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Volume 154: debated on Wednesday 31 May 1922

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Public Servants


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the promise recently given by the Government that during the passage through the House of the Bill for conferring the Free State Constitution the House will have power to consider and, if desired, to amend the terms and conditions on which public servants in Ireland will retire or be discharged and pensioned, he will give the House an assurance that the amendment by the House of these terms and conditions will not of itself involve the rejection of that Bill?

I can add nothing to the statement to which the hon. and learned Baronet refers, namely that made by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary in reply to questions by the hon. and learned Baronet on 27th April last.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chief Secretary did not reply to the last part of my question, namely, whether he will give the House an assurance that the Amendment by the House of these terms and conditions will not of itself involve the rejection of that Bill?

I was advised that it had been dealt with, and I have not been furnished with any further information than that given by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. If, therefore, the question has not been answered, perhaps my hon. and learned Friend will put it down again.

Malicious Injuries (Compensation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the delay in payment of the compensation awarded and payable for malicious injuries in Ireland, both in defended and undefended cases, and of the serious financial difficulties in which many of the sufferers are consequently placed, he will make arrangements whereby interest on the capital sums awarded and, if possible, a proportion of the capital sum, shall at once be paid to those entitled?

Decrees in regard to injuries to property awarded by the Courts in defended cases are payable by the Provisional Government, and application in all such cases should be made to them. In view of the specific arrangements made between the two Governments, I regret that I do not see my way to adopt the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member, but if he will forward to me details of any case of exceptional hardship, I will see whether arrangements can be made for its early hearing by the Compensation Commission.

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman asked me for any details of any case of exceptional hardship, and that I have already given them, can he kindly say what. further steps will be taken?

I have said that if the hon. and learned Member will give the details of any case we will see whether arrangements can be made for its early hearing by the Compensation Committee.

Post Office Clerks (Irish Language)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether men who have been for many years post. office clerks in Southern Ireland are now being required as a term of their employment by the Provisional Government to learn the Irish language; and whether, seeing that in many cases this is a practical impossibility at their age, these old civil servants of the British Government will, on their discharge or compulsory retirement owing to their inability to learn the Irish language, receive compensation under Article 10 of the Treaty?

I have no information regarding the first part of this question. In reply to the remainder of the question, the provisions of Article 7 of the Transfer of Functions Order, and of Article 10 of the Treaty provide for the payment of compensation to all public servants discharged by the Provisional or Free State Government, or who retire in consequence of the change of Government. These provisions appear to me to be free from ambiguity.



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if his attention has been called to the report of the proceedings of the Probate Court in Ireland on 16th May, when, as proof of the death of Constable Michael Dennehy, a record was produced from the depart-merit of defence of Dad Eireann stating that Constable Dennehy, of the Royal Irish Constabulary, had been executed by order of that department, after an alleged trial on a charge of espionage whether the department of defence is still in existence; if Mr. Mulcahy, a member of the Irish Provisional Government, is at present the controller; and what steps he intends to take to prevent the department of defence of Dail Eireann from executing more of the servants of the Crown?

The question has reference to one of the numerous deplorable tragedies which occurred before the Truce of last July, and I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by re-opening the discussion of those events at the present moment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there have been murders, called executions, and that the last part of the question refers to communications to the Provisional Government? Have any such communications been made?

I am quite certain that, according to all the information in my possession, no reprisals or murders have been conducted.

Has not the right hon. Gentleman heard of the three officers and men who were executed in Macroom as a reprisal, and after being tried as so-called spies?

I also know that every effort was made by the Provisional Government to find out the guilty parties.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say what was the result of their inquiries?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that Gunner James Rolfe, an unarmed British soldier, was murdered on 12th May in Bachelor's Walk, Dublin; that at the inquest the coroner addressed the jury to bring in a verdict of wilful murder; and that the jury refused to bring in such a verdict; and what steps he intends to take to ensure that the assassination of British subjects in Ireland will be treated as murder and the perpetrators dealt with according to law?

The answer to the first and second part of the question is in the affirmative. In reply to the third part, while I fully share the hon. and gallant Member's feelings with regard to the verdict of this Coroner's jury which can only he described as a wilful perversion of justice, there are no steps which either His Majesty's Government or the Provisional Government can or ought to take to compel a jury to return a particular verdict.

Is not the simple and obvious course to withdraw the troops from Dublin, where they are not allowed to defend themselves?

I am not at all sure that, if I followed the advice of my hon. and gallant Friend I should be adopting the course best calculated to secure the interests of this country.

Is the right bon. Gentleman aware that these malicious murders are causing such intense feeling among the troops that it is only on account of the loyalty of the men and the appeals made to them by their officers that they are prevented making serious reprisals?

I am fully aware of the great strain on the troops both in Cork and in Dublin through these events. It is very remarkable that the officers should have been able as, to their honour, they hitherto have been to restrain their men from vindicating their outraged feelings.

