HL Deb 11 June 1918 vol 30 cc165-88

LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE had the following Question on the Paper—

To ask His Majesty's Government whether the Defence of the Realm Regulations have been applied impartially as between Great Britain and Ireland particularly in regard to fox hunting, horse racing, price of cattle, food control, the price of railway fares, and the consumption of petrol; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not suppose that your Lordships will be surprised at any reference to Ireland, considering the condition of that country. I understand that the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, is going in the course of the next few days to refer to the more serious aspects of Ireland. I will, there- fore content myself by calling your Lordships' attention, with regard to the general position of Ireland, to the fact that since Parliament has abandoned the principle of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland and has pandered to separatist Opinion, we have had an increasing volume of sedition, of privy conspiracy, and of revolution in that country. But the curious thing about Ireland is that, in spite of all this, people have been coming back from Ireland ever since the beginning of the war and telling their friends that it is really the only fit place in which a gentleman can live. They appear, as I think I shall show, to have privileges which are not accorded to the inhabitants in the other parts of these islands.

I allude first of all in my Question on the Paper to fox hunting. I desire, with your Lordships' permission, not to lay stress on that aspect of the subject; in fact, I wish to withdraw it, because it is well known to your Lordships that all masters of fox hounds constitute a patriotic class of the very highest degree, and I have not the slightest doubt that this characteristic applies equally to the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association as it does to the Masters of Foxhounds Associations of England, Scotland, and Wales, whose conduct will go down to posterity as a fine example of how bodies ought to behave in a national struggle such as that through which we are passing at this moment. I shall not press that part of the Question, because I am informed that the Masters of Foxhounds in Ireland have taken note of the national exigencies and reduced their hunting accordingly.

With regard to horse racing, however, there is a different story to tell. If I am correctly informed, horse racing has received a boom in Ireland the like of which it has never had before; and as a consequence of racing being discontinued to some extent in this country, several patrons of the turf, including the bookmakers and all those other accessories, have crowded over to Ireland where they have been having a remarkably good time. They have had better horses there than they have had before; they have had better racing; they have had English horses there which would otherwise have been running in England; and altogether the sport of racing has been at a very high level. I am not putting this forward as far as I am concerned in a spirit of jealousy between ourselves and Ireland, but, if the noble Earl has read the Sportsman of this morning, as I have—I understand he may have done so—he will see that there is a very well-founded belief among the horse racing fraternity in England that there is too much racing in Ireland proportionately to what there is in this country.

If your Lordships will bear with me, I will read one or two figures to show that this is not without some truth. Until about eight weeks ago forty-nine meetings had been arranged in Ireland from June 1 until October. The number was only cut down at the request of the Irish Railway Executive. It has been cut down in this way. There are now arranged in Ireland twenty-two meetings from June to October, meaning thirty-eight days' racing, while in England there will be only eight race meetings, all at Newmarket, which will occupy only thirty days. I submit to the noble Earl that horse racing is either desirable from the national point of view or it is not. If it is not desirable—I think it is—to carry it on from the point of view of our breed of horses, then do away with it. But if it is desirable, I suggest that you should regulate it, if you can, in Ireland on the same scale as it is regulated in this country, having regard to keeping racing alive sufficiently to preserve our breed of horses, which I submit is the only real reason for keeping it on at all at the present moment.

But in addition to horse racing there are other forms of sport which I understand have come to an end in this country but which are being enjoyed in Ireland, such as coursing, whippet racing, and the good old Gallic sport of cock fighting, which is going on merrily over there. In fact, it is quite possible to paint a picture of Ireland which could shown that in spite of their own behaviour, and in spite of the war, junketing is going on as if the war were not a war at all.

As to food control, I understand that there is practically no article of food in Ireland that has been rationed, with the exception of sugar. Sugar has only recently been rationed, so much so that a friend of mine who came over from Ireland the other day—he has been over in this country for some weeks—came over literally stuffed with sugar, and I believe has subsisted in this country on the sugar that he brought over from Ireland. I understand, however, that sugar has since been rationed there. I would like to ask the noble Earl whether any other forms of food are rationed in Ireland at the present moment. It is well known that the beautiful pastures of that country produce-milk and butter in great quantities, and one of the advantages of being a member of the Convention was that whenever you attended the Convention you could come back with your portmanteau full of butter. It is quite true that there has been some attempt at putting the Public Meals Order in force in certain towns in Ireland—to wit, I am told, Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Belfast, and Londonderry—but this has probably been done not so much through pressure by the Government or from a patriotic desire to help the national food supplies, but because it happens to suit the restaurateurs to supply a smaller meal at the same price as was charged before the Public Meals Regulation was brought into force.

