§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The need for this Bill springs from the limitations imposed on the Parliament of Northern Ireland by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. Under this Act legislative competence in certain fields—for example, health, education, law and order—was transferred to the Parliament of Northern Ireland; but some matters, including, for example, the Crown, the Armed Forces, the Supreme Court and overseas trade, were reserved to our own Parliament here at Westminster.
The interlocking of transferred subjects with reserved matters is very intricate and hence, when the law in Northern Ireland requires amendment, legislation is sometimes necessary here. We may be asked to legislate ourselves for Northern Ireland on some reserved matter, or to extend the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Parliament to enable them to deal with something previously beyond their powers, or—a third possibility—to dispose of some doubt which has arisen on a borderline case as to whether the Parliament of Northern Ireland has power to deal with a particular question. This Bill does all three.
735 Clause 1 of the Bill deals with the salary and expenses of the Governor of Northern Ireland. Paragraph (1) of Section 4 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, as amended by paragraph 1 of the First Schedule of the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1922, provides that the Northern Ireland Parliament may not legislate about the Governor of Northern Ireland except as regards his executive functions in relation to matters within the competence of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.
The existing financial provision for the Governor is made by Section 3 of the Lord Lieutenants' and Lord Chancellors' Salaries (Ireland) Act, 1832, and Section 37 (3) of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, both as amended by paragraph 1 (2) of the First Schedule to the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1922. He is provided with £8,000 a year, £6,000 being paid out of moneys provided by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and £2,000 by Northern Ireland.
Under the proviso to paragraph 1 (2) of the First Schedule to the 1922 Act, the Governor is required to pay out of his salary the salaries and allowances of members of his personal staff. In addition to these specific financial provisions, the Governor has an official residence at Hillsborough, in County Down.
During the Committee stage of the Bill, in 1922, it was pointed out by the Government spokesman that salaries for such posts as this were fixed at below what the occupants of the posts were expected to spend. By 1922, therefore, the sum of £8,000 was expected to be insufficient for the expenses of the office. The greatly increased costs of maintaining the staff and services of a household suitable for The Queen's personal representative in Northern Ireland have rendered the sum of £8,000 even more insufficient despite administrative concessions which have been made; and, on the other hand, it cannot now be expected, as it was in 1922, that candidates for appointment to such offices will be able to make up deficiences out of their private resources.
The present Governor, Lord Wakehurst, was appointed in 1952: his predecessor had already drawn attention to the increasing difficulty of meeting his official expenses from the official provision, and Lord Wakehurst, in due course, 736 supported these representations with his own accounts of actual expenditure. The position has continued to get worse, and Lord Wakehurst is heavily out of pocket at the present moment.
It is obvious that this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue, for it is unseemly and unfair that the personal representative of The Queen in that part of the United Kingdom should be so placed.
Despite every effort to ease his burden by administrative means, it has become clear that the Governor's position, instead of improving, has grown steadily worse, and the time has obviously come for his financial arrangements to be put on a more satisfactory basis.
The passage of time and the change in monetary values having made legislation on this subject necessary, Her Majesty's Government have decided not simply to increase the Governor's salary, but to introduce completely new arrangements. Difficulty and uncertainty have arisen in the past because, as I have said, the Governor's salary was not really expected to cope even with all his expenses and there was no provision for a salary in the normal sense of the word.
In the Government's view, it is desirable to provide separately for the Governor's salary and for his expenses—and this is the effect of Clause 1. We have followed the precedent of the Lord High Commissioner (Church of Scotland) Act, 1948, which consists of one Section enabling the Secretary of State, with the concurrence of the Treasury, to determine from time to time the allowance payable to the High Commissioner out of the Consolidated Fund, subject to a specified maximum in any year.
§ Major Lloyd-George
If the hon. Gentleman will wait a moment, I was just coming to that.
The office of the Lord High Commissioner is not comparable with that of the Governor of Northern Ireland, for the first appointment lasts only for the duration of the General Assembly, that is to say, for about 10 days in any year. But the situation which necessitated legislation about the Lord High Commissioner in 1948 was somewhat similar to that 737 which now arises—indeed, was already at that time arising—with regard to the Governor of Northern Ireland: it was proving impossible for the Lord High Commissioner to carry out the functions of his office within the limits of expenses allowed to him under a statute of 1832.
We propose, in Clause 1 of the Bill, to allow the Governor of Northern Ireland a salary of £4,000, which will be liable to tax in the ordinary way, from which he will be expected to make contributions to the general expenses of the household in respect of the normal subsistence costs of himself, his family and personal guests. The Governor will also be entitled, under Clause 1, to an expense allowance of an amount not exceeding £10,000 a year: the exact amount is to be determined from time to time by the Secretary of State, with the concurrence of the Treasury.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
May I again ask about this comparison? Did not the Church of Scotland £4,000 include expenses?
§ Major Lloyd-George
If I remember rightly, it was all expenses. The point is that the duties of the High Commisisoner last for about 10 days in any one year.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I believe that the effect of the 1948 Act was to double the amount allowed to him as a maximum. In the case we are now discussing, the sum is to be determined by the Secretary of State in concurrence with the Treasury from year to year. It is to cover the salaries of private secretaries, the wages of servants, the cost of official entertainment, and other expenses arising from the nature of his office.
As I have already said, the present Governor is already very much out of pocket. To enable us immediately to reimburse him, the Bill provides for the new arrangements to come into effect during the present financial year. In addition to these direct financial provisions, the Governor will continue to be provided with certain services, though under modified arrangements.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Before the Home Secretary leaves the financial provisions, will he tell us whether the allowance is tax-free?
§ Major Lloyd-George
The salary is taxed in the ordinary way. The allowance is a sum determined from year to year on the actual expenses incurred in the carying out of the Governor's duties. It will be determined by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Treasury. It will be for expenses actually incurred.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am sorry that I have not made my meaning clear. Will the amount of the expenses for which the Governor is reimbursed be subject to Income Tax or not?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that this is done in exactly the same way as under the Act of 1948. It is determined on the expenses which are incurred.
§ Major Lloyd-George
It was not so in the Act of 1948, which I have been discussing.
It has been agreed with the Government of Northern Ireland that Hillsborough Castle and grounds will be reconveyed to the Minister of Works from the Northern Ireland Ministry of Finance, after an enabling Bill has been passed by the Northern Ireland Parliament. The Minister of Works will then accept responsibility for its maintenance in future. No capital payment is involved, but there will be annual expenditure falling on the Public Buildings (United Kingdom) Vote. It will cover, in addition to normal maintenance, the cost of cleaning, fuel, furniture and equipment, the salaries of outdoor staff, of firemen and of a chauffeur, and the provision of an official car.
This expenditure has been borne by the Northern Ireland Government since 1927. The Minister of Works is already responsible for the maintenance of large public buildings of this kind, such as embassies, and he is better equipped than the Government of Northern Ireland to cope with problems arising therefrom. Subsection (2) provides that, as from 739 1st April, 1955, the Northern Ireland Government shall no longer be required to make a contribution of £2,000 a year towards the Governor's salary.
§ Clause 2 relates to the Supreme Court, which—
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
Before the Home Secretary leaves Clause 1, can he give us an idea of the global extra amount which will fall on the Exchequer here? As the £2,000 is no longer to be paid by Northern Ireland, it will increase our expenditure, and the amount will now fall on the Ministry of Works.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I will get the figure checked, but my recollection is that it will be about £8,000 a year. The hon. and learned Gentleman is talking about maintenance?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I think it is about £8,000. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will speak later, and I will have the figure checked.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Does this mean that the whole of the expenses of the Lieutenant-Governor are to be borne in future on United Kingdom funds, and no part on Northern Ireland funds? Is that the effect of the withdrawal of the £2,000 that the Northern Ireland Government now pay?
§ Major Lloyd-George
Clause 2 relates to the Supreme Court, and this is a reserved matter under Section 47 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. The Clause is designed to ease the difficulties arising from the small number of judges available in Northern Ireland by cutting out an unnecessary intermediate stage in civil and rating cases.
Under Northern Ireland law, cases stated are required to be heard in some matters in the High Court and in others by the Court of Appeal. Where the case is heard in the High Court, a further appeal lies, in civil and rating matters, to the Court of Appeal, and the hearing in the High Court then becomes an expensive and inconvenient step. When 740 arrangements have to be made to form a divisional court for cases stated, the trial of common law actions is often seriously delayed, thus inconveniencing jurors, witnesses and litigants.
Clause 3 touches upon highly technical questions relating to the law of property. A committee on the law of intestate succession in Northern Ireland was appointed in 1951 and reported in June, 1952. The Northern Ireland Government wish to carry out most of the committee's recommendations. These long-overdue reforms will bring the law in Northern Ireland on this subject broadly into accord with what it has been in England and Wales since 1925.
This will involve the introduction into the Parliament of Northern Ireland of legislation on the administration of estates of deceased persons and on the devolution and distribution of real property; but at the present time this cannot be done for want of the enablement contained in Clause 3. This is because the effect of one of the proposed reforms will be to abolish escheat to the Crown in cases of intestacy and by Section 4 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, the Northern Ireland Parliament is prevented from legislating on matters affecting the interests of the Crown.
In simple terms, the intention is that real property shall devolve in the same way as personal property. Since heirs to personal property are usually easily found in a small community like Northern Ireland, rather less property may escheat to the Crown, and there may be some slight loss to the Exchequer. It is not possible to estimate the probable extent of the loss, but it cannot be great.
Clause 4 is designed to enable the Northern Ireland Parliament to remove difficulties arising from a slight technical inadequacy in the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946, which failed to provide for the publication of certain subordinate instruments relating to Northern Ireland in the annual volumes of Northern Ireland Statutory Rules and Orders.
These instruments, which include the Northern Ireland Supreme Court Rules, are not, therefore, to be found in the usual annual reference volumes, and they are nowhere conveniently available for people who need to consult them. The difficulty of tracing them increases as time goes on. This Clause enables the 741 Northern Ireland Parliament to bring these instruments within their own normal publication arrangements.
Clause 5 makes it clear that the Parliament of Northern Ireland has power to legislate on coroners and coroners' juries.
Paragraph (1) of section 4 (1) of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, precludes the Northern Ireland Parliament from legislating in respect ofThe Crown or the succession to the Crown, or a regency, or the property of the Crown. …Technically and historically, coroners are officers of the Crown. Consequently, it might be argued that the Parliament of Northern Ireland is debarred by the 1920 Act from legislating about them. In view, however, of the modern status and functions of coroners there seems to be no reason why this obstacle should not be removed so as to enable the. Northern Ireland Parliament to legislate on this subject, and to bring up to date the statutory provisions governing these matters in Northern Ireland. At present, almost all the relevant statutes date back to the last century.
