§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR WILLIAM HEATHCOTE
said, he should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have given some explanation in moving the second reading of so important a measure. It came before the House under very peculiar circumstances, and required very strong justification, because any hon. gentleman who had read the Treasury minute upon the subject would know that it was not only open to considerable observation on the part of independent Members, but that the magnitude of the transaction had attracted the notice of Her Majesty's Treasury, and the conclusion to which they came was eminently unfavourable to the Bill. He should have expected, therefore, that when a Bill 797 came before the House creating a heavy charge, and with the incubus upon it of adverse report from the Treasury, it was desirable that the Minister of the Crown should explain why he had thought fit to override that report.
said, he was quite ready, of course, to explain the nature of the Bill at the moment; but he imagined, that as he had done so upon the introduction of the measure, he might have been allowed to wait until he had heard some of the objections which were to be offered to it, before making his own statement. It would not be necessary again to go over the ground, which he had traversed on the introduction of the Bill, as to the necessity which existed for a measure such as that before the House. The matter had been long under consideration, and had received much discussion not only in the last Session of Parliament, but on previous occasions. A Royal Commission sat in 1860, consisting of Sir John Coleridge, Sir William Page Wood, Sir George Lewis, Dr. Phillimore, and Mr. Young; they heard evidence, and drew up a very full Report, which had been laid upon the table, recommending that measures should be taken for concentrating in one neighbourhood all the courts of law and equity. Now, the purpose which they had in view was one which had met with the general support and approbation of the legal profession. It was felt that the accommodation provided for the courts of law and equity and the offices connected with them was exceedingly unsatisfactory, and such as ought not to be tolerated any longer in such a country as England. The existing arrangements had not been deliberately made, but had arisen from various, almost accidental, circumstances. The Courts of Westminster Hall originally included both equity and common law; but in consequence of inadequate accommodation the Equity Courts were removed to Lincoln's Inn. Even in Lincoln's Inn the Equity Courts were only lodged in temporary places. So badly were they in want of room that the old hall of Lincoln's Inn was divided by a partition, and one portion devoted to the Lord Chancellor's Court, and the other to the Court of the Lords' Justices. Two of the Vice Chancellor's Courts were in a condition that every one acknowledged could not be long continued. With respect to Westminster Hall, those who had occasion to attend the courts must be perfectly acquainted with the inconveniences of the arrangements, espe- 798 cially in the cases of the Bail Court and the Exchequer Chamber. They were too small for the decorous administration of justice. In addition, very great inconvenience was felt by all parties, owing to the separation of the courts from the offices connected with them. A common-law Judge had frequently to leave his court at Westminster Hall to proceed to sit in chambers at Serjeant's Inn, thus entailing an unnecessary waste of time and trouble. Barristers were also exposed to needles inconvenience by the courts being so far removed from the localities in which their chambers were situate, and thus were prevented from devoting much valuable time to the study and preparation of their cases. Many persons of great authority attached importance to the ultimate fusion of law and equity, and the arrangement proposed by his Bill would greatly tend to render such fusion practicable. The inconveniences at present borne by the suitors was pointed out by competent witnesses before the Commission, and it was proved that the propinquity of courts and offices would save more money than even a reduction of fees. Great delays now occurred after a decision in court had been arrived at, in consequence of the separation of the offices from the courts interposing difficulties in the way of parties meeting together to draw up the details necessary to carry out the decision. Considering the subject in all those aspects, it had been felt that the Bill under consideration, and that which accompanied it, constituted a most important legal reform, and in that light they were pressed upon the notice of the House. The reason for dividing the subject into two Bills was, that as one part of the measure affected private property, it was necessary that it should be submitted to a Committee upstairs, where parties might be heard; but the other part, not affecting private interests, was introduced as a public Bill. There were reasons, however, why the latter Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, as there were many details which could not be adequately considered in a Committee of the whole House, and he should, therefore, propose to refer that Bill to a Committee, so that the real charge which it would entail upon the public might be fully ascertained.
An erroneous impression upon that point had gone abroad, arising from a hasty examination of the Treasury Minute of last year. That Minute did not profess to give 799 a final decision upon the subject, but was more in the character of a warning as to what might ultimately and possibly be the expense that would be caused by the plait proposed. It did not go, however, into the important point of the savings that would have to be set off against the charges. As it was proposed to provide new premises for Certain courts and offices, the action of the Bill would be to set free the buildings now occupied for those purposes, and what was saved in that direction at least ought to be set off against the expense for the new buildings. The Bill would empower the expenditure of a sum in stock of a million and a half, which, when sold, would probably realize about £1,400,000; but the Bill went on to provide that whatever money was expended should be voted by that House, so that the actual expenditure Would always be under the control of Parliament. It was proposed that when a tote in Supply had been taken, a sum not amounting to more than a million and a half in stock should be sold out by order of the Lord Chancellor from the Surplus Interest Fund and the surplus Fee Fund, to replace the money voted by Parliament. In the first instance the loss arising from the sale of these funds would be at the maximum rate of £45,000 a year, which would represent the charge upon the public; but that amount would not always be required for the Suitors' Fee Fund. At present there was an amount payable out of that fund in the shape of certain terminable annuities as compensation allowances for abolished offices; but as they fell in no corresponding charges would be placed upon the fund. Those Charges now amounted to £69,000 a year. The Bill provided that as those charges fell in up to the amount of £45,000 a year the charge upon the Consolidated Fund should be reduced; and when the reduction in the charges upon the Fee Fund became equal to £45,000 a year, no charge would remain upon the Consolidated Fund. Assuming that the charges upon the fund diminished at the rate of £2,000 a year—and of late they had diminished at a greater rate— the sum capitalized would amount to about £350,000, which would be the sum that might have to be made good out of the public revenue. Against that must be set the value of the buildings which would no longer be required when the new courts were erected. The buildings in Chaneery Lane, in Southampton Buildings, and Serjeant's Inn, might be estimated at 800 £118,000. Then, the Probate Registry would no longer be required; and when the Common Law Courts were removed from Westminster Hall, that site would be disposable for the public buildings which Sir Charles Barry originally proposed to erect there. The site of the Probate Registry and the site of the present Common Law Courts might be set down at £75,000; Rents to the amount of £5,000 a year were at present paid partly out of the Suitors' Fee Fund, and partly by Parliament, which, if capitalized, would give a sum of £145,000. Again, the Government would be saved from the necessity of building new Common Law Courts which must be provided for elsewhere, as the present site could not be enlarged. Those courts cost £98,000, and proper accommodation could not be given elsewhere for less than twice that sum, or probably £200,000. It would also be necessary to provide permanently for the Probate Registry, which would cost a considerable sum. Altogether, he calculated that the ultimate saving by the adoption of the Bill would be £600,000, against £350,000 which he assumed as the capital sum representing the annual dividends now paid. What the public were called upon to do in return was to guarantee that, in the event of these funds being required, the whole amount would be forthcoming out of the Consolidated Fund. But that was not a very formdiable contingency. The Surplus Interest Fund, amounting to £1,291,000 was liable to be called upon to replace any deficiency which might arise in the cash balances paid in by suitors. But that contingency could only arise if the Court of Chancery were to shut up shop, and all the suitors were to call for the money they had deposited; and even then the fund would be sufficient to meet all claims, provided that Consols were above 87. In the case of the Suitors' Fee Fund, which amounted to £201,000, the guarantee could only be required if there was a deficiency in the fund from which this surplus arose. That was also a very improbable contingency; and as long as the business of the Court of Chancery increased, the fund would, no doubt, increase. Practically, these guarantees were not likely to be called for, and the maximum limit to which the payments upon the Consolidated Fund could extend were £45,000 a year. But if even a burden were thrown on the general taxation of the Country, it must be, remembered that the Consolidated Fund 801 was receiving considerable sums in the shape of fees from the Common Law and Probate Courts, which would be provided for in the measure.
