§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. J. H. Campbell)
This is a brief, and, I think, an uncontroversial Bill. It is to meet certain difficulties which have arisen in the administration of justice, and also in regard to other matters, by reason of the recent troubles in Ireland. The first Clause is intended to provide a remedy for the period from the 24th April, 1916, to the 9th May, 1916, which is the period during which the Four Courts were occupied by the rebels or by the military, and litigants and their solicitors were unable to take the necessary steps required by the High Courts of Justice. This period is treated for such purpose as if it were cut out of the rules and regulations. It is an obvious and necessary provision. The second Clause provides a similar remedy in cases where the time is fixed by Statute, order, rule, regulation, deed, or agreement, with respect to deeds, mortgages, leases, and matters of that kind.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
It is for the purpose of dealing with cases such as mortgages, leases, and matters of that kind which are not covered under Clause 1. The third Clause is to enable a copy to be obtained in the case of destroyed deeds or muniments of title, and to enable the Court when it is satisfied that it is a properly verified document and an authentic copy of the original, to have it filed and recorded as the original for all purposes. The fourth Clause is to enable documents of that class to be perpetuated as to their contents. We are familiar with the provisions of the law for perpetuating testimony, and it is pro- 760 posed to extend that principle by this Clause with a view to preserving records of these lost muniments of title and documents. The fifth Clause provides for the amendment of Sub-section (2) and (3) of Clause 1 of the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, 1914—which provides that certain powers of execution cannot be exercised by reason of the War—so as to enable the Court to exercise the same power to defer execution where the events are not the result of the present War, but the result of the recent disturbances. In other words, there is a stay of execution in regard to certain proceedings where they are satisfied that it is just and equitable to do so by reason of the outbreak of the rebellion. Clause 6 is a provision which relieves the local authority from liability for compensating persons in respect of property, or persons in respect of injury, where the person or the property was injured in the course of the rebellion. Hon. Members for Ireland will be familiar with the fact that there are certain Acts of Parliament in existence in Ireland by which in certain cases of injury to persons or to property, if the person injured or the owners of the property damaged can show that it has been malicious or wanton they can recover compensation, and it is levied upon the rates of the local authority. His Majesty's Government have undertaken on a certain basis and scale to provide compensation in these cases, and therefore it has been thought equitable and just that this burden should be taken off the shoulders of the ratepayers.
The seventh Clause deals with a difficulty which has arisen owing to the fact that in the area which was destroyed in Dublin in the course of the operations a considerable number of leading solicitors in Dublin had their offices, and certain documents belonging to clients, such as wills, deeds, leases, and all that class of instrument, in many cases have been destroyed beyond recognition. The question was raised by the solicitors, through the Incorporated Law Society, as to their liability for the loss of these documents in case their clients took proceedings. The law is not absolutely clear on the point. My own view is that they would not be liable under such conditions, but the solicitors themselves are not quite satisfied, and we came to the conclusion that, at any rate, they ought not to be made liable, and that so long as there is any doubt about it they ought to re- 761 ceive protection. Accordingly, the object of this Clause is to prevent any action being brought for the purpose of recovering damages from persons who had the custody of documents of this class for their clients. That is practically the entire of this Bill. The first Clause has been introduced at the request of His Majesty's judges of the High Court in Ireland, the second Clause is an addition to No. 1 suggested by the solicitors, and the others have been investigated by the judges of the High Court and also by the members of the legal profession, and on their recommendation they have been introduced.
§ Sir E. CARSON
To the main portion of this Bill I have no objection. I think that it is a necessary consequence of the results of the rebellion in Dublin. But I have the very greatest objection to Clause 6 of this Bill, which says that no claims for compensation under the Acts relating to criminal and malicious injuries shall lie against the local authorities in respect to injury to person or property sustained in the course of the recent disturbance in Ireland. As I understand the Attorney-General, he has stated that the Government propose to compensate out of public funds—that is from the British Exchequer—for losses sustained by reason of the injuries that were inflicted, and thus relieve the local authorities. The first question I would like to ask is: Will that be done by a Bill? because certainly it is a matter which ought not to be done without a discussion in this House. The second thing I would like to ask is this: As I understand, reading the newspapers, the only promise made is to compensate for loss of building and property. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend, where he is abolishing the compensation to individuals, which under the law they have a right to get for malicious injuries to persons apart from property, which is often very much more important to them —in many cases, I know, this is important in reference to the recent rebellion— is the Government out of public funds going to compensate those who were shot or injured in the rebellion? We have had no declaration as regards that at all up to the present moment. I shall oppose this sixth Clause until these facts are made perfectly clear. If property owners are to be compensated out of public funds for the injury to property caused by the acts of rebels, persons who were shot or who received bodily injury have just as 762 much right to compensation as property owners have. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to let us know what are the views of the Government in relation to that matter.
