Wednesday, 11 November 1959
Dáil Éireann Debate
Dr. Browne: We are opposing this section because we do not think the Minister has made a case against our proposition that a Select Committee of the House would be a more desirable method of deciding on the merits of the proposal to increase the salaries of the Judiciary. Our belief in that proposition is based on the fact that we think the members of the Judiciary, in the assessment of their rights to an increase in remuneration, are in a particularly difficult position from the point of view of the assessment of the relative merits of the different members of the Judiciary. We feel that the wisest procedure the Government could adopt would be to accept the proposition to set up a Select Committee. I believe that we here are not competent to decide whether or not this flat 10 per cent. increase is merited equally over all the different sections of the Judiciary.
As a reasonably effective demonstration of our ignorance in this regard, I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the reply which I received to a Parliamentary Question to-day which was put down in order to try to elicit information upon which I might do my best to come to some conclusion about the merits of the proposal which the Minister now has before the Dáil, that is, Section 1. In order to try to decide whether the 10 per cent. increase was or was not well merited, I asked the Minister for Finance to state:—
The number of persons comprised in each of the categories in (a) and (b) of the Deputy's question is so small that to supply the information asked for would not accord with the principle of observing secrecy in relation to the taxation  affairs of taxpayers. For that reason, I regret that I cannot give the information requested by the Deputy.
In view of the Deputy's reference to income tax, I was interested to know how much of the increase will be recovered by the State in that way, and when I went into the matter I made a rather interesting discovery. The proposed increase for the Chief Justice is £485.
The Taoiseach says that if he were to disclose information to me, it “would not accord with the principle of observing secrecy in relation to the taxation affairs of taxpayers” but the Minister for Justice is on record as having told us here what the Chief Justice will pay in taxation on the increase. He was generous enough to tell us—pretty specifically and unambiguously—that the President of the High Court and Supreme Court judges would get £370. He went on to tell us that judges of the Circuit Court would get so much, and I think he ended at that.
I want to protest against the scandalous decision of the Taoiseach to-day in trying to obstruct—and succeeding in obstructing—a Deputy in a bona fide attempt to discharge his duties. I was attempting to obtain information to which I am perfectly entitled, as the statement of the Minister for Justice proves. I think it was particularly scandalous of the Taoiseach to attempt to engage in this deliberate obstruction of a Deputy in the discharge of his public duties by advancing the principle of the secrecy of the taxation payments made by individual citizens in our society. I think it was a particularly shabby display.
Dr. Browne: It was a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for  us to decide on the merits of the Minister's propositions which are now before the House. Certainly, it does not live up to the Taoiseach's protestations, when he took office, that he would try to introduce a high tone of integrity, honesty and fair dealing——
Dr. Browne: In relation to the Bill, we have made a suggestion which we believe would have met one of the objections which must arise when a Bill of this kind is brought before the House, that is, the undesirable discussion of the more personal details of comparable income, and such-like factors, which must arise if a one-sided proposition is put before the House. If the Minister would only accept our suggestion, then an agreed proposition could come before the House and, as in 1953, there would be more or less unanimous acceptance of the proposition. Certainly there would not have been the detailed criticism which it is our bounden duty, as members of an Opposition, to make about the proposals which have been put forward.
I am very surprised at the Minister's curious criticism of the Opposition in his reply to the debate. I am particularly surprised at the Minister, an honourable politician of 30 or 40 years' standing, accepting the pejorative interpretation of the idea of politics or politicians generally when he says, as reported at column 653 of the Official Report: “In opening my remarks, I must express regret that the subject matter of this Bill was dragged into the political arena by some of the Deputies”. What on earth does the Minister mean by that phrase? He comes along here with a sectional proposition concerning the payment to be made to some of our highest civil servants. An offer is made to him to remove the sectional colouring the Bill necessarily has, since it is a Government proposition and not a proposition put forward by the whole House, and he rejects that offer. He brings forward this Bill to this House which is a  deliberative Assembly, which is the chief political Assembly of the nation, of which all of us are political members, and of which he is a politician. What is wrong with politics? Why should we be ashamed of discussing this matter in a political way? Politics are the art of government. We differ in our view of it and in the interpretation of the different forms of government. Why should we not discuss this question in a mature and informed political way, in so far as we can do so? It was the Minister who introduced the politics in making and insisting on keeping to a strictly one-Party proposition.
