I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I must say that I move the Second Reading of this Bill, which makes provision for the disbandment of the historic force of the Royal Irish Constabulary, one of the oldest and certainly one of the finest police forces in the world, with profound regret. Its disbandment will be a great loss to Ireland, but it is inevitable. It is consequential upon the Treaty with the representatives of Southern Ireland, and, in addition, its disbandment is urged unanimously by the police force itself. It was the unanimous view of these gallant Irishmen, expressed in a single sentence, namely, that as an Imperial force they were born, and as an Imperial force they wished to die. I am informed that a considerable number of the force will re-enlist in the new Royal Ulster Constabulary. In that new force they will maintain and continue the traditions of the old force. The House will remember that the Royal Irish Constabulary was established by Lord Melbourne's Government in 1836, and it is interesting to note that it was supported in its establishment by Daniel 0'Con.nell. The force originally consisted of approximately 7,000 men of all ranks. By 1848 it had increased to 10,000, and afterwards it averaged just over 11,000 for more than 60 years. In the troublous times of 1887 its strength increased to over 12,000. The highest total in its history was in 1921, when the regular force numbered 12,902. I would also remind the House that in 1920 the Auxiliary Division of ex-officers was started, and subsequently two other temporary divisions, namely, the Veterans Division of ex-service men and a Transport Division to take charge of motor transport. These Divisions were tem- porary, but are included in the Bill now before the House. The maximum strength of the force, to which the Bill refers, at its highest moment on 11th July, 1921, was 12,902 Regulars and 3,052 temporary police. The House will remember that the Treaty was signed on 6th December last. Preparations for the disband ment of the force were at once made. The disbandment of the Auxiliaries, the Veterans and the Transport Division has already been completed with the exception of a few minor details. The disbandment of the regular Royal Irish Constabulary commenced at the end of March and the numbers of that force at present are as follows. In Northern Ireland, 2,130: in Southern Ireland, 1,982. There are no policemen under the control of this House doing duty in Southern Ireland at the present time. These 1,982 in Southern Ireland are concentrated in four camps, and are being disbanded from day to day.
I must now express my regret that it was not possible to ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading before disbandment commenced. The policy of disbandment was contemplated and provided for by Article 10 of the Treaty. The terms on which the Irish police are being disbanded have been before the House, for some time. I have myself many times met representatives of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who have always urged the disbandment of that force at the earliest possible date.
I cannot bind myself to the exact figures, but from memory I can say that 1,500 Auxiliaries have been disbanded, and approximately 4,000 recruits of the regular R.I.C. from Great Britain, 500 transport drivers and mechanics, and some 800 old soldiers, called veterans, who were engaged on fatigue, orderly, and barrack duties. That leaves a permanent force of about 8,000, and they have all been disbanded except 4,212, almost equally divided between the North and the South. As the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) knows, the Royal Irish Constabulary in Northern Ireland was placed under the control of the Northern Government on 22nd November last. It has been under the control of that Government ever since. The Bill introduces, so far as I know, a new term in the vocabulary of pensions, namely, the term "compensation allowance." That term is introduced in reference to all police who have been disbanded from the regular forces since 25th January of this year. The term "compensation allowance" has been brought into the Bill because all those police to which I referred are disbanded on the terms, as I shall explain later in greater detail, laid down by the Act of 1920. Those terms were that every policeman would have added to his term of service 12 years in the event of his services being dispensed with, and on that added term of service of 12 years, plus all the increments which would have accrued if he had served that extra 12 years, his pension would be struck. Therefore, when we speak of "pensions" of the Royal Irish Constabulary, we mean the pensions of the policemen who left before disbandment. When we speak of "compensation allowance"' we refer to the allowance granted to those policemen under the Act of 1920 on their disbandment, and which, to some extent, is compensation for their loss of office.
Under Article 10 of the Treaty it is contemplated that all the Irish Royal Irish Constabulary will have their pensions paid ultimately by the Free State Government. His Majesty's Government, however, has not only guaranteed the payment of all pensions and compensation allowances, but has actually taken over the administration and payment of all pensions and compensation allowances under this Bill or any preceding Act that applies. This is to guarantee these Irish policemen and all other policemen, whether recruited in Ireland or elsewhere, a strict and immediate payment of that which is due to them and to relieve many of them of certain anxieties. Under the Bill the Treasury will administer the pensions and compensation allowances hitherto administered by the Inspector-General or by the Lord Lieutenant acting under the advice of the Chief Secretary.
The Bill itself is divided into two main parts. The first is an important part dealing with the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary and those temporary forces attached to it. The second part deals with the transfer of resident magistrates to the Northern Irish Government. Let me just clear the latter point out of the way, because it is a minor though important point. Under Clause 2 of the Bill, the Resident Magistrates now functioning in Northern Ireland are transferred to the Northern Government. After the passing of this Bill, the Northern Government alone will be responsible for the appointment, the pensions and the salaries of Resident Magistrates in their area. This completes the final transfer to the Northern Government of all matters connected with the administration of law as contemplated by the Act of 1920. The Resident Magistrates in Southern Ireland were transferred by the Order in Council of 1st April last, which was laid on the Table of the House and which followed the passing of the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act. They are now paid by the Provisional Government, and are responsible only to the Provisional Government. Of course, if they are removed or in any way affected by the transfer, they come under Article 10 of the Treaty, which specifically provides for officers of the police, Resident Magistrates, and so on.
The Bill is, I regret, largely made up of reference. These Bills, however, are drawn by the very skilled draftsmen connected with each Government Department. With the permission of the House I will go in detail through the different portions of the Bill. Clause 1 refers to the last day on which disbandment may take place. On that point I am bound to say that disbandment is proceeding slowly, for the very obvious reason that we do not wish to disband men in Southern Ireland unless we have an assurance that their lives will be safe, or unless, in places where their lives are threatened, we have accommodation in Ireland or Great Britain to which they can immediately go.
There has been and there is to-day a great deal of criticism about the treatment of the Royal Irish Constabulary, but I hope I can show that the Government has done everything humanly possible to look after the well being of these Irish policemen. The second part of Clause 1 sets out the governing principle of the Bill, namely, the terms of the Act of 1920 on which these compensation allowances are based. In the third and last part, the Treasury takes power to grant pensions and gratuities to widows and children of the pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 applies in part the Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions Order of 1922, which was laid on the Table of the House. This Pensions Order is a very lengthy document, and we had a Debate upon it some time ago, in which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) pointed out some defects, which I am glad to say that I told him I would not delay in remedying, and I hope he will be satisfied with the amended Order soon to be laid on the Table of the House. These Orders can always be amended, and I hope that hon. Members will diligently study them to see that the wishes of everyone, including the Government, are met in dealing with this force.
The provisions of the Pensions Order, under Articles 15 and 16, are helpful to the police. I would, however, point out frankly that in Article 17 there is some restriction put upon the enjoyment of compensation allowances and pensions if the police enter certain Government employ. That is a debatable point, but it is a long established principle acted on by this House for many years, that if a man receives a pension from public funds and is again employed in a public office as defined by certain Acts or in a police force in the case of a policeman, he should not receive the pay of his rank and also in full the pension he has already obtained.
I pointed out quite frankly that the point was a debatable one. I hope the point will be raised in the discussion how far a pension granted to a policeman should be taken into consideration if that same policeman is re-employed either in a police force or in some public office. Subsection (4) applies the Pensions Commutation Acts, 1871 to 1882, to the pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary, that is, commutation granted at the discretion of the Treasury. Up to the present those grants of commutation have been made to the ex-members of the force for the purpose of emigration only, and a considerable number, several hundreds, have made application for the commutation of a portion of their pension for the purpose of going abroad, generally to one of our Dominions. On page 3 of the Bill there is introduced, so far as I know, quite a new scheme in the interests of pensioners, ex-members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. It is quite obvious to anyone who knows Irish conditions, and especially the state of employment in Ireland and in Great Britain, that for the next year or two the pensioner will be in greater difficulty, especially the pensioner with a small pension, than he will be, I hope, in the future. Under this new provision, any pensioner having less than 15 years service may augment his pension, under certain conditions, by receiving a larger amount of pension for two years from the date of his disbandment, and afterwards receiving a less pension in order to recoup the Treasury for the increased amount of pension granted during the two years. I am now referring to Sub-section (4) and the whole of page 3, except Sub-section (5). This is granted as an annuity for two years. I will give an example to show the House how it will work. The minimum pension granted to an ex-member of the Royal Irish Constabulary is £46 16s. a year. That is for a man who served less than six months in the Force. It is the largest pension for that length of service ever granted. That man's weekly pension is less than £l a week, but by augmenting his pension he can get not £46 16s. a year, but £106 12s. a year for two years, if 21 years of age, and for the succeeding years his pension is abated until the repayment is made on the technical scheme set out on page 3. He will thereafter receive a reduced pension of £37 16s., instead of £46 16s.
I am speaking of the widows and children of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and I do not think it is fair to suggest that this is ungenerous treatment. The last joined recruit gets a pension nearly equal to that given to the man who has won the Victoria Cross. None of these last joined recruits did any fighting of any kind, and I hope to convince the House that the terms are most generous. The plan of augmenting a small pension for two years and decreasing it in subsequent years is a very fair way to meet the pressure on those particular policemen who cannot live on their pension or secure employment during the present period of depression. Take a constable with ten years' service with a pension of 38s. a week, aged 30. He will be able to increase his pension from 38s. a week to £2 15s. 6d. a week for two years, and at the end of two years his pension will be reduced by 2s. 9d. a week to 35s. 3d. This applies to all members of the force who have less than 15 years' service, and who we think are in need of increased pensions or compensation allowance during the next two years.
Sub-section (5) is a precaution against fraud, and Sub-section (6) dates back the operation of this Bill to the 25th of January last. I have already expressed my regret that I could not get the Bill before the House at an earlier date. I think everybody is agreed that disbandment was the only possible course for the Government to take under the circumstances. Sub-section (8) deals with the transfer to the Treasury of the powers of the Lord Lieutenant or Inspector-General with respect to pensions allowances or gratuities. Sub-section (9) fixes as the date of transfer to the Northern Government of the responsibility for certain pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary the date of the passing of this Act. Clause 2 deals with the transfer of public services in -connection with Resident Magistrates, and I have already dealt with that. Clause 3 deals with the validation of things done or omitted in the execution of the Acts relating to the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Royal Irish Constabulary is governed by a great number of Statutes, which applied very well in normal times. Each county had its local strength of constabulary, and if it was necessary to move, say, 100 men from the Reserve in the Depot in Dublin down to County Kerry, the cost of the extra force was chargeable in part to the local authority. During recent hostilities which have prevailed in a very large part of Ireland it was impossible to apply all these strict rules, especially having regard to the fact that the local government of Ireland entirely broke down.
The hon. Member will have to refresh his memory. I said in recent hostilities which occurred in Ireland. Clause 3 is put in to validate the movement of police, and all the matters that were done in consequence of the recent difficulties in Ireland, not in strict accordance with the Statutes governing the police, if they were authorised by the Lord Lieutenant or the Chief Secretary, or certified by a Secretary of State to have been necessary or expedient for the restoration or maintenance of order in Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman says that Clause 3 validates everything that has been done. I do not so read the Clause. I only read it as applying to the appointment or distribution of officers or constables. It is important that this point should be cleared up, because if it is intended to be a general validation, very large and contentious questions may arise.
The Noble Lord is quite right. It does not apply to everything done. Those things which the Noble Lord probably has in his mind must be covered by a Bill of Indemnity, which will be brought before the House at the earliest possible moment. The Bill is in draft and only awaits the time of the House before it is presented and discussed. This is a severely technical matter, and does not raise the whole of the issues that must be raised and discussed when the Bill of Indemnity is submitted to the House.
