§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD,
after presenting a petition against the Bill from the Incorporated Solicitors of Ireland, said, he begged to move that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months. He regretted that the opposition to this measure had not been undertaken by some one of greater legal standing than himself, who could speak with greater authority as to those parts of the Bill, which were especially of a technical character; but as the whole framework, and all the details of the measure were grounded or the proposal to abolish the Incumbered Estates Court, a proposal which he thought most objectionable, he felt bound 916 to oppose its further progress. For a similar reason he could not support the measures of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), on the same subject, and must, therefore, look for support to those Members on both sides of the House who had witnessed with pleasure the progress in material prosperity which Ireland had recently made, and who attributed much of that prosperity to the successful operation of the Court which it was now proposed to abolish. The position of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland was, in his opinion, a most extraordinary one. He had passed a studied but well-merited eulogium upon the manner in which the Encumbered Estates Court had worked, and concluded by asking the House summarily to extinguish that Court, and to transfer its jurisdiction to the Court of Chancery, which it appeared, upon the face of his own Bill, he acknowledged needed that its expenses should be diminished, its proceedings amended, and its jurisdiction and powers increased. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had taken an opposite course and had proposed to transfer to the Court which he had praised some portion of the jurisdiction of that which he said needed reform, his conduct would at least have been consistent; but when he praised one Court and immediately afterwards asked that it should be extinguished, when he said that another needed reform, and asked that business might be transferred to it, he asked that to which he (Mr. Fitzgerald) hoped the House would not assent. He was quite free to admit that great improvements had taken place in the procedure of the Court of Chancery; nevertheless its jurisdiction was still regarded with great jealousy and suspicion by the Irish public. Now the proposition which he was there that evening to support was, that it was neither consistent with policy nor justice to fling, without notice, the hopes and fortunes of hundreds of families into the vortex of the Court of Chancery, instead of allowing their interests to be adjudicated upon by a tribunal so certain and speedy in its operation as the Incumbered Estates Court. The Bill professed to be founded upon the Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the working of the Incumbered Estates Court. Now, at the risk of calling up his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns), who was a member of the Commission, he should wish to make a few observations with 917 reference to it. In the first place, it was much to be regretted that the Commission was composed exclusively of lawyers. That opinion was founded upon no want of respect for the learned profession of which he was a member, but simply upon a consideration of the duties which the Commission had to discharge. It was appointed to inquire into a Court the jurisdiction and proceedings of which were quite unusual and exceptional. The principle on which the Incumbered Estates Court proceeded was, that it was desirable to give the suitor at all times the readiest access to the, Judge, who was engaged in the consideration of the matter in which he was interested, to dispense to the utmost with the costly attendance of counsel, and to enable all parties concerned to learn, even without any professional assistance, the exact state in which a cause might stand. It was therefore scarcely possible to imagine any system of legal administration more foreign to the ideas and associations, or more completely alien to the habits of lawyers who had been accustomed to practise in the old tribunals, than the particular system into which it was the duty of the Commissioners to inquire. For that reason, and for many others, it was much to be wished that the Commission had not been made to consist exclusively of lawyers, and of lawyers, too, accustomed to practise in the Court of Chancery. It would have been exceedingly desirable to have had in the Commission a few eminent civilians, as was the case when a Government inquiry was instituted some years since into the proceedings of the Court of Chancery in England. The Commission appointed on that occasion was originally composed of lawyers only, but in compliance with the prayer of an Address to the Crown from the House of Commons on the subject, there were added two distinguished civilians—the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) and the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley); and it was well known that to those gentlemen the Commissioners were indebted, not only for most zealous cooperation in the prosecution of their labours, but also for some of the most valuable recommendations contained in their Report. With that excellent precedent before them, he could not help thinking that the public would have had greater confidence in the present Report if it, like that to which he had alluded, had emanated from a Commission not exclusively composed of lawyers. It was 918 worthy of remark that, though one of the topics of inquiry assigned to the Commissioners was, whether the jurisdiction of the Incumbered Estates Court should be transferred to the Court of Chancery, or the former tribunal be continued for a limited period, no expression of opinion on that point was elicited from any of the persons to whom queries were addressed by the Commissioners. The Commissioners examined the several Masters in Chancery, the most distinguished counsel, and the members of the Incorporated Society, whose petition he had presented that evening but they abstained altogether from inquiring whether it was desirable to transfer the jurisdiction of the Incumbered Estates Court to the Court of Chancery. One gentleman only, a Mr. Smith, gave an opinion at all inclining in that direction; but even that opinion, upon the whole, was directly opposed to the measure now before the House. The Master of the Rolls in Ireland, whose authority on such subjects must be admitted to be entitled to the highest consideration, had expressed opinions to the following effect: That it might be desirable that the powers now vested in the Commissioners of Incumbered Estates should be continued to them for a further limited period; that, if those powers were to be permanently vested in any tribunal, it would be better that they should be made to reside in the Commissioners than in the Court of Chancery; and that it was idle to suppose that the latter tribunal could transact the business as correctly and expeditiously as had been done by the Commissioners. He would now direct attention to the recommendations of the Commission. At present there were nine Judges connected with Equity matters in Ireland; of these, two—the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls—were to be continued. As to the remaining seven, four of these were Masters in Chancery, who, in fact, in great measure performed the duties of Vice Chancellors, the other three being the Commissioners of the Incumbered Estates Court. But for these seven Judges the Commission proposed to substitute two who were to be assisted by chief clerks. Now, here the Commission fell into a remarkable inconsistency; for, while complaining of the arrears of business in the Incumbered Estates Court, and stating that for the satisfactory discharge of business there it would be necessary to make a large addition, if not to the judicial, certainly to the Ministerial staff of the Court, they never- 919 theless proceeded to recommend the reduction of the judicial staff, that for the future would have to preside, not alone over matters coming within the cognisance of the Incumbered Estates Court, but also over those transactions which were regulated by the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery. It was the opinion of the Commissioners themselves that, with three Judges and their present staff, it would take three years to clear off the arrears of the Incumbered Estates Court. Yet it was now proposed that the number of Commissioners should be reduced to two, who would have to deal not only with the arrears, but with a mass of additional business that would be created by the Bill now under consideration. In his evidence the Master of the Rolls distinctly stated that if the course proposed by this Bill were adopted, that, much as the public feeling had been excited by recent Chancery delays, under the new measure the complaints would be still louder, and speedy justice would be no longer possible of attainment. Moreover, while entirely acquitting the Irish Solicitor General of the least desire to perpetrate a job, he thought it right to say that there were in this Bill certain provisions with respect to officers, to which the attention of the House ought to be directed. They were aware there were too many instances in Ireland where men in the full vigour of their powers were removed from offices and had pensions assigned to them, that the duties heretofore discharged by them might be performed, under a different name, by other persons. It would be invidious in him to name individual instances of this kind; but certainly, whether they looked to the Post Office, the Board of Works, the Poor Law Board, or any other public department in Ireland, they would find the examples of what he had stated so numerous as to render it high time that the attention of that House should be directed to the subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald), in introducing this measure, said, that it would ultimately effect a considerable saving of expense to the country; yet he was obliged, at the same time, to admit that, in consequence of the burden of compensation which it would entail for persons who were to be pensioned in the full vigour and prime of life, there would be no present saving of expense whatever. Indeed the whole of the £15,000 saved on the one hand would have to be paid away in compensation to retiring officers. He was 920 aware that the Commissioners in their Report expressed a hope that possibly some of the officers of the Incumbered Estates Court would be employed in the Court of Chancery under the new arrangements. On the other hand, it was quite certain they must pension off some of the Masters in Chancery in their full vigour and prime of life. And even with regard to the officers of the Incumbered Estates Court, he found a clause in the Bill singularly militating against the wish of the Commissioners, for it provided that no one should be appointed to act as a Vice Chancellor who had not been a practising barrister of fifteen years' standing—thus rendering it impossible for Mr. Hargreaves, who had performed his duties in the Incumbered Estates Court in the most able manner, to be nominated to that office. No doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman would place great reliance on that part of his measure which conferred on the Court of Chancery the power of giving an indefeasible Parliamentary title to every estate sold in that Court. Certainly, it might appear unfair that the advantage of such a title should be enjoyed by the owner of an incumbered estate forced into that Court, while it was denied to the unincumbered proprietor who went before that tribunal voluntarily; but it should be remembered that this was but a very small part of a very great question; and, inasmuch as the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Registration of Titles in England and Ireland had not yet made their Report, it would be most unwise for the friends of a comprehensive reform on this subject to sanction the premature introduction into Ireland piecemeal of an exceptional system of legislation. The Master of the Rolls was adverse to this part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's scheme, and thought it ought to be postponed till the Report of the Commissioners above referred to had been presented. The Bill also proposed to establish a Court of Appeal; but that provision, however excellent in itself, was not sufficient he thought to induce the House to adopt a measure containing so many objectionable details. With regard to the present Incumbered Estates Court which it was proposed to abolish, no great social change demanded by an imperative political necessity could be carried out without incidentally working some personal hardships; but the operations of that tribunal had unquestionably, in the main, proved most beneficial to Ireland, and, if it were continued with, an increased staff, 921 and removed to a more convenient situation, it would, doubtless, be capable of conferring still further advantages on that country. Those who had hitherto opposed its constitution should remember that it had recently undergone great alteration. It was no longer a Court exclusively resorted to by creditors, but was now frequently had recourse to by landed proprietors wishing to avail themselves of its facilities. Those hon. Members, on the other hand, who had supported its original establishment as a step in the right direction, and one giving to the suitor readier and cheaper access to a Court of Justice, should be careful how they rashly disturbed an institution which had worked so well. If the House considered that the proceedings of that Court had hitherto been beneficial to Ireland, and were likely to be so in future, he asked them to support the Amendment he begged to move—that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
, in seconding the Amendment, said, it was his opinion that the establishment of the Incumbered Estates Court had effected a great improvement in the social condition of Ireland. He must admit that in the earlier working of the Act some hardship was inflicted upon a few individuals, whose estates were sold much under their value. That circumstance, however, could not be fairly attributed to the law. Formerly the great majority of the landed proprietors of that country were alienated from the mass of the people by religious and political differences, and many of them were involved in such hopeless embarrassments that they were unable to render their property beneficial to themselves, or to discharge their duties to those with whom the possession of such property brought them into connection. Those evils, which had been growing for many years, were brought to a climax by the famine in 1846; and he believed that, if the difficulty had not been solved by the establishment of the Incumbered Estates Court, many Irish proprietors, who were now in comparatively good circumstances, would have been weighed down by the calamities which visited the country. It was because he wished to avoid the recurrence of such a crisis that he urged the House not to interrupt the present arrangement, or to interfere in such a manner as to throw difficulties in the way of the free transfer of landed property.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
