§ LORD DANESFORT had the following Notice on the Paper:—
§ 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 July 11, 1921 (the date of the truce), 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 July 11, 1921, stating the amount claimed, the amount awarded, the amount paid and which remains to be paid, in respect of the sums awarded, and the number and amount of the claims still outstanding; 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 still outstanding; and whether he will lay on the Table copies of the correspondence which passed 1095 between His Majesty's Government and the Free State Government relating to the Damage to Property (Compensation) Bill, 1923, of the Free State Government before and after that Bill passed into law; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I desire to trouble your Lordships for a very few moments in order to emphasise one or two points which are enquired into in the Question which I have put upon the Paper. The first point regards the pre-truce claims for damage to property up to July 11, 1921. The noble Lord opposite gave us some details on this pointon the last occasion when the question came before the House, which, I think. was on March 5 last, and I would ask him if he would now add to that information the information asked for in my Question, and, amongst other things, if he can tell us how many of the 24,000 of these pre-truce claims which he tells us have been settled came before the Wood-Renton Commission itself, and how many were settled before the investigators. There is another point in this connection. He told us that most of these pre-truce claims which had been decided had been paid. Perhaps he could tell us how much remains to be paid in respect of these claims.
§ I pass to the next part of the Question, which relates to post-truce damage to property and to person. The amount of that damage is enormous and must involve many millions of money. I hold in my hand a statement dealing with one subject alone—namely, the number of houses actually burned to the ground in Southern Ireland since December, 1921. The number is 212, and the buildings so burned include two Protestant churches, seven Protestant rectories and schools and three creameries and milk factories, the rest of them being for the most part private houses, great and small. I was disappointed and, indeed, surprised to hear from the noble Lord on March 5 last that hardly any of these numerous cases of damage to property and person since July, 1921, the date of the truce, had yet even been heard, and I will ask him if, when he comes to reply, he will kindly let us know how it is that these claims, many of them dating back very nearly three years, have not yet come before any tribunal at all.1096
§ Perhaps he will also be able to tell us in his answer how many have actually been heard, what the amount awarded has been and whether in all cases those amounts have been paid. From information which has come to me from private sources, I gather that there have been cases—relatively few, but nevertheless a certain number—where the amount has-been fixed, but no money has been paid at all. I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate the importance of an answer on that point. Do let us bear in mind that many of the people whose property has been destroyed, or who have suffered injury to limb, and, in some cases, to life, as well as the dependants of those who have lost their lives, are very poor men, and can ill afford to wait for years after this damage and injury has occurred before they are paid.
§ My noble friend said the other day that these people could go to the Irish Grants Committee, presided over by Lord Eustace Percy. That is quite true. The noble Lord also mentioned the total figure of the amounts which had been given by the Irish Grants Committee to these sufferers as being £155,000. That was an advance on account of the awards which were likely to be made. It seems a very small amount indeed out of the many millions which will certainly be awarded when these cases are heard. Perhaps my noble friend will tell me whether the cases of these sufferers will be favourably considered if they go for further advances to Lord Eustace Percy's Committee.
§ The only other point upon which I wish to dwell for a moment concerns the last part of my Question, which asks whether the Government will lay on the Table copies of the correspondence between His Majesty's Government and the Free State Government regarding the latter's Damage to Property (Compensation) Bill, 1923. It is common knowledge, I think, to many members of this House and, indeed, of the public outside, that when that Bill of 1923 was passing through the Irish Parliament attention was called to the extraordinarily unsatisfactory character of the compensation which it provided—compensation which, in many cases, was purely illusory, and which, so far from being a real compensation for the injury 1097 suffered, represented only an extremely small proportion of what the compensation might reasonably be.