Even if the Minister, in relation to the proposition we put forward here, could accept our suggestion that comparisons with higher civil servants are permissible, our justification for that, if any justification be needed, is, as we have pointed out, that the case put forward by the judiciary themselves in 1953 showed comparisons with the increases of pay rates made to the different grades of civil servants at different times. Equally, when Deputy G. Boland was Minister for Justice and was introducing the Courts of Justice Bill, 1953, he made reference to the payments of civil servants over the years and to the increases paid to them. Therefore, we are not the only ones who believe there is a good reason to associate the increases proposed here in the minds of other people with the increases or payments made to civil servants, whether higher civil servants or the highest civil servants —secretaries, assistant secretaries, principal officers, assistant principal officers, executive officers of one kind or another and the other grades.
I think most Deputies honestly believe there is a very good case for consideration of the need for an increase in salaries in respect of some members of the Judiciary, particularly in respect of the District Justices who are the lowest paid. Of the others, I would say that the highest paid are very well paid. As to the Circuit Court judges, I simply do not know. That is why I think a competent committee of the House is the best body to examine the facts and come to a decision in relation to them. However, in relation to  the District Justices, I think most Deputies would concede that probably the best case was made by Deputy Seán Flanagan for an increase to the Judiciary and a substantial increase to the district justices.
The case was made by the previous Minister for Justice on his Courts of Justice Bill when he said that, whatever might happen in relation to the Circuit Court, in relation to District Justices, a Bill of that type would certainly increase the work which would have to be done by them. We doubt if the principle laid down for assessing the merits of this award is the principle laid down for the rest of the workers in society here by the Taoiseach, that, before any demand for increases in wages or salaries can be looked for, there must be an increase in output. I see no reason why a similar clause could not be observed in relation to members of the Judiciary. I have every reason to believe that, in relation to the lower courts, this has certainly been observed. Perhaps the Minister would be able to enlighten us as to whether the higher courts have increased their turnover of work to the extent which would merit serious consideration of the granting of this award.
Another point I should like to raise is in relation to this question of a principle. At column 655 of the Official Report the Minister says: “This does not involve any new principle.” Possibly he is right. However, I think there is this consideration in relation to wage and salary increases granted to the other members of society, namely, that it is usually given as a 10/6, or a 12/6, increase. A flat fixed sum is given to everybody, whether earning £5, £9, or whatever it may be, per week. I should like the Minister to justify this flat lump sum increase for the higher members of the Judiciary.
The total increase proposed here is equal, as far as I can make out, to the annual income of probably nearly 70 per cent. of ordinary workers in the community. In that set of circumstances, where these people are already getting £4,000 a year, the case has not been made by the Minister. No matter  what may be the facts behind his suggestion, he has not given the facts clearly in the Dáil.
The Minister was rather impatient of our suggestion that a Committee should be set up because they would have only this question of the increase in salaries to consider. We also included the very important question of the system of appointments, but if that were not sufficient I would ask the Minister to read the 1951 Courts of Justice Bill debate. He would there find what I certainly found to be a most enlightening, informative and valuable contribution by Deputy Moran, the Minister for Lands, concerning badly-needed legal reforms which could be brought within the ambit of any Committee set up as proposed by us.
Dr. Browne: Very well, Sir. I should like to take up this question of retrospection. One of the most telling points made in this whole debate was made by Deputy Murphy in a speech in which he asked the Minister—and I should like the Minister to deal with it—why, in connection with these proposed increases, the Minister has sought retrospective payment for the best part of a year, while he is a member of a Cabinet whose recent Budget refused even an immediate increase to the old age pensioners. There was a concerted effort by the Government Party, through its spokesmen, Deputy Loughman, Deputy Seán Flanagan and, to a limited extent, the Minister himself, to squeeze out of the discussion consideration of the relative needs of the old age pensioner vis-á-vis the members of the Judiciary.
