§ 2.20 p.m.
§ LORD TEMPLEMORE rose to call attention to the conditions of railway and steamship travel between Great Britain and Eire and Northern Ireland; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the outset of my remarks I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Walkden, who I understand is going to reply, on his accession to office. It is exceedingly interesting to me that he 195 should be replying to my question to-day, because he happens to be occupying the office which I held for eleven and a half years, and although it would be idle humbug on my part to wish him a long tenure of office I do sincerely hope he will have a most successful one. I only hope that lie will enjoy his Captaincy of the Yeomen of the Guard as much as I did. The noble Lord may not be aware that he is now in command of the most ancient military body in this Kingdom and I am sure he will find his sojourn with them exceedingly pleasant.
§ Debates in your Lordships' House on any subject connected with Ireland are now exceedingly rare. As I look round the House I see very few noble Lords who took part in the debates of thirty-seven, thirty-eight and forty years ago. I see my noble friend Lord Salisbury, and I am sure that he and Lord Donoughmore and Lord Denman have some recollection of those debates, which were often carried on in a very violent spirit. Even twenty years ago, when I first came into the House, the debates, although conducted on somewhat different lines, were often exceedingly acrimonious. I am glad to say that there is no need for that kind of thing now. Ireland on the whole is friendly to this country. Many thousands of her citizens have taken part in the war which is just over and I know that they admire the way in which the people of this country have stuck the bombing. It is part of my object to improve those relations by trying to restore the pre-war intercourse between the two countries.
May I say at once that I have no intention whatever of attacking His Majesty's present Government? They have been in office only two months and they inherit this question among other problems from the previous Government, of which I was a humble member; but two months are two months and they have had time to look round. I hope they will announce to-day and on future occasions that they propose to relieve us of some of the restrictions from which we have suffered in the last rive or six years. Anyone who wishes to proceed to Ireland should be fairly young, able-bodied, of good health, possessed of an even temper and have an illimitable amount of patience. First of all you have to go through the formality
of obtaining a passport and a permit. As regards the permit, I observed the other day inThe Times an announcement which was headed "Exit Permits Abolished." It went on to say:
From to-day exit permits will not be required by British subjects or aliens leaving Great Britain. In view, however, of the continued heavy call on man-power, it is still necessary to control the departure of British men and women born after 1914 who have attained the age of 18 years and are liable to compulsory military or national service. British passports (or travel cards for journeys to Ireland) will therefore be issued to such persons only on production of a clearance certificate issued by the Ministry of Labour and National Service.
From that statement I conclude that everyone still has to obtain a passport before he can go to Ireland and it is that regulation and system which I propose to attack to-day.
§ Having obtained a passport, which sometimes takes a very long time—it may take anything from a week to a month, depending on whether you live near or far from London and whether you know the ropes or whether you do not—you have to write to the office of the steamboat company concerned and get a sailing certificate which may be issued for one week, or even for six weeks, ahead. When one has got that sailing certificate it is exceedingly difficult to change it. In the case of illness or pressing business or anything of that kind, if you want to change it is not a question merely of changing to the day after to-morrow or next week: you will in fact be very lucky if you get another sailing ticket before another month is up. Assume you have got your passport and permit and everything in order. You then proceed to Euston Station, and I am going to deal now with the route I know best, that leaving from Holyhead to Dunleary, better known to many of your Lordships as Kingstown. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, no doubt knows better the routes from Heysham to Belfast and from Stranraer to Larne. If you go in plenty of time for the Irish Mail which leaves about 8.15 you may with luck get a seat. If not, you may have the pleasure of standing up all the way from Euston to Holyhead, and as the train takes an hour longer than it did before the war that is not a very pleasing experience. Having got there, you have got to queue up and if you are not at the top of the queue you have to spend anything from an hour to two hours sitting 197 or standing in a very draughty or windy shed, which is exceedingly unpleasant for anyone who is ill or old, or if it is in winter or in had weather.
§ Naturally this takes a great deal of time and I want to describe to your Lordships the inconvenience which this imposes. The train leaves Euston Station at 8.15 and gets into Holyhead about a quarter to three. You are exceedingly lucky—and I am speaking of something I know about—if the boat leaves before a quarter to five or five o'clock. That means that as the boat step ms more slowly now in order to save fuel, you do not get into Dunleary certainly until 8 o'clock or it may be 8.15 or 8.30, and the position will be all the worse since last Sunday because the Government of Eire have continued with summer time when we have not. It will therefore be 9 or 9.15. On arriving at Dunleary you have the wearisome journey through the Customs and the passport office there. That means that the unfortunate people who are not going to Dublin, who have not got cars to take them where they want to go, either have to find quarters in Dunleary or else hire motor-cars at great expense to take them to their destinations, because, as sonic of your Lordships know, the trains in Ireland do not run at night. They never did run very much for long journeys. This causes great inconvenience and expense to all concerned. I must confess —this is a series of complaints—that there is one bright spot. Since the 1st August, thank goodness, the Government have taken off the censorship so that you no longer run the risk of having your private diaries or estate accounts sent after you in about a week's time. For this relief much thanks!
§ In addition to the examination of passports, there is, owing to rationing and shortage of certain commodities in this country, an examination of luggage. You: luggage has to go through the Customs not only on arrival on the other side but on leaving Holyhead, and that occasions more delay. No doubt this system was perfectly right and proper in war time. I do not want to use provocative language, but as we all know, owing to the attitude—the awkward attitude shall I say?—of the Eire Government, the German Legation and, up to 1943, the Italian Legation and the Japanese Consulate 198 in Dublin were functioning in full blast, with their people able to go wherever they liked over the whole country, trying to get into contact with Service men on leave and to obtain information about the movement of troops and ships. The object of the British Government was to win the war in the shortest possible time, and I do not think anyone could rightly object, or that anyone did in fact object, to any restrictions that the Government thought necessary. But may I remind His Majesty's Government, and various other people in the country who appear to forget it sometimes, that the war with Germany has been over for five months and the war with Japan for two months? I really think it is high time something was done to obviate these very vexatious delays.
§ It is high time that the system of passports between the two countries was abolished. What are the Government afraid of? There is a very efficient police force in this country and very efficient police on the other side both at Kingstown and Belfast. After all, the police force in Belfast is the Government's own force. Belfast is part of Northern Ireland, part of this country. I am sure the efficient police force of Eire would combine and collaborate with the Government in keeping out unpleasant and nasty people. I do not understand why this passport system is maintained. Sometimes I think it possible that the Treasury may have something to do with it. In these matters one generally sees the hand of the Treasury at the back, and I cannot help thinking that the revenue obtained from the issue and renewal of passports—which must be very considerable—has something to do with it. Every Chancellor of the Exchequer for the last ten or twelve years has been exceedingly hard up, and I think the Treasury would probably object to losing the not inconsiderable revenue accruing from this system. I do not know, but I should like to know. The younger members of your Lordships' House never knew and the older members have probably forgotten that passports before 1914 were almost unknown. I believe you had to have a passport to go to Russia and Turkey, but to very few other countries. Now you must have a passport to go to part of the British Isles, not only to Eire but also to Northern Ireland. It is absurd. You might as well have a passport to enable you to go to 199 the Isle of Wight or to Devonshire or to Scotland.
§ I wonder what would have happened supposing it had been necessary to get a passport to go to Scotland during the war. I think you would have had all the Scottish Dukes, headed by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose, coming here and demanding Home Rule for Scotland. They would probably have been accompanied by my noble friends the Earl of Rosebery, the Earl of Elgin, Lord Saltoun and Lord Balfour of Burleigh—he would have been there I am sure—crying out that this was an injustice to Scotland. I am not going to say that this is an injustice to Ireland—that would be language more suitable to the debates of forty years ago to which I referred earlier in my speech—but I do say that it is an unnecessary restriction, and that it is hard lines on English people and on Irish people, most of whom have stood by our side, that when they wish now to go about their lawful occasions on business or pleasure between the two countries they should have to get passports. I ask the Government to do away with the system and do away also with the examination of luggage.
§ Now I turn to the second part of my subject, the accommodation on board the steamers which ply between this country and Ireland. Even in the palmiest days, which I remember very well, this sixty mile stretch of water was a great disadvantage. It used to be said that it was not long enough to enjoy the passage if the weather was fine but quite long enough to make one exceedingly ill if the weather was rough. I have no hesitation in describing the accommodation on board the ships now as absolutely deplorable. Everybody, including old people, ill people, women with young children, babies in arms—they are all crowded on board almost like cattle. If this is unpleasant, as it undoubtedly is, in fine weather, I leave your Lordships to imagine the conditions on board and the state of the ship on arrival when the weather is rough. I am not speaking from hearsay because I have experienced this several times every year during the war when I have gone backwards and forwards between the two countries. Indeed I have witnessed quite dangerous scenes. I have seen crowds of people moving up and down a narrow companion-way in a 200 rather rough sea, and there might easily have been panic resulting in very serious accident save for the conduct of the very efficient staff of stewards. I do not see my noble friend Lord Roy-den here, but I should have been glad to say in his presence, as I say now, that I make no attack on his most efficient company. They do their best, but everybody knows that it is His Majesty's Government who really control the railways and steamships now for all practical purposes and it is they alone who can make things better.
§ The fact is there are not enough ships. To prove this statement I will give your Lordships some figures showing the contrast between 1938, the year before war broke out, and the present day. The number of steamers on the service in 1938 between Holyhead and Kingstown was three, and the average number of passengers per trip was 365. On the Heysham-Belfast route the number of steamers was four, and the average number of passengers per trip was 301. Between Stranraer and Larne the number of steamers was two, and the average number of passengers per trip was 238. That is a total of nine ships for those three routes. What is the position at the present day? Between Holyhead and Kingstown there is one ship and the average number of persons taken per trip is 647. Between Heysham and Belfast there are two ships and the average number of people taken on each trip is 541. On the Stranraer to Larne route there is one ship and the average number of passengers is 832. I may add that the Heysham route has not even got two steamers at the moment because one has been taken off and put into the mail service to Kingstown. There is in addition a service from Liverpool to Belfast managed by Coast Lines who now run a service three days a week instead of every day as formerly, and the service between Liverpool and Dublin which used to run every day does not exist at all. The figures that I have read out—the 1945 figures—are really worse than that, because they include the period from January to May when restrictions on travel were very much more severe than they are now, and it is a frequent occurrence for these mail steamers to take over 1,100 or 1,200 people. I went over and back in August, when there were 1,145 on the outward trip and 1,020 on the return trip. That is not right.201
§ I am quite aware that since last August there have been two additional routes put on. One is the route, three days a week, from Fishguard to Waterford, by the Great Western. Railway. Coast Lines are also running a route from Fishguard to Cork on three days a week. I saw in the Irish Timesrecently that the Rosslare Harbour Board had requested the Great Western Railway to ask the Minister of War Transport to release the s.s. "St. Andrew," which is the only one left of the three Saints—Lord Donoughmore will remember them well—that used to run between Fishguard and Rosslare. I hope the Minister of War Transport will turn a favourable car to that request and that this ship will be sent back. These routes will help, but not so much as one may think. If you draw a line from the East Coat of Ireland through Kilkenny to the City of Limerick and on to the Shannon, then you will find that those routes will be useful to the people who live south of that line but of no use at all to anybody going north of it. Anybody going to County Cavan, Longford or County Galway can go by the southern route, of course, but it would take him about three days on the other side to get to his destination, owing to the very few and inferior trains which run in Ireland today. What is wanted is to send back ships to the L.M.S. and to Coast Lines, so that the L.M.S. may run a night service in addition to the day service from Holyhead to Kingstown; that the Heysham to Belfast and Liverpool to Belfast services may run daily, and that Coast Line; may put on the service which was a great deal used, as I know, from Liverpool to Dublin. That is what is wanted.
§ As your Lordships may know, in spite of the neutrality of Eire or Southern Ireland, many hundreds of thousands of Irishmen either joined the Forces or came over here for munition work, agricultural work or work connected with the late war. Those men who are now demobilized will be going home, and we hope that they like us well enough to come back here and see us again. Those who are still in the Services will be going on leave. There will be business men, cattle men, and so on, going over to renew business connexions with Dublin and ether parts of Ireland, and in addition there will be the people of this country who want to go to Ireland to see that 202 beautiful country. We want to continue the tourist service and to get it up again to the level which it reached before 1939, when there were very large numbers of tourists.
§ I am not unreasonable about this. I quite realize the difficulties of His Majesty's Government with regard to shipping. Even the end of the war in the East has not really relieved it very much, because you have to bring back the prisoners of war, which I may say at once must be a first charge on the shipping. Then you have to take troops to different parts of the world, and you have to take the stores, and all that kind of thing. I may be wrong, but I do not think the ships needed for that sort of work are the 1,500 to 3,000 ton ships that do the service between Great Britain and Ireland. In that connexion, I hope the rumour is not true—I have not given the noble Lord notice of this but no doubt he will tell me—that a good many of these ships are not being used but are just laid up in case the Government want them. I hope the Minister of War Transport would not stand for that for a moment. I think your Lordships will agree that there is no doubt that the people of this country have had a very raw deal over travel, both by rail and by sea, during the war. The war with Germany has been over for five months and that with Japan for two months, and the people now look to the Government to improve these conditions; otherwise they may be rightly resentful. I know that very few letters to the papers have appeared about this, although many have appeared about the shortage of sleepers to Scotland and that kind of thing; but in spite of that, I am sure that the people resent this very much and I hope the Government will put the matter right.
§ Finally, I may say that my first object to-day was to improve the comfort and conditions of people going to and from Ireland, both Irish and English. But look at it from another point of view. I am a loyal British subject, I hope, but I am also exceedingly happy—I do not know when I am happier—when over in Ireland. And when I am over there I like to think that I am in a part of the British Empire or the British Commonwealth of Nations, if you like to call it that. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, 203 considers Eire a part of the British Dominions. I know Mr. de Valera said the other day that Ireland is a republic. My Lords, let us not stress these differences too much. I am perfectly certain that the bulk of the people in Ireland wish to remain on good terms with this country. Of course, the north is part of us, as we know, but although Ireland is partly separated from us there are very few families there who have not got some near or distant relation, or connexion, or friend, who has taken a part over here or abroad in the war which has just finished. I am sure that the Government of Eire recognize that. Whatever may be said by the extremists—who have been there always and always will be there—I am quite sure that the Ministers are realists enough to know that Ireland is inseparably connected with this country for business and social purposes, and that they wish to continue the good relations. This feeling is surely to be encouraged, and again I ask His Majesty's Government to abolish the passport system, for the retention of which I can see no reason whatever, and to do away, so far as you can, with examining the luggage going out of the country, and thus save trouble and bring a little comfort to thousands of people every week who have to make this rather tiresome journey. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 2.49 p.m.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords, it is difficult for some of us to appreciate what are the advantages of the change of Government, but one of them is undoubtedly that the noble Lord who has just spoken, who has been mute now for fourteen years, is allowed again to address your Lordships. When he was on the other side of the House I did encourage him once or twice to make speeches on behalf of the Government, but I failed. I am sure we are all delighted to see him now ready to make his contributions to debate.
I hope the noble Lord who replies will devote himself to answering the question, Why? What is it all about? Because I do not believe any Englishman or Irishman understands what it is all about. Are they afraid of political assassination of the present Government, or what is it? I know perfectly well that I am out of order in raising as a corollary to this particular 204 question that of air travel, but it is part of the whole subject, and I think it would be wrong if we did not raise it now. Air travel has many advantages, and many disadvantages. One of the advantages is not only speed, but the overcoming of geographical difficulties such as we all know exist in a trip from England to Ireland. Here is an ideal route which one ought to be able to do in well under two hours, but which is not favoured by any service at all. It is preposterous that you should have to go from Liverpool by train, and then from Speke to Ireland. I have never understood—and it has never been disclosed to us—why a route from London to Dublin has not been put into effect. I know quite well that the noble Lord who is going to reply has not had notice of this and, consequently, I do not expect him to answer it straight away, but I sincerely hope he will say that he will look into it when I shall be able to raise it at a later date.
§ 2.52 p.m.
§ LORD WALKDEN
My Lords, it may be convenient if I made a statement now on behalf of the Government and, in doing so, I am quite sure I shall have the kindly indulgence which is always extended to anyone who speaks here for the first time. I have been extremely interested in the delightful speech delivered by the mover of this Motion, and I wish to thank him at once for the great friendship and assistance he has extended to me ever since he first knew that the honour had been conferred upon me of succeeding him in the office of Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. I had great joy in receiving that honour and, as I have said, I greatly appreciate the friendship and help that my noble friend has given me. I was also charmed with his speech because, for a matter of thirty years, I have used all the nine routes in operation between Great Britain and Ireland. He mentioned one or two of them, and I can assure you the description he has given is not only accurate but almost complete. His only omission was that he did not describe in all the painful detail the experience he has probably had over the sea passage which is known as the "Rocky Road to Dublin," where the ships go up and down both ways and cause most people a great deal of concern in the interior. Many people have had that experience.
205 I might add, if I may, that I always feel as happy in Ireland as does my noble friend. Whenever I am there I sometimes feel even a little happier than in England, although I am generally happy anywhere. The people of Ireland are most charming, very quick and ready in conversation, and the brilliance of their wit is always sparkling. I enjoy their company very much and, in fact, the only thing about them which I find dangerous is their hospitality. One has to be a little careful about that, but, otherwise, life in Ireland during my many sojourns there has always been exceedingly pleasant.
The subjects raised have been the concern of His Majesty's Government and have also been studied and worked upon by the Ministry of War Transport for many months past. The continuity of policy in this matter has been to seek to make the conditions of travel between Ireland and Great Britain less bad than they have been. We do that, not merely because we have had many complaints, but because we are sincerely appreciative of the great help given to us in the terrible struggle we have been engaged in during the last six years by many thousands of Irishmen in the fighting services and in industry. I have pointed out to many Englishmen how fortunate it is that we have alongside of us an island, not only beautiful but one that produces a great amount of foodstuff which is sent over to us. I have also tried to get some of my Irish friends to understand how fortunate they are to have had their little island placid so near to us, because I have been unable to get any of them to tell me of a better market than this country for their pigs and horses and cattle and turkeys. We are therefore anxious, from every point of view, to remedy the troubles that have been so well described by the noble Lord who raised this question.
The reasons why these troubles persist are, of course, rooted in the fact that we have been immersed in a terrible war for six: years and that we are only now really emerging from it. We have not overcome it, and the tremendous aftermath of war has yet to be dealt with. For that reason many hardships and restrictions still remain. The hardships arise from the fact that many of our ships have been sunk during the war period, and we are terribly short of ships for that reason. Further, I am sure my noble friend will realize 206 that the pressure on the Government for shipping services to carry out demobilization promises, and to improve upon them, make it increasingly difficult to liberate more ships for this cross-channel purpose. A great deal, however, has been done, and will continue to be done, to ameliorate the position.
I have full particulars of all the nine routes. I will not weary the House with the full details of the numbers of ships, but a great many improvements have been made and I think the position is rather less bad than it appears to be in the mind of my noble friend. All but two of the nine routes now have services going. The two that have not yet been in any way restored—no route ever had more than six sailings a week before the war—are between Fishguard and Rosslare and Liverpool and Dublin. I rejoice to say that it was decided only yesterday that the Rosslare service should be restored, although I cannot say in full measure. I cannot say whether there will be three or six sailings each week, but it certainly is to be restarted with, we hope, at least three. So far as the Liverpool to Dublin service is concerned we hope to reopen that before Christmas with three sailings a week. That will appreciably ameliorate the position.
The other services are running, in most cases, with the same number of ships as before. I do not say that they are as good or as satisfactory as they were before the war, but on the service from Glasgow to Belfast there are six sailings a week each way, as there are also between Stranraer and Larne. Between Liverpool and Belfast there are three instead of a previous six. Between Holyhead and Kingstown there are six each way each week, and between Fishguard and Cork there are three each way each week. Between Fishguard and Waterford there are also three each way each week. On the nine routes there are 30 vessels running regularly, as against 48 before the war. I hope that that figure of 30 will be increased to 36 very quickly, and that we shall gradually work up until we have at least 48 running.
Directly after VE-Day, immediately the German war was over, we made arrangements to bring six inure ships into use, but they had been in full war-time service and had been so changed for that purpose that they were not at all suitable for passenger transport. Had they been used 207 for passenger transport, the hardships so graphically described by my noble friend would have been ten times worse. They are therefore being refitted and restored to an appropriate condition for passenger service. The alterations required are very extensive, but they have been given top priority in the repair yards, and we hope that all these vessels may be ready for the cross - channel service before Christmas. In that case, two of them will be put on to the route from Heysham, and one more will be added to the route from Holyhead to Kingstown, to avoid the unfortunate consequences of any breakdown such as occurred recently, when a very useful ship, the "Hibernia," broke down and had to be taken off the route, and a ship taken off one of the other routes to replace her. The Holyhead route is the most heavily loaded of them all, and to have an extra ship available for relief purposes will be valuable. There will be three more ships put on to the route from Liverpool to Belfast, making six sailings each week on that route in each direction. Before Christmas there will be three sailings a week between Liverpool and Dublin. Efforts are in train to improve the service between Glasgow and Belfast, which is also very heavy. However, the difficulty in regard to shipping is very real. Noble Lords will be able to visualize the great difficulty which the Minister of War Transport is facing by reason of the shortage of British ships and the fact that it is almost impossible to get others; and at the same time the overwhelming pressure for the maximum amount of shipping to be used for demobilization purposes to bring men home from the Far East and from Europe. It is therefore only with very great difficulty that we are able to do anything more for Ireland.
So far as the railways are concerned, they are short of carriages and of locomotives. We sent large numbers of both to Europe, and some as far away as Persia, to take goods from the Persian Gulf to Russia, and we have not had them all back yet. We were not able to make new locomotives and rolling-stock for our public services during the war. The hardship is, I know, very serious indeed. I have stood all the way from Euston to Holyhead even before the war. I remember, too, having to stand all the way from Paddington to Fishguard because of a 208 great football crowd going over for an international match, and then, because the ship was crowded, I had to stand all the way from Fishguard to Rosslare. I therefore do appreciate the hardships involved, and there are others associated with the Government whose recollection of these hardships is equally vivid.
So much for the physical question of transport. There is also the question of the removal of restrictions. We did remove some of the restrictions in the early summer, after the collapse of the German war, and the noble Lord has given thanks for the removal of the censorship. None of us liked the censorship, but that has gone now, so that we need say no more about it. When we removed those restrictions, we found ourselves in difficulty at once, owing to the great rush of people who wanted to go to Ireland, many of them English people who wanted to visit Ireland knowing of its beauty and hoping to obtain a more generous allowance of food than we have had in this country. They went in great numbers holiday-making to Ireland. Many Irish people who had given most valuable service here during the war, doing work which was badly needed in agriculture, domestic service and so on, wanted to go back, so that we had a rush of people wanting to go to Ireland greater than had ever been known before. It involved great hardships for those who had permits to travel, and so we were forced to introduce "sailing tickets" to prevent the pressure and crush on the ships becoming very dangerous.
These permits could be given only for certain days when space was available; they could not be used at any time, and they were not transferable. That had to be prevented, with traffic difficulties as heavy as they were. It has been almost impossible for us, moreover, to get additional personnel to do the very important work of examining permits, passports and so on to see that everybody travelling was entitled to travel. Beyond that—and here I come back to some of the early remarks of my noble friend—the Home Office has had to keep on certain vexatious and troublesome restrictions with regard to travelling at all.
§ LORD WALKDEN
Because the Irish case is not like the Scottish case at all. 209 Scotland and England have been almost one country since the eighteenth century, and it has not mattered which side of the border a man was on; but it is rather different, I grieve very much to say, in the case of Ireland. The boundary between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland is such that it is impossible to keep a close watch on it and control it, and everyone acquainted with the country knows that people do slip across it not infrequently and without much difficulty there is a great deal of pressure on the British Government from people from the distressed countries of Europe, who want to come to Great Britain in order to enjoy the relatively less difficult life here as compared with that which they have had, and the Home Office is having to resist a stupendous flood of people coming in here because we have not the food to give them; we ire restricted by our rationing arrangements. We have to be equally careful about the large back door which Ireland provides, and by which they could come in. They can land, as my noble friend knows, in Southern Ireland, and then they could come to this country either direct from Southern Ireland or by passing through Northern Ireland. We must watch this means of access to this country. We have to watch all the main Irish routes, just as we have to watch our own ports—Liverpool, Southampton and so on.
