House Of Commons
Friday, 16th December, 1921.
The House met at Twelve of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the plebiscite in the Burgenland is being taken with the consent of the Austrian Government; and whether the date of the plebiscite has been advanced so as to assist a Hungarian solution with the approval of His Majesty's Government?
The Austrian Government have protested against the holding of the plebiscite on 14th December, though, under the strict terms of the agreement signed at Venice by Austria and Hungary, it was due to be held by that date. I need hardly say that any suggestion that the date has been fixed in order to assist a Hungarian solution is altogether unjustified. His Majesty's Government are of course only concerned to see that the plebiscite should take place in circumstances which ensure to the utmost the maintenance of order and the freedom of the vote.
Is it not a fact that Hejjas and the White Terror troops were still in occupation of the Burgenland when the plebiscite was taken?
I should like a notice of that question.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the amount of reparation received by Britain to date from Germany exceeds the cost of our Army of Occupation on the Rhine; and, if so, by what amount?
The amount received up to the present by the British Empire from Germany under the Reparation and Financial Clauses of the Treaty of Versailles is not yet sufficient to cover the cost of the British Army of Occupation on the Rhine.
Does the amount to which the hon. Gentleman refers include the shipping which comes to this country from Germany, and which has had the direct effect of causing unemployment in the shipyards of this country?
It includes the amount under the Reparation and Financial Clauses. I am afraid that if I were required to give a further analysis of that amount I should have to ask for notice.
(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether a Note has been sent by the German Government to the Reparations Commission declaring its inability to pay the next two instalments of the indemnity; what action His Majesty's Government proposes to take in the matter; and whether the position will be explained to Parliament before further sanctions are agreed to?
I understand that a Note has been received from the German Government by the Reparation Commission asking for a partial postponement of its January and February instalments. The position created by the Note will be discussed with the Allies, but in view of the urgency of the question, I cannot undertake to postpone a decision until the House meets again.
May I ask the Leader of the House whether further sanctions, such as occupying the Ruhr, are not equivalent to a fresh declaration of war, and should not this House be informed and consulted before such a grave step is taken, or is it only to be discussed with the Prime Minister in his private room, and this House ignored in the matter?
Do we understand from the hon. Gentleman that the Government might consent to further military sanctions without consulting this House?
I cannot add anything at all to the answer I have given, or warrant any implication from it.
On the constitutional point, may I ask the Leader of the House whether what are virtually new declarations of war should be embarked upon before an explanation is given to the House.
I think it is unnecessary and inexpedient to answer hypothetical questions.
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the French have now completely evacuated Cilicia; whether it has been reoccupied by the Kemalist forces; whether the threats of the latter have produced panic among the non-Turkish inhabitants; and what is the present position of those refugees whom the British authorities caused to return there after the Armistice and of the other elements in the population who supported our cause in the War and to whom we in return promised freedom from Turkish government?
Although His Majesty's Government have no definite information on the subject, it is believed that the administration of the Turkish Nationalists has replaced French military authority in Cilicia; in any case, the French troops were, under the terms of the Agreement, to have been withdrawn by 20th December. By agreement with the Angora Government, M. Franklin Bouillon was himself to supervise the conditions of the transfer of authority, and he was to be assisted by three French representatives residing at Adana, Mersina and Aintab. His Majesty's Government are not aware of any threats emanating from the Turkish Nationalist authorities or forces against the non-Turkish inhabitants; the French Government have, indeed, informed His Majesty's Government of the adoption by the Angora Government of certain decisions favourable to the minorities and indicating, according to the French view, a disposition on the part of the Nationalist authorities loyally to fulfil the obligations assumed under the agreement; these decisions include abrogation of the law of requisition, suspension of conscription, organisation of a mixed Franco-Turkish Commission to safeguard the property of refugees and to prevent looting; assurance of freedom of person and respect of property; and an immediate and total amnesty.The latest information about the refugees is that there are at Mersina 10,000 workless Armenians in a miserable state. I cannot, however, accept the statement that His Majesty's Government caused the refugees to return to Cilicia after the Armistice; those who returned, did so after the French had taken over from the British the duties of military occupation and the responsibilities deriving therefrom. Nor have His Majesty's Government ever promised autonomy for Cilicia.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have in my possession a letter from the War Office stating that they have sent back refugees from Aleppo to Cilicia, and that refugees who wished to go to the South were not allowed to do so?
I am not sure that I am aware that my hon. Friend has such a letter, but, even so, I do not think that it upsets the truth of my answer.
How does the hon. Gentleman maintain his statement that these people were not sent back by the British authorities.
Were not many of these people sent back by the French authorities; and, further, may I ask if the information and experience, unfortunately, of the Armenians in Cilicia, as to the effect upon their future of Turkish control, has not already been vindicated by the plight of thousands of refugees?
I am not at all sure that the Armenians have been well advised to fly from Cilicia.
Can the hon. Gentleman say how many of these people have now left Cilicia; and has there any reply been given on their behalf, in a collective sense, to the Proclamation a few weeks ago of the French Commander-in-Chief?
I cannot say. I have no definite information as to how many Armenians have left Cilicia, but it is obviously only a small proportion of the total number.
Then has the Government no responsibility for those who have now left Cilicia?
The right hon. Gentleman appears to understand more than I do where the responsibility lies.
In the interests of minorities and for the sake of our own great interests in the East, will the Government consider the advisability of adopting an entire new policy towards Turkey?
May I enquire whether the Government do not recognise that they are bound by the strongest possible obligations to do everything they can to protect the Armenians?
I need hardly say that the Government have done everything within their power in the circumstances.
Will the hon. Gentleman say any one thing the Government have done effectively, and does he mean to say that the British Government is impotent and unable to carry out its promises?
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can give any information regarding the military situation in Asia Minor of the Turkish and Greek forces; what steps His Majesty's Government are taking to bring about a cessation of hostilities in these regions; and whether any conversations are taking place or have recently taken place between representatives of His Majesty's Government and of the Angora Government?
There is no change in the military situation in Anatolia. Active hostilities appear to be virtually in suspense. A meeting will take place early in the New Year between the Allied Foreign Ministers to discuss methods and terms of a general settlement. No conversations are taking place, or have taken place, between representatives of His Majesty's Government and the Angora Government.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this situ- ation has existed for many months, and in the meantime British trade is adversely affected, together with our relations to our Mohammedan subjects and fellow subjects of the King in India, and cannot he do something more expeditiously than these continual conversations which lead nowhere?
I have already stated that a meeting will take place in Paris in the first week of the New Year to discuss these things.
What is the use of that?
(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister if the policy of the Government to maintain the provisions of the Sèvres Treaty in relation to Greece and to the protection of the Greeks, Armenians and other Christian communities from massacre will be steadily adhered to?
