saw they had to be put right, before they interfered. It is rather like letting a man's house burn down in order to show him that he ought to have had a fire service in the house. That is the line on which the Government is acting. It is going to pass a Home Rule Bill first for the simple reason that there is no machinery in Ireland to help towards conscription.
What position will you then be in? I entirely agree with the Duke of Abercorn. You are going to have two Governments, 799 and the Sinn Feiners and the Nationalists, having been given the Executive power, will refuse what the British Government demand. You will have made your difficulties ten time worse than they would have been had you not brought in these two suggestions together, and it is a moment of crisis in our fate when we want men that this is being done. My own belief is that you will get men from Ireland even now if things are well managed. I hear there are some 3,000 men who have joined voluntarily in Ireland since the suggestion of conscription was put forward. Whether that is true or not, I do not know; but I am sure that we could get men from Ireland if things were properly managed. So far as I am personally concerned, I would support any Government who will do its best and work in a commonsense way to secure victory, which is the real question before the country and the Empire. I would subordinate everything else to that end. As I have said already, conscription cannot be immediate, Home Rule must come first, and there is the great difficulty that we are face to face with.
There is another point to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention. Who is going to administer in Ireland during this crisis? Are we going to have the same effete and timid administration that we have had already, where we have the Lord Lieutenant coming down to this House when Ireland is seething and telling us that he did not hear a dog bark? Are we to keep the present Chief Secretary, who is really a great deal worse as far as Ireland is concerned than the Chief Secretary who preceded him? It is a very important point, as to whom we are going to have in Ireland to administer the country with Home Rule and conscription combined. I was very sorry to hear the remarks of my noble friend Lord Lansdowne yesterday. Nobody is more patriotic than he is, nobody has held higher positions than he has, and nobody is regarded in this House with greater esteem and respect; but, after all, what we want is to get men, and I am very much afraid that the noble Marquess's remarks will stop us getting men. He pointed out that it was almost impossible to have conscription [...] that it would fail was, I think, what he said. Well, the Government are the best judges. The Government say that they must have the men, and that they are going to put forward this conscription proposal 800 and make it effective. I quite agree with Lord Dunraven and Lord Meath, both of whom are Irishmen. If you tell Irishmen that you are going to do it, and make them do it, they will do it. What, they cannot hear is weakness or timidity, or what I must again call "funk" with regard to Ireland. For years and years Ireland has been misgoverned principally owing to timidity, and certainly by means of broken pledges.
As far as I am concerned I am not going to stultify myself, and I am not going to forget Ulster in all her difficulties. I believe that even now, with all these broken pledges, Ulster will not "down tools." I believe she will consent, to go through anything to win the war. As to what will happen after the war, I would not pledge myself what she will do. But she is out for the British Empire; she is out to work for the British Empire. She has proved herself sound on countless occasions, and so have other Irishmen who have been well handled. The Irish regiments, whether they are Catholic, or Protestant, whether they are from the North or the South, have added to the eternal glory of those regiments and of our race. If these people had been properly handled we would have had them all in before this. I only wish to make these few remarks to point out to your Lordships the tremendous difficulty in which the Government have placed themselves by bringing Home Rule forward at a moment when they want conscription for Ireland.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Power by proclamation to withdraw certificates of exemption in case of national emergency.
§ 3.—(1) His Majesty may, by proclamation declaring that a national emergency has arisen, direct that any certificates of exemption, other than those granted under paragraphs (c) and (d) of subsection (1) of section two of the Military Service Act, 1916, granted or renewed to any class or body of men specified in the proclamation, or to men of any class or description so specified shall, as from the date specified in the proclamation, cease to have effect, and all certificates to which the proclamation applies shall as from that date cease to be in force. Subsection (5) of section two of the Military Service Act, 1918, shall apply to a proclamation under this section in the same manner as it applies to an order made under that section.
§ (2) While any such proclamation remains in operation no application shall, except in so far as the proclamation provides for the making of 801 applications in any special cases, be entertained for the grant or renewal of any certificate to which the proclamation applies, or for the grant of any certificate to which the proclamation would have applied if the certificate had been in existence at the date when the proclamation came into operation, and if any application for the grant or renewal of any such certificate is pending at that date, it shall be deemed not to have been made.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL moved to omit the words "those granted under paragraph (c) and," and to insert "certificates expressed to be granted or renewed solely on the ground specified in paragraph (c) or on the ground specified in paragraph." The noble Viscount said: Your Lordships are aware, no doubt, that the two exceptions in paragraphs (c) and (d) were introduced in another place. They exclude two classes of persons. Persons who obtained exemption from the Tribunals as conscientious objectors or on the ground of ill-health are excluded from the general Proclamation in cases of emergency. As the words were left when the Bill came up from another place the difficulty was that the language might be rather obscure, and it might be impossible to say whether a certificate was or was not within the exception, and in each case it would be a question of fact very difficult to determine. The object of this Amendment is to get rid of any ambiguity, and to provide a test. The test is that the certificate shall bear on the face of it an express statement that it was granted solely on the ground of one or other of these exceptional reasons. Regulations referring to these matters require certificates to state on what grounds they have been granted. The Amendment that I move will leave it perfectly clear who are the persons who get exemption from the general calling up under the Proclamation.
