It might be convenient if the Amendments in the name of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden)—in page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning, to "that," in line 6, and insert—
and in line 10, leave out "declares"—were discussed together with the Amendment in the name of the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn)—in line 12, leave out "affirms."(1) It is hereby recognised and declared—
I am sorry to be slightly stupid, but I did not hear you clearly, Major Milner. It is quite plain in my mind that your suggestion about the first of the two later Amendments is wholly unobjectionable, but I am not quite so certain about the one standing in my name.
I have considered that matter and I think the hon. Member's Amendment can be discussed quite usefully under the same heading.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 5, to leave out from the beginning, to "that," in line 6, and to insert—
(1) It is hereby recognised and declared—
These Amendments are designed to effect a small alteration in the language used in the first Clause. The effect of the first, if adopted, will be to remove the words "Parliament hereby recognises and declares" and to substitute in the opening words "It is hereby recognised and declared." The effect of the subsequent Amendments will be to make the Clause conform to those opening words. So far as I can ascertain, the change is mainly one of form. It is to eliminate a somewhat unusual form of words in the Clause and to substitute what I am certain the Attorney-General will agree is the more usual form of words. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recollect that on Second Reading my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) told the House that he had so far been unable to discover any precedent in any statute for the form of words here proposed. I have no doubt that during the interval the Attorney-General will have fortified himself with any precedents there may be, and I am sure that the Committee would be grateful to him for inviting its attention to the precedents. At the moment, therefore, I put the argument merely on the basis that this is an unusual form of words and that, unless strong reason to the contrary can be shown, it is expedient from every point of view to use the language of the ordinary statutes. I am certain that is a proposition which the Attorney-General will not seek to controvert, and therefore I propose to address myself to the point whether there is or is not here any special and peculiar circumstance which will justify a departure from the normal language of Acts of Parliament. On the Second Reading of the Bill the Lord President of the Council sought to reply to arguments which had been raised on this point, and as there the Lord President gave what I understood to be the Government case for this unusual language, perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I read what he said:(a).
I do not doubt that the second argument was not intended very seriously, since the sound of language is surely not a consideration which normally actuates the Parliamentary draftsman. Indeed, there are many precedents to the contrary on that. I am perfectly certain that the Clause was not put in merely to suit the musical ear of the Lord President of the Council. The argument, therefore, seems to be that this form of words was used because the initiative in this matter was taken not by His Majesty's Government or by this House but by another Government and another legislature in Dublin. I should like to examine that argument because if it has any validity it surely must go a great deal further. The Prime Minister told us on Second Reading that the whole reason for the Bill was the action taken by the Irish legislature and the Irish Government. Therefore, if this form of words is to be used in this Clause it would seem logical that it should be used throughout the Bill, but that course is not followed. In any event, that is surely a fallacious argument. What we are now doing in this Bill is not merely to follow the initiative of another Government. We are, on the initiative and advice of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, seeking to alter the law of England. After all, that is the only law which we in this House are competent to amend or to vary. Therefore, the reason which the Lord President of the Council gave for this departure from the normal form of words is a very flimsy reason and one quite inadequate to sustain this very substantial departure from the ordinary language of Acts of Parliament. Accepting therefore, the proposition that such a departure could only be justified by a real and substantial reason, it seems that no such substantial reason has been produced. If in the drafting of statutes we are to go behind the ordinary form of words and seek to vary the drafting of the statute because, of the varying motives which may have induced the Government to introduce it, then, indeed, we are opening the door for a wild variety of legal language. After all, we are not concerned with that. We are concerned with the Government's proposal to this House and this country to vary the law of England. I submit that it is quite wrong to alter that normal language merely because one of the reasons for the introduction of the Bill may be the action of another Government, and it seems to me that this reason for departing from the ordinary phraseology is quite inadequate."The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked, as did the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, what was the reason for the somewhat exceptional drafting of the opening words of Clause 1 of the Bill. There is no hidden motive behind it. The reason the Bill does not start with the customary words, "It is hereby declared," is that it was desired to make it quite clear that the initiative was not that of our own Parliament at Westminster and that what this Parliament is doing in the first place is to recognise that which already exists de facto as a result of the action of the Parliament in Dublin. Therefore, we thought that the usual operative phrase would have been inept and, as I have said, the phrase which has been used has no hidden significance. As a matter of sound I think the words have a rather pleasant ring about them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1957.]
There really is very little in this matter and I must confess that I cannot arouse any great enthusiasm for the Amendment or, indeed, against it. This is purely a drafting Amendment. It will not alter the effect of the Bill in the slightest degree although, perhaps, if it were accepted it might slightly obscure the historical significance of the Bill. I have said that the matter is not of first-rate importance; but the particular phrase that is used in the Bill as it stands—the rather short, emphatic language—reflects the realities of the situation. It may be unusual—no doubt it is—but the Bill deals with an extremely unusual situation. It is Parliament—the King, the Lords and the Commons together—who are in fact recognising that Southern Ireland—I am using a neutral phrase for the moment—has taken the initiative and made itself a republic outside the Commonwealth. It recognises that fact; it does not make any law in regard to it. Parliament then goes on to declare that certain circumstances must follow from that initiative. That seems to us to be right.3.45 p.m. To adopt the wording of the first Amendment would apply the word "recognise" not only to the position of the Irish Republic but also to the position of Northern Ireland; and that, we think, would be quite inept. In relation to the Amendment in the name of the Senior Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), on the whole we think it is more proper to use the word "affirm" and so to distinguish between "declaring" that Northern Ireland is at present part of the United Kingdom and "affirming" as a matter of Parliamentary policy hereafter, that she will always remain so, subject to her own Parliament. On the whole, therefore, I invite the Committee to say that, there being no sinister significance whatever in this phrase—I do not think that the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) suggested that there was—the case is one where it is not inappropriate to use the form of words which has been adopted in the Bill as drafted.
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman inform the Committee what are the precedents for the phrase "Parliament hereby recognises"?
I do not know that there are any precedents. I said that the situation is an unusual one. Indeed, it may be said to be an unprecedented one. That is why we are using appropriate language, as I suggest, to deal with it.
I hope the Treasury Bench will think again about this matter. If they admit, as they already have, that there is not very much in it from their point of view, I hope they will consider whether they ought not to be indulgent to those of us from whose point of view there is something considerable in it. It really is not fair, if I may say so with respect to the learned Attorney-General, to say that the factors now present are new and that that is an argument for using new language. It surely is not only a draftsman's rule, but a constitutional rule and a rule of commonsense, that the same formulae for either making law clearer or changing law should always be used, and that new formulae should not be introduced except when what is being done is new—I do not mean when the factors to which it is being done are new, but when what Parliament, or the King in Parliament, is doing is new. It surely can only be then that it is reasonable to introduce a new formula. I think that if I stop there that is ground enough why the words we propose should be preferred.Secondly, I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make a little clearer to us what he means by saying that the effect of the word "affirm" instead of "declare" is to make it plain that this is a matter of Parliamentary policy. That is a collocation of vocables, to which I really find myself not capable of attaching any significance. If there is any significance that can be attached to them, it ought to be made plain to us. This is a declaratory statute. I am not quite sure what Parliamentary policy is, but I am quite sure that to affirm Parliamentary policy in a statute is something certainly that has not been done for many generations, not since Parliament has been what we mean by Parliament, although possibly in the fifteenth century; that would be an interesting point upon which I should very much like to debate at length with the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he would also like it. I dare say the rest of the Committee might not feel this was the most suitable opportunity for that. But, unless we are to go right back to the fifteenth century, I do not know what it means to say that using the word "affirms" makes this matter of Parliamentary policy, something which it is desired to be done, in contradistinction to the declaring it to be the law, which is what naturally a declaratory provision in a statute would do and what the Bill as drafted would appear, if it does anything at all, to be setting out to do. That is another reason why I would suggest to him that our words should be followed. There is a third reason. Only two grounds have so far been suggested why this new formula should here be imported into our practice. One I do not think I have heard used in this Chamber, but I have heard it used outside. It is that there is no distinction at all and that this makes no difference whatever. That clearly is not a good reason. It cannot be good arguing, or good constitutional practice, to alter a formula more time honoured than ever John of Gaunt was, if you mean to say exactly the same as would be said by a consecrated formula. I think everyone in the Committee would agree that that argument cannot stand up. The only other argument—if "argument" is the proper Parliamentary word to apply to it—is the sentence already indicated which fell from the Lord President of the Council, and that was a very odd one indeed. The Lord President of the Council said that the object of this is to show that the initiative is not with this Parliament. This is very odd. It seems to me extraordinarily odd if the normal formula is, "It is said" and then suddenly, once, after 600 years, instead of saying "It is said" you say "Postlethwaite said" and, when challenged, you say "Of course I put it that way in order to make it clear that Postlethwaite was not taking the initiative." [Laughter.] I am not being funny, it is the Lord President of the Council who is being funny. Of course humanity perhaps finds it impossible to laugh at him, and it is only when his words are repeated by others that they become risible. That argument will not do. Not only will it not do, but it does more harm than good to him in the way I have already indicated and in a second way also. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) stopped short with a mercifulness to the Lord President of the Council which we must all admire, morally, even if, intellectually, we thought it mistaken. The Lord President went on to say
that is us—"what this Parliament"—
That had not been underlined sufficiently. This is a point to which I think the Committee will have to return on other Amendments—that the Bill or statute cannot recognise, or declare, or affirm, something to be law simply because it exists de facto. One can affirm, or declare, or recognise law only when it is already law. Otherwise one must make law. If in any of these Clauses beginning with such words as "It is declared," or "Postlethwaite declares," or "Herbert Morrison affirms"—any of these declaratory Clauses—it can be shown, and it can be shown from the Lord President's speeches and the Prime Minister's speeches and all the speeches from the Treasury Bench in defence of this Bill, that they all think all the time they are doing something to make law and doing something to make law which otherwise would not be law, in so far as they are doing that, in my submission, they are acting ultra vires and making nonsense of declaratory law and carrying the omnicompetence of Parliament beyond the responsible limit to a point of illogicality where it will not exist, if it is left there. Although it will be necessary to return to this on other Amendments, I mention it here to show that when the Lord President found it necessary to defend this unusual form of words he was not able to do so without slipping into nonsense; and that seems another good reason why this new form of words should not become the enacting form for this Bill. The Attorney-General has admitted that from the point of view of the Treasury Bench there is not very much in this Amendment. The whole matter of the Bill is a matter of very great constitutional and national importance upon which everyone on the Treasury Bench must admit they have had the extreme of tolerance and co-operation from those on this side of the Committee, whose prejudices are different from theirs. I therefore plead with them that if there is not very much here which they want to keep, but something considerable here which we wish to see removed, it is really one of the occasions where the House of Commons might act a little as a Council of State and we might be given what we ask for."is doing … is to recognise that which already exists de facto as a result of the action of the Parliament in Dublin."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1957.]
I wish to support the first Amendment. I found myself to some degree agreeing with the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he said that it was difficult to excite great enthusiasm either for the words in the Bill or for the Amendment. I suggest, however, that there are very strong reasons for not creating quite such a startling precedent as is here created by the words in the Bill. In defence of the Lord President of the Council the other night, I think that the first of the two arguments that he put forward may have been directed not so much to the words, "Parliament recognises" as to the inclusion of the word "recognises." But, in so far as that was his argument, the Opposition are giving full value to it in the words we suggest should be adopted:
The Attorney-General said that while "recognised" was entirely suitable for paragraph (a) it was not equally suitable for paragraph (b), and I could see and appreciate what he had in mind. But that point could easily be met by his accepting the first of our Amendments and then beginning paragraph (b) with the words "It is declared." I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if we meet him to that extent and leave out "recognised" as regards paragraph (b) and have the form we suggest in paragraph (a) and if he could accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) to leave out "affirms" in line 12, that might meet the views on this side of the Committee and the small objection to our form of words suggested from the other side of the Committee would be met. 4.0 p.m. I can appreciate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, namely, that there was no exact precedent for what we are doing, but, unfortunately, what we are doing may be alleged to be a precedent on some future occasion. If we are to use a wholly novel form of words, introducing in this way that "Parliament … recognises and declares," it may have an effect upon the construction of statutes of which the Attorney-General has not yet thought, and which, should the occasion arise, he would deplore. I beg him, subject to the slight change in the second Amendment which I have suggested, to indicate the Government's willingness to accept the proposal which we make."It is hereby recognised and declared."
I can quite appreciate that the Attorney-General finds little to choose between the words standing in the Clause and those in the Amendment. There is something to be said for that point of view if one looks at the words. The word "declares" is included in both. The difference is not so much a difference between "it is stated" and "Postlethwaite has stated." There is a difference between those two, but that is not the difference here. It is that Postlethwaite says something which he has no power to say. His declaration is in regard to the sovereignty of the Irish Republic, a sovereignty which has already been proclaimed and which is not a matter which this Parliament can vary. It is assuming that this Parliament retains that sovereignty. All that can properly be put in this Clause is that "it is hereby recognised," not declared. The word "declared" should be omitted both from the Amendment and the Clause itself.
I still find it difficult to follow the procedure by which a Bill begins with the normal formula "Be it enacted. …" and then proceeds, not to enact something, but to affirm. I ask the Attorney-General to consider whether that matter could not be satisfactorily regularised by making Clause 1 (1, a) read that:
which recognises what has taken place in Dublin and gives the sanction of this Parliament to it, saying that the part of Ireland known as Eire shall be deemed to have ceased. Further, subsection (1, b) should simply state:"The part of Ireland heretofore known as Eire shall be deemed to have ceased, as from the eighteenth day of April, …."
etc. That seems to me to fall under the heading of an enactment in the way in which the present wording does not."Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty's Dominions and of the United King- dom and in no event will Northern Ireland …."
I am still at a loss to understand what the Attorney-General meant in regard to the definition of the language. I do not see anything about this Bill which is going to be for ever and ever, and in regard to the Amendment which we are discussing I should like to know if the phrase which it is sought to introduce is in any way a contradictory phrase, or whether we are now asked to say that the term "for ever and ever" is the solution.
