HL Deb 14 December 1920 vol 39 cc94-119

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

LORD BRAYE had given notice, on the Order for the Third Reading being read, to move to resolve— That this House refuses to pass a Government of Ireland Bill which does not confer on Ireland a full measure of self-determination.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on inquiry in the House I was informed that the Third Reading of this Bill would probably be taken yesterday afternoon, and further that any Notice that was placed. On the Paper could only be put down after the Report stage had been finished. Therefore as I was not in the House yesterday the Notice that I have put down was too late to be printed for circulation this morning, and has consequently only appeared at the last moment. The Motion is in the form of a Resolution, though it ought merely to be considered as a parting protest against the Bill which has been so long before the House. It is a Bill which has not commended itself in any way to the bulk of the people of this country, and certainly it has not been favourably received in Ireland at all, and I doubt whether the Government themselves are very fond of it. Anyhow, in this House it has certainly had a stormy passage and was nearly wrecked, because although it was carried by a considerable majority on the Second Reading the vote given against it on that occasion was a most substantial protest.

The Bill itself, I think, may after all not have the desired effect, and may in fact be shipwrecked before it passes, or is supposed to pass, into law. It was born dead, and I do not think that any of the Amendments—of which there have been a very great number—can vivify it or make it a practical measure. It is a had Bill, bad in its clauses and bad even in the short title, because it is not a Bill for the government of Ireland, but may make matters worse than they are at the present moment. One clause which is certainly better than the rest abrogates, cancels, and annuls the Act of 1914, and so far gives us more opportunity of legislating for Ireland now than if that Act, which is on the Statute Book, were still hanging fire and had to be put into operation—and it world have had to be put into operation, I believe, at the end of the war. We were informed the other night that the great war had not ended until the Treaty was signed by Turkey, and it is a revelation to many of the people of this country that we are still not at the end of the war. It seems to me that all Bills made at Westminster will never have any real effect in Ireland. They ought to be made in the country for which they are intended.

This is a Bill which falls short of the one thing desired, and that is self-determination, or Home Rule in its strictest and best sense. For many years now we have heard of self-determination. It has confronted us at all times and in all publications until we are almost weary of the word. But this Bill does not offer self-determination in the strict sense—that is to say, the power of managing its own affairs, which is as dear to a nation as it is to an individual. When we contemplate, as I suppose we all do, the word "self-determination" we find that it means a great deal. We can call to mind examples in history of self-determination. It is not generally recollected in this country that there are many instances in which self-determination has actually taken place and has been approved and sanctioned, not to say backed up, by the Government of this country.

There is the case of Belgium, a classic instance of self-determination. Belgium considered itself quite justified in throwing off the yoke of Holland, in those days called the Netherlands. The rule of the King of the Netherlands became intolerable to the Belgians, and for years they agitated for Home Rule or self-determination, separation out and out. They did not get it at once, but they persevered in their efforts and after some fighting—there was recourse to arms although a brief one—they gained their point. What did Great Britain do all those years? Did she brand Belgium as a rebel country? Was it called rebellion? Not at all. It was condoned and sanctioned, and eventually—I think I am correct—it was Great Britain who put the first King of the Belgians on the Throne, therefore entirely approving of self-determination in that case.

If we go a little further back there is another classic, and perhaps more romantic, instance of self-determination in the case of Greece. What did England do then? Having lit the fires of freedom by the rhapsodies of Byron she went further and gave material help, and it resulted in the Greeks gaining absolute self-determination, absolute freedom from the yoke of Turkey. Since that time there has been a Kingdom of Greece, and at the present moment it is very much before the public.

We have classic authority that "history presents a very ample page"; but on that ample page I do not think any chronicles of any nation are so deeply written, and coloured in such blood-red characters, as the chronicles of the treatment of Ireland by this country. It has been one long catalogue of persecution, or, if you will, of misunderstanding one side or the other. Century after century it has been repeated, and it never seems to come to any finality. The worst part of the present crisis is that it presents no more signs of finality than any other Irish crisis which has been recorded. There is a total want of a goal; a total want of absolute finality.

We call it, or we did call it, the Home Rule question, but that is now out of fashion and we call it "the Irish question" simply. But it is well to bear in mind that for many years, when things were just as precarious in the Kingdom of Ireland as they are now, this question was called the Catholic question. In the days of Canning, Peel, and the Duke of Wellington, O'Connell persevered in the most heroic way on his self-imposed mission, and the Duke of Wellington at last yielded and granted emancipation when Ireland was on the brink of civil war. In those days it was always known as the Catholic question, because the Statutes against Catholics were so ferocious and so sanctioned by the general feeling of this country that the matter assumed the characteristics entirely of religious antagonism. if you cast your eye back upon the history of those times you will find that religion, a hatred of Catholicism, which is deep down in the English mind, was the main spring of all political difficulties.

You will say, Why go back to these times; we live now in happier days. Unfortunately that antagonism which was then so patent and so much to the front, though now concealed, is still in existence. It is not brought forward, but it is the main spring still, the secret spring, of a great deal of the political difficulties with which we are faced. We do not perceive it so much in England, but, although it may be shrouded by general indifference here, you have only to go to Ulster to realise the strength of it and the ferocity with which religious views are pushed. It is idle to deny, and I believe even in the House of Commons they would not deny—at all events they would not deny successfully—that at this hour in Belfast the war is against Catholics, and there have been instances in which Catholics have been killed by their opponents. I say Belfast because Ulster is a more dubious expression, and ought not to be confused with Belfast. It may not be generally recollected that Ulster, outside Belfast, is actually half Catholic, and it is in the city or the part in the neighbourhood of Belfast where all this antagonism to which I have alluded flourishes, and is likely to flourish, as far as we can see, for many a long day.

