HL Deb 06 December 1920 vol 42 cc1125-30
Elected by the method of Proportional Representation.
Bodies. No. of Senators. Mode of Election.
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church holding Sees in Southern Ireland. 4 By the Archbishop and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church holding Sees in Southern Ireland.
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland holding Sees in Southern Ireland. 2 By the Archbishop and Bishops of the Church of Ireland holding Sees in Southern Ireland.
Peers who are taxpayers, and have residences in Southern Ireland. 16 By the Peers who are taxpayers and have residences in Southern Ireland.
Members of His Majesty's Privy Council in Ireland of not less than two years standing who are taxpayers and have residences in Southern Ireland. 8 By the Members of His Majesty's Privy Council in Ireland who are taxpayers and have residences in Southern Ireland.
Leinster 4 14 By the Members of County Councils voting together as Provinces.
Munster 4
Connaught 4
Co. Donegal 2
Co. Monaghan
Co. Cavan

The noble Lord said: In the development of the scheme of two Senates for Northern and Southern Ireland I now come to the Amendment which deals with the composition of those bodies, and so far as the Senate of Southern Ireland is concerned I am afraid I may find falling upon my head all the vials of the democratic wrath of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. It is not very difficult, of course, to attack a chamber which cannot claim a direct mandate from the electors, but I would ask your Lordships to remember in any criticism which the noble and learned Lord may make, that every remark which relates to this chamber which is proposed to be created, would tell with tenfold force if it were directed against the House in which we sit and of which the noble and learned Lord is such a distinguished ornament.

I propose now to develop the scheme I for the composition of the Senate of Southern Ireland. It seems to me there are two things which we have to consider and two only. In the first place, will it be such a chamber when it is set up as will provide a reasonable safeguard for the Southern Unionists? In the second place, is it such a chamber as will satisfy moderate opinion in Ireland, or, on the other hand, will it so excite public opinion that it will by the force of that public opinion be driven out of existence before it has been long in being.

If I explained how it came into existence I should have to refer to the Irish Convention. Of course its genesis was in the Irish Convention. So much has been said about the points on which the Irish Convention was in disagreement that I think we all overlook the many points on which men who held such different views came into agreement. I should like to call the attention of the House to one special point for a moment and that is the Report made by a sub-committee of that Convention on Land Purchase. That was considered so good for the Government that without any remarks as to whether it is approved by Sinn Fein they proposed at once to pass it into law almost in the identical form in which it was recommended. I must explain that soon after the Convention met they set up a Grand Committee, which was to consider the form of Constitution for Ireland and to report. That Grand Committee again delegated the duties to a sub-committee, the well-known subcommittee of nine. It requested one of its members, the Bishop if Raphoe, who was the leader of the most extreme Nationalist Party in the Convention, to frame a scheme for their consideration. This Bishop prepared that scheme, which was as follows: That the Irish Parliament should consist of the King, an Irish House of Lords, and an Irish House of Commons, and that the constitution of the House of Lords should consist of the Lord Chancellor, Bishops and Archbishops, Lord Mayors, and thirty-nine temporal Lords That was considered by the sub-committee of nine, who made certain changes in it, which were principally in the direction of the reduction of the number of temporal Peers and the substitution of others for them.

The members of the sub-committee represented every party in Ireland. There were three representatives of Ulster— Mr. Barrie, the leader of the Ulster party, Lord Londonderry, and Mr. Pollock, who is well known in Ulster. Lord Midleton represented the Southern Unionists, there were four representatives of Nationalist Ireland— the late Mr. Redmond, Mr. Devlin, the Bishop of Raphoe and Mr. Murphy; and there was a representative of Sinn Fein in Mr. Russell. It must not be forgotten that for part of the Convention there were two Sinn Feiners on that body. I may claim that the Report was approved by representatives of every party in Ireland, and therefore it comes before your Lordships with greater force on that account. I think I may say that such a scheme would probably meet with the approval of all parties in Ireland at the present time, and at any rate, even if it does not do so, there will be an opportunity for the Nationalist Members in the House of Commons, who try very hard to get into touch with all parties, even Sinn Feiners in Ireland, to express their dissatisfaction with it. I should be very much surprised if they did so, and if, on the contrary, they did not say that we have tried in this scheme to be as moderate as possible and to give representation to all interests in Ireland.

