§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2o.— (Mr. Attorney General.)
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, that although recent experience in the conduct of public works in this country had not been of such a character as to induce many hon. Members to take part in that discussion on the subject, he wished to say a few words, partly for the purpose of drawing forth some explanations from the Government, and partly to direct public attention to the question. He hoped they should obtain more explanation than they had already had, with respect to the calculations upon which the estimate of £750,000 for the construction of the courts was arrived at, who the gentlemen were by whom that estimate was framed, and what was the character of the buildings to be constructed for that sum. It was scarcely necessary to remind the House how great was the excess usually found over the first expense when a public building was completely out of hand; and he thought it was much more likely to be so in the present case, when the price of materials had been so greatly enhanced and the wages of workmen had also increased. He trusted the Government 291 would pay due attention to the convenience of the public, and to the recommendation of the Commissioners who had issued the Report of 1860, advising that convenient access should be given, not only to those engaged in the causes, but also to such persons as might come there to learn, or to satisfy a reasonable curiosity and interest. It had been rightly said by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cowper) that time was money, but convenience was time; and if convenience was a matter of importance in the arrangement of a public court, an important subordinate element was ventilation. Those who had been called upon to take part in the administration of the public justice of the country, whether as magistrates, members of the Bar, or jurors, must be aware how poisonous, dangerous, and almost fatal, was the atmosphere in which the business was done. It was not a question of mere comfort whether there should be improved ventilation or not. It was not even a question of health. But it was a matter which had great effect upon the efficiency of the court when the energies of those engaged in the transaction of business were impaired by breathing a vitiated atmosphere. He trusted this would not be considered a premature suggestion. Before a stone of the building was laid, or the plan finally adopted, the question of ventilation must be settled. If they commenced on a good system they would be able to carry it out satisfactorily; but if they commenced on an imperfect system they would not be able afterwards to remedy the defect. He wished to have some explanation as to the mode in which the architect was to be selected. He trusted it was not to be confined to those who had had offices in London, but that gentlemen in the country would also have the advantage of displaying their skill. The experience of the construction of courts of justice in London was small. In Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester, noble halls of justice had been constructed. Amongst those which had been erected none was so convenient with regard to its arrangements, or afforded so much accommodation, as the Manchester Assize Courts, and he hoped the distinguished architect who constructed those courts would have the opportunity of sending in his plans. In that case the Judges had testified their approbation, and the Bar and the public had joined in the common testimony. Baron Pigott stated, at the opening of those courts, that— 292There was not in the United Kingdom any place more worthy of the administration of justice than that in which they were assembled, and that in regard to the convenience of the public, the bar, and the bench nothing seemed to be wanting.In constructing the courts in the neighbourhood of Lincoln's Inn, it might be desirable to bear in mind the noble buildings which had been recently erected there and in the Middle Temple. In removing the courts from Westminster Hall it might not be inconvenient to remember that, seeing it would be necessary to have a Great Hall of entrance by means of which the different courts might be approached, it would be very desirable to adopt such a style of architecture as would reproduce Westminster Hall, not in the grandeur of its proportions, not in historic associations, but in its general artistic arrangements and dispositions, blending the future with the past—the characteristic of the policy of England. In suggesting to the Government this style of building, he believed that one comparatively modest in point of ornament would satisfy the demands of good taste. He hoped they would avoid that penurious parsimony which might be convenient for the moment, but would afterwards produce regret. He hoped they would also avoid a profuse and lavish expenditure, which true art did not invite, and which was the greatest enemy of artistic progress.
