HC Deb 24 February 1915 vol 70 cc338-52

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


On a point of Order. This is rather an important Bill. I made an arrangement with the President of the Irish Board of Agriculture that there should be some discussion upon it, but there seems to be nobody hero representing the Irish Office.


Yes, there is.


In that case I will endeavour to repeat my reasons for objecting to this Bill. It is a Bill for giving certain privileges to the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police if they enlist in the naval or military forces of the Crown. Of course, I have not the slightest objection to the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary receiving the same benefits and being put in the same position as any police officers in the United Kingdom, but this Bill, I think I shall be able to show, does not put the Irish police in the same position as the police in the United Kingdom. Further, I do not think that the Bill is necessary at all; and, still further, I would draw the attention of the hon. Baronet to the fact that it makes an alteration in the whole finances of the Home Rule Act. Everybody will agree that this is not the period to make an alteration in the Home Rule Act or in the finance or in any other respect. If the hon. Baronet will look at Chapter 34 of the Acts passed last Session he will see that there was an Act then passed dealing with constables in England and Scotland who enlisted in the Forces of the Crown. That applied only to those police who were Reservists, and it said that the police authorities could make up to the police the difference between the pensions or annuities which would accrue, and which would be given in the ordinary way to ordinary soldiers and sailors, and the amount which the police would have got if they had remained in the police.

If the hon. Baronet will look at Section 5 of those rules he will see that it expressly stipulates the police fund in the case of the City of London. That means the ordinary fund from which the expenses of the City Police are defrayed—that is to say, it means that the ratepayers have to make up the difference. If the hon. Gentleman will turn to chapter 80 he will find that later on last year, I think September, the provisions of that Act were extended so as to permit policemen who were not reservists also to enlist, and if they do so, they continue under the benefits provided by the original Act. But it is said that the police authority may, if they think fit, extend the privileges under this Section to any constable if the police authorities are satisfied, after consultation with the Admiralty or the Army Council, that the constable possesses qualifications not possessed by ordinary recruits. Therefore there was the limitation that there must be, first of all, the authority of a superior officer, and then the police authority, after consultation with the Admiralty or Army Council, must be satisfied that the constable has the special requirements.

A few days later on an Act was passed dealing with the Irish police. Chapter 84 is identical with the first Act passed (chapter 34) with regard to the English police, and said nothing about the expenses; but Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 of the Bill provides that His Majesty may, by Order in Council, extend to constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary of Police (Ireland) Act, Sub-sections (1) and (2), and Section 1 of the Constabulary and Police (Naval and Military Service) Act, 1914, Therefore, what was required to be done was to put the Dublin police, or the Irish Constabulary, on exactly the same terms as to enlistment and pensions, and as to the source from which the money was to be found. All that was necessary was an Order in Council under Sub-section (3) of the Act. Therefore, on the face of it, it would seem, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade told me yesterday, that he did not wish to burden the House of Commons with unnecessary legislation, that the hon. Baronet the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture is burdening the House of Commons with unnecessary legislation. When you turn to the Bill you find that it goes further. In the first place, I submit that the police in England and Ireland should be treated in exactly the same way. The Bill does away with the qualification that a man may only enlist if the Admiralty or the War Office think that he has special qualifications. Under this Bill, any policeman may enlist if he gets the sanction of a superior authority. I do not know why that should be so in Ireland any more than in England, and I think that ought to be altered, and if the hon. Baronet proceeds with the Bill I shall certainly move an Amendment to make an alteration. To come to what is most important—that is, Section 5, Clause 1—

"Any pensions, allowances, or gratuities granted under or in pursuance of this Act shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament."

I have shown that, in the case of England, this extra expense is paid by the ratepayers. I want to know why on earth the Irish ratepayers should not be put in exactly the same position as the English ratepayers, and, if this is going to be done, why should the Englishman pay what is practically an Irish charge. That point raises the question of an Amendment of the Home Rule Act. I will show the hon. Baronet my foundation for that statement. I have here the Home Rule Act, and, if the hon. Baronet looks at Section 37 of that Act, he will see that it deals with the pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Sub-section 5 says that—

"Any pensions and other allowances and gratuities which may become payable to officers and constables of the Dublin Metropolitan Police after the appointed day, or to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary," etc., "shall be paid out of moneys provided by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but any sum so paid shall be made good by means of deduction from the Transferred Sum under this Act, in accordance with the regulations made by the Treasury."

