§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Macpherson)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
I do so with confidence, because I believe that this House will welcome the opportunity, too long delayed through no fault of the Trish Government, of showing its appreciation in a practical form of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Edwin Cornwall)
There is no point of Order at all in that, and the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to make his speech without interruption.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
When a statement is made which I resent as untrue, am I not entitled to repudiate it immediately?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to make his statement without being interrupted.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The hon. Gentleman opposite asked me for an explanation of the delay, and I gave the only one I know. One method well known to the House is that of blocking any Bill before the House. The hon. Member opposite put down a blocking Motion, and it was on the Paper a long time before the Recess in the hon. Member's name. As I was saying, no police force in the world has had to encounter to the same extent revolution and disorder, and no force has shown greater loyalty, grit, and bravery. Their loyalty to duty has been performed in circumstances which few in this country can realise, and this is one of the most remarkable facts in Irish history. They are Irishmen who perform that duty without fear of the consequences, even when murder and assassination threaten their lives in lonely places. I hope and believe this measure will strengthen their faith in the desire of the Government to stand by, them in their task, which they perform unflinchingly and will support them in their wish to be socially and professionally a body which desires to have justice done to it within its own sphere, and without outside interference of any sort or kind. It is in that hope and belief that I confidently submit the main provisions of this Bill. This measure establishes in the Irish Police Force representative bodies corresponding to the representative bodies established in England under the English Bill which was recently passed. It brings to the notice of the police authorities and the Lord-Lieutenant all matters affecting the efficiency and welfare of the members except individual questions of discipline and promotion.
The second provision is to enable improvements to be made in the pay and pensions of the Trish police similar to those recommended by the Desborough Committee, and given effect to under the recent Police Act. It is for this latter reason neces- 404 sary to introduce a new Bill for the improvement of the pay and allowances of the Irish police. Their pay and allowances in the past have been fixed by Statute, and if any alteration of their pay and allowances is to be made it has consequently to be made by Statute, and this is one of the reasons for the introduction of this Bill. There are certain material differences between the British and Irish police forces, and owing to these differences the provisions of the Irish Bill cannot be identical with those of the English Bill. In England, I believe there are fifty-eight separate county police forces and 128 separate borough police forces, and these forces are mainly controlled and paid bythe local authorities out of the local rates, with certain subventions in aid from local taxation and Parliamentary Grants. On the other hand, in Ireland there are only two police forces, the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Both these forces are State services under the direct control of the Irish Executive and are paid out of moneys voted by Parliament. There is only a very small amount paid out of local rates or by subventions—I think the exact amount is £52,000 as against £2,185,000 in the case of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and £52,000 as against £203,000 in the case of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
As the House will remember, in the English Bill it was necessary to elaborate a scheme for uniting all the members, I think, of 180 forces throughout the country in one federation with separate branches for each force, and for each rank in each force, and for co-ordinating all these into a central representative body. On the other hand, in the case of the Irish forces the problem is much more simple, as we are dealing there with two homogeneous forces with uniform rates of pay and conditions of service. All that is required is to establish in each force representative bodies for all the members of the forces, and it is not necessary or desirable to provide for any representative body for the two forces as they differ materially in character. The Royal Irish Constabulary is in reality a semi-military force, consisting of 10,353 members. On the other hand, the Dublin Metropolitan Police would only represent the police force of a very large English borough, its membership being something like 1,259. In Clause 1 of the Bill it is provided to establish in each force a representative body for all ranks except the highest, or 405 for each separate rank, as the case may be, to be elected by all the members of the ranks in question, the details of the constitution and method of election being left to rules which will be promulgated by the Lord-Lieutenant. The Bill provides for the representative bodies being independent of and unassociated with any external bodies and prohibits members of the force from being or becoming members of bodies whose object it is to control or influence the pay, pensions, or conditions of service of any police force. There is one exception. If a constable happens before the passing of this Act to be a member of any trade union, he can remain a member of that trade union with the consent of his chief officer. The Bill empowers the Lord Lieutenant to make orders fixing the pay, pensions and allowances, and, like the English Bill, provides for these Orders to be submitted in draft to the representative bodies of the various ranks of the men. As the pay, pensions and allowances are to be paid out of public money, the House will realise that it is necessary for a Money Resolution to be passed, and I propose that that Money Resolution should be considered by the House to-morrow. The concurrence of the Treasury is required in these Orders, and the Orders must be also before both Douses of Parliament for a certain period. This, I think, will ensure that those public moneys out of which these men are to be paid will have proper Treasury and Parliamentary control.