Dr. Browne: The case made by the Minister in introducing this Bill was that because of the increase in the cost  of living these people with £4,000 or £5,000 a year, finding the price of bread and butter had gone up, required £400 or £500 a year to meet those increases. If the Minister is discussing the cost of living and its impact on these people who get £4,000 or £5,000 a year, it is relevant to point out that there is a section which he appears to have overlooked in his assessment of the relative needs of our people in relation to the public purse, that is, the old age pensioner.
Dr. Browne: I suggest, with the greatest respect, Sir, that in discussing the necessity for the payment of this money we have a right to point out to the Minister that as regards the use of the old age pensioner in debate, nobody exploited him more effectively than did the Minister and the leader of the Party in the early 'thirties when the relationship between a cut of a shilling in the old age pension——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy will please come to the section or sit down. The House has approved the principle of the Bill before the House and the Deputy is making a Second Reading speech, which is out of order.
Dr. Browne: I want to make it quite clear that until I am satisfied that the needs of the section to which I refer are met I shall not be bullied out of a discussion on them by any attacks by members of the Government Party arising out of their guilty consciences in regard to that unfortunate section of the people.
Dr. Browne: It would be wise for the Minister to reconsider this whole matter. We believe a case has been made to increase the remuneration of a certain section of the Judiciary but we do not feel competent to decide how much that increase should be. In respect of the different sections of the Judiciary, it is unfair to include the members of the Supreme Court, who are very well paid, with the District Justices who are relatively poorly paid. We also believe the Minister should accept the principle of arbitration, which has been accepted to a certain extent in so far as the Minister has considered and agreed to the demands of this section. This arbitration machinery should have been representative of all the sections of the community represented in this House. In that way the Minister would have been saved opprobrium and the rather contentious debate which has taken place. He has nobody but himself to blame for that.
Mr. Cosgrave: I should like to urge on the Minister at this stage that he might take a fresh look at this proposal and consider the whole question, as he himself suggested, in an atmosphere away from political considerations, and to suggest to him that what was done in 1953 might with profit be repeated on this occasion, that is, the setting up of a Select Committee which could consider all the aspects of this question including the relative emoluments of the judges and justices of the various courts.
It is not too late yet to adopt that course. I believe that the adoption of the precedent which was so successful and, I think, so satisfactory, in 1953 would commend itself not only to the House but to the country. The matter would be considered from all aspects with full information being provided for the Committee, on which representatives of all shades of political opinion in this House would act. From the example of the precedent which worked successfully in 1953, the Minister and the House might expect to get a satisfactory recommendation.  I feel that the Minister might, at this stage, consider that course and that it would have the approval of all sections.
Mr. Russell: My objection to this section is, as I mentioned on the Second Stage of the Bill, the fact that the Minister has departed from the principle adopted in 1947 and in 1953 of a graduated scale. In reply to my point on the Second Stage, the Minister stated that he could not continue adjusting salaries on a graduated scale. I disagree with the Minister and I should like to reiterate my point. The present position is that there is a difference between the salary payable to a country justice and a Supreme Court judge of £1,950. If this flat percentage increase is put into effect, that difference will be further increased.
I submit, with all respect to judges of the Supreme Court, that the whole basis of law in this country centres on the work carried out by the District Justices throughout the country. An increase of 10 per cent. to a District Justice drawing £1,750 a year is far too low. I did suggest, but I was ruled out of order, that the principle of the graduated scale should be reapplied to bring the District Justice to something just over £2,000, which I feel is a moderate figure, and to reduce the graduation down to approximately 5 per cent. in the case of the Chief Justice—in effect, to award a flat rate of £250 all round.