We must continue to maintain passports. We cannot allow the open door which prevailed in the days beyond recall, in 1914, when one never thought about passports when going to Ireland. They were happy days, and I hope that they may come again; but they are not here yet, and therefore the Home Office must maintain its restrictions for the purpose of enforcing the regulations in this country which enable us to get our meals. We cannot afford to have an influx of thousands, or even millions, of people coming into this country, either through our own ports or by way of Ireland. That is why those regulations have to be maintained, and I cannot hold out any immediate hope of their modification. I can assure the House, however that as and when they can be modified they will be modified, and I repeat that the Government are very anxious that the inconvenience and hardship endured by our Irish friends both in the North and in the 210 South may be removed. I personally, though not so young as I was, look forward to the day when we can all go on a visit to Ireland as freely as we once could. I can assure any one who has never been there that there is no country where one can enjoy oneself better than in that delectable land. I hope that my noble friend will accept my assurances that everything will be done to meet what he has in mind.
§ 3.10 p.m.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Lords, my noble friend opposite will be very happy about some parts of the reply which we have had, but equally disappointed with another part. I am myself very disappointed to hear that passports are to be maintained, and I confess that I am completely muddled as to what the position is with regard to passports. I saw the announcement which my noble friend quoted, and I understood, being in Ireland at the time, that I should not have to produce my passport again. Yet when at Larne last Thursday night I went to go on to the boat, I was told that I must go down the pier and get an embarkation ticket, and in order to get an embarkation ticket I had to produce my passport; so that the recent announce-merit has not helped us very much. Possibly if I had not had my passport I could have produced something else—for instance, a watch with an engraving on it—which might have been accepted, but at any rate the nuisance of passports has not completely disappeared from the horizon. I myself am not impressed by the idea that we must have passports at Stranraer and Holyhead and Fishguard to prevent people from Central Europe coming into this country.
I would like, if I may, to go a little further even than my noble friend opposite on one point. He spoke of the civility of the L.M.S. authorities. I went over by the Great Western route, and I should like to extend what my noble friend has said not only to the railway authorities but also to the Government authorities. Their civility was, in my view, deserving of the highest commendation. The Home Office representatives and the Customs representatives have got a beastly job. They are housed in a place which is quite unsuited for the purpose, but, in spite of all that they have to put up with, they are extraordinarily civil to those who 211 have to travel. I think it is only fair, when we are attacking or complaining of the Government, that we should make it quite clear that we are not complaining of their subordinates who, in this connexion, as I can testify, do their very best in difficult circumstances.
But having said that, I have to confirm the statement that travel between these countries is really extraordinarily uncomfortable. My noble friend confined his remarks to Holyhead. It happened that I went over by way of Fishguard and came back by Larne, and I found conditions just the same. The vessel which made the trip from Fishguard to Waterford is a little bit of a boat. It is a cattle boat really, but, mercifully, it does not take any cattle from England to Ireland, so you do not have the smell of cattle in your bunks—that is if you manage to get bunks. The boat holds about 200 passengers in comfort, though I understand the Board of Trade now authorize 400 to go on board. There are thirty-two berths and one small smoking room. That is the whole accommodation for what may amount to 300 people. This is not right. I say that it is dangerous that the boat should be used in this way and I say that in spite of the fact that, like everybody else, I seek to make the best of things.
The noble Lord has reminded us that there is now a boat to Cork. Yes; I know that boat, it is a very old friend but it is not the regular Cork boat. The old "Kenmare," we know her well. It would not be a very pleasant experience to go out in her in a rough sea for she is certainly not an ideal passenger boat. Our friends in Ulster are more fortunate. They can use a fine boat which runs between Larne and Stranraer. But even that boat is crowded now, as all other boats are crowded. The result is that travelling may be not only uncomfortable but also dangerous. The matter, I suggest, requires further consideration by the Government. We were rather upset in Dublin recently. We do not know where all our old boats are. The "Innisfallen," which used to run from Fishguard to Cork, we know is on the mud in Liverpool harbour. Whether she is going to stay there we are not aware. But one of our usual Holyhead boats appeared the other day in Dublin and she was not used for ordinary passengers. 212 She was used for taking German internees back to Germany. We could not help wondering why we could not have her back in the service to which she really belongs and to which she is suited. It is not every boat that can use Holyhead harbour, and I suggest that instead of this boat being used for the, no doubt necessary, purpose of taking internees back to Germany, she should be put back into the ordinary passenger service. I do not hesitate to say that any boat is good enough for this internee traffic.
