Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,500,000 (including a Supplementary sum of £500,000), be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for a Grant-in-Aid of the Revenues of the Government of Northern Ireland.
This is a Vote which can be divided in two parts. One million pounds is to be paid to the Exchequer of Northern Ireland as a contribution towards the abnormal expense of Northern Ireland arising out of the present exceptional circumstances, and £500,000 is a Vote that is particularly relevant to the question of the expelled workers from the shipyards of Belfast. I will take the 1,000,000 first. Everybody must be fully aware of the exceptional state of things in Northern Ireland. These exceptional circumstances have thrown upon the Northern Government exceptional expenses, and His Majesty's Government hopefully expects the Committee to support it in this grant, to enable the Northern Government to deal with the present circumstances. May I remind the Committee that Parliament asked the people of Northern Ireland to work the Act of 1920, not because the people of Northern Ireland asked for the Act, or wanted it, but in order to carry out the Government policy of trying to make peace in Ireland, as we hoped by that Act? Therefore, the House of Com- mons has the responsibility of supporting the Government in Northern Ireland which was brought into existence, not at the request of the people of Northern Ireland, but because Parliament asked them to work the 1920 Act in the six counties. The Northern Government has had very great difficulty from the time of its inception, but especially during the past few months of this year. It has been compelled to take very drastic measures against the few—I think a very few—persons in the Northern area, who seemed determined by the aid of pistol, rifle, bomb and machine-gun to make, not only the Northern Government, but any Government impossible in that area.
In their endeavour to deal with this situation, the Northern Government has spent an exceptionally large amount in defence of its citizens, by increasing its police force and in other ways, and this £1,000,000 is the grant of the Imperial Government to endeavour to help its own creation, namely, the Northern Government, to carry on during these difficult times. I cannot imagine any great criticism of this grant. Parliament itself set up the Northern Government, and I think in justice must support it, especially during these critical times. In normal times, I cannot imagine any grant being asked by the Northern Government. It is a question whether or not the Northern Government, when the balance is struck, as it will be struck by the Joint Exchequer Board, pays more to the Imperial Exchequer than it receives from the Imperial Exchequer, even when these grants are included. At any rate, the Northern area is a part of our Parliamentary system. They bear all our burdens, and share all our troubles, and I take the view, myself, that we are just as much bound to support them in the endeavour to bring peace to their own area, as we would be bound to try to bring peace to the county of Kent were it afflicted with the same troubles that now afflict Northern Ireland.
As to the £500,000, I dealt with that in the recent Debate. I shall deal with it again just for a moment. This grant of £500,000 was the result of an agreement entered into at the Colonial Office on the 30th March last, the contracting parties being the representatives of the Irish Provisional Government, the representatives of the Government of Northern Ireland, and the representatives of the British Government. Part of that agreement was the payment of £500,000—which is included in this Estimate, and which, I hope, will appeal to the sympathy of every Member of the Committee—to be spent on relief works exclusively—onethird for the benefit of Roman Catholics and two-thirds for the benefit of Protestants, that being, roughly, the proportion between these religious denominations in Belfast. The Northern signatories agreed to make every effort to give work to expelled workers, and, wherever possible, they will be afforded employment on the relief works and so on. This is really an effort to try to heal the great rift in the population of Belfast, brought about by the most unhappy and unfortunate circumstances, and counter-circumstances, of July, 1920, and subsequent months. I hope the Committee will give me this Vote to enable the Northern Government to carry on its beneficent work of trying to bring peace to the Northern area.
I think it would have been preferable if the right hon. Gentleman had left the question of peace out of consideration altogether, because how he can associate the policy of peace with the establishment of an Ulster Parliament under the Act of 1920, I fail to see. From the very beginning, we warned the right hon. Gentleman that the establishment of that Parliament would be a barrier to peace in Ireland, and particularly in Ulster, but we have followed the Parliamentary dictum of the late Prime Minister. We waited to see, and we have waited and we have seen, and although this Parliament has been in existence for 12 months, and the Government has had full authority for nearly nine months, and although they have received every support and assistance from the Government of this country whenever financial support was called for, yet, I venture to say, that never in the whole history of that community was the condition of the community worse than it is now. If you are going to pay for anything, you should see that you get value for it. You have not got value for this money, and you are not likely to get any value for it, because the whole system of establishing a police force with one section of the community, the personnel of which is largely made up of the most combatant of the political parties during the last seven years, is, in my judgment, a barrier to peace.
