§ Debate on the Motion of the Earl of PEMBROKE and MONTGOMERY for an humble Address to His Majesty—namely:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament"—
§ resumed (according to Order).
§ LORD ISLINGTON
My Lords, in the course of his long and interesting speech yesterday, to which we all listened with interest, the noble Marquess who leads the House ventured upon a certain admonition of your Lordships when he said that whatever revival there might be outside in the way of Party conflict it did not lie before this House to take part in it, and 57 he added that the temperature of this House does not lend itself to this form of debate. I hope and believe that he did not imply by that remark that he deprecated speeches which challenged the policy of His Majesty's Government, because the avoidance of any so-called challenge, inseparable from what we know as Part warfare, would necessarily weaken the province of this House as an integral part of Parliament in its first and essential function, which is to consider and to criticise all public questions that come before us. I hope, therefore, that, by those remarks, the noble Marquess does not want to devitalise this House, if I may so term it, to a greater extent than at present.
I make special allusion to that remark because I doubt whether, apart from the period of the war, Parliament has ever assembled in circumstances so grave and menacing to the national and Imperial welfare as they are to-day. The debate on the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne affords an opportunity for analysing so far as possible certain of the factors which may be found to contribute to the threatening situation in which we find ourselves. At the termination of the war, now more than three years ago, there were many, myself among the number, who held the view that a Coalition Government was necessary to deal with the great aftermath of the war—to effect, in the first place, a just peace throughout the world; to reconstitute as far as possible former relations with Allies and belligerents; to reconstruct the industrial situation; to readjust our financial system, and to enable us to return by gradual but steady steps on the road to financial recovery and national security.
Three years of almost unchecked control by His Majesty's Coalition Government afford an opportunity to the country to analyse what has been done and to see how far these objects have been attained during that period. To attempt to examine in any detail so vast a subject lies, of course, quite outside the purview of a single speech, or indeed of a single debate, however protracted. But I associate myself closely with the remarks that were made by my noble friend, Lord Buckmaster, last night, when he said that he had come to the conclusion that the usefulness of the Coalition Government in the present juncture had passed, that it had more than run its course, and that the sooner it was 58 finished and done with the better for the country and for the Empire. The record of the past three years is familiar to your Lordships. In the course of that time a series—I shall not attempt to enumerate them—of ill-considered and expensive measures have been introduced, some of which, from their very ineffectiveness and impracticability, have had to be very shortly afterwards repealed. You Dave had experience of extravagance and, in many instances, of serious incompetence in the administration of the country. These things are all well-known to the members-of this House and to the country.
But I desire especially to allude to the neglect and failure on the part of His Majesty's Government to deal with what I may describe as the immediate and apparent essentials of the situation both at home and abroad as they were presented to them at the time of the Armistice. By reason of their failure to deal with those essentials and to give effect to them, many of the troubles we are suffering from to-day both at home and abroad have not only been continued but in many instances seriously accentuated. In saying this I am not unmindful, of course, of the immense difficulties that have beset the Government, and would have beset any Government, during this period. We are constantly reminded of that by Ministers of the Crown. We are told, and it is true, that they had to shoulder a vast burden from the most devastating war in our history. We are told that they did their best in extremely difficult circumstances. We are sometimes asked whether anyone else could have done better. I venture to say, without, I hope, being offensive, that in many of the most important instances I doubt very much whether any Government could have done worse. Many of these difficulties could have been overcome if what I have called the vital essentials at the time of the Armistice, both in the national and Imperial interests, had been grappled with at the start and with determination.
I will venture to allude to one or two of these, but in passing I would mention one in no unduly critical spirit, because I realise the immense difficulties attaching to that particular aspect of the case. I think it is generally agreed that the settlement of a host of the most vital questions and problems in Europe and elsewhere to-day depends on the closest 59 possible contact and agreement between ourselves and France. In his speech last night the noble Marquess spoke at length on this subject. His remarks indicated a spirit of sincere sympathy with France and a recognition of the great difficulties and dangers that beset her. All he said was entirely admirable and will, I am sure, find its echo in the minds and hearts of Frenchmen. But the fact remains, and we must not disguise it from our eyes, that our relations with France have undoubtedly deteriorated since the Armistice; that the ground for accommodation and negotiation is, therefore, correspondingly more difficult and less favourable to-day, and that the task of dealing with urgent questions of international trade, and the restoration of the equilibrium of international finance is to-day more difficult than it would have been at the time of the Armistice.
It is certainly not for me to apportion the blame, if there is any blame, in this regard. Whether it is due to the work and debates that have taken place in the various Supreme Councils that have been held in different parts of Europe—whether it is due to the methods employed in those Supreme Councils, or in sonic measure to the temperaments of the negotiators—the conflicting temperaments of the negotiators—who have taken part in those discussions, it is not for me to say. The difficulties in this connection, of course, are immense on the part of our British negotiators. The noble Marquess alluded to them yesterday in his speech, but I venture to say with him that close harmony with France is an essential element in the negotiations of the future for the restoration of some sort of order in Europe. My noble friend Viscount Grey touched that note in two recent speeches that he has made in the country, and in France, where I was at the time, those speeches were intensely gratifying to the people, because they realise with us that you must have the atmosphere of good trust and good feeling as the preliminary to all future negotiations.
I would turn for a moment to another point and it is one to which I shall allude in a more critical spirit. It is a question of the very first importance. This also was alluded to by the noble Marquess in his speech yesterday; and it is one in respect of which I think His Majesty's Government have failed to make good to 60 the extent that we might have anticipated. It is now well over three years since the Armistice, and we are still at war with Turkey. I consider that in large measure, and in a menacing and increasing degree, our difficulties throughout the whole of our Eastern possessions, especially in India, are due to this deplorable failure to make peace with Turkey. At the time of the Armistice the Government were a fully seised of the grave commitments and responsibilities that were imposed upon us by our interests throughout Asia, and I think that they might have shown by results to a greater degree that they realised that, in the interests of our security in the East the very first object to consider after the Armistice was the settlement of a satisfactory peace with Turkey at the earliest possible date.
At that time Great Britain and the British Government held a position of great power awl immense influence among the Allies. Our interests and possessions far exceeded those of any other Power at those Councils, and, what is most important (as the country knows and as His Majesty's Government know) is that the tranquillity of the Moslem community throughout the world is in large measure contingent on our relations with, and the treatment that we meet out to, the Turkish Empire. The relationship of the Caliphate and the Moslem world is inseparable. I ask, therefore, why, with this full knowledge in possession of the Government, were not steps immediately taken to make peace? The noble Marquess tells us that there have been two occasions during this period when the matter has come under discussion. All I would say is that it is deplorable—and I think every one who knows the inner workings of these territories throughout the East will agree—that failure ensued from those discussions.
I believe that if we could be fully apprised of the facts we should find that opportunities more than once have occurred when a satisfactory settlement might have been brought about. There have been occasions in that period when the Turks themselves were very anxious to bring about a settlement including an acceptance by them of full security for the non-Turkish and non-Mahomedan populations of the East. Practically every authority, and every individual competent to give an opinion on this subject, has urged, appealed, and I might almost 61 say demanded, that peace should be brought about. Not only has this been neglected, but His Majesty's Government, in the course of this period, has pursued from time to time a policy half backing the Greek Government in an aggressive attitude towards the Turkish Empire, an attitude which, as time and experience have shown, was an abortive one. The invitation on the part of the British Government to the Greeks to occupy Smyrna was, by common consent, a most fatal mistake, and it is one from which emanates half the troubles in which we now find ourselves with the Moslem world.
What is the result to-day of this neglect to settle with Turkey? The whole Moslem community throughout the East is disturbed, and becoming increasingly alienated from Great Britain, a country with whom formerly they were on the best of terms. You will find that unhappy influence having its reverberations through Mesopotamia, through Palestine, and away out to our great possessions, especially in India. India to-day is distraught with faction and unrest. It is in a very, very grave condition. We may be told by some that this is due to the reform scheme that was established two years ago. It is really due, in the main—this is not my opinion alone, but it is the opinion of those who are best competent to judge to Moslem unrest, precipitated and accentuated by our failure to make peace with Turkey. It has been that arch-agitator Gandhi's chief weapon of offence against us, and he preaches today sedition, revolution and anarchy in India. It is becoming the pivot of agitation and propaganda by all the enemies of Great Britain throughout the East. Moslem unrest in India is, I believe, directly attributable to our failure to settle with Turkey; and the situation must go from bad to worse so long as this settlement is delayed. If, with all the force and influence at the back of the British Government two years ago they had made it their first duty to achieve that settlement, a peace on satisfactory lines might then have been made and half the difficulties that have accumulated by reason of the delay would not be presented to us to-day.
Whilst I am on this subject may I make one further allusion to India? India is in a very grave state. I hope that before this debate is over the Government will tell the House and the country why Gandhi has 62 not been arrested. Thousands of his followers have been arrested and thrown into prison, and are to-day filling to overflowing the gaols in India; yet the leader and inspirer of his primitive and superstitious followers is still allowed abroad. Temporising with a man of the growing influence of Gandhi, who definitely preaches anarchy and the removal of all British association in India, appears to me to be little short of an abrogation of government in that country.
Let me now say one word as regards Egypt, because there again is another vital reason for the restoration of our position in the East. It was referred to yesterday by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. I ventured to intervene in the course of his remarks because in a long list of provisions stated by him as under consideration with a view to giving Egypt her own form of government, I noted that he omitted what is really the crux of the whole position. There was no allusion to the disposition of our troops and the extent to which the British garrison was to be retained in that country. In the case of Egypt, too, delay has only accentuated the situation. If eight months ago a settlement could have been found in Egypt it would have been on more moderate and acceptable lines than, I think, will eventually have to be made, because of this long delay. I expect it will be found necessary and expedient in the end to adopt most of the main provisions in the Milner Report. Of course, it will be necessary to make our position on the Canal quite secure as well as our position in our own possession in the Sudan to the south. But as to the disposal of troops in the country this long delay will make it far more difficult to come to an arrangement on that crucial point than if the matter had been settled, as it should have been settled, eight months ago.
I should like to make one further observation in regard to what I would describe as a vital element in the position towards restoration. Members of His Majesty's Government have been busy outside this House in the last few weeks in promulgating an Election issue. The Coalition Government is to ask for a renewal of support on the grounds of national stability and national economy. With their record behind them I say that such an Election cry might almost be regarded as a joke if the times were not so grave and serious. 63 The country is asked to believe that only by means of a Coalition Government can national stability be assured. I suppose we must assume that it means a continuance for the next four years of the kind of national stability that has been provided for us during the past three years.
Anyway, the response, when the issue is put to the country, should be based on the test of that record. The country will then be afforded an opportunity of reflecting on the stability of our position to-day in the East; our stability in Mesopotamia, in Palestine, in Egypt, and in other countries where we have serious commitments. It will be able to reflect on the stability of the policy of the Government during the past three years with Russia and the Bolshevist Government; the stabilising effect it has had on Austria, Hungary, and many of the Balkan States; the stability we enjoy to-day in the industrial world at home and among the farmers and labourers in the agricultural world. And last, but not least, it will be able to reflect on the stability of our people as displayed by the economic provision of adequate houses during the past three years.
These and many other subjects will give cause for furious thinking on the part of the electors. The country is to be asked to support the Coalition to secure a reduction of expenditure, to establish national economy, upon which, of course, depends our very existence in the immediate days to come. What is the economy that is to be effected? The overwhelming, the inevitable, expenditure incurred by the war cannot be reduced except by prudent economy and the payment by instalments of that capital expenditure. It is a burden that every one must carry, and every one is prepared to carry it. It is not a matter for controversy. Of itself it entails a tremendous taxation on the country. What, therefore, is the economy that is to be effected? What is the reduction? I think it will be found, when we have the full volume of the Geddes Report, that in the main it will be a reduction of expenditure incurred by the Government itself during the past three years. It has, therefore, merely to scrap those ventures and enterprises which have been forced on the country without check or hindrance; which in the majority of cases have proved of little value, but which have entailed whole armies of officials and superfluous Departments.
64 It will be an interesting reflection on the part of the electors before they give their votes to decide whether they are prepared to support a Government for the next four years whose mandate will be to scrap and reduce their own extravagances. I need not enumerate those extravagances. They have burnt themselves into the minds, and also into the pockets, of every one in this House and throughout the country. They are very formidable in amount. In many instances, too, they are for enterprises where the money has unfortunately been spent, and where it has been necessary to impose taxation to pay off accumulated capital. Among the long list one cannot refrain from mentioning the vast sums that have been spent in Mesopotamia, Russia, Persia and elsewhere. I hope that when the Geddes Report is published it will enable us to make, if we can, something in the nature of an accurate and faithful return to show those undertakings both of a capital and recurrent character, at home and abroad, which have been entered into by the Government in the past three years, apart from the necessary and inevitable expenses connected with the war. It would not do to predict with any precision what that amount would be, but I believe one is taking a conservative view in saying that at least 1s. on the Income Tax, and possibly more, is directly attributable to this expenditure; and it is that 1s. or more on the Income Tax which, by common consent throughout the country, has had a stifling and paralysing effect upon all classes of the community and upon all our industries.
I have briefly mentioned what I regard as the vital essentials which His Majesty's Government might have put first and foremost when they came into office three years ago, and it is because they have failed on these counts that I join with those who believe that the days for a Coalition have passed. In this respect I entirely endorse the view expressed by the noble Viscount who sits upon the Woolsack. The noble Viscount, as we know, is a master of eloquence and force in arguing both for and against the same case. I am dealing for the moment with the case that he made some months ago when he was denouncing the Coalition, and I agree with him when he said that a Coalition is both an invertebrate and undefined body, and while it is necessary for war it is useless—I do not think he added this, but my own experience tempts me to add "injurious"—in times of 65 peace. It was brought into existence in 1918 by a "Khaki" Election. "Khaki" Elections, as you know, have generally proved injurious to the public interest, and this was certainly no exception.
