HC Deb 16 May 1850 vol 111 cc152-7

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. KEOGH moved the Second Reading of this Bill, the general principle of which was to establish a general court of probate for the whole of Ireland, and to effect certain alterations in the mode of procedure of the court.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


said, the Bill proposed to effect extensive changes, and he thought it very unseemly to attempt to pass the second reading of such a measure at that hour of the morning.


said, he merely asked the House to affirm this principle, namely, that the ecclesiastical courts of Ireland ought to be reformed.


could assure the hon. Member for the University of Oxford that in Ireland the feeling was unanimous in favour of the Bill, and they were very anxious to have it passed into a law. The abuses that it proposed to correct were universally admitted. As his hon. and learned Friend had given a distinct promise that he intended to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, he trusted that the hon. Baronet would not persist in his opposition to the second reading.


said, the mere assertion that this was a measure of reform ought not to be sufficient to induce the House to assent to its second reading. A measure of reform might be passed in a hundred different ways; and he thought that one o'clock in the morning was not a fitting hour to discuss which of those ways was the most advisable. He therefore trusted that the hon. and learned Gentleman would not press the second reading of the Bill on that occasion.


said, when this Bill was last before the House it was postponed on the application of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, who grounded that application on the supposition (for it amounted to no more) which he then expressed, that if certain parties in Ireland were consulted respecting it, he might feel it his duty to offer objections to it. Those parties had had ample time to consider the measure, and the result was that the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had that night laid on the table of the House a petition from parties who would be affected by the Bill, praying that when the Bill went into Committee their interests might be considered. His hon. and learned Friend, therefore, had no opposition to offer to the second reading of the Bill, as he admitted that its principle was just; and he hoped that the hon. Baronet would consent to withdraw his opposition.


was bound in candour to say that many of the details of the Bill were extremely objectionable. He admitted that in many respects the jurisdiction in question required reform. He thought it was the duty of the Government to take charge of so important a measure as the present. He had no objection to offer to the second reading, on the understanding that it should be referred to a Select Committee.


had read the Bill, and he felt no hesitation in saying that although some of the clauses would effect an improvement upon the administration of the law in the Prerogative Court of Ireland, he believed that other clauses would prove most prejudicial to the public interests. He could scarcely find words sufficiently strong to express his surprise that any hon. Gentleman should attempt to obtain a second reading of such a Bill at one o'clock in the morning. He found in the Bill a proposal to increase the salary of the present Judge of the Irish Prerogative Court from. 3,000l to 3,600l., whilst in the same Bill there was a proposal to diminish his labour. The Bill also proposed to vest an enormous patronage in the Judge. It proposed to give him precedence of the several judges of the superior courts of Ireland. Yes, a mere ecclesiastical judge was to be raised over the heads of nine bigwigs at one o'clock in the morning. The Bill proposed to appoint two registrars of the court at 700l. a year each, and a taxing officer at 400l. a year, although they had already three taxing officers in Ireland at present who were only half employed. He had been charged with an anxiety to "take a pull at the Exchequer;" but all his efforts in that respect were completely thrown into the shade by this Bill. It was "a pull at the Exchequer" with a vengeance. He thought that such a question as this ought to be left in the hands of the Government. There was certainly one part of the Bill of which he approved—namely, the part which proposed to open the practice of this court to men not only of his religious persuasion, but to men of every religious persuasion. That, he thought, was an improvement; but it was like one grain of wheat in a barrel of chaff. It was very difficult to find anything valuable in the Bill, and he should therefore conclude by moving that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the debate be now adjourned."


hoped that the House would assent to the second reading of the Bill, as he believed that it would be a great improvement on the present system. He did not believe that the Government had any disposition to deal with the question, and he hoped that the hon. Gentleman would persevere with it.


was decidedly opposed to the Bill.


thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Athlone ought, in the first instance, to have moved that the administration of ecclesiastical law in Ireland be referred to a Select Committee; and after that Committee had reported to the House, he could present the present Bill for their adoption, or such a measure as might be recommended in the report of the Committee.


thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had taken a course which was not unusual. They were, in fact, not called upon at one o'clock in the morning—as had been alleged—to fix the salaries of the Judge in question, and officers acting under him; the question was one of detail, and could be disposed of in Committee. He had heard no objection stated to the principle of the Bill. With regard to the Government taking this matter into their hands, he must make the same reply as he had already made with regard to the English ecclesiastical courts—namely, that there did not appear to be sufficient time this Session fully to prepare a measure on so important a question. He thought that the House ought to assent to the second reading of the Bill, on the understanding that it was to be referred to a Select Committee.


said, there were two money clauses in the Bill, and it was therefore of importance that the Government should pay particular attention to it. Would the Government have any objection to permit the Committee to examine witnesses from Ireland who were practically acquainted with the workings of the ecclesiastical courts, if the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee?


said, it was for the Select Committee to say whether or not such witnesses should be examined, if the House should give them the power of summoning witnesses. He could not give any undertaking on the part of the Government to take up this measure.


said, he had been prevented from stating the principal provisions of the Bill by the impatience of hon. Gentlemen, who met his attempted explanation of the Bill by cries of "Move, move!" As to the proposed increase in the salary of the Judge, that, of course, would be left to the discretion of the House; but he might observe that the Bill would materially increase the labours of that functionary, as it proposed to abolish twenty-two diocesan courts, and transfer the business to his court.


trusted that the House would not permit the Bill to proceed any further. The details of the measure were of the most complex character, and in them was very much involved its principle. The details could not be settled until the principle of the Bill was fully debated in the House. A measure of a comprehensive character was in preparation, for the purpose of reforming the ecclesiastical courts of England, and he thought that it would be better to postpone this Bill for Ireland until that measure was fully discussed.

The House divided:—Ayes 34; Noes 91: Majority 57.


then moved that the House do now adjourn.

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."

The House divided:—Ayes 20; Noes 95: Majority 75.


should, at that late hour, oppose the second reading of the Bill, and would, therefore, move that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the debate be now adjourned."


did not consider it fair at that late hour (half-past one o'clock), to bring forward so important a Motion.


hoped the hon. Member for Athlone would press the question of second reading.


begged to assure the House that his object was to have the Bill referred to a Select Committee; and, such being the case, he hoped it would meet with no factious opposition at that stage.


appealed to the hon. and learned Member who had charge of the Bill whether he would persist, in the face of these Motions for adjournment, on the second reading, seeing that it would be impossible to carry his object.


thought that he had a peculiar claim on the House. He had not entered into a full statement of the nature of the Bill, in obedience to the wish, as he understood it, of the House; and now he considered the second reading ought to be agreed to in order that the Bill might go before a Select Committee.


objected to the Bill, as it was against the principle of uniformity of legislation.


considered that the Bill should be discussed, and they were asked to send the Bill without discussion to a Select Committee. The principle of the Bill was to sweep away the diocesan courts. He was not prepared to say whether they should act wisely by doing so, but it was necessary that they at least should take the sense of the House upon it.

The House divided:—Ayes 20; Noes 83: Majority 63.

List of the AYES.
Arkwright, G. Manners, Lord J.
Bateson, T. Mullings, J. R.
Beresford, W. Oswald, A.
Brotherton, J. Reynolds, J.
Cotton, hon. W. H. S. Scott, hon. F.
Deedes, W. Smollett, A.
Halsey, T. P. Taylor, T. E.
Hastie, A. Willoughby, Sir H.
Heald, J.
Henley, J. W. TELLERS.
Lowther, hon. Col. Sibthorp, Col.
Mackenzie, W. F. Chatterton, Col.

appealed to hon. Members not to persist in their opposition to the second reading.


expressed his hope that the Spartan band over the way would persevere in dividing the House until the second reading was postponed.


said, that as it was impossible to prevent a very small number of Members retarding the progress of business when they had made up their minds to do so, he should recommend the hon. and learned Gentleman, in order to save time, to withdraw his Motion, and fix the second reading for To-morrow.


felt too much indebted to those hon. Gentlemen who had supported him not at once to accede to the advice of the right hon. Baronet.

Bill to be read 2° To-morrow.

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