§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON
My Lords, I trust that I need make no apology to the House for introducing this Bill to your consideration, except in so far as my own inadequacy as its advocate. But before explaining its provisions, which I shall do as briefly as I can, I must say a word regarding the reason for choosing this time and this place. I fear that I must ask the indulgence of the House for rather longer time than I could wish, because there seems to be a disposition in some quarters to belittle this Bill, or at any rate to treat it rather as an inconvenient disturbance of the tranquillity of this House. I quite recognise that this is very natural as regards its parent. I have for many years past taken very little part in the proceedings of this House or in politics, and I have been practically what Lord Newton calls a "backwoodsman," but I beg the House to believe that nothing but an overwhelming sense of duty has induced me, greatly daring, to attempt such a mighty task.
The magnitude of this task demands that I should show that I at any rate have approached it in no spirit of levity, that I appreciate its gravity, and that it was not with a light heart, although with a firm faith in the cause of Irish peace, that I took up this matter. First as to the place, I venture to think that this House has distinct advantages for discussing the-Irish question. Almost all Parties are represented iii this House. We have even two or three Peers representing the Labour Party, and perhaps we may hope that my noble friend Lord Haldane also may express the views of that Party on this occasion. It is true that in this House 1114 there is no one representing the Sinn Fein Party, but that is a defect which your Lordships' House shares with the other House of Parliament. On the other hand, the Southern Unionists are very fully represented here, whereas in the House of Commons the Ulster Unionists are the only Party at all adequately represented. Again, we have more control of our time in regard to debates, and it is possible for us to debate here matters for which time cannot be found in the other House of Parliament, especially at the instance of an independent Member. Last, but not least—and I do not say this to propitiate your Lordships—I think it is generally recognised that for independent thought and for ability and breadth of view in debate this Assembly is very remarkable.
As to time, there may perhaps be some doubt as to whether this is a proper time for introducing a Bill of this character, but I plead, though I bring it forward in no opportunist spirit, that it cannot be dismissed as inopportune. Indeed, the only misgiving of which I feel at all conscious is whether it ought not to have been brought on before now. I may be a fool to have attempted such a task, but I cannot charge myself with precipitancy. I do not think I can be said to have rushed in, and perhaps the fear to tread is not always a proof of angelic wisdom. Indeed, if I have moved too soon, that is surely a fault that may be forgiven to an Irishman approaching the question of Irish government. It is not a fault that has often been committed. Yet I cannot but be aware that many people, especially amongst my friends the Southern Unionists, are saying, "Why cannot you leave it alone?" Surely that question hardly requires an answer? The Irish question will not leave you alone. You cannot with dignity or safety let ill alone. I know that the British public, and even among British members in this House, are some who are apt to be sick of the subject, but surely British apathy and ignorance are a conclusive argument for Irish self-government.
Again, I am aware that many of my Southern Unionist friends almost depair of any solution of the Irish question on self-governing lines. They cannot but recognise the breakdown of Pitt's legislative union, but I would appeal to them to face the realities of the present position. What 1115 would the position of Southern Ireland be under the Government Bill? I am not going to discuss the Government Bill, but it is a matter of common knowledge that the majority of the Irish people would refuse to work it. What then is the alternative? We are face to face with a continuance of the present militarist régime which completely fails even to give security to life and property, and which can lead to no sort of settlement. I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, does not contemplate a policy of drift. But I ask him "What is his alternative?" We cannot allow things to go on as they are. Some form of self-government is a necessary prelude to the restoration of law and order, and to my mind nothing short of complete control over Irish affairs, including all taxation, can have a chance of being accepted by the Irish people.
May I say a word as to my motive, if only to avoid misunderstanding? This Bill is brought forward for no Party object. It is not intended as an attack on the Government. I have no desire whatever even to put them into difficulties, rather I offer them a bridge, I believe the only way out of the present impasse, at any rate the best way out of it. I desire above all things a settlement. The dearest wish of my heart is to keep Ireland as a willing member within what General Smuts called "the British Commonwealth of Free Nations." I believe that this is possible on a Dominion basis, but on nothing short of it.
Again, I desire most studiously to avoid all recrimination. I remember it used to be said in 1886—I heard the saying attributed to a distinguished statesman when Home Rule was first being brought forward—that his formula was "Home Rule, Anarchy, Re-Conquest." We have reached the second stage without passing through the first, and with very little prospect apparently of the third stage being reached. But I will not stop to inquire who is responsible for this deplorable situation in which we find ourselves. Perhaps the dishonours in that matter are divided. But neither shall I inquire who began the vicious circle, which we all deplore, of political crime and coercion mutually reproducing each other. I deplore—no man more than I—the political murders, especially those of the unfortunate Royal Irish Constabulary who are suffering for the faults and errors and mistakes of 1116 others, and I deeply regret that the Sinn Fein leaders have not denounced those murders, as O'Connell did in his day. But I do not believe that the Sinn Fein leaders are responsible for them, especially when I remember that the noble Earl who leads the House expressed a similar opinion in this House a few months ago, I think in the debate on the Address. Those leaders must know that these murders are now the chief obstacle to their cause winning the sympathy and support of the British public.
I must apologise for the length of my preliminary remarks, but, coming now to the main principles of the Bill, broadly speaking my, object has been to give to Ireland the largest measure of self-government compatible with the strategic unity of these Islands on the one hand, and the safeguarding of minorities, including the Unionists of North-East Ulster, on the other—in a word, what is commonly called Dominion Home Rule, with defence reserved. This policy has been recently laid down several times in abstract resolutions by leaders of different parties. For instance, the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition laid down three conditions in the opening debate on the Address this Session, and similar propositions were laid down by Mr. Asquith in the other House of Parliament on the Second Reading of the Government Bill, and by Mr. Clynes on the same occasion. But it has, I think, been indicated, not obscurely, also by the Prime Minister himself on several occasions, beginning with the famous letter which he wrote to the Chairman of the Irish Convention on February 25, 1918, in which he laid down the principles that must govern any settlement. He has repeated these general statements on various occasions as lately as his reply to the deputation of railwaymen about ten days ago, and even later than that in the House of Commons last Monday night. Last, but not least, it was clearly laid down in the speech made by the Lord Lieutenant, Lord French, at Belfast last Saturday, when, after laying it down that the Government would never under any circumstances listen to any proposals for the establishment of an Irish Republic, or for the coercion of Ulster, he went on to say—We desire now, above all things, to give the country the utmost measure of political freedom, and we hope, sometimes against hope, that a peaceable reconciliation may eventually be effected.1117 I submit that my Bill conforms pretty closely to those conditions. It proposes neither to establish an Irish Republic, nor to coerce Ulster. I am not going to discuss the Government Bill now before Parliament but, to use the Home Secretary's happy phrase, no man, woman, or child in Ireland could detect much resemblance in the Government Bill to Lord French's desires and hopes, as expressed at Belfast the other day. The Prime Minister also in his speech in the House of Commons renewed and emphasised what he had said to the railwaymen's deputation, and conveyed an invitation to Ireland to come in as a partner in the British Empire. And he went on to recognise that it would be good business for England, even from the financial point of view, to treat Ireland magnanimously.
I believe that such a policy of conciliation is still possible, but only on one condition, and that is that the Government give up the rival and incompatible policy of militarism and coercion to which they still apparently cling. I notice that in his speech at Belfast Lord French concluded by threatening further drastic measures. As Lord Robert Cecil pointed out lately in the House of Commons, you must choose between conciliation and coercion. You cannot hope for success if you try a little coercion for a bit, and then a little conciliation. Surely everyone must admit that coercion, to have any chance of success in Ireland—or anywhere else where you are governing a white people—must be absolutely Prussian in its ruthlessness. But even if you carry it out to its logical extent, even if British public opinion would endorse and enforce it, how far would it carry you towards the restoration of order and the respect for British-made law. At the most what could you hope for? At the mast it might achieve a military occupation, it might stop the besieging of police barracks, it might prevent kidnapping of generals. but it will never restore the prestige of the King's Courts or enable the King's Writ to run.
Your Lordships are possibly aware—it has only lately begun to dawn on the public of this country—that the King's Courts are now absolutely deserted and boycotted in Ireland, and that the King's Writ hardly runs. But at the same time there is being set up all over the South and West of Ireland a system of Sinn Fein Courts, which are operating, and which are 1118 spreading every day, and becoming more and more efficient. This is a new fact which has to be taken into account. To my mind it is a much more serious blow to the authority and prestige of the British Government than spectacular attacks on police barracks or matters of that kind. But it has another side. Surely it is a remarkable and astonishing thing that these Courts should be operating effectively and really giving some proof of constructive restoration of order which the Sinn Fein Party are showing their ability to carry out. The Government claim for their Bill that they alone have faced the facts of the situation. This decay of the King's Courts in Ireland and the rise of Sinn Fein's Courts seems to me a totally new fact which is a serious one, and has seriously to be taken into account.
To give effect to such a policy of conciliation I have sought to this Bill to concentrate attention, firstly, on the essential requirements of Ireland and Great Britain respectively in regard to the relations between the two islands; and, secondly, to concentrate attention upon Ireland's constitutional problem, assuming a self-governing basis. Now, the essential requirement of Ireland, as regards her relation with Great Britain, is financial and fiscal independence, including all taxing powers—Income tax, Customs and Excise. These are essential to give financial autonomy and to preserve the fundamental principle that those who spend the public money should be responsible for the raising of it; and nothing less than financial autonomy will now meet the demand of any section of Nationalists in Ireland. It is the vital matter for all Nationalists including Sinn Feins. On the other hand I am convinced that—apart from the Ulster crux, to which I will come in a moment—the vast majority of the British electorate would tomorrow concede financial autonomy and let Ireland stand on her own bottom, paying her own way, and neither receiving subsidies from England nor paying any contribution to the British Exchequer except towards the cost of defence. Coming to the other side of the question—the British side—the essential requirement for Great Britain, as regards her relations with Ireland, the one vital condition which makes it impossible for England to consent to an Irish Republic, is admittedly, I suppose, the strategic unity of the two islands. And here, looking at the Irish side of that question, I myself am convinced that Ireland's 1119 true interest lies also in strategic unity; and I believe that even now, in their calmer moments, Sinn Feiners recognise that British apprehensions on this matter are not unnatural, and that, if Dominion self-government in other respects were freely given, little opposition would arise to defence being reserved to Great Britain. I therefore contend, in these two vital matters which mainly determine the relations between the two islands, that they can be settled at Westminster without more ado by the gift of Dominion status and the reservation of defence.