I am informed by a friend of mine in Ireland that the difficulty of putting any sort of food control in force there would be extremely grave, and I suppose the Government know this just as well as I do, If you attempted to get any sort of food control there with the present organisations—they are mostly manned by separatists, Nationalists, or Sinn Feiners, and those whose main concern is not to help England in the time of difficulty—I understand that it would be extremely difficult for any Government to get its orders carried out. It is, however, important, and I hope that in this matter of food control the Government will at least try to treat Ireland in the same way as England, because this different treatment is creating a natural feeling of discontent in this country.

I pass to the question of railway fares, to which I believe the Government have a complete answer. Within the last few days it is true that the price of railway travelling has been raised by 50 per cent., but this does not alter the fact that since the beginning of the war there has been no previous increase in the price of railway fares in Ireland, whereas in England fares have been rising on a constantly increasing scale.

Then we have restriction of the price of cattle. This is a very curious state of things, and I put this question to the noble Earl quite as much from the desire to get some information as from any wish to establish a case, against the Government. It appears, if my figures are correct, that the whole thing has really been an utter farce. Nobody has paid the slightest attention to it. Although the maximum price in England has been 75s. per cwt., in Ireland fat cattle have been making over 100s. per cwt. in Dublin market, up till a month ago. There has now been a big drop. Fat cattle have been sold at 95s. per cwt. live weight in the stalls; they were bought by a dealer for immediate shipment to England. Allowing for loss of weight on transit and expenses, this would put the price up to nearly 1108. per cwt. in England. As they must be sold in England at the regulation price, it would be interesting to know how the dealers work it. They obviously do not lose money, and it would be interesting to know who pays the difference upon this transaction. This is merely one instance, I am informed, of what has been going on all over the country during last season.

There is one little matter, my Lords, which I have not stated in my Question, but to which I would like to call attention in passing—namely, the number of horse shows which it is proposed to hold in Ireland; and horse shows which will involve railway travelling and also at which jumping competitions are going to be held. There is nothing in the world more purely luxurious and unnecessary from the national point of view than a jumping competition at a horse show. It is only brought in to attract people who do not know a horse's head from its tail, and so to get a gate for inefficient management who do not know how to run a horse show. I am not going to say anything against horse shows because I propose running one of my own in the autumn, but it will be run on proper lines and in the national interest; because it will be purely local and will involve no railway travelling. They will be principally shire horses shown there, and there will be no jumping competition. But that does not alter the fact that arrangements have been made for no fewer than twenty-six horse shows to be held at different places in Ireland between now and September 19.

Now I come to the extremely interesting question of petrol. Everybody says—and I have material here to prove that there is a certain foundation for what everybody says—that unless you happen to be a Sinn Feiner it is extremely difficult to get petrol at all. If you belong to the disloyal portion of Ireland, somehow or other the petrol is forthcoming. Just listen to this, my Lords. This is at the Ballycastle Petty Sessions, and it is reported in the Irish News, a Nationalist paper, of May 28, 1918. There were several prosecutions there for the illegal use of petrol, and several gentlemen were proceeded against for using motors to bring speakers and others to an anti-conscription meeting at Cushendall on some date in April which I cannot read. The report saws— Mr. Walsh, who defended, said they had a perfectly good defence in this, as they were entitled to use petrol on matters of public duty, and they could hardly have discharged a more important public duty at the time than to try and save their country from the horrors that conscription would have entailed. It was war work of the most urgent importance to prevent the creation of a new from in Ireland. On the very day on which they had been prosecuted, Mr. T. M. Healy, K.C., M.P., Mr. John Dillon, M.P. and Mr. de Valera, M.P., had motored down from Dublin to Maynooth on exactly the same business, and the authorities had evidently considered that they had done nothing illegal. Now we also know that petrol must have been used for the highly patriotic purpose of rifling the Duke of Abercorn's house to see if there were any arms that would be available at some future time. I do not suppose the noble Earl knows any more than I do where the petrol came from which these bandits used when they went to the Duke of Abercorn's to take down the swords of his ancestors from the gallery with a view to cutting somebody's head off when they got an opportunity of doing so. But I do commend to the Government the fact that some of us over here consider it a very grave injustice that petrol should be forthcoming for rebellious subjects on the other side of the water while we cannot obtain any ourselves.

I have tried to show your Lordships that here there is at least some foundation for the idea that Ireland, so far as personal comfort goes—so far as being able to enjoy those amenities of life which we all used to enjoy before, the war—has been placed in a privileged position. I hope the Government will be able to refute every single thing I have said. I do not believe they will; but I hope seriously that His Majesty's Government will tell us to-day that they are going to take some steps at any rate— all the steps in their power—to reduce the balance of comfort and discomfort as between England and Ireland. The present Prime Minister is the one man of all others whose speeches entitle us to hope that he will use his influence to do this. He is always talking about democracy. I do not myself know what "democracy" means. The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, said the other day that we were all democrats. I certainly am not. The only definition of "democracy" that ever appealed to me in the slightest was a definition which, I believe, was given by Mr. H. G. Wells in one of his extremely interesting books, when he said that democracy was the means of making everybody else suffer equally with yourself. So far as we are concerned in regard to Ireland, a great many of us are beginning to be democratic. The Prime Minister, however, gave another definition of "democracy." He said that it was the negation of privilege. Well, there is a very great deal to be said from that point of view. If it is the negation of privilege, will he see to it that the one point in the whole of his Government which is a glaring example of privilege shall be redressed at the earliest possible moment?

