Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words
in view of the fact that the Agreement provides for setting up a Boundary Commission to determine the boundaries between Northern Ireland and. the Irish Free State, and that such provision is a direct abrogation of the rights of Ulster as secured by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and a breach of the pledges given by the Prime Minister, this House declines to proceed with the Second Reading of this Bill until the Government has given an assurance that the provision in question will be eliminated from the Agreement or that any decision of the Boundary Commission shall only take effect after the approval of the Parliament of Northern Ireland has been given."—[Captain C. Craiy.]
There are two main grounds for this Amendment. It has been stated that the bargain made in 1920 and embodied in the 1920 Act has been broken. That is the first ground, and the second ground is that the boundaries of the Northern area have been so altered, or that there is a risk of such an alteration in those boundaries, that the inhabitants of some parts of Ulster may be put under the Free State Parliament against their will, and in all the interesting speeches which we had yesterday one or other of those grounds was alleged as the reason for supporting this Amendment. Therefore, I propose to take those two points first. The argument that the bargain of 1920 has been broken seems to me to be based upon a fallacy. The main position of Ulster under the 1990 Act has been maintained. She has her separate Parliament. She has the existing powers and privileges given to her by the 1920 Act maintained in every particular, except so far as the boundary question may alter them, and that I will deal with separately. She retains her option to come in or to stay out of the Free State Parliament, and her position in that respect has been entirely unaltered.
It is true that some soreness has been expressed that to the Free State Parliament wider powers are proposed than those which the Northern Parliament has obtained, but that is not a breach of any treaty or any agreement made in 1920. It is no part of that agreement that the powers given to the Northern Parliament and to the Southern Parliament should be the same, and Ulster has never, to my knowledge, taken up the position that she is entitled to say what powers are to be given to the South. She has taken up the position that the powers given to the North by the 1920 Act should be preserved, and I venture to say that there can be no doubt that those powers have been completely preserved. That the South have got, or will have, wider powers is undeniable, but what could the Government do? The 1920 Act was not accepted by the South. A state of war, or something very much resembling a state of war, existed, and surely it was an act of statesmanship to go to the utmost limit to put an end to that state of war, even though it meant giving to the South wider powers than had been given to the North, and it seems to me that now is not the time to debate that question. It was debated at length in December last, and the action then taken by the Government met with approval by a very large majority.
Now let me deal with the boundary question, which is after all the more important of the two reasons which have been given in support of this Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig) reviewed the history of the boundary question at some length, and he reminded the House that the six counties area had been accepted by Ulster with great reluctance. He went on to say:
As I have said, the arrival at that decision created a considerable amount of bitterness and heartburning in Ulster. We have all suffered very much, and have been accused of betraying our Unionist fellow-countrymen in the three counties whirl, were conceded to Southern Ireland. We have repudiated that charge. We maintain that we did what was best under the circumstances, that we did the only thing that was possible under the circumstances, but we do not deny that it was a very grave
sacrifice on our part, and a very hard thing to do, to hand our Unionist fellow-countrymen in those three counties over to the other part of Ireland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1922; cols. 1283–4, Vol. 150.]
I knew, as every Unionist knew, how hard it was for the Ulster leaders to come to that decision, to accept the six counties area and, as they say, hand over their fellow-Unionists in the three counties area to the Free State Parliament, and when the question arose whether there should be or should not be a Boundaries Commission, I myself welcomed it, not thinking that it was a hardship to Ulster, but rather that it was a relief, and that it would enable them to bring within the jurisdiction of the Northern Parliament some of those fellow-Unionists whom, with such great reluctance, they had had to hand over in the previous settlement. I did not regard it as something which would hurt the Ulster leaders. On the contrary, I thought it might find a way out of some of the hardships to which the hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim pointed yesterday, and if the House will allow me, as I have been asked very pointedly by two hon. Members how I reconcile my present position with statements which I made in public at Liverpool, I propose to try and deal quite frankly with the House and show the House exactly what was in my mind when I, as one of the signatories to that Treaty, put my signature to it I said at Liverpool that I would not be a party to coercion of Ulster. How can the Boundaries Commission be a coercion of Ulster? What have the Commissioners got to do? They have got to consult the wishes of the inhabitants and to decide, after having consulted the inhabitants, and subject to economical and geographical limitations, whether this or that area is to be included in the North or in the South. Is action in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants coercion? Surely it is the very opposite of coercion! How can you get at an agreed settlement, how can you get at something which is agreeable to people without consulting them? If you consult them and follow their wishes how can that be said to be coercion?
If Ulster does not agree to this transfer of her inhabitants, in view of the guarantee given her as to her territory, does the right hon. Gentleman say that he will not coerce her into accepting it?
My hon. and learned Friend hardly does me justice. He could not have been listening to what I have been saying. I want to be quite clear. My whole point is this. If the Boundary Commission, as they are to do under the Treaty, consult the wishes of the inhabitants and those inhabitants express, a desire either to go to the North or to go to the South, that is not coercion of those who wish to stay in the North or in the South.
I am not going to burk the point, but I wanted to make my first point, and then I will come to the second. In my judgment that is the reverse of coercion. It is not coercion. I will now tell my hon. Friend exactly what I understand to be the duties of the Commissioners. It may be that
fools rush in where angels fear to tread,
and that I should be wiser not to give my views upon this subject. I think, however, I am bound to do so. I think the House is entitled to ask me, and as I have made public statements upon this outside, when I am challenged in the House I should be failing in my duty if I were to run away from the challenge and not say what are my views. I agree with the late Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for the Central Division of Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) in the statement he made in this House in December. He said:
If the Boundary Commission is carried out in a spirit worthy of the Agreement, which means not the possibility of throwing out a county but of a real adjustment of boundaries if that is what it means, I think Ulster would make a very great mistake if it refused to have anything to do with the Agreement on that account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1921. col. 204, Vol. 149.]
I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend said on that occasion. I believe he was justified in saying it. This Commission is a Boundary Commission to settle boundaries, not to settle territories. If it had been intended that this Commission should have wide powers to settle territories, surely some words additional to those in the Agreement would have been found to express that intention.
Therefore, I do not think that it is intended to do other than to settle boundaries. They have to consult the inhabitants. A question was asked: "What inhabitants?" [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I can give hon. Members, for what it is worth, my own understanding as to who will be consulted. Who are the inhabitants who will be affected by the settlement of the boundaries? The inhabitants of those parts through which the boundaries run. They will be consulted as to whether they will go to the South or to the North.
It is absolutely impossible to say whether it is one yard or a hundred yards, one mile, or more. How is it possible to answer that question? What it is possible to say is that it is intended to consult the inhabitants on either side of the boundary whether they desire to be included in the North or in the South. Then the economic and geographical conditions are to be taken into account, and one knows perfectly well what those general phrases are intended to cover.
Very well. Let me give an example. You might quite well have a city depending for its lighting and drainage upon works which were outside the actual municipal or city area. The economic conditions require that that part should not be divided from the works which are necessary for the economic life of that city or town. Any commissioner would be bound to take that fact into consideration if the settlement is to be a workable one; to take into account the economic conditions necessary for the life of the town or city. Equally, the geographical conditions—lake, river, mountain—may not form a good boundary at all, and it may well be that boundary may have to be placed on one or the other side of them. Surely that is a reasonable consideration when the wishes of the inhabitants are being taken into account, that the economic and geographical conditions should also be considered!
My idea, therefore, is that there should be a give-and-take along the boundaries, and that those who wish to go North,
although they are just over the present boundary, should be entitled to say that they want to go North. Subject to the economic and geographical conditions, I cannot conceive the Commissioners doing other than putting them in the North. Equally with the South. I know, and it is no use denying the fact—for it has been current knowledge for very many years—that the six-county area was not an ideal There are places in the North and in East Donegal with large homogeneous populations, who would much prefer, if they got the chance, to go into the North. The chance is to be given to them. That is not a hardship. It is something which Ulster should welcome. I am going to give one more quotation, and that is from the Prime Minister, who, speaking in December, said:
We were of opinion, and we were not alone in that opinion, because there are friends of Ulster who take the same view, that it is desirable, if Ulster is to remain a separate unit, that there should be a readjustment of boundaries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1921; col. 40, Vol. 149.]
So while expressing my own opinion as to the course that will be taken, I think that opinion is shared by the Prime Minister when he spoke in December last as to the readjustment of boundaries. In December last this boundary question was debated in this House, and the House approved the Agreement by a very large majority. What has happened since that has brought this question up again so fiercely? No change has taken place in the words of the Agreement. They are exactly the same as when the Agreement was approved by the House in December. What has taken place is that various people have been trying to construe the Agreement, and it is not surprising that they have not agreed in their construction. Mr. Michael Collins has put one construction upon it in answer to a deputation, and his words were quoted yesterday. I have given what I believe the words mean, and what in my belief will happen under this Clause in the Treaty. Of course it is not my interpretation or Mr. Collins's interpretation which will finally bind us. By the terms of the Treaty the Commissioners are the sole judges. They will come to their conclusions and they will decide.
I understand the nervousness of Conservatives and other hon. Members of this House perfectly well in regard to this clause of the Treaty, but I would say to them that every Unionist leader, and those who are closely in touch with this question, has accepted this Treaty, and they advised the House to accept it. The House accepted it in December last, and their acceptance was endorsed by the opinion of the Empire. Throughout the Empire there were rejoicings that at last a settlement had been made between Great Britain and Southern Ireland. A world opinion has also endorsed it. It was part of my work to meet since this Treaty was signed many representatives of foreign nations on various occasions, and I have been struck by the enormous impression that this settlement has made upon foreign opinion, and the enormous increase of strength which it has given Great Britain in all her relations with the outside world. There is not the slightest doubt that it is real value to Great Britain, and I cannot say now that we want this Treaty any less to-day than we did in December last. Do not let us make any mistake. This Amendment amounts to a rejection of the Treaty. Only in to-day's Press I saw a statement from Mr. Michael Collins that he is not going back, that he has set his hand to the Treaty, and that he means to carry it out. His position is full of difficulty, I quite agree, but is that any reason for deserting him?
I ask the House again, is that any reason why we should not persevere? Do we not need this Treaty to-day as much as we did in December last? Of course we do. If this House were to pass this Amendment it would be responsible for betraying those Irishmen who have at great risk to themselves set their hands to this Treaty.
This Amendment, if adopted, would give them the right to say that we had betrayed them, and then what would be the prospect of peace in Ireland? The House has approved of the negotiations entered into by the Government and the results of them by an almost record majority in December last, and are they now to say that although the other side are doing their best to carry out that Treaty, this House is to accept an Amendment which is intended to act as a rejection of that Treaty? [HON. MEMBERS: No!"] It is admitted that it is intended now to endeavour to reverse what was done in December last, and I hope this House will do nothing of the sort. There are difficulties, but the prize of peace is worth striving for, and this House would not be worthy of itself if it halted now when the prize is within its grasp.
Shortly before the House adjourned last night the hon. Member for the Falls Division of Belfast (Mr. Devlin) made a very interesting speech, which attracted much attention from those who were present m the House, and about which I want to say one word before I pass to the main consideration of this Bill. The hon. Gentleman said two things which I think deserve comment. He spoke in terms of natural warmth of the outrage's and crimes committed in Belfast, and which in his opinion were mainly committed by extreme Orangemen upon Roman Catholics. Probably a person speaking from the opposite point of view would say they were committed by Roman Catholics upon Orangemen. While every one of us sympathises with his indignation against anyone who commits murder under any circumstances, I think the hon. Member makes a mistake it he supposes that he strengthens the case for his political solution of the Irish difficulty by dilating on these horrors. On the contrary, it is such narratives as he gave us last night that partly strengthens in the minds of many of us the conviction that you will never get any good by what is called incorrectly self-government in Ireland.
Many people are still convinced that the policy of Pitt is the only true policy in respect of Ireland, and you will never get the various forces in Ireland who treat each other so ill to treat each other better, except by merging them in a larger self-governing community, and so gradually softening the animosities which divide Irishmen from Englishmen. That is the lesson which we draw who are still Unionists in conviction, and I confess that I thought it was almost impudence of the hon. Member to revile Unionists for their opposition to Home Rule since 1886, because everything that Unionists said has turned out to be true, and everything that Home Rulers said has turned out to be false. There is not an anticipation put forward either in 1886, 1893 or 1912, in support of Home Rule, which has not been absolutely disproved by experience, and then, forsooth, we are asked to confess ourselves wrong who have always been right, and to forget that Unionists policy brought peace and prosperity to Ireland whilst Home Rule sunk it into the depths of anarchy and chaos. Every Home Ruler wherever he sits, whether he sits on that side or on this side, ought to go in a common pilgrimage to the tomb of William Pitt to acknowledge their errors and confess their sins.
One word more about an abstract question, that is the question of self-determination as applied to a solution of such difficulties as we find in Ireland. I am a believer in self-determination if it be understood to be no more than a convenient diplomatic formula which no doubt is adopted for the purpose of using a comprehensive phrase to describe a long process. But if it is to be regarded as a principle it is a principle utterly unsound. It is an absurdity to use an expression which relates only to individuals in respect of action affecting communities. To speak of the self-determination of a community is, of course, to use an expression thoroughly fallacious. Obviously, the whole suggestion implied in the phrase is that it is inherently just and reasonable that each person should determine what is to happen to himself. But when you come to apply it to a community, you may have one person wanting one thing for himself, and another person wanting another thing for himself. There is no inherent justice in a man determining what is to happen to another man who may be his next door neighbour, whether he belongs to one of the communities in Eastern Europe or whether he be a Protestant or Roman Catholic in Ulster. There is no inherent justice or reasonableness in any person of one religion and one nationality determining what is to happen to a person of another religion and another nationality, especially when a person, in determining one thing for himself, very often affects the fate of other persons who even may not reside in the same locality.
The Government, in applying the principle to Ireland, have recognised that Ireland cannot be allowed to determine its own fate on such a question as the admission of submarines to Irish harbours. These fallacies all lie in the expression of self-determination, and they are well worth calling attention to when such a large number of people accept it as a true moral principle, when it is nothing of the kind, and cannot be rated higher than a convenient diplomatic formula. The true principle is that the art of government is to promote the happiness of the governed, and any scheme of government should be judged according to whether it is concerned in promoting the happiness of the governed. That is a principle equally applicable to Ireland, India, and Egypt, and to all districts on the Continent which have been and some of which are still in a state of unrest in respect of their territorial character. It is the true principle, and according to that principle I propose to examine the question now before us.
Let me say a word in respect of the Bill. Little has been said, curiously enough, in this debate about the Bill itself. The Bill consists of two Clauses, apart from the Schedule. I am inexperienced in these matters, but as it reads the first Subsection is one of the oddest Subsections ever put into an Act of Parliament. It says:
The Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the schedule to this Act shall have the force of law as from the date of the passing of this Act.
What is the meaning of that? The Articles of Agreement have no imperative significance whatever, but this would make them law, although they are nothing of the kind. They cannot be made law and cannot be enforced by the Courts. The thing is made more odd because of recent precedents—a precedent so recent as 1919. The Government used quite different language in respect of the Peace that they made in France—the Treaty of Versailles. There they had a Preamble which gave them power to carry into effect the Treaty of Peace between His Majesty and certain other Powers, and the principles underlying that may fairly be compared with the second Subsection of the Bill now before the House. In the Act regarding the Anglo-French
Treaty, 9 & 10 George V, Chapter 34, the language is far more relevant. There the approval of Parliament is given to provisions set out in the Schedule of the Act. Why is not that language used in respect of this Bill? Why are we asked to give the force of law to a document essentially inappropriate to enforce law instead of merely expressing approval? If the Government had worded their Bill in that form I should not have proposed to differ from the Second Reading. I fully agree that the Treaty, having been made, is absolutely binding. I voted against it because I disapproved it, but so far as this House is concerned it is true that we cannot honourably break the Treaty entered upon. But the language is thoroughly fallacious.
