asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to a speech of Mr. Moylan, delivered at the Dail Eireann in Dublin on 28th April, in the presence of all the members of the Provisional Government, in which he stated that he was the leader of a body of armed Republicans, that he always seized every opportunity to rob British subjects of their goods to support this band, and that he himself had robbed 19 post offices around Kanturk, and had collected the taxes in the district and used them for his own purposes; whether, in view of the fact that no prosecution has been instituted against this member of the Dail, His Majesty's Government will make representations to the Provisional Government that this man should be prosecuted before a legal tribunal?
My attention has been called to a newspaper report of the speech to which the hon. Member refers. As the hon. Member implies in his question, the Provisional Government is responsible for the enforcement of law and order within their area, and I must again ask the House to recognise what is the fact, that that Government is at present faced with armed rebellion against its authority, and is not, therefore, in a position to take the action which it would naturally take if its authority were unchallenged.
The right hon. Gentleman has frequently stated that if we bring cases to his notice, he will bring them to the notice of the Provisional Government. Here I have brought a case in which a member of the Dail boasts of having robbed British subjects. Does he say he will put no pressure on the Provisional Government immediately to take action against this man who boasts publicly in a public assembly of what he has done?
Will you allow me to apologise? I did not use it in any offensive way. I merely meant to say I do not know exactly what the right hon. Gentleman does stand for, because he does not represent the South of Ireland. I was going to ask if he could not find time to go there himself and satisfy himself of the real ghastly state of affairs there.
In view of the unsatisfactory answer given to Question No. 22 on the Paper to-day, I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House in order to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, and that is, the open and avowed robbery of British subjects in Southern Ireland, and the refusal or omission of the Provisional Government to prosecute the avowed perpetrators of these outrages and the refusal of the British Government to make representations on the subject to the Provisional Government?
Did I not ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in a particular case, he would call the attention of the Provisional Government to the circumstances and urge them to prosecute, especially having regard to the fact that the individual concerned is a member of the Dail, and did not the right hon. Gentleman say he would not do so?
I did not even rise. Mr. Speaker rose, and I was compelled to remain seated. The House, I am sure, will bear me out when I say that to practically every question that has been put, asking if representations will be made, the answer has been in the affirmative. I repeat that, both personally and by letter, representations are daily made to the Ministers of the Provisional Government in regard to these and similar cases.
On a point of Order. As the right hon. Gentleman cannot state that he has made any representations to the Provisional Government, might I respectfully suggest that if this had happened in a foreign country we should have had the right to ask our Government to make representations to that foreign Power that steps should be taken to protect British subjects. Surely, it cannot be ruled that we should have less power in our own Dominions than we have in a foreign country.
On a, point of Order. Is it not a fact that on previous occasions, and as one instance in 1906, in the case of Natal, our Government interfered in the interests of the preservation of law and order, and that representations were made by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Government of Natal to protect the interests of the subjects of the Crown?
I cannot say that I have in mind the case of 1906. Therefore I will not say anything about that for the moment, but really this question of representations does not arise, because the Chief Secretary has stated that he has made representations. If it were permitted to bring that on at the end of questions, it would make possible the raising in this manner of a continual series of subjects which Parliament has deliberately transferred to another authority.
I beg pardon for insisting on having a ruling on this point, but it is of great importance. Do I understand, Sir, that you rule that we could ask the Government to interfere in the case of a foreign country, but that we cannot in the case of one of our own Dominions?
On a point of Order. Is it not always a matter for the cognisance of this House if there is a robbery of British citizens, wherever they are, whether in the Colonies or abroad? Where British citizens are robbed, is it not the duty of this House to demand information and, if necessary, investigation?
On a point of Order. I would like a ruling whether the point of Order is not very considerably altered by the fact that when we were asked to agree to the bargain between the representatives of Ireland and the Government, the representatives of the Government in this House gave us distinctly to understand that the assistance of the Government would be given to the Provisional Government in maintaining order and in preserving the amenity of life in Ireland?
On a point of Order. Is it not within the power of this Parliament to withdraw, if it should think fit, the authority which it has conferred upon the Provisional Government in Ireland, and, if that is so, is it not open to this House to consider and discuss whether circumstances have arisen which would render that course necessary?
Of course, what Parliament by Statute has conferred, Parliament by Statute may equally withdraw, but it would be on a proposal to withdraw that the matter could be discussed.
On a point of Order. Might I ask one further question? Where the British Government deliberately refuses to make representations to the Provisional Government in a matter affecting the lives or property of British subjects, are we not entitled to challenge the action of the British Government in this House for their failure and, if necessary, to do so upon a Motion for the Adjournment of the House?
On a point of Order. May I put this point of view to you, Sir? It is conceded, as I understand it, that it is part of the duty of the Government to make representations to the Provisional Government in this matter; that is to say, that the Government themselves recognise that it is part of their duty to do something to protect British subjects in the South of Ireland from these outrages which they are alleged to have undergone. If it be their duty to make representations, might it not be contended, with some force, that it is their duty to make those representations effective, and, if those representations are not effective, is it not within the power of hon. Members to raise the question whether something further ought not to be done in order that the Government's duty in this matter should be effectively discharged?