HL Deb 05 March 1924 vol 56 cc535-65

LORD MUSKERRY rose to call attention to the claims of Irish loyalists for compensation for damage and injury to persons and property; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, you may have observed that the Notice which stands in my name on the Paper has been altered slightly. That was done on the suggestion of two members of your Lordships' House who thought that the alteration would tend to give a wider scope to the debate. On the night of July 4, 1921, my place was entered by an armed gang of Sinn Feiners who, after removing the servants under arrest, proceeded to spread the contents of a barrel of petroleum over the furniture and floor. They then set lire to it. The place was utterly consumed with a valuable collection of old family portraits and other paintings, old Jacobean furniture, china and other valuables. I quote my own case simply because it is a typical one and naturally I know more concerning it than I do of what happened to fellow sufferers about the same time.

At the end of 1919 and the beginning of 1920 His Majesty's officials in Ireland had the situation well under control. Had they been allowed to do so, they would have brought law and order back into the country and have given proper protection to those who required it in a comparatively short time. But Mr. Lloyd George intervened. He selected a certain person in the service of the Excise Department. I believe that person was acting as a detective. His duty was to assume certain disguises and to trap those who were engaged in evading the Excise Laws. This person was sent over to Ireland as an Assistant Under-Secretary. Mr. Lloyd George also sent over four other officials, but I am dealing especially with this Assistant Under-Secretary. On his arrival at the castle he took advantage of his official position to attend meetings held by heads of Departments to consider the best means of putting down these outrages and of restoring law and order. Having obtained full information, he at once proceeded to convey that information to the leaders of the Sinn Fein organisation, with the result that these plans devised by His Majesty's officers came to naught and in many cases His Majesty's officers and men lost their lives. The result of this treachery at headquarters was to paralyse the efforts of His Majesty's officials, and crime and outrage were rampant throughout the country immediately afterwards. There was no law or order in the country.

In 1921 my private workshop was raided, and all its fittings, appliances and valuable cools were stolen. The raiders commandeered a car and, after making my servants give them tea, conveyed these tools away in broad daylight. What they then stole was valued at more than £500, and the articles would cost double that amount now. Nothing was done about this, but the next day the military came out from Limerick and, after removing certain essential parts of my wife's car which they thought would disable it, went back to Limerick. Shortly afterwards the Sinn Feiners returned. Having first stolen a motor-car from a neighbouring gentleman, they used it to tow away my wife's car, taking with them a considerable amount of loot in the shape of corrugated iron, planks and other timber which they required for their dug-outs. Of course, I have no claim under the Malicious Injuries Act in respect of these happenings, because they were considered to be acts of simple looting—stealing. These things and the burning occurred prior to that disgraceful agreement which was entered into by Mr. Lloyd George and which he dignified with the name of Treaty, and at a time when the British Government was supposed to be affording us protection and security.

I and others in a like situation took the ordinary course of sending in claims under the Malicious Injuries Act for the losses sustained. My case was heard by the County Court Judge at Limerick in October. After hearing the case he stated that he would reserve his award until the next quarter sessions. Before the next quarter sessions were held the safe in my manager's office in a portion of the castle was blown up and the building set on fire. The noise attracted my steward to the place and he, with the help of the workmen and some neighbours, was able to save half the building; but all my harness, my saddlery, and a lot of very valuable articles that were stored in the manager's office for safety were burnt. When the next quarter sessions came on I put in my claim in respect of this second outrage and the County Court Judge awarded me nearly £1,700. This I accepted. He then announced his award for the first burning. This award appeared to myself and my advisers so utterly inadequate that I appealed. In the normal course of events this appeal would have been heard by one of His Majesty's Judges of Assize, but the state of the country was so bad that no Assizes could be held in the South and West of Ireland and the only alternative was the Wood-Renton Commission.

I had the opinion—and everybody seemed to have it—that the Wood-Renton Commission's only business was to reduce the claims as much as they possibly could. My appeal came before them. The members of the Commission stated they had been down to see the ruins and that I had their full sympathy: still, they did what was expected and materially reduced the already inadequate award of the County Court Judge. Later on, in the autumn of last year, the Free State Government decided to pay me the award made by the Wood-Renton Commission. I accepted it under protest, but they kept back a large sum as Income Tax on income which I had not received and have not received yet, I am informed this was illegal on their part, but as you could not sue them in their own Courts there is no redress for that.

I thought that pretty bad, but I had a letter last week from which I propose to read the following extract :— Could you add my case to the list of County Limerick landlords who have been deprived of their living by the present disturbed state of the country? The Free State Government took over my land, about 3.000 acres, at Athea, County Limerick, last July and were to collect £1,706 of arrears. In the last few days they have sent to my agent a draft for £1 10s. 6d. This seems to me to be one of the worst cases that have been recorder. I understand also that the Representative Church Body vainly tried to get a refund of £30,000 which has been held back from them as Income Tax. If the Free State continue like this they ought to be a very prosperous body and be in a position to meet any loan.

When I said the Wood-Renton Commission were out to reduce all payments it way from the way in which they acted in claims made by loyalists, for under the terms of reference they were dealing with other cases which occurred in a district that was under military law. These were cases of claims made for damage done by the military. In all those cases they acted in a very different way from the way in which they acted in the cases of the loyalists and were most liberal. Bearing on this point I will read a short extract from a letter of a gentleman with whom I am intimately acquainted and whom I know to be absolutely trustworthy in his statements. He writes :— It is a well known fact no loyalist would be fairly dealt with. On the other hand those whose property was destroyed by the British are more than pleased, for they say England has dealt well with them by paying more in compensation than the destroyed property was value for. I cannot imagine why this discrepancy should exist between the loyalists and non-loyalists unless it is that the Wood-Renton Commissioners are acting under private instructions received from some of those bureaucrats who seem to be running this country and whom the British public fondly imagine are under Parliamentary control.

