HC Deb 24 June 1864 vol 176 cc285-300

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said that, bowing to the decision of the Speaker, that it was competent to re-commit the Bill, he intended to move that it be referred to a Select Committee. When the Attorney General for Ireland fixed the Bill for a morning sitting, objections were raised by Irish Members on that (the Opposition) side, from the feeling that they would be deprived of the attendance of English Members, upon whose good sense they relied to defeat what they considered to be a job. All the Irish Members who had given notice of Amendments were also engaged upon Committees, and then no fair opportunity for discussing the Bill would be afforded at morning sittings. It could not be expected that they would make a House to carry a job by which the Irish Members of the Administration were to be benefited. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not consider the motives he (Mr. Longfield) had urged sufficient to induce him to alter his arrangement; but he fixed the Bill for a Tuesday morning sitting, when there were several Orders standing upon the paper. With some difficulty he (Mr. Longfield) left his Committee with a view of moving, if possible, the Amendment of which he had given notice. The Speaker, with his usual punctuality, was ready to take the Chair, but a House was not made till after half-past twelve. He could not longer absent himself from his Committee, which had not a quorum in his absence, and he had no option but to surrender. Defeated by the adroit generalship of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he could not then bring forward the; Motion of which he had given notice, and was obliged to reserve himself for another occasion. He had now, therefore, to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. He entirely agreed with an able writer in the leading journal, that such was the only course, and it was quite a competent course for the House to pursue. The Bill contained 192 clauses, and embraced all manner of technicalities referring to the constitution, practice, procedure, and administration of the Court of Chancery in Ireland. The House was incompetent to deal with such a subject. Unhappily it involved also questions of patronage and jobbing, which a Select Committee upstairs was most competent to deal with, but which a Committee of the whole House, backed by all the power of the subterranean brigade, could not force through. If the Bill were really a bonâ fide measure, intended for the improvement of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, the House might feel assured that the Government would have no hesitation in referring it to a Select Committee. The Bill consisted of five different parts. The first and most important was the nomination of a Vice Chancellor, and the abolition of the Masters of the Court of Chancery. The others related to the procedure and practice of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, and to the superannuation and patronage of the different departments connected with the Court. The Bill, if passed, would add about £10,000 a year to the expense of the administration of justice in the Superior Courts in Ireland. At present the staff of Judges in Ireland numbered, as in England, twenty-two, with only one-tenth of the business. Besides, in Ireland they had the advantage of the four Masters, who were, in truth, Vice Chancellors, though with but small salaries, with which they appeared to be content. Shortly after the Court of Chancery in England had been reformed it was thought good to attempt to reform the Court of Chancery in Ireland on the English model. An Address was moved in the other House praying for the issuing of a Commission to inquire into the practice and procedure of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, with a view to diminish the cost to the suitor and the expenditure of the public money. In 1855 a Royal Commission sat, and recommended among other things the abolition of the Masters of the Court and the Commissioners of the Incumbered Estates Court, and the appointment of two Vice Chancellors. In 1856 a Bill on the subject was introduced into that House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, and a second Bill was at the same time brought in by the Government. Those Bills, involving the question of patronage, were referred to a Select Committee, on which sat Sir J. Graham, Mr. Walpole, Mr. Henley, the Law Officers of the Crown, and other eminent men; in fact, an abler Committee could not have been found for the task intrusted to them. The Committee was unanimously of opinion that those Bills were unadvisable, and they were accordingly dropped, and the country cheerfully acquiesced in the decision of the Committee, virtually superseding the unfortunate recommendation of the Royal Commissioners as to the appointment of Vice Chancellors. That Committee recommended, instead, a plan that was acceptable in Ireland and more economical. In 1861, however, another Royal Commission on the same subject was issued; and, to show the House how these things were managed, he might state that the new Commission included six of the very same Gentlemen who had sat as members of the former one. Of course, under those circumstances there could be but one result, namely, that the Commissioners would adhere to their preconceived opinions, and arrived at the conclusion at which they had an interest in arriving. He imputed to those Gentlemen, two of whom were in that House, nothing but what the House imputed to every Member in it when his interest was one way and his judgment was likely to be in the same direction. It required a declaration from every man before it allowed him to sit on the most insignificant group of railways that he had no personal interest himself, and that his constituents had none in the matter referred to him. The House knew that its Members were of the human race, and it took proper precautions against the operation of natural bias on their judgments. That, however, was not done in the case of the Royal Commission of 1861, which was so constituted that it was impossible it could be impartial. But that was not all. The English Commissioners knew nothing of the Irish Court of Chancery, and the Irish Commissioners knew nothing of the English Court; yet they had to consider how they might reduce the cost to suitors, keep down the expenditure of public money, and devise the best system of Chancery procedure. Not being competent themselves to do what they had been appointed to do, they began by at once selecting from the Irish Bar a gentleman of the highest capacity and skill to enlighten their confessed ignorance by drawing up for them an essay on the practice of the Irish Court of Chancery; and the same course was taken in regard to English Chancery practice. It certainly did seem ludicrous that when Royal Commissioners were chosen to inquire into a subject they should get other persons to do it for them. When the essays were printed they formed an octavo volume of some 400 pages, and he would charitably assume, though there might be room for doubt on the point, that all the Commissioners had read it. The Commissioners also sent a number of queries to some forty members of the Irish Bar, most of whom, having something else to do, took no notice of them. To reduce the cost of the suitors, or the expenditure of the public money, was wholly forgotten; but they did not forget the assimilation of the practice of the Court of Chancery in Ireland to that of the English Court of Chancery, because that assimilation would involve the abolition of efficient Judges in Ireland and the creation of new ones. But they did not ask a single question of any person who was acquainted with the practice of the English Court of Chancery. The Attorney General had frequently told the House that the proposed change would result in a saving, but there were such awkward things as facts and figures, and he would be a sanguine and a credulous man who should think that there would be any saving whatever, even a prospective one. The new offices immediately contemplated, of one Judge, half-a-dozen chief clerks, and half-a-dozen junior clerks, would form a present addition to the burdens of the country of £10,000 a year. The superannuations would be upwards of £11,000, for the influential gentlemen would be superannuated on full salaries, while the others would have to be content with two-thirds. And all that was irrespective of the building job. At the end of fifteen or twenty years, when those gentlemen who lived at home and enjoyed either their full salaries, or two-thirds of them died, then a saving to the public might, perhaps, commence; but that was problematical, because there was another clause in the Bill which authorized the creation of additional clerks from time to time, with the consent of the Treasury. If there was one way in which money could be spent mischievously and corruptly in Ireland, it was by adding to the Irish Judges. No one believed that new Judges were wanted; it was too absurd. But they were told that such was the recommendation of a Royal Commission. But how had the House dealt with the recommendations of various Royal Commissions before? The recommendations of the Royal Commission that sat ten years ago were afterwards referred to a Select Committee, which did not sanction them. They had the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade for refusing to adopt the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Harbours of Refuge, on the ground that it was not impartially constituted, and that its members had an interest in carrying out a particular plan. And then there was the instance of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into certain public institutions in Dublin, who recommended the extinction of the Museum of Irish Industry.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present—


