Committee on Finance. - King's Inns Library Bill, 1945—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. Under the Copyright Act, 1836, the Benchers of the King's Inns were given a grant of £433 6s. 8d. a year as compensation for loss of right to free copies of books for the library. That Act was repealed by the Copyright Act, 1911, which, in turn, was repealed by the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act, 1927. Both these Acts made provision, however, for the continued payment of the grant which is a Charge on the Central Fund. As the law stands, the whole of the grant must be spent in the purchase of books.

The King's Inns Library was founded about 1787 by the Benchers of the Society of the King's Inns, by whom it is owned and maintained. Its income consists solely of the Government grant of £433 6s. 8d. a year, which represented the annual value of the books received under the Copyright Act, 1801, at the time of the withdrawal of this privilege by the Copyright Act, 1836. As Deputies are aware, the library is largely used by barristers and law students for reference and study purposes. It is open to the public under certain conditions and permission for reading and reference is freely given to approved persons.

Some time ago, the library authorities represented that every year many books needed to be rebound, and, following these representations, a Grant-in-Aid of £3,000 was provided for this purpose in the Vote for Miscellaneous Expenses for 1944/45. The full £3,000 was duly paid in that year. The library authorities suggested at the same time that they should be allowed to use up to one half the annual grant for binding books. This suggestion appeared to the Minister to be reasonable and he undertook to ask the Oireachtas to enact the necessary legislation. It was the intention, at first, to proceed by way of a section in the Finance Bill of last year but, at the last moment, the provision had to be deleted as being outside the scope of a Finance Bill. It was then necessary to have a separate Bill prepared, and that is now before the House.

The Bill repeals the existing statute law and re-enacts it in amended form so as to allow up to one half the annual grant of £433 6s. 8d. to be expended on the binding or re-binding of books or serial parts of volumes preserved or to be preserved in the library. Under sub-section (2) (b) of Section 1 of the Bill, payment will not be made in any financial year unless the Department of Finance is satisfied that the statutory conditions have been, or will be, fulfilled in respect of the previous year's grant. This arrangement accords with the existing statutory practice which has worked satisfactorily. The grant will continue to be a charge on the Central Fund.

No additional charge on the Exchequer is involved by the Bill and the only change in the law proposed by it is to permit up to one half the grant to be applied in binding or re-binding books.

I think that we are making a mistake in approaching the Benchers of the King's Inns in so niggardly a spirit. We are in a very peculiar position here in Ireland. Up to 1922, up to the signing of the Treaty, the statute law for Great Britain and Ireland was closely related and any laws published in Great Britain had to retain chapters dealing with any part of the law where it differed in Ireland from the practice in Great Britain, with the result that lawyers and students in this country had access to the very considerable volume of learned legal works which were published primarily for the use of the English Bar.

With the enactment of the Treaty the two legal systems gradually tended to grow apart. Practice and procedure in both countries in the normal development of the law did not follow precisely the same lines. Notably since the Law of Property Act, 1926, in Great Britain, wide chasms have opened between the system of law here and that obtaining in Great Britain, with the result that a great many of the legal publications in Great Britain at the present time are quite unsuitable for use in this country, and we are finding more and more that we are falling back on the use of laws published prior to 1926 or 1922 and that the supply of law books of current value is becoming smaller and smaller. The King's Inns Library is a kind of centre of legal learning in this city—and not alone in this city, but in this country. If there is any book of reference required which is not to be found in any other legal library in Ireland, one may with pretty safe assurance repair to Henrietta Street there to find it, and it is vitally important for the legal system in this country that we should maintain dynamic and vigorous one such centre at least where every relevant publication relating to the law will be available to those whose business it is to conduct research therein.

Far, then, from making it a compliment to empower the King's Inns Library to use one half of their annual grant which was given to them in substitution for their right to have a copy of every book published in Great Britain and Ireland for the purpose of binding, I suggest to the Minister for Finance that it would have been very much more reasonable for the Oireachtas to say: "Let us have an estimate of what the binding maintenance of the library is and we will give an annual Grant-in-Aid to meet that cost", because while, nominally, the library is the property of an independent body, to wit, the Benchers of the King's Inns, it is in fact as much a national possession as are the books in the National Library, and if it were restrained from keeping the exhaustive character of its bookshelves up to date by lack of money, it would be a disaster not for the King's Inns, because the individual members of the Inns would purchase for their own private libraries such books as the King's Inns Library could not afford to acquire, but for the nation, which would discover in ten or 20 years' time that the King's Inns Library was no longer a compendium of all published matter relating to Irish law. Therefore, I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to say, while this empowering Bill is before the House, that it is the intention of the Government to give a Grant-in-Aid to relieve the library of the expense of maintaining these books and of rebinding and preparing them as the necessity may arise and that it is the intention to give an annual grant adequate for that purpose, recognising that they are simply maintaining a national asset.

I think we should go further. If the benchers find that the revenues derived from this copyright concession are not sufficient to maintain their full complement of current literature, the Oireachtas should make money available for that purpose, too. Bear in mind that it was the British Crown which provided the original endowment. It was an endowment of Irish law as distinct from British or Scottish law, and surely Oireachtas Éireann will not allow legal learning to dwindle for want of an adequate endowment when the British Crown made sufficient provision so long as it reigned in this country.

I know that these matters are somewhat remote from anybody who is not a member of the profession, but I think that solicitors and barristers, and members of the judiciary, too, will join with me in saying that whatever sum is requisite to keep the King's Inns Library a paragon amongst libraries should be forthcoming. The regrettable thing is that professional bodies of this kind, and particular the benchers or the judiciary, have a reluctance to place such considerations before the Oireachtas, for they have a kind of feeling that it is almost a waste of time to do so, that the matter is so highly technical that it would be hopeless to expect any very sympathetic hearing. My experience of Oireachtas Éireann does not coincide with that. If a matter of this kind is reasonably explained to the Dáil, the Dáil is never unwilling to spend money to preserve an ancient monument or a valuable deposit of learning which might perish were not solicitude exercised for its preservation.

In that spirit, I put the case to the Parliamentary Secretary and invite him, if this aspect of the question has not been brought to his attention, to inquire from the Attorney-General what his view is and to ask him to discuss the matter with the benchers and the judiciary. In the event of their view coinciding with that which I have expressed, I invite him to suggest to the Minister for Finance that a suitable proposal might be made to the House to provide a modest endowment for the purposes of this deposit of learning which, in the absence of adequate endowment, might perish.

I support Deputy Dillon's suggestion, but I do not think it goes far enough. It would enable the King's Inns to provide the essential textbooks for barrister students, but the King's Inns Library is largely restricted to students studying for the profession of barrister and solicitor students are not ordinarily admitted there. The problem for the law student in Ireland to-day would not be met even if Deputy Dillon's suggestion were adopted. The trouble to-day is to get any firm in Ireland to print a law book which will contain the law as it obtains to-day for the Irish law student, and, not only that, but the legal textbooks which obtained here up to 1922 are now going out of print and are no longer available. It is impossible to get certain textbooks, for example, Snell's Equity. It is almost impossible to get Williams' Law of Property, except at a prohibitive figure, and, while agreeing with Deputy Dillon, I think the problem for us is one of providing some means by which it will be made profitable for the printer to print law books for the Irish law student. It is not a profitable business as the market is too small at the moment and the law printer to-day will not undertake to print and publish law books solely for the Irish student. That is the kernel of the problem which we shall have, sooner or later, to face.

Like Deputy Coogan, Deputy Dillon and you, Sir, I have had the opportunity of going through the King's Inns and it is almost impossible to get a book of any kind in this country which deals with Irish law as it obtains since the establishment of this State. The books which have been published since then dealing with our own law and whatever modifications have since taken place in existing English statute law are very limited and even the limited quantities available, even the limited numbers written on the subject, have run in most cases into only a few editions, with the result that it is impossible for the student to get an Irish textbook. Most of the English textbooks do not deal with the law as it obtains here, and the result is that a student, if he can procure even an English textbook dealing with British law, is very often faced with the difficulty that he has to cut out large portions which do not deal with the situation here. It is difficult enough to masticate, if I may put it that way, the law in an English textbook, without having to censor it oneself. The student is not like the person who has been practising for a few years. He has not the advantage of knowing what particular Acts or what particular portions of a textbook are inapplicable to Irish conditions.