What is the sense of such words if you are not really going to give it the force of law in the country in a real sense? You cannot give it the force of law until the constitution of Ireland has been drawn up by the Free State. The whole matter is mysterious. I do not want to give way to undue suspicion, but I almost suspect the Government of trying to give the force of law to this Boundaries clause—the one clause to which they ought not to give the force of law. I rather suspect they are trying to get it through now when they can do it the more easily, than if it were postponed till after the constitution of Ireland has been drawn up. I really do not understand the purpose of using this language. As to the second Subsection, I do not know that I approve of the machinery in it. It certainly needs to be very carefully scrutinised. The purpose of it is perfectly reasonable. It is perfectly reasonable to give to the Provisional Government in Ireland legal authority, but let me ask the House to consider how the present chaotic state of Ireland has come to pass. It would have been open to the Government in December last to give legal authority to the Provisional Government, and I do not know why they did not do it. I can give a guess, and it is not, in my view, a very creditable reason. That reason I suppose to be that they were cajoling their Sinn Fein friends, as they are still trying to cajole them. They believe in cajolery and in make-believe. They therefore wanted to treat the Sinn Fein delegates as though they were the real Government of Ireland—Ireland a nation—to be treated on equal terms by the Government of Great Britain. It is the fancy dress side of Sinn Fein in all its silliness. The Provisional Government cannot keep order in the country. It cannot prevent political and ordinary crime breaking out. Why did not the Government think of all that, and why did they pursue this very foolish plan of making a Treaty?
It would have been a more dignified course, it would have been better for law and order in Ireland, and it would have been better for them to have maintained their government efficiently and strongly until the country could be handed over to the new government. I think, therefore, that the Bill ought to be rejected. It ought to be rejected not because the Treaty ought not to be hailed, but because the particular way of carrying it out is an inappropriate and wrong one. The Treaty ought not to be given the force of law, which is a foolish and meaningless expression. That certainly ought not to be done now in Ireland, because to do it would apparently be to recognise that the matter is over and done with, whereas it is only too patent that it is still in the balance. We are bound by our word, as the Sinn Feiners are bound by their word, but to carry it out effectively the process ought to be more or less simultaneous on both sides, and the time for this Bill is when the Constitution is drawn up, and when as those who believe in the Treaty still continue to hope some degree of order and peace will reign in Ireland.
There is the further objection of the boundary question, which is raised by this Amendment. What a strange position the Government take up with respect to that. I had not the good fortune to hear the speech of the Attorney-General yesterday, but I have read i[...] this morning. He takes up a peculiar line, which is very coy and modest. He says it is not for him to pronounce upon the meaning of the Treaty, but oddly enough—and I notice the same curious tendency in my right hon. Friend who has just sat down—Ministers do not express their own opinion, but quote one another. They say, "It is not for me to pronounce upon the Treaty or upon the Boundary Commission, but the Prime Minister said this, or the Leader of the House said that," and so on.
It is unusual, I agree. Will you put this consensus, this catena patrum, which establishes a theological principle as the interpretation of this document, into your Bill? I hope it may be possible to move Amendments in the Committee stage for the purpose of carrying out what is apparently the language of the Government, and for the purpose of interpreting this doubtful Clause in the Treaty. Let me read the Clause. It is by no means a masterpiece of the English language, which is perhaps to be anticipated when the Irish negotiate with the Welsh. It runs:
Provided that if such an address is so presented a Commission consisting of three persons, one to he appointed by the Government of the Irish Free State, one to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland, and one who shall be Chairman, to be appointed by the British Government, stall determine, in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland.
In strictness, that means the inhabitants of the boundaries. I do not know what an inhabitant of a boundary is; he would probably be a very thin person. My right hon. Friend who has just sat down put an interpretation of a sort upon this. He held the view that what was meant was that there should be readjustments not of an extensive character; and, although I do not think he emphasised the point, it is the all-important point, that it should only effect the transfer of homogeneous bodies of opinion. I notice that the Attorney-General, quoting one of his colleagues, introduced a quotation of the same kind, using that very important word "homogeneous." That is all-important. No one, disputes that, if you can move a homogeneous body of opinion, or move a boundary so as to satisfy a homogeneous body of opinion, either on the one side or the other, it would be an advantage; but the difficulty arises where they are not homogeneous, but heterogeneous—where one body or one district wants one thing and another wants something else.
The Government avoid that by saying that it rests with the Boundary Commis- sion. That is one of the ambiguities of the Clause in the Treaty. When you appoint a Commission, it is generally to apply words which are supposed to be clear. The discretion lies in the application of the words, and not in their interpretation; that is to say, they have to determine what the inhabitants really do want, what the geographic and economic conditions really are, or the like. But here you are leaving the Commission to decide what is the real instruction that is given to them by this Treaty—that is to say, what the inhabitants are, what area is intended to be dealt with, and whether the inhabitants are to be unanimous in opinion, or whether there is to be a great preponderance or a bare majority. All that is left to the Commission, apparently, and I do not think it ought to be left to the Commission. Of course we are bound by the Treaty, but according to the universal custom, in Treaties where words may fairly be called doubtful—and these words may fairly be called doubtful—each side is entitled to put its own interpretation upon them. I do not think you will find any dispute in diplomatic history of that general proposition. We, therefore, are entitled to put our own interpretation upon them, and, so far as this House is concerned, we are abundantly entitled to do so because, when we approved the Treaty last December, there was a clear understanding that the Boundary question was merely a question of small readjustment in respect of homogeneous opinion.
I said that the Government position was odd, and it certainly is odd. The Prime Minister and the Government generally—the Prime Minister in respect of his letter to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow, before the election in 1918, and Ministers generally in respect of the Act of 1920—are really pledged to the proposition that six counties should constitute the Northern area. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary gave a narrative yesterday of the controversy as it existed before the War, but he omitted to state, when he came to the War, this very important fact, that the question which was at issue and in dispute in 1914 was decided, by the whole consent of the present Government, in favour of the Ulster view of six counties, and against the other view of 4½ or 5 counties. That was the essential nature of the Bill of 1920 and of the assurances given in the Prime Minister's letter to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow. Then there is also the still more definite and clear pledge that no coercion was to be used towards Ulster. The Secretary of State for War was asked whether that meant that, supposing that the Boundary Commission assigned Tyrone and Fermanagh to the Irish Free State, we should not coerce Ulster into accepting that. The question is a relevant one. The Government are absolutely pledged against the coercion of Ulster. Is it really anticipated that large bodies of Protestants in Fermanagh and Tyrone will go into an Irish Free State except by force? Of course not, and of course the rest of the Protestants of Ulster will support them. What are you going to do then? The Secretary of State for the Colonies drew a picture which it is fair to say he admitted to be an absurdity. Why he thought it desirable to caricature his own legislation I do not know; that was for him to consider in making his speech; but for the purposes of illustration his caricature is interesting enough. He said, supposing there were these very large deductions from the area of Ulster, what would happen? He said that the whole position would be defended behind the revised frontier, so that you would have the curious picture, after the decision of the Boundary Commission, of an outer boundary which would be the scene of vehement civil war, while a little further back the British Army would be arrayed with their hands on their hearts, standing by the Treaty and ready to defend what other people were fighting about, but standing aloof from the battle which was going on just before them. Does anyone suppose that that is practicable? Obviously, if there were such a war, you would have to decide which side you would take, and you could not, in that unhappy position, come to a decision without a scandalous breach of national faith. That is the position into which the Government may have brought itself if a certain award is given by the Boundary Commission. Then, of course, there were the assurances to the House, for such as they amount to—the understanding under which this House and the other House of. Parliament approved the Treaty last December. I will not say the Government has yet broken faith with Ulster, but they are in this astounding position, that it is in the hands of the Chief Commissioner whether they break faith or whether they do not. They are looking on in a state of speculative curiosity to know whether they are cheats or liars or whether they are not. If the Chief Commissioner turns out to be of opinion that the Treaty implies that Tyrone and Fermanagh are to go to the Irish Free State, the Government have broken their pledge about the six counties, they have broken their pledge about not coercing Ulster, and they have broken the understanding by which they obtained the ratification of the Treaty in both Houses of Parliament. It is altogether improper for the Government to put their honour in pawn even to a Boundary Commission. It is their business to be the guardians of their own good faith, and they ought to make it clear, on the face of this Bill, that they do not intend that meaning, which would be false to all their pledges, and that so far as they are concerned they have not pledged this country and Parliament has not pledged this country to assent to that interpretation. There is no breach in the Treaty. It is in accordance with all diplomatic tradition that you should put your own meaning on doubtful words.
For these reasons I am against the Second Reading of the Bill, and I am also against much that fell from my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary in his speech in moving the Second Reading. I detected in it—I think he declared it in one passage in his speech—a desire to influence Irish opinion as well as to convince this House. I object to that partly because I am sure it is futile. I am sure the efforts of English statesmen to influence Irish opinion almost always turn out badly and have an effect quite different from what was the intention of the speaker. But I also disbelieve in it because it seems to me that it involves going on accepting the great many very untrue and unreal pretences which lie behind the Sinn Fein position and because of this demoralising system of make-believe on which the Treaty has all along rested. What we need to-day is to speak to the Irish people the naked truth. The truth is that their abominable wickedness has brought them to this state. It is because they have shed innocent blood that they are now in chaos. It is because the just retribution of their crime has overtaken them, and until they repent in sackcloth and ashes they will never know peace, order and prosperity again. It is not a question of forms of political government. Any form of political government would work well with good will. I do not believe this is at all a good plan, but I have no doubt that with good will it might be made to work well. When the population is demoralised by the indulgence and countenance of murder no form of government will work well. Therefore I think we should avoid all make-believe. We should, on the contrary, set up a sound moral standard and insist that there will be no peace in Ireland till the Irish conform to it. How can we in this House help in the good work? Several of my hon. Friends, the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) and others sympathising with many criticisms of the Government, nevertheless thought the rejection of this Bill would imply the rejection of the Treaty, which I do not at all admit; and, secondly, that the chaos in Ireland—I think the metaphor used was that we should go down a precipice instead of a sliding slope. They do not give sufficient weight to the enormous gain of having a Government in which people trust, in whose statements people believe, and in whose promises people confide. That will go far to outweigh any shock that the rejection of the Bill might cause. I have a great personal respect for many members of the Government, particularly for the Lord Privy Seal, and we who are Conservatives respect and admire and would most gladly trust if we could, but my right hon. Friend is coloured by the powerful and dominant personality of the Prime Minister, and the colouring of the Prime Minister is the colour of the opal. It is a variable thing, to its admirers always beautiful, but never the same, and as by its strong nature it colours and controls bit by bit each Minister in turn, we get to the point—
But some people also think it an unlucky one. It is never given, I believe, in a wedding present because it is thought to be a sign of subsequent ill-faith. Its iridiscence spreads on Minister after Minister till really Ministerial statements do not carry con- viction any more. We have heard statements which from another Government would have greatly reassured us. We hear things we heartily and cordially approve of, but no one knows that they will be carried out. No one knows that the policy of the Government will conform to them. Indeed, the Government has not got a policy. It has merely got a sequence of unplanned expedients. In the same way we are told sometimes that the Irish question is to be settled, and even my right hon. Friend after the sad lessons of the last six weeks still spoke of it as a settlement. It gets them out of temporary difficulties, but never settles anything. That is my concluding reason for voting for the Amendment. It would procure a change of Government, and we might perhaps get on if we had a Government which was unlike the present Government and was not incapable of foresight, destitute of principle and careless of truth.
Many attempts have been made from time to time from all sorts of quarters to probe and dissect the real character, the real nature, and the real mind of my Noble Friend who has just spoken. We all admire his eloquence; we all are delighted with the way in which for a period of nearly a quarter of a century he has flagellated successive Governments, whether he is supporting them nominally, or whether he opposes them. We all realise that his flagellations are incisive and damaging, and amusing to all but the victims. I have no doubt that we shall see that being carried out, if the Noble Lord is spared to us, for the period of another 25 years. He reminds me of a lady who, quite early in life, had been crossed in love, and in consequence bears a bitterness towards the whole world. My Noble Friend need not be annoyed at the very humble comparison which I have made. What we do miss in him, although I am sure it is there—I do not know whether the rest of the House misses it—is anything either helpful or hopeful in his political nature. I think that is, at any rate, the feeling with which the great public outside have towards his speeches, and especially towards the policy which he puts forward.
It seems to me that this question both of the Treaty and of the Bill, because both really arise, resolves itself into two main questions, the honour of the Government and of the people of this portion of the British Isles, and the future and security of the British Empire. The first point, that of the honour of the Government and people of this country, again divides itself into two parts: the pledge which has been given to Ulster, and the pledge which has been given by His Majesty's Government by signing the Agreement with Southern Ireland. As regards the pledge given to Ulster, I say, quite frankly, that I think the Government has shown a lack of frankness, which is not unusual in Governments generally, and certainly is not unusual in this Government in dealing with Ireland. I think the intervention of the Attorney-General yesterday was somewhat unhappy, and did little to dispel the atmosphere of doubt. One feels inclined to say: "Mr. Attorney-General, thou almost persuadest me to be a diehard." That was the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's speech on my mind. The Secretary of State for War has, however, done something to clear up the situation by his speech to-day.
The main question which we have to ask ourselves is this: does the provision in the Schedule constitute a breach, in spirit, of the pledge given to Ulster? As it stands, I do not think it does, although, as the Noble Lord has pointed out, undoubtedly, it does involve this, that the Chairman of the Boundary Commission may by his interpretation of the Treaty involve the Government in a breach of their pledge. That, I think, is common ground between the Noble Lord and myself. I have spoken of the spirit of the pledge, and it seems to me that that is really a very important matter. As I understand it, the spirit of the pledge given to Ulster was that no considerable area of land should be taken away from Ulster and given to the Government of Southern Ireland. I never understood the spirit of the pledge given to Ulster to be that at no future time should there ever be a readjustment of the boundaries by which a few hundred or a few thousand acres one way or the other should be altered. Let me say to hon. Members representing Ulster, and to those who are known by the name of diehards, that if it was the spirit of the pledge that, under no circumstances, should there be a readjustment of boundary to allow a few hundred acres or so to be transferred one way or the other, you could not appeal to the ultimate unit on those lines. If you went to the electors of this country, the people who by their votes decide the policy of the country, you would never get support from them if you told them that that was the spirit of the pledge. The spirit of the pledge was that there should be no large portion of the North taken away and given to the South, and I do not believe that the spirit of that pledge has been broken.
I should like, at this point, and perhaps it would be more appropriate from one who does not accept their view of the Treaty or of the Bill, to endorse the tribute paid by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness), with whom I have been associated all through this Irish question, to the great moderation shown by hon. Members representing Ulster, not only in this Debate but in all the Debates that have arisen during this Irish controversy. At the same time, although it would not be in order to pursue it at any length, one might refer to the attitude taken by a portion of the Press of this country which, having been first and foremost in its enthusiastic support of Ulster, turned round and snarled at her when Ulster took a line with which they did not agree. That attitude helps none of us, and does not help the Government or the country. There is a certain Sunday newspaper, edited by a gentleman who is known to de somewhat eccentric, who has been one of the most prominent supporters of Ulster, and who now turns round and refers to what he describes as the Ulsterics of Ulster. That is the sort of thing which can do no good. I am not surprised that my hon. Friends from Ulster feel very bitterly over this matter, and they might well say: "Even though we no longer agree with you there is no reason why you should turn round and make accusations in the way you have done." I should also like to pay a tribute to the courage and common-sense shown by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland—a courage and common-sense which I hope may still be an implement for arriving at a decision on the boundaries question which can be accepted by both the North and the South. I may be optimistic, but I do hope that that is possible.
Assuming that that is not possible, and that the Boundary Commission has to be set up in accordance with the arrange-
ment come to, we may well be asked the question whether, in supporting this Bill, we are prepared to run the risk of seeing the pledge, in spirit, broken by the Boundary Commission. One might answer that by asking whether we break no pledge if we reject this Bill. The Amendment put forward would most certainly do that, because if it is accepted the Bill would be rejected, and with it the Treaty would undoubtedly go. The Noble Lord thinks otherwise. He thinks it would be possible to reject the Bill and to accept the Treaty. Do we break no pledge in doing that? The hon. Member for Wood Vale (Mr. Lynn), in a speech yesterday, said:
It may seem a small matter to dishonour your word in respect of Ulster, but do you think a Government that dishonours its word in a small matter will not be capable of dishonouring it in larger matters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th Feb., 1922; col. 1308, Vol. 150.]
It would be dishonouring your word if you refused to go on with the Agreement. There is no "Die-hard" in this House who does not know that if we reject this Agreement and this Bill there is not a country in the world that will have a good word to say of us. There is not a Member in this House who would dare to go to one of the Dominions and say: "I advocated and voted in the House of Commons that my Government, after having come to an Agreement and having signed a Treaty, should break it." They would not dare to go to any one of the Dominions and say that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, we would!"] If any hon. Member is prepared to go, let him go and do it. It would be an impossible position to take up.
The Colonial Secretary said very truly that six months ago it was we who had to justify ourselves against every form of attack from the whole world. That is quite true, though I think we were always the innocent party. But in the eyes of the world we were the people who were in the dock. Suppose we refused to carry out this Agreement to-day we should certainly be in the dock, and we could not say that we were the innocent party. The world would say that we had signed this Agreement. It would only realise this fact that we made an Agreement with the larger number of the inhabitants of Ireland and that we were prepared to break this Agreement because if we did not do so we might run the risk in certain conditions of breaking part of the pledge given to the smaller portion of the inhabitants of Ireland. I think that this attack could only have been effective if carried out in the early stages of the proceedings. I have not the least doubt that there is at the present time in the Dominions oversea all throughout the Empire, apart from the question of the United States and foreign countries, an urgent, insistent and almost pathetically earnest desire to see this question settled. If my hon. Friends say otherwise, I think that they are wrong.
I should be very sorry to see the Tory party, which always prided itself above everything else on the fact that it considered the views of the Dominions over-sea, accused not only by its enemies but by its friends of committing an action which, in the opinion of the Dominions oversea, seemed to constitute such a serious breach of the Agreement. It would have a disastrous effect upon the whole future of the Empire. After all, these people do not look at these problems from the same point of view as we do. We have to make allowance for the fact that they have taken up a certain attitude on the question, and to make allowance for the attitude of the United States on this question. Surely those of us who believe that by this Agreement it is possible greatly to improve the attitude both of foreign countries and the United States and even of our Dominions in their relations with this country, are entitled at this stage to urge this point of view. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Jellett) is not in his place. He generally favours us with lengthy speeches, but does not stay to hear the opposite views. The hon. and learned Member spoke yesterday, and made very much the same speech as he made on the occasion of the original Debate on the Treaty, and, as he always does, he put his point of view with perfect sincerity, and with entire belief in the attitude he has taken up. But it is a significant fact that he by no means represents the unanimous opinion of his constituents in Dublin University.
I do not take any notice of what my hon. Friend says. He need not trouble about my constituents. From what I hear, he has far more to trouble about with regard to his own constituents. I should not be willing to stake £100 that he will be in the next House of Parliament. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin University did not voice by any means the unanimous opinion of those whom he represents. The authorities of Trinity College have met the Provisional Government on several occasions in an attempt to arrive at a common line of action. Nor does the hon. Member represent the unanimous opinion of Southern Ireland. Lord Donoughmore, Lord Midleton, and other Noble Lords in another place, represent it just as much as the hon. Member for Dublin University, and considerably more, as any man who knows Ireland will agree. The attitude of Lord Donoughmore and Lord Midleton through out these negotiations has been one of the highest character, which everyone must commend.
The point of the speech of the hon. Member for Dublin University was, "You pay more attention to successful rebellion than you do to devoted loyalists." The answer to that is this, that nothing could have been more unfortunate, and everyone knows it, than the position of those same devoted loyalists in the South of Ireland during the last six years, and the Government of this country showed itself either unwilling or unable to protect them. Do those who believe that this Agreement should be rejected think that they possess either in personnel or policy sufficient material to induce the people of this country to give them the strength necessary to protect the Southern Loyalists? The hon. Gentleman is very confident, but I do not think the country is. Everyone must feel the deepest sympathy with those same loyalists, and everyone has reason to complain of the grave incapacity shown by the Government for the last six years in protecting them. But surely it is a commonsense point of view that they would have, at any rate, a better chance of peace and security, of carrying on their business and professions and living their own lives, in the South of Ireland if the South of Ireland were settled than if the South of Ireland were in a perpetual state of civil [...]ar.
That is a reasonable view. The House should realise that that is the reasonable view taken by the two Noble Lords whom I have mentioned and by the majority of the Southern Irish peers, though it may not be the view taken by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University. That is one of the most central points of the whole situation and one of the most important. I think that we have every reason to object to the ridiculous attitude taken up by some supporters of the Government, when the Agreement was first signed, in suggesting that all our troubles were over and that everything was going to be all right in the future. That was absurd. The only thing with which I can compare it was the attitude of a certain general under whom I served who sent home a telegram saying that he had won the first battle of Gaza, but General Liman von Sanders dropped from an aeroplane a message saying,
You have won the communiqués, but I have won the battle.
When we have in the South of Ireland a strong Government which will have regard to the rights of minorities, that will be the time for jubilation, and not when this Bill is passed.
I have been in this House a good many years, and again and again I have seen the House plunge its way into the grey seas of Irish rhetoric. It never seemed to get very much further. The arguments marshalled in this Debate are very much the same as the arguments used in the old Home Rule Debates, but there does seem to me to be a chance today, not perhaps a very great one, of seeing the ship of State pass into smoother and fairer waters than those in which it is now. It would be folly in the highest degree for us not to avail ourselves of that chance. If the outcome is not what we hope, if the ship gets back into terrific Irish storms, we shall be in a better position to face those storms, having put ourselves right with the world, than we should have been had we not seized the chance, for I am certain that in such an event the ship would ultimately have drifted on to the rocks.
I shall not intervene for more than two or three moments, and, indeed, my sole purpose in rising is to express the hope, which I do with all possible emphasis, that the House will, by a significant majority and in the briefest possible time, pass this Bill into law. I can hardly recall a case in the sphere of our domestic policy where the plea of urgency was more irresistible, or where the issues at stake were more grave, and, indeed, formidable. When this Treaty came before the House for approval last December, while heartily commending what had been done, I ventured to utter a note of warning to those who were indulging the hope—the Noble Lord has referred to it to-day—that the dangers and the difficulties of the Irish situation had been finally overcome. That was a very premature expectation. Since then—it is impossible to conceal it from ourselves—new and disquieting factors have presented themselves. We have seen the split, among the Sinn Fein leaders, the troubles developing upon the border line, and, worst of all, the abominable orgie of crime in Belfast. There are other ominous symptoms on which I shall not enlarge. All of them seem to me to point, not to our going back in any way upon this Treaty, but, on the contrary, to the paramount necessity, first, of clothing the Government of the Free State, without any avoidable delay, with legal authority and full executive power; and, next, to getting into actual work as soon as you can the Irish Constituent Assembly.
There was, I confess, one thing in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary last night, and I think only one, which gave me a little anxiety, and that was his prospective time table. In the early days of the great controversy about evolution, the geologists were constantly calling upon the biologists, or, perhaps, it was the other way about, to hurry up their phenomena. I think my right hon. Friend had better hurry up his calendar or, at any rate, see if he cannot accelerate some of his dates. In my opinion it is all-important that an election in Ireland should at once make clear the acceptance, if the Treaty is to be accepted, of the Treaty by the whole of this which is by far the greater part of the area of Ireland, and, next, the moral and legal competence of the Free State. Nor can anyone view—I do not suppose the Government do—without apprehension the possibility of a prolonged postponement of the boundary settlement. In view of recent events, we cannot ignore the possibility of a sporadic recurrence of these border forays and affrays. The temptation is difficult to resist on either side—the temptation, if they can, to peg out claims of their own for the future.
One thing I am sure is perfectly clear. Urgent as I think the boundary readjustment to be, whether it is to come sooner or later, whether it is to come by agreement or, in default of agreement, by the machinery of a Commission, it is an integral part of the Treaty. It would be impossible for the Government, and for this House which has formally ratified the Treaty, to escape a charge of gross bad faith if there were any recedence from or any repudiation of that which I regard as an essential part of the understanding. I think it desirable to say that, because I believe it to represent not only the opinion of the vast majority in this House, but practically the almost unanimous opinion of the British people outside, and, as the Noble Lord said, of the Dominions overseas. This House, the people in the constituencies, and indeed throughout the Empire, are not only willing, but eager to fulfil the obligation which this Treaty imposes upon them. The passing of this Bill into law, with the least possible delay, will give the Government of the Free State the power, as we know it has the will, to fulfil its share of the obligations under the Treaty.
I do not propose this afternoon to repeat any of the grave objections which exist to the Treaty as a whole. I made my protest last December, and nothing has occurred since either to allay the apprehensions I then expressed or to remove them. On the contrary, what has happened since only serves to intensify them. I would not have spoken in this Debate at all, but for the fact that the question of the Ulster boundaries appears to me to be fraught with danger not only to Ireland but to Great Britain itself. The insertion in the Treaty of this Clause, reopening the whole question of the guaranteed boundaries of Ulster, seems to me in the first instance to be an act of supreme folly. The Government knew, or they ought to have known, that this reopening of the boundaries question was certain to lead to great trouble, to create embittered feelings in Ulster and to retard, and maybe render impossible, a settlement. Certainly it was likely to render far more difficult, if not impossible, the establishment of good relations between Southern and Northern Ireland. That is not all. There is a great deal more. The reopening of the boundaries question, and I say it with the greatest reluctance, appears to me a violation of the most deliberate pledges repeatedly given by the Government, not only to Ulster, but to Great Britain as a whole, and the electors of Great Britain. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) spoke in terms none too strong about breaches of faith. I propose to show that the course the Government have taken in putting this Clause into the Treaty is a most unfortunate, but most deliberate, breach of good faith. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has referred to the pledges which were given. May I recall to the House what those actual pledges were? In November of 1918 a General Election was held, and it was found absolutely necessary to define the position of the Government with regard to the boundaries of Ulster. The question of the boundaries of Ulster is no new one. It was not sprung upon the delegates of the Government in the small hours of the morning of the 6th December. It was a question which had agitated the Irish representatives for many years past and when it came to the election, letters were interchanged between the Prime Minister and the then Leader of the House by which a solemn assurance was given to the constituents of this country, that in any Home Rule settlement the six counties would be left out and they would not under any conceivable circumstances be brought under an all-Ireland Parliament. The constituencies believed those pledges and thought they would be honoured, and Members who stood in support of the Coalition Government believed them also. Men won seats upon those places. The Election was won, and I devoutly hope the Government are not now going to repudiate one of the pledges on which they won that election in 1918.
When it came to the Home Rule Bill of 1920, Ulster was not desirous of accepting that settlement. I speak in the presence of the Prime Minister, who will correct me if I am in the least degree wrong. The Prime Minister authorised Sir Edward Carson to go over to Ulster and to assure them this was a final settlement, a guaranteed settlement and a settlement on which they might rely. Sir Edward went over and put those assur- ances of the Prime Minister before the Ulster Unionist Council, and the Council accepted the Bill upon that assurance, and but for that assurance they would not have accepted it. The Bill passed through Parliament. Parliament knew what they were doing. They gave Ulster six counties, and they know, because Sir Edward Carson explained it, the footing on which Ulster had accepted the Bill. The Members of this House are just as much bound as the Prime Minister himself by the assurance given to Ulster on those occasions, and we dare not, in honour to ourselves, repudiate the pledges which that settlement contained. If the matter rested there, Ulster would have an unanswerable case against the insertion of this boundary Clause, but it does not rest there. I am not going through the story told by my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig), but it will be in the recollection of the House that upon two separate and distinct occasions since the Act of 1920 was passed those solemn assurances were repeated. In the letter of the, Prime Minister of the 20th July, 1921, he assured the Sinn Feiners on the one hand, and the country on the other, that the existing rights and privileges of the Northern Parliament would not be abrogated without its consent.
It was upon that assurance, as I think the Prime Minister will agree, that the House allowed the negotiations to go on at a subsequent date. I trust that assurance and that pledge will be observed. Six days before the Treaty was signed the Prime Minister gave another pledge which I feel certain he is anxious to redeem, and that was the pledge he gave to Sir James Craig, who was going over at that moment to Ireland. The pledge was that if the settlement broke down, new proposals for the consideration of the Northern Government would be submitted to them, and that, in the meantime, the rights of Ulster would be in no way sacrificed or compromised. I think those are the precise words. That pledge was put before the Senate and the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, and they believed it. They thought themselves entitled to believe it, and I think they were. To their amazement and to the amazement of the country, when the Treaty signed in the small hours of the 6th of December was published, it was found to contain a provision under which the whole boundary question could be reopened. Clause 12 is in the widest possible terms. I have pressed the Government for an explanation of what it means. Grave apprehensions were expressed yesterday as to its meaning, and it was pointed out that under the terms of the Clause large territories guaranteed to Ulster by these repeated pledges might be taken away by the Boundary Commission. The position was a serious one—so serious that the Attorney-General was called in to allay these apprehensions. The Attorney-General failed as signally to allay those apprehensions as the prophet Balaam on a historic occasion failed to satisfy the desires of those in whose interests he was called upon to intervene. It being felt that the intervention of the Attorney-General had been somewhat of a failure, we have the Secretary of State for War coming in to-day to give his help.
The Secretary of State for War, if I may say so with respect, did rather better and he expressed his view—which, I understand, is the Government view—that the real intention with which they signed that Clause was that there should be small readjustments of territory on either side, possibly to the advantage of Ulster on the whole. I understand that that is the view of the Government, and certainly it is the view of the Secretary for War, as I understand him. That is a very important factor. If that is the view of the Government, then what excuse have they for not putting words into the Treaty embodying their real intentions? Surely Mr. Michael Collins could not object. They might go to Mr. Michael Collins and say to him, "Our object was to secure small readjustments of territory. We could not honourably do anything else." Surely he could not object to the carrying out of the true intention, and so enable the Government to redeem their pledges. I fear, if the Treaty is left as it stands, there will be grave danger in it. May I refer for one moment to the Debate which took place in this House on the 14th, 15th and 16th December last? On the occasion of that Debate, I think it is common ground with everyone in this House that, after the statements of the Government, hon. Members were led to believe that the only effect of this Boundary Commission would be to make small readjustments of territory. I ask any hon. Member to get up and say if that was not the impression left on the mind of the House by the declaration of the Government. The right hon. Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) said precisely the same thing in his speech in the House, and only two nights ago in his constituency, and I would commend that to the attention of the Government.
The Colonial Secretary made a speech yesterday in which he attempted to explain this boundary provision, and, if I understood his speech aright, he did not argue that it was justified on the part of the Government, but he suggested that there was some necessity to put this in. We have had this explanation of necessity for the violation of written and solemn pledges on several occasions, and, notably, on a great occasion in the early part of the War, namely, the explanation given by Germany for violating a Treaty, which did not commend itself to the conscience of the civilised world. Was there really any reason for putting this boundary provision into the Treaty? Could not the Government have said to Mr. Michael Collins, "We were bound in honour not to interfere with this boundary question. You, as an honourable man"—and they have said he is—"cannot ask us to commit a deliberate breach of faith." If they had said that to Mr. Collins, is it conceivable that he would have then said, "No. I demand that you commit this breach of faith, and, unless you do it, the whole settlement is gone, and there will be war declared between Ireland and England"? I cannot believe he would have said that.
What is the position to-day? Since the Debate of December last we have had a rude awakening, because Mr. Michael Collins has publicly announced that, instead of some readjustment of territory, he demands, on behalf of himself and his friends, something like the half of Ulster, including the historic cities of Derry, Enniskillen, Newry, and the whole counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. If the Commission were to grant anything like that as the result of their deliberations, there would undoubtedly be civil war in Ireland. What, then, would be the attitude of the Government? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War told us he is convinced, as he told the Conference at Liverpool, that under no circumstances would there be coercion of Ulster. But supposing—and I beg the Prime Minister, if he speaks, to enlighten us on this point—supposing the Boundary Commission, as they could under the wording of the Clause, allotted to the Irish Free State considerable territory granted to Ulster, and supposing Ulster, as they undoubtedly would, refused voluntarily to accept that, would the Prime Minister be prepared to coerce them? That is a question which, I think, arises at this moment for the consideration of the House.
The Colonial Secretary said, "Pass this Treaty now absolutely in an unamended form, and trust in providence, or something else, for the future. Let us hope for the best. Let us hope that all these embittered passions now existing will end in agreement and harmony. Let us indulge in hopes, and let us do nothing for the moment." But do let the House remember, if they pass this Treaty in its unamended form, that we lose control for ever. We cannot go back. There will be no other opportunity to amend it. Therefore, I say, now is the time to amend it in such form as is desirable. Then the Government say, "We cannot now amend this Treaty in any shape or form." May I suggest an answer to that, for I am most anxious, if I can, to find a way out of this very great difficulty? It is this. Their real intention was to have only a small readjustment of boundaries. Then, is it not fair and right, when they come to this House, to ask this House to endorse what they intended as the meaning of the Treaty, to put into the Treaty what their real intention was? I cannot see any real objection that Mr. Collins and his friends might take. Could they not now go to Mr. Collins and say, "Our intention was only to have small readjustments. We were pledged not to do anything further. We were pledged not to interfere with the boundaries of the six counties. It would be a violation of our honour if we went further than that. Will you, Mr. Collins, and your associates assist us in getting out of a grave danger which threatens Ireland as well as this country?"
I do think it is quite possible, under those circumstances, that Mr. Collins and his friends might meet the situation, and insert such modifications in this Boundary Clause as might avoid the dangers with which we are threatened.
In any case, I ask, what is the duty of Members of this House? The honour of the Government; is involved, and no one will say that it is not the duty of Members of this House to do their utmost to maintain the honour of the British Government, on the maintenance of which peace, not only in Ireland, but. I venture to say, throughout the world, depends in the future. To my mind, the honour of this House is also concerned. If Members of this House deliberately condone a breach of faith on the part of the Government; if they sanction that breach of faith; if, by their votes, they enable that breach of faith to become operative, then I say we Members of this House are parties to that breach of faith, and we make ourselves responsible for it just as much as the Government. I beg of this House, and first of all of the Government, to find a, way out of this difficulty, by some means such as I have suggested, or some other method which may occur to the mind of the Prime Minister. Everyone who sits on this side of the House, or who supports the present Government, is deeply anxious that this settlement to which the Government have pledged our word shall go through without danger, without disaster in the future, and, therefore, we do urge the Government to remove this great source of danger which arises out of the boundary question. Further than that, I say we should do everything in our power, if the Prime Minister makes provision to avoid this danger, to help him over the difficulty, and thereby avoid a stain, which might be ineffaceable, upon the honour of a British Government and the honour of Members of Parliament.
As the first Ulster Member who has risen since the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) sat down, I hope he will permit me, in the name of my Ulster colleagues, to thank him for the good feeling and friendly sympathy he has manifested towards us. I will not follow him into the criticism to which he subjected the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Jellett). I would agree with him when he says the Noble Lords whose opinions he quoted represent the Peers of Southern Ireland; but whether the Peers represent the people of Southern Ireland is a very different question, and there I should be obliged to join issue with him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), in a very brief address, seemed for once to find himself in concurrence with the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister be a prudent man, as we know him to be a shrewd one, he will reconsider his position in the light of that approbation. There is some force in the old maxim that reminds us that we ought not to trust the Greeks when they come bearing gifts. The old policy was "Wait and see"; the new dogma is "Hurry up." What he really wants is to start the Prime Minister upon a mad Gadarene rush towards the precipice.
My main purpose is two-fold. I much regret the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) last night. As to 90 per cent. of it, it was not directed to the question we are specifically discussing. It was directed instead—the whole tone and tendency of it was, and he will realise it now—to inflame and embitter feeling in Belfast, where of all places—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, I might be spared these interruptions when I am talking of my native city. He well knows what the effect of it will be upon the inflammable and excitable opinion there, at this moment excited to a pitch of positive danger. It will have the result of stirring up his own constituents by representing them as the innocent and long-suffering victims of aggression, putting all the wrong upon one side, though no picture could be more untrue and it will inflame others wrongly accused. If it were worth while, I could quote to the House from the other side incidents similar to those he mentioned last night. I could quote to him one that occurred within a few moments of the very period when he was addressing the House, when, in his own constituency, the manager of a mill giving employment to 80 per cent. of my hon Friend's supporters, a mill in the very heart of his constituency, was assassinated behind his desk, and even the little innocent typist was wounded. I could tell him, further, of a case which he knows so well which accompanied a bombing outrage attempted upon a tramcar. A wretched man and his wife who were taking their humble meal in their little desolate home—it had got to be sold up, and they were seated at the table literally on square setts—attracted by the sound of the bomb, they rushed to the door, and the assassins who had thrown the bomb shot the two of them dead, because they would have been able to identify the bombers.
When the police came upon the scene, they found the five children, the eldest of them only 10 years, standing around the dead bodies of their parents, with the imprint of their feet in the coagulated blood. I could tell my hon. Friend (Mr. Devlin) of the tramloads of shipyard workers, after a hard day's toil, setting out in the hope of reaching the happiness and contentment of their homes. Murderers threw their bombs into a tramcar and hurried five of them into eternity, and 20 more had to be taken to the hospital. What is the good of our flinging recriminations at each other on these matters? The business of both of us ought to be to see this business put a stop to. Here and everywhere else, by voice and by pen, as he knows, I have done my utmost, and we have had very little assistance from him. We have got to live there together. He knows that there is not a solitary large employer of labour in the city who is Roman Catholic. When he talks about his constituents, I have to remind him that it is those of my faith who employ them, and we want to go on employing them, but when he flings these accusations, unjust, unfounded, and ungenerous, he knows what is going to happen in Belfast, what so constantly happened when the same sort of charge was flung from those Benches against the constabulary. Every speech of that kind was a sentence of death to men who had as good a right to live as they have. It only makes more difficult and more impossible the task which the Government has laid upon our shoulders, and in which it has given us very little support.
I am glad the Prime Minister is here, because I am bound to press that charge upon him, and I hope to convince him that practically from the first moment when he laid responsibility on us this Government have not once kept faith with us. Look at the months that elapsed before they transferred to us a solitary service. Appeal after appeal was disregarded, flouted, turned down, until in the end the people upon whom we depend, and who stand behind us in this matter, began to ask us, "Is not the whole of this thing a farce?" He must be well aware of it. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has remonstrated with him privately as well as publicly. But every attempt we made was foiled by the infamous machinery of Dublin Castle, until in the end, owing to the shame and disgrace of the situation, they did begin to permit the services to come to us, one after Another. Practically 12 months after they asked us to set up our Parliament, they have only now transferred, reluctantly, the last of those services.
I will come now to the question of the boundaries, for Mr. Speaker has laid certain injunctions upon me as to time. What is the history of this from beginning to end? I will ask the Prime Minister this question, and I hope that whoever answers will deal with it. Do you imagine for one moment that if, when the 1920 Bill was going through the House, the House had had the smallest suspicion that you meant to reopen the question of boundaries, and take away from us in a few weeks that which you were giving us so solemnly by Statute, you ever would have got your Bill? Do you believe for one moment that, if you had given us the Bill, we would ever have set up our Parliament under such conditions? The thing was a trick, and I am forced to the conclusion, in view of all that happened, that you were not sincere when you made us the offer. Let me remind the House shortly what it is that has happened. Going back to 1916, my right hon. Friend asked Sir Edward Carson to take upon himself the tremendous responsibility of going to Ulster to see if he could secure from Ulster assent to two Parliaments being set up, one for the 26 counties and the other for the six. I am sure he knows how gravely he imperilled the position of Lord Carson, as he now is. I believe this, that the devotion and the undying affection which we have for him, and will always have, was put on that occasion to a supreme test, and it was only at the end of a week, and when he had literally exhausted himself, that he succeeded in securing to you the six counties. It was not our fault that that arrangement did not go through there and then, and if it had, you would not have dared to suggest, at that stage at any rate, that you intended to interfere with so much as a solitary townland or hamlet. Then came the 1920 Bill. The Prime Minister set up specially a Cabinet Committee, and I remember him standing at that box and telling us he had investigated the whole of this question, that the 26 counties area was the limit on the one side and that the six counties should be ours on the other.
I remember him standing at that box, and with that fine rhetoric and spacious gesture which so well become him, if he will permit me to say so, apostrophising the Irish Republic and saying: "They want an army, and they want a navy. They will not get it." Does he stick to that now? That has gone. He gave us the entire six counties, and I challenge him to dispute it. He proposes to invade them now. That, too, has gone. At that box he made this declaration, that under no circumstances and at no time should there be automatic inclusion of Ulster. Does that stand now? He wrote with his own hand to Sir James Craig, when we were in an acute crisis in the North of Ireland, while negotiations were going on with the Sinn Fein leaders, that nothing would be done in the meantime to prejudice the rights and privileges of Ulster. Does that stand? Does he deny that at 2 o'clock in the morning and with what I suggest was a spirit of 2 o'clock in the morning cowardice, he did automatically include us and invade our territory? When he stated that he would never, without our consent, abrogate our rights, he did abrogate them, and when he said he would not prejudice us, he did prejudice us, and he seeks now to bind us by a bargain to which we were no party. Surely the Prime Minister will not deny that; he cannot deny it.
I must turn for a moment to one or two speeches made in this Debate, one from behind me and one from the other side, both of which were based on a fallacy. The hon. Member behind me seemed to labour under the impression that what we were out for was utterly to annihilate and destroy the Treaty. That is not so. It never was our position, and it is not our position. On the contrary, the Prime Minister will do us this justice, that at no stage have we sought to obstruct him in dealing with the Southern area of Ireland, so long as he left us alone. That has been our position, and we do not in the least desire to violate this Treaty, except in so far as it proposes to take away from us what was given to us by Statute. A good deal of sentimental "tosh" is talked, and we are told by the other side not to trust in legalities and not to trust in history, but to have faith. Faith in what? Faith in whom? In those whose whole path, when negotiations were proceeding, was strewn with the litter of broken promises and pledges? See what are going to be the consequences of the Parliament you set up. The whole scheme of government in Northern Ireland is based upon the entire six counties. The proposed assessments and Imperial contributions are based on the entire six counties the whole of the Judiciary set up and now in operation is based on the entire six counties; the Education Department is set up, staffed, and manned on the basis of the six counties; the Commercial Department, the Labour Department, and all the other things that have been set up are based on the six counties; and the Civil Service Allocations Commissioners proceeded to break up headquarters staffs in Dublin and to allocate them on precisely the same basis. The whole warp and woof of government in Northern Ireland is indissolubly woven up with the entire six counties and reposes on that basis, but you are going now to invade that territory, and you have made no provision whatever in your Treaty for the far-reaching consequences that must ensue from the violation of it. Let us take the Council of Ireland and look at the position of affairs there. Out of bedlam it is impossible to conceive anything more insane and inane.
You and I are agreed, then. You are always right when you agree with me. See what will happen in the Council of Ireland. You are setting up here, not, as you originally contemplated, two Parliaments equal in status and power; you are setting up one Parliament supreme and indefeasible, as it is described, and, on the other hand, you are setting up the Parliament contemplated by the 1920 Act. The Council of Ireland supposes that 20 are to be elected by the Northern Parliament and 20 by the Southern Parliament, and one by the Imperial Government, to deal with matters that are common, but in so far as Southern Ireland is concerned, there are no matters that are common. It is supreme, and what we are going to do is this, that while Southern Ireland is to be supreme in these various matters remitted to the Council under the Act, and we must not touch them, they, nevertheless, are to come in and deal with those matters in respect of our area. The whole thing is preposterous and unworkable. Take railways; exactly the same position supervenes there. Take the Contagious Diseases of Animals Act; there is a matter which is profoundly agitating public opinion in this country and most damagingly affecting public interests, and yet you have made no provision in your Treaty for dealing with such a question.
One lunatic asylum for all Ireland! I come now to a question that very directly involves the Prime Minister, the question of the boundaries. What is it that has produced the position of deadlock in Ireland? There could be no more shocking example of deliberate betrayal than this. In this statement which Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins issued, when they finally broke clown on this question of boundaries, Sir James Craig states that he had it authoritatively from certain Members of the Cabinet that all that was meant was a slight rectification of boundaries, and Michael Collins equally subscribed to the statement. that he had the positive assurance from the Prime Minister that it was not a rectification of the boundaries, but a question of large areas, such as practically the entire counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh, the city of Derry, South Down and Southern Armagh. It is in a published statement, and surely the Prime Minister has seen it. I will give him a proof, if he desires, in a moment.
It was the same thing in 1916. You were sold then, and we are to be sold now. The point I wish to make is this. If it be the position that on the one hand the Prime Minister has given a positive assurance that there is nothing more than a slight rectification of the boundaries involved, and if the other party to the transaction correctly states that he has a positive assurance that not a slight rectification but large areas are involved, and, therefore, for that reason he will not enter into the negotiations, I want to put this point to the Prime Minister, then for the difficulties which have arisen and will arise the right hon. Gentleman is directly and personally responsible. He either misled Mr. Collins on the one hand, or he or his Ministers misled Sir James Craig on the other hand.
I did not propose to take part in the discussion. It is the intention that the Leader of the House shall reply. But I must take the trouble of contradicting for the second time a statement which I believe was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Antrim (Mr. O'Neill) in the discussion in December last. I happened, fortunately, to be in the House at that time, and I got up and contradicted it. I stated quite clearly then what was the position of the Government. The significance of that lies in this fact that the House of Commons accepted the statement which I made as to the views and intentions of the Government, and Dail Eirann also accepted the Treaty after I had made that statement in the House of Commons. That was the interpretation based on the Treaty. I never put any other interpretation on it. I made a statement in the House of Commons before the Southern Parliament accepted the Treaty, and that statement represents the position of His Majesty's Government. The House of Commons accepted the Treaty after the statement was made, and so, too, did Dail Eirann.
The Prime Minister has addressed himself to a charge which he has conjured up out of his own imagination. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The charge I make is not the charge he is answering at all. The charge I make is that Sir James Craig, on the one hand, asserts that he had a positive assurance from Ministers co-operating with my right hon. Friend, that only a slight rectification of the frontier was involved, whereas Mr. Collins states that he had the positive assurance of the Prime Minister that large areas were involved. I ask the Prime Minister to give me a straight answer to a straight question. Does he mean a slight rectification, or does he mean large areas?
The statement made by my hon. Friend is this: that I made a statement to Sir James Craig, or that someone made a statement to him that it would be a slight rectification. I certainly never gave an assurance that the larger part of Tyrone and Fermanagh would be transferred to the Southern Parliament. I made no such statement. I contradicted that in the House at the time and before the Treaty was accepted by the House and before it was decided upon by the Southern Parliament. I denied the statement at the time and I still deny it.
My right hon. Friend must argue the question out with me. I call attention to the fact that Sir James Craig makes a statement and signs it, and in the same document Mr. Collins makes another statement. This was a fortnight ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have you read Mr. Collins' statement?"] I have not the statement here, but everyone in this House must be familiar with it. My right hon. Friend must have seen it.
No, my right hon. Friend is wrong in this matter. The statement to which I specifically allude is a statement that was agreed to and signed by Sir James Craig and Mr. Michael Collins less than a fortnight ago, when Sir James visited Dublin and negotiations were definitely broken off. If it be not true that Sir James Craig had this assurance from certain Ministers, his statements should have been challenged on the spot, and equally, if it be not true that the Prime Minister told Mr. Collins what Mr. Collins says he did, then that too should have been challenged on the spot. The delay has involved an acute controversy. We want a straight deal with the Prime Minister, and no more. Our experience has not been encouraging in this respect. The right hon. Gentleman will do us this justice, that from beginning to end we have kept faith with him and I ask him to put his finger on a single case in which we have not lived up to the spirit and letter of every bargain we have made.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD:
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman in order in addressing the House now after the statement of the Prime Minister, and the explanation he gave in December before the House adopted the Treaty, and before the Southern Parliament accepted it, as to the definite intention and understanding by the Government of what the boundaries question involves? Is the hon. Gentleman still entitled to persist in putting words into the Prime Minister's mouth after the Prime Minister has given such a definite statement as to what the position of the Government is, in accordance with the speech he delivered in December last.
I should have thought that the Prime Minister would have been the last man to impute to me that I was forcing words down his throat. I have simply called attention to a statement made by two people—each statement being in direct conflict, on this boundary question, and I say it is in the interest of peace and understanding that the question should now be cleared up definitely. I must do my duty. We are in a critical position. We want to know definitely where we are. We have undertaken certain obligations in respect of government. We have undertaken them for the entire six counties, and I am bound to say this, and I say it with the greatest deliberation at my command, and with a full sense of responsibility for what it means, that if a breach be made in the wall which, metaphorically, surrounds our area, and an attempt be made to invade large areas, we shall stand in that breach, and defend it, or fill it with our dead bodies. That is plain language. I know all it means, and I know what is the spirit of the people of Ulster. If you are going to play a game of hanky-panky with us, as you have done time after time, if you are going to take every concession we make in order to bring about tranquillity, peace and prosperity as a starting point for fresh demands for further concessions, we cannot go on indefinitely doing that. You have driven us too far, and our backs are now to the wall. The flag which we hold in our hands may droop over our sinking heads, but, believe me, it will be carried either by our hands or by other hands to ultimate and sure victory. You must in the end deal fairly with us. We appeal to you that, if you wish to settle this question, you should do it now. We appeal to you to dissipate the atmosphere of suspicion which your action has created. I do not blame Mr. Collins in this matter, because he has spoken his mind, and has exposed the sham and humbug of what has taken place. We want equal candour from the Government. We want them to make up their minds, and take their stand. Until they do that, there will be no peace, the Treaty which you are now pushing through with indecent haste, which you ushered in with a ringing of bells round the world, believe me, will not result in the ringing of bells, but the wringing of hands.
