When I was interrupted I was saying that I thought in all probability the Colonial Secretary would accept my Amendment, and in order that there may be no unnecessary argument I would draw his attention to the White Paper circulated by the Government (Command 1560) entitled:
Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland.
If the right hon. Gentleman will turn to page 6 he will see there the following:
This instrument shall be submitted forthwith by His Majesty's Government for the approval of Parliament, and by the Irish signatories"—
not by the representatives of Ireland—
to a meeting summoned for the purpose of the members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and, if approved, shall be ratified by the necessary legislation.
That is signed on behalf of the British Delegation—I need not read the names, they are well-known to the Committee— and also on behalf of the Irish Delegation, who did not even pretend to represent Ireland, but was merely an Irish Delegation. They can do nothing until this particular Treaty has been ratified by Southern Ireland. Therefore I think it is perfectly clear that my Amendment is necessary to bring the Clause into conformity with the Articles of Agreement. The Colonial Secretary may say to me: "Well, your arguments are very good"—I feel sure he will say that-—"and very much to the point. They are practically unanswerable, but you must remember that Northern Ireland becomes subject to this Treaty until it applies to contract out of the Treaty." That may be so. That is not necessary to my argument, because my argument is that the Treaty was between certain people supposed to be representative of Southern Ireland and not between us on one side and Ireland, as a whole, on the other. Therefore, whether or not the Government have chosen to put Northern Ireland into the position that without their consent or knowledge that are forced into agreement with somebody they do not wish to be forced into agreement with—they may be right or
they may be wrong—does not touch my point, which is that if the agreement is to be made with the representatives of Southern Ireland that fact should be stated in the Clause in question.
The right hon. Gentleman expressed two hopes, that in the first place I would accept the Amendment and that I would say his arguments were very good. I am quite ready to do a deal with him on the subject, and to pay a tribute to the skill and resource with which his arguments were framed and the aptitude with which they were displayed, if he, on his part, will withdraw his Amendment. Anyhow, I cannot accept it. Perhaps I had better say quite plainly that one reason is all-sufficing. We cannot alter the text of the instrument either by altering it in the Schedule or by implication in the Clauses of the Bill. The instrument was submitted to Parliament, and after a prolonged Debate last year it was affirmed by the House by an enormous majority. If there are faults in it, those faults the House has made itself responsible for, as well as the Government. The matter is settled, absolutely settled, so far as we are concerned and so far as open voting can make it.
You cannot possibly go back and alter the description of the instrument, still less can you alter in any particular its provisions. On behalf of the Government I cannot possibly agree to any amendment which alters, modifies, extends, explains, elucidates, amplifies or otherwise affects the text of the instrument which we call the Treaty. I do not expect for a moment to convince my right hon. Friend the Member for the City, or dissuade him urging other points upon our attention, but I must make it clear: if as a result of a Division inspired by his eloquence or the cogency of his arguments, or as the result of his Parliamentary resource, experience and knowledge, he were to persuade the House to effect any alteration, modification, amplification, etc., of this Treaty instrument then the Bill would be dead, the Treaty would be dead, and the Government would be dead.
That is a perfectly reasonable attitude for the right hon. Gentleman to adopt, more especially as he knows that he does not stand in any danger of having to face the full consequences of his action. We must ask the Committee to support us in adhering strictly to the terms in which the Treaty is described.
I have listened with some surprise to the speech which has been made by the Colonial Secretary, particularly that part in which he informed us that no modification, etc., of the Bill would be permitted. But on the Order Paper we find that he himself at a later date will propose very considerably to modify the Bill. I am surprised, then, at his statement that no modification of the Bill will be permitted.
But if what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do is done he will alter the instrument. But I leave that point. The right hon. Gentleman has told us he cannot accept any alteration of the Treaty. He says that with any alteration the Treaty is dead. That is not, I submit, the true position at all. There is nothing actually in the Treaty which will prevent its having effect if certain alterations are made. How do we know that the signatories of the Treaty on the other side would not accept the Treaty in spite of certain alterations being made? Are we to assume that Mr. Collins, who knows just as well as we do in Ulster that there are several very difficult questions involved in this Treaty—that he and his party would not accept the Treaty with certain modifications? I say, therefore, it is not true to say that the Treaty necessarily is dead.
In regard to the introduction of this word "Southern," I must confess that from the moment I saw the text of this agreement it has been a mystery to me what it was which forced the Government or induced the Government to treat the matter in the way they have done. What induced them, if they wanted to make an agreement or a treaty with Southern Ireland, instead of making it practically with Southern Ireland, to include the whole of Ireland in the Treaty and leave the Northern Parliament to vote itself out? I have asked on more than one occasion for an explanation. The right hon. Gentleman must admit that it is a roundabout way of doing what is wanted. If so, why has he not given an explanation to the House as to the adpotion of the roundabout and circuitous method of arriving at a certain state of affairs rather than the perfectly obvious and straightforward way, seeing we make this Treaty with the representatives of the Southern part of Ireland? I should like to know the considerations which dictated this method of dealing with the question. Further, I should like to call the attention of the House to the chronological order of the events which led up to this Treaty, and to emphasise the point I have already made.
The Act of 1920 was passed. The Parliament was opened in Belfast by the King, who made a speech which, as we all know, is always, at least, approved of by his advisers. In that speech His Majesty made use of these words:
For all who love Ireland as I do this is a profound and moving occasion in Irish history—
In another part the King says:
I could not allow myself to give to Ireland by deputy alone my earnest prayers and good wishes for the new era which opens with this ceremony. I therefore have come in person as the head of the Empire to inaugurate this Parliament on Irish soil. I inaugurate it with a deep feeling of hope, and I feel assured that you, the Parliament of Northern Ireland, will do your utmost to make it an instrument for happiness and good government in all parts of the community which you represent.
There are several other quotations which I could read, but I do not desire to and I will not. I desire just to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this speech contains a massage of goodwill towards Northern Ireland, and a message of hope, almost of certainty, that our Parliament is going to do its work well and for the contentment and happiness of the people. Within a month of that speech the Prime Minister had started negotiations with the representatives of Southern Ireland, and after going on for some months they came to an end. Just before that the Prime Minister—bear in mind the responsibility largely, if not the entire responsibility, for what is put
into His Majesty's mouth is upon the Prime Minister—addressed a communication to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland—only four months after that Parliament had been opened. In that communication the right hon. Gentleman says:
It is desirable for a settlement of the Irish question that an All-Ireland Parliament should be set up in which Ulster is to take part.
That was thrown out, as I knew it would be, by the Cabinet of Northern Ireland, and yet within one week of that time the text of the Treaty was made known to the public, and then it was found that Northern Ireland was included in this All-Ireland Treaty. It is an absolute insult to have done this without our consent and without us having been consulted in any shape or form. Again I ask, why was it done? What object has been served by putting Ulster into it at all? Was it not enough to raise a storm of indignation in Ulster by putting in a Boundary Commission? Why were we included in a Parliament in regard to which they know we had no intention whatever of entering at the present time? I think this is a gratuitous insult to Ulster. This is not the simple matter which some hon. Members appear to think it is, because in Ulster we feel very strongly upon it. How did the Prime Minister deal with it? I drew his attention to this matter in the Debate in December last, and he said:
I come now to the more vexed question of Ulster. Here we had all given a definitely clear pledge that under no conditions would we agree to any proposals that would involve the coercion of Ulster. That was a pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley when I served under him as my chief. I fully assented to it. I have always been strongly of the view that you could not do it without provoking a conflict which would simply mean transferring the agony from the South to the North, and thus unduly prolonging the Irish controversy instead of settling it. Therefore, on policy I have always been in favour of the pledge that there should be no coercion of Ulster. There were some of my hon. Friends who thought fit to doubt whether we meant to stand by that pledge. We have never for a moment forgotten the pledge, not for an instant. That did not preclude us from endeavouring to persuade Ulster to come into an All-Ireland Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1921; cols. 38–39, Vol. 149.]
Only four months before the right hon. Gentleman spoke those words the King
had opened our Parliament, and His Majesty had spoken in terms of the highest hope, almost amounting to certainty, to the effect that our Parliament was going to be of the greatest benefit to the North of Ireland, and he spoke many other words of hope and congratulation, and yet within four or five months pf that time we had the Prime Minister doing his best to coerce us into an All-Ireland Parliament. I have said already what I thought of that attempt at coercion, but it seems to me that this inclusion of Ulster in this Treaty is only a continuation of that attempt to coerce us, which I regret to say that we see in a great many acts of the Prime Minister. It is inexcusable, and it is a method of which any Government, from the mere point of view of businesslike qualities, should be absolutely ashamed.
In the second place, I say it is an unworthy way in which to treat a community such as Ulster, which is trying to do its duty by the Empire. In the third place, I say to the Prime Minister that it is only another example of the attempted coercion of Ulster. The Prime Minister has attempted this on various occasions, and far from having had the effect hoped for, it has only had the effect of making Ulster more determined to stay separate as she is at the present moment. I conclude my remarks by repeating to the House that I do not think it is at all necessary to argue that the Treaty would be dead if such an Amendment as the one we are now discussing were carried. The Colonial Secretary has laid great stress on the fact that the House in December last had given a large majority in favour of this Bill, and that is so. I submit, however, that at that time the House did not know anything like as much as it knows now upon this question. The generality of hon. Members are not as conversant with Irish affairs as the Irish Members are, and they do not realise the full effect of these Clauses. I am certain that if we had had a better opportunity of acquainting the House with the objectionable portions of this document, there would have been a very different division upon it. I exhort hon. Members to use their undoubted prerogative if they see anything which they consider bad in this Treaty, and to vote against it.
My hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken has dealt with this Amendment from the point of view of Northern Ireland, and I want to say a few words from the point of view of a plain Englishman. I think everybody in this House will agree with the broad general proposition that any Act of Parliament which we pass ought to state truthfully the facts in a proper and accurate manner, and not in a way calculated to deceive. May I ask the Colonial Secretary what were the facts? Was this Treaty made between Great Britain and Ireland, or was it not? I think the right hon. Gentleman will have to admit that the Treaty was not made between Great Britain and Ireland. It was only made between Great Britain and the representatives of that portion of Ireland which is referred to in the Act of 1920 as being "so much of Ireland as is not comprised in Northern Ireland."
It might be said that that is even too wide a statement. There are some people who think that the Treaty was made with certain signatories, and that it was not made with the whole body of representatives of Southern Ireland. I again ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not a fact that this Treaty was made only with Southern Ireland, and does he dispute the statement that Northern Ireland was not consulted? If that is the case, and if the facts are as I have stated, I ask the right hon. Gentleman why the Government thinks it necessary in Clause 1 of the Bill to put a misleading statement of that kind? What is the advantage of it? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will carefully consider this question.
The Colonial Secretary seems to have given one very conclusive reason why this Amendment should be passed, and it is that if it be passed the Government would die. That is exactly the thing the country wants. There is another reason why this Amendment should pass, and it is that the Government signed away territory that did not belong to them. Certain territory has been allocated by Act of Parliament to Northern Ireland, and this House has no right to allow the Government to take from it property that was given to it 14 months ago. I think the Colonial Secretary ought to agree to put in the word "Southern," in order to make it accurate, because as it stands at the present time it is most inaccurate. It speaks of "Ireland," but Northern Ireland is not included, and therefore to make the proposal accurate we should pass this Amendment.
I am not so certain that I care very much about the insertion of this word, because, after all, Southern Ireland means Southern Ireland. I would like to point out that there is a headland which is the most northerly point in Ireland, and it is in eluded in Southern Ireland. I think the word "Ireland" was only put in to meet the objections of the ex-President of the Irish Republic and it is only a bit of swank. We are making the Treaty with Ireland, and Ireland is a mother country, and therefore it is a nation. If Ireland is a mother country, so is Scotland.
But are you making a Treaty with the population of Ireland? The answer is "No." Are you making a Treaty with the whole of the people who live in Ireland? The answer is "No." Do these provisions apply to the whole of Ireland, or only to a part of Ireland? The answer again is "No." You talk in this Measure about Ireland. I am going to talk about the Irish Free State. Just look for a moment at the Schedule in the Articles of Agreement. In the Oath the Members of Parliament of the Irish Free State make the following declaration:
I … do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established.
You are making a Treaty with the Irish Free State. You want people like myself in due course to swear allegiance to the Irish Free State. Then you put down something which you really do not mean in Article 8 of the Treaty, which tells us that the Government of the Irish Free State may maintain a military defence force which shall not exceed in size such proportion to the military establishment of Great Britain as the population of Ireland bears to the population of Great Britain. You do not mean that. You mean the proportion that the Irish Free State bears to the population of Great Britain. You are asking me to swear an oath which I do not mean and you do not mean, and Clause 8 of the Agreement puts down something which you do not
mean. I support the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet, though I much prefer my own Amendment. You are making a Treaty with the Irish Free State, but not with Ulster. Ulster repudiates it. Therefore, why put in what you do not mean? It may be said from the Front Bench opposite, "we want to continue this for the next few days in Ireland so as to give a good show in Dublin on Sunday," but let us say that Ireland means the Irish Free State.
I support the Amendment, and especially the remarks of my hon. Friend the leader of the Ulster party (Captain Craig). It was my privilege to see the opening of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and to witness the most magnificent reception which the King and Queen received on that great occasion, and I think that this Treaty has a tendency to cause misunderstanding on the part of Northern Ireland and to confuse the good sentiments which were expressed on that day in the King's Speech, which I thought a very fine one. It contained nothing to show the possibility that the Parliament of Northern Ireland was at any future time to be subordinated to any other Parliament. The people of Northern Ireland have the right to ask for a full explanation of why they are put under the Sinn Fein Parliament by this Treaty. It is an example of the very bad legislation which takes place after midnight. I can only wish that the Government had not been hustled as they were into signing a Treaty of this sort in the early hours of the morning. I believe that, if they had thought it over calmly the next day, they would not have inflicted the injury which they have inflicted on the people of Ulster. It looks, to those of us who have taken an interest in this question for a long time, that to please their enemies the Government have sold their friends. I cannot see how certain violations which have occurred in the constitution as given to Ulster can be justified by any other supposition. It seems to me that the sanctity of a promise given in 1920 with the full consent of this House and accepted by Northern Ireland is just as serious and binding an obligation as any promise made subsequently in 1921. If there could be such a thing as finality in politics, I think that the inhabitants of Northern Ireland should have been allowed their rights as granted in 1920, both in this matter and as regards the boundaries and other things of which we will speak later on.
The right hon. Baronet put the whole case for the Amendment in one phrase. He desired that the Government in this Bill should tell the simple truth. The Colonial Secretary, resisting that Amendment, put the whole case for the Government in effect in one phrase, that the last thing that the Government desired to do was to tell the truth. He told us in effect that that was the position. There may be untruths in every line of the Bill, it may bristle- with faults, defects, and blemishes from first to last, but we must not alter a word of it. Eight or wrong, it must stand. True or false, rotten or sound, we must not touch a word of it. It is significant that in no quarter of the House, not even from the voluble Front Bench opposite, has anybody got up to support the Government on this matter. I suspect the reason. The Colonial Secretary had his eye on the Lobby when he told us that if we touched this the entire Treaty is dead and the Government is dead. I should have thought that that would have been received with some measure of applause by the Front Bench opposite, but I suspect that the Colonial Secretary and the Front Bench, in thinking of the death of the Government, have this in common, that neither is quite sure about the resurrection. The sentiment of the Colonial Secretary seems to be to parody some well-known lines—
Let laws and learning, art and commerce die,
But leave us still this rotten Treaty.
What is the objection to inserting the word "Southern" if you mean Southern? If there be no answer to this, and there has been none, can anyone challenge the view that the Government do not favour plain dealing in these matters? Nothing has been so disastrous to Ireland as double dealing on the part of the Government, this Government and others. But they are only postponing their troubles and not getting rid of them. If they imagine they are bamboozling Sinn Fein by retaining this word they will find that Sinn Fein will bamboozle them. Mr. de Valera boasted at the very first meeting of the Dail:
We have beaten them in warfare, and we will beat them in statesmanship.