§ MR. HADFIELD
also bore testimony to the beauty and convenience of the Manchester Assize Courts. Unless care was taken that the inside of the new courts was made as convenient as the outside was beautiful, the great objects of the Bill would be lost. Better air, heat, light, and sound, were absolutely indispensable. It was right that the architect who built the Manchester courts should be free to compete, and, if so, he would have a fair chance of coming in for the prize.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, before the hon. and learned Gentleman should reply to the questions which had been put, he wished to know whether his attention had been called to the subject of the site. The site was said to be of no less extent than seven and a-half acres, and it was covered with a dense mass of houses inhabited by the humbler and poorer classes. One of the most perplexing questions of the day was how to provide accommodation for the working classes. They were all aware that one of the difficulties with which they had to deal was that which 293 had arisen from the railway and other public improvements in London, which had caused the removal of large numbers of dwellings, and had raised rents to an incredible degree. Of late years there had been very great difficulty in finding for them even commonly decent dwellings at a moderate rent, and that difficulty was daily and yearly increasing. He would, therefore, inquire of the hon. and learned Gentleman, whether the Government had taken into consideration the great displacing of the working classes which would be caused if the present plan were carried out in the manner proposed, and whether they were preparing any measure which might in some degree remedy the great inconvenience which would be produced by it. The Government ought to set an example in these matters, and where they displaced so large a number of poor tenements they should do something to supply accommodation for those who were thus ejected.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
was glad the hon. Member for Perth had called the attention of the House to that subject, and trusted, that in Committee, clauses would be introduced for the purpose of constructing model lodging houses for the great mass of the people who might be displaced by the new courts. It was very discreditable to the foresight of the House that no provision of that kind had ever been made in Railway Bills. A. very different course was pursued by the Emperor of the French in Paris. Where-ever great clearances were made in that city model lodging houses were provided, as a matter of course, for those persons who had been displaced in carrying out improvements. He should be glad to see a similar plan adopted in England.
§ MR. G. W. BENTINCK
said, he could not but think that they were proceeding somewhat hastily on a subject of this great importance. The Bill had been ushered in by petitions from a number of members of the legal profession, on the score of convenience. There could be no doubt that the utmost convenience should be afforded for carrying on the law business of the country; but before the House assented to the second reading of the Bill it ought to have some clear information upon the financial part of the question. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in introducing the measure, had stated what the estimates were, and the sources from which the funds were to be supplied. He understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to intimate that no de- 294 mand would be made on the public purse for the construction of these buildings.
§ MR. G. W. BENTINCK
The hon. and learned Gentleman said the outlay from the public purse would only be £200,000. There was no instance on record that any public building was ever constructed for the sum estimated. There was no case in which it did not exceed nearly one-half, and for the correctness of that assertion he might refer to the Houses of Parliament. But it was stated the other night by the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby), that a certain portion of the funds which had been mentioned as applicable to these buildings was already mortgaged for other purposes. He, therefore, hoped to have some information on that subject. They all heard a great deal about retrenchment and economy, but they saw very little in practice. They were shortly about to discuss the efficiency of our naval armaments, with respect to guns and ships; and, therefore, a more inopportune moment could not be found than the present for asking for the construction of buildings which were not absolutely indispensable, and which would involve large demands on the public purse. He trusted some guarantee would be given, on the part of the Government, that the sum required from the public purse should not be in excess of that which had been stated.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, it had recently been his misfortune to be summoned as a witness at one of the courts at Westminster, and he fortunately met with the hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr.Denman), who directed him to the Queen's Bench. On arriving there he, with considerable difficulty, manibus pedibusque, forced his way in, and again caught the eye of his hon. and learned Friend, who told him that he was in the wrong place, and that he must go to a secondary court somewhere else, but the locality of which he could not describe. By the assistance of one of the ushers of the court he at length found his way, and contrived to get up to the witness-box. After many hours' detention he acquitted himself of the duty which had been imposed upon him, and retired most heartily disgusted with Her Majesty's courts of law. It was not much bigger than a rat-trap, and he thought such rooms were a disgrace to the country, and unworthy of the dignity of the bench. To call them public courts of justice was a mockery of the term, because the public could not get in. As an econo- 295 mist he hoped these little dens would be removed, and that better courts would be constructed on some other and more convenient site.
