HC Deb 31 October 1916 vol 86 cc1652-65

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. MACLEAN in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient to authorise the further provision out of moneys provided by Parliament for the pay of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police and for pensions, allowances, and gratuities to members of those forces, their widows, and children."


This Resolution is necessary to found the Bill by which the Government propose to meet the representations made to them as to the inadequacy of pay of both the Irish Police forces. The Committee is no doubt well aware that both the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary, bodies which in point of numbers stand in a ratio of one in Dublin to ten in the country at large, are in the main dependent upon the Imperial Exchequer for any improvement in their position in respect of pay. There are contributions from localities which are regulated by Act of Parliament, but the maximum has long ago been reached in the case of most, if not all, of the contributory localities, and any increase of pay must necessarily fall upon the Exchequer. Hence the necessity for a measure of this kind if the pay is to be increased. The difficulty of the Irish Police in both forces in regard to their pay is not by any means a new matter. There have been two inquiries within the last ten years. There was an inquiry in 1908, which resulted in some improvement in pay, and there was a Royal Commission in 1914. The result of the very moderate extent to which the recommendations of that Commission were given effect to has not been satisfactory. In considering the present position of the police, I have been very much struck by the information I gained by a perusal of the evidence given on the part of the police before the Royal Commission of 1914, as well as by a good deal of knowledge otherwise acquired.

In August, when I was appointed to the office which I now hold, I found it represented from both forces with a gravity which I could not lightly regard that the pay of the lower ranks was inadequate to provide for the maintenance of the police And their families in a manner which would warrant an expectation of the proper performance of their duties. Those representations came from every quarter, and I am bound to say that the Chief Commissioner in Dublin and the Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary joined in the representations that concessions were necessary for the purpose of securing the proper efficiency and the reasonable contentment of the two forces. In the multitude of the labours of the Irish Office the necessary investigations could not be made in a day or a week, but they have now been made, and the necessary sanction of the Treasury was obtained a few days ago. This Resolution is the result of the investigations which have lately been made and the sanction which has been given by the Treasury to the increases which are proposed, and it is necessary to found the Bill, which I hope will find an easy passage through this House.

The increases of pay which are proposed are to both forces, and I think there are no members of either force below the highest ranks who will not receive some benefit by virtue of the measure which is proposed. I cannot hope that the benefits will be commensurate with the expectations which have been encouraged, or even the amounts for which application has been made. May I say that there has been a serious demand made that there should be an increase of 50 per cent, in pay, in addition to a war bonus which has been given to both forces this year, with regard to men who are receiving between 20s. and 30s. per week—an increase of pay at the rate of 12s. It will not surprise the Committee to learn that it was impossible to expect the Treasury to consent to increases of that kind, but, as I say, there will be increases in pay which will touch the two forces throughout excepting the highest ranks, and which I expect and believe will lessen, if they do not entirely remove, the difficulties which have been represented as existing in the proper maintenance by the police of themselves and their families.


Will they include the county inspectors and the district inspectors?


Yes; there will be increases. I am not able to tell my hon. Friend in detail at the moment. When I spoke of the highest ranks I was thinking of the Chief Commissioner and the Inspector-General. I think I am right in saying—I have not the details before me; they will be circulated in the Schedule of the Bill—that there are concessions either in pay or allowances to the ranks my hon. Friend has mentioned. In order to appreciate the scope, I will not say of the concessions, but of the increases in pay which the Treasury has seen its way to approve, I think I ought to say a few words as to the position of the several ranks in the forces with regard to pay and allowances. The regulations of the two forces have this effect with regard to the distinction between single and married men: The single men, I think, of both forces—it is very conspicuously so in Dublin—are found residing in barracks. Practically the whole of the single men of the Dublin force reside in barracks, and in the country at large the single men of the Royal Irish Constabulary are generally, if not universally, found in barracks. The married men of the Dublin Metropolitan Police—the regulations contemplate their marrying after some years' service—receive a lodging allowance of 3s. per week. The married men of the Royal Irish Constabulary, if they marry after seven years' service in conformity with the regulations of the force, become entitled in the country districts to a lodging allowance of 2s., and in the urban districts, in Belfast and the other large cities, to a lodging allowance of 3s. per week.