This Bill is strongly requested by the Government of Northern Ireland with the concurrence—in so far as his interests are concerned—of the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman clarify the point about Income Tax? The ordinary citizen in this country has to return any amount paid to him by way of expenses and has to prove that figure to the satisfaction of the Inland Revenue Department. My simple question is: will the Governor of Northern Ireland have to do the same thing?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I thought I had made it perfectly clear—if not, my hon. Friend will make it even clearer—that the £4,000 salary is subject to tax in the ordinary way. As far as the expenses are concerned, they will have to be concurred in by the Secretary of State and the Treasury. They will, therefore, be expenses actually incurred in performance of the Governor's duties. I do not think that such a case is comparable to the ordinary citizen's expenses.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It is important to get this clear, because the taxation position on allowances makes a tremendous difference between any subject's gross and net income. I understand that the payment of expenses will be tax-free and is, in fact, a payment in respect of certain expenses incurred, and, as such, is not liable to challenge by the Inland Revenue authorities?
§ Major Lloyd-George
But it is not quite the same thing as the expenses which the ordinary citizen incurs, because all the Governor's personal expenses would be treated in the ordinary way as part of his expenditure from his salary, but the other expenditure would be that incurred in the discharge of his official duties.
§ Major Lloyd-George
In the case of the Lord High Commissioner it was because the expenses were insufficient to enable anyone to carry out the duties of the office that they were doubled, which, I think, everyone agreed at the time was the proper thing to do.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
The Home Secretary said that the expenses would be reviewed from time to time by the Secretary of State and by the Treasury. What precisely is meant by "from time to time"? Does it mean annually, every three years, every six months—or what?
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
Could the Home Secretary indicate what legislation, if any, is contemplated by the Parliament of Northern Ireland with reference to the jurisdiction of coroners and coroners' juries? It seems a somewhat curious matter to legislate on at this stage. Is it proposed to extend the jurisdiction of coroners' courts and, if so, in what direction? Or is it simply proposed to pay the coroner a larger salary? That might be a highly desirable thing to do—I do not know.
Perhaps the House could be told why this curious request, which requires us to abdicate control over the jurisdiction of coroners' courts in Northern Ireland, 743 comes to us now. It may or may not be of great constitutional importance—that depends on the purpose which the Northern Ireland Parliament have in mind—but it might be helpful for the House to have some enlightenment.
§ Major Lloyd-George
As far as I know, there has been no change in the law since 1920. This is one of the reserved subjects to which I referred at the beginning of my speech. My hon. Friend will refer to it more fully. I believe that the Parliament of Northern Ireland has plans at the moment for the amendment and consolidation of certain enactments. Perhaps my hon. Friend may be allowed to deal with that later.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
This is a Second Reading. Has the hon. Member a point of order?
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
On the face of it this is a small and simple Bill, but after the explanation given by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman I am not at all sure that it is as simple as it at first appears. I have no doubt that my hon. Friends who are learned in the law will have a good deal to say about those Clauses dealing with legal matters, but I want to speak about the Bill as a whole and, in particular, about the new arrangements for the Governor.
I understand that the Governor's salary at present is £8,000 a year, which includes all the expenses of his office, and that the Northern Ireland Government pay £2,000 towards his salary. From what the Home Secretary has said I gather that it has been concluded that the salary of £8,000 a year, including all expenses, is inadequate for the Governor to carry out his duties efficiently and, at the same time, manage to live.
744 I do not disagree with a Bill that divides salary from expenses. It is much better for the salary to be laid down and for a Governor, or any other officer, to know precisely what his salary is. It is also right that any expenses incurred by a Governor, or any officer in pursuance of his official duties, should be paid by the State and should not be included in his salary. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has put to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, a business man, in the ordinary course of his work, claims an appropriate amount for expenses and the Inland Revenue officers then examine the expenses he has claimed. They may allow the whole; they may even allow a part—certainly, in many cases, they disallow certain expenses.
My hon. Friend asked whether the expenses up to £10,000 a year for which this Bill provides would go through that procedure; that amounts claimed as moneys spent in pursuant of the office would have the same careful scrutiny by Inland Revenue officers to ensure that they were, in fact, expenses arising out of the office. I understood the Home Secretary to reply that these expenses would be "vetted" by him and by the Treasury. I presume that what it will mean is that the Governor himself will not pay those sums but that they will be paid by the United Kingdom Treasury.
In other words, all bills will be presented to, and paid by, the Treasury. If that is not the case, and if a lump sum of up to £10,000 is to be given to the Governor, we shall want an assurance that moneys which he pays out of his expenses account will have the same careful scrutiny as those claimed by any businessman. I think that that is a fair statement of the case, and I am putting my hon. Friend's point for him because it can be better done in this way, perhaps, than by question and answer.
The Bill provides for a sum of up to £10,000, and I should like to know what it was that decided that £10,000 was the amount that would be required. Can the Minister say, for example, whether, in certain circumstances, £10,000 would be sufficient? I am aware that while we are discussing salaries of £4,000 a year and expenses of up to £10,000, there are many people in Northern Ireland whose standard of living is extremely low because 745 of the grave unemployment that exists there and who will be asking some questions about this matter.
I understood from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that matters relating to the Crown and the Armed Forces are reserved matters, and the Governor, therefore, will have to accept responsibility for matters relating to the Crown and the Armed Forces. In those circumstances, I should like to know whether £10,000 will be sufficient. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is well aware of the grave unemployment that exists in Northern Ireland, and which is increasing. It is 7 per cent. of the population, and if it were 7 per cent. of the United Kingdom employable population it would represent nearly 1,500,000 people. If there were 1,500,000 unemployed in this country, I am quite sure that no Government could withstand the public wrath arising from it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not discuss the subject of unemployment. There is nothing about that in this Bill.
§ Mr. Robens
No, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, there is nothing about it in the Bill, but, with respect. I am concerned about the effect of this unemployment. Demonstrations have now started as a result of unemployment, and I was going on to say that it may well be that the Governor will have a serious situation to face, which is likely to cost him a lot of money. I am not satisfied that the £10,000 provided in this Bill will be adequate to meet the exigencies which are likely to arise as a result of the unemployment in Northern Ireland. Therefore, with respect, I should like to develop the point whether £10,000 is sufficient or whether it should be much more.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think that on this Bill we can discuss a hypothetical riot because of unemployment.
§ Mr. Robens
I am not attempting to discuss a hypothetical riot. I have here a copy of the "Irish News" dated Saturday, 15th January, which has a headline:Hungry 'thirties scene as men march to dole office. Unemployed demonstrate in Coleraine. Call for jobs, not promises.I warned the Prime Minister in November last year that unless some action were taken on this question of unemployment, 746 there would be occasions of this character. These demonstrations can lead to window smashing and riotous assembly, and the Governor will be required to call in troops. I am not sure whether £10,000 would be adequate for him to discharge the duties which he would have to undertake in those circumstances.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That could perhaps be related to this Bill, but it is so far from it that I do not think we can go into it in detail.
§ Mr. Bing
On a point of order. Surely, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, we on this side of the House are right in saying that the first economic task in Northern Ireland is to raise not the salary of the Governor but the rate of unemployment benefit, and, therefore, it would be wrong for this House to give priority to raising the Governor's salary. You will recall that exactly the same argument was used in this House when we were discussing Members' salaries. On that occasion it was held to be in order to mention that there were, for example, the old-age pensioners whose pensions should be dealt with before Members' salaries. Surely, therefore, it would be in order to submit the same argument on the question of the expense of the Governor of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think it might be touched on in passing, but to go into it in detail would be out of order on this Bill.
§ Mr. Delargy
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It may be that that there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who might, on the merits of the Bill, be inclined to vote in favour of it, but, on the other hand, there are some hon. Members who might feel that the present time is not opportune to increase the Governor's salary. We think that the moment is not opportune because of the high incidence of unemployment in Northern Ireland. As that factor is in the minds of many of us, surely some reference to unemployment in Northern Ireland is in order on the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is what I said a moment ago. Some reference would be in order, but it is not in order to go into it in detail. To discuss unemployment in detail would be out of order.
§ Mr. Robens
I accept that ruling wholeheartedly, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I did not myself feel that I had gone into the matter in great detail. Indeed, I submitted to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman four or five foolscap pages dealing with this matter in great detail and making many suggestions about the Development Corporation, the necessity for giving United Kingdom Government aid to the Northern Ireland Government, the provision of relief work and emergency measures, and matters of that kind. I have submitted all those, and, as a result, I would not dream of mentioning them this afternoon, because we are on a Bill dealing with the Governor's salary. But I did feel—and I am glad that you agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—that it is reasonable that one should refer, in passing, to the kind of things with which the Governor might be faced and for which this amount might not be sufficient.
No doubt some of my hon. Friends will develop the legal aspects of the matter and will have a good many interesting things to say, but I cannot leave this Clause until we have examined it very closely and have decided whether or not this amount of £10,000 a year has been arrived at after very careful consideration. I hope that the Minister will tell us how this sum has been arrived at. Did somebody think that it was a nice round figure to put into the accounts? Is it based upon previous spending? Is it based upon some expectations, perhaps of a Royal visit which is costly, or something of that kind? Obviously, this House should not leave a Bill of this kind which involves the United Kingdom Government in an expenditure of £10,000 not as a salary but purely as expenses—which is a lot of money—without making searching inquiries into whether this money is necessary or whether in the circumstances which I have briefly outlined, it will be sufficient.
Two of my colleagues and I spent some days in Northern Ireland, and we were in the Coleraine area, where these demonstrations took place—demonstrations in which members of the Church took part because of the very bad conditions in which people find themselves, with their livelihoods gone and no hope of a job in the future—and its seems to me that the question of raising salaries and paying very large amounts as expenses must be 748 being debated very hotly in the unemployment queues in Londonderry, Coleraine and other places which we visited.
That brings me to the next point, which will be very contentious and with which the Governor may have to deal, and on which he may have to spend some of his £10,000. That is the disgraceful way in which the recipients of unemployment assistance are being treated. It amazed my friends and myself to find in that country that we were back in the 1920s in this country, when we visited places like Derry and Coleraine and when the "not genuinely seeking work" clause which was so much the bone of contention in the 1920s—
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
On a point of order. Obviously, the question of the administration of the National Assistance Board in Northern Ireland is of great importance, and I would be only too happy if it were debated at length so that any matters which the right hon. Gentleman might raise could be dealt with, but might we have some guidance from you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, about the scope of the debate? If the right hon. Gentleman develops this theme, shall we have an opportunity of rebutting his argument?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I shall be leaving the Chair in a very few minutes, and this is the note which I shall leave for my successor: "Passing reference to unemployment as a reason for dealing with that first would be in order but not to deal with unemployment in detail."
§ Mr. Callaghan
You will be aware, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the Social Services (Northern Ireland Agreement) Act, 1949, provides that Northern Ireland shall maintain the scope of its Assistance scales in conformity with those in this country. Would it not be a good reason for refusing to give a Second Reading to the Bill if it could be shown that there was disparity between the treatment of the unemployed in Northern Ireland and their treatment in this country? We submit to you that it would be a very good reason for refusing leave to proceed with the Bill in advance of putting right such a situation as that, which clearly comes under the Social Services (Northern Ireland Agreement) Act.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If we have a good reason, as you say we have, for refusing leave to proceed with the Bill, would it not be in order to advance that reason why we should not proceed with the Bill?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That was not what I said. The point made by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) was to compare the rate of unemployment in the two countries. I said that it might be reasonable to deal with that but that it would not be in order to go into detail. That is what I said, and the hon. Member has turned my words round.
§ Mr. Callaghan
May I submit to you why it should be in order and ask you to hear a submission?
Under the Social Services (Northern Ireland Agreement) Act, 1949, it is clearly provided—in paragraph 3 of the Agreement made between the Treasury and the Ministry of Finance in Northern Ireland—that the Government of Northern Ireland undertakes to maintain similar rates of benefit in respect of Assistance grants. It is part of our case that they are not doing so and that they are treating the long-term unemployed in Northern Ireland in a way which would be an affront to the conscience of this country if it were practised here. If we can advance that, as indeed we can and do, surely it is a reason for refusing further powers to a Government of this sort which breaks the agreement already existing under another Act.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think it is in order to discuss in detail other Acts in the Schedules. If that were in order, we could go on for ever more.
§ Mr. Delargy
I am still a little bewildered by this, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I understand that you have agreed that the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) made about the treatment of unemployed in Northern Ireland might be a very good reason for opposing this Bill. If it is a very good reason for opposing the Bill, how can it be out of order to debate it?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
May I repeat what I said? I said that I would leave to 750 my successor in the Chair this Ruling: "Passing reference to unemployment as a reason for dealing with that first would be in order but not to deal with unemployment in detail." I think that that is quite clear. I hope the House will understand that Ruling and will keep to it.
§ Mr. Robens
I am a little surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) intervened to prevent discussion of these matters, in view of the fact that in the main these are his constituents whom he has grossly neglected in the House. Were it not—
§ Captain Orr
On a point of order. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want wilfully to misrepresent me. I said that I should be perfectly happy at any time to debate the administration of the National Assistance Board in Northern Ireland.
§ Captain Orr
There is a very good answer to the charges which the right hon. Gentleman has made—an answer which I should be happy to give if you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, allowed a position to develop in which the right hon. Gentleman could put his argument. I was merely seeking an opportunity of putting my arguments and of safeguarding my right to do so if the right hon. Gentleman were permitted to develop his argument.
§ Mr. Robens
It seems to me that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should have accepted the invitation of his constituents to talk to them about it. That would have been the place to do it—in the unemployment queues. The fact that he has now intervened to try to prevent even a passing reference to these matters suggests that he realises how guilty he is in not having raised them before and in leaving it to Englishmen to have to go to Northern Ireland to indicate the sad state of affairs under the administration of this Government.
Having made that passing reference to what may happen and to the very bad 751 way in which the Assistance Board is being administered, I say that these are matters which may give rise to action by the Governor. We shall want to know exactly how this £10,000 is made up and whether, for example, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his hon. Friends took all these things into consideration when they were framing the Bill. If they did not do so, then it would be very much better to withdraw the Bill and to look again at the allocation to the Governor, because it may well be that serious measures will have to be taken by the Governor for which the United Kingdom Government must accept responsibility. As the Governor represents the Crown and as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman advises the Crown, ipso facto he advises the Governor and, therefore, has a special responsibility.
Is he aware of what is happening in Northern Ireland which could give rise to very grave dissension which might call for the expenditure of much more than £10,000? If he had only taken the advice of some of my hon. Friends and myself and looked with kindly favour upon some concrete proposals of a practical nature which we offered to him, he might have been saved a good deal of difficulty and helped in his job. Why we should want to help the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in his job I do not know, except that we do so out of goodness of heart and our desire to look after the people of Northern Ireland in the absence of their being properly looked after by the Tory Members who are elected to this House from Northern Ireland.
One of the grave features about this situation is that is some parts of Northern Ireland unemployment is as high as 25 per cent.
§ Mr. Robens
While 25 per cent. may not mean a lot of people in a small community, it is a very dangerous situation indeed, and, if I may say so, being on the Border makes it much more dangerous than if the 25 per cent. unemployment were elsewhere. If hon. Members want passions inflaming and if they want people who live where there is 25 per cent. unemployment to feel that there is political bias against them—as some of them do—then the problems which will 752 arise for the Governor will be very considerable indeed.
I do not think that hon. Members on this side of the House can easily give the Bill a Second Reading unless we have much more information from the benches opposite about their precise intention in this matter of the £10,000. We also want to know what they propose to do about helping the Northern Ireland Government to met these very grave unemployment problems, for which hon. Members opposite have some responsibility. If they can assure us that they will not cause any larger sum than £10,000 to be spent by the Governor on these emergency measures, which are bound to be needed, that will be one point. Can they tell us whether they are dealing with this grave problem of unemployment, because they have a responsibilty to deal with it.
If they can give us those assurances and can assure us that the £10,000 will be adequate to meet all requirements and that the £10,000, as expenses, will be carefully scrutinised, as any other business man's expenses would be scrutinised, it may well be that my hon. Friends and I will give the Bill a Second Reading, but I am bound to say that unless we can have an explanation in much greater detail about many of the matters which I have raised—and there are many others on which my hon. Friends will want to comment—we shall have to consider our attitude. We shall expect a very detailed reply upon these matters before we decide whether or not we can give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mrs. Patricia Ford (Down, North)
I do not wish to detain the House for very long, but I feel I must say a few words on Clause 1 of the Bill. As we have heard, that Clause deals with the salary of the Governor of Northern Ireland. As my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary has told us, at present the Governor receives £8,000 a year, out of which he must pay the expenses and salaries of his personal staff. This arrangement was made by Act of Parliament as long ago as 1922.
In the last 30 years the value of money has depreciated by 50 per cent., so that what was thought fair and reasonable in 1922 is now worth only half. Yet the position and responsibilities of the 753 Governor are no different; they are in no way eased or reduced. With half as much money, he has the same expenses and the same staff and also has to keep up the same standard of entertaining and activities.
A high standard is expected of Her Majesty's representative in the Province of Ulster. We are most fortunate in having had three most excellent and illustrious Governors since 1922. It would be hard to find a more popular pro-consul than Lord Wakehurst. Since he and his wife came to our Province three years ago, they have endeared themselves to the people of Ulster. They have entered into all aspects of national life and have won the deep and enthusiastic esteem of a people who are well-known for their shrewd judgment and high ideals and who do not give their affection lightly.
The position of Governor calls not only for the highest integrity but also for the qualities of tact, understanding and knowledge of the people. The Wakehursts have shown that they possess those qualities in full measure. Their interest is unfailing and their efforts unflagging. Scarcely a day goes by when one does not see in the newspapers that: they have been to a function in the Province.
There are not only the important functions, but the small and perhaps less important tasks they have to perform in outlying parts of the Province which they do not have to go to, but to the simple people it is a matter of great pride and pleasure that they do so. They are the representatives of the British Crown and some hon. Members may not know what a tremendous thing that is in Ulster. Visiting hon. Members from England have sometimes expressed surprise to me at the fervent loyalty of Northern Ireland, which has to be experienced, seen and heard to be really believed.
I do not believe we have anything like it in England. Some hon. Members may think that perhaps these loyalties to the Queen and the Empire are old-fashioned and out-of-date. Perhaps they are, but we believe in these things in Ulster. We care about them far more than we do about partisan politics, and if it is old-fashioned to praise these things then we are not ashamed of being old-fashioned. It is because these loyalties are so deep in our hearts that the salary increase, 754 which I feel sure will have the approval of the whole Province, will, I hope, also have the approval of the whole of this House.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Cahir Healy (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
The hon. Lady the Member for Down, North (Mrs. Ford) has spoken of the popularity of Lord Wakehurst, an Englishman. She apparently forgets that for a far longer period we had as Governor the Duke of Abercorn, an Irishman, and at one time the leader of her party. Apparently eaten bread is soon forgotten and an Englishman from across the water is more popular with her side than an Irishman who has been there for generations. That is a curious treatment of loyalty from Northern Ireland.
I have also heard the hon. Lady speak of the great record of loyalty which Northern Ireland has, but it has only been loyal when it has paid it to be loyal. We remember the occurrences in Curragh Camp. We remember Lord Carson's crusade in this country. In Northern Ireland there was not much loyalty about that. That, I think, is the basis of all the pretended loyalty there is today. There was not much loyalty when Lord Craigavon set up a Government in Northern Ireland in 1912 against the King's Government here.
We do not need this Measure, because there has been no popular demand for it. I am a Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament and I have not heard a single word spoken in that Assembly concerning the inadequacy of the salary of the Governor-General. The people there have made no request to the hon. Lady nor her colleagues in this House to increase the salary of the Governor-General. When the Northern Ireland Government are asking public bodies to reduce their expenses, even upon hospitals, it seems a very inappropriate moment to start advocating an increase in the salary of a Governor-General who already is receiving £8,000 a year.
Grants for houses and public hospitals have been reduced and the Assistance Board has been asked to curtail allowances. This seems a most inopportune time, when farmers and industrialists in Northern Ireland are going through the most serious crisis they have known for 755 a very long period, to start increasing salaries at the top.
If the hon. Lady will look into the question of salaries for comparable representatives abroad she will see how comparatively generous we have been with the representatives in Northern Ireland. The Governor-General of Canada, I understand, is paid £10,000 a year and the Governor-General of Australia is paid £10,000 a year. The population of Northern Ireland is only equal to that of the City of Glasgow, the Lord Provost of which gets no salary at all for his full-time employment.
What function does the Governor-General perform in Northern Ireland? I live in Fermanagh and we rarely see his face there. When he came to our country he was supposed to be a Gaelic speaker. Probably he thought that would make his advent more popular, but, under the Ministry of Education in Northern Ireland that would tend rather to send him to prison than to give him any honour. When the Government of Ireland Act was passing through this House in 1920, from the Tory benches we heard again and again—from Bonar Law and from Earl Winterton, who has not long left this House, and from Lieut.-Colonel Arnold Guinness—that if they thought that Act was not going to prove a blessing to Ireland it would not have been introduced into this House. It has not proved a blessing; on the contrary, partition is very unpopular in Ireland—more unpopular today than ever it was.
We feel that making these sinecures more important by increasing the salaries will tend more to make partition permanent. There will be great competition for this office in future. We shall have very eloquent gentlemen going across from this country to Northern Ireland, as has been the case quite recently. It will have the effect of preserving a new and increased interest in the mutilation of a sister nation. This country desired unity on several occasions. Expressions of hon. Members opposite are evidence of that. In practice, however, the Government have been doing all they can to keep partition as a permanent feature.
The House of Commons passed the Ireland Act, 1949. It has amalgamated the insurance funds of Northern Ireland 756 and of this country, to make the insurance fund of Northern Ireland solvent and to keep it so. On balance, several millions a year has been paid to that country.
If I read matters aright, the Bill will enable the Governor to reduce his Income Tax payments. In other words, it gives a sop to partition, and does so at a time when the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland is four times as high as in this country and when the payments to National Assistance claimants are being cut down week after week by what are called the "discretionary reductions," which are practically unknown in this country.
The Duke of Abercorn was Governor-General for a great number of years. He was an opponent of ours, but I have never heard from any source that his administration was inefficient or that his entertaining was inadequate. He occupied that post during the war years. If the existing salary was sufficient for the Duke of Abercorn, an Irishman, why is it not sufficient for one of the perambulating English politicians? The Governor must have looked upon the Bill as Moses looked upon the rock as he struck it and water flowed forth.
The post of Governor will in future be one of the brightest jewels in the diplomatic lucky bag. I know of these eloquent gentlemen who cross the Irish Sea and who next morning are found in some remote parish telling the natives the history of their own parish of locality. The people do not know that probably an Under-Secretary had worked overtime the previous night.
The Governor must have caught a fairy, and caught it in a very unexpected place—on the Treasury Bench. Two years ago, an American executive of a film company came to Ireland looking for a fairy; he wanted to film it. But his quest was not successful, and now we know the reason: he looked in the wrong place. I suggest to the Minister that he should get this fairy damsel out of the House as quietly as possible, because apparently she has now achieved her main ambition. There is no knowing what further changes her wiles might work here with eligible and impressionable Front Bench Members.
There is a feeling, too, that since the tenure of the Duke of Abercorn as 757 Governor of Northern Ireland ceased prior to his death, the holders of the office have wanted to get as much as they possibly can out of it for the short time that they occupy it; they want to make hay while the sun shines.
Hon. Members in this House are tremendously concerned from time to time with the unity of Germany, and even the unity of China, as witnessed by the question of Formosa; but, at the same time, while making these professions, they legislate again and again to make the partition of Ireland more permanent than it has been up to now. This indicates a degree of insincerity that has been noted particularly in the United States of America and in the English Colonies.
The Irish Republic was very much criticised when it sought to have appeals from its decisions to the Privy Council abolished, but Northern Ireland is doing precisely the same thing by whittling down the reserve services and trying to get them within the compass of its own Parliament and courts. In other words, the limitations of the 1920 Act are gradually being whittled away, so that, in effect, the Treaty is being altered by retail.
All this is not calculated to bring about a united Ireland. A united Ireland would be better for both our countries than a divided Ireland can ever be. In the Republic we have no bombs and no navy, and we have very little by way of an army, but we have a spiritual influence that extends to every part of the English-speaking world.
Hon. Members would do well to remember the words of Lord Craigavon to Mr. Duggan, who occupied a very high position in the Civil Service. He said that Ireland was too small for two Parliaments and that although it might not take place in his time or the time of Mr. Duggan, there was certain ultimately to be a united Ireland. In short, there is no room in Ireland for two Parliaments, and there is no room for two Governors.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Professor Sir Douglas Savory (Antrim, South)
I should very much like to revert to the Bill and to deal with Clause 1, which seems to be the most controversial Clause. I agree with the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy) in paying a high tribute to the Duke of Abercorn. I am certain that my 758 hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mrs. Ford) will agree with me that he was a remarkable Governor. The proof was his reappointment time and again after his term of office had expired.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone has stated that the salary of £8,000 was sufficient in the days of the Duke of Abercorn. From my own personal knowledge of the subject, I can give the assurance that that was not the case. During the last years of his Governorship, the position was very difficult because the expenses had grown so enormously out of all proportion to the salary.
§ Sir D. Savory
It is well known to us what he went through. We know also that the former Governor, Lord Granville, drew the attention of the Government of Northern Ireland to the fact that his expenses were altogether in excess of his salary.
The present proposal is to reduce the salary of £8,000 to £4,000, on which the Governor will have to pay Income Tax; but in order that he may not be so much out of pocket as he has been for expenses, it is intended that £10,000 shall be provided, as a maximum, for his expenses—not private expenses for the entertaining of private guests, but public expenses for public functions. To my mind, an adequate check will be provided. The Memorandum to the Bill explains that the £10,000 will be controlled not only by the Secretary of State, who is responsible for Northern Ireland, but also by the Treasury. Therefore it seems to me to be an exceedingly reasonable proposition.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone referred to the salary of the Governor-General of Canada and also of Australia. I will take what is more likely to be comparable, the salary of the Governor of New Zealand, who gets £5,000, plus another £5,000 for expenses, which is paid by the New Zealand Government and is not subject to British Income Tax.
We have also heard from an interrupter an allusion to the fact that the Government of Northern Ireland are no, longer to pay the £2,000 which they have had to pay hitherto under the Act of 1920. That is true, but if the hon. Gentleman had studied carefully the 759 Memorandum to the Bill, he would have seen that the Government of Northern Ireland are to take over the office expenses of the Governor and the salaries of the officials—and not only that, but all the expenses of running the office, which I think he will find largely exceed the £2,000.
So I think the Bill is extremely reasonable. I do not wish to go into the irrelevant question of partition. I have discussed that over and over again with the hon. Gentleman. Nor do I wish to go into the question of unemployment. I am well acquainted with the situation. I know fully what are the reasons for it, for I discussed them with the Minister of Labour when I went to Stormont. I do not see what they have to do with this simple Clause 1 of the Bill.
I should like to join in paying a tribute to the work done by Lord Wakehurst. I know no one who has done more for Northern Ireland. He travels about the country, attends every possible function, whether it is a prize-giving or the opening of a new building. He has done these things with such dignity that he has made himself extremely popular. In this connection I want to pay a tribute to Her Excellency, who has worked extremely hard. She never refuses to open a bazaar or a sale of work when asked, and she attends all kinds of charity concerts and functions. During the three years they have been with us, the two together have made themselves beloved by all sections in Northern Ireland.
Casting aside the irrelevancies which have been brought forward in connection with the Bill, therefore, I hope that the House will give a unanimous Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
Before entering into the discussion of any Irish matter the House ought always to bear in mind—if hon. Members on this side will permit me to say so—some wise words of the present Prime Minister. It is true they were spoken a long time ago but, in my respectful view, they are just as true today as when they were spoken originally. Speaking in Bradford in March, 1914, the Prime Minister said:We must be careful that the honest necessities of the Ulster case do not suffer from their 760 entanglement with Tory Party interests and intrigue.That is peculiarly appropriate to this Measure. If the hon. Lady the Member for Down, North (Mrs. Ford) will allow me to say so, it seemed to me that she was attempting to make a party point about the loyalty or otherwise of those who voted for her; and attempting to use the office of the Governor as some part of a political approach to the question. It would be unfortunate if we did that.
We must all remember that the Irish situation at present is difficult and dangerous. Without going into the rights or wrongs of it, it ought to be said from both sides of this House that there is, unfortunately, a long tradition of violence in Irish politics. One can see from the present trend of events in Ireland that, for various reasons, persons are turning again towards violence. It is with that background that we should approach and deal with any Irish Measure. On this side of the House we ought to say that we do not believe those problems can be solved by violence and we think it is an entirely wrong method of approach.
It is a situation where there is rising unemployment. It is a situation where the approach to unemployment is often a political and a sectarian one. I do not want to go into the matter at great length. I only want to remind the House of what was said by a former Member, Mr. Teevan, shortly before he was chosen by the party opposite to represent them in this House. Speaking of the great danger of the enormous increase in the Roman Catholic population, he said:When I said at Enagh Lough that I felt that if fewer houses and jobs were given to Roman Catholics the position could be remedied, I was immediately subject to a bitter attack from the opposition. But I am not going to desist from my statements in this connection, for I firmly believe that it is due to the treacherous policy of allowing houses, farms and jobs to go to our opponents that we find ourselves having to fight for our lives today.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I fail to see how this conies within the limited objects with which the Bill before us deals.
§ Mr. Bing
I appreciate the point, Mr. Speaker. The argument I was just coming to was that it is against a background of 761 unemployment, and the official Conservative policy in Northern Ireland towards unemployment, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary conies to the House and says, "What shall we do about Northern Ireland? Why, the first economic problem we must deal with is the salary of the Governor."
§ Mr. Speaker
Order, order. I am willing to make every allowance as long as the hon. and learned Gentleman keeps clearly in his mind the distinction between background and foreground. It seems to me, however, that he is bringing the background into the foreground of the discussion.
§ Mr. Bing
I thought, Sir, that the foreground which I am coming to now would stand out all the more clearly if I first sketched in the background.
For that reason I think it unfortunate, when we turn again to the affairs of Northern Ireland, that we turn first to the salary of the Governor, and that this should be in the first Clause of the Bill which has not had the examination that it requires. For example, there are the powers given to the Northern Ireland Government to alter these rather technical provisions of the law.
There may be a good reason for altering them, but one of the reasons for keeping them the same is that the law of the Irish Republic has continued to be the old English law. If we now allow the Northern Ireland Government to change the law there, they may make it more modern, but once again we widen the differences between the two parts of Ireland. In this case the gain may be worth it—it may not be—but that is the attitude in which we should approach this matter, and to that aspect the Home Secretary paid no attention at all. He merely said it would be more convenient. He did not consider why it was that these limitations were placed on those Parliaments.
Now I turn to what was said by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory). I welcome the opportunity of following him. I always marvel that the hon. Gentleman is so passionately in favour of the unity of Poland and so passionately against the unity of his country. However, it makes his approach the fresher and the more interesting. He made a comparison which is entirely beside the point. In trying to justify the 762 high salary which it is suggested should be paid to the Governor of Northern Ireland, he compared him with the Governor-General of New Zealand. I look round the Chamber, but I do not see any hon. Members from New Zealand. It is just because the Governor of Northern Ireland does not represent an independent State that it is wrong that he should have the salary and allowances which go with such a post.