In England we move in a very different atmosphere, and the reason, I suppose, is that there is no longer here any Catholic body to suppress or to persecute. At all events, Catholics have no political power in England. So far as my experience goes I have never detected any political influence exercised by the English Catholics. And the reason is very simple. They are such a very small body, and the existence of penal laws for so many centuries had its effect in the whole of England, except in Lancashire. Which still remains the only Catholic county in England. Even there it can only be so reckoned by a majority in many towns and villages being of the Catholic faith. When you come to consider the wrongs of Ireland it is useful to remember what were the Statutes against Catholics in this country. I know it is the fashion of historians to say that they were not put in force, but there they were on the Statute Book, and though they may not have been put in force with the extreme penalty of the law—that is to say, that after a certain period the English Government did not put Catholics to death and the slaughtering at Tyburn was discontinued—yet the lesser severities remained in full force, and it was only in 1829 that Catholics were allowed to come into the Houses of Parliament. In that year six Catholic Peers subscribed the Roll at that Table, after the exclusion of Catholics for so many centuries.

To recollect these points of history is, I think, useful. They have a bearing on the present unhappy state of affairs. Indeed, to come down to a later date, your Lordships will no doubt recall that the law of England was so severe in that respect that the Sovereign of this country could only be allowed to succeed to the Crown on condition that at the meeting of his first Parliament he would renounce the Catholic religion. That is not all. By the Act of William III he had to renounce and blaspheme and abjure the most sacred and the most august mysteries of the Catholic religion. I did my little best to call the attention of this House to that matter but in vain, because the Tory Ministry of that time, although they distinctly said that this House had no sympathy with such a Statute and would be glad to get rid of it, pointed out that the country would not endure the abolition of it; and so the measure could not be carried through. Very shortly afterwards, however, Mr. Asquith undertook to meet the Irish Members of the House of Commons and to bring in a Bill totally abolishing what was called the Declaration. "Declaration" was a very mild word. It was much more than a Declaration. But whatever it was, Mr. Asquith undertook to bring in a Bill to cancel it. I should like to take this opportunity—an opportunity which has never occurred before, and I dare say will not occur again—publicly to thank Mr. Asquith for his courage on that occasion, and for having carried that measure successfully through the House of Commons. When it came to this House it was easily passed, although even here there were some protests against it. I thank Mr. Asquith in the name of all the Irish Catholics, all the Catholics of Australia and of Canada and also all the Catholics of the United States, where, as your Lordships are aware, they are very numerous and increasing every year.

To come back to this Bill, it is an Ulster Bill. It is framed on the face of it for the benefit of Ulster. If I know anything at all of the matter I am sure that the whole of Ireland is not desirous of partition, and if there is to be any legislation for them they wish to bring it about themselves and not to have any interference from this side of the water. The first step, therefore, would be to abjure all ideas of partitioning Ireland and giving two or more Parliaments. Ireland ought to have one single voice. Let there be a plebiscite in Ireland; let there be a Convention, or a Conference; call it what you like—I should prefer to call it an Emergency Parliament—and let them with one voice say what they want, and let us pledge ourselves to grant them what they want. The decision as to what they want in such circumstances might be different from what is imagined now by extreme partisans. They might wish for a very modified form of Republic. At all events, it is impossible for any one to conjecture what the united voice of Ireland would be if only the people had the opportunity of expressing their wishes on these matters of supreme importance. I thank your Lordships sincerely for having listened to me for a few minutes, but I only move this Resolution for the sake of formality. Really it is intended as a protest against not only this Bill but all Bills which may be brought forward which fail to give the supreme gift to Ireland which scents to me to be demanded by justice—namely, that of self-determination.


I hope that the noble Lord who has just moved the rejection of this Bill will go to a Division, because although the numbers may be small of those who support him—


I am uncertain whether the noble Lord has really made his Motion.


I move it only as a protest, and not for the purpose of taking a Division, unless I am satisfied that the members of the House would approve of a Division. I was waiting for some indication that the House might wish for a Division. If that is so, I will accede to the wish of the House most readily. Otherwise it would seem to me that I should only be inviting a fresh defeat and damaging my own cause.


The noble Lord still leaves me in doubt. He really must make up his mind.


Very well then, I will make up my mind, and I will move the Resolution.

Amendment moved— leave out all words after ("That") and insert ("this House refuses to pass a Government of Ireland Bill which does not confer on Ireland a full measure of self-determination").—(Lord Braye.)


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord has decided to move the rejection of the Bill, because, as I was endeavouring to say, I think that whatever the numbers may be in this House of those who support the rejection of the Bill, the names of noble Lords who record their votes against this Bill will be received with approval and acclamation by the overwhelming majority of Irishmen. We have been told by the Leader of the House that this Bill is part of the policy of the Government with regard to Ireland. I venture to point out to your Lordships that that policy so far has not been particularly successful. Never before has Ireland been in such a state of unrest. Never before have crimes and outrages been committed in that country both by those who are rebels against the English Government and, as is alleged and believed in Ireland, by those who are servants of the Crown. I cannot think that the fact that the military policy, the brutal policy, of the Government in Ireland has failed and does not seem likely in the future to be more successful than it has been in the past, is an encouragement to think that this Bill will have a soothing influence and will settle more or less the Irish question.