Clause 3, page 3, line 3, leave out ("those granted under paragraphs (c) and") and insert ("certificates expressed to be granted or renewed solely on the ground specified in paragraph (c) or on the ground specified in paragraph").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
I should like to ask the noble Viscount one question about these words. As the words stand, they would clearly include cases where certificates are expressed to be granted or renewed solely on the ground specified in the paragraphs, but there might be cases where exemption had been given but the certificate, for some reason or other, had been faultily drawn up and did not express the 802 conditions on which it had been allowed. Surely in a case of that kind, where it is not through any default of the person who had the certificate, he should not be deprived of it. The noble Viscount says that it is a question of ascertaining the evidence, but it is quite clear that cases where the certificate "expressed to be granted or renewed" would come within the terms of the Bill as it stands. The Bill as it stands is wider. It would include cases where the exemption had been given, although the certificate did not express it on the face of the exemption. If that is the fact, it seems to me rather hard that the person affected should not have the benefit of the exemption.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It must be presumed that certificates are properly drawn up, and if it is shown that they are improperly drawn up they can of course, be amended, and the matter can be properly stated.
§ LORD LAMBOURNE
I do not know whether the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill could make any statement as to how the Government are going to act with regard to agricultural labourers?
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL moved to omit from subsection (1) of Clause 3 the last sentence commencing "Subsection (5) of section two." The noble Viscount said: This is a purely drafting Amendment.
Clause 3, page 3, line 9, leave out from ("force") to end of line 12.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, That Clause 3, as amended, stand part?—
§ LORD LAMBOURNE
I want to know from the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill whether any statement can be made in regard to the agricultural labourer, whether his exemption is going to be withdrawn, and I what his position is. Farmers of the country are extremely anxious on the subject. They parted with a great many of their men who were of military age and replaced them with men between forty and forty-seven or forty-eight. Now they do not know what will happen to 803 them—whether the men are going to be I taken so that they will be left without labour. Any expression of opinion on the part of the Government as to the line they will pursue on the question of taking more men away from agricultural districts would certainly serve to appease the feelings and allay the agitation prevailing in the rural districts. I am perfectly aware that in many rural districts there are some men to spare, but in many other rural districts they have been taken away almost to the last man. We are being daily urged, and properly urged, to provide food for the country, and I am sure that farmers are doing their best in that direction, but there must be a limit to what they can do without proper assistance, and I want to get some assurance that this point of view will be taken seriously into consideration and that every man of military age will not be taken from rural districts at once.
I should like strongly to support what has been said by my noble friend, and specially to point out that the men over forty-one and up to fifty years of age are all in responsible positions, either as foremen, shepherds, ploughmen, herdsmen, and also driving tractors. There is another man who is important, and that is "the rabbiter." Unless you get men to catch rabbits an enormous amount of damage will be done to the crops. It is important that we should have some assurance that the Government will give instructions for the Ministry of National Service not to call up men over forty-one who are in responsible positions. It is said that appeals may be made on personal grounds and not on occupational grounds. It is the question of occupation that is really the ground for exemption. For the sake of the food production of the country these men are very important.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
All these considerations are present to the mind of those who have to administer these Acts. Perhaps noble Lords will excuse me from making at the present moment any statement about what it is proposed to do in connection with agriculture, or the possible withdrawal of men from agriculture. The whole matter is being fully considered by responsible authorities, and no doubt in a short time a statement will be made on the subject.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.804
§ Clause 4:
§ Provisions as to applications for certificates of exemption and as to calling up.
§ 4.—(1) The Local Government Board or, as respects Scotland, the Secretary for Scotland may make regulations for any of the following purposes:—
- (a) For providing for applications for or relating to certificates of exemption (including appeals) being made to such tribunals, constituted in such manner and for such areas, as may be authorised by the regulations, and for authorising tribunals to act by committees or panels constituted in such manner as may be provided by the regulations:
- (b) For establishing special tribunals, committees, or panels for dealing with particular classes of cases:
- (c) For regulating and limiting the making of such applications as aforesaid and the grant, renewal, variation, or withdrawal of certificates:
- (d) For providing for any other matters for which it may be necessary to make provision in order to secure the expeditious making and disposal of such applications and for any other matter for which provision may be made under paragraph five of the Second Schedule to the Military Service Act, 1916.
§ Any regulations made under this subsection shall have full effect notwithstanding anything in the provisions of the Military Service Acts, 1916 to 1918, and those provisions, so far as they are inconsistent with any regulations so made, shall be repealed:
§ Provided that nothing in this section shall authorise the making of regulations for altering the terms of paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d) of subsection (1) of section two of the Military Service Act, 1916.
§ (2) If any person, with a view to preventing, hindering, or postponing—
- (a) the calling up of himself or any other person for any form of military service or for any medical examination as to his fitness therefor; or
- (b) the operation of any notice duly given for the purpose of so calling up any person;
§ (3) If any question arises in any legal proceedings under the Reserve Forces Acts, 1882 to 1907, or any orders or regulations made thereunder whether any certificate of exemption has been withdrawn or has otherwise ceased to be in force, the court may require the holder of the certificate 805 to give evidence on the question, and if satisfactory evidence is not given to the contrary the certificate shall be deemed to have been withdrawn or to have otherwise ceased to be in force.
