§ EARL RUSSELL rose to call attention to the recent deportations from this country to Ireland. The noble Earl said: My Lords, the Notice which appears on the Paper in my name expresses my desire to call your Lordships' attention to the recent deportations from this country to Ireland. Those deportations are not now so recent as when I put the Notice down. I waited some time before putting it down in the hope that some more able constitutionalist might raise the points I desired to raise. Subsequently, the Easter Recess intervened, so that the question comes on rather late. That, I think, is no matter for regret. I am glad that the subject should come on now when the position of the Free State appears to be definitely improved as compared with what it was at the time when these deportations took place. I hope to make clear to your Lordships before I sit down that, although I think there are questions of considerable importance to be raised, there is nothing that I should be less willing to do than to hamper the new Government in Ireland in any way in exercising its functions and in putting down the rebellion which exists in that country.
§ Those of your Lordships whose newspapers thought fit to report the fact—and it is rather an interesting matter. I think, that not all of them did so on the first occasion—must, I think, have been rather startled, and must have rubbed your eyes on the morning after these events, when 830 you saw that a great swoop had been made by many hundred policemen all over England, that something like one hundred people had been collected in the dead of night, rushed off to Holyhead, put upon a Government transport or a gunboat, or some official vessel, and carried off to Ireland without trial and without examination. Those are measures to which we were hardly accustomed even during the war. We had, it is true, internment of aliens, but we did not have wholesale arrests and deportations of this character. So far as I recollect the largest deportations were such as you could have counted almost on the fingers of one hand, made at some periods from Glasgow.
§ The legal question is one with which I do not propose to trouble your Lordships this afternoon. The action purports to be taken under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act. That Act was passed at a time when we in this country were responsible for the administration of Ireland, and when it was our duty to keep order there. That relation between us and that country has since then entirely changed, and what is rather vaguely called Dominion status has been granted to Southern Ireland. It is argued with a great deal of force that in consequence of that change this Act, which was passed to assist us in maintaining order, is impliedly spent. I do not propose to pursue the legal considerations very far. They would involve much more study than I have given to the matter, and I think the decision is one to which it would be very difficult to come. There is the further reason for not pursuing it that it is being raised by a case which is now before the Court, which in due time will decide it in the only way in which it can be decided for us—namely, by the legal tribunals of this country. Therefore the casual opinion of an individual upon the subject ceases to be of any particular importance.
§ I ant proposing to treat the subject today on the assumption and the footing that these powers did exist, and that they were still in force. And I propose to ask your Lordships whether it is not a very serious thing that such powers should be exercised, and whether, if they are exercised, they should not be exercised with more precautions and under somewhat different conditions from those in which they were exercised in this case? 831 What exactly happened? First of all, how were the persons selected who were to be arrested in the middle of the night? A good deal of light has been thrown on the subject since these deportations took place, and so far as I can make out these were persons who were upon some list furnished by the Irish Free State to the Home Secretary and that the Home Secretary acted upon that list. A list of prescribed persons was presented to the Government here and the Home Secretary simply said: "I will, on your request, arrest these people and hand them over to you." If that were the case, and there is some reason to suppose that it was, it hardly seems to be within the spirit, even if it is within the letter, of the Act, supposing the Act to be still in force. Under the Act the Home Secretary has himself to be satisfied that these are people proper to be arrested, and it is hardly possible to be so satisfied by getting a list, of names prepared by another authority which is not subject to the Home Secretary, and which has not ascertained the facts, an independent authority—namely, the Irish Free State.
