§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, the only previous occasion on which I have ventured to address your Lordships' House on an Irish question was very nearly ten years ago, in January, 1913. I then moved the rejection of the Home Rule Bill that was before your Lordships' House. I claimed at that time that it was almost an hereditary duty which had fallen to my lot to propose the rejection of a Home Rule Bill. Your Lordships, I think, will naturally sympathise with me in finding myself to-day, as a responsible Minister of the Government, in the position of moving the Second Reading of a Bill for the Constitution of the Irish Free State. I am confident that in present circumstances it would not be possible for any Government, however it might be composed, to take a course other than that which we are now recommending to your Lordships. It would be useless, and perhaps dangerous, to delve into past history, and to recall memories which might lead, in the complicated situation which exists, to recrimination, and, possibly, to the obscuring of the already difficult issues with which we are call upon to deal.
I am confident that we have to take the position as we find it. The only question is whether the Bill which I have the honour to present to your Lordships providing for the Constitution of Southern Ireland is or is not in accordance with the Treaty to which your Lordships gave your assent a short time ago. That Treaty, whether it be right or wrong, was agreed to by both Houses of Parliament. It has passed 109 through the ordeal of a General Election on both sides the Channel, and un-questionably, in the varied issues which were raised during the recent General Election in this country, the question of Ireland did not occupy that prominent position which it did on so many previous occasions. Moreover, the actual Bill relating to the Constitution of Southern Ireland and the consequential Bill which is a natural corollary of the main Bill, passed through the House of Commons in an incredibly short space of time, and so far as I am aware no single Division was taken either upon the principle or the details of the measures.
I venture, therefore, to submit that the one question we have to decide to-day is whether the Bill embodying the Schedule which sets forth the Constitution as drafted by the Irish Parliament is or is not in accordance with the Treaty. Probably no assembly in the world is better qualified than this House to express an opinion free from Party bias as to whether those conditions have been complied with. As a layman I am somewhat diffident in expressing an opinion, but I am prepared to rest my judgment, and also the judgment of the Government, on two grounds. In the first place, Clause 1 of the Bill now before your Lordships expressly makes the Constitution of Southern Ireland subject to the provisions set out in the Preamble of the Bill, and I hope it is clear from the Bill itself that the Treaty is the overriding instrument. Special pains have been taken in the drafting of the Bill to make that as clear as possible.
The second ground on which I ask you to agree to the proposition I have laid down is that not only have we the advantage of the opinion of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and the present Law Officers of the Crown, but we are fortified in our judgment by the deliberate opinion of the late Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General in the late Government. Perhaps we may not always find ourselves in accord with the views which are advocated by the noble and learned Earl, or possibly with sonic of the methods by which he advocates them, but unquestionably there is no higher authority than he to express an opinion on this subject. In addition to that we have also the opinion of Lord Hewart, the Lord Chief Justice, who, as a Law Officer of the Crown, took a prominent and distinguished part in the 110 negotiations which led up to the introduction of the Bill, and who has expressed his unqualified opinion that the Bill as now drafted is strictly in accordance with the Treaty as it passed through your Lordships' House.
I can, therefore, rest my case, and rest it solely, on the ground that the Bill is for all purposes strictly in accordance with the Treaty. Other provisions, no doubt of far reaching importance, are also included, but if we accept that general proposition as being established, I can claim the support of your Lordships for the Second Reading.
It will be unnecessary at this stage for me to trouble your Lordships with any protracted details in regard to the clauses of the Constitution Bill. The second clause provides transitory provisions in relation to financial affairs. They are complicated, but it is obvious that with a big change, such as is necessitated by the passage of this Bill, there must be considerable readjustments as between the two countries. This clause is necessary in order to enable those readjustments to be carried out. Clause 3 is inserted by agreement with the Provisional Government in Ireland. It enables the Irish Parliament, if it chooses, to place itself in the same position as other self-governing Dominions under Acts which apply to the Dominions. I understand it is very necessary that the Irish Government should have this power; and this clause takes the necessary steps to provide it.
Clause 4, I admit, raises a more difficult point. It was inserted by agreement with the Provisional Government in order to make it perfectly clear that nothing in the Bill should give the Irish Free State powers in excess of those which are provided by Articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty. Owing to the insertion of certain words it was thought necessary that this should be made perfectly clear. There is no ulterior motive behind it, as apparently some people may imagine; it has been inserted solely for the purpose of making it clear that nothing in the Constitution should be in excess of the powers provided under the Treaty itself.
Clause 5 makes clear beyond any possible doubt that what is known now as the "Ulster month" shall run as front the passing of this Bill. Your Lordships will remember that, in the previous discussions, there was considerable doubt as to the Act front the passing of which the 111 "Ulster month" was to run. This point was dealt with in an Amendment in one of the previous Acts, but in a negative form. It is now stated positively that it is to the passing of this Act that the "Ulster month" is to be referred.
It might he for the convenience of your Lordships if I also made a few references, not in any detail, to the second measure, the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Bill, which will be before us today. This Bill contains a number of provisions of a varied character, some of them necessitated by the actual passage of the Constitution Bill, and others, which I think will probably be more generally of interest to your Lordships, dealing with undertakings given by the late Government. For the legal purposes of this Act we have to assume that Northern Ireland is still part of the country to which the Act will apply, and a clause has been inserted in the second Bill to provide for a contingency, which as all will realise, will in the course of a very few days be no longer a contingency, but a reality. Full provision has been made for the purpose of enabling the Government of Northern Ireland, if it availed itself of the opportunity of contracting out of the Bill, to be provided with various powers. I hope, at any rate, that Northern Ireland is not dissatisfied with the provision which has been made after very long and full discussion and negotiation.
I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with many details, but I think I ought to direct your attention to the First Schedule of the Consequential Provisions Bill, where an important point has been inserted which is at variance with the Treaty itself. Your Lordships will remember that in the Act of 1920 provision was made for a Council of Ireland. It has, I think, been generally accepted that those proposals are unworkable and unfair, and that, if possible, some other arrangement ought to be made. I am glad to say that an Agreement has been reached between the three parties, the British Government, the Government of Northern Ireland and the Provisional Government. Under this Agreement, which is set out in the third section of the First Schedule, provision is made that the British Parliament should stand outside, if and when identical Acts are passed by the Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland. I trust, I hope not unjustifiably, that the 112 fact that an Agreement has been reached between the representatives of Northern and Southern Ireland may be regarded as I an augury of hope for the future.
Another point in connection with the Consequential Provisions Bill to which I shall direct your Lordships' attention at the moment is that an Agreement has been arrived at under which a question which I know was one of very serious consideration for many of your Lordships—I mean the question of double Income Tax—should be placed in the same position as it now occupies between this country and other self-governing Dominions. I trust that this will be a not unsatisfactory result and a relief to a great many of your Lordships.
Hitherto, I have referred only to matters which have been settled by agreement. There is, however, one point upon which I regret to say that no agreement has yet been arrived at. In the long history of the relations between this country and Ireland, and between Northern and Southern Ireland, there has been no subject of greater difficulty than the definition of boundaries between the North and the South, between Ulster and the other parts of Ireland. That question is, to-day, still unsolved. I can only express the hope that, when the Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland are well established, it will be possible for them, on this as on other points, to conic to an arrangement which will be mutually fair and honourable, and which, I trust, will tend to relieve a situation which is at all times fraught with so much anxiety and difficulty. Technically, I believe that we on this side of the Channel will have but little responsibility, but unquestionably, if we find ourselves in a position to make suggestions or to bring the two parties together, I can assure your Lordships that no effort will be spared by this Government to produce that satisfactory result.
In addition to the subjects contained in the Consequential Provisions Bill, there are one or two other points to which, with your Lordships' permission, I will refer, as I know that they are of some interest to your Lordships' House. The first is the question of compensation. On Monday last I made a long and, I am afraid, a very technical statement as to the position of compensation. I have nothing to add to or withdraw from that statement, but I hope I am justified in expressing not merely a 113 hope but a conviction that the Provisional Government will honestly do its best to see that justice is done.
The other point is the question of land purchase. Your Lordships are aware that our predecessors gave clear and unequivocal pledges in regard to the carrying out of land purchase. To those pledges we are prepared to adhere. It is obviously impossible for me at this moment to enter into anything like a detailed statement, but I can assure your Lordships that we consider ourselves bound, so far as any Government can be bound, to see that those pledges are redeemed in the fullest possible degree. We shall have to take, we are taking, those pledges up now, and we shall endeavour to carry them through with as little possible delay.
I know, my Lords, that we are asking you to give your assent to a Bill which many of you, and quite possibly the majority of you, regard with doubts and misgivings. It is a great experiment, but I think we on this side of the Table, at any rate, can claim that we are giving the fullest and amplest opportunity of trying and testing that experiment. This Bill has been drafted after deep thought and consultation. It is, I believe, a piece of drafting that carries out to the fullest degree the intentions of the promoters, but, after all, the success or failure of this experiment is not a question of draftsmanship, but a question of good will and sympathy. We trust, and we believe, that the new Parliament in Ireland will conduct its business in such a way as to prove that it is capable of carrying out, and fit to carry out, the work entrusted to it by this Constitution. However much in the past we may have been unwilling to enter into the various proposals which have been submitted to Parliament for many years, now that this Bill will in a short time be on the Statute Book we can only wish, most sincerely and earnestly, that it will be a success. We trust that in the era now opening in Ireland, dark and ominous as the immediate surroundings may be, a bright and happier prospect may be before the country, that happiness and prosperity may be again restored to it, and that at no distant date we may be able to see Ireland taking her proper place as one of the nations composing the British Empire. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Duke of Devonshire.)114
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, with whatever feelings your Lordships may regard this measure, whether of misgiving or of hope, you are, I am certain, assured of this, that its introduction is a very important matter in the history of this country, and that the dignity of the occasion could not be more fitly recognised than by the selection of the noble Duke to introduce the Bill, and the terms and words of the speech that he has just made in its support. I wish very much that it had been possible for Lord Grey to express the views that we entertain upon this side of the House with regard to the measure. It was his intention to be present for that express purpose, but die has been unexpectedly and unavoidably detained elsewhere, and his duty must be, however imperfectly, discharged by me.
We welcome the Bill. We welcome the Bill not only because it does give expression to a political ideal for which Liberals have struggled for many years, but also because we recognise that it has been the result of a great effort made by all Parties in this State to heal a sore that has been too long open, aryl to solve a question which at one time appeared to be past solution. It is, I think, no small credit to British statesmanship that a Government composed, as the present Government is, of many men who have been profoundly apprehensive of the dangers of granting self-government to Ireland, none the less feel themselves so bound in honour by what their predecessors have done, and so impressed with the gravity of the situation, that they are prepared entirely to sink their individual views and try to work together with other people for the accomplishment of this task. We are only too pleased to be associated with them in the duty.
The noble Duke said, and I think said wisely, that at such a moment it is no use going backward over the past, and indulging in recriminations as to the causes that have rendered Ireland such a difficult and dangerous problem for us to understand. I agree. It may well be that there have been mistakes on both sides. They had better be buried. It is no good recalling them for the purpose of showing that had this policy or that policy been persistently pursued the circumstances which have rendered necessary the introduction of this Bill would never have arisen. None the less, I think that 115 it is possible to look back and see what was the history of Ireland during the last century, in order to realise the prospects that this Bill may have of tending to secure the prosperity of that country for the future. The history of Ireland during the last century is one of the saddest episodes in the whole of the history of British rule. She has been torn from end to end by racial and religious strife, she has been honeycombed with sedition, decimated by famine, impoverished by exile, stained by crime, and humbled by oppression, but none the less throughout the whole of that period there is one thing that has always been kept alive, and that has been the passionate desire of the Irish people to be enabled to take their own destinies in their own hands, and to work out their own future. This Bill places that opportunity before them, and there is no one in this country who does not earnestly hope and desire that they may avail themselves of that opportunity to the utmost.
I must say that I think there is good promise of a great hope in the future in the manner in which this Bill has passed through the Irish Legislative Assembly. They adhered strictly to the terms of the bargain made, and they passed the Bill through in a businesslike session, which I am sure fills many of us over here with admiration and it may be some of us with surprise. If that is the way in which they are going to conduct their work in the future it may well be that the best hopes of their best friends will be realised. At the same time it is impossible not to feel the grave position in which they stand. For reasons into which I do not desire to enter, respect for the law in Ireland appears to have been completely overthrown and the present Government is engaged in one of the most painful and difficult tasks that can be imagined in attempting to secure its restoration. I am satisfied that although we can no longer render them material help, everything that can be done by the expression of our sympathy and our encouragement of them in their difficult task will be gladly afforded.
I said that this marked an important point in the historical relations between this country and Ireland. It does, but I hope that it is not the last matter that will be recorded here. It is perfectly plain that by no means whatever of coercion or constraint will it be possible to bring together the two divided portions of that country. But it does not follow that in the 116 end union may not come. Again and again, I have beard the most eminent, representatives of the North of Ireland say that if Ulster is to be won it must be won by example and not by violence. And if it be that the Government in the South of Ireland can show that they can establish peace and justice, that they can once more reinforce law and order, that they can develop the prosperity and the peaceful progress of that country, then it may be in the future that that union which everyone who desires the welfare of Ireland must specially desire will be effected, and that it will be no longer necessary to ask that question which remained unanswered from the days of Henry II, "What is it that cometh from Ireland that bringeth profit to the King?"