Again, I should like to know whether Clause 6 takes away the right of constables who have been injured in the discharge of their duty to obtain recompense. There were a number of constables shot and some were wounded. I think in one case there were fourteen shot dead. What is the compensation, or is there any compensation, going to be paid to the representatives of these people? My recollection is, though I have not had time to look into it, that there were provisions in the old Malicious Injuries Act or in the Constables Act which enabled constables who received injuries in the discharge of their duties to claim against the local authorities. This would come under Section 6. I would like, as regards them also, to know what is going to be given in lieu of the provisions which are being taken away under Clause 6? All these matters are of very great importance. I hope that my right hon. Friend does not mean to rush this Bill without our having a full opportunity of understanding this whole question as to how compensation is going to be given for property and to individuals and to enable people whose rights to compensation are taken away under this Bill. There are also two minor points. One is this question of perpetuating testimony and substituting proved copies for original documents. Who is to bear the cost of that? Is it to come out of public funds or to be borne by the individuals affected? Then Section 9 provides that the Act shall not apply to criminal matters or proceedings. I do not quite understand what that means. Does it mean that if the records in any court relating to criminal proceedings have been destroyed no effort shall be made to substitute for them copies, as is done in the case of civil matters. Why is this limitation put in? These are the points, mainly, I admit, Committee points, which I wish to put. But the question of compensation out of public funds is a matter of very great * importance, and I hope that before we are asked to proceed further with this Bill—I am not going to oppose the Second Reading—we shall have the whole scheme of the Government in reference to compensation and cost fully before the-House.
I think that this Bill is reasonable and necessary, but I do think at the same time that there is something in what the senior Member for Trinity College has said as to the question of compensation. My view is that, though the words are necessary, they are a little too wide. The basis of this Bill is that the Government are going to compensate property owners for their losses in connection with the rebellion. Well, now, they are not. That is the vice of the Clause to which the senior Member for Trinity College has objected. In connection with this they rely on the Bill which is next on the Order Paper, which makes an extreme modification in the supposition—it is only a legal supposition —on which this first Bill is founded. What the Government has done is this: In theory they have not acted unreasonably. They have set up in Dublin, under the chairmanship of a very distinguished man, Sir William Goulding, a Committee to consider losses. The terms of reference to that Committee, I understand, exclude all questions of contingent or remote damage—what are called consequential damages—they also exclude anything in the nature of trading loss consequent on the rebellion, and in my reading of the terms of reference—I do not say that it is in any sense final—they have confined themselves to allowing them to give compensation on the basis of what an insurance company would give for the shell or structure of the building and for any goods that might at that moment have been there. In other words, all loss of trade or any matters of the kind are excluded from their consideration.
