HL Deb 19 March 1861 vol 162 cc14-6

rose to ask what measures Her Majesty's Ministers intended to propose to Parliament this Session for the amendment of the courts of law in Ireland, and the better administration of justice; and to move for returns of the expenses of the Irish courts of law. His excuse for calling attention to the subject was, that he saw no signs that the Government was disposed to take the matter into their own hands; and he thought that, in this respect, Ireland had been greatly neglected. It ought to be the policy of every statesman to draw Ireland and England as closely together as possible in the administration of the law. But at no time since the accession of the House of Hanover to the Throne had there been so great a divergence between the laws of the two countries as at the present moment. In the common law courts of Ireland the suitors were placed at a greater disadvantage than the suitors in the courts of England, and a great amount of public money was wasted in the judicial establishments in Dublin. In England many important reforms in the administration of the law had been well considered and finally passed; but that was not the case with regard to Ireland. It was wonderful how few improvements had been made in the administration of the law in Ireland for many years. Only one great improvement had been introduced—the establishment of the Encumbered Estates Court—and that was forced upon Parliament by the unfortunate condition of Ireland. It produced much individual hardship, but, on the whole, had proved highly beneficial to the country. But that was essentially an improvement in the system of Equity. There had been no important change in the administration of the common law of Ireland except the Bill, called Mr. Whiteside's Act, passed in 1825. And that Bill was passed with very little consideration. It was brought into the House of Commons in the middle of June; there was no discussion on the second reading, and on the third reading many most important clauses were proposed that had only been printed on the same morning. Exception was taken to this, and the Bill was postponed only for one day, and the clauses were then finally passed sub silentio. The Bill came before their Lordships in the end of July. It contained 200 clauses, affecting the whole practice of the law courts of Ireland; but not a word was said upon the Bill, except on the second reading on the 26th of July. It was on that occasion said that the Bill introduced into Ireland changes that had been found to work well in England; but this was exactly what that Bill did not do. From that time no changes had been made, and the practice of the Irish law courts had remained untouched. The proportionate expense of the Courts and their officers was much greater than that of the English Courts. The total number of orders made in Chambers by the Judges of the common law Courts of England during a year was 45,458, and it was only in 2,763 of the eases in which those orders were made that there was an attendance of counsel. In Ireland, the poorer country, the total number of Chamber Orders made during the same period was 2,305, and there was an attendance of counsel on all but twenty-two of the cases. In 1851 the number of case-judgments in the three courts of Ireland, the Queen's Bench, the Exchequer, and the Common Pleas, was 7,229; and, independently of the salaries of the Judges, the cost of the courts was £17,759. In 1860 the number of case-judgments had fallen to 3,375, while the cost of the courts had risen to £22,329. Surely some change was required when this state of things was found to exist; and he thought that by assimilating the Courts of Procedure in Dublin to those of England a great public saving would be effected as well as great economy of suitor's money. The noble Marquess concluded by asking, What measures Her Majesty's Ministers intend to propose to Parliament this Session for the Amendment of the Courts of Law in Ireland and the better Administration of Justice: And moved for Return showing the Amount paid for Salaries in the Common Law Courts in Dublin in the Tear 1851; and a similar Return for the Year 1860: Also, Return showing the Amount of incidental Expenses of the Common Law Courts in Dublin paid by the Treasury in the same years respectively: Also, Return of Case Judgments entered in the same Courts in the above-mentioned Years respectively: And also, A Return of the number of Cases unheard before the Encumbered Estates Court on the 1st of March, 1860, and the 1st of March 1861, respectively. The last return was not in his Notice, but he hoped there would be no objection to produce it.


said, there was no objection whatever to the Returns which the noble Marquess had given notice of his intention to move for; and he apprehended that there would be no objection to that for which the noble Marquess had asked, but which was not in his Notice. At the same time he (Earl Granville) wished to reserve to himself the right to move that the last part of the Order be discharged, in case there might be any difficulty in respect of the Return relating to the Incumbered Estates Court. With regard to the general subject the noble Marquess was mistaken in thinking that it had escaped the attention of the Government. The subject had been under the consideration of the Government, and was one which was worthy of every attention.

Motion agreed to.

Returns ordered to be laid before the House.

House adjourned at a quarter-past Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.