§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD BIRKENHEAD):
My Lords, after nearly thirty years of public life I cannot recall an occasion which has afforded me more anxiety than the task which. I have undertaken to-day. I should be blind indeed if I ignored the atmosphere of emotion and indignation in which all of us at this moment must approach the consideration of this question; and it will be necessary for us later to ask ourselves, as we frequently had to ask ourselves during the late war, the difficult question, What is the true perspective which must be assigned to the appalling crimes to which the attention of the country was directed yesterday?
It has occurred to me that in the first place, before I attempt to address myself to the arguments which deservedly require the consideration of the House, I might perhaps render a useful service by attempting to make it plain what are the actual proposals contained in the Bill now before the House. I have prepared a Memorandum which I hope may be more intelligible than the actual terms of the Bill to those of your Lordships who are not accustomed to examine Bills, and which, reported in the columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT, may give some assistance to those of your Lordships who follow me in this debate or propose to take part in the Committee stage.
The proposals of the Bill can be classified under three heads—legislature, executive, and finance. I will deal in the first place with the legislative proposals. A Parliament is set up for Southern Ireland, consisting of His Majesty and the House of Commons of Southern Ireland; and a second Parliament is set up for Northern Ireland, consisting of His Majesty and the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland under the proposals of the Bill means the six counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, 422 and Tyrone, together with the boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry; Southern Ireland means the rest of Ireland. Each Parliament is empowered to make laws for the order and good government of its area in all matters relating exclusively to that area, except certain matters which are expressly excepted from its jurisdiction. These excluded matters are enumerated under thirteen heads in Clause 5 of the Bill. They are practically identical with the matters that were excluded from the Parliament of all Ireland under the Act of 1914, save that submarine cables, wireless telegraphs, aerial navigation, and negotiable instruments appear for the first time in the present Bill.
The matters that are excluded fall into two main groups. The first group comprises the Crown, the making of peace or war, combatant forces, treaties and foreign relations; and as regards these it may be noted that the Irish Convention acquiesced in the exclusion of the Crown and the making of war and peace, qualified the exclusion of the combatant forces by a suggestion that the Irish Government should arrange with the Imperial authorities for a local defence force to be raised and paid for by the Irish Government, and qualified the exclusion of treaties and foreign relations by recommending, provisionally, that Ireland should have power similar to the Dominions in respect of commercial treaties. In the second group the main exclusion is trade with any place out of the part of Ireland within their jurisdiction. This really turns upon the exclusion of the power to impose duties of Customs and Excise. I shall have more to say upon this point when I approach some alternative proposals which will require discussion. The other exclusions in this group—navigation, merchant shipping, light-houses, buoys and beacons, quarantine, coinage, legal tender, standard of weights and measures, trade marks, designs, merchandise marks, copyright or patent rights—are matters as regards which a uniform system throughout the United Kingdom, and in the case of merchant shipping throughout the Empire, is obviously of the highest moment for national and Imperial purposes.
In addition to the above exclusions certain taxes are excluded from the powers of the Irish Parliaments. Your Lordships will find this in Clause 21, and I will say a word about that when I deal with the financial proposals of the Bill. Certain other matters are reserved, not permanently 423 but temporarily. Instances of such temporary exclusions are the postal service, the Post Office Savings Bank, trustee savings banks, designs for stamps, and the Public Record Office of Ireland. These are reserved until the date of Irish union, and are then to pass to the United Irish Parliaments. But the two Parliaments are given power under Clause 10 to pass identical Acts to transfer these matters to the Council of Ireland prior to union or to continue the reservation after union. The justification—the complete justification—of this reservation is that it would be impracticable to divide these matters between Southern and Northern Ireland. If I may remind your Lordships who were concerned with the proposals of 1914, the postal services and Post Office Savings Banks were reserved under that Act until the Irish Parliament had passed a resolution to take them over.
Land Purchase is also reserved, as it was reserved under the Act of 1914, for the evident reason that the completion of land purchase is an Imperial obligation and can only be effected by money raised on the Imperial credit. Your Lordships will have observed that proposals for the completion of Land Purchase will shortly be laid before the House of Commons and in due course will make their way to this House. The two Irish Police Forces—the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police—are reserved until such date as His Majesty in Council may determine, not being later than three years after the appointed day, and upon that date the police forces are transferred to the two Parliaments. Under the Act of 1914 your Lordships may recall that the Constabulary was reserved for a period of six years.
No one will contend that the establishment of separate Parliaments for Southern and Northern Ireland is an ideal arrangement. It is dictated by the condition of the present situation which is believed to be fundamental. If smooth administration and economy were alone to be considered it would be infinitely preferable that there should be a single Parliament and a single Executive for the whole of Ireland. This Bill, therefore, while it complies with the conditions which I have assumed to be fundamental, recognises the possibility of a United Ireland, and supplies a simple and effective means by which union can be brought about by the two Parliaments.
With this object in view—I shall have 424 something more argumentative, as is necessary, to say upon this point later—the Bill sets up a Council of Ireland, which is to consist of forty-one members, twenty appointed by each House of Commons, and a President appointed by His Majesty. Of the twenty representatives of each House of Commons ten must be members of the appointing House, but the remainder may, if the House thinks fit, be non-members. These provisions are to be found in Clause 2. The reason for the establishment of the Council cannot be better expressed than in the terms which are used in the Bill itself—With a view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland, and to bringing about harmonious action between the Parliaments and Governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, and to the promotion of mutual intercourse and uniformity in relation to matters affecting the whole of Ireland, and to providing for the administration of services which the two Parliaments mutually agree should be administered uniformly throughout the whole of Ireland, or which by virtue of this Act are to be so administered, there shall be constituted the Council of Ireland.Under the provisions of Clause 11 subsection (3) the Council has to consider any questions which may appear in any way to bear on the welfare of both parts of Ireland, and in particular it is to consider what Irish services should, in the common interest, be administered by a body having jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, and it has to make recommendations to the two Parliaments for the transfer of such services to the Council. Under the terms of Clause 11 subsection (1) the two Parliaments are authorised to delegate to the Council, by identical Acts, any of their powers.
The first duty of the Council is to frame a scheme for the establishment of Second Chambers to the two Parliaments, and to submit a scheme to the two Houses of Commons for their consideration. Much will inevitably be said in the course of these debates on the subject of the provisions for the Second Chambers. Let me indicate at this stage, briefly, that the main object of the Second Chambers must be the protection of minorities in the respective parts of Ireland. It is very difficult to see how adequate protection can be afforded unless by Second Chambers constituted on very special lines. The difficulties are almost insuperable—I believe them to be insuperable, and the Government at least has become convinced that they are insuperable 425 —of imposing a Second Chamber on either of these Parliaments from without., but having regard to the fact that the majority in Southern Ireland is closely connected by religion and sentiment with the minority in Northern Ireland and vice versa, it might, one would hope, be anticipated that the representatives of the two Parliaments, meeting together in the Council, may devise a scheme of Second Chambers that the two Parliaments, inspired by an interest which after all is mutual, would adopt, which would secure reciprocal protection for the respective minorities. Should the two Parliaments feel the wisdom of delegating some of their powers and services to the Council, this would be the first step towards union which might be, and it is hoped would be, followed by greater delegation and ultimately by the recognition of the great advantage of a United Parliament. That contingency is expressly pro vided for in the Bill, which authorises the two Parliaments to establish, by identical Acts, a Parliament for the whole of Ireland in lieu of the Council.
In addition to these advisory functions, which it is freely conceded are functions only to be contingently exercised, legislative and administrative powers with regard to railways and fisheries are vested in the Council in the beginning, with a view to the uniform administration throughout Ireland of the public services in connection therewith. The Council is also vested with legislative functions as regards Private Bills affecting all interests, both in Southern and Northern Ireland. Those who are aware of the small progress, which proposals in relation to private legislation have made in the cases of Scotland and Ireland up to the present day will not be disposed to disparage the importance of these functions.
It is necessary now that I should address myself to the contingency of either part of Ireland not accepting this Bill. This contingency is provided for in Clause 70, which was inserted on Report in the House of Commons on November 8. The clause provides, in effect, that if the number of persons validly returned to the House of Commons in Southern Island or Northern Ireland at the first Election is less than one half the total number, or if less than one-half the total number take the Oath as such members within fourteen days after the date of the first meeting, then His 'Majesty in Council may provide for 426 the dissolution of the Parliament concerned and for the postponement of the summoning of a new Parliament, and may also provide for the government of that part of Ireland being carried on by the Lord Lieutenant with the assistance of a Committee of Irish Privy Councillors appointed by His Majesty, whilst the powers of the Parliament are to be exercised by a Legislative Assembly comprising the members of this Committee and such other members as His Majesty may appoint. In plain words, this is a substitution of Crown Colony Government for the Representative Government proposed by the Bill. A question which has been asked, and which will continue to be asked, is whether either part of Ireland will refuse to work the Bill, and the test of acceptance of the Bill which this clause applies is that the population either does or does not elect to their House of Commons an adequate number of members to serve in the Constitutional Parliament of which His Majesty is the head. If such a number are validly elected and are willing to take the oath of allegiance as members, the required condition is satisfied. At present seventy of the Irish Members are pledged to an Irish Republic and nothing else, and obviously, unless the views of the electors have changed before the first election to the separate House of Commons, the condition will not be satisfied and Crown Colony government will supervene. In the meantime this Bill, with its offer of a representative Parliament and responsible government, presents an alternative to the electorate. The suspension of constitutional government under the clause is not necessarily permanent. It will be open to His Majesty at any time, by Order in Council, to summon afresh the Parliament of that part of Ireland concerned, if and when it appears t hat there is reasonable prospect that the Parliament would be accepted.
I will now say a word as to the representation in the United Kingdom House of Commons and the Houses of Commons of Ireland. Under the Bill, Ireland's representation in the United Kingdom House of Commons is to be continued, but the numbers are to be reduced from 105 to 46. That provision is contained in Clause 18. In the Bill, as introduced, the number was 42, but an Amendment was carried in the House of Commons, and accepted by the Government, giving representation to the Universities. Forty-two 427 borough and county Members are distributed among existing Parliamentary constituencies as nearly as may be according to population. Under the Act of 1914 also, as the House will recollect, the number was 42, and the constituencies in the Act of 1914 were substantially the same as the constituencies in the present Bill, with such changes only as are necessitated by the division of Ireland into two parts and by the alterations made by the Irish Redistribution of Seats Act. On a strict population basis Ireland's representation in the United Kingdom House of Commons would be 69, and the number of 46 does not pretend to have been determined upon any very logical principle. Any in and out arrangement, as the experience of those who have attempted to frame home Rule Bills shows, is impossible, and in order to compensate for the fact that the interests of Irish Members in matters dealt with by the House of Commons cannot under the new arrangements be as wide as those of other Members of the House, it has been thought right not to give Ireland full representation upon a basis of population.
The House of Commons of Southern Ireland is to consist of 128 members, of whom four are to be returned by Dublin University and four by the National University, leaving 120 county and borough Members. The House of Commons of Northern Ireland is to consist of 52 members, of whom four are to be returned by the Queen's University of Belfast, leaving 48 borough and county Members. The constituencies are the same in the case of the United Kingdom House of Commons and the Irish Houses of Commons, but four times as many members are to be returned to the Irish Houses as are to be returned to the United Kingdom House. The members of the Irish Houses are to be elected on the principle of proportional representation, and from this circumstance arises the necessity of large constituencies. Excluding the University constituencies, there will be an average of: one Member for every 26,052 of the population of Southern Ireland, and one Member for every 26,164 of the population of Northern Ireland. The principle of proportional representation needs, I think, no recommendation to this House, and its application to Ireland was expressly recommended by the Irish Convention.
I will add a word or two about the Executive. Following the precedent of 428 all previous Home Rule Bills the Executive under the present Bill is to be an Executive under the Crown, consisting of Privy Councillors who are members of and responsible to the local Parliament. The powers of the Executive extend over the same field as the powers of Parliament, and no further. Under the present Bill, of course, there are to be two Executives corresponding to the two Parliaments. The constitutional powers of the Executive will be found in Clause 9 of the Bill.
I come now to the date at which the Bill is intended to come into operation. It comes into operation naturally upon the appointed day. Normally the appointed day is to be the first Tuesday in the eighth month after the Bill passes. That is the provision of Clause 71. If the Bill, therefore, passes in December of 1920, it will come into operation normally on August 2, 1921, but power is reserved to His Majesty to accelerate or postpone the coming into operation of the Act by seven months either way. For instance, in the event mentioned January 2, 1921, would be the earliest day, and March 2, 1922, would be the latest day.
I pass on to the financial provisions of the Bill. The limitations under which such matters are discussed in this House are familiar to all of us, and it would evidently be wrong that I should attempt a general explanation of its provisions and effect without making your Lordships as clearly aware as it is in my power to do of the effect and scope of the financial provisions of the Bill. It provides that each of the Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland shall have power to impose and collect taxes within their respective jurisdiction, other than Customs and Excise duties on articles manufactured and produced, Excess Profits Duty, Corporation Tax, Income Tax, and Super-Tax. The taxes so excepted will continue to be levied and collected by the United Kingdom, and the proceeds of those taxes, after deduction of the Imperial contribution—to which I will refer in a moment—and the cost of reserved services, will be paid into the respective Exchequers of Southern and Northern Ireland, and will be appropriated in due course to the public service of these Governments. The Parliaments of Southern and Northern Ireland will have power to impose certain taxes which are transferred to them—namely, Death Duties, Stamp Duties, Licences and 429 Entertainments Tax, and certain miscellaneous items, amounting altogether to £3,500,000. In addition, the local Parliaments will have power to impose taxes not substantially the same in character as the taxes which are reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Special powers have been granted to enable the local Parliaments to vary the rate of Income Tax and Super-Tax. They are entitled out of any surplus funds in their possession to grant rebates to Income Tax-payers who are both resident and domiciled in Ireland, or, on the other hand, they may charge a surtax in addition to Income Tax on such persons. The object of these provisions is to enable a variation to be made in the Income Tax and Super-Tax without disturbing the central collection of the Imperial Income Tax and Super-Tax. The central collection is of extreme importance both to the United Kingdom and to the Irish Parliaments, as any breaking up of the Imperial Income Tax and the granting of concurrent powers to the local Parliaments world not only cause the tax to be less fruitful but would lead very probably to a demand, which would not be assented to, for the abolition of the deduction of Income Tax at the source.
In what I have said hitherto with regard to taxation, I have dealt with its future machinery rather than its results. I will now attempt to show, for illustrative purposes upon the Estimates of 1920–21, what the effect will be upon the financial position of the United Kingdom on the one hand and of the two Irish Parliaments on the other. I should explain to your Lordships that I am dealing with the Estimates of 1920–21 without taking into consideration the revenue from the Excess Profits Duty, which is a special war tax, and I exclude from the other side of the accounts the special expenditure remaining over from the war, such as the bread subsidy. What alone is useful is to obtain a comparison which eliminates as far as possible those consequences of the war in the field of taxation which it is hoped may be more or less temporary.
Upon this basis the estimated revenue will be £48,500,000, while the expenditure, including about £1,750,000 for future services the expenditure upon which has not yet matured, will amount to £26,250,000. Included in the £26,250,000 is the cost of the present Irish services and of the reserved 430 services, so that the balance of £22,250,000 is a net amount which, if this Bill did not conic into operation, would be contributed by Ireland towards the Imperial Exchequer of the United Kingdom. I do not think your Lordships will doubt that there should be some contribution made by the Irish Parliaments to the Imperial Exchequer. The principle was admitted by the Irish Convention and in subsequent debates in the House of Commons. Instead of fixing the present rate of contribution—that rate which, as I have said, would be paid if this Bill did not become effective, the £22,250,000—the Bill proceeds upon the basis that for the first two years there shall be an Imperial contribution of £18,000,000, but provision is made that this contribution may be challenged by either of the Irish Parliaments on the ground that it does not represent the capacities of the Parliaments to pay. Should such a challenge be made, the actual amount of the contribution for the two years will be settled by the Joint Exchequer Board. After the end of two years the Bill contemplates that the Joint Exchequer Board should take into account the capacity to pay and should fix the contribution for a period of five years, after which time it can be again revised.
It will be seen—the excess of revenue over expenditure being estimated at £22,250,000—that when the Imperial contribution is fixed in the way I have described at £18,000,000, there is a margin of £4,250,000 to which the Irish Parliaments will be entitled. But; that is not the only margin which will be available for them. As I explained in dealing with the amount of expenditure, there is a sum of £1,750,000 for services which have not yet matured. The margin is increased, therefore, to £6,000,000. Nor is this all upon the financial side. It is intended to make a free grant to Ireland of the Irish Land Annuities, amounting at this time to about £3,250,000 and rising to something over £3,500,000 as the existing land sales are completed. The full margin, therefore, which will be available for the Irish Parliaments over and above all existing Irish expenditure is not less than £9,250,000 after providing for the Imperial contribution. This sum is divided between the two Parliaments. Southern Ireland receives a total surplus of £7,000,000 and Northern Ireland a total surplus of £2,250,000. Your Lordships will see, therefore, that the Imperial contribution has been fixed at a moderate figure well within the capacity of Ireland 431 to pay, and the results of this moderation and of the generous gifts of the Irish Land Annuities are very substantial margins which will enable the Irish Parliaments to be free from anxiety, at least in the earlier years of operation. Such are the proposals of the Bill both in relation to its general clauses and in relation to those clauses which deal more especially with the subject of finance. Having, however tediously, I hope without avoidable obscurity, indicated the general nature of these proposals, I venture to ask that they shall receive a degree of consideration in this House which is not biassed by comments that have been made elsewhere upon the Bill.
What is it that is actually conceded to Ireland? Here, with the greatest respect, I address myself more particularly to those sponsors and supporters of the Act of 1914 of whom we are so fortunate as to have many influential representatives in this House. This Bill gives to the Irish people—gives to the Northern Parliament and to the Southern Parliament—powers for dealing with their own education, their own agriculture, their own land, their own labour, their own poor law, their own local government, their health, their railways, their liquor legislation, their legal arrangements, their old-age pensions, and the problems that relate to unemployment and health insurance. We offer under the terms of this Bill full powers in relation to those matters to the North of Ireland; we offer the same powers to the South.
We have recognised plainly—and frankly recognise—the special case of Ulster. The case of Ulster is the obstacle upon which, more than upon any other single cause, previous proposals have broken and failed. It is well within the recollection of this House that after the 1914 Bill had pursued its tempestuous and controversial course a special Government of Ireland (Amendment) Bill, 1914, was introduced into this House, supported by the authors and parents of the 1914 Bill—a proposal which had no object except to recognise the special and exceptional circumstances in which the community of the district in Northern Ireland found itself. In the last few years the matter has developed even further. Nothing would induce me, if I could avoid it—and I can avoid it—to say one provocative word I in this anxious and fate-charged moment in regard to the stormy 432 and bitter controversies which are still alive in the memories of every one of us. But I am bound in justification of these proposals, and every member of this House is bound by the responsibility of the vote which he will give upon this Bill, to take note of certain events which have occurred since the proposals of 1914, or the Act of 1914, last engaged the attention of this House.
