"Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to authorise the Legislature of the Irish Free State to repeal, amend, or alter the Irish Free State Agreement Act, 1922, or the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922, or so much of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, as continues to be in force in Northern Ireland."—[Colonel Gretton.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause he read a Second time."
I am moving this Clause because the same constitutional question is already provided for in the Bill in its relation to the Constitution of Canada, the British North America Act, the Commonwealth Act of Australia and the Constitution Act of the Dominion of New Zealand. It is true that exemption is not made in relation to the Constitution of the Union of South Africa. The Government of South Africa have taken action, and affirmed their Constitution unanimously and in definite language, and they have said that they consider and believe it is outside the purview of the Statute of Westminster. The Irish Free State have taken no steps whatever in the matter. It appears to many of us that this question of what is the position of the Irish Free State under the new Statute is very vital. We cannot look on the Free State as if we were regarding the case of a distant Dominion. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because there is some- thing compelling in geography. Ireland lies across our access to the Atlantic Ocean. She narrows down the highways of the sea into two channels of approach; by the Northern coast of Ireland to the Clyde and Western coast and by her Southern shores into the English Channel. We are bound to look at the proximity of Ireland, which makes her a special case. The Government of Ireland was set up in consequence of Articles of Agreement come to in 1922. The Articles of Agreement are embodied in the Irish Free State Agreement Act and carried forward in the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922. I will say something about these Articles of Agreement before I sit down. It is useless to argue that there is no legal obligation. They are enshrined in those two Statutes.
This Parliament and the Parliament in Dublin have both enacted the Articles of Agreement which are the basis of the position as it stands to-day. We have thought it necessary to put the agreement into an Act of Parliament. The legal position is beyond dispute. The Irish Free State is a new State, and, as everyone is aware, there are two parties who hold very different views, as expressed by them, as to the relations of its Government to this country. Mr. Cosgrave, who is the head of the party which now forms the Irish Government, has invariably clone his best to maintain friendly relations, and to maintain the British connection, but there are other Members in his Government whose expressions from time to time make one believe that even his Government is not entirely unanimous in this matter. The party which, in the Free State, is in opposition is undoubtedly opposed to any connection of the Irish Free State with this country, or even with the British Empire—or the British Commonwealth of Nations, as it is called in the Bill that we are now debating.
What is proposed in Clause 2, and especially in Sub-section (2), is to confer upon the Irish Free State the power to revoke any law which may have been enacted in this country or in a Dominion, either previous to, or after, the passing of the Statute of Westminster. The proposal is to endow the Parliament in Dublin with powers to revoke legislation which is set up by the Articles of Agreement between this country and the Irish Free State, and so to set on one side the Irish Constitution, as set up in the Irish Constitution Act. Nothing could be more satsifactory than the speeches which Mr. Cosgrave has been making lately, but he cannot speak for the whole Free State, and it is well known that there is great danger of a revocation and a repeal of both these enactments, if the Opposition party should obtain a majority. Surely this Parliament is not going to take action which will make the status of the Free State, in regard to the United Kingdom, the sport of factions and parties in Ireland or elsewhere. This is a very serious matter, and it imperils the legal obligation. No one denies that. Why deliberately set aside that legal obligation, and those ties that we considered wise and necessary? We should only be inviting the separatist party in the Irish Free State by the passing of this Bill without some such Clause as I am proposing, to take legally the very step which they propose, and which we maintain, in this country, would be an immoral step. They could take it without its being illegal.
Now, if the House will bear with me, I come to point out what is contained in the Articles of Agreement which remain in force. Article 4 includes the Oath of Allegiance to the Throne, the one bond which unites the constituent nations of the British Empire. Article 5, which has been accepted by mutual agreement, deals with the public Debt. Article 6 relates to defence, and lays down that the Irish Free State shall not have a fleet, at any rate at present. It is only able to undertake coastal defence. Article 7 provides that the Free State:
shall afford to His Majesty's Imperial Forces:
(a) in time of peace such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto…
(b) In time of War or of strained relations with a foreign power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for purposes of defence…
Can we afford to put on one side provisions of that kind? It would be most unsafe, suicidal, to lay upon one side those Articles, unless we were going to replace them by something else. We should raise the whole question of the standing of the Free State and ourselves, questions which we hoped had been
settled, although in a manner painful and very unsatisfactory, to many of us who are now in this House. Then there was a limitation of armament laid down, by which the Free State Army is not to be greater, in proportion to its population, than the Army of the United Kingdom. There are other provisions in these Articles of Agreement, with regard to religious agreement, and to the protection of minorities. One of the Articles provides the option for Northern Ireland not to come under the proposed Constitution of the Free State, but to exercise that option to set up a Northern Ireland Government, which has been adopted. That is the legal status which Northern Ireland has adopted to-day.
All these matters are of very great importance, and if you give the Free State Parliament power to set them all on one side, and legally to tear up this Agreement, we are, I respectfully submit, running a risk and taking upon ourselves a responsibility which, in face of the nation, we have no business to assume. Has the history of the Irish Free State been so tranquil, or has the Free State so long had a Government, that it may be regarded as fully and firmly established? We know that that is not so. It is a new country, with a new organisation and a new form of Government. Whatever action it may be wise, prudent and statesmanlike to take in the future, hurriedly to set on one side the whole of the foundation of the Agreement between the Free State and ourselves is certainly most rash, and is certainly not statesmanlike.
I do not wish to detain the House too long. There are many others who have arguments to advance in this matter. I finish as I began, with the statement that the Irish Free State stands upon a different footing from the other Dominions. It is the youngest and least firmly established, with a geographical position which makes it incumbent upon us to see that certain stipulations are not set upon one side, and that agreements are not torn up, in regard to it. I am fully conscious that the moral obligation is strong. Why tilt against the legal obligation which has been entered into? What is the meaning of setting these matters upon one side? It has been said that an election is pending, and that it might prejudice the present Government of Mr. Cosgrave to insert this new Clause which I am asking the House to accept. What has that to do with legislation of a permanent character? Can we be deterred from doing what is our duty, incumbent upon us, because there is an election pending in one of the Dominions? I feel that that might be a very good argument for accepting the Amendment, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville), to put the whole matter off for a year, until the election has taken place, but surely we are not to make the position of Ireland in the British Commonwealth of Nations the sport of one election. I hold the view, and many other people hold the view, that because Mr. Cosgrave desires to maintain the status quo in the relations between this country and the Free State, he would be safer and stronger with this legal obligation to serve him. It would enable him to say: "I am not only bound morally, but bound legally."
The Irish Free State has never found the Parliament in this country in late years unwilling to meet the desires of the Dominions. We have been perhaps too ready to meet them in some respects. This Parliament has been most complaisant and friendly with the Irish Free State since it was set up by its own act. I will not detain the House longer. I urge that this new Clause should be accepted for the reasons I have given, and for many reasons which my hon. Friends will urge in subsequent speeches.
Mr. J. H. THOMAS:
On Friday after-noon, in response to a very keen desire in all parts of the House, I promised that, between then and to-day, the Government should not only be informed of the Debate, and of the strong feeling that existed, more especially in connection with this particular point, but that the opportunity should be given to review the whole situation. Therefore, in the attitude that I adopt at this moment, I can assure the House that every consideration was given to this Amendment, and that every endeavour was made to fulfil the promise I made that full Cabinet consideration should be given to it. But I want to submit that it is not quite fair, in a Debate of this kind, to separate or distinguish between one Dominion and another. Nothing could be more fatal to Imperial unity than for this House to differentiate in such a way. Incidentally, the answer to my right hon. and gallant Friend's statement, that after all the Irish Free State has not a very long record as a, Government, is that he cannot point to another Dominion covering the same period with such a stable Government as the Irish Free State. Take the period since the Treaty and keep in mind all the circumstances that led up to the Treaty. I think it is a remarkable tribute to the Irish people that from the day the Treaty was signed to this moment there has never been a change of Government, except the return of a Government pledged absolutely to preservation of the Treaty. Who is there who will suggest that Ireland, so far as political faith is concerned, has not been much more consistent than this country as a whole?
I would say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that I listened to the very powerful speech and the very powerful plea that he made on Friday. I could not quite understand his position then, and I cannot understand it to-day, because he first said, in defending his attitude on Friday with regard to the 1926 declaration, that the late Lord Balfour had said to him, in justification of his now famous formula, that he made that formula because he did not believe in wooden guns. In other words the only justification for that statement was that Lord Balfour meant then—it would be the only construction to put upon his words—that no mere paper security is equal to the good will and the confidence of the people themselves. Is not that the real answer to the Amendment now proposed?
I would remind the House of the different circumstances to-day. After years of bitter hostility and war, when passions were aroused, when there was a tremendous feeling and a tremendous loss of life, between Ireland and this country a treaty was made, to which the right hon. Gentleman who now supports this Amendment was a party. It was then his responsible duty to defend the treaty in this House. The same arguments were used and almost the same Amendments —it was the same principle underlying the Amendments—were moved then, when
the right hon. Gentleman was defending the treaty. Let me point to the relevance of his answer then to the position to-day. There was an Amendment moved calling upon His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to accept the responsibility for the payment of compensation under Article 10. In other words, although there had been an agreement, a moral obligation, a treaty obligation as between two parties, just as this Amendment now says, although we admit there is a treaty, although we admit there is a moral obligation, yet we are asked to safeguard it by putting something in an Act of Parliament. That is exactly the Amendment that was put down years ago, and the right hon. Member for Epping was called upon to accept it or to reject it, as I am called upon now. This was his answer:
I do not propose to accept this Amendment and to write this upon the text of the present Bill. I think that to do so would be to throw a quite unjustifiable slur upon the action of a Government which has not yet come into existence, and which, if it comes into existence at all, will do so on the basis of the Treaty, and will, we must assume, honourably execute the provisions of the Treaty. I could not accept the suggestion that this provision be inserted. I think it would tend to encourage people to think that they were entitled to evade their obligations, and to regard it as a statutory provision, in the event of their doing so, for the Government assuming the responsibility. It would be most unfortunate to begin by assuming that an Trish Free State Government—which, after all, is the goal of this policy, and without which the policy would fail and many grave and immeasurable evils would supervene in our affairs—would not carry out its obligations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1922; col. 1343, Vol. 151.]
That was the reason why the right hon. Member for Epping could not accept the wooden Amendment. He knew perfectly well that a moral obligation signed between two contracting parties and faithfully observed, must by the very nature of things be more binding than a mere Amendment in a Bill. He refused to accept the Amendment. Indeed, he went beyond that. In his final words he said:
It is from these two motives, faith and hope, that we are entitled on the Third Reading of this Bill to say 'We have put our hands to the plough and we will not look back.' "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1922; col. 1432, Vol. 151.]
