§ Earl WINTERTON
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
The terms of the Motion which I received permission at Question Time today to move were as follow:To call attention to a matter of definite urgent public importance, namely, 'the failure of His Majesty's Government to take any effective steps to secure the safety of 1196 officers of His Majesty's Army in Ireland when off duty, as shown by the murder of many such officers within the last five days.'The terms of the Motion are strictly limited, intentionally so, and I will endeavour to do my best to keep within the bounds of order and within the limits of the Resolution. Perhaps I may commence by quoting to the House the answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War gave to me on this subject to-day. He said:I have full confidence in the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland. I am sure the suggestion of my Noble Friend will not have escaped his attention. I am convinced he will do everything in his power to ensure the safety of the officers and men under his command.1197 It is on account of the grave doubts that I and others have as to, I will not say, the ability, but up till now the practical result of the efforts of the Commander-in-Chief that I took the step of asking leave to move the Adjournment of the House. It puts anyone who holds the views I do upon Ireland necessarily in a delicate position in having to move a Motion of this kind, for one's attitude might quite easily be misunderstood—the attitude of those like my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) who is unable to be present and myself. We have taken a more or less active part in the discussions on various aspects of the Irish question, and our words, in view of our association with Ireland, are very widely quoted in the Press of Southern Ireland. Hence I want to do nothing to alter the clearly expressed intention of my hon. and gallant Friend and myself, expressed on many occasions in this House, to support the Government in all necessary military and police measures, however unpalatable to hon. Members opposite, to suppress insurrection and murder in Ireland with certain exceptions which we have made clear in previous debates and which it would not be in order to refer to to-night: I refer to reprisals.
The first question that I think in a Debate of this kind ought to be put is: What was the nature and what were the facts of these particular murders to which my Motion refers, those murders which have taken place in the last few days? They were crimes as vicious and as revolting as anything that has taken place in the history of Ireland during the last two years. I will not mention the names of these officers as I wish to save their relatives the pain of mentioning their beloved ones, for they have already suffered enough. No less than five officers were murdered in these terrible circumstances. I should like to refer to one of these cases where an officer was shot in a motor car. The driver of the car was a lady, and she was compelled to drive to the mountains where this wounded officer was taken out and brutally murdered in circumstances of deliberate brutality reminiscent of the French Revolution and of the very worst aspects of Bolshevik régime in Russia. The only difference is that in Russia the real instigators are known, while in Ireland they shelter themselves behind the 1198 people who sympathise with them, and the real promoters and those who. are responsible for these crimes are on a lower moral plane than even Lenin and Robespierre because they were not afraid of making themselves responsible for murder.
The murder I have mentioned is not an isolated one because murder of officers has been going on for months and months. I ask both sides of this House, and especially those who served in His Majesty's forces during the War, to realise what the effect must be on the moral of any regiment or unit who saw their officers being murdered in this way. The effect must be terrible. As regards the effect on public opinion in Ireland and in the world of this murdering of officers off duty without the Government being able to prevent them or capture the murderers, the effect on our prestige in the world in general must be deplorable.
I wish to ask now what precautions have been taken to avoid these incidents. These are not isolated cases. Some particularly terrible murders took place in Ireland last winter which were squalid and cowardly to the last degree. As far as I know only one man has been arrested in connection with these murders. The Government and the Commander-in-Chief have had plenty of warning as to the extent to which these people would go in attacking officers off duty. On this question I am anxious to avoid any violent language because I do not wish to do anything to make the task of those who are trying to restore order in Ireland greater. The Secretary of State for War has already replied that the Government have full confidence in the Commander-in-Chief in regard to this matter. I wish to ask if the right hon. Gentleman can state what precautions are being taken to protect these officers when they are off duty. I know the answer which has so often been given is that it is not in the public interest to state what safeguards have been taken.
I quite recognise that here anyone who holds such views as I do on this question is skating on very thin ice. I admit it is possible to play into the hands of the insurgents—and there happen to be some sympathisers with them, in this country, and there are more than at first sight appears—by compelling the Government to disclose the measures they have taken for the protection of these officers. I think anyone is entitled to say that the 1199 time has come when the situation is so serious, when the measures taken to deal with this aspect of the case have proved to be inefficacious, that it is better to start ab initio and have a full and frank discussion as to the proper military measures to be taken, and for the House to express its opinion as to the way the representatives of the War Office have dealt with this question. I would never be a party to any attempt to vilify the troops or the police in Ireland. I can speak with emphasis on that matter, because my hon. Friends and I have always supported the Government through thick and thin, and tried to shout down hon. Members opposite who have attempted, in my opinion, to vilify the troops and the police in Ireland. What most people want to see is that the measures which are being carried out should be carried out with efficiency and success.
With regard to the precautions very little information is forthcoming in the Press. When these murders take place very little information is forthcoming of the actual circumstances under which they take place. If the right hon. Gentleman feels it to be his duty to refrain from informing the House, I shall be reluctantly compelled to accept his decision, but I should like to know if any regulations are in force such as were in operation behind the various Fronts during the War, when officers were not allowed to go abroad except with an escort and they always had to be armed. Behind the lines it was considered necessary to have some escort with an officer, and I maintain that in the appalling conditions surrounding His Majesty's troops in the South of Ireland, some such precaution ought to be taken. I want to know if any regulations of this kind have been issued. I think if every officer was compelled to go abroad with a servant or with an orderly armed with a rifle it would avoid some of these incidents. The officer who was taken away to the mountains apparently had no other soldier with him.
The right hon. Gentleman may say, "After all, how can you compare the conditions which prevailed at the Front during the War with the conditions in Ireland, where you cannot prevent an officer from playing tennis or golf?" If that is the case, I am prepared to say, in view of the appalling frequency of 1200 these murders, that some such steps should be taken as I have indicated. If it is impossible for officers to take part in the ordinary social life of Ireland and attend dances and play tennis and golf, and if it is impossible to provide an adequate escort for them under those circumstances, then provision should be made for better recreation for both officers and men in barracks, in the nature of tennis courts and football grounds, and so on. I do not say it is necessary to go as far as that, but I would like to know if the Government have taken the obvious precaution of forbidding any officer to go out unless accompanied by another officer or by a soldier. I have seen something of the Auxiliaries. They take no such risks as do the officers of the Army. Three of them, one a friend of mine, happened quite recently to be leaving Ireland for England at the same time as I was. I noticed that they were escorted to the quay by men of their own division with rifles held at the ready, and when they got out of the car to go on to the boat each man had a revolver in his hand. That is the only way in which servants of the Crown in Ireland can now move about that country.
Apparently some of the officers who have been murdered have gone out cycling unarmed. There is a very strong impression in the minds of many people who know something of the condition of affairs in Ireland that the regulations with regard to what I may call personal discipline in the Army in Ireland have not been adequately carried out; that regulations are made but are not enforced, and the people responsible for not carrying them out are not punished as they should be. During the War we had in the Army a system of discipline which was very effective, even in the case of people naturally most undisciplined from some of the wilder industrial districts. The discipline imposed on everyone proved to be stronger even than that in the German army at the outbreak of War, and it largely enabled us to win the War. Faults wherever committed were punished immediately in the most drastic manner, and the case of General Gough was an instance in kind. In the conditions under which troops are serving in Ireland it is absolutely necessary, however unpleasant the duty may be, to impose the same rigid iron discipline, and an officer who 1201 deliberately imperils his safety—and here, of course, I am not referring to the unfortunate officers who have been murdered—anyone who fails to carry out the regulations should be court martialled. There should be no question of his merely being brought before his commanding officer: he should be court martialled and suffer the due penalty for his action. So far as one can judge from the impression one gets there is still a great deal to be done in Ireland in the way of tightening up the general discipline of the forces in this regard.