He meant, of course, the kind of trickery that is called statesmanship. These delegates had no right whatever to speak for Northern Ireland, and the Treaty which they made in the name of Ireland is repudiated in Northern Ireland. They have no authority from us to bring us in in any degree. It is challenged even that they speak for Southern Ireland. When they put the acceptance of this Treaty to test in the Dail they only just carried it, so that there would be a good case even, if my right hon. Friend wished to change his Amendment, to take out the word "Southern." If the Government mean Southern Ireland and that Northern Ireland is in no way bound, why do they not say so? I hope that the Colonial Secretary will approach this Amendment in a spirit of more seriousness and responsibility than he has done up to the present. It is unworthy of him to treat a proposal, coming from the quarter from which this comes, in this way, and it is unworthy of this House if it will put up with this sort of thing any longer.
Colonel LAMBERT WARD:
It would be very desirable if some other Member of the Government would explain why they consider this Amendment so impossible of acceptance. The Colonial Secretary gave no reason why he would not accept it. He merely said that if we did accept it the Bill would be dead, the Treaty would be dead, and the Government would be dead. I quite understand that the agreement which is come to cannot be amended, because it was the agreement come to on that particular occasion between the leaders of Sinn Fein and Members of the Government. But it occurs to me that this Bill, which is giving the force of law to that Agreement, can be amended if the Government wish to do so. We have had no reason why the Amendment was not accepted, but merely a blank refusal. It would facilitate me in making up my mind if reasons can be advanced why this Amendment is impossible of acceptance.
I can hardly believe that no Member of the Government intends to take any further part in this discussion. Is it possible that the Chief Secretary, who is also present, does not intend to take any part in discussing this question, which he seems to treat as a very good joke?
All I can say is that the humorous appearance of the right hon. Gentleman's countenance belies his words, but, of course, I accept his statement that he is treating the matter seriously. If so, I hope that he intends to give us some reason in addition to that given by the Colonial Secretary. It is a very extraordinary thing, when this matter is under discussion, that it should be treated in such a manner by the Government. We are entitled to protest against the action of the Colonial Secretary in saying at the beginning of the Debate, which did not surprise all of us, that the Government did not intend to allow anything to pass which would alter this instrument. Even supposing that they were right in this, which we do not admit, it is still an unreasonable thing to refuse to give a reasonable answer to questions put to the Government. It is an extraordinary thing that, especially on this particular Amendment, we are not favoured by the presence of any of the so-called Unionist Members of the Cabinet. I can very well understand that they prefer to be absent. Of course, I exclude my right hon. Friend the President of the Council (Mr. Balfour) because, although he was a most respected Member of the Cabinet, he was entirely unconnected with this particular instrument. Unfortunately for the country, as I think, he was not at home when this transaction was entered into. I have great confidence that if he had been we should not be debating this Measure here to-day.
What I want to point out is that these Unionist members of the Cabinet who are responsible for this Treaty in its present form are not taking part in this Debate. Why is the Prime Minister not here? The Prime Minister is primarily responsible. He has been in connection with this particular proposal charged in this House, and I charge him again with dishonourable conduct. He ought to be here. He has never yet thought fit to give any answer, and it certainly is very strange that, when charged by Members of the House of Commons, however unimportant he may think them, with not being reliable in his word, he neither chooses to rise to answer them nor to come back into the House when the same question is raised again. That is a very extraordinary procedure, and I again put the question, which, perhaps, the Chief Secretary will deign to answer—it has been put often before—why was Northern Ireland included in this Treaty? If it was that the Ministers in the Downing Street Conference were forced to do this by the malefactors with whom they were negotiating, let them at least have the courage to say so. For my part, however, I am very doubtful if that was the reason of it all. I believe that this was a deliberate act of treachery on the part of our own Cabinet Ministers, and the more one looks at this Treaty, the more one looks into the various Clauses and into what it means, the more one sees that it is steeped in treachery from beginning to end. The Colonial Secretary says that Parliament is so committed by the Division that was taken in December that, forsooth, it is not a free agent at the present time to give a vote as it chooses on this question. I repudiate that entirely. The House of Commons is perfectly entitled at any time to say that its second thoughts are better than its first. If the House of Commons chose to turn down this Treaty now—I do not say for a moment that it will, I do not even suggest that it could or ought—if the House thought it to be its duty to do so, it is not in any way committed by the vote that was taken some months ago.
I again ask the Chief Secretary whether he is going to answer our questions. I say that the Cabinet had no right, moral or otherwise, to include Northern Ireland in this Treaty with the representatives of the South. They were pledged in every possible way not to do it. They were pledged against the coercion of Ulster. Is it not idle for the right hon. Gentleman to put forward the pretence that there is no coercion of Ulster in this case, merely because she is given by another Clause the right to vote herself out? They put her in, by their own signature, by an action which they say now they have no right or power to go back upon, not only without her knowledge and consent, but in the face of her expressed disapproval and refusal, because, only a few days before this instrument was signed, the Prime Minister and his colleagues, including the Colonial Secretary and the Secretary of State for War—who also has not the courage to be here—all had received direct notice in the strongest and most unequivocal terms from the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, not only that he would not consent to such a proposal, but that he would not even discuss it. In these circumstances I say it was dishonourable in the highest degree for them, behind the backs of the Parliament and the Government which they have themselves set up, and which they had advised the King to encourage and countenance by his presence only a few months before, to go and put in this Clause including Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland, although they must have known perfectly well that the provision enabling her to Vote herself out would be taken advantage of at the earliest possible moment. It was a mere sham and pretence to say that it was not coercing Ulster when they relied upon that privilege Clause to put her in later in the Treaty. I do not think that too strong a protest can be made, not merely against the policy that has been pursued, but against the dishonourable conduct of every Cabinet Minister who was concerned in it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury has endeavoured to import some heat into the Debate, and for that purpose has used a number of terms and expressions, and has made a number of charges, which I hope in his heart of hearts he does not think should be taken literally. At any rate, I am not going to take them in a literal form. If I were to do so, I should say that they had been answered repeatedly in open and prolonged debate in the House of Commons—[Interruption]—only a fortnight ago. The House having heard the whole discussion, and having heard the full statement of the case by my hon. Friend and his colleagues, decided by an overwhelming majority to endorse in principle for the second time the policy to which we are committed, and to which we have committed the country, by this Treaty. When these charges of dishonour, breach of honourable obligations, and so on, are flung about in this way, one is entitled to remind the hon. Gentleman that there are a large number of people in the House of Commons who have associated themselves with the policy of the Government who are equally to be blamed—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and fall equally under the ban of assertions of this kind.
It is not my purpose to raise needless controversy, but I should like to say that it was not from any want of courtesy to the Mover of the Amendment, or to those who have taken part in this Debate, that I did not attempt to embark again upon the great issues of principle and the obvious matters of fact which are involved in the whole of this policy. We have had this afternoon two or three Amendments, of apparently a technical or verbal character, which have been made the vehicles for debating over and over again the discussions that we had before Christmas on the original Treaty, and, only a fortnight ago, on the Second Reading of the Bill. Again and again the same argument has come up, and even the same epithets. I have not thought it useful, during the Committee stage, to argue again the issues which we fought out at length on the Second Reading. That is not because I do not wish to give an answer. I can give a short answer if I am asked, "Why is it that you have declined to insert the word 'Southern'?" The reason, as is well known, is that we were negotiating with men whom, for good or for ill, rightly or wrongly, we decided to consider as representing the Irish nation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh" and "Sit down!"]
That is not a very logical outcry against me. Having sat here for the last hour, and having been scolded again and again in most harsh terms for not rising in my place to offer some explanation, I get up and begin to offer an explanation, and hon. Members then advise me to sit down.
If I am allowed to finish my statement, I would say that, rightly or wrongly, we dealt with these men as men entitled to speak on behalf of Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] What is the quarrel? It is in the Treaty. There is the language of the Treaty. Having done that, we then made the provision with which the Committee is familiar for enabling Ulster to contract out of the arrangement. What is the use of hon. Gentlemen pretending that this strikes them with an air of novelty? This is the very foundation of the principle upon which we have been proceeding, and it is the language reiterated in various parts of the Bill and also in the instrument of the Treaty. There is nothing unexpected about that. I say we hope that these men will be found to be able to speak on behalf of the Irish people, subject to Ulster's absolute right to contract out. We hope they will be found to be able to speak for the Irish nation and to bring that part of the Irish nation from which we have so long been estranged into better harmony with this country. That is the explanation which I offer, and which, after ail, is only a fragment of the argument exhaustively canvassed in long Debates here, and treated of in great public discussions throughout the country. Whether hon. Members who, as we know, take an opposite view agree with me or not, I hope they will, at any rate, acquit me of any desire to avoid giving them an answer on a question like this. My only desire is not to re-try in Committee the issues which have already been fought out and decided on the Floor of the House.
Before I sit down, let me just say this. I should like to remind the Committee that I have pointed out that, as far as the instrument of the Treaty is concerned, we are not capable of altering it. It is perfectly true that the House of Commons is capable of destroying the Treaty, that the House is capable of destroying the Bill, of destroying the administration. The House has the absolute right and power to do that in its pleasure if it thinks fit. There is no question of fettering the power of Parliament; there is no power to fetter it. But we, as a Government, and the signatories of the Treaty, and those who have supported us, are in honour bound to go through with it. The men on the other side of St. George's Channel are proceeding on this basis, and only on this basis, and the political services which they can render to the general welfare depend wholly upon this. We, too, must make good our part on this side, and I venture to say with great respect to the Committee that we are incapable of accepting any Amendment which affects in any way the character of the Treaty. I hope that, when a Division is taken on this Amendment, it will be realised that it is also taken on that issue, that the Treaty is incapable of amendment. I directly challenge that issue, and I think it would be very wrong for me to make any concealment of it. I say, by all means let us try that matter out to a conclusion. The vote will be taken not only on the Amendment immediately before the Committee, but on the general principle that the Treaty as such is incapable of Amendment.
I said in the course of my remarks earlier in this Debate that the Government had insulted Ulster by including her in the first place with the Irish Free State. I can only say that the right hon. Gentleman has doubly insulted Ulster by saying that it was decided to consider, when conferring with Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith, that they represented the people of Ulster as well as of other parts of Ireland.
I took the words down, "Decided to consider them as representatives of all Ireland." I should like the Committee to remember that, when the right hon. Gentleman was sitting in conference with those representatives of Sinn Fein, there was actually in Ulster a Cabinet, a Parliament, which had been set up by the Prime Minister and the House of Commons only a few months before. I am only sorry that when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking the House had not three times the number of Members in it, for if any hon. Member had been put up to destroy any confidence which this House had in this Treaty he could not have done it better than the right hon. Gentleman. It is a most amazing state of affairs, and until he made that amazing explanation why the matter was treated in the way it has been treated there has been no sort of explanation given to the House. It is absolutely wrong to say the matter has been discussed time after time. He almost went as far as to say the House was sick of hearing about it. This question why Northern Ireland is included in the Free State, though we are given the right to vote ourselves out again, was only dealt by one Minister, and it was dealt with in this way. I pointed out that this was a most unfair and outrageous thing to do, and the answer I got was, "Have you not the right to vote yourselves out of it, and, if so, what have you to complain about?" That is the only explanation which has been given since the matter first came before the House, and that is not a good explanation.
We should never have been put into this position. I hope the House will take up the right hon. Gentleman's challenge. He has tried to frighten the House with threats of the death of the Treaty. I do not want to kill the Treaty. I and all my colleagues want to see peace in Ireland. We realise that things have gone so far that it is quite impossible that the Treaty in its main principles should not be carried out, but I differ absolutely, and I ask the Committee to differ, from the right hon. Gentleman's argument that if you change one word or one comma in this Treaty it is necessarily dead. That is not the proper view to take of it. I maintain that if hon. Members find that on a further acquaintance with the facts of the case they have acted wrongly, and have done what they know they ought not to have done, they have every right in honour and in equity to try to put the mistakes they have made on a former occasion right by voting for this Amendment.
The speech of the Colonial Secretary is not only not a justification for his conduct, as I think, but it is a most grave aggravation of his former offence. How do we stand? We find in this Bill a positively false statement, an absolute falsity, the statement that the Agreement was made with the whole of Ireland, whereas, in fact, everyone in the House knows that it was made with delegates from a portion of Southern Ireland, and when he is asked to explain why he put this definitely false statement into the Bill he makes an explanation which must have come with perfect astonishment upon us all. He tells us that he and his colleagues felt themselves entitled to regard Mr. Michael Collins and his coadjutors as representing the whole of Ireland. Who outside a lunatic asylum could have made such a statement? Where was any representative body in Northern Ireland who appointed Mr. Collins? Did the Parliament of Northern Ireland appoint him and his associates to negotiate this Agreement? Did anyone in Northern Ireland even profess to appoint Mr. Collins to negotiate it? Can the right hon. Gentleman mention one single person or body of authority who would say that Mr. Michael Collins and those who acted with him represent Northern Ireland, and if he cannot what is the excuse for him and his friends in the Government to regard these gentlemen as though they did represent Northern Ireland?
I wish there were more of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues here. I wish we had the Lord President of the Council. Would he tell us that he regarded Mr. Michael Collins as the representative of Northern Ireland? I suppose the right hon. Gentleman is speaking for someone besides himself when he says that. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give us some reason for this astounding belief of his that Mr. Michael Collins and his friends represent Northern Ireland. Like hon. Members from Ulster and elsewhere, we have no desire at this moment to kill this agreement. Things have gone too far. I recognise that the Government is bound to put it through. But really if the Colonial Secretary tells us that to make the Bill conform with the bare fact, to eliminate the falsehood which we are now complaining of and to put in the truth is to kill the Bill, he is telling us something which I find it perfectly impossible to believe.
I should like to say two words after the speech of the Colonial Secretary. He charged me with unnecessarily importing heat into the Debate. I plead guilty. I think I did. I can only say that if I did it was because some of us feel a degree of indignation which perhaps the right hon. Gentleman finds it very difficult to understand. I do not think even now he understands its cause, because he said I was merely speaking wild charges about dishonour and so forth which have been answered a hundred times, and he declined to take them literally. But he must take them literally. If he says he will not, I would reply to him, "Litera scripta manet." There has been a distinct breach of faith—a breach of a written promise. Is that or is it not something definite? And as he told the Committee that those charges have been answered time after time I would very respectfully ask him to refresh my memory as to what the answer is. I have heard no answer. The Prime Minister never answered it. The right hon. Gentleman has not answered it. They have answered other things, but I have noticed that they have always carefully avoided having to answer that, and when the right hon. Gentleman says—and this is the nearest approach to an answer that any of then! have got—that the House by an enormous majority endorsed the action of the Government, I do not believe the House has endorsed the dishonour of the Government. What the House of Commons did by its Division was to endorse the general policy of the Government. I do not believe, they ever sanctioned or approved the methods by which it was carried out. Those charges remain there on the Paper and the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have not answered and cannot answer any of them.
The Government, I think, do not even now quite appreciate the seriousness of the accusation which is brought against them, not only as affecting their credit generally but as going to the root of the question whether their policy is likely to be a success. We are not really dealing here with the Treaty itself. We are dealing with the description of it. The Clause runs—
The Articles of Agreement for a treaty between Great Britain and Ireland"—?—
and the point is raised that that is a misdescription. I do not know whether the Colonial Secretary concedes that it is a misdescription or denies it. It manifestly is a misdescription, because Northern Ireland was no party to the agreement and indeed from the first openly and notoriously refused its consent to an agreement. Then what is the purpose of the misdescription? The very startling speech the Colonial Secretary has just delivered almost suggests that the Government did after all, in some degree, mean to commit Ireland against its will to this Treaty. They accepted the persons with whom they were negotiating as the representatives of the Irish nation. Of course it is possible for them to say, and perhaps it may be true, that in the sense that the Irish nation was used by those negotiators the people of Northern Ireland did not belong to the Irish nation
but I do not imagine that that would be an acceptable view to the negotiators themselves. When you say you are accepting these people as the negotiators for the Irish nation you mean that you are accepting them as persons who were in some sense morally entitled to speak on behalf of Northern Ireland. What else does the right hon. Gentleman mean?
