§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ On Question, "That the Preamble be postponed,"
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he had risen before the right hon. Gentleman left the Chair with the view to offering some observations upon this Bill, and also with the intention of dividing the House against it. He would not charge the Speaker with having intentionally neglected to see him; but he felt he had reason to complain, that in consequence of the right hon. Gentleman having left the Chair he was precluded from taking the course he had intended. He would consequently move that Progress be reported. In his opinion, this Bill really was not required. It was founded upon some idea that Ireland ought to follow England in an amendment of the Judicial system; but so far as he could make out the English Judicature Bill had proved an entire failure. He thought, at all events, that the Bill for Ireland might have been postponed till the experiment had been tried longer in England. Those in charge of the Irish Business of the Government would have displayed more intelligence if they had pressed forward the County Courts Bill, which was a measure greatly needed, and which really provided Courts for the poor man, in preference to the present Bill.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
thought it was only due to the right hon. Gentleman who presided with such dignity and fairness over the House to say that the House had actually given its assent to the Question that he leave the Chair before the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) rose. ["No, no!"] While the right hon. Gentleman was leaving the Chair the hon. Member was moving up from his place, and the Speaker was justified in assuming that he was going to speak upon a question in Committee.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
said, he was quite confident that the right hon. Gentleman (the Speaker) had no intention of preventing discussion on this or any 33 Bill introduced into the House, nor, he need hardly say, had the Government. He pointed out that the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) would have every opportunity of discussing the measure, and on the Question now before the House, that the Preamble be postponed, it was quite competent for him, or for other hon. Members, to make any observation, on the general scope of the Bill. This was not the first occasion on which the Bill had been introduced into the House. It was now the third year, and he did not think it unreasonable in him to assume that the provisions and policy of the Bill were before hon. Members from Ireland. As to the working of the English Judicature Act, he thought the hon. Member was wrong in stating that it was an entire failure. The discussions which had taken place in the House, and the views expressed by the hon. and learned Members for Taunton (Sir Henry James) and Durham (Mr. Herschell), did not show it to be so. As far as he had been able to find out the arrears of business were far less than at any former time; while a shorter time than formerly now elapsed between the commencement of a cause and its final conclusion. As to the Irish County Courts Bill, he was most anxious to promote its passing; but it was a Bill the discussion of which would occupy a long time. It had not been long before the House, whereas this was the third Session the present Bill had been before the House. The Government could hardly hope to pass the County Courts Bill except they had considerable time at their disposal; and, therefore, although he had no desire to postpone legislation on the subject, he hoped that the House would, under existing circumstances, proceed with the consideration of the measure not before it.
§ MR. BIGGAR
wished to disclaim any intention of imputing unfairness to the Speaker, but to point out that immediately the Question was put from the Chair he rose, and, in the only way it was possible for him to call attention to the fact that he had risen, addressed the Speaker. Considerable confusion had, no doubt, prevailed in the House at the time, in consequence of hon. Members leaving the House after the debate on the Prisons Bill. He did not want unnecessarily to obstruct the present Bill; 34 but he thought they ought to have some explanation of its provisions from the Attorney General.
§ MR. MELDON
said, no Member was more strongly convinced than himself of the inutility of this Bill. It really was not wanted at all, and it was the unanimous belief among both branches of the legal Profession in Ireland that things were well enough without any change. He did not, however, think it was of any use opposing it; because it was quite out of the question that the Government would allow things to remain as they were in Ireland after the great change which had taken place in England. If a change was to take place, it was desirable that it should be effected as soon as possible, and that an end should be put to the present state of uncertainty, which was so injurious both to the Profession and the public. For his own part, he thought that the Government were much to blame for not having pressed on this Bill rather than the Universities Bill and the Prisons Bill. Although he was strongly opposed to the Bill, he would, therefore, urge his Colleagues not to obstruct its passage, which he regarded as inevitable. Anything would be better than the continuance of a state of things in which no one knew where he stood, or what he had to expect. Once over, he believed that the Judicature Act would work better in Ireland than in England; because in the former country the Profession were conversant both with Common Law and with Equity, and because, owing to the smaller amount of business, the Judges could take more time to see how a new system should be worked.
§ MR. PARNELL
objected to being deprived of the opportunity of addressing the House on the Question that the Speaker should leave the Chair. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) that there were defects in the present state of Judicature in Ireland; but he did not consider that the Bill would remedy those defects, and he should therefore oppose the passing of the Bill. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had had an Amendment for some weeks on the Paper to oppose the Bill being considered in Committee, and that Amendment he (Mr. Parnell) intended to support; but the Amendment had disappeared from the Paper, and when the hon. Member 35 went to the Clerk at the Table to inquire why it had been omitted, he was told that some Gentleman came to him and told him that he had the hon. Member's authority to withdraw the Amendment, and so it was not inserted in the Paper. The absence of the Notice was, no doubt, the reason why the attention of the Speaker was not directed to the hon. Member. They were not placed in a position of opposing the Bill, as they would have been had the Amendment not been got rid of; and unless the Attorney General for Ireland would consent to replace them in the position in which they were before, he (Mr. Parnell) should feel bound to offer the Bill an opposition which in the present state of Public Business would render its passing simply impossible. He should, therefore, support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cavan, and if that were negatived he should himself make another.
