Order for Second Reading read.
I have it in command from the King to acquaint the House that His Majesty places his Prerogative and Interests so far as concerns the matters dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time." The Bill arises from the decision of the Government of Eire to leave the British Commonwealth. This decision has now been carried into effect. It is a decision which, I think, we all regret but which Eire had a perfect right to make under the provisions of the Statute of Westminster. We have, therefore, to regularise the position. As the House is aware, this announcement was made by the Prime Minister of Eire in the course of a visit he was paying to Canada. It came without any particular notice to us, but I thought that this was a matter which concerned other Commonwealth countries and I took the opportunity of the presence of representatives of Canada, Australia and New Zealand to discuss the position with them and with representatives of the Eire Government. The representatives of the Commonwealth countries were over here for the Prime Ministers' Conference. Those are the three countries of the Commonwealth which have considerable populations of Irish descent and they are the countries which, after the United Kingdom, have the closest ties of all Commonwealth countries with Eire. We discussed the position in all its aspects with them and with Eire's representatives in the most friendly and co-operative spirit. Our friends from overseas were most helpful and played a very constructive part in all our talks. We all desired to arrive at a practical solution of a very difficult question. We had to take into account among other difficulties our propinquity to Eire, the long-standing relations between our people and the practical difficulties that flow from any attempt to treat Eire as altogether a foreign country. I think these difficulties were very present in the minds of all of us. As everybody knows, there are in Britain large numbers of people of Irish descent, some born in Eire and some born in this country, and there is a continual passage to and fro of people who come over to work or to study or for pleasure. It would be an extremely difficult thing to decide in every case from day to day as to what the exact status was of a person with an Irish name, and if we had had to attempt to make all citizens of Eire aliens, it would have involved a great expenditure of men and money and a great extension of the control of aliens. We had in particular also to remember the difficulties caused because of the fact of the land frontier between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and Eire. We therefore came to the conclusion that we should reciprocally decide that the people of Eire and the people of Britain should not be foreign to one another. Indeed, I go further. The same action may be taken by other Commonwealth countries. I do not pretend that the solution at which we arrived is completely logical—very few things in the relationship between these islands have been completely logical—but I believe they are practical and I believe that they are to our mutual benefit. I am aware, of course, that hitherto there has been this division in international law—it has come down from the past—in which one has recognised people as either belonging or foreign, but international law is made for men, not men for international law. We are moving into a time when various other relationships are being created. Therefore we thought this was the most practical solution. I should now like to look at the actual proposals of the Bill. In Clause 1 Parliament is asked to recognise that the part of Ireland known as Eire ceases to be part of His Majesty's Dominions, and by Clause 2 (1) it is laid down that this part of Ireland shall be known officially as the Republic of Ireland. I understand that some hon. Members object to this nomenclature; they hold that it implies that the Republic extends to the whole area of the island. In this Bill we make it clear that this is not so. The fact is that the name "The Republic of Ireland" is that selected by the Irish Government. It has been embodied in their legislation, and when any country adopts a name it is really a matter for that country alone—
I think it is.
It affects another country.
I know, but the hon. Member was given certain names at his baptism and it would be quite improper for me to call him out of his name. The same thing applies to a country. One cannot, in international relations, habitually refer to a country by some other name than that by which it claims to be known, and it would be quite impossible for us, at all events in a statute, to adopt a different name.Clause 1 (1, b), declares the existing position of Northern Ireland. It is entirely consistent with the statement which I made in this House on 28th October, 1948. My statement then was as follows:
I have received representations from the Government of Eire and I have noted speeches that were made yesterday in the Dail. [An HON. MEMBER: "Deplorable."] I am very much surprised. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shocking."] My original statement was received without protest, and I cannot understand why the Clause should seem to evoke a great deal of opposition and heated protest. I am bound to say that I think these protests are based on a misapprehension. It seems to be suggested that this is a new declaration by His Majesty's Government affirming the permanence of partition, but actually the initiative did not come from this side. It is the action of the Eire Government itself in deciding to leave the Commonwealth that has made it quite inevitable that a declaration as to the position of that part of Ireland which is continuing in the Commonwealth should be made. Eire Ministers in speeches have declared the unity of Ireland. There may be something of a spiritual unity, but we have to deal with facts as they are. The adoption of the title "Republic of Ireland," as I have said, seems to many people to be an assertion of this claim, but this Bill deals with the actual facts of the situation. It recognises, therefore, that the part of Ireland heretofore known as Eire ceases to be part of the Commonwealth, but it is a natural corollary to declare that Northern Ireland remains part of the Commonwealth and of the United Kingdom, and will not cease to be so without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. I have heard criticism of the words used here, "The Parliament of Northern Ireland." It has been suggested that this is in some sense an amplification of the words which I used in November. I really cannot agree to that. We recognise the authority of the Parliament of Eire, now the Republic of Ireland, to act on behalf of the people of Eire in carrying out their decision to leave the Commonwealth and we do not look behind that. We recognise equally the right of the Parliament of Northern Ireland to decide on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland to stay in or leave the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. I note that Mr. Costello stated in the Dail that the question of partition was raised at the Chequers Conference; that is the Conference I referred to which we had with other Prime Ministers and representatives of Commonwealth countries. It was only raised in this sense, that it was agreed that this was not a matter for discussion at that Conference; though it was, of course, intimated by representatives of Eire that they had this matter very much in mind, it was not discussed, and it really is not raised in this Bill except insofar as this Bill necessarily recognises the status quo. I think that it was obvious to anybody who thought on these subjects that the action of the Government of Eire in deciding to leave the Commonwealth would increase the difficulty of arriving at any agreement on the partition question, and I naturally took the opportunity of pointing this out. I do not intend to deal at any length this afternoon with the partition question. That would be harking back to old unhappy days, days before all of us but a mere handful were in this House. We have to deal with the position as it exists. However, the Government of Eire decided to proceed with taking these steps to leave the Commonwealth, and I pointed out to them that this would inevitably make more difficulties in arriving at their other objective, the unification of Ireland, and I had to conclude that the Government of Eire considered the cutting of the last tie which united Eire to the British Commonwealth as a more important objective of policy than ending partition. It is not for me to criticise this choice, but I am bound to say that it is not the Government of the United Kingdom but the Government of the Republic of Ireland which has, to use Mr. Costello's words,"The view of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom has always been that no change should be made in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without Northern Ireland's free agreement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 239.]
As the House knows, we took a decision recently to retain within the Commonwealth the Republic of India, and no one would wish that any country should be forced to leave the Commonwealth against its will. If that was so with regard to India, it is certainly so with regard to Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and it is quite impossible that we should take up a position which would suggest that Northern Ireland should be excluded from the Commonwealth and United Kingdom against its will. I repeat, therefore, that this paragraph in the Clause has been rendered necessary by the action of the Eire Government, an action of which I do not complain. Clause 2 (1) declares that the Republic of Ireland shall not be a foreign country. I admit at once that this is a novel conception. I admit that hitherto there has been this straight division between countries which were foreign and countries which were not foreign. I admit we are introducing a new category. Here is a country which is outside allegiance, outside the British Commonwealth, but which is not to be held as foreign. I have already stated the reasons for this. Clause 2 (2) deals with a minor point which I need not discuss at any length; that is, the position of the representative over here of the Republic of Ireland. Clause 3 deals particularly with the position under the British Nationality Act, 1948, and I shall, therefore, discuss that and Clause 2 (1) together. There has been a good deal of argument in the Press and in another place about the position of Eire citizens after 18th April. It may be worth while recapitulating briefly the history of the British Nationality Act. That Act embodied an agreement reached by Commonwealth countries at a conference in 1947. Briefly, the effect of this agreement was that the principle hitherto generally accepted—namely, that a person was a British subject first and, in addition, could be a citizen of a particular Commonwealth country—was replaced by a scheme under which—again, speaking broadly, I do not want to go into legal technicalities—citizenship in a particular Commonwealth country was the qualification for being a British subject. Thus, if a person was a citizen of Australia he was, by virtue of this, a British subject. But the Eire Government was not willing that all Eire citizens should automatically be British subjects and the Act, therefore, made special provision for Eire citizens. There are three points which might be noted. Section 3 (2) of that Act ensured that any law in force on 1st January, 1949—the date when the Act came into operation—shall apply to Eire citizens as to British subjects. In other words, an Eire citizen in the United Kingdom gets automatically the same treatment under our existing laws as if he were a British subject; if he is resident here he can vote and he is liable for military service. Section 2 (1) enables an Eire citizen who for reasons of sentiment wishes to remain a British subject and not merely to be treated as if he were a British subject, to write to the Home Secretary claiming to do so on the grounds, broadly speaking, of his associations with the United Kingdom or the Colonies. Section 6 enables an Eire citizen who is ordinarily resident here or is in Crown Service and who wants to take the further step of actually becoming a "citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies" to apply to be registered as such. All these provisions are reaffirmed in Clause 3 (1) of the Bill. There should, therefore, be no doubt whatever that they are still in force. I think this settles the difficulties that bothered Lord Simon in another place and Mr. Serjeant Sullivan in the columns of the Press. I might add, for the interest of the House, what has happened since that law came into force on 1st January, 1949. About 7,000 notices have been received and acknowledged by the Home Office. I might again, for I know there is a lot of interest in this, state what is the position. Broadly speaking, a person is a citizen of Eire (i) if he was born in Eire after 1922, or, if born outside Eire, is the son of an Eire citizen and was born after 1922; (ii) if he was born in one of the 26 counties before 1922 and was domiciled there in 1922; and (iii) if he is registered as an Eire citizen. Section 3 (2) of the British Nationality Act, which provides that laws in force on 1st January, 1949, shall apply to citizens of Eire as to British subjects, makes citizens of Eire who are resident in the United Kingdom liable for military service. As a matter of fact, those two Acts came into force on the same day. But citizens of Eire are not liable to military service until they have been in Great Britain for at least two years. They do not become liable even then if they are resident only for a course of education or some other temporary purpose. Those who are liable and raise any objection on the ground of nationality are given the chance of returning to Eire if they prefer to do that instead of performing their military service. It may be noted here that citizens or nationals of any part of His Majesty's Dominions outside Great Britain are also liable for military service if they have been in Great Britain for at least two years and are not here merely for some temporary purpose. The House may like to know what has been the effect hitherto. I cannot say exactly how many Eire citizens have been affected by the call-up or how many of them returned home as an alternative to the call-up, but there have been in all only about 80 cases of disputed liability since 1st January, 1949. In fact, only three men so far have stated a wish to return to Eire as an alternative to being called up. So much on that point. The Eire Prime Minister has stated that the Eire Government wished to continue the exchange with Commonwealth countries of comparable rights and privileges in respect of citizenship. In the past, British subjects have received certain privileges by virtue of an order made under the Eire Aliens Act exempting them from certain requirements imposed on aliens, but since January of this year, in pursuance of the policy agreed at Paris, the Eire Government have granted these rights positively to United Kingdom citizens by an order made under the Eire Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1935; and the Eire Prime Minister stated in November that it was the Eire Government's intention to review their whole nationality law in the near future to bring before the Dail a new Bill in which provision would be made to ensure that Commonwealth citizens were afforded by statute rights comparable with those afforded to Eire citizens in Commonwealth countries. I would call