§ Order for Committee read; House in Committee.
§ MR. WHITESIDE moved the addition of a new clause, limiting the number of the Commissioners to two. The evidence given before the Select Committee had shown that it was quite impossible for the present Chief Commissioner of the Incumbered Estates Court to transact the business of that office without neglecting his duties as a Baron of the Exchequer. At present a great portion of the time of the Commissioners was taken up in listening to appeals from the decision of each other; and, as those appeals would, according to the terms of a Bill to be brought before the House to-morrow, be transferred to a new appellate court, two Commissioners would be sufficient to dispose of the business of the Incumbered Estates Court.
§ Clause brought up, and read 1°.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
objected to the clause as unwise and inexpedient. The Crown could now, if it chose, reduce the number of Commissioners to two without the aid of a new Act of Parliament. The Court had existed for seven years, had given great satisfaction, and it was desirable that it should be continued. Owing to the want of judicial strength arrears had accrued, and now the hon. and learned Gentleman proposed to reduce the judicial strength of the Court. He (Mr. FitzGerald) did not say that it was advisable to retain Mr. Baron Richards in the double capacity; but it was perfectly consistent with relieving that learned personage of the extra duties to continue the same number of Commissioners as there were at present.
MR. WHITE SIDE
said, that no answer had been given to the case he put, because the Commissioners were doing less than nothing.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
regretted that they had to discuss the question in the absence of the Report of the Committee. He regretted that the Bill was only a continuing Bill for one year. Why should it not be a continuing Bill for a longer period? It had been discussed in Committee, whether the power of the Court should not be extended to unencumbered property, but no decision had been come to. The Real Property Commissioners were considering the whole question, and he thought it would be advisable to continue the powers of the Court for at least two years, and till the end of the next Session of Parliament. They were about to give an appeal from the Court itself to an independent Court, which he thought was most desirable. He thought that by increasing the staff of the Court, two of the Judges would be able to clear off all the arrears of business. He did not think that an inferior officer should be appointed. He was of opinion that Baron Richards should return to the Exchequer Court and circuit, and they had the opinion of the other two Judges of the Court that they would be able to transact double the amount of business with an increased staff.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he expressed in the Committee the opinion that it was desirable that Baron Richards should return to his Court and his circuit, and he believed the Government were of the same opinion. But whilst that was his opinion, he wished to say that Baron Richards was called on to undertake the duties of Chief Commissioner of the Incumbered Estates Court at a time of great pressure, that he performed his duties with great ability, and he believed he had no personal desire, but the contrary, to continue a Judge of the Incumbered Estates Court. For his own part, he should have no objection to increase the term of this Act to two years. He had, in fact, limited it to one to meet the objections of many members of the Committee which sat upon this subject.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the evidence taken in the Committee proved that two Commissioners, with an adequate staff, would be sufficient to discharge all the duties of the Court, more especially as it 490 had been relieved from its appellate business.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
trusted that, whatever arrangement was come to, no slight would be cast on Baron Richards.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
, explained, in answer to Mr. Henley, that the Incumbered Estates Court would still have to exercise an appellate jurisdiction of considerable extent.
§ Motion made and Question put, "That the clause be now read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:— Ayes 48; Noes 83: Majority 35.
§ The House resumed.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock.