§ Postponed Proceeding resumed on Second Beading.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
At the interruption I was moving the Second Reading of the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Bill, which consists of a collection of details rendered necessary in the event of the Northern Ireland Parliament exercising its option to continue outside the Free State. I had dealt with the first four Clauses. The fifth Clause deals with Income Tax Adjustment. The proposals in this Bill are similar to proposals affecting other Dominions, with the object of preventing a double Income Tax being chargeable as between the Dominions and the British Isles. In future, the same adjustments will be made between England and Ireland as are already made between the British Isles and the Dominions. Clause 6 is also a financial provision, although not immediately operative. It takes power to bring something into force if and when it should be necessary. That is to say the Government take power to proceed by Order in Council, providing such Order in Council goes through the procedure which is usually adopted in this House, namely, of the Order being presented to the House, so that an Address may be moved for the amending or rejection of the Order if the House so wishes, it enables the House of Commons to keep control of any Order made under this Clause. The point is this, the moment the Free State begins to function fully, there may be certain difficulties regarding the stock registers of the Bank of Ireland. It is an important point, and I make this declaration on behalf of the Government, that no Order in Council will be produced by the Government until all the interests concerned have been fully consulted, and that before anything is done under this Clause 6, the interests affected more particularly by these registers will have an opportunity of being fully heard by the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who are 424 more immediately concerned in the operation of this Clause. Clause 7 is a miscellaneous Clause, the object being to enable Departments such as the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Labour to make the necessary arrangements to separate Irish and British business. Most of the points that may be raised on this Bill are necessarily Committee points, and the Government will be only too ready to hear anything in Committee that may be said in relation to them.
Hon. Members will undoubtedly ask why it is that this consequential Bill does not contain other provisions. It is my duty, on the Motion for Second Reading, to say a word or two about three of them. The first has reference to compensation for destruction of lives and property. The second has to do with the possibility of an Indemnity Bill, and the third involves the prospects of land purchase. These are all consequential on ideas not in actual legislation on the passing of the Irish Free State Constitution Bill. As regards compensation, the matter has already been taken up with the Free State authorities, and I have to say that they have expressed their intention of proceeding as soon as they get power, under the Constitution Bill, to enact the necessary legislation dealing with compensation. Until that legislation has been enacted over there, it is not possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer here to say how far we can or cannot implement, with the necessary guarantees or otherwise, the proposals winch they make. If—and this applies to land purchase as well as to compensation—the Irish Ministers bring forward proposals which are fair in the opinion of this Government, then it is the intention of the British Government to assist in supporting the credit of the newly formed Irish Free State in order that the claims may be met.
The hon. Gentleman is dealing, of course, with post-Truce cases—not with pre-Truce cases?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The Irish Ministers have expressed their readiness that the liability for the pre-Truce claims by claimants not recognised as their supporters by either side, for personal injury maliciously inflicted, shall be divided 425 equally between the Governments. That is the proposal, and that is the line on which they at present propose to proceed. I want, however, to make it quite clear to the House that all this is provisional. Until the Free State begins to function under the Constitution Bill, no binding undertaking can be given. Until we know-exactly what they are prepared to do and what legislation has been passed there, we do not know what we can do here to assist the distressed persons; but it is the intention of the Government to do all that they can in the very difficult circumstances. There are a great many people suffering very severely owing to the losses that have been inflicted in the last two years, and that will receive the most sympathetic consideration, both here and by the Dublin Government. On that, may I say that the Free State Government do propose to pass an Act of Indemnity. A written question was asked at the last sitting of Dail Eireann, to which Mr. Cosgrave gave the following written reply:Mutual undertakings of amnesty and indemnity in respect of matters arising out of the Anglo-Irish struggle were exchanged between the British and Irish Governments"—I am reading the words as they appear in the Handbook of Dail Eireann—at the time of the handing over of control by the British. These undertakings will need to be covered by appropriate legislation on both sides. It is our intention to submit a Bill to the Irish Parliament for this purpose as soon as the Constitution is through, and to request the British Government to cover their undertaking by like legislation so far as may be necessary to give effect to it.That is an undertaking on the part of the Irish Government to introduce and pass a Bill of Indemnity. The Law Officers here have examined as to whether anything further in that respect is necessary here, and it is not thought at the present moment that such a further Bill is necessary; but, if it proves to be necessary, such a Bill will be introduced.
Then, undoubtedly, one of the things which affects the position of those who have suffered during the recent disturbances in Ireland is the working of the Compensation Commission. A question was put to me this afternoon by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen), but it was not reached, and the answer to it will be seen among the printed answers to-morrow. 426 The work of that Commission is to be speeded up. A number of assessors have been added, and, as far as we at the Colonial Office are concerned, we shall do everything we can to assist the working of that important Commission. Considerable progress has been made in the last few weeks. I regret to have to inform the House that Lord Shaw has felt it necessary to resign his position as Chairman, but there will be as little delay as possible in finding another Chairman to fill his place. The thanks of the Government and the House are due to him for the work that he has done. Let me assure the House that the work of the Commission, even if it be without a Chairman for a few days, or even a few weeks, will not cease, as there is quite sufficient material before it, and a sufficient number of decisions, for the Commission to get through the work of reorganisation and to continue to exercise its powers. I hope, however, to be able very soon to announce a successor to Lord Shaw and that that Commission will assist in dealing with the matter. I think I had better leave any other remarks to reply to points which may be made by hon. Members interested in these consequential provisions, but I may say that, just as it is in the interests of the Irish Ministers to proceed with this matter of compensation at the earliest possible moment, so they are very anxious, if matters can be arranged, to complete the work of land purchase, which will have an important assistant effect in ameliorating the situation, particularly in the congested districts of Ireland, and enabling the tenants to become the peasant proprietors, as a peasant proprietary is such a characteristic feature of the Irish social system. They hope to summon an early meeting in Dublin and to produce practical proposals, which again may require the separate assistance of this House. I think I have explained the main provisions of the Bill, and I hope the House will give it a Second Reading to-night so that we may pass to consideration of the Committee stage to-morrow.