Orders of the Day — Clause 67. — (Commencement of Act and appointed day.)

– in the House of Commons on 28th June 1920.

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(1) This Act shall, except as expressly provided, come into operation on the appointed day, and the appointed day for the purposes of this Act shall be the first Tuesday in the eighth month after the month in which this Act is passed, or such other day not more than seven months earlier or later, as may be fixed by Order of His Majesty in Council either generally or with reference to any particular provision of this Act, and different days may be appointed for different purposes and different provisions of this Act, but the Parliaments of Southern and Northern Ireland shall be summoned to meet not later than four months after the said Tuesday, and the appointed day for holding elections for the House of Commons of Southern and Northern Ireland shall be fixed accordingly:

Provided that the appointed day as respects the transfer of any service may, at the joint request of the Governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, be fixed at a date later than seven months after the said Tuesday.

(2) Nothing in this Act shall affect the administration of any service before the day appointed for the transfer of that service from the Government of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Sir Philip Pilditch Sir Philip Pilditch , Spelthorne

I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words. "the first Tuesday in the eighth month after the month in which this Act is passed or".

This Amendment, and four other Amendments, are consequential Amendments which have been put down by me for the purpose of dealing with a point on which an assurance was given by the Government, during the Second Reading Debate and subsequently, that the setting up of these two Governments in Ireland should not become either farcical through not being worked by the parties concerned, or dangerous through being being worked by people who were under no obligation to work them with loyalty or in such a manner as not to be a danger to this country. When I put these Amendments on the Paper, the Government had taken no steps to show in what way effect would be given to the assurance given by the Leader of the House. The Government has, however, since put down, later on the Paper, two new Clauses, which, I take it, are meant to take the place of this proposal of mine. My proposal would have the effect that the definite appointed day would be taken from the Bill, and that it would be left in the hands of the Government to decide whether they were satisfied that the Government of the North or of the South of Ireland would function. If they were satisfied, they would, by Order in Council, fix an appointed day. The Government have put forward proposals as to another method of dealing with the matter. This Amendment and those which follow were designed to give the Government an entirely free hand in dealing with this matter as to when and under what circumstances they shall put the two Irish Governments, or either of them, into effect. If, however, it is the considered opinion of the Government that they would prefer to deal with this matter on the lines of their two new Clauses, I do not know that I should wish to press these Amendments of mine. I probably should not have put them on the Paper had I seen the Government's new Clauses. Having put them there, all I wish to say is that, should the Government prefer not to have a free hand, but to bind themselves to operate by means of the proposal that all candidates shall take the oath and that at least one-half of each Parliament shall be validly elected, I shall not oppose it nor proceed with my Amendments.

Photo of Mr Herbert Fisher Mr Herbert Fisher , Combined English Universities

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for the way in which he has put forward his Amendment. He realises, as I was certain he would, that the new Clauses which the Government have put on the Paper have a very serious effect upon his Amendments. I hope that, as he indicated he might, he will see fit to withdraw his Amendment, in view of the suspensory Clause which the Government have put down. After very careful consideration of the question, the Government came to the conclusion that it was desirable that the suspension of a freely elected Parliament, either in the North or in the South of Ireland, should be dependent upon an overt act, and the Government have taken the oath of allegiance as the overt act on which the matter will depend.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Sir John Butcher Sir John Butcher , City of York