Then came the question whether it was light to use these funds, which were now lying idle, for the object now contemplated. Now, at different times Parliament had been of opinion that the profits made by the courts upon the funds deposited with them could not be better spent than in providing better accommodation for the suitors, and various offices attached to the courts had therefore been erected out of similar funds. The buildings known as Southampton Buildings, used as the Masters' offices, were purchased and acquired in a similar manner. Another precedent was supplied by the Insolvent Court, in regard to which an Act, the 11 & 12 Vict., c. 72 was passed, which employed the unclaimed fund of the Insolvent Court in enlarging that Court. The Irish Four Courts were also built out of the Suitors' Fund. There being, then, sufficient precedent, was there any injustice to any one in the proposed appropriation of the funds in question? He thought not, and felt himself justified in assuming that no one could hereafter set up any claim to the enjoyment of the money. It had been created by about ten Acts of the Legislature, authorizing the Lord Chancellor and the Accountant General of the Court of Chancery to invest the funds. If the money had not been invested, there would have been no profit; and it rested, therefore, with the Legislature to say how the money thus created should be spent. The money was in the same position as the reserved profit made by a banker on the employment of deposits. The Court of Chancery had received certain cash payments which it was bound to repay, but it had entered into no engagement to pay interest. He had been informed that nineteen out of every twenty of the pending suits of the Court of Chancery had been instituted since 1852. No suitor could say how much of the interest accumulated had arisen from his particular account. He maintained, therefore, that the property belonged to no individual owner, but to the public at large.
The only opposition he anticipated to this measure was indicated in a petition from the Hon. Society of Lincoln's Inn which body had a project in 1859 for doing the same thing. They proposed that they should be empowered to erect a building in 802 Lincoln's Inn which should cost £100,000, and for which they stipulated to receive £4,000 a year from the Surplus Interest Fund. The only difference between the two plans was that the Society of Lincoln's Inn proposed to take the interest of the fund and not to touch the principal, while he proposed to take the principal and to guarantee the interest. The difference between them was not, therefore, one of principle. Another petition raised the question of the schedule of the Bill. Upon that point he would only say, that if the Society of Lincoln's Inn had a claim upon the property in the schedule, they would have an opportunity of making out their claim before the Committee. He understood the Society of Lincoln's Inn argued in favour of keeping all the Courts of Equity within their limits. That claim was not, however, viewed with favour by the rest of the profession, nor did it seem desirable that the great courts of justice should be held in the premises of a private body. No doubt, such a scheme would be of great advantage to those who had chambers in Lincoln's Inn; but against that must be placed the advantage of bringing all the courts and offices into close contiguity, and placing them under one roof. The best site for such a building would be between Lincoln's Inn and the Temple, so that those who resided in all the Inns of Court should have equal facilities for attending the courts of law. It was impossible to concentrate all the courts in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and the only appropriate site was that recommended by the Commission, and which it was proposed by the present Bill to purchase. He trusted that the House would sympathize with the desire he felt that the country should possess an ample, commodious, and stately building as a Palace of Justice, in which all the legal proceedings of the country could be carried on. If the principle of the Bill were adopted, the right course would be that a Commission should be appointed to consider what extent of accommodation should be made for the different courts and offices. Supposing that a satisfactory decision was come to as to the number and size of rooms and halls to be provided, then the ordinary course taken the erection of public buildings would be pursued, and all the more eminent architects of the country would be invited to send in plans and designs for the proposed building, it that way, he trusted, they would see before long 803 a building worthy of the purposes to which it would be devoted and satisfactory to the country. The estimates of the cost could not be made in minute detail, but it was calculated the site would cost £730,000, and all the courts and offices would be constructed for a further sum of £720,000, making a total of £1,500.000. The present Bill would onlygive£1,400,000; but when the matter came to be minutely examined, it might be found that £1,400,000 would suffice for the site and the cost of the buildings. The savings obtained by the operation of the Bill would be much greater than the annual payments called for, and would certainly be sufficient to cover the £100,000 if it should be required. He believed, that if the Bill were read a second time and referred to a Select Committee, the statements he had made might be substantiated in detail, and that nothing need prevent the measure from passing and becoming law during the present Session.
§ MR. SELWYN
said, he had hoped that the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Brand), whose name was on the back of the Treasury Minute to which reference had been made, would have risen to answer the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Cowper's) observations in respect to it; but as that hon. Member was temporarily absent from his place, it devolved on him to show that the First Commissioner of Works was not justified in treating that Minute as a hasty one.