That was the right hon. Gentleman's answer in 1922, when he had to persuade the British Parliament to trust the good name and faith of the Irish people, when he had to say to this House and to many of his own friends who were bitterly opposed, "We believe in the Irish people. We ask you to trust them because their word is far better than any Amendment that I could put into the Bill." Last Friday the right hon. Gentleman recalled the names of men whom both he and I knew. He paid the greatest tribute to Michael Collins. He paid tribute to Arthur Griffiths and many others. I submit to him that it is not fair, in this connection, to mention their names, and not to realise that President Cosgrave is taking the same risks, and is prepared, if need be, to make the same sacrifice for the same object that they gave their lives for. Are we not entitled to keep in mind the fact that no speaker on Friday and no speaker this evening has doubted President Cosgrave's word? No one for one moment has challenged Mr. Cosgrave's word. But the doubt has been in connection with the supposition that Mr. De Valera may be returned. That has been the argument used by everyone.
If you want to ensure the return of Mr. De Valera, then carry this Amendment. Just imagine an Irish Election taking place, after the lives that we have mentioned were sacrificed, and imagine every Irishman being able to say, "They not only do not trust De Valera, but they do not trust Cosgrave." That would ensure not only the return of Mr. De Valera, but it would ensure that every Irishman who had sacrificed so much in defence of the Treaty, would have lost hope and would never meet us again. In this connection, I think I ought to read one passage from a letter sent by Mr. Cosgrave to the Prime Minister on Monday of this week. There was a suggestion that although Michael Collins and the others had fought for the Treaty, there was a large section in Ireland, even represented in the Government, who were more lukewarm on the matter. The report of the Debate on Friday was read by Mr. Cosgrave, who sent this letter to the Prime Minister under date 21st November:
Dear Prime Minister,
I have read the report of last Friday's Debate in the House of Commons on the Statute of Westminster Bill, and am gravely concerned at Mr. Thomas's concluding statement that the Government will be asked to consider the whole situation in the light of the Debate. I sincerely hope that this does not indicate any possibility that your Government would take the course of accepting an Amendment relating to the Irish Free State. I need scarcely impress upon you that the maintenance of the happy relations which now exist between our two countries is absolutely dependent upon the continued acceptance by each of us of the good faith of the other. This situation has been constantly present to our minds, and we have reiterated time and again that the Treaty is an agreement which can only be altered by consent. I mention this particularly, because there seems to be a mistaken view in some quarters that the solemnity of this instrument in our eyes could derive any additional strength from a Parliamentary law. So far from this being the case, any attempt to erect a Statute of the British Parliament into a safeguard of the Treaty would have quite the opposite effect here, and would rather tend to give rise in the minds of our people to a doubt as to the sanctity of this instrument.
My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), when this discussion took place on Friday as to what was the view at this moment on the moral obligation of this Treaty, spoke to me privately, and I said to him that I felt there was no doubt in the minds of the Irish Government on this point. I think my right hon. Friend will agree that the quotation I have read is the best answer to that question. Therefore, what I submit to the House is this: Suppose that you were to accept this Amendment, does any member of the Committee assume that it would be binding on Mr. De Valera if he were to come back? Are there any Members here who would feel satisfied that by inserting this Amendment they had safeguarded anything? If there were returned to the Irish Parliament a body of people who were determined to break the Agreement nothing that could be done in this Committee by this Amendment would stop it. It is because I believe that the moral issue is greater; it is because I believe that the Irish people are anxious and ready to fulfil and to discharge to the full their obligations, that I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.
Further down on the Paper there is one other suggestion that the same principle should apply to South Africa. South Africa and Ireland are the two Dominions with which there are Treaty obligations. I ask the Committee: do you think for one moment that on a division you would dare to insert a Clause that this should be applied to South Africa? Is there any Member, knowing the position in South Africa, who would dare to risk it? If you dare not risk it for South Africa, then if you insert Ireland you merely brand her to the world, with the proclamation that the one Dominion that you cannot trust is Ireland. That would be the net effect. It is because I believe that in the end that course would be disastrous; it is because I do not believe that it is a real safeguard; it is because I believe that, in the end, it is better to trust the Irish people and that that will, after all, be the real and permanent safeguard, that I say that the Government are unable to accept this Amendment.
I ask the permission of the Committee to say a few words on this subject, but I shall detain them only for a few moments. I am one of the small and diminishing band of those who were signatories to the Irish Treaty, and I was one of the members of the Imperial Relations Committee of the Conference of 1926. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominions Affairs will not press too far the responsibility of those who drafted the report of that Committee or agreed to it, for all the conclusions which other people, three years later, have felt it proper and fit to draw from that committee's report. While the committee of 1926 had no difficulty in defining the actual position at that moment of the Dominions and this country, within the British Commonwealth of Nations, the committee—and its chairman, Lord Balfour, in particular, was careful to do so—laid stress upon the fact that no such mere negative statement was any adequate exposition of the relations of the different parts of the British Commonwealth one with another. They insisted with equal emphasis upon the constructive, and, if I may so call it, the relating work which had to be done, the spirit in which it must be approached, and the way in which with this new spirit and in these new words, the unity of the Empire should be preserved even when the authority of the Motherland over the self-governing Dominions was entirely abandoned.
By the Treaty with Ireland we placed the Irish Free State upon the footing of a Dominion. We made what, by the wish of the Irish themselves, was called a Treaty or Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between the Irish nation and ourselves. I am content to trust to the good faith of the Irish Government, who have given us every reason to trust their good faith since that Government was established, as long as I know that they definitely accept the obligations which that Treaty imposes upon them. I confess that as I listened to the Debate on Friday I felt not a little anxiety lest by the Statute of Westminster we should not merely be withdrawing statutory sanction from the Treaty but should be destroying the moral obligations of the Treaty itself; that, we should not only be removing the particular basis if you like, upon which the Treaty has hitherto rested, but that we should be, if not directly taking away, at any rate authorising the other party to the Treaty to take away the Treaty itself or abolish its conditions as they liked. For my part, I felt that keenly, and it was that which led me to speak privately to the right hon. Gentleman, as he has said, just after the conclusion of the Debate.
I am satisfied with the public acknowledgment by the authorised spokesman of the Irish Free State Government that the Treaty is an agreement between the two nations, standing, irrespective of statutory authority, upon their mutual faith, and only to be altered by their common consent. That gives me all that I could ask and all that I want. On that understanding, and accepting it in the spirit in which it is made, and in which the Irish Government have acted since their establishment, I shall go now with confidence and faith into the Lobby on behalf of the Statute.
The argument of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs that the Irish Free State had the most stable Government of any of the Dominions since the War did not seem to me to be altogether relevant to the issue. What some hon. Members are obviously anxious about is not what Mr. Cosgrave's Government may or may not have done, but what a Government, of which Mr. De Valera may be the head, may do in the future. Therefore, for the right hon. Gentleman to say that Mr. Cosgrave is a, man of high character—which we all know—and that he is head of one of the most stable Governments in any of the Dominions since the War is not quite relevant. Upon this question I submit two points. The first is a point which has not, I think, been made clear in the Debates either on Friday or to-day. Do we or do we not in this Committee accept the Treaty made between the Irish Free State and this country in 1922 as a binding obligation which cannot be altered in any circumstances by one of the parties? For my part, I always regarded the terrible operations which were conducted in Ireland during 1920, 1921 and 1922 in the light of a war between two nations, and a particularly horrible type of war. I always regarded the Treaty which was negotiated by the Coalition Government of that time as nothing short of an international agreement between the two nations. I do not think that anything which we may insert in this Bill to-night or leave out of it can possibly, in international law, alter by one hair's breadth the obligations which rest upon this country and upon the Irish Free State and upon no other country in the world, in relation to the Treaty of 1922.
Take the position of this country at the moment. It is well known that we would like to impose an embargo upon certain classes of goods coming from Europe. Why are we deterred from doing so? Why are we unable to put an embargo on German goods? For the simple reason that we—rightly—consider ourselves bound by the commercial Treaty which we signed a few years ago with Germany. For exactly the same reason I maintain that the Irish Free State is equally bound by the terms of the Treaty of 1922 and could pass no legislation violating the terms of that Treaty without, in fact, breaking the Treaty. If they are determined to break the Treaty nothing that we can do here will stop them—no legislation of this House of Commons will stop them. The second point is that the problems of to-day are not political but economic. The future will be dominated by events which will happen in the economic sphere. The House of Commons will discover that before many months have passed. The Government will discover that, probably to its cost, because it has some terrible economic problems to face.
I do not believe that the relations between this country and the Irish Free State will worsen in the course of the next few years, because I am convinced that the Irish Free State is economically dependent on this country. In the wider field, I believe that the whole future of the British Empire depends not on constitutional formulae of one kind or another, but on the degree of economic co-operation which we are able to establish in the course of the next few years. If the constituent parts of the Empire can be made economically dependent on each other, the Empire will survive. No mere political issue can possibly smash it. Constitutional legislation of the type which we are discussing to-night, in this age can neither terminate nor perpetuate the British Empire as an entity. For my part, I oppose this Amendment, not because I do not sympathise with the natural apprehensions of those who have brought it forward, but because I believe that it might, from a purely political point of view, raise certain apprehensions in the Irish Free State. I believe that it might well bring an accession of electoral and voting strength to Mr. De Valera. I believe that our own position is safeguarded by the terms of the Treaty, and I do not want to see the economic issues, which I believe to be fundamental and vital to-day, prejudiced in any way by political issues which, in this connection, I regard as irrelevant at the present time.
The Secretary of State for the Dominions almost in the last words of his speech said that it was not fair to differentiate between one Dominion and another. He followed that statement by quoting a letter from Mr. Cosgrave, the leader of the Government of the Irish Free State. In passing, may I suggest that it is very unusual for the leader of a political party in another Government—one of the Governments in the British Commonwealth—to intervene in a discussion in this Parliament with a view to affecting the decision of the House of Commons. I
wonder what would be said if a letter from the British Prime Minister or the Lord President of the Council were to be read by Mr. Cosgrave in the Dáil with a view to influencing the decision of that body. On the point as to whether or not it is fair to differentiate between one Dominion and another, I crave the indulgence of the Committee to read a few sentences which I think are more á propos than the opinion of a gentleman who is not a Member of this House of Commons. These are sentences used by the prime author of the Treaty and one of the first signatories to the Treaty, namely, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Referring to the various difficulties in the way of the creation of the Irish Free State as a Dominion, this is hat he said in this House on the 14th December, 1921, when he was explaining the Articles of Agreement in the Debate on the Address:
There was the difficulty that arose from the geographical and strategical position of Ireland. There was no use saying, 'You must treat Ireland exactly as you treat Canada or Australia. There was Ireland, right across the ocean. The security of this country depends on what happens on this breakwater, this advance post, this front trench of Britain. We knew that, and that was one of the greatest difficulties with which we had to deal. There was no use saying: Apply Dominion Home Rule fully and completely. We had to safeguard the security of this land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1921; col. 32, Vol. 149.]
Then he went on to deal with other difficulties. I think that is an almost conclusive reply to the statement made by the Secretary of State for the Dominions that it is not fair to differentiate between one Dominion and another. Having regard to the long quotation that we have had from Mr. Cosgrave, may I quote a few more words from the same right hon. Gentleman, when this House first had an explanation of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty? It is very á propos indeed to the Statute of Westminster. This is what he said:
The main operation of this scheme is the raising of Ireland to the status of a Dominion of the British Empire—that of a Free State within the Empire, with a common citizenship, and, by virtue of that membership in the Empire and of that common citizenship, owning allegiance to the King…I will explain as best I can the nature and extent of this transaction.
What does 'Dominion status' mean? It is difficult and dangerous to give a definition. When I made a statement at the request of the Imperial Conference to this House as to what had passed at our gathering, I pointed out the anxiety of all the Dominion delegates not to have any rigid definitions. That is not the way of the British constitution. We realise the danger of rigidity and the danger of limiting our constitution by too many finalities. Many of the Premiers delivered notable speeches in the course of that conference, emphasising the importance of not defining too precisely what the relations of the Dominions were with ourselves, what were their powers, and what was the limit of the power of the Crown. It is something that has never been defined by an Act of Parliament, even in this country, and yet it works perfectly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1921; cols. 27–8, Vol. 149.]
I venture to say that those arguments apply equally to-day as they did when the Irish Treaty was first explained to this House by the then Prime Minister. If I may return to the speech with which the learned Solicitor-General concluded the Debate in this House on Friday last, he said:
There is nobody in a responsible position, either in this country or in Ireland, to-day who intends to repeal that Treaty." —[OFFCIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1931; col. 1249, Vol. 259.]
Assuming that to be correct, can anyone say what is the objection to putting in a Clause, or how it can be offensive to people who do not intend to repeal the Treaty to say that this Act of Parliament which we are now passing is not intended to affect the Treaty? If people are so touchy as that, they are not fit to be governing a great Dominion. What on earth is there to object to? Why is the Irish Free State more touchy than Canada? Words are inserted in the cases of Canada, of New Zealand, and of Australia, saying that the great Treaties which affect the constitution of those countries are not affected by this Bill which we are considering. Who are the Irish Free State, who are in far closer relationship and far more intermingled with this country than any of those far-flung Dominions, to be touchy and to take offence if we put in a Clause saying that nothing in this Bill shall affect the Treaty which we are told none of them want to alter?
We have heard that no one wants to alter it, but what about the speeches which have quite recently been delivered
by Mr. Cosgrave on the matter? Then also we have the speeches of the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. McGilligan. For months past, Mr. McGilligan, who was the delegate of the Irish Free State at the Imperial Conference, has announced his intention of introducing legislation which will repeal the appeal to the Privy Council, an integral part of the Treaty. Mr. Cosgrave himself, at the annual Convention of the Government party on the 5th May last, said:
Appeals to the Judicial Committee from our Supreme Court are an anomaly and an anachronism. Their continuance is incompatible with our status, and is au insult to our dignity and sense of fairplay. This appeal must disappear at once.
That is Mr. Cosgrave, who, we are told, looks upon the Treaty as irrevocable. Can anyone say that that is not included or a part of the Treaty? Let me refer to what the then Attorney-General, Sir Douglas Hogg, who is now Lord Hailsham, said, in winding up the Debate on the Irish Constitution Bill on the 27th November, 1922:
If Article 66 were not in, I am inclined to think that there would still be a right of appeal to the Privy Council, because it has been held more than once in the Privy Council that you cannot take away that prerogative of the Crown except by express words; but in order to prevent any doubt on the matter, you have in Article 66 the expressed provision:
'Provided that nothing in this Constitution shall impair the right of any person to petition His Majesty for special leave to petition from the Supreme Court to His Majesty in Council, or the right of His Majesty to grant such leave.'"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1922; cols. 376–7, Vol. 159.]
Yet Mr. Cosgrave says that it is contrary to the dignity and sense of fair play of the Free State Government. Speaking in the Dail on the 17th July, Mr. McGilligan, the Minister for External Affairs, not a nobody, not a more man in the street, but the man responsible for the external relations of the Free State, said:
The British Monarch, as King, was finished entirely so far as the Free State was concerned, and everything done was at the will of the Irish people.
Again, if you refer to the "Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire" which has just been circulated, you will find there a speech by Mr. McGilligan in the Dail, in which he was moving the adoption of the Statute of Westminster, where he says:
No argument…could be upheld that for diplomatic or political purposes the Commonwealth of Nations was one entity. When we agreed to this recital in the form in which it appears…we were simply stating that in the exercise of our sovereign legislative powers, which exist apart from and over and above all other considerations, which are supreme, paramount and uncontrolled, we would have regard to the desirability for uniformity of reference, to the symbol of the association and the desirability for avoidance of legal confusion in regard to the Succession. That is the extent of the meaning of this recital. It assumes the absolute inherent right of each of the Parliaments to legislate for the Crown without regard to these considerations…the summing up of the whole aim and the whole result of the Conferences of 1926, 1928 and 1930: that one had to get completely rid of any power, either actual or feared, that the British Government had in relation to this country.' Because that result had been achieved, he asked the Dail to pass the Resolution.
So much for Mr. Cosgrave and his Minister, but what about the Opposition? After all, there is an election pending in a few weeks' time in Ireland. We have seen cataclysms in this country, and who is to say that Mr. Cosgrave is always going to remain President of the Dail? What about Mr. De Valera, who is the Leader of the Opposition? At the annual Conference of the Fianna Fail party, held in Dublin in October, Mr. De Valera declared:
In regard to our relations with Britain, our attitude will be one of non-co-operation so long as Britain persists in any attempt to enforce the terms of the imposed Treaty upon us.
That is plain speaking, and he is the Leader of the Irish Opposition. Are we entitled to take any risks? He further stated that the oath prescribed by the Treaty must go, and that the office of Governor-General must be assimilated to that of President of the Republic. At the annual Fheis of Siann Feinn, held at Dublin on the 4th October, the President declared:
England is in the mire to-day. England is in the lash of destiny. She has pickled herself for her own trouncing. England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity.
That is not ancient history, but last month. Do let us be practical. Do not let us deal with this matter with washy sentimentality, but let us remember, as Members of the House of Commons, our debt of honour and the assurances we gave not only to the Protestant minority
in Southern Ireland with regard to their religious freedom, but with regard to the Irish harbour rights of the British Navy in time of war, with regard to the limitation of Irish armaments, and with regard to the other things mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton). Quite unconsciously, the Solicitor-General misled the Committee by saying that there was no one of importance in Ireland who now says the Treaty should be torn up.
The hon. and learned Gentleman said:
There is nobody in a responsible position, either in this country or in Ireland, to-day who intends to repeal that Treaty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1931; col. 1249, Vol. 259.]
I have ventured to submit to the Committee sonic reasons why I think that that is not strictly accurate. The Dominions Secretary has said that if you were to put this Clause in the Statute, you would gravely embarrass Mr. Cosgrave. I quite agree that Mr. Cosgrave is a very gallant gentleman, and we all owe him admiration. He has a very difficult task, and I think he has performed it with great courage, so that, speaking personally for myself and, I believe, also for a great many others, we owe him admiration for the courageous way in which he has discharged his task.
But let us look into this matter. Will he be in a worse position if this Clause is passed? I submit that he will not. If this Clause is not passed, the Free State, at any rate legally, can repeal the Irish Free State Constitution, but if the Clause is put in, the Dail cannot legally do that; and if we do not put in this Clause, it will be the chief item of Irish political controversy at every election in the near future. It will be a question of, Will you or will you not repeal the Treaty? And Mr. De Valera will say, "You have now the legal right to do it and it is only your moral sense of responsibility, which is really all wrong, that prevents you," because of the quotation that I have already referred to, in which he said that they were forced into signing the Treaty and did not do it as free men. Even from Mr. Cosgrave's point of view it would be very much better if this proposed Clause were included. I ask the Committee not to be carried away by sentiment in this matter. Let us remember the assurances that were given by the right hon. Member, for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who was then in charge of the Bill in the House of Commons, to the minorities in Ireland, to Ulster, and to the people of Britain, the mother country. Surely it is something at which nobody should take offence if we put into this Statute, which, we understand, is to be the great charter in future of the British Dominions, a Clause saying that the undertakings and agreements of the Treaty which were entered into in 1921 still remain the law of the land of both countries, and that nothing in this Statute will affect them.
I did not intend to take any part in this Debate because unhappily the state of my health does not make it easy for me to undergo the strain of addressing the Committee; and therefore, not only for the sake of the Committee, but, for my own sake, I shall endeavour to make my observations as brief as they possibly can be. I want to make only a single point. It has been stated by the Secretary of State and by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) that President Cosgrave's letter makes it quite clear that the moral obligation of the Treaty remains whatever we decide in respect of this Bill tonight. So far as President Cosgrave and his colleagues go, that is of course quite true and unanswerable. The moral obligation of the Treaty, as far as they and the Irish Government in whose name they speak are concerned is undoubtedly still binding, whatever we do. It is said that we shall only weaken their hands if we put in this proposed new Clause. I am not quite in agreement with that argument, because I believe that it indicates a mistaken theory of Irish psychology. I do not believe, as a matter of fact, that those emotional considerations have anything like the weight in Ireland that they are supposed to have. The decisive body of Irish opinion, which is not always the great majority, really looks to what they conceive to be the national advantage, and that will in future, as in the past, be what will determine their action. I do not want to go into that, because it does not seem to me, either as a fact or as a basis of this Bill, to be any business of ours.
