HL Deb 17 June 1925 vol 61 cc616-47

LORD DANESFORT had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is true that an Agreement has been made between His Majesty's Government and the Free State Government to pay a sum of £900,000 to the Free State Government in settlement of claims by adherents of the Free State or the Irish Republican Army or others for injuries alleged to have been done by the Forces of the Crown in Southern Ireland, and whether they will lay a copy of such Agreement, including the names of the signatories, on the Table of the House; whether His Majesty's Government will publish a return showing the claims that have been made and settled under this Agreement, the amount paid, the names of the claimants, and the nature of the claims made; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the transactions which are the subject of my Question to-day are of grave moment. They have never been debated or adequately explained in either House of Parliament, and I hope I shall have the assistance of the Government and of your Lordships' House in unravelling these very strange transactions. So far as my own investigations have gone, they have led me to these conclusions. Moneys were voted by the British Parliament last year to compensate innocent persons who had suffered injury to their property by the action of the Crown Forces in the disturbed times preceding the truce of July 11, 1921, but by an arrangement made between His Majesty's late Government and the Free State Government behind the back of Parliament, and without any sanction whatever from Parliament, a considerable part of these moneys voted by Parliament for one purpose was diverted to pay compensation to men who were in active rebellion against us, whose property was injured as a direct and necessary result of their own lawless and rebellious action, and who had no conceivable claim to compensation from the British Government.

It is a strange story, and for a proper appreciation of the situation will your Lordships allow me to recall very shortly some notorious facts? In the years 1919, 1920, 1921 and 1922 large parts of Ireland were in open rebellion, and an organised campaign of murder and outrage was carried on by Sinn Feiners and the Irish Republican Army against the Forces of the Crown and the adherents of the British Government. During that time many houses, large and small, belonging to loyalists were burned and looted, and a vast amount of property was destroyed. On the other hand, as indeed was inevitable, injuries were done prior to the truce of July, 1921, by the Crown Forces to the property of non-combatants, and in some cases, in the course of defensive operations, there were reprisals. For these injuries the Malicious Injuries Acts then in force in Ireland—may I remind your Lordships that these were Acts of the British Parliament?—provided compensation, and consequently an Agreement was made in the year 1922 between the British Government and the Free State Government for the assessment and payment of compensation for such malicious injuries.

The substance of the Agreement was this. As to the assessment of the compensation the Wood-Renton Commission was set up and it was to make awards—this is of considerable importance in view of what came afterwards—in cases of malicious injury, but in cases not coming under that category no compensation was to be paid. I will not trouble your Lordships by reading the whole terms of reference, but I will give the substance of the original terms. This, again, is of great importance, because you will find that these original terms of reference, which were strictly limited, were extended by the late Government without, so far as I can gather, any justification or excuse whatever. The original terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission were in substance these—to make awards for fair compensation for injury done to property which would give rise to claims for compensation under the Malicious Injuries Acts, and injuries which were the result of action taken by the military authorities under Martial Law and which, but for the existence of Martial Law, would have been the subject of such claims. That is the provision as to the assessment of compensation.

As to the payment of these awards, the agreement was: That the Free State Government should, in the first instance, pay the total amount of the awards made by the Wood-Renton Commission, but that the British Government should refund to the Irish Free State Government so much of the sums so paid as was attributable to damages done by the Crown Forces or their adherents.

The Wood-Renton Commission sat and made a considerable number of awards, some of which the British Government were clearly liable to pay, and did pay, under the arrangement to which I have referred. But amongst the awards recently made by the Wood-Renton Commission which the British Government have been made liable to pay, and which the British Government have paid, are sums which I think your Lordships will, say are of a very amazing character. I will give your Lordships three illustrations. The first is the case of Padraig O'Maille, who is, I believe, at present the Deputy-Speaker of the Dail and a prominent member of the Free State Government. His house, which stands on a hill near Galway, was used—this was in pre-truce times—to ambush a party of policemen, with the result that one policeman was murdered. My information rather goes to show that several policemen were murdered, but I am quite content to take it that there was only one. Reinforcements come up, drove out the rebels and destroyed the house. When the case was originally brought the British Government objected, that it was not a case of malicious injury at all, but of injury incurred in rebellion; and the claim was disallowed. Under the new terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission, on which I shall say a word in a moment, the Commission has awarded and paid Mr. O'Maille £4,000 for the house which was destroyed in the circumstances to which I have referred. This man's house was used to murder policemen and was most properly destroyed by the Forces of the Crown, and the British Government, out of the moneys of the British taxpayer, now pays £4,000 for the house which is so destroyed! I shall await with some interest the explanation of the noble Earl who is to reply on behalf of the Government.

Let me give another case. There is the case of Mrs. Pearse, mother of one of the rebels executed in 1916 for his share in the Rebellion of that year. Her dwelling house, near Dublin, was raided by the military on June 29, 1921, and although it purported to be a school, it was found to be a sort of fortress containing a secret chamber and the headquarters of the present General Mulvaney. Papers were discovered proving that it was the headquarters of the Irish Republican Army, which, as we all know, took part in the campaign of murder at that time; and it was accordingly dismantled. Under the new terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission Mrs. Pearse has been paid a large sum of money. I have not been able to ascertain the amount and perhaps the noble Earl will tell me how much it is.

The last case is this. It is the case of Keys MacDonald, a leading rebel, whose whole case was that he was the organiser of a band of rebels, that as the result of his activities as a rebel leader he had to go "on the run," that he suffered damages as a director of certain companies—that he suffered loss because, being on the run, he was unable to attend directors' meetings—and that he incurred expenditure in sending his wife to Germany. He put in a claim that, being on the run, he lost his director's fees and he has been awarded and paid a sum of £8,000.

I wonder how the British taxpayer, when he knows this, will enjoy this application of the money drawn by taxation from his pocket? Each one of these cases was reported in the Morning Post on March 17, 1925, and they have never been questioned in any way. I have made every investigation I can, and I find that they are accurate in all their details. There are, no doubt, other cases, and I hope the noble Earl will furnish us with the details of these other cases. But the fact is that none of these awards were authorised by the original terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission. The damage, in respect of which this compensation was granted, was not in the nature of malicious injuries at all, and the question that naturally arises is how these awards ever came to be made. They were made as the result of a transaction which, if it had not occurred, would be almost incredible.