§ (4) It shall be the duty of any man holding a certificate of exemption, if the certificate has been withdrawn or has ceased to be in force or if, in the ease of a conditional certificate, the conditions on which the certificate was granted are no longer satisfied, forthwith to transmit the certificate to the local office of the Ministry of National Service for the area in which the man is registered under the National Registration Acts, 1915 to 1918, with a notification that the certificate has been withdrawn or ceased to be in force, or that the conditions are no longer satisfied, as the case may be; and if he fails without reasonable cause or excuse to do so he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.
§ (5) A man who holds a certificate of exemption (other than a certificate of exemption from combatant service), or in respect of whom an application has been duly made for the grant Or renewal of a certificate of exemption, shall not be liable for service with the colours while the certificate is in force or until the application has been disposed of, as the case may be, but notices served for the purposes of the Reserve Forces Acts, 1882 to 1907, shall not be deemed to be invalid on the ground only that they were served before any such man became liable for service, and any such man may at any time be required to present himself fir medical examination or reexamination.
§ LORD SOUTHWARK moved to insert, after "Any regulations made under this subsection," the words, "shall embody similar privileges and facilities as regards appeals to those already existing under the Military Service Acts, 1916 to 1918, and." The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to secure that the same rights and privileges hitherto granted to younger men by Tribunals shall be extended to the older men now brought in under the Bill. We want to provide that the same discrimination and appreciation of all the circumstances of the business in which they are engaged, and their actual value in national life, shall be fairly and fully considered. That is the object of these additional words, which I am moving on behalf of the London Chamber of Commerce.
I see Lord Desborough here, and if he had been present at the last meeting of the London Chamber of Commerce no doubt this Amendment would have been in his charge. The Minister of National Service last week addressed a most representative meeting of the business men of England, Ireland, and Scotland, at the annual meeting of the Associated Chamber of Commerce. On that occasion he made a strong appeal to the Chambers of Commerce
to assist his Department, and indicated a desire to safeguard as far as possible the civil industries of the country. To quote his words—
He appealed to employers and business people, if they saw things going wrong locally, and saw stupid things being done, or men taken from the wrong places or left in wrong places, not to stand by and say the local officials were fools but help the officials to put things right.
That is the object of the London Chamber of Commerce, and they would no doubt have availed themselves of the opportunity of approaching the Minister of National Service himself had time permitted. But as the time was not sufficient I have put down this Amendment hoping your Lordships will accept it.
Last night very weighty words fell from several noble Lords regarding the disturbance of business. The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, whose speech has been very much praised, was one of those who referred in a sympathetic way to the business of the country, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, speaking from his experience as president of a Tribunal, said they tried to get military recruits without disorganising industry. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, also said it was a tremendous strain on the patience of the civil population of the country, and he went on to say—
I notice that the Minister of National Service, speaking a few nights ago, not in Parliament but outside, said he know quite well that this Bill spelt death and disaster to some industries, and I think the Minister is right, for there are many industries and businesses which will not stand much more plundering than they have been already subject to. I do not think one can rate too highly the importance in many cases of retaining these veterans of industry in their present employment.
The object of this Amendment is to give these men of older age the same advantages when they come before Tribunals which the men of the lower age have had. The noble Viscount will tell us that arrangements are going to be made to this effect. What we ask is that similar privileges will be given, which will place them at no disadvantage with those who have had the privileges before. I hope the Government will accept the Amendment.
Page 4, line 1, after ("subsection") insert ("shall embody similar privileges and facilities as regards appeals to those already existing under the Military Service Acts, 1916 to 1918, and").—(Lord Southwark.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The noble Lord
rest assured that this Act will be put into force with every consideration for the interests of business, and that these considerations will apply possibly even more in the case of these older men than in the case of the younger men, as they are in responsible positions. I can give that assurance, but I believe my noble friend will see on reflection—I do not think that he has dealt very closely with the actual text of his Amendment—that his own Amendment is one which it would be entirely impossible for the Government to accept. He wants these older men to have privileges and facilities regarding appeals not similar to those possessed by the younger men but similar to those already existing under the Military Service Acts. "Similar" is rather a dangerous word to put into an Act of Parliament. The effect of passing this particular Amendment would be to do one of two things, either to nullify almost entirely the provisions under Clause 4 for the remodelling of Tribunals and making certain alterations in the procedure of appeals, or to have at the same time one set of Tribunals dealing with the younger men and another set of Tribunals dealing with the older men. There would be two sets of procedure, one applicable to the older and one to the younger men. My noble friend will see that that is impossible. I think that either alternative is impossible. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will rest content with the assurance as to the administrative care with which this Act will be carried out, and not press his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave. withdrawn.
LORD DESBOROUGH had the following new subsection upon the Paper—
(6) Every man granted a protection certificate or certificate of exemption shall be liable for home defence, and shall, if and when called upon—unless the tribunal or other authority dealing with the case for any special reasons order to the contrary—join the Volunteer Force for the period of the War, and perform the obligations of service and training attaching to that Force.
The noble Lord said: As one who has been connected with the Volunteer Force since its inception, I beg to propose an Amendment which deals with that Force. The Amendment is drawn on the lines of one which was moved in another place by Colonel Royds. Clause 1 of the Bill lays down the maxim that every man between
the ages of eighteen and fifty-one shall be deemed to be enlisted for general service with the Colours or in the Reserve for the period of the war unless he comes within certain exemptions. My Amendment deals with another portion of the Forces—with those who serve not with the Colours, but who at the present moment are recognised as an integral part of the Home Defence scheme by the Act of 1916—namely, the Volunteers.
