§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland,")
§ MR. BUTT,
in moving, as an Amendment—That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that in any Bill intended to constitute a Supreme Court of Judicature in Ireland the rules of procedure should be settled and defined in the Act constituting the Court, in the same manner and to the same extent as they have been in the Acts constituting the English Court,said, he was sorry to interpose at that stage of the Bill, as his Amendment might lead to some inconvenience and delay the Bill; but he felt it incumbent on him to bring the matter before the House. He must say he did not think that those who had had the framing of the Bill had given the whole question the thought and consideration which it required or deserved. Their purpose was apparently to assimilate the law of England and Ireland, but they had left out of this Irish Bill several of the clauses which were passed in the Supreme Court of Judicature (England) Bill. He did not think the different circumstances of the two countries, and the difference in the character of the tribunal, had been sufficiently considered and appreciated by the framers of the present measure. The English Act, the passing of which had been postponed for the purpose, laid down the most minute and particular rules in regard to almost all the matters requiring regulation, leaving merely a few insignificant matters of 343 detail to be dealt with, by the Judges. After the Act passed, no doubt, the Judges of the Supreme Court had power to make alterations in the rules. But making alterations in the rules embodied in an Act of Parliament was a very different thing from the power to make the rules themselves de novo. Now in this Irish Bill there was not a single rule laid down. Everything was left to the discretion of the Judges in a very different manner from what it was by the English Act. So great was the discretion left to them, that there would be nothing to prevent them, if they thought fit, from abolishing trial by jury. He asked why one rule should be applied to England and another to Ireland? Why was this Bill reduced to the merest skeleton, to be clothed with flesh and muscle in whatever town the Judge might think fit? Past experience, either in England or in Ireland, should not encourage them to leave so much power in the hands of the Bench, for it had been shown, in several instances, that it was not wisely exercised. They had now an instance of its abuse recently in 1869. A Bankruptcy Act was passed, intended to prevent any man availing himself of the protection of bankruptcy except at the instance of his creditors. The Act, however, gave power to the Judges to make rules of procedure, and they made rules which entirely defeated the main object of the Act, so that the present Government had now felt it necessary to introduce a new Bill on the subject. The Judges were really the worst legislators in the world in matters of this kind; and there was truth in the old axiom—that one of the elements of safety was to keep the judicial and the legislative functions separate. One reason why that separation should be made was, that he thought it very probable that the Judges would fall below the point, in many cases, to which the House of Commons would be inclined to go. There were most important differences at present between the English and Irish procedure, and they ought not to leave it to the Judges to say whether these differences should continue or not. In England a very large number of matters were disposed of by what was called summonses at Judge's Chambers, in which no counsel were required to appear, suitors being represented by solicitors or solicitor's clerks, which 344 beside economizing judicial strength was a great convenience and saving to suitors, whereas in Ireland it was necessary for every application, however trivial, to be made to full Court by counsel. Now ought it to be left to the Irish Judges to say whether that system should be kept up? There were other questions involved in this discussion. There was a great demand for the reduction of the Irish Judicial Staff, and while giving no opinion as to whether or not the Staff was at present too large, he wished the House to consider the difficulty of coming to a decision on that point, until they knew what the rules of procedure were to be, and whether the motions were to continue to be disposed of in Court, with the time and expense involved through counsel being engaged, or whether they were to be disposed of in Chambers as in England. That would make all the difference. Another important question involved was that of venue. At present a large number of cases were brought to Dublin for trial, with which Dublin had nothing to do. Of all the cases tried there last term only one directly concerned the City of Dublin. Were they to allow the practice to continue in Ireland, destroying, to a great extent, the local administration of justice at the Assizes, the preservation of which he regarded as of the utmost importance? If they were to get rid of those foreign trials in Dublin it was perfectly obvious that the judicial duties in Dublin would not require the same number of Judges as now. All these matters had a bearing on the question of what number of Judges was necessary, and he was not one of those who wished to maintain a large number of Judges merely for the sake of giving patronage to the Irish Bar. He considered, on the contrary, that patronage had been a curse to the Bar. Not, however, until the Judges's rules were framed, and they knew what the Courts had to do, could they decide as to the number of Judges that ought to be kept up. He thought those matters and rules ought to be decided on in the House of Commons, instead of leaving them, as they were left, in this skeleton Bill to the Judges, who might be influenced too much by a regard for the interests of the Bar and the Bench. It was of very great importance to maintain an independent Bar, and these rules 345 might vitally affect that question. The point to which they must look was the diminution of the large number of counsel now employed in some Irish cases. He repeated that the Bill proposed to leave too much to the Judges. It might either do nothing, or else a great deal more than was wanted. Parliament ought to settle the rules for