HC Deb 04 May 1896 vol 40 cc525-33

On the Order for the Second Reading of this Bill,

MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

asked what was its object?


said, that in the Licensing Act of 1872 and some other Irish Statutes the term "Stipendiary" magistrate had been used, and it had been held that it did not apply to the ordinary resident magistrates. It was thought desirable for the purposes of that Act to substitute "resident" magistrate for "stipendiary" magistrate.


said, he should like to know how it came about that it was necessary to make this Amendment now. A qualified resident magistrate ought to be equal to a stipendiary magistrate; but it was very different with the ordinary resident magistrates appointed under the present system—men who had been promoted from the lowest position to the very highest without adequate qualifications. What they wanted to know exactly was, what change was to be made in the law by making this change in the status of the resident magistrates. They regarded with well grounded suspicion a change in the status and position of magistrates removeable by the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary. There were some resident magistrates who were qualified by knowledge and experience to administer the Licensing Act; but there were others, retired Army and Navy officers, who were utterly unacquainted with law, and did not possess even an average share of common sense. They would resent any change with respect to resident magistrates unless fuller explanations were given.


said, the Bill made no change in the status of resident magistrates. In the Bill of 1872 the draftsman made a mistake; he ought to have used the word "resident" instead of "stipendiary." He unfortunately used the words "stipendiary magistrates," and as there were none now, it was necessary to the working of the Act to correct the error. The stipendiary magistrates had exactly the same power as resident magistrates had now.


said, they were entitled to be told how it was, if the error were made in 1872, it had been necessary to alter it now. Why had it become suddenly necessary to make the alteration if the law had been administered for 24 years? It might seem strange that they should take objection to the alteration of the name of these gentlemen, but they had a certain tender affection for the old familiar name of resident magistrate in Ireland; and he did not like the idea of their being called stipendiary magistrates.


It is the other way about.


The alteration is the other way. The Act speaks of stipendiary magistrates instead of resident magistrates, and the effect of the Bill is to restore resident magistrates.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

protested against the change of name, and said there must be something at the bottom of it. He understood that there was a certain class of cases in Ireland which could be disposed of by the stipendiary magistrate alone, and there were other cases which only two justices could dispose of. It was a strange thing that the former state of things should have existed for 24 years without the House being asked to change it. He strongly appealed to his brother Irish Members to go to a Division if necessary in opposition to the Bill, because although the change seemed small and simple in itself, there must be some reason other than that given by the Attorney General for Ireland for making the change at this time of day. There was a surplusage of paid magistrates in Ireland who had little to do, and their office was a sinecure for a class of political protéges of the Tory Party, who were not popular with the people of Ireland.


said, he wished to explain the real necessity for the Bill. Last year or the year before the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland decided that an ordinary resident magistrate was not a stipendiary magistrate within the meaning of the Licensing Act of 1872, and that the Act might not be rendered practically abortive it became necessary to change the name of the paid magistrates from "stipendiary" into "resident." There was no deep design whatever in the change.

MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)

said he was not satisfied with the explanation given by the Attorney General. Past experience had shown that the stipendiary magistrates in Ireland were willing tools in the hands of the Tory Party, and the more willing they were the better chance they had of promotion. It was singular to him that it was only when a Tory Government came into office that it was found that these men had been acting illegally. This Bill should not be allowed to pass without a Division. Many of these stipendiary magistrates had little knowledge of the law or experience of its administration, and they had merely been pitchforked into their positions.


I rise to a point of order. Are the qualifications of the resident magistrates in point? The question is how magistrates administering the Licensing Act should be described.


said, the Attorney General had explained that the object of the Bill was to confer certain powers which the Court of Queen's Bench had decided that these magistrates could not exercise. Therefore, surely their qualifications were in order.


On the face of it the object of the Bill is to change the name, but I understand the effect will be to give the resident magistrates a greater jurisdiction. If that is so, the remarks of the hon. Member are in order.


Not greater jurisdiction. But inasmuch as the Queen's Bench held that an ordinary stipendiary magistrate was not a resident magistrate, there was no one qualified to exercise jurisdiction under the Licensing Act.