The whole idea of the Bill, whether it be a wise Bill or not, is that each part of the 13ritish Commonwealth of nations should be regarded as equal parts with each other of a common body, each managing their own affairs and only looking to their own affairs in the exercise of their autonomous power. I want to apply that to ourselves. We cannot be blind, however, to the fact that it is possible that moral obligations may he disregarded, because there are certainly politicians in Ireland who do not think that the Treaty is a moral obligation, and who would feel quite justified, and do not conceal their feelings, in breaking the Treaty. It then falls on us to consider what we should do. The Treaty is morally binding, as we conceive it, but, if this Bill passes in its present form, it will be possible to introduce by an Act of the Irish Parliament a vast and, it seems to me, a dangerous ambiguity into the legal position. I assume that we should take measures to enforce the Treaty as against the then Irish Government, but should we be legally justified in doing so if the Irish Parliament, acting in accordance with the Clauses of this Measure, had passed a Statute repealing the Treaty and, let us say, annexing the whole or large part of Northern Ireland? What would be our legal position? I believe that it would be a position of the utmost confusion. Immediately you came within reach of the jurisdiction of the Dominion, you would be in the position of persons who were acting unlawfully and in contravention of the law.
There still remains the theory, which cannot be abolished by this Statute, that there is only one thing which is legal throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations; and from the moment you had a conflict of law, such as I am supposing to arise, and you had the Irish Parliament enacting a law which in our view was an act of rebellion against the Commonwealth of Nations, and certainly a breach of faith, you would have two laws—the law which we obeyed in this country and the law which we were bound to obey immediately we and our soldiers or sailors crossed St. George's Channel. That is surely an unworkable position in which to put ourselves. We cannot be blind to the danger that, although this moral obligation is recognised in the most ex- plicit form by the present Irish Government, it may be disregarded by a future Irish Government; and, if we try to enforce our just claims under the treaty, we might be faced with the absurd position that we should be acting in defiance of the common law of the British Empire. I protest against such a danger, and for that reason I shall support the proposed Clause, although I may not, on account of my health, be able to take part in the Division.
I want to speak for only a few minutes, but I have a great affection for Ireland as I was born there, and I want to see Ireland as happy as it can be, both in the north and the south. I have a further right to speak in that I happened to be serving in Ireland as a soldier during the Rebellion and during the period of the troubles from 1920 to 1922. I saw then the cruel destruction of all public feeling, especially among those who were loyal to Great Britain. That was of course, due to the weakness of the Coalition Government. I saw a friend of mine, Max Reid, a son-in-law of that great Irishman, John Redmond, murdered 10 yards away from me. I only saw the back of the murderer, and it was impossible to get one informer from the scores of people who saw the murder. That shows the utter elimination of public feeling at that time, and I only make this preliminary statement to show that it is essential that we should do nothing to destroy what little confidence there may he left towards Great Britain among the loyal population of Southern Ireland.
Since the Free State Government came into operation in 1922 things have gradually improved. There has been a resurgence of public opinion, based largely on the fact that Mr. Cosgrave has done so amazingly well and that he has gained every confidence in himself and his loyalty to his Treaty obligations, and also because the people of Southern Ireland realise that, even though they may be let down by their own Government through any change in Mr. Cosgrave's position, they still have at the back of them Great Britain and Great Britain's promise that any Irishman has a right of appeal to the Privy Council of Great Britain. That has been one of the strongest levers in reintroducing a publicly-instructed opinion throughout the South of Ireland. At one time you could not get an informer to come forward and give evidence in regard to any crime he had seen, but, now that confidence has been restored, he will do so. Therefore it is more than ever necessary that we should develop that growth of confidence, and support it, by not introducing into the minds of the people of Southern Ireland any suggestion that they are in danger again, that they are likely to be again let down by the British Government, likely to be again thrown back into complete divorce from Great Britain and into whatever fluctuations of politics may ultimately develop in the Free State.
There is no doubt that Mr. Cosgrave wants this Measure to be passed as it stands. I do not blame him. Mr. Cosgrave has many difficulties, and chief amongst those difficulties is the point that he must be more extreme than the extremists, must satisfy the extreme point of view. He wants to stop the efforts of Mr. De Valera to capture the in-between opinion, the moderate opinion between the right and the left, and he can only do that by getting this Measure passed. Otherwise, Mr. De Valera will still have the breaking of the Treaty as the golden object to hold in front of the people of Ireland in the next election. If the Statute goes through in its present form Mr. Cosgrave will undoubtedly be strengthened, but what is going to be the position then? The only programme which Mr. De Valera will have will be the implementing of the Statute, and a barricade will be removed straight away between the peace that at present exists and what may exist in the future.
If the Statute is passed, then Mr. De Valera will go to the country and say, "Now that we have statutory rights with Great Britain, my programme is to implement those rights and to break the Treaty." Of course, that will be a tremendous attraction to a lot of young men, idealistic and nationalistic spirited young men, who have—some of them—nothing else to do; but I do not believe it will appeal—and I want to say this, since Mr. Cosgrave is watching this Debate—to the farmer and to the manufacturer. The farmer in Ireland is far more concerned with the prices he is going to get for his butter, milk and eggs than with whether this Statute of West- minster is passed or not; I doubt whether he even knows that it is in existence. As for the manufacturer, he is tar more concerned about getting payment for the goods he supplies to the farmer. So the real people of Ireland—because the manufacturers and the farmers are 95 per cent. of the population of Southern Ire- land—are solely interested, not in this Statute, not in the cutting away of the final link with Great Britain, but in getting an assurance that their economic situation is improved, and they know that under a De Valera administration, especially if this link is broken, that the economic situation will not be improved.
Supposing the Statute is passed in its present form and the last link is broken and Mr. De Valera comes into power— as he may well do, because there is a very fluctuating vote there at this moment— then what is to be the British Government's attitude in the matter of keeping the Treaty conditions alive? One method of dealing with the situation would be to keep the cattle out and the coal in; in other words, to apply economic pressure. If you kept the cattle of the Irish Free State from coming into Great Britain, and the coal of Great Britain from going into the Irish Free State, in three days' time you would have a complete economic blockade, and—
Suppose that were to happen, does the hon. and gallant Member think the Free State Government would then be legally entitled by statute to violate the Treaty of 1922?
No, I do not think it would, but what I was trying to point out was this, that while we might use such economic pressure to force the Free State Government—under Mr. De Valera, of course—back into a more amenable frame of mind, that it is a policy which would cut both ways. While it would hurt our own friends in the Free State, it would also hurt ourselves, so obviously it would not be one to be used as a means of overcoming the new conditions which would be in existence.
Therefore I come back to this belief that it would be better in the interests of Mr. Cosgrave himself, and certainly better in our own interests and in the interests of the bulk of the Irish people, to maintain the existing position and accept this Amendment. I do not believe it would be for the good of the Irish people to have this Measure passed as it stands. If I thought the bulk of the people of the Irish Free State were in favour of this Measure as it stands I would vote for it willingly, but I do not believe that is their wish—it is merely engendered fear by Mr. Cosgrave that he must spike the guns of his enemy and secure the position which Mr. De Valera otherwise might hold, and that is, the domination of all sections of political opinion in the Irish Free State. I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment, and previously I have spoken in favour of a postponement of this vital question, and I suggest that now, even at this late stage, he might consider having further conversations with Mr. Cosgrave to find out whether he could take a referendum of the people. If that were possible it would be shown clearly to Mr. Cosgrave and this country that the Measure in its present form is not required.
I had a full opportunity on Friday of stating the misgivings, and, indeed, the objections, which I personally entertain to this Measure in its present unamended form, and as I listened this Afternoon, first of all to the long and discursive Debate upon various constitutional points, and, secondly, to the Debate on this Amendment, I am bound to say that my opposition to the Bill was not in any way mitigated. I shall not repeat the arguments which I submitted to the House last week, but as I listened to the speech of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs I could not help feeling that it put the case on a false and disproportioned basis. We see defects in the Statute. We wish that its legal form and shape could have been more in harmony with the traditions, at least, of the British Constitution, but we are committed to the Statute and we do not see how in this House and at this time we have the power to re-shape that Statute in detail.
If only this Measure had been committed to a Joint Committee of both Houses, on which the great lawyers of the House of Lords, whose names and legal authority are respected in all the Dominions, could in perfect frankness and sincerity have examined this matter, and smoothed off the unfortunate terms of phrase and of provisions which are in it, I am certain it would have been possible to present this matter again to the Dominions—there being no hurry for it—and to obtain from them some reconsideration of certain points. While we show every respect and attention to the wishes and views of the Dominions, and are always anxious to defer to their desires, still, the Mother Country must sometimes have a wish or point of view of its own, and I cannot believe that that wish, that point of view, when strongly and reasonably felt, might not be accepted in the family circle of the British Empire or, if you are afraid of the word "Empire," as you seem to be, in the family circle of the British Commonwealth of Nations—with at least as much good will as we have shown towards the wishes which the Dominions have expressed to us. So much for the present Statute.
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs argued as if those who had expressed misgivings about these proposals were opposed to the resolutions of 1926 out of which this Statute has been born. That is not the position. There has been no attack on the main principles of the Bill, and there has been no opposition to the Statute as a whole. There is only one important point of principle at issue at the present time, and that is whether the Statute of Westminster should include a saving Clause for the Irish Treaty Act. That is the sole question before us. The Secretary of State made an impassioned speech, which seemed to imply that the relations between Great Britain and Ireland, now so much improved, would be fatally thrown back if we were to insert in the text of the Bill the words which have been proposed by my right hon. and gallant Friend. I do not think that it is an unjustified demand that we should insert those words. What has astonished me is that the Government have never disputed the principle that Clause 2 of the Statute gives legal power to the Irish Parliament to repeal the application to Ireland of the Irish Free State Act of 1922. I imagined that we should hear this disputed by legal authorities. We have heard other legal authorities on the subject, but it has not been disnuted by the Government. If, for instance, the Solicitor-General had said, "Your fears are groundless, and nothing in this Act will give power to repeal the Act on which the Treaty rests," then I should have said, "We are friends, because, if our objects are the same, you cannot object to words being inserted which secure your purpose and ours as well."
I did not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he has made a statement which I desire to say is not quite in accordance with the facts. The right hon. Gentleman says that no dispute has been raised as to the unqualified power, if this Bill is passed, of the Irish Free State to abrogate or to abolish the Treaty. That was certainly challenged in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Somervell), and I repeated that challenge in my speech, and said that in my humble judgment the Constitution could not be amended, having regard to Article 50 of the Treaty, except in accordance with the Treaty.