Ireland as they did for England. He regretted having to refer to matters of detail, which, it might be said, ought to be dealt with in Committee; but if he were to undertake to propose in Committee all the rules he thought necessary, the Notices of Motion would be so numerous that he was afraid there would be little chance of their being discharged that Session. Even as it was, he would not bind himself not to propose those rules in Committee; but he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would avoid any such inconvenience by promising to introduce rules into the Bill. If he would promise that, he (Mr. Butt) would withdraw the Amendment. After all, what was the hurry for the Bill? Ireland did not want it; nobody asked for it. There were such measures as the Civil Bills Court Bill which were really pressing. Why not proceed with them? There was another strong reason for delay. Every day the English Bar, the Judges, and the public were complaining of the unsatisfactory character in many respects of the rules of the Supreme Court of Judicature, and he was told that the Judges had called a meeting to amend the rules. Why should not Ireland have the benefit of this revision, and the Bill be re-introduced next year? The effect of his Amendment was, that the Bill ought to be the work of Parliament itself, and not the work of the Irish Judges. He had as much respect for the Irish as for the English Bench, but declined to entrust to them the task of legislating, which belonged to Parliament itself. The Bill should not be a faint copy of the English clauses, many of which were inapplicable, while everything else was left to the Judges, and he hoped that on all these grounds the House would adopt the Amendment which he now submitted to their notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that in any Bill intended to constitute a Supreme
Court of Judicature in Ireland the rules of procedure should be settled and defined in the Act constituting the Court, in the same manner and to the same extent as they have been in the Acts constituting the English Court,"—(Mr. Butt,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUNKET)
said, his hon. and learned Friend had as usual made a very able speech; but having heard it he could not but look forward with feelings of gloom to the difficulties of passing during this Session a measure, which was certainly desired very earnestly by large classes in Ireland, who wished to have the benefit of the same reforms in Judicial procedure as had been adopted in England. Knowing the power of obstruction possessed by his hon. and learned Friend in that House, he was afraid that if he continued to deal with the Bill in the same spirit as he did now, there was not a very brilliant prospect of passing it this year. He would, however, put it to his hon. and learned Friend that he should, at all events, allow the Government, in Committee, to explain the points to which he had taken objection as the Bill went along. It would then be seen that the difficulties and dangers he had conjured up were not substantial. His hon. and learned Friend complained that rules of procedure and practice were not introduced in a Schedule of the Bill, as was done in the English Acts, and he had spoken of those rules as if they were the product of the mind and wisdom of Parliament, and were, to a great extent, the result of debates in the House of Commons. Nothing could be more opposed to the fact. Some rules, no doubt, were introduced in the English Bill of 1873, and were adopted by the House of Commons; but they had been very carefully prepared beforehand mainly by the Judges—the very class of persons to whom it was now proposed to entrust the preparation of the rules for Ireland. What was done then? Again, in the English Acts, although the rules were inserted in them, power was given to the Judges to enlarge, modify, and alter them, subject only to the condition that any alterations or additions should 347 be submitted to Parliament. His hon. and learned Friend, in dealing with this subject, was not quite so accurate as he usually was, for he overlooked the fact that the clauses in which it was proposed to give the Judges in Ireland the power to frame rules were almost exactly the same, word for word, as the corresponding provisions of the Act of 1873, and the Act of 1875. If his hon. and learned Friend compared this Bill, section by section, with the English Act, he would find that the words employed were for pages nothing more than a reproduction of the words of the latter. The whole frame of the Bill was a combination of the Acts of 1873 and 1875. Ireland would have the advantage of the precedent of the English Acts, the advantage of the rules which had been framed in England, and, what was no small matter, the advantage of the additional experience of six months which would elapse before the rules need be finally settled. Unless his hon. and learned Friend was enough of a Tory to hope to postpone an Irish Judicature Act until the English Judicature Act was repealed, the best thing was to have as soon as possible an exact unification of the two systems. His hon. and learned Friend feared the Judges might make rules which would deviate from the policy of the Bill, and prevent its being any good to the country; but he would remind him that the rules in the English Act were framed by the Judges, and passed through Parliament with little discussion, he was bound to say that if his hon. and learned Friend asked him to bring into the House of Commons a Schedule corresponding with that of the English Act of 1875, and carry it through the House of Commons, especially if he and other Irish Members had not much sympathy with the measure, he would not have a chance of passing it within any reasonable limits of time. They would soon have a revolt of the Scotch Members, not only against English, but Irish Business, if they were thus to proceed slowly to elaborate a system of rules in the House of Commons. The only conditions laid down when power was given to the Judges to frame rules were that those rules should be laid on the Table of the House if Parliament was sitting at the time, and, if not, within 40 days after the next meeting of Parliament, and 348 that if an Address were presented to the Queen in opposition to any of the rules they might be annulled. That