What the hon. Baronet is doing at the present moment is to alter the finance of the Home Rule Act, because under this Bill there is nothing whatever said about deductions from the Transferred Sum. That applies to the Royal Irish Constabulary, which is paid out of money provided by Parliament, and as these benefits are only given out of moneys provided by Parliament they should be subject to the same provisions and the same restrictions as in the Irish Home Rule Act, and should be subject to deductions from the Transferred Sum. Further, as the Dublin Metropolitan Police are a body in the same position as the police in England—that is to say, partly paid out of sums contributed by the ratepayers and partly out of a Grant-in-Aid, and inasmuch as in England the ratepayers have to make good those sums, so should the Dublin ratepayers do so in Dublin. They should be both made the same. I will endeavour, as shortly as possible, to put the point. It is really rather an important question, because it is our endeavour to make an Amendment of the Home Rule Act in the guise of a small Bill which is supposed to be doing something to encourage recruiting. With all due deference to the hon. Baronet, I regret that there is not a representative of the Irish Office here, as I intimated my intention to raise a discussion on this point, and I think that the reply ought to have been made by a representative of the Irish Office. Certainly on the Committee stage I shall move Amendments which I hope the Government will accept. I shall raise no objection to the Second Reading. When the Financial Resolution was before the House I asked the Vice-President of the Irish Board of Agriculture (Ireland) if he would secure me a proper discussion on the Second Reading, and he gave me the undertaking that he would. I have made my speech, but the right hon. Gentleman is not here to listen to it, and, if we are to have a discussion, there is no representative of the Department concerned in the House.


I think an apology is due to the House for the fact that there is no representative of the Irish Office here. My right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Irish Department of Agriculture has been obliged to go to Ireland, though he had fully intended to be here, and the House knows the reason why the Chief Secretary for Ireland is unable to be present. I spent four happy years in the Irish Office, the last four, and my right hon. Friends thought that I might be allowed to put forward the position in regard to this Bill on behalf of the Irish Office. I shall send a copy of the hon. Baronet's speech to both of them, and I should be very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman if he would not object to giving the Second Reading of the Bill, and then the points he has raised can be brought up in Committee. With the permission of the House I will briefly point out one or two things to the hon. Baronet. He gave three reasons against the Bill—that it made a change in the Home Rule Act, that it did not treat the English police and the Irish police in the same way, and, most formidable, that the Bill is not necessary at all. In these times, when party controversy is dead, I am not quite sure whether I should be in order in discussing anything so controversial as the Home Rule Act, but I venture to say this is a temporary War Emergency Bill, a Bill which is urgently required for a particular class of police officer, and I hope that any discussion of the Home Rule Act which arises in Committee may not be of a controversial kind. The hon. Baronet said that the conditions for the Irish police are not the same as for the English police. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long), and the hon. Baronet also, well know that the English police are not the same as the Irish police. For instance, the Royal Irish Constabulary are not supported out of the rates. The hon. Baronet thinks these police forces are the same; as a matter of fact, they are not the same. Both the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary are, in a sense, which in no way applies to the English police, a military force. The Irish Constabulary has what the English Constabulary has not, a military training in a very different sense from which it could be said of the English police.


My point is this: That if a constable who has not been in the Army or Navy before wishes to enlist, before he can do so the War Office or the Admiralty have to be consulted, and it has to be shown that the man has special qualifications. That is a condition which is to apply in the case of the Irish Constabulary. If they have got all those special qualifications, what is the object of putting them in?


That is a point I am trying to make. The Irish police have qualifications which the English police have not.


Surely it has been held in those cases in England that they have sufficient qualifications.


Perhaps the hon. Member is not familiar with the Royal Irish Constabulary, whose experience and lot are not the same as in the case of the English police. If I may I will deal with a most important point raised by the hon. Baronet, that we are burdening the House with legislation which is quite unnecessary. The Bill provides something which we think it is right they should have, namely, a separation allowance for the wives of police officers who volunteer, and to give them pensions in case of death or disablement. It is a very small matter concerning sixteen officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary and 200 men who volunteered for service, and ninety-eight Reservists, and twelve of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. The hon. Baronet pointed out, I think in Chapter 84, that it is provided that—

"His Majesty may by Order in Council extend certain provisions to the Royal Irish Constabulary or Dublin Metropolitan Police who belong to the Army Reserve and shall extend to constables of those police forces who belong to any Royal Naval Reserve," etc.

That only applies to Reservists, but this Bill applies not only to the case of Reservists but also to the case of volunteers, and no provision is made in any of the Police Acts hitherto passed with regard to volunteers. It will be quite possible when this Bill is introduced to deal also with volunteers, and therefore to put them on the same footing as the Reservists. Subsection (1) of Clause 1, makes provision that the same procedure will be followed both as regards Volunteers and as regards Reservists. If this Bill is not passed no provision can be made by Order in Council, or in any other way whatever, for the sixteen officers and the 200 men of the Royal Irish Constabulary who have volunteered. For this reason I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree to the Second Reading.


