HC Deb 05 August 1878 vol 242 cc1269-77

(14.) £50,788, to complete the sum for the Lord Advocate and Criminal Proceedings, Scotland.

(15.) £46,223, to complete the sum for Courts of Law and Justice, Scotland.


wished, before this Vote was taken, to draw the attention of the Lord Advocate and the Government to the grievance under which the clerks in the Sasine Office and the Department of the Lord Clerk Register in Edinburgh suffered. These clerks were very badly paid, and their case was the stronger from the fact that, while the expenditure in the Department of the Lord Clerk Register and Sasine Office was £36,000, the fees from registration amounted to £44,000. There was, therefore, no ground for saying that the clerks in the Office were asking for money which was not gained on their establishment. Now that the Bill in reference to these matters had been stopped, he wished to know whether the arrangement formerly entered into would be carried into effect. A number of these clerks had been in the Office many years, at salaries of £90 a-year; and one, who had been 50 years in the Office, was recently dismissed without any pension or allowance whatever. Altogether, the matter required a good deal of investigation.


very much feared that the object which the hon. Member for Edinburgh was anxious to obtain could not be effected without the authority of Parliament. There were now a number of clerks in the Office of the Lord Clerk Register in Edinburgh who were not Civil servants, and that was the position in which they had been placed by the Act of Parliament passed in 1868. Under that Statute, a public officer in a Department receiving about £30,000 a-year was made personally responsible for all mistakes made by his clerks. The head of the Department could hardly be held responsible if he were placed in the position of having Civil servants under him. It was a question very much debated before the Act was passed, whether such responsibility should attach to his office, and it was obvious that so long as a man was placed in that position, he must be allowed facilities in the appointment and management of those he employed. So long as clerks were placed in that subordinate position, they could not be looked upon as Civil servants. It was not in contemplation by the Government to make any alteration in that respect, nor was it in the power of the Government to make it of their own accord, for it could only be done by the sanction of the Legislature.


observed, that the Lord Advocate had made it clear that the Government could not make these men into Civil servants without an Act of Parliament. But what the Government might do was to raise their salaries. These gentlemen were doing the work required at very miserable salaries, and he could see no reason why their salaries should not be increased by the Treasury in the same manner as would have been done if the Bill had passed.


thought the hon. Member was somewhat under a misapprehension. He believed the whole of the salaries paid in that Office were quite sufficient for the services performed. On the other hand, no doubt, grievances existed which had come under the notice of the Government, more particularly that promotion did not go on in that Office in the usual way. The clerks in the Office in question alleged that they did not get promoted, and the reason was that, as the head of the Department appointed the clerks, and was alone responsible, he might bring in any outsider, and put him over the heads of those already in the Office. The grievance complained of was not that the salaries paid to the officials were insufficient, but that the clerks in the Office earning a certain salary had no certainty, such as Civil servants possessed, of rising into a higher class.

Vote agreed to.

(16.) £27,380, to complete the sum for the Register House Departments, Edinburgh.

(17.) £61,160, to complete the sum for Prisons, Scotland.

(18.) £65,678, to complete the sum for Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions, Ireland.

(19.) £29,867, to complete the sum for the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, &c. Ireland.

(20.) £21,169, to complete the sum for the Queen's Bench, &c. Divisions, Ireland.

(21.) £8,662, to complete the sum for Land Judges' Offices, Ireland.


asked, in what position the House was likely to be in regard to this Court? Although so large a sum was asked in the House, the income received by fees and stamps was only £5,650. As this Court was established for the convenience of the owners of land in Ireland, he hoped, as soon as possible, the fees would be sufficient to recoup the expenses of the Court. He hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland would be able to hold out a hope that this would soon be the case.