power would be a complete and sufficient safeguard against anything improper being done; but it was a very different thing from having the rules framed by the House. It seemed to him only reasonable to entrust the settling of the rules to the men who best understood the subject, reserving to Parliament the power of exercising supervision over what they did. He would not enter into other matters which his hon. and learned Friend had touched on, and which could be better dealt with in Committee. The Bill came down to them with considerable weight and sanction from "another place," and he desired to adhere to the lines there laid down; but he was not unprepared to consider in Committee the suggestions of learned and experienced Members on the other side. He therefore appealed to them not to approach the question with the intention of slaying the Bill by slow degrees, but to assist the Government, so that they might that Session pass an Act assimilating the Judicature laws of England and Ireland, and obtaining for their own country the benefits which had already been conferred upon England.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he had heard with regret the determination of the Government not to yield to the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend. He desired to see a Judicature Bill passed for Ireland, not that he believed any improvement had been effected in England by the Judicature Act, or was likely to be effected in Ireland by a similar measure. He wished to see a Bill passed for Ireland merely on the ground that the systems in England and Ireland should be unified. The course taken by his hon. and learned Friend opposite deprived the country of the sole advantage which could be derived from the passing of the Bill. In England certain rules and a definite system were introduced into the Act. By this Bill it was left open to the Irish Judges to deviate as much as they pleased from the system in England. He thought they ought not to pass any Judicature Bill for Ireland unless it contained a full and complete system of rules of procedure and practice; and he hoped that they would have one perfect and harmonious scheme for 349 the whole Kingdom. He admitted that in the case of England, as stated by his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland, the rules as framed by the Judges were very little changed by Parliament last Session; but he asserted, on the other hand, that those rules had been pushed through the House almost with indecent haste, and that they were not ultimately such as they would have been if they had undergone due discussion. He should support the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK
agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland that the time it would take to discuss those rules in the House would infallibly lead to the postponement of the Bill till next Session. The Government had given a pledge that it was intended as far as possible to assimilate the rules of procedure and practice in Ireland to those of England; and next Session, when the new Code prepared by the Irish Judges was laid on the Table of the House, if it was found to be divergent from the system established in England, the House would have an opportunity of remedying the matter. If this debate had arisen in March, instead of in June, he should have supported the Amendment, but a fusion of Law and Equity having taken place in England, he thought it very important to the interests, not of the Bar or of the Judges, but of the public in Ireland, that the assimilation, which must eventually take place, should take place as soon as possible, instead of everything being left in doubt and uncertainty with different and contradictory systems at work in the two countries. He admitted that it would have been better if the rules had been scheduled, but he was not disposed to imperil the Bill on account of that omission, believing that the Judges were not likely to make rules merely for the convenience of the Bar without consulting the requirements of the public. If they did the interference of Parliament could be invoked, and if it were not done by anybody else he should not hesitate to call attention to the subject. He could not vote with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Limerick.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, he sympathized with the object of the Bill 350 —the unification of procedure and the fusion of Law and Equity—and for that reason he would support the objection of his hon. and learned Colleague, fearing the efficacy of the Bill in its present shape. The House was asked to cast on the Irish Judges the responsibility it had itself discharged on the English Bill. Now, though very desirous of seeing a Bill of that kind passed, he insisted that the rules of procedure should be provided on the responsibility of that House. The Irish Judges were, no doubt, competent to frame rules and orders; but they might be disposed to stand too much upon the ancient ways, and, at all events, they should perform such a task under a full responsibility to that House and the country. While that measure was still in embryo, an eminent Irish Judge whom he would name—Mr. Justice Barry—had long since imposed on him the necessity of embodying the rules in the Act and relieving the Judge from the responsibility. The Act of 1853 had failed in producing a simple system of pleading, and the proceedings between Lord Justice Christian and other members of the Bench as to the rules of the Act of 1867 had been of a most painful nature, and sensibly affected the position of the law in that country. In order to avoid a defeat of the objects of the Act, there being really no hurry, he would rather see the Bill postponed, in order to give Parliament an opportunity of superintending the preparation of rules. The principal thing was to produce a perfect code, and even if two or three years were occupied in doing so he should not complain. The County Courts Bill was of more importance, and deserved attention first, in order to make legal redress accessible to the masses. He complained that the Lords, who had abundance of time at their disposal, sent the Bill down without the rules, and, on the whole, so much neglect had been committed in the progress of the Bill so far that it was necessary to be cautious.
