HC Deb 13 November 1918 vol 110 cc2836-44

Resolution reported, That it is expedient to authorise 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 and for other purposes in connection therewith.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

1.0 A.M.


I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who is responsible for this Resolution, to give the House some idea of its purport. For that reason I rise immediately, and as the right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to do that, perhaps I may, even at this late hour, occupy the time of the House for a very few moments to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question or two. In consequence of the indefiniteness and vagueness of the Resolution which is put from the Chair, it is rather difficult for us to know at this stage what the ambit of its intended payments will be. The Money Resolution which has been read gives no indication of the specific sum which it is proposed to allocate for the purposes of this Bill, and certainly, as far as I am concerned, I should like to know whether, in addition to those who might be described as the active serving members of the two police forces in Ireland, namely, the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the pensioners of both forces are intended to be included in the measure which the Chief Secretary hopes to introduce to the House. I have no authority to speak for the service members as I shall call them, but certainly I have a very full authority to speak for the pensioners of both forces. During the early part of the evening a great deal of criticism was offered from these benches on the action from time to time of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Unfortunately such are the conditions in Ireland that certainly Nationalist Members, and I think my hon. Friends above the Gangway, find that the police force in Ireland occupies a very different position from that occupied by the police in this country. But I do not propose to go into these controversial matters to-night, beyond saying that, even if we Nationalist Members find ourselves in complete disagreement with police methods, we, at the same time, hope we are fair enough to recognise that a man, whether he be a policeman or a civilian, ought to be paid for his work. I think I shall satisfy the House in a few moments that the pensioners of neither force are adequately remunerated, considering the very valuable work which they have done in Ireland. When I tell the House that the pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police are fixed by an Act of Parliament passed in the year 1883, thirty-five years ago, I think I have said enough to satisfy the House that the pensions should be adjusted and considerably increased. At the present moment some 8,000 pensioners come within the scope of the pension scheme, and I am informed that the full pension paid to retired policemen of either force in Ireland is £48. I have reason to-think that the Chief Secretary would not be opposed to these pensions being revised, but that the difficulty rather lies with the Treasury. I have gone into the matter with some care, and I find that if the entire demands of these pensioners were conceded it would not amount to more than £120,000 a year at the very-start, and that in a very short time that sum would be very materially decreased by deaths.

It is not unprofitable to contrast the treatment that police pensioners receive in this country with that which obtains in Ireland. I have here a Return, which I believe is accurate, and I find that a head constable of the Royal Irish Constabulary is entitled to a pension of £69 6s. 8d. I may mention that a head constable of the Royal Irish Constabulary is of the same rank as an inspector in the English police force. An inspector in Liverpool—a city which I take as being closely analogous to the city of Dublin—draws a pension, or drew a pension in the year 1913, of £113 6s. 8d. Similarly, a sergeant in the Irish force draws a pension to-day of £53 14s. 8d., whilst a sergeant of equal rank in the Liverpool police force, in 1913—I will show the House why I emphasise that year—drew £79 13s. 8d. Lastly, an ordinary constable in Ireland draws a pension of £46 16s., whilst a constable of similar rank in the city of Liverpool drew a pension of £67 12s. in the year 1913. But the point I want to make is that these English 1913 pensions have been very materially increased from time to time and have been increased as recently as a few weeks ago. It will be within the recollection of the House that, on the 24th of last month, the Home Secretary (Sir George Cave) introduced a Supplementary Vote in this House for the London police. He went into the figures somewhat in greater detail than I hope to do to-night, and pointed out that, in addition to the fixed pensions they were paid, which range from 30s. upwards and amounted on the average to 37s. 2d.—and the pension rates are estimated at 25 per cent. of the pay—constables are now receiving an average weekly pay and allowance of £3 13s. 4d. a week, or, with the value of increased pension rights, £4 6s. 10d. The only other reference I will make to the Home Secretary's speech is to read this one short sentence from it. He said: With regard to the Vote now before the House, I can only add that the police authorities outside London have been encouraged to raise their scale of pay so as to bring it, where necessary, into accord with the present circumstances. If that was the advice tendered by a very responsible Minister of the Government to outside police forces in this country, when the police pensions are being applied by the Government in Ireland they ought to practice what they preach. I certainly think that an unanswerable case has been made out. I do not wish to weary the House at this late hour, but I do think that from the knowledge which the Chief Secretary possesses of the pension status of these unfortunate men, he will agree that an unanswerable case has been made out for a revision of the Irish pensions and for a very substantial increase. We all know that the sovereign is worth only about 9s. to-day, and to suggest seriously, as I take it he means to do, if he does not accede to the proposal to-day, which is to make a material increases in these pensions—to suggest that a man in this year 1918 ought to live or should be expected to live on a pension fixed in 1883 is nothing short of a scandal. For the Government to come down here and avail themselves of this opportunity of passing a Bill to raise the pay of constables and to refuse at the same time to avail themselves of the occasion to revise the obviously insufficient pensions is nothing short of a scandal. Of course I shall be told, as we have been told at several deputations on this matter, that it would be creating a precedent if these men should get these increases of pensions, and that other pensionable officers would look for them. But I do not see any good reason in that. If an injustice has been done to one man I do not see why that should go unremedied because another man had had an injustice done to him. As a matter of fact I believe there are precedents for such an increase. There was an increase, if I am correctly informed, of pensions payable to Scottish ex-teachers last year, and we all know, of course, that the sums payable under the Workmen's Compensation Act have been recently increased as a war measure. I do not see how the case of these pensioners is to be differentiated from either of those cases. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman very strongly about this matter. I believe that his sympathies are with the pensioners' demands, and surely he ought to be strong enough. The right hon. Gentleman claims for himself great strength in the administration of his office, and he now has an opportunity of proving his strength in meeting the just demands made.


