§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ * THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N
, moving the Second Reading said: This is a short Bill but it is one which is long overdue and which I feel it an obligation to press upon the 1738 favourable consideration of the House. It relates to the pay and the pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The present rate of pay of the body are those which are to be found in an Act of 1883, but in the year 1901 a Commission was appointed by the Irish Government, presided over by a former hon. Member of this House—much respected by all who knew him—the late Sir Howard Vincent. That Commission reported that the emoluments of the men were in some respects insufficient and they made certain recommendations, some of which related to rates of pay and allowances and others to other matters. The Report received the most careful consideration of the Irish Government and was carried into effect in the year 1903 so far as effect could be given to it without Parliamentary assistance. That part of the Commission's recommendations were given effect to, but I am sorry to say that from the year 1903 to the present owing to pressure of business in the House of Commons, both Governments concerned have found no favourable opportunity of introducing a Bill before Parliament giving effect to the remainder of the recommendations of Sir Howard Vincent's Commission. This Bill, with the Schedule, gives effect to Sir Howard Vincent's recommendations in most particulars. In some respects it is a little more favourable to the police than were those proposals. For example, we propose to give a shilling a week more for the eighth and ninth year's service; a shilling a week more for the twenty-fifth year's service; a shilling a week more for acting sergeants as compared with the Vincent recommendations. In other respects the Vincent recommendations are practically carried out, and will be found embodied in the schedule of the Bill. It is also proposed by this Bill to make what is an important change, and that is to raise the pnsionable age of future entrants in the force to fifty years. At present the men are entitled to pension after twenty-five years service, and entering the force as they do young men, some of them retire somewhat too early, and whilst they have still many years of active service within them, so to speak. It is now proposed by this Bill to offer inducements to present members of the force to remain in active 1739 service after they have served their full period of twenty-five years, and this will make the superannuation period more in common with that of Great Britain, and will ultimately result in a substantial decrease in the charges of the Royal Irish Constabulary as a whole, by reductions of course, in the non-effective force. The cost upon the Imperial Exchequer of these proposals is about £15,000 a year, calculating the strength of the force as it existed early in the year 1908. Of course the additional cost will fluctuate with the increase or decrease in the strength of the Royal Irish Constabulary. But I think the Treasury may hope that these proposals to increase the length of time which the men may serve in this important body will have the effect in time of decreasing the cost of the service. There are other provisions in the Bill which I think the House will not find of a controversial character at all. Clause 3 proposes to make an increase of widows' pensions, and Clause 4 to make an alteration in the law with regard to the payment of pensions which at present are only payable to constables when the Inspector-General is satisfied that the constable has served with diligence and fidelity. If he expresses his full satisfaction the constable gets his full pension, but if not so satisfied he gets nothing. There are many cases where a constable ought not to receive the full pension, but where it would be a hardship to deprive him of all pension rights. Clause 4 is intended to allow a middle course to be taken, and empowers the inspector-general to grant a reduced pension in cases of minor misconduct and neglect of duty. Then there is a clause referring particularly to the rate of pensions payable to assistant-inspectors-general. That is a very small matter indeed, but I think on explanation it will be found to be a matter of justice. Clause 6 deals with the mode of calculating pensions, and Clause 7 gives a definition. I think, therefore, that the House may safely give this measure, which, of course, has received full Treasury sanction and has been preceded by a financial Resolution, full support. The services rendered by the police need not now be taken into consideration. All will agree that they are entitled to proper treatment and to proper pensions. They have been kept waiting a long series of 1740 years since the Vincent Commission reported in their favour. This Bill gives them what the Vincent Commission recommended with small additions. Perhaps some of the force may consider them to be insufficient additions, but at all events they are better than nothing, and they do add a burden which the Treasury will be willing to sustain of some £15,000 a year. I think, in these circumstances, that all will be agreed, almost irrespective of party, that this body of men deserves the consideration which this Bill, after only too long a lapse of years, purports to afford them. I move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. MOONEY