That puts a double strain on the student. First of all he has to procure the book, and then he has to censor it himself in order to dispense with whatever does not apply. I would like to urge on the Parliamentary Secretary that he should consult the Attorney-General, the Benchers of the Honourable Society of the King's Inns and the judiciary on this matter because, as Deputy Dillon has pointed out, the benchers are peculiarly remote from ordinary activities. So far as their functions as benchers go, they are reluctant to publicise their activities in any way. Even the Incorporated Law Society holds a function of some kind once a year at which the President of the Society gives a résumé of the year's activities. The benchers do not do that, with the result that their activities are rarely brought to the notice of the public. Consequently the value of a library like this does not receive the publicity that it might if they took more active steps to ensure, by propaganda or otherwise, to bring their activities to the notice of the public in general. This library has been used by many famous people. A former Archbishop of Dublin, the late Most Rev. Dr. Walsh, attended there regularly for many years, and I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary would be anxious that the facilities available there should be made more widely known. I would urge on him that the provision contained in the Bill is not sufficient, that he should consult with the benchers, and that their wishes should be met in so far as is possible.

This is a matter with which I am not personally familiar. As regards the points that have been made by Deputies Dillon, Coogan and Cosgrave, it occurs to me that they will be attended to by the library authorities. I understand that the King's Inns Library authorities suggested that they had a number of books that needed binding. All they asked was that provision be made to have that work undertaken. In making that request to the Department of Finance they also suggested that 50 per cent. of this annual grant to the library should be earmarked for the binding of books each year. An undertaking was given, as I have said, to make £3,000 available. This Bill has been introduced in order to make it possible to carry out the second part of the contract, if Deputies wish to describe it as such.

I have no knowledge of any of the points that have been raised here as to the difficulty of procuring certain textbooks in the King's Inns Library. In the past, the authorities of the library have approached the Department of Finance and the Minister, and suggested that certain things should be done and that certain concessions should be made. If, in the past, they have succeeded in convincing the Minister for Finance that the case they put forward was a sound one, then I have no reason to believe, if any of the statements made here are correct, that if the authorities of the library have an equally good case to make in the future it will not also be met. That is all I can say about it. My information is that these authorities are satisfied with the arrangements I have referred to, part of which is being met by this short Bill which is now before the House.

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question?

The Deputy may ask a question.

We all appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary, naturally, is not personally acquainted with the technical questions raised on this Bill. May I say that I think the points raised by Deputies Cosgrave, Coogan and myself would be adequately met if the Parliamentary Secretary were to do this: to cause the report of our observations here, and his reply, to be laid before the Attorney-General, with the request that the Attorney-General should elicit the views of the Benchers of the King's Inns? It is quite possible that the Parliamentary Secretary, or the Minister, cannot meet those views at once, but at least if he were to do what I suggest it would meet our requirements.

I think the Deputy will agree that it would be most unusual for the Minister for Finance, or the Parliamentary Secretary, to invite authorities of this kind to make application to the Department of Finance for the sort of assistance to which he has referred.

I appreciate that. I recognise the Parliamentary Secretary's difficulty in making up his own mind as to whether the representations made by Deputy Cosgrave, Deputy Coogan and myself are well founded or not, or whether they are not founded on a complete illusion. I am urging him to take a course which will afford him an opportunity of checking up on the dependability of our testimony by submitting our statements to the Attorney-General for any comments that he cares to make. With that information before him, the Minister for Finance, although he might not wish to deal with the matter at once, would at least be fully informed on matters which are causing us some concern.

The Department of Finance, having made this grant of £3,000, is now introducing this measure, which will enable the grant to be devoted to the dual purpose of purchase and binding. My information is that up to a point the library authorities are satisfied. As I have said, if in the future the library authorities regard the provision as inadequate, I have no doubt they will know their way to the Department of Finance and will know what case to make when they get there.

All that we are asking is that the Parliamentary Secretary would refer what we have said here to the Attorney-General for his opinion.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the next stage?

I was wondering if I could have it now.

If it would not be inconvenient to the Parliamentary Secretary, I would be glad if the remaining stages were not taken until this day week.

Níl aon difriocht.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 27th June, 1945.