§ Efforts were made to induce His Majesty's Government of the day to make representations to the Irish Government on the subject and to persuade them to modify and extend the provisions of that Bill. I should be glad if my noble friend would tell us whether those representations were made by the British Government of that day to the Free State Government, and, if so, whether they had any effect. If those representations were oral, no doubt he will be able to tell us what was their result. If they were in writing, I should be glad if he could give us a copy. The Papers for which I beg to move are (1), a Paper containing a tabular statement showing the information which is asked for in the Question—details of claims made, claims paid, and so on—and (2), a copy of the correspondence which passed upon the subject to which I have alluded. I beg to move.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD ARNOLD)
My Lords, in reply to the noble and learned Lord I will give the figures asked for in the first part of his Question down to the latest available date, that is, February 29 last. I must explain that it is not possible to give the total amount of the claims submitted to the Commission, because a number of them are for compensation merely, and do not specify the amount claimed. Moreover, a number of the claims received are duplicates. Such claims are, of course, rejected by the Commission, but this cause of rejection has not been statistically noted amongst other causes of rejection. The total number of claims submitted to the Commission down to February 29 last has been 39,475, including the duplicates of which I have spoken. Of this total number of 39,475, the Commission has disposed of 25,645 and has made awards in 9,473. The total amount awarded by the Commission is £5,596,488, exclusive of costs and expenses
The noble Lord further asks how many claims have been settled by the Commission and by the investigators, respectively. I must, however, explain that no claims are actually settled by the investigators. 1098 Their function is to report to the Commission, who alone have power finally to award compensation. In the debate on March 5 I pointed out that in view of the very large number of cases to be dealt with, a full hearing by the Commission would be practically impossible in every instance, nor, indeed, is a full hearing in every case at all necessary. It it had been attempted it would have taken many years to deal with the large number of cases—upwards of 25,000—which the Commission has dealt with up to date, and I may say that even if such an attempt had been made, 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.
As regards payment, your Lordships are, I think, aware that all awards are payable in the first instance by the Free State Government, and that after payment by the Free State Government, His Majesty's Government refunds to the Free State such a proportion of the payments made as is certified by the Commission to be attributable to damage done by the forces of the Crown. Your Lordships have also previously been informed that there is an inevitable delay between the time of the award and the payment by the Free State, as owing to the very numerous charges, assignments, or other dealings in these awards or in the original decrees out of which they arise, it is necessary for the Free State Government to advertise their intention to pay every award as it is issued, in order to assure that due notice is given for all claims against the award. The average duration of this delay is from six to seven weeks.
Of the 9,473 awards issued down to February 29 by the Commission,. 8,000 have been paid down to the same date by the Free State Government. As I have informed your Lordships, the awards amount to £5,596,488, and the payments amount to £3,139,175, of which sum £2,083,024 has been refunded to the Free State Government by the British Government. Of the total sum of £5,596,488 awarded by the Commission, £1,246,184 has been awarded subject to reinstatement. I explained the facts about that on 1099 March 5, and the greater part of this amount is not, of course, as yet due for payment, although a proportion has already become payable and has been paid. Excluding the amount for reinstatement, the balance of the difference between awards and payments is due to the necessary delay to which I have referred.
In the second part of his Question the noble Lord has asked for information regarding post-truce claims and awards similar to that which I have already given regarding pre-truce cases. I regret that I am not in a position to give this information, and it would be placing a very heavy burden, as I explained, upon the Free State Government to ask if they would obtain it. It must be remembered that these post-truce claims are not like pre-truce claims dealt with by a single body but by numerous courts throughout the country, so that a big amount of labour would be involved in preparing the returns for which the noble Lord asks. I would add that whereas His Majesty's Government and the British people are deeply concerned to see that justice is, so far as possible, done to those who have a claim, by reason of past loyalty, to their support, yet in the great majority of cases the question of post-truce damages is one purely domestic to the Free State.
The noble Lord asks if I could give particulars as to the number of cases which have already been tried, because, amongst other things, I stated on March 5 that very few of the cases had been tried. I think it only right to say that although, as I have explained, I was not then in a position to give the statistics for which the noble Lord asks, yet some three weeks have now elapsed and in the interval a certain number of cases have been tried. Cases are being tried now, and therefore a larger number have been tried than was the case on March 5. As, however, I have explained, it is not possible to give statistics for the reasons which I have stated. The noble Lord spoke of the delay and of the fact that certain persons were suffering because of the delay in getting their cases tried, and in receiving compensation if awarded to them. He asked whether in such cases, if a grant has already been made by way of advance by the Irish Grants Committee, it would be possible to apply for a further grant. I understand that that is so—that a further grant could be applied for, and that further appli- 1100 cation would be favourably considered. In the third part of his Question, the noble Lord asked for copies of the correspondence.—
§ LORD DANESFORT
The third part of the Question is as to the number and amount of the claims which have been made in accordance with the Memorandum of April, 1923?
