Registration of Title Bill, 1941—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This is a very technical type of Bill, so I thought it best to circulate an explanatory memorandum. The reason for bringing in the Bill is that the Registrar of Titles was in his 70th year, and no provision had been made to fill the position. It was filled in the past by the Land Judge of the old High Court. There is no Land Judge now, and it was decided that the Government should make the appointment, as it does in other cases of that kind. However, there was no authority to do that, and that was the principal reason for the introduction of the Bill. It is also desired to regularise the position in three counties—Monaghan, Waterford and Laoighis. A committee had been set up under the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, whose duty it was to make the rules that should govern procedure. They examined the working of the 1891 Act and made a series of recommendations which they were satisfied would be for the better working of that Act. As I had to bring in this Bill to deal with the filling of the position of Registrar, and as I had got the recommendations from the committee, I thought it was only right that I should incorporate the recommendations in the Bill.

When I brought the Bill before the Dáil, there was a number of amendments, which we discussed on the Committee Stage, and I undertook to have them submitted to this committee. The committee was composed of a Judge of the High Court, a representative of the Bar, a representative of the Incorporated Law Society, and the Registrar of Titles. They made recommendations and also advised me on the amendments which had been put down. As a result, we have an amended Bill now before this House. It is very involved, and is more a Committee Stage Bill than anything else, so I have circulated a memorandum which gives a pretty fair idea of the provisions of the Bill.

Would the Minister say if he has any principles in his mind on which the Registrar of Title would be appointed by the Government, apart from the provisions in the Bill?

The county registrars are appointed by the Government. District justices are somewhat different— they are judicial posts. At any rate, the county registrars are appointed by the Government, and I think there is an analogy there.

The Minister is to be congratulated on his exhaustive explanatory memorandum, as the Minister says, of this very technical Bill. I do not pretend to be competent to give an opinion on its details; but it is pretty clear from the memorandum and from the method by which the Bill was put together by experienced people, that the aim is to codify and bring up to date some things which were falling into a rather peculiar position. I would like to make one point with regard to the appointment of Registrar of Titles. I agree entirely that the matter should not be left in the patronage of a judge. At one time, the judges had the appointment of practically everybody in the courts. It is worth while remembering that a great many years ago, under the British régime, a change was made in regard to clerks in the High Court and other courts, and the senior positions were often given by competition, that is, to persons who got in by competitive examinations originally.

I am not so sure that the Government is the best machinery to use for the appointment of Registrar of Titles. Without being very strong in one's language, I think it would be true to say that this Government has not been particularly happy in its legal appointments. They certainly have not made legal appointments on the basis of selecting people who were, by common consent, at the head of their profession or near the head of their profession; nor have they appointed people who were regarded by the public as suitable people to employ—people who, on getting into office, would leave behind them for other practitioners a considerable amount of money for earning. That being so, I feel that in this Bill we are simply making room for the Government to take another barrister or solicitor, not on his merits, but on his political record, and give him a post of considerable importance of a quasi-judicial nature, carrying with it a salary, which, I presume, must be fairly substantial, and pension rights.

I am not so sure that this kind of appointment, like very many others, could not be made by the machinery of the Civil Service Commission, and I think I will put down an amendment, in order to have that particular matter discussed. The Government has adhered very strictly to the practice that only those who have supported it wherever they can possibly be found— and they are not at the Bar in very large numbers—would be appointed to any kind of legal position. The result has been very bad for the administration of the law, because I think it would be true to say that not a single barrister of first-class standing in this country has supported the Government side. With the Government continually appointing its followers the result has been very bad. I am not accusing the Minister himself. I do not know how this matter is done within the Cabinet, but the Minister cannot be ignorant of the fact that the situation at the present moment is extremely bad and gives considerable cause for alarm to everybody who is interested in the administration of justice. This, therefore, simply gives another opportunity for that kind of extremely bad patronage, and I think we ought to take some steps to see that some better system is adopted.

These registrars are a different type from ordinary civil servants. The ordinary civil servant comes in about 17 or 18 years and, after 40 years' service, he is entitled to half his salary as pension at 57 or 58 years of age. The county registrar cannot come in at that age. He has to be a solicitor and have eight years' experience in practice. That would bring him up to 30, but it often so happens that there is no appointment to make at that time. I believe that the average age is 40 years. What they do not know, and what most people do not know, is how their pensions are calculated. For instance, they are to retire at 65 years of age. Well, 40 from that would be 25, and in that case when they were retired they would be only entitled to 25/80ths of their salary as pension. The Minister, if they are efficient, may continue them in their employment until they reach 70 years. That would give them 30 years' service. The point that is not clear to the public or, I believe to the registrars, is whether, when they have done 30 instead of 25, the pension is based on 25 years' service or 30 years' service? That service would bring a man to 70 years of age. Is the pension to be 25/80ths or 30/80ths? It would be well if the Minister cleared this matter up.

There is nothing about country registrars in this Bill. I merely mentioned county registrars and said that the appointment of county registrars was made in the same way. This Bill is about registration of title, and so that matter does not arise under it at all.

Is there not an office of registrar embodied in it?

Well, they are local registrars of title no doubt, but this is to provide for a Registrar of Title.

Here in Dublin.

Well, for the whole of the central registry.

I believe that there are officials whose pensions are not settled at all. For most classes of civil servants they are settled, but not in the case of county registrars or the Taxing Masters of the High Court. These are classes for which definite rules of pension are not fixed.

There is a Bill, the Courts of Justice Bill, being prepared, dealing with several items, and that is one of the things that is being considered in connection with it. This Bill only deals with registration of title.

In relation to Section 8, dealing with the office of the registry authorities, is there any provision made for the appointing of civil servants there? It might save time on the Committee Stage if the Minister were to clear that up, and to say whether they are going to be civil servants appointed in the ordinary way or what is to be the procedure?

They will be civil servants appointed in the ordinary way. I have not much to reply to regarding this Bill. It is clear that Senator Hayes is not satisfied with the judicial appointments. That is a matter of opinion.

There is only one opinion about them; they are extremely bad.

There might be other opinions about other people in this House that we would rather not express. I do not know what sort of commission we could get to appoint the judges. I find it very hard to visualise it. I think that even though the Government may not be popular with the Opposition it is the highest authority in the country, and when appointments are being made to the highest office in the land I think it right that they should be made by the highest authority. It is too bad if everybody does not like them. It is too bad if the Opposition does not like the Government, and naturally the Opposition never does like the Government, but I see no other body that ought to have the making of appointments of this type. The best that can be done is done in the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage?

When does the House next meet?

Probably this day fortnight.

Then the next time the Seanad meets.

Is there any hurry?

There is no hurry now. At first we thought we would have got the Bill through before the man who has to retire at the age of 70 had reached that age, but we did not succeed owing to recommittal of the Bill. In the meantime, he reached the age of 70 and had to retire, and we have appointed an acting registrar, and I had to make provision for legalising everything he did.

We could probably take all stages at the next meeting.

Committee Stage ordered for next meeting of Seanad.