There are three remaining Clauses, which are very short. Clause 5 deals with a very small point, but one which has assumed an importance in the life of the constabulary in Ireland. It removes a grievance which, has arisen under Subsection (2) of Section 1 of the Irish Police (Naval and Military Service) Act, 1915. Under that Sub-section, when a policeman joined, as a great many of them very gallantly joined, the Army or Navy during the War, and died or became disabled while serving in that force, a supplementary pension was paid to him or to his widow and children out of police funds, but it was limited to half the amount of the pension payable to him or to them out of naval or military funds. The effect of this limitation has turned out badly in a great many cases. It turns out that the two pensions combined were really less in a month than the pension which he or his widow would have obtained if he had 406 died or become disabled in the course of his duty. The effect of this Clause is to enable as good a pension to be paid as if lie had been serving in the police force all the time. Clause 6 also removes a grievance arising 'out of a more recent Act, namely, the Constabulary and Police (Ireland) Act, 1916. Prior to that Act police pensions were calculated on the average pay received during the three years' preceding retirement. The Subsection in question abolished the three years' average basis and provided, in effect, that pensions were to be calculated on the actual pay at the time of retirement. In practice that has not worked out as well as what we expected. In case after case we have found that a constable during the last three years of his professional service has become a sergeant, and in the long run he has retired on less pay than he would have done if he had never become a sergeant at all. This is a Clause to remedy that grievance. Clause 7 is a very short and simple Clause. It is a Clause prohibiting the illegal or unauthorised use of police uniforms.
Before I sit down, I should like to express my personal regret that this Bill does not include an addition to the pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police. I need hardly tell the House, coining as I do from Ireland with a fresh knowledge of the wonderful gallantry of these men who have served as well as those who are serving, that I regret this fact, but the Treasury, as was pointed out in the course of the discussion on the English Police-Bill, have so far adopted a firm attitude. This morning I approached the Treasury to see if there were any change in that attitude. There is no change so far. One can see the enormous difficulties of the Treasury. After all, these men whose services have been so commended are part of a gigantic Civil Service, and the argument is clear and obvious. If an addition were made to the pensions of these men, the State—and if possible this has to be avoided at the present moment—would have to extend that addition to every single branch of the Civil Service. I know that my colleagues from Ireland have received a great many representations upon this point. So have I, and I can only state that it is a matter of very great personal regret to me that in this Bill I have not been able so far to include an addition to the pensions of these men.
407 After all is said and done, they are in a peculiar position. One knows that if a man has served his country in Ireland, either in the Army or Navy or in the Police Force, his chances of adding by honest work to his deserved pension in his after life are very few and far between, and I for one will willingly approach the Treasury again and see whether in the case of these men an exception cannot be made. I think that I have discussed all the Clauses of this very short Bill, and I hope that I have not missed any point. If I have, I shall be preased to reply to any criticism or to give any enlightenment upon any Clause of the measure which I have failed to make clear. With every confidence, I submit the Bill to the House for a Second Reading.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."
The Chief Secretary, with that peculiar idea of courtesy which he has lately developed, began his speech by making the flippant and insolent observation that I was responsible for the fact that the Government have not dealt with the question of the conditions of the Irish police previously. From what he said one would imagine that his heart was bursting with sympathy for the unfortunate fate of these policemen, and that the Government were in a state of the profoundest sympathy with them and always had been. He said that it was not the fault of the British Government that these grievances have not been redressed long ago. I ventured to ask him, and I do not think it was a very disorderly interruption, whose fault it was?
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Now you are interrupting. But I suppose that any right hon. Gentleman on that bench is entitled to interrupt as often as he likes. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the Government was always most anxious to redress the grievances of the Irish police, and that I was the one who stood in the way. But the Bill was only tabled a few days before the House adjourned for the Recess. I carefully blocked the Bill then because we were entitled to a discussion upon it. But that does not account for 408 all the year in which you did nothing. It is mere hypocrisy to come down here and pretend that the English Government was always anxious to deal with this question. They could have done so had they chosen long ago. But what is the Bill presented to us to-night? Primarily, it is offered as a bribe to the Irish police. The police form part of the Army of Occupation, and the right hon. Gentleman desires to keep them snug and content: therefore he offers to increase their salaries. But the second object is to be found in his desire to prevent Irish policemen from joining anything in the nature of a trade union. He does not hesitate to put that in the Bill itself, because the object of Clause is to prohibit constables being members of a trade union. That is the real object of this Bill. It is not to increase the wages of policemen. They could do that without an Act of Parliament. They have done it without an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I stated in the course of my speech it was quite impossible to do it without an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I am prepared to hear the Attorney-General on that point. Before this I have heard gentlemen highly placed in the Government of Ireland whose legal opinions are not of much value. If the Attorney-General will tell me that the pay of the Irish police has never been increased except by Act of Parliament. I will accept it. I have high respect for the Attorney-General.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Denis Henry)
The salary of the Royal Irish Constabulary is fixed by Act of Parliament and cannot be increased except by Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Of course I accept that, but it is not an answer to my question, which was, Has any increase ever been given to policemen in Ireland without a special Act of Parliament authorising such increase? I say it has.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
A Daniel come to judgment‡ I thought we should get at it somehow. We should learn how it was done. The increase was given, we are told, not as an increase, but it was camouflaged as a bonus. Why was not a bonus given in this instance without an 409 Act of Parliament? I will tell the House why. It was because they wanted to get in this Clause prohibiting policemen from becoming members of a trade union. The extra pay was put in by way of gilding the pill. The ulterior purpose was to drag in the Clause against trade unionism. The right hon. Gentleman dealt very cursorily and perfunctorily with the position of the pensioners. What is the case for the pensioners? There are about 8,000 of them in Ireland. The average pension which they draw is £49 per year, and that, as the House will readily understand, is not worth more than £15 pre-war money. The widow of a policeman who died in the service gets £10 a year—worth about 50s. pre-war money. Ninety per cent. of the pensioners are actually drawing less than £49 per year to-day. There is a constabulary fund which amounts to-day to no less than £373,000. Yet the pension question is not settled‡ What is going to happen to that £373,000? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) pretty well knows what is likely to happen -to it. I think he will agree with my forecast that when the present beneficiaries die out the Treasury will appropriate all that is left. Why not deal with that money now, and divide it among the beneficiaries? I cannot understand why that should not be done. To allow that fund to continue to accumulate until it reverts to the Treasury amounts to something like a scandal.
