HC Deb 28 November 1922 vol 159 cc640-4

As from the date upon which the administration of public services relating to land purchase is transferred as respects the Irish Free State to the Executive Council thereof the office of commissioner of the Irish Land Commission shall cease to exist, except so far as its continuance may be declared by the Treasury to be necessary for the execution of matters outside the jurisdiction of the Government of the Irish Free State, and any commissioner of that Commission whose office is declared by the Treasury to be redundant shall, notwithstanding anything in any other Act, retire from office and shall be entitled to receive an annual allowance of such amount as may be determined to be reasonable and just by the committee established for determining the compensation of existing judges, regard being had to the tenure and character of his office, the conditions of his employment, and the probability of his further continuance therein but for the establishment of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State, and the provisions of Part 1 of this Schedule with respect to the suspension of pensions of existing judges shall with the necessary modifications apply to any such annual allowance:

Provided that the Commissioner of the Irish Land Commission who is a member of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Southern Ireland shall for the purposes of this Schedule, be treated as an existing judge of that Court and not as a commissioner of the Irish Land Commission.


I beg to move in Part I to leave out paragraph (6).

This paragraph provides that For the purpose of this Part of the Schedule the expression 'judge' means any judge of a Supreme Court' and any judge of a county court or recorder of a borough. I move to omit this pro formâ for the purpose of getting an expression of opinion from the Government as to the position of the Dublin Metropolitan Police Magistrates. The position of these gentlemen is a very peculiar one. They are the only judicial authorities in Ireland for whom provision is not made by this Schedule. Judges, Recorders and County Court Judges have provision made for them, but the Dublin Metropolitan Police Magistrates are entirely left out of the Schedule. What is really rather more serious to them is that there are grave doubts whether under the Treaty they can get any compensation if they are retired or discharged or if their posts are abolished. I should therefore like an expression of opinion from the Attorney-General whether these magistrates will be entitled to compensation. I need hardly say that they perform very important judicial functions in Ireland, very similar to those performed by the London Police Magistrates in this city. Their work is continuous and requires a very considerable degree of skill, and therefore primâ facie there can be no question that they should be provided for either under this Schedule or by Article 10 of the Treaty. The question I put to the Attorney-General is whether these men will receive compensation under Article 10, and, if not, will he give an assurance that, if not in this Bill, at any rate in some other Bill which will have to be brought in, they will be provided for. I have no doubt myself that this Bill will later on have to be amended in some shape or form, and if it is impossible to deal with these men now, perhaps the Attorney-General can say that they will be provided for in a later Bill. If he is unable to give an absolute assurance, I hope he will, at any rate, give some assurance that will relieve the undoubted anxiety which these men are suffering, and which will convince them that they will not suffer the injustice of being entirely refused compensation.


The point which the hon. and learned Member has mentioned is one which, I think, was only raised for the first time within the last two days, and, quite frankly, I have to say that I cannot give him an exact statement as to the legal position of these three gentlemen under Article 10 of the Treaty. I can tell my hon. and learned Friend what I think it is, but I cannot assure him of more than that. I should like to explain at once to the Committee what the essential difference is between these three gentlemen and the Judges who are provided for in the Second Schedule. In the Second Schedule we are dealing with certain Judges whose salaries are charged on the Consolidated Fund. As was explained earlier in the evening, the three police magistrates to whom my hon. and learned Friend refers are three magistrates who were never on the Consolidated Fund, who were transferred to the Provisional Government on the 1st April of this year, and who ceased from that time, of course, to be officers of the Imperial Government. They were transferred under terms which provided that their tenure was be not less favourable than it had been before, and, under Article 77 of the Constitution, they go from the Provisional Government to the Irish Free State. Under the Irish Free State they will hold office by a tenure corresponding to their previous tenure, and, by Article 78, it is provided that they are to be entitled to the benefit of Article 10 of the Treaty. So far as I can judge, therefore, their position is protected. I cannot offer to my hon. and learned Friend an undertaking or assurance as to what shall be done with any particular person or class of persons at this stage. I have no authority to do that. But if it should turn out that we are mistaken, and that in fact they are not provided for under the Treaty, I can certainly assure my hon. and learned Friend that we shall sympathetically consider any representations that may be made on the matter.