resumed: The Royal Commissioners who investigated the subject, recommended the abolition of the masters in Chancery, and the substitution for them of a vice chancellor and chief clerks. That they had done entirely regardless of the cost to the country. They had not reported any evidence showing that the assimilation of the Irish and English practice would be judicious; but the Report exhibited on its very face that the idea was a preconceived one. The result would inevitably be that three of the Royal Commissioners would be provided for under the present Bill, Was that a Commission whose recommendations ought to be attended to? In that way the Royal Commissioners were voting themselves placemen to be paid by the public money, which they were told to save. He conceived that the House ought not to refuse to send the Bill to a Select Committee, the Member of which would be able to judge by evidence whether the measure would effect a public saving or not. It had been said that the Bill was for the good of Ireland; but there might be dif- ferent opinions on that point, though it was certainly good for the Royal Commissioners. Indeed, when the Commissioners took upon themselves to declare the wishes of the people of Ireland, he was reminded of that French monarch who said, "I am the State," or the three gentlemen in Tooley Street, who claimed a right to speak in the name of the people of England. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin had shown that the Bill would be attended with a great increase of cost to the suitors, and was the House to be told that it must swallow the measure, which increased the public expenditure and disregarded the interests of the suitors? He contended that it was a case which ought to be submitted to the investigation of a Select Committee. He had on other occasions voted with some hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House to frustrate jobs. He had had the pleasure, in that way, of frustrating the South Kensington job; and if the result of sending the present Bill to a Select Committee was to postpone it, he would be glad, and still more glad if the Bill was altogether frustrated. A more senseless or extravagant project he never knew, and he moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.