§ MR. WALPOLE
One argument in favour of the measure is undoubtedly the great advantage which will arise from the proper concentration of the courts of law and equity. In addition to this, I can quite believe that, provided proper care be taken to secure other dwellings for such of the working classes as are dislodged, the adoption of the site proposed would confer great benefit on that part of the town. Admitting this to the full, I still feel that there are strong objections to this Bill— objections which at all events ought to be stated. It is possible that these objections may be completely answered, and in that case nobody is more able to answer them than my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. I know the Commissioners reported that the site now selected was the best for the purpose of these courts. Perhaps I may be in a minority, but I own that I should have doubted whether this was the best site. Your object is the concentration of the law courts. But, according to your present plan, you will not concentrate the courts. The Courts of Appeal are here at Westminster, and will not be removed. The House of Lords and the Privy Council, the two great courts which control all the other courts, are within a stone's throw of this House. It is to them that you must look for the ultimate decision of the law; and the best counsel will always be taken from other tribunals to argue before them. My own opinion, therefore, would have been that if you improve the courts you have here, and make them harmonize with the magnificent building you have here, adding thereto from the Clock Tower another building reaching all along the side of Bridge Street, and continuing this on the other side of Palace Yard if necessary, you would provide amply for the courts of law and equity. I confess I should have thought that that was the most economical plan, and it would have completely concentrated both the courts of first jurisdiction and those of appeal. That is the first point on which my hon. and learned Friend ought to satisfy the House. The second point is, that nothing would be so uneconomical, and, therefore, so unwise, as to part with good courts if you have any at present. Now, according to all the evidence taken before the Commissioners and the Committee of 1861, it appears 296 that the Rolls Court, the Lords Justices', and the Lord Chancellor's Courts, and the Court of the Vice Chancellor of England are well adapted for the purposes of justice. As regards the courts of equity, therefore, there are four good courts, the two Vice Chancellors alone require additional accommodation. Assuming you are going to build on the site selected, is it wise to provide for four courts, and thereby incur that increased expense, when the old ones are as suitable as can be desired? The third objection is one of a graver kind, and has reference to the financial part of the measure. Substantially, you propose to go to the Suitors Fund for £1,200,000. Now, independently of the question raised as to the sufficiency of the estimate, and assuming that that estimate will not be exceeded, are you really doing what is just and proper with regard to "that fund? That fund belongs to the suitors, and has been appropriated from time to time to the most legitimate purpose to which it could be applied—namely, to that of reducing the fees paid by the suitors in the Court of Chancery, and thus the administration of justice has been rendered much cheaper than it would otherwise have been. By taking away this fund, you will diminish the power of that court to still further reduce the fees, and the suitors will not derive that benefit from it to which they are justly entitled. Another point to which I beg to draw your attention is, that by a Return laid before the House it appears that with the exception of between £300 and £400 the fund is absolutely exhausted by the fixed charges. If that be so, I put it to the House whether you are willing to incur the responsibility, or rather the liability, of making good the charges upon the fund out of the revenues of the country to an amount beyond that which the necessity of the case requires. I admit fully that you ought to concentrate the courts where necessity compels, but I deny that you ought to part with any of the existing courts when you can, by retaining them, save the country great expense. I further "say that you are not entitled to take this fund from the suitors, to whom it rightfully belongs, till the fees are diminished to the amount to which, under the present regulations, they are entitled. I question very much indeed the policy which would recommend this House, under the plea of obtaining this £1,200,000 from the Court of Chancery, to bind the country to incur the risk of such large liabilities as 297 I feel confident will fall upon the Consolidated Fund if this measure be adopted. I hope Some satisfactory explanation will be given upon these points, but I really cannot at present perceive how the difficulties I have referred to can be overcome.
