§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. KING
On a point of Order. May I ask your ruling on a matter of procedure, which was raised last night in the course of the discussion on the Report stage of this Vote of Credit. Several Irish Members desired to raise the question of martial law in Ireland, and especially of the large number of the military forces now employed in that country. But the ruling was given, apparently with some hesitation, that the question could only be raised upon some Civil Vote upon which the Home Secretary as representing the Government of Ireland could reply. Now, in view of the really important issue involved and the need that there may be upon future Votes of Credit to refer to this question of martial law, may I call attention to the words of the Estimate which include "for all measures which may be taken for the security of the country." Again, admittedly the military forces employed in supporting martial law in Ireland are going to be paid out of this Vote. I may further point out that in the discussion on the Vote of Credit last Monday on the Motion, that you do leave the Chair, you yourself permitted questions involving the decisions of the Civil Government, such as advances to the Dominions, advances to our Allies, and the deportation of aliens, all to be discussed and to be replied to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the Home Secretary. In view of this important matter and the interest that may be aroused on the occasion of future Votes of Credit, I desire to ask whether it is not quite in order to discuss on a Vote of Credit the question of martial law in Ireland?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think that the view which the Deputy-Speaker took was that the employment of military in Ireland was really only a channel carrying out the views of the Government, and that it was therefore more desirable to criticise the fountain head rather than the stream: that the Government itself should be criticised and attacked rather than the military who were simply carrying out the orders of the Government; and on that ground he ruled as he did. I have considered the question carefully, and I 1752 do not quite share that view. I think that as the salary of and the payments made for the troops now quarterd in Ireland must come out of this Vote of Credit which is included in the Consolidated Fund Bill, it is fair and right that the House should have an opportunty of criticising, and if the question is raised upon this Bill the House should be able to discuss it. With regard to the two matters to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, the deportation of aliens and the advances to our Allies and to the Dominions, those were clearly within the Vote of Credit. The deportation of aliens arose upon the question of recruiting. That was obviously connected with naval and military matters, and the advances of sums of money to our Allies and to the Dominions were specifically included in the Vote of Credit. Therefore both of those were properly discussed.
§ Mr. KING
Thanking you for your decision, may I specially call attention to the words that were used by Mr. Deputy-Speaker, which seem to raise some curious sort of doubt, when he said that it must be on a Civil Vote that such questions could be raised? I presume that we are right in saying that not merely military matters but also Civil matters which come under the Vote are quite in order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not quite follow the hon. Member on that. I think that what the Deputy-Speaker intended to say was that it was desirable that you should attack the Civil Government for the action which they were carrying out through the military, but that it was not desirable to attack the instrument but rather the persons who used that instrument.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I desire to draw attention to a matter which has often engaged the attention of this House—much too often—but in my opinion a comparatively small matter. I refer to the case of those men who, finding themselves in the Army, having originally objected to take part in military service and from conscientious motives are unable to obey the orders which are given to them. I refer to the case of the conscientious objectors. I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in his place on this occasion, because this is, I think, the first time since he became Secretary of State on which he has said anything with regard to this problem. Certain I am that no man understands this problem 1753 better than he does. He was once, I think, a conscientious objector himself—in remote days—and certainly he is the last man who would be responsible for any policy that could be called in any way a policy of persecution towards men who may be misguided but who are unquestionably sincere in the attitude which they are taking up. I would like very shortly to give the House a history of what has happened with regard to this question. In doing so I am not dealing with the conscientious objector who comes before the tribunals. I want to deal with the men about whose bona fides there can be no question; that is with the case of those men, some 1,600 in number, who have shown the genuineness of their convictions by the fact that they are willing to undergo a considerable amount of illtreatment in many cases in barracks, and willing to undergo imprisonment, and in some cases, in the case of thirty-four men, have been willing to undergo sentence of death rather than comply with orders which conscientiously they believed it would not be right for them to obey. I am dealing only with those men who find themselves inside the Army.
It is about six months since we first raised the case of the conscientious objectors in this House, and I think that it was on 25th May, after a great deal of agitation, that the War Office issued a new Army Order, specially designed to meet the cases of these men, providing that where a man represents that his disobedience is due to a conscientious motive he should be transferred to a civil prison and dealt with by the civil authorities. A few weeks after that a scheme was elaborated by the Prime Minister to the effect that where men have been transferred to civil prisons their cases should again be brought before the Central Tribunal, and if they were found to be genuine cases they should then have alternative work given to them under a Subcommittee of this House, and those men who refused to accept that alternative service should, as I understand, be sent back into the Army. That was the Prime Minister's scheme that was announced in this House some six weeks ago. Although it was on 25th May that the scheme was first put forward, we heard to-day, in answer to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, from the Prime Minister, that actually yet there has not been a single case which has been brought under this scheme, and that nothing has been done.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
May I interrupt the hon. Member? The first séance of the Committee will take place to-morrow at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, and after that it will deal with the cases.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I am not attributing any blame in this respect. I only want to emphasise the fact that the problem is made much more serious by the long delay which has taken place. I want to point out what this means, and this is one of the points on which I want an answer. This means that men in a great many cases have actually undergone imprisonment in civil prisons as conscientious objectors, and now their sentences are expiring and they are being sent back to their regiments again, with all the undesirable results which everybody must agree follow from that course being taken. That is to say, there will again be resistance, there will again be an effort to compel them to obey, and again a court-martial, and again the bad influence on discipline which must result from having men of this sort in the regiments, and sending these men at great expense of public money back to civil prisons. You will have the whole thing over again, simply because the scheme has not been carried out.
I want to call attention to two cases. The first is that of a conscientious objector named Everett, which attracted a great deal of attention because a very well-known public man, Mr. Bertram Russel, was fined £100 lately because he published a leaflet dealing with this case. This man, who was a teacher, was condemned to detention. Yesterday his sentence expired. He is being sent back to the Army again. You are having the whole thing over again. Then there is the case of a man called Chappelow, to which I called due attention in this House at least four months ago. He was a Civil servant, and a man whose genuineness was admitted by the Government and everybody concerned. He was a man of whom the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said that the tribunal was satisfied that Mr. Chappelow had a conscientious objection to combatant service, and the Surrey Appeal Tribunal sent him into a Non-Combatant Corps. There he refused duty, and then he was imprisoned. This man has suffered immensely in prison. He is a man who has a great many friends of influence and importance. He is a well-known, well-educated man, who has the 1755 particular conviction that he ought not to obey military law. He has suffered almost to the point of madness, and now, after three or four months' imprisonment, his sentence has come to an end. What is to happen? You are sending this man back, and I had a telegram to say that he has been sent back to-day. You will have the whole thing over again. He will again refuse to obey, and the court-martial will again send him to prison.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I have a very good answer to that question; it is because I know that the spirit behind these men is stronger than the discipline of the Army. I know that there is nothing stronger in the world than their spirit. You may break their bodies, but you will not break their spirit. You have thirty-four men now in France who have been condemned, men who would face death rather than forego their convictions. I know that they have that within them which will not permit them to give way, whatever the discipline which may be enforced. How do you propose to meet that difficulty? I believe the Government mean to treat them well, but I want to know why they are delaying carrying out that intention. In the case of the men who are being sent back it is because the scheme is not ready, and it ought to have been ready. I seriously suggest to the Secretary of State for War that, instead of sending back to the Army men whose convictions are perfectly genuine, and who are willing to suffer for them, it would be much better to keep them in a civil prison until they are dealt with by the Central Tribunal, of which the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) is a distinguished member. That is the first point. The second point I want, to raise is this: What is to be the policy with regard to the men who have declined what is called "alternative service"? They are men with whom, personally, I do not sympathise at all, but the genuineness of their convictions is none the less recognised. They are men who say that their objection to militarism is so strong that they will not in any way, so to speak, condone a felony; they say that they will not make any bargain, and that all they ask is to be left alone; they wish to have nothing to do with warfare or militarism in any shape or form, and they will not 1756 undertake any particular form of service as the price of not doing what they say they ought not to be asked to do. These men in some ways are the most sincere of all conscientious objectors, but for myself I think they are fanatical. Still, they are the men most difficult to deal with.
I ask my right hon. Friend how he is going to deal with this small, but still important, class of men, who decline to have anything to do with military service, who say that the House of Commons intended, by the Bill that was passed, to provide for the case of the conscientious objector to military service? They demand that this should be carried out, and say that they cannot undertake to help the Government in various forms as the price of not being called upon for military service. These men are immovable in their convictions, and how are you going to treat them? We have had two replies from the Government in regard to this question. We had a reply which was made in the House of Lords to the effect that these men would not be sent back to the Army when the time of their sentence is over, and we have had the reply of the Prime Minister in this House which makes rather doubtful the answer which was given in the House of Lords. I want to know which is correct. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War whether it is worth while to have the torture of these men, these fanatics if you like to call them so, by sending them back once more, after their sentence is over, when all they ask is that they should be left alone. When they are called upon to do particular work and they will not do that particular kind of work, it seems to me you are perfectly entitled to punish those men, but you are not entitled, because they refuse to be soldiers, to endeavour to make them soldiers against their will. Action of that kind is persecution. Although you may have a great majority, practically the whole of the House of Commons at your back, a policy of that sort would not redound to the credit of the country, it would not redound to the credit of the Army, and it would be a bad day in our history if it were found that we were going on persecuting these men because they declined to take the same view of war as is taken by the majority of their fellow countrymen.
There was a time when my right hon. hon. Friend regarded another war very much in the same way in which these men regard this War. If my right hon. Friend 1757 had been of military age at the time of the Boer War, and if there had been Conscription at that time, I am not at all sure that he would not have been amongst the men who would have refused to accept combatant service, and who would have refused to have anything to do with the military, machine or even to engage in work of national importance. The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that these men are sincere and conscientious, and is it worth while to treat these men in a way which will be regarded as persecution by sending them back to the Army? By all means, if you think it necessary, punish them by civil means, punish them outside the Army, punish them by imprisonment, but do not make them soldiers against their will. I sincerely wish with all my heart that it had not been necessary to raise this question to-day, and I should not have done so if it had not been that I know these things are going on, things which I think are matters of great injustice and bring discredit on the Army and on the country. I hope sincerely now that my right hon. Friend is Secretary for War that this question may be settled, and settled once for all. As regards the military question, it is of no importance at all. These men are worth nothing as soldiers, and cannot be made to be worth anything. As regards the social and political question, I venture to say that it is one of the highest importance to the future liberties of this country that is should be settled in a way that will be regarded by all fair-minded men as a just settlement, a settlement which recommends itself to conviction, which recommends itself to conscience between different classes of men, and therefore I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to take a course which, I think, might be disastrous in the interests of the country.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Lloyd George)
I was under the impression that a way had been found for meeting this very difficult question of the treatment of these conscientious objectors which commended itself to those who have been championing their cause. The only complaint, or substantially the only complaint of my hon. Friend, is that the plan has not worked speedily, has not been put into operation so rapidly as he would wish. The tribunal which has been set up is now making a start with their work. I think you may depend upon it, now that this arrangement has been made, that they will I 1758 proceed with their work as quickly as possible. It is clear that the matter should be closed as soon as possible. There can be no doubt at all about that; and I hope that within a few weeks the grievances which are felt in these particular cases will be removed. I know that the tribunal will get to work as speedily as possible, and will get through that work with as little delay as possible. In this matter I have always felt that the real difficulty was to separate the conscientious objectors from the men who utilise their position for other and not very good reasons. The policy of this country has always been to safeguard the conscientious objector, and an Act of Parliament, so far as I recollect, was passed safeguarding a well-known religious body, and provision Was made by name in their favour. I do not think that anybody will deny, at the present moment, that this policy, decided upon in this particular case, was a policy that was approved—the policy of protecting men who had conscientious objections to using deadly weapons. The tribunal which has been appointed commands the confidence of those who are interested in the cause of conscientious objectors, and my hon. Friend below the Gangway will recognise that it is an able and a fair tribunal. My hon. Friend wishes to know what will happen.
