Committee on Finance. - Succession Bill, 1965: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I just want to put a point to the Minister. It arises on a later section also. It is the position of the testator who has already made his will according to the law as it stands at the moment and who, by reason, say, of mental incapacity or physical incapacity is precluded from making a further will or adding a codicil to the will to bring it into line with the proposals contained in this Bill. Has the Minister given any consideration to that type of position? If the Bill comes into operation in 12 months from July next, there may be a number of people at the moment who are unable to alter their wills and who will continue to be in that position up to the time of the coming into operation of the Bill as an Act. However, I think that possibly this is more relevant on section 9.

We shall leave it, then, until section 9.

I shall raise it again on section 9.

Question agreed to.

SECTION 3.

With amendment No. 1, it is suggested that the following amendments also be taken: Nos. 3, 4, 7, 8, 11/16, 20 and 23/28. The decision on No. 1 should cover Deputy O'Higgins's set of amendments. There could be separate decisions on amendments Nos. 27 and 28 standing in the name of Deputy J. A. Costello.

What does the Chair suggest in relation to amendments Nos. 27 and 28?

Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 constitute an alternative proposal. If necessary, there could be separate decisions on these two amendments.

Must they be discussed at the same time as Deputy M.J. O'Higgins's amendments?

That was the general idea.

I must accept the ruling of the Chair. However, the very fact that there could be a separate decision rather underlines my objection. The one thing I wanted to avoid on my amendments was a decision. I wanted it to be something that would arise after a full discussion had taken place on the Minister's proposal and Deputy O'Higgins's amendments. After a clear-cut decision, I hoped my amendment would come in as an effort to create some sort of agreed proposal between all the parties. I could not possibly discuss that in the context of the controversy between the Minister's proposal and Deputy O'Higgins's amendment. Accordingly, I propose not to move those amendments.

There is nothing to prevent Deputy Costello, I take it, from putting down these amendments on Report Stage?

There is nothing to prevent him from doing so. The reason the Chair has so ruled is that if the two sets of amendments were discussed separately, there would be considerable duplication of debate.

I quite appreciate that. The Chair will understand that the present proposal to have these matters discussed together would simply nullify the foundation for my proposal and therefore there is no point in going on with it.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, to delete lines 1 and 2. As the Chair has mentioned, with amendment No. 1 are being taken several other amendments which have been tabled by me on behalf of the Fine Gael Party. These amendments, taken together, set up in my view a comprehensive and detailed alternative to the Government's proposals. In the spirit which Deputy J.A. Costello has very rightly been recommending to the House in relation to this Bill and which I certainly welcome and should like to co-operate with, I think it might be as well to see how large is the area of agreement between the Minister's proposals and the outlook of people on this side of the House.

I think it is agreed by Deputies on all sides of the House and by those who show themselves interested in this matter outside the House that a testator should make fair and adequate provision for his dependants. There is no disagreement about that. It is agreed also, I take it, on all sides of the House—otherwise, neither this measure nor the motion which was proposed by me in the House earlier would be necessary—that there are some testators who fail in their duty in that respect. I think it is agreed also —or, if it is not agreed, I suggest it should be agreed and it would be quite reasonable to agree to it—that there is no need, and indeed that there is no justification, for interfering with the will or with the right of free disposition of a testator who in fact does make fair and adequate provision for his dependants. If the Minister is prepared to agree with these three propositions, I think we have gone some way towards at least approaching agreement in relation to this measure.

If the Minister is prepared to agree that there is no justification for interfering with the will of a testator who in fact does make fair and proper provision for his dependants—whether the dependants be a spouse or children—I suggest it follows logically that the class of will and the only class of will which requires to be dealt with is limited to the will of the testator who fails in his duty. If there is agreement on that, I think there should also be agreement that our search for the remedy should be limited to that particular field, limited to seeing what requires to be done in relation to the will of the testator who fails in his duty. I think it would be reasonable enough, and the discussions that have taken place in this House already justify my view in this, in any event that there should be discussion, and even disagreement, with regard to the particular remedy that might be applied. But, logically, there ought not to be any disagreement about the area for which the remedy is necessary and that is the area for which the testator who fails in his duty, the testator who produces what has become knows as an undutiful or inofficious will.

