New Clause. — (Provisions applicable in case of either House of Commons not being properly constituted.)

Orders of the Day — Sixth Schedule. – in the House of Commons at on 8 November 1920.

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  1. (1) If the Lord Lieutenant certifies that the number of Members of the House of Commons of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland validly returned at the first election of Members of the Parliament of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland is less than half 944 the total number of Members of that House, or that the number of Members of the House of Commons of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland who have taken the oath as such Members within fourteen days from the date on which the Parliament of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland is first summoned to meet is less than one-half of the total number of Members of that House, His Majesty in Council may, by Order, provide—
    1. (a) for the dissolution of the Parliament of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be, and for postponing the issue of a Proclamation for summoning a new Parliament for such time as may be specified in the Order;
    2. (b) for the exercise in the meantime of the powers of the government of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be, by the Lord Lieutenant with the assistance of a committee consisting of such persons (who shall be members of the Privy Council of Ireland) as His Majesty may appoint for the purpose, and of the powers of the Parliament of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be, by a legislative assembly consisting of the members of the said committee, together with such other persons as His Majesty may appoint for the purpose;
    and the Order may make such modifications in this Act in its application to the part of Ireland affected as may appear to His Majesty to be necessary for giving effect to the Order and may contain such other consequential, incidental, and supplementary provisions as may appear necessary for the purposes of the Order, and any such Order shall have effect as if enacted in this Act but may be varied by any subsequent Order in Council.
  2. (2) The person holding office in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and of Northern Ireland corresponding to the office of Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom shall, at the expiration of the said period of fourteen days from the date on which the Parliament of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be, is first summoned to meet, send to the Lord Lieutenant a list containing the names of the Members of the House who have taken the oath as such Members, and for the purpose of this Section a Member shall be deemed not to have taken the oath unless his name is included in a list so sent.
  3. (3) Where at the expiration of the period mentioned in any such Order in Council a Proclamation is issued summoning a new Parliament to meet this Section shall apply in like manner as it applies in the case of the first election and first summoning of Parliament. [Sir L. Worthington-Evans.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr Worthington Evans Mr Worthington Evans , Colchester

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." The House will no doubt desire to know why I have not moved the first of these two Clauses standing in my name. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] The object of the two Clauses is exactly the same, and that is, to prevent a farce being made of either the Northern or the Southern Parliament if the Members, after being elected, do not take their seats. There are Members elected to this House of Commons who are generally known as Sinn Fein Members who have not come to this House and have not taken the oath. They are filling the seats in the sense that they prevent anyone else representing the constituencies; in fact, they are making a farce of the whole procedure of Parliamentary representation by not taking the oath or coming to this House. The main object of this Clause is at the earliest possible moment to prevent anyone elected, either to the Northern or the Southern Houses in Ireland, standing in the way of another person representing the constituency. The provisions in the second Clause, in the judgment of the Government, are sufficient to carry out the object that we have in view.

May I call the attention of the House to what are the provisions? The Clause provides that where the Lord Lieutenant certifies that the number of Members of either of the Irish Houses of Commons at the first election is less than half the total number of Members of the particular House, or that the number of Members who have taken the oath as such Members within 14 days from the date on which the Parliament was first summoned to meet is less than one-half of the total, certain things may happen. Let us see what this really means? If the Members of either of the two Irish Houses are elected with a determination not to act as representatives of their constituencies, and intend to fill the position and not properly to occupy it as representatives, then the Lord Lieutenant may take certain action. If we had had the power now in this House given in this new Clause, we could have declared vacant the seats of those Members who have not taken the oath or fulfilled their duties as representing constituencies in Ireland. Another election would have taken place.

Photo of Mr James Sexton Mr James Sexton , St Helens

With the same result.

Photo of Mr Worthington Evans Mr Worthington Evans , Colchester

That may be, but, after all, the King's Government must be carried on; and if Members who are returned to the House deliberately refrain from attending the place or qualifying themselves by taking the oath, provision has to be made that will enable the work of government to be carried on. There are two things to be done. The seats of those who have been elected and have not taken the oath within fourteen days from the date of the summoning of Parliament may be declared vacant, or an Order may be made providing for the dissolution of the Parliament, or for postponing the issue of the Proclamation for summoning the Parliament for such time as may be specified in the Order. That is to say, the new Parliament may not be summoned, and in the meantime Paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) takes effect, for the exercise in the meantime of the powers of government by the Lord Lieutenant with the assistance of a Committee—practically a Cabinet—and by a legislative assembly consisting of the members of the said Committee together with such other persons nominated, as His Majesty may appoint for the purpose.

There seems to have been some misunderstanding in the House of what this Clause really means, because once or twice earlier to-day hon. Members seem to have thought that there might be a lapse altogether of Parliamentary power. There cannot be a lapse of Parliamentary power, that being provided for by this Clause. I revert to my statement of the main object of this Clause, that we do not wish to see happen in the Irish Parliaments what has happened in this Parliament, namely, that members shall be elected and refuse to do their duty as Members of Parliament. In the case of the Sinn Fein Members of this House our work is not paralysed. We have enough Members to go on with, but if what has happened here happened in either the North or the South of Ireland it might paralyse the work of those Parliaments altogether. It is to prevent this paralysis that I beg to move the Second Reading of this new Clause.

Photo of Mr Herbert Asquith Mr Herbert Asquith , Paisley

I suppose hon. Members have seen on the Notice Paper these two Clauses tacked together and, interdependent. They have a curious Parliamentary history. Neither of them appeared in the Bill as originally introduced, and although, I believe, they did make a fitful and momentary appearance, neither were pressed in Committee. The House, practically for the first time, on the Report stage finds them here. We find them here—and one has already gone. I confess I am not surprised at its tardy appearance or at its prompt and, indeed, sudden disappearance. I presume I shall not be in order on this second Clause in discussing the merits of its extinct twin-brother. That is a pity! The task is one I should have enjoyed very much. But, there it is; we are left with this barren, musty remainder biscuit in the shape of the second Clause. I really attach very little importance to this Clause. The House, I trust, will sympathise with me in the state of rhetorical poverty to which I am temporarily reduced. In regard to this second Clause, there are several things to be said. It illustrates very forcibly the farcical character of this Southern Parliament. There is no use disguising the fact that this Clause is directed, not against the Northern Parliament at all, for the contingency anticipated is not likely, or least likely, to arise there. It is directed against the Southern Parliament alone.

Let the House seriously consider what the effect of this Clause is if it is kept in the Bill. The Southern Parliament, which means by far the greater part, both in area and population, of Ireland, if the contingency here anticipated arises —and it is absolutely certain it will—will be deprived altogether of any sort of Parliamentary representation. It will have no representation in this so-called Parliament because the effect of this Clause will be that that Parliament, not being assembled in the necessary number, is dissolved by proclamation, and its existence is indefinitely suspended by the act of prerogative. What do you put in its place? A body which has not any credentials or the authority of an elected body—a purely nominated body by the Lord Lieutenant or by the Executive Commitee so far as Southern Ireland is concerned which, as I say, means three-quarters of Ireland—a vast portion of Ireland both in area and population—it is reduced to the status of one of the most backward of our Crown Colonies. That is the effect of this proposal. Let us face it! If this Clause is passed it is certain that under this Bill Southern Ireland will be deprived indefinitely of her Parliament, and with it the prospect of some workable solution, if not a final solution of the Irish problem. I would ask hon. Members to remember that if this Clause be passed that the greater part of Ireland will be deprived indefinitely by an act of the Executive of all form of electoral or representative government.

Photo of Mr Ronald McNeill Mr Ronald McNeill , Canterbury

It is not often I have the pleasure of agreeing on any matter connected with Ireland with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, but I confess that on this point I am in agreement with him. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) said that this new Clause showed the farcical character of the Parliament to be set up in Southern Ireland, but he has not told us what he would have done, or how he would avoid this farcical proposal. There is only one way. I do not know how far the right hon. Gentleman has gone on the road to an independent Ireland, but he must realise that any proposal which he could make for setting up a Parliament in the South of Ireland, other than an independent republic, would be open to exactly the same objection which he has put forward against this Clause The whole thing of giving a Parliament to the South of Ireland is farcical, and may I say that nobody has done more to make it farcical than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley and his policy, and there is no one less qualified to come down here and lecture the present Government for a state of affairs which he himself has brought about.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS:

I always welcome the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley's intervention in Irish Debates, and I only wish that his party had attended in larger numbers, because they might have saved the House from drifting into what I think will be a crowning blunder in Irish policy. The speech of the Minister without Portfolio is a wonderful commentary on the absurdity of the position, for he is a skilful Parliamentarian in the air of reality he adopts when he is advocating the most fantastic proposal. I think he would have made an admirable Peter Pan, but his fairyland happens in real life. Nevertheless, this proposal has in it an element of very great danger. The Government expect this Bill will pass and come into operation with the extreme party in Ireland just as hostile to the Imperial connection as it is at the present time.

Apparently they expect to see these Sinn Fein Members of Parliament coming together in Dublin, meeting and refusing to take the oath. I feel that if that happens you will be in a very disastrous dilemma. If these Sinn Feiners are elected owing to your failure to meet the demands of reasonable Irishmen, and if you have 160 Sinn Fein Members meeting in Dublin declaring the independence of Ireland, you will be in a very great difficulty. Are you going to bring in a regiment of soldiers to turn them out, or trust to the safeguards you are enacting by this now Clause? The only remedy is to make the Bill acceptable to them. I know it is useless for my hon. Friends and myself to take up any further time this evening in urging Amendments to these proposals, and we do not propose to do so. If you take the Bill in its present form, which the Government know is only possible if they take this very extreme and dangerous method, you are only taking an unjustifiable risk which must aggravate Irish opinion at the best, and at the worst may land you into a terrible disaster.

Captain COOTE:

This Clause anticipates a continuance of present conditions in Ireland. That means a continuance of reprisals, and the minorities in the South of Irleand will not get any real protection whatever by this provision. I, for my part, cannot support a Clause which pays no regard to the things which the Government have been insisting upon as being required, namely, the protection of minorities and the ending both of murders and reprisals. This Clause practically means that the Government will make no further effort to deal with the situation in Ireland by legislative means, but leave it to practical action, and everybody knows the form that practical action will take. I say that it is an intolerable position merely to sit down and say that murders and reprisals must go on until the first has beaten the last or the last has beaten the first. The position which this Clause contemplates, under which the Lord Lieutenant will govern the South of Ireland, appears to me to be most dangerous. We have in Ireland to-day the reserve troops from this country, and it is frightfully dangerous that those troops should be in Ireland. I agree that it is not possible for any proposal, short of one for an Irish Republic, to work in the South of Ireland. I think we who are really anxious about the lives of the police and the soldiers have a right to ask the Government to take all the measures they can to protect the forces of the Crown. In my opinion, nothing will do that save a policy of concentration—

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

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is dealing with a matter of administration now, and we are not considering that.

Captain COOTE:

I submit that under this Bill what is contemplated is a continuance of present conditions. I only wish to indicate that it appears to me, and I hold it with great force, that if this Clause is allowed to pass there will be no prospect of any improvement in the position in Southern Ireland for many years to come, and the prospect which this Clause offers of the conditions that will prevail under it in Southern Ireland fills me with astonishment and horror. I do not think if this is the best the Government can do as regards the future in Southern Ireland, it is not very much use for us to continue taking part in this discussion.

I am reluctantly forced to that conclusion, because I am one of the very few who, when this Bill was first introduced, thought there was something in it, but I must confess, as events have proceeded, and after the many Debates which have taken place, I have been more and more forced to the conclusion that this Clause, which embodies the Government's deliberate policy with regard to the future, is merely a policy of "Wait and see." The Government refused to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) to deal with Ireland by legislative generosity, and now they propose a policy of waiting for the future, which holds out no prospect except a continuance of murders and reprisals. I cannot be a party to that policy, and if I can get anybody to resist this Clause I shall oppose it.

Photo of Lord Hugh Cecil Lord Hugh Cecil , Oxford University

This proposal is the greatest legislative absurdity that has ever been suggested. We have been seriously asked to accept this Bill, which began as a measure for giving the Irish self-government. The Leader of the House used the expression "self-government" in defending this Bill on its Second Reading, but if I had been able to be present I should have voted against the measure. By submitting this proposal the Government now recognise that it is an absurd measure. They anticipate that it is not going to work in the South of Ireland, and they are proposing to set up a machine which, so far from giving the Irish self-government, is going to reduce them to the level of subject dependency. What is the use of doing that? There is no pleasure in passing a Bill which pleases nobody and which, so far from furthering self-government, is not desired by anybody in Ireland, and it will throw back the whole cause of peace and prosperity in Ireland. According to the account given to us by Sinn Feiners, Nationalists, and Unionists, there are not two opinions about that. What is the use of setting up all this machinery merely to come to nothing in the end? Surely it would be much better to say that the Bill is to depend upon some form of acceptance by the Irish people. According to the scheme of the Bill Ireland is divided, and the success of the measure is dependent on some form of acceptance both by the North and by the South.

The idea of propounding the scheme and then setting up this ridiculous machinery is most grotesque. If you are going to set up a measure of self-government which will meet the views of the Irish people, let them be the arbiters of what is according to their own wishes. I quite recognise the immense difference between their wishes and the wishes of the people of Great Britain. Apparently they desire something which the people of Great Britain think is dangerous to their interests. If that is so, if that is the fundamental difficulty, then let us go on as we are. The present system of government has gone on for many years, and it can continue a few years longer. To exchange a system which has been tested and tried a system of government by a Parliament of the United Kingdom, for something which you anticipate that the Irish will dislike so heartily that you are obliged to set up this machinery, is not common sense. It is not within the wide boundaries of sanity? I ask the Government to recast this Bill and see if it is not possible to submit to the Irish people something more likely to meet with their acceptance, and, in the event of their rejecting of it, to maintain the existing system of a united Parliament sitting here in the hope that later on some further proposals may be evolved which will be more satisfactory to them. Merely to do what we are doing now will only continue the present disorder. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Ronald McNeill) says the right hon. Member for Paisley is responsible for the present state of things. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for starting this absurd goose-chase of. Home Rule, but he is not responsible for reducing Ireland to its present state of internecine war. That is due to the gross incompetence of the present Government. They have reduced Ireland to this state, and now, instead of saying frankly that in the condition in which she now is the representative institutions we intended for her are impossible, and will be impossible until peace is restored, therefore we must give up the attempt, they are actually proposing this astounding Clause. It is really like a person engaged in dealing with the rules of bridge who is called upon to alter them to provide for a contingency in which a player produces a revolver and holds up all the other players. One would naturally say that such conditions were inappropriate for playing bridge altogether. Equally the present condition of Ireland, with its state of murder and reprisals, is inappropriate for representative Government.

Photo of Mr Bonar Law Mr Bonar Law , Glasgow Central

After the compliments which have been paid to the Government by my Noble Friend, I must say a few words. I am sure the Committee shares the disappointment felt by my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley at his inability to deliver the speech which has kept him about the House for so long a time. It is not only his loss, but I am sure it is a loss to the House. We can, however, only discuss the speech which he has delivered. It was very interesting. He used some striking metaphors. He told us these two Clauses were twins, and afterwards he described one of the twins as a musty remainder biscuit. I was a little more encouraged by what the right hon. Gentleman said about the position. He said it was a farce. I think it is much more—it is a tragedy. At all events this, I think, will be admitted, that the Government have treated it as a tragedy, and have tried as well as they could to deal with the horrible situation which exists in Ireland. It is not an easy situation to deal with, and if you come to the question of a farce, the farce, in my judgment, is not in the proposals of the Government, or in the efforts we have made to carry them through, but it consists in this, that those who are opposed to the Government, and who had the ordinary constitutional powers in this House of improving our Bill by discussing it, have preferred to make their speeches outside. The speech of my hon. Friend behind me was an illustration of how difficult this problem is for anyone who does not think. He said that all that was wanted was to produce a Bill that Ireland will accept. How simple that is! We all want to do it, but again I must confess that we do not get much assistance from the views expressed by our critics. They tell us, "You must have something or other that Ireland will accept." They also suggest that they have something which Ireland will accept, but there is not the smallest evidence that the people of Ireland will accept more readily their proposal than the one we are making. It is no good talking as my Noble Friend did about self-determination. What is the good of talking about that? What is the good of telling us that the Irishmen should get what they wish?

Photo of Lord Hugh Cecil Lord Hugh Cecil , Oxford University

I did not say that the Irish ought to get what they wish. I said that, if we are trying to give them what they wish it is no use offering them what we know quite well they do not wish.

Photo of Mr Bonar Law Mr Bonar Law , Glasgow Central

Just so. We have 70 Members elected for Ireland by overwhelming majorities, and it has been admitted that if we, had another Election to-morrow precisely the same result would be secured. Every one of those 70 Members is pledged to an Irish Republic and nothing else. What, then, is the good of talking about this concession or that concession? These things are simply the opinion of one or other very optimistic persons; because something seems reasonable to them they think it will appear equally reasonable to other people, whereas these people will have nothing whatever to do with it. The real issue is this. If you are going to frame your Bill on the supposition that you are to give the majority of the people in Southern Ireland what they want, then it is no good beating about the bush; you must allow them to judge for themselves. But that is not our proposal. We say we are prepared to give Ireland the largest measure of self-government which commends itself to the people of Great Britain as well as to the people of Ireland. I cannot help thinking my right hon. Friend is really following a will-of-the-wisp. It is necessary to choose between these two things. You have either to give as generously as you can the largest measure of self-government which the United Kingdom plus Ireland will accept, or you must say to Ireland, "You can have whatever you will." That is the unreality of the whole criticism directed against us. My Noble Friend said this was the biggest farce, the greatest absurdity ever known. He referred to the game of bridge and said if you had to deal with somebody with a revolver, would it not be rather absurd to alter the rules of the game in order to deal with that situation? That is perfectly true. If I were engaged in playing a game of bridge, and I thought that some of the others taking part in the same game were likely to use a revolver, I would make arrangements accordingly. As a matter of fact my Noble Friend must know that in the Far West of America in the old days people did not see the necessity of giving up card games because of this danger, but they made arrangements to meet the situation. That is the position here, and it is not just to say that, because we are putting in this proposal to deal with a situation which may arise, therefore the whole of our scheme is absurd.

