§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE had the following Notice on the Paper:—
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware that by the 976 Irish Free State Damage to Property (Compensation) Act, 1923, the whole legal basis on which compensation for malicious injuries was founded was fundamentally altered to the prejudice of the persons injured, in breach of the agreement of January, 1922, made between the British Government and the Free State Government; that the awards made to Southern Irish loyalists under that Act for post-truce malicious injuries are as a rule wholly inadequate and in many cases illusory; that the larger part of the compensation is being paid in depreciated Free State Bonds in lieu of cash; and that in many cases the Free State Government have improperly deducted from the amount of the compensation large sums alleged to be due for Income Tax; what steps His Majesty's Government propose to take to give effect to the repeated pledges of successive British Governments that the claims of Irish loyalists should be equitably met; and to move that a Committee of Inquiry be appointed by His Majesty's Government which shall make recommendations as to the compensation which ought to be paid to those Irish loyalists: (a) who have legal claims for compensation for post-truce malicious injuries, but who have not received from the Free State compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Acts; and (b) who have no legal claim for compensation under existing legislation, but who have suffered in person or property owing to the withdrawal of British protection in Southern Ireland.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, the subject of my Question and Motion has been before your Lordships' House several times before, but I make no apology for again bringing it to your notice, because the wrongs which have been suffered are so great that this House ought not to leave cognisance of the question until it is satisfied that justice has been done. Your Lordships will notice that the sole subject of my Question and Motion is what are called post-truce injuries to persons and property of loyalists in Southern Ireland. There is a great question, of course, involved in regard to pre-truce injuries, but my Question has nothing whatever to do 977 with that, and I will confine my observations entirely to the subject of post-truce injuries to property and persons of loyalists in the South of Ireland.
§ I ask your Lordships to remember certain dates. The date of the truce was July 11, 1921; the date of the Treaty was December 6, 1921; and the date of the withdrawal of the Royal Irish Constabulary and British troops from Southern Ireland was January and February, 1922. I am not going to read the terms of my Question and Motion, but I will point out the salient features. First, I draw attention to the fact that the whole legal basis of compensation has been fundamentally altered; secondly, that the awards have been, as a rule, wholly inadequate; and, thirdly, that the larger part of the compensation has not been in cash but in depreciated Free State Bonds and that deductions have frequently been made for claims for Income Tax. Then I ask what steps His Majesty's Government propose to take to give effect to the repeated pledges of successive British Governments that the claims of Irish loyalists shall be equitably met, and I suggest that a Committee of Inquiry be appointed.
§ No one doubts or denies that the injuries to person and property were very numerous and very serious, and I do not suppose that any of your Lordships will deny that under the terms of the Agreement between His Majesty's Government and the representatives of the present Irish Free State the Irish Free State is primarily responsible for compensation for post-truce injuries. The ease I am going to make out, and I hope to prove, is that by that Agreement compensation for these injuries was to be assessed according to the terms of the Malicious Injuries Acts then in force in Ireland, and that the Irish Free State Government agreed to this. What are the proofs of that statement? I hold in my hand a document, Command Paper No. 1736, 1922, entitled "Compensation for Malicious Injuries in Ireland." It is a letter to the Provisional Government of Ireland dated Downing Street, July 26, 1922, and signed by Mark Sturgis, who describes himself as Secretary to the Provisional Government of Ireland Committee of the Cabinet.
It is sufficient to quote from paragraph 3 of this letter to prove the first point I
have tried to make, that compensation to these unfortunate persons was, according to the understanding between the two Governments, to be assessed according to the terms of the Acts then in force in Ireland. The words in paragraph (3) are these—
It was also agreed in January last that claims in respect of malicious injuries whether to persons or property, sustained after July 11, 1921, should be dealt with in the usual way by the county courts and discharged by the local authorities.
That is the fact. The next point I wish to make is that, although the Irish Free State Government is primarily responsible, the ultimate responsibility rests upon the British Government.
Let me quote again from the same official Paper. Paragraph (4) says this—
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 inevitable difficulties allow.
And again, in paragraph (5), we read this—
A number of cases have come to their notice of persons who have suffered malicious injury to person and property since July 11 of last year, but who have been deterred or prevented by the very causes which led up to the recent fighting from prosecuting their lawful claims in the normal way.
It goes on to describe the nature of these cases, and then these words occur—
In this matter also His Majesty's Government feel that they have alike inalienable responsibility.
That is an official Paper, signed by a subordinate officer of the Government.
But I am going to quote in support of it the actual words of Cabinet Ministers. What did the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, say on November 28, 1922, in this House? These are his words—
I have not and never have had the slightest doubt that the ultimate position of this country.…must be that of a guarantor to a liability which was incurred in pursuance of Imperial interests
Those are very strong words. Let me read them again:—
I have not and never have had the slightest doubt that the ultimate position of this country.…must be that of a guarantor to a liability which was incurred in pursuance of Imperial interests.
And on December 4, 1922, the Duke of Devonshire, whose absence to-day we all
greatly deplore and whom we hope to see amongst us again very shortly, said this:—
We do realise these responsibilities, and we shall act upon them, even if we have to make considerable demands upon the people of this country.
Now I come to statements of Lord Arnold on behalf of the late Government. On March 5 last year he used these words:—
The present Government in this whole question have considered, and are adhering to, the policy followed by their predecessors.
That he repeated again in debate on July 16.
§ We have, therefore, the spokesmen of every Government since the trace affirming and agreeing to the ultimate responsibility of this country to see that justice is done to these unfortunate individuals. Has justice been done? I suggest that the Irish Free State have failed, certainly in many cases, to discharge the responsibility which rested upon them. In May, 1923, they passed an Act by which they completely altered the basis upon which compensation had been awarded under the Malicious Injuries Acts and reduced the compensation to an amount which is always inadequate and in many cases illusory. I do not think that it would be becoming, nor is it necessary, for me to speak at length on the policy of the Irish Free State Government, but I do point out that this action is wholly inconsistent with the understanding that is alleged to have existed between the two Governments, as stated by Mr. Sturgis in Command Paper No. 1736. That is to say, the spirit and, indeed, the letter of the understanding on this subject has not been fulfilled by the Government of the Irish Free State.
§ Let me show your Lordships what has been the effect of this legislation. Every British Act relating to these injuries has been repealed. All the decrees already made under those Acts were declared unenforcible, and the only remedy left open to the injured persons was to claim ex gratia from the Free State Government such compensation as might be recommended by a Committee appointed by the Free State itself. As regards post-truce injuries to property, all rights to compensation under the Malicious Injuries Acts were annulled, all decrees already made under those Acts were made void 980 at the instance of the Free State Minister of Finance, and the whole basis on which compensation was to be granted was fundamentally altered, to the detriment of the person whose property was injured.
§ This, I submit, is a plain violation of the responsibility undertaken by the Free State, and I can show how this has acted by a few examples. The compensation for injury to property, for instance, is no longer to be measured by the loss to the individual but by the actual damage done to property. Nothing is to be allowed of what might be called consequential damage for injury arising from the loss of the use of the property destroyed. Thus, traders whose premises are burnt down can recover only the value of what has been actually destroyed. They can recover nothing for the loss of the business, which may be permanent. Again the tribunal which assesses the compensation can and does, as a rule, impose, as a condition of obtaining the compensation money, an obligation to rebuild the premises. Just think what that in many cases unfortunately means! It means that a man who has been driven out of the South of Ireland by violence must either rebuild a house or shop in which he dare not reside or forego the whole or a greater part of the compensation. Lastly, only a small part of the compensation is payable in cash. The rest is paid in depreciated Free State Bonds.