May I tell your Lordships the facts so far as I have ascertained them? It appears that in the Estimates submitted to the British House of Commons in the early part of 1924 there was included a sum, subsequently voted by the House, of nearly £3,000,000—£2,800,000—to meet the liability of the British Government for compensation awarded by the Wood-Renton Commission. This, of course, was for compensation to be awarded by them for malicious injury in accordance with the terms of their reference, which only allowed compensation in cases of malicious injury. The change occurred later. Later in the year claims for compensation to be paid by the British Government were made to the Wood-Renton Commission by rebels, or their dependents, which were not for malicious injuries at all but which arose out of acts necessarily and properly done by the Forces of the Crown in the course of operations against men in active rebellion. I venture to think that claims of that sort were absolutely and wholly unjustifiable from the point of view of equity or of justice. But see what happens. If such claims were to be paid by the Commission it was necessary that the terms of their reference should be altered and extended. The Free State appears to have demanded from the British Government that these terms should be extended so as to take in such cases, and the British Government of that day surrendered to that demand.

The next thing that happened was this. In August, 1924, two members of the then Government went over to Ireland and made an Agreement with the Free State. The precise terms of that Agreement have never been disclosed either in this House or in the House of Commons or, indeed, elsewhere, but this is the substance of it, so far as I can gather. In the first place, it was agreed between the two Governments that the terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission should be extended so as to enable them to do that which they could not otherwise have done—namely, to award compensation to rebels whose property, owing to their own actions, had been properly and necessarily destroyed by the Forces of the Crown. In the second place, it was agreed that the British Government should pay the Free State £900,000 in full settlement of all claims upon the British Government for damage done to property in Southern Ireland by the Forces of the Crown.

I have said already that the terms of that Agreement were never disclosed. I presume that they were reduced to writing; an Agreement of that sort could hardly be made by any Government or, indeed, by any individual without being reduced to writing. That Agreement was never sanctioned by or, indeed, even submitted for sanction to, Parliament, I have looked at the records of the House of Commons, and I find that on two occasions Questions as to this Agreement were asked in that House, one on October 2, 1924, and the other on December 16, 1924. I have carefully examined the replies that were given. I do not like to use language stronger than is necessary; suffice it to say that those replies did not disclose the real facts. In particular, they did not disclose the wide and sweeping changes that were to be made in the terms of reference by virtue of this Agreement, nor did they disclose the real nature of the cases which these changes were designed to meet.

I therefore ask His Majesty's Government if they will now publish the terms of this Agreement; I ask if they can tell your Lordships' House why terms of agreement of so far-reaching a character were never submitted to Parliament and never received the sanction of Parliament; and I ask further how this sum of £900,000 was arrived at. This is a large sum, even in these days, to pay over for injuries done by the Forces of the Crown. Who made the estimate? How was it got at? That, no doubt, we shall hear. May I also ask the noble Earl who will reply for the Government how much of this £900,000 has already been paid over to the Free State, and when was it paid? There is another detail which I have no doubt the noble Earl will be able to give us. Was there any correspondence between the Wood-Renton Commission and the Free State Government or our Government when the Wood-Renton Commission found that they could not make these astounding awards under their original terms of reference? If there was such correspondence, I hope that the Government will be good enough to lay it upon the Table.

I told your Lordships that the new terms of reference were never disclosed to the House of Commons or to this House, and it was not until January of this year that these new terms of reference were in any way disclosed to any one. They then appeared, not in any Paper communicated to either House of Parliament, but in a Proclamation, dated January 7 of this year, which was issued by the Governor-General of the Free State. That Proclamation purported to be issued in pursuance of an Agreement with the British Government—no doubt the Agreement of August, 1924—and in point of fact, in an answer given in the House of Commons on February 23 this year, it was stated that this Proclamation of the Governor-General was issued in pursuance of an Agreement between the Free State and our Government. The provisions of that Proclamation are remarkable. They contain new terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission on which they would be enabled to make awards which were never contemplated in the original terms of reference or by Parliament when they voted money for paying awards founded upon those original terms of reference.

This matter is, I venture to think, of real constitutional importance, and I hope I may be allowed to tell your Lordships very shortly the main respects in which those original terms of reference were altered. In the first place, the Commission were, in effect, directed to award compensation for injuries to property which were not malicious injuries, which were the only injuries which they could consider under the original terms of reference. That is a very wide change, and not merely a change in substance. This is not a matter of mere money, but a matter of principle, and this is a change of principle. The original terms of reference were to award compensation for malicious injuries. That provision is swept away. The Commission are to award compensation for injuries, whether they be malicious injuries or not. The next alteration was this. The Commission was directed to assume that which was a direct falsehood—namely, that Martial Law prevailed before the truce over the whole 26 counties of Ireland. As a matter of fact Martial Law prevailed, if my memory is right, over only six counties of Southern Ireland. Nevertheless the Commission were told to assume, what is entirely contrary to the fact, that Martial Law prevailed over 26 counties, and the scope of the Commission and its jurisdiction to award compensation were thereby largely increased.

A third alteration made in the terms of reference is in some respects the most surprising of all. The Proclamation materially altered a provision of a British Act of Parliament, which is still on the Statute Book—namely, the Indemnity Act of 1920. That Act specifically provided that compensation should not be payable to any one whose conduct was of a nature—and here I use the words of Part II of the Schedule— rendering it necessary for public security that his legal rights should be infringed. The Proclamation, in effect, repeals this provision, this vital and essential provision of a British Act of Parliament and empowered, and indeed required, the Commission to award compensation to persons who, by the Indemnity Act, were deliberately excluded from compensation altogether. In other words, it gave the Commission power and authority to award compensation to persons whose houses had been used to ambush and murder policemen and whose houses had been necessarily and properly destroyed in consequence.