§ MR. LAW
did not believe there was the slightest danger of the Irish Judges exhibiting any of the eccentricities which certain hon. Members seemed to apprehend. In a communication which they had made to the Lord Chancellor, or, at all events, officially, and which had just been laid upon the Table of the House, they expressed the opinion that, for 351 many reasons, it was expedient as far as possible to have "identity of constitution, practice, and procedure in the superior Courts of England and Ireland." It was not too much then, he thought, to ask his hon. and learned Friend to place reliance on the Judges when they thus publicly express their opinions and determination to have a similar constitution and course of procedure in Ireland to that in England. It was provided, too, by the Bill, that the rules should be laid on the Table as soon as they were framed. What more was requisite? Surely this gave Parliament an adequate control over the Irish Judges. They must trust somebody. The House of Commons trusted to its legal Members, and it was not too much to ask the legal Members in turn to trust to this small extent the Judges, who were just as anxious as themselves to have identity of procedure. A good many of the other objections that had been made during the discussion were not of such a character as ought to interfere with the progress of the Bill. He hoped his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick would, in the interests of the people of Ireland, which were greatly involved in their having a cheap and uniform system of procedure, withdraw his Amendment, so that some progress might be made with the Bill in Committee. If not, he should feel it to be his duty to vote against him.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, it was unfortunate that the Bill should have been read a second time without discussion, because that course had necessitated a discussion at an inconvenient time. He thought, however, that both sides who had listened to the discussion would see that there was something of much greater importance involved than the mere question of a Schedule of rules and of procedure. It was surely a very striking circumstance that an hon. and learned Member who was, and he (Mr. Henry) said it without flattery, accepted throughout the United Kingdom as one of the first law authorities in the country, and who at the Irish Bar held, if not the very foremost place, yet held a foremost place in conjunction with only one or two others, that he should feel it his duty to come to the House and entreat the House of Commons to postpone the Bill, not on matters of detail, but on matters of vital prin- 352 ciple. He hoped hon. Members on both sides would listen to the appeal. He believed there was in Ireland an amount of money paid in litigation which was out of all comparison with that spent in England and Scotland. That did not proceed from the magnitude of the fees paid to counsel, because he had more than once said that the fees paid to Irish counsel were inadequate, but it arose from the enormous cost to suitors, owing to the shocking condition of procedure. It was said that there were too many Irish Judges, and though his hon. and learned Friend had shrunk from stating that such was the case, he defied anyone who had listened to his speech not to draw that inference from it. He asked the House and the Government to lay down the principle that the English system of Chamber practice should be established in Ireland. There were an immense number of influences at work, but if they were to take away from the Courts Chamber cases, it would be found a very difficult thing to keep up the number of Judges, as those cases represented a great deal of business. He was of opinion that no one who had ever bought property in Ireland or made an investment there had failed to find that, by hook or by crook, he became involved in litigation. There was a great deal of speculative litigation in Ireland. He once bought some fisheries. They were not large ones, but the moment he was in possession of them a claim was set up which continued seven or eight years. It could not be got rid of. He would, with the permission of the House, narrate the story. He bought in the Landed Estates Court some fisheries. When he was comfortably in possession a gentleman disputed his right. The gentleman asked the Landed Estates Court for a judicial declaration. The case was heard in the Landed Estates Court after very great difficulty, and the House might be sure that great anxiety existed amongst the parties to the suit. The Judge made very light of the matter, and said he would make a declaration of title in favour of his (Mr. Henry's) adversary's right of several fisheries. He said to his counsel, "You do not seem to be attending to the case." The reply was—"Never mind, his decision is certain to be reversed, whatever it is." The case then went before the Judges in Appeal, and 353 they did reverse the decision. In doing so they expressed themselves in strong language, and indicated that the judgment would not have been known in an English Court of Justice. They directed an issue should be tried before a jury. After innumerable difficulties it was so tried by a jury in the county, and the decision was in his favour. Of course there was an appeal. That appeal came before the Court of Exchequer in Ireland. It was heard repeatedly. Days were fixed on which the appeal was to take place, but on every occasion when he and other litigants went down they found the way barred by little cases, which ought to have been settled in Judges' Chambers. The case went on, he might confidently say, for three years. It was then finally argued out, and just as the decision was about to be given one of the Judges died. The Court then directed the matter to be argued all over again, in order that they might have the opinion of a newly-appointed Judge. It was accordingly argued over again, and one of the Judges discovered a mistake. Being a black letter lawyer he found that a particular word had been wrongly translated in a document, which did not, however, turn out to be of very great consequence. A new trial was directed, and the witnesses all collected at the Assizes, but he then found that it would be better to