§ What conclusion do I draw from this bare statement of facts? It is that, as the Free State has palpably failed to fulfil its obligations, the British Government are bound by their pledges to zee that fair compensation is paid. I end by moving that His Majesty's Government should appoint a Committee of Inquiry. I do that because this, as your Lordships know only too well, is a very complicated question and it is not always easy to ascertain exactly the facts of each case or to know exactly what has occurred. I suggest that it is not possible for His Majesty's Government to fulfil the obligation which lies upon them unless these cases are carefully investigated by what everybody affected will admit to be an impartial tribunal. I do not wish to attack any Government Department, but I am only stating what is known in your Lordships' House when I say that the action of the Colonial 981 Office in this matter has not always been considered by those affected as very sympathetic. Accordingly, I now support the suggestion that Lord Carson made, I think in July of last year, that the Government should set up a Committee or tribunal to examine these claims fairly, and then that they should see that money is forthcoming to meet them.
§ I am not going to quote individual cases, except one, because necessarily I cannot quote these cases from knowledge at first hand, and there are in your Lordships' House many Peers who, unfortunately, are able from personal knowledge to give examples of what has occurred. But I want to remind the Government that there was a bi-lateral agreement in this matter. In the matter of compensation certain obligations were undertaken on behalf of the Irish Free State—those are the obligations to which I have already referred—but obligations were also undertaken by His Majesty's Government. I understand—I may be wrongly informed—that His Majesty's Government have fully and entirely fulfilled all the obligations that were made upon them and that no suggestion is made in Ireland that they have not carried out, in the spirit as well as in the letter, all their obligations in respect of compensation. It is surely putting it very gently if I say that it cannot be stated that everybody is contented with that which the Irish Free State has done in the matter of fulfilling its obligations. I should not be exaggerating if I were to say that there is a very prevalent impression that grave injustice has been done.
§ I said I would only read one case, and this is a case that has not yet been before the Courts of the Irish Free State. Therefore I cannot say anything about inadequate compensation in that case. I will tell your Lordships, when I have read it, why I have quoted it. The information comes to me from Colonel Crane, who was resident magistrate in the County of Kerry, and it concerns Colonel Warden of Derriquin Castle, Kenmare, who had been for long resident in Kerry. He had spent thousands on the improvement of his home and property, and was in every way a model landlord, residing at home the whole year round. He gave a great deal of employment to the local people, and farmed a considerable 982 amount of land himself. When the truce preceding the Treaty came he hoped he had weathered the storm, but, as a matter of fact, he was raided some eight or nine times during the space of a year after the truce.
§ On the occasion of the last raid by armed men on Es house he narrowly escaped with his life, and had to fire in self-defence. He was forced to fly the next day, with his wife, and eventually got to England in a tramp steamer. The marauders burnt his house and everything in it, destroyed his gardens and slaughtered or drove away his cattle, cut down his shrubs and timber, and turned his gardens into a wilderness. All his electric machinery and outbuildings were destroyed, and everything he possessed was either looted or destroyed. The strain and anxiety on himself and his wife were indescribable, and resulted in her death a year ago.
§ I quote that case, although it has not yet come before the Courts, for this reason, that it is a typical case of what men have suffered in Ireland only because they had served in the British Army. Nearly four years have elapsed and the ease has not yet been heard, and therefore he has not received a penny of compensation. Think of the cruelty of the case. Think of the terrible consequences of this protracted delay. Think also of the special responsibility of the British Government., because I am informed that this outrage took place after the truce but before the British Government had been able to hand ever responsibility for law and order to the Irish Government. That is the reason why I have quoted this case, to show how complicated the question is and how, even after the truce, there may be cases where there is a very special responsibility on the British Government, and not only that general responsibility which rests upon them as guarantors of the liability of the Irish Free State. These people have suffered a cruel wrong and they have suffered that wrong only for one reason—because they were loyal to the King and because they did not think that love of Ireland made it necessary to hate England.
§ We are in the middle, in Ireland, of a great experiment. It was never intended by the Government who initiated that experiment, or by Parliament which accepted responsibility for it, that that 983 experiment should be made in any way at the cost of those whose only fault was that they were true to their King and loved England. The pledges I have quoted—pledges that involve every Government—were made by honourable men who were entitled by their position to give those pledges, and at the time they gave them in neither House of Parliament were their pledges questioned. They were accepted as inevitable and right by the public opinion of all Parties. Surely it is our part as an honourable nation to see that those pledges are fulfilled. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That a Committee of Inquiry be appointed by His Majesty's Government which shall make recommendations as to the compensation which ought to be paid to those Irish loyalists: (a) who have legal claims for compensation for post-truce malicious injuries, but who have not received from the Free State compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Acts; and (b) who have no legal claim for compensation under existing legislation, but who have suffered in person or property owing to the withdrawal of British protection in Southern Ireland.—(The Earl of Selborne.)
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just spoken dealt so fully with one side of the question that it is unnecessary to say very much more about it, but there are one or two aspects with which he has not dealt, and on which I should like to say a few words. My reason for doing so is that I am chairman of an association which is endeavouring to distribute relief to these unfortunate people who are suffering in Ireland. Therefore I have had some experience of the kind of cases which are occurring, and the things which they suffer. Not that I would suggest that it is possible to say anything new on this subject, because it is not. Everything which my noble friend has said has been said before. Certainly it was said last year, and I think the year before, if not the year before that. This time last year you had a debate in which all these facts were brought to the attention of the then Government, and the association over which I have the honour to preside sent to the noble Lord opposite, Lord Arnold, a very full list 984 of the cases for the Government's consideration. He gave those cases his most earnest attention and consideration, and I should like to say how very grateful we are to him for his genuine sympathy, and the desire which he displayed to remedy the evils, as far as he could.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Government to which he belonged went out of office. I rejoiced very greatly when that event occurred, because I thought, and I still think, that it was a good thing for this country, but as to whether it was an equally good thing for the loyalists of Southern Ireland I do not feel quite so convinced. It seems to me, from the attitude of the noble Lord, that we were then nearer to a solution of this thorny problem than we have been at any period since. Indeed, it seems to me that the settlement of this question has receded steadily ever since then, but I hope the position is going to be reversed to-day, and that we may hear that the Government have decided upon the course which they are going to pursue, and that a satisfactory settlement may be expected.
The Motion before the House asks for a Committee of Inquiry, and I am convinced that this is the only method. I should have thought that there was nothing which the Government would welcome more than this, because we have always been informed that they only want to arrive at the truth about these cases, and they have informed us that they were giving the subject the most earnest consideration, and were conducting inquiries with a view to finding out the truth. I am sure they have done their best, but their efforts to arrive at the truth have been entirely unsuccessful, and how unsuccessful they have been is shown by two facts. One is that when last year Lord Danesfort, I think, asked the Government to inform the House what number of post-truce claims had been heard, we were informed that the Government could not give that information because it would cause the Free State authorities too much trouble to supply the figures. If the Colonial Office is unable to obtain from a Government Department in Ireland such elementary statistics obviously it is quite impossible to expect them to ascertain the information which is now desired.
Another fact which seems to me to show that the Colonial Office cannot possibly 985 arrive at these facts, and that no official inquiry can arrive at the facts, is that the Colonial Office have been almost entirely dependent upon my association, which is merely a private charitable association, for a very great deal of their information about what has been going on in Ireland, and it really does seem to me a most anomalous and, indeed, an absurd situation that the Government, which admits its obligation to a very large number of people in Ireland, should be dependent for information about them upon a more or less irresponsible, unofficial, and charitable organisation.