The real trouble is that the Government of Northern Ireland are trying to have it both ways but the Northern Ireland State is too poor in itself to support having it both ways. It is too poor to maintain all the trappings at the top of an independent State, not being an independent State, and at the same time pay decent rates for unemployment insurance and the like. It is true that there is an agreement with this country which reinsures the insurance rate.
I want to ask the Joint Under-Secretary exactly how the expenditure of the fund is to be controlled. How are we to judge? Who is to audit the accounts of the Governor of Northern Ireland to ascertain whether he has spent the amounts on the purposes for which the fund was intended? I can illustrate the difficulty by a quotation from what the late Comptroller and Auditor General in Northern Ireland said when speaking of these financial arrangements and dealing with the social services. He said:The financial agreements of 1948 and 1949 … have sacrificed the last shred of constitutional independence on the financial side. The decisions of officials are endorsed by an illusory body, the Joint Exchequer Board, which never meets.Are we to have the same arrangements for the auditing of the accounts? Will it be a Joint Exchequer Board matter? Will it be decided by the Joint Exchequer Board or the English Auditor General? Will it be an English responsibility—a British imperial responsibility, as the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) would say? The Auditor General, speaking on this matter, said:Northern Ireland is in many aspects converted into a new brand of Crown Colony, though it maintains the state and trappings of an independent legislature. …That comes not from a party politician like myself or the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. P. O'Neill); those are the views of the late Comptroller and 763 Auditor General for Northern Ireland, one of the most distinguished of all Northern Ireland civil servants. That is his view of the position. He goes on to say:Its Government clings to those constitutional powers which it considers necessary to maintain itself in office and to hold intact the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of Ireland—the electoral laws, the powers relating to the police and the lesser courts of law, control over local authorities, surveillance of labour movements from across the border, control of the liquor trade, of dog races, and of education; but, apart from powers such as these, with which it will brook no interference, it has de facto, if not de jure, abdicated its function of independent action or original thought.If the Government has abdicated its function of independent action or original thought, it is not the salary of the Governor that we should raise. When the House discussed the salaries of hon. Members, it took a very different view of the needs and responsibilities of hon. Members from Northern Ireland. I am not making any plea for English hon. Members, but Northern Ireland hon. Members have very great difficulties in representing an area so far away and I should have thought that it would have been much better to use the money for giving slightly higher salaries to Northern Ireland hon. Members than to have used it in the manner suggested.
The Opposition spotlights the idea of raising the salary of the Governor of Northern Ireland at a time of acute economic crisis in Northern Ireland. This House may be doing great harm to itself and to Northern Ireland if it carries through this proposal. If the Northern Ireland Government advised on this matter, it showed little political judgment. Northern Ireland has maintained a Conservative Government since 1922, and the fact that it has no political judgment now is merely a natural result of that state of affairs.
It is a very grave and dangerous thing at this moment to come forward with the big proposal to increase the salary of the Governor. What will be thought? Perhaps we shall hear from the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Wellwood), where there are people who have been unemployed for most of their adult lives and are now having their National Assistance cut. What will all these people 764 think when they find that all that the British Parliament is concerned about is raising the salary of the Governor? The hon. Lady the Member for Down, North spoke about "fervent loyalty." Does she think that that is the way to obtain fervent loyalty, by showing that all we are interested in is the salary of the Governor instead of the welfare of the poorer people in Northern Ireland who are suffering greater hardship than people in any other part of the United Kingdom, and yet it is this part of the United Kingdom which chooses to raise the salaries of the officials?
That is the issue with which we are presented. It seems to me that there ought to be an explanation from Northern Ireland hon. Members. Some of them have not yet spoken. Perhaps some of them have been informed by the Northern Ireland Government that it is setting on foot movements to deal with the economic problems of people other than the Governor and that it just happened that his economic difficulties came to be dealt with first. Let us have some assurance that something is being done in other quarters. Does not the hon. Lady think that there are others in Northern Ireland who have expenses which they cannot meet?
§ Mrs. Ford
We in Northern Ireland are only too pleased when hon. Members opposite come over and see some of our problems, but those problems are always under review on this side of the House by the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister and, although we are glad of any help, we are well able to take care of ourselves.
§ Mr. Bing
I appreciate the hon. Lady's concern for the unemployed of Northern Ireland, but what I do not follow is how the raising of the salary of the Governor will assist the unemployed in their present difficulties. I hoped that the hon. Lady was intervening to explain that. It is all very well to invite Labour hon. Members to advise the Conservative Government of Northern Ireland, but, so far as I know, they have never taken that advice. It does not seem to be sufficient in the present grave situation to invite some people over there and then not take their advice.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We were invited not by the Northern Ireland Government but 765 by persons who represent the Northern Ireland people. While we were happy to tender our advice to Northern Ireland, it was not the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Conservative Government to take the advice.
§ Mr. Bing
I appreciate my hon. Friend's position in the matter, but it is not much use the hon. Lady adopting him now at such a late stage. Are we to be told, before the debate ends, what it is proposed to do?
The other purposes of the Bill are extraordinarily obscure. The last Clause deals with the powers of coroners. Nobody has told us exactly why it is necessary to embark on this matter. One thing is absolutely certain and that is that in the Northern Ireland Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act there is a special Section which enables the Government to prohibit the holding of inquests. If they can prohibit the holding of inquests, I do not know why they should not be able to choose coroners. It is of some significance that the reason given for this Clause at the time was that the Government could not rely on the coroners.
One of the reasons for keeping to this Government the reserve power of the appointment of judges and others has been to attempt to secure some degree of justice in Northern Ireland. It has been felt that the British Parliament could not allow this power to be entrusted to the Conservative Government of Northern Ireland. It was, therefore, a reserve power and always a reserve power to this Parliament.
It may be that it is perfectly all right to allow the Government of Northern Ireland to appoint coroners, but, in view of what was originally said about them and the powers they took and still hold, it seems very odd that at this stage this little power has crept in. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will deal with the Northern Ireland (Special Powers) Act when he replies to the debate and with that provision which enables the prohibition of inquests. Perhaps we can have an undertaking from Northern Ireland that, if we pass this Clause, as a quid pro quo they will give up the power of prohibiting inquests.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) and some of his hon. Friends who have spoken in this debate have endeavoured to relate the principal part of this Bill, the proposed increase in the salary of the Governor-General of Northern Ireland, to the background of the unemployment position in Northern Ireland. In some ways that is a little unfair, although it may be legitimate.
It has also been suggested that this question of unemployment, to which you, Sir, have permitted reference to be made, is one which has come to light largely through the recent visit of various hon. Members from the other side of the House to Northern Ireland, and that the Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies have taken no interest in this at all. That is entirely false and misleading. As the Home Secretary and other Ministers will bear out, all Northern Ireland Unionist Members have been unfailing in their pressure on the Imperial Government to help us in this question, and we are satisfied that they are doing everything that they can. I do not wish to say anything more on that.
I should like now to make just a few remarks on the general nature of this Bill, which is really an amending Bill to what we in Northern Ireland regard as the basis of our Constitution, namely, the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. That Act was essentially a compromise Act. It was an honest endeavour to end the unfortunate civil strife which had been prevailing in Ireland during the previous four years. It is only fair to state that none of the Ulster Unionist Members at the time of the passage of that Act in 1920 wanted the Act at all. They would have much preferred Ulster to remain entirely within the jurisdiction and administration of this Parliament at Westminster, just as do Scotland and Wales today.
For that reason, none of the Ulster Unionist Members in 1920 voted for the Government of Ireland Act, but they did nothing to oppose it, as they were prepared to accept it as a solution to the age-old problem of Ireland. Having accepted the Act, our leader at that time, Lord Carson, said that we would do our best to make it work. For the past 34 years, it has been generally agreed that 767 all but a very small subversive minority in Northern Ireland have honestly tried to make that Act work and have worked it loyally. It is not a perfect Act, but on the whole it has operated pretty well. It has given us a Governor and a local Parliament, and at the same time retained representation of Northern Ireland in this Imperial Parliament.
Since 1920, the Act has required some, but relatively little, amendment, and such changes as have taken place have been designed—as in the present Bill—chiefly to enable the Northern Ireland Parliament to alter Acts passed by this House before 1920 and by the old Irish Parliament before 1800. They were Acts which were applicable solely to Ireland. This Bill does extend in some particulars the powers of the Northern Ireland Parliament. It may be argued that the Bill should go further and give greater powers, but that is something with which I do not wish to deal at the present stage.
The Bill briefly deals with one or two quite minor legal matters and the question of the Governor's salary. So far as the small legal and administrative changes are concerned, I was rather surprised to hear the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch indicating his opposition to these changes on the ground that they would be altering the old English law which obtained before 1920 in the whole of Southern Ireland.
I am surprised that someone of the learning of the hon. and learned Gentleman should refer to old English law, because practically all the law was passed either by the old Irish Parliament before 1800, or, after 1800, by the United Kingdom Parliament exclusively applying to Ireland, such legislation as is referred to in the Schedule of the present Bill, acts like the Lord Lieutenants' and Lord Chancellors' Salaries (Ireland) Act. The Summary Jurisdiction Act, and the Annual Revision of Rateable Property (Ireland) Amendment Act, 1860.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde
If the hon. and learned Gentleman looks at Clause 3, he must agree that what it is sought to change is something which is quite archaic and out of date.
Reference has been made to a Committee presided over by a learned county court judge which considered the question of intestate succession in Northern Ireland and made certain recommendations, but those cannot be implemented until the present Bill becomes law. It is surely archaic that, in the case of an intestacy where no heirs can be found, property can, in certain circumstances, escheat to the mesne lord, or the lord of the manor. It is entirely archaic, and the hon. and learned Gentleman will hardly wish to perpetuate such an anomaly.
In Clause 2, in the same way, there is authority for appeals by way of case stated to go directly from the magistrates' court, or court of quarter sessions, to the court of appeal without the inconvenience and expense of appealing first to a divisional court. There is also the difficulty in Northern Ireland that there is a very small High Court bench from which a divisional court may be constituted for that purpose. There are only two High Court judges and two Appeal Court judges in addition to the Lord Chief Justice. It is most important that this Clause should have effect, because many of the appeals are in respect of rating and valuation matters, and there is about to be a general revaluation of property which which will result in appeals.
The remaining legal matters are trifling. For instance, it is surely right that the statutory rules about the Supreme Court in Northern Ireland should be made available, just as are similar rules in this country. The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch referred to the coroners. He is mistaken in supposing that the special power to prohibit coroners from holding inquests has been retained. It certainly was during the troubled period after the institution of the Northern Ireland Government in 1920.
The power was used for a time but it is a good many years since it was withdrawn, and it has not been reintroduced. Coroners have many other duties to perform, such as the holding of inquests into malicious damage to property, fires, and so on. The coroners have rather special duties compared with those of their 769 opposite numbers in this part of the United Kingdom.
When we consider the proposed increase in the salary of the Governor, it is worth while looking at the history of the matter. In the 1920 Act it was the intention that the old office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should be carried on, and that his jurisdiction should continue to extend over the whole country. The 1920 Act also provided for the setting up of a Parliament in Dublin with similar power to that in Belfast, but in Southern Ireland the 1920 Act became a dead letter.
Those in control in the South had already set up their own Parliament, the Dail, and this was eventually recognised in the Irish Free State Act, 1922. That Act provided, among other matters, that in Northern Ireland the powers of the Lord Lieutenant should devolve upon the Governor, who should be specially appointed.
This point is worth mentioning in passing, especially in view of what the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch said about religious discrimination. It was expressly made clear that there should be no religious disqualification. It is quite open for Her Majesty to appoint a Roman Catholic Governor of Northern Ireland. In the same way, there is no religious discrimination against the holders of civil offices. In the very small High Court bench today one of the judges is a Roman Catholic, and the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland was also of that persuasion.
For nearly a century before the passing of the 1920 Act—in fact, since 1832—the salary of the Lord Lieutenant was not £8,000 or £10,000 a year, but £20,000. The salary of the newly-appointed Governor of Northern Ireland was fixed at £8,000, which was a considerable reduction, and out of it he had to pay his expenses. This figure has continued unchanged for over 30 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory) put very clearly the point that we know that the first two Governors—especially the Duke of Abercorn—were obliged to meet many of these expenses out of their own pockets.
It is only right that the Governor should be able to do his job with the dignity suitable to Her Majesty's repre- 770 sentative in this part of the United Kingdom, and without cost to himself in the process. In the circumstances I hope that this Measure will be given an unopposed Second Reading, for it is for the good of the people of Northern Ireland. It has the support of the Government and Parliament of Northern Ireland and also of those Ulster Unionist Members who sit in this House.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
I do not wish to be unduly provocative because, if I am, some other Ulster Unionist Members might feel compelled to speak, and I am reluctant to cause such an ordeal to be inflicted on the House. I should like to say a few words in reply to those Unionist Members who have spoken. I am sorry that I cannot reply to the hon. Lady for Down, North (Mrs. Ford), because she did not say anything.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Professor D. Savory) made the astonishing statement that in this connection, or in anything to do with the Governor's office, partition was irrelevant. I thought that that was the most relevant feature of all. I do not intend to speak this evening on partition. My views on the subject are very well known and I have other comments which I wish to make, but I should have thought that without partition there would have been no Governor at all and, therefore, the Bill would not have been before the House. Not for the first time, I am unable to follow the hon. Gentleman's process of reasoning.
The hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) has been telling us that the Ulster Unionist Members have been unfailing in their pressure upon the Minister of Labour and others during a very long period, bringing to their notice the high incidence of unemployment in Northern Ireland. I should like to ask him, or any other Ulster Unionist Member, how many visits he paid to the Ministry of Labour at any time when the Labour Government were in office.
I am willing to give way if any hon. Member will tell me how many times they saw the Minister of Labour. Their silence is more eloquent than it usually is.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Now that the hon. Gentleman has received an answer, perhaps we can pass on to the Bill. I have allowed references to unemployment, but it is an abuse of the rules to go into the question in any detail on such a slender basis as that provided by the Bill.
§ Mr. Delargy
I was merely trying to reply to what has been said by certain hon. Members opposite, Sir.
I draw attention to Clause 1, which makes fresh provision for the salary and expenses of the Governor. I certainly intend no personal disrespect to the present holder of the office. He is personally unknown to me, though the little I have heard about him is certainly to his credit, but it must be apparent to everybody that the office is a sinecure. The duties are perhaps the most microscopic of any that constitute a sinecure at the disposal of the Government—and that is saying something. Indeed, if the office were abolished tomorrow nobody would be the loser except those people who delight to go to the Governor's receptions at Hillsborough.
No one would be the loser if the office were abolished, and the British taxpayer would benefit by the amount of money which we are asked to sanction today. We are asked to vote a very considerable amount—an amount which I consider to be far too substantial. Here we are giving £14,000 a year, £10,000 of which is tax-free, to a gentleman who, in return for this vast sum of money, is asked to perform a few ceremonial functions, most of which are useless.
He is receiving a far greater sum than is the Prime Minister of this country. While I do not approve of the actual work being done by the present Prime Minister, I must agree that he does do some work. Here we are paying this enormous sum of money to a person who merely opens Parliament once a year, signs a few documents and gives a few receptions. And, I repeat, this money has to be found entirely by the British taxpayer. It is high time somebody raised his voice in protest on behalf of the British taxpayer, who is already heavily overburdened.
As has already been said, it is particularly unfortunate that we are showing such excessive generosity to the Governor of Northern Ireland when Northern Ireland people are suffering from unemployment. In deference to your wishes, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to pursue the 772 economic argument about unemployment in Northern Ireland in the detail in which I had hoped to do. But I must refer to one aspect of it and I am not referring to the economic aspect. It is an aspect which might come within the ambit of the responsibilities of the Governor himself. It is true that the percentage figure for the entire Province is itself high, but much more significant is that in the City of Derry the percentage is 20. In Newry the percentage is 25—
§ Captain Orr
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member is producing certain figures capable of rebuttal. You have ruled that we cannot go into detail on the matter. If I seek to catch your eye later on, shall I have an opportunity to deal with this in detail?
§ Mr. Speaker
I was listening to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) to hear what was the relevance of his argument to the Bill, which is concerned with the salary of the Governor. The hon. Member prefaced what he was saying by stating that it was relevant to the issue, and I believed him. But I must say that at first glance I do not see that the different percentages of unemployment in different towns can possibly be relevant to the subject matter of the Bill.
§ Mr. Delargy
I hope to show in two minutes, or even less, that it has very great relevance indeed. It so happens that those two towns have strong nationalist majorities, strong anti-Unionist majorities. Therefore, it would appear that the problem of unemployment in Northern Ireland applies more to the nationalists than to anyone else. It is not only economic.
Furthermore, and more significant, these two towns happen to be border towns. They happen to be danger spots. Their nationalist feelings, already exacerbated, are now outraged by this grave economic burden of unemployment. Trouble may arise, troops may be moved in and the responsibilities of the Governor will be more severe than they are now. I therefore maintain that the considerations of unemployment, particularly in Derry and Newry, are relevant to the consideration of an increase in the salary of the Governor.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have every desire to assist the hon. Member. I see what he 773 means. But he will agree with me that it would be quite improper on this Bill to go into the details of unemployment. The point he has made is a short one, and he has made it. I hope that we may now pass to other parts of the Bill.
§ Mr. Delargy
I had hoped to develop the point at greater length, but, of course, I accept your Ruling, Sir.
The Minister said that this was a reform which was long overdue. I have certain reservations about his interpretation of the word "reform." But he is very new to his office, and I would commend to his consideration many other reforms which are very much overdue in Northern Ireland. I hope that he will consider them at an early date and tell the House something about them.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan McKibbin (Belfast, East)
The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) and other hon. Members have suggested that the Government of Northern Ireland would be better employed in trying to solve the problem of unemployment than in endeavouring to give a salary increase for the Governor. No one, especially myself, would suggest that the employment situation is as it should be. But the Ulster Government are doing and have done everything they can to deal with this matter, in very difficult circumstances.
Government-assisted firms are providing well-paid work for over 32,000 men and women, and the rate of unemployment has fallen considerably since 1952. The prospects are that there will be a further substantial reduction in the unemployment figures next year. The Government have in hand 250,000 square feet of factory space and British Thomson-Houston, at Larne, require factory space amounting to 1,400,000 square feet—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. While allowing some reference to unemployment, I have been trying to prevent the House from going into detail on a matter which is really foreign to this Bill. There have been certain references to unemployment from both sides of the House and, while a limited mention of unemployment may be allowed, I must ask hon. Members not to go into the matter in detail.
§ Mr. McKibbin
I accept your Ruling, Sir, as did the hon. Member for Thurrock, and I shall not say a lot of the things I should like to have said. The hon. Member for Thurrock did the same, but he got away with quite a lot—probably far more than I shall get away with.
There is one thing I should like to say. Apart from the suggestions against the Ulster Government in this matter, there were suggestions that hon. Members representing Ulster constituencies had done very little. Today, I received a letter from someone who thinks differently, as follows:
§ "DEAR SIR,
§ I have been instructed by the Coleraine Unemployment Committee to express our grateful appreciation of your splendid effort on our behalf to have industries established and other means of employment. It is our earnest wish that you will be successful in your efforts.
§ Yours sincerely, WILLIAM NEVIN.
§ On behalf of the Unemployment Committee."
§ The people over there do not seem to think as badly about us as do some people over here, and I would add that there is to be a factory established in Coleraine next year.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Ralph Clarke (East Grinstead)
So far, on this side of the House no one has spoken who does not represent a Northern Ireland constituency. I wish to express my full support for this Bill, and I hope that it will receive an unopposed Second Reading. I do so as one who has a very great admiration for the people of Northern Ireland, for their tough, progressive spirit and transcendent loyalty to this country, and also as one who has a number of friends in Northern Ireland and who pays visits there from time to time.
This is quite a simple Bill, and its passing would in no way prejudice the provision of larger legislation at a later date. I feel that some of the arguments against a Second Reading on the ground that there are more important things to consider are, therefore, ill-founded.
After what has been said, I naturally will not refer more than very briefly to the question of unemployment. From my experience of being in Northern Ireland and of talking to Members of its Government, to officials, and to private individuals and friends, I found that the 775 question of unemployment there is one which causes the very greatest concern to everyone. It is before them all the time, and they are very well aware of it.
One should hesitate to compare figures of unemployment in Northern Ireland with those in this country for the simple reason that, though the manufacturers there sell in the same markets as ourselves, their raw materials, and particularly their fuel, have to be taken over there, and this adds to the cost of what they produce. After manufacture, their goods have to be sent to this country for sale.