I shall deal first with the point raised by the junior Burgess of Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris). He will appreciate that the words "Be it enacted" apply to the Bill as a whole, and there are, as we shall shortly see when we reach subsequent Clauses of the Bill, definite enactments which may effect changes in the law. It is not at all unusual, however, for the first Clause of a Bill to contain statements which are merely declaratory of the law, and though that may seem inconsistent with the phrase "Be it enacted" it is quite customary to do that. I should claim custom on my side in regard to that aspect of the matter.I respectfully agree with the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) in what I think was his view—that the only real issue on these three Amendments which we are considering is whether we should substitute the words "it is" for "Parliament" in Clause 1, page 1, line 5, and whether in subsection (1, b) we should substitute "declares" for "affirms." That is the real substance of the matter which is before the Committee. In regard to what was said on that matter by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), I agree that it would be quite a simple matter to introduce on the Report stage small drafting Amendments which would aptly embody in the Bill the sense of the Amendments which stand in the name of the hon. and learned Member and his right hon. and learned Friends. Although I do not think that these Amendments would stand up to scrutiny in the terms in which they appear in the Order Paper, it would be quite simple to make small alterations in them. I agree also with the hon. and learned Member that it is important not to make a departure in the language of statutes as between one statute and another if the difference in language leads to any different legal result—I say legal as opposed to historical or political result. I feel quite confident that no legal implications arise from the enacting phrase which we use in page 1, line 5, as drafted. I ask the Committee to say that there is no reason why we should not suit language to facts by saying that Parliament—that is to say, the King, the Lords and the Commons, which is what Parliament means, not merely the two Houses—recognise what has been done by the Southern Irish Government, and declares the various consequences that must follow from that. I can see no danger that could be created by the use of that phrase as a precedent in legislation which we have hereafter to consider. Although I do not attach the highest importance to the matter, I ask the Committee to take the view that the phrase used in the Bill is not inapt and is suitable to meet a unique situation. The senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) devoted some part of his speech to talking about a Mr. Postlethwaite. I cannot find that gentleman in the Bill, so I shall direct my attention to the main subject of the hon. Member's speech—the difficulty which he finds in my desire to retain in the Bill the use of the word "affirms," and his difficulty in appreciating what I mean by a statement of Parliamentary policy as opposed to the enactment of a law. That is quite a simple matter. The word "declares," as it appears in subsection (1, b) is the appropriate word to state what is the existing law. For the purpose of removing doubts or whatever the case may be, Parliament can do no more by the use of that word, than state what is the law at present. Parliament cannot, by the use of such a word, bind future Parliaments. If the word "declares" had been used to introduce the subsequent part of the Clause which states:
it would have been completely without legal effect, as this Parliament cannot bind future Parliaments. To say:"that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of His Majesty's dominions …"
would have no binding effect on future Parliaments. Faced with that position, there appeared to us to be two courses open. One was for His Majesty's Ministers to say, as a declaration of Ministerial policy, that in no circumstances would they agree to the exclusion of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom without the consent of the Northern Ireland Parliament. That would have bound His Majesty's Ministers. We thought it more appropriate in these circumstances to introduce into the Bill itself a formal statement which would represent the views of all parties and would indicate what is the policy of this Parliament; this Parliament not being able to lay down the law for future Parliaments, but being at least entitled to state its own policy as it appreciates the matter at the moment. It is for that reason tht we rejected the word "declares" which would have been quite inappropriate, and substituted the word "affirms." What we are really asking Parliament to do is precisely to affirm that Parliament will not agree in the future to Northern Ireland being excluded from the United Kingdom without the consent of the Northern Ireland Parliament. I venture to suggest that it is really the appropriate word to use and I hope that the Committee will allow this Clause to stand as it is."that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of His Majesty's dominions … without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland,"
I thought, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman rose and from his first observation, that he was going to accept the point raised by the first Amendment. Indeed, he has frankly admitted that it would be very easy as a matter of drafting to start Clause 1 of this Bill in the same way as so many other Clauses have been started in Bills in the past:
instead of the novel method of saying:"It is hereby recognised and declared"
I think he ought to have met us on this point. This is a clear departure from precedent. He has given no precedent whatsoever for starting any Clause in this way. He rightly says that the real issue on this Amendment is in line 5 of this Bill. I would ask him to give further consideration to this matter. He could very easily meet the point raised by the first Amendment on Report, and in my belief it will not weaken the rest of that Clause in any way whatsoever. He says that there is no legal implication in the change from:"Parliament hereby recognises and declares."
which is more normal than"It is hereby recognised and declared"
Though there is no legal implication, I fear that a great many people, who do not realise that the term "Parliament" includes the King, the Lords and the Commons together, will think when they look at this Act that there is something significant to be drawn from the fact that the word "Parliament" is used on this occasion, when normally Bills do not start in that way. To avoid non-lawyers falling into that error I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to meet us on this point. One does not like creating a new precedent without good reason, and in both his speeches the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given no good reason for this departure from precedent. The Lord President said that the use of the word "Parliament" showed quite clearly that the initiative was not with our own Parliament at Westminster; but I defy anyone reading this Clause as it is to come to that conclusion, and I defy anyone to come to the contrary conclusion if the Clause starts with the words:"Parliament hereby recognises and declares."
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said there was very little in this matter. We think it is a matter of some importance and as he has indicated quite clearly that the change could be made quite easily, I beg him once again to reconsider his attitude to this Amendment. If he is not prepared to do so I fear that we shall have no alternative but to divide against him on this matter."It is hereby recognised and declared."
Before the learned Attorney-General replies I wish to raise one matter. It is a small thing, but I think of consequence. I think I followed his argument about (b), although I did not follow his distinction between "declares" and "affirms." I am prepared to admit that that may be my fault and that his distinction is right. Admitting therefore, for argument, that the word should be "affirms," it quite certainly follows, if the intention of "affirms" is to establish a policy, that the verb after it should be "shall" and not "will." I think it is a little bit of a pity that the English Parliament legislating about this matter should not follow the English rather than the Irish usage. They are the masters now. They have liquidated the Empire and destroyed the Kingdom and so on. Let them at least leave to us part of our language. I hope that the Attorney-General is going really to give us this Amendment which I think we have asked for in a conciliatory manner; but if not will he at least promise to look before a later stage and see whether on his own argument about the meaning of the word "affirms" it should be followed by the word "shall"?
Before the learned Attorney-General makes his closing speech, may I put one point? He says that he believes that the legal effect of the Clause will be the same, whether the first Amendment is adopted, or we retain the language of the Bill. I am certain he has carefully considered that, and that is his opinion. But what I want to point out to him is this. If any new form is adopted to bring about something which is quite familiar in previous Acts, then no matter how much he says he believes the effect to be the same it will not stop either laymen or lawyers from arguing that something different must be meant by a different formula and for those reasons I beg him to consider the adoption of our first Amendment.
Does not the difficulty here arise from the first Clause being in language not really appropriate to an Act of Parliament, but being more appropriate to treaties and to treaty conditions. Might not the language of the first Clause be amended to bring it into line with the language of an Act of Parliament, which this is?
The remarks made by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) with regard to the liquidation of the British Empire were unworthy even of the hon. Member, and I do not propose to follow them. I shall only a little more closely follow the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universites (Mr. H. Strauss). I hope indeed that lawyers will never cease to argue, although perhaps it might be better if they confined their argument to the courts and not so much to this Committee. Regarding the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), I hate to adhere to precedent too slavishly, but I appreciate the point which he made with regard to the position of the Crown and the possible implication which the use of this phrase might have. Whilst not making any promises about the matter I will undertake to consider it on Report, and if on consideration we think that the point made by the hon. and learned Member is a sound one, and I appreciate the force of it, we shall put down an Amendment to meet the first two Amendments on the Order Paper as they now stand.
In view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, and his undertaking to reconsider the position raised on the first two Amendments, I beg to ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The next Amendment selected is that in the name of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie), in page 1, line 10, to leave out paragraph (b). For the convenience of the Committee I think that the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) and the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale), both on the same page, might be discussed at the same time—in page 1, line 11, leave out from "Kingdom," to end of line 2, page 2; and in line 12, leave out "or any part thereof." As we had a rather long discussion on Second Reading on this very point I would venture to suggest that it might not be necessary to take it at too great length.
Does that save the Amendment in line 6 for future discussion or would that fall if this Amendment falls.
There is no Amendment to line 6.
Does that mean that the Questions will be put to the Committee separately?
Yes, if hon. Members desire to divide on one or more of the points, certainly.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, to leave out paragraph (b).I do not want to embarrass any of the hon. Gentlemen who have their names on the Order Paper in support of the other Amendments mentioned by you, Major Milner, but I intend to go into the Lobby in favour of my Amendment. The subsection, the deletion of which I now move, states,
Why do I wish to delete those words? When I see my mother country being cut up, divided and classified as part of another country, I have every right as a representative in this House to say that at least I, as one hon. Member, shall not stand for that sort of business being carried on against the country of which I am a citizen. This Clause hands over the Six Counties in a permanent manner to a party in those Six Counties who are actually a minority in the country. Ireland is the only place I can find where a minority rule over a majority. We have asked time after time for the people of Ireland to be allowed to decide where the Six Counties should belong. The House of Commons has never given us the privilege or the opportunity to do that. When this House was considering the position of Ireland under the 1920 Act, the then Chief Secretary said that he hoped that the position as established by that Act would only be a temporary one. Am I to live to see the day when a political party which I have supported for the whole of my life and which is now in Government, is to destroy every reasonable opportunity of bringing into being a united and undivided Ireland? That is what this subsection does. For all time the Six Counties will be kept as a perquisite of the Tories in the North-East of Ireland. Nineteen-sixteen was the year of the Rebellion, a year when the war was on and when the Asquith Act was left aside for the period of the war. Irishmen from North and South volunteered to go out to fight for the safety of the British Empire. What did they get when they returned? They did not get the 1914 Measure. They got an Act which was prepared on 19th May, 1916, at the dictation of the then Prime Minister, which stated that whether or not Northern Ireland decided to go in with Eire, she must not be allowed to do so. That was carrying the position too far. If that country wanted to unite, it was decided that Britain must not allow her to do so. I wish to give a little advice to the right hon. and learned Attorney-General. It is not Southern Ireland which is now known as the Republic of Ireland. We know Southern Ireland. Southern Ireland as he was defining it comprises three and a half provinces of Ireland—three full provinces and three counties in Ulster. Those are the three counties which these same Tories deserted in 1920. They left their brothers and sisters under the control and authority of an Irish Government. Now they are claiming preservation and security for all time in the sinecure jobs which they have set up in the Six Counties, and this Labour Government is about to give them that security. Those in charge of the Bill may think that there is a possibility some day of the Parliament of Northern Ireland coming to their real senses and meeting their brother Parliament of the Republic and deciding to unite together for the common good of the whole. I wish to say that the people who have been in control for the last 28 years will be in control for the next 50 years if we give them this Clause. They will never consent to go in to the body of Ireland and to pull their weight in Irish affairs, culture, interests and everything appertaining to the welfare of the Irish nation. They will not do that because they have no interest in Ireland. All their interests are over here in this country. Government after Government have handed it down as a legacy that Northern Ireland must not be allowed to join with the rest of Ireland, and these people are encouraged to continue the nefarious work of keeping the country divided. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nefarious work?"] Yes. If hon. Members had lived where I have lived all my life they would not find a word in the dictionary, which they were so ably discussing some while ago, which fits the position more adequately than the word I have used. The Atlantic Charter, the signatories of which were the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and Mr. Roosevelt, states:"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."
That applies as much to Ireland as to any other nation. We have been forcibly driven from our own land through the medium of an Act of Parliament passed by the British House of Commons, an Act which has been maintained by this House. 4.30 p.m. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, and I do not wish to prophesy, but I can say that for many years now there has been a friendly feeling between the people of Ireland and the people of this country. That feeling, one of goodwill and good wishes, was growing and developing, and we were coming to the point at which Ireland might have been able to take her place among the nations, provided that reasonable and sensible people in this House would allow her to take her place as a complete nation and not as a splintered nation. We shall never get Ireland's friendship, Ireland's support nor Ireland's co-operation while we compel part of the Irish people to live under the conditions that exist in the North of Ireland, in those Six Counties which have been cut away and "Englishised" from the 26 counties that belong to the Republic of Ireland at the present time. This House may think that it is going to free its hands of this Irish question for the next 50 years. No, Sir. For seven hundred years politicians have been thinking that the Irish question could be dealt with and solved, and history shows how far they have actually dealt with it. No, this Irish question will still remain with Governments on all occasions, when one generation goes out and another comes in, unless the only fair and reasonable solution is adopted. If the motherland is going to be a better place than it is now, then the motherland will have to be united, and if this is a Labour Government it ought to be helping towards the achievement of that unity. I wonder if this is a Labour Government, or if it is really such a Government as I thought it was, or as the Irish people, who have helped to build it, thought it was? The Irish people have helped to build this party into a big-hearted party, and the Government should remember that the Irish played no small part in the building up of the British Labour movement. We played a large part in 1924 in building up this movement, and we Irish were the first to send congratulations to the then Prime Minister who had just taken over the leadership of the first British Labour Government. We have played our part all along the years. Now we come to 1949 and we get this Bill presented to us with the suggestion that the Labour Government are going a step further than the previous Governments have done. Every previous Government left the door wide open for the possibility of the two parts of Ireland coming together, and the Lord President of the Council has said that the door has not been slammed. If anyone can show me where there is a glimpse of light shining through the door in this Clause, I should be glad. Where is there any opportunity for North and South, East and West, to get together and form themselves into one nation, with a central Parliament for the whole of Ireland? All I can see in Clause 1 (1, b) is darkness, both for the Irish nation and for this Government, and I am not one who wishes to see this Government put out because of this dastardly Act which they are going to put on the Statute Book. I would rather suffer my penance and accept them before I would ask anyone to cast a vote against the Government, although they are here playing a part which the Tories like. The Tories, deep down in their hearts, know the resentment which exists in the breasts of the Irish people in Great Britain, and they are hoping and wishing that, when the next General Election comes, the Irish question will be presented to the country and that the Labour Government will be dealt with accordingly. They will in that way court favour for the Irish vote in Great Britain, but I hope and trust that the Irish will have more sense and that they will be wiser than to follow the double-dyed villains who sit on the other side of this House. I am going to make the last appeal to those whom I should call my colleagues, and I will always call Labour and Socialist politicians, no matter of what country, my comrades and colleagues. I am going to say this to the British Labour Government. Accept my overture on this occasion and try to do something more reasonable and fair in this Bill than Clause 1 (1, b) as it now stands, and never forget J. R. Clynes, an old and respected member of the Government's party, nor the fact that at one time the Irish voice was very pronounced in that party. Keir Hardie, one of the founders, was the friend of James Connolly, and the two pioneers, one of British Labour and the other of Irish Labour, went arm in arm and side by side to champion the cause of Labour and Labour's independence. From the point of view of the working class in Ireland, I think we are entitled to have the ear of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I had a demonstration in my division in Belfast last night, and anything up to 10,000 people were assembled there. I was afraid lest anything serious might happen, or that any word of mine might lead to a flare-up, because I know that, when a flare-up is started in the Six Counties, the losers will be the Tories. In such a flare-up, I shall be one figment which will disappear, but I am not afraid to die for the cause which I am espousing today. I went into the British Army to fight for this country, and many thousands of Irishmen and Irishwomen fought for the liberty of this country, but during the Second Reading Debate on this Bill, we did not hear much about the services of these men and women who came from the three and a half provinces below the Border. We heard the eulogies of the protection which the Six Counties gave to this country, but what about the major question of the thousands who came from below the Border? What about the thousands of men who volunteered and did great service? I am not decrying any man from the North. I recognise that the North has a pledge of loyalty and attachment in being "King's men." They did not seriously seek to have conscription, though they came over here and asked for conscription to be applied to their country, knowing perfectly well that it could not be done. That was the reason why they came here to ask for it; if it could have been done, they would never have come here to ask for it, because all their friends were in protected jobs. In 1920, when the Government of Ireland Bill was before this House, the Labour Party put up Mr. J. R. Clynes to move the rejection of the Bill. The Chief Secretary, speaking for all parties at that time in this House, said this:"Third, they respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them."
Are we progressing forward, or going backwards? All the parties in this House in 1920 declared in favour of an open door, but the party of which I myself have been a member and supporter all my life now comes forward with a closed door, with power and authority for all time. Whatever this Government may think of the words in this paragraph which I am seeking to delete, are they aware that in the next 50 years the same people will be in government in Northern Ireland as are in it today, if they are not too old, and that if they are too old then those who are following after them will occupy the same seats under the same designation? There is not a snowball's chance in hell of anybody else getting into it. That is not democracy."All of us hope that the division may be temporary only, and our arrangement has therefore been to frame the Bill in such a manner as may lead to union between the two parts of Ireland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1920; Vol. 127, c. 928–9.]
It is not Parliamentary language either.
Out of respect for you and for this Committee, Mr. Bowles, I withdraw that remark. I quite agree that it is unparliamentary, but it came out unknown to myself. I should have used the word "Hades"; that would have made all the difference.I do not want this Debate to be typical of some which we have had when Irish representation has been discussed. We are not all built the same way; but we can be serious and try to be intelligent—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—although sometimes it is not easy with the interruptions which come from the other side of the Committee. However, we can try. This Government will have to try to give intelligent consideration to this paragraph (b). In 1920, Parliament agreed that this was a temporary arrangement. If the initial efforts of this Govern- ment are successful I feel that they will have a lease of life sufficient to enable them to receive the good wishes and the blessing of the Irish nation. But if the Government proceed on the lines which they are following now, there will be hostility, difficulties, trials and trouble for all concerned. I do not want to speak for much longer; other Members wish to speak, but I want to say what I have got to say on this paragraph. This is a contentious provision which is slamming the door in my face. This is the Clause which is trying to make me an Englishman when I am not. No one can manufacture me on paper into an Englishman when I am not. I say to the Attorney-General, who has already been chastised about his use of the English language, "Do not be guilty of the offence again by calling the Republic of Ireland Southern Ireland." I say that to him in all friendliness. 4.45 p.m. In 1918 a plebiscite of the whole of Ireland was taken, and only one-fifth were against the sovereign rights and independence of Ireland. The Home Secretary should put forward to the Governments of the Republic of Ireland and of Northern Ireland the suggestion to take a plebiscite in two parts, supervised by this House, and I should say that almost certainly the decision of the people would be——
That point does not arise on this Amendment. It can be discussed on the next Amendment which I shall call.
I was trying to make a suggestion before I sit down. I understood that we were discussing three Amendments together.