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, if I venture to address your Lordships from this [the Opposition] side of the House, I hope it will not be supposed that it is from any want of sympathy with those who are now in power on the other side. It is simply for convenience of debate on a subject in which many members who are of the same political complexion as noble Lords opposite have often sat on the Opposition side. I should particularly desire not to be supposed to be in any conflict with the present Government, if that were possible, as regards this particular Bill. I enter, perhaps as much as any man in this House, into the difficulties which now beset the Provisional Government. I am well aware of the task which they have to meet, and I am also as anxious as anyone can be that nothing should be said here which is likely to impede them in their task.
On the other hand, it would be impossible to allow the Second Reading of this Bill to pass without reminding your Lordships of the extraordinary course which, from the passage of events, the Government have found it necessary to take. This Bill is before us with, I might almost say, only a few hours in which we can possibly consider it. It is absolutely necessary, if we are to avoid considerable difficulties on the other side of the water, that we should pass it within three or four days, and yet I remember that at the time when the Treaty was discussed in this House, we made appeals to my noble friend behind me who was then on the Woolsack, and who made it as clear in this House as Mr. Winston Churchill made it in the 117 other House that tire Bill would receive full and free consideration by both Houses of Parliament. Events have made that impossible, but when we consider that this Act (as it will be in a few days) finally ends the control of this country over something like 3,500,000 British subjects—a number affected, I think, by only one previous measure of this kind which has passed this House—I think your Lordships will see how very grave is the issue which we have to try out now.
I do not think any measure which has ever come before us really deserved a more careful consideration than the one which we are now asked to pass. I do not go into the details, some of which were not touched upon by the noble Duke, but on which I think that those who have more legal knowledge than I have will probably desire to ask questions of the Government. There is much in the Bill which we—I mean those of us who are without legal training—cannot find within the terms of the Treaty. There is the question of thestatus of citizen set up, I believe, for the first tune in any of the constitutional Acts of Parliament passed by the Dominions. There is the question of the Royal Assent to measures, which stands in this Bill, as I am informed, on a different footing from that in which it stood in the North America Act, on the lines of which this Bill was expected to be framed. There is also the question of legal appeal, which stands on a footing different from that of the Union of South Africa Act, to which reference has been made. These questions are samples of many which, had time permitted and circumstances been different, must have been tried out.
But what I desire more especially to bring to your notice to-night does not concern the cases which may or may not be within the Treaty but which high legal authority has so ruled. I desire rather to draw attention to that which you are surrendering, to that to which you are exposing a large body of His Majesty's subjects, and to the pledges which have been given over and over again but which are violated in the Constitution now before the House. I hope I may be pardoned, as this Constitution Bill probably forms the last occasion when, at all events for a long time, we shall be asked to discuss this question, if I remind your Lordships of the difficulty in which those whom I have represented in the South have found themselves throughout this discussion.
118 From the time that it became clear that both Parties in this country felt that it was impossible to continue the struggle to carry on the government of 'Ireland from this country we have felt that it was not to the advantage of Ireland that we should further contest the point, and that the one thing we ought to work for was to obtain a good settlement, a settlement which could work, a settlement which would be effective in Ireland itself. To do that we believed, in the first instance—my retrospect will be very short—that we might have the assistance of Ulster, which unquestionably would have given a weight, an experience, and a financial strength which would have enabled Ulster to dominate the whole situation. That was found to be impossible when it was discovered that Ulster could only deal with matters within her own borders and was unprepared in any circumstances to take responsibility elsewhere. When that hope failed, all Parties in the South of Ireland, not only the minority for which I have spoken but even the Parties which were associated with the old Nationalist Party, insisted that every Parliamentary safeguard which could properly be put in for the protection of minorities should be inserted for due consideration by Parliament.
On that subject I should like to remind your Lordships of the pledges which were given, one by one. In the first place, we had the pledge of the Convention. In the Irish Convention of 1917–18 we were a Party of only nine or ten among 96 Irishmen, but the Senate which we put forward when the time came was accepted by the whole Convention, and if I wanted to emphasise to your Lordships how important, especially to a country with a new Parliament, such a check was, I could best do it by mentioning that when, at one of the later meetings of the Convention, great dissension arose with regard to the Customs Duties and the extreme members of the Convention were separated from us by their views, they did for a few hours propose that if we could not give way on that they on their part would be unable to enforce the strong safeguards which had been given in regard to the Senate. Such was the feeling of the leading political Nationalists that they came in and informed their colleagues that it would be impossible for them to govern Ireland unless they had such safeguards as a good Second Chamber would give from the hasty action of the Lower Chamber. Therefore, we got from 119 the Convention every pledge that we could get.
As regards His Majesty's late Government—I speak not only of the Prime Minister—we had the same promise of complete protection not from one member only but from all. Every man who spoke made the same promise that the minority should be protected. In your Lordships' House two years ago, when we received from the House of Commons a Bill for setting up a Single Chamber, a Senate was inserted. That Senate was accepted and its powers would have been adequate. Once more, in a conference to which three of my colleagues and I were invited earlier this year at the Colonial Office with the late Mr. Griffith, we received from hint assurances which I am quite certain he would have made good and which Mr. Cosgrave has made good as far as theforce majeure with which they were faced has enabled them to do; and if I may express what I feel in regard to those successive Irish leaders, I can only say that if the representatives of the British Government on whom we had a claim had stood to their promises as well as those two Irish leaders endeavoured to stand to theirs, we should not be in the position we occupy to-day.
What is the position, my Lords? It has not been stated yet. It is that, with a Lower Chamber elected on the widest franchise which, I believe, exists at the present time in the world, certainly in the British Dominions, there is a Senate which is largely nominated in the first instance, and nominated to the extent that nobody can stand for it unless he receives nomination from one House of Parliament or has already served in it. Otherwise he cannot even stand for it. Therefore, the Senate must always be to a large extent the creature of the Lower House. But what are its powers? A Bill may be rejected, but the Lower House need take no action upon that rejection at all, and in nine months it becomes the law of the land. There is no necessity for the Lower House to consider the Bill again. Moreover, if Amendments are made in a Bill the Lower House will consider them, and, if it rejects them, the Bill become the law of the land in nine months.
The only security which is given, so far as it can be a security, is that where three-fifths of the Senate agree to ask for a Referendum, the Referendum is taken. But the Referendum, a machinery which 120 has often been advocated by my noble friend Lord Selborne, is most applicable in this country to a case where the House of Commons may be taking a part which your Lordships think the electors would not approve. In that case the Referendum is an admirable institution. But where the whole object of the Senate is to protect a minority which must always be a minority, reference to the people—again to the majority which, as a majority, has elected the House of Commons which in turn has nominated a large number of the Senate—is, in itself, a farce. What makes us regret it the more is this. I know the position in which my noble friend Lord Salisbury, who leads the House, stands in regard to the Bill. How curious that position is. Here in this House we have the power of delaying a Bill for nearly three years, and we have various other powers which are not given to the Irish Senate. I do not believe that my noble friend regards even those powers as adequate. Like many other noble Lords, he thinks that in regard to Money Bills we require further protection. In Ireland there is no protection at all.
In reference to the Parliament Act, whether that Act was correct or not, it has had this effect in the last ten or twelve years during which it has been in force, that there has never been, on the one hand, any occasion to employ it except in regard to the Home Rule Bill, and, on the other hand, the power it has given those who from this bench have negotiated with the leaders of the Government on the many questions which have arisen on disputed points in Bills has always enabled them to obtain sufficient to avoid the loss of the Bill. On no occasion that I know of has any Government had to bring in a fresh Bill in the next session to make good the concessions which they unwillingly made in the previous one. In other words, the Parliament Act has answered its purpose, and has attained that which this Bill will not attain.
Now, I ask on what ground, in the country of all others in the British Dominions which is seamed with the widest differences, in which the divisions have been more acute in the last few years than in any other—on what ground is the weakest Second Chamber which exists in any part of His Majesty's Dominions going to be established by this Bill? We gathered from the speech of the noble Duke, as also from the speech of the Prime 121 Minister, that the Government, whatever their views, feel that so long as the Constitution is within the Treaty they cannot discuss it. We have to consider our course in those circumstances. I said at the outset that the greatest desire we all have is not to injure the good feeling and the good will which have grown up in Ireland, so far as they have grown up. We cannot, in those circumstances, trouble your Lordships with Amendments, or make an attempt such as we made successfully two years ago when all the Southern Irish Peers were able to carry a large number of Amendments and to constitute a Senate which is now done away with. I fully enter into the difficulties of His Majesty's Government. They are forced to set their seal upon a measure which, after all the promises and pledges that have been given, embodies, I am inclined to think, the greatest repudiation of pledges that I have ever known on the part of His Majesty's Government to fellow citizens who, at events, had a right to deserve consideration at their hands.
As regards those of us who have pressed your Lordships in the past to give better terms in order to make Ireland so far free from trammels without that she could combine all the best, influences within her in working a Bill, our task is at an end. Every promise which was made to us, and that we have made to those who supported us among the minority in Ireland, has been violated. We have always told them that if, doing violence to their own desires to be governed by this country, they assented to and assisted in a change of Government the ample Parliamentary protections which they had been promised would be given. That promise has now been rendered of no effect. So far as I and most of my friends are concerned we cannot support this Constitution. I am not going to ask your Lordships to reject it, but if there were a Division I, for one, could not go into the Lobby to vote for this Bill.
I have been honoured by being approached to serve on the new Senate when it is constituted. It is perfectly useless, in my opinion, for any man to hope that he will do good by serving on that Senate where he will have responsibility without power, and where he will have the privilege of addressing his arguments only to persons who cannot make them effective by any change in the measure upon which he speaks.
122 I would only ask your Lordships to consider, in passing tins Bill, that you ring down the curtain on the constitutional discussions which have been waged in this House, at intervals, for more than a generation. For thirty-seven years, at intervals, this question has occupied so much of the attention of Parliament that it cannot simply be buried inHansard, and the question undoubtedly will be asked how it was that, at the end we arrived at what seems to me to be a lamentable conclusion when it would have been possible, before the Treaty was actually signed, to have made a totally different arrangement. I was summoned with some of my friends by the Prime Minister the day after the Treaty was signed. I was then informed of its terms. I am not going to accuse the Prime Minister of indifference to his past statements, much less of deliberately changing that which he had undertaken to do.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
Yes, to Mr. Lloyd George. I make no, accusations. I know under what pressure of business he always worked. I never knew a man so startled as he appeared to be when we pointed out to him that all the pledges which had been made to us had been ignored, and that we were left by the Treaty without, any remedy except that which we could obtain from those who would rule in Ireland. If my noble and learned friend were sitting here still, I would be forced to tell him to his face what I feel, that those who listened to the impassioned speeches which he has delivered respecting the condition of the minority in Ireland—not merely the normal minority, but the 350,000 men whom we represent—would hardly have believed that his hand would also have been put to the Treaty, and that our interests would have been ignored. In his case we have built our house on the sand.
If it could be said at this moment that conditions were so much more favourable in Ireland that the Government were justified in making a fresh departure—the noble Duke called it a great experiment—I should feel differently, but your Lordships will recollect that two years ago, when we asked for more extended powers, powers far short of those which have now been 123 given, in order to give us a chance of peace, the majority of your Lordships felt that the dangers of the situation were too great. I ask any man in this House if he thinks now that the dangers and the difficulties are less than they were two years ago. Again, if it is felt that the progress of the world has taught that Single-Chamber Government is practicable in Ireland, I would point out that the progress of the world in the last two years has been such as to make us afraid of the haste of Parliamentary movements, especially in this country, where we have seen turns and changes in the House of Commons, and the repeal of Acts that have been passed in haste and repented of at leisure. These events make one rather think of the old toast in Scotland of 1806: "May the excesses of the House of Commons ever be repressed by the House of Lords." I believe that if the late Election had been fought 011 a difference between the two Houses that sentiment would have had greater support in the last Election than in any Election since 1806.
We cannot look for the solution there. We must look for it in the sort of speech which was made by my noble and learned friend from this Bench two nights ago when he congratulated this House upon the circumstance that the terrible punishments which have had to be inflicted in Ireland were inflicted by Irishmen on Irishmen and not by Englishmen on Irishmen. In fact, he put it more delicately than it was put in one of the speeches made by a colleague of his a few months ago, who crudely said: "After all, it is only a question of Irishmen shooting each other. Ulster, fortunately, is safe."
I do not envy the feelings of those who in future will have to look back on two facts. The first fact is that under their unfair government, and, as I think, to a large extent by the impolicy of the changes of policy that signalised the administration of Ireland in the last six years, the minority who have stood by this country at every crisis, who, in consequence of the late war, have left a larger quota of names proportionately than almost any other community on the roll of honour—I believe Northern and Southern Ireland stand as well as your Lordships' House in the sacrifices they have made in proportion to their numbers—the minority feel that they are being plundered and murdered, their houses burnt down, and that they 124 have lost practically everything which makes life dear and property safe, because they have been deprived of the power of influencing in some degree the new administration of the country.
The noble Duke ended his speech in terms of hope. I do not find it easy to follow him in that respect, but I trust that some men of means, experience, and public spirit, will still be able to do something for the country to which they are bound by so many ties and for which they have made such great sacrifices. If they do so, it will be through their own courage and tenacity. It will not be through the justice that has been meted out to them by this Parliament. Posterity will, I think, wonder that a great nation, when concluding a struggle of thirty-seven years with concessions which are meant to heal the sores of six hundred years, should abandon those who have been their strongest supporters and give that which is, I think, unparalleled in any Act of Parliament ever passed through this House, and will, I hope, prove to be one that will not be repeated in the future.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, during the recent stages of the Irish controversy I have not always agreed with the views of the noble Earl who has just spoken, but I have watched with admiration the way in which he has fought the battle of the minority for whom he speaks, and all your Lordships must feel great sympathy with him in the position in which he now finds himself, when the late Government have broken, as he has shown, all the pledges they gave to those for whom he speaks and for whom he negotiated. I agree with him that when we come to the Committee stage we shall have to ask several questions of the noble Duke in charge of the Bill and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack in respect of points of the Constitution which are obscure.
May I refer for one moment to the noble and learned Lord who has spoken for the Opposition? I am afraid that he and I hold diametrically opposite views about the Irish question; but in one matter I do agree with him. I agree with him without reservation that this House and this Government have no choice whatever except to pass the Bill. Those of us who have been opposed from the beginning, root and branch, to the policy of the 125 Treaty have held no other language either in this House or outside than that, once Parliament had committed the honour of England to this Treaty, England must observe her word. I thought it was ungenerous of Mr. Austen Chamberlain in one of the speeches he made during the recent Election to gibe at my noble friend who is leading the House at the present moment because he had said that he would not oppose the passing of this Bill. In this House and outside of it, before there was any question of a political crisis, my noble friend had said the same thing.
The immediate result of tire Treaty has been, apparently to reduce Southern Ireland to bankruptcy and the greater part of it to a welter of anarchy. And what is such a terrible consideration for all of us, Englishmen and Scotsmen, is this: that those on whom the brunt of this appalling misery has fallen have been those who have been most loyal to the King and a Lost friendly to England. I cannot help drawing a contrast between the condition of things in Southern Ireland and the condition of things in Northern Ireland, and that contrast is not due only to the difference in the people who inhabit the North and the South.
I want to draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact that the late Government did not withdraw the troops from the North, nor immediately disband all the police, directly the Treaty was made. I do not believe a greater blunder, a more cruel blunder, was ever made than the withdrawal of the troops and the police in the South before it was possible for the Government to substitute anything for them. There is no country in the world in which, if you take away on one day all the forces of law and order, there will not be a relapse towards anarchy. I do not say that the relapse anywhere would be quite so serious as in Ireland; but the measure of blame on the late Government for taking away all the troops and all the police long before the new Government could possibly organise any force to take their place will rank in history as one of the most cruel and stupid acts of any administration.
The authors of this policy believe that in the long run it will settle the Irish question and effect a reconciliation between Great Britain and Ireland. With my whole heart I hope they are right and that I am wrong. But, as I am firmly convinced that it is not going to settle the Irish 126 question, and that that question will be as acutely present to our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren as it was to our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, I claim the right now to state my reasons for that opinion. Once this Bill becomes an Act we shall all be hound to do all in our power to make it a success; therefore, the least said about the policy the better.
I put aside for the moment all question of the peculiarities of Irish temperament or of the results of the history of England and Ireland, and I affirm that the geographical relation of Great Britain and Ireland makes a Dominionstatus inapplicable to their political relationship. I am not going to weary your Lordships with an attempt, to deal exhaustively with this great constitutional question, but I wish to mention three respects in which I confidently affirm that history will show that this relationship is not a possible one. First of all, I take the question of Customs, and of different tariffs. Everyone knows that tariffs are one of the most fruitful objects of disagreement in the world. This is one of the very questions which have been responsible for some of the bitterest feelings between England and Ireland in years gone by. I can never forget the impression made upon me in South Africa by this very question. When I first went to South Africa, it was a country with four different Governments and four different, scales of Customs, and the friction was so great that we were always in a state of anxiety. I affirm quite deliberately that the main cause of the Union of South Africa was the conviction of all Parties, British and Boers alike, that the Customs and railway differences would one day produce war between the Colonies unless there were a Union. It was the friction of the Customs, more than anything else, that brought about the Union of South Africa.
The second point is the Army. There are going to be, within the British Isles, two Armies, a British Army and an Irish Army, under the command of different people. It is quite unnecessary to enlarge upon that. I would simply say that, looked at in the best light, it is highly inconvenient, and looked at in the worst, it is profoundly dangerous. I observe with horror that there is a suggestion in the Treaty that hereafter there may be established an Irish Navy, or the rudiments of an Irish Navy. I cannot believe that any British Board of Admiralty would ever give its consent to any such provision.
127 Now I come to Article 1 of the Treaty, which declares thatIreland shall have the same constitutional status in the community of nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canadaand the other Dominions. What is thatstatus? It is unwritten and undefined. If there were a difference of opinion about thisstatus, how would that difference of opinion be settled? I can think of no means of settling it except an Imperial Conference. That alone could be the tribunal to settle any acute difference of opinion as to thatstatus. This undefined and unwritten Constitution works quite well between the old Dominions and Great Britain, for two reasons—(1) because all the parties to it want to work it; and (2) because they are separated by vast distances of sea. It does not in the least follow that the Irish will be equally willing and desirous of working this Constitution, and there is the whole world of political difference between six thousand miles and sixty.
Let me take the question of foreign affairs. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, will correct me if I make a mistake, but I believe that at the last Imperial Conference the suggestion was made that the Dominions should have their own Ambassadors at foreign Courts.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
The suggestion was not made at the Conference, but it was made informally.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My noble friend behind me tells me that it was made, not at the Conference, but informally, but I think it was admitted that, if a Dominion wished to have an Ambassador of its own at a foreign Court, it might do so. I confess quite frankly that, with all my immense admiration for the old Dominions, and my perfect confidence in their loyalty to the Commonwealth of Nations known as the British Empire and to the King, I tremble to think how the foreign policy of the British Empire is going to be conducted, even with the best will in the world, if there are six British Ambassadors, each owning allegiance to a different Government, at each of the foreign Courts. But this claim has been made and admitted, and therefore the Irish will be able to say: "We claim to have our Ambassador, an Irish Ambassador, at the foreign Courts."
128 I understand that, when the Provisional Government was formed, an Irish Foreign Minister was actually appointed. What was that Irish Foreign Minister appointed for? What was he going to do? There is no Foreign Minister in Canada; there is no Foreign Minister in Australia; there is no Foreign Minister in South Africa, or in New Zealand. But the Provisional Government have already appointed a Foreign Minister. Does that not mean that they want to take advantage of this admission, and to appoint their own Ambassador? What are going to be our relations with America, for instance, if there are two Ambassadors at Washington, one appointed front London and the other front Dublin? What would be our position today if there were an Irish Ambassador at Constantinople? But all this is possible, as I understand it, under the Treaty. Is it unlikely that thisstatus will be interpreted quite differently in Ireland from the interpretation put upon it in Canada, or in Australia, or in South Africa? The whole attitude of the Irish, their mentality, their standard of reason, their motives, are quite different from those, not only of the people of Great Britain, but of the inhabitants of any one of the Dominions, because there are in Ireland a large number of extreme men, whose only intellectual position is malignant hatred of England, and those men have hitherto in the long run dominated public opinion in Ireland.
I think it was only two days ago that heard the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, boast in this House that 80 per cent. of the electors in Ireland had voted for the Treaty. But he does not know, any more than I know, in what sense they voted for the Treaty. I think some light can be thrown on this matter from the published Report of the debates which have taken place in Dublin during the passing of this very Constitution. I will trouble your Lordships with only two or three extracts taken, not from the speeches of private individuals, but from those of Irish Ministers. What do I find? Mr. Ernest Blythe, Minister for Local Government, said—We all believe and hold that the Treaty may be annulled. We all hold that, when the Irish nation wishes, when it finds it disadvantageous, it may annul on proper notice any Treaty it has entered into. We regard that as fundamental.And Mr. O'Higgins, Minister for Home Affairs, on September 25, said— 129There has been much said about this Treaty to the effect that there was duress. Undoubtedly, there was duress. The Irish people have taken this Treaty as the best thing they could do in the circumstances of the time. Now I hold that in the case of a Treaty—and I think in what I am going to say now I am expressing the minds of a great many people throughout the country—that in case of a Treaty signed under circumstances and conditions like that the position is simply that at any moment in the future the majority will of the Irish nation can publicly, and absolutely without dishonour, repudiate that Treaty if they consider it wise to do so.I would like to ask the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, if he admits that interpretation of the Treaty.
I am sure he does not. I am sure he would say that the Treaty was in honour binding on the Irish as on the British people. What standard of honour is this? It is the standard of the scrap of paper, and nothing else. Then what ground, when these things are said by Irish Ministers before Parliament has passed this Constitution, has the noble and learned Earl for getting up and asking your Lordships to feel assured and comparatively hopeful because 80 per cent, of the voters in Ireland voted for the Constitution under this Treaty. The very best that can be said is what my noble friend below me said, namely, that it is a great experiment. I should prefer to call it a reckless gamble with the happiness of Ireland and the safety of England.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
My Lords, may I intervene for two reasons? In the first place, I have the misfortune to differ from my two noble friends who immediately preceded me in the views which I previously held with regard to the action of the late Government in coming to a Treaty with the Government of Southern Ireland as a result of the Conference, and I only want to say very briefly indeed why it was I felt it my duty to support the Government last summer, and why I support it now. One of the reasons is to be found in the two speeches to which I have listened this afternoon. I have listened with the utmost sympathy to the speech of the noble Earl opposite, who spoke with profound feeling and out of experiences which, we all know, were gathered in resolute, courageous, and very able efforts to serve his country in what he considered to be a time of great crisis. I respect the attitude which he and the noble Earl below me have taken up consistently in opposing the Treaty and everything 130 connected with it, but I do submit, not only to this House but to all those who are asking themselves what ought to be their attitude in the present situation, that whether the arguments advanced by my two noble friends be sound or not, one thing is undoubtedly true, and that is that they come at far too late a period in the debates on this painful question.
My noble friends, of course, are entitled to put their view before the House and the country. I am not criticising them, and they have abundant justification in the fact to which I have already referred, that they are not new views. But I am, only asking myself what is the best service that any of us can render to our common country and common Empire? I have listened to the speeches of my two noble friends, as I have listened to the speeches of others who have addressed criticisms to the policy of the late Government in regard to Ireland, and especially criticisms as to the results of the Treaty, but those speeches have left me in despair greater than that in which they found me, because of what do they consist? They consist of criticism, which is easy enough for anybody to make who knows anything about the present condition or the past history of Ireland—criticism which is powerful, eloquent, and, it may be, based upon solid foundations, but nothing is done or made by criticism alone, and in those circumstances what alternative is there offered? That is the reason that led me to support his Majesty's Government.
I had been myself responsible for the government of Ireland. I was, in the Government of Mr. Lloyd George, responsible in a sense for the policy that was being carried out in Ireland in the days of Lord French and. Mr. Shortt. I felt myself, as I never felt before, when brought into close and direct contact with the condition of things in Ireland, the only criticism so often advanced as one of the justifications for passing a measure of Home Rule, namely, the fact that you had the sentiment and feelings of the people of the country against you, that that had grown a hundredfold, nay a thousand-fold, in the two or three years that had passed.
What was the alternative? I know that some of my noble friends in this House, and others outside, say that this is a policy of cowardice. I am content to leave that to those who have followed the public life of men in this country, and I am confident 131 that they will never accuse us of cowardice. The only alternative was the reconquest of Ireland by a considerable body of troops. I think the number of troops that would have been required has been greatly exaggerated, and that it is much smaller than that which is commonly mentioned. I am not, however, thinking of that, but I ask those who say that it was a policy of cowardice not to send an Army over and reconquer Ireland, what would have been the result when the reconquest was over? As one who claims to be as good a Conservative and as good a Unionist as any other noble Lord in this House, I say it is as certain as night follows day that if you had had another reconquest of Ireland you would have had a more estranged, a more embittered and a more hopeless Ireland than you had at the time of the Treaty or than some of my noble friends think you have now.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord who followed the noble Duke that this is a very solemn and great occasion. It is not from any sense of pleasure that I have thought it my duty to intervene in this debate, because I believe that never in the history of our Parliament is it more true that if speech is silvern silence is golden. On occasions like this it is difficult to say anything which will help, and it is easy to throw some grit into the machine which will prevent the wheels from going round. There is one aspect of the case which weighed heavily with me at the time, and which I feel, to-day, is perhaps, on the whole, the strongest reason that led me to support the policy of the Government and leads me to support the Bill which is before your Lordships' House today. My experiences, during the war, were gathered in two of our great Departments, and I learned, as I have ventured to say before to your Lordships, a lesson which I am confident I shall never forget, and which I shall do my best to hand on to those who were not so fortunate as I was in direct experience. I learnt that if we are going to carry on this Empire, as we want to carry it on, as a self-supporting and really united Empire, we must give consideration to the views and opinions of all parts of the Empire.
It has been said that it was fortunate that the executions which have recently taken place in Ireland were carried through by an Irish, and not by an English, Government. It has been said by the noble Earl 132 opposite that the condition of Ireland to-day does not promise any great returns from this new policy. At all events, you have got a marked change in Ireland on the part of a great portion of the population towards the existing Government. It may be that in their task of almost superhuman difficulty they have not yet secured the support of the whole population, but does anybody deny that the Government of Ireland in Ireland to-day is in a totally different position, as regards the great mass of the people in Southern Ireland, from that which has ever been occupied by an English Government for the last thirty years? Because, if they do, I am confident that the evidence and the facts are against them.
But you have got something else. I was impressed more than I can describe—and the noble Duke who is in charge of the Bill knows better than I do whether I am exaggerating in this statement or not—I was impressed by the entire absence (I will not put it any higher than that) of any support of our policy in Ireland on the part of those who were responsible for the Government of our great Dominions. Some of them were more insistent and more enthusiastic in their advocacy of Home Rule than others, but in no quarter could you find acceptance of our principle of denying to the Irish people the same right to govern themselves as had been given to the people of the Dominions and had produced such successful results. And it is an asset worth having to-day that we have the cordial sympathy and approval of our great Dominions in the steps which we are taking. Further than that, we find that the great sister country, the United States of America, refuses now to entertain any of the grievances that come from Ireland, because she holds that the British Government has done its part, and that no more sympathy is due to the Irish people. That also is an asset worth having.
It is easy to find fault with, and to criticise, parts of this Bill. Surely, our duty to-day is to ask ourselves whether or not this Bill, approving the Irish Bill creating a Constitution for Ireland, conforms to the terms of the Treaty. Is it, in other words, the realisation of the Treaty, or is it not? We laymen cannot answer that question. I read the speeches in the House of Commons, I listened carefully to the speech of my noble friend below me, and we have a wealth of the highest legal 133 opinion in the country in agreement that this Bill does faithfully carry out the Treaty in all points. And that legal opinion is drawn not only front those who, either as late Ministers of the Crown or as Ministers of the day, are, or have been, themselves responsible for the Bill, but it comes also from one of the greatest of our lawyers, a great Judge now quite independent of politics. I think we are bound to take the views that have been so expressed, and which seem to me to be ample security that the Bill does carry out the Treaty.
Some forecast has been made of what may happen under this Bill. I do not pretend to make any forecast. I cannot help believing, even in the midst of all the suffering and misery through which we have passed lately in connection with Ireland, that the great genius of our race, which has solved this question of self-government as no other country or Empire in the world has solved it, will triumph again; that out of this suffering and this welter of bloodshed there will come an altered and improved condition of things. And I cannot help believing, as well as hoping, that the people of Ireland, even at this eleventh hour, will take advantage of the opportunity which has been offered to them, and make a reality of their Government. If they do that, then I believe that friendship and good will towards this country will follow.
I do not desire to say anything which would seem to convey mistrust of the Irish Government. I appreciate their difficulties, and sympathise with them in the terrible circumstances with which they have found themselves surrounded. I quite understand also the difficulty of the situation of His Majesty's Government here. But I think they ought to take note of what fell from my noble friend who urged that a very grave mistake, the consequences of which can hardly be calculated, was made when this new form of Provisional Government was established in Ireland, and all the forces upon which you relied for the protection of law and order were removed before others were ready to take their places. Whether this was necessary in the opinion of the Cabinet or not—I imagine it was—I think it does throw a great measure of responsibility upon the British Government; and, whether the British Government agree or not with what was clone, they are accepting courageously and, as I think, rightly the full responsibility of this new Irish policy.
134 I appeal to them in the name of all that is just and all that is humane to aid the Irish Government as far as possible in doing something definitely and promptly for those unfortunate Irish people in the South and West who are suffering under cruelties which it is almost impossible for ordinary language to express. Some of them are asking for material assistance, some of them are asking for protection on the spot. That, I believe, is very difficult to give; more difficult than it ever was. But material assistance—the means to move them from where they are to this country or somewhere else—can be given. I have been into the matter very closely. I do not believe it involves a, large sum of money, and I hope that His Majesty's Government will discuss this with the representatives of the Provisional Government, and, with as little delay as possible, conic to the aid of these men and women, who, remember, are suffering to-day mainly because they have stood by this country in the past, and have been loyal to the Crown and to our Constitution.
I hold that the Government of this country has a great responsibility for the case of the discarded officers, such as the heads of the various police forces, and others. I am told that the official view taken by the Treasury is that these men have all ceased, or will cease on December 6, to be employees of His Majesty's Government, and that therefore the Irish Government alone are responsible for them. That view may be strictly correct in point of law, but I hold that it is not just and fair to these men. I ask for more than justice and fairness even; I ask that the Government should treat them with generosity, should put them in a position to be able to leave the country in which some of them cannot live with safety because of their courageous and loyal conduct, and to leave on such terms that they can live in some decency and provide for their wives and children.
Their case is hard enough, their future is doubtful enough, however generous you may be. But the Government can do something to improve their position. I pray them to do all they can to join in this matter with the Government of Ireland, and I hope there will be no squabbling as to whether this or that portion of the money is to be charged to this or that Government. It is a very small sum which is due to these men. It is due to them, I think, because of the services which they 135 have rendered, and I appeal to the Government to give their case which is now before us their most friendly consideration. It is with no feeling of enthusiasm that I support this Bill, but from a firm conviction that it is the only possible policy and that, believing it to be in strict conformity with the Treaty, it is our duty to support it. With all my heart I pray that by the blessing of God it may bring peace to Ireland.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
My Lords, I am sure that the speech to which we have just listened will have a most, excellent effect throughout the country. We all know the way in which the noble Viscount has always acted as a friend of Ireland and as an administrator, and there is a generosity about his speech which will have a great effect. I rise in order to say a very few words in reference to some remarks which fell from the noble Earl who preceded the noble Viscount. When, at the conclusion of his forcible and dignified exposition of the Bill, the noble Duke expressed his wholehearted desire for its success, there was general assent throughout the House. I do not know whether the noble Earl audibly joined in that expression or not, but in his own speech he expressed the hope that he would prove to be wrong in his forebodings. I confess that I was somewhat puzzled as to the object of the noble Earl's speech in the present circumstances, unless it was to prove that if, unhappily, his forebodings were realised, he could claim to be a true prophet.
There was one sentence of his of which I could not help taking note. He spoke of the number of people in Ireland who were actuated only by malignant hatred of England, and said that such people have always dominated public opinion in Ireland. I am not going to discuss how far that is true, but I think that the prospect—it is more than a prospect—now is that such people will not dominate public opinion in Ireland. It is their representatives who are causing trouble and misery there at the present time. They, like the noble Earl—he will forgive me for saying so—object to the Treaty; they want to nullify and destroy it. They are actuated by the dream, the absurd, impracticable and chimerical idea, that if they make the state of things in Ireland absolutely anarchical, if they make them worse even than they are to-day, the British 136 forces will come in and reconquer the country, and Ireland will be brought together again. That notion will not last for long.
We ought, I think, to remember that those who have made it possible for this Bill to 'come before us to be discussed in peace and safety, have been working literally at the risk of their lives. I refer to the Ministers of the Provisional Government. We might, I think, indulge our imaginations a little. Let us suppose that there was in this country such a state of things that the Prime Minister could not come from Downing Street to the Houses of Parliament without the knowledge that half-a-dozen revolvers were prepared to be discharged at him during that brief journey. He would not, of course, be deterred by that. Neither the present Prime Minister nor any British Prime Minister would be deterred from coming down to the House to fulfil his ditties; but he could not prevent an army of police guarding every inch of the way. Such is the case in Dublin, where, owing to the wild and desperate efforts of so-called Republicans, the Ministers of the Provisional Government cannot move in safety at any hour of the day or night. Yet they have stuck to their work, and loyally—I use the word deliberately—completed the difficult task of enabling this Bill to be presented to us.
I cannot sit down without associating myself with what has been said regarding the deplorable sufferings which have been inflicted upon so many persons during this time of confusion and disturbance in the South of Ireland; I limit myself for the moment to the South of Ireland. These Ministers of whom I have spoken are striving to bring about a state of things which I am convinced will put an end to those sufferings. While we remember that these troubles and calamities are spoken of ordinarily as affecting loyalists in the technical sense, we must not forget that there are others who, though, perhaps, hitherto they have not been in the class which could be technically described as loyalists to Great Britain, are suffering also because they support the Free State, and they are subjected to persecution simply because they maintain that the Free State should be carried to completion. I think our sympathy should be of an enlarged sort. The noble Viscount said that it was something which should be referred to in 137 more than mere expressions of sympathy, and. I join with him in hoping that every possible endeavour will be made to give recompense and relief of a practical character.
§ VISCOUNT WIMBORNE
My Lords, as one of the members of your Lordships' House who have been associated in times past with the government of Ireland, I may, perhaps, be allowed to add a word or two to this discussion. The Bill introduced by the noble Duke will not, I think, meet with serious opposition in this House. Whatever criticism we have heard comes somewhat late, for this Bill really is little else than the ratification of the Treaty reached between the late Government on the part of Great Britain and representatives of Ireland. In passing, it may be observed that but for the existence of the Coalition, which recently has come to stink somewhat in the nostrils of noble Lords who sit opposite as well as of those who sit upon this side of the House, it is probable that the Treaty and the Bill which is the result of that Treaty would not be before your Lordships at this moment.
I do not think that the Bill will meet with serious opposition from members of your Lordships' House who come from Ireland. When I recall the moving appeal made in this House by the noble Earl, Lord Desart, that we should come to some terms with the Irish people, I can hardly believe that serious opposition will be forthcoming from that quarter. As for the noble Marquess who leads the House, he has admitted that in this connection he has a past, but he is disposed to view the Bill with at any rate benevolent acquiescence, and although perhaps that may seem to involve superficial inconsistency on his part, I think it is more than outweighed by the spirit of political sagacity which is naturally associated with the name he bears.
It must be admitted that the present Bill is a radical departure from the traditional attitude respectively taken up by almost all Parties and all sections of your Lordships' House on the Irish question. It differs just as much from the resolute government advocated from those Benches as it does from the conciliation and Home Rule which have been associated with the Party to which I belong. But, most of all, it differs from the point of view which persists in regarding Ireland and the Irish people 138 as being as much an integral part of Cleat Britain as Hampshire or the inhabitants of Hampshire, which led at one time to the misguided and ill-fated attempt to conscript the Irish people to fight for a cause which they persisted in regarding as not their own.
The Union with Great Britain which has existed for so long is to be dissolved, and the question is what use Ireland will make of her emancipation. I am quite prepared to agree that it must be regarded in the nature of an experiment. There is no precedent for such a course as that upon which we are embarking to-clay, and it is an experiment certainly not unattended by risk. It would be disingenuous to pretend that no risk and no danger to this country and to Ireland attached to the experiment. To mention only one or two of the many risks, there is, of course, the military preoccupation. The whole history of Great Britain and Ireland teems with military dangers and difficulties coming to this country from over there. It was I believe, one, if not the n, determining cause which induced Pitt to bring about the Union. It is quite true that this Bill contains adequate safeguards—at least considerable, and, I hope, adequate safeguards—to meet any possibility of that kind, and I have no doubt that if these safeguards were not respected they would be enforced, but I think that we shall all agree that the best security will come from what we hope will be the changed spirit of the Irish people towards Great Britain. Once the source of irritation is removed—aye, and of humiliation, for the Irish people, as we know, are a touchy people, with a very good historical recollection—once the source of irritation and humiliation is removed, as it will be removed under this Bill, it is very much to be hoped, with the natural interest that the propinquity of Ireland to this country, to say nothing of the identity of language and other things of that kind will create, that Ireland will come to regard us not only as her best customer but also as her best friend.
There is always the difficulty still remaining of the minorities in Ireland, separated as they are from the majority by both racial and religious differences. The noble Earl, Lord Midleton, alluded to that in appealing terms. I hope that he, and people like him, will endeavour to continue the patriotic and the high-spirited action which they have pursued in the past, and 139 not, cut themselves from the new Government either in despair of its achieving all they would like, or for any other reason. I hope that that will go a long way towards healing such differences as have existed, and may, to some extent, exist in the future.
If there are some risks attendant on this experiment, there are also, I think, considerable advantages. In the first place, from the point of view of Great Britain, we get rid of the suggestion that the doctrine of self-determination, which we preached with so much insistence during the war and which we have applied to European nations, is not applicable to our affairs at home. There is the further and greater advantage of throwing upon Ireland the responsibility of self-government. A great many of the difficulties which we have had to face have, I think, arisen from the fact that Ireland has never really been responsible for her affairs, and that the sense of responsibility which has so sobering an effect upon politicians has been absent there. Now, the Irish people will have to face the difficulties which previously confronted us, and that, I think, will have a very sobering effect upon a good deal of what has been characteristic if the Irish temperament.
I am sure that the British people will watch the working of this experiment in the spirit of patience and good will. Those of us who have had the advantage of being in close touch with Irish life and Irish people in the past will be especially anxious to wish Ireland the best of good fortune in this great experiment which she has undertaken. We recognise how gifted and endowed the Irish people are, and how, if they are difficult to govern, they are, in fact, a very lovable people, and we hope that success may attend their endeavours. There is no doubt whatever that they have a task of very great difficulty before them, but we are encouraged from the way in which the men who have been responsible of late for the Provisional Government have stuck to their bond and to the pledged word which they gave to Britain. The way that they have attempted to deal with the extremely difficult problems with which they have been faced is an encouragement, too. I hope we shall live to see the day when we shall look back upon this action without feeling that we did the wrong thing.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
My Lords, I rise for the briefest possible space 140 of time, and principally because, in the course of the discussion, my name has been more than once referred to. Let me, in the first place, say that I make myself responsible, equally with other legal authorities, for the view that the Constitution is in conformity with the Treaty, and, therefore, that the decision which is to be taken, as I understand to-night, is a decision which proceeds upon that basis.
The noble Duke who is in charge of the Bill, adopting a course, I think, a little unusual, and, I should have thought, a little unwise in the case of one who is dealing with a supporter of a Bill presenting some difficulty-, went out of his way, after giving me the advantage of his favourable opinion as to my accomplishments as a constitutional lawyer, to say that he did not agree with what he was pleased to describe as the methods with which I present my views. I have had somewhat more experience, I think, than the noble Duke in presenting difficult measures, and in carrying them through Parliament, and he will allow me to say without offence that it is not on the whole a wise or a judicious proceeding to begin by an observation of that kind in relation to a member of the House who happens to agree with him on the particular subject before the House and who, if he spoke at all, would speak as a supporter of the proposal. The observation was from my point of view even more difficult, because, unfortunately, I cannot retort upon the noble Duke bytu quoque, because I have the fortune particularly to like the noble Duke's methods. There is something so stimulating in the incisiveness of the manner in which he presents his opinions that I find him wholly attractive, and, therefore, I am excluded from the obvious retort oftu quoque.
I pass to more serious matters, to the main and the only issue which engages our discussions to-night. I find myself here in almost entire agreement with the views stated by the noble Viscount, Lord Long; and nothing, indeed, has seemed to me in the course of these discussions more astounding than that those who, like Lord Selborne, still adhere to the view which the late Government, this Government and Parliament have abandoned—nothing has appeared more amazing than that those who still cling like Lord Selborne to the view which hardly anybody else at this moment embraces, wholly 141 fail to meet the challenge to which they were subjected in the last Parliament over and over again, and to which, equally, they are subjected in this Parliament. What was, and what is, their alternative? Was there any alternative? Is there any alternative, except that of the reconquest of Ireland? I am not going to dispute with my noble friend, Lord Long, with whom I thoroughly agree, as to whether the numbers of men required would be 100,000 or 200,000. I will only affirm this, that we had the advice of the Imperial Staff for the conclusion which I have frequently stated to the House, and for the estimates of the numbers of men which I have put forward. But, after we have reconquered them, we still have to come to sonic settlement.
Does the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, believe that we could go back to the old Salisbury tradition of twenty years of resolute Government? There was only one thing wrong with that prescription. It had great merit. The only thing wrong with it was that the democratic development of this country did not afford the slightest prospect of obtaining twenty years of resolute Government; and if we are all agreed, as every person who has studied the history of English politics for the last thirty years must be agreed, that there was no prospect of obtaining continuous power for twenty years in which you could carry out resolute government, then that particular prescription ceases to exist.
What is the alternative? What is the substitute? There is none. None has been suggested; none can be suggested. The only possible course was to see whether or not an accommodation could be secured which was worth trying and which did not carry within itself the seeds of the dissolution, or it might be the destruction, of this Empire. Opinions will differ, opinions have differed, but I for one am convinced that this settlement will not endanger any vital interests of the British Empire. When the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, talks to us of the risks of an Irish Navy and an Irish tariff, I marvel that one so experienced can discuss these matters with so little sense of proportion. It was once said in satirically comparing the merits of two statesmen, "Pitt is to Addington as Addington is to Paddington." By the names of what railway stations shall we try to make plain the contrast 142 in resources, in strength, in men, between Ireland and this country? What is the danger in the eyes of any rational and balanced mind of Ireland beginning the germs of a Navy which could not be destroyed in half an hour by the superior might of this country?
Equally chimerical, I believe, are the apprehensions which are based upon tariffs. The position to-day is this; that we are in an overwhelming scale the largest customer which Ireland possesses. We are not only actually so, but there is no other customer which can compete with us. Consider the overwhelming force of the economic argument that we are in a position at any moment to apply to the Irish nation if their tariff methods were unfair to the commerce of this country. We can say, "Ninety per cent, of what you produce and what you export are consumed in this country. You cannot afford to offend not only the greatest customer you have but the only possible customer, having regard to the fact that seventy-four per cent. of your exports are perishable commodities." Therefore, we need not trouble unduly about these particular apprehensions.
I am, I confess, still less alarmed by the analysis which the noble Earl applied to the figures I gave a few nights ago showing that eighty per cent. of the Irish constituents voted for the Treaty. The noble Earl asks: What did they vote for? As between what issues was the vote given?
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
If we ask in what sense did they vote we mean in what form did the issue on which they voted present itself to their mind? That does not seem to me to be a very illuminating distinction, but I will answer both questions. In the first place two direct alternatives were presented to them. The first alternative was that they should support the cause of those who rejected the Treaty and pledged themselves to carry through, if they could, an Irish Republic. Is it a small thing that, on an issue placed before the Irish constituencies, in which the whole forces of coercion so far as coercion was applied was used on the side of the Republic, eighty per cent. of those voting should have voted in favour of the Treaty? When the noble Earl corrects 143 me and says that the real question was in what sense did they vote, I say that it is never a useful process to push too far an analysis as to the sense in which any constituency or any country votes. It is an invariable phenomenon in our domestic politics here that the defeated Party immediately institutes an inquiry as to the sense in which those who have defeated them have voted.
The noble Earl also says that two Ministers have announced that the Treaty can be denounced at any moment by the Irish Government, and asks me whether that is my view. In constitutional theory it is undoubtedly true that it can be denounced. It is undoubtedly true, in constitutional theory, that with the assent, not without the assent, of the contracting parties such a step might be taken. Take the case, say, of the Dominion of Canada. Mr. Bonar Law made an observation some years ago in the House of Commons in which he said that any one of the self-governing Dominions was at liberty at any moment to resign from the Imperial connection. I do not, as a matter of constitutional theory, accept that view; nor does any one else. But what Mr. Bonar Law meant was that it was extremely unlikely, if the predominant view in any of the great self-governing Dominions was that they no longer desired to form part of the British. Empire, that any responsible British Government would resort to arms to conquer them. That is the true position. The constitutional position is that no part. of the British Empire, except by force of arms, could possibly extricate itself, or remove itself, from the British Empire.
But no one can ever prevent any one who makes a Treaty from breaking it, subject to this one contingency, that those at whose expense it is broken have the remedy in their own hands if they are strong enough. If it were the general view among those who are and will be responsible for the Government of Ireland that they would, in a partitionist spirit and at a particular selected moment, tear up this Treaty, as other Treaties have been torn up, the position would be the same as was open to us two years ago, to decide whether or not, on this provocation, we should then address ourselves in the interests of our own safety and the Imperial position to the reconquest of Ireland. I do not believe that the views 144 referred to by the noble Earl are characteristic of the views held by the Provisional Government taken as a whole.
I cannot help noticing, as most of your Lordships have noticed, the poignant and anxious circumstances in which these Ministers are discharging their duties to-day. Your Lordships will remember that in one of Scott's romances there is an heroic story of six brothers who guarded in desperate combat the life of their youngest and foster brother. One fell, and the corpses lying upon corpses checked those who would have destroyed him. Those who to-day take upon themselves the burden of government in Ireland, those who are standing for this Treaty in Ireland, are not merely exposing themselves, as we in England expose ourselves, to misunderstanding and taunts and hostility. There is not one of them who, from day to day and hour to hour, does not carry his life in his hands. I draw the brightest augury for the future in this circumstance: that when they are quarrelling with their own old comrades, when they are quarrelling with men by whose side they have risked death over and over again in the days of the struggle with us, they have never faltered and never hesitated, and, by a supreme assertion of moral courage, they have not hesitated, when they thought that the supreme interest of their country required it, to assume the awful function of the executioner at the behest of a Military Court.
I am not one of those who ever did, with facile optimism, predict that success in the difficult policy we adopted would be swift or easy. The road which we must travel is long and arduous; it may still be bloody; but long and arduous and bloody as it may be, we must still tread it, for it is the only road which is illumined by the golden light of hope.
§ LORD SUMNER
My Lords, may I venture to recall to the attention of the House what I conceive to be the real issue, and the only issue, that is before the House on this occasion. It is one which has only been touched upon once or twice, and then only in the most distant and indifferent way. It is the question whether or not this Constitution, as framed and as presented to your Lordships in this Bill, is or is not in accordance with what is called the Treaty. It is, of course, only natural that those who feel deeply about Ireland should have spent some considerable time 145 in surveying the past and prognosticating the future, and this for more reasons than one. First of all, the legal question is 80 dry and so uninteresting that I can quite understand that noble Lords who have hitherto spoken are only too glad to leave it to the lawyers; and the other reason is that I think it is quite safe to say that this is the last occasion upon which we shall discuss in this House t he affairs of Ireland, in the sense in which they have been discussed for the last five and thirty years.
Let us hope that we may not have occasion to discuss them again, because the next time they conic up for serious discussion in this House it will necessarily-be on account of issues much more grave than any of those that have been before us so far. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Wimborne, said that this was an experiment. The Treaty was thought an experiment about twelve months ago. It is nothing of the kind. I think it is vital that people should get it well into their heads that, whatever may happen after this change takes place, this instrument is not an experiment that you can recall. It is done for good or for evil, once and for all. When this Bill leaves your Lordships' House, you have had your last word to say to the Constitution of Ireland, and England has gone as far as England can go. If the question comes here again, it will come here in a far more terrible form.
I do not propose for one moment to follow previous speakers into the question of how we come to be in the situation in which we find ourselves. I do not propose to go over the past, but if there is any good to be got out of what has happened, it is that we may now for sonic years to come hope to forget the policy or the changes of policy which have from time to time had to be pursued in Ireland. Whatever else we may lose or gain, at any rate Parliamentary discussion for some years to come will not be perpetually turned upside down by the intrusion of Southern Irish affairs. For more than a generation, since the beginning of the time when I first began to take any interest m politics, at intervals sometimes longer but generally shorter, some Irish question arose upon which Parliament was bored or exasperated, was torn asunder or paralysed. This Bill carries out Articles of Agreement, the so-called Treaty, which at any rate put an end to that.
It is just as unprofitable to review the past and to try to fix blame upon one side 146 or another side as it is to indulge in prophecies about the future, as to which I do not think anything more safe can be said than that no eye can pierce it. Some paint rosy pictures; sonic count upon a passionate loyalty growing up; some look forward to the exchange of commodities of a perishable character on such a scale that Ireland will be bound to us by ties of interest, if not of affection. Others look forward to further bloodshed and disorder. Sympathy is extended to a body of gentlemen who, I do not doubt, are much in need of it, the present Government of Ireland. Does that carry us any further? I think personally that one had better wait and deal with the next crisis when it arises. I do not think we shall render any assistance to the present Government of Ireland by pointing out the extremely critical state of their affairs.
The one question is whether it is safe to pass this Bill, which makes of this Irish Constitution an Imperial Statute, as being in conformity with the Treaty, which, as an instrument, was given the force of law after being ratified by both Houses, which is binding upon us, and which, without any hesitation, every speaker in all parts of the House agrees that it is our duty to carry out. On an occasion like this it has obviously been a supreme comfort to His Majesty's Government that they could lay the matter before their legal advisers and there leave it.
I think they were probably well advised; doubly well advised, if I may say so, because they were well advised in resorting to their legal advisers, and they have as their legal advisers such a body as ensured that the advice given should be of the best. I think it is a good fortune to have received, or to expect to receive, the opinions not only of the last Lord Chancellor and the present Lord Chancellor, but to have the opportunity of reading in the OFFICIAL REPORT the exposition of the Attorney-General, to whom we may confidently look forward as a future Lord Chancellor. I think your Lordships and the Government are to be congratulated, as I certainly congratulate myself, upon the fact that, in a matter of so much difficulty, and upon which it is easy to feel so much doubt, we have the benefit of the presence on the Woolsack of my noble friend, Lord Cave, in whose calm judgment, wide experience both of the law and of statesmanship, and strict and undoubted 147 devotion to the interests of his country, we can all of us repose the utmost confidence.
I do not know whether I have appreciated the reasoning upon which the Government have been advised that this Bill is in conformity with the Treaty, but I take it that it rests principally upon the fact that, at the very outset of the instrument, it is provided thatif any provision of the said Constitution—that is, what we are going to pass—or of any Amendment thereof….is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty, it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy, be absolutely void and inoperative.I confess that I find this a little puzzling as a matter of draftsmanship. Conceive a Bill to enact a wholesome system of arithmetic, the first Article of which proceeds to say that "Two and two shall make five," and the second Article that "Three times three shall be nineteen: Provided always that, if any Article of this Code shall be in conflict with the Multiplication Table, then to the extent of such repugnancy the same shall be inoperative and null and void."
This is an Irish measure, and I do not say that it is not as good a way of doing it as is possible in the circumstances. I believe that to be in itself an effective way of doing it, because if for political reasons those who draft a Constitution are compelled to import into it a number of Articles which either do not mean what they say or, if they do mean what they say, have been inserted by people singularly little acquainted with ordinary legal terms—if it is necessary to frame your Constitution in that way, the safest thing is to say that the standard is to be, after all, the Treaty, and that anything which does not agree with that standard is wrong. To that extent I imagine that those who advised the Government have come to the conclusion that there is safety in the proviso t hat nothing shall stand which goes beyond the Treaty. Then you safeguard the Treaty and make your Constitution in accordance with the Treaty. If that is so, it will be a consolation to me if the Lord Chancellor can give us that assurance, because if this Dominionstatus—which although not written is perfectly wellunderstood—is preserved and is to be preserved hereafter, I do not think the difficulties that will arise in connection with the vagueness or peculiarity of some of these Articles will much affect this country.
148 I think it is very much to be regretted that it is necessary to import into the Constitution Articles which must be a disappointment to those who have received them in a sense differing from that which is understood by those who stand upon the Treaty and Dominionstatus. It is all very well to speak of citizenship of the Irish Free State, but the people of Southern Ireland remain His Majesty's subjects, and nothing in this Constitution can alter that. The powers of the Irish Legislature, legislative, executive and judicial, and the powers of the Government, whether derived from the people in some sense of the word or not, are at any rate derived from the Imperial Statute, which in its turn conforms to the Treaty. But I trust that the disappointment which may arise front some of these theoretical Articles proving to mean less than they are supposed to mean, may not be of any real practical importance.