attention to the word "comparable"; "comparable" is not the same as "identical." Clause 3 (2) of the Bill provides that, where United Kingdom or Colonial legislation contains expressions such as "His Majesty's dominions" or "British ships," which would have covered the Republic of Ireland or its ships had not the Republic of Ireland Act been passed, these expressions will continue to cover the Republic of Ireland or its ships until Parliament, or whatever other authority is responsible for the legislation, makes provision to the contrary. By Clause 4 (2) this provision is continued to cover any legislation passed up to 31st December, 1949. Thus it will be unnecessary to amend past or current legislation by inserting specific references to the Republic of Ireland, but, after 1st January, 1950, any United Kingdom legislation which is intended to apply to the Republic of Ireland will have to say so specifically. There are minor points—mainly, minor points of adjustment—that might be raised, but I think the only other thing to which I need really call attention is Clause 5. As the House remembers, under the Representation of the People Act, 1948, the qualifying period for a person to be entitled to vote as an elector at the election of a person to be a Member of this House was reduced to merely the residence on the qualifying date, and that applied to Northern Ireland. Prior to that the period was six months. The Bill proposes that in Northern Ireland there shall be a qualifying period of three months; the reason for this is entirely a practical one. Owing to the contiguity of Eire and Northern Ireland, with an open frontier, it would be perfectly possible for persons to cross the border and qualify in Northern Ireland as electors, although they were really resident in Eire; they could go across to stay with an uncle, an aunt or a cousin for that day and then go back. There is, therefore, having regard to that open frontier, a reasonable claim for a provision of this kind. It has been suggested that under the proposals of this Bill the Republic of Ireland, although outside the Commonwealth, is obtaining all the advantages of membership. This is not so. That is greatly to under-estimate the advantages of belonging to the Commonwealth and the close consultation and mutual support which belongs to members. While we have the utmost goodwill to the Republic of Ireland, their position must and will remain different from those who actually belong to the Commonwealth. There is one final point. That is as to when the Bill comes into force. It is retrospective to 18th April, 1949, which is the date of the corresponding legislation in Dublin. I very much hope that in the course of this Debate we shall all exercise the utmost restraint on this old and vexed question. I repeat, it has not been raised by us. We have every desire to go forward in the friendliest possible relations with the people and the Government of the Irish Republic. This Bill is necessitated by their action and their initiative, with which we do not quarrel, but I think it is wholly unjustifiable to charge this Government with having taken action hostile to the Republic of Ireland. We have taken only the action that was the necessary result of their action and I repudiate entirely the idea that there is here any assertion of an attempt to deal with the internal affairs of Southern Ireland. We have put in this Bill what we believe is a reasonable, practical proposal for dealing with a difficult situation and for making quite clear what is the existing position, and that position as between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland must remain until it is altered by mutual agreement."tightened the ligature fastened around the body of Ireland."
The House will feel, I think, that the Prime Minister has given a balanced and an objective account of the proposals which are embodied in this Bill. As he said at the outset, there are now very few Members in this House who remember the days of the heated Irish controversies and still fewer who sat, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) sat, with Irish Members in the days before the Treaty of 1921. But this House as a whole, whatever their memories, does not, I believe, feel itself to be violently partisan on these Irish issues. I certainly do not feel myself to be so. Indeed, in our hearts there are probably few things we would rather see than a steadily growing friendship between all sections of the Irish people. A little while back I had hopes that this was to come about. Now, for a variety of reasons, some of which the Prime Minister has dealt with, these hopes seem to be prematurely disappointed.As the Prime Minister said, we should try to make our speeches with the minimum of provocation. That, of course, does not mean that we should not say what we think. This Bill presented by the Prime Minister and to which the House is invited to give a Second Reading, recognises the secession from the Commonwealth and Empire of the country we used to call Eire and which we are now invited to call the Republic of Ireland. Historically, this Bill stands in much the same relationship to the new Republic as did the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 to the American Colonies as they then were, the United States of America as they now are, and the Burma Independence Act of 1947 to Burma. Therefore, it is not an occasion for rejoicing. No one on this side of the House, any more than on the other side of the House, questions the right of the Republic of Ireland to secede, if it be her will, from the Commonwealth—although I do feel, despite the Prime Minister's explanation, that the Republic in Ireland, or, if it is preferred, the Irish Republic, seems a rather more accurate and descriptive title than that which the Irish Government have chosen themselves. The association of the States of the British Commonwealth is essentially a voluntary one. If one of its members elects to go, we regret the departure, but we do not seek to bar the way. But, in spite of the decision of the Irish Republic to leave the Commonwealth, we are not by this Bill to treat the new Republic as a foreign country. That is something which is certainly original and, although that Government is unable even to recognise the Crown, in the words of the agreed statement of the recent Imperial Conference,
we are still to confer upon her citizens the important and, I think, proud benefits that are the heritage of all British subjects. The Prime Minister argued today—and I cannot dispute it—that the special relationship existing between our two countries and the constant coming and going of citizens between Ireland and the United Kingdom would make it ridiculous for either country to treat the people of the other as aliens, if by any reasonable means that can be avoided. From that view I do not dissent and we on these benches, for this and other stronger reasons to which I shall refer in a moment, give our broad support to the Bill. The Bill, nevertheless, does contain some inconsistencies. It assumes in fact that the Republican Government in Dublin did not really intend the natural consequences of their own action in repealing the External Relations Act of 1936. It is true that the repeal of that Act makes a very little practical difference, but it is the last and, because it is the last, the most serious, of a long series of unilateral abrogations of the 1921 Treaty. One by one each bond has been snapped—the oath of allegiance. the authority of the Privy Council, the duties and, finally, the office of the Governor General. All these have gone and in 1937 a new constitution for what was then Eire came into force, and in that constitution the Crown had no part. None the less, because that Act existed—the External Relations Act—the United Kingdom Government of the day. of which I was a member, were able, acting with the Governments of the Dominions, to declare that they would not treat the new constitution as excluding Eire from the British Commonwealth. On 18th April, Easter Monday of this year, the last bond of contact as far as the Republic of Ireland was concerned, was broken and, without special legislation, their citizens would have become aliens, not only here, but it seems, in all parts of the Commonwealth. It is true that by the provisions of the British Nationality Act, citizens of Eire, whether or not they are British subjects, were to be treated under our law as though they were British subjects. But that Act was passed before Parliament was aware of the intentions of Mr. Costello's Government to repeal the 1936 Act, and it was never suggested at any time in those Debates, either in this House, or in another place, that we were enacting legislation which would still have effect after Eire had left the Commonwealth. Yet to some at any rate it seemed that the provisions of that Act might provide a ready-made solution of the problem which was created some months afterwards by Eire's departure from the Commonwealth. But the problem was not so simple as all that, as the declaration by Lord Simon in another place and letters in the Press have shown. The main point at issue was whether the British Nationality Act, which applied to the citizens of the Dominion of Eire so long as they were in the Commonwealth, could be equally valid in its application in regard to citizens of the Republic of Ireland. This Bill seeks to clear up those matters. In one of its Clauses it declares that the operation of the British Nationality Act is not affected by the secession, and so we are invited to note that a citizen of the Republic of Ireland remains entitled to the rights of a British subject. That is not an insignificant privilege which we are conferring upon these men and women. It includes the right to vote in our elections, to be a Member of this House, to hold a position in the Civil Service and to be sworn of His Majesty's Privy Council—these and many other important and responsible rights. And with rights go duties. In particular, while there is conscription in this country there is the duty of military service. A clear ruling on this matter was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations last November, and I do not propose to quote it now. I welcome the Prime Minister's confirmation of that statement in his speech this afternoon. I have no desire to argue the relative merits of reciprocal benefits as between this country and the new Republic, though there might be quite a lot which could be said on that topic. None the less, at least the appearance of reciprocity should be there. I hope that the Lord President of the Council will, when he replies tonight, be able to tell us a little more about that than the Prime Minister was able to do in his opening speech. Is the Lord President satisfied, for instance, that the reciprocal terms to be offered by the Government of the Irish Republic will contain no conditions regarding the status of Northern Ireland? There is another question with which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will deal. Have the Government any information to give the House on the question of similar legislation in the Dominions. It may be that the most unusual—indeed, so far as I know, unprecedented—wording of the phrase with which this Bill is introduced is related to this matter. I do not know whether the House has noted that wording, but after the usual Preamble, "Be it enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty …," we find the words "Parliament hereby…declares…" I do not think that I have ever seen those words before. I can find no precedent for their use. It is very odd wording, which is in marked contrast to that used in the Burma Independence Act. It may be an attempt to preserve the rights of Dominion legislatures, I do not know. If that is not so, I should like to know what is the significance of that wording? The Prime Minister will realise the importance of the matter because, for the first time, there is no mention there of the King's position but Parliament is separately mentioned. I do not recall ever having seen that before. The Bill makes no reference to the taking of an Oath of Allegiance. This is clearly a difficult matter but a most important one. When the Lord President replies, will he deal with the position of the holders of those offices or appointments which require such an oath to be taken? What, for example, is the position of an Irish soldier in the Regular Forces, or of an Irishman whom it is proposed to admit as a Freeman of the City of London, as many of them have, with distinction, been admitted in the past; or of an elected Parliamentary candidate who may feel that the taking of the Oath of Allegiance conflicts with his loyalty to his own republican country?"as the symbol of the free association of the independent member nations,"
So far as I know my right hon. Friend's loyalties are never conflicting.Finally, on a broader issue, can we be assured that what we are proposing to enact in this Measure shall in no way be taken as a precedent for our dealings with any other part of the Common. wealth? The main, indeed we think the only, justification for this Bill is that Ireland is a unique case. I hope, therefore, that the Lord President can give us tonight the reassurances for which we ask. I now turn to the question of Northern Ireland. This Bill, in its first Clause, gives a pledge which I shall not repeat, which the Prime Minister quoted. We know, of course, that such a pledge cannot bind a future Parliament, or indeed this Parliament. Nevertheless we support and welcome this pledge, and it is perhaps desirable that the Conservative Party should once again make clear its attitude towards this issue. If union between North and South Ireland is to come about, it must do so not by force or by threats of force but by agreement and by Parliamentary and democratic means. It would really be fantastic that anyone could suppose that we should invite Northern Ireland to leave the British Commonwealth against her will, or even that we should wish her to do so. Such a course would be unthinkable, if only on the grounds of gratitude. After all, for all of us the recollection of Northern Ireland's contribution in this last conflict is linked with that of the Mersey and the Clyde, and it is unthinkable that we should do these things. Ulster must be entirely free to take her own decision at any time. We must uphold her right to do that against threats from whatever quarter and in whatever form. That, I understand, is also the Government's view. Until there is a change in the relations between the North and the South it is clear that so far as external relations are concerned, which of course includes defence, the Six Counties are an integral part of the United Kingdom. I feel sure that the Prime Minister will endorse that too. I see he does. The House will be aware of the protests in Southern Ireland and of the Motion passed yesterday in the Dail against this Measure. I must say that, like the Prime Minister, I find this agitation very hard to understand. In reading the speeches made in the Dail yesterday, my main reflection was one of regret that the spokesmen of the Government and of the Opposition there seemed determined to ignore the realities of the situation. It is suggested that Britain is occupying Northern Ireland and that the departure of British troops from Northern Ireland could itself contribute to a solution of the problem. Of course, it would do nothing of the kind. The issue arises not because there may be a British battalion or two in Northern Ireland but because the people of the Six Counties have repeatedly made it clear, by large majorities, that they do not wish to be incorporated in the Irish Republic.
What about the third of the people in the Border Counties who are anxious to be reunited with the rest of the nation?
I have here all the figures—I do not wish to weary the House with them, but the hon. Member can look at the figures for the last Northern Ireland election or for the election to this House, or any other election. He may say that he does not believe any figures that come out of Northern Ireland. That is one of the factors that makes discussion of the Irish question so singularly difficult. It is impossible to sidestep that issue. I would say to the hon. Gentleman that what might in time produce a modification of this situation, and might indeed have produced a modification before now, would be a policy of understanding by the South towards the North, even a policy of cherishing and wooing. Instead of that, it must be admitted that both the actions and the words of the present Government in Eire have only served to make a solution more difficult to arrive at.
For 25 years advances of friendship have been made to the North in the desire to get them into a united Ireland, but without result.
I am anxious to keep myself on an even keel, and I hope that the hon. Member will permit me to stay there. I was about to say that Mr. Costello yesterday accused the British Government—this rather made me smile—of introducing this Bill to snatch for themselves some sort of advantage over the Tory Opposition. Well, I should not have thought that there is very much in that one.On the other hand, it seems to me that this situation has been largely precipitated by a spirit of competition in Irish internal politics. Each has been so desperately anxious to get hold of the other fellow's clothes, and as a result both sides have appeared to fail to notice the inevitable consequences here of their actions and their declarations, particularly in repealing the 1936 Act. After all, what does this Bill do with regard to Northern Ireland? It does no more than put into the Bill the pledge, twice repeated in this House by the Prime Minister and endorsed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I see that the Prime Minister of Eire said in his speech that the Irish Government had no knowledge of what was intended until 5th May of this year. I can hardly think that can be right, but I hope that the Lord President will tell us about that in his reply. When was the Eire Government first warned that, as a result of their action in repealing the 1936 Act, a Bill in this Parliament would be necessary? A few months ago Mr. McBride made a speech here in London, I think it was at Chatham House. He said there were two sources of friction between his country and ours, the Crown and partition. I should have thought that a view of the Crown which regarded it as a source of friction would be, to say the least, no particular inducement to the people of Ulster to consider linking their destiny with that of Southern Ireland.
He said the Crown was an irritant.
I have termed it "friction." I have the words here if my hon. Friend would like to read them. But it certainly is true, that the breaking of the last link with the Crown and so with the Commonwealth is finally recognised in this Bill, but the difficulties which arise from the partition of Ireland still remain; and it is the action of this new Republic in repudiating any contact with the Commonwealth that has widened and deepened the gulf between the North and the South. That is the situation. It calls for statesmanship from Dublin and from Belfast. It really is beside the point for Dublin—having by its own action repealed the Act of 1936 and thus placed the Government of this country in the position that they must introduce a Bill—to go on complaining that it is all the fault of London. That really is rather too Irish for words.I do not propose to go into any of the wider aspects of defence or foreign relations. Surely no one could doubt where Irish support would lie in the present rivalry of ideologies which exists in the world. A time may come, and I hope it will come, when the new Republic is able to play a part in the regional arrangements now being formed to buttress peace. But it would be most unwise if the Irish Republic sought to make support of those policies conditional in any way on concessions regarding the constitution of Northern Ireland. It is indeed true that many mistakes have been made in the past by politicians of both parties, in both countries, in respect of Irish affairs. It is perhaps understandable that some bitterness should still linger, but this Bill should be, in a sense, the end of an era. It is not all that we had hoped for, that many had worked for; but if it be the wish of the people of the Irish Republic, we accept this Bill. They must also accept those rights and duties in the spirit in which they are offered in the Bill. Let them eschew force or the threat of force in order to attain their remaining desire. If they would do that and take their part in the free community of nations, then perhaps after all this may not be the end of a book of imperial history, but the beginning of a fresh and lasting relationship between the United Kingdom and the new Republic of Ireland. We all wish that to be so, but the answer cannot be given at Westminster; it must be given in Dublin.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) have both pleaded for temperate language in this Debate; and I do not suppose that there is any hon. Member in this House, whatever his politics or his origin, who will differ from them in that respect. As both the right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have said, this Bill makes some very important constitutional innovations which may lead to some very interesting legal results. But it is not for this reason only that this House is interested in them. The essence of the matter is contained in Clause 1 (1, b) of the Bill, which deals with the position of Northern Ireland, and it is therefore that Clause with which I, and I imagine most other speakers who follow me, will deal.If one excludes that Clause for the moment, if one were to look at the rest of the Bill without that Clause, there is one thing with which every responsible man would agree—that this Bill is not actuated by any hostility to Southern Irishmen or the State of Eire. On the other hand, excluding that Clause, one would say that it is a most generous and magnamimous Measure in which we in this House, and particularly the Government, have gone to considerable lengths to strain the ordinary meaning of the term "nationality" in order to give Irish citizens, whom we all respect and like, the same freedom of movement and the same freedom to take part in our public and private life after the secession of the Republic of Ireland from the Commonwealth as before that—to most of us—unhappy event. It is in those circumstances that I was rather astonished that language of the kind used in the Dail yesterday about this particular Clause 1 (1, b) of the Bill should have been employed. I speak as one who is not an Irishman, but who, if I were an Irishman, for every conceivable reason would sympathise and take sides with the South rather than the North. If, therefore, a person in my position finds himself able to support the Bill, I do not think that the Irish Government, or the Irish Parliament, should lightly throw out the kind of challenges that were issued last night. What is the truth of this position? No hon. Member would disagree that there is in Northern Ireland a community with strongly marked characteristics and ideas different from the Southern Irish. There is, in fact, a racial and religious minority. There is no reason, of course—and I hope that in some future and happier time it may come to pass—why the two should not be reconciled and live together within the same State.
If in relation to the whole of Ireland there is a Protestant minority in the North, there is a Catholic minority within it, so that the hon. Gentleman's argument for partition for the Protestant minority in the North is also an argument for partition for the Catholic minority within it. That makes the thing ridiculous.
The hon. Gentleman has not apprehended my point. No doubt it was my fault. The argument I was seeking to use was simply that I should hope that although there was a Protestant majority in Northern Ireland now, and a Catholic minority, at some future time they will all live together within the State of Ireland, call it what we will. That is my hope. I do not believe that Eire's treatment of the Protestants gives any genuine grounds for supposing that at some future time that might not happen. But that is not the issue with which we are dealing today.The issue which we are considering is whether or not, as a result of Eire's action in seceding from the Commonwealth we should give some assurance to this racial and religious minority in the North. Most hon. Members will have had circullars inviting them to discountenance this Clause and to say that the only proper course to take in this House in the name of democratic procedure is to let all the people in Ireland vote together at once and to abide by the result. That argument, which has been put forward by various Irish associations seems merely to travesty the meaning of democracy. It appears to be based on some concept of a united Ireland which amounts to this: that whenever we get a mass of ground surrounded by sea, all the people within that mass of ground must submit to the will of the majority there. On those grounds I imagine that all the people of North America would have to submit to a regime under which they would be governed by South America—or vice versa, according to whichever part had a majority. In order to have a State, in order to apply this kind of argument which has come to us from Southern Ireland, there must be some sort of community. That sort of community does not exist in Ireland today. Therefore, we cannot apply, or we should not seek to apply, that kind of reasoning to the problem. Having established the position that there is a minority, is this racial and religious minority entitled to some form of protection against absorption? Ever since the 1918 war, it has been a more or less recognised principle of international life that where we find a minority of that kind some sort of protection should be afforded it. That is a very wholesome principle, for, had it not been given effect to and recognised by both parties, for instance, in the settlement of India and Pakistan, none could tell what disasters would have occurred. When there is a minority of that kind, it has some claim for some form of protection. Has this minority any claim on us to protect it? Those who say that it has not, that we should stand aside and ignore it, seem to me not only to be disregarding law and legal and treaty obligations, but also to be disregarding common sense. It is impossible that we could disregard history; that we could plant as we did—wrongly perhaps—300 years ago a Protestant English and Scottish community in the North of Ireland; that we should protect it for several centuries; that we should draw great benefits from its services, and that then we should turn round at this moment of time, when those in Northern Ireland have perhaps rendered us more signal service than at any other time in their history and say, "Thank you. The people in the South now do not want to have anything to do with us. Therefore, in the sacred name of democracy. we must leave you alone." In my view the Government in Ulster were entitled to ask for some kind of assurance, and if they asked us we were bound to give it. The question then arises whether the kind of protection given by this Clause is the right type of protection to afford. That is a question which I find some little difficulty in answering. I think that on constitutional and legal grounds the answer which the Prime Minister gave, that in view of the previous obligations, previous Acts, it was inevitable that this kind of protection should be given, is unanswerable. Subsection 1 (b) of Clause 1 states:
The words, "or any part thereof" cause me a little concern. I should have thought that it was common ground that there was a strong Southern Irish and Catholic minority in the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh at least, and I believe that in parts of those counties that strong Catholic minority is converted into an overwhelming majority. I should have thought that it was perhaps politically unfortunate, however constitutionally and legally necessary, that we should have to write just this kind of guarantee into the Bill at this time. I agree profoundly with what has been said by the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, that we could not force any community which wishes to remain in the Commonwealth to leave it. We cannot do that. By this Clause it appears to me that we are doing no more than affirming that obligation to allow those who have lived with us within the Commonwealth before to continue so to do if they wish. To me, as to many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, many of the features of the Government of Northern Ireland are repulsive, and one cannot but feel a strong sympathy for those who, belonging to the local Catholic and Irish minority, have so many restrictions and regulations, a sort of police State, imposed upon them."Parliament hereby— (b) declares that Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom and affirms that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of His Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland."
What are they?
I should be happy if I had more time at my disposal to try to deal with that, but I do not think the hon. Gentleman would dissent from what I am about to say. I believe that, if the regulations and restrictions are obnoxious, as some of them are, it is the attitude of the Southern Irish which, to some extent, imposes their necessity, or, if it does not impose their necessity, at least provides some superficial justification for their retention. However right it may be to give this kind of protection and this assurance now, when, as I hope will soon be the fact, the present controversies have passed, I trust the Government will devise some means of persuading the Government of Northern Ireland to liberalise their institutions.It would be sad to think that partition was bound to last for ever, but I repeat that we have no moral duty to compel this Northern Irish community to secede from us against their will, and for these reasons I support the Bill. There is one note on which I think it is perhaps right for a back bencher on this side of the House to conclude. It is that, if the Government of Ireland and our friends in Southern Ireland wish us to listen more favourably to the representations they make to us in the future, I trust that they will discontinue the kind of propaganda which they have put forth against this Bill. We will not be coerced by threats, and, although it is unfortunately true that, owing to mistakes in our policy in the past, we have been in the position where we have, in fact, appeared to yield to threats, the position that gave rise to that no longer obtains. We were, I think, in a morally weak position in Ireland before 1921. I believe that, by this Bill we are passing today, we are putting the shoe entirely on the other foot, and I would hope that, after this immediate controversy subsides, those who expressed themselves so intemperately in the Dail yesterday will pause to think and will express themselves in a more temperate fashion in future.
I said in this House last Autumn, when the decision of Southern Ireland to become an independent republic was announced, that I considered it a disaster. I still so consider it, and I believe that its repercussions on the structure of the British Commonwealth of Nations may have far-reaching and injurious effects. Ireland is one of the mother countries of the Empire, and the secession of a large part of it is bound to have a profound effect throughout the Commonwealth.This Bill recognises that secession, and it recognises that Southern Ireland has ceased to be a part of His Majesty's Dominions. She has not, like India, expressed a desire to remain within the orbit of the British Commonwealth, and the legal severance is complete. To find a parallel, we have to go back to the secession of the American Colonies in the 18th Century. I must say that I was rather surprised to find that, when this secession was accomplished, a number of messages of felicitation were sent to the new Irish Republic from different parts of the Empire, and I was particularly surprised that the King should have been advised to send a message of felicitation in those circumstances. Truly, we live in strange times, and, as the Prime Minister himself has stated, the generosity with which this new Republic is being treated as regards rights of citizenship and so on is almost more than one would have thought possible. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) that to call the seceding part of Ireland the Republic of Ireland is a complete misnomer. Northern Ireland is geographically part of Ireland, but it is not a republic. It is part of the United Kingdom. With all the cult of Gaelic and the Gaelic language which we know the Southern Irish have so much at heart, it seems strange indeed that their Government should have abandoned the word Eire, which means Ireland, and reverted to the good old English word Ireland. The reason is not far to seek. It is because the word Eire has come to be associated with the 26 counties of Southern Ireland, and the Southern leaders thought that the name Republic of Ireland will deceive the uninitiated, especially in foreign countries, into thinking that the whole of Ireland is an independent republic. I would much prefer the words Irish Republic, because that does not necessarily connote a republic of the whole of Ireland. In that connection, I was interested to notice the other day that in the official announcement of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers in connection with the formation of the new Council of the Assembly of Europe, the Irish delegation was referred to as representing the Irish Republic and not the Republic of Ireland. I was glad to see that, and I hope that in future official British documents and announcements that kind of precedent will be continued. Naturally, the greater part of what I am going to say will have relation to Clause 1 (1, b) of this Bill, which I may call the guarantee to Northern Ireland. Before I come to that, however, I should like to say just a word on three subordinate matters. First of all, there is the three months' residence qualification for voting for a Member to be returned to this House. I think it could not have been better explained than it was by the Prime Minister this afternoon, and I have nothing to add to what the right hon. Gentleman said, except that naturally I am pleased that the Government have adopted it. Then, there is another general point. I have always felt that, now that Southern Ireland has at last definitely become a foreign country and has gone out of the Empire, this would be the time to clear up a lot of anomalies which have existed during the last generation, and one of these is about the Irish Peers. I do not suggest that it should come into this Bill, but what is the position about Irish representative Peers? Is anything going to be done about them?
What I feel is that, so long as Irish representative Peers, or Irish Peers, exist, the only part of Ireland which now remains within the Commonwealth, namely, Northern Ireland, should have the right to its quota of Irish representative Peers. That is a constitutional anomaly which at the moment is completely in the air, and I should have thought that this was the time to settle it. On another point of that kind, what is going to be the future of that great Order of Knighthood of St. Patrick which, with the Orders of the Garter and the Thistle, has historic associations of the greatest importance? Is the Order of St. Patrick to go on, or is it not? If it is to go on, it seems to me that it should be transferred to the part of Ireland which remains within the United Kingdom, and I should have thought that was a natural thing to have brought about at this time.Now I come to what must be the main theme of what I propose to say, that is, with regard to the guarantee given to Northern Ireland. That guarantee has naturally been received with satisfaction throughout Ulster. Nevertheless, as the Prime Minister pointed out, it does not really embody anything new; it merely emphasises and confirms the existing situation. The Prime Minister referred to his declaration of last October, but there is also a statutory authority. In Section 3 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, it was provided that the two Parliaments set up by that Act could by identical Acts of each of them decide on what was called Irish union, upon a united Ireland, but it had to be by Act of Parliament. That is already on the Statute Book, and this Bill is merely carrying out what that Section laid down, namely, that they could not change the constitutional status of either Northern or Southern Ireland without an Act of their Parliaments. But, more important even than that statutory authority, in my view, is the general practice which exists, and has always existed, throughout the British Commonwealth. It would be unthinkable in our Commonwealth that when a self-governing Parliament and Constitution had been duly set up by a constitutional statute passed by this House, and when that Parliament had been inaugurated by the Sovereign, and had functioned successfully for 28 years, it could be abolished and its Constitution shattered without the consent of that Parliament. If that sort of thing had been done in the British Commonwealth, that Commonwealth would have been blasted to smithereens at least a century ago.
It was done in Newfoundland.
It has been said that this guarantee to Northern Ireland perpetuates partition. I do not know whether it does or not, but at any rate, in view of the violent reaction. in Southern Ireland, and the spate of propaganda that they have been putting forward, I must ask the indulgence of the House while I remind hon. Members for a few minutes of the history of partition, how it began—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and on what authority it restsߞ[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I should have thought that at a time when partition is being violently assailed it was not unreasonable to give the House some details of its origin and the authority on which it rests. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]Partition first received statutory recognition in the Government of Ireland Act. 1920, but the principle of partition had been conceded before the outbreak of the 1914–18 war by the Liberal Government under Mr. Asquith. It was conceded in order to avoid a civil war. Some hon. Members may remember that a conference was held at Buckingham Palace shortly before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 under the chairmanship of the then Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. Speaker Lowther, who died only a short time ago. That conference was held between representatives of Northern and Southern Ireland in order to try to agree on what the area of the separate Northern State should be. The Conference, unfortunately, broke down, and when the 1914 war began, the Home Rule Act which had just passed the House of Commons was suspended until the end of that war. At the conclusion of the war, the place of the Home Rule Act, 1912, was taken by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and in that latter Act partition received for the first time statutory recognition, and the area adopted for Northern Ireland was that of the Six Counties of which it still consists. The reason why those Six Counties were adopted as forming the extent of Northern Ireland was because they formed a homogeneous area just large enough to form a separate unit of Government, but small enough to include as few people as possible who preferred incorporation in Southern Ireland. Admittedly, it included some 30 per cent. in all, but, on the other hand, it excluded substantial numbers of Unionists in adjoining counties who would have preferred to be in Northern Ireland. A great deal has been said—the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) referred to them—about these counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh. The hon. Member for Walsall said that they had an overwhelming majority of those who desired to go in with Southern Ireland.