The Amendment to which I was referring is in page 2, line 2, to leave out "Parliament," and insert "people," and it is not discussable with the three Amendments with which we are now dealing.
On a point of Order, Mr. Bowles. Could I seek your guidance, because I am also under a misapprehension? Do I gather that the Amendment standing in my name, in page 2, line 2, to which you have just referred, is not being discussed at this moment?
It is not being discussed at this moment. It will be called and it can then be discussed. It has not been called yet.
I am much obliged.
I am sure that the Government have full knowledge of the report of the Council of Civil Liberties which took great trouble to ascertain the conditions of life in the Six Counties as a result of the application of the Special Powers Act in that area. That report gave a fair and truthful summary of the everyday life of those who were in opposition to the popular party; so much, so that Cabinet Ministers in this Government placed their signatures to that report. I hope the Government will not overlook those signatures. I am sure they will not let down their own colleagues and comrades in the Labour movement in Ireland by closing the door for all time against the possibility of the motherland re-uniting the Six Counties with the rest of Ireland, thus placing Ireland as a whole under the Republic of Ireland.
On Thursday morning, immediately after the Second Reading of this Bill, I flew to Dublin and I have been there until this morning when I flew back. I went there about business affairs but also so that I might have an opportunity to hear and to read for myself how the present situation is developing in Dublin city and in the neighbourhood. While I was there I took every opportunity of listening to the relays of speeches that were being made, of listening to the broadcasts from Athlone, and of reading, as I have never read before, the contents of all newspapers published in Dublin.I think it is gratifying and right, and I should say it was very welcome, to notice, during that quite extraordinary meeting which was held in Dublin on Friday night, the tone of moderation which had entered the speeches made by very prominent politicans in the Republic. That was very welcome indeed, but there were two things which were invariably and equally conspicuous by their absence in every one of those speeches and in every newspaper article. The first was the complete absence of any reference to the 1920 Act, which, in its machinery, gave an opportunity, which unfortunately was never taken, for the North and South to come together. Nor was there any mention of the 1921 Treaty, which again provided a Council to which the people in the South never elected or sent delegated members, and there was no mention made of the confirmation of 1925, confirmed by a great majority in Dublin as well as in the other Parliament. All these things were completely absent from every one of those speeches and from every one of the newspaper articles which I have read in the past four days. The second thing about which no word was mentioned, which again strikes me as extraordinary, was that in this House, on 28th October last year, the Prime Minister in this Government gave an assurance in these words:
The Prime Minister confirmed that on 25th November in the identical words. What does this paragraph do? It just puts in writing what the Prime Minister told this House of Commons—no more and no less. If he and the Government, in their wisdom, think it right to affirm and to embody in an Act that which we took, and which would have been taken in any case, as a most honourable assurance, then we welcome this Clause. I wish I could resume my seat without telling this Committee the last part and the grimmest part of this short recital of the last four days in Dublin. I heard last night that bills were out through the city. I heard they had been posted on a van and that outside the door of the house where I had been staying, enormous bills were posted—"Arm now to take the North." That is a very terrible thing. I think it is right, therefore, that the Government should reaffirm what the Prime Minister has always said to us and that it should be embodied in this way in this Act."In the course of the recent conversations at Chequers with Ministers from Eire no discussion took place on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. 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.]
It is always pleasant to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman the junior Member for Antrim (Colonel Haughton), and I am particularly pleased to follow him today because he is adopting what is perhaps the right course in this Debate—to examine the arguments which have been put forward in Dublin. After all, all the political parties there have combined to make an attack on this Bill. Let us at least examine their arguments and, if they are false, let us reject them; but do not let us just ride them off by saying it is all part of some sort of political manoeuvre. The Committee ought to recognise, I think, that probably next to the Jews the Irish are the most dispersed of all peoples and, therefore, that what we do in regard to Ireland will affect the opinion which is held of this country in the Dominions and in the United States. It is important, therefore, not only that we do justice but that we seem to do justice in the eyes of the world, and those two things are not always quite the same.I should like to support the Amendment which is to be proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones), because it seems to me that it provides a formula which might meet the point of view of the British Government and which also might meet the point of view of the Republic of Ireland. I do not think that we, in this House, can evade our responsibilities. We cannot declare that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom and in the same breath say that the Parliament of the United Kingdom has no responsibility for its future. In the Second Reading Debate my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said:
I am sure there is nobody in this Committee who does not endorse that point of view. But surely we have a further obligation, and that is to try to do something to create the circumstances in which a coming together is made more possible. The political parties of the Republic of Ireland all believe that this paragraph of the Bill makes a coming together more difficult. If that is so, ought we not really, on that basis, to reconsider it? Of course, it is absolutely true that this paragraph is occasioned by the repeal of the External Relations Act and by the establishment of the Republic, an Act which as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee) said, has not seriously"If Irishmen themselves come together and make their own agreements, this Government will willingly consider the results."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1960.]
If this Government really wished to be vindictive, if they really wished to take advantage of Ireland, they could easily have made this an excuse for making an attack on the Irish Government and the fact that they have not done so, I think, gives the lie to the theory that this Bill is hostile to the Republic of Ireland. I would ask Irishmen as a whole to consider what would have been the attitude of the party opposite had they declared their Republic when the Conservatives were in power. What we have to consider is not the attitude of the Government of the Republic of Ireland but the attitude of this Government, and to guide us in this respect hon. Members on this side of the House have received from the Irish Labour Party a circular. In that circular there was a reference to James Connolly. It is, I think, worth while looking to see what James Connolly said on this problem 50 years ago. Writing at the turn of the century he said:"affected the welfare of the Irish people in any social degree."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1905.]
That was 50 years ago and in this country today the capitalist and the landlord is under restraint. A whole fabric of social legislation protects the man in the street at any rate from the full blast of unrestricted capitalism but, as I think the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) said on the Second Reading Debate, the Republic of Ireland has not progressed in social legislation and in the restraint of capitalism to anything like the same degree as has this country. To the ordinary man in Northern Ireland, therefore, an offer to enter Southern Ireland may merely appear to him to be an offer to work for the same employer for less wages and under worse conditions. Many workers in Northern Ireland see in the union of Ireland the greatest threat to their standard of living. 5.0 p.m. It can be put like this. It is impossible to divorce the struggle for the abolition of partition from the struggle for social justice for the whole of Ireland. The evils of this Clause are that it enables those on both sides of the Border who are opposed to the social reforms that must be the necessary prerequisite for the union of Ireland to carry on a barren dispute over nationalism. It will perpetuate that sort of nationalism which prevents the re-union of Ireland by preventing the very problem itself from ever being discussed. So far as political mistakes are made by the political parties of the Irish Republic, I do not think it is for us to go into them, for we have no direct responsibility. Where, however, Northern Ireland is concerned, this Parliament sitting here has a direct responsibility. It is worth while recalling, when we come to exercise that responsibility, the very wise words spoken 35 years ago by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in a speech at Bradford, which, I think, is still the classic analysis of the Irish situation. I shall have occasion a little later to refer to that speech in somewhat greater detail, but at present I would echo the warning given then by the right hon. Gentleman. He said this:"… If you could remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the Green Flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of a Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you, she would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her usurers, through the whole army of commercialists' and individualists' institutions she has planted in this country. …"
It is very necessary, because we owe a great debt to the people of Ulster for their support in the war, for their great contribution to production and the export drive, and for the hospitality that they invariably show us and people of other countries when we go to their country. In return the least we can do is to see that everyone in Ulster, irrespective of his religion, irrespective of his political convictions, has a fair deal and a fair chance of determining his own future. As I shall try to show in a moment entrusting the fate of Northern Ireland exclusively to the Northern Ireland Parliament will prevent all free discussion and all free elections. But first let me deal for a moment with the strength and distribution of those opposed to partition at present, because that, I think, will explain to the Committee what to my mind is the essence of the problem. If one con- siders the vote for this Parliament in four of the six counties, in Tyrone, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Armagh—the vote for this Parliament, which is a fairer test than the vote for the Northern Ireland Parliament—one finds that in an electorate of about 280,000 people there is a total majority of 4,500 votes in favour of partition. A change of 1 per cent. in the voting, would mean that in four out of the Six Counties the people were in favour of going in with the South; and it is that which strikes the people in the South, and it is from that point of view that they look at the situation. Why is that so? The economic advantages of partition—the argument with which my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe was dealing, who, I am sorry to say seems to have left the Chamber—the economic advantages affect only the city and area of Belfast. I am glad to see the hon. and gallant Gentleman the junior Member for Down (Lieutenant Mullan) here, because I think he is a native of Newry. Let us consider his own native town. The unemployment amongst male workers was 1,740 there last July. Newry is a little town with a total population of 13,000. I calculate that there is a male population of about 4,500—male working population. That shows the degree of unemployment. People in the South of Ireland very often, whether it is right or wrong, say that this unemployment seems to have been sent and deliberately sent as a reward to those people for their religious beliefs and for their political convictions. I will read to the Committee a letter which I have received, not from a leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland but from a general. I will not give his name because he wrote saying that, while I could read his letter, it would put him in a difficult position if I gave his name. I will only say that he was a Deputy Lieutenant for the County in which he lives and his brother was a Field-Marshal and very distinguished in the British Service. Writing to me in regard to what I had been saying about a remark that we are still hoping somebody on the opposite side of the Committee will withdraw—a remark made by Sir Basil Brooke, that Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland were 99 per cent. disloyal, he says:"We must be careful that the honest necessities of the Ulster case do not suffer from their entanglement with Tory Party interest and intrigue."
He gives two examples of this spirit in two speeches by typical Protestants. He quotes one by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, who is a Cabinet Minister in Northern Ireland, and who said this:"I hardly think you are digging deep enough. Basil Brooke was probably not far out in saying that the Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland were 99 per cent. disloyal, but the question is not what they are, but what reason have they to be loyal, and who to? This is no new growth in Ulster, but merely the relics of the old spirit of Protestant ascendancy in its last ditch, where it can still count on a majority."
Then the letter goes on to quote again from an election speech made by the Minister of Health, who said that he thoroughly agreed with Sir Joseph Davison regarding the employment of Protestants by Protestants, and that he would go further and suggest that Protestant workers should patronise only Protestant shopkeepers. A demand or boycott of that sort has its effect. As a result, when the war broke out, religious intolerance took precedence over national effort. Let me quote from the "Derry Journal" a few days after the outbreak of war, on 6th September. It states, writing of Belfast:"When will the Protestant employers of Northern Ireland recognise their duty to their Protestant brothers and sisters, and employ them to the exclusion of Roman Catholics?"
"When Catholic workers, the majority of them skilled men, arrived at the shipyards on Monday morning, parties of men approached them at their work and asked them their religion. On stating their religion, the Catholic workers were told to leave the yard while it was safe and not to come back. Incidents at the shipyard spread to the aircraft factory in Short and Harlands. … Catholic workers, estimated at 80, were ordered to clear out and not come back. The expulsion of Catholics was also carried out in a number of mills."
I am sure the hon. Gentleman wants to be fair to both sides. While nobody likes a boycott of the nature he has described, would he not tell us that the very journal from which he is quoting, at the last election advocated the boycotting of Protestants by Catholics?
It is quite possible for these excesses to be built up, first on the one side and then on the other. That is one of the reasons why we should get back to the economic basis, and not have politics determined entirely by religion. For, example, we have the circular sent to all Members by the Northern Ireland Government, which gives an analysis of how people might vote by analysing their religious belief. I am not blaming one side or the other. I am only saying that religious difference is allowed to enter into the strong feeling which undoubtedly exists over this question. It is the belief in the South—rightly or wrongly, I do not know—that there is a systematic victimisation of their co-religionists by the Government of Northern Ireland, and that so long as this Government are in power and can control the franchise to the Northern Ireland Parliament, there can be no justice for the Catholics of the North. That is why any provision which provides for the consent of the Northern Ireland Parliament is so objectionable to so many of my hon. Friends.Before I leave this question I would like to say one more word about it. Hon. Members will recall the vehemence with which in this House a few weeks ago the case of the alleged injustice in a foreign country to a great prelate of the Roman Catholic Church was denounced. The Foreign Secretary said that some Members were so strongly moved that they appeared to want us to go to war on the subject. Hon. Members can see the effect that it must have when this House appears to abandon its undoubted powers over Northern Ireland and refuses to raise one finger to help, not a great prince of the Church, but humble and helpless followers of a persecuted faith who are their fellow countrymen. To leave the fate of Northern Ireland to be decided by the North of Ireland Parliament is to ignore the fact that the Northern Ireland Government openly boast that they will alter the franchise as soon as there is——
The hon. Member must relate these remarks to the later Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale). I have already stopped the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) from taking this line.
I think that I am entitled to say that it is undesirable to leave this matter in the hands of the Northern Ireland Parliament. I am not asking that any one part of any one county should be divorced, but Parliament as a whole is unsatisfactory. I shall deal with the franchise as it affects Belfast and other places.
I think that would be going into too much detail now. The hon. Member had better keep his remarks on that subject for the next Amendment.
When we are discussing this subsection is it not in Order to discuss any words that occur in it? Is it not very difficult for hon. Members, whether speaking for or against the subsection, to discuss it if the last words in it may not be referred to?
I gave a Ruling with regard to the hon. Member for West Belfast and I must stick to that Ruling. I have already ruled him out of Order in referring to this question. I think that hon. Members may deal with it in more detail when we come to the Amendment concerning the elections.
I am in some difficulty about this. Perhaps I may put the matter very generally and leave any details to a later stage. I say that the Northern Ireland Government are not only prepared to alter the franchise but they have in fact altered the franchise in such a way that the present elections to their own Parliament are not even representative of one side or the other. There is a great multiplication of business votes. If I may quote one instance which affects the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross), in one of his own wards there are 35 business votes registered for this House; under the Northern Ireland system there are 1,072. At the same time, a great number of voters are disfranchised from voting for the Northern Ireland Parliament. I shall deal with that in further detail when the next Amendment is called.5.15 p.m. The right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill), speaking, yesterday, said that we may have to call back the special constables to deal with this situation. When we are dealing with elections in Northern Ireland the special constables are well to the fore. May I read an election notice, again referring to the constituency of the hon. Member for Londonderry? It states in an appeal for workers:
a police barracks for election workers to come together in. There is a close and intimate connection between the police and the elections. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Harden) in his elections will remember that the special constables were firing a volley as a tribute to his success when one of them was unfortunately struck by a bullet of a colleague, an act of carelessness which received the severe disapproval of the Minister of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland. There is some very genuine apprehension about the connection between the police and the electoral machine, which was referred to I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy). I take a recent example from the Northern Ireland HANSARD. It happened that a special constable was arrested for conducting a series of armed robberies, using the arms provided for him for his police duties. In the course of the case, it came out that when his house was searched there was found hidden there great quantities of machine-gun ammunition. Although there was considerable pressure in the Northern Ireland Parliament, there was complete refusal on the part of the Northern Ireland Government to institute any prosecution with regard to the possession of this ammunition. Yet under the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act this is an extremely serious offence for which a man may be flogged and undergo a long term of imprisonment. There is a general feeling that there is some form of concealed bias by which one side gets an advantage not given to the other. That, of course, is made much worse by the existence of the Northern Ireland Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act. I will not go into that in great detail. Hon. Members already know from previous Debates the effect of the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act. It is sufficient to say that the Minister of Home Affairs is in the position to imprison anyone for as long as he likes without trial. The Act has been used in the past to imprison the election opponent of a Minister of Home Affairs. The case I quote does not affect the issue I am discussing because it was a case of imprisoning a man who attempted to run an unofficial Unionist candidate against the official one supported by the Minister. He was imprisoned for some time and then released. There having been a slight political change in favour of the unofficial candidate, he returned to his job in the police force from which he had been previously removed. Never, throughout that period, was he tried or given any indication of the case against him. It is a well-known case which was debated in the Northern Ireland House, and the facts are beyond dispute. The Government of Northern Ireland can exclude anyone from their territories, so the Irish case can never be put. Mr. de Valera was elected a Member of Parliament for Northern Ireland. When he attempted to visit his constituency, he was told that he would be put in prison—and he was—as soon as put foot in it."New Buildings—A Meeting of Workers at the 'B' Specials Hut, Newbuildings, on Tuesday, 24th June, 1947,"—
What year was that?
The hon. Gentleman may be better informed than I am on this subject——
That would not be very difficult.
If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to give way, I shall be very pleased to do so, and perhaps his remarks may be placed on record. I am sure they would be of value.
