§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
in proposing a Vote of £144,025, for the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, said: I shall, perhaps, consult the convenience of the Committee if I say a few words on this Vote. When it was last before the Committee an objection was taken to the appointment of one of the Official Referees, and as that objection was taken at the moment when we had very little information on the subject, I thought it would be respectful to the Committee that the Vote should be withdrawn in order that we might communicate with the Lord Chancellor on the appointment. The Lord Chancellor thought the proper course would be to write me a letter which he has requested me to read to the Committee. I ought to explain that the letter was some few days in reaching me because the Lord Chancellor thought it right to show it to the three Chiefs of the Common Law Division, whose names were referred to in it, in order that they might point out any inaccuracy. The Lord Chancellor's letter is as follows:—March 14, 1876.My Dear Chancellor of the Exchequer,—As some question has been raised as to the Official Referees under the Judicature Act, I think it better to inform you of the circumstances connected with their appointment.According to the statute, the number, qualifications, and tenure of offices of the Referees is to be determined by the Presidents of the Divisions of the High Court of Justice with the sanction of the Treasury. The appointments of Referees are to be made by the Lord Chancellor.Acting under the Statute, the Presidents of Divisions, with the assent of the Treasury, determined that there should be four Referees; that they should be Barristers or Solicitors of ten years' standing; and that they should hold their offices during good behaviour, subject to removal by the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of the other Presidents of Divisions, or any two of them, for inability or misbehaviour.The first of the four Referees appointed by me was Mr. Anderson, Q.C., a gentleman of long standing, high reputation, and considerable prac- 1310 tice at the Bar. I found that he had, before I came into office, accepted the post of examiner of the Court of Chancery, on an expectation held out to him that he would be appointed an Official Referee. By this arrangement I was in no way bound, but I considered it so advantageous to the public service that I had no hesitation in confirming it.With regard to the other three Referees, I requested the Chiefs of the three Common Law Divisions (inasmuch as I was myself less acquainted than they must be with the qualifications of gentlemen practising at the Common Law Bar) to favour me each with the names of three gentlemen whom they would consider well qualified to fill, and who would be likely to accept, these offices. I have their permission to state what was the result. I did not receive from the Lord Chief Justice of England any recommendation. Lord Coleridge and the Lord Chief Baron were so good as to furnish me each with three names. I selected the first two names upon Lord Coleridge's list. One of them was Mr. Dowdeswell, Q.C., a gentleman whom I did not know personally, but who had been so highly recommended to meon former occasions that about a year since I offered him a County Court Judgeship, which he then refused. The other was Mr. Roupell, who was well known to me at the Bar, and whom I believe to be in every way fit for the office. The fourth Referee whom I appointed, Mr. Verey, stood first on the list of the Lord Chief Baron. He was not known to me personally, but I had in addition to the strong opinion of the Lord Chief Baron very marked concurrent testimony in his favour, and I believe him to be perfectly well qualified for the office.I should have been glad if the official Referees could have entered upon their new duties without a public discussion as to their qualifications, which cannot, I fear, have otherwise than a prejudicial effect.I have not referred to the details which I have given with any intention of placing the responsibility for the appointments elsewhere than on myself. The responsibility is mine alone, and I am perfectly satisfied that all the gentlemen appointed are fully qualified to discharge the duties of their offices.I am, yours faithfully, Cairns.The Right Hon. Sir Stafford H.Northcote, Bart., and M.P.The communication I have read shows two things—first, that the gentleman to whose appointment objection was taken was appointed by the Lord Chancellor, not from personal favour, because he had no personal knowledge of him, but upon his being recommended to him by the Lord Chief Baron. The other point was that, although the recommendation was made by the Chief of one of the Common Law Courts, the appointment was made by the Lord Chancellor upon his own responsibility. The Lord Chancellor took occasion to make inquiries as to the fitness of this gentlemen for the office, and 1311 when he was satisfied as to his fitness he made the appointment on his own entire responsibility. The Lord Chancellor feels strongly on this matter as one affecting his personal character. It was his duty to find persons who were both qualified and who were willing to accept the appointment; and, in addition to the recommendation of the Lord Chief Baron, he thought it right to seek out other testimony which satisfied him as to the fitness of Mr. Verey. These are the circumstances, and I do not know that I can add anything more to the matter except to repeat that this appointment was not lightly made, and that it was made with a due sense of responsibility by the distinguished person to whom I have referred. I trust the Committee will now agree to the Vote, and will therefore move it.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £144,025, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1877, for such of the Salaries and Expenses of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, of the Court of Appeal, and of the Supreme Court of Judicature, as are not charged on the Consolidated Fund."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. WADDY,