very much regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had found it necessary to bring forward a Bill of this kind at this period of the session. The right hon. Gentleman was well aware, from information given publicly in the House, that this Bill was not one which the Irish Party as a party could allow, in any shape or form, to go through as a non-controversial measure. He did not think he had ever heard a Bill galloped through in the manner in which the Chief Secretary had galloped through his explanation of this Bill. He wanted to explain that the opposition to the Bill was not based on the tact that pensions were to be provided for certain classes of the community or that pensions were going to be given to certain men. They took the stand upon the point that at the present day the Royal Irish Constabulary was costing something like £1,375,000 a year, and that if the sum was properly spent there would be absolutely no necessity for a Bill of this kind. He and his friends contended that if the Irish Government were to reduce the ornamental part of the Royal Irish Constabulary they could get not £15,000, but nearer £50,000, seeing that the ornamental parts of the force at present cost over £100,000 a year. Let them take the case of County Tipperary, which had a force of 450 men. To administer those 450 men they had three county inspectors, who divided 1741 between them salaries equalling £1,200, they had inspectors in the first class who took £2,100, and they had eight district inspectors in the second class who cost £2,500. Including the head constable, who would take £3,000, the cost of commanding 450 men amounted, roughly speaking, to £8,000, or about £20 per man. He had made inquiries as to the cost of commanding the police in London and Birmingham, who, he thought, the Chief Secretary would admit were as ornamental as the Royal Irish Constabulary, while they were probably more efficient. The cost of the ornamental part of the force in London worked out at only £6 per man, and the House would agree that this was a very striking difference from the figures of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The whole system was so grotesque and absurd that if the right hon. Gentleman would only go to the trouble of looking into it himself he would see that he could save money right and left. In the county of Clare, to take another instance, there were 367 men, and to command that number they had to employ a chief inspector at £630 a year. In the county of Carlow exactly the same amount was required to control 83 men as was necessary in the county of Clare for 367 men. Instead of dividing the country up into suitable areas and allowing officers pro rata to the number of men, they adopted absurd geographical limitations, with the result that the expenditure was enormously magnified. No matter how many police were required for a county, to preserve the dignity of the force it was thought necessary to appoint a chief inspector and pay him £600 a year. That was not all. He was allowed all kinds of "extras," with the result that he was paid far better than a good many colonels in the Army, while he was always a far more important person than a colonel. He started by way of being a district inspector. He was given very definite instructions as to how he was to stand at the Castle levee, and to conduct himself at the Castle ball, but he was not given the slightest instruction as to how he was to perform his ordinary police duties. He had strict injunctions to go to tennis parties and to cultivate the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. But if he happened to come to a place in 1742 his own district and saw disorder occurring in regard to which one would expect him to interfere, he took no steps save to write a report to the inspector above him, complaining that the sergeant in charge of the district was not doing his duty. Although the disorder might have occurred under his very nose he was much too high and mighty a person to interfere, but would not hesitate to accuse a subordinate of neglect for the self-same matter. They had to pay each one of these officers £50 a year for a horse and £45 a year as allowance for a groom. When the officer retired the funny part of it was the groom got nothing at all, but the officer was compensated on the £45. Further than that, if this officer went six miles beyond his station he was entitled to a riding allowance of 9d. a mile, though one would think that he would be able to use the same horse for which he received the allowance of £50 a year. The result was that when a new county station was going to be established, instead of placing it in the middle of the county so as to make access to it easy, it was put at the extreme end of the county, so that this officer was bound to go more than six miles beyond his station in order to get to it. The result was that these men were always keenly anxious to get into a bigger county, knowing that with all the allowances made to them they would be able almost to double their regular salaries. When the right hon. Gentleman said he had founded the Bill on the Report of the Committee presided over by the late Sir Howard Vincent, he (Mr. Mooney) was surprised. Let the House look at the clause which dealt with the question of the pension to the widow of a constable. If the Committee reported definitely on any subject it was this, and they said emphatically that the pension should not be increased.
§ * MR. BIRRELL
I said the payments in the Schedule were based for the most part on the Howard Vincent Committee's Report.
