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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 1 Mar 1956

Vol. 154 No. 8

Statute of Limitations Bill, 1954—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The object of this Bill is the consolidation and amendment of various enactments relating to the limitation of legal actions and arbitrations. I propose to give a general survey of the law governing the limitation of actions and to indicate what the Bill sets out to do in the way of amending and tidying up of that law. To facilitate a study of the Bill which is in many respects a very technical one we decided to provide explanatory sidenotes indicating the existing statutory provisions and rules of law being consolidated, amended or repealed. On page 4 of the Bill Deputies will see a legend showing the short method by which each statute is referred to in the sidenotes. The provision for the first time of explanatory sidenotes is, we hope, an innovation which will be welcomed in Bills of this type where an easy reference to the existing law is very helpful in making up one's mind as to the desirability of the changes being made in the law and the necessity or otherwise for other changes. The sidenotes will not, of course, appear in the Act if and when it becomes law.

The policy of fixing a period of limitation for legal actions has, since the 17th century, been incorporated in the statute law and the rule of equity that people who sleep on their rights should be prevented from enforcing them is of very long standing. The purpose of prescribing limitation periods has been said to be the prevention of the rearing up of claims at great distances of time when evidence might very often be lost, the quieting of possession so that after a certain fixed period the possessor may know definitely that his title and right cannot be called into question, and, finally, the restriction of interminable litigation.

In this country reliance must often be placed on the law of limitation in order to vest the legal estate in the owner of land for the time being, particularly as people in many cases do not take out administration on the death of their predecessors in title. It is now generally considered that, though in some cases a statute of limitation may be used to defeat a perfectly just claim, where, say, a debt is clearly due, a plea of the statute is a meritorious one; and this is because the plaintiff must have been slow to enforce his rights, far slower, indeed, than the prudent man would be. A plea of the statute is not for this reason thought to be comparable with a plea of the Gaming Acts or even of the Statute of Frauds (which statute, like the Sale of Goods Act, demands evidence in writing in certain transactions). These latter enactments may be used to defeat plaintiffs who are not in default of any kind.

The term "the Statutes of Limitation", or the Statute of Limitations", or, more shortly, "the statute" is applicable primarily to various general Acts which deal with the limitation of the main classes of action. The most important of these Acts are, firstly, the Common Law Procedure Amendment Act (Ireland), 1853, which is concerned with what are called common law actions or actions for contract and tort and similar actions, and, secondly, the Real Property Limitation Acts, 1833 to 1874, which deal with actions relating to land or money charged upon land. It should be noted that, whereas the 1853 Act bars the remedy but leaves the right intact, the Acts of 1833 to 1874 bar both the remedy and the right. Hence a plaintiff who is owed a statute barred debt is fully entitled to it if he can obtain satisfaction otherwise than by legal proceedings, but where a plaintiff seeks to recover land his title to the land is extinguished after the expiration of the statutory period.

Where A owed B money on account of a number of debts some of which are statute barred and some not, and pays B money, which is not appropriated to any particular debt, B may appropriate the money to a statute barred debt. If, however, A is in undisturbed possession of B's land for 12 years B's title to the land is extinguished and he cannot recover it by any means. The distinction between barring the remedy and the right and barring only the remedy is an important one and has a significant result as regards procedure. In an action to recover land the defendant need not plead the Statute, it being sufficient to plead that he is in possession by himself; but in claims other than claims to recover land the Statute must be pleaded. In cases where the statutory period has apparently fully run the plaintiff may, nevertheless, succeed by proving that the right of action has been kept alive by acknowledgment or part payment by the defendant, or that the period must be extended in consequence of the plaintiff's disability by reason of infancy or lunacy or in consequence of concealed fraud on the part of the defendant.

The term "Statutes of Limitation" is also used to cover a great number of enactments scattered over the statute book which deal with special statutory classes of action. Such enactments are the Fatal Accidents Act, 1846 (now replaced by the Fatal Injuries Act, 1956) which deals with actions for the benefit of relatives of a deceased person killed by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another; the Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment Act, Ireland, 1860 (known as Deasy's Act), which deals with actions by an ejected tenant for restitution of possession; the Maritime Conventions Act, 1911, which deals with actions to enforce a claim or lien against a ship or the owners thereof; the Industrial and Commercial Property Act, 1927, which deals with actions for infringement of copyright, the Moneylenders Act, 1933, which deals with actions by moneylenders in respect of money lent; the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1934, which deals with actions by workmen for compensation for injuries arising out of and in the course of their employment; the Merchant Shipping Act, 1947, which deals with actions against carriers or ships for loss or damage, etc. One of the best known of these enactments concerned with special classes of action was the Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893, which was repealed by the Public Authorities (Judicial Proceedings) Act, 1954.

The Bill now before the House does not deal with any of the special classes of statutory actions I have mentioned. It is in fact confined to the general Statutes of Limitation which I dealt with at the beginning, the most important being, as I said, the Irish Common Law Procedure Act of 1853 and the Real Property Limitation Acts of 1833 to 1874.

I now propose to go through the Bill in some detail in order to explain to the House as well as I can the various provisions and the background of these provisions. The Bill covers a very large number of matters and is in many respects highly technical. I trust the House will bear with me while I attempt to give some indication of the proposals contained in the different sections and explain certain provisions which at first glance may not be clear to the layman or to a person studying for the first time the law as to the limitation of actions. Though the Statutes of Limitation impinge very much on the transactions of the general community, the law requires in a number of respects a specialised study in order to become fully conversant with its many ramifications and effects in particular cases.

Part I (Sections 1 to 9) is the preliminary and general part. Under Section 1 the new Act is to be entitled the Statute of Limitations, 1956, and the statute is designed to come into operation on 1st January, 1957. The expressions "Statute of Limitations" and "pleading the Statute of Limitations" have been used for a very long time and we propose that these expressions continue to be used. It may be necessary if and when we come to the Committee Stage to provide for the postponement of the date of commencement still further. The reason for allowing a fairly substantial period to intervene between the passing of the limitation legislation and the date of its coming into operation is to ensure that "anyone whose period of limitation otherwise might be shortened" will be "afforded time within which to start his action and safeguard his right".

Section 2 is the interpretation section. "Action" will include any proceeding in a court of law; the Bill will not apply to criminal proceedings. "Conventional rent", "rent-charge" and "rent" are being defined. Annuities payable to the Land Commission are rent-charges. "State authority" will mean any Minister of State, the Commissioners of Public Works, the Land Commission, etc. Deputies will note that provision is made for foreclosure in sub-section (2). Since the Bill was prepared, however, it has been drawn to our attention that because of a leading case in 1914 a reference to foreclosure is misleading in this country because foreclosure is, according to that decision, unknown in Ireland. The action here was and is an action claiming the sale of the land. It will accordingly be necessary at a later stage to have sub-section (2) of this section deleted and also to have certain changes made in that portion of the Bill dealing with mortgages.

Section 3 provides for the application of the Act to State authorities. At present State authorities are not bound by the ordinary Statutes of Limitation on the old common law doctrine that time does not run against the King. This means that whereas the State may and does in practice plead the Statute, the Statute may not be pleaded against the State. We considered that this was an unjust and inequitable principle and all the more so in a country which prides itself on being a democracy. In the case of land there was an exception to the common law rule provided for in what are known as the Nullum Tempus Acts which began in Ireland with the Crown Claims Limitation (Ireland) Act, 1808.

Under the Statutes the period of limitation of actions by the Crown (now the State) to recover lands was 60 years. Since the Crown Lands Act, 1906, the period of 60 years also applies in Ireland to quit rents or other perpetual rents. Annuities payable to the Land Commission are not, of course, quit rents or perpetual rents and the position in regard to all rents payable to the commission was doubtful until the 1939 Land Act, which in Section 6 provides that moneys payable to the Land Commission shall have, and save as regards tithe-rents, shall be always deemed to have had the like rights, privileges and priorities as are conferred on moneys to which Section 38 (2) of the Finance Act, 1924, applies. In other words, they have the like rights as moneys payable to the Crown formerly had and, accordingly, the Statutes of Limitation do not apply to them.

A similar provision is made for moneys payable to the Minister for Defence in Section 311 of the Defence Act, 1954. The relevant provisions of the Finance Act, 1924, the Land Act, 1939, and the Defence Act, 1954, are being repealed in so far as they are inconsistent with the proposed legislation. The Bill does not apply, however, to proceedings by the Revenue Commissioners for the recovery of taxes and duties or fines, etc., incurred in connection with such taxes or duties. In the case of customs duty there is already a period of limitation of three years laid down in Section 257 of the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876, and under the Excise Act, 1848 (Section 3), the period is six months for excise duty. There is now no period of limitation for income-tax.

Section 4 excludes proceedings in respect of the forfeiture of a ship. These proceedings were formerly governed by Section 76 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, which did not prescribe any period of limitation, and the law has not been changed under Section 90 of the Mercantile Marine Act, 1955. Where, for example, a ship unduly assumes Irish character, or conceals Irish or assumes foreign character, or an unqualified person assumes ownership of the ship, the ship or the ownership therein, as the case may be, becomes liable to forfeiture to the State under Sections 13, 14, and 22 of the 1955 Act.

Section 5 which is a re-enactment of Section 27 of the Real Property Limitation Act, 1833, provides that nothing in the proposed legislation shall affect any equitable jurisdiction of the courts to grant relief on the ground of acquiescence or otherwise. Acquiescence means conduct from which a waiver of his rights will be attributed to a party or by which he will be estopped from taking proceedings later. In such a case the party will not be allowed to succeed even though the limitation period has not expired. The old courts of equity always refused aid where the party had slept upon his right and acquiesced for a great length of time. They also refused aid in a case where, though no period was applicable, it would have been inequitable to give relief after a long period of delay. This was known as the doctrine of laches. The provisions in Section 5 simply continue the application of the equitable doctrines in regard to acquiescence and laches to limitation cases.

Under Section 6 of the Bill, where a set-off or counter-claim is pleaded, the set-off or counter-claim shall be deemed to be a separate action for the purpose of fixing the limits of the limitation period applicable; and the date until which the Statute runs against such set-off or counter-claim will be the date of the beginning of the action in which the set-off or counter-claim is pleaded. At present the position, where the Statute is pleaded to a set-off or counter-claim, is that time runs against the set-off until the beginning of the action in which it is raised, but it runs against the counter-claim until the date when the counter-claim is pleaded. The section will, therefore, bring the law of limitation as to a counter-claim into line with the law as to set-off.

Section 7 provides a saving for other limitation enactments and thus the periods of limitation prescribed in these enactments (some of which I have already mentioned) are preserved. The section makes it specifically clear that the proposed legislation will not apply to any action coming within any of these enactments where a State authority is a party.

Under Section 8 any action barred before the operative date (the 1st January, 1957) will continue to be barred except in so far as it may be revived by acknowledgment or part payment. The new Act will also not affect any action (or the title to any property involved in any action) commenced before the operative date.

Section 9 is the repeals section. The existing statutory enactments, stretching back over 200 years, which govern the general law of limitation and which are listed in the Schedule are being repealed.

Part II of the Bill—Sections 10 to 37 —sets out the various periods for different classes of action and proposes, as far as is considered desirable, to prescribe uniform periods for all similar classes of action.

Section 10 provides that this part of the Bill is to be subject to the later provisions in Part III, relating to the extension of the limitation periods in case of disability, acknowledgment, part payment, fraud and mistake.

Section 11 deals with what are called common law actions, namely, contract and tort actions and other similar actions. Under sub-section (1) the period for all simple contract actions will be six years as at present; for actions on recognisances, and actions to recover any sum (other than a sum by way of penalty or forfeiture) recoverable by virtue of any enactment the period will also be six years whereas it is 20 years at present. In tort actions, other than personal injuries and slander actions, the period will, under sub-section (2) (a), be six years.

Six years is now the period in all tort actions except actions for assault, menace, battery, wounding, and imprisonment which have a limitation period of four years, and actions for slander per se where the period is two years. Sub-section (2) (b) provides that personal injuries actions for negligence, nuisance or breach of duty shall have a limitation period of three years only instead of the present four years, not six years, by the way, as is stated in the sidenote. This is a fairly important change of the law.

Roughly half of all actions coming for trial are personal injuries actions. The period of three years will apply whether or not the action is against a State or other public authority, whereas before the repeal of the Public Authorities Act, 1893, the period was six months from the act, neglect or default of the public authority and is at present four years from the date the cause of action arises irrespective of the date of such act, neglect or default. Deputies will have noted that the period in fatal cases arising under the Fatal Injuries Act is also three years.

All slander actions will have a limitation period of two years whether actionable per se or not—sub section (2) (c)—whereas at present in slander other than slander actionable per se, that is, slander which requires proof of special damage, the period is six years. We considered that there should be a uniform period for all types of slander but that it should be a shorter period than that provided for in libel and other torts. I might mention that in Britain the period for all types of slander is now six years. We felt, however, that this precedent ought not to be followed. It must be very seldom, indeed, that slander actions are brought after two years. Further, a person's recollection of the exact words spoken in a particular instance is likely to be uncertain as time goes on: in the case of libel there is a permanent record.

Sub-section (3) deals with actions for an account, and the present period of six years is not being altered. In an action on an instrument under seal a period of 12 years is proposed instead of the present 20 years—sub-section (4) —and 12 years as at present (with six years in the case of interest) is also to be the period in actions upon judgments—sub-section (5). Actions for penalties (other than fines) will, under sub-section (6), continue to have a period of two years. As penalties for the non-payment of duties and taxes under the care and management of the Revenue Commissioners do not come within the Bill and as the non-payment of such duties are in reality criminal offences, the only field of operation of sub-section (6) will be penalties recoverable by the person known as the common informer. Section 11 will not apply to admiralty actions where the jurisdiction of the High Court is enforceable in rem or against the ship, but it will apply to ordinary actions to recover seamen's wages—sub-section (7). The section will also not apply to actions claiming equitable relief such as specific performance and injunction, but the court may apply the section by analogy in the same way as Statutes of Limitation are at present applied.

In former times, the old courts of equity might act in obedience to a Limitation Act in which they were not expressly mentioned, and, when an equitable proceeding was closely analogous to one at common law, the courts of equity held themselves bound by the Act. Courts of equity might also act by analogy to the Limitation Act, and, in such cases, though the Act did not absolutely bind these courts, they adopted it "as a rule to assist their discretion". Thus, in some cases, where there was a close analogy, the courts of equity acted in express obedience to the Act, whereas, in other cases, where there was merely an analogy, they acted in obedience simply. The inclusion in the Bill of cases not formerly within any limitation enactment (for example, cases against constructive trustees such as executors and administrators) means that, where a court formerly acted in obedience to a Statute of Limitation, it will in future have to act in express obedience to it.

Section 12 of the Bill deals with the limitation of actions in the case of successive conversions and is a new provision in the law. The section proposes, in sub-section (1), to amend the law by providing that, in the case of a further conversion or detention, no action may be brought in respect of such further conversion or detention after the expiration of six years from the accrual of the cause of action in respect of the original wrongful conversion or detention. At present, when the same chattel is the subject of separate acts of conversion or detention, the fact that the Statute has run in favour of the first wrongdoer does not bar an action against a second or subsequent wrongdoer.

Sub-section (2) also amends the law, so that, where the limitation period for bringing an action for conversion or wrongful detention has expired, the title to the chattel concerned shall be extinguished: under the existing law only the right of action is barred. Conversion is an unauthorised act which deprives another of his property permanently or for an indefinite time, and the action is one for damages. Wrongful detention arises where one person detains the property of another, and the action is one for restitution of the property. The right of action for conversion arises on the doing of the unauthorised act, whereas the right of action for wrongful detention arises when a demand of the owner has been wrongfully refused.

Section 13 of the Bill deals with the limitation periods in actions to recover land by a State authority and by a person other than a State authority. In actions to recover land, except foreshore, the period of limitation for a State authority is to be 40 years instead of 60 years as at present, but in the case of actions by an ordinary person the period will continue to be 12 years. I might mention here that the period in Britain in the case of the Crown is 30 years since 1940, but there since 1926 a vendor of land on an open contract is obliged to show only 30 years' title, whereas here under Section 1 of the Vendor and Purchaser Act, 1874, he must show 40 years' title. Prior to 1874 the period was 60 years in both countries, hence the period of 60 years under the Nullum Tempus Acts in actions by the Crown to recover land. We now propose to reduce this latter period to 40 years so as to equate it with the period laid down in the 1874 Act for open contracts of sale of land.

The effect of sub-section (3) is to allow a person to prescribe (that is, to acquire title by exclusive user) against the State in respect of a period before the 6th December, 1922, or the 29th December, 1937. Thus, where a person remains in possession of land belonging to the State, as successors to the Crown, from, say, 1910, he may reckon the period from 1910 for the purpose of acquiring title by prescription. The position in law is somewhat doubtful at present. We think it only fair, however, that, where a person has been in exclusive and uninterrupted possession of former Crown land for 20 or 30 years before 1922, he should get the benefit of the interest he has acquired up to 1922. Deputies will remember that a provision in the State Property Bill, 1954, providing that a person could not prescribe against State property for any period before the 6th December, 1922, was deleted by Government amendment in the Seanad and the deletion was subsequently agreed to by this House. The period in the case of actions by the State to recover foreshore will continue to be 60 years.

Sections 14 to 17 deal with the date when the right of action to recover land is to be deemed to accrue in various types of cases such as present interests in land, future interests in land, etc. In other words, the sections lay down what is to be taken as the earliest date in each case when an action may be brought, and it is from this date that time is to run. The sections consolidate existing statutory provisions.

Section 18 provides that time is only to run where there is what is called "adverse possession," and the meaning of this term is defined to cover all cases of possession (against the owner) of some person in whose favour the period of limitation can run. Sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) put existing rules of law into statutory form. Sub-section (4) (a) makes non-payment of the rent by a person in possession of land subject to a rent-charge adverse possession of the rent-charge: and under sub-section (4) (b) receipt of rent by a person wrongfully claiming the reversion of land under a lease with an annual rental of not less than £1 shall be deemed to be adverse possession of the land. Both provisions alter the existing law.

Section 19, which is a rather technical section, provides for the cure of all defective disentailing assurances, and extends the provisions of Section 6 of the Real Property Limitation Act, 1874, which section replaced Section 23 of the Act of 1833. The existing statutory provisions are confined to cases where the purported disentail fails only to bar the interests of the remaindermen taking effect after the estate tail.

An example will illustrate what the object of the section in the Bill is. Where land is granted to A (usually designated the Protector of the Settlement) for life, then to B and his issue in tail, with remainder to C and his issue on the failure of B's heirs, B, with the consent of A, may, under the Irish Fines and Recoveries Act, 1834, by a deed enrolled in the High Court bar his own heirs and the remaindermen, C and his issue. When A dies, B will then get an estate in fee simple, and before A dies he can dispose of his interest to X who, when A dies, will then get the free simple. If, however, B does not get the consent of A, the deed simply bars B's heirs but not the remaindermen, C and his heirs, so that on failure of B's heirs, C and his heirs will obtain the estate. In such a case the deed creates what is known as a base fee. By reason of Section 7 of the 1874 Act, when such a fee is created, if B disposes of his interest in the land to X, and X enters into possession and remains in possession for 12 years after A's death, the title of X becomes absolute against any person claiming the estate as a remainderman. Therefore, after the 12 years, C or his heirs cannot in any circumstances oust X. But if B does not enrol the deed in the High Court his heirs are not barred, and Section 7 of the 1874 Act does not protect his disposition or assurance of the land to X, as the section only applies where a base fee properly so called has been created.

At one time it was thought that any defective disentailing assurance was protected, but the courts decided otherwise. The section of the Bill will apply, however, to any defective disentailing assurance made by a person capable of disentailing, not only where a base fee is created barring the issue but not the remaindermen but also where the assurance is ineffective to bar either the issue or the remaindermen. In other words the section proposes to protect X's interest in all cases where he has been in possession for 12 years after A's death.

It is to be noted that, under Section 42 (2), the operation of Section 19 may be excluded by an acknowledgment. Where X, the person in possession, acknowledges the title of the person to whom the right of action accrues (that is, within 12 years of A's death, admits that B's issue or the remaindermen (C and his issue), as the case may be, are entitled to the land because the disentailing assurance has not barred them) Section 19 does not apply. Where this happens, the acknowledgment revives the cause of action and the 12-year period runs against the person whose title is acknowledged from the date of the acknowledgment.

Section 20 which provides that no right of action is to be preserved in respect of formal entry on or continual claim to any land, Section 21 which provides that possession of one joint-tenant, etc., of land is not to be deemed possession of the others, Section 22 which prevents possession of a younger brother, etc., of land being deemed possession of the heir, and Section 23, which provides that administration shall date back to the death of the owner, reproduce existing statutory provisions.

Section 24, which also reproduces an existing statutory provision, is an important section in that it provides that, in the case of land (which includes a rent-charge on land), the title to the land shall be extinguished after the expiration of the period of limitation. Thus, where land is concerned, the right is extinguished when the remedy is barred. In other cases, such as in actions to recover ordinary debts, only the remedy is barred. I dealt with this matter earlier on, and I mention it again because I want to stress that it is very necessary to keep it in mind in examining the provisions of the Bill.

Section 25 deals with equitable estates in land and land held in trust. Sub-section (1) applies the provisions of the Bill in regard to legal estates to equitable estates. The sub-section is, however, to be read subject to Section 37 which prevents any period of limitation applying to an action by a beneficiary to recover trust property or the proceeds thereof in the possession of the trustee. Trustee in possession, because they hold the property for the benefit of and not adversely to the beneficiaries, cannot plead the Statute against the beneficiaries and we propose to continue that position. Sub-section (2) deals with the case of a stranger taking possession of land held by a trustee for another person. The stranger will be entitled to plead the Statute when he has been in possession for 12 years as his possession is adverse possession. Where the period of limitation for bringing an action by the trustee against such stranger has expired, sub-section (3), which is new to our law, provides that the estate of the trustee shall not be extinguished so long as any action of any beneficiary has not accrued or been barred. Then sub-section (4), which is also new, goes on to provide that the trustee may bring an action against the stranger on behalf of any beneficiary whose right of action has not been barred, notwithstanding that the ordinary right of action of the trustee himself has been barred.

The effect of the sub-sections, (3) and (4), is to suspend the operation of Section 24, so long as the right of action of any person entitled to a beneficial interest in the land or the proceeds of sale either has not accrued or has not been barred. Thus, where one beneficiary (A) is an infact at the time a stranger takes possession of the land, the right of action of such beneficiary does not accrue until he reaches the age of 21 years. The stranger by that time may have obtained a perfectly good title against the other beneficiaries due to the expiration of the 12-year period. The trustee may, however, still recover the land on behalf of A and, when he recovers it, he will hold it upon trust for A and the stranger, because the latter has acquired the interest of the other beneficiaries by lapse of time.

At present, a stranger obtains the legal estate subject to the interests of the beneficiaries except in the case of a trust for sale where, when the trustee's estate goes, the trust apparently goes also. We now propose that in all cases the estate remain in the trustee as long as there are any beneficiaries not barred, but this is only for the purpose of allowing the trustee to sue and recover the property on behalf of the beneficiaries who are not barred, but not on behalf of the other beneficiaries who, being barred by lapse of time, lose their title to the stranger.

Sub-section (5) prevents any kind of possession of land by one beneficiary under the Settled Land Act, 1882, or under any trust for sale from being adverse to the trustees or to the co-beneficiaries. In other words, a beneficiaries cannot acquire a title against the trustees or against the other beneficiaries by mere lapse of time, no matter whether the possession might under existing law be deemed adverse. At present, if the beneficiary can prove that he entered adversely to the trustees, time will run in his favour. One of the objects of the Bill is to ensure that a trustee or beneficiary in possession may not successfully plead the Statute against the beneficiaries not in possession in any type of case. The relationship established by a trust is a particular type of relationship and should receive particular treatment. A trustee or beneficiary has a specialised position which would allow him to take unfair advantage of other persons who have interests in the property if the law did not give those other persons proper protection.

Section 26 retains in sub-section (1) the existing period of six years in actions to recover arrears of a rent-charge but the term "action" here does not include proceedings under the Land Act, 1927, which are proceedings by the Land Commission to obtain from the sheriff possession of a holding which they have put up for sale and not sold. The Land Commission, as Deputies may be aware, have the powers of sale of a mortgagee and, where they are entitled to sell land or where land which they are entitled to sell has not been sold, they may be put in possession of the land. Sub-section (2) corresponds to a similar sub-section in Section 25, and its object is to ensure that the right of action of the beneficiary to secure payment of arrears of a rent-charge where the land is vested in the trustee shall be deemed to have first accrued at and not before the date the land is conveyed to a purchaser for valuable consideration and then only against the purchaser. The right of action never accrues against the trustee which means that he cannot ever pelad the Statute.

Under Section 27 the period for arrears of a conventional rent is also to be six years in every case. At present, if there is a lease under seal the person to whom the rent is owed can sue on the indenture and recover 20 years' arrears. Section 28 prevents the Land Commission from recovering more than six years' arrears of annuities on a warrant issued by them under the Land Act, 1933. This warrant is issued to the county registrar or sheriff. The warrant will, under the Bill, remain in force for six years and no longer.

Section 29 deals with actions to recover arrears of dower or damages in respect thereof and continues the existing period of six years. The right of dower is the right of the widow, where the husband dies intestate, to a third part of the husband's real estate for her life. Section 30 to 34 deal with actions in respect of mortgages.

The intention of Section 30 was to provide that an action claiming foreclosure was to be deemed an action to recover the land and not an action for the recovery of the money which it was at one time thought to be. As I mentioned earlier when dealing with Section 2, it has now come to our notice that legally there is no such thing as foreclosure in Ireland. So we propose, when Committee Stage is reached, to have Section 30 deleted and a new section inserted providing for an action by a mortgagee of land claiming the sale of the land as this is the type of action resorted to in this country.

Section 31 provides for a period of 12 years in a redemption action by a mortgagor where the mortgagee has been in possession of the land: at the expiration of the 12 years, the mortgagor's title is extinguished. This is the existing law under the Real Property Limitation Acts.

In Section 32 the period is also 12 years in an action to recover a principal sum secured by a mortgage or charge on land or personal property. There is at present no limitation period in the case of personal property. In the case of interest payable in respect of a principal sum secured by a mortgage or charge the period is six years under Section 33, and this is the period whether the money is charged on land or personal property. Future interests and insurance policies receive special treatment in both Sections 32 and 33 so that, where a sum is charged on, say, an insurance policy, the period of limitation will not begin to run until the policy matures.

Otherwise, the mortgagee who lends money on the strength of such a policy would in many cases be forced to realise the policy within the period of limitation or else lose his rights by default. Very often he would prefer to keep the policy alive until it matures for payment. Deputies will notice that in the case of mortgages, interest on which is payable into the Church Temporalities Fund, and in the case of charges on land under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts the period for recovery of the principal sum is 40 years instead of 12 years. This is in line with the policy of the Bill to provide a period of 40 years for the recovery of land or sums charged on land where the State is concerned.

Section 34 prevents the Agricultural Credit Corporation from recovering more than six years' arrears of interest due on foot of a chattel mortgage and the object of the section is similar to that of Section 28 in regard to the Land Commission. Sections 35 to 37 deal with actions in respect of trust property or the personal estate of deceased persons. Trustees (whether express or constructive) are brought within the Statute by Section 35 (1) and the definition of trustee in Section 2(1). At present, it is doubtful if constructive trustees are completely within the Trustee Act, 1888, and it has been held that an executor may plead the Statute even if he has retained the property, although an express trustee cannot. Where a period of limitation is not laid down in any other section, the period for a trustee is to be six years.

Section 36 provides a uniform period of 12 years in all actions to recover personal estate whether under a will or an intestacy, whereas at present the period is 12 years in the case of a legacy and 20 years in the case of an intestacy. In actions to recover arrears of interest in respect of a legacy, the period will continue to be six years.

Section 37 prevents any trustee relying on the Statute where the claim is founded on fraud or where, and this is very important, the trust property or the proceeds thereof are still retained by the trustee or previously received by him and converted to his own use. What the Bill seeks to do is to consolidate the existing relevant provisions of the Trustee Act, 1888, in regard to trustees and to apply them to all trustees.

Part III of the Bill provides for the extension of the limitation periods in the case of disability, acknowledgment, part payment, fraud and mistake. The provisions of the Bill in this respect are very comprehensive. Chapter I— Section 38—contains certain interpretation provisions; Chapter II—Sections 39 and 40—deals with disabilities; Chapter III—Sections 41 to 49—with acknowledgment; Chapter IV—Sections 50 to 57—with part payment; and Chapter V—Sections 58 and 59—with fraud and mistake.

Statutes of Limitation may sometimes cause hardship by preventing a person, entitled to sue, from suing by reason of the fact that during the period of limitation it is impossible or virtually impossible for him to initiate legal proceedings at the time when the cause of action arises. For instance, he may be subject to some legal incapacity, such as infancy or insanity, or the defendant may enjoy the benefit of diplomatic privilege, or the defendant may have gone abroad so as to place himself beyond the reach of legal process. In such cases the plaintiff is said to be under a "disability," and the policy of the law is to suspend the operation of the Statute for a fixed period or until the disability ceases.

The question of "disabilities" is complicated by the fact that the legal provisions governing the subject are for the most part scattered about in a number of enactments. Some Statutes of Limitation either contain no provision at all or else provide for disabilities of a special type. Section 20 of the Common Law Procedure Amendment Act (Ireland), 1853, lays down the periods of limitation applying in the majority of civil actions, and Section 22 of that Act sets out the various disabilities which arise. Those mentioned are: infancy, the position of a married woman, unsoundness of mind, absence of the plaintiff or the defendant beyond the seas. Coverture (or the position of a married woman under her husband's protection) and absence of the plaintiff beyond the seas ceased to be disabilities as a result of the Married Women's Property Act, 1882, and the Mercantile Law Amendment Act, 1856, respectively. Imprisonment was also a disability until it was abolished as such by the 1856 Act; but Section 8 of the Forfeiture Act, 1870, disables persons convicted of treason or felony, and sentenced to death or penal servitude, from bringing any action unless they are lawfully at large under licence or unless an administrator or curator of their property has been appointed.

The Bill proposes to make the law of disability uniform, and the disability of absence of the defendant beyond the seas is being abolished. We were of opinion that this latter type of disability is now of little practical value because defendants may be served with legal process outside the jurisdiction. Apart from this, the existence of the disability has given rise to difficulties of legal interpretation. It has, however, been represented to us since the Bill was circulated that we ought to reconsider the matter and this we are willing to do. By the way, a modern enactment which specifically provides for the disability is the Moneylenders Act, 1933, and the relevant provision in Section 19 of that Act is listed in the Schedule of Repeals to the Bill.

Section 39 sets out the three forms of disability which will apply in every case. These are infancy, insanity and conviction subject to the operation of the Forfeiture Act, 1870, where no curator or administrator has been appointed.

Section 40 provides in sub-section (1) that, where any person is under a disability when a right of action accrues to him, the action may be brought at any time within six years of the date when the disability ceased or the person died, subject to the proviso that no action to recover land shall be brought after the expiration of 30 years from the date on which the right of action accrued. Under sub-section (2) the period of limitation will not be suspended in the case of personal injuries actions (which must be brought within three years) if the person under the disability is in the custody of a parent at the time the right of action accrued to him: where he is not in the custody of a parent, he may take his action within three years of the ceasing of the disability. The reason for this provision is that personal injuries actions are actions which should be taken fairly soon after accrual in view of the danger of evidence being lost or becoming vague after a long lapse of time; and, where the person injured is in the custody of a parent, the parent may, after all, sue on his behalf. A similar rule is being applied in regard to slander actions.

Chapter III (Sections 41 to 49) of Part III of the Bill is designed to ensure that the law as to acknowledgment will be the same in all types of case. The doctrine that a right of action upon a simple contract debt might be revived by acknowledgment was purely judge-made and the decisions of the courts were directed to what has been called "the task of decorously disregarding an Act of Parliament". The doctrine first received statutory recognition in the Statute of Frauds Amendment Act, 1828, known as Lord Tenterden's Act, which provided that only an acknowledgment in writing, should take the case out of the Statute. In 1856, the Mercantile Law Amendment Act made acknowledgment by an agent as effective as one by his principal. It was judicially decided that an acknowledgment did not revive a debt unless it contained, expressly or impliedly, a fresh promise to pay and this continues to be the material element necessary to take a case out of the Statute where a simple contract debt is involved. Under Section 23 of the Irish Common Law Procedure Amendment Act, 1853, an action upon a speciality debt may be brought within 20 years after an acknowledgment has been made—the acknowledgment need not involve a fresh promise to pay and means merely an admission that the debt is due. Under the Bill, this rule in regard to acknowledgment of speciality debts is being adopted for all debts. Acknowledgment in the case of actions to recover land or money charged thereon is provided for in the Real Property Limitation Acts. The acknowledgment must be in writing and there is no need to have an express or implied promise to pay.

Sections 42 to 46 of the Bill more or less consolidate the law as to acknowledgment in the different classes of case where it can arise. Section 45, however, reverses the rule with which I have already dealt, that acknowledgment is ineffective in the case of simple contract debts unless it involves an express or implied promise to pay. We propose on Committee Stage to delete Section 43 and substitute a new section covering an action by a mortgagee claiming sale. As I have already explained foreclosure is unknown in Ireland.

Section 47 lays down the formal requirements for acknowledgment. The acknowledgment must be in writing and may be made by an agent or to an agent. At present, an acknowledgment by an agent is not effective against the principal in possession or the mortgagee in possession in the case of land or a rent-charge: to be effective it must be given by the principal or mortgagee. Also, an acknowledgment of a speciality debt made to a third party appears to be sufficient under the existing law.