§ Having arrested these people what does the Home Secretary proceed to do? He proceeds to take them out or his jurisdiction to a part of the world where the writ of the King's Bench does not run, and where he, the Home Secretary, has no further control. We have been told by Mr. Bridgman, the Home Secretary, that the arrangement is that they shall not be tried or executed, or in any way dealt with except by internment in the Irish Free State, without his consent and approval. I rather imagine that he has also been promised that they shall not be retained if he asks for them. In fact, I understand that two or three have been here already before the Advisory Committee in order to present their case. Let me ask one question on this. Does this rather peculiar arrangement between the Home Secretary and a foreign Government exist in writing or is it a mere verbal arrangement? If it is merely a verbal promise on both sides in what a remarkable position do we find ourselves. Nothing that was even done in the time of the Lettres de cachet was more autocratic than this curious action of the Home Secretary in seizing a number of people here and handing them over to another authority outside his jurisdiction.832
§ What is to happen supposing either of the parties to this verbal arrangement dies, or supposing their recollections of it differ? One finds that recollections of a verbal arrangement do differ sometimes. Then there is another point: What is the position of these people when they have reached the Irish Free State? Assume everything in favour of both Governments, the Home Secretary here and the Irish Free State, we know perfectly well that unfortunately Ireland is in a very disturbed condition and that discipline, even in the Irish Free State Army, is not all that could be wished. And we know that people do get killed in Ireland without executive authority and without due course of law. These people who have been taken to Ireland are exposed to the risk of being shot accidentally or by some person in excess of his authority, and I do not know what right we have in this country to seize people and deport them to another country where the guarantees of the Government cannot altogether be relied upon.
§ If you can properly do this—I do not mean legally and under the Act but as a proper constitutional thing—there is nothing to prevent you seizing people and deporting them to Canada, or Australia, or any of our self-governing Dominions. If you can make a private arrangement between the heads of Departments in the Dominions and the Mother Country and simply hand over to them a number of people, then the liberty of the subject is gone. It has always seemed to me that the so-called Conservative and Constitutional Party are very often the last people who are to be trusted on questions of constitutional history and the liberty of the subject. They are apt—not perhaps noble Lords on the Front Bench, who know too well how dangerous such a course would be, but their followers—to assume that to act with the high hand and in this dramatic manner is the way to keep order and restore peace; the way to keep a country governed as it should be governed. I suggest to them that in that consideration they are entirely mistaken. Once you go outside the due course of law—and I am tempted to stray from my subject and to consider who it was that first defied the forces of the Crown in Ireland and was, in my judgment, largely responsible for the present condition of that country—you open the door to the mere exercise of force, and it does not 833 follow that that force may not be exercised, not by those who constitute the Government at the time, but by those who are most numerous. That seems to me to be the best practical reason for keeping to a careful and regular form and order in carrying out matters of this sort.
Your Lordships may be inclined to think that all these people who have been deported are people about whom there is no real doubt; that, however right I may be on the constitutional point, they are all people who were smuggling arms, or preparing bombs, or getting ready to wage a war in this country similar to that irregular war which has been going on in Ireland. But that is not the case, and it cannot be suggested that it is the case. Let me read you a portion of a communication that I have received regarding one of these desperate villains; It is as follows:—
My daughter Grace, aged 24, a school teacher, born in London, was taken from her bed at 2 a.m. by four men, who took her to the local police station. When we asked for her some hours later we were told she had left there and they would not tell us where she had been taken. The following Wednesday we had a few lines from her saying she was in Mountjoy prison. It is now twelve days since I have received any news of her. I sent a prepaid telegram asking if she was ill. I have had no reply.
These are very drastic measures—to snatch people from their beds, whisk them away at night, let their relations learn, after the lapse of some days, Chat they are interned in another country; and then interrupt communications between them.
§ I know that the conditions of these people have been improved of late. I understand they are now allowed to communicate with their relations, but I suggest that these are precedents which should not be followed and that if it be the fact that the Act is in force, then the sooner it is repealed the better. I may be asked, as I notice Mr. Ramsay MacDonald was asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Long of Wraxall, what the Labour Party would have done if they were in office; whether they would not have been willing to assist the Irish Free State. I am perfectly certain that every friend of law and order would have desired to do anything possible to assist the Irish Free State, but it is very doubtful assistance to do things of this kind which are likely to have bad reactions. And I would at least suggest that, 834 assuming that it actually was proper that these people should be arrested—and it is already pretty freely admitted that as to at least fifty per cent. of them there was no real ease—at least they might have been kept and interned in this country where the writ of the Courts could run, and where they could have such legal remedies as are left to them.
