HC Deb 15 July 1857 vol 146 cc1511-4

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.


said, he wished to ask what steps had been taken to obtain the decision of the law officers of the Crown for England, Ireland, and Scotland, on the subject of the Bill, according to the undertaking entered into?


said, the undertaking was not entered into, because the conditions under which it was offered had not been accepted. The Bill was approved of by the law officers of the Crown generally; but they had had no consultation since the Bill was last in Committee for the purpose of considering the question, as such a proceeding was unnecessary with regard to a measure to the general provisions of which they had already acceded.


said, his recollection of the facts was somewhat different from that of the Lord Advocate. He clearly understood that the Bill was to be considered by the law officers of the Crown of the three countries; and that their decision was to be communicated to the Committee. The Bill was not wanted in Ireland; and he (Colonel French) could see no advantage in wasting another day at this period of the Session, in an attempt to force it upon that country; especially as every Irish legal Member was inevitably absent on professional business. He thought it desirable to postpone the Bill for this Session, as it could not pass; and seeing that there were thirty-five Orders of the Day upon the paper, he should move that the Chairman report progress.


observed, that he approved the principle of the Bill, and had supported it throughout. He could not help thinking, however, that the House had devoted as much time to its discussion as was due to its importance, or as was fair to other hon. Members whose measures were now pending. If there had been any reasonable chance of the Bill passing this Session, he might have continued to support it; but looking at the determined opposition offered to its progress, he thought no such chance existed, and he should therefore vote in favour of reporting progress.

Motion made and Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 33; Noes 58: Majority 25.


said, that as an Irish Member, he wished to express his opinion that the conduct of the hon. and learned Member who had charge of the Bill was not what it ought to be. There was a strong feeling against the Bill amongst the legal and commercial classes in Ireland, and consequently, the Irish Members were prepared to take all the taunts and do everything—[An hon. MEMBER: Pay?]—to oppose its passage for this Session. He therefore would suggest, that the hon. Member who had introduced it should submit it to the Lord Advocate for Scotland, the Attorney General for England, and the Attorney General for Ireland, to be by them considered and amended; then, if the hon. and learned Member would introduce it in an amended form next Session, he (Mr. Maguire) would support it: otherwise, he was prepared to occupy the attention of the Committe for the rest of the day, if necessary. Under the present circumstances, however, he should move that the Chairman do leave the chair.


said, he regretted that the Irish Members were so unanimously opposed to this measure, because he did not see how it affected Irishmen any more than Englishmen or Scotchmen. As there certainly was no prospect of passing it, however, during this Session, he suggested to his hon. and learned Friend that he should not further proceed with it at present, although he must express his regret that an opposition which, so far as he knew, had never been based on any intelligible principle, should have been successful in opposing the progress of the Bill.


said, that the opposition to this Bill was by no means confined to Irish Members; for many Englishmen objected to it on the ground that, under it, judgments obtained in the Scotch courts, by a procedure of which no one knew anything, might be entered in the courts of London, and would come into as full force as if they had been obtained by a procedure subject to all the guards and precautions which the English law threw round it. He (Mr. Spooner) had heard nothing to remove his objections, and, he therefore, hoped that the Bill would he postponed.


said, Irish merchants and men of business were informed, on the first law authority in Ireland and England, that fraudulent judgments might he obtained under the Bill, and therefore he should oppose the measure until he was satisfied on that point. That could be done only by referring the Bill to the law officers of the Crown for the three countries.


said, that although he had hitherto been consistent in supporting the Bill, he thought, considering the period of the Session, that it ought to be withdrawn for the present. He regarded the Bill as a step in the right direction, and he thought that if the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) magnanimously consented to withdraw it at this time, he ought to have an assurance from the Government that they would introduce it in an amended form as a Government measure next Session. He supported the Bill because it tended to produce uniformity in the law, and to prevent the anomaly of having one law for England, another for Ireland, and another for Scotland, when all were under the same Imperial Government. At the same time he must observe that if it were in the power of the hon. Members for Ireland to defeat this Bill by factious opposition, it would be equally in the power of any other hon. Members to oppose any other measure, and thus a stop might be put to all legislation. He thought the question should he decided by the balance of arguments and votes, and not by such threats as the hon. Member for Dun-garvan (Mr. Maguire) used.


denied that he had used any threat. He had merely stated a fact, and if a fact was a threat, why perhaps he had made use of a threat. It was all very well to say that the question should be decided by argment, but when the bell rang for a division, hon. Members flocked into the House, and voted without hearing any arguments, or even knowing what the question was.


said, that, after the appeal which had been made to him by the Lord Advocate and by other hon. Members, he thought that he should best discharge his duty by not further pressing the Bill during the present Session. He must observe, however, that the Bill as it now stood had received the approval of all the law officers of the Crown, that it had now been proceeded with as far as the 9th clause, and that not a single material Amendment had been made in the framework or the phraseology of the measure. He saw no reason why, the subject which the Bill contemplated should not be undertaken by a private Member, and he gave notice that next Session he should again address himself to it, and should re-introduce a similar measure upon the subject.


said, that the Irish Members were all but unanimous in their opposition to this Bill. He thought that they were perfectly justified in the course which he and others had pursued.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

[No Report.]