It is estimated that there are 22,000,000 Irishmen in the world—in America, in the Colonies, and elsewhere, and a large number of them in England. Out of those 22,000,000 I venture to think there cannot be, at the outside, more than 1,000,000 who support this Bill. There may be another 1,000,000 who are not violent opponents of the Bill, but the vast majority of Irishmen detest the Bill. They disapprove of it for several reasons. They disapprove of it, firstly, because it does not recognise the principle for which Irishmen have always been fighting, and that is that Ireland is a nation and as a nation should have its nationality acknowledged. Secondly, they disapprove of it because it proposes to divide Ireland into two parts, and there has been no division in Ireland either geographically, historically, or in any other way, recognised by the legislature in England. They disapprove of it, thirdly, because it recognises and offers to a minority of the people of Ireland the control of the destinies of Ireland. In the provision of the Bill which provides for a Council for Ireland it gives to Ulster, which represents at most one-sixth of the population of Ireland, an equal voice and an equal vote in determining the future of Ireland.

Upon those three grounds, and upon many others, the Bill is detestable to all Irishmen, or at all events to the great majority of them, and will never be acceptable to or worked. by them. Lord Willoughby de Broke said that this was an English question. So it is. But it is also an Irish question. It is an English question because England cannot afford to have all the Irishmen in the world her enemies, and that is what in effect this Bill will cause; and it will be disastrous to England. It is an Irish question because you cannot settle the government of Ireland without the consent of the Irish people, and this Bill goes right against the consent of the Irish people. It has been said that it is doubtful what the Irish people want, and that the Government appear not to know what the Irish demand is. I think that is more or less camouflage. Surely the Irish demand has always been clear and settled. It has been "The government of Ireland by the Irish people under the Crown of England." It has been put forward by the National Party, and it still exists.

The Prime Minister, in a speech on August 16, in the other House, said that if he could find any responsible people with whom he could negotiate there were certain conditions which he would accept. Those conditions were— First of all, that the six counties which represent the North-East of Ulster must be accorded separate treatment. The second is that under no conditions will we assen[...] to any proposal which will involve, directly or indirectly, the secession of Ireland or any part of Ireland from the United Kingdom. The third is—though hardly in a different category I put it separately in order to make it clear—we could not agree to anything that would involve any detraction from the security of these islands and their safety in days of war. I venture to think that this declaration of the Prime Minister would cover the demand of the great majority in Ireland, and that within those lines it would be possible to devise a Bill which would meet the desires and wishes of the vast majority of the Irish people. It is not so very long ago that the National Party, when they were in existence, would have accepted these terms.

We are told now that Sinn Fein and Sinn Fein policy governs Ireland, but those who know Ireland know that the Sinn Fein policy is not predominant because the Irish people hate Irishmen, nor because there is enmity between the South of Ireland and Ulster. There never has been any great enmity between the different religions in Ireland. That, I know, is a thing which is stated, but it is not true. Sinn Fein has flourished owing to the mis-government of Ireland by English people. It lives and thrives on the present system of Government in Ireland. It did not exist in 1914 to any appreciable extent. It did not exist in 1915, when we had a large demonstration of the Irish National Volunteers under the presidency of the late Mr. John Redmond. It appeared in any number for the first time in the Rebellion of 1916. In those days Sinn Fein was a small force. There were probably not more than 5,000 people concerned in the Rebellion, and taking the whole of Ireland there were not more than 10,000 who desired a Republic. But circumstances have changed, and now all Ireland, or nearly all Ireland, is in favour of a Republic, because they have no alternative. Your system of government has made life in Ireland so intolerable that the people there have, no belief in the British Government, and they have a deadly hatred of British methods and British systems of government. If you had offered them a reasonable prospect of government—if you had offered them the right to govern themselves without unnecessary control, without grandmotherly interference, and without bureaucracy—you would have had the vast mass of the Irish people supporting a measure on those lines. But what have they got? They shave got nothing but an intolerable system of government, and this equally intolerable Bill, which flouts all Irish desires and all Irish interests.

I venture to remind your Lordships that Sinn Fein is a creation of modern times, and that the men who were predominantly Nationalists formerly would come back to that position if they had any reasonable alternative. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said in his speech yesterday that this Bill was supposed to be a boon for Ireland. I say that this Bill is a curse for Ireland—for the South and West of Ireland. It may be a boon for Ulster. It may be, as the noble Marquess said, a supposed boon—very much a supposed boon. I fancy that those noble Lords who have spoken from Ulster, and the Ulster leaders in another place, will no longer rule Ulster once the Ulster Parliament is established. The Ulster Parliament will be the first democratic and labour Parliament in the British Isles, and I think the interests of the present Ulster leaders in the management of Ulster affairs will diminish considerably once that Parliament is established on the lines laid down in this Bill.

