Skip to main content

Dominion Services

Volume 236: debated on Thursday 6 March 1930

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £252,100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1930, for sundry Dominion Services, including certain Grants in Aid, for certain ex-gratia Grants, and for Expenditure in connection with Ex-Service Men in the Irish Free State, and for a Grant in Aid to the Irish Free State in respect of Compensation to Transferred Officers."

Under the heading F 1 in this Estimate come ex-gratia payments amounting to £247,500, which is the final sum to be asked for in connection with the awards of the Irish Grants Committee, otherwise known as the Wood-Renton Committee. That Committee was set up in October, 1920, to deal with events which happened in Ireland between July, 1921, and May, 1923. It was originally thought that the total amount which would be needed for this purpose would be £400,000, but the sums awarded by the Committee, including the amount provided for in this Estimate, amount to £2,188,549. The Committee have dealt with 4,030 claims; every claim which was put in before a specified date, after which claims could not be received, every intimation of a claim which was made up to that date, has been dealt with by the Committee. I should be distinctly out of order if I were to go into the whole of this business on this Supplementary Estimate. My predecessor in office asked the Committee to sanction £500,000 to cover these claims, but unfortunately that has not proved to be sufficient. Now the Irish Grants Committee have finished their work, which has been carried out with great discrimination and fairness, and their Report is in the hands of the Secretary of State. In this connection, I should like, especially, to mention Sir Alexander Wood-Renton, Sir James Brunyate, and Sir John Oakley, who for more than three years have carried on this work with great fairness to all concerned. I should also like to mention Major Jamieson, who has been a most efficient Secretary to the Committee. Their work is now at an end, and I ask the Committee to agree to the amount of this Vote.

Under Subhead F 3 the sum of £4,600 is asked for in respect of compensation to transferred officers under the terms of an agreement made on 27th June, 1929. All details of this Estimate were discussed on a Bill which passed so recently as July last year, and in the Financial Resolution in connection with that agreement it was anticipated that the total sum that would be needed would be in the region of £46,000. This sum has been divided up as follows: £31,000 was asked for in a Supplementary Estimate in March last. Only £25,920 of that £31,000 was used, and the rest was handed back to the Exchequer. I am now asking for a sum that has been passed several times by this House, that is, £4,600, and I think I am right in saying that it is expected that £15,000 will be asked for next year, making £46,000, which will complete the sum that will be necessary to meet the expenses in connection with the transferred officers.

I should like, in the first place, to associate myself wholeheartedly with the words of appreciation which fell from the Under-Secretary of State in regard to the Committee over which Sir Alexander Wood-Renton presided. I have known their work for a long time, and I know with what care and devotion the members of that Committee and their invaluable secretary, Major Jamieson, worked both in the interests of equity and justice to a class of persons who have suffered very severely in the vicissitudes of Irish affairs, and no less in defence of the taxpayers of this country. In previous discussions on this question, which at one time were by no means without animation, considerable stress was laid on the fact that this Committee was not a judicial body, and that its procedure did not follow the procedure of the ordinary law court. Counsel were not as a rule in evidence, though counsel were admissible. As I think I have said before in the House, I am convinced that the more elastic and less formal procedure followed by the Committee did both more substantial and more expeditious justice, and yet at the same time saved the taxpayer large sums which might, on purely legal methods, very easily have been, not only demanded, but successfully sustained. The Committee is one that deserves the thanks of the nation.

There is just one question which perhaps I might be allowed to raise in that connection. Of the Members of the Committee, two, namely, Sir Alexander Wood-Renton, the Chairman, and Sir James Brunyate, were distinguished servants of the State who had retired, and who, in coming forward to render service for this purpose, were naturally compensated for the time and labour that they gave to this work. The third, Sir John Oakley, was, and is, a highly successful professional man, still actively engaged in the pursuit of his career, and he willingly undertook this work at the beginning without any question of remuneration. I do not think he can have realised, and certainly none of us realised how long that work would be, and that it would take up something like two days a week for more than three years. I wonder whether it would be possible for the Government to consider whether, in these exceptional circumstances, with service prolonged so far beyond anything that could have been anticipated, some recognition might not be made in the direction of payment for Sir John Oakley's services. I admit that I speak en-timely without any authorisation from him, and without any knowledge of his views on the subject.

In any case, the nation will have paid, when this sum is dealt with, a total of not very far off £2,250,000 as compensation to loyalists in Ireland under this heading alone, apart from the very much larger sum that was spent in connection with land and other injuries suffered. The sum may be large, but so was the amount of the suffering, and I think we can be glad that we can close this chapter with a feeling that at any rate we have attempted to do substantial justice. I do not think I need add anything more on that subject. On the other point, that of the transferred Civil Servants, there again, I understand, we are finally winding up—

No; this Supplementary Estimate for £4,600 brings the total up to the £31,000 that was voted last March, of which £4,600 was not used. There is no Estimate for 1930, but during 1931 it is expected that there will have to be added another £15,000, making up the total of £46,000 which I mentioned.