Turning now to the problem of Ireland's internal constitution, including the Northeast Ulster crux, I maintain that those essentially Irish matters can only be settled in Ireland by Irishmen. The Imperial Parliament has been trying in vain for a generation past—for 34 years—to settle those internal questions, and the net result has been the expenditure—I may say the waste—of weeks and months of public time in debate which has only generated apathy and disgust over here both within the walls of Parliament and outside. I invite Parliament now frankly to refer those matters bodily to an Irish Constitutional Assembly elected on proportional representation. I should, perhaps, be told that this would only be the Irish Convention over again, and that the Convention failed. I was not a member of the Convention and have no right to speak for it, but it certainly achieved a great measure of agreement, largely owing to the patriotic efforts of my noble friend Lord Midleton and his colleagues, and although it was handicapped by its non-representative character and by the absence of Shin Fein. And only for the complications introduced by the war and by the Conscription controversy, I believe that it might have led to a settlement; but, of course, the main cause of its failure was the reluctance of the Ulster Unionists seriously to negotiate with Southern Ireland at the Convention and their clinging to the hope that, by a threat of partition, they could wreck Home Rule altogether. That hope they can surely no longer cherish if Dominion self-government were given to Ireland as a whole; and they must surely realise that if they are guaranteed at the end of the proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly the option of contracting out in the last resort—which I give in Clause 13 of this Bill—it will be their interest, as well as their duty, to negotiate frankly and freely with their 1120 fellow-countrymen. But this clause, which I have put forward after some hesitation and after anxious consideration, is frankly tentative, and I should welcome any suggestions by way of alternative if the Bill is permitted to proceed to a further stage. One such suggestion has already reached me—that, in place of giving the representatives of the six counties in the Constitutional Assembly a claim to appeal to a plébiscite, they should state their case to the Imperial Conference, and that the Imperial Conference should be empowered to refer the matter to a plébiscite.
I am often asked, "What support have you got?" A very natural question, of course. I stand up here and I have not, unfortunately, very much support, perhaps, from Ireland in this House; but I am asked that question. I am asked also, "What about the professional classes and the business community in Ireland? What about Sinn Fein?" As regards professional and business men, I have received many letters from individuals and I will quote extracts from one or two. A leading business man wrote to me a few days ago—We had a meeting at the Harbour Board today, and when it was over I asked the members to remain and talk this matter over, which they did for a considerable time; and I can assure you everyone, even those supposed to be on the Sinn Fein side, expressed the view that the Government could settle the question even now by a Dominion settlement if put forward generously.Here is another, and the only other quotation with which I shall trouble the House—The opinion amongst nearly all business and professional men, outside Sinn Fein and, of course, outside Ulster, is that the remedy lies in Dominion Home Rule, with some contribution towards Imperial Services, and with every reasonable safeguard for Ulster. It is almost certain that if the Government were to make a prompt announcement on these lines with a guarantee of generous financial treatment, it would lead to a speedy settlement, but the decision should he immediate, for every day that passes makes solution more difficult.But it may be said that there is not much use producing the opinions of isolated individuals, and that I ought to be able to produce evidence of some concerted action. I may, perhaps, plead that, my Bill having been introduced only ten days ago and printed only about a week ago, there has hardly been time for any such concerted action; but I am confident that if it be accorded a Second Reading, and if it be debated not only in this House 1121 but out-of-doors, a large measure of support will be forthcoming.
At any rate, I would make this offer to the Government. I would cheerfully submit to Irish Chambers of Commerce and such other public bodies in Ireland, representing professional and commercial classes, my Bill and their Bill, to choose which they like the better. The Government claim that their Bill is the only constructive proposal before the country or before Parliament, and I recognise the audacity of an humble individual like myself coming forward. Here, at all events, is a constructive alternative which I challenge them to submit to the public verdict. Last, but not least, I come to Sinn Fein, and I admit at once that it is a very fair challenge. People say that Sinn Fein is pledged to accept nothing less than a Republic. Will they accept a Dominion? Will they even come in and act on the Constituent Assembly? I wish to be perfectly frank with the House in this matter. I know some of the Sinn Fein leaders, but I am in no way in their confidence. I have, however, many friends who are in touch with those leaders and what they tell me is this. First, Sinn Fein will not negotiate except on the basis of a Republic; secondly, they will not accept a Dominion as a discharge of their claim; thirdly, they would work a measure of self-government which gave Ireland full financial control; fourthly, they would take part in a Constituent Assembly if Dominion status was not merely promised but actually given. I hope it will be admitted that that is about as much as could be expected in the circumstances for me to put forward in answer to that very pertinent question.
The Prime Minister still seems to hanker after negotiations, and it is only natural that he should do so. Of course, he is a past-master at bargaining. But if there is one thing more than another upon which my friends to whom I have referred insist, it is to have done with promises and offers and, above all, not to trust to unofficial secret negotiations which every one in Ireland mistrusts; and let the Government state plainly what they mean by Lord French's "utmost measure of political freedom short of a Republic," and the Prime Minister's proferred partnership in the British Empire with the other nations. If they would recognise that my Bill satisfies those conditions and would accord it a 1122 Second Reading, they would initiate, I believe, a policy of genuine conciliation before it is too late. I apologise for the length of my remarks, but I have done. I am deeply conscious that my Bill is but a skeleton, and my speech, notwithstanding its inordinate length, a mere sketch, but I beg the House and the Government not to measure its value by my poor efforts. One word more. This is Dominion Day. May I not hope that this auspicious anniversary may bring an invitation to Ireland to take her place, in the Prime Minister's words, as a partner in the Empire with the other Dominions? I beg to move.
Moved, That the Bill he now read 2a.—(Lord Monteagle of Brandon.)
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
had given notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move that the Bill be read 2a this day six months. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that I, at least, have no intention whatever of belittling his Bill. On the contrary, the step that I have taken in regard to it proves, I think, that I look upon it as a very serious measure. I can assure him also that I undertake the step of moving its rejection with considerable reluctance, because I sympathise so very deeply with him in his desire to put an end to an almost intolerable condition of things in Ireland. I think I agree with him up to a certain point in what I take it are the underlying motives of his Bill. He desires to see Ireland under one Government and under one Parliament. So do I. But I do not see how that is going to be achieved under the provisions of this Bill. He desires to give Ireland practically full autonomy. I do not go so far as that, but I am perfectly certain that the only means of appeasement in Ireland, the only chances of settlement, are to give the people of Ireland the largest possible powers and full responsibility.
I have a little difficulty, or rather some reluctance, in discussing this measure at all, for many reasons, perhaps, among others, that I have not opened my lips in your Lordships' House since pre-war times, and I am rather reluctant to break a silence pleasant to myself and I have no doubt much more pleasant to your Lordships. But this question of Dominion Home Rule was prominently before the Convention. It has been brought very prominently and constantly before the attention of the 1123 Irish people. I opposed it at the Convention. I have opposed it to the best of my ability ever since, and I feel myself bound to oppose it in your Lordships' House lest it should appear that I had in any way changed my mind regarding it.
I am not going into the question of the condition of Ireland. I want to confine myself almost entirely to the provisions of the Bill, and to giving my reasons, as clearly and as shortly as I can, why I oppose the Bill. I think, in the first place, that the operative machinery will prove inefficient; it will break down. The principal provisions of the Bill are that Parliament is to be asked to make a declaration that Ireland is a Dominion, and then, having made that declaration, Parliament is invited to put limitations and restrictions on the Irish Dominion that do not apply to any other Dominion, thereby differentiating in a manner which I am perfectly certain would be very repugnant to Ireland. Having settled that Ireland is a Dominion within the Empire, the Constituent Assembly is then to be convoked.
The Convention was not, of course, a Constituent Assembly, but it was not very far short from one. It was not an elected body,. but it was fairly representative of various modes of political thought and parties in Ireland, with one great and notable exception—the organisation that unquestionably voices the opinions of the great majority of the people would not take any part in the Convention. And why? Because it objected to the terms of reference, which practically were, "devise any Constitution yon like provided it be within the Empire." I think Sinn Fein acted honourably, honestly, and in a straightforward manner. They could not accept the reference, and they would not take any part in the discussions. My noble friend has alluded to this, but he gave me no reason for supposing that Sinn Fein has in the meantime changed its mind. Sinn Fein refused to take part in the Convention because it objected to the reference, and it will refuse to take part in the Constituent Assembly obviously on account of the fact that the Assembly will be bound in precisely the same objectionable way as the Convention was. Unless my noble friend can give us any guarantee—he has not up to the present—that the Sinn Fein authorities would attend an Assembly bound by the fact that Ireland must remain 1124 within the British Empire, I feel sure that they would be straightforward and honest again and refuse to do so.
There is another body of opinion to which my noble friend alluded—the North-East of Ulster, who sent representatives to the Convention, although I am bound to say I think their powers were pretty well limited to keeping a sort of "watching brief." But is there any earthly reason to suppose that they would attend this Constituent Assembly? It is beyond the bounds of possibility to imagine that North-East Ulster is going to accept this Bill, and, if not, why should they trouble themselves to attend an Assembly and begin to draft a Constitution which they have no intention of applying to themselves? They will not accept the Bill they will avail themselves of the provisions in the Bill to contract themselves out. I think the operative machinery will break down, and it looks to me as if the Constituent Assembly is likely to be composed of my noble friend and his friends and followers—a very large and influential body, but still not representative of all Ireland.
But if I am wrong, if the Constituent Assembly did set to work, what position shall we be in? It is perfectly certain that some of the counties in Ireland would contract themselves out and we should be back again in precisely the same impasse in which we were six or seven years ago—right up against absolute partition, which. is obnoxious to all Irishmen and intolerable to me. You would have certain counties in Ireland legislated for and administered by Great Britain, for all practical purposes a part of Great Britain, and the rest of Ireland would be a Dominion. A Dominion of two-thirds or three-quarters of Ireland and the rest of Ireland in Great Britain is not a proposition that appeals to me. My noble friend has spoken about the Army and Navy. There seems to be a curious provision in the Bill. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are reserved; they do not go to the Dominion. The Army, which will be under the War Office, I presume, under a Commander-in-Chief, is only to operate in Ireland for the defence of that country from foreign Powers. Then there is another Army which the Dominion is to have power to raise, which also could be employed for precisely the same reason—the defence of the country. I am not a military expert, but to have two Armies, one under one Government and the other under another 1125 Government, one under one Commander-in-Chief and the other under another Commander-in-Chief, operating for one purpose in the same country, does not appeal to me to be likely to be a very successful method of defensive warfare.