§ MR. MALINS
said, the right hon. Member who had just sat down had remarked that even if the proposed scheme were adopted there would still be two principal courts of justice which would be at a distance from the rest. In answer to that objection, he must reply that the Court of Privy Council only sat about six weeks in the year, and he saw no reason why it could not be accommodated in the proposed new building. The Privy Council Office had no particular charm, and no one could feel anxious to sit in the cockpit at Whitehall. The Judges who sat there were chiefly the Law Lords, and it would be quite as convenient for them to go to the new courts. The objection on that head, therefore, of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole), fell to the ground. With regard to the House of Lords, he hoped to live to see the day when they would consent to abandon their jurisdiction of appeal, and when instead there would be a great court of final appeal sitting the whole of the year, where and when justice was usually administered, and not at the present inconvenient times and place. But supposing the present system were continued, it was well known that their lordships seldom heard more than one case in a day, and as they were invariably cases of the highest importance they more frequently each required several days. If any hon. Member would go to the Bar of the House of Lords he would find no more than six counsel, and never more than two solicitors, so that the whole number inconvenienced would only be from six to eight of a very limited although eminent class. The right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, on the other hand, of bringing the courts down to Westminster, would oblige every barrister, solicitor, and suitor to be put to the inconvenience of running about London in cabs, wasting time and money in a manner which was discreditable to the country. The right hon. Gentleman totally differed in his opinion of a proper site from what was almost the universal opinion of the profession. He had the pleasure of stating to the House that the Society of Lincoln's Inn, which was supposed to be adverse to the scheme, was now in favour of it. The question was yesterday brought before the Council of the Society of Lin- 298 coln's Inn, at which there was a large attendance, consisting of thirty-five most distinguished members of that body, when a motion to present an adverse petition was rejected. He saw there his right hon. Friend, although he was not aware whether or not he voted for the petition. [Mr. WALPOLE: I was not there at all.] The assembly was so unusually large that it would account for his mistake. If the right hon. Gentleman had been there, he would have greatly modified the opinions with which he had just favoured the House. He would have found the almost unanimous opinion of the council against him, and Lincoln's Inn might now be reckoned, not as an opponent, but as a supporter of the scheme. With regard to the Lord Chancellor's and senior Vice Chancellor's Courts, although they were not so bad as the rest, and were fit to sit in, it should be borne in mind that all the courts of equity were totally deficient in the appendages of a court. If the memory of the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge had not become rusty, he must have remembered that the courts at Lincoln's Inn, besides being most indifferent in themselves, were totally deficient in appendages, without which it was scarcely possible to carry on the business of a court. There was no accommodation for the public; there were no places for the witnesses or the officers of the court to remain in; neither was there a decent retiring room for the Judges. He was sorry the hon. Member was not present when the Attorney General introduced the Bill this day last week; as, if he had been, his objections to the financial part of the measure would have been entirely removed. On that occasion the hon. and learned Gentleman went into the details of the question, and made a statement which thoroughly satisfied the House that, although the Suitors' Fund might for the moment be subject to certain charges, it would undoubtedly be sufficient to reimburse the Treasury in the amount which might be advanced for the requirements of the Bill. He felt persuaded that if the Government had come to the House and said they wanted for the purpose contemplated the sum of £50,000 a year, and the country was too poor to give such a sum, the profession to which he had the honour to belong would have been willing that a tax should be put upon the suitors in order to reimburse the country the money it had advanced. He was sure that there would be ample funds to meet every charge 299 and every liability. With respect to the site, he considered that it was the best the world could afford. It was the centre of the legal world, it wag the centre between the mercantile world and the West End— it was most conveniently placed for the juries of London and Middlesex, being equally convenient for the merchants of London and the gentlemen of the West End, and it was easy of access from all parts of the metropolis. As to the buildings which would be removed to make way for this improvement, he was sure that every one would be sorry to see them replaced elsewhere. Their removal would confer a great benefit on the public, as it was one of the worst neighbourhoods for squalor and wretchedness left in London. They could not be demolished too early. When the new courts were erected they would have for the first time in the history of this country an opportunity of seeing the administration of justice carried on in a suitable building. The project did the Government great honour, and he hoped they would carry it successfully. This was said to be a moribund Parliament, and so it was; but he could only say that if it carried this measure it might die with honour.