HC Deb 28 August 1835 vol 30 cc1111-3
The Attorney-General

rose in pursuance of notice, to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to search the journals of the House of Lords in order to ascertain, if possible, what had become of two very important measures sent from that House (the Commons) to the other. He hoped this Motion would not be deemed disrespectful towards their Lordships, and that it would not be expected, that after passing Bills, and carrying them to the House of Lords, the Commons might not reasonably feel disappointment at hearing no more of them. A very important Bill, as the House was aware, a Bill for the abolition of imprisonment for debt, had been sent from that House up to the Lords, and as to that Bill he was in a condition to tell the House what had become of it. He understood that that very important Bill was not to pass their Lordships' House until they had examined witnesses upon it. Probably, in accordance with precedent, their Lordships would call to their Bar all the bum-bailiffs—all the gaolers—the gentlemen who served the useful purposes of sham bail— and all the attorneys; and from these truth- speaking and disinterested witnesses their Lordships would no doubt hear that the law of Arrest for Debt was a most excellent law, that it never was in any one instance abused, and that it would give great dissatisfaction to the country if it were abolished, and upon such evidence the Abolition of Imprisonment for Debt Bill would share the fate of other measures sent from that House to the Lords. The Bills for the discovery of which he now moved the appointment of a Select Committee, were two measures of considerable importance. They were—the Bill regulating the law respecting the Execution of Wills, and the Bill for the reform of the law relating to executors and administrators. The Bill regarding the Execution of Wills had long been called for by the public. It was recommended in the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, approved by all the Ecclesiastical judges, and approved also by every one he believed of the judges in Westminster-Hall. The Bill respecting the law of executors and administrators was also one much needed, and had the sanction of the judges and of most legal men. They were introduced early in the Session, and had gone through Committees in which their provisions were most laboriously discussed, with a view to their improvement. They passed on the 3rd. of June, nearly three months ago. What had become of these Bills he did not know. He had seen the learned Masters in Chancery come to their Table day after day, announcing that the Lords had passed this Bill and that, but upon no occasion had he heard any mention of these lost measures. The only mode, therefore, by which they could gratify their curiosity upon the subject was by acceding to the proposal he now made of appointing a Select Committee to search the Journals. Whether upon such search any trace of the Bills would be found, or whether it would be discovered in what manner they had been burked, he could not tell; but the search would at least be satisfactory. Before he sat down he could not help adverting to one circumstance in the business which caused him surprise. He meant the conduct of a learned Lord who lately filled the office of Lord Chancellor. That noble and learned Lord, when in office, wrote to him, communicating his approval of the principle of the measure relating to the Execution of Wills, and expressing a desire himself to introduce it into the House of Lords. He had declined the offer of the noble and learned Lord, being desirous of introducing the measure in that House in which the subject had originated. He thought, therefore, he had reason to feel surprise that the noble and learned Lord who entertained these favourable sentiments towards the measure, had allowed it to remain unnoticed. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving for the appointment of the Committee.

Colonel Perceval

thought the Motion of the learned Gentleman was an un-called for interference with the other House.

Mr. Hawes

was sorry their Lordships meant to stop the Bill for abolishing Imprisonment for Debt. If that was the course they meant to pursue to entitle themselves to the respect and confidence of the country, he wished their Lordships joy of their sagacity. That Bill placed the property of the peer and the peasant under the same control of creditors, and that was the reason of their Lordships' hostility to it. This was candidly stated in one of the principal speeches against the measure. For his part he was not disappointed, for he expected such a result. With regard to the two Bills which were the subject of this Motion, he thought that House and the public were under great obligations to the Attorney-General for the pains he had taken in introducing and carrying those measures, and other improvements of the law, through the House.

Mr. Scarlett

objected to the time at which this Motion was brought forward. The object of it seemed to be to cast reflections upon the House of Lords; for, if the hon. and learned Gentleman really wanted information, he could have obtained it by inquiring of any Member of the other House. As to the Imprisonment for Debt Bill, their Lordships had exercised a very proper discretion. It created a complete revolution in the law upon a very important subject, and did not give satisfaction to the country. A relative of his, a Member of the other House, he knew had paid a great deal of attention to the Bill relating to the execution of wills in Committee.

The Speaker

observed that the Motion before the House did not relate to the measure for the Abolition of Imprisonment for Debt, and the discussion therefore of that measure was irregular. The course proposed with regard to the other Bills was the simple and most usual course in such cases.

Question agreed to, and Committee appointed.