Before I sit down there is one other point which, in running over in my mind what I had intended to say, I find I have forgotten, and that is that all these amusements which I have indicated can be enjoyed in Ireland and can also be washed down at any hour of the day or night, afternoon or morning, with whatever alcoholic stimulant is available. While the Englishman has to wait for a drink, the Irishman can get one whenever he wants one. This sort of thing will not do, and I tell the Government that unless some attempt is made to establish something like firmness over in Ireland we shall hear a great deal of it in the near future.


Your Lordships are aware that my noble friend Lord Rhondda is indisposed, and I am therefore charged with the duty of stating the reply for the Food Minister's Department. I will also reply for the Board of Trade, and for the officers who deal with horse racing and the price of cattle and petrol. It has been the policy of His Majesty's Government to apply the Defence of the Realm Regulations impartially in all parts of the United Kingdom having regard to the varying conditions of different localities. Conditions in Ireland make it inexpedient or impracticable to apply precisely the same Regulations as may be suitable or desirable in other parts of the United Kingdom. I am not speaking only of political conditions, but of economic and general considerations which are permanent factors in Irish life, and which it would be imprudent to ignore in making Regulations with regard to Ireland. The application of these general principles may be traced in the particular matters to which my noble friend more particularly refers.

In the case of food control, in order to allow full weight to local needs considerable discretionary powers were given to the Food Control Committees set up by him in Great Britain. In Ireland he set up a Food Control Committee for the whole country to administer his Orders and to advise him on general questions arising out of those Orders. This Committee, in tendering advice to the Food Controller, has doubtless been influenced by practical considerations and by their intimate acquaintance with the local, political and economic situation in Ireland. The Food Controller has been guided by their views and those of the Irish Department with regard to the desirability of applying particular Orders to Ireland. Generally speaking, the great majority of the Orders made by the Food Controller apply to Ireland equally with Great Britain.

I will deal seriatim with certain articles of food to which my noble friend referred. In the first place I will take sugar. The only article of food on which the consumer in Ireland is rationed at present is sugar—as Lord Willoughby pointed out—the ration in this respect being the same as in Great Britain, namely 8 ozs. per head of the population per week. This system is based upon sugar cards similar to those used in this country. My noble friend's acquaintance who returned to these shores stuffed with sugar—I do not know how he looked after the process—clearly brought away by improper means sugar that should have gone to some consumer less fortunate than himself.

With regard to tea, the amount imported into Ireland is fixed on the same basis as that distributed in Great Britain. The amount imported is known to and controlled by the Food Ministry, and it may be stated that the quantity available for consumption is equivalent per head of the population to the amount of tea released in Great Britain. Ireland, of course, is a country which takes more tea, and apparently also more beer, than England. With regard to meat, the fortnightly returns from butchers received by the Food Control Committee for Ireland demonstrate that, notwithstanding the large amount of beef production in the country, the average consumption is very considerably less than in England. It is therefore considered unnecessary to apply a system of card rationing to the public. The provisions of the Public Meals Order are applied throughout Ireland, though I do not doubt that there certain places in Ireland, as in this country, where the provisions of that Order are not completely carried into effect.

As to bacon, the intention of the Ministry of Food is to make Ireland self-supporting, with an exportable surplus to England; and with this end in view pigs coming into the market are apportioned between the Irish bacon factors and the British importers. Up to the present the Irish bacon factors have produced not only sufficient for Irish needs but a surplus, which has been regularly exported to Great Britain in addition to the live pigs above-mentioned. No definite statistics are available as to the amount of bacon consumed per head of the population in Ireland, inasmuch as a considerable quantity of American bacon has until recently been imported into Ireland, a stock of which is still on hand. Making due allowance for this, it is estimated that the consumption of bacon per head in Ireland is actually below the amount at present allowed under rations in England.

It is very difficult to estimate the quantity of butter and margarine consumed, inasmuch as small producers, who consume the butter they themselves make, do not send in any Returns. As far as can be estimated from the Returns available, and making an allowance for the quantity consumed by producers, the consumption of butter and margarine does not exceed six ounces per head per week; and as a set off against this, the consumption of other fats in Ireland is much less than the English allowance, lard and dripping being sparingly used by the agricultural population, who number two-thirds of the entire Irish inhabitants. By arrangement with the Ministry of Food, a considerable amount of butter is being exported under licence, only such quantities being kept in Ireland as are required for home consumption. This export is estimated at 820,168 cwts. for the present year. I would remind your Lordships that in normal years Ireland has been a considerable importer of butter and margarine.