§ In the very discussion in which the legality of this Statute is at issue, it was pointed out, I think by the Judge of First Instance, that he was asked to direct the Writ of Habeas Corpus to the. Home Secretary but at the same time he was told that the Home Secretary had not the custody of the body, and that the custody of the body was in some alien country and under some alien control. That at once makes it apparent that the Courts are impotent and cannot act in this matter. I think I am correct in saying that it has already been decided in Ireland that this Act is not in force there, and that you cannot take proceedings under it. It comes therefore to this: that these people are detained by the Free State to whom they have been handed over, one might almost say as a personal favour by the Home Secretary of this country, without any trial and without his being personally satisfied that there was any case against them. It seems to me that this kind of thing is likely to do more harm than good, and I should be very glad to get an assurance from the Government that, such action will not be taken in the future.
§ If there were any evidence against any of these people they could have been put on their trial here. They could have been put on their trial here if they were making bombs; they could have been put on their trial here if they had been in the illegal possession of arms, and I think I am right in saying that they could have been put on their trial here if they were preparing to levy war against the Free State. Consequently, if there was any evidence against them they could have been tried here, and I suggest that since they have been arrested it is only proper that they should be brought to trial. We in this country are not in a state of war, and I hope it is not necessary for us at present to take such drastic action as might be necessary, and as, in fact, is necessary, for the Free State, which is in the throes of a conflict the issue of which is as yet uncertain, although, as I said 835 before, I am very glad that since I put my Question down the prospects of the Irish Free State have very much improved, and I do not think that anything that can be said here will embarrass them or make their position worse. Moreover, they have done nothing contrary to their own law or contrary to their powers. It is to what we have done that I desire to call your Lordships' attention, and I should be glad to have some assurance from His Majesty's Government on these points.
§ I should like to repeat one or two of the specific questions which I have put to His Majesty's Government. In the first place, did the Home Secretary satisfy himself in the case of these various people that there was a case against them upon which he was prepared to act, or did he merely take the names as given to him by the Free State? In the second place, what reason was there for deporting them to the Free State instead of interning them where our Courts could have jurisdiction? And finally, I should be glad to have an assurance that this sort of action will not be continued, because I can assure your Lordships that it amounts, in my view at any rate, to lawlessness, and lawlessness by those in high places is likely to lead to very much worse lawlessness, and worse considered lawlessness, by others in other places who see that example.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, before the Government answer is given I should like to say a word or two, because I desire to ask one or two questions in addition to those which have been asked by the noble Earl. I shall be very careful to confine myself within the limits which he has very wisely laid down and not to say anything about the law as it is, because I believe that there is at the present time a case actually being argued, or at any rate a case which has just been argued, in our Court of Appeal in reference to which no decision has been given. I desire at the outset therefore to say that I do not intend to refer to the law as it is.
The first question I want to ask the noble Lord who is going to reply is whether the offences were such that the persons deported could not have been placed on their trial in this country. If they are amenable to the tribunals of this country for offences committed here, the first step obviously might have been 836 to arraign them before the tribunal of their country for offences committed against the Government here. Many suggestions which have been made regarding these deported individuals show that they might have been guilty of offences committed in this country and against the Government of this country. The, first question, therefore, that I wish to ask is whether the noble Lord can assure the House that it was necessary that these deportations should take place on the ground that the persons who were deported could not have been dealt with, and dealt with quite practically and properly, under the ordinary law of this country.
Very shortly after these deportations took place my attention was called to two or three cases in which it was alleged that there must have been some mistake regarding the person deported. I happened to be in Manchester not long ago, and I was asked by several persons there how it was that a Manchester merchant, apparently of entirely unexceptionable character and against whom, so far as was known, no charge had ever been made, had been deported under conditions such as those which the noble Earl has described; that is to say, taken out of his bed at midnight and sent over to Ireland. At that time the complaint as further made that, although it was conceded that his solicitor might have access to him, it was in fact not allowed. I believe that what the noble Earl has said is perfectly right and that difficulties of that kind have now been removed. But the difficulty did exist at the time, and it is an extremely serious thing that an English citizen against whom no charge has been made and, as in this case, against whom it was alleged that no charge could be made, should be taken out of his bed by the police under no ordinary warrant such as would have allowed such action in this country, and taken away for deportation to Ireland.