If the object of the Bill is to confer jurisdiction in Licensing matters, it is competent for hon. Members to speak of the qualifications of these magistrates. [Nationalist cheers.]


said, that he did not object to the word "removable" or even "resident" magistrate, but he did object to these gentlemen being termed Stipendiaries. Having had experience of the way in which these officials had treated the people in the past, he could not, consistently with his duty, allow this Bill to pass its present stage, and he accordingly moved that it be read a Second time that day six months.


had great pleasure in seconding the Amendment. The First Lord of the Treasury and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sat beside him were trying to relieve each other, but the extraordinary thing that this House had to take into consideration—


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is not addressing himself to any question before the House.


All I want, Sir—


I must ask the hon. Member to resume his seat.


Thank you Sir, I am very much obliged.


observed that the Chief Secretary had denied that the whole effect of this Bill would be to change the name of Resident to that of Stipendiary Magistrates; but he himself believed that would be the effect of the Measure. The whole difficulty had arisen because in the Act of 1872 these men were called Stipendiary Magistrates, and the Court of Queen's Bench had decided that the expression Stipendiary Magistrate did not include a Resident Magistrate. It was now proposed to enact that the former expression should include a Resident Magistrate, and if that was agreed to, Resident Magistrates would drop their present appellation, and call themselves Stipendiary Magistrates, because under the name of Resident Magistrates they had gained their unpopularity in Ireland. It might naturally he concluded that the Government had not introduced this Bill for the sole purpose of pleasing the Resident Magistrates by changing their name. Simple as the Bill looked, they had now discovered its object. A decision of the Court of Queen's Bench had taken out of the hands of Resident Magistrates in Ireland certain important powers and functions, and it was proposed in this innocent little Bill, introduced late at night, to restore these important functions to the Resident Magistrates. The Attorney General informed them that there would be nobody to administer the Licensing Act of 1872 if they did not pass this Bill and restore these functions to the Irish Resident Magistrates. He fancied that certain proceedings he had witnessed at Licensing Sessions were carried on under the Licensing Act of 1872. He wondered was it under that Act the present First Lord of the Treasury, when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland, brought into the town of Tipperary every Resident Magistrate that could be whipped up for 30 or 40 miles around, for the purpose of denying licences to Nationalist publicans. If the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench should deprive the Government of that power to persecute unfortunate Nationalist publicans, he for one should hesitate before he did anything to restore it. If, however, the Government would give them an undertaking that the scandals which were witnessed under the administration of the present First Lord of the Treasury when he was Chief Secretary, and when these Resident Magistrates were used for such purposes as those he had described, should no longer take place, and that the Bench would not be packed with Resident Magistrates for the purposes of the Licensing Act, as was done in the old days, then they might consider whether it might not be possible for the Irish Members to withdraw their opposition to the Bill. So long as these men were to be used for the purpose of persecution, and brought out of their district to pack the Bench, so long ought they to offer every kind of opposition they possibly could to any increase which it was proposed to give to the power of these Resident Magistrates. Until he heard a more satisfactory explanation of the purposes of the Bill, he, for his part, would oppose it in every way he possibly could.


said, he was accustomed to the word "Stipendiary" and therefore, he had a prejudice to start with in favour of the Bill. He would retain the name of Stipendiary, and he did not think it ought to be swept away. He wanted to ask a question or two about the Bill. He wanted to know why it was retrospective in its operations. He was always jealous about Bills that were retrospective. Then there was another mysterious provision which said "unless the contrary intention appears," the words Resident Magistrate must always take the place of the word "Stipendiary." Who was to judge whether the contrary intention appeared or not? Altogether the Bill seemed to be mysterious, and he could not in the least understand why the Bill had been introduced here. The suggestion that gave him the most uneasiness was that these Magistrates were to interfere with licensing sessions. His hon. Friend had suggested that these Resident Magistrates generally refused licences to Nationalists. He would not quarrel with that, for he believed that the more licences that were refused the better, but he did not think they were in a position to discuss the Bill with the information they had got, and he thought a little more light might very well be thrown upon it.

MR. D. KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)

said, he should like to know why the Attorney General did not specifically set out in the Bill his statement that its object was to give effect to the decision of the Queen's Bench under the Licensing Act of 1872, that they did not consider Resident Magistrates as Stipendiary Magistrates, and that some difficulty had therefore been caused in the administration of that Act. The Bill provided, as far as he could see at first sight, that the word Resident should be synonymous with the word Stipendiary under any Act, whether passed before or after the Act of 1872. What was the necessity for that? The Attorney General had not explained the necessity for the change, nor had he shown any case for it. Perhaps if the hon. and learned Gentleman had confined himself to the necessities of the case which had arisen under this decision, Members on that side of the House might not have opposed the Bill, but he had not done so. From their experience of these Resident Magistrates, they had no reason for extending their jurisdiction or their powers. On the contrary, they were very much inclined to confine both their powers and the area over which their powers might extend. It was a notorious fact in Ireland that the gentlemen who had been appointed to this position had been partisan and political appointments, though it was supposed that they had been appointed for the purpose of directing the local bench on questions of law. In these circumstances one would naturally suppose that these gentlemen had enjoyed a legal training. Instead, however, of lawyers, men had been appointed who had spent most of their time in India or South Africa, returning to Ireland to get a snug position as Resident Magistrate. If Resident Magistrates must be appointed in Ireland for the purpose of directing the bench on points of law, then the best men ought to be appointed, irrespective of what their politics might be. He heartily supported the Motion.


said that the discussion was little more than a question about words. Last year the Stipendiary Magistrate was always held to include Resident Magistrate, but on a technical ground it appeared that this practice was illegal. The Government sought to remove that technical objection. It was objected that the Bill did not set forth what powers would be conferred on Resident Magistrates. He was not aware whether there were any other cases except those arising under the Licensing Act of 1872, but if the Second Reading was accepted he promised in Committee to set forth the Acts under which the Resident Magistrates received powers under this Bill, which they did not at present possess.


said that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to alter the status of the men known as Resident Magistrates. The Stipendiary Magistrate was supposed to be a gentleman of legal training, knowledge, and experience, versed in the law, and competent to administer it. The Resident Magistrate was quite of a different class; he might be a gentleman of knowledge and experience in the law, or he might not; in the vast majority of cases he was not. The right hon. Gentleman tried to make it appear as if this was a slight emendation of the law, to deal with the Licensing Act of 1872. The matters dealt with under this Act were such matters as illicit sales, adulteration, licences for six days, the question of entry, etc. Resident Magistrates in Ireland were often sent to localities where they had never been before, and sometimes the object of their being sent was to punish Nationalist publicans, whose political convictions constituted their chief offence. He could tell the House something about Captain Segrave—


The hon. Member is going too far. He is going into an account of the conduct of a particular Resident Magistrate some years ago. That can hardly have any bearing upon the general question whether Resident Magistrates should have the powers of stipendiary magistrates.


concluded by moving the adjournment of the Debate.

* MR. J. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

argued that the result of giving a Resident Magistrate sitting alone the proposed power to try cases under the Licensing Acts would be to exclude local opinion as represented by the local magistrates' bench. They had had bitter quarrels with local magistrates in the past, but in spite of that the bulk of the people would prefer the continued administration of the licensing laws affecting publicans by local justices rather than be placed at the mercy of Resident Magistrates, a great many of whom had no knowledge of the districts to which they were sent to administer the law. When local magistrates sat with a resident magistrate to administer the licensing law, no complaint was made, but it would be very different if the local magistrates were dispensed with.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."


This is a very short and simple Bill. It has been thoroughly discussed, and I think the House ought now to come to a decision upon it.

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes, 181; Noes, 51.—(Division List, No. 131.)

Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 179; Noes, 49.—(Division List, No. 132.)

Main Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 171; Noes, 47.—(Division List, No. 133.)

Bill read a Second time, and committed for Thursday.