There is another grave omission from this Bill. It makes no provision whatever for the case of the men who were compulsorily retired in 1918. The history of the compulsory retirement of these risen is au interesting one. I have had a mass of letters on the subject, some of them of a very complimentary character and others of an abusive character. There is one from which I will read to the House. It asks leave to call to my notice the meanness of the police authorities, acting on the suggestion of the Treasury probably, in compelling a certain number of the members of the R.I.C. and of the Dublin Metropolitan Police to retire in the year 1918. Prior to that time, or rather since the passing of the Police Compulsory Retirement Act, no man was allowed to retire save on a medical certificate, but immediately there was an anticipated rise of pay with a consequent increase of pension a very eminent Inspector-General issued a circular directing that all men 410 above the rank of constable who had thirty years' service or were fifty years of age should have their cases taken into, consideration with a view to their being discharged on the lower rate of pension. No crime or charge of a disciplinary nature was preferred against any of them. They were simply informed that they were-retired on pension at a given date Previously there was no regulation compelling any man to retire before he was sixty years of age or had put in forty years of service, but under this Order men were retired at fifty years of age with thirty years' service. The letter concludes by saying that the pension of the writer is £79 a year, but that he would have been entitled under the Desborough Act to £190 a. year. Yet by this summary dismissal be was penalised to this serious extent.
There is only one way in which to compel the Government to deal with cases of this nature. We mast deal with the matter now on the Second Reading of the Pill for when once the House passes the Second Reading the Bill gets out of our hands, and hon. Members may whistle for any redress in regard to pensions or grievances. The right hon. Gentleman-told us he had seen the Treasury and that notwithstanding his broken-hearted appeals they refused to consider the position of these men. He says he is prepared if necessary to make still another appeal. I am getting rather sick of this perpetual message to the House of Commons "that the Treasury will not agree." What is the Treasury? Does the House ever stop to ask what is this so-called Treasury? The Treasury means a second division clerk in a big office at Whitehall. There is one mho ought to be called the King of Ireland, for he deals with all the finances of Ireland. You would not know his name if you heard it. But he is the Treasury. ITE.1 says "Yes" or "No," and that is the end of it. Very few Ministers of whom I have had experience have had the courage to tell this young gentleman that he is not the master of the House of Commons, but that the House of Commons is his master. It is not for the Treasury to dictate to this House; it is for this house to tell the Treasury what it ought to do. It is not only upon the question of pensions that the House would be well advised to exercise more freedom and its power over the Treasury. The Treasury can waste money and it can save money. So far as, Ireland is concerned we have never heard of the Treasury doing anything except 411 save money. They do not waste much money over there. I have not the slightest hope that the Chief Secretary will be able to persuade the Treasury to do anything. There is not a clerk in the Treasury Office who could not walk round the Chief Secretary and leave him nowhere. It is no good sending him. I would rather send the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson). I would like to see a clerk at the Treasury telling him that there was no money and I should like to hear his reply. It might not be Parliamentary, but it certainly would he vigorous.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I am inclined to accept that, but I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman goes with me to the Treasury he will help me to tell them what both of us think about them. There are some other matters on which we could talk to them and probably we should not be very diverse in our views. In these circumstances I ask the House not to give a Second Reading to this Bill until an -opportunity has been given for fuller consideration. I ask them not to give it a Second Reading, in the first place, because the Bill is totally unnecessary. The wages can be increased without this Bill. All they have to do is to call it a bonus and the trick is done. I ask the House not to give the Bill a Second Reading for the further reason that it is a Bill aimed at trade unionism. The object of the right hon. Gentleman is to follow the example of the English Bill. Because the Police Bill was passed for England prohibiting trade unionism they say that therefore it must be passed for Ireland. You do a lot of good things for England which you do not do for Ireland, but when you do a bad thing for England you want to do it for Ireland, too. There is no necessity for passing this Bill or for assuming that there would be trade unionism among the Irish police. Finally, I submit that as long as such a long list of grievances in regard to pensions of the men and their widows remains unredressed, this House should not allow the Government to get the Second Reading of the Bill until they have settled with the Treasury what the Treasury is going to do.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I am very glad that the Chief Secretary prefaced his remarks on this Bill by bearing eloquent testimony to the services rendered by the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. I am sure that the House in every quarter would bear testimony to the loyal service which this force has at all times rendered to the Crown and to the Government of the country. It matters nothing to them what may be our political differences or what political Government may be in power; they have always proved themselves the same loyal, efficient force. I am sorry that the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. MacVeagh) talked of this Bill being a bribe to the police.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I was referring to the conduct of the Government. I was not commenting on the police.