§ Mr. MORRELL
May I ask one point: Is it understood that these men will be brought before separate tribunals, and will they be sifted out by the military authorities before going to the Central Tribunal?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No; they will practically hand over the whole question to the Central Tribunal. That is really an advantage for the War Office, because this question has taken up the time of men whose services are invaluable at the present moment, from the point of view of organising the Army. Practically weeks of their whole time have been taken up in dealing with conscientious objectors, and they will be very glad of anybody who will relieve them of that duty; in fact, I can assure my hon. Friend that they will be delighted to hand the work over to the Central Tribunal; they will rejoice in that arrangement. The second question is a much more difficult one—I refer to the kind of men who object to any kind of service, military or otherwise. With that kind of men I personally have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever, and I do not 1759 think that they ought to be encouraged. I think that that class ought to be made separate. When the nation has got to be mobilised not merely for war, but for the purpose of providing food and for relief at home, and for the purpose of seeing that there is no suffering amongst the women and children whilst the men are fighting, those men certainly deserve no encouragement from the country or from the House of Commons. For my part, I will take no step that will make it easy for a man to get out of his national obligations in this respect. There has always been a very strong party in this country, and a number of these people have belonged to it, who say that the nation ought to be organised for peace as well as for war. Most of these people want to compel others to do things, but when it comes to their turn to contribute they suddenly find that they have got consciences. I do not think they deserve the slightest consideration. With regard to those who object to shedding blood, it is the traditional policy of this country to respect that view, and we do not propose to depart from it; but in the other case I shall only consider the best means of making the path of that class a very hard one. I am not sure that sending them to the Army is the best way of doing it. There are other ways of doing it, and that is all I say now.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I think I know fairly well the arguments which are used by the extreme men to whom the right hon. Gentleman has just referred, because it has been my lot to try and get large numbers of them to take what I consider a more reasonable view. I believe we must be fair to those men, even though we disagree with them. Their attitude is this: "We do not say that we will not do any work, but we refuse to do it at the dictation of the Government or the tribunal." I believe it is best to state this, so that we may try and understand their view. Those men say that the great curse at the present time in Europe is the system of Conscription, that England is practically the last country to adopt it, and that if the whole of Europe and America are going to take up Conscription, then instead of decreasing wars you are going to increase them, and they therefore say, "We cannot allow ourselves to be organised in that way." I would say to my right hon. Friend, "Do not increase the number by persecution." In the early days the Christian religion had to win its 1760 way by persecution. These men, perfectly honestly, though we think mistakenly, feel that they may have to go through persecution to win what they consider larger liberty. Do not increase the number by persecution. It cannot be to the advantage of the State to increase the number in that way. There are one or two other points. There are in military prisons to-day some men who have been given exemptions conditional on doing work of national importance, and who were arrested by the military authorities before they were able to get to work in that way. I have called the attention of the War Office to two cases; those of a man called Robinson, of Middlesbro', and MacIntyre, of Darwen. The latter was brought out of gaol to have his case reheard, and the tribunal granted him exemption conditional on doing work of national importance. He was taken back at once to gaol and is there at present. I cannot believe it is to the interest of the War Office to make difficulties in getting these men into work at the earliest opportunity. I know that in many other cases they have been extremely anxious to facilitate getting the men out as quickly as they could. Cannot some device be adopted to deal quickly with cases of the kind? I could name scores of cases where they have done so, but in a few cases there seems extraordinary difficulty.
I have to make a suggestion which I believe would save the War Office and the tribunals a large amount of trouble. I think it is immensely important to see that the exemption which is given to the men who are willing to do work of national importance is exemption that they can accept. In this respect the military representatives have a great deal of power in their hands. Hundreds of cases have come before the tribunals where the men have been adjudicated as perfectly sincere conscientious objectors, but then they have been given exemption and sent into Non-Combatant Corps instead of getting work of national importance. It cannot be wise organisation to give that kind of execption to men who feel that they are forced to refuse military commands and who are then court-martialled. I do appeal to my right hon. Friend to see that the military representatives have instructions to secure that when once exemption has been granted on conscientious grounds that the exemption which is given is one that can be accepted. Doing that would 1761 save the military authorities, and the Central Appeal Tribunal, a large amount of trouble. My hon. Friend who spoke before me and myself want to see this controversy closed if possible. It is with the greatest regret I speak about it once more and with a very genuine desire that the War Office shall take steps to see that these reasonable requests are granted.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I do not think it at all desirable that as a member of the Central Appeal Tribunal I should discuss the various questions with regard to decisions in cases of this kind which have been raised. I wish rather to emphasise the remarks of the Minister for War on the subject of the new departure with regard to those conscientious objectors who have been sent to prison as a result of decisions of Army courts-martial. Some two or three weeks ago a letter was written to the Central Appeal Tribunal by the President of the Local Government Board, asking if they would undertake the reconsideration of the whole of these cases, and to deal with them as they thought proper and according to their ordinary practice. The Central Appeal Tribunal, without I am afraid realising the very serious task that was being imposed upon them, agreed to do so. There has been a certain amount of time no doubt taken to fix the principles upon which we were to act, and also for the Departments of the War Office and the Home Office to settle the principles, and for the Committee of the Under-Secretary of the Home Office to decide the principles in dealing with this matter. I do not think there is any real ground for complaint as to delay. It has been a very difficult matter to settle this as between the War Office, the Home Office and the Central Appeal Tribunal. We have been very largely interested in having direct and proper instructions in the matter. We have had to look very closely into the proposals made and the very ample report prepared by the Home Office Committee. That could not be merely a matter of a day or two, and it required a great deal of consideration. The court-martial papers have only been received some four or five days, and it took some time to collect them from all over the place, and some time to collect the men we are going to see. I think if hon. Members only realised how difficult it has been to start this new principle, they would not have complained. Although we propose tomorrow to begin by seeing a large number of these men and putting to them a certain number of 1762 questions, and of course going into the dossier in each case, I do not think it will be possible for the tribunal to see all the cases. I believe the Central Tribunal will be very careful, where there is any reasonable doubt, to see either the man himself, or a representative of the man.
§ Mr. MORRELL
May I ask will they deal with the cases of those men who have undergone imprisonment and whose sentences have expired?
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I believe all cases are being sent on to us in order that they may be consistently dealt with on a consistent plan. I hope that may turn out to be satisfactory, and it will certainly involve a great deal of labour.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Will the Central Tribunal deal with cases only sentenced by court-martial or will they deal with others?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I think the whole of the cases will be sent to us to be dealt with by the Central Appeal Tribunal. The last point mentioned by the hon. Member for York. (Mr. Rowntree) was a complaint about someone being sent to prison while the case was being reheard. May I say to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) that he has entirely forgotten the fact that the case was reheard and decided? The moment a case is decided, the man must be sent to prison if he does not obey the decision. Therefore there is no fault to lay at the door of the military authorities. It was their duty, no doubt, to see that a man was immediately made to serve the sentence.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I am afraid that, in being brief, I put the cases badly. The two cases I have mentioned are cases where the tribunals had granted the men exemption, but in one case the man was late in getting it and was arrested. The Pelham Committee communicated with the military authorities in that case, and I do not understand why there should have been delay in discharging the man and letting the Pelham Committee find him work. The other case was where a man had been in prison. He was allowed to go out for the rehearing. I made no complaint about him being imprisoned. Then, on the rehearing last week, he was granted exemption conditional on doing work of national importance. My suggestion to my right hon. Friend was that a decision having been come to, surely it was to the advantage of the military authorities to 1763 see that that man was liberated as quickly as possible and got to work under the Pelham Committee.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I might perhaps answer that question if I may be allowed to do so. As a general rule, when work of national importance is prescribed as a condition of exemption by the Central Tribunal, I think we only give twenty-one days to find the work. If he does not find it in twenty-one days, or if the Committee does not find it for him, the Army then, I suppose, can act.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I shall not detain the House a minute, but I wish to express my gratification to the Minister of War that this sifting process is now to proceed through the tribunals and not through the military authorities. I think that is a very great advance. I want to say one word to him with regard to those men who take up what some might call a fanatical attitude—I mean those who refuse to leave civil imprisonment in order to take up the work that may be assigned to them. I would ask him to remember this, that however wrongheaded you may think these men, I do believe firmly that they are the most conscientious of the conscientious objectors. They say in the first place, "You have no right to compel us to take up arms, and you have no right to compel us to take any part in warfare." They are then sent to gaol because of their resistance. Then comes in the authority and says, "We will allow you out of gaol under certain conditions." They say, "No, under no conditions can we appear to palliate what we consider to be this wrong of the State in trying to force us to kill our fellow men." That is their position. It may be wrong, but it is not the position of men, as my right hon. Friend suggested, who object to work. Many of these men have been doing work of national importance in their own sphere, and all I ask of the right hon. Gentleman is this, that however hard he makes their lot, let it be by way of civil punishments, and do not let him hand over these men to the Army for their resistance to be broken. That is not punishment under the law. Let them be punished as much as he likes under the law. There is a certain justification in that case. The law having been passed, we may take it they are lawbreakers, but do not hand them over to the Army for the Army to try and 1764 break their spirit of resistance by what we might call illegal methods. That is the only point I wish to make in regard to these men, who are, I believe, the most conscientious of the conscientious objectors. I want to ask that some way of enforcing the law should be found other than by handing them over to the Army for their spirit to be broken.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
We have heard the case of the conscientious objectors, and I think I may now pass on to refer to the prisoners of war from Ireland now in the charge of the Home Secretary. They consist in the main of people who had no more to do with the rebellion than the Home Secretary himself. In fact, far less, because we owe to him the presencein Ireland of Sir Matthew Nathan, who, with full knowledge that the rebellion' was imminent, allowed it to come to a head, and, in addition to that, when it broke out, took the whole of the Dublin police off the streets. At all events, a course had been taken of arresting up and down the country some 3,000 men and! women, and of these—desiring to be moderate—I venture to say that 2,000 are absolutely innocent persons, and not only that, they are the cream of the country in this sense, that they are nearly all the teetotalers of the country, they are nearly all the people who are given to learning. They were people of good conduct in their villages, people of upright, independent minds and conduct, and I think I am not wrong in saying that their bearing and demeanour has thrilled some of the Commissioners who have had to listen to their statements made in private. They are Nationalists, as I am, maintaining the interests of our country under severe difficulties, and yet they have been treated with a cruelty and, I would say, a ferocity such as even Germany has not shown in Brussels. Lord Crewe said the other night in the House of Lords that no insurrection had ever been put down with less circumstances of cruelty than this one at Dublin. I shall not, in face of the War that is now being waged—and the waging of which I am in entire sympathy with—do or say anything that would injure our prospects in the field by introducing some of the needless barbarities and cruelties that have been perpetrated in Ireland. There will be another time for that. What I am anxious about is this, that when this Committee has made its recommendations they should not be obstructed by the Home 1765 Secretary, who, I venture to say, has obstructed their recommendations. I will say of him that I believe if the Kaiser, Bethmann-Hollweg, and all the other members of the German Administration were engaged in devising a system to do England harm, they could not have hit upon a better plan than the plan of the Home Secretary. For what has he done? There was no Sinn Fein organisation. He has created it. He has started a Sinn Fein academy, a Sinn Fein university at Frongoch in Wales, where he has brought together some 2,000—I believe at one time they were 4,000—men, guilty and innocent, and instead of these men being left at home in their little farms and cottages, scattered and dispersed as they were from one end of Ireland to another, he has congregated them together—Ulstermen, Munstermen, Connaughtmen, Leinstermen, men who have never met—and has enabled them to exchange ideas. I regard the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as the father of the Sinn Fein movement. I want to know with regard to these men that when the Advisory Committee recommends their discharge as innocent people, what right has he for one moment to detain them? Who are the members of this Committee? There is one gentleman on it who is a gentleman, that is Colonel Lockwood, the Member for Epping; and there is another Conservative Member on it whose name I have forgotten. I think when these men and women obtain their discharges from high Conservatives such as the hon. and gallant Gentleman to whom I have referred, the least the Irish Members have a right to expect, to say nothing of the prisoners themselves, is their immediate discharge. Why are they not discharged? This shows the magnificent system of administration which the right hon. Gentleman is administering. They are not discharged in groups because, having been victimised by the Government, they will be received with applause by the Irish people. What is their excuse? It is that your gods are our devils and your devils are our gods. That is the position you have come to to-day, after two years of War, in a country which I venture to say when War broke out, there was hardly a single man, woman, or child that was not on your side, but by your system of administration, and by your system of folly, and I would say insanity, you have brought things to this pass. These men you have 1766 illegally arrested and detained, and cruelly treated in this country with your solitary confinement; in winter you kept them without their topcoats, and without sufficient food, and, if it had not been for the quality of heart of the local population who supplied them, they would have starved. And all this to come out of a rebellion in which you are not able to show that out of a population of 4,000,000, 1,000 men took part. A thousand men who, in the words of the late Chief Secretary, were armed with a job lot of Italian rifles! You have tolerated a system whereby any man suspected by the police was immediately put into gaol without inquiry, and detained there. Some of them were Scotsmen, some were Orangemen, some were landlords. You threw the net far and wide, with the result that the Government have brought the country to such a state that they are unable to remove martial law. Motions have been put down, Motions of Adjournment—there is to be another Motion on Monday next—but there is no Motion to fix the blame on the Ministers, and on the Government, for this rebellion. The past has been dealt with. Oh, no, we never mention it!
