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House on special subjects; and as critics on international matters in general there are such bodies as the New Reform Club, the National Reform Union, and the Foreign Policy Committee.
What is new is the formation, in the Liberal and Labour parties, of 'groups,' as distinct from self-appointed committees, that is to say, bodies chosen by individual communication with every member of the party. The trouble involved in forming such groups is only undertaken when the motive force is unusually strong and widespread. It is due in this case to the feeling that Parliament has abrogated its function in regard to foreign things, and that, therefore, parties should organise the vastly increased interest expressed by the public and the newspapers. The movement is not an attempt to get diplomatic negotiations made public, and it has no united opinion in regard to naval estimates.
On the other hand, it is a protest against the obscurantist doctrine of diplomacy. It deprecates, as Conservatives do also, the change encouraged during the last few years--the concealment from the public of the general outlines of our foreign policy, and of the grounds for the new theory of continental entanglement. Liberals feel that this is based on an assumption, as to the designs and powers of one great continental State, which cannot be substantiated; and it is felt that the policy is virtually dictated by a very small number of permanent men at the Foreign Office, and in diplomacy. It is obvious that a Liberal Government has a difficulty in carrying out its views, and that the friction with Germany has been partly due to the private opinions of some of our diplomatists. This should be balanced by the expression of views in Parliament.
If there is to be discussion in the House it is essential to keep it well informed and practical. For this purpose an unofficial representative committee has obvious value.
committee would have avoided the spasmodic expressions of sympathy with other States which proved so dangerous at the time of the Turco-Greek War. It will ensure concentration upon governmental action, and no generous impulse must deter it from this guiding principle; for if no good can result from agitation, agitators should keep quiet. The advice of experts can be secured, so that the time for action may be rightly chosen, and false hopes or false fears abroad may not be raised. In any given case it can be ascertained whether the Government intends to act and whether it welcomes open support. Satisfied on this point, what an organisation can do is to provide a Foreign Minister with an argument which he can use abroad, based on the fact that public opinion demands activity. In regard to proposals for joint action by the Powers, such an argument was used by Lord Salisbury and Lord Lansdowne. Clearly, if any such co-operation is to exist between the official and the unofficial world, Parliament is the place where it is most feasible.
In the present state of things it would appear that such a system of regularised party committees is the best available. It is customary among a section of the Conservative Press to sneer at unofficialutterances on foreign relations. But such sneers need not be noticed, coming as they do from those editors most given to censorious utterances on foreign affairs themselves. A minister may well be excused, in the chaos of work which should occupy him, for neglecting the question of the function of Parliament. But why should he not utilise for this purpose the Under-Secretary, who is intended to be a link between the Minister and the House? When resentment ceases to be shown towards interest in foreign things, such party committees may prove to be doing to Governments the good turn that they need. The Minister's convenience may be served in spite of himself. When organised interest is treated with respect, the unbalanced enthusiast, who refuses to work with others, will by a natural process be controlled, while the Government will be relieved of the temptation to crush him.
For the fact that interest has not in this way been organised in the past, perhaps the private member, too readily accepting the view that he can effect nothing except by attaining office, is most to blame. Now that public anxiety and growing political education have forced Parliamentary opinion to organise itself, such a system of party committees, failing the freedom of unreported debate, and the safety-valve of official committees, would appear to be the convenient course for Government and country alike.
But official committees in the end will be forced upon us, not only by the growing interest of the House in policy, but by the inevitable grant to Parliament of the control over treaties. The power of ratification has been claimed as a Parliamentary right; it will be granted rather as a necessity of efficient negotiation with other countries. Again, we find the cart before the horse. Ministers and Ambassadors will find Parliamentary control a useful weapon in bargaining, as the American Government has found the Senate Committee to be. The objection is to
democratic'influence, but if the system was adopted by America, when in the eighteenth century she endeavoured to embody in her Constitution the power of George III., and if it is adaptable to autocratic Germany, it can hardly be over 'democratic.' The principle has been voluntarily adopted in regard to the Declaration of London and the U.S.A. Arbitration Treaty. In both cases the American Government gains, by the fuller knowledge of public
VOL. LXXI-No. 422
opinion, and still more by the bargaining power obtained through the need of referring to a popular body. In both cases the English Government loses from want of the same factors.