There is this in common with regard to both forces. They all receive a boot allowance. I think it is at the modest rate of 8d. a week. They are in both cases, however, free from any deduction of pay on account of pension. In the English forces, as many members are aware, there is a deduction from pay at the rate of 2½ per cent, of pay to procure the pension. The pension of the Irish forces is one of the conditions of service, and the pay is net to that extent. It is increased by the boot allowance of 8d. per week which I have mentioned. It is not necessary to consider the war bonus. That is of an exceptional nature. It was granted in the summer, and it does not enter into the considerations which affect the questions which have to be decided here. Those are questions of a normal and permanent character, and I propose to deal with those questions quite concisely. I am afraid that some anxiety must have been caused by alarming and, in some cases exaggerated, and wild stories which have been circulated in regard to the condition of affairs in Dublin. I have been long enough in Ireland to know that you must not take any statement circulated at its face value. Some of the statements which have been circulated seem to me to have been almost purposely alarming and mischievous. I will return to this matter. As to both forces, however, I may say that whenever the pay of the police in Ireland has been dealt with the conditions of the police in Dublin and the towns, and the conditions in the country have been treated as one matter, and the circumstances which were to govern any amelioration have been treated as circumstances which affected the police both in town and country. The two react one upon the other, as everybody will see, having regard to the common conditions which underlie life, and the varied circumstances between town and country.

With regard to the Dublin police, what has been done can be summarised, as to the rank and file, in a few words. With respect to the whole rank and file of the force, except those with less than three years' service, we propose to provide for an increase in the permanent pay of 3s. a week, and with regard to the men who have been in the ranks less than three years, there will be an increase at the rate of 2s. per week. There are advantages corresponding in ratio for the sergeants, the station sergeants, and the ranks above to which I have referred.

With regard to the Royal Irish Constabulary—I dare say I am stating facts which are familiar to Members—the scale of pay is a lower scale. For instance, where at present the scale in the Dublin force is 26s., the rate of pay in the Royal Irish Constabulary is 23s. It appears from an examination of the varied literature there is upon this subject that this difference represents the average difference in the scale of living between town and country, bearing in mind also the question of house accommodation. At present the scale of pay after six months' probation in the Royal Irish Constabulary is a commencing scale of 23s. It is proposed to increase that as a permanent matter to 25s. After the first two years of service it is proposed to bring into effect throughout all ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary-constables and sergeants-a series of increase which would not be less than 3s. per week in each case. I do not pledge myself to the statement that the increases are absolutely uniform. It is almost impossible, in endeavouring to make the scales proportionate, that they should be absolutely uniform, but for the men of the Royal Irish Constabulary who have not less than two years' service, there is proposed to be a uniform increase of pay at the rate of 3s. per week. There are besides allowances and advantages with regard to the higher ranks—although not the highest—particulars which will be found in the Bill—allowances and advantages which have been urged upon the Irish Office and on the Treasury by the officers of the force as absolutely necessary to their position in view of the times and surrounding circumstances.

In Ireland last summer there was a grant of a war bonus which, in itself, was recognised on all hands to be a not ungenerous allowance in respect of the increased cost of living. But much disappointment was caused by the fact that the war bonus took effect either at the time at which it was announced or very shortly before. I am glad to say with regard to the proposals which I am now introducing to the Committee it is intended, subject to the sanction of the House, that they shall take effect as from the end of the last financial year. That is done on absolutely sober and necessary grounds. I am satisfied that, under existing conditions, many of the married men, and especially those of the Royal Irish Constabulary, have had to fall into debt. It is very undesirable that any police force should be in such a position. The reason which seem to make it necessary to ask that these increases should not commence at the date when sanctioned, or at the date of the passing of the Bill, but should have a retrospective effect, is to be found in the fact that without a proposal of that kind you cannot secure the benefit which it is desired to secure for the general body of the men. There are some minor advantages also embodied in the Bill. There is a provision for equalising the position in the City of Dublin with the situation as it is in Ireland at large where a member of the force who is killed in the course of his duty leaves a widow or dependant. The widows and dependants of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary are in a better position under the law as it stands than those who may be similarly situated in the City of Dublin, and it is intended to remove that anomaly. Then there is also the question of the allowances paid to men on active service. But that does not affect the larger question in the Bill.