But having done that, and done it without Statute, and done it on what is called an ex gratia basis, they then proceed to introduce Bill No. 5, which is this: Before anybody knows what Sir William Goulding's Committee will give any of the ruined or burned out shopkeepers of Dublin, they have promised to one or two members of the Dublin Corporation, without any resolution of the corporation itself—because I have most carefully gone through their agenda—and they have introduced in legislative form this proposal, that, forsooth, where Sir William" Goulding's Committee do not give a sufficient sum as an ex gratia grant, the corporation, in what is called the interests of the beautification of the city, may lend money to the burned out shopkeepers, and in addition to that, that the State may 764 advance that money to the corporation. In other words, that the basis upon which this Bill is founded, which is a theory, has no existence, and that Sir William Goulding's Committee will not give sufficient money to compensate the shopkeepers. A more appalling proposal I have never heard than this proposal, that first we shall get the measure of Sir William Goulding's Committee's idea of what the shopkeepers are entitled to for the shells of their buildings and goods therein stored, and then when they have ascertained that, which may take months and months, the ruined shopkeepers, with their premises unbuilt, and without getting a start during this coming winter, before which it will have become necessary to build, are then to submit plans and specifications to the Corporation of Dublin, which has a sort of aesthetic committee, presided over by the Sub-Sheriff of Dublin, and this committee is to say how much in addition is to be spent on domes or cupolas or garden lawns for the buildings, for which funds have been provided for by Sir William Goulding's Committee, and then the corporation may lend the extra money required as mortgagees, and force the ruined shopkeepers to mortgage their premises, which probably have been already mortgaged— a sort of tail mortgage.
That is denying the hope which has been held out to them, and with that, as the senior Member for Trinity College has pointed out, you take away the right of these shopkeepers to apply for compensation under the Malicious Injuries Act. I am in sympathy with the Government in taking away that right, for this reason: I think that it would be a most unfortuate thing if tie City of Dublin was onerated with the millions of money necessary to pay the loss caused by a rebellion which was deliberately connived at by the Government, because I do not hesitate to say that the rebellion in Dublin was artificially created and brought about by officials in Dublin Castle. I do not hesitate further to say that a great deal of the damage which was done was really unnecessary from any military consideration. However, some day, when it suits the Member for Water-ford, we shall get a day to debate this question. Certainly I shall not intrude my views at the present time into the discussion of this Bill, but I will maintain that this rebellion was connived at and that its responsibility should be borne 765 by those who brought it about, the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland and Sir Matthew Nathan. I therefore want to know this from the Government: Take the case of a shopkeeper who will not be compensated by Sir William Goulding's Committee who is not insured. Is that man to be deprived of his right of going to the local authority and saying, "I am one of the lost sheep. I have not been dealt with by Sir William Goulding's Committee. I was not insured. Are you going to take away the last plank which I have? Why should I also have no right under this Bill of coming to the local authorities for compensation?"
It seems to me, therefore, that the senior Member for Trinity College is within the bounds of justice in saying that this particular Clause needs a little more examination than has been given. But my chief ground of complaint in all this business is the appalling delay that these measures are giving rise to. Here we have this Bill No. 5 brought in, and I venture to say that it is directly repugnant to the Bill which is now before the House, and if persisted in will impose years of delay until the committee of the corporation make up their mind, first, as to what the Goulding Committee has given, and, second, as to how far that will suffice to beautify the city and third, how far the plans, which already in some cases have been put into operation, are involved. I would not be in favour of opposing this Bill to-night in the sense of delaying it. I do not think that would be right. It would seem to show that we are slow to recognise the action of the Government as it originally stood. We do recognise the action of the Government as it originally staad before the Dublin Reconstruction (Emergency Provisions) Bill was introduced. With that reservation, I give my assent to this Bill, subject to any Amendment that may be moved in Committee for the purpose of securing the right to compensation of persons whose losses have not been covered by insurance or the ex gratia Grants to be awarded by the Goulding Commission. The Recorder of Dublin managed to dispose of the valuation of the City of Dublin in a couple of weeks. Why, then, should there be this delay with regard to the shopkeepers? It is three months since the rebellion took place and since these houses were burnt down. What would be said of any insurance company of good standing, such as the Ocean Acci- 766 dent, or any of the other big insurance companies who are so honourable and prompt in their repayments, if they had delayed three months? We are now in the month of August, and, unless the buildings are started before the winter when the frost comes, there will be practically another year's delay. The people who brought about the rebellion are not the Sinn Feiners, but His Majesty's Government. Ordinary good government would have prevented it. I do not hesitate to say, and say it in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman, that if his appointment as Lord Chancellor had been stuck to twelve months ago we should not have had this rebellion. I do not hesitate to say that, and very few compliments have ever passed between us.