The only stability that the Coalition Government has shown has been in regard to its numerical support in the House of Commons. Happily there are now signs that that support is definitely breaking up, but has produced very serious results and is, I think, responsible for many of the difficulties in which we find ourselves to-day. It has caused an injurious inversion of the principles of our democratic Constitution. It has really left Parliament bereft of an effective Opposition, and undoubtedly many of our troubles have arisen from that fact. I venture to say that Party Government, with all its imperfections, is necessary, and is the indispensable concomitant of our constitutional system. Without it you have as an alternative, what we have had for the past three years, an autocratic system unchecked by Parliament, carrying out many important functions, involving vast issues to the State, in a very secretive manner.
What is wanted now is an effective Opposition in Parliament—an effective Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, if I may say so with all deference to the noble Marquess who sits opposite. By that effective Opposition you will have all questions of importance subjected to criticism and close analysis, and they will not be merely signed and sealed as a mandate from Downing Street. I therefore hope that, whatever may be the outcome of political and electoral events in the coming year, those events will revive and restore effectually our true constitutional machinery. Ours is a Constitution which has brought us through previous grave periods of crisis in our history with ultimate honour to the nation and with welfare to the people. It is a Constitution which has been extended through our Dominions with the general, I may say the universal approval of their people, and which is in full working order in those Dominions to-day, and shows distinct advantages over the system to which we have deteriorated here. It consists of deliberate Cabinet consideration, checked and controlled by an effective Parliament, and, through Parliament, with constant and effective contact with the electorate throughout the country. I be- 66 lieve it is by these means, and by these means alone, that we may return, gradually it may be, but, I hope, finally and successfully to that higher state of national and Imperial welfare which we formerly enjoyed, and which certainly cannot be described as our experience to-day.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE had given Notice to move to insert at the end of the proposed Address, "but humbly to represent that, while asking for drastic measures for reducing the unproductive expenditure of the Nation, this House views with anxiety the failure of Your Majesty's Ministers themselves to lay down principles in the light of which such expenditure may be discriminated from what is essential for maintaining and developing the earning-power and efficiency of the Nation."
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I do not propose to follow my noble friend who has just sat down over the first part of his speech, nor over the last. In the first part he reviewed affairs abroad, and said some things with which I am much in agreement. But other things which he said seemed to me to raise questions of difficulty, questions concerning which I hope we shall presently have fuller materials upon which to form a judgment. Until then, and until the discussions which will probably take place in this House upon these questions, I do not desire to say anything. As regards the last portion of the speech of my noble friend, in which he came very near to prognosticating the future of this country, I find myself wholly unqualified to be a prophet. The electorate has profoundly changed. We have over twenty millions of electors in place of the eight millions to whom we used to be accustomed, whom we could reach with speeches and by organisation, and of whom we could form some impression.
§ To-day it may very well be that there is a broad-spread public opinion which will sweep away the existing Coalition; but sweep it away in favour of what? That is what I do not know, and where I feel myself unable to make any prognostication. It may be that we shall have government by groups and by skilful handling of groups for some time to come. I agree with Lord Islington that no such state of things can be permanent. In this country there is a deep-seated tradition in favour of two Parties only, and to two Parties I believe we shall come back. 67 But whether we shall come back very quickly, or whether there lies ahead another intermediate period of groups, is a question to which for one, profess myself unable to see an answer.
§ The point to which I have risen to invite your Lordships' attention is something different. It was touched on, though not really in its essence, in what was said by Lord Islington. Economy is a matter on which everybody is agreed. The Government is very vehement about it, and the charge against them seems to me to amount to this: that they are very tardy converts to the principle. I think there is great truth in that charge. No doubt it is true that they have had tremendous difficulties— a tremendous war of very long and unexpected duration, in which every nation of the world found it had to shoulder burdens far greater than it had anticipated, and the confusion following the peace. None of us complain of having to pay what has been called the price of freedom, but we feel that things have been done, that stipulations in Treaties might have been avoided, and other events foreseen, which have brought about an altogether unexpected and unnecessary addition to the national burdens.
§ But when that is said I have a certain sympathy with the Government, amounting almost to compassion. They say: "Here we are, ready to stand in a white sheet, if you like, but what do you wish us to do?" They add: "We propose to reduce drastically, and we only wish you would tell us how to reduce in some different fashion from that which we are following. It is all very well to say 'Live within the national income' but the question is how to do that. There are national necessities which have to be provided for." I would have thought that a better excuse for the Government to offer, had it not been for the fact that they have not faced the only method by which they could solve their problem, and the odd thing that the situation in which they find them selves is a situation of which they have been warned by past experience.
§ Your Lordships who choose to go to the Library and turn up the volumes of the old reviews, coming down from the beginning of last century, will find records which could be almost published as criticisms of the Government of to-day. There are articles in the Edinburgh Review which, altering a phrase or two, might be pub- 68 lished as perfectly admirable illustrations of the present Administration. After the Napoleonic war Lord Liverpool's Government were confronted with an immense demand for economy. There is no doubt that they did not administer their affairs well. They took the situation and threw it in those days at the head of a Business Committee. There was a Business Committee very much like the Business Committee of which we hear so much to-day, and that Committee set to work to deal with the situation. It failed to deal with it satisfactorily, and the result was that although Lord Liverpool's was a very prolonged Administration, it lived throughout subject to a constant stream of criticism of a most destructive kind, but criticism which did not lay down any clear principle upon which the Government could have undertaken the business of economy any better.
§ What I miss in the criticisms of the present Government is any attempt to lay down plain principles on which they ought to proceed—principles on the lines of which reductions might be arranged, with the paramount object of bringing the national expenditure within a figure which the nation can afford. That may be, and may continue to be, a very large figure. Government will continue to be very expensive for a long time, but at least it is imperative that, proceeding in order of urgency, these things should be cut if they are not essential. One can best make this plain by an illustration. The Government have referred the whole question, apparently without any laying down of principles, to a Committee of most eminent men. They are very distinguished men, and I venture to say that if they were proceeding with their own business they would scout and repudiate the procedure which the Government have entrusted to them.
§ I will take for example the head of a great shipping line. My noble friend, Lord Inchcape, is not in his place, otherwise, I would ask him if he agreed with what I am about to say, Suppose that he found, what I believe to be very far from being the case, that the great company over which he presides was not running its concern at a profit. What would he do? That distinguished man would, I think, at once sit down and proceed to get before himself the details of all the various lines comprised in the undertaking of the company. He would mark off those lines 69 which were not paying their way, and then he would enquire whether, in these particular lines, it was possible to bring them up to efficiency by putting on better ships and better staffs, and generally re-organising them. If he found that could not be done, he would cut off those lines; but what he would not do would be to take the lines which were promising to pay—the main lines on which the prosperity of his undertaking depended—and in their case cut down the expenditure without looking to the right or to the left. The prosperity of a great concern like that depends on the type of its ships, on their equipment and furnishings, on the capacity of the staff, and the general application of sufficient knowledge to the administration of the concern. There, I venture to say, rather than cut down, the noble Lord would even borrow further capital in order to bring the concern back to the vitality which the prospect of productive expenditure seemed to promise.
§ That is exactly the same case as the case of the Government to-day. They have said: "Take the national expenditure; we entrust it to you, a Committee of business men, without telling you how to do it, to cut it down." But, my Lords, the national expenditure is the cost of various Services, of different kinds, but some of immense importance. The power to lay down the principle under which their order of importance is to be estimated is not in a Committee of business men, but in the Government itself, and my complaint, which I have put in the form of an Amendment, in order to place it on record, is that His Majesty's Ministers have, following the bad precedent of Lord Liverpool, and neglecting intermediate tradition, wholly failed to do what was necessary to carry out the policy of economy according to the only lines which can be relied upon for its accomplishment. The word "administration" is a word which is almost unknown. You hear it very infrequently to-day, and it is still less understood. Administration is not only an art but a science, and it means that before you undertake any business—the business of government or any other concern—you must lay down quite clearly and definitely the principles on which you mean to proceed, and the order of urgency of the objects which you hope to attain.
§ We had in the last century two Prime Ministers who understood that doctrine 70 very thoroughly and put it into practice. One was Sir Robert Peel, who was the first Prime Minister really to sweep up and get rid of the confusion left by the faults of previous Administrations. The second was Mr. Gladstone, who understood the science of administration to a nicety, and always defined his objects and purposes before he set himself to achieve them. Both those Prime Ministers excelled in the gift of laying down the principles which they entrusted to subordinates to carry out, and they were never in the habit of leaving it to their subordinates to discover or invent the principles to be applied.
§ To-day, however, one looks in, vain in the programme of the Government for any arrangement of principles. There are two illustrations which I shall take; one of them relates to the Services, and the other to education. I will refer to education first. In a modern State the real capital is not land, which may be unproductive, or securities, which may become depreciated; the real capital is the energy and ability of the people themselves; who create the wealth of the country. That energy and that ability depend, in some part, on national characteristics. In that respect we are very fortunate. I doubt whether there is any human being in the world who is a better citizen than is the citizen of Great Britain and Ireland. But the use of that ability, the capacity to make it effective, depends in a large measure on training, and in a large measure on education. You may say that it is depending more and more on these things as years go on.
§ Every decade on which we enter brings more and more evidence of the increasingly important part played by knowledge in industry. I sit here sometimes presiding over the hearing of appeals to your Lordships' House, in the absence of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and there come before us patent cases, in which we find that a realisation of the value of high science has brought about a revolution. We had one the other day in which we gave judgment. It was a case in which an American electric corporation had engaged the services of one of the greatest men of science in America, and had said to him—"Do not leave your science, do not leave your research. We will build you as beautiful a laboratory as you could have in any University; we will pay you a very high salary. We will not even ask 71 you to leave your theoretical work; what we do ask you to do is to think for us in the/interstices of your time." And he did think in the interstices, and produced an electric lamp which, in virtue of a new discovery, swept the market. That is only an illustration of what is happening every day and at every turn.
§ New knowledge is making the whole difference. There is no business that stands still in the days in which we live; every business is changing, every business has to adapt itself to the new inventions which are being produced, and to the new condition of the time. And we do not live alone in this world. We live in a world of very keen competitors. America is not stinting money upon the training of the minds of the people, nor is even Germany in its poverty. Germany is spending more liberally by a great deal than we are here on education, although her people are very poor. And the reason is that they hope for the future. We, too, have to look to the future, and not merely to the present, and unless we realise that the situation is a progressive situation, and that the education and training of our people and the opportunities given to them must consequently be progressively given, it is inevitable that we shall fall behind. That is why I call a rigid economy standard which would cut down everywhere —which would not arrange Services in order of urgency, but would cut down national training equally with other things —that is why I call that a policy of living on your capital. And it is living upon your capital at the most deadly rate.
§ I referred also to the Services. The Army and the Navy can doubtless be the subject of great economy. But how do you get economy? By defining quite clearly the purpose for which you want your fighting instruments. In this country sea power is our great weapon, and our Army has uses which vary from generation to generation. In 1906 a clear question was put as to the purpose for which the Army was wanted. There was a defined purpose worked out in the Committee of Imperial Defence, in consultation with the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office, and that purpose, as your Lordships know, required an Expeditionary Force of a certain size, which was the best we could get from the residuary assets left over after naval demands—which came first—had been satisfied. There was a definite question 72 put, and a definite answer given, and, in consequence, a definite standard set for military expenditure.
§ But what evidence is there that any question of the kind has been put with regard to the Army or the Navy to-day? What is the purpose for which we may require an Army or a Navy to-day? It is very difficult to define, I admit, because the international situation has wholly changed. But it is not beyond the competence of a properly equipped war staff, either in the Navy or in the Army, to give an answer to that question, and it is upon the answer to that question and upon the principle on which it is based that you must shape your economy.
§ I speak of the Army with some knowledge. I was responsible for it in the year 1906, and in that year and in the subsequent years, following upon a perfectly definite answer to a perfectly definite question, we kept within £28,000,000. Now the Army should cost to-day, according to the rise in the scale, probably two and a half times as much as it did then. But it is not the same Army that you require. It may be that your Expeditionary Force will turn out to be a very different Expeditionary Force, and not nearly so costly. It is not needed for the specific purpose of preventing a German Army getting through the gap in Belgium, and reaching the three northern ports on the Channel. It may be an Expeditionary Force of a very different kind—smaller, and much less expensively equipped technically. But what I want to know is whether that question has been put, and whether it has been answered; because, if it has been answered, it may be that your Army of to-day can be produced and run at not more than double the cost of the Army of those days. It will be an Army less expensive in its structure, and less ample in what it contains.
§ The same question arises in respect of the Navy. I do not know why at Washington, where admirable results were reached, a further matter was not considered—whether it would not be to the advantage of all the Powers to agree that none of their warships should exceed, say, 14,000 or 10,000 tons. I was so impressed with that consideration that I wrote myself to the newspapers to endeavour to draw attention to it. However, it appears to have escaped attention, or else possibly they were not willing to agree 73 to it. I can only say that it would have been to everybody's advantage. We could all have been, relatively, exactly as strong as we were before, and we should have been relieved of an enormous amount of cost, instead of having battleships of 30,000 or 40,000 tons. These are the kind of questions which have to be put, and it is upon the answers to those questions that the principles are based which must guide you in your economies.