said, he must complain that the hon. Member who proposed the Amendment had confined himself to details instead of dealing with the principles of the Bill. He would admit that great and important results had arisen from the establishment of the Incumbered Estates Court. Because he wished to perpetuate those benefits to the people of Ireland, he would give his support to the second reading of the Bill, and would oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for Horsham. The case which that hon. Member has espoused had not suffered by his advocacy, unprofessional though it was. But the hon. Member would excuse him for saying he thought that in the greater part of his speech he did not deal with the real question before them, but only with questions of detail and of the machinery of the measure. The House was now called upon to consider the principle of the Bill, and not the details, which would be much better left to the judgment of the Committee. He (Mr. Deasy) proposed to deal with the question of principle only. The Bill now before the House enunciated three important principles:—1.The perpetuation of the new and unusual powers of the Incumbered Estates Court; 2.The transfer of those powers to the Court of Chancery; and 3.The internal reform of the Court of Chancery by the abolition of the Masters' offices, and the substitution of new Judges, who should unite in themselves the functions of Judges and Masters. On the first of these points he believed there was no difference between himself and the hon. Members who had moved and seconded the Amendment. He believed that our experience of the Incumbered Estates Court proved the fact, that such high powers might be vested in the regular judicial tribunals of the country with advantage to the public, as well as to all parties concerned. The question for the House to decide was—in what manner and by what Court it was most for the interest of the public those powers should be perpetuated—in what tribunal and in what officers should those powers be vested? The Bill proposed to transfer those powers to Judges of the Court of Chancery, and to continue them in that 923 Court. The Commissioners of the Incumbered Estates Court were to form a part of the new tribunal. The Commissioners who recommended that course included amongst them the framer of the Incumbered Estates Bill, another Commissioner (Dr. Longfield) who had never evinced any favourable disposition towards the Court of Chancery, the late Attorney General for Ireland, the present Solicitor General for Ireland, and the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns). They were unanimously of opinion that the powers vested in the Incumbered Estate Commissioners should go to the Court of Chancery. The House was now asked to affirm that principle, and assent to the second reading of the Bill. The other alternative was, the prolongation of the duration of the Incumbered Estates Court. It was admitted that this was a most exceptional tribunal, established in order to meet a particular emergency. He would ask the hon. Member's attention to the particular constitution and working of this Commission. As an administrative tribunal, the Incumbered Estates Court was eminently successful; but he altogether denied that, constituted as it was, it was calculated to give satisfaction as a judicial tribunal. The Court possessed stringent powers with regard to the transfer of land, but with limited powers as to its jurisdiction, having no control over personal property, and a dispute in a title necessitated the adjudication on it to another tribunal on an action of ejectment; and when even it was necessary for a case to be stated for a Court of Law or an appeal to the Court of Chancery, the Incumbered Estates Court had to suspend its own adjudication until the result of the proceedings in either of the other Courts were first known. These were circumstances of common occurrence, and no less than three cases of that kind were pending in the Irish Courts of Common Law last term, all of which had to be decided before the case could come back before the Commissioners in the Incumbered Estates Court, and the parties could realise the fruits of their bickerings; he therefore appealed to hon. Members to say whether that was a satisfactory state of things, or a tribunal likely to be of advantage to the public, or its suitors. He had heard a great deal of reproach cast on the Irish Court of Chancery by the Commissioners who had investigated its practice and proceedings, that it did 924 not decide on questions that arose in reference to property submitted to its jurisdiction, and that in order to remedy those evils a Bill had been recently passed in accordance with the recommendation of the Commissioners. Were they to be called on to perpetuate those evils, or to expand the jurisdiction of this Court to personal as well as real property, with a machinery to allow it to decide on all questions arising out of the rights of property within its jurisdiction that came before it? If that course be adopted, they would be creating a new Court of Chancery, sitting in a different place, known by a different name, and exercising co-ordinate and perhaps conflicting jurisdictions, and which would be opposed to every sound principle of jurisprudence and past legislation. In England the evils resulting from such a state of things had been abolished, and it was essentially necessary that in dealing with property there should be uniformity of administration, and the proceedings of the Court relative to it vested in one tribunal and under one head. He would appeal to a high authority on the subject, that of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) as to whether or not he concurred in the statement that had been made that the Incumbered Estates Court, as a judicial tribunal, stood higher in the opinion of the people of Ireland than the Irish Court of Chancery; and for himself he asserted that the Court of Chancery enjoyed quite as much confidence in Ireland as did the Incumbered Estates Court. The Commission, in recommending the creation of the Incumbered Estates Court, assigned as reasons for its necessity, the power of giving Parliamentary titles to land, the supervision of the same Judge over the entire property brought into it, and facility of access to the Judge both by solicitors and suitors. The same thing was proposed by the present Bill, and why should not the same advantage result from it in the Court of Chancery as had resulted from it in the Incumbered Estates Court? Was there anything in the name or the locality that was objectionable? Some hon. Members, he confessed, appeared rather prejudiced against the name of Chancery. Or probably it arose from unfavourable recollections of, or experience derived in, the old organised Court of Chancery, but which, however, had now undergone such reformation that the old pleader and practitioner in that Court had had to 925 unlearn the old system and acquire the new one, greatly to the inconvenience, but considerably to the advantage, of the suitors. It was, therefore, upon the grounds that this Bill proposed to transfer the business of the Incumbered Estates Court to the Court of Chancery, that he asked the House to consent to the second reading of the measure, leaving it to the period when they were in Committee to amend any defects that might exist in the details of the Bill, or make such modifications as they might deem necessary, and not, by peremptorily rejecting the Bill at that stage, deprive the people of Ireland of what he hoped would become an effectual, economical, and expeditious Court for them to have recourse to. It might be said that lawyers had a particular prejudice in favour of the tribunals to which they were most accustomed, and that that was the reason why he supported the present measure; but he would refer the House to the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns) who represented a commercial constituency deeply interested in the question and who were in favour of it, to show them that it was considered by others a sound measure in principle. The machinery of the Bill—which he considered at present inefficient for the work proposed to be done—they were not called on then to decide, but when the proper time arrived for doing so, he should be ready to render his assistance towards making it perfect. Thus, for instance, if the arrears of the Incumbered Estates Court were to be transferred to the Court of Chancery, he thought that two Vice Chancellors, although assisted by four chief clerks, would be inadequate to discharge the multifarious duties which would be cast upon them. Neither did he think it would be desirable to make any of the existing Masters of the Court Vice Chancellors. A new system ought to be introduced by new men, and not by those who were wedded to the existing state of things. Those, however, were matters of detail, which he would not then stay to discuss. There was one portion of the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment did not advert, and that was the part which introduced into the Irish procedure the regulations with regard to the abolition of the office of Master and the appointment of chief clerks to the Judges, which had acted so beneficially in England. He thought that that portion of the Bill was entitled to the warmest commendation. 926 Believing that the general scope of the measure was most beneficial, he should vote for the second reading, and he trusted that in Committee the House would arrange a Bill alike creditable to the Legislature and advantageous to the country.
§ MR. M'CANN
said, he must entreat the House not to be led away by flattering descriptions of the improved state of the Court of Chancery, nor by them be induced to place the property of Ireland again under the control of that tribunal. Let the House give the owners of property in Ireland a little breathing time, and leave well enough alone a little longer. There had been no petitions against the Incumbered Estates Court, and a few consistent opponents of that tribunal in that House were the only non-legal persons he had ever heard speak against it. The Court was of course not in favour with the bar; but, speaking from great experience among mortgagees and creditors, and even owners of property, he could say it had given general satisfaction, and he hoped the House would be careful in adopting any measure intended to terminate the existence of that Court. If, as had been said, it was necessary to legislate upon the subject at once, let the Government propose a measure continuing the Incumbered Estates Court, and extending its powers by enabling it to deal with unincumbered estates also, and it would be heartily welcomed by all who desire the welfare of Ireland.
said, that having taken great pains at the period when the Incumbered Estates Court was first constituted in assisting the present Master of the Rolls, and having had accidentally some experience on the subject, he felt it to be his duty to warn his friends in that House to watch with great jealousy such a measure as that now before them. In saying that, he did not mean to imply that he had not sufficient confidence in Her Majesty's Irish law officers to induce him to assent to the second reading. The Bill was founded upon the Report of a Commission, and due deference should be paid to the recommendations of such learned persons, and to the endeavours of the law officers of the Crown to act upon that Report for the improvement of the law in Ireland. But the working of the Incumbered Estates Court had been highly beneficial to Ireland—almost universal testimony was borne to the excellent results which had followed its constitution, 927 and having had some accidental experience of the administration of property in the Irish Court of Chancery, and also a great deal of experience of such matters in the English Court of Chancery, he thought the House should hesitate before removing the administration of landed property from a Court which had hitherto been so satisfactorily conducted back again to the Court of Chancery. They had heard of reforms about to be adopted in the Court of Chancery, and he should have been much more satisfied if he had also heard that those reforms had been carried into execution, which might have justified the confidence of the public in the transference of the duties of the Incumbered Estates Commissioners to that Court. The best course, in his opinion, would have been to see that those reforms had been effected, and then to have provided that under its new administration it should be required to discharge the additional business that was proposed to be thrown upon it. No complaint had been made in any quarter against the Incumbered Estates Court. It had disposed of an immense quantity of business in the most satisfactory manner. [A cry of "No!"] The hon. Gentleman said "No;" he (Mr. Ellice) believed that the hon. Member would be found in a small minority. So far as a judgment could be formed from the statements contained in the usual sources of information, they had every reason to believe that the people of Ireland had been as much satisfied, generally, with the proceedings of that Court as the public of England. He had not the least objection to the second reading of the Bill, but he hoped the House would watch the measure very vigilantly. Another matter in connection with this subject was, the expense attendant upon the transfer of duties from one Court to another, involving the extinction of the functions of one of such Courts. Pensions would have to be granted to those functionaries whose duties would cease, while new offices at considerable expense would he created. Without having any personal interest in the matter, he had thought it his duty as an independent Member of Parliament, after having paid great attention to the subject, to trouble the House with the few remarks he had made, in the hope that they would watch the progress of the Bill with that attention which its great importance required.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that the obser- 928 vations of the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken were entitled on this question, as on every other concerning which he addressed the House, to every attention and respect; but it struck him (Mr. Whiteside) that the right hon. Gentleman's arguments furnished the best reason against the vote which he was about to give. He agreed with the right hon. Member that the Bill ought to be watched with the closest jealousy in reference to its financial bearing, and in reference to this more important question—what was for the good of Ireland? He (Mr. Whiteside) was in this predicament, that he conscientiously believed that the Bill in its peculiar operations would be impossible of execution. He believed it to be simply impracticable through the medium of the Court of Chancery unreformed, or as it was to be reformed by the proposed measure, to do the work which the Bill proposed to thrust upon it. Since he last had the honour of addressing the House on the subject he had been in Ireland; and he had had an opportunity of meeting a great many of the Members of the bar in that country, and of asking their opinion on the Bill. The hon. Member for Drogheda (Mr. McCann) was mistaken in thinking that the members of the bar always fought for that which they supposed would turn to their own advantage. It would be an advantage to the Irish bar to have all the business of the Incumbered Estates Court brought into the Court of Chancery, and to have the jurisdiction of the latter tribunal extended; and yet he had not found one of them to advocate the measure now before the House. He had asked many of them this question—"Do you think that the Court of Chancery could ever take up the arrears of the Incumbered Estates Court, and do satisfactorily the other business proposed by this Bill?" And every one of them had answered, "Impossible." Now, he wanted to know was he doing anything that was at all unfair or out of course if he hesitated to vote for a Bill which he and so many of his profession believed to be impossible of execution? And why was it impossible, for that went to the gist of the matter? While in Dublin he was told by an experienced solicitor that the number of estates now for sale in the Incumbered Estates Court was 1,6OO, involving property he should suppose to the amount of £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 sterling. He (Mr. Whiteside) further understood that there were at present £3,000,000 sterling to be distributed by the Court, 929 and the right to which was as yet to be ascertained and fixed. The Incumbered Estates Court at present consisted of three Commissioners, who were admittedly very attentive to their duties; though what had been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Deasy) was quite accurate, namely, that while the Commissioners brought property to a sale with great facility, their decisions as to the rights of parties and other judicial questions had not given satisfaction. He (Mr. Whiteside) repeated that the universal opinion of the bar of Ireland was, that the Court of Chancery could not execute the task that was proposed to be imposed on it. That was also the opinion of the body of the solicitors, who said that they would not be able to get their business done if the business at present transacted by the Incumbered Estates Court was put into the Court of Chancery. It might be said that the opinion of the solicitors was an interested opinion; but it was, notwithstanding, a useful one. What they said was, "Transfer all this into the Court of Chancery, and then bring in a new estate for sale there, and it will not be sold for eight years." Mr. Macaulay, in his history, said that that House was an eminently practical assembly. Now the hon. and learned Member for Cork admitted that by the Bill as it then stood there was not machinery created to enable the Court of Chancery to transact the business sought to be cast on it. Would the House, then, vote for the second reading of an imperfect Bill of that kind, proposing, as it did, to deal with property to the amount of many millions? Well, in the Incumbered Estates Court were three industrious Commissioners and a staff of thirty very clever men—at least, they all said that in the evidence given by themselves—and yet very large arrears of business had accrued. However, by the present Bill it was proposed to send to the Court of Chancery all that business, and the immense heap of books and papers thereunto appertaining; while it was quite forgotten to make any preparation for those documents, or even to have officers to receive them. The result of this would be a suspension of business, and that they would have no work done for the next six months. He had had the curiosity to go into the Court of Chancery, and ask the officers what would become of the Court if this business was thrust upon it. The answer had been, "What would become of us? why this—nothing will be done." He 930 would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman who had charge of the Bill what preparation had been made in the Court of Chancery for that enormous mass of unfinished business? But supposing it to have arrived there, what was to be done with it? He would beg the permission of the House to read a few sentences of a letter which had been addressed by the Master of the Rolls in Ireland to the Lord