In the first place, while Mr. Asquith was still Prime Minister, and while Lord Grey and Lord Crewe were still his colleagues, he declared in clear and eloquent language that no proposals to coerce the population of Ulster could be adopted or carried out by the Government of which he was the head. The present Prime Minister, as is well known, is equally bound to the same view, and it is a view which has always commanded the support of an overwhelming majority in this House. It is a view which has been founded upon indisputable historic fact, upon differences which are as deep as the very differences between the population of Southern Ireland and ourselves—the very differences upon which the whole claim for self-government is founded by the South of Ireland.
When once you accept, as this House has so often accepted, the view that the case of Ulster is a case of a population overwhelmingly Protestant, in its main attributes resembling far more closely the population of Scotland than the population of the South of Ireland—when once that recognition is clearly and candidly made the framers of this or of any other Bill are confronted, in relation to Ulster, with two alternatives and with two alternatives only. They may either leave Ulster in its present position—that is to say, they may give Ulster no Parliament of its own, and allow the Ulster representatives as heretofore to come to the House of Commons in London—or they may adopt the course, which is adopted in this Bill, of giving a separate Parliament to Ulster, possessing functions comparable to those assigned to the Parliament in the South. No one, I suppose, would dispute that, inasmuch as this is a concession which is almost universely conceded to be necessarily due to the static elements in the situation to which I have referred, and inasmuch as it is a modification which is made in favour of Ulster, the opinion of the Ulster representatives themselves upon this point must carry an overwhelming and, it may be, even a decisive weight.
433 We shall he told that eight months ago, or six months ago (I do not recall the precise period) the representatives of Ulster plainly expressed their preference for remaining as heretofore under the jurisdiction of the Imperial Parliament, and that eight months ago representatives of Ulster made it plain that, if, it was left to them, of the two, and the only two, alternatives they would prefer to remain in their present constitutional position. As I read what is said and what is written by the leaders of the Ulster Party I have no doubt at all that they have profoundly changed the view which they then expressed. If it is said that a community should not change its views on matters of principle which are fundamental in the short period of six or eight months, I venture to reply that we live in months which are crowded with great events, and that no man and no community in the days in which we live can be charged with inconsistency if opinion in that time has undergone modification.
Let me make plain to you what are the opinions upon this point of those who are entitled, by universal agreement, to speak on behalf of the population of Ulster. In the course of the Third Leading debate in the House of Commons the leader of the Ulster party, Sir Edward Carson, said (it is in HANSARD, Vol. 131, No. 137, col. 1441)—Where will you get a better method of self-determination than this? Do you think it would be a better self-determination to say to the Irish people, 'You go by the majority and set up something that the people of the North of Ireland loathe and detest, and then, if they do not accept it, go and shoot them down. Is that self-determination? No, Sir, this Bill sets up a procedure for a union and unity of the whole of Ireland, but it will be a real unity, and not a sham unity. In my belief no other scheme so statesmanlike, or so near to self-determination, which is so loosely defined, has ever yet been brought before this Parliament.That was a statement made by Sir Edward Carson in the course of the debate. Since that speech was made I have received a letter, entirely unsolicited by myself, from Sir Edward Carson which I think it worth while to read to the House. It is in these terms—My dear Lord Chancellor,—With reference to the Government of Ireland Bill, which will be before the House of Lords next week, I observe that it is frequently stated that r o one in Ireland wants the Bill passed into law. May I say with the full consent of all my colleagues from Ulster that this is a fallacy. It is quite true that we are 434 all of opinion that to retain the Union is the soundest policy, but we recognise that under the existing circumstances, and especially having regard to the fact that the Act of 1914 is upon the Statute Book, it is not possible to secure that, provision as it at present stands. Ulster wants peace, and above all things to be removed from the arena of party politics in the Imperial Parliament. We have agreed therefore, and have made up our minds, that in the interests of Ireland, Great Britain, and the Empire the bust awl only solution of the question is to accept the present Bill and endeavour to work it loyally.It is right that I should make plain to you, inasmuch as we are repeatedly told that nobody in Ireland wants this Bill, that the arrangements for establishing and working their Parliament and all the ancillary institutions which are involved in the establishment of that Parliament have reached a high degree of progress in Ulster at the present moment. There is at least one part of Ireland, homogeneous, commercially extremely important, very experienced in business affairs, which is prepared the moment this Bill becomes operative to show the whole world that Irishmen are capable of conducting their own affairs and that the powers and facilities received under this Bill are neither trivial nor illusory.
The attitude of Ulster is very intelligible. Think of the nightmare in which they have lived in the last fourteen years. Is it very unintelligible that they should be prepared to make an attempt with a proposal which at least gives them finality, that they should be prepared to show that the qualities of self-government are possessed by those who inhabit that part of the Empire.
I pass front the case of Ulster to make some observations upon the powers we have given to the Central Council. I most boldly say that, intentionally or unintentionally, the greatest possible injustice has been done to the proposals which we made in relation to the Council. You may, if you choose, make alternative or larger proposals upon any of the main topics of the Bill, but do not ignore the importance of that which gives you for the first time a germinal principle out of which the whole union may grow. We have assigned immediately to the Council important functions in relation to a Second Chamber, to private business and to railways, and there is nothing that is not in the power of the Council at any moment it chooses, within a week, to propose with the object of establishing a closer union.
435 When we come to pass criticism upon this Bill and the points to which its clauses refer, let us at least not ignore that for the first time we enable ourselves to show to the whole world by irrefutable testimony that the Irish question is an Irish question alone, and it is in the power of Irishmen to reach a complete solution to-morrow. Is that no gain on the position which in the face of the civilised world we have occupied until this moment? None of your Lordships is so callous as to what passes in other parts of the world as not to know that one of the principal causes of the dislike and distrust which are felt towards these Islands in those parts of the world in which they are felt is, by some obscure and, as I think, wholly indefensible feeling, that we the people of these Islands are wantonly, as Englishmen, denying to Irishmen that to which Irishmen are entitled. Nothing more monstrously unfair to the people of England, Scotland, and Wales was ever conceived. There has not been a moment now for some years in which, as soon as Irishmen reached agreement, Englishmen were not prepared to give them not only what was in this Bill but more than was in this Bill. Here, within the paper of this Bill, we make it plain to the whole world that we have set up an authority which consists of Irishmen, and Irishmen alone, which if they can bridge over—and with discussion I hope they will succeed in bridging over—their controversies, may procure for them a degree of self-government which has exceeded what has been put forward by any great Irish leader or Nationalist until the claim for a separate Republic was made.
I am most deeply concerned that I should not evade any question that may properly be put to me by those who honestly entertain grave doubts as to the propriety and safety of these proposals. It is obvious at once that I shall be asked two questions which confront us. I shall be asked what is to happen supposing that the Sinn Fein representatives in Ireland decline to take any part in the election of the Southern Parliament. Suppose, for instance, the Bill becomes law and the Sinn Feiners either refuse to take part in elections or, if they take part, adopt the course which they have adopted in relation to the present House of Commons and refuse to present themselves and take the Oath. In the first instance, it may happen. I do not embark on prophecy; the future is too 436 uncertain. Supposing it does happen they will be governed, until they see that they have a better alternative, as a Crown Colony. That is the answer to the first question. And side by side with the knowledge that because of their own refusal to embrace the power which is being exercised at their very door by Ulster, side by side with the men who at the moment dominate that situation and procure that result, there will be dozens and hundreds and thousands of Irishmen whose influence, as I believe, will make itself increasingly felt in the sense of showing that it is the acme of madness to prefer to be governed as a Crown Colony rather than take the powers which, at their very door, are being exercised by Ulster, and the golden bridge which is afforded to them by the existence of this opportunity.
Another school of questioners will ask me this Supposing that the Sinn Feiners, or the majority in Ireland, fraudulently affect to become members of the Parliament which is conceived by this Bill. Supposing, in other words, that they are elected, and that thereupon they come and take the Oath, and having taken the Oath and having been elected they proceed to declare a Republic, or to violate the Oath that they have taken. That is a formidable question, and it requires to be faced. I say in the first place, for what it is worth—and other noble Lords must form their own opinions—that as I have attempted to understand the Sinn Fein Party I do not believe that, with all their mental and moral idiosyncracies, this is a course which they would in fact adopt; and I specially ask your Lordships to notice, although it is quite obvious, that had seventy or eighty Sinn Fein Members of Parliament been prepared to take the Oath which would qualify them to take part in the debates in the House of Commons in the course of the last two years they could have played a stormy and influential part. They were not prepared to take the Oath and they did not take the Oath, and whatever their faults may be—as to this I can only express my own opinion with diffidence, because confidence would be rash—I do not believe they would adopt that course.
But I may be asked, and it is right that I should face the question, If they did adopt this course—I may be told that we cannot gamble with contingencies of this kind—and if they followed courses which are formidable and dangerous to the fate of 437 these Isles and of this Empire, what would you do then? My Lords, I answer that question very plainly in tin evident crisis and danger in which we live, to-day, and I say that if they did that the existence of that Irish Parliament would be brought to an end by any means that might be appropriate and necessary. It might involve, conceivably, the conquest of the South of Ireland. Let us face, when we are examining this question, the straight and evident conclusion that al1 these things are a matter of alternative. We are not offered the alternative of making these experiments, if you choose I o call them so, and of dealing with a peaceful and contented Ireland at our doors. We are confronted with the alternative of having to some extent cleared our conscience and brought ourselves into relation with the spirit of the day, and the alternative of going on dealing with Ireland in its present condition by our present means.
I am of opinion—and I hope that your Lordships will give deep consideration to the specific proposals of this Bill before rejecting them—that this is incomparably the most promising measure which has ever been introduced upon the subject of Home Rule. I ant sire that this Bill is the only Bill that has yet been brought forward which affords the slightest prospect that yon may use those powerful motive springs of a mutual interest to bring together the discords of the North and of the South. I am not blind to the difficulties under which I recommend the Second Reading of this Bill to-day. It is opposed here on many different grounds and by many different members of the House. I have thought it worth my while to make sonic analysis of the opposition with which the Bill in this House is menaced, and I have made an honest. attempt, as far as my ability enables me to do so, to try and examine all the grounds which lie behind each of the specific heads of opposition in order to react a conclusion upon a point which is at once essential and fundamental—namely, whether these various oppositions are consistent with one another.
The first Motion for rejection is in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven. No one is more entitled than the noble Earl to be listened to with deep respect in this House upon this subject. He is a veteran, if he will allow me to say so, in this controversy, and he has taken views 438 which, although not in the main the views of this Bill, are in spirit comparable to the views adopted in this Bill, at a moment when their advocacy was very unpopular both in this Home and elsewhere. The noble Earl invites your Lordships in substance, though not in terms, to reject this Bill. His Motion is equivalent to a Motion "that it be read this clay six months." I am astonished that of all others the noble Earl should have taken that course. He wrote a number of letters to The Times when the Bill was in its early stages, and when indeed it had advanced to a much later stage. On January 1, 1920, when the noble Earl had had plenty of opportunity of acquainting himself with the provisions of the Bill, he wrote a letter which began—It may seem strange, but in view of past history it is not offensive to congratulate the Government upon its honesty.My Lords, one becomes used to these ambiguous compliments, but that is not the passage which I am searching for. The noble Earl says—So I summed up my creed on the Irish Convention, and I hold to it still. I think Federalism will be the resultant of the scheme, and as I love simplicity I could wish that it had been based directly upon that conception, but I, at any rate, have no hesitation in saying that I feel bound in duty to Ireland to give most careful, honest, and self-sacrificing consideration to the proposals in the Government's Bill when it comes before us.He also said, and this is rather important in relation to the Council—The Council, whether it be looked upon as a connecting link, a sort, of statutory convention, or a kind of conciliation board, is too weak. It is entrusted with private Bill legislation, and that will give it some control over some matters originating in one part of Ireland but affecting the whole.And the noble Earl criticised the Council upon one ground only—that the powers conceded to it are too limited.
By March 27 the noble Earl had had further time to study the Bill, and he then wrote as follows to The Times—The Southern Unionists—I ask Lord Midleton's attention to this—protest against the duality of the Government Bill as being partisan. Whatever the Bill means, it does not mean partition. In a quasi-Federal scheme the creation of one, two, four, or a dozen Legislatures does not impair the national integrity of Ireland. The Northern Unionists accept the Bill in its main provisions. Unionism in general is opposed to any prescriptions for Ireland so long as the terrible disease which is 439 killing her continues. Amid all this welter of opinions, objections, denouncements, the Government Bill stands out as a practical attempt to deal with the situation subject to two restrictiont.Then the noble Earl stated the two restrictions, with which everyone in the Government will be in complete agreement. I do not know whether or not the noble Earl is responsible, but the letter is headed, "The Irish Bill: Some Questions for its Opponents." So the noble Earl, who apparently to-day is wishful in effect to destroy the Bill, was at that moment clearly of opinion that the Bill stood as practically a promising attempt. But by August the enthusiasm of the noble Earl was growing, and in a letter which he wrote to The Times of August 30 he said—If these assumptions are correct, the path to a possible settlement is open, and simple to follow. The only danger lies in its simplicity. Why clamour to scrap the Government Bill?That was the view of the noble Earl in August, 1920. He has written later letters, which I have before me, but it is evident that at that time, having had an opportunity of judging the meaning and effect of the Bill, that was his opinion, and nothing has possibly happened that ought to have altered his maturely formed opinion except that the House of Commons in Committee has not extended the powers given by the Bill in the direction which recommends itself to the noble Earl. There is a Committee stage in this House. If the noble Earl was in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons and asked his opponents "Why scrap the Government's Bill?" at that period of the Second Reading in the House of Commons, why does the noble Earl invite us here and now to repudiate all our functions as a body that equally can improve the Bill?
When I confine my attention to the way in which the noble Earl's Motion is conveyed I find that it is an explanatory Motion aid founded upon the allegation that this Bill does not command the support of any majority in Ireland. I must ask the noble Earl this very plain question. Is he really under the delusion that his proposals, which at this moment he thinks ought to be carried into law, receive the support of a majority in Ireland? If he takes the view that his proposals ought to be carried into effect by the Government here and now, and if he admits, as a candid controversialist he will admit, 440 that his proposals do not command the support of a majority in Ireland, what is the relevancy of inviting this House to reject the Government's proposals in a reasoned Amendment on the one ground that is a blemish to which his own proposals are equally exposed? I cannot think that, however much sympathy your Lordships may have with the noble Earl's history in this matter and the independence he has shown, he will be able to establish, or that your Lordships will be able to descry, any consistency in the advice he gave when the Bill was well on its way in the House of Commons and the advice he gives your Lordships to-day.
I approach a second school of opposition, and it is that which is so ably led in this House by the Earl of Midleton. The noble Earl has for many years, and with the greatest ability and industry, put forward every consideration that can be and ought to be borne in mind when one is dealing with the question of the interests of the Southern Unionists. And, indeed, their case is one which everyone admits to be most difficult. So far the noble Earl has us all with him. As I understand the public utterances of the noble Earl and his attitude in the course of the Convention, in which he played so able and conspicuous a part, I gather that Lord Midleton is not to be ranged in the number of those who attack these proposals upon the ground of rigid and orthodox Unionism. In fact, if I am not mistaken—and I confine myself entirely to documents which have become public—I believe the noble Earl (many of us profoundly regret it) was actually made aware that he was an unwelcome member henceforth of the Southern Unionist Alliance because the proposals for which he made himself responsible at the Convention were not, in the opinion of the Southern Unionists of that day, consistent with their own. I believe it was after that period that the noble Earl and his friends established the Anti-Partition Union, if that be its true name. Therefore Lord Midleton is not to be numbered as one of those who oppose this Bill, as among the number who say that in the present state of Ireland it is insane to introduce a Home Rule Bill. I will approach that school in a moment. The noble Earl does not belong to it He belongs to the school which, with the legitimate idea of strengthening the safeguards for the Unionists of Southern Ireland, say that this Bill ought to go further in certain 441 specified respects and afford him and his friends greater protection.
The first observation I have to make on that attitude is this, that obviously these are points which ought to be made on Committee stage. I believe there are three points which he regards as of extreme importance. In the first place I understand the noble Earl—I am dealing with his public utterances—to be strongly of the opinion that Ulster ought not to be allowed at this moment to set up a separate Parliament, but that the Ulster Members, whether they wish it or not, should be compelled to remain at Westminster. I say to the noble Earl as strongly as it is in my power, Surely that is a matter which concerns not the Soul hem Unionists but the Ulster representatives themselves. Surely they must be the judges. It does not in the least matter what they thought eight months ago. You must listen to the authorised statements which issue from representative lips to-day, and if we find that the representatives of Ulster say that of the two alternatives they definitely prefer the alternative of having their own Parliament set up, surely the noble Earl could not with any show of wisdom ask us to say that we thought that Ulster ought to give up the hopes she now entertains of this Parliament and continue her representatives at Westminster.
The noble Earl is deeply concerned, and rightly concerned, with the question of finance. I know what he has said in public—that the noble Earl feels that the present financial proposals in the Bill are inadequate. It is quite true that we in this House cannot make Amendments which relate to the subject of finance. We can debate them, but we cannot amen them. The Government have made proposals in the region of finance which we believe to be in the first place adequate, and in the second place sound. We descry immense objections to any proposals either to give Customs and Excise or control of the Income Tax to Ireland. It is obvious that the differentiation which would or might arise between a shipbuilder in Belfast and a shipbuilder in Glasgow might present problems of insuperable financial difficulty. But nobody is really so unreasonable as to suppose that we should put forward in our Bill financial proposals in the face of which we see a very great financial difficulty. Equally, I hope, no one is so thoughtless as to imagine that if 442 peace were offered to us by any body which was plainly qualified to speak for Irish opinion we should not examine and reexamine the whole field with the object of discovering any way of satisfying those with whom it is our primary and paramount object to deal.
The third point about which the noble Earl is deeply concerned is the question of a Second Chamber. Here again I will deal with your Lordships, as I have throughout, with the most complete candour. An assurance was given by Mr. Walter Long that we would produce a scheme for dealing with the question of a Second Chamber. The extent to which we have carried out that pledge is that we have charged the Council of Ireland as amongst its first duties with this task. I will tell your Lordships quite plainly why we have left it to the Council in Ireland. It is because we have found ourselves unable to provide at the same time what Ulster wants—a democratically elected Second Chamber—and what the security, or the imagined security, of the Southern Unionists require—a Second Chamber which is not so elected but which depends on some fancy franchise. We have failed in attempting to devise such a Second Chamber, and I regret profoundly that so far as we are concerned it has exceeded the resources of human ingenuity, but it does not in the least follow that it will exceed the resources of the Council in which Ulstermen, who are concerned for the protection of the minority in the South, will find themselves confronted with representatives of the South of Ireland equally concerned for the protection of their minority in the North. I say no more about it, because it is well within the power of the noble Earl to put down Amendments on every one of these points, with the exception of finance, which will test the views of your Lordships and give me an opportunity of replying to them on the Committee stage.
I come next to the school of thought expressed upon the Notice Paper by my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke, which I know has many sympathisers in this House. Lord Willoughby de Broke is at least consistent. My noble friend always is consistent, and consistency is a great quality and one for which all of us, even when most conscious of falling short of it, may express a deep respect. My noble friend has not at this moment in this 443 matter any responsibility at all. He is entitled to claim that he is still a Unionist. May I be perfectly candid? I also am still a Unionist in this sense. If I were certified of twenty years of unbroken power in this country, I am still most clearly of opinion that the solution of the Irish question which would be best for England and best for Ireland would be the prosecution during that period of the policy which, in our opinion at least, had attained so large a measure of success in the year 1906. In saying this I make it quite plain that I am conscious that there are many of my colleagues—there must be many of my colleagues—who would not take that view. You must make the reservation that you are given that power and that you are given that power for the requisite period. The late Lord Salisbury spoke of "twenty years of resolute government." The Unionist Party, in the period to the close of which I refer, had been given some ten years, and it was only given those ten years by what many members of this House would describe as the accident of the issue, with its repercussion on the Election, of the war in South Africa. That accident and that Election gave the Unionist Party some ten years of office. Is it not evident, in trying to descry what lies in front of us through the mists of the future, that no man living can claim that twenty years, or anything like twenty years, lie in front of any Party that believes in the maintenance of the relations between Ireland and this country on the lines that have existed since the passing of the Act of Union? He would indeed be bold who would say that in the prospects and the vicissitudes of the years before us he could rely on any such continuity.
I anticipate that the noble Lord will point, as he is entitled to point with great force, to the state of Ireland, and say that in the present condition of Ireland this Bill ought to be rejected. The horrible crimes of last Saturday lend point and weight to the case which the noble Lord can make. We all knew that this army numbered many thousands. It is not surprising that 100 or 150 should have banded themselves, after five or six weeks crimelessness in Dublin, for a desperate adventure. It is reported, and it is believed by the authorities, that the primary object of this adventure was to attempt to intimidate the Courts-Martial and to capture certain documents. Your Lordships are aware that a great capture has recently been 444 made of the most secret and vital documents of the military and revolutionary organisation in Ireland, and I need hardly say that it is the intention of the authorities to make the fullest use of these documents for justiciary purposes. I do not dismiss the view that the secondary object of the selection of the date for these outrages was the belief that there was a section of opinion in this House which might, at this moment of all others, be influenced by these outrages. When I say this I remember that it was at a critical stage of the Bill in the House of Commons when the attempt was made on Lord French's life, and the then Chief Secretary for Ireland, Mr.Macpherson, expressed to me his strong view that the moment of the assault was chosen in relation to the Parliamentary crisis.
These men and those who share their guilt are the real opponents of this Bill in Ireland. What they wish for is revolutionary secession, and I still say that they are being beaten all the time. In the last few weeks, day by day, the issue has gone against them. It was only four days ago that I was shown a communication from one of these guilty associations in a provincial part of Ireland to a central committee in Dublin—this is one of the documents of which I spoke—in which they asked that they might be given a dispensation of two months from attacking policemen, because the pursuit was growing increasingly dangerous. In all parts of Ireland the police are resuming their barracks, and it is indeed an encouraging sign that at the present moment, discouraging as the reports were sonic two or three months ago, we are actually every week recruiting for the Police Force more Irishmen alone than leave the Police Force in that week. I cannot believe that these brutal and horrible crimes will influence the House in its decision. Either these men will represent the South of Ireland and will be able to dominate the view in the. South of Ireland if the Bill is passed, or they will not. If they do not dominate that opinion, our experiment will have succeeded. If they do, our experiment has failed and they will be governed, and continue to be governed until they see the error of their ways, as a Crown Colony.
I would point out that Lord Willoughby de Broke is not the only Unionist in this House. Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona. The names of Arthur Balfour, of Walter Long, both of them ex-Chief Secretaries, 445 are well remembered and deeply revered in this House. Both of them are members of the Government, and they have come to the clear and certain conviction, having approached this matter with their knowledge and experience; that; this proposal and this proposal alone holds the field. I would remind the noble Lord of what I sometimes think he has forgotten, that after all the Act of 1914 is still on the Statute Book. Many of my noble friends sitting upon the Front Bench—Lord Crewe, Lord Buckmaster, Lord Grey, and Lord Harcourt—were members of the Government at the time when that Act was placed upon the Statute Book. The moment the Treaty with Turkey is ratified that Act, unless some other Act takes its place or it is in terms repealed, becomes operative, and writs automatically issue. The only alternative to our proposals, or some other proposals, is that the 1914 Act shall be allowed simply to come into force. That is and must be the view of those who do not accept our proposals and do not bring forward any independent proposals of their own.
May I be permitted positively and explicitly to make it plain to your Lordships that, whatever others may do, this Government will not make itself responsible for the repeal of the 1914 Act. I do not believe there is a single Unionist Member of the Cabinet who believes that to be a possible course, and I am assured by the Leader of the other House that in the House of Commons, elected under circumstances which certainly give a fuller representation to Unionist opinion than any House of Commons that is likely to take its place, there is an absolute majority of Unionists who would decline to father any policy based upon simply the 1914 Bill. Having made ourselves responsible for these proposals, having said that in our belief and judgment some proposals must be made that give Ireland something, how could we get rid of our difficulties by merely repealing the 1914 Act?
I will make a very brief observation upon the proposals which have been made by Mr. Asquith. I do not know how many supporters Mr. Asquith has in this House on this question. I have discovered that there are some, who ordinarily share his views, who do not share his particular expression of them in regard to this matter. Mr. Asquith, in his letter in The Times of October 5, while proposing the fullest 446 And widest autonomy upon the Dominions' plan, wrote—In regard to naval and military forces, I do not share the apprehension of those who think it necessary to impose on an Irish Dominion limitations and fetters which are not to be found elsewhere in our self-governing Empire. No Irish Government would be so insane as to mortgage its scanty margin of resources for such a fruitless and costly enterprise as the creation of an Irish navy.The expenditure which is necessary in relation to submarines is not, after all, very considerable, and from what I know of the negotiations which took place between the then German Government and a certain section in Ireland. I am not inclined to take many risks in that particular matter. Mr Asquith continued—Nor is it readily conceivable that it would seek to deny—what it could never effectively prevent—the free access to Irish ports and harbours of the vessels of the. Imperial Navy.I should have thought that a very moderate expenditure upon mines would have effectively prevented free access. Anybody who is in agreement with Mr. Asquith's proposals must most vehemently dissent from and deny the views which I assume to be held by Lord Willoughby de Broke. The view of the Government is plain, that under no conceivable circumstances can the control of the Army or Navy be given to the Irish Parliament. We welcome here to-day for the first time since I became Lord Chancellor one who has long in another place borne a distinguished name, Viscount Grey of Fallodon.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR:
I will, if I may be allowed, make an observation—a very brief one—about his proposal. The proposal of the noble Viscount, as I understand it, is this. We ought to leave Irishmen themselves to settle how their country is to be governed, and to give them time to come to an agreement we must continue to perform as best we can the functions of government in Ireland for a period not exceeding two years, and at the end of that period withdraw completely. I cannot believe that this is a proposal which would commend itself to any considerable number of your Lordships' House. It is not, as I understand it, the proposal of Mr. Asquith. I would point out that two years is a fleeting period in the history of a nation. Where were we two years 447 ago? Almost where we are to-day, except that the situation is not quite as bad. Does the noble Viscount really mean that if the South of Ireland and elsewhere have failed to compose their grievances in two years' time they are then to be left to themselves What is the prospect of their composing their grievances? I for one confidently express my view that they will fail once more to agree. The differences of hundreds of years are not so easily composed, and conditions such as those envisaged by the noble Viscount are not to be disposed of in twenty-four months. After they have failed to agree, does the noble Viscount really mean that we in this country, with all that Ireland counts for tactically and strategically, are to wipe our hands of it and withdraw the police and the military forces there? What would happen if we did that? I, for one, believe that at once the South of Ireland would be at the throat of the North, and we should involve ourselves in the tragic responsibilities for a civil war, the blame for which would lie upon us. If I believed that there was any considerable party in this House who would support the policy unreservedly of abandoning Ireland in a few years, so sure am I, for one, that in a period of two years under these circumstances unity would not have been brought about that I should be disposed to ask whether it would not be better to leave that unhappy Island now.
I have exhausted, so far as I understand them all grounds of opposition that are put forward to this proposal. There is not one proposal that does not fall under the terms of the noble Earl's Motion. Ireland would not accept these proposals if they were offered. It would not accept Lord Grey's proposals nor Mr. Asquith's, and it certainly would not accept Lord Willoughby de Broke's. According to their express utterances of this moment they will accept nothing but a Republic. In the Division or series of Divisions that are to take place, if we were dealing with Lord Willoughby de Broke's proposal alone we should, I anticipate, have liberal support; if, in other words, the mere question was to reject this Bill on the grounds which my noble friend will state and on which he will rely for support, those now on the Front Opposition Bench—Lord Crewe, Lord Grey, Lord Buck- master, Lord Midleton, Lord Haldane, and others who think that we ought to go much further—would be bound to support 448 the Government on that issue. If, on the other hand, we were dealing with the proposals put forward by Mr. Asquith, we should certainly have the support of Lord Willoughby de Broke. The only thing that can defeat our Bill is a coalition between those who think we go too far and those who think we do not go far enough. I cannot think that such a result would be creditable either to our procedure or our penetration. I think it is right to make it plain, because communications have been indirectly made concerning a Motion to adjourn this debate. It might mean an adjournment to any convenient and obviously suitable time, but a Motion to adjourn this debate indefinitely or to adjourn it to any subsequent occasion would be a dilatory Motion which any Government in charge of a Bill must necessarily regard as equivalent to a vote for its rejection. If, indeed, the various sections in this House who object to this Bill upon wholly irreconcilable grounds desire to destroy the Bill at this stage, I venture most respectfully to suggest to them that it would be much better openly to defeat it on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke, who, after all, makes a direct and intelligible proposal for its rejection.
I have detained your Lordships at some length in introducing this measure, but whoever has had to address himself to such a situation will realise how great our responsibilities are. I do not believe that we shall fail in the end. I believe that these proposals are the most promising which have been brought forward up to the present. I am not rash enough to make any flippant prediction in regard to the future, but I do not and I will not wholly dismiss the dream that instructed, or if you will constrained, by the new orientation of this new world we, who an. so soon to give a solemn vote, may succeed where the dynamic personality of O'Connell, the burning eloquence of Gladstone, and the iron will of Parnell were splintered and broken in failure. If this should happen, how immense would be our contribution to the stability and greatness of these Dominions! if we in our day should be so happy as to succeed, History will record of our generation that we inherited indeed a mighty Empire but that it was menaced abroad by a powerful and most resolute enemy, while at home it was enfeebled at its very heart by a plague spot of disaffection and sedition. And in such 449 an event the annals of that history will record on a shining page that we—our generation—after five years of martial vicissitude, broke in rout the foreign enemy, and, having done so, here at our doors recaptured in a nobler conquest this island of incomparable beauty, and, in doing so, became reconciled to a people so individual in its genius, so tenacious in love or hate, so captivating in its nobler moods.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Lord Chancellor.)
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
had given notice, on the Motion "That the Bill be now read a second time," to move to leave out all words after "That" and to insert "this House declines to proceed with a Bill which meets with no support from the grrat majority of the Irish people, and affords no prospect of any permanent settlement."
The noble Earl said: My Lords, in rising to move the. Amendment which stands in my name, I do so without any misgiving that it is the right course and practically the only course for me to pursue, though I do it with great reluctance. To the best of my ability and opportunities I have tried to further the cause of political reform in Ireland, and. it hurts me to oppose any Bill which is honestly intended, as this Bill is, to satisfy Ireland's ambitions and requirements, and to put an end to the appalling state of things which exists in that country—utterly disastrous to Ireland, a shame upon our statesmanship, and a menace to all constitutional government. It is true that the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack has been kind enough to quote many sentences from letters I have written. I said the Bill was an honest attempt on the part of the Government, and I repeat that it is an honest, but unfortunately a very ignorantly honest, attempt on the part of the Government. The noble and learned Lord in quoting from my letters omitted to quote from one which I wrote just before the adjournment. I forget the exact words I. used, but they were to the effect that I hoped the interval which would take place before Parliament met again would be so used that wise counsels might prevail and. the Bill might be greatly improved. I could not foresee the speed with which this Bill would be put through the other House of Parliament. I could not prophesy that in the other House Amendments upon 450 the financial clauses with which I could agree would receive no attention and would not pass. Still, as I have said, it hurts me to oppose on Second Reading any Bill which is designed to do what this Bill seeks to do.
I suppose we all have different ideas as to the exact lines upon which a Bill for the better government of Ireland should be framed. For instance, I think it is very important that in order to satisfy Irish sentiment Ireland should be restored to her former statusof a kingdom. Any peculiar views I have I assure your Lordships I would put on one side in the consideration of this Bill if I thought it had the remotest chance of providing a permanent settlement, or even of acting as a measure of appeasement that might put' a stop to the appalling crimes that happen every day. There are points in this Bill that I should like to touch upon. I am not going to follow the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack through all the details of the Bill, though it is rather tempting to comment upon what he said just now, that Ulster accepted the Parliament in the Bill because it would give a finality That seems to me a little inconsistent with what the noble and learned Lord said a little time before, that this dual system was not intended to last, and that the Government were in hopes that amalgamation would take place.
I am tempted to comment upon one or two points about the composition of the Council, the Senate, and matters of that kind, but I want to confine myself to the consideration of one point, and one point only—what is to me the absolutely fatal defect of the Bill. I can define my mental attitude towards the condition of Ireland and the desires of Ireland in a sentence. I am sure that you can never have a permanent settlement and permanent peace in Ireland until you have moderate opinion—and that is really the great bulk of public opinion—behind the law and in favour of maintenance of the law. I am equally certain that you will never satisfy that moderate public opinion and get it openly to support the law until it is satisfied on the financial point. It never will be satisfied until you give to Ireland full fiscal and financial control over her own affairs This Bill does not give that or anything like it, and it is on that ground that I ask you not to proceed with the Bill, because it is fatally and vitally faulty in the one 451 point in which we cannot amend it in this House. All the other points in the Bill are capable of Amendment, but in the matter of finance we are powerless, and we cannot remedy this fatal defect.
I make no claim to speak for moderate opinion, not even for Unionist moderate opinion. I am speaking only for myself. But I know by what has been said—by what has taken place at meetings and from letters in the Press—that on this point at any rate I am in accord with moderate opinion generally. I have studied their views, I have studied their demands. They are all within the conditions that the Prime Minister has laid down as limiting a Home Rule measure. I have studied the various statements made from time to time by responsible Ministers on the subject and commenting upon these demands; and the only construction that I can put upon them, and I think can be put upon them, is that if demands are made within the limiting conditions which have been laid down by the Prime Minister they will be favourably considered. Well, they have not been. Identifying myself with moderate opinion, I think that we have a right to expect far larger, more just and more generous provisions than are contained in the financial clauses of this Bill.
I will go further and say that the Government have not kept faith with us in this matter, and I would like to substantiate that statement. Will your Lordships allow me to take you back to 1917? As you know, there was a Convention summoned in Dublin in that year. It was not an elective Convention, but it was fairly representative of all phases of Irish opinion except Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein could not accept the reference, and very honestly refused to take any part. The reference is contained in a letter of the Prime Minister of June, 1917. It was—To submit a Constitution for the future government of Ireland within the Empire.Nothing could be larger than that—any constitution, provided it was within the Empire. The Convention failed to come to an agreement, as you know; it does not now matter why or when. But moderate Unionist opinion and moderate Nationalist opinion came very, very close together.
This difficulty about Customs arose, and was dealt with by the Prime Minister in a letter to the Chairman. He told the Convention that the grant of Customs 452 and Excise might—not "must," but "might"—be considered incompatible with the federal re-organisation of the United Kingdom. He said it would be practically impossible to make such a disturbance of the fiscal and financial relations of Great Britain and Ireland in the midst of a great war. That was quite obviously his real objection; and he suggested that during the war, and for two subsequent years, Customs and Excise should be reserved, and that at the end of the war a Royal Commission should issue, to submit proposals for adjusting the economic and fiscal relations of the two countries. What was the inference we drew from that, and, I think, were intended to draw from it? That the grant of Customs was impossible during the war, but it was not intrinsically impossible in any measure of self-government for Ireland; that after the war it would be considered, and favourably considered. It does not appear to have been considered. What has become of the Royal Commission? Judging by the Bill, this question of the grant of Customs has not received much consideration at the hands of His Majesty's Government.
I should like to make one or two other quotations. The Prime Minister, in reply to a deputation from the Trades Union Congress Parliamentary Committee, said—I was prepared to discuss with any responsible leaders of Irish opinion any plans for the settlement of Ireland subject to two conditions—and there were only two. The first was that we could not agree to secession in the American sense; and the second was that we must have self-determination for the North-East—a perfectly clear statement. Two conditions only: no secession, and no coercion for the North-East.A deputation of commercial and professional men from the South of Ireland in August last waited on the Prime Minister and urged that this Bill would only still further increase the discontent in Ireland, and that the solution lay in the grant of the Dominion statuswithin the Empire, with generous financial treatment in view of the over-taxation in the past A very large demand indeed. But what did the Prime Minister say? He did not say it was impossible and not worth discussing; he regarded the deputation and its message as "the first message of hope," to use his own words, and be asked for representation of moderate opinion from the other parts of Ireland, and it was given him.
A Peace Conference was held in Dublin on August 24 last. That was not composed 453 solely of business men; it was composed of Lieutenants of counties and Deputy-Lieutenants, and, in fact, of specially moderate Unionistic opinion generally. It was thoroughly representative. My noble friend Lord MacDonnell moved a resolution which was passed. I think a deputation was arranged and a Committee appointed to see that the resolution was brought before the Prime Minister. It was a three-fold resolution, but the points in it that I wish to emphasise are that the grant of full national self-government within the Empire could alone bring peace to Ireland; that complete administrative fiscal and financial independence was the test of national self-government; that the North-East should be a free contracting party. That resolution was also fully within all the conditions limiting self-government that had been laid down by the Prime Minister. What has happened? Nothing Now the Prime Minister says that he sees no advantage in receiving a deputation from so representative a meeting as that.
I have one more quotation. This is what the Prime Minister stated in the other House on the Motion for adjournment—The Government have made certain proposals in order to meet Irish public opinion, but I have on more than one occasion gone beyond that and have said that subject to three clear and definite conditions we were prepared, as a Government, to discuss with anybody who could claim to represent Irish opinion any proposals which they put forward and which, in their judgment, would satisfy Irish opinion.''And in reply to a deputation of both branches of the Legislature he said—You cannot have effective law in any land unless you have public opinion behind it. That is vital, and the secret of all Government in these perilous days is to enlist moderate opinion firmly behind the law.I might perhaps mention a letter of last September from the Chief Secretary, in last September from the Chief Secretary in reply to a deputation or letter from a meeting of the Wexford magistrates. He wrote—I note the resolution applies to the present grave state of the country, and advocates the granting of self-government as the only path to the restoration of good-will. It is, I assure you, the desire of the Government to grant the fullest possible measure of self-government to Ireland.And he went on to say that the resolution of the county of Wexford magistrates was of importance, and he would taken an early Opportunity of bringing it to the notice of 454 the Prime Minister. I have no doubt it was brought to the notice of the Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister does not appear to have taken much notice of it.