§ I have spoken of the Services, where I think a good deal can be cut off. I might refer to other Departments in which a great deal of economy could be obtained, but I want to go back for a minute or two to the topic to which I referred first—national training. We do not know what is in the Geddes Report; we can only speculate. What we do know is that the Government do not appear to have given any instructions to the Geddes Committee as to the order of urgency in principle of the matters which they wished to have considered. We only have scraps of information from the newspapers. I observe that my noble friend, Lord Inchcape, spoke the other day of limitations to the economic value of education. I do not think he has recognised many limitations in the conduct of his own business. No one has placed knowledge and training higher than he has among his staff, and the analogy of his principle applies without distinction to the situation of the Government.
§ Where do we stand as regards education to-day? We had a debate in this Home four years ago in which it emerged, among other things, from official figures, that not one in ten of the boys and girls in this country get anything in the way of a systematic education after the age of fourteen. That is a very serious thing. I will not allude again to the bad effect it has upon the economic resources of the country. I sometimes lament that reservoir of undeveloped talent which exists in this country beyond doubt, in which are buried the minds of a large number of young persons who, if they had the opportunity and tare encouragement, might contribute enormously to the resources of their country. Some of our greatest inventors, some of our greatest geniuses have come from that class and have emerged from it, as it were, by accident. If we took the trouble, as we ought, to give the chance, what might we not hope to obtain for a generation which will see competition of a 74 fierceness which we have not seen, because it is a competition in which the standards of training and knowledge will have been raised high above what they are to day.
§ But it is not on the material side of education that I wish to dwell. Look what happens from the want of the largeness of outlook to which the untrained mind is prone. Look at the result of leaving the instruction given in economics to people of narrow views, who adopt them for ulterior ends. The larger outlook would have changed all that, and I will venture to say to your Lordships that if that larger frame of mind had been more diffused among the working classes to-day you would have avoided a great many strikes and contests. One strike, or rather the cost of it, would meet over and over again the cost for several years of the small improvements which have been recommended by Select Committees appointed by the Government themselves and by other organisations which are working everywhere. There is no doubt that access to the higher kind of education brings a tranquility and a calmness which is not to be got in any other way, for it brings the appreciation of the society of books and of access to those great minds whose language can only be interpreted by the educated person. That is why bodies like the Workers' Education Association are having so much success all over the country at this moment, although they receive but little or nothing in the way of assistance from the State. That is why the Universities have thrown themselves into this movement.
§ Your Lordships propose, if what we gather from rumour is true, not merely to do nothing to develop this, but even to cut down the little help that it is getting to-day. You are going to shrink your Education Estimates; you are even threatening the Universities which are the custodians of that higher knowledge. It is not in reading, writing and arithmetic that knowledge consists. These are useful, but they are mechanical. It is in that to which they are the indispensable basis, the something on which a larger structure has to be erected. What we seek to do is to break down the barrier between class and class which exists in point of knowledge at this moment. There is unrest in the country which I believe to be largely due to a sense of injustice upon this score. People ask: "Why do the son and daughter of the rich man go through the 75 secondary school and to the University and gain that advantage which is denied to nine others for every one to whom it is given?" The answer is not easy to make.
§ Of course, you cannot send all the children in this country to the Universities and nobody proposes that you should, but you can enable the Universities to do a great deal of work extra-murally, work which they are trying to do without your assistance, but work which they can only do very imperfectly without it. In the industrial centres the work has already begun for bringing these higher visions before the working classes in ways which induce the miner to walk miles after his days work, and the woman to come from the factory and pursue a systematic course of instruction of the University type in classes taught by a teacher of University standing. It is not merely the book knowledge, it is not merely the scraps of learning that count; it is contact with the personality of the really adequate teacher and the stimulus which that gives.
§ I can only say again that I am speaking of what I observe when I say that the effect of any movement of that kind is more tranquillising, more calculated to avoid violent unrest, more calculated to allay jealousies than anything else that I see. In the last two years I have addressed between fifty and sixty meetings on this subject in different parts of the United Kingdom, and I can only tell you that the response is an increasing one. These meetings are becoming large and the recruits to these classes, wherever they are established, are becoming more numerous. There are about twenty thousand students under instruction—and just now obtaining instruction with much difficulty—in rather over sixty centres. They get along by the help of the Universities, who have been admirable in this country. Oxford, with which the noble Marquess is associated, has taken a leading part in this movement. Not only so, but little people round about, people who realise the advantage of this—people who feel that they have been debarred from the chance which is necessary to give them equality of opportunity with their more fortunate neighbours—have come in.
§ I complain that in the programme of the Government not only is this ignored (in a time of great stress it was difficult to avoid) but the actual proposition is to go back 76 upon it. Lord Inchcape's speech on the limitations of the economical value of education gave me cause for apprehension, but more apprehension has been given me by the silence of the Government as to the grants. See what you did lately and what you are not doing at the present time. In connection with education you passed a great Act not long ago. That Act involved certain developments; teachers were to get higher salaries. There is no question of choice or luxury in that; you cannot get the teachers unless you pay them higher salaries. To-day we have too few teachers, and you cannot get more. As a result the classes are congested to such an extent that the boys and girls cannot be properly taught. The classes, which are far too large, do not lead to anything, sufficient beyond. Your secondary schools require developing. The demand of the working classes for secondary schools is very large. The Act of 1918, an admirable Act, has not been carried out because the continuation classes are in peril, and as to the Universities, they are not only undeveloped but they are threatened with the cutting off of even the miserable provision which was already made for them.
§ All these things seem to me to show a want of grasp of fundamental principles on the part of the Government. I do not put it higher than that. I think they have been really frightened by the demand for cutting down, and I think they have not applied their minds to the lesson to be learned from the misfortunes of Lord Liverpool's Government, or to the great lessons taught by those who were in earnest about the science of administration in the way that Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Gladstone were. But to-day, unless we approach this question of economy with a clear declaration of policy on the part of the Government based upon definite principles, I for my part, see great disasters ahead of us.
§ I know that education is not a popular subject everywhere. I can only say to your Lordships that I think it is in course of becoming a popular subject, and not only a popular one, but a monopoly of the Labour Party. I do not rejoice over that. I am not a member of the Labour Party. I have never joined it, although I have great sympathy with it as being the only Party that is really keen about education. I have spoken for it and supported it on that ground, and on that ground alone. It is not a thing that fills me with gladness or 77 rejoicing, because it gives the Labour Party an altogether undue advantage. I warn your Lordships that you are giving it that advantage at this moment; that you are rendering it more and more powerful. People are flocking into its ranks who do not belong to the labour classes. University professors and teachers, some of them of the highest eminence, are now standing as Labour candidates.
§ All that is due to want of reflection on the part of those responsible for the administration of affairs. The course is very simple. Blue Books and Reports are the materials on which they might proceed. The whole situation in which we stand is simply due to this; that the Government has not been a reflective Government. It has been a Government admirable in action, splendid in physical energy, but not given to thinking before it acts. That is a situation that becomes very serious when you talk of drastic cuts, and when you have handed things over to the extent that you have to people whose business it is not to consider those first principles. It is for that reason, and because I think that the want of a clear expression of policy under this head matters profoundly, that I have embodied what I have said in the shape of an Amendment to the Address, and I now beg to move it.
To insert at the end of the proposed Address—"but humbly to represent that, while asking for drastic measures for reducing the unproductive expenditure of the Nation, this House views with anxiety the failure of Your Majesty's Ministers themselves to lay down principles in the light of which such expenditure may be discriminated from what is essential for maintaining and developing the earning-power and efficiency of the Nation."—(Viscount Haldane.)
My Lords, I entirely agree with what has been said as to the importance of education, but I do not think this is an occasion suitable for its discussion. Moreover, this House is powerless to determine any Votes given for education. The second thing that strikes me is this. I do not think we are quite entitled to blame the Government for not going into detail in the King's Speech on the subject of future expenditure when the only thing we have before us is an apprehension that the Government have not so far been sufficiently economical, and when criticism has to be based merely on the fear that their promises in regard to economy are not going to be effective.
78 It seems to me, with regard to the particular point upon which the noble and learned Viscount expatiated—namely, the education side of economy—that the proper place to indicate economies is not in the King's Speech. We ought to wait until we have seen the Report of the Special Committee, the Geddes Committee, and when we have seen that Report we ought then to hear from the Government how they intend to deal with it. If it is then found that they fall short of anticipations or go too far in some directions and not far enough in others, then those who are interested in the Army and Navy will censure the Government if they think they have not dealt properly with those Services; and those who are interested in education will likewise deal with the matter from their particular point of view.
There are fifty things, all of which are very important and very desirable, and on which, if we had money enough, we should be glad to spend, but we are face to face with what I may call national insolvency. We have to bear in mind that we shall have to put up with the loss of a great many desirable things which we have enjoyed in the past. This does not seem to be quite the moment for those who are advocates of any particular form of Government expenditure to bring forward their views, whether those views be in advocacy of the care of young children, or the establishment of maternity schools, or the granting of old-age pensions, or anything else. This is not the time, I submit, for each group to come forward in advocacy of its own special topic. That is what I feel regarding the suitability of having this debate on the Address. An opportunity for giving our private views as to the particular injury which we think we shall suffer from this enforcement of economy will arrive when we have heard the decisions of the Government upon the Geddes Report. We cannot fairly discuss those very wide questions raised by my noble and learned friend on this occasion.
If this were really a debate on education, and if it had a definite bearing upon education, there are lots of things which I should like to say, but I rose rather to put in a caveat against our prematurely embarrassing the question of the proper place of education in the Government programme as a whole. While I feel that education is one of the greatest assets of the nation, not only, as my noble friend put it, for the 79 commercial prosperity of the nation, but, as I would also put it, for the humanity and self-respect of the nation, I place the importance of education in the widest sense very much higher than on a basis of economic profit, but I would prefer to discuss the question when it can be properly and effectively discussed rather than have it dragged in, as I think prematurely, in a debate on the Address. Perhaps it would be better that I should stop now, for if I were to go on I should be led into discussing matters which I do not consider suitable for discussion on this debate.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, I desire to say a few words upon the subject raised by the noble and learned Viscount. No one will deny for a moment the great value of education for commercial purposes and in the general interests of humanity, but if it is so greatly desired that the education system should be developed and not curtailed, surely the cost of that development should be a national charge. The noble and learned Viscount thinks that education is becoming a popular subject. Why is it popular? It is because you have put the burden of what ought to be national expenditure upon the shoulders of comparatively few persons, who feel this to be extremely unjust.
The noble and learned Viscount talked about miners going miles to get education after their work. As a Scotsman he knows perfectly well that many countrymen of his, who now occupy great positions, had in the past to obtain the education to enable them to fill those positions by their self-sacrifice and their intense determination to become better educated. They did that voluntarily and determinedly, and if they had not the means to pay for the education themselves, bursaries or scholarships were always provided for them, so that they might get higher education. My own view is that far from the Education Act of 1918 being put fully into force, it would be more desirable to insist upon the payment of fees by those who are able to afford them. My view is that if you give great facilities for education to people without calling upon then to make any self-sacrifice it leads to great mischief.
I take the case of India. I believe that higher education there has been given much too freely and much too cheaply. The result is that students leave the Universities and schools with their characters still unformed and do not know how to 80 turn the education they have received to the best advantage. That is a source of danger to-day. For those who are really able to benefit by higher education it is right and proper that provision should be made for their going to other schools. Last week I was talking to some Scottish schoolmasters and I found that they agreed with these views. One of them, who is well known in the educational world and probably well known to the noble and learned Viscount, when I said that I thought people who could afford should pay for the secondary education of their children, after some hesitation agreed with me and said that perhaps they ought to pay also for primary education.
I am not, therefore, too audacious in saying that every facility should be given for those who wish to benefit by higher education but that those who are able to pay should bear the cost. This is not the proper occasion to enter upon the question of the rating system in Scotland. A Committee is now sitting on that subject. I have ventured to say these few words in criticism of the remarks of the noble and learned Viscount, not on the score of education itself or from any desire to cut down teachers' salaries, but because there is a feeling that instead of providing board and lodgings for children of people who can well afford to pay, the State should insist upon such parents finding the money.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, I should like to reply briefly to the speeches that have just been made. I must reply briefly for two reasons. The first is that the Geddes Report will not be published until Friday and, therefore, everything we say must be speculation and I am precluded from discussing it at length. The second reason is that the question of finance is to be raised in another place on Monday and, not unnaturally, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wishes to make his statement on that occasion.
The noble and learned Viscount has made a very interesting speech on education. I was a little surprised at his observation that the criticism in the Edinburgh Review which he had been perusing as applied to Lord Liverpool's Government was equally applicable to the present Government. That is probably true; political criticism in all ages and times is much on the same lines. May I suggest 81 that he should re-read the famous speech written by Sydney Smith on that subject? It sums up all political criticism as it is made use of.
I find some difficulty in understanding the Amendment of the noble and learned Viscount. It is couched in rather elaborate language, and I thought it rather ingeniously concealed the point made by him in his speech. While asking for drastic measures for reducing the unproductive expenditure of the nation it says—this House views with anxiety the failure of Your Majesty's Ministers themselves to lay down principles in the light of which such expenditure may be discriminated from what is essential for maintaining and developing the earning-power and efficiency of the nation.The only contribution the noble and learned Viscount made on finance was the suggestion that we should borrow money to meet our liabilities—a process which I should strongly condemn.
Before I deal with his more specific points I must say one word in reply to the amazing statements made by Lord Buckmaster last night. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, allows himself a certain vigour and latitude in debate and he indulged that feeling to the full last night. In speaking of economy he told us that when pressure was relaxed nothing whatever was done, and the suggestion was that in spite of Government efforts no reductions had been made in Government expenditure in consequence of the circulars sent round in 1919.