The right hon. Gentleman may tell the House that he could carry out these suggestions if he had sufficient troops in Ireland, and could ensure that no officer should be allowed to go out unaccompanied. If the right hon. Gentleman should say that, my reply would be that if more troops are wanted it is his duty to take the necessary steps immediately to increase the number of soldiers in Ireland, and if his rejoinder to that should be, "How can we increase them?" then I would point out deliberately that inasmuch as it was possible very recently to hold a military tournament in London in which thousands of troops were engaged, and inasmuch there are plenty of household troops, foot and cavalry available, they ought to be utilised for the purpose of restoring order in Ireland. I am aware that any such proposal would be received with a lack of enthusiasm in this country, and the reason for that is this, that neither in this country nor in this House has the full seriousness of the situation in Ireland been realised. I was talking to an officer the other day who rather cried out against sending the Guards to Ireland, but I assert that if the present condition of Ireland is the result of an armed insurrection then it has become a purely military problem, and so long as there is in this country a single soldier who can be spared, he should be sent forthwith to Ireland. We hear a great deal about the sporting contests which are going on in this country to-day, but surely the far greater problem involved in the failure of the country which defeated the Prussians to restore order and good government in the South of Ireland is a matter which should seriously concern—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir E. Cornwall)
It is not open to the Noble 1202 Lord to go into the general question of the Government of Ireland. The only point raised by the Motion is as to the steps which the Government are taking to safeguard the lives of officers in Ireland, and it is only the action of the Government in that respect which is now under consideration.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I was going to say it was impossible to restore good government in the South of Ireland unless you carry out the elementary military precautions for safeguarding the lives of the officers on duty in Ireland. I may have been going somewhat wide of the terms of the Motion, but I mentioned this in order to show the tremendous importance of the whole problem which is involved in the terms of the Resolution I am venturing to propose. I will put it in another way. Unless you can assure the safety of your own Army officers, especially when they are off duty, you can never carry out any satisfactory policy for the settlement of the Irish question generally. I will go so far as to say that is the test of how the Government are succeeding is to be found in matters such as that which forms the subject of this Debate. I am prepared to say quite frankly that, if the answer of the right hon. Gentleman is that neither he nor the Commander-in-Chief—and I think the Government have shown a tendency lately to shelter themselves behind the broad shoulders of the Commander-in-Chief—if it is the answer of the Secretary of State for War that neither he nor the Commander-in-Chief can take greater steps than have already been taken to protect the lives of their officers when off duty in the South of Ireland, then, holding the view which I believe the majority of people in this country hold, that it is necessary to put down murder and insurrection in Ireland, and you can only do it by carrying out in the first instance precautions such as I have indicated, I say that similar circumstances arise to those which constantly arose during the War. If one Minister and one Commander-in-Chief cannot carry the matter to a successful issue, let us have another Minister and another Commander-in-Chief. In that connection, let me say that I am no enemy of the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland. In private life I have the honour and advantage of his friendship, and I certainly am not biased against him. But General Macready 1203 was not the only successful soldier in the Army during the War. If he cannot succeed, there are others who may do so. I will not mention many names, but there are Lord Cavan, General Ironside, General Dunsterville, Sir John Macdonagh, and others.
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman another thing which I think he will remember, as he has been, like myself, a close student of political events during the last ten years. Often during the War, when a particular Minister failed to carry to a successful issue the policy of the office which he controlled, that Minister was changed for a more successful one. While I am not prepared to go so far as my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) did the other day, when he said that the only way in which to get a better condition of affairs in Ireland was to change both the Chief Secretary and the Prime Minister, I am inclined to think that the day may come when the great issue in this country will not be the sort of issue we have been discussing lately, but the issue as to whether or not the Government are succeeding in their military policy and in their capacity to protect the lives of their servants, who, under conditions of appalling difficulty, provocation and strain, are doing their best to carry out the duty which has been placed upon them. The issue may well be the capacity of the Government adequately to protect its servants. If it does not protect them adequately, then nine-tenths of the people of this country, who are determined to see the Crown forces' in Ireland given proper protection and proper organisation in their difficult task, will rise up and say, "If the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are unable to do this, let us find someone who can," and they will take the attitude which in the long run is really the only possible attitude, that the greatest of all the questions that we have to face to-day is that of the restoration of peace within the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
I beg to second the Motion.
I quite realise the great responsibility of bringing forward a Motion of this kind at this moment in this House, and I am one of the last men in the House who would wish in any way to attack the Government unfairly or to attribute 1204 to them any fault which is not theirs. I want to help the Government, as I think the great majority of the House want to do, because it is only by helping the Government and making helpful suggestions that we can hope to deal with the appalling problem with which we are faced in Ireland. Still less do we want to attack the troops, and I hope that this Motion will in no way be interpreted as a reflection upon them. One of the most deplorable features of the way in which Irish problems are viewed in this country is the want of realisation of the horrors that are going on, and of real practical sympathy, except among a few who have really thought about the matter, for those officers and men in the terrible conditions under which they are living. We in this House are responsible for it. We have sent them there, and it is up to us to see that every condition that can be created to make their lot easier, their lives safer, and their job more successful is carried out. We have a perfect right to ask the Government to give us an assurance, as I hope they will be able to do to-night, that every precaution is being taken, every Regulation is being made, and everything is being done by the Government to secure that those conditions are made more tolerable. I hope that, if this Debate has no other result, it may at any rate, if the echo of it reaches Ireland, make those men, who are living under those conditions, realise that the vast majority of this House sympathise deeply with them, are anxious to help them, and realise the appalling difficulties, dangers, and discomforts under which they work. Things have been said in this House which indicate want of sympathy both with the military and with the police. I hope that this Debate will include nothing of that kind, but will serve to hearten and encourage them in their difficult work, rather than to criticise and discourage.
We want an assurance from the Government, first of all, that none of the appalling things to which my Noble Friend has just referred are due to carelessness on the part of the higher command. We want to be quite certain that every man in the higher command is doing his utmost to take proper precautions, and to insist upon those precautions, and any Regulation which may be made to effect them, being strictly carried out. Nothing can be 1205 truer than what the Noble Lord has just said as to the crime of allowing, by slack discipline, the lives to be needlessly and carelessly sacrificed of officers who are badly needed for leading and protecting their own men. In addition, we want to know that the Intelligence Department is all that it should be, that we want to know that the police and the military are working together. There has been too much indication that there are two forces instead of one. We want it made absolutely certain that they are working together, and that the Intelligence system is sufficiently effective to give them the information that they require, without leaving them at the mercy of a far more ably equipped intelligence system on the other side. We want to know what Regulations are being made for the protection of officers, and, above all, whether they are being obeyed. There is ample evidence to show that, if proper Regulations have been made, they cannot have been properly carried out. Otherwise, many of the deplorable things of which we have been reading lately could not possibly have occurred. Valuable young lives are being lost almost daily. The lives of some of the most splendid young heroes that this country possesses are being frittered away, if these Regulations are not made and prompt precautions are not being taken. I would not use the word "frittered" if the Government can assure us that everything is being done that is possible to safeguard them. But if we are going to make war, let us make war properly. If we are merely going to allow young lives of this value to be frittered away, we had far better give up the idea of making war, and cease to allow our forces to be slowly disintegrated and weakened by the obvious feeling of helplessness and powerlessness which these events must bring about. My Noble Friend has said if the troops are not sufficient let the Government say so. The Government have never lost by telling the truth. Some people think the Government do not tell us enough of the truth. But let us know the whole facts. To guard against the events we read about in the Press I am sure even the Anti-Waste party would be the first to rush into the Lobby to vote for an increase of our troops if it was necessary. Everyone knows what an intolerable life it must be in Ireland and how absolutely necessary it must be for 1206 the officers to get all the recreation that is possible. No one can think of men living under that nervous strain without wishing to give them all possible recreation and everything which can possibly relieve what must be at times an almost intolerable strain. If you are at war you. do not go out to play tennis under fire. No one went over the top to play in No Man's Land. That is the position which we must recognise exists, and it is no use playing with these things. We must face the stern reality of the fact that we are at war and that war conditions prevail, and if we cannot face those facts the sooner we realise that the position is impossible the better. Nothing is so hopeless for the discipline, the strength and the moral of your force as that an impression should be created that you cannot protect them, that the case is hopeless, and above all, that sufficient effort is not being made to safeguard them in every way.