That, however, is a detail, and I do not want to go into the details of the Bill. I want to look at this question from the purely practical point of view. I want something done. I want one Parliament. I admit that to get one Parliament at present is impossible. It cannot be done. I accept without argument two limitations, whether they be right or wrong. The first is that complete independence is impossible; the other is that the forcible coercion of the minority in the North is not permissible. I accept them, and that being so it is perfectly clear that the only possible way to arrive ultimately at unity, which is what I want, is to begin by duality. You must first of all set up two Parliaments in Ireland. That is no way offensive to me on account of my Federal ideas. The existence of two Parliaments in Ireland does not detract one iota from Ireland's integrity. It does not affect it in the least. The idea of Dominions in Ireland, one in the North and the other in the South, is to break Ireland up into two pieces. It is unthinkable; in fact, almost grotesque. Of course, I hold to my Federal ideals. To my mind where there are two communities so totally distinct and different as are Great Britain and Ireland, too distinct to be by any possibility fused into one whole, and at the same time with interests so closely intermingled as they must be by geographical proximity as to make union of some sort desirable and necessary, then I believe the application of the Federal principle is the only way in which you can obtain a really satisfactory and lasting union, at the same time without violating in the least national aspirations and national pride. Of course, the proposal in the Bill of Dominion Home-Rule cuts right across my Federal path, and for that, if for no other, reason I am bound to reject it.
The Dominion that is proposed is different from any Dominion at present existing. I cannot for a moment imagine that it would be satisfactory to Ireland. What sort of Dominion is it going to be? It will be a Dominion in so far as Ireland will have no representation in the House of Commons. I believe that where, through natural causes, interests are so much mixed 1126 up and inter-mingled it would be very detrimental to Ireland not to have representation in the Imperial Parliament. It will be a Dominion, I suppose, in so far as it would be eligible for the League of Nations, and, I suppose, capable of signing Treaties in which the Crown was concurrent. At the same time, according to the Bill, the Dominion is to have no power over Treaties of any kind other than commercial Treaties. The Army and the Navy and Air Force are absolutely reserved. Thus the Dominion of Ireland will not have the same powers as other Dominions. Ireland would not be a Peer among her Peers, but in an inferior and galling, and to my mind ignominious, position, which would never be satisfactory to her, and which, far from effecting a settlement, would invite discord and agitation. Ireland would never be content until she was placed upon the same level absolutely as other Dominions. She would say, "Australia can have an Army and a Navy, and why should not Ireland? Canada is allowed to send a representative to Washington; why should not Ireland send an Ambassador to the Soviet Government in Russia, if she likes?"
It seems to me that this Bill, so far from effecting a settlement, simply invites difficulties by placing Ireland in a position which is not natural to her. After all, the Dominion status has been arrived at by natural development from the position of small Colonies. Ireland never was a Colony, is not a Colony, and never can be a Colony. Ireland was a kingdom, ought to have remained a kingdom, and to my mind should be a kingdom. I do not think that putting Ireland into this unnatural position is likely to satisfy her aspirations. It would not, my Lords, even if all the powers that are implied in the Dominion status were given in this Bill. But they are not, and we all know they cannot be, and in the Bill the very fact that they cannot be is conceded, because these powers are reserved. What my noble friend is offering Ireland is not Dominion status but Dominion status minus a great deal, because he knows that we cannot deliver the real goods. He is not offering Ireland a genuine article but a sort of shoddy Dominion status, and it will not satisfy her. These are my principal reasons for asking your Lordships not to give a Second Reading to the Bill. It would put Ireland in a false position, and I think it might endanger the Empire. The fabric of the Empire is 1127 very fragile and delicately poised, and it would be introducing a new element into it, because your Lordships know very well that the Dominion Parliament in this Bill is different from that of any other Dominion. I hold to the Federal ideal, to which this Bill is opposed. It is a measure which is incomplete, and from its incompleteness is bound to be a source of agitation rather than of satisfaction and settlement. Those are the reasons why I ask your Lordships not to give a second reading to the Bill.
I have been tempted to go, and perhaps might have dealt with the subject better if I had gone, into the whole question of the condition of affairs in Ireland, but I have resisted that temptation. I would only like to say that to my mind no solution of the Irish question will ever be arrived at until it is fully recognised that the root of Irish discontent is planted in sentiment—in an unquenchable, undying yearning for political recognition of Irish nationality, or, if anybody objects to nationality, I will say. Irish individuality. When that fact is recognised and takes form in some kind of Government, then to that Government, whatever it may be, I think the very fullest possible measures that are consistent with the safety and security of Ireland and Great Britain and the solidarity of the Empire ought to be given, and full responsibility. My Lords, I have expressed my regret to my noble friend for having taken this action towards his Bill. I only hope that if his Bill is not accepted by your Lordships' House he will give his energies and intellect and intimate knowledge of Ireland to trying to broaden and strengthen the Government's Bill when it comes up to your Lordships' House.
Leave out ("now") and insert at the end of the Motion ("this day six months").—(The Earl of Danraven.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I confess that I am very glad that my noble friend on the Cross Benches has invited discussion on this Bill this afternoon. We shall have, of course, a long and close discussion of the Government's Bill on Irish Government when it comes here, but the time of its arrival must be uncertain. When it comes it will invite debate on many matters of detail, and we have no means of knowing what time will be placed at our disposition for the purpose of discussing it. It may, therefore, easily 1128 happen that when that Bill arrives there is not the same opportunity of considering general principles as is afforded by the Bill of my noble friend.
I shall not hesitate to say—and your Lordships will not be surprised that I do say—that I find myself in general agreement with many of the proposals made by my noble friend. He was good enough to mention the three points which, when the House met on February 10 last, I put forward as being, in my opinion, necessary for any measure which there was a chance of Ireland accepting. The first of those three points was that there should be only one Parliament in Ireland; but, I added, as matters are, it is not less necessary that there should be two provincial Assemblies provided with definite powers of their own. In the second place, I said that there must be what has been described as fiscal freedom for Ireland, which, in my judgment, would involve there being no enforced contribution even for the purposes of Imperial defence. In the third place, I laid emphasis on the necessity of there being no Irish representation in Parliament here. My noble friend's Bill satisfies all those conditions in general, though there are some points of detail upon which I shall have to say a word in a moment, and in which I do not think he has altogether met the case. He has reserved certain matters to the Imperial Parliament, to sonic of which my noble friend Lord Dunraven alluded.
There is one point on which I am sure the whole House will he in full agreement with my noble friend, and also with Lord Dunraven—namely, that there can be no question of considering in any circumstances the establishment of a Republic in Ireland. The movement for the establishment of such a Republic has sometimes been spoken of as though it were a novel aspiration. We all know that is not so. The secret society which was best known by the name of the Fenian Society had for its proper title the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and every man who took the Fenian oath took the oath for the establishment of an Irish Republic. I think I have said in your Lordships' House before that when I was Viceroy in Ireland it was estimated by the Police that there were some 60,000 men in the country who at one time or another had taken that Republican oath—not by any means a negligible number. A very large proportion of those 60,000 1129 were, of course, in no sense active Republicans. They were anti-Government, and probably anti-British, but they had no theories on the subject of government, and no doubt in many cases they had joined this society because others had done so. But let it be remembered that the Sinn Fein movement, now so prominent and so formidable, is simply the recrudescence of the old Fenian Society joined with a different type of agitation—that which is founded on the historical and literary associations of Ireland, which have been brought into play for the purposes of this new political organisation. That being so, I think, in spite of what Lord Dunraven just stated, it is absolutely necessary that Imperial defence should be one of the matters reserved for the Imperial Government, and that foreign relations should even more be so reserved. We have to dismiss altogether the idea that constitutional upheavals, involving a change in form of government, can conceivably occur except through the agency of successful rebellion amid such gusts of passion as have constituted the atmosphere of Ireland during the past five or six years.
Lord Dunraven stated that to profess to confer Dominion status upon Ireland was almost a farce if defence were withheld. But he forgot, I think, that it is only within a very few years that the self-governing Dominions have desired to be responsible for their own defence or have possessed the means of doing so. For all I know, my noble friend Lord Dunraven himself, when he was in the Brigade of Guards, may have been quartered in Canada—certainly many of his contemporaries have been—and it is only within the last very few years that troops have been withdrawn from all the self-governing Dominions. Again, Lord Dunraven is, I think, in error, in supposing that there is something which can be called a general Dominion status which, if Ireland does not possess it in all respects, means that the offer that is being made by my noble friend's Bill is nugatory and would be valueless to them.
There are marked differences between the powers possessed by different self-governing Dominions in respect of the native races which would naturally be within their borders. The relations of the South African Union to Basutoland are totally different front those powers which the Government of Canada exercises with regard to Indians in the Reservations 1130 within the Dominion. And it does not seem to me, I confess, sensible to argue (supposing there is any question of a Dominion being accepted by Ireland at all) that certain differences of treatment consequent upon the fact that Ireland is, so to speak, within a stone's throw of Great Britain whereas the other self-governing Dominions happen to be thousands of miles away, would prevent her acceptance because she would not be exactly like Canada or New Zealand in ail respects.
Then, as regards the absence of the Irish Members from the House of Commons, with regard to which 1 again differ from my noble friend Lord Dunraven, I think that, while we all recognise the remarkable contributions of wit and eloquence which those. Members have given in the past, it cannot be disputed that during the lifetime of everybody here, and for some time before that, they have been present principally as outsiders, and most often as anything but helpful outsiders. And I cannot think that, if it is possible to arrive at some solution for the satisfactory government of Ireland, in Ireland, their withdrawal will be lamented either by themselves or by their fellows in England, Scotland and Wales, who all recognise that one of the main difficulties and obstacles in the consideration of any Home Rule measure has been this question of the Irish Members in the House of Commons and of the number that should be there.
Now I want to say a word about Ulster, and particularly the North-East corner which, of course, plays a prominent, although in a sense concealed, part in the Bill of my noble friend. It is not, I think, categorically mentioned there except in the Schedule, but in considering the. establishment of any form of Home Rule, self-government, or Dominion government in Ireland the question of Ulster must always be before us. I think it cannot be disputed that the existence of the particular temper and outlook which has been prominent in North-East Ulster since the Union, and, indeed, to some extent before the Union, has been the main obstacle to the pacification of Ireland, in spite of all the qualities of Ulster which have produced such signal material success in that province; but we have to bear in mind that it has been the accepted policy of all those responsible for Irish government, both Unionists and Home Rulers, that Ulster should not be coerced in the 1131 political sense. That term has been somewhat misunderstood, and perhaps sometimes misrepresented. What we all meant when we said that there was to be no coercion of Ulster was that we did not propose to apply any (what would now be called) German or Prussian methods to enforce political changes; that is to say, that the people of Ulster, if they took exception to provisions such as are found in the Home Rule Act now on the Statute Book, would not be dragooned into submission by a military occupation. That did not mean, as I think some people were inclined to take it to mean, that free leave was to be given to Ulster to break the law in any way she chose. And I take it that my interpretation of the statement is one which most people would now be prepared to accept.