in moving the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £1,700, said, the Government had no right to be unprepared when the Vote was last before the Committee, and the inquiries which had been made since ought to have been made, and the information gained in answer given on that occasion. On the 15th of February he put a Question to the Home Secretary as to the appointment of Mr. Verey. It was answered in very much the same spirit as the Lord Chancellor's letter, and, instead of giving the House the information he wanted as to Mr. Verey, the other Official Referees were classed together, as if the Question had been asked as to them. He declined to accept that answer, and he gave Notice on the 15th of February that, on the earliest occasion, he should move a Resolution as to this particular appointment. On the 19th of February he wrote to Mr. Verey giving him clear and distinct warning of the complaint which he intended to make respecting his appointment, and intimating that he would move a Resolution on the subject. On the 22nd of February 1312 he received from Mr. Verey a simple acknowledgment of the receipt of the letter. On the 10th of March the Question came before the House, so that the Government was fully warned as to the intended line of opposition to the appointment. He could not help saying that when the Vote came on a little more haste was made in the matter than was necessary. He objected to the Vote when it was brought on, and his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General supported it, without answering his (Mr. Waddy's) objections; and the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument was that the party might prove a very good man. That was a rather weak kind of argument. Had the House gone to a vote on the question, he believed that he and those with whom he was acting would have rejected the Vote, for in numbers, at the time, they had a decided majority. There was no disposition to act in any hostile spirit; he (Mr. Waddy) had objected to the appointment solely on public grounds, and because it was considered to be a scandal in the Profession; and he was not misrepresenting the facts when he said he did not think there was a single Member in the House at that time who did not understand that when at the request of the Government he withdrew his Motion that they might withdraw the Vote it was for a purpose which had not been carried out. From that time what had happened? The appointment was distinctly challenged. It was disapproved. Yet, as he was informed, this gentleman had endeavoured to enter on the duties of this office—his right to which was being questioned in that House; and he found, by reference to The Law List, that he had not only entered himself as one of the Official Referees of the Supreme Court, but held himself out for private practice as a member of the South-East Circuit and East and West Kent Sessions. The objection he had stated to the appointment of this gentleman had not been answered, and he believed would not be answered, that evening. He did not say he was not a very amiable person and perhaps a clever young man; but what he said was this—he had been appointed to an office which required, among other things, great practical experience as well as knowledge of the law. He was called upon to exercise the office of a Judge in circumstances of great difficulty, Mat- 1313 ters were referred to him on account of their complexity. He had to discharge the functions both of Judge and jury—having to judge both of law and fact, not only in London, but in all parts of the country wherever a local inquiry might be pending—as a private arbitrator, yet with official power. Cases were referred to him compulsorily, and those cases were to be decided not where the decisions would be open to public criticism, but in comparative privacy. Therefore, it was of the greatest possible importance—firstly, that he should have a thorough knowledge of the law; secondly, that he should have great practice in applying it; and, thirdly, it was desirable that the world should know that he had had such experience. Yet, this gentleman had not the slightest experience. He professed to be a member of the Home Circuit and the East and West Kent Sessions. Well, it so happened that the Chairmen of both Sessions were Members of that House, and neither of them rose to say that they knew anything of him. He altogether failed to collect what the Lord Chancellor called "the marked concurrent testimony in his favour." He believed that some hon. Members of the House had been requested to say what they could on his behalf; but he must repeat the charge he had made before. He challenged the testimony of any hon. Member or of anybody else that this gentleman had ever practically been doing work to any extent in Westminster Hall. The country and the Profession wished to know why a gentleman so unknown in it had been selected for an office of the greatest difficulty and delicacy when there were plenty of other gentlemen ready to accept it; and he was informed that there were men of standing, Queen's Counsel and others, who had applied for the position—men who had been devoting themselves to the kind of work which had to be performed. Nobody had every suggested that the Lord Chancellor had simply conferred a personal favour, but it was a fact that the appointment was conferred by him upon the nomination of the same eminent Judge who previously, to the surprise of the Circuit, gave this gentleman a Revising Barristership. If certain letters which had been gathered with immense care were read, he should feel bound to answer the statements 1314 made in them, especially with regard to the people who had written them. In conclusion, he would say that it was a very unpleasant task to have to descant upon an appointment of the kind; but, having done so, he felt it his duty to propose the reduction of the Vote.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £142,325, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1877, for such of the Salaries and Expenses of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, of the Court of Appeal, and of the Supreme Court of Judicature, as are not charged on the Consolidated Fund."—(Mr. Waddy.)
