HC Deb 29 March 1867 vol 186 cc887-94

said, he rose to draw attention to the conditions of superannuation as affecting the men of the Irish constabulary. For some time past difficulty had been experienced in obtaining sufficient recruits for the force from time to time, and the difficulty at last became so serious that the Government found it necessary to issue a Commission, which sat in Dublin for a considerable time, examined witnesses and received memorials from magistrates as to the efficiency and good conduct of the force. The Commission reduced the complaints that were made to three—first, that the claims that were made to superannuation after long service was not enough taken into account; second, that while the men had no prospect of promotion, the period of service was indefinite; and lastly, that the pay was inadequate. The first and third of these complaints were fairly met by the Commissioners, who embodied certain recommendations respecting them in a Bill that was hastily passed through both Houses of Parliament; but it was to the second cause of complaint that he desired to draw the attention of the House. The Commissioners stated, in their Report, that— The men feel that while the prospect of promotion is remote, the period of service is long and indefinite, and they would regard it as a great boon if they were allowed to enter for a fixed period of twenty or thirty years, and were after that time entitled to some pension. The Commissioners consequently recommended an altered scale of superannuation. In several cases they reduced it; and, on the whole, he did not consider the alterations they made were open to complaint. But what he objected to was that in the 5th clause of the Bill embodying the recommendations of the Commissioners it was provided that no pension should be granted to the men in any case, except on the certificate of the surgeon of the force that the person claiming it was, from bodily or mental incapacity, unable to do duty any longer; and unless this certificate was granted, no member of the force was able to claim his superannuation except he had attained the age of sixty years or upwards. This rule might do very well for the higher ranks of the force; but he thought that, considering the arduous duties that the Irish constabulary had to perform—duties as much of a military as of a civil character—they ought to be entitled to their superannuation after twenty or thirty years' service. This would ensure a steady flow of promotion, retain many in the service who now left after ten years' service, and be an inducement to recruits to join. A man could obtain his pension after twenty-one years' service in the army, why not also in the Irish constabulary? They underwent as many hardships both by day and night and in all weather. Under the present system, if a man entered the force at twenty years of age, he must remain in it forty years before he could claim his superannuation. This was a great hardship, and must have the effect of keeping competent men out of the force, or of withdrawing them from it whenever they had an opportunity of exchanging the service for work that carried with it a better prospect of remuneration. The Commissioners had recommended this system, on the ground that they feared that the efficiency of the service would suffer if the superannuation were granted to the men at an earlier period, and that Parliament would refuse to santion the extra expense that would be occasioned if twenty or twenty-five years' service were to entitle the men to superannuation. They admitted that a more liberal system prevailed in the army, and that the duties of the Irish police were frequently of a military character; but still they recommended, though without any sufficient reason, the more stringent system of superannuation for the Irish constabulary. They urged, however, that the question of promotion was one of serious importance, and no one who knew anything of the subject could feel any doubt of it. The Commissioners reported that at present— It requires a long period of service, verging possibly on twenty years, for a member of the force to attain the position of constable, and a further period of several years before he can become a first-class constable, where the promotion virtually stops, the advancement to the lower ranks of officers being very limited. They recommended that instead of three out of seven inspectors the number should be three out of six; but they left the superannuation just as it was, and in fact had passed over the whole question of promotion without any suggestion for the effectual removal of the grievance. In regard to what the Commissioners had said respecting the extra expense that would be the consequence of a more liberal scale of superannuation, he desired to call attention on the other hand to the great saving that had been effected by the number of additional duties that had lately been imposed upon the Irish constabulary without any extra remuneration whatever. There were stated in the Report of the Inspector General for 1864. The constabulary force were employed in collecting agricultural statistics. Also in the taking of the census in Ireland, the expense of which was only £2,000, while the expense in England was £67,000, and in Scotland £18,000, showing an expense of each enumerator in Ireland of 10s. 11d. against £2 3s. 7d. in England, and £2 5s. 8d. in Scotland. They were also employed in serving the notices of the Poor Law guardians, and in acting as inspectors of weights and measures. They also acted as a revenue police, looking after distilleries and private stills, and in this one item they had been the means of effecting a saving of £50,000 a year. Besides these, there were other minor duties which they performed. But he did not wish the House to be guided alone by financial considerations. The country had lately witnessed the position of difficulty into which the Irish constabulary had been placed; but they had never wavered in their loyalty, but had shown themselves to be courageous and worthy men, and deserving of the consideration of the country. He never could doubt what the conduct of the constabulary, under any circumstances, would be. He had never seen one of the force drunk in his life. All the additional duties cast upon them had been discharged most efficiently. He hoped the House and the Government would not refuse to take the case into consideration.


said, he quite admitted the numerous and important additional duties which had of late years been imposed on the Irish constabulary, and the efficient manner in which they had been performed. But the question of superannuation really resolved itself almost entirely into one of finance, and he thought the House, before pledging itself to the recommendation involved in his hon. and gallant Friend's proposal, would recollect what took place with reference to this force last year. A great scheme in relation to the pay of the constabulary had been under the consideration of the late Government, and this was submitted to the Commission of Inquiry which sat in Dublin, presided over by his hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich. The recommendations of that Commission were carried out by the Bill which he had the honour to introduce towards the close of last Session, and the effect of the scheme was to benefit very much the constabulary of Ireland as a body, as regarded their pay and allowances. The original Estimate for pay, allowances, and superannuation of the Irish constabulary was £736,000, and the supplemental charge was no less than £95,000, in order to carry out the recommendations of the Commission. The House would therefore see how very considerable was the boon which had been conferred on the force. A great increase of pay would take place in the lower grades of the force, for this simple reason—that the Commissioners had discovered that, though the higher branch of the force was very fairly paid, the lower grades were very much underpaid. An increase of pay had accordingly been made. The sub-constable of six years' service—representing the cream of the force—now received £38 8s. 4d., whereas he formerly received only £27 2s., and this increase in the pay of over 11,000 men amounted to a considerable sum. The sub-constable, moreover, of twelve years' service had had an increase of £11, and the sub-constable of twenty years' service one of £6 3s. per annum. In the higher branches the improvement was much smaller; but, on the whole, according to Colonel Villiers, the force had been placed in a much better position. The result had been that, whereas on the 1st of February, 1866, there were 1,864 vacancies, there were on the 15th of this month only 1,198. There were, too, 111 candidates for admission now on the books. Last year there was not one, and a superior class of men had been induced to join the force. The present charge for superannuation was very considerable, it being this year £93,127, on a pay of £849,000. The men had hitherto subscribed 2½ per cent of their pay to that fund; but in future they would subscribe 1½ per cent to the reward fund, so that their deduction would be 1 per cent less. No change was made by the Act of last Session in the amount of superannuation that was payable to the men at present in the force; but there would be a great change with regard to the superannuation of the men who would hereafter enter the force. The present superannuation was very liberal and very high compared with other services. A man who entered the force previously to 1847 was entitled to two-thirds of his salary after a service of fifteen years, and to the whole of his salary after a service of twenty years. Those who entered the force subsequently would be entitled to two-thirds of their salary after twenty years' service, and to the whole of their salary after thirty years service. If the proposal of his hon. and gallant Friend were carried out, men would generally leave the service at the age of forty or forty-five, because they entered it between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. Therefore, they would leave the force at the very time when, as constables or head constables, their services would be most valuable. No doubt if a man remained in the force till he was sixty his services would not be very valuable; but it would be most imprudent to alter the important arrangement which was arrived at last year. That arrangement conferred lasting benefits on the force, and he believed it was perfectly satisfactory to the great majority of the force. It had not conferred much benefit on a few of the older members of the force, but they stood in a very fair position previously. It would be very unwise to make so great an alteration in it as had been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member, especially as the new superannuation scale would not come into operation for nearly fifteen years.


said, the object in view was not to increase, but simply to define, the number of years which a man should serve without being worn out, and so avoid his being compelled to hold on until he could obtain a certificate that he was unfit to serve any longer. The Army Commission found that the average soldier was not fit for service after above twenty years' service, and the same rule would, no doubt, apply equally to the constabulary, whose duties were of an arduous character. The present term of service was calculated to lead to "malingering" and discontent. The difference to the public in point of money on the fixing of the period suggested would be very little compared with the beneficial effect the change would have in the force. Had the hon. and gallant Gentleman made any calculation as to how many of the men had served for twenty-five years? At the present time the police force was employed hunting Fenians through the snow in the mountains, and could it be said that as a rule men would be fit to do such work after they had gone through twenty-five years' service? A considerable proportion of the men had already retired by the time they had reached the period of twenty-five years' service, and all that was suggested was that the whole of the men should have the option of retiring at that period of their career. He was convinced that it would give great satisfaction if the men knew that they would have the right to retire at a certain fixed time, instead of it being insisted that they should remain in the force so long as anything could be got out of them.


said, he could not agree with his noble Friend (Lord Naas) that the arrangements that had been lately made were regarded with satisfaction by the constabulary. Had it been easier to obtain recruits during the last six months than it was previously? His experience was that they complained that they were not allowed to leave the service until they were worn out. The truth was that the men got out of the service when they wished by procuring a medical certificate, even although they were at the time in such a state of health that they could, if they liked, continue in the service. He believed that a very great proportion of the men now left the service at an early period. Indeed, many of them entered it only to acquire money enough to take them to America. It would be much more desirable that they should have a retiring pension than an increase of pay. He believed that the organization of the police might be made infinitely more perfect and at a much less cost, than under the present system. He hoped he should see the day when they would have the police force in Ireland established on the same footing as that in England. The subject was a very important one, and he hoped the Irish Government would re-consider it. It was perfectly absurb and even mischievous to put forth, as was done in the Report of the Commission, that the constabulary should be paid out of the local funds when the greater part of their duty was Imperial.


said, he regretted, as a Member of the Commission, that he had not had as a Colleague his hon. and gallant Friend (General Dunne), because he believed he was capable of affording a vast deal of valuable information on this subject. It was an unfortunate circumstance that when that Commission was appointed the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in Ireland, and his hon. and gallant Friend suddenly left the country. He had a very strong opinion on the subject of promotion—that the more they encouraged the men by promotion the better it would be for the force generally. He could bear his testimony to the value of the Irish police for the maintenance of good order and British rule in Ireland; but he thought the expense should be partly borne by local taxation. He denied that the Commission over which he had the honour to preside had abolished the good service pay. They found, however, that they could not both increase the pay and fix the term of service at the same time. As for a man being in the decline of life at forty-five, he should very much regret to think so.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.