compromise the matter, and the other side was also willing to do the same. He consented to arbitration, and an arbitrator was appointed, who gave his decision, and he had to pay a great deal more than the whole fisheries had cost. The fisheries were bought for £1,400, and the expenses were not less than £8,000 or £9,000 for both sides. What happened then? A proposition from his opponent was communicated to him by his own attorney, and he replied by saying that he preferred everything should be settled by counsel, because he had no confidence in the attorney on the other side. His own attorney sent his letter to the opposite attorney, who thereupon brought an action against him (Mr. Henry) for libel, and laid the damages at £8,000. That was a very serious matter. He asked his own attorney if it was not a confidential communication, and the reply was—"Oh, yes; but I asked you if you had any objection to me telling him so." He had no objection, 354 and therefore the communication was sent. The action was tried. It was a tremendous one. He (Mr. Henry) was not called to give evidence. He was defended by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, and the learned counsel on the other side was annoyed that he was not called. While he was sitting down quietly in Court, the counsel of the other side began to abuse him and make comments on his personal appearance, pointing at him with his fingers. This was not stopped by the learned Judge; it was permitted. The jury returned a verdict that there was publication of libel, under the express direction of the Judge, and the jury returned a verdict of a farthing damages. Of course, in a very few days he was called upon to pay several hundred pounds of costs, and he did so at once. Then he came over to London. He met the right hon. and learned Member for Clare (Sir Colman O'Loghlen), who said that that was an extraordinary decision in your case. He (Mr. Henry) passed an Act through Parliament a few years ago providing that in any case in which an action was brought the costs should follow the damages—that was to say, your opponent having a farthing damages you ought to pay a farthing costs. He (Mr. Henry) said that was a new revelation. He caused a new application to be made, but the Judges said—"We believe it is so, but it is too late to remedy it," and it was not remedied. He had since found that the Act of Parliament had been overruled by technical regulations of the Judges themselves. The Act was consequently of no use. He asked if the House was going to leave to the Judges in Ireland the making not merely of the rules and deciding as to the procedure, but the settling of great principles. He asked the House to determine that the Court rules and procedure in Ireland should be assimilated to the rules in England, and thus to protect in some measure the unfortunate suitors, of whom he was only one example out of many.
§ DR. WARD
complained that notwithstanding the introduction of the Civil Courts (Ireland) Bill, by which it was proposed to cut down nearly half the judicial business so far as it was transacted by the Judges, the present measure would fix upon that country the existing judicial staff, which everyone 355 outside the Profession would admit was far too large for the work which it had to do. The real reason, he added, why there appeared to be so much legal business in Ireland was that a number of paltry, wretched cases came before the Courts there which in England were disposed of in Chambers. From the Returns it appeared that an ordinary English Judge sat on 205 days in the year between the hours of 10 and 4, whereas the average occupation of an Irish Judge was between 11 and 2 or half-past 2 o'clock, on 178 days in the year. The result of the Irish Judges having little to do and plenty of time to spare was that they were appointed to other posts and made Commissioners of Education, in which capacity their decisions were too often thought to be influenced by Party or religious considerations. At the time of the passing of the Church Act, for instance, Mr. Justice Lawson, who already received £3,500 as a Judge, was appointed a Church Temporalities Commissioner, with an additional salary of £2,000, and he was besides an Education Commissioner. As to the rules, they were the real essence of the Bill, but the framing of them had been left to the Irish Judges. With all due deference to the Irish Judges, he did not think they had so much reason to repose confidence in them and their public spirit and action as to trust the important matter of broad principle to them. There were, as he had said, too many Judges in Ireland. There were 20 Judges of First Instance against 24 in England; they were 12 Judges of Common Law against 18 in England. They had an Admiralty Judge and a Judge of the Court of Divorce. Practically they had two-thirds more Judges in Ireland—for doing what business? The total number of judgments in Ireland in 1872 was 4,481, whereas in England it was 23,554—exactly five times more. If they were to keep up such an enormous staff the Government would leave themselves open to the suspicion that they were keeping a great amount of patronage for unworthy motives, besides the system injured the Bar, and was prejudicial to the cause of public interest and public justice. He would urge the hon. and learned Member for Limerick to proceed with his opposition until he received some guarantee that the important power of 356 framing the rules should not rest with the Judges.
believed that the Judges in Ireland administered the law as carefully, as wisely, as impartially, and in as effective a manner as the Judges in England, no matter what politics or what religion might have brought them to the Bench. Indeed, it often occurred that Roman Catholics preferred to be tried by a Protestant Judge, because they thought the Judge would lean to their side in order to show that religion did not influence his decision. It appeared from the announcement made by the Irish Judges themselves that they would frame their regulations as much as possible in accordance with those in force in this country, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to see that effected, it appeared to him they were taking the worst possible course for the purpose.