In 1920, under the Indemnity Act, a Court was set up called the War Compensation Court, the members of which were the Lord Chief Justice of England, Sir Francis Taylor, a Judge of the High Court, Sir Plunkett Barton, an ex-Irish High Court Judge, and Sir Matthew Wallace, a well-known agriculturist. That Court was set up to assess the compensation to be paid to persons whose property, trade or business was interfered with for purposes connected with the war such as commandeering of house for the occupation of troops and damage to property. Under its provisions all claims were to be presented within one year from the end of the war, or from the time when the subject of the claim arose. This was a United Kingdom Court, and people from all over Ireland have sent in claims to it. A pledge was given to the Free State to set up n branch of this Court in Dublin. It is not known who gave the pledge, but it is supposed to be Mr. Lionel Curtis who gave the pledge to Mr. Cosgrave. The Lord Chief Justice of England strongly objected to such a Court being set up stating that his own Court was ample for dealing with all claims. He also stated that all legal claims had already been dealt with. He was very emphatic on the subject. The Sinn Fein sympathisers got over this by appointing the three members of the Wood-Renton Commission as a Court calling it a branch of the War Compensation Court to hear claims. The reason for setting up this bogus court was that under the Indemnity Act it was laid down that no compensation should be given in cases where the conduct of the party made it necessary that his legal rights should be interfered with. There are a number in Ireland who come under that category.

Under this new Court, who I believe will spend about £4,000,000, one of the first cases heard was that of Mrs. Pearce, mother of the Sinn Fein leader of the 1916 Rebellion who was executed for participation in that Rebellion. I saw a copy of a letter from him to his mother. It was rather interesting and instructive. He attributed the failure of that Rebellion to the fact that the German expedition which had been promised did not turn up. His place was at St. Edna's, which he used as a school for training boys as patriots, otherwise Sinn Feiners. Then a place called the Hermitage was presented to Mrs. Pearce as a memorial of her son and St. Edna's ceased to be used as a school. On raiding it the British troops found it to be a fortress. It had dummy walls and secret hiding places, and they also found large quantities of seditious literature, arms and ammunition. The British troops demolished it. It was the headquarters of the rebels. That was the first case dealt with by this new court. The other cases that are to be considered concern motor cars and bicycles which were seized in order to prevent them being used for ambushing British troops.

I should like to ask: Is it not the fact that the British Government has agreed to pay one, half the cost of pre-Treaty malicious injury claims? Is it not the fact that the British Government has been advancing large sums to Ireland on account of its prospective share in these claims ? I should like to know how much it has advanced. And is it not the fact that the claims paid to Irish loyalists have been paid out of money advanced by England? I should like to ask also whether the Colonial Office did not press on the late Cabinet the proposal that the British Government should guarantee the issue of a large loan by the Irish Free State as a consideration of the Irish Free State meeting its obligations to those people whose-property had been destroyed. It is hope-less to go to the Irish Department of the Colonial Office for Irish loyalists get no satisfaction whatsoever there. The permanent official, on whom the Secretary of State for the Colonies and also the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, have to rely for their information, is Mr. Lionel Curtis. He is, I believe, connected, or has been connected, with the staff of a Socialist paper called the Round Table. He has no knowledge of Ireland and has to depend for his information on what he hears from his friends Mr. Cosgrave and Mr. Kevin O'Higgins, the President and Vice-President of the Irish Free State. Such information cannot be unbiassed and is not likely to be favourable to the interests of Irish loyalists.

We have no security now in Ireland for either life or property. That magnificent body the Royal Irish Constabulary, which was one of the finest bodies of men that a British King ever had in his service, has been done away with and its place taken by the Civil Guard, who, even if they had the will, cannot afford protection. They are an unarmed body of men, and every corner boy, every ne'er-do-well in the country, is well armed, or, if he is not well armed, he knows where he can get arms at very short notice. Then there are still a number of gunmen in Ireland. The only protection that has ever been afforded in Ireland, the only attempt ever made to stop looting, was when the Republicans were in force in a district. They did try to stop looting and give protection, but they were well armed men.

The Government led loyal and law-abiding men to believe that their legal rights would be secured, that if they delivered up their arms they could rely for protection on the King's Government, and that if they were murdered or maliciously injured in their persons or their property they could rely upon the provisions of the Imperial Statutes which provided for compensation. They were led to believe that the British Government intended to keep faith with them through the assurance given to them in the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Acts of 1919 and 1920; the former making provision for full compensation and, in order to prevent the local authorities postponing decrees indefinitely, making the amount of decrees payable on demand, and the latter providing remedies by garnishee and for interest on the compensation monies awarded. It may be said that such provisions were illusory and of no value, but they enabled His Majesty's British Courts to make orders, and it was the duty of the Government to secure that the decrees and the orders of the Judges were not mere scraps of paper.

Hitherto the judgments of the British Courts had been respected all over the British Dominions. Hitherto a man going into the King' Court and getting final judgment from one of the King's Judges had a right to the benefit of that judgment. If the judgment was one from which there was an appeal, as soon as the time lapsed he had a vested interest in that judgment; it was his property, secured to him by the solemn assurance of the State and witnessed by the signature of the King's Judge. Whilst it is true that, through fear of murder, the King's subjects in Ireland, knowing that they were not receiving the assistance which the Government should have given them, refrained in many cases from acting on their rights and did not enforce them, they cannot be blamed for hesitating to take proceedings. In many instances, when protection was applied for and the King's Sheriff asked to act, they were informed that at the moment adequate protection was impossible and that the King's Sheriff was unable to discharge the duties of his office through the failure of the Government to provide the necessary protection. Nevertheless, the rights assured to them by the Government still remained, and in common honesty Britain was pledged to those who had relied on her assurance to act honestly and not to behave as a "welsher" on the racecourse.

Notwithstanding these assurances, the British Government allowed the so-called Provisional Government to issue orders preventing persons from taking steps to enforce the decrees of the British Courts. Such judgments could be sued on, and, on proof that they were regularly made, they could, in any other part of the British Dominions, have been acted upon. Anything seems to have been good enough for an Irish loyalist, however. It was suggested, since the county councils in Ireland defied the King's Government and refused to make their case, if they had any, in the King's Courts because they would not acknowledge the authority of the King or his Courts, that in some cases the Judges might have awarded too much. For that reason the Shaw Commission was set up to revise these judgments. It is humiliating to think that, such a thing could have been done. There was no statutory authority and no legal right to do it. Viscount FitzAlan's appointment of the Shaw Commission had no effect in law. At most it was only an offer to persons who had legal rights to submit these legal rights to arbitration by consent.

