HC Deb 03 March 1853 vol 124 cc1040-5

said he begged to move for copies of the Treasury Minute of 1842, relating to the appointment of Crown Solicitors in Ireland. Late in the month of December last, the late Government appointed to the office of Crown Solicitor (an office unknown in England) for the Leinster Circuit, a gentleman of the name of Kemmis, whose father and grandfather had held it before him. The resignation of the late Government occurred just at that time, and it was not till a fortnight after their resignation that it was known they had thus appointed Mr. Kemmis. That gentleman held an office which entailed upon him a great deal of responsibility—he was public prosecutor, and his office was one, in other respects of importance. The complaint was not merely that Mr. Kemmis had been thus appointed, but also that he, a barrister, should fill an office which according to the Treasury Minute ought to be filled by a solicitor, and that the outgoing Government, on the timely resignation of the late Crown Solicitor of this circuit, appointed his son, and increased the salary to be received by the latter to 1,900l. a year. This excited considerable surprise on all sides in Ireland; and a very respectable body, known as the Incorporated Society of Solicitors and Attorneys, presented a memorial upon the subject to the Irish Government. It was in fact suspected of being what was called "a job." He consequently wished to elicit the circumstances under which Mr. Kemmis, the elder, was induced to resign at the critical period he did. The question now was whether this office had been properly and legally filled up; and it was with the view of testing the propriety and legality of the transaction that he was induced to ask the Government to lay upon the table the papers to which he had referred. In his opinion the matter savoured of nepotism, for it was certainly open to objection that an office of this kind was to be entailed, as it were, upon a single family, and that when a Government wont out, the office was to be filled up by the nomination of a member of the same family.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to have two objects in view in making this Motion. One was to ascertain whether this appointment had been legally made, and the other the precise day on which it was made. On the first point he bad to inform the hon. and learned Gentleman that the memorial to which he had referred was now under the consideration of the Lord Lieutenant and the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland. With regard to the second point, he was quite ready to produce all the papers which bore upon it; but be would prefer not giving the correspondence referred to, inasmuch as it was not exactly of the character of public documents.


said, he had no wish to oppose the production of any of these papers; on the contrary, his desire would be that every one of the documents in question should be laid on the table of the House. With regard to the correspondence between himself and the Treasury, he held no correspondence but what passed before the Government resigned, and while he held the office of Attorney General for Ireland. What were the facts of the case in regard to the office in question? They were these. The office of Crown Solicitor for Dublin and for the Leinster circuit had been held by the same party from the year 1801. Before that time a gentleman named Morrison, a barrister, and Mr. Thomas Kemmis, were Solicitors of all Ireland, and the appointment was made to them and the survivor of them. After that a change was made in 1801. It was then thought, advisable to have the whole of Ireland placed under one solicitor; and then there was a solicitor appointed for each circuit; but the Leinster circuit was connected with the Dublin district, and given to Mr. Thomas Kemmis and Mr. William Kemmis, and the survivor of them. They were appointed in 1801. Mr. William Kemmis in the middle of November, 1852, tendered his resignation of that branch which included the superintendence of the Leinster circuit. He had been fifty years on the Leinster circuit, and was now an old man. When the Earl of Eglintoun became Lord Lieutenant he laid it down as an inflexible rule never to receive any kind of communica- tion with regard to a public office in Ireland until it became vacant. The Earl of Eglintoun received the resignation of Mr. Kemmis, and as the appointment rested with the Lord Lieutenant, of course it was his duty to nominate a successor. Having consulted him (Mr. Napier) on the subject, he recommended to the Lord Lieutenant in the strongest manner Mr. Thomas Kemmis. That gentleman left the bar in 1843, and went into his father's office, giving his exclusive attention to the business which was transacted there until November last. He had practically conducted the business of the office for the last ten years, and the fact that he was a barrister was much in his favour. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Fitzgerald) should remember that the right of the Crown to appoint its own solicitor was not taken away by the Act of Parliament. If any one could show that there was in Ireland a man more competent to fill the office than Mr. Thomas Kemmis, then he would own, but not till then, that the appointment ought not to have been made. As to the law of the case, his own opinion was that the appointment was perfectly legal, and that the Crown had a perfect right to appoint whom it pleased; and the result really was, in this instance, that 300l. a year was saved. The appointment, moreover, had the sanction of the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who had filled so many important offices in that country.


said, as a personal friend of Mr. Thomas Kemmis, he wished to say that no one could question the efficiency, integrity, or honour of that gentleman, and he believed that by no one could the duties of the office in question be performed more efficiently.


, in reply, said, perhaps he had used too strong a term when he spoke of this being a job; but what he meant to convey was that this appointment bad not been made public for nearly a fortnight after the late Ministers had resigned office. Although he had listen-ed attentively to the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier), he (Mr. Fitzgerald) did not hear him state when this appointment was made. When the documents were produced, he believed he should be able to show that the appointment was made in the interval while the late Ministers were holding their seals of office previous to their successors being appointed.

Copies orderedOf the Treasury Minute of 1842, relating to the appointment of Crown Solicitors in Ireland, the Treasury Minute or Minutes relating to the newly-appointed Crown Solicitor for the Leinster Circuit, his Salary and Allowances; and of the Warrant, Order, and other documents making such new appointment: And, of the several Minutes or Warrants for the appointment of Crown Solicitors on the Home and Connaught Circuits, in respect of vacancies occurring in or since 1842.