In suggesting that, I am not objecting to the proposal to recommend this question to a Select Committee of the House but I would have preferred if the proposers had included with the whole question of the salaries of the Judiciary other considerations such as the system of appointing District Justices, the present cost of litigation in this State, and certain procedural delays which, in their own way, add to the cost. In other words, if there is to be an inquiry by a Select Committee into the salaries of the Judiciary, the Minister should avail of the opportunity to go further afield and go into the whole question of law and its administration, with particular regard to its cost.
 It should not be overlooked, as was mentioned by, I think, Deputy Flanagan, that the District Justices deal with approximately 90 per cent. of the criminal cases—subject of course to cases that come under appeal —and about 60 per cent. of the civil cases. Having regard to that, it is a very poor recognition of their services to offer them a comparatively miserly sum of £150 as an increase—the first increase for six years—against £370 for members of the Supreme Court and, of course, almost £500 for the chief justice. I do not pretend to know how the salary scales payable to the Judiciary compare with those in other countries, but we must have some regard to the fact that we are a comparatively poor and small country. Of necessity, as mentioned during the debate, our payments to all sections of the community, and particularly to the poorest class of the community, must be less than is paid in richer and larger countries.
I should like to appeal again to the Minister to continue with the principle adopted on two previous occasions, in 1947 and 1953. I think it would at least offer a modicum of justice to District Justices while at the same time giving what is an adequate increase to members of the Supreme Court. It should not be overlooked, and I think it is relevant, that the recent adjustments to the surtax and income tax rates were far more beneficial to people in the higher salary class than to those in the lower class. I suggest that the increase in the ceiling of the surtax and the reduction in the standard rate of income tax must have been worth £250 a year to those on the highest rate of the Judiciary scale. Of course, to a country Justice at the bottom of the scale the increase in the surtax meant little or nothing, only £5 or £6. I again ask the Minister to reconsider the matter and to refer to a Select Committee not only the whole question in relation to salaries but also the question of costs generally.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: I, too, should like to add a word or two to what has been said on this section. Here is a proposal that there should be a flat 10  per cent. increase on all the effective salaries. The manner in which that proposal is put forward seems to suggest that there has not been the kind of consideration given to this matter which it should have had. I repeat what I said already, and what has been said by other Deputies, that the way this Bill came into this House was bad and was bound to lead to a discussion which many Deputies might have preferred to avoid. The proper way would have been to do what has been done successfully in the past, that is, to have the whole matter examined by a Select Committee. Such a Committee could consider the question of salaries with which we are now concerned and if necessary other related matters.
I suggest on this section that instead of asking the House to vote for this flat 10 per cent. increase the Minister would be doing a real service to the House and to the country if at this stage he would not press the proposal contained in the Bill but instead set up a Select Committee so that the matter could be examined fully and dispassionately. As has been pointed out, that was the procedure adopted on two previous occasions. It in no way avoids responsibility by the House but it would be a businesslike and proper way of facing up to this problem. I should like to join with Deputy Cosgrave and other Deputies in urging that course on the Minister, even at this stage.
Mr. Dockrell: I should like to say briefly that I join with the other Deputies who have pleaded with the Minister to appoint a Select Committee of this House. It was done before and it worked very satisfactorily. I was one of the Deputies who had the privilege of serving on that committee. We went into the matter very thoroughly and we reached agreement which, I think, gave satisfaction to all the parties concerned. We have here the formal legislative Assembly of this country and as Deputy Dr. Browne has said, we are a political body and can legislate on this matter, if we really so wish. There is no question that the House should not do that, but, in this particular instance, we are not suited to go into the details of the issue.
 To my mind this is a matter into which the question of surtax, and so on, enters. It is a matter for discussion and for the production of figures which are impossible to obtain in the ordinary course of debate, even on Committee Stage. I would say that what appears to be a £400 a year increase to the highest members of the judiciary is not, in fact, anything like that, when one takes into account the taxation which must be paid on it.