I fully apprehend the very important statement which the Solicitor-General has just made. Apparently, there is a doubt as to whether this Act does or does not give power to repeal the Treaty. The Solicitor-General reassures the House that, in his opinion, it gives no such power. On the other hand, we have had legal authorities expressing an opinion to the contrary. If the Government think that the Act will not throw any strain upon the Trish Free State, and we hope so too, why cannot we be united in inserting words which put this matter beyond doubt. If it he true that this Statute invalidates the Treaty Act, and the supporters of the Bill hope that it will not do so, let us make our hopes secure by putting in the simple words which my right hon. and gallant Friend seeks to introduce in the Bill.
I listened with great attention to the letter from President Cosgrave which was read in order to influence our decision. I have great admiration for President Cosgrave, and I know how faithfully he has stood by all the obligations entered into by his late colleagues who were signatories of the Treaty, and I have known this for many years. I do feel, however, that this is a matter which ought not to be decided upon personal assurances by individuals. We have to consider what should be the settled legal foundation to put our Constitution right. President Cosgrave is the most long-lived Prime Minister of any of the Dominions, but to say that the Irish Free State Government is the most stable of Dominion Governments is to ignore the fact that the Irish Government have been forced to adopt extreme powers unknown to ordinary law, and almost amounting to martial law, in order to protect he people against lawless acts of terrorism and outrage. The Government in Ireland, which is now ruling the country by exceptional legislation far exceeding the drastic powers of any Coercion Act passed by this House, is possessed of a majority varying between three or four, and which has sometimes risen to five or six. A general election is approaching in Ireland, and I cannot feel that we shall be held up to reproach and censure in this House because we are insisting on our rights and upon our legal claims. Having received an assurance from President Cosgrave which does him honour, and which I am sure he would make good with his last drop of blood, I ask why the insertion of the words of this Amendment is held to be derogatory to us.
We may consider ourselves bound, as far as possible, by the Treaty Act. When the Treaty was passing through this House I said that we had no right to sanction the conditions of that Treaty. An hon. Member has mentioned Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and every one of those Dominions have insisted upon having the Foundation Act made immune from the new powers of repeal which are accorded by this Statute. Some hon. Members say what about South Africa? The Solicitor-General, in his speech on Friday, made a great point of South Africa. When I came to study the matter more at leisure than was possible in the course of that Debate, I was very much shocked to see how hurriedly the hon. and learned Gentleman must have had to get up his brief on this question. He said, referring to what I had said:
If the Treaty or the Constitution of the Irish Free State is, against her expressed wish, to be put into this Bill, a similar course will presumably have to be taken with regard to the Constitution of South Africa, and I do not know whether my right hon. Friend "—
that is me—
would think it was consistent with the dignity of that Dominion, which he did so much to set on its way, to put into this Bill a provision that its Constitution shall not be broken and its entrenchment Clauses shall not be repealed contrary to every good faith and sense of honour …"—OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1931; col. 1247, Vol. 259.]
His argument is that to put this saving for the Irish Treaty into the Statute of Westminster in respect of Ireland would be derogatory to Ireland, and a great reflection upon Ireland which we should not care to see the Dominions Secretary apply to South Africa. I will read the Resolution which the South African Parliament passed after considering the provisions of this very Statute of Westminster Bill:
That, on the understanding that the proposed legislation will in no way derogate from the entrenched provisions of the South Africa Act, this House, having taken cognisance of the draft Clauses;and recitals which it was proposed by the Imperial Conference of 1930 should "—
and so on. Here, therefore, is South Africa itself by resolution approving of the insertion of the very same provision that we ask should now be inserted in respect of the Irish Treaty. The Irish Treaty finds no counterpart in the relations between us and any of our Dominions. It is at once more recent, more tragical and more solemn than any other instrument that exists, going even as far back as the Articles of the Treaty of Vereeniging. But this Irish Treaty, may at no distant date become a matter of grave, real, practical politics. Suppose that a change of Government should occur in Ireland, you will be immediately confronted with a very grave crisis on this Treaty, and will be held responsible if you weaken in any way the moral —and in the moral I include the legal—rights of this country to defend the Treaty. We are in such a pusillanimous mood, apparently, that it almost has to be made a matter of apology, almost regarded as an act of impropriety, for any British representative to put forward modestly and politely, with studious and calculated courtesy, claims which are indefeasible in law. This Irish Treaty represented only what could be saved from the wrecks of great Imperial authorities, but, such as they were, they were of the greatest value, and they were fought for in the controversies between
the two countries. We ask that the same saving shall be given with regard to this Treaty as is given in this Measure to every other one of the Dominions in respect of their fundamental laws, and which South Africa itself sought in its resolution to impose upon itself.
I am not going to keep the Committee any longer. The right hon. Gentleman is about to address us, and we must listen with the very greatest respect to all that he says, not only because I know it will be heartfelt and sincere, and will aim at helping the House out of its difficulties and offering to it assurance and comfort, but also because my right hon. Friend is the lord of legions. If Providence is on the side of the big battalions, he, no doubt, has the Divine blessing resting upon him to-night. Not only has he this magnificent majority with which the nation has provided him on this occasion, but he will also have the assistance, should this matter go to a Division, of the defeated army. The Socialists will be able to march into line, and the Dominions Secretary and the Prime Minister will be able to make that reunion to which they assure us they are looking forward. I say to them, "You will have your way, and you will have the responsibility. We have found it to be our duty to protest. We have made our protest. We are satisfied, after all that has been said in this Debate, that, in asking that this safeguard and provision should be inserted in the Statute, we have done no unworthy thing."
I do not think that, during an experience of 30 years in this House, I have ever witnessed so extraordinary an exhibition as I have just seen. Nor have I ever listened to a more mischievous speech than that of the right hon. Gentleman. He concluded his speech with an attack on his Leader. Since this new National Parliament was elected, the right hon. Gentleman has made many interventions into our Debates. I would like to ask him what precisely is his position in the public life of England; whom does he represent; what principles does he hold; and who is his Leader? [Hon. MEMBERS: "Who is yours?"] I am my own leader, and I differ from the right hon. Gentleman in this, that I am probably a solitary Member in this House, because I have never departed from my principles. The right hon. Gentleman has had a varied career. No one in this House has a more profound personal regard for him than I have; no one listens to him with such intellectual delight as I do; I think that this House and the public life of this country are enriched by the magnificent talents which he possesses. But, if there is one thing that I could never conceive myself doing in any circumstances, it is following the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman. I came into this House 30 years ago. The right hon. Gentleman was then a Unionist. He was not only a Unionist, but he was a Free Trader. I was very young and very unenlightened, but I was modest enough to hope that I might be like him. I sat at his feet and listened to his magnificent speeches on behalf of Free Trade. Because he became a Free Trader, he transferred himself to these benches. He was a Unionist, and he became a Home Ruler. He joined the Coalition Cabinet, and he remained in that Cabinet and, as a Coalitionist Minister, he carried the Treaty. I do not know precisely where he stands to-day, what are his principles, or—
We shall see. The right hon. Gentleman insults Ireland by this suggestion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] Will he give me a single instance where, in any arrangement between Ireland and this country, Ireland has ever broken its word? I remember the time when Mr. John Redmond was denounced in this House and out of it as badly as you are denouncing Mr. De Valera. Mr. John Redmond gave you his word of honour that, if you conceded the constitutional principle which you afterwards incorporated in your Treaty, of the right of Ireland to govern itself, Ireland would become a loyal member of this Empire. You sold the living and now you want to betray the dead. Mr. Redmond went to his grave because he was an honourable friend of this country. When the great Imperial emergency arose, and when an appeal was made to the whole world, and to all the English-speaking parts of the world, to rally to this country in her time of Imperial danger, Mr. Redmond suffered the unpopularity which drove him to his grave by taking your side. I am about the last survivor of that movement. I was also one of those men who helped you in the War. We were absolutely betrayed, and the result of that betrayal was to produce such a condition of things in Ireland that your name became a by-word during those fateful years. Those who entered into this contract with these men—
The right hon. Gentleman with others. He admits that he was one of the chief architects of that structure called the Treaty, which we are discussing to-night. He defended it in the House. I believe some of the most eloquent speeches that he made were in favour of this Treaty. He was sincerely anxious to carry it out. That I will admit. Then, when it becomes an operative weapon in the hands of Ireland and in the hands of England, when an occasion of this character presents itself, he desires to insult Ireland by saying, "Although we gave you a constitution equal to the constitution of Canada, we will now make reservations and say, that while that was the Treaty that was accepted, a Treaty based upon Dominion Home Rule such as Canada possesses, yet later on we shall see that, when we say to Canada and to South Africa and to Australia that you are to be in the full enjoyment of domestic home rule and that this Westminster Statute, which is, as I understand it, a Statute which is to-day being legalised by Parliamentary sanction to carry out the will not of Ireland but the will of the Imperial council, not only constituted of representatives of Australia and Canada and Africa and the Free State but of this country as well—although that Imperial Conference on which Ireland was represented agreed to this provision that was to be made a Statute of this House, we will put a special Clause in to say, "All except Ireland."
At Canada's request. At all events, as I visualise it, you are going to pass this Statute of Westminster and, concurrently with its passing, you are going to insult Ireland. You are going to say you will not trust Ireland, although I have challenged the right hon. Gentleman now for the third time to give us one solitary instance where any compact, arrangement or compromise was arrived at between this country and Ireland and Ireland has ever broken that arrangement or has been false to that compromise.
Go and ask de Valera. You know him better than I do. I am not speaking for Mr. Cosgrave. I am speaking as an Irish representative returned here to express my own opinions, and I am here to express those opinions. What is the cause of this Debate? It is that there still remains in this country a most mischievous and dangerous element that seems to live and thrive upon the creation and the fostering of bitter passions between the two races. From whom did we first hear the sound of battle? From Lord Carson. He has been the most mischievous influence in the public life of these islands during the last 30 years. When you talk about de Valera, remember your own rebels. Who taught de Valera? I did not invite this controversy, but, if you want a controversy, you are going to have that controversy. He started the first rebellion. Out of that rebellion sprang the Irish rebellion. The spirit that was created in Ireland wafted itself to Egypt and to India. The architects of this movement were the inspiring agents of all the mischief which has brought misery on the whole world during the past few years.