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I should like, without any reflection upon his predecessor at the Colonial Office, to say how delighted we are to see the hon. Gentleman acting for the Colonial Office, and what a very clear speech he has opened with, when we consider the 427 extreme complication of the subject with which he is dealing. I think he will understand that even after his speech we shall probably want further information as to the proposals in the Bill and also as to the other proposals he has outlined. I am certain most of us on this side look at the Bill and wonder whether we can yet calculate what our final liability is for the Irish settlement. We want to know where we are financially, and it is over the financial question that the hon. Gentleman has skated very cleverly. We have had from him no estimate as to what Clause 2, for instance, is going to involve the country in Clause 2, as far as I understand, involves this country in pensioning the Irish judges and a considerable number of other Irish officials. It is rather hard that we should have to find pensions for the Irish judges, seeing that the claim of those Irish judges to compensation apparently arises out of the 1920 Act and fell upon us at a time when money was extremely difficult to find, and we have a right to ask that we should know what the grand total of the liability for judges' pensions is likely to be; and I think we must also have a Schedule showing exactly what those pensions will amount to in each case. Under Clause 1 I gather we are to find another permanent official. We attempt to scrap the Minister of Pensions, and he comes back within a fortnight of his post being dispensed with, and we find ourselves up against a new post of £8,000 a year for the Governor of part of Ulster. In every other of our Colonies and our Crown Colonies the expenses of the Governor are found by the Colony, but apparently in the case of Ulster we are to pay the piper. ["HON. MEMBERS: "We pay in Customs and Excise!"] I suppose he will be a very good Governor at £8,000 a year. It is a considerable sum for a Governor of any Colony. In every other Colony the colonials themselves find the income.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Let us know what is the additional charge put upon 428 the Exchequer of this country by reason of the creation of this post, and the provisions of this Bill generally. With respect to the provision for ex-service men, I do not think there will be much objection taken. The liability there is £2,500,000, of which a sum of nearly £1,000,000 has already been voted. The additional £1,500,000 might more fairly come out of Irish funds, but it is for the men who fought for the country in the War, and we cannot say much about it. The fact is that the liabilities of this country are being increased at a time when money is very difficult to find.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The point is that it is not being paid in Ireland, or by those who are going to get the benefit of these small holdings. It will be found by the taxpayers of this country. I am quite aware that it was voted under another Bill, but that Bill was drafted before the truce, before the settlement of the Irish question. When the Irish question is settled, this country is left, as usual, to pay.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That is quite another question. I think we may take it that the division of the revenue coming from Ireland is going quite as much to Ireland as to this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] These are additional charges put upon this country. It is with the liabilities for the future that I am mostly concerned. The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies has sketched to us a series of indefinite liabilities. Apparently, compensation for loss of life and property is to be paid, so far as the post-truce damages are concerned, by the Irish Government, who will raise a loan, as I understand it, under the guarantee of this country. In that case, can we have from the hon. Member an explanation of what he meant when he said that this country would assist the Irish Government in meeting this liability?
429 So far as land purchase is concerned, are we involving ourselves in a further liability in addition to the great liability that we have in respect of land purchase already? The Irish Land Bonds are guaranteed by this country. Are we to understand that the rest of the land in Ireland is to be purchased on the same terms as the old land was purchased, and that we are in the same way to be liable for the bonds and the interest upon the bonds which may be required in order to pay for the rest of the Irish land which is to be bought? What is our financial position going to be relative to this question of the extension of land purchase in Ireland? May I point out that even the old land purchase scheme, when it was introduced, resulted in the price of land being forced up by the fact that the Government were in the market buying land? Land rose continually in value as the land purchase scheme went on. If we are now to have an extension of the land purchase scheme making it complete throughout Ireland, the inevitable result will be that the landlords will get for their land a price far higher than they would get if there was no such purchase scheme. It is worth considering whether we cannot cut ourselves off from any liability for further purchase schemes in Ireland so far as the British taxpayer is concerned. If the Government, whether of Northern Ireland or Southern Ireland, desire to carry out a land purchase scheme, let them carry it out on their own responsibility, with their own loans, leaving us to carry out schemes, which are equally necessary in this country, with the resources which we have available. For these reasons it is necessary to have a further statement from the hon. Gentleman, though I do not think it necessary to vote against this Bill or to obstruct its passage through the House.
§ Captain CRAIG
I congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies on the lucid way in which he has explained the somewhat difficult, miscellaneous Clauses of this Bill, and while I think his explanation on the whole satisfactory, there are certain points which it is our duty to bring before the Government with reference partly to matters contained in the Bill, and partly to matters, not in the Bill, but which are the result of imposing the Treaty on the Act of 1920. The first of these latter 430 matters is with reference to elections. Ever since the Treaty, Members for Northern Ireland have been in a state of considerable confusion in reference to elections. A few months ago an hon. Friend of mine was elected to this House. Owing to the dilatory methods of the officials in the Government or the Post Office, or for other reasons which are not clear, that hon. Member, when he came to this House after his election, had to wait here for seven or eight days before the necessary papers arrived to enable him to take his seat. During the General Election returns for a number of writs from Ulster, including my own, were burnt when they got to Dublin. It is true that that did not cause us any great inconvenience, because they were able to send duplicates, which, apparently, served as well as the originals, because here we are. But I am informed that in the appointment of the new Governor of Ulster, these matters will be set right by reason of the fact that to him will be entrusted the Great Seal. All I want is that the Government should make a statement or give a pledge to the effect that that view is the correct one, and that in future the difficulties with which we have mot will not occur.
The Under-Secretary for the Colonies explained that part of the Schedule dealing with the Council of Ireland. Hon. Members who were Members of the last Parliament will remember that there was considerable heated discussion on the proposal, contained in the Treaty, in reference to the Council of Ireland, which was set up under the 1920 Act to deal with matters which affected both Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland—railways, fisheries, diseases of animals, and other matters of that kind, and was to be composed of a certain number of members appointed by Northern Ireland and a certain number appointed by Southern Ireland, with a Chairman appointed by the Government of this country. When the Treaty was passed there was an extraordinary Clause, which provided that the Free State, for the purposes of this Council, should take the place of Southern Ireland under the Act of 1920 and should appoint the necessary members to form the Council of Ireland. The anomaly and absurdity of the position is, that under the Treaty such a Council would have no power whatever to deal with matters in Southern Ireland 431 while it would have power to deal with matters in Northern Ireland. That is a position which no self-respecting Government, such as that of Northern Ireland, would tolerate for a moment. The Government under this Bill proposes to deal with that question by means of an agreed Clause which says that the Council in Ireland shall not operate for five years. That is a solution of the difficulty which, although it has been agreed to, we think it a very ridiculous way out of the difficulty. Seeing that the late Government admitted that the Council was an anomoly, we claim that this Government should have insisted, if necessary, that the Free State agree to do away with the Council altogether. We are prepared to agree to this solution of the question in the hope that in the five years the Government of Southern Ireland will have come to some arrangement, by which either the Council will be swept away or a more reasonable or logical method of settling this question, will arise. Inasmuch, however, as this agreement has been reached by the three parties concerned, we are prepared to accept the Clause as it stands.