said, he might state to the hon. Member who had just sat down that the Landed Estates Court in Ireland was a great convenience, and likely to be more so; because, under the Irish Judicature Act, the work of the Receiver Master of Chancery was also done by that Court. Therefore, it was not fair to set off the cost of the Court as against the receipts for fees and stamps. Besides, it must be borne in mind that the Court had produced large sums for the Exchequer in times past, when the work was vastly in excess of what it was now. The work varied from year to year, one being very light, and the other very heavy. There was one question to which he wished to call the attention of the Attorney General for Ireland. By the Judicature (Ireland) Act, one of the Judges of the Landed Estates Court was liable to go circuit, and at the recent Assizes one of the Judges did go circuit, the result being to create enormous inconvenience in the Court. True, one Judge remained constantly at the Court, and it ought to be provided that he should discharge any pressing duties which the other Judge would be called upon to perform. He said this with all the more reason, because, previous to the appointment of Judge Ormsby, Judge Flanagan intimated over and over again that he was quite able to discharge the entire duties of the Court. Under those circumstances, it was only fair and reasonable that when one of the Judges was called away to do Common Law business in his absence, the business of the Landed Estates Court should be discharged by the remaining Judge. Great inconvenience had now been caused by Judge Ormsby going circuit, and as his work had not been discharged in his absence, the Judge, at great inconvenience, had had to go to Dublin to hear the cases which would otherwise have to stand over until after the Vacation. He hoped this would not again arise, and it need not if Judge Flanagan were ordered to do the whole of the work when Judge Ormsby was away.


thought the Landed Estates Court worked very well, and very efficiently, and was not more expensive than anyone would expect it to be, having regard to the work cast upon it. There were few Courts—and he did not know that it was desirable there should be more in the interests of justice and of suitors—which were practically self-supporting. As had been pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon), the receipts of the Landed Estates Courts varied very much. Sometimes they were high, and sometimes low; but whatever was received went to the reduction of the cost. And as the hon. and learned Gentleman had pointed out, since the passing of the Judicature Act a very large and a rather expensive Department had been added to the Landed Estates Court, thereby saving the salary of a Receiver Master in Chancery, and giving a substantial proof of the fact that economy had not been lost sight of in the matter. In reference to what had been said as to the inconvenience of one of the Judges going on circuit, he could only say that he did not think any inconvenience would be experienced. This Session he had introduced a Bill which had received the Royal Assent, by which it might be arranged that other Judges might go circuit, and if a Land Judge could not be spared, the Lord Chancellor could readily see that other arrangements were adopted.

Vote agreed to.

(22.) £8,567, to complete the sum for Probate, &c. Registries, Ireland.

(23.) £7,738, to complete the sum for the Court of Bankruptcy, Ireland.

(24.) £1,280, to complete the sum for the Admiralty Court, Registry, Ireland.

(25.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £14,672, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1879, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office for the Registration of Deeds in Ireland.


asked if any progress had been made with the scheme as to retiring the clerks in this Office. A Commission met some time ago, and he desired to know what they had done in the matter—whether they had altered the pay or position of any clerk?


said, a Committee had been appointed, but their Report would hardly be presented much before January next. The Commission, presided over by the Chief Justice of Ireland, had been working steadily, taking evidence and making close inquiries.


said, two points arose under the Vote on which he should like to have some explanations. In the first place, all promotion amongst the clerks in the Office had been stopped for two or three years. It was a rule and matter of right that when a senior clerk died or retired there should be promotion amongst the junior clerks. But this arrangement had not been adhered to; because, for three years past, there had been a vacancy amongst the first-class clerks to which no one had been promoted. When this question was agitated two years since, the answer given was that there was to be an alteration in the Office; but that had not yet taken place, and there were two clerks in the Office who had been illegally deprived of their promotion. There was certainly no just reason for this. The other question to which he wished to refer was of even greater interest. The number of clerks in the Registration of Deeds Office was put down as 15; but, as a matter of fact, there had been only 14 there for some time. One had for years past been drawing the whole of his pay; while, as he had been informed, he was not doing an atom for the Public Service. That clerk was, he believed, engaged in making experiments for lifting the Vanguard, and did nothing in the Office, even when it was said that the staff was short-handed. Two years ago, when he drew attention to this, he was told that there was a Committee appointed to inquire into some new plan for the registration of deeds, and that this official was engaged with that Committee in making experiments. That Committee had now discharged its functions; but still this gentleman drew over £300 a-year for doing nothing. In fact, it was actually said he had had £5,000 out of the Government for doing nothing. He (Mr. Meldon) wanted to know why the Registration of Deeds Office should be insufficiently manned and have faults found with it, when a member of its staff was doing nothing, He had no objection if a gentleman discharged duties worth £300 a-year that he should be paid that sum; but he did object that he should appear as one of the clerks in the Office, and yet do no work.


