HC Deb 05 March 1868 vol 190 cc1141-4

Order for Second Reading read.


Sir, I am about to ask the House to read this Bill a second time. When I introduced the measure great objections were taken to the tribunal proposed for the investigation of Election Petitions. I must candidly admit that I think those objections were sound, and if I had not had the honour of sitting on this Bench I should probably have urged them on my own part. The House, however, will understand the position in which, when I introduced the measure, I was rather suddenly placed. I had to consider whether I should give up all chance of legislating this year, or whether I should take a course which I did not care to pursue. I thought, however, that by introducing the Bill, and by putting the House in possession of the subject, we might have a chance in a short time of making some suggestions which would meet the difficulties of the case. I am now in a position to make a proposition with regard to the formation of a tribunal—in my opinion a competent tribunal—which will obviate all the objections urged against our first measure by great authorities. What I propose is to read the Bill a second time, that it may be committed to some future day pro formâ, when I will introduce those clauses which, in my opinion, will carry into effect the proposition which I am now going to make. I propose that Her Majesty shall have the power of nominating two Judges of the Superior Courts—either of the Queen's Bench, the Common Pleas, or the Exchequer; and that these two Judges, when so nominated by the Queen, for the particular purpose to which I will in a moment refer, shall cease to be ordinary Judges of the Superior Courts. They will receive the salaries and emoluments which they would receive before they were nominated, but they will only be honorary Justices. Their business will be as follows:—In the first place these two nominated Judges of the Superior Courts will have to investigate all questions of controverted elections on the spot. In the second place they will become, with Her Majesty's favour, Privy Councillors and members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and they will be constant and competent members of that tribunal, which much requires to be strengthened. Subject to the duties of investigating petitions with respect to controverted elections, and the performance of other duties as members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, they will also be required to attend the sittings of the Exchequer Chamber or any future Court of Appeal of an analogous character from the Superior Courts that may be established, and also fulfil other duties there. That is an outline of the tribunal which I propose to establish. The House will observe that this proposal will meet all the chief objections that have been urged against the first tribunal that I proposed, and will also accomplish all the objects on which, I think, the House very properly insisted. It will secure the trial of controverted elections on the spot, and that they shall be conducted before Judges of the Supe- rior Courts. It will obviate every objection urged by the Lord Chief Justice as to the derangement of the public business conducted by the Judges in case we called upon them to consider these cases of controverted elections. It will supply two constant and competent members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, where judicial strength is absolutely required. It will provide full occupation for these Judges at all times, and will be an experiment which will not involve the House in the expense of any costly establishment, because if, under any at present unforeseen circumstance, this should not prove a successful experiment no future nomination need take place. That is the proposition which Her Majesty's Government have to make to the House. It is one which appears to me to obviate all the main objections to the tribunal originally suggested, and which, without inconveniencing the business of the Judges as urged in the Paper by the Lord Chief Justice recently laid before the House, will accomplish the principal objects which the House has in view. If the House will read the Bill a second time, I will move that it be committed this day week pro formâ, when I will move clauses to carry the scheme into effect.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Disraeli.)


I think I may understand the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (the First Lord of the Treasury) as only intended for the immediate purpose before us, that is to recommend that we should, without entering into the important question at issue, assent to the second reading of the Bill. That, I confess, appears to be reasonable and convenient to the House. The plan which the right hon. Gentleman proposes is, in my opinion, undoubtedly a very great improvement on the provisions of the Bill which he explained on a former occasion, and which were adopted by the right hon. Gentleman with great reluctance. It is evident that he gives us this advantage at least, of transferring a jurisdiction which the House has not yet asserted its determination absolutely to part with to those to whom, if it were transferred at all, it ought in the opinion of the House to be transferred—namely, to persons who stand high in rank in the legal profession. The Bill also gives us the very great advantage of a local inquiry. These are ample reasons why the right hon. Gentleman should without difficulty have the power of reprinting his Bill, and of placing its provisions before the House in a shape which he thinks is more desirable for obtaining the assent of the House. The matter is necessarily one of a very novel character. It involves many points which may be open to consideration, and I think that, in cheerfully agreeing to the second reading on the basis which he proposes, we shall not be understood in any degree to forfeit or qualify our right to discuss the particulars of the measure when it is in a fit state to receive our consideration.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday next