§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that its object was to amend the existing arrangements for the revision of jurors and voters lists in the County of Dublin, which was found to be most distinctly inconvenient and unreasonably burdensome on the official who now discharged the duty. The fact was, that in the City and County of Dublin the same official discharged the duties of Recorder and Chairman of the County. His duties in that double capacity were very onerous indeed—so onerous and so continuous throughout the year, that the holder of the office was the hardest worked judicial officer in the country. Both the present and the late Government felt that there was a strong case for relieving this officer from the particular portion of his duties dealt with in this Bill. The best way in which he could explain the matter was by referring to an application from the holder of the office which was the groundwork of this Bill. In January, 1880, the then Chairman of the County, resigned; and, in virtue of an Act passed two years before, the Chairmanship of the County devolved upon the Recorder of the City, carrying with it among other duties, and they were many, this duty of the revision of the jurors and voters list. When this event happened, the Recorder addressed a letter to the Irish Government, in which he said that he had always been of opinion that it was a mistake to unite these two important offices, that the united duties were too much for the same individual, and so on. At the same time, he said that he would be prepared to do his best to perform the duties of both offices. He said—I believe that this accession to my present work will necessitate nearly continuous sittings, and will entail a much larger amount of work 1590 and more continuous sittings than are imposed on the holder of any other judicial office.And then he went on to say that, while willing, as far as possible, to discharge the duties of the two offices, there was one portion of them—namely, that of the revision of the lists for the county, which it was practically impossible for him to undertake. He added that, even if it were practicable, he did not think it would be fair to his office, or to himself—neither did he believe that the Government or Parliament would compel him—obliged as he was to hold sittings for other purposes for 11 months in the year, also to hold the sittings necessary, which would be almost continuous, for this revision. Therefore, he respectfully asked the Government to relieve him of these particular duties; and that was what the present Bill proposed to do by appointing a Revising Barrister for the County. That application of the Recorder had been referred to the Lord Chancellor of the day. He gave his opinion that the application was a reasonable one, provided that the Recorder could prove his statements to be accurate—that was to say, that the amount of time consumed by the revision of the lists proved to be what he expected. The Lord Chancellor said if the revision occupied as much time as was anticipated, he thought the duty too much for the Recorder; and he further pointed out that it was an inconvenient time of the year at which the revision must be made, inasmuch as it was just when the Licensing Sessions were held. He added, however, that it would be as well not to deal with the matter then, but to wait until the Recorder had had some experience of the actual working of the arrangement.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
The then Lord Chancellor, Dr. Ball. It had turned out that the Recorder was perfectly right in his anticipation as to the amount of labour and time required for the revision of these lists. His sittings had been fully as numerous, and had taken up quite as much time as he had estimated. The Bill was introduced in accordance with the Memorandum of the Lord Chancellor in 1881; but, under the pressure of other Business, it was allowed 1591 to drop. Now, the same Bill had been brought in and carried through the House of Commons. It appeared, as he had said, that this unfortunate official was compelled to have almost continuous sittings, for one purpose or another, all the year round, and so was in the position of having no vacation whatever. That was a state of things which it appeared to the Government it could not be to the public interest to continue, inasmuch as it was impossible that these important duties could be satisfactorily discharged. At the same time, it appeared unreasonable and unfair to require such a multiplication of business to be performed by the same officer. To put an end to that state of things, this Bill enabled the Lord Lieutenant to appoint a Revising Barrister for the County of Dublin, and so put it in the same position as other Irish counties. He begged to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord President.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