The policy of this country in respect of the protection of the Christian populations of Asia Minor has not changed and has been made the subject of unremitting representations to the Governments principally concerned. As to the Treaty of Sevres, further discussions are about to take place between the Allies, and it would not be desirable to make a statement at this stage.
If this Session is not going to be ended to-day in view of the very strong feeling which exists in the country on this question, could the right hon. Gentleman manage to give us a few hours for discussion?
Parliament was summoned in this extraordinary Session solely to deal with the Article of Agreement signed by the Irish representatives and by His Majesty's Government, and I should rather deprecate the introduction of other subjects which would lead to a prolongation of the Session of quite uncertain but of considerable length.
I did not suggest that that small space of time should be given until the Irish business is disposed of. It is not for me to stand between Ireland and the Treaty. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have not the smallest doubt that the reactionaries object to anything which will strengthen the hands of the Government.
The hon. Member is making a speech.
Taxation And Franchise
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the white settlers in Kenya are refusing to pay Income Tax because they were not consenting parties to the tax; whether the Income Tax law was passed in 1919 and never yet enforced; how much direct taxation is levied upon settlers, Indians, and natives, respectively, in Kenya; and whether he will consider the advisability of widening the franchise to Indians and natives in order that all parties may be consenting parties to the taxation they bear?
asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government endorse the recommendation of the recent Conference of Premiers respecting equality of status for British citizens, whether Indian or European; and whether any steps have yet been taken to carry out this new doctrine in British Crown Colonies and especially in the matter of the Kenya franchise and segregation?
I understand that a motion for the removal of the Income Tax in Kenya has been moved in the Legislative Council and defeated, and that further opposition to the tax on constitutional grounds has been raised and will probably be tested in the Courts. I have no other information on this part of the hon. Member's question. The Income Tax Ordinance was passed on 7th December, 1920. It was not found possible to complete the necessary arrangements within the financial year 1920–21, and, as there would have been hardship in collecting two years' tax in one year, it was decided not to proceed with the levy of the tax for the financial year 1920–21. I have no information as to the direct taxation of Europeans and Indians separately, but taken together, the estimate for 1922 is £169,442, representing about five pounds per head. The direct taxation on natives is expected to bring in £656,070, representing about 5s. per head. The question of the Indian franchise is engaging my careful consideration. I am not satisfied that any form of elective representation of natives is necessary or would serve any useful purpose.
Does not the constitutional objection to paying taxes for which they have not voted also extend to the native Indians in the Kenya collieries?
I think that is a question which, if answered at all, would require to be answered with very considerable modification.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will lay Papers or inform the House as to the present position of the franchise and segregation question in Kenya Colony, including his instructions to the Governor and the correspondence with the India Office?
I will consider the question of publication in connection with the presentation to Parliament of next year's Estimates.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the annual rent or tax paid by the settlers in Kenya for the land they occupy is reckoned at so many cents per acre; that the change in the Kenya currency has not halved the value of the cent in relation to the florin, and that the result of the change has been to halve rents paid by the settler when cents were 100 to the florin; and how do the Government expect to make good the revenue so lost?
Article 5 (3) of the Kenya and Uganda (Currency) Order in Council, 1921, provided that
The difficulty which the hon. and gallant Member anticipates will not, therefore, arise."Where any contract entered into or instrument made before the commencement of this Order provides for the making of any payment in terms of cents, the contract or instrument shall have effect as if for references to any number of cents there were substituted references to twice that number of cents of a shilling."
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any report has yet been received from Ceylon as to the desirability of a reform of the constitution of the Colony or the lines which any such reform should follow?
I have not yet received such a report and, so far as my information goes, the matter has not yet been debated in the Legislative Council.
South Australia And Tasmania (Governors' Resignations)
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether both the Governor of South Australia and the Governor of Tasmania have resigned their appointments, and have assigned as the reason that this step was taken as a result of the heavy taxation now levied in England?
Both the Governors mentioned have, to my regret, found it necessary to resign their appointments. I cannot say whether or not the consideration referred to influenced their decisions.
In future appointments, may I ask whether such guarantees will be obtained from Governors-General-designate that will prevent a repetition of such an unsatisfactory position?
The question is a very difficult one in view of the heavy expenses of these appointments, and the difficulty of finding suitable persons who have independent means to fill them.
Have the conditions altered since the appointments were made, that is the point?
They have altered in the same way as all conditions have altered lately, to the detriment of everybody.
Farm Dispute (West Norfolk)
asked the Minister of Agriculture what action he proposes to take to bring about a settlement of the West Norfolk farm dispute, since the employer concerned refuses to agree to the terms decided on by the County Conciliation Committee under the Corn Production Acts (Repeal) Act?
I have been anxiously watching the position in this county, but it does not appear that I can usefully intervene. The matter is one which should be dealt with by the County Conciliation Committee. The Corn Production Act (Repeal) Act provides that if an agreement as to wages arrived at by the Conciliation Committee is confirmed, the terms of the agreement become an implied condition of any contract of service and can be enforced accordingly. The Norfolk Conciliation Committee has not, however, agreed up to the present to the confirmation of its agreement.
asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he proposes to take with regard to the students employed on the farms in the West Norfolk area, where a dispute has taken place because the employer refuses to comply with the decision of the County Conciliation Committee, as these students, being subsidised by public money, are now performing the work of the men locked out?
I have ascertained that there are no students in receipt of Government aid who are in training on the farms in question.
New Construction (Suspension)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what will be the total charge in connection with the four new battleships whose construction has now been abandoned?
I regret I cannot give figures of the total charge which will be incurred in the event of the contracts for the four new battle cruisers being cancelled.
Does the hon. Gentleman not wish that he had taken our advice to postpone the construction of these ships until after the Washington Conference?
Considering that this House has voted these sums to be spent on shipbuilding, cannot the hon. Gentleman see his way to adopt some alternative scheme of spending the money in order to alleviate unemployment in the shipbuilding districts?
Is it not a fact that two of these ships have to be built, and that this news is in the paper to-day?
I have no information on that subject. As regards the other supplementary question, the only shipbuilding I can deal with is Admiralty shipbuilding.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the four ships are to be proceeded with or not?
The construction of the four battle cruisers for the present is in suspense. What will ultimately be done will depend on the outcome of the Washington Conference.
Has anything been done by way of compensation to the shipbuilders who are going to lose money on these contracts; and if so, will anything be done correspondingly with regard to the workmen who will lose wages?
My right hon. Friend's question raises a point of detail with reference to the contracts. Questions of that sort may arise, but I do not think it would be in the public interest to go into them now.
Will the House be informed how much money has been thrown away owing to this mistake?