The real truth is that the Government has got into the habit of using words which they hope will have a conciliatory influence, absolutely careless whether they have any correspondence with truth or not. I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman attached any meaning whatever to the expression he used with so much rhetorical fervour. I do not think ho knows or cares what the expression "Irish nation" may mean. He thought it would have a soothing influence on the other side of St. George's Channel since the Government are now sitting stewing hi their own juice with anxiety lest, after all they have been through, their coadjutors on the other side should turn them over and they should be left with a derelict Treaty to sell for what it will fetch in the English constituencies. They are so anxious that they used this sort of rhetorical language, and they will not modify the Treaty, because the Amendment will not modify the Treaty but the description of the Treaty that they have put into the Bill, because they do not know what effect it will have. Surely you cannot hope to pacify Ireland, you cannot hope to settle the Irish question at all, if you really rely upon giving misdescriptions of facts which are intended to take someone in. There are two alternative defences to this misdescription. Either they meant to commit Ulster against its will, and that deserves all the language my hon. Friend has used about it, because it would be a scandalous breach of faith to Northern Ireland, or else they are using phrases which are not intended to mean what they say but are intended to operate soothingly upon the minds of the people of Southern Ireland, and so carry their Treaty there upon what is essentially a false pretence. One way or the other, someone is being taken in. If you use language which is a misdescription there cannot be an honest purpose behind it. You must be taking someone in—either the Southern Irish or you are confessing to a breach of faith which you have already committed against Northern Ireland. No honest purpose can be served by using language of this kind. To defend it is only to try to cover over what is essentially a discreditable manœuvre, and I hope the Government will not cherish the idea that you can in the end solve a great question by arts of this character. It is not by chicanery and artifice, it is by honest, straightforward dealing that great questions are solved, and for that reason, as we know the Treaty cannot be killed, we earnestly wish the Government were as dead as mutton.
It would indeed have been well for the Colonial Secretary and for the Government if they had been wise enough to flout the desires of the House and to keep silent rather than that he should have given vent to the amazing speech we have heard, a speech which attacked the democratic institutions of this country and of the British Empire. The right hon. Gentleman got up in this British House of Commons, the parent of democracies throughout the world, and said that when he was negotiating with the Irish delegates of Sinn Fein from Southern Ireland he considered himself, and apparently he implied that his other colleagues considered, that he was negotiating with representatives of Ireland as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Government, and this House of Parliament had only a few months before set up an independent Parliament for Northern Ireland, no representative of which had been summoned to that Conference or had attended it. For him to say that this conference of delegates, not even appointed by Southern Ireland, represented Ireland as a whole, when there was a duly constituted Government in Northern Ireland set up by the present Government, is, I say, an outrage on democratic institutions. We are told that this does not infringe the rights of Ulster, and the Leader of this House said in the last Debate that Ulster remains mistress of her own fate. How then, if that is a fact, can it be said that this is a Treaty made with Ireland? You cannot have it both ways. It is either a Treaty made with Southern Ireland, or with Ireland as a whole; one or other is untrue. The House last night applauded warmly the Chancellor
of the Exchequer when he said, referring to the Agreement entered into by the Government with the teachers:
It is quite certain that any Government which took part in, what could fairly be regarded as the breaking of a contract or a breach of faith would set an example in this country which would be attended by serious consequences."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1922; col. 432, Vol. 151.]
Yet that is just what the Government have done in this matter, and I say that what the Colonial Secretary has said to-night is an outrage on democratic institutions, on Parliament, and that if words mean anything, before it is too late let us put the words of truth in this Bill.
I would not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for what I regard as the perfectly amazing explanation of the Colonial Secretary. He has just informed us that he regarded Mr. Michael Collins, Mr. Griffith, and the rest of the delegation as entitled to speak for Northern as well as Southern Ireland. I absolutely challenge the right hon. Gentleman. Do I understand him to say he did not? I thought I understood him to say that he regarded them as representatives of Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did," and "The whole of Ireland."] Mr. CHURCHILL: The Treaty proceeds on the assumption that, the Irish signatories represented Ireland as a whole. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?" and "It is untrue."] I say that is the assumption on which the Treaty proceeds. There are the signatories of the Treaty, which is described as a treaty between this country and Ireland. That is the assumption and the basic assumption, and it is perfectly well-known and obvious.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me this? Which of the Irish delegates were in any way able to speak for Northern Ireland? Were they even enabled to speak for any of the hon. or right hon. Gentlemen who sit below me?
I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman below me accepts Mr. Michael Collins as in a position to speak for him. I do not believe, and nothing will make me believe, that His Majesty's Government for a minute imagine that any one of these delegates could speak for Northern Ireland or for all Ireland. I am perfectly certain they did not, and therefore I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman's explanation this afternoon. He has further stated that the Government will not accept a single Amendment, and that if we want to amend—
Well, any Amendment of material effect on the Treaty. Is there a single Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman can point on the Paper which was designed to wreck that Treaty in any way? Those of us who are working together in this desire to help the Government to try to make this into a workable and honest Measure. I regard this Treaty as an accomplished fact which we have to see through. Whatever body were in power would have to do the same to-morrow; but we want it made into an honest and statesmanlike Measure. There is also another consideration which has not been touched upon. If the Government will not accept any Amendment, or will not even consider them, what is the effect on the country outside? Only the other night I was endeavouring to address a meeting—
I wanted to show how very much I resent the Government's attitude if they will not accept any reasonable Amendment to this Treaty. I do not regard the addition of the word "Southern" as a word that is to wreck the Treaty, and I cannot believe that Mr. Collins would so consider it. All we want to do is to say exactly what we mean and to see that the Treaty says it. That is all we want to see done. I am sorry the Government have said in passing that they will not accept any Amendment of any sort, because I think it will have a very bad effect outside, and that many people will question the usefulness of our Parliamentary institutions.
I cannot follow His Majesty's Government when they say they cannot accept one Amendment. It is not going into the Treaty; it is only going into the Bill. It is merely stating what is the fact. What is the use of the Colonial Secretary telling us that they went on that assumption on that particular night? He might as well go on the assumption that two and two shall make five, or that the law of gravity shall temporarily be repealed. I think he must have felt rather like that that night at half-past two in the morning. It is no use making an assumption which is nonsensical. Sinn Fein delegates knew, and the representatives of His Majesty's Government knew perfectly, well, that the North of Ireland was not represented by the Sinn Fein delegates. There was no use their making believe like a couple of infants out of "Alice in Wonderland" that they did represent Northern Ireland when they did not. What is the use of it? I have great sympathy with the Colonial Secretary. He knows perfectly well that the majority in the Dail is very small, and that the South is in a very anarchical condition—
And he very properly wants to assist such ordered government as there is there, and not to do anything likely to prejudice the grip of these gentlemen who signed this Treaty for the South of Ireland and who pretend to represent the whole of it. We want to assist them, and I have great sympathy with that point of view too. I would like to help the South all I could for law and order to be established. Let us do everything we possibly can, but when it comes to the North, I know well enough that these wretched Clauses dealing with the North, which have been put into the Treaty, instead of making it a treaty of peace may very likely make it an occasion of civil war. It is a deplorable thing to think that the delegates and the Cabinet did not sit up all night and the following day and agree to take these wretched Clauses out, because it is contrary to the whole spirit of the Treaty, which is that the British Government shall not interfere. I cannot help thinking that the reason of that assumption was that at the back of the mind of the representatives of the Government there was a determination to apply to Ulster all the coercion they dared. One cannot help recollecting that, in March, 1914, if the forces of the Crown had assisted certain of the gentlemen sitting on that Bench, including the Colonial Secretary, military coercion would have been used, and it was only the fact that the instrument broke in their hands that prevented it. There is still the same spirit at the back, and they will coerce Ulster if they possibly can. I do not believe Sinn Fein itself is thinking seriously of coercing Ulster. She knows it is practically impossible. I wish for peace in the South of Ireland and in the North of Ireland, and the true way to get peace between these two sections—mark you, it has always been admitted that there are two nations in Ireland—
They may not be two nations in the sense of two nationalities, but if nationality means race, they undoubtedly are two. The two races do not agree, and have not agreed for thousands of years.
Yes, we do wonderfully well in Scotland. There is more philosophy. The fallacy of this Treaty is that the facts have not been recognised. I believe that if the dangers of their Treaty, of the Boundary Clause, which had no right to be in, had been pointed out to Sinn Fein, and if they had been appealed to, they would have taken these things out. I hope it is not too late yet. I do not accept from the Colonial Secretary that putting the word "Southern" in this Bill can possibly nullify, set aside, or kill the Treaty. They may kill it because they recognise that it will not be the Treaty they thought it was going to be. It is all very well to get pæans of praise from all parts of the world. It is like a man who gets married and sends wires to his relatives informing them of the fact. Of course, he will get congratulations, but when it is discovered that he has taken a lunatic, or something of that sort, as his bride, he probably will not get the same hearty congratula- tions. This Treaty, with its contentious Clauses, will bring trouble instead of bringing the olive branch and peace to Ireland and a permanent settlement of this centuries-old dispute.
I have not spoken on the Irish Bill because I knew that once the Government had signed this Agreement protest or antagonism to the Bill was useless, and that this House would have to ratify the Treaty. Having entered into the contract the Government could not possibly get out of it. But this Amendment shows what an absolute sham the whole of the so-called settlement in Ireland is. The Government did not consult Ulster when the Treaty was signed. Instead of calling it a Treaty with Southern Ireland, it is going to be called a Treaty with Ireland, although the North will have nothing to do with it, and a great proportion of the South will have nothing to do with it. Why do you wish to fraud this House into something which does not exist and something which is entirely untrue? I do not see the need for it. Though we protest, this Bill will have to pass; but what is the need for trying to perpetuate a fraud upon the House. I do not see how that is going to benefit the Government or the country at large. Why not say that this is a Treaty with Southern Ireland? I do not see that that will in any way affect Sinn Fein or Mr. Collins in his attempt to win the South of Ireland; but, at any rate, it would show the whole world exactly how the position stands.
The representatives of Ulster in this House have a right to protest. When the War came, in 1914, there was no part of the country that rallied to the forces in greater numbers than Ulster, and Ulster has a right to protest that when this Treaty was signed the representatives of Ulster were never consulted. They had a right to be consulted. If you are going to call it a Treaty for the whole of Ireland you will bring up the whole question of why Ulster was not consulted. No one would complain if you called it a Treaty with Southern Ireland, because the North in that case would have nothing to do with the Treaty. On this matter I think the Leader of the House ought to be present. Since I have been sitting here there has not been a single Conservative Cabinet Minister present. It is only right that, at any rate, one Conservative Cabinet Minister or the Leader of the House should be present and give us his opinion on this most important point, and advise us whether he thinks it possible for the Government to withdraw.
I would appeal to the Committee to come to a conclusion on this Amendment now. We have had a long and searching Debate; the issues have been fully explored, and there are many other important matters to be dealt with. I am very reluctant to press the Committee, but I think it would be proper to bring the Debate to a termination now.
That appeal might very well take the form of a motion, "That the question be now put." I have been asking myself why we are invited to attend. We are told that we can do nothing by our Amendment. This Amendment has been explained again and again as one that will not affect the Treaty in the least, but will only restore the Bill to a truthful statement of the facts; but it has been resisted, and we have been threatened that those who dare to go into the Lobby and vote for the Amendment are voting deliberately to wreck the Treaty. I hope that there will be no journal circulating in the United Kingdom to-morrow that does not make it perfectly clear that that threat has been held out, and that we are told that the House of Comomns, with its century of history behind it as the bulwark of the freedom of the people of this Realm, is not to be allowed to open its mouth, or to introduce a comma, or a full stop, much less a semi-colon. What is the function of this House reduced to? This Agreement has been openly repudiated on the other side as having been pure coercion, and it is going to be repudiated, if anything ever was repudiated, ultimately, and yet we are told that we are not to be allowed to alter it in the slightest degree. The Whips ought to have announced that the House would be summoned and that after Questions it would proceed to consider this Bill, and that thereupon the Closure would be moved. It is a monstrous infraction of the rights of the people of this country. This Amendment is being resisted upon excuses which are absolutely futile and childish, and it is an insult to the House of Commons to attempt to dragoon it in this way. Far better adjourn and save our time.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. ALLEN:
I only intervene because of the statement that was made by the Colonial Secretary that the delegates represented Ireland as a whole. Some hon. Members have expressed amazement when he made such a statement. I do not express any amazement that such an expression has come from the right hon. Gentleman, knowing the history of his peculiar acrobatic performances in connection with the Irish Question: but I am entitled to express the greatest astonishment and amazement if the leader of the Conservative party, the Leader of this House, the leader of the Unionist party, understood when he was entering into these negotiations with the Irish delegates that they did really represent Ireland as a whole. The Unionist party in this House are entitled to ask that question, and they are entitled to get an answer. If they did think, as the Colonial Secretary has told us, that these gentlemen represented Ireland as a whole, does the right hon. Gentleman think so now? He may have thought it as an individual at that time, but he cannot possibly think now that those gentlemen represented Ireland as a whole, because a Vote has been taken in the Dail with the result that the Treaty was only carried by a very small majority. Far from representing Ireland as a whole, they do not even represent Southern Ireland.
When this Treaty was signed in the early hours of the morning, telegrams were sent all over the world, and we are entitled to ask whether the telegrams were to the effect that this was a settlement of the Irish Question between Irishmen who represented Ireland as a whole and the Government. I believe that a telegram was sent from Washington by the Lord President of the Council congratulating the Prime Minister on having carried this thing through. This Committee is entitled to know whether the Lord President of the Council understood when he sent that congratulatory message that the Act which established the Parliament of Northern Ireland was being abrogated by this Treaty. If he had known, what kind of telegram would he have sent? This Debate goes to prove that the Government in entering into this Treaty have done so at the expense of those who have stood by the Empire ever since we have had any knowledge of it. It is a horrible thing for us when we who have stood to England and stood to the Empire in time of trial and great responsibility are now to be told that we are no longer wanted, and we are to be thrown over to our enemies. I hope the Committee will not listen to the right hon. Gentleman when he threatens them with the loss of
|Division No. 24.||AYES.||[7.27 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Allen, Lieut..-Col. Sir William James||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Gretton, Colonel John||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart, (Gr'nw'h)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Polson, Sir Thomas A.|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Hayes, Hugh (Down, W.)||Reid, D. D.|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Houston, Sir Robert Patterson||Remnant, Sir James|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Sharman-Crawford, Robert G.|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Brown, Major D. C.||James, Lieut..-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stewart, Gershom|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Jellett, William Morgan||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Larmor, Sir Joseph||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lindsay, William Arthur||Whitla, Sir William|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Lynn, R. J.||Wilson, Field-Marshal Sir Henry|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||M'Connell, Thomas Edward||Windsor, Viscount|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||M'Guffin, Samuel||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Maddocks, Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||Moles, Thomas||Sir F. Banbury and Mr. Penne-|
|Donald, Thompson||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||father.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Clay, Lieut..-Colonel H. H. Spender||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Coats, Sir Stuart||Hallwood, Augustine|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hallas, Eldred|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S.||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Halls, Walter|
|Armitage, Robert||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Hancock, John George|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Harris, Sir Henry Percy|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Haslam, Lewis|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Devlin, Joseph||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Doyle, N. Grattan||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Hinds, John|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Fildes, Henry||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bigland, Alfred||Finney, Samuel||Hogge, James Myles|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Foot, Isaac||Holmes, J. Stanley|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Foreman, Sir Henry||Hudson, R. M.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Forrest, Walter||Hunter-Weston, Lieut..-Gen. Sir A. G.|
|Briggs, Harold||Galbraith, Samuel||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Brittain, sir Harry||Gange, E. Stanley||Hurst, Lieut..-Colonel Gerald B.|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Gardner, Ernest||Irving, Dan|
|Bromfield, William||Gee, Captain Robert||Jackson, Lieut..-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Jephcott, A. R,|
|Buchanan, Lieut..-Colonel A. L. H.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Jesson, C.|
|Buckley, Lieut..-Colonel A.||Gilils, William||Jodrell, Neville Paul|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||Gilmour, Lieut..-Colonel Sir John||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Cairns, John||Glyn, Major Ralph||Johnson, Sir Stanley|
|Campion, Lieut..-Colonel W. R.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Johnstone, Joseph|
|Cape, Thomas||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Green, Albert (Derby)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Casey, T. W.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Kiley, James Daniel|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Guinness, Lieut..-Col. Hon. W. E.||Lister, Sir R. Ashton|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Prescott, Major Sir W. H.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Lorden, John William||Purchase, H. G.||Sutton, John Edward|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Taylor, J.|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Panrith)||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Lunn, William||Redmond, Captain William Archer||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachle)||Renwick, Sir George||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Tickler, Thomas George|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert||Robertson, John||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Rothschild, Lionel de||Wallace, J.|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Moison, Major John Elsdale||Royce, William Stapleton||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Morden, Col. W. Grant||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Morris, Richard||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Murchison, C. K.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Wedgwood, Colonel Joslah C.|
|Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Murray, William (Dumfries)||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Myers, Thomas||Seager, sir William||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Seddon, J. A.||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Neal, Arthur||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Sexton, James||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Shaw, Hon. Alex, (Kilmarnock)||Wise, Frederick|
|Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|O'Connor, Thomas P.||Simm, M. T.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|O'Grady, Captain James||Sitch, Charles H.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Parker, James||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Spencer, George A.|
|Perkins, Walter Frank||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Phillipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Stanton, Charles Butt||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Starkey, Captain John Ralph||Dudley Ward.|
The next two Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Pennefather) and of the hon. Member for Finchley (Colonel Newman) are covered by the discussion which has already taken place.
