HC Deb 02 August 1882 vol 273 cc547-59

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Trevelyan.)


said, the information they had with respect to this proposal was of the scantiest possible character, and it was desirable that they should have all the information in the possession of the Government in reference to the circumstances now before them. He might point out that the cost of the Royal Irish Constabulary had of late years been largely increased. The original Estimate for 1882–3 was £1,332,146, including £78,000 Extra Pay and Allowances. Owing, however, to supplemental grants for increased duties, the total charge on the Public Revenue for this purpose was now £1,632,000, which, he believed, was nearly double what it was a few years ago. He should like to know what additional burden it was proposed to place on the public with reference to this extra pay, and what was the justification for so very considerable an increase? He was aware that the processes of resignation and enlistment had lately been going on in the Force at a great rate; and it would be well for the House to know how many resignations had taken place during the last three years, and what was the cause assigned for those resignations, so that they should be then in a position to say whether they were of a temporary or a permanent character, and whether the conditions of the Service had been so much changed as to make an increase of pay desirable. The position of the Royal Irish Constabulary was extremely critical; and he would like to know the strength of the Police Force, especially in the county of Limerick, over which Mr. Clifford Lloyd had control. As regarded that officer, it was said he was to succeed Colonel Bracken-bury as Assistant Under Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. If that rumour was true, he wished to know whether it was the fact, as stated that morning in The Times, that the Police Force in County Limerick, over which Mr. Clifford Lloyd presided, was almost bordering on a state of mutiny; that in nearly every county the police had asked for an increase of pay; that they had been offered 6d. a-day extra, and had indignantly refused it; and that in Clare, Kerry, and Cork Counties there was among the police an agitation that demanded the immediate attention of the authorities? The position of the Irish Members was, of course, peculiar in regard to this question, as they had often contended that the conflicts between the people and the police had been provoked by the conduct of the latter. He need not remind the House what their behaviour had been at Belmullet and Ballina; but he thought it only right that explanations and assurances should be demanded from the Government before the House sanctioned the proposed increase of pay. In the county of Kerry three young girls who were standing outside their father's yard were sent to gaol for 14 days for being present at an unlawful assembly. That was done chiefly on the evidence of two policemen, one of whom contradicted himself so flagrantly that he was rebuked by the magistrates on the Bench. Before Irish Members were called upon to vote this money, he wished to obtain an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) that the administration of the extremely harsh Coercion Act recently passed, which combined in itself all the oppressive provisions of all the Coercion Acts which had been passed since the Union, would not be left to the discretion of individual policemen, but would be directed by men like the right hon. Gentleman himself, and that he would not fail to exercise such a special supervision over the police as would save the people from the effects of their ill-tempered severity.


said, it would be obviously inconvenient to enter upon a wide discussion of the general conduct of the Royal Irish Constabulary on a Vote of this kind. He was extremely gratified that before the close of the Session the Government should have taken this step. With reference to the Resolution to be submitted in Committee, there had been a feeling for some time that the position and claims of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary required consideration. It might well be that the Government had not been able to yield all that was asked on their behalf; but this was a time when it was important that the grievances of this great and eminently loyal Force should be looked into carefully, with the view of satisfying them as far as possible; and he assumed that the proposals of the Government had been thoroughly well considered, and that they were calculated, to some extent, to improve the position of the officers as well as the men. It should be remembered that the grant which had been already made was confined to constables and sub-constables; while the Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, and other officers were excluded. It was particularly desirable that at a time like this the services of the Force should be rendered cheerfully and loyally.