Chancellor of England, and a copy of which he (Mr. Whiteside) had been favoured with. The Master of the Rolls could have no motive save to state what was the truth; and he (Mr. Whiteside) might be permitted to make this observation as to the judicial bench in Ireland—namely, that when any great change which would affect the business in the Courts of Judges was to be made, those Judges ought to be consulted on the changes. The present Master of the Rolls in Ireland was appointed to that office by the late Sir Robert Peel, and of his fitness and competency for the office no one could have any doubt. He (the Master of the Rolls) had no arrears of business in his Court—he never permitted any to accrue. His Honour said that he was willing to go through as much work as he was physically capable of performing; but he said that it was unjust to put upon him what it was impossible to do. The following was an extract from the learned Master's letter:—Yet I should not obtrude my opinion unsought for on your Lordship or the Government were it not that the measure, as brought in, would in its present form affect my office of Master of the Rolls in Ireland in a manner I have much reason to complain of.It is of course clear, if the Judges of the Court of Chancery convey with a Parliamentary title estates encumbered or disencumbered, without reading very carefully the abstracts of title, that fraudulent sales will take place. In this country the solicitor is not considered responsible (as I believe he is in England) for the correctness of the abstract; and when cases of title are laid before counsel in Ireland, the abstract (which is often most inaccurately drawn) is always accompanied by copies of the deeds and documents therein referred to.I should be glad that your Lordship would inquire from Sir John Romilly, who signed the Report on which the Bill purports to be founded, during what period of the twenty-four hours he supposes I could read these abstracts and documents, after performing the other duties of my office. And I think I have much reason to complain that a duty should be sought to be cast on me by the Master of the Rolls in England which he himself neither would nor could perform. If your Lordship takes the trouble of inquiring, you will find that no Judge in either country has devoted himself more entirely to the duties of his 931 office than I have, and I have succeeded in keeping down all arrear at the Rolls by working out of Court as well as in Court. If duties are sought to be cast on me "which I cannot perform, and which would lead necessarily to a vast arrear in the Court, I shall take no further trouble in endeavouring to keep it down.The business of the Court of Chancery, as amended by the proposed Bill, was to be transacted by the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, and two Vice Chancellors. The fact was, without reckoning the Masters, Examiners, and other officers, there were now nine Judges now doing what it was proposed should be done by three. But more than that—the three Judges were, besides having the business of the nine to do, to commence with three or four years' arrears of business from the Incumbered Estates Court. The result of a measure of that kind would be that alluded to in the letter of the Master of the Rolls in Ireland—namely, to destroy the Court of Chancery in Ireland, and destroy all that was valuable in the Incumbered Estates Court. It had been stated that the objections to the Bill were on matters of detail; but he denied that. He contended that the objections went to the principle of the Bill itself. It had been also suggested that the Bill could be drawn into shape when it came before the House in Committee. Now it was impossible that that could be done in a Committee of the whole House. There were three or four important propositions which the House was called on to consider, but which the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland had not touched upon in the preamble to the Bill. It was proposed that the stamps and fees payable in the Court of Chancery in Ireland should be abolished. Now he (Mr. Whiteside) had referred to the returns from the County Courts in England; and he found that the fees paid in those Courts amounted to £200,000 a year. He wanted to know was the House prepared to adopt in the fullest sense the principle of abolishing the stamps in fees in all Courts in the United Kingdom? [Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: The words are "abolish or diminish."] He found that the words were "abolished or reduced." Now if the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to accept that principle, he (Mr. Whiteside) would give his ready assent to it; but he certainly would not consent to have Ireland made an exception in that respect. And therefore, so sure as any English or Scotch Member introduced a Bill to abolish fees 932 and stamps in either or both of those countries, he (Mr. Whiteside) would, if the principle were adopted in the present Bill, support such a proposal. He thought that hon. Members had better reflect on the consequences before they supported that portion of the Bill. Then the way in which it was intended to supply the money at present produced by the fees and stamps was, by the deduction of a percentage from the produce of all estates sold in the Court. Well, if that were a mode of relieving the owners of incumbered estates, he should say it was a very Irish mode of doing so—to make them pay for the sale of their iucumbered property, and for the general expenses of the Court. He had another objection, also, to the Bill, and that was a grave one, though it might be said to be against that which some would suppose to be an Irish feature in the Bill. He objected to it as a job—as the biggest job that had been laid on the table of that House for a quarter of a century. He would now give his proofs that it was. The second part of the Bill created all the offices, and he asked the attention of hon. Members to how these offices were to be filled. There were to be two Vice Chancellors, and in those offices and that of the Master of the Rolls were two chief clerks and two junior clerks. The chief clerks were to receive a salary of £1,000 at first, and a power was given to raise that salary to £1,250 a year—a power which he need not say would be very speedily exercised. Then came the clause relating to the appointment; and what he wished to direct the particular attention of the House to was, the clause which recited how those officers were to be appointed; and he called on the hon. and learned Solicitor General of Ireland to explain his conduct with reference to that part of the Bill. The Commissioners had very properly and legally recommended that the Judges of the reformed Court should have the appointment of their own officers. He said "legally," because the common law Judges had the appointment of their own officers; and even under the English Acts the Master of the Rolls and the Vice Chancellors in England got the power to do the same thing. Indeed, in the Bill introduced last Session by the Solicitor General for Ireland himself, the hon. and learned Gentleman gave the Judges the appointment in pursuance of the recommendation of the Commissioners, and following the English precedent; 933 but, to his (Mr. Whiteside's) infinite surprise, in the present Bill—perhaps following out a policy which seemed to have been adopted by some parties in that House, that of casting reflection, no matter how undeserved, on the judicial bench in Ireland—the hon. and learned Gentleman altered that provision, and vested the appointments in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. And while it was proposed to create new offices, the present officers were to be cut off on a pension. That, of course, was for the purpose of putting in the hands of the Secretary to the Treasury some offices, with good salaries attached to them, which would be placed at the disposal of friends to the Administration. He would ask, was that a just measure, or was it courteous on the part of those who proposed the Bill to treat the Irish Judges in that way? The Master of the Rolls in Ireland objected to the provision, observing that if the Court were to commence operations without any arrears from the Incumbered Estates Court, he thought it could do the business that the Act would impose on it, if the Judges were allowed to choose their own clerks, and could appoint those whom they knew to be efficient, and over whom they would have control; "but," added the learned Master, "if a man be placed upon me, whose efficiency I cannot guarantee, and over whom I cannot exercise a proper control, I believe in my conscience that this law will fail." The hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Deasy) had alluded to the Masters as being gentlemen advanced in years, but Master Brook was only fifty-two years of age, and that was not a very old man. If a man of fifty-two were past his labour, then we ought to cashier a number of our generals and admirals. He held in his hand a Return of the business transacted within the last few years by the gentlemen who were to to be pensioned off; and the amount of that business would surprise the House. That Return convinced him that the Court of Chancery, by effective reform, could be made to carry out all that was required of it. He was for reforming the Court of Chancery, but what he objected to do was, to throw into that Court arrears of business from another Court, which he knew the Court of Chancery could not get through and keep pace with the current business; for he knew that by such a course they would do a serious injury to the suitor, swamp the Court of Chancery, and nullify 934 all that was useful in the principle of the Incumbered Estates Court. Another portion of the Bill to which he strongly objected, was that which proposed to constitute a new Court of Appeal of a very peculiar character indeed. The proposal was to have an Appeal Judge—an ex-Chancellor, if one could be found to accept the office, and if not a Lord Justice—at a salary of £4,000 a year. This Appeal Judge was to sit with the Chancellor, and when there was a difference between the two there could be no decision. So that the Court of Appeal was one which might not be able to come to a decision, and in that way there would virtually be no appeal. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald) had said that there was to be a Court with a new staff. Why, then, did he not pension off the Lord Chancellor on £4,000 or £5,000 a year, and see if his Lordship's equal could be found? It certainly was as necessary to have an appeal from the Lord Chancellor as from the Master of the Rolls in Ireland. Conscientiously, he (Mr. Whiteside) gave it as his opinion that it was more so. That he believed, too, to be the opinion of the Irish bar, and some of the ablest of that bar practised in the Master of the Rolls' Court. Not meaning the Lord Chancellor of Ireland the slightest disrespect, he (Mr. Whiteside) said, that not to have an appeal from his Lordship's judgment to a Court that could decide whether he was right or wrong, was a mistake. He had now stated such objections to the Bill as he thought went to the principle of the measure, and were not such as the House could satisfactorily deal with in Committee. It would not do to have a Committee of that House sitting night after night and debating about patronage and clerks. The object of introducing a new staff into the Court of Chancery was manifest. It was to oust the whole staff of the Court of Chancery, and to put in their place the staff of the Incumbered Estates Court. The staff of the Incumbered Estates Court had no claim to pensions for loss of office, while those of the former Court had. Why, then, should the Chancery clerks be selected for ejection? To show the House that a provision for the staff of the Incumbered Estates Court was the object, he would direct attention to Clause 19 of the Bill. He had been asked in Ireland, did he object to that clause? He replied that he did not, and it was then his attention was directed to the last line and a half of 935 the clause, which was full of meaning as bearing out what he had first stated to be the object of providing for the appointment of a "new staff." The clause ran thus:—No person shall be appointed chief clerk to the Lord Chancellor, Master of the Rolls, or any Vice Chancellor, unless he shall be a barrister, and shall have practised as such in Ireland for the period of six years at least, or shall have been admitted on the roll of solicitors or attorneys in one of the superior Courts at Dublin, and practised as such solicitor or attorney for the period of ten years at least immediately preceding his appointment, or have held the office of Master's examiner in the Court of Chancery in Ireland, or of secretary, registrar, or examiner in the said Court of Chancery, or in the Court of the Commissioners for Sale and Transfer of Incumbered Estates in Ireland.Now, hon. Members might not be aware that there was a certain Gentleman who was neither a barrister nor an attorney, but who had for some time been in an office for which he was singularly unqualified, having previously come from a certain office which was in some way connected with a certain person; and these words had been introduced to enable that Gentleman to be appointed to one of the chief clerkships. That was, in fact, a specimen of the mode in which the whole Bill had been got up; and he for one would not consent to sanction a measure laid before the House in that way. There was a principle of the Bill still remaining on which he wished to make a few observations. The Court of Incumbered Estates in Ireland being in arrear, and it being proposed to transfer its jurisdiction, together with those arrears, to the Court of Chancery, it was also proposed to make the Court of Chancery a conveyancing engine or machine for all Ireland. At present a man who had his property incumbered could bring it into the Incumbered Estates Court, and sell it to pay off the incumbrances; but it was now proposed that a man owing no money at all might bring his estate into the Court of Chancery at the expense of the estate itself—fees being abolished—and sell it to A. B. Could any Court carry out a scheme of that kind? Could the Court of Chancery in Ireland carry out all the private conveyancing of that country, when, even under the Act limiting its operations to incumbered estates, the Incumbered Estates Court had got so much into arrears? With every possible respect for the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns) he (Mr. Whiteside) could not give his as- 936 sent to that proposition. It was one that the whole profession in Ireland would join him in saying was impracticable. Acting on such a principle, he would ask, would they transact the private mercantile business of the country in their Courts? The question of the free transfer of land was a very important one. Her Majesty's Solicitor General was considering the subject; and he believed that a Bill on the subject was being prepared for England, while one was actually before the House for Ireland. He objected to that system of legislation. They had been told that owners of land in Ireland had created incumbrances. Now, he called on his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast to read through the entire Report of the Commissioners; and he ventured to say that he would not find any single case of a man who, having had a perfectly unincumbered property, incumbered it for the pleasure of bringing it into the Incumbered Estates Court. He very much doubted that fact; but at all events he implored of the House not, where a new principle of such importance was to be introduced, to vote for a Bill framed for Ireland, and which did not include England. In every way the differences between the two countries were fast fading away; and as the Master of the Rolls in Ireland remarked in his letter, there should be no difference made between them in legislation of this kind. The question at issue was a most important one. It was a vast question. It was this—ought a tenant for life to be allowed to walk into the Court, make a bargain with any other party, and by a bit of parchment convey to him an estate which owed nothing, and was not really his to sell; and convey it in such a way as to make it the purchaser's for ever, without any one being ever able to question the contract? In the case of an incumbered estate there were creditors, hostile parties, and therefore there was contest and inquiry; but a party might easily make a fraudulent sale of an unincumbered estate, and the purchaser might be in the plot. The Bill was admittedly imperfect, and as it was necessary for a Committee to inquire into it, let it be sent before a tribunal where the great principles involved could be properly considered—where there would be power to summon witnesses, and go into the whole question. If the Government pressed the Bill, believing that the objections to it were not as to matters of detail, but to matters of principle, he would 937 have no alternative but to vote against the second reading. It was his conscientious conviction that if passed in its present shape the Bill would plunge both tribunals into inextricable confusion, and that it would be utterly impossible to make it available for the practical object which they should all have in view.