§ MR. MOONEY
continuing said he could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman was so anxious to bring forward the Bill, which he must have seen would be opposed by the Irish Nationalist Party. 1743 He understood that certain Irish Members above the gangway were also opposed to the Bill, though not for the same reason; but the fact remained that they had two bodies of opinion in Ireland opposing the measure. The constables themselves were opposing the Bill. The men had an official organ, and he read in it a passage referring to blocking Motions being put down in connection with the Bill, in regard to which the following comment was made—We regard this as an official, organised opposition and not the individual action of a Member of Parliament. If Members acted otherwise they would be failing in their duty to their constituents and their country.The paper went on to discuss the financial benefits that would accrue to the men, and having done so, they said—If this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament his (that was, the constable's) doom was sealed for a generation. No amount of agitation, inside or outside, will prevail on an overworked Parliament to reconsider his claim.That did not look as if there was a very strong desire on the part of the Royal Irish Constabulary for this Bill. He wanted to put before the House one other point. The constable, after the passing of the Act, was to be benefited in a certain way. Then he was to be benefited again in regard to pension—always after the passing of the Act. He came across a clause which the right hon. Gentleman said was very immaterial, dealing with one individual in the force, and that clause struck him as very typical of those sometimes introduced in Bills dealing with Irish Government Departments. The clause was to apply not to anyone retiring after the passing of the Act, but was to come into operation in connection with any official described in it who might have retired since January, 1908, or who retired at any time after the passing of the Act. It struck him at once that this clause was put in the Bill for the protection of some gentlemen who wanted to do a job. He proceeded to make a search, but he could not find any trace of an official who had rendered great service to the country. But he found that in last year's Estimates there was one inspector-general, three assistant-inspector-generals and three deputies, whereas in this year's Estimates one of the assistant-inspector-generals appeared to have dropped out. This was not the case of a man who had 1744 a salary of about 24s. a week, but a gentleman with a very large salary, and the Government went out of their way to give him a retrospective clause all to himself in a Parliamentary Bill. The other point he wanted to make to the right hon. Gentleman was one which he put at the beginning of his speech, and which he wished to refer to again for a specific purpose. He could well understand the necessity for what might be called the ornamental branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary if it ever did any work. He could understand the necessity of paying these officers high wages if they had to turn out late at night with large bodies of men and perform work which was done in England by superintendents or assistant-superintendents. But what did the Chief Secretary want this ornamental staff for? He would take one case only. It happened in Ireland a very short time ago, and was a very regrettable case, in which a young man lost his life. The facts were not in dispute. The police having got notice that there was to be a cattle-drive at a certain place on a certain night, a force of twelve police turned up with rifles, and they found a body of more than a hundred men endeavouring to drive cattle. As he understood, the policeman in a case of that sort had two courses open to him. Either he could overpower the people who were about to break the law, or he could retire to a position where he could observe who was about to break the law and then take necessary steps to bring the people to justice. In this case one would have thought that, having information of an intended breach of the law of such a serious nature, at least a person of some position in the force would have been sent to have control of the police. But what happened? This body of twelve police, armed with rifles, was put in charge of a man who went by the glorified name of a head constable, and was paid £2 a week—wages which, in England might very well be earned by a clerk. While the highly-paid officers were in bed, this man earning only £2 a week was put in charge of twelve constables armed with rifles and with power over the lives of people who were engaged in breaking the law. It was simply a 1745 scandal and a disgrace, and would not be tolerated in England for a moment. Would it be said that in England a sergeant of police, which was practically the rank of this head constable in Ireland, would be allowed to take charge of twelve men armed with rifles and with power at his own discretion to fire on people who were committing a breach of the law which, in ordinary circumstances could only be punished by imprisonment for one month or two months? No authority in England could hold up its head if it defended such conduct as that, and he wanted to know why, if they were to pay a large sum of money for the ornamental staff of the Royal Irish Constabulary, that staff should not be used. He must say there was no justification whatever for the Government's treatment of these overpaid officials. This House had recently been discussing an eight hours Bill. If the men he was speaking of did a day's work in eight weeks it was about as much as they ever did. Their sole occupation was to get the work done by men under them, and they drew the pay. If they were to enter into a discussion of the Constabulary in Ireland as at present managed, and as to how the money was misspent, he should detain the House a good deal longer than he otherwise would, but he had no intention of going fully into the question at that hour. When the Bill reached the Committee stage they would probably have a good deal more to say to the right hon. Gentleman. In conclusion, he