§ Amendments reported (according to Order).
§ Provisions for giving the force of law to and carrying into effect Irish Agreement.
§ 1.—.(1) The Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the schedule to this Act shall have the force of law as from the date of the passing of this Act.836
§ Provided that if an address is presented to His Majesty under Article 12 of the said Agreement, then as from the date of that address and until identical Acts making other provisions are passed by the Parliaments of the Irish Free State and of Northern Ireland, the powers exercisable by the Council of Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, shall, as respects Northern Ireland, be exercisable as from the date of that address by the Government or Parliament of Northern Ireland as the case requires.
§ Provided further that if an address is presented to His Majesty under Article 12 of the said Agreement, then as from the date of that address and until identical Acts making other provisions are passed by the Parliaments of the Irish Free State and of Northern Ireland, any appeal from His Majesty's Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland shall, instead of as provided by section 43 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, lie to the House of Lords in the same manner and subject to the like conditions as an appeal from His Majesty's Court of Appeal in Ireland lay to the House of Lords before the passing of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920:
§ Provided further that it is hereby declared that the British Government does not seek under Article 10 or any other article of the said Agreement, to evade its just responsibilities to, and engagements with, public servants of His Majesty in Southern Ireland, and undertakes to continue responsible for payment of compensation or pension, as the case may be, to judges, officials, members of police forces, and other public servants on terms not less favourable than those provided for such public servants under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920.
§ (2) For the purpose of giving effect to Article 17 of the said Agreement, Orders in Council may be made transferring to the Provisional Government established under that Article the powers and machinery therein referred to, and as soon as may be and not later than four months after the passing of this Act the Parliament of Southern Ireland shall he dissolved and such steps shall be taken as may be necessary for holding, in accordance with the law now in force with respect to the franchise number of members and method of election and holding of elections to that Parliament, an election of members for the constituencies which would have been entitled to elect members to that Parliament, and the members so elected shall constitute the House of the Parliament to which the Provisional Government shall be responsible, and that Parliament shall, as respects matters within the jurisdiction of the Provisional Government, have power to make laws in like manner as the Parliament of the Irish Free State when constituted. Any Order in Council under this section may contain such incidental, consequential, or supplemental provisions as may appear to be necessary or proper for the purpose of giving effect to the foregoing provisions of this section.
§ (3) Any Order in Council made under this Act shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if an address is presented to His Majesty by either of those Houses within twenty-one days on which that House has sat next after any such Order is laid before it, praying that any such Order may be annulled, His Majesty may thereupon by Order in Council annul the same, and the Order so annulled shall forthwith become void, but without prejudice to the validity of any proceedings which 837 may in the meantime have been taken thereunder; and any Order in Council made under the Act shall, subject to the foregoing provisions of this subsection, be of the same effect as if enacted in the Act, but may be revoked or amended by a subsequent Order in Council:
§ (4) No writ shall be issued after the passing of this Act for the election of a member to serve in the Commons House of Parliament for a constituency in Ireland other than a constituency in Northern Ireland.
§ LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE moved, in subsection (2), after "elected" ["and the members so elected"] to insert "together with the Senate of Southern Ireland." The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships were yesterday so much occupied in considering the question of the breach of pledges to Ulster, with rather a long diversion in the shape of a discussion as to what were the duties, responsibilities and privileges of noble and learned Lords in this House, that I thought that, at the late period of the evening when my Amendment was reached, it was advisable not to introduce the totally different subject of the position of the loyalists in Southern Ireland. There was another reason why I was anxious to postpone my Amendments. Frequent communications on various subjects have passed between His Majesty's Government and the Provisional Government in Ireland, and it appeared to me that this was essentially a subject on which such communications might be made, and that if I were to postpone my Amendment until to-day there might be more chance of obtaining a favourable answer from His Majesty's Government than there would have been if the Amendment had been taken yesterday.
§ We are all agreed that in the present aspect of affairs in Southern Ireland it is necessary that this Bill should be passed into law. The great experiment must be tried. Our great witch doctor, if I may so style the Prime Minister without disrespect, has ferreted out Mr. Michael Collins as the only man in Ireland who, to use his expressive phrase, can "deliver the goods," and it is necessary that his Government should be invested with legal power in order that he may if possible once more enforce law and order in Ireland. We can only hope that the Prime Minister's intuition in this matter has been correct, 838 and that after the next General Election in Ireland Mr. Michael Collins may turn out to be a faithful, loyal and devoted servant of the Crown. In the meantime it appears to be agreed on all sides that whatever pledges to Ulster might be broken, whatever pledges to Southern loyalists might be broken, not one jot or one tittle of the Agreement between the Government and Sinn Fein must be altered.
There are, therefore, two points upon which I have to satisfy your Lordships and the Government in moving this Amendment. I must show, in the first place, that it does not infringe the terms of the so-called Treaty; and in the second place, that it is a desirable Amendment in itself. With the permission of the House I will first address myself to proving that it does not infringe the terms of the Treaty. May I ask your Lordships to refer to the Agreement which appears in the Schedule of the Bill. Article 18 is the first which affects this point, and it states—
This instrument shall be submitted forthwith by His Majesty's Government for the approval of Parliament and by the Irish signatories to a meeting summoned for the purpose of the members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Irdann—
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, appealed to be under a misapprehension with regard to this. He seemed to think that it had only been sanctioned by Dail Eireann. That, of course, is a mistake.
There was a long discussion in Dail Eireann, when the Treaty was agreed to by a small majority, but subsequently a meeting was held according to the conditions laid down in this particular Article. The Republican members of Parliament absented themselves, and the Treaty was passed unanimously. The next step to be taken appears to me to be under Article 17, and to consist of two portions. The Article reads as follows:
By way of provisional arrangement for the administration of Southern Ireland during the interval which must elapse between the date hereof and the constitution of a Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State in accordance therewith, steps shall be taken forthwith for summoning a meeting of members of Parliament elected for constituencies in Southern Ireland since the passing of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and for constituting a provisional Governor cnt—
Perhaps your Lordships will notice that the terms in which members of Parliament of the House of Commons are described in this Article are slightly different from the terms in which they are described in
Article 18. But instead of a separate meeting being called for this purpose, one would imagine that the natural procedure would have been for the Lord Lieutenant to have sent for the gentleman whom he thought should form a Government, and that that gentleman should have formed a Government, summoned a meeting of the members of the Parliament of Southern Ireland, and have taken a vote of that Assembly.
§ It appears that the members of Parliament of Southern Ireland at the meeting when they approved the Treaty were so carried away with their enthusiasm that they proceeded to elect a Provisional Government at once. Mr. Michael Collins, on behalf of himself and his colleagues, submitted their names to the Lord Lieutenant, and the Lord Lieutenant, on behalf of His Majesty, gave his approval, whereupon Mr. Michael Collins and his colleagues became His Majesty's Ministers in Ireland, under the name of the Provisional Government. Therefore, I contend that, somewhat irregularly, every condition laid down in the Treaty as to what Parliament was to do has already been fulfilled, and consequently any provisions which are to occur under the Bill now under the consideration of your Lordships, are supplementary to, and not an inherent part of, the so-called Treaty.
§ Now let me deal with what it is proposed to do. It is proposed within four months to dissolve the Irish Parliament. As your Lordships know, that Irish Parliament consists of a Senate and a House of Commons; and the fact that Parliament is dissolved does not have any effect upon the Senators, who are elected for periods, in most cases of ten years, and in some cases of three years.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
Nominated in some cases and elected in others, and they remain Senators although Parliament is dissolved. My suggestion is that these Senators, together with the newly-elected House of Commons, should form the Parliament to whom the Provisional Government should be responsible. I know it is said that the Senate is not complete, but I think that as a matter of fact there are forty or forty-four Senators out of a total of sixty-four. I recognise that this is a matter to be settled if possible 840 by agreement, but if there is good will on both sides there ought to be no difficulty about that.
I cannot help remembering the letter which was written by Mr. Griffith in December, 1921, in which he said that he was most anxious to do all he could to consider the traditions and the wishes of the Unionist minority. Deeds are more forceful than words. Surely this is an occasion on which Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins might show their good will towards the Unionist minority by taking this means of inviting them, at the very outset of the new Constitution, to join with their fellow-countrymen in the rehabilitation of their common country. It does not bind Mr. Collins to the particular forum of Senate set up by the Bill of 1920. It only makes use of the existing Parliament in the same way as it makes use of the House of Commons, and if you think of it the position of Senators is a peculiar one. It is like that of Mahomet's coffin, suspended midway between earth and heaven. They exist, but are not allowed to function. I venture to hope that since my Amendment was put down His Majesty's Government may have been in communication with the Provisional Government in Ireland, and may now be able to state that Mr. Griffith is glad to take this opportunity of redeeming, at the earliest moment, his pledge that the Unionist minority in Ireland should be consulted and should take part with their fellow-countrymen in the future government of Ireland.
I would ask your Lordships to look at the question not only from the Irish but also from the Imperial point of view. Surely it is very dangerous to set up a precedent of Single-Chamber Government. There are many instances of Parliaments being granted to Dependencies by the Mother of Parliaments, and in every case these Parliaments have been of a bicameral nature. Take the case of Canada, or of Australia, or of South Africa. I am aware that there are instances, although they are very few, of Single-Chamber Government—there is a recent one where consent was given to a Bill abolishing the Legislative Council in Queensland—but in every case it has been a Provincial Parliament, with limited powers, and it has been at the special request of the particular Colony. Have your Lordships thought whether this is a wise occasion on which to depart from the precedent which has been our rule ever since dependent Parlia- 841 ments were granted? Consider the critical position of Ireland. Is it desirable that the extremists in Mr. Griffith's Provisional Parliament should be able to say: "Why should we have a bicameral Parliament in Ireland when the Imperial Government thinks this unicameral Parliament is sufficient for us?"
