HL Deb 11 May 1933 vol 87 cc854-71

LORD DANESFORT had the following Notice on the Paper—To ask His Majesty's Government:

(1) Whether their attention has been called to the provisions of the Free State Constitution (Removal of Oath) Act, 1933, which was passed in Southern Ireland on 3rd May, 1933.

(2) Whether they are aware that Section 1 of that Act purports to repeal Article 17 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State, which Article prescribes the form of Oath to be taken by the members of the Legislature of the Irish Free State in accordance with Article 4 of the Treaty, and that Section 2 of that Act purports to repeal Section 2 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State Act, 1922, which gives the force of law to the Treaty, and renders void any provision of the Constitution or any amendment thereof or any law made thereunder which is repugnant to the Treaty.

(3) Whether His Majesty's Government will state what is the effect of this Act of 1933 (1) on the Treaty which was the basis of the Constitution of the Irish Free State and on the Constitution which was founded thereon; (2) on Article 4 of the Treaty which prescribes the form of Oath; (3) on the rights and status of British citizens born and resident in the Irish Free State; and (4) on Article 7 of the Treaty, which provides that the Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to the Imperial Forces, in time of peace, such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex to the Treaty, and in time of war or strained relations with a Foreign Power, such harbour or other facilities as the British Government may require; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to ask the Questions standing in my name. The Notice is rather lengthy, but it raises points on which I shall be glad, and I think the House would desire, to receive information. The questions raised by the Act of 1933, which was recently passed in the Irish Dail, are of the utmost constitutional importance, not merely to the inhabitants of Southern Ireland but to the inhabitants of this country, and indeed, I think, I may go further and say to the Empire at large. May I shortly refer to the relevant facts? The Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland were signed by the representatives of the two countries on December 6, 1921, and, in order that that Treaty might become binding, two conditions had to be fulfilled. That was provided by Article 18 of the Treaty. The two conditions were these: (1) that the Treaty should be approved by the British Parliament and by the House of Commons in Southern Ireland; and (2)—and this is of serious importance, having regard to what has happened—if the Treaty were so approved it should be ratified by the necessary legislation. Both those conditions were fulfilled. The necessary approval was given, and the Treaty was ratified in 1922 by legislation, both in this Parliament and in the Parliament of Southern Ireland—identical legislation in both Parliaments.

It was this legislation which set up the Constitution for Southern Ireland and gave the force of law to the Treaty. What was the result of that legislation? It was this, that the Irish Free State was brought into existence as a Dominion, with Parliament and written Constitution, and had it not been for the ratification of the Treaty by the two Parliaments the Irish Free State would never have come into existence at all and would never have received a Constitution. In order to apprehend what has recently taken place, may I draw attention to some of the Articles of the Treaty and of the Constitution? Article 4 prescribes the form of Oath to be taken by all members of the Legislature of Southern Ireland. It says: The Oath to be taken by Members of the Parliament of the Irish Free State shall be in the following form:— 'I … do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the the Irish Free State as by law esablished, and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George V, his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to the membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.' The only other Article of the Treaty which I need read is Article 7, and this is of grave importance to this country. It says this: The Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to His Majesty's Imperial Forces:—

  1. (a) In time of peace such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed between the British Parliament and the Government of the Irish Free State; and
  2. '(b) In time of war or of strained relations with a Foreign Power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the purposes of such defence as aforesaid.' "
If anyone had seen, as I have seen, a map prepared in Germany showing the number of our ships which were sunk by German submarines during the War off the South and West and North coasts of Ireland, numbering some thousands, and if anyone were to remember that the petrol supplied for those submarines was largely obtained from harbours and creeks in Southern and Western Ireland he would appreciate what the importance of Article 7 may be if ever such an unfortunate disaster as war should again occur. Therefore it was considered absolutely necessary and vital that in time of peace we should have the facilities mentioned and in time of war we should be able to control the ports of Southern Ireland.

Now, as to the Irish Constituent Act, 1922, which gave the force of law to the Treaty and established the Constitution. Section 1 of that Act set up the Constitution. Section 2—and this is of great importance, having regard to what has happened—says the Constitution shall be construed with reference to the Articles of Agreement for the Treaty "which are hereby given the force of law"; in other words, that was the Act which ratified the Treaty and made it effective. Then it goes on: and if any provision of the said Constitution or of any amendment thereof or of any law made thereunder is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty, it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy, be absolutely void and inoperative.… There is one provision in the Constituent Act, which is scheduled to this Act, which I ought to refer to, and that is Article 17 of the Constitution, which repeats and enacts the form of oath that I have read out from Article 4 of the Treaty.

So up to that point we have got this. There was a Treaty. It was approved of by the Legislatures of both countries, and it was given the force of law by legislation in both countries. By that means the Irish Free State was brought into existence, and, had it not been for those Acts of Parliament, there would have been no Constitution such as they now have. So matters went on for some time. There were certain modifications made in the Treaty from time to time. I do not refer to them for the moment as being irrelevant. But in 1932 Mr. de Valera came into power and shortly after his advent to power this present trouble arose. What happened was this. In April, 1932, Mr. de Valera's Government introduced into the Dail a Bill known as the Free State Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill. As your Lordships will notice, it was, according to the title, only going to remove the Oath. That is bad enough, but as a matter of fact your Lordships will see it did far more—it practically abrogated the Treaty. The Bill passed its Second Reading in the Dail by the narrow majority of six—77 to 71—and subsesequently passed through all its stages in the Dail. It then went up to the Senate. The Senate amended it somewhat materially. It sent the Bill back to the Dail, and the Dail would not accept the Amendments. That held up the Bill. A General Election was held in the Free State in the early part of the present year, and Mr. de Valera was then returned to power. The Bill in its original form was again sent up to the Senate, the Senate again adopted its previous course, and the Bill was held up again; but, by the effect of a clause in the Constitution, under these circumstances, after a certain period the Bill automatically became law. That event occurred on May 3, 1933; that is, on Wednesday of last week. That is the Act referred to in my Question.

The Act is a, very short one, I have it here. Section 1 repeals Article 17 of the Constitution which, as I have mentioned, was the Article that repeats and confirms Article 4 of the Treaty as to the form of Oath. Section 2, having regard to the title of the Bill, is one of extraordinary character. Section 2 repeals Section 2 of the Constituent Act of 1922, which Section 2 gives the force of law to the Treaty, so that the effect of this Section 2, if it is valid, is that the Treaty no longer has the force of law. It would seem to me, at any rate, that that Act has very far-reaching consequences. May I just add this? I have read a good many of the debates which took place in the Irish Dail when this Bill was being discussed, and many members of the Cosgrave Party expressed the gravest alarm as to the effect which the Bill, if it were passed, would have upon them in Ireland, upon their position as citizens of the Free State, upon the Constitution itself, and upon the existence of the Free State as a Dominion. These apprehended dangers and these expressions of alarm were brushed on one side by Mr. de Valera, who gave no explanation, so far as my researches went, except that he wished it.

Let me say a word about this abolition of the Oath of Allegiance. Undoubtedly it is a breach of the Treaty. What do they want? What is the object of bringing it in in Southern Ireland? On the 3rd of May this year, when the Bill became law, there was a debate in the Dail before the Bill was passed, and Mr. de Valera gave this reason for abolishing the Oath contained in the Treaty. He said: We know that the majority of the Irish people do not want any confession of allegiance to a foreign King on the part of their representatives. I shall ask His Majesty's Government, and I hope we shall have a clear statement—does this clause which purports to abolish the Oath mean that the members of the Free State Parliament are relieved of their allegiance to the King, and, if not, what is the meaning of it?

But, my Lords, the second point is a far more serious one—the abolition of the whole Treaty. The Treaty was the fundamental basis of the Irish Free State, and I should like to know from His Majesty's Government whether the legislation which purports to annul the ratification of the Treaty is valid or whether it is void. If it is void, well and good; that relieves us here and the inhabitants of Southern Ireland of great anxiety. But if it is valid, what becomes of the Free State? Its place has been taken away. Does the Free State exist no longer as a Dominion, and what has become of the Constitution? Having regard to Article 7 of the Treaty, what effect has the new legislation on that article, or on our rights under that Article, giving us facilities in the harbours of Southern Ireland both in time of peace and war? Are these rights still in existence—I should be glad to know they are—or are they cancelled? If that be so, it is a very grave position for this country, and I think it would be well for us to know where we stand.

Mr. de Valera appears to have had no doubts at all from his speeches as to what he was doing, and what the result would be, because I find in the Official Report of the Irish Parliament on the Second Reading of this Bill, on the 27th April last year, that he said this: The moment the people are ready for an independent Republic we will be quite ready to lead them. And then I find from the Irish Press of the 4th of May last that in the speeches in the Dail Mr. de Valera made it clear that the removal of the Oath is only the first step, the first act, in his work of destruction or revolution, whatever you like to call it. He went on to say that he hoped very soon, now that the Act of 1933 had become law, to remove other Articles of the Treaty such as the appeal to the Privy Council, which to my mind is of vital importance, and then he wound up by saying in his own words: And then we shall end up by declaring a Republic. He was good enough to say that the Republic would not be declared until the Irish people had been consulted.

Such is the position. The Loyalists, and indeed many others in Southern Ireland, are deeply anxious about it. I think it is a very vital matter that we in this country should know what is the position. What is to be done eventually may be left open to the future, but it appears to me vital that at the earliest possible moment, both in this country an] in Southern Ireland, it should be made quite clear by authoritative statement what the constitutional position is and where we stand. Is there no authorised Irish Free State at all? Have we no rights under the Treaty at all? What has become of the Treaty? I put down this Question to His Majesty's Government in the hope that upon these matters referred to in it, and set out at length, we shall get a complete answer. I think it quite unnecessary to read the Question itself because it is on the Paper and also I have indicated, I think fairly clearly, the information which I desire. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords,I think we all have sympathy with the noble Lord in the question he has raised to-day. I suppose there is no one in this country who to-day is not greatly concerned with what has happened in Ireland during the past week. My noble friend Lord Danesfort has put the case so clearly with regard to that that it is hardly necessary for me to go over the points again, but he has put the case particularly from the point of view of the rights and status of the British citizen born and resident in the Irish Free State. I should like to know from the noble Viscount (Viscount Hailsham), when he replies, what is the position with regard to Irish citizens born in Ireland and resident in Great Britain. I understand that by the abolition of the Oath the Irish Treaty has practically been abolished.

We have been told by Mr. de Valera that the time is coming when the South of Ireland will be created a Republic and that already His Majesty the King is regarded as a foreign King. If that is the case, then all these citizens of Ireland who were born in Ireland and who are living in this country must therefore be regarded as foreign subjects. What is the position of the very large number of Irish citizens who are living in this country in their relationship to Great Britain? I think of the very large numbers who are to-day resident in the West of Scotland. Many of them have come over from Ireland within the past two, three or four years and are to-day living in the West of Scotland, drawing the "dole," some of them receiving poor relief, and enjoying the benefits of the Housing Acts. Are these people to be allowed to continue to live in the West of Scotland, drawing all these benefits and yet being subjects, as we are told, of what has become to all intents and purposes a foreign country? I hope that in the reply which will be given by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, he will be able to inform your Lordships what is the position with regard to them.

There is another question which is of wider application and just as important a; the one that have just raised—perhaps in a sense more important—that is, what is the position, now that the Oath is abolished, of Ireland vis-à-vis the British Empire, or the British Commonwealth of Nations as so many people prefer to call it? We know that the South of Ireland was represented at the Ottawa Conference, and although she did not take a very active part in that Conference nevertheless the South of Ireland did participate in certain Agreements as a Dominion, and is still, so far as we know, enjoying the benefits of those Agreements. It is true that those Agreements were not made with the Mother Country but with other Dominions. How can a Dominion be a Dominion and yet not be a Dominion? That is what the South of Ireland is striving to be to-day, and to some extent has succeeded in being, by entering into these Agreements with the other Dominions. We, in this country, have always been very sympathetic and have not pressed home the delinquencies of other parts of the Empire where they may have taken place, but I think an entirely different set of circumstances has arisen in the case of the South of Ireland. She is behaving in a way which makes it very difficult for at least some of us in this country to submit to with any patience. I do not suppose there is any country which has behaved to its near associate in the way that the South of Ireland has behaved to us in the last two or three years, that would not have got into very serious trouble indeed. But we have been, if I may put it so, kindhearted. However, the time has come when I think we ought definitely to say to the South of Ireland what we believe, what we think about her attitude and where she is heading. I am very glad, therefore, that my noble friend Lord Danesfort has raised this question today, and I hope that we may hear from the noble Viscount the Leader of the House some definite replies to the points which have been put by the noble Lord and by myself.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount the Leader of the House replies I should like to say only a word or two upon the Questions which have been brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort. The history of this matter began in the very carefully prepared Report of the late Lord Balfour who was appointed to make a Report on all these questions relating to our Dominions, and the words he used were in effect that the status of each Dominion was that it was to be regarded as an independent sovereign State. It fell to my lot in your Lordships' House to point out that it was difficult to give them the full status as our law stood at that time, but it was intended as from that date, as was often stated in your Lordships' House, that the law should be altered so far as was necessary in order that the status of every Dominion, amongst others of Southern Ireland, should be that of the independent sovereign State, to which Lord Balfour had referred.

After long discussion—I will not go into all the matters which were discussed at length in your Lordships' House—the Statute of Westminster was accepted and passed. That was in 1931. The effect of that Statute was to do away with the limitations, such as those pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, in existing Acts or in existing practice as between two countries and to give a true independent sovereign status to Southern Ireland and to the other Dominions. For all purposes the power was given to any Dominion as regards internal affairs to legislate with the full right of an independent State irrespective of any legislation which had been passed—I ask your Lordships to note those words—or might be passed by the Imperial Government. So far I think we shall all be agreed.

Now may I come to the two matters really in discussion at the present moment. Both of them, I think, can be satisfactorily settled by the desire of both sides to have these matters determined. As regards the Oath, the form of an Oath in Parliament is entirely an internal matter for the Parliament itself to determine. As an instance of that I may mention the declaration which was substituted in the case of Charles Bradlaugh for the oath required from Members of Parliament. I think myself it is purely a matter which is within the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State. I did not know until the question was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort—I am sure we are all indebted to him for his speech—that it was doubted that the Irish Free State had this authority. What was doubted was whether it was wise for them to exercise it or not. That is a matter left to their discretion. I merely want to say in passing that I do not think loyalty is increased by taking an Oath in a case of this kind. I do not think the allegiance of any man in this country depends on forms of that sort. It depends on loyalty and love of the Constitution and admiration for the excellent work done by the Sovereign of this country. Therefore, it seems to me only a theoretical matter, and so far as it may possibly create friction it is certainly undesirable to carry the matter further. The only other point raised between the two parties is that of the annuities. The only question there is a form of procedure.


May I interrupt the noble and learned Lord for a moment? I never raised the question of annuities by my Motion. It has nothing to do with it.


I was only going to say that I agree with what the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said, that with a little good humour and temper that could easily be settled. I will not go into that matter now. I do not know how far the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, would care to go into this question. I think myself that hypothetical questions of this kind raised before they come forward for settlement are mistaken. There is hardly any hypothetical question for which we cannot make out a certain a priori case which nearly always disappears when the facts come to be considered. The only point of practical importance is the Oath.


And the abrogation of the Treaty.


There is no question of the abrogation of the Treaty for the moment. To suggest that they have abrogated the Treaty is to my mind an unthinkable proposition. What we want is good temper all round. We want the Dominion spirit to be encouraged. The spirit of conciliation should be encouraged and not discouraged by trying to find possible points of difference.


My Lords, there is no doubt at all of the importance of the Question involved in the Motion which my noble friend Lord Danesfort has put upon the Paper or of the importance of the Questions which he has addressed to me. For the very reason that they are important I am proposing to limit myself as carefully as I can to the actual points which he raises and which are involved, in his view, in the Bill which has recently passed the Irish Parliament. I was asked both by him and by my noble friend Viscount Elibank to give a clear statement of the position of the Government. Some of your Lordships may be aware that that question has already been addressed to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions in another place, and although I am very glad to have the opportunity of stating it to this House, which has a right to the information, it would probably not make for clarity if I were to state my view of the position in language different from that employed by my right honourable friend in another place. I propose, therefore, before I deal with the specific Questions addressed to me, to read the answer which was given in another place last week.

My right honourable friend said: The position of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is as follows: They have throughout made clear their view that the attempt to abolish the Parliamentary Oath in the Irish Free State is in direct conflict with the obligations undertakers by the Irish Free State under the Treaty of 1921. This is confirmed by the form of the Irish Free State legislation. The Treaty is the fundamental basis of the position of the Irish Free State, and in order to achieve their object the Irish Free State Government have been compelled to include in their legislation clauses purporting not only to abolish the requirement of the Parliamentary Oath but also to repeal those provisions of the Constituent Act and the Constitution of the Irish Free State which set out that the Treaty has the force of law and over-riding authority in relation to the Constitution. As regards the position which arises on the passage of the legislation, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom consider that the passing of the Bill will not affect the duty of allegiance to the King or amount to an act of secession. They are advised that the allegiance of the members of the Irish Free State Parliament does not depend upon the swearing of the Oath which by the Treaty and the Constitution they are required to take, and therefore that a failure to take the Oath is not in itself a repudiation of allegiance. This does not alter the fact that in the view of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom the removal of the Oath is a breach of the Treaty. I think that is a clear statement which I hope will satisfy my noble friend.

Now I pass to the specific Questions which have been addressed to me by my noble friend. He asks first whether we are aware of the provisons of the Irish Free State Act, and the answer is, of course, in the affirmative. I have a copy of the Act here. Secondly, he asks whether His Majesty's Government will state what is the effect of this Act of 1933 on the Treaty which was the basis of the Constitution of the Irish Free State and on the Constitution which was founded thereon. That involves two questions. If I may, I will answer the first and for the moment leave the second. The answer to the question of what is the effect of this Act of 1933 on the Treaty which was the basis of the Constitution of the Irish Free State, is that it has no effect at all on the Treaty.

Then he asks what is the effect on Article 4 of the Treaty which prescribes the form of Oath. It has no effect on any Article of the Treaty, including Article 4. What is the effect on the rights and status of British citizens born and resident in the Irish Free State? It has no effect at all on the rights or status of British citizens born and resident in the Irish Free State. What is the effect on Article 7 of the Treaty, which provides for facilities in the Irish Free State for certain military establishments of His Majesty? It has no effect at all on Article 7 of the Treaty.

The reason for that, of course, is—as I think was explained in an earlier debate, but it is as well to have it clearly stated—that the Treaty is a bargain between this country and the Irish Free State. Neither party to the bargain can by unilateral action alter the terms of the bargain and it therefore follows that even if one party or the other purports to alter the bargain, that attempt has no legal, no international effect at all. For instance, every citizen of the Irish Free State is born within the King's allegiance and nobody born within the King's allegiance can of his own volition and without the consent of His Majesty get rid of the obligations which that allegiance involves. As to the Oath, I hardly need remind your Lordships that although every one of us in this House took the Oath of Allegiance before we could take our seats here, by reason of the rule of the Constitution which so provides, we did not begin to owe a duty of allegiance to His Majesty when we took that Oath. Long before we sat here, from the moment we were born into the world we were citizens of the United Kingdom, and as such were subjects of His Majesty, and owed our allegiance to His Majesty. The taking of the Oath is a formal recognition of the duty that lies upon us, a solemn affirmation of our recognition of that duty and of our acceptance of its obligation; but whether we recognise or refuse to recognise the obligation there is no doubt that the obligation remains.

Similarly I think those answers dispose of the specific points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, as to the position of Irish citizens horn in the Irish Free State and now resident in the United Kingdom. The answer is that their posi- tion is entirely unaltered by this Irish Free State Statute. They were born British subjects, they were British subjects before the Irish Free State Act was passed, and they remain British subjects to-day. No doubt it is true that if circumstances arose in which by any means the Irish Free State ceased to be part of the British Empire, serious questions would arise as to the position and status of the classes of persons to whom the noble Lord referred and as to the attitude the Government of the day would have to adopt with regard to them; but I emphatically think it would be very undesirable in present circumstances to reach a decision, and still less to announce a decision, upon such a hypothetical question.

There is one Question which I passed over. My noble friend not only asked the effect of the Act on the Treaty, but what was the effect on the Constitution which was founded thereon. I confess that is a Question Which I find it difficult to answer with the same assurance as the other Questions which were addressed to me. I find a difficulty because it is a matter upon which there may easily be two differing legal opinions. Obviously, as I think was pointed out in another place when the Statute of Westminster was being debated, there is at any rate a doubt—I will not put it higher, but there may easily be a doubt as to the effect of a Statute passed in Ireland purporting to repeal provisions of the Constitution and provisions of the Treaty when the Treaty and the Constitution were established by the Act of Dail Eireann, sitting as a Constituent Assembly, which Act provides that any Act passed thereafter should be void and inoperative in so far as it was in conflict with the provisions of the Treaty. I do not wish to discuss that question because I think it raises difficult points of law which may possibly be the subject of litigation, perhaps in the Municipal Courts of the Irish Free State or even elsewhere. I do not feel competent to pronounce a final opinion upon that question. Certainly it is a question upon which, if I were asked as a lawyer, I should like the advantage of the fullest discussion and consideration before I committed myself to one view or the other.

But the matter which immediately concerns us in this country, as it seems to me, is not what is the effect in Ireland on the Constitution of the Irish Free State, but what is the effect in International Law on the Treaty which is the arrangement, the bargain, made between the Irish Free State and this country; and so far as that is concerned I have no hesitation in saying that a Treaty between two nations—I do not care what exact description you give them, whether dominions, foreign nations, subordinate states or whatever it may be—an agreement between two different entities of that character cannot be altered without the consent of both, and any attempt by one to make an alteration is inoperative until agreed to by the other. I think that answers explicitly the Questions which have been put to me, and I hope the answer, although it does not deal and is not intended to deal with all the hypothetical problems which may arise in future, will at any rate make clear the position of His Majesty's Government in the circumstances that at present exist.


