§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL rose to ask His Majesty's Government what steps have been taken to provide pensions, allowances, and safe conduct for those members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who wish to leave Ireland with their 377 families; also, how many members of the force have been enlisted for service over-sea; and to move for a Return setting out all the details.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I make no apology to your Lordships for asking you briefly to consider this afternoon the case of the Royal Irish Constabulary. It is a case urgent in itself and vital to the officers and men of that splendid force, and I venture to say that if it be not generously handled it may well be vital alike to the reputation for fair play and the honour of Great Britain. It would be a disaster if it were recorded in our annals that these officers and men had not been treated with generosity upon their disbandment. I do not rise to make any attack upon His Majesty's Government. I am one of those who hold that during the last seven or eight years, in fact ever since the war broke out, and especially during the last two years— a period when I had no personal experience because, for reasons of health, I had to resign my position in the Government—the problems with which His Majesty's Government have been confronted have been not only extraordinary in their number but complex to a degree which I believe was rarely, if ever, reached before, and that they have done their very best to solve those problems and to meet them as an English Government ought to meet them. For this reason, if for no other, I do not propose this afternoon to make any attack upon the policy of the Government with respect to the provision made for the Royal Irish Constabulary.
§ I have yet another reason, which is that in the suggestions which I shall venture with great respect to make to your Lordships and to the Government, I deal far more with detail than with any principle concerned in this provision. I have read a debate which took place yesterday in another place and I believe that an appeal addressed in this House to His Majesty's Government would be welcomed by them. I cannot help thinking that the support of both Houses of Parliament for the Royal Irish Constabulary, and for some changes of a more generous character, would be helpful to the Government and therefore helpful to the cause that I have at heart to-day.
§ It is unnecessary to remind your Lordships of the record of the Royal Irish Constabulary, but their period of existence 378 has come to an end and I think it is fitting that every opportunity should be taken to pay a tribute, however inadequate, to the services which that great force has rendered, and to remember how wonderful that record is. I remember, years ago, discussing that force with the late Lord Roberts, one of our greatest and most experienced soldiers and administrators, and he told me that in his opinion it was one of the finest, if not the finest force of the kind he had ever known—high praise indeed from such a man. The record of the Royal Irish Constabulary may be summed up in a very few words. Ever since their constitution, through all the perils, difficulties and trials through which they have passed, their record is one of stainless loyalty to the Crown and the State and fearless, undeviating devotion to duty. It is melancholy to think that it is for this wonderful performance of duty that so many of them are suffering to-day. A remarkable cartoon which appeared in Punch this week gives some idea of what is the prospect before them and of what is the situation with which we are faced now, exiled from their own homes, driven from the land of their birth for no other reason than that they did their duty.
My object, as I Lave said, is not to ask the Government to tear up their schemes and to draw up fresh ones, but to make some changes in those schemes as they are presented to Parliament. I realise that the Government have recognised, and recognised in many respects, the services of the Royal Irish Constabulary, but it is true that—
The best-laid schemes o' mice and men Gang aft a-gley,
and it may be that the best schemes, unless meticulously examined while in the care and charge of Parliament, may not have the effect which their authors intended. Many serious mistakes may thus result with possibly great suffering to this distinguished force. Should that be the case, there would be great discredit to ourselves. The truth is that in considering the case of the Royal Irish Constabulary it is impossible to make any comparison between them and their present circumstances and any other force, military or otherwise, which has ever existed. Then, is no precedent, so far as I know, for the present situation. I believe, if it is to be met so that something more than justice may be meted out to the officers and Lien of this force, that
we must not hesitate to strike out a new line with respect to the provision made for them, and to strike it out boldly and fearlessly, because we know we shall be only doing what is right by men who have done their utmost for us.
§ The provision made for the Royal Irish Constabulary can be divided under two heads—(1) the pensions; (2) the allowances, called, I see, by the Chief Secretary by the very appropriate and simple name of compensation allowances. If I may be permitted to do so I shall refer to this second subject as the compensation allowances. Over all, as I understand it, with reference both to pensions and to allowances, there is established a tribunal with power to vary any of the arrangements made. I hope I shall be forgiven if I say that I have a criticism to pass upon the constitution of this tribunal, based upon very long experience of Ireland. I have known Ireland for more than half a century, and I have been connected with the Government of Ireland, and I have never been able to understand why it so often happens that the Government insist upon appointing Englishmen, or Scotsmen, or Welshmen, to preside over inquiries intended to investigate really difficult Irish problems. I hold, and I think many others who know Ireland and who have Irish blood in their veins also hold, that it is almost impossible to appreciate the difficulties of Ireland, to understand the conditions, and to realise what is actually going on or has been going on there, unless you live in the country, know the people, and, indeed, unless you have some Irish blood in your veins.
§ For this general reason, and on no personal ground, I regret that this tribunal is not to be presided over by a great Irish Civil Servant. It is to be presided over by a very distinguished Civil Servant, a personal friend of my own. A more capable man, a more impartial man, you could not possibly desire to find; but none the less I wish that a tribunal which has such wide powers and which deals with questions of such vital import to these officers and men were in the hands of those who really know from personal experience what has been going on in Ireland during recent years. I have no criticism to offer from any other point of view, but I believe that questions will arise for consideration by this tribunal which will require an infinite knowledge of the condition of things, which is almost incomprehensible to those who have not had personal experience.380
§ I have no great criticism to pass upon the scheme of pensions. I think, generally speaking, it is fair, and in some cases it may be described as generous. But there is room for improvement. Some of the pensions which I have examined, especially in the case of the younger members, whether officers or men, appear to me to be too small. Of course, in the ordinary case of pensions while you take the number of years' service it is right and proper that you should hold, as the State always does, that if a man is pensioned when he is young and vigorous, he has opportunities of making a living for himself in other ways. In this case, however, it must not be forgotten that in the large majority of cases this opening is denied to these officers and men, through no fault of their own, and denied the more determinedly just in proportion as their service has been most dangerous and most loyal.
§ There is one question I want to ask which applies right through the service. A certain number of men have been employed in higher grades than that which they actually hold, and yet, when it comes to their pension, that service in the higher grade is not allowed to count. I do not know why that should be. I have here two or three cases which illustrate what I mean. Here is a senior officer who was in the Constabulary when I was in Ireland, who, to my knowledge, has rendered most brilliant service, and who was a divisional commander—a new grade since I was in Ireland. He had control of more than 2,000 men, and had performed his duties in some of the most difficult and dangerous areas. Yet, when it comes to pensioning him on compulsory disbandment, he is not allowed to count in respect of his pension the two or three or more years that he served as a district commissioner. There is another case of a junior officer, a district inspector, who served in the war, was recalled to the Royal Irish Constabulary, performed the duties of county inspector for two or three years, and yet the latter service is not allowed to count. It is thought in some quarters that the reason why it is not allowed to count is because there is a standing Treasury rule in connection with the force that there shall not be more than a certain number of county inspectors. If that is the reason, I submit, with great respect, that it ought to be swept away, and that if these men were performing these duties for any 381 reasonable time, that period of service ought to count towards the augmentation of their pension.
§ I have also the case of a head constable, a rank which is equivalent to a warrant officer in the Army. He was acting-district inspector. He had thirty-two years' service, and on disbandment he gets a pension of £236, with which he has to make a new home. On that pension he could have retired several years ago. There are other cases with which I will not trouble your Lordships now, but I have given three different cases, two of officers in a commissioned rank, and one in a non-commissioned rank, and I can assure your Lordships that they are not cases specially picked out for their exceptional severity, but cases which represent the different classes to which I have referred. I submit that there is a real and substantial injustice, and that it can be remedied without either great cost to the State or any injury to the main framework of the Government proposals.
§ I come now to the second part of my subject—compensation and other allowances. While I do not hesitate to say that, in my judgment, these are not sufficient for the purpose for which they are required, there is also a different ground on which their reconsideration should be urged. Going carefully, as I have done, into the history of these proposals, I think there can be no doubt that there has been delay in dealing with them which might have been avoided, and that they have been dealt with, not boldly and as a whole, but piecemeal and in a way which has materially reduced the value of these allowances to the officers and men themselves; and for this reason. Disbanded, exiled from Ireland, and many of them knowing that their lives are not safe even on this side of the Channel, these men have but few alternatives if they are to start a new life and make a new future for their wives and children. To do this it is a matter of vital importance that they should know at once, without doubt or hesitation, what are the sums of money that they will have to deal with in order to make homes elsewhere. Delay in this case means almost more than it means in ordinary cases of a different kind.