In the same way there are a number of Articles which are introduced, apparently, merely for the sake of saying what is obvious, and I should have thought that there was a danger of vain hopes being derived from them. I do not think, however, that anything is to be gained now by examining the Articles one by one and by asking questions as to whether this or that particular Article may not make it possible for this, that, or the other peculiar thing to happen. I do not think there is very much use in asking whether or not this Article or that Article may be misused. I do not think very much advantage will be gained by inquiring whether, in a particular degree, the Dominionstatus can be made to square with what is claimed in this or that Constitution, because to point these things out and discuss them now is either to suggest them to people who have not thought of them before, or it is to exasperate persons who at present attach great importance to something quite different and who, let us hope, after a time will settle down to more serious business and try to keep the peace.
Therefore, I do not press my noble and learned friend to elucidate different portions of the Constitution which have undoubtedly created a great deal of disquiet among those who have followed it closely, but if he is able to assure your Lordships that in his opinion, and in the opinions of the legal advisers who have assisted the Government, the overhead clause, proviso, 149 and reservations make the thing as safe as legal phraseology can do, then I personally see no reason why your Lordships should have any misgivings or anxiety in giving effect to the Constitution by acquiescing in the passing of this Statute. What anxiety there may be as to its working is another matter; what fears there may be as to those who may be the victims of the way in which it may be applied is another matter; but I do not think that now is the time for dealing with those things, and if we receive an assurance, so far as I am concerned I shall entirely acquiesce in the Second Reading of the Bill and shall hope for the best.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I confess that when I heard the speeches of the noble Duke and of the noble Marquess who acts as Deputy Leader of the House, so far as the subject of the Irish loyalists is concerned, I regretted more the words they did not say than the words they did say, because it appeared to me that the policy of His Majesty's Government, whether unavoidable or not, is to abandon the Southern loyalists to their fate. I am not venturing to criticise. I only think it right that your Lordships should realise what the state of affairs probably will be. I venture to preface the few remarks which I am going to make with the hope that you will not think I am speaking from a personal bias—because some years ago I severed my connection with the country.
The subject of the Southern loyalists has been touched upon already far more ably than I can do it, but I think their future is so black that the subject cannot he mentioned too often, and I should not air these pessimistic opinions unless I thought there was proof that the theories held for so long and by so many people resident in Ireland had not received necessary attention. When I lived in Ireland I made every inquiry I could and I came to the strong conviction that the dominant feeling of most Irishmen outside the Six Counties towards England, and anything to do with the English or the English Government, was a fierce and vindictive hatred. I do not know that that would be very material now, but we must remember that always the Southern loyalists have been regarded by the remainder of their countrymen as the English garrison, and, being so regarded, they have earned the hatred which is held for England.
150 You are handing them over now to their hitter enemies—because I still maintain that they are their bitter enemies—under a Constitution based upon the widest franchise that has ever been given in the British Empire. I cannot, say for what reason this hatred of England and the English has come about. The reason may lie in the history that has been taught in the schools, or in the stories handed down from father to son and from mother to daughter front tune immemorial; but fear that that dislike and hatred remain. And, what is worse, the Southern Irishmen have always looked upon the Southern loyalists as being mete for spoliation when their time came, and many of them have always regarded the Southern loyalists as instruments of vengeance ready to their hand.
I know it is held by some people with whom I have discussed the matter that, should any unfair treatment be meted out to these poor people, England still holds the purse-strings, and will hold them for some time, and that she can put an end to all the supplies, if necessary, in order to stop such unfair legislation. I cannot share that hopeful view. Should the English Government interfere or criticise any legislation passed by the Irish Government, all that the Irish Government have to do in retaliation is to say, "Very well, we will resign; come over and govern us again." And I have no illusion as to what will be the answer of His Majesty's Government in those circumstances.
I should like to call the particular attention of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to another point in the hope that he may be able to dispel the uncertainty which exists. Under the Constitution it is laid down that certain people become Irish citizens automatically. But the choice remains to those who are citizens of another State to escape from or renounce that liability. That phrase "citizens of another State" is, I believe, unknown to the law, or at any rate the definition of such citizens is uncertain. Several high legal luminaries have been consulted as to whether the phrase covers any British subject who is a member of the Irish community, or whether it only applies to those individuals resident in Ireland who are aliens, such as Swiss, Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, and so on. It is a matter of great moment to many people in Ireland now to know whether 151 this choice is open to them, or whether it is left to be determined by a still further provision in the Bill, to the effect that such legislation will be passed by the Free State Government in the future to determine on what terms and under what conditions people may either undertake Irish citizenship or renounce it.
I will give an instance to show why so many people are anxious for information on this point. There are many British officers and soldiers living in Ireland who served during the recent war and during previous campaigns. There is no doubt that, whether or not it is put into effect, the power is in the hands of the Irish Free State to bring about compulsory military service, and rumours are very strong that the Irish Government do so intend very soon after the passing of this measure. At any time these British officers and soldiers may have to serve with the Free State Army. I am not going to rake up anything from the past. This is no time to create ill-feeling, whatever one's own sentiments may be. But when we recall the tremendous incidents of the last two years I would say that the methods of war of the Sinn Fein Army are not the methods of the British Army, and that the officers and men who have served in the British Army have no ambition to serve in the Sinn Fein Army. Only yesterday I met a man who had served the King in three campaigns, and he had left Ireland and everything behind him, determined to go to the uttermost parts of the earth rather than be compelled to serve in that Army. It is only natural to hope that anyone who is at this moment a British subject and yet lives in Ireland may be able to choose the nationality that he prefers.
I cannot share in the optimism which has been expressed by so many people about the success of this Bill. We remember the foundations on which this measure has been raised; we remember the methods by which it has been built up; and we know the storms of disunity, anarchy and Bolshevism which have raged in Ireland. I fail to see how a house so erected can stand. We all hope that it will stand and prove a success, but again I submit to your Lordships that at least those who have had no part in its planning, those who have lent no hand to its building, should not be forced to live in an edifice of which they do not approve.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, I have no desire whatever to criticise the Irish Constitution, either from a legal or any other point of view, but I should like to associate myself with my noble friend Lord Midleton, to this extent, that I greatly regret the very limited powers, even of suspension, that are entrusted to the Senate. I regret it, not because I am fearful of wild-cat legislation, but because the Constitution is, for all practical purposes, based on a Single-Chamber system and on the widest possible franchise, and I think that a more balanced Constitution would have been of more use to Ireland in establishing her credit. As to the protection of minorities, I think that the terms of the Constitution have done all that was possible in that direction. Minorities, of course, can be persecuted by many means which cannot be guarded against by any Senate; but I am confident that if the minorities in the North are not bullied and persecuted the minority in the South need be under no apprehension whatever that they will be ill-treated.
I wish to occupy the attention of the House for a very few moments only. It seems to me, after all, that when there is no alternative before the House the making of speeches is rather a matter of vanity and vexation of spirit. All I want to say is a word or two lest my silence might be assumed to mean that, owing to the conditions existing in Ireland, I had found reason to change the opinion I expressed in this House a year ago that this whole policy would result in putting an end to what has been called the Irish Question, and that Ireland would take her place among the other Dominions in friendly relation with Great Britain. The conditions in Ireland are most deplorable. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne dealt with them at some length on Tuesday last and my noble friend Lord Midleton alluded to them to-day. The matter is not disputed. Nobody can deny, or can attempt to deny, the facts. Nobody can attempt to mitigate the terms of the judgment that must be pronounced against them. All that is known. But the use of those conditions in argument seems to me to infer that they are used with the object of asking this House not to pass the Bill or, if that is impossible, as of course it is, to ask the House at any rate to pass the Bill under protest. I hope that will not be the decision of the House.
153 To justify the view that I hold it would be necessary for me, of course, to go at length and in detail into the whole state of affairs in Ireland, into all the difficulties the Provisional Government have had to meet; and that I am not going to attempt to do. The House, I think, admits that the Provisional Government have met with difficulties of an unparalleled character, that no men entrusted with government have ever had to face difficulties so great. The real question is: What progress have the Provisional Government made in overcoming those difficulties? To my mind the point is not that the Provisional Government have not made much progress, but that they have been able to make any progress at all. Progress they have made, and very considerable progress.
I would ask your Lordships to remember that up to the present the Government in Ireland has been provisional only, that it has been open to any one and easy for any One, obsessed with misdoubt, of England and the British Parliament, to argue that at long last it would be found that all the powers supposed to have been given in the Treaty had been withheld somehow or another and that the British Parliament and the British people could not be trusted. With the passage of these Bills and the establishment of the Free State, that, attitude will be at an end. The thing will be done, it will be accomplished, and in its accomplishment the Government of Ireland will receive a great accession of moral strength. That accession of moral strength will react upon the people and the Government will receive a very much larger amount of moral support from the people.
Surveying the whole situation and the gigantic difficulties which the Provisional Government have had to encounter, I think that they deserve our sympathy and all the assistance that can possibly be given them. When I had the honour of seconding the Address in this House two years ago I asked for patience. I put in that plea now. Have patience with the Free State. Give it time. The fate, and, more than the fate, the existence of Ireland is at stake. History has proved over and over again that Ireland cannot be killed, but Ireland can kill herself, and if the Free State, to use a common expression, does not "make good," if this great experiment turns out to be a failure, Ireland will be dead. That is known and recog- 154 nised, I believe, by the people in Ireland.. I am sure it is known and recognised by the Government in Ireland. They not only think it and know it, but they are acting upon it with courage, energy, and determination.
I cannot argue the case, and all I can really say is this, that viewing the whole situation to the best of my ability I see no logical reason whatever for despondency, much less for despair. Your Lordships will pass these Bills, of course, and I hope that you will not pass them merely as a matter of dire necessity. This is a great constitutional experiment. The whole policy is an experiment. In any experiment there must, of course, he an element of doubt, and I trust that in passing these Bills your Lordships will not pass them under the conviction that you are making an experiment which is bound or is even likely to end in failure.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, it is, to say the least of it, a curious coincidence that some of those who were most opposed to the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, and who prophesied for it the most dire results, should find themselves obliged by force of circumstances to introduce and to pass through your Lordships' House the measure which gives the final sanction of Parliament to that arrangement; and this in such a manner that it is almost impossible for your Lordships to examine or to consider properly a Bill which concerns in such an important degree the future of Ireland and is also of vast importance to this country as furnishing a probable precedent for future legislation, should any take place, for self-government in Scotland, or Wales, or any other subject that may be necessary to re-establish the Heptarchy.
Whenever I speak in this House on the subject of Ireland I feel, like the writer of a serial story in a daily paper, that I ought to preface my remarks by a synopsis of the preceding chapter. It may be said that this is going back on past history, but it is necessary to do so in order that I may elaborate the argument by which I wish to persuade your Lordships of the course which I think ought to be taken with regard to this Bill. So many people in this country are now accustomed to the state of unrest which prevails in Ireland that they look upon it as the normal condition of that 155 country, and they are apt to forget that not so long ago, under a Unionist Government, Ireland was as peaceful, as prosperous, and as progressive as any portion of the United Kingdom. The chief blame for the state of affairs which now exists lies, without doubt, on the shoulders of His Majesty's late Government. I would wish to emphasise this fact, because they were very much inclined, if they could, to transfer the blame elsewhere, and more especially to those Irish Unionists who, in 1917, at the call of high patriotism, at a moment they believed to be one of great peril to the Empire, threw aside the convictions of a lifetime in order to try to effect a settlement of the Irish Question. The late Government were very fond of saying that it was owing to the recommendations of those Unionists, and in order to save their lives and their property, that they entered into the arrangement which led up to the Treaty. No statement can be more incorrect. It is principally because the late Government omitted to consult those Irish Unionists except in matters of detail, and, when they did consult them, generally neglected to follow their advice, that the present state of affairs exists.
I remember hearing a story in my youth of a distinguished lady in Ireland who liked to have the windows and doors in her house always open, with the result that many of her guests suffered from colds, if not from more serious complaints; and if one of those guests, with streaming eyes and nose, complained to this distinguished lady of the draughts prevalent everywhere, he received the reply: "The Countess loves the atmosphere." I think His Majesty's late Government were rather like the Countess; they loved to create an atmosphere, and the atmsophere varied, as suited their convenience, from one of the sternest repression to one of abject surrender to crime. So long ago as 1917, before the Irish Convention, in spite of the protests of Irish Unionists, and in spite, I believe, of a promise which was given by a member of the Government, they decided, in order to create an atmosphere, to release all the Sinn Fein prisoners who were in gaol in England. The result was that they seriously jeopardised at the start any chances of success for the Convention. The following year they wished to change the atmosphere, and at the very moment when they had decided and announced that they intended to confer upon Ireland a liberal measure of self-government, they 156 proceeded to enact a measure for enforcing conscription in that country. That was in order to create an atmosphere favour-able to induce labour to agree to an extension of the age for compulsory service over here.
Last year, as we all know, Mr. Lloyd George thought he had found a man who could deliver the goods, and he told us, as a result of the Treaty, that Ireland was overflowing with passionate loyalty to the King and the Empire. He soon found reason to modify his opinion. Then he wished again to create an atmosphere, and, in order to further the cause which he had in view, he invoked the principle of self-determination, and, in order to carry out that principle of self-determination, he denuded the whole of Ireland of troops with the exception of Dublin and Cork, and disbanded the Royal Irish Constabulary. Has any other instance been known in history of a Government which removed all the forces that maintain law and order without seeing that there was some other force to replace them, and to carry out the government of the country? I do not know of any other instance. I think of what happened with regard to Silesia and Schleswig-Holstein, but in those cases, instead of withdrawing the troops when a plebiscite was to be taken, further troops were sent into the country, so that law and order could be maintained till the questions at issue had been decided and a new administration set up.
