HC Deb 26 March 1914 vol 60 cc529-34
23. Mr. FREDERICK HALL (Dulwich)

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he will state by whose instructions the secret order to county constabulary inspectors in Ulster, signed by the Assistant Inspector-General of the Irish Constabulary, as to reporting upon the movements of the Ulster Volunteer Force was issued; what was the nature of the orders for which this was substituted; and if he will state the number of the Volunteer Force, and the proportion of them provided with rifles and ammunition?


The police have general instructions from the Irish Government to furnish reports as to any movements which may lead to a disturbance of the public peace, and the orders circulated in compliance with the directions of the Irish Government are issued by the constabulary authorities. I am not prepared to make any statement as to the information furnished by the police regarding the number of the Ulster Volunteers or the proportion provided with rifles and ammunition.


Is the House to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to give this information?


Oh, not at all.


If so, is it right that the Government should adopt the military and naval attitude they have at the present time without having placed before this House—


The hon. Member is advancing arguments.

26. Mr. NEWMAN

asked the Chief Secretary whether he will give the name and pattern of the rifle or carbine with which the Royal Irish Constabulary are at present armed, and also its effective range; and will he state the number of rounds which each constable is required to fire each year in order to render and maintain himself efficient with his weapon?


The carbine with which the Royal Irish Constabulary is armed at present is the Lee-Enfield. It is sighted up to 2,000 yards. Each man is required to fire annually 100 rounds of miniature rifle ammunition from a Morris tube.

27. Mr. NEWMAN

asked the Chief Secretary whether, in view of the interchange of Protestant members of the Royal Irish Constabulary with Catholic members of the force for service in the South and North of Ireland, respectively, a constable is in each case granted subsistence allowance in addition to his ordinary pay; whether he has been able to estimate the total cost involved; and whether the same will fall on the Imperial taxpayer or ratepayer in Ireland?


The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. There has been no interchange of Protestant and Catholic members of the Royal Irish Constabulary for service in the North and South of Ireland, respectively.


Is it not a fact that a large number of constabulary have been moved from the South to the North?


No, Sir; not Catholic and Protestants.


asked the Chief Secretary the numbers of the Royal Irish Constabulary now in Ulster on special or ordinary duty, and the similar figures for March, 1913?


There are no members of the Royal Irish Constabulary now on special duty in Ulster. On the 28th February, 1913, there were fifty-nine officers and 3,230 men on ordinary duty in that province. On the same date this year the numbers were fifty-eight officers and 3,213 men.

45. Mr. F. HALL

asked the Prime Minister if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in intimating at Huddersfield on Saturday that no concessions beyond those already offered would be made to the Protestant community in Ireland, and that failing acceptance of these the Government of Ireland Bill would be imposed on Ulster by force, was expressing the final decision of the Government in the matter?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)

The summary of my speech, which the hon. Member purports to give, is hopelessly inaccurate.


Will the Prime Minister at this crisis use his influence with Members of His Majesty's Government to restrain them from using provocative language?

47. Mr. CASSEL

asked whether it may be taken to be the accepted policy of the Government that, as a general rule, where the military are called in to aid the civil authority, commissioned officers domiciled in the district where the military are so called in will be given the opportunity of withdrawing from their regiments; whether a similar option will be extended to non-commissioned officers and men; and whether there are any and, if so, what precedents for this course?

Colonel SEELY

It is the accepted policy and practice that, as far as possible, troops shall not be employed in aid of the civil power in districts with which they have any territorial connection.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question whether there is any precedent in the history of this country for allowing officers domiciled in a district where they are to be used in aid of the civil authority to disappear from their regiments, and, if there is no precedent for that course, may I ask whether the reason why this was resorted to was not because—[Interruption.]


The hon. Member is delivering something in the nature of a speech.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will explain why he made his communication in regard to the movement of troops in Ireland and the resignations of certain Army officers through the columns of the "Times" newspaper only; and whether, in future, when he has communications of national importance and general interest to make, he will, in order to avoid invidious distinctions, make them through the recognised channels of the established news agencies?


The circumstances both as regards time and other matters were very exceptional, and my right hon. Friend took what seemed to him for the moment to be the most convenient course. There is no question of setting up precedents.

Mr. YOUNG rose


The hon. Member perhaps did not hear what I said just now—that I thought it was better, considering the number of questions on the Paper, that hon. Members should not ask supplementary questions.


asked the Prime Minister whether, in regard to the fact that an assurance has been given to certain officers and regiments in the Regular Army that they would not be employed against Ulster, a similar assurance will be given that the Fleet or ships of the Fleet shall not be so employed?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)

Sir, the officers and men of His Majesty's Navy are expected to obey without question orders which reach them through the proper channels from lawfully constituted authority.

53. Mr. W. YOUNG

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the feeling of unrest and anxiety created throughout the country by recent occurrences in connection with certain sections of the Army in Ireland, he will agree to at once set up a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the whole circumstances of the resignation of the officers and the incidents connected therewith, and to report to this House?


The Prime Minister does not think that the method suggested by the hon. Member is a suitable one for dealing with the matter referred to.


asked whether the assurance given to certain officers and regiments, that they should not be employed against Ulster, applies equally to other regiments quartered in Ireland and elsewhere?


This question has been dealt with by my right hon. Friend in the course of debate yesterday.


I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the grave anxiety which exists in the Territorial Force, he would state if in the event of the Army being used outside Great Britain the Territorial Force is liable to lee so employed?


This is a hypothetical question, which, as was explained yesterday, does not require an answer.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that throughout the whole length and breadth of the country recruiting is being seriously affected, as I know through being an officer in the force?

Colonel GREIG

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the totally unauthorised letter by Lord Esher?


The hon. and gallant Gentleman should give notice of that question.