The next question I wish to raise is this. I noticed the other day in the Press—and the noble Lord will be able to tell me whether it is accurate—that the case of a school teacher, apparently a young girl in Liverpool, who had been deported, was brought before what is known as the Advisory Committee. I do not think that an Advisory Committee is any alternative for our ordinary legal process. At any rate, she has been 837 brought before the Advisory Committee, and so far as I followed the case the Advisory Committee determined in her favour, whereupon, haying been in prison for five weeks and having lost her position as a school teacher, she vas discharged, I think at Wormwood Scrubbs, the prison to which, I presume, she had been brought in order that the Advisory Committee might consider the case. That is a charge against a young girl in the position of a school teacher for which no primâ facie excuse could be offered. What I want, to ask the Government is this. Assuming a case of that kind has occurred, are they prepared to give recompense, and, if so, in what form and to what extent will recompense be given? I am assuming that the deportation was legally earned out. If so, it is obvious that she has no recompense from any source unless the Government provide it for her.
I do not want to go so far as the noble Earl went when he said that fifty per cent. of the cases would come within a category of that kind, but I do say, from information that I have and which I will give to the noble Lord if he desires it, that there are a considerable number of cases in which the Government acted upon what has been found to be inaccurate information and that the reasons for deportation cannot be sustained. I do not wonder at that, because if you once depart from ordinary legal process in order to ascertain whether anyone is guilty or not, you really have to rely upon what is practically spy evidence. It is no good disguising the fact that the ordinary rule is that anyone charged with an offence in this country is entitled to meet his amuse' face to face, and is further entitled to be regarded as innocent until the opposite is proved. Now in this case he does not know who his accuser is.
It is all very well to speak of the Home Office, but how can the Home Office obtain information except through what I may call spy evidence—evidence which, before all others, ought either to be rejected altogether or only accepted with the greatest, precautions and after the most careful cross-examination? I am not now speaking in abuse of the Home Secretary. That is the fact. When the Executive acts upon secret information, and there is no open inquiry in Court, it does act on evidence derived from spy sources, 838 because it cannot, obtain any other, and that is sometimes put forward as an excuse why it is not made public. I should like to abolish spies and spy evidence, and the whole system, from top to bottom.
The next question is a very important one, and quite apart from any legal question. It is a question of discretion. I should like the noble Lord to explain how these people were deported out of this country. I ask your Lordships to consider how the matter stands. An ordinary English citizen, without any accusation made against him, without any knowledge of the charges made against him, is suddenly, in the middle of the night, taken out of his bed, and not only taken out of his bed in order that further inquiry may be made in this country, but taken out of his bed and deported to another country. It makes no difference whether it is to the Irish Free State or to any other country. You might have deported him to Germany, or France, or any other country, on the same pretext, apparently.
As the noble Earl has done, I desire to relieve myself of any prejudice in this matter. No one desires more fully than I do that there should be order in Ireland. No one desires more than I do that the Irish Free State should have every opportunity as regards putting down rebellion in Ireland; but that is no reason why the right of an English citizen in this country should be disregarded to the extent of deportation. Why should there he deportation? If there were fears that these people wore doing injury in Ireland—there is no proof of it at present, so far as I know; none has been disclosed—they could have been interned in this country. And as one who has been to Ireland lately I should like to corroborate what the noble Earl has said. What control have we, or what guarantee, that these people, so deported, perhaps under a mistake, are safe under the conditions which prevail in Ireland at the present time? That is a very serious matter when dealing with the question of personal liberty; when dealing with a system of Executive action which has been disallowed in this country for centuries, and in respect of which the great struggles for liberty arose in this country.
839 It may be—I am not discussing that point now, but am carefully avoiding it—it may be that the Regulations made under the Act of 1920 justify precautions being taken, but they do not justify, necessarily, deportation or these other matters, although, of course, assuming as I do that the law has been rightly put in force, they cannot be questioned. If the Executive have the power what they do cannot be questioned, and one is driven back to asking them whether the Executive, or the Government, in a particular case, have really acted with proper prudence.