The hon. Baronet is wrong about Section 84. It applies not only to Reservists but to people, who enlist also, and Section 3 of Chapter 84 says, that the same provisions which are in Chapter 80 which apply to the English police may be applied to people who enlist voluntarily, by Order in Council.


I disagree with the hon. Baronet. I have gone into the business with extreme care, and I find that if this Bill is not carried, the few Volunteers who have enlisted will not be entitled to a pension, or separation allowance, which it is desired that they should have. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, and allow it to go into Committee.

7.0 P.M.


I am sure that on both sides we regret the absence of the Chief Secretary for reasons with which we are all familiar. We deplore those reasons and we quite understand that for the present we cannot expect him to be here. The hon. Baronet (Sir H. Verney) has mentioned he spent with great advantage very useful and very happy years in the Irish Office, but I think he ought to have got up his case better than he has. He lectured my hon. Friend the Member for the City about the difference between the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the English police. There is, of course, a difference in the training and in the work of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police from that of the English police, but still they are police in every sense of the word. They are not a military force and they cannot be used for military purposes. They are police pure and simple, although they somewhat differ from the English police. There is no difference between us as to the necessity for an alteration in the law if, as the hon. Baronet tells us, the Order in Council deals only with Reservists and not with recruits. What my hon. Friend the Member for the City pointed out and what the hon. Baronet opposite did not attempt to answer this, that in this Bill you are going a great deal further than the hon. Baronet himself indicated and you are actually proposing to make a change in the incidence of the cost by what you are doing. When you make provision for the London police or the provincial police in this country you leave the incidence of the charge arising out of that to be borne, as the charge is borne now, partly by the Exchequer and partly by the rates. In regard to the Royal Irish Constabulary the whole charge is borne, as we know, by the Imperial Exchequer, excepting when you exceed the quota.

What you do is this: You divide up the Royal Irish Constabulary amongst each police area, whether it be a county or other district, and you allot to that area so many Royal Irish Constabulary. That is familiar to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir James Dougherty), whom I am glad to have the opportunity of welcoming to the House of Commons and who is aware of these things, because he served in the Irish Government for so many years. If that number of the Royal Irish Constabulary, that is the quota, is exceeded, what happens? The locality has to pay the cost of those extra police being sent down, and it no longer comes out of the Imperial Exchequer. Here you are doing something analagous to that. You are taking them for a special purpose, and that charge in regard to the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary ought to be borne in exactly the same way as those charges are borne now, and as similar charges are borne in the ease of the English police, whether Metropolitan or Provincial. You are altering this system by making the charge one to be borne by the Imperial Exchequer. You are not only making that change which is in itself an injustice in this Bill, but you are actually altering the financial part of the Home Rule Act by what you are doing. The hon. Baronet told us that this is a temporary emergency Bill. Is there a word in this Bill to say that it is a tem- porary Bill? It is not limited in the period of its application, or by any particular period of time. If this Bill goes through it is just as much an Act of Parliament as any other on the Statute Book. Can the hon. Baronet show me any words in the Bill to make it a temporary measure?


I was under the impression that this Bill applied only as a temporary emergency measure. I always read the Bill as being in pursuance of the Royal Proclamation which I understood applied to the period of the War.


The hon. Baronet in suggesting that this is a temporary measure is quite mistaken. It is most permanent in its character. This Bill enables you to do what you must do for those who join the Colours. Nobody has objected to that, and we all agree that you should provide, not only for those men, but also for their wives and dependants. You propose to do that in this Bill, and how can that be described as a temporary measure. It means that that provision will go on so long as those women and children are in need of it. Therefore there is nothing temporary in it. All that my hon. Friend asks is that you should treat the police in Ireland, whether the Royal Irish Constabulary, or the Dublin Metropolitan Police, in exactly the same way, and that you should as generously and as freely recognise their public spirited patriotism as in the case of the English police, and that when it comes to the incidence of the charge that you should preserve the same relation which it bears in England as between the rates and the Exchequer contribution.

