HC Deb 10 June 1853 vol 127 cc1397-400

Order for consideration of Bill as amended read.

MR. I. BUTT moved an Amendment, that the principal officer, instead of being a barrister of five years' standing, should be an attorney or solicitor of ten years' standing; and that the yearly salary of the assistant taxing master be 700l. instead of 500l. a year. He moved that Amendment out of respect to the profession to which he had the honour to belong, and in order to maintain its dignity and independence. The office was one which did not properly belong to the bar, but to the profession of a solicitor, and he protested against this system of making situations for barristers which their education did not qualify them to fill.


said, the question had been fully considered, and it was the opinion of the legal Gentlemen who had charge of the Bill that the office ought to be filled by a barrister. It was said that the Government desired to transfer patronage from the attorneys to the barristers, because the latter were, politically, more powerful. But the reverse was the fact, for attorneys were possessed of far greater political influence. He (Sir J. Young) dissented from the Amendment, and hoped that the Bill would pass as soon as possible.


also opposed the Amendment because it would exclude barristers from the office of taxing master. The question was, what would be best for the public and the suitors. It was best to have one of the officers a barrister and the other an attorney, but they ought to be placed perfectly upon a par.


would have voted for the Amendment, had it been only to this effect, that the attorneys should be eligible; whereas it was to this extent, that they should be exclusively eligible. He denied that Irish barristers had their fair share of patronage in any department.

Amendment negatived.


then proposed an Amendment that the two masters should be placed on a par as to jurisdiction and powers.


said, he could not assent to this, as it would increase the salary of one of them. Moreover, this could not be done except in Committee.


suggested that the Bill be recommitted for the purpose.

House in Committee.


, in the absence of Mr. George, moved an Amendment, that the yearly salary of the principal taxing officer should be 1,200l. instead of 1.000l. a year. Heretofore there had been two principal taxing officers, each with 1,200l. a year salary. It was now proposed to have only one chief officer, with the reduced salary of 1,000l. a year. The labour and responsibility were greatly increased by the new arrangement. It would now be necessary for the chief officer to give his personal attendance throughout the entire year. The amount of business done by the Irish taxing officer greatly exceeded that performed by the English taxing officers, each of whose salaries was far higher than 1,200l. a year—he believed at least 2,000l. a year. There existed no longer any just reason for paying officers engaged in Irish departments of the public service on a lower scale than persons filling the like offices in similar departments in England. Both countries were about to be equally subjected to income tax. The price of living in Dublin was in many respects fully as dear as in London. This had been shown to be the case in a recent article in an English Conservative newspaper—the Standard. Money had become much more plentiful, and of comparatively less value than it was three or four years ago, whilst the prices of butchers' meat had become greatly raised in Ireland, and were equalised with the prices in England. Therefore, what was an adequate salary in Ireland some few years since, might be very inadequate at present. It was a bad principle to underpay a responsible public officer, and there was no office involving more trustworthiness, or a greater amount of personal labour or professional knowledge, than that of taxing officer. There were other strong reasons that might be urged in support of his view, that adequate salaries should be provided for the Irish taxing officers, and that 1,200l. a year would not be too high a remuneration for the chief officer. He thought the salary of the assistant taxing officer ought to be at least 800l. a year. In regard to the gentleman whom it was now proposed to make sole principal officer at a salary of 1,000l. a year, true it was that at present his salary as a second taxing officer was fixed some years since at 800l. a year; but then it was proposed by the present Bill to deprive him-altogether of the patronage of an office worth 300l. a year, and, as already mentioned, he would, by recent arrangements, be subjected to income tax. Upon the whole, he trusted the Government would see the justice of adopting his Amendment, by fixing the salary of the principal taxing officer at 1,200l. a year. He might add that the Irish taxing office was a self-supporting one, yielding a surplus revenue of 1,200l. a year. The Public Commissioners who had recommended a reform in the office, had not recommended any reduction in the chief officer's salary.


objected to this Amendment, as being an intended "pull at the Exchequer" on the part of the Irish Members. The duties which these officers had to discharge demanded no very high order of talent, and it should be remembered that part of their salaries came out of the Consolidated Fund.


complained that the arrangement recommended by public commissioners twenty-five years ago, to the effect that there should be two taxing officers, at salaries of 1,200l; each, had been lightly departed from. He objected to the principle of this Bill, in making a distinction between the rank of the two taxing officers. The same scale of salary ought to be fixed for both, and competent and duly qualified persons should be selected for the responsible duties they had to discharge, involving, as those duties did, the disposal of the funds of the suitors to the extent of between two and three hundred pounds per annum and upwards.


approved of the distinction that was drawn by the Bill between the superior and the subordinate taxing officer—a distinction which was based upon a difference in the importance of their respective duties. He thought, however, that the principal officer's salary ought not to be less than 1,200l. a year.


defended the original proposal of the Bill, fixing the salaries of the two taxing officers at 1,000l. and 600l. respectively, which he believed were amply sufficient to secure the services of two gentlemen of adequate legal knowledge, and of a character high enough to place them beyond the reach of temptation.


, in reply, stated that the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Young) was mistaken in supposing that the costs taxed by the Irish taxing officer were less than 100,000l. a year. The precise amount taxed last year was 123,338l., besides a considerable amount which was taxed not entered in the books—making, he should conceive, on a moderate estimate, a gross total of at least 150,000l. a year. As it thus appeared that the reduced salaries had been fixed by the Government under a misapprehension as to the amount of business done, perhaps upon having now received more perfect information, they would consent to the increase he had proposed. He admitted that if his proposition were nevertheless still opposed by Government, he could not hope to carry it in the present state of the House; and, in that event, he would not wish to damage its future discussion by pressing it now to a division.

Amendment withdrawn.

House resumed; Bill reported.

The House adjourned at Eleven o'clock, till Monday next.