HC Deb 25 July 1874 vol 221 cc705-8

said, he wished to put a Question to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, of which he had given him private Notice. He (Sir Henry James) had learnt, with great surprise, that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in his statement on the previous day, had announced the intention of the Government to allow the Judicature Bill to drop, and that statement was supplemented by a further announcement by the Attorney General, that he purposed introducing a Bill to postpone the period at which the Judicature Act of last Session was to come into operation. That statement had also taken the profession and the public by surprise, and in his (Sir Henry James's) opinion, the course thus indicated was likely to lead to a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs. The House would remember that it was now nearly 12 months ago since the Judicature Act of last Session passed. The time fixed for the coming into operation of the Act was the 2nd of November, 1874, a period which allowed some 16 or 17 months for the consideration and preparation of the several arrangements necessary for carrying it into effect. Not only the late and present Governments, but also the whole House, which had taken part in the discussion of the Act, stood pledged to keep faith with the profession as to the Act coming into operation at the time named. Now, however, it seemed it was proposed to postpone the coming into operation of the Act for 12 months, and although the state of "suspended animation" which would be the result might be supposed to involve inconveniences which were more theoretical than practical, still he ventured to think that the inconvenience would be very great,. The members of the profession and the Judges, anticipating the changes in November, had made their preparations for them. He might mention that the district registrars, the local Bars, and the Bar generally, had made their arrangements. There were matters also connected with the future existence of Serjeants' Inn, in consequence of the Judges ceasing to be members of it after November, 1874, that had been arranged for. Nothing could be more inconvenient, therefore, than that this Act should be postponed until November, 1875. He saw, moreover, no reason why the pledge which had been given in 1873, when the measure was discussed, should not be kept. The discussion of the Judicature Act Amendment Bill would not occupy many hours in Committee, and he must express his regret that it had not been proceeded with in preference to the Scotch Patronage Bill, with regard to which no such pledge as he had mentioned had been given. In order to go on with it now, it would not be at all necessary to take up the Irish Judicature Bill, from which it might easily be disassociated, and which could be passed early next Session. That Bill and the English Amending Bill were perfectly distinct, and should be kept distinct. The English Bill came down on the 23rd of June, and progress had been made with it. It had been read a second time, it had passed into Committee, and he could appeal to his hon. and learned Friend to say that it had received nothing like a factious opposition. He hoped his hon. and learned Friend would try to complete it, as he (Sir Henry James) felt that a few hours more would have completed it at its last sitting. The two Bills, as he had said, were perfectly distinct. They did not come into operation on the same day, as the Irish Bill did not come into operation until 1st January, 1875. What he wished to impress upon his hon. and learned Friend was, that there was no reason why they should not pass the English amended Act. It appeared the Prime Minister had stated that it had been found necessary to put it off to another year, inasmuch as the Rules had not been laid on the Table; but on that point, he thought there must be some misunderstanding, for the Bill could not depend on Rules which would be to a great extent subject to its provisions and created by them. Under those circumstances, he hoped his hon. and learned Friend would accept the view which he now urged upon his attention and proceed with the Bill, the discussion of which, as he said before, was not likely to occupy more than a few hours. They could separate it from anything connected with the Irish Courts, and he would suggest to his hon. and learned Friend that if that were done, that would be the only matter that need stand in their way. Though he would rather see the Rules on the Table before the Bill was passed, yet it should be remembered that the Rules were only matter of procedure, and that they should not affect the question of the Bill passing that Session. He was not making those remarks in any factious spirit; but, on the contrary, was ready to render any assistance towards the passing of the Bill, and he thought the House would not object, if necessary, to sit a day or two longer for the purpose of passing it. The Question he wished to ask the Attorney General was, Whether the English and Irish Bills might not be separated, and the former carried through Parliament this Session?


said, although his hon. and learned Friend had given him private Notice that he was about to put a Question to him on the subject which he had just mentioned, yet that Notice had reached him only a few minutes before he entered the House. He might add that his hon. and learned Friend was aware that it did not rest with the Attorney General to regulate the Business of the House, and to say what Bills should be proceeded with and what Bills stopped. He certainly understood that what was stated by the Prime Minister yesterday was the result of deliberate consideration—namely, that those Bills should not be proceeded with. His hon. and learned Friend was aware that application would be made on Monday for leave to bring in a Bill to postpone the operation of the Judicature Act for a year, and that, at present, the amending Bill stood for Monday. His hon. and learned Friend would therefore excuse him, if he said he had not had an opportunity of considering the various statements that had been made on the subject; but he should be glad to give him a definite answer on Monday.