§ MR. RODWELL
said, he need not bespeak the indulgence of the Committee while he made a statement on behalf of the gentleman whose name had been so freely brought forward and who could not be present to speak for himself. He rejoiced that the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy) had not used quite such strong language as he did on a former occasion, nor spoken in the same spirit. The question was one of considerable importance from two points of view—first, with regard to the qualifications and character of Mr. Verey; and, secondly, with regard to the circumstances under which the appointment was made, and also with respect to the power of the House to interfere with an appointment made on the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor. By the 83rd section of the Act the appointment was absolutely in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, and he, with the assistance of one of the Judges of the Supreme Court, had to judge of the qualifications of the persons nominated. Therefore, one of the questions involved was whether the Lord Chancellor had exercised his patronage discreetly. The question which the Committee had to consider was not whether the appointment of Mr. Verey was the best that could have been made—and for his own part he frankly admitted that there were other gentlemen whose appointment might have been more acceptable to the Profession and the public. It was whether the qualifications and antecedents of Mr. Verey were such as entitled him to hold the office, the responsibility of which had not been exaggerated. The hon. and learned Gentleman had talked 1315 of Mr. Verey as a young man, so that the House might think he was a briefless barrister of 24 or 25 years of age, who had not had any practice at all. But Mr. Verey was really on the verge of 40, and during the whole of his life since he left Cambridge had been engaged in the law. He did not know what his hon. and learned Friend considered a proper age for an official appointment; but if the ages of all the four Referees were taken they would make a pretty good average, and the hon. and learned Member for the Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Watkin Williams), who went the same circuit, and who of all men was the most competent judge, said that of all the four appointments he considered that of Mr. Vereythe best. If the appointment were unjustifiable, there had been an abuse of patronage; but he should like to know on what evidence or statement of facts the Committee was to determine whether it was an improper appointment. The hon. and learned Member forTaunton (Sir Henry James) the other night used a figure of speech when he represented Mr. Verey as a gentleman who had never held a brief, and never but once appeared on the circuit. [Sir Henry James: Before getting this appointment.] Not having gone circuit himself recently, his acquaintance with Mr. Verey had been very slight; but he had made inquiries and had become master of the facts. The result was that he had been informed by gentlemen of standing—Queen's Counsel and leaders on the circuit—that Mr. Verey was a gentleman of considerable attainments, although he had not enjoyed the smiles of the attorneys. It did not follow that a man's practice was the only test of his ability, for it often happened that men who had the reputation of being good lawyers and clever men failed to win the smiles of fortune and the patronage of solicitors; and yet they might be and often were good arbitrators, for arbitrations were not usually taken by men who had good practice. And for this very substantial reason—that men in practice had not time to undertake such duties, and they were looked upon as the perquisites of men who, being competent, had not practice. Mr. Verey was a member of Trinity College, Cambridge, and took his degree there with honours, which, though not high, were sufficient to show that he had in- 1316 dustrious habits early in life and that he did not go to the College as an idler. Afterwards—and what was of some importance as bearing on this debate—instead of going at once into a pleader's chambers he went for three years into the office of one of the most eminent firms of solicitors in the metropolis—Messrs. Crowder and Maynard—and so had early training as to the very class of cases with which he would have in future to deal. He then went through the ordinary curriculum of a student for the bar, and assisted a gentleman who was now one of the most eminent of the County Court Judges, in preparing a well-known volume of Chitty's Reports. From the age of 18 to that of 40 he had devoted himself industriously to the study of the law. True he had not made patrons of the other branch of the Profession; but it was not suggested that if he had he was not competent to have discharged any duties that might have been entrusted to him. Having been appealed to by Mr. Verey, he could not refrain from making this statement on his behalf. He trusted he had said enough to dispose of the question of want of qualification, and enough to induce the Committee to come to the conclusion that they ought not to interfere with the discretion of the Lord Chancellor, in whose hands the appointment lay. He had been long enough in the House to know that if this question went to a division, it would be decided by a Party vote, and that would not be a proper way to deal with a subject of this sort. If there had been any impropriety in the appointment, it should be challenged elsewhere. The tenure of office was in the hands of him who gave it, and who had justified the appointment by the letter read by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Under the circumstances, the Committee would probably think that his hon. and learned Friend had discharged his duty in having called attention to this matter, which might have an effect on other appointments. It was somewhat invidious, however, to single out Mr. Verey for attack, when the hon. and learned Member for the Denbigh Boroughs had stated that Mr. Verey's appointment was the best. He could not see why his hon. and learned Friend should not have challenged the appointment of the four, instead of limiting his attack to one.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
said, he could not sympathize with the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, because if a man placed himself in a position to have his appointment challenged, he could have no good grounds of complaint if it were done. He denied that this was entirely an affair for the Lord Chancellor's discretion. The House of Commons was the place in which appointments which were public trusts should be judged. It was the function of the House of Commons to watch over the public purse, and to see that salaries were not paid to persons not qualified to discharge the duties of their position. His hon. and learned Friend had referred to this gentleman's University career. But every one knew that "Wooden Spoons" had obtained the highest position at the Bar, and so distinguished a man as Sir William Follett had gone through his University without taking honours at all. When his hon. and learned Friend talked of this gentleman having spent three years in a solicitor's office, he could not have used a more damaging argument, because then Mr. Verey must have got that very introduction for which so many able men sighed, and yet he had lived to the age of 40 and was utterly unknown on the circuit to which he belonged. He did not think that anything had been said in favour of Mr. Verey's qualifications which justified the appointment, although he was willing to admit that the Lord Chancellor had, in making it, done what he thought was right, and that he was appointing a proper person.
§ MR. FORSYTH
confessed that if he had been in the House the other night, when this appointment was challenged and no explanation given, he would have voted with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Waddy). But now he had made himself master of facts which he did not know then, and he felt bound to say there was great misapprehension on the matter, and he thought that the appointment was justified. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) had stated that Mr. Verey had made only one appearance on the Home Circuit, and that the Lord Chief Baron had dispossessed a Revising Barrister for the purpose of putting in a favourite of his own. But the facts were that the gentleman who held the office of Revising Barrister was 1318 advanced in years, a rich man, and had not attended the Courts for some time, and he had heard Baron Bramwell say that he advised the Lord Chief Baron not to appoint him again. The Lord Chief Baron did not know Mr. Verey at the time, and it was owing to the recommendation of one of the leaders of the circuit and other barristers that Mr. Verey was appointed. It would appear from what had been stated on the other side, as though the Lord Chancellor had appointed this gentleman solely upon the nomination of the Lord Chief Baron. This was not so. It was true that the Lord Chief Baron sent in a list of three names, including that of Mr. Verey; but the Lord Chancellor had additional reasons for appointing him in the strong recommendations of other persons. Mr. Verey had had some practice, though not a large practice. He was strongly recommended by those who knew him, and it was not right or fair to throw discredit upon the Lord Chancellor for making the appointment under these circumstances, or to fix upon Mr. Verey a stigma which he did not deserve.
