§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON had given Notice to move, That it is incumbent on His Majesty's Government to carry out the pledges as regards land purchase and compensation given both before and subsequent to the signing of the Irish Treaty in 1921. The noble Earl said: My Lords, the Motion which I have placed upon the Paper has been put down with no sort of hostility to His Majesty's Government, and I should like to make it clear at the outset that I am not in this Motion alluding to any pledges or reflecting upon any action on the part of the present Irish Government. On the contrary, I venture to hope that when your Lordships have heard the case which I can put forward, you may feel that it is open to us to assist both this Government 1216 and the Irish Government by insisting on the performance of liabilities which have been left to them as a legacy from their predecessors, the Coalition Government.
§ It is necessary to go back some little distance in order to explain how these liabilities have arisen. I will endeavour to be as brief as I can in these citations. It will be within the recollection of everybody that from the first time when the question of Home Rule was brought forward in this Parliament it was recognised by Mr. Gladstone, as it has since been recognised by all Parties who have been responsible, that the settlement of the land question was an integral portion of the settlement of Home Rule. In addition, it has been common ground, accepted not merely by the Parties in this country but also by the Nationalist Party in Ireland, that whatever is done there must be ample Parliamentary security for the minority of 350,000 in the South. To these pledges there was added another pledge in 1921. In that year it became apparent that owing to the quasi-civil war which had raged for some months and which continued to rage for a long time afterwards, it was absolutely necessary that the unoffending victims of violence by whomsoever committed should be compensated in view of the fact that they were not in any way responsible for that which had occurred. Of these pledges one has been violated beyond recall, and the others are in danger, so far as I can see, of being entirely abrogated; it is with regard to those pledges that I make an appeal to your Lordships' House this afternoon.
§ I feel some special responsibility in this matter. At intervals since 1917, and at times before that year, some of my friends and I were summoned and consulted by the Government of the day, and we have many interesting memoranda of those consultations. If I mention names it will be merely m order that your Lordships should not think that anything which I may say to-day rests on the testimony of a single individual. Those who were associated with me were Lord Desart and Lord Oranmore and Browne, who are here to-day, Archbishop Bernard, Provost of Trinity College, than whom I think no living Irishman has done more to try to promote a settlement, Mr. Andrew-Jameson, director of the Bank of Ireland, and, at one stage of the proceedings, two 1217 Members of Parliament for Irish constituencies, Sir Robert Woods, Member for Trinity College, and Sir Maurice Dockrell, Member for South Dublin. Those gentlemen are available to confirm what I bring before your Lordships to-night.
§ In the chronology of these pledges it is necessary, I am sorry to say, to go so far back as 1917. It will be remembered that in that year a Convention of Irishmen was summoned. We, the Southern Unionists, were urged to join that Convention. At first we demurred at taking part, but in the end we were assigned eight members out of 96 and were persuaded to go into the Convention. We did so, at the sacrifice of our conviction that government by this country was the best government for Ireland, because we felt that in the then state of both countries it was necessary for all Parties to attempt to find a reasonable settlement. We received a quid pro quo in the shape of a direct pledge, reiterated over and over again by the Government, that if this Convention came to any conclusion by a substantial majority that conclusion would be accepted without demur and should become law.
§ We, the minority, had no reason to complain of our treatment in that Convention. Ulster asked at the outset for forty members out of a little over one hundred in the Lower House of the new Parliament, and that was conceded. We, in our turn, asked that for the protection of minorities there should be a strong Senate with powers over finance, and that also was conceded. Matters came so near to a settlement that I well remember Mr. Redmond, when he had announced his willingness to make these concessions, approaching me to ascertain whether those with whom I acted would be willing to assist the Nationalist Party in governing Ireland under the new Constitution, in suppressing all lawlessness, breaches of the law and agitation, from whatever quarter they arose. When I told him that we were prepared to do so, he made to me the momentous announcement that in such a case he was prepared with all his Party to serve and assist in governing Ireland under Sir Edward Carson as Prime Minister.
§ Your Lordships will see, therefore, that the position in which we stood at that time was very different from that in 1218 which the minority in Ireland stands to-day. Those proposals were eventually adopted by the Convention, but they were not adopted by a majority which the Government considered adequate, largely owing to the unfortunate fact that among a section of the Convention there was a spirit of doubt as to whether the Government would give effect to them. Those who doubted were justified within a few weeks. Almost before the ink was dry on the Report of that Convention the Government initiated an entirely new policy. They declared the necessity of conscription in Ireland, a measure which we felt, if it were to be applied at all, should have been applied two years previously. They proposed to scrap the settlement arrived at by the Convention and appointed a Committee to reconsider the whole question of Home Rule ab initio. The consensus of Irish Parties was thrown to the winds, the wildest passions broke forth, conscription perished still-born, and the new Home Rule Bill was not introduced for some two years after that date.
§ Throughout these transactions, however, the Prime Minister over and over again, besides expressing himself with regard to our conduct of the affair in terms which modesty prevents my repeating, pledged himself up to the hilt that whatever kind of Home Rule were adopted, whatever action the Govern-decided to take, all and each of the safeguards which had been given to us voluntarily by 96 of our fellow countrymen should be contained in the Bill which came before Parliament. Yet when that measure appeared, two years afterwards, no safeguard of any sort or description appeared. There was no Senate at all, there was to be a single Chamber. At a time of difficulties and dissentions, the whole power was to be given to a single Chamber, and the Southern Unionists, who had borne the whole brunt of the battle, were cast aside like a squeezed orange. After the breaking of that pledge I need hardly remind your Lordships that we were not surprised to find that the Prime Minister had, in the last midnight session with Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith and their supporters, signed a Treaty in which there was no Constitution at all. It was, I venture to say, the fact of the loss of those serious pledges, which merely put into modern language what had been the convinced policy of all Parties for thirty 1219 years, that made it more incumbent than ever that the specific pledges given with regard to land and compensation should be absolutely observed.
Now I would like to point out to your Lordships what has taken place with regard to land. The question of land purchase is so simple that I really think I need hardly argue the pledges about it, but noble Lords who have made declarations will pardon me if I allude to them again. Mr. Lloyd George, on February 25, 1918, wrote as follows to the Irish Convention:—
If the unanimous report on Land Purchase commends itself to the Convention, the Government would be prepared to introduce in Parliament as part of the plan of settlement (and simultaneously with the Bill amending the Government of Ireland Act, 1911) a measure for the purpose of enabling Parliament to give effect to the recommendations of the Convention on the subject of Land Purchase.
§ The Report of the Committee of the Convention was published. Mr. Lloyd George had seen it and he pledged himself to introduce a Bill. The Government did not introduce simultaneously an amending Bill and it was never passed into law.
The Lord Chancellor at the time spoke even more specifically than the Prime Minister, three years later. On July 13, 1921, he said—
I find no difficulty at all in giving a general assent to the suggestion which was made by Lord Midleton. …
As part of the general scheme for dealing with the Irish situation, and for reaching an ultimate solution of that situation, whether it proceeds by the road of compromise, as all of us must hope, or whether we have to travel a longer and harder road until that solution is reached, this [land purchase] is one of the questions which must be dealt with, and dealt with on the lines which the Government have already indicated.
The noble and learned Viscount also said that it was clearly and most definitely the intention of the Government that "if a settlement were reached as the result of the discussions in which the Government is immediately about to engage, that settlement must include and dispose of the matters which have been raised by the noble Lord [Lord Oranmore and Browne] to-day." That was said in July, 1921. The negotiations with the Irish leaders were going on at the time, and a settlement was reached in December of the same year, and not
a word with regard to land purchase is to be found in that settlement. I have great confidence in the ability of my noble and learned friend, but I defy him to find a way out of that pledge.
§ The Bill was introduced in 1920. Mr. Lloyd George was asked, early in 1921, whether it would be re-introduced. He replied on March 16: "There is every intention of introducing this Bill after Easter." The Bill never was re-introduced. Every man who voted either for the 1920 Bill, which many of us deprecated, or the Treaty Bill, voted in the belief that the Government was pledged, and would carry out the pledge which they and every other Government had said was a necessary consequence of self-government. Allow me to point out what will be the position of landlords under the change. I do not wish to make any suggestion inimical to the Bill which is being passed in Ireland at this moment. There was no pledge given on that side of the water—I mean in the Treaty. They have introduced a Bill which they think to be fair. The effect of it is that rents, already reduced by thirty or thirty-five per cent. are to be bought at fifteen years purchase. Apart from that, the bonus, which formed part of the Bill introduced in 1920, is left out. I will only say, in passing, that that bonus would have cost this country from £6,000,000 to £10,000,000. That sum this country, at the time of the passing of the Act, was prepared to spend. That sum, if it is not now paid, this country will have repudiated.
§ These unfortunate men in Ireland are now forced to take whatever is given, because they have no Parliamentary power, and they are told they must reduce the arrears of rent by twenty-five per cent. Nearly three years ago, as part of the general campaign not against the landlords but against the Government, all tenants were ordered to pay no rent. Many of them came to the agents and said they were ready to pay, but were not allowed to do so. These men whose rent's were fixed when the value of money was incomparably lower than now, are to be relieved of twenty-five per cent. at a time when the banks in Ireland, which deal most largely with agricultural classes, have increased their deposits from between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 to between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000 at this moment.1221
§ The country is full of money, and the only people to go without are those who have been going without for the last three years. Let me give your Lordships one concrete case. I know a landlord in Southern Ireland who owns many thousands of acres of land. He has been on good terms with his tenants throughout. He has never had trouble with them, and his land has never been sold because the offer of his tenantry has always been some two years purchase less than that of their neighbours, they preferring an easy-going landlord to the unbending State. Three years ago the order went cut that ho should receive no rent. That man came the other day and informed the Committee what the circumstances were. He has not been able to pay interest on his mortgages, his family charges cannot be met, he has borrowed £12,000 from the bank in order to carry on and he can get no more. He is absolutely ruined, not because of anything that he has done or left undone, but because the whole country has been in a state of commotion.
§ I can hardly believe that your Lordships intend that any body of citizens with an absolutely unblemished record of service to their own country and loyalty to the Empire should be treated with such asperity. I know it is not the intention of this Government. I am certain that Mr. Cosgrave shares the views which I heard expressed when this was first discussed with Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith and a desire was expressed that the landlords and those who wished to serve Ireland should remain in the country, irrespective of what their past had been. But you have to consider that the greater part of the Dail is elected by the very men who are to gain by the transfer, while those whose case I have been putting are unrepresented. I believe that the late Government, even though it fell in the end into a morass of shattered pledges, did not do so with deliberation; I believe that they intended to make good what they said. But it was not done, and the result is the same. And if the result remains as it is at present it will be a scandal and a blemish on the good name of Britain.
§ One word about compensation. I think I am not mis-stating the position taken up by the late Government, and I do not think that at the outset it looks unreasonable. They said in effect: "Up 1222 to the truce, July 10, 1921, we make ourselves responsible for all damage which, with our 80,000 troops and our powerful Constabulary, we have been unable to prevent. But what has occurred since is different. To make ourselves responsible for the public buildings, belonging to themselves, which the contending parties in Ireland have destroyed, or for other damage, would be beyond the power of the people of this country." I do not quarrel with that definition, but I think it wants a little examination, and in order to give it that examination I shall have to ask your Lordships to consider for a moment why this truce was made, and how it was made.
§ I dare say it will be remembered, for I believe it was stated in this House, that what led to the truce first was the action of my noble friend now sitting on the Woolsack (Lord Donoughmore), in introducing on June 21, 1921, his celebrated Motion asking the Government to tell the Irish leaders what terms they intended to grant, and not keep them in the field under the assumption that certain things were going to be denied to them which the Government of the day had made up their minds to concede. What happened? Within two or three days His Majesty made his specific appeal in Ulster to the Irish people. The Government followed that appeal by addressing a letter to the Irish leaders asking for a conference. Mr. de Valera took no notice of the letter, but he invited certain Irishmen whom he considered representative for his purpose to meet him in Dublin. I happened to be one of them. When I received the telegram inviting me, I took it to the Prime Minister, who urged me strongly to go to Dublin, saying that this was the only answer the British Government had got. The six persons who conferred in Dublin were absolutely at one in urging upon Mr. de Valera that it would be useless for him to attend with his friends in London unless not merely a truce was signed, but the military authorities on both sides came together, and through liaison officers arranged to repress any breach of order by joint and instantaneous action.
§ What struck me very much at the moment, when every point which the British General asked was accepted, was that the Sinn Fein leaders were, if possible, more anxious than he was to have this joint action in order to bring the country to quiet during the period of 1223 negotiations. The Cabinet accepted that truce. They accepted the wording, and my charge against the Coalition Government is this: that it was they, and not the Irish leaders, who were responsible for the outrages and disturbances which followed during the negotiations. I make it as a direct assertion, and I challenge rebutting evidence, that, from the time that Mr. de Valera came over here until the negotiations were over, a period of five months, no action of any kind was taken to preserve law and order in Ireland; arrests were not made, marauders were not punished, plundering began after an interval, and nobody was made accountable. I think it was actually during that period that not only the petty sessions courts ceased to sit, but the Judges, for the first time since the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in spite of all the checkered periods through which Ireland had passed since that day, were unable to go on circuit.
§ That was not all. After that midnight surrender the Government of the day, with all those experienced statesmen who were engaged in this matter, did not hesitate to withdraw practically the whole of the troops, and to set to work to disband the Constabulary before the new Government could, by any power on earth, have obtained a sufficient force or sufficient organisation to control outrages in the country. I do not care whether the Irish representatives asked for the troops to be taken away or not. I may be told that that was their wish. Very well, if the Coalition felt that they were bound to respond to a wish which could have only one effect, then I think they are bound to make good the damage which arose from the extreme want of foresight on their part. As a matter of fact, between the time that the Treaty was signed and the time when it was made effective by Act of Parliament, eighty country houses were burnt in Ireland.
As I have given to your Lordships one instance of a man of large means let me tell you shortly what a man of small means wrote to me two days ago. He wrote to this effect:—
I belong to a certain county in Southern Ireland. I had built up a small business which brought me in £700 a year. I was one of seven people who were ordered during this very period to leave Ireland. The others suffered the extreme penalty of the law—the unwritten law. My house was
bombarded and fired into, and I was driven out. What is my position? I cannot return. My house is a shell. What I am given as compensation would be a sum possibly of £600 or £700, sufficient to repair the house for habitation; but my business, my occupation, is gone. I have been driven out of the country in which I have lived all my life.
Is that British justice? Is that a sufficient making good of all the pledges which we had from the Woolsack as to protection for men of that class? I shall be asked: What is it you claim exactly? I will put it in the plainest language. I claim, for the credit and the honour of this country, a bonus to be paid to those who are forced to sell land on the conditions which have been laid down in Dublin, a bonus which was due to be paid under the Bill tabled in 1920, which was part of the bargain, so to speak, on which Parliament passed the Home Rule Bill—that that bonus should be paid by this country and the pledge made good.
§ As regards compensation, I claim that those who, during the period of the truce and during the months before Ireland was formally handed over, suffered damage, should be put in a position no less favourable than those to whom this country bound themselves formally. The conditions were the same. I believe that you might extend that up to the recent laying down of arms. But whatever it be, do let this country keep good faith in the matter. After all, I do not suppose those who were responsible for the Treaty really believed that they were going to give greater prosperity or a better Government to Ireland than she enjoyed in the past; but they gave her the Treaty in order to heal a sore which had been open too long. They gave it with the consciousness that it would improve the strength of this country in dealing with the United States and our own Dominions. If that hope is, happily, made good, as I believe it will be, the gain to this country will be incalculable, far beyond any sum you can lay down in money. In any case, if an emergency should arise, that gain will be counted, not by tens of millions, but by hundreds of millions. What are we to put against it? A demand that, whether it be £20,000,000 or £25,000,000, this Government should make an issue of bonds conscious that they may lose by that issue one million sterling a year. I ask your Lordships: What is one million sterling 1225 a year after all that we have spent and all that has been given up? I do not ask this lightly. In all these discussions I have never asked this House to vote one farthing for the relief of Ireland. But I now ask this House to vote it to redeem the honour and credit of this country, and to prevent the condition of those Irishmen who have been driven out of the South from being a standing reproach to the Parliament and people of this country.
§ Moved, That it is incumbent on His Majesty's Government to carry out the pledges as regards land purchase and compensation given both before and subsequent to the signing of the Irish Treaty in 1921.—(The Earl of Midleton.)
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, after what has been said, and so well said, by my noble friend Lord Midleton, there would seem to be little that one could put forward in urging the claims of the Southern Irish loyalists. But, as one who has taken some part in the negotiations of the last few years I might, perhaps, be permitted to say a very few words. It is not the first occasion on which I have troubled your Lordships with speeches on this subject. I have always put forward a claim that in any settlement of the Irish question ample safeguards should be provided for Southern loyalists, and I have been able to quote the pledges which have been made by His Majesty's Ministers on this subject. To-day, I must take up a different line of argument. For good or for ill, this Imperial Parliament has parted with all control over the lives, the fortunes and the destinies of 350,000 loyal subjects of His Majesty in the South of Ireland, and I ask that if, through the laches of those who were then His Majesty's Ministers, those people have suffered loss, or if, owing to the failure of these men to carry out their pledges, they are in a worse position than that in which they would otherwise have been those losses should be made good.
My words will be very few because at the present time in Ireland silence is golden and speech is, perhaps, even less than silvern. But I should like to make your Lordships feel how difficult has been the position of loyalists during the last eighteen months. One by one every symbol that we valued and which attached us to the past has vanished. 1226 Not only do we no longer see the head of our Sovereign on the postage stamps, but the familiar heading on official correspondence, "On His Majesty's Service," is obliterated with two large lines. In the Courts of Law jurors no longer swear to do justice between our Sovereign Lord the King and the defendant, but between Saorstát Eireann and the defendant. While in all the other Dominions of His Majesty Acts of Parliament begin: "Be it enacted by the King's Most Excellent Majesty by and with the consent of the Senate and Commons;" in Southern Ireland we have: "Be it enacted by the authority of the Oireachtas of Saorstát Eireann."
I could quote many other instances. It may be said that these are only sentimental grievances. I mention them because they show how difficult it has been for the Free State Government to carry out the pledges which were made by the late Mr. Arthur Griffith in the letter which he wrote after the Treaty had been signed, a letter which, small comfort as it gave us, was at any rate the only Magna Charta which Irish Unionists had to show that our positions and our prejudices would be respected and that we should have full representation in both Houses of the Irish Parliament. I hope your Lordships will not think that I am making an attack on the Free State Government. On the contrary, I am sure they are doing their very best to restore law and order in the country. They have great difficulties to face, and every Irishman ought to support them in their task. If it is true that a good man struggling with adversity is a sight that makes the gods weep, I think that at the present moment rivers of tears must be overflowing the streets of Olympus.
There are still more practical subjects for which I wish to ask for the sympathy of the House; there are serious losses which have been sustained by the Unionists. I remember meeting, on the day after the Treaty was signed, a very representative Irishman who is known to many of your Lordships, and I asked him what he thought of it. His reply was characteristic. He said: "I have always wondered what the Germans felt on Armistice day: now I know. It is a disastrous Treaty but, after all, it means peace." I think many of us hoped that this was the case. We were not 1227 led away by the Celtic ebullitions of Mr. Lloyd George, who announced that the Irish people, as the result of the Treaty, would be overflowing with passionate loyalty to the King and the Empire; but we did trust that, in response to this extraordinary surrender on the part of Great Britain, a spark had been kindled which we Unionists would be able to fan into a flame to revive once more the loyalty of Irishmen to their King, and their pride in becoming a Dominion of the greatest Empire in the world.
But we all know that within a few days this hope died away. A large part of the Irish people, instead of accepting the Treaty, looked upon it as a new tribute which had been exacted by them from the hated Saxon. For several weeks the Treaty hung in the balance, and even when it was carried it was carried only by an extremely small majority. His Majesty's Government at that time naturally thought they ought to do their best to support the pro-Treaty Party and—this has been mentioned by my noble friend, Lord Midleton—their method of doing so was to deprive the country of all the Imperial Forces of the Crown and to disband the Royal Irish Constabulary. I think a more callous disregard of our duty to protect the lives and properties of the subjects of the King has never been known.
Ireland is not the only country which has been granted a new Constitution since the war. I think I have previously mentioned in this House that there were at least two other cases. There were the cases of Schleswig-Holstein and Silesia. In the case of each of those countries were the troops withdrawn? On the contrary, the Allies sent more of their forces into those countries during the period when the plebiscite was to be taken in order that law and order should be established during that period. They continued those troops there until the new authority had been set up, and had had time to constitute a force to take the place of those which were to be taken away. Of course, the natural consequences happened from the withdrawal of the troops in Ireland. The Free State, or Provisional Government, were not to blame. They had no force with which to cope with disorder. As a consequence men were murdered, others were kidnapped, 1228 country houses were burned, and every day we read of further horrors. Surely for this we must account His Majesty's late Government responsible, and surely the losses which were sustained by Unionists during this period ought to be recompensed.
Let me turn to another subject, that of land purchase, which has also been dealt with by Lord Midleton. I think he pointed out to your Lordships that from the very earliest time when Home Rule was introduced it was accompanied by a scheme for land purchase. In 1886, when Mr. Gladstone introduced his Home Rule Bill, he saw that it would not be safe to entrust the new authority which he set up in Ireland with the settlement of the Irish land question, and that even if they had the will to deal fairly with landlords they would not have the power. The Bill of 1886, therefore, was accompanied by another Bill to buy out the landlords of Ireland, at a cost to this country of no less than £200,000,000. I am not going through the whole course of Irish land legislation from that period, but your Lordships will remember that when the late Government introduced the Home Rule Bill of 1920 they came to a similar conclusion, and with that Bill they introduced in the House of Commons, and passed simultaneously with it, a Land Bill based on the recommendations of an Irish Convention. This was to provide a final settlement of the Irish land question.
As we know, an Irish Land Bill is now before the Irish Parliament. It is probably the best which an Irish Government could produce, but it certainly falls very far short, with regard to the terms and the number of years' purchase, and also in the fact that no bonu6 is provided, of the Land Bill which was introduced in the House of Commons in 1920. We must recognise that the Irish Government have great difficulties in the matter. They have to get their Bill through Dail Eireann, where there is a large representation of tenants and no representation of landlords. Not only that, but they have to consider the effect of that Bill, when passed, on the country. Within a very few months, perhaps within a few weeks, they will have again to seek the suffrages of their constituents, and those constituents have been increased to an enormous extent, for now every boy 1229 and every girl of twenty-one has a vote for the Irish Parliament. If this is the case, surely it makes it more incumbent on His Majesty's Government to do their utmost to make good the losses which would not have been suffered by Irish loyalists if Ministers in the late Government had only fulfilled their solemn pledges.
We know that the finances of this country call for the strictest economy, but the sum required is comparatively small, and it is a debt of honour which surely calls for its discharge even more urgently than if it could be enforced in a, Court of Law. It is difficult to say exactly what sum would be required to carry out this pledge, but it is not such a very large one. It was calculated in 1920, when the Bill was introduced, that a sum of a little over £7,000 a year, payable for sixty-two years, would be sufficient to pay for the bonus on a £1,000,000 purchase for the purpose of expropriating the landlords. I do not know what amount of land the Free State propose to purchase, tenanted or untenanted, but if we take it that as large a sum as £50,000,000 would be required, I find that the sum which would have to be paid in bonus by this country would amount to £393,000 a year for sixty-two years—surely not a very large sum to pay in order to redeem the pledge made. The cause of slavery was never popular in this country, and yet when slavery was abolished no less than £20,000,000 was found to compensate those who were deprived of their slaves. Surely the landowners of Ireland are more deserving of your Lordships' sympathy than the slave-owners of the West Indies.
We loyalists of Southern Ireland have upheld your flag for nearly eight centuries against those who wished to tear it down. At last it has been furled and replaced by another, but this is your fault and not ours. It was our wish to make Ireland the brightest gem in the British Crown, and to add to its lustre. We have furnished you with some of your ablest generals, some of your most capable statesmen, and some of your wisest lawgivers. We now see Ireland practically a Republic. Personally, I cannot see why she should not be allowed to call herself so in name as she is in fact. Everywhere in the Free State, to-day, you see country houses in ruins. When they are not in 1230 ruins they are closed, and their owners are refugees in this country. I am sure many of your Lordships meet them every day, and the noble Duke, who is Chairman of the Committee which attends to their wants, can tell you how great in many cases is their need. They appeal to you for help—help for misfortunes which have come to them not through their own fault but because, in the silent watches of the night, your statesmen suddenly determined to reverse what had been the policy of this country for centuries. The honour of this country is at stake. Let it not be said that for a paltry sum you basely surrendered to loss, poverty and want those who, through good report and evil report, have been the truest friends of this country and the most loyal subjects of the King.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
My Lords, I have before ventured to remark that it is not altogether a good thing that questions of Irish relations with Great Britain and the Empire should be exclusively treated of in this House by noble Lords who come from Ireland, or have a personal connection with it. Although it is in my opinion desirable that what I have to say should be said, I shall have little to add to the cogent statements made by the two noble Lords who have already addressed the House. I do not pretend to add anything to the information they have given; nor can I speak with anything but purely second-hand knowledge. That, however, is not my fault. In face of the sinister silence of the Press, or a great part of it, for many months, and the equally inexplicable silence of Governments during that time, I do not see that anybody who has not held an official position can expect to get anything like correct information. But there remains, nevertheless, after making the largest possible discounts, a most formidable residuum of what cannot be less than the truth, and one feels that the honour of this country is engaged up to the point at which a danger to its honour may some day become a still greater danger to its safety.
It was always easy to pose as having solved the Irish question, provided you were ready to shirk your responsibilities and give up conditions and safeguards which were always thought vital by those who had tried, before you tried, to find 1231 the way to give Home Rule. Just think of the reservations and the deductions, not only from full sovereignty, but from Dominion status and the most ordinary autonomy, always found in the two Gladstone schemes and in the later and more fully thought out scheme of Mr. Asquith—deductions and reservations concerning the power to make peace and war, the power to establish a religious ascendancy, the power over finance and taxation, over land legislation, and even over those provisions for the preservation of public order, which are regarded in this country as purely municipal matters which took effect in most substantial reservations respecting the control over the Irish police on the part of any new Government to be established. All these reservations were put into former Bills for a very simple reason—because their authors, in the interests of the safety of Great Britain and the Empire, were unwilling to risk the separation of Ireland from England: because the authors of those measures were determined to protect minorities and ashamed to desert loyalists.
I may remind your Lordships that up to the very day of the, signing of the Treaty in December, 1921, even the most advanced Radical politicians, including Mr. Arthur Henderson and other leaders of the Labour Party, were still to be found declaring that all the securities I have mentioned for the protection of minorities and the safety of Great Britain and the Empire should be strictly exacted in any scheme which was to be carried into effect. We know now that all the securities which Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues demanded, which Mr. Asquith and the Labour Leaders demanded up to the last, the late Government were willing to abandon; they were willing to face the loss and all subsequent discredit. All securities and reservations were thrown to the winds, and it may be that as a result some persons think you have purchased Irish good will. Irish contentment. I confess, seems to be more than doubtful and at some moments to be further off than ever. I do not say in intention, but in fact the policy chosen and the course taken had the effect of unchaining something which you must go to a foreign language to describe—a jacquerie—the like of which 1232 we can only find in the history and doings of the most backward races in the most barbarous times.
I recall these things because the question that any Government has to ask itself is: Upon whom did all this suffering ensue? Upon whom did all this vengeance fall? It was not upon ourselves; it was entirely upon others. It was on the people whom we were specially bound to protect against losses and to deliver from vengeance. But these results did not prevent claims being made on the platform and in this House that what had been done was one of the finest things ever done by the British Parliament. The late Prime Minister, on the platform, said, in effect, that there was nothing of which he was prouder than he was of the Irish Treaty, and the noble and learned Viscount who held the office of Lord Chancellor in a previous Government—I mean Lord Haldane—although he did not claim credit for himself or for his Party, said it was one of the finest things ever done by the British Parliament. What I suggest was shocking in both these declarations is that they were unaccompanied by one word of sympathy for all the vicarious suffering by which all these advantages had been bought.
The noble Earl, who introduced the Motion, has referred to the fact that there was a supposable gain to the policy of the Treaty. It must have been supposed that you would gain at least the neutrality of the United States of America and that you would go far to gain a greater measure of good will on the part of the great self-governing Dominions. My point is that if these were gains and assets and advantages of the highest capital value to you—I think the noble Earl very seriously underrated their possible benefit to you, their pecuniary benefit, in an Armageddon, which you cannot say will never come—it is by others that the price has been paid, and I suggest (and I only rose to make this general suggestion), that in dealing with these problems it behoves the present Government, who after all have to administer an inherited policy, to take a broad and generous view of the capital liability which at least is a moderate counterpoise to the capital assets you profess to have gained.
I know only of two answers to this point of view. One is that claims may possibly be overstated, and perhaps they 1233 have been. Well, test the claims as much as yon like, but when you have tested them and fixed the minimum to be paid, at least do not let your Departmental officers, by delay, impose what is nothing else but a further discount on the total and leave these miserable persons with still more suffering and a deep sense of injustice which will never leave them. The second answer is that we cannot afford to be generous in these hard times. I doubt whether you can afford to be anything else but generous; whether your safety does not demand that you should be generous; whether it is not unsafe to be ungenerous. I suggest that you should think of the coming day when not only will you be glad of the material aids and the powerful neutralities which you profess to have gained, but when also you will not wish it to be said that Britain abandoned her friends and, at the cost of their sufferings and in the time of their despair, thought only of her own advantage.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
My Lords, the somewhat harsh animadversions at the expense of the late Government which have proceeded from the noble Earl who moved and the noble Lord who seconded this Motion stand upon a somewhat different footing from the observations to which the House has just listened. Without incivility to the noble Lord who has just spoken, and to whose observations I shall ask leave hereafter to recur. I shall hope to show that his outlook upon the general question is alike hopeless and futile. If I understood aright his contribution to the debate, he has disapproved entirely, and still disapproves, in the light of all that has since happened, of the settlement that was made and I shall not sit down without making some observations upon an attitude which I think is becoming increasingly rare both in this House and outside this House.
The position assumed by the two noble Lords from Southern Ireland who have introduced this subject is a distinguishable one and it is at the same time—if I may say so without giving offence to them—a characteristic one. It has always been their attitude towards the question of a settle-merit with the forces which were increasingly gaining the upper hand in Southern Ireland at one moment to desire a settlement, or at least to use 1234 language which was patient of the construction that it was the duty of the then Government to see if they could not reach a settlement, and then, at the moment they found that their admonitions were bearing fruit, it has been their habit to turn round and criticise that which has been done and those who have done it.
The noble Earl who introduced this Motion carried his historical researches so far back as the days of the Irish Convention. Whenever the noble Earl speaks, as he very frequently does, upon the subject of the Irish Convention, he reminds me of a husband very ambitious of an heir who has been encouraged by his wife to suppose that his desires are likely to be gratified. He goes to his club and mentions it to a few people there, and then discovers a few weeks afterwards that there has been some slight physiological confusion, so that he afterwards finds himself in a state of some what humiliating embarrassment. The noble Earl is never tired of talking to us about the Convention as if some blame attached to the Government of that day because the Convention did, in fact, fail. The noble Earl knows, or ought to know, just as well as I do why the Convention failed. The Convention failed because the only two vital forces in Ireland never would support it, never did support it, and could never he persuaded to support it.
What were those vital forces? The one vital force was that fierce animosity—in many of its aspects a completely justifiable animosity—which prevailed in the North of Ireland against all that had taken place for so many years in the South. In other words Ulster was never persuaded to support the Convention and that which the noble Earl says was so nearly agreed by the Convention. What is the second body which not only was never reconciled to this settlement but which actually never consented to attempt a settlement at all? It was the Sinn Fein body, which the whole of the culminating demonstration of the last five years has shown to be the only body in the South of Ireland that was even worthy of being considered before one talked of a settlement. But in appraising the grievances which the noble Earl has brought forward we must carry our minds to a later period.
I am left in some confusion as to what is the attitude of the two noble Lords 1235 who have introduced this subject to the House. Lord Midleton spoke of the midnight surrender. Lord Oranmore and Browne, not, I think, in particularly polite language, spoke of the laches of these men, of the failure of these men to redeem their pledges—"these men" being the late Government. I could have desired that my noble friend Lord Curzon, who could have spoken with much more authority than I for the late Government, though perhaps not with such intimate knowledge of the Irish question—
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
That is conceded, and I shall perhaps develop that thesis a little further in a moment. The noble Marquess could have dealt with the general censure that is sought to be conveyed by disparaging observations of this kind, but the noble Earl who moved has spoken of my own speeches in your Lordships' House, when, for four years, through no choice of my own, the task was given to me of replying to your Lordships on behalf of the Irish Government. I take this, the earliest, opportunity of saying that I have nothing to withdraw of all the things which, for four years, I said in this House, I have nothing to explain and I have nothing for which to apologise; and before I sit down I hope to make good every one of those statements. I shall certainly attempt to be more explicit than either of the noble Lords who introduced this subject, because at this moment, having listened to both those noble Lords, I am utterly at a loss to be able to inform your Lord ships definitely whether they think that it was right or wrong to make a settlement at all. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have arrived at a clearer conclusion upon a not unimportant topic after listening to the speeches that have been made.
I suspect, without being quite sure, that both Lord Midleton and Lord Oranmore and Browne, if they had made their attitude more plain, would have said something like this: "We do not disagree with the step that was taken by the late Government in making this Treaty; we think that in the difficulties in which they found themselves the advice which they gave to their country was on the whole well-founded; but we think that they have wholly failed to 1236 make sufficient financial arrangements and to secure adequate protection for the minority in the South of Ireland." If that were the case made by the noble Earl, I should make some far more limited observations than I feel it my duty, since my consistency has been impeached, to make to-day. I would merely beg very respectfully to say to those noble Lords that if it is their case that they are glad a settlement was made, that they would not themselves at this moment if they could—and this is the test—turn the fingers of the clock back and produce a situation such as existed a week before the truce; if that be their true attitude—and I cannot doubt that it is their true attitude—then give me leave to say that it would be more helpful to those of us who took great risks at the time, it would be more helpful to those in the present Government who have inherited our obligations and are loyally attempting to carry them out, it would be more helpful and this is not the least important point for consideration—to those men in Ireland who, in a situation, I say plainly, of greater difficulty than an undisciplined Government, a body of mea wholly untrained, have ever undertaken—it would have been more helpful to all if the noble Lords had said plainly that they approved of the settlement, that they appreciated the efforts that had been made to carry that settlement out and that their good will and their good word would not be lacking in the aid of men who greatly need both the good word and the good will of all well-disposed citizens in this country.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
I have waited for the end of the noble Earl's sentence before interposing. He has attributed various opinions to me. I cannot, of course, speak for my noble friends, but our case, as I apprehend it, is that whatever was necessary in December, 1921, became necessary because the Government mismanaged the negotiations from first to last; but that nothing that they thought it necessary to concede at the end justifies them, in our opinion, in ignoring every pledge which they had given to the Southern minority.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
It is very easy for the noble Earl to say that the Government mismanaged all negotiations up to the time of those which were 1237 ultimately successful in 1921. Nothing is easier than for any person who has not had the responsibility placed upon him of undertaking difficult negotiations to disparage those who unfortunately had that responsibility, and to say that they mismanaged the opportunities which existed before the ultimate settlement was made. But give me leave to point out—and the noble Earl has not even now told us whether he does agree that the settlement was necessary at the time it was made—that I am not going to enter into disputation with the noble Earl whether or not before a settlement was made there were failures. What profit would follow from such a disputation? We have many others upon our hands, present and future, and having listened to the interruption of the noble Earl I am not able to see even now whether it is his position that on that fateful night, when what he called the surrender took place, it was necessary and right that a settlement should be made. I gather, however, that the view of the noble Earl is that had such sufficient and generous financial provision been made, he would not have withheld his authority from the view that the Government were right on that fateful night in affixing their names to that document.
Now, the noble Earl has very directly impugned my consistency in this matter. And he has stated that the Government, of which I was a member, failed to carry out the pledge given by me on their behalf, in the days when I was answerable in debate in this House for the affairs of Ireland. I have two preliminary observations to make in reply to a charge which, if established, undoubtedly would be a serious one. In the first place it is proper to make it quite plain that I do not agree in any way with the reflection made, and I shall attempt in detail to reply to the case he has put forward. My second observation is that our successors have already been in office for a period of nearly nine months. Some of those successors were responsible for the Irish Treaty. Some of them when they undertook the responsibility of government were not so responsible. The noble Duke, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, was not so responsible, but he brought to the discharge of his great office, with all the responsibilities of replying for Ireland, a mind experienced 1238 indeed and recently trained in the study and administration of self-government in the Dominion of Canada. But he had no responsibility, and therefore whether or not he would have taken the responsibility which we took I am not even entitled to ask, and I do not presume to speculate; but I say, as an observer, and noticing the course which he has adopted since he inherited this responsibility, that no man could have more loyally striven to make that settlement a success than the noble Duke has striven since he took office.
I observe that that has the general assent of your Lordships, but there is an important inference which requires to be founded upon that assent. The Government have now had nine months in which to consider our failure to carry out our undertakings. For nine months they have had opportunity of making good our breach of a solemn undertaking, and yet I understood the noble Earl to preface his speech by saying that he had no reflection to make either upon the present Government or upon the Government of Southern Ireland. I hope that, with due regard to the financial convenience of this country, this Government will make the most generous provision for the claims of the landlords in the South of Ireland, and I have said so over and over again, with all the explicitness that any responsible Minister could use. Circumstances are now different in Ireland from what they were nine or ten months ago, and the proof and indisputable evidence of good faith on the part of those who are responsible for the Government in Southern Ireland has created a different atmosphere, which makes it possible more confidently to predict the future.
What pledge is it that the noble Earl says I, as a specific pledge-maker, have broken? He says that two days after the truce in Ireland was proclaimed I stated that as part of the general scheme for dealing with the Irish situation, land purchase was one question which must be dealt with upon the lines which the Government had already indicated, and that I went on to say that if a settlement was reached as a result of the discussions in which the Government were about to engage, that settlement must include and dispose of the question of land purchase. I said then that it was the then commitment of the Government, two days after the truce, that land legislation 1239 should be carried through this House, and that it should be made, if possible, part of the settlement—be this observed—upon the lines of the legislation at that time before Parliament. The expression "upon the lines of the legislation" though not what lawyers call a term of art, is a term nevertheless very generally understood, and it means, if fairly construed, that the general quality and feature of the legislation so introduced will be derived from the legislation in relation to which you are introducing it.
What happened when the settlement was made? The noble Earl has said with perfect truth that the influence he possessed, the representative character that he enjoyed, led on more than one-important occasion to his being consulted by those in whose hands contemporary responsibility lay. The noble Earl, I should suspect, as well as we, soon realised, when week followed week and month succeeded month and still no settlement was attained by these conversations, of which his with Mr. de Valera had been the first and had prepared the way—the noble Earl knew almost as well as we knew how slender was the margin which from day to day divided success from failure. We realised at a certain stage in those negotiations that if we had turned round and said to them: "You must promise as a term of settlement, to reintroduce not a Bill upon the lines of the Bill of 1920 but the Bill with its verbal inspiration." which I gather is what the noble Earl wishes, there is not a single man present at those negotiations who does not know that at that moment the Irish negotiators would have left the room, not necessarily because they did not recognise the reasonableness and necessity of dealing with this question upon the lines on which they have now dealt with it, but because they knew, and we knew, that a settlement in the then condition of Ireland which embodied any such proposal as a condition precedent would not have had the slightest chance of acceptance by any considerable section of their supporters.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
I will tell the noble Earl with the greatest explicitness. It was discussed repeatedly, 1240 and we received from the principal Irish negotiators the assurance that they would do their best, and that they had no doubt that it would prove to be in their power to introduce legislation upon the lines of the former Bill. And it is a claim which I shall make before I sit down that they have carried out to the letter the verbal assurance which they then gave that they would not fail to discharge the duty which they did not seriously dispute was theirs.
This was the position after the Treaty. We were pledged to dispose of the question of land purchase. In order to obtain the signature of that Treaty—a signature which, I think, the noble Earl was as desirous to obtain as we were—it was necessary that we should put it out of our power ourselves to introduce this legislation. It was necessary that we should look to the Irish Government to introduce a Bill to complete land purchase. And we found, as was to be expected by any one who understood conditions in Ireland, that they were at least as convinced of the necessity of dealing with and of ending this question as we were ourselves. They have introduced and passed through the Dail a Bill which, in its framework, is based largely upon the Bill of 1920, but which. I agree, differs from that Bill in some important particulars. But the Bill of 1920, which the noble Earl appears to think possesses some verbal sanctity, was a Bill which depended upon the hypothesis that agreement was reached by the Convention. No such agreement ever was reached. It depended in the second place, and was stated to depend in the second place, upon the agreement of the landlord and the tenant. And no one can claim that anybody was verbally bound until the conditions precedent, soon to prove themselves impossible of verbal repetition or attainment, were satisfied, the first condition being that there was agreement at the Convention, the second condition being that there was agreement between landlord and tenant.
What are the facts in relation to the present Irish Bill? The Free State Government brought landlords and tenants together. We know, because it has been published, that the meeting was dissolved because it was not possible to obtain an agreement. On such failure the proposals contained in the Irish Bill 1241 were brought forward, and it will repay your Lordships to study somewhat carefully the actual effect of this Rill, the passage of which through the Irish Parliament is, to-day, almost assured. The tenants will pay their arrears of rent, and they will pay the purchase annuities prescribed by the Bill. I for one believe that anyone who knows what the state of Ireland has been for the last four years will acclaim the passage of this Bill as not the least among the achievements of Mr. Cosgrave's Government, and as one of the most encouraging signs of the restoration of good rule and government in the Irish Free State. The noble Earl will, I think, not deny that this Bill is as favourable to Irish landowners as any Bill which any Irish Government could at this moment pass, or as any English Government could have carried through Parliament in this country from the year 1916 onwards.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
I entirely deny that. I challenge the statement in toto. The Bill to which the noble Earl alludes includes a bonus, on the average, of 16 per cent. to make up to the landlord something of the loss which he was incurring. That Bill was infinitely more favourable than the one for which the Irish Government is responsible.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
I am approaching the discussion of that very-point. I have the misfortune to disagree with the noble Earl, and I propose to state the reasons which have led me to differ from him upon this point. There are certain points in which the noble Earl's comparison of the Bill with that of 1920 is, it seems to me, open to correction. The important matter is not really whether the Bill compares with the Bill of 1920. The fundamentally important matter is whether or not this Bill is, as between the parties, an equitable Bill. You cannot, of course, state an average price, such as was fixed by the Bill of 1920, because that Bill fixed a different standard price for each county. The amount of unpurchased land varies very greatly from county to county. If we take the minimum and the maximum prices payable under the 1920 Bill we shall find that the price, including bonus, payable under the present Bill, in the case of first and second term rents, is greater than the minimum price including bonus, payable under the Bill of 1920.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
The noble and learned Earl will not forget that the 1920 Bill provided for payment in 5 per cent. bonds, which were English Government bonds; the present Bill provides for payment in 4½ per cent. bonds, which are Irish bonds.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
The impetuosity of noble Lords makes it necessary for me continually to explain the point to which I am coming next but one. Let me proceed to deal with the point which was engaging my attention. The noble Earl, Lord Midleton, has omitted from his calculation the fact that under the present Bill the costs of sale are payable by the State—a provision which adds 2 per cent. at least to the bonus of 10 per cent. payable on the purchase price. And further, provision is made for the payment of arrears of rent, not by the tenant but by the Land Commission. That provision is very beneficial to the landlord. No such provision was contained in the 1920 Bill, and I doubt whether, if that Bill had passed into law, the landlord would ever have received one penny of the arrears which even then had accrued. Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Oranmore and Browne, has assumed that if the Bill of 1920 were now to be passed it would still be possible to base it upon stock issued at 5 per cent. I, for one, cannot believe that anyone would, at the present period, and in the existing circumstances, expect a Government to issue stock to finance such a Bill as this at any rate higher than that proposed in the Bill now before the Irish Free State Parliament, which is 4i per cent. I do not envy the Minister who, being in charge, not of an Irish Bill, but of an English Bill, dealing with this Irish subject, came to the British House of Commons and proposed to it. in the financial conditions which rule to-day and the present state of the market, to issue this stock at 5 per cent.
If we take into account these various considerations we shall find that the real difference, expressed as a percentage of future income, between the 1920 Bill and the present Bill, is not anything like the 20 per cent. which was indicated by the noble Earl, but varies, in the case of first and second term rents, from a maximum of 16 per cent. to a minimum of 16 per cent., and, in the case of third term rents, is 10.6 per cent. I say quite 1243 plainly that if you are able to procure the passage of a Bill which goes to this length, as a result of verbal understanding made with men who, in the whole of these negotiations, proved themselves, until they died in the cause which they had taken up, to be men of their word in the transaction—if you produce a result of this kind so closely comparable, by reasoned and irrefutable argument, to the proposals which were contained in the 1920 Bill, which was never verbally accepted, except in the conditions which I mentioned—if you produce this, I say plainly that you have obtained and obtained from the Irish Government themselves—which is worth far more than any legislation imposed upon them from without—a Bill which is upon the lines in which the noble Earl was very much interested at this time.
But your Lordships will be justly anxious to be informed of what the Irish landlord is going to get out of the Irish Bill and that is, indeed, the essence of the matter. Upon that must depend or must fall the assault which is made upon the late Government in this matter. Now, in effect, this Bill provides for the acquisition free of cost to the landowner of the landowner's interest at a price varying from fifteen to sixteen and a half years purchase of the gross rentals, and it gives the landowner a permanent and un-diminishable net income amounting to from 67½ per cent. to 73 per cent. of his present gross rentals. That statement cannot be controverted. The Irish landlords to-day, as a result of legislation passed through the Irish Dail, are to recover from 67 to 73 per cent. of their present gross rental. Now I should like to ask your Lordships to consider how many English landlords there are who would be glad to receive anything like 70 per cent. of their gross rental as a clear and unembarrassed income.
There is one further point mentioned to which I shall make reference. We have been asked, either by the noble Earl or by those who share his views, what reason there is to suppose that the 4½ per cent. land stock issued by the Free State Government will remain at anything like its face value. I say plainly here that I think the noble Earl and his friends are entitled to a reassurance from the Government upon this point, and had I still remained a member of the Government 1244 I should have urged upon my colleagues the reasonableness of this request. The Government of the Irish Free State may or may not—the noble Duke will, no doubt, tell us—have addressed representations to the Government upon this point. But it must be obvious to everyone that it is at least as important to the Free State Government as it is to the Government of this country to see that the stock should not fall. I think that it would be a very reasonable assurance on the part of the Government if some guarantee or some comfort of some kind were given to the noble Earl and his friends upon this point. I ought to add, in order that I may completely dispose of the case which is made against myself and my late colleagues, that this Bill, unlike previous Land Purchase Bills, provides for the payment of the superior interest and other charges in stock and not in cash; so that if the stock does fall below par there cannot happen that which has happened in the past—the wiping out of the difference between the purchase price and the charges thereon so that the vendor might be left with nothing or next to nothing. Under this Bill the vendor is sure of the full face value of the difference between the price of his property as ascertained by the Bill and the face value of the charges thereon.
Now, the second part of the case made by the noble Earl is one in which my own consistency is not so closely assailed. Indeed, I never varied in this matter of compensation and of generous treatment to those loyalists, either in the South or elsewhere who suffered as a consequence of the settlement that we made. I never allowed myself to be either influenced or deflected from the decision, once I took it, that this settlement ought to be made, by the fact that there was involved in that settlement suffering from which I myself was immune; because I took the view, and I frequently stated it argumentatively in this House, that in the long perspective of history the view would prevail that Ireland was going through a period of civil war fairly comparable, with all its consequences, actual and potential, to those recurrent periods in which this country had faced the dangers and the reality of civil disturbance. From that I drew, rightly or wrongly, the inference that individual 1245 consequences cannot be weighed in the balance and appraised as against the major and paramount necessity of the State. But while I am still prepared to argue on behalf of that conclusion, I never took the view that the suppression of individual interests ought not to be attended by compensation upon the most generous scale that could be afforded. The noble Karl is perfectly entitled to say that a few million pounds is not a very considerable sum if it appeases heart-burnings and disappointments in the minds of men who have been cur friends for many generations.
I understand that the Committee which was set up when I was a Minister for dealing with the cases in this country, is still carrying on its beneficent work. I greatly wish that its scope could be extended and the resources increased which have been placed at its disposal, because the noble Earl is fairly entitled to say that of all the men who suffered in the cause of the Empire and for a principle which we, at any rate, believed to be vital to. Imperial consolidation, no men have suffered as much as the loyalists in Southern Ireland have suffered since those unhappy days in which the American loyalists sorrowfully crossed the Canadian border. And, so far as financial considerations permit, I would reinforce the appeal which is made under this head of the case. Indeed, it is an appeal which I know, to the members of this Government, needs no reinforcement from me, for it is little likely that the noble Duke will take a view less generous than that which would have been taken by myself and my colleagues.
