HC Deb 01 August 1922 vol 157 cc1289-352

Order for consideration of Lords Amendments read.


It is my duty to point out to the House that a considerable number of the Amendments which have come from the other House are privilege Amendments. They propose to increase the charges upon the subject.

The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Sir Hamar Greenwood)

I beg to move, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."

I should like to remind the House of the history of this Bill. The Bill to disband the Royal Irish Constabulary passed this House, and passed the Committee upstairs, without a Division. It went to another place, where it was referred, under a peculiar rule of the other place, to a Select Committee, and that Select Committee reported to their Lordships' House. Owing to a misunderstanding, no representatives of the Government were included on it, and it can be presumed, therefore, that the Select Committee was absolutely independent. I should like the House to bear with me for a moment while I read the Report of the Select Committee to the House of Lords. It runs as follows:— According to the Return laid upon the Table of the House this day, showing the rates of pay and the maximum and minimum compensation payable on disbandment to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the scales of pensions appear to be liberal in most cases, though it is possible that the smaller pensions may in some instances be insufficient unless these men are able to find immediate employment. They can, however, he supplemented in case of necessity by the action of the Tribunal. 4.0 P.M.

I read that with gratification. Because it bears out that upon which, I believe, everyone who has studied this question is now in agreement with me, namely, that the treatment of this great Force has been on a generous, though not too generous scale, having regard to the splendid services they have rendered to the Government and to this country. The criticism now resolves itself into criticism of particular cases, and I shall deal with them during the course of my short opening speech or on Amendments as they come before the House. Let me say that I know of no case of special hardship arising out of the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary which cannot be dealt with under the Bill and under the terms of disbandment, which were laid on the Table of the House and communicated to the Members of the Force some months ago. I think it would be helpful if I made a very general statement dealing with their Lordships' Amendments to the Bill, but, before I do that, I hope the House will permit me to give some statistics of the Force and its disposition at present. One is often asked how many of the Royal Irish Constabulary have come to this country. It is impossible to give the exact number, but, in my opinion, it is well below 2,000 out of a total number of over 8,000. We have provided homes—either cottages or suitable lodgings—for some 763 men, 87 women, and 171 children in different parts of Great Britain, and we have, in addition, accommodation for nearly 2,000 which is more accommodation than will probably be ever asked for. Some 756 ex-members of the Force have received commutation for emigration purposes and some 86 have received commutation for the purpose of buying a business or some other interest in this country. I would like to read to the House two or three short letters from members of the Force settled in this country, so that the House may know, as I am sure they wish to know, that these men have been properly dealt with when they have left their native country for Great Britain. Here is a letter from an ex-constable in Hertfordshire— I have got a nice house here, and in a short time, when I get the place fixed, I hope to be very comfortable. I am very grateful to you and all your assistants for what you have done for me. Were it not for the Re-settlement Branch I am sure I should never have discovered this place: Another letter from a constable settled in Scotland says: I have now procured a most beautiful house. Personally, I must admit that I am highly pleased with the same and I have not the slightest hesitation in strongly recommending them to any more of our chaps who are on the look-out for accommodation. The houses are beautifully laid out and surpassed my expectations a thousandfold. Here is a letter from Wales: I also thank you for the kind interest you have taken in me since my arrival as by such you were instrumental in procuring a house for myself and family, the latter is arriving here this week'.' A letter from Lincolnshire is as follows: I am settled down here all right, and am pleased with the house. I am pleased to let you know that I have been very kindly treated since I arrived in this country. I return you my best thanks for all the trouble you have taken on my behalf. There are a very large number of other letters stating that these officers and men have been comfortably settled, and, what is more important, that they have been most kindly treated by their neighbours in all the villages and towns where they have been settled. They come under the special charge of the British police, and all their neighbours pay tribute to these ex-Royal Irish Constabulary men when they settle in their midst. We have as our objective the settlement of these officers and men, not in the large towns, but in the villages and small towns. Most of them are agriculturists by birth, and they are more likely to be absorbed in occupations in these smaller places.