My Lords, I am sure we have listened with great care and considerable satisfaction to the statement which my noble friend the Leader of the House has just given as to the position in respect of the Treaty which exists even after the passage of this Irish Act. But my noble friend did riot disguise the gravity of the step which the Irish Government and the Irish Parliament have taken in definitely breaking the Treaty. This is another proof of how all the hopes which were held out so glibly to us when resisting the Treaty have been blown to the air—all the glib prophesies of the friendly feeling of the Irish people and the Irish Government; after the passage of the Treaty and after the surrender which that involved, all those hopes have proved to be wholly illusory. I hope your Lordships mark it. I hope the country marks it. Nevertheless we have the statement of the Leader of the House. There was the last passage of his statement in which he dealt with the effect, not on the Treaty but upon the Constitution, and the bearing in his answer of the Statute of Westminster made me reflect how well-advised some of us were to point out, at the time of the passage of the Statute of Westminster, how dangerous it would be in respect of this very Irish difficulty which is now the subject of our discussion. We tried to persuade the Government that it would be judicious to put an Amendment into the Statute of Westminster which would control to that extent the Irish Free State, just as the other Dominions of the Crown had been willing to be controlled themselves in respect of their fundamental Statutes and Oaths of Allegiance. We were not successful, but it is some sort of melancholy satisfaction to think that, although we were unsuccessful, we were nevertheless right.

The Treaty is binding, and I confess I was astonished to hear the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, apparently apologising for the action of the Irish Free State, and minimising it. He said that all we required were a little patience and a little good temper, and then everything would be right. The optimism of some people perfectly astonishes me.


Hear, hear.


How can the noble Lord, after witnessing for so many years the action of the Irish Free State, and of that portion of the Irish people—it is only a portion, of course—who are profoundly antagonistic to this country, really think that a little patience and a little good feeling are likely to put all these things right? It is quite clear that they will not. We must realise that notwithstanding that great body of Irish loyalist opinion which still exists, those who control the Government, of the Irish Free State are the enemies of this country. That is what is in fact the truth. They are persuaded, for some reason or other, that they have an indelible grievance against this country, and they are determined to make that the foundation of their attitude towards this country on every occasion, and so this Act, which has been described so vividly by the noble Lord who initiated this debate, is full of those examples of attacks upon the relations between the Free State and this country. Not only is the Oath pretended to be repealed—alleged to be repealed—but the very fundamental clauses upon which the Treaty itself rests.

What a poor thing a Treaty is without airy sanction, because it has neither the sanction of force nor the sanction of good will. Either of those are all powerful, but without either what is left? I entirely approve, so far as my humble opinion is of any value, the attitude which His Majesty's Government have taken up. They are resolved doggedly to assert the sanctity of the Treaty, and to repudiate any attempt to infringe it. That, I believe, is the right attitude to adopt. The attitude of the Free State is really an offence, not only against this country, not only against the United Kingdom, but against the Empire as a whole. They are out of sympathy, out of harmony, with all the Dominions of the Crown, and I think that the definite attention of the Dominions should be called to the attitude of this member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. As my noble friend behind me, Lord Elibank, has said, the Irish Free State enjoys all the privileges of a Dominion. Its representatives are members of the Imperial Conference. They take their share in the discussions of the Conference. They hear many secrets in the Conference. Why should we tell the Irish people all the secrets of the Conference unless they are going to act as friendly members of the Empire?

I think that the attention of the other members of the Conference should be called to the attitude of the Irish Free State. I believe that if anything is likely to convince the Irish Free State of the error of the line which they are adopting it would be the public opinion of the Empire as a whole. Let them know that what they do in repudiating the Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty, and in breaking a solemn Treaty which they have made with this country, has the profound and solemn disapproval of every other Dominion of the Crown. I cannot help hoping that that may convince them that it is not merely the feeling of this country and of the people in this country, but the feeling of all the other members of the Empire throughout the world, which they are outraging, and that it is that public opinion to which they are responsible.


My Lords, may I thank the noble and learned Viscount for the very clear and decisive statement which he has made in answer to my Question. I have no doubt whatever that it will help to allay the grave anxiety which now exists, not only in the Free State itself but among many people in this country, and will, as Lord Salisbury has said, go far to form a wise and effective opinion throughout the Dominions and other parts of the Empire. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.