By the indulgence of the House, before we proceed to the ordinary Orders of the day, I should like to be permitted to make a very brief statement.I am authorised by the King to announce to the House that in view of the grave situation which has arisen he has thought it right to summon representatives of parties, both British and Irish, to a Conference at Buckingham Palace, with the object of discussing outstanding issues in relation to the problem of Irish government. Invitations have been issued by His Majesty to, and have been accepted by, two representatives of the Opposition, two representatives of the Ulster Unionist party, two representatives of the Irish Nationalist party, and two of His Majesty's Government. I am glad to add that at the King's suggestion Mr. SPEAKER has consented to preside over the Conference, which I hope may begin its proceedings tomorrow. In the meantime, we shall not proceed to-day with the Second Reading of the Irish Amending Bill, but ask the House to deal with other Orders which appear upon the Paper.
In view of the announcement which has just been made by the Prime Minister, I think that at this stage it is neither necessary nor desirable that I should say more than that we have loyally accepted the invitation of His Majesty—the command of His Majesty—to attend the Conference to-morrow.
Perhaps I may be allowed just to say one word. I would like to say that my colleagues and myself have no responsibility for the policy of the calling of this Convention, and I do not think that I am called upon to express any opinion as to whether in the result it will prove useful or the contrary. The invitations to attend this Conference came to my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and myself in the form of a command of the King, and, as such, of course we at once accepted it.
Can the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister offer any explanation as to why it is information in regard to the announcement which he has just made was communicated only to a portion of this morning's Press, and whether it is the case that the parties to it were asked to treat the matter as secret?
I very much regret—I do not know how it was—that there should have been any anticipation of the announcement which this House had first title to hear. All I can say is that neither I nor anyone for whom I have any responsibility made any communication of any sort or kind.
Will you allow me as an independent Irish Nationalist—
There is no Motion before the House, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask a question he can do so.
Will you say it is a point of Order? I wish to know why am I not allowed to utter a sentence like other hon. Members on this important occasion for my country?
The right hon. and hon. Members who spoke represented considerable sections of the House, and are parties to the Conference.
You in that Chair are not supposed to know about that. I shall not detain the House long if you will allow me—
I cannot do so, because there is no Motion before the House to be debated, but, as I say, if the hon. Member wishes to ask a question of the Prime Minister, of course he can do so. Now—
I beg to ask the Prime Minister what precedent he has and what authority he has to advise the King to place himself at the head of a conspiracy to defeat the decision of this House?
Members desiring to take their seats, will please come to the Table.