8.0 P.M.

My Noble Friend's criticism really amounted to this, that it is no use attempting to frame self-government for Ireland in these days, and that therefore it would be better to drop our Bill altogether and go on as we are. That is his solution of the problem. It is not our solution. We have deliberately taken the view that it is possible in time to reconcile Ireland to a reasonable scheme. To use the words of my Noble Friend himself, all Irishmen are not outside the wide boundaries of sanity. They are capable of thinking, and in my view—and I say this deliberately—I am sorry to have to say it—nothing has done so much harm to the chances of a settlement of the Irish question as the declarations which have been made by certain of our critics that the Government are willing to go much further and to deal with the people in a very much more generous way than is provided in the Home Rule Bill. Those who are making those criticisms are doing their utmost to make it impossible to secure a reasonable settlement of the Irish question. That is my view. What is the alternative to some such state of things as we propose? My Noble Friend has referred to the speech which I delivered on the introduction of the Bill, in which I said it was a measure to give self-government to Ireland. So it was, but I said also at that time that obviously if, after the Bill passed, existing conditions continued and the elected representatives of the people refused to work it, then it would be necessary to devise a means of dealing with the situation. The Government, in this Clause, are carrying out the very definite promise I made on the Second Reading of the Bill. It would be germane if the critics suggested some better method of dealing with the situation is possible. We simply realise the situation and say we are prepared to deal with it. We are always bring told to introduce this, that, or the other, but our critics are always running away from their own proposals. They are always telling us we are in the wrong. I suggest they will find that they are the mistaken ones. The Sinn Feiners—those who are engaged in murder—are a very small proportion of the people of Ireland. Once the people in Ireland realise that we are in earnest, that we are not going to be driven to new schemes because of murder, they will realise also that we are giving them a very generous measure of self-government. It will be there for them to accept. My belief is that the strongest ground for suspicion, among people who are more or less moderate in Ireland, as to the intention of this or any other British Government, is that, while we have often talked about it, we have never done it. In my honest belief, the moment that this Bill is on the Statute-Book and we are prepared to carry it through, there will be a new condition in Ireland. At all events, it is better than the hopeless attitude taken up by my Noble Friend. It does give some hope of a final settlement in Ireland.

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

I have listened to almost the whole of this Debate, and many times, as the discussion went on, and speeches were made which were not answered from the Government Bench, I have wondered whether the time was being wasted. After the discussion that has taken place upon what is left of the last page of the Report stage of this Bill, I have come to the conclusion that the time of the House has not been altogether wasted, because, at any rate, it is some satisfaction to know—as I think can be accurately deduced from the conclusion of the Debate on the Report stage of this Bill—that we can come to one practically certain conclusion, and that is that the Bill is dead.