But Irish loyalists, when it became convenient to certain politicians to treat their rights as scraps of paper, were, in effect, told: "You have legal rights which, relying on our assurances, you have secured. We have had to compromise with the rebels, we have had to consent to your just claims being ignored, and, although you have judgments of the King's Courts, we have been beaten by Sinn Fein and cannot carry out our undertakings. Go to the Shaw Commission (now called the Wood-Renton Commission) and they will honestly reconsider your case and give you what is right." I think I have described the way in which the Shaw Commission has acted. When a loyalist had a decree or order it was open to him either to go to the Wood-Renton Commission or to insist upon his legal rights.

The crowning act of perfidy and the final disgrace to British dealing with Irish loyalists occurred when His Majesty was advised to give his assent to the Destruction of Property (Compensation) Act, 1923, which, in effect, makes void all decrees given by His Majesty's Judges for injuries committed prior to July11, 1921. By the advice to His Majesty to give his assent to this Statute, His Majesty's liege subjects in Ireland have been cheated of their legal rights, which would have been honoured in any other British Dominion throughout the world. At the beginning of the great war, there was very much righteous indignation throughout this country at the action of Germany in treating her obligations to Belgium as scraps of paper What will they say now, when they find that the British Government have followed their example, and are treating their obligations to the Irish loyalists in the same manner ?

I cannot believe that His Majesty's advisers knew what they were doing. I believe that they were hoodwinked by certain permanent officials, who had strong Sinn Fein tendencies, and that they did not realise what the result would be. I omitted from my Notice the point of having a judicial body set up over here in this country, but I think you must admit that if Irish loyalists are to have any fair play at all, or any chance of justice, some such body will have to be set up to which they may appeal. The present Government has a great chance of showing that it is of a thoroughly honest character, and I would suggest that it might form a Committee—not a Royal Commission, because Royal Commissions are a farce—but a strong and impartial Committee, to inquire into the matters which I have mentioned to-night, especially the action of certain permanent officials in the matter.

I beg to move that the correspondence between the Colonial Office (Irish Department) and the Irish Free State about the Wood-Renton Commission be placed on your Lordships' Table, together with a list of the claims heard by the Wood-Renton Commission, the amounts paid both to loyalists and to others, and the correspondence between the Lord Chief Justice of England and His Majesty's Government on the subject of constituting a branch of the War Compensation Court in Dublin.


My Lords, I should like to make a few remarks in support of the Motion, and I only make these because, as Chairman of the Southern Irish Relief Association, I have had some experience of the grievances from which these people are suffering. I do not propose to go over any of the ground that has been trodden by the mover of the Resolution, but to pass to what are really not disputed facts at all. Whatever may be thought of the Wood-Renton Commission, and of its manner of dealing with claims, I do not think any one will deny that at any rate the claims heard by that Commission are far more favourably situated than any others. What I want to go to is the post-truce cases. It seems to me that those divide themselves into four categories of people, all Irish loyalists, who have suffered since the truce. The first of those are dealt with under the Damage to Property Act in Ireland. They obtain compensation, but on very much more disadvantageous terms than they would have obtained it under the old Malicious Injuries Act. For instance, there is no compensation for consequential damage or injury to the person, no compensation for loss of money or jewellery, and there are also certain very burdensome restrictions in regard to the rebuilding of houses and business premises.

I do not propose to say very much about those cases, because it is very difficult to ascertain exactly how they have been dealt with, and how much justice they are receiving, and I cannot make any definite statement with regard to them. But there are three other classes of claimants who seem to me to be in a far worse predicament. They are, firstly, those who have suffered from injury to person between July, 1921, when the truce was concluded, and December, 1922, when the Free State Government was set up. Now there is no compensation for such injuries provided in the Damage to Property Act at all. They have lost all right to compensation, and they are being dealt with by a Committee which has been set up in Ireland, which makes recommendations to the Free State Government, and that Government may or may not, as it pleases, make ex gratia payments to those persons who have suffered personal injuries. I am informed, but I speak under correction and I shall be glad to receive information from the Government, that these people are being most inadequately compensated. I have heard of one case of a lady who was grossly maltreated more than two years ago. Her claim has been heard, but she has received no compensation at all. I have heard of many other cases in which little or no compensation has been obtainable.

Then there is the next class of case, which may be comprised under the terms sabotage, looting and intimidation, confiscation of land, and all that class of injury. We have heard of numerous cases of this kind in which people have been driven from their farms or from their business premises. Very likely the farm implements have been looted and the cattle driven off. The farmer either cannot go back to the farm at all, and has to come to this country, or, if he goes back, he is totally unable to work his farm, because he has no implements and no money to re-stock his farm. There are also people who have lost the business or profession on which they depended for their livelihood. Some are driven out of Ireland altogether, and yet there is no compensation whatever for these people. There are also numerous cases in which land has been confiscated and the owners are totally unable to regain it. Did I wish to detain your Lordships I could give any number of concrete cases where these things have occurred.

Now I come to the third class of case, which is injury to person or property since the Free State Constitution Act, 1922, was passed; that is, since the Free State Government was set up. So far as I can make out, all those persons, and there is a great number of them, are entitled to no compensation at all. They are solely dependent either upon such charity as our association may be able to give them, or on grants which the Irish Grants Committee has been able to make to them. As I have said, in mentioning these cases I speak under correction, because it is very difficult to get exactly at the truth of how these cases are being dealt with. Up to the time when the present Government came into power, we were always informed that the Government did recognise its moral obligations to these people, but that they could not—and no doubt the line which they took was quite reasonable—make any very definite pronouncement or give any very definite undertaking as to how they would deal with these cases.

I submit that the time has come when perhaps we can obtain some clearer pronouncement from the Government as to how all these cases will be dealt with, and when they may assure us at any rate that they recognise their moral obligation to all these people who have suffered owing to the recent events it Ireland. I hope that the Government will not think that we are bringing any undue pressure to bear on them to-day. I feel sure that all those who have suffered in Ireland are only too grateful to this Government for having continued the machinery set up by the last Government, in the form of the Irish Grants Committee and so on, and no one has any desire to try to compel the Government to make any pronouncement that they feel to be premature. But if they could give us some information on the points which I have mentioned I am certain that the House would be very grateful.


