HC Deb 10 July 1835 vol 29 cc424-6

On the Question that 10,200l. for the Commissioners appointed to make a digest of the Criminal Statutes and common laws of the land, be granted,

Mr. Hume

asked if there was a prospect that this Commission would bring its labours to a close?

The Attorney-General

said, that the commissioners had presented one Report, which had been very generally approved of, and he expected that another would very soon be in readiness.

Mr. Jervis

said, the Commissioners had been already two years employed on this business, and it appeared that there was another Report to be yet brought forward. There were five men employed on the Commission, each having a salary of 800l. per annum. Many of those Commissioners were unfit for the task, for though of high attainments, they had such practice in Westminster Hall that they could devote no time to the task, and yet they received 800l. a-year each for doing that which one man might have done in a month—namely, collecting all the Statutes of England and the Common Law, bearing on each subject, which might be furnished to him by any text book.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that this Commission originated rather with the House of Commons than with the Government. It was felt that there was a necessity of reducing the written and unwritten laws into one code. He was confident that more proper persons could not be intrusted with the task than those to whom it had been confided by the Government of Earl Grey.

Mr. Jervis

said, the object was not to make a code of laws, but to collect the Statutes already made, and class them according to the subject they related to.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the great object of the Commission was, not to collect the whole of the Statutes, but to reduce them into one, as the hon. Member might see by the first page of their Report, in which they stated their objects to be—first, that of digesting all the Criminal-laws into one code; secondly, condensing into one Statute all the provisions of the common and unwritten law which related to one subject

Mr. Blackburne

thought that it was not to be expected that professional gentlemen who were engaged on this business should give up the whole of their time exclusively for the remuneration which they received. An hon. and learned Gentleman had complained that these gentlemen were men of very extensive practice; if so, so much the better were they calculated for the duty reposed in them.

Mr. Roebuck

had before stated with reference to this Question that it would be much more advisable to employ only one competent person who should devote his whole time to the matter rather than those five persons. If the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Jervis) had ever attempted to make a digest, he would have satisfied himself that there was infinitely greater difficulty in making up a digest than in heaping up the dicta of various Judges. There was a great difference between these two things, of making a book of law, and in forming a digest of a number of important Statutes.

Mr. Cresset Pelham

would refer simply to the vote then under discussion. With reference to the grant to these Commissioners, he thought they received a great deal for doing very little more than what others had done without being put into office, or without being paid.

The vote agreed to.