Certainly the House will be informed.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Admiralty has signed a contract for the breaking up of a number of British warships in Germany; and, if so, whether he can give to the House the reasons for this action when there are so many men unemployed in Britain who could do this work?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. This step was taken after every effort had been made to dispose of these ships for breaking up in this country. I should explain that the facilities in this country for breaking up old ships—especially large vessels—are fully occupied for some time to come, in consequence of the special measures taken by the Admiralty during the last few months to distribute vessels for breaking up to various ports in Great Britain in order to relieve unemployment. There can, therefore, be no question of the action of the Admiralty having prejudicially affected the employment situation, as is suggested in the second part of the hon. Member's question.
Surely the unemployed men in the shipbuilding places who have constructed those vessels are equally able to destroy them, and facilities are there in the yards for the destruction of any vessels? Why is it, therefore, necessary that the Government, which is supposed to be giving money to the unemployed, should not give work to these men instead of doles, and permit those vessels to be broken up in those yards, although it may cost a little more money than in Germany?
We have approached a number of firms to see whether they could not possibly take part in ship-breaking, but they all found it impossible to do so because, for one reason, they are overstocked with scrap, and there is already over 1,000,000 tons of surplus vessels being broken up in this country at this moment.
Is it not a fact that you have transferred the breaking up of these ships to Germany because they are paying lower wages than we are?
That certainly is not the case, because we have offered and disposed of a very large volume of ships for breaking up in this country at far lower prices than the particular block which has gone abroad, and we did this in order to relieve unemployment to the fullest extent.
Is the Government prepared to make an offer to the trade unions affected, giving them the option of finding men to break up the ships in this country?
I am ready to consider any practical suggestion which the hon. Member can make.
Do you expect Germany to pay for these ships?
We are now having a debate.
Safeguarding Of Industries Act
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, seeing that the Czecho-Slovak currency had no pre-War standard, did not in fact exist before February, 1919, and that therefore it has not depreciated to an extent of 33⅓ per cent. therefrom, and that the Government of the Dominion of Canada has officially recognised this to be a fact, and is in consequence admitting Czecho-Slovak goods free, of duty, he will state why under Clause 2 (b) of the Safeguarding of Industries Act an application has been referred to a committee of inquiry for the imposition of an import duty of 33⅓ per cent. on certain types of Czecho-Slovak glassware?
There appears to be no doubt that the Czecho-Slovak Government adopted the currency unit of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire as its official unit, since the paper currency issued by the Austro-Hungarian Bank was given official currency in Czecho-Slovakia subject to being stamped by the authorities of that country. The parity of exchange, with reference to which depreciation is to be calculated in accordance with the provisions of Section 2 (1) (b) of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, is clearly the parity of the krone, the currency unit of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. I am unable to agree that, in charging duties on goods from Czecho-Slovakia, based on the conversion of their values in kronen at the current rates of exchange, the Government of Canada has expressed any opinion as to the existence of depreciation or its measure.
Incandescent Gas Mantles
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the decision of the referee appointed by the Lord Chancellor under the Safeguarding of Industries Act that incandescent gas mantles, in so far as certain materials used in the manufacture of the same are concerned, are liable for duty; and whether he intends to apply to the referee for his assistance, as he did in the case of santonin, to test this decision in a court of law?
I am carefully considering the position created by the decision in question, but I am unable to make any statement at present.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that in fact these articles have "lost their identity" when they become part of those gas mantles, and will he define the meaning of "loss of identity" for the purposes of this Act?
Is it not a fact that last month Germany doubled the import duty on incandescent gas mantles in order to prevent mantles manufactured in this country from going into Germany?
Is it not a fact that this House deliberately decided against the inclusion of gas mantles in the first part of the Schedule?
When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to be able to give some information on this subject considering the confusion which undoubtedly exists in the trade?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the gas mantles imported into this country from Germany in 1920 exceeded by 15 times the number imported in 1919, and that according to the "Times" Trade Supplement the imports this year equalled the total consumption of gas mantles in this country?
Perhaps it would answer all the questions if I say that I only had the official decision yesterday. I am carefully considering that decision, and I hope it may be possible to arrive at a conclusion at a very early date. I quite recognise it is essential to this industry that this should be done at once.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the decision of the referee that gas mantles which contain certain dutiable materials are liable to an import duty of 33⅓ per cent. on parts of the mantles, he proposes to give instructions that a duty of 33⅓ per cent. is to be levied on imported celluloid containing, as it does, dutiable synthetic camphor; and, if so, will these instructions also apply to all other imported manufactured articles of which dutiable commodities form a part?
The answer to both parts of the question is in the negative.
Dutiable Goods (Schedule)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is satisfied that the procedure of his Department in placing substances, such as menthol, amongst the commodities which are liable as fine chemicals to a duty of 33⅓ per cent., and afterwards attaching the letter R to the names of these substances, thereby exempting them from duty, is not calculated to create considerable confusion; and is he prepared to give an undertaking that no such action will be repeated without public inquiry, of which notice has been previously circulated in the public Press instead of in a weekly journal published by the Board of Trade, of whose existence few traders are aware?
Certain Amendments have been made to the lists as originally issued under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, but all the Amendments so far made restrict the scope of the original lists. It is obvious that in lists such as those in question it must be necessary to make some corrections, and I see no reason to modify the procedure adopted. I should add that I do not accept the statement at the end of the question as being correct.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will inquire into the great dissatisfaction that exists with regard to the procedure being adopted before the Committee appointed by him to consider applications under Part II of the Safeguarding of Industries Act; whether he is aware that evidence is not given under oath, and that therefore no penalty can be imposed for wilful false evidence; that cross-examination of witnesses is not permitted to objectors to the granting of applications; and that, in view of the fact that particulars of the evidence in support of an application are not furnished to objectors before the hear- ing by the Committee, no sufficient opportunity is provided for producing rebutting evidence?
The Safeguarding of Industries Act confers no powers on Committees to take evidence on oath. The Statutory Rules of Procedure, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. Member, provide that no witness shall be examined or cross-examined except by the members of the Committee. This limitation, which was decided on by the Board of Trade after full consideration, applies of course to all witnesses, whether they appear in support of or in opposition to an application. With regard to the last part of the question, this is a matter within the discretion of the Committees themselves. I have no doubt that they will afford all proper facilities to witnesses to enable them to present their cases.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in practice the truth is disregarded and there is no remedy?
I should be sorry to assent to the proposition of the hon. Member. I have no reason to believe that people tell lies when they come as witnesses before these Committees, and, having regard to the class of men chosen to serve on these Committees, I imagine that they are quite capable of distinguishing between the truth and fiction.
How can evidence be tested if the right of cross-examination is not given?