I come now to say a word, with your Lordships' permission, upon the last speech which was contributed to the debate, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stuart of Wortley. Now it is worth examining his standpoint with a little car because not only—and I say this with respect to the noble Lord—is it his own view but it is a view which is, apparently, still held and, if one can judge, sincerely held, by a considerable, though as I am persuaded a rapidly dwindling, body of persons in the country. The noble Lord, if I attached any coherent meaning to his purpose in addressing your Lordships, intended to establish some such proposition as this, that the whole settlement was wrong, that it involved—
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
The noble and learned Earl is entirely wrong. My position is much more simple. It is that he could have asked, that he ought to have asked, and that he did not ask for some kind of security for the loyalists.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
The noble Earl is one of those vigilant and strong negotiators who did not happen to be entrusted with the negotiations and, therefore, it is very easy for him to say that we could have obtained this settlement if we had asked for this term, that term, and the other term; whereas, if he has ever studied the matter at all he will know this at least perfectly well, that it was only at the last moment, it was only after compromise and counter-compromise and at two o'clock in the morning that we obtained the assent of all parties to that which was in fact signed. Does he really think that if we had had the advantage in those negotiations of his persuasive tongue and moderate outlook, we should have obtained that settlement which he says ought to have been attended by these various considerations? But if I am entitled to look upon him as a supporter of that settlement as it is, then I agree with the statement—and he was right to make it—that there was some other protection that could have been inserted. If that be the view of the noble, Lord I cannot ask him to accept my assurance; I can only ask your Lordships to draw inferences from the known facts. If your Lordships are prepared to conclude from what is known to the House of those facts that we made every effort to obtain larger terms, and only reached this conclusion when we had obtained all that was attainable, then you will agree that the criticism of the noble Lord ceases to possess either relevance or great importance.
There does exist in the country—and it is reflected in this House but it is a dwindling body of opinion—a considerable number of people who still think that the whole settlement was a ghastly surrender and error and a piece of poltroonery. I know that view is held. Let me say this plainly. Nothing was to me more patent than the fact that in these discussions I had the misfortune to seem to become personally embroiled with one of my oldest and best political friends—I mean Lord Carson. I have 1247 never failed to do the fullest justice to his view, or to make the fullest allowance for the situation in which he found himself. He was one who had devoted all his life, all his great powers, and his health to fighting this very thing, and only a year before he had been encouraged by the Government, and by myself among others, to suppose that this long and bitter quarrel was at last carried to a definite conclusion, and it was in that belief that he laid aside his sword and his shield and accepted judicial office in this House. I always felt, whenever I listened to Lord Carson speaking afterwards, that here was a man speaking with passionate sincerity, who felt that he had been vilely used, and that those for whom he spoke had been vilely used, too.
It was my misfortune that while I was able to appreciate his point of view, I nevertheless had had the responsibility imposed upon me, in one of the gravest crises in the history of the relationship between England and Ireland, of deciding what course was best. However many of one's friends it affronted, by whatever arguments it might be assailed, I had to determine which course was best, and that determination, so far as I was concerned, was at least honestly made. For, my Lords, it was a conclusion from which every consideration of self-interest would have repelled me. It was a consideration in which it was far more difficult to quarrel with one's friends than to seek and obtain the fugitive suffrages of one's opponents.
But I do not associate with Lord Carson the Southern Unionists. Their characteristic has always been one shared by many persons, that of getting the best out of both worlds. Lord Carson never coquetted with the evil thing. He did not have interviews with Mr. de Valera, he did not take part in reiterated discussions and counter-discussions with the emissaries of evil in this country and elsewhere. He said: "It is evil, and I will have nothing whatever to do with it." The Southern Unionists, on the other hand, took what I think was a wiser view and a longer view. They said: "Ireland after all is Ireland, and we have to spend our lives in it. As we have to spend our lives in Ireland, we must come to some accommodation with the men in whose 1248 hands the destiny of the country must rest."
May I be allowed in the last few sentences that I shall address to the House to point out what were the two competitive courses, and how the difference in the policy which was adopted by the late Government shines in these two reflected alternatives for every man of clear vision at this moment to see? What has happened? Ever since that instrument was signed you have had a desperate civil struggle prevailing in Ireland. The dimensions of that struggle may be measured by the fact that the Irish Free State Government, at its charge and not at our charge, has maintained an Army in the field of 50,000 men. The numbers of the troops by whom they have been opposed may be measured by the circumstance that there are to-day 11,000 prisoners in Irish gaols. Multiply that number by three—a moderate multiplication—and you will have a total of 33,000 Irish rebels in the field, not against any British power, who were even in the field after the Treaty was signed against the armed forces of the Free State. Add those to the 50,000 Free State troops and you get at least 80,000 men.
You must not imagine that the numbers required when' Irishmen are fighting Irishmen are a criterion of the number of troops that would have to be put in the field by the British Government fighting Irishmen. It is reasonable to assume that had that settlement not been made 100,000 men in Ireland would have resisted by force of arms the attempt of this country to impose the only system which was alternative to the settlement that was made. I venture to say that circumstance proves to demonstration how right the War Office were when they advised the Government, of which I was a member, that if we were to undertake this burden we must immediately raise as troops available for this purpose, and for this purpose alone, 200,000 men. Indeed, I think that calculation was a moderate one, if there were 100,000 men hiding when they chose in the mountains of Ireland, succoured by the support and sympathy of a population friendly to them and hostile to us. It must be obvious that the computation of 200,000 men asked for was therefore not excessive.
1249 One of your Lordships a moment ago said that this was a base betrayal. But who will stand up here and say that we ought to have faced that position of calling for an army of 200,000 men for Ireland—that whatever it cost we ought, to have appealed for the 200,000 men? Let me remind those who adopt that attitude that the nation was weary of war. The country, in the first place, would have said that it was wrong to do that, and, in the second place, that it was impossible. If you had appealed to this country for the money, if you had appealed to this country for volunteers for that purpose, Parliament would not have granted you the money, and the country would not have given you the volunteers. Those who take the view which I have indicated ought, I think, to have been prepared themselves to take the field in order to put down those who at that time were attacking the troops of this country in Ireland.
If you read the speeches made by the opponents of this settlement there is only one criticism that falls to be made upon it and that is this. They are all six months out of date. We have at this moment Mr. de Valera—a fugitive somewhere, no one quite knows where—admitting that this armed revolution has failed. Should not we think it a great martial result if, with our troops, we had put down this body of insurgents against the strength of this country—insurgents marshalled for the destruction of all forms of property? If we had done that ourselves, with our troops, should we not have thought it a great achievement? It has been done, as it ought to have been done, by Irishmen composing the Irish quarrel, by Irishmen putting down Irish violence and Irish crime, and it has been done without involving this country in a farthing of expenditure. Other signs of encouragement are multiplying. The tourist traffic, I am informed, is being gradually restored. Looting and theft are disappearing, and I noted with peculiar pleasure that a recorder, a few days ago, said that the juries in parts of Ireland which were previously disaffected were returning honest verdicts and verdicts in conformity with the law.
Only one risk lies in the way of the Irish Free State Government. Those who do not know it as I know it, and as the noble Duke knows it, may charge that 1250 Government with not being fully capable of coping with its responsibilities, but no such charge will be made by myself, and no such charge will be made by the noble Duke, who has been co-operating with it now for a period of nine months. He and I will alike recognise that this Irish Free State Government is attempting to carry out loyally and faithfully its obligation. Let every loyal English subject remember that it may be successful and that it may not be. If it is not successful, then there is only one alternative, which would be bloody and costly enough for the most intransigent member of this House. It is that we shall reconquer Ireland once again and restore, at the price of blood and treasure, the predominance of this country.
The Irish Free State Government can only succeed, and the facts may be plainly faced, if our Government gives it financial support. A loan upon favourable terms seems to me, after the best examination I can make of the financial situation, to be indispensable at an early date. The finance is difficult to master completely for any one who has not access to official documents. But as I understand it, the Irish Free State Government has been compelled to budget in the present year for a sum of £40,000,000, and I cannot discover sources of available revenue which will greatly exceed £24,000,000. If £16,000,000 by way of loan has to be made up, two circumstances must be recognised. The first is that it is a very small sum of money indeed to give you, if it does, complete restoration of tranquillity in the present and a hope of prosperity in the future.
The second consideration, which is very often forgotten by those who are ready to disparage everything Irish, is that at the present moment, if you apply your attention to imports and exports, Ireland is the best customer we have in the world. She exports to us more than any other country but one, and she imports from us more than any other country but one. If you put on one side our trade with the United States and with India it is true to say that Ireland is more important commercially to us, to-day, than any country in the world. A sum of £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 or £16,000,000, which itself affords an opportunity of further negotiations, is surely an inconsiderable amount to enter into 1251 our calculations. If I remember the figures aright, France owes us £600,000,000 to-day, and I should have thought we could reduce to its true perspective the lending of a small sum by a consideration of the vast indebtedness we have been compelled to undergo in the last few years.
I have made an unduly long demand on your Lordships' time but I knew I should not appeal in vain to the generosity of the House, defending, as I have been to-night, a settlement on behalf of which I suffered much and in the cause of which I bestowed much. Years have now passed since that instrument was signed. Two brave men, faithful to their word, have sealed with their lives the efforts which they made. Collins, who died on the field of battle, and Griffith, who flung into the most desperate attempt to restore order out of chaos all that was left of an enfeebled constitution, have fallen by the way. But the torch has fallen into the hands of others not less resolute, in my judgment, and not less to be relied upon to produce the uttermost ounce of honest and sincere endeavour to make this settlement a permanent success. For ourselves our Government perished by the way and this was not the least of the causes which contributed to its fall. But recalling that fall, and having in mind those exertions, and believing as I do that a new era has dawned for the Empire and that we shall see this autumn the first fruits, in the presence of the Irish Free State Prime Minister at the Conference of Premiers, I say to myself "Victrix causa Diis placuit, sed victa Catoni."
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, the eloquent speech of the noble and learned Earl requires, I think, some answer from those with whom I am associated in this matter, but for the last quarter of an hour his speech—the noble and learned Earl will forgive me for saying so—had very little to do with the Motion before the House. He entered into a most eloquent panegyric of the action and policy of the present Irish Free State Government. Your Lordships will have noticed that the noble Earl who introduced the Motion, and the noble Lord who followed him, were most careful in saying that they were making no attack on the Irish Free State Government any more 1252 than they were attacking the British Government. Therefore the noble and learned Earl will forgive me if I pass by the last quarter of an hour of his speech as it really has nothing to do with the Motion now before the House.