As to the question whether it will provide sufficient safeguards for us, it is of course a modicum as far as safeguards are concerned, but, if we are satisfied with it, I think that ought to satisfy the House. The noble and learned Lord suggested that perhaps some additional safeguards might be necessary, if it were to be really successful. If he offers them to us I do not know whether they would be refused. I have avoided going into particulars as to the composition of the Senate. Of course, if any objection is offered to any of the members whom I have suggested it should be composed of I should be ready to defend itseriatim. There is an Amendment also with regard to the Northern Senate, but perhaps, as that comes a little later, it would be better to deal with it at the proper time.

Amendment moved— Page 60, insert the said First Schedule.— (Lord Oranmore and Browne.)


As the decision of the House as it stands at present is that there should be a Senate for Southern Ireland I cannot usefully consume much time in discussing the particular suggestion contained in the Schedule. It is the scheme formulated under quite different circumstances by the Irish Convention when it m` as hoped that there would be a unity all over Ireland, and that that unity, that general desire to reach a scheme, might support the tissue of obsolete artificialities which form the substance of the proposal. We live, I suppose, under very modern conditions. We have in this country and in Ireland the most democratic suffrage that has ever been known, one of the most democratic that exists in the world, and the new Parliament, when it comes into existence, exhypothesiwill inherit great problems, great bitternesses, great industrial crises. It is gravely supposed that a Parliament so elected, which perhaps in the first month or two months of its existence passes a Bill by an overwhelming majority, fresh from the constituencies, is to be corrected and put in its place by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the Lord Mayor of Cork, the representatives of Commerce (including Banking), Labour, and of the scientific and learned professions to be nominated by the Lord Lieutenant. I venture to think that we have reached days in which the decisions of the representatives of modern constituencies are not likely to submit to be corrected by the representatives of the scientific and learned professions to be nominated by the Lord Lieutenant.


May I point out to the noble and learned Lord that they have only power to postpone legislation for a year; there must be a joint sitting after that. I have purposely not gone into too great detail because of the lateness of the hour. I could have elaborated the scheme very much.


The noble Lord was very clear, as he always is. He was very brief and very considerate of our time. I understand perfectly, of course. The point I am attempting to make is that in my judgment no one is going to concede any such power to a body so constituted. If it came from themselves, yes; but imposed on them from without, no.

Then the noble Lord reinforced the representatives of scientific and learned professions by the Archbishops and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church holding sees in Southern Ireland (who are to be elected by themselves), the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland holding sees in South Ireland, Peers who are taxpayers and have residences in Southern Ireland, and members of the Privy Council. Supposing such an assembly was imposed by Parliament upon the Southern Parliament., I cannot believe that it would possess a vestige of authority. I, for one, do not believe that even this period of one year's delay would be acquiesced in, nor in relation to such an argument am I sure it ought to be. We made great complaint, and I think rightly, whet our powers under tile terms of the Parliament Act were limited to the delay with which we are all familiar; but, after all, we in this House represent a very old tradition in this country, and if you went to any party in. South Ireland and said to them "Would you rather enjoy the debates of such scientific and learned gentlemen as the Lord Lieutenant recommends, seasoned by the Archbishops and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church and. the Church of Ireland, or would you rather have the old Irish Peers in the House of Lords" I have not the slightest doubt which they would choose. I do not think there is any section of opinion in the South of Ireland that would not say the same. They would rather be governed by gentlemen who are Irishmen— that, of course, is vital and elementary— than go and listen to scientific gentlemen and Archbishops and Bishops discussing the questions of Ireland. This is a singularly unpromising proposal, and not even such lightness as might be imparted by the representatives of commerce (including banking) would relieve the proceedings of this assembly from an extreme degree of gloom.

When I come to consider the missionary efforts of my noble friend when applied to the North of Ireland, it seems to me the results are even more sterile and unpromising. The noble Lord promised me he would consult the representatives of Ulster. I do not know whether he has had the opportunity, and I do not know how far they found themselves able to co-operate. The noble Lord was a little vague, but let us see what his proposal is. This is his proposal—