There are some things, of course, about which it is not necessary to enquire at all, because they hit one in the face. One is, as the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, has just pointed out, that the pledge given by our Government in regard to the basis of compensation for post-truce damage has been broken. About that there can be no doubt at all. I will not go into all the figures which he produced, nor the letter of 26th July, 1922, referring to the January agreement, which said that claims for damage sustained after 11th July, 1921, should be dealt with in the usual way by the county courts. The plain meaning of that, as he pointed out, is that they should be dealt with by the County Court Judges, and that compensation should be awarded according to the terms of the Criminal Injuries Act, 1919–20. They have not been dealt with on that basis, and my noble friend pointed out the difference between the basis under the Criminal injuries (Ireland) Act and under the Damage to Property Act.
But, really, it is not necessary to labour the point because the Free State Judges in Ireland admit most fully that the compensation is utterly inadequate. This is what one of their Judges remarked a few weeks ago regarding a case which he had to try:—The only crime of the applicant was that he had always done his duty as a man, as an honourable professional gentleman Yet his property was treated with unmeaning and idiotic savagery. The pretence for seizing his house was that it was required to provide a home for the homeless. The manner in which such a home was provided was to burn down the house and convert the surroundings into a howling wilderness.He added—I also wish to say I regret that a Judge is, precluded from giving compensation which would at all adequately compensate the applicant for what he has gone through 986 No such thing can be done. I have to confine myself within the law, and must administer the law and give compensation accordingly.If that is the opinion of one of the Free State Judges it is really hardly necessary to labour the point that the compensation is utterly inadequate, and I hope we shall not be told by the Government to-day that they must wait a little longer till they see exactly what the result of this Act is.
But if they would like to know a little more about what the result of the Act is, I should be very glad to give them a little information. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, produced one case of a man who had suffered severely, but whose case has not yet been tried. The case I am about to give is that of a gentleman who suffered very serious personal injury, and his case has been tried. His house was raided on many occasions. On the last occasion the raiders announced their intention of shooting him. One daughter interfered to save her father, was mercilessly beaten, and has not yet fully recovered. Mr. X. was brutally ill-treated, after being dragged from his own house, but the raiders were disturbed before shooting him. Mr. X. escaped to England with his family. Both he and his daughter were refused compensation for their injuries. Mr. X. is now a permanent physical wreck. He has received advances from the Irish Grants Committee on decrees awarded to him for damage to his property, but he has had nothing whatever for the damage to his person.
I should like to give to your Lordships one or two more cases of inadequate and, indeed, illusory compensation for damage to property. There is a man who carried on business as the proprietor of a garage with motor cars for hire. His motor cars were largely used by the police. On January 19, 1921, a district inspector of police was murdered. The four murderers went through Mr. X.'s shop, and he gave information to the authorities. He was subsequently kept in the police barracks for his own safety, and in the end had to leave the country and abandon his business. One of the cars was commandeered by the British Forces; it broke down and was abandoned. When found, it was out of action, and all accessories were stolen. 987 He refused an offer of £50 as an ex gratia grant. I will give one more case, the case of a farmer with a farm of 140 acres, who paid a judicial rent of £150 per annum. Boycotting commenced in 1920. Orders were issued by the Irregulars that 17 acres of grazing land which he let out were not to be taken. Later in the year he was ordered to leave. On his refusal, his fences were broken down, his gates opened, and his horses and cattle turned out on the road. That gentleman has received no compensation at all.
As I say, it is not necessary in the least to conduct an inquiry into the facts both that the basis of compensation has been altered, contrary to the Government's pledges, and that it is utterly inadequate. The cases which I have read out are the result of our Government's solemn declaration in that same letter of July 28, 1592, to which my noble friend referred, stating that His Majesty's Government cannot divest themselves of the duty to see that such claims are met equitably and as promptly as unavoidable difficulties allow. And yet, while these unfortunate people get nothing at all, money is available, as the Government themselves admitted the other day—and apparently seem quite satisfied with the arrangement—for gentlemen who kept bomb factories in order to bomb British troops, and kept ambush houses in order to waylay and murder.
I have pointed out that the Government promised equitable and prompt treatment. We have seen with what equity this promise has met. But now what of the promptness? Anybody who knows anything about conditions in Ireland knows that the greatest hardship has been caused by the continual postponement of the hearing of these claims, and the excuse always given is the congested state of the Courts. Just consider the state of farmers, numbers of cases of whom our association are now dealing with, whose property has been damaged, and who are eking out a precarious existence on loans from banks. The banks are now pressing for payment. These farmers are forced to sell immature stock, and they go on from had to worse. They keep on losing money, and small advances are made to them by our association. The inevitable result in the long run is bankruptcy, and the net result of all this delay is that these people 988 are living on their capital, with the eventual result that they go bankrupt.
The Irish Grants Committee in the past—I do not know how far it is doing it now—has been making advances to people on their claims for compensation. The result is the same: it only means that these people are forced to live on their capital. The Irish Grants Committee gives them small sums from time to time on the strength of their claims, but, as they are getting no income at all from their capital, which they have lost, the whole of the capital and the income have gone by the time that their claims are paid, if they ever are paid. Nor is there any necessity to inquire into the hardships which these people are suffering from being paid in pre-War Bonds. Those Bonds have fallen in the past to as low as 87. I am not sure that they have not fallen lower. These people are not able to hold the stock until it rises in value, but are compelled to sell at a loss and consequently suffer great hardship. All these are facts which are not disputed, and no inquiry is necessary in regard to them. The Government have made certain definite commitments and an inquiry is not necessary to establish the fact of the obligation of the Government, but to establish the amount of money due by the Government to these unfortunate people. That is all I have to say about those who have claims for compensation.
It is impossible to leave this subject without some mention of those who have no legal claim, but have a moral claim on the Government, which moral claim has been frequently admitted. There is no getting away from the fact that, even if the question of compensation under existing legislation were out of the way altogether, it would only relieve a fraction of the suffering which is now endured by the loyalists in Ireland. I should like to give the House a few instances of the kind of treatment which these people have to endure. Let us take, first the case of those farmers and tenant farmers who, although compelled to pay rent, rates and taxes, are illegally prevented from using their land or getting a living out of it. Many cases have been brought to our notice and have been very carefully investigated so that there is no doubt of, their truth, in which the right to let land for grazing has been denied, and in cases 989 where the land is so let cattle have been repeatedly driven off and fences broken down. In one case the civil authorities declined to intervene, and, although in another case after two years the civil authorities seized the trespassing cattle which the outsiders had put on the land and sold it, they are alleged to have paid compensation out of the money received to the trespassers for having been driven off, In this case the trespassers have again seized the land and put cattle upon it.
Let us take the case of those who are paying an annuity to the Land Commission, which, of course, is a Government organisation. They are deprived of their land and yet are unable to obtain the protection of the law. But the Government demands payment of the annuity as well as the rates and taxes. In consequence of that many people are having to sell their personal belongings in order to meet these demands. Here is a typical case. A gentleman rented from the Land Commission about 120 acres of grazing land. Early in 1922 this land was forcibly taken from him, his cattle were driven off, fences and gates were broken down, a cottage on the land was partially destroyed and the land was illegally used for twenty months by people who had no light to it. During those twenty months this gentleman had to pay rent for other land on which to graze his cattle. He made repeated representations to Dublin and eventually obtained £130 in compensation for the whole of his losses. At the present moment he owes £200 to the Land Commission for rent, as well as rates and taxes on land from which he was forcibly driven and to which the Free State Government took no steps to restore him for twenty months.
Many cases have come to our notice where people were driven out of their holdings early in 1922. They suffered very heavy losses in having their belongings in the way of furniture and farm implements looted and their cattle driven across country by bands of marauders. As these raids took place in the spring these people had not sown their crops, and when they eventually returned to their holdings the season was too far advanced for sowing and they lost an entire year's harvest. In consequence, they were unable to meet the charges on their farms and their ordinary expenses 990 and had to borrow money at a high rate of interest to meet the demands of the Land Commission. Those people can claim no compensation and no redress of any kind.