It goes further than that. It deals with the question of expenses. The extra expense of taking a number of police to a disturbed county would be borne in part by the local ratepayers. We have spent the money.
Supposing this money had been incurred in sending special police into a disturbed county, the cost of which is to be recovered out of the local rates. Do we preserve our right to get that money from the local rates?
Those are two entirely different matters. I think I have explained that. The Schedule omits certain portions of the Act of 1920 for the benefit of the police. I would like to give, very briefly, although it has been before the House for some weeks, the actual terms of disbandment, so that there can be no doubt as to how the Government is treating the ex-members of this gallant force. In the first place, every member of the Royal Irish Constabulary will receive a pension, and the minimum pension will be £46 16s. a year. That rises, according to rank and length of service, to £600 a year for a County Inspector. These pensions are based on the Act of 1920. When the Act of 1920 was passed I do not remember anyone criticising it on the ground that it was unfair or ungenerous to the police. I quite admit that in 1920–21 the conditions were worse, and that the conditions now are worse for the disbanded men in some parts of Ireland than would have been the case if they had been disbanded in 1914, 1917, or 1918, and it is because circumstances are different that these additional grants have been determined on by the Government.
Any Irish member of the Constabulary can receive Disturbance Allowance equal to one, two or three months pay according as he is a single man or a married man with two, three or more children to enable him to remove his family and furniture to this country. His family and himself receive a free warrant from any part of Ireland to any part of Great Britain or Ireland. It is a fact that the expenses o£ removal come under scrutiny in order to assure the representative of the Treasury on the Tribunal that the money has been fairly spent. In addition, every Irish policeman who leaves Ireland because he feels himself to be in danger is entitled to draw, from the date of disbandment, separation allowance as if he were still serving the Crown in a hostile Ireland. That means that every married constable or sergeant gets 14s. a week, every Head Constable 17s. 6d. a week, and every officer 28s. a week, in addition to his pension. It is limited to a period of three months because it is hoped—after all we must have some regard to the public purse in these matters— that within three months, or within three months of the final disbandment of the force, matters will have much improved in Ireland. If things do not improve, as it is hoped they will, I shall be prepared to urge the continuance of this separation allowance.
Special facilities are also given to alt ex-members of the Royal Irish Constabu- lary to emigrate. They can have a part of their pensions commuted and arrangements made for their passage to any part of the world. In addition—this I consider most important—we have set up a special Tribunal under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Troup, until recently permanent head of the Home Office, and therefore a man of considerable experience in police administration, assisted by Mr. Clayton, an Assistant Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary in Dublin, and Mr. Upcott, a well-known Treasury official. This tribunal sits from day to day to hear exceptionally hard cases from all ranks of the police. They have the power specifically to recommend an extension to a maximum of six month's pay of disturbance allowance for the purposes of removal, gratuities, in addition to disturbance allowances, up to a maximum of six month's pay, and such additional allowances in any individual case as it may appear to require. I submit that those cannot be described as ungenerous terms.
The tribunal sits from day to day. If any hon. Member wishes to bring cases before it all he has to do is to send the facts or come himself to the Irish Office. I say that because I know that many of these policemen are very timid about appearing before any tribunal. I can assure them that they need have no fear of appearing before this Tribunal because its meetings are held in a room allocated to it and the policeman is entitled to give evidence himself, and bring any witness he likes to support his own evidence.
No, there is no publication at all. I have always supported any policeman who is in great personal danger. In addition, I would remind the House—and Ireland is the only country in the world to which this applies —that under the Criminal Injuries Acts all members of the Crown forces who have been killed or wounded during the recent critical times are entitled, through their dependants in the case of the killed, or through themselves when wounded, to receive awards from the County Courts. From the 1st January, 1919, to 11th July, 1921, the date of the truce, there were, in Ireland, policemen killed, 366; wounded, 572. Soldiers killed, 128; wounded, 297. The total casualties in killed and wounded were 1,363. That is a ghastly total. But it has to be said that every dependant of the killed, and the surviving wounded, get awards of money, which have been paid, or are in course of being paid now, and that the award of the County Court Judge is never questioned by the Government in relation to these persons. I shall ask the House shortly for money in order to complete the final payment in all these cases. I will give a case in point. A sergeant was wounded in the foot in a fight in the West of Ireland. He went to the County Court Judge and got an award of £2,000. He then comes to this country —this is a case which I know of my own personal knowledge, just as I know many others—and he gets several hundred pounds on account. The balance he certainly will get within the next few months I hope, and he gets a pension of £3 15s. a week for life in addition. My point here is that in addition to the pension and the extra grants which we have made under the Criminal Injuries Acts, grants have been made to dependants of killed and the surviving wounded on a scale never hitherto thought of in the history of war, or disturbances of any kind, in which casualties result.
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there are plenty of cases of policemen being murdered since the truce, and in many places it is not possible to bring the matter into Court, because the Courts are not able to sit. What is done in these cases?
That is very important, and I will deal with it. The awards made for casualties up to the date of the truce, 11th July, 1921, will be paid by the Government. Since 11th July, 1921, the policeman has his remedy, under the Criminal Injuries Acts, which are still law in Ireland. I admit the point taken by the hon. Member, that in some parts of Ireland it is difficult to bring these cases before a County Court Judge who is interrupted, when he desires to hear the cases, by ruffians who come in arms and compel the Courts to break up. Those eases apparently are not numerous, so far as my information goes, and I think that they must be looked upon as a postponement of justice, and not as a negation of justice.
The postponement of justice is, in effect, a negation of justice, as it is well known that these Courts will never sit again under British justice. These men are entitled to have their cases heard and determined. It is the business of the Government under which they serve, and in whose service they incurred injuries, to protect them, and this is the time to protect them.
I see the point raised by the hon. Member. This was an arrangement come to some months ago, when there were no murders, because between the truce and the treaty, though there were woundings of policemen and attempted murders of policemen, I do not think that there were any policemen murdered as a fact. Since the Treaty there have, I admit, been over 20 policemen murdered and over 40 wounded.
That is not my information. Whatever it may be, this agreement as to payment in full of the personal awards by the County Courts was arrived at in consultation with the Provisional Government of Ireland and it was decided at that time that the dividing date should be the date of the Truce, namely, 11th July, 1921, and that after that the usual remedies under the Criminal Injuries Acts should be sought by those who are victims of violence in Ireland.
In a certain district in Southern Ireland an unfortunate applicant for justice in one case was actually murdered. In other cases the applicant has not been able to have his cause heard in the County Court because the Court has been broken up by armed ruffians. My own view is that in those cases the Government have certainly a moral responsibility for these men, and I am prepared in Committee to consider some Amendment that might meet the very hard cases of these men, but I am explaining now that we arrived at this particular date, 11th July, 1921, not because we do not agree that the policemen and soldiers who have been subsequently murdered or wounded do not deserve the best sympathy, support and treatment which the House can give them, but because this was the date fixed by agreement with the Provisional Government and one cannot alter such dates without re-arrangement with the Provisional Government.
Why was this distinction made between the cases which occurred before and after the truce? Was not the responsibility of the Government for these men greater and not less than the responsibility before the truce, and why do they get worse treatment instead of better treatment?
I do not agree. When the truce was arranged it was hoped that the Courts would function in the usual way, and that the normal remedy of the Courts under the Criminal Injuries Acts would continue. In some cases—a few cases—for we must not exaggerate in these matters—
According to my information, about six Courts have been disturbed, not in all cases, but in certain cases, where a policeman has asked that his case should be considered under the Criminal Injuries Acts, not the police man himself, but someone acting on his behalf—
My personal view is that it must be done, and I am sure that my colleagues will agree with me that it ought to be done. But this is a matter that one must submit to one's colleagues to get final decision. When the Bill gets into Committee, I shall do my best.
I submit that the Bill and its terms show that the Government, supported by the whole House, have tried to deal fairly and sympathetically with the Constabulary. If you ask me whether the terms are adequate, I say that no terms are adequate for men who have gone through what these men have gone through. One must, however, have some regard to the claims upon the public purse at this time. One must have some regard to the disbandment of thousands of officers and men of the Army and Navy. In these cases the difficulty is not in the amount of money that I am asking the House to allocate to the Royal Irish Constabulary. The difficulty is to make certain that these men, their wives and families have the hope of a secure future and a decent chance to continue a peaceful life. The House will excuse me if I speak with great feeling in this matter, for the most honourable part of my somewhat chequered career has been the fact that I gladly associated myself with this force during its most difficult period. I have done my best, during the greatest pressure upon me, not only to defend them in this House, which was never difficult, because the House was always sympathetic, but also during difficulties and troubles in Ireland. I think they are the pick of the Irish race. Nearly all of them are the sons of farmers. Some of them are farmers themselves, and they looked forward to a return to their farming at the end of their careers in the police, force. For many that is now impossible. The men have never flinched in their devotion to duty, and I think that country is happy where these men and their families ultimately settle. They bring with them pensions, payable by this House, to the extent approximately of £2,000,000 sterling a year, although a very large portion of that will be recouped from the Irish Free State Government and a part of it from the Government of Northern Ireland. To any country where they go they bring with them perfect physique, the highest character, and thrifty habits as assets. I am sure this House will commend them as men and women worthy of the heartiest welcome and the closest fellowship to whatever country they may ultimately go.
I need hardly say that I do not rise to offer any opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill. After the long, and not too long, explanation of the Chief Secretary, I confess myself still in a state of great mental obscurity as to most of the Bill's provisions. I think the Bill is a monumental example of drafting ambiguity and chaos, and I cannot help thinking that when the Bill gets into Committee a number of points which the right hon. Gentleman has somewhat superficially touched will require much more careful scrutiny and explanation. I shall not go into what may be called Committee points. I will make only one general observation, and that is that, anxious as we all are that members of this great force, about to be disbanded, should receive not only just and equitable, but generous consideration from the House of Commons, there are difficulties in the present condition of Ireland which make the normal operation of the Courts, as the right hon. Gentleman has admitted, in. many parts of the country almost impossible, and even where the Courts do operate, and where decisions are given and judgment pronounced, I fear that in a very large number of cases it is impossible to obtain execution of them. I say that because it governs the whole situation when you are considering the practical operation of any terms which may be laid down in an Act of Parliament for the compensation of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
My sole purpose in rising was to say what I very strongly feel, that it is in some ways a melancholy though a necessary result of recent legislation that this great and historic force should at last be disbanded. I shall have the sympathy of the whole House when I say that. I have been concerned for many years, and responsibly concerned, in the administration of Irish government. I have never known a case, no matter who was in power or what the character of the legislation passed by this Parliament, in which the Constabulary did not loyally respond to the obligations put upon them. Recruited, as they are, from all the different sections of the Irish people, Roman Catholics, Protestants, North and South, East and West, they have never failed, in my experience, in carrying out the duties imposed upon them as executive officers of the Government and Parliament of the day. They have a glorious record. I do not believe that a finer force was ever got together in any part of the world, not only physically, not only in point of what you might call everyday efficiency, but in the magnificent spirit of discipline and loyalty they have always applied to the discharge of their duties.