§ I have here a summary which has been given to me, and which I have tested by the different forms that I have seen, which have been issued at different times to the 382 police, and I think this will show your Lordships and satisfy His Majesty's Government that these men have a claim based on the ground that there has been delay and piecemeal treatment. No doubt, when this question first arose His Majesty's Government hoped and believed, and their advisers in Ireland hoped and believed, that the Treaty would go through, and that a large number of the Royal Irish Constabulary would be able either to settle in Ireland in other capacities, or serve the authorities otherwise. But there arose then a unanimous demand on the part of the force for disbandment, and this demand was acceded to. Then came the delay of which I complain.
§ On March 27, by circular, the men were told their position and that disbandment was to proceed; but owing to the delay in obtaining the further information to which I have referred, they were informed that they would be told what they were going to get subsequently, and were sent back to their homes. Instead of collecting the men and their wives and children in or near the centre, these men were sent back to their homes. With what result? With the result that several of them were barbarously shot, while they were trying to find out what their terms were and to make some plans for the future. Again, there was delay in dealing with these men, with the result that Royal Irish Constabulary barracks were captured. This led to the formation of concentration camps, and I believe—though this I have been unable to verify—to the offering of the 1920 terms to the men. I had some responsibility, full responsibility, for the 1920 terms as they are called. But since then great events have happened. The Royal Irish Constabulary have, up to the present moment, continued to suffer under the most terrible cruelties that it is possible to imagine, and to offer them now terms which were adequate or were thought to be adequate in 1919, is certainly not generous, and I do not think it is just.
§ I do not seek to blame anybody for this condition of things. I know the difficulties; I know how great they have been, and how heavy has been the pressure of work of all kinds. But I respectfully submit to your Lordships and to the Government that the case of inadequacy is proved, or can easily be proved, and that the case of insufficient information and delay in deciding upon the terms justifies the view 383 that I expressed that mistakes have been made. If that is so, may we not in a matter of such gravity ask the Government to acknowledge that mistakes have been made and to endeavour to repair them before it is too late?
§ There is one other reason why the allowances should be on a generous scale. At present, as I understand it—I think there is no doubt about this—they are limited to the transfer of the men and their families and belongings to Great Britain, or some other part of Ireland. I suggest that such a limitation destroys in many cases the whole value of the grant that you are making. In many cases it would be actually dangerous for these men to transfer themselves from Ireland to this country. The vendetta that has pursued them for so long and with such deadly effect in their own country would pursue them here. Their lives, I believe (though it is difficult to credit such a statement in these days), and the lives even of some of those belonging to them, would be in danger if they sought to transfer their homes to another part of the United Kingdom.
§ Supposing it is not so. Supposing that I am indulging in the language of exaggeration in making these statements, there is another reason, known to your Lordships, known to the world, stated day after day in every one of our newspapers—known, as I say, not only here to ourselves, to our profound sorrow, but known throughout the world—that is, that in this country to-day there is an immense number of unemployed for whom no work can be found. We see passing along our streets processions, not in the technical but in the actual sense, of unemployed day after day. Our pavements are being worn out by men, educated, capable, full of integrity and every quality that is required to make good servants, for whom there is no employment. And it is suggested that you should ask these men from the Royal Irish Constabulary to join those melancholy processions, and to wait in the hope that at some time or other employment may be found for them. I said just now, and I repeat, that if you are going to deal successfully with these cases you must deal with them in a bolder fashion than this. I believe you must offer to them inducements which will enable them, and lead them it may be, to transfer themselves and their belongings from here to another part of the Empire.384
§ May I put one case before your Lordships out of several with which I have been personally connected? A man who has served in the R.I.C. with rare distinction, who knows he is in the list of those whose lives are not safe, and that his life is not safe here and far less in Ireland, has left this country and gone to a country of which I have some little knowledge and where I believe there are good openings. He has gone there with the very best of introductions and with this object—that he may find some district in which he can settle and in which there may be openings not only for himself and those belonging to him but also for the officers and men of the force to which he belonged and who served in his own area. We talk in these days of schemes of emigration, of sending out good men and women; could there be a better scheme, could there be a more hopeful one, could there be one more likely to confer good on those who go and upon those who receive them than a scheme of this kind, if it be generously and wisely financed?
§ I submit that, very inadequately but still sufficiently for my purpose, I have made out my case, although it be in a very brief form. It is that this force deserves well, no force have ever deserved better, of this country. It is that their position is to be measured by the sad and sordid fact that the greater their devotion to duty the greater the danger to themselves. I have indicated that there are some additions which, without in any way impairing the main structure of the Government scheme, would improve it and would help those who have done so much for us. I frankly admit that I am urging treatment which is not merely just but amounts to generosity because in my judgment nothing less will solve this problem.
§ During the last 120 years there have been many occasions when Great Britain has been called upon to deal with the Irish problem. Proud though I am of my country and the part that she has played in her own domestic history within the United Kingdom and in the world, I should be a fool and a coward if I did not admit that we have made grave mistakes from time to time which have had the melancholy result of causing Irishmen to turn their backs on us and blame us for what we have done. Do not let us make another. Above all, do not let us make one in respect of men whose record is so splendid.385
§ I am very grateful to your Lordships for your indulgence, and I have only one other word to say. In the great war, from whose shadow we are only just emerging, there were two basic principles, two great heritages of our race, which were more present in the minds of those who fought in that war than any other—that war in which millions of the best of our race fought, and in which so many thousands suffered permanent disablement or surrendered their lives. Those great principles were liberty and freedom, liberty to go about your own business in your own way, without interference so long as you kept wit bin the law; and freedom which meant, and means, immunity from the horrors and the cruelties of the tyrant and the bully. Those possessions, clear to us, are denied the Royal Irish Constabulary, and have been denied it for some time. We cannot restore the dead; we cannot bring any real solace to the widow and the orphan; but we can make both the present and the future brighter and better for them if we realise here that the principles to which I have referred are at this moment at stake. It is in the name of those sacred principles that I appeal to-day to His Majesty's Government. I hope, nay, I venture to believe, that I shall not appeal in vain.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, in attempting to answer the very important Questions which the noble Viscount has put to the Government, I may perhaps be permitted to express, on behalf of us all, the extreme satisfaction and pleasure with which I am certain we have listened to the first important speech which the noble Viscount has delivered in this House. His distinguished family for generations, and indeed for centuries, has rendered illustrious public service in another place, and in welcoming the noble Viscount to this House I can assure him, on behalf of your Lordships, that we look forward to many occasions on which we shall profit from his rare and protracted experience.
I agree, as every one must agree, with every word that the noble Viscount has said in eulogy of the distinguished force whose affairs engage our attention to-day. It is the literal truth to say, as the noble Viscount has said, recording the opinion of Lord Roberts, that no finer force has ever discharged similar functions in any civilised country in the world. Many noble 386 Lords are well aware of the constitution, the history, and the records of these men for loyalty, for devotion to duty, and for courage. No body of men whose history is known to me has ever surpassed the men whose affairs engage the attention of the House to-day. Therefore, the noble Viscount will carry every one with him. He will certainly carry with him the Government, of whose difficulties lie spoke with so much understanding and appreciation, when he says that the terms offered to these men ought to be not only just terms but generous. I accept most unreservedly that rule as laid clown by the noble Viscount, and I agree with him without any qualification at all that if in any single particular it can be shown that the terms provided for these officers are not generous terms that matter must undoubtedly be put right.
I am of opinion, subject to a more careful consideration of the speech and of the detailed points made by the noble Viscount, that in their generality these proposals are extremely generous, and in making this observation I reserve to myself, naturally the right to consider in greater detail the criticisms which the noble Viscount has made. But I will make bold to say this, after having examined these terms, that I do not believe there has ever been in any country in the world a scale of pensions adopted so liberal as the one which is now under the consideration of the House. The proposals are contained in a Paper (Cmd. 1618 A), which has been presented to Parliament. Briefly, the provision made is that every man is entitled to a pension for life based on the actual length of service with twelve years added thereto, and calculated in accordance with the salary which he would have been receiving at the end of those twelve years. That is the general principle. In addition, any officer or constable who desires to move his home either to some other place in Ireland or elsewhere is entitled to receive any expenses of such removal up to a maximum of one month's pay for a married man, two months' pay for married men with less than three children, and three months' pay for married men with three or more children. Any officer or man who desires to leave Ireland is entitled, in addition to the allowance already mentioned, to be paid the travelling expenses of himself and his family and dependants to any part of the United Kingdom, and, if he prefers to leave his wife behind in 387 Ireland while he is seeking for employment elsewhere, his family will receive separation allowance for a period of three months after disbandment.