What is the condition of things there to-day? There have been more murders within the last three months in the area of North-East Ulster than in all the rest of Ireland put together. We constantly hear criticism of the Provisional Government. We know the tremendous difficulties the Provisional Government have had, but the North of Ireland, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) said earlier this evening, was to be held up as a model for all Ireland. We were told from those benches that the Parliament was given to Ulster in order that the rest of Ireland might see how splendidly Ulster could teach a lesson, and the good order, peace and prosperity which would be the future outcome of statesmanship. But look what we have. Bomb-throwing, murders, religious passion, hatreds, economic and industrial troubles, and, I venture to say, there never was a worse investment made, not by the British Government alone, but by those hon. Gentlemen opposite who speak for North-East Ulster, than when they established that Parliament. Therefore I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will not talk about peace or say that by giving this sum of money he is creating peace. On the contrary, let me tell him this, that if he withdrew these contributions towards the maintenance of the Special Constabulary in Ulster altogether there would be a larger possibility of peace in Ulster. It is very strange that in the course of his speech he never once mentioned what this £1,000,000 was for- never! Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me now, while I am on my feet, so that I may be able to discuss the £1,000,000?
If you did, then all have to say is that I would ask those members of the Committee who know what it is about to stand up. [HON. MEMBERS: "That would not be in order."] It would not?
Then I will sit down to enable others to speak, for I am always in favour of giving precedence to hereditary institutions. The right hon. Gentleman has told us certain things. I can only attribute it to his contempt for our Parliamentary intelligence. I admit it is not a very high intelligence, but still that contempt ought not to be so manifest as it is. I want to know what this £1,000,000 is for? He has told us that it is to be devoted for some purpose in North-East Ulster. I am a Member for North-East Ulster in this Parliament, and a Member for North-East Ulster in the other Parliament, but I am left in profound ignorance of what this £1,000,000 is to be devoted to. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee, because I may possibly make a speech upon it! Before, however, I proceed to discuss this with all the profound seriousness which it demands in this age, and in the whole atmosphere of Parliament when the nation is filled with the desire of economy, I want to know what this £1,000,000 is for? If it is for the Special Constabulary I am opposed to it absolutely. I think this Special Constabulary are a danger to peace and good order in Ulster. They are political partisans, and public money ought not to be given to maintain them.
We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman about the tremendously drastic measures which have been taken by this Parliament which was to be a symbol of peace. He has told us that they have taken drastic meaures to deal with those who break the law of the land. The drastic measures in the Northern Parliament are very like the drastic measures which the right hon. Gentleman, during his régime, got the House to pass for the rest of Ireland. What effect have they had? Where was the consideration for the minority? Where was the desire to give them equality, protection for their lives? If you did not still wreck their churches and burn their buildings, and hunt their people, and infuriate them with the spirit of resentment against the undeserved wrongs inflicted upon them, then you would not require drastic measures. It is the old story, the old vicious circle, round and round again. You think that by drastic legislation you can do that which alone can be done by kindness, consideration, generosity, and conciliation. That is what it means. What did the Northern Parliament do? They passed a law by which anyone in Ulster found in possession of weapons—revolvers, rifles or ammunition—could be sentenced to death. It has not had the least effect upon the people.
