§ Mr. Emerson Tennent
The Bill which he had now to move for leave to bring in was substantially framed upon the principle and provisions of the Act for the amendment of the law in England, passed in 1833, and which embodied the recommendations of the commissioners appointed some years before, to inquire into the common law. That Act was so highly approved of in principle, that it passed both Houses of Parliament almost without alteration, and certainly without opposition, and in practice it had been found to realise all the advantages anticipated from it. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Attorney-general, who introduced it in the Commons, pronounced it to be a bill which "would do more to simplify the law, and to render justice cheap, than any Act that had ever before been passed;" but when urged to extend it to Ireland by several Members, amongst others the learned Member for the county of Galway, it was found, independently of the fact, that some of its provisions being not altogether applicable, that it embodied regulations with regard to pleadings so different from the practice in 565 Ireland, that it was impossible to extend it without material alterations. In the bill which he proposed to introduce these alterations had been carefully made, and the provisions which he had retained were all such as would be most beneficial, and would, he trusted, meet with the concurrence and approbation of the House. He had introduced into it one provision which was not to be found in the English Act, with regard to personal actions for the recovery of arrears of rent and annuities reserved by specialty. By an Act passed in the same year, 3rd and 4th William 4th, c. 27, the limitation for the recovery of these by action was fixed at six years, but without any provision for cases of acknowledgment in writing, or by part payment, or for cases of disability in plaintiff or defendant. Some doubts existed as to the applicability of this clause in certain cases, and, in order to remove them, he proposed to fix the limitation at six years (which was in conformity with a recent decision in the Exchequer of Ireland, that of "Bruen v. Nolan"), and also to provide for the exceptions he had just alluded to. Without troubling the House with any minute details, he would very briefly state the most important of the other points provided for in the bill. One of them was to prevent the abatement of actions on joint contract, in consequence of the non-joinder of parties either resident beyond the jurisdiction, or whom, by reason of insolvency or other similar causes, it would be unavailing for the purposes of justice to include, and also to regulate the costs in such cases. Another object of the bill was to provide writs in certain cases for successful parties who were not entitled to them, as in the case of actions by executors and administrators who were not now liable, and also in that of special juries where costs were now given under certain limitations only where a verdict has been returned. The bill would likewise render executors and administrators liable to an action of debt on simple contract, and would enable them also to recover arrears of rent accruing in the life of the testator by distress upon the lands. It provided also for facilitating the proof of deeds and other documents, and for materially lessening the trouble and expense of doing, so, and under certain restrictions it provided for the admission of the evidence of parties interested in 566 the verdict, but whose testimony was at present inadmissible on the trial. It also empowered the Judges of the superior courts to direct issues in certain unimportant cases to be tried by the assistant barrister of the county where the action was brought, and it gave in such cases a speedier process for the entering of judgment, thus at once reducing the expense and expediting the course of justice, and even a more important provision was, that which went to enable the parties, when agreed upon a statement of facts, to obtain the opinion of the court upon them, which would be tantamount to a verdict, without incurring the delay, the trouble, and the costs of an action or an amicable suit. Another most important power which an English jury now possessed, and which he (Mr. E. Tennent) wished to see conferred upon an Irish one, was to enable them to find a verdict for the interest upon a debt as well as for the principle, provided a demand should be made of the debtor, and notice given him that interest would be claimed from the date of that demand. At present no such power existed, and a merchant or a trader was thus deprived even of interest upon that portion of his capital entrusted to his debtor, which in his own hands might have been producing a return beyond it. The bill would likewise provide for the facilitating of settlements by means of arbitration, a process which was beset with many difficulties at present, and would give a power to arbitrators to summon witnesses, and to examine them upon oath, which they did not now possess. These were the chief objects embraced in the bill, the every clause of which was designed to render the process of law more expedient, and materially to diminish the trouble and the cost of obtaining justice. With its minor details he would not now trouble the House, but would move for leave for its introduction.
§ Leave given.
§ Bill brought in and read a first time.