§ MR. GIBSON
supported the Bill. The argument of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick was not one really against going into Committee, and he therefore urged on the Government to press forward the matter without delay. The English Act of 1873 empowered the Judges to make rules which were, in fact, fully prepared when the amending Act of 1875 was introduced, and were embodied in its Schedule, because otherwise they would not have come into full operation until six months later. As, however, no previous Judicature Act had been introduced with regard to Ireland, it would be necessary to entrust the Judges with the duty and responsibility of framing rules. When Mr. Justice Barry said he hoped the rules would be as closely as possible after the English rules, and when they found a Petition from all the Irish Common Law Judges on the Table to the same effect, he thought there was very little fear that the rules when framed would not be entirely in accordance with English precedent and English procedure. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Henry) had given them an exceedingly interesting narrative. It was true he had been unfortunate; but there was, they all knew, something not unpleasant in the misfortunes of one's dearest friends. But many people had managed to live in Ireland without ever having being involved in any litigation. It was very unfortunate that almost immediately the hon. Member put 357 his foot into Galway, that he should be involved in litigation. He must have bought a lawsuit. The moral to be adduced was, that a man should be very slow to buy a fishery in the county Galway. As for the Act, which laid down that the costs should not be higher than the damages, he might remark that it contained a clause enabling the Judge to certify that higher costs might be given; this power was exercised at the trial against the hon. Member for Galway, and the inference suggested was that the hon. and learned Member for Limerick did not look after the interests of his client. The statistics given by the hon. Member for Galway (Dr. Ward) had been often exposed, and did not throw any light on this subject. It was not fair to measure the work of the English Judges against the work of the Irish Judges, because the latter did all the work themselves, and were not helped like their English brethren by referees and abitrators. Indeed, the Irish people would not be satisfied unless their cases were tried with the fullest sanction of publicity in open Courts. With regard to the administration of justice in Ireland by the Judges, he believed it was above all suspicion. It was true that the Judges there, before their elevation to the Bench, had held political views and belonged to political parties; but when the judicial ermine was assumed, they administered justice in a way that won the confidence of the public and of the members of their own Profession—fearlessly, without favour, and without affection.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
thought that, whatever might be the merits of the Bill, its passing was endangered as long as the Government withheld any overture in regard to the objections which had been raised. If the Government would only give a pledge to consider these objections next Session, he thought he could say for his own political friends that they would not interpose any more obstacles in the way of the present measure being proceeded with.
said, it was exceedingly unfortunate that they were hampered in discussing the question by the fact that there had been no adequate discussion of the Irish Judicature system at any previous stage. There were great questions underlying the Bill which had 358 been kept out of sight. Where was the Civil Bill Courts Bill? They called for it. What had happened to that Bill? Why was it not brought forward before this measure? The English Judicature Bill was not passed until the English people had first secured to them a reformed County Court system. Why was not the same course followed with regard to Ireland? It was not until the basis of a County Court system was laid that the superstructure of a Supreme Court of Judicature could be built up. He could not understand the action of the Government in this matter, unless they were prepared to defend it on the principle of the Ulster Grand Jury a century ago, who having passed a presentment for a bridge, when told that there was no river at the place, said next year they would pass a presentment to give the bridge a river. There was no use in hiding the fact that there was a mutiny against Lord Cairns. When he attempted to deal with the Irish Judicial system, the hand of the Government was stopped, and the Civil Bill Courts Bill was put aside, not to satisfy public opinion in Ireland, but to placate certain powerful interests. Considerable dissatisfaction had been felt by the Irish Judges and Bar at Lord Cairns's proposals. He (Mr. Sullivan) was present at a public banquet, the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary was also there, and he advocated, not with bated breath and whispering humbleness, but with candour and honesty, certain reforms. He was dropped upon instantly, and he got a wigging on the very spot by one of the Judges. His Lordship plainly hinted that the Judges did not want their preserves poached upon by any Government, Whig or Tory. It was a dangerous thing for any Government to deal with. Why? Because it was confessed that the whole legal system was an anomaly. It was out of joint with the times. A Conservative newspaper, The Belfast News Letter, said that two-thirds of the Bar were Conservatives, and, as they had been kept out in the cold for 25 years by their enemies, they ought not to be kept out in the cold for the rest of their lives by their friends. An hon. and learned Gentleman on the other side had said that while the Irish Judges did their duty, the English Judges did not. Well, he had heard the same thing said before; 359 but it was rather strange that the English people did not seem to know it.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he cast no such imputation on the English Judges. What he did say was that much of the work for which the English Judges were credited was in reality to be ascribed to others—referees, arbitrators, and so on.