The hon. Gentleman was talking about Mr. de Valera not being allowed into Northern Ireland. I think that was during the time when there were intense troubles which he was fomenting.
The hon. Gentleman is probably better informed about Northern Ireland's affairs than I am, but up to now it has not been possible to obtain from the Northern Ireland Government any details as to when they raised this ban. When the ban on entry is raised, perhaps the Northern Ireland Government will make a statement as to which ban remains in force with regard to which people. It was originally imposed as long ago as 1920 or 1922. The House will recall the case of another Member of the Northern Ireland House. Another Member of the Northern Ireland House—I am now speaking from memory; no doubt the hon. Baronet will contradict me if I am wrong—was arrested in 1936, some 14 years after the order was imposed. This unfortunate old man was sentenced to a period of imprisonment because, in the closing days of his life, he dared to return to his own home town, which he had previously represented as a Member of Parliament.It is in the power of the Northern Ireland Government to prohibit any form of political procession and any form of political meeting. In those circumstances, how can there be any free discussion by the people of Northern Ireland on which course they want? I am not saying that we should force them to accept or refuse partition, but I am trying to urge on the Home Secretary that we should insist that they have at any rate an opportunity of discussing the issue. There is the curious irony that someone received a sentence of 12 months' imprisonment for being in possession of a book entitled "The Irish Republic" by Dorothy McArdle. That is a classic work on the Irish Republic which deals with the period 1912 to 1930. That sentence was imposed during the last war when the authoress of this work was touring the other part of Ireland urging them to enter the war on our side. That is the degree to which political repression goes. The Northern Ireland Government defend the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act, not on the ground they put forward here, that it is necessary to defend them from the South, but on the ground that to remove it would lose them the opportunity of maintaining their majority in Parliament. That is said quite frankly and openly in the Northern Ireland Parliament. I am glad to see my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General here, because I wish to read what was said by his opposite number in Northern Ireland. Hon. Members will be able to judge the difference in style, and I do not think the comparison will be to the disadvantage of my right hon. and learned Friend. The Attorney-General in Northern Ireland was asked when they would implement the pledge given in this House—perhaps I should say, to be fair, the suggestion flung out—by the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) that they should make the Special Powers Act an annual Act, and at least allow the Northern Ireland Parliament to discuss their fetters once a year. He replied that it could not be done until abnormal times were past. Pressed as to when abnormal times would pass he said:
he then went on to give what is perhaps the real point of his remark—"I say the abnormal times have not yet passed away, and I have not the slightest hope or expectation that they will ever pass away"—
That is their attitude, that by divine will the Northern Ireland Government has been established, and so long as anyone is in opposition to it, they are entitled to all powers to crush that opposition."until there is a complete change on the part of a section of this population in their attitude towards this Government, the Government by law established."
I do not want the hon. Gentleman to mislead himself too far. What was said on that occasion was that as long as the Opposition to the Government of Northern Ireland was one that said that Government has no right to exist, then that was an abnormal attitude for an Opposition to adopt, and that as long as that continued, it made very great difficulties, but that if it were to become a normal Opposition which allowed the Government the right to exist and merely criticised the way in which the Government carried out its functions, then things would be different.
Exactly. I am very glad to have that interjection from the hon. Baronet. He and I are, for once, in complete agreement, and he has made my point far better than I could have done. What he is saying is that so long as any party advocates the end of partition, that Party ought not to be allowed any democratic rights, because if they had their way they would produce a state of affairs which would bring about the ending of Northern Ireland Government. That is a perfectly understandable and logical point of view, which the hon. Baronet has put with greater clarity than the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland. It is for that reason that I say I think it undesirable that the Northern Ireland Parliament should be the body which should decide this matter.The whole thing still remains as it was some 35 years ago. At that time the right hon. Member for Woodford made an extremely valuable speech, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a photostat copy. He then put forward what "The Times" headlined as
"MR. CHURCHILL'S MESSAGE TO ULSTER A FINAL OFFER"
His final offer was—and this shows how far we have travelled since that day—that any individual Ulster county could
hold out for six years. He said:
"I can measure the cruel pang with which this temporary, but none the less serious change has been accepted … by the great mass of the Irish nation. It is their hope, and I think they are right and wise in hoping, that the day will come, perhaps before that period is passed when, of their own free will, the Ulster counties that have exercised the option will wish to be incorporated in the ancient Parliament of their motherland, when that brilliant and courageous speaker, Mr. Devlin, will lead the democracy of Belfast to take their true position in the councils of a united and progressive Ireland."
We on this side of the Committee are entitled to ask: Whose fault is it that that situation was not achieved? The fault lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Would the hon. Gentleman say for precisely what?
If the right hon. Gentleman will pause for one moment I will answer him with the words of his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, who went on to describe the intransigent spirit of the Conservative Party, and particularly the Conservative Party of Northern Ireland which, he said, was the cause. Speaking of Mr. Asquith, the right hon. Gentleman said:
who became Lord Craigavon, the architect of the present system in Northern Ireland—"The Prime Minister asked in one of his great speeches, 'If Home Rule were to fail now, how could you govern the rest of Ireland?' Captain Craig"—
"Captain Craig, an Ulster Member, a man quite representative of those for whom he speaks, interjected blithely, 'We have done it before.' …
There you get the true insight into the Tory mind. Coercion for four-fifths of Ireland is a healthful exhilarating, salutory exercise, but lay a finger upon the Tory fifth—sacrilege, tyranny, murder! 'We have done it before and we will do it again.'"
Where is he?
Well, there is still something in Northern Ireland and in this intransigent attitude of the Northern Ireland Government which fits aptly with that quotation. I think that this quotation is sometimes used somewhat unfairly against the right hon. Gentleman, and against the Tory Party of today. It may not altogether fit the Tory Party here, but it certainly fits the Tory Party in Northern Ireland. Let me continue with what he said, bearing in mind the Northern Ireland Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act, and the open assertion by the hon. Baronet that, of course the Unionist Party would suppress an Opposition because they did not agree with the Northern Ireland Parliament and were in favour of abolishing it altogether."There is the ascendancy spirit. There is the spirit with which we are confronted. There is the obstacle to the peace and unity of Ireland. There stands the barrier which, when all just claims have been met and all the fears, reasonable and unreasonable, have been prevented, still blocks the path of Irish freedom and British progress."
I never said anything of the sort.
"As long as it affects working men in England or Nationalist peasants in Ireland, there is no measure of military force which the Tory Party will not readily employ. … If they cannot do it by the veto of privilege, they will do it by the veto of violence. If constitutional methods serve their ends, they will be Constitutionalists. If law suits their purpose, they will be law-abiding, aye, and law-enforcing. When social order means the order of the Tory Party, when social order means the order of the propertied classes against the wage-earner, when social order means the master against the man, or the landlord against the tenant, order is sacred and holy, order is dear to the heart of the Tory Party and order must be maintained by force. But if it should happen that the Constitution or the law, or the maintenance of order stands in the path of some Tory project, stands in the path of the realisation of some appetite or ambition which they have conceived, then they vie with the wildest anarchists in the language which they use against the Constitution, against the law, and against all order and all means of maintaining order, and that is the political doctrine with which they salute the 20th century."
Who is this man?
I am very interested in what the hon. Member has been saying about the Tories. Does this not apply exactly to the case of Eisler?
I was very interested in many ways in this question, from perhaps almost exactly the standpoint of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I feel that I have taken up quite enough time of the Committee without embarking on what I conceive to be something that would be quite out of Order. Let me give the right hon. Gentleman's final words:
We have a positive duty in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is not a Dominion but a subordinate Parliament. Section 3 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, an article which has been repealed, has been quoted. I propose to read a Section which has not been repealed, Section 75, which deals with the powers of this Parliament. I will read it as amended by subsequent legislation."That is the political doctrine with which they salute the twentieth century."
In the face of that, we on this side simply cannot get rid of our responsibility for Northern Ireland, much as we should like to do so, or at least much as some of us would. It may well be, and I accept the argument, that Northern Ireland has great strategical value. I have always held the view that it was wrong for the Irish Republic not to come into the war, and I should have defended, I think, the seizing of bases in order to defend ourselves. But if we occupy an area for strategical reasons, then surely we have a duty to the inhabitants, not to the majority only, but all the inhabitants, majority and minority. A second point—we are paying for the Northern Ireland social services. I was glad to see, when the superior social services in Northern Ireland were being pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe, that the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Harden) nodded his approval. Naturally so—they occupy the best part of his election address. What was not said, and what it is important should be said, is that these social services are paid for, not by the people of Northern Ireland but by the people of this country. That is quite proper. It is part of the United Kingdom, but we at least have a right to say how that money shall be spent. In the event of any sort of trouble in Northern Ireland, as the hon. Member for Antrim said, the Northern Ireland Government would rely on British troops. That is quite proper, but the House ought to remember that these British troops will contain British conscripts and not any Northern Ireland conscripts, because there is no conscription in Northern Ireland. If the conscripts of this country are going out to defend another country which is subordinate to this Parliament, we have a duty to the people of this country to see that there is not a Government in that country of Northern Ireland which needlessly provokes an incident. I have detained the Committee far longer than I had intended, and I will conclude by quoting a Northern Ireland Member who was a Unionist throughout his life and died a few days ago. He was a high officer in the Northern Ireland police force and a high officer in the R.I.C. before that date. This man has no sympathies at all with the Nationalists and indeed had the bitterest feelings against them. He made a speech in the Northern Irish House in which he reviewed all the corruption, the gerrymandering and the frauds, which accompany the elections in Northern Ireland, He said, in simple Northern Irish idiom, to his own Government:"Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliament of Northern Ireland or anything contained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters and things in Northern Ireland and every part thereof."
"All I want you to do is to ask the Imperial Government to stop it. What is the good of their supervising the vote in Austria and Greece and sticking their noses into other people's business on the Continent, and the like of that goes on here?"
Inevitably this series of Amendments must raise the question of partition; indeed, it would be difficult to find an Amendment to an Irish Bill on which someone somehow or other would not contrive to bring that in. I agree with one part of what the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) said, and that was that possibly in the future one could look forward to a tying together of both parts of Ireland. I do not think, however, that the best way to do that is to devote a considerable part of a very long speech to an attack on the Government and the Parliament of one of those parties. The ordinary humble working classes in Ulster quite rightly look upon an attack of that sort as an attack upon themselves, and they find it difficult to understand that a Member who indulges in an attack of that sort, is really sincere when he says that he looks forward to the two parts of the country coming together at some future time.I think there are a few simple facts about Ireland, North and South, which Members, when discussing a matter of this sort, should try to understand. I have observed and regretted that in all Debates of this nature the Government of Northern Ireland, and consequently the people of Northern Ireland, come under attacks of this sort. In the case of Mr. Costello and Mr. de Valera, one can understand that when they get cross with the Northern Ireland Government they habitually refer to them as a Tory junta and a stronghold of Conservatism, but I heard the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), to whom I always listen with respect, repeat those very words the other day. He told us, in his charming way, how he had an Irish mother.
An Irish father.
The real trouble with English politicians is, of course, their Irish fathers, or more usually their Irish grandmothers. So many of them have Irish grandmothers who seem to have handed down to them the most extraordinary and erroneous doctrines.
My grandfather gave his name to one of the more celebrated flute bands of the Orange Order.
I do not doubt that for a moment.When considering both parts of Ireland I believe that the reverse is the case. The South of Ireland is the real stronghold of Toryism, which is of a type that is almost completely out of date in this country. To a certain extent it is still a feudal State, and for over 26 years has had some of the most reactionary Governments in Europe. We find there a low standard of living, a literary censorship and a constant stream of emigration. The hon. Member for Rochester—I beg his pardon, I mean the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan); a hyacinth by any other name smells just as sweet—went to the South of Ireland thinking that it might be a good plan, after he had taken up their cause, to see for himself. I think he will bear me out when I say that he found the Labour movement practically extinct, and no form of trade unionism there at all. These are matters which Members opposite should bear in mind when they vote. On the other hand, the industrial North of Ireland has always been somewhat to the Left in politics. I recall my own grandfather, who always voted Unionist and sat as a Unionist in this House, and who was a complete Radical, like so many Ulstermen of his day. They voted as they did simply on the Irish question. It is ridiculous to call the Government in Ulster reactionary, when it has among its members such people as their Minister of Health, who has done as much for trade unionism as any Member in this House and far more than all the members of the Southern Irish Government put together. The other day the hon. Member for Shettleston mentioned Mr. Midgley, whom I know rather well because he opposed me at the last General Election. He is a member of the Labour movement of the very best type, who had at heart the welfare of the ordinary, simple, working people in Belfast and who was greatly loved by them. Throughout the whole of his career Mr. Midgley never once attempted to court the Nationalist vote.
He was the standard bearer of the Irish Republic from 1920 until he left the Labour Party, and stood in the Sinn Fein movement, for the unity of Ireland in 1921.
The hon. Member can say what he wishes in that respect, but it is well known to Unionists and Socialists in Ulster that Mr. Midgley—and I say this because he cannot be here to speak for himself—has never courted the Nationalist vote.
Surely the hon. Member is not disputing that Mr. Midgley stood as a Unionist candidate at the Ulster Election and was returned as such, and thereby threw over all his Labour views.
That is so, but at that time the Labour Party were unable to make up their minds where they stood on this question and, therefore, Mr. Midgley thought it only right to come to the parting of the ways.It is not only the wealthy and privileged classes in Ulster who welcome paragraph (b). They would probably be better off in the South, but those who passionately desire it, are the ordinary, simple, working folk who find it difficult to understand how hon. Members, who, they have been told, are the champions of the working man, can vote to thrust them into a State which they look upon as being something of a survival of the Middle Ages. We are often accused in Ireland of being paradoxical in our politics, and of producing paradoxical situations. The truth is that it is the English who are illogical; the Irish are simple compared to the tortuous, subtle English. We find it a little remarkable that the cause of the Southerner should be espoused by the hon Member for Hornchurch (Mr Bing), who I am sorry to see is not still in his place. We remember that he took some interest in the Spanish Civil War, on the Government side, while the South supported Franco to a man, and still does. We find the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) voting against the Bill. It is a little curious. Both hon. Members should persuade the Russians to allow Eire to become a member of the United Nations.
At the first political meeting I ever attended, as a boy, John Redmond gave an address on Home Rule. I have never lost my interest in the Home Rule question.
If the hon. Gentleman had gone to another political demonstration on Easter Monday, when the Republic was proclaimed, he might have remained for another day and taken part in a second demonstration, which was a protest against the trial of Cardinal Mindzenty. It is a little odd to us Irishmen to find the cause of Southern Ireland espoused by such as the hon. Member.The Lord President of the Council, who is not lacking in political acumen, has fairly well seen the position between North and South. I fancy I detected a glint of triumph in the Debate on Second Reading when he read us the resolution of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. It is true he left out the most important matter—the date. If he had given us the date, it would have been seen that the resolution was passed after the party had been annihilated in the Northern Ireland General Election a short time ago. It is little wonder that after that defeat they realised that it was essential for any party which desired to succeed in Northern Ireland and to obtain the votes of the working classes, to say where they stood on this issue. In fact, they know it is hopeless unless they stand as practically every Ulsterman stands on the question of partition, and as is laid down in paragraph (b). It is quite simple. We are a people who, rightly or wrongly, have thrown in our lot with this country. That is a fact which is affirmed in this Clause, and it is one which we heartily support. This Clause meets with the good wishes of every person in Ulster, no matter of what political complexion, and one which is widely supported by Ulstermen everywhere.
The hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Gage) says that this Clause has the support of everyone in Ulster. Is he aware that more than one-third of the people do not agree with this Clause at all, and desire to bring an end to partition in Ireland?
I should like to thank the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Gage) for his remarks about me and my visit to Ireland last summer. I went to Ireland as a peace-maker. I had no intention of creating any row, but simply of making personal inquiries from people whom I met and to speak purely about Labour Party policy. I never touched on the question which is before us this afternoon. I never said anything against the Unionist Party or the party in power in Southern Ireland. I dealt entirely with party politics.I am a little perturbed about this Bill and frankly I intend to vote against this Clause. I am very sorry that that should be so, for I very seldom vote against the Labour Party. I was brought up traditionally to support them, but several times quite recently I have had qualms of conscience. Let me try to be logical on this Bill. It refers in several places to "Northern Ireland." I heard the Attorney-General today, as I heard the Lord President of the Council the other night, speak of "Northern Ireland." The phrase is actually incorporated in the Bill, but the part of Ireland to which reference is made is not Northern Ireland; it is the Six Counties of Ulster. The Lord President used an argument which to me seemed to be illogical. He said that Northern Ireland, the Six Coun- ties of Ulster, was a State, and that we did not intend that at any time—the Attorney-General modified that and said not during the lifetime of this Parliament—or in any event, it should be otherwise than part of His Majesty's dominions. In other words, there is to be non-co-operation with the Republic of Ireland. Let me for a moment examine the logic of that situation. The Six Counties of Ulster are to be definitely excluded from incorporation with Southern Ireland at any time.