said, he thought that, though there were many objections to the details of the Bill, its principles were such as to entitle it to the support of the House. Many of its provisions, which his hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) objected to as applying to the principle of the Bill, in his (Mr. Serjeant O'Brien's) opinion, applied only to its details. It was certainly most expedient to consider the whole system of Parliamentary titles in Ireland. The experiments hitherto tried had been without success. If they continued the Incumbered Estates Court, they must continue to it its powers; and they could not continue those powers without extending them. The estates in the Incumbered Estates Court possessed facilities of transfer which the hon. Member for Horsham admitted that they ought to possess. Were they prepared to abolish the system, or would they continue it? And, if they continued it, were they prepared to continue the distinction between incumbered and unincumbered property? Were they aware of the mischief which they were doing to the landed gentry in Ireland, by drawing the distinctions under which the owners of unincumbered property stand in a worse position than the owners of incumbered property? It was obviously unjust to benefit the owner of the one to a greater extent than the owner of the other; or to establish the principle, that because a man was improvident he was to get an advantage denied to the man of more provident habits. At present, when two estates were put up for sale, one resting upon a private title, the other upon a title given by the Incumbered Estates Court, the latter would sell for two years' purchase more than the former. It might be a question whether the system of Parliamentary titles should be maintained or not; but, if maintained, it ought to be extended, otherwise great injustice would be done. He himself knew persons anxious to sell property, but unable to do it, because there was other property in the district to be sold under the Incumbered Estates Court. That extension, however, could 938 not be carried out by giving more power to the Incumbered Estates Court. They would then only remedy existing evils by establishing two Courts of Chancery; by that means the Incumbered Estates Court would have the power to determine questions of title under the same jurisdiction as the Court of Chancery, and they would have two distinct Equity Courts established in Ireland, while the principle of legislation in England had long been to abolish divided Courts of Equity. He had not heard any suggestion for remedying the inconvenience without giving to the Court of Chancery the power, or taking it away from the Incumbered Estates Court. He was, however, doubtful, if the abolition of the Incumbered Estates Court ought to take place immediately. Out of 1,700 petitions which had been presented to that Court, there were 1,300 not yet adjudged upon, and then, without any other work, they would take two years to get through the arrears. He was, therefore, doubtful, whether it was for the benefit of the country that an immediate abolition of the Incumbered Estates Court should take place. That, however, was an objection of detail, and not of principle. One thing, however, was certain—the principle of granting Parliamentary titles, if continued, ought, as he had previously stated, to be extended. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath (Mr. Urquhart), who seconded the Motion, as to the propriety of preserving to Ireland the benefit of Parliamentary titles. The objection to giving that power to the Court of Chancery was, that the Court of Chancery in Ireland had fallen into bad repute, and that no now powers ought to be granted to it; but were hon. Members prepared to abolish altogether the Court of Chancery in Ireland, and to shut their eyes to all measures of reform proposed for that Court by this Bill? Similar measures had been adopted in England, and had worked well there. It was a mere matter of detail, whether the present Masters of Chancery should be continued or not as Vice Chancellors or as Masters. The arrears might be disposed of by continuing the Incumbered Estates Court for two or three years longer, and with the two Vice Chancellors to be appointed there would be no longer the same pressure of business; but if all the business were at once thrown upon the two Vice Chancellors, it would be impossible for them to get through it. From the example of the Incumbered Estates 939 Court, he did not believe the pressure would continue; in the first year of the working of that Court there were 1,250 petitions presented, while in 1854 there were but 374. It now frequently happened that the same property was at once in the Court of Chancery and the Incumbered Estates Court; the preliminary proceedings were obliged to be taken in the first Court, and the subsequent proceedings in the second. The Incumbcred Estates Court had no power of appointing receivers, and sometimes it became necessary to present a petition for sale to that Court, and petition for the appointment of receivers to the Court of Chancery. For such proceedings he could see no remedy, except by establishing a single Court and a single tribunal, with full power of deciding all the cases brought before it. It was proposed on the one hand to abolish Parliamentary titles altogether, but if that were not done, they could only carry out the principle by extending it. Then there was the Court of Appeal. The Bill proposed that there should be one Judge of Appeal, with the power of calling in a Common Law Judge. The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) in his Bill had two Judges of Appeal. For himself, he could not see any great difference in the two plans. A Court of Appeal, as an intermediate Court, would frequently save the expense of an appeal to the House of Lords. The question before the House was, the remedy of a detective state of legislation. The Commission issued to inquire into the subject comprised men of great ability and experience—two of whom were the present Master of the Rolls and Dr. Longfield, men fully competent to judge of the practical working of the measure, and not likely to adopt extravagant views. For that reason he should support the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, he quite agreed in the opinion which had already been expressed by hon. Members that the question before the House was not one of a party nature, and that it ought to be considered with a view to the best interests of Ireland, and to that alone. He also concurred in the opinion, that where parties approved of the general principle of a Bill, they should not refuse it the benefit of a second reading simply because they happened to object to some of its details. But whilst he assented to those general propositions, he wished to guard himself against being committed in any way to 940 support the Bill upon the table. Now, that Bill, though it appeared to be a single Bill, was divided into many distinct parts, every one of which might well be considered as forming a separate and distinct enactment or Bill in itself. First of all, it provided for the appointment of two Vice Chancellors; next, the abolition of the Masters' Office; then, the establishment of a Court of Appeal, an alteration of the system of procedure and practice of the Court of Chancery, the partition and sale of real estates, the abolition of the Incumbered Estates Court, the abolition of fees and stamps, and, lastly, it contained certain general enactments. On the other hand he found on the paper for that evening no less than five Bills which had been brought forward by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), relating to the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, the Amendment of procedure, the regulation of receiver masters, the formation of a Court of Appeal, and the sales of estates in Ireland. Now he (Mr. George) had done what he believed few others had done—he had carefully gone through every clause and section of the Bill before the House; he had also endeavoured to make himself master of the different enactments contained in the five Bills of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Whiteside); and he was bound to say that, in the five Bills of his hon. and learned Friend and the single Bill now under discussion, there was much that was common to both. One principle, for instance, that was common to both, was that which had received the universal, or almost universal, assent of the people of Ireland, as well as of both branches of "the profession"—namely, that an extraordinary jurisdiction which had been established in peculiar times and for special purposes, the jurisdiction of the incumbered Estates Court, ought at some period or other to be brought to a final close, and be restored to the organised and regularly-constituted Court of Chancery in Ireland. But there was this wide difference between the proposition of the Bill of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland and those of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Whiteside), that, whereas the former proposed instantly to transfer to the Court of Chancery the entire accumulation of arrears in the Incumbered Estates Court; namely, 1600 new petitions not yet acted upon, 1600 titles to be investigated and examined, 1600 sets of different proceedings 941 to be settled between the parties, while the latter with more judgment left that great arrear to be swept off by the Incumbered Estates Court itself, to whose hands the business was originally confided, and which in all probability could sweep it off in two or three years. As far as related to the Judges of the Incumbered Estates Court, there could be no hardship in that proposition, inasmuch as they were originally appointed for five years only, though their jurisdiction had been extended by Act of Parliament for three years longer, at the end of which time—that was to say, on the 28th of July next—their functions were to cease and determine. But the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland proposed, by his Bill, to throw that accumulation of business upon the newly-constituted Court of Chancery in Ireland, to consist of the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls (already abundantly supplied with business), and two new Vice Chancellors; and that Court was to transact the entire arrears of the Incumbered Estates Court, and all the newly-created business of the Court of Chancery itself. He (Mr. George) had compared these two propositions, and he thought the proper course would be, to let the Incumbered Estates Court finish the business remaining before it, and to create a new Court of Chancery, with power to receive petitions for the sale of Incumbered estates from the 28th of July next, the day on which the powers of the Incumbered Estates Court cease, and to exercise the same jurisdiction as that which was now possessed by the Incumbered Estates Court. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment opposed the Bill before the House, on the ground that they wished the jurisdiction of the Incumbered Estates Court to be perpetuated. In that he differed from them; and in so saying he believed that he echoed the opinion of nine-tenths of the people of Ireland. But the Bill not only intended to transfer the jurisdiction of the Incumbered Estates Court to the new Court of Chancery, but to create a large increase of that jurisdiction, and he did think that one of the most questionable enactments that could possibly take place would be that of enabling this newly-constituted tribunal to sell unincumbered estates. It appeared to him to be contrary to every principle on which the Courts of Judicature had been established in England to make them mere ministerial agencies for the investigation and sale of unincum- 942 bered, and, therefore, unlitigated estates; and he thought it would be much better to confine the jurisdiction of the new tribunal to what it had now, the sale of incumbered, not unincumbered, estates. When petitions were brought forward by adverse parties, there was due and proper examination; but the proposed plan would permit tenants for life to dispose of their estates, and there would be great danger of fraud in its working. No doubt there might be notices in the Gazette, but it was pretty certain nobody would read them. The opinion of one of the ablest Judges in Ireland, as acute a man as ever presided on the Irish bench—the present Master of the Rolls—had been expressed as unequivocally hostile to giving the power of sending unincumbered estates to such a tribunal. Further, the Bill proposed to abolish the existing staff of Masters in Chancery, all of whom were able to discharge the duties of their office, which, under the 15th section of the Chancery Bill, were analogous to those of Vice Chancellors, He could see no reason, however, why the jurisdiction should not be given, under the altered name of Vice Chancellors, to the Masters, who were already doing a large proportion of the work, instead of creating a new staff of officers. Indeed, it seemed to him most unjust to the public to deprive those Gentlemen of their offices, to give them their full salaries for life, and then to appoint other persons as Vice Chancellors who were not more competent or experienced than they were. With regard to the power which the Bill proposed to give the Lord Chancellor, to eject the examiners and clerks in the Masters' Offices, and import a number of raw hands who had served a few years in the Incumbered Estates Court, throwing the former upon the generosity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Lords of the Treasury for compensation—he must say that he wanted words to express the feelings he entertained upon the subject. As to the formation of a Court of Appeal in Ireland, in his humble judgment a Court of Appeal ought unquestionably to be established there, in order to save the suitor the expense of a direct appeal to the House of Lords in this country in the first instance. But if such a Court were constituted in Ireland, it ought to be a Court of Appeal from every judicial officer in Chancery, as well from the decisions of the Lord Chancellor himself, as from the Master of the Rolls and the Vice Chancellors. And for the 943 purpose of making it an effectual Court of Appeal, instead of confining it to the Lord Chancellor and one Judge, he would adopt the proposition of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Whiteside), and have it constituted of the Lord Chancellor and at least two Judges of Appeal. He believed, if such a Court of Appeal were established in Ireland, that, in nine cases out of ten, it would prevent the necessity of appealing from the Courts of Equity in Ireland to the House of Lords in England. Now the matters to which he had referred were not those of simple detail; on the contrary, he thought that several parts of the Bill of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland were matters of vital principle. There was, however, as he had previously mentioned, much that was common between the hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Whiteside); and in his (Mr. George's) judgment the course that ought to be taken by the Government, or the Solicitor General for Ireland as the organ of their opinions, was to refer the measure under consideration, and the five Bills of his hon. and learned Friend, to a Committee up stairs. If the Solicitor General for Ireland resolved upon taking that course, he (Mr. George) would support the second reading; if not, then he should vote against it.