When we are passing a Bill of this kind, which, after all, is the epitaph, the winding-up of a most distinguished force, I do not think this House ought to part from its long association with this devoted band of servants of the Crown without expressing what we must all feel and what history will record— the deep sense of obligation under which we stand for the services they have rendered to Great Britain, to Ireland, and to the Empire. As far as I am concerned, and as far as I am entitled to speak for anyone else, we would like to see that necessary process accompanied by every possible consideration for the well-being and the security of those who are passing out of the service of the Crown. While I do not profess to be able to understand, with my limited powers of comprehension, the explanations of the Chief Secretary, or to be able to ascertain with any precision what will be the actual result of the compensation provision in this Bill, I do venture to urge upon the House that the provisions of the Bill should be scrutinised in Committee with the utmost care, that all ambiguities and obscurities should be removed, and that the whole of our proceedings in the matter should be dictated by a spirit of gratitude and generosity to this great force, which now disappears from the scene in which it has played such a conspicuous and patriotic part.
The House will have heard with some emotion and with great satisfaction the distinguished tributes which have been paid to the Royal Irish Constabulary, not only by the Chief Secretary but also by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who by his long association with politics has had ample opportunity of judging of the value of this force. We have heard these tributes paid by the two right hon. Gentlemen with intense satisfaction, and I feel confident that everyone in the House will feel that the tributes were couched in by no means more generous terms than the force deserved. Those of us who have lived in Ireland and have known Ireland for forty or perhaps more years, and have witnessed from time to time the action of the Royal Irish Constabulary, look upon the disbandment of this splendid force as little short of a tragedy. As the Chief Secretary has said, it was formed shortly before the accession of the late Queen Victoria, and ever since that day its record, often in times of great stress and grave danger, has been an unbroken record of fidelity, of loyalty, of devotion, discipline, and conspicuous courage. I need not recall that record except to say this. We all remember the dark days in the Eighties. The right hon. Member for Paisley will remember them well. They were the days of the Land League, and the Plan of Campaign. We also remember that in 1906 peace had been absolutely restored, and prosperity and contentment to a degree "greater than had ever been attained," as Mr. Birrell said, "in the course of 700 years." I have no hesitation in saying that a large part of that great result was due to the devoted services of the Royal Irish Constabulary during the time of danger.
In my judgment, it is next to impossible to exaggerate the debt which this country and the inhabitants of Ireland owe to the Royal Irish Constabulary. Let us, in their hour of difficulty to-day, be careful to discharge that debt adequately, to discharge it not only with justice but with a measure of generosity. While I profoundly regret the disappearance of this force from Ireland, I recognise that under the legislation which this House has passed the disbandment of the force is unavoidable, but it is our duty, having regard to the record of these men, and more especially the recent appalling sufferings and experiences of these men, to make the terms of disbandment as generous and just as we can. The terms of disbandment in the Bill are not adequate. If this were a case of the disbandment of police under normal conditions, and in an undisturbed country, these terms, I agree, would be reasonable. But let us remember that these men are being disbanded under conditions abso- lutely unprecedented, possibly in this or any other country. Had they been disbanded in 1914, when the position of the country was fairly normal, the men could have gone back to their homes in Ireland and lived with their families in decent contentment, undisturbed by local assaults. But to-day owing to the orgy of crime which has taken place in Ireland since the rebellion of 1916, the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and their families are regarded with hatred and bitter animosity and an organised campaign of ferocity is being carried out against them. Most of them dare not return to their homes in Southern Ireland. They must either emigrate to Northern Ireland or to Great Britain.
I am not going to recall the black record of the last six years. But I think it is germane to the purpose of settling what terms should be offered to these men, to remember what they have suffered during the last two years, not to go any further back. In the year immediately preceding the truce, there were, according to statements given by the Chief Secretary in this House in February, no less than 15 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary brutally murdered and large numbers of murderous assaults and woundings of these men. One might suppose, and certainly the Chief Secretary in his more sanguine moments did suppose, that once the truce was signed, all these horrors and murders would cease. In fact, in making his arrangements with the Provisional Government, the right hon. Gentleman assumed there would be no trouble or disturbance after the date of the truce, and on that account made no provision for continuing the operation of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act. What has happened? Since the date of the truce, according to the best statistics I can get, 20 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary have been brutally murdered. The House will not forget that appalling case in which two of these unfortunate men, who were lying wounded in hospital in the West of Ireland, were assaulted by some intolerable fiends in human shape and murdered as they lay in their beds. During the period from the truce up to the other day, there have been something like 80 murderous attacks on members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Many of them have been wounded and many of them have had their homes burned and their property destroyed, but that is not all. One would imagine that, once these unfortunate men, these courageous servants of the British State, to whom we owe so much, had been disbanded, discharged from their duties and sent home, then, at any rate, these outrages and murders might cease and that for the rest of their lives they might have been allowed to remain in their little homes in Ireland with their wives and families, undisturbed by brutal and fiendish outrage. If anyone held that anticipation, it has been cruelly destroyed, because what has happened? Since these men have been disbanded, several of them have been murdered in getting to their own homes. Many of them have been threatened with death on arrival at their homes, unless they left within 24 hours, and in many, alas! far too many, cases even the wives and families of these men have been told that unless they clear out of the homes in which they have lived all their lives, they will be subject to similar outrage.
I have here numbers of the most pathetic and heartrending letters from men who have been disbanded, telling me how they have gone to their homes and have been met, in some cases in the middle of the night, just as they arrived, and told, "You must leave in 24 hours; you must leave your wife and family, the home in which you were brought up and in which you hope to spend the rest of your days, and you must go away—we care not whither—an exile to some foreign land." Why is this done? Because these men have been faithful servants, because they have served the English Crown and have been true to their trust. The House will allow me to read one of these letters to illustrate what has happened to these men. I do not give the name of the man nor the names of the places he mentions, because it would be dangerous to do so. He writes:
I was disbanded on 4th instant. I left Dublin at a quarter to five for — I reached my destination at eight forty that evening and remained there until the following Saturday, four days. I left — for —" (his home) "and reached there at a quarter to nine. Immediately on arrival there I was arrested by about twenty armed men, some of whom carried revolvers, and they conveyed me to the old R.I.C. Barracks.
A singular insult not unworthy of the men who perpetrated it. The letter continues:
They searched me there and also my luggage. After about an hour they left me and told me to go at once out of the country. I came back to Dublin to-day.
That is only one of dozens of such cases. I have said that the wives and families were threatened also. Let me give only one reference to that. There will be found in the "Irish Independent," a Nationalist organ, of 8th April last, an announcement of a very remarkable action on the part of a public body, the Galway Urban Council. This council, by a majority of votes, ordered that the wives and families of Royal Irish Constabulary and Auxiliaries should be given two months' notice to quit their cottages and clear out of the country. What is the result of all this? The result is that, already, according to the estimate given to me, something like 1,500 of these men have been forced to fly from their homes and take refuge in this country. The number is placed at either 1,500 or 2,000. Many of them have not yet been able to bring their families. The Chief Secretary tells us he will provide them with travelling expenses. Of those who are still in Ireland, something like 25 per cent, have had to leave their homes and families in Southern Ireland and fly for refuge to Northern Ireland. This is a matter upon which the mind and feeling of this country, if the people only knew the facts, would be most deeply stirred and the people would urge the Government, as we urge them to-day, to do everything in their power to alleviate the sufferings of these men, to make it possible for them, if it can be done, to remain in Ireland, and if that be impossible, adequately to compensate them and enable them to live under a happier sky and in a freer world, than that in which they have lived in Southern Ireland. As illustrating the public feeling referred to, may I mention the very remarkable picture in this week's issue of "Punch," which very often seizes the feeling of the public and depicts it with striking accuracy. This cartoon shows an ex-Royal Irish Constabulary man, a fine, splendid, well-disciplined looking fellow, with his wife and family beside him. It pictures him having to clear out of his home and take refuge wherever charity will accept him
or wherever fortune and fate will be kind to him.
In the circumstances I have described, I wish to suggest to the Chief Secretary certain points in regard to which this Bill can be improved. I believe I am speaking to sympathetic ears, and that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will do their utmost to accede to the claims I put forward. The first claim is this. By the terms of disbandment these men are granted what is called a disturbance allowance in case they have to leave home and go elsewhere. These terms are totally and entirely inadequate. A single man is awarded one month's pay to compensate him for having to leave his home and seek refuge in England or Scotland or elsewhere. A married man with two children is to get two months' pay, and a married man with three children three months' pay. The very minimum which the Chief Secretary should grant in cases of that sort is, in the case of the single man, three months' pay—little enough— in the case of the married man with two children, five months' pay, and in the case of the married man with three or more children six months' pay. Nor should these amounts be doled out to the men on the production of railway tickets and vouchers of hotel expenses and so forth. They should be free gifts, to enable the man to live, to give him a chance and to let him make his home in his new surroundings as best he can. These suggestions of mine are extremely moderate. I think I should have asked more, and I think the Chief Secretary will perhaps give more. If I compare the pay which these men are now drawing and the pensions which they will receive after disbandment, I find the average loss in the case of an officer is something like £5 10s. per week or rather more than £300 a year, and in the case of the men it is £2 10s. per week, or about £130 a year. That is the actual loss which these officers and men sustain by reason of their disbandment, instead of being allowed, as in happier circumstances they would be allowed, to continue their employment. I hope the Chief Secretary will frame the Money Resolution upon which this Bill will be considered in Committee in such a form, as to enable these points to be raised and adequately discussed.
The question of commutation of pensions will have to be considered. There is power given to the Treasury, in Subsection (4) of Clause 1, to commute pensions, and I want to know whether that power is to be exercised only in the cases where a man wants to emigrate to the Dominions or to some, foreign country. I imagine not, but I should like to have a definite assurance from the Chief Secretary, because it would be ludicrous to say: "Here you are; you have to uproot your old surroundings, and if you go to Canada you will be allowed to commute part of your pension, but if you go to England or Scotland you will not be allowed to commute a farthing of it in order to set you up in business." If that is not already made clear in the Bill, it ought to be. Further, this power of commutation ought not only to be granted to the Royal Irish Constabulary men who are disbanded under this Bill, but ought also to be granted to Royal Irish Constabulary men who are already in possession of pensions, but who, in many cases, will be subject to the same outrages in Ireland as these disbanded men and will have to leave their homes and settle in another country. There are other points which I will reserve for the Committee stage, but I must mention one really important question.
Under the Bill as it stands, the pension which is granted is to be suspended if the pensioner is employed in either a police force or in any other public service whatever. That is an absolutely unjustifiable restriction upon a man. He gets his pension under this Bill for his past services, as a reward for his fidelity and devotion, and are you going to say to him, "If you got no other employment you will enjoy your full pension, but if you choose to get another berth and desire to add to your existing pension, your pension will be suspended?" I say that, that would be an outrage, contrary to policy, decency, reason, and justice, and, therefore, I would urge the Attorney-General to bring that point before the Chief Secretary, so that he may be willing to grant that concession when the Bill comes into Committee.
I thank the House very much for having listened to what I have had to say. I can assure the House that there are few things I feel more deeply. The men of the Royal Irish Constabulary are some of the earliest memories of my child- hood, and I have seen them repeatedly since those days, in times of terrible danger and distress, doing their duty like loyal and brave men. I deeply regret that they are going to disappear from Ireland, a disappearance which I think is disastrous to the inhabitants of Ireland themselves, and I think the Members of this House, animated as they are by a desire to do justice to faithful servants of the Crown, will see that, so far as it lies within our power to make the lot of these men who have served us so faithfully not only bearable but a happy one, we shall leave nothing undone which can achieve that result.