The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Kincardineshire (Lieut. -Colonel A. Murray)—in Sub-section (1), after the word "shall" to insert the words
after the constitution to be framed under the aforesaid Articles has been discussed and ratified by both Houses of Parliament"—
is, I think, nugatory. There is no necessity for its being introduced here.
On this Amendment, may I submit that its effect would be to ensure that the Constitution should be confirmed—that not only should it have the assent of the Executive Government, but that it should also have the assent of Parliament before it has the force of law. There is an Amendment further down on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gwynne) which substitutes the words "Appointed day" for the words "date of the passing of this Act," which would meet my case.
We can deal with that Amendment when it is reached. It seems to me that this Amendment is unnecessary for the reasons I have given. Alternatively, it would mean that the Constitution should be given the effect of law. You cannot give the effect of law to provisions which are not yet drafted.
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words "date of the passing of this Act," and to insert instead thereof the words "appointed day."
This is an Amendment which even the Colonial Secretary cannot say is going to wreck the Bill. It is very important in matters of this kind, where there are so many details to be dealt with that there should be some elasticity as to date. Circumstances have already proved that such elasticity is necessary because the other signatories to the Treaty have been allowed to alter it, although we are not permitted to do so. If this Bill had been passed, and this change of front on the part of Michael Collins and his followers had taken place, then nothing would happen, whereas my Amendment would enable the Government to change their tactics. The formula I have adopted is the usual one. It is to be found in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and it is a formula always used in circumstances of this kind. As I should think the right hon. Gentleman will accept my Amendment, I will not occupy the time of the Committee further.
The adoption of this Amendment would have a dilatory effect on the voting on this Measure. We are giving effect here to the Treaty, and it is essential we should do so in order that the Irish people may be convinced of our determination and resolution to go through with it, and in order that those who in Ireland are combating the Republican movement, and endeavouring to rally the Irish people to the basis of the Irish Free State, should be armed and equipped with the assurance that this Parliament and country are determined to make good the work their representatives have undertaken on their behalf. The importance of doing this renders it impossible for me to accept this Amendment.
I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman should think it worth while to come down to this. House at all, seeing that every Amendment brought forward with the object of modifying the Bill in the slightest degree is met with a blunt negative from the Government Benches. As a matter of fact, the whole thing has been fixed up behind the scenes, and we are merely asked as a matter of form to say "ditto" to what the Government have arranged with other parties. Incidentally, this House has to lend itself to putting into an Act of Parliament all the shams and camouflage of this Agreement. This Amendment has not, in my opinion, been adequately dealt with by the Colonial Secretary. Everyone knows that the state of affairs in Ireland is continually trembling in the balance. The Government themselves last week had very grave doubts whether we ought to proceed with this Bill at all. Are we to pass this Bill when there is not the slightest guarantee as to what the situation will be in Ireland a fortnight hence? The effect of this Amendment would be simply this. After the Bill had been passed the Articles of Agreement would have the force of law on a day which the Government themselves may decide to be appropriate. That is a very reasonable and sensible suggestion.
The Government has not the slightest idea what the situation in Ireland may be three weeks hence, and, if this Amendment be not carried, directly the Bill is through they will have started the ball rolling down hill and they will have lost control of the situation altogether. The ball that will be rolling down hill is a Treaty made apparently between one Sovereign State and another, and consequently it is a Treaty from which either can withdraw if it desires to do so. It is essential that the Government should not lose control of the situation until the last possible moment. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think he can effect a solution of the Irish question by a series of make-believes, and by putting into an Act of Parliament things which do not exist. He thinks the mere passage of a measure which everybody knows to be false, quite foreign to the realities of the situation, will bring about the remedy he desires. But I would ask the Committee to look at the facts of the case.
It is a very dangerous thing indeed that we should lose control of the situation. We have got the Sinn Feiners divided into two nearly equal camps. A month or six weeks ago those who agreed to this Agreement were in a slight majority. Obviously the other side has been gaining strength rapidly in the interval. We have had evidence during the last few days that in a very short time, for all we know, the party which desires to repudiate this Treaty may be in the ascendency. That may happen at any moment; in fact it is not only possible, it is probable. The whole history of Ireland is that the extremist, the man who has made the most extreme bid, has been able to secure popular sympathy. Ireland never has been, and never will be the place for moderate men. We see a reflection of that in this House. Therefore, when you have got the whole state of things in Ireland in a turmoil, in a flux, when you have secured an agreement to this document by every means of eye-wash and camouflage at your disposal, calling that a treaty which is not a treaty, pretending that it represents the whole nation of Ireland when it does not, calling a thing a settlement, which never can be and never will be a settlement—in spite of using these words you have only been able to secure a narrow majority in the Sinn Fein Parliament itself in favour of these proposals. When you see in the course of a very few weeks that that majority has so far declined that they have been forced to make an agreement with their bitter opponents, which must in the end turn to their great political disadvantage, practically ensuring their ultimate defeat at the Irish elections, whenever they take place—I say when you have a situation like that in front of you, it is nothing short of sheer madness not to keep such control as you can by legislation on the situation until the very last moment.
What necessity is there that all the Clauses of this Agreement should have the force of law immediately this Bill is passed? The only Clause in the Agreement that needs to be put into operation at once to satisfy the requirements that have been demanded from the Treasury Bench is Article 17, or, if you like, Article 12 and Article 17. These are the Articles that are necessary for the establishment of the Provisional Government and for the delimitation of the Boundary. There are strong reasons why these two things should be undertaken directly this Bill is passed, but there is no reason that I can see why the rest of the Articles of Agreement should of necessity come into force directly this Bill is passed.
For instance, take Article 1. Article 1 lays it down that Ireland should have the same status as the Dominion of Canada, Is there any reason why that should take place immediately after the passing of this Bill? Would it not be much wiser to defer the date on which the fundamental change takes place until after the constitution has been drawn up and approved, or some other pact as great, which would enable us to know exactly the sort of people we have to deal with in Ireland? It would be much better to delay a fundamental change of that sort until you are absolutely sure of what you are doing.
Then there is the question of the oath. What need is there that this oath should be legalised and have the force of law immediately after the passing of this Bill? Again, this is a matter which would not be necessary until the permanent Parliament of the Irish nation has been set up. It is not demanded in the case of the Provisional Government, which will carry on under Article 17 of the Agreement. You do not want Article 4 to have operation until you have got the whole of this Irish Free State in thoroughgoing and working order. All we are asking for is that the day on which this great fundamental change takes place shall be selected by the Government, acting with the full knowledge of their responsibility in the matter, as the most opportune and wisest, not leaving it to the moment when this Bill happens to pass into law.
I suppose the right hon. Gentleman who answered my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gwynne), and who has now left the Committee, might reply that the Government have already fixed the appointed day, and that in their view the appointed day is the day when this Bill becomes law. But in this, as in other matters, we are anxious to save the Government from themselves. We desire to rescue them from that web of camouflage and make-believe, and phantasy, with which they seem content to surround themselves. We cannot be a party to a decision which would leave all those powers to come automatically into force at a perfectly fortuitous date, dependent entirely upon proceedings in another place, and we suggest that the date should be selected by His Majesty's Government in their discretion and on their responsibility.
Let me take Article 7. Article 7 deals with the harbour facilities and other points of safety. There is absolutely nothing in Article 7 to necessitate its coming into force the moment this Bill is passed. That is certainly an Article which might well be postponed until the ultimate and last phase has been reached. In fact, I am inclined to think—
I am entitled to show there is nothing in this Article which necessitates it having the force of law immediately after the passing of this Bill. Article 17 is in a different position, for it is dealt with by Sub-section (2). In regard to all the other Articles, I am entitled to show there is no reason why they should have the force of law on the day of the passing of this Bill. It is a very germane point. I do not think this House ought to swallow the biscuit without munching it. We have to look and see what we are to swallow, and the idea which seems to prevail in high quarters now, that the function of this House is merely to accept the dictation of the Prime Minister, is one which I desire to protest against with the greatest emphasis. It is not, apparently, sufficient for the Prime Minister that the party politicians should bind themselves, hand-and-foot, to his dictation; he wants the House of Commons, as a body corporate, to do the same. In deference to what you say, I do not propose to go through all these Clauses. I will only take one or two of them which deal with judges, officials, and members of police forces. There is absolutely no reason why Article 10 should have the force of law, whatever that extraordinary phrase means. I have not yet heard a definition of what the phrase means. There is no reason why Article 10 should have the force of law immediately on the passing of this Act.
There is another point that I would like to put to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and that is this: All these Articles—take Article 10, for instance—are drafted in the loosest and the vaguest and most misleading phraseology. We can quite understand it when we hear the circumstances under which they were drafted, at 2 o'clock or half-past 2 o'clock in the morning, by a politician who wanted to square the circle and perform the impossible. But to say that these are to have the force of law on a date when nobody here knows what that date may be, but which will automatically come without the Government being able to control it—to say that Articles so vaguely, so loosely, so misleadingly drafted, using the words in a sense which are differently interpreted by different parties, and which I venture to suggest were intended to be interpreted differently by different parties—to say that words of that sort should have the force of law appears to me to be the height of impolicy and of madness.
Let me take Article 16, which deals with the endowment of religion. That is a very momentous Article which people of this country will want to watch very carefully indeed. There is no conceivable reason why Article 16 should acquire the force of law automatically immediately on the passing of this Act. It is one of these questions which want most careful watching, most careful scrutiny, before it is decided that it should come into force. I wish to protest, finally, against the whole spirit of the Government in the way they are treating the House of Commons. They are shovelling this Government at us wholesale. They demand that we should swallow it.
I am sorry you interrupted me, because I was just coming to the conclusion of my remarks, and in response to your previous invitation I refrained from explaining how our Amendment holds good with regard to many other Articles besides those which I have mentioned. I conclude with a protest against the way in which the Government ask us to take all this agreement en bloc, and refuse to make any distinction with regard to the relative importance of one paragraph or another, and refuse to accept the alteration of a syllable or a comma in their blessed Bill.
I do not agree either with the contention of the Government that this is an important point or that this Amendment is one that should be resisted because is would injure the effect of the Treaty in Ireland. This is a proposal to substitute an appointed day for the date of the passing of this Act. The Colonial Secretary has said over and over again that by the adoption of the Treaty last December, and by reading this Measure a second time, the Government and the majority of this House are deeply pledged to the Treaty, and it is said that in order to reassure opinion in Ireland it should come into force at the passing of this Act. The whole question, therefore, becomes one of convenience of machinery. My Noble Friend who spoke last argued, and it seemed quite unanswerable, that there was no convenience of machinery in bringing it into force on the date of the passing of the Act. Every word of his speech seemed to be perfectly in order, and it was a valuable contribution to the proceedings of the Committee. It was directed to show that all these paragraphs of the agreement cannot have useful operation, and many cannot have operation at all, "in force of law"—whatever that may mean—at the passing of the Act. It is, therefore, natural that it should be left to the discretion of the Government, who presumably have some purpose in using the words they have used, to decide at what point the legal enforcement of each successive paragraph becomes useful for the purpose they have in view.
I cannot conceive why the Government should not accept that. It surely provides the more convenient machinery, of the two methods, and as to the moral effect, on this subject, at any rate, our hands are free, because precisely the same thing has been done in Ireland, but for a different reason. The Irish negotiators have deferred their part for three months. They have altered, not the date of the Treaty, but the date on which they are to enter upon the steps necessary to carry out the Treaty. Why should we not reserve a discretion to do precisely the same thing, and bring the Treaty, paragraph by paragraph, into effect on whatever day it may be found convenient to appoint? The Government do not seem to desire even to consider any Amendments which are in any way contrary to their purpose, and they have shown no desire to conciliate, in any degree, opposition in the House. They seem to have come down with the resolve to accept no Amendments except those which they have been constrained to put into the Bill by the action which they have themselves taken in Ireland. These are the only Amendments that are to be made. This Amendment, like every other, is to be rejected, because the Government have adopted a verbal inspiration, and no word is to be altered, not only in the Treaty, but in the parts of the Bill which are to carry the Treaty into effect. I hope the Government, even now, will see the reasonable and convenient character of the Amendment before the Committee, and how entirely it concurs with the position they have themselves taken up.
I do not think the two Noble Lords who have spoken in support of this Amendment can really know what it means. They cannot have read the consequential Amendments to which it is introductory. If they will turn to page 29 they will find the Amendments which must follow on this if it is carried. One is to this effect:
Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert: —
'(2) the appointed day shall be such day as His Majesty by Order in Council shall prescribe, and different days may be prescribed for different purposes under this Act.'
That is not very determinate. Assuming that a General Election were to take place, and another Government were to come in, as the Noble Lord desires, it would be in the power of that Government to determine the day. Then if hon. Members will turn to page 31 they will see the final consequential Amendment, which is as follows:
Clause 1, page 2, line 4, at end insert:—Before any Order in Council under this Act is submitted to His Majesty in Council, a draft thereof shall be laid before each House of the Imperial Parliament, and if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House, within 21 days on which that. House has sat next after the draft has been laid before it, against the draft or any part thereof, no further proceedings shall be taken on the draft without prejudice to the making of a new draft.
The effect of these Amendments is to put it in the power of another place to stop the Bill from coming into operation at all. Those who agree with the Government in this matter intend to support the Bill as it stands, with the object of making it definite.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. ALLEN:
The speech to which we have just listened reminds me of a sermon which I heard preached on the text, "Ephraim, he hath mixed himself." I think that speech was surely based on a text of that character. I only rise to refer to the delightful logic with which this Bill is drawn. The Amendment before the Committee points that out very distinctly and emphatically. In paragraphs 11 and 12 of the Articles of Agreement reference is made to the fact that the Northern Parliament can vote itself out within a month. In the first instance, the Bill includes the Northern Parliament automatically. Then the Northern Parliament has the privilege under paragraph 12 of voting itself out, but if the Committee will turn to page 5, paragraph 15, of the Articles of Agreement they will read these words:
At any time after the date hereof the Government of Northern Ireland and the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland hereinafter constituted may meet for the purpose of discussing the provisions," etc.
In the first instance, we are to be part of the all-Ireland Parliament—part of the Irish Free State, so to speak. In the next instance, we have power to vote ourselves out, and then here is a paragraph in which we have actual powers to work as the Northern Parliament. If anything were necessary to illustrate the illogical drafting of this Measure, the different times at which the provisions of the Bill are to act point to that conclusion. The whole position is ridiculous. This Amendment is very pertinent to the question of the time of the operation of the various paragraphs, and it provides an opportunity to bring some logic into this absurd Bill. It gives an opportunity for fixing an appointed day, which would relieve the Measure of some of its present absurdity and which would prevent this House from being led into further absurdity. I hope the Colonial Secretary or the Chief Secretary for Ireland will look into this question thoroughly, and see if they cannot accept the Amendment, so that we may at least have some sense in this ridiculous and nonsensical Bill.
I only rise to point out to the hon. Member for Renfrew (Sir J. Greig) that he has made a very serious mistake. The Amendment which he spoke about as appearing on page 31 does happen to be in the name of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. R. Gwynne) and myself and other hon. Members, but it has got absolutely nothing to do with the present Amendment.
