Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 24th November 1931.

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Photo of Mr Malcolm Macdonald Mr Malcolm Macdonald , Bassetlaw

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

This is, as everyone recognises, a Measure of the greatest importance in our Imperial history. It deserved the most careful attention, the most scrupulous examination and the most thorough discussion during the Committee stage. Be- cause of its importance, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, during the Second Reading, promised that the Government would not attempt in any way to dragoon the House during the Committee discussion. They promised that any Amendment which was put down would be examined on its merits and that adequate time would be given for discussion. This afternoon and evening the Bill has been suffering that scrupulous examination. It has come through the trial with practically no alteration and has survived almost unscathed. The fact is, and I think the Debate has proved it, that the House is practically unanimous in accepting the general principle of this legislation. The House would have been untrue to itself if it had taken up any other attitude. It has often been proclaimed from this Box and from these benches that liberty is the aim of the British Empire, and this Bill, so far as the Dominions are concerned dots the "i" and crosses the "t" in liberty.

As the Bill, after the most careful examination, has passed the House with practically no alteration, very few additional words are required from this bench in order to persuade the House to give it a unanimous Third Reading. During the discussion only one major point of controversy has arisen—the question connected with the Irish Free State Constitution. Both on Friday and again this afternoon that issue was thrashed out and made quite plain. The legal position of the Irish Constitution may be altered. There is some dispute as to that, but there is very little dispute—only one Member disputed the fact—that the moral position of the Irish Constitution remains as it was, and will remain the same if the Statute of Westminster Bill is passed. The Treaty between the Irish Free State and this country still stands. The Articles of Agreement still stand, and the representatives of the Southern Irish people have repeated again and again their determination to abide faithfully by their obligations under that Treaty and under those Articles of Agreement.

We trust the word of the representatives of the Southern Irish. The Irish Free State, like the other great countries whose affairs we have been discussing to-day, is a Dominion. It is therefore a partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations. One of the essential links between partners in any great undertaking like this is trust and mutual confidence. It is in that spirit that I would ask the House, after the very thorough discussion we have had of this Bill, to give the Bill a unanimous Third Reading to speed it on its way through this Mother of Parliaments.