§ MR. SELWYN
said, he had misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman; but, passing from that point, he must observe that, so far from the proposed guarantee being merely nominal, the Bill would involve the country in a very large expenditure. Before dealing with the statements in the Treasury Minute, he would ask the House to consider how different was the position in which they then stood from that which they had occupied at the date of that document. The Minute was dated the 17th of July, 1861. At that time they were indulging, if not in the belief, at least in the hope, that there was something like a surplus of income over expenditure on the national balance-sheet. The Chanceller of the Exchequer, however, had recently put them in possession of the disagreeable information that there was no such surplus. Under these circumstances he thought the 804 House would agree with him that the nature and extent of the guarantee into which they were now asked to enter were matters of the deepest importance. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that his two estimates for the purchase of ground and the erection of the buildings were loose ones. The House had had some experience of estimates, and they knew that even in the case of carefully-framed estimates they might safely add one-third for contingencies. They would, therefore, be disposed to agree with the Treasury in thinking it highly probable that the cost of pulling down these hundreds of houses, compensating the occupiers, and erecting the courts, would be at least £2,000,000. The question was, then, what income had the right hon. Gentleman on which he could depend to meet the interest on that sum? He would not enter into all the various funds in the Court of Chancery in detail, but take them as a whole. That was the way they were dealt with in the Treasury Minute. The aggregate income arising from the entire of the funds was taken on the one side, and the whole of the charges on the other. Dealing with the sums in that way, it was found, that for the year ending in November, 1859, the surplus of income over expenditure amounted to a little over £3,000. But in that result the case against the Bill was understated, because the evidence of Mr. Johnson, the solicitor to the Fund, given before the Committee in 1861, p. 32, showed, that calculating on the same bases, but for a year later—namely, the year ending in November, 1860—the aggregate income was £158,213 7s. 10d., and the total payments £156,991 4s., giving an excess of income over expenditure to the amount of only £1,221 13s. 10d. It was quite true that the annual charges on that income were liable to diminution, arising from the death of annuitants; but, as the Treasury Minute pointed out, there were probable expenses, such as repairs, to be taken into account on the other side also. A large portion of the income was derived from funds paid by suitors in the Court of Chancery, who were taxed in every way, on bills, answers, evidence, and decrees. Funds raised in that way might be diminished to a very serious extent by any falling-off of the business of the court, or by legislative alterations in respect to the jurisdiction of that court; so that the time might arrive when what was now recommended as being merely a nominal 805 guarantee would become a substantial payment of the interest on a very large expenditure. No doubt, very strong evidence had been given in favour of the new scheme by members of the Committee of the Association of Solicitors. Unquestionably, it would be very agreeable to that body to have their club-house in front of a stately Palace of Justice instead of abutting on a narrow lane; and, as had been stated by the Master of the Rolls in his evidence, solicitors might experience some advantage from having what was now the business of two or three clerks done by one under the new system; but, as to the Bar, he took the liberty of differing from the right hon. Gentleman. Neither the opinion of the Judges nor that of the Bar was in any degree favourable to the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. The First Commissioner of Works described the principal fund on which it was proposed to draw as one which at present was really lying idle, and that seemed to have been the view taken by the Commission; but the effect of the Commissioners' proclamation on the subject had been to raise numerous claimants to the fund in question. He had in his possession a letter from one of the most experienced officers of the Court of Chancery, which stated that since the publication of the Commissioners' Report, some solicitors had made a business of bringing forward claims against the fund, and the result was that the amount of the claims had reached £320,000. Many of these claimants had succeeded in recovering the principal stock and dividends; but they had been, by a decision of the court, deprived of the benefit of the accumulations which had actually taken place; for it was proved in evidence before the Committee of last year, that even when an order of the court had been made for the investment and accumulation of the dividends, unless the person entitled or his solicitor could go every half-year to the Accountant General's office and direct the investment of the dividends, he would not obtain the benefit of the accumulation, although actually made. That appeared so strange to the Committee, that it was not satisfied till the orders of the court in two cases were read to it. The Master of the Rolls was asked this question, "Was not the result that a person who had been out of the jurisdiction, and who, therefore, had no opportunity of going every year or half-year to the Accountant General's office, but who might have relied on the order which had been 806 obtained for the investment and the accumulation of the dividends, was deprived of that benefit, except for the period of six years?" The Master of the Rolls replied, "That was it exactly." How could the right hon. Gentleman say the Suitors' Fund belonged to nobody? The Court of Chancery might be considered either as the banker or custodian of a sum of money, or as a trustee. Suppose a person going abroad told his bankers he had transferred a sum of money to their name, to receive the dividends and invest them; suppose he remained abroad twenty years, and was then told by the bank that they had invested the dividends under a different name, and that they claimed the accumulations for themselves—what would be the opinion of their honesty? How would the Court of Chancery itself deal with a trustee, who, under an order to invest and accumulate dividends, said he had invested them, but in his own name and for his own benefit? If the decision to which he had alluded should be reversed by the present or any future Lord Chancellor, or by the House of Lords, the supposed surplus of these funds would be greatly diminished, and, at all events, these claims ought to be satisfied before appropriating the fund to other purposes.
It was true, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, that Parliament had dealt with the fund, but in every instance he could find it had been applied for the benefit of the suitors, from whom it had been raised. He could not conceive how the precedent had been strained so as to include the appropriation of the fund to the purpose of the Bill. That appropriation would really prevent any improvement in the practice and administration of the Court of Chancery. There was a stamp required on almost every proceeding of the court; and if this Bill passed, it would be impossible to make any change in procedure involving a reduction of those stamps without the sanction of the Commissioners of the Treasury. The Master of the Rolls, in his evidence before the Committee, said, in reference to this part of the Bill—I think that is a very cruel provision. I think it is scarcely possible, if the House really understands the effect of that clause, that they will pass it. The whole course of legislation of late years has been to avoid law taxes, and, as much as possible, to put an end to them.And in answer to a question whether the proceedings in the court were not heavily taxed, he said— 807Yes; and if the Committee ill remember the very celebrated pamphlet of Mr. Jeremy Benthem on law taxes, which produced so great a sensation, and in fact put an end to making the courts of law a source of revenue to the public, they will see that that applies precisely the same to the taxes which are now levied, though essential for the maintenance of the courts as at present established.The Master of the Rolls was perfectly justified in the observation; and if this Bill passed, no improvement in the practice of the Court of Chancery would be possible, and the Lord Chancellor or the Master of the Rolls would not be able to remit a fee, even if paid by error, without the consent of the Commissioners. The surplus of the Suitors' Fund ought to be applied to a gradual reduction of the expense of the proceedings in the Court of Chancery, as had been emphatically declared by the present Lord Chancellor only two years ago in this House. He said—It was a great mistake to suppose that the Court of Chancery was indebted to the Consolidated Fund. If the balance were struck, and if the Suitors' Fund were emancipated from the burden thrown upon it, the Consolidated Fund would have £200,000 additional to bear. The accumulations of the Suitors' Fee Fund ought to be dedicated to the purpose of relieving the suitors from the fees of the Court of Chancery." [3 Hansard, clviii., 1574.]He would not object to anything that could be done for the benefit of the Courts of Common Law. He believed that there were considerable funds belonging to those courts which might be applied for their benefit. It was, however, proposed to take the money of the Court of Chancery for the benefit of those courts, and not only for the benefit of those courts, but for the benefit of the Probate and Divorce Courts. If a new Probate Court were required, surely those who established their title to property by means of that court ought to provide the necessary funds; and as to the Divorce Court, rather than do what was proposed by the Bill, he would tax the prurient crowd who waited outside that court to hear the cases tried there, or tax the newspapers that published their filthy details.