The Amendment which I have put upon the Paper I desire, with the leave of the House, to alter somewhat. I believe that the alteration would save a great deal of time. The new subsection, as I propose to alter it, would read as follows—
Every person to whom a certificate of exemption shall be granted by a Tribunal after the 30th day of April, 1918, shall, unless the Tribunal by which the certificate was granted for any special reason otherwise directs, be liable on being so required, in such manner as may be prescribed by Order in Council, to join the Volunteer Force and remain a member of that Force for the period during which the certificate remains in force, and shall during that period attend such drills, undergo such training, and undertake such military duties as may be so prescribed.
The meaning of these words is very much the same as those in the Amendment upon the Paper, but their application is somewhat circumscribed. Under the Bill as it now stands I am very much afraid that the calling up of the four classes will result in the Volunteer Force absolutely disappearing. It would not, perhaps, be right on this occasion to give the actual numbers of the Volunteer Force, but I may say that that Force will be, by the raising of the military age by this Act and by the possible calling up of those who are now exempted, absolutely depleted and unable to perform those duties which it now performs, and to which the Field Marshal Commander-in-Chief responsible for Home Defence looks to it to perform in the future.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has already said something—not much perhaps, and I will not say much—about what the Volunteers are doing at present. No one can have followed the numerous inspections which Lord French has made in different parts of the country in his capacity as the person responsible for the defence of this country without being struck first of all by the praise which he has lavished upon the Volunteer Force, and secondly by the expressions which he has so frequently made, almost in abusive terms, against 809 those who have thrown doubt upon the utility of the Volunteer Force. A letter was read in another place two or three days ago on the, subject, showing that he does consider the Volunteers a most essential class of the home defences of this country. The object of my Amendment is to call upon those who get exemption from various causes to share to some small degree in the sacrifices of those who are called to the Colours. The drill as laid down for the Volunteer Force is not of a very exacting nature; in fact, the business men in almost every corps form the best Volunteers, and I believe that the working men would be only too anxious to assist in the defence of their country, which they are bound to do, if they were called out and taught to learn to use the arms which would be placed at their disposal. The same obligation applies to all to take their share in making themselves fit for the defence of their country.
§ What is the alternative if the Volunteer Force is depleted? The alternative seems to be to call up full-time men from their occupations, destroy absolutely the one-man businesses, and deal a most severe blow against the industry of the country. The object of my Amendment is to extend the practice which already exists, and to legalise it—namely, not to take away the exemptions which any Tribunal would extend to men who are in a necessary occupation, but to give those Tribunals a statutory power to make it a condition that such men, if allowed to remain in their occupations, must join the Volunteer Force. It is well known that this rule could not apply in all cases and to everybody, because there are cases in which drills could not be done. A very careful computation has been made as to the effect if this were done, and as a result of this it is thought that the Volunteer Force would, if this clause were passed, be of about the same establishment as it is at present. I believe that the Government in the past have considered that establishment sufficient. I therefore appeal to His Majesty's Government to give sympathetic consideration to this Amendment, firmly believing that those who come under it will be willing to do at all events this much in the defence of their country.
§ Amendment moved—
Clause 4, page 5, line 13, at the end insert—
(6) Every person to whom a certificate of exemption shall be granted by a Tribunal after
the 30th day of April, 1918, shall, unless the Tribunal by which the certificate was granted for any special reason otherwise directs, be liable on being so required, in such manner as may be prescribed by Order in Council, to join the Volunteer Force and remain a member of that Force for the period during which the certificate remains in force, and shall during that period attend such drills, undergo such trahing, and undertake such military duties as may be so prescribed."—(Lord Desborough.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I should like to say one or two words in support of the Amendment which my noble friend has just moved. The Motion which he has made seems to me to raise a very important question: whether the opportunity offered by the Bill now before your Lordships should be made use of for the purpose of assisting the Volunteer Force or of injuring it. I do not think there can be any doubt as to which of these alternatives is the one that your Lordships would desire to adopt. The circumstances which confront us to-day surely make it necessary to consider seriously what position we desire to assign to the Volunteer Force in the defensive system of this country. I can well remember the first beginnings of that Force, and it has always seemed to me immensely to its credit, and a great proof of the vitality of the movement, that it should have survived the amount of indifference and neglect which it had to meet with in the earlier days of its existence.
The great problem that we have to solve is that of reconciling the interests of industry on the one hand and of military service, on the other. Now here you have a proposal which reconciles the two. It enables you to leave the man in connection with the industry to which he belongs, and at the same time to qualify himself for taking his part in the defence of the country. He remains all the time liable for any duty which the Government may choose to impose upon him in the event of this country being threatened by invasion. We ought not to forget—I have often beard it so ruled in this House—that it is a common law obligation which belongs to every British citizen, when called upon, to do what the Government requires of him for the purpose of defending his country. We had just now a very interesting discussion upon the question of leaving with the Volunteers officers and noncommissioned officers who had fully qualified themselves, instead of taking them away in order to bring them in for 811 the other kind of service under this Bill. I was very glad to hear from the noble Lord in charge of the Bill that this was a point upon which he would invite the sympathetic attention of the War Office. More than that I do not think we could expect.