May I just mention the question of the prices of cattle before I deal with the subject of horse racing. In making Orders governing the price of cattle, the special circumstances of Ireland as a producing and exporting country have been taken into account, and it was not considered desirable or practicable to set up a method of local grading and distribution of cattle and meat, which was suited to the different conditions ruling in Great Britain. But the maximum prices fixed for dead meat are the same in Ireland as in Great Britain. The prices of live cattle in Ireland have been above those ruling in Great Britain. These prices have recently fallen. Arrangements have now been made whereby Irish cattle sent to this country for slaughter will be graded on arrival, and their prices fixed at the same rate as that applicable to Great Britain. They will then be subject to the same control as cattle produced in Great Britain, and this will remove the danger of abuse to which Lord Willoughby de Broke has referred.


Can the noble Earl tell us how the previous transactions were financed?


I have not the remotest idea. Perhaps Lord Willoughby de Broke will send me a copy of the facts for investigation, and no doubt the officers of the Food Control Department, whose duty it is to watch questions of prices, will be able to investigate the subject.

As to the series of incidental interests in Irish life to which Lord Willoughby de Broke referred—whippet racing, cock fighting, and horse shows—I offer no comment on them except to point out that every one of your Lordships knows perfectly well that for years past Ireland has in certain respects occupied a privileged position, and, in spite of the war, continues to enjoy the doubtful privilege of some of these things which they consider to be the amenities of life. Lord Willoughby de Broke is mistaken in his view about railway fares and the restrictions on travelling. These Regulations are exercised by the Ministry of Munitions, and that Department could forbid any race meeting which was likely to impede or delay the production, repair, or transport of war material, or any work necessary for the successful prosecution of the war.

In regard to horse racing, the position in Great Britain and that in Ireland is different. In Great Britain the position of the railways render restrictions in regard to racing necessary where it did not appear that similar restrictions were necessary in Ireland. Local meetings in this country have been prohibited on the ground that they were likely to impede or delay the production, repair, or transport of war material, or any work necessary for the successfu1 prosecution of the war, and it has been arranged that racing under the rules of the Jockey Club shall not be allowed except at Newmarket. These considerations do not apply to the same extent in Ireland, but the number of meetings under the control of the Irish Turf Club has been restricted by that body, and the attention of the Chief Secretary for Ireland is now being directed to the general position of horse racing in Ireland.

With regard to the bearing of this upon the railways themselves, I am informed that towards the end of 1916 the position of the British railway companies in regard to the conveyance of ordinary traffic became very difficult owing to the increase in the volume of traffic, to the fact that hundreds of locomotives and thousands of wagons were sent abroad for use in connection with the war, and owing to the release of large numbers of men for military service. It was accordingly necessary to take steps to restrict traffic as far as possible, and an Order was made under the Defence of the Realm Regulation 7[...] authorising the railway companies to raise their fares 50 per cent. This increase came into force on January 1, 1917. Since then the railway position has become more acute, and it was arranged last month that the season ticket rates should be increased by 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. according to whether they covered distances up to or over 12 miles. The Irish railways only came under Government control in January, 1917, and for some time after that—


What date did the noble Lord say for the Irish railways?


January 1, 1917.


Why not before?


I will find out from the Board of Trade and inform the noble Marquess. I am answering for five different Departments, and I am afraid that I shall not be able to reply to cross-examination with very much original knowledge of my own. For some time after that date—that is January 1, 1917—control existed, but it did not appear that it was necessary to increase railway fares in Ireland. Conditions have now arisen, however, especially in regard to the necessity of reducing the consumption of coal by the Irish railways, which have altered the position, and steps are being taken to apply in Ireland practically the same conditions as regards railway fares and season tickets as are applied in England. It should be borne in mind that rolling stock has not been withdrawn from the Irish railways for use overseas as has been done here, the gauge on the Irish railways being different from that on the Continental railways.

The use of petrol is controlled by the Motor Spirit (Consolidation) and Gas Restriction Order, 1918. This Order applies to Ireland as well as to Great Britain, and is administered by the Police. In reply to a Question put in the House of Commons on June 5 last as to "whether the Regulations as to the use of petrol for purposes other than Government work are the same in Ireland as in Great Britain, and whether the Police in Ireland have the same strict instructions to prevent motoring for private purposes as are applied throughout the country districts of England, Scotland and Wales," the Chief Secretary for Ireland replied that "the answer to both parts of the Question is in the affirmative." As to petrol licences, no distinction is made between Great Britain and Ireland in so far as the allotments of petrol to consumers are concerned. Petrol licences are issued under Section 15 of the Finance Act, 1916, and under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, and, in the case of persons and firms in Ireland, are issued by the Petrol Control Department only on the recommendation of the Petrol Committee (Ireland). The enforcement of the Petrol Regulations, as I stated, is entrusted to the Police, and I do not doubt that evasions exist, but the Police are doing their utmost to see that the Order is properly enforced.