My Lords, I am sure that every member of your Lordships' House must feel the deepest sympathy with these unfortunate victims of the destruction and brutality which took place in Ireland. But sympathy is not enough ; the time for sympathy has passed, and the time for action has come. These men have suffered not only wholesale destruction to their property during the last three or four years; in many cases they were brutally murdered for no offence except that they were supposed to be friendly to the British connection, and when they were not actually murdered they were often maimed and injured for life. I suppose that no civilised State or human being could allege that, in such a case as this, compensation—so far as compensation is worth anything—should not be made to these victims. And we are supposed to have provided compensation. On whom does the responsibility lie for seeing that that compensation is paid, and, more than that, for seeing that the compensation is adequate? I venture to say that the responsibility for making compensation in these cases lies, not merely on the Free State, whose adherents, or rather, the adherents of Sinn Fein, perpetrated these outrages, but on the British Government itself, which by its action, whether right or wrong, created the state of things in which these outrages became possible without adequate defence for the victims. I am sure noble Lords who sit on the Government Bench will not dispute that in this matter the British Government are responsible for seeing that the compensation which the Free State have agreed to pay is paid.

Let me recall to your Lordships' attention Command Paper No. 1736 which was published by the late Government in July, 1922, headed "Compensation for Malicious Injuries in Ireland." That Paper contained the narrative—somewhat incomplete, I grant—of what had occurred in Ireland, and then it stated that the Free State Government had accepted responsibility for making compensation. It went on to say:— While, however, the responsibility for meeting these claims to compensation must rest upon the Irish Government. His Majesty's Government cannot divest themselves of a duty to see that such claims are met equitably and as promptly as the inevitable difficulties allow. That is the responsibility which was undertaken by His Majesty's previous Government: I do not for a moment imagine that the Government which has succeeded it will repudiate the claim, and seek to divest itself of the responsibility. I trust that we shall hear to-day from the spokesman of the new Government that it fully and honourably accepts that responsibility, and in doing so it will meet the wishes of every honest man and woman in this country.

I agree with the noble Duke who has just spoken that we are not at this moment in possession of sufficient information about what has happened lately in order to be able to discuss this matter adequately. I trust that the Government, in accordance with the desire of my noble friend Lord Muskerry, will Jay such Papers before the House as will give us the fullest information, both as to the payment of compensation and other matters. I have myself put down a Question on the Order Paper for this day week, inquiring as to the number of claims made, the number of claims met, and the number of people that have been paid. It is really in continuation of the figures given in a recent Paper, published by the late Government last year, and I am sure the Government will bring those figures up to date.

But there is another point on which we should desire information. When the Compensation Bill, 1923, was passing through the Free State Parliament, there were many protests made in another place, by Question and otherwise, as to the character of that Bill, and it was pointed out, and I think never denied, that the compensation provided by that Bill was grossly and absurdly inadequate, and in many cases purely illusory. It was also pointed out that by that Bill British subjects were to be deprived of the vested rights which they had obtained under British Statutes and under the decision of British Judges. This was the first time, so far as I know, in our history when the rights of British subjects, acquired under British law in accordance with British justice, were to be destroyed, cancelled and taken away from them by the action of a State which claimed to be a foreign and independent State outside our jurisdiction.

That was the character of the legislation, and, if it had been brought before your Lordships at that time, I feel confident that not one of you, in whatever part of the House you sit, would have tolerated it as consonant with British justice and fair play. The Act passed through the Irish Parliament, and perhaps the noble Lord who is going to reply to this Motion will be able to promise that he will lay on the Table of the House any communications that passed between His Majesty's Government at that time and the Free State Government, protesting against the character of the Bill which the Irish Parliament was then dealing with. I think it would only have been reasonable that His Majesty's Government of the day should have protested to the Free State Government as to the character of the Bill which was being brought forward. If such a protest was made I think it would be material that this House should see it, and should see also what answer, if any, was given by the Free State Government to those protests. Certainly information of that sort would be very valuable in enabling us to deal with the future. I trust, therefore, that the noble Lord will promise to lay that information before the House.

There is a great deal more that ought to be said upon this topic in order to remove what up to the present has been, I think, a stain on British honour. At the present moment I doubt whether your Lordships are in possession of sufficient information to deal adequately with the matter, but I trust that His Majesty's Government will in a reasonable time put before the House all the information in their power, and will give your Lordships the assurance that they accept the responsibilities which were accepted by the previous Government and will do all that they can to remedy those terrible evils of which we are all aware.


My Lords, I should like, in the first place, to tell the noble Lord who moved this evening that in my humble opinion he is much to be commended for having altered his Motion and for not having brought it before the House in the form in which it originally stood upon the Paper. As his Motion appeared a few days ago it invited your Lordships to take a course which, I think, would have been a very extreme one; I mean, to commit yourselves to a proposal that there should be set up in this country a tribunal to revise the findings of the Irish Courts of Justice. To ask for such a step as that upon the strength of what, after all, could not be other than an ex parte statement would have been a very strong order indeed. But the Motion as it appears on the Paper to-day is a very harmless one. The noble Lord asks, in effect, for information, and for information of a kind which, I think, neither the Free State Government nor His Majesty's Government could possibly desire to withhold from the House.

We want indeed all the information we can get about Ireland. A deplorable feature in the Irish situation is the difficulty of getting at anything like a true account of the events that are passing day by day. One sometimes encounters persons who have only a rose-coloured story to tell, who would have us believe that the country is in a normal condition, that the Courts are functioning as usual, and that there is little or nothing to complain of. But is happens to me—I do not know whether it happens to many of your Lordships—occasionally to read the reports of the debates in the Irish Parliament, and I find Irish Ministers coming down to the Dail and asking for extreme powers, for powers of detention and imprisonment, powers even of using the lash upon criminals, powers which, had they been asked for by ray noble friend Lord Balfour, when he was Chief Secretary—had they been asked for in his most bloodthirsty moments, if he ever had any—would certainly not have been given him by the Government of which he was so distinguished a Member. We want to know as much as possible of the truth with regard to what is happening in Ireland. I hope, therefore, that we shall be given the fullest possible information of the kind for which my noble friends have asked this evening. In the meanwhile, until we have it, I venture to suggest to them that we should proceed with the utmost circumspection in passing judgment upon the things that are taking place, or in formulating remedial proposals.