, in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, that the Recorder of Dublin was in a better position than any similar officer in Ireland. The Recorder of Belfast, for instance, who got a less salary, had to revise the voters' lists for the County of Antrim, and the noble Lord opposite (the Lord President) must be aware that the County Court Judges of Ireland, who had an immense amount of judicial work to do, also revised the voters' lists in their districts. It seemed to him most extraordinary that this Bill should have been brought in at this time, when it was proposed to carry into law a scheme to provide new electoral machinery for the Three Kingdoms, in the shape of a Redistribution Bill, a Franchise Bill, and a Bill for the Registration of Voters. Why on earth, when they hoped soon to have these Bills before them, and to pass them into law, should the Government bring forward this measure, which he could only characterize as a job? He could not understand how the Government could lend themselves to such a thing. The Bill proposed to create a new office; and, to his mind, it was most ridiculous to do such a thing in only one county. Why should they not treat all the counties alike? He was prepared to show 1592 their Lordships, on the authority of the Chief Secretary for Ireland himself, that the Recorder of Dublin did not do as much work as many other officials, although he received a great deal more pay. Personally, he had nothing to say against the Recorder; indeed, he believed an official who discharged his duties more to the satisfaction of the public than Mr. Falkner did not exist. It was not to the character of the gentleman he objected, but to the creation by the Government of new offices. They were told the present Government was a Government of Retrenchment. [Opposition laughter.] Well, so it was said; but, for his part, he had seen very little of retrenchment about their policy. The salary of the Recorder of Dublin was £2,500 a-year, and Mr. Gibson had informed him that he had heard Mr. Trevelyan say, in the House of Commons, that last year this official only sat for 160 days. Was that at all in agreement with what had been said by the noble Lord opposite (the Lord President)? The noble Lord had given them to understand that the Recorder had no holidays, but was obliged to sit continuously. Such was evidently not the case. Then, with regard to the duties performed by this gentleman, he had only 5,000 voters to deal with; whilst the Recorder of Belfast had infinitely more. The County Court Judges also, although paid much smaller salaries than the Recorder of Dublin, had those lists to revise in two, and even three counties, in addition to their ordinary judicial work. The County Court Judge of Roscommon and Sligo, who had a list of 7,000 voters to revise, sat last year 300 days. His salary was only £1,500 a-year, whilst that of the Recorder of Dublin, who only sat 100 days, was £2,500. As a justification for the course he (the Marquess of Waterford) had taken in connection with the matter, he would point out to their Lordships that Notice of Motion to reject the Bill had been put on the Paper in the House of Commons by Mr. Biggar, Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Sexton, and Mr. Healy. Nearly the whole of the Irish Conservative Members, he believed, had been opposed to the Bill; and he was satisfied that almost every noble Lord who came from Ireland was opposed to it. Therefore, he sincerely hoped that it would not be read a second time. If a Conservative Government had 1593 brought forward such a Bill, they would have been hooted at right and left for such a piece of jobbery in trying to create places for their political supporters. The noble Marquess concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months.")—(The Marquess of Waterford.)
§ THE EARL OF HOWTH
said, that as one who was closely connected with the county of Dublin, and anxious to support its interests, he warmly supported the Bill. He would point out that it was impossible to conceive a more important jury panel than that of Dublin. Noble Lords must remember the unparalleled duties which were cast upon them during the past few years in connection with the terrible crimes and terrorism which had occurred in the country. He could not understand how the proposal in the Bill could be considered a job. Probably the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Waterford) was not aware of the difficulties connected with the registration of jurors in the country; but he could assure him they were enormous. People were anxious to avoid being placed on the list.
THE EARL OF MILLTOWN
said, he had listened with attention to the arguments which had fallen from noble Lords. It was said that the Recorder of Dublin was overworked; but last year he only sat 160 days, and that did not appear excessive work. He (the Earl of Milltown) did not want to say that this was a job, although he thought it might easily be made one, neither did he object to favour being bestowed on briefless barristers, the Government being at liberty to select one for this appointment; but he protested against the country being taxed for the support of such people.