I could quote more instances, and I could quote numerous letters in the Press differing, of course, in detail but all agreeing in the one main point—that it is essential for the peace of Ireland that a full measure of administrative, fiscal, and financial control and autonomy should be accorded to Ireland. I think I have said enough to bear me out in my contention that, with this Bill before us, we of moderate opinion have a right to say that the Government have not kept faith with us. We are asked now to accept this Bill as the fullest possible measure that the Government can give to Ireland. Moderate opinion has taken every opportunity it had to express its views; it cannot possibly speak with delegated authority, and the Prime Minister and His Majesty's Government must know that perfectly well. I confess I find it a little difficult to understand the Prime Minister's conception of the condition of things in Ireland. Speaking at the Guildhall, and alluding to the offers that he has made to Ireland to discuss matters, he said that if he had made such offers to Germany during the war he would have got a response, but that he got no response from Ireland. But what possible analogy is there between the two cases? Germany had a Government to negotiate with; Ireland has not. It is perfectly true that the Irish have, or think they have, set up a Republic and elected a President, and so on, but that is not recognised. Of course it is not recognised. How can you negotiate with the imaginary President of a non-existing Republic? The thing is absurd. There is no analogy at all. There is not any human being now in Ireland who could claim to speak for the Irish people who is not pledged to secession, and secession is not discussable. How then can you discuss matters with anybody who can speak authoritatively for the Irish people?
At one time the Prime Minister tells us that it is vital to enlist moderate opinion in favour of the law. Moderate opinion has taken every means in its power to impress upon the Prime Minister how that can be done. Now the Prime Minister sees no object in listening to moderate opinion, and doubts that moderate opinion exists at all. I think this House understands the situation better. Moderate.
455 opinion exists, and can be satisfied—moderate Unionist opinion, moderate Nationalist opinion and moderate Sinn Fein opinion. Moderate Unionists have expressed their view as to what would satisfy them. Would it satisfy Constitutional Nationalists? I believe it would. Constitutional Nationalism was, as we all know, snowed under in the Election of 1918, but it is not dead. It would very speedily revive if there was the smallest possibility that constitutionalism would achieve its ends. Would Sinn Fein be satisfied? I am convinced that it would. Sinn Fein, after all, was in its origin a precept, and a very sound precept. In its politics it based itself on the fact that the Union was not placed before the people of Ireland as a distinct issue at a General Election, and they theorise that therefore the Irish Parliament had no right to abolish the Irish Constitution, and the Irish Constitution still exists I am not wanting to argue whether there is any validity or sense in that at all. I only mention it because the Irish Constitution was based upon a fact, acknowledged by enactment of the British Parliament, that no power on earth could make laws for Ireland except the King, Lords and Commons of Ireland.
Until recently there was not a tinge of republicanism about Sinn Fein. In fact republicanism is quite unnatural to the Irish. Sinn Fein and the bulk of the people became republican in sheer despair, when they were convinced that, not this Government or that Government, but the whole British policy was to refuse to Ireland a fair opportunity of developing herself according to her own views and on her own lines. But Sinn Fein is not in any war wedded to republicanism, and I am confident that the offer of full fiscal and financial control would be accepted by the great body of the most moderate sections of Sinn Fein. Of that I am certain; but you cannot expect Sinn Fein to come here and do penance in a white sheet. You probably would not get the open, active support of the Sinn Fein leaders, but you would get acquiescence. You would get passive support. Moderate opinion would be able to assert itself and would assert itself. But until Ireland is offered the one essential thing—namely, a full measure of fiscal and financial control—there is not the remotest chance of the moderate sections of Sinn Fein, or of any other part of the people, becoming in favour of the law.
456 Can any one of your Lordships suppose that the elections are going to be fought and constituencies contested at the next election in Ireland upon the issue of this Bill as the alternative to independence? Not one. I am convinced of it. But they would be contested, and they would be won, if you could offer as an alternative to republican independence a measure which would be satisfactory to the great bulk of moderate opinion in Ireland. Moderate opinion is not organised. It is terrorised to a certain extent, but it cannot concentrate, it cannot express itself and make itself heard, and it never can and never will until it is given some definite proposal, some definite nucleus, on which it can crystallise itself and make itself felt and heard. Moderate opinion has to be created and strengthened. You cannot bludgeon a man into moderation. You can prevent the expression of violent views and prevent their being put into action, but you cannot make a man change his views by physical force. You can only do that by going as far as possible to satisfy his own views, and you are not going to do that by the provisions in this Bill. This Bill does not offer any satisfactory alternative to independence, and this House cannot transform it into a satisfactory offer.
I do not know why the Government changed their opinion, but judging from the Prime Minister's speech at Carnarvon they did change it completely, and have fallen back, I suppose according to plan, upon a position that it is useless to offer any measure of appeasement to Ireland until this condition of disorder is suppressed. With that theory I disagree utterly. I think that the present condition of Ireland, strange as it may seem, offers a very favourable opportunity for effecting a settlement of this vexed Irish question. Your Lordships will have seen and noted the important utterances of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam and the Bishops of Ross and Cork. The people of Ireland are sick of the horrible reign of terror that exists there. Of course, order will be restored. The Government are very slow about it, but of course they will succeed in putting down disorder, and crime, and murder. Everybody knows that in Ireland perfectly well. Everybody in Ireland knows perfectly well, and so do His Majesty's Government, that Ireland cannot be kept quiet perpetually by physical force. You can 457 put down lawlessness and disorder, drive it below the surface, but it will never be extinguished until you can get moderate opinion openly and strongly in favour of the law.
There have been several opportunities for settling this question. The best of them all was during the régime in Ireland of Lord Dudley, of Mr. George Wyndham, and of my noble friend opposite, then Sir A. MacDonnell. That was thrown away. There have been other opportunities since, and they have been thrown away. Now a favourable opportunity exists, and I suppose that will also be thrown away. I do not know that it is necessary to argue that there will be great risk and inconvenience in granting the Customs and Excise to Ireland. Of course, there will be inconvenience, and Customs barriers will be erected, either within the confines of Ireland itself or between Ireland and Great Britain, but the inconvenience would be manifestly so great that it would be certain to cure itself The Prime Minister, I think on the Third Reading of the Bill in another place, said that where Customs have been given to subsidiary bodies they always resulted in their being given to the central body. That is not an argument against giving the Customs to Ireland; indeed, it is the strongest argument for giving it to Ireland. It is perfectly true that the tendency in Ireland would be centripetal; but for a Customs Union to be entered into ultimately by people given the control of their own monetary affairs is a very different thing from maintaining what is practically a Customs Union by depriving people of what they think is absolutely essential to their welfare.
As to the danger, what danger can there be in a measure which is within the limits laid down by the Prime Minister. Practically the Crown and all appertaining to the Crown and the forces of the Crown, their access to the ports and strategic positions, foreign affairs, peace and war, and treaties, are all reserved. What danger can there possibly be in giving practically all else, including fiscal and financial control, to Ireland? There may be some risk to Ireland. If Ireland is quite satisfied in her sentiment, is given an opportunity of developing herself as she thinks best, is on her own, responsible for her own future, and she failed and did not make good, it would 458 be a danger to Ireland, and I admit an indirect danger to Great Britain, because two communities situated so close together must always act and react on each other. But the risk would be infinitesimally small, and as to any danger on the conditions laid down by the Prime Minister I absolutely fail to see.
What is the position? We have this Bill with, to my mind, a fatal defect in it, and one which it is out of the power of this House to remedy. His Majesty's Government are trying to construct a bridge of amity between Great Britain and Ireland, and they have left out the keystone of the arch which this House cannot put in its place. What can this House do? It can amend the Bill if it gets into Committee in all particulars, but it cannot touch this vital one. What could I do? As I have said, it hurts pie to oppose any Bill that is intended for the better government of Ireland. But what could I do? I could have abstained altogether, kept aloof, taken no part whatever in debating this Bill, but feeling as strongly as I do on this fiscal and financial point that did not seem to me to be honest. I took the only course that constitutionally and conscientiously I was able to take. I beg to move.
Leave out all words after 'That,' and insert this House declines to proceed with a Bill which meets with no support from the great majority of the Irish people, and affords no prospect of any permanent settlement.'"—(The Earl of Dunraven.)
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE had given notice, on the Motion "That the Bill be now read a second time, "to move to leave out all words after "That" and to insert the Bill be read a second time this day six months."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I understand that according to the Rules of your Lordships' House it will not be possible to debate two Amendments at the same time, but as the Lord Chancellor has been so kind as to devote some portion of his brilliant speech to my Amendment perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a word to two at this juncture in the debate as it might help those of your Lordships who are going to vote for one Amendment or the other, and perhaps against them, when the time comes. I put this Amendment on the Paper simply 459 and solely because, first of all, I wanted to make my own position—which does not matter very much perhaps—perfectly clear with regard to this question; and, secondly, because on behalf of those who believe—and there are still some left—that in the last resort a return to the Union between Great Britain and Ireland is the only possible policy, I wanted to have a weapon in my hand ready loaded which I could use at any moment in case something happened to the Amendment which has just been moved.
§ I should like to take this opportunity of assuring the Lord Chancellor that I have not put forward this Amendment for the purpose of making known my own phylacteries, or to explain to the rest of the world that I was the only Unionist left in the Unionist Party. The situation is a great deal too serious for anything of the kind, and I assure your Lordships that in voting against this Bill—at least when I vote for my own Amendment or for that of Lord Dunraven—if it results in the defeat of the Bill, as I hope it will, we shall vote against it with a full feeling of responsibility for that which we are doing.
§ There is another reason why it was thought desirable to have this Amendment on the Paper. The Lord Chancellor traversed every single point with regard to every single frame of mind on the Home Rule question, and he did not miss this one. He perfectly correctly pointed out the alliance between those noble Lords who wished to reject the Bill because it does not go far enough and those, like myself, who wish to reject it because it proposes to repeal the Union between Great Britain and Ireland and therefore goes much too far, and I did not think it quite right to make myself a party to an alliance of that kind without taking an opportunity of explaining to your Lordships why I was doing so. I thought the best way was to place this Amendment on the Paper giving a direct negative to the Bill.
§ If it will make the course of the debate any simpler the course I should propose to take is this. After what I have said, and having put this Amendment on the Paper, I do not think there will be anything particularly dishonest in voting for Lord Dunraven's Amendment if he presses it to a Division. I understand that a Motion may be moved for the adjournment of the debate. I do not know whether that is so or not, or 460 whether one has a right to refer in public debate to what he has heard outside the House. But in the event of a Motion being moved for the adjournment of the debate I should vote against it, because I believe that in voting for an adjournment you would be open to the charge of conceding the principle of the Bill.
§ I need not weary your Lordships with the reasons for which I hope this Bill will be deferred to the Greek Kalends by defeat in your Lordships' House, because the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has practically made my speech for me. He has paid me the compliment of saying that those who think as I do have always been perfectly consistent and that we can point with great force to recent events in Ireland. I am not going to enlarge on this point, because it is a terrible and painful subject, and one of which it would be perfectly easy to use the language of emotion. He said it was legitimate for those who think as I do to refer to the shocking outrages which have recently occurred. I believe it is intimated in the speech of the noble and learned Lord that those outrages were intended by their perpetrators to synchronise with the debate in this House about Home Rule, and that those perpetrators were the real opponents of the Bill. Be that as it may, I submit to your Lordships that if you vote against this Bill you will be giving effect to a section of very strong feeling in this country that these ruffians who organised these outrages are not the people to whom we ought to grant legislative autonomy at this or any other moment in the history of this country.
§ Our fellow-countrymen on this side of the water, who are concerned very deeply, have not heard very much about Home Rule for Ireland from members of the Government lately. There is a disposition in this country among the electors to say, "Oh! we are tired of this eternal Irish question. We don't want to hear about it any more. Give them any form of government you like, if you only get it out of the way." It is not unnatural that some of our fellow-countrymen in this country should take such a view, but I submit that there is no excuse for Parliament, who ought in some regard to be the leader instead of the follower of public opinion, and it is no excuse for leaders of political thought in either House of Parliament to 461 acquiesce in that view. This is not the first time your Lordships have been invited to agree to the repeal of the union between Great Britain and Ireland. This i3 the third or fourth occasion on which you have been asked to do so. You may say that things have so much changed since the House of Lords first rejected a Home Rule Bill that now is the time to go back upon the ancient policy which used to animate the majority in this House by granting the repeal of the union. Those who agree with me will tell you that every single thing that has happened in the meantime has in our opinion—certainly in mine; I speak for myself—made the whole case for the union between Great Britain and Ireland immeasurably stronger than ever it was before. So far from this being purely an Irish question, every single outrage or murder, no matter by whom it is committed, and every defiance of law and order in Ireland has a repercussion in this country ultimately of which it is impossible to over-estimate the significance.
§ This is first, last, and all the time, an English question, and I submit to your Lordships with great respect—I do not presume to try to lecture your Lordships—that it is our duty to bring this before the people of the country. Let us try to get away from that frame of mind which is always saying, "After all, it doesn't concern me; it only concerns the people in Ireland." It seems to me that everything which has happened since the first Home Rule Bill was rejected by the House of Lords makes the case for the union immeasurably stronger. Someone perhaps will say that the decision of Ulster has undergone some change since that time, and therefore, on account of Ulster, you ought to pass this Bill. Ulstermen, they will tell you, are asking for the Bill to be passed, and therefore it should be passed. I have some slight claim to be able to say something for Ulster, because I went there and had the great honour of taking part in an Ulster demonstration. I heard on several platforms that what the Ulstermen believed in was the maintenance of the union between Great Britain and Ireland. What we are suffering from as much as anything is that the Parliament Act was passed. If it had not been for the passing of that Act it is not unfair to say that the murders which are taking place in Ireland would not be taking place at the present moment, and we should 462 not be in the position in which we now find ourselves. The Parliament Act was passed and a Home Rule Act was passed over the heads of the House of Lords. Subsequently to that, a Bill for the separation of Ulster from the rest of Ireland was passed by this House. I was one of those who voted in the minority against the Bill, because I thought that one Parliament in Ireland was quite bad enough. If you are going to have two you aggravate the danger of separation more than enough, and the idea of the partition of Ireland is stereotyping and giving effect to a state of things in that country which is fraught with the very gravest danger for the future.
§ We heard from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack just now a very eloquent forecast of reasons why the setting up of two Parliaments in Ireland under this Bill would eventually lead to union, or something like union. I believe I am correctly stating his point of view. Will it? If this Bill is passed, if both parties in Ireland agree to it in the spirit which the noble and learned Lord indicates, and if everybody is extremely good and tries to make it a success, no doubt something might happen like that which was prognosticated by the noble and learned Lord. But one can only found one's opinion upon current events, and upon the fact which are brought before us. We do not see a temper prevailing in the South and West of Ireland at all likely either to form a Parliament at all or to make the Act work. They have already told us that this Bill is no good, and that they will not have it. I cannot find any reason, except possibly a tactical reason, for passing the Bill. Assuming that this view is correct and that the South and West of Ireland will not have the Bill, we are told that they will then be governed as a Crown Colony, and that eventually, if that does not do, we shall have to go over there and reconquer the country! In the meantime Ulster will be going merrily on with her own Parliament. That is a state of things which seems for all time to mean the partition of Ireland, and is a very severe blow to the union of all parties in Ireland, and above all to the union between Great Britain and Ireland which we all wish to see brought about.
§ I have many friends in Ulster as well as in the South of Ireland, and I have often heard an argument which has lost weight 463 recently. That argument was this. If you do not pass this Bill, said the Lord Chancellor, you will bring into operation the Act of 1914, and the Ulster point of view is that, inasmuch as the 1914 Act has not been amended in order to carry out the pledge to Ulster, Ulster will be brought under a Dublin Parliament. That is the argument. It is very difficult to believe that the provisions of the Act of 1914 are not obsolete long ago, and it is also very difficult to believe that, even if they were not obsolete you could in the present temper of Ireland enforce the Act of 1914 or any other Act for the setting up of one or more Parliaments in Ireland. When the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack says that it is the intention of the Government, if this Bill is defeated, not to move hand or foot to repeal the Act of 1914, I suggest to him with very great respect that if he and the Government do adhere to that determination they will find themselves in a position where there will be such an outburst of public opinion against carrying out the Act of 1914 that they will have to repeal it. The impossibility of allowing that Act to come into operation will be so obvious that no matter what Government be in power they will be bound to repeal it, and the force of circumstances will drive the British Parliament and the British people on this side of the Channel to the legislative act of union between Great Britain and Ireland which we used to hear at one time, from those who seem anxious to pass this Bill now, was a very great success.
§ I have tried very briefly to state the reasons why I have brought forward this Amendment. I have done so mainly with the object of making clear the position, and also, frankly, because I want to have a loaded gun in my hand so as to be able to fire it at some time during the debate by having a Division on my Amendment in the event of anything untoward happening to Lord Dunraven's Amendment. Therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I will not move my Amendment now, and I shall not ask your Lordships' indulgence to speak again during the debate; but at a later stage, if my friends and I think fit, it will be, I imagine, open to me to move my Amendment. In the meantime I propose to support the Amendment of the noble Earl who has just sat down.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN:
My Lords, I do not propose to occupy more than a 464 very limited amount of your Lordships' time. I do not wish to controvert in any way the arguments used by the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, but I desire to refer shortly to some of the remarks of the noble Lord who has just sat down. I desire to state as simply as I can why we in Ulster now support this Bill. I speak as one of the vice-presidents, in conjunction with my noble friend the Marquess of Londonderry, of the Ulster Unionist Council, and as one who for nearly 13 years was a member of an Ulster constituency, and who has resided in Ulster most of his life.
It is unnecessary for me to relate to your Lordships the consistent opposition of Ulster to previous Home Rule Bills. In her opposition to the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893 Ulster never wavered, nor did she when the Home Rule Bill of 1914, which is now an Act, was brought forward. Ulster took the strongest measures to resist it when Home Rule could be passed after the destruction of the powers of this House under the Parliament Act. Ulster Unionists, holding the ideas that they did, regarded Home Rule as a whole for Ireland as impossible Therefore, they concentrated on the exclusion of Ulster from the Home Rule Parliament at Dublin.
Then came the war and the situation was changed. During the war, when we were pressed into the service of the Empire, the Unionists of Ulster gave up what were to them many vital points. At a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council in 1916, at which I was present, having been able to obtain leave from the Army in which I was then serving, they waived their resistance to Home Rule for the rest of Ireland, but insisted that they should never be placed without their consent under a Parliament at Dublin. They also insisted that the exclusion should be permanent. This latter claim was resisted by the Irish Nationalists. Mr. Asquith, the then Prime Minister, promised to introduce an amending Bill in order to deal with the Ulster situation. That was not introduced owing to various circumstances—the rebellion in Dublin, and others. An Irish Convention was summoned, on which sat many noble Lords who are present at this debate, and of which I was a member. I am sure those noble Lords who took part in that Convention will never forget the weary months that we spent in Dublin. The Convention finally issued several Reports. There was a Majority Report, a Minority 465 Report, and a Report issued by the Ulster Unionists. The object of the Convention was to find some substantial agreement. None of the Reports issued came under that head and so matters remained very much as they were previously.