The noble Lord who spoke just now said that this was an Ulster Bill. Ulster has been very predominant in the course of this debate. The noble Marquess, Lord Dufferin and Ava, in very soft and dulcet tones and with a very persuasive manner, has persuaded this House to vote for many things for which perhaps your Lordships might not otherwise have voted. At the same time I cannot help thinking that Ulster is very important. We have great belief in the business men of Ulster and their capabilities. But what are a million people? Indeed, the majority in Ulster would be about 650,000. What are such a number compared with the hundreds of millions in the British Empire, or even with the forty odd millions in England. Why should the interests of England, why should the interests of Ireland, be subordinated and sacrificed to the interests of a very small number, however important, and however bravely they fought for certain political principles in England. I think that it is a sacrifice which this country is not called upon to make, and which she would do well to consider before she finally decided upon it.

Apart from the general principles which I have endeavoured to state, I want to direct your Lordships' attention to some of the details of this Bill. Never in the history of legislation has such an expensive system of government been proposed as the government which is proposed in this Bill. Some of your Lordships complain of the taxes that you have to pay. But here in a small country, with a population of 4,500,000—a population not quite so large as that of London—you are going to establish four Legislative Chambers—two Houses of Parliament and two Senates, and a Council for Ireland. Think of the cost of the establishment. Think of the cost of administration. In addition you are going to impose five Courts of Justice—two High Courts, two Courts of Appeal, and a Supreme Court of Appeal. Think of the cost of the salaries of the officers connected with those Courts. Think of the cost to the clients who will have to go through these various processes of appeal. Ulster, important as it is, has not a larger population than that of two of the borough councils of London. What would your Lordships think if it were proposed to establish this expensive administration in London? Some noble Lords opposite accused the Progressive party on the London County Council in former days of megolamania. What is this? It is surely a megolamania of expense in Ireland—poor, unfortunate Ireland, which has to do what she is told. The cost of administration under this system in Ireland will be atrocious. There are countries in Europe with very small populations. There are Holland, Sweden, and Bulgaria. Their cost of administration is less than half the cost of the administration which you propose in this Bill.

I am sorry for having detained your Lordships so long, but this policy which the Government advocates and which the Government carries out is the despair of all Irishmen, the despair of those Irishmen who have loyally supported England in the past, who have served under the English flag, and who wish Ireland to be governed by Irishmen as a free and independent country under the Crown of England.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


My Lords, before the Question is actually put, I should like to say, in case the two noble Lords who have spoken intend to divide your Lordships—


The Question has been put, and the House has negatived the Amendment. Perhaps the noble Earl would like to make his observations on the further Question, That the Bill be now read a third time.


There is some little confusion, but I understand that the Lord Chancellor has not yet put the Question "That the Bill be read a third time," and I desire to explain briefly to your Lordships the course which, if there should be a Division, those of us who act together on this side would propose to take. It is well known that we did not regard the Bill as being fundamentally according either to our advice or our liking. We feel with regard to the substratum of the Bill that in two particulars it does not go far enough to give us any hope that it will be accepted throughout the South and West of Ireland as a settlement. It is, therefore, defective, and that is why we fear that the time which has been occupied by it will be to a large extent wasted.

The second point is one which has been alluded to constantly in these discussions, and I only mention it again in order that our protest and feelings upon it may be remembered. We do not believe in the setting up of a second Parliament. We believe that it would have been possible to meet all the requirements of the North-Eastern part of Ulster by attaching it to Great Britain. We believe that the establishment of that Parliament, especially if it precedes the Southern Parliament, is likely to retard and not to increase the prospects of a settlement. We have made our protest not from any desire to stand in the way of any advantage which may accrue to Ulster, but solely because in the whole of this matter we have been guided by one consideration alone, which is violated fundamentally by the whole principle of the Bill—to obtain some settlement which may in Ireland give us better hopes for the future than we have had reason to cherish in the past, especially in the immediate past.

If we were guided only by those considerations we should feel bound to vote with the noble Lord if he went to a Division. But we cannot help feeling that a great change has been made in the Bill during its progress through this House. In its incidence, at all events, it will be freed from some of the gravest imperfections with which it came here. I stand aghast when I think of what would have been the effect if two single-Chamber Parliaments had been let loose in the North and South of Ireland, each of them with very large minorities; the minority in the one ease would not have been represented at all, and in the other case it would have been necessarily overridden on any important division. The whole principle of our Parliamentary Constitution has been not to ride down minorities but to give them an opportunity of being heard and of swaying by argument the opinions of the majority. That, in the case of the South would have been absolutely impossible. There would have been no members there even to present the case on which the whole prosperity of all those who have made the wealth of Ireland in the South depends. That has been remedied. Your Lordships' House has not only put into the Bill two Second Chambers, which I earnestly trust have come to stay, but has made those two Second Chambers contributory to the Council of Ireland, which has large and important functions most necessary to be transacted, not by men who disagree fundamentally on every point, as will the representatives in the Lower House, but by men of the class that we have endeavoured to put into the Second Chamber, who will be willing to transact business because it is business and have no political ends to serve. Therefore in those respects a great advantage Las been secured.

We have also succeeded in putting out what we regard as the absurd proposal of a Surtax to be levied by persons who would not feel the responsibility for the original and at present most onerous tax placed on everybody in this country to the extremest limit that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has found it possible to go in a time of national emergency. Beyond that, we have placed in the Bill some securities against the measure being brought too quickly into operation, both by asking for the opinions of those who represent Ireland on the one side and by providing for a Resolution by both Houses of Parliament on the other as to the establishment of an appointed day which, as I think your Lordships will realise, is the more necessary from the events which have taken place in Ireland even during the passing of the Bill. Those are considerations which make us feel that it is highly desirable that this House should not now take the course of rejecting the Bill.

