Oral Answers to Questions — Irish Office.

– in the House of Commons on 5th July 1922.

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Photo of Sir John Pennefather Sir John Pennefather , Liverpool Kirkdale

66.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been drawn to allegations to the effect that, although the Irish Office has no concern with the affairs of the Free State, it has now a larger and more expensive staff than at any other period: and, if so, has he any statement to make on the subject?

Photo of Mr John Baird Mr John Baird , Rugby

Yes, Sir. My attention has been drawn to an article recently published in a newspaper to the effect stated in the question. When the Chief Secretary's office and numerous other Departments of the Imperial Government were in existence in Dublin, it was not necessary that the staff of the Irish Office in London should consist of more than the Parliamentary draftsman, a chief clerk, and the necessary typists. Now that nearly all the Imperial Government Departments in Ireland outside the six Northern counties have disappeared and the work in connection with Imperial interests in Ireland falls to be administered from London under the direction of my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Chief Secretary, it is obvious that the staff of the Irish Office must be increased. As an example of the necessity for an increase in the staff of the Irish Office in London, I may point out that prior to the transfer of administration from Dublin to London the Irish Office had no financial responsibility, whereas they are now accountable for more than nine millions of public money during the current financial year.

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

Are we to understand that the Secretary of State for the Colonies or the Chief Secretary for Ireland is responsible to the House for these financial and taxing matters?

Photo of Mr John Baird Mr John Baird , Rugby

There are such matters as the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Land Commission, the Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland and the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Compensation Fund, involving a very large amount of money, and the work in connection with them has to be transacted at the Irish Office.

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

With whom should we communicate in regard, say, to the Land Commission—the Secretary for the Colonies or the Chief Secretary?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Dundee

Obviously, the communication, as previously, should be addressed to the Department concerned. I am not equipped with any staff at all to handle these Irish matters except two or three gentlemen who are giving me their assistance, and I must rely on the existing machinery until it is wound up.

Photo of Mr Donald Maclean Mr Donald Maclean , Peebles and Southern

Would it not conduce to efficiency, as well as economy, if such parts of the Irish Office as are now operating were brought within the ambit of the Colonial Office and the whole matter administrated from there?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Dundee

No, I am sure it would not. I am afraid I cannot at this stage of the business of transferring power to the Irish Free State and the bringing of that Free State into existence undertake to be responsible for all the detailed work of the Irish Office and for the technical business of winding it up. In regard to policy and such matters as bringing the Irish Free State into existence, I can attend to that with the slender staff I have from the Colonial Office and, aided by the Chief Secretary, I can transact that business, but it would be impossible for me to carry on as at present unless I have the machinery of the Irish Office kept in being until such time as it is definitely wound up.

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

Is Mr. Cope, who is now in Dublin Castle, on the staff of the Irish Office or on that of the Colonial Office?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Dundee

On the staff of the Irish Office.

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

What is he doing there? The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for Ireland now, and the Irish Office is only winding up certain financial matters. What is Mr. Cope doing in Dublin?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Dundee

He is and has been for a long time discharging in Dublin services and duties of incomparable value in establishing an easy channel of communication between those responsible on this side of the Channel and the representatives of the Provisional Government on the other side.

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

That bears out what I was asking. The right hon. Gentleman says Mr. Cope is the channel of communication between the right hon. Gentleman and the Provisional Government. I do not complain of that. But what is Mr. Cope doing on the staff of the Chief Secretary?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Dundee

What does it matter in the next few weeks or months in this period of transition whether a valuable officer who is doing useful work continues to be borne on the staff of the Department to which hitherto he has been attached or whether he is transferred to a new Department?