There are two or three other matters which I wish to raise now in order that the Government may be prepared with answers and explanations to-morrow. One of the matters which seriously concern Northern Ireland is the registration of deeds in Dublin. We have in Ireland a system of Deeds Registration, which lawyers admit to be a perfect system. The memorials and the records of that registration are all in Dublin. With the Free State existence we are cut off from any right of access to those records in order to make necessary searches. I want the Government to say how they propose to deal with the matter. It is of vital importance that Ulster should still be able to have access to the records for the purpose of proving titles to property in Northern Ireland. I believe that the Government have obtained an undertaking from, the Free State that they will allow the searches to be continued in future as in the past. I would like a public statement on the subject. The same argument applies to another form of Land Registration that we have in Ireland, the system by which all lands which have been sold by landlords to tenants are registered in a separate register. In 432 these cases I understand that the actual documents can be transferred from Southern Ireland to Ulster. I want the Government to make a statement as to what they have arranged with the Free State on that subject. With regard to the Appeal Court, I am glad to know that the Government have decided that it is to be done away with, and that in future appeals will come direct from from the Appeal Court in Ulster to the House of Lords in this country. Another important matter on which I should like a statement of the Government's intentions, is with regard to the territorial waters surrounding Ulster. Under the Act of 1920, the areas handed over to the Governments of Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland respectively, were defined as the six Parliamentary counties of Northern Ireland and the twenty-six Parliamentary counties of Southern Ireland. I un lerstund there is considerable doubt in the minds of lawyers and others as to whether these Parliamentary counties carry with them the ordinary territorial waters, extending three miles out from the shore. It has been asserted in some quarters that the Parliamentary counties only extend to low water mark. That has been exercising the minds of a good many people in Ulster, and I shall be glad if the Government in due course will inform the House what is their opinion on the subject and what steps they are taking to make it clear.
With regard to the granting of holdings to ex-service men, I do not propose to go into the question raised by the hon. Member for Neweastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I can assure him the answers which will be given to-morrow on that point by some of my hon. Friends beside me are perfectly clear. I wish to say at once, however, that we, representatives of Ulster in this House, object to the system which has been adopted by the Government in dealing with this matter. We have had great delays and trouble in several directions, owing to having to wait on action by the Government of Southern Ireland or the Free State, before certain things could be done in Northern Ireland. The policy of the Government should be to separate, as far as possible, into water-tight compartments matters of this kind. The Government proposes to set up a trust to deal 433 with the sum of £1,500,000 for all Ireland, but that trust can only come into operation as soon as legislation has been passed through both the Northern and Southern Legislatures. We object to that. We want to go ahead with our soldiers' cottages. The Free State may be busy with other matters, and it may be a year or two years before, they find time or think fit to deal with this matter. We hold that involves an injustice; we see no reason why the Government should not arrive, by consent of the parties concerned, at the sums which should in justice go to Northern and Southern Ireland. If the sums were segregated in this way, we could go ahead with our own schemes at once, instead of having to wait for action by the Southern Government. That matter will be gone into more fully during the Committee stage. These are all points of great importance, and it is only right we should enumerate them in open House, so that the Government may be prepared to-morrow, if they are not prepared now, with answers to these various questions.
Mr. HILTON YOUNG
My purpose in rising is the same as that of the hon. and gallant Member for Antrim (Captain Craig), who raised a matter which I believe to be of very substantial importance upon the Bill now under consideration, in the hope that it may attract the attention of the Government before we come to the Committee stage. The matter arises under Clause 6, Sub-section (1, d), which enables His Majesty's Government to make provisions to secure that the management of the National Debt shall not be transacted within the Free State. The point of view which I desire to recommend to the attention of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill is this. If hereby it is meant that it is the intention to remove wholly the management of all species of the National Debt and registers in connection with the management of the National Debt from Dublin, that is really a policy against which very serious arguments can be advanced. I think the most serious argument to which I should like to draw the most particular attention of the hon. Gentleman is this, that the prospectuses for these various species undertook to those who invested in Southern Ireland in these forms of Debt that the management of the Debt should be conducted through the 434 Bank of Ireland, with all the conveniences which thereby accrued to the inhabitants of Southern Ireland. It is clear that if the management is wholly removed from Southern Ireland to London, for instance, investors who invested on the strength of those prospectuses may naturally feel that they have a grievance, because the inconveniences of effecting transfers of National Debt at a distance from their residence is very great, involving as it does the cumbrous procedure of powers of attorney and so forth. It may involve as much as seven or eight days' delay. I am not criticising in any way the Chancellor of Northern Ireland in Belfast holding the National Debt in Northern Ireland. That is only a small proportion of the total. The nearest figure I can give is that £111,000,000 of National Debt are held in Ireland, and only some £6,000,000 are held in the North and £105,000,000 in the South.
There is only one other word I should like to say in reinforcement of this point of view, and that is this: I cannot but think it would be well for His Majesty's Government, if they have not done so already, to inquire what view is taken of this by the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland, because it is possible to see that very serious considerations from their point of view may be involved in the removal of the management of the Debt from Dublin. The Income Tax, for instance, and Estate Duties, being deducted at source, are paid in the first place at that place where the Debt is registered and held. If the management were transferred to London, it would mean that in the first place a large portion of the Income Tax would not go, as it otherwise would, directly into the coffers of the Government of Southern Ireland, but it would go directly into the coffers of the Exchequer in England, and though that would only mean entry and counter-entry in the accounts, nevertheless the convenience of getting your money straight into your own purse instead of having it paid across from somebody else's purse is a substantial consideration. One final consideration is that under arrangements which I am sure we all hope to see carried through as speedily as possible, the Government of Southern Ireland may become responsible for a portion of the National Debt. When it does so, it will be natural to imagine that the 435 management of that part of the National Debt for which it becomes responsible should remain in Ireland. Under these circumstances, it would be not unnatural that any arrangement of this matter should be at any rate postponed until that final settlement, in order that it may then be adjusted with whatever arrangements are finally made. I hope that when we arrive at the Committee stage it will be possible for us to hear that it is not the intention of the Government immediately to withdraw the whole management of such part of the Debt as is held in Southern Ireland from Dublin.
