HL Deb 14 May 1861 vol 162 cc2047-9

, in moving for returns respecting the Salaries, Retiring Allowances and Business of the Common Law Courts of Ireland, said, that similar returns had already been ordered in the other House of Parliament, and, therefore, he did not contemplate any objection would be made to the papers for which he asked being laid on their Lordship's table. He should, therefore, not have said a word in bringing forward his Motion, but that he had ascertained it had been insinuated elsewhere that he was actuated by personal motives in the course which he was taking. No precise charge, indeed, had been made against him, and even if such had been the case, he thought he could show their Lordships that he was proceeding on public grounds alone. Leaving, therefore, personal considerations out of the question, he should, with the permission of the House, advert to that which was more important—the circumstance that an attempt had been made to stifle discussion on the question to which he was about to draw attention by asserting that Ireland justice was cheap and easy. He was, he might add, sorry to perceive that it had been stated by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland, in dealing with that question, that legal reforms were costly, while a right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside), speaking on the same subject, remarked that he no sooner heard such reforms mentioned than he asked himself, "Who wants a place?" He was sorry that any such feeling was entertained, but he thought it ought not to be entertained, because the right hon. Gentleman himself in 1859 brought forward a Bill affecting judgments in Ireland, and that Bill contemplated the constitution of a new place with the abolition of four or five others. He, however, had made no insinuation about motives, but only stated that the public interest required investigation, either by a Committee or through a Commission, but he preferred the former as the cheaper and more expeditious mode of proceeding, believing that the matter could be disposed of by a Select Committee in the course of six or seven days. Let their Lordships compare the judicial establishments of England with those of Ireland. He might state without fear of error that the population of England exceeded 16,000,000, and the amount of property on which the income tax was levied was £246,000,000. In Ireland the population now exceeded 6,000,000, and the property on which the income tax was levied amounted to £22,000,000. But what was the ease with respect to the judicial establishments? England had nine superior equity Judges and fifteen common law Judges. Ireland had ten superior equity Judges and twelve common law Judges. When the amount of property not taxed to the income tax and the infinite variety of incidents which led to law proceedings in England were considered, the disparity was still greater. He understood that it had been said in "another place" that the law business in Ireland was increasing; but he could produce figures to show that the law business was happily decreasing, while the expense of the law courts unhappily was increasing. It appeared by returns he moved for a few months ago, that, taking the two periods of 1851 and 1860, there had been an increase of expense in the latter period in respect to the three superior common law courts in Dublin amounting to £4,432, while the decrease of judgments entered was 4,280, or more than one-half. He thought that this was a matter which called for inquiry. The business of the law courts of Ireland was decreasing, so much so that they complained they had not wherewithal to employ them. The last term ended on Wednesday. The Queen's Bench had finished all the after-term business on Saturday. The after-term business in the Court of Exchequer consisted of three cases, of which one was settled, one was referred to arbitration, and the Judges said of the third that it ought to have been brought into a Quarter Sessions Court. The business in the Landed Estates Court had greatly diminished. For the first three years—1852, 1853, and 1854—there were 1,305 cases in the court. During the last two years and a half the number of cases, instead of being five-sixths of the above, was only 416. Another misfortune and injury to the public arose from the little attention which had been paid to the cause of law reform in Ireland. No one could doubt that it was a sound policy on the part of this country as far as possible to assimilate the law and practice of the two countries. If a Committee were appointed to sit on the question it would soon appear how much tendency there had been of late to divergence in the legislation of England and Ireland. The noble Marquess concluded by moving for Returns of Salaries and Compensation to Officers of the said Courts, of Plaints, Rules and Posteas; of References to the Masters, and of Incidental Expenses.

Motion agreed to. Returns ordered to be laid before the House.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter before Five o'clock.