Section 48 deals with the effect of acknowledgment on persons other than the acknowledgor or recipient. Sub-section (1) lays down the general principal that an acknowledgment of title to any land or mortgaged personalty by a person in possession thereof shall bind all other persons in possession during the ensuing period of limitation. Sub-section (2) provides that an acknowledgment by one of two or more mortgagees shall only bind the acknowledgor and his successors.

Sub-section (3), however, is to the effect that, where there are two or more mortgagors, acknowledgment to one shall be acknowledgment to all. Sub-sections (2) and (3) repeat the relevant provisions of Section 7 of the Real Property Limitation Act, 1874, and extend them to all mortgaged property whether land or personality. Sub-section (4) (a) makes the acknowledgment of a debt binding on the acknowledgor and his successor but not on any other person. This provision will clear up a point which has given rise to some difficulty. It would appear that under the existing law an acknowledgment of a specialty debt binds the co-debtors, whereas an acknowledgment of a simple contract debt does not.

Paragraph (b) of sub-section (4) provides for an exception to paragraph (a) in that an acknowledgment made after the period of limitation has expired will not bind any successor of the acknowledgor on whom the liability devolves on the determination of a preceding estate or interest in property under a settlement taking effect before the date of the acknowledgment. The type of case covered by this exception is as follows: Land, already subject to a mortgage, is settled on A for life, with remainder to B. Once the period of 12 years has elapsed without an acknowledgment, an acknowledgment by A will not revive the mortgagee's rights against B. The exception is already recognised under existing legal decisions, and the Bill will simply give statutory form to the legal rule to be deduced from these decisions.

Sub-section (5) also gives statutory form to an existing legal rule which says that acknowledgment by one of several executors or administrators of any claim to the personal estate of a deceased person shall bind the estate, though it will not involve the other executors or administrators in any personal liability. It is to be noted that an acknowledgment made after the period of limitation has run will only, as at present, be effective where, though the remedy is barred, the right is not extinguished. In actions to recover land the title is, under Section 24, extinguished after the expiration of the period of limitation, and acknowledgment will, therefore, have no effect in such cases.

Chapter IV of Part III of the Bill provides for part payment. Part payment is really a form of acknowledgment where the right of action is in respect of a debt, and the law is more or less the same as that of acknowledgment.

Sections 51 to 54 cover part payment in the various cases in which it can arise. It will be necessary, of course, to amend Section 51 so as to omit references to foreclosure. Section 53 reverses as regards simple contract debts the rule that part payment is not effective unless there is an express or implied promise to pay.

Section 55 lays down the formal provisions as to part payment. Payment may be made by a principal or agent to a principal or agent.

Section 56 deals with the effect of part payment on persons other than the maker. Sub-section (1), which corresponds to sub-section (1) of Section 48 in regard to acknowledgment, provides that a part payment of a mortgage debt by the mortgagor or any person in possession shall bind all persons in possession during the ensuing period of limitation. Under sub-section (2) (a) a part payment of a debt or other liquidated pecuniary claim will bind all persons liable in respect thereof. As I explained when dealing with acknowledgment, an acknowledgment will only bind the acknowledgor and his successors, Section 48 (4) (a). The ground for this distinction between part payment and acknowledgment is that a part payment operates for the benefit of all persons bound, there being a diminution of the total of the liability of all the co-debtors on part payment by one of them; and if they take the benefit they should take it with its accompanying disadvantages. No such consideration applies in the case of acknowledgment by one of the persons bound. At present a part payment does not affect a co-debtor in any case, whereas an acknowledgment of a specialty debt would appear to bind a co-debtor.

Sub-section (2) (b) deals with part payments made after the period of limitation has expired, and the effect will be the same as in the case of similarly made acknowledgments, which are provided for in sub-section (4) (b) of Section 48. A part payment by one of several personal representatives binds the personal estate of the deceased under sub-section (3) in the same way as an acknowledgment.

Section 57, which repeats existing statutory provisions, provides that no endorsement or memorandum of any payment written upon any bill of exchange or promissory note by or on behalf of the creditor shall be deemed to be evidence of such payment.

Chapter V of Part III of the Bill, which deals with fraud and mistake, clears up a number of anomalies in the existing law. The doctrine of fraud is a doctrine of the old courts of equity, and the effect of fraud was to postpone the running of time until the person injured thereby had discovered the fraud or ought to have discovered it. In equity, the cause of action springs from the fraud of the defendant or else the existence of the cause of action may have been concealed from the plaintiff by the fraudulent conduct of the defendant. In other words, there may either be fraud or what is called "concealed fraud". It is obviously unjust that a defendant should be permitted to rely upon a lapse of time caused by his own misconduct.

Unfortunately, the existing state of the law is far from clear, and it is uncertain in many cases whether a fraudulent defendant may or may not be able successfully to plead the Statute. The Real Property Limitation Act, 1833, provided in Section 26 that the right to bring a suit in equity for the recovery of land was to be deemed to accrue in the case of concealed fraud only when the fraud was, or could with reasonable diligence have been, discovered. To come within this provision, concealed fraud has to be fraud by which the claimant or his predecessors were deprived of the land or rent.

At common law, neither fraud as part of a cause of action nor the fraudulent concealment of a cause of action was a ground for postponing the running of the period of limitation. Though the Irish Judicature Act of 1877 would seem to have put an end to the difference between the rules of the common law and the rules of equity by enacting that the rules of equity should always prevail, these latter rules would not appear to prevail in cases formerly exclusively within the jurisdiction of courts of law, e.g., the common law action of deceit. A somewhat similar position arises in cases where relief is sought from the consequence of mistake, e.g., when money is paid or property transferred under a mistake. The equitable rule is that time should only run from the time at which the mistake was, or could with reasonable diligence have been, discovered, but this rule does not apply in cases formerly within the exclusive cognisance of a court of law. The Bill proposes to resolve the conflict between law and equity as regards fraud and mistake and the equitable doctrines of fraud and mistake are extended to cover all actions.

Section 58 provides that, where an action, for which a period of limitation is fixed by the Statute, is based on the fraud of the defendant or the right of action is concealed by his fraud, the period of limitation shall not begin to run until the plaintiff has discovered the fraud or could with reasonable diligence have discovered it. Sub-section (2), which follows the proviso to Section 26 of the Real Property Limitation Act, 1833, makes an exception in favour of a bona fide purchaser for value and, where the property has been purchased by such a person, it will not be affected by fraud or concealed fraud under sub-section (1).

Section 59 provides, similarly, that, where in the case of any action for which a period of limitation is fixed by the Statute, the action is for relief from the consequence of mistake, the period of limitation shall not run until the plaintiff has discovered the mistake or ought with reasonable diligence to have discovered it—sub-section (1). Sub-section (2) then goes on to make an exception in favour of a bona fide purchaser for value.

Part IV (Sections 60 to 67) applies the proposed legislation to arbitrations and simply re-enacts the existing provisions of the Arbitration Act, 1954. The relevant sections of the 1954 Act (which are being repealed in the Schedule to the Bill) are more proper to a Limitation Act.

Perhaps in going into the Bill in the detail which I thought to be necessary, there is a danger that Deputies who are not familiar with the subject have found themselves somewhat at sea in trying to keep the general picture in mind. May I, therefore, state very briefly the main objects of the Bill?

First of all, the Bill proposes to prescribe general and uniform periods of limitation in the case of actions and arbitrations. The Bill applies to all actions whether in equity or law, but Section 5 contains a saving for "any equitable jurisdiction to refuse relief on the grounds of acquiescence or otherwise". The Bill will apply to the State and State authorities but will not apply to the recovery of taxes and duties under the care and management of the Revenue Commissioners.

Secondly, the Bill sets out the various limitation periods for different classes of actions. In ordinary common law actions of contract and tort the period will be six years in all cases except (a) actions on documents under seal, where the period will be 12 years; (b) actions for personal injuries where the period will be three years; and (c) actions for slander where the period will be two years in all cases. In actions to recover land the period will be 12 years, but in actions by a State authority the period will be 40 years instead of 60 years as at present. In actions to recover rent arrears, interest on mortgages, etc., the period will be six years. The Statute will apply to constructive trustees in the same way as it now applies to express trustees. In every case where the court formerly acted in obedience, though not in express obedience, to the Statute it will now act in express obedience.

Thirdly, the Bill provides for the extension of the general periods of limitation in cases of disability, acknowledgment and part payment, and fraud and mistake. These extensions are common to all actions comprised in Part II with some small exceptions contained in Section 40 in regard to disability. The provisions are designed to replace by a single code the various and inconsistent provisions in existing Acts. They apply to cases where under the present law the period of limitation is not subject to any extension at all. Acknowledgment or part payment need not imply a promise to pay in any type of case. Acknowledgment will not bind co-debtors or co-contractors whereas part payment will. The differences between the rules of common law and the rules of equity in regard to fraud and mistake are resolved.

Finally, the provisions of the Arbitration Act, 1954, applying the provisions of the Statutes of Limitation to arbitrations are being repealed and re-enacted.

There has for many years been need for a modern Act to deal with the limitation of legal actions. As a legal writer has recently remarked:

"The Irish law concerning the limitation of actions is far from satisfactory. In some particulars it stands in need of reform, on numerous points it needs to be clarifield, and it would undoubtedly be a benefit both to the layman and the lawyer if it were codified."

The present Bill is designed to provide the proper remedy.

As far as I remember, this Bill follows the passing of the Public Authorities (Judicial Proceedings) Act. When that Act was before the House as a Bill, many Deputies were of opinion that some types of action against public authorities should be brought sooner than six years. Then the limit was six months. It was agreed that six months was too short, but six years in some types of action was considered too long. The Taoiseach agreed and said he would bring in an amending Bill on the whole law of limitation. This is the Bill.

I must say I liked the side notes in this Bill. I found them very useful. I do not pretend for one moment to understand them fully in all cases but in reading the Bill I found them very helpful. I do not know whether the provision of side notes is an innovation, but it ought to be followed in Bills of this type. It is certainly very useful, instead of having to look up matters, to have them here to hand.

It appears to me that three years ought to be sufficient to allow a person to take an action, for personal injuries anyway. About other matters, I have not much experience but there is one type of case that has come to my notice on more than one occasion. I daresay other Deputies in rural areas have come up against the same thing. I refer to a case where some person dies intestate, and some relative occupies the land. A niece or nephew may remain in possession for 20 or 30 years and then another person, with the same relationship, perhaps another niece or nephew, turns up and claims the land from the person who had been in occupation of it for years. I knew of one case of that type where there were two old ladies involved. Then after some years a cousin they had almost forgotten existed turned up. Many people thought a terrible injustice was done when the court ordered that these people who had been in occupation and had worked the land for 20 or 30 years—I do not know exactly how many—were required to lodge so much in court, being the value of the profits they were supposed to have made out of the land. I tried to explain to these people that that was the law but it was no use. They thought it was an injustice, and it did so seem to me, when after a number of years a person who had shown little interest in the land could turn up and claim it.

Will 12 years be the period in which from this onwards a person in that position will be able to claim the land? Say there are two cousins, one of whom goes to America. If he is away for 12 years and does not make a claim within that period, under the present Bill does that mean that he has lost his claim?

I think some provision of that kind is necessary. The Bill is very complicated. It appears to me to be a matter mostly for legal people and perhaps for members of local authorities. I should imagine it would be advisable, if it were possible, to have some sort of Select Committee to go into it. I do not know whether it could get sufficient consideration here in an ordinary Committee Stage. Certainly it is a Bill to be considered principally on Committee Stage. There is something to be said for this, and the Minister might consider sending the Bill to a Special Committee. In any event, a lengthy period should be allowed between the Second Reading and the Committee Stage. As far as I can see, in the preparatory work a good job has been made of the Bill, and in a very short time, too. It is only 12 months since we passed the other Bill.