would say that this Bill was not wanted in its present shape, and that if the right hon. Gentleman really wanted to benefit the Royal Irish Constabulary—and by that he meant the men—and desired to have an efficient force he could do it, and at the same time cut down the enormous expenditure. More was spent in Ireland on police than on education, although Ireland had less crime than either England or Scotland. He was sorry to say that day after day attempts were made by hon. Members representing Irish constituencies to make this House, and through the House, the country, believe that Ireland was in a state of great disorder, where crime was of daily occurrence, and where the police took their lives in their hands. He would 1746 like to contradict that statement by calling attention to a passage on page 24 of the Report of the Committee presided over by the late Sir Howard Vincent. In the passage referred to it was stated that some of the witnesses asserted that the duties of the Irish Constabulary were more dangerous than those of the police in England, but although the Committee were not in possession of statistics showing the number of retirements of policemen in England through injury in the execution of their duty, it would appear that the proportion in England was much higher than in Ireland. Instead of increasing the enormous cost of the police force in Ireland—and it was all very well to talk about it coming out of the Imperial Exchequer, when Ireland had to pay to that Exchequer a great deal more than they ever got out of it—he would say to the right hon. Gentleman that his proper course to pursue was not to bring in a Bill like this, but to have a full and searching inquiry into the way the money voted by this House was spent by the Royal Irish Constabulary. The right hon. Gentleman would then find that instead of having to come to Parliament for more money he would be able to work the Force more successfully with much less money. If the right hon. Gentleman promised such an inquiry he hoped the Committee would be appointed to meet within a reasonable time, and that it would not be a repetition of the Committee which he promised in connection with the cost and control of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, but which had never been appointed. If the right hon. Gentleman would appoint a Committee to inquire into this question he would probably get far more thanks from the men, and certainly from the taxpayer, because he would be able to cut down the Estimates, and he might be able to do away with that very costly and very inefficient body which was now known as the ornamental branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary. He moved.
§ MR. KETTLE
said he did not desire to keep any Member of that House, and least of all himself, up any longer at that ungodly hour, but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary must be perfectly well aware that in approaching this question of the policing of Ireland 1747 they were approaching a question which concerned a serious defect in the administration of Ireland. His hon. friend, he thought, had made out a convincing case, and if the majority of hon. Members in the House had been awake to hear the convincing arguments, their support might, perhaps, have been counted upon. His hon. friend's first point was that, by the admission of everyone, the cost of police in Ireland at present was too great. The Government were going to add a certain amount to that cost. The Chief Secretary said £15,000, but there was absolutely no guarantee that that sum would not be exceeded. It was true the Chief Secretary told them that this Bill had the sanction of the Treasury. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman thought that was a recommendation of any sort to Nationalist Members, surely he could not have been following the debates in any detail. The other point his hon. friend made, and one which was perhaps of more importance, was that if they were going to increase the wages of the rank and file of the Royal Irish Constabulary, they ought as a set-off to economise with regard to what he very properly called the ornamental branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary—the county inspectors, the district inspectors, the sub-district inspectors, and all the others of the various higher ranks. His hon. friend pointed out that even the rank and file of the police were dissatisfied with this Bill. Their official paper had declared against it. He himself had received letters, marked "Private and confidential," from sergeants and head constables, who said that, of course, they knew Nationalist Members of Parliament could not be very friendly towards them, but at any rate they ought to be more friendly to members of the rank and file than to district inspectors, and that consequently they hoped Nationalist Members would oppose the Bill. The situation was very serious. His hon. friend quoted a great many facts with regard to the organisation of the police force. He confessed that he himself had not an expert knowledge of the police. He tried to keep as far away from them as possible, and to admire them, as he would some of the highest peaks of the Alps, from a distance. The publication of the Chief Secretary 1748 seemed to consist of extracts from the Howard Vincent Report, and it seemed to him to make out a conclusive case against the higher ranks of the service and for economy in that direction. They were speaking that night from two points of view. They were speaking first for the Irish taxpayer as against the police force in Ireland, and they were speaking for the rank and file as against the more ornamental ranks. A striking and perhaps excellent phrase had been used in the pamphlet that had been put forward on behalf of the rank and file. It was said that the Royal Irish Constabulary was divided into two classes—the ornamental and the useful. The county and district inspectors had no direct responsibility for the maintenance of odrer. Their business was to delegate their responsibility to the sergeants or head constables or to the constable in charge. He thought his hon. friend had been quite right to call them ornamental. He had just come back from a district