§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH)
226 As the Bill I now ask leave to bring in is a very short Bill, and also an urgent Bill, I wish to explain the reasons both for its shortness and its urgency, in the hope that hon. Members may permit it to become law at an early date. The Bill is introduced in consequence of the existing vacancy in the Chief Justiceship of the Common Pleas in Ireland. In the English Judicature Act power was taken, by Order in Council, to abolish the offices of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and to fuse the three Divisions of the High Court into one. In the Irish Judicature Act no such power exists; but it is generally admitted, I believe, that what was done in England ought also to be done in Ireland. It would be a step in the direction of economy, but it would also be a more valuable step in the direction of efficiency; because by fusing the Divisions in Ireland the Judges in which are few, there being only three in the Common Pleas and three in the Exchequer, you would enable Courts to sit for business, when sometimes now, owing to the Divisions, the Court cannot be formed, and consequently you would make a change of great advantage to suitors. The Bill is confined solely to these objects. Unless it becomes law soon, it will be impossible to maintain the present position; because if there be no Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, the remaining Judges of the Common Pleas will practically be often, from ill-health or from other causes, unable to form a Court, and there will be no one to do certain duties which, under statute, appertain to the Chief Justice of Common Pleas. Therefore, the position, if this Bill does not pass, and if the office of Chief Justice is left unfilled, will very soon become impossible. I hope that the House will allow this Bill to pass rapidly for the reasons I have named; and I am bound to say that if it should be delayed by opposition, or by an endeavour to attach to it other reforms, however important, in the Irish Judicature, we shall be compelled, in order to secure the proper performance of justice in the three High Courts in Ireland, to fill up an office which by this Bill we desire to reduce, as a like office in England has already been reduced.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
From an economical point of view, I should be very glad if we could do away entirely with one of the Irish Judges; but, as I understand the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, it is to appoint an ordinary Judge in the place of the Chief Justice of Common Pleas. The Irish Judges are underworked, and, therefore, I think the proper thing to do is to abolish this Judgeship altogether, and then to carry out the reforms which the right hon. Gentleman suggests.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH and Mr. JACKSON.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 1.]