HC Deb 02 August 1877 vol 236 cc380-6

(Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)

Further Consideration, as amended, resumed.

Clause 13 (Tenure of office of Judges, and oaths of office.)


moved, in page 9, line 33, at end, to add— Nor shall he be or continue to be a Commissioner of National Education, or a Commissioner of Charitable Donations and Bequests, or a member of any board or commission permanently administering any public trust, and any provision in any Act of Parliament requiring any Judge to be a member of any such board or commission, so far as it is inconsistent with anything heroin contained, shall be and same is hereby repealed. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, it had been the custom in Ireland to appoint Judges members of public Boards, and he thought the practice objectionable, more particularly when the office was one which frequently involved the consideration of political and religious questions. He believed the Judges themselves were anxious to be relieved from the positions in which they were placed and from the pressure put on them to undertake these duties. Judges in Ireland were often strongly pressed to become members of certain Boards, and he thought it an objectionable thing either that a Judge should oblige a Government, or a Government oblige a Judge. As an illustration of the objectionable character of the system, he mentioned the well-known case of the Rev. Mr. O'Keeffe, who was dismissed from his position as manager of a national school by the casting vote of a Judge who was a member of the Board of Education. Mr. O'Keeffe had brought an action against a person who had been sent down to inspect his schools, and it was proposed that the expenses should be paid out of the money given for national education. It was most improper that the Judges should have had to settle such a dispute, involving much religious excitement, and which afterwards came before one of their body in a judicial proceeding. The Charitable Donations and Bequests Commission had to decide what were charitable bequests, and their decisions might be brought before the Lord Chancellor. Several of the Judges were members of that Commission.

Amendment proposed, In page 9, line 33, after the word "appointment," to insert the words "nor shall he be or continue to be a Commissioner of National Education, or a Commissioner of Charitable Donations and Bequests, or a member of any board or commission permanently administering any public trust, and any provision in any Act of Parliament requiring any judge to be a member of any such board or commission, so far as it is inconsistent with anything herein contained, shall be 'and same is hereby repealed."—(Mr. Butt.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, this matter had been most fully discussed in Committee, and a large division had been taken against the proposal. The Amendment was that no Judge should under any circumstances be appointed a member of the National Board of Education, or any other Board in Ireland. But surely that was a most unreasonable proposition. Why should the Irish Government be deprived of the unpaid services of those eminent Judges? This was an attempt to re-open and revive the old controversy respecting national education. He did not think this would be convenient to the House. The national Board was at present composed of gentlemen and magistrates who were carrying on the business of national education in a manner satisfactory to the country at large, and he did not think there were any reasonable grounds for disturbing the system as it at present worked. The Judges had especial qualifications for the work, and had, from their residence in Dublin, ample opportunities for attending the Boards. They had no emoluments for their services. Why should the Government be deprived of availing themselves of the services of those eminent men? Why should any absolute law be laid down for that purpose? In England Judges filled positions the duties of which they discharged with great advantage to the public. For instance, Judges were on the Ecclesiastical Commission and Patents Commission, and he believed some Judges were upon the Governing Bodies of several Colleges, and upon other Boards Judges, without fee or reward, gave the benefit of their ex- perience from a sense of public duty. It was not desirable to deprive Government of the power of giving such an appointment to a Judge where it would be advantageous to the public to have the benefit of a judicial training. He hoped the hon. and learned Member would be content with his protest and not call for a division.


denied that the appointments held by English Judges were at all analogous to the position held by the Irish Judges. The appointment in England had nothing of a political or denominational character. Questions of that kind never troubled the Governing Body of Eton College. The nearest approach to that, he believed, was the question of allowing Messrs. Moody and Sankey to preach there. But upon the Education Board of Ireland Judges were called upon to decide questions which often engaged the attention of the House of Commons. Nothing was more unfair than to drive Judges into politics, and the Education Board of Ireland certainly had a political character, and this was most undesirable in the state of the law as regarded Election Petitions.


concurred in the spirit and meaning of the language of the proposed Amendment as an abstract question. He had a very lively recollection of the Keogh case and the evidence of Judges given before the Committee, and this made a strong impression on his mind that it was most undesirable that Judges should be placed in such positions; but he was afraid that he could not vote for putting into an Act of Parliament a direct prohibition against the Government in any circumstances selecting a member of the Judicial Bench for an office of the kind referred to.


supported the Amendment. There were plenty of persons besides the Judges to be found in Ireland who were capable of filling seats at the Board of National Education. In the O'Keeffe case some of the Judges had been placed in a position which they ought not to have occupied.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 113: Majority 78.—(Div. List, No. 295.)

Amendment proposed, in page 23, line 18, to leave out the words " or any questions or issues of fact or of law."—(Mr. Biggar.)

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 34 (Divisions of the High Court of Justice.)


moved, in page 25, line 11, after "Matrimonial Division," insert— After the Admiralty jurisdiction shall under the provisions in that behalf hereinbefore contained have become vested in the Judge of the Probate and Matrimonial Division, such Division shall be called ' The Probate, Matrimonial, and Admiralty Division.'

