The purpose of this Bill is to clarify the position of the Chief State Solicitor. It was assumed up to recently that he was exempt from paying the annual certification duty, but, when an action was won by the Local Government Department against the Clare County Council, the Taxing Master of the High Court ruled that the Chief State Solicitor was not exempt and, consequently, he was not entitled to get his costs. We do not propose to interfere with the decision given there; in other words, the costs against the Clare County Council will not be claimed. But we want to make the position clear.
It was always understood in the past that the Chief State Solicitor was not liable for this stamp duty. In the British days certain solicitors, amongst them the Chief Crown Solicitor, were exempt. I think the Chief Crown Solicitor was also solicitor to another Department and it was as solicitor to the other Department that he was exempt. From the establishment of this State the Chief State Solicitor never paid this duty. This Bill proposes to set that matter right, with retrospective effect, and it applies also in the case of every other solicitor employed whole-time by the State, 20 in all.
In the other House Deputy Costello objected to the Bill on the ground that the protection given to a State servant was not being extended to outside solicitors. There was one case in particular in which an outside solicitor had not been paid costs in a habeas corpus action which he won against the State; he was not paid on the ground that he had not paid the annual fee for certification. There was some confusion in regard to that case. I thought I was aware of the case to which the Deputy referred and I said I believed that the solicitor had been paid. Deputy Costello was quite certain that he had not been paid. I got confirmation later of what I had stated, but it now appears that the Deputy and I were talking about two different cases in which the same solicitor was involved. So far as that matter is concerned, I am taking advantage of being before the Seanad now to make my position clear. In perfectly good faith I did say that, in the case Deputy Costello was referring to, the fees were paid, but there were really two cases, in both of which the same solicitor was involved. The solicitor himself was interned. It was a habeas corpus case and I assumed that that was the case to which Deputy Costello was referring. It now appears the case he had in mind was one where a man named Burke was the subject of the habeas corpus action. In that case the costs were not paid.