HC Deb 10 February 1859 vol 152 cc226-9

said, he rose to move for a Return relating to the Statute Law Commission, as he thought it was absolutely necessary that a detailed account should be given of the very large sums of money expended by that Commission. When the Commission was first appointed, Parliament voted large sums every year to defray its expenses; but of late, in addition to the annual Votes, large stuns were drawn from the Civil Contingencies—a most unconstitutional proceeding. Thus an unpopular and unsatisfactory Commission drew money without the sanction of Parliament. The Commission had already sat six or seven years, and, so far as he could judge, had actually done nothing whatever, He wished to know what course Her Majesty's Government intended to pursue with regard to the Commission, and also with regard to the Consolidation Bills which had been so long promised. He regretted that he did not see the hon. and learned Attorney General in his place; but some member of Her Majesty's Government would perhaps answer his question. Last Session the notice paper was continually blocked up from week to week, and at last from day to day, with no less than nine Consolidation Bills, proposed to be brought in by the hon. and learned Gentleman. This year the hon. and learned Gentleman had changed his plan. He had given notice of only one Consolidation Bill. Was that an indication that the Bills of last Session were not fit to be introduced at all? He had very little faith in the Commission producing Consolidation Bills that would become law. It seemed to have contaminated even the Attorney General, for two years ago he made a very long speech on asking for leave to introduce two Consolidation Bills; but those Bills, in spite of repeated promises, were never introduced, frequently as he (Mr. Locke King) had urged him to bring them in. He now asked if the Government was in earnest about the consolidation of the Statute Law, and when the long-promised Bills would be introduced?


in seconding the Motion, said he thought it was not so much of the expense as of the unproductiveness of this Commission that the country complained. There was nothing whatever to show for all the money that had been expended. It was discreditable to the country that the revision and consolidation of its laws had been so long delayed.

Motion made, and Question proposed,— That there be laid before this House, a Return showing the total sum which has been voted for the Statute Law Board and Statute Law Commission, from its commencement to the present time. Accounts, in detail, showing how that amount has been expended. Of the Sums which have been paid to Drafts. men out of Contingencies for drawing Consolidation Bills. Return of the tames of Draftsmen employed to prepare Consolidation Bills, and the Fees paid, or to be paid, to each Draftsman. And, Copy of the Minutes and Proceedings of the Statute Law Commission (in continuation of Parliamentary Paper, No. 78, Session, 1855).


Sir, Her Majesty's Government have no objection to this Return, except as to the form of it. Part of the papers for which the hon. Member for East Surrey moves has been already printed by order of the House, and therefore, if he will give me leave, I will put in the Speaker's hands a modification of his Motion, with the view of preventing unnecessary expense. The hon. Gentleman has asked two questions—one with reference to the Commission, and the other with reference to Consolidation Bills relating to the criminal law. Now, with reference to the Commission, I think, notwithstanding the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, (Mr. Hadfield) that a vast deal of very useful information has been furnished by the Commission, and that Parliament might safely and wisely act upon that information in the future. But, considering the difficulty of carrying on the Commission in the form in which it has been carried on, and the expense occasioned by Consolidation Bills, I think it will be better to act upon the information already afforded by the Commission before we put the country to any further expense in employing them to obtain further information. Her Majesty's Government are therefore considering whether the labours of the Commission may not be stopped for a time. With regard to the other question—namely, the consolidation of the criminal law, I have to inform the hon. Gentleman that the series of Bills which are shortly to be introduced by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for England will not merely consolidate but most carefully revise the English and likewise the Irish statutes relating to the criminal law. The alterations which are going to be made by that series of Bills (which will be submitted to the House to-morrow se'nnight) will, I believe, be an immense improvement of the statute law. Of course I can hardly be expected, nor indeed ought I, to state what those improvements are; but I hope the hon. Gentleman will be in his place, because I think he will be satisfied that, in point of fact, Her Majesty's Government will put the statute law of the country into a much better shape than it has hitherto been. I believe I have answered the only question which the hon. Gentleman put to me with reference to the Commission. I think that the hon. Member for Sheffield somewhat exaggerated the public opinion as to the Commission when he said that the public complained that the Commission had been of no advantage to the country.


said, he wished to ask if the form in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to give the return would show the total expense of the Commission?


Yes, the first order will show the total sum.


observed that the first part was printed so far hack as 1857, and the sole object in giving the return in the form proposed by his right hon. Friend was to save the expense and trouble of reprinting.

Motion by leave withdrawn.

Accounts ordered,Showing the total sum which has been voted for the Statute Law Board and Statute Law Commission from its commencement to the present time. Showing how that amount has been expended. Of the Sums which have been paid to Draftsmen out of Civil Contingencies for drawing Consolidation Bills (in continuation of Parliamentary Paper, No. 214, of Session 2, 1857). Return of the Names of the Draftsmen employed to prepare Consolidation Bills and the Fees paid or to be paid to each Draftsman. And Copy of the Minutes and Proceedings of the Statute Law Commission, in continuation of Parliamentary Paper, No. 78, of Session, 1855.