Considered in Committee.
[Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary.and with respect to magistrates appointed under the Acts relating to that force and for the validation of things done or omitted in the execution or purported execution of those Acts and for other purposes incidental thereto, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—
(1) of compensation to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary who, since the twenty-fifth day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, have been or who may hereafter be required to retire or be discharged from that force; (2) of pensions and gratuities to the widows and children of such officers and constables; and (3) of terminable annuities to the National Debt Commissioners in respect of the commutation of compensation allowances awarded to such officers and constables;
The amount of compensation to such officers and constables and the pensions and gratuities to such widows and children shall he determined in accordance with the Rules contained in the Ninth Schedule to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, subject to the following amendments and modifications:—
(a) In these Rules any reference to the Lord Lieutenant shall be construed as a reference to the Treasury, and the expression 'existing enactments' shall be construed as meaning enactments in force at the time of the passing of the said Act of the present Session, and any Orders made under those enactments and in force at that time; (b) The following proviso shall be added at the end of Rule 2:—
- Provided that in the case of the surgeon of the Royal Irish Constabulary his compensation allowance may, should he so desire, be calculated in like manner as the pension which he would have been entitled to receive on retirement under the existing enactments applicable to him if the years to be added as aforesaid were added to his years of age instead of to his completed years of actual service;
(c) Rule 3 shall not apply; (d) The following Rule shall be substituted for Rule 4:—
- (4) The allowance awarded to an officer or constable shall in no case exceed two-thirds of the salary on which the allowance is calculated;
(e) The following words shall be added at the end of Rule 5, namely, 'and as if his years of service had been the years of service on which the allowance was calculated.'" [Mr. Hilton Young.]
I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (1), to insert the words "including compensation by way of disturbance allowances."I wish to draw the attention of the Chief Secretary to a very serious omission in the drafting of this Money Resolution, so serious that I have little doubt that when his attention is called to it he will see the correctness of what I say. On the Second Reading of the Bill, we all drew attention to certain points on which the benefits to be given to the disbanded men should be increased. The Chief Secretary promised us—and I refer them to the OFFICIAL REPORT on this point —that we should have the opportunity of raising these questions in the Committee on the Bill. He did not promise that he would accept our recommendations. He said that he would have to consider them, but that we should have an opportunity of raising these matters. Unfortunately, the Money Resolution is drawn so narrowly as to prevent us from raising in Committee the very questions which the Chief Secretary promised we should be able to raise. I do not for a moment suggest that this was done deliberately. If it were it would be a grave breach of faith. I do not believe that the Chief Secretary would be capable of such a thing in a matter affecting the Royal Irish Constabulary, or, indeed, on any other matter. It was done by inadvertence, because I understand that the practice in these matters is for the Treasury to draw the Money Resolution and put it down on the Paper. No doubt what happened was that, when drawing this Financial Resolution, the attention of the Financial Secretary was not called to what had happened on the Second Reading, and he probably was unaware that the Chief Secretary had given his promise and, therefore, the Money Resolution was drafted in a form inadequate to enable the Chief Secretary to carry out his promise. I would remind the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary, who probably is not so familiar with this matter as the right hon. Gentleman, of what happened in the course of the. Second Reading of this Bill. Every speaker raised the question of a proper disbandment allowance being given to these disbanded men. It was pointed out that many of these men the moment they were disbanded and went home felt that their lives were threatened if they stayed in their homes, and they were told that unless they left in six or twelve hours they would be murdered. We all know that unfortunately in a great many cases these men were murdered on going home, for no other reason except that they had been faithful to their trust as members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Therefore we pointed out to the Chief Secretary that this was not an ordinary case of disbandment, that in a great many cases members of the force, in consequence of this intimidation and violence, would have to leave their homes and go to the North of Ireland or England or some other place as a place of refuge, and that in that way they would be subject to very great expense from which in ordinary conditions they would be free. Therefore, what we urged on the Chief Secretary was that a certain allowance in addition to the pension should be given to these disbanded men, in the cases where, owing to danger and intimidation, they were forced to leave their homes. We pointed out that, according to certain terms which had been issued by the Chief Secretary, they were given, so far as I know without any authority from Parliament, a certain disbandment allowance, which probably was going to be brought up later on on the Irish Estimates. But we pointed out further that, not only was that disbandment allowance inadequate, but should be considerably increased, and should be paid at once and not left till some remote period of the year when the Irish Estimates came on, perhaps some months hence, and when, perhaps, these unfortunate men might he starving, and that it was an urgent matter and ought to be dealt with by this Bill. We pointed out that, in order to enable this point to be raised in Committee, it will be necessary to have the Financial Resolution drawn in proper form. As perhaps the Financial Secretary is not familiar with these matters which took place, I may refer him to the Debate. I said:
Then the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills), insisting on the same point, said:"I hope that the Chief Secretary will frame the Money Resolution upon which this Bill will be considered in Committee in such a form as will enable these points to be raised and adequately discussed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1922; col. 2250, Vol. 153.]
Towards the close of the Debate I asked the Chief Secretary what was his view noon giving this increased disturbance allowance. The Chief Secretary said very fairly that he could not promise to give the increased amount without consulting his colleagues. No one expected he would, of course. Then there was some discussion as to the actual increase necessary, and the Chief Secretary said:"There is one very important matter on that to which I wish to draw the attention of the Chief Secretary. Any increased grant must be provided for in the Financial Resolution, because when we come to the Bill it will be too late."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1922; col. 2279, Vol. 153.]