I only said that the southern parts of those counties had an overwhelming majority.
I think the hon. Member is quite mistaken. As it happens, the southern part of County Tyrone is the predominantly Unionist part of that county. During the last few days I have examined the figures of the elections in those two counties—not the elections to the local Parliament but the elections to this House where, since the Act of 1920, Tyrone and Fermanagh have been represented as one whole constituency returning two Members. I have taken five contested elections since 1922. I have not included one election which was not fought by the Unionists at all; it was a contest between two different sections of Nationalists. Neither have I included one election where those counties returned Unionist Members to this House: that equally was because of some disagree- ments between the Nationalists. I have, however, included the five General Elections to this House where a straight fight took place between Unionists and Nationalists. Over those five General Elections the average electorate was 111,000, and the average Nationalist majority was 6,332. Is that an overwhelming majority? I do not think it is realised that in those two counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh there is a massive concentration of Unionist voters and any suggestion of putting them out of Northern Ireland, would be quite unthinkable.The Act of 1920 was, of course, never accepted by Southern Ireland. After a period of rebellion, insurrection and war, a Treaty was concluded in 1921 between the United Kingdom and the leaders of the rebellion. The Southern Irish leaders considered that 1921 Treaty so solemn and so binding that they registered it with the League of Nations at Geneva. That Treaty of 1921 recognised partition, but with a modification inserted at the request of the Irish negotiators which was much resented in Ulster. That modification was that a boundary commission was to be set up, in the words of the Treaty,
The Chairman of that commission was to be appointed by the British Government, and there were to be two other members. one representing the new Irish Free State as it then was, and one representing Northern Ireland. The chairman selected by the British Government was Mr. Justice Feetham, a very distinguished South African judge. That boundary commission was duly appointed. It carried out its duties most thoroughly. It visited the border districts, and it heard evidence from individuals and organisations representing all parties and creeds. In due course it agreed upon a report, but before the report was published a leakage occurred in the Press and its findings were published in the Press. The Southern Irish leaders had, of course, expected that Northern Ireland territory would have been adjudicated to them, but, to their consternation, rage and fury, they found that the boundary commission merely recommended some minor rectifications of the existing border but also proposed the transfer from the Free State to Northern Ireland of certain Unionist districts just outside the border. Truly they were hoist with their own petard. The fat was properly in the fire. The Free State member of the commission who had agreed to the report was forced to resign. Hurried consultations took place between the British and Free State Governments, with the result that another Treaty was signed in 1925 which referred to and supplemented the Treaty of 1921. In this supplemental agreement the report of the boundary commission was ignored, and it was agreed that the territory of Northern Ireland should remain inviolate and comprise the original Six Counties. So it has remained up to this day. The Treaty of 1925 was duly ratified by the Parliaments of the United Kingdom, the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. It will be found in our Statute Book under the title of Ireland (Confirmation of Agreement) Act, 1925. As a result of this agreement, Southern Ireland recognised and accepted partition and it recognised the existing boundary, which was solemnly ratified, confirmed and endorsed by the elected representatives of the people of Southern Ireland in their Parliament. The case for partition, therefore, is unassailable, legally, constitutionally and morally."to determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic considerations, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland."
Now, when they have gone out of the Empire and repudiated allegiance to the Crown, they are raging and fuming against Britain because of what they call the forcible annexation and occupation of a part of their country. Annexation indeed! British control exists in Northern Ireland with the passionate approval and the overwhelming desire of the immense majority of the population, and we who come from Northern Ireland are glad to know that the geographical position of our Province makes it of especial importance in the strategical defence of these islands.Certain people in Southern Ireland have recently been threatening force against Ulster. I do not think the responsible leaders have done so, though I see that Mr. de Valera on Friday last said about this Bill:
Also I have been told, though I have not seen it, that Mr. McBride stated the other day that the conditions created by this Bill were conditions which might be suitable for a revival of the I.R.A. Any kind of open aggression against Ulster would, of course, rally to our aid the Armed Forces of Britain, our Armed Forces, which must, of course, defend any part of the United Kingdom against attack. But I would have no fear of any such attack. What I do fear is a repetition of the tactics that were used against Ulster between 1920 and 1922. Those were the assassination of prominent leaders and of numbers of policemen in the course of their duty, terroristic bomb outrages, the malicious burning of public offices and private houses, and that kind of thing became well known even in this country shortly before this war when bomb outrages took place all over England."If they try to put new bars on the door we are going to add few pieces of weight to the battering ram."
Does the right hon. Member think he is contributing to better relations between the North and South of Ireland by saying this kind of thing in this House?
I think the hon. Member will agree with me that this is a time of great anxiety and great seriousness for Ulster. I am calm and quiet and I am not in the least making any inflammatory speeches. I merely stated that threats of force have been made, and I am stating to the House what is the sort of force that, I think, might again be tried, and I think I am perfectly entitled to do that.If this sort of thing occurs again the necessary counter measures will fall mainly on the Government of Northern Ireland. If they have to take action, I know that it will be firm and relentless and also that there will be no lack of volunteers to re-form the special constabulary which did such splendid work a generation ago. Force of that kind, or of any kind, cannot succeed. It will accomplish nothing except to increase the barriers between North and South. It will mainly react against those who have the unwisdom to start it. This talk of a united Ireland is to a large extent a chimera of the imagination. Ireland never has been united, except during the 120 years when it was united within the United Kingdom. The whole history of the country has been a history of wars between Irish tribes and sects, and the only union which has existed in the country was from 1800 to 1920. The only union which can exist again will be, if the time ever comes, when Southern Ireland will decide once again to enter the constitutional structure of these British islands. Ulster has refused to join up with a country which has hitherto professed at least nominal allegiance to the Crown. Now that that country has repudiated her allegiance and has ceased to be part of His Majesty's Dominions, our determination is strengthened, as my right hon. Friend said it would be and as the Prime Minister indicated it would be, ten thousandfold. British we have always been; British we shall remain. All the efforts of our opponents to sweep us away from our heritage, whether by propaganda or by stealth or by force, will crumble and break as they have crumbled and broken before against the unalterable will and inflexible determination of the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
I am sure the House will not expect me to follow all the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) in the historical essay which he has just read to the House and I hope he will not mind very much if I now return to the Bill. I do, however, deprecate most strongly the fact that he has not followed the very sound advice given to the House by the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) to make restrained speeches. Instead of that he devoted five or ten minutes to telling the House about threats and "specials" and firm and relentless treatment to be meted out by the Northern Ireland Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) said, that is hardly helpful.I wish to address the House on Clause 1 (1), paragraph (b). The Prime Minister has said that this is no new declaration. He has said that this merely recognises the status quo, and the right hon. Gentleman the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition agreed with him in that. In fact, we saw today a remarkable degree of agree- ment between the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington. When the right hon. Gentleman gives us his Unionist and Conservative views I listen to him with attention and, indeed, with respect, because I know he sincerely holds those views, but when my own leader, the Prime Minister, addresses me in the same accents I listen indeed with attention but also with acute alarm. If this Clause is no new declaration, if it merely recognises the status quo, why was it put in the Bill at all? I maintain that this Clause is entirely unnecessary. If we eliminate the Clause the Bill still stands; it stands logically and all of one piece. The main purpose of the Bill is to regularise the new relations which will exist between the Republic of Ireland and this country and, in the main, it does precisely that. In fact, in that respect, so far as it goes, I am strongly in favour of the Bill. But that part of the Bill which deals with Northern Ireland and which gives the guarantee to Northern Ireland is completely irrelevant. It has nothing whatever to do with the main purpose of the Bill and, therefore, it should not have been included in the Bill. The inclusion of this irrelevant and, as I believe, gratuitously hostile Clause into a Measure which it was pretended was a gesture of friendship towards the new Republic of Ireland is a piece of sheer political effrontery. Even if I had always supported the Government entirely in their policy towards Ireland, even then I must logically oppose this Clause because today the Government have radically changed their own policy. In the quarrel about Irish unity the present Government have always declared themselves to be neutral. Over and over again they have said how dearly they would like to see the North and South become friendly to each other, and how dearly they would like to see the leaders of the North and South meet together to endeavour amicably to arrive at a solution to their conflicting views. But the Government have remained outside. The Government have, as it were, operated a policy of polite verbal non-intervention. But by this Clause the Government forsake that policy. Now the Government intervene, and they intervene with a vengeance. Now they take sides for the first time in the quarrel about Irish unity. They take the Tory and the Unionist side, against the democratic Labour and Nationalist side. This Clause intends to make partition permanent. Let us not deceive ourselves about that. Let us not be carried away by these phrases of how dearly some time in the far distant future we should love to see the two countries come together, because those phrases mean nothing at all, This Clause purports to make partition permanent, and no other meaning can be read into it. By leaving the question of partition entirely in the hands of the Northern Ireland Government, as this Clause does, partition becomes permanent. It becomes permanent because the Northern Ireland Government was particularly created for that special purpose. The boundaries of the Northern Ireland State which is a quite arbitrary and artificial State, were most skilfully drawn with the one purpose in view, that there should aways be in the enclosed area a guaranteed Unionist majority. No one will dispute that. It is to that party and that Parliament we are now leaving the decision; it is to that party with its guaranteed permanent majority, to those men whose main purpose in politics is to maintain that division of their own country. We are now in this Parliament forsaking a large part of our own responsibility, since we are leaving the decision about Irish unity completely in the hands of men who are, we know, already pledged to maintain the division of their country. Surely, then, my argument is sound and this Clause makes partition a permanency.
