HC Deb 28 June 1920 vol 131 cc86-90

(1) For the purpose of the provisions of this Act relating to existing officers, any officer shall be deemed to be an Irish officer who is serving or employed in Irish services within the meaning of this Act, and the fact that the salary of an Irish officer is provided in whole or in part out of funds administered by the Government Department in which he serves, or out of an allowance voted for the office expenses of the office in which he is employed, or out of fees, instead of being charged on the Consolidated Fund or paid out of moneys provided by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, shall not prevent that officer being treated as an officer in the Civil Service of the Crown:

Provided that where any officers employed at the appointed date wholly or in part on Irish services form an integral part of a staff not solely engaged on such services, the Department under which they are employed shall prepare a scheme for determining which of the members of such staff are, for the purposes of this Act, to be treated as Irish officers, and such scheme shall be submitted to the Irish Civil Service Committee and, if and when approved by that Committee, shall have effect as if enacted in this Act.

(2) If any question arises whether an officer is an Irish officer as so defined, or otherwise as to any claim or right of an officer under the provisions of this Act relating to existing officers, that question shall be determined by the Civil Service Committee.

(3) If in any case the Civil Service Committee are of opinion that the service or employment of an officer is such that he is partly an Irish officer and partly not, that Committee shall determine any question which arises as respects the proportions in which any allowance, gratuity, or compensation payable to that officer is to be paid as between the Exchequer or Consolidated Fund of Southern or Northern Ireland, as the case may be, and of the United Kingdom respectively.

Captain CRAIG

I beg to move in Subsection (1) after the word "Act" ["meaning of this Act"] to insert the words "including any person employed as standing solicitor of a Government Department in connection with such services." The Committee will see that this Clause begins with the words For the purpose of the provisions of this Act relating to existing officers, any officer shall be deemed to be an Irish officer who is serving or employed in Irish services within the meaning of this Act. There are several people in Ireland who are not by any means certain whether they come within this definition, and among them are certain standing solicitors to Government Departments in Ireland. I want to clear up the point as to whether they are included; hence I move this Amendment.


There is no such thing known to the law as a Standing Solicitor. The solicitors referred to as such will, however, come within the Section. There are three classes of solicitors, who might be referred to under this Amendment. The first are solicitors employed under contract of service. They, I take it, are already under the Clause. The second class are solicitors employed from time to time ad hoc.


Will the hon. and learned Gentleman speak up. I cannot hear anything he says.


I have said the first class are those serving under contract of service. They are public servants already, and would come under the provision. In the second case Government Departments employ solicitors from time to time to do particular work for them, but it is impossible to include them within the compensation and pensions Sections of this Bill. The third class are employed in exactly the same way as the last class, but are under no contract. They to are not included. If any solicitor can show he has a claim to consideration, his case will have to be considered on its merits.

Captain CRAIG

I think the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman leaves the matter in a very unsatisfactory condition, because every solicitor who feels aggrieved will have to bring an action to test whether his case comes within the Clause or not. It seems to me that that ought not to be so. At any rate, I hope the Government will make it clear that all those who come within the first of the three categories described by the hon. and learned Gentleman are included. At present I can see nothing in the Bill which secures that. I would further submit that a solicitor who does work frequently for a Department, although not necessarily under contract, can be quite well said to be serving or employed in the Irish service.


I feel sure that any solicitor in Ireland will take care that his rights are secured under this Bill. Solicitors who work for any Government Department will attend to that. But I should like to make sure of the position of medical officers under the Irish Local Government Board. They are not mentioned any more than solicitors, and they are not so capable of looking after their own interests. Therefore I want to make sure that their positions are secured under this Bill.


I do not at all agree with the hon. Member who last spoke in the very unfair distinction he drew between the two professions we represent. As a Member of the solicitors' branch of the legal profession I venture to say my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment has done it with very sound reason. Instead of solicitors being always able to look after themselves they have in the past been most unfairly treated, and my right hon. Friend who is taking charge of this part of the Bill (Sir L. Worthington-Evans) will remember a case in connection with one of the great Government Departments, where legal appointments, which were specifically designated to be held by solicitors, had been filled by barristers. I know of no case under any Statute where appointments reserved for barristers have been given to solicitors. I hope, in the interests of solicitors with a permanent status, their appointments will be amply safeguarded. I remember discussing with a friend on one occasion the position of solicitors, and hearing him remark that they ought to be more generous to the public. I remarked to him: "You have no idea how much work lawyers do for nothing," and he admitted that he had not.


I shall not join in the controversy as to whether lawyers or doctors are best able to take care of themselves in these matters. I will only say that in my own experience both professions endeavour to make the best of both worlds. I want to define what is meant by the words, "those employed under contract of service." Does that mean people only who give their whole time to the appointment, and are precluded from indulging in private practice, or will it cover the case of Crown solicitors? I want to know where the line is drawn. I would also like to have it explained what is meant by "those employed from time to time ad hoc." Does that cover those charged with criminal prosecutions at Assizes? I think it is very desirable that these points should be more clearly defined.


I wish to ask as to the position of assistants of Chief Crown Solicitors in Ireland, men who are usually paid by the Chief Crown Solicitor. They are whole-time servants, and I want to know how they will be affected?

Colonel NEWMAN

I do not quite understand the position with regard to doctors. They can, perhaps, look after themselves, but I should like to ask whether the officials called dispensary doctors come within this provision, and, if not, what doctors it covers?


The reference to doctors has been an imported matter here. This Amendment deals only with solicitors. We must deal with them one at a time.


Crown solicitors in Ireland, who are employed in Irish cases, undoubtedly come within the Section, and would get the benefit of it. When solicitors are employed by Departments under contract, they are usually employed at a salary. Solicitors who will not come within this Section are solicitors employed by a Department in the same way in which a client might employ a solicitor; that is to say, they have no fixity of tenure, and the client can employ someone else the next day. They are not paid by salary at all, but by costs, taxed and paid in the ordinary way. Solicitors employed in that way are excluded; the others come within the Section. As regards doctors in Ireland, dispensary doctors are dealt with under a code of their own, under the Public Health Act. Their case is statutorily provided for.

Captain CRAIG

After what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.