We understood that to mean that when we reached the Committee stage it would be in such a, form that we would be able to raise this question. I am not asking the Chief Secretary to give us a pledge that he will accept our proposal when it comes before the Committee. I am asking only that the Financial Resolution be in such a form that it will be possible for the Committee to raise the question. It would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to amend the Financial Resolution so as to make it conform with his pledge. On the Second Reading De bate every person who spoke, including the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who came in for the express purpose of making a speech about the merits of the 'Constabulary, bore tribute to the magnificent way in which the Royal Irish Constabulary have performed their 'duties. It was said that they were the best disciplined, the most courageous and the most devoted body of public servants who were ever in the service of the Crown. Let us not make a hollow farce and sham of the tributes paid to the Royal Irish Constabulary. Let us see that there is some meaning to be attached to those words of admiration and gratitude, and let us not shrink behind any technicality which will prevent the Committee on the Bill from doing what is due to these splendid men. It would be impossible for me, or any private Member, to propose an Amendment to the Financial Resolution unless such Amendment were authorised by the Order setting up the Committee. That Order contained these words:"I cannot give a definite answer this afternoon. … I hope to have this reserved for discussion in Committee, and that the House will now allow the Second Reading to pass."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1922; col. 2289, Vol. 153.]
The Committee will notice that the word "compensation" is not limited in any way. It is not limited to compensation by way of pensions or gratuities. Unfortunately, the Financial Resolution narrows the meaning of "compensation" so seriously as to limit it to compensation byway of pensions and gratuities referred to in the Government of Ireland Act of 1920. As drawn, the Financial Resolution would prevent us from bringing forward an Amendment dealing with disturbance allowances in accordance with this pledge. For that reason I have moved the first of the Amendments I wish to propose. There would have to be a consequential Amendment to the Resolution so as to preserve the general scheme of the Resolution. That further Amendment would be after the word "compensation" ["Provided that. … The amount of such com. Pensation"], to insert the words, "other than compensation by way of disturbance allowance." The subject is a little complicated, but the Chief Secretary will agree that the matter should be dealt with now. I feel confident the Chief Secretary will do all in his power to see that the pledge which he gave on the Second Reading is carried out in full."A Committee to consider of authorising …. to make provision for the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary and for purposes incidental thereto, the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of compensation to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary …."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 19th May, 1922; cols. 777 and 778, Vol. 154.]
I only desire to say a very few words in view of the very clear statement of my hon. and learned Friend, the Mover of the Amendment. I am sure the Chief Secretary recognises that there was a distinct promise to the men in the. Debate that the Financial Resolution should be drawn in such a form as not to pre-judge the question. We do not ask the Government to commit itself to the extension which we desire to see in regard to compensation for disturbance, but we do ask that we should be given a chance to raise the matter in Committee. On reading the Financial Resolution I find no mention of compensation for disturbance. If I am right in my reading of it we should be absolutely bound either to accept or reject the compensation which the Bill gives, and we should have no power to enlarge that compensation. I am quite certain the Chief Secretary wishes to deal fairly with us, and I am quite certain that anyone who reads that Debate will have no difficulty in making up his mind that the promise was made, and that on the strength of that promise the Second Reading went through. I appeal to the Chief Secretary, with confidence, to do that which he promised to do.
The hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) and the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills) point out that, during the Debate on 10th May, when the House was good enough to give, without a Division, a Second Reading to the Constabulary (Ireland) Bill, I used certain words which they construe and interpret—as I am bound to say on the face of it they are entitled to—to mean that on the Committee stage of the Bill they would be able to discuss the question of disturbance allowances. I am sure they will agree with me that in the whole course of my speech I was sympathetic in dealing with this question of the Royal Irish Constabulary. My main promise was that I would consult my colleagues as to how far it was possible to meet the legitimate demands of certain members of this splendid force, by further grants of money from the Imperial Exchequer in some form or other. I have done my best to fulfil that promise. I took the matter to the Cabinet, and after consulting with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and ether colleagues, I am bound to report to the Committee the position in which things stand at the moment.The decision of the Government is this —and it is final—that insofar as the permanent and annual compensation allowances of the disbanded members of the Royal Irish Constabulary are concerned, the Act of 1920, subject to the qualifications in the Financial Resolution on the Paper, absolutely governs. That. is the permanent structure of the annual pensions, and the compensation allowances of the disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary. In addition to that, and separate from that—not covered by the Title of the Bill at all—are what are called disturbance allowances. My hon. and learned Friend will not dispute that the general terms of the permanent compensation allowances under the Act of 1920, and carried into the Bill for which this is the Financial Resolution, are generous. They are rightly generous. They are more liberal than the terms granted to any other fighting force now or at any time in the history of our country, and, as I say, rightly so, having regard to the circumstances of this force's career. But I cannot put into the Bill—the Title precludes me—and I cannot put into the Financial Resolution—the decision of the Government precludes me—any permanent charge outside the Act of 1920, with the qualification I have indicated. I think, however, I can meet to a very large extent—certainly I can in feeling—the views of my hon. Friends. What they are asking for is increased disturbance allowance for those members of the disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary who are compelled to leave Ireland, or it may be to move from Southern to Northern Ireland. I cannot meet that claim in the Bill, but I can meet it, and am meeting it, in consultation with the Treasury, through the Financial Secretary, by administration. I do not know whether my hon. and learned Friend is aware of the fact that already in the Estimates—
There is an Estimate—an additional Estimate—of £300,000 for removal expenses in the cases raised by my two hon. Friends, and as for exceptional cases of hardship, they are daily coming before the tribunal which now sits here in London under the Chairmanship of Sir Edward Troup. If that amount is not enough to cover the expenses of removal or disturbance of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, I am quite prepared to go to the Treasury and the Government again and consult them, but I put it to the Committee that until that amount of money proves to be inadequate, it is not a reasonable thing to ask Parliament to grant, not only the £300,000 mentioned in the Estimate, but an addition of something like £600,000, which would be the extra amount involved if the Amendment were adopted. My submission is that, even if the Amendment were adopted, it would not help a single case that is not now being met and dealt with either here in England or in Ireland. May I say, in passing, that in addition to this Estimate of £300,000—which is nothing like absorbed or approaching absorption, yet, because the demands upon it are much smaller than I thought they would be having regard to the circumstances in Ireland—I have had to ask Parliament to give us £30,000 for separation allowances for wives of constables, head constables and officers of the force, who are living in Southern Ireland while their husbands are in Northern Ireland or in England. That 230,000 covers only three months, but if the need really exists, then here, again, I am prepared to go to the Treasury and the Government for reconsideration with a view to a further grant. I quite admit that in the very last words of the Debate I hoped it would be possible to raise this in Committee upstairs, but I am unable to do it, and I regret it. My hon. and learned Friend, however, has no real grievance, for he can raise it now. Let us see what the merits are. The hon. and learned Member says we are not getting sufficient money for these gallant men who have to flee for their lives from Ireland. Is that so?