The last question which I should like to ask is in continuation of what was said by the noble Earl—How were these deportees selected? That is a very important matter indeed, because when you come down to bedrock, where people, protesting their innocence, have been subjected to conduct of this kind, one wants to know what is the information on which the Home Secretary acted. One wants to know whether the Home Secretary made an independent inquiry himself; what were the precautions he took to satisfy himself that the information brought to his notice was really adequate. Of course, to attempt anything like a trial was really impossible, because procedure of this kind makes it impossible, but after all, if we are to have such bureaucratic action, we are entitled to make it as sure as possible that it is not used in too autocratic a manner. I think that bureaucracy is far more dangerous than autocracy. We are not likely to suffer so much in this country from autocracy as from bureaucracy, but our safeguard, and only safeguard, is by open inquiry in either House of Parliament, in order to make sure that power of this kind is used in a proper manner. I do not wish to enter upon the legality of the matter, but I thought it right to ask my questions before the noble Lord replied for the Government.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (VISCOUNT NOVAR)
My Lords, the question raised by the noble Earl has been already probed, examined and debated in another place. I must, therefore, apologise to your Lordships for travelling over much familiar ground, as this is the first reference made to the matter in this House. What are the 840 facts of the case? The implacable enemies of the Irish Free State Government were using this country as a jumping-off ground from which to launch attacks on the Free State. These persons were abusing the hospitality of this country by plotting, in the comparative security and shelter of these shores, for the destruction of the Irish Free State. They had formed themselves into a military organisation, under a commanding officer, and were collecting arms and ammunition for transmission to the irregular forces in Ireland, and, in addition to conspiring against their own country, they were further abusing our hospitality by scheming to involve us in the same disorders.
The Free State Government brought to the notice of His Majesty's Government that the harassing campaign of arson and murder which was devastating Ireland was, to an important extent, being organised and fomented from this side. They asked His Majesty's Government to take steps to counteract these baleful activities by allowing the internment of the leading conspirators. His Majesty's Government consented, and it was held desirable that such internment should take place in their own country and under the supervision of the Free State Government, firstly, because the conspiracy chiefly affected Ireland and was directed against the Irish Government; secondly, because the internment of Irish in this country would lead to misrepresentation in other lands, more particularly as the conduct which made such treatment necessary was primarily directed against another Government and another people; and thirdly, because it was more agreeable to Irish sentiment that these persons should be handed over to the custody of the Free State Government.
Altogether 110 persons of Irish nationality or Irish descent, many well known at the Home Office, were arrested in England and Scotland and transferred to Ireland. This action was taken under the Act referred to by the noble Earl, the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, 1920, which provided that where it appears to the Home Secretary and Secretary for Scotland that for the security and restoration or maintenance of order in Ireland it is expedient that a person who is suspected of acting or of having acted, 841 or of being about to act, in a manner prejudicial to the restoration or maintenance of order in Ireland, shall be subjected to such obligations and restrictions as are mentioned in the Act, the Secretaries may by order require that person forthwith, or from time to time, to be interned in such place as may be specified in the Order.
Action was only taken after consultation with the Law Officers of the Crown, who were convinced of the legality of the proposed measure, nor has its legality been seriously questioned by any lawyer in the other House. The expediency of intervention by His Majesty's Government was also examined. It was felt that the Government, having a knowledge of this conspiracy, having received information from the Irish Free State that their efforts to restore peace in Ireland were being hampered and nullified by the ceaseless activities of a semi-military organisation established in Great Britain, and the Government having also in its possession material clearly indicating the existence of this military organisation controlled by a person calling himself Officer Commanding, Britain, were bound to take action.
Could it possibly be argued that His Majesty's Government were to allow this kind of thing to go on, that they should have permitted this widespread and subterranean rebellion to grow in strength, to become more firmly rooted? Were they to allow it to go on till it burst into open conflagration, involving loss of life and property, or till it could only be suppressed by armed force? The dastardly murder of Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson shows to what lengths an inflamed and distorted political passion, working on ill-balanced minds, will go. And that distinguished man was only one of hundreds of victims whose blood has bespattered the altar of Irish nationality. It is surely the duty of every civilised Government to put forth all its strength, to use all its powers, to suppress machinations which lead to such calamities, to check the propagation of incitements to desperate courses, to throw out of gear the machinery which manufactures crimes and criminals. The prevention of crime is a greater achievement than its punishment, and we have convincing proof that this has been the result of the blow dealt to this dangerous conspiracy by our swift and decisive action.