There are one or two points to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. In supporting the hon. Member for St. Stephen's Green, I do not want to travel the ground he has already covered so fully, because really it comes down to this. These pensions were fixed in 1883, when things were half their present cost, and the then cost of living was taken into consideration. You might put it another way, and say you have reduced the pensions by about 50 per cent. We all feel that whatever opinions there may be amongst parties, it is the desire of everyone, I think, that every officer of the Government should be treated fairly and justly, whether he is Unionist or Nationalist, and that there should not be discontent caused among them owing to their treatment. The second point I have is the case of the widows of the men who have died in the service. These people are receiving—I am sure it will surprise the House to hear it—the large sum of £10 a year. Surely that is a scandal! My hon. Friend reminds me that the English Bill provides for £26 a year. But if this Bill is intended to remedy a grievance, and if it is not intended merely to create discontent, why are the men who have gone out of the force not receiving the same treatment as the men in it? There has been a serious grievance in the case of the widows. I think this is one which, if there is a spark of humanity within us, should appeal to us. I should like to put that question before the Chief Secretary, because, not having the Bill, we do not know what it contains. I have received a number of letters. I will give you a case in point. This man says, "I was deprived of my lodging allowance of 13s., and I had to pay 4s. 4d. a month until I had paid off what was overdrawn." What was overdrawn was this: that he was given the ordinary allowance until they discovered—the man was living outside the barracks and having to support a family—that he had a child of 16 years of age. Under some regulation he is to be deprived of lodging allowance.


I do not see how this can be relevant to this proposal on which a Bill is to be founded for giving pensions to the Police. The point which the hon. Member is raising is some point of a policeman having been improperly fined. That is a question of administration.


This is no question of a fine. This is a question of a regulation. This proposal is going to increase the salary of policemen, and one of the matters to which I am referring is interfering with the salary of the policemen. This is not a question of a fine, but of a regulation already in existence. I respectfully submit that this is a question which the Chief Secretary should deal with and take into consideration when he is dealing with the Bill.


We have often been told from the Front Bench—at least I have been told quite recently—that there is one subject upon which all Irish parties agree, that is, without giving examination to the question, extracting money from the British taxpayers. I do not think this is an instance of that. Whether we are going to get more or less money, or whether people who more or less deserve it are going to get it or not, I really rose to support what has been said from below the Gangway with regard more especially to the claims of the old pensioner—that is, the man who has already left the force. Listening to the figures quoted by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, I could not help being struck by the fact that, although the policeman in England carries out far less onerous and certainly far less dangerous duties than does the policeman in Ireland, whether of the Dublin Police or of the Royal Irish Constabulary, yet the pensions paid to them seem to be in entirely inverse ratio to the services they perform. I do not think this is an occasion on which we can go into details. I think if my right hon. Friend would give us some indication of how this money is to be spent he would facilitate the passing of the Resolution and enable us to get to bed.


I should like to back up the remarks made by my hon. Friend below me and below the Gangway. I have taken a great deal of interest in the question of these pensioners, and I cannot understand why we cannot get this Bill. Day after day I have tried to get a copy.


The Bill cannot be brought in until this Resolution is passed.


I understand that these old pensioners will not be within the scope of this Bill, and when the Money Resolution is passed we shall not be able to raise their case. As one who has lived in the South of Ireland I consider that the demands of these men should be allowed to be brought within the scope of the Bill.


The Members on this Bench are very much in the dark as to the meaning of the Bill, and to show you how very much in the dark we are, the hon. Member for College Green had to be called to order on one very important point which he raised, which the Chief Secretary mentioned at the beginning of the Bill was supposed to contain. I wish to state that there was a Bill passed giving increased pensions and pay for men who are going out on pensions in 1914, and I am informed that the old pensioners would be well satisfied to go under the new scale of pensions.

The fact that the pensions of the Dublin Police and of the Royal Irish Constabulary are such that members of it go out after thirty years' service with a miserable pension of only £48 a year is really sufficient for me to get the support of the House for my case. I may also mention another point, which is, and I have no hesitation in saying it, that there is a prejudice in Ireland against giving employment to any man holding a pension. There is that prejudice, and I am afraid I share it myself, against the man receiving a pension, and I suppose it is due to the fact that we have not enough employment for our ordinary civilians, who have large families to keep and have no pensions. Thus, when there is a small position going, prejudice comes in to prevent any pensioner getting it where it is a police pension. I myself would not support a pensioner getting a position as against a man who had no pension. If there was-sufficient employment for them all, I would certainly give it to a pensioner; but until all our civilians who have no pensions at all are properly employed in Dublin you will find that the prejudice of which I tell you exists, and it will continue to exist. After twenty-eight or thirty years' service, representing the best years of a man's life, the Government ought to see that these men get a decent living.


The Resolution as it appears speaks for itself. It is one upon which a Bill will be based providing for the pay of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, and for pensions allowances and gratuities to members of these forces, their widows and children, and for other purposes in connection therewith. This is by way of amendments of the existing Acts and administration. The question of the widows has been raised. The pensions provided by the Bill with regard to them will approximate to those appertaining in England.


Will they be retrospective?


I will deal with that in a moment. The pay which it is proposed should be given in future is also approximately that which appertains in England. You cannot take the English pay by itself and compare it with the Irish pay, because conditions differ in that there are allowances in Ireland which do not exist in England and that there is in England a provision for reduction for pensions which does not exist in Ireland, but speaking generally the proposal is that the pay should approximate in Ireland to the pay in England. With regard to pensioners, it is a more difficult question. It is true that most of the existing pensioners are under the 1883 Act. Whether they are all or not, one may be sure at all events that a lot of them are; and it is equally true that they have a very strong case for recognition and for relief. But to go into the question of the pensioners or even into the case of the widows of men who have died is to open a very large question which would very likely jeopardise the whole Bill if it were pressed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It is very important that the police should receive this increase of pay. There is in England or Scotland no necessity to proceed in this way because there you can by administrative act increase the pay, and therefore Parliament does not matter; but in the case of Ireland you can only deal with it by an Act of Parliament—that is the only way by which the pay of the police can be increased. This Bill must be got through this week or the Bill goes, and the police do not get their extra pay. Is it advisable to prejudice it by opening up the bigger subject as you would do, I suggest, by opening up the subject of the pensions. We regret it because I realise that the case made on behalf of the pensioners is a strong case, but it is quite impossible to put anything appertaining to that subject into this Bill. With that explanation, and having regard to the lateness of the hour, I would ask the House to pass this Resolution.


The right hon. Gentleman has not explained to us what is the difficulty in his way in bringing in these pensioners. Is it a Treasury difficulty, an administrative difficulty, or what? We are all very anxious that this Bill should be passed because it is undoubtedly a grievance that the policeman in the matter of pay and pension in Ireland should be receiving less than policemen in this country, or in Scotland. This question of the pensioners is quite as important as the question of pay. I must confess that I do not see that the Chief Secretary has given us any reason in the world or any explanation of the difficulties which he experiences in this matter. I think it is a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs. I do not suppose anyone will vote against the Resolution to-night, but I warn the right hon. Gentleman, in spite of the fact that he wants to get the Bill through this week, that we shall want to raise these points at a later stage.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in upon the said Resolution by Mr. Shortt and the Attorney-General for Ireland.

CONSTABULARY AND POLICE (IRELAND) (No. 2) BILL,—"to amend the Law relating to the pay and pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police; and for other purposes in connection with those forces," presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time this day, and to be printed. [Bill 113.]