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The Government should know that the police in Ireland need no bribe to induce them to carry out their duties. They are men who at all times of the day and all times of the night are carrying their lives in their hands, and they have never made the slightest demur, so far as I know, to the onerous duties put upon them. To suggest a bribe in relation to those services is an insult to the most loyal force in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member says that this is a Bill to prohibit trade unionism, and with the same voice he says that the Irish police never had any trade union. The House will agree that if that is so it is a great improvement for the Irish police that you should set up a constitution of representative police bodies who will be able to put before the Government the grievances under which the force labours. If they had no such power before and if there was no such body to represent their grievances it cannot but help to have those grievances considered that such a body should he set up now. I notice in this very Bill that, as regards the important questions of pay, pensions and allowances of the members of the police force, before those rates of pay are put before this House any order proposed to be made is to he submitted to the representative body or bodies representing any 413 rank or ranks affected, and before making the order the Lord-Lieutenant is to consider any representations made by such body or bodies. The representations of such body or bodies, of course, will be available for this House when it comes to consider the rates of pay, pensions and allowances of these men. Is it not idle to say that that, is not an improvement in the status and position of this force? Then the Bill, as I understand it, goes on to enact that there is to be a new scale of pay, pensions and allowances. At any rate, it gives authority for that purpose. The hon. Member opposite opposes the Second Reading of the Bill, and says you can do that without any Act of Parliament. The Attorney-General for Ireland has told us that you cannot do it, and we know perfectly well that the rates of pay are fixed by Statute. The hon. Member refutes that argument by saying the bonus was given during the War to these men, and therefore a Statute is unnecessary. I do not think anyone who knows what these men are doing and the services they are rendering to their country would like to delay this Bill one hour, and we should all desire to show this force that this House, at all events, recognises—what I am sure the country recognises—their loyalty in the most anxious time that any force of men serving the Crown have ever experienced.
Then with the other part of the hon. Member's speech I am in a good deal of agreement, but I do not see that because the pensioners have grievances that is any reason why you ought to oppose a Bill which could be amended to include those grievances. The pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary deserve the fullest consideration of this House. I do not believe any man who has gone into the question would for one moment say that the grant necessary for the purpose would be wasted or improperly spent public money. These men, like the present men, also carried their lives in their hands, and what happens to them when they retire upon a miserable pittance of £40 or £50 a year after a faithful service of thirty or forty years? Under these circumstances, when they go back into the country districts they are looked upon by a large body of people as their enemies, because they have -served the Government and the country faithfully and loyally, and we know well -that many of them do not get employment for themselves or for their families, that it is a disqualification that they have served their country faithfully and 414 loyally, and whereas the pound sterling represents so little of what it represented before the War, these men in many cases are eking out with their families a most miserable existence, almost amounting to starvation, and that is the reward they get for serving in the most difficult service that could be rendered to a Government. More than that, many of the men who fought in the War, from the South and West of Ireland especially, were the sons of these men. One man told me the other day he had five sons in the Army, and as they became demobilised they could get no employment because they had served their country. I snake an appeal to the Government and to the House to compel the Government to do justice to these men. It is only justice—bare, naked justice. You cannot afford, in the condition of Ireland, to leave these men as they are, being punished for faithful service to you. If ever there was a time when the Royal Irish Constabulary wanted encouragement and wanted to be shown appreciation by this House and by the country it is the present time, and I earnestly hope the Chief Secretary has not said his last word upon including these pensioners in the Bill.
As a resident in the South of Ireland I should like to express my hope that the House will demand from the Government that these pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police shall be included within the scope of the Bill. I have worried at any rate five Chief Secretaries for years on this subject. I have always been put off up to now with the fact of this Police Pensioners' Fund. I never had much sympathy, and I thank the Chief Secretary at any rate for the half promise he gave us this evening. He is going once again to the Treasury to try to get blood out of a stone. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) that it is for us to decide that this thing shall be done. It is not for us to go to any clerk, any Chancellor of the Exchequer, or any official at all. It is for the House of Commons to say that these pensioners who have served them so faithfully shall have their due reward, we insist on it and we will have the money. I trust every hon. Member will realise that throughout Ireland everyone is convinced that these pensioners should have their just claims met, including their own officers from the highest to the lowest. Only this afternoon a 415 letter was put into my hands which had been sent to the Secretary of the local branch of the County Cork Irish Pensioners' Association from the Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Sir,I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 12th instant, forwarding a copy of a Memorial from the pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I have very great sympathy with the pensioners, whose position must be exceedingly difficult in view of the increased cost of living.I am, your obedient Servant,Inspector-General.That shows that these pensioners have the sympathy of the present Commanding Officer of the Forces. I can bear out the hardships that many of these pensioners are suffering. They come to me in this House and in the South of Ireland. A fortnight ago a deputation came to see me. Two of these people were practically in rags and evidently suffering from want. They put their case before me, and I promised to do what I could, and I trust that now the House will once and for all take the bit between their teeth and insist on justice being done to these police pensioners.
I am sure the House generally will agree with all that has been said relative to the necessity of increasing the status of the police in Ireland, and especially of dealing with the pensioners. But pensioners in Ireland are really no different from pensioners in England, because if there is one class of person more than another who has felt the effects of the increased cost of living it is those who are in their retiring days in receipt of small fixed pensions. If in Committee a case can be made, as I am sure it can, for an additional provision in Ireland there would be no stronger supporter of their inclusion than those who sit on these benches. But we are opposed to this Bill for an entirely different reason. It is no use camouflaging the cold, hard fact that the Bill, if passed in its present form, says in substance to the Irish police, You shall never he allowed to have a trade union in the sense that trade unionism is understood by the workers. It may be argued that this is establishing a trade union. You may turn to this Clause and say, This for the first time recognises some form of collective bargaining for the policemen in Ireland. That may be true. It may be argued, and I am not disputing it. Limit the case to that, but also let the House 416 keep clearly in mind that when this Bill passes it is illegal, and every policeman who associates and joins in the trade union movement as it is understood in England and in Ireland is immediately subject to dismissal. The House of Commons should clearly recognise that fact before giving a Second Reading to the Bill, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macpherson) will not dissent from that. I submit that it is not fair to the House of Commons to talk about this Bill creating a trade union for policemen. It does nothing of the kind, and it is for that reason that we on these benches are very strongly opposed to the one Clause in the Bill which has the effect I have described. This is the wrong time to suggest that trade unionism is not a factor in the life of this country, as well as in Ireland; that must be fully recognised. It has been said, and I believe the House may take it as a fact, that when the first industrial conference was called in this country following the War the Government themselves invited the police union to attend that conference, and in all the negotiations that have taken place since that union has been fully recognised, and yet when the Police Bill for England was introduced a Clause similar to this which we are now discussing was introduced. It is because we believe that it is contrary to the interests of combination, and because we believe that a policeman ought to have the same right to combine as any other workman, that we, at least, object to this Clause. It is only on the ground of this particular Clause that we are laying our objection this evening. 1 hope that instead of the House voting for the Bill on the erroneous assumption that it allows trade unionism, that it establishes trade unionism, and that it helps trade unionism, they will realise that it does nothing of the kind, but that it is a blow at trade unionism and will be understood so by every worker in the country.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I should like to join with my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) in making an earnest appeal to the Government to do what they can to provide better pensions for the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. These men have served the country with a heroism, courage, and devotion which it is impossible to overestimate, and they have done it in very troublous times in Ireland. There is many a man living in Ireland to- 417 day who owes the protection of his life and property Lo the courage and self-sacrifice of these men. Anyone like myself, an Irishman, who remembers the time when it was impossible for anyone to profess and utter loyalty to this country, to go about without danger to their person and property, will remember what the Royal Irish Constabulary did in the discharge of their duty in protecting loyal men, will do all in his power, even at the expense of a charge on the public service, to see that the lives of these heroic policemen are made more tolerable how do we reward these men? We reward them by allowing them to live in a condition of almost absolute starvation in many cases, and in want of some of the elementary necessaries of life. This Rouse has shown by its word, and I am glad to say by something more than by words, that it has a profound sense of obligation and gratitude towards the men who have fought for us in the War. How could it be otherwise? Have not these policemen a somewhat similar claim upon our gratitude? Have they not fought the fight of justice, and have they not, in many cases, as the Chief Secretary knows, fought for the lives and the interests of all loyal and peace-abiding citizens?
If we reward the men who have fought for us in the War, it should not be forgotten that the men who in civil life in positions of great danger have done their utmost to preserve life and property in Ireland have a call upon us. We shall be told that this involves a larger question, affecting not merely the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, but affecting the Civil Service and pensioners wherever situated. I should be the last to object to any legitimate increase of pensions to any deserving class in this country, but the ease of the pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police differs in one very important particular from that of any other class of pensioner in England or Ireland. At the present time these policemen and soldiers in Ireland are shot down and it is very difficult to discover the murderers, and at the same time it is almost impossible for the police pensioners to get employment in Ire and. I speak within the knowledge of many people in Ireland, and of this I am certain, [...] there are hundreds and thousands of people in Ireland who, if they dared do it, would gladly rive employment to these police 418 pensioners, but in many cases they are afraid to do it. Just as men are intimidated in Ireland from giving evidence to convict the murderers of soldiers and policemen, so they are intimidated from giving employment to these deserving ex-public servants. I am not exaggerating, but I am stating the actual facts of the case. It amounts to this that these men have done splendid loyal public service, and owing to the very fact that they have done that service they are prevented from getting employment to-day. In that way the case of these men constitutes a quite different and exceptional claim upon our consideration. Therefore, I do beg the Chief Secretary and the representatives of the Treasury to give consideration to this case, for if not they will have left a blot on the administration of the law and the principles of justice in Ireland which most of us in this house would be sorry to see inflicted by a Government which we know is determined to maintain law and order, and to restore Ireland to a condition of ordinary prosperity.
