When speaking last night I pointed out to the Dáil that acceptance of the motion on the Order Paper would involve the acceptance of the contention of the Minister for External Affairs that the national aspirations of our people can be realised in full as a member of the British Commonwealth group of nations. I asked the Dáil to reject the motion on that account, and to maintain, as successive leaders of the Irish people throughout the years have always maintained, that the aspirations of this nation can only be fully realised when the complete political independence of the country has been secured and the last vestige of control by Britain has been removed. I proceeded, however, to deal with the motion as it affected the point of view of those who agreed with the Minister, and I urged its rejection on the grounds that even for those who hold that point of view, its passage would mean an impediment to, and not a facilitating of, their professed desires. The motion asks us to approve of the Report of the Imperial Conference of 1930. The principal matter, of course, in that Report is the draft of an Act which it is intended to submit to the British Parliament this year, after it has been approved by resolution in the Parliaments of the various British Dominions. I pointed out that the principal flaw in that Act was that it did not destroy, as the Minister has alleged, the theoretical legislative supremacy of the Imperial Parliament.
The Minister for External Affairs told us when speaking that this Act was in the nature of an act of renunciation. I say it is nothing of the kind. He said that it destroyed British legislative supremacy in the Commonwealth, and I invite him or any other member of the Dáil to show in that Act what section, recital or phrase can be interpreted to have that significance. I say that, on the contrary, the Act has been very carefully drafted to preserve the theoretical right of the British Parliament to legislate for the whole of the British Empire. It provides mainly that no British Act passed by the British Parliament after the enactment of the new statute, shall operate as part of the law of any Dominion, except at the request, and with the consent of that Dominion. It is undoubtedly true that the enactment of that statute will in practice mean that the Parliaments of the various Dominions will be able to legislate without British interference, but the theoretical supremacy of the British Parliament is maintained. Its legal right to legislate for the British Empire is not destroyed. On the contrary, the power to legislate, is by inference, confirmed. The Minister told us that he was concerned in these negotiations only with the end to be achieved and not with the method by which that end was achieved.
I think that was his fundamental mistake. I think that had he concerned himself a little more with the method he would have realised that in the proposal before us the very principle for which he maintains he fought has been surrendered. I want to point out to the Dáil that if the legislative independence of the Oireachtas of the Free State or the Parliament of any Dominion is to depend in law upon a British statute then it is dependent upon the consent of the majority of the British Parliament. What one British Parliament has enacted another British Parliament can repeal and the position will be that, at any time, by simply repealing that Act the British Parliament can reassert its right to legislate for this State or any other Dominion without the consent of the Parliament of this State or of that Dominion. The Minister made a number of statements the accuracy of which I beg leave to doubt. He told us that when the proposed statute is enacted in England that the position will be that this Parliament will be able to abolish any of the Royal prerogatives in so far as they relate to the Free State. I say that is not so. I say there is nothing in the Act which justifies that contention.
I ask the Minister to state definitely, for example, whether it is possible for us to abolish the King as a factor in legislation here. Is it possible? That is the kernel of the question. Can we abolish the King as a factor in legislation here? Can we amend our Constitution in accordance with our own wishes? Can we abolish the Act which prescribes that anything in our Constitution which is not in conformity with the Treaty of 1921 is null and void? If we cannot do these things all this talk about our legislative independence is so much humbug. All that talk is only an attempt to deceive the people as to what our real status is. If it is the desire of the Executive Council or the Minister for External Affairs to get to the position in which the last vestige of British domination here will be destroyed, then we are with him, but we do not think he has helped us to get to that position by pretending that we are already there. No cause was ever brought to victory by its champion pretending that it was already won.
If the British Parliament is prepared to do what the Minister says it is prepared to do, to recognise us as an independent State equal with them in all respects then there are two ways and two ways only in which it can achieve that end: either they can pass an Act declaring our independence, such an Act as that which declared the termination of the British sovereignty over the United States of America——