Orders of the Day — Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) [Money].

– in the House of Commons on 28th November 1922.

Alert me about debates like this

Resolution reported, That it is expedient for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make such provisions as are consequential on, or incidental to, the establishment of the Irish Free State,

  1. (1) to authorise the payment out of the Consolidated Fund of any pensions and allowances payable under the said Act to existing Irish Judges, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the Irish Land Commissioners;
  2. (2) to authorise payment out of the Consolidated Fund to the Governor of Northern Ireland of a salary of eight thousand pounds;
  3. (3) to authorise payment out of moneys provided by Parliament to any trust which may be constituted under the said Act for the purpose of providing in Ireland cottages, with or without plots or gardens, for the accommodation of men who served in any of His Majesty's naval, military, or air forces in the late War, and for other purposes incidental thereto, of a sum not exceeding one million five hundred thousand pounds."

Resolution read a Second time.

Photo of Mr Arthur Hayday Mr Arthur Hayday , Nottingham West

May I ask whether it will be competent for me to move an Amendment on this money Resolution, or whether, at a later stage in Committee on the Bill, a manuscript Amendment will be acceptable.

I desire, after the word "forces" ["air forces"], in paragraph (3) of the Resolution, to insert the words "or members of the mercantile marine and fishermen" who followed these occupations during the Great War. I want, if possible, without setting one class in competition with another, to give equal opportunities to any of those in the mercantile marine who gave service during the War.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I have consulted the Chairman of Ways and Means on that point, and he is of opinion that as long as the hon. Member's Amendment deals with those who served during the War under the direction of the Government, whether in the Mercantile Marine or other similar Service, it can be brought in as an Amendment to a Clause of the Bill. I think, therefore, that would be the more convenient place to introduce it.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

I desire once more to call attention to the creation of a new-office under the Bill of which this is the Financial Resolution. As the House is aware, the present Bill creates a new office of Governor of Northern Ireland. When a proposal is made to create a new office in these days, when economy is on all hands admitted to be urgently necessary, the House is put upon its trial in the matter. The question therefore arises, whether the proposed new office is necessary, and, in the second place, even if it be necessary, whether the expense connected therewith should fall upon the Imperial Exchequer. I submit that no case has been made out for the creation of the office of Governor of Northern Ireland. Last night, when the matter was referred to in Committee, it is true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to a pledge which had been casually given in the course of the Debates on the Irish Free State Agreement Bill, in which Mr. Churchill, as representing the Government, at that time said that, if Northern Ireland desired a Governor, then the late Government was prepared to agree. I would like to know, in reference to that statement, first of all, whether the Northern Government have made application, and secondly, whether before the Northern Government made application it had the assent of the. Northern Parliament to that application. These are both relevant questions, because, after consulting the Official Report of the Northern Parliament, I find that there have been serious discussions in that Parliament as to the number of offices which have been created. In view of the difference of opinion which prevails in the Northern Parliament as to the number of offices already created in connection with that Government, I think this House is entitled to know whether the request for a Governor of Northern Ireland has the assent both of the Northern Government and of the Northern Parliament. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to give me some information on that par- ticular point. I pass from it, and I wish to deal with the question on its merits. I submit that it is not necessary, in the case of a subordinate Government and of a subordinate Parliament so near to Great Britain, to have a Governor at all. It is true that in the Colonies we have Governors, but the majority of the Dominions are long distances from our shores, and in those circumstances it is necessary, or it may be fairly argued to be necessary.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

The Isle of Man is a totally abnormal proposition in this respect, and I do not think that anybody in any part of the Empire would desire to follow any of the precedents of the Isle of Man. I do not think they are even satisfactory to the people of the Isle of Man itself. The Isle of Man has its customs and so forth settled by this House.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

I have endeavoured to deal with the matter already, and the electors of the Isle of Man have almost no opportunity at all of obtaining redress for their grievances. But the Isle of Man is not relevant to this particular case. I was dealing with something more on the footing of the Dominions, and I hold that Northern Ireland is in a different position altogether from the Dominions and that other means could be found for dealing with such interventions of the Crown as may be necessary for the purposes of the Government of Northern Ireland. We have, however, a much better precedent. Before the Union, Scotland for 100 years had a separate Parliament, and during the whole of that time there was no Governor-General or Viceroy, and the affairs of Scotland were perfectly well managed without any continuous representative of the Sovereign in that country. In those circumstances, I submit that the practice that then prevailed in regard to Scotland might well be followed in regard to Northern Ireland.

Apart altogether from this question of the merits, we are mainly concerned here with the cost which is to fall upon the Treasury. The salary of the Governor of Northern Ireland is to be £8,000, and £6,000 of that salary is to be borne by the taxpayers of this country. That is the issue which entitles us to raise our voices in this matter. I hold that even if Northern Ireland desires a Governor, Northern Ireland should pay for the Governor. The Northern Government and the Northern Parliament have created so many offices, that if they desire another they ought to pay for it themselves. I find that they have the largest and most expensively staffed Government of any part of His Majesty's Dominions. There are seven Ministers—the Prime Minister with £3,200 and six other Cabinet Ministers with £2,000 per year each, and, in addition, there are seven Parliamentary Private Secretaries at £1,000 per year each. The office of Parliamentary Private Secretary is unknown in any other Parliament of His Majesty's Dominions. I say, therefore, that when the Northern Government and the Northern Parliament decide that they can have such a large number of functionaries, they ought, if they seek further functionaries, to pay for them. In these days of economy, we should not encourage this luxury in the creation of offices. We should rather discourage? it. It may be that if Northern Ireland have to pay for a. Governor, they will either decide not to have one, or to cut down some of the superfluous offices to which I have, referred.

For example. I am told that the "whipping" of the Northern Parliament, which contains 40 Members, costs £2,000– £40 a Member. The only thing indeed on which the Northern Parliament has economised has been prayers, for it has only three chaplains at £120 each. I should like to have seen certain Scottish characteristics applied in these other directions of economy. If in accepting the proposal for a Governor of Northern Ireland we insist that Northern Ireland pays for its Governor, this will be a means of forcing the Northern Government to economise. After all, it is a very-important matter in relation to the contribution that has to be made by Northern Ireland to the Exchequer. We were told that that contribution amounted to £8,000,000. It is something less than that, but if all these new charges are imposed upon the fund it is unlikely that the Northern contribution will reach the sum which has been mentioned. I submit, therefore, that in these circumstances we have a right to call upon the Government to re-examine this question, and to reconsider their decision, and if they do desire to adhere to the so-called pledge of the late Government that there should be a Governor for Northern Ireland that they should allow Northern Ireland to pay for this luxury.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

There is an added reason to consider in support of the view put forward which has not been mentioned by the hon. Member for Peni-stone (Mr. Pringle). Some hon. Members here visualise the time, I think, when there will be complete unity between Southern and Northern Ireland. Views in that direction were expressed yesterday by hon. Members on the opposite benches who hope that ultimately unity might be achieved between the sections that were now rivals. Therefore we ought to consider very seriously before we set up an office that might be a barrier in some senses to the unity by creating a vested interest, in an office the abolition of which might be for various reasons opposed. There is the further reason: 10 or 15 years hence in such a contingency as I have put forward, there would be a claim put forward for the payment of a lump sum in compensation for loss of income to the gentleman who occupied the office of Governor at that particular moment. If we allow, or insist, that the Northern Irish Parliament must pay its own Governor if it requires one, the burden would fall upon them and not upon British Treasury. I therefore suggest there is that added reason why this office should not be assumed.