There are other Orders in Council besides the one which we propose. It might be argued if this Amendment were carried, as to whether the Order in Council proposed under this Amendment would be a suitable subject for the procedure suggested in the Amendment on page 31. I assure the hon. Member that is entirely a separate point. If he will look at the Amendment on page 29 I hope it will convince him that what we are proposing is very sensible indeed. It is there explained that different dates may be prescribed for different purposes under the Act, which is to say that the appointed day may be one day for paragraph 1 of the Agreement, and a different day for paragraph 2. I think that is one of the most valuable parts of the suggestion because in the nature of things it may be desirable for certain parts of this Agreement to come into force before other parts.
As the noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) has pointed out, the Sinn Feiners themselves have postponed one part of the Agreement. They have not altered the words of the so-called Treaty which is not a Treaty, but as a fact they have altered an essential part of the understanding, so there is no reason at all why the different parts of the Agreement should not be brought in at appropriate times. The idea that the whole bag of tricks should be let loose all together, is neither reasonable nor logical. It is only part of the military despotism of this Government who desire everything to be done at their word of command. When the Government of Ireland Act of 1914 was placed on the Statute Book, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) laid the greatest possible stress on the importance of its being placed on the Statute Book but not being brought into force until the appointed day. That was the procedure recommended and adopted by the right hon. Gentleman when he was Prime Minister, and the present Secretary for the Colonies, and the present Chief Secretary for Ireland were among the supporters of that Government. They all supported that procedure with regard to Ireland, and they also supported it when it was proposed by the present Prime Minister in connection with the Act of 1920. They again approved of exactly the same procedure when it was, not proposed, but carried out or decided upon, by the Sinn Feiners, without any consultation or reference to those right hon. Gentlemen at all. They had to accept the decision of Mr. Collins and Mr. de Valera coming together. Therefore three times in the last few years a policy has been followed in regard to Ireland of certain Measures being given the force of law, as a matter of principle being placed on the Statute Book, but not being carried out until an appointed day, and the only respect in which this Amendment differs from those proposals is that we propose that certain parts of this Agreement may be brought into force on one day and certain parts on other days. That appears to me to be a distinct improvement on the precedents to which I have alluded, and I hope for these reasons we shall be able to count on the support of the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew and others who, I am sure, must have some sympathy with what we have in view.
I absolutely agree with all that has fallen from my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), and I would point out that not only with regard to the Act of 1914, but also with regard to the Act of 1920, is this system of an appointed day and different appointed days for different Clauses used, and I would go so far as to say that in Bills of this kind, setting up new constitutions, such a method as is now proposed is absolutely necessary. I am quite convinced that if a greater state of chaos could be endured than already exists in the Free State, it would be due largely to the fact that they tried to bring the whole of the Clauses of this instrument into operation at one time. I think the Committee is fully alive to the fact that the Amendment is a perfectly reasonable one, and one which is introduced for the purpose of making the Bill more workable and less ridiculous, but I would suggest to my hon. Friends that, in view of the fact that we have had a Division and that a great number of Members are engaged in other work at the moment, it perhaps might be judicious not to carry this particular Amendment to a Division.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD:
There is one question I would like to ask before this Amendment be finally disposed of, and I should like an answer, if it were possible, from the Chief Secretary. In paragraph 11 of the Treaty, as we have decided to call it, the first few words are most important. They are:
Until the expiration of one month from the passing of the Act of Parliament for the ratification of this instrument,
certain powers are not to apply to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland within a certain time is to have a right of voting itself out of this Agreement. Now it is most important that we should have an answer explaining whether this Bill is the Act referred to in paragraph 11. I should imagine that that is most important from the point of view of the Northern Parliament themselves, because if this is the Act of ratification referred to in paragraph 11 of the Agreement, then naturally the Northern Parliament must watch very carefully the date of the passing of this Act, in order that they may be sure not to be landed, as it were, into a worse difficulty than they are in at the present moment as to when their rights of exclusion from the Sinn Fein arrangement cease or begin, as the case may be. I have read every word of the Bill two or three times and it certainly gives the Agreement the force of law, but nowhere does it say that it is a Bill "for the ratification of" the Agreement, which are the words used in the Agreement itself. For instance, if the Agreement said in paragraph 11, "Until the expiration of one month from the passing of the Act of Parliament to give the force of law to this Agreement," then the drafting of the Bill would be perfectly in order and perfectly legal
and proper, but I want to know whether, by not using the terms which are used in the Agreement itself, we are really ratifying the Agreement by this Bill, or whether we are merely for the time being giving authority to the Provisional Government. There are some other peculiar anomalies which follow from this. To whom do the Northern Parliament report their refusal to come under this scheme? Is it to the British Cabinet, or to the Provisional Government? I believe there are words in the Agreement that they must report to the Free State Government that they refuse to come in.
I have not read it very carefully, but I could not see anything which hon. Members could fasten upon to know what is the date of ratification. This is a Bill to give the force of law to the Agreement, but does that mean ratification as required by the first few words of paragraph 11 of the Agreement? I would like to know that, and I should imagine that those who represent the Northern area in this House of Commons ought certainly to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with that. There ought to be no ambiguity relating to this matter, considering how important their rights are within certain specified dates.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has raised a question which was very exhaustively dealt with on the Second Reading of the Bill, when it was clearly set out that the date, according to the Treaty, from which the option month should begin to run was not the date of the passing of this particular Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman says it was clearly set out on Second Reading. The Treaty is before us. There are a very large number of people who take the view that the date runs from the passing of this Bill, and unless it is settled in the Bill that it dates from some other time, the question is one which can only be settled by a Court of Law.
The statement made on the Second Reading of the Bill stands, and it is clear from it that the month runs as from the date of the Act of the British Parliament recognising the Constitution framed by the Provisional Government, and, therefore, it does not commence to run, as my hon. Friend said it might, from the time of the passing of (his Bill into law. There are two views as to whether this Amendment should be accepted or not. The view of the Noble Lord and those who are associated with him is that the longer they can delay the operation of this Act, the better it is for everybody.
My right hon. Friend misunderstands me. That is not my position at all. I think if you have made an Agreement, it has, obviously, to be carried out, but our point is, that it is much better to have a day which the Government can choose and select than one which will simply automatically occur when this Bill passes into law, and it is much better that the Government should be able to bring certain portions of this Agreement into force at the most suitable dates.
The Noble Lord and his Friends wish to delay the coming into operation of the Articles of the Agreement and of this Bill. That is one point of view. But that is not the Government point of view. The Government point of view is definite and decisive, that this Bill should be passed into law at the earliest possible date, and the earliest possible date is the date of the passing of this Bill. Therefore to suggest any other date is an Amendment that will delay the operation of the Act, and will run contrary to the fixed decision of the Government. Whatever argument the Noble Lord brings forward, it cannot affect the difference between the Government view and his view. We wish to bring the provisions of the Bill into operation at the passing of the Act, and he suggests a subsequent date. There- fore, we cannot accept this Amendment, because it would be a flat contradiction of the design here, by which we intend to abide.
The right hon. Gentleman has laid down an extraordinary proposition. He says that because some statement was made in the course of the Second Reading of this Bill, it has the force of law. Once this Bill is passed, it will have to be interpreted as it stands by lawyers, and the lawyers cannot get up and say that on the Second Reading somebody on the Front Bench said so-and-so. Let us have the thing quite clear and definite now. Does the right hon. Gentleman contend, in regard to paragraph 11, that Ulster has to contract out of this part of it within a month of the passing of this Bill, or at some other time, and, if it is some other time, what is the time? If the right hon. Gentleman wants to contend that it is not within a month of the passing of this Act, then he must insert something in this Bill to say so, otherwise he is creating trouble straight away, by arousing litigation as to who is right or wrong. The right hon. Gentleman has been quite long enough in this House to know that it is the Act on which we have to rely, and that is why we consider the Government at the present time are acting in this Bill in the wrong spirit. We want to avoid trouble, and not create it. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues do not mind what will happen the next week or month, so long as they get out of the difficulty for the moment.
The right hon. Gentleman has raised a very important point, absolutely essential to Ulster. He talks of lawyers. I happen to be a lawyer by profession, possibly not a good one, but, such as my experience is, I am prepared to say, in my opinion, the one month dates from the passing of this Bill. I know that is the opinion of some very high legal authorities with whom I have had the opportunity of talking on the subject. If the right hon. Gentleman's argument is good, why are we asked to pass this Bill at all? Supposing he leaves the matter in the way he says it ought to be left, and supposing the Northern Parliament does not present an Address to His Majesty within one month after the passing of this Bill, and then supposing, later on, they do present such an Address, and the Government of the Irish Free State passes an Act extending some taxation to the whole of Ireland, and a man in Northern Ireland refuses to pay, and is sued. What is the answer? The answer is that the jurisdiction of the Free State clearly extends to the whole of Ireland, because an Address to take Northern Ireland out was not passed in due time. That would be the question that would come before the Court, and what the right hon. Gentleman, or the Leader of the House, or the Secretary of State for the Colonies said would not matter two brass buttons to anybody. This is not an alteration of the Treaty over the heads of Sinn Fein. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to make this arrangement, let him put it in as a Second Schedule. There is no difficulty at all about the matter. Some Acts run to 10 or 12 Schedules, and even more. Then we shall know where we are. What obviously will have to be done, if this matter is left as it is, is that within a month of this Bill becoming an Act, the Northern Parliament will have to send an Address—
I cannot help saying one more word on this point. The right hon. Gentleman puts us in this position He says that he and his colleagues have had another conference with Mr. Collins and his colleagues, and between them they have arranged a declaration under the Agreement that the one month mentioned in the Bill is to run, not from the passing of the Act giving the force of law to this Treaty, but from the date of the Constitution. If that is so it does not very much matter to us when this month runs from, so long as we know what the date is. As soon as we know that the Ulster Parliament will probably vote itself out of the operation of this Bill. I claim that we ought to know it. It is at least courteous to treat us in a fair and ordinary manner and to tell us now definitely when that date will run from. We ask the right
hon. Gentleman particularly to make this point clear. I venture to assert that it could be done with the greatest ease, without altering or affecting or detracting from the Treaty in any shape or form. Yet he refuses to do so. What is the explanation? We cannot help thinking there must be some reason at the back of it, and as we have not got very much satisfaction from the Government in regard to this matter up to date, we are not likely to look upon his refusal very leniently. We think there must be something behind it. Therefore we must take our own course, and so long as they do not make it clear in the Bill, we in Ulster, will still maintain that the ordinary language means what it was intended to mean. Let me read the words to the Committee. Unless it is otherwise provided until
the expiration of one month from the passing of the Act of Parliament for the ratification of this instrument.
No language could be more plain than that I claim, owing to the refusal which neither I nor anyone on these Benches can understand, that we must—it is quite clear—act upon these words and vote ourselves out immediately after the passing of this Bill. If we were to depend upon the declaration of the Chief Secretary, think what would happen. The Government to which he belongs may be out before that time arrives, and what guarantee have we that the Government succeeding will take the same view about the matter?
Let us assume that the Labour party will be in power at the end of six weeks or a couple of months, how are we to know what view their legal advisers are going to take of this matter? Suppose, again, that Mr. de Valera gets the better of Mr. Collins in Ireland, how are we to know what view he will take of the declaration? The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues ought to make it clear, if they want us to vote ourselves out immediately on the passing of this Act, and provide for it. I say that is the simple, straightforward, and honest way. If they have an agreed declaration with the Irish Free State it should be incorporated in the Bill so that there may be no doubt on the subject.
Rear-Admiral Sir R. HALL:
In view of the fact that the elections in Southern Ireland are not to be held for four months and there is nothing to show what the result of the elections will be—certainly nothing in this country—it seems to be that Ulster will be automatically compelled, if these words remain in, to vote themselves out at once. That is going dead against what the Government have always said they desired—to get Ulster into the South. Yet they are actually forcing them out. The matter would not be so complicated except that there is a proviso in paragraph 12 of the Schedule which lays down that one month after the passing of this Act there shall be set up a Boundary Commission, and the result of the elections will largely depend, I think I may say without offence, on the result of the Boundary Commission. You are hampering a united Ireland by keeping these words in. For these reasons I beg the Government to reconsider the matter and to leave the date open by accepting the Amendment and inserting the words "appointed day." This, to my mind, would facilitate matters in the North.
I want to raise a practical point in reference to this matter. I am surprised at the Chief Secretary for Ireland having taken up the attitude he has. We now are responsible—and I am speaking as a Minister of the Northern Government—for law and order in Northern Ireland It is utterly impossible for us to attain that object unless we can do away with that state of things which obtains at the present time. The Irish Republican Army claim the right to come into Ulster. We capture men with arms, and directly we have captured them they claim to be soldiers of the Irish Republican Army. We have no means of proving that they are so, and we put them into gaol. They are tried in the ordinary way by our Courts, by Judges who have sat on the Bench there with the Chief Secretary. When we put them in gaol the Chief Secretary for Ireland knows that directly after he and his Government put pressure upon us to let them out. Considering that the Chief Secretary had two years in trying to govern Ireland and utterly failed, I do think that when we are now trying to govern Ireland so that there shall be peace and happiness amongst all classes and religions, we ought, at any rate, to get some sympathy from him. He knows our difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the vague state that exists in the present wording. He understands that we have no chance whatever under present circumstances of bringing about peace in Ireland. I would, therefore, ask him, as one who realises our difficulties, to meet us in this matter.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words
except where the Articles of Agreement stipulate some other date.
I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will be glad to find an Amendment moved which does not come under the category which he has described. This is not an Amendment which would wreck or delay the Bill, but it is one which would remove a contradiction. If hon. Members refer to Article 5 of the Agreement, they will see it there stated that
The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the public debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof.
Although as yet there is no date attached to the Schedule, we all know that this Agreement was made on the 6th December, 1921, and in Article 10 of the Agreement again there is a reference to "the date hereof." In Article 17 there are two references to "the date hereof," and yet in Clause 1 of the Bill it says:
The Schedule to this Act shall have the force of law as from the date of the passing of this Act.
The date may be March, 1922, and yet in the Articles of Agreement there are four cases in which it is laid down that certain things are to happen as from the 6th December, 1921. I submit that it is an unfortunate thing that there should be these contradictory things in an Act of Parliament, and I do not see how it can imperil the Bill or cause the death of
the Government, or produce any of the other things which have been spoken of, if it is made clear, by the addition of this small Amendment which I now move, that the Agreement is to have the force of law from the date of the passing of this Act, except where the Articles of Agreement stipulate some other date. I consider that is a most reasonable Amendment, and I fail to see what possible objection there can be to it. For these reasons I hope the right hon. Gentleman will seize this opportunity of accepting at least one Amendment.
We have been rather puzzled to know what my hon. Friend intended by his Amendment. The Sub-section as it stands proposes that
The Schedule to this Act shall have the force of law as from the date of the passing of this Act.
That does not mean that every Clause or provision will come into operation at that moment, but only when it is appointed that they should come into operation. Take Article 6 about coastal defence as an example. Under the provisions of this Article these matters are to be renewed at a Conference to be held at the expiration of five years from the date hereof. Giving it the force of law as from the date of the passing of this Bill does not alter the time when this Conference is to be held. There are a number of other proceedings which begin as from the dates when it is natural and normal that they should originate. All the sub-section does is to convert what at the present time is an agreement into an Act of Parliament. I do not think my hon. Friend would be well advised to press further an Amendment which I am quite sure is not necessary, and it is one which I cannot accept.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words
Provided nevertheless that the constitutional status referred to in Article one of the said Articles of Agreement shall not impliedly or otherwise confer upon the Irish Free State the right to secede from its allegiance to the King or to declare itself hereafter an independent nation.