said, he was one of those who originally opposed the institution of the Incumbered Estates Court, and experience convinced him that he was correct in his views. No one could deny but that frauds had been most frequent under it, and creditors had been injuriously affected by the sale of property in a glutted market, and consequently at a very great depreciation. He intended to vote against the present Bill, not because he wished for the continuance of the Incumbered Estates Court, but because he wished to put a stop to such legislation. It was not correct to say that it necessarily did away with incumbered estates, for the new purchasers might immediately incumber the property. He would not admit that expediency was any reason for proceeding with the present Bill. Expediency had got the country into a war; expediency had carried the country through it with disgrace, and expediency was now apparently leading the country to a disgraceful peace. It was absurd for the Government to talk of administrative reform when they now proposed to remove, with compensation, a number of men fully 944 competent for the discharge of their duties, and put in their places others who, when the Incumbered Estates Court was first formed, were told that they had no right to compensation. A portion of the provisions of the present Bill would enable the Court of Chancery to sell settled estates, and there was no power to prevent injustice being done under it. These were his reasons for opposing the Bill; for, if it was not passed, the Incumbered Estates Court would die a natural death when the period for which it now existed by law terminated. He would cordially support any motion for the improvement of the proceedings of the Court of Chancery, for he did not desire that litigation should be either tedious or expensive; but the transference to the Court of Chancery of the powers of the Incumbered Estates Court would not, in his opinion, be any improvement, and in opposing the present Bill he acted in accordance with the wishes of many landowners in Ireland. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), on a former occasion, expressed satisfaction at the introduction of English capital into Ireland, but, he was happy to say, that there had not been that inundation of English capital which was hoped for by some. There were men in Ireland with large capital who had purchased several of the estates that were sold, and he, for one, wished that Irishmen should be the possessors of the property. He would ask whether the proceedings in respect to the sale of these estates had resulted beneficially for the tenants? What was the cause of the murders that had taken place—of Miss Hinds and others? The new proprietors, of course, wished to make the most of their money; and they exercised rather harshly their rights in expelling the tenants and clearing their estates.
§ MR. BLAND
said, he should support the second reading of the Bill. It was very generally admitted that the jurisdiction of the Incumbered Estates Court, which, under peculiar circumstances, had operated beneficially, should at some time be terminated, and he thought the time had arrived when the business of the Incumbered Estates Court might be judiciously transferred to a reformed Court of Chancery. The reason given by the hon. and learned Member for Wexford (Mr. George) for opposing the present Bill was one of detail, and in Committee he should concur, to a certain extent, with the hon. and learned Member, for he thought it 945 would be impossible, if the arrears now existing in the Incumbered Estates Court were at once introduced into the newly-constituted Vice Chancellor's Courts, that it could be got through, together with the other current business, with the staff proposed. He therefore thought that the Incumbered Estates Court should be allowed to continue to wind up the business now before it. He also thought it essential that a reform, similar to that which had taken place in the English Court of Chancery, should be effected in the Irish Court. It had been said that the Vice Chancellors should be chosen from the Masters, and admitting that they were gentlemen of great ability and experience, still he thought that that was a matter which ought to be left to the responsibility of Government, and which it was not the office or duty of Parliament to determine. The Incumbered Estates Court was one which had been suggested by the emergency of the time; it had performed well the work which had been expected from it; but he apprehended that no lawyer would recommend that it was a tribunal that should be perpetuated. He approved of the principle of the Bill before the House, and he was ready to go into the details with the same spirit of impartial justice with which he was prepared to examine the competing measures proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen.
§ MR. FRENCH
said, the Incumbered Estates Court had been seven years in operation, and sold property to the extent of £1,000,000 a year. There had been £14,000,000 or £15,000,000 received; the debts due on the property sold were £23,000,000; and there had been a loss of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 to the petty incumbrancers, which fell chiefly on widows and orphans. It was that which made the Court so unpopular. He was not disposed to oppose the Bill for the sake of keeping that tribunal in existence, but he thought the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) had not made a case for getting rid of the Court.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, that some hon. Members who had taken part in the debate had spoken as if it was a great calamity that land was sold cheap in Ireland, whereas it was well known that wherever land was cheap labour was dear, and that wherever, on the contrary, land was dear labour was cheap. The Incumbered Estates Court had been described as a Court with unusual and unconstitutional powers; 946 but that was an argument against the transference of those powers to the Court of Chancery, which was proposed by the Bill. If those powers were of that nature, it was far better that they should be exercised by a special and exceptional tribunal, than be made part of the business of the ordinary courts. It was, moreover, contrary to all the principles of political science and economy that because a man had a bad title and borrowed money upon it from a person who was aware of its defect, he should be enabled by Act of Parliament to go to the Court of Chancery and get a good title. The Bill, besides, was opposed to the whole spirit of political economy, as it proposed to grant to the Court of Chancery powers to give a settled title upon an uncertain title, and certainly nothing could be worse in principle than to give a mortgagee a better title than that upon which his money was lent. He (Mr. M'Mahon) also objected to making the Court of Chancery a great conveyancing establishment, as a course unusual and unconstitutional. The reason that Parliamentary titles were wanted in Ireland was, because they removed the difficulties which existed in the transfer of real estate in Ireland. There was a clear title to all land in Ireland not more than 150 years since, but the facilities for incumbering real estate had been so much increased, that a clear title, except from an Incumbered Estates Court, was a rarity. If the transfer of land was to be facilitated, registered judgments as charges on real estates should be abolished, and the land should be allowed to be sold under writ of execution, as it was so late as the time of Charles II. It was absolutely essential, also, to the facilitation of the transfer of land, that entails should be abolished; all the statutes for maintaining real estate in an exceptional position should be done away with, and the principles of the common law should be reverted to in respect to land in the same manner as in respect to personal property. Then there should be a county register, similar to the copyhold registers of manors in England, where all transfers and obligations on the estate could be registered, and the nature of the title ascertained at a glance. If these or analogous methods for facilitating the transfer of real estate were adopted, the greatest benefit would be conferred upon Ireland, and an unusual and unconstitutional Court would be unnecessary. As regarded the Bill before the House, he saw it proposed to create an 947 Appeal Court from the Court of Chancery, which he considered quite unnecessary. At present there were twelve Judges in Ireland, who sat as a Court of Appeal in the Exchequer Chamber; and as the Irish bar practised in law and in equity indiscriminately, to transfer the appeal to that Court would create no possible difficulty, while it would be a great saving of expense. He would support the measure of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland if he thought the transfer of real estate in that country would be facilitated by its means; but as he did not think it would have that effect, he should oppose the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. MALINS
said, there was a great portion of the Bill of which he approved—such as the creation of two Vice Chancellors, and the assimilation of the practice of the Chancery Courts in Ireland to that of England; the creation of the Court of Appeal, although he thought the Court of Appeal ought to consist of less than three Judges, not of one, as was the objectionable practice in England, when one Judge appealed from another; the alteration of the procedure in Chancery; and the discontinuance of the Incumbered Estates Court at no distant period. As regarded the Incumbered Estate Court, he thought that when there were 1,600 estates waiting to be sold, and a mass of claims waiting to be adjusted and administered, nothing was more calculated to break down the whole system than the transfer of their arrears, along with the whole business of that Court to the Court of Chancery, and to clog the wheels of the new machinery in that Court which the Bill proposed to create. The Government would be obliged to retain the Incumbered Estates Court for a time to get rid of the arrears. Within the last four years the Court of Chancery in England had been completely reconstructed, for such had been the alterations that while, in his opinion, the public would have been justified in sweeping it off the face of the earth if it had continued in its former condition, it had now approached as near to perfection as could possibly be expected. Causes which formerly took years for their adjudication were now terminated in a fewer number of months, and as the present Bill proposed to bring about the same state of things in Ireland, he had the greatest reluctance to vote against its second reading; but he had still to say that if the hon. and learned Solicitor 948 General for Ireland persisted in pressing his Bill upon the House in its present state, he would be sure to be defeated. The hon. and learned Gentleman had, however, he thought, heard enough that night to point out to him the great difficulty he would find in dealing with the Bill in a Committee of the whole House; and he (Mr. Malins), therefore, earnestly urged upon the Government the propriety of adopting the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Wexford (Mr. George), and referring it to a Select Committee. The second reading of the Bill had now occupied the attention of the House for upwards of four hours, and was likely to detain them in discussion much longer. If such, then, was the case when they only touched upon the more prominent portions of the Bill, what chance, he would ask, had they of getting it through Parliament if they were to examine it clause by clause in a Committee of the whole House? It was not to be expected that the details of the Bill, some of which were of the most objectionable character, would be passed over in silence. For instance, he (Mr. Malins) could not comprehend upon what principle of right the Bill proposed to confer the patronage of the officers of the newly-created Courts upon the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, except that political services, rather than peculiar fitness for the respective offices, were to be the qualification required from those appointed to fill them. In England the Judges had the selection of their own officers—not only the chief clerks, but the junior clerks; and a recent Bill proposed also gave them that of the additional clerks. The whole system would crumble in the dust if the Judges had not the selection of their own officers. This it was which made the system in England work so harmoniously. He could not, therefore, conceive why the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald) had not only varied from the practice in England—to which he proposed to assimilate the practice in Ireland—but also from the recommendation of the Commission, and even from his own Bill of last Session. Neither could he (Mr. Malins) understand upon what principle the chief clerks in Ireland were required to be barristers—the contrary being the case in England—unless it was that the Irish barrister clung to patronage more than the English barrister; and that, therefore, it was retained for that purpose. Under those circum- 949 stances, if the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland would consent to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, he (Mr. Malins would vote for the second reading. But if the hon. and learned Gentleman should not do so, he would vote against it.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, he had made up his mind to vote for the second reading of the Bill, and wished to explain why he had come to that conclusion. A great portion of the opposition to the Bill proceeded from hostility to the Incumbered Estates Court itself, but if there was any portion of his Parliamentary career on which he looked back with more satisfaction than another, it was the support which he gave the present Master of the Rolls in carrying the measure establishing that Court; if, then, he were to be asked why it was that he now sought to destroy what he had formerly so zealously helped to establish, he would answer that, looking to the Report on which the present Bill was said to founded, he saw subscribed to it the name of Romilly. If, then, the founder of the Court himself was of opinion that the time had now come to abolish it, he thought that he (Mr. Herbert), as an unprofessional man, was justified in taking the course he did. It was impossible to deny that the result of the working of the Court had been most beneficial to Ireland, and the only disadvantage which attended it was, that it gave facilities to the proprietors of the incumbered estates of parting with their property which were withheld from the owners of those unincumbered. Five years ago he presented in that House a petition which, both, with regard to the respectability, the influence, and the wealth of those who signed it, was one of the most remarkable petitions ever presented to a Legislative Assembly, and the prayer of that petition was that the owners of unincumbered, as well as of incumbered estates in Ireland, might have the privilege of applying to a tribunal, such as the Incumbered Estates Court, for a parliamentary title. The Bill now under consideration proposed to give them that privilege, and he should therefore heartily support it.