My hon. Friend says, "No." I know how very difficult the Irish question is. I was brought up on it. I have been secretary to six Irish Members of Parliament, and that was during the time of the great Home Rule Debates. Those Members included the Redmonds, Devlin, Kettle, Hazelton, and so on. After qualifying in medicine I spent practically all my time looking on at the Irish Party and I saw what they were and what they represented. The hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) may use as many negatives as he likes but he cannot touch my argument.I want to come to the logic of the explanation of the Lord President of the Council. The Six Counties are to be definitely excluded from the rest of Ireland, and it would be an outrage, according to the argument which was used, if they were to be included in Southern Ireland. But of those Six Counties two are definitely Nationalist and want to be incorporated in Southern Ireland. They have showed by every possible vote on every possible occasion that they do not want to remain with the Six Counties but want to be included in Southern Ireland. What is the logic of that situation? We are not prepared to coerce the Six Counties of Ulster and force them into incorporation with Southern Ireland, but we are prepared to coerce two of the Six Counties to keep them definitely under the Northern Ireland Government. Is that the logic of the situation? Does the Home Secretary tell me that that is democracy? Are the Lord President of the Council and the Attorney-General going to tell me that this is according to real democratic principles? Is that the object which they want to attain with regard to certain parts of Ireland? Is that what the Labour Party stands for today, the party which originally helped the Irish party in their efforts to secure a real, decent united Ireland? I know the situation is intensely difficult. Time and time again, I have told the Irish Members in private conversation that I should like to see Ireland enjoying fully the strategic position she holds, and politically, economically, socially and in every other way coming in with Great Britain. Ireland is a poor country. It has poor land, poor peasantry and bad social conditions with a Conservative Government in power in Southern Ireland, while the Government in Northern Ireland, though Conservative and reactionary, are introducing social services something like ours, which the people in Southern Ireland cannot get. The position is absolutely absurd from the point of view of any real decent social reformer who can rise above the emotional feeling of nationalism. The Irish can be just as nationalistic and come in with Great Britain. I want to come back to the point of democracy. Does the Home Secretary really feel prepared to exclude indefinitely these two counties from Southern Ireland and force them to remain under the Northern Ireland Government? Here is the logic of the situation. Are the Government going to divide North from South Wales, because that is the same thing? It is the same with regard to Devon and Cornwall—the old kingdom of Cornwall. Are the Government prepared to separate the Lowlands and the Highlands of Scotland? As a politician with some amount of intelligence, I feel there is something wrong with the scope of the logic of this Bill. For the life of me I cannot see how this paragraph (b) can be allowed to remain. I know what the answer is going to be; indeed, I can see it coming. The Government are going to tell me, "You must be a realist." I must be a realist, but I must sacrifice the principles I hold as well as everything I hold dear—everything for which I have worked all my life. I cannot come to that conclusion. Let us remember the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee) about a Cabinet mission going to Ireland. It could meet our friends in Ireland and come to some sort of agree- ment with them whereby this problem at any rate could be brought nearer solution if in the first stages it cannot be solved. I ought to stop now, because I do not want to speak too long. I am convinced of this—[Interruption.] I am not going to speak about South Africa. That is one of the stupid observations which some back benchers on this side of the House who are supporting the Bill like to introduce. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is on your side."] He is not on my side. 6.0 p.m. The point I want to make, which had almost been put out of my mind by the interruption, is very important. Any medical man knows, if he has studied the population statistics, that because of the rate of increase in the Roman Catholic population in the Six Counties there will be in 10 or 20 years, a natural, overwhelming vote in favour of amalgamation with the rest of Ireland. I see that the Attorney-General is laughing. He has a great legal mind, but I do not think that he studies population statistics. Let him not poach on my preserves or he will slip up. In his own line, he is an absolute authority, but I can tell him that if he were to study statistics of the populations of Europe and of other parts of the world he would realise that the time is rapidly coming, because of the development taking place in the populations of Southern and Northern Ireland, when the vote will be so overwhelming in favour of unity that there will be no need to have any division between Northern and Southern Ireland. I am glad of the opportunity of being able to make these few remarks, and I thank you, Mr. Bowles, for the opportunity of speaking.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) should accuse Northern Ireland of having its social services subsidised by this country. It has been made clear in this House on several occasions that since the Government of Northern Ireland has been in existence, the sum contributed to the Imperial Exchequer has been some £196 million, after paying for our own local services.
But before paying for any of the Imperial services such as the cost of the Armed Forces, the foreign service, or anything like that.
I do not think that that point comes into the discussion, so I shall have to leave it and come to the question of whether Ulster should allow Tyrone and Fermanagh to go back to the State of Eire. The boundaries were agreed to in 1925 and I suggest that we cannot go back and start altering them. The subsection which gives a guarantee to Northern Ireland is essential to the Bill. Let us look at what has happened only in the last year. First we had the statement of the Prime Minister giving a guarantee to Ulster. Then, during the same time, were the meetings of the Imperial premiers in London to which representatives of Eire were called. We did not have representation from the Ulster Government there. People in Ulster began to wonder what was going on behind the scenes. Then the Bill arrived, and we see that it is generous to the people of Eire. That is a generosity which I quite appreciate. The people of Northern Ireland have many business associations with the people of Eire, and it is essential that we should continue with them. We have many friends and relatives across the border. I have an uncle who lives in Mullingar.As to the suggestion that the Prime Minister has altered his original pledge, I think it is only right and proper that the Bill should show that there has been no change in what he originally said. It is said also that the Bill causes permanent partition. I do not believe that it alters the position at all. If the view of hon. Members opposite is that they would like to see partition end, I suggest that it would be better if they were to instruct the politicians in Dublin to alter their tune. I was sorry for the stupid and ill-conceived outbursts that have come from Dublin, and which can only widen the gap between the South and the North. As all hon. Members who have been to Ulster will know, all the good that those outbursts can do is to unite the Unionists into a solid mass in their determination to remain under the Crown and part of this United Kingdom. I need say little more. I was sorry that the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) brought the religious question into the discussion. In my own constituency I think there are 24,000 people whose faith is different from my own. Many of them voted for me. It is my job to represent them all, whatever their creed, and I try to keep religious influences out of what I do inside my constituency. I am sorry that the hon. Member brought it in.
Would the hon. Member express equal regret for the words that have fallen from the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and from his Minister of Health?
I cannot be responsible for statements made by other people.
I have listened with great pleasure to the discussion about partition. It took me back about 40 years and to my association with the old Irish party. I say in all humbleness that I know as much about the Irish movement as any other Member of this House. I have met dozens of the old Irish Members and I have listened to discussions conducted in more lively fashion in regard to Ulster than anything we have heard here today. I belong to the Labour Party. I believe that has a chastening influence in regard too——
I shall give the right hon. Gentleman a reason for his "Hear, hear." It will enlighten the minds of the Tory Party and bring to bear some common sense, even within our own ranks. We are dealing with a problem of great importance. The Irish question is very important indeed to me. Hitler and Mussolini have gone and dynasties are going out. The only thing of this kind that has to be retained is Ulster. I am not able to realise the importance in 1949 that Ulster has in the family of nations. If anything has helped to separate Irishmen and to create discord all over the world it has been the question of Ulster and the preferential treatment handed out to it, as well as the subjection of other portions of Ireland, South, East and West. That situation has caused the utmost trouble all over the world, wherever Irish people have dwelt. I thought that that period of Irish history had finished and that more common sense could be brought to bear in 1949.History is showing that a dispersion which took place 1,949 years ago is coming to an end and that a nation, Jewry, is coming forward today and is claiming its own. Among the races that have been dispersed all over Europe, the Irish race has never had a home, because plantation has taken place. Those who should have had the right to inhabit their own home have not been able to do so, and they have found nothing but poverty and destitution in a land that should have been most fruitful to all of them. It should have been most powerful. If it had not been for the system which has been tolerated for years, we should never have had the regrettable incident of the treaty ports being refused in our hour of danger. When we asked Mr. de Valera to open those ports to us in the hour of England's danger we thought that he might have followed the old adage, "Ireland's opportunity is the hour of England's danger," but with that resentment which goes down into the heart of every Irishman he would not act and we were denied the use of Irish ports when our men were in great danger. However, even with all these abject difficulties we must not forget the heroism of close on 200,000 Irish from Southern Ireland who fought with our men in the air, on the sea, and on land in all parts of the world. They gave valorous help in our hour of difficulty. It is because of that, that I rise today after 18 years' silence in this House to say what I feel it is absolutely essential to say in disagreement with my own Government. Why have the Government brought forward a subsection such as this instead of doing something to unify Ireland and to bring benefit to this nation? God knows we want all the friends we can get. I see nothing here for the benefit of Ireland. I call "Eire" "Ireland." I recognise no subdivisions in what is one land. I classify Ireland as one Ireland, one Ireland to be governed, one people to be governed and one form of government, and responsibility to be placed on this Government for the management of the affairs of Northern Ireland. The House of Commons has given authority for certain powers in Northern Ireland but not for a moment should we let the people of Northern Ireland think they have absolute powers for they are subsidiary to this Government and to whatever powers this Government wishes to pass. I was surprised when I heard hon. Members wasting about two hours over words with similar meanings. It was a waste of talent which ought to have been put to better use. I am still anxious to know if there is any hon. Member who really thinks that with this compromise we shall solve the Irish problem, which in our heart of hearts we all want to solve. We shall be confronted with it some other time. Surely the Labour Party today ought to be able to realise that a minority in Northern Ireland does not control the destiny of the Irish nation and the Irish people. This problem meets us in our workshops, factories, docks and ships and wherever in the world Irishmen dwell, and it calls for some consideration in a British House of Commons. I am not speaking to Northern Ireland but to the Mother of Parliaments. I am speaking to a Parliament to which I give fealty and to which is given the loyalty of my family who went to the wars and returned. However, when I see the anomaly of trying to call Irishmen "Englishmen" and of trying to arrange by Act of Parliament for a new nationality, when we know that a court of law, if it has to decide it, will decide that there is no such nationality, I do not know what we are playing about. All I know is that the greatest statesman of my time dealing with the Irish problem was Jimmy O'Dea the Irish comedian. He walked on the stage where there was a barrier representing partition, and he put one foot in Ulster and the other in Southern Ireland. He stood there and at last he said, "Let us get rid of this damn thing" and threw the barrier away. 6.15 p.m. Is there anybody in Northern Ireland sufficiently a realist to appreciate that it is worth coming to a common agreement between the people of Ireland rather than to waste the time of the Imperial Parliament in dealing with the Irish question? I have heard that threshed out before. In 1874 my father was talking about it. My father happened to be a Scotsman and my mother was an Irishwoman. From my infancy it has been a curse listening to debate about the Irish question, and I want to get rid of it. Why do not the Northern Irishmen settle down and begin to realise that instead of being a minority, wanting to dominate the others, they should take their proper place with the nationals of Ireland in the government of the land. Then we should have, as Grattan wanted, a Parliament in Dublin, or Grattan's Parliament might be moved to Stormont. What I want to see is one nation and one body of Irishmen in a comity with England which will be beneficial to our future welfare. Clause 1 (1, b) ought to be deleted. The Attorney-General made an erroneous statement. He used a phrase which he said meant for ever and ever. That does not apply because this is a transitory matter——
I used no such expression; nothing of the kind. I said that in law one Parliament cannot bind a subsequent Parliament.
I hope that I have not misinterpreted the Attorney-General. When he was asked about the definition he said "for ever and ever." Later he explained that it meant that no Parliament could bind another. That is why I called the attention of the Committee to the fact that a matter of such a transitory nature does not appear to have any reality in relation to "for ever and ever." What is the use of the British House of Commons——
There seem to be other comedians as well as Jimmy O'Dea. Jimmy O'Dea is not in it. I am not a nonconformist and I am not in conformity with every point of view which may be expressed on these benches. What is more, I am not afraid of giving my opinion about some of the views expressed on these benches. I should like to say more about some of them, but I am dealing with Clause 1. I will read the Clause. I only read it now for the intelligent hon. Members in this Committee. It declares:
and affirms that"Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty's Dominions and the United Kingdom"—
The Scotland Division of Liverpool, which I have the honour to represent, is not an unenlightened part of the country because at the last election it was the only constituency to return its Member unopposed. Therefore, the people there have established the fact that they have common sense. As far as I understand the voice of Lancashire and the aspirations of our people, they are diametrically opposed to this. Last night there was a big meeting on the main road near where I was having a cup of tea. I thought I was going back 40 years, but I was not in a dream, for when I looked out of the window they were carrying on the argument in a big open space. And hon. Members for Northern Ireland come here and think this Bill will solve the difficulty. We are living in a fool's paradise if we think anything of the kind. During the last 20 years here, I have been on the best of terms with all who have come from Ireland and I have never said an offensive word to them. I appeal to hon. Members to remember that they belong to one family. The attitude adopted in 1949 must be more in conformity with the times than to talk in this House of the difficulties of Ireland of the past 700 years. I do not want to go back to the Elizabethan period. I want to bring about a better state of affairs and because of that, if there is a Division, I shall vote against the Government because I believe that the deletion of this paragraph would be the finest thing that could happen. Anybody who believes that the problem of Ireland will be solved by our discussion here today is only putting off the fatal day. Let us meet the occasion like men and solve the problem once and for all. Let us rise to the occasion and go into the Division Lobby in support of this Amendment."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."
I always respect the sincerity which the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) shows whenever he addresses us, but his voice is not entirely the voice of Lancashire upon this issue and, as another Liverpool Member, I take an entirely different point of view.
I have been there for 78 years. Do not forget it.
I know that the hon. Member has been there for 78 years, and I know he was unopposed at the last election. However, I know also that the Scotland Division is either becoming wiser or less wise because he is to be opposed at the next election. Be that as it may, I am glad for once in a way to be able wholeheartedly to support the Government in regard to this paragraph. I do not believe that anything which will be done will solve the Irish problem straight away, but we shall never get a solution to it if Ulster remains in danger of being forced against her will into a united Ireland. Eire made a grave error, and made the solution of this problem far more difficult by taking the line of complete neutrality during the last war at a time when this country and Ulster were fighting for their lives. Although I recognise gratefully the fact that many from Southern Ireland gave their lives in the war, I do not believe that in this country or in this Empire there are many people who would be prepared to allow a friend who stood by us in our darkest days, to be in any danger of being coerced by those who did not stand so straightly.I do not say that partition may not end in due course, but it will only end by a fair agreement between Northern and Southern Ireland and not by compulsion upon either side. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) pointed out that the increased population amongst the Roman Catholic community would mean that in due course the majority of Ulster would be Roman Catholic.
In 10 years.
If the hon. Member is correct in saying, first, that the majority of Ulster will be Roman Catholic in 10 years and, secondly, that the majority of Ulster Roman Catholics will desire to end partition, I do not know what he is worrying about. If he is right, the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government of Eire within 10 years will come to a complete agreement which in no way could be affected by paragraph (b).
The hon. Member probably did not listen to my speech. What I really posed was the illogicality of the Bill and its wording. I referred to the fact that a real economic, social and political union between Northern and Southern Ireland would be to the good of both countries, especially of Great Britain.
The hon. Member referred to many things, and I did listen to his speech. Nevertheless, I am justified in taking his last point and in making it clear that, if he is correct in what he said, the prospect which is worrying him will not give any trouble at all.
Is not the hon. Member on a false premise? Is not the premise that the Government of Northern Ireland will continue to represent the people because the Government of Northern Ireland have control over their own franchise? To take an extreme case, they could abolish elections.
My reply to that is that under the franchise system in Northern Ireland, if Northern Ireland became predominately Roman Catholic, it would obviously be quite impossible for that Government to prevent the end of partition.
The Government would continue to represent the people.