Like Deputy Boland, we are all extremely pleased to see a Bill of this kind coming before the House. Being essentially a non-Party measure and consequently, in a political sense, not contentious, it is one that can be dealt with calmly and one in which every possible avenue of advantage, both to the lawyer and to the layman, can be dealt with adequately.

There was, of course, and still is, a great necessity in this country for law reform or law codification. We lag behind our neighbours in Great Britain considerably in this respect. Maybe it is due to the fact that, possibly, the same advantages, both by way of leisure and finance, are not available to legal practitioners and codifiers of the law here as in Great Britain. However, it is comforting to know in respect to this Bill, the Statute of Limitations Bill now before the House, while we are behind Great Britain, we are at least ahead of our neighbours in the six north-eastern counties. As yet, I understand, there is no comprehensive Limitation Act in the six north-eastern counties.

The law of limitations, both in theory and in practice, is an extremely difficult branch of the law and one which has down the years—and I think this can be said by every legal practitioner—given headaches and heartaches to practitioners and, of course, given much more substantial pain to litigants. I, in my own short experience, can recall cases of where there was obvious injustice done and where the people, whom it was sought to make liable for the injustice done, were prepared to rely on the technicality of Limitations Acts. There was the notorious instance which we got rid of here last year—the Public Authorities (Protection) Act—and for which we substituted a much more equitable form of legislation.

As to the provision of this Bill, I think, on Second Stage at any rate, the matter on which I would place most emphasis and to which I would direct the attention of the House is a very new principle which has been creeping in gradually and which is now definitely enshrined in the whole course of this Bill. That is the vital principle of having the State and State Departments bound like everybody else. As the Minister explained, the State is only bound at the moment in so far as what used to be known as Crown rents or Crown lands are concerned. It seems to me undemocratic even now that a State Department can plead the statute against a private citizen, whereas the private citizen is precluded from pleading the statute against the State or any Department of the State. That inhibition, operating against the private citizen and in favour of the State, has no place in a democracy such as we know it. It is a relic, a very bad relic and a relic that should not be preserved, of the old doctrine of nullum tempus occurrit ecclesiae. It all springs from the old doctrine that the king could do no wrong. I believe this Bill represents another step away from these outmoded ideas. As I have already mentioned, we got rid last year of the Public Authorities (Protection) Act. That was certainly a definite advance in getting rid of what I have already described as inequitable and what might in a very large number of cases be described as iniquitous legislation.

I sincerely hope that, arising out of the consideration that will be given to this Bill, and following on the consideration given to the Public Authorities (Protection) Act last year, the time is coming, and coming rapidly, when the private citizen will, in all matters of legal relationship, be put into the same position as the State Department. There is, for instance, still left with us the legal position that the State is not responsible for the torts or wrongdoing of its servants, whereas the ordinary employer is. That is an anomaly that should be rectified with all speed, particularly having regard to the great number of State employees who are now roaming around the country, whether they move as a result of the putting into operation, say, of the land project or whether they move as the inspectors who were to be tucked into the fields under another régime. In any case, the number of State employees who move round the country now has greatly increased. All have been fitted out, or at least have fitted themselves out, for instance, with motor-cars. They are all, therefore, in that position of being potential wrongdoers, of committing wrongful acts with nothing criminal about them, but nevertheless, while they are on State business, the State should be liable for any accident which may place them in a position of legal responsibility for any kind of personal injuries which result.

Major de Valera

But in those cases, would they not be covered by their ordinary insurance?

By the Road Traffic Act.

Major de Valera

In regard, say, to a civil servant using his private car and getting a mileage allowance? I quite agree in the other case. But would they not be covered by their ordinary insurance in that case?

Major de Valera

What would be the point in making the State responsible? Maybe I misunderstood the Deputy.

I am speaking about the necessity for uniformity and saying that on the question of legal relationship and legal responsibility, the State and the individual should be on a par. As to the periods of limitation being prescribed, again I am pleased to see that they are being made more uniform, though it might well be argued that the six years is too long in ordinary contract and tort actions. At the time these periods of limitations were laid down originally in those actions, when a man moved from one county to another with travelling facilities so difficult and with the legal process much slower than it is now, it might be argued that there was justification for the period laid down; but now with the legal process speeded up and jurisdiction changed considerably, there would, in my opinion, be no need for such a long time. That particular feature could be brought more into line with the rest of the uniform periods set out in the Bill.

It is good to note that the period for personal injuries actions is to be three years. That is a good thing from the point of view of the person who is being made responsible and for the person who is seeking to be compensated for injuries caused to him. The sooner actions start and the sooner they are got under way, the better chance the person has of being adequately compensated. If the case is allowed to lag, it might be more or less impossible to convince a jury that a man who had so well recovered in that time had suffered any great injuries at all. It is difficult when time passes in cases of that kind for a jury to come to a proper assessment of pain and suffering, there being no objective evidence before them of pain, suffering or disability of any kind.

It is also admirable that the law relating to the limitation of action in regard to land is being tidied up and codified. Under the existing law, a great deal of trouble has to be undergone in order to sift out matters of quite simple import. To know exactly where one is at times cause more trouble than most laymen would be inclined to admit or appreciate. I might also mention the codification that has been done to the law in relation to trustees. I think the intention of the 1888 Trustee Act was to bring in all trustees, whether they were express or constructive, and it is right, as it is contemplated here, that constructive trustees like executors and administrators should have the same law applied to them as is applied to express trustees. They are in trust positions, just the same as the others.

The law as to acknowledgment and part-payment, fraud and mistake, also needed codification and I am glad to see that the rule as to an implied promise to pay in the case of the acknowledgment of a simple contract is being abolished. The law of disability has always been mixed up or hotchpotch, and it is to be welcomed that the rule as to disabilities is being extended to cover all types of actions.

Like Deputy Boland, who followed the Minister, I cannot very well draw this hopelessly inadequate contribution of mine to this debate to a close without complimenting the draftsman in this case, and particularly in relation to the side note. It would, indeed, be a very good thing and would make life a great deal easier for the practitioner, if such side notes became a feature of all Bills, particularly codifying Bills such as this. These explanatory side notes, so far as I know, are an innovation in a Bill of this type. They are exceptionally helpful and have proved of considerable assistance to people, even with some knowledge of these matters before going through the Bill. It is for these reasons and many others that I give my support and wholehearted welcome to this Bill. But again I would say, as has been said already, this is a Bill essentially for consideration in Committee.

As a layman I am, to quote the Minister, rather at sea in keeping the general picture in mind. As the Minister is trying to clear up some of the remnants of feudalism, I should like to mention one small problem in my own mind. In the sale of land by landlords, they sometimes imposed burdens inequitable and incommensurate with the value of the land sold. These moneys were never paid and no attempt was made at calculating them. They were imposed, I suppose, in some Micawber-like hopefulness that something might turn up at some time. When these lands come on the market, there is never any question raised either by buyer or seller as to the payment of these imposed burdens. But when the Minister for Lands purchases land for forestry and possibly for redistribution, he acquires a form of fee simple that nobody else demands. Not only does he want a clearance of the land annuities, but he also will insist on retaining a sum of money, in the fear that the beneficiaries of the imposed burden might at some time turn up, even though there is no trace of any member of the family who originally sold the land. I have no sympathy with them because they were generally the landlord class and did very well out of it.

I do not know if, in dealing with the problems the Minister is trying to deal with in this Bill, you could be specific in clearing up problems of that nature. It would be very difficult for the Minister for Lands because he finds it difficult enough to get land for forestry. These burdens which have never been collected and never will be collected are being imposed by him in the fashion of holding a certain sum of money for their possible but wholly improbable collection. I wonder is there anything included in this Bill that might remedy that particular problem.

I, like the Deputies who have spoken, would like, first, to congratulate the Minister and the draftsman on this Bill, not only on its form and drafting but also on its context, because it seems to me that, in the very short time since this Bill was forecast, on the hearing of the Fatal Injuries Bill, a very comprehensive job, both of codification and of reform, has been done. With regard to what Deputy Moylan mentioned just now, I think there would be one problem. If I understand Deputy Moylan correctly, he suggested that these head burdens which exist both in the acquisition of land by the Land Commission and by the Forestry Division—the superior interests, as they are called—might be eliminated. I think we would run into constitutional difficulties.

Pardon me, sir. Am I right in saying there is a limitation of 80 years?

Oh, yes. The Deputy means that the limitation should be shortened. Yes. That would not run you into any difficulty, possibly, but it did occur to me that the existence of these superior interests is just a matter of property as well as anything else. You certainly could not eliminate them, but you might alter the period during which they may be recovered. You cannot alter the fact of existence.

With regard to the Bill, its most formidable move forward is this question of the application of it to the State and all State authorities. Like Deputy Lindsay, I should like to express the hope that it is merely a step in that direction. If there is any branch of our legal system which is quite inapplicable to existing day to day circumstances, it is what may be called the Crown prerogative section of the law in this country. The exclusion of the State from the statutory limitations, the exclusion of the State from the liability for torts, other than the special cases of workmen's compensation and Road Traffic Act cases—all that has no possible basis in common sense or in justice at present.

The Minister for Justice, when dealing with the Fatal Injuries Bill recently, gave an undertaking to the House that he would extend the liability created under that Act and under the Road Traffic Act of 1933 on the State for accidents caused by motor vehicles to all other tortious acts on the part of all other servants of the State and would have legislation introduced to that end. I am glad to see this Bill again applying to the State the same restrictions and the same limitations as are applicable to private persons and I take that as a token of the intention of the Government as soon as possible to bring all branches of this law of the Crown prerogative up to date and into line with common sense.

If that is the intention behind this Bill—I do not want to quibble at what it has done—it does seem to me that an unreasonable and unjustifiable distinction is being made in the law between the State's position with regard to ordinary debts and the State's position with regard to the recovery of land. As I read the Bill, Section 11 would include debts due to the State created by statute other than the ordinary revenue, which is a separate problem, statutory debts in connection with which up to this there was a 20 years' limitation, statutory debts created possibly between private individuals. That is being reduced to six years. As I understand the position, the State has applied to have the ordinary limitations for contracts or for actions of tort six years.

When we come to the recovery of land by the State, the existing situation is most unsatisfactory—60 years —but it is only reduced to 40. It may be that there is, but I cannot immediately see, any real justification for that. When you think in practical terms of what an action by the State to recover land and what a limitation of 40 years means, it is this: After the date on which the State first became entitled to recover that land, became entitled to bring an action to put them back into possession of that land, they can lie by for 40 years before they do in fact recover it. It is not a question of a person being in State lands in some way acknowledging the situation. It is not a question of a person paying rent for 40 years. Starting from now, if a particular State Department owns land or is concerned with land owned by the State and if, to-morrow, a right of action accrues in that State Department to recover that land, what possible justification is there for permitting the State to lie by for 40 years and then to bring an action which it should have taken 40 years before to recover the same land? That is what this section will do.

Major de Valera

Complete your argument by saying what the individual's position would be in regard to the State.

In the same position, an individual will have 12 years in which to do it.

Major de Valera

He would have to do it within the 12 years.