How do matters sand now? Should this Bill be rejected nothing remains for the Ulster Unionists but the Act of 1914, which has been referred to by the noble and learned Lord and is now on a Statute-Book The Act of 1914 is an Act which the Unionists of Ulster will not have. The only alternative for them, as far as I can see, is to accept the present Bill, I do not for one moment intend to admit that Ulster likes the Bill, but its acceptance is the only course open to them. What else could they do? There are many reasons why they would prefer to remain an integral part of the United Kingdom. They do not like to desert in any way those loyalists in the Southern and Western parts of Ireland with whom they have always been associated. But I do not think they could take any other steps than those which they are taking now. That sounds rather strange from me, seeing that my father made memorable speeches at many Ulster meetings against the Bill of 1893, I think it was, in which he said that we would not have Home Rule. We have no more love for Home Rule now than we had then, and when I say "we" I venture to include myself. But I think the Bill which is before this House is the only solution for us at present.
Your Lordships are aware, no doubt, that this Bill has been more or less approved or, if I may use the phrase, damned with faint praise, by Ulster Unionist Members of Parliament and by the Ulster Unionist Council. Bat they realise that it has been introduced by a Coalition Government, composed of the two leading Parties in the State, and that it is proposed in the interests of the Empire. It might be asked why they have changed their views and why they now say that they are prepared to come under a Northern Parliament as suggested in this Bill, rather than, as I think was said by the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, stay under the Imperial Parliament. The real truth is that they desire finality. They are tired, after thirty years of political intrigue, gerrymandering, and wire pulling. They are a solid race, a race of great courage who believe in themselves and believe that under a Northern Parliamert they can work out 466 their own salvation, continue their business and their agriculture, and be more or less independent of outside interference.
I know it will be said by some noble Lords—I think probably by the noble Lord, Lord MacDonnell, who is present—that the setting up of two Parliaments will destroy any hope of Irish nationality. I do not profess to be a student of John Stuart Mill, but I came across this passage from his works which I should like to read to the House. John Stuart Mill said this of nationality—people form a nationality if they are united among themselves by common sympathies—sympathies which do not exist between them and others, and which make then co-operate more willingly among themselves than with other people.He added that the strongest of all motives making for nationality are—identity of political antecedents, the possession of a national history, and the consequent community of recollections, collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret connected with the same incidents in the past.Nobody who has made a study of Irish history can say that is in any way true of the past of Ireland. Ever since the plantation of Ulster the Ulster people have been more or less at variance with their fellow-countrymen. You may say that is deplorable. It is deplorable I grant, but it is a fact which cannot be gainsaid, and calling it "deplorable" does not alter its truth in the slightest degree. In my opinion the Bill which is now before your. Lordships' House will give the best possibility of a solution of the problem. I go further. I may be somewhat optimistic, and it never does to be optimistic about Ireland.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN:
But I believe that there is a chance, and more than a chance, if the Southern Legislature and the Northern Legislature eventuate, and if both function, that in time the North might give a lead to the rest of Ireland and show that Irishmen can govern themselves in an orderly and sensible fashion, and that at some future date the two may coalesce and form a united Parliament. But that will only be on one consideration—that is, a joint loyalty to the Crown and to the Empire.
I have said these few words on behalf of the people to whom I am greatly attached and with whom I have lived most of my life. They are people who have always 467 been proud of their association with this kingdom. Your prosperity has been theirs; your future they look upon as theirs; your hopes were theirs, your trials have been theirs, your perils have been theirs, your sacrifices have been theirs, and your victory has been theirs also. Therefore I ask your Lordships to grant this Bill a Second Reading as opposed to the Amendment moved by the noble Earl.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE:
My Lords, when a country is in the state in which Ireland now finds itself with complete anarchy advancing with giant strides all over the land, and when a Bill is introduced by a responsible Government to settle the Irish question by creating two Parliaments where Irishmen of different schools of thought may be segregated—in one the Unionists and Protestants, and in the other the Sinn Feiners and Roman Catholics—and when, in addition, it is proposed to form a Council which will act as a golden bridge that may eventually bring the whole of Ireland under one great national Parliament to work together in amity and unity for the advancement of their native land, in gratitude doubtless to this country for the great boon she has given them and in loyalty to the Throne and the Empire, and when that Bill has passed the House of Commons by a large majority of British Members, it deserves, and I have no doubt will receive, the careful and respectful consideration of your Lordships' House.
But if you find that the authors of that Bill are mistaken in an expectation of settling the Irish question; if indeed you suspect that they have introduced this Bill not for that reason only but that they are actuated by other and less altruistic motives; if you are convinced that the setting up of two separate Parliaments will result, so far as the North is concerned, in the erection of a new and insuperable barrier to her union with the rest of Ireland, the duplication of the whole of the Civil Service of Ireland, and the creation of a vast number of vested interests, which it will be difficult or impossible in the future to do away with, and, so far as the Southern Parliament is concerned, will not lead to an increase of local government, but, on the contrary, to the abolition of whatever form of local government there may now exist, and the substitution for it of what is commonly known as Star Chamber government—if you are convinced that 468 all this will be the result of the Bill before the House, then, however good may be the intentions of the Government, I think you will hesitate to follow them, along the pathway they have paved, to its ultimate destination.
In my youth I passed an examination in Roman law, and one of the definitions which I was asked to explain was the word "pollicitatio," and, if I remember rightly the interpretation, it was a proposal made which it is not intended should be accepted. I think, so far as Southern Ireland is concerned, the word "pollicitatio" is writ large over every page of this Bill. I stated that I thought the Government was actuated not alone by a wish to settle the Irish question, but by other and perhaps less altruistic motives. Let me mention two or three of them. In the first place, there is no doubt the Government is anxious to get rid of the Act of 1914, which is now on the Statute Book. When this Bill was introduced in March of this year, I quite agree with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that it would have been impossible for the Government to induce at any rate the Liberal members of the Coalition to vote for the repeal of the Act pure and simple, without introducing an alternative measure. The noble and learned Lord tells me that that still is the case. I should be inclined to doubt it. I think that he and his colleagues rather under-rate their power of being able to persuade their followers to this effect.
And the second reason why I think this Bill has been introduced is to rescue Ulster from what has become for it an almost impossible situation. Much water has gown down the Boyne since the Solemn League and Covenant was made. Already many of its provisions have had to be thrown overboard; three counties of Ulster have had to be forsaken, and the remainder of the Covenant is now clinging round their necks like an Old Man of the Sea, whom they are only too anxious, if they can honourably and finally, to get rid of. Both the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and the noble Duke who has just spoken have told us that the reason which induces Ulster to accept this Bill is because there is finality in it. I only wish I could believe that that is the case. I wonder if your Lordships have ever considered how the religious population of Ulster is divided. I have been looking up the figures, and I find that in the portion 469 of Ulster which is to be under the rule of the Belfast Parliament there are no less than 429,000 Roman Catholics to 721,000 of other denominations. That is what the Lord Chancellor called an overwhelming majority of Protestants. Does any one in this House believe that those 429,000 Roman Catholics will tamely submit to the rule of a Belfast Parliament? I certainly do not. It is dangerous to prophesy, but I think I an., safe in prophesying that the first years of the Ulster Parliament, should it come into existence, will be chiefly occupied in passing Coercion Acts against their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects in the province, and that those fellow-subjects will be aided and abetted by their co-religionists in other parts of Ireland in resisting the Belfast Parliament, with the result that we shall see reproduced in Ulster in a squalid edition the very same state of things which now exists between Ulster and the rest of Ireland.
The third reason why I think the Government have introduced this Bill is for the purpose of camouflage—camouflage to influence public opinion in the United States and the Colonies. Personally, I am not much concerned as to the views which either the United States or the Colonies hold with regard to our domestic affairs. I regard that as a matter altogether for us to settle. But there is no doubt that the constant choice of the text of "self-determination and the freedom of small nations" did give people reason to believe that the statesmen who invariably used those phrases in their eloquent speeches really believed what they said. And among those who were most firmly convinced that it was so were the people of Ireland. They thought that they had only to insist that they wanted a Republic, to show by their votes that they desired it, in order to obtain it. It was no good pointing out to them that the establishment of a Republic would be a danger to Great Britain, and that it might lead eventually to the break-up of the British Empire, because they pointed out in reply that the Allied and Associated Powers had not hesitated to destroy one of the most ancient monarchies of Europe in order to set up half-a-dozen mushroom republics in Central Europe. Of course, we all knew perfectly well that the well-known expressions were only pious opinions, they were never intended for one moment to be translated into articles of faith where reasons of high policy forbade that they 470 should. But nevertheless, such is the hold that they have obtained on the ears of the public that the Government have thought well to introduce this Bill as a measure of camouflage, though they know perfctly well that the people of Ireland have no intention of accepting it.
There is not much use in talking of what are the intentions of the Government.—it is more to the point to judge what will be the effect of what they propose. I have always been one of the strongest advocates of the Union as being the best form of government for Ireland, if properly administered, and the one which divides Irishmen least. But, unfortunately, for many years the Act of Union has not been properly administered, and in addition to that we cannot deny—it is no use disguising it from oneself—the fact that there is no party in this country which is now prepared to fight for the maintenance of the Union. We have seen that even in Ireland, where the Ulstermen were keenest in favour of it, they have changed their mind. The Lord Chancellor said they were quite right to change their minds within a short space of three or four months, though he would not allow the same freedom to my noble friend Lord Dunraven, who moved an Amendment.
But, at any rate, under these circumstances when three years ago I, with many other Unionists, was invited by the Government to enter an Irish Convention to try to settle with our Nationalist fellow-countrymen whether it was not possible to form a Constitution for Ireland which would satisfy their national aspirations, which would provide sure safeguards for the Unionist minority, and at the same time maintain the integrity of the Empire, I thought it my duty to accept. I certainly have never regretted that I took part in those deliberations, which brought me into contact with my fellow-countrymen of different political persuasions in friendly intercourse in a manner which had never happened to me before. I wonder whether your Lordships would allow me to mention one personal touch with regard to it? About six weeks after the Convention had been sitting I happened to make a, speech in which I put forward—temperately, I hope, but very resolutely—the claims of the Southern Unionists, and, when I had finished, a member of the Convention, whom I had never met before, came to me and said, "Me lord, Oi have often read 471 about ye, but Oi have never met ye and Oi have never hurrd you before; and, to till ye the truth, now Oi have met ye and now Oi have hurrd ye, Oi loike ye a great deal better than Oi expected." Well, my Lords, that feeling was entirely reciprocated by the union. We liked the Nationalists a great deal better than we expected; we found that they were ready to concede to us any safeguards that we deemed necessary. They were not only ready but were anxious that we should have full representation in both Houses of Parliament, because they recognised that without our help and co-operation it would be impossible successfully to start an Irish Parliament.
My Lords, I sigh when I recall how very nearly we succeeded in affecting a settlement. After all, at the end, the great difference between the Unionists and even the most extreme Nationalists was whether or not England should retain the Customs. I for one am prepared to yield that point now, and I think there are a great many Southern Unionists who are prepared to do the same. But I think it went further than that. I believe there was a moment when we almost arrived at a settlement which would have included Ulster. I do not say that it would have been on such broad lines, for Nationalist Members would have made large concessions to an agreement which included Ulster, which they were not prepared to concede to Southern Unionists alone. Many of the Ulster Members were most conciliatory. I should like, if he will allow me, to mention specially my noble friend Lord Londonderry, whose statesmanlike speeches in that assembly touched a chord which re-echoed throughout the whole of its members. But unfortunately the Ulster Members were not only members; they were also delegates of the Ulster Unionist. Council All the decisions had to be referred to that body before they could give an answer. Those gentlemen, naturally, had not the opportunity of friendly intercourse with Irishmen of different shades of opinion; they were not imbued with that spirit of conciliation and compromise without which it was impossible that the Convention could have a successful issue. The result was that the favourable moment was passed, and then like a bombshell the Government announced that they were going to introduce conscription in Ireland and the work of nine months was thrown away.
472 We are now asked to consider another form of Irish settlement, and I hope we are not going to throw overboard an Act of Union unless we think that we are going to have instead some form of Government which will have a chance of being accepted by Irishmen at large. I know it will be said that Irishmen at present will accept nothing except a republic, but I doubt very much if that is the case. People ask much more than they want, and besides, as we have been told to-day, people change their minds. I have had an opportunity of seeing many Irishmen, some of them extreme, some of them moderate, and I am firmly convinced that if a settlement were proposed to them in the terms which were suggested by the Convention, with the addition of full fiscal control, they would be ready to accept it. The Leader of the House, in the speech which he made on November 2, deprecated such an arrangement on the ground that if Ireland were allowed to have the control of her own finances it might possibly result in Irishmen being less taxed than Englishmen, nay even that Irishmen might have to pay less for a glass of whisky than would be charged in this country, and he seemed to think that that was a terrible state of things. These were his words, I think—She would have an Irish Parliament, and an Irish Parliament could so arrange matters that the Irish people would have cheaper tea, tobacco, beer, whisky, and the like; she could institute a lower Income Tax in that country. Why should we tolerate a situation in which an Irishman living on this side of St. George's Channel would have to pay an Income Tax of from 6s. to 9s. in the £ according to his wealth, while if he lived across St. Georges Channel on the other side he might only pay ls or 2s. in the £.I wish the noble Earl were here. I should like to have asked him whether he had read Clause 24 of the Bill, because if that comes into operation it would be possible for Irishmen to be charged 15s. or 20s. in the £ by the Irish Parliament. I should like to ask whether Irishmen living on the other side of the Channel could tolerate a situation where they would have to pay Income Tax at 15s. to 20s in the £, while if they lived on this side of St. George's Channel they would only have to pay 6s. to 9s.
But surely there is the question of principle involved in this. Is it really the determination of the Government that Ireland shall under no circumstances benefit from any economies which she may be able to make in the administration 473 of her own finances? That is one of the principal reasons why she asks that she should have control. May I mention one or two instances that come to my mind. At the time when the old-age pensions were instituted in this country Mr. Redmond stated that if he had had the control of what was to be paid in Ireland it would be 3s. 6d This very morning I got a letter from a railway company in which they complained bitterly of the arrangement by which Irish railway porters were paid on the same basis as English railway porters. If this principle is once allowed, surely we are reverting to the worst legislation of the eighteenth century, when one Irish industry alter another was smothered because it was feared they might compete with those of this country. I ask the House to consider this question on its merits and not to mix it up with other considerations. I ask them not to be swayed by the thought of how it might affect the Government if this Bill does not pass, whether it would' tend to put it in difficulties, or even tend to its eventual removal and replacement by another which might be less liked by your Lordships. I would ask you not to consider whether or not this is a favourable issue for this House to find itself perhaps in conflict with the House of Commons; and, above all, I would ask you not to be frightened with the bogie which has been raised that, if you do not pass this Bill the Act of 1914 will come into force and you will be false to your pledges to Ulster. I believe the Act of 1914 is dead and buried, and the financial provisions are such that it would be impossible ever to bring it into operation.
But I ask the House also to remember another thing. If they have pledges to Ulster, have they no pledges to the 359,000 Protestants who are scattered throughout the South and. West of Ireland? Over and over again we have been promised that they should be provided with ample safeguards. Every speaker, from the Prime Minister downwards, has assured us that ample safeguards would be introduced into the Bill. Where are they? The only one that can be mentioned is that of proportional representation, which may possibly give us five or six members out of a House of 128, and even that safeguard, small as it is, may be removed in three years by the action of the Irish Parliament Then again as to taxation. What safeguards are there against that? I have mentioned just now Clause 24, and that 474 is one of the clauses which I think the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said we should not be able to amend in Committee. By that clause it would be possible for a single Chamber—remember at present there is only a single Chamber—to pass legislation taxing individuals at any sum up to 20s. in the and there would be no redress. Not only that, but as far as I read the Bill there is nothing to prevent them from repealing the Habeas Corpus Act and imprisoning every political opponent they may happen to know of in the country.
Then there is the question of a Second Chamber. If there is one thing we were assured more clearly than another it was that the Government would provide this Second Chamber. Now the Lord Chancellor tells us that the difficulties in imposing a Second Chamber from without are insuperable, and he proposes to leave it to the Council composed of 20 Orangemen and 20 Sinn Feiners who may possibly frame a measure, which in turn is to be submitted to the Northern and Southern Parliaments and to be approved of by them. If we wait until we have obtained a Second Chamber in that way we shall have to wait until the Greek Kalends. The Lord Chancellor said that another difficulty was the fact that Ulster wanted an elective Second Chamber. Why can she not have it if she wants it? We know the Second Chamber that we want. It was agreed to by the whole of the Convention. It was a strong Second Chamber, perhaps not a democratic one but suited to the needs of the Irish people and provided effective safeguards for the Southern minority. If this Bill ever reaches Committee stage we shall have to insist as strongly as we can upon a Second Chamber being provided.
My belief is that if this Bill is ever to have a chance of being successfully put into force three things are necessary. In the first place, the financial provisions must be largely and generously revised. I am not asking that Ireland should not pay her share of the National Debt. On the contrary, I think she ought to be charged whatever is fair, and also for the maintenance of the Army and Navy. Whether the sums mentioned in the Bill are proper or not would take too long to discuss now. In the second place, ample safeguards must be supplied for the Unionists of the South and West, both as to representation in the Lower and Upper House 475 whether those safeguards comply with the ethics of democracy or not. And, in the third place, and this is most important., provision must be made, if Ulster cannot be included in the Irish Parliament at present and I acknowledge that is impossible, for a plebiscite, or referendum, whether by counties or otherwise from time to time to see whether she, or any part of Ulster, is prepared to change her mind and is ready to try and solve with us the problem of whether Ireland is able to govern herself.
THE MARQUESS OF SLIGO:
My Lords, it is my intention to support the Amendment because the Bill in its present conditions satisfies no section of the West of Ireland in which I live. There are some who want complete separation; it does not satisfy them. There are some who wish for a full measure of self-government, such as was required by the former Nationalists, self-government within the Empire; it does not satisfy them. There are some who would prefer to remain under the Union; it does not satisfy them. I am one of the latter, and agree with the Lord Chancellor that it would, if properly administered, be the best form of government for Ireland, but I understand from what has fallen from him and from prominent politicians of all opinions that they are determined that some form of Home Rule shall be given to Ireland. Therefore, if the Government insists on forcing a measure of government upon Ireland I submit that it should be one which will have some chance of being really effective, and that when a change of such importance is about to be made there should be a reasonable chance of success.
We in the West can see no hope of success for the measure as it now stands. To us it appears to be primarily a measure of partition, and the more one looks at its provisions the more it appears that an immense amount of ingenuity has been expended in order to make this partition permanent. In the first part of the Bill a hope is expressed that it may lead to One Parliament for Ireland and the Council of Ireland is to frame it, but that Council has no Executive or administrative powers. It can only propose; and the various suggestions that are made in the later clauses of the Bill seem to make it more and more difficult to establish One Parliament. The mere fact of the establishment of two separate Parliaments, with two Civil 476 Services, two Exchequers, two Courts of Judicature, with all their paraphernalia and their staffs, tends to establish great vested interests, and the longer they remain in force the more difficult will they be to abolish. From what we have just heard from the noble Duke, it is evident that in this Bill partition is to be permanent. He said "We want finality." It would not appear, therefore, that he anticipates that there will be any strenuous or real effort to join in one Parliament. This question of partition, therefore, makes the Bill unacceptable to most of those who live in the West.