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That topic is not open to debate on this Bill. What I ruled could be discussed was the administration of Ireland under martial law. The War Office Vote is included in this Bill. Any matters connected with the work of the military in Ireland are relevant, but the Home Secretary's share in the conduct of affairs in the camps and so forth does not come up under this Vote.
The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. Samuel)
On a point of Order. Am I to understand that after the hon. and learned Gentleman has made without interruption a whole series of exceedingly violent charges which are totally innocent of any foundation of fact, that it is not open to me to offer any reply?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
For not having noticed at an earlier stage how the remarks of the hon. Member were proceeding. My difficulty is that it is not very easy to trace what is and what is not included in the Bill. It is only by going through a whole 1767 sheaf of Votes which I hold in my hand -that I am able to ascertain whether remarks are or are not relevant. The hon. and learned Gentleman started on perfectly sound lines, and then, carried away by the exuberance of his eloquence, he proceeded to deal with other matters which are not relevant. At that stage I thought that I ought to intervene.
§ Mr. HEALY
It will be very unfortunate if the Home Secretary is not given the same opportunity to deal with this matter that I have had. So far as I am concerned he may go on to his heart's content. In regard to what you say, Mr. Speaker, of course I humbly bow to your ruling, though perhaps excusing myself in this way, that as you, Sir, stated, it is exceedingly difficult to know what is and what is not in order, and I must certainly ask your pardon for having transgressed. The last thing I should like to incur is the censure of Mr. Speaker, who, we all know, is held in the highest respect. At the same time I must, of course, have regard to facts founded on my own observations, and, with restraint, offer some justification for what has been termed exuberance as regards a portion of my remarks. I would not have risen at all if I had not supposed from the earlier decision given to my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset that the entire matter was open. As you state, the matter is not open, and as I am uncertain as to how far I might go I shall not proceed further on these lines.
We have been pressing the Government in various matters. We have been pressing for an inquiry into the conduct of the military. There is to-day, on the Notice Paper, a charge involving the case of twenty dead persons, whose names are given, and as to whom these military gentlemen refuse to give the information for which we ask, or the Government allow any inquiry to be undertaken. Contrast that position of affairs with the position of affairs when the Member for Trinity College asked for an inquiry into Mesopotamia and the Dardanelles. I will not, for a moment, say that they are of equal importance, but one was a demand made by a single Member of this House, which demand has been refused previously to the Member for Edinburgh. The demand which we make for an inquiry in the case of the military in Dublin, I assume, must have behind it the full pressure and 1768 sympathy of at least eighty Members. The Government, at the mere request of the Member for Trinity College, and in the midst of the War, do not hesitate to create a public statutory body to inquire into these scandals. When the entire Nationalist party of Ireland is united in a demand for an inquiry into the terrible tragedies which took place in Dublin in the name of putting down the rebellion, we can get no satisfaction whatever from the Government. The prisoners which are the result of their blunders are kept here in tens, scores, dozens, hundreds, and thousands, by the act of the Government themselves. I therefore, Mr. Speaker, bow to your ruling by making a period of my remarks. Let me tell the Home Secretary this: That his conduct in relation to these prisoners I regard as malignant—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
After the attack that has been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, I think the Home Secretary ought to be allowed to reply.
The hon. and learned Member who has spoken often speaks with much vehemence, force, and eloquence, and frequently, if I may say so, without any accuracy whatever. He has to-day made serious charges against myself which have not the smallest foundation in fact. He began, for instance, by saying that I myself am the father of the rebellion—
That I myself was responsible for the rebellion for the reason that to me was owing the appointment of Sir Matthew Nathan, to whom he attributes the cause of the outbreak. Sir Matthew Nathan is a very distinguished public servant who has rendered immense service to the State in many affairs. I am proud to have the honour of his friendship, but I cannot claim that I had any share in his appointment, as I did not, in fact, know that he was to be appointed until the appointment was made. I say it in order to avoid misapprehension in respect of the relationship between Sir Matthew Nathan and myself which the hon. and learned 1769 Gentleman would do his utmost to interrupt if he had any opportunity of doing so. In regard to the police being taken off the streets of Dublin at the time of the out-break, that, of course, was necessary because they were unarmed and were shot at at sight. The hon. and learned Member next spoke of the Sinn Feiners being kept in solitary confinement. There is not and there has not been any solitary confinement. These men are all in association with one another and treated in the same way, as prisoners of war. I have had no complaint of their treatment. The only complaint I have heard has been with respect to the fact that the Roman Catholic chaplain was only there for the Sundays instead .of being there constantly. As soon as I heard that complaint I approached the War Office as to the appointment of a whole-time chaplain. This was at once done. That is the only complaint I have received in respect of the treatment of these men. The members of the Advisory Committee tell me that they have repeatedly expressed themselves as satisfied with their treatment. The hon. and learned Gentleman denounced me for having obstructed the execution of the recommendations of the Committee. As soon as they reach me the recommendations of the Committee are acted upon—so far as I am concerned—instantly. I have on no occasion—although I have a perfectly constitutional right to do so—dissented from any recommendation of the Advisory Committee. I sign the orders for the release the very hour that these recommendations reach the Home Office. If there are any other cases not acted upon immediately it is because arrangements have to be made at the camps for transport and other practical details of that character. So far as I am concerned, not an hour elapses before I sign the orders of release after receiving the recommendations of the Committee. When the hon. and learned Gentleman talks about treating these men with a ferocity and a cruelty worse than anything done in Brussels, the House can estimate such a statement at its true value.
§ Mr. J. D. NUGENT
We were earlier engaged in discussing conscientious objectors. They were brought into the class of honest and dishonest objectors. I desire to say a few words more as to different classes of conscientious objectors, about which I will leave the House to decide the honesty or dishonesty. We have listened to the speech of the hon. Member of North- 1770 East Cork as applied to the Home Secretary. I wish I could say that the Home Secretary's statement was accurate. What are the facts? The facts are that he, as a member of the Cabinet, sent Sir John Maxwell to Ireland, and is therefore undoubtedly responsible for the creation of Sinn Feinism in Ireland. I represent a Constituency which has been tested on more than one occasion—on four occasions—within the last three years upon this very question. What has been the result? On every occasion there has been an emphatic vote given against the Sinn Fein policy. From the very district where these cruel and brutal murders took place more men have joined the Army than from any other district in Ireland. The result is that once the military come into possession of a particular street they do not satisfy themselves with trying to get into the houses. I was able to send to the Prime Minister a letter indicating that at one of the most respectable business houses in the street the military knocked at the door, and before there was time to open the door they fired through it and shot a young girl of eighteen who was in the hospital till about two weeks ago. This was at the corner of North King Street and Smithfield. There was no shooting at that particular point. This young girl, Cullen, is ruined for life. When complaint is made to the military authorities we are told that the case is under consideration. For over a month I have been trying to discover from the Prime Minister how the matter stands, and to receive some satisfactory reply as to what is to happen to these people. The general reply that I have got for over a month is that there is no positive proof as to who it was by whom these people were shot.
Everyone knows who was in possession of the street that week. Everyone knows the regiment and the company which was in possession of the street for a month. Everybody also knows that the statement is not accurate. I hold no brief for the Sinn Feiners. I have been an opponent of theirs for the last seven years, and have not hesitated in public meetings or anywhere to face them upon these issues. It is not the case that policemen were shot at sight, or that military officers were shot at sight. The Home Secretary, too, should know that the Metropolitan Police that were taken prisoners in the Four Courts were properly treated by the Sinn Feiners. They were actually guarded lest any attack might be made upon them by anyone until 1771 they were released and handed over to the War Office. It is also known that in the case of the military officers taken prisoners as they were driving home from the races that Commandant Daly, who was in charge of that particular district, actually took these men and brought them to the North Dublin Union to see that they were properly protected and provided for. They were kept there for three or four days. Then at the risk of the life of some of his men he passed them over by the boundary lines through the Richmond Asylum grounds lest anything should happen to them. The military in the houses in the district to which I have referred ordered the women to leave, drove the men upstairs and into cellars, and when they were lying upon their backs in the cellars shot these men dead, and in some cases battened them with the butts of their rifles. I have been in the houses in the street, and I have tried for the last six weeks to secure that something should be done for these poor people.
No one wants more blood in connection with this affair in Dublin, or to single out members of the Army and say this man or that man should be shot. We have been met sometimes with the statement that these military officers and men suffered great provocation and undertook great risks. No one denies that. So also did those poor people who were ordered to stop in their houses and not be seen in the streets, and the reward for carrying out the military orders was that the soldiers went into the houses on the plea that they were looking for Sinn Feiners. In one case—and if there is a single bit of humanity in anyone he must be moved by this—there was a little boy, fourteen years of age, with his hands uplifted in appeal, on his father, who was battered dead. It was not, as some have suggested, that these people went out in the streets, and it was not known by whom they were shot. The Prime Minister went into that street and investigated for himself. He knows by whom they were shot. The Cabinet are the .objectors. It is for you to say, whether honest or dishonest objectors refuse, that an inquiry shall be held in order that we may be able to produce the evidence as to the actual men who shot these unfortunate people. I submitted the case of a man named Brennan, regarding whom an inquiry took place at the Castle. Upon three different occasions they brought other witnesses to examine him. 1772 A particular officer was brought up as the only officer in the district, but the witness said, "He is not the man, because the same man who fired the shot came into my house for shelter, and I sheltered him."
I do not want to name individuals. Their affidavits are there. The people are able to prove it. When the other man was brought up he was identified immediately as the man who shot him. These people are poor. It is one of the worst tenement streets in the whole city. The members of the corporation are making every effort to clear away these slums. You resisted their borrowing powers. After condemning the neglect, and refusing borrowing powers, now, because these people are supposed to be helpless—I say "supposed," and I will come to that in a moment—you now refuse to compensate a single one of these people, who have lost their breadwinner through your neglect and the neglect of this House. Then you say the widows and orphans may starve, forsooth, because you cannot trace the responsible people. If it is an honest case that you cannot trace them, then the military authority in Ireland is not being honest by the Government, and I do think the Government are running a danger, not alone for the administration in Ireland, but there is an end to human endurance and human patience, and I warn the Minister responsible that their representatives in Ireland are in danger there, and will be in danger, unless they are prepared to terminate the grievances under which these people suffer. The next portion of the story is that the very man who permitted this insurrection, the man who led the way to the breaking of the law was the right hon. and learned Member for Trinity College. He led the way; he was the man.
§ Mr. NUGENT
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but is not the Attorney-General for Ireland paid out of that fund 1
§ Mr. NUGENT
Very well, we shall have another opportunity of dealing with him. I come to another portion of the story. We have also in connection with this rising in Dublin a number of Civil servants who were picked out by those in their departments jealous of their promotion. If any inquiry is held into that, I 1773 hope a member of the Government will .say whether there will be a Court of Appeal after the decision of the heads of the departments, to whom these men can submit evidence of their innocence. I am glad the Chairman of the Commission is here, because I have in my pocket at this moment the name of one clerk dismissed from his employment on the ground of suspicion because he was arrested. This man's name is Thomas Crook. There is no difficulty about the name, because four or five days ago I wrote to the Secretary of the Commission asking him to verify the statement I submitted to him. No reply has been received. I suppose they are in communication. This man was dismissed from his employment because he was in the neighbourhood of the 'Post Office, but he is prepared to testify on oath that he was never a member of the Sinn Fein body, though it was not a crime any more than to be a member of the Irish Volunteers. If it was a legal crime, those men should have been warned, and men are being tried in Ireland, not for their participation in the insurrection, but because the local police in many cases have a grievance against them of long standing. It is because of that that the opportunity comes now to them to wreak their vengeance upon these men. This man was arrested when he was actually going to the Post Office to try to induce one of his colleagues to leave, as many of us made every effort to induce people who were misled and terrorised. Many men in Dublin took awful risks. I myself was in the very centre of the fighting. The windows of my house were riddled by the shrapnel of the military. I went through the streets trying to find out any young man who was misled. This young man was in a similar position. He was arrested on suspicion. He was sent over here and discharged, and while he was here a man with a pension was brought in to fill this young man's place, because, I suppose, he belonged to a particular class in Ireland. We on these benches have made every effort to try to get those grievances adjusted. "We have remained silent very often in the hope that we would get some satisfactory results. I myself have been twitted because I have not raised this question earlier, and did not ask questions upon it. I do not believe in looking for vengeance, and have striven hard to get grievances amicably settled. I conducted correspondence up to the last 1774 moment, when the door was banged, and there will be an echo of that unless some attempt is made to remedy the grievance.