On what principle of the Constitution a Proclamation by an Irish Governor-General, even if sanctioned by Government, can repeal an Act of the British Parliament I know not, and the situation is all the more extraordinary in that the effect of that repeal is to cause payments to be made out of the pockets of the British taxpayers to rebels in Ireland which otherwise never could have been made. We now know how these extraordinary awards came to be made. They came to be made by reason, first of all, of the Agreement of August, 1924, between the two Governments, and, secondly, by reason of the Proclamation of the Irish Free State Governor-General.

Upon this set of facts I submit that a most serious position arises. In the first place, it appears that money of the British taxpayer has been applied in paying compensation to rebels in arms against them—payments to those who have been murdering the forces of the Crown, payments which, according to no known rule of equity and justice, were ever paid before or could rightly be paid. In the second place, money was voted by the British Parliament as compensation for malicious injuries. In point of fact, considerable sums out of the money so voted were diverted from the purposes sanctioned by Parliament and applied without sanction to wholly unauthorised purposes for injuries which were not malicious at all. This raises a very serious constitutional question. I thought one of the greatest and most sound principles of our Constitution was that all moneys voted by Parliament should be devoted solely to the purposes for which Parliament intended them, and I was under the impression that it was a grave unconstitutional act for any Minister, behind the back of Parliament, to divert money voted by Parliament to purposes which Parliament had not sanctioned. That is exactly what appears to me to have been done in this case.

The third consideration which arises is even more strange, and that is that after the Indemnity Act, 1920, a British Act of Parliament was partly repealed in order to pay compensation to persons who, by the Act, were expressly prohibited from receiving compensation. Again, I ask what is the justification for this?

May I, in conclusion, ask His Majesty's Government how much British money has been applied to these unauthorised purposes and will they give us an assurance that no more money shall be so applied without the sanction of Parliament? It is quite true that neither this nor any other Government can completely undo the past, but they can, and I think they ought to, ensure that no further misappropriation of money of the British taxpayer shall take place in circumstances such as these. The Papers I move for are:—a copy of the Agreement to pay £900,000; a copy of the Proclamation of January 7, 1925; a copy of the correspondence between the Wood-Renton Commission and the British Government or the Free State Government with reference to the extended terms of reference; and, finally, a Return of the awards made by the Wood-Renton Commission under the new terms of reference, which could not have been made under the old terms of Reference. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, I think that there is a certain amount of misunderstanding in reference to the Question raised by my noble friend, and therefore I must, in the course of the remarks which I have to make in reply, refer to the previous Agreements made between this country and the Irish Free State. I will do that as briefly as possible. As your Lordships are aware, the Articles which were signed on December 6, 1921, were merely a skeleton outline of a settlement. Many details, some of which were of primary importance, were not dealt with in those Articles, and were left over to be the subject of further conference. A number of conferences were held, and, as a result, a list of "Heads of working arrangements for implementing the Treaty" was drawn up and signed.

With regard to Article 5, your Lordships are no doubt aware that that Article set up a Commission to assess the compensation for damage to property to be paid by the Irish Government, and the British Government was to reimburse the Irish Government for such proportion of the total as might be agreed upon. The principle upon which the liability for compensation was to be divided was not laid down. It was left to a subsequent discussion, and what was ultimately arranged was that each side should pay for the damage done by its own people. There was no written Agreement, as has been stated, but I should like to refer the noble Lord to the statement which was made to Parliament on this subject by my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then responsible for Irish affairs, on February 24, 1922. I will not weary the House by repeating what my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on that occasion, but my noble friend Lord Danesfort will find it in columns 2249–2251 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of February 24, 1922. Well, this is the principle which was agreed upon immediately after the Treaty and which has been followed aver since. It may be a right principle, it may be a wrong principle, but at any rate it is not a new principle, and, as I have already stated, it has been repeatedly mentioned not only in Parliament but also in Parliamentary Papers, and on the basis of this principle the Wood-Renton Commission has carried out its work from the very beginning.

In July, 1924, when the Agreement referred to by my noble friend Lord Danesfort was reached, the Wood-Renton Commission had made great progress with its task, but had by no means completed it. Up to March 31, 1924, it had made awards amounting to a sum approaching £6,000,000 sterling, of which approximately half was due to be paid by the British Government. According to the Estimates of 1924–25, the liability of the British Government from April 1, 1924, amounted to £2,800,000, the figure which my noble friend mentioned, and this sum was accordingly voted by Parliament. Down to June 30 of that year, of this £2,800,000 there had been paid, or was due to be paid, to the Irish Free State Government a sum of £650,000. Therefore, if the Estimates were correct, there was due as from July 1 a liability of £2,150,000. A number of awards were given subject to the condition that the destroyed property should be reinstated, that is to say, the awards were only payable when the property had been reinstated. The sum of £900,000, to which my noble friend has referred, covers the British liability for awards made by the Wood-Renton Commission after June 30 of last year, and the British Government is still liable for those awards made prior to that date.


They have been paid.


Not altogether. Our liability with regard to the awards made by the Commission prior to the date I have mentioned amounts to £400,000, and this is included in the figure of £650,000 to which I have just referred. All liabilities as and from July 1 of last year, as well as those which I will mention later, are swept away by the new Agreement, that is to say, by the payment, which is subject to certain deductions, of the £900,000 to which my noble friend has referred.

It is not suggested that the arrangement which has been come to is as favourable as these figures would seem to indicate. It was known at the time of the negotiations for the Agreement that the Estimates of 1924–25 were somewhat excessive in regard to payments of this kind, but it was not known to what extent they were excessive; nor was it known what our real outstanding liability was, for the terms of reference were extended, and when the Commission's work is finished it will be impossible to say how much is due to the old terms of reference and how much is due to the new. But it is quite certain that the outstanding liability at that time was very considerable under the Agreement made two and a-half years prior to that date. And that liability is wiped out by this Agreement. Subject to the payment of this agreed sum, less certain deductions, the British Government is not liable for one penny of the awards made by the Wood-Renton Commission after June 30, 1924. That is the first item.