As I see it, the fundamental difference between our approach to this and the approach of the Government is that we in our approach to this matter are trying to remedy the particular problem that exists by applying the remedy directly to that problem, whereas the Government's proposal is that in order to remedy the particular problem that exists, it is necessary to interfere in some way with everybody's will and with the free right of disposition of property by will which exists at the moment. That attitude can be justified only by the belief that the majority of testators in this country fail in their duty when making their wills. If the Government believe that, if they honestly have come to the conclusion that the majority of will-makers fail in their duty and make wills which are not fair, or wills which do not make fair or adequate provision for their dependants, then I think the remedy they are suggesting is probably the right one.

Certainly the Government have every justification for introducing a remedy which will interfere with the generality of wills if they honestly hold the belief that the majority of will-makers fail in their duty when making their will. But if the Government do not hold that belief, then the proposition I am putting to the Minister is that they should seek some remedy other than the remedy they are proposing, other than the idea of interfering with all wills in order to stamp out the problem of a number, whether large or small, of inofficious wills.

As I say, in the series of amendments which we are proposing, we are putting before the House for discussion, consideration and, I hope, acceptance a comprehensive alternative proposal which has been the subject of very great thought, examination and scrutiny by members of this Party and those whose advice we sought in the matter and which is designed to try to preserve for the ordinary Irish will-maker the freedom of disposition which he now enjoys and, at the same time, ensure that, in particular, widows are protected. In this I agree very much with the views expressed by Deputy J.A. Costello that whatever the phraseology of the Bill or of the amendments, it is, in fact, widows and dependent children Deputies are most concerned with. Our scheme, as I say, is to try to preserve the rights of will-making that people have at the moment and, at the same time, give adequate protection to widows and other dependants.

The scheme put forward by the Minister in the Bill is one of fixed legal right shares. That has been described by a very authoritative body who are concerned in this problem as an attempt to do justice blindfolded. That is the description that has been applied to it by the Incorporated Law Society. The proposals we are making are first of all that this question of fixed legal rights should be deleted from the Bill. I do not intend to read out this amendment in detail at the moment, but, in general, our idea is that we should insert in this Bill, in the Irish law dealing with distribution of property and succession, a declaration of what the Legislature regards as a testator's duties, and that we should make it clear in the Bill that it is the duty of any testator to make such equitable provision for his dependants as is reasonable, having regard to his means. I think that is the farthest anyone can go.

That declaration of duty is one to which Deputies on all sides of the House could, not only with easy minds but with some enthusiasm, subscribe. That particular proposal is in our amendment No. 24. We propose that that general declaration should be inserted into the Bill and that it should then be made clear that there are some cases of exceptions which would relieve a testator from the full implementation of what we would declare to be his duty in ordinary circumstances.

In this amendment we set out in detail those four exceptions. The amendment reads:

It shall be the duty of a testator by his will to make such equitable provision for his dependants as is reasonable having regard to his means unless—

(a) at the date of his death such person is otherwise adequately provided for in life;

(b) such person had been before the date of the death of the testator adequately provided for in life by the testator;

(c) such person is by reason of continuing dissolute, dishonourable, cruel or unfaithful behaviour undeserving of such provision;

(d) special personal or family circumstances exist which make it undesirable or impractical to make provision for all dependants.

I am submitting this to the House as a perfectly reasonable and logical proposal. Taken in conjunction with the other measures which we propose in the amendments, it would have the effect of ensuring that a person's dependants will be properly treated by the testator in making his will. It might be perfectly reasonable to ask: why not insert a general declaration and leave it at that? Why is it necessary to modify it, or to trim it down in any way by the exceptions mentioned in amendment No. 24? If Deputies examine the exceptions, they will see that they are all reasonable.