§ Mr. LUNDON
I want to make an appeal to the Home Secretary. It is about the case of a poor man in the employment of a Department, and I am glad the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Major W. Guinness) is present, because anything I have got to say regarding the attitude he has taken up in this House I would like to say to his face.
§ Mr. LUNDON
Yes, Sir. Last week the Member for Bury St. Edmunds raised a question in this House about Mr. Patrick Sheehan, and the reply of the Home Secretary to him was that the case of Mr. Sheehan had been submitted to the heads of his Department, that he was found not guilty of the charge alleged against him, and he was accordingly reinstated. But the hon., and, I understand, according to the Rules of the House, I ought to call him, the gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds, immediately came to the rescue and put a question about Patrick Sheehan, with the result that the Home Office, who two days before had vindicated his character, yielded to the appeal and suspended him, and he is now living with his family in the county of Limerick. The Member for Bury St. Edmunds, I believe, is supposed to be a Member in the Army, and I said a moment ago I am supposed to call him a gallant Member. He would be much more gallant if he went back to France and told the Irish soldiers that his last work before going over was to drive their kith and kin out of their employment, and I am sure they would give him a warm reception, which he deserves. He has made use of his position in Ireland against his own country which had the misfortune to own him. Is the word of the Member for Bury St. Edmunds to be taken against the word of the staff and the heads of the Insurance Commissioners in Ireland, and over the heads of any Department in Ireland? Is in to be the policy of the Government, when an hon. Member from this side of the House holds a pistol to their beads, to 1775 yield to him, even although their yielding may inflict a punishment upon an unfortunate man in Ireland? Many sympathise with the Sinn Fein movement in Ireland because they have passed many a weary hour in trying to get to positions they occupied before the rebellion. They saw, day after day, Protestants and Freemasons being appointed over their heads to the positions which Catholics should enjoy. They saw no opportunity for promotion, and the result was that anything was good enough for the Government. With regard to Mr. Sheehan, we are told that a Committee has been appointed to investigate this case, but on behalf of Mr. Sheehan I tell you that he will not appear before the Committee because he has already been vindicated by the head of his Department, to which he has been a loyal and a faithful servant. The Member for Bury St; Edmunds (Major Guinness) asked was Sheehan seen in Sinn Fein uniform, but I assert that for the last eighteen months he has had no connection whatever with that movement. He has been one of the kindest officials on the staff to which he belongs, and it is criminal on the part of any man in this House, whether he belongs to the Navy or the Army, or to a high family in Ireland, to deprive a man of his position. The hon. Member may succeed in driving Sheehan from office, but he will not come before your Committee, and if you do drive him from office the hon. and gallant Member can go back to France and tell the Irish soldiers of whom he may be in charge that his last words previous to leaving the House of Commons were an attempt to drive one of their own kith and kin from a position which he had won by hard work in Ireland, and I am sure the Irish soldiers will give him a warm, generous, and a hearty reception.
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension with regard to Mr. Sheehan. He indicated that the Land Commission held an inquiry and satisfied themselves that Sheehan had taken no part in this movement. But that is not so. Sheehan was arrested by the military authorities during the rebellion and afterwards released, and the Land Commissioners assumed that his release was to be taken as a sign that the military thought that he had not taken part in the rebellion. It was thought, however, by the Irish Office that this case, with others, should 1776 be investigated by the tribunal which has been appointed. Sheehan has not been, dismissed, but only suspended.
§ Mr. LUNDON
You never thought of suspending him until the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds put his question.
I do not propose to. follow the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Lundon) in his attack upon me. I think after over twenty months of continuous service when I had no opportunity of attending to the Parliamentary work for which I was elected, I am entitled before taking up a new appointment in another theatre of the War, having come back from Egypt, to a short leave, and I do not think under those circumstances it is a crime when on leave to appear in plain clothes. [An HON. MEMBER: "How long will your leave last?"] I am not going into these personal attacks. With respect to these three employés of the Land Commission the hon. Member for Limerick appears to argue that I have made an unfounded attack on a Government employé who is in no way connected with the Sinn Fein movement. I had three names sent to me of clerks who had been reinstated in the Land Commission Office. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who sent them?"] I had them from different sources.
§ Mr. NUGENT
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that many military officers were approached in Dublin by clerks asking them to come and arrest particular people?
It is not a question of their arrest, but whether their cases have been considered by the Special Commissioners who have been appointed by the Government to consider all these cases on their merits. I have no personal grudge against any of these men, but I put those cases forward in reference to the pledge given by the Government that it is intended that members of the Sinn Fein Society shall not be employed in any Government Department, and I asked my question in order to elucidate whether that pledge is being carried out or not. When I was told that these members of the Land Commission staff were not mixed up with Sinn Feiners, I asked a supplementary question whether it was not a fact that this particular man had been seen in the uniform of the Irish Volunteers. If any injustice has been done to this particular 1777 man Sheehan, he has his redress by going before the Commission, and it seems to me in every way that he should take advantage of that opportunity. There is no question of these men losing their employment, for they are only suspended, and if they can show that they were not implicated in the rebellion naturally they will be taken back.
§ Mr. DILLON
With reference to this case of Sheehan with which I happen to be personally acquainted, I think the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down hardly stated the facts fully or accurately. What happened was this: Mr. Sheehan was not in the rebellion. That has been admitted by the military, and he had nothing to do with the rebellion. He was a high official in the Land Commission. He was arrested in his own house by the military, and after a few days was released. It is a notorious fact that the military in connection with the late insurrection in Ireland arrested many hundreds of people, I should say over a thousand men, who were admitted to be absolutely innocent, and were released because they were innocent and because the military found out that they had made a mistake. The only charge made against Sheehan as far as I know was that he was a member some time ago of the Irish Volunteers, and what has been described as the Sinn Fein Society, although I do not think he was a member of that society. The Irish Volunteers were just as legal a body as the Ulster Volunteers; in fact, if the two were compared it was more legal up to the date when they commenced preparing for the insurrection, and there is not an atom of evidence to show that Mr. Sheehan had any connection with the Volunteers immediately prior to the insurrectionary movement. The fact of having been a member of the Irish Volunteers a year ago is no reproach to any man, and not one atom more reproach than being a member of the Ulster Volunteers.
What happened? Sheehan went back to his office when he was released by the military, and let the House remember that he was never interned. After his return to his office, and after some inquiry, he was reinstated. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds is prepared to indict the Land Commissioners themselves as being Sinn Feiners or Irish Volunteers. We must assume that being responsible men 1778 they made a certain amount of inquiry, and up to that time no provision had been made by the Government for any official inquiry, and it was only yesterday that such provision was made. Therefore, the Land Commissioners, exercising their own discretion, reinstated Sheehan, and he was put back to his work, and they must have been satisfied that he had no connection with this movement. Now the Government never interfered in this matter until some spy in Dublin sends to the hon. and gallant Member a charge against this man who has been reinstated by his own official head along with two other men. Sheehan holds rather an important position in the Land Commission Office. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is his crime!"] Yes, that is his crime. He was a Nationalist, and by some extraordinary luck he managed to get rather high up in his office. His own official heads in Dublin did not think he had any other crime, or they would certainly not have reinstated him; and no question would have arisen respecting Sheehan but for the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bury St. Edmunds raising the question in this House. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for East Limerick (Mr. Lundon) in this matter, for I do not think it is a very noble thing for an hon. and gallant Member of this House to indulge in hunting down clerks in Dublin on the information of some anonymous spy in that part of the country, infested as it is with spies at this moment. To my own knowledge, hundreds of men were arrested on false information who were perfectly innocent, and one or two men were murdered in pursuance of private quarrels during those awful times.
I agree with the hon. Member for Limerick that it was not—to put it mildly—a very high and lofty task for an hon. and gallant Member of this House to poke his fingers into these unhappy transactions in Dublin to exasperate feeling and stir up trouble in this case for the purpose of ousting a clerk from his employment when his official head had satisfied himself that he was innocent, and this man would never have been disturbed but for the interference of the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds. God knows we have trouble enough in Ireland without having it supplemented in this way in this House, and you might leave it to your spies in Dublin and the gang you have let loose there without an hon. and gallant Member of this House stirring up the 1779 Hell's broth which you have created. The hon. Member for the College Green Division of Dublin (Mr. Nugent) brought up the case of the North King Street murders. No less that twenty-four men and women were murdered in that street by the military. I brought up that case two or three months ago, and I asked the Prime Minister to have a full public investigation into it. It is perfectly true, as the Prime Minister stated here in reply to questions, that he never promised a full public investigation; in fact, he refused it. But what he did say was that this question of the North King Street shootings would be thoroughly investigated, and that the Government, and above all the Army, had no interest in concealing anything, but desired that everything should come out. Let me describe first what occurred in North King Street. The troops in North King Street undoubtedly and admittedly were subjected to very great provocation, and that was one of the reasons we let the thing rest for a considerable time. The troops in North King Street, which is a very poor street, had two days' hard fighting to get through, and I fully admit the frightful provocation to troops being sniped at from roofs and windows of houses, especially in these days of smokeless guns, when you cannot see from where the shooting is coming. I make every allowance for that; but I myself have gone through these houses and questioned the people, and I have seen evidence of the most shocking cold-blooded murders, which cannot be justified by any amount of excitement. I would ask hon. Members who are slow to believe this to call to mind the statement of Sir John Maxwell himself. Feeling that the state of opinion in Dublin and in Ireland was so much inflamed in this matter, he had recourse to a proceeding which is very rarely adopted by any military officer, particularly in high command. He sent for the "Daily Mail" correspondent then in Dublin, and he gave to him an interview of these North "King Street murders, or shootings.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of Order. The hon. Member has at least three times accused our troops of committing murder. Is he justified in using that language with regard to His Majesty's troops?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is not for me to say whether it is justified or not. I cannot 1780 stop hon. Members making these charges against the military if they choose to do so.
§ Mr. DILLON
I did not. I withdrew. I corrected myself by saying "shootings." I said it because of the coroner's jury who investigated these cases. I admit that it is not fair to make these charges when nothing has been proved. I want a public investigation. I went round these places myself, and I saw in one narrow small backyard the place where three men were buried for two days. Their bodies were afterwards dug up and removed, but they were buried there with the manifest intention of concealing them. I saw another room where a poor boy, as described by the hon. Member for the College Green Division, was shot. I saw the spot where he was shot, and I saw the blood on the floor. I saw his mother, who came in and found him, as she thought, asleep, but when she went to him she discovered that he had two bullets through his chest. He was shot in a small back room. He was put against the wall by the side of the window; no bullet coming through the window could have hit him. This case was investigated by the Prime Minister. He is a most extraordinary man. I saw him the other day, and I found that he still had in mind all these horrible details. He had been in Eustace Street, where a boy was shot, and he had all the details in his mind. He promised me that there would be a full investigation. In reply to several questions lately, he said, "Yes, there has been a full investigation." I asked, "What was the nature of the investigation?" "It was a military investigation." I ask you, and I ask you confidently, Can you expect the people of Dublin to be satisfied with a mere military investigation?
Here, whether justly or unjustly, are these terrible charges made against the military, and the people of Dublin believe them. Sir John Maxwell, in that interview to which I have alluded, described the dreadful character of the fighting in North King Street and the provocation which the troops received, and explained that civilians who were not interfering in the insurrection were shot owing to the character of the street fighting. All that is quite true. Then he wound up by saying something to this effect: "Under these circumstances, the soldiers saw red." We all know what is meant when a general says that his soldiers saw red. It has only one meaning, and a very terrible 1781 meaning. I have no doubt that is what happened. I frankly admit that nothing has been proved, but I have no doubt, from the evidence given before the coroner's jury, from the evidence I myself took when I visited the place with two or three friends, and from what I saw on the spot and gathered by an examination of the witnesses present, that these were very shocking transactions. Two or three months have elapsed and there has been no investigation—none whatever—that can satisfy the public. There has been a private military investigation. I have asked the Prime Minister whether he would publish the evidence and the account of these proceedings. He has said that he would consider the matter, but it has not yet been published. It would be something gained if the proceedings were published, but I am bound to say, and I have told him so privately and publicly, that the public opinion of Dublin will not rest satisfied, and in my opinion it cannot rest satisfied, with a private and secret military investigation into these charges. It is not reasonable that they should be satisfied. There ought to be into the Eustace Street case and several other cases which are well known in Dublin and which have excited the greatest possible passion and indignation a straightforward, impartial and public inquiry. It it be true, as the Prime Minister said, and I accept it, that the military have nothing to conceal, then in my opinion it is all in the interests of the British Army that they should face such an inquiry. I dare say that the result of such an inquiry from my point of view would be that the soldiers under tremendous provocation committed some very horrible deeds in North King Street and in some other cases, and the Government then might see their way to reasonably compensate the relations of those people proved to have been absolutely innocent of any participation in or sympathy with the insurrection but who were killed in cold blood.