Does my hon. Friend remember that Section 3 in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, reads precisely the same as this Clause, and that that Act set up a Council of Ireland to bring about the unity of Ireland? If it was not permanent then, it is not now necessarily permanent.
The relevance of my hon. Friend's interruption quite escapes me. The Council of Ireland to which he refers no longer exists. We are now dealing with a fact proposed in this Bill. We have already had learned disquisitions into history, and for heaven's sake do not let us have any more.
Does my hon. Friend deny that this Clause was contained in the 1920 Act?
Furthermore, there is another quite startling change in Government policy. In a recent Debate the Prime Minister declared that there would be no change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. Let Members mark well "without the consent of people in Northern Ireland." Had those words been included in the Clause I might have been in a position to accept it but I cannot possibly accept it if the words "without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland" remain.There are three questions I should like to ask, to which I hope full answers will be given. The first is this. What guarantees do we propose to give to the minority in the Six Counties? I can assure the House that this question is not an academic one. The minority in the Six Counties is most fearful, and in the light of past history they have some reason to be fearful, fearful of victimisation and fearful of physical violence. I hope that the Minister will not be cynical enough to say that this is not our responsibility, because this Clause saddles us with that responsibility. This Clause give a free hand to the Northern Ireland Parliament. I have no wish to be provocative, and Heaven forbid that any words of mine should render worse an already dangerous situation, but with the Northern Ireland Government having an entirely free hand, I am bound to view with alarm the consequences to the minority and ask the Government whether they are prepared for these consequences—consequences which once again are the almost certain outcome of their own policy outlined in this Bill. My second question is: Who insisted on the inclusion of this unnecessary, irrelevant and quite mischievous Clause? I refuse to believe that any group of Labour Ministers spontaneously and on their own initiative included the Clause in the Bill. Who did it therefore, and from where did the pressure come? The House has a right to know what forces there are which are stronger than the Government, stronger than the majority sentiment in this party, which is the majority party in the House. I hope we shall be given a firm answer to that question. My last question is this. Were the Dominions consulted in this matter? I know that in his opening speech the Prime Minister said that the Dominion premiers were consulted about other Clauses in the Bill, but I should like to know whether they were consulted about this Clause. I should like to know what New Zealand and Australia said, and what the other Dominions have said about this Clause which makes partition permanent in Ireland. There must be thousands of people in Australia, New Zealand and many other parts of the Commonwealth who will be interested to know the answer. But when all the questions have been answered, when all has been said and all the arguments have been put, there still remains this one fundamental question, the only question which really matters. Is this Clause right, or is it wrong? That is the only question which really matters. The question must be thoroughly understood. I do not ask whether it be legally correct, politically expedient, or tactically sound. I ask whether it is morally right or morally wrong. That is the fundamental moral issue we have to face this afternoon. If it be, as I maintain it is, morally wrong to mutilate a nation, to deny to a nation the right to its own integrity, then all the other arguments are irrelevant. All the glib talk about British security, all references to the Commonwealth and all arguments about loyalty, the very questionable loyalty, of a minority of Irishmen in the North-East corner, are irrelevant. They all collapse before the fundamental moral issue. The Irish people have the moral right to decide for themselves their own destiny. The territorial integrity of Ireland is a matter to be determined democratically by the free votes of the Irish people and by no one else. This Clause denies them that right. This Clause, therefore, is immoral, and not all the speeches in the world can hide its immorality. I appeal to the Government to withdraw this Clause. I appeal to the Government as one of their most consistent and loyal supporters to withdraw it because it is not only bad in itself: it goes against every decent principle for which the Labour Party ever stood. I would remind my own leaders on the Front Bench that when the 1920 Act was passed in this House, which first divided Ireland in two, the Parliamentary Labour Party of those days unanimously, officially and enthusiastically voted against it. I am very glad to see in his place today my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), one of the survivors of those days, who was one of the Labour Party's tellers against the Bill. The leaders of my party cannot be happy about this Clause. There is no Labour Member here who can be proud of this wretched piece of political chicanery. I ask the Government to withdraw it. It would not be a sign of weakness to withdraw it. It is never a sign of weakness to confess honestly to having made a mistake and to endeavour to rectify it. Therefore, not only in support of the clear, democratic rights of the Irish people, but also for the good name of this country and for the good name of the party to which I belong, I would urge the Government to reconsider the whole matter, to seek a fresh basis from which this very difficult problem could be approached. If the Government were to do that they would have with them not merely the friendly co-operation of the Irish people in Ireland and in many countries of the world, but they would also have the heartiest goodwill of democrats everywhere.
When I first read this Bill I felt inclined to echo the words of Robert Louis Stevenson's Commercial Traveller, "Golly! What a paper!" I intend in the few minutes I have at my disposal to be very critical of this Bill, and almost certainly I shall offend both sides, which will show, I think, that I am impartial. I noticed that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) skimmed very lightly indeed over its difficulties. I cannot see what any Member of that party to which he belongs could do but skim with great skill over any Bill that has to do with Ireland in view of their past. history. I belong to the Liberal Party, and I have the right therefore, to be critical—
That party only is right.
—because the Liberal Party in all its history has shown sympathy and understanding with the immemorial grievances of Ireland; and if the Liberal Party's policy for the last half century had been followed, or even if it had not been impeded, we should not today be faced with the necessity for this Bill, nor be presented with the almost insoluble problem which, I believe, it involves.But while I deal with the very unusual character of this Bill and its proposals I should like to ask the Government—or, rather, repeat a request that has already been made to the Government by the hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy)—whether, when the Commonwealth Ministers were consulted about this matter, they consented to the two policies that are in this Bill—namely, first, the policy of treating Ireland, now a foreign country, as though it were not a foreign country, and, secondly, the inclusion of Clause 1 (1, b). It would help me to take a kinder view of the Bill if I had satisfactory answers to those two questions. Most arguments so far, in Ireland itself as well as in the papers of this country, have been legalistic. I am not competent to deal with arguments of that kind. However, there is one point in what the Prime Minister said today to which I must take exception. He said that everyone had the right to choose his own name and that we could not question the name which the Republic of Ireland gives itself. Of course we cannot question it; but the argument about the personal name which we use, seems to me entirely illusory, because the name of the Republic of Ireland is not only a name; it is a declaration and challenge; and because it is a declaration and a challenge I think it is perfectly right for hon. Members on this side of the House to object to it. Eventually, I believe, it is the jurist who will have to settle this, one of the most puzzling problems in the whole history of our external relations. So far, no mention has been made, except in the Prime Minister's speech, of the extraordinary proposal to allow a person to be at once a foreigner and not a foreigner. Mr. Costello in the Dail said that he would not deal with the situation by legal casuistry. I am not surprised, because the most agile Irish intellect which can split hairs to a miscroscopic fineness can make nothing of the tangled web which this Bill contains. It is trying to settle a question which is ultimately, I suggest, not a matter for Britain at all, and not a matter for Eire, but a matter for the courts. namely, the matter of citizenship; and one of the questions involved will be a question for an international court. There is no doubt that Eire intends, after she becomes a member of U.N.O., to apply to U.N.O. to consider the question of partition. We can be certain of that. If she does that and asks U.N.O. to consider that question, there are two things that may happen. We may consent to the discussion of the question. If we do, and if the decision goes against us, what is the value of Clause 1 (1, b)? None whatsoever. If, on the other hand, we do not consent to the discussion of the question by U.N.O., then we shall be stultifying everything we have said in the discussions of the last two years.
Nonsense. The hon. Gentleman could as well say that of Wales or Sussex.
Wales, as it happens, is not independent; nor is Sussex. Apparently by this Bill, Ireland is.
A fantastic idea, typical of the Liberal Party.
There are many questions of great difficulty concerning the national status of Irish subjects resident in Britain. I shall give only two examples out of a host. I should like a little light on these matters. What happens to an Irish subject, who, as has already been mentioned, may stand for this Parliament and who is elected? It is clear that he can be elected. Will he then be allowed to take the Oath of Allegiance at this Table, and, if he is allowed to take the Oath of Allegiance, how, in the name of common sense, can a man have allegiance to the Republic of Ireland and also have allegiance to the King of Britain? I should like to get an answer to that question.The second matter arises on the reply given to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on 2nd May, which is as follows:
If I understand the words of that statement it means, for instance, that the Irish member of the Bar may take silk, and may then be asked to take the Oath of Allegiance. It would also mean that it is possible for an Irish subject to become the permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office or the permanent Secretary of the War Office. It would be possible—I do not mean for a moment that there is probability—for the country to which he owes allegiance and of which he is a subject to be allied to another country with which we are at war at that time. That is not impossible. It is by no means impossible—and anyone who lived in Ireland during the Spanish troubles will agree with me. The sympathy of Ireland then was with Spain. In the very improbable event of our being at war with Spain, what would happen then, with the Civil Service and the Services generally bristling with Irish subjects who owe no allegiance whatsoever to the King of Britain? I said that I would offend both sides, and now I must say that the fact is that the English mind persists in treating Ireland as belonging to the British family, hoping, of course, by a show of tolerance and a show of kindness, that this fractious child will behave itself. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I appreciate and commend the magnanimity and beneficence which is shown in the intention in this Bill. I think that I can congratulate the Prime Minister in particular for his part in it; and for having carried out or tried to carry out in it the political method which was first adopted by the Liberals under Campbell-Bannerman after the disastrous lowering of standards by the South African war. I do not know how much South Africa gained by the concessions which we made then to them, but I am certain that we British in this country, having made them, had an incalculable gain, not only in external prestige but in our own conscience and in our own well-being as a nation. This offer to Ireland also will be invaluable to heal the breach with Ireland—but for Britain and not for Ireland, because I doubt very much that the offer will do anything whatsoever to cause Ireland to feel more kindly towards us. I believe that when a lady rejects a suitor she has been known to say "I cannot be your wife but I will be your sister." I believe that is a common occurrence. In all the curious proposals and rejections of history, I have never heard of the rejected suitor saying to the lady "Now that you have rejected me I will be your brother and not only will I be your brother but you will have all the privileges of a wife, with the proviso, of course, which is contained in subsection (1, b), that I shall never divorce my wife without her consent." I can imagine very well what the reactions of such a lady would be if a suitor said that to her. Would she be grateful? I do not think so. She would not only not feel grateful but she would feel immensely insulted and that, as I read the facts, is what is happening now in Ireland. Let me read two comments from the Irish papers. The "Irish Press"—Mr. de Valera's paper—states:"The undertaking given by the Prime Minister in this House on the 25th November. 1948, that citizens of Eire shall not be treated as foreigners will be followed so far as concerns their employment by the Crown or in Government Departments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May. 1949, Vol. 464, c. 41.]
