HC Deb 24 July 1832 vol 14 cc671-7
Mr. Hume

rose, pursuant to notice, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to disqualify the Recorder of Dublin from sitting as a Member in any future Parliament. He considered the Motion of great importance, more from principle than for the sake of disqualifying any particular individual. Last year he moved for returns, in order to ascertain the importance of the office of the Recorder of Dublin; and from those returns it was difficult for him to understand how that officer could do his duty as a Judge and as a Member of Parliament at the same time. He conceived that no Judge ought to have a seat in that House, because he thought it would be most inconvenient that a man should act the part of a political partizan in that House one day, and have to sit perhaps on the following day as a Judge in a Criminal Court. By the 48th of George 3rd the Recorder of Dublin received 923l. 1s. 6d. a year: and by the 5th of George 4th, an additional 533l. 16s. 11d., making an annual income of 1,456l. By a paper which he (Mr. Hume) held in his hand, it appeared that the present Recorder's predecessor sat in Court thirty-nine weeks out of the fifty-two in 1825; forty-two weeks in 1826; and forty-one weeks in 1827. It appeared strange to him to find that the present Recorder sat forty-five weeks in 1829, and forty-six in 1830, He (Mr. Hume) certainly had not missed the Recorder from the House so long as those periods; and, if he were asked, he should say it was impossible that the Recorder could have been there so much. It further appeared, that in 1828, the committals for felony and misdemeanour in that Court, amounted to 1,726; in 1830, to l,816; and in 1831, to 1,929. Looking at the business in that Court, he thought it impossible that its Judge could properly discharge his duties there, and also those of a Member of that House. The hon. Member concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.

Colonel Evans seconded the Motion.

Mr. Wallace

was certain that no man who sat in that House could be more highly satisfied than he was with respect to the character of the hon. Member who at present filled the office of Recorder of Dublin. He esteemed him both as a private individual, and in his public capacity; but when a public officer had important judicial duties to perform in a distant city, it was scarcely to be expected, indeed it was scarcely physically possible, that he should also be able to pay due attention to parliamentary business. He thought that all persons holding judicial situations of a nature similar to that of the Recorder of Dublin, ought to be excluded from seats in that House.

Lord Althorp

begged to remind the House, that the present Motion was only for leave to bring in a Bill, and consequently if the Bill were brought in, there would be other opportunities to discuss its principle, as well as the details. The question, he thought, was one of some difficulty. It involved the great principle, whether Criminal Judges, of a certain class, ought or ought not to be allowed to sit in Parliament. The proposed Bill, however, did not apply to Criminal Judges of all descrip- tions, but only to one Judge, the Recorder of Dublin, and only to one person now holding that office. In his opinion, the question ought to be determined upon public grounds, and it ought to proceed upon the principle, whether persons holding the office of Recorder, or any other judicial office, which required a constant attendance to perform the duties, should be Members of Parliament. From all he had learnt of the case in this particular instance, he should say, that the person holding the office of the Recorder of Dublin, had duties to perform which were incompatible with his attention to the duties of that House. He felt no inclination to object to the Motion, and would allow the Bill to be brought in, leaving it to the consideration of the House whether they ought not to examine if the present office was one to which the principle of exclusion ought to be applied. He was of opinion that the principle had no reference to places which but seldom required the attendance of persons who held them, and that it ought to refer only to those judicial appointments which exacted a constant attendance.

Colonel Perceval

appealed to all who heard him, whether it was not well known that the learned Recorder of Dublin was assiduous in the performance both of his duties as a Judge, and as a Member of Parliament.? If the constituency of Dublin chose to elect the Recorder of that City as their Representative, would it not be to interfere with their privileges to refuse a seat to the person whom they might elect? The principle advocated by the hon. member for Middlesex would equally apply to the officers of the navy and military service.

Mr. Jephson

thought the electors of every place were bound to elect persons who could sit in Parliament without failing in the performance of other duties.

Sir Robert Peel

was of opinion that, if the Recorder of Dublin were to be disqualified from sitting in that House, on account of the duties of his judicial situation, the Bill ought to proceed upon general principles, and apply to all other offices of a similar nature. Let it be supposed that the Parliament were to meet in Dublin, would it be right then to exclude the Recorder of that city, on the ground of his not being able to attend to the two separate functions.? In bringing such a Bill into the House, he thought the hon. member for Middlesex ought to proceed upon broader principles, and upon grounds more constitutional. It would be a reflection and a disgrace upon the House if they proceeded to pass a Bill which would exclude one Recorder from a seat in Parliament, whilst all other Recorders were allowed to be elected and to take their seats. It would be better for Parliament not to interfere with any constituency as to whom they chose to elect upon the grounds of the ability of the person to attend to his parliamentary duties. If the Bill were brought in, it ought at least to be shown why one Recorder was so specially selected from all the rest.

Mr. Sheil

observed, that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had brought in a Bill to exclude the Masters in Chancery from sitting in Parliament, and that Bill had had the assent and approbation of his Majesty's late Ministers. The Master of the Rolls had likewise been excluded upon the ground that he could not possibly attend to his duties in the Rolls' Court in Dublin, and likewise to his duties as a Member of Parliament in London. On the same principle were the Irish Commissioners of Insolvency and the Assistant Barristers excluded from Parliament. The Recorder of Dublin was obliged to perform his duties in person, whereas many other Recorders in Ireland were allowed to appoint deputies.

Sir Robert Peel

observed, across the Table, that the Recorder and Common Sergeant of London were not excluded from scats in that House.