I want to know how much longer the citizens and the public of Dublin are to be deprived of the use of their streets, their buildings, and their shops. I want to know how much longer the working classes of Dublin are to be deprived of that necessary employment which they desires. Let me call the attention of the House to this fact. Under one of the rules which the Defence of the Realm Committee have made no man may enter upon building operations involving the expenditure of more than £500. They never thought of Dublin. They did not for a moment dream that there was a rebellion in Dublin. Perhaps they never heard about it, but we have who have to live in the city and who have to watch all these numerous Regulations. They are like a litter all over the place, and, though ignorance of the law excuses nobody, I venture to say that there is not a lawyer in the Kingdom who could say what is the present state of the law. I therefore press upon the Government to immediately drop the Dublin Reconstruction (Emergency Provisions) Bill. I know that it has some friends, but a Bill which contains jobbery has far more friends than a Bill which does not contain jobbery.
Let us get rid of this delay. The Recorder of Dublin managed to value the whole city in the course of a few weeks. Nine-tenths of the city has not been injured, and there is no reason in the world why Sir William Goulding's Committee and the five assessors assisting Sir William in that responsible and onerous work should not long since have completed their labours. There is considerable suspicion in some quarters—it was given expression to by the hon. Member for Westmeath 767 (Mr. Ginnell) before his expulsion—with regard to the action of the Government as to one of these buildings. I will not mention what the building is. It is a building upon which the first shell of the revolutionists fell, and I am told that when the shell fell upon it and exploded it to pieces the whole of the revolutionists cheered. I leave the House to imagine what the building is. There is considerable suspicion in many minds with regard to the sum which is to be allotted, and with regard to the Dublin Reconstruction (Emergency Provisions) Bill which is to follow. I can only say, if the Dublin Reconstruction (Emergency Provisions) Bill is intended in any way to further the publications of a particular class favourable to one section of this Government, that it will have much more serious opposition than the Government imagines. I think they should drop the Bill altogether, let the shopkeepers of Dublin have their money, and allow building operations to be started forthwith.
§ Mr. CLANCY
I gather from the speech that has just been delivered and also from the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) that this Bill is not to be opposed on the Second Reading, and under ordinary circumstances, therefore, I should never have risen to say anything at all in support of its provisions, but the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College and of the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork have introduced some considerations which I think ought to be noticed. Nearly nine-tenths of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North-East Cork, if I may say so without any disrespect to him, was absolutely irrelevant to this Bill. He dealt, as far as I could hear and understand, with the Dublin Reconstruction (Emergency Provisions) Bill, which is to come after this Bill. I might discuss that Bill and show that it is a proper and just Bill and one that ought to he passed, but I expect, if you allowed me to do so, it would only be by stretching the Rules of Order. I therefore do not propose to discuss it. I merely desire to draw attention to what I understand to be the case made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. If I correctly understood him, he assumed that compensation would not be made for contingent losses caused to the traders of 768 Dublin by the late disturbances. That point was also made by the hon. and learned Member for Cork. I am sure, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College had retained that knowledge of the Criminal Injury Court of Ireland which he possessed before he came to the English Bar he would have known that the present Malicious Injury Court of Ireland would not help him in the least in respect of contingent losses. In saying that I state a fact which is within the knowledge of the Minister now in charge of the Bill. The Criminal Injury Court of Ireland allows no compensation for contingent or trade losses at all. If a man's house is destroyed and he rebuilds it the Criminal Injury Court of Ireland does not allow him the cost of the house that is rebuilt, but only the value of the old house as it existed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, therefore, would not gain anything whatever by striking out this Clause.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also cited the case of policemen injured in the recent disturbances. Police officers, as a matter of fact, may be compensated under the Criminal Injury Court of Ire land, if they are injured or maimed in the preservation of peace, but, as I understand it, all the Metropolitan Police immediately after the disturbances began were with drawn. One was killed and two or three of them were injured, not in preserving the peace at all, but simply because they were in the street and were shot by accident. They could not benefit by striking out this Clause. Therefore, all that the right hon. and learned Gentleman urged is absolutely without foundation so far as it furnishes an argument in favour of retaining the old law of compensation under the Criminal Injury Court of Ireland. I did not under stand the point of the hon. and learned Member for Cork at all. It would really be grossly unjust to omit this Clause. In the first place, the Government are bound to this Clause. The Under-Secretary for Ireland publicly promised it in a letter addressed to myself, in which he thanked me for making the suggestion that such a Clause should be inserted in the Bill. The Attorney-General also addressed a letter—I am not telling anything that is not public—