Here in this House now Lord Carson once again is responsible for the creation of that spirit which has been expressed so bitterly in the speeches that have been delivered here to-night—not only Lord Carson, but those who have carried on the Debate, who are his comrades. They are all diehards. I have watched them in all the controversies and all the Debates in the House for the last 30 years. They are there, bitterly hating Ireland, endeavouring, when they cannot beat her, to humiliate her, to put indignities on the nation which is keeping its word. That is the purpose of this Amendment and no other, and it is because I feel, as an Irishman, that that;is the main and only purpose of the Amendment that I am here to oppose it. I know that my speech to-night will probably prevent many of the Conservative party from voting with the Government who would do so if I did not make this speech. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quite so!"] Very well, you can vote as you please. But my business here is to speak the truth as I understand it. If I have misrepresented the situation, there are plenty of silent Members, especially those who have not yet made their maiden speeches, who will have an opportunity of traversing the statements I have made.
Take the other point—the chief point that I wanted to make when I rose. I have heard a great deal here to-night about the interests of the minorities of Ireland. We have heard a great deal about minorities. This is a House of Commons which knows little about Ireland. I have never known a House of Commons in my life that knew anything about Ireland. May I tell the Horse that a more disgraceful betrayal of a minority has never been known than the betrayal of the minority for whom I speak in this House? They want to save the minority in Southern Ireland from the majority of their countrymen. When the Free State Constitution was put into operation, one-half of the Senators in Southern Ireland created by the Free State Government belonged to the minority. There were nine judges of the High Court in Southern Ireland and five of them belonged to the minority. The largest number of chief civil servants in Southern Ireland belonged to the minority class. There never was a case where a minority was so magnanimously treated as the minority was treated in Southern Ireland. In fact, a great many people in Southern Ireland believe, and have said; it on the platform, that the Free State, is now dominated by those who are known as the minority in Southern Ireland. Generosity, toleration, concession, every spirit of good will that can be manifested has been shown towards the minority.
The minority—and I give them credit for it—recognise the justice and the magnanimity that has been shown to them. Protestant ministers, Protestant bishops, leading public men in every branch of public activity, commercial, industrial and professional, have got there by the warm and generous toleration of the Free State Government towards that minority who are to be protected, according to the right hon. Gentleman here tonight. They have not asked you to interfere. They do not ask you to come here to be their defenders. They are quite satisfied to accept these proposals without any amendment whatever. Why should they be mentioned at all. There is another minority, and they are the minority for whom I speak. And since you have introduced minorities' and have made this House to-night the platform for the degradation of Ireland- —[Interruption]—yes, that is what it is—I want to tell you something about minorities. Under a Government created by you in Northern Ireland—half the Senators in Southern Ireland are Protestant there is not a single Catholic in. Northern Ireland appointed as Senator.
The hon. Gentleman says that they did not get sufficient Senators in Northern Ireland at the commencement of the Northern Government. Is it not a fact that he was a quitter and that he kept away from Northern Ireland and ignored the Northern Government altogether?
The judges were not all away, the magistrates were not all away, and the civil servants were not all away. I must remind my hon. Friend that he is not now in Northern Ireland, but in this Parliament. Mark you this, the minority in Southern Ireland constitute 7 per cent. of the population and they get five judges out of nine, and they have all the higher places—Civil Service and official. They have received every possible advantage that any party could have with 7 per cent. of the population. We in Northern Ireland have 33⅓ per cent. of the population, but not one of our people was appointed to the Senate; and of the judges, we had not one.
This is one of the few opportunities that have been presented to us, because as long as you kept your word and as long as you kept the House free from the passions and controversies of Irish affairs and were willing to honour your bond and leave Ireland—even [...]adly treated as part of it is—alone, I had no desire to interfere. But when you make this House the arena for the discussion of Irish affairs, I decline to be silenced, and I refuse to be denied my right to state my aspect of this question. As I said, there was not a single representative of the minority in the Senate. Why does the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for this Treaty, raise his voice on behalf of the minority? Why did he not raise his voice in favour of giving 33⅓ per cent. of the population in Northern Ireland even a tithe of representation in the Senate? After all, the respect for law and justice is determined by the purity and the freedom of the courts of justice, free from political partisanship. We have not a single Catholic judge. You gave proportional representation as a guarantee that the minority would have fair representation. That proportional representation was abolished. One would not mind it being abolished, but what did they proceed to do? They proceeded so to jerrymander the constituencies that I am returned in the Northern Parliament with 60,000 votes and one of my Unionist colleagues in an adjoining constituency is returned with 20,000 votes. [Interruption.] Now listen to me. You are all new Members of this House. This may be a pleasant experience for you at the commencement of this Parliament, but before you are long in this House, not on the issue of Ireland but on many other issues, you will find much more unpleasant experiences than the experience of listening to me. If you take the case of the schools—
May I point out that one of the most cogent arguments—if any of their arguments were cogent—put forward by the protagonists here on this side and on that show that they were anxious to secure that the minority rights should be safeguarded. That was one of the arguments advanced. I can see the hypocrisy of the whole transaction. This question might have been raised constantly since I came into the House, but I have remained silent and preferred to be one of the bondage minority to remain silent rather than to embarrass this country or to raise controversies that would embitter feelings and passions over the Irish question. But they have created this opportunity—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and I am taking advantage of it.
With all respect, it is concerned with this matter, because the argument put forward, not once, but twenty times in the Debate, was that they are anxious to preserve their minority rights and to see that the minority shall not be subjected to ill-treatment at the hands of the Free State. That was their argument. I want to put it to you, and to the Committee, and I claim that right, that never was there a greater piece of insolence, impudence or misrepresentation than for them to come here and talk about the minority of 7 per cent. in the South of Ireland, which enjoys every privilege of the majority, and then to plead and whine about their minority rights where they have a majority and they treat 33½ per cent. of the population in the manner that I have described. I thank you very much for allowing me to go so far.
I come now to the speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Marjoribanks), who has taken such a prominent part in the Debate. He suggested that this question ought to have been delegated to a qualified body of legal experts. That was a curiously cynical commentary upon the legal experts who were present at the Imperial Conference. I do not know anything about the Imperial Conference, but I take it that so long as it was guided by a wise man like the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, when he went into the Imperial Conference he would see that the interests of this country were efficiently defended by the best legal power that he could secure. I take it also that the legal representatives from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada were lawyers of considerable eminence, certainly as eminent as any that would be selected by the hon. Member for Eastbourne. I read a statement in the "Times" the other day. If I made no speech at all, the two branches of this subject have been dealt with by the "Times" in an infinitely more effective manner than I could deal with them, first upon the merits of the question and, secondly, upon its legal aspect. The "Times" says:
If there is no enthusiasm for the Statute, there is, and there need be, no apprehension as to the practical effect of such a document on the unity of the Empire. The old unity, based on the Supremacy of the Government and Parliament in Great Britain is already a thing of the past. The new unity towards which the Empire is striving is a unity which is based on free and equal co-operation. Such co-operation will he made not more difficult but easier by clearing away the last vestiges of inequality.
Then they come to the legal aspect and I commend what they say to the hon. Member for Eastbourne:
At the Royal Empire Society last week Lord Hailsham"—
I wonder if the hon. Member has ever heard of Lord Hailsham? I never knew Lord Hailsham personally. I was not a Member of this House while he was in it, but I understand he is a man of commanding Parliamentary ability, who skilfully directed the affairs of the Tory party at the time that the Tory party was trying to upset the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. As a reward for his brilliant services in defending the flag at the moment of its danger he was sent to the House of Lords, and became Lord Chancellor. Therefore, whether the hon. Member for Eastbourne knows him or not, I take it that that which inspires the hon. Member in the Parliamentary affairs of this House is largely due to the stepfatherly, parental care with which Lord Hailsham has guided him. Here is what the "Times" said:
the Royal Empire Society last week Lord Hailsham agreed with Mr. Bruce that the enactment of the Statute was not likely to make any real difference, but he did not think it was equally true to say that its rejection would make no real difference. The Balfour Declaration, he said, had done a great deal to wipe away misgivings and to establish confidence, especially in the newer Dominions, and, as the Statute of Westminster was regarded by them as the legal expression of that declaration its rejection by the British Legislature might revive all the old suspicions.
That is what I say. That is what your leaders said and that is what Lord Hail-sham's stepson ought to agree with.
That seems to sum up the common sense of the matter. There can be no doubt that it would be disastrous to run any risk of reviving those suspicions, especially at a moment when the great need of the Empire is to secure common action to meet the economic difficulties from which all its members are suffering.
Therefore, we have it from the "Times" that the policy that is being pursued by the Government in relation to this matter is the only effective policy, and it commands the approval and support of the leading organ of Conservatism. We have it from Lord Hailsham, a, lawyer of eminence, an ex-Lord Chancellor, a Member of the present Government, the Secretary of State for War. He has covered the whole ground from a seat on the Woolsack to a seat in the War Office; he knows everything and, therefore, is capable of giving direction and guidance. He does not change his opinions, like the right hon. Member for
Epping, but remains faithful to the Tory party. What other lawyers' opinion does the hon. Member for Eastbourne want, when he has the opinion of the ex-Lord Chancellor, a present Leader of the Tory party, a man whose gifts of eminence are recognised by all parties? The "Times" and Lord Hailsham are agreed not only on the wisdom of this Measure but on the unwisdom of inserting into it such a provision of suspicion as that which has been suggested in the Amendment before the House, and supported by the right hon. Member for Epping. For these reasons the House would be well advised to support the Government in this matter.
It is well known that I am not a supporter of the present Government, but I will vote for them on this occasion. I will always vote for them when they are right. I have never had very strong economic convictions. To me Free Trade and Protection were never anything more than changing aspects of our economic and industrial life. I am prepared to give a vote as an independent Member upon any question that presents itself to me as one of value to the nation, but when an occasion of this character arises, I see the evil, mischievous spirit existing among ancient politicians who for 40 years have never forgotten anything and never learned anything. If you go back to the time when Gladstone first introduced his Home Rule Bill, he proposed a Measure that would have satisfied the aspirations of the Irish people and would have relieved this country of all the bitterness and hatreds that have been impregnated in the poisoned public life of the country, and have caused hatred of this country among many people who would be friendly to it. When I think of the 40 years that were lost which might have been given to legislation for the benefit of this country and the welfare of its people, when I think that probably if Home Rule had been granted then there would never have been any war, I still claim that the roots of all this mischievous growth all over Europe commenced with the spirit of rebellion which permeated a party in this country and spread and spread into every part of the world.