assize where the Court was crowded with these men in braided Hussar jackets, which though extremely ornamental really cost too much. They could pay too much for the artistic. First of all they paid these men their salary, then they paid them £50 per annum for their horses. He had never seen one of these horses. He did not know whether they ever had them or not. There were sundry regulations which provided that a man should not get this allowance unless he put in six turns per year on horseback service. He had never seen the term "turn" used except in regard to music halls, and did not know what these turns were unless they had something to do with music halls. At any rate they were paying the district inspectors £50 a year for a horse and £45 for a groom to look after a horse which in the majority of cases did not exist. The total cost of that particular minor allowance was more than £23,000 a year. If the Chief Secretary had devoted himself to reorganising the police in Ireland and bringing its expenditure into something like proportion with the crime of the country, he would have been glad to help him. Why did he not economise on the officer class of the force? It was because he had not done that that they had to raise their voices against that Bill. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman take 1749 away this entirely unnecessary cost for horses which did not exist and for grooms who did not groom them because they did not exist.? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman go a step further? The Report of the Public Accounts Committee would be discussed on the following day. As a member of that Committee he had been able to get at facts about the expenditure on the Royal Irish Constabulary, and he had been able to gather that a considerable sum was spent per annum on keeping their rifles up-to-date and supplying them with ball cartridges. Anybody who had ever been in the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks in Ireland had seen that the place was simply crammed with rifles in racks. No hon. Member who would do his duty by his constituents in Ireland could help opposing that Bill and calling for reform in regard to this expensive and artistic branch of the Service.
§ MR. KETTLE
said the interruption of the hon. Member admirably illustrated the manner in which that House discussed Irish matters. It was no pleasure to them to have to sit until a quarter to two, but it was still less of a pleasure to them to pay the £15,000 a year for the maintenance of that force. If the hon. Gentleman would get his Party to bring in a Home Rule Bill they would be delighted to discuss that matter in Dublin. In the meantime, it would be better manners for the hon. Member to confine his Motion to some subsequent occasion. There were four grievances of the rank and file of the Royal Irish Constabulary which were not touched by the Bill. He owed the police nothing, not even, like some of his colleagues, a broken head. The police complained of defective barrack accommodation, and of the management of internal affairs of the force which would be in no way remedied by that Bill. They complained that the management of the canteen in their barracks was in the hands of officers who did not use it. It was said that a cricket pavilion had been built by the officers for the officers out of the profits made on the men's canteen. Surely, in view of this fact, 1750 his hon. friend had been entirely in the interest of common sense and good administration in opposing that Bill. It was surely a sound ground for objecting to it, and it was one which demanded an exhausting and complete inquiry into the needs of the force, with a view to effecting some reforms in that force. There was another point which he ought to mention before he sat down. That was that a large proportion of the ornamental staff consisted of men imported from England, men who had not even got the small saving merit of having been born in Ireland? They were extremely serious in their opposition to the Bill. They believed that the Chief Secretary ought not to have brought it forward at this period of the session. If it had waited for five or six years, could it not have waited for three months more? What was the need for a Bill of that importance, touching the most irritating subject in the whole administration of Ireland. So long as affairs such as the Riverstown affair or like the Belfast not were possible, where citizens were shot down without any proof of necessity whatever, when telegrams were despatched by the inspector-general before he had had an inquiry into the facts, approving of the hotheaded action of the police, so long would any Bill of this character, which purported and intended to increase the police expenditure in Ireland, be bitterly opposed. He hoped that however indisposed the House might be to listen to facts of that kind it would understand that they were animated by no feeling of obstruction or of animus against the policemen. The right hon. Gentleman had done something to remove the landlord of the old type, but this Bill was going to perpetuate the policeman of the old type. For that reason they felt it their duty to oppose the Bill, and for that reason they would feel it their duty to resist it clause by clause in Committee.
To leave out the word 'now,' in order to insert the words 'this day three months.'"—(Mr. Mooney.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."1751
§ MR. BARRIE
said he wished to bring the House back to the matter immediately before it. He had listened to both the speeches which had been presented to the House, and he wished to direct the House's attention to them briefly. They had both of those speeches presented to them on a previous occasion, when the House spent two and three-quarter hours discussing all the shortcomings of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Since that debate took place some rather interesting evidence had been given them from Ireland. He found comparatively little fault with the speech of the hon. Member for Newry, but there was a great want of graciousness in his seconder, who made an attack on the Royal Irish Constabulary, when he owed his safety, if not his life, to that force.