So we may yet get an Estimate for £15,000, but it is hoped that will complete the whole expenditure. There again we are closing a chapter in an old controversy and we reach a satisfactory solution. There is only one small question that I should like to ask. When this matter was settled between ourselves and the Irish Free State, the Irish Free State gave us to understand that, while they would pay on the Privy Council scale for all transferred civil servants who wished to retire before March 1st last year, they had arrived at complete agreement with the representatives of the transferred civil servants with regard to those who wished to stay on after March, that when their time for retirement came, they should retire, not on the Privy Council scale, but on the Treasury scale on the same principles that apply to British civil servants, the Irish Free State having agreed on their side to a quid pro quo, that a statutory Commission should be set up under which their retirements would in future be regulated, and which guaranteed to those transferred civil servants certain privileges with regard to variations in the character of their work, hours and conditions of service and so on which in their opinion were well worth securing, even if they had to sacrifice the difference between the Privy Council scale and the Treasury scale. I understand that a statutory Commission is to be set up and that, in order to justify the variation from the strict letter of the terms of the agreement under which the Free State is set up, legislation is required both in the Dail and in the House of Commons. Unless I am mistaken, that legislation has not yet been passed, and I should be very glad to learn when the hon. Gentleman expects the parallel legislation to be introduced and passed in the Houses of the two countries.

I should like to supplement the remarks my right hon. Friend has just made. We have been told the Irish Grants Committee has been sitting for three years. Two of its members were paid. I want to speak on behalf of Sir John Oakley, who was not paid anything at all. It is true he was awarded a decoration, the G.B.E., but it was not given on that account. He sat on the Sumner Commission and has done a great deal of other Government work. He has been President of the Surveyors' Institute and I think some consideration should be given him. Even if he were awarded the G.B.E., is that sufficient for three years' very hard work? I have brought this personally to the notice of the Secretary of State and I am glad to have this opportunity of asking him once more if he will take into consideration the claims of a man who has done a great deal for his country.

I should like to join in the tribute paid by my right hon. Friend to the Wood-Renton Committee. I know the enormous labours with which they were faced. Many of the claims that were sent in had to be rejected here. They were outside the terms of reference, but far more than the 4,000 cases my right hon. Friend has told us about had to be looked into. There was an enormous amount of work to do, and I should like to pay tribute to their labours. Over £2,000,000 passed through their hands in dealing with these awards. This is the result of an expensive legacy handed down to us by the original Coalition Government, and I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has been able to tell us that this is the last payment some eight years after these happenings. This closes a chapter which is to the credit of no one party, neither in this country nor in Ireland, and I am glad to say that at last this matter is dead and buried.

I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman one or two questions about the other item, the Grant-in-Aid of £4,600. It arises out of the appeal made by the Irish Free State in what is known as the Wigg-Cochrane case. This went against the Irish Free State, and the British Government are paying now the sums which the Privy Council awarded to these Civil Servants in Ireland who were either displaced or who relinquished their appointments. This decision was made in November, 1928, and I should like to know from the hon. Gentleman how many of these people have received payment? It is 18 months ago now since the judgment was given. Can he give us any further information about this matter? Under the Irish Free State (Confirmation) Act a transferred officer had to notify his desire to retire from the service of the Irish Free State in consequence of a change of Government, and this notice had to be given by the 5th day of December, 1929. How many of these persons have handed in their names, and how many of them come under this Vote? There was the case of the transferred officer
"who is transferred to the said service after the fifth day of December, 1928, or within one year after the date of such transfer."
Then there is the case of the promoted officer to whom a certain amount of compensation is due. That has to be computed by reference to the salary and emoluments of the grade or situation which he held immediately before he received such promotion. Can the hon. Gentleman give us the details I Will this matter in the future be covered by the £15,000 of which he has spoken? Are we to have further estimates each year with regard to this matter? Is it a continuing service? He says that this amount is part of the £31,000 already voted, part of which has been handed back and for which he is now asking again. How many persons are affected, how many still remain to be dealt with, and how much longer is this new service to continue?

I am astonished to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) that this is a satisfactory conclusion to a financial arrangement in which an estimate of £400,000 has grown into a sum of £2,250,000. I cannot understand how the satisfaction arises, except in this, that it is a sum which, instead of having to be met by the party which was responsible for it, is having to be met by our party. That, I understand, is quite satisfactory from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman.

With regard to Sir John Oakley, all that I can say is that I will convey what has been said to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I cannot say more, or make any promise that would bind me in any way. I admit all that the hon. and gallant Member has said, but that is as far as I can go in this Debate. With regard to the tribunal mentioned by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), there is no mention yet of any legislation on this matter. A tribunal to deal with these matters has been set up, and is now at work dealing with all the cases. The point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Colonel Howard-Bury) does not arise on a Supplementary Estimate of this description. The British Government have nothing whatever to do with that particular matter. The Irish Free State deals with these things. We know nothing of the individual cases. A lump sum is asked for in accordance with the agreement and the Act and that is what I am asking for in this Supplementary Estimate, to meet the c aim which is made by the tribunal of the Irish Free State.

Does not the Comptroller and Auditor -General of the Free State send an account?

If the hon. and gallant Member will read the Supplementary Estimate he will see that we get no details.

Question put, and agreed to.