§ MR. CAIRNS
said, that being the only Member of the Incumbered Estates Court Commission in the House who was not connected with the introduction of any of the Bills, he wished to state the reasons which had led the Commissioners to adopt the conclusions at which they had arrived. He was sorry to hear several hon. Mem- 950 bers say that this was simply a lawyer's question. He had not looked upon it in that view, and he believed that the reasons which actuated the Commissioners were such as could be made apparent to the mind of any hon. Gentleman in that House, however unversed in legal matters, and ought to receive the approbation of the House. The Commissioners, soon after their appointment, began to investigate the matters which were mentioned in the Commission, by endeavouring to procure from all the officers of the Incumbered Estates Court in Dublin, and from a number of members of the bar in Ireland, such information, statistical and otherwise, as was likely to enable them to form a sound judgment upon the questions submitted to their consideration. The Commissioners were aided in their labours by the presence and advice of gentlemen whose names ought to be a guarantee that nothing was intended inimical either to the principle or existence of the Incumbered Estates Court. Their meetings, in fact, were presided over by Sir John Romilly, the Master of the Rolls, to whom the Incumbered Estates Court, in a great measure, owed its existence. In every part of their deliberations Sir John Romilly took a most important part; and, he believed, that in every recommendation of the Commissioners he entirely concurred. Mr. Longfield, himself one of the Commissioners of the Court in question, also took part in their deliberations. The Members of the Commission had the benefit of his experience as to the amount of business which would have to be transacted if the powers of the Court were transferred to any other jurisdiction. They had also the assistance of Mr. Blackburn, the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who was, perhaps, more practically conversant with all matters appertaining to the welfare of Ireland than any other official in that country. And what was the opinion of these gentlemen with regard to the past working of the Incumbered Estates Court? Every one of them agreed that that Court had been of infinite service to Ireland—and that although, in the commencement of its operations, it had done disservice to some individual proprietors, yet that it had opened in Ireland a market for the sale of landed property superior to that which could be obtained in any other quarter whatever. That fact was established beyond contest; for it was wholly impossible for any owner of property in 951 Ireland to command so good a market or so good a price for his lands as he could obtain through the instrumentality of the Incumbered Estates Court. The Commissioners, therefore, came to the conclusion that it was perfectly idle, even if they had the disposition, which they had not, to propose to Her Majesty, or, through Her Majesty, to propose to that House to abolish, or to curtail in any way, the powers of the Incumbered Estates Court; on the contrary, they came to the conclusion that it was most expedient that the powers of that Court should not only be continued in Ireland, but even be extended to every part of Great Britain. The Commissioners considered whether it was advisable that the Court should go further than it had gone in times past. They found that cases were constantly occurring in the Incumbered Estates Court which were mixed up with other matters of litigation, and that full justice could not be done to the parties until they had been relegated to a Court of Common Law or Equity, whereby the expenses of a second proceeding were cast upon them. In the next place, the Commissioners found that, although dealing with the greatest part of the landed property in Ireland, the Court conducted its proceedings in an obscure street in Dublin, which were attended by only a small number of professional persons. There was a very great complaint, not on the part of the bar or of the solicitors, but of the public, that they could not command in that Court the services of those professional persons whose services they desired. Those complaints, in fact, reached that House; year after year promises had been made that that state of things should be remedied; but they had never been fulfilled. It was obvious, therefore, that it would be necessary to remove it to another situation; and, moreover, that if they did anything with the Court they would have to consider the necessity of adding to the staff, which was notoriously insufficient with regard to such persons as clerks and examiners. A still more important question, however, was whether, when they were going to make the powers of the Incumbered Estates Court permanent, they had any right to confine those powers only to estates that were incumbered. Complaints on that score came to them from various parts of the country. Proprietors whose estates had never been incumbered to the extent 952 of a shilling wished, nevertheless, to sell them, and they asked, with some reason, he considered, why they should not be permitted to sell them in a Court where they would get from 20 to 30 per cent more than if they were sold in any other way. The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) challenged him to say that there had ever occurred a single case of fictitious incumbrance, in order to get an estate into that Court. Now, he certainly could not give the name in any particular case, but the Commissioners had it in evidence that fictitious incumbrance had been resorted to. Mr. Smith, a barrister in Dublin, stated that he had known cases where incumbrances were created by proprietors on unincumbered estates expressly for the purpose of thereby selling the estates with a Parliamentary title, and his testimony was borne out by others. But, apart from that, there was no reason or principle why the privilege which was granted to an incumbered should not be extended to an unincumbered estate. Even at present the Commissioners of that Court dealt, in one sense, with unincumbered interests, because suppose an estate worth £100,000 was incumbered to the extent of £50,000, when the £50,000 mortgage was paid off, the Court dealt with the remaining unincumbered £50,000. Why, then, should not they be empowered to deal, in the first instance, with unincumbered property? Carefully reviewing all the circumstances of the case, the Commissioners came to the conclusion that there was no valid reason why the privilege of conferring Parliamentary titles should not be extended to unincumbered estates. After they had made the Court permanent, extended its jurisdiction, enlarged its staff, and erected new buildings, what would have been the result? Manifestly this—that they would have had side by side the Court of Chancery, with all the powers of the Incumbered Estates Court, and the Incumbered Estates Court, with all the powers of the Court of Chancery—two tribunals of co-ordinate jurisdiction, with a double outlay for two sets of Judges and a double staff of officers. Such a proceeding being obviously undesirable, the Commissioners concluded that, provided it should be found possible to make the cost as moderate and the manner of proceeding as simple in one Court as in the other, there could be no better course than to 953 bring the whole system within the compass and operation of one tribunal. Assuming it to be practicable—and he believed it to be quite so—to bring the practice in the Court of Chancery up to that in the Incumbered Estates Court, there could be no reason why the former tribunal should not answer the purposes of the latter, and confer equal benefits on the country. The condition of the transfer which the Report recommended was, that all the advantages which the Incumbered Estates Court now afforded in cheapness of proceeding, facility of access, and readiness of reference to record surveys and records, should be perpetuated to the public in the Court of Chancery. If that could not be done the whole project would fall to the ground; but if it could, the recommendations in the Report were wise and salutary. He intended to vote for the second reading of the Bill, and he should do so simply on this ground—because it proposed to carry out the recommendation of the Commissioners, and because he was persuaded that in adopting that course he should not be sacrificing one jot of the advantages which the Incumbered Estates Court had conferred upon the public in Ireland. Various objections had been made to the principle of the measure. It was said that they were making a transfer of those powers to the Court of Chancery. He would be no party to any such transfer, if the transfer were to be made to the Court of Chancery as it at present existed, but he believed that it was quite possible to make that Court answer all the ends which, by the agency of the Incumbered Estates Court, had been accomplished. The next objection was with respect to the sales of unincumbered estates; but that by way of anticipation he had already answered. The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) had deprecated the idea of legislating for Ireland on principles different from those which were applied to England. He (Mr. Cairns) said, that it was now too late to take that objection. They had no Incumbered Estates Court for England, but they had one, for good or for evil, in Ireland—he thought for good—and it would be in vain to think of abolishing it, or curtailing its powers. The only thing which they could do was to perpetuate the Court and increase its power. There was on the table the Bill of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), and he (Mr. 954 Cairns) must say that, if the present measure were exceptional, as one applying to Ireland and not to England, his hon. and learned Friend's Bill was equally exceptional, for it proposed to give to the Court of Chancery in Ireland the power of conferring a Parliamentary title. He (Mr. Cairns) did not think that that was the time to go into the details of the Bill. There were some of them, certainly, of which he did not approve. There were some of them at variance with the Report of the Commissioners. That was a point which he wished on the proper occasion to urge upon the attention of the House. Next, there was the question of the amount of arrears in the Incumbered Estates Court. That, he willingly confessed, was a most difficult matter. They had at present the Commissioners of the Incumbered Estates Court, with regard to whom he might observe there had been but one opinion in Ireland and England as to the manner in which they had discharged their duties. He conceived that it would be most beneficial to secure the services of these Commissioners, or, at all events, the services of some of them. But if they continued the Court to work out its arrears, they would not be able to obtain the assistance of those learned personages. The next objection which had been raised was, with respect to the transfer of the staff of the Incumbered Estates Court. The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) had said, tbat a job was intended. He (Mr. Cairns) did not know that. He could only say, that the Commissioners had kept clear of any suggestion of a job, and had left to the decision of the Executive Government the duty of taking care that the transfer of the staff (if any took place) should be made in the most judicious way that it could be accomplished. He did not think that they would give the measure a fair trial, unless they intimated to the persons who had worked with such success in the Incumbered Estates Court that they would be secured in their offices. The next point of detail related to the Court of Appeal. The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen objected to the appellate jurisdiction given by the Bill, because the appeal would only be from one Judge to two; so that, if the two Judges differed in opinion, there would be no reversal, but the judgment of the Court below would stand. That, however, did not at all vary with what happened in England, where there was an appeal from 955 a Vice Chancellor either to the Lord Chancellor sitting alone, or to the Lords Justices, of whom only two generally sat. So that in the latter case, if a difference of opinion occurred between the two, the result was precisely what would arise in the Court of Appeal proposed by the Bill now before the House. [Mr. MALINS: The Lords Justices' Court consists of three.] No doubt that was the theory; but practically it oftener sat with only two. The next question of detail was as to the appointment of the chief clerks of the Judges, not by the Judges themselves, but by the Lord Lieutenant. That provision, if adopted, would be fatal to the whole measure. He took it to be of the essence of all the alterations that every Judge should have the appointment of the officers who were to assist him, and that men should not be forced upon him to do work so responsible as the chief clerks would have to do. The Bill in that respect was in direct and flagrant opposition to the recommendations of the Commissioners, who recommended that the Master of the Rolls and the Vice Chancellors should each be assisted by a chief clerk and two junior clerks, the selection of whom should rest with those Judges themselves, who would be held responsible for the due performance of the duties of their subordinates. It was to be hoped, therefore, that the Government would modify that part of the Bill. The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) said, that another provision of the Bill would have the effect of excluding Mr. Hargreaves the junior Commissioner, from the proposed Court. That result was one which would certainly be much to be regretted, for no member of the Incumbered Estates Court had more successfully, or satisfactorily discharged his duties than that gentleman; and the Executive would, therefore, do well to secure a continuance of his services, and they should alter the Bill with that view if such a course was really necessary. That was not a proper time for entering further into an examination of the details of the measure. Indeed, the course of the debate of that night showed that it would be highly inconvenient to discuss points of detail in a Committee of the whole House. He should, therefore, be very glad that the whole of the Bills should be referred, after their second reading, to a Select Committee. Such a Committee could give a more extended consideration to the question than the Commissioners, who had not had any Bill be- 956 fore them. He hoped, therefore, that the House would agree to the second reading of the Bill, and then refer it, and the other Bills upon the same subject, to a Select Committee.
§ MR. G. BUTT
said, he fully concurred with the hon. and learned Member for Belfast who had last addressed them, and generally with the recommendations of the Commissioners, and so far as the present Bill was framed in accordance with the recommendations of the Commissioners it should have his support. It was not, however, in many respects so framed. Though the Bill would require great consideration and great attention in many of its details, still, agreeing in the principle of it, he did not feel justified in voting for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald). He wished to suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman who had charge of the Bill that he should accede to the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, that the Bill should be read a second time on the understanding that it be referred to a Select Committee along with the Bills of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), which Bills contained many provisions that it might be desirable wholly or in part to incorporate with the measure now under consideration. He understood that one objection to sending the Bill to a Committee up stairs had reference to the time which it would occupy in being considered by such a Committee. Considering the valid objections which had been offered to the Bill, he thought the House would be of opinion that more time would be occupied if those objections were discussed in a Committee of the whole House than if they were discussed in a Select Committee. After the able and instructive speech of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, he could not conceive that any objection would be made to a Motion which he should make to refer the Bill, along with the Bills of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen, to a Select Committee. In one most important particular the recommendation of the Commissioners had not been adopted in the Bill. In Bills like the present, embracing a great legal reform, the creation of officers and matters of compensation were especially important, and required great consideration. The Commissioners had recommended that the chief clerks and other officers should be appointed by the Judges; but the Bill proposed that those appoint- 957 ments should be made by the Lord Lieutenant. Now, he must appeal to the hon. and learned Solicitor General for England to say whether he thought any system of law reform would work well if the Judges had not the appointment of the officers of the Court, on whose knowledge, zeal, and integrity they knew they could rely. He agreed with hon. and learned Gentlemen that it was desirable to extend the jurisdiction of the Incumbered Estates Court to estates that were not incumbered. It was because he admitted that principle that he did not oppose the second reading, though in carrying it out he thought it was most desirable that every security should be taken. He knew that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (the Solicitor General) had had under his consideration several measures of this kind, and he trusted that, with his assistance, they would obtain, if not a clear—valuable mode of registering titles, yet a mode of getting a Parliamentary title—a result which would confer great benefit on the people of Ireland and of England also. He did not think that the present measure contained the machinery for effecting that desirable object. It would not be convenient in a Committee of the House to consider the details necessary for the accomplishment of that object, and that was another reason why he wished the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee.
