§ (Mr Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ SECOND READING.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, this Bill was down for second reading for the first time; and, under the circumstances, he believed it was competent for him to block it. He did not wish to block it for himself, but on behalf of the hon. Member for Louth; and he should not continue to do it when the hon. Member, who was at present absent, returned to London. The hon. Member had telegraphed to him requesting him to block the Bill.
was sorry it was the desire of some hon. Members to discuss the measure, but hoped they would not 662 persevere in pressing it on. The Bill was only printed on Saturday and delivered this morning, therefore there had been hardly any time to consider it. The matter, altogether, was one of little moment, and should not be brought on for discussion at that hour of the morning—1.30 A. M.—therefore he would formally move the adjournment of the debate, which would enable the Attorney General for Ireland to speak now without interfering with his right to address the House on the second reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Gorst.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, the measure was identical in terms with the Bill which had already been before the House five times, therefore he thought it was unreasonable to stop its progress on the ground that it was too late an hour to discuss it. If this were the first time the Bill had been submitted to the House, he would not have objected to the course taken by hon. Members; but such was not the case. The subject was introduced by Lord Cairns when he brought in the Irish Judicature Act of 1876; and the noble and learned Lord, drawing a contrast between the Bankruptcy Law of England and Ireland, pointed out that there was a Bankruptcy jurisdiction in every County Court of England, whilst there was only one Bankruptcy Court in Ireland, and said that it was desirable that Bankruptcy Courts should be established in some of the principal centres of industry in Ireland. He thought it desirable that a measure should be passed as soon as possible, and in 1878 the Irish Attorney General brought in a Bill—
§ MAJOR NOLAN
I rise to Order. I wish, Mr. Speaker, to have your decision on this point. The first time a Bill is put down for second reading, is it not competent for an hon. Member to block it?
§ MR. SPEAKER
This is an Order of the Day; there is no Notice of Opposition on the Paper, therefore the right hon. and learned Gentleman can go on.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, the measure was first of all brought in in 1878, again 663 in 1879, next in the first Session of 1880, a fourth time in the second Session of 1880, and now, for a fifth time, it was brought in this Session; whilst the measure had been four times passed by the House of Lords, being approved of by the late and present Lord Chancellors of Great Britain, as well as by the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland. A number of hon. Members representing the commercial centres of Ireland had been anxious to see the measure pressed forward last Session; but there had been the same kind of opposition to it then as there seemed to be now, and at the close of the Session the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant withdrew it, as he (the Attorney General for Ireland) believed, on the understanding that it would be brought in again this Session, read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee. The large Provincial towns of Ireland wished the measure to be passed, and he thought the House was inclined to favour it; and the Government were prepared, directly the present stage was passed, to send it to a Select Committee, as arranged last year. He hoped the House would not yield to the opposition sought to be raised by a few lawyers, who resisted the measure merely on professional grounds.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. P. MARTIN
, so far as he personally was concerned, desired to deny that this proposed measure was opposed on professional grounds. He objected to the measure because he believed it wholly overlooked the interests of small traders and farmers in all other places in Ireland except the centres named in the Bill. Th Bankruptcy Code in Ireland was in a very confused and unsatisfactory state. A most desirable opportunity now presented itself for the permanent reform of the system in Ireland in the Bankruptcy Bill for England before the House. They ought not to have one Bankruptcy Law for England and another for Ireland; but there should be one complete and perfect Code for the two countries. He (Mr. P. Martin) said that everyone should know that one of the great disadvantages of the Irish law at this moment was that, in point of fact, by the Bankruptcy Amendment Act passed in 1872, the local jurisdiction theretofore vested in the Chairmen 664 of the several counties in insolvency matters was taken away, so that small creditors in the different Provincial towns of Ireland were deprived of the means of recovering debts under jurisdiction analogous to the Law of Bankruptcy. In England there were Provincial Bankruptcy Courts, and he thought that the Attorney General would do well to introduce a Bill which would facilitate the recovery of debts and arrangements with creditors in the several counties in Ireland by conferring on the present County Court Judges a jurisdiction limited in amount and extent. This Bill inforced no such principle. The Government sought to perpetuate an old and vicious system, and, in seeking to do that, they would purchase the silence of Belfast by giving it a local Court of Bankruptcy, and in the same way they sought ingeniously to deal with Cork, and to silence its opposition by giving it, also, a Court of Bankruptcy. But the people of the greater part of Ireland were to be deprived of the means of getting their debts, to please, forsooth, the merchants of Belfast and Cork, with whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it appeared, had made some sort of arrangement, for the purpose of facilitating the passing of the Bill. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman's own constituents and the Cork merchants would deem it convenient to have a local Court in which to settle their little difficulties, and to aid them in the process of whitewashing; but he hoped the House would not listen to their one-sided appeal. Let the right hon. and learned Gentleman devote a little of the time at his disposal, either to the preparation of a Bill such as he suggested, so as to extend, for the general benefit of Ireland, such of the provisions of the new Bankruptcy Code as were valuable, and to amend the present complex and confusing Acts in force in Ireland. If a Bankruptcy Act was to be passed its benefit ought to be extended all over Ireland. Therefore, he trusted that the House would not allow this Bill to be hurried through that night, and that it would accede to the Motion he now made.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, in rising to second the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, he did not intend to go into the merits or demerits of this particular measure, inasmuch as it had only been delivered to him that morning. 665 Indeed, he had been informed by one hon. Member interested in the question that the Bill had not even then been delivered to him. For that reason alone, he thought they were fully justified in asking for an adjournment, and that no further Progress be made until there had been time sufficient for full consideration of the measure. He found that the Bill proposed to create a number of new offices out of money to be voted by Parliament. That was a question which concerned both English and Irish Members. Then it proposed to give compensation to certain parties in Dublin for any part of their business taken from them by the operation of the Bill. It seemed to him preposterous that large monetary engagements should be entered into at half-past 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, without the slightest explanation whatever being afforded by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the second reading of the Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had pointed out that similar Bills had been introduced in former Sessions of Parliament; but he took very great care not to give the least hint to the House with regard to the creation of the new offices which he asked to be created under the Bill. It appeared to him a very curious thing that the House should be asked, as a mere matter of form, to commit itself and the country to a very large expense. He, therefore, cordially seconded the Motion for adjournment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Patrick Martin.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that certain representatives of large trading interests in Dublin had waited upon his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland and himself with reference to this subject. They had pointed out that there were no Bankruptcy Courts in the large towns in Ireland, and that all Bankruptcy business had to be transacted at great inconvenience and expense in Dublin. A stronger case, in his opinion, could not have been made out. The hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. P. Martin) had also pointed out that other towns were similarly situated, and it was precisely that argument of the hon. Member that made the Government think that the Bill could be 666 very properly sent to a Select Committee. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) said that very little notice had been given of the Bill. But he ventured to say there was no Gentleman in the House interested in the question who did not know the Bill by heart. The hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) had opposed the Bill rather strongly last year, but seemed to welcome the idea that it would be considered by a Select Committee. The Government were sometimes taunted with not considering Irish interests; but it seemed to him they could not show their wish to do so better than by saying—"Here is a Bill which has been brought forward year after year, it is very influentially supported in Ireland, and all we ask is that it should be placed in a position that will enable it to be fairly considered by a Select Committee representing the different interests concerned." He did not see how any proposal to remedy what had been alleged to be a grievance in Ireland could be more fairly made; and he trusted that hon. Members opposite would allow that consideration to weigh with them.
§ MR. R. POWER
said, he rose to oppose the Bill because it did not apply to Waterford. He was at a loss to understand why Londonderry, Galway, and Limerick should be included and Waterford omitted from the Bill. The latter had quite as much claim to be inserted as the other places; and he objected to its exclusion in favour of Londonderry, amongst other reasons, on account of the Representatives which Londonderry returned to the House. But he objected to the Bill on higher grounds. It really meant the establishment of unequal laws. The Government proposed to bring in one Bill for England and another for Ireland. Both were entirely different in their character, and the result of this legislation would be that a few years hence there would be agitation amongst the people of Ireland, and Irish Members would come to that House and ask for equalization of 667 the laws. If Her Majesty's Government proposed to establish Bankruptcy Courts in Londonderry, Galway, and Dublin, why, he asked, did they not also propose to place them in every large town in Ireland? But he was quite prepared to admit that a Bankruptcy Bill was most necessary in Ireland at the present time. The opposition which the Bill had met with from lawyers was certainly a very significant fact. For his own part, he looked with a certain amount of suspicion upon any Bill that was entirely opposed by lawyers, and especially by Dublin lawyers. The present Bill would, of course, put into the hands of the lawyers in the towns named therein the practice and fees of the lawyers who resided in Dublin. The opposition of the latter was, therefore, perfectly intelligible to him. He had already stated his reason for opposing the second reading of the Bill; but he trusted that Her Majesty's Government would render further opposition unnecessary by including Waterford in its provisions.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he rose simply for the purpose of supporting the second reading of the Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 9; Noes 57: Majority 48.—(Div. List, No. 203.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. and learned Member that no Notice is necessary in the case of a Motion of this kind.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Select Committee.