§ Mr. CLANCY
I do not reply to that observation because it is irrelevant. The Attorney-General addressed a letter to the Recorder of Dublin in which he promised this Clause, and in consequence of the receipt of that letter the Recorder of Dublin actually struck out cases which had come before him under the Criminal Injury Law as it exists. These two facts, to my mind, render it impossible for the Government to go back upon this Clause. In the third place, what injury in the name of Heaven is done to any property owner in Dublin by this Clause? He is already to be paid for his loss by the Goulding Commission. Supposing he is paid by the Goulding Commission, as the Government have promised to pay him, is it right that he should be paid a second time at the cost of the ratepayer, if he could prove malice on the part of the ratepayers, which it would be impossible in a great many cases to prove, because these buildings were destroyed by the artillery of the British Army, and you could not prove malice under such circumstances against His Majesty's Government? The Goulding Commission have all the facts before them, and that body consists of two Englishmen and one distinguished Irish Unionist. I say it is a monstrous supposition and it would be a most ridiculous thing to provide that the Recorder of Dublin should be asked to give him compensation where the Commission, untrammelled by any petty rules of procedure or law, had refused him compensation. I really think that the case for this Clause is overwhelming. This is not the time to argue it fully. That time will come, I suppose, when the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Healy) and anyone who supports him move to omit the Clause, and then I think it will become perfectly plain from the Debate that the Clause is a proper one, and the Government will be faced with another charge of breach of faith made in the face of the Irish people if they fail to stand by its provisions from the first line to the last.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think, as far as one can make out either in this Bill or by the other one to which reference has been made, the English taxpayer will have to find the money, and we ought to have, before we proceed very much further—I do not mean to-day but later on—some general statement as to what the Government intend to do and upon what grounds they are going to put this charge upon the 770 English taxpayer. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Healy) said that the revolution was caused by the Government.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not think he will say that the English taxpayer had anything to do with it. It may be necessary that the English taxpayer should have to pay something, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite will convey to the Prime Minister the impression which my right hon. and learned Friend the Senior Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson) holds very strongly, that before we go much further that either on this Bill or the next Bill we should have some general statement of the Government as to the course they propose to take with regard to these proceedings for compensation in Ireland.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I desire to say a word or two with reference to the remarks addressed from different parts of the House with regard to this Bill and which were practically confined to the sixth Clause. My right hon. and learned Friend (Sir E. Carson), perhaps not unnaturally, having regard to the long time he has been away and unfamiliar with procedure in Ireland, has forgotten that there is no remedy-under the Malicious Injury Acts for civilians who are injured. I know of no legislation in Ireland which makes the ratepayers of any locality liable for ordinary injuries received by civilians. There is a Statute which enables compensation to be paid to police officers, or, in case of their death, to their relatives, but that is limited to cases in which the injury or the death has resulted from their previous efforts to bring offenders to justice. In other words, the decisions of the Courts have so circumscribed the Act that compensation can only be recovered not for the actual injury causing death, but if the Court is satisfied that it was inflicted on the constable not for his efforts on that particular occasion, but by reason of his previous efforts to bring offenders to justice. It was aimed at cases in which an energetic police officer made himself unpopular in a particular neighbourhood and some criminal wreaked his vengeance upon him. The consequence is that the number of cases which come within this Act for the compensation of police officers or their relatives is infinitesimal. A test case was brought to see how far that Act could be applied to cases under the recent rebellion, and after very elaborate and full argu- 771 ment, the judge was of opinion that having regard to the decisions on the point that no compensation could be recovered.