I do not think that there is any further point that I would like to emphasize beyond thanking the noble Lord who has spoken on behalf of the Government for the statement which he has made. I sincerely hope that he will be even more fortunate than he apparently hopes to be in increasing the facilities for steamship travel. Your Lordships, no doubt, noted that a ship arrived in London with seventy-two animals for the Zoo on board. I hope that the Government will regard with as much favour the requirements of bipeds as they apparently do the needs of quadrupeds.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I should like to take the opportunity of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Walkden, who has spoken for the first time in this House, upon his speech from the Government Bench. Many of us, of course, have heard him in another place in the past. I can assure him that we listened with great interest and attention to what he said. But it is necessary for me to warn the noble Lord that we shall expect more to come from his words as time goes on. We can, I think, take it for granted that he is very sympathetic, towards the case made out by my noble friend Lord Templemore, and we can assume, at the same time, that the noble Lord will use every effort to remedy these difficulties and inconveniences and discomforts with which travel between Ireland and this country is now beset.
My noble friend Lord Templemore made a very comprehensive and eloquent speech, and I am sure that, as my noble friend Lord Brabazon said, we are gratified to know that he has now been unleashed. We shall all look forward to his taking part in our debates in the future with the eloquence and fervour which he displayed to-day. It is fitting that we 213 should hear from the noble Earl who has just spoken of the trouble which befalls people travelling to and from the South of Ireland. But I must say, my Lords that that does not interest me so much Circumstances have been referred to of some hundred years standing, and is would be out of place for me to say anything about them to-day. But I would suggest that the noble Lord should begin at the other end to get real motive power into the sentiments he was putting forward.
When I turn to Northern Ireland, I would lid first point out that the great misfortune under which it suffered during the whole war was that it was considered as a hostile country, by reason of the fact of its being territorially contiguous to the South. Instead of the North of Ireland being treated as part of Great Britain—as it is—it was treated rather as a hostile country. We have a real grievance here. I think it is clue to the confusion of Northern with Southern Ireland that some people in this country do not seem to know where Belfast is. The letters I have received addressed to Belfast, Eire, are innumerable. I believe that this is mainly due to the fact that the Govern-meat attitude gave rise to the impression, which was entirely untrue, that Ulster was a hostile country during the war.
The noble Lord who introduced this Motion raised the question of passports. I do hope that the Government will take this matter up. It is really quite unnecessary that there should be the troubles to which he has alluded. I was not impressed by what the Government spokesman had to say about passports and about the examination of luggage. There are a great many things one could say on the subject. The noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, said that he was very grateful to the Home Office officials. I would say that he is absolutely right as to 95 per cent. of them, but as to the remaining 5 per cent. I can tell him that travellers from Northern Ireland underwent a great many discomforts and incivilities which had to be complained about. But after all we are only considering the 95 per cent. and it is proper that this should be so.
Lord Brabazon of Tara, of course, was bound to raise the question of air travel. I am very glad that he did, and I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Winster, was in his place in the House 214 to hear him. I was very sorry that the noble Lord who responded for the Government did not mention air travel at all. It is quite true that he may have had no indication that this subject was going to be raised, but to Lord Brabazon and myself it is something to wonder at that the air has not been brought into this question of travel and transport. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Walkden, will do all that he can to increase transport by air between this country and Ireland, both north and south.
I think a great deal more should be done at the present moment when all transport is controlled by the Government and is not on a very satisfactory basis. I know that the war has only been over for a matter of a very few months, and that some restrictions have to remain. I am aware of difficulties that do exist and that must exist for a time. But I do feel that if we could understand by the indications which we receive from the Government that they are really going ahead with all their might to get rid of restrictions and to assist in the provision of ships and the provision of aeroplanes to conduct these services, we should leave this debate to-night with greater confidence. Perhaps we can hear something more from the noble Lord who leads this House in relation to these matters, but I sincerely hope that the noble Lord will continue his Motion on another date in the near future if there are no suitable remedies respecting the many points which he has put before your Lordships.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IVEAGH
My Lords, I should like to say a very few words. All the points have been covered except perhaps that of the inadequate accommodation at Holyhead and, I imagine, at other places. I imagine from what other speakers have said in the debate, concerning the examination of luggage and passports, that to try to deal on the open quayside in a few minutes with 1,500 people must be an enormous strain on the officials as well as on the people who have to suffer the examination, and therefore I feel that that is a point which requires a certain amount of emphasis. It might, I think, be remedied unless, as I hope, you are going to do away with what I think is an unnecessary examination. At any rate I am grateful for the answer. The spirit is right; I hope the noble Lord will have the force to carry it out. Per- 215 haps he remembers the days before the last war and this war, when there were a great many more boats, days when there was some comfort in the world. The number has become fewer possibly through the unfortunate occurrences which have happened in the world or, it may be, due to the economy which had to be enforced after the last war, but at any rate I hope efforts will be made to provide a greater number of ships and, for that matter, to improve the railway services so that access will be available.
I should like to remind your Lordships that Ireland is a very big customer of England. You get your food and other things you consume from Ireland and it makes it extremely difficult for those who wish to carry out trade if they cannot get accommodation and go at fairly short notice. For instance, I went over for a fortnight and I very much wanted my managing director to be there, but he could only get one passage on the plane which was going to Belfast so as to get there one day before I left. He knew that he was going at least a fortnight before I went, so that it was more than a month before one man could get a seat there and back. This really does hamper various activities. After all, we have very large contracts with British firms and I am not thinking only of cattle and possibly beer, but other real manufactured articles which have to come from this country. Activities are hampered owing to a lack of accommodation and by the discomfort of the passage from this country to Ireland. All the same, as I have said, we must be thankful for the spirit and we must hope that action will shortly take place.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I should like to reinforce, in a sentence or two, the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, and endorsed by the noble Marquess. This is surely an absolutely ideal route. I know the difficulty about shipping but this is a very short route. There is no difficulty about airfields; the airfields are there. In dealing with air routes you rely on a load factor of between 60 and 65 per cent. Here is a load waiting to be carried and you would not have a 60 per cent. load factor, but you would have an 85 to 95 per cent. load factor. This is one of the airlines 216 which undoubtedly would be a money-maker. I know the difficulty about the ships but the position with regard to aircraft really ought to be getting easier. I do not want to probe into this too closely at this moment. I hope, if it is agreeable to this House, to put down a Motion inviting my noble friend to make a full statement on the whole question of the Government's civil aviation policy on the earliest possible occasion, and I trust that the date I suggest will be convenient and that perhaps he will initiate the discussion.
The airfields are there and I hope machines will very shortly be available. Take, for instance, a machine like the Bristol freighter which is easy to turn out: although it is not a very long range aircraft, for a range of this sort you can make it into a most admirable civil aircraft for carrying on this short-range traffic. The aircraft firms cannot he full of work. Of course the military had to take priority so long as the war was on, but at the present moment I imagine that the noble Lord, or the appropriate Minister who places the orders for military aircraft, is entirely engaged in cancelling the orders which have been placed. Firms like the Bristol Aircraft Company, Avro, who were great makers of bombers and who are also actively engaged on making civil machines, Vickers and Handley Page —that is to say firms which were previously engaged in making bombers and fighters—must be having all their contracts cancelled and he must really want to know what to do with them. I do sincerely hope that he is pressing, and pressing actively, for the earliest possible delivery of these aircraft and that within a very short time we shall see a successful airline established and services running both into Northern Ireland and into Eire. This line will be a real money-maker.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for what he has said and the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, as well, but I am sure your Lordships will accept the fact that the Motion on the Paper refers only to railway and steamship traffic. It will not be expected, there fore, that I should deal with other maters but I can only say that those matters —namely, air services—have already been engaging attention, and at an appropriate moment, arranged through the usual 217 channels of communication, I am sure we shall welcome a discussion such as the noble Lord has indicated. With regard to the other matters, we will draw the attention of the Home Office to the points raised with respect to passports and so on, and I should particularly like to express our appreciation of the extremely friendly reference which has been made to the importance of establishing trade and intercourse between the two nations for their mutual benefit.
§ 3.29 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to make one suggestion which think would help your Lordships to get over some part of the difficulty. At the present moment you have to have a sailing certificate and a permit to sail. Is there any reason why they should not be rolled into one, so that when you get your sailing ticket it is issued with your permit to sail? I will give you an example of what happened while I was on the way back from Larne. A number of people presented themselves at the station and a, lot of people queued up. They did not know the rules and when they presented their sailing tickets they were told they must also have these sailing permits. In two cases permits were refused. I do not know why. If that happens often, if means that ship space is wasted. If sailing tickets and permits were issued together, then instead of having two queues as now there would be only one. If people could be given permits giving the dates on which they were to sail then they could get tickets and so save one very long queue.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ LORD TEMPLEMORE
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord exceedingly for the very courteous and full reply which he was good enough to make. My noble friends the Marquess of Londonderry and Viscount Swinton both said. I think, that it was rather a pity that this debate did not deal also with air travel. That was my fault. I only put on the Paper the question of rail and steamship transport. I wish now that I had made the question a little wider, but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Walkden, does not. Strange to relate—I never had this said to me when I made a reply on behalf of the Government—I was fairly satisfied with the first par of the noble Lord's reply, but I should like to point out that when steamships 218 are released it does not mean that they go straight back into service. That will probably not take place before the new year. However, I hope conditions will be a little better.
I was not so impressed when the noble Lord spoke about the continuance of passports. He mentioned the Home Office. I thought that would be the case. Whenever there is any control of our liberties I find it always comes from the Home Office. For the life of me I cannot see why it is necessary, in order to keep undesirable people out of the country, to have passports to travel between different parts of the Kingdom. The noble Lord said Scotland and Devonshire are on a different plane. I do not think they are. I object to having my comings and goings controlled by the Home Office or anybody else. It may be that I do not count for much, or that your Lordships do not count for much. We have no votes, but other people have votes, as the Government will find out one day if they do not very soon remove some of these very unnecessary and irritating restrictions. I, or some other member of your Lordships' House, may have to return again to the subject of removing these restrictions which are really very unnecessary and annoy everybody. So far as I can make out they are kept on very often for the mere pleasure of control. For the present, however, I can do no more. I again thank the noble Lord exceedingly for his very courteous reply, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.30 p.m.