At this moment I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that you could probably get through the Volunteers a force of something like 500,000 men, who would be a by no means negligible asset in the military resources of this country. In these circumstances the proposal of my noble friend is, I think, an eminently reasonable one. What he asks the Government to do is to say that every man who gets exemption or protection under this Bill shall, unless there are reasons for the contrary, be made liable for home service, and should undertake to join the Volunteer Force. I believe that an arrangement of this kind would bring to the Force a great accession of strength, and that it would be a very material improvement in the defensive system of the country. I very cordially support the Amendment.
I venture also cordially to support the Amendment of my noble friend opposite. It is well to remind your Lordships what the Amendment actually does. It gives a statutory power to the Tribunals to attach this condition to the exemption. It was not in the old Act.
Well, how? I will not go too deeply into that. That they have taken the power is unquestionable—some Tribunals, not all, and probably not always in the same way; but unquestionably a good many Tribunals have exercised the power of making it a condition of exemption that the man shall serve in the Volunteers.
I quite agree, but it was not in the Act. Now it is put in, and as a matter of fact the Amendment of my noble friend effects no more than is being done, and has been done for months past, in the case of many Tribunals.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It makes a very substantial difference, because 812 the present practice is that when the Tribunal thinks fit it imposes this condition. Under the Amendment of my noble friend the condition will obtain unless the Tribunal thinks otherwise—just the other way.
And that is very necessary, because there are large areas where there is no training unit, and a Tribunal ought to be, and I should think always is, very careful, before it makes it a condition for a man to serve in the Volunteers, to examine whether there is a training unit within convenient distance of his residence; otherwise it would be imposing too great a hardship upon the man, or upon his business or his employer, to make the moan travel a very long distance in order to get to his training unit. But it is unquestionably an advantage, as pointed out by the noble Marquess, that this statutory power should be now given.
I wish that my noble friend had seen his way to include, with some hope of success, not merely the men who are exempted by Tribunals, but also the men who do not come to Tribunals at all, but who hold the protection certificates of the National Service representative; because, as your Lordships will see, it is scarcely fair that one authority should have laid upon it by Statute, or be given the power to impose, this condition in connection with exemption, whilst the other authority is not given that power, and hitherto has not been authorised to make it a condition of the protection certificate. It has not come under my observation, but I am advised that there are places where there are large numbers of men who might very well be serving in the Volunteers for the limited time that is asked of them under the Regulation, and who can find that time. There is that difference between these two classes of certificates of exemption. I have no doubt that my noble friend opposite has some good reason for not including the men who hold the protection certificates of the Ministry of National Service, but it is an inequity that one class of exempted men may have to serve in the Volunteers and others not. Therefore I wish still more strongly that the Government had thought this opportunity a wise and a practical one to have made the very much longer step forward towards a Home Defence Force than they are doing if they accept this Amendment. Surely the time has come, and surely the circumstances under which 813 we aro living render it necessary that we should regard as of the first importance the formation of a Home Defence Force, by which every man coming within a certain physical category should be compelled to join some military body and be trained to be of some use in the defence of his country.
The condition of things has changed. I dare say this may be disputed—it is an arguable point—but up to the commencement of this war the system of defence for this country was based upon the fact that the Navy had undertaken to blockade the enemy within his ports, and therefore a large Home Defence Force was not so necessary as if the enemy could get out. But there are certain units of the enemy that can get out, which the Navy can no longer blockade—the U-boats. I do not say that the U-boat would be useful for the landing of a raid on these coasts, but it is a serious menace to trade, and it prevents the Navy from carrying out that office which they have always hitherto not only undertaken to do but done. That is changed. Consequently, I submit that the circumstances render it far more necessary than before that we should have as large a Home Defence Force as it is possible to raise under whatever conditions are imposed; and I would not expect of that force anything more in the way of time given to military training than is now given under the Regulation for the Volunteers, which is, after a man has passed through his recruit's course, only two and a-half hours per week.
I will give your Lordships my own experience. I had a great deal of trouble to induce the Tribunal of which I am chairman to impose this condition as part of the exemption. I had so much trouble that at last I determined to prove that it was possible for men, mostly agriculturists, to do this military service, and in my own neighbourhood I was successful in raising a number of platoons at various important agricultural villages, with the result that I doubled the numbers of the local companies. Those men are doing these two and a-half hours per week, I think without any great inconvenience; anyhow most readily; and I believe that they are the happier for the fact that they are doing something in a military sense for their country. At any rate, a large number of them are doing it, and it is not interfering with their ordinary occupation in agriculture. I was able to show this to my Tribunal, and the result 814 has been that I have never had the same difficulty in convincing them that certain of the men who came before us—subject to being able to get a training unit within a short distance—were able to put in their training with the Volunteers.
I endorse what my noble friend has said, that we have evidence from every military quarter that the Volunteer Force is a useful body. Only the other day I put it to an inspecting officer who had been in command of a Territorial Division before the war, and he emphatically endorsed what I suggested—namely, that the Volunteer Force as it is now is superior to what the Territorial Force was before the war. That is largely due to the fact that the Volunteer officers have taken the trouble to go to schools, and that the Regulars have left no stone unturned—we cannot be too grateful to the military authorities for what they have done—to help us to train both officers and men. The position is entirely different from what it was before the war, and that has made this Force a really useful one. I cordially endorse what my noble friend has said as to its being in the interests of the country that this Force should be kept going. It will be largely depleted under this Bill, but with the proposed extension of the powers of the Tribunals to send men to the Volunteers I hope that the numbers will be made up, and that something may also be done to save the officers.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I dare say the noble Marquess will pardon me if I do not follow him into the question of the exact military use that should be made of the Volunteers, that being rather a War Office question. I hope also that my noble friend Lord Harris will pardon me if I do not follow him into the wider question of a Home Defence Force. I propose very briefly to deal with the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Desborough.