Perhaps the House has not considered I hat very large powers are given to this Parliament. It is given powers to legislate in the same way as if the Irish Free State had been constituted. It is able to raise up a tariff barrier, and to change the Marriage Laws. I wonder whether His Majesty's Government have considered of what men that Parliament is likely to consist. It is possible that Mr. de Valera may have a majority in it, but, even supposing he does not, it, is reasonable to suppose that Mr. Collins will have only a small majority and that there will be a very large minority opposing him. Does not the House think it is likely that he may have great difficulty in controlling that minority, that he may be obliged to yield to them in ninny ways, and that it is very possible that, although they may not direct their energies against this country, they may take the opportunity of passing legislation highly injurious to those who, in the past, have been the friends of England in Ireland?
I ask the Government if they really think they have no responsibility and no duty towards Southern Unionists. We heard a great deal yesterday about the broken pledges to Ulster, but we heard nothing about the broken pledges to the Southern Unionists, and they outnumber those to Ulster—by many dozens, I was going to say. We were promised, and we obtained, in the Act of 1920, safeguards as to additional taxation, representation, and many other things; and, so far as I can read this Bill, the only safeguard which we obtain here is a liberty to go to church, if we wish. And even then, if I am right in my reading of a particular clause with regard to marriages, it is very probable that, when this Bill has passed, and legislation has been carried in the Irish Parliament, an Irishman who goes to his parish church to be married will be very doubtful, when In, leaves it, whether he does so as a bachelor or as a married man.
I appeal to His Majesty's Government to see whether they cannot help us in this 842 matter. I have tried to show that it does not in any way infringe the Treaty. It certainly would be in the interests of Ireland that the Unionists should be represented, and I think it is in the interests of this country that a new precedent with regard to the setting up of a unicameral Legislature should not be lightly taken in hand.
Page 2, line 30, after ("elected") insert ("together with the Senate of Southern Ireland").—(Lord Oranmore and Browne.)
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I should like to point out to the noble Viscount, before he replies, that, although my noble friend has raised this question in a speech of marked moderation, I hardly think that the Government are aware how strong a feeling there is behind the action he proposes to take. I cannot decide whether this Amendment, if made, would infringe the Treaty Nearly all of us front the South of Ireland have avoided giving any vote which would do that, because of the special position which the Government have taken up, but certainly my noble friend has not overstated the nature of the feeling in the South of Ireland with regard to the entire desertion by the Government of all the pledges which have been given to us for the safeguarding of our interests. And, although I give the fullest credit and faith to the statements made on behalf of the Provisional Government, and although I have every reason to hope that they will act up to the undertakings into which they have individually entered with regard to the interests of all classes in the South, I think the Government must see that here and now in this Bill to lay down that the Provisional Government is at the outset to be responsible not to two Chambers, but to one which is there constituted, is to give an intimation to the whole of the people of Ireland that a unicameral Legislature is the natural order of things.
That, in itself, is a bad precedent, but by the terms of this clause there is no legislation which may not be passed by that single Chamber. Between Monday and Saturday a body of men who have had scant political experience may rush the Provisional Government into proposals of the worst possible character for all those who have up to now been responsible, as far as I know, for paying about one-half of the whole of the taxation of Southern Ireland, and probably more.
843 I mentioned one or two of these facts yesterday, but they evoked no response of any description from His Majesty's Government. I must enter a protest. Because we are all so moved by the condition of affairs on the frontier in Ulster they have no right to forget that one out of every ten of His Majesty's subjects in Southern Ireland is a Protestant, that there is no representation of them except by the members for Trinity College in this Irish House that they have called together, and that the Senate which was put into the Bill by this House was framed on lines which were universally approved three years ago by the Irish Convention. I think it was one of the very few questions carried without a Division in the final meetings of the Irish Convention. It represents every class, including the hierarchy in Ireland, and it cannot fail to be a useful and a steadying influence in the early days of the unravelling of this tangled web of Irish politics.
We had many other safeguards over which a steam roller has been taken by the Treaty. The Senate is actually in being now; it has not been removed by Act of Parliament; and to deny it the right to function, unless the noble Viscount feels that it actually traverses the Treaty, seems to me an unreasonable sacrifice for the Government to demand from those who have already made great. sacrifices in order to obtain peace in Ireland.
THE EARL OF DESART
My Lords, I do not apologise for intervening, though what I have to say may be very much to the same effect as that which has been said by the noble Earl (Lord Midleton), for I do not think it can be said that, during the past two days we from the South of Ireland have occupied very much of your Lordships' time. I want merely to urge that favourable consideration should be given to the noble Lord's proposal, and that no hasty refusal should be returned to him on this occasion. I am not going to argue on the words of the Treaty. I will be perfectly frank with your Lordships. I am inclined to think that Article 17 does only mean the House of Commons. I do not say I am right, and therefore I am not myself supporting this on that ground; but I press very strongly that the Government have a very grave responsibility to the Southern Unionists.
Ever since the Convention we have had 844 pledges, in and out of this House, by those who naturally and, I am sure, sincerely had some regard for the very difficult position of the minority in the South of Ireland, relatively large for they number 350,000, but so scattered that in no single place can they obtain any real measure of representation whatever. After the Convention, when, among other protections, there was suggested a Senate with the unanimous approval of every member of that Convention I believe, we came to the 1920 Act, when that Senate was, I frankly admit, recognised in the debates here, and we obtained many safeguards which we sought. Do you not think, on looking back, that, even in that hurried and difficult series of conversations that culminated in these Articles of Agreement, it might have been possible for the British representatives to have said: "You really must think a little of these people in the South; we must put in something for them."
I think I can speak for my friends when I say that it was a very great blow when we read those Articles to find in them really not one reservation for that minority. I hope, if you have not. done so already by communications with Mr. Griffith—who I believe to be a reasonable man and one who would recognise reasonable arguments if he could—that at least you will not say "No" to us here and now, but will make some effort to obtain assent to Lord Oramnore and Browne's proposition which we in the South regard—and it was recognised at the Convention that we were entitled so to regard it—as a very great protection, and a protection not only for us. The dangers of a new Parliament, a Free State Parliament or any other, arise in the first year or the first two or three years, and even if a somewhat undemocratic form of Senate were created it would last long enough probably to enable the members of the new Government to recognise the necessity of stability and of establishing a State that will endure and take a worthy place among the nations. I cannot put it higher than that. I believe that the Articles of the Treaty do not support it; but I submit as strongly as I can that we ought to have sonic assistance from the Government in this matter as far as they can give it, even if it be an infraction of the Treaty, by obtaining the assent that reasonable men ought to give if the Government ask for it reasonably.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Oranmore and Browne, has the object of inserting after the word "elected" in page 2, line 30, "together with the Senate of Southern Ireland." We are accustomed to hear the noble Lord address the House from the cross benches. I do not know whether his move portends any change of policy or whether it is the same noble Lord with the same policy. At any rate, I will endeavour to do justice to his Amendment, if I can. First of all, may I say that the Government are fully sensible of the great importance of the large minority of Unionists in Southern Ireland whose case has been so strongly advocated by the two noble Earls who have just spoken. But I cannot help thinking that on this matter there is some slight misapprehension in the minds of noble Lords. There are three periods to which attention might be drawn. The first is the present provisional period which lasts, of course, until, under Clause 1 of this Bill, the new Parliament is to be elected. During that period no question arises because there is not a Parliament to which the Provisional Government is responsible. Therefore, the noble Lord's Amendment does not, and cannot, apply to that, and I do not think it is intended to apply to that; because if you read the Article the Amendment clearly suggests that it is after the Election has taken place. I think the noble Lord assents to that.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Then we come to what I may call the second and third periods. The second period is from the time when this new Parliament—what I call the Constituent Assembly—is elected to the time when the new Constitution of the Free State is set up. That, I suppose, is the period to which the noble Lord alludes. I think that the noble Earl, Lord Desart, must be under some misapprehension in respect to that because he spoke of a unicameral Parliament lasting, perhaps, for two or three years.
THE EARL OF DESART
No. What I said, I think, on that point was that the first years of a Parliament were the dangerous ones, during which a somewhat undemocratic Senate was more necessary than at any other time.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
That is really the misapprehension to which I alluded, because this provisional period between the time when the new Parliament is elected and the new Constitution is made could not possibly be as long as two or three years. With that in mind, let me deal with the much shorter period between the time when the Parliament is elected and the time when the Constitution under the Free State has been agreed to both in Ireland and here, and when the fully fledged Parliament, therefore, is set up. This Parliament, when it is elected two or three months hence, whatever the time may be, will have one main duty—the duty of dealing with or passing criticisms, if necessary, upon the new Constitution. That will be its business, and that will be its business entirely, or almost entirely. And the period, therefore, during which it functions is bound to be very short, because the object of its existence will be to set up the new Irish Constitution. Therefore, I do not think that the fears expressed by the noble and learned Earl have much foundation, because we are dealing with a very short temporary period during which this new Parliament is functioning and discharging its duty of setting up the Constitution.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
That Parliament will be assembled under the Act of 1920, and elected by the constituencies laid down in that Act. Why, whether it is short or long should you exclude the Senate elected under the very same Act?
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
They are, I agree, the constituencies of the 1920 Act, but the Parliament will be elected for another purpose—that is to say, of making this new Constitution.
§ LORD CARSON
Does the noble Viscount say that it will not have power to pass any other legislation?
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not say that the Parliament will not have power to pass any other legislation: but I do say that that is its first and chief business and that is the purpose for which it is elected.
THE EARL OF DESART
I do not know whether the noble Viscount ever reads the Irish newspapers or has any experience of public business in Ireland when he suggests that because any body in Ireland is elected to do any particular business, they will do that alone, or even primarily.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I confess I am placed in some difficulty if these Parliaments, when they are elected, do not discharge the duties for which they are elected. That is a position which is much more difficult to consider. But let us consider the proposal of the noble Lord in regard to the Senate. It is very natural that he should be deeply interested in that Senate because I believe it was owing to his creative and originative faculty that that Senate entered the field at all, and that he was the moving spirit in creating it. But that Senate, as he admitted I think, is in a rather peculiar position. It has never been constituted. He admitted that some of those bodies which were to select Senators for that body have never acted, and that it is now only a truncated body consisting, I think lie said, of about forty-four persons out of sixty-four. I am not quite sure what the condition of that body is, because it has never been constituted and it has not been dissolved; and consequently, it is a very difficult constitutional problem to discover what is the nature of its existence.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
It was called together for the purpose of taking the Oath, and most of the Senators have done so.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
But on the admission of the noble Lord only two-thirds of those Senators have ever been selected. Therefore, the body can hardly be called constituted.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It is unfortunately true that all noble Lords do not take their seats here, but they are capable of doing it and have the right to do it. These gentlemen, however, could not take their seats because they do not exist, and obviously that is a different position. If a noble Lord does not exist he cannot take his seat. That is the position of some of the non-selected members of this new Senate.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
That is only because they have not been called together for business. If they were called together for business the members of the Senate would take their seats. How many members of this House are there who are not present on the first day of meeting to 848 take their seats? I have no desire to occupy a position in two Houses, but I would point out that we have never been called together. I have been sworn but not called for business.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not think that alters the situation. The noble Earl says they have never been called together for business. How can they be called together for business if so many of them do not exist because those bodies which were to select them have not functioned? That does not affect the question of whether they were called together for business. They are a truncated and semi-existing body. But whatever be the position as to their real existence, would it be a suitable or a wise arrangement that this body, constituted or unconstituted, should sit under the Statute of 1920, and be carried over, as it were, into this Provisional Government and become—and can become only for a short time—the Second Chamber of the Legislative House elected under a totally different Constitution under this provisional arrangement? The noble Earl throws some ridicule upon the action of Irish bodies—and, of course, he knows Irish bodies far better than I do.
THE EARL OF DESART
I did not pour ridicule; I only suggested ways of doing business. The Irish way is one way, and the English way is another.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I can only say that I have not the Irish way of doing business which, according to the noble Earl, is not to do business.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
That is the object for which they were elected, and surely they would address themselves to the task of setting up the new Constitution on which they were elected, and which had not been drawn up already by the Provisional Government. The third period is a very different period. The third period is when the new Constitution is set up, and the noble Lord's Amendment is not addressed to that period. As to what the Constitution of the new Irish State is to be, I understand discussions have already taken place as to the position of the Second Chamber under that particular Constitution. That is not a matter to be dealt 849 with by this Bill, but is to be dealt with in the instrument setting up the new Constitution. Therefore the Amendment of the noble Lord falls within a very narrow compass. It does not apply to the later period, and it does not apply to the earlier period, but merely applies to this intervening period, which will be very short.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It cannot be permanent, because they will be elected for the purpose of setting till the new Constitution.
§ LORD CARSON
Will the noble Viscount say where in the Bill it is stated that this is only to be for a short time, or that there is any limit of time in which they are to set up the Constitution?
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It is not, of course, in the Bill, because the Bill does not deal with it. The Bill only deals with this provisional period of time during which the new Election takes place. The Bill cannot have anything to do with the setting up of a new Constitution. That takes place after the new Parliament has been elected. I submit further to your Lordships that it would not be a suitable body, nor would it be wise to carry an old body, or a preexisting body, provided for under previous Acts, through the provisional period into the new arrangement that will exist when the new Parliament is elected two or three months hence. As regards the subsequent period, as your Lordships are aware, the question is being discussed whether there should be one Chamber or two Chambers, but with that matter this Bill has nothing to do. I hope, therefore, the noble Lord will not press his Amendment, which deals only with this brief period, and not with the making of the new Irish Constitution.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, I was very glad to find that the noble Viscount did not state that this is a wrecking Amendment, or that it has anything to do with the Treaty. Therefore, the House can decide on its merits without any fear that the Treaty may be affected by it. That is a very important admission to begin with. My noble friend further said that the Senate was imperfectly constituted, and I gathered from him that there was no way of rectifying that. May I 850 refer him to the Fourth Schedule of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920? The first clause of that says that His Majesty may, by Orders in Council, make such provisions as may appear necessary or proper with respect to the election of Senators. If the Provisional Government were to agree to this, and His Majesty's Government were to approve of it, there is nothing, I submit, to prevent His Majesty, by Order in Council, ordering a new election of county councillors and members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and representatives of those bodies taking their place with the other Senators of the new Parliament.
The noble Viscount further says that it is a very short period, and that it would be done away with by the new Constitution. But I would point out that it is a most dangerous period. It is the most critical period in Irish history. During those three or four months this Legislature will have full power to legislate on any subject, in the same way as the Parliament of the Free State. It will be a new and untried body, a great number of whose members may, for anything, we know, be convinced Republicans, and it may pass legislation of the most dangerous kind.
That, however, is not the only point to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention. I also desire to call your attention to a very remarkable admission of the noble Viscount. He states that this is not to be a House of Commons, but is to be a Constituent Assembly. The only thing in English history that bears the least resemblance to that was after James II left the country, and when a Convention decided that he had forfeited the throne, and was to be succeeded by King William and Queen Mary. Your Lordships may remember that our House then sat separately, and that the two Houses afterwards sat together as a Convention, and invited King William and Queen Mary to assume the throne.
Another remarkable admission was made by the noble Viscount. We were told that this Constitution when it was framed—I understood after some consultation with the Government over here—was to be submitted to the Irish people, and that when it had been so submitted and approved by them, it was to be sacrosanct, and this Parliament was not to venture to interfere with it in any way. If a line or a comma was changed the Government died, and the whole Treaty was of no effect. Now 851 we are told by the noble Viscount that the object of having this Constituent Assembly, as he is pleased to describe it, is in order that they should not only pass that Constitution, but criticise it. That shows what very great powers they can exercise. Instead, as we thought, of a Constitution being framed by the existing Provisional Government and then submitted to the people of Ireland, it appears that once it is submitted it is to be subject to criticism by this Constituent Assembly.
My history of other countries is somewhat vague, and I have not refreshed my memory. I have some recollection, however, of a Constituent Assembly in the time of the French Revolution which refused to be dissolved, and if I am not mistaken called itself the Committee of Public Safety, and was the precursor of the Reign of Terror. I do not think the assurances given by the noble Viscount are at all reassuring and I hope it is not the last word that His Majesty's Government may have to say on the subject.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I listened with close attention to the observations of the noble Viscount and he explained with his customary clarity how the three periods might be affected by the provision which the Amendment is designed to alter. His argument was that during the present period this provision does not apply at all. Equally it would not apply after the Constitution is framed; but the provision of the single Chamber does apply during the middle period. That period is the period described in Article 17 of the Treaty, and it closes on December 6 next. That is to say, during that intervening period, from whenever an Election may take place in Ireland for the constituencies designed in the Act of 1920, Ireland will be ruled by a single Chamber.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Exactly. The provision in the Treaty is that the "arrangement shall not continue in force beyond the expiration of twelve months from the date hereof"; and the date is December 6, 1921. Therefore, it is December 6 of the current year which closes that second period. What I want to ask is, how did it happen, when the terms of the Bill were being discussed with those who will be responsible for the Government of Ireland 852 during that interval, that nothing was suggested, or, if suggested, was not agreed to, giving some comfort to noble Lords who have raised this particular point? I think they are right in saying that His Majesty's Government, and the spokesmen of the Provisional Government, have expressed themselves in friendly terms towards the Unionists of Southern Ireland and desire that a body historically important, and in many cases personally distinguished as regards individuals, should play its part in the re-constituted Ireland. Here is an agreement the existence of which cannot be denied.
It cannot be disputed that during what may be a tolerably long session of the first Parliament it would be possible for the single Chamber of the Irish Legislature to pass practically any legislation it chooses affecting the property and general interests of those who have been opposed to them in the past. The noble Lord who has moved the Amendment, and those who support him, consider that the existence of a temporary Second Chamber of this kind would act as a certain safeguard to them, more especially if it were combined with some provision for a joint sitting for discussion, such as, I believe, was proposed and agreed to in the Convention. We should be glad to know whether the noble Viscount believes that such a course would meet with the serious opposition of those who are responsible for the Provisional Government. The objections to it do not strike me as formidable.
I cannot conceive that a provision of this kind would be regarded as a breach of the Treaty of the sort that would entitle the supporters of the Provisional Government to say that Parliament here was interfering with the agreed terms. I cannot help wishing that His Majesty's Government could have held out some hope that this provision, or some similar provision, might be inserted by agreement in the Bill, because it is clear that without agreement nothing can be inserted, and that they would, therefore, have consented to treat it in the way some former Amendments were treated; that it should be submitted in another place, and, of course, equally submitted to the views of the Provisional Government in Ireland.