I rise to say a few words for one reason, and for one reason alone. Is it that I feel, as one who has consistently supported the Irish Treaty, that all of us who voted for it are under a peculiar obligation to treat, not only justly, but generously, the men who are going to suffer in what we believe to be the general interests of public policy. On that ground I think there is a great deal in what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) has just said, with reference to the terms offered to the Royal Irish Constabulary under the Bill. Let me first ask the Attorney-General why it is that we are only now considering this Bill. I should have thought that a question of compensation of this kind ought to have been settled at once. As it is, it is now almost the middle of May, and all the remaining men of the Royal Irish Constabulary have, under Clause 1, to be disbanded by the 31st of this month. The Chief Secretary said, in the course of his speech, that he was anxious that the men should not be disbanded in great masses, but gradually, and obviously so, for very good reasons. Then how comes it about that the Government has left the settlement of this question so late that no less than half the men have got to be thrown upon the labour market, or wherever they have got to go, in the course of two or three weeks?
That is the first question I should like to ask, and, having asked it, let me say a word or two about the actual terms that are being offered to the men. The House is in this difficulty, that in the Committee stage of a Bill like this, no private Member will be able to propose better terms, for the reason that he would be imposing by his Amendment a charge upon the public purse. That means that those of us who think that the terms are not adequate have to deal to-day with what ordinarily would be Committee points; otherwise, we shall have no chance of making them. But before I come to one or two details where I think the Government is not sufficiently generous, let me put to the House this general point. If hon. Members will study the conditions that are being offered under this Bill they will see that, generally speaking, they differ very little from the conditions that were offered under the 1920 Act. The Chief Secretary alluded to certain small additional grants that were being offered the men—superannuation allowances, for instance, and grants for removal in certain cases—but, speaking generally and apart from these small exceptional differences, the terms that are being offered to-day are substantially the terms that were offered under the 1920 Act. That seems to me to be altogether wrong. Let hon. Members think of what has happened since the 1920 Act, and of all that these men have been through during the intervening period. Whatever one's views may be, and in whatever part of the House one sits, one cannot help feeling that these men ought to be offered substantially better terms than were offered under the 1920 Act.
Let me come to another point. It seems to me, as far as I understand the terms, that the senior men in the force are not being offered nearly good enough terms. The Chief Secretary made a great deal of the fact that a member of the force who entered it during the last six months would receive for life a pension of £46 a year. I am not going to say that that is too much, for I agree with the Chief Secretary that you cannot adequately compensate these men, but if a man who has only entered the force during the last six months is to receive £46 a year for life, I say it is altogether inadequate that the men at the top, who are now receiving more than £1,200 a year, should have as a maximum pension something in the nature of £500 or £600 a year. I hope that when it comes to the Financial Resolution, and when it comes to the Committee stage, the Government will make this difference right and will see that these senior men get much better terms than they will under the present proposals of the Bill. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for York alluded to another very important question, the question of the removal allowances. There again I think they are inadequate, and I think my hon. and learned Friend was very moderate when he made the proposal that the periods of three, five, and six months should be substituted for the periods of one, two, and three months. I think that is a very moderate demand, and I hope the Attorney-General will take steps to see that that demand is satisfied.
Lastly, there is the position of the Hard Cases Tribunal. I think it is a good thing that there should be a Tribunal of that kind, but I think its activities might very well be extended. As it is, it is too circumscribed in the reference that is set cut in the financial White Paper. It might deal much more widely with cases than it appears to do under the last paragraph of the Government's White Paper. I am not at all sure that it would not really be better to have got rid of a great many of these complicated arrangements, to have got rid even of the Hard Cases Tribunal, and to have faced the fact that these men have been serving in quite unprecedented conditions during the last two years, and that all of them ought to receive a gratuity, a settled gratuity, based, no doubt, upon length of service, for the work that they have done during the last two years. I believe that if that proposal wore adopted, a proposal for which there is the precedent of the gratuities paid (hiring the War, it would do away with all the many complications that the Chief Secretary tried to describe today, and which are set forth in this White Paper. If, however, that cannot be done, I again wish to emphasise the urgent necessity of complying with the proposal made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York, that the removal allowance should be increased in the way he has suggested, and that we should remove from this House the slur of dealing ungenerously with a splendid body of men.
Brigadier-General Sir W. HACKET PAIN:
As a Divisional Commissioner of the Royal Irish Constabulary from the time the appointment was first made until the so-called truce last year, I desire to bring before the House an aspect of the case of the men of the Royal Irish Constabulary which, so far, has not been touched on. When I first became a Divisional Commissioner I found in the North of Ireland that many of the officers and men had been drafted to the South, the North at that moment being peaceful, but precautions were being taken, the police barracks were to be put in a state of defence, and I wish the House to mark this point, that the policeman was to be turned into a soldier. The men of the Royal Irish Constabulary had a certain amount of military training besides their ordinary constables' work. They were taught to use a carbine, which, from a military point of view, is a Very inferior weapon, and to shoot a certain number of rounds, and they were taught the use of the bayonet, but their chief weapon was the baton. They were really trained as, and were, policemen. But, owing to the emergency, they were to be turned into soldiers, and taught the use of the service rifle, bombs, rockets, Very pistol, machine gun; in fact, they ceased to function as policemen, and became soldiers. Many of the serving constables, when they were turned from policemen into soldiers, were found to be too old for military activities, and, consequently, these men were summarily retired from the force, and so lost their claim to the better pensions which have been recently granted to their comrades. Having by every means in my power endeavoured to raise the moral of these men, and fit them for their military duties, I now find that they are unable to live in Ireland, the country of their birth, and I consider that the most generous terms should be given to these men in addition to what has already been promised. In proportion to the activities that they have willingly carried out, their living in Ireland is made more impossible, and I feel very deeply in this matter, because in carrying out the orders of the Government, I, to the best of my ability, in every sort of way, increased their activities which were most willingly and devotedly given, and in that way I am afraid I have done them a bad turn.
These remarks refer to the whole of the Royal Irish Constabulary. But the class to which I wish particularly to draw attention are those men who do not benefit by the new scale of pensions who have come in since then, owing to their having been turned out of the Force, because they were too old or not sufficiently active for their military duties. I do not think that these men should suffer. I know this means a question of money, but I think the House, which has approved the policy that has done away with this magnificent Force, should sec that every man in that Force is properly looked after, and that not one officer or man should be made to suffer from unexpected legislation.
I only-wish to say a few words in support of what the hon. Baronet the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) said just now in reference to increasing the amount of the disturbance allowance from one, two and three months respectively, to three months in the case of a single man, five months in the case of a married man with two children, and six months in the case of a married man with three children These allowances are roughly an average rate of £16 a month,. and I suggest to the House that telling a man he will get a sum of £32 to bring his wife and family over from Ireland, is not a sufficient or a generous amount to give him to enable him to start again in this country. I agree that some of the pensions given are comparatively generous, more especially in the case of those younger members of the force who have only served a very short time, but in the case of these men, many of whom have had a little farm in the country, and have got a comfortable home together, and so on, cannot turn out of their home, bring their wife, children, and furniture over to this country, and set up a home again for £32. That is not enough money to bring them over from the West of Ireland and set them up here. The amount offered by the Government is only allowed with the proviso that the men have to produce a voucher as to their actual expenses in moving over. It would be far better, and the right, generous, and proper thing, if the Chief Secretary were to take power in the Financial Resolution to increase that amount, as suggested by the hon. and learned Member for York, and give disturbance allowance, without any voucher, in the form of a bonus or gratuity to these men, as a real disturbance allowance, to enable them to set themselves up and carry on in this country in their entirely new surroundings. It would not cost a large sum of money. We worked it out in a private Committee the other day at something, I think, less than £200,000 for the whole force, and that, I submit, would very largely meet the deep sense of grievance they have at present in that respect.
There are other matters in connection with this Bill which require consideration. One, which was partly alluded to by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), is that, although the pensions of the younger men are, to a certain extent, generous, the older men— men who have really qualified for pension before—get no increase whatever. A man, say, with under 10 years' service does get 12 years added to his service in counting his pension, but men who have actually served a sufficient time to get their pension—and there are men who have not only served their full time, but, instead of retiring, stayed on in the service to support the Government in troublous times for two years beyond their retiring age—get no advantage whatever. That is a case which ought to be met by some special addition, by taking power to get more money in the Financial Resolution.
As regards the tribunal which has been set up to deal with special cases, that, of course, is a good thing, but that tribunal is sitting here in London, and I am informed by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary that a great many of the men do not like the idea of sending in their claim to a tribunal in London, because they know that that again will be submitted to Ireland for inquiries to be made there, and they know there is no secrecy in the post, and no secrecy in the Castle—at least, they, and, I believe, a great many other people, too, are under the impression that there is a leakage, and that these men are bound to suffer if they put forward these claims here. It might be possible to have a separate tribunal to deal with those men who are able to stay there At the time the amount of disturbance allowance was fixed by the Government, it was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers and, I believe, the opinion of General Tudor, who was the Chief of Police, that a large number of the Royal Irish Constabulary would be able to remain in Ireland—that they would not be molested.
What are the facts? Up to the end of last month 3,100 of the old Royal Irish Constabulary had been disbanded. Of those, 1,254 were compelled to come to Great Britain owing to threats. The total number remaining in Ireland was 1,846, of which number 960 were driven out of their homes by the Irish Republican Army, in spite of the loud-sounding amnesties and so on of Mr. Michael Collins's Government, to which Ireland has been handed over by this House, and which is quite unable to enforce the law or protect any citizen in Ireland, with the result that the insurgent Irish Republican Army are doing what they like and ordering people about all over the country, and the 960 members remaining in Ireland have been chased out of their homes. I have in my hand over 50 different cases of the way in which this was done. I do not wish to read a large number of them, but I should like to draw attention to one or two. In Water ford two disbanded members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who returned to live in Portlaw, were served with typewritten notices to leave the "Waterford Brigade area" within 24 hours. The notices wore served I y a member of the Irish Republican Army, who occupied Portlaw Barracks, in the name of the Provisional Government. I will give another case in Waterford. A notice, signed "Thomas Keating, Officer Commanding No. 2 Battalion," was served on an ex-sergeant to leave the area within 24 hours. Keating took over Waterford Barracks in the name of the Provisional Government. Those are two cases where the so-called officers of the Provisional Government in Ireland are the very people responsible for intimidating and chasing these men away from Ireland—a very pretty commentary upon the power of Mr. Collins to control his own people!
Another point arises in reference to the separation allowance, and here again I would ask the Attorney-General to make a note of this particular point. The Government have given a separation allowance of 3s. a day to those men who have to come over from Ireland. That sum is totally inadequate. They all complain that they cannot possibly keep their wives and families on their pensions, plus only that amount of 3s. a day, and even that is only to go on for three months. The case of the Auxiliaries and temporary men has also been mentioned by the Chief Secretary. The case of the Auxiliary Cadets has been brought up once or twice in this House recently, that is to say, the case of those men whom the Government got to sign on before the truce, and then deliberately broke faith with their contracts. About 300 of these men took on in July of last year. Many of them are now destitute, and almost on the verge of starvation in this country. Many of these temporary men, who carried on their duties through the most dangerous times in Ireland during the last three years, are also destitute, and here again I would ask the Attorney-General to make a note of this point. These men have come over here. It has been decided that they are not eligible for unemployment benefit, because, of course, they were not insured. Surely the Government ought to give them some special allowance in these, times, when it is quite impossible for them to get work. They ought to get some special allowance in the same way as the soldiers did after the Great War.
It makes one have a feeling of deep shame to come across men, who gave support to this country in the War, and afterwards did splendid work in Ireland, now being turned out with a £10 bonus, and told to clear out and look out for themselves. They come over to this country and are quite unable to find employment, and as they are debarred from unemployment benefit the only thing open to them is the workhouse. I suggest that the Government should take some steps in the matter. I sincerely hope the Chief Secretary will give us some assurance on the point when he replies. There is just one other matter I desire to raise, and that is with reference to the motor transport men, about 500. They come under this Clause. First of all, the men are not insured. Most of these men would have been insured in England, and then, if unemployed, would have been eligible for unemployment benefit. These men have a particular grievance in respect to that, and as regards unemployment benefit.