Again, in the reference which the right hon. Gentleman made to the existing courts, he seemed to have forgotten that the Commissioners had reported the Court of the Lord Chancellor to be perfectly sufficient, not only for the convenience, but for the proper dignity of the Chancellor's office. The same was stated with regard to the courts occupied by the Lords Justices; and the Master of the Rolls, in his evidence, de- 808 clared that it would not only be very expensive, but positively detrimental to the public service to remove him front his present court and offices, for which no rent was paid, and which lay close to the new buildings, erected at a cost of £884,000, to hold the public records, of which the Master of the Rolls, in Virtue of his office, was custodian. In an epoch of retrenchment, was it not surprising to hear a proposition deliberately made that the functions of the Master of the Rolls should be divided—that he should cease to discharge a portion of the duties which he now most satisfactorily performed, without additional expense to the public, and that a new office should be created, requiring great ability, legal knowledge, and historical acquirements on the part of the holder, and therefore entitling him to very large remuneration? The Senior Vice Chancellor's Court was also amply sufficient for its purpose; and therefore upon four of the six principal Courts of Chancery no expenditure whatever was required. The description which the right hon. Gentleman had given of the two others was perfectly correct; they were merely temporary courts, built by the Society of Lincoln's Inn upon ground of its own. But the society had always been perfectly willing to give ground for the erection of new courts, and courts would long since have been built if it were not for the agitation of this gigantic scheme for, spending £2,000,000 The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Society of Lincoln's Inn, and stated that, of course, it was their interest to keep possession of the courts. As a bencher of that society, and one whose family had been connected with it for many generations, he might be allowed to say that the right hon. Gentleman was scarcely justified in attributing interested motives to that society. Wherever the courts might be built, the managers of that society could not derive pecuniary advantage to the extent of a single sixpence. The society no doubt considered it a great honour to have had the courts located for so many years within their precincts; they had given their hall and ground freely for the public service, and therefore they hardly deserved the terms in which they had been spoken of by the Minister of the Crown. In 1859 a Bill was introduced, by which it was proposed that provision should be made for the two Vice Chancellors by erecting a building at a maximum cost of £100,000, to be paid by the Society of Lincoln's Inn. 809 The right hon. Gentleman said that proposal was substantially the same as the present, but he need not point out that there was a considerable difference between £100,000 and £2,000.000, especially when with respect to the smaller sum no guarantee was asked from the public. It was impossible to imagine a more liberal proposal than that which had been made by the Society of Lincoln's Inn. They offered to give the ground on which courts might be built out of the funds of the Court of Chancery, or to build courts themselves, if they received a moderate rate of interest for the money which they should expend.
With respect to the 7th clause of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman, feeling it impossible to answer the petition presented on behalf of the Society of Lincoln's Inn, treated their statements as matter of detail to be dealt with in Committee; but the Bill actually proposed that the Six Clerks' Office, and that of the Accountant General, standing on part of the ground and garden of Lincoln's Inn, should be vested in the First Commissioner of Works, with a view to their being sold discharged of all subsisting trusts declared with respect thereto; those trusts being trusts declared by former Acts of Parliament for the benefit of the Society of Lincoln's Inn and of the Court of Chancery. As well might it be proposed to take and sell a school which some nobleman or gentleman had built upon his demesne, and to apply the proceeds of the sale, together with the accumulation of the weekly payments by the scholars, towards the expenses of the erection of a gaol, compelling all the children, no matter what their religious opinions might be, to attend some British and Foreign School in the neighbourhood. That was not pushing by any means too far an illustration of the course of confiscation that was about to be resorted to in the case of a society which had behaved so liberally to the public as that of Lincoln's Inn. If the Bill were thrown out, as he trusted it would be, the amalgamation of the Common Law Courts, instead of being retarded, would be positively facilitated; for it would be easy to obtain a site capacious enough merely for them, whereas it would be next to impossible to procure a site sufficiently spacious for the courts and offices both of law and equity, with the extensions and enlargements that would in time become necessary. By subtracting the six Courts of Chancery, with their different offices, from 810 the scheme, they rendered that a practical design which otherwise would be gigantic and visionary. He should therefore conclude by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months"
said, he did not rise to answer the objections of the hon. and learned Member to a measure for concentrating the courts of law and equity on one spot, nor to say anything with regard to the applicability of funds be-longing to the Chancery Courts to the general purposes of the courts of law, though he might say, in passing, that there were no funds belonging to the courts of law which were applicable to building purposes, since by law all the surplus which might arise was payable into the Consolidated Fund. His only object was to make a few remarks on the financial bearings of the measure in connection with the Treasury Minute to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred. The first question for the House to consider was, what would be the probable expense of the plan of his right hon. Friend? The first estimate was£1,500,000, but the Treasury, acting under the very natural apprehension founded on their past experience that on several important occasions the actual cost of buildings had exceeded the estimate, added £500,000 to the estimate. He was bound to add, however, that his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works had since carefully gone over the estimate, and he adhered to the original calculation. The Bill declared that the cost was to be paid out of money to be voted by Parliament, so that the House would retain the control of the expenditure in its own hands. The money which was available arose from the surplus funds of the Court of Chancery, and would, it was estimated, amount to £1,400,000. But of course it was not open to the public to appropriate a sum of that kind without undertaking a corresponding responsibility; and the question was, what was that responsibility, and what was the actual amount of the liability incurred. It would simplify matters if he stated that there were two funds belonging to that court, one called the Suitors' Fund, and the other the Suitors' Fee Fund. The Suitors' Fund was the general cash balance of the Court of 811 Chancery, and consisted of money deposited in that court by suitors, in regard to which they had omitted or declined to make any recommendation that it should be invested for their benefit, and which had consequently been invested by the court on its own responsibility for the benefit of the public. According to a return which had been presented to the House, the amount which the Court of Chancery was, on the 1st of October, 1861, liable to make good in cash was£2,702,542. The amount then in hand, in cash, was£437,798, and the difference, £2,264,744, had been invested in stock for the benefit of the public. The stock purchased amounted to £2,606,225; and unless the funds should fall below 87, that amount would be sufficient to realize the whole sum for which the Court of Chancery was responsible to the suitors. There was also a reserve or security fund, which on the 1st of October, 1861, amounted to £1,291,629, and which was liable to make good any deficiency which might arise on the realization of the stock. That fund it was proposed to appropriate to these buildings, the public undertaking the responsibility towards the suitors' cash, which was now charged against the reserve. It was most unlikely that there would be any deficiency, and therefore the responsibility of the public in that respect would be little or nothing. The Suitors' Fee Fund was, in reality, an income and expenditure account. For the year ending the 1st of October, 186l, the income of the Court of Chancery amounted to about £225,000. That was made up partly of fees, and partly of the interest upon the two capital funds which he had mentioned. It consisted to the extent of £100,000 a year of fees, to the extent of £119,000 of interest and dividends upon these funds, and to the extent of £5,792 of dividends upon a stock which had been created by the investment of the surplus income of the Suitors' Fee Fund since the year 1842. The expenditure of the Court for the year ending the 1st of October, 1861, amounted to £217,348, showing a balance in favour of income of £7,000. The return showed a balance of only £5,500; but in it credit had been given for only one half-year's dividend upon the last-mentioned stock. By the Bill it was proposed to appropriate the reserve fund, amounting to £1,291,000, and also the £201,000 stock which had been created by the investment of the surplus of the Suitors' Fee Fund. That 812 would reduce the income by£45,000, and cause an excess of expenditure over income of £37,000 per annum. That was the maximum liability which would be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund by this measure; but there were two reasons which led him to think that the actual charge would be considerably under that maximum. In the first place, as a great plan like that proposed could not be carried out at once, the deficiency of income would not arise at once; and, in the second, the Bill provided that the public should have the benefit of all reductions of expenditure arising from the falling-in of compensations and pensions granted upon the abolition of offices, which it was calculated would amount to about £2,000 per annum. They had, therefore, a right to expect that the charge to the public would not in any one year exceed £30,000, and that sum would be gradually decreasing by £2,000 per annum. In order to prevent the charge becoming more onerous, it would be necessary that care should be taken that the income of the Court of Chancery was not reduced by the diminution of fees, and, accordingly, provision was made by the Bill that no such reduction should be made except with the consent of the Commissioners of the Treasury. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think that that provision would operate to the disadvantage of the suitors; but it ought to be borne in mind that a scale of fees had been maintained without inconvenience which had produced so large a surplus that the fund had now a balance of upwards of £90.000 to its credit.
§ MR. SELWYN
said, that the fees had lately been greatly reduced, and it had been the object of every Lord Chancellor to reduce them as much as was safe.
It would also be necessary to take care that the expenditure of the court was not unnecessarily increased. From time to time Bills were brought into that House, placing fresh charges for salaries, &c., upon the Suitors' Fee Fund. There was one before them at that moment —the Lunacy Regulation Bill. If the House was vigilant with regard to measures of that character they need not apprehend that the liability of the public would be greater than he had stated. He by no means meant to imply that the plan could be carried out without considerable cost to the public; but he believed that in no other mode could so great and beneficial 813 an improvement be carried out with so little pressure on the resources of the nation.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he hoped the House would pay the closest attention to the proposition before them. It had been said that the House was to provide the money from year to year, and; therefore they would have a check upon the expenditure; but past experience showed that such checks were fallacious, and he hoped that they would never fall into such a trap again. The Houses of Parliament were, as they all knew, originally estimated to cost £770.000, but eventually upwards of £2,000,000 was expended upon them; and although hon. Members did their best from time to time to close the transaction, they were unable to do so until they determined to vote no more money, and Sir William Moles worth was requested to bring in a final estimate, which was accordingly done. The only explanation they; had ever succeeded in getting from Sir Charles Barry as to the cause of the increase from the original estimate, was that it had "gradually clothed itself with £2,000,000." He considered the system of finance contained in the measure was one of the most fishy and rotten ever submitted to a deliberative assembly. The whole Bill smelt from first to last of the Consolidated Fund. It began with the Consolidated Fund, and he felt certain it would end with the Consolidated Fund. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Treasury (Mr. Peel) had opened a different view to that taken by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Selwyn). The main fund of the Court of Chancery was known by the letter A. It was a very large fund, consisting of stock and cash, but principally of the former. The Suitors' Fund was called B, and B was said to be a guarantee for A. Why? Because Stocks might fall. Supposing, then, there was a war, and Stocks fell to 80, there would be a heavy deficit. So much for the guarantee. Then, with regard to the fund itself, he could not conceive how the House could propose to take the capital of a fund the revenue of which was absolutely or nearly disposed of. It appeared to him to be an absurdity. His right hon. Friend admitted that there was a charge upon it of £30,00; or £40,000, which, taking interest into account, was equivalent to a capital of £1,000,000. The accounts of 1859 showed that there was a difference only of £3,000, the total revenue carried to account C being £226,000, and the total expenses being 814 £223,000. Of the £226,000 no less a sum than £97,000 arose from fees, clearly showing that that fund was liable to great fluctuation, depending upon the popularity or unpopularity of the Court of Chancery. He therefore contended that the scheme of the Government was all moonshine. They might seize the capital, as they might seize any capital, but they must prepare to meet the burdens upon it. Therefore the scheme was a sort of mock mode of meeting the expense, because very heavy burdens would have to be paid. These remarks, he thought, disposed of the financial part of the question. But it was a very remarkable fact that there was really no necessity for dealing with the Courts of Equity. The principal witnesses—for instance, the Lords Justices, the Master of the Rolls, and Sir William Page Wood— all united in the opinion that they were better where they were; and that all they wanted were two courts for two extra Judges, and which might be erected at Lincoln's Inn at an expense of a few thousand pounds without any further consideration. One change, he observed, had been made in the Bill since it was last submitted to the House, for he found that account E had vanished. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Commissioner of Works had shown a wise discretion in leaving that account out of consideration, because it was public revenue. But E having gone, they were in a worse condition than before, inasmuch as he (Sir Henry Willoughby) contended that B was worth nothing. Consequently, really and truly, the taxpayers of the country would have to pay an enormous expense at a moment when they were threatened with every species of difficulty. He therefore hoped the House would prove itself a vigilant guardian of the public purse, and would refuse to sanction an expenditure the responsibility of which had, on the part of the Government, been declined by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury had stated with precision the pecuniary part of the question. If, as the hon. Baronet seemed to suppose, he (Mr. Gladstone) had declined, on the part of the Government, all responsibility for the financial scheme of the Bill, he must have expressed himself very unfortunately, as, on the contrary, he believed that it was at its maximum in regard to this subject. What he meant was, that while the re- 815 sponsibility of the Government remained in full force, it was one of that class of questions on which the House of Commons also had a peculiar and large responsibility. In the case of the Army and Navy Estimates, it was natural for the House to accept the figures