HC Deb 30 June 1852 vol 122 cc1414-8

Lords Reasons for disagreeing to one of the Amendments considered.


moved that the House insist upon Clause (E), the Amendment to which the Lords have disagreed. While the Bill was before the Commons a clause was introduced carrying out one of the recommendations of the Chancery Law Commission, depriving the Court of Chancery of the power of sending cases to a Court of Law. The object of such a clause was to make the Court of Chancery complete in its jurisdiction for deciding all cases brought before it, and to avoid the expense and delay consequent on referring questions once, twice, and, as occasionally happened, thrice to a court of common law. Having the highest respect for the judgment of the noble and learned Lords at whose instance the clause was disagreed to, he should have been disposed, but for the recommendation of the Commission, and that the subject bad been fully considered by the House, to suggest the adoption of the Amendment their Lordships had made; but as it was, he felt bound to move that it be not concurred in.


seconded the Motion.


did not rise to oppose the Motion just made, but to make a few observations as to the alleged conduct of his right hon. and learned Friend the Master of the Rolls, in regard to one of these law Bills. It was with great pain he bad observed that any discussion affecting the conduct and integrity of his right hon. Friend, as a sincere, earnest, and ardent law reformer, had taken place elsewhere. He could not have supposed that from any source-—much less that from which it had emanated—any imputation could have arisen on his right hon. Friend's earnestness and sincerity; and he felt the more pained when he saw that imputation take the shape, not of direct accusation, but of insinuation, which was far worse— the form of that insinuation being that his right hon. and learned Friend the Master of the Rolls had taken in charge, or had connected himself with, the conduct of the Bill for the Relief of Suitors in Chancery; and that, having such conduct, he made the Bill rather a Master of the Rolls' Bill than a Lord Chancellor's Bill—that he used his position and his influence in the House for the purpose of obtaining advantages and increasing the patronage for the Master of the Rolls' Court, by increasing the number and the fees payable to the secretaries and other officers of that Court, while those of the Lord Chancellor's Court were reduced—and that he had obtained more patronage in respect to the office for issuing "orders in course." Now he (Sir W. P. Wood) had not spoken to his right hon. Friend on the subject; but he felt it his duty, in justice to his right hon. Friend, to say that the Bill in question had been introduced, not by the Master of the Rolls, but by himself, and that from the commencement of its progress through the House of Commons, his right hon. Friend had had no share in it. As he (Sir W. P. Wood) introduced the Bill on the part of the late Government, he wished to say that the Bill was framed by the late Lord Chancellor, in compliance with the recommendations of a Select Committee of that House; over which it was true that at one time the Master of the Rolls presided; but he had ceased to do so long before it decided on its report. One of the recommendations of the Committee was that "orders of course" should be abolished. The late Lord Chancellor was of opinion that those "orders of course" should not be abolished; but no communication was made to the Master of the Rolls, who was not aware of the provisions of the Bill till it was introduced. With regard to the retention or abolition of "orders of course," there were arguments on both sides; but, after deliberation, it was decided that their abolition should be omitted from the Bill. In the first week of the Session, he (Sir W, P. Wood), brought in the Bill, and up to that time and afterwards, the Master of the Rolls had no knowledge of the Bill beyond that possessed by other Members; he took part in the discussion which ensued, but there was no discussion on this particular matter. After the accession of the present Government to office, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, at his request, took charge of the Bill, and treated it as a Government measure. From the end of February, therefore, the Bill was in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, who proposed such new clauses and alterations as he saw fit; and if any alteration had been made with regard to this matter of "orders of course," it would have been discussed—but he did not. When he (Sir W. P. Wood) parted with the Bill, he was requested, like the noble and learned Lord in the other House, to present a petition from certain solicitors in the metropolis, which prayed that the recommendation of the Committee as to the abolition of "orders of course" should be adopted. He stated to the petitioners, that as he had brought in the Bill as a Member of the late Government, he did not think he was the proper person to make that suggestion, but that, if the question was raised, he was prepared to discuss it. The question, however, was never raised; but the Master of the Rolls had no part in preventing that discussion, nor did he take any part or share in the provisions beyond that taken by the other Members. He regretted that anything in the shape of an imputation should have been cast on the Master of the Rolls, with regard to his having taken any part in preventing the abolition of "orders of course;" and still more so when it was said that he had done so to benefit persons with whom he was connected. He (Sir W. P. Wood) confined himself strictly to explanation with regard to the passing of the Bill. He had no doubt that the Master of the Rolls could give a satisfactory explanation with regard to the appointment of a secretary; indeed, if "orders of course" were retained, there must be a secretary. With regard to the noble and learned Lord who made these observations (Lord Lyndhurst), he (Sir W. P. Wood), in common with the whole of his profession, entertained for him the greatest respect, and he could only regret that there should have been any suspicion in the mind of the noble and learned Lord as to the possibility of any impropriety of conduct in the Master of the Rolls. They were indebted to that right hon. Gentleman for his activity and constant attendance as a member of the Committee, and for his co-operation as the law adviser of the Government for its formation, as well as for the diligence, care, zeal, and honesty he had shown as a law reformer; and he should be sorry if the Session were to conclude with the least imputation remaining on his untarnished character.