I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance, and, in view of his promise of sympathetic consideration, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion- made, and Question proposed, "That the Schedule stand part of the Bill"

Captain BENN

I should like to ask a question of the Attorney-General. In winding-up the older Government of Ireland we have been let in for a good deal of expense, and I want to ask particularly, in connection with Part II, for some financial information in regard to the retirement of the Lord Chancellor. I do not think I know who is the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, but that is not the question. What I want to ask is, how long has he held his appointment, what are his present emoluments, and precisely to what sum will he be entitled under Part II of the Second Schedule?


I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is asking me rather more than I can answer offhand, when he asks me the exact amount of the Lord Chancellor's present emoluments. If I had had notice I could have had it looked up. The Lord Chancellor is Sir John Ross. I do not know how long ht> has been Lord Chancellor, but he has been a judge in Ireland, having been promoted from one position to another, for a great many years, I think for something like 20 years. The compensation to which he is entitled, is that provided by Part I of the Second Schedule; that is to say, the Committee which is there set up, consisting of the English Master of the Rolls, Lord Sterndale, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, and a Judge of the Supreme Court of England to be nominated by the English Lord Chancellor, are to assess in respect of every Judge, including the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, what they consider to be a fair compensation for loss of office having regard to all the circumstances of the case. I have just been handed the information for which my hon. and gallant Friend asked. The Lord Chancellor's present salary is £6,000 a year; he is entitled on retirement at present to a pension of £4,000 a year; and he has been a Judge of the Supreme Court in Ireland for more than a quarter of a century.


How long has he been Lord Chancellor?


I am told for six years, but I do not know.


It is rather peculiar that, in the winding up of the affairs of Ireland, this country is going to be asked to pay such enormous sums. We have been informed that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland has practically been in office for a quarter of a century, that his salary has been £6,000 a year, and that, if he retires, he is going to get £4,000 a year as pension. If this had been a business concern, an employe1 who had served in it for a quarter of a century—as we find to be the case at the present time in a very large number of business concerns—would now be standing in a queue at an Employment Exchange waiting for a- dole: but when we have a House that is very largely composed of lawyers, they look after their own interests, and they taunt-Members on this side of the House, who are sent here as Labour Members, with trying to look after the interests of the workers. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Oh, yes, you do. None of us here have ever denied that, but we have been taught a very good lesson by men who have had experience in that same matter for many years, men who have been looking to it that the legal profession has been getting the pick of all the jobs that had to be found, and that, when it comes to the period of retirement, they may, as in the case of the Lord Chancellor of this country, serve for four years and then, when they retire, they draw a pension of between £5,000 and £6,000 a year. I am talking of the Lord Chancellor of Britain, not the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. This is one of the usual things that we have in this House. I am not going so far as to talk of corruption, because it is within the legal forms of the country, and, therefore, it cannot be corruption in the eyes of the lawyers, who can usually find sufficient arguments on the one side when they are well enough paid, and, if they are better paid, they can find equally good arguments on the other side. I submit that the people of this country, who to-day are passing through such terrible conditions of starvation and distress generally, are going to ask some very pointed questions of the Members who have recently come from fighting constituencies, when they go back to address meetings of their con 6tituents. Some very pointed questions will be asked of those men who have come here on the plea of economy, while among the first of their actions in this House has been the voting away of such sums of money to men who have been earning exceedingly good salaries all their lives, and who, in the language we are accustomed to hear from the other side, ought to have been able, during those years, to put away sufficient for the rainy day which seemingly is coming upon them, and which we are asked to assure them against.

Bill reported: as amended, considered: to be read a Third time To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.