The hon. and learned Gentleman must not tempt me into further arguments upon something which is pretty obvious, because there are other hon. Gentlemen who wish to speak. I rose merely to emphasise that I believe the Government would be right to take the attitude which they propose to take under paragraph (b) of emphasising the position of Northern Ireland within the British Empire so long as the Government of Northern Ireland desires to remain within it; and that, in view of her record of friendship to this country, under no circumstances or conditions should Northern Ireland be compelled to go on a journey which she is not prepared to take on her own view, and by her own decision.
At this stage in the Debate it is inevitable that many of the arguments I was hoping to put before the Committee have already been put; and most of them have been put very much more effectively than I can hope to put them myself. Therefore, I will not weary the Committee by going over the ground which has already been covered.I suggest that the Committee should pause before committing itself to voting for paragraph (b) in full. I regret that I cannot support the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie), who seeks to remove the whole of that paragraph; but we should be wise to limit paragraph (b) simply to a declaration of what the present situation is, and not go a step further and attempt to lay down for the future what successive Parliaments may do. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has made clear on a number of occasions, this Parliament cannot in law bind another Parliament. As the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) observed during the Second Reading, it would be perfectly possible for this Parliament next week, if it so wished, to repeal the Bill. We are not divided on that. Quite apart from the legal aspect, however, let us not deceive ourselves by thinking that what we are going to do in the Bill will have no effect at all. We are, in fact, imposing a moral obligation. We are trying to write into the Constitution of this country a moral obligation that this particular Clause shall never be repealed. While it is outside the power of this Parliament to do that and so to bind our successors, I do not feel that it would be right for us today, sitting here in 1949, to attempt to lay down what our successors shall do in the future when all of us, with perhaps one or two exceptions, will have lost our seats. I should like, therefore, to lay before the Committee one or two arguments in favour of leaving, both legally and morally, in the hands of our successors the freedom to legislate on these matters in accordance with events as they appear at the time and not as we in our wisdom at this present time think they will be covered. I concede straight away that the secession of Eire from the Commonwealth makes a statute of this kind absolutely essential. We must define the new status which the Republic of Ireland has achieved; we must define the present status of what is known as Northern Ireland. Further—here I differ from some of my hon. Friends who have spoken—I would not myself say that it is a solution of this problem that a unitary State should be imposed upon the whole of Ireland. The mere fact that a country is in a form of an island surrounded by sea does not necessarily make it follow that it should be a political as well as a geographical unity. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast quoted, and apparently in his support, the Atlantic Charter. That is a very dangerous document to quote in favour of the proposition he was putting forward, because if Ireland were established as a unitary State the Unionists of Northern Ireland could equally freely quote the Atlantic Charter in their favour. The fact remains that wherever a boundary is drawn in circumstances of this kind considerable numbers of people are bound to be left on the wrong side of it. What we have to consider this evening is whether, whatever may be the situation now, be it just or unjust, we are prepared to lay down that that shall be the position, as has been said so eloquently, for ever and ever in so far as we are able to provide for it. We have to ask ourselves whether we are right morally in surrendering the sovereign powers of this Imperial Parliament into the hands of a subordinate body sitting in Belfast. That is, in fact, what we are being invited to do. We are creating a new form of veto and we are saying that we surrender completely the right to legislate on this matter, a matter which is within the scope of this Parliament at this present time; a matter which affects His Majesty's subjects in the United Kingdom. I do not believe that it would be right so to surrender the sovereign powers of this Parliament, and I shall lay before the Committee several reasons for saying that it is not right to do so. First, an absolute guarantee—which is what we are giving in paragraph (b)—inevitably encourages intransigence. That has been shown time and time again. I should like, if I may, without any offence, to quote an illustration from history, the words of Viscount Grey on the subject of the virtual guarantee which Germany gave to Austria in the years immediately preceding the 1914–18 war. He said:
It is that wise and strong restraining hand which, for all we know, may be required 20, 30 or 40 years hence. None of us can say. It is that wise and strong restraining hand of which we are depriving our successors in the future. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in one of his pre-war speeches stressed how unwise it was to give a guarantee unless one also had a voice in the formulation of the policy which might call that guarantee into effect. We are, in fact, surrendering this power into the hands of the Northern Ireland Parliament without that voice in the policy which may bring the guarantee into effect. I am perfectly prepared to concede for the purposes of this argument that the Northern Ireland Parliament as at present constituted will act fairly. But just as we cannot foresee the conditions under which our successors will be called upon to legislate, neither can they be foreseen by the present Members of the Northern Ireland Parliament. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) observed, there might be a very considerable growth in the Nationalist population of Northern Ireland. It might go to such an extent that perhaps 49 per cent. of the Northern Ireland Parliament were Nationalists in sentiment and the bare majority were Unionist. Could it be said on any grounds of morality, of that large minority, something more than a fringe of transfer, that it would be moral to keep those large minorities out of Northern Ireland simply because in Parliament, there was this bare majority? There is no guarantee that we can lay down that the legislature of Northern Ireland will not become very narrow in its composition based, not on broad democratic principles, but on a very narrow franchise. That is legally possible, yet we are saying that in no event, whatever might have happened, shall any change take place without the consent of this legislature. In this House most of us have no particular prejudices or preferences either way. I personally have not. So far as electoral matters are concerned, I doubt whether the slightest excitement is aroused in the breasts of the people of Hertfordshire. I have never been to Ireland and I am not expert in the long and rather complicated history of Irish politics, but what we desire in this House more than anything else is a settlement which will endure. What I ask myself is, does this paragraph (b), as it stands, help, or hinder, such a settlement? I have not yet heard a single argument which leads me to suppose that it will help a settlement. If it will not help a settlement, I suggest we leave out this future guarantee. From the speeches made, intemperate though they are and however much we object to them in content and in their words, it appears that this guarantee for the future may very well be an obstacle to a settlement rather than a help. Is not this guarantee an irritant without any corresponding advantage of any kind, whether of a moral or constitutional nature? Another point to which I hope my right hon. Friend will reply, is what would be the result if this Committee decided to delete this future guarantee? What would be the practical result? What would be the legal result? If I could be convinced on those points, I should not wish to press this particular point of view but, so far, I have heard no answers to these arguments. I invite the Committee to give support to the Amendment in my name and in the name of many hon. Friends—in line 11, to leave out from "Kingdom," to the end of line 2, page 2—and to induce the Government, if we can, to think again on this important matter."Yet in the crisis of 1914, especially after Serbia's disarming reply to the Austrian ultimatum, there was no ruler in Germany great enough to feel that what was essential to the peace of Europe was not the support of Austria in 'shining armour' but a wise and strong restraining hand."
We seem to have had three main lines of argument. We have had that advanced by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) which is more or less based on an attitude of "let us be cautious and let us not do anything that may upset our position in the future." We have had the extremely irritating approach, prejudiced and lacking in factual statement, of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) who, as far as I could see, was deliberately trying to prove two things. The first was that history could be re-written according to his own statements and, I have no doubt, sometime we shall be able to hear his Chartist theories about the introduction of machinery into the National Coal Board, which had about as much relevance to his arguments tonight as what my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said many years ago in a situation which was completely different. The hon. Member went on to make statements about when Mr. de Valera was unable to cross the frontier and, when challenged to give the date, he refused to do so. His speech, I think, can be dismissed for exactly what it was worth, a deliberate attempt to stir up trouble on an occasion when trouble is the last thing which is required.6.45 p.m. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) made the speech of a kind which is constantly being made in Irish circles. It was plausible, accurate as far as it went, but missed the whole of the main argument. I had to go to Dublin last week and debate with the Minister for External Affairs there on the night when Mr. Costello and Mr. de Valera made their speeches, and they made the same arguments. They talked of Ulster as though it were something to which they never agreed and an act of force majeure—as though these Six Counties were something which could be chopped and changed and something not guaranteed by anyone for any purpose whatever. It is worthy of note that in 1925 not only this House, but the Dail and the Parliament in Belfast, guaranteed the present boundaries and that that guarantee was not given at our request, or that of Northern Ireland, but at the request of the Southern Irish politicians. I am led to believe—and I have never heard it contradicted—that in 1925 an independent boundary commission was sitting, that it was well known that the commission was going to propose that Northern Ireland should consist of nine counties and not six, and that it was at the instigation and request of the Southern Ireland politicians of that day that the report of that commission was not awaited when the terms of the 1925 Treaty were accepted by all three parties concerned.
I do not think there was any suggestion that Northern Ireland should consist of nine counties. What was suggested, according to the Press, was that there was to be no change in the existing frontier but minor rectifications and that some Unionists outside Northern Ireland should be brought in.
I am willing to accept that from my right hon. Friend. I was only quoting from information——
It ought to be made quite plain that this report was never published——
I made that clear.
I have tried recently to get a copy of it, but I am told there is not one in existence——
In the Library.
Not this one. Various summaries of what it is thought to have contained have from time to time appeared in the papers and in some biographies. I was reading during the weekend the biography of O'Higgins in which an allusion was made to this, but I know of no certain grounds at this stage for saying what was in the Report. I agree in the main from what can be discovered with what was said by the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill).
I did not pretend to know what was in it, but I stated what was said at the time and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will contradict that the actual pressure for the conclusion of the 1925 Agreement came from Southern Irish leaders and no other party whatever.
I feel that the senior Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) did not make the position clear. He referred to the fact that the boundary commission arranged to bring in outside areas from the Twenty-six Counties. He is quite right in that, but it also provided for transferring areas from the Six Counties to the Twenty-six Counties.
I think that the Home Secretary has made the position clear: no one knows what this report contained. We have now heard three different versions of what it contained. The only point I wish to make and stand by is that it was in 1925, at the request of the politicians of Southern Ireland and of no one else, that Acts were passed by which this House, the Dail and the Parliament of Northern Ireland accepted the present boundaries of Ulster.It has been said from time to time from the benches opposite that there is some element of force in regard to the present boundaries or some element of injustice dating back to many years before the present Parliament or any other Parliament of which any hon. Member of this House was a Member. That is completely untrue. The present boundaries were accepted by all the parties as a voluntary and final settlement. No one in this House has yet said that Ulster contains a majority of Nationalists. There have been a great number of statements to the effect that this bit or that bit ought to be "hived off" and that the present position is a hardship to some part of Fermanagh or Tyrone. It is exactly the same hardship as that suffered by the county of Hampshire, which longs to be out of the administration of the present Socialist Government but is not allowed to be. [Interruption.] It is exactly the same. No one opposite would advocate or even permit the suggestion of secession by any part of this country which disliked the majority rule of the party opposite. When hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about this question they are always producing the argument that it is time England or this House offered a further concession to Ireland. There is never any suggestion that Ireland should make a concession to this country: that is the one thing that never happens. When I was in Ireland a few days ago the argument was again put forward, "You have had to give way on land annuities, on the question of the position in 1921 and various other matters. Why not make a clean sweep and allow us to have this cessation of partition?" I replied, "Why do you not do something to show that you are for once willing to help in a general settlement? Why do you not come into the Atlantic Pact? Why do you not show that you are willing to play your part in Europe?" The only answer one received time and time again, and received from people who should be able to speak authoritatively, was that they were not prepared to do anything until they had secured what they considered to be the utmost concession from this country, and that until that happened, they were not willing to make or even interested in making any gesture to help. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) spoke about defence, and said that he had pleaded with Mr. de Valera that the ports which we ceded should be returned to us during the war. Supposing that that gesture had been made. What a different attitude we might have taken today if something had been done——
I am perfectly prepared to give way to the hon. Member if I may first finish my sentence. Having been a member of the Royal Navy, I saw something of what that lack of help cost us. I remember that when the surrender of these ports was announced in 1937, it was made the occasion of a series of mutual congratulatory speeches and exchanges of compliments between this country and Ireland. Yet as soon as it came to the test, Ireland, instead of recognising what we had done or had striven to do, made not the slightest effort to help us in the time of our need. Now they are asking us to make a further great sacrifice.If one reads the statements made last week by Mr. Costello and Mr. de Valera in the Dail, both of which speeches I heard, they are seen to contain nothing except this vague sort of idea that if England would once again surrender we might find the Irish more receptive and more willing to give us help. That is an impossible proposition from the point of view of the many considerations of equity with which we on this side of the Committee are concerned.
Do the Six Counties which are now under consideration belong to Ireland or to England?
The unfortunate answer, from the point of view of the hon. Member, is that they have the right to choose their own destiny, and that is something for which we on this side of the House will always stand.
Does the hon. and gallant Member agree that the minority should overrule the majority?
There is undoubtedly a majority of between 65 and 67 per cent. in the Six Counties at present for the maintenance of the present position; there can be no question of that to anyone who looks at the election returns.Everyone who is participating in this Debate hopes and prays that we shall eventually be able to rid ourselves of this problem, but it is a problem which can only be solved if, for once, the Irish are prepared to give rather than merely to demand. If they are prepared to show that they will play their part in Western Europe, particularly in matters like the Atlantic Pact, if they will cease continually complaining about our misdeeds and will recognise some of their own shortcomings, I am hopeful that we can solve the many issues which at present divide us. But so long as it is accepted by Members in this House that whatever complaint may be made by the Irish is correct, and that whatever efforts we have made are either insufficient or wrong, we shall never succeed. I hope, therefore, that out of this Debate one thing alone will become clear—that we are willing to be partners with Ireland or indeed with anyone who will go forward with us, but we shall never be put upon or listen to unreasonable arguments.
Unlike the majority of my hon. Friends who have spoken about this paragraph, I wish to put forward some reasons why I think the House should support it. Of the arguments put forward by my hon. Friends who oppose this paragraph, the one which I find hardest to understand is that it is slamming the door on the subject of partition, or that this paragraph makes partition permanent in a way in which it has not been permanent previously.I should like to ask my hon. Friends what the position would be if this paragraph were not incorporated in the Bill. It is quite clear from the speeches that have been made that there are two opposing theories on this point. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) hopes that if this paragraph were omitted from the Bill, that that would in some way leave open to him and his Nationalist friends in Ireland the hope that the British Government would be willing to hand over the Six Counties of Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic, whether the population of Northern Ireland agreed or not. I am certain that that is not the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones). He and several other hon. Friends of mine appear to feel that if this paragraph were left out the matter would merely be left to lie fallow, that we could avoid making up our minds on this question. I fear that we cannot avoid making up our minds, whether this paragraph is in the Bill or not. 7.0 p.m. We have to face squarely the problem before the British Government. Are we seriously suggesting that this Government or any other Government of the United Kingdom should agree with the Irish Republic to the handing over and the incorporation into the Irish Republic of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland without consultation with the population of that Province? I cannot see that anyone can suggest that that in fact should happen. Therefore, if one is not to say that should happen, then in this Clause we are merely saying that we are recognising the position as it exists; and are then stating, as this Clause does state, the constitutional means by which the present position is to be changed, if it is to be changed at all. That seems to me to be a very fair and proper thing to say. We are not slamming the door. This does not necessarily last for ever and ever as the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) suggested the learned Attorney-General said. We are not giving an unlimited guarantee as the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterly Jones) said. What we are saying is that this position will not be changed except by the normal constitutional means; by the constitutional expression of opinion by Northern Ireland. I cannot see how anybody can suggest any other means of consultation with the people of Northern Ireland than through their Parliament. I agree with a great deal of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). In fact, except for the conclusion, I agree with most of what he said when he spoke of the shortcomings of the regime at present in Northern Ireland. I detest that regime, I think it is most unpleasant——
Do I understand my hon. Friend to say that while detesting this regime, while thinking it improper, he approves a Clause in which that regime is selected beyond the will of the Irish people?
Perhaps my hon. Friend will do me the justice of believing that I had thought of the possibility of that argument being raised. If given time I was intending to develop my argument exactly in that direction, and that is what I hope I shall be able to do if he can restrain his impatience. It does appear to me that one has to devise some means of consultation.As I say, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch that it is a most unpleasant police State which at present exists in Northern Ireland. But it does appear that that argument is totally irrelevant unless one is prepared to continue it to the point where one says that so much gerrymandering has taken place, that there is so much terror, that in fact what appears to be a majority for partition is really a minority. I do not believe that my hon. Friend or anybody else would seriously contend that there is in fact a majority for incorporation in the Republic in the present Six Counties of Northern Ireland. What they say, and undoubtedly with justice, is that the minority is larger than it is allowed by the Northern Ireland Government to appear to be. That is undoubtedly true, but it is still a minority; and I cannot see so long as there is only a minority that it is proper for this Government in the United Kingdom to say, "We will carry out the wishes of the minority rather than the majority."