On behalf of those who strongly urged on the Second Reading the unfortunate position in which the whole of the minority of the South of Ireland are placed, I desire to express the feeling we have that your Lordships on some important provisions have treated the demands we have made with that consideration which has always been given to minorities in this country. I do not believe there is any Assembly in the world which, debating in the midst of the present confusion and unfortunate occurrences, would have given a calmer or more just view upon the whole of the Bill than that which has been afforded in this House in the last few days. That being so, I think it would be disrespectful on our part if we were to go beyond urging on the Government and especially on the Lord Chancellor, who, we know, desires to act with fairness and justice in this matter, how urgent it is that this compromise—for it is a compromise—this attempt to place the Bill in a different situation from that in which it came up to this House without violating its fundamental provisions, should be maintained when it is considered in another place.

Believe me, my Lords, there is not one single provision that we have placed in the Bill that, so far as we know, will not only have the support of those who have to work the Bill from our standpoint but of all other men so far as they are moderate, of whatever class or creed, in the South or West of Ireland. That being so, I earnestly press upon the Lord Chancellor that those matters which are vital, which will certainly be insisted upon if they are sent up again from another place, may be viewed in a spirit of compromise and justice, as well as policy, so that we may be able to obtain a settlement on this Bill.


My Lords, I desire to add a very few words to what has been said by the noble Earl, all the more since the rejection of the measure has been moved, and supported with great earnestness by at any rate one member of your Lordships' House. In the first place I desire to express my appreciation of the fact that His Majesty's Government have not been deflected from their intention of passing this measure by all that has happened, and indeed is happening, in Ireland from the disturbances in that country. I am certain that in pressing forward their political measure as they have done they have taken the right course, and this I believe will be felt by many who are by no means unqualified admirers of the measure itself. I still feel, and nothing that has been said in the course of the debate has altered my opinion, that in instituting a system of two Parliaments in Ireland His Majesty's Government has committed a great blunder. I only hope that it may not prove in the long run to be a fatal blunder. Of course, the reason is obvious. It has been thought necessary to show deference to the uneasiness of the North-East part of Ireland if a single Parliament were instituted in the country.

Your Lordships will remember that in the debate on the Second Reading the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, expressed the opinion that in the past those of us who had been responsible for the introduction of Home Rule measures had not been sufficiently careful of the fears expressed by Ulster regarding the institution of an Irish Parliament. In a sense that I believe is perfectly true. I think we should have done better had we recognised more publicly the existence of that feeling. The reason was not that we were by any means unaware of it. Certainly I cannot charge myself with ever having neglected the necessity of applying proper safeguards in regard to Ulster. But it must be remembered that those who at that time were the spokesmen of that part of Ireland displayed a certain hardness and even arrogance of temper which naturally made those who were responsible for the Bills dwell rather on the other side of the question. I cannot help feeling that had it been possible to reverse the process—instituting one Parliament for Ireland and two subordinate Assemblies to which at any rate for the time being practically the same powers of safeguard could have been given as are enjoyed now by either Parliament taken singly—there would have been a far better chance of the two parts of the country coming together than will be the case now.

One has been somewhat pained in the course of these debates by the impression created that there are at any rate some who speak for Ulster who are disposed to regard the separation of the two parts of Ireland as likely to be permanent. If they admit the possibility of their ever coming together, it is rather in the tone of those opponents of the principle of the League of Nations who admit that it would be an admirable thing if some time or other such a League could be formed and flourish, but that its institution would involve a radical change in human nature as we know it, and therefore we must not be too sanguine about the possibility of anything of the kind.

I could not help being especially struck I with the attitude taken up on the question which we last debated—namely, that of the Judicature. It was only in a very modified form that it was suggested that for the purposes of appeals in Ireland the Courts of the two parts of Ireland should be unified into a single Court of Appeal. Yet my noble friend who spoke for Ulster in that particular regard used almost the tone that you might have expected would be used by a Louisiana planter if it was suggested that cases in which white Americans were concerned should be judged by a Court of negro judges.

Is there, then, really to be no hope of union in the future between the North and the South of Ireland? As originally provided in the Bill I confess I saw very little such hope, but as the Bill has been amended I freely admit that the prospect is distinctly better in that direction, and I therefore hope, like the noble Earl who has just sat down, that when the Amendments which your Lordships have made for that purpose come to be considered His Majesty's Government will look favourably upon them, and that in any case your Lordships' House will adopt a firm, though by no means a provocative, attitude in insisting upon them, if any objection is taken. I notice that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, with the prudence which we should have expected, carefully guarded himself against pledging the Government on this particular point, but on the other hand he did not say anything which would make your Lordships suppose that an agreement on this matter was impossible.

What I feel on the whole business is that the Northern Parliament—or what, I think, ought to be called the North-Eastern Parliament—will represent a very workmanlike job, and that, its operations will be carried out with efficiency and, no doubt, with dispatch. I hope that those who have the guidance of it will remember that there is, even in the six counties, a large majority whose claims, civil and religious, have to be considered, and that the possession of responsibility will, there too, have the beneficial effect which we believe that it almost always has. As regards the future of the Southern Parliament, we have to wait on the results of what His Majesty's Government is striving to do in the pacification of the country—not merely, I mean, by military means, but by the initiation of discussion and conversations. In these last I hope that His Majesty's Government will not be disposed to stand too closely on form. It is quite clear that no Government can have any truck with men who prima facie are criminals. Apart from convicted persons, those against whom there is a strong prima facie case obviously cannot be brought into council, but the mere fact that a man belongs to an organisation of which some members are criminal ought not, I am certain, to debar the Government from entering into communication with him, if useful results seem likely to follow.