The Lords have made 13 Amendments of substance to this Bill, an additional Amendment, proposed by the Government, and a few purely consequential Amendments. Of these 13 Amendments, two are only drafting Amendments inserted with a view of removing, as far as possible, references to previous enactments, or what is generally called legislation by reference. I shall propose "That this House doth agree "with these Amendments, and as they make the Bill clearer to those particularly interested in it, I am sure that the House will agree to accept them. Other Amendments have for their purpose the removing of doubts as to the security, in every contingency, of the compensation allowances given to these men. One Amendment, which we shall accept, introduces a Secretary of State to be personally responsible for the interests of these men and to act. with the Treasury in seeing that they get everything to which they are entitled under the Act and under the terms of disbandment. I am sure that the Amendments to which I have referred will be welcomed by the men, and I feel confident that the House will accept them.

These remain seven Amendments, all of which but one raise the question of privilege. Four moved and adopted by their Lordships are outside the scope of the Bill and outside the Financial Resolution. Therefore, it is quite impossible for the Government to accept them. In regard to these Amendments, I do not wish to base the Government objection to their acceptance solely on the ground that they offend the Rules of this House. There are substantial, and I think adequate. reasons, in addition to the Rules of the House, why they should not be accepted. Let me take the first of them. I will deal very briefly with them, because one must go into them in greater detail when their rejection is moved. The first Amendment to which we object alters the Bill as it went from this House by doing away with what is called "double payments to police. "As the Bill left this House, if the ex-Royal Irish Constabulary officer or man joined a police force, his compensation allowance was taken into consideration, having regard to the pay that he received in the new police force, or the pension that he might ultimately receive from that force. Their Lordships have struck out the Clause dealing with this important question and have made it possible, as the Bill now stands, though I must ask the House to disagree with the Lords Amendment, for a disbanded policeman to get the whole of his compensation allowance as well as his pay or pension. My chief objection to this is that it violates a sound principle in the administration of public moneys and public forces, that, where a man has been compensated for the loss of his office, he should not be paid to the full extent if he obtains a similar office during his future career. As a matter of fact, in practice, a disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary man will be able to join any police ferrie without loss or diminution of pension except a police force, the expenses of which are defrayed in whole or part out of moneys provided by Parliament or any Parliament in Ireland or out of any funds assisted by the Exchequer or by any Exchequer in Ireland.


Does that enable him to join a Colonial or an Indian police force, without losing his pension or without. diminution of pension?


Yes, if they come under these words, and I think they do. Certain of them do. They must come under the words a police force, the expenses of which are defrayed in whole or in part out of moneys provided by Parliament or any Parliament in Ireland or out of any funds assisted by the Exchequer or by any Exchequer in Ireland. For instance, if he joins a force in Canada or Australia he certainly would not have compensation allowance taken into account.


If, on the invitation of the Minister, we discuss in a general way all these topics, shall we be entitled to go into the questions when they are raised on the Amendments? It is not for me to comment on any course which the Minister may choose to pursue, but is it not rather unusual and inconvenient to raise in detail all the questions which we shall have to discuss when the particular Amendments are called?

Colonel ASHLEY

If I am fortunate enough to catch your eye before the Amendments are moved, I take it that I shall be allowed to traverse all the statements of the right hon. Gentleman?


Is it not very convenient for the Members of this House who have not followed the discussions in the House of Lords very closely to know, in general terms and without going into great detail, what we are really going to discuss to-day, and is it not a fact that all that the Chief Secretary has done up till now is merely to indicate in general terms what we shall have to consider, and will not that be of great help to us in discussing the Amendments in detail?


It is usual where the Lords Amendments are at all complicated, on the Motion "The Lords Amendment. be now considered, "for the Minister in charge of the Bill to give a short, general review of the Amendments, and to state how he proposes to deal with them. I do not think we should argue the merits—he was just beginning to enter into the merits of particular Amendments—but it is convenient for the House to have a general view of what is going to be proposed by the Government.


It is my intention to tell the House exactly how we are going to deal with these Amendments. I hope I have not trespassed on the patience of the House, but this is a most complicated business. I was assured, after consulting those best qualified to advise me, that this was the usual and best course to pursue. I had dealt with the Amendment which raises the question of what is known as "continuance of employment in police or double payment, "and I said that we could not accept it.

Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

Could the right hon. Gentleman say which Amendment that was?


The omission of Sub-sections (3) and (4) of Clause 1. Their Lordships, by the next Amendment, propose that the date of disbandment, namely, 25th January, should be put back to a date in December. I must oppose this Amendment on the simple ground that the date of disbandment must be the date on which disbandment commenced. The next Amendment which I must oppose is one to set up by Statute a tribunal to consider questions after they have been settled by a Secretary of State in conjunction with the Treasury. Their Lordships' next Amendment has the effect of embodying in the Bill the terms of disbandment. The terms of disbandment cannot be embodied in this Bill. They are temporary measures dealing with an emergency, and to lout them in the Bill would preclude me in future from giving any further advantage to disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary men if good case were shown. Another important Amendment moved by their Lordships was to include in the Bill all the pre-disbandment pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary, numbering between 7,000 and 8,000 men. It is not possible for me to accept this, as it is one of the Amendments which is outside both the Financial Resolution and outside the Title of the Bill. Further, pensioners cannot be considered to be in the same category of cases in Ireland as disbanded policemen. The last Amendment is one dealing with a point which I consider of prime importance—it was pressed strongly in the House of Lords, especially by Lord Carson—namely, that in a case where a policeman has been wounded in the course of his duty, and has been pensioned on a special wound pension, if that wound pension is less than the compensation allowance he would have received had he remained unwounded in the force at the date of disbandment, the wound pension shall be brought up to what his pension would have been had he not been wounded.

Rear-Admiral ADAIR

And more on account. of the wound.


I cannot say more. That is not the Amendment. It will perhaps expedite matters if I say this. I cannot accept the date moved in by Their Lordships—lst January, 1919—because 1st April, 1919, is the pivotal date in the history of the pay and pensions of police forces in Great Britain and Ireland. But I have had a consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and whilst the Government cannot accept the Amendment in this Bill, because it is outside the scope of the Bill and of the Financial Resolution and is therefore impossible for the House to go into it, my right hon. Friend will agree to an Amendment of the Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions Order, 1922, so that these particular wounded Royal Irish Constabulary who since 1st April, 1919, have been discharged from the force because of wounds with a wound pension less than they would have received had they stayed on unwounded and been disbanded, will have their pensions raised to what they would have received had they been disbanded. In meeting that case I think I meet the really substantial case which has been raised by their Lordships, and I hope the case will appeal to everyone in the House. That is a summary—all I intended to make—of the Government position in reference to these Amendments.

Colonel ASHLEY

I believe the Government have muddled their business in the way they have handled this Bill in another place. The Chief Secretary told us, at the beginning of his interesting remarks, that unfortunately, owing to a mistake, no member of the Government was on the Committee which considered this Bill in another place, and therefore, it may be inferred that their Lordships made many errors in considering the Bill and infringed the privileges of this House. Consequently we are here this afternoon with a, considerable number of Amendments to discuss, of which seven out of eight of those of substance are, I understand, to be ruled out of Order on the ground of privilege. Surely the House is entitled to complain of the somewhat remiss action of the Government. It ought not to have been beyond the power or the foresight of the Government to have seen that a member of His Majesty's Government was on that Committee, so that he could have pointed out to their Lordships that what they were doing was a matter of privilege, that they were wasting their time, our time, the printer's time and the nations money in having these Amendments put in which are to be ruled out.

The House is entitled to some explanation as to how this muddle has occurred. Who is in charge of Irish business in another place? I do not know. Perhaps I ought to know. The Lord Chancellor very often makes impassioned speeches about Ireland. The First. Commissioner of Works often deals with Irish matters. It seems to me it is no one's business to look after Ireland in another place, and even in this House the affairs of Ireland are put into Commission and are not in any one person's hands, but in the hands of two or three people, of whom sometimes one appears and sometimes another. I really think the House of Commons might inquire somewhat more closely as to why this muddle—because I think it is a muddle—has occurred in another place, and why we have solemnly to take into consideration all these Amendments which we are told, quite rightly, no doubt, are privileged. and why the Government did not have the ordinary foresight—there has never been any foresight in regard to Ireland—to see that their Lordships were informed that they were infringing our privileges. The right hon, Baronet was very pleased with what he and his Department had done for the disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary men who had come to this country. He told us that 760 men, 87 women, and 171 children had already been provided with lodgings and he took credit to the Government for having done that. Very little credit is due to the Government for what they have done. The credit is due to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) and other hon. Members who, from the very first, made the welfare of these gallant men their special care. They asked questions, they went on deputations to the Government, and it was not until they made themselves objectionable to the Government that these things were done for these deserving men, women, and children. I am very glad they have been done, but let us have credit where credit is due. It is not due to the Government, but to hon. Members who sit below the Gangway who took up their case.


I should like to say one or two words as to the general principles on which I think we ought to approach these Amendments. First of all, I do not. think the House would desire that we should use any technical objection, even by way of privilege, in order to defeat Amendments which we think just. After all, the privilege of this House is waived, and ought to be waived, in order to meet the demands of justice, and if the Lords have, as I think they have in this case, called attention to certain defects in the Bill in the form in which it went up to them, and if those defects cannot be remedied without this House waiving its privilege. I can assure the Chief Secretary that he will find many in this House who would be willing to waive that privilege. After all, this case of the Royal Irish Constabulary, I think, is an absolutely unique case in our history. These are the men who fought gallantly for us during what was really a period of civil war during the last two years, and we now know what service they did. They preserved a large measure of order, which could not have been preserved without them, and in preserving it, many of them suffered in life and in limb and will bear on their bodies to their dying days the marks of the gallant service they did for us. Now, after that service which they have done, Parliament, in its wisdom, has said. "We must adopt a new state of things. We must help out this old force. We must leave Ireland to govern itself without the aid of the Irish Constabulary, and by reason of the services which they rendered to us and to the people. of Ireland who desired to see law and order preserved, these men have suffered bitterly in their life and in their fortune and many of them are driven out of the homes which they hope to live in for the rest of their lives. "Therefore I do not think I put forward an exaggerated claim when I say the case of the Royal Irish Constabulary is a unique case and deserves special treatment at our hands. The Chief Secretary referred to the cruelly hard case of the man who, shortly or perhaps for two months or more before disbandment, got wounded in the service of the Crown, got retired from the force on account of the injuries which they so received, and when they were so retired got actually less pension than if they had survived uninjured and been disbanded under the Bill. Unless something is done for these men—the Chief Secretary I am glad to know is going to do something for them—they would doubly suffer by reason of having suffered in the service of the Crown. They would get a less pension than if they had not been wounded. Further than that, they would retire on whatever pension they got, it may be, crippled for life and unable to earn anything in future. I am glad to know that the case will be met by the Chief Secretary, as it cannot be met under this Bill, in concert with the. Chancellor of the Exchequer by amending the Pensions Act of 1922 and seeing that the injustice which otherwise would have been done to these men is so remedied, and I think we ought to thank them for that concession.

The only other case I should like to refer to is that of the men who were pensioned before the time of disbandment, and were driven out of their homes at the point of the rifle by reason of the fact that they had served in the Royal Irish Constabulary. As matters now stand, these men have no legal rights whatever to a farthing of compensation in any shape or form for having been so driven out, and I contrast their case with the case of the men who are disbanded under this Bill, who have also been driven out of their homes, but get certain concessions in the way of disturbance allowance, separation allowance, and free travelling warrants, which these old pensioners do not get. Is there any conceivable reason why a man disbanded under this Bill and driven. out of his home in Ireland, and forced to come as a refugee to England, should get certain advantages, while men who were pensioned before the disbandment, who suffered precisely the same hardships, were driven out and forced to he refugees, should not get similar benefits to those conferred under this Bill? I hope when we discuss the matter in detail the Chief Secretary will explain that, because one of the Amendments seeks to put the old pensioners driven from their homes on the same footing as regards these allowances as the men who were disbanded under this Bill. I think everyone who knows the material facts, even in a remote degree, must feel this to be a case in which our honour is concerned, and in which we, as Members of the Legislature, should do all in our power to remedy the terrible hardships under which these men suffer, and see that they spend the remainder of their days, whether in this country or in Ireland, or in one of our distant Colonies, assured that British justice has done all it can do to remedy their hardships.