said, he would make a very few remarks on the observations of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), and then proceed to explain the objects and scope of the Bill, with regard to which this preliminary Resolution was proposed. The hon. Member argued that no Irish Representative could give the means of rewarding the Irish police, unless the Government declared that every precaution should be taken that the powerful weapon at their disposal should be used with justice and discretion. It was difficult to make general promises of good administration, especially when these promises came from one who was the mouthpiece in the House of Commons of the Irish Government, and who, when in Ireland, took a large part in that administration itself. But this he would say— that when the long-desired day came when he could throw himself altogether into the administration of the affairs of that country, in which he took so deep an interest, there was nothing which should more fully occupy his attention than to see that the provisions of the new and formidable Act should be carried out in the spirit with which it was introduced—namely, to cope with crime in Ireland while interfering as little as possible with the liberties of that part of the population which desired to live in obedience to law and order. He could promise that no case in which a charge was brought against the police for having exceeded their duty, for having acted with indiscretion or severity, or for having done violence to the feelings and sentiments of the people should pass without his examining it carefully and thoroughly. The hon. Gentleman referred to rumours in the Press as to alleged discontent of the police at Limerick. These rumours, which were greatly exaggerated, had been confined to a single newspaper, though that was a very important one. The telegraphic accounts which he had received from Ireland put a very different complexion upon what had occurred. The nature of the discontent was not in any way connected with any personal question relating to any officer. It was entirely a pecuniary question of allowances and pensions. The grievances of the police were brought forward in a perfectly legitimate manner in answer to a superior officer, who asked whether there were any complaints to be made, and they were made in a very respectful way. It was not the case that there had been any great number of resignations. In the main body of the Force there was no appearance of any general dislike to the Service. Such resignations as had taken place were mostly resignations among the younger members of the Force, and those who preferred a purely civilian life. What in the Army took place in the form of desertion on a larger scale took place in the Constabulary in the far more permissible form of retirement. The hon. Member for Sligo asked what connection there was between the contemplated Bill and the general proposals which appeared upon the Estimates with regard to the pay and allowances of the Constabulary Force. He had not yet reached the stage of asking the House for leave to introduce the Bill; but when it should be before the House the hon. Member would see that, as was almost always the case in Administrative changes, the legislation by which the changes could be effected need not be of an extensive character. The measure would be an enabling, and not an enacting Bill. The pay of the Constabulary was fixed by Act of Parliament, and could not be changed except by leave of Parliament. The hon. Member also referred to what was described as the gigantic increase of the Constabulary Vote. It was true that some years ago the necessary burden imposed upon the country for the maintenance of the Constabulary was very much lighter. The increase in the last four years had been very large indeed. In 1879 there were 10,703 members of the Constabulary; in 1881, 11,034; and in 1881–2, 11,458. The total increased Vote this year was £1,600,000. There were three causes for the great increase of the Vote. First of all, there had been a large increase in the police between the beginning of the last financial year and the beginning of the present; for, whereas in the year 1881–2 the Government estimated for 11,458 police, at the commencement of the year 1882–3 they estimated for 13,007. The cause of the increase, therefore, was the very large addition to the police made during the troubled year 1881–2. The second cause appeared in the Supplementary Estimate under the head of "Additions to the Force, Travelling Expenses, and Expenses of Transport Service." Now, that additional Force was the Force added at the commencement of the financial year, or that was now being added. At the beginning of the present financial year there were 13,007 members of the Police Force, and at the end of July there were 13,512. The third cause of the additional expense was the improvement of the position of men and officers. With regard to the improvement, of the position of the men, he was not inclined to say anything then, because an explanation would be given when the Supplementary Estimates were considered in Committee. The Estimate of £180,000 was for the purpose of compensating the men for the great expenses thrown upon them by the harassing and extensive duties put upon them during the last three years, and for their extra labours. The officers of the corps had also undergone great labours and some dangers; and even before they were subjected to these dangers, their pay was, in the opinion of high officers of State, not altogether adequate. The Government had consequently determined to take the subject in hand. The County and Sub-Inspectors had placed two Memorials before the Government, in which they stated that their pay was considerably below that of officers in other branches of the public administration who performed duties not more arduous than their own. In consequence of those Memorials; a Committee was appointed to inquire into the position of the officers of the Constabulary, and certain recommendations were made in their Report, which the Government proposed to carry out. The Government proposed to take power once, and once only, by a single operation, to alter the officers' pay. The County and Sub-Inspectors had compared their position with that of other officers in the pay of the State, and from the Army he had taken one or two cases which bore out their contention. A Sub-Inspector of Constabulary generally became a County Inspector after a service of 23 years. The position of Constabulary officers after 23 years' service would be about equivalent to that of a major in the Army. Now, a major in the Army, after 23 years' service, would be receiving about £420 a-year; while the oldest Sub-Inspectors at present received about £348 in pay and allowances. A County Inspector of 30 or 40 years' service at present received about £531 in pay and allowances, while the colonel of a battalion of 31 years' service received £572, which was more money than was received by a County Inspector at the end of a service of 40 years. The higher ranks of the Constabulary were undoubtedly considerably under-paid, as compared with the higher ranks in the Army. At present the County Inspectors received in pay and allowances £531 a-year; those in the second class received £481 a-year. The Government proposed that under the new pay County Inspectors should receive in pay and allowances for the first year of service £495, for the second year of service £515, and so on until the sixth year, when and afterwards they should receive in pay and allowances £595 a-year. With regard to the Sub-Inspectors, the Sub-Inspectors of the first class at present received £348 a-year in pay and allowances. The Government thought that was not a sufficient stipend for men performing a particularly arduous and important duty after a service of 20 years. Their future position would be that Sub-Inspectors of the first class would during the first three years receive £357 a-year, during the next three years £385 a-year, and during the next six years £410 a-year, and after 12 years' service £435 a-year. The Sub-Inspectors of the second class at present received £281 a-year. He was now coming to the younger officers. The Government did not propose materially to improve their condition; they proposed that the Sub-Inspectors of the second class should receive £287, and after five years' service £305. As to the Sub-Inspectors of the third class, the Government did not propose to improve their pay and allowances. The position of these officers would remain as at present, according to the recommendations of the Committee. He thought the House would agree that a County Inspector should not be in a decidedly inferior pecuniary position to that of a colonel of a battalion. He found that in some counties in Ireland during the present year County Inspectors had under their charge 539 men; in Clare, 612; in Kerry, 601; and in West Galway, 605. In the mere number of the men who were under their charge, County Inspectors compared very favourably with a colonel of a battalion, and in addition to that, their duties required very great zeal, very great continuity, and a very considerable knowledge of law and of men. They required that sort of discretion which must be observed by public officers who had to deal with a civil population. He would not enter into the details of the pensions which were laid down by this Bill; but they would not impose any very great extra charge on the public. The Government would take care that no man should be in a worse position under the new system of pensions than he was under the old system.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had made no reference as regarded increase of pay for the men.


