HC Deb 08 June 1874 vol 219 cc1158-60

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether he can state when the Rules directed to be framed under the sixty-eighth section of the Judicature Act will be laid before the Houses of Parliament; and, whether, in the event of no opportunity being afforded for the consideration by Parliament of such Rules before they take effect, the Government will introduce a Bill for the purpose of postponing the date on which the Judicature Act shall come into operation?


Sir, I am desirous, in answer to the Question of the hon. and learned Gentleman, to give a full explanation, as some misapprehension appears to exist as to the Rules connected with the Judicature Act of 1873. A code of Rules of Procedure was appended in a Schedule to that Act. These Rules have been already approved by Parliament, and will come into operation on the commencement of the Act, on the 2nd of November of the present year. A power is given by the 74th section of the Act to the majority of the Judges of the Supreme Court to alter or annul these Rules at any time after the commencement of the Act, that is, after the 2nd of November, 1874, and also to make any new Rules, after the commencement of the Act, as to practice and procedure. Any Rules thus made by the Judges, after the 2nd of November, 1874, are to be laid before Parlia- ment in the usual way. In addition, however, to the Rules which I have just referred to—namely, Rules in the Schedule to the Act, and Rules to be made by the Judges after the 2nd of November, 1874, there is another power given by the 68th section of the Act, to make Rules as to procedure, sittings, circuits, and other matters of the same kind. This last-mentioned power must be exercised, if at all, before the 2nd of November, 1874. It is a power given to the Queen in Council, with the advice of the Judges, or of the greater number of them. The course which has been taken, with a view to the exercise of this power, is this—A meeting of the Judges was held on the 19th of November, 1873, under the presidency of Lord Selborne, then Lord Chancellor. In pursuance of the views of that meeting, the services of three draftsmen were obtained, instructions were given to them on the 25th of November, 1873, and a Committee of Judges was at the same time appointed to superintend the work and to convene general meetings when necessary. That Committee consisted and consists of the Lord Chancellor, the three Common Law Chiefs, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Mellish, Vice Chancellor Hall, Baron Bramwell, Mr. Justice Lush, Mr. Justice Brett, Sir James Hannen, and Sir Robert Phillimore, the Master of the Rolls being the ordinary Chairman of the Committee. The draftsmen have been occupied under this arrangement without intermission. Rules have been prepared by them in three separate batches; and, as each batch has been completed by the draftsmen, a certain number of copies have been printed, laid before the Committee of Judges, and by them circulated among such official and representative persons as they thought desirable, and subjected to the revision of the Committee. By the 1st of June, the draftsmen, in pursuance of an engagement made by them with the present Lord Chancellor, soon after his accession to office, had completed the Rules which they were intended to prepare, with the exception of a few minor and collateral Rules, which might well be postponed to a later day. The greater portion of these Rules have now been considered and revised by the Committee of Judges, and, on Saturday last, the first meeting of the whole body of Judges was held to consider the advice which they should tender to Her Majesty on the subject of those Rules, and on the subject of sittings, circuits, and vacations. Considerable progress was made at this meeting, and another meeting is to be held on the 1st of July. When the Rules are made by Her Majesty in Council, they must be laid before Parliament in the usual way, and it is hoped that it may be possible to lay them before Parliament during the present Session, and probably by the middle of July. Her Majesty's Government have never contemplated any alteration in the present law, under which the Judicature Act will commence to work on the 2nd of November next.