We can all recall what happened in the terrible year of 1882. We know then what a desire there was in some minds to associate practically all the Irish Nationalist Members with the criminal organisation which, although on a smaller scale than now, was perpetrating a series of crimes in Ireland. If the advice of some had been followed all the Nationalist Members would have been tarred with the same brush. When the forged letters appeared which. Mr. Parnell was assumed to have written, as we know a great many people almost jumped at the idea of believing that they were genuine in the hope of implicating the Nationalist policy with a sympathy with crime. Fortunately that did not succeed. And one trusts that once more it may be possible to draw a line between those who are really connected with criminal organisations and those others, probably in many cases definitely opposed to crime, but belonging to a party to which this fringe unhappily attaches.

One feels that the hopes for this measure depend in the main upon the temper in which it is worked by those who are responsible for it. Even on this matter one feels that in a Coalition Government, composed as this is, there must be different methods of approach to the question, because one knows what the views of its various members have been in the past. What I hope is that, so far as political wrongs are concerned, there may be an attempt to clean the slate on both sides—that those who speak on the one hand of oppression and on the other hand speak of rebellion may be disposed to forget the past. If that eau be done I hope that this measure, imperfect though, as I have said, I believe it to be in many respects, may at any rate bring about something of a brighter dawn of amity and understanding between the two countries.


My Lords, this Bill in its passage through your Lordships' House has been to my mind greatly unproved in one or two points, but more especially in the creation of Senates and in the composition of the Council. The creation of Senates has given some security, and the composition of the Council does, I think, leave a very faint vestige, but still a vestige, of hope that unity may possibly come about some time. I think that is a great improvement because, as the Bill came up to this House, there was not to my mind the smallest possibility of union ever taking place. There remains the difficulty in the Council of the equality of representation of the two Parliaments. That, I think, is one of the few federal spots in the Bill. I wish the Bill had been federal all through, but it is federal only in spots, and that, I suppose, is one of them, and is derived from the Constitution of the United States. Equal representation for great and small is perfectly right in that case, with a great number of States, and I do not believe it would have been objectionable in the case of Ireland if the Bill had set up Provincial Legislatures. I do not think it would be as objectionable as it is if Northern Ireland consisted of the whole Province of Ulster, but you have carved out of the old historic Province of Ulster a sort of water-tight compartment, a creed tight compartment, in which opinion is very fixed on fundamental points; for instance, as to a Parliament for Ireland very fixed and very inflexible. It is obvious that giving equality of representation on the Council to the six counties practically enables those six counties, if they choose, to make union impossible for ever. As a matter of fact, except in so far as private Bill procedure is concerned, it seems to me that those six counties can practically put the Council out of action and prevent its functioning at all. That is a very strong objection which still remains.

We have been told in this House, and notably by the noble Earl who leads the House, that if this Bill passes the fate of Ireland would be in her own hands. Most unfortunately that is not the case at all; Irishmen will not have the destiny of Ireland in their own hands. The destinies of Ireland will be practically in the hands of a minority of about one-fifth in the North-East corner of Ireland. I do not know why, but His Majesty's Government appear to have created a sort of axiom in political science that minorities must rule. I am all in favour of the rights of minorities and I have no objection to Ulster, or the six counties of Ulster, having a perfectly free choice and exercising self-determination to that extent, but when through the Council you place the whole destinies of Ireland in the hands of a minority it seems to me to be carrying the rights of minorities a great deal too far.

I allude to this because it brings me to the point I want to make—a point on which I suppose I am rather singular in this House—that is, in looking upon the financial arrangements, the fiscal and financial control, as the one vital point in this or any other Bill. We were told by the Lord Chancellor that if this Bill passes Irishmen will have an opportunity of showing that they are fit for self-government. Irishmen in the North-East enclave will show that they are fit for self-government. Of course, they are fit for it. I have the greatest respect for their business and governing capacities. They accept the Bill. They have all they want in the Bill; there is nothing that they deem essential that is not to be found in the Bill. They will work it, and work it very well. But what about Southern Ireland and the great majority of the people? They do not want the Bill. They are not satisfied with the Bill; there is nothing in it that they want, and everything that they deem essential to enable them to work self-government properly is lacking.

What will happen? Northern Ireland will work the Bill very well, and Southern Ireland, being utterly dissatisfied, not having anything that it thinks necessary to do so. will not work the Bill—cannot work the Bill—and we shall then be told that the people in the North-East are capable of exercising self-government but that the people in the South are not. That is not fair; it is not just, and it is putting the great majority of the people of Ireland in a false and invidious position. The only possibility of righting this is to give the great majority of the people of Ireland the concession that they think is absolutely necessary to enable them to work this or any other Bill giving a measure of self-government. We all know, your Lordships know, and the Government know perfectly well, what they deem essential, and that is the control of their own income and expenditure. Why it has not been put into the Bill passes my comprehension. It makes no difference whatever to Northern Ireland. They can do what they like with the powers which are given them. Why this power has not been put into the Bill, why even now we have had no indication from the Government that at some time or other it can be added, I do not know. There is nothing in the grant of full fiscal and financial control that the Government have ever said cannot be given. They have never ruled it out. On the contrary, they have said over and over again that some time or other, under some conditions, it will be granted. Why not grant it now? The Government apparently ask and want to know whether, if it was granted, it would be accepted. The noble Earl the Leader of the House asked me in the Second Reading debate whether if full fiscal control was put into the Bill the people of Ireland would accept it. I cannot say; no one can say; the Members of Parliament elected at the last General Election cannot say. You cannot have public opinion expressing itself on that point until you have put some definite concrete proposal before the people that they feel sure they can have if they accept it. I believe they would accept it; I am perfectly convinced that they would.