Then as regards the cases of injuries to property I have considered those most carefully, and I really do not think a single instance could be found arising out of the recent rebellion in which a claim could be sustained under the Malicious Injury Act even as regards property, be cause you have got to prove that the injury was wanton and malicious. That could hardly be attributed to the acts of the military in demolishing these public buildings under the necessity of public safety. I do not think there is much evidence of actual injury to property, certainly to buildings, resulting from the direct acts of the rebels themselves. I think the bulk of the injury to buildings and property was the necessary result of proper military operations. Therefore I think very little relief is given to the local authorities by this Clause 6. I do not mean to say for a moment that the ingenuity of man may not discover certain cases in which they could proceed under the existing Malicious In jury Act, but I know of no case in which they could proceed which is not covered by the action of the Government in pro viding voluntary compensation. The cases coming within that are at present being investigated by the Commission to which allusion has been made, and presided over by Sir William Goulding. My right hon. Friend asked with regard to those cases where the money was to come from and whether it was proposed to bring in legislation to deal with that matter and to authorise the grant of this money. I under stand the intention of the Government is not to have any legislation with regard to this, but to make those Grants from the Treasury, and opportunity, of course, will be given to anyone—
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
There is to be no legislation with regard to the moneys that have been paid, or will be paid, as a result of this Commission to persons whose property was damaged by the military operations—that is, as I understand the matter.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
All I can say is I do not think the sanction will be sought for in 772 the shape of legislation. I am not quite aware of what their intentions are, but by the time we come to Cominittee I feel quite certain information will be forthcoming. The Home Secretary has just informed me that he does not think it is the intention of the Government to proceed in regard to this compensation by way of actual Bill. There is one other matter about which the right hon. and learned Member (Sir E. Carson) wanted information, and that was as to what course the Government proposed to take with regard to persons, as distinguished from property, who were injured in this outbreak, and who themselves were perfectly innocent parties. No doubt those cases are very numerous, and they are coming in from day to day. So far as I have any interest in the matter, and as far as my own individual powers are concerned, I am most anxious that those persons, or their relatives, should be properly and fully compensated. I cannot, of course, bind His Majesty's Government, and it is a matter in connection with the Treasury, but I admit that I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that if persons whose property has been injured as a result of this outbreak are to be compensated, that there is an equally strong claim, if not stronger, in the case of relatives of those who have been killed, or in the case of persons who themselves were injured being perfectly innocent in any way of any complicity in the outbreak.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I am not going to bind the Government, nor have I any power or authority to bind them, but it seems to me that if you are going to compensate owners of property irrespective of how the damage accrued, then in the case of loss of life or limb the same principle ought to apply. I do not know that that has yet been fully considered. All I know is that cases are coming in with regard to personal injuries and are being very carefully examined, although I believe no definite conclusion has yet been arrived at as to the amount, measure, or principle of compensation. For present purposes, I do not think I need say more. I do not believe that even the omission of Clause 1 (6) would involve any real liability on the local authorities, because my own view is that it is almost impossible to conceive a case resulting out of the recent rebellion in which, having regard to the construe- 773 tion placed upon the Act, a claim for malicious injury could be sustained. Of course I cannot bind the Courts; therefore I think it is a wise precaution to relieve the local authorities from the necessity of investigating these claims. Having regard to the fact that the Government are taking over the responsibility for compensation in almost every conceivable case that could come under the Malicious Injuries Clauses, it seems to me that this is a reasonable Clause to put in, and if it is necessary to defend it in Committee I think I shall be in a position to satisfy hon. Members that the Clause should remain in the Bill.