I remember a conversation which I had with Lord Randolph Churchill in Ireland on the subject of Irish government in the last year of his life, when we discussed the whole question of the future of parties in relation to Ireland. The then Government was obviously drawing near to its close, and Lord Randolph, with whom I was on terms of intimate friendship, pointed out to me how completely we Liberals had condemned ourselves to political extinction for what must be a long period owing to our having tied ourselves up so closely with the Irish Nationalists, and how that fact would prevent our coming into power again—as, indeed, we did not for ten years—and would prevent our doing anything for Ireland or for anybody else. I remember that I replied that he and his friends would never be able to do anything for Ireland, because they were bound hand and foot to Ulster, and I well remember the tone in which he replied that "We shall tell Ulster to go"—well, to the quarter to which the baser sort of Orangemen has been accustomed to consign the Pope. What would have happened if Lord Randolph had lived none of us can say. It is possible, I think, with his broad mind and his indifference to precedent that he might have been as good as his word. But, at any rate, his Party has not, and the Irish policy of the Unionist Party since that time has, in the main, been controlled and directed from Ulster.
But we must never forget—and I do not think any of us have forgotten—that there is a problem that has to be dealt with, and that the fears (if that is the proper 1132 word) that Ulster may in some circumstances become the victim of religious rancour which would lead to unfair treatment in matters altogether unconnected with faiths and creeds, have been real and genuine apprehensions. And the question must always be how those fears are to be encountered and satisfied in any measure of Irish government that may be brought forward by any Party. Apparently my noble friend Lord Monteagle anticipates that the Constitutional Assembly when it is formed will provide a solution for this amazingly difficult question. He, by Clause 13 of his Bill, gives powers to the six counties—the four definitely Protestant counties and the two nearly divided but probably by a majority Protestant counties—to withdraw altogether from the Bill, although he does not say what is to happen to them when they withdraw. In my view it is necessary, if this part of the difficulty is to be met, to dot the i's more distinctly than my noble friend has done in his Bill. In my view, the representatives either of the whole of Ulster or of the six counties ought to be empowered to demand the creation of a Provincial Assembly of their own. My noble friend merely gives powers for the creation of such an Assembly, but I think they ought to be able to demand the creation of such an Assembly, and also to demand that it should be endowed with certain powers which would enable them to be free from interference with certain matters—that is to say, with religious affairs, with education, and also would protect them, if they are afraid of it, from any differential taxation directed against the particular industries with which they are concerned.
I do not say that this by any means exhausts the list, but in my opinion they ought to be entitled to demand the creation of an Assembly endowed with such powers. If the powers were not agreed they ought, in my judgment, as my noble friend proposes, to have the option of withdrawing from the scheme altogether. But I differ from him. and I believe I differ from a good many of my friends, in thinking that a referendum is the worst way of arriving at a solution of that kind. I should leave it entirely to the representatives of those districts—whether elected by proportional representation or elected by scrutin de liste—to decide whether or no the powers to be conferred on this subordinate Assembly were in their view sufficient. It is quite true that in 1916 the Government 1133 to which I belonged, when the present Prime Minister made his conciliatory expedition to Ireland, which so nearly met with success, then proposed that six counties should have the option of withdrawing—yes, but withdrawing for the period of the war and for twelve months afterwards. That was a fixed term. The whole matter would then have to come up for consideration, and it was to be done by referendum. But now I venture to think that if there is a withdrawal the procedure should be this. Ulster—or that part of Ulster which chooses not to take part in the Government under my noble friend's Bill—should have the option of withdrawing, and should he, I think, placed very much in the position of the Isle of Man. It would have its own Assembly, and a Governor from Great Britain, with a final reference to some Department here—presumably the Home Office. But I would treat it like the rest of Ireland in that I would ask for no taxes from it, and therefore I would give it no representation in the British House of Commons. It is impossible, of course, to enter now into details as to how If think the thing could be worked, but I believe it could be done, although there are some questions, like the question of Customs, which would no doubt create no little difficulty.
But leaving Ulster altogether for the time being, one has to consider what the position would be, under the proposals of my noble friend, of my noble friend Lord Dunraven and the other Unionists in the South of Ireland. I do not believe that they would have anything to dread from the settlement of a Government of this kind in that part of Ireland which desires to become self-governing within the Empire. I cannot help feeling that if there is a risk of the exercise of intolerance or bigotry, or anything like persecution such as is feared by Ulster—if that were possible, it could he and would be only directed against aggregations of persons, such, for instance, as the City of Belfast, and not against individuals, most of whom are personally popular. As everyone knows, Protestants in the South of Ireland have never had reason to complain of maltreatment from their Roman Catholic neighbours, and therefore they could look forward to the future without dismay, at any rate without any more dismay than they could look forward under the Bill—which I do not, of course, propose to discuss—that is going to reach 1134 us shortly from another place. The position of such Unionist landowners and others in the South of Ireland can be no better under the Government Bill than it would be under the Bill of my noble friend. I think the experience which some of them, at any rate, gained during the progress of the Convention will have caused them to take a somewhat more hopeful view of the future, so far as they and their personal interests are concerned, than some of their friends have been recently taking on their behalf.
I do not know whether there is any possibility of your Lordships giving a Second Reading to my noble friend's Bill, although I confess I should have been very glad if that could be done, because further discussion of this matter in detail is, I am sure, all to the good. but knowing the general views of your Lordships' House I can hardly suppose that such is the case. On the other hand, I think it would be a misfortune if to-day my noble friend's proposals, which, as he himself admits, are in the form of a sketch rather than a finished picture, were altogether refused any further hearing by your Lordships, as would be the case if the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Dunraven were carried.
I wonder, therefore, especially in view of the fact that the Government Bill will be arriving, I suppose not before we adjourn, but soon after we meet again in the autumn, whether it would be possible to adjourn this discussion, so to speak, without prejudice to taking it up again if and when the House feels inclined to pursue it, possibly before or possibly after the concrete proposals of His Majesty's Government have reached us. I think that if your Lordships were wiling to take that course it would have many advantages. The positive action of rejecting after a short discussion, a measure of this kind, of which my noble friend Lord Dunraven has himself admitted the good intention, would, I think, be a misfortune and would be misunderstood, not by extremists. in Ireland, because probably their opinion does not much matter, but by many people of moderate views in Ireland who may not have made up their minds either in favour of such a proposal or against it. At any rate my suggestion would leave it as a possible subject of discussion later on, and if my noble friend was disposed to agree to that course I think it would be a definite advantage. 1135 My noble friend Lord Dunraven seemed until the very close of his speech to have nothing to offer but counsels of despair. He advanced the view that it was impossible to bring together the different Parties who would have to meet as suggested by my noble friend, because the Sinn Feiners would not attend, and even if a Dominion Parliament were constituted I understand it is his belief that they would altogether refuse to take part. I have no doubt that a good many individuals would, but I think it cannot be taken to be entirely proved that all people who would frankly declare themselves to be Sinn Feiners would take so extreme a course as that. After all, Sinn Feiners, like all other Parties, shade off into varying tints from black down to light grey, and it seems to me to be worth trying whether there may not be a sufficient weight of, at any rate, comparatively reasonable opinion in that Party which would cause it to pause before rejecting altogether the offer of a Dominion status—although I confess I do not like the phrase because so many meanings can be attached to it, and I wish some substitute could be found.
Then my noble friend thought that the more rigid type of Ulstermen would also decline to have part or lot in the matter. I said something about that just now, but I cannot help thinking that if some such proposal as I have indicated, which would be in fact a preliminary safeguard to them, were included in the measure, they also would think twice before boycotting an Assembly of this kind. At any rate, I venture to think that the proposal can do no harm. In the intensely difficult situation in which we are it might do a great deal of good. Therefore I, for one, should be very glad if later on, after discussing their own Bill, His Majesty's Government find it possible to revert to some such proposal.
I know, of course, that my noble friend Lord Dunraven, devoted as he is to the Federal idea, considers that this proposal is altogether incompatible with that. In a sense no doubt it is, although if the despondent view of Irish convictions is the correct one I do not see Ireland as a contented, or as a possible, member of a Federal union of these Islands. I do not know whether my noble friend's view is that there should be a series of Federal Assemblies—perhaps two in Scotland, four or five in England, I do not 1136 know whether there would have to be one or two in Wales, and two also in Ireland. All that is a long way off if the project is to come to anything, and I do not think Ireland can wait. And how it is possible, by separating the two parts of Ireland now in a manner which at any rate some of Ulster's representatives believe will be permanent, to assist the ultimate Federal solution, with no idea as to how the South of Ireland is to be dealt with under it, I confess I do not quite see. I still, in spite of my noble friend's eloquent, speech, prefer the proposals of Lord Monteagle. If I may repeat myself once more, if we can postpone any further decision, although I certainly hope not rule out further discussion, upon it, I think it will be to the general advantage
§ LORD KILLANIN
My Lords, with reference to the speech of my noble friend who introduced the Bill and the policy it embodies, I should be inclined to dwell on the little support that his policy has in Ireland only for the fact that in the eyes. of the Government a "Bill for the Better Government of Ireland" is suitable, and that it is not a disqualification that that. Bill has not a single supporter in the House of Commons or anywhere in Ireland. The Bill in another place is based, or I believe professes to be based, on self-determination—the self-determination of two parts of Ireland. I have never seen a very good or very satisfactory definition of "self-determination," but it surprises me to see in the case of Ireland that a Bill conies under that. head which has no support in the country to which it is to be applied.
In comparison with that I beg to congratulate my noble friend on the fact that he has really got a few supporters in Ireland for his Bill. He will admit, in spite of the letters he read to us, that they are few, and that notwithstanding all the able and earnest advocacy of himself and other distinguished Irishmen the fact remains that in Ireland this solution of the Irish question—Dominion Home Rule—has not been taken up in the least, though it has been propagated there for some time past. The English Labour Party did seem to favour this solution of the Irish question, but they were immediately fiercely denounced by the Irish Labour Party for making such a proposition. As regards Sinn Fein the noble Lord admitted that he could not look for any 1137 support there, although they compose three-quarters of Ireland. I go further and say—I read it in a Sinn Fein paper the other day—that not alone would they not accept Dominion Home Rule but that it was an insult to propose it for Ireland because it implied that Ireland had once been a Colony. They say, "Ireland is not a Colony; it is not a Dominion. England is not Ireland's mother country." "On the contrary Ireland," they say, "was a nation hundreds of years before England."