as in a great degree relating to matters of which the Government could alone judge, and to pass them very much as votes of confidence. In the present instance, however, the House was bound to sift and probe the estimates for themselves, as the Government had already done. In speaking of the responsibility of the House of Commons, he did not regard it other than as cumulative and not derogating from that of the Government. In point of fact, he thought the public had had fair reason to be dissatisfied in some notable instances in recent experience with the enormous excess of costs beyond the estimates of public undertakings. It was the sincere desire of the Government to prevent the possibility of the recurrence of such grounds of complaint. With respect to the financial part of the question, there was no doubt a prospect of a considerable public charge, against which, however, the sets-off had been mentioned by his right hon. Friend the Chief Commissioner of Works. He thought it extremely desirable that the House should have the opportunity of examining the nature and value of those sets-off, as well as the amount of the charge itself. The Government had proceeded in the belief that this measure was one of the greatest possible value and importance with respect to the administration of the law, and they had therefore felt willing, and advised the House to exhibit the same willingness, to encounter some considerable risk with regard to the outside charge which might be entailed. At the same time the Government had taken in view any fair and reasonable sources from which compensation might be derived. One of these sources was the Fee Fund. Another was the sets-off to which his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner referred, in the shape of property liberated and made available to other uses. The Commission appointed to inquire into the state of the funds of the Court of Chancery was not appointed under any notion that they would discover anything of a gross or flagrant character, but under the belief that the arrangements connected with those funds would admit of considerable improvement and economy; and the view of the Government certainly was, that in future a fair 816 claim might be put in on behalf of the public for the savings, in consideration of the charges entailed by the scheme. It was pretty plain that some considerable savings might be expected from the nature of the case and the contents of documents before the House, although the Commission had not reported. He thought that he had said sufficient upon the financial bearings of the question, and that further details could be more satisfactorily discussed in Committee
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, it. was admitted, and, indeed, was evident that a, heavy public charge would result from the measure. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Subject to sets-off.] Those sets-off were of: a very illusory character. It was also plain that the House of Commons was to be saddled with the responsibility of sanctioning that expenditure. They all knew what would follow if they passed this Bill. If they did so, a considerable item would appear some two or three years hence in the Estimates; and if any dissatisfaction were expressed at its amount, they would be told,; "You voted for this Bill, and you cannot now shirk the responsibility of paying the account." They had already experienced something similar in the various law reforms which had been promulgated of late years. Law reform was a very goad thing, and he had always been a law reformer; but law reform, he thought, might be bought too dear. There was the case of the Ecclesiastical Courts, which they had thoroughly reformed, and the result was an annual charge of £120,000 for compensation. A new annual item of £25,000 appeared in the Estimates for this year, and they found it was for a reform of the Bankruptcy Court. This was the time above all others when they ought not to embark in this great expenditure. The revenue was very large, but the expenditure was so enormous that it was with the greatest possible difficulty they could make both ends meet. They seemed to proceed upon the spendthrift's idea—that when their finances were in a very unsatisfactory condition it was immaterial whether they spent more or less, and therefore they might scatter their money in every direction, regardless of future consequences. The public would soon begin to think that they were not discharging their duty when they held the purse-strings so loosely. Besides, the scheme itself was one of novelty, and had never been thoroughly thrashed out by debate in the House or discus- 817 sion in the country. It seemed to be taken for granted that the concentration of all the courts would be of enormous value; but there was no definite plan, and they had made no careful estimate. The Houses of Parliament were supposed to cost £750,000; they had cost nearly £3,000,000; and if the rule of three applied, as these courts were computed to cost £1,500,000, the expenditure would be £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. They were building new ships, erecting batteries, re-organizing and re-arming the army, and this expenditure could well be deferred until they had an overflowing Exchequer.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
, said, that his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Selwyn) had omitted to make any allusion to that which had formed an important part of the statement of his right hon. Friend in moving the second reading of the Bill —namely, the credits which, as he had proved, he was entitled to take as against the expenditure, and which amounted to a sum of nearly £700,000. His hon. and learned Friend, having thus unduly swollen the expenditure, had then sought to diminish the income, for he had told the House that the probable effect of the changes which were being introduced into the law would be to diminish litigation. He (Sir William Atherton) could not concur in that anticipation. On the contrary, he thought that the growth which was daily taking place in the population, the wealth, and the commerce of the country, would necessarily compel more persons to resort, however unwillingly, to the Court of Chancery. His hon. and learned Friend had referred in a tone of disparagement to the very valuable Report of the Commissioners; but that report was confirmed by the evidence of a large number of witnesses connected with the law. His hon. and learned Friend said that there had been but one eqiuty Judge, Sir W. Page Wood, upon the Commission. That was true, but there was likewise only one common law Judge, Sir John Coleridge, upon it. The other Commissioners were the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for War, who was not engaged in the legal profession; Dr. Phillimore, who was a civilian; and Mr. Young, an eminent solicitor, whose practice lay more in the Chancery than in any other courts, so that it was impossible to argue that the Commission had not been constituted with perfect fairness, or that any undue Chancery complexion had been 818 given to its Report. With regard to the probable claims which might be made upon this fund, he did not think his hon. and learned Friend had been very fortunate in the selection of his examples, because he had given the House the example of a claimant who had no ground of claim. He had put the case as if the Court of Chancery, with reference to this fund, stood in the position to the suitor of trustee or banker. Now the fund of which they were speaking was the creation of the court itself—the result, in fact, of investments made by the court at its own discretion and on its own responsibility, in cases where suitors had declined to exercise the right the law gave them of requesting that the money should be invested. The matter had been exhaustively disposed of by the Commissioners, as the hon. and learned Gentleman well knew. When suitors requested they their money should be invested, they were entitled to the gain, as they must bear the loss of the transaction; but when they did not, they simply received the money at the close of the suit without addition or diminution. The position of the court was in fact, simply that of stakeholder between, the litigants. The only difference between the proposal of his hon. And learned Friend, and that of the Government was one of degree, and not principle; for his hon. and learned Friend proposed that they should take a certain portion—a less portion no doubt—of the fund, and apply it to the erection of courts for the use of the courts of equity only. The origin of the fund was entirely Parliamentary, which was clearly