From the foregoing statement it will be clear that His Majesty's Government have not applied to Ireland precisely the same Regulations as to Great Britain. Such action would be neither judicious nor impartial, but it has been their object, and it remains their intention, to secure as far as may be that the restrictions imposed by the war shall be equally shared by all parts of the United Kingdom, although the methods adopted may, and indeed must, be differentiated to meet varying conditions.


My Lords, I feel sure that the House will be grateful to the noble Earl opposite for the manner in which he has carried out his highly multifarious task in replying for I really do not know how many Departments, all no doubt represented by Ministers or quasi- Ministers in this House—at least I suppose they are—who might have taken my noble friend's place. But in spite of the care which he evidently gave to his reply, I am not quite sure that its contents will entirely satisfy the House.


Hear, hear.


Regarding it as an answer to the Question put by the noble Lord above the gangway, the reply, if the noble Earl will forgive my saving so, was of the most official kind. It was obviously the outcome of purely official care, and while it contained a certain number of admirable sentiments, yet I confess that I wish myself it had had more of the independent judgment of the noble Earl, who is so well qualified to examine any question of this kind from his own stores of knowledge and experience of affairs.

I have not much to say in comment, but on the one question of rationing it appears to me that the reply especially errs by its extremely official character. It seems to be assumed that if the consumption per head of a particular article of food in Ireland does not exceed or at any rate largely exceed the consumption of that same article in England there is no need to ration that article of food. Take, for instance, the case of meat. As we all know in the South and West of Ireland there is a large proportion of the population who in ordinary times are not consumers of meat except on rare occasions. More meat, I hope, is eaten than used to be in the days when the meal of potatoes and "point," of which many of us have heard, formed the ordinary diet of a Connemara peasant; still the consumption among large numbers of the population is infinitely less than among those of a similar grade of life in this country. What is the use, therefore, of estimating the consumption per head? It is very useful, I dare say, from the point of view of the Food Controller's Office, but it does not touch the point, of which the noble Earl is quite as well aware as any of us here, that the object of rationing is not merely to bring down the consumption per head merely the whole nation, but to prevent a certain number of persons from consuming an undue proportion of the particular article; and it it be the case, as might be concluded, I think, from the arguments of the noble Lord above the gangway, that those who are in the habit in ordinary times of consuming meat in Ireland are now able to consume as much as they please, then I submit that the noble Earl has no answer to the Question put by the noble Lord, of a kind which will, I venture to think, satisfy the House.

The same argument applies to the consumption of butter. It is quite true that margarine has been imported into Ireland in the past, and that the whole production of butter there was by no means consumed in Ireland itself. We know very well that Ireland has been one of the principal sources of supply for this country, and I admit that a considerable amount of butter is exported from the Smith of Ireland now. But there, again, the fact is not touched that unless some limitation is put upon the consumption of those who desire to consume too largely for these times, people are allowed to perform the anti-social act of excessive consumption from which they are debarred in the rest of the United Kingdom by the Food Control Regulations.

As regards the grading of cattle, I was glad to hear the noble Earl ask Lord Willoughby de Broke to supply him with a statement on which he founded the remarkable picture which was drawn of Irish dealers apparently buying animals at enormous prices in Ireland and shipping theta at an obvious loss to England, where they would have to be sold at a very much lower figure. We shall all be very much interested to hear what the explanation of that mystery is. But I am glad to know that the grading of Irish stores is now arranged for. I venture to think that it ought to have been done two years ago at least, if not sooner, and I know no conceivable reason why it was not done.


I am afraid I must have misled the noble Marquess. The words I used were that arrangements have now been made whereby Irish cattle sent to this country for slaughter would be graded on arrival.


Store cattle are not to be graded; only fat or semi-fat cattle are to be graded. Well, I am very sorry that all Irish cattle are not to be graded.

As regards the question of railway restrictions, it is no doubt quite true—and it is a point for which sufficient allowance ought certainly to be made—that where the conditions, whether of the making of munitions or of other necessary manufactures, do not interfere with railway traffic in the same way that they do in most parts of England, there is not the same reason for applying the same iron restrictions for railway traffic as have to be applied here. This we should all admit. On the other hand it has to be remembered that indiscriminate railway travelling, supposing that it exists, whether for race meetings or for any other purpose, does mean an increased consumption and waste of coal, and that there may be in some instances in Ireland a case for regulation and restriction.

I do not speak with any particular information as to the Regulations which are now applied at any rate in some of the principal cities of Ireland to the restriction of the drink traffic, but it is worth while, I think, to call attention to the very remarkable facts and figures in the Return supplied by Lord D'Abernon's Department here—facts and figures which would be confirmed not only by the Metropolitan Police, but, I am sure, by the Police all over England and Scotland—namely, as to the beneficial effects, from the point of view of the prevention of crime of all kinds, of the drastic restrictions which have been imposed upon the consumption of liquor in this country. It might be fairly assumed that similar results would follow some parallel application all through Ireland.

But without dwelling on that, I merely wish to say, in conclusion, that the noble Earl does not seem to have apprehended what I conceive to be one of the principal arguments employed by Lord Willoughby de Broke—namely, that what is resented in this country by a great many people is not the fact that in certain directions Ireland may be more fortunately situated than this country is—for instance, in the fact of its not being necessary in all cases to comply with restrictions—but there do seem to be causeless and unexplained differences between the conditions in the two countries. It is important that the good will of this country towards Ireland, which we all desire to see developed, but which, as we know, has many difficulties to encounter in the matter of military service in Ireland, should not be more hampered and interfered with than is necessary, by a sense among the working people of this country that they are being more rigorously treated than those of the same class in Ireland. I wish that the noble Earl had been able to do a little more to dispel that sentiment, which, I am afraid, is becoming rather widely spread, and which may have somewhat disastrous results when we have to consider, as we soon shall, the future relations between the two countries.


My Lords, it is a very curious thing that there is always something comic or something tragic whenever the British Government attempt to handle affairs in Ireland. On this occasion, in my opinion, the comic element is uppermost. I have seldom heard anything more amusing, than the remarks of Lord Crawford. What he said really was that the government of Ireland was a question of expediency. That is true. I remember the Leader of the House telling us a short time ago that they left the state of affairs in Clare until the people should see that something must be done; it was to get so bad that really something must be done. I remember expostulating with him afterwards, and he said "You may say it is a bad policy, but it is a policy." I say it is a very bad policy.

What did the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal say in reply to Lord Willoughby de Broke? He spoke about sending Orders to Ireland. Who is going to obey them? Nobody. You may send what Orders you like to Ireland, they will not obey them. He spoke about the Regulations to be applied to racing. Yes, those Regulations have all been sent over, but they have never been enforced, and there is no intention of enforcing any of the Orders that have been sent over to Ireland. He said the Minister of Munitions is the person who can stop racing. You do not suppose for one moment that the Minister of Munitions or anybody else is going to stop racing and make the racing in Ireland the same thing as it is in England. The whole thing is totally different. The whole legislation with regard to Ireland since the war began is absolutely different from that of England, because the Government are in a fright about Ireland and do not like to enact any law for fear that sedition may get strong again.

Then the noble Earl said, "Authority is being directed to call attention to racing." "Authority is being directed"; they will call attention to it, but nothing whatever will be done. Everything that my noble friend said is absolutely true. The circumstances are totally different. And I warn the Government that the working men of this country are getting very irritated about this, more particularly the men up to fifty-one who are being conscripted. They were promised that Ireland should be brought in, too; but they know that there is no intention, now or hereafter, as long as this Government is in power, to conscript Ireland; otherwise the Government would not have brought in the two Bills together. They know that the Home Rule Bill must pass first, because there is no registration or other machinery which is necessary, and which would take months to organise, before you can have conscription. The whole thing is comic; and it is much better that the country should know the truth about it.

A few weeks ago I called attention to the fact that nearly every Bill that has been brought in since the war has had placed on the outside, "This Bill does not apply to Ireland." The Government had much better put that with regard to the whole of the questions raised by my noble friend; because, although Lord Crawford gave an answer and spoke about Orders, and about authority, and about being empowered, he knows perfectly well that not one of these things will be enforced. If that is so, then why not say so? I do not know how long the Government are going on with this policy in regard to Ireland, but it is very unfair not only to the loyalists but to the disloyalists. You are going to bring in a Home Rule Bill which you well know the Irish will not accept. It is to be brought in by two Unionist Members; and as sure as I stand here the Irish will say, "You are bringing in a Bill which you know we will not accept." It is better for us, at any rate in this House, to recognise the true state of Ireland. The British Government is afraid to enforce law and order there. The whole position will go back to where it was before in the old days; you may have to go back to coercion; but one thing is certain—namely, that the working men of this country, of America, and of the Dominions, will never support any suggestion of Home Rule for Ireland under present conditions.


My Lords, I think we have much reason to be indebted to Lord Willoughby de Broke for having brought this subject before us; all the more so in view of the fact that we live in days when Irish grievances and Irish disabilities have ceased to be purely Irish questions—they are no longer even British questions or United Kingdom questions alone—they are not only even Imperial questions; they have become international and world questions. So also have Irish privileges, exemptions, preferences, advantages, and monopolies, fair and unfair; and so also have Irish failures of duty.

