PUBLIC BUSINESS. - RULES OF THE CIRCUIT COURT—RESOLUTION FROM THE SEANAD.

It was reported that Seanad Eireann had passed the following resolution, to which the agreement of the Dáil was desired:—
"That it is expedient that a Joint Committee consisting of five members of the Dáil and five members of the Seanad be appointed to consider and report on the ‘Rules of the Circuit Court' made by the Minister for Justice under Section 66 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924 (No. 10 of 1924), and presented to both Houses of the Oireachtas on the 25th day of April, 1926."

I move that the Dáil agree with this resolution.

I would like if the Minister for Justice would make this point clear—whether the Committee it is proposed to set up will have power to take away certain rules without rejecting the whole lot. The Minister has made the statement here from time to time that you cannot take away one rule without rejecting the lot. I do not know who the Rule-making Authority are, and I do not think it is worth while inquiring, because it seems to me that they have lived far away from the facts of life and of any legal knowledge for a considerable time. They have brought in a whole batch of rules which are entirely ultra vires, giving to County Registrars certain judicial functions. If they had been even reading the newspapers they would have known that that question has been decided three times within the last three months by the High Court, the decision of the High Court being that no one except a judge appointed by the Minister for Justice can exercise judicial functions in the Saorstát. What I want to get clear on is this: if certain particular Rules are rejected, does that mean that the position will still obtain which the Minister has already stated, namely, that all the Rules will have to go back?

The question which the Deputy puts, I think, can be answered in this fashion: The Rule-making Authority is, by a section of the Courts of Justice Act, the Minister for Justice. He makes the Rules, but before he can promulgate them he must get the concurrence in certain cases of the Minister for Finance. He must get the concurrence in all cases of the Rule-making Authority, and before the Rules made with that concurrence can come into force they must receive the sanction of both the Dáil and the Seanad by resolution. The question which the Deputy has put to me is one upon which there is a difference of legal opinion.

The question, I think, the Deputy is concerned with is the powers of the Joint Committee.

The Joint Committee, I take it, intrinsically will have no powers, but the Committee will make their report to the Dáil and the Seanad as to whether, in the first place, the Rules should go through without alteration, and secondly, if they think there should be an alteration, they will report to both Houses on the nature of the alterations which they think should be made in the Rules. Then the question will come before the Dáil and the Seanad as to whether they will ratify the Rules. Personally, I hope there will be very little difficulty about the matter, because the Rules have been drawn up with great care, and are the result of very hard work on behalf of the Rule-making Committee. As I said in another place, I venture to hope that this Joint Committee will not be too keen on finding defects, or what may appear to be defects, in the Rules, because these are new Rules regulating the procedure of what is a new Court. In cases like this some Rules that a priori appear to be very good may in working appear defective, and sometimes amendments which would appear to improve the Rules may in working prove to be a disimprovement. The real test is experience. Let these Rules come into operation and let experience show where they are good and where they are defective. I do not, of course, mean to say that you should start off with any class of Rules. What I mean to say is that when a Rule-making Authority has been working hard and done its best, when it is a competent authority chosen from competent people, that its Rules should receive a considerable amount of respect from any committee set up to inquire into them. This is entirely, as I have already stated in this House, a non-Party matter. I think everybody on every side of the House is most anxious that our courts should carry out their operations successfully, and that the administration of justice shall give satisfaction to all litigants in our courts.

The only question before us is as to whether we should refer the Rules to a Joint Committee rather than discuss them here.

I was endeavouring to answer—but I may have gone too wide in doing so— Deputy Ruttledge.

I think it would be very unfair to this Joint Committee to have to decide on certain matters. In the first place they would not have an idea as to how the country people stand as regards facilities for attending the courts. For instance, they are centralising in the cities. In County Cork there is no Circuit Court outside Cork City. That is not fair to people who have to travel 40 or 50 miles to attend these courts without remuneration. On previous occasions I have pointed out to the Minister the terrible inconvenience to which people in the rural districts have been put. I think it is very unfair to have a certain section of the people putting Rules into operation without having regard to the facts in the case of people who have to travel long distances. I believe this is a matter that could be considered by a small committee of the Parties in this House. I believe we could arrive at a solution that would be satisfactory and facilitate everybody.

I am in much the same position as Deputy Carey. With regard to sufficient accommodation being provided in the matter of Circuit Courts, I would like to know whether we would be able to make a case before the Committee. Otherwise we feel we would not have the opportunity of voicing certain grievances put before us and that in my opinion exist. Had this motion not appeared on the agenda, and discussion proceeded on it, I would have had the opportunity of raising that matter. I want to know will liberty be given to raise it.