Perhaps the most miserable thing about all this is the apathy and the want of interest that is shown by a great many sections of the community. Our papers are full of sport, and you see a small paragraph in a corner dealing with perhaps two or three of the most brutal and horrible murders. The whole nation has got to wake up to the fact that we are up against a bigger thing in our Irish history than we have ever had before. We have got so hardened to always hearing of an Irish question that many people do not realise that it is bigger and a worse and far more horrible thing than we have ever been up against. But that is no reason why we should despair. It is every reason why the Government should give a full assurance that they are straining every nerve and doing all they possibly can to make a success of the job, and above all, to safeguard the lives of men whom the country can ill afford to spare. In the hope that the Government will be able to satisfy us, I second the Motion, and I only hope that whatever assurance they may be able to give us to-night will also go forth to recruits in Ireland, and that they may realise that in the speeches in this Debate nothing is intended but comfort, help and strength to them, and that this House is united in the desire to make their job a little easier and sympathises with them in the extraordinary difficulties by which they are surrounded.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Captain GEE
I wish to associate myself with hon. Members who have spoken, particularly in regard to the brutality of these and other murders, but I wish to dissociate myself entirely from some of the sentences they have uttered. Judging by some of the speeches to which we have listened, this is nothing more or lass than a camouflaged attack upon the gallant men in the Army in Ireland who are doing their best. We have heard about lack of discipline in the Army. Of all the reprisals which have taken place during the carrying out of the most arduous duties in Ireland, we are still waiting to find whether one of these unofficial reprisals has been engineered and carried out by the non-commissioned officers and men of the Army. Does that show indiscipline? I think it shows the highest state of discipline in the greatest and most severe test the British Army has ever been called upon to undergo. There is no lack of discipline there. The moral of the Army in Ireland is simply wonderful. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member who says, "Hear, hear" a minute ago said we have lack of discipline in the Army. [Interruption.] During the speech we have just heard there has been nothing but doubt as to whether the discipline that we had in the Army during the War was still being maintained in Ireland or not. I am quoting almost his exact words. So I repudiate any idea that the discipline in the Army is not being maintained. It is. This Debate practically amounts to a Vote of want of confidence in the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland. It is attacking a man who is not here to defend himself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I prefer to leave it to hon. Members to decide whether I misconstrued the hon. Gentleman's statement or not. I think it is a case of save me from my friends. We have had one or two very nice platitudes expressed to-night, but I wonder what those sentiments will be thought of, and what impression they will convey when the men of the rank and file of the Army read to-morrow how their officers are not taking the ordinary safeguards which they ought to take to look after themselves in carrying out their duties. If we are to learn anything from the history of the past War, Tommy Atkins has the utmost confidence in his own officers and he is going to resent very strongly any 1208 imputation against the character of the officers he served under in France and it ill-becomes hon. Members to say that the Army in Ireland lacks that discipline that the British Army has hitherto had.
It has been stated that precautions are not taken. We are reminded of a previous Debate when an hon. Member wanted to know if a certain regiment had marched out taking all due precaution against surprise. If hon. Members talked to officers, non-commissioned officers and men on leave from Ireland they would find out that all due military precautions are taken to guard against surprise. It is only fair to admit that the man on the spot in Ireland is a far better judge of what to do and what not to do than any Members of the House can possibly be, whether he happens to be a Noble Lord with military experience, or an ordinary civilian Member with no military experience. We have heard from the last speaker something about discipline. He is very anxious to know what is the policy of the Government, and what precautions they are going to take. I can carry my mind back to newspaper reports we used to get in the trenches about various politicians who were criticising this or that officer, who were saying that this or that move should be taken, or this or that little stunt should have been carried out. Those critics were safe in England, far away from France and the theatre of war, and they knew practically nothing about the subject. In reality I can see in the speeches we have heard to-night the old criticisms of the Army officer and the commander in France having been salvaged and served up again in perhaps more modern style.
How are you going to discriminate in respect of officers and have a different rule for the men. It is impossible. The whole thing appears to me to be absurd. We must leave these things in the hands of the men who are on the spot. There is an old military tag that the soldier must always be subservient to the statesman, the diplomat. The diplomat makes the war and the diplomat ends the war. If the military politicians of this House interfere with war, they will do their utmost towards losing the war. Do not let us interfere with or hamper the soldiers in Ireland. Let us do what we can to help them, and to make their somewhat intolerable position a little more tolerable.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I do not intend to say much after the extremely able and eloquent speeches of my Noble Friend who moved the Motion and my hon. Friend who seconded it. I should like to say a few words about the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just addressed the House, and who has such a distinguished record as a soldier. The hon. and gallant Member has entirely misunderstood the speeches of my hon. Friends. They have raised this question not in order to criticise the soldier in Ireland, but in order to support him, not to condemn him, but to try to safeguard him from the manifold dangers which surround his path, and to try to ease the situation somewhat. All that my Noble Friend said was that in some cases in Ireland the Army orders were not carried out as strictly as they might be. That is very likely the case. I have no personal knowledge, but where you have an army composed of very young soldiers, with comparatively few old non-commissioned officers, and when most of the officers, particularly the junior ranks, are very young, you cannot expect to get the strict standard of Army discipline which you would find in His Majesty's Brigade of Guards, or in the Army during the War. Therefore, it is very likely that these Army orders were not strictly carried out. That is not a criticism of the Army as a whole; that is not saying that we wish to interfere with the soldier on the spot. It would be a thousand pities if the speech of the hon. Member (Captain Gee), who has so distinguished a military record, should go out reflecting the tone of this Debate, when the tone of the Debate is to support the soldiers in Ireland, of all ranks. I am sure that I can claim the united support of every hon. Member, of whatever party, in saying that we want to support His Majesty's Army in the difficult task they have to perform.
How can we do something to diminish the probability of officers, non-commissioned officers, and men being foully and brutally murdered in carrying out their duties in Ireland? A practical suggestion has been made that we should throw off the pretence that there is no war in Ireland, and that we should frankly face the fact that there is war, a fact which a great number of us have been proclaiming in this House for months. If you once face that fact, your task will be a heavy one, it is true, but 1210 you will know where you are, and you can fit in your rules to meet the difficulties of the situation. On the other hand, if you are always pretending that you are at peace when you are really at war, naturally, the rules which you make do not fit in with the situation, and, as a result, we have the terrible murders which have been described. In this matter the Secretary of State for War should follow the example of the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his dealings; with what are called the Black-and-Tans, or the Auxiliaries. They are in far greater danger than His Majesty's forces. The officers and men are absolutely marked down for death if they go out alone and unattended, and even when they are in large bodies, as we read, men are murdered and maimed. They are not allowed to go out alone, and when they do go out they have to go armed. They have to remain in barracks most of the time, and the Government at last is making provision in their barracks for recreation for officers and men, so that they can get exercise and keep fit and well within their barracks and camp. They have not to go out to lawn tennis parties or to golf in order to get exercise.
I know it is not an easy task for the right hon. Gentleman, but he must face the situation in Ireland on these lines, namely, that officers, non-commissioned officers and men, especially the officers, for they are more marked down than any others, must be given ample facilities in camp or barracks for recreation and exercise. It may be unpleasant for them not to be able to go out to see their friends and to take part in the social life of the countryside, but it would be more unpleasant if they are murdered, and certainly it will be a disgrace to this country if their lives are not preserved. If the right hon. Gentleman will do something on these lines, the Debate will not have been in vain, and we shall have done something to safeguard the lives of these gallant officers non-commissioned officers and men.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich (Captain Gee) missed the point of the Motion. I am pleased that we have an opportunity of saying, or, rather, restating what has been our point of view, and of stating our attitude towards the Army in general. I was amazed when I read of the murder of these officers, and especially of the 1211 circumstances under which the act was perpetrated. I was one of those who were in Ireland some six months ago and the conditions there were too terrible for words. The whole thing was a creeping horror, and I understand that it has grown in intensity since that time, and for either officers or men to be walking out freely in such conditions is almost incredible. It rather points not to lack of discipline but lack of appreciation in the head command, or to something wrong in the settled policy of that command, which leads to lack of appreciation such as this kind of thing shows to exist. I am sorry that this Motion did not include the rank and file who are also in Ireland, for I said in this House after the visit which I made that the conditions under which those men were called upon to live and act and the discipline to which they had to submit, while at the same time not getting credit for the work they were doing, would have been incredible to the people of this country.
