« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
nothing short of a new Imperial Constitution. But this is not the way in which the English people have been accustomed to meet their political difficulties. They have wisely sought to deal with each contingency as it arises, using the means which experience has taught them to be the best, instead of roving the world of political speculation for far-fetched analogies and model Constitutions. We could not, if we would, deal with each part of the United Kingdom as if all were exactly alike. The case of Scotland, although it presents many resemblances, is not exactly analogous to that of Ireland, and the geographical fact of the insular position of Ireland, the political fact of her intense Nationalism, and, most of all, her differential treatment in the pages of the statute-book, put her in a different category.
It may be found possible to limit devolution of legislative powers in the case of Great Britain to an alteration in the procedure of the House of Commons. The one difficulty I see is the responsibility of the Executive for legislation. Can a Liberal Government with a majority in the whole House afford to allow legislative autonomy to a Committee of English members in which it is in a minority, and conversely can a Unionist Government in a similar position in the whole House afford to allow legislative autonomy to a Committee of Scotch members in which it is in a minority? Possibly. There can be no doubt that the doctrine of the responsibility of the Cabinet of the day for legislation has been carried much too far-it was almost unknown at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the private member was as powerful as to-day he is impotent. A system of 'national' committees in legislation might restore to the House the autonomy of which it has been deprived, and one might then see something of the legislative initiative, activity, and independence which Deputies exercise in the committees of the French Parliament.
One thing is quite certain-however many 'Legislatures' we may have in the House of Commons, we cannot have more than one Executive; and therefore, unless we have separate Parliaments we must make some distinction as to what kind of legislation the Government of the day is to be responsible for. There are no precedents to guide us. It is true we have a Scotch Standing Committee in the House legislating in exclusively Scottish affairs, but this proves too little or too much; too little because that Committee has only been in existence when the majority of Scottish members have been of the same party as the majority in the whole House ; too much because the Scotch Committee is not really autonomous—all its measures have to be submitted on Report to the whole House. The present Lord Chancellor did indeed put forward, in an article written in 1892 and re-published by him in the Contemporary Review for March 1911, the ingenious suggestion that there might be two Executives existing concurrently in the House of Commons—an Imperial Cabinet consisting of four Secretaries of State, the First Lord of the Treasury, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, these being, in his opinion, purely 'Imperial' Ministers; and a British Cabinet consisting of such Ministers as (among others) the Home Secretary, the Presidents of the Local Government Board, Board of Education and Board of Trade, and the Secretary for Scotland. The classification will not bear a very close examination; the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary, and the President of the Board of Trade would not easily find an exclusive place in either category. Moreover, the scheme involves some strange complexities and readjustments of the conventions of the Constitution. What would be the position of the British Executive if defeated in the House of Commons on British affairs? Would it resign or would it be entitled to call for a dissolution confined to Great Britain alone? If it could only do the former, its authority in the House would be precarious ; if it could command the latter, the position of the Imperial Cabinet would be intolerable. Nor could the distinction between the two Cabinets really be maintained. What, for example, would be the position of such ‘Imperial' Ministers as the Secretary for War or the Home Secretary, if a vote of censure were passed on either or both by the British members, for the employment of troops in an industrial dispute in Great Britain ? The position of Ministers under such a system would be worse than precarious, it would be servile—they would be like the mediæval villein, the legal test of whose servitude was found by the common law in the definition that he knows not to-day what he may have to do to-morrow.' A scheme such as this represents a kind of inchoate devolution a differentiation in the Executive without a corresponding differentiation in the Legislature. Two distinct Executives are
are only possible if there two distinct Legislatures.
It seems to me that this is eminently a case for experiment under the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. The great advantage of such a procedure is that it is experimental, and in no sense final. By delegating business to a Grand Committee by a Standing Order the House never entirely renounces its control over such legislation, and it can decide in each individual case whether it will dispense with the Report stage or not. The flexibility of such a procedure is obvious. The Government of Ireland Bill, instead of laying down a uniform system of local
legislatures for the United Kingdom, has confined itself to Ireland as a special case, and leaves open the possibility of differential treatment of the other parts of the kingdom. This seems sound. As for the provisions of the Bill itself, as distinct from its general principles, I have no space to discuss them in detail in the present article, but I think it may be truly said of them that they follow the line of historical development. Here is no repeal of the Act of Union. The Bill recognises that Ireland has been bound during the last hundred years by innumerable legislative ties, pre-Union statutes and post-Union statutes. Litera scripta manet. Those ties are never likely to be seriously relaxed. History has done its work. Grattan's Parliament may have been premature, and it is possible at one and the same time to defend the Act of Union and to plead for its modification. Of this Bill, and of its whole method of approaching the subject of constitutional reconstruction, I think it may justly be said that the men who framed it have laid to heart the wise words of Burke : 'I would make the reparation as nearly as possible in the style of the building.'
J. H. MORGAN.
The Editor of The NINETEENTH CENTURY cannot undertake
to return unaccepted MSS.
INDEX TO VOL. LXXI
The titles of articles are printed in italics
of the Brownings, 976–988
Imperial Preference Scheme, 385-400
Indian Government, 48-57
cent Changes in, 201-216
settlement in, 312-331
in Tripoli, 1216-1229
for a Settlement of Territorial Ambi-
332–340 ; reply to, 547–556
Radical advocacy of, 589-598
torial expansion, 191-200
independence of Persia, 40-47
ness in, 756–766
and a, 86-97
ment of the, 557-567
Organisation of a Disestablished
the Restoration of the Ming Dynasty,
the United States, 1121-1133
in education, 945-965
the Lance versus the Rifle, 966–975
less Telegraphy, 1076–1088
mercantile marine, 795–803
CABLES versus Wireless Telegraphy,
Castberg (5.), The Legal Position of Da Solution of the Mystery of Bird
and a Suggestion, 1176-1184
Naval Case for Ratifying the De.
Ratifying the, 435-444
Depopulation, Rural, in England during
Ireland, 643–656 ; a rejoinder to, linck critically estimated ? 98-111
Diplomacy and Parliament, 632-642
and struggle for restoration of the, 1106
Disestablishment, Why some of the Clergy
Duff (Lady Grant), The Action of
DUCATION and character-training
Churolines and and Oxford Move
Educational endowments, and return-
Emancipation of women in Norway,
of the Oxford Movement, 133–147; Emigration, Britain's neglected advan.
Financial Relations with Scotland
and Ireland, 411-434
and the nation's industries, 401-410, 589-598
Established Churches and Disestab-
Evolution and heredity, influence of
Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park,
Celibacy': Reply to Mrs. Huth
tionment of taxation, 411-434
Federalism, Home Rule and, 1230-1242
nomic Position and her Financial of, 930-944
February 7th, 1812-1912, 274–284