I want to show with regard to these proposals that not merely has attention been given to the question of securing a living wage, but it has also been given to the necessity for securing a fair wage. Comparison has been made, as far as possible, in connection with the proposed scales of wages with those in force in English police forces. It is not practicable to compare Dublin with this Metropolis, and it does not help very much to compare it with Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester, or Birmingham. But the evidence, so far as it has been adduced upon this subject, does point to a somewhat lower scale and lower cost of living in Ireland. The matter, in fact, has been the subject of a good deal of evidence at one time or another—some comparatively recent—on the question of relative pay, and I cast about to see whether I could get some standard which might apply to the pay of the Dublin Police Force as compared with some British police force. It appeared to me it would not be unfair to Dublin to make a comparison with the city of Bristol, which has a population of much the same size as Dublin, including the suburbs. The Dublin population numbers about 400,000; the Bristol total is somewhat below that. The Bristol police area, however, is not framed on so extensive and ample a plan as the Dublin police area. Everybody knows you may go a long way outside the city of Dublin and still find yourself under the care of the Dublin Metropolitan police. The populations compare in one way, but the rateable values compare in an opposite way, because the rateable value of Bristol is one-fifth higher than that of Dublin. In Dublin it is £1,500,000, in Bristol it is £1,900,000. I assure the Committee that these proposals have not been lightly made or made without regard to all the circumstances which should be taken into account, and I want hon. Members to appreciate the comparisons of pay as between the Bristol constabulary and the Dublin constabulary.

I will take the first year—the year of entry. The Bristol policeman has to pay 2½ per cent, of his pay towards pension, while the Dublin policeman pays nothing in that regard. The Bristol policeman does not get the 8d. per week boot allowance which the Dublin man receives. I am dealing with the money which goes actually to the man, and, in so far as I have been able to ascertain-and 1 have made inquiries of the police authorities at Bristol for that purpose-it would appear that the money which the Bristol police constable receives in his first year of service is 27s. 4d., while, bearing in mind the allowances which I have mentioned, the Dublin constable receives 27s. 8d., or, rather, that is the amount he will receive under the proposed scale if the House sanctions them. He will, in fact, be a few pence better off than his comrade in Bristol.


Does that include the War bonus?

8.0 P.M.


No. At the time I made my inquiries, seven or eight weeks ago, there was a war bonus in Bristol, I think, of 2s. or 2s. 6d., while that which was then in existence in Ireland was a flat rate of 3s. 6d. But I cannot think that that should be brought into account for the purpose of deciding what is fair and reasonable pay for the police constable. The War may come to an end at no very distant date, and we may hope that at some reasonable period after that—perhaps it is a sanguine hope—it will be possible to modify the war bonus. In the fourth year of his service the money received by the Bristol constable amounts to 30s. 3d., as compared with the 32s, 8d. which it is proposed the Dublin constable shall receive. After the eighth year the Bristol constable gets 32s. 2d. But now comes into operation the beneficial provision under the Irish police system which gives the constable who marries with leave a lodging allowance. The unmarried constable after his eighth year of service will have in Dublin as pay, with his boot allowance, 34s 8d., but the married constable in Dublin will have 34s. 8d., plus 3s., and at that stage he has a distinct and specific advantage over his comrade at Bristol. Next I take the twelfth year of service. While the Bristol man's pay is 35s. 1½d., the pay of the single man in Dublin is 34s. 8d., and of the married man 34s. 8d., plus 3s. lodging allowance. I do not propose to pursue the comparison much further, for any comparison in these matters is apt to be misleading. But in order to deal with the case, so that those who are interested may fairly understand what my mind is on the subject, I must mention wth regard to this comparison of Bristol with Dublin that in Bristol the men may receive duty pay. A man may receive allowances for overtime, and he may receive an allowance for special duties. It has not been the practice, so far as I have been able to Ascertain, to make the same kind of payment in Dublin. That is not for want of statutory powers. It is not necessary to come to this House and ask for new power, because I find on referring to the Dublin Police Act, I think of 1336, that the Chief Secretary, who has been entrusted with this task as he has with so many others, may propose, and I think may direct, if the money can be found, that payment shall be made for exceptional services. I know no reason why that power should not be availed of. There must be occasions in a city like Dublin when exceptional services are imposed upon the police, and so far as I am concerned, I tell the Committee, and I tell those who are concerned, that if, during any period of time I may have responsibility in this matter, exceptional services are thrown upon the police, I shall regard it as my duty to use any exertion I can to see that those exceptional services are provided for in some additional remuneration.