It will be remembered that in the report which some of us issued we paid our tribute to the soldier and said that he was worthy of the best traditions of the army, conducting himself according to its highest traditions. Yet he had to submit to conditions—and I believe this included the officers—which gave him very little chance to carry out his duty as he would wish to carry it out, and be effective. The situation is that there is a divided command in Ireland, and the lack of appreciation is, I think, due to the fact that the military head is not quite sure what is his function in Ireland at present. Neither is he quite sure that, if he takes any step to bring order into the country, it is going to be carried out because of the other command that is there, and apparently there is not exactly co-operation with the military head. It has been said that the conditions in Ireland are equal to war conditions. They are worse than war conditions. That is what the people in this country have been too long in realising. The enemy is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. One never knows which way he comes.
§ Mr. LAWSON
It is guerilla warfare and something worse, because in guerilla warfare we have moving bands. You have a rough idea where they are. But 1212 in this warfare you are not quite sure who are taking part in it. It seemed to me that the conditions were infinitely worse than ordinary war conditions. We all know during the War the fatality and futility of divided command, but there was never more need for united command than there is to-day. When one talks about discipline one implies that there is going to be strict discipline, going to be a larger appreciation of the conditions by the officer in command, going to be greater certainty as to what is his function in the country, and as to the object that he has got to achieve. And also in Ireland at the present there is need for united command in order that he may be quite sure that his function is carried out. That implies discipline, and it implies stern action with certainty as to where he is going and what is the object, but it does not imply brutality with the people like the brutality that is operating in Ireland, or like the brutality of those murders that have taken place. I appreciate what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said as to these, but there are equally brutal murders taking place against the Irish people.
I am not speaking with bias upon this matter but there are things taking place as to which it would have been better for the Government to have admitted frankly that they were ashamed of them and they should not have defended them. Equally brutal are those murders that are being dealt with here. They are of a brutal and mean kind. But you would not only be more efficient, you would not only protect the officers by a larger appreciation of the situation and by greater certainty on the part of the command, but you would protect the men, from your own point of view. I do not agree with the policy which the Government is carrying out, but if it wants to make this policy efficient, if it wants to save its own men, to cease from attacking people who are not enemies, to cease making friends into foes, to cease making Sinn Feiners, then the best thing it can do is to have a united command in Ireland and withdraw the police force from its present activities altogether. I think that would give infinitely more protection to the officers and soldiers themselves. Hon. Members may not agree with that, but that is the conclusion of one who saw the thing at its worst and 1213 saw its effects upon all classes in Ireland, rich and poor, Nationalists, Sinn Feiners and Conservatives, who saw it at every point and came definitely to the conclusion that it would have been much better if you had treated the whole situation as a matter for the soldier from the first.
If you had taken the Sinn Feiner at his word and said there was a war, and treated it as a war, if a soldier had been able not only to appreciate and deal with the Sinn Feiner as a soldier, but to appreciate the conduct of the officer who wrote that very fine letter, then I think that you would have had more of the conditions that prevail in war and are worthy of soldiers at all times than these brutal murders in conditions such as those in which these officers were murdered, or in conditions such as those of which the Royal Irish Constabulary are very often guilty among innocent people in Ireland at the present moment. The conclusion I have come to is that it is a matter for a united command and for discipline. If you want to give protection to your own men, and the amount of protection which they deserve, you should put Ireland in charge of one man. I am certain that the Irish people themselves, in spite of all their sufferings, have a very high appreciation of the conduct of the British soldier, of the rank and file as well as of the officers. I am certain that they themselves—while they may not and will not agree with all the policy and while a considerable proportion of them believe in a separate Ireland—will appreciate and meet in a generous spirit the fact that there is a united command and that the British soldier is in charge rather than those people who have been in charge for the last year or two. In Cork, a responsible citizen talked with me on the Monday morning following the great fire. It had been arranged by General Strickland, the General in charge of Cork, that about 7 o'clock at night soldiers should be put upon the streets to perform the duties of soldiers in war time—soldiers, rather than the auxiliary forces that have been operating in Ireland. It was with a sigh of relief, and almost with tears in his eyes, that that responsible citizen said to me and to my friend that that was a very great advance and a matter for profound relief to the people of Cork.
If the Government would protect the officers and men, if they have to carry out 1214 their present policy, if they intend to keep hold of Ireland by any means then, from their point of view, the best thing they can do is to put the country in charge of a soldier who should be head of the organisation in Ireland. They should take General Tudor and his men away out of it. Then they would not only carry out their policy more effectively, but if there is a chance of winning the favour and the good will of the Irish people, they will carry what chance there is into operation by removing these other people and leaving the matter to the soldier in charge.
§ Mr. JESSON
I happen to be an old soldier whose regiment was sent over to Ireland after the Burke and Cavendish murders. I very much appreciate the speech to which the House has just listened. Speaking as an old soldier, and as one who had to go through the troubles of that particular time, I would say that the House does not really appreciate the matter from the soldier's point of view. At the present time what is happening in Ireland is the worst form of guerilla warfare the world has ever known, because you may meet a man and not know whether he is your enemy or your friend. That was particularly the case about 40 years ago when I was there, only it was not so bad as at present. Exactly the same kind of tactics is going on now as then, and the only way to meet it is to place certain districts around the barracks out of bounds. That is the thing the soldier so resents because sometimes for about six months or possibly 12 months there is no trouble at all in the district. I will give you an instance of what happened to myself. We had been in a district in Ireland that was fairly quiet for a matter of about six months. One day, two or three of us were out by ourselves for a stroll into the country. We had not gone very far when we saw two or three men walking in front of us. We got a little bit suspicious, but we followed on, and later, turning behind, we found a number of men were following us. As we got out a little further into the country the whole lot of men combined together and set upon us, and we had a very rough time. The regiment to which I belonged got to hear of this particular incident. The whole regiment turned out that night, and went through that town, which had a very rough time of it, because we believed that the people there 1215 knew something of the attack against us. The incident had a very useful effect, however, for it stopped it. All the commanding officers in the world could not have kept that regiment in check at that time, because it was a brutal, cowardly attack made upon innocent men carrying out their duties.
That is the kind of thing that is going on all the time. You do not know who is your enemy or your friend. The man whom you think is your friend one day is the person who next day you find taking part in an ambush, or something of that kind. In regard to that, I want to say that it is of no use for us to theorise in this House. I agree with my Noble Friend (Earl Winterton) that it is upon these troops in Ireland and those responsible for maintaining order that you have to rely. You cannot tell them what they have to do better than they know; it is for them to decide what the best course is. I am satisfied, in regard to those brutal murders that took place the other day, that it was a case of men feeling the restrictions put on them, and that they were cramped and confined. The difficulty is that the men want their liberty and freedom. After all, the Tommy has got a rather partial regard for the ladies. Do not make any mistake, that is one of the chief problems. If a soldier, even in my day, were seen walking out with one of the Irish girls, then he was in for a very festive time, and so was the girl. That is the same kind of thing that is going on now. After all, human nature is human nature, and we all like to do the best we can to enjoy ourselves. What I want to point out is this: You are thrown off your guard from the mere fact that a certain district is quiet for six months, or possibly 12 months, and then, all at once, you get one of these brutal, cowardly attacks. The only thing that this House can do is to leave the matter entirely in the hands of those in Ireland who know-all about the circumstances.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
The speeches of my hon. Friend (Mr. Jesson) and that of the hon. Member who preceded him (Mr. Lawson) were very interesting. I was to a very large extent in agreement with them, but it struck me that both of them travelled a good deal wider than the actual Motion with which my hon. Friend (Earl Winterton) moved the 1216 Adjournment. That Motion is really confined within very narrow limits indeed. I do not think it necessary to say that I am most warmly in sympathy with the spirit that animated my Noble Friend to ask leave to move the Adjournment. All the House is in agreement with him in that. After all, what moved him to ask for this Debate was the indignation, which he expressed so eloquently, and which the whole House feels, at the brutality of the murders of these particular gallant officers. In. another respect I do not believe there is any difference of opinion. I am perfectly certain that every hon. Member agrees with my Noble Friend in desiring that every possible precaution should be taken to protect these lives. While to that extent I am absoluely in agreement with my Noble Friend, I am a little puzzled by the procedure he has adopted, because a Motion for the Adjournment of the House is rather a peculiar part of our proceedings. My Noble Friend put a question at Question Time to the Secretary of State, and it was because the Secretary of State's answer was not satisfactory that he asked for and; obtained leave to move the Adjournment of the House. Under these circumstances it amounts to a vote of want of confidence in the right hon. Gentleman or of censure upon the Government, but really, as this Debate has been developed, it is a vote of want of confidence in the Commander-in-Chief.
§ Earl WINTERTON
It is very important that I should make my position clear. What I endeavoured to do was to draw attention to the conditions in Ireland and to demand that the ways of whoever is responsible for that state of affairs, whether the Government or the Commander-in-Chief, should be amended.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
That is so, but may I remind my Noble Friend that he said it was a very feeble thing for the Secretary for War to say that he had confidence in the Commander-in-Chief. If it was a very feeble thing for the Secretary of State to say that, I can hardly imagine a more emphatic way of expressing one's own want of confidence in the Commander-in-Chief. My Noble Friend is a military man with military experience, but comparatively few of us in this House have that advantage. We have heard a great deal of what happened during the War. We have been told that there is 1217 war going on in Ireland now. With that I agree. I took part in many of the proceedings in this House during the War, being unfortunately not able to have the honour of serving elsewhere, and I remember that one of the things many of us were most strongly insistent upon was that there was to be no interference by the politician with the soldier. I do not remember whether my Noble Friend during the time he was not serving overseas took part in the Committees when that principle was insisted upon, but I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) will bear out my statement, because he was a member of the Unionist War Committee which very often was concerned with the allegations then being made that interference with the Command in the different theatres of War was coming from the politician. We always objected to that. It was one of the commonest criticisms. I should have thought that it was a criticism on which all soldiers are agreed. Is the right hon. Baronet prepared to say that his judgment is to decide whether the Commander-in-Chief is incompetent or not? I should demur very much to his making any such claim. I certainly should not make it for myself. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend would not do it.
I do not feel competent to decide whether a distinguished General is or is not a competent Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, and I want to know whether there are many Members of this House who feel that they are competent to do so. Unless they are competent to do so, I cannot imagine how they can support my Noble Friend in thinking it feeble of the Secretary of State to place confidence in the Commander-in-Chief. Surely we ought to go further. If my Noble Friend and those who support him agree that results prove that the Commander-in-Chief is incompetent—it may be so; I am not in a position to deny or to assert it—surely this is not the right way to set to work in order to get rid of him. I cannot think that a Motion for the Adjournment of the House is quite the right way for the House to come deliberately to the decision that the Commander-in-Chief must be removed. That is really what my Noble Friend is asking the House to do. I think that the Secretary of State, so far from being feeble, as has been stated, is perfectly right.
1218 The time may come when the Government in its responsibility may think it right to remove the Commanding Officer, but unless there are very much stronger reasons given and infinitely more information is at our disposal than we have tonight, my right hon. Friend is doing only what every Secretary of State is bound to do, namely, showing confidence in the man who is carrying out a most difficult commission, until it has been proved to absolute demonstration that he was so incompetent that he ought to be directly removed. While I am absolutely in sympathy with my Noble Friend in all the indignation he feels at the transactions which have occurred and am just as anxious as he can be that every step should be taken to discipline the forces and to minimise as far as possible the terrible occurrences which are going on, I do not feel that I am at all competent to say that the Commander-in-Chief, who has the trust of the Government, ought to be removed, or that it is likely to be done in any better way than the way in which he is trying to do it.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think the last speaker was only in a degree less fair to the Noble Lord than the hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich (Captain Gee). I am sure that the Noble Lord and his friends in moving the Adjournment were really trying to draw attention to the fact that proper precautions are not taken to guard the officers at recreation in Ireland. To endeavour to prove that the Noble Lord was using this Motion as a means of getting rid of the Commander-in-Chief is doing the Noble Lord too much honour. I have every sympathy with those who wish to guard the lives of the officers. I think the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) is making too much of the Motion. I can understand the respect for his late comrades shown by the hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich, but he also seemed to mistake the intentions of the Noble Lord. At the same time I am quite convinced that the Noble Lord will not be satisfied with the administration of Ireland until he is Chief of the Auxiliary Division and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) is Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. Then, of course, things will go right, but until then everything will go wrong. I want to address myself to the question of the murders, and I want to 1219 say in the most emphatic terms I can, that recent events and the murders of these military officers in plain clothes have shocked me utterly. It is a new departure. Up to now I gather that on the whole the relations between the military and the civil population have been good, and that, generally speaking, the conduct of the officers of the Army and of non-commissioned officers and men have been humane and restrained under the most trying and most aggravating circumstances. It must be said there were certain exceptions, and we were quite within our rights in drawing attention to them in this House. Attacking an armoured car or a lorry filled with armed men in the open country is a different thing to shooting unsuspecting men who are playing tennis or golf. I have condemned ambushes of the forces of the Crown. I have always said the Sinn Fein movement made a great mistake after the Armistice in embarking on violence, but when they go further and carry out what I believe to be private ventures in certain cases, against men who are only taking their relaxation, then I think it is infinitely worse. The case quoted by the Noble Lord (Earl Winterton) of the man who was killed while driving a motor-car with some ladies is a shocking one, if the newspaper report is true, which we cannot altogether be certain of, because the Government propaganda is not always accurate. If it is true, however, that this man was shot and wounded, put into the car again and taken into the mountains and murdered, then it is cruel and dastardly to the last degree. On the 15th December last a case of that kind occurred on the other side. I do not want to enter into the details of it, but it was a case in which a man named John O'Connor was wounded first and then followed up and killed, and I condemned that in the strongest possible language. I condemn just as strongly the case quoted by the Noble Lord if the facts are as stated. At the same time, without wishing to criticise the military in Ireland themselves, I do think it is reckless and ill-advised that they should be conducting themselves in any part of Ireland just as they would in England, attending tennis parties, playing golf, and going in for the ordinary social life.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. Gentleman says they are only human. I prefaced my remark by saying I was not criticising the military themselves. What I am criticising is the absence of definite orders to these officers and men that they must consider themselves on active service, not only in their treatment of the civilian population, but in regard to the ordering of their own lives. Not only should martial law be made a means of bringing extreme pressure to bear on the civilian population, but it should also be extended to the people who are exercising it, and they should take precautions to prevent attacks being made upon them. Only a little time ago private soldiers could be seen in Irish towns and villages walking with the girls, while their officers were hunting in districts in the South and West, including the martial-law areas. In many parts of Ireland the relations between the civilian population and the Crown forces until lately was on the whole good, just as it was when I was stationed in Ireland before the War. The relations then were excellent; there was never any sort of trouble between the civil population and the military or naval forces. But the conditions have changed, and the vendetta against the political police, I regret to say, has been extended to the Army. It is no good mincing words. Of course, there is a state of war in Ireland, and it is ridiculous not to issue regulations forbidding this reckless indulgence in sport and social functions, where the persons concerned are open to attack and in some cases are quite unarmed. If they want recreation let them be given leave to England.