§ On Question, whether the proposed words shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents. 47; Not-Contents, 58.853
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Gainford, L.|
|Argyll, L.||Islington, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Chaplin, V.||Killanin, L.|
|De Vesci, V.||Lambourne, L.|
|Crewe, M.||Falmouth, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Lawrence E.|
|Linlithgow, M.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Buxton, E.||Askwith, E.||Mowbray, L.|
|Devon, E.||Atkinson, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L. [Teller]|
|Doncastcr, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Avebury, L.|
|Bellew, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Droghcda, E.||Buckmaster, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bexuborough.) [Teller.]|
|Iveagh, E.||Burgh, L.|
|Kilmorey, E.||Carson, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Desborongh, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Morton, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desarl.)||Roundway, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Dynevor, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Birkenhead, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Knollys, V.||Glendyne, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Gorell, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Peel, V.||Hemphill, E.|
|Sutherland, D.||Pirrie, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Ullswater, V.||Joicey, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Kilmarnock, E. (E. Erroll.)|
|Bradford, E.||Abinger, L.||Lee of Fareham, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Aldenham, L.||Loch, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Annesley, L. (V. Valentio.)||MacDonnell, L.|
|Fortescuo, E.||Ashfield, L.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Howe, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L,||Phillimore, E.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Bearsted, L.||Playfair, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Cawley, L.||Rotherham, L/.|
|Malmeshury, E.||Chalmers, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Clwyd, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Stamford, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, E.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Ernle, E.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Chilston, V.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Haldane, V.||Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the two later Amendments standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Oranmore and Browne, are consequential.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
Yes, I wish to move it. I beg to move, in subsection (2), towards the end, after "Parliament of the Irish Free State when constituted" to insert—Provided that every such law shall cease to have any force or effect on the expiration of a period of twelve months from the date on which the Parliament of the Irish Free State shall have been constituted, unless within that period the law shall have been confirmed by resolution of the Parliament of the Irish Free State.854 This Amendment is of a different nature from the last. Several speakers on the last Amendment laid much stress on the danger of hasty or ill-considered legislation by what the noble Viscount terms the Constituent Assembly which is to be set up to consider and criticise the Constitution of Ireland. It has been pointed out that in their leisure time they will have ample opportunity of passing other legislation, and the object of this Amendment is to provide that their power of legislation shall, like that of the Provisional Government, be only provisional.
Your Lordships will notice that in the Agreement between His Majesty's Government and the Sinn Fein representatives there is a special Article which limits the Provisional Government to a date not longer than twelve months after the signing of the so-called Treaty. It seems reasonable that, as the powers of the Provisional Government are not to extend beyond that date, neither should the powers 855 of the Constituent Assembly, which is being set up for legislation, be indefinite. I have carefully avoided inserting anything in this clause to imply that the English Parliament, or England in any shape or form, would be able to control the free action of the Irish Free State Parliament when set up, and, as your Lordships will see, I propose that any legislation which is passed by the Constituent Assembly shall have no force unless ratified by the Irish Parliament. I have specially provided that it is to be ratified by Resolution, so as to avoid the necessity of the Bills being passed into law through all their various stages.
I had thought, first of all, of suggesting a different Amendment, one which would have limited the powers of that Constituent Assembly to deal with such matters as the Constitution and those things in which the noble Viscount says they will be particularly engaged, but knowing what very critical days may be ahead of us in Ireland I thought it better not to limit the Government in the legislation they might find it necessary to pass. It does seem reasonable, however, to say that such legislation should not extend beyond a certain period. The fact that it can be ratified by a Resolution of the new Parliament will involve hardly any trouble for that body, and will enable them, if they wish, to give the effect of permanent laws to what I suggest should be temporary laws made by the Constituent Assembly.
Page 2, line 36, after ("constituted") insert the said proviso.—(Lord Oranmore and Browne.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
This Amendment is I think, in effect, really an interference with the full right of the newly-constituted Houses of Parliament, if I may so call them, of the new Constitution, to deal with any legislative matters as they like.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I said "Houses" advisedly, because I thought the noble Lord was very anxious that the new Constitution should consist of two Houses. The Amendment interferes with the rights of the Parliament. shall I call it, constituted under the new Constitution. It is really a suggestion that it will not do its own business, because whatever is done by this temporary Parliament can be dealt with 856 fully and freely by the Parliament under the new Constitution. They will be able to treat the whole of this legislation without any sort of restriction, and it is wholly unnecessary to interfere with their rights. There is one point further, which I should like to mention. It might put the new Parliament into great difficulty, because it is possible, probable in fact, that in order to carry on the business during this brief anti temporary period, the Government might require to borrow money. If it was only admittedly temporary, and there was no certainty at all that the right to borrow money would stand for more than twelve months or so, it might be extremely difficult to get anybody to lend. I think the Amendment is not necessary, and that it would be much better to leave perfect freedom to deal with these matters to the new Parliament constituted under the new constitution.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
The speech of the noble Viscount only proves how absolutely wrong the Government were in refusing to give the security we asked for by the last Amendment. He has now specifically suggested that it may be necessary for the temporary Government to borrow money. In those circumstances how can he expect us to regard with satisfaction the passing of financial measures of great importance, when not a single one of the commercial men of Dublin who have made the prosperity of the South of Ireland can have a seat or be called upon to advise. The noble Viscount tries our loyalty very hard with regard to these measures that are forced upon us, and I think the Government are manufacturing trouble, not for themselves but for us, who want to see new legislation carried to the best effect in Ireland.
To suppose that a hastily summoned body, summoned for one purpose, is to take wide powers of legislation, and that then those who have the best right to be heard on financial matters will have their tongues tied, is really a travesty of fair play. I believe that those in power in the Provisional Government would welcome the presence of those who have been elected on the Senate, but the noble Viscount has managed; by a small majority, to put upon us, not for the first time, a disability against which we have made every possible protest. I do not know whether my noble friend intends to proceed to a Division, but I should very much prefer 857 to leave the responsibility upon the Government of a degree of injustice which I could hardly have believed would have been put upon us.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
VISCOUNT PEEL moved, at the cud of the clause, to insert the following new subsection:—
(5) In order to give effect to an agreement as to the date from which the month mentioned in Article 11 of the said Articles of Agreement is to run, it is hereby declared that this Act shall not for the purposes of the said Article 11 he deemed to be the Act for the ratification of the said Articles of Agreement.
§ The noble Viscount, said: I can introduce this Amendment in a very few words. Your Lordships will remember that I suggested this Amendment, but it was not accepted by Lord Summer, who preferred his own Amendment, which definitely stated that the "Ulster month" should run from the period when this Bill became an Act. Your Lordships thought fit to refuse to accept the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, and in the circumstances, this doubt having arisen as to the exact period from Which the "Ulster mouth" would run, I have proposed this Amendment. You will see that this particular Amendment defines that point quite clearly, and leaves it no longer in any ambiguity. It declares that the present "Act shall not for the purpose of Article 11 be deemed to be the Act for the ratification of the said Articles of Agreement," making it therefore perfectly clear that the period of one month, within which Ulster has an absolute right to contract out of the provisions of the Constitution, does run not from the date when this Bill becomes an Act but from the date when the Bill ratifying the Constitution becomes an Act.
Page 3, line 19, at end, insert the new subsection.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ LORD CARSON
I must say I am very much astonished that the noble Viscount has reopened this matter, and that we have now got back to the whole question of the border dispute that is going on in Ireland. I do not think it could be reopened in a more unfortunate way. The Treaty is perfectly clear, as I read it, and as nearly every lawyer in the House who has spoken reads it, that the month is to run from the date of the passing of this Act. What does 858 the noble Viscount now want to do? I ask the House to look at the absurdity of it. He wants to put it off for an indefinite period—four, or five, or six months, whatever it may be— till after an Election has taken place in Ireland, the new Constitution has been framed, and the whole Bill has gone through this House. Then, with the heat that will develop in Ireland, he wants to leave them this open sore. For what purpose? For none that I can see except to try to leave it open to the Southerners and their Government to go on with this sniping and murdering and invading and raiding, with a view to intimidating the Ulster people from voting themselves out of this Act.
A more harmful policy I cannot conceive. It is on a par with the way in which the Government have managed the whole of this business. They seem incapable of putting anything before your Lordships in a clear and definite way, with a view of avoiding hostilities between the many varied hostile elements that exist in Ireland. Look at the Amendment and what it proposes to do, and just look at the absurdity under which we are asked to place ourselves. Here is a Bill which on the face of it says "the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great. Britain and Ireland set, forth in the schedule to this Act shall have the force of law as from the date of the passing of this Act," and the noble Viscount's Amendment wants you to say that although the Treaty has the force of law, and you are to set up Parliaments and Governments under it, it, is not to be considered as ratified. Did anybody ever hear of such a nonsensical provision to put into an Act of Parliament? All this is sacrosanct; all this is law; all this is the matter upon which the whole of the procedure in Ireland is to be framed; but it is not to be taken as ratified for the purposes of the particular Article which allows Ulster to contract out of the Act.