Vital concessions have been made to Ireland as the price of complete and permanent peace. I think it is now for wise statesmanship to ensure as far as human foresight can do that nothing shall come in the way to interrupt
the even flow of that peace in the days to come. We should take care that nothing which ought to be said is left unsaid, or anything which should be written should be left unwritten, in order to make it beyond all possibility of misunderstanding what we are paying and what we are to receive for the payment. I very much fear that there is an important matter which has not been taken notice of either in the Treaty or in the Act, and I shall as briefly as I can explain my point. Under the Treaty it is provided that Ireland shall have the status of what is popularly known as Dominion Home Rule. There are one or two reservations or rather provisoes such as the one that states that she shall take upon herself her fair share of the national debt and that which provides for harbourage for the fleet. But these things do not in the slightest degree affect the constitutional status to be granted which is one of absolute equality with the Dominions of Australia, South Africa and Canada. What does that mean? I do not think I can do better than quote the words of the late Leader of the House on this point. The words I allude to are contained in a speech delivered on 30th March, 1920, in the Debate upon the Home Rule Bill of that year. He was answering the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who had just declared that so far as he was concerned he was prepared to give Ireland Canadian Dominion Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman answered thus in his reply:
To say that he is in favour of Dominion Home Rule means something much more—
He was referring to the customs at that time—
There is not a man in this House, and least of all my right hon. Friend, who would not admit that the connection of the Dominions with the Empire depends upon themselves. If the self-governing Dominions, Australia, Canada, choose to-morrow to say, 'We will no longer make a part of the British Empire,' we would not try to force them. Dominion Home Rule means the right to decide their own destinies.
[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I am only quoting, I am not arguing the point. I am on the question of what Dominion status means, if hon. Members would do me the favour of giving me their attention to this part of my argument. He went on to say:
See what that means. Through all the Home Rule discussions my right hon. Friend went always on this—'I say that this is
demanded by the legal representatives of the Irish people.' They are just as much the legal representatives now they are Sinn Feiners as they were before. To say, therefore, that he is prepared to give Dominion Home Rule means—and means nothing else—than that he is prepared to give an Irish Republic."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1920; col. 1125, Vol. 127.]
I am quoting the words of the late Leader of the House. I will hand the right hon. Gentleman the quotation. I respectfully submit that that is a formal declaration, made on behalf of the Government, recorded for all time, and with the world as a witness, that any nation being given Dominion Home Rule without reservation is entitled to shape its own destinies and to declare itself an independent nation. And I further submit that Ireland, when she has this status conferred upon her would legally and constitutionally, under this Treaty, and under this Bill, as they stand, be entitled to declare herself independent and to set up an independent republic at the doors of Great Britain—at the very heart of the Empire. But that is surely not the intention of the Government.
Nor is it the intention of the British people. There was, I believe, what was once described as an unfortunate incident, but which, perhaps, might now be characterised as a rather fortunate circumstance and that is the correspondence that took place between Mr. de Valera and the Prime Minister when they were attempting to make a common basis for the conference that was afterwards held. With the permission of the House I will refer to one or two sentences on each side. Mr. de Valera in his first letter raised the very point to which I am now asking the consideration of the House. He said in his letter dated 10th August, 1921:
'Dominion status' for Ireland everyone who understands the conditions knows to he illusory. The freedom which the British Dominions enjoy is not so much the result of legal enactments or of treaties as of the immense distances which separate them from Britain and have made interference by her impracticable. The most explicit guarantees, including the Dominions' acknowledged right to secede, would be necessary to secure for Ireland an equal degree of freedom.
The Prime Minister met that straight and to the point. In his letter of 14th August, 1921, he wrote:
… but we must direct your attention to one point upon which you lay some emphasis and upon which no British Government can compromise, namely, the claim that we should acknowledge the right of Ireland to secede from her allegiance to the King. No such right can ever be acknowledged by us.
I submit that there is a fundamental basis, written and understood by both sides, that while the Government were prepared to give to Ireland the status of Canadian Dominion Home Rule, it was with the important reservation that on no account would they concede to her the right, to quote the words of the letter, "to secede from her allegiance to the King" or to become an independent nation. I submit respectfully that this Motion will make matters quite clear and avoid any future misunderstanding. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill (Mr. Churchill) asked us with some emphasis and persistence to face the facts. That is an excellent piece of advice, and it is the more interesting when we consider his somewhat erratic career in his connection with the Irish Question. I think I could prove that, but it would not be quite to the point. All I can do is to face the facts so far as they are strictly relevant to my Amendment. What is the out-standing fact? I am speaking, not of the desirability, but of the necessity of making it perfectly clear how far we are about to go. What is the main outstanding fact? It is to me—and I have followed this question now for more years than I care to count—that for nearly 40 years a great party in the State succeeded in deceiving themselves, and in deceiving a considerable portion of the British public, as to the real intentions of the Irish leaders and of the Irish people; while, on the other side, the Irish leaders never for one moment, from first to last, attempted to deceive anyone. They have never hesitated to disclose what was the ultimate goal for which they were making, and we have for many years seen the extraordinary political picture of loud proclamations on the one side of the union of hearts, while the other side as loudly proclaimed the disunion of the Empire. Just to
follow up that thought in two or three sentences, there can be no mistake as to the attitude and as to the past history with regard to this question. To go back to the early eighties, Mr. Parnell made a declaration, when he was in America, and these were closely his words:
Whether we be in America, or in England, or wherever we may be, we shall never rest satisfied until we have destroyed the last link that binds Ireland to England.
I say that there has never been a responsible Irish leader from that day to this who has not in the spirit, and often in the letter—indeed, usually in the letter—confirmed that declaration. Coming to the present day, Mr. Collins, when the discussion on the Treaty took place in the Dail, was asked a plain, straightforward question, and gave a plain, straightforward answer. He was asked:
Do you say that this Treaty will settle the Irish Question?
and his reply was,
No, I do not.
We know the powerful agitation that is at present going on in Ireland, but we do not know its potentialities. Therefore I submit that this Amendment should, in order to make matters clear and beyond any dispute, beyond any region of quarrel upon that point, be readily accepted by the Government. It does not take one word from or add one word to the Treaty. All that it does is to make clear the written and recorded decision of the parties before this conference began, and, of course, it must be viewed in the light of the solemn declaration of the late Leader of the House, speaking on behalf of the Government. The British people have spoken with no uncertain voice regarding this Treaty. They have, with a spirit chastened by the agonies of the Great War, shown how eager and how anxious they are for a permanent and absolute peace with Ireland. We expect, and we have the right to expect, that Ireland will now grasp the hand of peace that is held out to her, and will join with this nation in establishing an amity that future centuries shall not shake.
My hon. Friend who has just moved this Amendment has delivered, if I may say so, a very well argued speech, and I will do my best to give him the information which he seeks and the reply which his reasoning de- serves. I should like, at the outset, to ask my hon. Friend whether he considers that this Amendment alters anything in the Treaty?
If it elucidates or explains, none the less it will be an Amendment of the Treaty, and as such I should not be able to accept it, because we are absolutely tied by the Treaty. I hope that that will be realised. It is not in my power, or in the power of the Government, or of anyone who has put his hand to or given his vote for this Treaty, to alter any jot or tittle of it without agreement with the other party. Of course we could meet the other party and discuss it, and it may be that at some time in the future we may discuss these matters; but we have no power, without their agreement, to alter these conditions in any respect. Let us just see where we stand on this very important point. We rest on Articles 1 and 2 of the Agreement in the Schedule, which accord to Ireland:
The same constitutional status in the Community of Nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand and the Union of South Africa.
I do not think we should be well advised to try to define that status more precisely than is done in these Articles. The Imperial Conference which met last year gave the most careful consideration to the whole question of the constitutional relations of the different parts of the British Empire, and they decided unanimously and deliberately that it was a subject
which was much better left alone. They decided that the Constitutional Conference which had been fixed for, I think, next year or the year after, should not take place, because it was not in the general interest of the whole healthily growing combination to introduce grounds of difference or division by trying to prescribe exact and rigid definitions. What the British Empire exhibits more than anything else is the result of freedom of growth. No one has laid down carefully and exactly beforehand the conditions limiting its action. All has been moving forward under the conditions of natural growth. Had anyone attempted to prescribe limits and conditions, there is no doubt that the greatest difficulties would have arisen at every stage.
With regard to the quotations which my hon. Friend very kindly gave to me from the speech of the late Leader of the House I must make an observation. That speech, like everything else which fell from my right hon. Friend the late Leader of the House, was characterised by great ability and coolness of judgment. At the same time, it was a debating speech in relation to a particular current of Parliamentary thought and discussion, and those particular words are not accepted as a pronouncement of the public and constitutional law of the British Empire. We have never admitted, and the great Dominions of the Crown have never claimed the right to secede. If the question were raised, I have no doubt it would be pressed in one direction or the other to a conclusion, but they have never claimed nor have we ever admitted the right of secession. I do not accept that particular statement, which has been referred to as governing the constitutional practice of the British Empire, and I am confident that it would not be so accepted in the great Dominions.
But obviously, is not the question, as far as the Dominions are concerned, much better left to the easy forward movement of unity and comradeship, to good sense, to the avoidance of situations which over and over again have thrown other nations and other powerful organisations into disorder—to these methods which with British common-sense, with give and take, making allowances here and not pushing things to a logical conclusion there, have enabled us, year after year, generation after genera- tion, to gather together and keep together and carry forward the great structure and fabric of our Imperial inheritance. Obviously such issues will have to be interpreted in relation to the particular set of circumstances which prevail at the time, in relation to the resources and position of this country at the time, in relation to the intentions of its people and its Government at the time, in relation to the degree of opinion expressed on the one side or the other in any of the Dominions concerned, and it is impossible, it would be futile and it would be mischievous to attempt to lay down beforehand a general rule. By good and wise administration, by patient contribution by every party in the State and by each of the succession of Governments which may occupy the place of power, it should be possible to bring the British Empire steadily forward through the next generation in the same manner as it has been brought forward through the extraordinary difficulties of the last generation. I deprecate very much indeed endeavouring exactly to define these matters, and I hope—and this is an effort which we shall certainly make—it will not be a consequence of the Iirsh Free State Agreement that an attemept will be made to give us an exact definition of the Imperial relationships between the great Dominions and this country. I should greatly deprecate it, and as far as the Government have any control over events we shall endeavour to direct discussion into other and different channels. We do not wish the august relations of the British Empire to be defined by any narrow and hard fought out conditions of the Irish Settlement.
As to the question of the Irish settlement, we are not going to have an independent Republic in Ireland. I have said so again and again. And as far as we are concerned, we should never agree to it in any circumstances whatever. What tactics we should employ, what weapons we should use, what machinery we should bring to bear—moral, political, military, economic—whatever it might be that we should do, whatever it was that we thought the best and most convenient, that we should undoubtedly bring to bear on any attempt to set up an independent foreign Republic in Ireland. There is absolutely no question of accommodation on that subject, none whatever. None can be suggested, and none whatever would be agreed to. The battle has been joined in Ireland on that issue. There is no weakening on that issue by the men with whom we have signed the Treaty. Only this day they have declared in explicit terms, again renewing their declaration to stand by the Treaty, the whole Treaty, and nothing but the Treaty, that they will put this issue to the Irish people with the Constitution so that the Irish people shall choose freely between a Republic and a Free State. That is the basis of the argument I have been addressing to the Committee on various occasions through the course of this afternoon. I have been trying to show that this drama is being fought out in Ireland and that we here are playing our part in that struggle—a struggle which is proceeding over the future of Ireland for her place in the great association of nations forming the British Commonwealth, and for her bright and prosperous future in the world. I do not think we ought to attempt to throw doubt upon the clearness of the Treaty by accepting this Amendment. I do not think we ought to try to put an exact definition into the Treaty at this stage of Dominion relationship. I do not think it is useful or valuable for us to press the matter to definite and precise conclusions. Let it be said that this nation reserves its fullest liberty and right to proceed by all the resources at its disposal against any attempt to establish a Republic in Ireland at any time, and with that I would respectfully ask the Committee to accept my suggestion that the words of the Treaty give us the full assurance that they require, that they will not be improved by definitions, and that we have absolute liberty of action in the event of the circumstances which have been suggested coming to pass.
The right hon. Gentleman has given distinguished instances of his ability during those Debates, but I do not think he has ever showed greater dexterity and skill in meeting a very difficult question. We have been groping our way through an imbroglio created by shuffling and emotional action on the part of the Government, and never was imbroglio greater than it is in the case raised by this Amendment. What is the fact? The Government have shown throughout shiftiness and uncertainty in their political opinions, constant change-fulness and variableness in their enunciation of constitutional principles, and a resolution—the only place where they were resolute—never to permit any clearness of definition in any point whatever regarding this Agreement. They hurried us into it. They certainly must admit that they forgot pledges which they made to Ulster. In the small hours of the morning, excused by the exigencies of the situation, they agreed to things which were absolutely in contravention of other things to which they had previously pledged themselves. Here we are in this Clause and on this Amendment in the very centre of the difficulty. What has been the case? My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment quoted words from the late Leader of the House (Mr. Bonar Law) with regard to the interpretation he placed upon Dominion Home Rule. There can be no doubt as to the clearness of that interpretation by the late Leader of the House, given solemnly and carefully as an exponent of the views of the Government. I am inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that that was not properly warranted by the constitutional position, but that it was rather an unthinking and a slightly rash pronouncement of the right hon. Gentleman. It is quite possible, and, indeed, we all know, that some of our distant Colonies desire that they should be separate, and that it would not be expedient to use any pressure in a contrary direction. That is not the constitutional law, however. They have no right under that law to sever the connection of their own will. It is quite clear that the Prime Minister clearly stated that he had no doubt that Dominion Home Rule, as granted by him, might mean what it meant as declared by his own colleague, the late Leader of the House. Another instance of that shiftiness to which the right hon. Gentleman is unfortunately prone!
Let us look on the other side. What can be weaker, more vacillating, more uncertain, slipshod or slovenly, than the Government's announcement of their constitutional principles, their drafting of grave changes in those constitutional principles, or their manner of embodying those changes in the vaguest words possible on the pretext that they will be most acceptable to those with them they are dealing? What can be more firm, on the other hand, than the attitude of those who with intentions have proceeded step by step with the resolute determination to realise those intentions—the Sinn Feiners? They have never been in any doubt or uncertainty as to what they meant, and they have known how to take advantage of the slipshod and slovenly action which has characterised His Majesty's Government. What has been the result? By this careless act the nation I contend—and I am sure a great many outside these walls are conscious of the fact—now finds herself to have moved forward in a direction that she never expected to follow, and would never have accepted if she had known that she was likely to be led in that direction. What is the special weakness, uncertainty and doubt about all this? It is said that we have Dominion Home Rule, and I cordially agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be most unfortunate to raise questions dealing with our distant Dominions in connection with this delicate question. But have we Dominion Home Rule in this case exactly as we have it in Canada and Australia? What is the Oath of Allegiance? Is the Oath of Allegiance which you impose in the fourth Clause in the Articles of Agreement the Oath of Allegiance imposed in the Parliaments of the other great Dominions? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I know quite well it is not. We urge that, and the reason of the Government for not agreeing with us is, "Do not let us be too particular about definitions. It will do very well. It really means much the same thing." When we ask, "Then why not adopt the same words?" the reply is, "Because it might raise difficult and troublesome questions, nervous fears, and, above all, because it is contrary to the Treaty that we signed at one o'clock in the morning under the influence of heartfelt emotions, and under the pressure of timidity and fear." You have not adopted the Oath of Allegiance which really gives that allegiance to the King given by the legislatures of the great Dominions. Therefore, you have not a right to say you have the same security here as in the case of the great Dominions.
What really are the facts? Let us examine them. We know very well that although the constitutional point is quite clear that the great Dominions cannot separate themselves, yet undoubtedly we should not allow them to remain against their will. But is the case here the same? Are you prepared to say that the dangers of the separation of Ireland are not greater than those of Canada, and that we -can allow the same independence of State to Ireland as we do to Canada? I am sorry to say—and I think others will bear me out—that I have heard talk in this House and outside that says, "Well, after all, why not let them have a Republic?" I would ask whether many have not heard that opinion expressed in quarters where I did not expect to find them. I regard any utterance of an opinion of that sort as the most cynical form that politics could take. It is a paradox that for the moment it seems smart to utter, "Let them have a Republic," but what does it mean? It means either that a Republic established in Ireland would result in Ireland making herself so ill-governed and so unfit to govern that the country would collapse of its own weight, a result that would be worse than anything one can imagine, or the cynical think that this Republic will be very successful, and that it will be backed up by great alliances abroad. That is to say, we are prepared to see a menace not only to the whole of the Empire but to Great Britain on her own shores as well. The right hon. Gentleman tells us in words perfervid and heartfelt that never with his consent will an Irish Republic be established. Surely we have a right to ask for some grounds for his belief, that under this constitution he will be able to prevent it? Is it not asking to take rather a hard step those of us who used to call ourselves Unionists, who are represented by leaders of our party who used to call themselves Unionists, and who resent any assertion on our part of adherence to those creeds which were once their own as well as ours, but which are now ours alone. Does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that we may demand some grounds for the strength of his assertion that he is able to resist an Irish Republic within sight of our own shores, an Irish Republic which will either lead to collapse in Ireland or if prosperous will be prosperous by great alliances with European Powers constituting a menace to our shores? I do urge the right hon. Gentleman to see whether in some way or other we could not get words in the Act which would deal with the eventuality which he says will not occur, but which we think is not only possible but even encouraged by this Bill.