The best test of such a statement is the figures, and I should like to give three figures to your Lordships which, I think, will throw a remarkable light on the matter. In 1919–20, the expenditure on the Supply Services was £1,691,000,000. That is in the year the circulars were sent out. In 1920–21, the expenditure was £928,000,000, a difference of about £700,000,000. And if we take the next year, 1921–22, I understand that the latest Estimate is £750,000,000 and that the actual expenditure will be far less. We know Horace's remark to a young lady on a famous occasion—splendide mendax—when she made a statement which was not accurate, and I can only suppose that the noble and learned Lord gives himself by way of a change an occasional irruption into the realms of fictional finance.
The difficulty of dealing with Lord Haldane's Amendment is its vagueness. 82 The noble and learned Viscount wants to divide all expenditure, into productive and unproductive expenditure, which is a singularly difficult thing to do. He attributes physical but not intellectual excellencies to the Government. I do not know whether he, as an old Secretary of State for War, would say that the Army was unproductive expenditure, or whether he would contend that interest on Debt was unproductive expenditure?
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am dealing with the first half of his Amendment which I think is not quite coherent with the second part. I agree with most of his observations on the subject of education, but I would point out that it is perfectly easy to make out an overwhelming case for a great many other expenditures. I could show that if you spent £200,000,000 on transport services you would have such an improvement in those services that you would hardly know the state of the trade of the country after it had been spent. And it is precisely the same with the Public Health Services. If you talk to doctors they can show that by establishing a great number of new services you would improve the health and efficiency of the people to an extent almost undreamt of. Therefore, the test taken by the noble and learned Viscount on expenditure is hardly sufficient to divide productive from unproductive expenditure.
May I also say that, if we take education itself, the question of whether it tends to efficiency or not is a matter of debate? There are those who contend that the study of Greek leads greatly to the increase of efficiency. I think probably the noble Marquess opposite will contend in that direction. There are others who tell us that we want technical education, and so on. Many contend that it is impossible to teach children unless you have a certain limited number in any one room under one teacher at the same time. Therefore, I do not think that the noble and learned Viscount would argue that you might not get as good results as possible by better administration or less expenditure of money.
That brings me to the next criticism of the Government which he made, when accusing them, as he said, of not laying 83 down the principles of policy upon which this so-called Geddes Committee should proceed. The Government did not do so because their instructions to that Committee were to examine national expenditure, having regard to the very high rate of that expenditure at the present time and the resources of the country, and to examine what administrative changes could be made. It distinctly laid down that all matters of policy should be reserved, as obviously they must be reserved, for the Cabinet, and that was clearly not a time to lay down any such principles of policy. The only exception to those instructions was that they might make suggestions as to what would be the effect on expenditure if certain lines of policy hitherto pursued were now discontinued. That was as far as it went.
The next point made by the noble Viscount was really answered by the noble Lord, Lord Sheffield, when he asked, first of all, if you ever require a Government to lay down beforehand the abstract principles upon which you are going to conduct your reductions and economies. Surely you wait until those abstract principles are clothed in a more concrete form, until they appear on the Estimates, when you know what the proposed reductions are. You can discuss them with far more vitality when these abstract principles are thus translated into actual facts. Moreover, I doubt whether it would be possible to put down in the form of abstract principles these particular economies upon which you wish to lay stress. I think it would scarcely be a guide to the practical men who were. dealing with these problems.
A suggestion has been made in the newspapers that there has been an attempt to "torpedo," as it is called, the Geddes Report. I gather from reading the same newspapers that this attempt to "torpedo" the Report has been effectually put an end to by the determination of the Government to publish it. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount was among the "torpedoists," but I did have some suspicion that, whether he joined that association or not, he was inclined to drop a bomb or two of his own upon the Geddes scheme beforehand. I would frankly say to the noble Viscount that if he and those who are interested in these subjects are going to constitute little zarebas of their own, and to establish certain areas of administration within which profane people must not venture, then the chances of any economy may be very much reduced.
84 The noble and learned Viscount knows extremely well that for a Government to tackle economy shows great courage. He knows perfectly well that the Government will raise up for itself hosts of enemies of the reductions it makes. He knows quite well that all those who suffer by these economies—and they must be many—will be turned into most hostile and unrelenting opponents of the Government. I would therefore appeal to noble Lords to give all the help they can to what I really believe to be the desire and intention of the nation. If the noble Viscount and others try to fence off certain Departments of Government at this early stage, I am afraid it will have an extremely bad effect upon other efforts to reduce the cost of administration. I hope the noble and learned Viscount, having said his say on the importance of these educational matters, will be content not to press his Amendment, because I honestly believe that, from the very general terms in which it is couched, it will not afford very great assistance in defining principles to those unfortunate men whose business it is to try to bring about that most unpopular of measures, a great change in the direction of reducing the cost of administration. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
My Lords, the moving of this Amendment opens up a tremendous subject. It is the more unfortunate that the noble and learned Viscount cannot, in the nature of the case, receive to-day anything but a dilatory reply. It is obvious, of course, that whatever were the instructions to the Geddes Committee, no responsible Government could possibly have entrusted to such a Committee questions of such high policy as whether there were to be drastic reductions in the national expenditure on education. But the noble Viscount's Amendment, large as are the issues involved—and we must remember that it raises the issue of local taxation as well as those of education and economy—lets me in to raise a smaller matter, but one which I wish to commend to your Lordships as worthy of your notice, because this is probably the last occasion on which it will be possible to raise it until the debate upon this Address is concluded. I refer to the claim of the Government that they are entitled to keep back the Geddes Report.
85 It is true that the Government have now announced their intention of publishing that Report, but that announcement was made as if a favour were being conferred upon the Legislature, and there was implied in that announcement a claim to exercise discretion as to when and how the Report should be published. Such a claim light be made, in the supposed case of reports made by Departmental officers to heir chief, whether acting individually or in groups. Such a claim might be made [...] behalf of a confidential Report made by distinguished outsiders, if at the time of submitting a question to such a Committee you withheld their names and made no announcement to the public. But this case is very different. This is the case of a reference to a Committee of very distinguished financiers, economists and men of business, the choice of whom was paraded to the public. The announcement of their appointment was made the most of. For what purpose? For the purpose of relieving the manifest uneasiness of the popular mind, of staving off uncomfortable debates, Divisions and possibly disasters in another place.
I submit that in appointing that Committee the Government received value from the Legislature in a form which entitled the latter to demand instant publication directly the Report was made. The noble Marquess who leads the House—I am sorry he is not present—says that to have withheld the Report for an even longer period would have been justified by precedent. All I can say is that I can think of dozens and even hundreds of precedents to the contrary, and I should like to see his precedents. At any rate, the withholding of the Report has made it difficult for the noble and learned Viscount to take any other course than to move the Amendment standing in his name, because it was not until this evening that we had the ghost of an intimation what were the instructions to the gentlemen who formed the Geddes Committee. I have thought it necessary to enter a caveat and to protest against the claim to withhold these important documents from the public when their genesis is such as that of the Geddes Report. I am glad that the noble and learned Viscount has moved this Amendment, because he will at least have made it clear that when the great subject of education comes before the public and the Legislature, this House will not leave the monopoly of discussion to the other House, as if the 86 matter were to be measured in the mere ordinary terms of pounds, shillings and pence.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY rose to move to insert at the end of the proposed Address, "but humbly regret that no assurance is given in His Majesty's Gracious Speech that the integrity of the area given to the Government of Northern Ireland by the Act of 1920 will be maintained whatever be the final establishment of the Free State."
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, the course which has been pursued on this occasion is an unusual one in the history of your Lordships' House, as I believe this to be the first occasion, for many years, on which an Amendment has been moved to the gracious Speech of His Majesty, and I hope your Lordships will agree with me that exception has only been made for a most important reason. Your Lordships will have read the Amendment which I have put on the Paper, and I am convinced that the settlement of the question of the boundary would go far in the direction of mitigating the difficulties of the Irish situation.
§ It has not been without feelings of great disappointment that I listened to the speech of the Leader of this House yesterday, and that I read this morning the speech delivered by the Prime Minister in another place. Neither seems to recognise the dangers of procrastination, and the Prime Minister advocates, so far as I can judge from his words, further Conferences. A Conference seems to be the Prime Minister's sole remedy for a difficult situation. The Prime Minister even went further than that, and endeavoured to reassure the members of the House of Commons, and also I suppose the country, by saying that this was a question which would not arise for several months.
I have received three telegrams from the Minister of Home Affairs in Belfast since I came into this House, and I will venture to read them to your Lordships. They run as follows—
Invasion last night Tyrone and Fermanagh. In Fermanagh Cooper M.P. house attacked. Falls house attacked. House of Maguire ex-inspector attacked. Major Moore's house in Beleek attacked. Carson ex-High Sheriff wounded and kidnapped. Fifteen armed prisoners and three motor cars captured by our police in Tyrone. Anketell Mowbray, aged 80, and Cummings, of Aughrim, kidnapped in
Derry. Draperstown ferry bridge blown up. Those kidnapped believed to have been taken over border. Reports coming in.
Further to wire. Eleven of the prisoners captured are I.R.A. men armed with revolvers and bombs from Longford and Leitrim.
Further previous wires twenty B. men kidnapped at Rosslea, Fermanagh. One platoon ambushed, some killed, casualties not known. Eight other persons kidnapped Clogher Valley.
Those are the telegrams which I have received since I have been in this House to-day, and I do not think your Lordships will credit me with the character of an alarmist, and for the very good reason that those of us who live in Ireland are accustomed to an atmosphere which you are lucky not to experience in this country.
§ I am sure your Lordships thought and hoped that the approval last session of the Irish Treaty, both in this House and in another place, was the prelude to a settlement in Ireland, and almost to the absence of any mention of that unhappy country in this House for the future. I need hardly say that I had but few illusions in that respect. Notwithstanding the speech of the Lord Chancellor on that occasion, I was well aware that the policy pursued was one well nigh foredoomed to failure. I ventured at the time to put my reasons before your Lordships, but in the overpowering desire on the part of everyone to achieve a settlement of some kind, it seemed to me that essential conditions were completely ignored.
§ It may be said quite truly that your experiment has as yet not had sufficient time to demonstrate your wisdom. But I must confess that my hopes, deliberately expressed in this House, that the British Government was right, and that I was wrong, are as slender now as, or even more slender than, they were then. The result is that to-day we are faced with a situation of the gravest possible character. I would therefore venture, as briefly as I can, to put before your Lordships the actual part played by Sir James Craig and his colleagues in the Northern Cabinet in the negotiations which culminated in the Treaty of December 6.
§ Everyone must recognise—and the Lord Chancellor himself, in paying a well-deserved tribute to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland the other day, has recognised—that Sir James Craig has done everything that has lain in his power to make your policy a success. In so doing, 88 he has taken great risks, risks which none but a statesman, and a statesman of more than ordinary courage, would have taken, for negotiations with those whose past records are fresh in the minds of all Ulster men and Ulster women, could not but create feelings of unrest, of doubt, and of uncertainty, in a community which by bitter experience has been forced to realise the precarious nature of its position, which not even an Act of Parliament has been able to stabilise. We have seen our trusted leaders in this country almost enthusiastically recanting opinions on Ireland which they have so eloquently and with so much conviction expressed not only in Ireland but in this country. We have seen these same leaders practically condoning murder and outrage, and welcoming as friends and colleagues men whose hands are stained with blood.
§ Can any one wonder that Sir James Craig's action in meeting Mr. Collins, with the patriotic desire to do all in his power to assist your strangely conceived plan of bringing peace to Ireland, makes a heavy draft upon the confidence which those who know him repose so implicitly, not only in his loyalty, but also in his political judgment and leadership? It is not an easy thing for Sir James Craig to meet Mr. Collins and not to raise doubts in the minds of those whom he leads in the North of Ireland. It appears to be quite simple here for the Sinn Fein leaders to go to Downing Street to meet the leaders of the Government of this country, but it is not nearly the same thing in Ireland. I regret that these meetings have resulted only in what appears to be a deadlock.
§ The history, however, of the prolonged negotiations I feel is so important now, that I will venture as briefly as I can to give your Lordships the facts. I will not weary you with a detailed account of the first negotiations. These negotiations lasted actually from the opening by His Majesty of the Northern Parliament in Belfast on June 22 until September 29. The Prime Minister then invited the Sinn Fein delegates to London to a new Conference, the original negotiations with Mr. de Valera having utterly broken down. I think we may look on those early negotiations as valuable only in the disclosure they made of the extremist position held by Mr. de Valera, and of the consequent impossibility of negotiating with him. But the later negotiations, beginning, as I say, 89 with the summons to a new Conference in London, issued by the Prime Minister from Scotland on September 29, have a direct bearing upon the situation in which we find ourselves now, and I must deal with them in rather greater detail. These negotiations lasted throughout October. Apparently the chief difficulty between the Prime Minister and the Sinn Fein delegates, Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins and others, was the question of allegiance. Indeed, Mr. de Valera nearly wrecked the Conference by telegraphing to the Pope that Ireland owed no allegiance to the British. Crown
§ On November 5 Sir James Craig arrived in London and was informed by the Prime Minister that he was negotiating on the basis of an All-Ireland Parliament with guarantees for Ulster, and that the time had come for Ulster to enter the Conference. I will ask your Lordships to consider this point very carefully, because we have heard it said, and I have also seen it in the Press, that in reference to the question of boundaries the matter was decided without our co-operation because we refused to go into the Conference. Sir James Craig summoned the Cabinet of Northern Ireland to London without delay, and our answer was a refusal to enter into any negotiations of which an All-Ireland Parliament was the basis. However, we put forward counter-proposals which, in their turn, were rejected by the British Government.