said, he rose to second the Amendment. Considering the thin state of the House, he thought that they were performing a most solemn farce in now pretending to discuss the Bill. An hon. Member connected with Ireland had twice or thrice moved that the House be counted in order to get it fuller, for it was well known that the subterranean brigade were ready, upon the usual summons, to emerge at any moment from the infernal regions. So far as a reform of the Court of Chancery, which the Bill proposed to effect, was concerned, he could only say, speaking as a country gentleman, that the mode in which the business of that Court was at present transacted in Ireland was perfectly satisfactory. Theoretically Chancery business might be better transacted in England, but Irishmen wanted no change in their system of Chancery procedure. There were in Ireland three masters, men of high legal attainments, and he saw no good reason why those three men should be paid salaries for retiring while others were put in their places who could not give greater satisfaction. He, for one, objected to the change, and should oppose the Bill in every shape and form.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be committed to a Select Committee,"—(Mr. Longfield,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he did not propose to discuss the merits of the Bill, but simply wished to enter his protest against the mode of proceeding which its promoters had adopted, believing them, as he did, to be acting in contravention of the established usages of the House. The Bill having been disposed of as it had been on Tuesday last, in Committee of the whole House, ought not, he thought, to be brought forward again in the present Session. On the occasion to which he referred the hon. and learned Member for Clare had, it seemed, voted by mistake with the majority, but he could say for himself, and he believed also for one or two other friends of his, that they were likewise the victims of a mistake, inasmuch as they thought the bell which rang two minutes before four o'clock on Tuesday could not be the division bell, and did not in consequence come into the House and vote in favour of the Chairman's leaving the Chair, as he at all events intended to have done. If a Bill were referred to a Select Committee and that Committee pronounced against it, it was not, he believed, usual to proceed with it in the House, and he did not see why the case in which a Bill happened to be disposed of by a Committee of the whole House should stand on a different footing. He recollected that in 1861, when the second reading of the Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill was moved by Mr. M. Milnes, who had since been translated to a higher, and he hoped a happier sphere, he (Mr. Hunt) had moved a Resolution pointing out particular defects in it, but not amounting to its rejection, in the same way as the usual Motion made for that purpose. That Resolution he had carried by a small majority, and the Bill was disposed of for the time, but Mr. Milnes a few days after appealed to the Speaker to say whether he would be in order in proceeding with the measure that Session, and the decision was, that it was competent for the hon. Gentleman to appoint another day for the second read- ing; the Speaker, at the same time, however, informed him that when a Bill was defeated, as his had been, it was usual to take that defeat as an intimation that it should not again be pressed on the attention of the House. Now, the principle which governed that case applied, he thought, to the measure under discussion, and he hoped, therefore, its promoters would withdraw it from the cognizance of Parliament during the present Session.


