HC Deb 22 June 1920 vol 130 cc2094-9

(1) All matters relating to the Supreme Court of Southern Ireland, the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland (including the registration of deeds and title to land), and the High Court of Appeal for Ireland shall be reserved matters until the date of Irish Union, but the constituent Acts, or any Act of the Parliament of Ireland, may provide for the amalgamation of the Supreme Court of Southern Ireland and the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland and the abolition or merger in the Court so constituted of the High Court of Appeal for Ireland, and may provide, as respects judges appointed after the date of Irish Union, for such judges being appointed by the Lord Lieutenant and the substitution of an address from both Houses or the House of the Parliament of Ireland for an address from both Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the provisions relating to the removal of judges, and for the salaries and pensions of such judges being charged on and paid out of the Irish Consolidated Fund instead of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom.

(2) The provisions of this Act as to existing judges and existing pensions shall, after the date of Irish Union, with the necessary modifications, extend to the judges who at that date are judges of any of the said Courts, and to any pensions which at that date are payable to any persons on account of service as such judges.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words "and title to land" ["including the registration of deeds and title to land"]

Although it is absolutely essential that the registration of deeds should be a reserved matter, it is not necessary in the case of the title to land. The registration of deeds has been, of course, a central matter from the very beginning, and the memorials of land, both in Northern and Southern Ireland, are bound together in books. People searching for titles have to go to the Central Registry Office. It would be absolutely impossible to disintegrate these books and separate the memorials which have been entered from time to time in respect to operations dealing with land, both in Northern and Southern Ireland. This, therefore, is a reserved matter until the date of Irish Union. But there is another system of registration which began with the Land Acts in 1891. That was the registration of the titles to land bought under the Land Purchase Acts. There is, in this connection, a local registry of title in each county, and the registrar in each county sends to Dublin to the Central Registry copies of all titles to land registered with him. There is no difficulty whatever in disintegrating these.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Just one word to draw attention to this further example of the Government finding out how impracticable a Bill this is as drafted; particularly in regard to chopping off a corner of Ireland to be administered and legislated apart from the rest of Ireland.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: At the end of Sub-section (1), insert the new Sub-section— (2) The reservation of matters relating to such Supreme Courts as aforesaid shall not extend to the regulation of the profession of solicitors.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

8.0 P.M.

Captain CRAIG

The Committee will observe from the reading of the first two lines of this Clause how far-reaching it is, dealing as it does with all matters relating to the Supreme Court of Southern Ireland, the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland and so on. It is quite easy to conceive, in fact it is a point upon which there is a very great deal of difference of opinion, with the probability of litigation, as to what is included in the term "all matters" relating to the Supreme Court of Southern Ireland, and the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland. The Government has met us in the two Amendments which we have just passed. But I would like to point out there are still a great many matters which affect the easy working of the law in both Northern and Southern Ireland. It is at least doubtful whether they will come within this Sub-section or not. There is a matter of importance. There is a matter of improvement which either the Northern judiciary or the Southern judiciary would wish to make in their legal system, and which has been mentioned on several occasions—the setting up of a Court of Criminal Appeal. That surely is a matter which, if either court felt very strongly upon, it should be allowed to deal with and set up such a court. I maintain that under this Section they are absolutely precluded from doing so, and that shows the necessity of narrowing this Clause down to much smaller limits. Take the Civil Bill Courts jurisdiction; everybody knows that only sums up to a certain amount can be dealt with in the Civil Bill Courts, together with certain other matters. It seems wrong that the courts should be bound down in this way, seeing that it might be found very desirable to allow one Court to deal with a different kind of case.


That has nothing to do with the Supreme Court.

Captain CRAIG

There are other matters I should like to touch on. There is the question of holding Assizes. If it were found necessary to increase the number of assises in one year it could not be done because this Section precludes such a change. Then there is the regulation affecting trial by judge with a jury. It is not possible for the judiciary to make their own rules on that point, however much public convenience might demand a change. There is the regulation affecting Probate Registry in the North of Ireland. That comes under the ban of this Clause. The Land Commission Offices which we want to see established in the North of Ireland cannot be set up. We have a principal Bankruptcy Office in Belfast, but I am not sure that the area over which it has jurisdiction is as great as the area controlled by the Northern Parliament, and under this Section the judiciary will not be allowed to extend the jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Court. There is the question of Admiralty jurisdiction which I understand is possessed by County Courts, but under this Section, so far as I can see, it will be impossible for the judiciary to set up any Admiralty jurisdiction. There is a general regulation affecting the administration of summary jurisdiction in County Courts, but we cannot deal with any of these matters, and the various points I have mentioned show how very important matters cannot be dealt with either by the Northern judiciary or by the Northern Parliament. What I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to do would be to give us a promise that between now and the report stage he will look into this Clause more closely, and if he finds that the case I have made is a true one, and that neither the Northern Parliament nor the Northern judiciary will be able to touch these matters, he will so amend the Bill as to give both the judiciary and the Parliament those powers of control without which they would be handicapped, in the one case in the matter of the administration of justice and in the other case in the promotion of legislation.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I have been delighted to hear the reasonable speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig), because it indicates that he wishes to increase the powers of the Southern Parliament; obviously, he cannot increase the power of one Parliament without increasing that of the other. This is really the first touch of reality we have had in this Debate. What I want to know is this, and I trust I may get a clear answer. The hon. and gallant Member said, "The Government have met us." To whom does he thus refer? I gather that he was referring to what had been conceded in the matter of land titles and the regulation of the profession of solicitors, but I have heard no Debate in this House in which these concessions were demanded, and I want to know by whom they were demanded and when the bargain was struck. The Amendments appear to me to suggest that there is log-rolling going on behind the scenes with reference to this Bill, and that the Unionist Members have been "met" on matters as to which I think we are entitled to have more information. I particularly seize on this point because it is obvious from the course of the Bill that there has been continual bargaining and haggling behind the scenes.


There has been absolutely nothing of the kind.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I am delighted to hear it, but still I want an explanation as to what was meant by the hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim, when he said, "On these points we have been met." I am rather driven to press this matter, because of the extraordinary Amendment which appears later on with regard to the Oath of Allegiance being taken by Catholics. We ought to have some explanation, showing exactly where we stand, and why and how the authority of this House is being undermined.


With reference to the remark of the last speaker, the Amendments with regard to land titles and the solicitor's profession were moved by myself, and I presume that the hon. Member for Antrim, in using the phrase he did, meant that the desire was to get as much jurisdiction as possible for these courts in the North of Ireland. I think, in fact, the hon. and gallant Member for Antrim has shown himself unduly nervous on the various sub-points he has mentioned, but I will undertake to look into them all, and if any matter can be introduced to expedite the administration of justice, either in the Southern or the Northern Parliamentary area, we will do what we can to secure it.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I should like to know why these Amendments with regard to land titles and the regulation of the solicitor's profession were not thought of when the Bill was drafted, and why should it now be necessary to alter the Bill.


It was my fault, but these were the last two Amendments that were accepted by the Committee. I have given my reasons for them, and am willing to repeat them if I have failed to convey them.

Clause 46 (County Court Judges) ordered to stand part of the Bill.