We cannot conceal from ourselves that the position in which we Southern loyalists find ourselves is one of great delicacy and difficulty. As I understand it, the Government of this country has virtually parted almost entirely with control over what is happening in Ireland. I am not going this evening to revive old controversies. I have never concealed my opinion that it should have been possible for the Government of the day, when this Treaty was negotiated, to have insisted upon conditions which would have given some guarantees and some safeguards to the loyal subjects of the Crown in Ireland. Those safeguards were not insisted upon. It may be that it was impossible to obtain them; but they were not obtained. The result is that the Parliament of Ireland is free to make its own laws and that those laws are interpreted and administered by Irish officials over whom we have no control whatever. The results of that have been very serious from our point of view. My noble friend Lord Danesfort touched upon the point a moment ago. We are apt to gird at the Irish Courts for the kind of justice which they deal cut, but we are apt to forget that the Irish Courts are administering Irish law which has been made by the Irish Parliament and by which they are, consequently, bound.

It is no use to disguise from ourselves the fact that, when full powers were given to an Irish Parliament we parted absolutely and entirely with some of the most precious rights enjoyed by British citizens resident in Ireland. Before the new order of things was introduced, a British citizen who suffered either in his person or in his property was entitled to claim under Statutes which were British Statutes and part of the law of the land "full compensation "for his loss. "Full compensation" was the expression used. It is perhaps, a somewhat vague expression, but there was not much doubt as to its meaning. The present Lord Glenavy, who was then Irish Lord Chancellor, said in the course of a judgment delivered by him in 1921 that what was meant by "full compensation" was this: "Compensation may be full, which I interpret to mean that while it should be just it should also be generous." Lord Chief Justice Moloney said that "full compensation" meant "the full amount of a perfect compensation for the pecuniary loss." And later still, when instructions were drawn up for the guidance of the Wood-Renton Commission, they were told that they might give compensation "in reason and fairness."

Then came the Compensation Act of last year. Under Clause 6 of that Act, as your Lordships are aware, compensation is strictly confined to the actual injury done to the property in question. Numbers of cases have been cited in and out of Parliament illustrating the cruel hardship that has been occasioned by this limitation. I admit that it may have been necessary to put in some words defining rather more closely what was meant by "ful compensation." There may have been some danger of consequential damages upon an unduly wide scale being given under the Acts as they then stood. But this new and strict limitation involved an absolute deprivation of the right of a number of persons who had enjoyed those rights until the new Act came into force. I remember hearing of a case where a poor man had set up a little mill in art Irish country town and built up a prosperous trade. His premises were wrecked, his machinery was destroyed, and his son murdered. All he could get in the way of compensation was the bare cost of replacing the damaged premises and machinery. The man lost everything he had in the world, and had to flee the country and settle elsewhere.

There are other hard features in the Compensation Act of last year, but I will not deal with them in detail now There is for example the clause which insists on the reconstruction of destroyed premises, a condition involving the utmost hardship upon the person who is virtually compelled to rebuild his house. I will not take up the time of the House by enumerating these cases, but will only add that there is one grievance which is very keenly felt by all who are interested in these matters, and that is the hardship occasioned by the immense delays which take place in obtaining anything like a settlement of their claims. I do not want to judge the Irish officials, or the Irish Courts, too hardly. They are, no doubt, overwhelmed with business. Many of their officials are untried and inexperienced. The result is that in many cases weeks and months succeed one another, and the matter does not seem to get any further advanced. It was a very serious thing to throw this onerous, difficult and responsible work upon a body of officials neither numerically nor otherwise strong enough to cope with it.

What we are most anxious for to-day is, in the first place, to know what is the attitude of the present Government towards this question. My noble friend Lord Danesfort quoted from official documents passages which stated very clearly the kind of responsibility which we understood the late Government to assume. I have myself heard from my noble friends sitting on the Bench below me—from the Duke of Devonshire, the Marquess of Salisbury and the Earl of Birkenhead—statements in strong and unmistakable language indicative of the attitude that they desired to adopt towards this question of responsibility; we want to know now where we stand with the Government that is now in power. Are noble Lords on the Bench opposite, in a spirit of continuity which they have accepted in regard to other questions, ready to step into the shoes of their predecessors, and tell us that they will pay attention to these questions in a sympathetic spirit, and with a desire to ensure that those who have suffered so cruelly shall have as prompt and as complete a measure of redress as can be obtained? That is one of the objects we have in view. The other is to obtain as much information as we can with regard to the facts of the case. That is what the noble Lord beside me (Lord Muskerry) no doubt desires to obtain, and I hope it will be forthcoming in a full and encouraging measure.


My Lords, the noble Lord who introduced this Motion covered in his speech a wide range of ground. I make no complaint of that, except to say that it seemed to me that certain of the topics which he introduced were a little remote from the words of his Motion upon the Paper. It is now some time since a debate took place on this subject, and, with a view of getting a better perspective of what has been really happening. I think my best course will be, briefly, to remind your Lordships of the position of the various matters, and say what has been done, and is being done, in regard to them. In making this statement on behalf of the Government I will deal as fully as I can, within a reasonable space of time, with the points which the noble Marquess who spoke last desired me to mention.

These various matters fall into two main divisions—first, pre-truce damage, and secondly, post-truce damage. I will deal first with pre-truce damage, that is damage done to property and persons in Ireland owing to the unhappy conflict which took place in that country. I say at once that I have not the slightest intention, and it would be wrong if I had it, of seeking to minimise what has happened. Undoubtedly many persons have sustained grievous loss and injury, and nothing which I will say is intended to suggest the contrary, but I submit that great efforts have been made to compensate, so far as is reasonably possible, those who have suffered.

I say great efforts have been made, and let me recall to your Lordships' minds some of the steps which have been taken. First, I will deal with damage to property, and next with injury to persons. In the early days of conflict some claims for damage to property were tried in the Courts in the ordinary way, and where these claims wore defended the decrees have stood, and compensation has been paid. The vast majority of cases, however, were not defended, and in a considerable proportion of these the Courts, in the absence of any defence, awarded the full amount claimed without examination or question. I think most people will agree that such decrees require reconsideration and review; and indeed—and with great respect to the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, he entirely overlooked this point—it was in the interests of the claimants themselves that some machinery for this purpose should be set up, because, if the original decrees had been allowed to stand, and it had been sought to enforce them against the local authorities, the resulting financial stress would have been such that payment would have become difficult or impossible, and therefore the claimants would in many cases have got little or nothing.

