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Malicious Injuries Commission.

Oral Answers to Questions — Ireland. – in the House of Commons on 25th May 1922.

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Colonel NEWMAN:

6.

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether his atten- tion has been called to a statement made before the Commission that is sitting to inquire into awards made by judges of the Irish Courts under the Criminal and Malicious Injuries (Ireland) Act and repeated in the Irish Press, that he expected the gross total of the awards made by His Majesty's judges to be reduced by the Commission by 50 per cent.; and is he able to say that in the above statement he has been misrepresented?

Photo of Mr Hamar Greenwood Mr Hamar Greenwood , Sunderland

My attention has been drawn to a Press report of the statement referred to, which, presumably, is based on a remark I made in the course of last week's Debate on the Compensation for Damage (Northern Ireland) Grant, in which I expressed the sanguine opinion that the claims in respect of damage to property in Southern Ireland would be found on investigation by the Compensation Commission to be exaggerated possibly by as much as 50 per cent. I do not wish to withdraw that opinion, which is based on the well-known custom of litigants in Ireland, as elsewhere, to err well on the side of generosity in estimating the amount of damage they claim to have sustained, but if there is any suggestion that I intended to imply that the Commission have received any instructions requiring them to reduce these claims, it is, of course, wholly unfounded.

Photo of Sir John Butcher Sir John Butcher , City of York

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the practice of the County Court Judges in cases which are not defended is to cross-examine the witnesses for the claim, in order to test the validity of the claim?

8. The hon. Member (Sir J. Butcher) asked the Chief Secretary whether, in view of the fact that the right of compensation for malicious injuries is a statutory right, and that the time for appeal from an award is by statutory rules limited to 10 days from the date of the award, he will state under what authority the Commission recently appointed, with Lord Shaw as chairman, can retry undefended cases unless such power is conferred by statute?

Photo of Mr Hamar Greenwood Mr Hamar Greenwood , Sunderland

The hon. and learned Member is under a misapprehension as to the functions of the Compensation (Ireland) Commission, which is in no sense a Court of Law, and has no power to retry cases. In view of the fact that in present circumstances it is not practicable to enforce decrees issued by the courts in respect of malicious injuries committed prior to 11th July, the two Governments concerned have thought it right that payments should be made by way of compensation for such injuries, and the Commission in question has been appointed to determine and report what compensation ought in reason and fairness to be awarded. No statutory authority is required for this purpose.

Photo of Sir John Butcher Sir John Butcher , City of York

Can the right hon. Gentleman say by what Government—this Government or the Irish Government —these claims, when investigated by Lord Shaw's Commission, will be paid?

Photo of Mr Hamar Greenwood Mr Hamar Greenwood , Sunderland

That question has been raised a great many times. The awards, after the decision of Lord Shaw's Commission, will be honoured in the first place by the Provisional Government, and we will reimburse them as far as we are liable.

Photo of Sir John Butcher Sir John Butcher , City of York

Are we to take it that the awards as made by the county court judges will stand, if they are capable of being enforced?

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

As these awards are being made under Statute and as Lord Shaw's Commission, according to the right hon. Gentleman, will have power to review, how can he then say that Lord Shaw's Commission is not changing awards given under Statute?

Photo of Mr Hamar Greenwood Mr Hamar Greenwood , Sunderland

The hon. and gallant Gentleman raises a legal point which it would be impossible for me to answer offhand. I have given a complete answer to the question on the Paper.

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

My hon. and learned Friend asked what power Lord Shaw's Commission has to override Statutes—a specific question to which we have had no reply whatever.