With ministerial responsibility already in force, Parliamentary influence exercised through a committee may be thought superfluous; but if ministers are well-informed enough, and strong enough to control their officials, they will not be embarrassed by it. If they are not (and being human they cannot be) perfectly informed, and perfectly powerful, they will be glad of the committee's support.
THE REAL ISSUE IN IRELAND
On the eve of the introduction of the third Home Rule Bill, it is important to state succinctly the nature and the consequences of the revolution which has taken place in the conditions of the Irish problem during the past eighteen years, and to present in clear terms the choice which now lies before the two parties to this agelong conflict.
Fundamentally the issue remains the same, to govern Ireland by consent, or to govern her against the consent of the great majority of her inhabitants. The time-worn arguments for the latter course still poison the air ; arguments drawn from fear, contempt, selfishness, racial prejudice, pessimism, and used from time immemorial, in spite of every successive proof of their falsity, just as freely and sincerely in the British Empire as in other parts of the world, for the justification of tyranny. The Quarterly Review, for example, faithful to the traditions which caused it in 1839 to describe the great Durham Report—the charter of the self-governing Colonies-as 'rank and infectious' in 1912 still pours out a stream of insult and pessimism upon Ireland in her efforts to obtain the responsible government which proved the salvation of a stagnant and rebellious Canada. The counterplea for freedom, as a universally proved source of loyalty, harmony, and progress slowly works to counteract the poison. But in the case of Ireland, as modern facts reveal the present problem, the terms of this ancient debate are becoming almost grotesquely antiquated, irrelevant, and sterile.
The illumination comes from finance, and dates from 1896, when the Report of the Royal Commission upon Financial Relations was published, and when the annual Treasury Returns, upon which it was largely based, received public attention. The Commissioners were almost unanimous upon the main conclusion, which was, that Ireland, a very poor agricultural country, and Great Britain, a very rich industrial country, were not fit subjects for the same fiscal system. They made no unanimous recommendation, but two distinct remedies were foreshadowed by individual Commissioners.
One was to give Ireland a financial autonomy of her own, with full control both over expenditure,
which in Ireland was very wasteful and extravagant, and over revenue; the other was to compensate Ireland for unjust and unsuitable taxation by spending more public money on her. The former remedy was refused; the latter, a fallacious and vicious palliative, was adopted, with all the more willingness, in that it fitted in with the mood of the Unionist statesmen who were responsible for Ireland for twenty years from 1886, with one short interval, and assisted the change of policy from determined, almost frenzied, opposition to the most elementary reforms in Ireland, whether religious or economic, at whatever cost to Ireland in the brutalisation, expatriation, and impoverishment of her people, to a policy of spontaneous paternalism.
Paternalism from without, coupled with the deliberate extinction of a sense of national responsibility within, is always, and in every country, a system which combines the maximum of cost with the minimum of efficiency.
The upshot to-day is that the expenditure upon Ireland exceeds the revenue derived from her by 2,000,0001. At the time of the earlier Home Rule Bills the position was reversed. Ireland then made a net contribution of about 2,000,0001., over and above her local State expenditure, to the Army, Navy, and other Imperial services. Now, so far from contributing, she receives what is virtually an annual subsidy of the same amount. This subsidy came into being in 1909 after the grant of old-age pensions. And its amount is steadily rising.
Ireland, regarded as a separate entity, is an insolvent burden upon the taxpayers of Great Britain. This is the outstanding fact behind the modern Home Rule issue. From the Irish point of view the Union, as a financial proposition, pays. From the British point of view it is a dead loss, and an increasing loss. The question for Ireland becomes, in a far more clear and urgent sense than before, one of self-respect and self-reliance. The question for Great Britain, moral obligation apart, is summed up in the words : 'Is the Union worth the price?'
The phenomena before us are perfectly normal, the motives behind them as old as the human race itself. There are only two ways of conducting government against the consent of the governed-namely, by pure force, or force and corruption combined. This was a commonplace with the British political philosophers of the eighteenth century, who applied it to the unreformed Constitution of their own country. The maxim was elevated into a perfect system, and openly justified as such, in the case of eighteenth-century Ireland, and it still holds good, though the application is more subtle and more plausible, in modern Ireland.
Time, the growing political strength of nationalism, the waning strength of the landed and religious ascendency, and the