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had certainly stated that the Irish people would never consent to have their business administered in the way that the English business was done. The Irish Judicial establishment, tried by every test, was either greatly over-manned, or the English Judicial establishment was wholly inadequate. Various excuses were offered for this state of things. It was said that the Irish people loved pomp; but this plea he derided. The next argument was that the Bar wanted promotion. There were, he affirmed, at the disposal of the Crown in Ireland, of places, great and small, two for every three barristers who really practised. Lord Cairns went bolder at the system than others, but he was told to hold his hand. He (Mr. Sullivan) wished to see the Bar regarding the faithful and zealous discharge of its duties as the goal of its ambition, rather than the attainment of some scrap of Government patronage, or hankering after the nod of some Castle official. Because he had dared to advocate Judicial reforms an argument in Ireland had been used against him, and in order to make him unpopular he had been assailed in the Press and by his friends, because—so it was said—that as a Nationalist and Home Ruler he was bound to get for his own country the greatest possible sum out of the Consolidated Fund. But whether money obtained from that source was a curse or a benefit to the people depended on the use to which it was applied. It might be employed for purposes of corruption and intrigue; and if it was bestowed without honest value being given in return for it, it was a bribe. The Irish people only asked for strict justice, and that they had never yet received in regard to their system of Judicature. As Sir John Davies had said, the Irish loved nothing better than justice, and laws would lose their efficacy if they were not invested with the respect of the people. There was not, he believed, a Judicature in Europe more worthy of 360 respect than the Judges of Ireland on the whole were, both in their public and private character. But he nevertheless refused to trust them with the powers proposed to be given by that Bill, seeing that the House had not trusted the English Judges with those powers.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that having lately moved for two Returns on the subject, it occurred to him that hon. Members might wish to know on what grounds he had taken that course. He complained that by the Bill the House would be required to vote at the expense of the inhabitants of the whole of the United Kingdom for the Irish Judges a sum very much in excess of that which was necessary. The Returns he moved for were to bring out that fact. He had had no doubt of the fact himself, but the Returns, he thought, would bring it before the House adequately, and in small compass—in such a way that there would be no misunderstanding it. The last of the two Returns showed that there were 22 Judges in Ireland, who under the present Bill would be paid £83,000; that there was a Receiver at a salary of £2,500, a Master at a salary of £1,200, another at a salary of £1,400, and a third at a salary of £1,200. One would suppose from what hon. Members on the Conservative side of the House had said, that the Judges in Ireland had no assistants; but there were four assistants, who received £6,300 a-year amongst them. Adding this amount to the sum received by the Judges, it appeared from the Returns which had been supplied to him that the Judicial expenses, apart from the small expenses attending the Courts, was £90,000 a-year. Now, no one who inquired into the extent of the business in Ireland could suppose that to impose such a charge upon the taxpayers of the United Kingdom was anything but an injustice. This would be apparent on reference to the statistics with regard to Scotland. To perform that which devolved on the 22 Irish Judges there were only 13 in Scotland, and the amount paid them was only £42,300. No doubt, there was what were called separate branches of law in Ireland—that there existed several Courts which were not to be found in Scotland. They had the Court of Exchequer, and there was not such a Court in Scotland. Scotland had possessed a Court of Exchequer, and that 361 within his recollection; but it had been abolished, and the duties which were performed in it were thrown on the other Judges. In the same way the Court of Probate, the High Court of Admiralty, and the Jury Court had been abolished, and the work thrown on the remaining Judges. The House might think that just as they diminished the number of Courts in Scotland, they would have to increase the number of Judges in the Courts which were left, and that, therefore, there would be no saving. But was that really the case? By no means. After all these duties had been imposed upon the Court of Session in Scotland, instead of increasing the number of Judges, it was reduced by two. What they gave the Scotch Judges £42,300 for doing, by the present Bill they proposed to pay the Irish Judges £90,000 for performing. The expenditure was injudicious. The salaries of the Judges would only be increased slightly, he admitted, and he was not prepared to contend that the salaries of ordinary Judges were too large; on the contrary, he thought that the salaries which the Scotch Judges received—namely, £3,000 per annum—might very well be increased. That was not the question before the House, but it was that the Irish Courts were underworked, and if that were so, why should they not cut down the number of Judges before they increased the salaries? In Scotland there were a great many more mercantile cases heard than in Ireland, and the Judges were worked harder—having probably double the quantity of work to perform for less than one half of the pay—and it would, therefore, be unfair to carry out the proposal contained in the Bill.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH,
in reply, said, that the proposals with reference to the rules were not substantially different from those adopted in the English Act. The hon. Member for Louth spoke at length upon what he considered the excessive number of the Irish Judicial staff, and objected to the mode of dealing with them in this Bill. Now, the proposals for reduction in this Bill were considerable. With regard to the Judges, the Bill proposed to reduce a Judge in the Court of Exchequer, one in the Court of Common Pleas, and one in the Admiralty Division, and an important legal official, the 362 Receiver Master in Chancery. It moreover proposed measures by which considerable reduction might be effected in what he might call the excrescences which grew up around the Judicial Courts when they were divided into separate divisions, and which, when these Courts were amalgamated, it would no longer be necessary to retain. These would be substantial reforms, and, he confessed, it was strange to him that the hon. Member, and those who agreed in wishing for greater reforms, should obstruct the progress of a Bill which, at any rate, did something to effect their object, merely for the idea that it did not go far enough. That was