Of course, the word "tested" needs definition, but I think the procedure is quite sufficient for the purpose.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the congestion and confusion prevailing and the consequent difficulty in obtaining delivery of parcels from Germany owing to the collection by His Majesty's Customs of the duties under the Safeguarding of Industries Act and the German Reparations Act; that certain parcels which arrived in this country for Christmas trade on the 21st and 24th October, could not be delivered by the Post Office until various forms had been filled up and duties paid; and that, though those formalities were duly completed and a receipt obtained on the 16th November, 1921, a part of the consignment is still undelivered; and whether, in view of the continual complaints made by traders as to the delays, he is prepared to modify the procedure or appoint a larger staff so as to prevent this hindrance to trade?
The centralisation at one depot of the examination of the parcels, the scrutiny of invoices, and the assessment and receipt of levy and duty in respect of all parcels arriving in London from Germany, has now been effected in conjunction with the postal authorities, and if the addressees will carry out the instructions given on the form of advice sent on arrival of the parcels, they should not experience any delay in delivery beyond such as is inevitable in collection of the levy or duty. As regards the third part of the question, if the hon. Member will give me particulars of the case referred to, I will have inquiry made.
Seeing that the complaints are increasing in number every day, would not the hon. Gentleman appoint a small committee of City men to investigate and do something to clear up this tremendous delay?
No, Sir. I think the facts of the case are not as suggested by the hon. Member. The complaints are not increasing, and I very much trust and believe that the measures to which I have referred in the answer will lead to their diminution and disappearance.
Then why object to having a committee to investigate?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that many hundreds of packages of perfume which are mixtures of natural essences and synthetics that have lost their identity are lying at the docks and at the Post Office Customs Department, and cannot be obtained except on payment of a duty improperly demanded; and will he direct the Customs officials to release such parcels?
No, Sir, I am not in possession of information to this effect. If, however, the hon. Member will give me particulars of any actual cases which he has in mind, I will cause inquiry to be made into the facts. I may, however, remind him that, in a case such as he suggests, delivery can be obtained on deposit of the duty demanded, pending settlement of the question of liability.
Food Departaient, Board Of Trade
asked the President of the Board of Trade how many regional transport officers are still employed in the Food Control Department; what are their duties; what pay do these officers receive; and when he proposes to dispense with their services?
Notice has been given to terminate the engagement of the regional transport officers of the Food Department at the end of the present month. It will be necessary, however, to retain some of these officers during the month of January for the disposal of papers, the winding-up of accounts and other work connected with the termination of their branch. By the abolition of the regional transport staff a saving of about £31,000 a year in respect of salaries will be effected.
How many of these officers will be retained permanently?
Oh, permanently? None, or very few. Speaking from memory, I think the expenditure for January will be about £1,500.
Office Of Works
asked the Prime Minister whether the attention of the Economy Committee has been directed towards the swollen staff of His Majesty's Office of Works and the increase in the cost of that Department?
The provisional Estimate for the Office of Works for 1922–23 has been referred to the Committee on National Expenditure in the same way as other Departmental Estimates.
When may the Report of this Committee be expected to be published?
I cannot say.
Why should it not he published at once?
Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that it will be Published?
There is another question on that point.
Opium Trade, India
asked the Secretary of State for India what is the acreage in India now under cultivation with the opium poppy; how many chests of Indian opium are now exported annually; what are the destinations of this exported opium; and whether any and, if any, how much is converted into prepared opium for smoking?
The total area under poppy cultivation in British India amounted to 156,435 acres in the year 1919–20. 9,823 chests of opium were exported in that year. The countries which imported this opium were the Straits Settlements, Dutch East Indies, Siam, French Indo-China, Japan, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, British North Borneo, Ceylon, Mauritius and the Fiji Islands. My right hon. Friend is not in a position to state how much of the raw opium exported from India to other countries is there converted into prepared opium for smoking.
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say if the Government are working in full harmony with the organisation under the League of Nations for the reduction or suppression of this trade?
I am not in a position to state that myself, but I will tell my right hon. Friend what the right hon. Gentleman says.
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman make inquiries on the matter?
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he has received communications urging that the pledge given by the Government that a Bill to complete land purchase in Ireland would be introduced and proceeded with pari passu with the Measure consti- tuting a part of Ireland a Free State should be observed; and what answer has he been able to make?
I am not in a position to make any statement at the present time on the question of the completion of land purchase.
May I ask whether it is the policy of the Government that the British taxpayer should be further taxed to provide the benefits which they cheerfully provided for united Ireland for those who advocate separation?
I can add nothing to the answer.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether, if the Imperial Government does not deal with the residue of the Irish land question in so far as the Irish Free State is concerned, it will deal with it in so far as Ulster, which will remain in this Imperial Parliament, is concerned?
Does it mean that the pledge given by the Government in regard to the 1920 Act is now dead?
I must ask the hon. and gallant Member to accept the answer that I have given as the best that I can give.
Will my right hon. Friend, in considering this matter, bear in mind that under the proposed settlement the position of Irish landlords will be one of intense danger and that they are entitled to the protection of this Parliament?
Malicious Injuries (Compensation)
asked the Chief Secretary what provision is being made for the payment to owners of destroyed police barracks of the compensation awarded to them by the courts; whether he is aware that in some cases these owners have been left without rent or compensation for nearly two years; and whether he will take steps to remedy this hardship as soon as possible?
I would refer the hon. and learned Baronet to the reply that I gave yesterday to a private notice question on this subject asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Colonel Newman).
Navy And Army And Air Force Institutes
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether orders have been issued to Navy and Army and Air Force institutes in Ireland that in future only Irish goods are to be sold; and, if so, on what grounds this has been ordered?
The reply to the first part of the Noble Lord's question is in the negative; the latter part does not therefore arise.
Is not my hon. and gallant Friend aware that a circular has been received by the depots of the institutes in Ireland instructing them to boycott British goods and to deal only in Irish goods, and is he not aware that a copy of this circular has been sent to the War Office?
The answer is in the negative.
asked the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to release all Irish political prisoners?
The question of an amnesty will be considered if the Agreement is approved on both sides.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking to exclude murderers from that?
No, Sir. I will not go beyond the statement which I have made.
Irish Free State (Flag)
(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he proposes to communicate with the Sinn Fein negotiators as to whether the flag of the Irish Free State will not be the present Sinn Fein flag, but the Union Jack with such minor alterations as local patriotism requires, as in the case of all other self-governing Dominions within the British Empire, before the proposals of the Treaty are embodied in a Bill to be placed before this House?
As far as I know, no condition as to the flag was imposed in any other Dominion, and the Government have followed the precedent of the earlier cases.
Will not the Government communicate with the Sinn Fein negotiators on this question of the Flag, which no doubt will excite considerable interest in the country and in this House?
That is the same question again.
asked the Chief Secretary whether he has any further information with reference to the summary discharge from Gormanstown Camp of 19 constable-mechanics of the Royal Irish Constabulary, on the 14th and 15th of December, without notice, and without their fares being paid to their homes?