The "Irish Independent"—Mr. Costello's paper—states:"The very title of the Bill is an affront to the Irish nation. The Irish people deny most vehemently that any foreign country has the right to interfere in Irish affairs."
Having said that, I should like to call attention to one side of the matter which has not been mentioned here. It is a matter about which I know something professionally. Ireland is an ancient and very distinguished nation. By a nation I mean a community with a definitely historical, social and cultural identity and continuity which has contributed vastly to religion, scholarship, literature and art in Europe. That contribution was made by Irishmen because they belonged to a separate nation, although politically they were not then separate. Even when that contribution was made in the English language it was and it is Irish and not English. It has a distinctive Irish character of its own which no Scottish or Welsh literature in the English language possesses. Need I do more than mention, for instance. Goldsmith, Sheridan, W. B. Yeats, George Moore and, above all, the most Irish of all Irishmen, Bernard Shaw. Ireland knows that it is a nation and consequently demands to be treated as a nation. When I say "treated as a nation," I say that she demands to be treated by Britain exactly with the respect and the reserve with which, for instance, France or Sweden or Poland is being treated. Ireland wants to be a foreign country to England. There is no doubt about that. When we go to Ireland we realise it. She does not want any of the advantages of not being a foreigner; she definitely wants the dis-advantages of being a foreigner. She wants more than anything else—and this is where I am going to offend my Irish friends, I am sure—to retain what in the strategy of nationhood is invaluable to it, namely, its age-long grievance against Britain. Although Ireland' is culturally a completely united nation it is not a completely united nation politically. I am not now speaking about partition, but about Eire. Have hon. Members noticed that in Ireland there are no political parties in the sense that there are political parties in this country?"The Socialists are doing a bad day's work for the relationship between the Irish people and the British people."
Could the hon. Member explain what he means when he says that culturally Ireland is a united nation, when as a matter of fact some of the most violent polemics in Irish literature are between Catholics and non-Catholics?
The noble Lord surely does not think that when one Irishman abuses another—
On cultural grounds.
that means there is any break between them? When I was interrupted I was saying that in Ireland there are no political parties in the same sense as there are in other countries. There are no Liberals or Conservatives in the sense that we have them in this country; there is only a very small Labour Party; and there are very few Communists. Although Ireland is in some respects disunited, it is absolutely united in its politics. As far as I can see, there is no difference between Mr. Costello and Mr. de Valera; the mainspring of thought and action in both is a grievance against Britain. Ireland is, unfortunately, like Lot's wife—always looking back to the dreary Sodom of its past. Ireland can cohere as a nation only by being turned into a pillar of bitter salt. In other words, the mortar which keeps the Irish nation together is the grievance against Britain.The reception of this Bill in Ireland has been extremely unfortunate. It has inflamed ancient hostilities, and any' assuagement that might come from one part of the Bill has been entirely destroyed by the inclusion of Clause 1 (1, b). The case against Northern Ireland has not been put very effectually, because it is quite obvious that the hon. Member for the Platting Division of Manchester (Mr. Delargy) was speaking from a very sincere but hot feeling. I think it could be coolly said that the one objection Southern Ireland has to this Bill is to the words "Parliament of Northern Ireland." The Prime Minister was not quite as disingenuous as he generally is—[Laughter.] I meant of course that he was not as sincere as he generally is when he said that this Bill is only repeating a pledge that was given before. If, as the hon. Member for Platting said, the pledge were given that Northern Ireland would never cease to be part of the United Kingdom except with the consent of its inhabitants, then I think this Bill would come nearer to acceptance in Southern Ireland. I gave a warning at the beginning at my speech that I would offend both sides. The general effect of the unwelcome insistence upon friendship with this country has been disastrous, and I say that with very great regret. The Government, having perpetrated what is in my opinion one of the clumsiest gaffes in their career, should now think again and withdraw this Bill. I do not know—I do not think anyone here knows—the solution to the difficulty; but that solution is certainly not contained in this Bill, which has the distinction of being an offence to the Irish and a folly to the English.
Would the hon. Gentleman mind giving us a clearer indication than he has done so far of the way the Liberal Party intend to vote?
I thought I made it perfectly clear when I asked the Government to withdraw the Bill. Surely that is as clear as anything could be.
We have now had the Ulster case put, I think in all its purity, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill); we have had the Eire case put with great feeling, but I think complete sterility, by the hon. Member for the Platting Division of Manchester (Mr. Delargy). I should now like to enter the Debate in the guise of an honest broker. Born as I was in Ulster and educated in Southern Ireland, with my interests in Scotland and my work here, I feel that possibly I may allow a fair sense of judgment to colour whatever suggestions or remarks I might make.It is exceedingly difficult to obey the advice of the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) to be non-provocative after the speeches made in the Dail yesterday. It is exceedingly difficult not to retort in like words to Mr. Costello's very provocative speech, which was unworthy of a national Parliament. However, I will do my best. The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) complained that this was an odd Bill. I do not see why he should be surprised at that. The Government have brought in many odd Bills in the last four years; it is simply a matter of degree. I should therefore like to compliment the Parliamentary draftsmen on having brought to bear all their erudite efforts to make comparative sense out of the somewhat confused ideas which have obviously animated the Government on this involved question. Indeed, the only unambiguous note which has been struck in the whole of the Bill is Clause 1 (1, b), which defines the position of Ulster. In that we discover something of the rugged sense and the unshakeable patriotism of the North manifesting itself. We must congratulate the Government on having achieved at any rate one understandable and unequivocal paragraph in this otherwise somewhat confused Measure. I now wish to examine the Bill in more detail to find where it will lead us. Clause 1 (1, a) is straightforward enough; it states clearly that Eire ceases to be part of His Majesty's dominions. Well, no doubt it had to, since Eire itself came to that conclusion some six weeks ago. But as I see it, that statement ceases to have any effect when we pass to Clause 2, which says that despite Eire being now outside the British Empire or Commonwealth—the Prime Minister allows us to have it either way now—she is not a foreign country. I took that up with the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations some time ago, and got very little in response, except courtesy. It seems to me that the Government are living in a world of fantasy—and a world of fantasy which they have created for themselves, because apparently words no longer have their meaning. I hesitate to think of the kind of conundrum which will face His Majesty's judges when they have to implement some of the provisions of the Bill. The position, as I see it, is this: the Irish are English when they want to live in, work for and fight for England; the English are Irish when they do not want to live in, work for, or pay taxes to, England. That is one oddity. There is another important oddity. The Bill discusses at length, and quite naturally, the nationality of aircraft and ships, but so far as I can see it does nothing to explain the position of Members of this House, His Majesty's judges and soldiers and civil servants who are of Southern Irish birth. It may be that an explanation of this point is hidden somewhere in the involved Clauses of the Bill, and the Prime Minister did attempt to clarify the position. But what he said is not in the Bill itself and it would be far better, and in the interests of our courts of law, if something definite were put into the Bill to show where, for instance, people like my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) and others stand. Now I would like to be quite blunt. I think the Bill is a work of fiction, for whatever legal formulæ may be passed in Ireland or in England they cannot alter the facts, which are that the North and South of Ireland are bound together by the unbreakable laws of inter-marriage, material dependence, commerce and tradition. Nothing can break those bonds. Severance of Ireland from England, and Ulster from Eire, is purely political. It is not sentimental, because inter-marriage is going on every day between the North and South; it is not material because inter-trade is going on every day; and it is not spiritual, because both worship God each in their own way. I would like to give one or two reasons why this tragi-comedy which I am hopeful will one day be ended need never have existed. As has already been said, it is born of cruelty and stupidity in the past on the part of England and long and vindictive memories on the part of Ireland. It exists today, I believe, largely as the result of premature and foolish action on the part of Mr. Costello. Had he waited only a short time, until the Imperial Conference, he would have found how easy was entry into the portals of the greatest unions of freedom which the world has ever known. India would have shown him the way, and he might have found himself in the comity of nations.
Surely Mr. Costello was looking for an exit, not an entry.
No, I think he was looking, and is still looking, for the betterment of Ireland, though I think he conceives that betterment from the wrong angle. I am satisfied that he speaks for very few people in Ireland; I know Ireland fairly well and I think I know it better than Mr. Costello, who has not interpreted the natural decency and kindliness which exists in the Irish people. If he had done so, he would not have made the speech which he made last night.
One of the difficulties in this matter, which was made clear by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) is that on this specific issue all Irish parties are united. They represent in fact, what are the aspirations of the majority of the Irish people.
That is a dogmatic statement which is open to every sort of argument. It suits their purpose for the time being. Now they find that they cannot out-bid each other any further they have to agree.I was saying, when I was interrupted—for no essential purpose, so far as I can see—that had Mr. Costello been wiser, and shown the statesmanship which a man in his position should have shown, the North, ever eager to consolidate and strengthen their union with Britain, would have stretched out a friendly hand to the South. We might have seen the result even in our time—the end of partition which we all so much deplore. We must face the facts. Ireland is too small for partition, and is too important to Britain for severance to be permanent.
