HC Deb 02 February 1837 vol 36 cc86-8
Mr. Sergeant Goulburn

applied for leave to bring in a Bill to abolish certain sinecure offices in the Courts of King's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer, and to make a more effective and uniform establishment of officers in those courts. As the Bill had passed that House last Session, and did not pass the other House, it was not necessary, on the present occasion, to go at length into the reasons that induced him to bring in the measure. He would simply state, that he brought forward this Bill, to carry into effect the recommendation of Commissioners, for the purpose of inquiring into the fees of the officers of the courts of common law. This subject had long excited the attention of the two Houses of Parliament, and many attempts had been unsuccessfully made to correct the evils that prevailed. The House was aware, that in the year 1830, the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tarn worth, introduced into that House a Bill for the purpose of ascertaining the value of all offices held by officers in the superior courts of common law. He did it as an experiment, for the purpose, as he stated in his very able speech, of preventing impediments at any future period of the progress of law reform, by their being constantly told, that the rights of officers interfered with legal reform. The right hon. Baronet's Bill, therefore, was to ascertain, once for all, what, at that period, was the value of those offices, in order that, in all times to come, there should be a certified value, which should be then paid to the holders of those offices, intimating to any future holders of those offices, who should be appointed subsequently, that their rights must not stand in the way of legal reform. These offices had undergone much inquiry; their value had been ascertained, and the purpose of the Bill which he was then seeking to introduce, was to get rid of, and to abolish them. He was quite sure that he needed to adduce no argument to induce that House to adopt a measure of such great importance—a measure which, he believed, had the sanc- tion of all persons conversant with the subject. It was time they should get rid of all those offices which incumbered the administration of Government, and that the courts should be put on a better regulated system. There was the greater reason to adopt this course, as the experiment had been tried in the Court of Exchequer, by Lord Lyndhurst, who introduced a Bill for the better regulation of that Court, and the effect of that experiment had been of the most advantageous description. The object of the present Bill was, to carry into effect the Report of the Commissioners. It would not be necessary for him, on the present occasion, to dwell at any length upon it, as there would be many other opportunities of discussing it. He would, therefore, content himself with adverting to the grounds on which it had been rejected last Session, by the other House of Parliament. The House would recollect, that, up to a late period, it was the custom to pay certain fees to the Judges of the King's Bench, and they were allowed to dispose of, and make the subject of family arrangements, certain offices in the Court in which they presided; but by a Bill passed in the reign of Geo. 4th, fixed salaries were named somewhat commensurate to the dignity of the station in which they were placed. In that Act, the rights of certain officers then living were reserved, and the power of appointing to subordinate situations were still continued to them. In the Bill which he introduced there was a clause still reserving those rights; but an hon. Gentleman objected to it, and proposed, whenever a vacancy occurred in the offices, compensation should be made to the persons having the right of appointment, in such amount as the Lords of the Treasury might think fit; and it was settled that the Treasury should be compelled to give the right of appointment to those who then held it, or three-fourths of the value of the offices themselves. On the Bill going to the House of Lords, Lord Ellenborough objected to the clause, as it would place him, who held the office of chief clerk in the King's Bench, in an invidious position. Owing, therefore, to his opposition, and to the absence of common law Lords, the Bill was thrown out; but he hoped, that during the present Session, it would meet with a more favourable reception, as he introduced the clauses as it had originally stood.

Mr. Hume

said, he did not rise to oppose the motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but he took that opportunity of asking, what steps had been taken to abolish the office held by the late Lord Rosslyn in the Court of Chancery in Scotland?

Lord John Russell

said, that the Lords of the Treasury had taken the advice of the Lord-Advocate on the point of law, and that the regulation of that office was under their consideration.

Leave given.