I think we are all agreed that the Governor should have an increase in the emoluments of his office. Some hon. Members opposite thought that what the Government were proposing was not enough, while others thought that it was too much. That, surely, is a matter for the Committee stage. The emoluments which the Governor is at present receiving were fixed in a far different sort of world, and at a time when those who took office were expected, very largely, to pay for what it cost them out of their own pockets. The level of taxation has made such a system utterly impossible today.
I wish to associate myself with some of the things that have been said about the present Governor. He and I come from the same village in Sussex. He was a Member of this House, and I have known him for a long time. Everything said about him is very well merited. I hope that this little Bill, the passing of which will really help our friends in Northern Ireland, will be given an unopposed Second Reading. I think that would be a graceful act on the part of this country to the people of a part of the Commonwealth who, as I have already said, are most transcendantly loyal.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Sir David Campbell (Belfast, South)
There have been many accusations by hon. Members opposite in the course of the debate of a lack of purpose, both on the part of the Government of Northern Ireland and of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, in regard to unemployment, National Assistance, and other matters You. Mr. Speaker. 776 have very rightly ruled that one cannot go into detail in discussing these matters.
Adequately to reply to the accusations made would necessitate going into the matter in detail, and I hope that an opportunity will be given for the whole matter to be thrashed out in this House. Any suggestions made from either side of the House which would help the Northern Ireland Government and Her Majesty's Government to solve the question of unemployment in Northern Ireland would, I am sure, be welcomed by all the people of Uuster, and certainly by the Ulster Unionist Members.
It has been said that National Assistance in Northern Ireland is dealt with in an entirely different manner from that adopted in this country. The facts are that the Regulations governing National Assistance in Northern Ireland are exactly the same as those in Great Britain, except in two small matters. One is that nobody is held to be entitled to a grant from National Assistance until he has a five years' residence qualification; the other is that Assistance is not grantable to people who are in occupation of more than a certain acreage of land. I suppose that the latter rule is not necessary in Great Britain because the small farming system that exists in Northern Ireland does not exist in this country.
§ Mr. Michael O'Neill (Mid-Ulster)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain the rule about the "bad record of unemployment"?
§ Sir D. Campbell
One further point. Legislation provides for the setting up of appeal boards in Northern Ireland. Their members consist of either a barrister or a solicitor as chairman, a representative of the employer, and a representative of the employee, who is usually a trade union official. So far as I am aware, these appeal boards are carrying out their work publicly, reasonably, and loyally.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
During this debate, several arguments have been advanced from the benches opposite for pausing before giving this Bill a Second Reading. In the course of those arguments, the background of unemployment in Northern Ireland was painted in, and mention was also made of the "unfortunate" administration of the National Assistance Board.
777 During the course of the debate, I rose twice on points of order in an endeavour to seek to determine the scope of the debate. It has become clear, Mr. Speaker, that in deference to your Ruling these matters cannot be debated today. If they could, some very good arguments could be put forward on all sides, and I, personally, would welcome a very full debate on the question of the unemployment position in Northern Ireland and the administration of the National Assistance Board.
I echo what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Sir D. Campbell) on the unemployment position in Northern Ireland. I would draw the attention of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—
§ Captain Orr
I am sorry, but I hope that the time may not be long distant when the honour which will make the hon. Gentleman a right hon. Gentleman will be conferred upon him. At the same time, of course, I hope that the occasion will not be any unfortunate return to office of his party.
I wish to draw attention to the fact that there was a very good opportunity of debating the question of unemployment in Northern Ireland in the House this Session, namely, in the debate on the Address. I took the opportunity on that occasion, and I was sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East did not happen to be present so as to give us the benefit of his views upon it.
§ Captain Orr
Again, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I will amend what I said and say that I am sorry that he did not happen to be there for the purpose of giving us the benefit of his views on that occasion.
One small point has arisen which ought to be dealt with, and with which I want to deal. The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), who was the opening spokesman from the benches opposite, the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) and one or two other hon. Members opposite referred to the powers of the Governor of Northern Ireland, and to the possibility that the 778 allowance of £10,000 might not be adequate to deal with the possible state of violence arising. The idea that the border areas of Ireland are seething with discontent and that there might at any time be a recrudescence of violence in Ireland is a very hypothetical contention.
May I say in all earnestness to hon. Members opposite that the 1920 Act, which this Bill to some degree seeks to modify, brought about a state of affairs in Ireland which has practically done away with the almost natural and continuous state of violence which existed in Ireland prior to 1920? Nothing could be worse for Ireland at the present time than for people to make speeches about possible inflammatory situations and about rising unemployment when, in fact, unemployment is not rising. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, it has decreased since I first raised the matter in this House nearly three years ago.
It is quite improper to paint a picture of that sort. It does no good to anybody. There is nothing worse than exaggerating a position and trying to make political capital out of it. I hope that the party opposite will not continue along those lines, because those lines are fraught with danger. I hope that the Bill will have its Second Reading, and that the Governor will have a long and happy period of office. I hope that the various arrangements proposed in the Bill, and which enable certain types of legislation to be better dealt with, will prove to be to the advantage of everyone, and of the people of Northern Ireland in particular.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I have been reminded during this debate of a previous debate in this House many years ago, when neither you, I think, Mr. Speaker, nor I were here. One of the Irish Members, who was then from the south of that country, wanted to discuss Ireland on a colonial affairs day. He was firmly rebuked by Mr. Speaker, but he managed to hold on to his place, and he made the whole of the references that he wished to make about Ireland by referring to "British Guiana" I have the feeling that a number of my hon. Friends, and, indeed, some hon. Gentlemen opposite, have been nearly as skilful this afternoon in making the points that they wished to make on a matter. 779 which, as you have rightly ruled, Mr. Speaker, is outside the scope of the Bill.
The difficulty in which you, Sir, and we have all been put is the fault of the Government. They want us to talk about one thing while the people of Northern Ireland want us to talk about another. The people of Northern Ireland are not interested in the salary of the Governor. What they are interested in was impressed upon those of us who visited Northern Ireland just before Christmas; it is their economic future and the problem of getting work for their people. That is why, when we discuss petty matters such as who shall administer coroners' courts, and even greater matters like the salary and expenses of the Governor, we are up against difficulties.
The real problems of Northern Ireland are not being discussed today. [Interruption.] I do not think there is a point of interruption, but I will give way to the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Captain Orr
It is a point of interruption. The hon. Gentleman has deplored the fact that we do not debate Northern Ireland matters more often in this House. The Opposition have many Supply days at their disposal, but never seek to ask for a debate on Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I will gladly come to that point; indeed, I may as well pick it up now.
I made the point clearly that we should be discussing the economic situation instead of the administration of coroners' courts. Now the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks why we do not have further discussions on the economic situation of Northern Ireland. I tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, in so far as it is within the command of the Opposition, there will be further debates on Northern Ireland. We only wish that Ulster Unionist Members had themselves brought pressure to bear upon the Leader of the House, who dispenses the time of the House, to see that Government time is set aside for that purpose. There is no reason why the Opposition should be charged with the responsibility of finding time to debate the situation in Northern Ireland.
Because hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the Ulster Unionist Party, are so tied to 780 the coat-tails of the Conservative majority, we shall have to find time; and, in the interests of Northern Ireland people, we shall do so. I tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman now that we do not intend to leave this matter alone, however he may ask us to do so, for the reason given by the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Sir R. Clarke), for whom I have a great respect in these matters. We do not intend to leave it alone, because there is a pocket of unemployment in the British Isles numbering 37,000 people and it has been increasing over the last three months. We believe that it should not exist and could be got rid of by the Government of Northern Ireland and Her Majesty's Government if they approached the task with sufficient energy and ability.
We shall persist in raising this matter as far as, and as often as, we can. I warn the House that it may become a little tired of hearing the subject. If only we can persuade Ulster Unionists to take up the call in this House, we may be able to leave it alone, but I say frankly that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), my right hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) and myself were shocked, when we visited Northern Ireland, to see the economic position of people there. We think that any man of good will who went to Northern Ireland would share our shame that this pocket of unemployment should exist in that part of that country.
Now I should like to turn to this question of the Governor's salary. As the Home Secretary explained, the Governor has been in receipt of a salary of £8,000 a year. After he paid tax, his net salary was £3,337, if I read the financial tables right. We know that the rates of taxation are steeply progressive in this range. Under the proposed new arrangements, his salary is to be reduced to £4,000. According to the financial tables, he will be left with a net salary of £2,287, after paying tax. I am sure that the Under-Secretary will correct me if that is not so. Therefore, a diminution of the Governor's gross income by £4,000 diminishes his net income by only £1,100. That is a measure of the steeply-graduated nature of our Income Tax in these ranges of income.
If the Governor is to receive a substantial expense allowance, this is 781 equivalent to a very large increase in his gross salary. I pressed the Home Secretary on the question of the taxation of the allowance. If I understand the position now that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has explained it, the allowance is to be paid in advance, tax-free, and will not be subject to check by the Auditor General. I will give one or two specimen figures to show what it amounts to.
If the Governor of Northern Ireland should receive £4,000 in expenses—that is a reasonable figure within the maximum of £10,000—it will be equivalent to increasing his net emolument to £6,287 as against his present emolument of £3,337. If he were to receive £5,000 in expenses, his net emolument would be increased to £7,287. If he received the full sum of £10,000, he would get £12,287 as his total emolument. I do not know whether the Home Secretary has paused to think how much one would have to earn in this country to get a tax-free salary of £7,287. It would be a six-figure salary.
The Home Secretary should be aware that this method of paying emoluments in tax-free terms is open to considerable abuse. I am not suggesting that it is being abused in this case, although I wish to make one criticism. I understand that the amount is to be paid in advance; in other words, there is to be no accounting by the Governor for his expenditure. He is presumably to supply an estimate to the Home Secretary of what expenses he hopes, expects, fears, he may incur. The Home Secretary will then vouch for it, and it will be paid. It will not be subject to check at the end of the year by the Auditor General.
That, really, has been the criticism of the nature of the job being done by the Governor. He may not be able to estimate properly either way what his expenditure will be. If in one year a sudden Royal visit descends on him I suppose that he will be able to put in a supplementary claim for any extra expenditure incurred, but it is equally possible that in another year he will not incur all the expenditure. In that case—and this is my reason for going into so much detail on this tax-free side—every £100 of tax-free income not spent on expenses means a very great deal in terms of gross income. That is why I 782 put it to the Home Secretary that this needs looking into again.
I leave that, and revert to some of the reasons why we have raised certain points, though I do not wish to deal in detail with the points themselves. I was interested to hear one hon. Member opposite say that the Governor should be allowed to do his job in dignity. I think we are all agreed on that, but what comes to my mind equally is the dignity of the unemployed man who is seeking work. I believe that there was a prior charge. on our time; that there was a prior claim on the Government to bring the economic situation of Northern Ireland before the House in advance of legislation dealing with the Governor's salary. That is exactly why we have raised the matter in this way.
I do not think that anyone on this side has suggested that the Bill should be opposed. What we despair of is the Government's sense of priorities which leads them to introduce a Measure like this at a time when unemployment in Northern Ireland has increased over the last three months, and is increasing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth underestimated the position. Were there unemployment in England today in proportion to that which exists in Northern Ireland it would be equivalent to 1¾ million persons. Can the House imagine what would be the nature of the debates, the stormy complexion of the House, and the activities of hon. Members whose constituents were suffering if that were the situation here?
I am amazed at the supineness of people like the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), who has 25 per cent. unemployment in his constituency. I am amazed that he does not hound the Government, instead of smiling—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
I think the hon. Member is going beyond just a reference to the priorities.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We shall, no doubt, have an opportunity to come back to this subject in due course.
I turn to a related subject. If I brush the skirts of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I assure you that I have considered the matter carefully, and hope and believe 783 that you will consider me to be in order. I am sorry to have to do it in this way. I wish we could have spoken in open debate on Northern Ireland, but the problems are so urgent that we feel we must, within the rules of order, exercise what legitimate opportunities we have to make these particular points as well as we can.
§ Captain Orr
At the moment, the hon. Member is castigating the Government for not giving time for discussion of Northern Ireland affairs and the unemployment position there. It is true that unemployment was worse when he, personally, left office than it is now.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
This is really going into a discussion on unemployment, and that is beyond the scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The figure has already been quoted, so I presume that I should not be out of order in requoting it. Unemployment was at its highest in 1952, when it was 10 per cent. In 1952, hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for the administration of Northern Ireland.
I should like to ask—and I apologise for covering the point in this way—whether the allowable expenditure of the Governor of Northern Ireland will be open to include charitable bequests? Could he, for example, start a fund for the long-term unemployed in Northern Ireland? If so, I suggest that it would be a very good thing if part of the expenses which are now to be voted to the Governor—and I am dealing specifically with expenses—might be set aside for such a fund. I believe that that would appeal to the people there as showing the Government's desire, if they cannot find them work, at least to find them proper sustenance.
I suggest for example that his expense allowance and his fund might very well be used for dealing with cases such as that of a woman aged 55—in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's constituency—who has had a National Assistance allowance—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Following a precedent which I believe he quoted, the hon. Gentleman is now being very ingenious, but I think that that is stretching the rules of order a little too far.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If you do not feel that such a fund would be available for 784 elderly women whose National Assistance is being so cut down that they have to live on 30s. a week, there is really nothing I can say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
Perhaps I can put this point, which would be not only ingenious but could hardly be out of order. In paragraph 3 (a) of the Schedule to the Social Services (Northern Ireland Agreement) Act, 1949, an obligation is laid upon the Northern Ireland Governmentto maintain the rates of benefit in respect of assistance grants. …It comes hard on us to have to consider this sort of Measure when the Government have not satisfied themselves that the terms of the Social Services (Northern Ireland Agreement) Act, 1949, have been carried out. If the Northern Ireland Government are not, in fact, carrying out the terms of this legislation, how can we be certain that we should give them the powers to investigate coroners' courts as contained in the present Bill?
My only comment on what has been said by the hon. Member for Belfast. South (Sir D. Campbell) about the fairness with which the National Assistance regulations are administered is that there are hundreds of people in Northern Ireland who flatly disagree with him. When I was there I was given a bunch of cases of people who felt that they had been badly—improperly—treated. The hon. Member advanced that fairness as a reason for giving the Northern Ireland Government these further powers. I rebut that and say that if these charges can be proved there is no case for giving the Northern Ireland Parliament the powers they seek. These cases exist and there is grave concern and distress in Northern Ireland today which should be remedied.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has already had three bites.
I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McKibbin) quoting from a letter he has received from members of the unemployed in Coleraine thanking him for the help he had given them. I am glad that they should have done that, and I am sure that he must merit their thanks. I, too, would like to read a letter which I have received this 785 morning. It is dated 29th January, 1955, and states:I have been instructed by the Coleraine Unemployed Committee to express our grateful appreciation of your splendid effort on our behalf to have industries established and other means of employment. It is our earnest wish that you will be successful in your efforts.We are having a public meeting in the Town Hall on Thursday, 3rd February. We would appreciate a message from you for this meeting.The difference between the hon. Gentleman and me is that they are apparently content to thank him, but want me to give them a message.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. Another letter has been read to the same effect. Now those two letters are equal, and I think we had better abandon the subject.
§ Mr. McKibbin
I would merely like to say that that is also stated at the end of my letter, but as I had already been called to order, I did not quote that part of it.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I congratulate the people of Coleraine on backing both horses.
All I wish to say, in conclusion, is that I regret that we have to bring these problems here. I regret that we have to fall foul of the Chair in tackling them. I only wish that in Stormont there were some sort of Labour Opposition which did the job instead. If only there were some Labour Members there, we would not have to spend the time of the Imperial Government on these issues.
I do not ask my hon. Friends to oppose this Bill or to divide the House on it. We have made our protest. We have done what we could. We are only voices in the Opposition, but we have done what we could to bring the plight of the people of Northern Ireland to the attention of this House, and, however inconvenient it may be to the Ulster Unionist Members opposite, I promise them that we shall bring it up here again and again until they rise and make certain that their own Government in Stormont and in Westminster solve this tragic human problem.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
Almost every speaker in this debate has referred to unemployment, and 786 I should like to say at the outset that Her Majesty's Government are deeply concerned about the unemployment position in Northern Ireland. I can certainly assure the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) that Her Majesty's Government are making a very careful examination indeed of the proposals to which he and others have referred during this debate.
I think that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) really recognises—though, to keep himself in order, he could not admit it—that matters dealt with in this Bill are not really matters which can be compared in priority with such questions as unemployment. Of course, if anyone has to decide which is the more important question he will probably come down on the side of unemployment, but that does not mean that the House should be precluded from giving consideration to proper matters of another kind, if those matters can be justified on their merits.
I want to deal with the points that have been raised in this debate on the merits of the proposals mentioned in the Bill. The debate has dealt more with Clause 1 of the Bill than with any other part. The purpose of that Clause is to change the basis of payment of the Governor of Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred to certain figures in that connection. I did not interrupt him because when hon. Members are arguing about figures it is usually inadvisable to do so. They usually go on with their arguments, even when they are told that they are wrong.
The hon. Gentleman assumes that at present the Governor is receiving a salary of £8,000 a year, all actually taxed. Although that £8,000 a year is liable to be taxed, it can be freed from Income Tax by the ordinary rules. That is to say, the Governor can claim tax remission, and as he has to find a considerable amount of necessary expenses out of that sum, I can tell the House, without giving precise figures, that a very considerable part of the £8,000 a year has in the past been paid free of tax; so that the comparison which the hon. Gentleman made is not fair.
The figures which the Bill proposes have been arrived at in a fair and proper way, and I will try to explain the matter 787 as fully as I can. The right hon. Member for Blyth asked why £10,000 a year had been fixed as the maximum for the allowance. That figure was taken after an examination of the previous spending by the Governor over the past few years. In this connection I could go a little further and say that, as far as we can see at present, the total expenditure which is likely to have to be met under this heading will be about £9,000 a year, but from that there will have to be deducted the amount which the Governor himself will have to provide out of his £4,000 a year as his personal contribution towards running the house. Assuming that that is £1,250 a year, the amount of the allowance is likely to start at about £7,750 a year.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
That is the amount of the allowance. The £4,000 is salary. The Governor would have to find his own share of running the house, which I am taking at £1,250 a year. That would leave him with a balance of £7,750 as his allowance.
Various hon. Members have made guesses about the way in which this allowance would be dealt with, and I think it is right to tell the House how it will in fact be dealt with. First, the Governor will have to provide precise estimates of what he thinks will be required next year for these purposes. Those estimates will be considered by my right hon. and gallant Friend and by the Treasury in exactly the same way as Estimates from a Government Department in this country would be considered, and will be subject to all the usual controls. I think hon. Members will appreciate that it is not very easy to get past the Treasury something that is not strictly justified by the rules. That procedure will have to be carried out before the new method of payment comes into being, and the Governor will then receive that amount of allowance.
One hon. Member asked me how it would be paid, whether the bills would be paid directly by the Government here or whether they would fall to be paid by the Governor himself. The money will be paid to the Governor, who will himself discharge the liability; but at the end of the year, if there is a deficit, it will be for 788 the Governor to go through all the necessary actions which a Government Department in this country has to go through if it finds that it has a deficit on its Estimate. Correspondingly, if there is a surplus, it will be carried forward and taken into account in the payment for next year. I do not think that the apprehensions that have been expressed by hon. Members opposite will be found to be well-founded when they consider that that is what will have to be done.
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in an interruption, asked a question, and my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory) spoke about, the office expenses. My hon. Friend is correct in pointing out that the Government of Northern Ireland will have a new liability under the Bill of meeting the Governor's office expenses. I cannot say precisely what these will be, but it seems probable that they will not be very far short of the £2,000 for which the Northern Ireland Government are escaping liability—so that, on balance, the difference is not very great.
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) made a number of remarks of a general kind and referred specifically to Clause 5 and the position of coroners. The law relating to coroners in Northern Ireland has never been consolidated, and remains scattered over a fair number of enactments, commencing with the Statute of Westminster, 1275, applied to Ireland by the Irish Statute known as Poyning's Law, 1495.
The Government of Northern Ireland has under consideration plans for the amendment and consolidation of these enactments. They contemplate appointing fewer coroners and enlarging the jurisdiction of those appointed. It is probable that a State pathologist may also be appointed. I do not think that that is an unreasonable step to take, put perhaps I can reassure the hon. and learned Member that the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act of Northern Ireland has no conceivable reference to what is intended to be done under this Clause, nor could it have any reference.
§ Mr. Bing
Would not the hon. Gentleman at the same time press the Northern Ireland Government to remove from the body of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act this curious provision enabling them to prohibit the holding of 789 inquests? It seems to me desirable that if they are by law to appoint coroners and pathologists, they should hold inquests.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
That has nothing to do with this provision, and I should be out of order if I tried to deal with it within the scope of the Bill. The other steps proposed to be taken are of a similarly useful character. No detailed criticisms of them have been raised in any part of the House. I think that this is a useful Measure, and I hope that its passage will receive the unanimous agreement of the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Colonel J. H. Harrison.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.