I note with satisfaction that the Amendment as moved by the noble Lord differs in many respects from the Amendment as placed on the Paper. It does not now deal with men holding protection certificates it does not deal with exemption certificates already granted, but only with future exemption certificates; and it says that in those cases where men apply for exemption certificates and get them they shall be compelled to join the Volunteer Force, unless the Tribunal, after considering all 815 the circumstances of the case, is of opinion that they ought not so to do. I have to make one observation with respect to National Service. At the present time, as noble Lords know, a very large number of men are being taken for the Army, and a great amount of labour is being thrown upon the Tribunals in considering the cases of the men who are applying to them; and certainly if the Amendment of the noble Lord had been moved in its original form it would have been impossible to accept anything of the kind, because it would have clogged the wheels of the machinery which was obtaining men for the Army and would have made that machinery work more slowly, and diminished the number of men going through to the fighting forces.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Why does the noble Viscount say that with regard to protection certificates?
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am not saying it with regard to protection certificates, but with regard to exemption certificates.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I was saying that it would have clogged the wheels of the machinery. With regard to protection certificates, which are five or six times as numerous as exemption certificates, there is no machinery provided to deal with them by the suggestion of the noble Lord; therefore I do not understand it; but I need not deal with it because he does not move it in that form. Then we are limited to men who are coining up before the Tribunals to obtain exemption in the future; consequently the objections that I have stated on behalf of the National Service Department are very much reduced because these 816 men would be coming up anyhow, and it is an additional duty laid upon the Tribunals to find out whether or not these men should be compelled to join the Volunteer Force. In the form in which the Amendment has been moved by the noble Lord I understand that it meets with the consent of the Army Council; and I am empowered to say that, in this form and subject to these limitations, and as moved by the noble Lord, I am able, on the part of the Government, to accept the Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
One must not "look a gift horse in the mouth," and if the noble Viscount accepts the Amendment in the form in which it has been moved, I suppose we cannot do better. But I think it right to place upon record a respectful expression of regret that the same treatment which is now to be given to the men exempted in the future is not to be given to the protected men. The noble Viscount said just now, which is perfectly true, that the protected men are five or six times as numerous as the exempted men. That means that a very large number of perfectly able-bodied men will be removed from the effect of this Amendment if the protected men are not included. I think it is very unfortunate, but I do not pretend that I can here and now provide words under which they could be included in such a way as to avoid the difficulty at which the noble Viscount hinted. But I think it is very much to be regretted, on every ground, that such a large body of men should not be used for this purpose, and I think it will be felt to be an unfairness that exempted men should be treated in a different way from the protected men. I hope the Government will reflect upon this point, and that if they get an opportunity hereafter of correcting the difficulty they will do so. My own belief is that they can probably do so by an administrative Order. If so, I hope they will consider the matter with a view of extending the treatment now to be given to the exempted men so as to include the protected men as well.
I am not sure that the protected men are going to escape altogether, because I hold in my hand an Order under the Military Service Act, 1918, of the Director-General of National Service, by which he withdraws every certificate of exemption of men within certain trades and up to a certain age, and then issues an explanatory note— 817A decertified man has no right to apply for a renewal of his exemption on occupational grounds, nor has his employer any right to make any such application on his behalf. It is, however, within the power of a Tribunal to entertain an application for renewal of the exemption on personal (as opposed to occupational) grounds.I fancy that a certain number of these men will apply for exemption on personal grounds, and in such a ease, as I read this, they have to go before a Tribunal and it is then within the power of the Tribunal to attach a condition.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 5:
§ Amendment of 7 & 8 Geo. 5 c. 26.
§ 5. The Military Service (Conventions with Allied States) Act, 1917, shall have effect as if for r4erences to the Military Service Act, 1916, and to the Military Service Acts, 1916 and 1917, there were substituted references to the Military Service Acts, 1916 to 1918, and this Act, and, in the event of this Act being extended to Ireland, as if for the reference to Great Britain there were substituted a reference to the United Kingdom, and the Military Service (Conventions with Allied States) Act, 1917, shall apply accordingly, subject, as regards any country and the subjects of any country to which that Act has been applied before the passing of this Act, to such modifications as may he prescribed.
Page 5, line 22, leave out from ("subject") ["shall apply accordingly, subject"] to the end of the clause and insert ("to the modifications aforesaid and to such ether modifications as may be prescribed by Order in Council made under this Act").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7:
§ Presentation of Orders in Council to both Houses of Parliament.
§ 7. Every Order in Council, other than an Order in Council made in pursuance of section one, made under this Act shall be laid before each House of Parliament forthwith, and if an address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament, within fourteen days after the Order is laid before it, praying that the Order may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the Order, and it shall thenceforth be void but without prejudice to the validity of anything done thereunder.818
§ LORD STRACHIE moved to leave out from the word "if" ["House of Parliament forthwith, and if"] to the end of the clause, and to insert "either House before the expiration of fourteen days during the Session of Parliament, presents an Address to His Majesty against the Order or any part of it, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, without prejudice to making any new Order."
