asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the large and increasing number of cases of old pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary who are driven out of their homes in Ireland and forced to take refuge in England or elsewhere; and whether, seeing that there is no distinction in point of hardship between the case of these men and that of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who have been recently disbanded, he will, on reconsideration, give directions that these old pensioners who have been driven out of Ireland shall, as regards free travelling expenses and disturbance allowances, be placed on the same footing as Royal Irish Constabulary men who have been recently disbanded?
His Majesty's Government is aware that a certain number of pensioned members of the Royal Irish Constabulary have been compelled to leave their homes in Ireland; but I cannot agree that, in proportion to the total numbers of such pensioners, the number is large, nor that the number of those now compelled to leave is increasing. The Government has given very careful consideration to this problem; but they cannot depart from the principle which I have previously enunciated, namely, that there is no essential difference between these men and others who have been compelled to leave Ireland owing to their loyalty or to past service in the forces of the Crown; and I would point out to the hon. and learned Member that any departure from that principle on the lines suggested by him would involve a transfer from the Provisional Government to the Imperial Government of a liability which the Provisional Government has already agreed to accept. As the House is aware, the Committee presided over by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea is empowered to make temporary provision for persons who may have been compelled to leave Ireland, and the pensioned members of the Royal Irish Constabulary referred to by the hon. and learned Member are, of course, eligible for the grant of such provision. In addition, as I think the House is aware, the Assistant Under-Secretary in Dublin is authorised to issue an advance of pension that any such members who would otherwise be unable to leave Ireland, and the Committee in all such cases will be specially authorised to take into sympathetic consideration the fact that such an advance has been made.
May I call the attention of the Prime Minister to this very urgent question? Will he reconsider the case of the old pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary who have been driven out of Ireland for the sole reason that they have served the Crown, and will the right hon. Gentleman give his own special consideration to making them the same allowances and payments that are given to the recently disbanded members of the Royal Irish Constabulary which, in their case, have been considered just?
I have given special attention to this question, and no distinction can be drawn between the pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the great bulk of the men in Ireland who have served in the War. Obviously the question is very much larger than the restricted one which the hon. Member raises.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the distinction between the recently disbanded members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who have been driven out of their homes because they have served the Crown, and the old pensioners who have been driven out of their homes for precisely the same reason?
The situation is rather difficult, because in the one case you have men who are discharged from the service and who have made their homes in Ireland, but, in point of fact, their position is not very different from that of the ex-soldier who has served the Empire. The question is a very much bigger one than the hon. Baronet seems to think.
Will the Prime Minister look into this matter again, in view of the fact that there is such a great difference between the pensions of the new Irish Constabulary and the older men, because in the case of the latter the pensions are something like one-third of the amount given to the new men? In view of the fact that a large number of these men are over here as refugees and almost penniless, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that something more ought to be done for them?
Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer amount to this—that there are so many men in Ireland whose lives are unsafe by reason of having served the Crown that the Government repudiate liability for all of them?
That is not the question. My hon. Friend will recognise that the terms given to those who have served in the Royal Irish Constabulary are not only fair but very generous. We have been doing all we can, and it is unreasonable to say that every person in Ireland who happens to be in danger must necessarily be entitled to treatment of the same character as those who have been maintaining our position in Ireland and have been recently disbanded.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that considerable claims are being made against pensioners of the Royal Irish Constabulary for Income Tax in respect of the year 1919–20 or later, and deductions to meet this tax are being made from their monthly instalments of pension of a far larger amount than they are able to pay; and whether, in order to avoid inflicting serious hardship on these pensioners, he will give directions that the deductions should be substantially reduced so as to spread the payment of the tax over a longer period?
My hon. and learned Friend has furnished me with particulars of the case to which his question relates. I am causing inquiry to be made in the matter, and will communicate the result to him in due course.