§ MR. COX
rose to call the attention of the House to the General Rules and Orders of the High Court of Chancery, issued by the Lord High Chancellor, on the 16th day of May, 1862, and to move that in the opinion of this House such Rules and Orders ought not to continue in force. The effect of the Orders to which he sought to draw attention was to substitute printed for written copies of affidavits and depositions in causes where issue had been joined. It might be asked, what had the House of Commons to do with the Rules and Orders issued by the Court of Chancery? The Act of Parliament provided that both Houses of Parliament should have all new rules and orders laid upon the tables of the Houses forthwith in case they were sitting, and in five days after meeting in cas of the Rules being issued during the recess, and that either House might within thirty-six days rescind them and set them aside altogether. The Orders referred to in his Motion were issued on the 16th May, and they were not laid on the table until the 17th June, and would not then have appeared if he had not given notice to put a question to the Attorney General on the subject. He would show the House that these Orders would be of no benefit to the suitors or to any other class of persons, but that they were intended to create a monopoly, for the whole of the printing would be thrown into the hands of one person either by the order of the Lord Chancellor or somebody else. When Bills and Answers were directed to be printed, solicitors got their work done where they liked; but under the recent Orders solicitors would be obliged to take a copy of each affidavit to the office of the Records and Writs Clerk, who would send them to the printer; and this would in effect constitute the monopoly complained of. Under the new system there was not only no saving of expense, but, on the contrary, the charge was increased. For how was the printer to be paid? Why, by a subsequent Order it was directed that the printer should be paid at the rate of 8¾d. a folio, and that would result in a loss of 1¾d. a folio, or of about £4,000 a year, to the Suitors' Fee Fund, 619 that being the fund charged by the new Orders with the cost of printing these affidavits. It might be asked for whose benefit had this alteration been made; and why was the Suitors' Fee Fund to be charged with a loss of between £4,000 and £5,000 a year, if nobody was to be benefited by the change? The answer was the printer would be benefited by it. But hon. Members were sent to that House to prevent monopolies, and the putting of money into the pocket of one man to the great injury of other men. If the suitor would receive no benefit, there could be no necessity for the change. The Orders went on to say that solicitors were to be allowed for affidavits in the taxation of costs the same sum per folio as under the old practice of writing them. Thus it would appear that a large body of men were to be thrown out of employment; that a monopoly was to be established; that a charge was to be thrown on the Suitors' Fee Fund—a fund which the House of Commons would not allow to be touched when it was proposed to apply the fund to the building of the new law courts—and that the same charges as at present were to be made to the suitors. He was at a loss to know what answer the Solicitor General would give to these questions, but in truth the hon. and learned Gentleman could know very little of the matter. Bills and answers were printed by a stationer selected by the solicitor, and it was free trade in that respect; but the printing of affidavits would be a complete monopoly, and would cause a great deal of mischief to a large body of honest and industrious men. Although the operation of printing Bills and answers in Chancery might have had a good effect, the printing of affidavits must have quite a contrary effect. Believing the new Orders would benefit no one, he must ask the House to consent to the terms of his Resolution.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the General Rules and Orders of the High Court of Chancery, issued by the Lord High Chancellor on the 16th day of May 1862, ought not to continue in force,
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
allowed that it was perfectly competent for the House to interfere, if it thought fit, with the Rules which the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of the other judges of the Court, might draw up for the re- 620 gulation of the business; but if it were to interfere, except under great necessity, it would run the risk of lending itself to private rather than public interests, and of paralysing important reforms in the administration of justices. It was quite clear that in a matter like this the House of Commons was not the most competent body to pronounce a decision. It must be obvious that the Lord Chancellor and the other Judges, in substituting printed for written papers, could have had no possible motive but the public advantage in laying down the rule; and though every one must be sorry when a measure of public improvement damaged private interests, yet it could not be argued for a moment, that because under the present mode of conducting the business of the Court a certain branch of the business had fallen into the hands of a very respectable body of men, such as the law stationers, therefore any interference with that particular branch should not be permitted, though it might be of great benefit to the public. The complainants in this case only came forward for the purpose of securing personal objects, and the House would necessarily receive with considerable caution any statements proceeding from persons occupying such a position. For some time past proceedings in Chancery had been partly printed and partly written. In 1852 the practice of printing bills was introduced, and incidentally a considerable benefit was conferred on the law stationers, for copies which were formerly furnished by the Court were thrown open to the trade, to the amount of £25,000 a year, and he was informed that the present change was not likely to withdraw anything like that sum from the trade. But, whether they gained or lost by the change, the House would not allow the suggestions of private interest to prevail against a public improvement. If the House were asked to set the opinion of the law stationers against that of the Lord Chancellor and the other Judges, they could not but give the greatest weight to the judgment of those who were so thoroughly experienced in the business of the Court, and who had only the public interest to look to. In the administration of justice great benefit had been found to arise from having all the papers in a suit printed instead of written, and this rule had been long in practice in the House of Lords and the Privy Council. The arrangement which had been made in the 621 Court of Chancery, so far from causing a loss to the Suitors' Fund, would, on the contrary, have the effect either of preserving the present equilibrium or of leading to a prospective gain. It was a totally erroneous way of putting the matter to call the arrangement a monopoly. The Court undertook to discharge its own business, and to furnish the suitors with copies of the documents necessary for the suit. These copies had been habitually made in manuscript by the Court; and now it was found that arrangements might be made under which printed copies would be delivered at a much less expense. The hon. Gentleman suggested that printers might be found who would supply the copies at a less charge than 8¾d. per folio of seventy-two words; but he was informed that the charges made now by the law stationers—who had established themselves as middlemen in this branch of the business—for printing documents ranged from 1s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per folio, and that the average was about 1s. 7½d.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
did not so understand the information which had been furnished to him; but, without pledging himself to any specific sum, he felt certain that a considerable amount of saving would be secured by this arrangement. The effect upon the Suitors' Fee Fund had been carefully considered by the Judges, with the assistance of some of the most experienced officers of the Court of Chancery. There could be no more experienced persons than Mr. Follett, Mr. Monro, Mr. Murray, and Mr. Johnson, and these gentlemen were satisfied that there would be a trifling gain to the Suitors' Fee Fund, leaving a safe margin for the operation of the scheme. The suitors would also be gainers, because the number of copies which it would be necessary to furnish to them would be reduced, and that would affect materially the total cost of the proceedings. It was the belief not only of the Lord Chancellor, but of that just, upright, and impartial man, the Master of the Rolls, that the measure was an important improvement, and under these circumstances he trusted that the House would not interfere for the purpose of preventing its adoption.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."622
§ The House divided:—Ayes 31; Noes 26: Majority 5.