The Bill now brought forward seems to me to deal with the matter on rather too theoretical a basis. The Irish question is not a theoretical thing. You can put forward schemes and systems which read well in theory, logic, and reason, but it does not follow that they will go down in Ireland. The Irish question is a practical problem, and whatever proposition you make you must relate it to the facts in Ireland. I will endeavour to point out what I consider are two probable developments, I might even. say two certain results, if this Bill becomes an Act and also comes into operation. Your Lordships roust remember that there are three stages in regard to legislation in Ireland. We have Bills, Acts, and we have Acts that come into operation. On the assumption that this Bill comes into operation I say that the following results will take place. It will be used by the Sinn Fein Party for the purposes of establishing their principle—I should rather say, for the purpose of strengthening the establishment of an Independent Sovereign Republic. in Ireland. The powers of this Bill will he used exclusively for that purpose. I say that the Bill will lead to the partition of Ireland. It is impossible to conceive that Ulster will come into Dominion Home Rule or into a Republic, and the net result will be civil war generally in Ireland.
In drawing attention to these probable results I am not expressing simply my own views. I am not prophesying; am not so foolish as to prophesy. But perhaps I am going to do even a more foolish thing than prophesy. I am going to rely on, and take at their word, the politicans. The Sinn Fein Party in Ireland, to do them justice, have been perfectly frank in their policy. They have made no attempt to deceive you; no attempt to disguise their views. I remember in past years when Home Rule was the policy it was really rather difficult to know what Home Rule 1138 meant. There was a very mild form and an extreme form of Home Rule. The Nationalist Members spoke often with different voices, with one voice in this. country and with another voice in another country, and it was extremely easy to be misled as to what Home Rule meant. But it is not possible to be misled as to what is the policy of Sinn Fein, because they have announced it as clearly and distinctly as possible. It is for an Independent Sovereign Republic in Ireland. Repeatedly Sinn Fein have put forward the fact that, in their opinion there are only two possible policies in Ireland—union or separation. They do not take the slightest interest in all the intermediate stuff of this Bill, or the Bill in the other place, except for the purpose of using such powers as will be given under these Bills in order to press forward and attain their own particular policy. I do not want to misrepresent. Sinn Fein, and really it is almost impossible to do so because they are so avowed in their views.
Here I should like to say a word or two to my own fellow-countrymen on this policy. I ask my own fellow-countrymen, leaving aside all question of the rights and wrongs, of loyalty to the Constitution as it exists, leaving aside whether the policy is really feasible and the effects of their policy in Ireland, I would like to ask them, Are they really prepared, do they really mean, to cut themselves adrift not only from the United Kingdom but from the Empire? I ask them, Are they really prepared to be aliens not only in this country but throughout the Empire? Are they prepared to be aliens in Liverpool and Glasgow and also in Melbourne and Montreal? Are they prepared to be deprived of, and excluded from, all the advantages of life and services, civil arid military, of the Empire. I ask them again, Are they really prepared to give up their share in this Empire to which their sons have contributed so much? Are they willing now to retire and give up their share in the greatest. Commonwealth the human race has ever seen? Are we going to have England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, India, all nations, combined together in one body, but not Ireland. It would be in my opinion a deplorable abdication and isolation for Ireland to take up such a position. It would be a denial and a desertion of her share and part in the great and noble inheritance of the Empire. 1139 I have endeavoured to show that in the first place the policy of my noble friend would lead to the establishment of an independent Republic. The second result which in my opinion would eventuate, would be partition, because it is impossible to conceive that Ulster would come into such a Dominion, much less into a Republic. There is not a single man in Ireland who is not opposed to partition. The essential principal of the Nationalist Party, and indeed of every other Party, is that Ireland must be one and undivided. The view which they hold of partition is such that it has been described as "blasphemy" and "abomination," and "that it would make a monstrosity of Ireland" and "would be the final and irretrievable ruin of Ireland." That is felt so strongly in Ireland that many Nationalists have said that if partition is inevitable in settling the Irish question, then it would be better to go on as we are. Cardinal Logue said 50 years of British Rule would be better than partition. Every public body, and every person in Ireland, denounces it in every shape and form. Even the Limerick and Cork Butchers' Association say they must have the whole hog, or nothing.
I have endeavoured to show briefly why, in my opinion, this Bill would result in the establishment of a Republic, in partition, and in civil war; and as I am not in favour of any one of those things, I am not going to support my noble friend. I should be sorry to sit down without making one suggestion as to what I think should be done. I have said that the great mass of the Irish people propose now to leave not only the United Kingdom but the whole Empire. I therefore submit to your Lordships that the Irish demand affects, now, not only the unity and welfare of the United Kingdom but the unity and welfare of the whole Empire. The minute that Ireland put forward claims not merely for reform in her own Government, not merely for this or that form of Devolution, or this or that measure of Home Rule, but claims for an Independent Sovereign Republic, I submit, my Lords, that the Irish question ceased to be a domestic question and one of home policy, and became an Imperial issue of the utmost gravity, involving Imperial interests and responsibilities.
Surely it is an Imperial issue now that at the very moment when all parts of the Empire are coining together and seeking 1140 more intimate knowledge of their mutual interests, the centre of the Empire should be broken up. That is the question before your Lordships, and I submit to the Government that the Empire, the various Dominions, should be definitely consulted in this matter. Their views would be of the utmost value, both in fact and on the merits of the question, and also in prestige and influence. My noble friend suggests an Assembly of Irishmen to settle the Irish question. I should have thought he had seen enough of that in the ease of the Convention, where they came to no conclusion on anything of any importance. They were assembled to see whether Ulster and the South of Ireland could come together, and all I saw was that the Nationalists and Unionists in the South of Ireland broke up amongst themselves. Therefore an Irish Constituent Assembly I look upon as of no use. It would merely aggravate the question like the Convention, which came to no conclusion on the main thing and differed on small things which I really thought Irishmen might have agreed upon.
Then, is it possible to have a Conference between this country and Ireland? I submit that it is not. The Irish people consider that British statesmen are prejudiced, that they cannot trust them, and that they have been betrayed by them; but they have always prided themselves upon, and rejoiced in, and boasted of, the sympathy of the Dominions. Therefore I believe that the Irish people would give great weight to any decision come to by a Conference composed of Dominion representatives and this country, and I believe would give unquestioned adherence to it. Then the Dominions say that they are actually suffering more than this country from the evil effects of the non-settlement of the Irish question. If that is so, would they not be willing to take their part in such a Conference? Dominion statesmen have immense experience of all the constitutional problems, and have had immense experience of those differences in religion and race which trouble us in Ireland. Those differences are far greater in the case of the British and the Boer in South Africa, or the Catholic from Ottawa and the Protestant from Toronto. Therefore I believe it would be a great advantage to invite them to come to the assistance of our own countrymen on what I submit is an Imperial issue. 1141 I venture, therefore, to suggest to the Government that an Imperial Conference should be summoned, composed of representatives of the Dominions and of the United Kingdom, to examine and report upon this great question of Ireland. It is said, my Lords, that the Bill in another place has been brought in very largely to satisfy public opinion in the Dominions. If that is so, it. means that the Government fully recognise that this is not only a British but an Imperial issue. If it is an Imperial issue my suggestion is that the Government should consult the whole Empire, and invite the Empire to assist them in an earnest and frank attempt to examine and settle this great old Irish question, and this new and extremely grave Imperial issue.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
My Lords, I want warmly to support. the suggestion of the noble Marquess as to an arrangement whereby this discussion should be adjourned. I can hardly think it would be regarded as an adequate procedure that, after a comparatively short discussion, this matter, whatever may be thought of the Bill itself, should be relegated to extinction. As to the speech of my noble friend who has just sat down, nothing would please me better than that a Conference should be called of the Dominions of the British Empire. Most of them have already given their opinion upon the subject—namely, that the largest possible measure of self-government should be extended to Ireland. But meanwhile something ought to be Clone, and whatever may be the immediate prospect of this Bill, every one who has studied the subject and who has convictions regarding it will naturally feel bound to express an opinion for or against the measure.
We have had some very interesting speeches, and for my part I should like first to allude to the source from which this Bill has emanated. My noble friend Lord Monteagle characteristically made no allusion to his own experience, but most of us know that he is one of those who have earned and deserved the title of model landlord. For many years he has been foremost in anything that concerns the welfare of Ireland. He also has been until lately a recognised member of the Unionist Party. Why, then, does he come forward with a measure of this sort? Because of the logic of events. He will not contradict 1142 me when I say that when he found that the measures for enabling land purchase to be made did not alter the attitude and convictions of the people of Ireland as a whole he felt that something else must be done in order to pacify the country.
At present, as we all know, the condition of Ireland must largely be described as chaotic. When I left Ireland officially a little more than five years ago the country was quiet. I lay no stress upon the circumstance that I had been nine years in office then, but it was quiet, and for some time previous to that the Sinn Fein movement had, so far as outward manifestations go, shown signs of diminishing in force. For example, the recognised organ of the movement, Sinn Fein, sank from being a daily to a weekly publication. No doubt the leaders of the movement, not so very numerous but very able and astute persons, were watching. For what were they watching? To see if the golden opportunity which had arisen for wide pacification and conciliaiton would be utilised. I am alluding to the fact that early in the war Mr. Redmond announced that the volunteers of the South would join with their brethren in the North and go to the war in defence of the cause of Britain. That utterance was welcomed with a great deal of enthusiasm. But there was a pause. I remember that I implored the Prime Minister of that day to send at least a telegram of appreciation of this offer, and he did so. But the matter was in the hands of the military authorities, and there was a good deal reserved. Then the Sinn Fein leaders saw their opportunity. They began to go round and say, "Look, they hesitate. The British Government won't trust you. Come with us and we will do you good."
Nevertheless recruiting went on. I will give your Lordships one illustrative example of recruiting. This occurred in the County of Clare, of all counties the one which is supposed to be the reverse of placid. In the district of Ennis, from a population of 5,000, no fewer than 800 young men enlisted. At this time the fact that the Home Rule measure had been put on the Statute Book was the main inducement. But difficulties were allowed to occur in regard to the recruiting in the Southern and Western districts. I do not wish to say anything polemical, or which would cause an uncomfortable feeling, but I am afraid it must be admitted that a distinction was made between the recruiting 1143 arrangements in the North and those in other parts of the country—for instance, in the use of emblems and in the recognition of distinctive divisions. That was very much desired by the Irish in general, but was not often granted. Then there was the event which certainly created a great impression in parts of Ireland of which I am thinking—namely, the appointment of Sir Edward Carson as Attorney-General in the Coalition Government. I am not going to dwell upon why that appointment was looked upon with great surprise, but it is a fact that recruiting in the month after that appointment fell from 6,000 to 3,000. I will not go further into this, for I am merely referring to these matters by way of explaining why, in my opinion, some measure such as that which has been put before us by my noble friend is necessary.