Let us see. Every man of the Royal Irish Constabulary who leaves Ireland for any reason is given himself a free fare and a free railway warrant for his wife, for all his children, and for anyone normally dependent upon him.
If the right hon. Gentleman chooses to go into the whole details of what they get, well and good, but it is totally irrelevant to my argument, which is, that he promised we should raise this in Committee, and not now, and if he has any valid reason for breaking that pledge I shall be glad to bear it.
I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend can raise this question now, in Committee of the Whole House.
We do not want that.
I am sorry, but let us look at the merits. In addition to the railway travelling expenses, we allow a month's pay for an unmarried man, two months' pay for a married man with less than three children, and three months' pay for a married man with three or more children, for the sole purpose of paying the carriage of his furniture if he brings his furniture to this country or to Northern Ireland, and if that is not enough, we are prepared to give him more, so that he will not be out of a farthing in the personal transfer of his family or in the carriage of his family goods. My contention is that that meets the case of disturbance allowances, and, in addition, a special tribunal has been set up before which any man may come—and they are coming every day—and show that because he was a witness, for instance, in a certain trial in Ireland, because of the special danger he might run for this reason or that, he, asks for a credit or an increased allowance, and that Committee, working from day to day—I can speak from personal knowledge—is dealing with these men in exactly the sympathetic spirit that this House would expect. There is no policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary, disbanded or about to be disbanded, who cannot come before that tribunal and get the most ready hearing and sympathetic consideration, and I submit that that is not an ungenerous way of treating them. The mere question as to whether we discuss this question on the Floor of the House, in Committee on the Financial Resolution, or upstairs in Committee, does not touch the merits of the case. It touches the procedure, I admit, and my hon. Friends are quite entitled to say hard things, if they wish, about me for not being able to take it upstairs. I cannot do it. The Rules of the House and the decision of the Government preclude me from doing it.9.0 P.M. Let me add a word on the question of disturbance allowances. The term "disturbance allowances" is not known to the Act of 1920, and my sub mission is that it cannot be brought within the terms of the Bill, the Financial Resolution of which we are discussing now. On the merits, I am glad to say, I am able to meet my hon. Friends in many of the points which they raised during the last Debate. I am able to meet them not to the full extent, perhaps, but in many points; but on this question as to whether I should set down an Estimate of £300,000, which is already on the Paper, for disturbance and exceptional allowances, or increase it by at least £600,000, and make it approaching £1,000,000, I must make a stand, and until the need is clearly insistent I do not think it is reasonable to ask this House to grant these vast sums of money when the evidence is not yet conclusive that we shall use the whole of the £300,000 already on the Paper in the interests of the police force and their dependants. It is not possible to go into such questions as commutation, and so on, although they may be a subject for discussion on the Bill itself, but I can, as I say, meet many points of substance I regret that my hon. Friends and I differ as to the proper time to deal with the merits of this question, because I must express my gratitude to them, and I know the force itself feels gratitude for the way they have consistently supported the force, during the time when it was bitterly attacked in this House as well as in Ireland, and since the policy of the Government and the unanimous wish of the force have required and demanded its disbandment. The Financial Resolution now before the Committee is necessary for the consideration of the Bill for the disbandment of the Irish Constabulary, which I hope to bring before the Committee upstairs this week. I do not know that there is anything that I can further usefully add, except, in conclusion, to say that there is no one who is more sympathetic to these splendid men than I am, and if in any way in which money can meet their case—arid my contention is that money cannot meet their case, however large the amount, in every way—I shall be prepared to consider it, not as part of the Bill for their disbandment, because that is impossible under the terms of the Bill, but in consultation with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who himself is a Service man of great distinction and is, like all of us who know the history of this force, most grateful for the splendid services they have rendered in the past.
I must express grave and deep disappointment at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I am not accusing him of breach of faith. I know he would carry out his pledges if he could, but. I wish that the head of the Government, or the Leader of the House, were here, because I believe it is they who are responsible for putting the Chief Secretary in this most unfortunate position. The Chief Secretary gave us in this House a solemn pledge, which he himself admits to-day, to the effect that we should be allowed to raise a certain question on the Committee stage of this Bill. He admits the pledge, and he now says he cannot perform it.
My hon. and learned Friend must refer to the Government as a whole, and not single out any individual Member of the Government. The Government is united on this point, and I hope my hon. and learned Friend will note the expression I used on the former occasion—"I hope to have this reserved for discussion in Committee." I have been defeated in my hope, but my hon. and learned Friend now has the opportunity of raising the case on its merits.