I would ask the Minister to consider this point. I appreciate that the application of this Bill at all to the State is a change; it is a reform; it is a move, a move which is not easily made by the State, which does not like creating new burdens or new liabilities for itself. I also appreciate that the reduction of the time from 60 years to 40 years is a move in the right direction. But, as a general proposition, I would ask the Minister carefully to consider between this and the later stages of the Bill whether it might not be feasible to reduce it still further and to put the State on the same footing as a private individual with regard to the recovery of land.

It may be that there are particular problems with regard to the recovery of State lands, or the particular cases as regards ownership of State lands which I have not got under contemplation at present which justify this, but, on the face of it, on first look, it does seem to me that there is a case to be made for putting the State in the same position as the individual with regard to the recovery of land.

There are other short aspects of the Bill which, without holding the House up too much at this stage, I should like to mention, because it seems to me, while not wanting to deal with it as if we were in Committee, that there are individual points which, possibly, the Minister would like to know the views of the House on before we get to the Committee Stage. One is the question of slander. A lot of our limitation Acts and a lot of our limitation statutes were created haphazardly and created badly. One very often finds seemingly peculiar anachronisms. Slander per se is a matter to which that applies. The distinction here is this: Up to the present there were certain types of slander which were actionable on proof that the words were spoken, such as words defamatory of a man in his trade, or occupation, or business, and in that case, if a man said: “You are a thief and that is all about it,” that is a slander and is actionable whether or not damages might be recovered; the other type is the slander in which damages are recoverable only if you can prove special damages. These are the sort which are not the more obvious ones, such as to say that a man is a thief, or a robber, or a drunkard in his job as bus driver.

The second type of slander to which I refer is the one in which, if a person could establish that he had suffered some special damage or loss as a result of that slander, he could recover damages. There is the case where a man can prove that he lost his job or his promotion in his job, can establish that he had suffered special damages and recover these special damages. Up to this, the short limitation of two years has been applied to words actionable per se. It is now proposed to extend the further period applicable to slander where you have to prove special damage. I can well see a situation arising in which a slander is spoken to-day about some person and very close to two years, or perhaps more than two years, may follow before any damage really follows from it. Take the case of a man in a big concern or State service about whom a slander is spoken to-day. That slander might not hit him until more than two years after it was spoken. That is probably the foundation of the difference between the two types and I would ask the Minister to consider whether he might not be causing an injustice in this matter.

There are other cases in the Act which are of interest. I am not quite clear, and I would ask the Minister to elucidate, possibly on the next stage of the Bill, how the operations of Sections 36 and 37 are going to work. Section 37 avoids the application of the statutes of limitations to any type of trustee. In the words "type of trustee" is included the personal representative of a deceased person and it excludes from the operation of the Act a trustee who is still in possession of, or has converted to his own use, the trustee property. Section 36 purports to restrict the right of the next-of-kin claiming on death to 12 years. I think the two conflict. It is difficult to see how a claim by a next-of-kin can arise, except against the personal representative who holds, or has converted to his own use, the property of a deceased. If Section 36 is meant to apply, Section 37 may have to be amended in some way.

There is only one other matter which I would like to mention at this stage, that is the effect of Section 37. An important question in connection with the ordinary day to day title to land arises on that section. Up to this, it has been said that the statute of limitations was only avoided in the case of an express trustee and express trustees were, amongst other people, held to include the personal representative of a deceased owner of registered land. That is a very confined class of person. Suppose John Murphy dies and he was the owner of land not registered with the Land Commission. His personal representative was not an express trustee and the statute of limitations applied to him, and he could go in and occupy the land and acquire the title. On the other hand, if John Murphy was a registered owner, then his personal representative was not an express trustee and could never acquire the title against the next-of-kin.

Now, under this section, any person taking out a grant of administration to the estate of a deceased owner of land, whether a tenancy, or registered land, or fee simple, can never acquire a title against the next-of-kin of the deceased owner of that land. I think that is a move in the right direction.

Section 8 of the Bill provides that nothing in it shall enable any action to be brought which was barred before the operative date by any enactment repealed by this Act. My fear is that Section 8 and Section 38 combined may not be sufficient to remedy the situation it is sought to remedy. If a person, taking out a grant of administration in the case of unregistered land, came for advice after three years, he would be told, up to to-day, that he had acquired title to the land and was the full owner. I feel that, in this instance, there is an introduction into this Bill of an excepting clause which was never an excepting clause before.

I think it is worth while pointing out that the terms of Section 37 are going to make a very extensive change, or a fairly extensive change, in the devolution of land in this country. We should make perfectly certain that nothing of that change should become retrospective in its effect. There would be no justification for this House regulating retrospectively the manner in which land has descended to the people. The operation of previous Acts may not have been sound, but it would be a very different element if, inadvertently, we, by this Bill, were to have any retrospective alteration in the descent of land.

These are some of the matters I would like to mention in connection with the Bill. Generally speaking, I should like to come back to congratulate the Minister and the Department on the scope and the drafting of the Bill. I wonder would it be possible for the Minister having assisted the Deputies by his marginal notes to leave them there afterwards to assist the lawyers. I do not think there would be anything wrong in that. I think all the Local Government Acts have explanatory notes but not in the way of this Bill. Certainly from the point of view of the lawyer looking at this if it is passed into an Act, it would be a tremendous assistance to have opposite the sections the sections which they repeal or re-enact. These notes need not have the force of law but it would make it much easier for a lawyer working on it later.

I should like to congratulate the Minister and Department on the scope and form of the Bill and I would ask him especially for further extension of the principle of putting the State in the same position as a private individual.

I can assure Deputy de Valera that I will not delay him more than a minute.

Major de Valera

It is a pleasure to give way to the Deputy.

As a layman, I find myself in much the same sea as Deputy Boland except that if anything the boat is smaller. I do not even pretend to understand this Bill at all except that it is codifying a piece of law. I only want to refer to the suggestion by Deputy Boland that this Bill should go to a Special Committee. If the Second Stage of this Bill were being taken in October, I do not think I would agree because I prefer generally to see a Bill in Committee before the whole House. However, as we are coming into the financial period of the year and the House will no doubt be very busy, if the Bill is not sent to a Special Committee either of two things will happen —(1) the Bill will be delayed by not being taken in Committee at all until after July or, (2)—and this is even more probable—it will be scamped through rather quickly, and it is a very technical Bill. I am not suggesting that I should attempt to do anything on it at any stage, but as Deputy Finlay has pointed out there are some things in it which seem to be contradictory and if there are things in it which to a lawyer seem contradictory one can imagine what they will look like to a layman.

I, too, want to congratulate the Minister on the marginal notes. I think these are a very great improvement in the case of legislation by reference and it is a great advantage to have them so clearly set out. I do think it would be of great assistance to lawyers to have it in the Act, if that is the intention.

In conclusion, may I say just one thing which struck me? I am wondering if these marginal notes are not too much directed to lawyers to start with. The third one on Section 2 refer to Deasy's Act. Every other Act referred to in the notes is referred to by date and chapter but to the layman, "Deasy's Act" means nothing and I wonder why it alone of all the Acts is picked out in the marginal abbreviations for reference in this way? It does not even turn up in the notes on page 4 where one might expect it. That is a very minor quibble and I am only drawing attention to it because, as a layman, it does look rather odd. I did ask a lawyer myself what was the date of Deasy's Act so that I could look it up and he was 60 years out on the date.

Major de Valera

The marginal notes are attractive, I suppose, at first sight. Frankly, I doubt their value except in so far as they are an index. I do not mean that in regard to the Bill here now because what has been done for the Bill is excellent. I am talking about the proposal that these notes should be in the Bill in its final form. I am wondering if they would be of value to the lawyers. I suppose in one sense they would be convenient but are they not liable to bring about a certain amount of ambiguity in interpretation later even though you may explicitly provide that they are not part of the law? It is only a point of view, but certainly, as far as the present proposal is to have them in Bills before the House I think it is a very helpful one, because you have the reference there immediately.

Before going into the provisions of the Bill I, too, would like to say what other Deputies have said. This Bill has been a major undertaking, a very difficult and important effort. We have already had experience in the case of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act but in that case there was more restriction and the field was more confined and even though the preparation of that Act was a big undertaking this is even bigger. I would say it is one that entails more worry, because, as Deputy Finlay has pointed out, it can inadvertently touch on branches of law and modify branches of our law, modify rights in ways unforeseen all too easily, so that I can well understand the hesitancy of any Minister or his advisers in undertaking a task of this nature.

On the other hand, I think it was Deputy Lindsay who pointed out that an assault on this problem was long overdue. I think it is proper that tribute should be paid to the Department for the excellent staff work that has apparently been done here. After all, a Bill in its first draft is a first draft no matter what way you look at it and I think a great deal of credit is due there. We often have occasion to criticise the way things come to this House but happily on this occasion we can take the other line. I presume too that the Attorney-General's Department has had a hand in the drafting of this, in the whole of it, and to the people concerned I think the House is indebted.

Coming to the Bill itself—as has been pointed out, this is a technical Bill. It is, on the other hand, a Bill that cannot be dealt with by this House and regarded merely as a technical matter because it is one that will be felt in the community. There are a number of principles in this Bill which need examination. As to how to attack them, we can only talk very generally. I rather feel somewhat as Deputy Sheldon feels, that this Bill will not be handled properly or that it will be skimmed through in the current session with a certain urgency about it. It is a Bill which will require the expert attention of lawyers and, perhaps—it is only a personal suggestion—but perhaps it might be considered whether a Special Committee in the form tried out on a couple of other Bills before, should be given this Bill to deal with, care being taken that the personnel selected to do it would have some qualifications for the task. This proposal could be considered by the Minister. I do not press him on that by any means, but I think the point raised by Deputy Sheldon is worthy of consideration.

The Bill will have to be approached, quite obviously, on the lines developed by Deputy Finlay, in the manner which he has more or less outlined for us here. It is quite obvious that if there is to be any real Committee debate on this Bill, it will be a question of not only, as in the case of ordinary Bills, a particular matter arising on a particular amendment to a section but it will also be a matter of discussing the correlation of section with those which have gone before or which follow.

There are a large number of sections in it which are, of course, very technical and again I doubt whether it can be—it certainly can be adequately treated in Committee in this House— but it will certainly be a time-consuming process. It is no use anticipating that stage here, even to the extent that Deputy Finlay very usefully and helpfully did.

In regard to the State Departments, that principle is important. First, I think that, under modern conditions, there is, in general principle anyway, little justification for putting the State in a privileged position in the matter of limitations to actions. Historically, of course, one can understand how the present situation arose. There was the natural tendency to preserve the principles of law. There was also and, perhaps, a more important factor in the situation. There was the ease in former days with which the Crown, as it then was, in contemplation of law, or the Government or the State, could be fooled or defrauded.

I think that in days when communications were nothing in comparison with what they are to-day, that was a real danger and difficulty. On that score alone, one could build a very sound case for the way the law lay. But, in modern times, when, on the one hand, the State's relation to the individual is becoming much more close at very many more points than formerly, where the State organisations are much moret extensive and have ample means of communication, there seems to be little justification for preserving special privileges in the matter of limitations.

Take, for instance, the case of the recovery of land, someone in adverse possession of State lands as mentioned by Deputy Finlay. In a case like that, why should we give a longer period to the State than to an individual? If anything, it is more likely that the State will have the machinery and the organisation to know precisely what its rights are. It is much less likely, in fact, that State rights nowadays can be defrauded, owing to lack of knowledge, than that an individual's may. If anything, on that basis one could argue that you should give more latitude to the individual than to the State. Of course, I am not actually proposing that, but on that basis one could even make that case. Whatever way it is, the position such as the public authorities got in the old Act is now gone and I doubt whether the position of the State in regard to recovering lands now is justifiable.