What is to happen when one becomes satisfied that that minority of today has become the majority of tomorrow?
Surely it is an odd argument, in terms of democracy, to say that we must carry out what the majority of the future will want, on the doubtful assumption it will want it——
Leave the future alone.
rather than allowing the decision of the present majority to prevail. Indeed, this argument has not been put forward at all, the argument that there is indeed a majority today. The argument put forward is that one should not in fact consider Northern Ireland as a separate entity at all. I do not think it is the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), or my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones), but the Irish Members on this side of the Committee who have spoken, undoubtedly argue that we should ignore Northern Ireland as an entity altogether.The hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Mulvey) whom we had the privilege of hearing on the Second Reading Debate went so far as to say that the Almighty had intended the Irish to be one people. I have not the same close acquaintance with the wishes of the Almighty as the hon. Member has, but from my unlearned observations it does seem to me that if that was His intention He has gone about it in a very strange way.
God designed the country as one unit, and we hoped it would remain as one unit. It should be one unit politically.
I will accept the intentions of the Almighty from the hon. Member who appears to put himself forward as His interpreter.
Whilst I can understand the irrelevancies in regard to the Debate, I am not able at all to understand blasphemy. Observations have been made which ought not to have been made.
I think that the hon. Member's observations do not call for any comment——
I hope that the hon. Member will take them to heart.
This is the argument which has been put forward. I do not see how we in this Committee can seriously consider that we can wipe Northern Ireland out of existence as an entity. It has been pointed out time and again by hon. Members speaking against this Clause that it was this Parliament which brought the Northern Ireland Parliament and Government into existence. That may have been wrong. Whether or not I should have supported what was done in 1922—had I then been more than six years old—I do not know, but the fact is that what we have to accept is that it was done.That State, that Government, that Parliament were brought into existence and have been recognised as existing from that time forward by every Government and Parliament in the United Kingdom. If we no longer believe they are competent to carry out their duties then we should legislate to take away those duties from them. But so long as they carry out those duties, and we are not prepared to pass legislation to take away those duties, we cannot remove from them their constitutional right to speak for the people of Northern Ireland. If we say that they have the right to speak for the people of Northern Ireland then surely they have the right to be consulted before the destinies of their province are decided by this Government, or any outside Government. It appears to me therefore that this is not slamming the door——
To be consulted? Is that all my hon. Friend wants?
They should have that right, and we are merely stating in this Clause how any change which might be desired in the future is to be brought about, if it is to be brought about at all.How is the position, which I think the majority of hon. Members in this Committee desire—the unification of Ireland—to be brought about? I believe it will be brought about by stabilising the position. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch rightly pointed out that the political parties in the Irish Republic regarded this Clause as making the position worse. But I think it is only fair to point out, without any judgment of whether they are reasonable in that belief, that equally it is true that the majority political party in Northern Ireland believe that the action of the Irish Republic in declaring itself a Republic makes the position worse. Personally, I do not believe that either the declaration of the Republic or this Clause alters the position one bit. The reasons for people in Northern Ireland wishing either to join the Republic or stay out are either religious reasons or else economic reasons; and those reasons remain exactly the same today as they were before 18th April and before this Clause was published. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch said that the presence of this Clause would make it possible, and indeed today was making it possible, for politicians both North and South of the Border to stir up trouble. All I can say is that they have been stirring up trouble for the last 25 years or so without this Clause, and I doubt whether they needed its assistance to go on doing so. We all know that politicians on both sides of the Border, when they wish to cover up real economic or social difficulties, use this shibboleth of the Border in order to distract the attention of the people and I do not——
As one having considerable interests on both sides, I absolutely deny that I have ever done anything of the sort.
I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will take it from me that in any reference of that type I certainly would not be referring to him. I know that he certainly would not do anything of that kind, but I do not think that he would deny that there are people who, to use a vulgar expression, have "waved the bloody shirt" to some effect, and they have used this method for that purpose.
As I have been working for the economic and social welfare of the people for upwards of 30 years, does the remark made by the hon. Gentleman about politicians in the North and South stirring up trouble refer to me?
Until the Second Reading Debate I had never been privileged to hear a speech by the hon. Member. I must say that he amply made up for that lack on that occasion. A great deal of what he said then stirred up much quite unnecessary strife.The only way in which this issue of the Border will be settled will be by both sides accepting it as something, whether they like it or not, which can only be altered in a constitutional fashion. If it could be done I believe that there would be a possibility for the people of the North and South to make up their minds on political questions and matters of real importance and to discuss the real political economic and social conditions of the day. Then it is possible that we might get Governments in both the Republic and in Northern Ireland who would be willing to weigh up the economic and social arguments both for and against on this question of the Border and to come to a sensible and considered decision. This Clause makes a necessary contribution to that stability. If we delete it there will be grave concern in Northern Ireland. Such an action would only be interpreted as meaning that in fact we intend to abolish partition. We know that that is what three Members from Northern Ireland would like to do. I am sure, however, that it is not the intention of those hon. Members who say that we should leave this matter alone. I do not believe that we can leave it alone. We must meet the concern in Northern Ireland with some declaration one way or the other. I believe that this declaration of the proper constitutional position will help to stabilise the situation and make possible a proper settlement in future.
I do not propose to delay the Committee for very long, one reason being that when we are discussing matters such as this in Committee it is desirable that we should try to condense our speeches to the uttermost so that every point of view can be expressed. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) whom those of us who have been many years in this House not only respect but for whom we feel a large measure of affection. I heard him make his most eloquent plea about the loyal contribution of many Irishmen from Eire during the war. Of course, we all agree with what he said about that. There were also people from the North. I think that it was in the "Manchester Guardian" the other day that I read that perhaps the only time when it looked as though friendship might really grow up was after the severe bombing of Belfast when Dublin sent some fire engines to help to extinguish the flames. I shall try to provide a miniature fire engine this evening: I do not propose to fan the flames.I have a particular reason for remembering Irishmen in the recent war, because I served for more than a year with a brigade drawn from both the North and South of Ireland. That, I can tell hon. Members, was some experience. When we were not in the field, the political arguments which used to take place were most remarkable to an Englishman's ears. I was not in the House when Irish Members were carrying on their Debates, but when listening today I thought that I was back in some of the Irish messes—I mean that in a military sense—which I used to attend. 7.15 p.m. I want to bring the Committee back to the simple point. No one has explained so far what it is that is new that we are proposing to put into this Bill. I do not want to go back to the speeches made in 1912 or earlier. My responsibility dates from a later date. It is shared by some hon. Members present. If I remember rightly, I supported the agreement reached in 1925 to which reference was made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre). I do not know what the secret antecedents of that 1925 agreement may have been. I do not know whether the move came first from the South or from the North. What I do know is that we were asked in this House then—and I was a Member of it—to approve that arrangement as one being entirely satisfactory to North and South and to us in Britain. The language is quite specific. The agreement which we then passed and approved between the United Kingdom and the Irish Free State recognises friendly relations. It states that the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Irish Free State—of which the present Southern Irish Government is the successor—
That was a perfectly specific statement of where the Free State Government stood. That was the agreement which recognised the existing boundary of the Six Counties. That is where I stood in 1925. I am committed to that, and so are others of us who supported that agreement. So, I should have thought, were the successors to the then Government of the Free State. Nobody has expressed an opinion that what was not only accepted by this House then but what was thought right by every section of Irish opinion which expressed itself at that time——"being united in amity in this undertaking with the Government of Northern Ireland …"
I do not know what Costello's thoughts were.
Is it not the case that this subsection makes a fundamental change in the relations of the Government of this country with the Government of Ireland?
The whole of my argument is that it makes no change at all. It merely expresses what is the present position.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make his case. I am stating the situation as it appears to me. All that is done is to repeat here what was said in the 1925 Agreement. At that time the Eire Government was presided over by Mr. Cosgrave.
Is it not true that Mr. Cosgrave, not Mr. Costello——
I said Mr. Cosgrave.
had a struggle with Michael Collins against the very section in Ireland which did not want to accept the settlement, and that the settlement was imposed upon them on the threat of further and more terrible war against them?
Really, this Irish memory is past anything any Englishman can understand. This Agreement was not passed in 1922 or while the disturbances were going on. This is the 1925 Agreement—three years after.
That was the outcome.
How far back have we to go? That is what we who are Englishmen facing this problem must weigh up. The hon. Gentleman can read the Debates of 1925. I forget whether he was in the House at that time.
If he reads them he will find that we were told that this was an Agreement which appeared to be one accepted by the majority of the Dail of the day. I think that that is a fair way to put it. Certainly there was a minority in the Dail who did not accept the Agreement. Can we never feel that anything is agreed unless every member of the Dail approves of it?
I am not trying to make an unfair point. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the majority of the people of Southern Ireland were in favour of a united Ireland and not in favour of the boundaries created under the threat of more terrible war.
I have no right to interpret opinion in Southern Ireland, but I think it is quite conceivable that everybody in Southern Ireland felt that the final aim was the unity of Ireland. That is intelligible, and very likely that was their feeling, but I am dealing with this agreement which was accepted by Southern Ireland at that time. That is all we have to deal with in this House, and I am asking for some explanation why it is that what was regarded as acceptable before, must now be left out of this Bill.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. For the purpose of argument, I will accept every single word he has said—that the partition of Ireland was agreed and was ratified by a statute of this House, and that no law affecting partition has ever been passed by this House since. This is the question I would put to the right hon. Gentleman. That being the case, why is it necessary to include this subsection now, because I think the legal consequence of it is that, if this subsection is now legally necessary, it is almost an admission that until now there has been no statutory sanction for partition at all?
No. I think there we come to the second part of the argument, which is—and I am afraid we must admit it—that it is the action of the Government of Eire which has created the new situation. It is not we who have suddenly done something since 1925, but the Government of Eire who have now cut the last remaining connection with the British Commonwealth family. As a result of their doing that, the Government here have to do something about it; otherwise, every Irishman in this country would be called a foreigner. In the process of doing something about it, we must restate the existing position and the unchanged undertaking which we have given to Northern Ireland. It is desperately simple and very clear, and I cannot understand why all this heat and indignation has been generated about it.I want to say a word to the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie). He told us, strangest of all arguments, that Eire could not take her place among the nations while this situation continues. There is nothing to stop her. There was nothing to stop Mr. de Valera going to the League of Nations a great many times, where I met him as a colleague. There, and also in so many spheres of international discussions, we always agreed about everything, except this particular topic. That was 20 years ago. Why cannot they now manage——
A country divided up by this Government is prevented from doing it.
It shows how difficult it is for people not having Irish grandmothers to understand Irish arguments. The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) was much nearer the real issue about Ireland. He said that the lower standard of life and of social services in Southern Ireland has caused a good deal of reluctance on the part of some people to support union now.I conclude with this simple comment. We should like to see Irish unity, if it can be got by agreement, but we do stand for this undertaking, which is no new one, but one which must be fulfilled. When an hon. Member says that Ireland is one geographical unit and that, therefore, the whole of Ireland ought to be one, I would ask where that argument in fact stops. The United Kingdom may be called one geographical unit but we all accepted that the Free State should leave it and even cut the last link with the Commonwealth. I do not know where this geographical unity ends. I do not think there is anything in the argument that, if a country is a geographical unit, it must necessarily be a political unit. So far as we are concerned, we consider that there is nothing novel in what was proposed, we have yet to be given any good reason for supposing that this is new, and, therefore, we shall support the Government in retaining the Clause.
On a point of Order. I understood that we were to discuss a series of Amendments. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is now called, may I ask whether he will reply to the Amendment which stands in my name, which has not been moved and for the discussion of which no opportunity has yet been given, and in respect of which no argument has been put? Could you explain, Sir Charles, how the undertaking which was given before you came to the Chair—that the Amendment would be discussed—can be implemented?
The Amendments can only be moved as we come to them, and it is impossible to proceed with another until we have cleared the previous one out of the way. I understand that the position is that the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) will be moved, or that an opportunity will be afforded for him to move it when the time comes, and that there may be a Division on it without any discussion.
Am I not right in saying that because the Home Secretary speaks now, it does not necessarily mean that that will be the end of the Debate, because some of us have been here a very long time trying to get in and shall want to carry on the discussion?
It certainly does not end the Debate, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, I cannot accept a Motion for the Closure.
Do I understand from your Ruling, Sir Charles, that the Amendment in my name may be moved by me without discussion? If so, may I ask how it comes to pass that such a decision has been made without the knowledge of the mover, who is now unable to discuss it and has a vow of silence imposed upon him? Do I understand that I am now being told that I shall not be able to discuss my own Amendment, whatever happens?
I understand that the Chairman of Ways and Means stated that three Amendments would be discussed together, and I do not think there is anything exceptional in that. The usual procedure is that, if a Division is wanted on Amendments other than the first, that will be possible when the time comes.
There is a mistake here somewhere, because the Chairman of Ways and Means pulled up several hon. Members when speaking, for instance, the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), and said they must not discuss certain matters in detail, because there would be a further discussion when the second part of the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) was called.
I think the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is mistaken. The Amendment on which the Chairman intervened is that in page 2, line 2, leave out "Parliament," and insert "people," not the one in page 1, line 12, leave out "or any part thereof."
May I ask for your guidance, Sir Charles? I think that, as I raised the original point of Order, I am entitled with very great respect to seek your guidance again. I regret having to raise this matter with you, but it appears that it arises out of a Ruling that was given before you came to occupy the Chair. May I ask your guidance whether there is any precedent of any kind for saying to an hon. Member of this House, who sat through the whole of the Second Reading Debate without being called and who has not left his seat in this Chamber since this discussion started shortly after half-past three, that he will not be called to move his Amendment, after a discussion which has been going on for nearly four hours, that he will not have an opportunity of adducing any arguments in support of it, and that a vote will be taken on it and no argument in relation to it will be allowed at all? If that is so, may I, with great respect, ask if I might have leave to move "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair," in order that I might draw attention to what I consider to be the very unfair treatment of an hon. Member of this House?
Although the Home Secretary speaks now, the Debate may still go on, and it can go on until tomorrow if necessary.
I suffer from the same disability in this Debate as was announced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) in that, as far as I know, I have not a drop of blood other than English in my veins, and that, therefore, intervention in an Irish Debate is always a matter of some risk, and certainly raises feelings that make it very difficult to understand the temper of some of the participants in the discussion. We are dealing with the situation of today and not with the situation, to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) alluded, 700 years ago. We are faced today with a completely new situation which is not of our creation but with which we have to deal as the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This paragraph, which it is proposed to leave out, says in the first place that in this matter of the ultimate destiny of North Ireland we are determined that physical force is not to be the arbitrating consideration.
On both sides.
I have never yet heard anyone suggest that the North of Ireland is preparing a military attack on the South.
Why declare war?
We have no intention of declaring war.
Then why make such an inciting speech?
I am not making any inciting speech. I am endeavouring to deal with the facts as they are created, and I know that some of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee have not yet found any adequate reason for the sudden declaration by Mr. Costello that he had found it necessary to cut the last link with the British Commonwealth.
That is a great misrepresentation of my hon. Friends and myself. We are not here to defend any declaration made by Mr. Costello or anyone else. We are debating this Bill which ought to have nothing whatever to do with Mr. Costello.
As it is the action of Mr. Costello which is the cause of the Bill, it is very difficult to sustain that proposition, but I am glad to know that my hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy) does not intend to attempt to defend the indefensible. This Bill and this paragraph would not have been before the Committee but for the action of Mr. Costello in severing the last very slender link with the British Commonwealth of Nations. In my view, and I believe in the view of some of my hon. Friends who have been attacking this paragraph this afternoon, he has made the question of the unity of Ireland more difficult than it has ever been before by his action in taking the Republic of Ireland, the 26 Counties, out of the British Commonwealth.That is the cause of this Bill, and we have recognised in the Bill that that action of Mr. Costello's was within his right. It was within the right of the Parliament of Ireland to pass the law which they did and which came into effect on 18th April, but that being the position, and particularly in view of the name that Mr. Costello chose for his country under the new constitution, it was essential that some statement should be made first to the people of Northern Ireland and secondly, to the world as to the position in which we see the people of North Ireland standing. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why was that essential?"] When there is a claim that a certain State is the Republic of Ireland, which might be misinterpreted by some people as meaning the Island of Ireland, I think it is essential to make it clear that there is a part of the Island which is not included in the Republic of Ireland. I want to make it quite clear that the Government regard that declaration as essential, but we want to say something more. We do not regard this as being of necessity the final position with regard to this matter. I speak as one who, in 1906 and twice in 1910, voted for Home Rule as an elector, but I voted for Home Rule within the British Commonwealth of Nations. We have heard the name of Mr. Redmond mentioned this afternoon. He stood for Home Rule within the British Commonwealth of Nations. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), as a result of one of those researches which delight us so much, made a long quotation from a speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) when he was a Member of a Liberal Government and a supporter of Home Rule. He also was in favour of Home Rule within the British Commonwealth of Nations. At a particular stage in the discussions, when the speech from which my hon. Friend quoted was made, it had already been agreed that there should be an option for the counties in the North. In fact, my hon. Friend read a sentence which indicated that that was so.