said, with respect to the men, their allowances would be slightly increased in several particulars; but their permanent pay would not be altered. He had now gone through the principal provisions of the Bill, and he did not think that in anything that could throw light upon the financial question started by the hon. Member for Sligo he had omitted any important particulars; The £180,000 which the Government proposed that Parliament should vote would be entirely given in gratuities to the men in the Force. The question of gratuities to the men in the Dublin Metropolitan Force, whose duties had not been so trying and so severe as those of the Constabulary at large, but whose duties had been decidedly increased during the last two or three years, particularly during the last three months, was still under the consideration, and he thought the favourable consideration, of the Government. But they could not expect to share in the very large scale of gratuities with which the Government had thought proper to reward the zeal and self-devotion which the men of the Irish Constabulary had shown during the very trying work of the last three years. The Bill which he proposed to lay before the House as soon as he could get an opportunity was partly for the purpose of rewarding those qualities, of the officers, and still more for the pur- pose of putting them in that position, and on that footing of pay which the duties they performed appeared to the Government to call for. He hoped, in conclusion, that the proposals of the Government would be found to give satisfaction to the Force generally.


said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) had met his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) in a spirit of great fairness; and if the right hon. Gentleman would act in accordance with his general statements of principle, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was sure he would do a great deal to restore tranquillity to the Irish people. He did not think, however, it was a very good position to take up at the close of the struggle of the last year to shower rewards on the police, and, at the same time, to preserve them from investigation. He thought such a course would tend to increase the separation and hostility which existed between the Force and the population around them. Men were being arrested as strangers when three miles from their own homes. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would communicate with the Lord Lieutenant in reference to the cases mentioned by the hon. Member for Sligo. The Police Force in Ireland was as large as the Army Corps that was being sent to Egypt, and was costing the Empire over £1,500,000 a-year. These facts ought to suggest serious reflections to reasoning minds, and ought to lead many to inquire whether the Government of Ireland was worth the cost to England.


said, he trusted that they should hear from the Government some satisfactory explanation of the cases brought forward by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), and that a different light would be put upon what did seem to be harsh proceedings. He rose, however, principally to say that the proposal to increase the pay of the police was, in his opinion, calculated to give satisfaction, and that it would cause rash acts on the part of individual members of the Force to decrease. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan) had referred to the slowness of promotion among the officers and consequent dissatisfaction among them. He (Mr. Moore) believed that that dissatisfaction was due rather to the facts that the members of the corps were not promoted to the highest offices, as recommended by a Parliamentary Committee some years ago, and that a valuable appointment was about to be abolished. He thought that, on the whole, the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was calculated to cause a renewal of the dissatisfaction that was felt. He believed that the best guarantee for the efficient discharge of the delicate and dangerous duties now attached to the office of a constable was to pay them well.