The noble Viscount said, quite fairly, that in the main he was of opinion that these proposals were fair and generous, but he made some suggestions, with which I will attempt to deal, for improving them in a few specific instances. He spoke of the younger men who had been serving in the force for a few years only, and said that their pension is not sufficient wholly to maintain them during the present difficult times. A constable with less than a year's service, none of which, therefore, was spent during the period of active rebellion—the discussions began in June—or very little of which was spent in a period of actual rebellion, will, with the addition of twelve years to his term of service, receive a minimum of£46 16s. per annum for life. I said that no such pensions had hitherto ever been thought of, so far as I am aware, in any force in any part of the world. It means that a young man who has served for one year will receive a pension of£46 per year for life, which is equivalent to the interest on a sum of money amounting to about£1,200. I have not the exact scale of pensions which is paid in the case of long service in the late war, but I believe the pension given to such a young man is more than the pension which is given to a man who served four years in the trenches and who has lost the sight of both his eyes. Even in dealing with cases like this we must preserve our sense of proportion. A young man with the whole world to choose from, with this country to choose from, with the British Empire to choose from, unwounded in the overwhelming majority of cases, is not treated ungenerously if he gets a pension on this scale.
But to meet the difficulty that during an interim period he may not be able to keep himself, the so-called "loading scheme," outlined in paragraph 4 of the terms of disbandment, was devised. By this means a constable aged 21, with a pension of£46 16s. can raise that pension to£106 12s. for the next two years, and the pension thereafter will be reduced to£37 16s. a year. To tide over the exceptional period of two years such a man can obtain money to maintain himself and his wife moderately, and after that the pension is reduced. I do not think any of your Lordships will say that it is reasonable, on 388 the most generous proposal, that in the ease of a man of that age who has sustained no disabling casualty the State should undertake for the rest of his life his exclusive support and thus discourage him from trying to discover some additional source of income.
As regards officers holding acting rank the noble Viscount put forward a suggestion which shall be further considered—namely, that it ought to be possible to reckon their pension as though, in fact, they had been given substantive promotion. The grant of eighteen years which they will receive will suffice to take them to the maximum pay of their rank, on which, therefore, they will all of them be pensioned. In no branch of the public service is acting rank counted for the purpose of pension. The noble Viscount is more familiar with these matters than I am, but I understand that during the late war it was not the practice to treat acting rank as a basis for pension.
The noble Viscount also referred to the constitution of the tribunal. I do not know whether your Lordships appreciate the fact that the expert tribunal deals with exceptional cases only. It cannot decrease any pension or allowance; it can only recommend to the Treasury an increase in grant. It has, as one of its members, Mr. Clayton, a senior officer of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Chief of Police and the Deputy Chief of Police; and other officers of the Police and the Chief Secretary are always available to give evidence in support of special cases. I am told that no suggestion was made by the Royal Irish Constabulary in the discussions which took place that an Irish Civil Servant should be appointed on this particular body, and there are, in fact, at this moment no Irish Civil Servants who are remaining in the service of His Majesty's Government. I agree that is not a point of substance because the noble Viscount's objection could be met by placing upon the tribunal someone who until recently had occupied that position. The suggestion shall receive further consideration.
The next point with which the noble Viscount dealt was that of allowances. The Government scheme of disturbance allowance, by which a man receives one month's, or two or three months' pay as an advance on being disturbed, is intended to assist men in the actual removal of their homes from Ireland to any part of Great 389 Britain, or another part of Ireland. In the earlier part of my observations I stated what are the arrangements contemplated under this head. The noble Viscount makes two criticisms. In the first place, he says that on the whole these allowances, in relation to the demands upon the fund, are not adequate; and, in the second place, he thinks that a more complete and thoroughgoing scheme might be considered with the object of encouraging emigration to various parts of the Empire.
First as to the amount. It is a fact that this provision has up to the present been very little used by those for whose benefit it was devised. I have not before me the precise numbers, but in relation to the total number the toll of those who have availed themselves of this proportion is almost negligible. It is possible, of course, to draw the inference that the noble Viscount is right in his view, that the amount allotted is not adequate. Equally, one may draw the inference that the ties which bind these men to the country to which almost all of them belong are too strong even in existing circumstances to be lightly severed. But the noble Viscount is entitled to contend that if the number which has availed themselves of this provision is small no very serious additional expenditure would be involved by a reconsideration of the amount, and I will certainly assure him that his suggestion shall receive the fullest consideration. I will communicate with him after I have discussed it with those who are principally concerned.
