§ MR. DILLON
remarked that the greatest abuse in the judicial system in Ireland was that the salaries of the chief Judges were fixed on an absurdly high scale. The Irish Lord Chancellor, for instance, had £8,000 a year, and there was also a provision that if he were Lord Chancellor for a month he was to have £4,000 a year for the remainder of his natural life. At one time there were no fewer than three ex-Lord Chancellors in receipt of £4,000 a year at the same time—doing nothing. At the present time £2,000 a year was a large income for an Irish lawyer to make, and £3,000 was the utmost figure that even the most prominent leader could attain to. He thought, therefore, it would be admitted that in no other country in the world did such a relation exist between the salaries of the Judges and the incomes of leaders at the Bar as existed in Ireland. In England and most other countries there was not a single leader, who, when he took a judgeship, did not agree to practically reduce his income by one half. But in Ireland a totally different state of things prevailed, and in the vast majority of cases the barristers who were made judges had their incomes doubled, so that besides the accession of dignity and case they had an enormous accession to their incomes and the security of a retiring allowance after so many years' service. This Bill was a Bill which, under the cover of a reduction of the judicial system, was really a Bill for raising the salaries of Judges. Take the case of Judge Boyd. He was to obtain an increase in his salary of £2,000, of £1,115 for doing precisely the same work. On what ground could this be justified. He said it was monstrous. Why was this increase of salaries to be smuggled in under cover of a Bill which was to reduce the judicial system. He objected to the raising of Judge Boyd's salary in a Bill of this kind; he objected to a Bill which, while it professed to deal with what was admitted to be a great abuse, the over-manning and over payment of the Irish Bench, was in fact a perfect fraud, for it did so little that he 1190 was almost justified in saying it did nothing at all. There were one or two points which he desired information from the Chief Secretary. There were clauses in the Bill which appeared to contemplate economies in judicial charges and certain changes in officers, there appeared to be a reduction of one of the Official Receiver's, and another clause seemed to contemplate the abolition of certain offices ill the Courts of Dublin. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman if in the economies secured by the abolition of unnecessary offices, but which might not conic before Parliament for legislation or confirmation, he would have the amount saved carried to the suspensory account for just purposes? Then he desired to say a. word or two in regard to the position he took up on the question of legal business. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill had been submitted to the Irish Bar and the Bar was satisfied. He was not at all surprised, for it was inure than moderate, and left untouched many abuses that had been theme for comment and discussion for years past. The condition of Irish legal business was singular. He had had his attention drawn to sonic figures in this connection, he could not put them forward upon any knowledge of his own, but they had been compiled by a barrister and he had no reason to doubt they were reliable. In 1875 the amount recovered in Common Law actions in Ireland was £64,000; in 1885 the amount had fallen to £23,000; and in 1895 to £19,900, a fall of 70 per cent. in 20 years.
§ MR. DILLON
said the figures given dill not include County Court Judgments, but even there he understood there had been a considerable falling off. With this falling off in Ireland of business to the extent of 70 per cent. in 20 years, there had been an increase in England of 120 per cent. Yet twenty years ago it was matter of common comment that the Irish Bench was overmanned. Commenting on the state of Irish legal business in December last, The Law Times said there had been a steady decrease in the business in the High Court, and the decrease had followed on similar decreases in previous years, and a time 1191 might be looked forward to when law business would cease in Ireland. He thought they were entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he really seriously offered Ireland this Bill as a measure of judicial reform. It seemed to him to be a Bill, the leading feature of which was the rewarding of a man who acted as emergency man for the Government in troublous times—the leading feature of which was the increasing of an individual salary. It was little short of a mockery to present that to the House of Commons as a great measure of reform.
MR. T. M. HEALY
said that he would like to call the attention of the House to what had been the action of the Irish Party in reference to the salaries of Judges in Ireland. One of the most important Courts carried on in that country was that of the Irish Land Commission, and especially of the Irish Purchase Commission, and when it was said that the salaries of the Judges in Ireland were too high, it was a remarkable fact that, in 1892, the last Act of the then Conservative Government on going out of office, with the unanimous assent of the Irish Party—at least, without a scintilla of protest—was the raising of the salaries not of two Judges, but of two laymen, Mr. Commissioner Lynch and Mr. John George Macartney, from £2,000 to 13,000 a year. That was five years ago, and it was a remarkable fact that none of the statements that had now been hurled on the subject wore then hurled at the Government which carried out the reform. Their subject of complaint was rather at the meanness of the action of the incoming Liberal Government, which, when Mr. John George Macartney died, so construed that Act— as he believed illegally—that when Mr. O'Brien was appointed his salary was kept on as £2,000 instead of the £3,000 which his predecessor had received. He thought considerable savings might be effected in some Courts in Ireland. He took the Irish Land Commission especially. He did not see why the pruning- knife of the Government should not be put to that unsatisfactory tribunal, which was probably the one tribunal of all the others which was unsatisfactory to both the suitor, the practitioner, and the country at large. Coming to the consideration of what was 1192 the present position in Ireland, he said that one of the things that stood most in need of reform was the system of County Court administration. At present, if tomorrow an applicant got a decree he would be tied up until next March. One of the ways in which the energies of Judges might profitably be employed was in having, instead of a March and July circuit, a third or fourth circuit for County Court appeals, the proceedings in which were most satisfactory to the poor people of Ireland. The action of a good Judge like the Lord Chief Baron had actually changed the character and conduct of the people of counties like Kerry and Cork, for they had plainly seen that he had administered equal justice between rich and poor alike. The Common Law Judges he did not think were too highly paid. It was very desirable that men who had important duties to discharge should be above suspicion. He had no desire to practise before "tuppenny-a'penny" Judges. For men who had to deal out justice between man and man, £3,500 was not an excessive salary. It was very public-spirited of the Chief Baron to consent to the extinction of the Exchequer Division. It was in keeping with that Judge's high character; but some would regret the extinction of the Court when they remembered what a check it was in coercion days on the removable magistrates, and what a protection to public liberty. Yet it was a matter of satisfaction that such a man as the Chief Baron should be brought into the Crown Court. The hon. Member for Mayo had naturally fallen into an error with regard to Judge Miller. Judge Miller was dead, and Judge Boyd would have to do the work of two Judges. He had never held a brief in the Bankruptcy Court, and he knew nothing of Judge Boyd's administration of that Court. But he remembered Judge Boyd when he was at the Bar, and was counsel for William O'Brien and United Ireland against Dublin Castle; and when by his singular ability he brought down one of the most corrupt administrations of this century the Administration of 1880 to I885. In the history of forensic struggles, never' was there the case of a man who had more completely merged himself in the interests of his clients, or more completely vindicated them.
MR. T. M. HEALY
said that Judge Boyd was paid for it. Most people were paid for what they did, and some gave very bad value for their pay. While no one was more opposed to Judge Boyd in politics than he, he remembered with gratitude the services rendered by him at that time. He saw from the Bill that appeals in bankruptcy matters were to the in the Court of Appeal as before the passing of the Act. Why, if the Bankruptcy Court wore to be fund with the Court of Queen's Bench, should not the bankruptcy appeals be the same as those from the Court of Queen's Bench? When this Act passed there must be considerable savings in respect to the staff. The savings in the Judgeships themselves he put at £7,500, and the ultimate saving in staff expenses under the Act he estimated at the same amount. He might be told that if a messengership were abolished in the Four Courts it could not be expected that the British Treasury would bring 30s. a week to a suspense account, but an estimate of the whole savings might be added up, and allowances being made for any actuarial calculations—he was sure the British Treasury might be relied upon not to wrong themselves, whoever else they might wrong—they might have an increasing amount, £1,000 this year and £2,000 next, and so on, and accordingly he would suggest to the Government, leaving it to be worked out by rules of Court, that Clause 13 should be altered so as to read, "an annual sum equal to the savings made in consequence of the passing of this Act." Lastly, he should desire to call the attention of the Government to the system of holidays, which were at present so great a reason of the falling-off of business. He did not object to long vacations. He did not think it was too much that anybody exposed to work which entailed great responsibility and anxiety should have a vacation in the autumn, but, to take Easter and Whitsuntide, it commonly happened that the holidays did not synchronise with the ecclesiastical holidays and with the business holidays throughout the country. The client found that a long time was taken to get his business done, and it was 1194 these long delays which made men put up with even a loss than embark in litigation, the end of which they could not see. He thought that the Government would have had considerable difficulty in passing any Measure of a different character at this period of the Session, and if the Bill were to be passed he thought that they might accept it for the present for what it was worth, leaving the future to take care of itself. It made considerable improvements in the judicial administration of the country, and, so far as it went, he would give it his cordial support.