But it does not rest there, because the Amendment says—It is hereby declared that this Act shall not for the purposes of the said Article 11 be deemed to be the Act for the ratification of the said Articles of Agreement.It does not say what Act is to be deemed an Act for the ratification of the said Articles of Agreement. There may never be another Act. Will the other Act be an Act for the ratification? How do we know? And all this tinge Ulster is to be 859 left within the Free State, and to have no power of voting itself out, notwithstanding the clear words of the Article in the Treaty, which says that until the expiration of one month from the passing of the Act of Parliament for the ratification of this instrument the powers of the Parliament of the Free State shall not operate in the North of Ireland, and if, before the expiration of the said month, they desire to present an Address they can contract themselves out of the Act.
How therefore does it stand? In the first place, this Treaty is to become an Act of Parliament, but you are to enact that it is not ratified. In the second place, you say that this Act is not an Act for the purposes of ratification, but you do not say what Act will be, or whether there will be an Act for the purposes of ratification. Therefore, Ulster is to be left in such a position that she does not know at what time, or in what circumstances, she will be relieved from the onus of staving within the Free State, and be able to vote herself out.
I appeal to the Government to withdraw this Amendment. It is far better to try to stop this irritation at the earliest possible moment. You already have the new Bill for the Constitution under consideration, you have the fight as to how near to a Republic you are to get—and you have plenty of work before you in the carrying of that Bill and you will have still more friction on the borders between North and South; and to allow this prolonged agony of Ulster to go on will prevent even the slightest approach to anything in the nature of a settlement of this dispute. I beg of you not to pass an Amendment of this kind now, which I thought, from what took place in the last two days, had been absolutely dropped by the Government, because they did not propose to put it in when Lord Sumner's Amendment was rejected.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
No, there seemed to be some doubt as to the exact position in which it could be moved, and then I said I would move it on Report.
§ Loan CARSON
I cannot dispute the noble Viscount's statement, but I did not hear it at the time. If your Lordships like to take the responsibility now of leaving this open you can do so, but I can only say, from what I know of the North of Ireland, and from what I know of the South and West— which probably I know much better than I do the North—you are taking a most dangerous course, and one which will, for months and months, prevent any improvement taking place on the border.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, I should like to make an observation in reply to the speech of the noble and learned Lord while what he has said is fresh in the minds of the House. I really think that there must be some forgetfulness of the exact course which this discussion has followed in the last few clays. On the Second Reading the noble and learned Lord complained that there was ambiguity in the instrument upon this point, and the case which he then very forcibly made was that some persons, in construing the Treaty, alleged that the option of Ulster must be exercised within one month after the passing of this Bill, whereas other persons alleged that the option of Ulster must be exercised within a month of the final ratification of the Constitution. The noble and learned Lord will tell me if I am wrong, but my recollection in such matters is not bad, and it is clear that at that time he did not particularly express a preference as between the two possible views.
§ LORD CARSON
The noble and learned Viscount is quite in error about that. I said that neither I nor any lawyer whose opinion I was able to take thought there was any ambiguity, but that we were told that the Government had been advised that it had a different construction, and I said that I thought it ought to be made clear, and that the construction we put upon it ought to be inserted.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I accept, of course, what the noble and learned Lord says. He is more likely than I to recollect. with precision what he said, but 861 I do remember very clearly his saying: "I shall strongly advise the authorities in Ulster to take no risks, and to express their decision within the month on the assumption that the meaning is within a month of the passing of this Bill." There was a dispute. It so happened that I was never consulted as to the actual meaning of these words, because the late Attorney-General (the present Lord Chief Justice) was consulted, and gave an opinion upon it which, naturally, I neither examine nor criticise. But the doubt existed as to whether it meant a month after the passing of the Bill or a month after the ratification of the Constitution. This matter was most fully debated in Committee, and a proposal was there made that it should be a month after the passing of this Bill. The House debated that upon the merits, and rejected it. There only remains one other course. Of course, the House could not have debated that Amendment upon its merits except upon the assumption that the instrument, without the Amendment which we debated, did not bear that meaning. After having reached yesterday a decision on the merits, how could we do anything else but attempt to make the matter clear, so as to carry out what was at least the view of the then Attorney-General, advising the Government that the month was to run after the final settlement of the Constitution?
And, really, the apprehensions of the noble and learned Lord are not, I think, well founded. He says: "You are going to leave the quarrel alive for months and months until the settlement is made." Really, that is not so. The Boundary Commission cannot, in any event, be set up until the Irish Free State is set up, because it is expressly provided that one of the Commissioners is to be appointed by the Irish Free State and, therefore, the Boundary Commission cannot in any event be set up until the Constitution has been set is and until the Irish Free State has come into existence. On the merits, I think the objections taken by the noble and learned Lord on the technical side of the matter are really not well-founded.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, one would imagine from what we have heard from the noble and learned Viscount that your Lordships have been free to vote exactly as you liked on this matter.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
If the Lord Chancellor will allow me I will tell him why not. I do not think the noble Lords who voted for the Government voted on the merits of the case at all. We have been told time after time that nothing should be amended, or altered, or explained lest the Treaty should be lost, and the majority of your Lordships voted for the Bill because you believed it was necessary to vote for it and for every detail that the Government put in.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
The exhortations of the Lord Chancellor and the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill have been in the direction of showing that a great catastrophe would occur if any alterations or Amendments were made in this Bill. There is something in the question which we are discussing now to which the Lord Chancellor does not seem to have devoted himself. This is a matter which does affect Ulster in the North of Ireland. It is an important matter. We have never been consulted as to when we should be allowed to vote ourselves out of the measure or put ourselves in. We have never been consulted as to when we could do that as a Government. I should have thought that would be necessary, and it would have been courteous of the Government to have consulted us on the matter. But they have not done so. The Lord Chancellor takes the high line here, and says that everybody must understand this and that, but he does not understand the atmosphere in which we live in the North of Ireland, and any suggestion that it is the desire of the Government to reduce the feelings of anxiety in the North of Ireland is entirely absent from any of the suggestions he makes. If he would enable us to contract ourselves out, whether your Boundary Commission is set 863 up some months after or not, he would do something to allay the feelings of a large number of people who, perhaps, are not so fully acquainted with your Lordships' intentions and have not the power of considering dispassionately very important questions. It is for that, reason that I ask the Lord Chancellor if he can consider t he suggestion of not pressing this Amendment.
After all, I do not know why the Government are determined to adhere to this suggestion that we should not be allowed to vote ourselves out of the Parliament which is shortly to be set up. It was really a most amazing situation—I can call it nothing else—that when we had been told most emphatically by the noble Viscount that we must not alter, or explain or amend this Bill, we were then taken into the confidence of the Government and allowed to listen to a letter in which Mr. Griffith very clearly explains that he has no feelings on the matter at all, and that the British Government are entitled to do exactly as they like in this respect. Notwithstanding that, the British Government desire to complicate the issue to a greater extent than it is already complicated and postpone to an indefinite date the time at which the North of Ireland can vote themselves out. I cannot understand the procedure of the Government at all.
§ LORD KILLANIN
My Lords, I wish to put before you an aspect of this matter which I think it will be worth the while of the Government to consider—namely, the practical aspect. There is a difference of opinion at present as to when the month during which Ulster may contract out is to commence, and the members from the North of Ireland are very interested as to when they may contract out, whether it is to be now or a few months hence. My interest in the matter is more consequential. It is as to when the Boundary Commission can be set up, because to my mind that is really the important practical matter at this moment. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack says that the Boundary Commission cannot be appointed even if this is the Act that ratifies the Treaty. I will endeavour to put some points before him to show that, in my opinion, the Boundary Commission could be appointed immediately after Ulster has contracted out.
As one wants the Boundary Commission to be appointed as soon as possible, one 864 naturally wants to give Ulster the right of contracting out as soon as possible. I do not know whether the House will be with me in this proposition, but the sooner the Boundary Commission is appointed the better; nor do I know whether the noble and learned Viscount will agree with me that, if it was possible, it would be a good thing if the Boundary Commission could he appointed to-morrow. I believe that is the only way of relieving the appalling tension which exists—it might be described in much more powerful language—on the frontier, and as long as the frontier question is left open so long will that go on. The cause of the friction is the uncertainty as to where the boundary is. If nobody knows where the boundary is the two sides will make their own boundaries. Ulster will try to keep what she has and the South of Ireland will be trying to nibble and assert its rights in various parts of the Six Counties.
It is a most unfortunate thing in my opinion that this boundary question was ever opened at all since it was decided under the Government of Ireland Act. It will be remembered that when the Government of Ireland Act was in this House I moved an Amendment to change the boundaries because on merits they did not appear to me fair and right, but my Amendment was not accepted and this House decided that the Six Counties were to constitute the boundaries. That, was done and an Election was held and members were elected from all the Six Counties to the Northern Parliament. That Parliament was opened with great pomp and ceremony by His Majesty the King.
I hold, therefore, that it was most unfortunate that the question was again opened. But it has been opened, and as it is unfortunate that it has been opened, is not the next best thing to settle it? I may take it that the members of this House are with me in saying that the sooner the Boundary Commission is appointed to deal with this question and settles, as it could in a month or perhaps three weeks, the boundary, the better. That would do something, I believe, to settle the appalling state of affairs which exists on the frontier, and which, apparently, the Government are going to watch for the next five or six months without doing anything. I see some suggestion of making zones. Ireland is to be re-partitioned into three Irelands.
