HC Deb 31 July 1874 vol 221 cc1039-42

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it would be unnecessary for him to enter into any detailed statement with reference to it. The circumstances which had rendered it necessary to bring in the Bill were thoroughly well known to the House. In consequence of the state of Public Business, it had been found impossible to proceed with the Amendment Bill brought down from the House of Lords during the present Session, and as the Judicature Act of last year could not be worked in its existing form, it had become a matter of absolute necessity to introduce the present Bill, the second reading of which he now begged to move.

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


said, he was not disposed, under the present circum-stances, to raise any objection to the passing of the Bill, nor would he on that occasion make any remarks as to the general expediency of postponing the period at which the Act of last year was to come into operation; but, before the Bill was read a second time, he wished to point out an objection which he hoped his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General would be able to meet. The Act of last year was to have come into operation on the 2nd of November, 1874, which day was chosen by consent of the Whole House in the last Parliament as being the most convenient day on which a radical change in our legal procedure could with propriety come into effect. Therefore, if the present measure merely postponed the coming into operation of the Act to the 2nd of November next year, he should raise no objection to the proposal. But that was not the course intended to be taken. The Bill proposed that the Act should come into operation on the 1st of November, 1875, "or on such earlier day as Her Majesty may by Order in Council appoint." That was giving power to the Executive Government to cause the Act to come into operation on whatever day they pleased, and he thought that before such a power was conferred, strong and conclusive reasons should be adduced why Parliament should not itself fix the day on which the statute was to come into operation. No doubt, his hon. and learned Friend would cite as a precedent the Probate and Divorce Act of 1857, in which case it was provided that the Bill should not come into operation until the Judge had been appointed and the Rules drawn up. It was not to come into operation sooner than the 1st of January, 1858, but there was a Proviso that the Order in Council should be issued one month previous to the day appointed for the Act to come into operation. That, however, was not the course which his hon. and learned Friend now proposed, for the Order in Council might direct that the Judicature Act should come into operation immediately after the date of such Order. Surely it was not advisable that such a state of uncertainty should exist, especially as there was very little probability of the Act coming into operation before the 1st of November, 1875? If the Attorney General would consult the profession he would find that uncertainty as to the time when the Act would come into operation was producing the greatest in-convenience, and the uncertainty would be doubled by the terms of that Suspension Bill. That uncertainty was injurious both to the public and the profession, and if the Attorney General appreciated the extent of the injury he would be anxious to do what he could to substitute certainty for uncertainty. Be-fore power was given to the Government of the day to say when the Act should come into operation, the necessity for the power ought to be clearly and distinctly shown, and he would therefore ask, whether it would not be better to name a fixed day for the commencement of action?


pointed out that it would be a matter of very great difficulty to the branch of the profession to which he belonged to carry on their business unless time was given for the consideration of this Act and the new forms under it, between what might be called the legal year and the period when the Act came into operation. It was impossible that it could be brought into operation per se, as there was the question of the Court of Appeal to be considered. As the Judicature Act now stood, there was but one Court of Appeal. The Government, by their Bill of last year, proposed to supersede that and have an intermediate Court of Appeal; but that could only be constituted by another Act of Parliament. He thought it would be objectionable to adopt the Act of 1863 unless there was a subsequent Act grafted upon it providing for a second Court of Appeal. If a subsequent Act were brought in, it could hardly take effect before the November term of next year. He trusted the House would admit the reasonableness of the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton.


said, he did not rise to oppose the second reading, but to express regret that all those great legal reforms which were heralded with such a flourish of trumpets at the commencement of the Session had proved so abortive. He could not help thinking that if ordinary diligence had been used and if the Amendment Bill had been brought to the House of Commons after the Easter or Whitsun Recess, it would have been passed with the greatest ease. Indeed, if it had been brought in on the 1st of July it might even then have been passed, but for that unfortunate mania for ecclesiastical legislation which had crept in. He hoped the Government would bring in an amending Bill as early as possible next Session, and so remove the inconvenience which was caused by the present suspended animation of our Courts of Law.


said, he very much regretted that the Government had thought it necessary to introduce the Bill at all. The Judicature Act of last Session introduced a most important reform into our Law Courts, and that reform was what the British public was prepared for; but they were now asked to allow this matter to stand over for another twelve months. Under the circumstances this appeared to him to be inevitable. He felt certain that this would cause great dissatisfaction, not merely in the profession, but amongst suitors and persons who took a deep interest in this question. He trusted the Attorney General would be able to respond to the appeal made to him by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton.


said, that if the second reading were agreed to, he proposed to take the Committee for Monday next, and in the meantime the subject-matters to which his attention had been drawn should receive consideration.


said, he thought the postponement of the Amendment of the Judicature Act of last year was exceedingly wise, and absolutely necessary. It would give time for the consideration of what was really a now question. By the original Judicature Act it was provided that there should be only one step of appeal That was condemned by all experienced persons as a system which did not exist in any country in the world, and which must result in a complete stoppage of the legal business of the country. By the present amending Bill that was sought to be altered. It proposed that there should be not one Court of Appeal, but two, the second one to be an Intermediate Court. That raised quite a new question before the House. There being a second step of appeal, where were cases from that Court to go for ultimate result? The Government had received this damnosa hœreditas from the late Government. The question of the ultimate Court of Appeal was of the utmost importance, and required careful consideration.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.