HC Deb 12 April 1837 vol 37 cc1150-4

The Lord Advocate moved, that the House should go into Committee on the Court of Session (Scotland) Bill,

Mr. A. Trevor

After the unjust course which the House had taken, in not allowing the hon. Member for Coventry to proceed with his measure, should divide the House on the question of adjournment.

The Lord Advocate

observed, that he was not aware that it was intended to oppose this Bill, or that there would be any discussion upon it in Committee; and the rule the House had acted upon was, that where no opposition was intimated, the business of the House was allowed to proceed.

House in Committee.

Sir William Rae

asked, and he would have put the question to the Secretary of State had he been present, whether the vacancy occasioned by the death of Mr. Rolland, one of the principal clerks of Session, had been filled up.

The Lord Advocate

said, that the vacancy had been filled up, and that in the commission to the person appointed, there was a Clause that he should perform any additional duties that might be imposed upon him by the Legislature or Secretary of State. That this enabled him, in a subsequent Clause, which he would move, to annex additional duties to the junior principal clerk, which he could not do in the case of those clerks who had been selected, and received their appointments without reference to any such additional duties.

Sir George Clerk

asked, whether one of the jury clerks was not fit to perform the duties of the office; and as they were to be reduced by the Bill, a saving would have arisen from that appointment, and the reductions proposed would sooner take effect.

Mr. Arthur Trevor

said, that as hon. Members were going into the discussion of the measure, he would move that the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Mr. Cumming Bruce

said, that he had before requested his hon. Friend not to stop the progress of the Bill; but now that he found it was discussed contrary to the understanding, and when he also found that the appointment already named was given to the late editor of the Edinburgh Review, thus passing over others who had been removed from office on retired salaries, he would not object to his hon. Friend persisting in his Motion to report progress.

The Lord Advocate

stated, in reply to the observations, that the most serious objections which had been urged by the Judges and the heads of the Committee to whom the working of the Bill must be intrusted, was, that it had reduced the establishment of clerks a great deal too low. Two principal and two deputy clerks were reduced, and eventually, on the death of the jury clerks, their situations were not to be filled up. The jury clerks had, therefore, been retained, that no inconvenience might be felt from the immediate operation of the Bill, so far as regarded jury cases, and he proceeded on the ground that, before the country would be deprived of the services of those persons who had been selected with a view to jury trial, the other clerks would have an opportunity of making themselves fully acquainted with those duties. The eighth Clause of the Bill provided for that case. He had carried reduction, as far as was safe or practicable in this and every other provision of the Bill, consistently with due regard to the convenience and advantage of the suitors and the administration of justice, and he could not have carried it so far as he had done, against the remonstrances he had received from the person entitled to the greatest deference, if he had not retained all the jury clerks for the performance of their duties. He did anticipate, that from the business being simplified and fully understood, the provisions of the Bill might take effect in the event of any of the present jury clerks being hereafter, by death or otherwise, unable to execute their duties; but, in the meantime, he considered it important for the success of this measure of retrenchment, that the jury clerks should continue to perform the duties in which they were trained, and that the prospective reductions should be provided for.

Sir George Clerk

said, that his objection was, that in a Bill which went to consolidate offices, this new appointment should have been made instead of making a selection from the officers who had held appointments in the Court, and who were now on retired salaries.

House resumed; the Committee to sit again.