I have here a very interesting publication which I get about twice a week, named the "Irish Bulletin," which is the sub rosa organ of the Sinn Fein movement. I have looked out No. 92, Volume 4, in anticipation of this Debate, and I recommend it to the attention of the Attorney-General for Ireland, who can easily put his hands on it. Several Members of this House get it. It is sent to me quite anonymously. I do not know who it comes from. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I know what hon. Members mean, but I assure them the Government have been trying to suppress this paper for long enough, and they cannot find out where it comes from and neither can I. This particular number deals with attacks on officers and 1221 the deaths of certain ladies. Hon. Members may be surprised to hear that the deaths of these ladies are deplored, but they say, and I think with some justice, that these officers were liable to attack. I do not sympathise with the writer of these notes at all, but I am only quoting this to show their point of view. They say that these officers who are liable to be attacked should not be accompanied by ladies, and that if that had not happened in one case a particular mistake would not have occurred.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Of course it is murder, and I condemn it wholeheartedly. But I am giving the point of view expressed by the Irish Republican Army themselves, and I must say, from their point of view, it is not altogether unjustified. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am not justifying murder. If there is a state of war in Ireland, and if warlike weapons are to be used, then if officers off duty are to go about unprotected and unarmed to social functions, they are asking for trouble.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
May I ask the hon. Gentleman, does he justify the shooting of an officer, then taking him up to the mountains and murdering him?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
If the hon. and gallant Member had listened to me he would know that I particularly referred to that case. I attempted in my poor language to express my unutterable loathing for that particular crime, and of all these shootings of unarmed officers, unsuspectingly engaged in sport and social functions. I believe I am on equal terms with those who have brought forward this Motion so far as that is concerned. My point is that there is a state of war in Ireland, and that regulations should be made prohibiting these relaxations in enemy country—because that is what it is, and do not let us disguise the fact from ourselves. You may put as many troops you like into the country, but as long as officers Are allowed to sleep out of barracks in private lodgings and go about in plain clothes and unarmed they will, I regret to say, 1222 be in danger. I am afraid these murders will continue unless the regulations are stiffened up, and no one will deplore it more than myself, because it makes our task of bringing about a change of policy more difficult, apart from the sympathy we feel for the relatives of the murdered men. There is another way in which these murders can be stopped, and that would be by taking the military off political work. If the military in Ireland had never been put to suppress a national movement they would never have raised this hatred against them or against certain members in certain districts. I believe this apparently new departure of assassinating officers unarmed is confined to certain districts. I say, take the military off political work. Let them garrison the country, and be prepared to defend it against a foreign aggressor, or, as far as that goes, to carry out the ordinary functions of troops in England. You have tried, by using the forces of the Crown, to suppress a national movement. Things have got worse and worse, and now we have this culminating point, when even the officers of the army of occupation are unable to go about their ordinary pleasures when they are on leave or off duty, and Heaven knows what will happen next! I suppose this will spread, and there will be reprisals, and then we will have some even greater barbarity than we have ever had. Eighteen months ago no one would have believed it possible for officers to be murdered on the golf links. What will happen 18 months hence Heaven only knows if the present policy continues.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This is getting far beyond the limits of the Motion. One would never be able to allow these Adjournment Motions unless debate were confined to the specific points raised.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I hope I shall not get out of Order. I think if the troops were confined to their ordinary work as soldiers in Ireland they would be very much safer in that country. Let them exercise and so on and get their recreation in barracks, as suggested, and give them more frequent leave to this country. Hon. Members on the other side say reprisals will stop when murders stop. I believe that if the reprisals stop, the murders will stop. In 1223 other words, I still believe that the most practicable suggestion to-day to get rid of this hideous situation is to have a truce all round.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
To return to the actual point raised by my Noble Friend (Earl Winterton), I would like more particularly to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. B. McNeill), and to say that this Motion to-night is not in any sense a vote of want of confidence in the Commander-in-Chief. The hon. Member for Canterbury tried to draw an analogy between the position of the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland and the position of the Commander-in-Chief in France or Egypt or the Dardanelles during the War. The position is absolutely different. The Commander-in-Chief in Ireland is not in the same position as the Commander-in-Chief in France or any other theatre of war. It is true he is in somewhat the same position in the martial law area. But these murders we are considering did not take place in the martial law area; they took place outside the martial law area, where the power and responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief is very small indeed, and where the main provision for the protection of the officers and the troops still rests with the civil authorities. That is the point that should be borne in mind. The Commander-in-Chief in Ireland has not got a free hand. The particular point I wish to emphasise is the inadequate intelligence system in Ireland for giving warning to officers and parties of officers that an ambush is being prepared for them and that they are in immediate danger. At the present moment you have a dual system of intelligence; you have a system of intelligence organised by the civil authorities centred in Dublin Castle, maintained by special civilian channels and by the police, and you have at the same time a military system of intelligence organised under the Commander-in-Chief. The two are not co-ordinated, and the military and particularly these parties of officers are not informed and are not in touch with the intelligence obtained through the police channels. I am perfectly certain that until you have not only one Commander-in-Chief in command of all the forces of the Crown in Ireland, but you have one system of intelligence immediately under the Commander-in-Chief, and all the officers and military forces 1224 in Ireland closely informed of what that intelligence can provide, you will have lamentable incidents of this kind. They are, to my mind, the result of the breakdown of your intelligence service in Ireland, for which breakdown it is not the Commander-in-Chief who is responsible but Dublin Castle, the old rotten machinery of Dublin Castle.
Another thing is, it is absolutely essential, in view of what is going on in Ireland to-day, in view of what the hon. Member who has just sat down said, that these murders of British officers are on the increase and are a notable feature of the intensification of the Sinn Fein armed campaign in Ireland, that new steps must be taken to meet them. One hears on all hands from Ireland—all the information I get from my own home in Ireland—is to the effect that the armed forces of Sinn Fein are steadily increasing. For every Sinn Feiner you had this time last year you have ten armed Sinn Feiners this year, and arms are coming in through Donegal and the west coast of Ireland, where they are being landed in boats and distributed. The military problem you have to face in Ireland is daily becoming more serious. You will require more troops, and you will require more precautions. I listened in another place tonight to a remarkable speech by the Lord Chancellor, and he said, with reference to the events in Ireland, "It is not 'a kind of war' but a war." Let us have it from the Government it is a war. If it is a condition of war, then I do urge that the whole situation in the South and West of Ireland should be handed over to the General Staff, handed over not merely to the General Staff in Ireland because the General Staff there is small; Sir Nevil Macready has only a limited number of staff officers at his command. But if you are to have any settlement in Ireland, if you are to get any peace there, you have to conduct in the next few months a more efficient military campaign in Ireland, and the only way to do that is to ensure that your officers are adequately protected. Adequate protection of your officers against this intensified campaign of murder by armed Sinn Feiners is the first step to the restoration of peace, order, and civil government in Ireland, and therefore we bring this forward to-night, not in a spirit of hostility or of criticism of the Commander-in-Chief or any indi- 1225 vidual officer, not as an attack on the discipline of the forces of the Crown in Ireland or anything of that kind, but really with a. desire to impress upon the Government that, as this terror in Ireland is getting more fierce, they have got to take more efficient, more energetic, more adequate steps to meet it; and we do impress upon the Treasury Bench, exercised as they are with many other matters, that the matter of the condition of Ireland to-day demands much greater attention than it has received from them in the recent past.
§ Mr. MYERS
When we read in the newspapers or hear in this House the record of these murders we cannot but be filled with repugnance and loathing at the brutality displayed, and our better nature goes out in full sympathy towards the relatives of those who have lost their lives. But there is one fact which is rather startling, and it is that one of these officers who has lost his life is reported to be 20 years of age. It appears to me that an officer, inexperienced as he must be at that time of life, has no right to be in Ireland, having regard to the existing order of things. The probabilities are that, if the indiscretions which we have heard have been committed by the military forces were investigated, it might be found some of them were due to the fact that we have too young and inexperienced officers carrying out too delicate operations. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] We have listened with as much toleration and respect as is possible to Members on the other side discussing a very delicate matter, and I suggest we are entitled to the same consideration. It is a remarkable coincidence, but if the records are consulted it will be found that 12 months ago this very night the hon. and gallant Member for the Fylde Division (Colonel Ashley), who has spoken in this Debate, was discussing a demand for strengthening and intensifying the military operations in Ireland. As we look over the records of what has taken place in Ireland during the 12 months, we are entitled to ask whether the policy asked for on that occasion has been justified.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member must ask that on some other occasion, not to-night. We are strictly limited, by the terms of the Resolution, to deal with the case of those officers who were murdered within the last five days.