the surest way of preventing all reforms whatever. The hon. Gentleman complained that the Government had not pressed forward the Civil Bill Courts Bill. That Bill was introduced at an early period of the Session in common with the Highways Bill and the Valuation Bill. It had hitherto failed from want of time to obtain the attention of the House; but he must say there had been other reasons why it had been found impossible as yet to proceed with it. Not the least of these was the fact that a right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) gave Notice of his intention to move that it should be read that day three months, thereby preventing any stage of the Bill being taken after half-past 12, and then absented himself in Ireland almost for the time he mentioned in the Notice of Motion. He hoped to have an early opportunity of proceeding with that Bill, of the importance of which he was fully conscious. He felt bound to say, however, that the enthusiastic support which it had received in the course of the debate from hon. Members opposite came somewhat late in the day. If such expressions of opinion had been heard earlier in the Session, they would have had their weight with the Government and the House, and the Bill would probably have made substantial progress. The Bill now before the House came down from the House of Lords. It had been carefully sifted by those competent to deal with this great question, and in the fusion of law and equity it was a necessary supplement of legislation already on the Statute Book with reference to England. In other matters it proposed a real and substantial reform in 363 the direction that hon. Members opposite desired; and he trusted that the House might now be allowed, after spending four or five hours in almost unnecessary discussion, to proceed with the Bill in Committee.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that this duel in the House between the Judicature Bill and the Civil Bill Courts Bill seemed to represent a fight between the barristers and attorneys and the general public of Ireland. He certainly thought the Civil Bill Courts Bill was deserving of consideration as conferring great advantages on the general public. He thought the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Limerick raised a thoroughly pertinent issue. It really was preposterous that this House should delegate to any number of Judges its authority to settle what should be the law. The rules of procedure ought to be settled in that House. He agreed with the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) that the Scotch Judges got about half as much money as the Irish Judges, and did quite as much work. He should vote for the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 244; Noes 76: Majority 168.
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. MELDON
asked leave to say that if the Government did not adopt the principle upon which the House had just divided the fault would be theirs if the Bill were lost. He suggested that the Government should agree to introduce into the Bill in Committee a provision that the rules of procedure should be considered by the Irish Judges and then submitted to Parliament for approval. The date at which the Bill came into operation could be altered very conveniently to November, and thus what he proposed could easily be done.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUNKET)
said, the provision in the Bill at present was that the rules should be laid on the Table of the House, and he was quite prepared to say that if his hon. and learned Friend proposed such an Amendment as he now suggested in Committee—namely, to alter the time at which the Act should come into operation so as to give Parliament the opportunity of first reviewing 364 the rules of the Judges, the Government would be glad to consider it, of course on the understanding that the Bill was allowed to pass this Session.
§ MR. BUTT
said, he would not conceal from the Government that on going into Committee he intended to set about trying to remedy the great grievance inflicted on the administration of justice in Ireland in the last division by bringing forward a series of Amendments, clauses which would go as far as the Act of 1873, in laying down the principles necessary to guide the Judges in the preparation of the rules.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
thought the Bill ought not to pass until the Civil Bill Courts Bill had been considered.
§ MR. LAW
pointed out, as to the complaints made in connection with the Civil Bill Courts Bill, that no good would be done to anybody by the passing of that Bill as it stood, without any adequate provision for an official staff to assist the Chairman. Before they passed the Civil Bill Courts Bill they must make up their minds to supply something better in that respect than was attempted by the Clerks of the Peace and Crown Bill which the Government had introduced, but appeared to have abandoned.
§ SIR COLMAN O'LOGHLEN
was also of opinion that the Civil Bill Courts Bill, while containing important provisions, would not in its present state meet the approbation of the House. It had nothing to do with the Bill before the House.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
doubted whether the discussion was in Order, and would point out that it was impossible to proceed with two or three measures at once. He would therefore suggest that the discussion of the Civil Bill Courts Bill should be left for the proper time, and that the House should go into Committee on the Bill which was before it, when the Government would be prepared to give the most favourable consideration to any proposals which might be made by any one possessing such knowledge on the subject as the hon. and learned Member for Limerick.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. O'Connor Power.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
regretted the Government should be met by a Motion of the kind. He appealed to the House, seeing that the whole morning had been devoted to discussing the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, and that a division had been taken on it, to allow the Speaker to leave the Chair, which would be an important step in advance, although, of course, the Committee could not at that hour be proceeded with.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he would do what he could to facilitate the progress of the Bill if the Government agreed to the course he had already proposed, and postponed the date at which the Bill was to come into operation.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUNKET)
said, the offer of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) was of little avail when the Government was met by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick with a threat to continue to divide upon rules proposed in Committee.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 6; Noes 210: Majority 204.
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ And it being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, further Proceeding thereon stood adjourned till this day.