HC Deb 27 July 1874 vol 221 cc788-92

asked the Government to give some further information as to the reasons which induced them to postpone the measures with reference to Law Reform. Those Bills were down on the Paper for that evening, but he supposed it was with the intention of discharging the Orders. Last year a measure was passed by Parliament relating to the Appellate Jurisdiction, which should have come into operation that year. However, not only had they made no progress in law reform that year; but if they discharged these Orders they would be making progress in the fashion of the crab, because they would be going backwards and postponing the action which they had matured last year. No one desired to interpose a single obstacle to the passing of such a measure as would allow the English Act of 1873 to come into operation this year. That Act was very carefully framed, and was only passed after very careful deliberation, and there were Rules to be made in accordance with it. He believed those Rules had been prepared and laid before Her Majesty, and therefore he saw no reason why the Act should not come into operation. He was not surprised that the Government did not proceed with the voluminous Irish Bill in the face of the Irish difficulties; but that Bill was altogether outside the corners of the Act of 1873. Surety, then, they might go on with the Act of 1873 as far as it affected England, or, at all events, in reference to the inferior Courts. They were making a retrograde step in law reform, which was not a very creditable thing for a new Parliament to do. The postponement of the Judicature Bill was worse than the Massacre of the Innocents—it was the murder of an adult. He hoped some better reason would be given for not proceeding with the Bill than they had yet had. Why was it to be done? It was not because of any factious opposition from his side of the House. They were anxious to give every assistance in passing that Bill, that the Act of 1873 might come into force. If the new Rules were laid on the Table, they might pass the Bill with the necessary alterations through Committee in a very few hours, and then they would not hang up that important system of law reform.


said, he was quite content to accept the observations of his hon. and learned Friend as having been made in no spirit of hostility, but with a desire to aid the Government in their proposed legislation, if they could see their way to carry it through. There were five Bills among the Orders of the Day, three of them having reference to the transfer of land and two to the system of Judicature. As to the first three, his hon. and learned Friend had not suggested that they should or could be proceeded with. He (the Attorney General), however, would rather limit the observation to that which formed the subject of the first Order of the Bay, because, though there were three Bills relating to Land Titles and Transfer, it was the first which was the important one; it was a long Bill, which would doubtless occupy much time whenever it was dealt with in Committee. It had, however, been very fully discussed on the second reading, and a variety of suggestions had been made, which would assist them greatly in dealing with it on a future occasion. With regard to the two other Bills, the Real Property Vendors and Purchasers Bill, and the Real Property Limitation Bill, there was no substantial opposition in the House to them, and they might perhaps be carried through with the assistance which he was sure he should receive from his hon. Friends; he should certainly endeavour to pass them. If passed, they would effect a valuable improvement in the state of the law, and also render it more easy to deal with the subject of land transfer in a future Session. He now came to the other two Bills, with respect to Judicature. Although his hon. and learned Friend had spoken of the Act of last year as having been passed after a great amount of deliberation, he (the Attorney General) thought it was the opinion of the majority of the House that that Act required amendment. The question was, whether the Act of last Session should be allowed to come into operation on the 1st of November next unamended, or whether its operation should be postponed until such time as those Amendments, which would make it really a valuable measure, were passed. He thought he should have the concurrence of a large proportion of the House in saying, that it was not desirable to bring the Act of last Session into operation, unless they also brought into operation the Bill now before the House. If the Act of last year came into force alone, they would have the House of Lords no longer continuing as a Court of Appeal for English cases, but continuing as a Court of Appeal for Irish and Scotch cases. That, he thought, would be extremely undesirable, for many reasons, which he need not now particularly mention, and there was no question that the Act of last year was passed on the faith that, before it was brought into operation, another Bill would be passed, which would enable the appellate jurisdiction in Scotch and Irish cases to be removed from the House of Lords to the Imperial Court of Appeal. His hon. and learned Friend suggested that they could strike out of the Judicature Bill the reference to Scotland and Ireland; but, if they did that, they would have the Judicature Act of last Session coming into force, abolishing the House of Lords as a Court of Appeal for English cases, but leaving it still a Court of Appeal for Scotch and Irish cases, the undesirableness of which he had already adverted to. The House was aware that the present Bill, as far as regarded the removal of the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords in Irish matters, was very strongly opposed by a large number of the Representatives of Ireland in that House. The observations made by those hon. Gentlemen, in the course of the discussion on the Bill, and the Amendments they had put on the Paper, clearly showed that they intended to oppose the proposal to do away with the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords in Irish matters. Again, it was not desirable to carry that portion of the amendment of their system of judicature which would create a now Court of Appeal, as far as regarded Irish cases, when they were not able to proceed with the other Judicature Bill, the effect of which would be to re-arrange and improve the whole system of judicature in Ireland? He thought the whole scheme ought to go together, and it was quite clear that there would be no chance of their passing that Session the second of those measures, the Court of Judicature (Ireland) Bill. Therefore, because it was not desirable to alter the Ultimate Court of Appeal, as far as Ireland was concerned, unless they also altered the whole form of procedure in Ireland; and, likewise, because it was not desirable to bring the new appellate tribunal into operation as far as regarded England until it was also brought into operation for Scotland and Ireland—on both or either of these grounds, it was unadvisable to proceed with the Bill to which his hon. and learned Friend particularly referred. The Government, and he personally, had been very desirous that the Bills to which he had referred should be passed, and they had hoped that they would have had an opportunity of passing thorn; but he was bound to admit that, within the last few days, he had had communications from several of his hon. Friends who represented Irish constituencies, which made it perfectly clear to him that there was no prospect, within any reasonable duration of the present Session, of carrying either of those measures, and therefore he thought the course the Government was pursuing was the only one they could adopt. As to the charge of the Session being wasted, it should be remembered that the present was not a Session of ordinary duration; the time at the disposal of the House had been much curtailed by circumstances over which they had no control. He did not believe, however, that the time spent in the discus- sion and consideration of those measures had been lost, and he trusted that in the ensuing Session an opportunity would be given them for effecting that amendment and reform of the law which they all desired.