The second item arises out of the provisions of the Indemnity Act of 1920. By that Act a War Compensation Court was set up, and was empowered to give compensation far any direct loss or damage by reason of interference with property or business in the Irish Free State through the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, or under the powers of what was then known as the Defence of the Realm Act. That Act, as your Lordships are aware, applied to Ireland, as it applied to this country, and there were in respect of these two things a large number of claims arising out of the War and the subsequent civil disturbance. When the conference for implementing the Treaty took place in 1922 there were a considerable number of claims before the Court. The Court at that time sat in London, but the representatives of the Irish Free State, for various reasons, argued, or rather claimed, that it was desirable that an equivalent court, or some equivalent tribunal, should be set up in Dublin to perform this task. This claim was conceded, and an undertaking was given that provision should be made in Dublin for assessing the compensation which was payable by the British Government.

All these claims purported to be claims in which compensation was legally payable by the British Government under British law, and it was clearly right and proper, therefore, that some machinery should be set up in order to see whether these classes of claims came under the provisions of that Act, and, if so, for assessing and paying compensation. A difficulty was experienced in carrying out this plan, and, unfortunately, in July of the year 1924 no such tribunal had been set up. A great number of claims still remained unheard, and it was finally suggested that the British Government should pay a lump sum in full discharge to the Irish Free State, and that the Irish Free State should then fix the terms of reference, and discharge the awards.

With regard to any lump sum it is extremely difficult to make any reliable estimate of what was due from the British Government, as many of the claimants not only did not specify the damage which was done but made no claim in so far as a money claim was concerned, in respect of that damage. It was certain that the claims in respect of this were considerable. Apart from the decisions of the Court in relation to the claims for damage in raids or searches, there was a large number of claims, many of which were still unsettled, in relation to the commandeering of land or buildings in the War and in the subsequent civil disturbances. The whole of that liability was wiped out by this Agreement, and the Irish Free State has agreed to indemnify the British Government against any awards made by the War Compensation Court or any other Court, and any payments which are made as a result of such awards and all costs will be deducted from this sum of £900,000, or, if there is not a sufficient balance remaining in the hands of the British Government, it will be refunded by the Irish Free State. That is the second item covered by the Agreement.

The third item consists of a difference of opinion between the British Government and the Irish Free State Government as to the meaning of Article 5 of the heads of the working arrangements and of the terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission. The Free State Government argued that the same principles were to be applied in awarding compensation for damage done by supporters of the Crown as were applied in the case of damage done by the supporters of Sinn Fein. They further maintained that this view was supported by the provision inserted in the terms of reference which empowered the Commission to award compensation in respect of damage done by the military authorities under Martial Law on the ground that Martial Law had prevailed in the twenty-six counties which afterwards formed the Free, State. That was the point of view of the Irish Free State Government. The British Government maintained, on the other hand, that it was not intended that damage done by servants of the then lawful Government of the country should be the subject of compensation, even though there might be no justification for such damage under the civil law. Further, the British Government maintained that the provisions in the terms of reference as to damage clone by the military authorities under Martial Law applied only to the six counties in which Martial Law had been specifically proclaimed.

This is, of course, a very brief statement of the difference of opinion which arose at that time between the Irish Free State and the British Governments. Several conferences took place with the object of trying to reach an agreement but, unfortunately, an absolute deadlock finally prevailed. In these circumstances the then Government thought it was right to attempt to bring about a compromise, and from that point of view the present Government do not in any way dissent. It was agreed that, without prejudice to the meaning of the terms of reference, we would take into consideration this matter of dispute with a view to including in the lump sum to be agreed upon a contribution towards meeting the cost of the disputed cases. It was agreed by both sides that this was to be a contribution only and not a discharge; that is to say, that the lump sum should discharge the undoubted British liabilities and the balance should suffice to pay only a proportion of the disputed cases.

In the course of the negotiations it was agreed by both sides that it was desirable to insert in the Agreement the first item to which I have referred—namely, the balance of the British Government's liability in regard to the awards made by the Wood-Renton Commission. The sum finally agreed upon, to cover these three items and also all other claims or demands of every kind against His Majesty's Government on account of the occupation of or damage to, or loss or destruction of or interference with property or business in the Irish Free State, amounted to the sum of £900,000. Subject to a final adjustment, this sum is also subject to a deduction of £150,000, the amount of the damage done in Great Britain and also to a deduction of any other sums such as advances made by the Irish Grants Committee on the security of prospective awards of the Commission, as might be agreed to be due to the British Government by the Irish Free State Government.

My noble friend asked that a copy of the Agreement, with the names of the signatories, should be laid upon the Table of your Lordships' House. To publish all the correspondence, which covers a very long period, would, I am afraid, give a very incomplete picture and would serve no useful purpose. But it is obviously right that Parliament should know exactly what the Agreement contains in its final form and, therefore, I propose, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, to lay a Paper showing accurately all the points which are covered by the Agreement.

It has also been contended that a payment has been made to Irish rebels out of British funds. Even if this was so it would not be anything new. The whole basis of compensation was that each side was to pay for the damage done by its own supporters. The effect of the Agreement is this. The British Government has paid, or will pay, to the Irish Free State Government a sum of £900,000, subject to the deductions to which I have referred already, and the Free State is liable for all awards made by the Wood-Renton Commission as from July 1, 1924. In view of the fact that no precise ascertainment of our liabilities was possible we venture to think that this sum of £900,000 was a reasonable compromise representing as nearly as could be a fair and equitable settlement.

His Majesty's Government has only one interest in relation to the pre-truce compensation for damage to property in Ireland—namely, that all rights to compensation that might still be outstanding under the original terms of reference should be left unimpaired and that all persons who had legitimate claims against His Majesty's Government, the liability for which had been transferred to the Irish Free State Government, should be able to obtain full satisfaction. I may say that that interest is completely safeguarded and secured under the present Agreement. It has also been suggested that this sum of £900,000 forms, as it were, a compensation fund, and that if such claimants as Mr. O'Maille are paid out of it more than is their due there will be all the less left for the loyalists who have undoubted claims.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but that was not my point at all.


I am not suggesting that the noble Lord said that; I only say that it has been suggested and that there is not the smallest foundation for it. All who previously had a right to an award retain that right absolutely unimpaired, and the awards will be determined in each case, as hitherto, solely by what is fair and reasonable and without any reference to what may have been or may be awarded in any other case.