It was primarily for this reason that the Compensation (Ireland) Commission, or the Wood-Renton Commission, as it is now more generally known, was set up, and as a result of the operations of that Commission a large number of persons who suffered damage will receive more compensation than they otherwise would have got, or will receive compensation which they would not have got at all. I should, however, make it clear that the work of the Wood-Renton Commission was not only to review these undefended awards but also to hear and adjudicate upon cases which had not yet come to the Courts. There have been in all submitted to the Commission some 40,000 claims for compensation, and since the beginning of 1923 it has disposed of not less than 24,000 of the claims submitted to it. In view of the exceedingly small number of complaints as to the awards of the Commission, which have been brought to the notice of His Majesty's Government, and of the, importance that individual claimants for compensation, many of whom were in the greatest and most urgent need, should have their cases dealt with as quickly as possible, I think all those who suffered damage to property prior to the truce in Ireland are under a great debt to Sir Alexander Wood-Renton and his colleagues for the speed and efficiency with which they have performed and are performing their heavy and responsible task.

It is objected against the Commission—and the noble Lord made this criticism in his speech—that to an extent It employs investigators instead of hearing each case as would be done in a Court of Law, but I would explain that the Commission is under no obligation under its terms of reference to give a definite hearing in each case. What has the Commission to do? All it has to do is "to inquire into and determine and to report what compensation ought, in reason and fairness, to be awarded in respect of destruction of or of injuries to property in Ireland, exclusive of Northern Ireland, between January 21, 1919, and July 11, 1921." In view of the very large number of cases to be dealt with a full hearing would be practically impossible in every instance, nor, indeed, is a full hearing in every case at all necessary. If it had been attempted it would have taken many years to deal with the 24,000 cases which the Commission has dealt with up to date, and I may say that even so there would have been practically no difference in the result. The truth is that the position is safeguarded in every reasonable respect, because the investigators' report is only an aid to the Commissioners. It is finally considered by them and the report is therefore by no means the last word on the matter.

Out of the 24,000 cases dealt with by the Commission awards have been made in 9,000 cases; the remainder being found by the Commission to be claims in respect of which compensation would not have been awarded under the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Acts. These Acts have governed the law in Ireland in regard to compensation for damage for the best part of a century, and I cannot think that the noble Lord, or the noble Duke, or anybody else, can reasonably complain because the Wood-Renton Commission has not given awards on claims which would not have had any legal basis under the general law applying to Ireland. I submit that no real criticism can lie because of the rejection of these claims for compensation.

As regards the 9,000 cases which have been granted awards by the Wood-Renton Commission, the the total compensation amounts to nearly £5,750,000. Of this amount rather more than £1,000,000 is subject to a condition as to re-instatement, which means, so far as certain cases are concerned, that at any rate part of the award has to be used in the reconstruction of buildings, and so forth. I really do not think that anybody can complain of that. As regards the balance of the £5,750,000, nearly the whole has already been paid by the Free State Government who are responsible for payment in the first instance, subject to refund from the British Government of such proportion as is certified by the Commission to be due from them. The noble Lord has asked whether the proportions are not half and half. They are not exactly. The proportions payable by the British Government at the end of each quarter hitherto have been sixteen twenty-thirds, twenty-seven fifty-sixths, fourteen twenty-ninths, and eighteen thirty-firsts.

You will see, my Lords, that the Commission has made great progress and has awarded a very large sum. There can be no dispute about that, and I confidently affirm that taken as a whole the work of the Commission has undoubtedly been good. I think I can prove that. As your Lordships are aware the Irish Grants Committee has had much to do with these various matters, and I take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the splendid work it has done The Chairman of that Committee is Lord Eustace Percy. He has, therefore, had the widest experience of what has been happening, and I do not think that anybody in your Lordships' House will impugn the value of his judgment. Lord Eustace Percy stated in a recent speech in Plymouth, on an important occasion, that the work of the Wood-Renton Commission had given general satisfaction. That statement was very widely circulated, and it is, I submit, a reasonable assumption that if it had not been fully justified a flood of evidence to the contrary would have poured in upon the Government.

Has that happened, however? Most emphatically it has not. On the contrary, as a result of that statement the Government has received extraordinarily few complaints as to the findings of the Commission—in fact, only about half-a-dozen in all. The Government is, of course, in no sense a Court of Appeal from the judgments of the Commission, but through the courtesy of the Commission the Government has been given the facts in these cases, and as a result I feel confident that I could, if I felt it right to trouble your Lordships with all the details, show, at any rate so far as our investigations have gone, that these very few complaints have, no real substance in them.

The noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, has asked to be informed what is the difference between the total amount of the claims which have been put before the Commission and the total amount of awards which have been made in respect of those claims. I regret that this information is not available and it cannot be got without considerable research, and in the absence of any substantial complaint as to the equity of the Commission's awards I scarcely think that the time and expense which would be involved in obtaining these particular figures would be justified.

Now I come to the case of the noble Lord who introduced this Motion. He spoke of his own case and gave certain details of it to your Lordships. Since he has done so I think it is only right that I also should give certain details with regard to the noble Lord's case. He was the owner of a mansion which, as I understand, had been in his family for many generations and contained many objects of value and sentimental association. I am dealing with the noble Lord's main case. The mansion and all its contents were utterly destroyed, and the noble Lord is clearly entitled to proper compensation. The noble Lord went to the courts, and he obtained a decree under the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Acts for £63,500. His case was undefended—that is to say, the decree was awarded solely on the evidence of the claimant, without any evidence being offered by the local authority with a view to the reduction of the claim—and consequently his case was one which fell to be reviewed by, the Wood-Renton Commission.