stated in the Report of the Commission. Previous to the year 1705 the practice; was, when money was ordered to be paid into court, it was paid into the hands of the masters or the ushers, who used it for their own profit; and certain malversations having taken place, an Act of Parliament was passed, which directed the investment of the money in Government stock. Such being the origin of the fund, and it being quite independent of any option on the part of the suitors, how, he would ask, had it been applied? To the accomplishment of various objects; among others to the erection of an Accountant General's office and other buildings, as well as to the payment of pensions to incapacitated and retired officers. It was said that Lincoln's Inn was entitled to some consideration. He had no desire to speak in disparagement of that honourable society, nor did he suggest that its members were influenced by 819 selfish motives, but it was impossible to forget that the barristers practising in the courts of equity had an interest which was likely to bias their minds upon this subject. He had no hesitation in saying that the opinion of the profession of the law generally was in favour of the present measure. The profession desired better courts, believing that if the courts were concentrated the administration of justice would be greatly advanced and improved. On those grounds they supported the Bill, and so strong was his own opinion in its favour that he was persuaded any outlay which it might entail would prove highly beneficial to the country.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he agreed with the hon. and learned Attorney General that there was a general concurrence of opinion in the profession of the law that something ought to be done. The question was what that something should be. It was admitted on all hands that the courts of common law were both badly situated and inconvenient in themselves, and that they should be put in a central situation. There was also a general agreement that the best site which could be selected was the site bounded on the north by Carey Street, on the east by Bell Yard, on the west by Clement's Inn, and on the south by the Strand. With respect to the courts of equity, it was quite unnecessary to spend a single sixpence on the courts occupied by the Lord Chancellor, the Lords Justices, the Master of the Rolls, and the senior Vice Chancellor, but the two junior Vice Chancellors sat in courts which were little better than covered sheds. He had spent his life in one of them, and he could say that in summer they were very hot, while in winter they were very cold. Another evil was that the administrative business of the Court of Chancery was transacted in chambers altogether inadequate in point of size and accommodation. Now, the business of the Court of Chancery could not be computed at less than one-third of the whole judicial business of England, and the adoption of the plan proposed by Lincoln's Inn would at once provide for the transaction of that vast mass of business without making any demand upon the public purse at all. But for the proposal of this gigantic scheme, the whole evil would have been remedied years ago. Undoubtedly the country should provide the courts necessary for the proper administration of justice; but the House ought not to suffer them selves to be deceived. Let 820 them not imagine that the Suitors' Fund could supply the means. That fund was already occupied; there was a tenant for life in possession. If the plan was worthy of the support of the country, why did the right hon. Gentleman not meet the difficulty in the face? Why did he not propose that the Consolidated Fund should provide the means? The Suitors' Fund ought to be applied in lowering the fees of the suitors. Again, the coat was estimated by the First Commissioner of Works at £1,500,000; but be at the same time admitted, that he had only "rough estimates;" and there was no doubt that the expenditure would not be less than £2,000,000; in addition to which there must be some thousands a year spent in keeping the building up; though of that charge no account at all was taken. He repeated that so far as the Chancery courts were concerned only two courts were wanted, in addition to chambers for the chief clerks; but with regard to the common law courts he certainly thought that something should be done. He objected, however, to the Bill, as an attempt to hoodwink the House, by concealing the fact that the public funds must pay for the courts.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, he wished to make a very few observations. The question naturally divided itself into two obvious branches—one relating to the object in view, and the other to the pecuniary means by which that object was to be accomplished. The object was to accommodate the administration of justice in suitable and convenient courts near the chambers of both barristers and solicitors. If they were left to the exercise of their common sense, no two opinions could be formed on that part of the subject. It would be a disgrace to any country, but to such a country as this more than any other, that justice should be scattered over forty or fifty different places in so many holes and corners, here and there, in different parts of town, the offices separated by miles, the practitioners being driven up and down; there being a total impossibility of conducting business with any economy of time or system at all. Was there any great town in the comities in which justice was not better accommodated than in London? Apart from the conclusive and convincing evidence of all the witnesses examined before the Commission, and of the Commissioners themselves, there was no difference of opinion on that subject. There was a plain and 821 most important object to be provided for. The want of it was a great and serious evil; and even if a serious expenditure was to be incurred, it might be very well worth considering whether that expenditure would not be well bestowed. Long before he ever could aspire to fill the position he now humbly occupied he thought upon this subject as he did at present, and at all times he considered such a Bill as this a most important and necessary measure, and the delay which had taken place was always to him a matter of surprise and astonishment. The separation of the courts of law and equity had tended to divorce more and more in practice these two branches of the administration of justice, while the tendency of opinion was to bring them more closely together. When it was endeavoured to give to the courts of equity some share of the jurisdiction now exercised by the common law courts, and to give to the latter some share of the jurisdiction of the equity courts, there had to be encountered the difficulty arising from their divided position. The changes recently made in the practice of the courts rendered it in the highest degree important that the courts should be in some locality where those conversant with the practice of one court might occasionally give their assistance in another, and where the judges might conveniently communicate together. With respect to the common law courts, it was quite clear that, as they were separated from the chambers of the legal profession, many persons were now compelled to waste valuable time in waiting for the coming-on of causes, and in the mean while the business in chambers was delayed. That was manifestly a matter which concerned the interest of the public, because time was money; and there could be no doubt that all that enormous waste of time, arising from the courts and offices of justice being scattered about, must in the end be paid for by the suitors; and if the benefit of a measure like that before the House were set against the amount of fees payable in the courts, which the Commissioners stated were by no means high now, and which had of late years been largely reduced, forming a very small proportion—only 8 per cent—or the whose cost of litigation, he was quite disposed to believe that the public would be great gainers by the concentration of the administration of justice, supposing the whole amount of the present fee should remain unreduced. His hon. and learned Friend 822 who last spoke admitted that one-half of the scheme must be executed, and that new courts of common law must be provided, but observed that the Chancery Courts had at present considerable accommodation. That was an admission quite sufficient to justify the second reading of: the Bill, especially as it was proposed to refer the measure afterwards to a Select Committee, and as great expenditure must be occasioned by repairs and rebuilding if the present scheme were not adopted.
