HC Deb 28 June 1920 vol 131 cc201-4

Resolution reported, That it is expedient to authorise further payments, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, for the salaries and allowances of Resident Magistrates in Ireland and to amend the Law relating thereto. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.


This Resolution calls for explanation. These are not days for new expenditure. I suggest that expenditure in Ireland is waste of money unless the Government take steps to support the decisions which these magistrates give. It is useless appointing magistrates unless the Government supplies that force or that authority which is necessary to support the magistrates. What sum of money is required and how is it proposed to use it? We ought not blindly to vote any money.


The sum of money asked for is £8,000 and the object of the Bill is to increase the salaries of resident magistrates by a comparatively small sum. Indeed, an hon. Member opposed the Bill on the ground that the increase of salary proposed was too small. They are all existing resident magistrates. Upon appointment it is proposed to give them a minimum salary of £500 a year, rising to £700. When hon.

Members consider the risks that these men run and the efficient way in which they discharge their duties, they will agree that the salary is not extravagant. At present they receive a minimum of —425, and that sum was fixed as far back as 1874, since when no increase has been granted to them. The matter was discussed fully in Committee on Friday, and from all parts of the House there was appreciation of the services rendered by these gentlemen.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Of course I freely recognise the great services of these gentlemen in Ireland, but I do not think that the learned Attorney-General has answered the question put to him. Before we vote this money I think we ought to be told by the Government whether they see any probability in the near future of some sort of law and order being maintained in Ireland.


That is hardly relevant to the increase of the salaries of magistrates.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I put it to the House that we are at any rate voting an increase of money for these resident magistrates and I suggest to the Government that, things being as they are, it would be much better if these magistrates could be sent, say, to Mesopotamia, where they might at any rate earn their pay, instead of remaining in Ireland where this money—although I do not grudge it to the unfortunate gentlemen—brings no adequate return to the country.


I would like to ask the representative of the Irish Government whether, when the Government of Ireland Bill becomes law, it will or will not affect this proposal, and whether in the interim it is necessary to introduce a proposal for increased ex- penditure. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of £425 as a pittance for a magistrate. Of course, it is a pittance. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had in mind the salary of an hon. Member of this House. It exceeds that by £25 per annum. The method of the Government, in coming down at twenty past eleven at night, and voting £8,000 or £10,000, or it may be £2,000,000 or £26,000,000, as was the case the other night, does not give hon. Members the opportunity of doing that which they might conceive to be their duty. If there is a Division I shall vote against giving Irish resident magistrates more than £425 on principle. If resident magistrates have to suffer on a question of principle they will not be the only people in Ireland or out of it to do so. The Government will have their way so long as this House is constituted as it is. The points made have not been replied to. It strikes me as amazing that at the particular moment when these magistrates, through no fault of their own, are utterly incapable of carrying on operations, the Government should come down and ask for this increase.


I understand representations have been made to the Government not so much with regard to the minimum salary of these Resident Magistrates, but as to the maximum, and they object to be limited to a maximum of £700 per year. I have it on good authority that the increase now proposed is only £25 a year. You expect these men to carry on arduous duties, and you are not adequately paying them. I think the Government ought to withdraw this Resolution and recast it altogether. The Resident Magistrate is a man who rather reminds me of the tradesman who employs a girl cashier and pays her 15s. per week and wonders why she is not honest. The Resident Magistrate has to be above suspicion and above the fear of being corrupted by the people he has to deal with. A salary of £700, which is about £300 in pre-War value, is not fair to Resident Magistrates. I hope hon. Members who represent Ireland in this House, and who are the only Irish Members to honour this Assembly with their presence, will demand that so long as this system continues, and I hope they will bring it to an end as soon as possible, these men should be paid a fair wage.


I join in the appeal of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel P. Williams) that the Government should withdraw this Resolution and improve the conditions for the men who do great and wonderful services in Ireland. I object to the Resolution also on the ground that until the Government can give proper security for the Courts in Ireland, that it is waste of money to pay any magistrate a penny. From everything we hear we know that the King's Writ is not running in Ireland, and magistrates are unable to do their work. I think if the Government would withdraw the Resolution and give us an assurance that they will do their best to see and protect magistrates, so that they can do their work, they will be doing a service. I agree that this is a mean and contemptible increase in the salaries of men who do their work in very grave and difficult circumstances. I am for economy, but I think that to economise in this way is not fair to men who are serving their King in Ireland. If the Resolution is taken to a Division, I shall vote against it.

Bill ordered to be brought in upon the said Resolution and that Mr. Attorney-General for Ireland, Sir Hamar Greenwood, and Mr. Solicitor-General for Ireland do prepare and bring it in.