HC Deb 10 May 1923 vol 163 cc2557-9

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that by a Treasury Minute issued on 20th February, 1891, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the deficiency then existing in the Royal Irish Constabulary Force Fund was primarily due to the fact that the Government created, and for nearly 50 years administered, this insurance fund without actuarial advice, and that it promised without reserve, benefits upon which the contributors not unreasonably relied; that this faulty Government administration necessitated an advance from the Exchequer to make the fund solvent; and whether, in view of all the circumstances of the case and of the fact that, in December 1919, a strong Viceregal Commission, on which all parties concerned, including the British Government, were represented, unanimously recommended that the Constabulary Force Fund should be wound up, he will consider the propriety of winding up the fund and, if necessary, introduce a Bill for this purpose on the lines suggested in a letter of 8th February 1917, from the All-Ireland Committee of the Royal Irish Constabulary Pensioners' Association or on such other lines as his advisers may suggest?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson)

My right hon. Friend has asked me to answer this question. The answer to the first part is in the affirmative; as regards the second part of the question, it is the case that in 1891 the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked Parliament to vote the sum of £150,000 in aid of the Fund, in order that subscribers' dependants should not be disappointed by receiving smaller benefits than those which they had been led to expect. This grant, which represented the estimated deficiency at that time, was voted by Parliament on the express understanding that if it should prove inadequate a further grant would be made, but that if, on the contrary, it should ultimately prove more than sufficient to enable the Fund to meet its legal liabilities, the surplus should be returned to the Exchequer in reduction of the advance of £150,000. So long as any of the subscribers remain alive it cannot be ascertained whether there will be any surplus ultimately remaining in the Fund when all liabilities are discharged. In reply, therefore, to the last part of the question, my right hon. Friend cannot see his way to introduce legislation which could only have the effect of depriving the subscribers' dependants of their legal rights in order to enable the assets of the Fund to be distributed among the members who, under existing enactments, have no legal interest in the assets of the Fund.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in 1919 the Irish Government appointed a Commission, presided over by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, to consider the whole subject, and that the Commission reported unanimously in favour of the winding up of this Fund, and that the Irish Government of the day, of which I happened to be a Member, were prepared to take action on the lines suggested; and will my, hon. Friend reconsider the whole question?


My right hon. and learned Friend is not quite accurate. They recommended that the Fund should be wound up as soon as possible, and it is being wound up.


In view of the recommendations of the Commission and the facts of the case, will my hon. Friend promise to reconsider a properly drawn up scheme for winding up this Fund, as was done in the case of the Queen's Jubilee Fund, which was another Royal Irish Constabulary Fund.


In the latter part of his question my hon. and learned Friend refers to a certain letter. I have not been able to trace it yet. Directly it has been traced I shall give my hon. and learned Friend a further reply.


In view of the practical unanimity of the subscribers to this Fund, will the Home Secretary take some action to have the Fund wound up, so that the proceeds may be distributed?


I have consulted the Treasury about this. It is a very difficult matter. I could not give an answer off hand.


Will my right hon. Friend undertake to consider the question just referred to?