§ Mr. William Duncombe
presented a petition from Richmond (Yorkshire) against the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill. He would take the opportunity of urging the Attorney-General to postpone the measure until next Session.
§ The Attorney-General
begged it to be recollected that this measure was introduced by the late Attorney-General, and he therefore trusted that it would be supported by both sides of the House. He could not say he was not disposed to press it. On the contrary, he should endeavour to advance it through its different stages, and not relinquish the attempt to make it law without serious opposition. At present, he was sanguine enough to think that no such opposition would be offered.
remarked that 166 petitions, with 10,257 signatures, had already been laid upon the table against the Bill, most of the names being those of professional men, upon whom it would be an evident and serious hardship. For his own part, he was resolved to give it the most determined opposition, and it was his firm belief that it would be considered by both sides of the House without any intermixture of party feeling. If the measure 1106 were pressed in the present session, he should persevere in the motion of which he gave notice early in the session, for a Committee to inquire into the necessity for the proposed change.
§ Mr. Cutler Fergusson
trusted that his right hon. Friend, the Attorney General, would give no pledge not to proceed with the Bill in the present session. If hon. Members had attended to the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (of whom he was one), they would have seen that this Bill grew out of it, and was intended to reform very gross abuses found to prevail in the Ecclesiastical Courts. The principle of the Bill was adopted by the late Attorney-General, and it was approved of by every person who spoke on the debate whose opinion was of any value.
§ Mr. Wilks
agreed that this ought not to be treated as a party question, and he hoped that on all sides it would meet with candour, impartiality, and discrimination. At the same time, he thought that the Attorney-General ought not to press the Bill in the present Session, but allow it to be printed and circulated throughout the country. [Mr. C. Fergusson: It has been printed.] At all events the country ought to have an opportunity of deliberately considering it. He wished that some Bill had been introduced to correct more important abuses pointed out in the Report of the Commissioners, for that which related to the measure under view, was one of their least valuable recommendations. Other abuses were allowed to remain which were a constant source of vexatious litigation.
§ Mr. Pease
observed, that the Bill had certainly excited a good deal of alarm in the part of the country with which he was connected. He could not think whence the opinion had arisen that nothing could be well done that was not done in London; neither could he see the reason for depriving country practitioners of what had hitherto been a source of considerable emolument. If this measure were adopted, everything must be done by means of solicitors and agents in London.
had presented petitions embodying the sentiments of those who had spoken against the proposed change. He did not mean to object to any proper reforms in the Ecclesiastical Courts, but he hoped that the Bill would be withdrawn until next year, in order to give people time to consider its provisions.
§ Mr. Scarlett
did not perceive that there was any such crying grievance in the present system as to render an immediate alteration necessary. It was proposed to abolish the country jurisdictions, and to remove them to London; and for that part of the Bill he saw no sufficient reason. Having examined the Report of the Commissioners, he might say, that he was not of opinion that they had stated any practical grounds for such a measure.
§ Petition to lie upon the table.