Let me call attention to another class of sufferers—people who have a claim for the refunding of Income Tax but cannot obtain it. Apparently, in many cases the Free State Government does not dispute the validity of the claim to a refund of Income Tax. They ever notify these people that the refund has been passed for payment. But there the matter rests, they hear no more about it, and repeated applications by the claimants meet with no response. In one case which came to our notice the Free State Government informed the claimant that they were holding back the money which was due to her in order that it might be kept against the next claim for Income Tax. As the unfortunate lady has no more money left and is being maintained by our association, your Lordships can imagine the kind of hardships which she had been suffering. The hardship, of course, is all the greater in cases where people have to pay Income Tax to the Imperial Government as well as to the Government of the Free State. The latter Government simply does not answer any letters on the subject. It should be borne in mind that many of these people were deprived of their incomes from land for several years and have suffered acutely in consequence, and it is, surely, cruelly unjust now that their lands are being sold to deprive them of money that is due to them, seeing that they have already suffered severely under the Land Act of 1923 in having 25 per cent, of the unpaid rents cancelled and a large portion of the purchase price of their land paid in stock.
Now I come to the last class of sufferers and I will not detain your Lordships any longer. They are comprised under the term "consequential damage" cases. Many of these people were in a very prosperous situation at one time, but are now utterly ruined. Here is a typical case. A doctor, who was a police medical officer during the troubles in Ireland and whose wife assisted the Crown Forces in many ways, has been severely boycotted as a result and nobody is allowed to enter his house. For the last 991 two years his practice has been nil, and he and his wife are in a state of acute distress. Then two maiden sisters, who formerly made a living out of their land, have been rigidly boycotted for a long period. They were not allowed to sell their hay nor to let their land for grazing. They have been frequently raided for weeks on end by bodies of Irregulars, who were boarded on them and whom they were forced to feed at the point of a revolver. They are now living on what is left of their capital. In another case with which the association has dealt an egg merchant, whose turnover before the trouble was not less than £10,000 a year, has been completely ruined. He was boycotted, and is now dependent upon the little money that his wife can earn as a nurse.
Then there are all the humbler people who had small businesses or shops. A man who owned a printing press and a mill was forced by the Irish Republican Army to print for them in 1922 and when they were driven out by the Free State troops, the latter broke up the printing machinery and his mill was completely boycotted. This man was frequently raided and had to seek safety elsewhere on many occasions. He is back again in his home as a tenant.
I do not know that it is of any use going on. It is rather wearisome to go through these cases, most of which were sent to the Colonial Office nearly a year ago but nothing has happened in regard to them. It hardly seems worth while to recapitulate them. In some of these cases, of course, the people might have a claim to compensation, or at any rate to some small compensation, for some amount of their losses, but they dare not apply for it. For instance, there is a woman who owned a small farm and was postmistress. She was raided and had to give up Post Office work, thus losing £50 per annum. Her own house was raided and the furniture broken up, and the raiders so terrorised her that she dare not apply for compensation.
Some people seem to have an idea that all these cases happened a long time ago, that they are a very old story, that they only happened during the Civil War, and that Ireland is now a perfectly peaceful place, a kind of earthly Paradise. I can assure your Lordships that is not so at 992 all. Violence, intimidation and boycott are still going on. Here is a case of a widow which happened only recently. She has been subject to organised persecution and boycott for a year. She was forcibly deprived or her small farm and only after repeated representations by friends did the Free State Government consent to eject the intruders and restore her to her farm. This woman would have starved had she not been helped by our association. She has lately been persecuted further. Her fences have been broken down and her cattle driven off. If her cattle strayed into a neighbour's croft she had to pay damage by order of the Court. All through the trouble the rent and rates of the farm she was driven from had to be paid.
In the vast majority of these cases these people are absolutely defenceless and helpless. It is possible, as I have said, that in some cases a claim for compensation might be valid, but these people are ignorant of the law, they have nobody to advise them and they cannot pay for legal advice. The law has kept on altering and they have no money, of course, to spend on obtaining legal advice. In a great many cases they simply dare not put forward any claims at all.
It is impossible, I think, to leave this question of the state of the loyalists in Ireland without saying one word about the condition of ex-Service men in Ireland. One difficulty of inquiring into conditions it Ireland is that it is to the interest of so many people over there, and also in this country, to represent Ireland as a kind of Paradise. I have had same experience of that because, having ascertained some months ago what the condition of these ex-Service men was, my association issued an appeal in the Press, in which I intimated, what was perfectly true, that no man who had served in the British Army was likely to get employment in Ireland. That was met, of course, by a howl of indignation from various people in Ireland who shall be nameless. They said it was absolutely untrue. I do not want to impeach their reputation for veracity, but it seems to me that the Irish have an extraordinary faculty for self-deception.
In any case your Lordships may be, interested to see how the Irish Government is differentiating in favour of its 993 own national Army. Here is a notice to contractors issued by a Government Department, the Commissioners of Public Works. This is an offer of a contract to rebuild an ex-R.I.C. Barracks at Kildare. This is a paragraph from the advertisement:—In considering the placing of the contract special regard will be had to the extent to which firms submitting tenders employ or are prepared to employ demobilised officers and men of the National Army.I have a number of these contracts. Here is another, from the Department of Industry and Commerce, who are advertising for a branch manager for the labour exchanges. They say:—In the selection of a candidate for appointment preference will be given to ex-members of the National Force.The evidence is quite overwhelming that ex-Service men who have served in the British Army have very little chance of getting employment in Ireland. In many cases their condition is really appalling. Their pensions are in most cases ridiculously inadequate. Those who are out of work get no uncovenanted benefit as in this country, and in consequence large numbers are on the verge of starvation. The ex-Service men's associations have, as yet, only been able to deal with the fringe of the problem. Their organisation is nothing lake so good as it is in this country, and the political conditions are not favourable to anybody who desires to help those who have served and have been loyal to the Crown.
Such is the situation of the loyalists of Ireland, and of all those who have done anything to help this country in Ireland in the past. Their condition may be very briefly summarised in one sentence. The pledges given for their compensation have been broken, the promises and also the safeguards for their future welfare have proved completely illusory, and they have been denied justice and even protection. The question now is what is the Government going to do? That question has been evaded, on one pretext or another, for the past three years. Successive British Governments have been asking for further information; they have been conducting inquiries; they want to wait and see how the Compensation Act works, and so on. I fully realise the Government's difficulties. I also realise that it is very easy to criticise but more difficult to discover 994 a remedy. My noble friend's Motion does provide a remedy, and I am convinced the only remedy which will adequately meet the case. If the Government are prepared to take this remedy well and good, but if they are not prepared to take it the sooner they tell us so the better.
The loyalists of Southern Ireland have suffered in the past from uncertainty more than anything else. It has been quite impossible for our association, or any other charitable organisation which wishes to help them, to issue an appeal to the public until we are certain what the Government means to do. It would not be justifiable to go to the people of this country and ask them to subscribe a very large sum if the Government were prepared to do anything to help. Therefore, I hope that we shall be told to-day quite clearly and distinctly what the Government propose to do. If they are not prepared to recognise the debt which they owe to these people, I hope they will tell us so at once, and we shall be then able to take such steps as the situation may seem to require. It is quite true that, if they told us quite plainly they were going to abandon these people to their fate, the Government's reputation might suffer, but I am bound to say I think that if they announced that it might possibly be to the benefit of the loyalists of Southern Ireland rather than to go on dwelling on the eventual hope of doing something in the remote future.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, you will not expect me to deny for an instant the wrongs which the supporters of the Crown have received in Ireland. It is no surprise to me. I always knew what the result of this policy would be. The wrongs that they have received are undoubted, and for aught I know—of course, I have had no opportunity of checking them—there are many wrongs still continuing in Ireland. All the cases which my noble friends have given to your Lordships may be founded on fact, and I certainly am not here to deny them. I hold no brief for the Irish Government. Why should I? At the same time, it would be only just to say that, so far as the principles which he has laid dawn are concerned, we have always found Mr. Cosgrave a, very straightforward Minister to deal with. 995 He has always dealt with us on very fair terms, subject, of course, to what he believes to be right, which does not, perhaps, agree altogether with what we think. It is only right and fair that I should say that.