I heartily agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in deprecating the personal recriminations which have characterised Irish Debates in this House for so long. The hon. Gentleman drew a very pitiful picture of the murder of some innocent people in Belfast, and we have heard repeatedly statements from the other side as to murders that have taken place in Ireland. These statements throwing discredit first on one side and then on the other, in my opinion, have only contributed to keeping back a true solution of the Irish problem. I agree with the view which has just been expressed that the best thing both sides can do is to co- operate in stopping murder either in the North or in the South. We have had today a speech from the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) characterised by his usual brilliancy and subtlety, but I am forced to say that the right hon. Gentleman is accustomed to meandering about. Olympian heights far above the wicked world in which we live, and I must say that, in my view, his speech was not helpful in regard to a solution of the problem with which we are confronted. I rise mainly for the purpose of making an earnest appeal to the House to pass this Bill as speedily as possible in order that the Provisional Government in Southern Ireland may be armed with power and authority to restore law and order in Ireland.
Let me say a word about Ulster in regard to the boundaries. I rather think my hon. Friends representing Ulster have some cause for complaint. Several times reference has been made to the letter of the Prime Minister written only a week or so before the signing of the Treaty. In that letter the Prime Minister bound himself and the Government to do nothing to encroach in any way upon the powers and privileges of Ulster. The interpretation put upon that by Ulster Members is that those words ought to have covered the boundaries, and that these boundaries ought to remain as they were. That is a matter of opinion. As a matter of form I think that the Ulster Members have good cause for complaint that they were not consulted during that week, but as a matter of substance what does it amount to? We have had admissions from the Ulster Members themselves that, after all, the boundaries are not something so sacrosanct that they are not capable of being adjusted.
Sir James Craig admitted before the Treaty was signed that the matter of the boundaries was one of practical politics. Then there is the speech which was made by the leader of the Ulster party when the Treaty was being discussed last December in which he admitted that the boundaries were not in every way satisfactory, and that there was a large number of Roman Catholics in the North, and in the Southern area a number of Protestants. If that is so surely the boundaries are capable of readjustment. There are people on one side of the boundary line who wish to be placed under the Government on the other side of the line, and therefore the readjustment of the boundaries is a matter of practical politics. Why should there be all this objection to the Clause providing for this readjustment? If it was a matter of a large area like Derry being taken out of Northern Ireland that would be a different thing altogether.
The Prime Minister stated that what was meant by this Treaty and by this Bill is simply a readjustment of the boundaries in the areas near the boundary line, and a matter of bringing over certain people who would rather be on the other side. That is the interpretation put upon this question by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War, and it seems to me that the taking over of areas like Derry, Tyrone or Fermanagh is altogether outside the range of practical politics. I wish to make an appeal to the Ulster Members. It is no good going through life hugging grievances. NO doubt Ulster Members rightly feel a grievance because they were not consulted in this matter, but I do appeal to them to have some sense of proportion.
On the other side there is the fact that after many long years of strife we have a chance of settling an age-long controversy which has weakened Ireland and this country, and which has been a source of weakness throughout the Empire. I think if Ulster Members have a proper idea of perspective they will forget this grievance and pass this Bill. But there is something to be said for the Ulster Members in objecting to-day, because they objected last December. The Commission that is to be set up to adjust the boundaries is bound by the words of the Treaty. Those words are perfectly simple. They have to take from one side or the other, as the case may be, Protestant or Catholic, who wishes to be transferred from one side of the boundary to the other, provided such transfer is in accordance with economic and geographical considerations. I think the controversy ought to-day to be confined to narrow limit because, after all, we passed the Treaty last December. So far as the majority who voted on that occasion are concerned all they have to con- sider is whether anything that has happened since December would justify them in voting against the Bill when they voted for the Treaty! So far as I know there is nothing. This Bill is simply to give legislative form to the Treaty.
Certainly there has been a good deal of kidnapping and murdering, gunmen have got out of hand, and so on; but in order to constitute that in any sense a reason why we should reject a Bill now it ought to be shown that our cosignatories of last December, that is to say, Messieurs Collins, Griffith, and others, have in some way been connected in these outrages. Nobody has said that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes!"] It has been said, but nobody has proved it! On the contrary, we have had statements made from the Front Bench over and over again on the bona fides of Messieurs Collins and Griffith and of the belief of those who have come in contact with them that they have a genuine desire to carry out in every way the documents to which they have put their signatures. That being so, it seems to me, instead of throwing stones at the representatives of Southern Ireland, what we ought to do—the generous thing to do—would be to recognise that these men are having special difficulties to face, and to help them all we can to restore order, to get the powers conferred upon them as speedily as possible, so as to put Southern Ireland into some degree of tranquility. That, to my mind, is the way; that is the question we have before the House to-day; and I cannot understand any single man who voted for the Treaty who is now going to turn round and vote against the Bill.
Something was said yesterday as to the possibility of a Bolshevik republic in-Southern Ireland. Just a word on that. I think that was said more by way of throwing stones at my hon. Friends of the Labour party than anything else, because Bolshevism is a thing to be bandied about when it suits some individuals to bandy it about. If, however, I know anything of the Irish character it is not at all in line with Bolshevism or anything like Bolshevism, because the Irish character has a deep strain of religion in it. On the other hand, Bolshevism envisages a condition of things in which there is to be a struggle for the loaves and fishes. I do not for a single moment believe there is any danger of the Southern Parliament instituting a Soviet republic. Even if there were, after all, we have committed ourselves to trust the Southern people, and during the next week or two—for it will possibly take that to get the Bill through—let us show that we really believe what we said last December, by over 400 votes to about 50, that we really do trust the Southern people. In doing so I believe we shall do something to end this long controversy which has been carried on too long and which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) seems to think might go on a bit longer. He pictured the Irish merging themselves into the larger community, but how long are we going to wait for this merger? So long as I can remember—I am not going back into history, but only speaking from my own experience—the Irish question has divided parties in this country and retarded that social and industrial reconstruction for which many of us were sent to this House. It is about time we availed ourselves of this, the best opportunity that has come in my time, to get the matter settled. We shall not get the Irish people to merge themselves into the larger community in the sense suggested by the Noble Lord. We have tried it and tried it far too long. Let us now turn in the other direction.
Though I intended to speak in this Debate, I did not intend to touch upon the very warm subject of conditions and outrages in Belfast, but in view of the observations made to-day by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Moles) I cannot resist saying something. The hon. Gentleman to whom I refer is undoubtedly a power in Belfast. He has at his command a newspaper of which he is either editor or manager, a newspaper which I read every day. I do not know by whom recent articles in the paper were written, but certainly those articles do not conduce to peace in Belfast. The hon. Gentleman for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) yesterday when speaking was not speaking for the purpose of fanning the flames in Belfast; he was speaking for the purpose of trying to appeal to the Government of Belfast to do their duty honestly and to put down the hell that is going on in Belfast at the present time. In our opinion, in the opinion of the Nationalists of Ulster, the Government of Belfast are not doing their duty, but are deliberately refraining from doing their duty. The Catholics of Belfast are a small minority in Belfast, though one would think when listening to Members of the other side of the House that this small minority are the aggressors in Belfast. They are but one to four, and it is the one who is said to be deliberately creating all this disturbance.
I appeal to this House as a jury. Here is a broad fact. Last summer twelve-months there was one of the most iniquitous pogroms ever known in Belfast. Every Catholic in the shipyard and in the other big works was driven out of his work. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, after that pogrom had been going on for a week or more, came back to Belfast and addressed those men, and how did he try to quell the disturbance? He told them that he approved of everything they did. That is on public record, and therefore we say that the responsibility for all the outrages that are occurring in Belfast rests upon the shoulders of the Northern Parliament. I will say no more about that, but will come to the question about which I am anxious to speak, and in which the people whom I represent are vitally interested. I have been elected to the Northern Parliament, and three other colleagues have been elected with me, and we have pledged ourselves never to enter that Northern Parliament.
I want to speak the truth, and let the House know the realities of the situation. The hon. Member for Ormeau (Mr. Moles) said that if there were a breach in the wall round the six counties, they would stand in the breach; that they have got it under the Act of 1920. How did they get it under the Act of 1920? Was it by the will of the people of the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh? On the Second and Third Readings of the Bill I put a proposition to the Government, and if it was not a reasonable proposition I do not know what constitutional government means. I had hopes that, before these two counties were arbitrarily cut off from the rest of Ireland, the question would be put to the people of these two counties, and, although I never can recognise partition, I said to this House that, if the people
of those two counties voted themselves in, I would abide by the result. That proposition was not accepted. Then the elections came on last May, which constituted a plébiscite after the passing of the Act of 1920. In my county and in the county of Fermanagh we showed a majority of some 9,000, or rather, under the gerrymandering scheme under which these two counties were divided, we had almost 9,000 ineffective votes that might as well never have been cast, by reason of the outrageous scheme prepared by the Local Government Board for dividing our two counties in such a way that it was impossible for the spirit of the Proportional Representation Act to have effect. The whole result showed, however, that 9,000 were against inclusion in the Northern Parliament. The Secretary of State for the Colonies yesterday, in rather poetic imagery, spoke of Tyrone and Fermanagh, and in doing so I am afraid that, like a great many other Members of this House, he was labouring under a difficulty. I myself, since I came into this House and have spoken on the Irish Question, have always been confronted with this difficulty under which the right hon. Gentleman and others suffer, and that is their absolute ignorance of Irish history. The right hon. Gentleman spoke yesterday of Tyrone and Fermanagh in a rather poetic passage. He said:
I remember on the eve of the Great War we were gathered together at a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street and for a long time, an hour or an hour and a-half, after the failure of the Buckingham Palace Conference, we discussed the boundaries of Fermanagh and Tyrone. Both of the great political parties were at each other's throats. The air was full of talk of civil war,
and so on. He went on to say:
Then came the Great War. Every institution, almost, in the world was strained. Great Empires have been overturned. The whole map of Europe has been changed. The position of countries has been violently altered. The mode of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have encountered violent and tremendous changes in the deluge of the world, but as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we sec the dreary steeple of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1921; col. 1270. Vol. 150.]
In drawing that simile the right hon. Gentleman struck a note that will reverberate in the heart of every Irishman. After all the deluge that has happened of blood and revolution, Tyrone and Fer-
managh again have sprung up out of the waters. The steeple of Tyrone in the town of Dungannon covers a sacred spot in Irish history. Dungannon is one of the principal towns of Tyrone, and in that church was signed the famous declaration of 1782, that Ireland was a nation one and indivisible. That has been the lodestar of Ireland for over a century, and I hope we are coming to an end of the fight in vindication of that principle, and that that principle will have full force and effect.
I have heard discussions here about boundaries. You cannot have division by boundaries except in one way; you must divide according to administrative areas. You cannot divide counties into parishes and town lands; it is only by counties that the line can be drawn. If you split up the counties and parishes you paralyse the whole government of the country. I do not know what is going to happen under this Boundary Commission, but I presume it will be a judicial tribunal. Before that tribunal—an impartial tribunal—sits, is it going to get its orders that it is to decide in such a way? Is that a Court in which the Nationalists in the North of Ireland will have any confidence All that we ask, and all that we demand, is a fair trial. We are quite willing to abide by the result. I would ask hon. Gentlemen on the other side why do they fear the Boundary Commission if their cause be just? Why do they not go into Court and state their case? If they can prove their case before the impartial tribunal, they win their case. But they know they have no case founded on justice. They have no case founded on democratic principles and democratic government. If they are afraid of losing territory, have they not the option under the Treaty of remaining where they are? Why do they not do that? They have the whole six counties under the Treaty. They have their Parliament established under the Treaty with all its powers. Why do they want to go out? Is it because they fear? No! We have a saying in the North of Ireland that if you want to know a man you must go and live with him. I have lived with them and I know them. They want an ascendency in these six counties over the Nationalist minority, and we, the Nationalists, can never submit to slavery. What guarantee have we, the Nationalists of the North? I read the Debates on the three Home Rule Bills of
1886, 1893 and 1919. All these gentlemen, or their predecessors, throughout all those discussions were day after day demanding guarantees, and the Home Rule Act of 1914 was chock full of guarantees from the first Clause to the last. I ask this House to read the Act of 1920, and where under that Act is there a single guarantee for the minority in the six counties and the majority in the two counties that I represent? We can never accept that Act of 1920. Here is the guarantee we get in Sub-section (5) of Section 14 of that Act:
After three years from the day of the first meeting of the Parliament of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland that Parliament may alter the qualification and registration of the electors, the law relating to elections and questioning of elections, the constituencies, and the distribution of the Members among the constituencies.
Are we to be left to the tender mercies of these gentlemen? What would be the result? We should be deprived of every civil liberty that we have. I remember on the Committee stage of the Proportional Representation Bill these men made no bones about it. They said they were out to destroy. Why? Because they knew that under that Act the Catholic minority in the North of Ireland could let its voice be heard, and under this Act they have the right after three years of abolishing that system of proportional representation and leaving us entirely under the heel of these men for all time. That we cannot agree to and that we are determined never to agree to. Better fight than be a slave. Let us put an end if we can to this eternal warfare in Ireland. Will hon. Gentlemen opposite agree to abolish this Boundary Commission altogether and let it go to the vote of the people in the six counties? I put that to the House before when the Act of 1920 was under discussion. I put it to them to-day. Are they willing to leave this question, in the nine counties of Ulster if they like, which is the natural division of the country? Will they abide by the result? I do not suppose they will. Why did they not accept it when the original partition was first adumbrated in 1893 when the idea was to partition the whole nine counties of Ulster? Now it is cut down to six. The hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig) let the cat out of the sack one day. His followers asked him, "Why have you thrown away the Unionists of these three counties, Monaghan,
Cavan and Donegal?" He said, "We cannot include them because if we did the Nationalists of Ulster would have a majority and we should be beaten." That is the spirit in which they come here today to try to upset this Treaty. The Amendment is all wrong. It is a hypocritical Amendment. I could frame a better Amendment which more truly expresses their mind and that would be, "That this Treaty is hereby abrogated." That is what they want. That is what they will not get. I shall certainly vote against the Amendment and in favour of the Treaty.
I do not wish to follow all the arguments put forward by the hon. Member. Without any intention to be offensive, I think I may say he has treated the House to a good deal of mixed argument. We can understand the spirit that is behind all this when he says that he and three other of his colleagues in no circumstances will join the Northern Parliament. I want to assure the House and the hon. Member that that is not the spirit of the Unionists in any part of Ireland. and that the Unionists in the Northern area are exceedingly anxious to assist, as far as they honourably can, the people of the Southern area to make all Ireland really workable and harmonious, and to do something for the real uplift and benefit of the people. It is we who are kidnapped over the border. Our people have been innocently caught by the hon. Gentleman's friends at about half-past seven in the morning, without breakfast, without having sufficient clothing, some standing in their slippers, taken from their homes in this weather, exposed in the market places, taken through County Monaghan, and brought to various places of concealment, and it is only during the last day or so that they are sent back.
What kind of spirit is this with which to come into this House and to make an appeal for the rights of their fellows? We wish to concede every right to every man, and in order to show that there is equal representation for the people in our six county unit, the House will understand that the elections there take place under proportional representation. In the whole area of six counties, Tyrone and Fermanagh included, 40 members have been returned as Unionists—we must keep to some sort of name—while the Sinn Fein and Nationalist representation only amounts to 12. My hon. Friend who has just spoken suggests that, four of those 12 representatives should be taken away. He pleads for help for the Catholic minority in the Northern Parliament, while suggesting a reduction even in the number of the minority representatives by saying that the four representatives from Tyrone and Fermanagh have entered into a vow that they will not sit in the Northern Parliament. I hope the House will not be misled by the arguments of the hon. Member. The election in Tyrone and Fermanagh was carried out under portional representation. It is an eight member constituency. Surely, here was a field in which you could test the representation of the two counties, and the result of the election showed that four Unionists were returned compared with one Nationalist, the hon. Member for North-East Tyrone (Mr. Harbison), and three Sinn Feiners.
