HC Deb 18 July 1867 vol 188 cc1670-2

rose to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the amount of Fees paid into the office for the Registration of Deeds in Ireland, and the application of those Fees. The hon. and gallant Member had on a former occasion called the attention of the House and the Secretary to the Treasury to this subject, but as the reply he received was not satisfactory he must ask the patience of the House while he again brought the subject to its notice. He would remind the House that the office for the Registration of Deed in Ireland had been by law made self-supporting, and the Treasury, by the Act of Parliament which created the office, had empowered the Treasury to fix fees on the registration of deeds to an amount necessary to cover the expenses incidental to that office, and no more; and if any surplus remained after the payment of these expenses the Treasury had the power to lower these fees to the amount which would be sufficient to meet them; but it was expressly stated that no part of these fees should be paid in to the Consolidated Fund. For many years there was a surplus of these fees above the expenses. Some years since, when the business of the office was in arrear, he had the greatest difficulty in extorting from the Treasury a small sum then absolutely requited; and the surplus contrary to the Act they had been paying into the Consolidated Fund; but they had not lowered the fees, which they were bound to do when there was a surplus, according to the Act. Since the time fees were paid by stamps, the Return laid on the table gave no account of these amounts — a concealment, he contended, which was also illegal. Within that period he understood the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury to insinuate that the expenses of the office had increased, but, if so, here again was another illegality; for they were bound to lay on the table of the House, in a short time after the meeting of Parliament, a statement of any changes that were made in the office. He therefore thought he had a right to complain that £47,500 of those fees had been paid to the credit of the Consolidated Fund, such payment being, as he contended, illegal. Whatever the exact amount of the fees might be, there must still remain a very large balance of the surplus, and he wished for a Committee to determine the amount; it could not but decide whether the Treasury were acting illegally in appropriating the surplus to the Consolidated Fund. At that period of the Session it might be said that it would not be reasonable to ask for a Committee whose sitting would extend even over a few days; but, as in this case, nothing more was necessary than the examination of three or four Acts of Parliament, the Report of the Committee, which had already reported against the conduct of the Treasury, although appointed by itself, and a few Returns by Government officers, he thought the matter might be settled in a few hours.


said, his hon. and gallant Friend had brought this question under the attention of the House on two former occasions during the present Session, and he (Mr. Hunt) had then carefully adduced the facts, The expense of carrying out the provisions of the Act of Parliament was, by the Act, to be defrayed out of these fees. Years passed before the things were done which the Act required, and there remained a surplus fund; but, since then, the provisions had been carried out, and the result was that, instead of a surplus, there was a deficiency. A Committee of the House of Commons was scarcely competent to discuss the legal question, and the Returns would furnish all the information required. If, through some technicality, the Return already presented was incomplete, he had no objection so to amend it as to show exactly what the state of the Fund was.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.