The Governments ought to have learnt by this time that coercion does not pay. It did not pay in the rest, of Ireland, and it will not pay in Ulster. You have not got a single advantage from your drastic legislation, and it is not impartially administered. You go into a Catholic house and search for rifles and revolvers and you do not get them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes!"] In two or three cases there have been prosecutions, but the men have got off. I know one particular case a man was found with any amount of rifles, revolvers and ammunition, but he never was brought to justice. By some subtle process of association between the powers that be—
I will tell you all about it by and by. I will give the hon. Member a litany of cases and ho can go home and sleep on them and come back in a week a wiser man. Therefore it is absurd and grotesque to talk about your drastic legislation, and so on. I come now to the second part of the Resolution, namely, that referring to the £500,000 which has been granted to meet the, difficulties that were considered by a Joint Committee from Northern and Southern Ireland with the Colonial Secretary. I am not going to say anything about that arrangement because it is an arrangement mutually agreed to between the parties. Once again we had a magnificent triumph of the acuteness and skill of hon. Members opposite. This unemployment and the condition of these expelled workers was a deep-rooted, unclosed wound in the body politic of Belfast as naturally happens when about 5,000 men are hunted from their employment without cause. I understand the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) said they were expelled because they were Sinn Feiners. Of course that is not true at all. Even if they were Sinn Feiners that was no reason why they should be expelled from their employment. I know they were not Sinn Feiners at all. One would have thought that hunting Catholics from their employment in Belfast was a somewhat abnormal and unprecedented incident in the life of that city; but it has been going on for the last 50 years. There has not been a single time of political intensity in this country or in Ireland when Catholics have not been hunted from the shipyards of Belfast, even if they were Sinn Feiners. That is no reason why they should be hunted. If their leaders can come into counsel with the members of the present Government and be received in Downing Street, and co-operate for the purposes mutually advantageous, then surely, if the right hon. Gentlemen the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary can meet Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins, why cannot Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith's followers be allowed to stand before the furnaces and burn their faces in laborious tasks in the great shipbuilding yards of Ulster? How an hon. Member of the personal, political, and intellectual power of the hon. Member for Canterbury can come forward with a canting argument and humbug of that kind I cannot understand! I must express my profound admiration for the hon. Gentleman opposite. What happened? They said: "We must heal this wound, and therefore let us come to an agreement to get £500,000 from the British Government." What was that £500,000 for? It was not for the purpose of compensating the people who raised the £500,000 to keep these people out of Belfast workhouses during the time they were out of work. They said: "We are giving £150,000 to employ the Catholic workers, and we will grab the £350,000 for our own purposes." It is the most amazing and grotesque thing I ever heard of in my life. Why should they have given to them £350,000? They have suffered no wrong! They were not denied employment; they had it. But since this is an agreement as the result of the Conference I do not oppose it. I say nothing against it. I accept it. But we ought to be perfectly honest with each other. So long as this Parliament and this Government continue not only to set up Parliaments, but to subsidise them, and enable them to carry on policies that do not make for peace but for tragedies, all I have to say is: If the right hon. Gentleman simply comes here and says, "I want to give the Ulster Parliament £1,500,000," let them have it; but please do not let us hear anything more about peace!
The hon. Member who has just sat down referred to the outrages which have been going on in Northern Ireland, but he should remember that it is no longer the English Government who are ruling that country, but their own authorities. Then we have these calls upon the British taxpayer. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wants more or whether he wants anything at all?
I quite sympathise with Northern Ireland, but I want to know where we come in. Where does the British taxpayer come in? It does not seem to me that he is getting any advantage from this Vote. He is not getting peace, but he has to put his hand in his pocket all the same. We have not got peace, and we have got to pay for not having peace. I think we ought to have some further explanation as to what the position of the English taxpayer is going to be. I admit that the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us what the total amount is likely to be, for I know that that is something which he cannot do. At any rate, he can say whether it is the policy of his Department, if it is found that it is necessary to compensate either Northern or Southern Ireland, to say, "We have had enough of this. We are going to stop these outrages and stop these things from occurring." We are entitled to know whether the Government have any policy on the Irish Question, or whether they are simply going on from hand to mouth hoping that something will turn up to relieve the ghastly mess into which they have got us.