I rise to call attention to Sub-section (7) of Clause 3. I hope the Government will see their way to bring in an amendment of this Clause. The Clause deals with the provision of houses and cottages for ex-soldiers. These houses and gardens have been promised years since. The point I wish to bring out is that these houses cannot be built until the Northern Government and the Southern Government agree on a scheme. I put it to the Government that this is absolutely unfair on the ex-soldiers. Why should they wait for their houses while one body of politicians are fighting with another body of politicians? I urge on the Government that instead of one trust there should be two trusts.
My hon. Friend is like me. He knows I am trying to get something for Ireland. We both agree on that. We have both tried to get money out of the British Government. We want a trust for Ulster and a trust for the Free State. We do not know, and the Government do not know, whether the Free State are in a position to bring up a scheme at the present moment, and, if they did so, whether they could carry it through. I am not blaming the Free State in any way in regard to this, but we have to face the fact. We in Ulster at the present moment are ready and willing to get on with these houses for ex-soldiers if we can get the money.
There will be no difficulty whatever about dividing the trust. I think I am right in saying—a Paper was issued on the subject to which hon. Members can refer—that Ulster sent 76,000 soldiers to 436 the War and the rest, of Ireland sent 73,000 soldiers to the War. Therefore, it really amounts to a case of somewhere near fifty-fifty. If the Government would bring in an Amendment to give 50 per cent, of the trust to Ulster and 50 per cent, to the South, we would at once get on with our work and these cottages would certainly be taken in hand within the next month. I hope the Under-Secretary for the Colonies will meet us in this matter.
So far as this Bill is concerned, I take the same attitude as my leader. I could not possibly vote for this Bill. It does not meet the views of either the Ulster-man or the Southerner. It is a Bill which is, at best, a compromise. We hope it will be a good compromise. The Southern Irishmen wished for a united Ireland outside of the United Kingdom; we Ulstermen wished for a United Ireland inside of the United Kingdom. Neither of us got what we wanted The Southern Irishman says—and I daresay he says with some truth—that he agreed to this under duress. I claim that we also agreed to this under duress. We agreed to this as the sole manner in which we could defend our own people and bring peace into that part of the country for which we stand here as the Members of Parliament.
I believe that all sides of this House will give us this credit, when I speak as a member of the Ulster Governmnt. As one who read, with a certain amount of amusement, the remarks of some of my hon. Friends on the other side of the House, who said there was no tranquillity, I say that, after four or five years in Ireland, I wish we could have tranquillity. That is what we on the other side want. Although we are not going to vote for this Bill, I can say that, speaking on behalf of the Northern Government and its Prime Minister, so far as it is in our power, we will do everything to carry out the idea that is behind the compromise, that is, that there will be safety and peace for every class and every section and every religion in the country which we are trying to govern.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last said, with truth, that all Irishmen like getting money out of the Imperial Exchequer. That is a very human and a very natural instinct, of which we have had many illustrations 437 in the past. I venture to agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) in thinking that the Government of Northern Ireland is being started on rather an extravagant scale. I do not want to say anything which will diminish the status or dignity of that Government, but I should like to know whether the salary of £8,000 for the Governor of Northern Ireland is a matter which is signed, sealed and delivered, or whether it is still open to the consideration of this House. I think it was suggested by interjections that because Northern Ireland was contributing a large sum towards the Imperial expenses, it did not matter very much what we contributed to the Governor's salary. That seems to me a bad argument. I think this Governor is being paid too much. It is certainly much higher than the ordinary scale of a Governor. I do not know with what you ought to compare him. The Governor of Northern Ireland is certainly not more important than the Governor of New South Wales, who gets £5,000, whereas this man gets £8,000, to which we contribute £6,000. You can get a Governor to go to a tropical country like Kenya for £4,000, with, I think, an attendant allowance. It seems to me that the person with whom he should really be compared is the head of a provincial government in Canada or South Africa. They get about £2,500.
You appear to be trying to set up in Northern Ireland a kind of diminished section of the Viceregal Court, and although I agree that out of his £8,000 the Governor has to find his personal staff, whatever that may be, are you going to set him up with a kind of general staff of a Governor-General? The personal staff of other provincial authorities is perhaps a private secretary or possibly an aide-de-camp. I think this is just the sort of extravagance of which the late Government were guilty. The last Parliament was, we all know, perfectly reckless of the way in which the money leaked out at all points. Mr. Gladstone used to say that no Chancellor of the Exchequer was worth his salt that did not look after the cheeseparings and the candle ends. You may-say that this is a candle end, if you like, or a cheeseparing; but it seems to me 438 that we ought really to make our stand for economy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to realise that whenever anything conies before the House of Commons that primâ facie is redundant that it should be dealt with, and it ought to be challenged at once by the House of Commons. I hope with all my heart that the House of Commons is going to take that stand in all these cases where we can save something.
§ Lieut-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I wish to ask that we may have some assurance in the case of the Irish ex-civil servants, who are not included in this Bill, and who have been repeatedly promised by the late Government that their pensions would be secured, and that the British Government would be the ultimate guarantor of these pensions. I ask the Under-Secretary to say that these ex-civil servants will not be in a worse position than they would have been in had the British Government continued to govern Ireland. There is the possibility of a great depreciation of the Irish currency, as there may be a very large circulation of Irish notes, and if these pensions were paid in that currency their incomes would be very greatly depreciated, and these ex-civil servants would be placed in a very anomalous position. There is also another danger from their point of view, and that is that they may be required to live in Ireland to draw their pensions. Many of these men could not possibly live there. They would be murdered if they went there at the present time, and for some years to come. It is most unfair that if they do not go back to Ireland and run the risk of being assassinated that they should lose their pensions. I know one case of a man who has been warned that if he goes back, if he ever dares to put his foot in Ireland, he will be assassinated. These men made a contract with the British Government; but because we have chosen to alter our system of Government there it is most unfair that these men should suffer, for we have a moral responsibility for these one-time servants of the British Crown.