865 The noble and learned Lord dealt with the appointment of Boundary Commissioners. I do not agree with his view of the question. If the noble and learned Lord will allow me I will give the reasons why I differ from him. Let me deal first with one possible obstacle to appointing the Commission. Does anybody object to this Act being considered a ratifying Act? I understand from the Attorney-General and the present Chief Justice in Ireland that they consider this is a ratifying Act, and we had a letter the other day submitted to the House by the noble Viscount in charge of this Bill in which Mr. Griffith said it was the opinion of the Irish signatories to the Treaty, and also the opinion of the present Provisional Government, that, strictly and correctly speaking, in their opinion this was a ratifying Act. Therefore we have the British Government and the other signatories agreeing that this should be considered a ratifying Act. There is no objection, therefore, on that ground to the immediate appointment of the Commissioners.
The noble and learned Lord says that the Boundary Commission is to be constituted of three gentlemen, one of whom is to be appointed by the Government of the Irish Free State, and he asked: "How can he be appointed until the Free State has come into being?" I would draw his attention to the fact that in the Article it says that one of these gentlemen is to be appointed by the Government of the Irish Free State. What is the Government of the Irish Free State? Surely it is the Provisional Government. I would refer the noble and learned Lord to Article 10 of the Agreement which says that the Government of the Irish Free State agrees to pay fair compensation to civil servants who are discharged by them. To what Government are you referring in that Article if not the Provisional Government? These gentlemen are now leaving their positions under the present Provisional Government, or are being discharged, and they are to be compensated by the same body—the Government of the Irish Free State. I submit, therefore, to the noble and learned Lord that the Government of the Irish Free State is the Provisional Government, and is not necessarily the Government that is to be constituted in the Irish Free State. I think that if the noble and learned Lord examines Article 10 he will agree with me in this matter.
866 The only other objection that I have heard taken to this course is that made by the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill, who said: "Would it not be a very unfortunate thing if Ulster, to clear herself, should contract out before she has had an opportunity of seeing what is to be the Constitution of Ireland?" That is theoretically and academically a correct statement. People should see exactly what they are contracting out of, but really that is not a practical issue here. We have heard, and the debates in this House have shown us, that Ulster is in any case going to contract out, no matter what form of Constitution is eventually drawn up. Ulster is interested—as has been made plain by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson—in the Constitution that will be drawn up when they see it working, and what will influence them as to whether they ever come into a United Ireland will be the way in which that Constitution works. Their decision is not dependent upon the actual nature of that Constitution, but on the way in which it works. For these reasons, and believing that I am speaking correctly when I say it is of the utmost importance in the interests of peace in the North of Ireland that this matter should be settled now. I have ventured to make these few remarks.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, there is, I think, immense force in the argument advanced by the noble Lord who has just sat down to the effect that it is most undesirable in the public interest that the period which will have to elapse before the boundary question is dealt with should be needlessly prolonged. It is a period of suspense which must fill every one with great anxiety, but when it comes to the question of supporting or opposing the Amendment of the noble Viscount, I feel bound to say that I was under the impression that this matter had been debated at great length in a full House two or three nights ago, and that, with a knowledge of all the facts, your Lordships had decided to accept the view under which the Ulster month was to run from the passing of the Second Bill embodying the Constitution. It seems to me that it will be a somewhat violent thing to disturb that decision within a few hours of the time when it was arrived at.
But while I say that, I am hound to add that I very deeply regret that your Lord- 867 ships should have been able to do so little to relieve the tension of the position which now exists on the frontier of the Six Counties. It seems to me impossible to exaggerate the seriousness of that position. It is a most menacing one. Indeed, the noble and learned Viscount described it to your Lordships in vivid if not lurid colours. I recollect, by the way, that not long ago the noble and learned Viscount expressed satisfaction that for the future if "struggles and fisticuffs" arose in Ireland the blood that would be shed, and the fisticuffs employed, would be Irish blood and Irish fisticuffs, and not the blood of our troops. I wish to do him no injustice, and I know the noble and learned Viscount made a reservation in favour of the Province of Ulster. But let us get it out of our heads that the trouble which is now proceeding on the frontier of Northern Ireland is going to be one which will be merely a local and Irish trouble. It is going to be nothing of the sort. We know that thirteen British battalions are now available, and, I think, the noble and learned Viscount added, 15,000 police armed with rifles. What a prospect, what a beginning for an era which was to be an era of peace and mutual good will ! All this fills me with apprehension. We are now, it appears, to have a long period of suspense. Noble Lords say four months, but there is no reason why it should not extend a great deal longer than that, and during all that time this sore may remain open.
After that we are to have a Boundary Commission which is to be composed of an unimpeachable arbiter appointed by the British Government and two other members who, I suppose, may not be unfairly described as partisans. I want to ask this question. What is to happen supposing the impartial arbiter is not able to carry the other members of the Commission with him? Are we then to fall back upon coercion? I do not know whether there is any answer to that question. This Boundary Commission is regarded with the utmost suspicion by the people of Ulster because they think, and perhaps rightly, that, if they are not convinced by the arguments of the majority of the Commission there is coercion in the background, in spite of all the pledges and promises that have been given that in no circumstances is coercion to be resorted to.
May I also put this to the House? If we are to have this long period of suspicion 868 is it impossible to turn it to good account by an attempt, not imposed upon the Irish Government but made with their concurrence, to bring the parties together in order to arrive at an amicable solution of the difficulty? The noble and learned Viscount last night told us that the Chairman of the Commission is to be a reconciling party between two divergent opinions. Why should not this process of conciliation be resorted to as soon as possible, and resorted to under circumstances which will make it plain that what is intended is conciliation and not coercion. I have argued all through on the assumption that we have to deal with reasonable people and with men of good will, and I think that if this bugbear of coercion were got out of the way, and an attempt made to settle the question amicably by conciliation and by the good offices of the arbiter to be appointed by His Majesty's Government, a way may be found out of this hideous difficulty, which, unless something is done, may continue for month after month to impair the prospect of a peaceful settlement.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, may I ask the Government to consider the position in which your Lordships are placed in regard to this Amendment. In some cases where there has been a division of Irish opinion the Government have felt compelled to take a certain view. But, apparently, there is no difference of Irish opinion on this subject. Let me recall the position at the moment. We were told, and it has not been denied, that the Provisional Government wish to get this question settled at the earliest possible moment. The members from Ulster have also made it perfectly clear that the whole opinion of Ulster is in favour of an early settlement. We from the South of Ireland, who have long desired to see the union of the South and North, realise that it is absolutely impossible to hope for it under present conditions, and every month of delay makes the conditions worse and makes it less likely that Ulster will come to terms with the South.
Does any member of your Lordships' House think that within the next three or four months, after all the provocation there has been, that there is any chance of Ulster throwing in her lot with the Free State? It seems a little hard when you look back to the discussion in the Committee stage, when members from all parts 869 of the House pressed the Government to support; Lord Sumner's Amendment fixing the date as starting from the passing of this Bill. Everyone in Ireland wishes it, and the Government, at their wits' end how to bring to an end this state of unrest on the frontier, adhering to a policy which is theirs, and not the policy of any of the Irish Parties, are insisting that your Lordships should pass this Amendment. Although it is not very usual in this House to endeavour on Report stage to reverse a decision come to in Committee, I feel that we must meet the criticism of the Lord Chancellor, and, therefore, in order to make it quite clear, I will move an Amendment to the noble Viscount's Amendment. My Amendment is to leave out the word "not."
The effect of this will be that the date of ratification will be after the passing of this Bill; within a month Ulster will have to make her decision, and immediately after the Boundary Commission may begin to sit. That is according to the Treaty. I urge your Lordships to consider the responsibility you are taking upon yourselves if you decide to keep up this state of unrest, at the wish of the Government, and paralyse the efforts of the Southern Government; to get into action by having for months to come this question of the boundary on their hands. For the purposes of a settlement I regard this as the most-important: step which has been taken, and I urge the Government; to reconsider even now the policy they have put forward.
Amendment to the Amendment moved—
Leave out ("not").—(The Earl of Midleton.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, after a long discussion, one of the fullest I have heard in your Lordships' House, you decided on the Committee stage—
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
—in a large House, that the "Ulster month" was to run from the passing of the Act establishing the Constitution of Ireland, and now, at the last moment, the noble Earl has moved an Amendment the effect of which is to reverse entirely that decision so solemnly arrived at and throw the whole of this matter into complete confusion. I think I am realty entitled to complain of the way this Amendment has been treated. Consider what happened in the Committee 870 stage. I was challenged over and over again by noble Lords opposite as to the ambiguity contained in the Agreement. I was told that it was not in the least clear whether the "Ulster month" was to run from the date of the passing of this Bill or the date of the subsequent Act. I was told by Lord Carson and Lord Londonderry that if there is uncertainty they would take the opportunity of making their position clear by passing a Resolution contracting out after this Bill becomes an Act. It might be a perfectly useless operation, but at any rate they would secure the opportunity of doing it, and then, if necessary, they would be able to raise the same Resolution again after the subsequent Bill had become an Act.
On behalf of His Majesty's Government I pointed out that I here was no necessity for action of that kind, because, first of all, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, fortified by the opinion to which the noble and learned Viscount has already referred, the matter was quite clear, and the "Ulster month," the "zero point," as it has been called, was to start from the second Act and not from the first. I also stated that the matter was all the more satisfactory because the Government of Southern Ireland had definitely said that, though they took another view upon the construction, they agreed to accept the position and interpretation of His Majesty's Government. Both parties having agreed, it was not necessary to go any further. This suggestion was laughed to scorn by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson. Lord Carson said: "What is the use of an agreement of that kind? Ought it not to be put in the Statute? What is the use of suggesting that the Irish Government have agreed to it? Why, there may be another Irish Government, or another ten Irish Governments, in the next two months. Will they be bound by the settlement?"