§ MR. KETTLE
said that the statement of the hon. Member was wrong. He was happy to say that on the occasion in question he was not received with hostility and never got any nearer than 15 yards of any member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. He would like to add that when he went through the Orange parts of his constituency, the parts attached to the party of the hon. Member, he had to have a police escort with him to protect him from the hon. Member's friends.
§ MR. BARRIE
said that on the occasion referred to the public Press reported with thankfulness the narrow escape of the hon. Member.
§ MR. KETTLE
On a point of order' is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to repeat a statement which I have just contradicted in regard to myself.
There is nothing out of order in the hon. Member's 1752 making certain statements. It is not a question of order at all.
§ MR. BARRIE
said he recollected, in connection with the case to which he was referring, that a member of the Irish Nationalist Party, for whom he had the greatest respect, the hon. Member for Limerick, did sustain very serious injuries, and they were glad recently to welcome him back to the House, fully restored to health. The hon. Member for Galway would remember an occasion on which he telegraphed to the Chief Secretary complaining that he was not receiving sufficient protection from the Royal Irish Constabulary during the contest in which he took part at a bye-election.
§ MR. BARRIE
said they had had a very long tirade on the grotesque extravagance of the Royal Irish Constabulary. He ventured to suggest that the Chief Secretary must have listened to these speeches with mixed feelings. He could not congratulate hon. Members below the gangway on the occasion which they had chosen for an attack on the Royal Irish Constabulary. He held no brief for the Royal Irish Constabulary, and he considered they required no defence. But he did remember that since this Government came into power they had had to add no less than 750 members to that important force. He thought that was the best test as to the alleged peaceful-ness of Ireland at the present moment, and if that were not sufficient he would remind the House of the figures given by the Chief Secretary himself the previous day with reference to agrarian outrages. The Chief Secretary replied to a question that the number of agrarian outrages reported to the Inspector-General in the year 1906 was 234—
This is not really an occasion for a general debate 1753 about the conduct of the police in Ireland. We are dealing with a question of finance, and the hon. Member must make his arguments relative to the Bill. He has gone very much wide of it.
§ MR. BARRIE
said he could only regret that he was not permitted to give the figures, as he thought they would conclusively prove the argument he was using. Dealing with the Bill he reminded the House that they had had suggestions made by hon. Members below the gangway that there was a general desire among the rank and file of the constabulary that this Bill should not pass into law. He could only say that he had had no representations from the members of the Constabulary in his constituency to that effect. He had not been in particular touch with them, but he did know that for years they had been looking forward to some increase in salary, and he had heard, and he had no reason to doubt it, that they were disappointed with the increase which it was proposed to give them in this Bill. The amount of increase which it was proposed to give the rank and file was so small, and was spread over such a large number of men, that he confessed his surprise that hon. Members had thought it wise to try to prevent them being given. As to the officers, there was no proposal generally affecting their position except with one instance, and it was hardly necessary even in that House to point out the efficiency of the officers as a class generally of this important body in Ireland. He hoped that when they came to the Committee stage it would be possible to improve the additions proposed under this Bill. He would fail in his duty if he did not remind the House that so high was the standard of officers generally in Ireland, that it was a matter of common knowledge that Glasgow, Liverpool, and London had looked to the officer class of that important body to fill the highest offices which they desired to be fifed, and he had heard no suggestion that the choices made by those important municipalities had not been amply justified. Indeed, in all parts of the world the Royal Irish Constabulary, both as regarded officers and men, stood as an example of the highest perfection of a police force. He could only regret that under the 1754 Chief Secretary's jurisdiction in Ireland their duties had become so much more dangerous and difficult and the right hon. Gentleman was only doing his duty in pressing through the Bill, even imperfect and short of the real needs of the force. He was thankful that the right hon. Gentleman had at last taken his courage in his hands and resolved to put this Bill on the Statute-book.
§ * MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
said that, carrying his mind back some twenty-three or twenty-four years to when he first had the honour of joining that House, he recalled that it was usual about the present time of the night, or rather morning, for things to begin to get a little lively. They never reached Irish business in the past until between two and three o'clock, and they generally retired about five o'clock. Another thing he recalled was that when an hon. Member made a statement in that House which was contradicted by another Member as to a matter of fact that came within his own cognisance, his contradiction was usually accepted according to the recognised courtesies of the House. Hon. Members above the gangway seemed never to have learned what the courtesies of the House were, or if they did they had departed from them, and knew them no more. Another thing he remembered was that when he first joined that House the Estimates year by year for the constabulary in Ireland amounted only to £700,000 per annum. They were now, according to a statement made by the Chief Secretary last year, £1,500,000 per annum. This was an imperial question, and that was the principal reason why he made no apology to the House for making a few observations upon it. There was a time when the contribution from Ireland to the imperial taxation was very much less than it was now. Some decades of years ago, when that contribution stood at a figure many millons less than it was now, the Imperial Exchequer reaped a very large profit from the administration of Ireland. Some years ago the Imperial Exchequer had a net amount of some £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 per annum out of the contribution of Ireland. Even so late as 1895 this country reaped a net profit out of Ireland of over £1,000,000. At the present time, owing to the larger 1755 expenditure on administration in Ireland, especially in this matter of police, there was absolutely no profit made. There was another fact which it was well worth the time of the House to consider. What was the difference between the cost of police per head in Ireland, in England, and in Scotland? In reply to the hon. Member for West Down the Home Secretary for England stated that last year the cost of police per head in England was 3s. 4½d. The answer to a similar question to the Secretary of Scotland was 2s. 5½d., and to a question to the Chief Secretary for Ireland the reply was 6s. 8d. per head. This was an imperial question of the very first magnitude. It was the reason why the Government were now reaping no profit whatever out of the administration of Ireland. It had been said by a former Financial Secretary to the Treasury in answer to questions by himself across the floor of the House that if things went on as they were going the government of Ireland would be administered at a loss. Yet they were met that night by a Bill that sought to add to the cost, that sought to increase the enormous disproportion between the cost of policing Ireland and the cost of policing England and Scotland. Was not that a monstrous proposition? They all knew well the principle of police administration. It was that the more scattered the population the cheaper was the cost of police work. In England and Scotland, where the population was largely gathered together in great cities, the cost of the police was, according to an established principle, greater than in a country where the population was distributed over a larger area. Yet the cost of the police per head was very much less than in Ireland, where the population was agricultural, where it was distributed over a wide area, and where the cost ought in the natural course of things to be very much lower. Was it not a very sad thing for those who sat on the Nationalist benches to see this money wasted and at the same time the country crying out for attention in other respects? If the cost of the police in Ireland were reduced to what it was in England and Scotland, see what money would be saved. A large portion of that money the Chief Secretary would be able to devote at 1756 once to the arterial drainage which was urgently required in many parts of Ireland, and particularly in his own constituency, where there was a river which overflowed its banks three or four times a year. He was quite sure that if the proposition of his hon. friend were carried, and economy were brought into the administration of the country, the House would not grudge devoting the amount that was saved to the useful purpose which he had mentioned. He thought he had said enough to show that this was an imperial question. He and his friends were not going, at that late hour of the night, to put the House to the trouble of dividing on the subject, or to discuss the matter any further. They felt that the arguments which had been put before the House would dwell with hon. Members and that those who had given the speakers on the Nationalist benches the courtesy of their attention would not forget the facts. They hoped that those facts would weigh with the House, and that when they brought before the House a substantial Motion that would cover not only this, but other subjects, they would know that they had not spent the time devoted to that night's discussion in vain.
§ MR. DONELAN (Cork, E.)
had heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member with great pleasure until he came to the final part of it—about not dividing the House. He himself entered his emphatic protest against having this Bill introduced at the very end of the session. The Royal Irish Constabulary had in the past been used for one single object—to aid and assist the Irish landlords in the collection of their rents. When the Irish Land Act of 1903 was introduced the then Chief Secretary told them that the numbers of that force were to be reduced, and the extraordinary thing was, that since a Liberal Government had been in power the numbers of the constabulary had been increased.
I must remind the hon. Member that I have stopped another hon. Member from referring to the same subject.
§ MR. DONELAN
, continuing, said he did not blame the rank and file of the constabulary, who had to carry out the instructions they received, but the officers had acted in a most extraordinary fashion. He protested against a Liberal Government being driven into compensating members of the force which was causing all the trouble in Ireland at the present moment.