They ask, first, that the payments of the pensions should be guaranteed by the British Government; and, secondly, that they they shall not in any respect be in a less favourable position as regards terms and conditions than those they would have had if the British Govern- 439 ment had continued. It may be argued that these things are actually laid down in the Irish Free State Constitution Bill, of which we have passed the Second Reading. That is true. But it is a curious thing that in this Bill judges and commissioners are to be on an entirely different basis to the other public servants. These other humble servants of the Crown were included in the promises of the late Government. We have only got a short time to consider this Bill, and really it is absolutely necessary that the Government should give some guarantee that these men will not be placed in a worse position—
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
They are ex-civil servants of His Majesty's Government in Ireland—I am not talking about Black-and-Tans—who carried out their duties there as honourably as hon. Members of this House are doing at the present time. The Government of this country has repeatedly pledged itself to see that they do not suffer by the change of Government. Therefore, I say it is up to the present Government, as we are honourably carrying out the Treaty in every other respect, to carry out the promises given by the Government which went out of office the other day. I ask for some assurance that those promises will be carried out and that something will be put into this Bill which will guarantee Irish ex-civil servants their proper pensions.
§ Mr. MOLES
I associate myself with the speech which has been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill cannot but be aware of the desperate circumstances in which some of thy ex-civil servants are placed. I rise to clear away some misapprehension which appears to exist on the Front Opposition Bench. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. C. Roberts) thinks that this Government is starting the Government of Northern Ireland on a career of prodigality. If he knew the circumstances, he would see that no charge could be less true. He has asked us to believe that because the Governor of New South Wales is paid a certain sum of money the Governor of Northern Ireland should be 440 paid a less sum than that which is set down in this Bill. He refrained from calling attention to the case of the Governor of Gibraltar, which is a very much smaller place, and who, for a long period of years while the hon. and gallant Gentleman was a Member of this House, was paid the sum of £8,000 a year, and yet not one word of remonstrance ever came from the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). The same hon. and gallant Member also made the accusation that the salary of the Governor of Northern Ireland was to be paid entirely out of Imperial funds, but he found himself wrong and he amended his hand. May I give him a little more detail? There is no analogy between the case of Canada or New South Wales because they do not make a shilling of Imperial contribution and they stand on a wholly different plane to Northern Ireland.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The balance of accounts between England and Ireland was made before deciding upon the appointment of this expensive Governor. That balance was apparently fair when it was struck, and if so, now that there is to be a Governor, he should be paid out of Irish and not British funds.
§ Mr. MOLES
I will reply to what is germane in the interruption of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and there is very little. We make a contribution, and when Northern Ireland has discharged that, either by the transfer of funds from the Imperial Exchequer or by such taxation as it raises itself directly, when all that has been done there remains a balance of £7,750,000 to be paid into the Imperial Exchequer to be put to your purposes and not to ours. If the hon. Member would only talk to someone who has knowledge of these things that would be better, as it is a wise thing to read a Bill and get to know its provisions before indulging in general criticisms which have no foundation in fact. He told the House that when the residue of the land problem came to be dealt with there would be a tremendous inflation in the price of land. He based that prophecy on something which had occurred in the past. Again he is mistaken. When land purchase comes to be dealt with it will be on the basis of existing Acts. The Courts fixed fair rents and 441 the purchase price is a given number of years of that fair rent. That is the settled procedure and the principle was worked out in the Wyndham Land Act. There was a very important Report presented to this House in 1918 as part of the proceedings of the Irish Convention. The whole of this problem of Land Purchase was outlined in the scheme. The presumption is that when we come to deal with this problem we shall deal with it on the lines laid down there. The whole of the fears of the hon. Gentleman, therefore, are entirely groundless. I do not propose to travel over the points raised by my two hon. Members, as these will he dealt with more fully in Committee to-morrow. I thought it desirable, however, to clear away two of the grossest misconceptions that have ever been launched in this House.
§ Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY
I understand the hon. Gentleman holds high office in the Northern Parliament and is very much occupied, and I will therefore address my question to the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. I want to know, as to the Imperial Contribution, who is to be responsible to the extent of three-fourths of the salary of the Governor-General. Is the Imperial contribution of Northern Ireland—which I understand will be in the region of £8,000,000–pro rata to the population of the six counties? Are the people of these counties paying the same share as the inhabitants of Great Britain?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
When the original Bill went through, I joined in supporting the proposal for having no Imperial contribution.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Moles) was a Member 442 of the last Parliament, I believe, and he would do well to set an example by not interrupting.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think the Under-Secretary might inform us briefly whether the inhabitants of Northern Ireland are paying their share pro rata for their population, as we are, or whether it has been scaled down, or whether they are being overtaxed, which would be a great injustice. With regard to ex-soldiers' cottages and plots of land, proposals have been made by the Ulster Members that, because there may be some delay in the Free State Government appointing their representative on the Committee to administer this £1,500,000, therefore the Trust, as it is called, should be divided into two, and part of the money handed over to the Northern Government to get on with the work. If that be the case, who is going to administer that? I do not think it is an unfair question to ask what guarantees are we going to have that the first cottages and plots do not go exclusively to supporters of the Orange movement and the Northern Government? There were, as has been mentioned, 73,000 soldiers from Northern Ireland, but they were, not, all Orangemen. A great many of them were Catholics.
It is not a Committee to administer the fund. The Trust that is to be set up will only be set up when an agreement is arrived at. It has nothing to do with the administration of the funds, either in Northern or in Southern Ireland. Therefore, the charge is quite untrue that in the case of ex-soldiers any discrimination will be made as to their religion, as the hon. and gallant Member would have found had he looked into the matter. In any case we have complete control of the monies for Northern Ireland.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am making no charges, but I am trying to make sure that all classes and creeds in Northern Ireland will be fairly treated in this matter, and if half of this £1,500,000 is handed over to the Northern Government and distributed as they like, 443 I submit that we in this House would be doing less than our duty if we did not insist on strict guarantees that the money was paid out fairly. Hon. Gentlemen must not be, if I may say so, quite so sensitive on this question. If their consciences are clear they will be the first to agree with me.