I do not suggest that there was gerrymandering. The hon. Member has accused this House of gerrymandering the constituency. This House cannot be accused of gerrymandering in the interests of our side. If there is any gerrymandering it is the other way. The six counties area has been given us as a unit in which the great preponderance of certain people with a certain outlook and a certain allegiance to this House and this country are located. With a representation of 40 as against 12 we are entitled to say that we control the six counties area, and that no party has any right to take exception to our administering the six counties area. There are great numbers of our people in other parts of the remaining three counties of Ulster, but we recognise that the population of our friends there is so sparse that we could not possibly take in the whole of the nine counties, for in view of the opposition that we are encountering in the six counties area, if the opposition applied to nine counties it would make government impossible. Having had the six counties area given to us by the British people at the last General Election, and confirmed to us in the Act of 1920, and embodied in the Act as the area in which we should set up our Parliament, we are functioning in that Parliament, and we control the area.
Is it in the interests of peace, order, and good government in Ireland that the Government should now re-open the whole question of the boundaries and, having re-opened the question, refrain from defining what will be the instructions to the Boundary Commissioner? We say deliberately that we shall never consent to the Boundary Commission being set up under the circumstances. Our hands would be tied, and the area we control might be filched from us. We know the intention of Sinn Fein and of those who control Dail Eireann. We know that they want not only a rectification of boundary, but an incursion into the counties of Ulster, and to take such large areas as will render the six counties an uneconomic area, and so that the citizens of Belfast may be boycotted, and the area so contracted that the representatives may be driven out of public life or may be compelled to go under the Irish Free State. These matters are in the minds of the people in the six counties. We shall protest and continue to protest against the Boundary Commission being set up under such conditions. We believe the Government are betraying us. We believe that they are not treating us fairly. We shall fight against it, and I am certain that the Northern Parliament will never appoint a Commissioner to sit on the Boundary Commission under the conditions laid down.
For two days no contribution to this Debate has been made by the Labour party, not because we are not interested, and not because we do not feel the necessity of dealing with the subject, but because we believe that the time has arrived when this Treaty should be ratified in the form of the present Bill as speedily as possible. There are Members on both sides of the House who disagree with the Front Bench who are in the position to say that they have no responsibility in the matter. There will be common agreement that this House was never before faced with a graver responsibility than we have at the present time, a responsibility of which we cannot divest ourselves, a responsibility that cannot be transferred to the Government, a responsibility that must be accepted by the House of Commons as a whole. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) delivered this morning one of the most eloquent and most brilliant speeches I have ever heard in this House. My congratulation to him is somewhat tempered by the fact that he has delivered a similarly dangerous speech to Members of this House, including the Labour party. I cannot quite follow the Noble Lord except in his constituency. He said that so far as his view of Ireland was concerned, one had only to look up the speeches of Pitt, and that the House of Commons should go on a pilgrimage in sackcloth and ashes to the tomb of Pitt and say, "Oh that we did not follow your advice."
That, in a few words was the theme of the Noble Lord. I am not disposed to go on a pilgrimage of that kind. I am not prepared to admit that history will justify that course of action. On the contrary, I would rather suggest that there are many Members in this House and many people in this country who would be entitled to go to the tomb of Campbell-Bannerman and say: "We thank you for the example you set in this matter in South Africa." I think that that would be more fitting than the illustration given by the Noble Lord, but I do not understand the scornful, bitter attack which he made upon the efforts of Mr. Griffith and his colleagues to keep order in Ireland. He said, "Look at the position of Ireland at this moment. Look at the utter failure of Collins and Griffith to maintain order." Incidentally you may point out that whatever may be said about dis- order in the South of Ireland, you cannot very well hold up the North as a monument to law and order, but on the other hand I am not justified in saying that too much importance is attached at this moment to recent happenings in Ireland. Here is a Government faced with an unprecedented difficulty. Here are two men who made the Treaty, in circumstances which were not only not appreciated, but which render their task most difficult at the moment. They are dealing with people who for hundreds of years have been taught to rebel, people who have been consistently told, "Your only mission in life is not to obey law and order, but to defy it."
A great mistake is made in assuming that there are only three parties in Ireland to be considered. There are four. On the one hand we have Sir James Craig. Here let me say, though he sat in this House with me and differed politically, no-one can do other than admire the efforts which he has made, and it is due from those who disagree politically with him to say so. Here we have on the other hand the Northern difficulty, which I may summarise by saying the difficulty of Sir James Craig. Then we have Mr. Michael Collins and Mr. Arthur Griffith. Their difficulty is aggravated by the action of Mr. de Valera, who is ready, with his supporters, not only not to help to make the task of Collins and Griffith easier but, as we all know, his wish at this moment is to render the task of Griffith and Collins almost impossible. These represent the three parties usually referred to; but all the time they have been talking in Ireland about a republic, when the word republic was used to cover the whole situation, there were working in Ireland, and there are to-day—and they are as grave a danger to Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith as any of the others—the people whose definition of republic was not Mr. de Valera's or Mr. Griffith, but was a Soviet republic. Do not forget that you have them in Ireland. Those of us who have been there know this to be a fact. Those of us who know the situation know at the moment that they constitute the real difficulty of Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins.
If that is so, what would be the effect if this Amendment were carried? Let us visualise it for a moment. I would put it this way. Forget the old anti-Home Rule feeling. Say, if you like, "we will bury our political prejudices and we will merely apply ourselves to the circumstances as they are at the moment." Ireland is in a state of chaos. Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith are battling with difficulties greater than which no Government in any country has ever faced, and if, when the House of Commons and the people of this country have endorsed the action of the British Government, we were to carry the Amendment now before the House, is there any Member of this House, regardless of his political opinions, who would dare to predict what the consequences would be? Is there any Member of the House of Commons prepared to risk the consequences? Are those who are moving the Amendment and those who are about to support it, apart from their political views, prepared themselves to bear all the consequences that would follow from the carrying of this Amendment?
The first thing that would happen in Ireland would be this. You would have all sections in the South of Ireland rallying together, and saying, "Here again is the last evidence of English bad faith. Here is one more illustration of broken pledges. Here is another illustration of the British Government using Griffith and Collins as a pawn in their own game," and in the South of Ireland a state of things would exist so dangerous that no-one could foresee it accurately. Then the position on the border must of necessity be aggravated. After events such as we have heard and read of during the past four or five weeks just imagine the situation on the border in the circumstances which I have described. Then take the position in our own Empire. What would be the position in Australia, Canada and New Zealand? There is nothing that has happened in the past that would be so calculated to shake to the ground this Empire as the carrying of this Amendment.
May I say a word with regard to the position in this country? I may disagree with most folks on this aspect of the question, but one would assume, listening to the speeches delivered here, that there is some burning indignation in this country about Ulster. I am probably in touch with the working classes not more than, but as much as, any other Member of this House, and I can say that if there is one thing in the world of which the British people are sick it is the Irish problem. Let any Member go to his constituency, or let those who are talking about the burning indignation of our people go to the constituencies and start to talk on this matter, and say that we have reached the stage when this Government has broken its word and that we are to send British troops and more British money into Ireland. He will get a very short answer from his constituency. No greater mistake could be made than to act on the assumption that it would be otherwise. I believe that every hon. Member for Ulster and those Ulstermen who represent English constituencies will agree with me that, when we formerly discussed this question in 1910 and 1911 and the subject of Ulster was raised, no supporter of Ulster, not even Lord Carson, set up any plea other than a demand to be left free, as Ulster then was. When we discussed what was called the coercion of Ulster it was always in the sense of Ulster being coerced to leave the British Empire. I have never heard it suggested that the six counties were counties the borders of which were so intact and complete that they included all Protestants and that outside them were all Catholics. When only a few months ago a Northern Parliament was set up, arguments were used about the protection of Ulster, and I do not believe that any hon. Member assumed that that meant that the six counties were to be left intact and free from all further consideration.
If evidence of my statement be needed, it is to be found in some of the events of recent months. We have had reported to us the events in Belfast and the difficulties in the South of Ireland, but many things have taken place which are equally important and give more hope for the future. For instance, how many hon. Members realise that the Minister of Labour for Northern Ireland and the Minister of Labour for Southern Ireland met on Sunday and Monday last and arrived at an agreement which many people thought absolutely impossible. The agreement referred to the railway situation. Why was that agreement possible? Because when all political prejudice was wiped away, they came back to real economic interests and immediately applied themselves to a solution of the problem. They found a solution, and I cannot speak too highly of the great contribution they made both to North and South in that agreement. That is the spirit in which we have to approach this question. I do not believe you will ever get real peace with two Parliaments. The ultimate end must be a united Ireland. You will not get a united Ireland by each side trying to force its opinions down the throats of other people. A united Ireland must come by agreement.
As far as we as a Labour party are concerned, we support the Government this afternoon. We may be accused of acting inconsistently with our cry that we wish to see the Government defeated. My answer is that the situation in Ireland is far too serious and important for us to talk of party advantage. We are not prepared to make political capital out of the unfortunate state of affairs in Ireland. We believe that the Government did the right thing in making the Treaty. We believe that this House will do the wrong thing in supporting the Amendment. When the Leader of the House gets up I hope he will say something about the procedure on the Bill. I do not know whether he is aware that the business of the House for the next week is allocated. That presupposes that this Bill is going upstairs. I hope it will not go upstairs. I hope it is the intention to take it on the Floor of the House as speedily as possible, because every hour of delay in making the Bill an Act makes more difficult the position of Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith and gives an opportunity to other people to weaken their authority. For all these reasons we shall go into the Lobby to support the Bill.
I do not propose to follow in detail what my right hon. Friend has just said as to the reasons for the six counties area being regarded now as a sacred area from the Ulster point of view, because that ground has been traversed already more than once. My right hon. Friend has said one thing that rather surprises me. He spoke deprecatingly of those who say that there is a burning feeling in the country on the side of Ulster. I do not know to whom he was referring. I quite agree that this country is absolutely sick of the Irish question. I will merely say now, as I have said before to the Labour party in this House, that, apart altogether from the feeling of the country, it surprises me that the Labour party shows so little sympathy in these
matters with that part of Ireland, and that party in Ireland which is backed by between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. of the organised labour of Ireland. It has always been a matter of great surprise to me that that part of Ireland, which is predominantly the organised labour part of Ireland, has never been successful in enlisting the sympathy of the Labour party in this House. My right hon. Friend very emphatically laid it down that the House could not accept the Amendment without incurring the tremendous responsibility of a return to the state of affairs prevailing in Ireland before these negotiations, out of which the Treaty arose, took place. On that point I agree absolutely with what was said this morning in an admirable speech by my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). The position that the defeat of this Bill is the defeat of the Treaty is, in my opinion, absolutely untenable. The defeat of this Bill would be no more than an indication by this Parliament that the Treaty which they have already ratified is not being properly carried out, that this is not the precise method by which it should be carried out, and it would be an instruction to the Government of the country to proceed on other lines. Therefore I entirely repudiate the suggestion that those who intend to go into the Lobby in support of this Amendment are accepting the responsibility which my right hon. Friend tried to place upon us. A great deal of ground has been covered during these Debates and many references have been made to declarations by the Prime Minister and other Ministers. It is only three or four days ago since this House was applauding, and rightly applauding, the Prime Minister when, in reference to the government of our great dependency, he used these words:
Under no circumstances or conditions do we propose to withdraw from, or impair the full sovereignty of the King Emperor in India. … The British Empire, although it has come out of a great, a terrible, and an exhausting war, is not so exhausted that it can discuss such a proposal or anything that could lead to it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1922; cols. 963–4, Vol. 150.]
I do not think there was anyone in the House who dissented from that statement, but I could not help reflecting, even while I was joining in the applause,
that only a very few months had passed since the right hon. Gentleman made declarations, no less emphatic, that he would never do what he is asking us to do to-day. Only a few months ago the right hon. Gentleman said, when inviting negotiations with these parties in Ireland, that there were three conditions which must be observed, and I call the attention of the House to the second of those conditions:
Under no conditions"—
I call attention to the recurrence of that phrase—
will we assent to any proposals which will involve directly or indirectly the secession of Ireland or any part of Ireland"—
not from the British Empire—
from the United Kingdom.
Now, does any Member of the Government venture to suggest that this Bill is not for carrying out and authorising the secession of three-quarters of Ireland from the United Kingdom? That is the value to be attached to these declarations of the Prime Minister in which he uses this phrase "under no conditions." We are told at one time that "under no conditions" will he ever sanction the secession of Ireland from the United Kingdom. Two months afterwards he says "under no conditions will we do anything which would impair the sovereignty of the King Emperor in India." That being so, what is the value of declarations of this sort? We are sometimes upbraided because we express want of confidence in those who are our leaders and in whom we should like to retain confidence, but these declarations of the Prime Minister and others are like an inflated currency They are like the Russian rouble—it takes about 50,000 of them to equal one penny. Therefore when Minister after Minister gives us assurances on this question of the Ulster boundary or any other in connection with this Bill, it is impossible for us not to ask ourselves in the light of this experience, what value are we to attach to them?
Although this is a Friday afternoon, and the House presents its ordinary Friday afternoon appearance, I suggest that the Debate on which we are now engaged will probably prove a landmark in this history of this country. It certainly is a momentous stage—I wish I could believe it is the last stage—in the greatest political controversy that has been known to the politics of our genera- tion. I should like to address a few words especially on this subject to my friends and colleagues of the party that was once the Unionist party. This great controversy which has come to such a stage to-day was one in which the Conservative party for over 30 years was engaged in, withstanding by every means in their power the policy of breaking up the unity of the United Kingdom. As everybody remembers, many years ago that policy attracted to an alliance with the Conservative party many of the most illustrious of the Liberal statesmen of the day, and so it has gone on successfully for a quarter of a century until eventually the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) succeeded in carrying a Home Rule Bill. The history that follows that is within the recollection of every Member of the House. The War came, and in consequence of the War, the compromise—for it was a compromise—of 1920, had to be arrived at and was reluctantly acquiesced in by the Unionist party. The 1920 compromise having been accepted, that was the state of affairs when the Conference was called in Downing Street a few months ago, and in that Conference the Unionist party was represented by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, the Lord Chancellor, and the Secretary of State for War. I am quite certain my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will not disagree with me when I say that a very grave responsibility rested upon his shoulders in that assembly.
He was trusted with Conservative policy. He was charged with the great responsibility, and at the same time the high honour, of being the spokesman on that momentous occasion of one of the great historic parties in the country. I am sure he will not be offended if I point out that he had not been very long the leader of the party. He had only been the leader of the party for some few months. We had appointed him, and I was one of those who did so with the greatest confidence, as leader of the Conservative party at a meeting in the Carlton Club. I should have thought in these circumstances that in this Conference in Downing Street my right hon. Friend would have approached his task with some diffidence.
He says that he did, but after that conference had gone on for some time my right hon. Friends in the dead of night signed away the whole basis of Conservative doctrine and Conservative policy of 30 years' standing. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend ever asked himself, when he was about to do that, what right or authority he had to do it. Did he ever question the authority which rested upon him to sign away the whole policy of the party which he had only a few months before been called upon to lead? He never thought it right to take any counsel with his followers. Some of us had the privilege from time to time of some private talk with him. He must have been very well aware of the grave misgiving many of us felt at what we believed to be the course which was being pursued. The silence of the grave was maintained. When we asked questions in this House we were told that we must not do so, because it was not in the public interest, and that these delicate negotiations might be brought to nought. Did we press him? I asked a question myself, and, when I was told that, I did not press him, because we trusted him. We had confidence that whatever might emerge from that Assembly, the fundamental doctrines of the party to which we belonged would not be given away. But they were given away, and I do not think that my right hon. Friend can claim that subsequent ratification in this House by a majority of the Unionist party absolves him, because, unless I am very much mistaken, the temper in which that majority voted in this House was such that they felt, as they are told to-day, that it was un fait accompli. They were told then, as my right hon. Friend has told us now, that we had no choice but to accept this, or to do not only a dishonourable deed towards Ireland but a disastrous deed towards this country. I do not myself believe for one moment that if the Unionist party had been called together while there was yet time, at the Carlton Club or elsewhere, in a confidential meeting—
My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that there were private meetings in this House of Commons during the War, when important matters had to be discussed. He should have taken that risk. Rather than take the risk of some matters leaking out in the Press—and I agree they probably would—he took the responsibility of signing away the whole of the principles which he had been appointed to safeguard a few months before. Our leaders have pleaded, and I have no doubt we shall hear it again, "Well, but this was a very weighty matter. We should have taken a terrible responsibility if we did not grasp at this opportunity of making peace in Ireland." I will tell my right hon. Friend what I think, even under those circumstances, he ought to have done. I can understand party leaders arriving at a position when they felt they could no longer maintain the policy which they and their party and their predecessors had maintained for a generation, but they ought to have said to the Prime Minister, "We cannot honourably make ourselves responsible for this policy. It may be that we cannot conscientiously withstand it. We will stand aside, retire from your Government[...] let you fill up your Government with politicians and statesmen who have beer, in sympathy with this policy for generations past. We will not even in the House of Commons vote against it, but will explain in the House of Commons that we think we can no longer withstand it, though we cannot feel that we can honourably take the responsibility of being its authors." That, I think, would have been an honourable course to pursue, and I am sorry to have to say it, but I feel it most deeply that the course they have elected to take of making themselves responsible for a policy which they have denounced, for generations, whatever else it has done, has degraded public life in this country. But they are so pleased with what they have done, that they proclaim it a great act of statesmanship. I am bound to say I cannot understand from any point of view why it should be regarded as a great act of statesmanship. When a pugilist throws the sponge into the ring band-shaking may follow, but it is not often regarded as a great achievement. This so-called settlement might have been obtained any time.
