HL Deb 17 July 1877 vol 235 cc1384-7

inquired of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, What progress had been made in the revision of the Irish statutes? It was a work in which he took some interest, and he believed it was of importtance both to the practice of the law and the satisfactory administration of justice that statutes which were obsolete and useless should be removed from the Statute Book. The work of revision was of present value, and would be of very great advantage in the future, by facilitating the consolidation of the statutes and the codification of the laws relating to Ireland. As far as the English statutes were concerned, the work had made satisfactory progress; but in Ireland, he regretted to say, very little had been done. The Bill which he had the honour to introduce in 1872 provided for the revision of the Irish statutes only to the reign of Henry VII.—the year 1494—and there remained still some 40 or 50 statutes to be dealt with. Since 1872 nothing had been done in the matter. In 1875 another Bill was introduced, which, if it had passed, would have brought down the revision to 1726; but that Bill was not proceeded with, and during the last two years nothing more, as far as be knew, had been done. He wished, therefore, to know from his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, what progress had been made, and what were the intentions of her Majesty's Government on the subject?


said, he would willingly give his noble and learned Friend all the information he possessed. He must, however, point out that the question really related to the Acts of Parliament of Ireland previous to the Union. Legislation since the Union, of course, under the head of Imperial legislation, had been dealt with by the proceedings for the revision of the Imperial statutes. His noble and learned Friend was quite accurate in saying that the revision of the English statutes, although not yet quite complete, had made very considerable progress towards completion. The revised statutes had been actually published down to the year 1856; and that, of course, would include the legislation of Ireland as well as England since the Union. There came then the question of the ante-Union statutes. His noble and learned Friend had told their Lordships the Bill he introduced in 1872 revised those statutes down to the year 1494—certainly a very distant day—and there it stopped. The year before last a second Bill was brought into the other House proposing to bring down the revisal of the ante-Union statutes to a still later date. The Bills for the revision of the Imperial statutes were generally introduced in that House and sent down to the House of Commons, and it had been the habit of Parliament to place confidence in those entrusted with the work, to take the Bills on trust, and to pass them without examination. In point of fact, examination of measures such as these would be utterly impossible by Parliament. The Bills went into such minutiae that they must be taken on the faith of the draftsman, or the work could not be done at all. Parliament had, therefore, accepted the Bills upon the faith of those who had introduced them. In regard to the Bill introduced in 1875 providing for the revision of the Irish statutes, a different course was adopted. The Bill, after it had been read a second time, was met first by a Motion to refer it to a Select Committee. Their Lordships, of course, did not require to be told that a Select Committee with such a Bill before them would have found their skill and energy taxed to the utmost. The Bill was also met by an Amendment raising the question of the policy of revising certain statutes. There again, he did not need to remind their Lordships that if a revision Bill was to be made the subject of controversy as to the bearing of the statutes it dealt with, a very wide area of discussion would be opened up. The result of these Motions was, that the Bill had to be abandoned. Now, he could assure his noble and learned Friend that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and the Law Officers of the Crown were extremely desirous that the revision of the Irish ante-Union statutes should continue; but, at the same time, he felt bound to point out that, if a revision Bill was to become the subject of hostile discussion, it would, have little or no chance of passing, because—however important it might be in a certain sense, other Bills would always have precedence of it. In fact, the chance of a Bill of that kind passing depended upon its being unopposed. If it were opposed, it was scarcely possible but that it should have to make way for other measures I of a more pressing nature. That was the position of the question to which the noble and learned Lord had directed the attention of the House.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half-Past Ten o'clock.