842 At the same time ample precautions have been taken on behalf of the deportees. An Advisory Committee has been specially appointed to receive any representations from interned persons against the provisions of the Order, and already three appeals have come before it. One applicant has already been released on the grounds of ill-health, and on his giving a promise to abstain from all attacks on the Irish Free State. Altogether 32 internees appealed, but all but three withdrew their appeals. Apprehension has been expressed lest severer measures be dealt out to internees by the Irish Free State, or lest they be arraigned and tried in Ireland on more serious charges. But the Irish Free State has pledged itself to keep them from harm and that no proceedings shall be taken against the deported persons without the consent of the Home Secretary and Secretary for Scotland. In that case we should, of course, have to be satisfied before giving consent that a primâ facie case existed, and naturally that consent would never be given without consultation with the Law Officers. Should consent be given, the person to be tried will be placed in exactly the same position, and dealt with in the same way, as if he had not been deported. If an order for internment is revoked the person interned will be at once released.
It may still be argued that the Irish Free State Government will not abide by its pledges, but as we have so recently handed over the whole of Southern Ireland to the Free State, with the warm approval of the noble Earl and his friends, it is scarcely befitting to suggest that, having trusted them with so much, we can now trust them so little, or to conceive it possible that the Irish Government will break faith in respect to its first contract entered into with the British Government.
The noble Viscount will please recollect that I made no such suggestion. I never suggested for one moment that the Irish Free State would repudiate any of its undertakings, but I did ask a question which the noble Viscount is not answering and that is whether these undertakings were purely verbal, or whether they were in writing.
§ VISCOUNT NOVAR
The undertaking is a binding undertaking, and it is one which the Government has no doubt will be observed.
§ VISCOUNT NOVAR
I have given my answer. Moreover, as I have already said, the Free State has already demonstrated its good faith by releasing one of the deportees. That the arrest produced the desired end of checking the activities and frustrating the plans of the conspirators is proved by intercepted communications (Irish Republican Army) of which I give these quotations:—Officer Commanding, Britain, wrote to Chief of Staff, Irish Republican Army, Dublin, on March 20. 1923, reporting on the arrests and said—This seriously affects every area. Yon knew the possibilities of operations before. Judge for yourself the possibilities now.The reply on April 5 said—Our organisation appeared to be pretty hardly hit by arrests.In another letter dated April 5 to Officer Commanding, Britain, the Adjutant General, Irish Republican Army, Dublin, said—When he was here Adjutant was not quite certain of the actual number of arrests, but made it quite clear of course that serious disorganisation would result.And in a report to the Chief of Staff, Irish Republican Army, dated April 5, it, is reported—I am afraid the chances of operations in Britain are now negligible—if not altogether impossible.These extracts prove my contentions that this conspiracy was widespread and dangerous, that it aimed at assisting rebellion in Ireland and at creating disorder and trouble in this country, and that the arrest of its leaders has dealt a severe and irretrievable blow to the dangerous conspiracy for the suppression of which the Irish Free State sought, the co-operation of His Majesty's Government.
The circumstances of the case are novel because everything connected with the new conditions of self-government in Ireland is necessarily novel. Each situation has to be dealt with as it arises by the light of common sense. Great Britain must treat the Free State as she would any other Dominion. But where the Irish Free State is concerned, men's 844 judgments are apt to be warped and confused by the memory of ancient controversies and by the strange and distressing developments which have followed on the grant of self-government. Yet, after all, we must hold fast to this: That if she has Dominion status—and she has it—her Government must be treated with the same regard and her representations must receive the same consideration as would be the case were we dealing with any of the Governments of the long-established Dominions. Your Lordships will agree that were inimical forces to be organised against Canada or Australia here in the heart of the Empire, did men congregate here for the purpose of plotting against their Governments, were arms being collected here to be used for the destruction of their civilisation, it is inconceivable that the Government of this country could stand idly by and allow such activities to proceed.