Rear-Admiral ADAIR

It is true that the Chief Secretary has done a great deal for these men, but there have been great delays in settling the awards and pensions and the disturbance allowances. Who is responsible for these delays, and are there any awards yet to be determined and settled?


The Chief Secretary to some extent, and my hon. and gallant Friends opposite seem to consider that we are precluded from accepting these Amendments by reason of the doctrine of privilege or other technical difficulties. That is not so. This House constantly waives its privilege every Session where it thinks it desirable to do so. Nor can I believe, unless Mr. Speaker says I am wrong, that the fact that certain Amendments were beyond the scope of the Bill as it left this House, but not beyond the scope of the Bill as altered by the House of Lords, preclude us from dealing with and accepting those Amendments if so desired. I have not the knowledge as to the details of these cases that is possessed by other hon. Members, but I know that the great majority of the House is strongly in favour of dealing generously with these men, not because they have been through greater hardships or have performed greater service to the country than many of those who fought in the War, and who are not receiving as generous treatment as these men, but because the British Government, for reasons of its own, into which I am not entitled to enter now, has deliberately—I do not want to use provocative words—abandoned its responsibility with respect to these men. That gives them quite a special claim beyond and in addition to that possessed by anyone who has suffered in the service of the Crown. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, I should not be in favour of insisting on any technical difficulties or technical objections which there may be to the Lords Amendments, and I trust that the House will consider each Amendment on its merits.


I gathered from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he did not propose to accept the new Clause C—(Pension of officer or constable retired since let January, 1919, through unfitness caused by injury.) Any officer or constable of the force, who since the first day of January, nineteen hundred and nineteen, has been retired by reason of unfitness caused by injury inflicted in the course of his duty, shall be entitled, if still living, to the same pension as he would have been awarded if he had continued to serve up to the date of disbandment under this Act. I understood that what he proposes to do is to amend the Pension Orders in such a way as to enable any one of these constables who was injured after the 1st April, to have his pension improved to the extent indicated in the new Clause. It appears from that, that some constables who suffered from wounds prior to 1st April, 1919, will not receive the benefit which he proposes to secure for them. If it is right and just, as I think it is, that these pensions should be increased to the extent of the pension that they would have received on disbandment from the service, there is no good reason why those who retired because of wounds prior to 1st April should not come within the provisions of the Amendment that he proposes to make in the Pensions Order. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider this question, and lay before us some facts as to the number of men who will be involved and who will suffer if the date is taken from 1st April rather than from 1st January, 1919.

Question, "That the Lords Amendments be. now considered, "put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments considered accordingly.

  1. TITLE 92 words
    1. cc1301-34
    2. CLAUSE 1—(Disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary.) 13,336 words, 1 division
    3. c1334
    4. NEW CLAUSE—(Tribunal for dealing with individual cases of hardship.) 43 words
    5. cc1334-40
    6. NEW CLAUSE.—(Provisions as to disturb ance allowance, etc.) 2,507 words
    7. cc1340-5
    8. NEW CLAUSE.—(Pension of officer or con-stable retired mice 1st January, 1919, through unfitness caused by injury.) 1,702 words
      1. c1345
      2. SCHEDULE. 249 words
      1. PART I.
        1. cc1345-6
        2. RULES. 529 words
      2. PART II.
        1. cc1346-8
        1. c1348
        1. cc1348-9
        2. (A) DISTURBANCE ALLOWANCE. 321 words
        3. c1349
        4. (B) FREE RATEWAY WARRANTS. 142 words
        5. cc1349-52
        6. (c) SEPARATION ALLOWANCE. 810 words
      5. TITLE.
        1. c1352
        2. A BILL INTITLED 176 words
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