Of course, the inquiry would have to decide whether the people were killed, as hundreds were in Dublin, by stray bullets and by accident; but I am speaking of cases where I am satisfied that they were deliberately taken into rooms—they were not disarmed, because they were not armed and were not in any way concerned with the insurrection—and after being locked up four or five hours were put up against the wall by the soldiers on their return and shot in the rooms. I myself 1782 saw a mass of blood where these people had been shot in places where they could not have been hit from the windows. These facts ought to be inquired into. I do not care how strong the tribunal is, I should welcome it. I do most earnestly press this upon the Government and upon the Members of this House. I am rather afraid that we have a very terrible future before us now. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] I am afraid that we have a good deal of trouble before us now, and I think it is the duty of the Government and of this House to do everything they reasonably can to allay ill-feeling, to win public confidence, and to endeavour once more to teach the Irish people that they can look for fair play and honest dealing from this House and from the British Government. I say, and I say it as a citizen of Dublin, who has been through the whole of this misery and knows all the passions that it has aroused, that until you have investigated the North King Street shootings, the Eustace Street case, and the other cases most vehemently in dispute, you will not convince the people of Dublin that they can look for any justice or fair play from the Government of this country or from this House.
§ Mr. BYRNE
I will cite a couple of cases in support of those already given by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). I will give one case of a man of the name of John McCarthy, who was manager to the Lord Mayor of Dublin. His wife gives an account of what occurred in her house in North King Street. The military entered the house and found four men there. They searched them, but there was nothing found on them, and they told them to go upstairs under escort into another room. The women were ordered out, and told to cross the road and go to another house. They were told by the military, "We may have to keep your husbands, but you can rest assured that they will be all right." The women went, and four hours afterwards one of them wanted to go back, and attempted to do so. She asked permission from the officer in charge, and he gave her permission, but at the door of her own house she met the sergeant who was in charge, and who had ordered her out that morning, and he said, "You cannot come in here." She went back again, and the commanding officer insisted on the woman being allowed to go inside. She went in, and upstairs, in the same room in which she had left them she found the four men, and they were 1783 dead. She went out again, and remained with the other women in the other house all night, but she came back to her own home the next morning with her neighbours. This is where the mystery comes in. When she went upstairs into the room the four bodies had gone. The soldiers denied knowing anything about them, but a shopkeeper next door said that he was awakened the previous night by an extraordinary noise in the back-yard, which continued for a couple of hours. They again approached the sergeant in charge, and asked him if they could go into the backyard. He said they could not. The women then went to the commanding officer, and he gave, them permission and brought them back. The neighbours got shovels, and they dug up the bodies of the four men who were shot the previous night. They were put there for the special purpose of hiding them. When they were searched it was found that the watches and chains and any small cash that they had had been taken from them. I ask you as Englishmen, does that case require investigation? For the sake of the rest of the Army, will you not give a public and small inquiry into the case of McCarthy? Every Englishman outside the Cabinet, every British soldier, should welcome a public inquiry into that case. It is up to the Prime Minister to allow such an inquiry into this case. Every word I tell you will be given to you on oath, not by one witness, nor by two, but by a dozen witnesses—by a dozen people who dug up the bodies, and found the pockets empty, and the watches and chains gone. I say that for the sake of the Army, and for the sake of the soldiers, an inquiry should be held. This may only happen in the case of one, two, or three soldiers, but three soldiers may disgrace a regiment if you do not find out the guilty ones, and it is up to the Government to find them in this case.
I will now refer to a couple of cases in Marlborough Street, which is just at the back of O'Connell Street, and has had the misfortune to be burned down. In Marlborough Street there were seventeen shootings in the street inside of an hour's time; three of them were women, and two were children. Surely women and children were not such a great danger that they had to be fired upon. Who fired on them is another thing. We on these benches hold that no Irishman fired on them, and it is up to you to allow an inquiry to prove who 1784 did. I believe sufficient evidence will be given to prove who did fire on them. In the case to which I referred, the case of McCarthy and the other three men, Mrs. McCarthy had a baby a fortnight old in her arms on the day her husband, an unarmed man, was shot, a man in the employment of a well-known supporter of the Government, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who is a prominent man in Dublin, and is anxious to support the Government in the present War. Are that man's wife and child to be left to the mercy of her friends in the City of Dublin? Do not that man's wife and child deserve some recognition from the Government, a little compensation, a little provision? This woman can swear that nobody ever entered the house in which her husband was found dead except the soldiers. There are so many cases to go on with that I find I should take all the evening to give those of which I know myself personally. I know of two other cases. I chanced, as I was passing through one street, before martial law was declared, and before the people got a warning to keep off the streets, to cross from one side of the road to another, and there was a woman two yards in front of me, and that woman was shot. I took her to hospital. She was fired on and shot from a railway arch in an adjoining .street. Whether the bullet was intended for me or not nobody knows. I do not say that anyone was firing on the woman. It might be for the good of the country or the House of Commons if the bullet had been meant for me. I cannot say. That is one case I have seen myself. The second was one of Newcommen Bridge, in which a breadvan driver was fired at at his own door after he had done his day's work under military escort. He came home, and was fired on from the railway bridge, which was in charge of the military. No civilians were allowed to go near it. I say that for the sake of the Army, for the sake of the well known British justice, you should have a small inquiry into these cases.
I go on to the treatment of prisoners. Take the treatment of the lady prisoners. You, as the protectors of the small nationalities, the alleged protectors of small nationalities, in what way have you treated Ireland as a nationality? You have treated the treaty you entered into a few weeks go with our leader as a scrap of paper. You have torn it up. After we come back from the country after submitting the proposals to the country, 1785 and getting them carried, the Government alter the proposals. Is that fair? You, as the protectors of small nationalities, have detained in prison two ladies, one engaged in Red Cross work, while the other, I have heard, chanced to be the secretary of the Irish Transport Workers' Union in Belfast. Is it fair because she was employed by a union whose leader turned out to have taken a prominent part in the rebellion, to keep that lady in prison? Two of them have been released. You have kept three in gaol. Three are still in Lewes Two said to me, "Mr. Byrne, cannot you get the Government to allow us to go before an English judge and jury, politically opposed to everything we have ever stood for. We are willing to take our trial." The Government say, "They have taken their trial. They have gone before the Advisory Committee." They have been deprived of legal assistance. The commonest criminal in the land would be allowed such assistance, but these two Irish ladies, who are prepared to take their trial, are to stay in Lewes Gaol until the War is over. I ask, Is that British justice? Do you expect to make the people in Ireland more loyal by keeping their friends in gaol? You take Arthur Griffiths, the well-known writer in Ireland, you take P. T. Daly, a well-known labour leader, one of the principal labour leaders in Ireland, you take William O'Brien, president of the Dublin Trades Council; you take all these men because they have been known to take some part on behalf of the down trodden workers of the country, and the Government say, "They are safer in gaol," and they put them there. They will not allow them to be tried, and they will not allow Members of this House to visit them. Why? What is the great secret1? Why this great secrecy? Are the Government afraid to face the issue, and to give justice to our Irish people? I say you should give them justice by treating them fairly, honestly, and above board, and not haphazard because some constable, some police officer, who has evidently had a grudge against them in the past, gives evidence against them now, and says, "They are dangerous, keep them in gaol." The Government does that. Do you expect to win them over by that means? Would anyone of you wish to have a continuance of hostilities in Ireland at the present time? Take the prisoners. You arrested 3,000 three months ago. I am not quite sure of 1786 the numbers, and the Home Secretary will excuse my saying 3,000. I think it was something between 2,800 and 3,000, and after three months there are 750 of them released,
No, the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. There were 1,200 released by the military in a few days. There were only 1,800 detained.
§ Mr. BYRNE
What I was referring to was the answer given in the House yesterday that there were 750 released, and two women. Those are the figures I quote, the Home Office figures, and I cannot do more than that. Each one that remains in, and let us say there are 1,000 prisoners, has two friends. Each family has two or three sympathisers, people who sympathise with them because there is some son or brother being detained in gaol. That means that you have 6,000 or 8,000 people against the Government. Mind you, the people of Ireland have not been pro-German. The Sinn Feiners are not pro-German. They are anti-Government men. The way the Government have treated their country for the past six years is what has brought the Sinn Feiners against it. They do not want any German master over them any more than they want an English master. They believe in Ireland for the Irish, nothing more and nothing less; and I say that the sooner you release the prisoners the better, if you want any settlement of the Irish question, because that would be a stepping-stone to a settlement. I might also refer to dismissals in Government Departments. I know of five cases in which men have been arrested, the charge made against them being hostile association. That is just because they chanced to know men who took part in or wrote something about the rebellion in Ireland. The Advisory Committee in one case found the man not guilty and discharged him, but when he went back to Ireland he 1787 found that the Government Department in which he had been employed had received orders not to allow him to return. The case is that of Mr. Patrick Sheehan, of the Irish Land Commission. He was allowed to go back. His case was investigated. He was allowed to return to his work, but on the Tuesday morning, the very day when a question was asked by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Major W. Guinness), this man, who had been reinstated after a second inquiry, was dismissed from his employment.
§ Mr. BYRNE
He was allowed to return to work, and on the day the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds asked the question he was told to get outside the door. Is that honest; is it fair play to the Irish that because a Member on the Opposition Benches asks a question the Government is to pander to him and dismiss from employment an Irishman who had been found not guilty by two public Boards—by a Board set up over in Ireland and the Advisory Committee?
§ Mr. BYRNE
He was discharged from Wandsworth. I may have made a mistake in the name. At any rate that happened to one of these men. There were three of them. This man was dismissed or suspended the very day a Member of the Opposition asked a question of the Government. That is not the right attitude for the Government to take up. Because a Member hostile to the Irish cause puts down a question directed against some Irishman in a decent position, is it fair that the Government should dismiss or suspend him after his case has been inquired into? You must make up your minds to remove all these grievances and to give Irishmen a fair, 1788 honest trial. They want no concessions. We only want fair play; nothing more and nothing less. If you treat them fairly, honestly, and above board, then you will find that the Irishmen will be as loyal as any Englishmen in this House but until then you cannot expect it. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman to take note of the cases of dismissals and of the requests I have made for the payment of compensation to the victims of the shooting, and last, but not least, for the sake of the Army, to hold a public and sworn inquiry into the shootings.
§ Mr. FIELD
I will not go over the cases alluded to by other hon. Members. I have been in communication with the Home Secretary and have forwarded to him papers and statements from solicitors respecting certain inquiries about some of these cases. The right hon. Gentleman will, I think, admit that I wrote to him in a most temperate fashion. So far as I can understand, there seems to be no disposition whatever on the part of the Government to allow an inquiry in those cases where the solicitors are prepared to bring affidavits and absolute proof of the circumstances connected with the shootings. Notwithstanding the chaos and the peculiar atmosphere that surrounds Dublin after the insurrection, if the Government took a different view of things it would really be for their benefit as well as ours, because there is an immense amount of dissatisfaction being engendered in the minds not only of the men who have been arrested, but also of their relatives and dependants. I know what I am talking about, because immediately after the arrest of these men I visited Richmond Barracks on five different occasions and interviewed the majority of these prisoners. I am bound to say that the soldiers and officers were exceedingly courteous. They showed me through the barracks, and gave me every facility. That, however, did not make much difference to the prisoners, who have been in confinement ever since. If we want a measure of the mistakes made by the Government, it is to be found in the fact that an enormous number of people have been arrested, against whom no kind of proof can be adduced that they had anything to do with this insurrection. I agree with what has been said by a previous speaker, that certain people, particularly the constabulary, if they have a grudge against any man in 1789 the country, utilise the position of things in order to gratify what they conceive to be an opportunity to get these men into trouble.