I understand that a number of constable-mechanics, on completion of their engagement, were through inadvertence discharged from Gormanstown Camp on the dates stated in the question without being given return railway warrants. As soon as this mistake was brought to notice, steps were at once taken to prevent its recurrence and to rectify it as far as regards the men who had not been given warrants on discharge.
Murder And Outrage
(by Private Notice) asked the Chief Secretary whether he has any information other than that which has appeared in the Press, with reference to the murder of Sergeant Enright, R.I.C., and the wounding of Constable Timmoney, and whether he has seen the report that a man named Joseph Cahill has just been released from Waterford Gaol, and that prior to his release he was taken to the office of the Governor of the prison, where a military officer was waiting with two telegrams in his hand, one of which said that Cahill had been sentenced to penal servitude for life, and the other ordered his immediate release; and what is the explanation of this extraordinary procedure?
I regret to state that Sergeant Enright was murdered and Constable Timmoney wounded on the 14th instant, as stated in the question. Steps have been taken to secure the co-operation of the responsible leaders of Sinn Fein with a view to the arrest of the miscreants involved in this crime. As regards the second part of the question, I have no information as to what took place at Waterford Gaol. The facts in regard to the case of Joseph Cahill are, I understand, that the confirming officer in the exercise of his discretion, while confirming the finding of the Court, decided to remit the sentence imposed.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the responsible leaders of Sinn Fein have yet helped the Government to find a single murderer?
Yes, they have co-operated. They have helped the Government in several cases.
Have you got the murderers?
They have helped the Government in inquiries endeavouring to secure the arrest of murderers.
In how many cases have you got the men under lock and key?
Have you got the murderers?
Is the right Gentleman aware that the position of the Royal Irish Constabulary is a matter of very great concern at the moment throughout Ireland, and that, unless something is done immediately, I do not know what will happen in the North and the South?
Navy And Army Canteen Board
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office the reasons for the continued delay in the publication of the balance sheets of the Navy and Army Canteen Board for 1920; and when the balance sheet may be expected?
I would refer the Noble Lord to the reply given to a similar question which he addressed to my right hon. Friend on the 27th October last. I can assure the Noble Lord that every endeavour is being made to ex- pedite matters in connection with the publication of the accounts in question.
Are we to take this delay as an indication of the business efficiency of the Navy and Army Canteen Board?
Can the right hon. Gentleman inform us who are the chartered accountants?
I must ask for notice of that question.
Is it a fact that the Navy and Army Canteen Board have lost over £2,000,000 in the course of two years trading, and, if so, will the Government consider the question of leaving the matter to private enterprise?
Criminal Investigation Department
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the work of the special department of Scotland Yard has been modified or curtailed since the retirement of Sir Basil Thomson?
As I informed the House last month, the Department referred to is being reorganised with a view to securing greater efficiency and economy. To that end modifications are being carried out, and it is hoped that economies may be effected.
Is the work described by the late Chief as being his work being continued by his successor?
I am afraid that I do not know what the late Chief has described as being his work.
Can the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope of this purely War-time Department being wound up as being altogether un-English and against our traditions?
It is not a War-time Department at all.
Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to say that the work of cataloguing political opinions and watching political meetings—purely political work as distinguished from criminal work—has been now abandoned?
Are we to understand that this very important work, in view of the unrest throughout the world, is being curtailed at the present time?
I have not said anything of the sort. I said that it was being modified with a view to greater efficiency.
asked the Home Secretary what Vote bore the cost of the work of Sir Basil Thomson as recently described by him?
The expenditure I described in reply to a question in this House on the 10th November is borne by the Metropolitan Police Fund, the Treasury grants to which are included in the Vote for Police (England and Wales).
Is any of the work described by Sir Basil Thomson in his articles paid for out of Secret Service money?
I am afraid I cannot answer that, because I have not read the articles.
Police Pensions (Re-Assessment)
asked the Home Secretary whether a constable who retired after 31st March, 1919, has a right to have his pension re-assessed on the Desborough scale of pay which came into operation on 1st April, 1919, or whether such re-assessment is at the discretion of the police authority who granted the original pension?
I do not think it can be said that police authorities were bound in law to carry out the recommendations of the Desborough Committee, either as regards increased pay or re-assessment of pensions, but I believe that these recommendations were in fact given effect to in all proper cases.
Is there any right conferred by this House on the men, or are the scales of pay and pension recommended by the Desborough Committee, and afterwards adopted by this House, subject to alteration at the discretion of the police authorities?
I think that is the same question which I have answered.
I am sorry to be persistent in this matter, but I did not gather from the right hon. Gentleman's answer whether the amounts of pay and pension, as adopted deliberately by this House, are subject to alteration at the discretion of the various police authorities. Is that so, yes or no?
That is a legal question, of course, and I am advised that the local authorities have a discretion in that, as I have said, they are not bound in law to carry out the recommendations.
Am I not entitled to ask the Home Secretary, who has charge of this matter, the simple question whether, after this House has approved of a certain scale of pension and pay, behind that the various police authorities have the right and discretion to alter it at their own free will?
That is exactly the question which the hon. Baronet put on the Paper.
On a point of Order. Where my question is not answered, and intentionally not answered, by the Home Secretary, the Minister to whom I addressed it, because, as he says, there is some legal question involved in the point—in my humble opinion it is a matter of administration—surely I am entitled to press for an answer, yes or no, where the House itself has deliberately laid down that a certain scale shall be adopted in reference to these men?
The hon. Baronet has received a quite clear answer on the legal position, namely, that the Home Secretary was advised that there was nothing legally binding on the local authorities.
With all submission, that is not a clear answer. I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would kindly say, yes or no, whether it is in the discretion of the various police authorities to alter the scale laid down in this House.
Perhaps the Home Secretary will read the answer again.
And if it is not clear may I have a clear answer?
May I ask the Home Secretary whether he has taken the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown as to the right, of local bodies to over-ride a decision of this House?
No, Sir; I have not taken the advice of the Law Officers, but if the House desires it I will do so. The answer I gave was that I did not think it could be said that police authorities were bound in law to carry out the recommendations of the Desborough Committee, either as regards increased pay or reassessment of pension. That is the advice I have been giveen. It is a purely legal question, and not a question of fact at all.
Will the right hon. Gentleman leave out for the moment the Desborough Committee's decision, and say whether, in view of what the House definitely decided, the local police authorities have the right at their discretion to flout the House, and do what they like?
At the end of Questions—
On a point of Order. In view of the character of this extraordinary Session, and of what the Leader of the House has said about the desirability of devoting the Session to Ireland, I am in a difficulty, and I should be glad to have your advice, Mr. Speaker, on the position which arises out of the very unsatisfactory answer given to-day to the question which I put to the Home Secretary. The answer failed entirely to give me the facts to which I was entitled. In view of the great unrest that has been created throughout the police forces of this country——
The hon. Member is not entitled to make a speech. I understood that he had a point to put to me.
I was endeavouring to explain the point on which I desire your advice, and that is, how to bring this matter before the House, so that the House may show its decision, which, in my opinion, it has already given in connection with this matter. It is an urgent matter, because of the fact that there is great unrest among the police forces of this country, due to rumours that the Home Office will not stop, or will not do anything to prevent, local police authorities altering the scale of pay and pensions which have been definitely laid down by this House. Those rumours have been confirmed to-day by the answer given by the Home Secretary, and they are against the opinion of the House. I should like to know how I can raise this question, and when, with a view to getting a decision of the House on this very important matter.
The hon. Member had better consult me in the course of the day. I had no notice of this question. If he will be good enough to consult. me in the course of to-day, I will give him the best advice I can.
War Debts (Cancellation)
asked the Prime Minister if, in the event of this country agreeing to cancel France's War debt to Britain, one condition will be the evacuation by French troops of the occupied areas in the Rhine provinces?
I cannot say what would be the conditions of an arrangement which has not yet been a subject of discussion.
Disarmament (Warship Construction)
asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have asked at Washington that under certain circumstances they should be allowed to construct one of the Hoods rather than accede to the exact basis of fleet equality with America; and, if so, why?
Russian Famine (Relief)
asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government is aware that the number of starving people in the Russian famine area is far beyond the reach of private charity and whether the Government has decided to recommend the granting of credits to the Russian Government for the purpose of food without which millions of people must starve during this winter?
The Government are fully alive to the serious nature of the famine in Russia. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative; the hon. Member is no doubt aware that Parliament has voted a sum of £100,000, representing the present value of Government stores, chiefly medical, to be placed at the disposal of the Red Cross Society for the relief of famine in Russia. The original value of these stores was 250,000; their present day value is £100,000.
Will not the Government, in addition to this relatively small sum, join with the other Great Powers in making the necessary credits to save the lives of these millions of people?
Will the Government consider extending the same scale of relief to the distressed Cornish miners, who are now starving, as the hon. Member wishes them to give to the Russians?
Will the right hon. Gentleman give part of that £250,000 to the unfortunate refugees from Russia who are now in workhouses in this country?
The sum which has been voted by the House was voted to send stores, mainly medical stores, which were to he at the disposal of the Red Cross for use in Russia. I am not aware of any proposal as suggested that with other Powers we should collectively vote money from national funds, but it is quite obvious that in dealing with any matters of this kind we must have regard at the present moment to the condition of our own people.
Is it a fact that no fewer than 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 persons will die of starvation in Russia this winter, and is it not also the fact that it was due to the refusal of the British Government to entertain any proposal for an advance of credit that the League of Nations was unable to take action at Geneva?
Both questions obviously ought to be the subject of notice. As regards the first I am unable to say what is the possible extent of the calamity which from various causes has befallen the Russians. As regards the second question, I will ask to be excused from answering as to what passed at the League of Nations without an opportunity of refreshing my memory.
War Loans (Rate Of Interest)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of his declaration that a cut of £175,000,000 is required in national expenditure, he has considered the desirability of a reduction of two per cent. in the rate of interest on war loans, which would effect a saving of approximately £160,000,000; and if so, whether he is prepared to advise the Government to take the necessary steps to effect this saving?
The answer to both questions is in the negative. Any such action would be a direct breach of public faith.
Is it not the case that direct breaches of public faith have already been made by the Government, and that the same argument can be applied to this as to the reduction of wages of the workers, where also a direct pledge was given, namely, that the cost of living is coming down and that consequently the cost of money should come down as well?
Greece (Private Loan)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the Greek Government is desirous of negotiating a private loan in this country; if so, whether it is understood that a substantial portion of that loan is to be expended in goods and material of a peaceful character purchased in Great Britain, and most of the remainder in the British Empire; and whether, under such circumstances, His Majesty's Treasury would view such a loan with favour, provided that the security offered was satisfactory to the parties negotiating it?
I am aware that the Greek Government has given indications of its desire to raise a loan in this country. I am not clear as to the amount so raised which it is proposed should be spent in this country, and have asked for information on this head. As to the last part of the question, it is not the practice of His Majesty's Government to indicate favour or disfavour to loans on the London market.
asked the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the fact that a trifling proportion of currency issues if continuously employed is requisite for exchanging imports and exports, he will consider the feasibility of a system of credits being jointly arranged between Great Britain, the United States of America, France, Italy, and Belgium, by which the necessary amount in pounds, dollars, francs, and lire can be stabilised over a period of years, and with little risk of loss?
If I rightly understand my hon. Friend's question, I do not think that the suggestion contained therein is in present circumstances feasible.
Has the hon. Gentleman any favourite charity which would receive a cheque for 50 guineas if he can show that the proposal is impracticable?
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the price demanded for Ken Wood by its owner and whether he is prepared to introduce legislation to tax land in Great Britain upon the basis of the price at which the owner is willing to sell?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, and to the second in the negative.
Is there no intention on the part of the Government to introduce legislation to prevent individuals from withholding this necessary of public life from the public, or at least from imposing such an abnormal price as to amount to blackmailing the public of London?
That is only putting in other words the question on the Paper.
Business Of The House
In order to meet the general convenience of the House, may I ask the Leader of the House whether it is possible for him to make some general arrangement as to the hour when the Amendment to the Address is likely to be put this afternoon?
Of course, that does not rest with me. It is not within my power to fix the hour at which the Debate shall come to an end, but, so far as I can gather, we may hope that a decision may be taken about 4 o'clock. I cannot say definitely. A decision may be taken earlier, or it may prove, on the other hand, that I am over-sanguine. So far as I can forecast the probable course of our proceedings, from certain information which has reached me, I should hope that we may come to a decision about 4 o'clock.
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to closure the Debate at a particular hour?
No. We are not contemplating the Closure, but I believe that all of us, however strongly we feel and whatever view we take, would like to consult the general convenience of the House, and it is within the knowledge of every Member of the House that it does become a matter of grave inconvenience if we have to sit late on a Friday, and, above all, on a Friday on which, up to a comparatively short time ago, no sitting was expected. I hope, therefore, with the consent of all parties, we may reach a decision at an hour sufficiently early not to cause great inconvenience to hon. Members.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Parliament will be prorogued to-day or on Monday?
I do not know whether the hon. Member has seen what I said last night on the Adjournment of the House. Perhaps I had better repeat it. We think that it would be undesirable, and that Parliament would not wish to prorogue under any uncertainty as to the result of the discussions now taking place on the other side of the Irish Channel. If, therefore, we do not have the result of those discussions in time for the Prorogation to take place to-day, I shall move that the House do adjourn till Monday.
Will it be adjourned sine die, waiting for the decision?
No, I propose to move the Adjournment till Monday. It is necessary to do that because the Committee of Supply has not been set up. It is necessary to move the Adjournment from Friday until Monday, other- wise the House would have to meet on Saturday.
At what time will the House meet on Monday?
The usual hour.
"That the Proceedings on the King's Speech (Motion for an Address) be not interrupted this day at Five or half-past Five of the Clock."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]
Orders Of The Day
Debate On The Address
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [ 15th December] to Question [ 14th December],
Irish Free State
"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:
Having taken into consideration the Articles of Agreement presented to us by Your Majesty's command we are ready to confirm and ratify these Articles in order that the same may be established for ever by the mutual consent of the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland, and we offer to Your Majesty our humble congratulations on the near accomplishment of that work of reconciliation to which Your Majesty has so largely contributed."—[ Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. Hoare.]
Which Amendment was to leave out the words:
"we are ready to confirm and ratify these Articles in order that the same may be established for ever by the mutual consent of the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland, and we offer to Your Majesty our humble congratulations on the near accomplishment of that work of reconciliation to which Your Majesty has so largely contributed."
and to insert instead thereof the words
"this House regrets that the proposed settlement of the government of Ireland indicated in the Gracious Speech from the Throne involves the surrender of the rights of the Crown in Ireland, gives power to establish an independent Irish Army and Navy, violates pledges given to Ulster, and fails to safeguard the rights of the loyalist population in Southern Ireland."—[Colonel Gretton.]
Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
In view of the general desire of the House that the division should be taken as early in the afternoon as possible, I do not propose to engage the attention of the House for more than a few minutes. We, who are associated with the Labour party on these Benches, have not shown any desire to monopolise the time of the House in this Debate. We felt that very largely this was a matter for the Government and their supporters, but especially we recognised the desirability of allowing as much time as possible to Members who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland, in order that they might have the best facilities given to them for stating what I believe to be their strong feelings about the present position. My right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Labour party (Mr. Clynes) in the early stages of the Debate stated our position. We welcome the Debate. We welcome the Articles in the Treaty which we hope will be ratified by a large majority of this House. But we also welcome the Debate not only because it enables us to consider the Articles in the Treaty but because the new situation represents in our minds a tremendous change in attitude in spirit and in policy.Those of us who do not always share the view of the Government cannot consider the position as we have it to-day without regard to the tragic events associated with Irish history, not only Irish history in days long gone by but Irish history in the very recent past, and the results of the Conference as they are set forth in this Treaty seem to us to represent a welcome and a very tremendous change in the relations between the Irish and the British peoples. The change is so great and has come so suddenly that it is almost impossible properly to appraise the value of the real position at this stage. Without any desire to enter into premature rejoicing, I welcome the Treaty as one who has followed the Irish question during the whole time I have been associated with public life, now some 30 years, and as one who has followed from the very first visit I paid to Ireland 50 years ago, when I had a lasting impression made upon my mind. My Friends from the North will excuse me for giving this little experience. I remember as a boy being taken along the Falls Road in Belfast and my relations saying to me "Do you see that street? No one but Orangemen dare live in that street." And I remember them taking me a little further along the Falls Road and saying, "Do you see that street? No one but a Home Ruler dare live in that street." That was 50 years ago on the occasion of my first visit to Ireland as a boy. I have never forgotten it, and it seems to me from some of the speeches that I have listened to that so far as that part of Ireland is concerned unfortunately as it was then it is now. In considering the changes that have taken place, it is very difficult for me to say where I can appreciate the more the untiring efforts of the Prime Minister and his colleagues who conducted the negotiations, or the splendid courage and sincerity of those Irish plenipotentiaries who, knowing the risk they were undertaking—and they must have known the risk—were prepared to add their signatures to the Treaty. If it ever was incumbent upon the House to rise above the ordinary standard of party politics, party warfare and sectional interest, it seems to me that it is at a time like the present. Surely we all must recognise that issues hanging in the balance which must inevitably affect the vital interests of our people at home, and of the British commonwealth of nations, and, indirectly, affect the whole world at large. It would not be difficult for any one of us to approach the matter under discussion from a narrow personal, or from a mere selfish or party standpoint. We could have raised objections to this or that provision in the Treaty, and we might have occupied the time of the House in emphasising what we considered its blemishes, or in suggesting what we think might have strengthened or improved it. All this might have been done under the guise of what is so often termed helpful or friendly criticism. It seems to me that any sort of criticism at this moment would not only be unhelpful but unfriendly. I go further and say that it would be a useless and empty contribution and might prove to be positively harmful and embarrassing. That is one of the reasons why we have refrained from taking part in the Debate to the extent which we think the importance of the occasion demands, and I could have wished, I say quite frankly, that the Division on this Amendment could have been taken yesterday evening after the statesmanlike speech that was delivered by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law), which in my judgment was one of the best contributions to debate that it has been my privilege to listen to during the 18 years in which I have been a Member of this House. May I suggest that I think that there is a danger in prolonging this discussion. I may be wrong. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am not sure that there is not something in the nature of playing for position. We know that there is discussion going on over the water, and I have the impression, following the reports in the papers as I have been able to do,—and that is the only information which I have,—that there is a desire among some members of Dail Eirean to see what the decision of this House really is on this first Amendment, and I think that it would have assisted the position if they could have had our decision before they came to a decision on the other side. I think that it would have assisted their decision if they could have characterised the Division here as having the same striking unanimity which characterised the Division which was taken on the 31st October, when a Motion not dissimilar in spirit and intention to the Amendment now before the House was negatived by 439 votes to 43 votes. Both here and in Dublin the discussion has entered upon its third day, and, whatever be the cause of the delay there, I think that, so far as this House is concerned, the sooner we can see our way to ratify the Treaty presented by the Government the better it will be. The outstanding fact of the Treaty is that it means peace. That is a consideration beyond measure. If this House desires peace with Ireland—I am firmly convinced that not only the majority of the Members of the House, but the overwhelming majority of the people which the House represents, are deeply anxious for an honourable and permanent peace with the Irish people—the most permanent action in favour of peace is for us to endorse as speedily as possible the great work of the Prime Minister and his colleagues and to ratify the Treaty. In the Debate two points have stood out beyond the general question of the Treaty being an instrument of peace. One is that there has been considerable criticism of the method adopted by the Government in order to secure the Treaty. A good deal has been said about secret diplomacy. We on the Labour Benches are opposed to secret diplomacy. We believe that it is no more possible to carry out secret diplomacy in completion than for the executive of any organisation, even a trade union, to do the whole of its work in public. If I interpret it correctly, the Motion which was discussed on 31st October was a Motion of Censure because the Government