The first exception is the case where at the time of the testator's death the particular dependant in question is otherwise adequately provided for. In those circumstances, it seems to me that there should not be any obligation on the testator further to provide for a person already adequately provided for. It would be a matter for proof, if it were thought desirable to contest it, whether or not adequate provision was already made.

The second exception is the case where the testator has already during his life made adequate provision for the particular dependant, whether it be a spouse or one of the children. I think this should be acceptable to the Minister because it falls in with his own scheme of things in the modified Bill. Once that has been done, the testator has carried out his obligations and fulfilled his duty.

The third exception is one about which I concede there might be controversy. It was only after very careful thought and consideration that it was decided that this exception should be included as a ground which would entitle the testator to disregard the claim of a particular dependant. The third ground is that the person is by reason of continuing dissolute, dishonourable, cruel or unfaithful behaviour undeserving of such provision. I want to make it clear at this stage that that exception is not intended to cater for the type of testator who was described by Deputy J.A. Costello on Second Reading as the testator who endeavours to control his family from the grave. That is not what is in mind at all.

What is in mind here is the case which must have been in mind of the Minister's predecessor when he introduced the previous Succession Bill. In that Bill he made an exception very much in the same terms as the exception proposed here. The Minister shakes his head but I do not think I am mistaken.

That is right.

The Minister was nodding, and not shaking his head. I see. That is the explanation for that exception, and I think it is a reasonable one and one that should recommend itself to the House.

The fourth exception we propose deals with one of the matters which, to my mind, is of fundamental importance. It goes to the roots of the proposals we make, and it is also one of the basic objections to the scheme proposed by the Minister. The fourth exception is the case where special personal or family circumstances exist which make it undesirable or impractical to make provision for all dependants.

Anyone who has anything to do with the making of wills, whether in his professional capacity as a lawyer, or as a friend and adviser from time to time—and I think one Deputy who is not a lawyer mentioned in the earlier discussions that he frequently had to give advice in regard to wills—will know that no two cases are the same. In every single case there will be special family circumstances and special considerations which might be personal to one or more of the dependants, or the people who have a claim on the bounty, if you like, of the testator. There will be special circumstances which it is proper for the testator to take into consideration, and special circumstances which in most cases it is recognised by the family that the testator should take into consideration when making his will.

As I say, anyone who has any experience of will-making will know that frequently when the testator is making his will, he will have discussions with his solicitor, or with friends in whom he has particular confidence, even though they may not be members of the legal profession, that he will discuss the matter with his accountants, and very much more often than not, I suggest, he will also discuss the matter with his wife and family. When he has got the consensus of opinion of his family and the advice of lawyers and other professional people he may go to, he will decide in the light of the circumstances that exist, and in the light of the advice he has taken, what are the proper and just provisions to make in his will.

I think it is right that we should encourage people to act in that manner, to give proper consideration to all the circumstances that exist at any time. If we insist on importing into our legislation provision for fixed legal right share, without any discretion to the court to review the case of a will where a man has failed in his duty, we are immediately cutting out those special family considerations which any lawyer will be able to tell the Minister exist in virtually every case, and which every individual who has made a will or contemplates making a will will be able to tell the Minister exist in his own case. I think the Minister will find that there are very few people who go about making a will who do not feel there is some particular aspect that should receive special consideration and be treated with special concern.

I feel very strongly that that position should be preserved and that in so far as the Legislature can ensure that all relevant family and personal circumstances are taken into consideration, the Legislature should so ensure. That can be ensured by the scheme we are proposing to the Minister. They are the four exceptions, and there are only four, that we in these benches are prepared to recognise as justifying a testator departing from the general duty set out in the declaration at the beginning of amendment No.24.