On the subject of emigration the noble Viscount is, indeed, forcing an open door. It is in contemplation by the Government that many of the younger members, particularly the unmarried members, of this splendid force, equipped as they will be with the means of maintaining themselves until they discover employment, may play a great and perhaps a decisive part in building up the outlying parts of the British Empire. The noble Viscount is perfectly right when he says that no time would be excessive which is bestowed on the task of perfecting schemes which would produce this result. I can assure him that his co-operation, and the co-operation of his friends, will be very welcome on a matter in which, I know, he has great personal experience.
The noble Viscount has instanced a few cases in which there has been delay— 390 as he thinks, and as the facts at first sight appear to suggest, undue delay—in dealing with these matters. The noble Viscount, although he was good enough to inform me generally of the tenour of his observations, naturally could not furnish me with every detail in respect of which he desired information. I have not available at this moment the answer, if answer there be, to the case which he has made under this head, and perhaps lie will be so good as to enable me to reply to him in writing when I have the more specific information for which he asks. I have attempted to reply in detail to the questions put by the noble Viscount, and I may say, in conclusion, that the House is, in my judgment, greatly indebted to him for the effective manner in which he has called attention to this matter.
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, I have a Notice upon the Paper—["to call attention to the treatment of British subjects in Ireland"]—which rather extends the scope of the debate, but I understand that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack prefers that the two matters should be kept separate. I will first, therefore, deal for a very few moments only with the subject matter before the House. Every time the Royal Irish Constabulary are mentioned, there is a kind of enthusiasm about their history and traditions which one feels is general among all loyal parties who listen to it. But let us not be quite satisfied by merely paying our tribute to the loyalty of these men.
The noble Viscount on the Woolsack says that there never have been in any country such liberal terms as have been provided for the Royal Irish Constabulary. There never has been, in the history of any country, a force that has found itself in such a position as that of these loyal men. God knows, I ought to understand what these men have gone through. They followed me day and night, in and out of season, when you were enforcing the law, as they have followed every Chief Secretary and every officer you have ever employed over there. The noble Viscount who introduced this subject said we had made many mistakes in Ireland. Yes, and it was sometimes their loyalty in carrying out your mistakes that made these men unpopular. You are, therefore, approaching an entirely new subject matter, because there never has been before any position comparable to this, where a Government 391 abandoned a portion of their country without previously making provision as to the treatment of those who were loyal to them. To-day, five months after the Treaty, I venture to think that the condition of these men is the most unfortunate that could be depicted.
Behind and beyond all these questions of whether the terms you give them are generous, let me point out that there is a great question of practicability. What is happening at the present moment? Numbers of these men dare not go to their homes because the British Government have withdrawn, and they come over here in large numbers. They cannot get accommodation, and they are hunted about from one house to another. There are many places where, when people find out who these men are, they are, naturally or unnaturally, afraid to take them. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack spoke of the small numbers who have availed themselves of the provisions for removing their families. But there is nowhere to remove them to.
I have here a report from General Prescott-Decie, who, to his great honour and credit be it said, is trying to do something to benefit these men by an organisation which he has kept up. He says—For men with families, especially large ones, we are unable to find accommodation. At this moment I have eight families in London which I am unable to provide for. This number looks small, but the fact is that the families are all in Ireland, and we dare not bring them over here because we have nowhere to put them. At this moment I have three families in Ireland which I must get out, whether I have accommodation or not. Sergeant A., himself in personal danger, I have told to come to London at once. His wife and seven children are in Southern Ireland. Their house has been frequently raided, and the wife in consequence has become insane, the children are in a terrified condition, and some of them are likely to become insane too from sheer terror. It is possible that force will have to be used to get them out. Sergeant B. and his son, also an ex-constable, have managed to escape from Ireland, and his family of four children, the eldest a girl of nineteen, are in Southern Ireland. They have no one to look after them or to take care of them. Sergeant C., wounded three times by Sinn Feiners, has escaped. He has not seen his family for two years. They are in the South of Ireland. His wife and several children are being terrorised and are in a miserable condition.I want to know from His Majesty's Government what is going to be done in this class of case. It is an awful picture of your loyal servants, hunted out and followed with a view to assassination, and their families left at the mercy of these people 392 in the South and West of Ireland. That is a big question, and it must be dealt with.
I agree entirely with the noble Viscount who introduced this subject that there has been a great deal of delay in this matter. A number of these men (I do not know how many, because I have no means of ascertaining) have come to London, and your Lordships will at once see, since the force numbered some 10;000 to 15,000—I do not know exactly how many they were at the time—what interference with the labour market this may cause in the present condition of affairs in this country. It was one of the matters that we always foretold as part of our Unionist argument that, if this ever came to pass in Ireland, you would have an exodus from Ireland which would very seriously tax your resources in this country. Perhaps this question belongs more rightly to the other branch of the subject which I propose to bring before the House, but it is a very serious matter.