Photo of Mr William Jellett Mr William Jellett , Dublin University

I rise merely for the purpose of making a suggestion which, to some extent, has been anticipated by the Noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil). As I understand the matter, in the event of the Parliament not functioning in Southern Ireland, we are to be treated to government by a Committee of the Privy Council. That Committee, in the first place, is to conduct the executive part of the government, and, in the second place, they are to have—certainly with added members nominated by the Lord Lieutenant—legislative powers. They are not responsible to this House. They can pass measures which, apparently, will never be submitted to the House of Lords I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, and I can assure the House, that there is no class of government which will be more repugnant to every shade of opinion than Government by a Star Chamber of that kind. What is the alternative? The alternative, to my mind at any rate, seems to be simple. We are governed at the present time under a Constitution; we have Parliamentary representation in this House. If this Bill is to do anything at all, presumably it must satisfy somebody. If it satisfies nobody it will settle nothing. The Bill sets up two areas in Ireland— the Northern and the Southern areas. My humble suggestion to the Government is that each area be allowed, independently of the other, to have the opportunity of saying within a specified time whether or not it accepts the provisions of this Bill—always leaving out of that question the last Clause of all, which is the only Clause that receives almost universal approbation, namely, the Clause repealing the Act of 1914. Subject to that limitation, the two areas, each independently of the other, would, through their Parliamentary representatives, have the opportunity of saying within a specified time whether they accepted the other provisions of the Bill or not. If they did not, my suggestion is that the status quo should remain, and that we should be, at any rate, governed under a constitutional form of government, with Parliamentary representation in this House, and should not be handed over to the government of a nominated Committee which would not command popular support, because they would represent nobody except themselves. I cannot think that, in this democratic age this House will agree that any portion of the United Kingdom shall be governed on a system of that kind. Apparently, the powers of the Committee are to continue for a period to be specified in the Order in Council. When that time has expired, you are to have another try, and see whether your Parliament will function. If it will not—and, of course, it will not—you are to go back to your Committee again. If they take the Bill, well and good, but if they do not, leave us where we are—leave us under constitutional government. Whatever you do, do not put us under the government of a nominated Committee responsible to nobody and representing nobody.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. McNeill) twitted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley with being driven from position to position. Does that mean that hon. Members opposite, including the Leader of his party, have not moved one inch from the position they took up before the War? If not, why do they twit us with moving from position to position? Or is the whole of this Bill an elaborate smoke-cloud, hiding the fact that the extreme portion of Ulster opinion has won right along the line, and that the only operative Clause in the Bill is the Clause repealing the Act of 1914? I say with great respect to the hon. Member for Canterbury that that is what I thought very strongly was his subconscious meaning. I have listened with the greatest disappointment to the speech of the Lord Privy Seal. Do the Government ever really study human nature? I do not think they do. I do not think there is one Member of the Cabinet who really thinks about it and its effect, and that is why we have had such an appalling mess of things in general ever since the Armistice. Do they not realise that, if you put a Clause like this into the Bill, it will reinforce Sinn Fein a hundred times over? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the moment you threaten them with a Crown Colony Government if they do not take the oath and be good boys and behave themselves in Southern Ireland, human nature—and especially, if I may say so, Irish human nature, will at once take that very course, that you will get your irregular rebel Dail Eireann sitting just the same, and that the position of Sinn Fein will be enormously strengthened? Their friends abroad can always say to them now: "At any rate you can always go to the English House of Commons; why do you not do that?" But, under this Clause, these elected members will be able to say: "Here we are, duly elected by the people, as legally as any other Parliament, but we are refused the rights of an elected assembly, and hunted, chased and harried wherever we try and meet and try to govern." I think the Government is suffering from lack of imagination and from a total failure to try and understand the other fellow's point of view in Ireland. Sinn Fein has become stronger and stronger under their rule, and this sort of thing will make it even stronger still. I believe hon. Members opposite will bear me out in saying that many persons in the South and West of Ireland who used to be reckoned as Unionists are going over in despair to Sinn Fein. This sort of treatment, as we have heard from the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Jellett), who, I believe, speaks for a large body of opinion in Southern Ireland, will speed up that process. Why cannot we even allow this elected Parliament in the South and West of Ireland to meet and function? Look at history in other respects. I hesitate to point to the example of the Hungarian Parliament—the Magyar Parliament—but before they got Home Rule in Hungary there was a very strong party which stood for the complete independence of Hungary. They were allowed to function. They abused the Austrian Crown, about which in early years they had the bitterest things to say; they were always going to separate, and so forth, but they never came to it. They were allowed to function, and became busy with the administration of Hungary, and as a result they became the most nationalist and ultra-patriotic part of Austria. That is one example of many that could easily be turned to in history. The Lord Privy Seal has prophesied what is going to happen. He seems to imagine that he is going to beat the Sinn Fein spirit. Sinn Fein is a new word, but the spirit is 700 years old. When most of the hon. and right hon. Members who support the Lord Privy Seal are in their graves, we, who are young enough, will have this problem yet to settle. We shall be faced with that same spirit under another name. We are going exactly the wrong way to beat it. The Lord Privy Seal, having helped to win the War, thinks he is going to beat Sinn Fein, but he will not; it will rise again. I hope he will not call me a statesman who is encouraging opposition to his plans in Ireland, but I am going to attempt a very humble prophecy. If you allow these people to meet, even if they do not take the oath of allegiance, even if they preach rank sedition in their Parliament—if you allow them to get busy trying to reconstruct the economic wealth of Ireland, to develop the national resources, and to keep law and order in their own country, as they did until you began to harry them, you will find that they will be busy and will function, and that in the end, probably, the danger will not be so great. We are faced here, not with the idea of surrendering to murder but with two opposite and opposing ideas. One is that you should allow people to work out their own destiny, in other words you should trust the people of whatever race, whether your own or the Irish. The other is that you should attempt to dominate them and, no doubt honestly, mould them into your way. That is the idea before the right hon. Gentleman, and that is the idea which is practised in Germany, and just as that was defeated before this will be defeated, and our way will win. The only thing I regret is the blood and agony we shall have to go through before the people of the country learn how they have been betrayed.