I do not think it necessary to go in detail into the definitions set out in amendment No. 23. The Minister will find they are comprehensive: they are intended to deal with the question of dependants. As far as I am concerned —other Deputies may have other views —what we require to deal with in a measure of this kind is the position of the different types of dependant. Very briefly, we propose to define dependants as, firstly, a spouse of the testator; secondly, a child of the testator who is under 21; thirdly, an adult mental or physical disability incapacitating child of the testator suffering from him from adequately supporting and maintaining himself; fourthly, in the case of a female testator who has legitimate offspring, such offspring who is under 21 and who has no adequate means of support independent of the testator; and lastly, a person who is under the age of 21 and to whom the testator wasin loco parentis and who has no adequate means of support independent of the testator. The Minister will agree that that is not only reasonable but is adequate to cover the type of cases that require to be covered. We go on to make it clear that “child” will include a stepshild, a posthumous child or an adopted child.

The next matter of importance in the proposal we are putting before the House is this: the whole system we are proposing is, as I have already said, that there should be a declaration of the testator's duty to make provision for dependants, except in the limited number of exceptional cases I have referred to; and then we go on to provide for what will happen if a testator fails in that—what remedies will be open to the dependants to ensure that they get fair treatment.

We suggest there are four categories of wills which should not be capable of being challenged by dependants or anybody else. By and large, there will be general agreement on this question among Deputies, particularly Deputies who remember the controversy that was aroused by the original provisions contained in the first Bill introduced by the Minister's predecessor. They will remember that the controversy aroused succeeded also in arousing very far-flung interest in this whole question of the distribution of property on death, and succession to property, and by reason of that interest and controversy, Deputies in the House, or most of them, considering this Bill now will, like myself, have had the advantage of hearing the views of many of their constituents.

Any Deputy who has had that advantage will agree with the proposition we make that there are some wills which are now regarded throughout this country as being fair and proper wills which should not be capable of being upset or challenged. The wills to which we say this applies fall into four categories. The first is the will of a testator who leaves everything to his spouse. Speaking with 25 years experience in the legal profession in the city of Dublin, I say—I hope some of my colleagues opposite will agree —that by far the greatest proportion of wills made in the city are wills whereby the testator or testatrix, as the case may be, leaves everything to the other spouse.

That is covered.

I know that, but I am dealing with my amendments. Consequently, I think everyone will agree it is perfectly right to say a will which does that should not be capable of being challenged. As the Minister has indicated by his intervention, that position is recognised now by the Government in this Bill, though it was not so recognised in the first Bill introduced.

Secondly, we are proposing that in the case where you have a married couple with no children, where the testator or testatrix leaves everything to the other spouse for life and then leaves it back, as is quite customary, to his or her own side of the family, that will is now regarded as being perfectly fair and proper and should not be capable of being challenged.

The third category of will which we say should not be capable of being challenged is where the testator leaves the spouse and other members of his family and by the testator's will the entire estate is given to such spouse for an estate for life with the remainder to such one or more of the other members of his family as the testator by his will may decide or as the surviving spouse shall appoint. That is a common form of will in this country. It is very often a valuable type of will to make. Take the case of a man making his will at a time when his family are comparatively young, still under age. If he is a man of reasonable or moderate means, probably his desire would be to make such provision in his will as would enable each of his children to enjoy a particular share of his estate when he dies but he does not know—none of us does—when he will die. He is married to a person in whom he has the utmost confidence.

Very frequently what he will do is leave everything to his wife for life and say in his will that the further disposition of his property will be as his spouse, by deed or by will, shall appoint. He does that in the belief and hope that whenever the other spouse dies or the children attain the age of 21 years, the surviving spouse will make fair and just provision for the children. That is a common form of will. It is one frequently used and is very often of inestimable value in its practical application.

Now, the fourth category of will which we suggest should not be capable of being challenged is one that is of particular importance in the rural parts of this country. We are suggesting that where a man dies leaving a widow and property consisting of a farm, a business or other source of livelihood, which by his will he gives to a member of his family, subject to and charged with rights of residence, support, clothing and maintenance in favour of the widow, that shall not be capable of being challenged in so far as the farm, business or other source of livelihood is concerned. The last few words in that subsection suggested by us are of vital importance. We are not suggesting that merely because a person who owns a farm or a business leaves it to a member of his family and charges it with these rights in favour of his widow, that should preclude the widow from seeking more advantageous treatment if the man has other property. All that we are suggesting is that so far as the farm, the business or the other source of livelihood, whatever it might be, is concerned, the will shall not be capable of being challenged.