§ MR. CARSON
expressed the opinion that this Bill had gone to the fullest extremity possible in the way of cutting down the judicial establishment in Ireland in the existing circumstances of that country. This remark was prompted by no personal ambition on his part, but as lung as they had the present system of County Courts in Ireland it would be impossible to have any larger reform than was provided by the Bill. In Ireland every case tried in the County Courts could be retried on the mere service of a notice before a Judge of the Superior Courts, bringing home to the homes of the people in Ireland all the learning, independence, had ability of the Superior Courts in relation to the most trivial disputes. That was not the system here. This Irish system entailed on the Judges last year the retrial at Assizes of 4,000 or 5,000 cases from the County Courts. He concurred with the observations of the last speaker that, so far from curtailing these opportunities, they ought to be increased, and he agreed with him that it would be a proper use to make of the Judges of the Superior Courts. Instead of allowing the appeals to hang over from July to March, the Judges night go to the country and hear the appeals. There was another matter. Hitherto the Court of Appeal had held continual sittings, but as the Bill would reduce the number of Judges by three, it would be necessary for a majority of the Judges to go on circuit, and it would therefore be impossible for the Court of Appeal to sit while the Assizes were on. The hon. Member for East Mayo haul made a most unnecessary and a most unmerited attack on Judge Boyd. The hon. Member stated that the main object of the Bill was to level up Judge Boyd's 1195 salary, while leaving him the same duties. These statements were absolutely wrong. The Bill provided that Judge Boyd was not only to do the business which had been done by two Judges in the past, but he was also liable to be sent on circuit and to do any business that might be available in the Court of Queen' s Bench. Judge Boyd was well enough known to those whose respect he cared for, and who were best able to estimate his abilities and fairmindedness, not to care very much for the attack which had been made on his judicial character by the hon. Member for East Mayo. No one could point to any action of Judge Boyd which was not the conduct of a highly honourable man and a trusted servant of the State. He observed that the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, for which he had the greatest respect, had passed a resolution rather protesting against the Bill, under an entire misapprehension, because it seemed to imagine that the Bankruptcy Court was about to be abolished. Of course anybody who was acquainted with the administration of the law in commercial communities must know that it was absolutely necessary to have a Bankruptcy Court always ready to do their business. The Bill made special provision for this, and assigned Judge Boyd for these duties which had been hitherto performed by the Bankruptcy Court. Therefore there need be no apprehension that the duties of the Bankruptcy Court would not be performed to the satisfaction of everybody. On the whole he thought this reform might be accepted by the public and by the members of the Bar. He was aware that members of the Bar regarded it as cutting down the rights they were supposed to have. But they had to consider first of all the rights of the public and the taxpayer. At the same time he held that it was for the advantage of the community that members of a great profession like that of the Bar should feel that their honest ambition to succeed to the prizes of that profession had full scope. But of course if there were too many Judges nobody could suppose that there was any real addition to the honours of the profession by keeping up an abuse that was proved to exist; nor could he think that it was to the interest of the Bar that it should be kept up. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought the Bill might be fairly taken 1196 as an honest attempt on the part of the Government to cut down expenditure which they saw might be reasonably cut down, at the same time preserving the high standard of the judicial Bench, and preserving for the Bar those high offices which many of them might honourably hope to attain. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he thought the Government had no reason to be dissatisfied with the reception the Bill had met with. The only serious critic had been the hon. Member for East Mayo, and his criticism had been entirely met by the two previous speakers. The hon. Member for East Mayo stated that under cover of being a Bill to reduce the number of Judges, it was in reality a Bill for levelling up the salaries of Judges, and he went on to say that the leading feature of the Bill was ft provision to increase an individual salary. It had been already pointed out that the hon. Member was labouring under a misapprehension. He might not be aware that in the normal condition of affairs there were two Bankruptcy Judges. Under the proposals of the Government the two Bankruptcy Judgeships at present existing wore abolished, and the business now done by the two Judges would in future be done by one Judge, who would be a member of the High Court.