The Colonial Secretary paid a well-deserved tribute to the speech of my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment. He called it a well-argued speech. What was the argument of my hon. Friend? It was an argument to show that conceivably under this Bill the view might be taken by a future Government in Ireland that they were entitled to secede, and although he quite rightly said that that right did not appear in the Bill, there should be a declaratory Clause put in to make it quite clear that that right did not exist. Dealing with that argument, the right hon. Gentleman thought it sufficient to place my hon. Friend on what he called the horns of a dilemma, and one horn of that dilemma was that if his argument was correct, and if it involved any alteration of the Treaty, the Government were powerless in the matter. What an awful confession that is. Suppose for a moment that by an oversight the right of secession is found to exist in this legislation, the representative of the Government says to this House: "Even if that is so; even if we have by inadvertence allowed such a terrible thing as that to get into our Bill, we cannot alter it, neither can you." If that really is the position taken up by the Government—I do not say this for the purpose of refuting the position of the right hon. Gentleman—if it is true, it is the most terrible indictment the House could possible bring against the procedure which the Government have adopted.
I am in entire agreement with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that he deprecated reducing the usage and the constitutional understanding, which is now elastic or fluid, into the precise definition of some legal form. He took that view as being desirable for the Empire as a whole, and I think he mentioned that the Imperial Conference had taken that view, and had deprecated very strongly anything in the nature of a precise definition of our Constitution in regard to the British Empire as it has hitherto existed. I do not think that anybody would, or ought to, quarrel with that statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but we have to face facts. It is one of the most glorious facts of our Empire that, as has been proved over and over again, all the great Dominions of the Crown overseas are characterised by intense loyalty to the Crown and Empire; but we are now going to create a new Dominion, which even the right hon. Gentleman in his wildest flight of optimistic imagination, in which he excels, could not say is characterised by intense loyalty either to the Crown or the Empire. Therefore, you are going to introduce a new feature. Although it is perfectly true that there is no danger whatever, so far as we can see, of any attempt at secession on the part of any of the Dominions which have hitherto constituted the British Empire, no one can say that there is no danger as regards Ireland, when she gets the power that would enable her to do it.
I would quote against the right hon. Gentleman the words of a rising Imperial statesman who takes a very different view from his, and he is a statesman whose opinion at this present moment it is very important to bear in mind. I refer to Mr. Michael Collins. Mr. Collins entirely disagrees with the Colonial Secretary in all that he said about precise definition. Mr. Collins desires to have a definition of the constitutional position of the country as precise as it can possibly be made. He declared two days after the Treaty was signed that the dissatisfaction of Ireland with any sort of control by or even connection with this country was likely to be very much worse than in the Dominions. He said:
As full-grown children the Colonies"—
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will agree with this, but it is not material to my argument—
are restive under the appearance of parental restraint, though willing to cooperate with the parent on an equal footing in regard to family matters.
He then proceeds to deal with the position of Ireland, and his opinion is of some value in regard to Ireland, however much it may have been wrong in regard to the Dominions. He said:
Ireland as a separate nation would naturally be more restive under any control of a neighbouring nation, and the only association satisfactory to all concerned would be based not on the present technical legal status of the Dominions but on the real position which they claim and have in fact secured.
What does he mean by that? The definite legal status is that they have no right
to secede, but the real status as distinguished from the legal status is, as everybody knows, that if they at any time desire to secede we shall not interfere with them. We are perfectly agreed on that. If not, let me put this question to the right hon. Gentleman. If the Commonwealth of Australia or the Dominion of Canada decided to-morrow that they were going to secede from the British Empire, does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that we would send our Fleet to prevent them?
Of course, I could imagine circumstances which might raise very serious questions, but that is not the point I am putting. I am putting the point that if one of the Dominions at any time decided that it was to their advantage to secede from the British Empire, I do not think that any serious statesman, least of all the right hon. Gentleman, would argue that we should forcibly prevent them, by sending either our Army or our Navy. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman deprecates the raising of these points. I regret it. But it is not we who have made it necessary. The Government have raised these very difficult and dangerous points, and it is impossible that the Government should come here and present this legislation to the House, which necessarily raises these points, and then seek to prevent us from bringing them up, however material they may be to the legislation before us, on the ground that they deprecate such matters being raised in the House of Commons. I quite recognise the danger, and I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman's feelings, but it is his fault and not ours. Let me point out further what Michael Collins says. I have already shown he is not content with a legal status; he wants to have a recognised status, and he says:
In the interests of the Associated States it is essential that the present de facto position (the right to secede) should be recognised de jure with all its implications as to sovereignty and allegiance, and the con-
stitutional independence of the Government should be acknowledged.
That is exactly the thing the right hon. Gentleman was deprecating so strongly from the Box in front of him. He said it would be disastrous to the Empire if these matters were pressed to a precise definition. I agree with him, but he has in that the misfortune to disagree strongly with Michael Collins. When we are discussing this matter as it applies to Ireland, there is no one whose opinion is more worth having than that of Michael Collins. Consequently, I think the whole of the interesting and eloquent arguments of the right hon. Gentleman were entirely thrown away, when we turn our attention from the present Dominions of the Crown to which this argument applies to the new Dominions to which it certainly does not apply. There is one admission I feel bound to make in conclusion, and that is, I do not think the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend would ever be of any real practical value. The Colonial Secretary cheers that, but I do not know whether he will agree with me in my reasons for thinking so. My reason for saying it is perfectly valueless is because if Michael Collins, or his Government, or those associated with him, at any time choose to declare their independence, if they are going to secede they will not be deterred by the Amendment of my hon. Friend should it be put into this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech by a very emphatic assertion that under no circumstances will he or the Government ever consent to an independent Republic being set up in Ireland. In my opinion, there is practically an independent Republic functioning in Ireland now, and I have not the smallest doubt that before many years—it may be months—have passed it will be definitely accepted that an independent Republic will be recognised by the Government here. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend will be a Member of that Government. I hope not. I entirely accept the sincerity of his declaration of hostility to such a policy, and I do not believe, with all the bad things I know about him, he is capable of such a change.
But I cannot extend my sympathy so far as to embrace the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues, because not many months since I heard the head of the Government making just as brave and emphatic an assertion that he would never consent to a policy such as is embodied in this Treaty. I heard the Prime Minister not many months ago argue with his invincible eloquence and persuasion that to give Dominion Home Rule with complete freedom as to taxation and Customs to Ireland was absolutely impossible. I believed that then, but I cannot go on believing it. I do not happen to have the quotations with me, or I would read them.
You have given the Treaty which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said not many months ago he would never give, and when I remember that fact I cannot attach face value to the right hon. Gentleman's declarations when he tells us that never, never, never in any circumstances or conditions is he going to accept an Irish Republic. That is one of the reasons why I do not attach much value to my hon. Friend's Amendment. At the same time I think the arguments by which the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to resist it are very weak.
I wish to say one word to those who have adopted the attitude to-day of suggesting they have no desire to wreck the Bill and who have then proceeded to make speeches in favour of Amendments every one of which, if adopted, would wreck it. I think it is only fair to the Irish people and to those who are endeavouring to carry out this Treaty in Ireland to-day to leave them in no doubt in their own minds that the English people, whatever the degree of their support and with whatever fervour they have supported the line the Government have now adopted, would nevertheless never accept the setting up of an independent Republic in Ireland. If anyone in Ireland, if de Valera and his followers, think that they have beaten the English people in this struggle, they have made a very great mistake. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite are so apprehensive of the dangers that will result from this Treaty, let them wait until those dangers materialise, then they may have more right to speak in the vein they have adopted to-day. With regard to this particular Amendment, I agree with the last speaker (Mr. McNeill) when he says it really has no relation to reality. As I said at the beginning, I believe if the party of Mr. Michael Collins joined the party of Mr. de Valera in asserting and maintaining their right to set up in Ireland an independent Republic with all its appurtenances, the people of this country so far from lying down would inevitably resist it and fight against it with all the strength at their command. I am not so apprehensive as the hon. Member is of the attitude of the Irish people. It is incredible to me that anyobdy should fail to see how hopeless it is for a purely agricultural country like Ireland, next door to a big industrial country like England, to have a separate economic existence. That being so, we have no right to suppose that everybody in Ireland is so blind to common sense that they will rush away when they get the advantage of this Treaty to exploit life and advance along an avenue which will lead them to greater independence but to great economic servitude. In the Debate to-day a great body of opinion has been hostile to the general policy of the Government, but the main issue is still as clear to-day as when this Treaty was first published to the world. We have made an arrangement with the people in Ireland who professed to be willing to work with this country to establish a new order of things in Ireland. We have to give them a chance.
We have given them our word to give them a chance to fulfil the letter and the spirit of their bond. If they do not fulfil it, there will be nobody more ready in this House than myself to readjust his view of the situation to the events which will then take place. "Readjust" is not a very good word, and I imagine there is a good deal of readjusting going on in the minds of several hon. Members at this moment. That being so, I think that hon. Members would be ill-advised if, for the sake of past prejudices, or if they see in this Treaty fears which have not been yet realised, they use their great powers of eloquence and persuasion, and their great powers of appeal, to defeat an arrangement which, whatever its value, and whatever its difficulty, does offer a hope for a better state of relations between Ireland and this country than has existed hitherto.
I do not for a moment follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Captain Coote) in saying that this is a wrecking Amendment. What is the meaning of it? It means this. You are entitled to explain the word of a contract entered into between two parties if you do not materially alter the sense of it. If you merely express what both sides of the contract mean then it is not wrecking the Treaty. What the hon. Member means when he says it is a wrecking Amendment is this, that if you put the words of this Amendment in the Treaty not a single one of these men would have signed the Treaty. That is the reason why the Government are opposing it. I voted against the Treaty because I believe it is a thoroughly bad Treaty. But once having entered into the Treaty, it is the business of the Government to get it through as best as they can. I have not voted against the Government, and I do not intend to do so upon matters which deal with the Treaty, still less do I intend to vote against them on this Amendment. But what a terrible reflection upon this Treaty we have heard. The hon. Member who spoke from the back Benches with enthusiasm for the Treaty immediately say that this Amendment will wreck the Treaty. It is a terrible reflection upon the whole thing. The right hon. Gentleman has told us in Debate that he would not tolerate a republic. It came upon me frankly as a surprise.
Let us deal with this fact from the point of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. You have a right hon. Member, a Leader of the House, making a statement in Debate that he would not grant Dominion Home Rule to Ireland because Dominion Home Rule gave the right of secession. When he made that statement he was Leader of the House, and he was dealing with a very important Bill, and I can tell the Committee that that speech had an effect upon votes. It is rarely that speeches in this House have that effect, but different people told me that the reason they voted for the Government that evening was because of the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that they would not grant Dominion Home Rule.
I never said that. What I said was that this statement was made in the course of Debate, and that it was to be judged in relation to the Debate. For my hon. and learned Friend to state that I suggested that the late Leader of this House (Mr. Bonar Law) made an insincere statement for the purpose of misleading the House is really unworthy of his high legal and intellectual eminence.
Of course I accept what the right hon. Gentleman has said. But I understood him to say that. Either it was made for the purpose of influencing the House or it was not. It has never been contradicted in any subsequent Debate, although the words have been quoted often enough. It has never been contradicted, or any doubt thrown upon its accuracy until to-night. When it was made the Debate was a very important one, and dealt with the question very apposite, namely, what Dominion Home Rule meant, and whether it could possibly be granted to Ireland. I hope my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment to a Division, but I certainly shall not vote for it. This is only another illustration of the unsatisfactory nature of an agreement the two parties to which meant something totally different, when they agreed. I only hope that each did not know perfectly well that something else was meant.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Captain Coote) used an argument which I. have heard used for the last 30 years by hon. Members supporting Home Rule Bills in this House. He said if certain things were allowed he would vote against such a Bill. Those things have always been allowed, and yet the hon. Members in question have always eaten their words and voted contrary to what they said. I have no doubt the hon. and gallant Member will do exactly the same sort of
thing. I have no doubt he will have to do it within three or four months, if this Government remain in office. I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the actual words of the Colonial Secretary. Speaking a little time ago, the Colonial Secretary prepared the ground for conceding a Republic to Ireland. This Amendment says:
Provided nevertheless that the constitutional status referred to in Clause one of the said Articles of Agreement shall not impliedly or otherwise confer upon the Irish Free State the right to secede from its allegiance to the King or to declare itself hereafter an independent nation.
That is a perfectly clear and simple Amendment the terms of which have been agreed to by all the Members of the Government over and over again, but yet when they are asked to put into the Treaty words which define what they say they intended to carry out, they refuse to do so, and on what ground? I took down the words of the Colonial Secretary. He said first—in contradiction to what he said just now—that Article 1 of the Treaty conferred the same status upon the Irish Free State, as it did upon the various Dominions. He went on to say that the constitution of the Dominions had better be left alone, and that if any question arose with regard to that constitution, as relates to this Amendment—that is to say, as to whether or not the Dominions should have the right to secede from allegiance to the King and declare themselves independent nations—any discussion on such matters had better be left over. He said there was going to be some meeting of the Dominions in a year or two's time and that what we should do if that situation arose, depended upon our resources and upon the circumstances of the time. I venture to say that he is preparing the ground for accepting a Republic. We shall be told we have not got any army, that the navy has been reduced, that the finances of the country are in an uncertain state, that we cannot bear further taxation, and therefore that the best thing we can do is to agree to a Republic. If Mr. de Valera had been in the House I am sure he would have cheered the Colonial Secretary.
Now we come to the second part of the Colonial Secretary's statement, and if the hon. Baronet the Member for Maldon (Sir F. Flannery), who always gets up at an opportune moment to support the Government, whatever they say or do, had been in the House, he would have cheered the last part of the Colonial Secretary's statement. Having said, first of all, that we had conferred the same status on Ireland as we had conceded to the various Dominions, and that any interference with the Dominions, if they should secede or forfeit their allegiance, would be a matter of our resources and circumstances at the time, he went on to say, in regard to Ireland, nothing would induce us to grant a Republic in that country. You cannot reconcile those two statements, and with due deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. E. McNeill), I venture to say the Colonial Secretary could not mean the two to be reconciled. He wanted to be able to say at a later date, "Oh, on Thursday, the 2nd of March, I said that we should not interfere with the Dominions if they were to do certain things, but that it would depend on our resources and circumstances at the time, therefore, we are not running away from anything we said." As certain as I am standing here, that is what is going to take place. Before the hon. and gallant Member for Ely makes quite certain what he will do, or what the supporters of the Government will do, I recommend him to read the history of the various Home Rule Bills. I did not sec the 1886 Home Rule Bill, but I saw the 1893 Home Rule Bill, and I should not be in the least surprised, if I were to look back to the OFFICIAL REPORT of that date, I would find my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) saying "all we want is to manage our own local affairs in our own way."
If hon. Members will allow me to continue, I was about to point out that after such a speech as I have indicated, then a day or two afterwards we would have a speech from a relative of the hon. and gallant Member for Water ford (Captain Redmond) in America saying that what they intended was complete secession from England. Then the Radical party said: "We only want to give a modified gas find water Home Rule Bill."