§ LORD ARNOLD
I would explain in regard to that, that precisely the same position applies as applies to the previous Question. Statistics are not available without a vast amount of trouble. We have not got them and to ask for them would be to place a heavy burden on the Free State Government. In the third part of his Question, the noble Lord asks for copies of the correspondence which passed between His Majesty's Government and the Free State Government relating to the Damage to Property (Compensation) Bill. Your Lordships will, I think, appreciate that as a result of the close geographical propinquity between this country and Ireland, and of the fact that the Governments have throughout been in the closest touch, the consideration of questions of this kind has usually taken the form of verbal discussions between Ministers and officials rather than of formal correspondence between the two Governments; and there has been in fact no correspondence between His Majesty's Government and the Free State Government relating to the Act in question except on certain very minor points. The noble Lord asked me whether if that was the case I would state the character of the discussions which had taken place verbally. I think, if the noble Lord will allow me, that it is only reasonable, if he desires to have such a statement, that be should be good enough to put down a further Question, because it is not in his Question on the Paper. I trust that I have not elaborated my reply at undue length, but I can assure the noble Lord that I have done my best to answer his Questions as far as is reasonably possible.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords. I understood the noble Lord to say that the claims of loyalists in Ireland appealed to English people over here, yet still it was a domestic question. I hope I do not misrepresent him.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I will repeat what I said. I said that whereas His Majesty's 1101 Government and the British people are deeply concerned to see that justice is, so far as possible, done to those who have a claim, by reason of past loyalty, to their support, yet in the large majority of cases, the question of post-truce damage is one purely domestic to the Free State.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
Is it a domestic matter if damage is done after the truce contrary to the provisions of the truce and of the Treaty ? Surely that is a question upon which His Majesty's Government ought to say to the Free State "You must abide by the conditions implied in the truce and in the Treaty, and, if you do not, we shall make you do it." I do not see where the domesticity comes in. And I really hope that the Government will take steps to see that the provisions which were supposed to be carried out by the Free State when the true-; and the Treaty were made really are carried out. Many of us at that time had very grave doubts as to whether these provisions ever would be carried out, and, if we are to be told that this is largely a domestic question, it will remain a domestic question, which, being interpreted into common English, means that these unfortunate people will get nothing.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I have no doubt the noble Lord has done his best. I am deeply distressed to find that he cannot give us some information as to these numerous wicked cases of destruction of life and property and of injury to limb which have occurred since the truce. Does my noble friend realise that these people who have had their property destroyed, who have been in many cases murdered, who have been injured in life and limb, were British subjects, and that the Free State.—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I must draw the noble Lord's attention to the fact that on a Motion such as this it is not usual to make a second speech, but to say something strictly confined to the Government reply.
§ LORD DANESFORT
It was really in reply to what my noble friend said as to this being a domestic matter to the Free State that I was speaking, but if I am out of order I will desist.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I am anxious to learn the rules of order. I always understood that if you concluded with a Motion the noble Lord who moved the Motion could speak a second time.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is quite right, but it must be strictly in reply to the Government statement.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I am very much obliged, and I will endeavour to speak strictly in reply to what my noble friend said. Does he think it a domestic matter for a British subject to be murdered in the Irish Free State? Is it a domestic matter that he should have his property destroyed in the Free State? If he does not think it a domestic matter, will he really take some trouble to find out what the Free State has done to make compensation in those cases? He says the Free State would have great difficulty in getting this information. But surely the Free State must know what it has paid. It surely must keep some account of what it has paid in awards for all this murder and destruction.
§ LORD ARNOLD
May I, by permission of the House, say a sentence in reply? In regard to the phrase "purely domestic to the Free State," I think, if the noble and learned Lord will read precisely what I said, he will see that he is construing into it more than the words will actually bear. I said "the great majority of cases." In regard to the points which he has raised about compensation under the Act of last year, I should like to remind him Of what I said on March 5. It was that in any event it was premature to have a debate on questions arising out of post-truce damage unless and until it should ever prove to be the case that there is good ground for serious complaint after a substantial number of claims have been heard by the Court. I submit that that stage at any rate has not arrived yet.
§ LORD DANESFORT
In view of what the noble Lord says I fear I cannot ask for Papers, because he does not seem to have any Papers to give. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the Motion. I will call attention to the subject later.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes past seven o'clock.