I do, however, deprecate some observations which have been made this afternoon. My noble friend for whom I have the greatest respect politically and in other ways, the Duke of Northumberland, spoke with some contempt because, in a recent debate in this House, we said that the British Government were prepared to pay a certain sum of money which might be devoted to the compensation of persons in Ireland who have no sympathy whatever with this country. What is the good of saying a thing like, that? We are compelled to pay it. We pledged ourselves to pay it under the arrangement which was originally made in regard to pre-truce compensation. We were not obliged, perhaps, to pay that particular sum, but we were bound to pay a large sum of money and the argument really only turned upon how much it was to be.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have too great a regard for the noble and learned Lord to desire to cross swords with him. He knows that my sympathies are with him; but this money was payable because we had promised to pay it. And when I say "we" I do not mean the present Government, but that Great Britain has promised to pay it because of the damages which were inflicted by soldiers of the Crown. There is no question that we promised to pay this sum of money, and I deprecate, therefore, the observation which fell from the noble Duke. I quite agree with a great deal of what the noble Duke said. I noticed that after he had detailed some of these cases he said that whatever we did not a fraction of the cases could be covered. I agree.
Nothing can be done to reverse the Treaty. If your Lordships had followed the lead of the noble Duke on a very important night when he moved an Amendment to the Treaty history perhaps would have been quite different. I followed his advice, the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, followed his advice, but the majority of 996 your Lordships voted the other way, and the responsibility is upon your Lordships' House. Obviously, having once abandoned your friends, you can no longer look after them. I am not pushing it farther than the noble Duke; your Lordships must not think that for a moment. I am only reinforcing what he said, and, therefore, upon Parliament, upon your Lordships' House, rests the grave responsibility. But when we are dealing with these specific cases which have been submitted, we are bound by the letter which was written either by or under the authority of Mr. Winston Churchill, the letter which has been quoted this evening, which states that the responsibility lay, in the first instance, upon the Irish Government, but that His Majesty's Government had a duty of seeing that the claims were equitably met.
Having made these admissions, I ask your Lordships to look at the other side. The Government have not been unmindful of their obligations. Any one who listened to the two speeches which have been made to-night would have thought that nothing had been done. That is not true. The noble Duke spoke of the Irish Grants Committee. Look at what they have done. Their duty was to make grants in the case of refugees and upon the security of compensation which had been awarded or would probably be awarded. They even dealt with hypothetical cases of damage. The grants and loans in relief of distress amount to £23,000; advances on claims under the Land Act to £29,000—I am giving the round figures—advances on decrees or claims for pre-truce compensation £117,000, and advances on similar claims, post-truce compensation and other post-truce claims, to £197,000. I do not want to put it too high, but surely these things must be considered on the other side; and those items total up to more than £400,000.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am not aware how much has been repaid, and indeed some of these unfortunate people are not in a position to repay. I will say something about that in a moment. A case was quoted by my noble 997 friend the Earl of Selborne, I am not sure that I got the name correctly. In that case a large sum of money has been advanced to the individual. I do not say that it was adequate, but a large sum has been advanced against his claim for compensation. And there has been an effort to meet what the noble Duke stigmatised quite rightly as the undue delay of meeting claims. The lack of promptness is one of the most bitter grievances of these unfortunate people, and one of the principal duties of this Grants Committee is to advance money on claims and thus avoid the distress and difficulty caused by these delays.
But your Lordships must not think that the matter is perfectly simple. The noble Duke has not, said that it is simple—and, indeed, it is not perfectly simple. The whole question of compensation is surrounded with difficulties. Who are you going to compensate? My noble friends say the loyalists. But are the loyalists the only people who have suffered in Ireland? It is notorious that the various Irish factions have committed outrages on each other. Is the British Government to compensate these people, too? Are we to compensate people who are not supporters of the Crown, who probably never were, and who probably incurred their losses when they were in arms against the Crown? How are you going to distinguish between loyalists and others? This is not an argument for doing nothing. It is intended to show your Lordships that the matter is very difficult.
Take another case. My noble friend spoke of the change in the standard of the value of the compensation, which he said—and, very likely, said quite rightly—had been unfair. No doubt the old principle, before the trouble, was that compensation should be given for malicious injury at what was called the replacement value; that is to say, to an amount required to put the property back in exactly the same position as it was in before. But in many cases that no longer corresponds to what is equitable. I should like to give your Lordships a case which will show how difficult the matter is. I refer to a case of which your Lordships have probably all heard—a notorious case of a claim for a house which was destroyed. The claim which was put in 998 was, I think, for £38,000. It was a large house and, so far as I know—I do not want to bind myself to a figure—to rebuild it as it was when it was destroyed would have cost £38,000. But what were the facts? That house had not been lived in for many years. It was empty years before the War; it could not be let and it could not be sold. Noble Lords may deny the fact, but that is what I am advised in this particular case. Ought we to say to the Irish Free State Government, notwithstanding the fact that this house could be neither let nor sold and was practically never lived in, that it must be built up exactly as it was before and that money must be provided for this purpose?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My noble friend does not say that. I am only showing how difficult the matter is.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
This is an illustration of what actually happened, and I am only trying to show how very difficult these questions of compensation are. I am sure that my noble friend does not deny it. I do not want to have any concealment about these things. His Majesty's Government have no desire to conceal anything. So far as public policy will allow, we desire to play with every card on the table, and it would be of the greatest assistance to His Majesty's Government if noble Lords who criticise—my noble friend Lord Selborne or my noble friend the Duke of Northumberland—would come to us, and we will show them everything and tell them everything. There is nothing that we would conceal from them. Anybody whom the loyalists trust, whom they would like to send to the Colonial Office, or wherever the place appointed might be, may have everything put at their disposal, in order that they may be able to appreciate, not only the wrongs that have been suffered, but the immense difficulties that stand in the way. I make that public invitation to my noble friend.
Let these people say: We have confidence in Lord Selborne—or in the Duke of Northumberland, as it may be—and we are quite sure that we may safely 999 trust them to go on our behalf to see, to know, to hear everything which the Government have at their disposal. For these noble Lords are not our enemies, they are our friends. These noble Lords are not only political supporters of the Government but they are the friends with whom I persona9y have acted for years. I have no desire, none of us who belong to the Conservative Party have any desire whatever, to act behind the backs of the representatives of the loyalists in your Lordships' House. Everything is at their disposal.
Let me say a word or two more about the difficulties. There is the question of indirect damage—I think the noble Duke called it consequential damage: I mean the same thing—and it is a most important question, and a perfectly genuine point, if I may be allowed to say so. There is, in addition to the direct damage in Ireland, a vast amount of consequential damage. But is all consequential damage to be admitted? The noble Duke shakes his head. He knows quite well that it cannot be admitted. This is another of the great difficulties. As a matter of fact, it was not admitted before the trouble in the old days of the British Government in Ireland.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am always very nervous when I come to a point of law with my noble and learned friend, who is, of course, a great authority.