Photo of Mr Edward Carson Mr Edward Carson , Belfast Duncairn

I do not intend to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut. -Commander Kenworthy) into that pleasant anticipation when, a few years hence he, as Prime Minister, will be trying to settle this question. If I have any anticipations at all, the only pleasant one is to think that I shall not be here. I should not have risen had it not been for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Maclean) who made a kind of demonstration which seemed to me to sound like "Who killed Cock Robin?" He semed to think that he had terminated the whole of this controversy, at all events to his entire satisfaction, and perhaps that of his Leader beside him, if he is his leader, when he said, "I draw one gratifying conclusion from all I have heard to-day." He sat down and said, "The Bill is dead." That was a very irresponsible way of dealing with this question. Let us assume that this mournful result has happened. What then? Has the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) thought that what remains then is the Act of 1914? He has opposed this, as has the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean). They have called it a "farce," and they have called it "ludicrous." Will either of them dare to put in force the Act of 1914? Remember it took 30 years before it passed this House, and even then against the majority of this country; and what is the good of your holding out in a crisis like this these idle hopes to the people of Ireland that you are able within the next few months to settle the problem? It is the most dangerous business you were ever engaged in. If instead of doing that, you had said, "Let us give what after all was our own policy in the past, or something more than our own policy, a fair trial, and we will throw our whole weight into attempting that," you would have done a far greater service in commencing to settle something in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, when he says the Bill is dead, if he be right, is leaving the question in a more hopeless position than it ever was in before. What is he going to do with the Act of 1914? Is he going to set it up? Who will accept it? Will Sinn Fein accept it? They laugh at it. Will the North of Ireland accept it? Never. And where do you commence then in your attempt under existing circumstances to settle the Irish question?

I merely rose to make a protest against its being supposed that the Leader of an Opposition discharges his duty by simply proclaiming that he and those who act with him have killed one measure. In a state such as we are in at present, you have not a solitary thing to put in its place, not even an idea or a sug- gestion, for you have not made one during the whole of these discussions. I do not like this Clause which we are discussing, but anyone who knows the present condition of Ireland, whatever Bill you bring in, must know that if the Sinn Feiners, who are in the majority, refuse to function the scheme that you set up, you cannot leave the King's Government without something to put in its place, and that is all this Clause tries to do.

You need never have a Crown Colony if they will accept this, which is, I believe, the very widest effort at creating self-government in Ireland that has ever been contemplated by any previous statesman in this country. It would be very well worth while His Majesty's Government considering what was said by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Jellett).

I think it is a great pity that you have not put your scheme forward as the most that this country is prepared to give, and leave it then to the people of the South and the people of the North to say whether they will have it or not, and if they refuse it leave them under the same government that they have at present. I think that would be far better, and even now at this late hour it would be far better that you should throw upon them the onus of either taking or rejecting the scheme than saying, "If you do not do so, we will turn you into a Crown Colony." If they do not want the widest scheme of self-government that this country is prepared to give, why should not the Union hold the field? I commend that to my right hon. Friend as well worthy of the consideration of the Government. But let us not go away from this discussion imagining that because you pass a Clause of this kind, or throw out this Bill, throw Ireland into utter chaos, and leave at the same time the Act of 1914 upon the Statute Book—which not even its own authors will look at or claim as being their own—you would settle anything in this question. I hope this Bill does become law. The one thing we may expect is that we may be allowed a fair chance in Ireland, without its again being reduced, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite are attempting to reduce it, into a mere party political question, which for years and years will go on and be discussed without any attempt at a settlement being commenced in Ireland.

Photo of Sir Ellis Hume-Williams Sir Ellis Hume-Williams , Bassetlaw

I read this Clause with some apprehension. I fully realise the difficulty the Government had to meet in introducing this Bill, and I am very glad to find them pressing it now on the attention of the House instead of leaving it, as I think they did to some extent last Session, without the close attention it deserves. I do not like this, and I particularly do not like the very vague way in which this assembly—because it is called an assembly—is defined. What it calls a legislative assembly has to be brought into being, unfortunately, under the conditions that we know are most likely to arise, and therefore it is a body which will have very considerable powers in the future, and whose constitution is a matter of great importance. It is spoken of as a legislative assembly, but we are not told what its numbers are to, be. It is to be partly recruited from the Council of Ireland and partly by such persons as His Majesty may appoint. It may be 10 or it may be 100. It is what may be called a Star Chamber. At any rate, it is an assembly with considerable powers, and this House ought to have some sort of idea what its numbers are to be and some particulars as to its constitution. I should have preferred a scheme such as has been suggested, and if the Parliament of Southern Ireland, when created, will not fulfil the purpose for which it has been elected, then until that Parliament can be dissolved, and until the new one can take its place, I cannot see why the powers of legislation should not remain where they are now, in this House. I agree that it would be an invidious task to govern the South of Ireland from here while the North of Ireland may have its own Parliament, or vice versa, but it would be an incentive to those who have refused to take their seats to take the Government into their own hands.