What I really desire to say is that neither this measure nor any measure of self-government can be successfully worked by Southern Ireland until this necessary concession is given. The only possibility of union lies in the two Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland working their own districts well. Then they would come to find it to their mutual convenience and advantage to come together and amalgamate. That can never be until you give Southern Ireland what they deem essential to enable them to work a measure of Biome Rule—and it is not given in this Bill. I could not support the Amendment, but I am bound to say that I am convinced that this Bill, with its intention of bringing about unity and its hope of effecting peace and a settlement in Ireland, has not the remotest chance of fulfilling that object.


My Lords, I think it will be respectful to those who have addressed your Lordships at this stage of the Bill that I should make a few observations upon the subjects which those speeches have raised. Lord Dunraven has admitted, as Lord Crewe did, that in his view the inhabitants of the North of Ireland will efficiently work the Parliamentary institutions which this Bill commits to their hands. This admission, freely and publicly made, of one of the two sections in Ireland whose differences and animosities have caused so much anxiety and embarrassment to successive British Governments, seems to me to supply a very considerable justification for the proposals which are the subject-matter of the Bill. We shall, indeed, have dealt with one of the embarrassing elements, and it will be for us to discover, by experience and the teachings of this Bill, whether it is as impossible to deal with the South as Lord Dunraven appears to apprehend.

I did not understand why Lord Dunraven said that the South cannot accept this Bill. I could understand anybody saying that the South will not accept it. That is a tenable and arguable view, but that they cannot accept a Bill which gives them on material points as much as, or more than, the 1914 Bill (which they did accept) and which, as the admission is made, will be accepted and can be efficiently worked by the North, is a proposition which I fail to understand. Lord Dunraven will forgive me if I do not discuss in detail the other arguments used in his interesting speech, because I think none of them, though no doubt treated with freshness of matter, differed from the points which the noble Earl made in his speech on the Second Reading.

A very important speech was made by Lord Crewe. I welcomed from him the expression of his opinion that the Government were well-advised, even confronted with the horrors of which we read to-day, in persevering with their scheme and attempting to carry it through all stages until it passes to the Statute Book. I think, too, Lord Crewe went further in the direction we have recommended than I remember him to have done at any earlier stage in the debates. The noble Marquess made a number of highly interesting observations, and among them he regretted that it was not found possible to set up one Parliament for all Ireland, with two subordinate bodies, one in the North and one in the South, each exercising powers comparable to those given to the separate Parliaments by this Bill. Under exising conditions there would not be the slightest hope of obtaining the consent of those who live in the North to any such proposal. The time is not ripe for a proposal to establish one Parliament, and I do not believe that anyone, whether he comes from the North or from the South, would allege as his opinion that any such proposal brought forward at this stage would have the slightest chance of acceptance. If that is true, the suggested alternative does not help us.

Again and again, in the intolerably long speech that I made on the Second Reading, I attempted to insist that this is a question of alternatives and alternatives only. Nearly everybody is agreed on this, except a small section whose opinions were voiced by Lord Willoughby de Broke, that something must be done having regard to the situation. A Parliamentary debater once said that when a man alleged that something must be done the observation was almost always the preface to doing something extremely foolish. No doubt many illustrations could be brought forward not lacking in prime facie plausibility. At the same time, it is necessary to point out that there are occasions in which action is imperative, and in which it is not a legitimate argument against any particular suggestion unless you are in a position to come forward and say, "Here is an alternative and I will show you that it is satisfactory."

Having listened to the whole of the debates, and given the best attention I can to every contention put forward, I claim that no alternative has been advanced which possessed the slightest chance of acceptance, and which was not open to nearly all the objections to which the Government proposals are exposed, and which was not open also to objections to which the Government proposals are not exposed. If I establish this claim T go far in the direction in which I desire to progress—that this scheme deserves a trial, and that your Lordships have been wise in the attention which has been given to the proposals in this House. Let the Bill leave this House not in a spirit of gloomy despair, but rather giving some ray of hope that the attempt, which I believe to be ingenious and which I know to have been sincerely made, may prove to be more fruitful of result than many of its critics to-day are disposed to think.