The second thing that I would like to know is whether in reference to Circular No. 2677, issued by Dublin Castle authorities, the Government will carry out the pledge which they gave to give the men a gratuity of £25 for each part of a year over the original 12 months. I would like my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General to see if the Chief Secretary cannot be induced to carry out what was promised by his own officials. I hope that these extra allowances will be given, that the men of the temporary forces will be dealt with generously, and some allowance given to them for the next few months to prevent them from having to go to the workhouse or starve. If these things were done, I believe that the feeling of resentment and the feeling that they have been ungenerously dealt with will be removed from the minds of these splendid men who are now being disbanded.
There has been a remarkable unanimity in the the Debate on one point, and that is, however generous may be the financial grants to be made in settlement of the constabulary claims, the details and distribution of this money is not equitable as between the men with short service and those who have given their lives to the Royal Irish Constabulary. I think it is unreasonable if you give a district inspector who served only a few months a life pension of £120 a year, you should limit the man who reached a far higher pay and spent perhaps 30 or 35 years in the service to a sum of £600, which is very much less than they are at present getting. It seems to be forgotten by those who framed these terms that this arrangement, under which a man adds 12 years in some cases and 10 years in others to the number of years he has served in arriving at his pensionable service, is absolutely useless to any man who has served for 30 years. The limiting to the two-thirds maximum of all retiring allowances means that many of the men will get little or no benefit from these added years.
The terms, I think, are more inadequate in view of the fact that so many of these men will have to be expatriated and have to start afresh in what, to them will be a strange country where it is very difficult to find employment. To my mind, they have been subjected to something very like a breach of faith. The Chief Secretary said over and over again, not only in this House but in addresses to the Royal Irish Constabulary in their own country, that he at least would see that they did not suffer for their patriotism and for their ungrudging work. What do we then find? Not that the men are getting the terms of the 1920 Act, but in reality terms which are much less favourable, and for this reason: under the 1920 Act the men were to have not only got the added years which are now secured, but they were in addition to have six years on full pay. That was far larger payment, and there was adequate time in which to look around for further employment. There is no doubt now that they have been docked of these six years, which they were assured of in the original terms, that they are nothing like so well treated, in spite of the fact that their position in Ireland is nothing like so good as it was, and they have really far greater need for compensation than ever was contemplated when the Act of 1920 was passed.
There is also this point; that a pension reasonable enough, and perhaps even generous for an old man who has got no dependants, is often very insufficient for a man in the prime of life who is responsible for bringing up his family. The trouble in this respect becomes aggravated toy the higher pay you get in the service, because men who are very valuable in the Royal Irish Constabulary owing to their long experience, have nothing like the same earning power as they had in the higher grade when they have to go outside, and they cannot possibly expect to land in equally well-paid civil employment. It seems to me to involve a point of very great hardship on these middle-aged men, who are being summarily retired from the only work in which they have been trained, and it does compel comparison with their one-time payment and the income to which they have been immediately reduced.
I have had some pitiable cases put before me. In one case of men who at one step were reduced to half and less than half of what they were enjoying, and who have to face the prospect of having to withdraw their children from school, and to deprive their SOUK, who are growing up, of that start in life to which they had looked forward for many years. I could give one or two of these cases of men who are serving in what is known as temporary appointments. Take the post of Divisional Commissioner. Some of the men occupying these posts were appointed from the Royal Irish Constabulary. The post was known to be a very dangerous one. Two of the men thus appointed have paid with their lives for their loyalty. There is a precedent in this position of Divisional Commis- sioner and for what I ask. Mr. Hird, who was a previous occupant of such a post, was pensioned in 1898 on two-thirds of his then pay of £l,000 a year. He received £666 a year under conditions which were far less dangerous than those which have been faced by his successors in the post of Divisional Commissioner and under present-day circumstances. The present Divisional Commissioners were never warned at the time of their appointments that their posts were temporary. They took these posts without any question and faced what is admitted to be the most dangerous occupation in the whole of the constabulary work in Ireland. After some weeks they were told that their rank would not be substantive, but that they would really be graded for the purposes of pension as County Inspectors. What does that mean? That the amount of £l,250 will be dropped in one step to £600.
I have spoken to the Chief Secretary and, as always when he is approached about these matters, he expressed very great sympathy and assured me that these cases should be dealt with by the tribunal which has been set up to consider cases of exceptional hardship. What these men feel is that it is extremely difficult to see how they are to argue exceptional hardship before a tribunal which can point to the fact that the Chief Secretary has retained as a regular basis for pension that they shall be retired on two-thirds of the salary of a county inspector. They fear further that under paragraph (e) the powers of these exceptional hardship cases will be limited by the two previous paragraphs (a) and (b). I want to ask the Chief Secretary when he replies to make it quite clear to these and the other men who served in these temporary appointments, that this tribunal will be empowered to deal with their cases and will be enabled to recommend, not only a gratuity such as this mentioned in paragraph (b). but even an extra retiring allowance under paragraph (c). If the right hon. Gentleman will deal with that point and give a definite assurance it would, at any rate, until their cases are tried, do a good deal to allay the bitter anxieties now being felt.
I want the right hon. Gentleman also to see if he can give any consideration to the men who have missed their pensions in the Royal Irish Constabulary by having engaged for the Army for the period of the War. I have had some very hard cases brought to me. There was one man who had considerable service, something over 10 years, in the Royal Irish Constabulary before the War, and served in the Army from the outbreak of hostilities until the end of last year. He then was arranging to get back into the Royal Irish Constabulary at the moment this disbandment was announced. That man will get neither service pension nor constabulary pension unless the right hon. Gentleman can give power to a special hardship Committee to deal with cases of this kind which are not strictly pensionable within the four corners of the Bill as it is drawn. The hon. and gallant Member for Finsbury (Lieut.-Colonel Archer-Shee) mentioned the case of 500 motor mechanics, but he did not, I think, deal with the terms on which they have been discharged. To my mind they are grossly inadequate. These men have been sent away with only a week's notice, and a gratuity of £10. Other men who applied to be taken on as mechanics, but who failed to pass the test, were taken into the subordinate posts of drivers. Becoming permanent constables they have got a life pension, although their qualifications were not high enough to enable them to be accepted as mechanics, for which they had applied. Consider that these men are only getting £10, whereas the men in the auxiliary division who served on a somewhat lengthy contract got a minimum of £70 in most cases, which is a considerably additional sum. The right hon. Gentleman must admit that here is a case to be specially considered either by the tribunal to be set up or by some other means. I wish to add my voice to those who have claimed better consideration for these men. I know the right hon. Gentleman is trying to accommodate these refugees in this country, but it is not easy to house them. It is not desirable in the interests of their finding employment that they should all be concentrated in one building, where they would impede each other in applying for work. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to try and find some vacant accommodation for small numbers of them in as many centres of employment in this country as he can.
It ought to be possible in every military barracks to find room for half a dozen of these urgent cases. The provisions of the disbandment terms allow for commutation of pension in the case of men who have to migrate oversea, but there is no provision for the men who emigrate from Ireland to England. Can the right hon. Gentleman not take some steps by which these men shall also be allowed to obtain a reasonable sum to enable them to buy a house or start business in this country? I hope he will deal with this point which I know affects a great many of these men, and I trust that he will make it clear that they will be able to claim for malicious injuries in due course and not lose their rights by having to flee the country and have the difficulty of producing witnesses after the lapse of a considerable period of time.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will listen to the appeal made to him to improve the terms of the disturbance allowance and raise it to three, five, and six months instead of one, two, and three. It does not amount to a very big sum. A single man would get £48; a married man with two children, £80; and a married man with a larger family, £96. Certainly that will not cover more than the loss to which these unfortunate men will be put. It is necessary, if they are to be saved from unnecessary harrassing, that they should be given this money unconditionally, and not have to prove every little detail of expense as seems to me to be anticipated in the rules before the tribunal. It is perfectly reasonable to give these lump sums in order that the men can make their own arrangements. A great many of them will not be in a position to prove malicious injury because their case will have practically been abandoned. They have left their furniture behind because of the impossibility of doing anything but escape with their families. Under the conditions to which they are subject, it is out of the question to get transport to remove their little possessions, and it is imperative, if they are not to be put to grievous loss, that they should be given lumps sums on a reasonable scale which will enable them to re-establish themselves in homes in this country. The disturbance allowance is limited to a period of six months.
My hon. and gallant Friend says it is two months, but surely that is an unnecessary provision. I think that is an insane proposal because the only hope for Ireland is that it may settle down after the election. It has been continually said that if the people now suffering in the South of Ireland will only "stick it" a little longer perhaps conditions will improve. Under these circumstances, surely it is unwise to make men feel that they must clear out within two months or lose this payment, and in the interests of Ireland's future I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to add another financial pressure to all the other forms of pressure which are now being brought on these unfortunate men leaving the country of their birth.
The Amendments which we are asking for would not in the aggregate cost any very large sum, but they would remedy the worst hardship of those who are exiled from their country, and of the old men who have spent the best years of their life in ungrudging service, and who are denied very high remuneration in an alternative form of work. I know that you are giving generous terms to the younger men who form the bulk of the force, but I hope that the House will insist that full consideration shall be afforded to the men who are losing their homes and their honourable career so that the prospects of their young families will not be sacrificed because through no fault of their own this country no longer requires their services.
The Chief Secretary bases his case on the Act of 1920 which lays down that any pension allowance or gratuity which may become payable to the Dublin Metropolitan Police or the Royal Irish Constabulary, shall be paid for out of moneys provided by the United Kingdom, and any sums so paid shall be made good in accordance with regulations made by the Treasury. That provision is all right for the North of Ireland but not for the South.
Is that a lump sum? I take it to mean that there will be one final settlement after arbitration. As I understand the matter, the Imperial Government will be able to recoup themselves every year from the Free State Government the amount which it pays in pensions every year to the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Chief Secretary has told us that it was with profound regret that he had to disband this magnificent force, because he has had to disband one of the most splendid forces of gendarmerie that the world has ever seen, and this in a country which is in a state of lawlessness. There is one thing which a great many people in this country seem to forget, and it is the claim which the Royal Irish Constabulary have on our sympathies because it is not an alien force. It is not a force like the Varangian Guards of the Byzantine Empire or the Swiss Guards in the 18th century under the French King. As far as the Royal Irish Constabulary proper are concerned, I do not suppose that 2 per cent, of their number are not Irishmen. So far as social standing goes in Ireland or education or being a picked force, the Royal Irish Constabulary stand alone.
If you take the case of an Irish farmer, farming perhaps 100 acres of land, his eldest son would be brought up on the farm, his second son would join the Royal Irish Constabulary, and his third son, being his mother's pet, would be sent to Maynooth. This force was composed mainly of Irishmen. The homes of which I have spoken are going to be broken up, the second son is going to be turned adrift, and the reason is obvious. We are not living in 1920 or in the atmosphere of that year, but we are living in a totally different atmosphere. We British are being turned out of our country, and the Royal Irish Constabulary, as our servants, must go with us. Supposing that Belgium had been under German domination and then the Germans, having served their time, had left the country. The Belgians would not allow the German gendarmerie to remain, and they would have to go.