§ SIR HENRY JACKSON
thought the discussion more appropriate to a Bar mess than the House of Commons. He did not blame his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Waddy) for taking exception to this appointment in the first instance, and for expressing the doubts existing among the Profession respecting it. But after the explanations given, that evening the matter stood on a different footing. It now stood in this position—on the one hand, the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple, who said he knew this gentleman neither by reputation nor by sight, assured the House that he was an unfit person to hold this place; and on the other, the Lord Chancellor, who was responsible to the law and the country for the appointment, had written to the Minister of State that, in his judgment, this gentleman was a most fit and proper person to hold the office. Many of the most distinguished holders of judicial office had been unable to satisfy the usual public test of fitness—the existence of a large practice—and yet had fully justified their appointments. That had been the case with one of the most distinguished Judges who now occupied the Bench; and after the discussion that evening he hoped the Committee would 1319 accept the personal assurance of the Lord Chancellor that, in his judgment, this was a proper appointment. It was most undesirable that this should drift into a Party question, or that the Committee should be forced to a division.
§ SIR WALTER BARTTELOT
quite agreed with the moderate view of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, and remarked that the real question they were asked to decide was, whether the Lord Chancellor was a fit and proper person to dispense the patronage entrusted to him. Many hon. Gentlemen who were not members of the legal Profession had often been surprised at the bestowal of the patronage of the Government, and had thought that better Attorneys General and Solicitors General might have been found than the excessively dull men taken from both Parties who had sometimes inflicted their legal attainments upon the House. While that was the case, such appointments were never openly challenged in that House, the presumption being that, as the recognized authority was responsible for the appointments, the men were the best fitted in the public interest to fill those high posts. In the same way the Committee might rest content with the explanations afforded as to this appointment. Sometimes men's qualifications were not found out till they were tried; and they might wisely leave the responsibility to rest upon the Lord Chancellor, after his statement that this gentleman possessed the requisite qualifications. He was quite sure that the present Lord Chancellor and those who might succeed him would be warned by this discussion to scan most carefully the acquirements of persons to whom they gave appointments in future. It would be most unwise to divide the House upon the question.
§ MR. BUTT
said, he was not quite satisfied with the grounds of the opposition to the appointment. He felt very strongly that the House of Commons departed from its proper functions, and weakened its true rights and privileges, by constituting itself a Court of Review upon official appointments made by the proper authority. He had no means of knowing Mr. Verey's qualifications; but he brought to the consideration of the subject Irish impartiality, and he objected to give his vote upon a question of the kind in accordance with the 1320 opinions of any Circuit Bar or Circuit mess, or as the result of any statement here how many briefs this gentleman had held. It was impossible that the Committee could enter into discussions of that kind, and he warned them that, if they introduced the system of canvassing judicial appointments in that House, they would approach the fatal American principle of selecting Judges by the popular vote. No evidence had been given of anything discreditable in the character or conduct of the gentleman which would disqualify him for the office to which he had been appointed, and he could not therefore justify the attempt which had been made to constitute that House a Court of Appeal from the selection of the Lord Chancellor in the exercise of his patronage. He should support the Government if the Motion was pressed to a division, although he hoped it would not be proceeded with further.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
disclaimed all Party feeling in the matter. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick seemed to recognize no right in the House of Commons to discuss such a matter as this; but he (Mr. Hopwood) contended it was the only tribunal that had the right to criticize such an appointment as the one under consideration. He could not help thinking there had been too frequent reference to the eminent character and position of the Lord Chancellor in order to influence the judgment of that House in the matter of this appointment. He felt he should be wanting in his duty if he did not protest against the judgment of any one man, however eminent, being brought forward to control their judgment and influence their reasoning. The Lord Chancellor, in his own letter, told them that before making the appointment in question he appealed to three Chief Judges to supply him with a list of eminent men. Two of them complied with the request, each supplying three names. From the list supplied by Lord Coleridge he selected two gentlemen, and took the gentleman whose name stood first on the list supplied by the Lord Chief Baron, and added that he found "marked concurrent testimony" in that gentleman's favour, but if that were so why did he not supply that concurrent testimony to Parliament? What was the meaning of the term? It amounted to this—according to the state- 1321 ment of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Rodwell), that "he had not a large practice." In other words, he had not yet proved his qualifications; while others eminently qualified for the office had been overlooked. He thought they were only doing their duty in challenging the appointment, and he could not help admiring the implied sarcasm of the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter Barttelot), when he expressed a hope that it would be a warning for the future. He was sorry the hon. and learned Member for Coventry (Sir Henry Jackson) had dealt with the question as if it were a mere circuit squabble. What he felt was, that they ought to be moved by great public considerations to challenge such an appointment.