Above all, I must impress on the Government that you must not do anything in this Bill, even if it is per incuriam, which will alter the actual incidence of the financial part of the Home Rule Act as between England and Ireland, as between the United Kingdom and Ireland, when Home Rule becomes an accomplished fact, as you intimate you intend it shall. I must ask the hon. Baronet to undertake that this Bill shall not be taken in Committee till the Government has had the opportunity of considering whether a greater change should not be made in it, even than any he has himself indicated, and whether it is not absolutely necessary that steps should be taken for the insertion of Amendments, and I submit Amendments should come from the Government. Those Amendments should make it perfectly clear that whatever be the effect of this Bill it must not either directly or indirectly alter in any way the conditions which are already laid down in the Home Rule Act, and which are the result of a bargain of sorts between England on the one hand and Ireland on the other, and of a very complicated arrangement which was discussed here over and over again, and upon which there never was any agreement, but upon which we entirely differed. You came to a certain decision and Ireland accepted certain obligations. If my hon. Friend is right you are departing from those conditions by the proposal you are making here, and you have no right whatever in a Bill of this kind and character, represented just now by the hon. Baronet as of a temporary nature, to make a change in a new Act of Parliament, to the conditions and provisions of which we must faithfully adhere. Therefore I hope the hon. Baronet will undertake that before the Committee stage sufficient time will be allowed to elapse to enable him to make the necessary representations to the Irish Government and to satisfy us that changes will be made which we think are essential, since this Bill goes very much further than we think it ought to do.


Speaking by leave of the House, may I say I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for pointing out those facts? I cannot say they were entirely new to me. This Bill has only one object, which I am sure commends itself to the whole House, and that is that, I think, about 326 people should be given separation allowances and pensions, if necessary. That is the object and the sole object of the Bill.


Why, may I ask, is Sub-section (5) of Clause 1 put in the Bill? It provides that any pensions, moneys or gratuities granted in pursuance of this Bill shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament. Why is that put into an emergency Bill, and why should the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police be paid for out of English funds? It is this Section put into a Bill of this kind which is really the operative part of the Bill. The hon. Baronet (Sir H. Verney) has not given any explanation of it in his two speeches. What possible grounds is there for putting in that Sub-section? It is the presence of that Sub-section in the Bill which I am sure made my hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) deal with the case more than anything else. He had, of course, the suspicion that this Clause has been slipped into the Bill because it would transfer a sum of money out of the English Exchequer to the saving of the Dublin rates. That suspicion is very strongly confirmed by the fact that the hon. Baronet has not replied to that point. There is absolutely no necessity at all for this Bill except for that very purpose. There is the fullest power to do everything else provided in the Bill except to transfer the payment to England. No one objects more to doing things by Order in Council than I do, but as a matter of fact there was power taken last autumn to do everything sought for in this Bill except the transfer of the payment. Chapter 84, Sub-section (3) of Section 1 provides:—

"His Majesty may by Order in Council extend to constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary or Dublin Metropolitan Police all or any of the provisions of the Police Reservists (Allowances) Act, 1914, or the Police Constables (Naval and Military Service) Act, 1914, with such adaptations and modifications as appear to His Majesty to be necessary or expedient."

The first portion of that Sub-section applies only to Reservists, but power is taken to apply the provisions of the other two Acts mentioned.


It does not apply to officers.


Sub-section (2) of Section 2 of Chapter 80 provides as follows:—

"A police authority may, if they think fit, by order extend the privileges conferred by this Section to any constable who for the purposes of the present War enters or enlists, or has entered or enlisted, in any of His Majesty's Naval or Military Forces, etc."

Therefore, it applies to people who enlist voluntarily as well as to Reservists, and I submit the Bill is unnecessary. What I object to is Sub-section (5), which transfers and puts certain burdens on the British taxpayer. I think somebody ought to explain how that Clause happens to be put in there.


I desire to deal with the two points raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The first point is as to whether the Bill is required. I can only repeat what I said just now, and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will see on examination that Chapter 80 does not apply to officers. The Bill we have introduced deals with the case of certain officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary. There is no provision possible for those officers otherwise, and, therefore, I think I have established the fact that the Bill is necessary. The other provision applies to such constables as are ex-non-commissioned officers, and, therefore, again I submit that the Bill is absolutely necessary. Even if the hon. and learned Gentleman will confine himself to the case of the officers, he will find that they are not otherwise provided for. With regard to Sub-section (5), while I speak very reluctantly in the presence of so many experts, I thought, and I still think, that pensions, gratuities, and allowances, whether in the Royal Irish Constabulary or in the Dublin Metropolitan Police, are now, and always have been, paid out of the Votes, and have not come from the rates. The simple suggestion is that, as in the past they have been provided by Parliament, so they shall be in the future. There is no desire to make any change. I think I am right in saying that that has always been so, and that is the reason this Subsection has been put in.