The noble Lord: This clause did not appear in the Bill as originally introduced in another place, but on the Report stage, at a late hour, an Amendment was moved by which the Order in Council and also Regulations would have to be laid upon the Table of both Houses. The noble Viscount who is in charge of the Bill is not in his place, but perhaps the Lord Chancellor will allow me to draw his attention to this point. The point of toy Amendment as differing from the alteration made in another place, is that if either House passes a Motion objecting to any Order and it would now also be any Proclamation, because the noble Viscount I see intends to amend this clause by inserting after "Order" the words "or Proclamation"—that is to say, if either House shall within fourteen days by Resolution take objection, then the Order might be annulled, and then will arise the old quarrel we have had before with the Government whether it shall be "may" or "My noble friend Lord Salisbury has on more than one occasion very strongly objected to the word "may," pointing out that it simply leaves it to the option of the Government whether they pay any attention or not to any Resolution of either House. I know I may be met with the argument that von cannot say His Majesty "shall," and that therefore you put in the word "may," but it is not the case here, because the difficulty is got over by the words which I propose to insert in the place of the words now in the Bill. My words are simply these—
… presents an Address to His Majesty against the Order or any part of it, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, without prejudice to making any new Order.
Therefore, that does not interfere with the Royal Prerogative in any way, and if there is any use or meaning in this proposal to lay the Order before both Houses of Parliament and give them an opportunity of objecting—and I must remind the House how essential it is at the present time that
Parliament should keep some control over the Government, because of the very large powers which have been given to the Government—this Amendment should be made. It may be said that the Government always treat "may" as "shall," but I myself recollect perfectly well in this House, in the time of the late Liberal Government, that this House did pass a Resolution objecting to an Order made by the Government of the day, but as it was only "may" the Government did not, advise His Majesty to rescind the Order. Under this proviso at the present moment your Lordships or the other House may object to some Order but the Government can say whether they propose to do it or not. I think it is only right that in order to keep the control of Parliament we should have power to have any Order annulled if it goes further than this or the other House intended.
Page 5, line 32, leave out from ("if") to the end of the clause and insert ("either House before the expiration of fourteen days during the Session of Parliament, presents an Address to His Majesty against the Order or any part of it, no further proceedings shall he taken thereon, without prejudice to making any new Order").—(Lord Strachie.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD FINLAY)
I hope, my Lords, that the noble Lord who moved this Amendment will not insist upon it, for this reason. I think that he is sensitive himself that it makes no great difference, and that the form which is now used is one which has been very usual indeed for a long time, and which has been almost invariably adopted. Other forms have sometimes come in—do not say there has been complete uniformity—but it has been a very usual form, and in such a case as that to which the noble Lord referred, where the Government did not act upon the Resolution of either House, there must have been circumstances of a very exceptional nature. Such a case was referred to by Lord Stuart of Wortley upon another occasion, but I think there must have been something of a special nature in that case, because, as everybody knows, ordinarily where a clause of this kind exists the Crown acts upon a Resolution. I would earnestly appeal to the noble Lord not to press a difference of opinion with the other House upon a point of this kind, which may give rise to discussion upon an abstruse point of constitutional law which is really not of prac- 820 tical importance. This is a measure of such urgency that it would be a very great pity if a day were lost over a point, of this kind. When the matter came up before in the other House a strong preference was expressed by some Members of that House for the form which appears in this Bill, and if this Amendment were made I conjecture it might give rise to debate in the other House which might run for some time. I cannot be certain about that, but I would beg the noble Lord not to run any risk with a measure of such extreme urgency as this at a moment when events are happening which show how urgently men are required. In these circumstances I hope the noble Lord will not press it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble and learned Lord has pleaded urgency and that plea, I think, must prevail with all of us. Certainly I should be the last man to counsel your Lordships to delay this Bill for an hour longer than is absolutely necessary. For that reason, and for that reason alone, I hope my noble friend who sits behind me will not press the matter any further upon your Lordships. I must, however, enter a respectful protest, if the Lord Chancellor will allow me to say so, against the noble and learned Lord repeating a speech which he made upon a previous occasion on a previous Bill, and which I think your Lordships successfully demolished. That speech on a previous Bill, in which he tried to persuade your Lordships that it was not necessary to make the change which my noble friend is now proposing, was an unsuccessful speech. He did not prevail upon the House. For once in a way—it is a very rare thing, of course—the House differed on a point of procedure from its Lord Chancellor, and the other House ultimately saw fit to agree with your Lordships in the change made. We, of course, agree to the proposed provision in the Bill as it stands for reasons of urgency. But may I just say this, that on future occasions the Lord Chancellor will find that we shall always raise this point upon this sort of clause until we are able to persuade your Lordships and the other House, as a settled rule of Parliament, that these Orders in Council are not to be passed unless they are substantially agreed to by both House of Parliament?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My noble friend is not perfectly accurate as to what took place. What I said on that occasion 821 was that I thought there was very little difference, that I should prefer the clause as it stood in the Bill, but that as there was strong feeling in your Lordships' House if a majority wanted the altered form of the clause, while we could not undertake to make it a Government matter I would not take any objection to its going on—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
And ultimately in the other House the Home Secretary, I think, said we did not want to multiply differences of opinion with another place on this Bill, and he accepted it. So it all ended very happily from the point of view of my noble friend.
