HC Deb 08 May 1873 vol 215 cc1695-700

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, the Bill had come on sooner than he had expected. As his hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. C. Dalrymple), who had given Notice of his intention to move that the Order for the Committee should be discharged; and that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee was not present, and the Lord Advocate himself was not in the House to listen to what he was about to say, he thought it was desirable that this measure should not be proceeded with to-night. Moreover, the Writers to the Signet in Scotland, a most influential body, had drawn up a Report upon the Bill, which would be in the hands of Scotch Members either tonight or to-morrow morning, and he thought it important that the Report should be seen by the Members of the House before they proceeded any further with the Bill. He knew that the Writers desired that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, and that was the proposal of the hon. Member for Bute. They were all agreed as to the object they had in view—that was, that all unnecessary titles should be abolished, and that economy in the granting of the charters was desirable, and the only question was how these things should be effected. He appealed to the Lord Advocate to put off this Bill until next week, so as to afford the House an opportunity of considering the views expressed by the conveyancers of Scotland. He thought this no unreasonable request—especially as there were not more than eight or ten Scotch Members present. However, he should discharge his duty by moving that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be committed to a Select Committee,"—(Mr. Gordon,)—instead thereof.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had expressed with great repetition his great desire that this Bill should not be proceeded with now, or if that wish expressed by him should not be assented to on this side of the House, that it should be referred to a Select Committee. He agreed with him that the Bill was one of great importance, and that it was a Bill of great detail, such as ought to receive from the House as much consideration as it would receive from a Select Committee; but he could not consent either to delay the consideration now or to refer it to a Select Committee. As to the Report of the very important body—the Writers to the Signet—to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred, he (the Lord Advocate) had received a copy of that document; as no doubt his hon. and learned Friend had also; and he had to say in answer, that he did not propose to pass any of the clauses of the Bill to-night to which that Report particularly referred, or that he should pass them until an opportunity had been had of considering the suggestions it contained. He must resist, and ask the House to decide on the Motion which had been submitted by the hon. and learned Gentleman on behalf of the hon. Member for Bute—namely, that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. It had been before the House substantially as it now stood for three years—lie might almost say four years—and therefore he held it quite reasonable that they should proceed to the consideration of it now in the ordinary way. They were now in the position to do so, if they ever could be. No doubt the Bill was of a very technical character, and was therefore well suited for discussion in a Select Committee. But the same might be said of any other Bill relating to a technical subject, and the Bill having been before Parliament at least three years, he thought they were not likely to get much more assistance from the professional bodies in Scotland. He must therefore ask in the interest of progress that there should be no further obstruction or delay, and that they should proceed with the consideration of the Bill.


said, there was no subject which could be more appropriately referred to a Select Committee than a subject of Scotch law. The Prime Minister recently denied that Irish Members should deal alone with an Irish question, even when they were unanimous, and said that Scotchmen and Englishmen had a right to be heard. He claimed the same right with regard to Scotch subjects. So singular were the terms in Scotch law, so extraordinary were its peculiarities, that no lawyer of the Irish or English Bar could of himself, without some assistance, arrive at the meaning of them. Further, few persons, even of legal experience, could understand many of the terms used in this measure, and therefore he thought the best means of dealing with it would be to refer it to a Select Committee. In Ireland prolixity in conveyancing had been much diminished, owing to the example and practice of the Encumbered Estates Court. You might carry in your waistcoat pocket a deed of that Court conveying a large estate, and upon which you might raise money safely. He desired to establish in England and Scotland the same cheap and expeditious system of conveyancing which had been introduced in Ireland. It was desirable that a Select Committee should consider the measure, with the view not of delaying it, but that it might be well considered by legal minds before being passed by a majority who did not understand its provisions.


said, that as he understood the remarks of the hon. and learned Lord Advocate on the recommendations of the legal and professional bodies in Scotland, he was not inclined to press that part of the Bill on which there might be any expectation that the House would receive any suggestions from that quarter. He had himself seen in confidence the Report of the Writers to the Signet which was not yet complete, and he might say that difficulties would arise on some details, particularly in reference to the third clause. He was also informed that the legal body in Glasgow had the subject under consideration. The Bill was now changed for the better. It was a moderate Bill, and he for one was disposed to support the going into Committee, though in some parts there might be considerable difficulties to overcome. Hitherto, when the Bill had been brought on, it had been brought on at such an hour that it was impossible that it could be fairly considered, and he thought it might be fixed for a time when the House would pay some attention to it. If Her Majesty's Government would listen to the suggestion for going into Committee and reporting Progress, he hoped they would be able at a future stage to get a morning sitting, and to discuss the Bill with advantage.


thought the Committee of the Whole House at a morning sitting on this Bill, would be a very Select Committee indeed, and he hoped the country would take notice that there were only six Members on his side of the House when the Lord Advocate proposed to go on with the Bill. It was said to be a good Bill, but he gathered from one or two Memorials which had been sent to him on the subject, that it was anything but a moderate Bill. One of its provisions proposed to attack property acquired by the Church of Scotland under Sir James Graham's Act, of the value of £400,000, and he trusted that if the Amendment were not acceded to, Progress would be reported as soon as they got into Committee.


said, he was not going to discuss the merits of the Bill. He thought the suggestion for reporting Progress as soon as Committee was got into was a fair one, but what he rose to say was, that he objected to the proposal of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke) to take the Bill at a morning sitting. That course had been taken before with something like this result—that English and Irish Members did not attend, and they might just as well allow the Government to carry the Bill in any way they liked. Besides he could not but think it disrespectful to shove off the business of Scotland into a Committee in order that the business of the other parts of the Empire might be transacted. They had, he thought, the same right to have their business considered in the early part of the evening as English and Irish Members.


said, he quite agreed with what had just been said, and thought it would be most convenient that they should go into Committee and that Progress should be reported, in order to give time for expression of opinion by those learned bodies, and also to give an opportunity to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Dr. Ball) to master those legal laws which were so strange to him. No doubt when he had accomplished this the hon. and learned Gentleman would be able to afford valuable advice. At the same time there was no disposition on the part of the Government to proceed further than reporting Progress.


said, he would draw attention to what took place with regard to the English Bill 40 years ago. The Bill for improving English conveyancing in the reign of William IV. was referred to a Committee of lawyers, with Mr. Carr at their head, and on their recommendation a Bill was passed by the House which, though it might need amendment now, had stood the test of 40 years' working. He suggested the propriety of adopting a similar course on the present Bill.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.