We all know of the lamentable event which came soon after the time of which I am speaking—the Easter-week rising. That was disapproved of, undoubtedly, by the vast majority of Irish people—probably by about 90 per cent.—but I am afraid the handling of that matter was not what would have been desired in the way of discretion. It was also announced that the Castle system was a failure. Yet in a few months it was in full force again. These are some of the causes which seem to me to make it imperative that there should be a new departure in the direction of this Bill. As to confidence in its safety, we have a strong analogy in Canada. Canada is a long way off, and Ireland is very near. Still, in the essentials of the arrangement, we have to remember that Canada was not always the loyal country which it has been for many years. The parting of the ways had been arrived at, and historians will agree that had it not been for the generous treatment extended under Lord Durham to Canada the history of that country might have been very different. We all know how it has been distinguished by loyalty ever since. Then we have South Africa. There, again, there was the parting of the ways, and some very eminent statesmen said, I believe, that they would wash their hands of any proposal to give full self-government to South Africa. But owing to the far-seeing statesmanship of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, as we all know, confidence was extended to that country to the inestimable advantage of the Empire.
1144 We all come, sooner or later, to the crux of this matter—namely, the question of Ulster. I confess that North-East Ulster has not been qui[...] fairly treated by successive Governments. I am using the expression "fairly treated" in a sense which is perhaps not that which is ordinarily given to it. So far as I know British Governments have not done anything to allay the apprehensions and alarms which have been expressed on the part of Ulster as to what would result on giving self-government to Ireland. On the contrary, all the anxious enquiries as to what Ulster could expect in the matter of guarantee and so forth have always had the effect of confirming those apprehensions and forebodings which, I am convinced, are largely unfounded. We have the example which has been alluded to already of how in the South and West of Ireland, where Roman Catholics are in the vast majority, there are no complaints of attempts to impose disability or oppression upon the Protestants. Protestant clergy and ministers are ready to stand up, and do stand up in public, and say that they have got on perfectly well with their neighbours, the Catholics, in those districts. There is one thing that the Irish Catholics cannot endure, and that is anything like proselytising. If proselytising is abstained from, there is no fear as to harmonious relations-continuing.
There is one other attempt which I think might have been made, or might yet, be made, to convince the people of North-East Ulster. It is this, that they should, as it were, perform—it might mean a great deal—an act of trust. After all, they are in the country. They do not approve of partition, I suppose, any more than any one else does. They are in the country for better or worse, and if they could by an act of confidence trust the people of the rest of Ireland instead of looking down upon them, as they often do, it would not only be a noble deed but would be good business. Although we are accustomed to speak of that section of the country as a thing apart there are business relations, of course, with the rest of Ireland, and the establishment of better relations would be, as I say, to the benefit of all concerned in a material sense as well as otherwise.
The annual celebration of the 12th of July is coming near. There is naturally a good deal of anxiety about that event. One can easily understand that His 1145 Majesty's Government would feel a difficulty in intervening. The Ulster leaders might have a difficulty, perhaps, in inducing the main body of the Orange lodges to acquiesce, but if, even now, the Orange community could undertake to forego the procession on this particular occasion in the name of law and order, to avoid this risk of disturbance, they would receive the admiration, not only of this country and the vast number of people in Ireland, but of the civilised world. It would be an act of self-abnegation, and would do untold good. My noble friend has made an eloquent appeal to Sinn Fein; I think that all men of good will would be ready to join in an appeal to the Orange lodges, if possible even now, to abstain from the celebration this year. After all, everybody knows that the Battle of the Boyne was a very important battle, but so also was the Battle of Waterloo, but we do not have a Waterloo celebration, largely because it would not be agreeable to the sensibilities of our French Allies. And therefore, as an act of grace, the stoppage of this procedure would be of enormous significance and benefit.
I wish to add that I am aware that the leaders of the Orange Party and the Ulster Members are anxious to secure, if possible that the provocative element should be, as far as possible, absent. I am not a member of an Orange lodge myself, and therefore I do not know exactly what the emblems are that are prominent on those occasions. I am afraid it would be rather difficult to have an Orange procession without some indication, of a definite sort, of so-called religious opinion. But still it is right to mention that I believe that the word has been passed round to avoid everything provocative, and we shall all devoutly hope that, if the processions are to be held, they should be got over without any serious disturbances.
As to Lord Dunraven's opposition he began by saying he was very anxious that he should not appear to be changing his mind. I am sure there are worse things than a change of mind. A general in the field does not hesitate to change his plans if he finds that the circumstances are different from what they were when he made his dispositions, and we all admit that the condition of Ireland is now so absolutely different from what it was, and so alarmingly serious, that any honest attempt to suggest a solution ought to 1146 receive very serious consideration. Though the noble Lord who spoke last said that only a few people were in favour of this measure the few include some very important people, and I would venture to read a few words from a letter by one whose name is a household word to most of us for his interest in Ireland—Sir Horace Plunkett. I had hoped that perhaps among the many desirable additions to the members of this House Sir Horace Plunkett would have been included. I suppose that may be something in store for us, and it would be very welcome. He says—The great thing to get is the principle admitted that the Irish question can now only be settled by an assembly of Irishmen, democratically elected, sitting in Ireland, and empowered to adopt any Constitution within the Empire consistent with the military safety——and so forth. It is the principle on which wish to lay stress. We have been told that the Sinn Feiners are irreconcilable, but if my noble friend thought them so irreconcilable one would not have thought it worth his while to make that appeal to them, but lie shows that he does not think they are impervious to a fresh reconsideration by his utterance of that appeal.
My noble friend Lord Monteagle stated—what he had gained on good authority—four heads under which Sinn Fein would, or would not, agree to any consideration of such a measure. It seems to me that the last two did not quite tally with the fist, because the last two declarations were that they would enter into the discussion of a measure giving self-government. The last head was also in the direction of concession, although they began by saying that nothing but a Republic would do. The point is that there are various degrees of Sinn Fein, and, whatever the leaders may think to be the one thing essential, if there was a definite offer made by His Majesty's Government either before, or in connection with, or subsequent to the Bill which we know is coming, that would be used, I believe, as a ground for reconsideration. What they lay stress on is "We want something definite; until then we are bound to hold the fort in our own way, and not consider any alternative." But if there was a firm offer in the direction of such a Bill as this there is really good reason to believe that, owing to the large number of people who are longing for peace 1147 and quietness in Ireland, the leaders would be sufficiently honest seriously to take up the consideration of the question.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I rise to make a practical suggestion to your Lordships. I was much impressed, as were others, with what was said by my noble friend who sits by me (Lord Crewe) about the desirability of neither slamming the door in the face of this Bill nor opening the door wide to it. It is a Bill that, if it is ever to go further, wants a great deal of consideration. One point which has not been made I will merely mention. In all previous attempts to prepare a Dominion Constitution the practice has been to convene an assembly of distinguished representatives of the Dominion which desires the Constitution, and then let them prepare a Report on which the Imperial Parliament, guided by skilled draftsmen, prepares the Constitution. But under this Bill, if it were to pass, that would not happen which happened at Quebec in October, 1864, when the Quebec Resolutions were passed on which the Dominion of Canada Act of 1867 was subsequently passed; nor would that happen which happened in Australia, when the Convention made a Report on which the Commonwealth of Australia Act of 1900 was passed.
The National Convention fashions a Constitution directly. It is a body of over 300, which is unskilled, as were the Conventions in Canada and Australia. The drafting resolutions which they produced were bad enough, but I wonder what the drafting resolutions of this Convention would be like, considering that the Convention's resolutions have at once to assume the form of an Act and to receive statutory validity. It is the Convention which makes the Constitution with its own hands. As the Bill is drawn, every county council in Ireland could raise the question of constitutionality in every respect. You would have these questions all over again. It is for that reason that I think I should not like to open the door to this Bill as it stands. But, on the other hand, to the principle of this Bill I extend a welcome, so far as the consideration is concerned. We have made up our minds, I think, that we have to drive one horse or the other in regard to Ireland, and our main complaint against the Government is that it tries to ride two at once. Either you rule Ireland, you maintain law and order by force, or you take responsibility where power is and 1148 putting upon the people of Ireland the duty of maintaining, law and order. If you are in earnest with the principle of democracy, that is what you have to do; because the people in this country will not allow you to persist in the other way of attempting to govern. I remember listening to Mr. Parnell, in a speech he made in 1887, when he said there were two ways and two ways only by which you could govern Ireland, and that you could take either of them but you must take the one or the othe—reither a Dictator or a Home Rule Parliament. What some of us feel, being driven to the second of these alternatives by the very force of Constitutional necessity, is that we should like to consider very fully and carefully the form of any legislative proposal that is brought forward for the purpose.
We have a proposal from my noble friend Lord Monteagle of Brandon which certainly is very well worth considering. In its substance it goes to the root of the matter in proposing to put the responsibility in the largest form upon the persons whom you wish to bring back to a sense of the necessity of using their power in such a way as to produce good government. Then there is the Government Bill. My mind is perfectly open on that measure. I have always thought that there was a great deal to be said for starting with two Parliaments if you could get to one Parliament in the end. I do not know in what form that Bill will come before us, and I wish to keep nix mind quite open on the form on which the principle that in common is accepted by the two kinds of Bill. If that is so, a debate of this kind to-day cannot be sufficient; and I venture to suggest that we should adjourn this debate so that the Bill, and Lord Dunraven's Amendment to reject it, will be both kept alive; and then my noble friend Lord Monteagle may put down his debate to come on at the same time as the Government Bill when it comes up to us in the autumn, so that we can discuss then the whole question of principle. For that purpose, and simply to give form to the situation, I will move that the debate be adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Viscount Haldane.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I should have been very glad if His Majesty's Government could have indicated the course which they thought 1149 ought to have been pursued in reference to this Bill; but I frankly admit that, in the absence of guidance from His Majesty's Government, I cannot favour the suggestion made by the noble and learned Viscount that this discussion should be adjourned. If, of course, the noble and learned Viscount had made the suggestion because he thought there were a great number of your Lordships who desired to address the House on the Second Reading, that would have been a different matter; but he seemed to think that the adjournment ought to be granted because your Lordships should keep an open mind in reference to this Bill. It is always right to keep an open mind in some sense. None of us is infallible, even the youngest of us; and in that sense, I suppose, no one ought to say his mind is absolutely closed.