§ Mr. RAWL1NSON
I should not have spoken had it not been for the speech of my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General for Ireland. He has told us that in connection with the rebellion, in which there was much loss of property and much injury to people, the Government proposes to pay compensation. An hon. Member from Ireland has told us that the rebellion was entirely the fault of the Government. Even assuming that to be so, the Government, after all, represents the House of Commons, and in the House of Commons there are Irish Members. To that extent I think we must all take a certain amount of blame. But, without doubt, those who did literally raise the rebellion were the Irish Sinn Feiners. Therefore there is something to be said as to how the burden of compensation should fall. We learn now that the House of Commons is to have no voice in the allocation of the amount of compensation for persons or property. That is something which we have watched for and, I will not say anticipated, but feared might happen. The Vote of Credit passed by this House—very exceptional legislation—was simply and solely for the purpose of carrying on the War. It is true that the late Government made a Grant of over £100,000 out of the first Vote of Credit in respect of certain trade unions. I have not the least objection, but at the time I brought the matter forward on two or three occasions, and I understood most distinctly that the Government gave a pledge that no matter how useful might be the object for which the Government proposed to use money from a Vote of Credit, it should not be so used without the sanction of the House of Commons being first obtained. Whether that pledge was given or not— and I do not say that it was definitely given in the form of a pledge—surely it 774 goes to the root of the control which the House of Commons ought to have over finance. I am not saying in the least that money ought not to be granted for compensation in Dublin. I am not discussing that question now. When the facts are placed before me I shall be able to form a judgment. But I submit most strongly that the House of Commons before passing a Bill of this kind is entitled to have clearly stated the amount of money— English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish money —which it is proposed to spend for this purpose. We ought to have it definitely in blaok-and-white, and sanctioned by the House of Commons before the Bill becomes law and before any such money is spent in Ireland.
§ Mr. BRADY
I rise only for the purpose of saying that as far as I am concerned I have heard with great pleasure the timely and sympathetic references of the Attorney-General to the cases of those who have sustained personal loss, whether by death or by injury, in connection with the recent disturbances in Dublin. The expression of the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, which I quite understand we are not to take as binding the Government, will be welcomed very much to-morrow morning in Dublin, because there are many cases of the saddest description in which very grave injuries have been sustained by people who had no sympathy whatever with the recent disturbances, and who took no part at all in the terrible occurrences of Easter week. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to press on his colleagues in the Government the view which he has so eloquently expressed. An overwhelming case can be made for these unfortunate people who, through no fault of their own, have in many cases sustained injuries, the mark of which they will carry to their dying day, while in other cases men have lost their lives, leaving behind them dependants who in consequence of the death of the breadwinner, are absolutely without means of livelihood. I might, perhaps, refer to a matter raised by the senior Member for Dublin University regarding the costs of the proceedings dealt with m Sub-section (4). In consequence of the total destruction of many original documents in solicitors' offices and elsewhere, recourse will be necessary to an old form of procedure known as the perpetuation of testimony. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman aright, he asked the representative of the Government how the costs 775 of these proceedings would be provided for. It is quite clear that it would be hardly fair that those costs should be borne by the litigants who must take these proceedings to make good their title, and so on, and it is equally clear that the costs should not come out of the unfortunate solicitor's pocket. The proceedings will become absolutely necessary because the documents have been destroyed, and as the Government are dealing with the whole matter in a broad and generous manner, I think they might go the whole way and provide a fund in some way, which doubtless could easily be found, for the payment of these costs. As I have the honour to belong to the profession to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, I desire to thank him, on behalf of my brethren in Dublin—the burnt-out solicitors, as they are called—who will be safeguarded by the Sub-section to which he referred.
§ Mr. FIELD
As one of the Members for Dublin, I wish to support the view expressed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Brady). There is no question whatever that as large portions of the principal thoroughfares and streets in Dublin have been destroyed by operations in connection with the disturbances, it is incumbent upon the Government to do what they can to restore the city to something like the position it was in before these occurances took place. Therefore, I desire, as one of the representatives of the City of Dublin, strongly to impress on the Government the absolute necessity, whatever criticisms may be passed upon their action on certain points, for going forward. All the Members of the City of Dublin join, I think, in supporting this Bill. It was put forward by the corporation. The corporation represent the citizens. The citizens wish to have Dublin replaced in its former position.
The hon. Member has mistaken the Bill. This is not the Bill to which he is alluding. We have not reached that yet.
§ Colonel GRETTON
We have learned a very remarkable fact in regard to this Bill, that this House has received no estimate and, according to the statement which has been made, the Bill is going to give unlimited power to the authority set up to administer the provisions of the Bill 776 and to find compensation for the damage done in Dublin during the rebellion. The authority have unlimited power to dip into the Vote of Credit and spend any sum it may think fit without reference to this House. All Members of the House of Commons who care for constitutional procedure, and who have in mind the limitations, privileges, and duties of this House, will do well to note that fact. I am not discussing the merits or details of the Bill. As regards the nature of the particular compensation that is to be paid, we are all agreed about that. But we should see that Parliamentary control is exercised over the money. If a Commission is sent over and there is no control, there is nothing easier than for the Commissioners to save themselves trouble, and to get credit for acting in a generous spirit—at the expense of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. That, of course, cannot be tolerated. This practice of spending money out of the control of the House of Commons will undoubtedly have to cease, whether it ceases over this Bill, or over something more serious. The House will be wise when this Bill gets into Committee to take care that there is some provision inserted that estimates should be laid before the House and proper accounts should be presented for the approval of Parliament. I agree with hon. Members below the Gangway that compensation ought to be paid. What compensation should be paid is a matter for investigation. But the Government —and here I agree with some remarks that have been uttered—is largely responsible for the expenditure under this Bill being incurred. If they had performed their duty there would have been no rebellion. There is much reason to complain of hon. Members who sit below the Gangway, especially those hon. Members who represent the City of Dublin, that they did nothing to warn this House of what was going on in Ireland, or of the sedition and intended rebellion in Dublin.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I am quite willing to accept advice which seems to me to be good, from whatever quarter it comes. I do not propose to oppose this Bill, but I think it will require some careful examination when it reaches the Committee stage.
I desire to support the passing of this Bill. I cannot exactly 777 follow the line of the hon. Member above the Gangway who took exception to compensation being paid.
§ Colonel GRETTON
No. I made no suggestion that compensation should not be paid. What I said was that the amount of the compensation was a matter for a Committee to decide.
After all, the Irish taxpayer contributes to these amounts as well as the British taxpayer. People have to recognise that the rebellion in Ireland was undoubtedly due to the War and German efforts to create trouble for this country. That was the real cause. My principal reason, however, in intervening is to express the satisfaction that we on these benches feel at the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General of his own views in reference to compensation for those people who have lost their lives. I hope he will strongly urge his views upon his colleagues in the Cabinet. Coming fresh from Ireland and knowing the circumstances there, I trust that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will strongly urge his view that compensation, and adequate compensation, should be given, not alone to those who it was suggested were shot by the participators in the insurrection, by accident or by the Eegular soldiers, because, after all, these people, who were non-combatants, no matter by whom shot, have the right to compensation. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's view that the dependants of those people that have lost their lives, as well as the people who have been injured in the shooting, will receive compensation. I am confident now, after his statement, that within a few weeks—and I think the quicker the belter—the matter will be attended to. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North-East Cork that there should be the least possible delay in getting forward with this matter, so as to assuage the feeling that exists in Ireland.
As a resident of Dublin, I would like to support the remarks that have been made on the Second Beading of this Bill by the hon. Members for Dublin. I should like to deal with one particular point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced this Bill made it clear to the House that he is strongly in favour of Sub-section (6) of Clause 1. We are all glad to hear that. I hope that he will not on any account, during the further stages of this Bill, give way upon that Sub-section. The 778 Attorney-General, in dealing with this, stated that on two grounds he did not really think it was important whether or not this Sub-section was retained. The first ground was that, of course, there is the Commission in Dublin which is considering the compensation for those people whose property has been destroyed. I do not know whether if that is so it will affect the law on the question of compensation for malicious injuries. I think the law will still stand. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, no doubt, was on stronger ground when he came to deal with the second point. He said, in his opinion, as a Law Officer of the Crown, it would be practically impossible to establish a case for malicious injury in those cases under the law as it stands at present. We all value the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in a matter of this kind very largely, but as he is very strongly with us as to the justice of the case that these malicious claims ought not under all the circumstances to lie against the local authorities, it would be very unwise if he were to yield to pressure from any quarter and leave a loophole, because, if under any circumstance it is found in the future that the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman is different to that which may be taken by the Court, or that from any other reason the Malicious Injuries Acts do apply, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be under the necessity of coining back to the House of Commons later in the Session and asking for further powers to deal with this one particular point. It is unthinkable that, under all the circumstances, the ratepayers of the City of Dublin should be burdened by a charge such as malicious injury claims would involve in this case. Therefore, when we go into Committee on this Bill I hope he will stand hard and fast by this Sub-section (6).
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.