§ DR. WARD
said, that it was an extraordinary thing for the Government to ask the House to assent to a Bill which would commit the House to the maintenance of an excessive Judicial Staff in the Superior Courts in Ireland at the very time they were promoting a County Courts Bill, which would greatly diminish the amount of business now before the Superior Courts, and was confessedly inadequate to occupy their time. He should, therefore, under present circumstances, feel it his duty to oppose the Bill now before them.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, the Irish Courts had been in the habit of shaping their decisions on the jurisprudence of this country, and, therefore, he hoped this Bill would be allowed to pass as a small instalment of justice to Ireland. It would be felt as a very great grievance by many.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
said, he was quite sure that the general desire of the Committee was to have a full discussion on the Bill. He thought also that the hon. Member for Cavan would admit that the Government were justified in supposing that the hon. Member had no intention of pressing the Amendment which he had put down on the Paper after it had disappeared from the Paper. He understood that after the Speaker had left the Chair the rule was that any hon. Member who had a Notice of Amendment on the 36 Paper was entitled to be called upon by the Chairman before it would be possible for the Bill to be re-committed. He therefore thought it was obvious that such a proposal as that now made could not be listened to. What was the position of the hon. Member for Cavan? The Question was, that the Preamble be postponed, and on that Question there was, to a certain extent, an opportunity of discussing the principle of the Bill. There was, of course, another Motion, which the hon. Gentleman was at liberty to make—namely, that the Chairman should leave the Chair, or that Progress should be reported. As those two opportunities were open to the hon. Member, he thought it was not unreasonable for the Government to ask that they should now be allowed to hear the objections which were taken to the Bill itself.
§ MR. SHAW
could not understand why the English Law Bills had not been pushed forward, especially as no opposition had been offered to them by the Irish Members. He thought that if the County Courts Bill and the present measure were referred to a Select Committee composed entirely of lawyers, who would be able to mould them into shape, there would be no difficulty in passing both Bills this Session.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
thought the County Courts Bill deserved prior attention to this Bill. He considered that in Ireland, at the present time, the Judges were fully worked; but when the change of taking away some of the inferior business out of their hands was carried out, he was very much mistaken if a considerable reduction of the number of Judges in the Superior Courts would not be possible.
§ MR. HERSCHELL
remarked that there were always professional prejudices when new measures were proposed. Since the introduction of the English Judicature Bill a very great saving of time had been effected in carrying causes through, and the Irish people would be getting a real advantage if they got this Bill passed.
§ MR. BRUEN
thought that the hon. Gentlemen who objected to this Bill being taken before the County Courts Bill had had ample opportunities, if they had chosen, of bringing the question before the House.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
said, he 37 perfectly sympathized with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) with respect to the County Courts Bill; but, at the same time, the Government were very anxious that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. It stood as an Order for Thursday, but was objected to by the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) and two others, so that it could not be considered after a certain time. He therefore hoped that the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) would withdraw his opposition to the present measure, which was really necessary to acomplish several reforms in the Irish Judicial system.
§ MR. MELDON
did not think that a reference of the County Courts Bill to a Committee would do any good, because they could not provide a proper staff for the working of the Act.
§ MR. GRAY
said, he did not intend to discuss the merits of this proposal; but he had always understood that that House was exceedingly jealous of its privileges, and of the privileges of what were called private Members. It appeared to him that something like a wrong — an unintentional wrong, perhaps—had been done to a private Member. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had put a Notice on the Paper. It seemed that by some means his Notice had been removed without the hon. Member's knowledge or consent. He had no doubt whatever that the removal was accidental; but the effect of the removal had been to the prejudice of the hon. Member, and this prejudice had been done through no default of his own. Certainly, it appeared to him that the proper course to pursue under the circumstances would be to re-commit the Bill, and he thought the hon. Member had a moral right to insist on that being done. If that should be refused him, and the hon. Member should to any extent use obstruction afterwards, it would be within his moral right. If the Government suffered any inconvenience afterwards through not conceding the request of the hon. Member, then the Government would only have itself to blame for what would happen.
§ MR. BIGGAR
thought there was not sufficient time to pass the Bill this Session, and, therefore, the Government ought not to proceed with it.
38 It being now ten minutes to Seven of the clock, Committee report Progress: to sit again upon Friday, at Two of the clock.
§ The House suspended its sitting at Seven of the clock.
§ The House resumed its sitting at Nine of the clock.