I will not mention anything to the House which I do not know personally. I know a case in the County of Dublin where there was a dispute about town tenants. A certain number of men were involved in that dispute. It seems an extraordinary coincidence that the fourteen men involved in that town tenants' dispute in the County of Dublin were arrested for being concerned in the insurrection—men who had no more to do with the insurrection than I or any hon. Member on the opposite side of the House had. But the opportunity was seized by the constabulary to arrest this man. I will put it to the Home Secretary: Does he want Ireland to remain quiet or to remain loyal? Does he wish the Irish Members to go and represent the British Parliament in Ireland as consisting of a number of men who are willing to do justice to our country? There can be no question at all about it, and I will appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, as an impartial, sensible man, whether he is going this way about ingratiating public opinion with regard to the insurrection? After all, we are supposed to be the defenders of liberty. We are supposed to represent democratic ideas. We are supposed to take up the cause of liberty practically in every country in the world except Ireland. What is the history of things to-day in Ireland? The mistakes made by the Government in the treatment of this insurrection have not alone made our task as Irish Members more difficult, but it has also put them in a difficult position. We are told this is a Coalition Government. Nominally it is; but practically it is a Tory coercion Government, and apparently the members of the Front Bench have not sufficient courage to evince their Liberalism in connection with the government of Ireland. In connection with these cases, particulars of which have been gone into by my colleague from Dublin, and some of which I have sent on to the Home Secretary, there is one case I should like to mention particularly, and that is the case of Malachi Brennan. I knew that man personally to be one of the quietest and most harmless men in Ireland. I had business with him. That man was shot. So far as I can learn, there were no Sinn 1790 Feiners about at all where he was shot. That is a case which wants some sort of inquiry.
There is one other matter I wish to allude to, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give it some attention. I think it is a despicably mean idea that men who have been falsely arrested in connection with this insurrection, and who have been in Government positions, are to be sacrificed by being suspended or losing their positions. Surely when a man has been tried before a tribunal which dismisses his case, that man ought to be reinstated if the Government desires to have the loyal co-operation of their staff in the various positions in Ireland, and all these men who have been arrested in connection with this insurrection and who have been found innocent ought to be restored to their positions. They ought not to be suspended. They ought not to be made to suffer for a crime of which they were not guilty. These men were all arrested on suspicion, and not on proof. The system of lettres de cachet has practically been brought into operation. And this is the great British Government, the Mother of Parliaments, the big voice of the democratic communities of the world, which, in connection with an insurrection of this kind, has abandoned all its principles and becomes an aristocratic oligarchy which condemns everyone who desires to have the liberty of differing from, them with regard to their system of government. I want it to be understood that I am not preaching any pro-German-ideas, because I am as much opposed to Germans as any man in this House. But if you want to get assistance and recruits from the Irish nation, and you want the loyal co-operation of the Irish people, you must give us justice and fair play. We do not want any more, and we will not be satisfied with anything less.
I am very glad that, the ruling of Mr. Speaker to-day has enabled us to discuss this question of the proceedings of the military in Ireland. There are one or two matters which it will not be possible to bring forward in the discussion on Monday, and I should therefore like to refer to some of them now. I want to ask the Home Secretary who is responsible for the date of the publication of Sir John Maxwell's dispatches, because I want to find out, and I want the House to know, whether the date of the publication of these important documents was a 1791 mere coincidence or was evidence of malice on the part of some officials in the War Office or of some members of the Government. Let the House bear in mind the dates. The rebellion in Ireland took place on 24th April. Sir John Maxwell's dispatches are dated 25th May, exactly a month later. But not only in connection with the first, but also the second month until last week, since the rebellion, all parties were engaged not in considering the details of this rebellion but a proposed settlement in Ireland. It was last week that the settlement reached its most critical stage, when the Government had evidently made up its mind that it could not carry out the agreement arrived at by all Irish parties with the present Minister for War. I was at that very moment, when the Government had decided that it could not or would not carry out the agreement, that they produced this document of Sir John Maxwell to the British public. I want to ask the Home Secretary who was responsible for that, because we have very grave grounds indeed to complain of more than one reference of Sir John Maxwell in this dispatch. The House of Commons on several previous occasions during the past three months, and again to-day, has had to consider and discuss cases, such as have been brought up by some of my hon. Friends, of unfortunate shootings by the military, and other hon. Members have made references to shootings by the rebels. I think everyone will recognise—and I am sure I speak for all my colleagues—when I say that on both sides whatever was wrong in these events we sincerely and deeply deplore. I recognise that it is impossible to go through a rebellion without unfortunate incidents happening, and it is idle to deny that just as there were the cases of Mr. Sheehy Skeffington, Mr. Dixon, and Mr. McIntyre, in connection with which a court-martial in Dublin found a British officer guilty of murder, and just as there were these other cases which have been mentioned by hon. Members for Dublin and by the hon. Member for East Mayo, so also it is not denied that on the other side there may have been a few cases which are equally to be deplored. We have not sought to make out from these benches—and I do not think that anyone in Ireland has sought to make out—a case and to found upon that case a charge against the great body of military who were engaged in suppressing the rebellion in Dublin. No such charge has ever been 1792 made by us, and I do say that in return, when the facts are what we know them to be, the least we can expect from the Government, and from the military authorities who have been through this business, is that they should not make false and unfounded charges of a similar nature upon the other side. Let me refer to the dispatch of Sir John Maxwell. In the course of this document he says:Once this rebellion started, the members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, an unarmed uniformed force, had to be withdrawn, or they would have been mercilessly shot down, as, indeed, were all those who had the bad luck to meet the rebels.I say that that charge in Sir John Maxwell's Report will not stand the test of examination for one moment. The facts—let the Government put the worst construction they can upon them—clearly show that, except for one policeman at the Castle Yard and one policeman in Stephen's Green, there was not one single member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police force injured from the start to the finish of the rebellion, although that force consists of about 1,500 men, in the City of Dublin who were on duty on Easter Monday and fell into the hands of the rebels—not in tens, but in scores. Is it just, fair, or reasonable under these circumstances for the man who is at the head of the Government in Ireland as well as at the head of the military authorities, and who is the dictator of Ireland at the present moment, to publish a document of this kind, besmirching these men, when there is not the smallest shadow of foundation for the charge. I come back again to the point at which I started, and I want the Home Secretary to tell us who is responsible for the extraordinary moment at which this document was produced, in order to influence the minds of the English people and public opinion in Great Britain, when the Government had just decided that they were not going to carry out the Irish settlement? It makes us gravely suspicious, and I maintain that this matter cannot be allowed to rest where it is at this moment. We will have to bring Sir John Maxwell, who is the writer of this despatch, and the military authorities to account for these false charges, which can be proved to be false, and which ought never to have been made by anybody in a responsible position. There is one other charge in the despatch of Sir John Maxwell to which I should like to refer. He says:Numerous cases of unarmed personsHe leaves the police now, and I can assure the House, as a matter of fact, that only 1793 the policemen I have referred to were injured during the rebellion, certainly they were the only two killed—killed by rebels during the outbreak have been reported to me. As instances I may select the following for your information.Four instances follow, two being the cases of the policemen already mentioned, although this is half a column further down in the despatch, and the other cases are a medical captain and a friend, who were shot in a motor car on their way into the city. These, he says, were unarmed. Surely, in a grave matter of this kind, if a widespread charge is to be made by a man in Sir John Maxwell's position, we are entitled to further information than the mere phrase in his despatch "numerous instances," followed by four instances, two of which he has already given in a previous stage of his despatch. We have grave reason in Ireland to complain of Sir John Maxwell's administration of martial law. Can the Irish people, enduring what they believe to be a deliberate attempt upon his part to inflame English opinion by false statements with regard to what happened during the rebellion in Dublin, be expected to regard very favourably the continuance of his administration in that country? Can they look with respect upon the man who makes these assertions without any real foundation, and tries to lead the people of this country to the belief that these charges represent the general condition of things during that unhappy week in the capital of Ireland? Sir John Maxwell aroused horror amongst the people of Ireland by his executions, and he has aroused contempt and indignation by his report.
I want to say a few words on this subject because I have sat for several hours listening to speeches full of most serious statements, made on the responsibility of Members of this House in regard to facts which occurred during the rebellion in Ireland.
All the recent speeches have differed very materially from the first one that was delivered. Anyone who heard the attack upon the Home Secretary by the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) must have felt impressed with the view that it was more an attempt to besmirch the character of the Home Secretary than to prove a 1794 case. The recent speeches, however, have consisted of statements of facts within the knowledge of the men who have made them, and they are very serious statements. They are of so very vital a character, affecting the character of English administration in Ireland, affecting the character of the military, and affecting our position as a great nation governing a small nation, that I sincerely hope the Home Secretary in his reply will be able to promise us that some kind of judicial investigation will take place in every case where the assertion is made on the responsibility of a Member of this House. It seems to me that if one-half or one-quarter of the statements are true—I mean the cases of shooting at sight—even though they may have been due to the excitement of the moment, and to the unbalanced minds of the soldiers engaged in the suppression of the rebellion; whatever the cause may be, the refusal of a judicial investigation, publicly held, where the evidence can be brought forward and where the assertions can be either disproved or proved, will justify in the minds of the people of Ireland the suspicion, which they already possess, that we are not earnest in our desire to bring justice to these people. Many of us on this side of the House have been for years past working for the establishment in Ireland of a system of government which would be just to the people of Ireland, and which would place the responsibility for its administration upon their own shoulders. It had been brought to the verge of success. This rebellion came, and what has followed from it seems almost to have destroyed the chance of bringing about that result. If we allow these suspicions to remain in the minds of the people of Ireland, if we do not yield to the claim that has been put forward that these cases shall be investigated, and shall be made public, if we refuse to justify our action before the people of the world, then I shall not be surprised if rebellion rises again, and I am not quite sure that I should be inclined to condemn greatly those who are guilty of it. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to assure us that these specific cases will receive the most public investigation, so that the mind of the public can be informed as to the actual facts, and if the statements made are false they can be disproved, while if they are true the persons guilty of these acts which have been described should at least be brought to justice.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. REDDY
I wish to draw the attention of the House to an agrarian dispute near my district, and to an answer which was given by the Home Secretary in reply to a question which I put to him about the arrest of a man called John Nathan. It took ten days to get an answer from the right hon. Gentleman, and it was totally contrary to the fact. On the 18th of this month he said that he had had inquiries made, and he learned that this man was arrested on 13th July and taken to Kilmainham Gaol, because he obstructed the military authority in the execution of their duty, and he said that the competent military authority, after a consideration of the whole circumstances, decided that the case need not be proceeded with, and the man was accordingly released. I deny totally this version. He was not arrested in connection with cattle-driving. He comes from the landlord class; he is not a plan of campaigner; he has never attended a meeting. His whole fault was this, that he was in his father-in-law's house, and during the reign of terror in that district, which was occupied by 500 police and 1,000 soldiers, Nathan left the yard of his father-in-law with his horse and cart, without asking the leave of a Pasha called Colonel Oates. Oates asked, "Why did you not ask leave?" He said, "Why should I not go home?" He was placed under arrest and refused to go. Oates told the soldiers to put the steel in his back, but he would not move. I ask the right hon. Gentleman—would that be attempted in any part of England? Take, for instance, the dockers' strike, with the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. O'Grady) in charge of it. If a man was watching a blackleg and was told to move on by a soldier or an officer, would the officer tell them to put the steel in his back? Why should that be done in Ireland? Then I may ask, why do the military authorities authorise the billeting of soldiers in all the public houses in this neighbourhood? The district where the dispute is taking place is two miles away, in the county Roscommon, near Ballinasloe. They have nothing to do with that dispute; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could tell me why Assistant Inspector General Tyacke took up his headquarters in the house of a landlord named Potts, of Garrycastle? Potts is under police protection; what brought that man to that house? Why did they allow the police to spread 1796 broadcast in the county that this was a Sinn Fein rising when it was only a small agrarian struggle? I would ask some of the Labour Members to recall the dispute of the Welsh quarrymen with Lord Penrhyn. Would any inspector of police, or any officer, or even General Maxwell, take up his quarters in Lord Penrhyn's place? Such a thing would not be allowed in this country. Why should it be allowed in Ireland? During the Sinn Fein rising the men in all the little police stations were concentrated in the villages, so as to form one body and be able to offer some opposition to the supposed invasion of Sinn Feiners. In my own neighbourhood police were brought six miles from Ballinasloe and the vicinity of Ballinasloe, just half a mile from the barracks. Why should the action of Tyacke and all the restrictions imposed by him be invoked to suppress the public feeling of the men of this district? They will never be able to do it.