With regard to the ways and means, he would first of all advert to the question of the propriety of using the proposed funds in the Court of Chancery. He took the liberty of saying, with great respect to others who held a contrary, opinion, that those funds were as much public property as the Consolidated Fund, and were at the absolute disposal of Parliament. There was no ground for asserting that the suitors in the Court of Chancery had more right to them than the suitors in the common law courts, and they had been used to pay the salaries of registrars, judges' clerks, and all the staff establishment of Chancery, and for building courts in Ireland and other purposes. They had arisen from profits derived by the court from the investment of monies paid in by former suitors. If those who paid in the monies had no claim to these profits (and they certainly had not), it was impossible seriously to contend, that other and subsequent generations of suitors had a claim to them. There might be some propriety in employing them for purposes conducive to the better administration of justice; but they had always been treated as public funds absolutely available for any purpose to which Parliament might think fit to apply them. Then, as far as: the funds were concerned, the question was narrowed to this issue—whether it would be more beneficial to diminish the court fees in favour of the suitors, or to provide; suitable and convenient accommodation for the administration of justice. On that subject opinions might differ. The Master of the Rolls—and there was no man for where opinion he felt greater respect—theought it of more importance to reduce the fees; but, respectfully differing from that learned individual, he took the liberty of thinking that it was an object of fan general and permanent interest to save all the present disgraceful waste of time incident upon the scattered 823 position of the courts, and to provide suitable accommodation for the administration of justice. Then there remained the question of the burden to be imposed upon the public revenue. There was no reason to assume that the original estimate of the Government was too low, and it had been stated by his right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury that £30,000 a year was the present, maximum of charge to be borne by the public, and this would diminish every year, and in a few years would wholly cease. The question was, whether the value of the object was not sufficient to justify such a charge. Several of the views that had been presented to the House might, however, be best considered before a Select Committee; by that means all necessary information might be laid before the House and he thought the House could not do wrong in allowing the question to go before such a tribunal.
said, he approached the question with a strong impression on his mind, as to the present state of the finances, and with a still stronger impression of the admonition so forcibly, urged upon them by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to its being their duty to ponder well their financial, position before assenting to the proposal. The hon. and learned Solicitor-General had put that as he always put every question, in the fairest possible point of view, and had said, that they had two things to consider—namely, the object of the Bill, and also, the ways and means by which that object was to be accomplished. As to the first, his hon. and learned Friend had stated very candidly that the object was to collect together within the same precincts all the courts of law and equity, so as to prevent waste, of time and labour in the administration of justice. Now, he would not argue it as an abstract question. Possibly, if they had no courts, and were in a new country, the proper mode of dealing with the subject would be to place all the courts together, so that those engaged in them should not be driven from one end of the town to the other. But surely, as prudent men, if their finances were not now in that flourishing state which would enable them to incur a great outlay, nothing could be more injudicious than that, while four out of the six courts of Chancery were admirably situated for the conduct of business, and there were other courts equally well adapted for the administration of justice, they should get rid of all their existing 824 courts, pull down a vast number of houses at great expense, and then cover an area of some acres with new buildings, when they had literally no money for such a purpose Admitting, therefore, that the object might be good, he took exception to the time and mode in which it was sought to carry it out. Next, as to the ways and means for accomplishing that object, his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General said that the Suitors' Fund could be, properly devoted to that purpose, and would be better applied in that manner than in any other. But the House should bear in mind what took; place on that very subject some fifteen, years ago, when he first entered Parliament To reform the law, and improve its administration a vast number of offices paid by fees were then abolished, at an immense cost to the country, in order that the suitor might no longer be oppressed by those fees. Among others he now alluded to the six clerks in, Chancery to provide compensation for whom the Suitors' Fund was saddled with the payment of between £40,000 and £50,000! a year. The only justification for that was that there was no other mode of getting rid of the system of fees, and that as those gentlemen's lives dropped the suitors would pro tanto be relieved from the burden of compensation which the fund had, now to bear. But the House was now asked to anticipate the very fund out of which that relief was to be afforded the, suitor, contrary to the Parliamentary pledge given fifteen years since. The, hon. and learned; Solicitor-General reminded them, indeed, that they had an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury that the estimate, instead of amounting to £2,000,000 as the Government had once computed it, would be covered by £1,500,000. That brought vividly to his mind the language used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which the House ought not now to forget. That right hon. Gentleman told them, and told them truly, that a broad distinction was to be made between the ordinary financial proposals of the Government for the expenditure of the year and the sanctioning of any such outlay as that recommended in the measure. With respect to the former, the Government undertake a very great responsibility, and, as the hon. Gentleman justly said, to question their financial propositions amounted in fact to a vote of want of confidence in them. But 825 in a case like that before the House, although the Government, no doubt, incurred a considerable responsibility, an immensely greater responsibility would rest upon the House; and it therefore behoved them to take care not to create a heavy prospective liability unless they saw their way tolerably clear for discharging it. Did anybody believe that the project would be completed for the sum named by the, Chief Commissioner of Works? Recollecting how former estimates for building operations had been falsified, he felt convinced that, instead of £1,500,000, or even £2,000,000, defraying the cost of the scheme, it would require more than £3,000,000. Knowing perfectly well, then, that at that moment we had not a penny of surplus revenue for such a purpose, he could not concur in the propriety of such an enormous expenditure. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University had shown them that the income arising from the Suitors' Fund did not yield a surplus of more than £2,000 a year. If that were so, the public Exchequer would immediately have to guarantee the proposed outlay of £1,500,000 or £2,000,000, and the burden must necessarily be borne by the Estimates for the year. Considering, then, the state of the finances, that prudence and economy were essentially necessary at that moment, that the duty in that respect had ever been urged upon them by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and believing, as he did believe, that the sum asked for would be wholly insufficient for the purposes proposed, he could not take a step which involved the country in an expenditure which he felt they were not justified in incurring.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided.
§ The numbers having been announced by the Tellers; Ayes 81, Noes 81:— It was stated by Mr. Brand, one of the Tellers for the Ayes, that Mr. Wykeham Martin, Member for the City of Rochester had been in the Right Division Lobby, but had not been counted by the Tellers:—Where upon Mr. Speaker having desired the honourable Member to come to the Table, Mr. Wykeham Martin came to the Table accordingly, and stated that he had heard the Question put, but having retired into the Lobby had not passed the Tellers; he now declared himself with the Ayes:—826
§ Whereupon Mr. Speaker declared the numbers; Ayes 82, Noes 81: Majority 1.
§ Main Question put. The House divided: Ayes 81; Noes 83: Majority 2.