§ GENERAL DUNNE
, in moving for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the illegal application of the surplus fees in the Office of the Registry of Deeds, Ireland, said, those fees which were levied for the registration of deeds in Ireland long since accumulated to a very large sum. There was a specific clause in the Act of Parliament which regulated this office, which enacted that the fees should be levied only to the extent of the requirements of the office. He contended that they had reached an amount 1078 beyond what was required for this purpose, and although, he believed, that for the last two years the amount of fees alone received may not have equalled the expenditure in the office; yet the actual receipts did so, and out of the large surplus which had accumulated little was required, and if the accounts were given fairly, an annual balance of receipt above expenditure would still be shown. He hoped the Committee he asked for would be agreed to by the Government, especially as its time would be taken up only for a few hours in inquiring into the subject.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that when the right hon. and gallant Member brought forward that question on two different occasions he had endeavoured to give him the only answer which the facts justified, although that answer did not seem to be satisfactory to him. He did not see what good would be attained by the appointment of the Committee now asked for. There were certain regulations for the disposal of those fees, and the Return which the right hon. and gallant Member had moved for would show how the fees had been applied. Whether they had been rightly applied or not was a question of law, and not one for a Committee. By the Act bearing on the subject the registrar had every three months to ascertain the amount obtained from the fees and the sums paid in salaries and expenses, and then by a certain day the balance or surplus remaining had to be paid into the Bank of Ireland to the credit of the Consolidated Fund. That had been done; but the Act went on to direct that certain duties were to be performed, the expense of which was to come out of the surplus fees, those duties comprising the preparation of certain indices and calendars, which it was desirable should be made out in a convenient shape. Years elapsed before the duties in question were performed. Since then, however, the indices and calendars had been prepared, extra clerks had been employed, and money had been voted to remunerate them. Therefore, what came into the Exchequer on the one hand was paid out of the Exchequer on the other; and, as a matter of equity, there was no fair ground of complaint against the present arrangement. He trusted that the Motion would not be pressed.
§ GENERAL DUNNE
said, he must totally dissent from the statements and explanations of his hon. Friend. It was so far true that certain duties had been neglected, and 1079 an arrear of business had some time since occurred in the Registry of Deeds Office, but only because the Government, having a surplus of fees in their own hands, would not pay the clerks to do the work; and it had been a difficult matter to get a grant from them for the keeping up of the indices. He had himself at that time pressed it on the then Government, and in the end succeeded in obtaining from that large surplus a grant, which had enabled the clerks in the office to bring up the arrear of business. He denied that there was any right under the Act of Parliament to take more fees than were necessary for the requirements of the Registry Office, and it was expressly stated in the Act that no part of these fees should be considered part of the revenue of the country. Both the present and former Governments had very much neglected their duty in reference to this office, and the practice which had obtained was unjust and inequitable towards the people of Ireland. Any changes which the Treasury made, by the powers vested in it, for regulating the fees or personnel of this office, were to be stated to the House, and a Paper laid on the table explaining them in fourteen days after the meeting of the House, but no such statement has been made; yet his hon. Friend stated he had increased the staff and expense of the office. He saw, however, it would be useless to divide the House upon his Motion.
Motion made, and Question,
That a Select Committee be appointed, to 'inquire into the legal application of the surplus fines in the Office of the Registry of Deeds, Ireland,'"—(General Dunne,)
—put, and negatived.