§ Mr. REDDY
He is of military age; he is one of the largest landowners in Con-naught; he is ex-High Sheriff and proclaimed King George as King of Great Britain and Ireland in the province of Connaught. He has never attended a recruiting meeting; he employs twenty emergency men and never sent one of them to the front, but that did not make any odds, because I am told that you could make a feather bed from all the white feathers which have been sent to him as a slacker. This man is a landlord and did not sell any land to his tenants, while all the others were doing so. I suppose that this House is becoming again a Hotel Cecil to be used as a garrison for the Cecils against the people. You talk about upholding small nationalities and giving liberty to the whole world. Where is the liberty that we have? You talk of the rebellion of 2,000 men in Dublin—madmen—and half the city of Dublin was levelled in putting them down, and then hundreds were shot in backyards! Why, if this happened in Portugal or Spain, or any European country, you would talk about it; but here is the home of liberty and freedom, and it is allowed! I am disappointed that not one of the Labour Members has ever stood up in the House to protest against these things. They are democrats and supposed to be freeborn 1797 men, but they say nothing, and we are to be driven here and driven there. All I say is this, that if no satisfaction is given in these cases you will have a hard and difficult time and a long road to go.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
I wish to bring to the notice of the right hon Gentleman certain extravagant expenditure of money in one of the Departments of the War Office. Some months ago the War Office re-established at the Curragh Camp a system which had previously been in existence with regard to the acquisition of remounts for the Army. At the instance of the War Office, Colonel Wood, who I believe is head of the Remount Department in Ireland, visited the Curragh Camp and intimated to those who had horses suitable for Army remount purposes, either in Kildare or in the neighbourhood within twenty-five miles of the Curragh, that he and his assistant would attend on certain days at the Curragh to inspect those horses, and see whether they were fit for Army remounts—most of them, I should say, being officers' remounts. I have been asked by my Unionist friends in Kildare who showed horses on that occasion to bring this matter forward. I do not think there was one who might be called a political supporter of mine. They desired me to bring up in this House the futility of the system that has been going on in Ireland. A gentleman who lives in my immediate neighbourhood was one of those who on that occasion showed two horses for the inspection of Colonel Wood, and both, among many others, were rejected. He asked Colonel Wood would he be good enough to tell him why his horses were rejected—were they not fit for Army remounts? There was, he said, no question whatever about the price, for those who showed horses were willing to take whatever prices Colonel Wood said the horses might be worth. Colonel Wood said that gave him no satisfaction, that his business was on the part of the War Office, and that he was not there to listen to their proposals. Colonel Wood may be an excellent judge of horses—I do not know whether he is or not—but I know that some of my Unionist friends in the county of Kildare, the premier hunting county of Ireland, who live near my home in Queen's County, showed horses, and I am perfectly satisfied that neither Colonel Wood nor any other man can produce on this side of the water as good judges of half-bred horses as are my friends.
1798 In reply to questions put by me in this House, the first answer I received was that this matter had been referred to the Remount Department in Ireland. Subsequently I got a further reply from the War Office, enclosing Colonel Wood's report, why the horses were rejected. The report said that they were rejected on account of want of action, and that they were horses of no stamina. That was the official report of Colonel Wood. What has happened? A certain gentleman who is in the horse trade in Ireland, I suppose the best known man in the trade in Ireland, and who is well known in racing circles in Ireland as well as in this country—I do not care to mention his name because other people in the same trade might say I wanted to boom him in this House, though I think everybody knows him pretty well; at least, those connected with the War Office know very well to whom I am alluding—a certain gentleman came to a neighbour of mine to buy some horses and he happened to see those two horses that Colonel Wood had rejected. He said, "I can only give you a certain price for them, because I can only get a certain price from the War Office for officers' remounts. I cannot give you more than £60 each for these two horses." Their prewar price was something between £150 and £200. The two horses were sold for £60 each to this well-known horse dealer, this man well known in racing circles, both in Ireland and England. He said to the sellers that he could not give them more than £60, as he had to get a bit for himself from the War Office for his trouble, and the price paid by the War Office for officers' remounts was £70 each. How can you conduct the War Office on anything like economical principles if you allow things like this to go on in one small Department of it? How will this encourage those farmers in the county of Kildare who are willing to let the War Office have these horses at any price fixed by Colonel Wood, who rejected everyone of them. We all know why that was done. There was not one of these large farmers or landlords who had not in his stable at that time three or four horses fit for the particular job for which they were intended. I know that if I had got only four horses to sell to anybody it would not be worth my while to put my hand deep down into my pocket for the purpose of selling. What happened? Three days after these horses were rejected Colonel Wood went to a 1799 place seventeen miles from the Curragh and visited some stables where there were thirty horses of the same class ready for Colonel Wood's inspection. He took the whole thirty. I say there is nobody in Ireland who does not know the reason—
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
Honey dough—my hon. Friend anticipates me, and perhaps you do not know that it means "money down." My Unionist friends in county Kildare had nearly every one of them shown horses on the occasion to which I referred. Some of them were well-known Unionist landlords, and two or three of them, who were military men, in their day had done their part wherever the British Empire required a soldier of courage and ability. I told them of the purchase Colonel Wood had made of thirty horses. They were terribly incensed. They said, "We brought our horses here, not for the purpose of extracting big prices for them, or anything of that kind; we came here because we thought it our duty to bring the class of animal which it is absolutely essential that the War Office should have at this particular time of crisis. We came here and we told him we were prepared to take whatever price he fixed without a murmur, because we believed that at this time everybody has to make sacrifices." At one place thirty-five horses were shown and only one horse was bought at something like £35, and that was the only weed amongst the whole lot. I have mentioned this question at the special request of my Unionist friends, who want to see you win the War just as much as I want to see you win it, and I want to see you win it just as much as they do. They were so disgusted that they said, "Is it any wonder that the War should cost £5,000,000 per day when this kind of thing goes on, and when they pay from 30 per cent, to 60 per cent, more than would be paid if a really businesslike system were adopted?" My hon. Friend above the Gangway knows a good deal about it, and I am sure he has heard what has occurred, because everybody in Ireland has heard it, and the thing is notorious. What I say is an absolute fact. I think I have said sufficient to show that these matters ought to be looked into. I wish to make it clear that anything I say is not meant as an attack on the Home Secretary, who is responsible for Irish 1800 affairs at present, and I dissociate myself entirely from any personal attack made on the right hon. Gentleman. I know he is not the official in whose Department this matter rests, but, in the interests of efficiency and economy, I would ask him to secure that people in Ireland, of all classes and all political parties, will not be so disgusted by what is going on, and that he will bring the whole matter to the serious notice of the War Office.
§ Mr. BOLAND
I wish to call attention to another Department of Irish Government. I brought under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman a short time ago the latest action of the Intermediate Education Board—one of those irresponsible Boards—
I am afraid that does not arise here. This Vote is concerned with military and not with education affairs.
§ Mr. P. MEEHAN
I wish to endorse everything that my hon. Friend (Mr. Kilbride) has said wth regard to the buying of horses. I know that at the beginning of the War horses were bought in various parts of Ireland at prices far beyond their value. I think, considering the great burden England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales have to bear, that steps should be taken to secure that in future money will not be extravagantly expended in this matter. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in county Waterford horses were bought by Government buyers at from £50 to £60 each, and subsequently, when rejected by the veterinary authorities of the Army as unsound, were sold in the City of Waterford by public auction and bought back by the men who received the £50 or £60 for £3 or £4 Why was this? It was because there was a number of people in Ireland who had nothing to do—ne'er-do-wells, scions of the ascendancy class—and when the War occurred the opportunity arose to put them in positions, and they were sent to buy horses. I am only taking the county Waterford, because I know the figures with reference to that county, and that is what has happened. Then there is the question of the buying of hay for Army purposes. Last year in Ireland the supply of hay was commandeered, and limitations were put upon the price which impeded the merchants in the course of business and were absolutely uncalled for. The percentage of hay which the Government bought last year in Ireland was 10 per cent, of the 1801 whole crop. This year they have commandeered the whole crop. They have refused to allow small farmers to sell their hay in the usual manner in the public markets. Last week in my own town—Maryborough—loads of hay which were being brought in for the purpose of trade were sent back, and the small farmers who were bringing it in were not allowed to sell it. At this time of the year there is no other productive crop for which they can get money, and they had to go back and put the hay in their haggards. The Government will not buy hay in Ireland except in rick, and you cannot expect the small holder—and there are many in my Constituency, and in very Irish constituency, with holdings of three or four acres, of which probably only an acre grows hay—to put his one or two cocks in a rick. Having regard to the fact that this year there is no indication that the Government will require a higher percentage than the 10 per cent, of last year, why are those restrictions put on the open selling of hay in the public market?
§ Mr. MEEHAN
Cow hay is not required for military purposes. Men who probably depend on the elements whether they can save their crop or not, when they bring it into the market are told to take it back home. By whom? By a non-commissioned officer who does not know hay from straw. This is really an important matter, because it means that the ordinary market for hay in Ireland is locked up owing to these unnecessary restrictions. It is monstrous that the agricultural resources of a country should be dealt with in this way, especially when we have to pay for this War. We are paying without grumbling, and we will not grumble, but we expect to have fair play. Every man in Ireland is willing to give the Government any hay it wants at a fair price, but we object strongly to these restrictions, which simply prevent the ordinary market from obtaining the supplies that are wanted. Last year hay was commandeered by the Government. It was left in the fields and some of it is there yet. The people waited until the end of October expecting their money. That is 1802 bad business, and any Government that does its business in that manner is not worthy of the confidence of the country.
I strongly appeal to the Home Secretary to use his influence in the matter. At present, owing to events in Ireland, unfortunately we have no responsible Minister in the House. My right hon. Friend has various duties to perform in connection with the Home Office, and we all admit that so far as he is concerned he has been most courteous and obliging. At the same time we have a Minister in Ireland responsible for agricultural matters, but since the recent rising he has not been here. We should be very glad to see him for the purpose of dealing with matters like this, with which I admit the Home Secretary is really not in a position to deal. Moreover, there are various other little points that we would like to put before him. In Queen's County last year the man who bought hay came from county Clare. Everybody with any knowledge of Irish agriculture knows that the hay in county Clare varies in quality from that in Queen's County. This man was sent there and gave universal dissatisfaction, as is usual in such cases. He was a very nice chap to meet; I discussed the question with him on several occasions, but he was simply tied up by his orders. In conclusion, I would ask the Home Secretary to do what he can in regard to these hay restrictions, because that is really a general grievance, and I hope that as a result of our protest those restrictions will be removed.
As I have almost my day's work at the Home Office still to do to-night, perhaps hon. Members will allow me to reply now. I can only do so by permission of the House, as I have already spoken incidentally in the Debate. The last three Members who have addressed the House have spoken with a knowledge of places and persons in Ireland, and, I may add, of horses and hay, with which I cannot for a moment compete
At the present time I am called upon to administer two offices of State, not at my own desire, either of which is a sufficient task for one individual, but I am thankful to think that among the great variety of topics with which day by day I am called upon to 1803 deal the purchase of horses and the purchase of hay in Ireland are not included. Therefore I can only promise to draw the attention of the War Office to the matters with which hon. Members have dealt. The statements they have made have been so full and explicit that I have no doubt the War Office will be able to take them into full and immediate consideration. Other hon. Members have dealt with certain incidents connected with the insurrection in Dublin. Naturally and inevitably those incidents must have aroused deep feeling. Things happened which all of us must profoundly deplore, and I think it should be the desire of everyone now, so far as we can, each within his own sphere, to allay the inevitable bitterness created at that time. The hon. Member for North Galway frankly said that these incidents were not on one side only. When we remember the hardships, the suffering, the loss, and the agony of mind from which great numbers of people have suffered owing to that rebellion, let us not forget that there were hundreds of gallant young soldiers killed and wounded. Let us not forget also the wives and children of the officers and men who fell in this conflict.
Let us think of the misery of the fathers and mothers of those young men whom they sent expecting to run risks in a great fight, in a great cause for high national ideals, but whom they subsequently learnt had fallen in an internecine conflict here at home which no one had anticipated and everyone deplores. For days those who raised the standard of rebellion occupied the centre of Dublin. There was much promiscuous shooting on the one side and on the other. The streets were full of flying bullets. Artillery had to be used at the end of the streets in large areas. What I have always regarded as parts of the most beautiful city are devastated and in ruins. Elsewhere outside Dublin there were minor disturbances, some of which, however, resulted in considerable loss of life. After all, let the House remember this is not to be regarded as a pardonable eccentricity on the part of well-meaning enthusiasts. If we view the matter with impartial minds we must regard the action of these rebels as a great crime against society, and an outrage upon the people of the city of Dublin itself.
These were the circumstances with which the Government was confronted. These were the conditions with which General 1804 Maxwell, a very distinguished soldier of long, most honourable, and efficient service, was called upon to deal. I know well that the task that he had to undertake at the call of duty was to him a distasteful one. For anyone to be the agent of repression must necessarily be in the highest degree distasteful. I think the thanks of the Government and of this House are due to General Maxwell for undertaking this most difficult duty. It is true, no doubt, that in the circumstances of this insurrection a certain number of innocent people lost their lives or suffered from injuries. Perhaps the most lamentable of all the incidents that took place was the shooting of Mr. Sheehy Skeffington and his two companions. The incident is one which must fill with horror anyone who is acquainted with its details. The House is well aware that the officer on whom the responsibility for that matter is laid was found by the Court to be insane and is now confined in Broadmoor.
I do not think that anyone can allege with any shadow of justification that there was, on the part of the officers and soldiers of His Majesty's Forces, any bloodthirsty desire to kill innocent persons for the sake of killing. Unhappily, women and children got hurt in the conflict. I am sure, however, that every Member of the House will, in justice to our soldiery, say that these incidents must have been sheer accidents.
I think the House, in imagination, will consider what the circumstances were in Dublin during those days when the bullets were hurtling clown many of the streets, and fierce fighting was proceeding—day after day in several quarters of the city. It would be inevitable that a certain number of the innocent population must suffer.
§ Mr. CULLINAN
May I ask why it was that the commanding officer of this gentleman who has been described as a lunatic did not report the matter to his superiors and have him placed under arrest?
As the hon. Member knows, there is going to be a further inquiry into the question of responsibility.
With respect to the inquiry to be held, in which the whole incident will be reviewed, the Prime Minister has already pointed out to the House on more than one occasion that our machinery of inquiry makes no provision for evidence to be taken on oath unless someone is put upon his trial. There is no procedure other than procedure established by special Act of Parliament which would enable an inquiry to be held that would thoroughly sift the evidence, and by means of witnesses summoned before the Court, have their evidence taken upon oath, with the penalties for perjury for false witness. Furthermore, incidents such as I have recalled to the House show that the difficulty of obtaining reliable evidence is almost insuperable. The inquiries that have already been held by the military authorities show the very great difficulty of sifting the information that has been secured. The evidence in many of these incidents is worth nothing at all. In fact, there are a very considerable number of cases in which one knows before hand for that reason that the inquiry is almost certain to be abortive. Therefore the Prime Minister has explained to the House that as at present advised he does not recommend the holding of an inquiry such as has been suggested, and for the two reasons I have named.
Yes, Sir. The Prime Minister has stated on many occasions the measures taken with regard to those taken in arms or suspected of rebellion. At the height of the struggle the military swept into their custody a considerable number of persons whom they afterwards found had not really taken part in the rebellion. Hon. Members will imagine that when some portion of the city, after hard fighting, was occupied by the troops with the persons within that area, it was known that many within it had been actively engaged in firing, and that it was difficult to distinguish amongst large numbers of the population which took part in the shooting and which did not. Many of these wore no uniform, and nothing is simpler than to throw away a rifle and emerge from a house apparently as an innocent member of the public. Necessarily the 1806 military had to arrest a considerable number of persons on suspicion pending investigation to see whether or not they really had to be kept for court-martial. Altogether 3,000 persons were arrested. After examination by the military, who had legal assistance, 1,200 were released. There were arrested eighty-two women. Naturally the military authorities and the civil authorities would be very unwilling to detain in custody any considerable number of women unless the evidence was very strong. Undoubtedly there were some women actively engaged in military operations. Of the eighty-two it was found within a very brief period possible to release no fewer than seventy seven; only five of the eighty-two were interned. One or two of the others were required to leave Ireland and reside, though at liberty, in England. I think there were two in that category—and I speak from memory—out of the 1,800 we still retain in custody. These we have the choice either of putting upon their trial by court-martial or of dealing with them under the Defence of the Realm Regulations 14 B. It was felt, as I have said and for reasons I quite frankly gave to the House, that it was not expedient or desirable to continue longer than necessary the régime of courts-martial. We did not want to keep courts-martial sitting perhaps weeks certainly, and probably for months, to try this very large body of prisoners. On the other hand, it was felt that to discharge to their homes all these 1,800 people, very many of whom had been really taken in arms or had surrendered at the Post Office, or St. Stephen's Green, or at Jacob's factory, or the other places which had been the centres of rebellion, would really be an indefensible procedure, and would be condemned by public opinion at large, and not only in England.
§ Mr. FLAVIN
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that not 20 per cent, were taken in arms or with uniform?
I am not prepared to say that it was only 20 per cent. It is generally agreed that between 2,000 and 3,000 were in arms in Dublin. It is true they were not all arrested.
The military authorities recommended the internment, pending investigation by the Advisory Committee, of those 1,800 persons, and the great majority of them were accordingly interned at Frongoch. Let me point out here, incidentally, that the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy), in addition to the very large number of other misstatements of fact, said in this House, on his responsibility as a Member of Parliament, that the camp at Frongoch, when it was occupied by German prisoners, had been condemned by the American Embassy, and was not found good enough for German prisoners, and the Irish were sent there. This is a gross misstatement of fact. The truth is precisely the opposite, as I have stated in answer to questions. The American Embassy's representative reported more favourably on that camp than upon any other, and said that, on the whole, there was no camp better in the whole of the United Kingdom, and the conditions there were most favourable. This is only a specimen of the gross misstatements of which the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork is continually guilty in this House.
The Advisory Committee, the composition of which I have frequently mentioned, has undertaken its task with the greatest assiduity and energy, and, I think I may respectfully say, with discretion. The task will be almost concluded, I believe, this week. To examine 1,800 cases, to see personally all the interned persons who desire to be seen, has involved a very heavy burden on that Committee, for which they are entitled to the thanks of this House. They have worked every day continuously from early in the morning until late at night. They have given a most sympathetic and careful hearing to all the cases brought before them. They came unanimously to the conclusion that, as a matter of fact, a very large proportion of these men in Dublin were dupes of the leaders, and when they went out on that fatal Easter Monday morning many thought that they were only going to be engaged upon a route march, such as they had often undertaken before as members of the Irish Volunteers. In consideration of that fact, and of the fact that they had been three months in confinement, the Committee found themselves able to recommend very large numbers of releases. But those recommendations did not imply 1808 that those men, or a very large proportion of them, had been wrongly interned. There may have been mistakes here and there. I cannot say in such a considerable number there might not have been individuals whom it might have been better not to have interned at all. But the fact that very large numbers have been released does not, in the opinion of the Committee, imply that they were wrongly arrested or detained. The great majority of the 1,800 were, in fact, released. The precise numbers that will have to be retained as active leaders of the movement, and serious participants in the armed operations, will be only a fraction of the whole. The precise number I cannot yet give, because the inquiry is not concluded, and a certain number of cases are being held over until evidence has been taken in Dublin, as I believe it is the intention of the Committee to take evidence in Dublin.
That is all that is necessary for me to say on this occasion in this matter. The hon. Member for North Galway (Mr. Hazleton) asked me a specific question as to the publication of Sir John Maxwell's dispatch. I am very sorry I am not in a position to tell why it was so long postponed. I certainly thought myself it was going to be published at a considerably earlier date. I am afraid these dispatches very frequently have been delayed. General Hamilton's dispatch about the Dardanelles, and many others, have been delayed some considerable time after they were written and transmitted, but I am afraid I am not in a position to tell the hon. Member the precise reason, because I do not know why that particular date was chosen. I think it was simply in the course of ordinary procedure. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is not necessary for me to detain the House longer by entering into the larger issues of Irish policy or government, because those matters will be the subject of special debate on Monday next, when the House will have the fullest opportunity of considering the conditions under which the Government of Ireland now finds itself, and the probabilities of its future.
§ Mr. MEEHAN
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman why, after the Advisory Committee have advised the release of these Irish prisoners, there has been such delay on the part of the Home Office in relasing these men—I am told as much as three weeks?
I am sure there has been no such delay as three weeks in any case. I am sure that is quite impossible. So far as I am concerned, orders of release are signed by me the moment the recommendation comes from the Committee. They are transmitted to the camp. Arrangements have to be made for trains and boats, and those arrangements occasionally involve delay—possibly of a day, or possibly two days. I have not ascertained precisely how much delay, but I cannot believe it is more than a day or two.
§ Mr. FLAVIN
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions. I should like to ask, in the interests of economy and war saving, what method of procedure is adopted by the War Office, Admiralty, and Munitions Department in the giving of contracts for carrying on this War? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that large house furnishers and drapers in the City, people who have never built a concrete foundation all their lives, are not only on the Admiralty and War Office lists in connection with contracts, but get priority over experienced builders with thirty or forty years' experience? I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day whether there was any audit or any supervision by the Exchequer in connection with the money paid by the Exchequer to the different Departments?
§ Mr. FLAVIN
Yes, I am referring to London. At least, there is one hon. Member on the bench opposite who knows of the case in which I have taken an interest. It is that of a man who has been twenty years a builder, with wide experience in erecting buildings, and making concrete foundations in every part of Great Britain, Ireland, and even Canada—a trained builder, a man whose father for thirty years before him was a builder, a large contractor, and a man who has been on the War Office list, Munitions list, and Admiralty list, for the last five months, and during the whole of that period this man has only been invited once to tender for a contract. I want to ask in connection with these contracts what means there are of selecting the contractors? Is it ability, knowledge of the work, or influence? I can say of my own personal knowledge I have no 1810 interest in this man, but I want to put the question in the interests of economy, and of one of my own countrymen, a man who is of Irish descent, but born in this country, a competent builder and contractor, who holds testimonials from some of the ablest men in the Empire, a man brought up to the profession, and who, up to a month or two ago, has had between sixty and seventy experienced men, not suitable for the War, in the suburbs of London ready and willing to carry out work for the Government.
I want to know from somebody in authority who is responsible? Is it the Minister of Munitions, the Secretary for War, or the First Lord of the Admiralty? I would like to know if they personally examine the tenders or the names, and what means is there of selecting the men who do tender? It seems to me to be as hard for a man to get on the Munitions contract list as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. I have gone to every one of the Departments concerned, and I cannot get any information as to what test is applied in the case of a man tendering. It should be a question of competency, ability, and experience; and the second consideration ought to be the price at which the work can be done within a specified time. It is an extraordinary thing that men who have spent twenty or thirty years in practical building should not be allowed to tender for the expenditure of £10,000 or £20,000, while a large firm in the drapery and furnishing line in London will not only be put on the contractors' list but his tender will be accepted. We are entitled to know the names of the firms who have tendered and the amount of money which those tenders represent. It is in the interests of the country that these things should be made public, and I have very grave doubts whether the heads of these great Departments ever see any of the tenders. It seems to me that two or three of the junior clerks in each Department deal with these matters. Speaking with an absolutely open mind and knowing how some of these contracts have been given to people with no experience, and many of them sublet, if I cannot get a satisfactory answer when the opportunity arises again I shall raise this subject in Debate.
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Mr. Harcourt)
The point raised by the hon. Member does not concern the Department which I represent.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
In my own Department all enders over a certain amount are personally considered by me. If the hon. Gentleman had given notice that he was going to raise this point, one of my right hon. Friends would have been here to deal with this matter. As he has omitted to give that notice, all I can state is that the facts he has brought forward shall be brought to their notice.
§ Mr. CRUMLEY
With regard to the purchases of hay in Ireland, I know a case where hay was purchased at the end of August and was not taken away till February, and the owner understood that he would have £4 a ton for the hay, and at the extra rate arranged of 10s. per month when the hay was delivered, and he expected to get £6 per ton, but he only got £4 a ton. It was stated in this House that 10s. per month extra from the date of purchase would, be paid, and I think that agreement should be carried out to the letter. I know the Government have been purchasing horses in Ireland, and on one occasion a gentleman sold a horse to an agent of the Government for £35. The horse was taken charge of by the agent of the Government and was tried for his wind and was then put on one side for some time. Of course, the owner considered that the Government official had taken charge of it. Later on the horse was stolen from a place where there was a large number of other horses tied to a rail, and the unfortunate man never got anything for his horse. Afterwards the Government proposed to give him a gratuity of £15 because of his misfortune. This man went to law, and his case was dismissed because there was too much evidence that he had not delivered the horse himself. I hear that the horse was afterwards sold back to the Government in another town. I think the Government should still consider the fact that that man has lost the price of his horse.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.