The Lord Chancellor stated that he and many others had the deepest sympathy with the loyal minority, but we want more than oral sympathy; we want something tangible. Eleven years ago when the 1909 Act was being passed, Mr. Birrell said "Minorities must expect to suffer." That was accepted as a jest, and it must be very pleasant to Mr. Birrell to realise that when he airily throws off an obiter dictum it is treated as an epigram. To those of us who were the victims it seemed more like an epitaph, for it was the death blow to the hope that we would receive justice at the hands of our fellow-countrymen. This time we have been assured by the Prime Minister, by ex-Prime Ministers, by men who are in the Cabinet, by men who have been, who expect to be, who hope to be, who think they ought to be, in the Cabinet, that whenever Home Rule is granted there shall be one sine qua non—namely, there shall be safeguards to protect the interests of minorities. None of us can find in this Bill one single safeguard for loyal minorities. A Second Chamber was promised. That, if properly constituted on the lines of the Senate accepted by the majority at the Dublin Convention, would be a real safeguard, but that promise has been broken and no Second Chamber is created. Clause 24 contains provisions which amount to a positive invitation to a vindictive majority to persecute a minority. That is why I ask your Lordships to vote for the Amendment, in the hope that the Government will re-cast the Bill and particularly the financial provisions. I trust that your Lordships will be no party to committing an act of injustice by abandoning the loyal minority, as has so often been our fate in the past.
[The sitting was suspended at five minutes before eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
§ THE EARL OF CLANWILLIAM:
My Lords, I hope that it will not be understood by your Lordships that I wish to embarass His Majesty's Government by anything I say. I know that the difficulties with which His Majesty's Government have to cope to-day are immense, and it is the last wish that I have to use my country as a stick to beat His Majesty's Government with. I would like to say the same thing about the Prime Minister. I have no wish to attack the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister during the war did untold service to my country and to myself as a citizen of that country, and the very last thing I should ever like to do, or ever would do, would be to say anything against him on account of that. But, my Lords, I have to consider this Bill on its merits. I have to ask myself whether the Bill will be a good thing for Ireland, for England, or for the British Empire. I have to ask myself whether the Bill will bring ruin or prosperity to any of those or all of them. After having considered it for many months I cannot alter my opinion that this Bill, if it becomes law, will bring not only ruin to Ireland but disaster to England. This question is not to my mind a parochial question; it is not a question which affects Ireland either to the south of the Boyne or to the North of the Boyne. It is a matter which affects England and the British Empire in far greater degree and importance than Ireland.
I find myself in rather a difficult position to-night because I live in Ulster, and within the last ten days or so I have been told by my brother Peers in Ulster that there has been a tremendous change in the opinions of the people who live in those six counties. I say "six counties" advisedly, because there is no longer any Ulster. There was a geographical Ulster which existed up to some months ago; but three counties were cut out of that geographical Ulster and now there are only six counties left, and so there is really no Ulster. I say that en passant. My noble friend the Duke of Abercorn told me before dinner that there had been a great change in the opinion of the people who live in those six counties, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack produced a letter in a most dramatic fashion, written by Sir Edward Carson, to the effect that there had been a great change in the opinions and feelings of people in those six counties. My Lords, that is absolute news to me.
478 I admit I have been abroad for the last two or three months, and I have not been in absolutely close touch with the people of those six counties in consequence of that; but up to that time I certainly held the opinion that there was a distinct difference of opinion in those six counties regarding this Bill. As far as I know we have never had any plebiscite upon this Bill, and I would like to know upon what grounds my brother Peers in Ulster say that there has been a great change of opinion. We certainly had a difference of opinion regarding the question of the six counties and the nine counties, but that is quite a different matter from the question of this Bill or no Bill. There is, I believe, a considerable body of opinion in those six counties strongly adverse to this Bill. England is, as much as ever she was, the predominant partner. That phrase, which was coined many years ago, has lost none of its importance or strength by the lapse of time.
Let us look at the history of this Bill. It was prepared and introduced by a man who has been a life-long Unionist, the First Lord of the Admiralty. As long as I can remember in political life the present First Lord of the Admiralty has taken a most prominent part in any anti-Home Rule demonstration that has taken place, and whenever there was any great meeting in the North of Ireland almost invariably it was attended by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and he would be one of the most forcible speakers present. Yet we now find ourselves in this position. The First Lord of the Admiralty, a lifelong Unionist, has prepared and introduced with a certain amount of pride a Home Rule Bill. What happens to that Bill in another place? Who is it that forced it through? None other than the people who call themselves Unionists from the North of Ireland The Unionist Members of Parliament are the people who have forced this Bill through. Had it not been for them I very much doubt whether the Bill would ever have reached your Lordships' House. We are told in a letter from Sir Edward Carson, read by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that this is the only chance. Yet they (the Ulster Members) never voted for it in the House of Commons. If they thought it was the only chance, why did they not vote for it? Moreover, we get an ex-Prime Minister, the right hon. member for Paisley, going down to Wales and advocating an Irish Navy. I 479 sometimes wonder whether we really are quite normal after the war. The situation in which we find ourselves is quite astonishing.
As regards the Bill itself, I think it reeks with anomalies, absurdities, and paradoxes. I will give one or two instances only. Ireland to-day admittedly is divided against itself—anyhow, in spirit. It is the natural desire of everybody who has the interest of Ireland at heart, whether he be an Englishman or an Irishman, to see the two peoples joined together. There is nobody in your Lordship's House who would not he more than pleased if he thought that those two peoples were going to join together to live in amity. Yet here is a Bill which prevents that, and divides those two peoples for ever by Statute. They are divided in spirit to-day; to-morrow you will divide them by Statute. You sign and sea! it in this House and say that those people shall never conic together. What is the sense of it? I fail to understand it.
Then there is the extraordinary situation which will arise if this Bill is not accepted by the South of Ireland, because you will have Crown Colony Government. The Nationalist Members can then come over and take their seats in the House of Commons—I do not say that they will, but they can—and interfere with purely English affairs, while English Members of the House of Commons will have no power whatsoever to interfere with the affairs of Ireland. That is a nice state of things.
Then, lastly, there is the case of the surtax. Years ago it used to be said that one of the troubles of Ireland was absenteeism. It was said that if only people would go and live on their estates in the country half the troubles of Ireland would not arise. I think there is a great deal to be said for that, but what you are going to do by this Bill is to say that if anybody has the temerity to go and live on his country estate in Ireland he shall be liable to a surtax. Take my own case, which is the same as that of hundreds of others. I live in Ireland and I hope I always shall, but I have to pay my Income Tax and my Super-Tax to the Imperial Exchequer. After this Bill is passed the Government in the North of Ireland will have the right to place a sur-tax upon me. If they do that I shall become a pauper; I shall have to pay 20s. in the £, and there will be nothing left. I am told that I cannot 480 hand over my estates to the Government of Ireland and say to them, "Take them and let me get out; I have some money in other places, and I can go and live somewhere else." I cannot do that. What is the sense of it?
§ THE EARL OF CLANWILLIAM:
If there is any I cannot see it. I have given your Lordships two or three instances; there are many more, but it is useless to go on citing them. I wonder—I have often wondered—whether this is the only solution the British Government can find for the troubles of Ireland. England is world-famous for her marvellous power of government. Is this the only way in which you can govern Ireland? I feel that in time to come, if this Bill ever becomes law and is put into force, the historian who writes the history of these times will point the finger of ridicule and scorn at the people who introduced it.
At the present moment throughout the country there is a great wave of feeling that the Government is spending too much money and that economy is necessary. And yet to-day, when we have this appalling debt round our neck—£8,000,000,000—dragging us down, this is the time when His Majesty's Government propose to embark on the expensive business of building Houses of Parliament and offices all over the North and South of Ireland, and employing a host of officials who, as we all know, are permanent—once you get them you never get rid of them, and if they live long enough they get pensions.
I would like to ask your Lordships to consider who is at the back of this agitation Are they Irishmen? I say, most decidedly No There is a conspiracy aimed at the destruction of England and the British Empire, and the people who are working that, whose wish is to see the destruction of England, have used Ireland as a jumping-off ground. They think that Ireland is the best ground to begin working on and they are doing it to-day. The question of self-government or the better government of Ireland never enters into their heads for one second. They care no more for Ireland than that table before me. And if they can prove to their friends and supporters and admirers throughout the world that they have prevented England from governing Ireland, and reduced British government to 481 a nonentity in Ireland, they have won the first round in the game. Am I, or is anybody else, to submit to that sort of thing, when I believe it? No, of course not I hope that some of your Lordships will believe it, and see that by voting for this Bill you would not be voting for something which would improve the condition of Ireland but for something which might very well prove to be the first step in the downfall of England.
My noble friend the Duke of Abercorn said that one of the reasons why the people in the North of Ireland desired the passage of this Bill was because it brought finality, and because it brought peace. If I really thought it would bring finality I might be inclined to alter my vote. But I do not. I do not believe there is any finality when you get two peoples opposing each other who are so different in character and in aspiration as the people who live north of the Boyne and south of the Boyne. As for peace, well, you have got no immediate fear of civil war to-day, but from the day you put this Bill into force and it is accepted—if it is ever accepted—by the South of Ireland and the North, of Ireland—it is my firm conviction that you will be approaching civil war every day. I cannot see how it can be averted, with two peoples so entirely different, with religious bigotry of the worst description on both sides, and with a possible Customs line drawn between them. That is not peace to Ireland.
Your Lordships will probably say, What is your alternative? Of course, the first thing to consider is the position of the 1914 Act on the Statute-book. We are told that that Act automatically comes into force the day peace is signed with Turkey. I am not responsible for that Act. I admit that before the 1914 Act was passed I did vote for the Amendment to leave out the six counties from the Bill. I voted for that simply because it was to my mind the alternative to civil war, and I believe any thing is better than that. Then I come to the question of how the Act is to be dealt with by His Majesty's Government, if I have to take such a responsibility on my shoulders. The first thing I have to say about it is that its financial provisions are well known to be impossible. Nobody, I believe, to-day would consider for one moment an attempt to enforce the Act with its present financial provisions. Therefore to my mind it is almost impossible I to introduce it as it is, and for it to be either 482 amended, or an amending Act introduced. What is the history of the Act? We know full well that it was passed over the heads of the people during the war. The people who had been fighting that measure, or a Bill like it, had gone to the war to fight for England and for their country. It was passed over their heads. To my mind there was no moral justification for that Bill, none whatsoever, and as a consequence I do not see why there should be any moral obligation on the part of His Majesty's Government to-day to enforce it. I do not know if there are any members of the Cabinet who introduced that Bill in the Government to-day, but the majority certainly are not, and for that reason I see no moral obligation on the part of the present Government to enforce that Bill. It is not a case of its being one of the laws of the Medes and the Persians; it can be repealed, or it can be altered in some way; but to say that because the Act is on the Statute-book nothing can be done does not seem common sense to me.
Then, my Lords, I come back to the Union. The Union, I believe, is tins only method of government for Ireland. Look at the prosperity it has brought to Ireland. At the present moment the bank balances of the farmers and tenants in Ireland amount to £150,000,000. That is certainly a sign of prosperity, and every one knows that up to 1906 the Union gave great satisfaction. The country was extraordinarily peaceful and prosperous; we have Mr. Birrell's own words for it. Why are you going to change it? Why are you blaming the Union for the present state of affairs? It is not the fault of the Union; it is the fault of the administration of the Union. Take an example. If a Captain of a battleship runs the ship ashore and she breaks up you do not blame the ship or the naval architect who designed the ship. You blame the Captain; and it is the same with the Union of England and Ireland. It is not the fault of the Union; it is the fault of the people who administer the Union. During the last ten or twelve years every one knows that if any law was passed which the people of Ireland did not like, the Government either said that it did not apply to Ireland, and if it did and the people of Ireland disobeyed it they shut their eyes to it. How can you expect any law to exist or to be of any use if you treat it in that way? Therefore to-day why should you blame the Union? If you administered the 483 Union properly it would probably be as great a success now as in the past.
I should like to say one word about self-determination, which to-day is a very popular phrase to use. It has many good points. I have seen it in operation, I have read of it, and have spoken to people who have seen it in operation. There is no question that it is an excellent thing if applied to certain people; but there are naturally exceptions to every rule. Self-determination is now being applied to Ireland. I regret to say that I think the Irish people are one of those peoples who are unfit to govern themselves. They cannot. govern themselves. They have to be governed. They are the most easily governed people in the world, and if you will only take them the right way they are most easily led. Unfortunately that cuts both ways. The sooner it is recognised by the people of England that the Irish cannot govern themselves the better for England and for Ireland. I hope your Lordships will think very long before giving a vote for a measure which I know noble Lords on both sides of the House and from the Woolsack to the cross benches in their heart of hearts disapprove of and disagree with. Holding the views I do I find it absolutely impossible to vote for a measure which I believe will bring nothing but ruin and disaster not only to Ireland but to England and the British Empire.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down has spoken with strong conviction and with eloquence as representing a section of the Irish people. I rise to ask your Lordships' indulgence while I speak a few words from a different point of view, but one which is also relevant. For forty years, at the bar and on the bench of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, it has fallen to me to be a close student of the application of the principle of self-government to the different parts of the British Empire. Quite true those parts were different parts—Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland lie far away—but there has been much that has been analogous in the circumstances, and what is important is that the developments there have gone on, step by step and stage by stage, often originating in what was very imperfect and culminating in each case in the successful working out, after a sufficient lapse of time, of the principle.
484 To the noble Earl's speech I listened with much interest. He began by saying that the circumstances under which this Bill was introduced by a Unionist Government were very remarkable circumstances. I agree, they are He took exception to much that is in the Bill. So do I, from a rather different point of view. For myself, I do not think it goes far enough, and I should not wish to be associated with direct responsibility by an affirmative vote in pronouncing this Bill to be an altogether adequate one. But when we came to the end of the speech of the noble Earl we got upon a new note. To put it in a sentence it was, in effect, that no possible Bill that could be introduced could make things any better, or end in anything but disaster. He is against complete self-government in Ireland, which is what I should have welcomed if it had been in this Bill. He is against doing anything except governing by the rule of law and order. We all want law and order and the question is how to get law and order.
I listened with pleasure to the brilliant speech which fell from the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack, and there was a point in that speech which struck me very much. He said quite frankly that he himself would have preferred twenty years of resolute government, but he could not sec his way to twenty years of resolute government. A Unionist Government would not endure for that time, and no other Government was likely to pursue a continuity of the policy. That was a profoundly true saying on the part of the Lord Chancellor, but it rested in something deeper than the mere change of Government which takes place in the normal course in a country like ours. It rested on this, that the basis of all Government in these islands is democracy—the will of the people, exercised by the people and through the people—and the people will not have any system of law and order that does not arise from their own good will. They believe that there is a good will that results in law and order, and they believe that if you do not have law and order you have only the action of a small minority, setting themselves against the will of a majority, which on the whole they take to be well-intentioned. There is much to be said for that view, but it is too late to argue it on its merits. It is the accepted Constitution of the country, and so long as you have democracy it is impossible to pursue a policy of resolute 485 government by coercion of any large section of the population by any other section. It will always be said that either it is a very small and limited section or it is a large section, which means that something is Wrong, and then a democracy will insist on putting it right. So it is that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was quite well founded when he said that we have reached days in which it is hopeless to expect twenty years of resolute government. If you had it, it could not succeed. The people have been educated up to a point in which they will not have it, and it would drive them on to the side of disorder if you practised it. So it conies about that to-day there is one principle and one principle only in which we can have any hope, and that is the principle of placing the fullest responsibility upon the shoulders of those 'who exercise the real power, the power of the public will, which is at the back after all of all our institutions.
This is not from my point of view a perfect Bill by any means; on the contrary, it falls far short of what, to my mind, is necessary for giving effect to the principle which I have just described. But that is not the question which I have to put to myself. The question which I have to put to myself is whether I ought to cooperate in impeding the efforts of the Government which has conic to the conclusion that this is the right principle and has embodied it in a Bill, which is imperfect, but still is an expression in some sort of the principle. Now on one set of conditions, and one only, can I bring myself to embarass the Government in making an effort which is made with what is to me an excellent intention I might think that the proposition was so bad and so monstrous that it was better it should be put aside. That is a very serious conclusion to come to in the case with which we are dealing, because what chance is there of any alternative Bill to this?
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
Is anybody in this House so foolish as to pretend to believe that any Bill can be got by agreement between this country, as it is represented day, and Ireland? Is anybody so foolish as to believe that to-morrow there is coming in another Government which will produce a better Bill? It is perfectly obvious that you cannot come 486 to any agreement between the Government here and Ireland upon the kind of Bill which you wish to introduce. You may conic to an agreement with a good many people in Ireland, and it is a great help to you if you do. You may be able to make a start; you may be able to do something on which you have a prospect to build hereafter; but to pass a Bill by agreement is unfortunately not within the region of practical polities at the present time. Therefore when a Bill is introduced which is not founded on agreement, but which may yet pass, the question I ask myself is whether it is better to use force against Ireland in the shape of passing such a Bill without the consent of a considerable proportion of the Irish people, or whether the alternative is better, which is to resort to the violence which we have seen during the last few months.
I am far from reproaching the Government for trying to keep law and order in Ireland. It is the business of every Government to do its best to preserve law and order. But what is going on at the present time is only an illustration of the terrors which are brought about by the condition of things in winch the people are on one side and the Government which is seeking to keep the law is on the other. I was talking only this morning to an Irish Unionist who told me, whatever the merits of it, that the whole of the South and middle of Ireland had gone Sinn Fein. That was the opinion of one person, and it has been the opinion of many people with whom I have talked for a long time. Nor do I see that ceasing. It may be—I cannot tell—that the Government by repression may be able to produce a smooth surface and put a different appearance upon things. But can they produce contentment in Ireland? 'We have heard a good deal of self-congratulation. There was a little of it, I think, in the speech of the Lord Chancellor this evening about the efforts of the Unionist Government which was interrupted after ten years' good work, ending in 1906. The Unionist Government did good work and passed many things, but will any one pretend that they contented Ireland? Things were quiet, but the Home. Rule agitation was getting stronger and stronger, and the. Home Rule agitation today is only the outcrop of the agitation which existed in those days.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
It is no use noble Lords pretending that it is not so. There has been an absolute continuity in this Home Rule movement during the whole of my time, and if it has been quieter at some periods it has been noisier at others, and to-day you have perhaps the best of all possible demonstrations of the unsatisfactory expectations of those who look to resolute government for a solution of the question.
This brings me to the practical question of to-day. Is there that in this Bill which makes it such that we should not give the Government, whose policy it is, the opportunity of trying it? The form in which the Bill has appeared is the responsibility of the Government, but it is a responsibility which they have assumed in face of the circumstances, and the question I have to ask myself is whether there is that in the Bill which makes it worth while leaving them free to give it a trial. For, if so, I venture to submit to your Lordships that it is our duty, in the face of the situation in Ireland to-day, not to interrupt the Government which is making the effort that, under the circumstances, appeared to them to promise most. Go on with coercion I do not believe they can for any prolonged period. Does this Bill give an opportunity, lot of coming to an agreement—there is no question of that—but of making what in diplomatic language is called a detente, a departure from the existing order of things from which there might be some hope?