The proximity of Ireland greatly aggravates the evil that can be wrought against her from these shores, and if such active hostilities were allowed to go unchecked, if full latitude were given to disaffected persons to carry on active warfare under the protection of the British law, such nefarious practices would he stimulated. Conspirators when hard pressed in Ireland would merely have to cross the channel and shift their domicile in order to renew their malpractices in perfect security. That would mean that this country would become a sanctuary for evil doers, and a state of things would arise subversive of our own peace and destructive of all hope of the establishment of stable, peaceful conditions in the Free State of Ireland.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, I am sure we have all listened with great interest to the statement made by the noble Viscount, but I think he will realise that he has not really answered the questions which were asked by the noble Earl nor the arguments by which those questions were supported. I am bound to say that the last statement which was made by the noble Viscount filled me with alarm. He seems to contemplate that the system of law under which, and under which alone, these arrests are justified is going to form a permanent part of the Constitution of this country. I can only say that I believe the people of this 845 country would almost unanimously repudiate such a proposition. I know that in these times our old liberties and charters are often looked upon rather lightly, but the rights of a roan in this country not to he arrested on suspicion, not to be imprisoned without trial, and not to be punished without sentence, are valuable rights which, I think, ought not to be ignored as they have been wholly ignored in the speech of the noble Viscount.
After all, if his case is right, and if the authorities here knew that people were organising here and plotting nefariously against the well-being of a friendly part of our Dominions, their remedy was clear—to bring them to trial. Witnesses are not afraid to speak in an English court and English Judges are not afraid of passing sentence. Why were they not tried here if the case against them is so clear as the noble Viscount makes out? If the case against them is so clear, the danger of this procedure becomes manifest. If you arrest upon suspicion your suspicions may be ill-founded and you may be arresting innocent men who have no chance whatever of any redress. I am bound to say that to tell a man who has not committed an offence that he has been arrested because he is suspected by somebody, he does not know by whom, of having done something, he does not know what, and that he is permitted to go and make a case before an Advisory Tribunal, is to substitute for the law of this country something which, unless the feeling of the people has considerably changed, I do not think they will accept for a moment.
When I have said that, I am not at all prepared to say that there may not be circumstances connected with this particular event which may have afforded some authority and warrant for what was done. All I say is that they have not been put forward by the noble Viscount, and when this matter is raised, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, for the first time in this House, I cannot help wishing that it could have been found possible to make a defence which was less inconsistent with the constitutional privileges which some of those on this side of the House at any rate value very highly.
My Lords, I cannot agree that what the noble Viscount has said is in any case an answer to my 846 questions. He said that this matter had been discussed ad nauseam, and he gave us what appeared to be a mere piece of rhetoric. My questions have not been dealt with, and in the circumstances I shall be compelled to place them on the Paper again. In that case, I will give them a more specific form in order that the noble Viscount may know what they are.
§ THE LORD CEANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, may I say one word in reference to this matter? As your Lordships know, and have been reminded to-day, this whole matter is now being discussed in the Courts. An appeal was taken to the Court of Appeal in England, and was argued yesterday, and, I think, further argued to-day. In that condition of things it would he most improper for me, and, indeed, impossible for me or any member of the Government, to discuss the points of law and the points connected with law which have been raised in this debate to-day. I venture to think that it would have been better had the debate been postponed: but, of course, the noble Earl was within his rights in bringing the matter forward to-day. In doing so he knew perfectly well that he brought it forward in such conditions that it was impossible for us to answer the whole ease he was expeeted to make, and did make.
I have only one other observation to make. I am entirely in accord with my noble and learned friend Lord Buckmaster in the general statement which he made. There is in this country a very deep attachment to our old privileges under which in ordinary conditions no man can be arrested on mere suspicion, or, if he is so 'arrested, the suspicion must as soon as possible be brought to the test of a judicial investigation. But I must remind your Lordships that the circumstances are very unusual; so unusual that so recently as 1920 Parliament passed this Statute which has been referred to in this debate. Parliament said that if the Secretary of-State had reason to suspect that things were going on in this country directed against law and order in Southern Ireland, this step might be taken. When I say that, I am not, of course, dealing with the legal point; I am putting it in general terms. My object is to show 847 that there were wholly unusual conditions which are dealt with by wholly unusual steps.
This measure will work itself out within a very short time. When that time comes—and the noble Earl himself says he expects it will not be long—when order becomes restored in Southern Ireland, then not only will these exceptional measures be no longer likely to be used, but the whole facts respecting these persons can be disclosed to the House. I intervened only for the purpose of saying that it really is impossible to give the noble Earl a more detailed answer than has been given to-day. I think the noble Viscount has shown pretty clearly that the effect of the measures has at least been to stop a dangerous conspiracy, and possibly to hasten the day when order will be restored in Ireland.