§ At this moment Sir James Craig demanded that the whole of the correspondence between himself and the Prime Minister should be published. This was a matter of increasing urgency, as certain organs of the Press were obviously in possession of inside information, and were giving that information in driblets to the public. In spite of the doubt and uncertainty of the people in Northern Ireland, which was being daily increased by the mystery surrounding the proceedings—a doubt and uncertainty which could easily have been removed by the publication of the whole correspondence—and in spite of an obviously inspired leakage which invariably made what did appear in the Press adverse to us, Sir James Craig, at the express desire of the Prime Minister, consented to a postponement.
We returned to Belfast to meet the Parliament there on November 29, and to give to both Houses—Sir James Craig
in the House of Commons and myself in the Senate—the assurance of the British Prime Minister that either the negotiations would have broken down by the following Tuesday, December 6, or that he would have submitted new proposals for the consideration of the Northern Cabinet. These are the actual words agreed upon between the two Prime Ministers—
By Tuesday next, either negotiations will have broken down or the Prime Minister will send me new proposals for consideration by the Cabinet. In the meantime, the rights of Ulster will be in no way sacrificed or compromised.
In spite of the Prime Minister's assurance and promise that if the Conference did not break down, proposals only would be laid before the Northern Cabinet, on December 6 Sir James Craig and his colleagues received the terms of the Treaty, not a syllable of which could they alter, not a line of which had received their consent.
Further, there were within the Treaty two serious breaches of faith concerning the rights of Ulster, as guaranteed by the British Government. The proposals of the British Government for an Irish settlement, dated July20, stated—
The form in which the settlement is to take effect will depend upon Ireland herself. It must allow for full recognition of the existing powers and privileges of the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland, which cannot be abrogated except by their own consent.
Notwithstanding this categorical assurance of the security of the rights of Ulster, there were, as I say, two serious breaches of faith in the Treaty. Firstly, Ulster is comprised within the new Free State set up by that Treaty—it is true, with the power to vote herself out of it, but still she is included. Secondly, a modification of the boundaries of Ulster was distinctly foreshadowed in Article 12 of the said Treaty. Sir James Craig, after consultation with his Cabinet, immediately protested to Mr. Lloyd George, and this protest appears in the published correspondence.
§ In spite of this, the Treaty was approved both here and in another place on December 16. Ratification followed in Dublin after a long debate, the nature of which probably came as a great surprise to your Lordships, a debate which resulted in the resignation of Mr. de Valera as President of Dail Eireann, the election of Mr. Griffith in his place, and the appointment of Mr. Collins as the head of the new Provisional Government. I think, there- 91 fore, your Lordships will see that this question of re-opening the problem of the boundary was put into effect in the Treaty without our having ever been consulted, although we had the Prime Minister's own words that the rights and privileges of Ulster would be in no sense abrogated.
§ Shortly after the setting up of the Provisional Government in Dublin, Sir James Craig, anxious as ever to work for the peace and prosperity of the whole of Ireland, met Mr. Collins in London, and came to an agreement with him on the subject of the Belfast boycott, the employment of Roman Catholic workmen in the Belfast shipyards, and the appointment of a Boundary Commission of two, one from the South and one from the North of Ireland, instead of the three arranged for by the Treaty. Upon the subject of the removal of the boycott and the employment of the Roman Catholic workmen, there has been no difficulty, but when Sir James Craig met Mr. Collins again in Dublin, on February 1, it was at once apparent that their views as to what the British Government implied by Section 12 of the Treaty, dealing with the Boundary Commission, were hopelessly divergent.
§ The present situation, brought about by the interpretation which Mr. Collins places upon the Boundary Clause in the Treaty, is another of the hopeless states of uncertainty which your policy has manufactured. Mr. Collins, to whose personal character the Lord Chancellor paid such excellent testimony in this House, must obviously have been led to imagine that in his suggested encroachments upon the area of the Six Counties, he has at one time or another had the sympathy of the Prime Minister, or the Lord Chancellor must have formed a wrong impression of Mr. Collins' character. Either Mr. Collins has deceived the British Government or the British Government has deceived Mr. Collins. Our position has been clear from the very beginning. You entreated us to accept the Parliament. We accepted that Parliament. Our acceptance was based on the distinct understanding that we were entrenched in our territory. And yet, notwithstanding all these facts, you seem to have omitted to stand firm upon a question on which we were entitled to your whole-hearted support. We naturally must believe that our interests were sacrificed to obtain the consent of Sinn Fein to your Treaty.92
§ I hope your Lordships will realise the vital importance of the question of boundaries. Sinn Fein on the one hand has claimed what is called a united Ireland. We claim that by the Act of 1920 our territory is fixed and cannot be altered without our consent. Minor modifications of the boundary could not imply such claims as Mr. Collins now puts forward, and authoritative statements have been made by the Lord Chancellor and the Prime Minister which confirm this view. I have these statements here but I know they are well in your Lordships' minds. The are statements made by the Lord Chancellor at Birmingham and by the Prime Minister in answer to a Question in the House of Commons.
§ The meeting in London between Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins on January 21 not only modified our apprehensions in Ireland but seemed also to remove the apprehension of everyone in this country. But Mr. Collins' recent statement of his conception of the boundary question again stirs up a controversy which, I have no doubt, most of your Lordships hoped was settled. What did your Lordships imagine, if I may ask the question, was intended when you approved this Treaty? Did you believe that it was intended to hand over the greater portion of Northern Ireland to the Free State, or did you believe that it was merely the rectification of the boundary line so far as might be compatible with economic and geographical conditions? Is there never to be any finality? Is the Act of 1920, passed with all the formality that two Houses of Parliament could give to it, to be merely a scrap of paper to be modified, or altered, or even to be torn up altogether as Mr. Collins may direct? This is a travesty of government and a departure from any procedure to which we have been accustomed hitherto.
§ It is not very difficult to realise the difficulties in which Mr. Collins must find himself at the present moment. Mr. Collins and his colleagues have climbed to power and comparative affluence by exploiting the extremists in Ireland, by goading those same extremists to crime and outrage, and by employing those very means which are the negation of that good government which I am sure Mr. Collins is longing to set up. I do not know that any one need be very much surprised at the truculent attitude which is maintained by Mr. Collins. The continual surrenders 93 of the British Government have not been accepted in Ireland in the spirit in which the spokesmen of the Government have suggested that they should be accepted. While in their speeches they gave out that a great, and far-seeing policy was being enacted, in which Great Britain in her strength was showing how magnanimous she could be, it. was rather felt in Ireland—and I regret to say that I believe it was felt in other parts of the Empire also—that either Great Britain was incapable of asserting her authority, or the effort would be so great and the response so doubtful that it was dangerous to make the attempt.
After all, why should Mr. Collins abate one jot or tittle of his original demand? The Elections are coming on in Ireland. Mr. de Valera, by his consistency, his courage, and his unbending attitude to your Government, has gathered a great following. Moreover, you are withdrawing your troops; you have shown on every occasion that you have not come to the limit of your concessions, and if you require any definition of Mr. Collins' ideas, you have but to study Mr. Collins' article in the Illustrated Sunday Herald of February 5, in which he uses these words—
Now what really happens under the Treaty? When I supported its approval at the meeting of Dail Eireann, I said it gave us freedom—not the ultimate freedom which all nations hope for and struggle for, but freedom to achieve that.
Then he goes on to say—
The whole of Ireland as one nation is to compose the Irish Free State.
That is the man who, we are told, is going to bring peace to Ireland, who is going to establish a policy which will create in Ireland a Dominion of which the Empire will be justly proud.
I listened yesterday with interest to weighty words which fell from the Leader of the House, who said this—
Now, His Majesty's Government, in respect of self-government in India, feel that they went as far as they reasonably and safely could, for the present at any rate, in the proposals of August, 1917. We cannot allow this policy to be rattled or jeopardised or defeated by clamour or agitation or revolution. There is no intention on the part of the Government of India, or the Government here, of being intimidated in the prosecution of their task. Systematic terrorism of loyal citizens in India, the formation and drilling of volunteers in opposition to the Government, and the preaching and practice of disobedience to the law, cannot be tolerated. If organisations exist for promoting these things they must be suppressed. If individuals preach these mis-
chievous doctrines, as they are doing, they must be prosecuted. If newspapers spread, as they are spreading, this peculiarly dangerous form of poison, they mast be disallowed. The time has certainly arrived, and ought never to be absent, when making every concession to popular feeling, respect for the law must be enforced.
Those are weighty words. I only wish that that policy had been pursued in Ireland, for then we should not find ourselves in the difficult position in which we are at present.
§ I have endeavoured to lay before your Lordships the position as between the North and South of Ireland. I have ventured as briefly as I could to put your Lordships in possession of the successive steps in the negotiations which have taken place. The matter seems now to rest entirely with the British Government. While nothing is further from my desire than to make any statement which might be construed in the nature of a threat. I feel that your Lordships will agree with me that either the area of Northern Ireland must remain in its practical entirety, or such disturbances will ensue between those who desire to encroach and those who are determined to resist those encroachments as will give rise to a condition hardly distinguishable, if distinguishable at all, from a state of civil war. I beg to move.
To insert at the end of the proposed Address ("but humbly regret that no assurance is given in His Majesty's Gracious Speech that the integrity of the area given to the Government of Northern Ireland by the Act of 1920 will be maintained whatever be the final establishment of the Free State"),—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, after the admirable and lucid speech of the noble Marquess who has just addressed your Lordships, I should like to make a very few observations only to reinforce, if I can, the vast importance of the question which he has ventured to submit before your Lordships this evening. The joy-bells have stopped ringing over the great peace in Ireland, the congratulations have stopped flowing in, and we are now brought down to what indeed we always ought to have been attentive to, the realities of the situation and of what the Government have done and have omitted to do. Your Lordships heard telegrams read out here of the invasion of Tyrone and Fermanagh and Derry last night—thirty loyal people kidnapped, many houses raided and attacked, a platoon of police ambushed and many 95 killed, bridges blown up and numerous other outrages committed, fourteen men arrested in the act armed with bombs and revolvers, and various other things. From other parts of Ireland came members of what are called the Irish Republican Army which His Majesty's Government, in their wisdom, have now recognised as a constitutional and legal force in Ireland.
Do your Lordships really draw a picture in your own minds of what all that means? Do your Lordships wish entirely to shut your eyes to the realities of the situation in Ireland? Has your Lordships' House become the handmaiden of Sinn Fein outrage in Ireland? Do you care, or has all English feeling for justice and even humanity, and for what British Governments have hitherto taught as the sacred right of the protection of people, vanished entirely since the war from this great English nation? What do you read as the reason why this invasion took place last night, which, may God grant, will not be the precursor of civil war in Ulster? I beg of my friends there to keep cool in the circumstances. What does it mean? It means this. The Government have laid it down that the way to get what you want in Ireland is to murder and kidnap and burn houses. A controversy has arisen as to how they are to get Tyrone and Fermanagh. They know the British Government well, and they commenced the old tactics again last night. They want Tyrone and Fermanagh. "Let us go there," they say, "and raid the houses, burn the houses, kidnap the people, ambush the police, use dum-dum bullets, and then we will get the British Government to yield."
Do you know that, without an Act having been passed to set up any legally constituted Government in Ireland, the Irish Republican Army are now occupying the barracks that were recently held by your troops? Do you know that they are now being supplied, at a nominal cost, with guns and ammunition and motor ears and armoured cars by your British Government, even before there is a responsible Government to take over the country? And for what purpose? I ventured, in the first speech that I made here, to say that there was no object in this arming in Ireland except for the invasion of Ulster. Do your Lordships think I was far wrong? This question of the boundary may seem a very small thing to your Lordships, but 96 it has been a burning question all through the whole Home Rule campaign, as many of you must remember before you threw over your policy as Unionists.
How did the Prime Minister deal with it yesterday? I must say that nothing ever surprised me more than to find he was able, at a crisis like this and knowing what we know is going on in Ireland, knowing the anarchy that prevails throughout the length and breadth of that land, to treat this matter almost in a frivolous fashion. "Oh," he said, "there have been only two interviews between Mr. Michael Collins and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Why fuss about it? That is not the way to settle Irish matters. This will not arise for several months." I hope the Prime Minister is not adopting the policy of "wait and see" which at one time used to be one of his great weapons of attack upon another Prime Minister under whom he had served.
Are you going to keep this question open for several months? Why are you going to keep it open for several months? Do not even the Government know what the Treaty means? Sir James Craig has been rightly eulogised by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack as one of the greatest statesmen of the Empire. Michael Collins has been equally eulogised as one of the most honourable of men. Let us accept those two statements from the noble and learned Viscount. But each gives an absolutely different version not only of what the Treaty means but of what they were told it means, and I am taking them both at the value that has been put upon them. Let us suppose they are both perfectly bona-fide in their recollections, and in their reading of the Treaty. Who then is going to decide what it means?
I ask solemnly here that the tension on this subject should be ended to-night. Let His Majesty's Government now declare one way or the other who is right on the subject. They must know, unless you are to credit them with having entered into a Treaty, as they call it—I call it a surrender—upon an important matter of this kind without even knowing what they were doing. I cannot believe that. Therefore I make this demand—Let us know now: What does the Treaty mean? Is that an unreasonable demand, or are you going to let this fire be fanned for several months with all the consequences that may ensue? 97 What a blessed peace you have brought to Ireland under such conditions as these!
But this is no new question. Do not imagine that this is something that was sprung upon His Majesty's Government as a matter of surprise during the negotiations. They did not even think it necessary to consult Ulster about it, so threadworn was the question. Let me call your attention to the history of the matter for a few minutes. Let me ask your Lordships to pause and put this question to yourselves—Are we going to be parties to all honour disappearing from the pledges that are given by Governments and Legislatures? just trace the matter.
