HC Deb 07 March 1855 vol 137 cc221-6

Order for Second Reading, read,

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


said, he could not let the Bill be read a second time, without expressing his disapproval of hasty legislation of this kind by individuals. He thought that a measure of this kind should be introduced by the Government, and he would therefore move that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."


said, he considered that the Bill involved very important Amendments of the law, and it would be impossible in acceding to the second reading to do more than agree to the general principle of it. It was desirable that judgments obtained in one country of the United Kingdom should be enforced in another, and carried into effect in a prompt manner; but if the House, therefore, assented to the second reading of the Bill, they should assent only to it on the understanding that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee for examination. He approved of the general objects of the measure, and on the terms he had stated he was inclined to concur in the proposition for the second reading.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman did not seem to be aware that a Bill similar to the present had been referred to a Select Committee last Session, and he had sat upon it, and now it was proposed to go through the same farce again—for farce it must be called—thus to have a Bill brought in Session after Session, to have the principle admitted, the details objected to, and the measure referred again and again to a Select Committee, without any result, the Government all the while attempting thus to usurp the character of law reformers, by approving of the principle of measures for the improvement of the law, the only objection being that they could not be or were not carried out. He did not believe that the principle of the present Bill could be carried out. It was proposed to make a judgment in England operate as a judgment in Ireland or Scotland, so that execution might be sued out upon it at once in all those countries. This was anomalous, and might prove most mischievous, unless means were taken to prevent it, which did not appear to be provided in the present Bill. The cases of practical inconvenience under the present law were rare, and hardly warranted so sweeping a change in the law. The Bill was in several respects repugnant to the late Irish Common Law Procedure Act, and these repeated changes in the law left it in a state of uncertainty, and consequently produced much discontent and dissatisfaction. It should be recollected also, that the law of judgments in Ireland was of peculiar importance with respect to their effect as charges on land, and the present Bill would introduce great confusion into the law on the subject. A Commission had lately been appointed to consolidate the Statute Law, which it had been proposed to extend to Ireland; and when he had been asked to become one of the Commissioners, he had said, what he now ventured to repeat, that it would be idle to attempt to consolidate the existing Statute Law and to continue to add to its confusion by passing new laws—increasing the anomalies which were already complained of. It was equally idle to allow private Members to introduce measures of such importance, which it was found impossible to pass; referring them to Select Committees, who discovered that they were impracticable, and then going through a repetition of the same proceedings in a subsequent Session. Bills on such important subjects should be prepared in a proper office, for the purpose of securing uniformity and consistency in our legislation, and ought, if approved of by the Government in principle, to be adopted by them and introduced and carried upon their responsibility. It was all very well to say that they approved of the principle, but not of the details. The whole value of such measures as the present lay in the details. The test of the principle was whether it was practicable, and could be carried out. And if the Government approved of the principle, and they deemed it practicable, they ought to undertake to carry it out. It was not very creditable to our legislation, and did not tend to elevate the character of that House, to go on in this way—approving of the principle of Bills, and never carrying them out. It tended to get the House a character for talking instead of doing; and looked like prating of law reform for the sake of trying to throw dust in the eyes of the people. As the Government did not appear disposed to adopt the Bill and carry it out, and as a Bill of a precisely similar character had been already referred to a Select Committee and found impracticable, he should oppose the repetition of the farce played last Session on the subject, and should, therefore, resist the second reading.


said, as the Bill had been submitted to a Select Committee last Session and not adopted, he thought it best not to agree to the second reading.


said, he felt the force of the objections that had been urged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, but when a Bill was proposed to be introduced by a private Member, the principle of which was admitted to be good, it was difficult to resist its introduction. If the Government did object to it, it would be said that, although they professed to be law reformers, they resisted a measure for the reform of the law. That they should enforce judgments in Ireland that were obtained in England no person could doubt, and that was the principle involved in the Bill before the House, but there were serious difficulties with regard to the details. The measure had already been before a Select Committee, and if sufficient labour had been bestowed on it he considered that many of the objections might have been removed; but as it had been submitted last year to a Select Committee, and, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin had said, they could not make anything more out of it, it would be useless to send it again to a Select Committee.


