HC Deb 31 May 1839 vol 47 cc1214-6
Lord J. Russell

moved, that the County Courts Bill be read a second time. He should not wish the discussion to be taken until after the bill had been referred to a Select Committee upstairs.

Mr. Kelly

said, he could not allow the bill to be read a second time without entering his protest against the principle of the measure. There was this palpable objection to the bill, that it went to repeal the whole law of England with regard to debts not exceeding 15l. He should certainly feel it his duty to oppose the bill whenever he could find an opportunity.

Mr. Pakington

must declare his opinion that much in the bill was exceedingly objectionable. He would have been prepared to oppose the measure on the second reading, if the noble Lord had not arranged that the discussion of the principle should be taken after the reference to committee. Under the provisions of the bill a very considerable number of appointments were contemplated, such as chairman, receiver-general, clerk, and a variety of other officers, the salaries of all whom were to be defrayed, it was probable, from what was to be called the county fee fund. Now it was the opinion of every Gentleman whom he had consulted, and decidedly it was his own opinion, that this fee fund would be found quite inadequate and he wished to know, therefor, whether the noble Lord was prepared in that case to take any, and if so, what means, to make up the deficiency?

The Solicitor General

said, he was anxious to express his opinion upon this most important subject. The question was, were they prepared to concede to the very strong and generally expressed opinion of their constituents a means of providing cheap and speedy justice? That was the whole question. Difficulties there were in the way, no doubt, but difficulties inherent in the subject. If the fees were small, then they must have an inferior description of persons to administer justice in those courts. They were bound to this. If they determined to continue the present system of expense, it was the same thing as to say that they would shut the door of the courts to all but the wealthy classes. But, what was all that had been urged by the hon. Members opposite considered as a reason against the second reading? They must run the risk of not doing such good justice by doing this cheap justice. They could not afford anything better. It was better that injustice should be done than that no justice should be done. He was prepared to support this position, and he said, that it was better that a poor man who had a debt of 5s. owing him, should go before a tribunal which should decide the question one way or the other, whether right or wrong, than that he should feel that he was utterly without any kind of means of redress—that the courts were beyond him. The present state of things made the poor man feel, and he feared with too much reason, that law was a luxury which was reserved only for the wealthy. The bill, he trusted, though he confessed he had certain objections to parts of it, would effect a change in a state of things so much to be deplored.

Mr. Darby

begged to know whether, in case the fee fund fell short, it was intended ultimately to throw the expenses of the machinery of the bill on the county-rates?

Lord J. Russell

said, it was supposed that the fee fund would furnish sufficient means for the payment of the judges under the bill. If the committee thought otherwise, they would report otherwise. But he should say, if upon experience it were found that the fee fund were insufficient, that the measure was one of those in aid of which Government and the Parliament should see the propriety of incurring some expenditure.

Mr. T. Duncombe

begged to know, why the county of Middlesex was excepted out of the bill? This was the more inexplicable, because every one who knew the county must be aware, that there was no county court in England, Ireland, or Scotland, in which the administration of justice was so objectionable as in the Middlesex County Court.

Lord J. Russell

said, the reason why the Middlesex County Court had been excepted was, that it had been intended to introduce provisions into the Metropolitan Police Courts Bill for the purpose of providing judges for that court.

Mr. Hume

said, nothing was so much required throughout the country as this bill. He entirely approved of the spirit of the Solicitor-general's remarks, and he was convinced that they would be approved in every part of the country. If this was a Government job, as had been insinuated, he wished they would bring forward more such jobs. Let them go on with such jobs, and then see how they would be applauded from one side of the country to the other.

Mr. Godson

asked, whether they were going to discuss the principle of the bill after all? He had understood the noble Lord to say, that he did not intend to take the discussion on the principle of the measure at present, but the hon. and learned Solicitor-general had gone so deeply into the subject that he (Mr. Godson) almost thought the discussion ought to proceed.

Lord J. Russell

said, he had no objection to the principle being discussed then. What he proposed was, that a bill on this principle should be sent to a Select Committee, after having been read a second time; if the House affirmed the principle of giving the people cheap justice, there could be no objection against sending the bill up stairs.

Captain Pechell

must express his opinion, that the expense, whatever it might be, and whether it were to come from the fee fund or from the the county, would be cheerfully paid by the people.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Select Committee.

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