In 1916, after the Rebellion, it was proposed to set up Home Rule in Ireland leaving out the Six Counties. I was asked by the present Prime Minister himself to go over and negotiate that with the North of Ireland, and I received from him a letter stating that the Six Counties would be left out. There was no question of a portion of the Six Counties; no question of a border; and he assured us that as regards portions outside the Six Counties an attempt would be made to bring in some of those who were, by the arrangement being made, left outside. But it was the Six Counties, and I want you to see where we are in relation to the existing state of affairs.
In 1918 a joint letter passed between Mr. Bonar Law, as Leader of the late Unionist Party, and Mr. Lloyd George, as the head of the Coalition, which they put before the country, and there again they proclaimed to the country at the last Election that the Six Counties would be left out. There was no question of border lines, no question of taking away a portion of the territory. That was their declaration to the country. In the debate on December 15 last Mr. Bonar Law made a speech in the House of Commons which I would commend to those who used to act with him, in which he said that there never was a question of going to the country on anything less than the Six Counties being included in the Northern area of Ireland. If you talk of mandates at all that is the mandate that you got from the country. I dare say the Coalition, in that bureaucratic and autocratic temper to which they have come, care as little for the country as they do for the Unionist Party or any of their principles.
98 What happened next? The Coalition Government brought in a Bill. I dare say a number of your Lordships have forgotten it. It was introduced in 1920. It was not a haphazard Bill. I was so much in favour myself then that I was even consulted about it and the whole question of the area for the Northern Parliament was gone into in the most minute detail. The Bill was brought in very much against our will in the North of Ireland, but we were asked, in the interests of the country after the war, to accept it, giving the North of Ireland a Parliament for the Six Counties. Were the Government deceived when they did that? Did they do it in ignorance? Or was it a preconceived and studied act of legislation to try to settle Ireland and settle this question?
Then what happened? When the Bill was brought in the Prime Minister appealed to me to do what I could to get it accepted in the North of Ireland. I said I would not go over there until he told me that it was meant to be a final settlement, and he assured me over and over again that it was. I went there and persuaded people who bad confidence in me to agree to it, much as they hated it, because they wanted to stay in close community with you and your Parliament. They accepted it; and it came before your Lordships. Barely more than a year ago your Lordships ratified it after full consideration, and we had all the panoply of His Majesty and Court going over to open that Parliament, no doubt upon the advice of His Ministers. I venture to think that they had a reception which would have been a credit to the most loyal part of His Majesty's Dominions.
The visit was hardly over, the ink was hardly dry upon the Act of Parliament, when discarding everything—the noble Marquess has just told you what has happened? At the dictates of the murder gang a Treaty is entered into which surrenders the South and West of Ireland to Michael Collins and those who act with him, and which, behind the back of Ulster, says: "We are prepared to allow you to go into Ulster, without asking Ulster, and we will help you and encourage you." They did it by putting Ulster into the Bill as it is and giving them this Boundary Commission. Mr. Michael Collins says he was encouraged to get as much as ever he can of their territory. Was a more dishonourable transaction than this ever attempted in any Legislature in the whole of the world?
99 And now what is to be done? I hope we shall have a definite statement from the Government, if they answer. I notice that it is not generally the habit of the Government to answer. But I beseech your Lordships to insist upon a matter of this kind being made perfectly plain. It will not be got over by delay. The Government must know their own policy and their own mind. Do not wait, if you are going to surrender, for more murders; do not wait for more kidnapping; do not wait for more sacrifices of life and property. Surrender now, if you are going to surrender. If you are not going to surrender, make it perfectly clear that you are not; and stick to it. Believe me the two policies run together. Waiting until sufficient murders and sufficient outrages against property have been committed is the most fatal blow that ever could be struck by any Government or Legislature against a long-suffering community. I support the Amendment of my noble friend, and if I speak with heat upon a subject like this, believe me it is from no personal feeling; it is because I know well—for I have been amongst these men for many years—how little may light a spark which it would be impossible to extinguish without disaster to this kingdom.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord expressed an altogether admirable hope that in the critical circumstances at present obtaining Northern Ireland will remain calm. I share that hope, though I wonder somewhat whether the tone and tenor of his observations is likely to assist a consummation in itself universally admitted to be desirable. I shall try to reply both to the noble Marquess who moved this Amendment and to the noble and learned Lord without the slightest heat and without the use of any provocative expressions. The situation in Ireland at this moment is one in which no one, I think, would willingly use provocative expressions who desired the Treaty, which was affirmed by both Houses so short a time ago, to become effective. I cannot understand anyone choosing this moment to use language of an unnecessarily provocative nature unless it were his fixed and immutable purpose that, if it might be in any way attained, that Treaty should be destroyed.
The noble Marquess read a series of telegrams. The reading of those tele- 100 grams was, except for a vague rumour, the first intimation, so far as I was concerned, of the news which they contained, and I shall be forgiven, therefore, if I make only general observations upon their tone and tenor as they were read to the House. Both noble Lords spoke of these outrages as having been committed by the Irish Republican Army. I shall make bold upon that point—not too confidently, because excessive confidence becomes no one on these subjects—but I shall none the less make bold to attempt a prediction. I shall be astounded if, when fuller information is forthcoming, these acts of violence are found to proceed from anyone under the control of the Provisional Government in Ireland. I shall be astounded if they have not proceeded from men who will be repudiated, and who, if it be within the power of that Government, will be punished. We shall see in the course of the next few days what happens in this particular.
But is it very strange, in a country where so short a time ago there were some sixty thousand or seventy thousand men in arms against the authority of this country, among whom were many evidently with lawless and desperate hearts, and when we know that in Ireland in the last few weeks there has been a secession, we know not yet how numerous, of the more violent and unappeasable section of the population—is it very surprising that there should be a number of men, not particularly numerous, who, without any responsibility or complicity on the part of the men who form the Provisional Government, should have been guilty of lawless acts such as those which have been described? I wait for fuller information upon that point. If it is proved to be the case that these are men who have invaded this district without the knowledge of any single person among those who to-day form the governing body of Ireland, if it be a fact that their acts are strongly repudiated and that they will, if possible, be punished, I shall fail to appreciate the materiality of the telegrams upon which the two noble Lords so strongly relied.
What had happened up to the conversation which took place in Dublin so short a time ago between Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins? Lord Londonderry made it quite plain in his speech. He said that many apprehensions in Northern Ireland were relieved as the result of the discussions 101 which took place between Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins in London. I will frankly say that I was astonished that at so early a stage it had been found possible that harmonious and useful discussions upon so many points should have taken place between Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins. I think there was not one of your Lordships—and I gather from Lord Londonderry that this was also the impression in Northern Ireland—who did not feel an immense sense of relief that it seemed as if at last, through the common sense of these two men, a means had been discovered by which points which Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland had in common could be considered and adjusted in common.
What happened in the course of the second conversation? The noble and learned Lord, in emotional language, asks the Government—of whom he complains, quite inaccurately, that it is not our practice to give answers in this House when questions are asked of us or criticisms are made—that we shall state here and now where the Government stands upon this matter. Lord Londonderry has said with perfect truth that, in the first statement which any member of the Government made of the general effect of this Treaty, I gave my view of the effect of the Boundary Commission and of the reasons which had led the Government to propose and to recommend, as we did, a modification. It was therefore perfectly well known, at the time when the matter was under debate in both Houses of Parliament before Christmas, both to the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken and to the noble Marquess who initiated this debate to-night, firstly, what were the exact words in the Treaty that dealt with this subject; secondly, what was the construction which I thought myself at liberty, before Parliament had debated this Treaty, to place upon it; and, thirdly, what were the reasons which in the view of the Government justified them in recommending that there should be this modification.
Yet knowing all that, the noble Marquess never referred to it in his speech, and the noble and learned Lord, in the course of nearly an hour's speech, did not think it worthy of even one moment's consideration, and it is only to-day and only for one reason, that both noble Lords have come here and made it the subject of a first-class Parliamentary debate. What is that one 102 reason? It is not that anything fresh has happened, not that the Government have made any new proposal, not that the words of this clause, which are known to both of them, have been varied in the slightest particular. The explanation, and the only explanation, is that the two principal parties to this document have met together in Dublin in a heated atmosphere and have quarelled as to its precise tenor. Nothing else whatever has happened. It precisely resembles a case well-known in the experience of the noble and learned Lord and myself. It is as if a great litigation were pending. It is sometimes a long time before that litigation reaches a Judge. If you were to go to the two parties, and were to say to them: "You must settle your case," on the day on which the statement of claim is delivered, they would laugh at you. That is not the moment at which men's minds become ripe for a reasonable settlement. But if you take them through the anxious weeks and sometimes months that precede litigation—if you take them, as in this case, failing agreement, they are to be taken under the Treaty, before a tribunal of whose competence or impartiality even the noble and learned Lord will not have any doubt—if you approach that moment when the arguments are to be marshalled and heard, you find, in my experience, that it is in that interval, sometimes even at the last moment, that reasonableness prevails and a spirit of compromise makes itself felt.
I cannot believe that there is anybody who has studied the history of the last few months, or indeed of the last few weeks, who will see in that which has happened, in the prodigious difficulties with which we have been faced, ground for the humiliation which the noble and learned Lord thinks that we ought at this moment to feel. Profound anxiety we ought to be feeling, and profound anxiety everyone is feeling, and we are feeling, because we are involved in even greater responsibility than individual members of Parliament. But while we feel anxiety, ought we, in view of that which we proposed to Parliament and even that which has happened in Ireland since, to be conscious of humiliation?
Let me remind your Lordships. We recommended, after elaborate debates, and after taking the whole of our countrymen, represented in Parliament, into our confidence, that this preliminary Agreement 103 should be accepted and endorsed by Parliament. By overwhelming majorities our advice was accepted by both Houses. What happened then, and what is happening now? The matter went for ratification before Dail Eireann. The noble Marquess has said that we must have listened, and that any Englishman must have listened, to some of the expressions which were used in the debates in Dail Eireann with feelings (I think he said) of humiliation.
I confess that I feel that some allowance must be made for the particular character of the assembly in whose hands lay that decision, to them alike tremendous and desperate. Were they to renounce everything, or almost everything, for which they had declared they would fight as long as they had a drop of blood in their bodies? What was the character of that assembly? There was hardly a member of it who had not at one time or another been put into gaol by the British Government. It will easily be understood that I am not arguing the merits of those sentences to-day, but am merely analysing the facts, with the resultant consequences upon the constitution of the assembly. There were few of its members who had not lost some relative as a result of the hostilities so recently prevailing. Therefore, it is broadly true to say that you could not have put the ratification of that Treaty before a more bitterly hostile and unfavourable assembly, however you had collected that assembly in Ireland, and while I, like others, was disappointed by the smallness of the majority, I nevertheless counted it, and count it, a great circumstance that the ratification should have been passed by any majority in such an assembly.
It is the hope, and it is the belief, that if Parliament enables them to take the further steps to ascertain the views of the country as a whole at a General Election, the Party of comparative moderation—as I will call it, to meet the views of the noble Marquess—the Party in Ireland which is co-signatory to this original document with us—will be supported by an overwhelming majority of the population of the country. Surely this, if it proves to be the fact, will be a very remarkable circumstance indeed. It will mean that we have made an offer which has broken the extreme Party in Ireland, and which will be proved to have broken the extreme Party as the result of a popular franchise. We shall 104 have put ourselves, whatever the noble and learned Lord may say upon the question, right in the view of almost all those in the civilised world who are our friends, and even if there are doubtful corners which will remain to be turned, we shall have removed, and removed once for all, an immense weight of anxiety and a constant centre of danger.
The noble and learned Lord has spoken of the Six Counties and of the obligations which he conceives successive British Governments and Ministers are under in relation to this matter. He is quite entitled to say that there have been inconsistencies of policy in this matter. He is quite entitled to say that within a comparatively short period of time different views have been adopted by those upon whose shoulders the burden of responsibility lay. But it is at least reasonable to bear in mind that during the period in which those admitted changes of view have taken place very formidable events have been happening. Policies have been attempted, with immense cost of life and blood, which have not succeeded. If, indeed, we have proved in the end to be wholly wrong in the hopes which we have dared to entertain, there may be some reason to taunt us upon the grounds advanced by the noble and learned Lord, but we at least do not believe, and we hope to be able to satisfy you that there is no ground for believing, that the time has come for abandoning hope.
We reached quite clearly the conclusion, as others who preceded us had reached the conclusion, that while in a settlement in which only one part of Ireland was included—in a settlement from which all the North of Ireland expressly dissociated itself—it was a course which could be justified to take a single and homogeneous barrier, that would wholly disappear the moment there was a hope of associating the North and the South of Ireland alike in the settlement. There have been previous Conferences and previous discussions in relation to a Boundary Commission, and I for one have never heard it disputed, and I do not for a moment believe that the noble Marquess would dispute it, that there are areas, both in that part which has been conceded under the name of the Six Counties to Northern Ireland, and in that part, or some parts, which have been conceded to Southern Ireland, in which the concession ought to have been reversed if you had attended to the population and to various obvious economic considerations.
105 The noble and learned Lord was pleased to make a number of insinuations as to assurances—inconsistent and, I think lie said, dishonourable assurances—that had been given to Mr. Collins and to Sir James Craig. I am not willing, for reasons that are apparent—for I know not how far or in what detail the cross-examination might be carried on—to answer questions as to everything that was said in the course of these Conferences. Nor would anyone who has ever been responsible for carrying on a delicate conference of this nature ever consent to be cross-examined as to every stage and every tentative suggestion that was made. But, having regard to what the noble and learned Lord has said, I conceive myself at liberty to make this perfectly plain, that in all the meetings of the Conference, in all the discussions that took place in relation to the fixing of the boundaries, I never heard one single word said by the Prime Minister or by any other representative of our side which went in any single particular further than that which I said at Birmingham, or further than that which is contained in the Article now under consideration.