§ LORD CARSON
It is, of course, a technical matter, but if the noble Marquess would take the trouble to read certain cases, including that of O'Connell against the Tipperary Council, I think he will find that he is wrong.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am not at all sure that I should be able to follow the technical point. I do not give myself any airs on matters of law—or, indeed, on any ethers, but least of all on matters of law. I do not know that I should be able to deal with the point, but I am advised by those who are competent to speak that, in those old days, consequential damage was not admitted. Undoubtedly it was admitted in a certain number of cases, but the most authorita- 1000 tive judgments were against it and in practice it was not, in those days, admitted. I am not surprised at that, because it is not admitted in England and it would be contrary to British practice to admit unlimited consequential damage. I am not sufficiently a lawyer to say where the line is drawn, but your Lordships will see how difficult it is.
My noble friend, the noble Duke, spoke with great truth of all the terrible consequences which law-abiding, loyal and peaceful inhabitants in Ireland have suffered. They are boycotted, they have lost the opportunity of cultivating their ground, they have incurred a great deal of odium and they have lost a great deal of money. That is deplorable. I should like to compensate every one of them, if it were possible, but my noble friends both know that it is not possible, that it cannot be done without extending the doctrine beyond all reason, and I am quite certain that if they came into conference with any one of us or with any British lawyers they would admit that the thing was impossible. That is another example of the immense difficulties and why consultation is of the greatest importance, and why I urge upon my noble friends to accept the suggestion which I made to them. I do not want your Lordships to think that we are indifferent upon this point. I am able to say, on behalf of the Government, that at any rate in a certain number of cases they are prepared to go beyond anything which has been done up to now and to provide a certain amount of compensation. That is one of the points on which I am glad to say we are able to go further than has been gone hitherto.
Now we come to the charge that a great deal of this compensation is illusory. No doubt—I am not going to deny it—it may be true in a certain number of cases or in a, great number of cases, but I think I rightly caught my two noble friend's to dwell especially upon the fact that compensation has been in many cases paid in Irish stock which is now depreciating stock. That is quite true. Well, I think we shall be able to do something at any rate to mitigate that loss. There have been, as your Lordships are aware, advances made by the Irish Grants Committee upon the security of this stock and, the stock 1001 being depreciated, if the borrower were forced to repay at the true value of the stock he would incur very heavy loss. I am able to say, en behalf of the Government, that they will ask for nothing more than the nominal value of the stock—that the advance should be treated upon the basis that it is the nominal, and not the depreciated, value of the stock which is to be considered.
Again, there are cases where there has not yet been any advance, but where the Grants Committee are aware that the victim is in need of cash. In properly selected cases the Grants Committee are prepared by the authority of the Government to make advances not upon the real value of the stock but upon its nominal value. There we are showing how very anxious we are to meet the legitimate difficulties of these unfortunate people. I have said something to show your Lordships that the Government recognise that some of this compensation is illusory and are prepared by their own authority and out of the pocket of the British taxpayer to correct it. There is yet another example, and the same thing is true about these cases of personal injury. Great complaints have been made that proper compensation is not made under Irish legislation for personal injuries. There again, in suitable cases, the Government, through the Irish Grants Committee, are prepared to make payments in compensation for personal injuries. All these things are only to show to your Lordships that it is not at all the fact that we are ignoring the difficulties. We are quite sensible of them and are anxious to meet them in every way it is possible to meet them.
Lastly, let me say one word upon the Income Tax point. I think the noble Duke referred to the Income Tax point. Your Lordships are aware that what is said is that where compensation is due to persons in Ireland the Revenue authorities in Ireland deduct arrears of Income Tax before paying over the compensation. The first thing I have to say about that is that the complaints which are made are not confined to the loyalists. There are a great number of Irishmen to whom compensation is payable who are not loyalists at all, but from whom the tax is deducted. Then cases of hardship are often really the fault of the taxpayer, who has not given proper 1002 notice to the Revenue Commissioners. The real original of the system is, that there were, in the time of the worst troubles, immense accumulations of arrears of Income Tax, and the taxpayers came to the Revenue Commissioners and said: "You will not ask us for arrears of Income Tax until compensation is payable, and then you can deduct it" So the system was really established at the request of the taxpayers, and is not, as might have been supposed from the complaint made, one imposed by the Revenue authorities. But, however that may be, if any injustice has been done I am informed that the Irish Government are perfectly ready themselves to put it right. Does my noble and learned friend doubt what I say?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hold is my hand a letter from Mr. Cosgrave, and this is what he says:I need not assure you that personally I am most anxious that no claimants who have fair ground of complaint should be left without redress, and am only too pleased, to have cases brought to my notice, which prima facie appear to merit inquiry, looked into, and the result communicated to you, and we will always give, and undertake to give, the utmost consideration to any case which comes before us. It amongst those cases to which you advert there are some where deductions can be shown to be excessive, we will deal with them with the utmost promptitude as soon as the facts are given to us.I have said at the beginning of my remarks this evening that I hold no brief for the Irish Government, but it is only fair, however much you disapprove, as I disapprove, of the whole modern system of Irish Government, that you should recognise what Mr. Cosgrave is prepared to do. Of course, I have not read the whole letter to your Lordships, but it is all written in the same spirit, and so far as that letter is concerned there is evidently every desire to do all that justice requires.
May I just summarise what I have put before your Lordships up to now? There has already been a large sum of money provided by the British Government for advances to the Irish Grants Committee. Where compensation has been paid in depreciated stock, in suitable cases the British Government is prepared to make good the difference between the real and 1003 nominal value of the stock. In cases of loss which are not covered by the Irish legislation the British Government is prepared, through the Irish Grants Committee, to make grants ex gratia to meet cases of special hardship. These concessions—or redresses let me call them, not concessions—apply to pre-truce and post-truce injuries alike. And finally, in the case of personal injury, the British Government is prepared to make advances, through the Irish Grants Committee, to suitable cases both in respect of pre-truce and post-truce personal injury. I am not saying that enough has been clone, but I do say that I have said enough to show that the Government has not been insensible to its responsibility, that it has not ignored the hardships of these unfortunate people, with whom it has the greatest sympathy and for whom it has the most profound compassion.
And now what do my noble friends propose? They say: Let us have an Inquiry? They did not tell your Lordships what kind of Inquiry they propose. Was it a Select Committee of your Lordships' House? Was it what is called a Departmental Committee?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
What is it? It is easy enough to say have an Inquiry. My noble and learned friend is too ready to ignore the immense difficulty. He has himself been responsible for affairs over and over again and he knows quite well that a generality of that kind is of no use whatever. What is to be the form of the Inquiry? I am quite sure of this, that if it be possible we must show ourselves responsive to the kind of spirit which is to be seen in those extracts from Mr. Cosgrave's letter which I have read. As the noble Duke has said, you never will really restore proper treatment in Ireland except with the co-operation of the Irish Government. He, himself, practically says so; the thing cannot be done—I mean even if we admitted everything that he said in his speech, and adopted every remedy—except with the co-operation of the Irish Government.
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
I never said that; on the contrary, I said you would never get the truth from them.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My noble and learned friend said a good deal about truth the last time we discussed Irish affairs. If I may say so, the Irish conception of truth is not exactly the same as the English conception of truth.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am afraid my noble and learned friend is tempting me into a metaphysical argument from which I shrink. But what I say is this, that if it be possible it is far better to proceed in this matter by welcoming the spirit of co-operation of the Irish Government. I should like, before I attempted by an Inquiry to bring under review the acts of autonomous Government, to get their assent to any such course, and I believe that that is in the true interest of these unfortunate people who are really the people to be considered. Nothing matters really except to help the loyalists in Ireland. I do not care what the Irish Government do in giving their own money to their own supporters. What we are out for is to see, so far as we can, that the loyalists are properly treated and for that purpose the more we can encourage a spirit of co-operation between tile two Governments the more likely we are really to be their friend.