I will deal with that. If the right hon. Gentleman chooses to cover himself with the ignominy which, I think, attaches to Members of the Government, when they will not honour the pledge given by the Chief Secretary, all I say is that it is very chivalrous of him, but the people of whom I complain are those who will not allow the Chief Secretary to carry out the pledge on which he got the Second Reading of this Bill, and he himself says everyone believed we should be allowed to discuss this question on the Committee stage of the Bill. Therefore, I repeat, notwithstanding the chivalrous support which the Chief Secretary gives to his colleagues, I do blame—and gravely blame—the Members of the Government, who, I am sorry, have riot seen fit to come here to defend themselves, and I do place von them a very grave stigma, that they cave allowed this pledge of the Chief Secretary to go unhonoured, and, worst of all, when that broken pledge is against the interests of these gallant men of the Royal Irish Constabulary. When I brought forward this Amendment I assumed, of course, that the pledge was to be carried out, and I said: "I cannot imagine the Chief Secretary would be guilty of a breach of faith. I have no doubt it is due to inadvertence on the part of the Secretary to the Treasury, that proper provision is not made in this Financial Resolution for carrying out the pledge." I can hardly find words to express what I felt, when I found I was entirely wrong in supposing this was the explanation. It is, as I gather, a deliberate breach of what the Chief Secretary promised would be done, and that breach of faith is the result of the action of the Government.What reason does the Chief Secretary give why he cannot carry out his pledge? He says the Title of the Bill prevents it. Surely he does not put that forward seriously. The Title of the Bill is to make compensation to these men, and part of the compensation is this very, benefit which we propose to give them by the Amendment which we proposed to raise in Committee. I cannot think the Chief Secretary really puts forward that argument seriously. It is quite impossible to accept it. This is compensation, the Title of the Bill is for compensation, and the Order setting up the Committee was for compensation, so that really there is no reason that he has given us why he should not make good his pledge, except that he is under some coercion, which he cannot avoid, from his superiors. I have no doubt he is doing what he can. My knowledge of him is that he would do everything he could for the sake of these men. I do not impute to him want of good faith towards these men for one moment. I know he realises what we owe to these, men, and that he is only too anxious to do what he can for them, and I deeply regret he has not found himself able to-night, owing to coercion under which he labours, to do something more. My right hon. Friend says, "You do not really suffer. It. is quite true I promised you that you could raise this question in Committee, but you can raise it now." Does he really seriously suggest that? This question comes on during the dinner hour in almost an empty Chamber, and all the friends of the Royal Irish Constabulary did not expect it to come on, perhaps, for an hour or two later. Is the right hon. Gentleman really serious in saying that we have as good an oppor- tunity of dealing with this specific question now as we should have if we raised it on a specific Amendment upstairs in Committee brought together to consider these questions? I am sure, on consideration, he will see that it is an idle excuse to give us. It is putting us off with something unreal. Can we raise it now? Nobody knew the question was coming on.
It is on the Order Paper.
Nobody thought it was coming on. No one, except some of these hon. Gentlemen behind, who, I suppose, would like to see members of the Royal Irish Constabulary starve—
I have relatives of my own in it.
Well, we are doing the best we can, and I should be sorry not to do the best I can for them, but I say that the Chief Secretary must see that it is an absolutely idle excuse to tell us that we can raise this question now, when our friends are not here. What we ask is that we should be allowed to raise it at an opportunity when the Committee can consider it. I pointed out to the Chief Secretary, by the Amendment which I have moved, the manner in which the pension could be carried out. Does he really tell me he is under orders not to accept that Amendment? Does lie really tell me that the Cabinet have considered this question, have seen the pledge he gave, and have ordered him to refuse to carry it out? If he says that, I wish that some other Member of the Cabinet were here to put forward that excuse, and I think the Committee would know how to deal with it if there be one thing more certain than another in this House, it is that a pledge given by a Minister oil Second Reading, or any other stage of a Bill, should be honoured by his colleagues. That is the unwritten law under which this House has always existed, and I trust there will be a long age to come before one Minister is allowed to give a pledge, and the Cabinet order him to violate that pledge and be guilty of a breach of faith with the House. Is it too late to summon some of those who, apparently, are in favour of this breach of a pledge, and to ask them to come here and listen to the arguments, and see whether they are not bound in honour to give us this opportunity in Committee of raising this point? My right hon. Friend must see that, while I say nothing against him personally—it is the last thing I would desire—his colleagues place themselves in a most unenviable position, and, instead of coming here and justifying this breach of faith which they now insist upon, they leave it to him, who is desirous and anxious to prove his good faith to the House, to announce this breach of faith. I say it is not honourable, and I ask my right hon. Friend if he can send for them and ask them to come here.There is only one word more I want to say. The Chief Secretary went into the merits of the question, and said, perfectly truly, that if the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary had occurred at a normal time, and under normal conditions, the terms given to them would have been considered generous and just. I agree, but the whole point of this case is that the times are not normal. These poor men cannot join their wives and families in their little homes in Ireland. They no sooner get home than they are hounded out by murderers and assassins, and told to go to the North of Ireland or England, and they have to incur expenses—not merely travelling expenses, to which my right hon Friend refers, but expenses of setting themselves up in new homes, in some haven of refuge which is denied to them in the South of Ireland. They have to get into new homes established in some place where they and their families are saved from outrage and assassination. Because the conditions are not normal under which these men have been disbanded we ask that the Committee that is to be set up shall give better treatment than that already indicated. The Chief Secretary talks about travelling expenses. We are not arguing here whether a man shall be given a sovereign or so more for travelling expenses. What we ask is that these poor men who have to fly from their homes in peril of their lives over to England and to set up here under the present conditions, and perhaps for many months while trying to get a new home together suffer from unemployment and may be in great difficulty and misery, shall, in order to relieve these abnormal conditions, be treated with appropriate consideration. To relieve this suffering and to help to tide over this terrible time we ask that we shall be allowed to make proposals to this Committee for more generous treatment for them. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to consent here and now to these proposals, but we ask for an opportunity, as he promised to put forward in the proper place, in Committee on this Bill, the proposals I have outlined, and if we justify ourselves there, we claim that the House of Commons should have the right to pronounce upon them.
Personally I agree with all that the hon. and learned Gentleman has just said, for I happen to be au Irishman as well as himself, and there is no Irishman who has not complete respect for the Royal Irish Constabulary. I want to see them treated in the most liberal manner possible. The question has been raised regarding compensation for disturbance. That principle cuts both ways. There are other servants of the State in Ireland who have been disturbed and compelled to remove, both in the North and in the South. If, therefore, the principle for compensation for disturbance for one section for the people of Ireland is going to be recognised, then I suggest that there should be compensation for disturbance for all sections of the people in Ireland. I would remind the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) that 5,000 shipyard workers are still wandering about the face of Great Britain. These are Belfast trade unionists, Roman Catholics, and Labour men who have been told that, because of their opinions, they cannot work in the shipyards. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman adopt the same principle that these shall be compensated as well as the Royal Irish Constabulary?As an Irishman living in England, I confess that I am ashamed of what is going on in Ireland, of the fact that my countrymen cannot agree at the present time when they have the greatest possible opportunity of solving their own destiny. But I do say, if there is any attempt now being made to put one section of the people on a pedestal as against other sections, you are not going to solve the problem. The Royal Trish Constabulary are entitled to every possible generous treatment, but they are not more entitled to it than the soldiers of Great Britain who fought in the Great War. The other night when we from these benches moved more generous treatment for disabled ex-service men the proposal was talked out.
That related to pre-War pensions!
When a man joined the Royal Irish Constabulary he knew that he took certain risks, and therefore he knew what he was doing. The men who joined the Army and the Navy during the War were entitled to equal consideration. When, however, we brought forward the matter that we did the other evening we were talked out.
The hon. Member, I think, is talking somewhat wide of the question. Compensation for disbandment is already provided for. The only question before the Committee is whether there should be a special allowance in respect of disturbance for members of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
I am obliged, Mr. Hope, but I have already said what I wanted to say. Compensation for disturbance! Every British soldier who came back from the War has had to face toil and trouble; he has had to run the risk of finding employment. The Royal Irish Constabulary seems to be in a specially privileged position and a special pet with some hon. Members. I admire the members of the force quite as much as they do, because some of my own relations 'have been members of it. I suggest, however, that you cannot slide off your responsibility in this way. If you are going to talk about compensation for disturbance, then some of us are going to claim on behalf of the workers of the country who fought in the War and who deserve to be compensated for disturbance in view of what has followed their services. In my own constituency I have men who came back from the War to find that they had no homes to come back to. Are these men going to be compensated for the loss of their homes? Or for their loss of employment? Some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen talk very glibly about the Royal Irish Constabulary, but I say that the workers of this country who stood to risk and lose everything are now back without compensation. I do not care what the promises of the Government are. The promises of the Government are like piecrusts. They are made to be broken. They have promised everybody everything and have given them nothing. Some of us have no faith in those promises. Yet the hon. and learned. Gentleman who preceded me is one of the principal supporters of the Government, and always goes into the Lobby with them when Labour puts proposals forward. Surely he ought to be the last man to break his promises or to favour breach of promise. As a lawyer he knows more about breaches of promise than I do. Now the friends of the Government are finding them out. So far as the Royal Irish Constabulary are concerned, we recognise the magnificent service they have rendered. They are a splendid body of men. We agree that they should be given the best possible treatment, but they should get no better treatment than the Government are rendering to the people who have served them so magnificently. In every part of Great Britain and in my own constituency there are thousands of ex-soldiers whose pensions have been cut down and who have been reduced to a position of impecuniosity after the services they have rendered during the War. On the other hand, we find ex-members of the Royal Irish Constabulary coming over here and getting bigger allowances than our own men who fought in the War and risked everything.
I congratulate the Government, upon a new supporter—
I am not a supporter of the Government.
But I did not follow the hon. Member in his argument, because I thought his whole speech, though very eloquent, was irrelevant. Where exactly do the Government stand in this matter? The Chief Secretary has told the Committee that in the Debate on the Second Reading he used words, which the ordinary man would read as a pledge, that we could raise in Committee upstairs the question of compensation for disturbance. Every hon. Member of the House understood him to mean that, or accepted it as such, and on the strength of it allowed the Second Reading to pass without a Division. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that while he admits that the promise was so understood, he cannot keep it because the Government will not honour it. He thereby puts himself, the Committee and Parliament, in an extremely invidious position. His only answer to us is, "Come forward and discuss it now; now is your opportunity." What mockery that is, because the people who wanted this Amendment made, and were prepared to come and talk about it, were foolish enough to trust the promise of the Government, and they are not here to-night for that reason ! It really is asking too much of us to have forbearance with action of that sort.I am not going into the merits of the question now, I said what I had to say on the Second Reading. It is not a question of merits at all; it is a question of a promise made to the House of Commons, and outside the House to the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Can the right hon. Gentleman wonder if, when they read that a promise was given on the Second Reading that their case could be stated, and that the opportunity was snatched away and a sham opportunity only was given, they think that they have been tricked? Does the right hon. Gentleman want to create such an impression as that? I believe that he himself is a sincere friend of this force, but that must be the impression caused. After all, it really is going very far when he meets us with the statement that a promise has been made by a member of the Cabinet and not honoured by his colleagues. I submit to the Committee that business is quite impossible under such conditions.