§ Mr. MOLES
I am glad to recognise the admirable case made out by the Chief Secretary and others who have spoken for this measure. I do not understand the position of the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) any more than I understand the position of my own countryman, the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. MacVeagh). Both of them are striking a serious blow at bringing the pay of the police up to a proper level. I would ask them do they or do they not believe in the principle of a living wage for policemen as well as for workmen? [An HON. MEMBER: "They have a right to get it."] I would rather have an answer from the two hon. Gentlemen concerned. They have not answered.
§ Mr. MOLES
The most essential feature of this Bill is that it recognises that the police have been grossly underpaid in the past and that it proposes to give them tardy justice now. The right hon. Gentleman who believes in the principle of a 419 living wage proposes to do his best to see that the police do riot get it. Of course, that is not exactly how he puts it. He is too used to the arts of camouflage. He puts it on the basis that the police would not be allowed to join a trade union as he understands a trade union, and because of that he says they would not allow him to have a living wage. That is logic as preached from that bench. As to my hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. MacVeagh), I can in a sense understand his attitude. As he is against the Government, of course he is against the police. That has always been his attitude. He is consistent in that respect, at any rate, in his evil conduct. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby—
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MOLES
At any rate, I am certain that wherever I am I will not find myself in my hon. Friend's company. I will take very good care about that part of it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby will not resent what lie may regard as the familiarity of a new Member in dealing with a man of established reputation if I proceed to probe into his mind and tell him what he thinks about this question. This is no new question. Not so long ago on the floor of this House we were discussing a police union in respect of another matter. What he really wants to get is to have in the Police Force a trade union in the ordinary sense as he understands it, so that v, hen a strike is engineered against the whole of social, as some strikes have been, he and those with whom he acts will be able to employ the police through the medium of the sympathetic strike to withdraw from the public the protection of the police at a period when they most need it, and in that way be able to enforce a de ‡iand that could not be insisted upon in the ordinary course. That is really what he means, and just because lie cannot achieve it he proposes again to say that the Irish police are to be compelled to work on at a starvation 420 wage. To whomever else that may commend itself, I am perfectly certain that it will not commend itself to working-class sentiment outside, and though the right hon. Gentleman may not respect my views I know that lie has some consideration for that.
I would like, if I may, to say a word for the class for whom the Chief Secretary has sympathy, but to whom apparently he is not in a position to give much help. Frankly I do share the view of my hon. Friend opposite—and that is as near as I will get towards getting into his society—that the Chief Secretary is too mild-mannered a man to go to the Treasury. I wish that he would put the bottom button on to his coat, and take his courage in both hands when he has got a really de. serving case of this kind to go to the Treasury again, and I do wish that whoever is responsible here for the Treasury would endeavour to have some measure of humanity, some sense of discrimination in dealing with claims that are so clamant as this is. I know that up and down the country some of the busiest years of my life have been devoted to the task, pleasant or unpleasant, of being frequently in the society of the police in very critical times. I have actually taken part in a baton charge. I did it because I thought it safer to charge with the police than be one of the charged without them. I know something of the terrible risks they ran in the recurring periods of turbulence which constantly passed over our country. I have seen men, more than one time, struck down and carried to hospital and invalided out of the force upon a miserable pension that no ordinary employer would dare pay to a clerk. Look at the position of sonic of those older men, men who retired under the pensions scheme. The pensions which they received were in the neighbourhood of a year. The purchasing power of the £40 in to-day somewhere about £15. They are too old to betake themselves to any kind of avocation, even if one could be found. These pensions were fixed having regard to the then cost of living, and are wholly inadequate at the present cost of living, and I respectfully submit, and I ask the House to endorse the view, that if the Government fixed a pension which was to have regard to the cost of living to these men at the end of their days, if the cost has entirely changed, as it has, the Gov- 421 ernment is in justice and honour bound to see to it that the few weeks or months of life that remain to these men shall be spent in a fair measure of decency and comfort. Even my right hon. Friend opposite will, I think, subscribe to that.
