HC Deb 14 March 1867 vol 185 cc1858-60

Order for Second Reading read.

THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHATTERTON) moved the second reading of this Bill. He said, that in 1861 and 1862 Commissions were issued to some of the most eminent Judges and practitioners of England and Ireland, to inquire into the practice and procedure of the Courts of Law and Equity. Among the members of the Commission were the present Lord Romilly, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland, the Lord Justice of Appeal, Lord Cairns, the Attorney General for Ireland of that day, and Vice Chancellor Wood. Having made their inquiry they reported on the 27th of July, 1863. In consequence of that Report Bills were prepared by his hon. and learned Friends on the opposite side of the House, and it was one of those Bills of which he had now the honour to move the second reading. The object of the Bill was to reform the practice of the Court of Chancery in Ireland by assimilating it to the practice which prevailed in England. The measure was based upon the unanimous Report of the Commission, and was in almost every particular the same as the Bill which had been introduced by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Portarlington. He was happy to say that he had always been a strong advocate of the measure, and in support of that assertion he might refer to the evidence which he had given on the subject, having come to the conclusion from his experience in the Court of Chancery in Ireland that such a reform was imperatively required. He believed he had the concurrence in that remark of as good an authority as any one-could be, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mallow. When the Bill was introduced last Session it received in its earlier stages opposition from some who were then Members of the House. If they were now present they would be able to explain the grounds on which they opposed the Bill in its earlier stage; but when it came on for second reading on the 14th of May last year the present Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland (Mr. Whiteside) stated that upon due consideration he withdrew his opposition, and was anxious to give the measure his best sup- port. He moved that the Bill he now read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read a second time."—(The Solicitor General for Ireland.)


said, he gave the Bill in its entirety his most cordial support; but he wished to explain the circumstances under which the passage of the Bill through Parliament had been delayed for three successive Sessions. The Royal Commissioners reported, so far back as the month of July in 1863, that the practice and procedure of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, as then existing, required great amendment, and the Commissioners suggested what the Amendment ought to be. Such a matter, affecting the administration of the law, was of the highest importance, as everybody was interested in having the rights of parties quickly and finally adjudicated upon with the smallest, possible expense. The practice of the Irish Court of Chancery was, however, vicious in the extreme in both of these respects. The delays and expense were enormous, and the ultimate decisions in Appeals from the Masters' offices were excessively slow, not through the fault of the Judges, but because the system was so embarrassed and complicated. The existing practice of the Court of Chancery in Ireland was most cumbrous, and demanded instant remedy. The formalities that had to be gone through were very numerous and perplexing, and cost a great deal of time and money to litigants. The Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the matter reported that the practice of the Irish Chancery Court should be assimilated to that of England, with certain modifications applicable to the law of Ireland. Pounded upon the recommendations of that Report, the Government then in office, in the year 1864, prepared and introduced a Bill to give effect to them, which were in consonance with the opinions of the ablest lawyers upon the subject. The Bill, however, was met with the most decided opposition on the part of the right hon. Gentleman who now occupied the distinguished position of Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland (Mr. Whiteside), of another hon. and learned Gentleman now a puisne Judge (Mr. George), and of some few others who then sat upon the opposition Benches. The obstruction thus caused was the means of defeating the measure. The Bill was again introduced in the Session of 1865, the same course was adopted by its opponents, and it was again thrown out, although it sought to remedy a crying evil. In the year 1866 he himself assisted to introduce the Bill once more; but the promoters encountered the very same opposition as on the two former occasions, though it was supported by Lord Cairns and some of the Members of the present Government, and owing to various circumstances the attempt was again unsuccessful. There was great reason to complain of the conduct on this question of the two right hon. and learned Gentlemen of whom he had first made mention. He could not say that he regretted their absence from the House, inasmuch as they were now enjoying high judicial offices in Ireland. The present Government did right to introduce another measure upon this subject. The Bill now before the House was substantially the same Bill as was formerly brought forward. It was a measure that was greatly needed, and he should support it through all its stages. Great good would result from it, and his only regret was that it had not been passed into law three years and a half ago, when the proposal was first made.


said, he thought the measure was eminently desirable, considering the inconvenience and expense occasioned by the existing system. He was of opinion that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had overstated the opposition which the Bill had received from those who sat on the same side of the House as the present Lord Chief Justice Whiteside, when he opposed the measure. It should not be inferred that all who sat on the same side of the House on that occasion countenanced the opposition given to the Bill. The Members of the present Government did not countenance the opposition offered to former Bills, and for many years he had taken every opportunity in that House of calling attention to the great delay and expense involved by the practice in the Irish Court of Chancery. The former Bills had received the support of the present Lord Cairns. He thought that instead of raking up old stories, it would be better to apply themselves to the passing the Bill, which it was acknowledged was much needed.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday next.