HC Deb 02 July 1923 vol 166 cc9-11

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies why it is necessary for the Secretary of State to continue to employ a special adviser, who is not a member of the Civil Service, in connection with Southern Irish affairs; what are the special qualifications possessed by Mr. Lionel Curtis in this respect; what are the terms of the contract which has been made with him and on what date will it terminate; and if he will explain why there is no member of the Civil Service who is competent to discharge these duties and thereby save the State the expense of a special appointment?


My Noble Friend the present Secretary of State, like his predecessor, has found it necssary to strengthen the staff of the Colonial Office in order to assist him and the Department in all business relating to the Irish Free State. For such an appointment an officer was required who combined knowledge of the self-governing Dominions, as well as of the new conditions arising out of the Treaty settlement. These special qualifications are possessed by Mr. Curtis, who was formerly a member of the Colonial Service in South Africa; has visited all the self-governing Dominions and made a close study of their Constitutions; and acted as secretary of the British Delegation that negotiated the Treaty. Mr. Curtis is a temporary member of the home Civil Service and is paid at the rate of £150 a month. His appointment, which carries no pension rights, is terminable at three months' notice on either side. No permanent member of the Civil Service possessing comparable experience is available.


Why is this appointment kept on in the case of the Colonial Office when all similar Wartime appointments have been done away with? What are the special matters which require the advice of a special official, especially having regard to the fact that the Free State now has its own separate Government?


As I have explained, my Noble Friend, who had nothing to do with the settlement of the Treaty, requires the continuation of the services of somebody who had, and who knows all that was going on, and in view of the new constitutional relations between the Free State and the self-governing Dominions, and of the coming Imperial Conference, my Noble Friend was of opinion that it was advisable to retain one who is a recognised authority on Dominion Constitutions.


When will this gentleman's contract be terminated? How much longer will the country have to spend £1,800 on this official?


As I explained in my answer, if we get rid of Mr. Curtis it will be necessary to strengthen the Colonial Office by an additional staff, because we have taken over the whole of the Irish work in the Colonial Office which we have never had to do before. We are now carrying out the work of the Chief Secretary as well as other additional duties. We are already understaffed, and it will be necessary to get someone else in lieu of Mr. Curtis.


Meantime, is not the Colonial Office extremely fortunate in getting Mr. Curtis?


As we are now entering on a new period, would it not be better to get somebody who was not so closely connected with the Treaty relations for which this Government is not responsible?


That is not my Noble Friend's opinion.




The mattter cannot now be debated.