This was argued with great force, not only by the noble and learned Lord but by other members of your Lordships' House. I felt the force of that point, and after negotiation and discussion, it was agreed that the matter should be made clear. I accordingly put down this Amendment for that purpose, for I was very anxious that Ulster should have no complaint to make on that point. As soon as that; Amendment was put down in an endeavour to clear up the ambiguity, it was denounced by the noble and learned Lord as a new 871 insult to Ulster. He argued as if it were almost a monstrous act to try to settle this ambiguity and to meet the complaints which I was trying to assuage. I do not often suggest that noble Lords treat the Government with unreasonableness, but I think I am justified at least in objecting to their conduct on this particular occasion.
Let me refer to one or two further points. Noble Lords have said that Ulster ought to be able to contract out at once. But I pointed out, and I point out again, that, under Article 12, you would fall into the most tremendous difficulties if you enacted now that Ulster was to contract out after this Bill became an Act. If you read Article 12, you will see that the contracting out presupposes the setting up of the new Constitution, and therefore it could be, and no doubt would be, contended with some force that this arrangement meant nothing, because Ulster could not contract out of an arrangement which had not been made. When noble Lords ask, as they have done, "Why cannot Ulster contract out at once?" the answer is that you cannot contract out of a contract that has not been made. It is a contradiction in terms, an impossibility, and the interpretation of this Treaty would be laid open, not only to one ambiguity, but to a whole series of ambiguities if such a new arrangement were to be made. It is perfectly clear that the whole of this Treaty goes on the assumption that it is the second Bill, the Bill settling the Irish Constitution, from which the "Ulster month" dates. I beg your Lordships, at this very late period in the Bill, not to go right back on the arrangement into which you solemnly entered after long debate and not to upset the whole Treaty at the last moment by interposing this Amendment.
May I be allowed to say one word regarding what has been said by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, on the matter of conciliation I think I said myself on the Second Reading, and it was also stated many times by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, that the Government still hoped that this matter of the boundaries might be settled by amicable arrangement before the matter was adjudicated upon by the Chairman of the Commission, so that the Commission might then act less as arbitrators than as men who were settling an arrangement already entered upon. That has been said again and again. The noble Marquess has made 872 a further suggestion with regard to conciliation. The Government hope, and hope intensely, that an arrangement may be reached long before the Boundary Commission is set up, and I can only say that the particular suggestion which the noble Marquess has made will be considered by the Government with the utmost interest and sympathy. I hope this Amendment will not be carried because it will upset the whole Agreement.
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, I should like to say a few words, since the noble Viscount has so hotly attacked me over this matter. I entirely dispute the account he has given of this transaction, though of course he means to give it accurately from his point of view. We never had any doubt as to what this Treaty meant. No lawyer I have met ever had a doubt. The Government expressed, for some reason, the view that the Treaty did not mean what it said—namely, that within a month after the ratification of the Treaty Ulster was free to contract out. They said it meant some other time and some other Bill, though nowhere in the Treaty can you find any mention either of the other time or of the other Bill. The matter seemed to us to be quite simple. In order that we might meet the suggestion made by His Majesty's Government that there was another construction that might be put upon the Bill, we asked to have it made perfectly clear upon the face of the Bill. The Government refused to do that on a vote of this House. The vote of the House was, I think, a vote that the Treaty should not be altered, and it is most remarkable to consider the heat with which the noble Viscount argues that this Treaty should be altered, when for weeks it has been urged both in the House of Commons and in this House that the Treaty was sacrosanct, and that no one on earth could alter it.
§ LORD CARSON
I will take agreement in a moment. I do not think the noble Viscount has much to rely upon in that. You are asking the House to declare that the conclusion it then reached was not accurate. All you did was to throw out the Amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, to the effect that this Bill was a ratification. The only effect of that was to leave the Bill as it is, and the whole of it might have been left in that way if the 873 Government, had not come down at this last moment, when we are asked to conclude all the stages of the Bill, and re-opened the whole question by putting this Amendment upon the Paper.
I have heard no answer up to the present to what I stated when I said that the Amendment was really ludicrous. What does it say It says that a Bill that regularises the Treaty does not ratify it. Notwithstanding our saying that this Treaty is an Act of Parliament, and is to have the force of an Act of Parliament, it is still not to be considered to be ratified. I do not, think that such a ridiculous suggestion has ever been put forward with reference to any Act of Parliament. Legalise it; make it an Act of Parliament set up Governments under it—but it is not ratified ! Such is the position, and I suggest to your Lordships that it makes the whole matter ridiculous.
You are not asked to leave the sacrosanct Treaty as it is. "Oh," but the noble Viscount says, "we have got an Agreement from Michael Collins to change it." Ulster, of course, is never asked as to whether she is willing to change it, and if she does suggest, changing it she is never listened to. What is the Agreement? The Provisional Government who signed this take the same view that has been put forward by Ulster. One of the most extraordinary things to my mind is that upon the very rare occasions on which you find Irishmen agreeing Englishmen at once come in and say: "The one thing we will not do is to carry out what Irishmen have agreed." Here you have Mr. Griffith, here you have the South of Ireland represented by Lord Midleton, and although of course I am not a North of Ireland Peer I can speak on behalf of Ulster, and I can tell you we all take the same view as is taken by the lawyers. Yet you say: "All of you being agreed, we Englishmen tell you that you have no right to be agreed, and we will see that what you are agreed about will he by Act of Parliament determined to be something else."
Really, the absurdity of it is very difficult to describe. The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, and. I think, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack seem to think that the only question involved in this is the question of the boundary. No doubt the boundary is a very vital point, but it is not the only question. Every day 874 you leave Ulster within the Free State, in which you are determined to put her, judging from the way you drafted this Treaty, which was entered into behind her back, you add to the irritation that exists there. It reminds the people of Ulster every day of the way in which you have deceived them, of the way in which, behind their backs, you have broken all your pledges and have gone back upon the Act of 1920. I should have thought that one of the most important things was that Ulster should be allowed to contract out at the earliest possible moment.
To my mind the meaning of the Treaty is made perfectly clear if you look at Article 15, for that contemplates that immediately after this Treaty was entered into, without waiting even for a month, the North and the South were to proceed to try to settle this question, and to see whether it would be necessary for Ulster to vote herself out at all. Now we are told: "No, you must wait for the whole of that period, until a Provisional Government has been set up, until there have been Elections in the South and West, and until the new Constitution has been brought forward, sonic time next autumn, in this Parliament and also in the Parliament of the South of Ireland. Then will be time enough to raise the whole of this question." I think it is madness to take that course, and I hope you will agree to the Amendment moved by the noble Earl.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, memories may well be defective, and mine may have failed, but I am bound to say that my, recollection of what has occurred is in agreement with that of the noble Viscount who has charge of this Bill. I will tell your Lordships exactly how the matter comes before my mind. That there was ambiguity in the terms of the Treaty was, I think, plain to everyone, and certainly I took the view that the month provided for by the Treaty ran from the passage of the present Bill, and I, together with other speakers, begged the noble Viscount to make this matter plain. The Amendment that was before your Lordships was an Amendment moved by Lord Sumner, who proposed to introduce words into Clause 1 of the Bill that would automatically make the passage of this Bill the ratification referred to in Article 11. It was upon that, after a discussion as to ambiguity, that the noble Viscount said that he appreciated that possibly it was 875 thought there was ambiguity, and he said he would make the matter plain by moving, upon the Report Stage, an Amendment which I understand was in the exact form of that now before the House. It is therefore not that the noble Viscount has done anything contrary to what transpired before—he has really done exactly what he said he would do—but that what he said he would do is unfortunately at variance with the wishes of a great number, and possibly of the whole, of the representatives of Ireland.
With regard to the Agreement, I urged strongly upon the noble Viscount that as Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins regarded the Treaty as meaning what I thought it meant, and what Lord Sumner's Amendment would have made it mean, the wiser course was to leave it there, as everyone was in agreement. But the noble Viscount pointed out that a letter had been written, which, although upon its face it did not bear exactly the interpretation which he put upon it, was nevertheless evidence of some understanding to make this definite the other way. Upon that the Division was taken, and therefore, rightly or wrongly, the Division which your Lordships took was upon the very matter that is now before you. Although I felt strongly persuaded by the terms of the Treaty, and by the argument used here, that it ought to be a month from the passage of this Bill, yet I voted with the Government because I felt that there might be influences which were determining them in the course of action that they were proposing to take, which it would be unwise for a person like myself, who could have no knowledge of those circumstances, to oppose, and that if the Government, haying the responsibility for the whole measure upon their shoulders, said they felt that that responsibility would be most adequately discharged by this form of Amendment, even although it was against what the actual words of the Treaty had provided, I felt compelled to vote for them. For that reason I feel compelled to vote with them now.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, that there was ambiguity is beyond the slightest controversy. That that ambiguity was expressed by lawyers of the highest position is beyond controversy, and it was because and only because ambiguity was felt that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, than whom none is more 876 competent to judge of these matters, put down an Amendment which would have made it plain that the critical month was to run from the passing of this Bill. Why did Lord Sumner do that? He did it for one reason only, and that was that to his mind there was some ambiguity. Therefore, only yesterday the House addressed itself to a decision upon the merits, on a discussion invited by the high authority of Lord Sumner. The whole discussion on the merits has however been repeated to-day, and by a most unusual process in a far thinner House, we are invited on the very day after a clear decision was reached in Committee, to reconsider the whole matter.