I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert: (2) Notwithstanding anything in this Section contained, the Lord Lieutenant, if having regard to the condition of the country in respect of law and order he shall so think fit, may by proclamation postpone the date on which this Act shall come into operation and the date on which the Parliaments of Southern and Northern Ireland, respectively, shall be summoned to meet. This Amendment raises, I venture to think, a vitally important question, namely, the question whether it is possible or desirable to set up a Parliament in the South of Ireland until some form of law and order is restored there. By the Bill as it stands, these Parliaments cannot come into existence until after the expiration of eight months from the passing of the Act, and, at latest, they must come into existence on the expiration of 15 months after the passing of the Act. Unless, therefore, there is some proviso of this sort, these Parliaments must necessarily come into existence, at the latest, 15 months after the Act has been passed. I ask the Committee, would it not be a desperately dangerous gamble to set up a Parliament with these wide powers in the South of Ireland—I say nothing about the North, which, perhaps, could be trusted—in the midst of such a state of disorder and chaos, and such an orgy of crime, as exists in many parts of the South and West of Ireland? How can a Parliament possibly exercise any functions such as any Parliament in any civilised country has ever attempted, and is bound to exercise, until some form of law and order is restored, until confidence is once more restored to the country, and until an end has been put to that state of terrorism which at present demoralises the population, and which facilitates the commission of crime and prevents its detection? The only suggestion that, I understand, is made on behalf of the Government, is that these dangers, which must be obvious to every Member of the Committee, will be averted by the Clause which stands in the name of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, providing for the taking of the oath of allegiance by Parliamentary candidates. If you assume that all those Parliamentary candidates are honest, honourable and trustworthy men, and that they would not take an oath of allegiance unless they intended to abide by that oath, then, I think, the Clause would be effective. But are we to expect that standard of honour and of trustworthiness on the part of the men that now rule the South of Ireland? Is it not possible, to say the least, that the code of ethics now prevailing in Ireland, where murder is denounced by very few except the loyalist population, where crime is allowed to go unchecked, where no evidence is procurable—is it not quite possible that there might be a sufficient number of men depraved and criminal enough to take an oath of allegiance dishonestly, with the intention of getting into their hands the whole power in Ireland? I do not for a moment say that all the Sinn Feiners are prepared to act in that way. But there are a large number of persons in Ireland at this moment who are engaged in the commission of crime, and is it inconceivable that these men, in order to promote the success of their criminal objects, would take the oath of allegiance, and then under the Bill the Parliament must necessarily come into operation at the end of 15 months. The Lord Lieutenant would, of course, act under the constitutional advice of Ministers. This is a necessary and proper safeguard against prematurely setting up a Parliament in the South of Ireland.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

It will probably be for the convenience of the Committee if the Government indicate what course they intend to take with regard to the remaining Clauses of the Bill. I see great advantage in having all this discussion as to the postponement of the Bill on one Amendment. If we discuss it at first on this Amendment, and then later on on the Government Amendment, we shall get it rather confused. After all, we must recognise facts as they are, and there is very little chance of my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment being passed, though I personally would vote in favour of it if it were pressed to a Division, whereas the Government Amendment no doubt will be passed—whatever the Government finally decide to move. Therefore we shall have a much more real discussion on that Amendment, and it will then be for the House to say whether it really thinks the Government's Amendment will meet the case. If it does not think it will, the Government will have to produce some other plan, no doubt on the lines of my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment. If we discuss this and it is negatived that door will be shut for ever—we shall be precluded by the decision of the Committee—whereas if we first discuss the Government's Amendment, and find out what the case for that Amendment is, and if we are not satisfied with it, if necessary, vote against the Government, if hon. Members could be screwed up to that point of courage; or, if that is not possible, it could put such moral pressure on the Government as it has at its command to induce it to adopt some more rational course. Therefore, I suggest that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Long) should indicate what course he proposes to take with regard to the Bill to-day, and particularly if he can tell us they do not propose to move their new Clause to-day. I think that will be really the more convenient course, and one which will conduce to rational discussion of this very important matter.

Photo of Mr Donald Maclean Mr Donald Maclean , Peebles and Southern

May I suggest that, in view of the position, which I expect will shortly be the fact, that we shall have passed all the remaining Clauses of the Bill, when we reach that stage the right hon. Gentleman should move to report progress, and start the new Clauses on another day, especially in view of the fact that the first of the new Clauses is one to which we on this side attach the very greatest possible importance. Notwithstanding the interruptions we have made on this side of the House, the right hon. Gentleman has made very great progress with a Bill of this magnitude—from Clause 54 to Clause 70, only postponing one or two—in the process of his seven league stride. I think he has done extremely well, and when we come to Clause 70 I suggest that he might move to report progress.

Photo of Mr Walter Long Mr Walter Long , Westminster St George's

I do not differ at all from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that we have made very satisfactory progress—certainly as rapid progress as the Government could have possibly had anticipated—and I share the view, apparently held in a good many quarters, expressed by my Noble Friend, that it would be for the convenience of everyone if we could discuss the proposals for suspension, or the more drastic proposals of my hon. and learned Friend, in one, and probably the most convenient time for that discussion would be when the two new Clauses in my name come up for consideration. I fully accept the view that it would not be desirable to start them late in the evening, and I have already learned that a good many hon. Members understood that they were not going to be taken this evening. Indeed, I understood that there was some technical difficulty. I have not looked into it, but I accepted it as the intimation reached me. But I understand a good many hon. Members were under the impression that when we reached Clause 70, if we succeeded in doing so, we should not take the new Clauses to-night at all, and they have made their arrangements in accordance with that view. I am a firm believer in adhering closely and rigidly to the best Parliamentary practice, which is not to take advantage of a mere majority to force hon. Members to discuss parts of a Bill which they were led to believe would not be discussed on the particular evening. When we reach the end of the Clauses we have to move to postpone Clauses 18 to 34, inclusive, which are the Financial Clauses, and Clause 57, dealing with the police, and between those two Motions I propose that we shall take and pass Clause 40, which we omitted in consequence of not having the Financial Resolution. I do not think it raises any controversial question, but we thought we could not take it because of Sub-section (5). Therefore we shall have Clauses 18 to 34 and 57 to take when the Bill is resumed, and, of course, the new Clauses. In those circumstances I should not propose to say anything in answer to my hon. and learned Friend (Sir J. Butcher) now, because if he accepts what appears to be the general view we, could take the whole thing upon my new Clauses. I hope my Noble Friend's advice will not be taken in full, he having incited the House to vote against the Government, which I always think is a very bad practice. But short of that there is no doubt that our Clause, if it does not commend itself to the Committee, can be strengthened in the direction indicated by my hon. and learned Friend, or, indeed, in any other direction which is consistent with the principle of the Clause, and therefore I do not think anything would be lost by agreeing to take the whole discussion on our new Clauses, in which case we should be willing to postpone them, and in these circumstances I should hope the further discussion of these Clauses may not be unduly prolonged. We have dealt with all controversial matters, so far as I know, and if this suggestion meets with my hon. and learned Friend's approval. perhaps he will withdraw his Amendment so that we make take the discussion on the new Clauses, which will be reached almost immediately when we resume the discussion.

Photo of Mr James Lowther Mr James Lowther , Penrith and Cockermouth

There is a point of procedure on which I am not myself clear. It is competent when we come to the postponed Clauses to move that they be further postponed to a certain place, namely, after the new Clauses or after the new Clauses and Schedules. That, no doubt, will be made clear when we come to such a Motion.

Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS:

It will be a convenience to some of us if the Schedules can also be postponed. My right hon. Friend did not mention the matter, but I do not think it would tend to delay it if the Schedules were also postponed until we take the new Clauses.

Photo of Sir Wilfred Sugden Sir Wilfred Sugden , Royton

I should like to ask my right hon. Friend this: If, as he suggests, my hon and learned Friend withdraws his Amendment, is it possible for us so to strengthen the Government to make it what some of us think quite necessary in the interests of Ireland?

Photo of Mr Gershom Stewart Mr Gershom Stewart , Wirral

Do we forfeit our right to bring this in afterwards?

Photo of Mr Walter Long Mr Walter Long , Westminster St George's

Clearly the hon. Member can move any Amendment he likes to the new Clauses in my name. What we propose is to postpone these Clauses which deal with finance and the police till after the new Clauses, in order that we shall have full time for the consideration of the financial Clauses. We would then take them and the Schedules, which, of course, will be postponed, with the Clauses.

Photo of Dr Donald Murray Dr Donald Murray , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Do we understand that the Government proposes to take Clause 70 to-night?

Photo of Mr Walter Long Mr Walter Long , Westminster St George's

Yes, that is part of the arrangement I suggested. If we postpone all the rest, we must be allowed to take to the end of Clause 70.

Photo of Mr Donald Maclean Mr Donald Maclean , Peebles and Southern

I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to be under any misunderstanding. I have a Motion to postpone Clause 70. No doubt I shall be beaten on that, and we shall then have another Division on the Clause.

Photo of Sir John Butcher Sir John Butcher , City of York

In response to the appeal of my right hon. Friend, and in accordance with what appears to be the general wish of the Committee, I shall be glad to withdraw this Amendment at this stage, on the understanding, of course, that it will be open to me to move it again, either as a new Clause or as an Amendment to the Government Clause.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.