The Motion before the House is to ask your Lordships to say—That it is incumbent on His Majesty's Government to carry out the pledges as regards land purchase and compensation given both before and subsequent to the signing of the Irish Treaty in 1921.It is admitted in the speech of the noble and learned Earl that these pledges have not been carried out; and he explains this in two ways. In the first place, he explains it by outlining to your Lordships the Irish Free State Bill now before the Irish Parliament. That is a Bill of seventy clauses, and obviously it is physically impossible for the noble and learned Earl to explain the whole of them. He merely mentioned two or three of the important and salient points. I can only answer the noble and learned Earl by saying that in our view the Bill is not a satisfactory one, and I hope we may be trusted to know our own business best. We do not think the Bill gives us the same security as regard our homes, and, what is more important, the homes of our poorer neighbours, as did the Bill of 1920. I leave your Lordships to judge between us and the noble and learned Earl on that point.
The noble and learned Earl's second explanation—I am sure I am not misrepresenting him—is to carry the war into the enemy's country and challenge us on the settlement embodied in the Treaty. He describes our position by saying that we desired settlement and then that we always attack the people who made the settlement. The noble and learned Earl asks us a specific question: Do we or do we not approve of the settlement? On my own behalf only—I have not consulted my noble friends on the point—I answer that question without hesitation. I accepted the settlement when I saw it in print because the signature of the British Government had been given to it and it must be accepted and maintained and supported. But I say quite frankly I do not think it was worth while signing that settlement if you had to throw over all your pledges and all your friends.
1253 May I for one brief moment remind your Lordships of those pledges? One or two have been referred to, and I will not requote anything that has already been said. The first was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Midleton. It was a letter from Mr. Lloyd George to the Chairman of the Convention, Sir Horace Plunkett. My noble friend quoted that letter. The failure of the Convention has nothing whatever to do with that pledge. This was a letter written to the Chairman of the Convention announcing the intentions of the Government. The pledge was repeated on March 29, 1920, by the then Chief Secretary for Ireland, Mr. Ian Macpherson, in moving the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill in the House of Common. This is what he said:—The scheme which they——that is, the Irish Convention—put forward would undoubtedly remove the impasse and provide for a speedy completion of land purchase on terms equitable and fair between landlord and tenant. The Government, recognising as it does that it is under an obligation to introduce a land purchase scheme, has decided to adopt this scheme of the Convention as its basis, and will introduce a purchase Bill upon the lines of that scheme immediately.There is nothing here about landlord and tenant having to agree to it. The Government were going to accept that scheme. This was confirmed a little later, on May 13, by Mr. Bonar Law, and on May 19, by the noble and learned Earl himself in your Lordships' House.
This is not the quotation from the speech of the noble and learned Earl which has already been given. The noble and learned Earl said this. I take it from columns 420 and 421 of Volume 40 of the OFFICIAL REPORT:—No proposals for an Irish settlement can be regarded as complete unless provision is made for the settlement of the land question.And later in his speech he said:—The Government, recognising, as I have already said that it is under an obligation to bring before Parliament proposals for a land settlement as nearly concurrently as may be with its Home Rule proposals, has decided to adopt the Convention scheme as a basis, and to introduce a Land Purchase Bill for the purpose.Again, there is nothing whatever making it a condition that there should be agreement between landlord and tenant. But 1254 the noble and learned Earl has told us something this afternoon. We know now why the pledges were broken. The Irish negotiators, the noble and learned Earl told us, would have left the room. I thereupon asked the noble and learned Earl particularly whether the point was ever raised. The noble and learned Earl says that they refused. Consequently we now know this bit of history, that the British negotiators accepted the decision in spite of their pledges. They preferred to sign the Treaty, and they preferred to throw over their friends in the hope of reaching terms with their enemies.
Our attention has been recently called—I do not know if any of your Lordships have noticed it—to a letter written some time ago by a member of your Lordships' House, the late Archbishop Magee, who was at that time Bishop of Peterborough and later became Archbishop of York. It was written in the year 1886, and perhaps at that time it was thought to be couched in rather strong language. This is what he wrote:—The English Government or Governments will continue putting up Irish loyalists to auction, as they are putting up land for sale, in small lots, a little at a time, until there is either nothing more to sell or no one to hid. Then they will retire from the scene and wash their hands of Ireland, and very dirty hands they will have to wash.That is really not an unfair description of the Coalition Government and its pledges, and I do appeal to the Government of the day not to let it be said in the future that this is to be the final epitaph on the treatment of Irish loyalists by the British Government.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, the debate this afternoon has travelled over very considerable ground and touched upon many of those problems which the history of Ireland and of our own country has unfortunately revealed. I wish, if I may, to confine myself in the course of the few observations that I have to make to your Lordships, to the Motion as it appears on the Paper. Looking merely at this Motion, I think it is one that will naturally commend itself to every member of your Lordships' House. Naturally, any Government on assuming office carefully weighs and investigates the pledges and the undertakings given by its predecessors. If ever there were 1255 a situation in which such a procedure ought to be followed, it arose when we succeeded to the difficult heritage of the problem of Ireland.
We are, of course, familiar with the quotations which have been placed before your Lordships by my noble friend this afternoon. It is not my business either to justify or to explain the promises that were made, but I think that it has been generally accepted on all sides that a system of land purchase was to be an essential part of any settlement of the Irish question. It was clearly laid down, I think, by Mr. Gladstone when he introduced his first Home Rule Bill that every effort to solve the Irish problem in the shape of a development of self-government in Ireland must be accompanied by a Land Purchase Bill or else by a clear undertaking to bring in such a Bill; and we have heard this afternoon from the noble and learned Earl opposite that it was the intention of the late Government to proceed if possible upon those lines. I was away from this country during the year 1920, but I endeavoured to follow as closely and as clearly as I could the various stages of the developments both in relation to the Government of Ireland and land purchase. Like many others, I had hopes that these long standing questions were approaching a final solution, and, like many others, I found that those hopes were doomed to be disappointed. Undoubtedly, if those aspirations and hopes had matured as their authors contemplated, land purchase would now be an accomplished fact and would have taken its place upon the Statute Book, but unfortunately, as we-all know only too well, the negotiations not only in relation to land purchase, but in relation to the other questions raised in 1920, came to an end.
When we came into office we had to consider the position which we should adopt and, as your Lordships are only too well aware, a decision had to be taken immediately. Within a few days of our acceptance of office we met Parliament, and, I am afraid under very considerable pressure of time, we had to introduce and carry a Bill for the purpose of implementing the Treaty. I remember very well looking into the question, and a very few moments sufficed to show me that, as the noble and learned Earl has reminded 1256 us this afternoon, the power of the British Parliament to legislate concerning Irish land had passed away. But I venture at this stage to give an assurance to your Lordships that at any rate we, the members of this Government, although we may not have the power to initiate legislation, consider that we are bound to sec that the interests of those for whom we until so recently were responsible receive adequate justice.
If for the moment I may leave the question at this point, we have to consider whether the proposals which are now before the Irish Parliament are such as will satisfy that obligation of honour which is placed upon us. The noble and learned Lord opposite gave an account of some of the proposals of that Bill which immediately affect the relations of landlord and tenant. I have no wish at this stage to go at any further length into the proposals, but I think I might add to the information which ought to be in your possession before coming to any final opinion upon it, one or two sets of figures. As I think the noble and learned Lord explained, it is not possible to institute any precise comparison on an average taken with the proposals of the 1920 Bill, but I think you will gather closer appreciation of the variation between the two Bills from the very few figures which I hope I may be permitted to place before you.
In the case of the first and second term rents, under the 1920 Bill the maximum price which a vendor could receive in respect of;£l00 gross rental was £1,740–5, and the minimum £1,496. Invested at five per cent., the maximum gave the vendor a future income of £87 and the minimum £74.5. In the case of the third term rents the maximum would be £1,804.1, with a future income of £90% and the minimum £1,770.7, and £88 5 Under the 1923 Bill now before the Irish Parliament, where there is, as your Lordships are aware, a flat rate all round, the first and second term rents, again on the same basis of £100 gross rental, would receive £1,505, giving to the vendor a future income of £67.10, and the third term rents £1,626 with an income of £72.9. It may interest your Lordships to observe that the actual money which is given for £100 of gross rental under the 1923 Bill, namely £1,505, is greater than the minimum which was proposed under 1257 the 1920 Bill for first and second term rents, namely £1,496, although it is obvious that the income in the case of the 1920 Bill is greater, as the investment was at five per cent. instead of being reckoned as four and a half per cent., as it is under the present Bill.
I admit that there is a difference and a difference which will affect a great many landlords very severely. The Bill is now before the Irish Parliament, and I presume will pass very substantially in the form in which it is to-day. It has not actually, so far as I am aware, passed the final stages, but when it does and the British Government have an opportunity of seeing it in its final form, they will be prepared to give all those proposals the best consideration which they can: and although, of course, obviously, I can hold out no hopes at present, or possibly at any time, I can only assure your Lordships that the Government will consider the position of those who will be affected by this legislation, and they will very fully bear in mind the debate which has taken place in the House this afternoon.
I am not prepared, and I do not wish, after the very friendly words which have been used by noble Lords with reference to the present Governmnt, to attempt to find fault or to make comparisons between their speeches. Both my noble friend who proposed the Motion and my noble friend who seconded it. I think, either in explicit terms or at any rate by inference referred to debts of honour. I think Lord Midleton, when be converted that debt into a sum of money, mentioned the figure of £1,000,000 per annum. My noble friend Lord Oranmore, in his calculations, reduced it to £'393,000. I have no wish either to find fault or to attempt to put one calculation against the other—
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
May I interrupt to say that my calculation was contained in the Report of the Sub-Committee on Land Purchase, set up by the Irish Convention, and unanimously adopted by them?