At the other end of the scale, we have the question of payment to District Justices. That should be gone into and I consider that more evidence should be heard in connection with it. It has been done before in this House. There are many people who, perhaps, feel that the Government propose to be over-generous at one end of the scale, while, at the other end, they are too niggardly. That is something about which the ordinary member in this Assembly feels he cannot get sufficient information. It is a subject that is not one for debate. It is appropriate to committee work, for the production of evidence and figures to a small committee, and I would urge on the Minister that this is a matter very much suited to a special committee. It would avoid embarrassment and difficulties and I am sure, with representatives of all the parties concerned, agreement could be worked out quite easily, agreement that would give justice to both ends of the scale and to those in the middle also.
Dr. Browne: Could I ask the Minister if Deputy Russell is correct in saying the figure of £250 would, in fact, answer the question I put to the Taoiseach today which he refused to answer? In order to help the House, is the figure £250 a correct assessment, taking surtax into account?
Minister for Justice (Mr. Traynor): I do not feel inclined to discuss the speeches that have been made here to-day because, beyond any question, they are Second Stage speeches in reply to which I have already given the information sought. I have given Deputy Russell all the information at my disposal and I cannot give him any more.
Mr. Traynor: When Deputy Dr. Browne was speaking a few minutes ago, he endeavoured to create a mountain out of a molehill. The Deputy knows very well when I was speaking on the loss that judges would incur through the medium of income tax, I was making a calculation any member of the House could have made just as easily. I was making a calculation on the judges' salaries. The Deputy himself could have done that, but what he was looking for today was a different thing. He was trying to find out what surtax judges were paying, in order to find out what incomes judges had over and above the salaries they are entitled to.
Mr. Traynor: If the Deputy looks at my speech, he will see where I made reference to that fact. The figures I was giving were based on figures I had to assume, that is, that they had no other income, and if they had other income, the loss would be all the higher.
Mr. Traynor: The question of a special committee has been raised, and at this stage appeals have been made to do something that would apparently solve a whole lot of difficulties. That might solve the difficulties of some of the people who find themselves in a difficult position, but it would not solve any difficulties for me. I want to make it clear that when a Select Committee was set up in 1953, it was set up for a definite purpose, to find out what increases, if any, should be given to judges; whether they were entitled to pensions; whether, if they should die, their widows should be given pensions; and I think another point had to do with death gratuities. I am not too sure about that but I believe these were the points which that committee had to decide.
I have already stated that this is only a question of making some recompense to the judges for the 15 per cent. rise in the cost of living. No Select Committee is necessary to decide whether they are entitled to that or not. The Government, in their wisdom or otherwise, instead of giving 15 per cent. decided to give 10 per cent. and that is all we are discussing at the present time—whether the judges are entitled to that increase upon which the Government have decided. As far as I am concerned I am standing over this Bill and I can see no reason whatsoever for a Select Committee. I do not propose to make any recommendation to the Government in respect of it.
Mr. McQuillan: I should like to remind the Minister that when the Select Committee was set up in 1953 the principal matter for discussion, decision and recommendation was the question of salary increases, but in order to deal with a number of outstanding items, genuine matters of complaint on the part of the Judiciary, it was decided to include a number of other matters as well as the question of salaries. In the memorandum submitted by the judges and justices the main emphasis is on the question of the necessity for a big increase in salaries, due to the radical change in the value of money since 1938. They were more concerned with the question of making their case for an increase in remuneration than dealing with the other matters which were part of the work of the Select Committee.
In my opinion, therefore, the argument today is just as strong for setting up a Select Committee as it was in 1953. The Minister—and for this I compliment him—wants to stand over the decision the Government have taken but nobody would suggest that the Minister was weak if he agreed to a more-or-less unanimous proposal from the House. It would be a more desirable way of dealing with the matter from the points of view of the general public, the Judiciary themselves and the members of the House if there is unanimous agreement on how to decide the increases to be given.