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Sir, I think that if my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) had been present when this subject was discussed last Friday evening, he would have found some of the questions which he has asked to-night answered by anticipation. Nevertheless, I am very glad to take the opportunity of answering them again, and also of replying to other objections which have been raised either on that or on the present occasion. With regard to the site, my right hon. Friend is evidently conscious that the impression which he has formed is different from that which is almost universally entertained by other persons who have given their attention to the subject. The reason—independent of the want of space, which I venture to think is quite conclusive—against the idea of concentrating the courts of justice and offices at Westminster is this—that it would be perpetuating one of the most considerable evils which we wish to remedy by concentration—I mean the separation of the administration of justice in the Courts from those parts of the town where barristers have their chambers, in the Temple and Lincoln's Inn, and where solicitors in general have their 300 offices. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will recollect the great inconvenience to which practitioners in equity were subject when those who had to prepare pleadings in their chambers were every Term dragged down to Westminster, and obliged to leave, day after day, business of the greatest importance, in which the interests of large numbers of suitors were concerned. That business was delayed and postponed, and a great and continually increasing expense arose out of each delay and each postponement. If I were to estimate the money value to equity barristers alone of the change which was made when the Courts began to sit always at Lincoln's Inn, I should not err in placing it at a very large annual sum. But what was saved or gained to the barristers is a very slight approximation indeed to the measure of what was saved or gained to the suitors, who are infinitely more concerned in the ultimate result, and who pay for everything at every stage of every cause. As to the Privy Council, I entirely agree with everything that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wallingford has said. There is no magic power in Downing Street. The Privy Council might have a Council Chamber in the new Palace of Justice; indeed, I have no doubt it will be provided for there, and all, therefore, that remains is the House of Lords. That tribunal, as my right hon. Friend has said, decides cases of great importance; but the number of cases decided in the House of Lords during a Session is comparatively small, and the persons engaged in each of them are comparatively few in number. To me, personally, it would be very convenient to be near the House of Lords, but the number of counsel whose interests are involved in the matter is not large, and the number of solicitors is proportionately small. I think, therefore, that no practical reason can be urged in favour of retaining the site of the courts at Westminster. Before I entirely leave the question of site, I will make a few observations upon the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and some other hon. Gentlemen as to the population which we shall displace by these buildings. Of course, that is a matter not to be left out of sight or forgotten when operations of this kind are undertaken. I believe that my hon. Friend has, in this instance, very greatly over-estimated the number of persons concerned. I cannot tell what the population actually is, but the number of houses that 301 will be destroyed is about 400; and, crowded as the population may be, it is impossible that it should approach to anything like the figure which the hon. Gentleman supposes. That population, however, will have to be provided, or to provide itself, with lodgings elsewhere. Now, if we were led by experience to doubt that the industrious members of that population would be able to do so, that would be a very serious check on all undertakings of this description. But experience does not suggest any such doubt. We have had very large and extensive improvements displacing populations of the same character in various parts of the metropolis, and the public has never undertaken to provide them with new habitations. The law of supply and demand—the laws of nature answer the purpose better. The change does not take place without notice, nor in Be great a hurry that the persons displaced have not time to look for lodgings or habitations elsewhere. If that is so, and if the results of experience justify us in relying upon their being able to find them, I think we can all look with satisfaction at the change which is now contemplated, because it would be impossible to conceive a considerable population collected together in any part of the metropolis under circumstances more disadvantageous, either to their physical or to their moral health, than those of the population which will be displaced by these buildings. Everybody who knows the district must lament that any part of the industrious people of this country should be crammed together in such a space with so many temptations to immorality surrounding them on all sides, I suppose that the process which goes on when improvements of this kind are made is this:—Those whose occupations require that they should live in that particular part of the town find lodgings in some immediately adjoining neighbourhood; while others, to whom the locality of their dwellings is of less importance, move further off, and thus by degrees a greater number get into those more healthy regions, the suburbs and remoter parts of the metropolis, and have the benefit of purer air, freer space, and better houses. Therefore, I do not think that we have reason to look with alarm or dissatisfaction upon the probable result of this Bill in respect to the displacement of the population in the districts proposed to be appropriated. I now address myself to the second remark made by my right hon. Friend, who said that 302 nothing could be so uneconomical as when you had got good courts or buildings to part with them and spend money in building others. I doubt a little, upon the question of economy, whether perpetually patching up does not in the end cost more than having a good article at once; but I further differ with my right hon. Friend upon the question of fact. I cannot agree with him that any one of the courts which he has named is as good as it ought to be. The hon. Member for Wallingford has justly said that even