My noble friend made a request that a Return should be laid on the Table of the claims that have been made and settled under the Agreement, the amount paid, the names of the claimants and the nature of the claims made. Again, I might inform the noble Lord that he could secure all this information from the Dublin Gazette which publishes it from time to time and has done so from the very beginning. My noble friend has also asked the Government to lay on the table the new terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission. He will find those terms of reference in the Paper which I propose to lay upon the Table of your Lordships' House. It is only necessary for me to make this observation in regard to those terms of reference, that they are additional to, and not in substitution of, the original terms of reference.

The noble Lord, in the course of his remarks, made some reference to the three cases of Padraig O'Maille, Mrs. Pearse and Mr. Keys MacDonald. With regard to those cases the noble Lord was quite correct in saying that the claim of Mr. O'Maille had been rejected by the Courts. The payment which has been made to him of £4,000, as quite correctly stated by the noble Lord, was made under the new terms of reference. With regard to the case of Mrs. Pearse, I have no information that she has been paid anything whatsoever. Her case was rejected in exactly the same way as was the case of Padraig O'Maille. With regard to the last case, that of Mr. Keys MacDonald, the noble Lord was quite correct in stating that this case was rejected by the Courts and that he was subsequently awarded a sum of £8,000 under the new terms of reference.

I cannot conclude the remarks I have made this afternoon without some reference to the Wood-Renton Commission, now that its work has been accomplished under the original terms of reference. Over 37,000 claims have been considered by that Commission, and the total amount awarded up to June 30, 1924, amounted to £6,000,000. As your Lordships are aware, very shortly after the appointment of that Commission Civil War broke out in Ireland. The Commission very often carried on its extremely difficult work under dangerous conditions, and the Government cannot but feel, considering what was going on in that country at that time and the difficult task they had to perform, that it is remarkable the Commission should have been able to complete their work in so short a space of time. The Commission, as your Lordships are probably aware, had to review the awards which were made from time to time by the Courts. They have reduced those awards, I am given to understand, by something like one half, and the number of complaints which have been received has been comparatively trifling. That makes it clear, therefore, that with very few exceptions all who came before the Commission recognised to the full that those awards had been made without fear or favour, and with complete justice and impartiality. My final word is this: that the contribution which has been made by this Commission towards healing the wounds created in 1920 and 1921 has been a very great and valuable one.

LORD CARSON My Lords, with regard to the closing observations of the noble Earl, it is a strange commentary to look at the Motion upon the Paper for July 2 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, which calls in question the whole proceedings from beginning to end of the Wood-Renton Commission. I must say that the noble Earl has done full justice to whoever coached him, but I can also assure him from my heart that all he has said is a real travesty of the facts, and I think I know something about them. When he says there have been comparatively few complaints of the Wood-Renton Commission, I would ask him if he has not read the debate that took place in this House last autumn, when chapter and verse were given for the grievances arising from the awards of that Commission in relation to compensation. Not one of the instances then given has ever been answered or contradicted.

I will not pursue that part of the subject further, because I hope we shall have a full debate upon it on the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, on July 2, or whatever be the date on which his Motion comes on. I think the noble Earl will then find that the result is something like this. So far as the compensation granted to loyalists in Ireland is concerned, claims amounting to something like £50,000,000 have been reduced by the Wood-Renton Commission to about £6,000,000 by the various devices which were resorted to for the purpose of making the liabilities of the Free State less. Coming to the claims of those who say they were injured by the British Forces, I would ask your Lordships to note the admission of the noble Earl. That admission justifies completely the course that my noble friend has taken in bringing this matter before the House. The noble Earl had to admit that, at all events as regards two of the cases mentioned by my noble friend, the British taxpayer had to pay, and it is solely as a British taxpayer that I speak upon this subject, because I have given up all interest whatsoever in the Free State. I despair of putting clown Motions and Resolutions in order to get any facts of any kind that are reliable from the Government. But I would ask your Lordships to mark the admission of the noble Earl, and I hope the British taxpayer will mark it, because it is his money that is being spent. It shows that all this talk of the Chancellor of the Exchequer about money being short is all nonsense.

Look at what is being done with the money. Here is the first case, the case of Padraig O'Maille, Deputy-Speaker of the Dail. His house stood on a hill near Galway, and that house was used to ambush a party of policemen, with the result that some of the policemen were murdered. Thereupon reinforcements of the Crown came up and destroyed the house, which had been the ambush of murderers. A claim was made against the British Government to pay for the destruction of that house as a malicious injury. The Wood-Renton Commission refused to award anything, saying it was not a malicious injury. I do not suppose there, is a lawyer in the world who could honestly find otherwise. Thereupon, under the new arrangement made by the Government last year, a claim was made by Mr. O'Maille, and he was awarded the sum of £4,000 for the destruction of his house in which were ambushed and murdered a number of British policemen. And the British Government pay him not only without remonstrance, but at the same time pay a compliment to the Free State Government and the Wood-Renton Commission for the manner in which they carry out their work. I venture to say that that is an unparalleled transaction in the history of any country.

When I used the word "unparalleled" in that connection I overlooked the next case that I am going to quote. Really, if it had not been admitted by the. noble Earl, I myself, imaginative Irishman that I am, could not have believed it to be true. But it is admitted; and here it is. Keys MacDonald was a leading rebel. His whole case was that he was the organiser of a band of volunteers and that as a result of his activity as a rebel leader he had to go "on the run." He suffered damage by search; that is to say, that the police were looking for him; and as a director of certain companies he suffered loss because, being "on the run," he was unable to attend directors' meetings. Also he incurred expenses in sending his wife to Germany. He made a claim against the British taxpayer before the Wood-Renton Commission and they refused it. But the late Government having entered into the Agreement of June, which changed the whole matter, he made a renewed application, and he was awarded for the loss of his fees as a company director and the loss of his breath through being "on the run," a sum of £8,000, to be paid by the British taxpayer. And it has been paid, I understand.

That is not all. What was it to be paid out of? It was to be paid out of a sum of money voted by Parliament in respect of compensation awards for malicious injuries. The Wood-Renton Commission hold that it was not malicious injury, whereupon the late Government enter into a new Agreement in order to bring it within the terms of reference to the Wood-Renton Commission and, without going back to Parliament, take £8,000 for this man and £4,000 for the other of the British taxpayer's money and pay these amounts out of money voted for an entirely different purpose. They have never explained this fact to the House of Commons up to this time; and for this reason: It was not necessary for them to go back and get the money from the House of Commons, they had it in their hands, voted for a particular purpose, and they paid it out for an entirely different purpose, as the noble Earl has just observed.