said, that the House would no doubt feel perfectly satisfied with the explanation which had been given by the hon. and learned Member opposite, of the conduct and motives of the Master of the Rolls in these proceedings; and he (the Solicitor General) was warranted in saying, on behalf of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst) who had referred to this subject in the other House of Parliament, that there was not an individual in the country who more sincerely respected the eminent attainments and high character, both private and judicial, of the Master of the Rolls. It was true, that in the course of one of the many discussions that had arisen in the other House of Parliament with respect to the many great and important law reforms which had passed through Parliament in the latter half of the present Session, that noble and learned Lord did make some allusions to the course which he erroneously supposed had been taken by the Master of the Rolls with respect to the Suitors in Chancery Relief Bill. It was quite unnecessary for him (the Solicitor General) to say that his noble and learned Friend had been always perfectly ready to do justice (and indeed he believed that when his Lordship made these remarks, he had done so in express terms) to the high character and entire freedom from liability to imputation of the right hon. Gentleman the Master of the Rolls, in the matter to which allusion had been made. It was not surprising if, amidst the complicated matters which had from time to time been under consideration in connexion with the various legal reforms which had lately engaged the attention of Parliament, even one so eminently distinguished, not only for learning, but for extraordinary accuracy with respect to facts, should have been misled by a misapprehension on this occasion. That the statements of the noble and learned Lord were founded upon a misapprehension, he repeated; and he was sure that the House and his right hon. Friend the Master of the Rolls would be perfectly satisfied with that statement, in addition to the explanation which had been given by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir W. P. Wood). The extensive and indeed unparalleled series of legal reforms which had now passed through both Houses of Parliament, and were only awaiting the Royal Assent to become the law of the land, would effect the greatest improvement in the law, which had been made during the present century; and it would be matter of much regret if, after the great pains which had been taken by the Master of the Rolls in promoting this great public benefit, the slightest approach to personal imputation should be allowed to rest upon his high reputation. He might say, on behalf of his noble Friend and of Her Majesty's Government, that while they laid claim to the credit of having spared no effort to carry into effect these law reforms, they were quite ready to yield their tribute of gratitude and respect to that Commission of which the Master of the Rolls formed an important and essential Member, and to all who in either House of Parliament had aided them in those efforts to effect this great improvement in the law. He hoped and believed that great, extensive, and beneficial as those improvements were, they were only the first step to still greater improvements in a future Parliament—reforms to which, whether in or out of office, every Member of Her Majesty's Government would rejoice in lending his aid.


bore testimony to the eminent services of the Master of the Rolls in the cause of legal reform.

Resolved —"That this House doth insist upon Clause (E), the said Amendment to which the Lords have disagreed."

Committee appointed," to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for insisting upon one of the Amendments to the said Bill, to which the Lords have disagreed."

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