§ Mr. MYERS
I apologise for encroaching. When the hon. and gallant Member, who moved the Adjournment, was describing these incidents to the House, he endeavoured to depict the protection that an officer was given when on his way to the boat to cross to England. He showed the House how soldiers went in front with their rifles held out.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Not the soldiers. That was the whole point. They were the Auxiliaries, the so-called Black-and-Tans, whom I am proud to support in this House.
§ Mr. MYERS
When the officer was walking down the quay, those individuals, who were giving him the necessary protection stood with outstretched hands and with revolvers therein. That is an indication of the terrible pass things have come to in Ireland. Running through the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite is the suggestion that the remedy is to be found in strengthening military operations in Ireland. That is exactly the same thing that the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde urged a year ago. If the Government think, they can win through in Ireland by a policy of force, they ought to make that declaration.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Once again, I must remind the hon. Member and the House that this is quite irrelevant to the present Motion, which deals only with the definite and urgent matter to which it refers.
§ Mr. MYERS
If the Government think they can preserve the lives of their officers in Ireland by a policy of force the Government ought to make that declaration and not go on the lines of half measures, as they seem, to be doing. If they believe it cannot be done by a policy of that kind it is equally up to them to declare in the opposite direction. What I rose specifically to say I am going to say now. I do not agree with the line of argument pursued by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). The Labour party are of opinion, and have expressed it publicly, and I believe I am expressing their point of view now, that we are not going to remedy these things which have been presented to us upon this Motion by any military methods whatever. We shall not succeed in securing the protection of our officers by military operations. We do 1227 not believe in mending the military regime in that country, but in ending the military regime, and if we want to protect our officers and to work in the direction of peace all round in Ireland it has not got to be militarism and violence but statesmanship and conciliation.
Sir F. BANBURYS
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said he thought one of the reasons for these sad events was the fact that officers of 20 were employed. May I remind him that trades unions consider boys of 18 entitled to a man's wages and competent to do a man's work. If a trades unionist of 18 is entitled to a man's wages, an officer of 20 is entitled to do his duty as an officer in His Majesty's forces. I am glad my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeil) is in his place. He was quite right when he said that he and I in the days of the War used to say we did not wish for any civil interference with our commanders abroad, but we did not get that. There was plenty of interference. However that may be, let me point out that never in the history of this country has it been held that if a campaign is unsuccessful we are not to say we must have either a change of Government or a change of commanders. He is an historian. Let me remind him of what took place in the early days of the Peninsular War. The general in command made a mess of the matter and was recalled. Sir Arthur Wellesley was sent out, and things changed at once. I understand from my Noble Friend that while he did not in any way cast any imputations upon the officer in command he did say that these things were recurring with startling rapidity and that something ought to be done to stop them. That was the point. On this side of the House Members have sat quiet for the last 8 or 10 months. They have listened to attacks upon the Government by the other side and upon the forces of the Crown, and they have without exception supported the forces of the Crown and the Government. Not a word has been said until to-night against the fearful results which have attended, as I think, the fatal policy of the Government in their conduct of the forces in Ireland. We cannot sit still much longer. We cannot come down every morning to breakfast and, opening the news-sheets, the "Times" or whatever the paper be, and read: 1228 "Yesterday Captain So-and-So and Mrs. So-and-So were shot at: One was killed and the other was wounded." "Two constables were murdered somewhere else," and "Three soldiers or three Black and Tans were attacked and wounded at another place." Every day this sort of thing is occurring. It cannot go on. It is not for me—I am not sitting on the Front Bench—to say what ought to be done, but something should be done.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If it is impossible for the Government to restore order in Ireland, well, then, they had better get out and let somebody else go in and do it. We have been told in the various Debates for months that the situation is well in hand.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would remind the right hon. Baronet, as I have just reminded another hon. Member, that this is not the occasion for a general debate on State policy. The Debate is strictly limited to the subject-matter on which the Motion for Adjournment was allowed, namely, the incidents that have happened in the last few days.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Myers) went back a year. I am only going back a short time.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Very well, Sir, I will not go back even a fortnight. But that does not in any way interfere with the point of my observation, and as you know, I have no desire to be out of order. My point, in fact, I have made, and I will sit down by saying that the country and this House demands that the Government shall take some step to put a stop to the outrages which are now going on in Ireland.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I do not propose to detain the House, as hon. Members desire to hear the Secretary for 1229 War much more than they wish to hear me. The Motion which we are considering calls attention to the failure of the Government to take effective steps to secure the safety of the officers in Ireland when off duty. I am saying nothing new to what I have always said in these discussions when I express my sympathy with the officers and men of His Majesty's Army who are carrying out their duties under enormous difficulties in Ireland and are exposed to very grave dangers, and though I am no judge of these things they must, I imagine, be even more nerve racking than active service in a regular war. I was interested in this Debate to find the Noble Lord opposite (Earl Winterton) make a speech in which he began most temperately, expressing himself as desirous to say nothing which could be otherwise than helpful to the soldiers in Ireland, but which nevertheless exposed him to the animadversion of another hon. Member as having attacked the Army in Ireland. Perhaps that will make him a little more chary in some of the observations he has directed against the Members on this side of the House. On this question I have no right to speak for anybody but myself. I have never attacked His Majesty's forces in Ireland, although I have attacked the Government when I thought they were wrong and I am prepared to do so again. I have never attacked our forces in Ireland because I have always believed that they were carrying out the orders of the Government. This is a serious matter. The actual crimes we are considering are those which occurred within the last five days, but it has been well said that they are by no means the first of their nature and that the Government have had full warning of what may be expected and of the necessity for taking steps to deal with this particular aspect of this Irish difficulty.
It would be out of order for me to refer to previous events after the Ruling which has been given, but it is well within the recollection of hon. Members how many of these occurrences have taken place, and it is deplorable that, so far from diminishing, they appear to be increasing, and the disgrace which they bring upon the British Empire and the British name is a matter which I am satisfied will some day or another excite the earnest attention of the people of this country. The Motion criticises the Government for not having 1230 taken any effective steps. I cannot help feeling that in dealing with the lives of our officers in Ireland the real and essential thing for the Government to do is to make up its mind quite definitely whether we are dealing with a state of war or a state of peace marred and blotted by serious crimes.
Either hypothesis is conceivable, but unless the Government make up their minds which aspect or diagnosis of the Irish disease they are dealing with, they cannot hope to succeed. Is it a state of peace with terrible crimes being committed? Some 15 months ago I stated that I thought that that was the proper way in which the matter should be dealt with, but now, dealing with the actual events we are considering to-day, I doubt whether that hypothesis can any longer be sustained. If that is the case, almost everything you are doing is wrong. Instead of treating this question from a military point of view, with military courts and military precautions, you should aim at enforcing the civil law, with the guarantees which civil justice requires, only they should be more forcibly and effectively enforced than has hitherto been the case.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
May I just state that the Lord Chancellor has to-day very definitely stated that it is a state of war.
