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Judicature (Ireland) Bill

Volume 180: debated on Thursday 8 August 1907

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Order for Second Reading read.

asked if he would be in order in moving the adjournment of the debate. They had been there since a quarter to three and he had been serving on a Committee which met at eleven o'clock. It was really hardly fair that they should have contentious matter brought forward at such an hour. His friends and he would discuss it fairly if the Patronage Secretary would give them time to do it on a proper occasion. He put it to him that they had not been unreasonable about it, and that the House should not at two o'clock in the morning begin to debate the matter.


This discussion is not in order. There is no Question before the House.

MR. BIRRELL said that this was a Bill the second reading of which, he thought, there would be no difficulty in getting at any hour of the day or night. Its object was to abolish two Irish Judges and to reduce the salary of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland by £2,000 a year. Anyone who was at all interested in economies would feel it was an admirable measure, and he was sure that the fact that the hon. Gentleman opposite belonged to the same profession as himself, would not in any way interfere with the desire to carry out an undertaking which had been before Parliament for years. The Bill was no more than the re-introduction of a measure introduced by the late Conservative Government. The fact was that the House by its own Labourers Bill of last session bound itself to provide funds for that Bill. Those funds were to come from specified sources. Anybody who referred to the thirteenth section of that Act would see that the funds which were to provide that measure with the necessary money were those which would be liberated and set free by this Bill. It really was not open consequently to hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite to discuss the measure unless they were prepared to go back on the policy of their predecessors and also on the pledges practically given when the Labourers Act was passed. The measure was confined to that object. The first section provided that the two vacancies occurring next after the 1st March, 1907, in the office of Judge of the King's Bench Division, other than Lord Chief Justice in Ireland, should not be filled, and the House would observe the date. He put in the date to tie his own hand. Gentlemen opposite were always accusing him of yielding to temptation. The long vacation was now upon them. Judges were scattered all over the land. Some were fishing, others would soon be shooting. They were exposing themselves to all kinds of dangers and perils. Heaven knew what would happen to him if any of them perished without that Bill. Pressure would be put on him to fill their places. He hoped by the date he would not be subjected to that pressure if any lamentable accident were to supervene. He was happy to say the Lord Chancellor had agreed to the reduction of his salary. The House should avail itself of the opportunity of an accommodating Lord Chancellor rather than delay the matter until a time when possibly the occupant of the Woolsack in Ireland might take another view of his public duty. Seriously he put it that the House was pledged, and he would be much surprised if any of the hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite could in any way get out of the fact, that ever since 1885 measures had been introduced with that purpose in view, and as he said they had pledged themselves in regard to the Labourers Bill. It was introduced last session at the same time as the Labourers Bill, and really they would be neglecting their duty and not fulfilling their obligations towards the labourers whose cottages were being erected if they delayed one moment in supplying the necessary funds.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. MOORE said he had listened with some interest to the customary jeers which any individual who happened to be a barrister received from hon. Gentlemen below the gangway if he ventured to speak on matters connected with legal preferment in Ireland. He had really thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman, who was himself a member of the legal profession, would have risen above such petty consideration.

said he had said that he was sure the hon. Member had no such personal interest.

