HC Deb 19 April 1923 vol 162 cc2246-7
64 and 65. Mr. FRANK GRAY

asked the Home Secretary (1) whether he can inform the House of the number of prisoners now upon the prison ship s.s. "Argenta," in Northern Ireland; whether there are among the men those who have been imprisoned for more than six months without any charge being preferred against them and without inquiry made into their cases; whether, having regard to the British contributions in this respect, the Government propose to take any steps in the matter;

(2) whether he has received any complaints with regard to the conditions which prevail upon the prison ship s.s. "Argenta," in Northern Ireland; whether the conditions comply with regulations relating to English prisons; and whether His Majesty's Government accepts responsibility for such conditions as in fact prevail upon this prison ship, having regard to the contribution thereto from the British Exchequer?


On a point of Order. Is it in order to put a question in regard to matters of administration which are within the competence of the Irish Free State or the Northern Government of Ireland?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

On a further point of Order. Is not one of the prisoners confined in this prison ship an hon. Member of this House, and are we not, therefore, quite in order in asking for information in regard to it?


I think it is very desirable that we should not have questions on matters which we have delegated by Statute to the Irish Governments. This question, I must say, had escaped my notice, but the hon. Member is only asking for information, and as the question has gone on the Paper, I think I must allow it to be put.


I have no information on this matter, which is entirely within the control of the Government of Northern Ireland, and any questions thereon should be addressed to that Government. There is no British contribution in this respect.


Is it not a fact that the ship has been furnished at the cost of the English taxpayer, and is guarded and conducted by special constabulary, the cost of which is wholly settled by the English taxpayer?

Viscount CURZON

Is it not a fact that you, Mr. Speaker, have not allowed hon. Members in this House to put questions relating to law and order in the self-governing Dominions, or in the case of India?


But is Northern Ireland not represented in this House, and, therefore, is it not the case that it is not a Dominion?


The last question certainly does not apply. The Government of Northern Ireland is responsible for law and order in its own territory.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

On a point of Order. May I put it to you that this is a question of humanity, and that it has been the practice of this House to press the Government to make representations to foreign and the Dominion Governments on humanitarian issues? Was there not the case of the arrested strikers in South Africa, and also that recently of the ecclesiastics in Russia?


The House will recollect that, in the trouble we had in relation to the Irish Free State Government—


And Canada.


I felt bound to rule on frequent occasions that, having transferred certain duties to the Free State, we must not interfere with them on the floor of this House. I ruled similarly in respect to the Dominion of South Africa. It is quite impossible, once having transferred responsibility to other bodies, that we should deal with matters on the floor of this House.

Captain BENN

Is it not a fact that a Member of this House is interned in the ship, and would not that affect the matter?


He has never taken his seat.


A point of privilege might be put to me on that, but not a question to Ministers