In any sort of business, if the share holders' money was applied in that kind of way the directors would be in the dock, but, of course, great and omnipotent Governments, Liberal, Labour and Tory, can do what they like. Each backs up the other; one is just as bad as the other, or worse, when it comes to matters of this kind. The whole truth is that all Governments put over every Department of Government this one motto "Peace in our time, O Lord!" Rather than have a row with the Irish Free State Government and the man "on the run," they give him £8,000 and shut his mouth. Surely that would satisfy him—and it did. But no eloquent verbiage, no mixing up of these Agreements, or any long statements, can get over the real facts of this matter. I cannot understand why the Government does not state squarely and fairly the real facts. Everybody who has had any connection with Ireland, any one like myself, who has at least on an average fifty or sixty complaints per week from Ireland to deal with, knows what the facts are quite well. The only people who never seem to know the facts are the Government; at least they never state them.

What are the facts in this case? An Agreement was entered into, as the noble Earl rightly said, under which fair compensation was to be paid under enactments relating to malicious injuries. It went on to say that the Irish Government should first pay all the awards and that the British Government should undertake to reimburse the Irish Free State Government such portion as may be agreed upon betwen the two Governments as the amount of damage done to property on account of the Irish political movement being brought into account. Then came the Wood-Renton Commission, on which we had that eloquent panegyric from the noble Earl, and it has on the face of it these words: "being destruction or injuries of such a nature as would give rise to a claim for compensation under the Acts relating to compensation for criminal or malicious injuries in Ireland." The Wood-Renton Commission proceeded with their work, and I will tell your Lordships now what was done. I know the whole story by heart. They proceeded with these compensation cases. The British Government had certain representatives on the Commission; why do they not ask those representatives whether this is not the truth? Parliament voted nearly £3,000,000 in 1923 for the purpose of paying anticipated compensation for damage clone by British troops in eases of malicious injury.

Compensation cases came practically to an end, as the noble Earl has said, somewhere about last June, but then suddenly there arose a new idea in the Irish Free State; and it was this—" Why should we not get compensation for injuries that were done, not malicious injuries, but injuries done in carrying out the law of the country?" And so Mr. O'Maille puts forward his claim for his ambush house, just in the same way as did another man, I forget his name, who had a stable at the back of Merrion Street—I know the spot quite well because I used to live in that district myself—which he turned into a place for the manufacture of bombs for blowing up British troops. And they blew up several British troops and police. Unfortunately the British soldiers and police got wind of the fact that the bombs which were blowing them up came from this house, and they went and blew up the house and the bombs. He said: "Why should I not be paid for malicious injury to my bomb manufactory?" He put in a claim for £800. I do not know whether this case has been disposed of. Great ingenuity was shown—I could give you the name of the counsel employed in the case. He said: "Why this is a good point to make." They argued it all out, and got all the facts before the Wood-Renton Commission and the Government. There is a shorthand note of the whole proceedings from beginning to end. Perhaps the noble Earl will put these notes on the Table of the House, but first of all have them put into longhand, as most of us would rather read them in that form.

It was held that these were not malicious injuries. That did not suit them at all and they began to kick up the usual now with the British Government. They always know that the softest thing in the world is the British Government when they are dealing with British taxpayers' money and are afraid of the Free State in Ireland becoming a Republic. They come up to the Government and say: "We shall never be able to prevent a Republic unless you give us more money, and we have a ready way of using it now. There are a lot of very decent fellows who had bomb factories and ambush houses for shooting your police and your soldiers, and these poor fellows have suffered. Their houses were actually blown up. Just think what your troops did! Far better had they allowed themselves to be shot and murdered. Now we want you to let these poor people come in under the Wood-Renton Commission." "Right you are!" reply the British Government. "Rather than have a Republic, of course we will. How much will it cost?" I suppose figures were bandied to and fro. My noble friend says that there was so much correspondence that the British Government cannot afford to publish it. I do not wonder, after the payment of that £8,000 to the man who lost his director's fees. At all events, in the end it came down to this. They said: "Let us wind up the whole thing. What do you say to £900,000? It will look better than £1,000,000." It is the kind of thing you see in a shop—11¾d. instead of a round Sum.

The noble Lord opposite (Lord Arnold) had a good deal to do with these financial transactions or, at any rate, he had something to do with Ireland. I do not know exactly how they divided the business, but I know, for one thing, that he was always most just in trying to remedy any cases that were brought before him. I will say that. His Government arrived at a round sum which, after all, was not much—only £900,000. I ask my noble friend Lord Clarendon this: Will be lay upon Table of this House the claims that were before the Government for this £900,000? There were two great men meeting together, probably the President of the Free State and, I suppose, somebody from the Treasury or the Colonial Office. I do not suppose the conversation by which they arrived at a fixed sum ran like this: "What do you say to £100,000?" To which the other replies: "Oh, make it £200,000." And at last one of them suggests £900,000. "Done," says the other, and the matter was over. Will the noble Earl tell us what they had before them upon which to base the figure of £900,000? I challenge him to do this, because it will disclose, or ought to disclose, the real natare of the transaction upon which the £900,000 was based—the arrangement for giving away the British taxpayers' money to recompense men who used their property which was destroyed in Ireland for the purpose of murdering British troops and British police. You may go round and round this case over and over again; you may wrap it up in discussions of these Agreements and these disagreements; but the broad fact remains, as everybody in Ireland knows, just as well as they know there is a Free State, that this money is allocated for the very purpose of compensating these people.

There is another point which I will reserve for the discussion on Lord Selborne's Motion. All this was going on at a time when every device was being put forward, without the slightest protest, so far as I can make out, from the British Government, to prevent compensation to any reasonable amount ever reaching those who had lost their property, not because they were rebels against this country, but because they were foolish enough to be loyal. This is a Question which is long overdue. It has never been properly discussed, and, for my own part, I am bound to express my personal dissatisfaction at the manner in which the Colonial Office, which, I suppose, has charge of this matter, has ventured to put this information before the country.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, and I shall say only a very few words. We had several debates last year in your Lordships' House upon the question of compensation, and it fell to my lot to speak for the Government on those occasions. I believe that no one spoke from the Front Opposition Bench, and therefore I do not think that there is any obligation upon me or upon my colleagues to take part in the debate, but at the same time there are two or three things that I should like to say after hearing the debate. I should imagine that there has rarely been in your Lordships' House a greater disparity between the suggestions in a Question, or the speech with which that Question was asked, and the actual facts when they were explained from the Government Bench. I am not going to review the whole matter again. It has now been laid fully before your Lordships, and I feel that in all the circumstances the settlement which has been made, and which has been so fully and, if I may say so, so lucidly explained by the noble Earl, is a reasonable settlement of these long outstanding matters. I also think that the great majority of members of your Lordships' House and of another place, if they were to discuss it there, would take the same view.

A good deal has necessarily been said about the Wood-Renton Commission. The noble and learned Lord who spoke last was somewhat inconsistent, if I may say so, because, whereas he made various attacks upon the Wood-Renton Commission, yet at another stage of his argument he fortified that which he was saying with the findings of the Wood-Renton Commission, at any rate in a specific instance. I think I am correct in saying that he is in error in suggesting that the debate which is to take place in your Lordships' House on July 2 relates to the work of the Wood-Renton Commission. I think that he will find, if he will look at the Paper, that the complaints are concerned with the Act of 1923. I have refreshed my memory upon this point. It is very probable that when that debate takes place there will be references to the Wood-Benton Commission, and I do not say that they will be out of order, but the complaints in that Motion do not relate to the Commission. It is the case, despite that which the noble and learned Lord has said, that the number of complaints in regard to the findings of the Wood-Renton Commission, having regard to the thousands of cases that were reviewed by that Commission, were corn paratively very small indeed. The noble and learned Lord said that £50,000,000 was claimed and only some £6,000,000 was awarded. I will not go into those matters now, but he knows as well as I do, to take only one point, that those claims included a very considerable number of duplicates, and he also knows. and your Lordships know—I gave instances of this last year—that some of these claims were grossly excessive. There cannot be any dispute about that. The noble and learned Lord was indignant, if I understood him aright, that the Wood-Renton Commission was given power to review awards at all. I think he ejaculated "Shame!", if I understood him—


I did not catch what the noble Lord said.


I understood that the noble and learned Lord was indignant that the Wood-Renton Commission was set up and had power to review the awards.


I do not understand what that means.


I understood that the noble and learned Lord showed signs of indignation that the Wood-Renton Commission was given the powers that it was given, when the noble Earl explained the genesis of the Wood-Renton Commission.


Oh, no!


I am glad to hear that.


What I objected to was that decrees given by the Courts under His Majesty's Government should be over-ruled, or allowed to be overruled, by the Wood-Renton Commission. I knew that some tribunal must be set up to fix the compensation.


Then I am perfectly right in what I said. The Wood-Renton Commission was set up to review awards given previously under very extraordinary circumstances. I will not detain your Lordships, but I think it only right that that should be made perfectly clear. It was really in the interests of the claimants themselves that the Wood-Renton Commission was set up, and it was very largely to their advantage that its operations were carried through, and I will tell the noble and learned Lord why, although he knows perfectly well what were the facts. The facts were that these awards were made after hearing merely one side, or scarcely that. He knows perfectly well what was the position with regard to undefended awards.


If the noble Lord refers to me as knowing things which I do not know, he must excuse me for interrupting him. I know of many cases which were opposed, in which there were two parties, and the Wood-Renton Commission set them aside.


I said there were a great many undefended cases, and that cannot be disputed. These awards were against the local authorities, and, having regard to the position of these local authorities, a great many of them would have gone bankrupt, so that if the original awards had stood the claimants would have got little or nothing. Their review by the Wood-Renton Commission meant, in many eases, that the claimants got something that they would not have got, and in others that they got more than they would have got. In the circumstances, having regard to the position about these undefended awards, it was right and proper that they should be reviewed, and I think that nearly all the members of your Lordships' House will take that view. I should like to endorse every syllable said by the noble Earl opposite in commendation of the work of the Wood-Renton Commission. That work was very protracted, it was certainly difficult, and I think the members of the Commission are entitled to recognition and gratitude for the fair and efficient and very expeditious way in which they discharged their duties.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down began his speech by saying that he saw no reason why any representative on that Bench should intervene in this discussion. I am afraid that in that respect I cannot agree with him. I think your Lordships are indebted to him for having addressed the House, because, after all, in all these transactions it was he and his colleagues who were really responsible. I am not criticising the action which they took, but please let it be quite understood that no responsibility attaches to the present Government for the arrangement which has been the subject of discussion in this House this afternoon. That, was come to last summer by the noble Lord opposite and his friends, and indeed by the office to which he belonged, and therefore it was very becoming, if I may say so, that he should have got up and defended the action which he and his colleagues took on that occasion.

I heard the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Carson with a. certain amount of regret. I think it was not in all respects accurate. He spoke of himself as being an imaginative Irishman, and I cannot help thinking that in some respects that is perfectly true. For instance, merely as an example, he referred in passing, in a perfectly arbitrary way, to a debate foreshadowed in this House upon the Motion of my noble friend Lord Selborne, and he seemed to assume that it was going to deal with the Wood-Renton awards and all that has been dealt with this afternoon. I am quite sure we shall have an interesting and important debate, but, so far as I can follow the terms of the Motion, they have no reference whatever to the Wood-Renton awards.


I think you will find that the speakers in that debate will not be able to proceed beyond a single sentence without referring to the Wood-Benton Commission.


I am well aware that we have a certain liberty of discussion in this House, which often leads noble Lords to wander from the point at issue, and I have no doubt that that will be followed—


By every speaker.


I am quite certain by my noble and learned friend.


And by you, too.


However that may be, I would repeat that this Government has no responsibility for the particular policy under discussion, yet I am bound to say in its behalf that there seems to me to be a complete misapprehension with regard to the actual responsibility of the British Government in general in this matter. My noble and learned friend has spoken, and I think Lord Danesfort also spoke, as if the British Government were responsible for the new addition to the terms of reference of the Wood-Renton Commission. That is not the case. The British Government had no responsibility at all for it. That was an act of the Irish Government and had nothing to do with the British Government, whether a Conservative Government or a Labour Government. That is the act of the Irish Free State Government.


May I interrupt the noble Marquess, because it is so difficult to get these facts accurately? On February 23, 1925, a Question upon this subject was put in the House of Commons, and Mr. Amery, the Colonial Secretary, said the Proclamation gave effect to the Agreement between His Majesty's Government and the Government of the Free State. That is the Agreement to which my noble friend Lord Danesfort referred.


It followed, no doubt, upon the agreement arranged by the two Governments, but the terms which appear in the new reference, which my noble and learned friends will see as soon as the Papers which have been promised are laid upon the Table, were not matters which were arranged by the British Government in any sense whatever. The transaction was a perfectly simple, and straightforward one. There was undoubted liability resting upon the British Government for certain payments. There is no question about that. I do not go into the merits of whether that liability ought to have been originally incurred; that belongs to the halcyon days of the Coalition, and has nothing to do with us at all. That there was a certain liability upon the British Government is undoubted.

It was not known last summer to how much the remaining liability amounted. It was uncertain. Large figures were put forward. That was a matter which was extremely inconvenient—this doubtful sum of money which might be thrown upon the British Government—and there were also other liabilities, having nothing to do with the compensation for malicious injuries but having to do with what I think my noble friend called the Defence of the Realm liabilities. There was an undoubted liability in that respect, too. Then the British Government did what was a very businesslike proceeding, although it was done by noble Lords opposite—I mean no innuendo by that; no doubt noble Lords opposite did very many prudent things, but this was undoubtedly a very prudent thing to do. They went to the Irish Government, and said, "Let us get rid of this liability altogether, and agree upon a round figure." After the usual bargaining, which my noble and learned friend very humorously described, and which always takes place in Ireland, they came to an agreement. The amount was very much less than that which the Irish Government originally suggested.


I have no doubt about that. It would not be the Trish Government if it was not.


My noble friend is quite familiar with his countrymen. As to whether it was absolutely the best figure that could be arrived at I am certainly not prepared to say. I do not know. I do not blame the late Government at all in the matter. They arrived at the best figure they could, and they agreed upon £900,000. They said: "Here is £900,000. That shall be a discharge in full of our liability under these two heads, and after this the British Government will be liable for nothing more." There were certain outstanding debts before, but as regards future awards there was to be no further liability whatever. The whole thing was wiped out. Upon that the Agreement was made. As to the terms of the Agreement, my noble and learned friends will see them when they have the Paper that we are going to lay upon the Table.

I therefore repudiate altogether the idea that we are responsible for some compensation to some person called O'Maille or some person called MacDonald. As to the principle on which the Irish Government work in making compensation, that is their affair. We are quit of it. We have paid our £900,000, and we are not responsible for the new terms of reference. Whatever job the countrymen of my noble friend have carried out, let them bear the responsibility for it. We will have nothing more to do with it. Therefore, although the present advisers of His Majesty are not the authors of this policy, and, although I do not pledge myself to defend the precise details, the precise terms which were agreed upon, the precise figure which was fixed—those are matters for noble Lords opposite to defend if necessary—looking at the thing in its broad outline, I think it was not an unreasonable thing to do to get rid of the whole liability by the payment of this sum.


My Lords, I have no intention of replying to the speech of the noble Earl in detail, because, although it is exceedingly unsatisfactory, I have no doubt it was the best he could make from the instructions that he had. And, after all, he was not defending the present Government, but the Labour Government. But there was one passage in the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, to which I should like to refer. He tells us that the new terms of reference, under which these positively monstrous decisions in the case of Padraig O'Maille and other rebels were made, were not agreed to by the British Government at all.


I said we were in no sense responsible for them.


It comes to much the same thing. If the British Government allowed these enormously increased terms of reference to be given to the Wood-Renton Commission, without caring what they were, with the effect that moneys were paid out of British taxpayers' pockets to rebels and persons in whose houses murder had been done, I think the case is so much the worse for the late Government. I have here a report of what was said in the House of Commons on February 23 of this year: SIR H. Fosirsa asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if his attention has been called to the Proclamation issued by the Governor-General of thy Free State purporting to vary and enlarge the powers of the Wood-Renton Commission and to amend the Indemnity Act, 1920, and thereby diverting for other purposes part of the money voted by this House; and if he has taken any and what steps thereon? MR. AMERY: This Proclamation gives effect to the Agreement between His Majesty's Government and the Government of the Irish Free State, of which I gave the hon. Member full particulars in reply to a question in this House on 16th December. What does that mean if it does not mean that the British Government had assented to the proclamation and the new terms of reference? I have no doubt that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, did not quite bear in mind that answer given by the Colonial Secretary.

The noble Earl, Lord Clarendon, told me that I could see all about these awards in the Dublin Gazette. I have made inquiries about the Dublin Gazette, and I find that it only gives the names of the persons and the amounts of the awards. It does not give the circumstances under which the claims were made, and that is the vital matter, and the thing that we want to know. We want to know whether the claims were made by rebels who had no right to compensation whatever, or whether they were made by persons who had a right to compensation under conditions which gave them that right. While I thank the noble Earl for promising me the Papers he has promised, may I ask him to reconsider this question about the nature of the award, and if he finds, as I am confident is the case, that the Dublin Gazette will not give us the information we want, may I ask him if he will not give a Return showing the awards made in cases under the new terms of reference which could not be made under the old terms?


The Motion is for Papers to which I understand the noble Earl agrees.


I think it would probably be inconvenient if the actual Motion for Papers were passed, because they may not be exactly the same Papers that the Government are prepared to lay. I should be glad if my noble friend will be content to withdraw the actual Motion for Papers; then we would lay the Papers we have promised. Otherwise, there might be some ambiguity as to the real meaning of the Motion.


I am desirous of meeting the noble Marquess. Certain Papers have been promised, and I have asked the noble Earl to give more.


I will make inquiries, but I cannot make any definite promise at this moment.


I am very much obliged.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.