said, he was in hopes that the debate was about to terminate; but if it was to be continued, he trusted they would confine themselves to the real question before them. The question was not whether Mr. Verey was not well qualified for his office, but whether the appointment was to be made by the Lord Chancellor; and whether he, or the House of Commons, was to judge of his qualifications, or whether the appointment was to be made by the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple and a few other of his hon. and learned Friends. Upon that point he entirely agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Limerick. He altogether disapproved of the sort of professional jealousy which had been exhibited to-night by certain hon. and learned Members. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down said the Lord Chancellor should have placed before the House the confirmatory evidence of which he spoke in his letter, but it must be clear to the House that such a course as that would be inconsistent with the high dignity of his Lordship's office, and would form a dangerous and pernicious precedent. If it could be shown that the appointment was an improper one, and that the gentleman was disqualified for the post, it would be a fair ground for the interference of the House; but as it was a question of confidence or non-confidence in the Lord Chancellor, he should support the Vote.
§ MR. HERSCHELL
deprecated the idea that the criticism of Mr. Verey's appointment was actuated by professional 1322 jealousy. No hon. Member, he believed, was influenced by such a motive. He certainly could not be, for he had never seen the gentleman in question, nor had he ever heard of him. Beyond that, he would not change positions with the gentleman appointed if he had the chance. He felt the force of what had been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, that the House of Commons ought not to consitute itself a Court of Appeal in the case of legal appointments. He, for one, had no desire to Americanize our institutions, or to render appointments made to judicial offices subjects of popular control. It would, however, in his opinion, be dangerous to press that principle too far. That which was most important in the making of an appointment like the present was to keep in view the getting not only of a good man, but of the best man—not only of a fit man, but of the fittest man; and the House of Commons would abnegate one of its functions if when criticism was considered necessary criticism was withheld. It was by discussion in that House that they could best keep those to whom was entrusted official patronage alive to a sense of their responsibility. Every hon. Member of the House who was a professional man, and many lay Members, knew that from time to time men were appointed County Court Judges who not only had no reputation as lawyers, but, worse still, had the reputation of being no lawyers. That had gone on, and it might go on still, unless they stated distinctly what was the true principle on which judicial patronage should be exercised. So long as a feeling of friendship or regard, or a desire to put a particular man forward entered into the matter, instead of the sole object being to secure the best and fittest man, they should not cease to see scandals arising and to hear them commented upon. He quite admitted that of the question of fitness they had not the means of judging, and as far as he was personally concerned he knew nothing of the qualifications of Mr. Verey for the office to which he was appointed; but the question was, whether in the present appointment the proper principles had been kept in view. When he was told that it was a matter of Circuit jealousy and gossip, he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to say whether when Westmin- 1323 ster Hall raised a universal voice against an appointment it did not afford evidence that it was a bad one? It might be that a man was barely fit for a particular office, but the question was whether he had shown himself to be the fittest man for it? The character, reputation, and fortune of persons depended on the proper discharge of the duties of such an office, and it could not be said that this appointment had been improperly brought before the House and canvassed. He did not rest his objection in the present case upon the point as to want of practice. He was conscious that some of the fittest men in Westminster Hall were men with little or no practice, but then their professional fitness was known—if not to clients, to their brethren at the Bar, who took care to have them appointed to conduct arbitrations; in fact, to discharge the same kind of business as would devolve on this gentleman. Neither did he desire at all to reflect upon the noble and learned Lord who had made the appointment, or upon those who had recommended or suggested it; but he regretted that the Lord Chancellor had not seen his way to saying that he had made it on his own responsibility, without going into explanations. He hoped the result of the discussion would be the selection of the best men for similar appointments in future, and though he admitted the power of the House to take up questions of the kind, he thought it should be very sparingly used. On the whole, he hoped that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Barnstaple would not think it necessary to divide the Committee on the Motion which he had brought forward, but would be content with the discussion that had ensued. Unless he could succeed in carrying a majority with him, the appointment must stand, and Mr. Verey would enter upon the discharge of his duties with an imputation of unfitness for his position resting upon him. This was to be deprecated on many grounds, and he therefore hoped it would not be thought necessary to proceed on the present occasion beyond a simple discussion of the question involved. Feeling as he did, however, if his hon. and learned Friend pressed the matter, he should have no alternative but to divide with him.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