said, if the Government recognised the principle of the measure, it was their duty to introduce a measure that would be practicable. Great evils arose from crude legislation, even with the best intentions. The Incumbered Estates Court of Ireland Act had been passed, no doubt, with the best possible intentions; but the Court was worse than the Court of Chancery it had been intended to supersede. On the other hand, it was most bitterly to be complained of that a Government should allow useful and valuable measures—such, for instance, as the Landlord and Tenant Bill and Leasing Powers Bill of a previous Session—to drop, merely for want of any attention to them. It did not appear to him that the present Bill belonged to the former but to the latter class. There was no practical inconvenience in the law upon the subject; a judgment even in an inferior or foreign court was by the law of England and Ireland primâ facie proof of a debt, and unless it was shown to have been irregularly obtained was conclusive as to the merits. Where, then, was the difficulty to be met? And if there was any, why did not the Government meet it?


said, he must complain that the Irish Members had to sit there till one o'clock every morning to prevent the hon. and learned Member for Ayr from running his Bill through Parliament in their absence.


said, that he had been requested by a great number of persons, his constituents and others, in Ireland, to oppose such a measure as the present, as likely to introduce great confusion into the law, and to prove very injurious to trade. When the Bill was brought in last Session the Lord Advocate of Scotland had vehemently objected to it on principle; and yet now the Attorney and Solicitor Generals for England approved of its principle.


said, it was his conviction that the present state of the law should not be allowed to continue. The principle of a Bill which would enable a party, who had obtained a decree either in England, or Scotland, or Ireland, to enforce judgment out of the particular country where the decree was obtained, was of such practical value that all parties should endeavour to arrange the machinery by which effect would be given to such a valuable measure. He trusted the Government would allow the Bill to be read a second time.


said, it might be that such a measure would be practicable with reference to England and Ireland, but it could hardly be so as to England or Ireland and Scotland, for the law of England and Ireland was substantially the same, whereas the law of England was essentially different from that of Scotland, and the carrying out of such a measure would really require an assimilation of the laws of the two countries.


said, the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dunlop) was mistaken in supposing that a judgment obtained in England could not be enforced in Ireland, or vice versâ, without recommencing the original action. That was not so, for as his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Whiteside) had shown, there might be an action on the judgment, which would be primâ facie conclusive, and in which the merits of the original suit could not be again inquired into; assuming that the judgment had been properly (that is regularly) obtained. He thought it might be possible to obtain the object of the Bill by establishing some Imperial Court analogous to the ancient Aula Regis, whose judgment should be of force anywhere in the Empire, but in no other way. There did not appear to be any real inconvenience in the present state of this law. At all events, if there were, a measure of such vital importance ought to be undertaken by the Government, more especially as upon this subject an impression existed in Ireland that there was in contemplation a plan for destroying her independent courts, and consolidating them with the English courts, and that this was the first step in the execution of that project. To show the practical evil of any such system, let him remind the House that by the law of England and of Ireland, if a trial would be inconvenient in one county, by reason of the witnesses being at a distance, the venue could be changed into another county; but under the system towards the establishment of which this Bill tended, a trial in an Irish cause might take place in England, to the great injury of the suitors. Any measure tending towards such a result was to be deprecated, and when he recollected that the late Lord Plunket, who had once entertained an idea of such a measure as the present, abandoned it from a conviction of its perilous and impracticable character, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Craufurd) would excuse him if he recommended him not to attempt what Lord Plunket had failed to achieve.


, in reply, said, he was prepared to stand by the Bill in the shape in which it stood, subject to such emendations as might be made upon it by the better judgment of the House. He trusted that the course of proposing to shelve the Bill by referring it to a Select Committee would not be pursued, and that the House would consent to the second reading.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 18; Noes 89: Majority 71.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.