The plain truth is—and it can be dismissed in a sentence—that it was because there was ambiguity that the Amendment was moved by Lord Sumner, and that the whole case on the merits was discussed and decided yesterday. The Amendment now proposed by the noble Earl is an attempt, unprecedented in my short experience of this House, to reconsider to-day a matter which was discussed on the merits and dismissed yesterday. I can only say that, if that course is taken, I cannot assign a limit to the resulting confusion.
§ On Question, Amendment to the Amendment disagreed to.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
beg to move that Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being dispensed with, for the purpose of taking the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being dispensed with.—(The Earl of Crawford.)
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, I had hoped that we should have the Third Reading this evening, but, having regard to the important Amendment which was put down last night by the noble Viscount, and which we only saw to-day, and which has now been inserted in this Bill, I hope your Lordships will not go on with the Third Reading to-night. It is necessary to consider the very grave results that this Amendment will have in Ulster, and it may be necessary for me, in consultation with those who have confidence in me, to try to see whether I cannot put forward on Third 877 Reading some Amendment that may mitigate the evils which are at least anticipated, and which we have a right to anticipate may occur, by reason of the course that has been taken at the last moment by the Government in putting in an Amendment contrary to the provisions of the Treaty itself.
I, at all events, was perfectly clear upon the occasion referred to a moment ago by the Lord Chancellor that I preferred to take the view that Mr. Griffith took on the first occasion as to the meaning, and to leave it there. When the noble Viscount brought this forward I said:Thank you for nothing. We prefer to leave it as Mr. Griffith understood it to be, and as we understand it to be, and as is, to my mind at all events, the plain reading of the clause.Therefore I have not in any wise contributed to the course which has been taken by the Government, and I hope your Lordships will not insist upon taking the Third Reading to-night. At an hour like this, to proceed to read a third time one of the most important. Bills that has ever been brought before this House—a measure that upsets the whole policy pursued by a great Party in this country during the last thirty-live years, a measure that upsets the Union between Great Britain and Ireland—and to dispose of it hurriedly, with a view to getting away to dinner, would be treating a great subject of this kind in a, way not worthy of your Lordships' House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, there is no question whatever that the Amendment inserted in the Bill this evening is one of very great importance. I confess that I felt the force of the reasoning of the noble Viscount opposite and of my noble friend, Lord Buckmaster, when they said that it was a very strong thing to reverse the next day a decision come to in Committee. It is only in very exceptional circumstances that I should be in favour of it, and, so far as my little influence extended, I used it to prevent a Division. But I think that that gives me some little claim to urge upon the Government the necessity of not parting with the Bill filially this evening. The attitude of the Government on this important Amendment has been so remarkable that one cannot help thinking there must be something behind, which we do not know—nothing at all derogatory to the Government, but some point of which we are not aware. 878 And I think it is important that we should have the opportunity of hearing unofficially what it is which makes them so anxious that this decision of the boundary question should he put off for three or four months.
If your Lordships part with the Bill to-night, there will be no opportunity of making any modification, and that is a very strong reason why the Government should not take the Third Reading now. I do not think anything would be lost. I understand that the Government cannot take your Lordships' Amendments immediately in another place, so there will be no time lost. Of course, there must be communications passing between the Government and the Provisional Government in Ireland in the interval, which will possibly deal with this question among others. Further, my noble and learned friend has really a right to be heard on this question. It is the subject in which he has been interested during all his great political life, and if he asks your Lordships to postpone the Third Reading for a day or two in order that these negotiations may have some, chance of leading to some result, I do not think it would be consonant with your Lordships' general practice to refuse his plea.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Marquess should put it on the ground of refusing a plea advanced by Lord Carson. The House has been apprised of the desire of the Government to get all the stages of this Bill during the present week. Until this very moment I have not heard a word of protest against that policy.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The Amendment of the Government did not appear on the Paper until this morning.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I will come to that. Up till this morning there has been no word of protest against the general programme which the Government have asked your Lordships to accept. Notice, in fact, was given that we were most desirous of finishing the Bill to-night in order to send it to the House of Commons. But this Amendment is not actually sprung upon the House. It was discussed on the first day of our debates. Notice, in effect, was given by Lord Peel that this Amendment would be moved. It takes the only form consistent with the statement he then made, and if Lord Carson, or Lord 879 Buckmaster, or any distinguished legal Peer had been invited to draft that Amendment, it would have followed probably the identical lines which are now laid down by the Parliamentary draftsman. So that notice has been given of this.
Lord Carson says it is too late in the evening to begin the discussion on Third Reading. I do not think we need confuse two things. This Amendment does not pass out of the purview of Parliament because it is accepted by your Lordships. It has to be discussed in the House of Commons, and it certainly cannot be discussed there during the present week. I should have thought—I do not know whether Lord Carson thinks it suitable—that his Northern Irish friends would have a chance of discussing it during this week end and of making any representations they think fit to make to the Government in the House of Commons. I do not say that in any polemical spirit.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Because, I understand, the Government cannot take it in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I am not sure about that. I am still hopeful and it is possible, though, as the noble Marquess says, it may have to be postponed. Although I am often taken to task for invading your Lordships' rights, no Peer is more anxious than I am to prevent dislocation of business that stands in the name of unofficial Peers, and Tuesday is occupied, or ought to be occupied, by a very important debate on foreign affairs. As to Wednesday, I have given a pledge to the Lord Chairman that that day shall be allocated to the discussion of the problem of Peeresses in this House, and if I were to put it down as Second Order on Wednesday after Lord Buckmaster's Motion, say about half-past six or seven o'clock, I should be told that it was not fair that your Lordships should be called upon to discuss such an important matter at that time of the day.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I will ask your Lordships to meet on Monday, but it is very inconvenient to have to give such short notice of a Monday sitting.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
The noble Marquess has had a very good holiday, and is very fresh. He would like to sit every day of the week like the House of Commons, and after dinner as well. But I assure him that at this time of the evening to give notice of an important debate like this for Monday will cause umbrage. If your Lordships want to take it on Monday I will give notice, but I think it is rather unnecessary in view of the fact that there is ample time for the Irish Peers to consider this matter. We have been assured time after time that there is no desire to wreck this Bill, and I should imagine that there is no desire to debate the Third Reading.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
It is impossible at seven o'clock at night to give the House notice that it is to meet on the following day, when I daresay many Peers already have their engagement books full for to-morrow.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: Standing Order No. XXXIX suspended accordingly.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate until Monday. It would be impossible at this time to enter upon such an important discussion. I do not suppose that the Government intend—as would seem to be indicated by the noble Viscount—to treat the Third Reading of such a measure as this as a mere formal matter. There are many very serious questions to be gone into. I cannot understand why the noble Earl adopted a hostile attitude to meeting the wishes of those of us who have had a very irksome and very toilsome duty to discharge during the last two or three days, in addition to the other work we have, unfortunately, to do. But as he took up that attitude I shall now ask your Lordships to allow this debate to be adjourned until Monday and to permit me then to resume the debate.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned till Monday.—(Lord Carson.)
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, after what has transpired I cannot, help thinking that the Government must find it difficult to resist this Motion. The Motion that has just been put was put, I think, a little prematurely and at the moment when the House appeared to be coining to an agreement upon the further discussion of this matter on Monday. The noble Earl himself had suggested the day and had done it, I am quite certain, with an anxious desire to meet with the convenience of everybody.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
There was mention of a day, at any rate. I am very greatly impressed with the fact that everyone must recognise the urgency of getting this measure through. But nobody suggests that the difference between to-day and Monday is going to affect the ultimate passage of the Bill or delay it by a single 882 hour; nor can anybody say that a Bill of this kind, affecting, as it does, matters to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, has undoubtedly devoted the whole of his political life, is one upon which your Lordships would desire either to curtail or exclude him from ex pressing the views he wishes to express and which, undoubtedly, he could do much more effectively on Monday than now. I feel very strongly that if the noble and learned Lord presses this Motion for the adjournment—though I trust it will be unnecessary—and it goes to a Division, I shall be compelled to vote with him, because it appears to me to be a reasonable proposal.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I confess that I am very much surprised by the attitude taken up by Lord Carson. He is proposing a direct negative to the Motion which was unanimously passed by your Lordships three minutes ago.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I assure your Lordships that my noble friend five minutes ago moved that the Standing Order be suspended in order that the Third Reading should be taken now, according to the Notice which I offered to your Lordships several days ago. That Motion was unanimously accepted by your Lordships, having been put in a most deliberate manner to you by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. The moment that Motion was moved, the purpose of which was to enable the Third Reading to be taken, Lord Carson moves that the debate be adjourned. That is, in effect, a, direct negative to the Motion your Lordships accepted five minutes ago. I know that conversations on procedure and as to when Bills should be taken occupy as long a time as the discussion of the Bills themselves, and if we are to have a fresh debate upon procedure, of course we shall lose a great deal of the time that otherwise would have been devoted to Third Reading. I am not inclined to resist, but I want to say one thing to your Lordships, and I put it very earnestly to you indeed. Lord Carson talked about his toilsome and irksome work as the reason for putting this Bill off for two or three days. There are others besides Lord Carson who have irksome and toilsome work.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
And it is only on Fridays and Saturdays, and on Sundays and Mondays, that Peers who are also Ministers really find time to do their Departmental work. I see your Lordships do not want the debate this evening. I think it is putting us in some difficulty, but it is no good discussing procedure if your Lordships do not care to discuss the Bill. I am, accordingly, compelled to agree that the debate be adjourned till Monday.
§ On Question, Motion to adjourn the debate till Monday agreed to.