When the case was reviewed before the Commission, the noble Lord was represented by counsel, a number of witnesses were called on his behalf, insurance policies were put in, and the Commission not only had representatives of their own assessors before them, but they themselves visited and inspected the ruins. The actual hearing occupied two and a half days, and in the result the Commission awarded the noble Lord £51,600. That is to say, the review of the Commission meant that the original judgment for £63,500 was reduced to £51,600. This is, of course, an appreciable reduction, but I submit that it casts no aspersion upon a claimant to say that it is always likely, where evidence additional to his own is taken into consideration, that a decree will be reduced. In the case of the noble Lord it is perfectly clear that there was great difference of opinion as to the actual material loss incurred—and the Court is concerned only with material loss—when it is borne in mind that his original claim, upon which the Court on his own uncontradicted evidence awarded £63,500, was for no less a sum than £300,000. I do not think it necessary to go into further details of the noble Lord's case unless he desires it, but those are the main facts.

Now I turn from this main question of damage to property to that of injury to persons, and I can deal with this point in a few sentences. His Majesty's Government is under an obligation to pay in full to its own supporters all decrees for compensation for personal injury prior to the truce awarded by the Courts, and this obligation has been fulfilled at a cost of about £3,000,000. A small number of cases have not come to the Courts or have not been completed, and the compensation for these is being assessed by two members of the Wood-Renton Commission. His Majesty's Government have received practically no complaints with regard to compensation to personal injuries prior to the truce. The, noble Lord who introduced the Motion spoke about the War Compensation Court, but he is in error on that point. He alleged that the Wood-Renton Commission had been appointed as a branch of the War Compensation Court, and had been directed to deal with certain cases, but that is not so. I do not think I need at this stage trouble your Lordships with all that has happened in regard to the War Compensation Court. It is rather a long story, and there will be another debate, on these matters in your Lordships' House within a few days. If it is desired, I am quite willing to deal with it then. Rut the noble Lord is really mistaken on that point.

He also raised a point concerning Income Tax on Church investments. There, again, I think he is in error. I remembered myself, and I refreshed my memory while he was speaking, that the Finance Act of last year and the Finance Act of the Irish Free State each contained a provision continuing for one year the exemption from Income Tax of charitable investments in either country. This was a mutual provision to enable charities resident in Ireland to reinvest in Irish securities if they so desired, and vice versa. That exemption has now expired, but I think the noble Lord will remember that this point was brought up in your Lordships' House last year and, at any rate for one year, a clause was inserted in the Finance Act to deal with it.

The noble Lord asked whether a request or suggestion had been made by the Free State Government to the British Government as to guaranteeing a loan. I think he said that some suggestion was made in the autumn of last year. That is not so. The question of the guarantee for the land stock is a different problem altogether, and about that I say nothing now. The point which the noble Lord raised is, therefore, one to which I can give a reply in the negative. I should like to add, before I leave the remarks of the noble Lord, that I very much regretted to hear his remarks about a very capable and very loyal public servant, Sir Alfred Cope. I was sorry to hear the words which he used, and I really do not think that they were justified.

I now come to the question of post-truce damage, and I can deal with it very much more briefly. I think it was the noble Duke who referred to this point. Post-truce damage falls to be dealt with by the Courts in Ireland, as has been made clear this afternoon and as your Lordships no doubt are mostly aware, under the provisions of the Damage to Property (Compensation) Act passed in 1923 by the Parliament of the Irish Free State. I am quite aware that there are many persons both in this country and in Ireland who believe that under that Act adequate compensation will not be awarded. I can only say that in my opinion a careful consideration of the provisions of that Act will show that these apprehensions are not really well-founded. I do not claim that the Act is a perfect Act, though in this respect it would compare favourably with any other Act which has ever been passed by Parliament, but I do say that in any event it is premature to have a debate on questions arising out of post-truce damage unless and until, if it should ever prove to be the case, there is good ground for serious complaint after a substantial number of claims have been heard by the Courts, because, as your Lordships are no doubt aware, for reasons for which the Free State Government are not really responsible, hardly any of these cases have as yet been heard.

Meanwhile the Irish Grants Committee is ready to consider any application for an advance on account of compensation from any person who feels that he is suffering by reason of delay, and they have already made advances in such cases amounting to over £155,000, and that is in addition to advances to the amount of over £100,000 in pre-truce cases. The noble Duke cited several classes of cases with regard to the provision for which he was not at all satisfied, but most of those cases referred to in the latter part of his remarks were, I think, cases in which application could be made for some assistance to the Irish Grants Committee. The Interim Report of the Irish Grants Committee has been published, and no doubt many of your Lordships have read it, and I may say that the Supplementary Estimates authorising the necessary expenditure to carry out all the recommendations of the Committee in that Report form part of the Supplementary Votes now being considered in another place. The special cases to which the noble Duke referred, or some of them, undoubtedly could get help under these latest arrangements, or will be able to get it in due course. These new arrangements permit grants to persons who have left the Free state for other places including Northern Ireland, and they allow substantial grants for resettlement in England or the Colonies.

I have tried, without speaking at too great length, to cover the main facts of what has been happening, and I now come to the statement, and it is very brief, of what is the position of the Government in regard to these various matters. The noble Marquess who spoke last asked what was the position of the Government. The position of the Government can be stated almost in a sentence. The present Government in this whole question have considered, and are adhering to, the policy followed by their predecessors, and they see no ground for departing from that policy. I submit, in conclusion, that, looking at these questions of compensation as a whole, probably no Government or no Governments in the course of history have made more continued and more generous provision for those who have suffered in internal strife than the British Government and the Free State Government have made during the past two years in dealing with cases of damage and injury in Ireland. I believe that statement can be tested historically and found to be perfectly true. Before I sit down I should like to say one word about the Motion moved by the noble Lord. At the conclusion of his speech he moved a Motion asking for certain Papers to be laid. I desire to say, on behalf of the Government, that they will accept that Motion.


Will the noble Lord tell me whether among the Papers to be laid will be a communication—


Order, Order !


It was determined the other day that a noble Lord has not a right to speak twice on these occasions.