said, the gentleman to whom the hon. and learned Member referred had for some time been engaged in inventing a process by which the work of the Department could be much more rapidly done than by a staff of clerks. Having succeeded in completing his plans, how could it be said that the public time had been wasted, whereas the public must be the gainers? The invention was said to be a very valuable one, and he (Major Nolan) believed that a great deal of jealousy had been created against the inventor, because it was known that by its use many clerks would be discharged.


said, he admitted that two years ago a Committee had been appointed to report on this invention; and Mr. Dillon, the clerk he alluded to, was given leave of absence for the purpose of completing the machine. Although he did not then think it was at all satisfactory that he should be drawing a salary from the Registration of Deeds Office, he did not then discuss the matter. But the Committee had reported, and, of course, since then, Mr. Dillon could not have had anything to do. He certainly had good ideas of raising ships, and he thought of raising the Vanguard, and a variety of other matters. Certainly this was not proper, and he challenged anyone to say that Mr. Dillon had been doing the Government work. He objected to a man having £300 a-year and doing nothing, and such a state of things ought to be put an end to.


said, he was able to state, from his own knowledge, that there had been great neglect in carrying out the rules of the Office relating to promotion. Two years ago he waited upon the then Secretary to the Treasury and now the First Lord of the Admiralty in relation to the matter, and a promise was given that the grievance the clerks suffered under should be remedied. As he (Mr. M. Brooks) felt so strongly on the subject, he was greatly disposed to move the reduction of the Vote by £630, the salary of the two clerks. He was reluctant so to act, and so to delay the time of the Committee; but it appeared to him that there was no other mode of altering the present state of things in the Department. Remembering that at present there was a great delay in the work of the Department, he would, to protest against the action of the Government, move to reduce the Vote by £630.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £14,042, he granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1879, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office for the Registration of Deeds in Ireland."—(Mr. Maurice Brooks.)


said, the matter would have consideration.


said, he had been told that, in consequence of the changes proposed by Mr. Dillon, promotion was stopped in the Office. There was no reason why that promotion should be any longer retarded, and the grievance should be remedied at once.


said, the hon. Member for Dublin was mistaken in stating that he had said the matter should be remedied. What he did promise was that justice should be done, and a Royal Commission was appointed to deal with the whole question. But nothing could be done until their Report was received.


believed there was no legal right to keep men from their promotion. When a first-class clerk died or retired, a second should take the place, and a third be removed to the office of the second. Well, three or four years ago, a first-class clerk in the Registration of Deeds Office died; and a second-class clerk, who was entitled to be promoted, asked to have his place. This request was refused, the applicant being told that certain arrangements were about to be made. Hon. Members of that House had interfered in the matter with a view to getting the decision of the Government altered. They, too, were told that changes were to take place; but nothing had been done, and now there was more than one vacancy. They were told that the Commission would report next year; but he was positive that nothing had been arranged to provide a substitute for the present system of registration. Under those circumstances, he thought it exceedingly hard that for three years gentlemen entitled to promotion should have been kept without it. And even if ultimately they were raised to the positions they ought to occupy, they would have lost an increased salary for three years. That was a great hardship, and the Treasury ought not to be so hard on their employés.

Question put, and negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(26.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £2,155, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1879, for the Salaries and Expenses in the Office for the Registration of Judgments in Ireland.


observed that there was a long list of Orders to run through, and he thought sufficient progress had been made for that night. He should, therefore, move to report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (Mr. Hopwood.)


hoped the Committee would proceed with the Votes.


said, that on one of these Votes — Miscellaneous Legal Charges—a very important discussion would arise. It would facilitate discussion if the accepted Votes were taken, and the House adjourned.


said, he was willing to go on with the unopposed Votes only.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(27.) £103,885, to complete the sum for the Dublin Metropolitan Police.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;

Committee to sit again To-morrow.