We have to face the facts as we find them, and we have to remember that Ireland's great loss is going to be someone else's great gain. A magnificent body of men is, apparently, going to be thrown out of Ireland, although they are Irishmen. They will have to go somewhere, and they cannot go to the other place unless they have the means and opportunity of doing so. Looking through this Bill, and the Amendments which have been put down, one of the most important matters, to my mind, is the commutation of grants. We have been asked to put down an Amendment in Committee proposing that up to 50 per cent, the amount of each man's pension shall be held available for commutation. That will give a man who has a pension of, say, £3 a week, a chance of making a start either in this country or abroad. Apparently it is agreed that when a man goes abroad he shall be able to commute his pension, but not, I think, up to 50 per cent. I suggest that, whether he goes abroad or remains in this country, he should be able to commute his pension, not to a small amount, but up to 50 per cent. I am not saying that what this country is doing in regard to pensions is altogether ungenerous. We are giving a man who has served 10 years a pension of £1 18s. a week, and a man who has served 15 years £2 9s. 3d. If to that be joined some allowance to enable him and his wife to get away, if he be allowed to commute his pension, and if we do what the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) told us we ought to do with regard to certain higher grades, I do not think this country can be said to be behaving ungenerously towards this great and gallant force.
We have, however, to consider the future of these men as a whole. There are something like 8,000 of them, and half of them, I understand, are married men with families. Would it not be possible in some way to hold that force, or, at any rate, a portion of it, together? A large number of the special division of the Royal Irish Constabulary—the Englishmen in the force, who were specially recruited—are about to go to Palestine under General Tudor for service as special constabulary there. Would it not be possible to make use of the younger unmarried men of this great force? How valuable would be a force of 2,000 of the Royal Irish Constabulary, say, in Constantinople to-day, to keep law and order. If I were commanding in Constantinople to-day—and I say it without disrespect to that great regiment, the Irish Guards, which has just gone there—I would very much rather have at my disposal, to keep law and order, 500 of the Royal Irish Constabulary than a battalion of the Irish Guards at full war strength. Would it not be possible to do something to keep these men together, should they wish it, by employing them in this way at Constantinople or elsewhere I With regard to the married men and their wives and families, could we not do something like that which the Roman Empire used to do, that is to say, found a military colony, getting these men and their wives and families emigrated in a body, say, to Western Australia or some other portion of our Dominions overseas, where they could settle down as friends, living together, and their children could grow up together. It might cost a bit of money, but in the case of these men, if they could commute their pensions, I think that, with money, energy and determination, and the acquiescence of the Governments of the Overseas Dominions, something could be done. I hope that in Committee we shall be able to make this Bill a better one than it is. It is not a bad Bill, but it does need alteration here and there, and I think we shall have the sympathy of the Chief Secretary in our endeavours.
The point raised by the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken is so important that I venture to intervene at once in order that I may reassure him, and also the House, if they have any misgiving on the point. I understood the hon. and gallant Member to be in some doubt as to the source from which these pensions would in future be paid. There must be no doubt whatever about that. If the hon. and gallant Member will look at Sub-section (7) of Clause 1, he will see that it states that:
All compensation payable to officers and constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary under this Act (including any compensation
which is to be treated as so payable), and any pensions and gratuities granted to widows and children of such officers and constables in pursuance of this Act shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.
And, as ancillary to that, it will be seen that the next Sub-section, Sub-section (8), provides that the powers of the Lord Lieutenant, and so on, are to be exercised by the Treasury. It will also be seen that the Schedule includes a paragraph under which any reference to the Lord Lieutenant shall be construed as a reference to the Treasury. I am far from saying that these provisions are necessary for the purpose of payment, but they are for the purpose of getting rid of difficulties and providing that the administration of the sums voted by Parliament shall be under the authority of and exercised by Parliament. Therefore, all those who are entitled to receive this money will receive it under the authority of and from the Treasury—not on a mere guarantee, but direct. I cannot put that more plainly, and I hope that it satisfies and reassures the hon. and gallant Member.
I am afraid the British taxpayer is going to pay for it in the first instance. I cannot offer him a higher or a better place, qua taxpayer, than that he should pay the taxes, and call attention to the fact that his representatives in Parliament, including the hon. and gallant Member, have provided that money shall be provided by him in order to pay these pensions. I thought that the difficulty which presented itself to the hon. and gallant Member was as to whether they wore to get the money direct from the Treasury, or merely on a guarantee of the Treasury. My answer to that is that it will be absolutely direct. Perhaps my right hon. Friend may find himself in a greater difficulty when he has to go to the Treasury to ascertain what quantum he can in order to assist in relieving the British taxpayer.
Perhaps I may also say a word or two on one or two smaller points, which are in a large measure Committee points. The hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) raised a point on Subsection (3) of Clause 1, which deals with the question of the re-employment of these men. The hon. and learned Member suggested that in no circumstances should their pension be considered where they are re-employed. Of course, it has often happened that this House has had to consider pension schemes, and the problem which the hon. and learned Member raises is an old one, but I think he will see that the provision made here is not ungenerous, and is in accord with the usual scheme adopted in such Acts for a similar purpose.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, under the Police Pensions Act, 1921, the pension is only suspended if a man gets employment in a police force, and that there is no suspension when he goes into any other kind of service? For some reason or other, however, the pension is suspended here, firstly, when he goes into a police force, and, secondly, when he goes into another public office.
I am not unacquainted with the points which the hon. and learned Member puts to me; but I would remind the House that this is a matter for consideration in Committee. It will, perhaps, also be wise to consider that a definite scheme has been laid down and is largely adhered to, as is illustrated by the fact that we have to go back to the public services dealt with under the Act of 1892 in order to find the conditions, and that system has been developed since. To reassure hon. Members, I would remind them that the Bill provides, in sub-section (3) of Clause 1, that
if any officer or constable takes service in any police force, or is appointed to any office remunerated out of moneys provided by Parliament "—
I do not know why it should only be in the case of a police force. Something is to be said for an office which has the advantage of being remunerated by moneys directly voted by this House—
or to any office which is a public office within the meaning of the Superannuation Act, 1892,"—
and then comes this very important phrase—
and on his ultimate retirement therefrom is awarded a pension …
Therefore, a case in which pension is taken into account must fulfil a threefold
condition. He must either be engaged in a police force, or appointed to an office remunerated out of moneys provided by Parliament, or to an office under the Superannuation Act, 1892—and in all three cases, it must carry a pension. Whether that be fair or not is a matter which we can consider in Committee, but, for the purpose of enabling hon. Members to make up their minds about it, it may not be unwise at this moment to call attention to the actual terms. If it be an unwise provision, it can be altered in Committee,: if, on the whole, it commends itself to the Committee and to the House, it can be adhered to. After all, it is not a matter upon which one can lay down a definite or cast-iron rule; it is a matter for consideration by Members of this House. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) suggested that the powers of the tribunal were too narrow, and referred to the last Clause of the Memorandum on the financial provisions. I think, however, that he had looked only at Command Paper 1649. I do not know whether he had in mind the terms of Command Paper 1618. The powers of the tribunal are really very wide indeed. In Command Paper 1649 they are summarised, and summarised rather shortly. They are set out at greater length in Command Paper 1618. They include the power to recommend
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but could the tribunal deal with such a case as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds mentioned, namely, the case of a divisional commissioner? Perhaps, if the Attorney General is not able to answer that, the Chief Secretary will do so when he comes to reply.
I have my own opinion at the present time, namely, that it is not intended to leave an untrammelled discretion as to the amount of pension. I think the pensions are laid down by statutory authority. The powers of the tribunal are ancillary to that, and exceptional provision can be made where individual cases require it, but I do not think they can abrogate the whole table of pensions, and say that they have power to deal afresh with every case independently of statutory authority.
My right hon. Friend said they could only deal with individual cases. Does that debar them from dealing as a whole class with certain men who were not established under the 1920 Act?
I really could not answer that question. It will be for the tribunal to say whether certain cases come within a class or are to be treated as separate individuals. That must be in their discretion. I could not say that as a matter of law or that there will be any definite decision upon it. One must give the tribunal certain credit for discretion, and they will have the facts of these cases before them. A point which arises on every scheme of pensions is, Have you provided fairly between the men who have given long service and those who have only been employed for a short time? You have to consider carefully how you will deal with the different standards of service. After very careful thought and consideration by the Departments concerned, which is perhaps one reason why the Bill was not introduced at an earlier date, the standard which is set up by the Bill has been laid down. I do not think, fairly looked at, the terms are ungenerous. Indeed. I think it is because hon. Members have not been able—and I am not surprised—fully to appreciate how generous the terms are that some criticism has been directed against the Bill. Probably my right hon. Friend at some time in the course of the passage of the Bill in Committee will be able to submit a table which will enable hon. Members at a glance to see what are the provisions made in different cases and at different periods of service. With that I think they will be able to see that, in addition to the terms laid down in the Act of 1920, very considerable advances have been made for the purpose of meeting the greater disorder which has existed in Ireland since that date, and the needs of the men, and also making some con- tribution from this House for the great gallantry they have shown in difficult circumstances.
Hon. Members who, like myself, come from the North of Ireland, find ourselves in this happy position, that the case which it would have devolved upon us to make has been made most generously, handsomely, and adequately by the representatives of English seats. The case we should have desired to make for the police force as a whole could not have been better presented, and from every quarter of the House there has come the most generous testimony to the unflinching fidelity, the unfaltering courage and the unfailing devotion to duty of the finest police force in the world. If you want to test the character and the quality of their service, a figure or two given by the Chief Secretary at that box a little while ago will tell you their story in language which is the most brilliant testimonial which could be given them. One in every twenty of the police force in Ireland was killed in a period of two years and one in every twelve, in addition to that, wounded. There is no police force in the whole world with a record such as that. No police force has ever been put to such a test and certainly none whatever has responded to it in the same superb way. The Chief Secretary has said, with a large measure of truth, that the Government has dealt handsomely in the main with the police force, and as a general proposition I am not here to challenge that. It is when you come to look into close details that you find here and there indications of meanness and parsimony which are a blemish and a blot upon the Bill, and it is a curious thing that in the history of the Government in dealing with this police force you get that running all through. If you look at the old manual, going back to the period in which a constable was paid £54 a year, embargoes were laid upon him. His wife must move in a certain social set. She must not keep fowls, she must not even compete in the greengrocery trade, and they laid this last injunction upon him that any policeman enjoying a salary of £54 a year who was found keeping racehorses would be dismissed instanter. I believe it is true that not one, policeman was ever dismissed for such a cause.
These men have devoted themselves to the police force as their life's calling, as other men devote themselves to medicine or the law. They find themselves now, through no fault of their own, with their whole career instantly arrested. Their very training and their very calling ex-elude them for avocations which would otherwise be open to them. The painful and terrible circumstances under which they have had to discharge their duty during the last three or four years, the criminal organisation which hunted them day and night and swept away more than half a battalion of them to their graves, has so poisoned and embittered the whole atmosphere of a great part of Ireland that there is neither work for them nor permission for them to live in the country in which they were born and which no other class of citizens have so well served. One would have imagined that the Government, which has so generously recognised their services, would have faced the facts and said, "These men have earned their pensions as of right. They are given them as a matter of simple justice. If they are able to find avocations which will occupy them honourably for the rest of their lives, good luck to them." But they do no such thing. They pay them lip service, and if any of them have the good luck to get into the police force here—and I would not object to the temporary cancellation of the pensions under such circumstances—they forfeit at once what you have admitted you give them as a matter of simple justice. If you give it them as a matter of simple justice, the instant you withdraw it you at once perpetrate upon them a gross injustice which you cannot defend. I am not going into details. My hon. and learned Friend opposite, who has been a faithful friend of the Irish police force, and who has very often assisted those, like myself, who have made themselves the defenders and supporters of law and order, has given instances, and so has my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness), to whom I must equally pay a compliment.