said, he was not disposed to make any objection to increased pay being given to those who did so much hard work as the officers and men of the Royal Irish Constabulary. But he feared that the effect of the proposal made by the Government would be anything but auspicious. It would be thought in Ireland that the object of the Government was to rule Ireland and dragoon her people with a little more military severity. He trusted that the Chief Secretary for Ireland would use all efforts to show that the extensive powers lately given to the police would not be exercised with wanton cruelty and tyranny. There seemed to be something ominous in the comparison drawn by the right hon. Gentleman between certain grades of the Police Force and of the Army. He should have been glad to have heard some assurances from the right hon. Gentleman that the Government were anxious to reorganize the Police Force, so as to take away much of its present character of a little army, and to set it to legitimate and useful business in the detection and prevention of crime. For that duty, the Police Force was now almost entirely without value and efficiency. The effect of recent legislation and policy in Ireland had been most harmful to the Police Force. When the police had a civil character he maintained that it was not unpopular. Under the temptation of recent and new powers, the police had become almost odious amongst large classes of the peasant population. Indeed, it had assumed such a military character that the Government might as well utilize it for foreign service.


pointed out that, while the population of Ireland was steadily diminishing, the Police Force required for keeping the diminished population in subjection was steadily increasing. He had to complain that during the July anniversaries, in conflicts which had arisen between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast and elsewhere, the police had failed to do their duty, and had involved the towns in the liability to pay damages. If the police had done their duty, the riots might have been prevented; but instead they looked on while the riots broke out, and then they interfered with persons who had nothing to do with them. In carrying out the Prevention of Crime Act in Cavan, too, the police alienated the people by the manner in which they had carried out the searches for arms in the homes of widows and harmless persons. That was the kind of Force which it was now proposed to favour, although they were already entitled to large pensions, and might retire at a comparatively early age and take up another walk in life. It was not fair to compare the position of the officers with that of officers in the Army, because the latter had to change their abodes at short notice, and to submit to hardships and exposures from which the officers of the Constabulary were free.


said, he thought that the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Biggar) hardly took a fair view of the claim of the officers to an increase of pay. The value of money had increased very much of late years, and it was impossible now for Constabulary officers to maintain their position and discharge their duties on the same pay they had a few years ago. Not only had the ordinary duties of the officers become heavier, but they had been obliged to assume much heavier duties than they had carried out hitherto, and it was but fair that they should receive remuneration accordingly. He trusted that it was not true that the Government intended abolishing the office of Inspector General. No doubt the Force required constant supervision; but it would be a mistake to abolish that office. He believed it an exaggeration to say that the Police Force was unpopular generally. Their unpopularity did not extend beyond the disturbed districts. It was true that sometimes the police had acted with harshness. He regretted that those things should have occurred; but cases of that character were comparatively few. He ventured to say that the Constabulary had received in many instances great provocation from the mob, and that they were not open to many of the charges which some hon. Members had brought against them.

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

MATTER considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is expedient to amend the Acts regulating the Pay, Pensions, and Retirement of certain Officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary Force."—(Mr. Trevelyan.)


said, he wished for some information as to the course the Government proposed to take, not only with reference to this proposal, but to the Estimates for the year. The discontent of the Constabulary Force in Ireland, so far as it appeared on the surface, existed among the men, as well as the officers. That was the view which he thought would be generally taken among the men when they heard of this proposal. The Irish Members would avail themselves of the opportunity which the Government had given them to consider this new proposal in its several bearings upon the condition of the Force; and he was bound to acknowledge the fulness and courtesy which had distinguished the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland.


said, he would admit that his explanations were more directed towards the position of the officers, because the alterations which it was proposed to make in the allowances to the men were extremely minute—so minute, that to state each special alteration would be a waste of time; but the general effect of them would, he believed, be satisfactory to the men. The last words of the Report upon this subject were— In expressing our opinions respecting the alterations we consider necessary in the allowances for men and officers, we would beg to direct Your Excellency's attention to that part of the evidence which described the losses they have sustained in two years, by duties when the expenses were much in excess of the allowances, in some cases the men having exhausted their savings. They should be in future placed in such a position as to be able to discharge their duties, especially those of an exceptional nature, without pecuniary loss to the men, and especially if allowances are granted they should he made to some extent retrospective. Increased allowances had been made to the men, and he had not detailed them, because they would have taken up a great deal of time. With regard to the retrospective pay, the Irish Government came to the conclusion that they could not adopt that recommendation; but, that at the men should not suffer from these allowances not being made retrospective, they had decided to place them in a better position. They had determined to ask Parliament for a Vote of £180,000 by way of a subsidy to the men. That Vote he hoped to be able to ask the House to grant to-morrow.

Question put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.