I desire to raise a point of Order in reference to this matter. I gather from the hon. Baronet's explanation that this Bill proposes to create certain pensions, allowances, and gratuities which are not in existence at the present moment, and by Sub-section (5) it is proposed to impose them upon moneys provided by Parliament. Is it correct to bring in a Bill imposing financial responsibilities upon this House and the taxpayer without first having a Financial Resolution in Committee?


There has been a Financial Resolution.


I am rather sorry that the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) has raised this discussion at all, and I am still sorrier for some of the language that has been used. I do not think the Government is entitled to any sympathy on the ground that its case has been in the hands of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir H. Verney), because I do not think I ever beard a case stated more plainly, more conclusively, and in a better temper. When I heard this Bill first mentioned I assumed that it would be passed without a word of comment from any part of the House, because its purpose would appeal to every man to whatever party he belonged. As I understand, under the existing law the men of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary who have the courage and patriotism to enlist, for the front and to take their share of the risks and sufferings of the War might, be deprived of the pensions and their dependants of the allowances given to other soldiers. Is there a single Member present who thinks the police constable or officer who enlists for the front should not have the same safeguards for his wife and children, and for himself if incapacitated, as any other soldier? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That being so, I should have thought the Bill would have been safe from what I must call niggling and captious criticism, and, with all deference to the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson), from extremely inaccurate criticism. The hon. and learned Gentleman, having first played "devil" to the hon. Baronet (Sir F Banbury), then on his own account came up with the statement that the Bill Was unnecessary because its purposes could be carried out under existing legislation. I never heard of the Act to which he referred until the hon. and learned Member read the Clause, and I saw at once how conclusive was the case of the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Verney), because there is not a word in that Act about anybody but constables, whereas this Bill deals with officers. It is a poor return for the splendid services of the Irish constabulary in the past that a Debate of this kind should be marked by captious criticism.

With regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long). I was rather surprised by one remark, coming from a man of his long experience in Irish affairs. He established a comparison between a body of Irish constabulary sent to a particular district and members of the constabulary sent to the front. When they are sent to a particular district in Ireland, and that district has to pay the additional expense, they are sent there because of disorder, and the sum that the locality has to pay is in the nature of a fine for the disorder. Can anybody other than the right hon. Gentleman think that there is any analogy between such a case and the case of constables and officers who are ready to suffer and die for their country at the front? As to Sub-section (5) it makes no change. We all know that the constabulary in Ireland have been paid out of Imperial funds, and we know the reasons for that. It is not right that I should go into those reasons now, beyond saying that, the constabulary having been entirely free from local control, the locality has not been asked to pay for them. I will not allude to the Home Rule Act, except to say that I regard this Bill as an emergency measure called forth by the conditions of the War, and ceasing with the conditions of the War, and, therefore, having no relevance whatever to Acts of Parliament or other matters of keen controversy.


May I say a word as an ordinary Member of the House upon the criticism that has been passed in reference to the hon. Baronet being in charge of this Bill? We all agree as to the hon. Baronet's competence to discharge this or a much more onerous task. But that is not the point. We are in this position at the present time: we cannot divide the House and we cannot have a fight about a Bill. We do not wish to; but we wish to be able to make representations to the Government as to particular provisions, and for that purpose we must have present not merely a competent Minister, but a responsible Minister, who is able to make changes to meet the views we put forward. That is why it is particularly important under these conditions that the really responsible Minister should be present.


It is the Chief Secretary in this case.


There are special reasons for the absence of the Chief Secretary on this occasion. But if he cannot be here the Vice-President should be. There is no particular urgency about the Bill; it might have been postponed for a day or two.


The Vice-President was in charge of the Resolution.


Nobody disputes the excellence of the object of the Bill. We are all in favour of it. We are most anxious that these men should have the fullest advantages to which they were entitled. That is not the point. Two points have been raised. One is that the Bill is unnecessary, because its purpose is already provided for by previous legislation. That may or may not be accurate; I do not know. The other point has not been dealt with, namely, that the pensions allotted to dependants of the Dublin Metropolitan Police ought not to come out of Imperial Funds, but ought to come partly, at any rate, out of local funds. I do not know whether that is so, as I am not an expert in Irish government. But the point has been made, and I think it is absurd to say that the objections are niggling or unimportant. I am bound to say that we cannot always trust the descriptions which the Government give of their emergency legislation. That line of thought, however, would lead to a very controversial matter, and I will not pursue it. But our experience is very recent in that matter, and we are bound to look very closely at everything the Government do, and I for one intend to do so.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next (1st March).

The remaining Orders of the Day were read and postponed.