said, that as the House had already heard on two or three different occasions the same statements and imputations made in almost the same words as they had listened to that evening, and as he had on those occasions replied to those statements and imputations to the best of his ability, he should not go over ground again which he had before trodden. As to his own position in regard to the Bill, he could only say that it was not a measure of his, or, properly speaking, of the Government. In submitting it to the House he was simply endeavouring to carry out the recommendations solemnly made of a Royal Commission of the highest authority. Complaints having been made for many years of the gravest character with reference to the constitution and practice of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, all men belonging to the profession, and all persons outside the profession competent to form an opinion, felt that a change was necessary. At the instance not of the Government, but of a noble Lord who, as far as his Resolution went, was acting not in community with, but in opposition to, the Government, it pleased the Crown, upon an Address from the House of Lords, to appoint a Royal Commission. The fact that he, as one of the Law Officers of the Crown, was a Member of that Commission would not preclude him from bearing testimony to the eminent men, the highest in their respective professions at either side of the Channel, of whom it was composed, among them being the Master of the Rolls, the Attorney General, Sir W. Page Wood, and the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), whose recommendations seemed to meet with but scant approval from his political friends. The Commission, after full and conscientious inquiry, reported that Ireland ought to enjoy the benefit of those successive changes in the law which in England had been attended with great advantage, and have worked so satisfactorily for many years past. It then became a matter not of discretion but of duty with the Government to act upon their recommendations, and to produce a Bill carrying them into operation. As Attorney General for Ireland he was now discharging that duty; and the Attorney General for England would stand forward in due time to propose a measure giving effect to the Commissioners' recommendations regarding this country. He asked the House to believe that the measure had been framed for the general welfare, and not for the benefit of this man or that man. In fact, he felt ashamed to listen to the miserable insinuations that were put forward. The Bill had not come by surprise upon the House, It was introduced many months ago, and at the request of his hon. and learned Friends opposite had been postponed week after week to afford ample time for consideration. He thought it rather hard under such circumstances that he should be met with a suggestion to withdraw it on account of the advanced period of the Session. In its various stages it had been encountered with most obstinate, most unreasonable obstructions; not even the ordinary courtesy of being allowed to introduce it without an elaborate statement had been accorded to him. The clauses of the Bill, with the exception of 20 or 25, were all clauses copied from English Acts, working with the utmost satisfaction in Courts of Equity. The Bar of Ireland were most anxious to see the measure passed into law, the committee of the Incorporated Society had adopted resolutions in its favour, and only the previous day a meeting of the profession determined unanimously to support it. Representing, therefore, not only a Royal Commission, but the Bar, the solicitors, and the public of Ireland, he asked the House to adopt this Bill. Undoubtedly, he had endeavoured to press on the Bill at a day sitting, but it was well known that he had endeavoured ineffectually to obtain Friday and not Tuesday for the purpose. He trusted the House would pass a measure intended to give the country relief to the extent of £4,000 or £5,000 a year, and to confer upon Ireland the benefit of the English system.