I think it was on a recent occasion that there was a speech to a German-Irish Society in Germany by a German nobleman—who, I believe, is an Under-Secretary of State in the German Foreign Office—who said that "a free Ireland would mean the freedom of the seas," and he amplified and elaborated that statement by saying that "a German alliance with a free Ireland would permanently secure the connection between Germany and her colonial possessions in Africa." Why do I bring in that statement? Because the foundation of the tactical reply which was given by the noble Earl on behalf of the Government—I say the "tactical" reply because, although much sympathy is due to the noble Earl in the difficulty he has in giving an answer, it remains nevertheless the fact that the Government gain great tactical advantages by saying, "Oh, this concerns so many Departments that in no single answer can a full responsible reply be given to a Question"—the foundation of the noble Earl's answer really was that you must from practical and economic considerations practically give independence to Ireland in all these questions; and he said that the whole question had been handed over to an independent Irish Committee, on which he was not in a position to say that anybody had seen to it that there should be a majority of people who wanted to win the war. Who can wonder in these circumstances if the administration of all these questions by that Committee proceeds entirely from the point of view that Irish considerations, Irish comfort, and Irish convenience should alone be considered?

I think your Lordships must see that in the answers given by the noble Earl with regard to every one of the particulars put forward in Lord Willoughby de Broke's Question, attention has been paid to Irish comfort and not to the interests of the Empire or the interests of the Allies. Let us take the question of railway travelling. Railway travelling in Great Britain has been drastically restricted. It has not been restricted as regards race trains alone; it has not been restricted for the sole purpose of preventing interference with the manufacture of munitions; it has been restricted upon the equally important ground that the consumption of coal must be economised as much as possible. And when you come to the case of Ireland, I suppose that country subsists to a considerable extent upon coal brought over sea from Scotland and possibly from Wales; so that in Ireland it is a very serious tonnage question as well as a question of munitions and coal supply.

Let us take the question of petrol. Here we are told that there "may have been evasions," but that "the administration is in the hands of the Police, who see to it," etc., etc., that there shall be no more than an unavoidable number of evasions. Now this is one respect in which the Government cannot say they are hampered in Ireland. In Ireland Police administration is not, as it is in this country, municipal. There at least they have a centralised authority, and ought to be able to see to it that no petrol gets into the hands of people who cannot show a public ground for using petrol, and that still less should it get into the hands of people who are going to use it for unlawful and criminal purposes. Let us think of the importance of the question of the misuse or excessive use of petrol in Ireland, not only as regards provoking discontent in Great Britain. Petrol is a world question of the very greatest imprtance. I have little doubt that in the United States of America, in the territories of our Allies, and in our Dominons, people are being asked at this moment to undergo restrictions in the use of petrol; and this is a time when the civilised world is asked to look on while there is this unrestricted excessive indulgence in joy-riding and criminal riding in petrol-driven cars in Ireland. So much for railway travelling and petrol.

In respect to horse racing we are told that the same Regulations have been—what? Have been applied to Ireland. But there is a judicious reticence as to whether the applied Regulations have also been enforced. So it seems always to be. Here you have a country which asks for Home Rule. Since 1898 the Nationalist and Home Rule Party in Ireland has had ascendancy in municipal affairs, and it has known how to use it; since 1906, with the advent of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Ministry to power, it has had practical ascendancy in Ireland in Imperial affairs; it has all the practical advantages (if there by any) of Home Rule, and it has also had the advantage, of being able to govern Great Britain as well. I submit that these are not times in which to present this dismal spectacle to our Allies who are fighting with us in this terrible struggle, and that some greater effort should be made to demonstrate to them that Ireland is herself equal to showing a little of the spirit of sacrifice which is being asked in so large a measure from communities at least as entitled to consideration as Ireland.


My Lords, I hope my noble friend opposite will understand that we do not hold him responsible for what has been done in Ireland in connection with these matters. He is the mouthpiece of the Government on this occasion, and has told us quite frankly that he is speaking only from a brief supplied to him, I think, by six different Departments. As my noble friend who has just sat down has rightly said, that really is a great tactical advantage to the Government, and I think this House is very for bearing in the way in which it allows the Government quite constantly to deal with very important, matters like this without any adequate knowledge behind the speaker who is put up by the Government.

I think my noble friend who has just sat down was also quite right in drawing attention to the key note of the apologia of my noble friend opposite (Lord Crawford), only that my noble friend behind me (Lord Stuart of Wortley) left out the most important word. He quoted my noble friend opposite as saying that these matters had been regulated by practical and economic considerations. I think, unless I am mistaken, he also said "political" considerations, and political considerations really are the foundation stone of the whole situation. I will come back to that presently. I want to emphasise what my noble friend Lord Crewe said as to the inadequate nature of the defence offered by the Department which my noble friend opposite quoted—that the consumption of these various articles that are rationed in Great Britain was not greater per head in Ireland than in England. Lord Crewe entirely disproved that argument. He pointed out that a very large proportion of the Irish population never ate these things in normal times, and the question is not whether Ireland is not eating a greater proportion of meat per head of the population than Great Britain, but whether Mr. de Valera and his chosen friends are living without restriction and at perfect ease while my noble friend and his colleagues in the Government, like all of us here, are strictly rationed. I believe that to be the case, and also that Unionists are naturally taking advantage of the same facilities, and, if they are well-to-do persons accustomed to eat meat and enjoy better living than the Connemara peasants, are enjoying at the present moment much better conditions than anybody in Scotland or England is allowed to enjoy.

