I move that the Bill do now pass.
Public Business. - Courts of Justice Bill, 1935—Fifth Stage.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to Section 4, which provides for the appointment of more Supreme Court judges and High Court judges. Through the various stages of the Bill special emphasis has been laid on this section and I think the Minister for Justice may possibly be in a better position to-night, presumably having given the matter some thought, to decide whether or not the business of the courts at the moment demands that we have more judges in this country.
Practically all day to-day we have been considering ways and means to tide over the financial difficulties of farmers, farm labourers and other people. I remember when the present Government were seeking office they issued a big advertisement calling the attention of the electorate to the high salaries that were being paid, and the very first people they attacked were the judges. At that time, Fianna Fáil promised to reduce our taxation by £2,000,000. Now we are going to add to the number of those people whom Deputy Corry used to call the bloated officials with the bloated salaries; we are going to create at least two more judges, irrespective of a dwindling law business. I made it my business, within the last two days, to inquire whether there was or was not an increase in law business and I have been told that there is a very definite decrease. Whatever that is due to I do not know, and I do not propose now to tell the House why that is so. I think the Minister for Justice, and others here who are connected with the law, will be prepared to state that at the moment there are professional people who can scarcely make ends meet because of the lack of business and, notwithstanding that, we have this proposal presented to us to increase the number of judges.
This is the way the Government redeem their promise to cut down taxation by £2,000,000. Here they are proposing to give us extra judges, extra officials for a dwindling business. Even the stock-in-trade arguments which we have heard used on various occasions about an increased population do not now fit in. With an increased population you might possibly expect increased litigation, but we have not even that prospect, and I think the Minister should now attempt to justify to the House the insertion of this section in the Bill.
We have had various burdens thrown on the country, particularly on the backs of the agricultural community, including the burden of £5,000,000 by way of payment to England. This is another burden, and the Minister for Finance will have to find the money somewhere. When he was in opposition, the Minister for Agriculture stated that the agricultural community formed at least 75 per cent. of the population and had to bear 75 per cent. of the taxation. He has forgotten that now. He forgot it when he came here to-day, appealing for authority to fix prices in order that the agriculturists may be able to live.
The Minister for Justice says that irrespective of how the agricultural community live, or where the labourer gets his wages, we are going to appoint more officials at bloated salaries, such as Deputy Corry and others complained of, and which we were definitely promised would be cut down. It is up to the Minister to explain why that section is being included in the Bill.
I do not know that on this stage I could usefully add anything to what has already been said with regard to this particular section. We have had arguments pro and con, and I am afraid anything I would have to say would be more or less a repetition of the arguments that were put forward from this side. This section was debated on at least three occasions already. We have a Supreme Court in this country that is the final court of appeal, and it is necessary that that court should be in such a position that it would possess the confidence of the people of the country or any other people interested in litigation that might arise in this country. We have the recommendation of the Joint Committee which was set up in 1929 and which reported in 1930, or 1931, that the judges of the Supreme Court should be increased in number. Another ground that might be urged as showing the necessity for an increase is that we are going to have a new system of appeals, that is, the re-hearing system, and it will be conceded, I think, that that will entail extra work for the judges.
At the time that committee was dealing with this matter, they not only recommended that there should be an increase in the Supreme Court for the purpose of strengthening that court, but also an increase in the number of High Court judges, and I think that, with the new system of appeals, under which judges have to go on circuit to hear appeals, you would have to have an increase in the number of High Court judges at any rate. We have taken what is called the middle course, as described by the Attorney-General on Second Reading. We are appointing two judges to act in the Supreme Court, but they will be available to do ordinary High Court work. In that way, we hope to avoid the expense that would be incurred in having to appoint Supreme Court judges at the same time as appointing High Court judges. We are trying to get over the expense of having to appoint High Court judges.
There would not be any insinuation in the Minister's statement that he wants to have a Supreme Court in which he would have confidence? Is there not confidence in the Supreme Court now?
I do not know that anybody has any quarrel with the Supreme Court, but, in the report of the committee, it is stated that if this is to be the final court in this country, there should be a court of larger numbers than three.
There is no insinuation that there was not confidence in it?