HL Deb 16 February 1932 vol 83 cc578-81

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the provisions of this Bill, which make amendments in the law applicable to Northern Ireland, are uncontroversial. The Bill has been prepared in consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland, who are anxious that it should come into force at the earliest opportunity. Legislation at Westminster is necessary owing to the restrictions contained in the Government of Ireland Act on the powers of the Northern Ireland Parliament and Government. The Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1928 was passed for the purpose of obviating difficulties arising out of these restrictions, but since then further difficulties have come to light and the object of the present Bill is to remove them.

The Bill deals with matters which are almost wholly of interest to Northern Ireland only. I do not think I need detain your Lordships very long in explaining the provisions of the various clauses, but there may be one or two points which are not quite clear. Clause 1 makes it clear that the Parliament of Northern Ireland is not precluded, by the reservation of matters relating to the Supreme Court, from conferring jurisdiction upon the Northern Ireland Supreme Court, High Court, or a Court of Assize for the purposes of a branch of the law the general subject matter of which is transferred. Clause 2 limits the resealing of English probate grants to cases where the deceased died domiciled in England. At present the High Court in Northern Ireland reseals probates and letters of administration granted in England irrespective of domicile. Up to 1928 it was the practice of English Courts to reseal Irish probates whether the deceased died domiciled in Ireland or not. Section 10 of the Administration of Justice Act, 1928, applied the principle of domicile to the resealing of Northern Ireland grants in England, but it did not make corresponding provision as regards the resealing of English grants in Northern Ireland. The present clause makes provision corresponding with that contained in Section 10 of the Act of 1928 and the effect is to limit the powers of the High Court in Northern Ireland to reseat probates and letters of administration granted in England to those cases only in which the person to whose estate the grant relates died domiciled in England.

Clause 3 enables the Parliament of Northern Ireland to include in its consolidating legislation enactments relating to reserved matters whether passed before or after the coming into force of the Government of Ireland Act. Clause 4 enables reciprocal arrangements under the Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925, to be made between Northern Ireland and other parts of His Majesty's Dominions. Clause 5 enables a Judge of the Supreme Court to hold the office of Commissioner under the Land Purchase Acts, without remuneration in respect of that office. One of the Land Purchase Commissioners must be a person having the necessary legal qualifications to perform certain judicial functions. Clause 6 enables the Parliament in Northern Ireland to legislate, with the consent of the Treasury, on the priority of Crown debts in connection with the Bankruptcy Law. In England I understand the law allows priority of debts in bankrupts' estates up to one year's assessment of taxes. The Irish Courts have decided that there is no limit to the Crown's priority. It; was thought that there was an undue advantage to the Crown under this system, and this clause enables legisla tion to be passed to bring Northern Ireland law into conformity with the English law.

Clause 7 enables the salaries of future Clerks of the Crown and Peace, who will be in the service of the Government of Northern Ireland, to be consolidated by the repealing of certain enactments. Clause 8 extends the Herring Fishery (Branding) Act, 1913, to Northern Ireland and Clause 9 extends the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1928, which empowers the Parliament of Northern Ireland to legislate with the consent of the Board of Trade regarding works on the foreshore or the bed of the sea, so as to include power to legislate regarding ferries across tidal waters. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be read 2a.—(The Earl of Lucan.)


My Lords, there is one point in connection with Clause 5 about which I should like to have some information. Clause 5 reads as follows: It shall be lawful for a Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland to hold the office of Land Purchase Commissioner for Northern Ireland, but he shall not receive any remuneration in respect of that office. I can quite conceive the reason which prompted the Legislature when they did not allow such a thing to happen, and it seems to me that some strong reason should be given to induce us to change the existing practice. I take it that at present a Judge of the Supreme Court in Ireland cannot be a Land Purchase Commissioner, and that seems to me a very excellent restriction. After all, a Land Purchase Commissioner is one who, under compulsion, has to settle terms of purchase, and has, even when there is no compulsion, to dabble with land speculation and land purchase, and generally has to go in for what may almost be termed commercial transactions. Therefore, it seems to me that the office should not be filled by a Judge of the Supreme Court. It may well be that a transaction which a Judge has carried out as a Land Commissioner may come up for review before him as a member of the Supreme Court. I should therefore like the noble Lord to give us some further information as to why it is really necessary to depart from what seems to me the excellent practice that commercial transactions and the judiciary should be kept strictly apart.


My Lords, I want to ask a question regarding Clause 9, which refers to provisions as to tidal waters and the foreshore in connection with construction, and also to ferries across tidal waters. How does that clause conflict—if it does conflict—with the Statute of Westminster Act, which passed this House about six weeks ago? Under that Act it is possible for the Irish Free State to pass legislation in connection with territorial waters. Does that apply only to the territorial waters of Northern Ireland, or beyond the territorial waters of Northern Ireland, and how does it affect the Statute of Westminster?


My Lords, as no other noble Lords rise to put any further questions I have pleasure in replying to my noble friend Lord Mount Temple, whom I can congratulate upon being here. There is power at present to nominate a Judge to perform the functions of a Judicial Commissioner during a vacancy, but there is no power for a Judge to be appointed to the office of Commissioner. I may also say that most of the decisions of the Judicial Commissioner are not subject to appeal, and I should presume that, even if they are subject to appeal, obviously the Judge in question would not sit at the hearing of that appeal, but someone else would. In reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, I am afraid I cannot say anything very definite except to remind him that Northern Ireland is not a Dominion, and, therefore, I do not think the Statute of Westminster Act would apply in any question of that sort.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.