Mr. Lefroy

said, that if the Recorder of Dublin were to be excluded from holding a seat in the House of Commons, he ought at least to be excluded by the same Bill which related to Judges in general, and to the large classes of persons executing judicial functions. If a bill were to be brought in to exclude from Parliament all Recorders and Common Sergeants in Ireland, it ought at least to proceed upon general principles. He had known an instance where a Recorder of Dublin had performed his duty by deputy, but the present Recorder of that city had shown by far more zeal in the execution of his duties. If they were to legislate at all upon the subject, they ought to legislate at once for all Recorders of Ireland, and to include likewise all similar officers in England and in Scotland. He felt convinced that the present Bill aimed less at the office of Recorder of the city of Dublin than at the learned individual who filled the office, with so much honour to himself and so much advantage to the public. The question ought not to have been brought forward at all in the absence of the Recorder of Dublin, who could have satis- fied the House, had he been in his seat, that the duties of the two functions were perfectly compatible.

Mr. Crampton

felt himself bound to say, that the present Recorder of Dublin discharged all his duties in a manner so satisfactory that it was perfectly unnecessary to bring in a Bill to disqualify him to sit in Parliament. No man could discharge his public duties with greater benefit to the public than that hon. and learned Gentleman. Opposed as he was to that hon. and learned Gentleman in political affairs, he was still bound in justice to make this avowal in his favour. The Recorder of Dublin was a gentleman of very uncommon activity and powers of mind, and he was well qualified to do what very few other Gentlemen could perform, and therefore the manner in which he executed his different functions could scarcely be used as a general argument. He thought, however, if the Recorders of Dublin were to be excluded from seats in the legislature, the same principle of exclusion ought to extend to the Recorders of London and other places. For his part he did not see the advantage of having persons connected with the judicial functions excluded from the Legislature, and he should be sorry if there were another Parliament to which the reproach of indoctum should be applied. The proper course for the hon. member for Middlesex to pursue was, to bring in a bill to amend the Act by which the Master of the Rolls and other judicial functionaries of Ireland were excluded from holding seats in Parliament.

Sir Edward Sugden

thought, that the Houses of Parliament stood very much in need of the assistance of persons acquainted with the laws, and with the manner in which they operated in the administration of justice. It often occurred that for want of such aid in the business of that House, the Bills which it passed were afterwards stopped or very essentially modified in another place. Now that the Reform Bill had passed, and it could not be pretended that Members could be forced upon their constituents, the people might surely be allowed to judge for themselves as to the competency of their Representatives to pay attention to their duties in Parliament. He did not wish to see too many judicial persons with seats in the Legislature, but certainly he could not vote for the exclusion of any whom the present laws rendered eligible to such honours.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

would oppose the Motion because it was partial, and was aimed at the Recorder of Dublin, than whom there was not a more estimable Member in that House, or one more diligent in the performance of his parliamentary duties.

Mr. Cresset Pelham

said, this was an important measure, inasmuch as it went to exclude persons holding judicial offices from sitting in that House.

Mr. Warburton

said, that upon these occasions two readings were always given to propositions made to the House. If a motion embraced only a partial measure it was objected to on the score of its being too limited; on the other hand, if it was put into a more comprehensive form, then an objection was taken that the proposition was too sweeping in its nature. Therefore his hon. friend must be content to submit to one or other of these charges. There were, he (Mr. Warburton) thought, two grounds upon which persons holding the high judicial situation of Recorder of Dublin ought to be excluded from a seat in that House. The first ground was, that, from what had appeared before the House, that learned person tried nearly 2,000 criminal causes in a year; and, in the next place, the nature of his situation required his attendance to sit in Dublin every week. It appeared, by returns which had been laid before the House, that the Recorder of Dublin had sat forty-six weeks out of the fifty-two. But it might be said, a Deputy might be employed to get through the business. If so, then why pay a principal a large salary? It was said, too, that if this Bill were introduced they must exclude all Recorders. Perhaps the Recorder of London should be excluded, though his case was widely different from that of the Recorder of Dublin, because the former Judge might be in the House every evening.

Mr. Leader

thought the Motion ought not to be confined to the Recorder of Dublin.

Mr. Hume

, in reply, said, he was surprised at what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, though he had not heard any arguments which he considered sufficiently cogent to remove the objections which he had stated to the Recorder of Dublin having a seat in that House. If, however, the House allowed the Bill to be brought in, he would, at the proper stage of the measure, move an instruction to the Committee to extend its operation to all Recorders, and to meet the wishes of the House generally. He certainly was anxious to have the principle admitted.

Sir Charles Forbes

begged to ask the hon. member for Middlesex, what was to become of the Lord Advocate for Scotland, a high officer, who had powers given him far beyond those of a Judge? Why should not the Lord Advocate be excluded upon the hon. Member's principle? Surely what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander.

The House divided: Ayes 33; Noes 16—Majority 17.

List of the NOES.
Brydges, Sir J. Pelham, C.
Fergusson, Sir R. Ridley, Sir M.
Fergusson, C. Robinson, G. R.
Forbes, Sir C. Ryder, Hon. G. D.
Gordon, J. E. Scott, Sir E. Paired off,
Goulburn, Rt. Hon. H.
Hodgson, J. Perceval Colonel
Jephson, C. D. O. Tellers,
Inglis, Sir R. Lefroy, A.
Kearsley, J. H. Sugden, Sir E.
Peel, Sir R.