The question of the cost, of removal has been touched upon, but one very serious aspect of it has been entirely lost sight of. It has been said that the facility for removing from every part of Ireland will be equal. It is not equal. Take the case of officers and men who find themselves in Clare or some of the more remote parts of Connaught. The cost would be practically prohibitive, and it would be a charge upon the salaries of these men. Life has been terribly difficult for them. Upon occasions they have had to commandeer food when those who had it for sale refused to sell it, and when they come to remove their poor possessions and seek an asylum in this country, or go across the seas, expatriated from the country in which they were born because they served it faithfully, if you are then to squabble with them for a few miserable shillings, is it not pitiable and contemptible that the Government should stand upon a point like that. I hope my right hon. Friend when we go into Committee will look into matters of this kind and that we shall see a spirit much more worthy of this nation and the House towards the men who have so well served them. Another point was touched upon. Every officer in Ireland is subject to a hardship which I think was admitted, and which I think up to the moment has not been remedied. In view of the difficulty and danger of transport by rail and in other ways, every officer was forced to purchase a motor car. The Government bought the cars and delivered them to each, and deducted a given sum per month from his salary for the price of the car. The cars were bought at a time when the cost was high. The price has fallen a good deal now. These men find themselves out of occupation, and they do not need the cars, but the Government insist upon their paying the last shilling of the price. That is unfair. These men would never have had the cars but for the fact that they were discharging Government duties and acting upon strict instructions. The least the Government could do would be to take all these cars over from the officers at a fair and reasonable valuation and return them as much as they think is fair. Indeed, I think in the circumstances the Government might go a great deal further and cancel the remaining instalments or give these men some kind of chance of engaging in some sort of business where the cars would be useful to them for the sum they have already paid.
I should like to call attention to what is really more or less a disciplinary matter. We are in this difficulty, that when we call attention to these Amendments which are desirable, they all involve some measure of increased expenditure, and we are precluded by the rule from moving any such Amendments, that being reserved exclusively for representatives of the Government. For nearly two years nearly every promotion which has been made in the police force has been what is called a temporary appointment—temporary sergeant, temporary head constable, temporary district or county inspector, and so on. If the House merely had regard to that and did not know exactly what is involved, they might not perceive that this is one of the grossest injustices which could be done to these men. Let me begin with the lower ranks. Take the temporary sergeant. In the ordinary course that appointment ought to become permanent. It has been held up beyond the usual period at which it ought to be confirmed, and when the temporary sergeant comes to be disbanded he will, in a great many cases, actually receive a less pension than if he were treated as a constable for the full period of service. Surely that is an injustice. I know that the Chief Secretary is, first of all, too fair-minded, and, secondly, that he has too warm an appreciation of the services these men have so splendidly rendered to permit that to be done. I have asked him to take the case of these temporary appointments into consideration. The same is true of head constables. Take the case of the third-class district inspector. In a year and a half a man graded as third-class would be automatically graded as second-class, and would be entitled to the income of that class. But they make him a temporary appointment, and that automatic rule is suspended. That man is now to be dealt with as a third-class district inspector, and gets the pension that follows accordingly. It is as gross a wrong as could be done. My Labour friends, if these men were trade unionists, would say that it was a violation of trade union principles, and we ought not to treat public servants any worse than trade unions treat their members. That really covers almost the entire ground that I wish now to traverse. One point in the course of the speech of the Chief Secretary in submitting this Bill was dealt with by interpolation. He admitted the injustice of the matter to which I then called attention, and he has promised to give us redress when we come to the Committee stage. I leave these matters I have submitted to the House, and I ask them to meet them because we are doing an injustice which I am sure the Chief Secretary does not wish to impose on the police force, and which this House has never sanctioned. I hope the Chief Secretary, when we get into Committee, will have considered these matters, and that as he is the only person who can amend the Bill he will take the necessary steps to do so.
I rise for the purpose of reinforcing the appeal that has been made by so many Members, and by none more eloquently than by my hon. Friend who spoke last (Mr. Moles). If my appeal is made with less eloquence, as it certainly will be, it will be uttered with the same sincerity, and I hope the combined effect of an international attack on the right hon. Gentleman will have some result. I should like to make two observations. First of all, I noticed that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General was very emphatic that the British taxpayer had to pay all these allowances. I entirely accept that. I think it is an obligation they have to shoulder, but I do hope the Government, of which my right hon. and learned Friend is a distinguished member, will do its best to extract the money out of the Free State Government. After all, we hold their bond, and I hope it is worth something and will be enforced. I want to deal with a few other points which have, been referred to in the discussion, and, first of all, to reinforce what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness), that of all people it is the long-service men who ought to have generous treatment. I believe a constable who has served for only a month or two months will get a pension of £46 a year. From the detached position of an English taxpayer I frankly think that is too much, but when you come to the top of the scale, these pensions are much too small. I would much rather see the money spent on the older men who have given their lives to this work than on the young men who have recently joined, who have all their lives before them, and who could make a career in other spheres of activity.
With regard to the disturbance allowance, I want to ask the Chief Secretary a question. In the disbandment circular it was stated that men were given a period of six months in which to decide whether they claimed this disturbance allowance or not. I am told that an Order has been issued from Dublin Castle cutting down this period to two months. If that is so, and I am told it is so, it is a most unfortunate thing, for, after all, the terms of disbandment contained in the circular are the promises of the Government, and they ought not to be altered without very good reason. In any case I hope the right hon. Gentleman will deal with that question. The next point with which I want to deal is as to who can claim this disturbance allowance. I have read the White Paper 1649, and Section 5 of that says that if a man is compelled to move from his home he can claim certain allowances. Has he to prove that he is compelled to move, and what standard of proof is required? You impose a very hard task on a man by this. Often he cannot prove that there is danger to his life, yet everybody in the district knows there is. I am rather afraid that under that word "compel" you may exact a proof that a man cannot give, and if that is so you will defeat what I believe is the obvious intention, namely, that any man whose life is made impossible for him should leave. Seeing that a great many of these men have to leave their homes and their country, and to settle in what to them is the foreign land, and that they will not do that except for very good reasons, I am not sure you could not go the whole way, and give all members of the force the right to claim this disturbance allowance if they wish. I think you could do that very fairly. After all, a man will not leave his home without some very compelling reason. I do wish to reinforce what has already been said as to giving the man a lump sum down. Do not compel him to prove all his expenses, but give him a sum he can understand, and whatever it is it ought to be a lump sum. The sum in the White Paper 1649, the compensation for disturbance in paragraph 5 of that document, is one, two, or three months. It was suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) that that should be increased to three, five, and six months. I support that most heartily. I would point out that the tribunal which is set up to deal with exceptional cases now has power to raise that to six months, and so we are not asking a very great concession in requesting that it should be raised to three, five or six months.
There is one very important point on that to which I wish to draw the attention of the Chief Secretary. Any increased grant must be provided for in the Financial Resolution, because when we come to the Bill it will be too late, as we shall then have to abide by the terms of our Financial Resolution. I do hope the Government will include this in the Resolution, and also I do ask them to draw that in such wide terms that we shall not be upset in Committee in doing things we want to do by some technical deficiency in the Financial Resolution. A word about the tribunal for the cases of exceptional hardship. It says here that a tribunal will be appointed to consider and report to the Government upon any individual case in which, in the opinion of the tribunal, exceptional hardship, not otherwise provided for, arises. Can that tribunal deal generally with cases of exceptional hardship, or is its activity confined to strictly exceptional cases? Suppose it turned out that a large number of persons are suffering hardship. Are they precluded by the fact that these are not exceptions? It would seem to me very unfair that this claim should be admitted if there are a few cases, but that it it should not be admitted if the hardship is widespread. I see the Attorney-General shakes his head, which contains a good deal more law than mine. In any case, I have mentioned the point, and I hope the Government will attend to it. There is one very important matter on that arising under paragraph (c) of the powers of the tribunal. Paragraphs (a) and (b) are limited to particular cases in which the tribunal can act, and paragraph (c) applies to such other exceptional provisions as any individual case may appear to require. How far does that go? Are these general words limited by the particular words that precede, or has this body a general power to deal with all cases of hardships? I do not think it has. I think the case has to be exceptional, and the same sort of case as in (a) and (b). I would call the very serious attention of the House to the fact that the order issued by the
heads of the Constabulary and the questions they are sending to the constables and officers, who wish to claim this allowance, contain the following:
What are the grounds of hardship which in your opinion justify exceptional treatment in your case?
I think there is a real danger that these words are more limited than they appear. On this I do want to reinforce the appeal made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds on the case of the Divisional Commissioners. I do feel very strongly that these officers are being unfairly treated. They are now being paid a salary of £1,280 a year, and all they get as retiring allowance is £600 a year. They are surely entitled to the usual pension of their status. I cannot conceive any case against that. Could they bring their case before this exceptional hardship tribunal? My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General said we could leave cases of this sort to the tribunal, which was composed of sensible men. Certainly, we can leave them to the tribunal, but will the Government do so? Will they let them decide these cases? I am not at all sure that they will. It is very hard indeed that these men, who have had all the hard, responsible and dangerous work, should be so very badly treated. I hope the Chief Secretary even now will yield and will give them more generous terms. Other officers, whose services are not so outstanding as these have been, are receiving the same terms. The hon. Member for the Ormeau Division of Belfast (Mr. Moles) raised the question of temporary officers. During the War the gratuities that we all received were based upon our temporary rank. If we had only been paid upon our permanent rank we should have got very much smaller gratuities. Why should not the same rule be applied now, and all the Constabulary compensated and pensioned upon their temporary rank?
Finally, I want to say a word in favour of allowing some commutation of pensions to men who wish to settle in this country or to go abroad. I do not want to commute the whole of a man's pension; I would leave him something, so that he would not be penniless in cases where all the commutation has been invested in an improvident venture. The House must not forget that commutation does not cost the Treasury anything. All the Treasury does is to pay the man the proper value of his pension, and finally it comes back to the taxpayer. Speaking for those who have to pay the Bill, I am quite certain they will pay it gladly. I am certain there is not a single Member of the House, nor anyone in the country, who does not want the most generous treatment to be given to these men, and I hope the Chief Secretary will give way on some of the many points that have been urged upon him.
The hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills) need not have apologised to the House for his lack of eloquence in pleading the case of the Royal Irish Constabulary. He has put it in the most pointed and practical way, which I am quite satisfied will bear fruit with those who are responsible for the passage of this Bill. I should not have intervened at all, as every point almost has been put and well presented to the House, but for the fact that we shall have no opportunity of intervening later on, during the passage of the Bill in its various stages through the House, because all the Amendments that we require touch finance. We are, therefore, looking to the Chief Secretary, and, of course, to the British Cabinet, to deal generously when they come to the Committee stage. We are depending upon them to do that, and from what we heard from the Chief Secretary this afternoon, we believe that, at all events, his heart is big enough to do right by this splendid force.
May I point out, first of all, the necessity of doing something immediately in regard to the question of disturbance allowance? Various speakers have pointed out that this disturbance allowance is totally inadequate. That point has been sufficiently impressed upon the Chief Secretary. What I want to emphasise in particular is that whatever is to be done should be done immediately. I doubt very much whether even the Chief Secretary appreciates—I am quite certain the House generally does not—the trouble these men are going through in Ireland. An officer of the Royal Irish Constabulary wrote to me, only yesterday. He said:
I enclose a number of statements on the terrible feeling which prevails against all ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
He goes on to say:
It must not be understood by the Government or they would not 'let them down'
as they are doing. These statements were made about the end of March, but I am informed that things are worse since, and that many men who went to their homes after disbandment have had to fly. They have no home,"—
this was only written yesterday—
they have no work, and many of them have no money. It is a sad ending to our gallant, loyal force, of which we were all so proud, and the worst of it is that this is their reward for loyalty.
