HC Deb 11 July 1856 vol 143 cc679-82

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury what course was intended to be pursued by Her Majesty's Government in the course of the present Session respecting the Wills and Administrations Bill and the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Bill; or, in the next Session, for abolishing the Ecclesiastical Courts, and conducting in future the business now transacted by such Courts, and especially for the purpose of making one probate or administration in England and Ireland, and one confirmation in Scotland, operative on all the property of a deceased person in the United Kingdom; and what Bills brought into the House were intended to be proceeded in or withdrawn this Session; and whether any new Bills were intended to be brought in? He did not think it right that the whole expense consequent upon any change to be made in the Courts and upon the grant of compensation to officers should be thrown on the estates of deceased persons; but he would rather submit to that burden than lose the benefits of a new measure. He believed that it had been proposed to create three or four new Courts, but as the Court of Common Pleas was not half worked he conceived that the whole of the business might easily be transacted there. He therefore called upon the Government to explain their intentions upon the subject of the Bill. [An hon. MEMBER: It is abandoned for this Session.] But he wanted to know what were the intentions of the Government as to next Session. At all events he hoped the Government would state generally their intentions as to the Bills now before the House.


said, he wished to call the attention of the House to one point connected with the Testamentary Bills. One of the great objections to the late Bill had been the amount of compensation. The matter had now been under discussion for twenty-five years, and notices ought to have been given to all parties entering on situations, that they took them subject to any changes Parliament might make. [An hon. MEMBER: There are two Acts of Parliament containing provisions to that effect.] He would suggest that in all future appointments notice should be given that the party would have no claim to compensation in the event of any change. As regarded the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Bill, when the Order of the Day was read, he would call attention to the important principles it involved, and the danger of adopting it without due consideration. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would not determine on pressing the Bill at that late period of the Session.


said, he believed that notice had been given to persons receiving appointments in those Courts that they would have no claim to compensation in the event of their offices being abolished. In reply to the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), he had to state that the Wills and Administrations Bill was withdrawn last night in consequence of the impossibility of its receiving due attention during the present Session. The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Bill had only come within a few days from the House of Lords. He willingly admitted its importance, and the Government hoped to be able to proceed with it during the present Session. He would rather not, however, give any distinct assurance to that effect or otherwise, at present, but on an early day next week he would state what course would be taken with respect to it. In regard to the third part of the question of the hon. Member for Sheffield, he could only say that due notice would be given of any measures which the Government might think it expedient to propose in the course of the next Session. He was not aware of any new Bill which it was intended to bring in during the present Session, and, with reference to the Bills now on the paper, the course which the Government proposed to take would be stated as those measures successively came before the House.


said, he hoped the Government would proceed with the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Bill, which would remove from the Statute Book a scandal that had long been a disgrace to the country.


said, he would beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) that the abolition of the procters, to whom the chief compensation was proposed under the Bill of the hon. and learned Solicitor General, was not recommended by more than one Commission which had inquired into the subject, and that the Government had proposed to give some £50,000 a year as compensation to those whose existence was reported by one of these Commissions to be essential to the public safety. The evils arising out of the present system with respect to wills and administrations had been greatly exaggerated, though he would admit that there were some which could hardly be exaggerated. For example, there was the bona notabilia system, which rendered it necessary to prove a will in several districts; and he thought it was also highly desirable that the Ecclesiastical Courts should be turned into Queen's Courts. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government would only take the trouble during the recess to look over the Report of the Chancery Commission of 1854—it was very short—the noble Lord might read it through in an hour and a half—he would find it founded on facts of such importance, and backed up by the authority of such eminent men, that he would hesitate long before allowing a Bill intended for the reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts to bring their business in any way under the control of the County Courts. Any Bill which contained such a proposition would meet with his (Mr. Malins's) strenuous opposition; but he would cordially support a Bill founded generally on the Report of the Commission to which he had referred.

Subject dropped.