HL Deb 18 July 1856 vol 143 cc1022-5

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


in moving the third reading, expressed his opinion that the object of the measure was of a most useful character. As a person connected with Ireland, and aware of the difficulties which this measure had had to encounter, he wished to state that nothing could exceed the zeal, ability, and personal courage with which these Commissioners had executed the important task intrusted to them. More had been done by this new Court in six years than had been effected by the Court of Chancery during the space of half a century. One ninth part of the whole country of Ireland had changed hands without any blemish or fault in the proceedings, unless it were in one case only, where the value concerned was £25. Not less than £18,000,000 of money had been awarded, out of which sum £15,000,000 had been actually received. As an Irish proprietor he felt deeply indebted to the Commissioners for the manner in which they had discharged a great public duty.

Moved, that the Bill be now read 3a.


said, that he viewed the Bill with great regret. He did not deny that the law which the Bill was intended to continue had done great good to Ireland; but that was the very reason why the Court should not be continued for two years, and for two years only. Laws such as those should not be allowed to continue exceptional and temporary, but should be incorporated in the permanent legislation of the country. If this could not be done, it would be better that the law should cease altogether. There was nothing now exceptional in the state of Ireland; it was in a state of great order. It was time to arrive at a state of normal law with regard to the property of the country. It was not right that men who had not overencumbered their estates should be placed at a disadvantage with those who had. What he could have wished would have teen a different Bill—one to enable the present Court to wind up its business, which it would take only one or two years to settle, and not to allow any further petitions to be received by it. There ought to be some explanation as to the continuance for two years. He did not blame the Government in the matter—the Bill was founded on the report of Commissioners and arose from the contests of legal men, who had prevented the Government from carrying out its intention. This exceptional court ought to be suspended, and they should come to a fixed measure, not only with regard to the incumbered property, but with regard to all the property of Ireland. The Bill affected not only land but mortgages. He knew that one-third of the property bought in the Incumbered Estates Court had been paid for by borrowed money, and there were some cases in which the purchaser had not paid a single shilling, and some in which they were giving eight per cent for the money they borrowed. If this were so, it clearly defeated the object which the Bill was intended to accomplish. And there was, moreover, this consequence—that any one with an incumbered estate, who wished to raise money, could not do so, without paying enormous interest. With respect to the practice and procedure of the Court itself, he admitted that on the whole the Court and those who presided over it deserved the thanks of the public; but he could not agree in the unqualified approbation which had been expressed by the noble Marquess who had just sat down. There were not wanting instances of considerable importance to prove that the Court was not altogether faultless; while in matters of minor details there had been an irregularity and uncertainty—not to use the more popular expression, caprice—which were perhaps incidental to a Court so hastily and so imperfectly constituted, but which nevertheless were much to be regretted. The fact was that the real estates of Ireland required a permanent law and a permanent Court to deal with them, and he hoped that the Government would give an assurance that at as early a period as possible they would introduce a measure of that nature.


concurred with his noble Friend that the principle of having an exceptional Court was extremely objectionable. On that account Her Majesty's Government, at the commencement of the Session, introduced three Bills, the great object of which was to make the Court perpetual—not confining it to incumbered estates, but giving it jurisdiction with regard to the sale of estates generally. Those Bills were introduced in the other House of Parliament, and were subsequently referred to a Select Committee. Great difference of opinion prevailed in the Committee, and the result was that they disapproved of the establishment of a permanent tribunal, mainly, he believed, because the Judges were named Vice-Chancellors, there being a vulgar prejudice against anything connected with the Court of Chancery. The Commissioners, however, reported in favour of the continuance of the Incumbered Estates Court. He confessed it would be much more satisfactory to his mind that that Court should be made a permanent institution of the country, and not be treated as an exceptional Court. He was happy to find that there was nothing in the present state of the landed property of Ireland to render any exceptional legislation of this kind justifiable. Although he could not exactly pledge himself to any particular course, he might say that the Government would be actuated by the same feelings as he had expressed, and that the matter would not escape their attention and consideration. It was, he thought, marvellous that so few errors had been committed during the progress of the transactions of the Court. There were only one or two cases in which the decisions of the Court had been called in question, and whether rightly or wrongly was yet to be ascertained. But even if the Court were wrong in those two cases, he thought that they could hardly express a greater tribute of praise to the proceedings of any court or tribunal than to say that in the course of its seven years of business, involving transactions amounting to £18,000,000, there were only one or two cases in which the decisions of that Court had been called in question. If their Lordships assented to the third reading he would suggest an Amendment, which would make the Act to expire contemporaneously with the next Session of Parliament, instead of the 28th of July.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 3a accordingly, and passed.