Then I come to the question of the cattle, about which my noble friend no doubt quite accurately professed ignorance. I hope before I have finished to interest him in the matter. I am not in a position of my own knowledge to say that what I am going to mention is the case. I have not the means of proving it, but I want him to find out whether my information is well or badly founded. He admits that there has been no such restriction of the price of store cattle in Ireland as there is in Scotland, Wales, and England. What has resulted from this is that when the military authorities went in to buy store cattle and treat them as being fit for the market and kill them and put them into store for future use, they paid a much higher price to the Irish farmer than to the English or Scottish farmer. That is not all. Lord Crewe and Lord Willoughby de Broke both alluded to the remarkable case of store cattle bought in Ireland at a much higher price than they would fetch in England, and then being shipped to England and sold on the English scale at a loss. Who bore that loss? That is what I want my noble friend to explain. I am told that the loss is concealed in the Vote of Credit, and that the Vote of Credit is actually being used at one and the same time to keep down prices in England and to see that the Irish farmer who sells the cattle does not suffer. In fact, the Irish farmer is treated in this matter with an indulgence and a privilege for which I can find no justification.

Next I come to the question of petrol. I will relate to the House a story which was told to me by an officer who has just returned from Ireland, and who. I believe, is a perfectly credible person. He had his own private motor car in Ireland, and had considerable difficulty in getting petrol until he was advised by a friend "in the know" that the place he could get petrol from was the Sinn Fein office, and he did. The fact is that in the régime of the late Chief Secretary not only was the whole Government in Ireland allowed to fail into the hands of the most disloyal and rebel section of the people in Ireland, not only did the King's Writ not run in the ordinary acceptance of the term, but with a view—to me it always seemed an insane view—of creating an atmosphere in which something perfectly incomprehensible was to occur, the Irish were treated on the whole question of war conditions as pampered and privileged persons. The very part of the United Kingdom which has done least for the Empire and liberty and has caused the most anxiety is the very portion of the Empire singled out for particular favoritism.


My Lords, I have very little further to say, but I should like in the first place to reply to Lord Stuart of Wortley, who asked about the Irish Food Committee and indicated that no pains had been taken to ascertain whether these gentlemen were even in favour of winning the war. Unfortunately I cannot at the moment get the list of that Committee, but I am reminded that the Chairman is Mr. Wrench, who is very well known to many of your Lordships. Sir Thomas Stafford is a member of the Committee, and Lord Granard takes an important part. The liaison officer is Mr. Sanderson, the son of another very old friend of many of your Lordships, Colonel E. Sanderson, and I have no doubt that this Committee is composed of gentlemen of perfectly unimpeachable patriotism. I very much regret if anything in my reply gave an impression that it was a Committee in which Lord Rhondda, who appointed it, did not retain the fullest confidence.

I personally entirely disagree with the view of the noble Marquess opposite that meat ought to be rationed in Ireland. Prima facie I had thought that it ought to be, but in view of the fact that the consumption of meat in Ireland per head of the population is so much smaller than in this country, I think the case for meat rationing goes. Meat rationing was not introduced into this country, nor sugar rationing either, in order to give an intellectual or patriotic stimulus to the artizan of this country. Card rationing was introduced in order to save food, and for no other reason. What is going to be the result of introducing meat rationing into Ireland? You are going to increase consumption at once. At the present moment everybody in this country is entitled to his quota, and I am glad to say that the meat card represents a quota that has always been honoured. The meat ticket is always honoured. We cannot introduce the meat ticket into Ireland on a lower scale of consumption than applies to Scotland or England. The result is that if you introduce it into Ireland on a higher scale than present consumption there would be a net increase in consumption. That equally applies to any other articles—butter, for instance—of which the consumption in Ireland is smaller than in this country. Therefore, I oppose it; and, what is more, I do not think that any case has been oracle out to place upon Ireland the enormous worry and burden and the expenditure of time, energy, and money which would be involved in applying a meat rationing system to a country of which only a very small proportion is urban in its character. That is why I think the answer about rationing is complete. Whether it is necessary to make Ireland share our hardships or not is a question of high policy on which I offer no opinion, but about which perhaps to-morrow or the day after a relevant debate might occur. Solely from the point of view of food conservation—and that is the problem with which the Food Minister here is closely concerned—I am quite certain it would be unwise to apply meat or butter rationing to Ireland, in view of the fact that consumption is so low.