If the matter is referred to the Joint Committee for report, the report of the Joint Committee must come before the Dáil, and whatever right the Deputy would have under motion 6 on the Order Paper to-day will remain to him absolutely, even if the Joint Committee consider the matter, for he would then be in the same position as now. With regard to the other question, as to whether he would have the opportunity with Deputy Carey and others interested in putting a case before the Committee, if the Committee were set up, that would be a matter for the Committee, but the practice has always been for such Committees to hear Deputies or Senators who have a case to make. That, presumably, would be part of the consideration preliminary to report.

I am quite satisfied.

I think I know what is present to the minds of the two Cork Deputies who have just spoken. If I am right, that difficulty will be before the Committee, and it will be open to them to report on, because it is part of the Rules to provide accommodation, and the fixing of areas for the holding of Circuit Courts would be one of these matters. I think that would get rid of the difficulty of Deputy Carey and Deputy Murphy. It will be one of the matters that would come directly before the Joint Committee, and on which the Committee will be entitled to inquire and report. That difficulty, so far as West Cork is concerned, is very real and substantial. It is one to which, possibly, there may be two sides. It is a question into which the Committee ought to be careful to make local inquiries. The Committee can do that with the assistance of local representatives, such as Deputy Murphy and other representatives in the Cork area. As regards the suggestion made in the House the other day, I must confess it may be due to my dullness—I do not know whether we had to swallow the whole of the Rules.

That question does not arise at the moment.

It does not arise in this matter, but I take it if the present motion is carried the other motion will not be proceeded with.

If number 2 is carried it obviously means that number 6 cannot be taken to-day.

I rise to know what protection the masses of the people have in the country in connection with those suggested Rules. I understand the new Rules will mean all-round increases in rates and fees. The trade union rate in connection with law will, I believe, be considerably raised to the people, and I want to know what protection they will have. There are more interests in this House and in the rest of the country than those of the legal profession. I will protest and will do my best to get voice given to that protest from other sources of the House against the increase in law charges. It will make law impossible for the people.

A good job, too.

The rich man can have it but the poor man cannot.

The question of the Rules does not arise at the moment.

I want to point out that the Minister for Justice may be prejudiced in the way he has thrown bouquets at the Rule-making Committee. If a position like that is taken up, the Committee, appointed by this House, is not going to function properly because the position gathered from the viewpoint expressed by the Minister for Justice would seem to be that this Committee would be taken only into minor consideration as compared with the considered opinion of the Rule-making Authority. As Deputy Gorey said, and I think everyone with any little experience of the House will agree, the fees under these Rules are exorbitant. There is a most outlandish question of costs. As I pointed out, in the amendments I have in, to the Minister for Justice, they are generally too high and, in many instances, exorbitant. There is a similar position with regard to other matters under these Rules, and unless this Committee is going to have power to alter drastically these Rules—the Minister has already said that you cannot alter the Rules, but you can reject them—the House cannot alter or amend them.

The House has no power to alter or amend a Rule. That is absolutely clear. The only thing which happens is that a Rule cannot come into force until that Rule has been sanctioned by a resolution of the Dáil, and also by a resolution of the Seanad, and all the Seanad can do is this: It can say: "While such and such Rules stand part of the Rules for the Circuit Court we will refuse to pass such a resolution."

I wish to raise a point in connection with number 5. I do not think it is important in connection with this Committee, but I think it is a good thing to raise now, because it is well to have it mentioned before any such number is mentioned for a Committee of this kind.

Taking a glance at the way the numbers are distributed between the different parties, I think five is an unsuitable number to choose for such a Committee—five members of the Dáil. It has worked out in the past in such a way that two appreciable sections can have only one member between them, and this has led either to the Labour members getting a member on the Committee, or the Independent members. As I said, I do not think it is of much importance in this case, because, as the Minister said, it seems to be a non-Party matter. But very frequently in such Committees it has been the habit to name five members from the Dáil and five from the Seanad. I wish to indicate, as I have the opportunity here, that that does not seem to be a suitable number to choose for Joint Committees in view of the distribution of members between the different parties.

Would not that be a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges?

I am in agreement with Deputy Thrift. We have found in practice that it is impossible to give representation to different parties in the House in a Committee of five, and we intend to suggest in future that the number should be six.

This Joint Committee must have power to fix its own procedure. If appointed, it will fix its own procedure and make its own report, and Deputies cannot possibly be put in a worse position, when the Committee has reported, than they are in at present, whatever that position may be from the point of view of their rights of debate and so on.

Motion put and agreed to.
Ordered: That a Message be sent to the Seanad acquainting them accordingly.