We are proposing this as a matter which is of very great importance and very great concern to the people. We are proposing it with the object of being able to preserve the unit in question, whether it is the farm or the business, to enable the testator himself to select, knowing all the family and personal circumstances to which I referred earlier, the member of the family who is most suited by training and inclination to carry on the business of the farm and to enable him to preserve it and hand it over to that member of the family, whether it is a son or a daughter, as a unit. If there are other assets which could be capable of having a claim made against them, well and good; let the claim be made against those other assets.

One of the main objections which was made and is still being made to the Minister's proposals in the Bill is in regard to the possibility of fragmentation of farms and businesses if the fixed legal right share of one-third is operated. I recognise, and I hope the Minister also recognises, that those arguments are sound and convincing and arguments which should be listened to. The Incorporated Law Society commented on this and their comment was published in the newspapers. I have not got the newspaper clipping with me but what they said is as follows:—

The first, and to a lesser extent the second, Bill approaches the question of testamentary disposition from the point of view of individuals rather than of the family as a unit. This fragmentation of interest is undesirable.

We hope that by putting up these proposals for consideration, and as I said before for, I hope, acceptance, we will avoid the pitfalls inherent in the Minister's proposals. Then we reach the position where having suggested that there should be a declaration of a testator's duty that duty should bind the testator himself; then there are particular cases where specified exceptions are mentioned and then we reach the stage of saying what should be done if a testator fails in his duty and this is dealt with in amendment No. 25.

We suggest that where a testator fails by his will to make equitable provision for a dependant, such dependant may apply to the court to modify the terms of the testator's will so as to make such provision. If that application is made to the court and the court is satisfied that the testator has failed to make fair provision and that the case does not fall into one of the exceptions which I have dealt with already, then the amendment goes on to detail the powers which the court should have to deal with that situation. Amendment No. 25 suggests the insertion of a new section which goes on to say:

(2) Upon such application to the Court under subsection (1) of this section if the Court is of opinion—

(a) that the testator has failed by his will to make such equitable provision for the applicant as is reasonable having regard to his means, and

(b) that the application is not one to which paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d) of section * apply,

——those are the proposals I have dealt with already——

the Court may order that such reasonable provision be made for the applicant by means of payment out of the assets of the testator of such amount as the Court shall think fit, and thereupon the will of the testator for all purposes, including the enactments relating to death duties, shall have effect as if the testator had in his said will made the provision for the applicant ordered by the Court, and with such modifications or abatements as regards bequests and devises therein as the Court shall order for the purpose of giving effect to the provision ordered by the Court.

I want to stress and to emphasise in connection with this that what we are proposing here is that in the case of the undutiful will the person who is aggrieved by it, the dependant who is aggrieved by it shall be entitled to go to court and ask the court to remedy the situation and we are proposing that the court shall have absolute discretion to deal with the situation. We are also proposing in the next subsection that the court will not be limited merely to making payments by means of maintenance. I am not familiar with the detailed workings of this type of legislation in other countries but I know that one of the criticisms which was voiced in regard to British law on the subject—the Act of 1938, the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act, 1938, and the Northern Ireland Act, 1960, and Acts of a similar kind in a number of Commonwealth countries—was that a weakness in those Acts was the fact that the court had not absolute discreation and was only entitled to award maintenance and that the maintenance came to an end whenever the dependency came to an end and that there was no discretion to the court to share out in an equitable and just fashion the assets of the testator who had failed in his duty.

We are suggesting that we should go much further here than the legislation in England or Northern Ireland and that a court should have discretion to go far beyond mere maintenance payments and make adequate provision and that the court should have power to decide how that provision should be made, whether by means of lump sum or payments from estate of the deceased, or whether it might be necessary in some cases that the payments should be made by instalments, or again, in other cases where the applicant is an infant or is suffering from mental incapacity, that the payment, whether lump sum or instalments, be made to a committee or guardian for the benefit of the incapacitated person or infant applicant.