But, as far as I am able to make a judgment, I think, and I believe the majority of your Lordships think, that this Bill is entirely unacceptable. I have heard no real defence of it throughout the debate, and personally I take, on grounds with which your Lordships are familiar, an adverse view of it. Even those noble Lords who supported the introducer of the Bill criticised the measure extremely severely. My noble friend the Leader of the Opposition evidently thought it required vital alteration, so did the noble and. learned Viscount who has just sat down—his view was that the Constitutional Assembly ought to decide the fate of Ireland. As a matter of fact, the Bill decides the fate of Ireland before the Constitutional Assembly is even called into being, because it is decreed to be a Dominion before anything else is to happen. Those are reasons which seem to me to indicate that the Bill is entirely unacceptable. I believe that is the view of the majority of your Lordships.
I see no reason, therefore, why, unless there were a desire on the part of other noble Lords to address the House, your Lordships should not come to a decision this evening. It is hardly right, perhaps, to speak at large on the merits on this Motion, but for my part I agree in the main with nearly all that fell from my noble friend Lord Killanin. He spoke from a great knowledge of Ireland; and I do not think that any of your Lordships could have listened to him without seeing how impossible was the proposal which was put before us. I do not agree with him, of 1150 course, in thinking that it would be a good thing to refer these matters to a great. Imperial body. Another committee! Perhaps it would not be out of keeping with what His Majesty's Government generally do in moments of difficulty to refer it to another Committee; but really no amount of Committees could get rid of the difficulties of the case. The difficulties of the case are inherent. My noble friend said very truly that the choice lay between the Union and separation. I, my Lords, am for the Union.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, the noble Marquess who has just sat down commented on the fact that no statement had been made on behalf of the Government. I have watched carefully every time a speaker resumed his seat and one of your Lordships has immediately risen. It certainly was my intention to take as early an opportunity as offered of explaining the position of the Government. I cannot, of course, do that on this limited Motion, but I will make a few observations on the proposal of the noble and learned Viscount.
Had it been merely a proposal made on behalf of those who support this Bill that, for their own convenience or for the convenience of the House, its further discussion should be postponed, I should have thought that was a matter which did not deeply concern the Government, and if they took that view I should not have any opposition to it. But when the noble and learned Viscount says it might be a convenient course to consider this Bill in the autumn when the Government Bill comes up to us, I want to enter a strong protest. We are bringing forward, with a deep sense of responsibility, proposals of our own. The noble Marquess has emphatically and effectively said what is his opinion. Many of those who have made themselves responsible for the proposals which we shall shortly attempt, to recommend in this House have all our long lives called ourselves Unionists. We have not lightly, or, we believe, recklessly, undertaken to recommend our Bill to your Lordships; we have done so with the sincere belief that we should be able to recommend it to the House when it reaches us. We do it in the hope that your Lordships May strengthen and improve a measure which will change the situation. For these reasons the idea to me that this Bill should be postponed and take its 1151 chance with the Government Bill is not acceptable. As the proposal put forward has come in that spirit and with that intention, I cannot see my way to agree to it.
My Lords, I want to say a word before this discussion comes to an end. Lord Dunraven said some very important and true things. When he stated, for instance, that Ireland would never be satisfied with a position which did not recognise her nationality, he said what was true. The very Title of this Bill raises a delicate situation, but at the same time the measure is a genuine attempt to deal with the position.
I myself am not in any sense a politician. If there is one subject in this wide world which annoys me it is politics. I have been so worried with politics, especially in my own country, that I have gone as far away from them as I possibly could for the last few years. I have been engaged chiefly on metaphysics and things of that sort. Suddenly in the midst of my dream my noble friend Lord Monteagle comes along, and I have to come over to discuss the situation again. While I was away and dreaming I had a most horrible nightmare, and in this nightmare there was a dog fight going on. There was a big Imperial dog and there was a small National dog, and the dogs were whirling round and round and rolling down hill towards a precipice, and I feared what was going to happen. The one thing that comforted me, as an Irishman, was that I thought possibly the smallest, lightest, most compact dog, the National dog, would survive, whatever happened to the other.
Suddenly Lord Monteagle comes along with this suggestion. Well, I do not say that it is beyond criticism. That is not now the question. What we have to deal with is the Second Reading and the recognition of the principle. He comes along with this, and what I want to emphasise, before your Lordships come to a decision, is that we have to face the Sinn Fein situation in Ireland. That means not necessarily that Ireland is entirely Sinn Fein, but that the great majority of Irishmen are following Sinn Fein and therefore that this Bill, if it is adopted, must be put as coming from your Lordships' House, as coming authoritatively from this country, as a proposition of peace to put an end to 1152 the trouble. It must be quite clear that it is not a proposition coming from any body of Irishmen, and there you will all recognise the advantage of the situation, when, as Lord Monteagle told us, the Bill does not, as it stands, represent any body of public men in Ireland but is simply an attempt to deal with the situation and to make a suggestion to your Lordships as to how your Lordships should act.
But we have a proverb in Ireland which seems to me to have a very definite bearing on the situation, Tir gan teanga tir gan anam. Ta an teanga sabhailte anois agus beidh Eire beo tamall maith go foill. I believe you would, in this country, say, "A country without a language is without a soul." But we also have this—Beidh si ag eiridhe nios laidire gach aon la. Acht ar feadh an t-am sin beidh rudai eile i gcontabhairt. The meaning of that is this, "Ireland can afford to wait." I am perfectly sure, from my knowledge of human nature, that if the proposition is made authoritatively from this country and representing the Empire, it is common sense that the proposition will be considered by my fellow-countrymen. I make that statement, not in the name of any one whom I represent, but in the name of common-sense. I am perfectly sure of that, but one thing is certain, and that is that Ireland can afford to wait, as the principle of Irish nationality is assured, as the Irish spirit can only change by becoming stronger and stronger. It is in the interests of the Empire that the question should be faced as soon as possible. There is always the danger that we may wish to let things slide. It is also almost a proverb in my country. I do not know what things are like here. I would remind you that there was once a king who, in the face of a difficult position, concluded that he would like to let things slide and the phrase he used was, Aprèes moi le déluge. That phrase has gone down to history.
My Lords, before the Motion is put I think the House will recognise that we have just listened to a very moving appeal from Ireland itself, and one which carries with it a weight perhaps out of proportion to the length of his observations, or, if the noble Lord will forgive me for saying so, the position he occupies in this House. It amounts to this—that he, and he is amply qualified for an estimate of the situation in Ireland, is of opinion that a proposal based on these 1153 lines is one which might excite friendly sentiments in Ireland and might lead to a favourable consideration by the more extreme section in Ireland of proposals for Home Rule.
It may be all very well for the noble Lord on the Woolsack to express his confidence that the proposals of the Government are going to be conspicuously successful. Is there a single man in this House—I am certain there is no one outside of it—who has the smallest confidence that the Home Rule proposals of the Government are going to settle the Irish question? And is it not a pure waste of time, and is it not surely a rather shameful reflection, that the House of Lords, conscious of that fact, should allow proposals of this kind, in, skeleton form it may be true, and quite possibly open to various objections, but at all events conveying a distinct proposition of Dominion Home Hule, which, in my judgment, offers about the only prospect of any possibility of success in the settlement of the Irish question, to be turned down in this abrupt manner and not left to future examination and consideration?
I heard with great satisfaction the speech of the noble Viscount in which he counselled this House to adjourn the debate. Coming from him it appeared to me to have considerable weight, because he belongs to a section of the Liberal Party with which I have been in dire conflict for a very long period. He belongs to that section of the Liberal Party which, in my judgment, has done more to injure the cause of Home Rule than anybody else in these Islands. They arrested the proper development of Mr. Gladstone's proposals. They prevented tire Parliament and the Government of which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the head, from dealing satisfactorily, as they might have done with their great majority, with the Home Rule question. Therefore, when I hear him suggest that this is a hopeful proposal in principle and that it would be desirable to adjourn it for future examination, all I can say is that I hope that you will now give your verdict that it shall be adjourned and left open for future consideration. In so doing the House of Lords will maintain the reputation it has gradually acquired of being, certainly at this moment, the most Liberal of the two Houses of Assembly in this country.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, I hesitate very much at this time of the evening to enter into a discussion of the merits of the Bill which is now before 1154 you. I think it is plain that a Bill with such consequences could not be discussed in a manner worthy of your Lordships' consideration excepting under great pressure and at the cost of curtailing or preventing what is essential—that is, adequate argument in answer and reply. On the other hand, I find it impossible merely to let this Bill go to a Division without attempting to say a few words upon its main provisions, and I desire also to ascertain a little more exactly what was meant by the Lord Chancellor's refusal to permit this Bill to go on with the Government measure in the autumn.
I understand, of course, that the Government would be extremely reluctant to permit this Bill and their own Bill to run in what I may call double harness. The two Bills are no doubt quite distinct, and any attempt to show even a lenient consideration for this Bill might reasonably be feared by the Government as capable of being construed into some hesitation and doubt as to the merits of their own measure. I understand that, and I do not wish to say anything at the moment in criticism of the Government's measure or anything that might suggest that it is inadequate and needs to be strengthened by some such proposal as that now before your Lordships' House. But I ask the Lord Chancellor,as representing the Government, seeing where we have reached in the course of this debate and how much further it will be necessary to go before the measure has been thoroughly discussed, seeing also that no man can foretell from hour to hour what may happen in Ireland or what the people might be anxious to discuss in a few months' time, whether the Government would not be prepared to allow this measure to be adjourned in order that it may he kept open for consideration and not concluded and finally dealt with under the conditions in which we are to-night.