repudiated in the most emphatic manner that if the Com- 1324 mittee went to a division, it would be a Party decision, especially as it had been stated that many of the supporters of the Government were opposed to this appointment. He hoped that the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy) would have the courage of his opinions, and not be afraid of dividing the House upon the question, if he thought his view was a right one. Not a single reason against the appointment had been brought forward. The hon. and learned Member for Durham had delivered a very interesting speech on the general question of the principle on which judicial appointments ought to be made, but he seemed to ignore the fact that if on every occasion those men only had been chosen who enjoyed the most extensive practice at the Bar, some of the best men who had ever sat on the Judicial Bench would have been lost to the highest grades in the legal Profession. Had not the appointments of the best Judges of the land been canvassed, and had not their subsequent careers falsified the impressions created at the time of their unfitness? One of the most eminent of our Judges, whose name would go down to posterity as one of the most distinguished, and as the Littleton of our day had been appointed by the then Lord Chancellor, although he was little known in the Profession, and there was then raised a similar outcry. The House undoubtedly had the power to question all such appointments, but what were its means of forming a correct judgment as to the capabilities and fitness of any particular person. A great deal too much stress had been laid upon the question of men having large practice on the Circuits before their appointment to the exercise of judicial functions. It was true that some of the Circuits, such as the Northern and the Midland, were the best of possible legal schools, but the rule was by no means universal. Many members of the Home Circuit found in Chambers and in private practice that experience and judicial calmness which fitted them for such offices, whereas on Circuit their names were unknown because there was so little work to be done. The question of Mr. Verey's appointment must be discussed and decided on higher grounds than the mere opinions of individual members of the legal Profession or of the public, and it was idle to say because Mr. Verey was unknown on 1325 Circuit that he could not be a man of professional competence. He admitted that the majority of the Profession thought there were many other gentlemen more competent for the post; but it was the judgment of the Lord Chancellor upon which the Committee had to act, and as a Member of that House, he thought he had no right to set up his own particular view as a member of the Bar in opposition to that of the Lord Chancellor. It had been stated that the appointment had been made by the Lord Chief Baron, but it was afterwards ratified by the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor had, in his letter which had been read to the House, explained the grounds upon which he had appointed Mr. Verey to the office of Official Referee, that his name had stood first on the list of the Lord Chief Baron; that, although he was not known to him personally, he had, in addition to the strong opinion of the Lord Chief Baron, very marked and concurrent testimony in Mr. Verey's favour, and that he believed him to be perfectly qualified for the office. The hon. and learned Member for Stockport had contended for the right of that House to criticize the acts of the Lord Chancellor; but, in his (Mr. Grantham's) opinion, as it was unlikely that gentlemen in the Profession would ever agree as to the proper persons to be appointed to vacant legal offices, it was better to leave the power of appointment unreservedly in the hands of the highest legal authority in the country. One thing was quite clear, and that was that no hon. Member who had spoken knew anything against Mr.Verey, and they could give no reason for believing that he was not properly qualified for the post. For his own part he should decline to come down to that House and vote against the appointment merely because he thought he knew of other gentlemen who might be better fitted for the position. He preferred the responsibility of the highest legal authority to any other, and should, therefore, vote against the Motion.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
claimed to come to the subject with an unprejudiced mind, because until he knew of this appointment he had never heard Mr. Verey's name. The hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Rodwell) had justified that gentleman's appointment on three grounds—firstly, that he had 1326 taken a degree at Cambridge; secondly, that he was 40 years old; and, thirdly, that he had never had a large practice. Now, he was far from insisting upon a large practice as a necessary qualification for the post. Men of small practice had been promoted to high office before, but they had always been men of great reputation; but, still, it was rather a dangerous thing to select even a good man if he had not had much practice, because that was invaluable to him in the discharge of his judicial duties, and also because the public, as a general rule, did not trust untried men. The House of Commons had the undoubted right to criticize these appointments; and if his hon. and learned Friend went to a division, though he deprecated that course of action, he should support him. He thought, however, hon. Members would be satisfied with the discussion that had occurred in reference to this unfortunate appointment.
said, that the legal Gentlemen who had spoken placed the laymen in a most pitiable position. They had alleged that these four gentlemen, in general, were not fit for their post, and one in particular, but the hon. and learned Member for Durham (Mr. Herschell) had told the House that this was usually the case. [Mr. Herschell begged the hon. Member's pardon. He had not said it was usually the case.] The hon. and learned Gentleman had said it was done over and over again—that faults had been found with appointments in the legal Profession. It was with great grief that he (Mr. Neville-Grenville) heard these statements on the part of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but, for his part, he had perfect confidence in the Lord Chancellor who, he trusted, would make a proper selection of gentlemen to fill vacant legal offices.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, that when the matter was before the Committee in March last he had spoken rather strongly in reference to it, and he had then stated certain facts which had been brought under his notice by certain members of his Profession. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had then asked for time to inquire into the matter, and the Committee had cheerfully acceded to that request, and the result of that inquiry had been stated to 1327 the Committee that evening. It would be for the Committee to say how far the statement he had made had been altered by the results of that inquiry. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had insisted upon regarding the Motion in the light of a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Lord Chancellor. He could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that if he looked upon the Motion in that light, he should be the first to vote against it. The Lord Chancellor, however, had stated the grounds and the information upon which he had acted, and it was open to the Committee to form an opinion for themselves upon the materials so furnished to them. He was sorry to hear the hon. and learned Member for Chatham say that it was a question of professional jealousy.