Hon. and right hon. Members continually suggest that no steps are being taken. It is not right to say so. I am shortly to make a general statement to the House, and hon. Members Rill then be able to judge as to what is being done.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any information has been received as to the fate of Henry Horn-brook, J.P., of Valley Groman House, Ovens, near Cork, who with his son Samuel and his nephew, Herbert Woods, were kidnapped on the morning of 24th April, when one of the raiders, Michael O'Neil, was killed; whether there is reason to believe that the kidnapped men were murdered; and, if so, whether inquiries will be made as to the disposal of their bodies?

I have no information as to the fate of these men, but, having regard to the time which has elapsed since they were kidnapped, and to the fact that the murder of a number of other Protestants in County Cork took place about that time, I fear it must be presumed that they are dead. It is obvious, however, that until some definite information as to their murder, and as to the persons by whom it was committed is forthcoming, the inquiries suggested in the last part of the question cannot be made.

Election (Leaflet)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has seen an official leaflet issued to Irish voters by the election department of the Free State calling upon them to support the Treaty candidates on the ground that they can get a republic for all Ireland through the safe and short road of the Treaty; and will he call the attention of the Provisional Government to this violation of the terms of the Treaty with the British Government?

I have not seen the leaflet referred to, but I am assured that no such leaflet has been issued by or with the authority of the Provisional Government.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consent to receive a copy of this leaflet?

I shall be very grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman if he will send it to me.

Will the right hon. Gentleman approach the Provisional Government with a view to their repudiating this leaflet?

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask them to publicly repudiate it, as it has been issued broadcast?

I think my answer in this House will perhaps be sufficient repudiation.

But will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Provisional Government to repudiate it?

There are much too serious issues now between His Majesty's Government, and the Provisional Government for us to go off trying to make a serious question of whether they will or will not repudiate a particular leaflet which they say has been published without their authority.

British Troops (Arms)


asked the Secretary of State for War why and by whose orders do British soldiers in Ireland leave barracks unarmed; if he is aware that the British military police in Ireland are constantly seen without arms; that there have recently been murders and woundings of British soldiers in Ireland; and if he will give instructions under present conditions that British soldiers in Ireland should carry arms for self-defence?

I am aware that soldiers in Ireland generally speaking carry arms only on the occasions on which they do so in this country. This rule has been deliberately and advisedly laid down by the Commander-in-Chief, who feels sure from experience that the risk to which such soldiers are exposed would not be guarded against, and might be enhanced, by arming them. Men armed with rifles in the streets are no match for murderers armed with pistols or automatics, and it was found that when men carried rifles when walking out, the result was that the men were disarmed and the rifles fell into the hands of the rebels.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give instructions that these troops when walking out in Ireland, should at least be furnished with side arms, which are customary at many stations.

I think I am right in leaving it to the discretion of the Commander-in Chief.

Customs Duties


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if any steps have been taken to ensure that the British Customs duties as prevailing in Great Britain are levied in Irish ports; and if foreign goods imported into Ireland may be transshipped into Great Britain free of Customs duty?

The rates of Customs duty in Ireland are the same as in Great Britain, and the methods of collection have not been altered. As regard the second part of the question, special arrangements are in force for adjustment of revenue where goods are duty-paid in Southern Ireland and consumed in Great Briain, andvice versâ.

Admiralty Property, Queenstown

(by Private Notice) asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Admiralty have handed over all Admiralty property at Queenstown to the Irish Republican Army who do not acknowledge the authority of the Provisional Government, and whether he can state what has been handed over now, and the approximate value?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. The second part does not, therefore, arise.

Armed Persons, Great Britain

(by Private Notice) asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that men armed with revolvers are entering Great Britain from Ireland, and whether any orders have been or will be issued to prevent unauthorised persons carrying arms from entering Great Britain from Ireland?

It is the duty of the police to take all practicable steps to prevent the infringement of the provisions of the Firearms Act, and they have ample powers for this purpose. If my hon. and gallant Friend has specific information as to the fact stated, it would be of assistance if he would pass it on to me.

Has the hon. Baronet made any inquiry for himself as to whether this is the case? It seems to be the custom now for Ministers to wait for information to be given to them.

This Private Notice question only reached my right hon. Friend last night.

As I have indicated in my answer, the Act is being enforced, and the police have ample powers. If specific instances can be given which Faye not come to our notice, it will, as I have said, be of assistance to us, but we are not. waiting to receive that information before we act.

Is the hon. Baronet aware that I asked this question on Monday last, so that the Home Secretary has had plenty of notice, and will he take special steps to warn the police to look out for these men?

I think my hon. and gallant Friend will see, if he refers to the previous answer, that my right hon. Friend stated that the Act was being enforced.