I cannot enter, nor is it desirable to try to enter, into the minds of two men who, at a moment of admitted difference of opinion and of admitted heat, are trying to recall things which have been said to them weeks before. I cannot attempt to reconcile such difference as there may he, if difference, indeed, be established. But I take the view, which I would most earnestly press upon your Lordships, that the true line of policy is not to separate these two men; it is to try to bring them together again. The noble Marquess has made it plain that, until this discrepancy or divergence manifested itself, even in the North men were hopeful. They were hopeful in the South, they were hopeful all over England. To me it came with a sense of bitter disappointment when I read that there had been this difference between the two men.
But what is the next stage of advance? If that is all that has happened, let us see if we cannot, even now, by moderation of speech on both sides, by helpfulness, and by willingness to accommodate, assist them to get back to where they were. It ought not to be at all an impossible task. I am told that meetings are to continue between the Ministers of the North and the South in relation to matters that were already under discussion. I am told that 106 all those adjustments were proceeding with the utmost good feeling, and I, for one, hope and believe that, in a spirit of reasonableness, it will be possible for two men, neither of whom I believe to be unreasonable, to arrive at a closer adjustment of view. If they fail to achieve the happier result, which is that they should reach an agreement upon this point, there remains, and there remains only, the Treaty.
I am conscious of no ambiguity as I read the paragraph of the Treaty which will require construction, but when the noble and learned Lord sits as a Judge, or when I sit as a Judge, we do not pay too much attention if the litigants bawl threats at each other, or bawl out discordant impressions of that which has to be construed. When the noble and learned Lord sits, or when I sit as a Judge, we wait until the matter comes before us, and then we try to come to an impartial view. I have told your Lordships that if this agreement is not reached privately between Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins, the Treaty will come into operation, and I would ask leave to point out that it is by no means impossible that, if the result of this Election is a happy one for the Moderate Party in Ireland—here again I make no prediction, because I, like your Lordships, have no means of forming a clear judgment, except that which I hear, and observe, and read—but if the result of that Election should be to give a strong majority to the Moderate Party in Ireland, I should hope that the result of the Election would find itself very much reflected in the discussions which take place between Mr. Collins and Sir James Craig.
Do not let us do an injustice to the difficulties in which the men with whom we have dealt are finding themselves at this moment. They are fighting for their whole political lives, and, in my judgment, they have shown great courage in the fight which they have made. It is a very disagreeable thing—the noble and learned Lord will accept this assurance from me—to be called a traitor by those with whom you have co-operated over a long period of time, and Mr. Collins has had a great deal of that kind of experience in Ireland, as has Mr. Griffith, and I think I have observed signs that on the whole they have stood firm and constant to that which they have signed, and I do not despair in the months that lie in front of us of a reasonable solution by agreement being attained. If it is 107 not so attained, of course, we must stand by the Treaty which we have signed, and that Treaty, in my judgment, in language not ambiguous, makes provision for this point.
What is the tribunal to be? The tribunal, unless it is modified by the consent of these two Irishmen, is to consist of a representative of the North and a representative of the South, presided over by an impartial person to be nominated by this country. I need hardly say that the Government will charge themselves with the task of obtaining as the Chairman of this body one whose name will command the respect and the confidence of every noble Lord sitting in this House, and indeed, I think, of those in the British Empire who are aware of the qualifications of our public men. And, if it came to that, where is this immense danger and betrayal of which we are told?
I have heard Ulstermen say more than once that if a proper rectification was made, although they would lose a great deal, they would gain more. I cannot tell your Lordships—and I said this, as others did, at the Conference—whether it would work out to the increase or reduction of population in Northern Ireland. Whether it is for the increase, or whether it is not, provided that it proceeds upon the lines, and the only lines, which are indicated in the Treaty which Parliament has approved, I declare in my view there is not the slightest ground for the exaggerated alarms which have been expressed.
Those who have spoken to-night have, I will not say forgotten, but have greatly underrated the mischiefs and peril in which this country found itself involved at the time when these negotiations were first undertaken. They have spoken of the wrongs, the intolerable wrongs, which were inflicted last night, and of which they have been informed to-day by telegram. Let us, at least, remember that in the long months that have passed outrage and wrong in the main have been suspended all over Ireland.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Well, in the main. I do not wish to be involved in a contradiction by stating anything too high, and I will make quite clear what I do mean. Before the time of the Armistice there was an undercurrent of civil war and a system of assassination proceeding in Ireland which each week and each month claimed a regular and appalling toll of 108 victims and destruction on an immense scale all over Ireland. Considering its intensity, its organisation, and the fact that large numbers of men were concerned in it, it is broadly true to say that we have had a respite from it for months. No one could expect that in a moment every disorder would be completely and finally repressed. And coming upon the top of that relative peace you have, as I believe, some real hope still that the settlement that has been reached may provide a permanent alleviation of our troubles. However wrong the noble and learned Lord believes us to have been, let us at least determine, having carried the matter thus far, that we will not either by word or by act make the matter more difficult for those who on either side of the Channel at this moment are trying to obtain peace. I earnestly hope that their efforts will be successful.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
My Lords, I did not intend to take any part in the debate on the Address which at one time promised to be very uncontroversial and to follow the course for which the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs appealed as regards general policy. But I cannot help saying, after what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has said, that I feel it necessary to repeat in this House what I have said outside your Lordships' House with regard to the policy of the Government respecting Ireland. The noble and learned Viscount said there was no humiliation. I have said outside that I agree with the settlement that has been reached; I wish it to suceed; I believe that if it is accepted it will give the fullest measure of freedom to Ireland that exists in any part of the British Empire where there is more freedom than in any other State in the world. But I have also said that the road by which that settlement has been reached has been to us a humiliation and a disgrace. What it seems to me the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack does not realise is that it is precisely because that road has been so humiliating that the danger lies now that the settlement may not succeed.
The difficulty in arriving at the settlement was that Sinn Fein did not trust the Government. The danger to the settlement now is that Ulster feels itself betrayed. I heard in this House the noble Lords who were Unionists coming from the Southern part of Ireland plead for some such large settlement as this in 1920. The Govern- 109 ment told them it was impossible; it was out of the question; it could not be done. They did not base their refusal on the fact that Sinn Fein would not accept it. They based it on the fact that it was impossible. They embarked upon a policy of reprisals in Ireland, and when that policy had failed they offered to those whom they had been denouncing as the authors of crime in Ireland that something which they had declared to be impossible when those who had been their supporters asked for it. That destroys confidence in a Government.
I could not listen unmoved to the speeches of the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, with regard to Ulster. I have found myself in opposition to Ulster through the whole course of my political life as regards what should be an Irish settlement. But at any rate it has been open opposition. There has been a difference of opinion. I have supported Governments three times who endeavoured to make a Home Rule settlement in Ireland. It was all open opposition, and the opposition of Ulster did, up to the very last moment, defeat those efforts.
What has happened now? In 1920, I venture, to say, nobody in Ireland wanted the settlement which the Government were then proposing and which they afterwards carried—no one wanted it. Ulster accepted it, we are told, on the understanding that it was to be final. As I understand the Ulster position, it was that they wished no change but that if there was to be a change and they could be sure that this was to be the final thing then they would accept it, and on that condition they did accept it. A year passes and a settlement is negotiated with Sinn Fein about which Ulster is not consulted. Then, when that settlement has gone through, Ulster is told that, of course, if she desires it she may abide by the settlement which she had reluctantly accepted in 1920, a year before—she may abide by that if she wishes, but it is hoped that she will not do so and that she will, at any rate, agree to modifications. My Lords, that is keeping a promise in the letter and breaking it in the spirit. The Government do not realise that the danger to this settlement which they have made is that it is tainted by the methods by which they reached it—that neither side trusts them now.
I read the other day a statement by Mr. Collins in which he gave an account of his conversation with Sir James Craig on this 110 subject quite recently. His account was that Sir James Craig told him he had been "tricked"; that was the word Mr. Collins used. Sir James Craig has made his own statement. I do not think he has actually used that word; but the inference that Mr. Michael Collins drew from this was that, as one or other of them had been—to use that word—tricked by the British Government, it was better they should neither of them have any more dealings with the British Government. The noble Viscount on the Woolsack thinks there is no humiliation when things like that are said.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount will pardon me for interrupting him. I do not in the least accept that that was said. I do not found myself in such grave matters upon unverified reports.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
It was a very authorised statement in the paper. Anyhow, I do not base it only on that statement. I will come now to what is my real point. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, in his speech, made a statement quite as strong when he said that it was quite clear either that Mr. Michael Collins had deceived the Government or that the Government had deceived Mr. Michael Collins. What I understand is stated beyond dispute is that the Government is accused of having said one thing to Mr. Michael Collins and another to Sir James Craig. Each has a different version of what the Government told them. What is the appeal made on the Amendment now? It is that the Government should clear up this question. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack says, with regard to the telegrams which have been received, that they wait for further information. I sincerely hope that the further information which comes may be the information that he desires and expects it will be.
But would it not be better that the Government should try to clear up the situation as to what is really meant by the boundaries? I understand the contention of Mr. Collins to be that the Treaty is to be so interpreted as to mean a real partition of areas in the North of Ireland. On the other hand, I understand Sir James Craig's version to be that it is to be a mere rectification of boundaries. Those are two entirely opposite things. I can understand an independent Chairman deciding upon a rectification of boundaries, but I do not think it ought to be left to him to 111 decide as to this real difference of principle. If the Government's whole policy has been such as to lay them open to the charge made by the noble Marquess who moved the Amendment, or by the noble and learned Lord who seconded it—that they have no sure resting-place in their Irish policy, that so long as trouble goes on sonic further concessions can be obtained from them, and that when a policy of force fails some further concession can be extorted from them—is it not right that they should try to stop the trouble now by making, I do not say this evening at a moment's notice, but at the earliest possible moment, a clear and definite statement as to whether in Ulster there is to be a partition of areas, whether that is possible under the Bill or whether it is not?
The longer that is left in doubt the greater is the certainty that you will have incidents like those mentioned in the telegrams to-day. If the Government could only make it clear that this settlement that they have now made is a final settlement, and that they intend to be quite clear as to what the interpretation of their own Act is, and not leave the interpretation to be a matter of contention and fighting in Ireland itself, they may, even at this hour, do something to rescue their
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment112
§ settlement from the danger in which it is placed. The noble and learned Viscount spoke as if the Government was a judge in this matter between Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins, who were heated litigants.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
I beg the noble and learned Lord's pardon, that is so. What I want the Government to realise is, that this is not a question merely of tactics, of dividing the extremists in Ireland. One of the things he claimed credit for was that the Act had at any rate divided the extremists in Ireland. What the Government ought to realise is that after all that has passed it is they themselves who are on their trial, and that if they are to allow things to drift, and to allow the interpretation of their own Act on a matter of principle of this kind to remain in dispute, and not attempt to clear it up, they are really jeopardising the chances of their settlement in Ireland going through.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed shall be inserted at the end of the Address?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 46.111
|Argyll, D.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Chaplin, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Ludlow, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Milner, V.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Dufferin and Ava, M. [Teller.]||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Avebury, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Airlie, E.||Berwick, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Carson, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Roundway, L.|
|Grey, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Morton, E.||Erskine, L||Sempill, L.|
|Powis, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) [Teller.]||Hastings, L.||Sumner, L.|
|Kenyon, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Birkenhead, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Plymouth, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Searbrough, E.||Faringdon, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Gorell, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Harris, L.|
|Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.)||Hawke, L.|
|Bath, M.||Astor, V.||Hemphill, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, M.||Esher, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||FitzAlan, V.||Illingworth, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Peel, V.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|Chesterfield, E.||Durham, L. Bp.||Merthyr, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Abinger, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Ailwyn, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Annesley L. (V. Valentia.)||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Eldon, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Lucan, E.||Clwyd, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
§ disagreed to accordingly.113
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE had given Notice to move to insert at the end of the proposed Address, "but humbly to express our regret that no mention has been made in Your Majesty's Gracious Speech of the good conduct, order, and discipline shown by all ranks of the Regular British Army under very difficult circumstances, who were quartered in Ireland during the recent, serious disturbances in that country."
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, this is not the first time, and I do not suppose it will be the last, in the midst of general rejoicings, that the great services of the Regular Army has been sadly overlooked. We have had two gracious Speeches from the Throne in the last few months in which Ireland has occupied a conspicuous place and one very historical debate on the subject, and the good services of the British Army quartered in Ireland have never been mentioned by any Minister of the Crown, except in one instance. There was an unfortunate reference—I say it very respectfully—made by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to which I am obliged to call attention. I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for his courtesy in listening to what I have to say. It is an ungracious task to say anything about anyone in his absence.
In the speech of the Lord Chancellor to which I refer he hit out all round rather hard, and he fell on the Duke of Northumberland with somewhat unnecessary ferocity. The noble and learned Viscount held up the noble Duke to scorn and ridicule as he likened him to a well-known member of the House of Commons in the last century called "Single-Speech Hamilton"; a man who made a speech somewhere between 1770 and 1780, quite eclipsed all the orators of the House except Mr. Pitt, and never made another. The noble and learned Viscount said of the Duke of Northumberland that—
For the last six months the noble Duke has been stalking England always delivering the same speech.
Stalking is a very good sporting expression. But I ask your Lordships whether it is so foolish a thing to do as the noble and learned Viscount suggests.