I would have been glad to stop at this point, and to say that these proposals for payments out of the Exchequer which I venture to recommend to the House are necessary and just. But it is impossible t) stop at this point, having regard to the position which has, in fact, existed in Dublin during the past few days, and having regard to what has been represented to be the condition of things in Dublin in the past few days. Two matters have come into great prominence. One is the holding of meetings—not meetings of the police in their barracks which have been sanctioned, but meetings of the police convened by people outside and directed by people outside for the purpose of using the condition of the police as an instrument of pressure upon the Government, such meetings being held contrary to what are known to be the regulations of the force. The second matter is the enrolment of a considerable body among the constables of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in a society called the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Both of those are matters which have necessarily attracted very close public attention, and in some aspects of them they have excited in some quarters a good deal of alarm. I want to say, with regard to both these matters, that the holding of meetings under any except the extremest circumstances was a breach of discipline which must be accounted for as a breach of discipline. It is impossible, where meetings of a particular class are prohibited for the general good of the police force and for the well-being of the community, that such a prohibition should be disregarded and set aside as if there were no authority behind a regulation of that kind. That, however, is not the gravamen of the matter in the eyes of those who have been considering the recent condition of things in Dublin. As I have said, a very considerable body of the police of Dublin—I do not know what number, because these proceedings have been conducted in private and behind closed doors—have undoubtedly been persuaded to enrol themselves in a society called the Ancient Order of Hibernians. There are two things to be said about that. One is, that during many years now that society, in its various phases, has been closely associated with the fortunes of a political party. What is its exact constitution nobody whom I have met has been able to tell me. I should not be betraying any confidence if I say that one of the hon. Members who sit usually on the benches below the Gangway opposite made two absolutely conflicting statements to me in the Lobby this afternoon as to whether, in his judgment, this society was or was not a political society. But it is a society which, in the minds of a very great number of people in Dublin, is so closely associated with political action as to cause them alarm.


Was the hon. Member to whom the right hon. Gentleman refers a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians?


I believe so. He professed to know, and I think he was. But he was in doubt as to whether a certain thing had happened which has, if I may so put it, expurgated a political character from one of the branches of this society. Every man at the present time who is invited in Ireland to join the Ancient Order of Hibernians knows what is the nature and effect of the invitation which is extended to him.


I am very averse from inter- vening, but it does seem to me that the right hon. Gentleman is going into the question of the constitution of this body to which he is making reference. It is quite obvious that I could not shut out any reply upon it, and I am afraid we should be lost in a general debate which is not really relevant to the Resolution before the Committee. These matters may be raised, of course, on the Second Reading of the Bill, which will be founded upon this Resolution; but I think I must draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to my view that this matter is really outside the scope of the Resolution at present before the Committee.


I am much obliged to you, Sir. I am sure I have travelled further than the purview of this Resolution, but if any Member who is here had spent the last three or four days in Dublin, as it has been my business to do, he would feel anxiety. I could not introduce and explain these proposals—I mention it by way of apology—knowing what has occurred and the view which exists in Dublin and elsewhere in regard to the matter, without making an allusion to it, which I did not intend to elaborate in any detail. However, I pass from that. These incidents have occurred, but they do not seem to me to warrant any failure on the part of the Government to redeem the pledge which was made some time since, and which I made myself when I became Chief Secretary, that the grievances with regard to pay in the Dublin Force and the Royal Irish Constabulary should be examined, and that, so far as was practicable and proper, means should be taken to remedy them. I say no more as to these other aspects of the matter, except that, whether it is a stinted pay or a more generous pay, it is earned in a police force only by a disciplined body of men. It is obvious that discipline and the observance of the conditions of employment are of paramount necessity in a police force if they are necessary anywhere. I present these proposals and press them upon the Committee as proposals which are necessary in order that justice may be done in the matter of pay both in Dublin and among the Royal Irish Constabulary, who are a much larger force, and just as I believe that discipline is necessary, I believe, that justice is necessary. I trust it will be found that justice will help discipline. It is on these grounds that I move the Resolution.


I intended to reserve my observations until the Bill is introduced, especially as I understand another subject is to come before the House presently. I would, however, make one or two observations. In the first place, while I acknowledge the promptitude of my right hon. Friend in meeting the wrong, I think it is lamentable that the wrong has been so long unredressed. He said it was an injustice that these men were underpaid and he illustrated that by an observation which I am sure astounded every Member of the Committee, namely, that he thought a number of these policemen had got into debt. It is a shocking thing for this House to find that in a police force such as the Dublin Metropolitan Police a policeman should be so underpaid that he should be subject to the necessity of running into debt. An hon. Gentleman near me says that it applies to all Ireland as well. That makes it worse. If my right hon. Friend had persisted at any great length in going into the question of the connection of these men with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, I should have had to say something too, but as you, Sir, have ruled that out, I content myself with just a sentence. If my right hon. Friend excludes the police force of Ireland from the right to join an organisation outside the police, I think he must extend that principle a little more impartially. I understand—it is an extraordinary position—that while, as my right hon. Friend says, a member of the police force cannot join the Ancient Order of Hibernians, he is at liberty to join the Freemasons.