I want to make one or two observations on this subject, because ever since the Government decided on a certain course of action with regard to their policy in Ireland I have taken an exceptional interest in these men of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I am not an Irishman, but that by no means lessens my regard for this force. When suggestions are made that the position of these men is in any way analogous to that of the ex-soldier who has fought for his country and returned to his home—of course, he ought to be treated perfectly fairly and justly, and his services to the State ought not to be forgotten—we should remember that the ex-soldier, after all, returns as a rule to a friendly people, and to a country that honours him for the service he has rendered to the State. That, in itself, is a great asset in the recompense of a man, because it is not money alone that is of real value, as the Chief Secretary has already said, in regard to the compensation of these men. It may be, as the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) suggested, that these men often enlisted knowing perfectly well that they risked their lives, that they joined a semi-military as well as a civilian force, and that Ireland was in a state of rebellion or hostility to the Government, and that therefore they would be liable to all sorts of pains and penalties in the ordinary execution of their duty. This is not merely a case of that sort, and even if it were so the situation, as a rule, is that a soldier goes and defends his country, and the policy which he has maintained succeeds. Everyone assists him so far as possible, and he finds himself an honoured member of the community to which he belongs.These men in Ireland, however, risked their lives to defend the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, the Government, and the House of Commons. I take my share of the responsibility in regard to the policy of the Government in Ireland during the past two or three years. I cannot escape from that if I tried to do so, and I accept it entirely. These men in Ireland were acting under the direct sanction and authority of this House, and in support of its decisions. We found it necessary, after the Campaign had gone on for some time, to make terms with the enemy. These men, unfortunately, belong to the enemy country. They cannot go back to their country like the British soldier can after a war, as has been suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher). If they go back to their homes we know perfectly well that some of them will be taken out and murdered. During their service they may have saved some small sums of money out of their salary—I know nothing about it, but I assume they are just the same as ordinary men—they may have got a little allotment or home, and practically everything they have may be invested in the country where they have been disbanded. They could remove furniture, but not land, stock, and houses, and property of that description. Therefore I wondered a little while ago, when I saw that several men in Ireland had been taken out of their beds and shot before their womenfolk, why the right hon. Gentleman did not insist that these men who had been in the service of the Crown under him should be removed to some part of the Empire which was more civilised than that to which they belong. I think the House of Commons would have agreed to a proposition, had it been put before it, that these men should be removed from danger wherever it was possible to do so. Many of these men cannot live in their own country. If they do so, there is not the slightest doubt that their goods and chattels will be destroyed and that they will be boycotted. The unfortunate thing is, as we know in relation to our own grievances, that the injuries inflicted upon the people in Ireland hundreds of years ago by those who came before us are visited on us as though we were actually the participants in that action. These people have the most infernal memory for grievances, and apparently they can never remember a good act. Therefore, knowing that that is the character of these people, we ought to take these facts into consideration and remember that this is an exceptional case. It is not like the case of the teaching profession, the members of which, who were in civil employment during the War, had their wages raised some two-and-a-half times. I confess I do not know exactly how the hon. and learned Member for York voted the other day in regard to the teachers nor how his sympathies went. This is not a case like that. This is the most extraordinary and exceptional case, which would not apply, so far as I know, to any other body of men. The suggestion has been made that if you gave the men of the Royal Irish Constabulary special assistance you would also have to give it to the officials in the Civil Service of Ireland. Nothing of the sort. There is not that hostility and enmity against the civilian employes of the British Government as there is against this particular force, because all your authority rested upon them and your whole law add administration depended upon these men. That being so, for Heaven's sake, when they have done that, do not cast them aside as so much lumber, and practically say that after serving your purpose you do not care a damn for them now. That appears to be almost the position at the moment. This Resolution says:
Apparently, the scheme has to be decided in accordance with the Act of 1920, with certain small provisos. May 'f point out that the situation we are discussing now has no relation to the position in 1920. The Sinn Fein movement in Ireland did not assume that criminal form until a long while after that Act was passed. We have here an entirely different set of. circumstances. You have placed these men for your own purposes into a condition in which, although peace has been established between this country and Ireland, these men can no longer live at peace in their own country. If these men remained in Ireland, most of them would be murdered or their position made such that their property would become useless. They would become bankrupt or pauperised, and, surely, it is best for us to face the position now, when we understand the special services they have rendered. Surely, this is the time to settle in the most generous way possible the security we ought to give them now that they have been broken in our service."Provided that the amount of compensation to such officers and constables and the pensions and gratuities to such widows and children shall be determined in accordance with the Rules contained in the Ninth Schedule to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920."
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Durham (Major Hills) said the Chief Secretary had given a pledge on the Second Reading of the Bill that he would draw the Resolution in such a way as would enable an increase to be moved in Committee.
I have never made that pledge, and I did not understand the hon. and gallant Member for Durham to say that.
I quoted the right hon. Gentleman's own words, which were taken as being a pledge that we could raise the question of compensation for disturbance in Committee upstairs.