So I would emphasise again the necessity of doing something at once for these men who are in this terrible condition.
Another point I would like to emphasise, and which has already been touched upon, is that of the compensation allowance. I have no doubt that the House will generally understand that it is the intention that very generous treatment is meted out to these men by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. According to Rule 1 of the Ninth Schedule of that Act,
The compensation which may be awarded to an officer or constable shall be an annual allowance.
Rule 2 (a) says:
There shall be added to his completed years of actual service, if the proportion of salary on which his allowance is calculated is one-fiftieth, 10 years, and if that proportion is one-sixtieth, 12 years.
It would appear at once to everyone that these are most generous terms. I quite agree, if every single individual officer or man participated in that treatment, but I would point out that they do not, and that is one of the blemishes of the Bill. I cannot do better than read the words—it is a concrete case—that have been written to me by an officer of the Constabulary. He says:
Senior officers and men are entitled to special terms of compensation. They do not get the full benefit of the added years"—
I should like the Chief Secretary to take note of this particularly—
and some of them derive little or no benefit from these years. Take the case of an officer of 52 years of age, who can serve up to 60 years, that is eight more years. His salary and allowances amount to £845 per annum. He is retired on a pension of £433 6s. 8d. per annum"—
That is to say, he is at the maximum at the moment, and the added 12 years does not add one penny to his compensation. He is entirely excluded from the benefit of the 12 years.
he loses by retirement £411 13s. 4d. per annum. That is practically half of his
salary. His total loss in eight years is £3,293 6s. 8d. He is able and willing to continue to serve, but he is compulsorily disbanded. His disbandment is no fault of his. He contracted with the Government to serve, and has given them the best years of his life. He has arrived at an age a which he cannot start a new business. He has in many cases a family to support. He is ostracised in his own country for having served the Government. How is he going to live? The Government should specially compensate him, yet he is the worst-treated man in the Royal Irish Constabulary.
That is a case which deserves special consideration from the Chief Secretary. It is quite true, as he says, that it is impossible for these men to live under those conditions. I do not want to delay the passage of this Bill in going to a Second Reading. Two dominant notes that have been sounded all through the Debate. One is a generous expression concerning these men. The highest encomiums have been showered on them, but they cannot live on lip service. The second note is that there is a unanimous concensus of opinion that the most generous treatment ought to be given to these men. Therefore I ask the Chief Secretary to take his courage in both hands. I am quite satisfied that his colleagues in the Cabinet will say, "Treat these men generously." If that is done, I think the whole nation will be satisfied, because they respect these men.
I am in full accord with what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh (Sir W. Allen) has said. He appealed to me personally, and no one knows what these men deserve better than I do. I regret, more than anyone else, however, that their case, as that of other valued servants of the Empire, must be determined with reference to the condition of the public purse. My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General dealt with some of the points raised, and I shall not go over the ground he so well covered. I heard with pleasure the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South Londonderry (Sir W. Hacket Pain), a recent recruit to this House, but an old and valued colleague of mine in the Royal Irish Constabulary. I am very happy in having him in the House to take part in the Debate, because he can speak with personal knowledge of the force whose disbandment and whose future we are discussing. A point has been raised by many hon and gallant Members, including the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) as to the question of treating officers and non-commissioned officers who hold temporary rank on disbandment as holding that substantive rank and of pensioning them on the latter rank. I have received some deputations from some of the class involved in this matter. I am bound to say their case makes a great impression on me. Their case always has made an impression on me. The difficulty has been, in reference to the Divisional Commissioners and the acting county inspectors—both temporary ranks—that one would have to secure legislative authority to make them substantive ranks. That is the real reason why they were not made substantive ranks during the course of their duties.
The question now comes whether it is possible in any way short of legislation, if it is held to be desirable by the Government, to pension these men not on the substantive rank they occupied and adequately filled, or they would not have been there, but rather on the temporary rank which they held. I have been very much impressed, not only by the arguments in the House, by the situation of these gallant men, from the commencement of their careers as temporary officers in the respective grades which they held. All I can say at the moment is that I shall take the matter up with my colleagues in the Government. I decline to promise anything, because a Minister can promise nothing which involves a further charge upon the Treasury. The point can very well be raised in Committee, and I hope then to give an answer. If I had the power, I know what I would do. Although a Minister has no right to promise something which will add an additional charge on the public purse, I shall certainly refer the whole matter to the Government, so that it can be considered not only in respect of these particular cases, which I feel are most urgent, but with reference to all the cases, because the Government must consider the different arms of the service from which officers and men are now being disbanded.
Another point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds was that we should not allow all the disbanded men to come to London. Steps have already been taken to meet that, and the practice is for the men to go to Chester. Arrangements have been made for accommodating the men in Chester and in a number of towns radiating from Chester, where accommodation at reasonable prices is available, and where there is some chance of the men, if they so wish, securing employment. Most of these men are agriculturists, and can well earn the wages of agriculture or, in the senior ranks, the salaries that go to land agents or other higher officials on estates, if people can find employment for them. Let me give statistics which show that this problem is not one which has outgrown our power of administrative control. The number of applications for commutation for emigration purposes is 625. The number of applications for augmented pensions is 425. I am informed that there is no case where suitable accommodation has not been arranged for at reasonable prices for anybody who seeks it, except in a few cases where the families of the constables removing to Great Britain are so large that there is a temporary difficulty in securing accommodation.
No, it means those who have applied for what is called "loaded or augmented pension." That is, securing for two years a higher pension, and receiving in subsequent years a lower pension, to compensate for the two years of higher pension. On the question of commutation, it is true that up to the present the Government has only granted commutation to persons desirous of emigrating, but in principle the Treasury has full power to grant commutations to the police who have been pensioned, within their own discretion. The rule, I understand, is, that if an ex-Royal Irish Constabulary man can prove that it is to his advantage, for a special purpose, like the buying of a house or the purchase of a business, that his pension should be commuted to some extent, the Treasury would sympathetically consider such a case.
The rules do not govern the Bill. Up to the present commutation has been restricted to emigration cases, but, further, the Treasury will sympathetically consider those applications for commutation where the applicant can make out a clear case that it is to his advantage to have a portion of his pension commuted.
That is another big question. All I can say is that the same rule which applies to one Government service governs other Government services. This is distinctly a Treasury matter, and I cannot speak for the Treasury, except to say that I know they will sympathetically consider these cases. The general rule is not to commute a man's pension for fear that if you commute his pension, and he secures a capital sum and he spends it, he may apply to the Treasury again to be looked after as an ex-public servant. This is a serious problem. The sound principle is to be reluctant to commute except for a definite beneficial purpose. The hon. Member for the Ormeau Division of Belfast (Mr. Moles) complained of the blemishes and blots of the Government in treating this force. I am sorry if there are any blemishes or blots. The Government is not quibbling over a shilling in dealing with the Royal Irish Constabulary. We are most anxious to meet every case that we possibly can. I hope that in Committee hard cases will be raised, and that I shall be able to meet them.
I agree that the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills) was very vital to the Financial Resolution, which is so worded that it does not debar even the Government from amending the Bill in Committee. I shall have a word with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Attorney-General on that point; but, here again, no Minister can bind the Treasury. My experience of the Treasury, more particularly of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is that personally he is genial and generous, but as Chancellor of the Exchequer he is entrenched with his money bags, surrounded with barbed wire, and almost unapproachable. The idea that the Treasury squanders money recklessly is a delusion, as those who have ever tried to secure any money from that Department can readily testify. They are right to make it difficult to get public money, but there are certain cases in the Royal Irish Constabulary which call for attention, and I believe it will be in the public interest, as well as common justice, that we should meet these claims.
I am not going to define the functions of the Special Tribunal. Sir Edward Troop and his colleagues, so far as I am concerned, have the widest powers. There, again, their powers are powers of recommending the Treasury to make certain payments, and I cannot for a moment interfere with their discretion. I hope, and I am sure, that they will exercise that discretion in the widest sense and in the most sympathetic way.
I believe I can best refer that to the Divisional Commissioners themselves. I have every sympathy with them as with every other member of the force, and I dislike to single out even senior officers. I had the honour to appoint them. They were appointed because of their courage and efficiency, and right well they deserve the support of this House, but I dislike singling out senior officers as being entitled to differential treatment. I would rather that the whole class of men of temporary rank were treated in one way, if possible. The Divisional Commissioners, or some of them, have already appeared before the Special Tribunal, and have put a case before them. I am going before the Special Tribunal to reinforce their own case. The hon. Member for Durham said that he had heard that the option of six months, during which a man could make up his mind whether or not to remove from Ireland, had been suspended, but I am glad to tell him that he has been mis- informed. That is not so. It is rather a question as to whether the term should not be extended, but that is a point which can be raised in Committee.
It will be some consolation to the members of this force to know that the House does so much appreciate their unflinching devotion to the Crown. Surely the House can appreciate that, as I do. Perhaps I appreciate it more, if possible, than any other Member of this House, for I lived with these men during the worst days of the years that have passed. To me they are the bravest men and the best of comrades. If I had the money, nothing would limit the reward that I would try to make for these distinguished servants of the Crown. I hope that every Member of this House, and every good man in this country, will make this question of the Royal Irish Constabulary a personal matter. Their case cannot be met by money alone. They are strangers in this strange land, for which they fought so long and so well. I hope that every individual will try to secure for these men, not only employment, but a personal welcome that will go a long way to meet their just claim to the justice and sense of fair play, not only of the House, but of the Empire.
Can the right hon. Gentleman satisfy the House that every facility is given to these men from the Southern and Western parts of Ireland to come over and appear before this tribunal?
Every facility is given. I see as many of these men as I can, personally. They know that they can come. In cases where they have to come without getting a railway warrant their fares are returned to them. There is no bar to their coming. They are encouraged to come, and this Special Tribunal is most sympathetic in considering the cases put before them.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is his attitude on the question of giving one, two and three months' pay for disturbance allowances, and the suggestion that instead of these allowances three, five and six months' pay should be given?
My own view is that the cost is so large that I cannot make any statement on it. I am told that the cost of the scheme would be about £870,000 in addition to what we are already doing. It is a very large sum of money and it does not meet the case. Mere grants of money will not necessarily save a man's life.
I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates my hon. and learned Friend's proposal. The matter has been discussed, and I understand that those who advised him were of opinion that it would only double the present amount. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the present cost of the present one, two and three months is also £870,000? We understood that it was less than £300,000.
These various schemes have been worked out and the result submitted to me. The proposed gratuity of three, five and six months' pay would cost approximately £721,500. This would be in addition to the sum of £150,000 the estimated additional cost of removing the conditions at present attached to the grant of disturbance allowance, making a total cost of some £870,000.
Yes, £720,000 additional. But this is only a rough approximation, but I realise that the difficulty is this, that from a remote part of Kerry to some place in Scotland or England the allowance now given to a constable for removal of his furniture and household goods may not meet the actual cost of removal. Fares of course are paid. It is a point on which I cannot give a definite answer this, afternoon. I know that many hon. Members feel very keenly about it. I do not think that the way in which it was put by my hon. and learned Friend that it would necessarily meet the cases which he has in mind. It would be an additional large grant of public money without meeting the particular case which he has in mind. I hope to have this reserved for discussion in Committee and that the House will now allow the Second Reading to be passed.