The Prime Minister puts forward what seems an utterly ridiculous plea that this was the only opportune moment, and that a year before it would have been impossible. You had to wait until the cup had been filled up—the cup of murder. Does anyone really believe that? [HON. MEMBERS "No!"] I see my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and I say to him and the party to which he belongs, does anyone believe that if this Measure of more than Dominion Home Rule had been offered to his party it would not have been snapped up?
Certainly, but we resist it now. What I am saying is that if the Conservative leaders were willing to do this, why did they not do it long ago? My right hon. Friend has told us more than once that he is standing in sackcloth and ashes for his past policy. I do not see there is any statesmanship in it at all, for it is a gross surrender; but if there is any statesmanship in it, it is due to the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). I think the very least we can do is to give him the credit where credit is due. The Prime Minister put forward another plea. He said, "It could not have been done before 1920. We had to wait until we made Ulster secure." That, in the light of what has happened, seems to me a most extraordinary plea to put forward, because by this very Treaty they are taking away the security, and what is the use of saying they could not do it until they made Ulster secure and at the same time take away that security?
There is one aspect of this question about which very little has been said. I want to know why Ulster was included in this Free State at all with an option of voting out. I agree it is more a sentimental than a practical grievance. Ulster will vote herself out at the first possible moment. But why was she put in? That is an indication of the spirit in which those whom we thought were our friends approached this subject. It was an insult. They would not have dared to treat Newfoundland in the same way. Ever since 1867 Newfoundland has had the right to vote itself into the Dominion of Canada, and has never done so. What would have been thought if this Parliament or this Government had suddenly taken it into their heads to legislate as to what Newfoundland should or should not do? The whole thing was a mere insult. To add a point by way of an illustration, they actually entered into an arrangement between themselves and Mr. Michael Collins as to the future guardianship of Belfast Lough.
Does the Government not realise the resentment that a small thing of that kind causes? Mr. Michael Collins has no more to say, and never will have, about the guardianship of Belfast Lough than he has of Southampton Water. That is an indication of the spirit in which they have approached the subject, caring nothing for the susceptibilities of Ulster. It is part and parcel of their infatuation for trying to force unity between two parts of Ireland that are not United—I do wish hon. Members would grasp that fact. We have had a good many illustrations, and South Africa is constantly brought up as an example of what we should follow in Ireland. The real analogy, if there be one in history, is to be found in the Netherlands. There you have a people, historically one, but separated by causes similar, somewhat, to those in Ireland. Though divided by a religious line, they were forced into union by a European settlement, but after 15 or 20 years of cat and dog existence they were separated, and now form two distinct and prosperous States, Holland and Belgium, one Protestant and the other Catholic. That affords a real analogy with Ireland; and there is nothing but mischief in this continuous hankering after a unity that does not exist. When people are expressing the hope, as they do to-day, that we shall have a further meeting between Sir James Craig and Mr. Collins, I can only say I hope there will be no such meeting, if it is to be used, as all such meetings have been used in the past, as an indication of a weakening on the part of Ulster. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) spoke of a meeting between the two Ministers of Labour. There have been meetings, if I mistake not, between the French and the British Governments to arrange matters of common interest in regard to labour. By all means let us have such meetings from time to time, if it is distinctly recognised that it is in order to bring about harmonious working between two States which are completely distinct and separate one from the other.
I must say something on the subject of the boundaries, which have caused so much interest. The Colonial Secretary, in his speech yesterday—I have nothing to complain about that speech—had the grace to admit, by implication, if not in precise terms, that there has been a breach of faith in this matter. The excuse always put forward by the Government—it certainly has been put forward by the Prime Minister—is that this breach of faith was inevitable, because if they had kept faith with Sir James Craig, they would have lost the Treaty. I do not for a moment believe they would have lost the Treaty. If the Treaty was so precarious that its signature depended upon obtaining it at an exact moment, without the possibility of waiting for Sir James Craig, then the Treaty is worth nothing. But surely it is a new doctrine for honourable men that they are to weigh the consequences of keeping their word. I do not think it has been so in the past, and if it is to prevail in public affairs, if a promise definitely given, not merely verbally but in writing, to the statesmen of a neighbouring State, is always to carry with it the implied proviso that it shall not be kept if circumstances make it inconvenient to keep it, no statesman's word will ever be accepted. If that is to prevail it affords an absolute and complete justification for the plea upon which the neutrality of Belgium was invaded and violated by Germany. I hope no such doctrine will be allowed to grow up.
Several speakers have referred to the various declarations the Prime Minister has made on this subject, and the Prime Minister's declarations are so numerous that they will go round. No speaker need repeat one used by another speaker. I would like to refer again to a statement which I have already alluded to, which was made a few months ago when he laid down those three conditions. I have read the second. The first one was that the six counties which represent the North-East of Ulster must be accorded separate treatment. He said nothing about any portion of the six counties, or about parings off. Two of the three conditions have already been violated. I am not sure whether the third has not also been violated; it was that we should do nothing to impair the military and strategical strength of this country. The Member for the Ormeau Division of Belfast
(Mr. Moles), in a very remarkable speech earlier to-day, referred to the different declarations that appear to have been made by the Prime Minister to Sir James Craig and to Mr. Michael Collins. I do not think he had the quotation with him, and I should like now to quote the words of the statement issued by Mr. Collins:
…owing to the fact that Mr. Collins' stand on the Boundary Commission and the Irish Delegation's Agreements with Mr. Lloyd George that large territories were involved, and not merely a boundary line as Sir James Craig was given to understand privately.
That shows that, according to Mr. Collins, he was definitely assured by the Prime Minister that large variations of territory were contemplated, while exactly the opposite appear to have been made to Sir James Craig. A really extraordinary thing happened in the Debate yesterday. We had all been exercising our minds very much on this question of boundaries and wondering what it meant, and late in the afternoon one of the Government Whips was dispatched all round the precincts of the Palace of Westminster to inform us that if we would come into this Chamber at a certain hour we should have the privilege of having the whole thing cleared up by no less a person than the Attorney-General himself. We came in. Some of us took the extreme step of deferring our dinner in order to hear the words of His Majesty's Attorney-General. After we had waited long and patiently, oh, what a lame and impotent conclusion it was I He took some seventeen minutes by the clock to explain to us that he could give us no explanation. We had been desperately anxious to know what this Article 12 meant, and he came in and, striking his breast, said: "Far be it for me to offer an opinion upon this matter. It must be decided by the tribunal when it is set up." I ventured to put one humble, simple question to the Attorney-General. It. is quite true that it went to the root of the matter, and that it was the only thing we wanted to hear from him. When he spoke about ascertaining the wishes of the inhabitants, I said: "The inhabitants of what?" He said: "I am not going to be led into giving an answer to a conundrum of that sort." What had he come in fur? I think we are entitled even now to know what is meant by that phrase, "the wishes of the inhabi-
tants," because I can conceive an interpretation of this Article 12 which would involve the surrender of the whole position as far as Ulster is concerned. If the whole of Ireland had a voice in the matter, Ireland would no doubt give a vote that the whole of Ulster should go into the Free State, or the Republic, as the case might be, and then my right hon. Friend would be involved in the coercion of Ulster. If you do not take the vote of the people of Ireland, are you to take a vote of the province of Ulster, or of this county or that county?
Surely it is vital to know what is the area, the unit, in which you are to take the opinion of the inhabitants, and when we. are told, as we have been by the Attorney-General, and the Colonial Secretary, and others, that you cannot alter this, you cannot give this assurance, except by quotations from Ministers' speeches, I say that is humbug. You could perfectly well do it without varying the Treaty in the smallest particular. I agree that you cannot in this Bill vary the terms of the Treaty, but you can, and might, and ought to put in definitions of ambiguous phrases. The Government have done it themselves. If hon. Members will look at the Bill, they will see that in the second sub-Clause of the only operative Clause they are legislating, not contrary to the Treaty, but in explanation of it and supplementary to it, and therefore there is no reason whatever why they should not now agree that they will accept an Amendment in Committee which would define what they mean by this Article 12 with regard to boundaries. It has been pointed out more than once that the ratification which this House gave to the Treaty was given distinctly upon the understanding that the view which had been expressed by the Secretary of State for War and others was that which would prevail, and therefore, unless the Government consent to put some such definition in the Bill itself, they will obtain the ratification of the Treaty by false pretences, and I have not. the slightest doubt that if the Attorney-General's speech had been made when we were debating this in December, there would have been a very great deal of hesitation on the part of the majority of this House whether they would vote as they did.
The speech of the Attorney-General last night and other speeches delivered by the Government have, I am sorry to say, shown that the betrayal of Ulster is more complete even than we feared. We have been told by numbers of Members in speeches made yesterday and to-day that we must keep faith with the representatives of Southern Ireland by ratifying this Treaty. I have not seen any real anxiety on the part of Members of the House to keep faith with Ulster. If you have to choose between keeping faith with one or the other—if you are put to that choice—although I do not say, do not keep faith with both—why is the House to be so anxious to keep faith with Southern Ireland rather than with Ulster? Are you anxious to keep faith with the representatives of the men who twice during the War were found to be in league with the Germans, rather than with the men who, to the best of their ability, served you in the War?
I confess in all this matter there is nothing to me more sad and bitter than the letters which some of us are receiving from Ulster, from parents very often, saying: "Would to God we had never allowed our sons to go to fight." It really is a bitter thing for people who have tried to serve their country to come to make that terrible confession of their feelings, of their disappointment. I cannot say I do not sympathise with it, although I think it is a wrong feeling. I am glad that relatives of mine who went to fight did so. But I can sympathise with, and I think I understand the reason, these people, under present circumstances, having been shown what is the price of their loyalty, should feel this bitterness. We listened to the speech of the Secretary for the Colonies yesterday in regard to hurrying on this Bill. We were asked to hurry it through as rapidly as possible, to get it through, because of the state of Ireland, "to get them clothed with the law." Who left them naked of the law? The Government! Why did the Government hurry, in this panic, to throw off the reins of authority? Why did they not keep their authority until they had passed the necessary legislation?
We are told to pass this Bill as soon as possible, so as to help Mr. Collins in his contest with Mr. de Valera and the followers, whose crimes and whose criminal records are not sufficiently deep-dyed for a Colonial Secretary, who taunts them now with having done more talk than murder—mere undersized fish to be put back again into the water; these men who have confined themselves to oratory in Ireland rather than to use the more strenuous methods of Mr. Collins and his party. So far as I am concerned, and I believe there are many who feel with me, I am completely indifferent as to whether Mr. Collins or Mr. de Valera prevails in the coming election in Ireland. The Government speak as if this were a crucial, vital, critical matter, that Mr. Collins should get a good majority at this next election. Supposing he does. He possibly will. The Republican party will be the Opposition. There may be 30 or 40 of them in the Division Lobby. They will be the recognised Opposition; but if they do not prevail at this election they probably will at the next. What difference will it make to the general situation if the Republicans get in three or four years hence, although they may be kept out to-day? It does not matter at all. So far as we are concerned, who really understand something of the conditions in Ireland, it does not matter in the slightest degree whether you conclude this Constitution with what you call the Free State or whether you conclude it with the Republicans. All this technical jargon in this Bill about "the group of nations known as the British Commonwealth of Nations"—what is it? Does anybody care two pins for this silly declaration of fidelity which carefully avoids any real allegiance either to the head of the British Empire or to the Imperial Parliament? No, Sir. These are matters for which we care nothing. From the Imperial standpoint it does not matter in the least.
May I say this in reference to the Press of this country: I quite agree that, the Press of this country is uniformly in favour of the Government with regard to this Treaty—even the Northcliffe Press. Asfarasthe Northcliffe Press is concerned certainly some of us have been very much disappointed with it of late years. But notwithstanding that, I believe that Lord Northcliffe himself, who controls that Press, has the welfare of the Empire at heart, and I am very doubtful after the tour he has been taking of the world and the Empire, and the Imperial knowledge he has gained, whether, if he had been in this country lately, we should not have seen a different tone from the Imperial point of view. You may call it a Free State or a Republic, but the fact remains that you have abandoned two-thirds of Ireland, and with it you have abandoned within that territory all those who have been faithful upholders of your rule for a good many years. In the dead of night you signed away their property, their rights, their liberties and in many cases their lives. You signed them away, and yet you could not spare even a moment in your haste on that night to insert so much as a paragraph in order to safeguard Ulster. To all the rest of your Empire you have taught by this proceeding two very significant lessons. You have taught them the feebleness of your dominion, and the peril of being loyal to it. I have on several occasions, both inside and outside of this House, expressed my sense of what this country owes to the Prime Minister. I take back nothing of what I have ever said on that subject. I recognise the gratitude this country owes to him for his energy, his encouragement and inspiration in leading the nation during the War, but I fear very much indeed—I hope I may be wrong—that his name will go down in history as the Minister who won the War and lost the Empire.
To-day we are called upon to take one of the most momentous decisions we have ever been required to pronounce. I do not wish to minimise the gravity of that decision, and I do not wish it to be taken under any misapprehension as to its consequences or its implications. I shall endeavour to deal, as I claim that I always do, with this subject frankly and candidly. It is the worst thing that could happen to the Government in their efforts for peace for the nation and for Ireland that we should take a decision not knowing what we do. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) challenges my action, as a man who only a few months before had been chosen by his fellow Unionist Members in the House of Commons to be their leader, in affixing my signature to this Treaty. I was under no misapprehension as to the responsibility of my position, or as to the risk which I ran. I staked my whole political life and reputation, and, what is more to me, I staked the respect of my friends and my colleagues. My hon. Friend says I had better, believing this Treaty to have been right, have held my hand back from its signature, have sought the ease and comfort of a private situation, and shirked the responsibility of the position to which he and the rest of my friends called me. A leader owes great obligations to his supporters, and first and foremost he owes to them courage and truth. The course which my hon. Friend commends to me is a course of ease and safety and dishonour.
There have been two other speeches to which I must make reference. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher), in the course of the Debate, challenged not merely the right of Ministers to affix their signatures to this Treaty, but the right of Members of this House to pledge their constituents. I was surprised to hear that from him, for when it was mooted a little while ago that my right hon. Friend (the Prime Minister) was going to bring about an immediate dissolution, my hon. and learned Friend was one of the first to write and protest against anything of the kind.
My hon. and learned Friend says we have no right to pledge our constituents, but when we are going to consult them he implores us not to do so. The House will measure the value of this challenge—a kind of cautious insurance against a fall. Then the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) also spoke. I am sorry he is not in his place. He was good enough to explain to me the necessity for his absence, but it would be a poor compliment to him if, on that account, I were to say nothing in reply. I cannot compete with my Noble Friend, who is a theologian, a moralist, and a prophet all in one My Noble Friend objects to the Treaty, but that is not his reason for voting against the Bill. He has diagnosed the trouble in Ireland, and finds it consists in the moral debasement of her people. He is not without a remedy—"remove the present Government, and Ireland will resume her natural virtues, and all will he well." Whilst he is anxious to oppose the Treaty, he is still more ready to oppose the Bill—not because of its immediate effect in Ireland, which to him is immaterial, but because of its immediate effect upon the fortunes of the Government, and the consequent enhancement of public morality by a change of Ministers upon this Bench. Surely, the issues we have to consider are bigger and graver. We are standing on volcanic ground. In North and South deeds of ire, of savage cruelty have been and are being perpetrated which are condemned North and South by every decent man, and which those who have authority, in both North and South, are doing their utmost to prevent. Let us walk warily, and speak wisely in such circumstances, lest we add fuel to the flame, and increase the temper which already rages too fiercely.