said he withdrew at once what he had said about the right hon. Gentleman. He hoped that in future there would be no occasion which would give rise to a similar misconception on his part. Personally, he had always opposed a reduction in the number of Judges in Ireland. He had been consistent throughout, and his opposition had been prompted by no personal interest, but by the fact that he was a member of the Bar who took a keen interest in the work of the Bar. The Bar with which he was associated, and with which the Attorney-General for Ireland was associated, took the stand that the reductions were unnecessary. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had referred to the fact that since 1885 Parliament had pledged itself to make reductions in the Irish judicature. But Parliament had carried out that pledge in 1887 when there was an amalgamation of the Judgeships in the High Court and several Judges were abolished. He thought he was right in saying that since; 1885 five Judgeships had been abolished. The more Judgeships that were abolished the more reason there was for the House to consider before abolishing any more. The last Judicature Act was passed in 1897 and since then there had been a continuous reduction in the number of Judgeships. If that were true it was not right for the right hon. Gentleman to base his present action on the fact that pledges were given in 1885, and to suggest that those pledges had not been kept till that Bill was brought in. The public was not in favour of the Bill. He would tell the House why. They had five circuits in Ireland and there had been no proposition to abolish the circuit system. They had two Judges to each circuit. The circuits were not for the convenience of the Judges but for the convenience of the public. The assize court was practically the only court for an Irish litigant to have his case tried in. The subject of county court litigation was not to be judged by the British standard. The limit was £500, and the only chance the people of Ireland had to have their cases tried by a Judge was to appeal to the Assizes. The procedure then was that witnesses attended again and the whole case was reheard. While they had the circuit system consisting of five circuits in Ireland they must from some quarter or other have ten Judges in order that the poor man might have his poor man's court in his own county town. There was great doubt as to whether the reduction would alter the circuit system. The position now was that they required in the public interest that there should be ten Judges. There was a vacancy in the King's Bench division which was created early in 1903 by a King's Bench Judge volunteering to take the place of a Judge in the Chancery division. That place was not filled, and it became necessary to send members of the Court of Appeal through the country on circuit. While they were out on circuit there was the greatest difficulty in getting a Court of Appeal to sit, because of the absence of those particular Judges. In consequence the work of the Court of Appeal in Ireland was paralysed. That was not a satisfactory state of things. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of pledges given by successive Governments that when a vacancy occurred they would not fill it. Certainly the Minister in charge of the Bill of 1903 gave a pledge, and the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in that House gave a pledge, that one vacancy would not be filled. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor brought in a Bill last year which was dropped, but which provided that that Judgeship should not be filled up. But what did the right hon. Gentleman do? Within six weeks of taking office he at once proceeded to fill up the Judgeship which his own Party was pledged to abolish, and which the right hon. Gentleman's precedessor had declared to be extinct. The appointment of Mr. Justice Dodd was made at the end of February when the pledge had been in existence three years. Mr. Justice Dodd was appointed, and then the right hon. Gentleman brought in a Bill providing that no vacancy after 1st of March, should be filled. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity, but not on his candour. Whether or not it might be argued on the part of the Government that it was unnecessary to fill up the vacancies, they could not say that in February last, when they appointed Mr. Justice Dodd, it was unnecessary to fill the vacancy. If it was unnecessary to fill the vacancies it must be because of something which had happened since Mr. Justice Dodd's apointment. They were told that Mr. Justice Dodd was appointed to dispose of the large accumulation of arrears of Land Commission appeals. Last year there were 11,000 appeals to be disposed of, and in the course of one year the 11,000 was reduced to 7,000. Then Mr. Justice Dodd was appointed. They were told in that House that day that Mr. Justice Dodd had disposed of 350 appeals, about a fortnight's, or at a generous estimate, three weeks work. Though the Government had filled up that judgeship in defiance of the pledges that had been given, the only reason for that appointment was said to be that all those appeals had to be dealt with, yet Mr. Justice Dodd had only done about three weeks' work. Mr. Justice Dodd had been employed in the King's Bench Division, it had been necessary that he should be, and he had done good work there. That was why Mr. Justice Dodd was appointed. In his opinion, Mr. Justice Dodd was appointed for the common law work which he had done ever since. The common law which he had done was ten times as large as the work he had done on the appeals to deal with which he was appointed. It had been necessary to apoint Mr. Justice Dodd, and the amount of work he had done was a thorough justification of the action of the Government in filling up the vacancy. What he complained of was that Mr. Justice Dodd was appointed in breach of a particular pledge which had been given. He had been told it was necessary to break that pledge in order to get rid of Land Commission appeals, but they now found that Mr. Justice Dodd had not been getting rid of Land Commission appeals, but had been doing common law work. That showed that there was every justification for appointing Mr. Justice Dodd to the King's Bench Division. It showed that the work was there and people knew that the work was there. When the Bar Council passed a Resolution on the subject he thought it ought to be considered. He thought, however, that it was no use complaining at that late hour. He did not know whether the Bill would be considered in a Committee of the Whole House.

MR. BIRRELL said they kept everything in that House.

thought it was really not so jocular a matter as the Chief Secretary thought when he moved his Motion. He wanted to allude to one more point. It was perfectly true that the generosity of the Government towards the labourers of Ireland, and the generous financial provision made for them under the Act, which they took so much credit for last year, was the reason for the abolition of the two Irish judgeships. The Irish Judges were to be abolished to provide funds for the carrying out of the Irish Labourers Act. As a matter of fact the working of the provisions of the Irish Labourers Act had created a great deal of soreness, and in spite of what


Ainsworth, John StirlingFerens, T. R.Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)Fiennes, Hon. EustaceRadford, G. H.
Balfour, Robert (Lanark)Fuller, John Michael F.Rainy, A. Rolland
Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert JohnRoberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Beauchamp, E.Grant, CorrieRobinson, S.
Beck, A. CecilHaslam, Lewis (Monmouth)Russell, T. W.
Birrell, Rt. Hon. AugustineHaworth, Arthur A.Silcock, Thomas Ball
Bowerman, C. W.Helme, Norval WatsonSimon, John Allsebrook
Branch, JamesHigham, John SharpStrachey, Sir Edward
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)Illingworth, Percy H.Straus, B. S. (Mile End)
Byles, William PollardJones, Leif (Appleby)Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E
Carr-Gomm, H. W.Lamont, NormanWaring, Walter
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.Lardner, James Carrige RusheWhite, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)
Clough, WilliamLevy, Sir MauriceWhite, Luke (York, E. R.)
Cooper, G. J.Lewis, John HerbertWhitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Corbett, CH (Sussex, E. Grinst'd)MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarth'n
Cory, Clifford JohnMaddison, FrederickWilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)Mallet, Charles E.
Crosfield, A. H.Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'rTELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.
Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)Nolan, Joseph
Elibank, Master ofO'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Fenwick, CharlesPaulton, James Mellor


Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh HicksHills, J. W.Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Castlereagh, ViscountPease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Cave, GeorgeRawlinson, John Frederick PeelTELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Moore and Mr. Fetherston- haugh.
Gordon, J.Salter, Arthur Clavell
Helmsley, ViscountStaveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.

Bill read a second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow (Friday).

they were told as to its being a legal distribution of money he had no hesitation in affirming that the method pursued had in a large measure deprived the counties in the North of Ireland of the Exchequer grant which they were getting under the previous Labourers Act. It was the labourers who suffered by this because the rural councils would not build cottages when the whole feeling of the ratepayers was against it. He wished to ask the Attorney-General would he consider, if this Bill became law, some method of re-alloting the moneys which would be saved by the Act with a view to removing the injustice which under last year's Bill had been caused to the local authorities in the North of Ireland in their efforts to build labourers cottages. He did not think that was unreasonable, and if his request could be granted it would alter to a great extent in one aspect his opposition to the Bill.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 61; Noes, 11. (Division List No. 396.)

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 26th day of July last, adjourned the House without Question put.

Adjourned at twenty-five minutes after Two o'clock.