§ SIR ERSKINE PERRY
said, that the Bill now before the House involved a question which had long received his attentive consideration—namely, the formation of a judicial establishment for dispensing justice in a cheap and summary manner. He must, however, confess that, from what he had heard of the object of the Bill, he had come down to the House with strong prepossessions against it; but after hearing the able speech of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns), he was satisfied that the principle which it aimed at establishing was altogether sound. The object of all law reforms was to destroy the vicious system of procedure which had long marked English law, and to render justice accessible to the poor as well as to the rich upon the cheapest and simplest terms; and, if the object of the Bill was simply to transfer the jurisdiction of the Incumbered Estates Court to the Court of Chancery, he regarded it as an admirable measure, and one which ought to receive the support of all stanch law reformers. 958 Attention had been called to those details of the Bill which referred to the judicial patronage to be created. He had himself been called upon to dispense such patronage, he had for twenty years witnessed its dispensation in this country and in India, and he believed there was no greater blot upon our judicial system than the manner in which such patronage was exercised by members of the bench. The Judges of the United Kingdom were celebrated for the high position which they held and for their immaculate dispensation of justice, but, if any fault was to be attributed to them, it certainly was in connection with their mischievous distribution of the patronage placed in their hands. Offices were created to which the Judges were allowed to appoint; then fees were levied for the payment of the officers; and the greatest evils connected with the administration of justice would be found to have arisen from this mischievous imposition of fees and the unwillingness of Judges to interfere with the recipients. He believed that nearly all the quarrels and difficulties that arose with respect to the courts of law in India might be clearly traced to the improper exercise of patronage, and he thought one of the most valuable points in the present measure was the proposition to transfer the patronage from the Judges to the Executive Government. Of course, the Executive were just as likely as a Judge to make a bad appointment, but the advantage of the transfer would be that while, from the high position held by the Judges in this country, no man—however desirous of exposing a job—would venture to attack them, if the Executive Government—the Home Secretary or the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—made improper appointments, half a dozen Members on both sides the House would at once spring up and impugn their conduct. He thought two broad principles had been clearly established by law reformers during the last twenty years, as those upon which the administration of the law courts should be based—first, that fixed salaries should be paid to the officers of the courts; and, secondly, that the subordinate appointments should be vested in the Executive Government, which would consequently be responsible for their disposition.
§ MR. KENNEDY
said, he was in favour of referring the several Bills relating to the subject to a Select Committee. The grievances complained of were mere mat- 959 ters of detail, and admitted of easy remedy. The profession had great reason to complain of the inconvenient locality in which the Incumbered Estates Court was placed. It was at least three-quarters of a mile from all their other practice, and they were thus expected, as it were, to be in two places at once. The consequence was—and that was the real grievance—that some half a dozen gentlemen monopolised the whole practice of the Court, but it certainly was a strange remedy to propose for this to throw the business of the Court into the Court of Chancery, which had already as much of its own as it could well get through. He had no objection to allow the Court of Chancery to deal with unincumbered property; but the incumbered estates, for the present, at least, ought to be left to the tribunal which had hitherto dealt with them in a manner satisfactory to all parties. He did not despair, however, of seeing the whole business united at some future time, when the circumstances of the country were changed, and the present arrears cleared off under one tribunal. Unless the Government would consent to refer the Bills to a Select Committee, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Horsham.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, he understood that the principle of the present Bill and that of the Bills of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), so far as regarded a Parliamentary title, were the same. If the principle of giving a Parliamentary title to a purchaser was admitted, he did not see the use of sending the Bill to a Select Committee, for when the Bill came out of the Committee they would have the same strife and debate as they would now have if they were to go into a Committee of the whole House on the Bill. He thought that it would be advisable as a matter of public utility that the persons connected with the Incumbered Estates Court should be employed under the new measure. He saw no reason against the House now going into Committee to consider all the details of the measure. Opposed, therefore, as he was to sending the Bill to a Select Committee, he should support the second reading.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, that, the objectors to his Bill, he must confess, were very numerous. But the objections were in many cases so diametrically opposed, that they fairly neutralised each other. 960 For instance, if there were any weight in the arguments of the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald), and the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), they were so directly opposed that the one was a perfect set-off to the other, and required no comment. The same remark would apply to the arguments of the hon. Member for Drogheda (Mr. M'Cann) and the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne), and also to those of the two hon. and learned Members for Wexford (Mr. M'Mahon and Mr. George). The House, however, with one solitary exception, was agreed that the principle of the Bill was good, and that there should be a continuance of the system of the sale of lands with Parliamentary title. There was a distinction between the system and the tribunal, and while anxious to preserve and improve the system, he would show in what way he considered the present tribunal susceptible of beneficial alteration. The exception to which he had alluded was the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, who had been consistent on this question throughout. The hon. and gallant Member would have them believe that all the murders that were committed in Ireland were traceable to the Incumbered Estates Court Commissioners.
No, no. I pointed out that murders had been committed in consequence of expulsion of tenants.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
At all events the hon. and gallant Member seemed to think that the proper way of terminating the Commission would be to hang the three Commissioners. Now, he wished to impress upon the House that he (Mr. Fitzgerald) was one of the strongest advocates for the continuance of the present system, and would not be a party to prejudice that which he firmly believed had proved most beneficial to that country. He would beg, however, to remind the House that there was a great deal of difference between the system and the tribunal which was to carry it out. The general, indeed he might say the popular, objection was, against the Court of Chancery. One of the objects of the present Bill was, to transfer the powers of the Incumbered Estates Court to the Court of Chancery. He, for one, contended that such a transfer would be a good one, and the only proper course to be pursued, as would appear on an attentive consideration of the subject. When the Incumbered 961 Estates Bill was first brought forward, the hon. and learned Gentleman who then filled the office of Solicitor General put it before the House as a measure of emergency, and an Act that was only to operate as long as the necessity existed. It was originally intended that it should remain in operation three years, and having been introduced in 1849, it would, in the ordinary course of things, have terminated in 1852. In 1852 a new Government was in office, and a question arose in the House of Lords, about a month after Lord Derby's accession to power, upon that point. The noble Lord was asked, on the 26th of March, 1852, what he intended to do with the Incumbered Estates Court, and made the following statement—As the Act stood, the powers of the Commission expired in the present Session, and it was thought, if allowed to expire, the accumulation of petitions in the course of the year would be exceedingly inconvenient. Her Majesty's Government considered it advisable, in the first place, to introduce a Bill for the purpose of continuing the operation of the Incumbered Estates Act, and for receiving petitions for another year; and in the meantime the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was directing his attention to the practicability, if he thought the object practicable, of simplifying the proceedings of the Court of Chancery in Ireland in such a manner, by adopting several of the proceedings now carried on in the Incumbered Estates Court, as to enable the business done through that department to be transferred to the Court of Chancery after the expiration of the period for which extension was now sought, without diminishing the facilities of carrying on the ordinary and legitimate business of that tribunal. If it should be found that he was disappointed in the expectations entertained of being enabled to introduce such improvements and ameliorations into the Court of Chancery in Ireland as were necessary for the purpose, he should not feel himself precluded, in the exercise of his discretion, from proposing to Parliament a further continuance of the present system." [3 Hansard, cxx. 172.]And when the same question was put in that House to the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier), he had stated that in his view the remedy was to reform the Court of Chancery, and transfer to it the jurisdiction of the Incumbered Estates Court; and year after year, when discussions arose in that House as to whether the Act was to be continued or not, there was upon all occasions a general expression of opinion that the tribunal in question was not the one in which the system should be permanent. In this state of things a Commission issued in 1854 to examine the subject, and, as had been explained so well by the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns), the recommendations of that Commission per- 962 fectly justified him in asking the House to agree to the second reading of the Bill. One of the principal objects sought to be obtained by the Bill was to increase the simplicity of the proceedings of the Court of Chancery, and this was considered essential before conferring the enlarged jurisdiction. At the time the Act of 1849 was proposed, the Irish Court of Chancery stood entirely unreformed. They had the old system of Bill and answer; everybody who had the slightest interest in the subject of litigation was made a party; and, in fact, all that long tissue of proceedings existed of sending a matter to the Master, who in his turn would send it back again to the Court, and which, coupled with the deaths of parties and the constant introduction of new suitors, rendered a suit in Chancery so protracted that scarcely any one could predicate its termination. At that period the Court of Chancery could not effectually enforce the sale of an Incumbered estate, and when proceedings arrived at that point which was called the final decree, the unfortunate suitors were in reality only just at the commencement of litigation. A notable instance of this was to be found in a case decided by Lord Redesdale in 1802, in which the property affected was not sold until fifty years after the final decree in the Chancery suit was pronounced. Since, however, the Incumbered Estates Court had been established, it had disposed of 800 or 900 causes. In 1850 a Bill was introduced to reform the procedure of the Court of Chancery, and passed into law. It had worked well, and substituted a simple procedure by petition for the old system of "Bill and Answer." Now what had been the effect of that Act? In the interval between 1850 and 1855 the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had heard and disposed of 680 causes under that Act, and 176 causes under the old system. In order to test the operation of the new and old systems, he (Mr. FitzGerald) had taken from the causes heard at a particular sitting the first thirty under the Act of 1850, and the past twelve under the old practice. Of the thirty, ten were commenced and ended under three months, fifteen were terminated under five, and of the whole thirty, twenty-four had been determined within twelve months. The twelve cases under the old system took seven years and a half each on an average, and many of them thirteen and fourteen years; so that the system now in force under the Act of 1850 substituted three 963 and five months for seven and fourteen years. By the present system a simple petition was filed wholly divested of technicalities. The defence of the opponent was put in, specially and in an equally simple form; and if there was any delay in the procedure, it was the delay of the parties, and not the delay of the Court. By the Bill which, he proposed to read a second time that evening, it was intended still further to relieve the Court of Chancery, still further to simplify its proceedings, and to make it an efficacious, cheap, and speedy tribunal. With that view it was considered expedient to abolish the office of Master and substitute Vice Chancellors; and it would he made imperative upon a Judge who had a case in hand to conduct it from the beginning to the end, and if he called in his chief clerk to assist him, still that the case should be under his own immediate direction, and under his own eye. It was also contemplated to simplify still further the procedure to put an end to references and reports, charges and discharges, and all the delay and expense which arose from the absence or deaths of parties. He did not mean to say that the Bill was faultless, but he was willing to receive every suggestion from either side of the House, and then, should it become law, it would have the effect of relieving Chancery from the reputation which made it a bugbear, and constitute it one of the best and most expeditious tribunals of the land. As an illustration of the working of the new system, he might state that about ten days ago he received a letter from the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in reference to the present state of business in his Court. His Lordship stated that he had then disposed of all the causes that were set down before Hilary term, with the exception of one or two that stood over by the special desire of the parties, and that he was then trying the causes of the term, all of which he hoped to clear off before he rose. It, therefore, at the present moment offered the singular spectacle of a Court of Chancery without any arrear. The hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne) was an advocate for the old system, but was it not a fact that the success of the new system had been fully realised? He would now proceed to consider some of the objections to the principle of the Bill. It had been said that Incumbered proprietors had an opportunity of obtaining a Parliamentary title on the sale of their estates, and that unincumbered proprietors should have the same privilege. For his own part, 964 he saw no objection to that principle, in support of which many strong authorities might be cited. The Incumbered Estates Court had not been very long in existence when a petition was presented to both Houses of Parliament, signed by thirty Peers of Ireland, including amongst them some of the largest landed proprietors, thirty baronets, 150 deputy lieutenants, and a host of other people, praying, that the principle of the Court should be extended, so that any