Lord Midleton, in an interesting speech which was the culmination of a series of memorable contributions to our debates, asked me—not indeed in terms, but by implication—whether I could tell him what were the prospects in another place of the Amendments introduced in this House by your Lordships. He used the expression "compromise," but he knows that it was necessary, in the position which I occupy, that I should carefully guard myself in the language I used in relation to successive Amendments. It is not conceivable to me that there are not some among the important Amendments which have been carried in this House which will be received, whether with enthusiasm or not, in another place, and I am very conscious—I hope no one will think the contrary—that there was very much indeed to be said for the Amendment which has been carried in this House to provide Senates for the North and the South of Ireland. Of course, I was conscious during the whole of that debate of the difficulty in which we found ourselves by the fact that undoubtedly it was not only at one time the intention of the Government, but the expressed intention of the Government, to produce proposals for Second Chambers. The difficulties of that task, as I have said, prevented us carrying out what I agree was a pledge, and every one knows the hopeless position in which a Government finds itself which must begin a discussion by admitting that it is unable, from whatever misfortune or series of misfortunes, to carry out a promise.

Your Lordships, bolder or more ingenious than we were who composed that Committee, have suggested a Constitution for Second Chambers both for the North and for the South. I should be less than candid if I did not make it plain that, just as I entertained, when this or similar proposals were discussed by us on this Committee, the gravest doubts not as to the desirability of there being a Second Chamber but as to the defensibility of these particular suggestions, so I confess I entertain those doubts to-day, but I think your Lordships by passing this Amendment have made it very difficult for the Government to refuse either to accept Amendments of this kind or to produce suggestions with a similar object which may appear to them the more reasonable, or to suggest Amendments by way of improvement in the proposals which this House has introduced into the Bill. Some of the other more important. Amendments stand in rather a different position. I will not enter upon them at this stage, because sonic contain much that is good while others contain what is more open to criticism. Your Lordships will probably be content if I assure the House that the care and patience which has been brought to bear upon the discussion of this Bill is entirely appreciated by the Government, and that the deepest consideration will be given to every suggestion which is contained in the Amendments.

I may add a final word, and that is in reference to the predictions which have been made to-day and at every stage in the history of this Bill as to the probability or almost certainty of its complete failure in the South of Ireland, I should not be dealing openly with the House if I pretended that even the Government itself approached the future with complete sanguineness. It must not be imagined that we are any more blind than noble Lords to what is going on before our eyes and to the temper and stubbornness which are being created and increased each day and each week in Ireland. But even to those of your Lordships who know Ireland so much better than I do I would point out that by long admission, by universal recognition of writers and poets and historians who have known Ireland and the Irish character, it is recognised that there is something that is incalculable in the Irish character; that no man can ever predict with certainty how Irishmen will behave in any particular situation. I myself, for instance, in the course of the debate in Committee threw out a suggestion, speaking quite seriously, that if the Irish were consulted as to the form of Second Chamber which they would have, on the hypothesis that there was to be some form of Second Chamber, and if you put in one ballot box all the men of science, of business, and of learning, and in the other ballot box the Irish Peers, there was not the slightest doubt as to which way the suffrages of the voters would go.

The danger of making a definite prediction could not be better illustrated than the account given to me by Field-Marshal Lord French of that memorable day on which the Procession of Victory, starting front his residence, marched three miles into the heart of Dublin. It was a procession comparable to though smaller than the procession which took place in London, and which was witnessed with emotion by very many of your Lordships. It was a procession from three to four miles long, and it proceeded through roads as crowded by masses of people as were the roads and thoroughfares in London. Lord French told me that when the procession left his residence neither he nor the officers of his staff nor any of his civilian advisers had the slightest knowledge whether they would be received with enthusiasm or with bullets, but that when they began to pass where the press and concourse of people first became great it so happened that a few children were standing there and when they saw the scenes of martial panoply, the horses, the uniforms, the guns, the children began to cheer. Lord French told me that from that moment the fate of the procession was determined. The cheer from those childish voices was taken up by those who stood around them. And so it spread; it thundered and roared for three miles down the line of the whole procession and as a spontaneous and even passionate expression of loyalty it was not surpassed anywhere in these isles. When, therefore, any of your Lordships may be inclined to feel unduly pessimistic, I would ask you to remember on how many occasions Ireland has done what those who knew her best said that in no circumstances would Ireland ever do.

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 73:

THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY moved, in Clause 73, to leave out subsection (3)—namely— Until the Parliaments of both Southern and Northern Ireland have been established, the provisions of this Act with respect to the Council of Ireland shall not have effect. The noble Marquess said: The Amendment in my name is only a drafting Amendment. In consequence of the Amendment moved by Lord Midleton it is necessary to make provision for setting up the Council even before the appointed day. The effect of the Amendment of my noble friend is that if before the appointed day the Lord Lieutenant is authorised to set up government by Committee, familiarly known as Crown Colony government, that Committee will have all the powers, as I read the Bill, of the Parliament of the South of Ireland, and therefore it will be quite possible to set up the Council. Consequently the subsection in the Amendment which I was fortunate enough to insert in Committee will no longer be apt, and I move that, it be struck out.

Amendment moved— Clause 73, page 58, lines 27 to 29, leave out subsection (3).—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


The object of the noble Marquess was explained in the few observations which he made, and I have no objection at all to leaving out the subsection. The repugnancy which I think exists between Lord Midleton's Amendment (Clause 72) and Lord Salisbury's Amendment, will be rendered less but not altogether removed, but it is a repugnancy which I think may be dealt with without any great difficulty, and I should be glad to explain to the noble Marquess in detail, if it will interest him, the grounds which lead me to that conclusion. As, however, I had proposed to leave out the subsection in any event, it is not worth saying more about it at this stage.


I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord, and I shall be very glad to hear what he has to say. I think in any event this subsection will have to come out.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.

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