My Lords, the noble Lord alluded in his speech to the Plymouth meeting, at which Lord Eustace Percy said that the Wood-Renton findings bad been accepted, and that they did substantial justice. As I have had some dealings with the Wood-Renton Committee, or they have had dealings with me, and I do not think I did receive substantial justice, I wrote to the Morning Post and stated my case. If your Lordships will allow me, it will not take me many minutes to explain. At Easter, 1920, about half the police barracks in Ireland were blown up, and destroyed, including one of mine. I applied for compensation. The case was tried before the County Court Judge and defended, and so the Wood-Renton Committee could not say anything about that. I got £950. About six months later the remains of the same barracks were destroyed by another outrage, and I put in another claim, and the County Court Judge awarded me £1,200 for that. The Wood-Renton Committee, when it came before them, because the case had not been defended, cut that amount of £l,200 down to £60. I thought that was rather too much. I did not see the substantial justice of it, and so I objected.

Of course I objected before the Plymouth speech—months before. I do not think that any of your Lordships will consider that an award of £60 out of the £1,200 awarded by the Judge after hearing the case was substantial justice. My solicitors and valuers had an argument with the Wood-Renton assessors or investigators, and they ultimately said that they would give me £250 instead of £60, but with a rebuilding condition. Now, I ask your Lordships, who could rebuild a building worth £l,200 for £250? It is absolutely ridiculous. That is my experience of the Wood-Renton Committee, and I think you will agree with me when I say that I do not think the Committee render substantial justice in all their findings.


My Lords, if I may be allowed to do so, I shall offer sincere sympathy to the noble Lord who will have to answer these questions. Nothing in the vast range of work which comes under his supervision will cause him more trouble, than these vexed problems connected with compensation in Ireland. At the same tine I wish, on behalf of those with whom I generally act, to thank him for the assurance which he has given to the House this afternoon, that the Government will carry out the pledge which I on several occasions gave on behalf of the late Government, and which we had inherited from Mr. Churchill. I think it is satisfactory that there has been that degree of continuity existing in the policy of the three Governments, and although there may be many very difficult matters, and there is bound to be, I am afraid, very considerable delay, it is, I hope, a matter of some gratification to the victims of these terrible outrages that we have had again these assurances from the Government.

I also wish to thank the noble Lord for the assurance which he has given to the House this afternoon, that the recommendations contained in the Second Interim Report of the Irish Grants Committee will receive favourable consideration at the hands of the Government. In particular there is the reference in the first paragraph on page 5 to the, following effect:— It must be remembered that, owing to the somewhat peculiar provisions of Irish law on this subject, there are large categories of damage in respect of which the sufferer has never had any legal claim against the Government or the local authority. This state of the law has given rise to many anomalies and, in a number of cases, has caused hardship of a kind which, we feel, cannot be ignored. We, therefore, recommend that the desirability of making final grants or loans and providing annuities should be taken into account in framing the estimates for the coining financial year. I understand from the assurance given by the noble Lord that this is one of the recommendations which he, on behalf of the Government, is prepared to accept.

I agree that it might be rather premature at this moment to press for further information in regard to post-truce claims for compensation, but, having so recently been responsible for these matters, I can only say that I myself have every reason to believe in the bona fides of the Irish Government's desire to arrive at a satisfactory solution. Your Lordships will not be surprised if we press—as we are perfectly entitled to do—that here should be as little delay as possible in arriving at a settlement of these claims.

I understand that the three main points which are now causing apprehension and alarm are the delay, the method by which payments are made, and the question of mansion houses and dwelling-houses which have been destroyed. If the Government are able to accelerate the process by which these questions can be solved I am sure your Lordships will be grateful to them. No doubt on other occasions the noble Lord opposite will deal at greater length with various questions which have been raised, notably those which my noble friend Lord Danesfort has placed on the Paper. If at the same time the noble Lord can give us any further information as to the work of the Irish Grants Committee I am sure the House will be grateful. The Report which I hold in my hand carries the story up to the end of last year, and if there are any additions that the noble Lord can make we shall be glad to hear them.

When speaking on the other side of the House I used to make an appeal to those who had these cases to bring them before the Irish Grants Committee. I am no longer in the position to be able to make such an appeal, but I suggest that, in these cases of extreme complexity, far the best course is to place them before the Irish Grants Committee, when, I am confident, they will receive that treatment which already has resulted in a great deal of good and in the affording of a considerable amount of relief to most deserving sufferers.


May I ask whether among the Papers which will be furnished by the Government there will be included those Papers for which the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, is asking in his *Question next week? And will it be possible to include in the Papers any communications which may have passed between His Majesty's Government and the Free State Government regarding the Compensation Act, 1923 ?


As regards that, I think the noble Lord who has answered this Question would be most willing to consult the noble Lord opposite who raised the point as regards Papers, in order that they might, if possible, come to an agreement. But the wider subject to which the noble Lord referred must, I think, stand over for the moment, because we have had no sufficient intimation that it would be raised. I understand that it is to be raised next week by Lord Danesfort, and, as far as Papers are concerned, if the noble Lord who has asked for them will get into communication with my noble friend, we shall do everything possible to meet his wishes.


I beg to thank the noble Lord for his courtesy in accepting my Motion.


I understand that the Motion of the noble Lord now stands as follows: That there be laid before this House [*The Question of which Notice has been given by Lord Danesfort is in the following terms:—To ask His Majesty's Government whether they will state the number and amount of the claims made to the Wood-Renton Commission for compensation payable by the Free State Government for damage done to property before 11th July, 1921 (the date of the peace), the number of those claims which have been settled by the Wood-Renton Commission itself and by the investigators respectively, the amount which has been paid and which remains to be paid in respect of the claims so settled, and the number and amount of the claims still outstanding; whether they will make a similar statement as to the number and amount of the claims for compensation payable by the Free State Government for damage done to person and property respectively since 11th July, 1921; and whether they will state the number and amount of the claims which have been made in accordance with the Memorandum of April, 1923 [Cmd. 1844] for loss arising out of theft, looting, and requisitions, the number and amount of these claims which have been settled and paid, and the number and amount of these claims stilt outstanding.]

  1. "(l) The correspondence between the Colonial Office (Irish Department) and the Irish Free State about the Shaw and Wood-Renton Commissions;
  2. "(2) A list of the claims heard by the Wood-Renton Commission and amounts paid both to Loyalists and to others:
  3. "(3) The correspondence between the Lord Chief Justice and the Government on the subject of constituting a branch of his War Compensation Court in Dublin."



On Question, Motion agreed to.

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