Motion for Adjournment.

Ireland. – in the House of Commons on 10th May 1922.

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At the end of Questions

Photo of Mr Rupert Gwynne Mr Rupert Gwynne , Eastbourne

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, "the failure of the Government to take adequate steps to secure the release of three British officers who have been kidnapped in Ireland, and who are in imminent danger of losing their lives."

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

The trouble that I find with this Motion is that the hon. Member does not indicate what steps he thinks the Government ought to take, and, therefore, it is impossible for me to judge whether those steps are within the present powers of the Government. I think the Motion fails on that ground of indefiniteness. If the hon. Member can show me that there has been some lapse on the part of the Government within their powers, without repealing the Statute passed last March, I will consider a Motion of this kind.

Photo of Mr Rupert Gwynne Mr Rupert Gwynne , Eastbourne

We have been told this afternoon by the Chief Secretary that we have still the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland, and I suggest that it would be out of place for me to suggest what steps he should take until the Government tell us what steps they are taking. I put it, further, to you, Sir, that a great responsibility rests on this House if it rejects this Motion. We have had examples already of men who have been kidnapped and whose lives have been taken in consequence. This has been going on from day to day, and I think the House has given the Government full time to give some explanation or proof that they are taking some definite steps. So far we have had no information that any steps have been taken beyond bringing the matter to the notice of the Provisional Government. It is to emphasise the protest that I wish to move the Adjournment of the House.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , Fylde

On that point of Order. May I submit for your consideration that if the Government, for their own purposes or for the purposes of the nation, have troops stationed anywhere, it is the duty of the Government to protect those officers and men, and that it is not the duty of a private Member to tell the Government how they should protect those officers and men whom the Government have stationed there?

Photo of Mr Ronald McNeill Mr Ronald McNeill , Canterbury

On that point of Order. Are there not numerous precedents for the moving of the Adjournment of the House being allowed for the purpose of calling attention to the neglect of the Government in some particular, without specifying what the duty of the Government is? Is it not the whole purpose of the Debate on the Motion for the Adjournment to explain what the neglect complained of may be I Surely it would be contrary to all precedent to set out, in the notice asking for leave, the exact policy which the House may call upon the Government to pursue?

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

May I respectfully submit to you that if this incident— I know nothing about it except what has passed in this House—had taken place in a foreign country, it would have been clearly in order to have called the attention of the House to it, and, if necessary, for the House to have availed itself of its power under Standing Order Mo. 10, which, after all, does not indicate in any part of it that it is necessary to tell the Government exactly what they ought to do, but merely gives the House the right to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I do not think the point of a foreign country is necessarily parallel with this case, but the fact that these are British officers in the pay of this House entitles the House to inquire into the matter. I therefore put the Motion to the House.

The pleasure of the House having been signified, the Motion stood over, under Standing Order No. 10, until a quarter-past Eight this evening.