I would point out to the Committee the seriousness of this Amendment and ask how can anybody vote against it. How can the hon. and gallant Member for Ely vote against it? He says he is going to fight until the last drop of blood and the last farthing against the establishment of a republic in Ireland. All we are asking is to put that into the Treaty—to state clearly what the hon. and gallant Member says ho is in favour of. The hon. Member is a gallant soldier and in the habit of saying what he means. If he votes against this Amendment he is saying he is in favour of a republic being granted to Ireland.
|Division No. 25.]||AYES.||[10.16 p.m|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Armitage, Robert||Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tyner||Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Barlow, Sir Montague|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Barnett, Major Richard W.|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Barnston, Major Harry|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hailwood, Augustine||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Hancock, John George||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness)||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hartshorn, Vernon||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Haslam, Lewis||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hayday, Arthur||Remer, J. R.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Renwick, Sir George|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend.|
|Briggs, Harold||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bromfield, William||Hinds, John||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Hogge, James Myles||Rose, Frank H.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Cairns, John||Holmes, J. Stanley||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Cape, Thomas||Howard, Major S. G.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hudson, R. M.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Carter. W. (Nottingham, Mansfield||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. sir A. G.||Scott. A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Casey, T. W.||Hurd, Percy A.||Seager, Sir William|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Irving, Dan||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Sexton, James|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Jephcott, A. R.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Johnstone, Joseph||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Spencer, George A|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Starkey, Captain John Ralph|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Kennedy, Thomas||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Kenyon, Barnet||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Klley, James Daniel||Sugden, W. H.|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sutton, John Edward|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Taylor, J.|
|Ednam, Viscount||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lloyd, George Butler||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Lunn, William||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfrey||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Fildes, Henry||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Vickers, Douglas|
|Finney, Samuel||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Wallace, J.|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Walters. Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Middlebrook, Sir William||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Molson, Major John Eisdale||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Forrest, Walter||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Moreing, Captain Algernop H.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Morris, Richard||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Gangs, E. Stanley||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Gardner, Ernest||Murchison, C. K.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Gillis, William||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Myers, Thomas||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Windsor, Viscount|
|Gould, James C.||Neal, Arthur||Wise, Frederick|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L (Ripon)|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Parker, James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Dudley Ward.|
|Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Phillipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H (Devizes)||Craig. Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Brown, Major D. C.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cecil, Rt. Hon Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Donald, Thompson||Lynn, R. J.||Reid, D. D.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||M'Connell, Thomas Edward||Robertson, John|
|Foot, Isaac||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Sharman-Crawford, Robert G.|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Maddocks, Henry||Stewart, Gershom|
|Gwynne, Rupert S.||Moles, Thomas||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hall, Rr-Admi Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W.D'by)||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Hayward, Evan||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Wilson, Field-Marshal Sir Henry|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Nield, Sir Herbert||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Houston, Sir Robert Patterson||Oman, sir Charles William C.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Jellett, William Morgan||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Larmor, Sir Joseph||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Polson, Sir Thomas A.||Mr. C. Percy and Sir W. Davison.|
|Division No. 26]||AYES.||[10.27 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Hall, Rr-Admi Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W. D'by)||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut-Colonel Martin||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hood, Sir Joseph||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Houston, Sir Robert Patterson||Polson, Sir Thomas A.|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Jellett, William Morgan||Reid, D. D.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Sharman-Crawford, Robert G.|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Lindsay, William Arthur||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Lynn, R. J.||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||McConnell, Thomas Edward||Whitla, Sir William|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Wilson, Field-Marshal Sir Henry|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Donald, Thompson||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Maddocks, Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Moles, Thomas||Mr. C. Percy and Sir W. Davison.|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gillis, William|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Glyn, Major Ralph|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Gould, James C.|
|Amery, Leopold C. M.S.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Graham, D. M (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Armitage, Robert||Coats, Sir Stuart||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Colfox, Major Wm Phillips||Groen, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Greenwood, William (Stockport)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Greig, Colonel Sir James William|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Devlin, Joseph||Hallwood, Augustine|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hancock, John George|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Edgar, Clifford B.||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Edge, Captain Sir William||Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness)|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Ednam, Viscount||Harris, Sir Henry Percy|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hartshorn, Vernon|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Haslam, Lewis|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Hayward, Evan|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Falcon, Captain Michael||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Briggs, Harold||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Flides, Henry||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Bromfield, William||Finney, Samuel||Hinds, John|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Hogge, James Myles|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||Foot, Isaac||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Cairns, John||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Holmes, J. Stanley|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Forrest, Walter||Home, Edgar (Surrey. Guildford)|
|Cape, Thomas||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Galbraith, Samuel||Hudson, R. M.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Gange, E. Stanley||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Casey, T. W.||Gardner, Ernest||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.|
|Cautley Henry Strother||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Irving, Dan||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Spencer, George A.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Jodrell, Neville Paul||O'Grady, Captain James||Starkey, Captain John Ralph|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Parker, James||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel.|
|Johnson, Sir Stanley||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Sutton, John Edward|
|Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Taylor, J.|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Kennedy, Thomas||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, L.)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Purchase, H. G.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon, J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers|
|Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Ramsden, G. T.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.||Vickers, Douglas|
|Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Redmond, Captain William Archer||Wallace, J.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Remer, J. R.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Renwick, Sir George||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Lunn, William||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Robertson, John||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert||Rose, Frank H.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Rothschild, Lionel de||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Williams, Col. P, (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Royce, William Stapleton||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Wise, Frederick|
|Morris, Richard||Seager, Sir William||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Seddon, J. A.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Murchison, C. K.||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon, Sir L.|
|Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Sexton, James||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Murray, William (Dumfries)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Myers, Thomas||Shortt, Rt. Han. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Sitch, Charles H.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Neal, Arthur||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)||Dudley Ward.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D, L. (Exeter)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words
Provided that for the removal of doubts it is hereby declared that the British Government, in consenting to and Parliament in approving Article 12 of the said Agreement, did not intend to agree to the transfer of the main area of any of the six counties of Northern Ireland to the territory of the Irish Free State, but only to such minor adjustments (if any) in the boundary between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, either in the one direction or the other, as might without economic injury either to Northern Ireland or the Irish Free State satisfy the desires of bodies of persons of homogeneous opinions in respect to their territorial situation.
It is rather disheartening to rise to move an Amendment, because the Colonial Secretary, who is in charge of the Bill, said at an earlier period of the Debate, in language which seemed to be somehow reminiscent of the memorable passage in the Book of Daniel on the sackbut, psaltery and all kinds of music, that he could accept nothing which would qualify, amplify or diminish the terms of the Treaty. He used his very large
vocabulary to insist upon his naturally un conciliatory disposition, and therefore it is rather disheartening to rise to suggest that this Amendment is quite consistent with the declarations of the Government and does not impinge on the sanctity of the Treaty. This is an ambitious proposal, because I have endeavoured to put into clear words what the Government mean. As they always fail to do that, it is perhaps presumptious to suppose that I shall succeed, but there is no doubt that this represents as nearly as I can express it what the utterances of the Government are. The Prime Minister, for example, used these words, and as they were not only uttered by the Prime Minister but had the advantage of being quoted also by the Attorney-General they have a kind of double sanction:
What we propose I think is wise for Ulster, namely, that you should have a readjustment of boundaries, not for the six counties but a readjustment of the boundaries of the North of Ireland which would take into account where there are homogeneous populations of the same kind as
that which is in Ulster and where there are homogeneous populations of the same kind as you have in the South. If you get a homogeneous area you must, however, take into account geographical and economic considerations.
Then he gives illustrations and goes on:
You must have regard to economic considerations as well; but taking into account all these considerations, I believe it is in the interest of Ulster that she should have people who will work with her and cooperate with her, and help her along, and not make difficulties, not merely inside her boundaries, but difficulties with her neighbours as well."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1921; cols. 40–41, Vol. 149.]
That, of course, occurs in the course of the speech, and I have endeavoured to follow those words as nearly as one can in putting them into an Amendment, and I carefully avoid amending the Treaty, because I know how fidgety the Government are about that. The language does not affect the Treaty, it affects merely the intentions of the Government or the British delegates (or whatever they were called) who sat in Downing Street, and also, of course, there was the intention of Parliament in approving Article 12 of the said Agreement:
Provided that for the removal of doubts it is hereby declared that the British Government, in consenting to and Parliament in approving Article 12 of the said Agreement, did not intend to agree to the transfer of the main area of any of the six counties of Northern Ireland to the territory of the Irish Free State, but only to such minor adjustments (if any) in the boundary between Northern Ireland and the Irish Tree State, either in the one direction or the other, as might without economic injury either to Northern Ireland or the Irish Free State satisfy the desires of bodies of persons of homogeneous opinions in respect to their territorial situation.
That precisely conforms to what the Government have assured us is their meaning, and it does not modify the Treaty. It declares the intentions of the Government and of Parliament in assenting to the Treaty. Undoubtedly, where you have an ambiguous formula, the intention of the signatories begins to be important. If you use perfectly clear language no authority interpreting it would have regard to what was the intention of the signatories; the authority would be bound by the language, so far as the language could go; but if the language is ambigous, if it may equally well mean one thing or another, then the interpreting authority must have resort—there is no other way—to the intention
of the signatories. My proposal is that in this Measure we should be clear as to what is the intention of the signatories on the one side of the Treaty. That will afford the Commissioners guidance in coming to their interpretation. If you do not give them guidance, there really is no ground upon which they can arrive at any interpretation in particular, because the language is so ambiguous an-d so vague that it is equally consistent with any interpretation. It says:
Provided that if such an address is so presented a Commission consisting of three persons, one to be 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, shall 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, and for the purposes of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and of this instrument, the boundary of Northern Ireland shall be such as may be determined by such Commission.
"In accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants" may, as was pointed out on the Second Reading, mean almost anything. It depends upon in what area you take the wishes of the inhabitants, and also upon whether you mean the unanimous opinion, or whether there is to be a preponderating majority, or a bare majority. It is as ambiguous an impression as can possibly be used. The expression "geographic conditions," too, does not really mean what it says. It cannot be supposed to be really geographic conditions that is meant; it is the social considerations that arise out of the geographic position. Altogether, I defy any tribunal, however intelligent and however impartial, to interpret the language merely in the light of the language. That is impossible. If you cannot interpret the language merely in the light of the language, you must have regard to the intentions of the signatories. We ought to declare what our intentions are, and the other side ought to declare their intentions in a similar document. To the best of my ability I have put into this Amendment precisely what the Government told us were their intentions, and what, as I think, were beyond all doubt the intentions of the two Houses of Parliament in accepting the Treaty. We should, in my Amendment, say what we mean, and that is an honest,
straightforward, and natural course. I wish I could think that on those grounds it would be acceptable to the Government, but I am sure that to do what is honest, straightforward and natural would be repugnant to the deepest instincts of their nature, and therefore I have not much hope. Nevertheless, I put it forward, and I think the Government will find that if they continue to reject all suggestions which will clear up their position on this question, people will increasingly think that they really do desire to trick Ulster, and that, after all their assurances, they will prove false at the last.
The Noble Lord has delivered a characteristic speech, characteristic in its brilliancy and sterile ingenuity which we have been accustomed to wonder at increasingly as the years pass by, and characteristic also of that monopoly of honesty which appears to be a family and fraternal perquisite, and I shall endeavour to submit reasons why it is impossible for the Government to defer to appeals, or to the assaults—for they partook more of that nature than of appeals—of the Noble Lord. The legal effect of the Amendment, I am advised, would be to interpolate into Article 12 of the agreement certain conditions to govern the action of the Boundary Commission. I must repeat that we cannot possibly agree to such a course. I am well aware, everyone in this House is aware, of the extraordinary gravity and embarrassment of this boundary question. I have never concealed the feeling I have as to the difficult position in which we have all been placed by the way in which this matter now lies. Only a little while ago this matter lay in a much better situation. An agreement had been actually signed between the Prime Minister of the Northern Government and the Chairman of the Provisional Government for a settlement of these matters by friendly, practical agreement between the two Governments concerned. Since then we have had a severe set back. One speech on one side has led to a speech on the other and then forays and disorderly action have been set on foot from the southern side of the border which have undoubtedly produced a temporary cessation of those relations which were so happily inaugurated a month or six weeks ago. I am power- less, the Government is powerless, to alter or modify or restrict or interrupt the conditions laid down in the Treaty. As the tree fell so must it lie. The Noble Lord allowed his pent-up mirth to gush forth. I do not see why, after all these high moral declarations about the dishonesty of the great majority of the human race, which is so repugnant to him, and the great majority of this House, which so horrifies him, he should regard the sanctity of treaties as a matter for loud derision. A definite agreement has been made.
I am speaking of this particular Treaty, and I say in regard to it that, convenient or inconvenient, we who have signed it with the representatives of what is now another Parliament, and will soon be another State, are absolutely bound. We cannot possibly insert provisions which would have the effect of modifying the articles. I look forward to a resumption of negotiations, and I hope that will not be the last-word on the subject. As I have pointed out, there is no immediate urgency. Time will be given before any official decision on this matter must be taken by the parties concerned, and before the Boundary Commission, which is the ultimate court of appeal, is brought into existence. When the elections have been held in Southern Ireland one of two things must happen. Either a verdict will have been given adverse to the Treaty and in favour of a Republican form of Government—in which case the whole of this matter falls to the ground and all parties resume their original freedom. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly, we resume our full freedom on the basis of the respect and sympathy of the whole of the civilised world. Either that will happen, or the Free State Government will be accepted by the people of Southern Ireland. If that is definitely accepted and a new Parliament has come into existence pledged to that, I am certain that the relations between Northern and Southern Ireland may enter upon a far better period and condition than has been possible up to the present time.
I say now, as I said on the Second Eeading—for this Amendment virtually revives the great issues fought out on the Second Reading—that it will be far better to wait until this new situation has been created before endeavouring to take a final decision upon a matter so fateful and embarrassing as this. I have never concealed the difficulty and embarrassment in which it places all parties to the Treaty.
Certainly! I quoted the words of the late Leader of the House (Mr. Bonar Law) who, giving his own independent view of what had taken place, said that possibly unless it had been agreed to, and if we had stopped to communicate, as we should have liked to do, with the Government of Northern Ireland we should have reached no agreement at all. I am certain that is true. At the last moment agreement was reached very rapidly, and almost by surprise.
I do not think that is true, but if that taunt is to be made here those who signed the Treaty with us are facing every day similar taunts which are equally ill-founded. I am afraid it is quite impossible for the Government to accept any of these Amendments which affect the Treaty. It is, quite true that the Noble Lord is to a very large extent expressing what the Government Bad in mind and what the British interpretation of these words would be.
I have the opportunity of consulting persons learned in the law and who have studied this. The advice I receive is that this would sub- stitute for the words in Article 12 entirely different terms which may be correct, but in regard to which we have no right to make a new, special, and private pronouncement on this side of the Channel. I hope, therefore, that the Noble Lord will not think that it is out of obstinacy, or foolish desire to close my mind to arguments which can be brought forward, that I have to meet his carefully-drawn Amendment with a direct rebuff. I must lay stress once more upon the fact that having come to an agreement with a set of men who are, I believe, honestly endeavouring to the best of their ability to carry it out on their part, we on this side must not be found wanting in our share of the duty to be done.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on one statement which he made. He said: "We should not have reached an agreement if we had communicated with the Northern Parliament." That represents the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman takes up.
I understood that the right hon. Gentleman quoted the statement of the Leader of the House as a statement with which he agreed. That is the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gives to the reproach that he did not communicate with the Northern Government of Ireland. His answer is, that if he had waited to do so, they would not have got an agreement. He does not deny that there was a definite undertaking that they would communicate with the Northern Government. Does he really maintain, in face of the House of Commons, that even the risk of losing the Treaty was a sufficient risk for breaking their word? I want to know whether that is the position of the Government? The right hon. Gentleman is not eager to indicate any dissent from that proposition; therefore, I suppose, I may take it that that is the attitude of the Government
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head; but he has been many times pressed to explain what is his attitude, and considering that it is only this evening that he said that that was a justification, I think I am entitled to say that that is the attitude which he takes up. That being the plea of justification put forward by the Government, it is exactly the same as the plea that was put forward for the violation of Belgium by the Germans. Nothing is further from my intention than to misrepresent either the right hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues, and if he can show—I am sure he can show if it is possible to be done—that he has or they have any other justification for a deliberate breach of their word, I am only too anxious to hear it, and I believe the Committee is also. He will have an opportunity, if he likes, of speaking further in this Debate, and he can ask one or other of his colleagues to do so. We are honestly anxious to find out whether there is any other justification than a plea which is so similar to the plea put forward by the Germans, which for years earned the execration of everybody in this House.