There is one feature in this Bill for which I value it much, and for the sake of which alone I am prepared to say that nothing will induce me individually to put any obstacle in the way of the Government having its opportunity. When we get to Committee other considerations will arise. We will then discuss the details on their merits. But what is the proposition at this moment? There are various proposition. There is that of the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, brought forward in the form of what is called a reasoned Amendment, which is polite language for rejection. Then there is Lord Willoughby de Broke who, with more brutal frankness, has put down a Motion for the rejection of the Bill. And then there is the inure subtle and insidious form which we have not yet seen on the Paper, but of which we heard from the Lord Chancellor and from other noble Lords some ado bration—a Motion which is to delay the Second Reading, a 488 Motion for the adjournment which is to put off a decision perhaps a fortnight or some such time. To put off a decision on a Bill at this period of the session is an extremely dangerous thing. I should have thought if that were really a genuine Motion it would be sufficient to say, "Give us ten days or a fortnight before the Committee stage, and we will pass the Second Reading." But a Motion of that kind on Second Reading which goes to the very root principle of the Bill I say is a Motion which, so far as I am concerned, I resent more than I should a direct Motion to reject the Blll.
What is the principle which is valuable in this Bill? It offers to Ireland responsible government. It offers to Ireland an Executive which will no longer be the present Executive—the Lord Lieutenant under the control of Ministers at Westminster—but an Executive in which the Lord Lieutenant as representing the King will be advised by Ministers representing the two Parliaments. That is what is meant by responsible government; the Ministers being selected from the Parliament which returns them. It is a great step forward to get to responsible government. Those of your Lordships who have been students of the British Empire know that responsible government is something which has been given very tardily. Even in my own memory, which does not carry me back very far into these times, I can remember periods when there were Despatches to Colonial Secretaries who would have scouted the idea of giving responsible government to the Colonies. Lord Durham made his famous Report on the state of Canada eighty years ago, and when the Bill was brought forward eighty years ago to give some effect to that Report this country would not give Canada responsible government. The new Province of Canada, Old Canada as it was called, which included Ontario and Quebec as they are to-day, was given a Government which was representative but not responsible. It was not until six years after that the step was taken of- putting responsibility where power was. What was the result? The friction, the lawlessness, the disturbances which existed throughout these Provinces in those days speedily began to disappear because the people themselves set it right.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
I am prepared to go as far as I can in the same direction. In Canada self-government produced the result which was hoped for by those who believed in the principle of placing responsibility where power was. If responsibility was placed where power is in Ireland I have the same belief about Ireland that I have practical verification of in the case of Canada. The circumstances, of course, vary in some ways, but unless you have the courage to take your life in your hand and go to the fullest extent with this, then do not wither between two things: either say that you are out-and-out coercionists, or say you will take the full step. That has been the case throughout the experience of the British Empire. We have found as we have gathered courage that disturbances have become lessened and have finally disappeared in so far as we have made it the interest of the people themselves to put an end to them. Does anybody suppose that it is in the interest of Ireland to keep up the horrible state of things we have been reading of in the City of Dublin and in the City of Cork in the last few days? Does anybody suppose that Tralee should be in the condition it is to-day? Do you imagine that the vast majority of the citizens of these towns are not in favour of law and order just as much as your Lordships are?
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
The majority of them are just as much in favour of law and order as your Lordships, and we have this condition of things to-day because of the sense of grievance and of liberty outraged which has arisen.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
It is all very well for noble Lords to say "No, no," but if your Lordships would study history—
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
You have not given them the power to put it down; you are trying to put it down yourselves, and you have failed. But I am afraid it would take a very long speech from me to convert the noble Viscount, and therefore I will not try. But I wish emphatically to say that my difficulty about this Bill 490 is that it does not go as far as I should like to see in putting the instrument into the hands of a people whom I believe to be no more averse to law and order, no more in favour of murder and abominations than the people to which I myself belong; a people who if they had the sense of liberty, if they had the sense of being governed according to their own ideas, as we claim to be governed according to ours, would, in all probability, respond in the same way as people have responded here.
But this Bill has something more than the fact that it contains the principle of a responsible Executive. I am one of those who, as a Member of the other House, voted in favour of the Home Rule Bill of 1866. I have never ceased to regret that the Bill was thrown out in the House of Commons. I have never ceased to regret the opposition—as I think, the blind and short-sighted opposition—which prevented an opportunity when two men of genius in their different ways, Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Parnell, each at the head of his people, were prepared to carry things through. You could have settled with Ireland in those days for much less than you could settle with Ireland to-day, and, if to-day you refuse the effort which the Government is making, it is not improbable that you will have to settle on still more difficult terms at a later stage. For we have not the machinery, we have not the people behind us to enable us to pursue the only policy which is a logical alternative.
The Bill has this great advantage, that it has met with the approval of the majority in Ulster. I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Duke who spoke from the benches opposite. I was very much impressed with the way in which he recorded the steps by which Ulster had come round to this view. I was impressed in the same way by what was said by my noble friend on the Woolsack because he himself was almost, in earlier stages, a child of Ulster in this very affair, and to-day we have him telling us that, in the interests of Ulster itself, it seems the best thing to come in. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack gave such a lucid and accurate analysis of the Bill that I shall not trouble your Lordships with any details about it. I only wish to say that, taking a bird's eye view of the Bill, which I have studied very attentively, as a constitutional lawyer was 491 bound to do, I am struck with this, that it is a Bill which proposes to go step by step—step taken after step—not incontinently, but as Irish assent develops itself and manifests itself. You have got at present, if the Bill were to pass, two Parliaments, one for the South and one for the North. You have responsible government. The Executive would be dependent equally upon those two Parliaments. They have their own Ministers, but obviously, as the noble Earl said in his speech, that is not a convenient state of things.
I differ from the noble Lord who said that this is the end of all things. It. is not the end of all things; the Bill has carefully prepared for another state of things which lies beyond. If it is the wish of the ten members who sit in the Council from the South and of the ten members who sit in the Council from the North, there are many things which can be done by the Council itself towards the promotion of Irish unity; and if they can get further, if in the process of education through that Council they can reach the stage at which they say "Well, it is better that we should have one Parliament," then they can unite and form one Parliament for the whole of Ireland.
I doubt whether under existing circumstances it was possible to go much further than that.. I should, of course, have liked to see an Ireland which would have said "Give us a. large measure of Home Rule for the whole island, and we will work it," but that is not what they are saying, and that is not what they are likely to say. When I. find a state of things in which Ulster is going into a Bill which goes even so far as this, and in which the principle of responsible government is embodied to the extent. it is in this Bill, then even if I find the Bill unsatisfactory in many respects and not a Bill which I myself would have been prepared to put forward as anything like a complete remedy for the situation, I say if there be no other alternative to shooting people down in Ireland and continually to shoot them down then I, for my part, cannot take the responsibility of putting any difficulty in the way of the Government going on with their experiment. I am thankful that they are making this experiment; I am thankful that they are departing from the policy of clear coercion and going as far as they are.
The position is, as I have said, not wholly 492 satisfactory. If there is anything likely to cause friction it is the extent to which the control of their own finances is held back from Ireland. That is not a matter that you will make any better by putting the Second Reading of this Bill off for a fortnight. It is not a matter in which we can initiate change in this House; it is better surely to let the Bill pass with such Amendments, if there be any, as you can make in Committee, and having made them to leave the question of finance to the only place that can deal with it, the other House of Parliament. It is a matter for a subsequent Bill, and I should hope that it is matter for a Bill that may conic before any long time is out, because I am pretty sure it will be found that you will not get rid of friction in Ireland until you have given Ireland something like control of its own finances. The situation is this. We have the paradox that the only way of passing a Bill for self-government for Ireland is to pass it to a certain extent uninvited. Ireland will not agree, and your alternative is coercion. Therefore you must pass a Bill on your own initiative and your own responsibility if you want it to become law. An agreement is impossible. It is said that the South will never work the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
After having been for sixty-four years a stout Unionist, I should say you are putting yourself in a very difficult position as regards forming a judgment. The only reason why I refuse to give up hope that this Bill will work is this. It is directly and grossly against the interests of the people of the South not to take part in it. If they do not, what will be the consequence? Why, the consequence will be that Ulster will begin to constitute itself a Parliament and constitute itself an Executive, and the South of Ireland will be left out of the business altogether. There will be Crown Colony Government for the South of Ireland, and the South of Ireland will see the affairs of Ireland being infringed by their rival. The Irish are a practical 493 people like other people, and despite the prophecy of the noble Lord I venture to think that material considerations will prevail over sentiment when it gets to that.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE:
The noble Lord is an idealist of the highest order, and I think we in this House ought to congratulate ourselves on having somebody who has such a deep conviction and who is ready to stake his interest for that conviction. But for myself, I am of opinion that the temptation to the South will be too great after a little interval, and that we shall find the South slowly perhaps, gently, and then with sonic confidence, explaining that it is going to take some part in this and is corning into the business. I am not without hope that if that once happens and the South and the North begin to work a little together we may see some of these further steps that are foreshadowed in the Bill which the Government of necessity, and I think wisely, have not tried to carry further than the stage of providing the machinery for accomplishing that if the time ever comes. I have said all I had to say. I rose for the purpose of expressing my very strong feeling that, quite apart front the question of taking affirmative responsibility for this Bill, it would be, wrong to prevent the Government from having their opportunity. My objection is as strongly against any dilatory Motion as it is against any direct Motion for rejection. Our business is to let the Government who are responsible for this matter get to work. After all, this is better than what we have been reading of during the last few days in Ireland; and for myself if this Bill constitutes a d tour, a departure, from the sequence of things which has been all too unhappily marked, I shall feel that the attempt has been worth waking.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY:
My Lords, I must confess at the outset that the speech of the noble Viscount has put me in a difficulty from the fact that it is a different speech from what I expected. In fact, the noble Viscount has said so many of the things I intended to say myself that I feel I have little justification for doing more than explaining to your Lordships how it is that I, who have always voted against every Home Rule Bill I ever had the 494 opportunity of considering, am on Thursday night not going to range myself on the side either of those who propose argumentative Amendments, or of those who propose direct negatives, or of those who propose postponement and dilatory Motions.
I will take the Amendment of the noble Earl which has been put from the Chair. If it passes the House will have indefinitely rejected the Second Reading and will have committed itself in its place to nothing more or better than a sterile affirmation of a purely argumentative proposition. But it is worse than that. The Amendment begins with a statement of fact, "no support from the majority of the Irish people." This may or may not be true, but even if it is true it is not necessarily a condemnation of tire Bill. The fact that one should have to be so apparently paradoxical in describing the situation is the fault not of England but of Ireland. The one fact about this Bill which persuades me to support it is that Ulster, which with all respect to the noble Earl who has just spoken is, I think represented here in a better informed manner by Sir Edward Carson and the noble Duke, has at all events for the first time in its history expressed its readiness to give a trial to some kind of local responsible self-government.
There is also the element in the Bill that the one thing w hick has always wrecked schemes for Irish self-government in the past—namely, the divisions between Irishmen themselves—is in this Bill relegated to decision and solution by the efforts of Irishmen themselves, and no longer will it be the case that Ireland will have an opportunity of howling and complaining to Britain that she, and she alone, does not solve difficulties the solution of which rests with Irishmen themselves. This Bill at all events secures an opportunity for Irish feuds to be somehow composed, by Irishmen's own efforts.
We have heard a great deal to-night about moderate opinion. If this Bill passes there will be something practical for moderate opinion to do and they will have an opportunity of doing it, a direction and orientation in which they can usefully apply their efforts in doing it. We must remember that in what is called Ulster there is a repulsion, an antipathy, a repugnance, to what may be called Nationalist rule in Ireland which at the very best and very least requires some explanation, and it is not a sufficient 495 explanation to borrow Mr. Gladstone's phrase and say that it is all "original sin" on the part of Ulster.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY:
lie said that it was the fashion in England to imagine that Ireland was cursed with a double dose of original sin, and it was this phrase that I borrowed as convenient to describe the conception I negatived as regards Ulster. There must have been something to account for this repugnance and antipathy, which is almost animal in its intensity. I say that the fault is largely with Nationalism itself and the events of the last two days—which I am bound to say ought not to deflect us by one inch either to the right or the left in doing what we conceive to be just—have certainly not done anything to diminish the sense that we have that Nationalism is largely to blame for that repugnance on the part of Ulster.
I have another observation to make about the fact that this Bill is not supported by a great majority of the Irish people. I wish some leading statesmen had followed the hood example set by the noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down. I do not think this is the time when it is a useful thing for leading British statesmen to go about on platforms to egg on the Irish people and suggest to them that they should reject this Bill; that they should refuse to work it; that they should meet it with non-co-operation and possibly, with political sabotage. I think they might have been left to come to such a decision for themselves and of their own mere motion. The noble and learned Viscount has really fastened to what is the central fact of this Bill. We cannot deal with this question otherwise than by stages and steps. We are at a stage now when the British Government cannot go beyond a certain step, and the next step after that is one which must be taken by Irishmen themselves and no one else.
The other limb or member of this Amendment says that this Bill "affords no prospect of any permanent settlement." That is nothing but an expression of opinion and, with the utmost respect, I am going to express my dissent from that opinion. The mere expression of opinion proves nothing. The Bill affords at least as much 496 prospect of a permanent settlement as any Bill which has gone before it. In connection with all previous Bills, in the mouth of the late Mr. Redmond and others, you have the proposition that Ireland was a unit. Well, is it? Is there one creed in Ireland? Is there any race in Ireland which is entitled to the monopoly of the whole territory? Is there the same industrial, the same economic, the same occupational outlook all over Ireland? There is nothing of the kind. There is one thing, and only one, which we can say—that the inhabitants of Ireland live in a place which is surrounded by the same salt sea.
Having disposed of the Amendment which is before the House, I have to think whether to oppose the Bill and to prevent it passing by any other means. That is a thing to me unthinkable. This Bill holds the field. It is not incapable of amendment. It does not operate a permanent partition. It leaves all doors open. I will not say perversity, it is only Irish non-co-operation which will close any of those doors. Irish interest will keep them all open and will make the greatest advantage of having them so open. It makes a reality of those safeguards for minorities which have appeared in the speeches—
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY:
I was going to say those safeguards for minorities which have appeared in all speeches of proposers of Home Rule Bills in the past.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
I should like to know what safeguards there are for any minorities in the South of Ireland in this Bill.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY:
I say what I said before. It gives some recognition of that principle of the safeguarding of minorities.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON:
I would like to ask my noble friend what safeguard of any sort there is for any minority in the South.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY:
There is in the North. I have not said there was any safeguard in the South, except that in the South you will have the strongest motive in an orderly community for showing that a minority Will be treated in the South as it probably will be in the North.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY:
Ulster will have its own destiny in its own hands, and the South will have to choose between coming into this kind of local Parliamentary government or accepting Crown Colony rule. Sinn Fein may compel the continued acceptance of Crown Colony rule; but Sinn Fein will not do that otherwise than by terrorism. By reasoning it will never succeed. Interest will point the way in the other and the safer direction.
It is not perhaps a final objection to this Bill to say that the financial provisions are not what they could be. Of course, we cannot impose taxes. There are few things we can do as regards finance in this House, but there are ways of conveying to the other House our views that certain financial arrangements might be preferable to those in the Bill. I have not a doubt that those ways when we reach the proper stage will be adopted. I believe some of them find their place even in the Parliament Act itself. I believe they are called suggestions. We must not call them Amendments, for that would be an impropriety.
In connection with financial relations I should like to say that some people indulge in the language that it is admitted that Ireland has been overtaxed in the past. It is just as well that at this stage we should have it placed on record that the authority of the Childers Commission received in January, 1897, a shock from a very well-informed writer from which it has never recovered, and as to which it has never produced a refutation.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY:
The article was anonymous. It was in the Edinburgh Review of January, 1897. It 498 was said there that the injustice was not an injustice between the British taxpayers, and Irish taxpayers, but between the payers of direct taxes and indirect taxes, and that the Irish consumer of tea and the Irish consumer of whisky, though he might, pay more than he ought to in this allocation of burdens between direct and indirect taxation, did not suffer from any greater inequality than did his brother tea or whisky drinker in Great Britain. That injustice has long been redressed, so that. I do not agree that the financial provisions of this Bill are any less than generous. I think it just as well we should remember that if we are going to be brought face to face with the demand for complete separation there will be an absolutely unknown, increase of what- may be called Britain's, defence liabilities, and that that will cause such a debit in the account against. Ireland and in favour of Great Britain that. I hope there will be some pause in the degree of independence which is demanded from Ireland.
I alluded to Shin Fein just now. It is one of the forces which it is supposed that you must reconcile if you hope to propose anything like a successful scheme for Irish self-government. What is Sinn Fein? One thing we do know is that it is a cause which did not succeed in polling one-third of the voters on the register in the constituencies in which contests took place at last General Election. It polled in those constituencies 485,105 votes. There were 543,000 odd votes polled against it, and there were 977,000, odd persons who voted against Sinn Fein or abstained. To my mind it is very small wonder that since then Sinn Fein has found it impossible either to maintain or to extend its doctrines in Ireland without the use of murder or terrorism. That is, not a popular cause in any sense of the word, and probably you will see the weight and force of the Sinn Fein doctrines suffer a complete change if and when the spectacle is seen of Irishmen anywhere being governed themselves by Irishmen.
This leads me to reflect upon another of the great difficulties which have stood in the way of good relations between England and Ireland. I think it was Mr. Kipling, who said that Ireland always has a picturesque phrase applied to it and is always allowed to strike picturesque attitudes, and of course it has always organised matters so that Irish politicians never would accept any office from an English 499 Government. Since the advent of what may be called the Campbell-Bannerman régime there has been no moral or any other justification for any refusal of the kind. This refusal to take any part themselves in the government of Ireland has been little better than a claim to exercise power without bearing the burden of responsibility. Since 1898 Irish Nationalism has had in municipal affairs complete ascendancy. Since 1905 when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman became Prime Minister, it was the fault of Irish Nationalism itself if it did not have—and I believe it very largely did have—ascendancy also in Executive matters, or matters other than municipal. But now the spectacle will be seen of Irishmen being governed by responsible Irishmen, of responsibility being attached where power is entrusted. I, for one, look forward to a day when Irishmen will discover that mistakes may possibly be the heritage and the curse of Irish Governments just as they now imagine them to be the monopoly of English Governments. They will discover that infallibility is not to be found in an Irish Government any more than mercy is supposed to reside in an English Government. For my part I have always believed in the Union as a proper Government for Ireland.
Historically speaking, I think we ought with all respect to correct the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack. I believe the late Lord Salisbury's phrase about twenty years of resolute government was uttered somewhere about 1885 or 1886, and with the exception of an interlude of three years in 1892, Lord Salisbury got his twenty years of resolute government. From the end of that period right up to 1913 you had the late Mr. John Redmond saying that Ireland had never been so peaceful or so prosperous. On the day before we declared war on Germany the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, said that Ireland was the one bright spot in the critical position to which we were advancing. Later we were told that it was nothing but War Office stupidity and not Irish disloyalty and disaffection towards England that prevented a much larger number of Irishmen going into the Army than those who so gallantly did so.