I understand from a statement made by the Chief Secretary that this £500,000 is to be devoted to providing relief works for the men boycotted in Belfast who have been driven from their work. On this question I have the honour of representing a considerable number of workmen in Belfast who are politically and religiously divided. I do not wish to say anything that would in any way add to the bitterness of religious and political differences in Belfast. I would, however, like to ask, on what basis of calculation does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that two-thirds of the £500,000 should be given to Protestant workers of Belfast and only one-third to the Catholic? I wish to speak not of the religious or political differences, but simply about the equity and fairness of this division of the money. My recollection, which I think is shared by all my colleagues on these benches, is that the injustice in regard to unemployment in Belfast was suffered by the Catholics and not so much by the Protestants. I want to know where the money is going to.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that British trade unions, through their members in Belfast, have contributed thousands of pounds to the men who have been driven out of work on account of the political and religious differences in Belfast? I understand that in regard to the division of this money there has been a local arrangement, but I would like to point out that hundreds of thousands of pounds have been paid by trade union members in Ireland in order to relieve the position. I want to know if this has been taken into consideration in apportioning this £500,000. Having contributed so largely to relieve distress in Belfast, I think the least thing the right hon. Gentleman could have done would have been to call in the industrial repre- sentatives in order to ascertain their opinion as to how this money should be distributed.
I cannot understand why this question has been settled locally in Belfast without some reference to the trade unionists, including my own union, which has had to contribute out-of-work pay in consequence of these religious differences in Belfast. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will now see that this Vote, having direct application to the men out-of-work, is a case where the workmen's representatives ought to be consulted in regard to the apportionment of the money. Of course, we all regret these unfortunate religious differences in Belfast, but I do say that we are justified in demanding that the representatives of organised workmen in Ireland, who have contributed so enormously to relieve distress, ought to be consulted in the distribution of this miserable apportionment. How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the fact that only one-third of the £500,000 is being given to the people who suffered, and two-thirds to the people who suffered very little indeed? Surely there is some answer to that question.
I should like to point out that this Vote is one for a sum agreed upon by the representatives of Northern and Southern Ireland representing every section of the community. The money is very badly wanted, and it is important that these relief works should be started as soon as possible, and if we do not get this Vote now it means that the relief works will be delayed for a considerable time. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will feel, I am sure, that any delay in this matter will be very detrimental. As a Member representing the North of Ireland, and as this is an agreed thing between the different parties, I appeal to the Committee to allow the right Eon. Gentleman to have the Vote now.
I think it is rather a tall order to ask for so large a sum of money, even though it has been agreed to by Northern and Southern Ireland, without the House having some information as to who is going to spend it and how it is going to be spent. This is a Vote for half a million of money, and I presume that was the Government's estimate of the amount required to cover a certain period of unemployment. The Chief Secretary has not told the Committee how many unemployed there are to be dealt with.
It is the duty of the Government to provide time, and if the Government think we are going to vote £500,000 without debating it simply because there is not time, then they are mistaken, and the fault lies with the Government. I want the right hon. Gentleman to answer one or two questions. Has he got any actual figures with regard to unemployment in Belfast? How many unemployed are there in Belfast?
The right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us and yet he is asking us to vote £500,000. Does he not think that that is unreasonable? If the Government wish us to vote this money for unemployed in Belfast it ought to be voted only on the basis of actual ascertained facts. I should like to know what is the number of unemployed in Belfast? I might be faced with the question as to whether £500,000 is enough. I will assume, for a moment, that 5,000 men are unemployed in Belfast. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin), can say how many unemployed men, apart from women and girls, there are in Belfast. Assuming the number is 5,000, and that you will pay the same rate as is paid to the unemployed workers in this country, may we be told how long this £500,000 is going to last? Has the right hon. Gentleman any estimate of that, and can he assure the Committee that he is not likely to come down to the House in a short space of time and ask for another grant of money for the unemployed?
This House will never refuse to grant money which is absolutely necessary, whether it is to effect peace in Ireland or deal with the unemployed, but we ought to refuse to pass a Vote in regard to which the Minister in charge cannot make out a case. I think my right hon. Friend did himself an enormous injustice. He is usually able to give the Committee a clear and concise account of the position of things, but to-night the right hon.
Gentleman entirely slurred over the figures, and the £1,000,000 Vote was not explained. This House will never vote £1,000,000 without knowing how it is going to be spent—