I, speaking for myself, should not misunderstand the Lord Chancellor if he assented to that proposition. I should not regard him as having thought that this Bill could be, linked with the Government Bill. I should not use it for the purpose of saying that the Government had weakened in their own purpose. I should regard it as recognising this position, that when you are considering a question like Ireland you cannot keep open too many subjects for discussion, for you never can tell what may be the one upon which ultimately the right decision will depend, 1155 I appeal once more to the Lord Chancellor to say whether he cannot consent to the measure being kept alive and not require it to be disposed of to-night.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it is not a question of my consent; it is a question for your Lordships' House as a whole. I, however, gladly embrace the opportunity of making myself more clear. The reason I expressed myself so plainly was that I was a little disconcerted by the reference of the noble and learned Viscount to the Government's measure side by side with this Bill. It was a little disconcerting, because after all this is a Bill brought forward by a private member, and it is one which I say plainly is wholly impracticable. Had I spoken on the main Motion it was my intention to call attention to a number of points which, I think, would have enabled me to satisfy your Lordships that my criticism was not too strong. But the moment it is put forward that the friends of this Bill treat it as purely a private matter, and it is made perfectly plain that the Government has nothing whatever to do with it and is adhering entirely to their own scheme—so long as that is made perfectly plain—then I, as a member of the Government, am entirely disinterested in the proposal to adjourn it, and the Government Whips shall not be put on. Every noble Lord will be able to vote exactly as he likes on the merits of the proposal.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I think I first made the suggestion that the fact of dealing with this Bill summarily now Wright he greatly misunderstood by many people in Ireland whose opinions it is not desired to flout or ignore. I confess I hold that opinion strongly, and I cannot see what harm can be done by leaving the question of a possible solution, on the general lines of the Bill, open for further consideration if at any future time His Majesty's Government desires to proceed on these lines rather than on the lines of the Bill the ultimate form of which we cannot
§ foresee. In what shape the Government Bill will become law is on the knees of the gods. I appeal to your Lordships not to kill this particular proposition dead at this moment, but rather to leave it in a state of suspended animation, from which it may so happen it may never be roused but from which it could be roused if public opinion, and the Government, should tend rather in that direction than in the direction on which progress is at present being made. I hope, therefore, entirely without prejudice, that it may be possible to adjourn this debate rather than take a Division upon the merits of the proposal which, at any rate, cannot be said to have received anything like adequate discussion.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, the House is placed in a position of great difficulty by the course which has been taken this afternoon. I sympathise with the remark of the noble and learned Viscount that we ought to take care that we do not either slam the door altogether or open it too widely. The issue before us now is what course in the undoubtedly difficult situation will do the least harm. The Lord Chancellor has said that the Bill is a wholly impracticable proposal. I agree with him. I think it is a proposal which is fraught with imminent danger to the Empire if ever considered seriously, and I shall fight against it to the very utmost of my power. Therefore I think it is giving quite a false impression of what this House thinks if we adjourn a discussion of this kind until the autumn. If an adjournment had been desired for a few days for further consideration and discussion, I should have thought a little more of that proposal, but for the fear of giving a false impression outside and of people being led to think that this House could not for a moment entertain such a proposal, I am opposed to an adjournment until the autumn.
§ On Question, whether the debate shall be now adjourned—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 28; Not-Contents, 41.1157
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Buckmaster, L.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Crewe, M.||Charnwood, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (Lord Great Chamberlain.)||Cochrane of Cults, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Denman, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)||Sinha, L.|
|Craven, E.||Glenconner, L.||Southborough, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Hemphill, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Haldane, V. [Teller.]||Islington, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Knollys, V.||MacDonnell, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Monteagle of Brandon, L. [Teller.]||Weardale, L.|
|Norwich, L. Bp.|
|Birkenhead,L. (L. Chancellor.)||Astor, V.||Glenarthur, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Harris, L.|
|Bath, M.||Falkland, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Salisbury, M. [Teller.]||Goschen, V.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|Lovelace, E.||Killanin, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Monson, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Balfour, L. [Teller.]||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Midleton, E.||Barrymore, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Onslow, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Somerleyton, L.|
|Pembroke, and Montgomery, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Dynevor, L.||Sumner, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Farnham, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Motion to adjourn the debate disagreed to accordingly.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
May I put a question, for convenience, as to the further treatment of this Bill? Viscount Baldane's Motion, which you have just rejected, was that the debate be now adjourned. That Motion was defeated by the majority of your Lordships on the ground that Lord Haldane's Motion meant an adjournment till the autumn, and that ouch an adjournment might have a connotation as to our view about the merits or de-merits of the Bill. On the other hand Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who I think actually told against. Lord Haldane's Motion, expressed himself quite in favour of an adjournment to next week or the week after next to meet the convenience of Peers who might desire to speak, and I believe there are several who do desire to do so. I think it is probably quite within the bound of propriety, should your Lordships so desire it, to suggest, after having defeated what is in effect an adjournment to the autumn, that we should adjourn the debate to next week or the week after in order to meet the wishes of Peers who desire to speak.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I do not think I said exactly what the noble Earl suggests. I spoke strongly against the merits, and did not make any proposal for an adjournment for two or three days. If that had been the proposal I do not think I should have spoken so strongly against it, but I think there would be considerable awkwardness, and it might be misconceived if, having rejected the Motion to adjourn the debate, we then proceeded to adjourn it for two or three days.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Bill has been examined with so much care, both by Lord Dunraven and by other speakers, that the observations which I have to make upon it may be indicated very shortly. The first idea which must have occurred to everybody's mind was that this was not a matter which could possibly be carried through on the introduction and responsibility of a private member. Every one is indebted, I think, to the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading for the extremely interesting speech that he made, for the evident care which he had given to the subject, and for his conscientious and anxious desire, which every sentence of his speech showed, that he might be able to contribute something to the solution of this question. But these things are far too grave and far too difficult to be dealt with by the resources which are open to any private member of this House.
The scheme of the noble Lord contains many grave and most objectionable proposals. It expressly abrogates the supremacy of the United Kingdom Parliament, especially in relation to foreign affairs. It empowers the Irish Government to enter into independent commercial Treaties with foreign countries, and makes provision for the representation of Ireland on Imperial Councils and in the League of Nations. We have only to cast our eyes round Ireland to-day and see what is going on there, and ask whether anybody can come forward who retains any reputation for responsibility and say that powers such as these shall be given at this time of all others to an Ireland constituted as we know Ireland to-day.
I know that I am in some quarters inviting the retort, "Are you not doing something very like that in the proposals which are being brought forward in another 1159 place?" When I come to examine and explain those proposals I entertain no doubt but that I can satisfy your Lordships that we are doing nothing of the kind. We have made proposals for the immediate suspension, should it become necessary, of the operation of the powers given to the South of Ireland, and unless the South of Ireland is at the time in a state in which a sane man could reasonably hope that the powers which are contained in our proposals could be allowed to become effective, they will be suspended. It may be, or it may not be, that we shall see a Parliament sitting in the North of Ireland at a moment when the South of Ireland is not prepared to give sufficient evidence of loyalty and goodwill to admit of a Parliament being set up there. I do not think it is too much to say that opinion in the North of Ireland is crystallising overwhelmingly in the direction of saying, "We will try it and make it work, and prove to the whole world and to our countrymen that Irishmen in the North of Ireland are not incapable of managing their own affairs,"
This Bill gives enormous powers and takes enormous risks, as I have already pointed out. And what are we to say of the proposals in relation to naval and military matters? All the military forces are summarily to be withdrawn from Ireland. The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of this Bill gave no indication in his remarks that he had observed that there was a state of affairs existing in Ireland at this moment which would make it absolutely impossible to withdraw the military forces. Indeed, I was rather amused, if I maw say so, at the statements that fell from the noble Lord when he said, "The Government must give up their policy of coercion and militarism." Our policy may be ineffective, but the only possible retort is, "Let the assassins begin." The noble Lord cannot really suggest that we should leave all those who are without protection to their fate. We may not be affording thorough protection; in fact, there is a good deal to be said for the view that we are not doing it effectively; but it is our duty to try, and we are trying to afford protection to those who need it. The noble Lord rather suggested that we should undertake the responsibility of leaving all th se persons in the South of Ireland to be the helpless victims of murder and outrage. He did not supply 1160 one argument that would lead one to suppose that this kind of thing was going on in Ireland.
I was a little astonished at the considerable degree of approval which the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, gave to the proposals of this Bill. The anecdote which the noble Marquess told us added a new terror to death. He said that he had pointed out to Lord Randolph Churchill that the Unionist Party were confronted and would be confronted by the Ulster difficulty. I think that Lord Randolph Churchill might possibly have replied that the noble Marquess and his friends were equally likely to be confronted by a difficulty such as, in fact, the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount who sits beside him were at one period of our history confronted with. They then decided in the most solemn manner that that which they had attempted to do could not be done and ought not to be done. I have the words that were used by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, in 1914. He said—I say, speaking again on behalf of the Government, that in our view, under the conditions which now exist—we must all recognise the atmosphere which this great patriotic spirit of union has created in the country—the employment of force, any kind of force, for what you call the coercion of Ulster, is an absolutely unthinkable thing. So far as I am concerned, and so far as my colleagues are concerned—I speak for them, for I know their unanimous feeling—that is a thing which we would never countenance or consent to.The implication there is clear. I tried to avoid any reference to this, but it has been introduced, and I am entitled to point out that Mr. Asquith and his colleagues recognised that which they had tried to do could not be done and ought never to have been attempted.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
If the noble and learned Lord would allow me for one moment, I would say that we never tried political coercion in Ulster.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Marquess has not grasped my meaning, which I did my best to make clear. The noble Marquess realises, as plainly as I do, that the controversy stated and re-stated in this House and in another place between the Government of which he was then a member and the Party to which I belonged was whether—it being allowed that Ulster would never consent to the Home Rule 1161 Bill of 1914—Ulster should be forced to accept it by coercion. The noble Marquess surely remembers the long and bitter discussion that ranged round that subject, and he must remember the very plain statements made by some of his colleagues as to what would be right to do and what they would be willing to do. The observation I make is that rather late in the controversy, but very fully, Mr. Asquith recognised that the course which had been recommended was one that could not be carried out, and he made the utmost possible reparation which was in his power to make.
This Bill gives no real assistance of any kind in the solution of this question. I do not propose to deal with the points of the Bill in detail. I will take one point which is fundamental. At this moment we have a singular object lesson bearing upon the noble Lord's Bill. Quite recently elections took place to all local and borough councils. Those elections were held in constituencies identical with that. proposed by the noble Lord in this Bill, and held by that method of election which the noble Lord recommends in this Bill. What was the result? The whole country was intimidated. Violence was everywhere rife. There was, in addition, genuine and almost complete unanimity of opinion among those who voted, and the result is that to-day the whole of these councils are completely under the control and dominated by men whose first act after the election was to take the oath of allegiance to the Irish Republic. Has the noble Lord the slightest ground for believing that the same electorate, after appeals which excite them much more, will not do exactly the same thing?
Whatever other measure can be recommended at this time I am sure that that for which the noble Lord has asked a Second Reading cannot be so recommended. It will not, and it ought not to be supposed that we exclude from our consideration any proposals, or any suggestions that come from any well-disposed quarter in dealing with this problem. For our present proposals, be they good or be they bad (and I was myself a member of the sub-committee which drafted the Bill), we read most carefully every proposal that was before the Convention, every various form in which the proposal in the direction of Colonial government had been made. We 1162 may have been right or we may have been wrong—your Lordships will pronounce upon that in the autumn—but we rejected no source of information; and I feel sure that, of all the proposals which, in an anxious time, we considered, there were very few which contained so many elements of possible danger as the one in the Bill for which the noble Lord asks us to give a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to, and Bill to be read 2a this day six months.