My Lords, I shall support this Bill because I think it will afford Irishmen an opportunity of bearing some of their own burdens and their own responsibility, 500 and will do much to bring about that spirit of conciliation which all previous Home Rule Bills have failed entirely to produce.
My Lords, I rise to put before the House the views, as I conceive them, of the vast majority of Ulstermen. I am an Ulsterman: I live in Ulster; and I am a member of the Ulster Unionist Council. I welcome this Bill. As the Duke of Abercorn said, Ulster will accept this Bill and I would like to tell your Lordships why. I have always held that in considering the question of the government of Ireland it is no use disguising the fact that you have to deal with two races. You have to recognise that Protestant Ulster should not be treated as a minority merely to be safeguarded, but that if the principle of self-determination is conceded to the rest of Ireland Ulster also is entitled to the same concession. In fact, I consider that Ulster should be regarded as a distinct racial entity in Ireland.
More than one noble Lord in the course of this debate has made mention of the fact that Ulster had, apparently, changed her mind and was now prepared to accept some form of Home Rule or self-government. I think I may say—and noble Lords who come from Ulster and other parts of Ireland will agree with me—that the people of Ulster are a practical people. They have to look facts in the face, and they do it. They see that the Act of 1914 is on the Statute-book. They also try to look into the future, and Ulster knows that sooner or later—when, one cannot say—a General Election will take place, and a change of Government may occur; Ulster knows that she is not likely to get anything like as good terms as she gets under this Bill if we have either a Liberal Government or a Labour Government in power.
It is quite true that we Unionists in Ulster, along with the Unionists in the rest of Ireland, have always maintained that the Union is the wisest policy. But I doubt whether that possition can be maintained now. We have travelled a very long way since 1914. The Unionist Party, or at least the majority of the Unionists in Great Britain, have accepted at any rate the principle of home rule or self-determination in some form or another, and we must recognise that fact.
Much has been made in the course of this debate of the fact that this Bill divides 501 Ireland and sets up a permanent partition of Ireland. I think the noble Lord, Lord Oranmore and Browne, said that it set up an insuperable barrier between North and South. I take the contrary view. I say that this Bill, at any rate, is the first Bill that provides a chance, and a fair chance, of the North and the South, if they wish, coming together. I lived in Leinster a good few years before I went to live in Ulster, and, if I know anything about Ireland, J know this, that you will never get a peaceful or permanent form of government in Ireland if you try to coerce either of the two races into a Parliament which either of them mistrusts. But here in this Bill you give the North a Parliament, you give the South a Parliament, and you provide the machinery by which they can, if they so wish, come together.
If this Bill becomes law, and if a Parliament is set up in the North of Ireland I cannot believe that, as one noble Lord said, the South of Ireland will never set up a Parliament of its own. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Haldane, when he said that it would be absolutely going against the interests of the South of Ireland. If this Bill passes, and if a Parliament for the North of Ireland is set up and functions, surely if the people of Ulster show in that Parliament and in t heir acts of government a tolerance, a forbearance, and a justice to all classes irrespective of party and creeds, as I believe they will do, they may set an example to the rest of Ireland, and the rest of Ireland may follow.
Is it too much to hope that if that occurs this Bill, instead of being, as its oppoenents contend, a means of dividing Ireland in two and meaning the permanent partition of Ireland, will provide means for establishing on a firm foundation the real unity of Ireland, and that contrary to the ideas of the opponents of this Bill it may be a stepping stone to a lasting peace some day in Ireland. We all desire peace in Ireland. We are all tired of this eternal bickering and quarrelling and differences of opinion between parties in Ireland. Believing as I do that this Bill does give a chance, and, so far as I can see, the best chance of getting eventually some unity in Ireland, and that it gives Ulster a means of managing her own affairs, if there is a Division I shall certainly vote for the Bill.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA:
My Lords, I very much regret that 502 you should have to hear two Ulstermen so close together. I know that some of you think that a little of Ulster goes a very long way, but really it is the fault of the Whips. I had hoped that you would have had twenty-four hours interval of rest between hearing the Ulster opinions. But there are not many of us in this House, and it is rather important, as this question is of such gravity, that we should be allowed to give you our point of view.
The Duke of Abercorn, who was vice-president of the Ulster Unionist Council, told you that Ulster was prepared to accept this Bill. She is not enthusiastic about it, but she feels that it offers some promise and some prospect of stability and peace in the future. Nobody really except those who live in Ireland can realise what an atmosphere of unrest and turmoil has been over the country during the last ten years. The Ulster people want peace. They want to be allowed to live their own lives, to work out their own future, and to cease to be the shuttlecock of politics. Some of your Lordships have expressed great surprise that Ulster should be willing to accept this Bill. But is it really surprising? She knows, as you have been told over and over again, that the Act of 1914 is still in existence. No one can imagine that this Act can come into operation, but if your Lordships throw out this Bill there is always a chance of another Government coming into power. You may have a Labour Government with Commander Kenworthy as Secretary for Ireland, or Mr. Asquith's Government—miracles never cease—with his army and navy for Ireland. What would be the fate of Ulster then? Can you wonder that we take what we can get? We dislike most intensely having to abandon our fellow-Protestants in the South and West, but we cannot help it, and I am perfectly certain that if they were in our position they would do exactly the same. They do not like the idea of us having a Parliament to ourselves. They would like us to come in under one Parliament. If we did we could be of no possible use to them against the enormous Sinn Fein majority. We should all perish together. We Protestants in Ireland are in the position of shipwrecked mariners. We in the North are those who have been lucky enough to get on to a raft in comparative safety. The Southern Unionists are like the remainder of the crew who have been unable to get into safety and wish to upset 503 our frail bark simply with the idea that "if we cannot be saved blest if you shall be."
I was going to be so bold as to quote a speech by Lord Midleton. I hate being opposed to him for a good many reasons which he will appreciate. It is a dangerous thing for me to quote him, as he is a trained debater and I am only learning the first exercises. But he delivered a speech in this House in June, 1918—I have not the reference with me now—in which he gave very good reasons why no Unionist could possibly agree to go into a Dublin Parliament. He knew then that the Sinn Feiners were in correspondence, or close connection, with the Germans. We objected to coming into a Parliament under them, as we should be at that time. My point is that as he objected then so also did we object. We object still more now when we know that they are an organisation which, to put it mildly, tolerates murders and assassinations.
There is another party which will be opposed to the Bill, and that is the representatives of the three excluded counties, whose leader is Lord Farnham. I am not in the least surprised that they should wish to wreck the Bill. They want to do all they can to obviate the fate they see before them. As Lord Farnham knows, I was one of the few in the six counties who did their best to reverse that decision. We had two meetings. At the second, however, we were defeated by a very large majority. If I may make a personal allusion I would like to explain my position. Though I was opposed to the Ulster Unionist Council on the question I feel, as we were defeated by a large majority, that if we of the North are going to make this Parliament in Ulster a success we must all pull together; otherwise, it would be hopeless. At the same time I understand Lord Farnham's wish to oppose it.
The other party which is trying to defeat the Bill is composed of the robust diehards under Lord Willoughby de Broke, the Slashem and Bashem Party, who will have nothing to do with any Parliament of any sort. I quite understand Lord Willoughby de Broke advocating the policy because he does not live in Ireland, but I cannot understand any Irish Unionist Peer being a follower of his. How anybody who lives in Ireland can wish the state of affairs which has existed all these years to continue, I cannot imagine. It is abso- 504 lutely beyond me. If you listen to them you will never have peace of any sort in Ireland. You have raised the hopes of the Irish people of some measure of self-government and you cannot possibly refuse that. I have some hopes that if you give the North this Parliament they will work it to the best of their ability, without bigotry, without religious intolerance, and in the best interests of Ireland and the Empire at large.
My Lords, at this late hour I rise to speak with great diffidence, especially as I have not prepared a speech. But, coming from the South of Ireland, having lived there exclusively for the last three or four years, not having left it for more than three weeks during the last two years, and having for the last nine months lived under the so-called Republican Government., because it was the only Government holding sway in the district where I lived, and my family having been there, too, it being there now, perhaps I ought to give my point of view and that of brother loyalists who live in the district.
I have listened to the speakers from Ulster with very great interest. I have always recognised the right of Ulster to separate treatment. Whether the particular Parliament which they now seem to favour is the best form of separate treatment is a matter for themselves. I suppose they are the best judges of what suits them. The one thing to which people in the South are bitterly opposed is for a separate Parliament to be set up in Ulster. I am talking of Sinn Feiners. They would not so much object to Ulster being left out of any Home Rule Bill until she was willing to come in, and that, I had hoped, was the attitude which the Ulster Members in this House would take up. From the passage of the Bill in another place I thought that was the attitude they were going to adopt. The Ulster Members did not vote for the Bill. They always said they never asked for it and did not want it, but only desired to be left alone.
A few days ago I asked a leading Ulsterman, not a member of this House, "Is it a fact that you in Ulster are now getting quite keen about this separate Parliament in Ulster?" He said, "Not at all." I said, "It is stated that you are." He said, "We should like to be left under the British Government," "But," he said. "they are not offering us that; they are 505 only offering us this Parliament, and we have got to take it."
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA:
May I ask whether he was a member of the Ulster Unionist Council, who represent Ulster?
He certainly was. I do not like to mention his name, because it was a private conversation; but I thought he was one of the most representative gentlemen from Ulster I could possibly speak to. It was an absolute bombshell to me when I came here to hear that the Ulster Peers were going to support the Bill. But, as I said before, the Ulster Peers know their own job best, and if they think they can work the Parliament by all means let them do so.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, in his very able speech, said that Ulster wants peace. I cannot imagine where Ulster expects to find peace if she tries to set up this Parliament. She will have the entire South against her. She will have a very large minority of her own who will also be aglin4 her. And then they say they want finality. I may be entirely wrong, but I cannot imagine anything less likely to lead to finality than this partitioning of Ireland. It is hopeless.
I have come over much against my will, for I hate speaking, in order to implore your Lordships not to pass this Bill and put it on the Statute-book. If you pass this partitioning Bill, and if Ulster succeeds in setting up her Parliament and overcomes the opposition and gets that Parliament working, I do not believe there is any power on this earth which will ever get Ulster to amalgamate with the rest of Ireland, and there never will be a settlement or peace in Ireland while there are two Parliaments there.
It was also said in one of the speeches that Sinn Feiners in the South of Ireland were not willing to support this Bill. It was implied that it was the Sinn Feiners only who would not support the Southern Parliament. I can assure you that many loyalists I know in the West are just as bitterly opposed to this Government of Ireland Bill as any Sinn Feiners are. We look upon it as disastrous. It is proposed that practically all our 506 rights are to be put exclusively under an Irish Parliament, and yet we are to pay full Imperial taxation, and in addition any Sur-tax that the local Parliament likes to put on us as well. Is that fair treatment of the loyalists of Ireland? Then it was said that if this Parliament in the South were not set up, the South would be governed as a Crown Colony. It is very easy to talk of governing Ireland like a Crown Colony, but I am a witness of the absolute breakdown and failure of government in the South and West of Ireland during the last two years. The breakdown was so absolute that we did not know where the British Government was. People who have been opposed to Home Rule all their lives have said, "We could not have anything worse than this. Let us have Home Rule of any sort or kind. Anything is better than this." That is the state we have been reduced to there.
I would also like to say that I have had personal acquaintance with many Sinn Feiners in the South and West, and it is quite wrong for any of your Lordships to suppose that the whole Sinn Fein party are identified with this revolting policy of murder and outrage. There are hundreds and thousands of people under the Sinn Fein flag who repudiate and loathe this policy of murder just as much as any of your Lordships in this House. But they are terrorised. What can they do? To whom can they appeal? The lives and property of people in my county were threatened. They appealed to the British Government for protection. They did not get it. The police could not give it to them. The soldiers could not give it to them. Then in certain cases they appealed to Sinn Feiners and I must say that in regard to the district where I live the Sinn Feiners treated them with the greatest. fairness.
I voted against the 1914 Bill chiefly because, if it had been enforced it would at once have led to civil war; and if it were attempted to enforce it now it would lead to civil war. I also voted against it because I did not then think that the Irish people could ever govern themselves. But what I have seen of Sinn Fein Courts and of the Sinn Fein movement in the extreme west of Ireland, during the time that they have been allowed to have complete control, has made me change my opinion. Sinn Feiners have shown extraordinary fairness in a great many ways and they have been extremely just in their decisions.
507 I am willing and always have been willing, Unionist as I am, to vote for any Home Rule Bill provided it offered a reasonable prospect of settling the eternal differences between Ireland and England. A though I have no confidence in the success of any Government in Ireland I would vote for any Bill that promised a settlement of this perpetual feud between England and Ireland. But this Bill offers absolutely no prospect of settling matters. I assure your Lordships the fact of this partition Bill hanging over the heads of the Irish people has been one of the main causes of all the outrage and unrest that have occurred. The people loathe the idea of this Bill and will do anything to upset it now or when it has been passed into law. If you want peace my Lords surely a Bill manufactured in England and entirely in the interests of England as I hold this Bill to be is not the way to get it. This is not the Bill to bring peace with an Irish people who are clamouring for a Republic. Sinn Fein at least asks for an independent Irish Republic and you offer them this Bill. If you want to offer them a Home Rule Bill you must offer them something that they will accept. You must offer them real Home Rule. I do not say that you can get agreement now, but I think it is absolute madness to give up the hold that you have on the country now. It may not be strong, but you have some hold upon it, and unless you have some prospect that this Bill will finally settle the Irish question you ought to maintain your hold upon the country. I believe that the great majority of Sinn Feiners and Nationalists in the South and West of Ireland do not want to break away from the Empire. They are not disloyal to the King. But what they do want is to manage their own affairs, and what they especially want is the collection and control of their own taxation. If you are not prepared to give them that, then I am afraid there is no chance of any Bill bringing that peace to Ireland for which we all long. For the reasons I have stated I entirely agree with the Amendment moved by the Earl of Dunraven and I shall support it.
§ LORD CLWYD:
My Lords, I cannot agree with the general view expressed by the noble Lord who has just addressed the House, and I find it a little difficult to discover a complete consistency in respect to some of his statements. He has every right, as every noble Lord who 508 knows Ireland and has resided there has, of expressing his views to this House, and those views will receive due consideration, I am slue, by all who hear them.
I should like to express my views upon this Bill from the general standpoint of one who has watched the progress of this Irish controversy for 30 years at all events. I happened to be a spectator in the other House during the proceedings on the first Home Rule Bill of 1886. I supported through all their stages the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1893 and the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1912.
There is, perhaps, another reason for this brief intervention in the debate, and it is the fact that throughout my Parliamentary life I represented a part of the United Kingdom, Wales, which gave to the principle of Irish self-government a more emphatic, more consistent and constant support than, perhaps, any other portion of the United Kingdom. It seems to me that the question we have to decide in relation to this Bill is, Is there any chance or possibility through the passing of this measure, of the way being opened for a gradual solution of the Irish problem? With reference to the difficulties of the situation, I belong, as I have said to a country which has always supported the principle of Home Rule for Ireland. I also belong to a Party which has endeavoured for 30 years to carry that principle into effect. But I recognise, my Lords, that it is absolutely purposeless to refer to the past or endeavour to express regrets at this stage that the policy did not meet with the success we think it deserved. What we have to do, as it seems to me, is to try to realise the exceptional circumstances and conditions which surround this Irish problem, and in the light of that recognition endeavour to come to a right judgment whether this particular Bill will open the door to a permanent settlement in time to come.
It is, I think, perfectly clear, if we impartially consider the past, that in dealing with this problem we have not given all the factors of race and temperament and religion that place in the solution of the problem which they deserve. There is one other factor in the case to which I hardly think those who oppose this measure give sufficient consideration, and that is the factor of the war. I do not desire to dwell upon this point, but it seems to me that sometimes in history there takes place an 509 event—in this case it was the convulsion of a world-wide war—which develops history at a greater rate in a comparatively short period than has been the case during perhaps generations, or even centuries of previous history. We do not sufficiently recognise, in my opinion, the enormous change in every direction which has been brought about by the convulsion of the late war, and it has had its effect upon the Irish situation. It is the irony of fate that whilst the people of this country and other nations in alliance with us were fighting a life-and-death struggle for the liberty of the world it was impossible for us to give that attention to Ireland which was necessary, and, owing to that want of attention, things were done, mistakes were permitted, which have added very considerably to the difficulty of the solution of the Irish problem at the present time.
I will not refer in any detail to the Bill itself. As I have said, I supported the previous Home Rule Bills, and this Bill is certainly, in my opinion, an advance upon both the previous Bills which I supported years ago. Speaking for myself, I would say that I hope that it may be possible to enlarge the scope of the Bill, and that at a not very distant date. Speaking again for myself, I place great importance upon satisfying the majority of the Irish people on the financial side of the question. I know that it is impossible for us in this house to deal with the question of the Customs and Excise, but my own individual opinion would be that it would be worth while going a great distance in that direction if we were able in that way to secure that measure of support in Ireland which the noble Earl who has m wed this Amendment, Lord Dunraven, thinks would follow such a decision.
As to the state of lawlessness and terrible crime which is now unhappily prevailing in Ireland, there can only be one opinion; it must be put down, and, as the Prime Minister has said, the full resources of the Crown must be utilised for that purpose. But, from that study of the Irish question which I have been able to make, I also have come to the conclusion that the essential thing is to secure the support of the moderate section of Irish opinion on all sides. I have some reason to believe that the statement is true that, even to-day, there is a considerable section of even the Sinn Fein Party in Ireland who hate what is going on, and who would be glad of any 510 opportunity which could be afforded of coming to an agreement which they think would be satisfactory, and which would lead the way by stages to the measure of self-government which they desire.
There is no doubt as to the seriousness of the situation in Ireland. I heard one noble Lord say to-night something with which I profoundly disagree. He said he did not place very much account upon the attitude and opinion of people outside this country with regard to the Irish situation. I profoundly disbelieve that. I believe that it is of the highest importance that the opinion of outside nations, and particularly the United States, should be satisfied in regard to Ireland if we are to build up, as I hope we are going to do, and still further extend the scope and influence of the British Empire.
In conclusion I would only make this further remark. There are many points in this Bill that to my mind are not completely satisfactory, but it is the best possible Bill, under the circumstances, and there is no other measure which I think could command such support in Ireland or elsewhere. What we have to do, it appears to me, is to face the situation courageously and quickly. The tragedy of the Irish controversy has been that there have been too many words and too few deeds, and my own hope is that we shall pass this Bill and that we shall pass it quickly, that we shall remember the motto of the late John Bright, "Be just and fear not," and trying to do justice to Ireland in this Bill I believe in the long run we shall achieve the end that we have in view.
My Lords, I beg to move, on behalf of Viscount Grey of Fallodon, that the debate be now adjourned.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR:
As the Minister in charge of the Bill I may, upon that Motion, remind your Lordships that while it is not our habit to sit often after dinner it has been our custom, when we do, to sit quite late, and we frequently, indeed, almost habitually in my experience, sit till midnight. There have been some orators present tonight who could have contributed, I should have hoped very considerably, to our debate. While accepting the Motion which the noble Lord has moved, anticipating vividly the 511 pleasure we shall derive from the contribution to the debate of the noble Viscount to-morrow, I am very sorry there are not enough speakers to utilise the remaining time until midnight.
§ On Question, further debate adjourned until to-morrow.