HC Deb 04 April 1849 vol 104 cc296-9

On the Motion that this Bill be read a Second Time,


said, he had no objection to the principle of the Bill, but thought injustice would be done to the marshal of the Recorder's Court, who derived certain fees from the process of attachment, which the hon. Member for the city of Dublin proposed to abolish by this Bill, without giving the officer in question any compensation. He might take a pull at the Consolidated Fund, to use the phrase of the hon. Member, but objections were entertained to such a course; and he would, therefore, suggest as a preferable course that whatever might be substituted for that of attachment, the same fees should be paid on that process during the life of the officer, but to cease after his death.


had no intention of opposing the second reading, but wished rather to see a measure which excited so much interest so dealt with as to secure the general concurrence of all; and he would, therefore, suggest to his hon. Colleague not to move the second reading now, but to let it stand over till after Easter.


was happy to find that the two hon. Members approved of the principle of the Bill, as it appeared that their only objection to it was that it did not provide compensation for a particular officer of the court. Although he was extremely anxious to carry this Bill, he would not be a party to inflict any injustice on any officer fairly entitled to com- pensation for the abolition of his office. If the Bill was then read a second time, it would be ample time for either of the hon. Gentlemen opposite to propose a clause for compensation when the House went into Committee on the Bill. The House, he was sure, was hardly aware of the nature of those courts. The Boroughreeve Court in Dublin was formerly known by the name of the Sheriffs of Dublin Court; but this had been abolished by one of the clauses in the Irish Municipal Act, and the powers possessed by it were transferred to the Recorder's Court. The process was, that any person who declared that another person was in his debt, had only to make an affidavit to that effect before the Lord Mayor or the Recorder, when he obtained an attachment on the goods of his alleged debtor. He found, by the Parliamentary paper, 249, of this Session, that the gross number of affidavits for attachments sworn before the Recorder of Dublin, during the last three years, was 301; and before the Lord Mayor of that city, 1,984, making together 2,285. Of these not less than 1,076 were for debts under 20l. It appeared in another part of this return also, that the fees and expenses in most cases exceeded the amount of the debts. Was the House aware of the nature of an attachment? It was the seizure of the goods of a defendant by a bailiff on the mere allegation of debt, which could not be released until the defendant obtained two bail, who had to swear that they were worth double the amount for which the goods were seized. There need be no previous application or notice to the defendant before his goods were seized for an alleged debt; so that this process had all the effect of a judgment in one of the superior courts. A pauper in the streets might make an affidavit that a merchant or shopkeeper owed him 100,000l., and the defendant could not got his goods released until he got two sureties who swore that they were worth 200,000l. above all debts which they might owe. As an illustration of the proceedings in this court, he would mention the case of a highly respectable professional man, who proceeded from Dublin to the Continent, and left his house there in the charge of two servants. While he was away, a man who had formerly been a servant in his house swore that this gentleman owed him 500l.; and on his return to Ireland, he found that all his goods had been sold by auction, to pay this alleged debt. He had been informed that the Judges in all the superior courts in Dublin were opposed to this attachment system; and in a case in the Insolvent Court, recently reported in the Freeman's Journal, one of the Commissioners expressed a hope that it would be immediately abolished. He was glad to find that the two hon. Gentlemen opposite did not object to the principle of the Bill; but if they did, he really thought that if the population of Dublin were polled on the question, they would find themselves in a minority of two. When the Bill was in Committee, he should not object to any reasonable proposal for the purpose of compensating and protecting the interests of the marshal, and it appeared likely that the proposal which the hon. Gentleman himself had made, would prove a practical one. He trusted the House would assent to the second reading of the Bill.


had no intention of opposing the second reading of the Bill, for he highly approved of its principle; but in consequence of what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Athlone, he thought it necessary to guard against any understanding that the Government would consent to the compensation of the marshal out of the Consolidated Fund. It would be well to consider the propriety of pausing on every measure of improvement in the law, on the ground of there always being some vested interest to pay for. There had been many cases in which most exorbitant claims made upon the public had been conceded, rather than that a useful measure of reform should be abandoned. He admitted the propriety of some compensation being made to this officer, but doubted whether the course proposed by the hon. Gentleman opposite, of continuing the fee under the new Bill, should it pass, would be the proper course, inasmuch as it would impose a tax upon the poor suitor to the amount of some 6s. or 7s., not because it was necessary, but because this marshal must be compensated.


was glad that the hon. Member for Athlone was proceeding with this Bill; for he was rejoiced to see some chance of a creditor being able to proceed against an absent debtor. In the present state of the law, a landed proprietor in Ireland might owe many thousands, to tradespeople and others, and yet manage, by living abroad, to enjoy the whole income arising from his estates, leaving his creditors all the while unpaid.

Bill read a second time; committed for Wednesday, the 25th April.