With regard to the salary of the Governor, this has been, as I think, rightly, assailed, and it is quite out of the question to cite the case of the Governor of Gibraltar. The Governor of Gibraltar is always a distinguished soldier, usually an artillery or engineer officer, who performs the double function of Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the garrison; and to say that, because he has £8,000 a year, therefore the Governor of Northern Ireland should also have £8,000, is beside the point. I think this £8,000 a year is too much, but that is not my principal objection to this new departure of appointing a Governor or Lieutenant-Governor of Northern Ireland. I object to it because it is still further stereotyping partition. You will set up this petty viceregal court, a vested interest will grow up around it, and you will have, I am afraid, a certain amount of flunkeyism and snobbery, social influence, and so on, which will act as a bar to that union in Ireland which must come in the long run. That is why, when the next Resolution is taken, I propose to divide the House against such a proposal, which I consider to be dangerous, useless, and not in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies has dealt with two points of great importance to Southern Ireland, namely, compensation and land purchase, but I cannot help thinking that with regard to compensation he is making a mistake. He gave us to understand that the matter of compensation was being taken up with the Free State, and that it was their intention to proceed at once with the necessary legislation. He must surely mean those cases of compensation which occurred after 11th July. As long ago as last May the Shaw Commission was set up and has been at work intermittently more or less and a solemn agreement was arrived at with the Provisional Government that all cases of damage done by our troops should be 444 paid for by our Government and damage done by their troops should be paid for by their Government. Surely it cannot be meant to disturb that. He must, I think, mean the great number of cases of compensation for damage which has occurred since 11th July, 1921.
As far as Land Purchase goes, we had a pledge in the 1911 Home Rule Act, and our pledge in the Home Rule Bill of 1920 that in each case the. completion of land purchase shall be proceeded with pari passu with the Bill itself. We have come now to setting up a Free State with the South of Ireland, and yet we have not got land purchase, it has not been even introduced, and it has got to be introduced long after the Free State Government is actually functioning. The Government has rightly taken the advice of the Technical Advisory Committee which they had set up to advise them. The two leading members of the Committee are very well known gentlemen. Sir John Anderson, who I think was permanent Under-Secretary in Ireland, a distinguished civil servant, and Mr. Lionel Curtis, a very well-known author, and a very able man, who has been connected with Irish affairs for some time past. Land purchase is to be completed, but, as I understand, the Government are simply going to guarantee the necessary money, in other words, to lend money to Ireland. There is nothing in the way of a bonus to be given. It is to cost this country nothing. What cost money to the British taxpayer under the Wyndham Act in the past was a bonus to the Irish landlord. That bonus was a free gift. As I understand, there is to be no bonus in the forthcoming Bill to complete land purchase. The Under-Secretary said the Government of the Free State were going to proceed at once with the necessary legislation, which really means that they had to borrow the money. They cannot go on compensating a number of claims if they have not the money. They have been fighting a costly civil war and it is computed by a distinguished member of the Provisional Government that war at present is costing that country something like £1,000,000 a day. It is obvious that they have no money to pay compensation to anyone or to pay for land purchase or anything else, and the first thing they have to do is to borrow from this country, or the joint guarantee, I sup- 445 pose, of Ireland and this country, £40,000,000 and with that compensation is to be paid. I hope the Under-Secretary for the Colonies will see that a certain amount of this money is earmarked for paying the claims for compensation by Southern Irish Loyalists, and that it is not all eaten up by paying the cost of the present Southern Irish army. With regard to the pre-truce cases, I understand a new arrangement has been come to, and that the British Government are to bear half and the Irish Government half. The previous arrangement was that each side paid for its own damages, but it has been discovered that the damage done by the Irish side was a great deal more than the damage done by the English side. The Irish burned down big houses, and the English side burned down creameries and so on, and the costs against the Irish Government were greater than the costs against the British Government. Now, the British Government are very generously paying half the damage.
The Shaw Commission is now more or less hung up; Lord Shaw has resigned, and the remaining Commissioners, Mr. Dowdall and Mr. Harold Thomas, are carrying on as best they can. Two reports were issued by the Commission, a Minority Report by Lord Shaw and a Majority Report by the other Commissioners. Lord Shaw reported that it was impossible for the Commission to deal with the great number of cases, about 30,000, within a reasonable space of time, and he recommended that the Commission should be closed down and the cases referred back to the Irish County Courts. The other Commissioners, Mr. Dowdall and Mr. Thomas, said they thought they could carry on very nicely if they were allowed. In the result Lord Shaw has resigned, and the other gentlemen are trying to carry on. It is obvious that they cannot deal with 30,000, 20,000 or 10,000 cases at the present rate, and they are going to be assisted by assessors. Are we going to have two assessors going to each of the 26 counties, 52 assessors in all and are they going to sit as a Court in each County? Shall I come before this Court in my County, or will the assessors come down and advise me quietly what I had better take if I want to get my money quickly? The only way to get this thing through would be to appoint a number 446 of Special Commissioners to go through Ireland, men who are qualified to value the damage done to Loyalists and others by the troops on either side.
This afternoon I asked the Under-Secretary for the Colonieswhether he is aware that the Malicious Injury (Ireland) Act, 1920, has been repealed by the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State; whether such repeal received the Royal Assent; and whether pre-truce awards for compensation can only be brought before the Shaw Commission on the application of either the British or Irish Governments.He replied:The reply to the first part of the Question is in the negative, and the Second part does not therefore arise.I have here columns of Erse—which I cannot read, but translated, is to the following effect:Decree Number 10, 1922.—A Decree to restrict application of certain powers under the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Act, 1920.A list is given of the various things that are repealed, practically the whole Act, and at the end of the Decree says:This Decree may be cited for all purposes as the Provisional Government Criminal Injuries Decree, 1922.I do no think the hon. Member can have been well informed when he gave me that answer. I do appeal to the Government to give these Southern Unionists the best compensation they can and as swiftly as they can. If they knew of the cases of real want and misery, of houses burned, stock taken and land seized they would do all in their power to give these men the greatest possible assistance. I have great pleasure in supporting this Bill.