entered into conference. The overwhelming decision given against that Motion surely was a mandate to the Government to go forward with the method of approach they had decided upon in order, if possible, to secure an honourable settlement. In that case I think we showed clearly that we were prepared to trust the Government in carrying through their intentions by the method they had adopted. I remember saying in that Debate that the Labour Members were prepared to trust the Government in the matter, and I do not think a single speech has been made by any leader of the Labour party criticising the Government for the course they have pursued since 31st October. The other question that has emerged largely in this Debate has been the position of Ulster. I have heard it hinted more than once from Benches opposite, not so much in this Debate as in previous Debates, that Labour Members do not seem to have very much sympathy with the representatives and the population of Ulster. I want to assure my hon. Friends opposite that that is not the case. Hon. Members may laugh, but, after all, we can afford to differ with them on principle without losing all our sympathy with those on the opposite side. If there are in this House representatives who ought, in spite of their differences, to have sympathy with the position in Ulster, it is those of us who are and have been so long officially connected with trade unions. Those unions have large numbers of members in the North of Ireland. They are members whom we admire, though we differ from them, for we know how deeply they feel on this question. In some instances we have had rather bitter experiences from them, because of the strong feeling on their side and because they do not like the strength of feeling on our side. Do not let our Friends opposite be under any misapprehension; we are not unsympathetic. If they will examine the policy of, the Labour party they will see that we specially made one proviso designed to secure as far as possible the interests of Ulster, having regard to the religious question. Although we recognise the Ulster difficulty, I will say one thing without rais- ing a single controversial point. We do recognise that whilst all parties ought to respect the feelings of the Ulster people and ought to examine carefully their desires, the last thing they can expect us to do is to allow Ulster to block the way to an honourable settlement with Southern and Western Ireland. They have a right to ask for their own position to be safeguarded, but, without digressing from what I have laid down, I must say that in some of the speeches in this Debate and in previous Debates I have thought that they were not content merely with trying to safeguard their own position, but they wanted to go a long way in the direction of preventing this Government or any other Government from finding a solution which would be satisfactory to the majority of the Irish people in the Southern and Western areas. We of the Labour party have strongly favoured the line of approach that has been followed by the Government, and in order to show where we have stood, not in the latter days, but for some time, I would remind the House that we tabled the following Amendment to the Address a year ago:
It is a great satisfaction to us to find that five or six months later this method of dealing with the question has been adopted by the Government. I have already spoken about trusting the Government with this matter. In closing my speech in the Debate on 31st October I said we would examine the results of the conference and apply the following tests:"But regrets that in view of the present deplorable condition of affairs in Ireland there is no expressed intention on the part of the Government to make a real effort towards reconciliation and settlement by meeting in conference the elected representatives of the Irish people and exploring with an open mind every possible avenue to peace."
We can safely examine the Treaty from the standpoints of Nos. 2 and 3. At any rate, that is my judgment. My Friends on the other side may not agree with it so far as to say that the protection is adequate or that the form of protection is what they desire, but we do think that a legitimate attempt has been made in some the Clauses in this Treaty to meet the Ulster difficulty. We have yet to find out how far our No. 1 test is going to be responded to, namely if the Treaty is to secure the approval of the majority of the Irish people. We shall await the result with interest and with concern, and we devoutly pray that the decision which is to be given by the representatives of the majority of the Irish people, may be, as I hope it will be by a large majority, a decision in favour of ratification. I will only say as my final word that, in our judgment, not since the Government was elected in 1918 has it reflected more accurately the spirit and desires of our people than it has done in connection with this matter. I sincerely hope they will continue to tread the new path they have taken, until they have placed upon the Statute Book an Act which will establish an honourable peace and open up a new era of friendship and mutual confidence between the British and the Irish peoples."(1) Whether the proposal satisfied the majority of the Irish people; (2) having regard to the long religious difficulty there must be some form of protection for the minority; and (3) we shall examine the proposal from the standpoint of the security of our own Country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1921; col. 1412, Vol. 147.]
I should perhaps thank the right hon. Gentleman who has just concluded his speech for some small grain of comfort after many years—I was going to say of hostility, but shall I say rather of bitter criticism. At this stage I do not intend to go over the ground which has already been so fully covered in the course of the Debate. We have had some very remarkable and arresting speeches. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes (Mr. Henderson) referred to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) as one of the finest contributions to debate in this House he had ever heard. With that I am sure every Member of this House most fully and most cordially agrees. There was a speech by the Colonial Secretary in regard to which I should like to say a word. There have been many occasions in the past when the Colonial Secretary has found himself in hostility to the views of the people of Ulster, but in this Debate he is the one Minister among all the others who have spoken from that bench who has had a word of friendliness or of thanks to say to Ulster in regard to what she has done in recent years to further a settlement. He fully acknow- ledges that the people of Ulster have gone a long way towards doing what they could to bring about a settlement of this question. I wish the Prime Minister had had a word of similar courtesy in his speech, for those who in all these long years have done their best from the bottom of their hearts to support the close connection of Ireland with this country. There appears in the Press this morning a letter from the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to the Prime Minister of the Empire in replying to the last communication sent to him when the agreement was presented. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland makes many just complaints. I want to emphasise one of those very particularly. In these Articles of Agreement the Ulster people have been, in my view, scandalously treated. A fortnight ago in the House of Commons in Northern Ireland the Prime Minister read the following message from the Prime Minister of the Empire—
In two respects the rights of Ulster have been sacrificed and compromised beyond any question whatever. First of all, she has been nominally put into the Irish Free State, even though it may be for a very short period of time. You may say that is largely a sentimental objection, because of course it is within the power of the Parliament of Ulster to vote itself out at any moment. Still, it is a distinct change of status and contrary to the statement of the Prime Minister of the Empire to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The second point, and the one with which I wish particularly to deal is the question of the Boundaries Commission. There is no sentiment about that. It is a vital, practical question and it is a question in regard to which the Prime Minister of the Empire knew perfectly well that Ulster held strong views. In the correspondence published the other day there is a letter in which Sir James Craig objects to the mere suggestion from the Prime Minister of the Empire that there should be a reconsideration of the boundaries. This question of the proposed Boundary Commission appears to me to be a question of very large Imperial and constitutional importance. I wonder if there is any precedent in the Empire for an agreement being made that the boundaries of a self-governing State within the Empire should be subject to revision without the possibility of a word of protest from, or without the consent of, the State whose boundaries are to be altered. It is unique within the Empire. The Parliament of Northern Ireland has just been set up. Its pr"By Tuesday next either the negotiations will have broken down or the Prime Minister will send me"—(Sir James Craig)—"new proposals for the consideration of the Cabinet. In the meantime the rights of Ulster will be in no way sacrificed or compromised."