My hon. and gallant Friend's calculation as to expectation of life during which a settlement might be come to, indicates that that expectation would be rather prolonged.
I am an optimist, and I hope that even my optimism might prove to be justified before both my hon. Friend and myself leave this unhappy world.Ireland is too small to be divided into fractions and factions. It is too important to Britain for a severance to be permanent. Ireland, North and South, is too dependent on Britain to permit partition to be a national policy for all time. Partion must ultimately go but—and here is the crucial question—on what terms? But for the stupid and, as I believe, blackmailing speech made yesterday by Mr. Costello in the Dail, as reported in the newspapers this morning, I could have suggested terms which might have led ultimately to what we all hope for; that speech, however, has deferred fruitful and sucessful action for many years. Those who remember the 1921 Act know that it was proposed and accepted that a common council should be set up, to go into the difficulties between Northern and Southern Ireland and make arrangements for an ultimate end of partition. Ulster volunteered members of that council, but Southern Ireland refused. There, indeed, was an opportunity that might by now have resulted in an ending of this unhappy state of affairs. Is it too late to have such a council, on which both sides can approach their common problems and find a method of overcoming their antagonisms? There is another method which might be followed by Mr. Costello and his friends—whether it is too early or too late for general acceptance I do not know—and that is the method which was adopted by Pandit Nehru. Today the United Kingdom is in effect a Dominion, the chief amongst the equals in the wider sphere. I hope someone will consider pursuing the idea as to why Southern Ireland should not follow the method of Mr. Nehru and become a Dominion. That might very well ease the situation all round. Ulster could also become a Dominion, which would not alter the loyalty and devotion of her people to Britain or the natural friendship of England for Ulster. It would not alter the ties that bind us together, but it might well lead to one glorious result, that ultimately instead of two Dominions—because when both are in the same family certain problems become very much easier—we might see one trusted, loyal, gay and gallant Dominion of United Ireland.
I recognise that the Prime Minister stated his facts correctly when he said that the necessity for this Bill was because of the action of the Eire Government in declaring that country a Republic. That action certainly has not affected the welfare of the Irish people in any social degree, but was taken, I believe, for the main purpose of out-manoeuvring Mr. de Valera in the eyes of the Irish people. That ought to be stated here. At the same time, the declaration of a Republic resulted in making a large population of Irish men and women aliens in this country, and I welcome the part of the Bill which gets us over that difficulty. What I am asking for is the best of both worlds, in that I want to see that in the Bill, but I want the declaration about partition being left in the hands of the Northern Ireland Tory Government omitted from the Bill.I have had some experience of the Government of Northern Ireland, and it is touching to realise that this is the first time in the political history of this country that we see gratitude being offered to the friends of the Labour Government. I know many Ulster Irishmen have boasted to me how they fought and worked to keep the Labour Government out of power in this country, and some of them voted even half a dozen times to do so. It is true to say that the Ulster M.P.s who happened to be here voted against various nationalisation Bills presented to this House. I am not sure whether they did that because they were opposed to public ownership or opposed to the word "national" in "nationalisation." The reward for continuous opposition by the Tory Members from Northern Ireland in this House is that the working-class people of Northern Ireland are handed over to the worst Government that this Empire has ever known. Their policy is almost diametrically opposed to everything the Labour Government stands for. They are anxious to continue the policy of full unemployment in Northern Ireland. They made full use of their powers to see that they always had a margin of unemployed workers so that the wages in Northern Ireland could be kept at their present very low level. I am aware that even in Northern Ireland the Government have distributed their favours on economic questions pretty liberally. When we were over in Northern Ireland for the County Down by-election, which we lost, though the Labour candidates from this country received more votes than the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Lieutenant Mullan), we were told a story in Gilford about a strike of some Orange workers for higher wages. The Northern Ireland Government scoured the border towns for Catholic policemen to come down to Gilford, and they had instructions not to be too light on the Orangemen in that district. The Labour Party and the Nationalists of Northern Ireland heaved a sigh of relief when the Labour Government were returned to power in this country in 1945, because they knew then that they were safe from the possibility of a pogrom in Northern Ireland. The gratitude of the Government to the Ulster Members of this House for having supported the Labour Party policy so strenuously during the whole of this Parliament is slightly reversed. I must remind the leaders of the Labour Party today that the real founders of this Labour movement here were the old Irish Party, which sat in this House. It is true that the Labour movement is based upon the great trade union movement outside, but the trade union movement in this country would never have had a political voice to build up the political movement had it not been for the action of the Irish Party in securing that right for them; through Amendments to the great Trade Union Act, which the present Foreign Secretary wanted to be carried, and which were put down on the Order Paper by Members of the Irish Party despite the opposition of the intellectual leaders of the Labour movement of that day. That contrasts very badly with the treatment now meted out to the Ulster people. I do not see that the Irish Republic will mean a halfpenny more in wages or in better social conditions for the workers of Southern Ireland. They are the only people for whom I want to speak. The trappings and trimmings of a republic will not butter anybody's bread. Though I do not want to speak in terms of narrow nationalism in this Debate, I plead with the Government not to set the seal of approval of this party, of this Government and of this Parliament upon that part of the Measure which permanently divides the Irish people.
It is a renegade attitude.
It has been said that the Northern Ireland Government propose to deal with the hotheads who resort to the use of arms and rioting on this occasion. Those young men may feel very bitter about this matter, but I plead with them not to give the Ulster Government the opportunity of crushing them I plead with them to go on seeking, with patience and forbearance, a means of coming to some arrangement with their fellow-workers in the Labour movement in Northern Ireland.I want to say to the people of Ireland generally: "Forget the old feuds and the old causes of disunity, trouble and misery that have afflicted the Irish people." I plead with the Government to perform one more act of statesmanship, to take one more chance before the Bill goes through, to try to bring the Irish people together. We were willing to do this in India and in Egypt. We sent a Cabinet mission to try to bring some form of decent Government to those people, where the disagreement was greater than it is in Ireland. I plead with the Government to drop this paragraph and to make some effort to mediate between these people. If they would do that, those of us here who feel embittered at this part of the Clause would be very happy to give the Government our support in every possible way in that new effort. I plead with the Government to make some effort to bring these people together, not the old parties, or the old capitalist parties, but the working people of Ireland, in a new, great, Labour movement for the benefit of all Ireland.
A large number of hon. Members wish to address the House and so I will make my remarks very brief and I will not attempt to cover the whole ground by any means. I will try to make two points.I am one of those, perhaps slightly different from many of my hon. Friends around me, who have been throughout their lives Home Rulers for Ireland, and I still ant so. Nevertheless, if we are to take our stand upon a right of self-determination, I have never been unable to see any argument which justifies Dublin in breaking free from Westminster which does not equally justify Belfast in breaking free from Dublin. I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy), whose sincerity I deeply respect. His argument seemed to me, although doubtless not to him, to be simply the old Unionist argument dressed up again. We can make the geographical unit what we like. We can say that as there is a majority in favour of it in Ireland, therefore Ireland must be a Republic. But the old Unionist with equal logic used to say that the British Isles were the unit, and therefore would not agree to Home Rule at all. It seems to me to be an unanswerable argument.
The hon. Member has put forward what he thinks to be an unanswerable argument. Let me try to put to him what I conceive to be an answer. If he argues that because Dublin can break away from Westminster then Belfast can break away from Dublin why cannot Fermanagh and Tyrone break away from Belfast if they want to? May I ask whether the paragraph in the Clause does not enunciate precisely the opposite principle?
The argument of the hon. Member is put forward with his usual cogency, but it does not provide an answer to my argument. I will, if you like, deal with that point, which was not the one with which I am now dealing. I agree, since the hon. Member raises the matter, that there is nothing sacrosanct about the present frontier between Northern and Southern Ireland. If in quite a different atmosphere the Eire Government were to approach the problem and making some suggestions, on the lines of Mr. Justice Feetham's award for a detailed rectification of the frontier, which there was good reason to believe would be a final solution to the problem, I should very strongly support it. But the situation is not that at all, but is entirely different. It is quite a different situation when the confessed intention is to turn Fermanagh and Tyrone into a Sudeten Deutschland. The hon. Member raised a point which was very relevant but one with which I did not intend to deal. I was intending to face the practical question, which is that whether we have subsection (1, b) in the Bill or whether we do not have it, whether there is a Socialist or a Conservative Government in this country, it is entirely unthinkable, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, that any British Government in this country should force Northern Ireland out of the Commonwealth against its will. It is fantastic to make that suggestion.It would seem then that the reasonable thing for Southern Ireland Catholics to do is to accept the situation as it is and the distribution of population as it is, whether they like it or not, and then to ask what policy would allow them to give the maximum amount of help to the Northern Irish Catholics. When I begin to think on these lines, as I frequently do, I cannot forget what was said to me by a distinguished Irish statesman who cannot be accused of being too favourable to the British connection because he fought against us in the 1916 rising. He was subsequently Secretary for External Affairs under Mr. Cosgrave—Mr. Desmond Fitzgerald. He said something, I remember, shortly before his death: "We in the South make a very great mistake when we object to partition. Everybody knows"—and I think this is true—"that up in the North the Catholics frequently suffer hardship and injustice. If we said to the people in the North that we quite admitted their right to exist under the form of Government that they chose for themselves, we could go to that Government and ask them to behave a little bit better in this or that particular. But if we start off by saying to them 'We do not admit your right to exist, whether you behave ill or well,' we can hardly expect them to treat any of our particular representations with respect." The Prime Minister, Mr. Costello, could not have played his cards in a way to make him more impotent to help the Northern Catholics than the way in which he has in fact played them. When I think of the border between North and South, the first thing that always comes into my mind is an estimable gentleman who used to make, and for all I know still does make, a living there by smuggling pigs to and fro across the border. When on one occasion he was arrested and brought to trial, he was asked whether he pleaded "Guilty" or "Not guilty." He replied: "How can I tell until I have heard the evidence?" That seems to me to be in itself a sensible observation, but—