§ LORD FITZGERALD
, in rising to support the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, said, that he had no interest in the question, save that of friendship for the Recorder. That officer was appointed by the late Government, and had proved himself a most excellent one. It was perfectly evident, from the statements made by the Recorder, that the duties he had to discharge, in addition to his legal functions, were very inconvenient and oppressive. 1594 He (Lord Fitzgerald) denied that there was any political advantage to be gained by the Government through the carrying of the Bill; for their Lordships must be well aware that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, or the Irish Executive, would have to appoint the Revising Barrister, who would be a barrister of 10 years' standing. There was no ground for the charge that this was a job; and, in proof of that, he would call attention to the fact that the Revising Barrister would, he presumed, be paid a fee of 100 guineas only for each revision. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Milltown) had spoken of briefless barristers. Did the noble Earl intend this as a reproach? Very probably a briefless barrister might be appointed to this office; but, for his own part, he (Lord Fitzgerald) had not the same objection to those gentlemen as some noble Lords seemed to have. In Ireland there was no difficulty in obtaining, even among briefless barristers, high-minded gentlemen capable of performing judicial duties with fairness and efficiency. As to whether the Recorder of Dublin was, or was not, an over-worked official, who ought to be relieved of a portion of his present functions, all he could say was, that if he did not believe that to be the case, he Would not support the Bill. He would also refuse his assent to it, if he thought there was anything political in it; but he knew that that was not the case. The object was merely to relieve an overworked Judge. He could not say how many days the Recorder sat, because his sittings varied; but as to the statement alleged to have come from Mr. Trevelyan through Mr. Gibson, he thought Mr. Trevelyan had probably been referring to his sittings as Recorder, and did not take into account his other legal work, and his sittings for the purpose of revising these lists. At one time, the Recorder did not revise the jury lists; but, in 1877, a Bill was passed providing that as soon as there should be a vacancy in the Chairmanship of the County Dublin, all the duties of the office should be cast on the Recorder of the City of Dublin. The whole of the duties of the Chairman of the County, civil and criminal, were to be cast on him. Two or three years afterwards Mr. Trench resigned the Chairmanship of the County; and, as he (Lord Fitzgerald) understood it, this Bill was brought in a year after- 1595 wards to relieve the Recorder of part of his duties. The fact was, the Recorder of Dublin, though everything he did he did well, was an over-worked official. He had an extensive criminal jurisdiction, with jurisdiction to try all except capital offences, and sat repeatedly during the year for the consideration of criminal business. He had a much larger jurisdiction than any Chairman of Quarter Sessions in England. Dublin was a community of 250,000 persons, so that, obviously, the criminal duties were no light matter; but, in addition to that, he had also important civil duties, including the whole supervision of the licensing authorities in the City of Dublin, and also an extensive equitable jurisdiction. In addition to all these, after the resignation of the late Mr. Trench, he had all the work of the Chairman of the County of Dublin, civil, criminal, and equitable, cast upon him in addition to his other work. Under these circumstances, the request for some assistance was not unreasonable. Mr. Falkner, the present Recorder, did not object to his civil, criminal, or equitable duties; but he asked to be relieved of the duty of revising the lists, which took place at the only period of the year in which he could have a short vacation. To his (Lord Fitzgerald's) mind, the revision of the jury lists was infinitely more important than the revision of the electoral lists. In conclusion, he would say that the Bill was a very proper one to relieve an overworked official from a very troublesome duty, which occupied a great deal of time; and, therefore, he supported it.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD
said, that, in his opinion, a fair case had been made out for the application for relief that had been put forward by the Recorder of Dublin. He, therefore, hoped that the opposition to the Bill would not be pressed.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
said, he most decidedly denied that there was the shadow of a ground for describing this Bill as a job. The present proposal was not made originally to the present Government, but to the late Government; and the late Lord Chancellor had written the Memorandum which he had just communicated to the House assenting to the measure.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
Not at all; only delaying the final decision until there should be some experience of the work of the united offices. He could not help thinking it was strange, to say the least, that the noble Marquess should have spoken of this Bill as a job, considering that if the late Government had continued in Office they would certainly have introduced it in 1881.
§ On Question, "That ('now') stand part of the Motion?"
§ Resolved in the affirmative.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.
§ House adjourned at half past Six o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.