§ I remember very well in the year 1867, when I was a member of the House of Commons, being asked to dinner at Hughenden Manor, and Mr. Disraeli, our 114 host, over what he called walnuts and wine, gave us young men some very good advice. He said that: If you feel very strongly on any point, no matter what it may be, you must go on repeating it over and over again; perhaps in ten years' time, perhaps in twelve years, the British public will begin to have sonic faint glimmering of what you really mean. The noble Duke, according to the statement of the noble and learned Viscount, has only been saying the same thing for about six months. I have heard the speech myself three times—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Will the noble Marquess assist my obtuseness by helping me to follow the relevancy of the improper observations in my speech to his Amendment?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
I am in the hands of the House. If the noble and learned Viscount objects—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No, I do not object. On the contrary, I look forward to deriving much amusement from this development.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
I am entirely in the hands of the House. I only want to quote two sentences, which I humbly submit are entirely germane to the matter that I wish to bring before your Lordships' House. If I am out of order; I am out of order; and if the noble and learned Viscount objects to having his remarks read out in the House, I entirely bow to him.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
Very well then; I will go on. The noble and learned Viscount told us that the noble Duke went on always making the same speech, and added—these are his exact words—explaining to unconvinced audiences that the whole of England was about to turn Bolshevist and to destroy our Government——he means, of course, the Coalition Government—by the process of violent revolution.I hold no brief for the noble Duke. Generally I do not agree with a single word that he says. But I do humbly submit that in this case the précis of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord High Chancellor of 115 England, can hardly be said to convey an interpretation of what the noble Duke really meant.
But he is not content with that. I go one step further. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack is not content to judge the noble Duke out of the words of his mouth, but he also probes the meditation of his mind. He is a sort of twentieth-century thought-reader, a man from whom no secrets are hid. This is what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack goes on to say—again I quote his exact words—In the mind of the noble Duke—Now, how does he know what is in the mind of the noble Duke?every soldier is a superman, every politician is a rogue or a fool, and every working man is a Bolshevist, actual or potential.The noble Duke is here, and with the permission of the House I will take the great liberty of asking him a question. He may answer it or not, as he likes, because I believe that in this House or in a Court of Law a man need not answer questions if it incriminates him. However I will ask the noble Duke a question. Is it a fact that the noble Duke considers every working man a Bolshevist, actual or potential?
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
The noble Marquess asks me a question, and I suppose I am entitled to reply. Then my answer is: Certainly not.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
Certainly not. I now ask the noble Duke another question. Is it true that in the mind of the noble Duke every politician—present company, of course, excepted—is a rogue or a fool?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
Certainly not. Does the noble Duke really believe that every soldier is a superman?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
And so do I. And so, I firmly believe, does every Liberal in this country, actual or potential, every Tory in this country, Coalition or Independent, and every working man in this country that is worthy of the name. I want only five minutes more. 116 I wish to ask—I will ask myself this time— to what branch of the Regular Army can the Lord High Chancellor of England really refer? I do not pretend to fathom his mind for a moment, but I would not dare to suggest that he was referring to those seven or eight million men who really of their own free will—because there was very little conscription—faced the most awful dangers, faced death, to fight for liberty and honour in the great war. He cannot mean the brave soldiers of our brave Allies. Of course he does not mean the soldiers that were left in England, the Home Army, for the simple reason that there were none. When the speech was made there were no soldiers at all in England. Who are left? There are only the Armies of Occupation, the Army of Occupation in Ireland and the Army of Occupation on the Rhine and in Germany.
On what business are these men who are in the Army of Occupation in Ireland employed? I do not suppose there is any more awful, more odious task that can be imposed on a British soldier than being turned out to help the civil power. There are a great many of us in this House who have had to go through that experience. I have a recollection of it in the "Leap-in-the-dark Year," 1869. There was a very strong feeling about the necessity of reform, and Lord Derby's Government of the day said: "No! Nonsense! We are going to stop all this." A request was made to have meetings in Hyde Park. It was promptly refused by Her Majesty's Government. The gates of the park were shut, police were stationed behind them, and the people of London were told that they were not to go in. What happened? A certain lawyer called Beales put himself at the head of a great crowd that had collected in Park Lane. I remember seeing it. The mob, headed by Beales, surged up against the rails. They were very rotten rails; they fell like the walls of Jericho; the people of London poured in their thousands into Hyde Park, and, when they once got in, all the King's horses and all the King's men could not get them out.
The Household Brigade were at once called up. They were marched up from Windsor. We were trotted round and round the park aimlessly and, I am glad to say, very harmlessly, protected by a gentleman who was in a great state of panic. He was a Metropolitan Police Magistrate. He was mounted on the 117 kettle-drum horse and had the not Act in his pocket. When the military were called out, Lawyer Beaks went to the Home Office and said, "This will not do; you have got to withdraw the police and the soldiers." The deputation saw His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State, who listened to what they had to say, burst into tears, and promptly did as he was told. What was the result? In eight hours the great crowd vanished altogether and Hyde Park became a desert.
Then the Government acted with great force and promptitude. They at once sacked poor Mr. Walpole, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State, and, after a decent interval, they promoted Mr. Beales and offered him a County Court Judgeship, which he accepted, and he lived and died a good Judge too. That is what was done by the Government of the day. There is not a human being who could have done the trick better. But those events and the riots that took place in Liverpool, where the 12th and 16th Lancers were called out, and at Tonypandy in South Wales, where they turned the soldiers out, were as child's play—mere cat's cradle—as compared with what the British Army has been exposed to in Ireland.
To carry out the policy which at that time seemed to be that you must meet violence by force and force by violence, and meet crime and outrage by reprisals, you had to be well backed up, and the result was that large numbers of troops were hastily despatched to Ireland. When they got there they found wretched accommodation and great hardships and discomforts, and these soldiers, many of whom were very young soldiers, and others who had fought through the war, were exposed to dangers to life and limb, which were increased, I am sorry to say, by the policy of that time of His Majesty's Government. Now the policy is changed, to the great relief of the Empire, and these troops have now returned to England, having been relieved of their hateful task. They have returned to England without one word of recognition of their wonderful discipline, shown under the most dangerous and trying conditions. Is that right, is that fair?
I have but one more word to say, and I thank the House very respectfully and gratefully for listening to me at this very late hour. There is one thing of which I am very proud, and of which I think I am justly proud, and that is that for fifty-four 118 years I have had the honour of being a member of your Lordships' House—that House which has always remained true to its old traditions, which have been insisted on by the leaders of the past—by men like that Rupert of debate, Lord Derby, like dear old Lord Granville, the most courageous and the straightest leader the Liberal Party ever had, and like the late Marquess of Salisbury—and it was with great pleasure that I heard last night Lord Curzon, in his peroration, tell us that as long as he was the Leader of the House of Lords so far as he was concerned its old traditions would be maintained. We have also had the great advantage during the last fifty years of being presided over by great jurists like Lord Halsbury, Lord Selborne, and Lord Cairns, who always were true to the great traditions of this House.
But there is one thing for which this House has always been conspicuous, and that is that it has always stood up for courtesy and toleration and freedom of speech and love of fairplay. What this means to us, the small Liberal minority in this House, it is impossible to exaggerate, and it is very difficult to describe. Nobody knows what it meant to us, the small band of men who in 1886 followed Mr. Gladstone into the wilderness. We knew what to expect, we knew what we should get, and we got it. Outside the House of Lords our lives were a burden. We were ostracised, we were ignored by our old friends, life was hard to bear, and it was all the harder because the hardship had to be shared by our wives and our children. We stuck to our old opinions, however, and I have lived long enough to know that we were right after all. But in this House it was very different. When we came into this House we knew that although our speeches were hateful to the vast majority of members, and our reasons were suspected, yet we were absolutely certain to get a fair hearing and fair play.
It is to that sense of fair play that I most respectfully appeal to your Lordships to-night. I shall be told that this is a vote of censure, the real object of which is to drive another nail into the coffin of a moribund Government. It is nothing of the sort. Upon my honour, it is not brought forward in ally spirit of that sort. All it aims at is recognition by the House of Lords, and through this House by the whole country, of the good behaviour, 119 self-control, and sense of discipline that has been shown by these young soldiers of the Crown, not only in Ireland but on the banks of the Rhine as well. I am not an Irishman, and have no right to speak about Ireland, but I am told by those who have such a right that the memory left by these soldiers in Ireland is in no way a painful or hostile one, but that the Irish nation, who are a generous nation, as I and others who have been Governors of Colonies in which there were a large proportion of Irishmen and Catholics know, have no hostile feeling against the soldiers of the Crown, and recognise that what those soldiers did, and any mistakes they may have made, must remain at the door of the Government, and not at that of those men who simply executed what every soldier considers to be one of the most hateful duties that it is possible for him to be called upon to perform.
In these circumstances I do not see how on earth anybody can vote against the Amendment which I have respectfully laid before your Lordships' House. When we remember all that the soldiers did for us in the great war, that if it had not been for them none of us would be here now, and when we think of the good service that these boys—for many of them are nothing but children, young men under twentyone—have rendered during this terrible time, I cannot believe that any man in this House would have the heart to try to shelve a proposal of this sort, much less to vote for its rejection.
To insert at the end of the proposed Address ("but humbly to express our regret that no mention has been made in Your Majesty's Gracious Speech of the good conduct, order, and discipline shown by all ranks of the Regular British Army under very difficult circumstances, who were quartered in Ireland during the recent serious disturbances in that country").—(The Marquess of Lincolnshire.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Marquess, in a concise and masterly speech, has developed, to the extent of thirty-five minutes of Parliamentary time, a point Which I shall ask leave to answer in very little more than thirty-five seconds. There has not, of course, been any failure on the part of the Government or of the country to appreciate in the warmest manner the services rendered by the soldiers, and, I may add, other members of His Majesty's armed forces, during the recent troubles 120 in Ireland. The words used by the noble Marquess are "good conduct, order, and discipline shown by all ranks of the Regular British Army." To that I will add "the Auxiliary Forces," and I will say that the appreciation by the Government and by the country of those qualities is as clearly and vividly entertained as by the noble Marquess himself.
The noble Marquess will perhaps reflect that there are other ways of snaking this appreciation known than by a paragraph in the King's Speech, and I have no reason whatever to doubt that in the Orders of the Day the sense which is felt of the admirable behaviour of the troops has been made abundantly clear. It may also occur to the noble Marquess that reasons connected with the harmony which it was hoped had followed upon the recent disturbances in Ireland might easily suggest, having regard to the very unusual character of those hostilities, that it was perhaps not wise to make this the subject of a prominent part of the King's Speech in circumstances in which the views of the Government had been over and over again expressed in this House by me, and in another place by the Chief Secretary and the Prime Minister.
I was completely puzzled by the long allocution with which the noble Marquess embellished the shorter point of his speech. It is, indeed, a new method of debate that he has introduced in this House, adding a new terror to the lives of those who at any time have to make a speech in the House. Apparently, the noble Marquess, whose gifts are quite thrown away in this House—he should have been at the Old Bailey—when he wishes to make a speech, rises in his place, and, if he sees any unoffending Member, about whom any criticism or observation has been made in another part of the House, bids him stand up, in precisely the same manner as a Peer, taking his seat for the first time, is bidden to rise three times, and to answer his questions.
I have known the noble Duke for a considerable time. He is a man who. I am glad to say, possesses the power of frank and plain speech, and, if he wishes to criticise anybody, he is perfectly able to do so. And the noble Duke is far too great a gentleman to deny anybody else the same freedom of speech which he habitually and quite properly claims for himself. The noble Duke answered my speech on that 121 occasion—and the noble Marquess will permit me to say that he is about ten times as well able to answer me as the noble Marquess is—and the noble Duke made no complaint of the observations I had made. And now I am to be read lectures by the noble Marquess with obscure and irrelevant eulogies of Lord Cairns and Lord Halsbury, and others of my distinguished predecessors. I cannot help wondering, if he had any communication of real importance to make to the House, in how many hours of cross-examination and collateral illustration he would have indulged the House.
On the substantial point made by the noble Marquess everybody is in full agreement with him, and let it be said plainly here by me on behalf of the Government that we assent to the language in which he has expressed his appreciation of the conduct of the troops, and we have ourselves on many occasions expressed the same conclusions in even warmer language. As to the other parts of his speech, and more particularly those which were devoted to my own castigation, I have only to say that the noble Marquess has been long here, and his bonhomie has impressed very many people, and his humour a discriminating few, but must make it perfectly plain that my withers are entirely unwrung by the censures he has passed upon me.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
My Lords, I intended to take the sense of the House on this matter in a Division. After the courteous words of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, I cannot say I am quite satisfied, because all I understand him to say is that the Government's appreciation of the services of these men will be made sufficiently clear. Then he added that he was in full agreement with everything I had said about the services of the British Army, and he left it at that. 122 What are we to understand? Is there, or is there not, going to be a real recognition of the good services of the troops? Is it possible to have an Order in Council? We cannot have it in the King's Speech, of course, but could we have a vote of thanks put in an Order of Council? I think a speech from the Woolsack, at two minutes to eight, to say that the Government have the greatest pleasure in expressing their entire satisfaction with the services of the Army, is not enough.
There was not one word said during the whole of these debates by any Minister of the Crown, except the noble Viscount on the Woolsack, who uttered a few words of tardy appreciation. But I shall not trouble the House to divide now, after the speech of the noble and learned Viscount. I hope it will be really well reported, and that the officers and men of the Army, who are writhing under the japes and gibes of the noble Viscount, will learn that he does appreciate, in the name of the whole of His Majesty's Government, those splendid services of which the country is so proud.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and Address ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.