HC Deb 22 July 1897 vol 51 cc732-4

, in asking leave to introduce a Bill to amend the Judicature (Ireland) Acts, 1877 to 1888, and to provide for the union and consolidation of the Court of Bankruptcy in Ireland with the Supreme Court, and for other purposes connected therewith, said: There are now four divisions of the Supreme Court in Ireland—the Chancery, Queen's Bench, Exchequer and Probate, and Matrimonial Divisions. Besides these there is the Court of Bankruptcy, which is out of touch with all these Courts. The Bill proposes the immediate fusion of the Court of Exchequer with the Queen's Bench Division, the Chief Baron having given his assent to that change taking place at once. The Bill further provides that the Court of Bankruptcy shall be united with the Queen's Bench Division. Also, on the death or resignation of the present Judge of the Probate Court, it is proposed to merge that Court in the Queen's Bench Division. When these changes are accomplished there will be only two Divisions—the Queen's Bench and the Chancery Courts. There are at present 20 Irish Judges. In future there will be 17. The Judgeships abolished are that of the Probate Court and the two of the Bankruptcy Court; the changes in the Bankruptcy Court will take place at once, and the other reductions will take place when a vacancy is caused by death or resignation in the Probate Court. Pending that event, the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Justice Harrison will not be filled up, so that the practical effect will be that the salaries of three Judges will be immediately saved. There is nothing new in any of these proposals. The vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Justice Harrison has continued unfilled for 18 mouths, and it has been the express intention of more than one Government not to appoint a successor to Mr. Justice Warren; and, further, when the opportunity offered, to amalgamate the Court of Bankruptcy with the Court of Queen's Bench. That opportunity has now occurred. The recent death of Mr. Justice Miller and the appointment of Mr. Justice Holmes as a Lord Justice of Appeal has made it possible to appoint the remaining Judge in Bankruptcy to the place of Mr. Justice Holmes. As to the disposal of the money which will be saved by the abolition of these Judgeships, it amounts to £7,500, and we propose by the Bill to carry the sum to a separate credit, to be applied for Irish purposes, as Parliament may from time to time determine. But if there is anything like a unanimous wish amongst the Irish Members that the money should be immediately applied to some specific purpose, I shall be prepared to consider such an expression of opinion.


said that he could not understand how the right hon. Gentleman's statements agreed. There were to be only three Judgeships abolished, but the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of four vacancies—two in the Bankruptcy Court, one in the Probate Court, and one in the Common Law Division.


No Common Law Judgeship is to be abolished. But the vacancy is not to be filled up until the death or resignation of the present Judge in Probate.


said at that stage it would not be convenient to discuss the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, but he thought it would he admitted in all parts of the House that no fault could be found with the Bill from the point of view of not being sufficiently moderate. He had always been led to believe, and he thought it was a universally accepted position in Ireland, that the greatest abuse in connection with the Judicial Bench of that country was the excessive salaries of the Judges, and the first thing that struck him in the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman was that, while he proposed to abolish three Judges, they were all Judges at a lower rate of salary than the ordinary puisne Judges.


Two of them.


said it was proposed to abolish two Judges at a lower rate of salary, but there was no indication of any policy on the part of the Government having for its object any reduction of the bloated and enormous salaries of the Irish Judicial Bench. [Nationalist cheers.] Not only was that the case, but he gathered from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that it was part of the proposals of the Government to raise Mr. Justice Boyd to a position in which he would enjoy something like £1,500 a year in his salary. If that were the proposal of the Government it would be received with the very greatest possible condemnation in Ireland, as Mr. Justice Boyd was certainly a Judge who had given anything but satisfaction, and his promotion would be looked upon as a reward for the part he took during the recent trouble 1 times as an emergency Judge. [Nationalist cheers.] He did not intend discussing the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman then, but in his judgment they would be received with disappointment in Ireland, and the feeling would be pretty general that the Bill bore on it the mark of those consultations which they were told went on with the Bar of Ireland. [Nationalist cheers.]

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gerald Balfour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Attorney General for Ireland; presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Monday next, and to be printed.—[Bill 326.]