I press upon His Majesty's Government to take a very much larger view of their responsibility than the mere putting down of a certain amount which looks generous in comparison with Army pensions and other matters of that kind. Try to deal with the realities of the situation. Here is the kind of letter that is being sent to me. I received it the other day from the solicitor of the man to whom it came. This is what has been received by this man:I.R.A. Headquarters,Dublin District.Take warning that it has become known to the authorities of the above organisation that you are serving in the special constabulary of the R.I.C. You have already been warned, since demobilisation from the Black and Tans, to quit the country without delay. This is the second and final warning. Take notice that all your movements since your enlistment in the R.I.C. have been carefully followed, and are well known to us. Let the fate of others who were traitors to their country be a further warning to you.I got that with a request from this poor man's solicitor that I would advise, as the man had some chance of doing something, whether he could commute his pension. They asked me to try to get commutation allowed, as apparently it had been refused. I wrote a letter to the Irish Office over here, and received an answer to say that he could not commute his pension, unless he would undertake to emigrate.
I think that is a great mistake. Why should he not commute his pension if he 393 can start himself here? It is all very well to talk of the statesmanship of emigration, but do not drive men into your Colonies with a feeling of bitterness that they have been badly treated in their own country. There is many a man, and, especially, many a woman, who would just as soon be put in penal servitude—it is particularly so in the case of the Irish—as have to go, as they think, away into these places of which they know nothing and where they have neither friends nor relations. We have had enough in history of driving men away to foreign parts, and then finding these men hostile to us afterwards. I think, if I were a constabulary man, and after risking my life for some twenty years, I was told that the real solution of my difficulties was: "Now we are done with you and do not want you, go off 3,000 miles beyond the sea, where you know nobody and know nothing of the conditions of life, and thank God you are still a British citizen," I should feel bitter. And so, believe me, will these men if they are treated in that way. I cannot see why a man should have it made a condition of his receiving commutation of his pension that he should be hound to emigrate. It may be that the younger men will do so willingly and voluntarily, and it may be of assistance to them. But for these men with families, and particularly the middle-aged and older ones, it is not so easy a matter as some people seem to think.
There is only one other point that I should like to introduce to the House and to the attention of the Government, and it is this. I do not know exactly how the matter stands, but I receive a great many letters from police in Ireland, who write that they had been disbanded, and when the Government were in want of men to carry out their policy at that time, of putting down Sinn Fein outrage, they were asked to come back, or they volunteered to come back. These men write to me to say that when they are paid off and disbanded, now that they are no longer wanted, nothing of what they have done during these last two or three years of the most horrible times that we have ever gone through, is counted towards any additional pension. Yet that is the period which has made their lives impossible, and I cannot but think that it is an injustice which ought to be remedied. I hope that whenever the case of these men comes up it will always be treated, not on any precedent but as an isolated case for which 394 you can find no precedent, and in which all our resources ought to be strained in doing what is simple justice.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I appreciate that an important debate is to be initiated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, but I understand from what he said that the Lord Chancellor prefers that these two subjects should be kept separate. Therefore, I ask to be allowed to bring a few, but important, details to your Lordships' notice before this subject is actually dropped; I promise that I will not stand an unduly long time between the noble and learned Lord and the House. I am particularly emboldened to do this by reason of the fact that I notice that the Lord Chancellor carefully guarded himself, while associating himself with the present terms, against shutting the door to the consideration of any argument that might be put before him.
In one sentence I think it may be said, not unfairly, that the terms now before the R.I.C. are a little better than the terms given in the Act of 1920, but I was very glad to notice that Viscount Long, who maintains his authorship of the Act of 1920, no longer considers that the terms for which he was responsible are adequate for the situation. We, of course, voted against the Act of 1920, but I am sure there are many of your Lordships who will rejoice that once again they find themselves in agreement with the noble Viscount, Lord Long, on the Irish question. For the fact that the present terms are a little better than those of the Act of 1920 we have to thank the Government, but I maintain, without hesitation, that they are utterly inadequate.