But, as we all know, the question of self-determination is one to which statesmen pay lip service only; otherwise, why should it be highly praiseworthy to have self-determination in favour of the Free State, and most reprehensible to have it in favour of a Republic? In those circumstances the Provisional Government took charge of the country, and naturally they found it impossible to enforce law and order. Whether they wished it or not they found themselves obliged to come to an agreement with those who advocated the immediate establishment of a Republic with the result that the Election which took place was really a coupon election in which members were returned who were recommended either by Mr. de Valera or the late Mr. Griffith. It was impossible for any Unionist to hope to be returned to that Parliament. We had a Parliament consisting absolutely of those who were nominated by one of the two gentlemen I 157 have named. In those circumstances it was, of course, impossible for Unionist views to be put forward.
I will ask your Lordships to consider now, very briefly, what were the pledges given with regard to this matter to the Unionists, and also, what is the Constitution as it now stands? I would not elaborate the question of the safeguards promised to Unionists, because that has already been done at length by my noble friend Lord Midleton. I would merely say that after the Treaty was signed it was found that there were no safeguards contained in that document. We were told that we must rely on a letter which was written by the late Mr. Arthur Griffith to the Prime Minister. Soon after that the Free State (Agreement) Bill came before your Lordships' House, and at that time I ventured to propose an Amendment by which, instead of the Constituent Assembly consisting only of one House—the House of Commons, elected under the Act of 1920—it should consist also of the Senate, which was then, and is now, in existence. If this had been done it would have been possible for Unionists in Ireland to put forward their views, which would have had a chance of being heard and considered by the Lower Chamber in Dublin. But this was not done. Although I obtained considerable support in your Lordships' House, there was a majority against it; therefore, we have no representation.
Instead of that, after the Provisional Government had settled on the draft of the proposed Constitution, it was submitted to His Majesty's Government, and they invited certain representatives of the Unionist Party to meet the representatives of Sinn Fein to consider the Constitution of the two Houses and their respective powers. When those meetings had taken place, and, while the Constitution was being considered by the Dail, Mr. Cosgrave stated on several occasions that he was bound to insert certain provisions because they were the result of an agreement which had been come to between him and the Irish Unionists. Several of my noble friends in this House can correct me if I am wrong, but I think Mr. Cosgrave was mistaken in stating that. I am certain that he said so in perfect good faith, but I think what he meant was that he was bound to carry out the undertaking which he had given to those Irish Unionists, because, it 158 will be remembered by your Lordships, after discussions took place last July my noble friend Lord Midleton and several other gentlemen wrote to the then Colonial Secretary a letter that appeared in the public Press, in which they stated that although they had met with much courtesy on the part of the representatives of the Provisional Government, they had not been able to secure what they regarded as sufficient safeguards for the Southern Unionists.
This is the last occasion on which any protest can be raised with regard to the position of Southern Unionists in the country, or on which any measures can be taken to remedy that position by changes in the Bill. I am perfectly well aware that it is said that it is impossible to make changes in the Bill, for two reasons. In the first place, because it must pass into law by December 6. That argument does not carry much conviction, because I remember that for two months last spring the Provisional Government sat without any legal powers. That was rectified by an Act of Indemnity, and I cannot see why a similar course should not be taken now instead of our being asked to pass this Bill at lightning speed. The other reason given is that the Constitution, as it stands, is within the terms of the Treaty, and, therefore, must not be changed by a single comma.
As Irish Unionists have had no opportunity of expressing their views I cannot see why they should not take this opportunity, if they are able to convince your Lordships, of inserting Amendments in the Bill. I do not say that your Lordships should insist upon those Amendments if it is found that the Dail will not accept them, but it is a reasonable proposition to say that Amendments should be inserted and submitted to the Dail, and if this was done some at least if not all of the Amendments might be accepted by the Irish Chamber.
May I say a few words on the subject of the Constitution itself. Mr. Arthur Griffith, in a letter which he addressed to the late Prime Minister, said—At a meeting I held with the representatives of the Southern Unionists, I agreed that a scheme should be devised to give them their full share of representation in the First Chamber of the Irish Parliament, and that as to the Upper Chamber we will consult them on its constitution, and undertake that their interests will be duly represented. I wish also to take the occasion to say that we 159 desire to secure the willing co-operation of Unionists in common with all other sections of the Irish nation, in raising the structure and shaping the destiny of the Irish Free State. We look for their assistance in the same spirit of understanding and good will which we ourselves will show towards their traditions and interests.I draw your Lordships' particular attention to the last phrase: "their traditions and interests." What are the traditions and interests of Irish Unionists? Our traditions make us think of a Kingdom which has gone back for centuries and a Constitution which consists of King, Lords and Commons. We are here offered a Constitution which is more than a half-way house towards an Irish Republic.
There are one or two provisions in the Constitution on which I should like to make some criticism and also ask questions. Article 3 deals with citizenship. That question has been asked in the House of Commons and a satisfactory reply received, but it would be a satisfaction to many of your Lordships if a reply could also be given in this House confirming what I believe has been said in the Commons—namely, that nothing in this Bill will affect thestatus of any Irish citizen as a British subject. But I should like to ask two questions in order to make it absolutely clear. Will any Irish citizen in the future he able to go to the Foreign Office and demand, as a British subject, to have his passport? And can any Peer of Parliament in Ireland who is guilty of felony against the Irish Free State—which I hope is not likely to happen—demand the right to be tried by his Peers over here?
I also desire some information with regard to Article 5 which says—No title of honour in respect of any services rendered in or in relation to the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) may be conferred on any citizen of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) except with the approval or upon the advice of the Executive Council of the State.We all know that His Majesty acts as a constitutional Sovereign on the advice of His Ministers, and I should like to ask whether this is not a direct interference with His Majesty's Prerogative as the "fountain of honour," and if this Bill ought not to be accompanied by a Message from the Sovereign signifying that he has assented to this change. In the case of Bills affecting the Duchy of Lancaster it has always been stated that His Majesty's assent has been given to the change; and this is a much more serious interference with the Royal Prerogative than 160 anything which could possibly appear in a Bill affecting the Duchy.
I had intended to say something on the two Houses of Parliament, the Chamber and the Senate, but that point has been well made by the Earl of Midleton, and it is unnecessary for me to dwell upon it. He pointed out how very small is the power granted to the Second Chamber and how useless the Referendum would be in case the Lower House insisted upon carrying legislation, after the necessary interval, over their heads. The time is so short that the chief object of a Referendum, which is to appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober, would not be obtained. I have taken the trouble to go through the Constitutions which have been granted to the various Dominions and I do not find one single instance of a Senate which has such limited powers as those conferred on the Senate under this Bill. In fact, in most of the Constitutions granted the Senate has larger powers even than your Lordships' House.
The matter would be very different if we had been able to make such a change in the Senate as would have enabled them to hold up a Bill for two years, as was proposed in the Bill of 1920, and given them a chance of having a joint sitting with the Lower House in case of Money Bills, with a decision come to by a majority of both Houses sitting together. As it is it appears to me that the Senate is merely camouflage, which may deceive the public in this country and the Colonies, but for all practical purposes Ireland will be governed as a Single-Chamber State.
I do not wish to close on a pessimistic note. I shall be only too glad if my forebodings and fears turn out to be untrue. I heartily wish the Provisional Government success in their efforts to restore law and order. I firmly believe that Mr. Cosgrave, personally, is actuated by a feeling of fair play towards all His Majesty's subjects in Southern Ireland. But Ministries come and go, while Constitutions remain, and if the Constitution is a bad one, I fear that there will be little chance under it of a peaceful and progressive Ireland. The best chance for Ireland is that during the next few years it may be possible to persuade our fellow countrymen in the North that they could safely join their destinies to ours, but they will never do that if any section of Irishmen in the South is treated unfairly. Ulster is loyal, and if she ever joins the rest of 161 Ireland I feel convinced that she will do so, not under a modified Republic, but under a revised Constitution and in a reconstituted Kingdom of Ireland.
§ LORD KILLANIN
My Lords, there is one small but important matter to which I should be glad if I might call your Lordships' attention for two minutes before the debate closes. Perhaps it is a point which should be brought forward on the Committee stage of the Bill, but I am doubtful whether there will be a Committee stage at all, except of a very formal kind. The question with which I am concerned has already been referred to in this debate. There is so much hurry in the whole matter that I gather that any point which one brings before the House with the request for an answer from the Government ought to be raised as soon as possible.
I wish to refer to the question of the civil servants in Ireland, and the security for the pensions and compensation that should be awarded to them. It is a very important matter to them. I think it is also import-ant to the good faith and good name of this country and this Government that they should behave fairly towards this body of men. Let me briefly draw attention to Article 10 of the Treaty, which says—The Government of the Irish Free State agrees to pay fair compensation on terms not less favourable than those accorded by the Act of 1920 to Judges, officials, members of police forces and other public servants who are discharged by it or retire in consequence of the change of Government effected in pursuance hereof:That is one of the Articles of the Treaty, and when it Came before the House last year we moved an Amendment giving statutory force to the guarantee which the Government has verbally given to these civil servants that their interests should be looked after. We then laid our case before the House, and pointed out that these civil servants are your servants. It was you who employed them, and not the Irish Free State; it was you whom they faithfully served amidst difficulties and dangers.
When we made that case in this House—it was presented by my noble friend, Lord Dufferin, and others—the House agreed to the Amendment, by which statutory force was given to the verbal guarantee which had already been made to these men. I hope that the Government, by some means or other, will meet my demand. It would 162 be perfectly possible to do so in the Consequential Provisions Bill. That Amendment went down to the House of Commons and the House of Commons declared, quite rightly, that it was an infringement of privilege, and consequently it was ruled out of order. II the Government had wished to support the Amendment, that difficulty could have been surmounted, but, as a matter of fact, the Government did not support it, and the Amendment-which we had carried in this House was thrown out. Civil servants in Ireland, therefore, depend on that clause in Article 10 of the Treaty, which is not referred to in the Constitution at all.
What answer was given in this House, when we moved that Amendment, by the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, who was then in charge of the Bill? His answer, which I read from the OFFICAL REPORT, was as follows—The position is that, in the first place, the obligation of paying these pensions, retiring allowances and so on, falls upon the Government of the Free State. That being so under the terms of the Treaty, why is it to be assumed that these duties are going to be neglected?He said further that the Amendment would be a suggestion to the Irish Government that they were not going to discharge their duty and fulfil their trust. He added that the Free State Government might say—'We are so little trusted as to the payment of these funds that the statutory duty of paying them is put upon the British Government.'His position was that we should be insulting or mistrusting the Free State Government if the British Government stood by its own old servants.
Let me draw your Lordships attention to the Article of the Treaty. It applies not only to civil servants, but to the Judges, to the police and to other officials. What has happened Since? The Government have changed the Article of the Treaty to the extent of removing the Judges from it, they have brought in this Consequential Provisions Bill by which the Judges, the police and the Land Commission have been removed; and the only people left under that Article are the, civil servants. Was it an insult to the Free State Government to remove the judges? How did you get over that? How did the Government get over the insult of removing the Land Commissioners and the Police? If you can get over one insult you can get 163 over another, but I do not believe that it would be an insult to the Free State Government to stand by the civil servants. I do not look at the matter in that light at all. I am not mistrusting the Free State Government, and I do not believe that they will look upon it as mistrust.
On the contrary, I believe they consider it a mean thing on the part of the British Government to treat their civil servants in this way. These men are not the servants of the Irish Free State. The Free State Government are discharging them and saying, "We do not want anything more to do with you; you may have served your own Government well, but you have not served us, and we have finished with you." This claim also applies to men who do not wish to live under the newrégime. But these men are your servants, and I suggest to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that some clause should be introduced into the Consequential Provisions Bill, analogous if not exactly similar to the Amendment which this House approved, giving statutory force to the guarantee of the British Government to these old servants who have served it so faithfully.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, some time has elapsed and a good many speeches have been made since the Second Reading of this Bill was moved by the noble Duke, and I think it may be the wish of the House that I should now endeavour to reply on behalf of the Government to such of the points raised as admit of reply. A considerable part of the afternoon has been occupied in discussing wide questions of policy, whether it was wise and expedient to enter into the so-called Treaty, and whether it is likely that it will be followed by success or by failure. It is, of course, quite natural, I think it was unavoidable, that such questions should be raised and debated on the Second Reading of the Bill, but I think I should not be making the best use of the time at my disposal if I were to go into those wider questions.
It is enough for me to say, first, that I share with every speaker the views which have been expressed, that this country is bound in honour, whatever our individual opinions may be, to give effect to the Treaty entered into on its behalf and ratified by Parliament; secondly, that I, in common with my colleagues, shall certainly 164 do my best to give effect to the Treaty, not only in the letter but in the spirit; and, thirdly, that I hope with all my heart that the fears expressed by some speakers this afternoon may be falsified, and that in time better days may come for Ireland.
Having said so much I pass on to deal with the points made by noble Lords who have spoken. Lord Midleton, in a moving and statesmanlike speech, referred to the position of the loyalists in the South of Ireland. He complained, and I am not surprised, at the short time that is available for the discussion of these Bills, and of the difficulty, which is undoubted, of proposing any change in the Constitution in the Schedule. What he says is, of course, quite true, but I need only say this, so far as this Government is concerned, that we brought in these Bills at the earliest possible moment and in such a manner as to give all available time for their discussion before the date when they must, if they are to pass at all, be passed into law.