The case of the second grade of men in the scale of pensions is slightly better, but really it is hopelessly inadequate for the purpose of maintaining themselves, and there are pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary Force who are endeayouring to live in conditions of starvation which would be considerably bettered by maintenance in the workhouse. It is to the discredit of the Irish Government, which has so frequently lauded these men and complimented them on the dangers through which they have passed to the credit of themselves and to the great advantage of those who value law and order in Ireland, that it is not prepared to do more for these men. They do not want the compliments, but they do want justice. They have asked for it frequently. They have never had it. I think that they ought to have it now, and if the Govern-merit does not meet us here in this matter we will press it on thorn in Committee, and we hope that they will meet us there.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The Bill is almost identical in terms to the Police Act which recently passed this House for the police force of Great Britain. The Chief Secretary has informed the House that the advantages which this Bill would confer upon the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary have been too long delayed, and he paid a high tribute to the patriotism and faithfulness with which members of that constabulary have done their duty. In introducing a Bill conferring those advantages surely there was no necessity at the same time to take away from members of the Royal Irish Constabulary the ordinary rights of citizens, the right to combine for the purpose of securing for themselves fair conditions of service?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
By this Bill these men are prevented from entering into a combination for such a purpose. I am not sure whether the Chief Secretary is right in saying "outside their own quarters," because as I read the Bill they are not entitled to combine as a complete force; 422 they might [...] it in districts, but these district associations are not to combine as a whole. That is preventing the members of the cons[...]lary from combining in a trade union a. we understand it. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) has been twitted on the ground that he is anxious to use the members of the police force through the medium of the sympathetic strike. I want to inform the House that I do not believe there is a single Member on these benches who is anxious that the police force should be used for any such purpose. What we are very anxious to secure is that these men shall have the right of combination conferred upon them, so that they may be able to take such steps as will ensure fair conditions of service. If the members of the Irish Constabulary receive this Bill in the same spirit as the police force of Great Britain has received the Act recently passed by this House, I can assure the Chief Secretary there are many who will not thank him very heartily for what he is doing. There is not the least doubt that a large number of the police of Great Britain are dissatisfied with the terms of the recent Police Act. Moreover, a large number of trade unions in the country are dissatisfied with the terms of that Act. If the hon. Member who spoke last would take the opinion of the working classes of the country, I am not so sure that lie would not find au overwhelming majority on the side of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas), and in favour of the views he has expressed. Whatever action we may take regarding the Second Reading of this Bill, it is not to be taken as meaning that we are against the advantages which it confers upon members of the Irish Constabulary. What we are protesting against as strongly as we can is the action of the Chief Secretary in giving with one hand and taking away or withholding with the other. By withholding from the members of the Irish Constabulary the right of combination as we know it, the Government are not reposing in those men the confidence that their past services entitle them to look for.
§ Mr. M'GUFFIN
I cannot express too warmly the indignation I feel at the attitude taken up by those Members of the House who oppose this Bill. The Royal Irish Constabulary is a very noble body of men. Physically they will compare with anything of a similar character that is to be found in Great Britain; in respect of 423 intelligence they are men[...] more than average attainment, and [...] instances of extraordinary attainment in point of moral character their high reputation is established. They have [...] very chivalrous in their conduct; they have undertaken great services on behalf of the country; and now, when this House has the opportunity of requiting these men for their services, we find a section of Members rising to oppose the Bill. I am more than surprised at the action of the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). Be attacks this Bill on the ground that it excludes the members of the constabulary from the rig] t of combining as a trade union. Is there not procedure under the Bill by which they can obtain abundant representation of any grievances they may have and if that is not trade unionism in name it is in every other respect. The trade union as it was originally evolved was for the adjustment of grievances, and the institution set up for the constabulary is just such an institution which can accomplish that purpose. With regard to the ex-constabulary men I would plead earnestly with the Chief Secretary to consider the case of those men. They have performed the same noble heroic service on behalf of the country as those who are now in the force are doing, and if it is necessary to increase the remuneration of the constabulary is also necessary to consider the position of those men who have received such small pensions. It is utterly impossible for them to maintain on those pensions even themselves, apart entirely from their families. For these and other reasons I hope this Bill will be passed, and if we consider the claims of those men in respect of past services it is our duty to concede the claims of this Bill.