the best of them is entirely devoid of all those accessories which are needed to make a good court. There is no consultation room for counsel connected with any of the courts mentioned, except the Rolls' Court. The Bolls' Court, I agree, is much the best—so much the best that by comparison it really approaches to a good court; but, even there, there is not the accommodation which there ought to be for jury trials. And really, as to the others, I should be ashamed of any new Palace of Justice which did not provide infinitely better accommodation than they afford, to say nothing of the fact of the nation being tenant at will, or on terms something like that, to a private society—the Society of Lincoln's Inn—a state of things which I cannot say I think is one in which the administration of justice ought to be left. I think my right hon. Friend said, that upon the inquiry of 1860 and 1861 everybody was satisfied with these courts. If he will look again at the language of the Commissioners of 1860 and see how they "damn with faint praise," saying that in these courts, as compared with the others, the Judges are accommodated with some regard to decency, and some reasonable degree of convenience, I think he will see that they by no means represent even these courts as being such as the nation ought to be satisfied with. I now come to the question of finance, and I will first answer the inquiry made by my hon. Friend the Member for the borough of Cambridge (Mr. F. S. Powell). My hon. Friend asked for information as to the grounds upon which we had adopted the estimate of £750,000, as one which may reasonably be relied on by the House as to the cost of these buildings. I will tell him, and I think they are as good grounds as can reasonably be desired. The estimate of Sir Charles Barry, and the estimate of Mr. Abraham, who, in 1861, prepared a detailed plan of the buildings, were both considerably under £750,000. 303 In 1861, the Lords of the Treasury thought it their duty to lay a Minute upon the table of this House, stating that, without having gone into the matter, they were led to distrust the estimates of the probable cost of these buildings which had up to that time been presented. They stated from conjecture that there might very likely be an excess of the estimate by as much as £500,000. That was an alarming—calculation, I cannot call it, for there was no calculation—but an alarming conjecture, which appeared only as a conjecture at that time. Bat that having been done, the Treasury, before they saw fit to sanction the present proposal, desired the officers of the Board of Works to take the necessary steps to enable them to form their own opinion upon the subject. Accordingly, the site was valued, house by house, this year, by Mr. Pennethorne, of the Board of Works, at a total sum little exceeding £700,000; and last year Mr. Hunt, the surveyor and adviser on such matters of the same Board, went carefully into the matter, and the result was that he was then satisfied that the estimate of £750,000 for the cost of the building was one that might be relied on. Therefore, every possible care has been taken to form a satisfactory opinion upon that subject. Of course, every one is aware that when you begin to build you may, if you choose, exceed any estimate which can, under any circumstances, be made; but I believe that the Treasury are fully determined, as far as in them lies, to watch narrowly over the execution of these works, and to take all proper measures to check the expense, and to prevent any extravagant expenditure upon mere ornament or decoration, as distinguished from actually useful work, without which there is reason to believe that there will be no danger of the estimate being exceeded. Now, with regard to the question of the funds which it is proposed to use for this purpose in repayment of the public advances. My right hon. Friend has not thoroughly understood the proposal which is made by the Government. I think that he has hardly studied the Bill which has been laid upon the table, for he imagines that we propose to provide these funds in a way different from that which is really suggested by the measure. The "suitors' fund" is not an expression which it is convenient to use, unless we desire that misunderstanding should arise. The funds, which alone it is proposed to use, are "the 304 surplus interest" and "the surplus fee" funds. "Surplus interest" is not quite a correct expression, because the fund arises from surplus dividends on stock, and their accumulation. These surplus dividends and surplus fees are the result of the management of the funds in the Court of Chancery by the State, under Acts of Parliament. They represent the aggregate profit of the past management of the court; the other funds which remain being so completely adequate to answer all the demands of the suitors that, down to this day, no sale of any part of them has ever been required to meet orders for payment of money out of court. It has never been necessary for the purpose of paying what was due to any suitor to touch any portion of that fund in which the suitor's cash has actually been invested. In point of fact, ever since that fund was called into existence in the middle of last century, only seven times has it been necessary for any purpose to sell any portion of it, and then not to meet a deficiency in the cash standing at the bank to pay what was due to the suitors, but merely to keep the bank in such an amount of cash as was thought proper for their reasonable remuneration. So far, therefore, as the guarantee of the suitors' funds by the State is concerned I think it may be treated as merely nominal. Then comes the question of the charges upon the income of these funds which I say represent savings arising from the management of the funds of suitors by the court. These funds in the aggregate amount to £1,500,000, and we propose to take from them only £1,000,000 stock—which will produce £900,000— leaving £500,000 stock. That sum of £500,000 will provide, without having recourse to the public purse, for all the existing annual charges or compensations on the fund which we withdraw. These annual charges to the amount of £50,000, exceeding therefore the whole income of the £1,500,000, consist of