In page 7, line 26, at the end, to add:
(3) This Act shall continue in force until the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and forty-one, and no longer, unless Parliament otherwise determines:
Provided that after the expiry of this Act any legal proceedings may be instituted
or continued and penalties imposed or enforced in respect of any prior event as if this Act had not expired.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 26, to leave out Sub-section (2).
This manuscript Amendment has been handed in by me for one particular purpose, and that is to get a statement from the responsible Minister as to where we stand in regard to the maintenance of public order in Northern Ireland. If there are to be special laws for England and Scotland I am at a loss to understand why they should not apply to Northern Ireland, and I have moved the Amendment to delete the sub-section which says that this Measure shall not extend to Northern Ireland. This is the first time for many a day that we have had the opportunity of raising the question of having proper regulations for dealing with turmoil and trouble in Northern Ireland. In July of last year matters pertaining to public order in Northern Ireland had to be raised in this honourable House, and His Majesty's Forces in great strength had to be brought out in the streets of Northern Ireland to protect civilians. Not only was that so in July of last year, but it has been so every July as long as my memory goes back. Now that public order is the thing of the day, and we are setting our own house in order, we should know what power is vested in us in respect of the affairs of Northern Ireland. I contend that we have power and authority which all Ireland is not able to take away from us, and that in time of public disorder or rebellion, this land has still the right to exercise its authority, especially over the section which claims to he constitutional and to be within the bounds of the Empire. How far have we the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland, in respect of public order, discipline, turmoil and rebellion?
I do not disagree with any section of opinion in Northern Ireland; I have put forward this Amendment in order to get a reply from the Home Secretary to my question. How far can we deal with the terrible outrages that take place from time to time in Belfast, which are a reflection not only on England, but on other parts of the Kingdom? It is time that English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh social order became as of one common family. The sooner we recognise it as a trinity-in-one, the better for all concerned. I do not want to have representations made to me that the streets are likely to run with blood, and that 10 or 14 people will be killed—not in Russia but in Belfast—and homes burnt down, although Christianity is practised by all the parties concerned. Such incidents in the life of a busy city should cease to exist. If the Home Secretary is able to improve that state of affairs I shall have obtained all that I wish for. I hope the right hon. Gentleman can get us out of the difficulties which have disgraced Northern Ireland for so long.
I appreciate all that has been said by the last speaker, and I am sure he speaks from the heart, but as an Irishman representing a Scottish constituency, I might perhaps, since he has mentioned both countries, say a word in defence of the Bill as it stands. As we know, certain constitutional changes have been made in the status of Northern Ireland since the War. The hon. Member referred to none of them. He omitted, deliberately I am afraid, to mention that Northern Ireland was given a Constitution of her own some 17 years ago. Since that time Northern Ireland has satisfactorily carried out the duties given her under that Constitution. She has a Cabinet, her people trust that Cabinet, and it has done its work extraordinarily well in very difficult circumstances. Therefore it seems to me perfectly legitimate and proper for the Imperial Government to say to the people of Northern Ireland, "You are masters in your own house; it is for you to decide whether or not you feel it necessary to adept this Public Order Bill in Northern Ireland. We have decided that it is necessary for Great Britain, but we feel that you are competent to carry out your own affairs in your own way, and therefore we leave it in your hands to follow our example if you think fit, or not to do so if you do not think fit. We believe in you and we trust you. You have not failed us in the past, and we trust you not to fail us in the future." Therefore, I oppose the Amendment, and trust that the Government will stand by the Bill as it is at present.
I think we ought to have some explanation as to why Northern Ireland is excluded. I remember a meeting in one of the Committee rooms upstairs when a deputation from Northern Ireland tried to get us to use our influence to persuade the Prime Minister to have an investigation made into some riot in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister, however, said that he had no jurisdiction over affairs in Northern Ireland, and naturally one could see that that was reasonable. But now we have an opportunity of trying to bring to that part of the United Kingdom the benefits which we are going to enjoy. After all, this situation has been created by a new kind of circumstances, and we do not know that the same kind of thing may not happen in Northern Ireland. Therefore, if we really believe in the Public Order Bill, it should cover the whole Kingdom. I think we should be doing Northern Ireland a good turn by extending the Bill to that country. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) has argued that Northern Ireland has managed its affairs very well for 17 years, but it depends upon how one looks at it; some whose views from a religious point of view are different from those of the hon. and gallant Member might not agree with what he says in that respect. That being so, I think the Home Secretary ought to give us some idea why Northern Ireland is to be excluded, and what the attitude of the Government will be should the same kind of thing happen there that has happened in this country. I agree that we do not expect to carry our point of view, but the moving of the Amendment may lead to some explanation that will give us satisfaction.
I shall be very glad to do my best to explain why it is that the last Sub-section of Clause 10 provides that this Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland. The reason, in a sentence, is that this is a Bill dealing with the subject of public order. That is the Title of the Bill and by the Constitution of the Government of Northern Ireland, which this House approved in 1920, the subject of law and order in Northern Ireland was one of the subjects which was allocated to the Legislature and Executive of Northern Ireland.
I speak only of public order. If it were a public disorder Bill, I am sure that it might be left to the genius of the Irish to do what was necessary. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) spoke of our legislating for Scotland in this matter. This House in the ordinary constitutional course legislates for these Islands, but it is a perfectly well understood Constitutional function that the matter of law and order is by Statute transferred to the Government of Northern Ireland. That is the reason why it is proper to provide that the Act should not extend to Northern Ireland. There is nothing exceptional in the matter.
We have to decide the area of this legislation, and according to well-established principles which have prevailed for the last 17 years it would not be proper to include Northern Ireland.
No, I do not think it would have any effect of that sort. The administration of Northern Ireland and the responsibilities of the Executive there would remain where they are now, and it is not for me to indicate what might be the view taken, but I would suggest that as the responsibility would still remain with the Executive in Belfast, no question on the matter could be raised here; and if this piece of legislation, anomalous and contrary to the independent Constitution of Northern Ireland, were applied to Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Parliament might legislate in rather different terms.