HC Deb 04 July 1932 vol 268 cc33-8

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what sums of money have been credited or paid over to the Irish Free State; for what services they were intended; and to what extent these funds have been utilised for such services?


I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the main heads under which payments have been made to the Irish Free State. My hon. Friend will realise from the statement that a considerable expenditure of time and labour would be necessary to give an itemised account of the sums involved and any partial statement given might be misleading. I should, however, be glad, if my hon. Friend desires, to discuss the matter further with him.

Following is the statement:

  1. (a) Adjustments of revenue and expenditure for the months immediately 34 following the separation of the Governments, particularly as regards revenue attributable to the Irish Free State and collected during 1922–23 by the Irish Government as agent for the Provisional Government.
  2. (b) Sums paid in consequence of the statutory apportionment of the assets and liabilities of such funds as the Development Fund, the Local Taxation Account, the Post Office Savings Bank and the Road Fund.
  3. (c) Payments of the British Government's share, under the earlier Agreements, of awards of compensation for malicious injuries in the area of the Free State. The British Government should, however, receive reimbursement of such payments through the annuity of £250,000 payable by the Irish Free State Government under the Boundary Agreement of 1925.
  4. (d) Certain continuing payments which have been made regularly to the Irish Free State Government up to the present and which include the cost of services rendered by Irish Government Departments in the payment of War pensions and other Irish Government pensions; the quarterly adjustments of accounts between die British and Irish Free State Post Offices; the bounty payable in lieu of rates to Irish local authorities in respect of British Government property not transferred to the Irish Free State Government; and an annual payment for a limited number of years for United Kingdom silver coin repatriated from the Irish Free State.


(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Dominions whether he had received any further communication from Ireland?


Yes, Sir. I will read a despatch which I received only this morning. It is as follows: The Government of the Irish Free State has considered your Despatch No. 137 of the 22nd of June. 2. It is noted that the British Government is unwilling to agree to the removal of the restriction which it desires to place on the choice of the personnel of the proposed arbitral Tribunal. Mindful of the importance of arbitration as a method of settling international disputes the Government of the Irish Free State would regard it as deeply regrettable were artificial restriction on the personnel of the Tribunal to be allowed to stand in the way of acceptance of arbitration in the present instance. Freedom of choice by the parties in the selection of their nominees on the arbitral Tribunal is of the very essence of arbitration, and the Government of the Irish Free State does not abandon the hope that the British Government will reconsider its attitude in this regard. 3. With reference to the matters adverted to in pargraph (4) of your despatch, the Government of the Irish Free State disputes the claims of the British Government not only in regard to the Land Purchase Annuities, but in regard to all other annual or periodic payments, except those made in pursuance of agreements formally ratified by the Parliaments of both States. These disputed claims include those in respect of: Bonus and Excess Stock under the Irish Land Acts, 1903–1909; Pensions and compensation allowances to ex-members of the Royal Irish Constabulary under the Constabulary Acts; Civil, including Judicial Pensions; Annuity in respect of advances made from the British Local Loans Fund through the Commissioners of Public Works and the Land Commission in Saorstat Eireann before the 1st April, 1922; Annuities arising under the Public Offices Site (Dublin) Act, 1903; the Telegraph Acts, 1892–1921; and the Railways (Ireland) Act, 1896, and Marine Works (Ireland) Act, 1902; the payments on which in the aggregate, added to the Land Purchase Annuity payments, impose on the people of the Irish Free State a financial burden which they are unable to bear. 4. The Government of the Irish Free State is in full accord with the British Government in the view that bath parties must agree in advance to be bound by the arbitral award. As pointed out, however, in the last paragraph of my Despatch No. 89, it will he necessary to obtain the prior approval of the Oireachtas for any agreements which may be reached between our Governments in regard to the acceptance of arbitration, the constitution of the Tribunal, and the issues to be submitted to the Tribunal for determination.

"I have the honour to be, Sir,

Faithfully Yours,

(Signed) Eámonde Valera,

Minister for External Affairs."

The House will no doubt like to know the amounts involved in the various items referred to in the third paragraph of this despatch.

They are as follow:

Roasts and Excess Stock under the Irish Land Acts.

An annual amount of £134,500. Payment not due until next December.

Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions.

An amount of just over £1,000,000 a year payable monthly on the 15th of each month.

Payments made up to May. June payment (about £93,000) not yet made.

Civil and Judicial Pensions.

Civil Pensions.—An amount of about £60,000 a year, payable monthly. Monthly payments for May and June (about £5,000 each) not yet paid.

Judicial Pensions.—An amount of about £20,000 a year payable quarterly. No outstanding claim at present.

Local Loans Fund Annuity.

An annuity of £600,000 a year, payable half-yearly. Payment of £300,000 due 1st July not paid.

Works Annuities.

  1. (1) Telegraph Acts.—An amount of about £16,000 a year payable quarterly. Payment due end of June not yet paid.
  2. (2) Public Offices (Dublin) Act.—An annual payment of £13,200. Payment due 22nd May not yet paid.
  3. (3) Railways (Ireland) Act and Marine Works (Ireland) Act.—An annual payment of £10,000 not due until September.

All these are payments resulting from solemn agreements made between the two Governments.

This reply leaves no doubt that Mr. de Valera, while agreeing in principle to our offer of arbitration, definitely refuses a Commonwealth tribunal. The form of tribunal proposed by us was strictly in accordance with the recommendations unanimously agreed to at the Imperial Conference of 1930. Moreover, the reply goes beyond the Land Annuities and seeks to repudiate generally the financial settlement between the two countries.

This leaves no alternative to the Government, but to proceed with the financial resolution to be moved this afternoon.


In view of the very controversial statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in communicating that despatch, I only wish to say that I do not intend to attempt to elucidate the matter any further at this stage. We shall, of course, deal with the matter during the Debate which is to take place later.


As I expected that the right hon. Gentleman would give us the total amount involved, I neglected to make a note of the different items as he read them. Perhaps he will oblige the House by giving the total?


It will be a very easy matter to do so, and I will have these items totalled up before the Debate. It is a very simple calculation. I want the House to observe that the Motion which I am about to move deals exclusively with the Government's method of meeting the default on the Land Annuities. When these other matters were specifically raised, I assumed that the House would like to know exactly what they were and how much the amount was. I have given each detailed item, and it will be a simple matter to total it up, and someone will do that for me before I speak later.


I only wanted to make a comparison between the total amount involved and the indebtedness of Germany.


The right hon. Gentleman has given these figures in several cases as annuities. I understand that they are annuities running for certain periods. Will he, therefore, give us, not merely the annual charge, but circulate with the Votes a statement showing the period for which each annuity runs?


They vary as my right hon. Friend knows. It is only fair to point out that it was well known, in fact it was on the Order Paper on Thursday night, that I was to move this Motion this afternoon, and my last communication with the Irish Free State was on the last visit of Mr. de Valera. It was only this morning that I received this communication, and I am sure the House will realise that I have given them all the information that I could. I will see what can be done to meet the suggestion, but I think the better plan would be to arrange for someone to put a question to me to-morrow, and I will have the full details set out properly.


As it is a question of figures, I thought it would be more convenient to circulate them.