The Minister has his view and the Government have theirs but the other side of the House are entitled to their views also. Surely when it is a matter of the public purse and a question of dealing with the Judiciary in the fairest possible manner without having them dragged willy-nilly through all the debate, it would be much more desirable to have that done in a nonpartisan way through a Select Committee? The Minister would not lose “face” by acceding to a democratic request on the part of quite a large percentage of the public. It would only strengthen his position to display a very democratic outlook.
The Minister has at his disposal sufficient Deputies to put his point of view across in the House and he can  win the battle so far as forces are concerned. He can steamroll this measure through but in so doing he is not gaining, shall I say, the goodwill of a large section of the House and of the community who do not understand all that is involved. In addition, he is really not doing a service to the Judiciary by putting them in the situation in which the Government decide in their own mind what the Judiciary should get, in spite of very genuine objections by members of the House and people outside it.
I do not know if it is too late, but I feel that the Minister on other occasions has been open to a fair proposal. I have no doubt that members of his own Party—indeed, quite a number— would prefer to see this matter thrashed out in Committee. They will obey the Party Whip but the question arises of what the Taoiseach himself said in the debate. He suggested that every Deputy was just as capable of deciding in his own mind what increase the Judiciary should get as any Select Committee. In other words, he said each Deputy was as competent to deal with the question of what the Judiciary should get as a Select Committee. I put it to the Minister that every Deputy in that sense is not in  a position to decide whether the Judiciary should get a 10 per cent. flat increase all round or whether there should be graded increases with the emphasis on what the District Justices should get. I suggest it is not left to the individual's discretion when the Party Whips have to be applied.
I think a great case could be made for the Minister's changing his mind in a matter of this kind. Instead of deserving criticism, I think he would earn admiration and congratulation because there will be a better result in the long run. If the Minister goes back on the Second Reading debate, he will find suggestions made in regard to matters to which Deputy McGilligan referred. The Taoiseach also referred to some matters which he is hoping will be dealt with in the near future. These could also be dealt with by the Select Committee. Apart from the question of increases in remuneration, there are a number of items bearing upon remuneration which could and should be put to the Select Committee. Finally, I appeal to the Minister to consider the suggestion again in a more favourable manner.
Blaney, Neil T.
Calleary, Phelim A.
Collins, James J.
Crowley, Honor M.
Cummins, Patrick J.
de Valera, Vivion.
Egan, Kieran P.
Faulkner, Padraig. Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
Gogan, Richard P.
Healy, Augustine A.
Hillery, Patrick J.
Johnston, Henry M.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Kitt, Michael F.
Millar, Anthony G.
Moher, John W.
Moloney, Daniel J.
Moran, Michael. Ryan, James.
Ryan, Mary B.
Browne, Noel C.
Crotty, Patrick J.
Dillon, James M.
Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Jones, Denis F.
Kyne, Thomas A.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Higgins, Michael J.
O'Sullivan, Denis J.
Palmer, Patrick W.
Rogers, Patrick J.
Russell, George E.
Question declared carried.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: When is it proposed to take Report Stage?
Mr. Traynor: Could we get the other Stages now?
Mr. McGilligan: Is there any good reason for asking for the Fifth Stage?
Mr. Traynor: Is there any good reason for not giving it?
Mr. McGilligan: There is. In the ordinary way, one gets notice on an Order Paper when the Fifth Stage of a Bill is on. That is often yielded to, if there is a good reason. If there is no good reason, let it go until next week.
Mr. Traynor: The Deputy wants it next week instead of tomorrow?
Mr. McGilligan: I do not care whether it is next week or the week after, but not tomorrow.
Mr. Traynor: I suggest tomorrow.
Mr. McGilligan: Is there any reason? Is the Seanad meeting, or anything like that?
Donnchadh Ó Briain: The Seanad will be meeting next week.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Report Stage ordered for next Wednesday?
Mr. McGilligan: I thought it was the Fifth Stage the Minister was talking about. Unless there is objection elsewhere, I have no objection to the Report Stage being taken.
Dr. Browne: I should like to consider the question of putting down amendments on the next Stage.
Mr. McGilligan: On Report?
Dr. Browne: Yes. Next week.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 18th November, 1959.
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