compensations or terminable annuities, which fall in at the rate of £3,500 per annum, and which, according to past experience, may be assumed to expire to an extent sufficient, at all events, to equalize the income and the expenditure, in about eighteen years from the present time if not redeemed. By the Bill we propose to give the Lord Chancellor power to redeem and buy up any of those compensations which the owners may desire 305 to have commuted into a capital sum; but, supposing that that power should not be called into action, and supposing all the charges, up to £45,000 per annum, the total income of the £1,500,000 stock, to continue annual charges, they will naturally come to 'an end, according to calculations founded on experience, in eighteen years. Out of the £500,000 which we do not use for the direct purposes of the building, we shall pay annually the amount of charges which would otherwise have been met by the income of the £1,000,000 we withdraw, which would produce in the Three per Cents £30,000 a year. There is a deficiency then, at the outset, of £30,000 a year, to meet some of the annual charges on the fund, which will increase in each year, until balanced by the falling in of compensations, by the withdrawal of part of the remaining principal fund; and we take the deficiency from year to year out of the £500,000 we reserve. According to a calculation of Mr. Finlaison, £380,000 will probably provide for all these terminable annuities, but we take the sum for safety at £500,000, and we' have not only got stock to the amount of £500,000, but also a further sum of £100,000 cash, being the accumulated surplus of fees which remains uninvested. The Treasury, therefore, are perfectly satisfied that the half million of stock, and the accumulated surplus cash of the Suitors' Fee Fund, supply a reserve amply sufficient to meet the whole of these compensations as they fall in. If it should turn out that no part of these terminable compensations should be redeemed or bought up by the State, but that the whole should annually be paid out of the £500,000, till they are reduced to £5,000 a year, the result will be that at the end of eighteen years about £150,000 stock will remain out of the £500,000 stock, as a clear surplus available for the reduction of suitors' fees. Under these circumstances, there can be no doubt that the State takes on itself no charge except £200,000, for which there is an equivalent in the sites which will remain, and in the saving of rents now paid by the Government for other offices and buildings. My right hon. Friend appears to think that the fund now proposed to be taken as a building fund is in some sense a fund belonging to the suitors, and that its only legitimate appropriation would be to reduce the fees of suitors. I hoped that what I said on a former occasion, would have been 306 satisfactory on that subject. The phrase "belonging to the suitors," when so used, has no meaning to my mind. If it means belonging to a particular suitor, or to particular suitors, then I could understand it, for it Would involve spoliation; but it is clear that there is not a human being in existence, and never was a human being in existence, who could pretend to have any legal or moral right to one shilling of this money. Therefore the question is, whether money which belongs to no one does not belong to the State. If so, has the State made any appropriation of it which it cannot revoke? On former occasions the State has made appropriations of it towards building courts of justice, paying salaries, and keeping up the establishment of the courts; and we now propose to apply the money to a use exactly similar in principle, but in my opinion more important. With respect to the particular question, whether it would be better for the suitors to have the fees now paid in Chancery reduced out of this fund, or to see vexatious delays and expenses in the administration of justice got rid of, I may observe that the fees only amount to 8 per cent of the cost of litigation, while the utmost extent to which the whole income of this fund would reduce them is less than half that amount; and all solicitors throughout the country agree that the suitors will gain a far greater amount in mere money, by the benefits which will arise from the concentration of the courts. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University, the other evening said that the Report made last year by the Commission appointed to inquire into the Chancery Funds was at variance with this scheme; but, upon that point, I must correct my right hon. and learned Friend, and to state that Mr. Field, Mr. Rogers, and Mr. Cook-son, who signed that Report, are among the most active and earnest promoters of this measure for the concentration of the courts of law and equity. They thought that their proposition of allowing 2 per cent interest to the suitors on their cash balances would, by causing a great increase in the amount of cash left in court uninvested, augment instead of diminishing the income of the court applicable to the payment of the annuities and compensations. I ask the House not to allow themselves to be led astray by any extraneous argument, but to give a fair and candid consideration to the scheme, which I feel 307 confident will not involve any charge upon the State beyond that which has been avowed.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that though the Attorney General believed that the effect of the Government scheme would be to enable the poor who now occupied tenements on the proposed site to find better houses elsewhere, the House might judge of its probable result from what had taken place in the east of London, where the introduction of railways had led to the removal of many houses. He was informed by those who were acquainted with the subject, that wretched and crowded as were the dwellings which were swept away for the improvements effected at the east end of London, their occupants had been driven into other dwellings still more wretched and more crowded. Therefore, he thought the House should not adopt this change without providing a remedy for those who might be injuriously affected by it.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2o, and committed for Thursday next.