HC Deb 14 August 1834 vol 25 cc1260-2
The Attorney General

rose for the purpose of moving for certain returns from the Court of Chancery, the result of which he was sure would give the greatest satisfaction to that House and the country. It was of the greatest importance that the public should be correctly informed of the manner in which the judicial business of the country was disposed of; and even to the judges themselves it was but fair that a statement should be made, in order, if arrears existed, that a stimulus might be furnished; and if no arrears, that an estimate might be formed of the attention and energy which they had displayed. It gave him great pleasure to state, that in the Court of Chancery there were now no arrears subsisting, which he believed could never be so effectually said since the days of Sir Thomas More. Nor did this arise from any falling-off in the business of the court, because, in fact, it had been progressively increasing. Thus, in the three years, 1825, 1826, and 1827, Lord Eldon being Chancellor, 5,982 bills had been filed; in 1828, 1829, and 1830, Lord Lyndhurst being Chancellor, 6,231 were filed; and during the first three years, 1831, 1832, and 1833, that Lord Brougham had been Chancellor, the number of bills filed had increased to 7,180. With regard to appeals from the Master of the Rolls and Vice-Chancellor to the Lord High Chancellor, there had also been a similar increase. In 1825, 1826, and 1827, the appeals amounted to 131; in 1828, 1829, and 1830, to 145; and in 1831, 1832, and 1833, to 164. The House would, therefore, see that a considerable increase had taken place in the business of the Court of Chancery, both with respect to original bills filed, and the number of appeals which had been set down. Notwithstanding this, however, it would appear by the returns for which he was about to move, that although when the present Lord Chancellor came into office in November, 1830, 103 appeals remained undisposed of, constituting an actual arrear of rather more than the average of two years' business, yet at the close of the last sitting Lord Brougham left only thirty-five undisposed of, the earliest of which was set down on the 1st of February, 1834; so that, except two which had been abated in consequence of the death of parties, it might be said there was really no arrear whatever in the Court of Chancery. With respect to the House of Lords, the account would be equally satisfactory, for whatever hon. Members might think of their legislative labours during the present Session, the judicial proceedings of their Lordships merited great commendation. The number of appeals and writs of error had gone on regularly increasing, but there was now no case undisposed of where the appeal had been set down before the present Session of Parliament. In 1825, 1826, and 1827, the appeals to the House of Lords were 221; in 1828, 1829, and 1830, they were 214; while in 1831, 1832, and 1833, they amounted to 240. When the present Lord Chancellor came into office, ninety-four appeals were undecided; and at the present moment, only forty-four were undisposed of, the whole of which had been entered during the present Session, except two, which were adjourned at the request of parties. There was, in fact, then no arrear in the House of Lords. He trusted that this statement would be satisfactory; and he had no doubt the example thus furnished of attention and despatch in the highest tribunal would produce a salutary effect on all the inferior courts throughout the country. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving for a Return of the number of bills filed in the Court of Chancery, and appeals entered in the years 1825 to 1833 inclusive; together with the number of appeals undecided when the present Chancellor came into office, and of those undecided at the date of the last sitting.

Mr. Hume

said, nothing could be more satisfactory than the statement which had been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, as far as expedition was concerned; but there was another element of great importance in relation to legal proceedings—namely, expense, which he hoped would not be overlooked. He was glad to see that a clear and convincing statement had been made as to the despatch of the legal business of the country, in order to meet, in the most decided way, the representations which had been made upon the subject elsewhere; but he should be glad to know in what proportion the expenses of suitors had been reduced by the operation of the late Reform.

The Attorney-General

said, the new system had only come into operation in November last, and it would be impossible to make out any comparative return of the expenses until the year was completed. At the same time, however, he could assure the House, that the suitors had derived the full benefit intended by the change, and many abuses under which they formerly laboured had now been entirely removed.

The Return was ordered.

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