That is perfectly true. There is a Section in the Police Acts of the thirties under which I think a man in both forces of the constabulary takes an oath with regard to political and secret societies that he will not be a member except of the society of Freemasons. I will not say a word about that matter except that what the hon. Member says is true.


After what has been said from the Treasury Bench and from the other side of the Committee, I hope that further discussion on this subject will be reserved.


I am quite content that the same should be applied all round. I would ask my right hon. Friend not to bring the Bill forward for two or three days.


Those who have known the Irish Constabulary for a number of years, and seen the splendid discipline of that force, and the admirable way in which they have served in Ireland, will be indeed grateful to my right hon. Friend for having brought in this proposal. We are all agreed that it is a reform which is long overdue. This increase ought to have been brought forward many years ago, but now that it has come we can only welcome it with regret that it did not come earlier. Am I right in supposing that the Bill also proposes an addition in the salaries of the officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary?


Certainly it makes a proposal for an improvement in the case of the officers to the extent which I mentioned, as well as of the sergeants and constables.


I am glad to hear that. I reserve any observations upon the nature of that increase till we see the Bill. There is only one other subject I want to refer to. Many of the officers and men of the Royal Irish Constabulary suffered either death or serious injuries in the late rebellion. I should like to know whether there is anything in the Bill which will enable the Government to afford increased pensions or gratuities to the relatives of those who have suffered, or to the men themselves. I presume there will be no objection to including in this Bill a provision for increasing the admittedly totally inadequate amount which, according to the existing practice, or law, is provided for the officers and men of the Royal Irish Constabulary who have been bereaved. Does my right hon. Friend consider that the amount provided by the existing law for these officers and men who have suffered in the rebellion is adequate, and, if not, is there any provision in the existing law by which an adequate amount can be given? That is an urgent matter, and I am certain that anyone who knows anything about what happened in the rebellion, and the amount which it is proposed to give these officers and men as compensation for what they suffered, will agree that the amount proposed is totally inadequate, and I think I shall have the sympathy of the Chief Secretary in these observations. If there is no provision in the existing law for giving them adequate compensation, could he not utilise this Bill for making such provision? I am sure it would have the consent of the House. It is only a question of the Treasury, and in a matter of that sort I think the Treasury will have to be stirred up, and, if necessary, coerced by this House; but, at any rate, I urge my right hon. Friend, if there is not an existing provision to meet the case I have put, to utilise the Bill and insert such a provision in it.


I understand that the increases in pay which are proposed under this Bill will be inserted in the Schedule, and that when it is printed and circulated the House will have an opportunity of studying the proposals in print. I have listened very closely to the speech of the Chief Secretary, and I am afraid amongst those who are concerned the scale of increases which he has announced will be considered very inadequate indeed. I do not know whether he has made up his mind that this is the. ultimate limit to which he can push the Treasury in this matter, but I am afraid he will not find that this new scale will give general satisfaction. Of course we cannot go into that matter until fuller details have been placed before the House. I am precluded by the Chairman's ruling from referring to the other matter which was raised in the speech of the Chief Secretary. I think he conveyed a somewhat wrong impression when he led the House to believe that in the matter of the trouble in Dublin there were two charges by the police authorities against members of the police force. I think he will find that this may properly be regarded only as one.


That will very properly come on the Second Reading of the Bill.


The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Butcher) made an appeal to the Chief Secretary with regard to gratuities to the relatives of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I am afraid the Chief Secretary has held out no hope whatever to him in that matter. [Interruption.] I think the hon. Member is mistaken. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say there is to be a change and a raising of the scale in the case of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, but not in the case of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I should like to press the Chief Secretary with regard to the case of those men who are either injured or were killed in the late rebellion. I brought before the Chief Secretary a case of very considerable hardship indeed, where a family was largely dependent upon a police-constable who was killed, and the parents had to bring the body a very considerable distance and to pay for that one service alone over £10 to the undertaker, and yet all the compensation that they were given by the Government was a paltry £20. I hope there is provision in this Bill, or if not that the Irish Goveriment has the power to press the Treasury to a more generous disposition in these cases, and that what is undoubtedly and rightly considered a hardship will be removed.


The matter referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Butcher) and the hon. Member (Mr. Hazleton) has been under consideration.


Is it included in this Bill?


It is not included in this Bill.


Cannot it be done without this Bill?


I can only say that it is not in this Bill. Whether it can be done without this Bill is a matter of consideration.

Resolution agreed to; to be reported To-morrow.