§ Mr. LYNN
I am afraid that, with reference to the question of soldiers and sailors, some hon. Members think that we want to score a political point. Nothing of the sort. We want to get on with building these houses. In the South of Ireland, as the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) pointed out, they are engaged in burning houses, while we want to build houses, and not to be held up while this burning, shooting and murdering, which we all wish to see brought to an end, continue. We want to build houses for those who served in the War irrespective of whether they are Protestants, Catholics, Orange or Green. Another question which has been raised is land 447 purchase. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) seems to be under the impression that this is going to throw a heavy burden on the British taxpayer. Land purchase has been one of the greatest social services ever rendered to Ireland or any other country, but it has not cost the British taxpayer a farthing outside the £12,000,000 bonus, and that £12,000,000 was saved in other ways. Therefore the only thing which we in the North of Ireland ask is for the credit of this country to finish the work which has been already started and was very nearly completed. Pledge after pledge has been given in this House that land purchase would be completed, and I do press on my hon. Friend, whom I join in congratulating, that this work should be carried out. There are things apart from party politics. We do not want to hinder the building of a solitary cottage in the south, or to say that the Government are not to give money for settling this question in the south. All we ask is that, with this turmoil and murder going on in the south, we shall not be held up.
§ Mr. LYNN
No, they are not. I have been in this House for years, and I am quite accustomed to the rudeness of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones). I would urge the House to grant these two requests, which are not unreasonable. I have never found the House unreasonable when a reasonable request was made to it.
§ Sir GODFREY COLLINS
One or two hon. Members have reminded the House that Northern Ireland is to pay the British Exchequer about £7,750,000 a year. I would add that the Bill also contains the wordsor such less sum as the Joint Exchequer Board may determine.In other words the £7,750,000 is a maximum figure which the Northern Parliament may pay. It may be very considerably less. Without offence, may I say that, after the demands by the Northern Parliament on the British Exchequer during the last year or two, I should be very much astonished if any such sum as £7,750,000 is paid into the British Exchequer. I have risen to ask the Under-Secretary for the Colonies to give to the 448 House the total liability which will fall on the shoulders of the British taxpayer when these two Bills become law.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Silvertown had better leave the House, if he is unable to listen to other people.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
There are one or two main items of liability to which I wish to refer. There are £1,500,000 to provide cottages, and the sum due to pay the pensions of the Royal Irish Constabulary. What is the capitalised figure? It may be £5,000,000. Then there are the claims which are being examined by Lord Shaw's Commission. The late Chief Secretary for Ireland informed the House on 17th May last that the claims against the British Exchequer at that time amounted to £11,000,000. No doubt since that date many further claims have been lodged before the Commission. Can the House be informed of the total sum due on that point? Then there is land purchase. What is the liability on the British Exchequer for that purpose? When the Estimates were discussed in this House earlier in the year, there were certain liabilities which were to be paid in future years, especially the sum of £750,000 to be paid to the Northern Parliament, and, in addition to that, in the present Estimates there is a sum of £2,000,000 to be paid to Crown supporters for personal injuries in the last year or two. Then there is a grant of £1,500,000 to the Northern Parliament as a Grant-in-Aid for certain purposes. I have mentioned a few of the main items of the very heavy expenditure which the British taxpayer must shoulder automatically when these Bills become law. I therefore ask the Under-Secretary for the Colonies whether he can state the total liability, £10,000,000, £20,000,000, or £30,000,000, or whatever the sum may be. Every new Bill brought forward on the subject of Ireland lands the British taxpayer in fresh liability. The introduction of the present Bill foreshadows a liability of £1,500,000 for providing cottages for the Irish people. I do not take exception to that amount, but it is due to the House at a time of grave distress, when unemployment is so great, and taxes are so high, 449 that the total liability which must automatically fall on the British taxpayer should be stated.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
It is quite impossible to give the assurance for which the hon. Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins) has asked. I would point out that the only liability in these two Bills consists of three matters, which may be bracketed together, namely, a share in the payment to the new Governor of Northern Ireland; a recoverable amount for the compensation of judges, and the £1,500,000 for the completion of the scheme for land and cottages for ex-service men. The question of compensation and the land question, as expressly stated, were not included in these Bills, and we must, before we give any guarantees, collateral or otherwise, of any payment, await schemes initiated by the Irish Free State. We can give no undertaking and no estimate of any kind of what the liabilities, contingent or otherwise, will be until such schemes have been produced by the Irish Free State. From 6th December these matters will be beyond the control of this House, and it will be up to the responsible Government of Ireland to produce schemes on these two big questions. Until we have seen them we cannot possibly give any estimate or undertaking whatever.
I must clear up one point which seems to have given rise to considerable misunderstanding on both sides of the House, and that is with regard to those cottages for the ex-service men. Under the Irish Land (Provision for Soldiers and Sailors) Act, 1919, the Local Government Board of Ireland was empowered to obtain land to build these cottages. They built and finished 300, and 1,600 are in course of construction. There remain to be provided under the Act somewhere about 3,000. I think the figure is 3,672. The proposal in the Bill is that, as there is no appropriate department in the Irish Free State, and as it is not proposed by the Government to set up two trusts, but only one—and we understood that was agreed to by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland—there should be set up a new body consisting of five members, three appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, one by the executive of the Irish Free State and one by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
There is no provision in the Bill for their being paid. If there were, it would have to be definitely stated. One of the members to be appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies is to be a representative of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Association. Whether he will require remuneration to be recoverable out of the total amount available for the administration of this trust remains to be considered. At any rate, that is our idea—a neutral body working both in Northern Ireland and in the Free State to complete this scheme. Let me come to the other financial point raised—the salary of the Governor of Northern Ireland. In arriving at the figure, we have to take into account—comparing this officer with other Colonial Governors—that he will have to pay Income Tax and Super-tax at the full rate and he will have to pay all his staff out of his salary. In these circumstances I do not think the figure of £8,000, of which this House is asked to pay £6,000 and Belfast is asked to pay £2,000, is unreasonable. When you have taken into account the deduction which has to be made for Income Tax and Super-tax, which Colonial Governors have not got to meet, it brings the sum below £5,000. It is not excessive, and as to there being any idea of setting up an elaborate court, or anything of that kind, that, I gather, is not the intention. This was asked for by the Northern Government, was pressed for by Ulster, and I think it was a very reasonable figure to have fixed.
The third point in the Bill is the compensation of the judges. Both as regards the Civil Service and the judges under Article 10 of the Treaty, the Irish Free State Government accepts liability for compensation, and will pay the compensation, but as the Irish judges are, and have always been, on the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, it is necessary to put them in this Bill, because we have a technical, in addition to a moral, liability to see that that compensation is paid. We have absolutely no reason to doubt that, both as regards the judges and as regards the Civil Service, the Irish Government will act up to their Treaty obligations. It would be a breach of Article 10 of the Treaty if they failed to do so, and this money voted in this Bill will really in fact be paid by the Irish Free State and not by the taxpayers of Great Britain.