Apparently there is a dispute between my hon. and gallant Friend and the Chief Secretary as to what actually took place, but the Chief Secretary did not contradict my hon. and gallant Friend when he made that statement. I do not know exactly what did occur, and I cannot state whether or not such an undertaking was given. I under- stand, however, that the Chief Secretary has more or less admitted that something of that sort occurred, and now he says that the Government will not allow him to do this, and therefore he cannot carry it out. If that is so, then it is the duty of the Chief Secretary to resign. A pledge, even when it is given outside by persons competent to give such pledges, and particularly when given by a Cabinet Minister, with possibly two exceptions, has generally been observed, and unless that practice is adopted it is impossible to carry on our proceedings in this House.I have never known a pledge given on the Floor of the House which has not been observed. I do not say that in this case the pledge has been given, and I only know what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, but I am always ready to accept his word, and he has clearly stated that the pledge was given, and that the reason it has not been carried out is that the Government have thrown over the Chief Secretary. The Cabinet have no business to do that, and if they could not trust the right hon. Gentleman, they should have come here to see what he is doing, and if they do not take the trouble to come clown here, at any rate, they should carry out the pledges given by their representatives. If the Government have done what has been alleged, then I say that the Chief Secretary has in honour no course open to him but to hand in his resignation to-night to the Prime Minister. I am not going into the merits of the case, but I am certain that Parliamentary bargains must be observed. Ii once we commence with the idea that in order to soothe the House and get a Bill through, Parliamentary pledges are to be given and broken because some Member of the Government who does not take the trouble to come and see what is going on in the House says it is not convenient, then we are at the end of our Parliamentary proceedings.
I have done my best to secure justice for the Royal Irish Constabulary, and to see that if they do not care to stay under the Provisional Government they should not take any harm in regard to their pensions by being transferred from one Government to another. With regard to what the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) said about the 'Chief Secretary handing in his resigna tion because of a breach of faith, all I wish to say is that if such a principle is adopted, many other Members on the Front Bench would have to resign. At the end of last Session a Bill was put on the Statute Book, and the pledges in it were broken in March this year with disastrous consequences. A Measure was placed on the Statute Book dealing with the agricultural interests, and the pledges in that Measure were also broken. We on these benches are always prepared to carry out our pledges. We do not believe in breaches of faith. If one goes amongst the miners to-day it will be found that this country is living on the top of a silent volcano for the moment, and that is due to the fact that the Government did not redeem the pledges they gave to the miners. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel Ward) talked about our soldiers having had homes to come to when they returned from the War, but I would suggest to him that homes are of little value if there is not sufficient food for the wife and children; yet that is the plight of a good many of our countrymen. This is due again to the breach of Government pledges. If this matter is pressed to a Division I shall certainly feel it my duty to vote in the Lobby with my hon. Friend.
I hope we shall have some statement from the Chief Secretary for Ireland in reference to the serious statement by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). That is a very important matter. But what is still more important is to know what we are going to do for these men who have borne the heat and burden of the day in Ireland through very serious and trying times, while many of us have held our hands and withheld our votes in this House, hoping and trusting that the great experiment the Government are trying in Ireland will bear good fruit. Gradually we are realising that the fruit is bitter in The gathering, but we want to know if this pledge said to have been made is going to be broken in the score of economy. Are we really to put economy in money before our honour? I think the honour and pledges of this House should take precedent even at the expenditure of money. This House must see to it that these servants of the Crown are dealt with fairly and properly, and are not driven back to their homes to certain massacre and slaughter, but are brought over to this county or taken to one of those fair lands of which this Empire boasts in order that they may continue to live under the flag in happiness. I hope before we go to a Division we shall have a further statement from the Chief Secretary.
It is not very often I find myself in sympathy with the hon. Members who happened to be attacking the Government this evening, but I shall support them to-night because I believe that if a pledge was given it ought to be honoured. On these grounds absolutely I feel that we on this side of the Committee ought to support those who are raising a protest of this kind. On general grounds I have very much sympathy with the men whose condition is under consideration. I had the fortune or misfortune to live in Ireland for little over three years, and as I travelled about the country a good deal I was frequently in contact with members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I think I can claim to know something about them and their conditions. In the main the members of the force were regarded by the people in Southern Ireland as their worst enemies. They were looked upon as the tools of the British Government. I do not admit that these people were correct in their assumption. But still it was the general feeling towards these men, and I can understand that a good many of them now find themselves in a very uncomfortable position. The Government have no need for their services. They have probably reached or passed middle age. All their family connections are in Ireland, and they have no desire to leave that country if they can possibly avoid it. The thing that rather disturbs me is the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel Ward) implying that a large proportion of these men are anxious to leave Ireland but cannot get away because there are no opportunities for them in this country.I should like the Chief Secretary, if he is going to reply on the debate, to clear up two points. Will he tell the Committee how many of these men have accepted service under the Provisional Government? We really ought to know what opportunities are open to these men before we can judge what the Government ought to be expected to do in order to make provision for them. Then perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will further inform us how many of these men have expressed a desire to come to this country. I forget the figure given on a previous occasion, but I believe that either the Chief Secretary or the Colonial Secretary made a statement which conveyed the impression that a very small minority of the men had expressed a desire to leave Ireland. In the main, I fancy that would be correct, and it would be largely due to the fact that they had lived there all their lives and have all their connections there. That would make it very difficult at any rate for them to get away from the country, or for them to find suitable avenues of employment in another country in view of their conditions of service in the Royal Irish Constabulary. If a promise has been made, and if hon Members of this House withheld any action they would have taken on the Second Reading of this Bill in consequence of such a promise, then it seems to me it is up to every Member of this House to support hon. Members in the protest they are making to-night. Any promise that was made ought to be fulfilled. It is very easy to talk about repeated breaches of faith by the Government and to prove that they seldom keep their promises. That has nothing to do with the present issue. The question of compensation and provision for these men is a very debatable point. If the Government carried out their promise, these men would be treated fairly, as compared with the treatment meted out to other people who have found themselves in very adverse circumstances during the last two or three years. If one comes to discuss closely the question of compensation, some of those who represent South Wales would be entitled sometimes to ask if it is fair to allege that the position of the miners to-day is due to the mistaken policy of the allies of this Government, how far are you going to compensate those people who have had to spend all their savings and who have found themselves out of work for the last 12 months? Our friends who are raising this issue generally do not agree with us too often when we submit that something ought to be done for these people who are victims of what we believe to be a bad policy. That, how- ever, is not germane to the present issue, which is to compel the Government to carry out its definite promise with regard to the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Believing, as I do, in honour amongst men, I believe it to be our duty, if we give our word of honour, to carry out that word of honour, no matter what it may cost. Neither on the ground of economy nor on any other ground are we justified in breaking any pledge we have given to any section of the community to which we are responsible.