Each county separately up to a period of six years.
But still, no matter whether they voted for North or South, they would still be within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Whether we like it or not, the majority of the people of North Ireland as at present constituted, desire to remain not merely inside the United Kingdom, but inside the British Commonwealth of Nations, and a new situation has been created whereby if Irish unity is to be attained on the basis of the demand of the South, it must now be at the price of going out of the United Kingdom and out of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That is the situation with which this paragraph deals. What we assure the people of North Ireland by this paragraph is that they shall not by us be put out of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth of Nations except with their consent. That is what we say, and if either by argument or by blandishments or in any other way a majority of the people of North Ireland can be induced to vote for going out of the Commonwealth, then the provisions of this paragraph do not prevent the appropriate arrangement being made.
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, which seems to me to be the one vital point, may I point out that that is not what this Bill provides? What it provides is that the Parliament of Northern Ireland can change the franchise. If we could get some guarantee that the franchise would include the people of Northern Ireland at any future date, it would satisfy me and a great many others as well.
You will recollect, Sir Charles, that the Chairman of Ways and Means has already ruled that that particular point may not be dealt with on these Amendments. It has to be dealt with on the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) which, I understand, is to be called later. That was why I did not direct my argument to it. The question as to how the opinion of Northern Ireland is to be ascertained is not an issue in the Amendments now before us but will be raised on a subsequent Amendment and, if and when we reach that Amendment, I shall have something to say about it.I would direct the attention of the House to what has been the shortest speech in this Debate but to my mind one of the most important—the very calm, clear statement made by the hon. and gallant junior Member for the County of Antrim (Colonel Haughton). It was a speech which showed no rancour, no delving back into the dim mists of the past, but concerned what he said he had seen and heard in Dublin during the past four days. I cannot help thinking that if this paragraph had not been justified before, it would have been justified by the posters which have appeared in Dublin during the last 48 hours.
But that is a result of this Clause.
There is nothing in the Clause which justifies the issue of a poster urging people to arm for an immediate attack on the North. The hon. and gallant Member made a statement about that which was not contradicted at the time. I have seen similar reports in the London newspapers and I am therefore entitled to assume, on the witness of the hon. and gallant Member and on the reports, that it is in fact the case.
I saw that poster with my own eyes in Dublin this morning—on a van in Harcourt Street.
In view of that situation, Sir Charles, it is essential that this Parliament should make it quite clear that while it will welcome anything that is the result of reason, argument and of friendly approaches made to bring the two parts of Ireland together, what we cannot countenance is anything that attempts to secure the unity of Ireland by the threat of force on one side or the other. In view of the history of this matter I should have hoped that that proposition would command universal assent in this House.It has been said today by some of my hon. Friends who have taken part in this Debate that in some way or other, this House has taken six counties away from the Governments that from time to time have been in power in Southern Ireland. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not want again to go all over the argument so clearly set out by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington with regard to what happened in 1925. I should like to say this with regard to it, however: to the Commission that prepared that Report, Southern Ireland sent a member, but the North of Ireland refused to send a member and, in fact, the member who was supposed to represent Northern Ireland was nominated by the Government of the United Kingdom. While it would be easier to argue that the Act of 1925 was not very welcome to North Ireland, there could no doubt about the full participation of South Ireland in all the negotiations that led up to the passing of that Act. [An HON. MEMBER: "A Tory Government."] It does not matter whether it was a Tory Government or any other kind of Government. What, in fact, happened was that North Ireland, for some reason or other best known to itself, declined to come into the Commission.
The reason why Northern Ireland declined to appoint a member to that Commission was because they were perfectly satisfied with the six counties which had been given to them by the Act of 1920. It was the South who wished to change the boundaries.
I do not want to hold an inquest and to bring in a verdict, but I think it might have been better for us at the present time, and in the intervening years, if North Ireland, knowing that a Commission was to be appointed, had participated in it. I think the fact that they were satisfied does not matter so very much.The Committee has to make up its mind on this: in view of the action of Mr. Costello's Government in going out of the British Commonwealth of Nations, what are we to say to those people who are as much part of the United Kingdom today as are the people who live in Hampshire or Surrey or Durham and who desire to remain in the United Kingdom?
Only two-thirds of the population of the north wish to remain there.
At any time when I can collect the views of my constituents and feel that two-thirds of them support a particular line, I think I have a sufficient majority to regard the vote binding the whole. One cannot accept the position that because the one-third object, therefore the two-thirds must accept the view of the one-third.The only other argument to which I think I need address myself is that which is advanced when hon. Members say that one should have regard not to the feeling of Northern Ireland in this matter but to the feeling of the whole of Ireland; that if one could get the whole of Ireland—that is, the whole of the island of Ireland—to take a particular view one need not worry about the way in which the votes may be distributed in different parts of the island. I suggest that we have to face up to the fact that the North of Ireland has a very considerable population which, by origins of race and political associations, find themselves more akin to Scotland than to the South of Ireland. They are not English in their outlook; they are, in the main, Scottish in their outlook and they form a reasonably well-marked section of the population in an area that can be reasonably defined geographically; and that being so, and their desire being strong to remain with the United Kingdom and inside the Commonwealth, we have no right, as fellow members of the United Kingdom, to expel them—for that is what it would be—from an association which they value and which has been of the greatest possible value to this country.
The right hon. Gentleman did long ago.
No, really, I did not. I am getting pretty long in the tooth—or I would be if I had any teeth left—but really I am not responsible for the plantation of Ulster. I am not going to defend the plantation of Ulster. After all, that has been done.I only wish that Irishmen on both sides of the Border could some time live for about a fortnight in today, instead of always living in the remote past. I do not think that any Irishman can ever read a history book with great pleasure after he is 20 years of age, for he finds nothing new; he has never forgotten anything. Even the Scots can forget. They cannot forget Bannockburn, but I once went to Dunbar and thought I should like to see the battlefield of Dunbar. In the town I bought a guidebook to Dunbar. The battle was not mentioned in it. There was a long chapter about a lady called Black Agnes, who, as far as I could gather, deserved the title. I asked people in the town if they could tell me where the battle was fought, and they asked me, "What battle?" The English and Scots do manage both to forgive and forget and to live in the present with their eyes looking forward. I appeal to Irishmen of all ranks to live in today, to realise the passionate desire of certain people—a majority in Northern Ireland—to remain inside the United Kingdom and inside the British Commonwealth of Nations. I hope that as a result of their so looking at things we may come to a time when it will be possible for Irishmen to be united. But that unity must be unity without the coercion of either the South or the North. It must be unity on a basis to which both can agree. I very sincerely hope that the unfortunate action of Mr. Costello in going out of the British Commonwealth will not too long delay the consummation of unity, of the coming of the time when Irishmen will be able to live in the present with the past forgotten.
Before my right hon. Friend sits down, I wonder whether he will answer a question? He asked a rhetorical question just now. He asked what the House would do in view of the situation created by Mr. Costello. He has overlooked the fact that there is an Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones), and which is under discussion at the present time, and he has not addressed one word to it. Would he say what he would do about that Amendment?
I thought the whole of my argument had been directed towards that point. If we accept the Amendment, and leave out the words it proposes to leave out, we have a declaration for ever and ever—so far as this Committee can make such a declaration—that the matter will never be re-opened. What the Clause says is, that if there is the consent of the Irish Parliament—whether it will be the Irish Parliament or Irish people we can discuss——
My right hon. Friend has got the wrong Amendment. I am speaking of the one in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin in page 1, line 11, to leave out from "Kingdom," to the end of line 2, in page 2. Plainly, my hon. Friend wishes to give a guarantee to Northern Ireland, but not in the terms of the Bill. That is the point, and I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend will address his remarks to it.
As I understand it, if that Amendment were adopted by the Clause would be a declaration for all time. By leaving in the words the Amendment would leave out we make it quite clear that if Irishmen can agree on this issue, then that will be a matter for the House of Commons to consider in the light of that agreement. I should have thought that that was a desirable position in which to leave the matter.
I think my right hon. Friend was under a misapprehension in the last answer he gave. The Clause starts by declaring that Northern Ireland remains a part of His Majesty's Dominions and part of the United Kingdom, and the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) suggests that the Clause should end there. There is nothing about that which gives any irrevocable undertaking or makes any irrevocable decision. I find myself in a little difficulty here. I do not know whether I could have the guidance of the Chair? I do not know whether I am entitled to ask for that guidance in the matter. There are two consecutive Amendments which I have drafted to this Clause, in page 1, line 12, to leave out "or any part thereof," and in page 2, line 2, to leave out "Parliament," and to insert "people." The Amendments are intended to be two parts of a consecutive whole. They are intended to restore to the Clause the precise words of the undertaking that the Prime Minister gave on this matter, the undertaking he gave to the people of Northern Ireland. I understand that the second Amendment is being called separately and will be the subject of a separate vote. I am in this position. I hope I may put it with every possible reticence and respect to the Chair.The remarks I would wish to make now on the Amendment under discussion, to leave out the words "or any part thereof," would be comparatively few. I apprehend it is impossible for me to seek any indication of what course the Chair is likely to take, but I have remained so invisible to the Chair for some con- siderable time that I began to doubt my own existence, and I am reluctant to resume my seat at this moment without submitting certain arguments I would wish to submit on the second Amendment, which are clearly in Order at this stage, because the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin clearly gives rise to much the same remarks. However, I would defer, if it would be for the convenience of the Committee, the rather detailed references I wish to make to the reference to "Parliament" until my second Amendment is called, for they would be more appropriate to that Amendment, if it were possible for me to ascertain how far it is likely that I may catch your eye, Major Milner So far as my first Amendment is concerned, to leave out the words "or any part thereof," I want at the opening to say what it is time, I think, someone on this side said very clearly—that there is scarcely a word the Home Secretary said with which I do not agree, and there is not a single word the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said either today or on Second Reading with which I was not in complete agreement. I deplore the speeches that have been made in Dublin. They have done a great deal of harm to the cause of ultimate Irish unity. I deplore some of the arguments I have heard in this Committee today on both sides. I deplore the decision of the Republic of Ireland to leave the British Commonwealth of Nations. I think it was a decision that was not actuated by economic motives, and was not dictated by any long view of the future welfare of Ireland. I am not suggesting, and I do not believe that any of my colleagues with whom I am associated are suggesting, that the people of Northern Ireland should be forced out of the United Kingdom against their will. We do not suggest that at all. However, we are entitled to ask the Home Secretary or the Lord President of the Council, who has attended some of these deliberations, to say what really is the meaning of the words of the Clause. 8.0 p.m. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, on the Second Reading, said that an Act of Parliament does not bind any subsequent Parliament and a new Parliament could repeal it. That is perfectly right, and one accepts it. There is, however, a rule of continuity in engagements which approaches the realm of treaty-making. There is a rule of continuity in dealing with the affairs of other nations or dealing with the affairs of parts of our own nation which involve decisions affecting the welfare of other nations. In other words, the undertaking which the Prime Minister gave, which is by its nature the exercise of the powers of the Crown, has some permanency and gives more security to the people of Northern Ireland than the words of a statute which could be repealed. It is one of the prime rules of our Constitution that a statute can be repealed. Up to now, the people arguing this matter on both sides are faced with an unescapable antithesis. First, the supporters of the Clause are saying, "After all the words do not mean much and they do not alter the position." Those in response to the attack are saying, "We must keep these words whatever happens." At the same time, we are saying that there may be some dark significance in these words which may fall to be determined in the future. If that is true—and it cannot be disputed by anyone—there is one clear answer: If the words do not alter the position there is no reason why they should go in. If they do alter the position, we are entitled to know how they alter the position. That is the first point. We must then follow it to the second, and wonder what are the mechanics provided in this Clause to implement this decision. Let us assume that the words mean something and the matter is to be referred to the Parliament of Northern Ireland; that somehow or other their decision is to be taken. How is it contemplated that any such decision should be taken? I apprehend the procedure which may be envisaged would be that an Act of this House could dispose of certain possibilities with regard to the future of Ireland, subject to the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. What is the constitutional position in that case? The Parliament of Northern Ireland has three branches, just as ours has. There is the Crown, the Senate and the elected House. There are, however, quite different provisions for dealing with a dispute between the elected House and the Senate. If such a decision came before the elected House and was approved by them and not by the Senate, it would have to wait two years and then refer it to a general decision to be decided by a majority. If that were done, it may be that the majority—not the elected majority but the majority created by the addition of the Senate—would decide for the preservation of the status quo and the Act would pass to the Governor in the exercise of his right as representative of the Crown.
The hon. Member seems to be addressing himself to a subsequent Amendment in his name. That is not a matter for discussion on the present Amendment.
I attempted to indicate, as far as I could, and realising the difficulty of making the intimation, that I would be happy to discuss this matter on the second Amendment. I must submit, with all respect, that unless I can have an indication that I may catch your eye, Major Milner, on the second Amendment and discuss it, then——
I understand that my predecessor in the Chair indicated that it is proposed to select the Amendment to Clause 1, page 2, line 2, in the name of the hon. Member and that promise will, of course, be adhered to. That Amendment will be called in due course. It does not seem to me, therefore, that a great deal can be said on the Amendment in the hon. Member's name which has presumably been already dealt with by the hon. Member whose name is also attached to it.
I am anxious to accommodate myself to the wishes of the Committee. I thought that I had made it clear in my opening sentences, and I waited for some indication from the Chair that that course would be followed, but no indication was given. If it is the intention to call the Amendment in my name, I am much obliged. In that case, I will confine myself to the Amendment to which my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council in a sense referred in the Second Reading Debate, to leave out the words: "or any parts thereof." Reference was made to that by the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells). My right hon. Friend said:
I do not suggest for a moment the nibbling process. I suggest that we should not lay down as a law of the Medes and Persians a firm ruling which would destroy the right to abrogate."I see the point. On the other hand, if we are to have a nibbling process whereby we are trying to get an exact boundary. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1959.]
Division No. 139.]
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Head, Brig. A. H.|
|Albu, A. H.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Deer, G.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Diamond, J.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Dobbie, W.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Dodds, N. N.||Hollis, M. C.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Holman, P.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Donner, P. W.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Donovan, T.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Drayson, G. B.||Hope, Lord J.|
|Balfour, A.||Drewe, C.||Houghton, A. L. N. D. (Sowerby)|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Hoy, J.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Dumpleton; C. W.||Hutchison, Lt-Cdr, Clark (Edin'gh, W.)|
|Battley, J. R.||Dye, S.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Berry, H.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Janner, B.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Binns, J.||Erroll, F. J.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Jenkins, R. H.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Johnston, Douglas|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||Farthing, W. J.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)|
|Bower, N.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Foot, M. M.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Forman, J. C.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Keeling, E. H.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt-Col. W.||Fox, Sir G.||Kendall, W. D.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||King, E. M.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Gage, C.||Kinley, J.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (Pike)||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.|
|Callaghan, James||Gibson, C. W.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Carson, E.||Gilzean, A.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Champion, A. J.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Chater, D.||Goodrich, H. E.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A (Wakefield)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Grey, C. F.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Gridley, Sir A.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Grierson, E.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Cole, T. L.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Lucas, Major Sir J.|
|Collins, V. J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Lyne, A. W.|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||McAdam, W.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvill||McAllister, G.|
|Cooper, G.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||McFarlane, C. S.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Harden, J. R. E.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hardy, E. A.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Crawley, A.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.)||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)|
|Daggar, G.||Harrison, J.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Daines, P.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Haughton, Colonel S. G. (Antrim)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Haworth, J.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
Question put accord