I should have thought the Council which is contemplated to be brought into being by this Act might possibly be utilised in an emergency of this kind. Supposing the Northern Parliament is sitting and the Members of the Southern Parliament refuse to take their seats, the Council could be used for the purpose of carrying on non-controversial government in Ireland. Would it not, in those circumstances, be possible to have 20 Members nominated by the Northern Parliament, and for the Government to choose from among those elected to the Southern Parliament who have taken their seats 20 persons to sit on the Council, and to leave to them some powers for carrying on the government of the country? I agree that we cannot leave to the Council the power to make Acts of Parliament for the South of Ireland, because the South of Ireland would object, to those laws as being made by 20 Members of the Northern Parliament. That would be the very last thing they could be expected to accept. The Council could deal with matters affecting the railway system, transport, or questions of that kind. I rose to try to get information from the Government as to what this body is to be, because I have a dread, which is shared by other hon. Members, that this body will have a great deal of work, at any rate, in the early days of the new Parliament. We all want the Council to become a sort of nucleus from which Parliamentary union is to spring, and I am very much afraid of anything which may create irritation in Ireland and may lead precisely to the kind of criticism which we have heard in this House. It will be called the Star Chamber, repressive government, the tyranny of the ages People will run riot in their denunciation of government by an institution such as this. If it could be left in this House, well and good; but if you could substitute another form of elective assembly it would be still better. Do not leave the government of the Southern part of Ireland, the most disturbed and the least loyal part, to a nominated Chamber.

Photo of Captain Charles Loseby Captain Charles Loseby , Bradford East

I do not rise to offer any kind of suggestion to the Government, but to give my reasons for supporting this Clause. I have really intervened for one particular purpose. There is a fashion in these Debates for the critics of the Government to get up one after the other, sometimes to the number of seven or eight, and then a member of the Government will get up to reply. It seems to me that the Government encourage that policy, and I cannot help thinking that they make a great mistake in doing so. I recognise that I have only succeeded in taking part in the Debate by the fact that I was the last to get up. This method of conducting the Debate gives the impression that the supporters of the Government are so many mummies, prepared to do what we are told at the crack of the whip, and that, for fear of the Government support being withdrawn from us in our constituencies, we follow the Government. We who are supporters of the Government are entitled to say why, in certain circumstances, we support the Government, and we are as entitled to give our reasons for so doing and to be called upon in debate as are members of the Opposition from various sources. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil) has been speaking in a most amusing manner as to whether this Government or the right hon. Gentleman for Paisley can be held responsible for the campaign of murder that is going on in Ireland. We cannot insist too frequently that it is neither the predecessors of this Government nor this Government who are responsible for this campaign of murder. It is the people of Ireland alone. The Government put up the machinery, and I should think they were making the greatest possible blunder if, because Ireland, for the time being is anxious to cut off her nose to spite her fact, they should pull down that machinery.

Photo of Mr Charles Carew Mr Charles Carew , Tiverton

I entirely agree with this Clause. I look at it entirely from a common-sense point of view, and that is that the first thing the Government have to do is to restore, as far as they can, law and order in the South of Ireland. Until that is done there is no chance of the people having any voice which is not intimidated by Sinn Feiners in that part of the country. Therefore, I think the Government are absolutely right in bringing forward this alternative of a nominated Committee for the South of Ireland. It could not be worse under a nominated Committee than Ireland is at the present time; but in my opinion it would be very much better. All the time that the nominated Committee is in office the Government will, I hope, be restoring law end order in Ireland, as we are told they are doing at the present time. It was stated from the Front Opposition Bench that the Government were responsible for the present position of Ireland. I was in the House in 1916, and the present condition of Ireland arose from the rebellion at Easter, 1916. What led up to that rebellion was the party politics of the Liberal party prior to the Coalition Government. Give the devil his due; it is not the present Government that is responsible for the present condition of Ireland, but the Liberal Government before the War.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.