It would be a great practical simplification to have the one period of limitation, whether you extend it in the case of the individual or contract it in the case of the State. This Bill goes a great way—I am not taking from it— in simplifying and bringing uniformity. Deputy Finlay is probably right when he says that you could go further and get complete uniformity in this regard in connection with the State, if the thing were examined again. Of course, as he said, there may be some specific things somewhere to which we have not adverted here. I am making allowances for that. I would lend myself to supporting the point of view that he expressed on that and I commend it to the Minister's attention.

There is one matter about which I am a little puzzled in regard to the explanation, but that may be attributable to pure obtuseness on my part. Why relate the period in Section 13 to the period for title?

It is the State's right presumably.

Major de Valera

Historically and all that, I think it is all right, but I think there is no need for a hard and fast equating of the two.

It is of great advantage.

Major de Valera

Which are you going to have? You have to show 40 years' title in this country. Is that not the position, if my memory serves me aright?

Major de Valera

If that is the case in respect of the State, why does the individual not get the benefit of the 40 years' limitation? Does the Deputy see what I mean? That is why I say I do not follow the conclusiveness of the argument; in other words, applying your argument uniformly both ways. Again, I do not mind how it is done. That is only by way of reinforcing what was said already. The State will not in any way suffer over this and I think it would be a great simplification to go the whole way in this matter, particularly as nowadays, with State organisation and machinery, there can be very little opportunity of the State being defrauded in this matter. That, of course, is said, as Deputy Finlay carefully pointed out, subject to the particular problems that may arise and to which we have not yet adverted.

If I continue in this vein, I will be going into the Committee Stage of the Bill, so I would, perhaps, content myself with a couple of general points. Deputy Finlay pointed out the danger of radically amending the law. We want to alter the law in regard to limitations, but at least we do not want to alter the law by actions in regard to devolution. The Road Traffic Act amendment in regard to making the State liable for torts is very highly desirable. In fact, I think, I myself attempted to follow up Deputy Finlay's suggestion in that respect in the case of a previous Bill and came into conflict with the rules of the House. I think we were told that the matter would be attended to. I do not think that is a matter for this particular Bill, but it should not be lost sight of and I take this opportunity of suggesting to the Minister that it should be followed up.

What, by and large, do you want to attempt in a Bill like this? The Minister gave us at the end of his statement an outline of his general procedures and intention. As regards this law of limitation, as we have to face it now and cure the defects in the Bill, that law grew up, roughly speaking, from three causes. You had, first of all, this particular position of the State as a factor; you had, secondly, the whole history of legal development, statutory and in the courts, which naturally had a certain haphazard element in it; and, lastly, you had what was grafted on to the law by the courts in their efforts to keep the law from working hardship—in other words, to apply the law equitably.

As statutes were enacted with one intention, they unwittingly worked hardship or injustice on others. In many cases, the courts found ways of alleviating such distress. On the other hand, the courts in applying their equitable jurisdiction, as it was called, used the law as it was defined by Acts of Parliament as a convenient standard or guide where possible. Now that is what we are trying to change. We have expressed our opinion on the question of the State. On the question of the basic approach to this I suppose you cannot completely forget the historical development in the matter, but the essential thing is to look at this from a modern point of view—from the point of view of the state of society and the state of the law at the present day and to make the amendments which the present day demands and not to be influenced unduly by historical factors.

That may bring about the doing of some things which may seem revolutionary but it will make for uniformity and for easy administration. There are two instance in which I would like that particular care would be taken and for which I should like to see a Special Committee set up in order to watch these things. The first instance is on the question of fraud and fiduciary relationships which are attempted to be dealt with explicitly in this Bill. The point to be borne in mind is that the courts adopted the attitude they did in those matters on the very simple, straightforward principle of seeing that crime did not pay, that fraud and sharp practice or the taking advantage of persons of trust could not be used to defeat the right to remedy any of the things with which we are dealing here.

There is a certain danger that if these things became explicit, or too explicit, they would become too rigid and actually defeat their own intentions. I have not examined in detail the sections dealing with that particular point but I think it is appropriate to say at this stage that great care must be taken to see that the very important principle upon which the courts were able to achieve a great measure of justice as between litigating parties over the years is carefully enshrined in this Bill.

The other point, which is the last one on this question, deals with equity and the jurisdiction in equity. Jurisdiction in equity is not what is sometimes understood to be a lawful jurisdiction in the courts to do what they think fit although that is, to a certain extent, the principle behind the thing —that equity jurisdiction is, in principle, to enable the courts to see that justice is done as between litigants and that justice is done generally. That is crystallised into a very definite code of law and if it is all very technical, there must be, nevertheless, that particular jurisdiction in the courts which has been very effective in keeping the law in line with society.

No matter what any Legislature does or any court does, conditions in society change, and it is difficult if not impossible to have the written legal system in complete conformity at any particular time with conditions in society outside. It is obviously desirable that the two should conform as closely as possible. For that reason I think it is important that the courts would not be tied too rigidly in the matter of limitations. They are tied. That is perhaps not the right way to put it, but I would like to see that there is no inroad in principle on the equity jurisdiction of the courts at the present moment.

I should like to see that, where there is necessity for change in the matter of that jurisdiction, it should be very carefully examined and there should be consultation with experts, with practitioners preferably, on that point. I do not think there is much more to be said on this stage, other than to point out that, not having digested the contents of the Bill completely, I find some phrases in it which make me apprehensive of the Minister's opening statement—such phrases as: "In every case where the court formerly acted in obedience, though not in express obedience." As I say, phrase like that in the Minister's opening statement made me slightly apprehensive.

The main point in which I am interested at the moment is the question of trustees and people in fiduciary relationships. Something might be done to make the law clear on how time might affect equitable actions, but I will say on the sections referred to by Deputy Finlay that we would want to be very careful we did not change the substance of the law here as has happened in other directions. Perhaps my fears in this connection are groundless, but we should be careful about making fundamental alterations in certain jurisdictions. However, these are merely points to be watched later. This is essentially a technical measure, every part of which will require close attention. It is a measure that should be dealt with by a number of people round a table, a limited number of people who would be prepared to go into its details and to give the benefit of their practical experience of dealing with these matters.

I hope the Minister realises that the welcome which has been given on all sides of the House to the encroachment made by this Bill on the prerogatives which the State has hitherto enjoyed, is qualified to the extent that we are prepared to see an encroachment of a less gradual shape and I would express the hope that during the passage of the Bill through the House there might be a further encroachment on these prerogatives. I agree with Deputy Finlay in his references to Section 11 (2) (c) of the Bill. That is the section which refers to slander. I could never really see the reason for the differentiation between the period of limitation in regard to slander and libel.

There was, I suppose, something to be said for the differentiation between slander per se and libel but not between ordinary slander and libel. In fact I think that, in the run of things, defamatory words would be much more likely to be damaging when written in the public Press or in a book than when they are spoken among a few people possibly in some public house or in some private home. There is one other thing I should like to refer to. It is contained in Section 39 in reference to people under a disability— infants or persons of unsound mind.

Section 21 of the old Common Law Procedure Act, also in reference to people under a disability, referred to people beyond the seas. It is quite true that measure was passed in 1853 when the world was a much larger place, and when communications were not at all as effective as they are now. However, I still think it is a matter to which some consideration might be given. There are pros and cons. It is true that modern communications have made it much easier for people to find out if they have a cause of action beyond the seas. In the case of a country which has suffered so much emigration since the State was founded, I think we should take some measures to ensure that people who have been driven from their homeland and are now beyond the seas would have their rights preserved in some fashion.

I think the Minister was wrong when he informed the House that, at the moment, the period of limitation for common law action in the case of negligence—where one is knocked down by a motor car, for instance—is four years: so far as I know, it is six years.

The fact that during the Second Reading of this Bill what amounted to practically a private discussion took place between Deputy Major de Valera and Deputy Finlay would seem to bear out and support the case that has been made that the Committee Stage of this Bill should be entrusted to a Select Committee of the House. Like some of the previous speakers, I would support the case that has been made for a Select Committee.

It is obvious and it is so stated in the Explanatory Memorandum that this is a very technical Bill. That being so, many references during the course of the Committee Stage will have to be made to previous enactments, possibly decided case law. It would be helpful if access could be had to statutes and case law in the course of the Committee Stage here but that is not very easily done when one is on one's feet here and addressing the House. As well as that, it is only human that even persons well practised in the law might not wish to have their opinions made the subject of criticism and, possibly, correction in this House. Therefore, I feel it would be more practical and possibly more useful from the point of view of the final state in which this Bill will appear if the Committee Stage were to take place before a Select Committee rather than before the whole House.

I am not completely ad idem with Deputies Finlay and Major de Valera, with regard to the legal obligations and rights of the State. I think there is a case to be made that, in so far as the State is concerned, the time in which its rights may be enforced should be slightly longer than in the case of the individual. Certainly, with regard to actions against the State, I cannot see any reason why the State should be in any privileged position over and above the individual. However, with regard to accidents in respect of which the State must enforce its rights against an individual or corporation, I think some case can be made for extending the time somewhat in favour of the State.

Happily, in this country, we have had a very high standard in public life, both executive and administrative. However, one cannot always rely on that record and be sure that such a happy position will continue for all time. It may be that from time to time, some unscrupulous official may be given to collusion with some member of the public with regard to some right that that member of the public might be inclined to make against the State. It may be with regard to the acquisition of property. An official could possibly turn the blind eye for a sufficiently long period to enable some person to get an adverse right against the State. Being such a complex corporation as it is at the present time, there may well be a good argument in favour of giving the State a somewhat extended time over and above the individual who is more flexible than the State.

Some of the points I might have made at this stage have already been made. I should like to make just one other reference to Section 11. Deputy Barrett referred to it to some extent. Actions in tort are limited to six years under this Bill, but actions founded on negligence, nuisance or breach of duty, where they consist of or include damages in respect of personal injuries to any person, shall not be brought after the expiration of three years from the date on which the cause of action accrued. That is provided under paragraph (b) of sub-section (2) of Section 11. If only for the sake of uniformity, that period of three years should be extended to six. Apart altogether from the uniformity aspect of it, it could well happen that the consequences of a person's injuries as a result of tort, negligence, nuisance or breach of duty, no matter what it is, might not fully manifest themselves for a period beyond three years. Admittedly, it may happen only very rarely but I think no special case can be made for limiting actions where personal injury is caused to some person to three years from the cause of action accruing. As well as that, it seems that the sub-section limits all actions for negligence, nuisance or breach of duty, no matter how small the personal injury aspect might be, to three years.

I think it is wrong that because a person may have been injured in a small way incidentally to some action by a third party which caused injury as well, his action must be brought side by side with his action for damages in respect of injury to his other property within three years of the cause of action accruing. Take just one example, and it may not be a very recurring example—subsidence in a house. If a person is injured because of subsidence, the subsidence may be as a result of excavation by a local contractor or an individual. The damage may be great and if the person happens to be sitting in a room and gets a crack from a falling brick he must bring his action within three years of the cause of action accruing. It may be that the cause of the accident may have existed for more than three years prior to his receiving the injury. In that case, I think there should be no limitation as far as the action for injury to the house is concerned, if he also happens to be injured personally. That is the only point I want to refer to at this stage. If for no other reasons than uniformity and the fact that this is a consolidating Bill, I think there is no justification for having a limitation of three years in the one case and six years in the other. In common with other Deputies, I was struck by the obvious amount of effort that went into this Bill and, if for no other reason than the amount of effort it contains, the Minister and his officials, be they in his own Department or in that of the Attorney-General, deserve the highest compliments and the congratulations of the House.