§ Lord R. CECIL
That saves me from the trouble of developing that aspect of the case, and if that is so, other steps ought to be taken immediately. The first thing to do is to have unity of control. If you are going to deal with this question as a military matter it is absurd to leave it in such a way that we do not know who is in control in Ireland. As a matter of fact, I do not know whether the Chief Secretary still exists in Ireland, and when the Irish Act comes into force I fancy he disappears like a snark. Then there is Lord FitzAlan. I believe every Member of the House of Commons, to whatever party he belongs, has a great personal affection for Lord FitzAlan and an immense admiration for his courage in undertaking an absolutely thankless duty under circumstances with which we are all acquainted. He is entitled, indeed, to our highest admiration. I am glad to see the Leader of the House here, because it enables me to ask what is the position of Lord FitzAlan in regard to the South and West of Ireland.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Noble Lord has been here during a considerable portion of the Debate, and he must know that he is travelling very far from the terms of the Motion.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I will, of course, bow to your intimation, as I hope I always do to any intimation from the Chair. My excuse is that is seems to be difficult to discuss what effective steps can be taken unless we are permitted to deal with the organisation of the Government in Ireland.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Noble Lord has, of course, read the Motion which is before the House, and knows that it deals with the measures taken for the safety of officers of His Majesty's Army in Ireland when on duty, and the necessity for their protection, as shown by five recent murders. It was only that particular reference which justified me in allowing the Motion to be put.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I am merely asking for guidance. Is it not in order to say that the Government are failing to take effective steps to protect these officers, unless they clear up the conditions of organisation of the Government in Ireland? I feel that that really lies at the very root of the considerations which have brought about these horrible murders. Unless we are permitted to ask the Government on this Motion what effective steps they are taking to protect the officers from such dangers as are indicated in the Motion, it is almost impossible, I submit with the greatest respect, to make this Debate fruitful of any results. If we are merely to criticise what has been done in these cases, if we are merely to ask why were the officers not guarded, surely we are not going to get at the root of the matter, which is the failure of the organisation of the Government.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The rule under which we are working to-night lays it down that the discussion must be confined to the specific matter embodied in the terms of the Motion, and I cannot therefore permit the Debate to go outside them. Otherwise, I should be debarred from allowing such Motions.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Of course I shall adhere entirely to what you have been good enough to say, and it will have the fortunate result that it will enable me to 1232 curtail my observations to a great extent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am quite aware that hon. Members opposite regard any criticism of the Government as in the nature of blasphemy. When they criticise the Government they make the most humble apologies, as though they were doing something reprehensible. Whatever steps may be taken to protect the officers of the Army in the discharge of their duty, I earnestly trust that the Government will consider that we are now, according to the Lord Chancellor, in a state of war, and that, therefore, the rules which prevail in time of peace are no longer applicable. If you are going on with that policy at all, you must treat Ireland as being in a state of war. You must recognise that the whole of your policy has absolutely broken down, that you are now faced with war, and that you must treat your officers as being strictly on active service, not allowing them to go anywhere without guards, protection, and arms; and you must justify that state of things as best you can to an indignant country.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
The Noble Lord will forgive me if I do not follow him in his last observations. If I did, I fear that I should trespass outside the ground covered by your ruling. This evening there has been manifested, and I gratefully recognise it, in the great majority of the speeches, a desire to say nothing which would be hurtful to the officers and the troops in Ireland, and, on the contrary, to suggest things which would be useful for their better protection. There is only one observation that I have to make which is not quite in accord with that general statement, and that arises from the speech of my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). I am not quite sure that I understood him correctly. I am not quite sure whether he meant to say that he had lost confidence in the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Ireland, because my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), who spoke later, interpreted the Noble Lord, and said that he did not mean that he had lost confidence or that this Motion was to be treated as a vote of confidence in the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Ireland. I want to give my Noble Friend the opportunity of clearing 1233 that up, because he did immediately afterwards mention the names of certain General Officers who, he said, might be possible successors of the present General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Ireland. If it is left there, I am afraid that inferences will be drawn from his speech which I am not at all sure that he intended to express.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend, and I appreciate his courtesy in giving me the opportunity of clearing up the point to which he has referred. I am afraid that my reference was not very happy. What I intended to convey was, not that I, nor, so far as I know, anyone else, had lost confidence in the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, but that the Commander-in-Chief, my right hon. Friend, and everyone else connected with the matter must be judged by results, and that a time limit must be set for anyone carrying out the only policy that seems to be possible for restoring order in Ireland.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I am extremely glad that my Noble Friend has said that. Of course the Government, its ministers, and soldiers alike, must be judged by results. I make no complaint whatever of that. What I wanted to clear up was the possibility of its being thought that a premature judgment had been formed, and that an injustice was being done to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief. Let me now, confining myself to the Motion, examine what steps have been taken, and what steps can be taken, effectively to protect the officers in Ireland from the brutal murders which are planned and carried out against them. My Noble Friend suggested that a general regulation should be made providing that officers should either go out in pairs or should be under some sort of escort, and other speakers have suggested that a prohibition should be made against their taking part in any games—tennis or golf—and that they should generally be confined—because that is what it amounts to—to barracks or to quarters, and of course the same treatment must be meted out to non-commissioned officers and men. I am asked to make such a regulation as that. But the conditions in Ireland differ from place to place and from time to time, and it would be an absurdity if the Secretary of State intervened and made a general regulation like that applicable at all 1234 times and in all places in Ireland. It would be depriving the officers and men of such little liberty as they are able to snatch from their duties.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The Secretary of State for War during war does not make such regulations as that. He trusts the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief to make any regulations that he may think is necessary. Under the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief there are four Divisional Generals in Ireland. They have power now to make any such regulations if they think it is necessary at the time or in that particular place in which officers and men are stationed. It was suggested that I am hiding myself behind the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief. I am quite prepared to take my whole share of responsibility. I have no desire to hide myself behind anyone, but I have no intention of thrusting myself on the top of officers in whom I have confidence when they have power to make regulations if they think they ought to be made. In some parts of Ireland it would be, no doubt, absolutely necessary to confine officers and men to their quarters, and in such cases it is done, but there are other places where a certain amount of liberty is taken. Deplorable as these five cases are, we must not lose all sense of perspective. We must remember that they are five out of a very great number of officers stationed in Ireland. Deplorable as they are, they are not so very numerous as to call for such a restriction of liberty in all cases. My Noble Friend also said he had a suspicion that rigid discipline was not enforced. It would have been much more useful if he could have given any instance whatever of discipline not having been enforced. He misled the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Woolwich (Captain Gee), who thought the Noble Lord was accusing the troops of want of discipline. I do not think he meant that. I think he meant that in certain cases some Regulations which he thought had been passed had not been carried out.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I will tell the right hon. Baronet privately. It would not be in the public interest to give him particulars.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
If the Noble Lord will give me that I will call the attention of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief to it, and will have whatever inquiry ought to be made into it made so that the example of that case may be a warning to others and also help to avoid any ill consequences in the future. The Noble Lord suggested that my answer to not giving escorts to officers who were off duty might be that there were not enough troops. Of course, there are not enough troops to form escorts for all officers off duty. The troops are very fully employed under conditions far worse than war. In war there is a back area in which there can be some rest. In Ireland there is no rest, no safety, no security, and in these conditions are troops to be asked, in addition to their other duties, which frequently keep them out of bed four or five nights a week, to form escorts for officers off duty? The only effect of such an order would be to confine the officers to barracks, because they would not be able to go out, not having troops for escort. The Noble Lord said: "Send more troops." We intend to send more troops. Extra battalions went last week, and more battalions are going as quickly as they can. It is necessary that the officers and men in Ireland who are doing a duty which must be distasteful to them, besides dangerous, should be supported with the full might of England. More troops, all the troops that are available shall be sent to their support.
I am not sure whether I should be in order in dealing with the question of unity of command. Perhaps it is in order, because the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) suggested that we should take the Irish at their own word, and that as they say they are at war, we should treat them as though they were at war, put a British soldier in charge of the administration, and rule the country in a military manner.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Yes, but I said also that you should take General Tudor and the Black and Tans out of Ireland.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I do not want to misrepresent the hon. 1236 Member. I am glad he interpolated that remark. What it amounts to is an extension of martial law. Unity of command means that the soldiers and the police should be under one command. That means, extend martial law in Ireland. I cannot discuss that to-night. I should be out of order if I discussed it at any length, but I can tell the House that it is one of the matters which is being considered, and if that is necessary for the purpose of giving proper support to the troops I hope it will be carried out. In the South and West the sands are running out; but the time has not yet passed when the South and West can form their own Parliament. If ever at the last hour they form their own Government, such further consideration on that point would not be necessary. I am grateful to the House for the tone of the speeches. I am glad to have an opportunity of telling the House that it is the intention of the Government to do everything in their power to protect the lives of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men who are doing service in Ireland. If I am not able to accept the suggestions made by the Noble Lord, it is because I do not believe they are practicable in the circumstances. The practicable course is to increase the number of troops, and, if necessary, extend the area of martial law in Ireland.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.