said, his right hon. and learned Friend had spoken with unusual ardour, considering that the subject of law amendment was one that generally tended to composure of the mind. As a young Member he would take the sugges- tion in good part, that the House was not absolutely bound by the recommendations of any body of men, even though they might include the Law Officers of the Crown. The question was simply, whether a number of new places should be created and a number of old ones abolished? His right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland had determined not to be; bound by the decisions of the Committee and to persist in pressing on his Bill. He had rather attempted to take the House by storm than to persuade it by argument. It was quite true that a highly inconvenient day was fixed for the discussion of the question, when it was known that many Irish Members could not attend, and while he was collecting his books and papers Clause 11 was arrived at, and several good places created. He then exercised his undoubted right of stating his objections to the Bill, and the division was taken, in which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Clare got into somewhat of a scrape. He believed that if the hon. and learned Gentleman had been content with recording his own vote, and had been less zealous in canvassing for other votes for the Government, the accident would not have happened. His Motion that the Chairman leave the Chair, which he had no doubt he would have been very glad to do, was read early in the day, and he could not suppose that the Government were ignorant of its importance. The Committee knew what it meant, and after hearing the discussion decided in favour of it. He did not dispute the ruling of the right hon. Gentleman, that it was quite competent for the House to rescind what had been done in Committee; but Mr. May's book distinctly stated that, as a general rule, when the; Chairman of Committee had been moved out of the Chair, the Bill was supposed to be dropped for the Session. It was perfectly ludicrous to represent it as a wrong to Ireland that there should be any delay in appointing a vice chancellor and train of officers, when there was no place for them to sit in and no business fur them to do. Such a statement was too much for the patience of even so patient a man as himself. The names connected with the Select Committee which inquired into the subject carried with them as much weight as the names of the Commission. The Committee was not content with sending papers round to be filled up, but examined witnesses of great experience and au- thority; and, after a very careful investigation, decided that the existing tribunal was more useful and economical than the new one proposed. It was rather singular that the witnesses, whose evidence was not acted upon by the Committee, were appointed members of the Commission, and of course they supported their own testimony by reporting against the decision of the Committee. It had been supposed that the duties of the Commission were at an end; but he had, to his surprise, received a letter from Mr. Napier stating that the Commissioners were to meet in London in the first week of July to settle the official establishment of the Court of Chancery. Who could have imagined that such a measure as that now under consideration would have been introduced before the Commission had come to a decision on that part of the subject? Prior to the Commission coming to any conclusion on that point, the House was asked to appoint a vice chancellor, with £4,000 a year, in the interim, for doing nothing. Mr. Napier also mentioned that the Bill had never been shown to him, as, being a Commissioner, it certainly ought to have been. One of his right hon. Friend's own witnesses, a Queen's Counsel, was examined as to taking the accounts, and he stated that the practice to be adopted ought to be similar to that in the Landed Estates Court, which had worked admirably well. He therefore called upon the Attorney General for Ireland to recast his Bill, because the chief clerk was not wanted in Ireland. The Commissioners, no doubt, found the chief clerk system existing in England; but side by side with the Court of Chancery in Ireland was the Court which he had the honour to reconstruct, and in which the Judge who sold the estates disposed of the accounts and settled the question of the money. If the Bill were withdrawn for the purpose of being re-considered during the recess, he would recommend the right hon. and learned Gentleman to strike out every clause relating to the chief clerk, and enact that the Judge should do the whole business himself. It was a proper subject of inquiry—and if the Secretary to the Treasury did his duty, he would look into the matter and consider whether the Landed Estates Court might not give one of its Judges, with the staff, so as to save £6,000 a year, and at the same time accomplish the chief object in view. The right hon. and learned Gentleman declared that the whole profession as well as the public had called out for this Bill. He maintained, on the contrary, that the profession were generally opposed to it. It was stated in the draught of the measure that the chief clerks were all to be solicitors. He had the highest respect for the body of solicitors, but he doubted the wisdom of converting them suddenly into Judges. He was told that the certificates of the chief clerks in England were often very long, very complicated, and frequently objected to. Mr. Rogers in his evidence said, that the taking of accounts was often the most important part of the case, that it was of the most vital importance to the parties concerned, and that in dealing with it, points of law of extreme nicety were to be decided. Mr. Rogers added that it was better that these matters should be decided by the Judge himself. He challenged his right hon. Friend to read him one passage from the evidence in which it was stated, that the taking of these accounts would be better done by the persons on whom the duty would be thrown by the Bill than by the Judges of the landed estates, or by the present masters. A vast quantity of the business of the Court required to be transacted in a cheap, easy, and expeditious manner. The right hon. Gentleman was under the impression that the business would be more cheaply done under his Bill. He had, however, asked one of the most experienced officers of the Court of Chancery to give him in writing his opinion on the subject of cost. That gentleman stated his belief that the increase of expense would be more than one-third compared with the present system. Would the right hon. Gentleman point out in favour of his Bill one single scrap of evidence on that vital question in every legal reform—the question of cost? He felt confident that the Attorney General for Ireland would be able during the recess to draw up a more compendious and cheaper Bill for carrying out many of the suggestions of the Commission. Considering the character and size of the Bill, the differences of opinion which prevailed, and the late period of the Session, he appealed to his right hon. Friend to postpone the measure for another year. It was the opinion of the Master of the Rolls that more than one-half of the reforms in this Bill could be effected by general orders. Those orders might be drawn up in the recess, and Her Majesty's Attorney General would, no doubt, look them over. He warned every hon. Gentleman who cared a farthing for the public purse, of the increased expense which the Bill would cause. When some of the gentlemen whom it was proposed to pension off made their appearance before the Committee of 1856, it was shrewdly remarked that they seemed in very good health; and he was happy to inform the House that they were still alive and capable of work. As vacancies occurred among the Masters, he would recommend his right hon. Friend not to fill them up. Let the number fall down gradually to one, and if his right hon. Friend was determined to have a vice chancellor, let him take one of the Judges of the Landed Estates Court—that admirable Englishman, Mr. Hargrave, or one of the others—with all his staff. There were many other questions of great importance which he should like to have discussed had there been time; but, in conclusion, he would suggest that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mallow should withdraw his Amendment, and he would then move his, which was more direct—that the Speaker leave the Chair that day three months.


said, he had no objection to adopt the suggestion, and would therefore withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Whiteside,) —instead thereof.


said, he hoped that the House would clearly understand before it went to a division, that the short question before it was, Whether reforms which had been carried on in England, and found to work most successfully, should be extended to Ireland?


said, that a Bill of 192 clauses, which proposed to alter the whole practice and procedure of the Irish Court of Chancery, required a great deal more discussion than it had received before it could possibly become law. The Masters in Chancery in Ireland fulfilled the very duties which they proposed to create expensive officials to discharge. The Commission of 1861 was composed of men of the highest character, but the Committee of 1856 was equally composed of men of the highest character. It was strange, how- ever, that no reference was made in the Commission of 1861 to the labours of the former Committee. Not a single English witness was examined by that Commission. The labours of the masters had been most valuable. Out of 14,400 cases decided by them in ten years there were only 137 appeals, and only forty reversals. He believed that the change proposed was unpalatable to the whole Bar of Ireland.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 49: Majority 2.

Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, that after the very narrow majority by which the Government had defeated the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, he thought they should not press the Motion for going into Committee. He understood that eleven of the clauses had been agreed to when only four or five Members were present, and he therefore thought that they ought to re-commit the Bill de novo. As, however, he did not think they ought to be called upon to go into the clauses at that late hour (twenty minutes to twelve o'clock), he would move that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Vance.)


said, it was true the majority just obtained by the Government was a small one, but it was larger than that by which the Motion for the Chairman to leave the Chair was carried on Tuesday last. If the House would allow the Speaker to leave the Chair, and would go into Committee on the Bill, the Government would not proceed with any of the clauses that night; and before the Committee on the Bill was resumed, his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland would consider what course he should take with reference to the measure, regard being had to the circumstances which had already taken place, and to the period of the Session at which the House had arrived.


observed that, as it was obvious the Government could not carry the Bill during the Session, it would be more graceful of them to at once withdraw it.


said, the subject was one of great importance with reference to proceedings in Ireland, and he did not think that he ought to be called on to come to a decision off-hand as to the fate of the Bill, but he would give the matter his best consideration.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 56: Majority 5.

Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

MR. COLLINS moved the adjournment of the House. After the division which had taken place he thought they ought not to proceed that night with the discussion of the Bill. Perhaps the noble Lord would tell them whether he knew of a single instance of the attempt to set aside the decision of the House that the Chairman should leave the Chair.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Collins.)


said, no doubt the hon. Member was a great authority in these matters, but he ought to have recollected that the Speaker, in answer to a question addressed to him, had declared that the course which had been pursued was strictly in accordance with the rules of the House.


said, he did not understand that such a proposition had been laid down. On the contrary, he thought the rule was that a vote that the Chairman do leave the Chair was regarded by any Gentleman charged with a Bill as a strong hint not to introduce it again. It seemed, however, that with right hon. Gentlemen opposite the strongest argument in favour of the Bill was that the opinion of the House had been pronounced against it.


said, that though the Speaker had decided that they might, according to the letter of the law, go on with the Bill, yet they all felt that it was sharp practice to go on with it with only a majority of two in favour of such a proceeding, while a majority of one the other day had stopped the progress of the Bill. The other day the Chief Secretary for Ireland was present, but to-night he was not in his place.


said, he would remind the House that the Bill had only been put into its present position by the operation of the letter of the law, for if there had been any Parliamentary equity, the vote of the hon. Baronet (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) would have been recorded according to his intention.


said, he did not understand the feverish anxiety of the Government to pass the Bill, and to cover their reputation at the expense of the sister country. He hoped they would yield to the undoubted feeling of the House, and take further discussion at a reasonable hour.


said, that his right hon. and learned Friend did not ask them to make further progress with the Bill that night, but he did wish that effect should be given to the Vote which had been twice taken. He protested against the assumption that a majority of the House in Committee was to prevent the House receiving the Bill. If that were so, measures of great importance might be frustrated by a casual Treasury Bench majority.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 53; Noes 56: Majority 3.

Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, he wished it to be understood that he felt himself incompetent to discuss the Bill upon its merits, but having watched its varying fortunes, fluctuating as they did every five minutes, he would ask the Government if they intended to persevere with it. If it were right to reinstate it upon a technical objection, it was perfectly right also for that side of the House to urge technical objections against its progress. He begged leave, therefore, to move the adjournment of the debate.


said, that there was one great difference between the objects of the two sides of the House. The Government desired to see the Bill discussed on its own merits, and to have it passed if the House concurred in the opinion they held of the advantages which they believed it would confer, while the other side of the House desired to prevent its passing under any circumstances—not to defeat it by argument, but to prevent its progress by offering every obstruction in their power. As, however, the point was not in reality one of great importance, the Government would consent to the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.