§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS AND THE COLONIES (LORD PASSFIELD)
My Lords, I have to ask you to agree to the Second Reading of the Irish Free State (Confirmation of Agreement) Bill. Probably your Lordships will not wish me to go into the long and tedious history of this controversy. The Bill is merely to confirm an Agreement which was, in effect, concluded by the late Government, and the late Government, but for the General Election and its untoward consequences, would have introduced the Bill of which I have the honour to move the Second Reading to-day. The Agreement which was made by the late Government for the settlement of this affair commended itself to us, and I am bringing forward the measure at the earliest possible moment in order that this controversy may be definitely settled and that the compensation which is due to the unfortunate civil servants in Ireland who were displaced and have relinquished their appointments, should not longer be delayed. The bulk of it has been paid, I am glad to say, and the present Bill relates only to a small amount, which is estimated at about £15,000. That is all that is now outstanding.
In explaining the Bill I think I ought to remind your Lordships that in consequence of a decision of the Judicial Committee 154 of the Privy Council last November, the basis of the compensation to be awarded to retired or discharged civil servants in Ireland was so interpreted, contrary to the expectations of His Majesty's late Government and of the Irish Free State Government, as to involve an additional financial charge upon the Irish Free State Government. It was agreed therefore between the two Governments that the Irish Free State Government should pay to all transferred civil servants who, before March 1 last, had either been awarded compensation under the provisions of Article 10 of the Articles of Agreement or had given notice of intention to retire under the provisions of that Article, compensation on the basis laid down as interpreted in the light of the recent Privy Council judgment, together with any arrears of compensation that would be due on that basis. It was agreed by the late Government that His Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom should recoup to the Free State Government the difference between the amount so paid and the amount which would have been paid but for that decision of the Judicial Committee. That decision of the late Government in agreement with the Irish Free State Government involves technically an alteration of Article 10 of the original Articles of Agreement between this country and the Irish Free State. Consequently, it is necessary in addition to a Vote of another place that this alteration of the Treaty should be embodied in exact form in an Act of Parliament in order that the arrangement now made should be consistent with the Treaty.
That Agreement, in lengthy and I venture to think rather verbose language drawn by the lawyers and by the Treasury, and agreed with the Irish Free State, is included as a Schedule to this Bill. The clauses of the Bill merely state the fact that the Agreement has been made and that it is confirmed and that the Articles of Agreement should have effect accordingly. The money, as I say, will not, I believe, amount to more than £15,000 and will be provided by Parliament. I would add that we have been informed that agreement was come to between the Irish Free State Government and the representatives of the dispossessed civil servants who had taken the action last month before the Irish 155 Free State Government introduced into their Parliament the Bill corresponding to the one to which I am asking your Lordships now to give a Second Reading. That Bill has been introduced and it was understood between the Governments that a Bill on this side should be introduced concurrently. I am now therefore asking for the Second Reading of the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Passfield.)
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I am afraid I cannot tell the noble Marquess. It has actually been introduced, but we have no information as to when it will go through. It was thought desirable after careful consideration that we should go on with our measure so as to complete our part of the Agreement and I have not the least reason for doubting that the Irish Free State Government intends to go on in due course with its measure.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.