§ MR. DILLON
said he was perfectly aware that there used to be two Bankruptcy Judges, but one had been dead some time. It was commonly understood by the Irish Bar that the right hon. Gentleman had proposed or announced that Judge Boyd was in the future to do his own work, Judge Miller's work, and some more in addition.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that the hon. Member had again fallen into a misapprehension, and had stated that one of the Bankruptcy Judges had been dead some time. That was not the case. Judge Miller's death took place within the last two or three months, and since that time his work had fallen entirely upon Judge Boyd. He need not say that he disassociated himself entirely from the criticisms passed by the hon. Member for East Mayo upon Judge Boyd's personal character. He believed him to be a man of the highest personal honour, and he had not the slightest doubt that he would continue to carry out the duties assigned 1197 to him if this Bill passed. The Government had made no utterance on the subject of this Bill previously, and it never was the intention of the Government to cut down the salaries of the Judges as the hon. Member seemed to think. He did not think it would be to the public interest that the salaries of the Judges in Ireland should be docked and curtailed. The hon. Member did not realise the reforms which had been made since 1877. In 1877 there were 23 Judges, they had subsequently been reduced to 20, and this Bill would further reduce them to 17. In 1877 there were 14 separate Courts, a number which when this Bill passed would be reduced to 7. There would be a great gain in respect of economy and efficiency by this reduction. Moreover, it would introduce a simplification of the whole machinery and a corresponding reduction in the official staff. They had provided that the economies arising, from the reduction in the staff should be applied to the Suspense Fund. He did not think it would be wise to introduce into the Bill the words suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Louth. The hon. and learned Member for North Louth had referred to the second sub-section of the fourth clause as to appeals in bankruptcy. The only reason why that sub-section had been inserted was to prevent the necessity of double appeals. At present there was only a single appeal in a bankruptcy case; but unless this sub-section was passed there would a double appeal. first to the Court of Queen's Bench and secondly to the Court of Appeal. The sub-section had been introduced to preserve the present appeal procedure.
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork County, N.)
said that there was no desire to oppose the Bill. The Chief Secretary had asked how the great expectations of Nationalist Members. in regard to the changes and savings to be effected had been raised. They had been raised by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Debate on the financial relations between 1198 Great Britain and Ireland, when the right lion. Gentleman acknowledged on behalf of the Government that the cost of the judicial establishment in Ireland was excessive. The right hon. Gentleman promised that the savings effected by alterations in the establishment would be used in Ireland for useful purposes. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman supplied ample justification for the action of any Irish Member who sought to widen the scope of the Bill. They would have liked to see even a larger reduction in the number of the Judges, and a serious attempt ought to have been made to deal with the question of the excessive salaries paid to Judges. These salaries it might have been decided to reduce as vacancies occurred. Something had been said about the salaries of the County Court Judges. He believed that they got £1,500 or £2,000 a year; so they were very well paid. [Mr. CARSON: "Which of them gets £1,500 a year?"] The County Court Judge of Cork did for one. In fixing these salaries they ought to have a regard to the average earnings of the Bar in Ireland, and to the comparative poverty of the People. The hon. and learned Member for North Louth had fallen into a mistake in regard to the salaries of the Land Judges. He well remembered when the salaries of the Land Judges were taken off the Estimates and the Judges were thus placed beyond the criticism of Parliament, the Nationalist Party protested against it as unfair and unwise in the interests of Irish tenants and landlords. lint it was done, and the responsibility rested with the Government. The attitude of the Nationalist Party on this present occasion was that they would like to see the Bill larger and more comprehensive. They would not oppose the Second Reading, but they hoped to improve the Bill in Committee.
§ DR. TANNER
said the outcry of the Irish Bar against this Bill was "much cry and little wool." [Laughter.] If everything was so satisfactory in connection 1199 with the Irish Bar, and its emoluments were so considerable, he should have thought the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University would have continued in the land of his birth instead of joining the base and brutal Saxon. [Laughter.] The fact was something had to be done for Judge Boyd. Two Judges had recently paid the debt of nature, and nothing could be done for them. The only thing was to make the best of a bad job, and out of their salaries to do something for Judge Boyd. The hon. and learned Member for Louth said that Judge Boyd was not quite such a bad man after all, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite said that he was a. superlatively good judge; but, if the average vote of the average man in Ireland meant anything, he would say that Judge Boyd was a Colonial Secretary in the ranks of the Conservative Party. [Loud laughter.] The feeling in Ireland was that they did not love Judge Boyd. The dislike for hint was excessive.
§ DR. TANNER
said he really intended to go no distance at all. [Laughter.] He merely wished as far as he possibly could to try and prevent anything being done in connection with this Bill which would be strongly resisted in Committee.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed for to-morrow.