I referred earlier, on other amendments, to one of the matters which we regard as fundamental. That is the fact that the testator in making his will has to have regard, if he is going to do the job properly, to the personal and family circumstances that exist and I referred to the fact which I believe is true, that by clamping down any type of rigid system of general application, the Legislature cannot possibly have regard to these special circumstances which exist in every case. I believe that the person, certainly the best person, if not the only person, to have full knowledge of what the circumstances are, is the testator himself but where the testator makes what is obviously, or appears to be, an unfair or unjust or inofficious will, then it is necessary to establish some alternative method of examining these special family or special personal circumstances which exist.

We suggest that the court is the best alternative. Certainly the Legislature cannot do it. All we can do is legislate in a general way and, as a Deputy on the other Benches pointed out, hard cases make bad law. If we, out of the kindness of our hearts, legislate because of particular hard cases and try to apply that to the general run of Irish will-makers, it is more likely than not we shall make bad law. But if we set up machinery whereby a court of Justice will be able to examine the individual situation, the individual circumstances applying in individual cases, the chances of things going wrong, of any bad law being created or of any hardship arising out of that bad law are certainly reduced as much as is possible, humanly speaking.

We suggest the courts should be put in that position and should be enabled to make that kind of an examination and enabled, in the case of a will which appears to be unjust or unfair or failing in a testator's duty, to examine the reasons for the disposition which the testator made, or failed to make, and that all these kinds of things should be taken into account. Any lawyer knows, and probably non-lawyers know even more than lawyers, that very often there is great public interest in actions concerning wills. Why that should be I am not entirely sure. It seems that people like to draw aside the curtains and look into other people's lives. I do not think that should exist in regard to the type of application we have in mind here and we are providing in these amendments that the applications to the court which we propose will be heard in private and that there will not be any publicity. We are spelling it out in the amendments we propose that none of the evidence, none of the documents and none of the other matters that will be mentioned will be printed or published. In doing that we are not casting—I certainly do not intend to cast—any reflection on Irish journalists or Irish newspapers. That is not intended, but we feel these are private, family matters and that those bringing these applications are entitled to have them treated in that way, without prying eyes, without having purely private, family matters and circumstances— which should be considered—exposed for public viewing.

That suggestion has been accepted in part by the Minister in relation to the scheme he provides for dependent children. I cannot be accused of boasting when I say that the Minister got that idea from these amendments which are a repetition of amendments put down to the earlier Bill. It is a good idea and I am glad the Minister has accepted it. It is important that people bringing these applications should be free to have their cases considered privately, without the embarrassing publicity of neighbouring eyes being able to penetrate the curtain of their private lives.

We also propose in these amendments that the procedure whereby these applications will be brought before the courts will be simple, speedy and comparatively cheap, as cheap a procedure at any rate as is known to the courts at present. It is right that in putting forward his proposal, we should spell out, as best we can, the procedure to be adopted. The Minister has the same idea in mind but his idea was open to the criticism that was made of it by Deputy J.A. Costello on the Second Reading of the Bill, that while the Minister's motives and good intentions are not in question, nevertheless the particular section—I think it is section

Section 117, subsection (5), page 40.

I was looking at the first effort of the Government. I think that section is evidence of the fact that the Minister is thinking along exactly the same lines. He provides that the rules of court in relation to the procedure on applications shall be so made as to ensure that the proceedings are conducted as informally and inexpensively as possible. While the Minister is entitled to credit for the intention, putting it like that in the Bill simply seems to be a pious aspiration which is likely to lead to trouble. It is likely to be challenged at any stage, no matter what regulations are made, by a litigious-minded applicant who says, no matter what the procedures laid down in the regulations may be, that it could be conducted more informally or that it could be conducted less expensively. I think the suggestion we are making in our amendments, in spelling out the procedure, is the preferable one and we are suggesting in our amendments that these applications should be brought to the court by means of notice of motion. The firm procedure is laid down here.