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the conclusion of the Treaty between His Majesty's Government and King Feisal is being delayed owing to the objection of King Feisal to the mandatory principle; if so, what steps the British Government propose to take to safeguard the contracts of the British officers now employed in Iraq and to obtain compensation for them in case of the premature termination of those contracts; and, in the event of it being decided to evacuate Iraq, what protection will be granted to the people of Basra who last year requested to be brought under a British protectorate independent of the rest of Iraq?

The negotiations with King Feisal are still proceeding. I should prefer not to make any statement at the present juncture on the points raised by the hon. and gallant Baronet.

Agriculture (Development)


asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been drawn to Article 19 of the recommendation of the Third Commission (Economic) at Genoa in which States are advised to encourage the development of agricultural production in every way; and what steps he proposes to take to carry out this recommendation in our own counry?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, it is already the Government's policy to encourage by every means in its power the development of agricultural production, and I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that with this object in view an additional sum of £1,000,000 was voted last year for agricultural education and research.

What is the best way to encourage agricultural production? Is it not to give security of tenure to the tenant farmers?

We have already, in Part II of the Agriculture Act, given a measure of security to tenant farmers never before enjoyed in this country.

British Dyestuffs Corporation


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Government representatives on the Board of Directors of the British Dyestuffs Corporation are in agreement with the present policy of the directorate; whether he is aware that it has been stated by Dr. Levenstein that the policy will fail to effect, both to the dye users and to the country, the services for which the corporation was formed; will he state who the Government representatives are; and whether they are persons equipped with expert knowledge and practical experience of the technical side of this complicated scientific industry?

The Government directors of the British Dyestuffs Corporation are Lord Ashfield and Sir Henry Birchenough, both of whom have much experience in the direction of large commercial and industrial undertakings. I do not regard detailed technical knowledge as necessary in the case of Government directors, and I understand that they are in full agreement with the policy of the board of the Corporation. I have seen certain Press statements attributed to the gentleman named in the question, but I do not know how far they correctly represent his views.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the fact that, although the nation has £1,750,000 invested in this concern, it has already lost about £125,000?

Has the right hon. Gentleman had a report as to the reasons for the resignation of Dr. Levenstein?

Was it necessary for Dr. Levenstein to remain a director of this concern, seeing that he has no more ability—

May I press for an answer to my question? After I put it, an hon. Member blanketed it with another question. Is that in order?

I am investigating this matter. I must remind the House that highly technical qualifications are not necessary for the administration of large companies. Often a technical man is a most indifferent administrator.

After the statement on such a very high authority as Dr. Levenstein, will the right hon. Gentleman say that this Act is fulfilling the purpose for which it was passed?

In business, as in politics, when a man ceases to cooperate with his colleagues, he is very apt to think they cannot get on without him.

Has the right hon. Gentleman had a report from these directors as to the reasons for the resignation of Dr. Levenstein, and, if not, will he inquire?

Germany (British Claims)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that numerous admitted commercial claims against the German Government are still outstanding and that the nonpayment of such debts is causing great inconvenience and hardship to firms and individuals in this country; and whether it is possible to bring pressure upon the German Government with a view to fixing a final date for the settlement of such debts under the Treaty of Versailles?

With regard to the first part of the question, I would refer to the reply given to the hon. Member for Chelsea on the 7th March. With regard to the last part of the question, it is not practicable to substitute the procedure proposed by the hon. Member for that provided for by the Treaty, namely, the reference of the claims to the mixed arbitral tribunal.

Loss Of Ss "Egypt"


asked the President of the Board of Trade, whether any authentic information has reached him in respect of the alleged misconduct of the lascars of the ss. "Egypt"; and whether he will publish the facts in justice to a class which has always been distinguished for good conduct and good seamanship?

The formal investigation into the loss of the "Egypt" will cover all material points affecting the loss of the ship and the loss of life, and the report of the investigation will be published. A note has been made of the point raised by my hon. Friend, but at is not desirable to make any statement on specific points pending the inquiry.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the compensation paid to the dependents of the lascar crew is equal to that paid to the dependents of the white crew?

Lace (Import Duties, United States)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the great injury threatening the Nottingham lace trade from the proposed alterations in the import duties into the United States, he can give the House any information on the subject before it rises for Whitsuntide?

At present I cannot add anything to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Stockport on 25th May. As my hon. Friend may be aware, I have arranged that a deputation representing the Nottingham lace trade should be received at the Board of Trade.

Will my right hon. Friend remember that the fortunes of 50,000 employés and the prosperity of Nottingham are deeply involved in this matter?

Woolwich Arsenal


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the reduction in armaments now required and of the valuable spaces and factories thus rendered vacant at Woolwich, and the large amount of unemployment in the district occasioned by the discharges from the Arsenal, he will consider the advisability of setting up a committee to consider the future status of Woolwich?

I have it in contemplation to set up a committee to consider the future of Woolwich Arsenal, in the light of the changed conditions which now obtain.