Those of us who hold that view and who supported Gladstone's policy are still anxious to see good relations between this country and Ireland. Anything to insult Ireland, to belittle her Constitution, to rob her of any of her privileges will undoubtedly create discord there and mutual hatred between the two peoples. I speak as I do, although I have never been very enthusiastic about this treaty. I stood for a united Ireland, an Ireland of one Parliament. I believe that that would have been the real and genuine solution of that question. Lister to-day would have been happier, economically sounder, and more commercially stable it that had happened. But that was not the way it happened. The English statesmen decided to divide the country and, since the country is divided, I can have no great love for the treaty. I stand here to speak for those who supported it because they spoke for Ireland at the time. They did more than speak for Ireland. They took their lives in their hands to put this treaty through. Some of them lost their lives and nearly everyone has made great sacrifices for the mutual relations between the two countries. To tell these men that they are not to be trusted and that the nation that trusts them is not to be trusted is the negation of all magnanimous treatment by one nation to another. Therefore, as I say, we shall vote on this occasion for the Government.
The moment is opportune for intervening with a few words before we pass from this Amendment. I regret very much that a longstanding engagement in Yorkshire prevented my being here on Friday, but I must confess that I did what I rarely do. I read every word of Friday's Debate in the OFFICIAL REPORT. There are advantages in reading great orations in cold print. It is like watching a slow motion picture of a conjurer. I read through the Debate because much of the discussion on Friday was germane to the subject of this Amendment. I have been very much struck by how to-day there have been, as it were, atavistic impulses urging the House on and we have been reminded of old unhappy things of long ago. There is a, tendency, in concentrating on Ireland, to lose sight of the fundamental question here, which is the question of Imperial relationship, a vastly more important one and pregnant as regards the future. I wish to bring the House back to that and to explain why in my view I cannot support this Amendment, although there are the names of many old friends of mine to it, many of them friends of long years standing. We do differ honestly and conscientiously on this matter. I wish to give my reasons for I have listened with patience to all that they have had to say.
Very likely a number of Members newer to the House have not realised some of our political history in the last half dozen years. One speaker in the Debate spoke as though this question of status among the Dominions had merely been taken up because we had denied them an opportunity of discussing fiscal questions. I do not entirely agree with that. There is no doubt that one of the results of the War, as I have often said in this House, was to speed up the political development of many countries, and it speeded up enormously the political development and consciousness of every Dominion in the Empire. So it was that, in those early years after the War, those great nations of the Empire, fully conscious—and we ought to sympathise with them—of what they had done in the War, were most anxious to discuss from every angle with the Mother Country the question of status and to get formal acknowledgment of the position which they had reached by the normal process, although speeded up, of political development. That was the attitude of the 1926 Conference.
I am quite sure that when many of my colleagues at the time saw the result of the discussions, when they saw that brilliant report of Lord Balfour, it brought them up with a shock to realise how things had changed from the Empire that we knew when we were young. We suddenly realised that the other nations of the Empire were grown up; they were for all practical purposes independent. The days of tutelage were over. We entered into a new relationship. When I was trying in 1929 or 1930 to get more clearly this condition into words, I regretted the necessity—we all did—but it had to be done. It may be that, if a Government with another complexion had been in office, some things might have been done a little differently. I do not know; the opportunity did not arise. But what was done was done by a British Government, and we cannot go back on what has been done by a British Government.
I think it right to preface my observations with those remarks and I wish to examine this Amendment, first, as to whether the Amendment will accomplish what its spokesmen desire, and, secondly, whether, if it does accomplish that or not, it is wise or right of this country to insist on the insertion of those words in this particular Act of Parliament. In my own view, the words are futile to effect what their authors desire, and, so far as the wisdom of putting those words in is concerned, I believe that, if we insisted upon it, it would be disastrous to the whole Empire. I will say a word or two about that. Many Members in the House now will have heard the intervention of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip). I am not surprised that there are differences between constitutional lawyers as to the exact effect of this legislation as regards the power to interfere with existing Treaties. I am advised by the Law Officers of the Crown that the binding character of the Articles of Agreement will not be altered by one jot or tittle by the passing of the Statute.
I have listened with the greatest care to all the speeches that have been made, and I recognise the quality of them. We have had two speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), by common consent the most powerful debater and greatest orator in this House. We had a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), one of the most acute intellects in this House. Frankly, though I have tried my best to follow the advantages that they see in inserting these words, I cannot do it. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Oxford University, seems to think that it would make a great deal of difference, supposing there were what, in fact, would be a rebellion in Ireland, if that rebellion were illegal. [Interruption.] The whole Committee is in agreement in believing that the present. Irish Government will adhere with perfect faith and honour to the Treaty, but many hon. Members seem to feel difficulties about what may happen, and they are very anxious that, if serious difficulties occur, they should be conducted on a legal basis. I can almost see my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) on the 30th January, 1649, paying a visit to Cromwell and saying to him: "Do you know that you have committed an illegal action?"
If the Treaty is to be repudiated in such a manner, there would be no question of Statute law. The repudiation would have to be dealt with otherwise. The sanctity of the Treaty, which has been acknowledged over and over again in the fullest and most generous sense by Irishmen—the great sanction of that Treaty, is that it is a Treaty. I speak as a layman. I do not know whether I am using the right words in law, but I do know what a Treaty is and the Irish Government knows what a Treaty is. That Treaty will be just as binding, so I am advised after the passing of this Statute as before. This also occurs to me: The Treaty has been scheduled to the Constitution by the Dail, sitting as a constituent assembly, and in it are contained provisions for the Amendment of the Constitution only within the terms of the scheduled Treaty. Thus, the Dail now can only legally modify the Constitution in conformity with the Treaty, which is actually embedded in the Irish Free State Constitution. I think this country has every security.
I come immediately from that to what I said at the beginning of this short speech of mine was the crux of the whole question. The crux is our imperial relationship. In 1926, in the report dealing with the operation of the Dominions legislation, it is placed on record that the constitutional practice is that legislation by the Parliament of Westminster, applied to a Dominion, would only be passed with the consent of the Dominion concerned. We gave Canadian status to Ireland, and we gave it freely. The Dominions have all been consulted throughout with regard to this legislation. Australia and Canada have, it is true, asked for special provisions to be inserted in the Bill. South Africa and Ireland have asked that such special provision should not be inserted, because they believe that all the protection that is needed lies in their Constitution, and they both feel that any, I say "restrictive"—it will do for my purpose—Clause or Amendment in the Bill is a reflection on their good faith.
Now, this is what I want to say: We may think we are only dealing with Ireland in these matters. Let me remind the House—and anyone who has had work to do in the Imperial Conference since the War will know the truth of what I am saying. The Dominions are rightly and properly very jealous of their status and they are jealous of each other's status as regards the Mother Country, and if you think that you can do something which offends Ireland, and is only going to offend Ireland, you make the mistake of your lives. You are going to offend, not only the Irish Free State, but you are going to offend every Irishman in Australia, in Canada and in the United States of America. You will offend every. Dominion, even the most British of them, and none will feel it more than Canada, which is often held up to us as an example. I can think of nothing more fatal for this House to do, a Tory House of Commons, full of Tories, than to think, with Dominions that enjoy a state of economic equality based on Treaties, and a conference to be held this year in Ottawa, that by inserting these words against the will of the Dominions, and particularly trying to do it in regard to South Africa, they are helping that cause for which many of us have fought for a whole generation. Not a bit They will set it back far years. It is because of that and because of the Imperial side of it, because it may go out to the world that, for all our talk, we do not trust the Dominions, and that Dominion status means nothing to us, that I oppose this new Clause. I am not interested in a great part of the discussion that has taken place on it, because it really does not touch the big principle. The big principle is the thing. I do warn my hon. Friends that they may make a very grave mistake in the relationship of the whole of the Empire by accepting these words.
I would say one final word. I have said that many of my friends, and many of them very old friends, are supporting this new Clause. I would like to say that I recognise the sincerity of their views. I know that it is not done to be troublesome. It is done on the part of many of them as a matter of conscience. I do not share it, but I respect it. I should expect to see them vote for their Clause, and I do not feel in any way that they are voting against the party or that they have got anything against me. They have a perfect right to do it. I ask those, for whom this is not a matter of conscience but largely of old-time association, to try to judge the matter from the larger point of view, and from the point of view of the whole Empire, to see that this new Clause is defeated by a substantial majority.
I should not have attempted to intervene in this discussion except that we do not propose to give a perfectly silent vote on this occasion. The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to include a gibe about our numbers. Whether we are one, or whether we are 50, we have our individual and collective right to state our view. On this issue we shall go into the Lobby for the sole purpose of registering what has been the policy of the Labour party ever since it was a Labour party. We do not think that you can hold people together, either by bits of paper or by force. We think that you can only hold one country to another if the countries give consent. We think that the Irish people, being part of the Dominions, ought to be trusted and dealt with in exactly the same manner as any other Dominion. We do not take the view at all that the Irish people, as was once said, have a double dose of original sin.
I happen to have heard the Debates in this House on this subject for very many years. I have heard the Noble Lard the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) many times on the Irish question, and he has always been wrong. He conscientiously believes what he says, but he conscientiously believes the wrong thing. He does not believe in trusting other people. He does not believe that self-government should ever have been given to Ireland. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Evidently others think the same thing. Therefore to-night, by a side wind, they want in some way to treat Ireland in a derogatory fashion. We maintain that if you are to have a British commonwealth of nations every partner in that commonwealth must be treated as an equal partner. Because of that and for no other reason we are going into the Lobby in support of the Bill, not at all because we like going in with the National Government—[Laughter.] Certainly, we hate and detest most of the things that the Government want to do and nearly everything that they have done. We shall go into the Lobby because we are part of the British House of Commons, and because we want to register our own view on this particular question.
Those who try to infer that we have not a right, or, because we are a small party, that we ought to stand on one side while others have their quarrel out about something that many of them do not understand, are making a very great mistake. We not only propose to vote on such questions as this, but we propose to take advantage of the rights we have as Members of saying why we do it; and the reason we are doing it to-night is not that we love the Front Bench, but because for once they are carrying out a piece of good Socialist policy, which is that if we have a commonwealth of nations it shall be a free partnership of nations, of people who are in that commonwealth because they want to be in it and not because they are forced into it.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir WILLIAM ALLEN:
The House has listened very patiently to one Irishman, who has made an irrelevant speech, and I would ask indulgence for about five minutes in order to reply. I am very sorry that the hon. Member raised a great deal of the old bitterness that used to occupy the hours of the House to midnight and onwards. I want to refer to one part of his speech which, personally, I resented very much, that is to say, the words he used about one of the greatest Irishmen who ever stood in this House, Lord Carson. The hon. Member called Lord Carson's followers "rebels" I was one of them, and delighted to be one, and as a result I have no doubt whatever that I am as loyal a citizen of the British Empire as any Member of the House of Commons. Lord Carson is not here to defend himself. I am sure he does not wish that I should do so further than to say what I have said, that I was proud and always have been to call Lord Carson my leader. With regard to some of the remarks of the Secretary of State for the Dominions, I have not so much to take exception to them as to complain of what was admitted from his speech. He has referred several times since Friday to the sacrifices of those who procured the Treaty, but never a sentence, never a word about the sacrifices of those who laid down their lives or were compelled to lay down their lives in the protection of the rights of the loyalists of Ireland in that horrible time. Never a word did the right hon. Gentleman say of what was done, those outrages, those murders—[Interruption.]
