HC Deb 18 March 1835 vol 26 cc1167-9

The Lord Advocate moved the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Court of Session (Scotland) Bill.

Mr. Wallace

objected to the Commission which recommended this Bill, as formed entirely of professional Gentlemen. Merchants and commercial men ought to have been included. He objected to the fees provided in the Bill. They were objectionable in every Court, and ought to be abolished. The learned Lord proposed to reduce eighteen clerks. He would submit, whether it would not be better at once to superannuate them.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, commercial men could give no assistance whatever to the Commission on a question of this kind. Professional men alone could know whether clerks in Court might or might not be reduced without inconvenience. The learned Lord was intitled to great credit for what he had done. He was glad to see the fees diminished. They were a great grievance. He wished to know whether the effect of the Bill would be to take off the half of the former fees? He would take that opportunity of calling the attention of the learned Lord to the great defects of the Scottish conveyancing laws, which were exemplified by a late decision of the Court of Session, by which a deed in every other respect perfectly valid, had been nullified in consequence of a single figure in a date being written upon an erasure. Such a decision was likely to unsettle a vast amount of property, and great anxiety was naturally entertained upon the subject by the proprietors of land. He hoped therefore that the learned Lord would see the necessity of introducing into Parliament a Bill for explaining that particular branch of the law.

The Lord Advocate

said, that his desire was as ardent as that of any other hon. Gentleman to afford relief to suitors by a considerable reduction of fees. His intention was to lay before the Committee, a statement of the whole case in which the present rate of fees would be set out on the one hand, and on the other, the standard to which he thought it would be proper to reduce them. In reference to the defects of the conveyancing laws he had to state that in a former Session he brought in Bills for the amendment of certain parts of the system, but although he earnestly endeavoured to get them passed into a law his exertions were not successful. He had not lost sight of the subject, and even now he was prepared to legislate upon it. But after the Government had appointed a Law Commission, whose duty it would be to report upon those defects, he thought they should wait for the opinions and recommendations of the Commissioners before they proceeded to legislate. He had written to them urging them to hasten their Report, and their reply was, that on every other subject but that of conveyancing their Report was prepared. That was a matter of considerable importance, which would require a very careful investigation, and, therefore, they could not promise an immediate completion of their Report.

Mr. Murray

said, considerable praise was due to the learned Lord for carrying out the recommendations of the Commissioners. He agreed with him, that the subject of fees would be most fitly considered by the Committee, and also that it would be advisable to wait for the result of the inquiries which the Commissioners were then making. With regard to the decision to which his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Fergusson) had referred he begged to ask whether he was aware that the question was still pending, and whether in such a case he would have the learned Lord to interfere in any way whatever? This much he would add, that anything written upon an erasure had always been held, by the Scottish law as a valid objection, and it mainly accounted for the purity of deeds in Scotland being greater than in any other country.

Sir John Campbell

said, he hailed with the utmost satisfaction these beneficial alterations of the Scottish law. He should esteem it a distinguished honour to be placed upon the proposed Committee.

The Bill was read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee.