HC Deb 06 May 1836 vol 33 cc701-4
Lord John Russell

moved the further consideration of the Report on the Bishopric of Durham Bill.

Mr. Arthur Trevor

moved as an amendment that it be recommitted. He strongly objected to that part of the Bill which totally abolished Local Courts in th e County of Durham; for he believed the great majority of the inhabitants of that district were decidedly against their abolition, and he felt it his duty, in the discharge of that duty which he owed his constituents, to move the recommittal of the Bill, in order to the striking out of that objectionable clause.

Colonel Sibthorp

seconded the amendment; he thought such an important Bill ought not to be brought under the consideration of the House at such a late hour, and with so thin an attendance.

Mr. Pease

said, that he was decidedly in favour of the principle of this Bill, viz. the separation of the ecclesiastical from the civil jurisdiction of the county of Durham. But notwithstanding the amendments that had been introduced into the Bill in Committee, he fully concurred with the hon. Member who had moved the amendment as to the expediency of abolishing the Local Courts of that district. He (Mr. Pease), however favourable he might be to the general principle of centralization, thought that, in this instance, the principle was carried too far as to the juridical powers affected by this Bill; and believing as he did that the majority of the inhabitants of the county of Durham were strongly opposed to the abolition of their Local Courts, he hoped the noble Lord would allow him an opportunity in the recommittal of the Bill to state his objections to the clause which enacted that abolition. If not, he should feel bound to support the amendment of the hon. Member for the city of Durham.

The Solicitor General

said, it could not be contended at this time of day, that the Ecclesiastical dignitary of the county of Durham should be left in possession of those temporal powers and that temporal jurisdiction which belonged to him in former times. The only question, then, was, whether in making that alteration which the Bill proposed to effect and which on all hands, was allowed to be a necessary alteration, they should take that step which the Bill proposed to take. Now, the object of the measure was to place the county of Durham in the same situation as the other counties, and it was absurd to suppose they were doing more in the case of the county of Durham than had already been done with respect to the county palatine of Chester, and the principality of Wales. For his part, he could not understand what advantage was to be derived from the recommittal of the Bill, and he hoped it would be allowed to pass the present stage.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

assured the House that the inhabitants of the county of Durham were greatly opposed to the abolition of the Local Courts. These Courts had been long of great advantage to the county; and although he fully agreed that the separation of the temporal and ecclesiastical jurisdiction might be beneficial, he still thought that they would be wrong if they were to deprive the inhabitants of the county of Durham of an advantage which they had so long possessed and so highly prized, especially after the dissatisfaction which it was well known the change in the principality of Wales had created. He certainly should support his hon. Friend if he persisted in. moving the recommittal of the Bill.

Mr. Goulburn

'thought,' that 'after what had passed the' noble Lord ought to consent that the Bill should be recommitted. If a change were called for, that change should not be effected against the wish of the in- habitants of the county.

Lord John Russell

said, that after what j had passed he would consent to the Bill being recommitted, but in doing so he must take leave to deny that the change which had taken place in the administration of justice in England and Wales had been productive of any dissatisfaction whatever.

The House resolved itself into a Committee on the Bill.

On the 3d Clause relating to the abolition of Local Courts, being put,

Mr. Arthur Trevor

said, that it would be his bounden duty to give this clause the most determined opposition in his power. He had presented petitions against it, and he must say that it was a gross and scandalous act of injustice to deprive men of their just emoluments, against whom there did not exist even the pretence of improper conduct. The returns on the Table of the House proved the great advantage to the county of Durham of its Local Courts, and he should therefore move that this clause be expunged from the Bill.

Mr. Hume

understood that the removal of the present was to be followed by the establishment of other Local Courts, and if that was the case one great objection to the Bill would be got rid of.

Mr. Pease

said, that if such an understanding existed it would decidedly obviate the objections which were generally entertained against this measure. There was no imputation against those Courts that they did not administer justice impartially, clearly, effectually, and economically, and, therefore, it would be unfair to take them away without giving a substitute for them. He, however, was opposed to the principle of centralisation embodied in this Bill.

Mr. Harland

also expressed a hope that the county of Durham would not be deprived of the benefit of its Local Courts.

The Solicitor-General

said, that at all events, it could not be contended that the Court of Chancery of Durham was not a merely nominal jurisdiction, or that the whole of the extensive machinery of that Court was not utterly useless to the inhabitants of that county. It would be highly injurious that after the abolition of the political jurisdiction of the Bishop, such a large and cumbrous machinery should be kept up. The legal jurisdiction should be assimilated to that of other counties; and there was no reason why the same alteration should not be made in Durham as was effected, and usefully, in Chester; the jurisdiction was quite obsolete, and ought no to be retained.

The Committee divided on the Clause.—Ayes 60; Noes 19; Majority 41.

The remaining clauses were agreed to. The House resumed.