On a point of Order. If any hon. Gentleman makes allusions to things that are not historical may he not be contradicted? The hon. Gentleman has alluded to murders. I say I have a right to interrupt him.
Sir W. ALLEN:
I have not the slightest objection to interruptions of that character. I am only replying to what has already been stated or insinuated on several occasions by other speakers. I am not going to give a silent vote on this question without at least registering the opinion of myself and my friends, no matter whom it may please. The Secretary for the Dominions referred on several occasions to those who had sacrificed themselves. All I want to do is to put in a plea for others who also sacrificed much, who lost their homes, lost everything, lost their liberty; and that is what is going on in Southern Ireland to-day, and hon. Members opposite know it. The Secretary for the Dominions has left an impression on the House of the great unanimity of all the other Dominions connected with this matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. The very preamble of the Bill talks about the delegates united in conference. And this great thing was evolved. Whom did the delegates represent? We do not know. We do know, from the speeches in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, that there was considerable opposition to anything of the kind. Why then does the right hon. Gentleman come here and say that there was great unanimity and that it is the demand of the Dominions that this should be done? It is nothing of the kind and it is necessary only to read the speeches to find that that is so. Several have been very careful to exclude themselves practically from the operation of the Bill. Now, because someone here has decided that at least there will be some guarantee in Ireland that the Treaty which was given to Ireland shall be kept, of course we are told that this is all wrong.
When I was speaking in the House last week I said that I came here and was sent here as a supporter of the National Government. That is perfectly true. But I did not come here as a supporter of a National Government whose business it was to introduce Bills of this kind. On this point I am entirely free. To-night I shall vote against the Government. I do not call it a National Government as regards this question. I call it a Coalition Government. Unfortunately, we had a Coalition Government before and it was that Coalition Government which left this curse upon Ireland, because that is what has happened. The Free State Government recently had to enact a statute which, if this Parliament had enacted it, would have caused us to be howled down through all the ages. Now we have another Coalition Government, and they are giving Ireland away again. That is what it means. Undoubtedly they will live to see the day when that Treaty will be torn up, and that is why we want this Clause to be included as some guarantee to the people left in Ireland.
It is very difficult for an Irishman and a loyalist to speak patiently of the Unionist party—of the old Conservative party—in connection with what they have done in Ireland. I find it difficult to speak on the subject to-night. You are giving the show away again—that is what you are doing. You were not elected to do it. You were elected for a very different purpose—to save England from economic disaster—but here you are introducing a Measure which is entirely foreign to the business of this Parliament and you are going to push it through. The Secretary of State for the Dominions is sick of the whole thing. One can read that in his speeches and one can also see that the heart of the Solicitor-General is not in his task to-night. He told us how this Bill was concocted with the most learned legal advice and opinion that could be obtained but I am sure we should find that there is advice just as learned and legal opinion just as high in opposition to this Statute.
I think it is a disgrace that a Measure of this character should be brought before the House of Commons. As I say, this Coalition Government are going to give us away again. They often twit hon. Members opposite with running away, but no party in this House of Commons has ever run away with greater speed from those who would break and smash the Empire than a good many of the Members of the Conservative party. That is what they are doing to-night. They say that the Treaty is sacred but they are running away from the position. We are told that there is no harm in doing this, that it means nothing. Then why do it? You are doing it because Mr. Cosgrave says you must do it. I say that these people were your commanders before and they are your leaders now—that is the beginning and end of the whole thing. You do not want to displease your friends in Southern Ireland. That is the position of the great Conservative party. I certainly am going to record my vote in favour of the Amendment. Of course the great battalions of the Government will defeat it, but that will not prevent me from doing my duty.
I would not have attempted to address the Committee had it not been for the remarks of the hon. Member far Armagh (Sir W. Allen) which brought my memory back to the many unfortunate scenes witnessed in this House in other days when the spirit of rancour has been introduced. I suggest that the hon. Member's speech was most irrelevant and inopportune, and that on this night of all nights the past should not have been raked up and references such as he made should not have been made to past events in Irish history. This is 1931 and the question before the Committee is the question of the Statute of Westminster in which the faith and courage of British statesmanship is ex- hibiting itself. I remember the days when these benches were graced by 86 of the finest men who ever breathed the breath of life and who spoke and fought in the cause of Ireland in this Parliament. It is because their spirit still lives to-day that I claim the right to enunciate my point of view and to express my appreciation of the statesmanship which is being exhibited in 1931 by a Government which recognises that the past is dead. Let the dead past bury its dead, and let this nation rise to the occasion, and by cementing unity safeguard those things which are essential if the British race is to be able to meet the competition which it will encounter in the near future.
I do not often agree with the Lord President of the Council, but I agree with him in the advice which he has given to those who have brought forward this Amendment. The disastrous past has gone, and great evil may be done by an Amendment of this description. The Committee will be well advised to follow the statesmanlike lead given by the Lord President of the Council. His words are words of warning. They are also words of wisdom which ought to be taken in particularly by the new Members who have come here to support the National Government. You are the custodians of everything that goes to make for the welfare of the nation. I do not intend to waste time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I ask hon. Members to observe that I was referring to my time and not to theirs.
I am very much impressed by the sagacity which the Lord President of the Council has shown in this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Even though I am one of the younger Members, I think I have a right to be heard on this matter. I come from a Division the representative of which has a right to speak on this problem. Lancashire and other parts of England, as well as Ireland, and as well as Canada, Australia and America, will certainly be affected by the vote given on this matter in this Committee. It is because I am anxious to see an end to the difficulties of the past, it is because I want to see the Irish race play its part as it ought to do, and to have its place in the sun, that I ask the Committee not to vote for this Amendment, and I hope that hon. Members in building up the nation will realise the value of friendship in the republic which they are setting up.
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.||[10.5 p.m.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Greene, William P. C.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Hartington, Marquess of||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Somerset, Thomas|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Knox, Sir Alfred||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Stewart, William J.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (Pd'gt'n, S.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Templeton, William P.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Nail, Sir Joseph||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Sir John Withers and Mr. Marjoribanks.|
|Donner, P. W.||Remer, John R.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Clarry, Reginald George||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Fuller, Captain A. E. G.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Gibson, Charles Granville|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Colville, Major David John||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Allen, Maj. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd, W)||Conant, R. J. E.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon, Sir John|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Cook, Thomas A.||Gledhill, Gilbert|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cooke, James D.||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Cooper, A. Duff||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Aske, Sir William Robert||Copeland, Ida||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cowan, D. M.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Craven-Ellie, William||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. B.||Crooke, J. Smedley||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Graves, Marjorie|
|Balniel, Lord||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Farclay-Harvey, C. M.||Crossley, A. C.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Beaumont, R. E. B. (Portsm'tb, Centr'l)||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Curry, A. C.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Bernays, Robert||Daggar, George||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Betterton. Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Hales, Harold K.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Borodale, Viscount||Denman Hon. R. D.||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Denville, Alfred||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Devlin, Joseph||Hamilton,Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Dickie, John P.||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Doran, Edward||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Drewe, Cedric||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Briant, Frank||Duckworth, George A. V.||Harbord, Arthur|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Harris, Percy A.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Duggan, Hubert John||Hartland, George A.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Haslam, StJohn (Bolton)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Buchanan, George||Dunglass, Lord||Healy, Cahir|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Eady, George H.||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Burghley, Lord||Eastwood, John Francis||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Eden, Robert Anthony||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Edge, Sir William||Herbert, George (Rotherham)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hillman, Dr. George B.|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml, G (Burnley)||Edwards, Charles||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hirst, George Henry|
|Cape, Thnmas||Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Elmley, Viscount||Hopkinson, Austin|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Hornby, Frank|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Entwistle, Major Cyril Fullard||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Choriton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Chotzner, Alfred James||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Clarke, Frank||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Martin, Thomas B.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas W. H.||Maxton, James||Salt, Edward W.|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John M.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Janner, Barnett||Mills, Sir Frederick||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Milne, Charles||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Jennings, Roland||Milner, Major James||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tfd & Chisw'k)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Mitcheson, G. G.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|John, William||Molson, A. Harold Elsdale||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Moreing, Adrian C.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Morgan, Robert H.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Munro, Patrick||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Nail-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Soper, Richard|
|Kirkwood, David||Nathan, Major H. L.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Knight, Holford||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||North, Captain Edward T.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Nunn, William||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||0' Donovan, Dr. William James||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Ormiston, Thomas||Stevenson, James|
|Lawson, John James||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Stones, James|
|Leckie, J. A.||Owen, Major Goronwy||Storey, Samuel|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Palmer, Francis Noel||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Lees-Jones, John||Parkinson, John Allen||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Leigh, Sir John||Patrick, Colin M.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Peake, Captain Osbert||Thorn, Lieut.-Colonel John Gibb|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Pearson, William G.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Leonard, William||Peat, Charles U.||Thomas, James P. L, (Hereford)|
|Levy, Thomas||Penny, Sir George||Thompson, Luke|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Thomson, Mitchell-, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Petherick, M.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Pickering, Ernest H.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Pike, Cecil F.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Locker-Lampson. Rt. Hn. G. (wd. Gr'n)||Potter, John||Train, John|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Price, Gabriel||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Mabane, William||Pybus, Percy John||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|MacAndrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|MacAndrew. Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Ramsbotham, Herswald||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Ramsden, E.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)||Rankin, Robert||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Rathbone, Eleanor||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Rea, Walter Russell||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|McEwen, J. H. F.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|McGovern, John||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|McKeag, William||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Wood, Major M. McKenzie (Banff)|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|McLean, Major Alan||Ropner, Colonel L.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Corn'll N.)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Magnay, Thomas||Runqe, Norah Cecil||Mr. Shakespeare and Mr. Womersley.|
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
Resolution agreed to.