HC Deb 18 March 1847 vol 91 cc188-92

then rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the petition of Mr. Richard Weston Mara, barrister, Dublin, which was printed with the Votes on the 9th ult. The noble Lord reminded the House, that early last Session the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) moved for leave to bring in a Bill respecting friendly societies in the three kingdoms—the object being to rectify certain inconveniences which had arisen to those societies from a decision by Mr. Justice Wightman. With some amendments the Bill passed the House of Commons. It was then sent to the House of Lords, without any clause affecting the appointments of registrars of friendly societies, which, as respected England, was in the gift of the Commissioners for the National Debt; as respected Ireland, in the gift of the Attorney General; and as respected Scotland, in the gift of the Lord Advocate. But before the Bill was read a third time in the House of Lords, it was deemed advisable to refer it to a Select Committee, with a view to more mature consideration. In this Committee it was proposed, and eventually agreed to, that the mode of appointment in future should be altered; that the appointment should in all cases be in the gift of the Commissioners for the National Debt; and that the holders of these appointments should not vacate them with change of Government, as had been the practice heretofore. In conformity with this recommendation, a clause was drawn up with a view of carrying this resolution into effect, and in this shape the Bill passed. It was understood that the holders of the offices at the time the Act passed, should be allowed to continue in them; and Mr. Mara, who was the barrister appointed to certify to rules of friendly societies in Ireland, upon this understanding, took an office at 50l. a year, and engaged a clerk, with a view to the performance of the new duties. In the meantime, however, a change of Government took place; and two months after the Act passed, the present Ministers of the Crown removed the petitioner on the ground that he had not been reappointed by the preceding Government after the passing of the Act, as was required; and appointed another person (Mr. Connor), a private friend of the Attorney General for Ireland. Now, he maintained that not only did the late Government entertain no idea that the appointment of Mr. Mara would lapse; but that the present Government, for two months after they came into office, entertained precisely the same opinion as their predecessors. To prove this, he read extracts from certain letters from the Home Office, recognising Mr. Mara as the registrar for Ireland. He contended, further (and quoted the Act of Parliament to show), that the removal of Mr. Mara and the appointment of Mr. Connor was illegal; and that, if legal, it was in direct contravention of the intention of the Legislature. The arguments he had used were not mere assertions; he had corroborated his own construction of the wording of the Act by the opinions of high legal authorities; and he thought he had shown very plainly that the course pursued in this instance was one impolitic as regarded the public, and unjust in the extreme as regarded the individual. He thought that this case indicated something like a wish on the part of Government to grasp after small hits of patronage. The noble Lord concluded by moving for a copy of the correspondence which had taken place between the Commissioners and Mr. Mara on the subject.


said, the noble Lord was wrong in asserting that Mr. Mara was a man experienced in the duties of the office, for he had not discharged the duties for six months when the change of Ministry occurred, which led to a fresh apppointment. Previous to the passing of the Act to which the noble Lord had referred, as making out his case in favour of the continuance of Mr. Mara, the invariable practice was for the Attorney General for Ireland for the time being to appoint an officer to certify the rules of friendly societies in that country. The Lord Advocate made the same appointment as regarded Scotland; and as to England, Mr. Tidd Pratt had discharged the duties for many years. Supposing, therefore, that the now Act had not passed, Mr. Mara must have experienced the same fate as his predecessors, and retired from office with the Attorney General who had appointed him. When he came into office, he was not aware that any Act regulating the appointment had passed; but, on his attention being directed to the fact, he went over the Act, and found that it was imperative on him to make a new appointment. It was required that, after the passing of the Act, the title of the office should be changed, and, also, that the appointment of the officer should rest with the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt. He could not see how any person who had been appointed by the previous Attorney General could be regarded as an officer who had been appointed by the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt; and although Mr. Mara had been continued, it would have been necessary that he should have received an appointment in accordance with the Act. It was unfortunate for that gentleman that the change of Government did take place; because he believed that had the late Government remained in office he would have received the appointment. The question which he had to decide, on becoming acquainted with the provisions of the Act of Parliament, was, who should be appointed; one who had been recommended by the late Attorney General, or the one recommended by the present Attorney General. In the first case the individual had not held office for six months: he had therefore no vested right in the appointment, nor any claim from experience, and altogether he thought there was nothing in his case which called upon him to depart from the usual practice. There was nothing in the Act to show that the person who hold the office when the Act passed, was to receive the appointment. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by stating that he would not object to the production of the correspondence moved for.


did not entertain the least doubt as to the accuracy of the statement which had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the previous practice; but the object of the Act was to prevent a continuance of that practice, it having been found exceedingly inconvenient that such officers should be changed with every change of Government. As to the legal construction of the clause, he was not prepared to offer an opinion; but if it was right that a new appointment should be made by the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, the intentions of the framers of the Act ought to have been considered as to the person who should receive the appointment. Mr. Mara was in office, and if a new appointment was necessary, it ought to have been made on the day subsequent to the passing of the Act. There was another point to which he wished to direct attention—the fact that in one case the appointment of one of the officers had been ante-dated so as to legalize the certificates he had given during the interval that he was not legally in office; but in his opinion this was not sufficient to cure the evil; and that in point of fact all the acts of the person he referred to were illegal. Had the hon. Member for Finsbury been present, he would have directed his particular attention to that fact. As to Mr. Mara, his opinion was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in superseding him, had exercised a patronage-which it would have been better had he avoided.


begged to assure the right hon. Gentleman that he did not think there had been any removal, because he did not understand that the person who held the office under the late Attorney General was in office when the new Ministers came into power. He should be extremely sorry to think that anything connected with the transaction could be construed into any reflection on the character or ability of Mr. Mara.

Motion agreed to.