Like the other speakers, I should like to preface my remarks by saying that it is very clear from this Bill that the Minister, his advisers and the draftsmen have put a great amount of work and effort into the framing of this measure. There are not many ways in which it could be improved by prolonged debate or discussion here, but there are some matters which, even though of minor importance, are worthy of consideration. I want to make a few suggestions which the Minister may consider, inasmuch as they may prove helpful eventually to those who will have to follow the contents of this Bill, when it becomes an Act of Parliament, and prevent hardship, perhaps, in cases where people may not realise that there is a more uniform rule and a more uniform limitation with regard to certain actions which appear to me to be similar in character than exists under the present Bill.

I take it the object of the Bill is to codify the law of limitations which heretofore has been scattered over various Acts and knowledge of which has been acquired by usage and court decisions, and one thing and another. To a very large extent, this Bill will codify the law of limitations. At the same time, I should like to address some of my remarks to simplifying some of the codifications, apart from merely codifying the limitations.

On page nine of the memorandum, it is stated that heretofore a period of six years was the operative period in all tort actions except assaults, battery, wounding, etc., and these excepted actions will have a limitation period of four years henceforth. Now, sub-section (2) (b) of Section 11 provides that personal injury actions for negligence, nuisance or breach of duty shall have a limitation period of three years only, instead of the present six years. Furthermore, we find that, under the Fatal Injuries Act, the period is also three years. I cannot see any reason why there should be a difference in the period of limitation for the bringing of such actions. There is, too, the danger that heretofore most lay people regarded most debts as being actionable for a period of six years and they felt reasonably safe in not instituting proceedings to protect their rights, while any part of that six-year period had still to run. I think the Minister should seriously consider simplification as well as codification in this respect. I cannot for the life of me see why there should be a different period of limitation for bringing an action for assault or wounding as distinct from the period for bringing an action for personal injury. Again, there is a different period for the bringing of an action under the Fatal Injuries Act.

Now, I think that a three-year period for these actions is too short. It may be that six years is too long, but one is more likely to create the occasional hardship that can be created by having too short a period rather than too long a period. It is, I suppose, merely a matter of opinion, but I should be inclined to think that a four-year period would be less likely to create that occasional hardship, particularly for want of knowledge of the various periods. I would respectfully suggest that the Minister might consider making the period for all these actions the same. I would also suggest that three years seems to me to be a bit short.

Everybody who spoke on this Bill seems to agree that the State should not be in any more privileged position than the private individual. The private individual has, of course, less resources at his disposal to ascertain what the law is on any given matter as compared with the State, which has at its disposal senior officials and legal departments to act as guides. I do not see why there should be any difference of any kind either in relation to title to land or in relation to liabilities on contracts, torts, or otherwise, as between the State and the private individual. Deputy Major de Valera pointed out that, in fact, the State is far better off in that respect than is the private individual, inasmuch as the State has a superior way of knowing what its rights are.

There was a point raised in regard to Sections 36 and 37 in relation to the period of limitation applicable to trustees. There is one particular type of trustee whose position I would like to mention specifically because he would be affected by the provisions of Section 37. I refer to the administrator of a deceased person, particularly the administrator holding land who is regarded as a trustee for the next-of-kin, once he takes out the grant of administration. We have cases regularly where a person is compelled to take out administration, administration which otherwise would not have been taken out, in order to obtain a benefit. The deceased owner of the estate may have, during his lifetime, become entitled to a substantial grant for the building of a new house, reconstruction work or reclamation work. He dies before the money is paid. His widow, or one of his children, in order to obtain payment of this grant is compelled to produce authority in the form of letters of administration. By doing so, the individual immediately puts himself, or herself, as the case may be, in the position of being a trustee for the next-of-kin. If he were not compelled to take out administration, he would not be a trustee and the 12-year period of limitation would apply, and if no next-of-kin made a claim within that 12-year period, he became the full owner.

Now he is compelled to take out a grant of administration, not with the desire of becoming a trustee for the next-of-kin but to avail of grants to improve the property or recover moneys due by the State. That simple act places him in an entirely different position. He immediately becomes a trustee; and under Section 37 of this Bill, the period of limitation does not run in his favour. In fact, no period of limitation runs in his favour, not even the overall 13-year period in another portion of the Bill. I agree a trustee must be bound to account, and he should not ordinarily be entitled to avail of the statute of limitations in the same way as the ordinary individual, but I think, at the same time, Section 37 should be reconsidered in order to find some solution which will protect everybody.

I would point out that the position as we know it—I know it mostly in the country, but other people will have different experiences—is that there are cases where it might be considered that trustees should not be allowed to avail of the provisions of the statute of limitations to prevent hardship and there are cases where this particular section is going to impose a great hardship. I might cite as an example the case of a person dying intestate and leaving seven or eight children. These children, in this modern age, will have received a reasonably good education and some of them may go away, may go to foreign countries, and may spend years and years away. If I am interpreting Section 37 of the Bill correctly, it makes no difference how long these individuals may enjoy life in some foreign land or how much better off they may be than the unfortunate person at home—they are entitled to come back and make their claim against that person. If that person has taken out a grant of administration and put himself in the position of being a trustee, if he wants to avail of the estate, either for improvement of the land or for paying another member of the family or for any of the one hundred and one purposes named, he may have to take out administration to do that and he is immediately placing everybody under his care and protection, so far as their share of the estate is concerned. I do not think it is fair that that onus should be placed on him indefinitely and permanently.

There should be some period of limitation. Whether it is necessary to have a period any longer than the Act itself provides, I am not prepared to say at this stage. It might be suggested that it would be unfair that the next-of-kin should be protected absolutely and entirely, as is being done by this section, but surely the ordinary laws of limitation protect everybody sufficiently well, whether the person is a trustee and administrator or is not acting in any fiduciary relationship at all. We have, under the ordinary periods of limitation and under the law as it will stand, as it has heretofore stood and will stand under this Bill without Section 37 at all, a period of 12 years under which any person entitled to claim can make his claim.

If any person is under a disability, if the person is an infant, that period is extended and that person still has a further period in which to make his claim, or 12 years, whichever is the longer. If a member of the family is of unsound mind, that person is protected by the statute, so that, in a certain sense, there is no necessity further to protect people who are entitled to an interest in a deceased's estate by placing the unfortunate administrator or trustee in a worse position than any other private individual, as far as the administration of estates is concerned. I think that anybody who does not make his claim within the time limit set by the Bill, and within the extended period for a person under a disability, does not need that claim and there is no reason why he should be further protected. A 12-year period is long enough. You are going to hold up a family indefinitely; you are going to defeat the very thing successive Governments say they are anxious to do—to secure the keeping of people on the land.

I am, say, a member of a family of nine and my mother has taken out administration on the death of my father, and I am the second or third eldest son who has stayed at home to help my mother for eight or ten years working this holding. My mother unfortunately has had to take out a grant of administration for some purpose, such as I mentioned earlier, to get £100 or £200 lodged in the bank or to get a grant from the Department of Local Government. I talk to my mother and ask her about settling the place. I am now 28 or 29 years of age. She tells me she would love to do it, but unfortunately she cannot do it. She is only a trustee by reason of the unfortunate necessity of taking out a grant of administration, and, even if she settles the place on me, I still have no right to it beyond my original share. As there are nine of us in the family and my mother is still living, that is one-ninth of two-thirds, a two-twenty-sevenths share. I am not going to stay at home. I may, because of a moral obligation to see that my mother is looked after, that somebody stays with her in her old age, but it is completely unfair that I should be doing this, without any hope of benefit or the security of knowing I will become the owner. If members of the family abroad refuse to release their claim, and if my mother or whoever takes out administration, the occupier, has never taken out administration, title will be acquired against the absent members of the family.

I may have dwelt on this subject too long, but I feel it is a subject that the Minister should consider very seriously, because it will be a very great help to large families where the head of the family may not have made provision, either by will or deed of settlement, during his life for the succession afterwards. It will be suggested by the Minister that members of the family should come together and release their claims, but there is always the possibility that some members of the family will not feel that they should do that. I think they have plenty of time to make a claim in the period of 12 years, without giving them this further period for all time while the administrator lives. If the Minister feels that that particular 12-year period is short, he may extend it a little further, but I do not think there is any necessity for that.

I should like to mention one other matter, that is, the fact that this Bill, if it becomes law, is certain to affect a good many claims and rights of action of many people in various ways. It is suggested here that the Bill will come into operation possibly on 1st January, 1957. It might be considered that that period is somewhat too early to bring into operation the various alterations which will be effected by it and that people should have an opportunity of looking into their position, so that it will not work against their interests and that they will have ample opportunity of seeing what their position will be; in other words, it would be better to put it back a further six or 12 months so that hardship will not be inflicted on anybody.

I suggest to the Minister that there is some substance in what I say, that an overall period of four years would be far simpler and probably work a lesser hardship and certainly prevent any room for confusion. I would again suggest a uniform period of four years. As regards slander cases, I think Deputy Finlay has made a strong case for an extension of the period. Two years is certainly sufficient for the type of slander actionable per se, but there is the type of slander in which special damages must be proved before the person can succeed. Very often those special damages are difficult to prove and the effect of the slander may not be apparent for a couple of years after the slander has been published. In respect of slander which is not actionable per se, the Minister might consider whether a uniform period of four years, the same as for personal accident, wounding and so on, would be a more proper period for slander not actionable per se.

I would like to express my gratitude for the complimentary remarks passed by the Deputies who spoke on this Bill, on the manner in which my officials have presented this measure. We know it is a highly technical Bill and that there is a general desire on all sides of the House for its success. Many of us are not highly skilled in the technical position but I am sure, with the co-operation of the House, we will get a Bill that will meet with everybody's approval.

Deputy Boland raised a point in relation to people in rural areas. There are many old people who never have their land registered until perhaps one of them becomes ill. I am informed that under Section 52 of the Registration of Title Act, 1891, a person can make application to the court to have his title registered. In any event, let me assure Deputy Boland and Deputy Moylan, who also raised an important point, that their suggestions will receive very careful consideration.

There were some very valuable suggestions made this evening and, if anyone wishes to do so, I would be glad if they would communicate with one of my officials so that they could discuss all the various points between now and the Committee Stage. I would welcome all the assistance I can get and I am sure the officials would be only too ready and willing to do what they can to have amendments put down on Committee Stage and have further discussion in connection with them.

Deputies Finlay, Lindsay and Major de Valera, all legal men, raised questions in regard to certain privileges that the State may have as against the ordinary citizen. There is a Bill entitled the State Proceedings Bill under consideration at the present time which will deal with the points which the legal Deputies have raised and will ensure the State will not have privileges over the ordinary citizen. We will also consider the points raised by Deputy Glynn in relation to the period of 40 years.

Generally speaking, the Bill has received the support of the House. It is only a question then of considering details. If the House is agreeable we can adjourn consideration of the Committee Stage for a month. In the meantime my officials are at the disposal of any Deputy or group of Deputies to discuss the Bill and this will, I hope, ensure that we will have a Bill that will meet with the approval of the whole House instead of a Party Bill. As I say, I will welcome their assistance and I can assure the House that it will be a pleasure for the officials to meet them under the circumstances.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 28th March, 1956.