To return to this proposed Committee, what is it going to do? Is it going to be a roving Committee? Is it to go to Ireland and collect evidence there? How do my noble friends propose to proceed? Do you think such a Committee would get all sorts of facilities from the Irish Government to collect evidence? Then what will they do in Ireland—or is it to be in England?
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
You can make investigations there precisely as our association does; we have all the machinery now.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I would not like to put any limit to the skill of my noble friend, but I have my doubts, very great doubts. But is it possible that an Inquiry of this kind may be feasible? I am quite sure that you cannot send a Committee to Ireland, and I do not think you can bring all the evidence over here. Those two things seem to me not to be feasible. Of course, 1005 there is a certain amount of evidence already. There is the evidence of my noble friend, which I have no doubt he will put at our disposal; there is the evidence also of the Irish Grants Committee, which is at our disposal. That we can use. But the method of inquiry, such as my noble friends propose, without a great deal more definition, and without having faced the difficulty, is not a proposition yet which can be practically considered.
And to these difficulties in practice, to which I have called attention, there are to be added the difficulties which I mentioned in the earlier part of my speech—the difficulties of definition as to what a loyalist is, as to what fair compensation is, as to how far you ought to deal with indirect damage. Those things have to be dealt with before anything in the nature of the remedy which my noble friend proposed would he a feasible proposition. "Then are you going to do nothing?" ask my noble friends. Once more I urge upon them the suggestion have made. Let them select whom they will. My noble friend Lord Selborne and the noble Duke, I need not say, would be abundantly welcome. Before they make any proposals and ask your Lordships to come to any conclusion on the proposals, let them come to the Government; let us show them everything that we have, point out to them all the facts, exhibit to them all the difficulties.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We will wait till we hear what the result of that consultation is. That is the offer I make to my noble friends. I earnestly hope that they will accept it in the spirit that we are doing our utmost for the loyalists in Ireland and that we may together co-operate.
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, even at this comparatively late hour I hope your Lordships will tolerate me while I make some observations upon the subject of the Motion and upon the matters put forward by my noble friend the noble Marquess. As some of your Lordships are aware, I have been working for the last four years to try to get this Commission set up. I have worn myself out at times interviewing men who have been 1006 robbed, whose property has been looted and whose houses have been burnt down in Ireland, and in listening to their stories. I suppose it is the fact that as I grow old I grow more hopeless, but I am bound to say that after the speech from the noble Marquess I am more hopeless than ever. I have come to the conclusion that every Government makes promises of a most encouraging character when they want to get through Parliament some unpopular Bill and that those promises are afterwards entirely disregarded.
I think that the noble Marquess has utterly mistaken the purport of the Motion so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Selborne, because he has not said a single word about the promises to which that Motion has reference. I shall come back to that point in a moment. In the meanwhile may I try to brush aside one or two matters which, with great respect to the noble Marquess, have little or nothing to do with the proposal now before the House? He began by saying that the Irish Grants Committee had made certain advances against claims. What has that to do with this Motion? The complaint is not that money was not lent but that the claims were dealt with unfairly and improperly and not in accordance with the Agreements entered into by the Irish Government. Those claims, whether fairly or unfairly dealt with, will have to be met. Money lent in respect of those claims, whether they were fairly or unfairly dealt with, will have to be repaid when the claims are met.
The noble Marquess then took up one or two cases—and one can easily see where he got his briefing—which he said it would be monstrous to deal with if there was a Committee or compensation, and he elaborated those things which are not cases ever put forward by anybody. I know quite well the method of arguing by dealing with a subject which is not the subject at issue. Everybody will agree with you in knocking down a case, particularly if it is a case upon which nobody relies. So the noble Marquess asked: "Do you mean to tell me that there ought to be compensation in respect of a building to a man who never lived in a house which was derelict?" I wonder who asked him to put that case forward.
1007 Why did he not take the case which was adverted to so much in the previous debate—the case of Mr. Talbot Crosby, whose beautiful and historical place, an old abbey, was burned down? He was, or had been, in residence, but he was driven out of Ireland by force because the British Government left him no protection. When that case came before the Claims Commissioners, or whatever the authority was, the Irish Government as well as Mr. Talbot Crosby's valuers estimated that the agreed figure in regard to it was £21,000. There was no question as to the value of the place. Then said the Judge, acting upon the rules laid down contrary to the Treaty with the British Government: "You were not in residence, therefore you can only get £2,000." The British Government, by removing the Forces, allowed this man to be driven out of property which was admittedly worth £21,000, and yet they are satisfied, apparently, that it was quite fair to say to that man whom they had abandoned and who had been driven out of residence, that he was not in residence at all and that instead of getting £21,000 he should get £2,000. That is the class of case with which I wish my noble friend, the noble Marquess, could have dealt and not these cases of extravagant claims as to which I entirely agree.
Then, is not the question as to whether the claim was good or bad, or had been properly dealt with, exactly one into which a Committee ought to be set up to inquire? That is the force of the argument. Let me give you one other case, which I sent to the Colonial Office some time ago. The noble Marquess is very anxious that we should always go there. But I have never done writing to them and I am bound to say that I have never got any satisfaction from them. I sent this case to them some time ago and I have never had an answer. I am not sure that they have brought it before Mr. Cosgrave, who wants to do right on every occasion. I do not vouch for the facts, except that they were sent to me by a responsible man in Ireland, but I think it is rather worth the while of any Committee to look into them. It is the case of a well-known British newspaper proprietor on whom the British Government, through all their troubles, largely relied because of what he tried to do by means of his loyal Press.
1008 In the dispute between the Free State and the Republican Forces, which was all post-truce, the Republican Forces went into his newspaper office and said that if the paper was to continue to be published they must be allowed to put special articles into it, and they insisted on more than one occasion, as I am told, in publishing their own articles in it. Thereupon this good loyal man, as I know him to be, stopped the paper, and then the Republican Forces smashed the printing press to pieces and burnt the premises to the ground. Mark what follows! He brought his claim before the compensation authorities and the Judge who heard the case said: "You cannot get any damages for the closing down of your paper because the paper was not actually being produced at the time the premises were burned down and the printing press destroyed." In other words, because the Republican Forces closed down the paper against the will of the owner and exercised force over him and he was not actually carrying on the paper at the moment the burning of his premises took place, the matter did not come within the principles laid down by the Irish Government.
Might I ask the noble Marquess whether there is nothing to be inquired into in that case? If my information is right, he was eventually awarded the comparatively trivial sum of £15,000 for what he had lost. It would have paid some of the debts he had incurred in those circumstances in connection with the paper. But what happened? Down came an emissary from Mr. Cosgrave's Government and said: "Look here, you cannot get this large sum. You must, take half of it, £7,500, or you will get nothing at all.' Under the pressure of his creditors and under the stress of the influence brought to bear upon him he had to sign a document if he was to get the money that he was quite willing to satisfy his claim for the sum I have named. British justice is perfectly satisfied with that.
There is one other matter which I would like to brush aside, and it is this. The noble Lord, I suppose from the same quarter, was told that before the Treaty consequential damages were never allowed. Here is a note given to me by an Irish lawyer of some eminence of a case which I can give to the noble Mar- 1009 quess, in which he quotes from words used in the judgment in Noblett's case:The unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal on a question submitted to them as to whether consequential damages should be awarded was that the amount to be awarded—where the claim is proved should include compensation for all loss or damage which is the natural and direct consequence of the injury inflicted, or in other words that the same principle is to be applied as if it were a civil action in tort against the actual wrong-doer himself.And the Court further added:It falls therefore that the claimant in all these cases of malicious injury is entitled not merely to the value of the property injured but to compensation for all loss or damage which is the natural and direct consequence of the wrong that has been done to him.There is no other principle that can carry out justice and it is the principle that has been applied. All that has been swept away. Is not that a matter that is worth putting before the Committee?
I might go on giving your Lordships instance after instance of extreme cases such as those I have given already. There ale some very miserable cases to which paragraph (b) of the Motion before your Lordships' House would apply, and they are not the less heartbreaking because they are small cases. I had a letter from the wife of a clergyman yesterday morning—one of the thousands that I get—in which she told me that her husband, being an old man, was about to retire after long and faithful service to the Church. She stated that owing to the raids upon her house her daughter, some twenty-five years of age, had been so affected as to bring on a serious nervous complaint. These people did their best, with a little assistance from the noble Duke's association, but for which there would have been no help for men who have served you faithfully during all that troublesome time. Men we have found walking about bootless and hungry.
Her parents managed to send the poor girl over here. After treatment she got better, and then tried to do something in a nursing home herself, but this horrible nervous complaint has returned, and the mother wrote to me yesterday saying:—"My husband is about to retire and we have not got a shilling. Do you know of anybody or any organisation which would pay for my having my girl 1010 treated? All this happened to her simply because we got no protection from the British Government." Such a case is, to my mind, just as important as that of the man with £15,000. It is these people, whose cases are considered very small, who have really suffered. I can assure your Lordships that they are none the less tragic for being small. A very small sum of money was all that was necessary to have put these people right. I pointed out this to the Government on the very first occasion when I brought this matter forward, when my noble and learned friend now on the Woolsack moved the Free State Constitution Bill. It was not a pleasant thing for a Conservative Lord Chancellor to have to do, but the whole thing was all over before my noble friend became Lord Chancellor. I then pressed for a Commission, and have done so ever since. A sum might have been voted which would at once have put an end to all these difficulties, and would have saved innumerable people from the misery which has since befallen whoever had the misfortune to rely upon the British Government in Ireland.
Let us now get back for a few moments to the promises. On the occasion to which I have referred, in answer to a speech of mine, the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire—and I join entirely with what one of my noble friends has said in hoping that he may soon be back again amongst us restored to health—said this (and this is what we ask the present Government to carry out):—We have an equal responsibility, reference to which has been made in the course of these debates, in relation to the compensation, land purchase, and the position of servants to the Crown. It is for us who have accepted that responsibility to see that full and ample justice is rendered in all cases. If you ask me to say at this moment how and when we are going to do that, I must reply that it is impossible for me to return a categorical answer. I can only say that we do realise those responsibilities, and that we shall act upon them, even if we have to make considerable demands upon the people of this country. We shall not hesitate to do that if we think it is our duty to do so. I can only leave the matter in that position.When are the Government going to act upon those responsibilities? How are they going to act upon those responsibilities?
You may say that the cases we have put forward are imaginary. You may 1011 say that some of the details are wrong. You may say that these people have not been as badly treated as we say. But who is the judge of that? That is why we ask for a Commission, that is why we ask that some independent body should be set up to take the evidence, and see how these people have been treated. One would really think that the British Government were prepared to submit to anything that the Free State Government does. I wish some of your Lordships would take the trouble to read a statement which I find in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Dail, made by Mr. Blythe, the Finance Minister, when he moved his Budget. He is there congratulating himself all through on how little was the amount of compensation that they had had to pay. In point of fact, the British Government's contribution to the Irish Government for what the police did was £3,560,000. I am aware that in some cases in which loyalists were concerned they did not get any compensation at all; yet the estimate made by Mr. Blythe of the compensation which would have to be paid by the British Government is something between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. Your Lordships will see, therefore, that every billing is got out of the British taxpayer.
While all these people are standing out of their compensation and are treated in this way, British money is undoubtedly going to pay men who murdered and shot and blew up your Forces. You say you can do nothing for these people, or comparatively nothing, for the proposals put forward really mean nothing. But what are they doing in Ireland? In Ireland even the loyalists are paying taxes towards compensating, and pensioning the men who fought against your troops. The statement of the figures given by Mr. Blythe in his speech in the Dail shows how the compensation has been cut down. The whole compensation, pre-truce and post-truce, which had been originally estimated at from £50,000,000 to £70,000,000, has been cut down to £10,000,000, and the British Government contribute £3,560,000 in order that those who were injured by your police, when they were carrying out law and order in Ireland, may be fully compensated.
Contrast the difference between the men who fought against you and the men 1012 who sacrificed their lives and everything else in trying to uphold your rule in Ireland! Is there an Englishman, I care not what his politics may be, who is not ashamed of it? And how is all this brought about? It is brought about by such methods as I have already described. In Mr. Talbot Crosby's case they knocked off £19,000 from an agreed sum of £21,000 because he was not living in Ireland when he was driven out. In cases where men were shot, their families injured and their houses burned down, they have over and over again reduced the very substantial grants awarded, grants which would have restored the premises which had been destroyed, almost to zero by saying that the men must undertake to build. What a farce!
Put the position to yourselves. I know there have been two or three cases in which men have undertaken the risk of going back to Ireland and rebuilding the premises which had been burnt down and from which they have been previously driven out. But take the bulk of such men. Is there a reasonable man who would advise people who had been driven out of their homes, whose houses had been destroyed, whose crops had been injured, whose families had been injured, to return to Ireland and undertake to rebuild his home?—because that is the only way in which he could obtain compensation. What a pleasant prospect—to go back and live there after all that has happened! Again, they had exacted arrears of Income Tax in many cases for the time during which the house has been burnt down and for the time that has elapsed since they were driven from their homes. Of course, such a policy has reduced the £70,000,000 to about £10,000,000.
I have information in my possession from a gentleman I happen to know in Ireland, which gives information on stilt another matter. As the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, said, the whole basis upon which you entered into the Treaty and of your contract as regards compensation was ended by the Compensation Act of 1923. It gave them all these powers. At that time I went on a deputation to the Conservative Government and tried to get them to alter the terms of that Act, but, of course, I was entirely unsuccessful. What did they do the moment this Act was passed? Not only did they put an end to consequential damages, but they 1013 laid down an entirely different scale from the practice which had obtained under the Wood-Renton Committee. Here are the particulars that have been forwarded to me—I commend them to this House and to the public generally. Under the Wood-Renton Commission the practice has been to award from 2s. to 2s. 9d. a cubic foot as the fair basis of compensation. I do not know whether that is much or very little. But under the Compensation Act, 1923, a calculation has been made that the amount awarded in practice works out at from 3d. to 1s. per cubic foot as compensation for buildings.
I am not going to keep your Lordships any longer but all I ask, all I demand, is that the pledges given time after time and on record should be carried out. We do not ask you to prejudge any single one of these cases. We do not ask you to say that we are right. But we do say, above all things, have them inquired into. The noble Marquess, if I may respectfully say so, made what I think was a somewhat—I do not like to use the word cheap—unsatisfactory point in asking us what kind of Commission we wanted. I have heard that said in the House of Commons many times when a Commission has been proposed. If the Government want a Commission to go into this subject they can easily get one. You can have a Judicial Commission, a Commission of this House, a Commission of experts who understand valuation, or any other kind of Commission; and it is no answer, after all the solemn pledges which have been given, and which I have read out, in all of which you took the responsibility of seeing that fair compensation was paid, to say that you do not know what kind of Commission should be set up. Such an attitude makes one despair of believing in promises at all. I once more, and it is probably the last time I shall do it, urge your Lordships with all the sincerity I have, and with all the knowledge I have—and Heaven knows I have been brought into daily contact with it—to see that these promises are carried out and insist that a proper Commission shall be appointed to inquire into this matter.
§ Moved, accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.