unencumbered proprietor wishing to sell his estate might have his title investigated by the Court. The prayer of the petition was not that the Incumbered Estates Court should be made perpetual, but that the system should be extended, and the unincumbered proprietor should have the same facilities as the incumbered. Then again, in June, 1853, a discussion took place, in the House of Lords, on the subject, in the course of which Lord Monteagle said he was glad to hear that a large measure of Chancery reform was about to be introduced for Ireland, and that he trusted the principle would be applied to all estates whether incumbered or not. The opinion of Lord Monteagle was entitled to great weight, not only because of his general knowledge of Irish affairs, but because, in 1848, when the first Incumbered Estates Act was proposed in another place, he pointed out the very system which, in the following year, was carried into law, and proved to be so eminently successful. The three great principles of the Bill at present under review were—First. The continuance of the system now existing with respect to the mode of dealing with incumbered estates; secondly,—its enlargement and extension; and thirdly,—the transfer of its jurisdiction to the Court of Chancery. With respect to the last point, the true question to consider was, not whether the Incumbered Estates Court should be made perpetual, nor whether its functions should be transferred to the Court of Chancery, but whether two Courts of Chancery could exist at the same time, because it was absolutely essential that, whatever Court possessed the extended power and jurisdiction proposed to be conferred, must also possess all the powers, the jurisdiction, and the machinery of the Court of Chancery. Every second suit in Chancery in Ireland involved a sale of land, and, if the powers of the Incumbered Estates Court were extended, the absurdity would arise, that there would be two separate and distinct tribunals to sell lands with Parliamentary titles, and in every 965 suit instituted in the Court of Chancery so much of the suit as related to the sale of land must be transferred to the Incumbered Estates Court. Then, when the money arising from the sale of the land came to be distributed, all the equities attaching to the land also attaching to its produce, the Court which had to distribute the funds must possess all the powers of the Court of Chancery. The principles of the Bills introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) were not in some respects opposed to that of the Bill which had been introduced by Her Majesty's Government; and those hon. Members who were disposed to give their support to the former measures would be bound in consistency to support the Bill now being proceeded with. But the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) had made other objections to the measure; and had designated one to be a job, and the other a gross job; his words were that one was the biggest job that ever existed, and that the other was a still greater job. That charge arose out of the 17th Clause of the Bill, which empowered the Lord Lieutenant to appoint the chief clerks to be attached to the Master of the Rolls and to the Vice Chancellors. The hon. and learned Gentleman was right in stating that that was contrary both to the recommendation of the Commission and to the Bill of last year. But he would explain how the case stood. By the passing of the proposed measure two classes of subordinate officers would be thrown out of employment; first, the examiners of the four Masters; and, secondly, the staff of the Incumbered Estates Court. It was recommended by the Commission to appoint the best officers of the Incumbered Estates Court, such as were considered fit for the new duties, it being considered of public advantage that their services should be secured. Thus there were two classes of unemployed officers; and, considering that if those appointments were left to the Judges they would be without any check, it was thought wiser to vest the appointments in the Executive, and, whoever might be the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the appointments would be made under the pressure of Parliamentary responsibility. That being the greatest job in the Bill, the hon. and learned Gentleman then called attention to what he described as being a still greater job, which the hon. and learned Gentleman said was contained in Clause 19. That clause provided for the quail- 966 fication of chief clerk to the Lord Chancellor, Master of the Rolls, or Vice Chancellor; and enacted that he must either be a barrister of six years' standing, or a solicitor or attorney of ten years' standing, or have held the office of Master's examiner in the Court of Chancery, or of secretary, registrar, or examiner in the Court of Chancery, or in the Court of Commissioners for the Sale and Transfer of Incumbered Estates in Ireland. Now he must confess that he alone was responsible for the framing of that clause; and his object was to make the officers of the Incumbered Estates Court, whose efficiency had been proved, eligible to appointment to those offices. But he did not thereby intend to prescribe to the Executive that such persons should be so appointed. He had also another object—namely, economy; for if the Executive selected any of those discharged officers the public would be relieved from making them compensation for the offices of which they had been deprived. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that there was an object in the clause, and that it was intended to make provision for some particular individual. Now, no one was more answerable for the clause than himself and he (Mr. FitzGerald) could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that he had not the most remote idea who the Gentleman was to whom allusion was made, He only knew one of the officers of the Incumbered Estates Court, and he had been an officer from the commencement of that tribunal. The hon. and learned Gentleman's impression, therefore, was entirely without foundation. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also objected to the Bill, on the ground that in its very frame and scope it was impossible to be carried out; or, to use his own words, that it was impracticable, and that the new Court would be clogged up with business. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that there were three Commissioners in the Incumbered Estates Courts, and that it was proposed to transfer the duties they now discharged to a Court consisting of only two Judges. It was true there were three Commissioners, but the chief of them was Baron Richards, the Chief Commissioner, although he sat in the appellate tribunal, was not, in the first instance, expected to do any of the detailed business of the Court. It was only recently that he had done so, as he regularly performed his duty as Baron of the Court of Exchequer. So that, although it was literally true that 967 there were, three Commissioners, yet substantially the Court had only a portion of the time of the Chief Commissioner. He could not predict who might be the two new Vice Chancellors, but he did not think it too much to say that they would be as able to transact the business they would have to do as the two working Commissioners of the Incumbered Estates Court. Under the present Bill the Vice Chancellors would be provided with an ample staff of two chief and two junior clerks; and, as they would commence their duties without any arrears of Chancery business, there was no reason to suppose that they would not be able to deal with the business that might come before them in a satisfactory manner. Indeed, the term arrears, as applied to the Incumbered Estates Court, was not a strictly correct term, for what were called arrears had not arisen from any inefficiency on the part of the Court, but from the delays of parties bringing business before it. As to what had been alleged with regard to the impossibility of the measure, that part of the question hinged entirely upon matters of detail; and the suggestion of the Master of the Rolls did not appear to him at all inapplicable—namely, to continue the services of the Masters for a further period, so as to enable them to work off the arrears in the Incumbered Estates Court. It had been said that it was his duty to have consulted the Master of the Rolls in Ireland with regard to this Bill, but the fact was that he had done so in the only way which was open to him. He had introduced the Bill in July last, stating at the time that his object in doing so was that it might be printed, in order that he might receive suggestions with regard to it, and the first person to whom a copy had been sent was the Master of the Rolls in Ireland; but from that time to the present he never had received a single suggestion from that learned person, and, although a copy of the letter to which allusion had been made had been sent to the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen and other Members, it had never been sent to him. As far as this Bill went, it had been termed his (Mr. FitzGerald's) Bill, and he admitted that he was responsible for its provisions; but he would remind the House that, with two exceptions in matters of detail, it entirely carried out the recommendations of the Commission which had the approval of Sir John Romilly, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the ex-Chancellor Blackburn, Mr. Commissioner Long-field, and other Commissioners. There were 968 many other minor points, which he might notice were it necessary, but he would content himself by repeating that his sole object in this measure was to create such a tribunal as would be most beneficial to the public. Grave objections had been made to the details of the Bill, and it was suggested that it should be referred to a Select Committee. Now, it was to him a matter of perfect indifference whether they referred it to a Committee of the whole House, or to a Select Committee. Indeed, he wished that it should be sent to a Select Committee, with a view to its being deliberately considered; and, if any improvements or additions could be suggested to its advantage, he would be most willing to adopt them. But it was a very different thing to send this Bill, as the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen had proposed, with five others to a Select Committee, for they might just as well place the whole six among the petitions in the black bag which was every day carried out of the House by the messenger. He had no difficulty in saying that, if the Bill was sent along with the five others to a Select Committee, it would never emerge from it again. He had no objection, however, to refer the Bill to any fair Select Committee of which the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen was a member. The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen had on a former occasion stated that the Incumbered Estates Court was in a state of inextricable confusion. Now, he had received letters from officers in that Court, denying entirely the truth of such imputation. With those observations he would leave the Bill in the hands of the House; he believed it to be a measure calculated for the public benefit, and if it were rejected, upon the House, and not upon him, would be the responsibility.
said, that if the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland refused to consent to the five Bills of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen being referred to the Select Committee with his Bill, he could not consent to its second reading. The whole question was whether his Bill would carry out the object they all appeared to have in view, that of facilitating the transfer of landed property, and give a valid title. He thought not. The gist of his Bill consisted in its details, and the hon. and learned Gentleman, finding that to be the feeling of the House, assented to its being referred to a Select Committee. Sending the Bill to a Select Committee was a very easy mode of shift- 969 ing the responsibility from its promoters, but he thought the more manly and correct course for the hon. and learned Gentleman to have pursued would have been to have said he was ready to stand or fall by the mode of procedure. The Bill proposed to take all the arrears of cases in the Incumbered Estates Court, and hand them over to a Court already sufficiently employed, but he appealed to the common sense of any man whether those arrears could be dispatched under that arrangement with the same facility as if they were left to be dealt with by the Incumbered Estates Court. If anything could prove the necessity of a department of public justice it would be furnished by the proceedings of that night. He (Mr. Napier) had consulted all classes of practitioners in Ireland, and they all had informed him that if the House passed the Bill as it stood that in six months the Court of Chancery would come to a dead lock, so that instead of having two Courts that worked well, by combining the two they would destroy the usefulness of both. He would suggest that the Incumbered Estates Court should be continued, to work up its arrears, and if they chose to reform the Court of Chancery, to do so, and then let it take up the new business of the Incumbered Estates Court, and by the time the latter Court had got rid of its arrears the House and the country would be able to judge if the Court of Chancery was competent to deal with that class of business.
said, he should not have troubled the House with any observations but for a remark of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, that the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne) was the only dissentient to the merits of the Incumbered Estates Court Act. He (Mr. Bentinck) concurred with the hon. and gallant Member that the Act was a flagitious Act. But if the Irish Court of Chancery bore any resemblance to the English Court of Chancery, he thought that if anything could add to the demerits of the Incumbered Estates Court it would be to transfer it to the Irish Chancery Court.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he was at a loss to understand why the House should divide on the question, the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland having assented to the Bill being referred to a Select Committee. He could not understand the motive of that hon. and learned Gentleman in refusing to allow the Bills of the hon. 970 and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) being referred to that Committee also, and he considered that his refusal was rather uncourteous and unnecessary, because if that hon. and learned Gentleman formed one of that Committee, as in all probability he would, it would be competent to him to propose every clause of his Bills as amendments on this Bill when in Committee. He (Mr. Disraeli) thought the best course would be for the House to read the Bill a second time, and refer it to a Select Committee, and also to send the Bills of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen to the same tribunal.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, it would appear from the statement of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) that the question before the House was between the Bills of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen and that of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland; but that was not the case. His object in moving the Amendment to the second reading was, that the Incumbered Estates Court for Ireland should be continued in operation for a limited period longer. He wished to ask, if the whole or either of these Bills were referred to a Select Committee, whether it was competent to move such alterations in one of the clauses as would attain that object?
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he had assented to the Bill going before a Select Committee by itself, and beyond that he could not go.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it would be competent for any Member of the Committee when the Bill came before them for consideration, to move such alterations as he might think necessary, and if an Amendment was proposed and carried postponing the time when the power of the Incumbered Estates Court should cease, beyond the time named in the Bill, that would have the effect of continuing that Court in operation for the limited time named.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2o, and committed to a Select Committee.