disclaimed any such statement. What he had said was that there had been an exhibition of professional jealousy in that House.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
appealed to every Member of the House whether it could be supposed that those who had spoken in what they believed to be the performance of their public duty could have had any jealousy towards such a comparatively young and unknown member of the Profession as Mr. Verey was. He believed the appointment had proceeded upon the grounds of private testimonials. He had had them sent to him since the discussion arose, and found that they were very much in Mr. Verey's favour. Persons in whose judgment he could place confidence had spoken highly of Mr. Verey's attainments and general ability, and if the House was willing to put appointments to judicial offices upon private testimonials there was a strong case made out in Mr. Verey's favour. Was the Committee willing, when appointments to judicial offices the performance of the duties of which would affect property to the extreme extent, to justify such appointments upon the ground of private testimonials? If so, there was an end of the matter. The Lord Chancellor acted upon private testimonials in concurrence with the Lord Chief Baron's recommendation, and the Lord Chief Baron's recommendation was based upon the private recommendation of others. He (Sir Henry James)stated in the last debate that Mr. Verey had never held a brief or actively followed his Profession, and these facts were not denied by the 1328 hon. and learned Attorney General at the time. It had been substantially admitted in the progress of this debate that he had not had any practice at the Bar, and therefore the appointment must have been made on the private judgment of personal friends who had not met him at the arena of their Courts but in private conversation. He was willing to admit that it was a difficult thing to question the power and the discretion vested in the head of the legal Profession; but, looking at the practice in these cases, he thought such appointments should not depend upon private testimonials, but upon a well-known and high reputation and a large practice at the Bar. Mr. Verey was written to by a member of the Bar, who stated in his letter what was currently reported concerning him—that he had received an appointment as a Revising Barrister after he had only gone circuit once or twice, and that he was not known to have ever held a brief. To that letter Mr. Verey made no reply; he would not say because he could not represent the facts differently; but if he had refused to hold any communication with the writer of such a letter, he thought he was well justified in so doing. The truth was, however, that they ought not to criticize too minutely whether this gentleman had held a number of briefs or not; what the Committee had to determine was whether it was wise to make these appointments on the strength of private testimonials. The Committee had to determine how far they would like that rule to apply to other Professions. If our Fleets had to be commanded, would they give the command of them to a mere student in navigation, however clever, or would they give the command of our Army to a man on account of the testimonials he produced? Certainly not. If they did not apply that rule to other Professions, was there any reason why they should apply it to the legal Profession? It was said the objectors to this appointment had not proved that Mr. Verey was unfit. How could they prove that he was unfit? Was it any answer to the objection to this appointment to say—"We appointed Mr. Verey as no proof of his unfitness was given; we thought we were justified in appointing any person who was not proved to be unfit?" What they asked for was that they might have some security that the 1329 judgment given by these Referees should be right judgments. It had been said that a member of the Bar had been appointed Judge who might be said to have had no practice at the Bar, and that upon the Bench he displayed great ability. That remark referred to that distinguished Judge Mr. Justice Blackburn. But it was a mistake to suppose that he had no practice at the Bar. The Lord Chancellor, who appointed him, had constant experience of his great ability. For years he was counsel to Lloyd's, and for years he was reporter of the Queen's Bench and had had an immense experience. In short, there was no comparison between his case and the one before the Committee. The Lord Chancellor knew that in making him a Judge he was appointing one of the greatest lawyers in Westminster Hall. He (Sir Henry James) hoped the Committee had discussed this question with feelings of consideration towards the gentleman who had received this appointment. The Lord Chancellor had, without doubt, exercised his discretion, and the Committee might consider whether they should not rely on the hope that Mr. Verey might prove fit for this appointment. He could only ask his hon. and learned Friend to consider whether, after what had occurred after the utterance of those words—"This is to be a warning in future against such an appointment," it would not be better to refrain from pressing for a division. If, however, the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple's Motion were pressed to a division, as he hoped it would not be, he should feel bound to vote for it.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy) had told them that when that matter came before the Committee some time ago, a very feeble defence was made on behalf of Mr. Verey. But then the allegations made by that hon. and learned Member, and also by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), were such as took those who sat on the Ministerial bench very much by surprise, because they then heard for the first time that that appointment was an act of the grossest nepotism, and one which was practically made by the Lord Chief Baronthrough feelings of favouritism alone. It was also alleged that the Lord Chief Baron had such friendship for Mr. Verey that 1330 on a previous occasion he removed a gentleman who had held the post of Revising Barrister for a long time, and who deserved to hold it still, for the purpose of substituting Mr. Verey. It had been said, if not in that House, at least outside of it, that the Lord Chief Baron had been actuated by even more unworthy motives—that he had favoured Mr. Verey because that gentleman's father had been his friend and political agent. Now, was it the fact that the Lord Chief Baron did remove from the office of Revising Barrister a gentleman who had long held it for the purpose of bestowing it on Mr. Verey? The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) had commented on that matter; but he (the Attorney General) felt himself at liberty to read a letter which the Lord Chief Baron received from a brother Judge, more intimately acquainted with the particular Revising Barrister in question, and also with the particular Circuit concerned, than the Lord Chief Baron was, before he ventured to remove that gentleman from the post of Revising Barrister. Before the fresh appointment was made, the Lord Chief Baron received that letter from a learned Gentleman who, before he was elevated to the Bench, was the leader, or one of the leaders, of that Circuit. The letter in question was to the effect that the