The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack stated that they are the most generous terms that have ever been offered. I contest that view absolutely. Will the noble and learned Viscount be surprised to hear that these terms are considered to be less favourable than the terms actually given in the Home Rule Act of 1914? I will tell him why. Under the Act of 1914 the Royal Irish Constabulary were to remain a reserved service for six years. Members of the force, therefore, would have been drawing full pay during those six years. Those six years would have been considered towards pension, and at the end of the six years, twelve years were to be added in the case 395 of compulsory retirement and six years in the case of voluntary retirement. The double result of the Act of 1914, therefore, would have been that a member of the force would have got the benefit of eighteen years' service added for pension in the case of compulsory retirement, and of twelve years' added in the case of voluntary retirement, and in addition to that he would have had those six years during which lie would have been drawing full pay and allowances and during which he would have been able to look round the world to find something to do when he left the force.
That is entirely forgotten now, and I do not hesitate to say that the least that can be asked for is that some period of full pay should be given to all these men, in the very special circumstances of the case, to enable them to look for employment, such as they must look for. They cannot possibly expect to spend the rest of their lives on their pensions alone. That is one of the first details I wish to bring to the notice of your Lordships, and of the Government. I hope we shall not hear any more about these being the most generous terms that have ever been offered.
This disturbance allowance, of course, is justified: no one can maintain that it is not. But the amount is ungenerous; it is almost stingy. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has mentioned the amounts; I will not quote them again. But it will surprise your Lordships to hear that those amounts, as I am informed, are less than those given under the Treasury Royal Irish Constabulary Regulations when members of the force hitherto have been moved about on duty. I will quote from a letter from an ex-officer of the Royal Irish Constabulary, a friend of mine, who says—My transfer allowance from the south to the north under the R.I.C. Regulations would exceed by a good deal the two months' pay now allowed me to transfer my furniture to England.And the same applies all through the ranks of the force. Why do you give a man less to move to England to save his life than you gave him when you moved him about in normal times in Ireland on duty for your own purposes? You give him less when the danger is more urgent and the expense is greater.
How is this move to be made? How do you expect members of the Royal Irish Constabulary to move their furniture and their effects to England? No Irish firm 396 will do it; that we know from experience; they dare not. English firms have to be employed, and the prices charged by English firms have been exorbitant, and naturally so. They have had to take the risk of sending their employees to Ireland, and it is not surprising that they have insisted upon high prices. I do not use the term "exorbitant" therefore in any complaining way. The Government must have known this when they fixed the rates lower than those in the existing Regulations. The point is thoroughly understood by the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and they are not satisfied that they have been fairly treated. I have seen one estimate as high as this: I have been informed by an officer of the R.I.C. that this disturbance allowance will just pay a third of the cost of removing his effects to England. That is not generous treatment, and I think there is no question that the majority of the House will agree.
Here is a small detail, but not unimportant. How is this disturbance allowance to be paid? It is to he paid on demand. If your Lordships will look at the document you will find it the most astounding announcement ever made. I will read it—In order to avoid any delay in the payment of these allowances they will be payable on demand at the date of disbandment, or at any time within six months thereafter;—Well, you pay on demand.it must, however, be clearly understood that every officer or man who receives such an allowance will be required to produce to the tribunal referred to in paragraph 7 below——he may be up in Cumberland but he has got to produce it to the tribunal in London—evidence that he has in fact moved his home;—Your Lordships will see that if, by any chance, payment in advance is asked for there is no money—he cannot move:and if he has not moved his home or if the reasonable expenses of such removal are less than the amount of the allowance which he has received, the tribunal may require him to refund the whole or part of the allowance as the case may be.Payment on demand after you have been before a tribunal, and a tribunal which will be meticulously careful, is almost a mockery. These men are here penniless. They have had to flee the country. The least you can do is to pay them at once, and leave the settlement of the accounts to be made afterwards.
There remains only one other point. We are in a peculiar Parliamentary 397 position. There is a Bill before the House of Commons. I do not know, but I think it is possible it may be certified as a Money Bill when it reaches us. It is unusual, I know, for your Lordships to discuss matters which are in legislative form before the other House of Parliament, but this ease is quite different. We must appeal to the Government to alter their scheme and take greater powers for the progress of the Bill through the other House. I am sure, therefore, your Lordships will not regret the time given to this subject this afternoon. We shall all be most grateful to the noble Viscount for the points he has raised, and I sincerely hope (I say it with all the solemnity of which I am capable) that we shall keep true faith with these men, and see a different scheme in a very few weeks from that which is now before Parliament.