This Debate has passed from the merits of the question how much disturbance allowance should be given to the Royal Irish Constabulary, to the question whether or not I gave a pledge on the Second Reading of the Bill on 10th May, 1922, and whether such pledge committed the Government to reserve the discussion of this question of disturbance allowance, not for occasion, on the Financial Resolution, but for the Committee stage of the Bill. Since the Debate was opened, I have had an opportunity of discussing the matter with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and, in order that there should be no doubt at all about the question, I have his consent to accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for York, so that there may be no question as to the interpretation of what is called the pledge that I made on the date in question—reserving, of course, for the Committee the question of merits, a point which has been emphasised by the hon. and learned Member. That being settled, I submit to the Committee that the discussion might very fairly be brought to an end, and I hope that I need say no more, but may reserve what I may have to say for the Committee stage.
I am extremely obliged 10 the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, I do not pledge him or the Government to accept any Amendment in Committee. I should not dream of doing so. All that we want is sympathy, and I am extremely grateful to him.
I am assuming that the hon. and learned Member will move the words of his second Amendment, which are necessary to the course which has been taken. May I say, as regards the other matter, that we are all sensitive to any suggestion that we have led the Committee to take a decision under a misapprehension, and that has been the governing factor in the decision to which my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary and I have come since I entered the Committee. Otherwise, I should have deprecated referring to a Committee the scope of the financial obligation which it is proper for us to undertake in present circumstances. Of course, the decision of the Committee is unfettered, and the decision of the Government must be unfettered to appeal to the House on Report, if it differs from the Committee, to reverse their decision. In saying that, however, I am conscious that, when once a matter is sent to a Committee, and that Committee has reported, the general sense of the House is that it would like to support its Committee, and that, if the Government should feel that the Committee has gone too far, it would be much more difficult after they have reported than before. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend and the Committee will not feel that. I have said anything improper in the addition which I have made to my right hon. Friend's observations. We are anxious that no charge should lie against him or against the Government that, through him, we obtained the Second Reading of the Bill on an understanding which we have not fully kept with the House. Therefore, if my hon. and learned Friend will move his subsequent consequential Amendment, we shall accept the one which is now before the Committee.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, after the word "compensation" ["The amount of compensation to such officers and constables], to insert the words "other than compensation by way of disturbance allowance."This, as has been indicated, is purely consequential, in order to preserve the general scheme of the Financial Resolution.
May I ask whether this means that, whatever happens, so far as disturbance in Ireland is concerned, in the matter of destruction of property the people of this country will he responsible for the payment of compensation
No. I can at once assure the hon. and anxious Gentleman that that is not the case.
I understand that this Amendment increases the charge. Ought it not, in those circumstances, to be moved by the Government and not by a private Member?
No. It is purely consequential on the previous Amendment. There was an intentional increase of charge in the previous Amendment. Had I been in my place earlier, I might have raised that objection, but I do not think it is proper to raise it now, and the discussion has taken a different turn, on the question whether the Government had secured the decision of the House on the Second Reading of the Bill on an assurance. I could not have taken a point of Order on a matter of that kind. I assure the right hon. Baronet, however, that this is purely consequential on the previous Amendment.
Could the Chief Secretary answer the two points which I raised?
We have got away from that now.
Amendment agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary and with respect to magistrates appointed under the Acts relating to that force and for the validation of things done or omitted in the execution or purported execution of those Acts and for other purposes incidental thereto, it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament—
(1) of compensation to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary who, since the twenty-fifth day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, have been or who may hereafter be required to retire or be discharged from that force including compensation by way of disturbance allowances; (2) of pensions and gratuities to the widows and children of such officers and constables; and (3) of terminable annuities to the National Debt Commissioners in respect of the commutation of compensation allowances awarded to such officers and constables;
The amount of compensation other than compensation by way of disturbance allowance to such officers and constables and the pensions and gratuities to such widows and children shall be determined in accordance with the Rules contained in the Ninth Schedule to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, subject to the following amendments and modifications:—
(a) In these Rules any reference to the Lord Lieutenant shall be construed as a reference to the Treasury, and the expression existing enactments shall he construed as meaning enactments in force at the time of the passing of the said Act of the present Session, and any Orders made under those enactments and in force at that time; (b) The following proviso shall be added at the end of Rule 2:—
- Provided that in the case of the surgeon of the Royal Irish Constabulary his compensation allowance may, should he so desire, be calculated in like manner as the pension which ho would have been entitled to receive on retirement under, the existing enactments applicable to him if the years to be added as aforesaid were added to his years of age instead of to his completed years of actual service;
(c) Rule 3 shall not apply; (d) The following Rule shall be substituted for Rule 4:—
- (4) The allowance awarded to an officer or constable shall in no case exceed two-thirds of the salary on which the allowance is calculated;
(e) The following words shall be added at the end of Rule 5, namely, and as if his years of service had been the years of service on which the allowance was calculated.' "
Resolution to be reported To-morrow.