HC Deb 30 March 1819 vol 39 cc1261-3
Mr. M. A. Taylor

said, he would not disguise from the House that his present motion was only a preliminary step to other measures which he meant to bring forward, some in the present, and others in a future session. The object of the present motion was to show the delay in the Court of Chancery and the appellant jurisdiction. His motion was for an account of the total amount of the effects of suitors in the Court of Chancery in 1756, and every subsequent 10th year, and in 1818. What he had in view was to show the great increase of business in the Court of Chancery, from a variety of sources, since the first of these periods. He had had the honour in 1811, to move the appointment of a committee to inquire into the delays in the Court of Chancery, and to search the Journals of the Lords with respect to the delays in the appellant jurisdiction. That inquiry was followed by the appointment of an assistant court. His object was to submit to the House whether that assistance had been effectual. His own opinion was, that it had not been effectual. In the appellant jurisdiction the appeals had diminished from 300 and upwards to 140. But there were at times in the appellant jurisdiction 26 suits waiting decision at one time. If any thing should happen, either the death of the present lord chancellor, or his removal from office in consequence of a change of administration, an enormous expense would be entailed on the number of suitors whose cases remained undetermined. In June 1811, there were in the paper of the lord chancellor 114 causes: there were besides exceptions and demurrers: the appeals were 35, and the hearings 5: the bankruptcy petitions to be heard were 203. At this moment there were 289 causes in the lord chancellor's paper, whereas before there were only 114. For hearing there were 101 causes. The object he had in view was to remove the obstacles to the determination of the causes before the chancery. For that purpose he wished to separate all the causes of bankruptcy from the great seal. The best way of remedying the evil was, he conceived, to separate the business which was superadded by statute, and which did not come within the original jurisdiction of the court, from its proper business. They all knew that lunacy cases, and those of wards had been superadded to the business of the great seal. When the great question of the law of bankrupts came before them, it was his intention to move, that it be an instruction to the committee to separate the bankruptcy business from the business of the great seal. This was the only motion which he intended to bring forward at present. The plan which had come down from the other House, and which had been adopted by this, had not relieved a single suitor of the Court of Chancery. He was sure every attention had been paid to the business of his office by the vice chancellor. The present illness of the lord chancellor might have occasioned considerable delay: but, making an allowance for this, it was certain that the relief had not been such as had been contemplated by a learned lord when the measure was brought in. He meant, on some future day, to submit a motion to the House as to the propriety of separating the chancellorship from the office of Speaker of the House of Lords. It was well known that from every court of England there were regular and substantial appeals. But for the suitors in a court of equity there was no appeal. Let any gentleman enter the House of Lords, and he would see that an appeal from chancery was simply an appeal from the chancellor to himself and two lay lords beside him. From every other court of England, Scotland, and Ireland, there was a bonâ fide appeal. From the jurisdiction of the lords of session in Scotland there was an appeal to the chancellor as Speaker of the House of Lords. The appeals from the chancery of Ireland were to a new person. It was the same with writs of error from that country. But the appeals from the chancellor were to the same person who ruled the House of Lords from the influence he had in it. The weight of property decided by the lord chancellor of England probably amounted to one-fifth of the whole property of the kingdom. On some future day, he should call the attention of the House also to the vice chancellor's court. His object was to assist the judges who sat in, and the persons who had suits before, the Court of Chancery. He thought it was a great evil that any suitor should be compelled to remain 5, 6, 7, or even 10 years before his cause could be decided. The hon. gentleman then moved, "That there be laid before this House, an account of the total amount of the Effects of the Suitors in the High Court of Chancery in the year 1756, and in every subsequent tenth year since the year 1756, and in the year 1818."

The Solicitor General

believed the hon. gentleman was mistaken, when he represented the arrears of business in the Court of Chancery to have increased. The number of appeals, indeed, had multiplied, as might have been expected to be the case, from the institution of a second inferior court. The arrear of bankrupt petitions had, however, been considerably reduced. The number of cases heard and determined by the lord-chancellor during the last three years exceeded all precedent, and was to be attributed to the practice, which was before unusual, of deciding important questions upon motion merely, instead of a formal suit. The confidence reposed by the public in the lord chancellor's learning and judgment had led to the introduction of this useful practice

The motion was then agreed to.