I can make one announcement today which the House will be glad to hear. Since I came into it I have heard that Mr. Collins, by unceasing effort and the exertion of all the influence that he can command, has by this time secured the release of 42 of the kidnapped citizens of the North. I hope his influence will suffice, as I know it is his determination, to succeed in securing the release of all these men.
My hon. Friend says that I—and if I speak of myself it is because he challenged me by name on account of the special position which I occupy among my Unionist colleagues—I signed away, late at night, the basis of our policy for 30 years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Will my hon. Friends consider for a moment? This Bill is not the triumph of any party, it is not the solution which any party in this House sought or desired. Our own policy, the Unionist policy, died because—not everyone will agree with me, but I may be allowed to state my views—died, not because it was inherently wrong. I believe it was the best that we could do for Ireland, for England and for the Empire. It died because, if that policy were to be successful, it needed continuity, patience, perseverance, and our people would not pursue it connectedly through the changes of party warfare. Is there any wisdom, is there any statesmanship, in being blind to facts? Is there any consistency or honour in refusing to recognise the judgment of the people, or their inability to mean the same thing for long enough to carry it to a successful conclusion? Is not it the path of wisdom—are not we doing our best for our friends in Ireland—if we realise that the British people were not prepared to carry out that policy continuously for the period that was needed for success, if we then seek to find some other policy, some other basis on which to build a national policy to which the nation will adhere? But if it be true, as it is true, that this is not our policy, that our policy died before ever these negotiations were begun, it is not the policy of the party opposite. I[...] was not the policy of Mr. Gladstone or of his successors. They sought to build a half-way house, which never had any stable foundation. They sought to creat[...] something which was the United-Kingdom, and which was not the United Kingdom. That was an impossible task doomed to failure. Even momentarily carried, it had no element of stability. Neither of these policies prevailed. We have had to search in a different direction some fresh solution not hitherto contemplated.
I am not going to-day, especially after the generous support—worthy of his great past and of his high services—accorded to the Bill and to the Government by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), to consider whether the policy which he advocated last year is the same as ours. There is a wide gap and a vital gap between us, but we are united to-day in our desire to pass this Bill, as my hon. Friend is united with his friend Mr. de Valera in his desire to reject it. We have had to seek a new solution. We have found it in the development of the self-governing Dominions of the Empire, creating a new situation, a position of defined powers and responsibilities, clearly within the Empire, clearly subject to the authority of the Crown, and yet giving immense, almost absolute, liberty within the domestic affairs of each of the countries concerned. We have offered that position to Ireland. We place upon it only these limitations—that Ireland shall remain within this Empire, and accept citizenship, that she shall acknowledge allegiance to the King and that she shall give us those securities which are vital to our national existence and to the maintenance of the communications of the Empire. Were we wrong?
My hon. Friend (Mr. Ronald McNeill) is very ready to say "You should have fought and fought and fought. You have betrayed your friends in Ireland." From whom came the first pressure upon us? Who first pressed upon us to go as near to Dominion Home Rule as we could? The Southern Unionists. The hon. Member for Rathmines (Sir M. Dockrell)—I am sorry he did not take the opportunity yesterday: we should have been as glad to hear him as we were when he spoke last December—the senior Member for Trinity College, my Noble Friend (Earl Winterton) who spoke below the Gangway, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) have as much right to speak for the loyalists of Ireland and for those loyalists who were in a position of the greatest danger and jeopardy as my hon. Friend. They brought to us a deputation.
My right hon. Friend and predecessor (Mr. Bonar Law) and the Prime Minister first, the Prime Minister and I later, received a deputation from those Southern Unionists begging us, in view of the dangers to which they were exposed and of the intolerable conditions of life in Southern Ireland, to seek means of peace, and then we are to be told we betrayed them. Who would suffer most if war recommenced to-morrow? Is it those with whom my hon. Friend is associated, or the Southern Unionists, whose lives, whose property, whose families and dependants have borne the brunt of the struggle, and paid the price of our intransigeance? If that struggle were to be renewed, it was not going to be a small matter. It was not going to be an easy task. There could have been but one end to it, and at one time, after we had invited Mr. de Valera to meet us, we thought that the struggle would be renewed. We were in communication with our military and police advisers as to what was required to bring it to a successful conclusion if it were renewed. We were prepared, if no other course was possible, to raise 100,000 men, in addition to putting every available soldier into Ireland, to wage this war, the cruellest of all wars, civil war, the cruellest of all forms of civil war, guerrilla war. We were prepared to wage it month after month, year in and year out, to be successful, if that were necessary, and if no other and honourable course were open to us. Do not underrate the sacrifice; do not underrate the horrors through which we should have gone. Do not underrate the feelings of the mothers and sisters in this country, the fathers and brothers, still mourning for those who had perished in France, in Gallipoli, in Palestine, in Mesopotamia, on being called upon for fresh sacrifices and more bloodshed. I think we were right to try whether there was not an honourable means of accord still open to us, and to try at the first moment when we thought there was a reasonable prospect that the other side was in such a mood that the negotiations might lead to a successful conclusion.
What is this Amendment that we are discussing? It is, in terms, an Amendment which specifically raises the boundary question, and, on account of the boundary provision of the Treaty, asks for the rejection of this Bill. I want no mistake made. I want no vote given under a misapprehension. The decision which we ask the House to give, and which they will give if they vote for this Bill to-day, is a decision in favour of the Treaty as it stands, and with the Boundary Commission in it.
I hope the hon. Member will listen to my argument. He has made his statement without interruption. I agree with the right hon. Member for Paisley that the provisions in regard to the Boundary Commission are an integral portion of the Treaty, and if the House accept the Second Reading of this Bill, you do accept the Treaty. You put your hand to it, as I and my colleagues have already put our hands to it. If you do not mean to do that, and if this country does not mean it to be done, it is better for all parties in Ireland and elsewhere that the decision not to do it should be made known at once.
Let me say a few words about the Boundary Commission. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I both had to explain to the House, and justify to the House, the Treaty which we had made when we were reproached with having signed it. We gave the House then, and it has been read afresh in the present Debate, our explanation of the boundary clause. What we said in public is what we said in private to those with whom we were negotiating, and to the representatives of Ulster, when we have met them. There has been no double language, and we repeated it in this House on the first occasion when we could do so, in the presence of the House and in the presence of the country. We repeated it while the decision of the Dail was still in doubt, and when, if our interpretation were not acceptable, it might affect the decision which was being debated in the Dail. What we said was never challenged. I have nothing to subtract from it, and nothing to explain away. We told the House at that time what we meant by the Agreement which we had signed, and what we believed we had achieved by the Agreement being signed. I cannot better the position by repeating the same words, and still less by argument.
It would clear the position very much if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us whether he denies or substantiates the statement made by Mr. Collins, which was read out by my hon. Friend, and which contains the crux of the whole discussion:
Owing to the fact of Mr. Collins' stand on the boundary question and the other delegates agreeing with Mr. Lloyd George that large territories were involved in the Commission and not merely a boundary line, as Sir James Craig has been given to understand privately by Members of the Government.
My right hon. Friend never used the words "large territories" in the course of these negotiations. I think that he has already said so in the course of the Debate. We have expressed—and nobody contended at the time that what we expressed was unreasonable or unsatisfactory—what in our view was the effect of the document that we signed, and the purpose we intended to effect. But I am bound to add that my interpretation of the document to which I put my signature is not con clusive. The interpretation of those words, the giving effect to those words, rests with the Commission, and the only share that we have in the Commission is that we are called upon to appoint a chairman. We shall secure a man of high standing, of unimpeachable reputation, of known sagacity, who must command the confidence of all parties. Why do my hon. Friends assume that that which in the eyes of all of us would be madness, that which in the eyes of every man in this House would appear unreasonable, will necessarily or even probably or possibly be the view taken by the impartial chairman of the Commission?
My hon. Friend says that he assumes nothing. The whole of his speeches, and all the speeches of those with whom he is acting, are based on the assumption that there is peril of this impartial chairman doing something which we should all regard as an act of folly and madness, contrary to the spirit of the doctrine the Commission has been asked to interpret. I decline to believe that the person chosen for the Commission would be a fool or a knave. I think he will have at least the same proportion of common-sense and ability as we Members of this House flatter ourselves that we are endowed with.
I still hope that in the time which must elapse before the boundary can be drawn, it may be possible for North and South to agree, and that, even if they do not agree before the Commission meet, the chairman may find himself acting rather as a conciliator than as an adjudicator between two hostile parties, for it is the interest of both parties to have this boundary settled in a reasonable way, and it is the interest of both that they should have as few unwilling subjects and as many willing subjects as they can obtain. I cannot believe that, with so great an interest in common, there will not yet be[...] at any rate, a very large measure of honourable agreement between them. My hon. Friend (Mr. R. McNeill) does not want it. I contrast his speech, moderate as it was in manner and in tone but unyielding in temper, with speeches delivered almost from the same spot by Sir Edward Carson when he offered to shake hands with his former opponents, when he offered to sit down with them, and to try to settle these things, when he said—
I accept that statement, of course, and I am glad that I was mistaken. I have said all I have to say about the Boundary Commission. In my opinion it is an integral part of the Treaty. We who signed the Treaty cannot add words to it or deduct words from it, except by common consent of both the parties who signed. My Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University is not merely a theologian and a moralist, but he is a casuist as well. He, who is dissatisfied with the low standard of my friends and myself, says, "You put your name to a document. Let other people put their names to it, and then, if you think, or if anyone thinks, that the document in some respects might be more favourable to the other side than you had intended, write in words afterwards over the signature of both." That is the new morality. This is an integral part of the Treaty, and we have to decide upon the Treaty as a whole. When you have signed your name to a document, you must either keep faith or break faith—there is no middle way—with the men who signed with you.
On one Monday, I think the first Monday, in December, some dozen men were meeting in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street. The issue they had to decide was no less than the issue of peace or war. We took our decision. On both sides we knew our responsibilities. I have said something of the risks which my Friends and I took. Those with whom we were negotiating took all the risks that we took, and something more. They risked their lives. There has never been any question with them about repudiating the signatures which they gave. I heard a quotation made in this House yesterday from a speech by Mr. Collins in the Dail. I looked up the quotation and I should like to read to the House the words which immediately follow. A deputy had said that the delegation should introduce the Treaty, not—as he described it—as "bagmen for England," but with an apology for its introduction. The methods, and even the language, of opponents of the Treaty are singularly alike on both sides of the Channel. Mr. Collins' reply was:
I cannot imagine anything more mean, anything more despicable, anything more unmanly, than the dishonouring of one's signature.
He went on to say:
At a fateful moment I was called upon to make a decision. If I were called upon at the present moment for a decision on the same question, my decision would be the same. Let there be no mistake and no misunderstanding about that.
Would you have us less honourable, less true to our word, than Mr. Collins? I say, with Mr. Collins, I gave my word and I will keep my word. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which word?"]
For us there can be no turning back. The House has already, by a great majority, expressed its readiness to give effect to the Treaty which we signed. The House is already, in some sort, committed, and I do not envy the feelings of the Member, and I cannot follow the reasoning of the Member who, voting for giving effect to the Treaty last December, would withdraw that vote now. But I will not dwell upon that. The decision and the responsibility which was ours on that Monday in December, in Downing Street, is now that of each Member of the House. I beg them search their hearts before they give it. What are the alternatives? One alternative is that you should reserve to Ulster all her rights and powers and privileges—
—that you should reserve to the North-East of Ireland all her rights and powers and privileges; that you should re-adjust the boundary line which nobody pretends is an ideal line, which never was included in any promise we made, or in any one of the quotations which have been read from our speeches. The other alternative is that, sooner than touch that boundary, you should resume civil war, fight and fight and fight for no great issue of national honour, for no great issue of Imperial strength, but in order that you may preserve within the boundary of the Northern Government populations, the majority of which desire to leave their sway, and that you may continue to exclude from Northern Ireland populations which desire to enter under their rule. The House is free except in so far as it
may consider itself bound by the resolution it took last December. If it thinks that that resolution was extorted by misrepresentation, or given under a misapprehension of fact, it is entitled to reverse it. If you reject our advice, if you repudiate our authority to act in your name, you are within your rights. But in that case, I say to my hon. Friends that I and my colleagues shall have ceased to be their leaders, and must decline to be their agents.
There is one aspect of this great question which has not been touched upon in this Debate, and that is the great Imperial strategical question which is included within this Bill. We are setting up a Free State with a Navy, Army and Air Force absolutely under the control of that Government. This is contrary to the wisdom of every great statesman since the days of William Pitt, including the right hon. Gentleman who made a speech at Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) at the end of 1920. On those grounds alone, I have refused to vote for the ratification of this Treaty. That is an attitude from which I can never depart, and with respect to the challenge of the Noble Lord opposite (Earl Winterton), let him take that as the answer.
|Division No. 10.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Briant, Frank||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynts||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Armitago, Robert||Brittain, Sir Harry||Dean, Commander P. T.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Britton, G. B.||Devlin, Joseph|
|Astor, Viscountess||Broad, Thomas Tucker||Dockrell, Sir Maurice|
|Atkey, A. R.||Bruton, sir James||Donnelly, P.|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Doyle, N. Grattan|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring|
|Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Partick)||Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Edgar, Clifford B.|
|Barker, George||Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hugnes||Edge, Captain Sir William|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Cairns, John||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Carr, W. Theodore||Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)|
|Barrand, A. R.||Chadwick. Sir Robert Burton||Evans, Ernest|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W).||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Chllcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Falcon, Captain Michael|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Farquharson, Major A. C.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Coats, sir Stuart||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Ford, Patrick Johnston|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Fraser, Major Sir Keith|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichtster)||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Galbraith, Samuel|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Gange, E. Stanley|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Gardner, Ernest|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc,)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Davies, Sir Joseph (Chester, Crewe)||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Gilbert, James Daniel|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John|
|Glanville, Harold James||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(Midlothian)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward A.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Sexton, James|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Greene, Lt.-Col- Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Matthews, David||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mills, John Edmund||Simm, M. T.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Smithers, sir Alfred W.|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Stevens, Marshall|
|Harbison, Thomas James S.||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Hayward, Evan||Morris, Richard||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Morrison, Hugh||Swan, J. E.|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Sykes, Colonel Sir A. J. (Knutsford)|
|Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Mosley, Oswald||Taylor, J.|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Hewart. Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Murchison, C. K.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Murray, Hon. A. C, (Aberdeen)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hogge, James Myles||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Holmes, J. Stanley||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Myers, Thomas||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Home, Sir B. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Neal, Arthur||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers|
|Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Newton, Major Sir Harry K.||Wallace, J.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Nicholl, Commander Sir Edward||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Irving, Dan||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Jackson, Lieut-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Jesson, C.||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Jodrell, Neville Paul||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Parker, James||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Pearce, Sir William||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Wignall, James|
|Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Kelly, Edward J. (Donegal, East)||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Kennedy, Thomas||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Klley, James Daniel||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Asshoton||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Prescott, Major Sir W. H.||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbrdge)|
|Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Purchase, H. G.||Windsor, Viscount|
|Lawson, John James||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Winterton, Earl|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Raper, A. Baldwin||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.||Wise, Frederick|
|Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Redmond, Captain William Archer||Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com, O. (H'tingd'n)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Lorden, John William||Remer, J. R.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Renwick, Sir George||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Robertson, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mackinder, Sir H, J. (Camlachie)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Rose, Frank H.||McCurdy.|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmoie||Foxcrott, Captain Charles Talbot|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W.(Liv'p'l,W.D'by)|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hanna, George Boyle|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Dixon, Captain Herbert||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Donald, Thompson||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Houston, Sir Robert Patterson|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Jellett, William Morgan||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Lynn, R. J,||Pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. Hacket||Whitla, Sir William|
|M'Connell, Thomas Edward||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Wolmer, Viscount|
|M'Guffin, Samuel||Polson, Sir Thomas A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Remnant, Sir James||Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. Allen and|
|Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)||Mr. Reid.|
|Moles, Thomas||Sharman-Crawford, Robert G.|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
Bill Read a Second time.