Motion For A Return
MR. BUTT moved for a—
"Return of all sums paid out of public moneys on account of damages or costs recovered, since the 1st day of January, in any action against Colonel Hillier, the Deputy Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary, or against any other Officer of the Royal Irish Constabulary: specifying in each case the name of the Plaintiff and Defendant, the amount paid for damages and costs, and the fund out of which the amount was paid."
The hon. and learned Member said, there was reason to believe that a practice was growing up of paying, out of the public funds, damages or costs that were recovered in actions against officers of the Irish Constabulary. It had come within his own knowledge that this had been done in the case of Colonel Hillier. A matter of this kind ought not to be allowed to pass without being brought to the notice of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That there be laid before this House, a Return of all sums paid out of public moneys on account of damages or costs recovered, since the 1st day of January 1870, in any action against Colonel Hillier, the Deputy Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary; specifying in each ease the name of the Plaintiff and Defendant, the amount paid for damages and costs, and the fund out of which the amount was paid."—(Mr. Butt.)
The hon. and learned Member moved for this Return last Session. My noble predecessor (The Marquess of Hartington) opposed the Motion, and it was negatived without a division. Whatever reason existed then for refusing this Return, exists now with double force. My noble Friend came down to the House last night, at considerable inconvenience to himself, to oppose this Motion, which was then on the Paper, but the hon. and learned Member was not then in his place to propose it. He now proposes it in the absence of my noble Friend. The hon. and learned Member asks for a Return of all sums paid out of public moneys on account of damages or costs recovered in any action againt officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary. It would be injurious to the public service and to the peace of the country to grant such a Return. The matter to which the Motion refers happened so long as three years ago. It created no little ill feeling and excitement in the north of Ireland. That feeling is now quieting down, and I think it would be not only inconvenient, but wrong, to do anything which would excite it again. Moreover, this matter is not only entirely over, but, if anything wrong was done in it it was done by a Government which no longer exists. The hon. and learned Member placed before the House last Session the circumstances which he has detailed to-night, and the House then, without a division, negatived the Return. The hon. and learned Member seeks to ascertain out of what fund these sums were paid. I have not myself investigated the Estimates to sec out of what fund they have been paid. If the hon. and learned Member's contention is right, they were paid out of moneys into the application of which the House intends there should be no inquiry. It would therefore be contrary to the intention of the House to give this Return, and materials could not be found from which it could be given. I may say, with reference to this whole question, that it is absolutely necessary, in my opinion, that the subordinates or other officials of the Government should be protected and countenanced by the Government in the execution of their duties. The practice of the English Government is, I believe, not quite identical, but very similar, to that of the Irish Government. The practice of the Irish Government, at any rate, is this:—When an action is brought against a resident magistrate, or a member of the Constabulary Force, the person accused has to defend himself at his own risk and cost. At the conclusion, he is at liberty to apply to the Government for compensation for any damages which may have been awarded against him. The Government then take the whole matter into their consideration, with the advice of their Law Officers, and, if it appears to them that the officer has acted bonâ fide in the execution of his duty, they would compensate him for the loss incurred by him. I maintain that this is not only right, but that it is absolutely essential to the public service that officers should feel that they will be protected by the Government in the proper execution of their duties. I have no hesitation in stating my opinion that, by sanctioning the repayment to any officer of the damages awarded against him, the Government makes itself responsible for his conduct, and that that responsibility should be borne by the Government before Parliament. It is my intention that, as a rule, such re-payments should appear in the Estimates of the year in future. As this Motion relates to a subject which is over, which happened under a Government which no longer exists, I trust the hon. and learned Member will not put the House to the trouble of a division.
said, he would not trouble the House to divide, solely because he believed it would be useless. He still thought this was a matter in which the right hon. Baronet should not refuse a Return. On the Motion which he made last year he asked for the items and the Estimates in which the sums would appear. The reply of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) was that they did not appear in the Estimates, and therefore the Motion was useless. It was consequently negatived; but he (Mr. Butt) gave Notice that he would renew it this Session he thought the right hon. Baronet was mistaken in supposing that there was any such practice in England as he had described. He remembered that in the case of Governor Eyre a division was taken. To teach, officers that the Government would keep them harmless in case of actions for damages against them was unconstitutional. To do so was to teach officers to look to the Government, and not to the law, for the guidance of their conduct. It might be said that such expenses were paid out of secret service money; but he believed they were inserted surreptitiously in the law costs of the Crown Solicitor by the directions of some Government official. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: That is not so.] He was not satisfied with the reply, and should again bring the matter under the attention of the House.
Question put, and negatived.