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I only ventured to make reference to those two sets of figures to indicate how extremely difficult it is to convert vague phrases into actual sums of money. However, I can only assure your Lordships that we shall be prepared most fully to consider the 1258 points which have been made with force and, I hope I may be allowed to add, with moderation, this afternoon. We shall give due attention to them, and if we can, consistently with other obligations, do anything to help, we shall certainly approach this subject with every possible consideration for the case that has been put.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I am not sure that I should have ventured to intervene in this discussion had it not been that I agree so heartily with a remark made by Lord Stuart of Wortley that it was a great pity on occasions like this that more noble Lords who are not connected with Ireland did not take part in discussions of this kind. If it has not been so in the past, I think that one of the reasons, at any rate, may be the extraordinary difficulty and technicality of these discussions. It is very difficult for those of us who are not intimately connected with the possession of land in Ireland to enter into controversies such as those with which some of our time has this afternoon been engaged, such as the 15 per cent. bonus, and the bonds of 5 or 4½ per cent.; and it is equally difficult for all of us to follow immediately the interesting figures which were given to us by the noble Duke, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. We shall see them and read them with interest to-morrow morning. In days gone by it was my fortune to listen to a very large number of discussions upon Ireland. It always seemed to me a pity that on those occasions the discussions to which we listened were generally followed by votes, and that it would have been very much better if, by a self-denying ordinance, noble Lords from Ireland, especially those who did not attend our debates regularly, had not followed up in the Lobby the sentiments to which expression had already been given in the course of the debates.
The noble Earl who introduced this discussion told us at one moment that the position with regard to land purchase was an easy one. That, as I have already said, is not a statement with which I can wholly agree. But in this matter, so far as my noble friends are concerned for whom I have the honour to speak this afternoon, our interest is only an indirect interest in the Motion. For many years we gave to your Lordships 1259 advice with regard to the management of Irish affairs. It was, I think, nearly always rejected, and the situation which has now been created has come about owing to your Lordships' acceptance of a Bill introduced by the late Government. It has been defended by the noble and learned Earl (Lord Birkenhead) behind me. I cannot say that it was a duel. It was rather an engagement in which most of the attacks were made upon him, and I think he enjoyed those attacks. Indeed, I am not sure that my noble and learned friend is not as anxious as he used to be in old days at Oxford to engage as many controversialists as possible, and he would almost think it a want of respect on the part of his opponents if they contented themselves with sending one representative against him. The more antagonists he has the better pleased he seems to be.
On this occasion I hope that I may say to him, as I would have said to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, had he been present, that I do, indeed, think we owe them both a very real debt of gratitude for the share which they had in the negotiations that ended in the Government of Ireland Act, and especially for the moral courage which they showed in those emergencies. The Government, as I understand, accept the Motion put down by the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, and it is therefore unnecessary for me to say very much. It is sufficient to say that we wish this permanent settlement well. We think that the continuance of the present system in Ireland is of paramount importance. And, if we had been called upon to divide to-night, I should certainly have asked my noble friends behind me to vote with the Government.
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, I rise to ask a question which, I venture to think, is of some importance. In the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, reference is made to land purchase and to compensation We have heard a good deal about land purchase to-night, but very little about compensation and the Irish Compensation Bill, which seemed to be a much more flagrant breach of the Treaty than even the Land Purchase Bill. By the Agreement of January 24, 1922, which implemented the Treaty, the Irish Provisional Government undertook, according 1260 to that Treaty, that the principle should be admitted that fair compensation is payable in respect of injuries which were the subject of compensation under the enactments relating to criminal injuries. This pledge has been broken, not only in the spirit but also in the letter because the enactments relating to criminal injuries, if they have not actually been repealed, have gone by the board altogether, and a totally new code has been substituted for them under the Damage to Property Act.
I do not propose, at this late hour, to go into the various injustices which, it seems to me, are perpetrated by the Irish Compensation Bill, but I would point out that, both in regard to the question of consequential damage, and also in regard to the many other points in the Bill, a grave injustice is inflicted on the loyalists. They are also paid in bonds the worth of which we have not the means of judging. If the Government could give us any assurance that they will see that justice is done to the loyalists in regard to compensation, as well as in regard to land purchase, I am sure we shall be very grateful.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I desire to support the remarks of the noble Duke. This is a question which is causing the very greatest anxiety among many Irish loyalists, and I hope that the noble Duke may get a definite reply to his question.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I believe that at any time after half-past six we speak of it as a very late hour of the night, but may I be permitted to say one word, because those who think as I do have been doubly challenged in this debate. The noble Earl opposite (Lord Birkenhead) spoke of a dwindling minority who regard the settlement as a ghastly piece of poltroonery. Those are not my words, although I do belong to a minority who still think that the repeal of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland was a very great mistake, and who still think that the settlement was a greater one. Time will prove whether we were in the right or not. But I am not here this evening to waste your Lordships' time in saying "I told you so." Still, we must think of the difficulties we are in now, and how far they have arisen from a reversal of the policy of Pitt.
1261 The noble Earl who has just spoken (Lord Beauchamp) said he agreed with the sentiment that it was a pity that English Peers did not take part in these debates upon Ireland. It does seem to me that there is very great force in what was said by the noble Duke who had just sat down, that it is the moral duty, at any rate, of this country to consider the awful hard-ships and privations of the Irish loyalists, who have been driven from their homes and have suffered torture, indignity, and many other things which it would be easy to describe in phrases of emotion. To support these people is part of the price that we have to pay in this country for the repeal of the Union. The ordinary Englishman with whom I have some sort of contact at public meetings and elsewhere, whatever he may think of the settlement or of the repeal of the Union, does think that if, on this side of the water, we are going to lend money to the Free State, or if we have lent money to the Free State, or if we are going to give them any money, or even if we have given them any money, such a loan or such a payment by this country to the Free State should be earmarked against the Free State, and that some day or another the British taxpayer ought to be in a position to recover that money.
The only terms which those of us who were in the minority and were forced to agree to the repeal of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland always hoped for were these, that if we were to give the South of Ireland a Government of their own they, at any rate, should have it at their own charges, and that we should not be asked not only to surrender the Union but to pay for the surrender into the bargain. I feel sure that I need not appeal to this Government, which is blameless with regard to what is called the settlement, to bear in mind the appeal of the noble Duke who has just sat down and my noble friend who has seconded it, that when the proper time comes the poor people in Ireland who have no comfortable homes in Great Britain to go to and whose wretched condition is brought before those of us who are studying it day by day, will receive some consideration from His Majesty's Government.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, may I, with your Lordships' permission, refer to the point raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland? 1262 I did not make any reference to it when I spoke before as practically the whole of the debate had turned on the question of land purchase and the wider issues of general policy which were raised. I can only repeat the undertaking which I have given on more than one occasion in your Lordships' House that we adhere to the pledge given in the letter written by Mr Winston Churchill, and that we are most anxiously watching the situation and will endeavour to see that the pledge is implemented.
There is one point in this connection that I should like to mention and to which, I think, reference was made by my noble and learned friend opposite—namely, the face value of the bonds which are to be used for the purpose of land purchase. Although I do not know the nature of the bonds which have been issued in payment of compensation for damage for loss, there is at any rate this much in common between the two. We have not heard from the Free State Government and I have no reason to believe that any such communication will be made; but as it is very clearly to the advantage of the Free State that their credit should stand high and it is equally due to us, and our wish, that everything should be done to give the greatest possible value to the securities in which these various payments are made, I hope that if we find that there is anything like a considerable fall in the value of those securities we shall be able to work together, and the two Governments might easily be able to devise methods by which that contingency, which would be equally deplorable from whatever point of view it is looked at, might be avoided.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say one word on the position in which I find myself after the speech of the noble Duke. I do not propose to attempt to follow or to answer the somewhat irrelevant observations, if I may say so, which were made by the noble and learned Earl. But with regard to the appeal which has been made by the noble Earl who leads the Opposition, I am afraid I must confess that I do not agree with him. When a Motion has been put forward and opinions have been strongly expressed, I think it is much more fitting that they should be supported in the Division Lobby than that 1263 they should not; but on this occasion there is a clear difference between us and the Government at this moment as between the two Land Bills. Between the two Land Bills there is a sum of from £6,000,000 to £10,000,000 in bonus for which this country was responsible under the Act of 1920 and for which it is not responsible now. By that amount the landlords of Ireland—however the figures are juggled—will be the losers.
I cannot accept the position, and I understand from his language that the noble Duke does not accept it. He said, on the contrary, that in whatever form the Bill passed the Dail, His Majesty's Government would consider the position in which it would place the landlords, and I have been given to understand, through the usual channel, that while His Majesty's Government cannot accept the Motion as it stands on the Paper, in view of the difficulty which exists with a Parliament which does not accept the legislation of this Parliament, if I will insert four words the Government will consider the acceptance of the Motion. The Motion would then read:That it is incumbent on His Majesty's Government to use its influence to carry out the pledges as regards land purchase and compensation given both before and subsequent to the signing of the Irish Treaty in 1921.That is all that we can ask the Government to do. We cannot force the Government to legislate in regard to matters as to which they have handed over to others the power to legislate. But if that pledge is carried out, as I am quite certain it will be by the noble Duke, not merely in the letter, but in the spirit, I shall be satisfied and I will ask your Lordships, if the words "to use its influence" are accepted, to insert them in the Motion.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I hope the noble Earl will not take that as any pledge that I shall bring pressure to bear upon the Irish Government. I want to be free to consider the position afterwards.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
I did not mean to infer that. I meant to infer that the Government would use its influence here in order to see that the pledges were made good. I take it that what was said by the noble Duke about the 4½ per cent. bonds, although not a pledge of a definite character, is an 1264 undertaking in spirit that the landlords will not be allowed to suffer. I hope that your Lordships will permit me to insert the words I have mentioned.
THE LORD SPEAKER
My Lords, I suggest that the Motion should be put in the amended form unless the words are objected to.
THE LORD SPEAKER
Then the Motion before the House is: "That it is incumbent on His Majesty's Government to use its influence to carry out the pledges as regards land purchase and compensation given both before and subsequent to the signing of the Irish Treaty in 1921."
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.