§ Mr. WATERSON
When the Police Bill dealing with the English police was under consideration I raised an emphatic protest against various Clauses of that Bill which are now incorporated in this Bill. I think it wise at this juncture to lay particular emphasis on the fact that there is no one more anxious than we on these benches for better conditions and better pensions for the Royal Irish Constabulary, and to endeavour to make it go to the public that we are opposed to that is an entire misuse of the situation. I am opposed to this Bill on one ground alone, and just as I made my protest against the English Bill I desire to take this oppor- 424 tunity of protesting against this Bill upon the same basis. We heard, with much eloquence from the right hon. Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson) and one or two other hon. Members of the faithfulness of these excellent men who served their country right loyally and well. There is no individual in this House who would disparage them. Everyone is alive to the importance of that, but I venture to say that the position in Ireland to-day after all we have heard from hon. Members opposite is eloquent testimony to the entire mismanagement of Ireland as a whole, and probably if the truth were properly known one really would wonder how many Members of Parliament there are who are somewhat responsible for the position in Ireland to-day. This heroism and courage which has been attributed to the Irish Constabulary is not of six or eight months' standing, but has been going on for many years, and it is therefore remarkably strange to me that it is only at this particular stage that we find the Minister is prepared in some form to recognise that by increasing their pensions. I also draw attention to the fact that one Member stated that he had seen baton charges, and that men had been struck down, and as a result had been maimed for life, and that miserable pensions had been granted to them. Now in this Bill, after all that has been done, we have an attempt being made by statutory powers to prevent these men from getting justice. They are robbing these men of the rights and liberties of collective bargaining to alter those conditions which hon. Members state have been miserable in the days that are gone. I submit that the sympathy that has been so eloquently put forward is not satisfactory. What is really required is something of a practical character, and I venture to say also that, just as the Home Secretary for England was encouraged by the fact of hon. Members passing his Police Bill, there is no doubt that the Irish Executive is rather anxious to carry on the same policy in Ireland; and if this house as a whole could rule, there would be no trade unionism at all in Great Britain or anywhere else. The Government has passed one Bill, and, notwithstanding the objections from hon. Members, I am convinced that whilst you endeavour to camouflage the situation, your own hearts' desires are utterly opposed to it. Further than that; when we look into Clause 3 we find that 425if any person causes, or attempts to cause, or dues any act calculated to cause disaffection amongst toe members of any police torte, or induces, or attempts to induce, or dots any act calculated to induce any member of a police it the to withhold has services or to commit breaches of discipline" and so on.Where is going to be the line of demarcation? A couple of constables may be found talking in the street, and any sort of concocted story can be formulated for the specific purpose of doing an injustice to those men, and all these men will be able to do will be to put their case before their chief officer, and by past experience we do not look to the future with any amount of pleasure. We would far rather, at any rate, that one of the men's own representatives should put the case for the men where victimisation is possible, in order that the case can be put clearly and distinctly and that the men shall have justice done them.
In Clause 4 it says that with the concurrence of the Treasury it shall be lawful for the Lord Lieutenant to make Orders as to pay, pensions and allowances, and that he shall make those arrangements. Where is the right of collective bargaining? Where is this beautiful trade unionist principle coming in when it is left to the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant himself? I submit that this Clause should be completely eliminated from the Bill, and I am in agreement with the right hon. Member for Derby and others on these benches, that, whilst we [...] not opposed to any advantages that may accrue to the Irish Constabulary from this Bill, this is the only opportunity that we have to enter our protest against what we honestly believe to be a determined opposition from the reactionary forces in this country to defeat trade unionism at every turn and every time, and I make my protest, as I did on the previous occasion, hoping that the Government will be defeated, if their Whips are put on there is not much likelihood of it, but we have said enough to make the House believe that we are not in sympathy with it; we shall protest against it, and we will endeavour to create public opinion against it if it is passed.
§ Sir M. DOCKRELL
As I am qualified as probably no other Member is to speak for that splendid body the Dublin 'Metropolitan Police, perhaps the House will allow me to say a few words.
It has been said that "a policeman's lot is not a happy one." I can say in 426 Ireland it is a particularly unhappy one, and certainly this Rouse would be doing much less than justice it it refused to support this Bill. One ounce of fact is worth a pound of theory, and I happen to have gone through the Larkin strike in Dublin. The behaviour of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in that strike was beyond praise, having regard to the fact that they were acting under a Government which, I 'have no hesitation in saying, was carrying out its executive authority with a paralysed arm. That those men should have behaved as they did in the strike is a splendid testimonial to them. Let me give my experience. The late Mr. Connolly, w ho was Larkin's brother-in-law, came to me and said, "I am about to order some of your men to leave your employment. I admit you are a good employer." I said, "If I am, why do you operate on me?" He replied, "We must be the best judges of whom we operate on, and if we make you squeal you will probably make others squeal." Then I said, "Apparently it is a case of swords out," and he said, "It is." That was on the Saturday. On the Monday morning I employed ex-sergeants of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary and said to them, "You know the law. I do not ask you to do anything but to protect my rights as a merchant. You know what can be done within the law and what cannot." The employment of those men was a very great success.
I can only say that as regards that splendid force I would certainly beg the House not to place them at a further disadvantage, for if during that strike they had been members of a trade union and it had been possible for anyone to come forward and say, "That is my trade card," that of course would have absolutely paralysed things. I gave evidence before the Commission which was held in the Sherborne Hotel. I think Lord Hardinge was chairman, and lie said to me, "Do I understand you to say that Dublin Metropolitan Police, who were protecting your carters, or, in default of your carters, your clerks, who had to take their place when they called the carters' out on strike—do you mean to tell me those men were not armed?" I said, "I do." I say that a force that could have gone through experiences of that kind unarmed, and undoubtedly deserted by the Executive, behaved in a splendid way. I would support with all the earnestness possible 427 the appeal that has been made to the Chief Secretary to make a strong effort with the Treasury to deal justly with this splendid body of men. I have formed the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that the Treasury is somewhat akin to a description given by Dickens of a pump, of which it was said, "A harder one to work and a grudginer one to yield there ain't nowhere." That is to a large extent true as regards the Treasury, but I would call upon the Chief Secretary to use the powers lie has with the Treasury to secure justice for these men.
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow.—[Mr. Macpherson.]