§ LORD STRACHIE
I cannot, of course, resist the appeal of the Lord Chancellor to withdraw the Amendment. But will he allow me to say that I do not think there is any difficulty of controversy in another place, because in Bills upon which they feel strongly they themselves insist on retaining the right of saving they would not trust the Government.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 5, line 34, after ("Order") insert ("or proclamation").
Page 5, line 35, after ("Order") insert ("or proclamation").
Page 5, line 36, after ("Order") insert ("or proclamation").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 8:
§ Short title, interpretation, and repeat.
§ 8.—(1) This Act may be cited as the Military Service (No. 2) Act, 1918, and shall be construed as one with, and be included among the Acts which may be cited as, the Military Service Acts, 1916 to 1918.822
(2) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires—
The expression "prescribed" means prescribed by Order in Council.
The expression "certificate of exemption" means any certificate of exemption from military service granted or renewed, whether before or after the passing of this Act, to any man belonging to the Army Reserve.
§ (3) The enactments specified in the Second Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent mentioned in the third column of that schedule:
§ Provided that, without prejudice to the general application of section thirty-eight of the Interpretation Act, 1889, with regard to the effect of repeals the repeal of the said enactments shall not affect any obligation whatsoever incurred by any man to whom section one of the Military Service Act, 1916, or section one of the Military Service Act, 1916 (Session 2), applied.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL moved to omit the words "The expression 'prescribed' means prescribed by Order in Council." The noble Viscount said: This is a drafting Amendment.
Page 6, line 1, leave out from ("requires") to end of line 3.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.
§ First Schedule agreed to.
§ Second Schedule:
Page 7, line 27, leave out ("paragraphs (c) and") and insert ("paragraph").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Bill reported with Amendments to the House.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being dispensed with.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Report of Amendments received.823
§ Clause 7:
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I beg to move the Amendments which stood on the Paper in my name for the Committee stage in respect of this clause. They are purely drafting.
Page 5, line 30, after the first ("Council") insert ("made under this Act").
Page 5, line 31, leave out ("made under this Act") and insert ("thereof, and every proclamation so made").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ LORD MORRIS
My Lords, I crave the indulgence of the House for one or two moments only. I regret to say that when the clause dealing with the application of this Bill to Ireland was before the House I was called out for a moment, and when I returned the clause was passed. I merely wanted to say a few words in relation to that clause, and I would like to ask the noble Viscount who has charge of the Bill if it is yet too late to say something as to whether the difficulties that were suggested this evening by the noble Lords who spoke might not be removed. It has been suggested in the other House that even now it is not too late to remove a great many of the difficulties that we see ahead in enforcing this measure in Ireland if the Government would make a statement that a Home Rule Bill, a measure of self-government, will be introduced before conscription is enforced.
I was hoping, that an answer would have been made to the very strong arguments put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce. Two very strong points were made by him. The first was that there were very few men of military age who could be conscripted in Ireland, and the other was that the Tribunals there will find it very difficult indeed, owing to their constitution, to carry out the Bill. The noble Viscount also pointed out, as I understood him, that this Bill will have to be carried out—that is, the section dealing with Ireland—by the police and the soldiers, and that the benefits that will be obtained will be very doubtful indeed. I am not prepared, at this late hour, to delay the House by any lengthy observations or arguments in rela- 824 tion to the matter, but we cannot shut our eyes to what is going on in Ireland to-day. We cannot shut our eyes to what is suggested as likely to take place there if this section is enforced before a measure of Home Rule is granted. I am not now thinking of the testimony of irresponsible people, but I am thinking of the testimony of responsible Ministers of the Crown, and others, who have stated in another place that there is grave danger ahead in relation to this matter. The Prime Minister himself pointed out, only a few hours ago, that if this distrust can be removed, and if the people of Ireland as a whole once realise that it is the intention of the House of Lords and the House of Commons to pass a reasonable measure of Home Rule, there may be no necessity whatever to put this particular section into operation.
Now, when noble Lords to whom we have listened this evening differ so strongly on this question we can hardly blame the ordinary Irish voters, the ordinary citizens of Ireland, who differ in relation to this important matter. I myself always have been a strong believer in a measure of Home Rule for Ireland, for the reason that I am a great believer in the Empire. I believe the best way to strengthen the British Empire is to pass a measure of Home Rule for Ireland something on the principle of the measure enjoyed by Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Newfoundland, and in saying this I am prepared to give the same measure of self-government to Scotland, to Wales, and to England if necessary. But the trouble in the past has been that the real issues have been left out of sight, and we are fighting not on the real measure itself, or on the principle of the Bill, but on a great many other matters. I rose only for the purpose of suggesting to the noble Viscount who has charge of the Bill whether he has not vet the means, the power, and the opportunity of making a statement, or of getting the Government to make a statement, that before this measure of conscription is enforced in Ireland a measure of Home Rule will be granted, and in that way remove entirely the necessity for the enforcement of the section.
§ On Question, Bill read 3ª, and passed, and returned to the Commons.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.825
§ Message from the Commons, That they agree to certain of the Amendments made by the Lords to the Military Service Bill without amendment, and that they agree to one other of the Lords Amendments with an Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD
I beg to move that the Commons Amendment to the Lords Amendment be considered.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD
I now move that the Commons Amendment to the Lords Amendment he agreed to.
§ Moved accordingly.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Question is, That the Commons Amendment, omitting from the new subsection (6) which your Lordships inserted in Clause 4 the words "for any special reason," be agreed to.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.