There is another matter of some importance that perhaps I should deal with at this stage. It is provided also in our amendments that any application made to the court should be brought within six months. Under the fixed legal right share system proposed by the Minister, a beneficiary, or a spouse, rather—it is limited to a spouse now—will have a year within which to elect with regard to taking a legal right share or devise or legacy or bequest under the will. I think there is danger in having a long period. This is a matter also to which we gave a very great deal of thought. The British Act and the Northern Ireland Act each provide for a period of six months within which applications are to be brought. When we were considering this matter, it was suggested that it might be desirable to ask that that period should be lengthened but on considering it the position is this, that either under the Minister's system of a fixed share or the discretionary system which we are proposing coupled with an application to the court, once there is in our legislation provision for an application to the court or provision for an election within a particular time, there is danger that the administration of the estate will be hung up until that period expires. That exists in relation to the application by children under the Minister's proposals. It would exist also in relation to the application to the court under our proposals.

In order to get around that and in order to minimise the difficulty, we are suggesting that initially the basic time for the application to be made should be six months but that in cases of urgency—and there will be cases of urgency regarding the administration of an estate—the personal representative should be entitled to serve on all persons who have an interest under the estate a notice that he intends distributing the assets in accordance with the will and we are suggesting that if such a notice is issued by the personal representative, that the various dependants, the spouse and the children, would then be required to bring their applications within one month of the service of the notice and we set out in the amendments the manner in which the notice should be served, that it should be transmitted through the Probate Registry, and so on.

This, I suggest, is an improvement on the position obtaining under the English and Northern Ireland legislation. This is a simple system which would enable the personal representative to speed up the whole machinery in cases where it is necessary to speed it up. In short, that is the scheme which we are proposing as an alternative to the Minister's proposals.

I am sure the Minister has had regard and will have regard to the fact that these proposals which we are making are being made in a completely non-controversial manner. We are making them because we believe that they are good proposals and we believe that the proposals which the Minister has incorporated in the Bill would not be good proposals or, at least, that they would not be as good as the proposals we are making.

The proposals which we are making have been circulated by us to any of the various bodies who seem to be interested in the subject, to the Incorporated Law Society, to the Bar Council, to the various Solicitors' Associations throughout the country, to the National Farmers' Association and others. I can say quite truthfully that apart from one which was on a misunderstanding, not one single objection was received by me from any of these bodies. Admittedly, a number of them did not reply. Others replied approving of the suggestion we were making and the only one which raised any question was a particular Solicitors' Bar Association and that was on a misunderstanding and the particular person in question made it quite clear, on the misunderstanding being resolved, that he approved of the scheme as suggested by us.

I did not get, and I did not seek in any active way, an expression of opinion from the Incorporated Law Society other than the opinions that they had expressed publicly through the newspapers. The Incorporated Law Society cannot be regarded as being motivated by any political consideration whatever. I dare say that two, possibly three, members of the present Government are members of the Incorporated Law Society. If they are not, I think they ought to be, from their professions. It is a body that represents the solicitors' profession. It talks authoritatively on these matters. It approaches these matters not in any way politically, purely from the point of view of the best interests of the clients which the various members of the Incorporated Law Society serve in their professional lives and embracing as it does virtually the entire of the solicitors' profession, urban and rural, it speaks on a matter such as this with a voice which should be listened to very carefully by the Minister and by his Department and by the Deputies in this House. The Incorporated Law Society has expressed itself in quite firm terms with regard to the Minister's proposals, both the previous proposals and the proposals contained in the present Bill.

In a public statement issued by them and published in the newspapers, they pointed out that the chief difference between the previous Succession Bill and this Bill is that the fixed legal right shares for children have been abandoned and that children who claim to have been treated unfairly by a testator are given the right to apply to the court. Then they go on and say that the proceedings will be in chambers and the court will have wide powers to do justice, that the important advantage gained is that the court in reaching its decision will have full knowledge of the circumstances and the parties in the particular case—that is a point I have emphasised already—and then they say that by contrast the fixed shares system is an attempt to do justice blindfold.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.