gentleman referred to ought never to have been appointed, as he had never been a member of the Circuit; that he ought to have given up the appointment, as he was a rich man and did not want it; that he had been twice asked to give it up, but had declined to do so, though he had no good reason for keeping it; and that it was not desirable that he should be continued in it. In fact, it concluded by saying that a good deed would be done by refusing him the re-appointment. Yet the Lord Chief Baron had been accused of the grossest nepotism, because after receiving such a letter he had refused to continue that gentleman in his office as Revising Barrister, and had bestowed it on Mr. Verey, who was highly recommended for it. But the question now before the Committee was whether that appointment was a proper one. Now, whether it was a proper appointment or not depended not on whether Mr. Verey had had this or that amount of practice, but on whether he was a fit 1331 man for the post; whether he had the requisite qualification. They had had an interesting lecture from the hon. and learned Member for Durham (Mr. Herschell) on the principle of appointment to all the judicial offices in the State. The hon. and learned Gentleman said they must act on a particular principle—namely, that they were not to bestow an appointment of that character on a man unless he had had a very large practice—["No"]—or, at all events, a considerable practice, obtained either from attorneys, who, of course, gave briefs to those members of the Bar of whom they approved, or from their fellow-barristers who approved of them as arbitrators. It was not every man who, however able, succeeded in enlisting the friendship or patronage of attorneys, or in obtaining the patronage of his fellows at the Bar. There were many men who had not obtained practice either from attorneys or from barristers who were yet admirably fitted for such a post as that in question. It was said that when he spoke on this subject before he had no information on the subject. He had, however, received a letter from one of the most eminent firms of solicitors in the metropolis, and its statements had been confirmed by others to whom he had spoken. It was from Messrs. Clabon and Fear on. They said—My Dear Attorney General,—We venture in reference to the threatened attack on Mr. H. W. Verey as Official Referee to make the following statement. We write as an act of justice to Mr. Verey, and without his knowledge. We have known Mr. Verey throughout his professional career. He graduated at Trinity College, Cambridge, in Honours. He was articled to Messrs. Crowder and Maynard for three years, and served with them for that period, seeing much of their practice. You are aware that they stand in the first class of City solicitors. Hs afterwards went to the Bar, and we have constantly had the benefit of his services, and have found him to do his work with great ability. He is able and energetic, as well as quiet and clear-minded.Perhaps being quiet and clear-minded was the reason he had not had a large practice at the Bar.It is impossible to meet him without being impressed with his cleverness and good sense.That letter came from an eminent firm of solicitors who had constantly employed Mr. Verey, perhaps not in Court work, 1332 but in work which sufficiently tested his ability and proved how fit he was for the office he now held. Since the receipt of that letter he (the Attorney General) had satisfied himself not only that what had been said of the Chief Baron was without foundation, but that no well-founded objection could be urged against the appointment which the Chief Baron had recommended. The Committee ought to have confidence in the opinion of the Lord Chief Baron, especially when coupled with the judgment of the Lord Chancellor, who took upon himself the responsibility of the appointment.
§ MR. WADDY,
in replying, said, that nobody had ventured to take up the challenge which he had thrown out at the beginning of the debate. It was a sign of weakness, and an attempt to draw them from the real issue, to allege that the Lord Chancellor wason his trial. Such was not the case, for that noble and learned Lord was unassailable. It appeared that the Lord Chief Baron appointed this gentleman a Revising Barrister when he knew nothing at all about him; and all the House knew now was that some gentleman or some lady had recommended this person to the Lord Chief Baron, and on that recommendation this appointment was given. It was said that some one on Mr. Verey's circuit, whose name was not given, had recommended him; but he had the authority of the leaders of that circuit, gentlemen of both sides of politics, and of the junior Bar, to say that until Mr. Verey was appointed he was unknown to them, except socially to one or two. Under the circumstances, as the hon. and learned Member for Chatham had said there had been an exhibition of professional jealousy on the part of those who brought forward this Motion, it would be impossible for him to withdraw it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would not say anything more with regard to Mr. Verey, but he felt it necessary after the statement which had just been made to explain correctly the action of the Lord Chancellor. Having three appointments to make, the Lord Chancellor wrote to the Chiefs of the Common Law Courts requesting each of them to send him a list of three names. The Lord Chief Justice sent no names, but Lord Coleridge and the Lord Chief 1333 Baron sent three names each. Accordingly, the Lord Chancellor selected two names from Lord Coleridge's list and one from that of the Lord Chief Baron. The Lord Chancellor stated in his letter that he appointed Mr. Verey, not merely on the recommendation of the Lord Chief Baron, but in consequence of inquiries which he himself instituted, and which satisfied him that the appointment was a proper one.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. GREGORY
asked for information respecting the fees which, under a Treasury Minute of the 1st of February, 1876, were payable by the suitors to the Referees. They amounted to a guinea an hour for attendance, irrespective of travelling expenses, a payment which he took exception to, and thought ought not to come out of the suitor's pocket. The Act expressly provided for the payment of the Referees by salary, and never contemplated such a tax as it was here proposed to throw upon the parties.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
understood that the Referees would be paid by salaries, but that the suitors would have to pay something analogous to a Court fee. During the time a Referee sat, a guinea an hour would be payable, which, however, would go, not to the Referee, but to the Consolidated Fund. As attention had been called to the matter, it should be looked to, with the view of remedying anything that might be unjust.
§ MR. RAMSAY,
with reference to the Commissioners in Lunacy, asked what was the amount of charges for, and the number of visits paid to lunatics; and, whether the charges were or were not paid out of the estates of the unfortunate victims?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
undertook to supply the information, if possible, on the Report of Supply on Monday.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next;
§ Committee to sit again upon Monday next.