451 With regard to the territorial waters, I really think, after consulting my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, that there really is nothing substantial in it. If my hon. Friend will look at Subsection (11) of Section 4 of the Act of 1920, he will see the provision as to lighthouses, buoys and so on, which were made reserved subjects, and the point which he put with regard to territorial waters is pretty clearly defined by the inclusion of that provision in the Act. If there is any further point on that which he wishes cleared up, I think the best way would be for him to put a question down co my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, because it is a point of legal interpretation.
§ Captain CRAIG
Am I to understand that the Law Officers have actually considered this question, and that they have given a decision in favour of the theory that the territorial waters go with the counties that were included in the six counties of Northern Ireland?
§ Sir D. HOGG
If I may be permitted to answer that, I may say that I have considered the question, and I have given an opinion that that is so.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
My right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. Hilton Young) raised the extremely important point as to the 105 millions of National Debt registered in the Bank of Ireland. I should like to give him the definite assurance that no action will be taken in this matter without the fullest and most careful further consideration. Every representation that he makes, or that others concerned may make, will be taken into consideration before action is taken, both in Dublin and by the Treasury here.
I turn to the Registry of Deeds and Titles. I have here a statement by Mr. Kennedy, the Law Officer of the Free State, on that point. He says that, as regards the Registry of Deeds, he can now give an assurance on behalf of the Free State Government thatThere will be no differentiation between searches asked for by Northern solicitors and by solicitors of the Free State. As regards registry of title, the necessary division of papers will be made, subject to reciprocal undertakings on the part of the Imperial Government and the Free State Government with regard to the return of documents relating to land affected by the 452 boundary alterations, and subject to such other undertakings with reference to apportionment and scheming of staffs and other matters consequential on division as may properly arise.I will give the document to my hon. and gallant Friend later, and I think it will prove satisfactory from the point of view he has taken up during this Debate.
I want to make it clear that I only alluded in my opening speech to an Indemnity Bill, compensation, and land purchase because I understood that hon. Members wanted to know why they were not included in this Bill. They cannot be dealt with now, because the initiative must be in Dublin. It must come from the Irish Free State. We have had definite undertakings from the Free State that on these three important points such initiative on their part will be forthcoming. As to what will be done later, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will explain. It is impossible for him to give any figure or definite undertaking until he has seen the scheme put up. It would be improper to promise guarantees or anything of that sort until we have seen the scheme. No guarantee has been asked for, and no guarantee has yet been promised; we must see the scheme put up first.
With regard to the Shaw Commission and the assessors, I shall be glad if the hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Colonel Newman) will put down a further question as to the assessors for Thursday. I will give him my undertaking, as representing the Colonial Office, to do all I can to expedite the work of the Commission. I think now that I have dealt with all the points I can cover on the Second Reading. If I have not dealt with them sufficiently to-night, they can be raised on another occasion.
§ Sir W. ALLEN
What has struck me particularly in the speeches of hon. Members opposite during the course of this Debate is their newly-found zeal for financing all this. It looks to me like putting the cart before the horse. We have an old saying in Ireland—I suppose you have it here too—"Who pays the piper calls the tune." In this instance I think it is a case of the Members of this House calling the tune, and we Irish people are going to insist on their paying the piper. A question has been asked as 453 to what it is all going to cost. If they get off in England with £100,000,000, they should be very satisfied, and I think they thrust it so eagerly on Ireland that they are well entitled to pay the money and, I have no doubt, willing and able. The Under-Secretary has made some excellent and lucid speeches to-night, and I congratulate him heartily on them, but I think he has missed two points, with reference to the question of the building of houses and the Trust for ex-soldiers. He did not answer the question of how the apportionment of this money would be made between the six counties area and the 26 counties area. If it were possible to give an instruction to that effect to the Trust, it would be most satisfactory. Then he did not deal with the particular point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Belfast (Captain Dixon), with regard to the delay that was going to take place-almost necessarily so, I believe—in carrying out Sub-section (7) of Clause 3. It will be absolutely necessary, as he pointed out, that there should be action by both the Northern and Southern Parliaments before the Trust can operate. With all the business that the Southern Parliament have before them, has the hon. Gentleman any idea how long it will take them to get an Act like this passed? It might be 12 months, so that I think the appeal made for a division of the Trust is a most reasonable one, so that we in the North can get on with the business, as we are quite willing to do.
The other point that I want to deal with is the subject that I raised in a previous Debate, when it was suggested that I should leave it over to this occasion. It has been very well dealt with, but there is a point that I want to impress on the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. There has been a very serious complaint made by the Irish Distress Committee, which was so ably presided over by the present Air Minister (Sir S. Hoare), who has recently resigned from the Committee, and I think, as an Irishman, I must pay my tribute of thanks to that right hon. Gentleman for the zeal he has shown in trying to help these poor distressed people from Ireland, but his Committee make a very serious complaint. It is to the 454 effect that their duties are very consider ably complicated by the delay in the settlement of claims for damage and malicious injuries. I put a question on that point to-day, to which I have received a long answer, the chief point of which is that originally there were 30,000 cases before the Shaw Commission to deal with. I think I am right in stating that these claims are largely claims that have already been decided by the law courts, and that they are for an immediate distribution of funds, but there are 30,000 claims, of which it is expected that about 20,000 will be found to be within the terms of reference. Of these the Commission has dealt with 1,250 up to the 25th inst., out of 20,000 cases of probably starving, needy people. Everything has been burnt that they possessed in the world, and the Shaw Commission has been sitting for some long time, but only 1,250 cases have been dealt with. The hon. Gentleman has promised to try and speed the thing up. I would, if possible, again impress upon him the necessity of extra speeding up. We know what these cases are over there. We know these people have no money. The Irish Distress Committee have advanced a little money to some of the most needy cases, but this matter is to be dealt with as it ought to be in a generous spirit—and after all it is only giving to the people what belongs to themselves—for these people had nothing to do with committing the malicious injuries, and they have lost everything. I think it is only reasonable to put before the hon. Gentleman these points. I appreciate his intense sympathy with these people. I think he will have the unanimous and cordial approval of the House if he does something to speed up this work to this extent, that within a short period these people will receive some payment for the injuries they have suffered.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow (Tuesday).—[Mr. Ormsby-Gore.]