To change the Constitution now in this House would be to introduce an almost impossible condition of things. The Treaty requires that the Constitution shall be passed in identical terms by both the British and the Irish Parliaments. If changes were made here they must go back to the Irish Parliament for consideration, and it would be wholly impossible, if that course were taken, for the Constitution to pass within the limited time that remains under the Treaty. We have done what we could by agreeing with those who represent the Irish Government as to certain clauses which are found in the Bill, and which explain in a manner which I think will be satisfactory to the House certain points upon which confusion might have arisen, and I think it would be very difficult indeed for this House to improve them.
Lord Midleton made some observations upon the Constitution as it affects those for whom he has been in the habit of acting in the South of Ireland. I will just point out this: That this Constitution has been framed in Ireland. That is in accordance with all the precedents under which the Constitutions of our Dominions have been framed. The Constitution of Canada was framed in Canada. The Constitutions of Australia and of New Zealand were framed in those Dominions, and that of South Africa was framed in 165 South Africa. In every case the first initial framing of the instrument has been left to those most intimately interested, namely, the inhabitants of the Dominion concerned. That precedent has been followed here, and for that reason we find provisions which, I agree, are unfamiliar to us in this country. But as regards the Constitution of the Irish Parliament, the provisions relating to the Senate, and so on, they are wholly within the powers given to the Irish Constituent Assembly, by the Treaty.
That Assembly might have set up a one-chamber Government with no Senate at all. They very wisely, after conferring with my noble friend and others, have set up a Senate. It appears to be not entirely satisfactory to my noble friend and those who act with him, but it has some elements which make for the protection of minorities in Ireland. It is to be chosen Iron: a panel selected partly by the Dail and partly by the Senate when elected. It is to be elected by the method of proportional representation, and go out of office one-third in each year, and arrangements are made for enabling that body to have something like a real effect upon the operations of the other House. It is true that what may be called the principle of the Parliament Act is applied in Ireland in a drastic form, because in the event of a difference between the two Houses there is no doubt that under these provisions the view of the Lower House must prevail; but, nevertheless, there is something in the powers of the Senate which may give considerable influence to those who sit there.
My noble friend himself, and other members of this House who have been in the habit of acting with him, have been invited to accept nomination for the Senate, I venture to express the hope that they will assent to that invitation. I am certain that their influence and their arguments will have their effect both in that body itself and outside that body in Ireland, and I venture, with great diffidence, to suggest to them that by accepting nomination on that body they may render a very real service to their country. But my main answer to the noble Earl on this point is that the Constitution of the Senate to which he refers is wholly in accordance with the terms of the Treaty, and that therefore it is not possible for this Parliament to alter it.
Both the noble Earl and Viscount Long made an appeal to the Government to do what they could to help the minority in 166 Southern Ireland. It is incredible that the Government should not do so. I feel sure that the Irish Government to-day means to be fair to all those citizens who will be within its jurisdiction. I have seen, and watched carefully, the responses which they have made to certain appeals or proposals which have been made to them on matters which interested the House, and I must say I have been very much impressed by their desire to do what appears to be fair and right in all those matters which have been brought to their notice. Therefore, I will not assume for a moment that justice will not be done, but if occasion should arise, I am sure that this Government will feel bound to do its utmost to render assistance to those who now appeal to them. A statement was made the other clay by the Secretary of State for the Colonies on the question of compensation, and he has made a further statement to-day on the question of land purchase. On both these matters I believe that this country can, by the use of its credit and perhaps in other ways, be of service to those who are interested in these matters, and in any case, by all means fairly open to us, we shall desire to respond to the appeal which has been made by noble Lords.
I have almost finished with the general considerations, because my noble and learned friend. Lord Sumner recalled the House to the practical question with which your Lordships have to deal, namely, whether this Constitution is or is not in accordance with the Treaty, and, after a very kindly reference to myself, he asked me pointedly whether in my opinion that was so or not. I have not the least hesitation in saying that in my opinion it is. Attention has not been called to-day to any clause of the Constitution which is said to be in conflict with the Treaty. Perhaps that abstinence may have been due to the considerations which the noble and learned Lord mentioned. At all events, that is the fact, and I cannot call to mind any clause which I could say, even taken by itself, is in violation of the Treaty.
But, apart from that, there is, as my noble and learned friend pointed out, what he called the "overhead clause"—the clause which stands in the forefront of the Act passed by the Irish Parliament, and which is recited and re-affirmed in this Bill, by virtue of which, if it should be found hereafter that any clause in the Constitution is contrary to the Treaty, then to that extent that clause will be 167 void and must be disregarded. That point can, of course, be raised at any future time, because it is open to the Irish Courts to entertain that question, and, on the matter being called to their attention in any case where it arises, to decide whether or not the Constitution violates the Treaty and, if it does, then to enforce the conditions of the Treaty. And if an Irish Court should in any respect fail to take that course, it would, of course, be open to His Majesty, in the exercise of his Prerogative, which is saved by the Constitution, and which, indeed, could not be taken away by the Constitution, to give leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. So I do attach great importance to the clause to which my noble and learned friend has referred, and I think that it has force, and, if need be, can be effectively appealed to.
Then, certain other points of detail of the Irish Constitution were raised, and several noble Lords—I think Lord Arran was one of them—referred to the use in the earlier Articles of the Treaty of the word "citizen" as applied to Ireland, believe that the word "citizen" was purposely chosen, and it commends itself to those in this country who deal with these matters. It would, not have been right for the Constitution to use other words perhaps more familiar to us, like "subject" or "national," or words of that kind, because they would have implied the loss by the citizen of Ireland of his position as a British subject. The word "citizen" is used to signify those inhabitants of Ireland who, under the clauses of the Constitution, will become entitled to certain rights—the right to the franchise, and the right to sit in the Irish Parliament—and will be subject to certain obligations. The word is not new, it is used in Canadian Statutes, where the words "Canadian citizen" are found, and I believe that it has exactly the effect which was intended by the framers of this Constitution.
I have been asked whether, under this instrument, a man by becoming an Irish citizen ceases to be a British subject. In my opinion, nobody by this means would lose hisstatus as a British subject, or his right to the protection of the Crown as a British subject abroad. I believe that the only effect of these clauses is to secure to those who fall within them the special rights which are specified in the Constitution.
My noble friend Lord Arran asked another question, I think upon Clause 3, namely, 168 whether the power to opt out of the Irish citizenship, if I may use the expression, would belong to those British subjects to whom he has referred. The point was new to me, and I can only answer it to the best of my ability. I think that the proviso means that any person, not being now a citizen of the Irish Free State, may elect not to accept the citizenship conferred by this clause. In other words, I believe that the option to which the noble Earl referred will belong to all those of whom he spoke.
Lord Oranmore and Browne raised a series of points which I will deal with as briefly as I can. First, he asked whether, as a result of this Constitution, the Irish Peers would lose their right to trial by their Peers. That is a question which I sincerely hope will never arise, because it can only arise if Peers commit treason or felony, or misprision of treason or felony. In those cases, as the law stands to-day, the Irish Peer would have a right to be tried by his Peers, and this House might issue to the Irish Courts a process securing him that right. The noble Lord wants to know what will be the position in future. I will not say positively, but I believe that by virtue of Article 73 of the Constitution, which continues the existing law until it is altered, Peers would retain their right. But if at any future time the Irish Parliament should seek, by legislation, to take away that right, I am not prepared to say that they would not have the right to do so.
After all, the effect of the Treaty, to which the noble Lord himself assented, is to entrust to the Irish Parliament and the Irish Government the preservation of peace, order, and good government in Southern Ireland, and I think it probable that, under the powers so confided to them, they would be able to control a matter such as this, and to determine that all residents in Ireland should be subject to trial according to law. If that is so, I do not think the noble Lord will complain, because that is one of the natural results of the Treaty which was sanctioned by this House. At all events, that is the answer as it occurs to me, but if I should think of any point which affects my answer I will not fail to mention it.
The noble Lord also raised another interesting question, but not one, I think, of very practical importance. He referred to Article 5 of the Constitution under which honours are not to be conferred in Ireland "except with the approval or 169 upon the advice" of the Irish Ministers, and he asked whether that was a modification of the Prerogative for which the Royal assent is necessary before the Bill is passed. I desire to call attention to the fact that the Article only embodies what is now the practice in all our Great Dominions. It is the practice, I believe, before an honour is conferred upon any citizen of any of the great self-governing Dominions, to ascertain the views of the Government of the particular Dominion. Indeed, the matter has gone so far in Canada that a rule has been made under which no Canadian citizen can accept an honour except with the consent of the Government of the Dominion. That rule was made, I think, in the year 1918, or thereabouts, and has been ever since observed. Therefore, the Article has practically- the effect of reaffirming the present practice. If it affects the Prerogative at all it does not affect it in any substantial way. Of course, I am in the hands of the House, but I do not think it is necessary to ask for the special assent of the Crown in this matter.
I draw now towards the end of the list of points which I have marked, but the noble Lord, Lord Killanin, raised a further matter. He wanted to know what was the position of civil servants who lose their office under this Bill if they decline to continue under the new Irish Government. That, of course, is a serious question. Provision for compensation of those officers is made by Article 10 of the Treaty. That Treaty, of course, is a Treaty between this country and Ireland which has been confirmed by Statute and so has become part of the law. That gives a right to these officers to be compensated. The noble Lord said that Article 10 is not referred to in the Constitution. I think it is, in Article 78 of the Constitution. I believe that Agreement will be carried out by the Irish Government. I believe that they intend to carry out their obligations in that respect. They have not given the least sign of any intention of failing in that obligation, and, therefore, I feel in some difficulty in even assuming that it will not be carried out. But if that should happen, then the position would be that there had been a breach of the Agreement between the Irish Government and ourselves, and I believe we are not without resources for the purpose of enforcing that and other agreements. I ant certain that our Government will use all its powers to see that 170 proper compensation is given to those who are entitled to it. What I say now applies to officers of State. I must not be taken to be referring to officers of local government authorities. If that contingency occurs it will be a matter for the Government and I am sure the Government will see that justice is done.
I have covered, I think, all the points which were raised by noble Lords. I have no doubt there are others which will be raised in Committee, to-morrow, but I have endeavoured to furnish the best answer I can to the questions which have been so clearly and so reasonably put to me. I will only add this in conclusion, that it is to me a striking thing, that after a contest which was earnest to the point of bitterness, all men of all Parties are combining together to mould for the best the Treaty, the Constitution, and the position with which we have to deal. The history of Ireland is full of tragedy and of disappointment. It may be that another disappointment is in store for us. But I believe that those who have now the control of the Government of Ireland will do their best to restore peace and order in that country. I am sure that we shall do all we can to help them. Grave issues depend on their success, but the opportunity is theirs and we must leave it to them to use it as they think best. I pray with all my heart that they may use their opportunity wisely and well and for the future happiness of Ireland.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, the noble Viscount on the Woolsack has stated quite clearly now that the Constitution is strictly in accordance with the Treaty. After that statement from such high legal authority there is very little more to be said. There was, however, a speech made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, which as an Irishmen living in Ireland ever since 1916 and enjoying or disenjoying (if I may use such a word) the difficulties of that time, resent very much. I resent the sneers in which the noble Lord indulged in the course of that speech—sneers couched in arithmetical terms. That sort of thing does not get us much further. I noticed, however, that at the end of his speech Lord Sumner said that he would advise the House to give the Bill a Second Reading. Sneers are no alternative at all. What is the alternative if this Bill is not passed? Have we again to go through what we. Irishmen have gone through, which is simply battle, murder and sudden death? I cannot speak in stronger terms 171 than that about what we have suffered in Ireland since 1916. I am not going back to the past at all.
I congratulate the noble Duke who introduced these Bills—most intricate, difficult of understanding, and comprehensive as they are—upon the clear and emphatic manner in which he explained everything. Some remarks were made in the course of the debate which I should like to answer, but I am not going to waste your Lordships' time by replying to many of them. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, said that this was probably the last time that Irish affairs would be discussed in the House, but that if they did come up again the issue would be a very grave one. There I agree with him. The noble Duke, in his speech, clearly stated how, under Clause 4, Irish affairs could be dealt with or not dealt with. I feel that we in Ireland shall not any longer be at the mercy of political Parties in this country. I am pleased at that. Although the noble Duke did not tell us, I know exactly what the clause means.
I should like to say a word about those who began to try to end this trouble in Ireland. Although I do not agree with some of the things said by my noble friend Lord Midleton I shall always remember that he was the man who went over and organised the truce. That was the beginning of the end of a certain amount of trouble. I listened with great attention to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead. I have listened to a great many of his speeches, and, although his language sometimes is crude and to the point, and although he puts his arguments very often into forcible language, he has done his best to bring the Parties together in Ireland. There is another name that has not been mentioned in this debate, and that is the name of Mr. Winston Churchill. Mr. Churchill all through has answered those in Ireland who tried to get more than this country would give them, in a statesmanlike and dignified manner. I have read every word of his answers, and I, personally, wish to thank him for the part he took in the deliberations and negotiations.
I only wish to say, in conclusion, that if the Irish Government, as newly constituted, act with firmness and decision—I think your Lordships will understand what I mean by that—there is every hope for the future. Things are not pleasant in Ireland even now. I do not wish to allude to those 172 things. I believe that Mr. Cosgrave and the Dail will do their very best under most difficult circumstances. I agree with every word the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, said. They are going about with their lives in their hands. I live in Ireland, and I know some of these people. I have listened to the debates in the Dail. When you enter there you would think that you were going into a fortress. Those, my Lords, are the conditions under which Government is attempted to be carried on in Ireland now. But firmness and decision will win the day, and I hope that firmness and decision will be forthcoming.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.