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Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 27 June 1922

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Disbanded Soldiers


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that three Irish soldiers home on leave, at Listowel, County Kerry, were surprised by armed men, deprived of their uniforms, and one wounded; and whether he will consider the advisability of disbanding Irish soldiers at the present moment, in view of the danger attendant on their return to their homes in Ireland at present?

I have been asked to answer this question. With regard to the first part, the military authorities in Ireland are at present unable to confirm the facts alleged, but further inquiry is being made. With regard to the last part, I would refer my Noble Friend to the answer which I gave on the 25th ultimo to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Shettleston Division of Glasgow (Rear-Admiral Adair).

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps, as he was good enough to promise some weeks ago, to bring these disbanded soldiers within the terms of reference of the Committee presided over by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare)?

At, this moment I cannot say "Yes" or "No." I have taken steps in that direction, and I hope they will be carried out.

Are soldiers proceeding on leave to Ireland always allowed to proceed in mufti?



asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, if the number of refugees to this country from Ireland is increasing; and whether he can give any estimate of the number of destitute or semi-destitute persons who have come to England for protection?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. With regard to the last part, I regret that the information at my disposal is not sufficient to enable me to form an estimate of the total numbers. Assistance has been given by the Irish Distress Committee to approximately 150 persons. Applications received total 300.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to the representations made last night by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea with regard to setting up a Royal Commission to deal with these cases, in view of the fact that the hon. Baronet, as Chairman of the Committee, understands the position?

I do not think a Royal Commission is necessary, but I am considering whether my hon. Friend's Committee might not be somewhat enlarged, in order to enable it to undertake the other work which public Departments are pressing upon it, and I am discussing that with the Treasury. The Treasury have given carte blanche, within certain limits, to the present Committee, and they must necessarily be consulted if an addition is made.

Does the first part of the right hon. Gentleman s answer mean that refugees are not coming over in increasing numbers, or does it mean that no more are coming over?

I do not think that there has been any great egress in the last fortnight. On the contrary, I think it is slackening. At any rate, the fact that only 300 persons have applied in three weeks certainly shows that the number of persons with whom we are dealing is confined within fairly definite limits.

Is it that they have ceased to come over, or that they are still coming, but not in increasing numbers?

We cannot tell whether there are a few refugees coming day by day, but I do not think there is any formidable exodus.

Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the position in Glasgow, where I understand that a very large number are coming over, and where it is probable that the Committee does not deal with them?

The allegation as to the refugees in Glasgow is that they come from Belfast, and are almost all Catholics. It is strenuously denied by the Northern Government, who say that no great exodus is taking place from Belfast to Glasgow.

Does it matter whether they are Catholics or Protestants, and ought they not to be looked after?



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now prepared to make his promised statement in regard to the fate of the four Loyalists kidnapped from the Pettigo district by the Free State forces nearly three weeks ago?

There are many more persons kidnapped, and I am addressing the Provisional Government on the whole matter. Meanwhile, we are holding the persons taken at Pettigo by the British forces.

Are we to understand that something like 20 persons were kidnapped by the Free State forces during the recent events at Pettigo?

My hon. Friend would be quite wrong in understanding that. Some were taken in the raid at Belcoo and others were taken in different forays on the frontier. We have proof that some of them are being held at present at Athlone, and that only four were actually removed from Pettigo.

My question related to the four loyalists who were kidnapped in Pettigo by the Free State forces nearly three weeks ago.

My answer related not only to those four but to others also, who were just as important.

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that they are held at Athlone, and, if so, what steps exactly are the British Government taking in order to recover them?

I have said that I am addressing the Provisional Government on the whole matter, and meanwhile we are holding the 15 other persons who are in our possession.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that, as nearly three weeks have elapsed since he first addressed inquiries to the Provisional Government, the Provisional Government are treating his inquiries with such scant respect that it almost amounts to contempt?

No, I do not think so at all. I think they are very anxious to get back their own fifteen men of the Free State forces whom we are at present holding, and whom we have been holding for exactly the same period.

Republican Courts


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that neither by British process of law or the law as administered by the Irish Republican Courts can British subjects domiciled in the Irish Free State collect rents or similar debts due to them, and are consequently in many cases being made bankrupt by their creditors for moneys owing in Great Britain; will he press that a moratorium should be established to meet such cases; and, if not, what means will he adopt to prevent the ruin of British subjects who are in reality perfectly solvent?

His Majesty's Government recognise the difficulty in which many persons are placed owing to inability in present circumstances to collect rents and other debts due to them in Ireland. This difficulty is not a new one; it has been a symptom of all periods of disturbance in Ireland, and can only be made to disappear by the removal of the cause from which it arises, namely, by the restoration of orderly and resolute Government. As I informed the House yesterday, His Majesty's Government think it right to give a further opportunity to the Provisional Government to effect such a restoration, and, in the meanwhile, they do not feel that the time has come to take any exceptional measures to deal with this as distinct from other evils arising out of the present state of disorder in Ireland.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that in former times, no matter how bad they were, we could always get British decrees in Ireland, and we could carry them out if we could get a force which had pluck enough to do it? Now we cannot get decrees.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say, for the information of the House, what is the exact position of these so-called Republican Courts under the present arrangement? Are they legal courts or not?

They have no legal status at all, and they are not recognised in any official sense by the Provisional Government.

Do I understand that there are now no courts of any sort functioning in the Free State where a law-abiding citizen can go to recover his debts or damages for injury?

Yes, there are two complete sets of courts functioning in the Free State which interfere with each other, have their decisions reversed by each other, repudiate each other's authority, and generally bring the whole process of common, civic justice, in the smallest matters as in the greatest, into utter confusion and contempt.

Will the right hon. Gentleman write an opera on the lines of Gilbert and Sullivan?

Land Purchase And Housing


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total sum lent or guaranteed by the British Government to date for the purposes of purchasing land, farms, or for building houses in Ireland; and the average terms as regards interest, repayment charges, and length of loans?

The hon. Member will find some particulars on these subjects in the Eighty-ninth Report of the Commissioners of Public Works, Ireland (Command Paper 1481 of 1921) and the last Report of the Irish Land Commissioners (Command Paper 572 of 1920), to which I would refer him.

Will the Government make similar grants to English and Scottish authorities for housing purposes?