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 42 (Rota of Judges for election petitions.)


was proceeding to move an Amendment of which he had given Notice, when—


pointed out that the Amendment was not consistent with sense.


stated that his intention was to move an Amendment providing that Election Petitions should be tried by three and not by one Judge, and that in no case should Judge Keogh or Judge Lawson be one. He insisted that those two Judges made themselves partizans in every case they tried. Mr. Justice Keogh sometimes made himself a partizan for the Crown and sometimes for the prisoner, but Mr. Justice Law-son always made himself the partizan of the Crown. He (Mr. Biggar) had been told by a Queen's Counsel that he knew no Judge who was so thoroughly incompetent to try a criminal case; he had no sense of fair play, and a prisoner had no chance in his hands. He desired that neither of those Judges should be on the rota for trying Election Petitions. Justice Lawson's conduct was most outrageous.

Amendment proposed, In page 30, line 28, to leave out from the words " The Judges " to " 1868," in line 30, and insert the words " The Part of Parliamentary Elections Act, 1868, relating to placing of Election Judges on the rota, is hereby repealed, and three Judges."—(Mr. Biggar.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill,"


said, he had felt very much inclined to ask whether the hon. Member was in Order; but, whether he was in Order or not, a more unconstitutional course could not be taken than in the form of an Amendment to make an attack upon Judges. The hon. Member sought, as it were, by a sidewind in an Act of Parliament, to record a conviction of misconduct against Judges, and that they were disqualified from performing judicial duties. There was but one course if Judges were so disqualified, and that was to move an Address to the Crown for their removal. If these Judges were worthy of a place in an Act of Parliament as being incompetent, the hon. Member ought to move for an Address to the Government that they should remove them from the Bench. It would be an insult to these two distinguished Judges for him (Sir Henry James) to enter upon any discussion upon their merits and conduct. In relation to one of them, his conduct had been brought before the House. After a full discussion, during which his conduct was fully criticized by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt), the House, by an overwhelming majority, ratified the conduct of that Judge.


said, he would not enter into any discussion upon the subject; but he would remind the House that the prosecutions recommended by Mr. Justice Keogh in the Galway case had entirely broken down.


said, they had also to consider the question as to whether the Act of 1868 should be altered, so that Election Petitions might be tried by three Judges instead of one.


regretted that the names of these two Judges had been introduced. They all knew that the system in Ireland had broken down, and that there was great dissatisfaction. The rota system had given universal dissatisfaction in Ireland. He was in favour of the Amendment that that part of the Act should, be repealed.


supported the Amendment. In his own experience, the Judges who were appointed to try the Election Petitions were "manipulated." Judge Lawson was taken out of his order on the rota to try a particular Petition, because the case was already fore judged, and it was determined that gentlemen returned should be unseated.


extremely regretted that the names of two distinguished Judges should be introduced in such a manner into this discussion. If the hon. Member had any charge to make against these Judges, he should adopt the constitutional mode of moving an Address to the Crown for their removal. When the whole subject was under consideration in a distinct Bill would be the time to consider whether Election. Petitions should be tried by one or by a plurality of Judges.


thought the Amendment was not a proper one to introduce into the Judicature Act; but as to the Corrupt Practices Act, he pointed out that there could be no discussion upon that Act this year. It must be renewed this year, and there was no certainty of an opportunity for discussion occurring next year. They ought to have a positive pledge from the Home Secretary that an opportunity for full discussion would be given next year, and not merely a Continuance Bill brought in next Session.


promised that an opportunity would be given for a full discussion next Session.

Question put, and negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Amendment proposed, to leave out Clause 52.—(Mr. Biggar.)

Question, "That Clause 52 stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 59 (Provision as to making of Rules of Court before or after the commencement of the Act.)

Amendment proposed, In page 36, line 18, after the word "rules," to insert the words "said rules to be laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament immediately, if Parliament is sitting when the rules are framed, and, if not sitting when they are framed, immediately after the next sitting of Parliament, and all or any of the rules may be set aside or altered by a vote of the House of Commons at any time within one year from the time said rules are laid upon the Table."—(Mr. Biggar.)

Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved, in page 36, line 28, after "trial," to insert— And for the reporting by a competent shorthand writer of the evidence in all cases of trials by jury.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 60 (Circuits and Assizes.)


moved, in page 38, line 14, after "circuit," insert— All Orders in Council made in pursuance of this section shall be laid before each House of Parliament within such time, and shall be subject to be annulled in such manner as is in this Act provided.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed, In page 43, line 41, after the word "Act," to insert the words " Provided however, That the late clerk of the records of the Court of Chancery, whose office was abolished by 'The Courts of Law Officers (Ireland) Act, 1867,' and who still continues an officer of said court, shall not, in any arrangement or transfer of offices under this Act, be required to discharge any duties save analogous duties to those performed by him at the time of the passing of said first-mentioned Act."—(Mr. Meldon.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 85 (The Superior Court may remit to the Civil Bill Court ejectments brought in High Court of Justice) struck out.

Bill to be read the third time Tomorrow, at Two of the clock.