HC Deb 15 March 1877 vol 232 cc2021-3

Bill, as amended, considered.


rose to move the following clause:— (Justices of peace shall administer oaths, &c.) After the passing of this Act, it shall be lawful for justices of the peace, if they think fit, to administer oaths and to receive statutory declarations, as the same are now administered and received by commissioners authorized for such purposes. The hon. Gentleman said, the object of the clause was to bring cheap justice to the doors of poor people. Commissioners were often only to be reached after a needless, and therefore vexatious, waste of time and money. The fusion of Equity with Common Law had removed all grounds for limiting the power of administering oaths, &c., to Commissioners. He did not wish the justices to be absolutely bound, under all circumstances, to receive these declarations, but that they should have a permissive power to do so. The useful functions of Commissioners would not be abrogated, but would still continue to be exercised where more than the common printed forms were required. The proposal was not a new one, for its principle existed in the laws regulating patents for inventions and the regulation of trade marks, both of which allowed an applicant to elect to go either before a Commissioner or a magistrate. This clause would make a great saving of time and money to poor persons.

New Clause—(Mr. H. B. Samuelson,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."


said, there were really very serious objections to the adoption of the clause. Under the present regulation security was taken against fraud by retaining the means of verifying the signatures of all the Commissioners before whom the oaths were taken. The clause, if adopted, would open the door to forgery and fraud. If the hon. Member would so amend the clause as to provide that a justice of the peace could only administer the oaths in petty sessions, and in the presence of the clerk, something might be said for it; but then they had the fact that the justices' clerk would be a solicitor, who was almost always a duly-qualified person to administer oaths, and the provision would be unnecessary.


said, he would read an extract from a letter he had received on the objection that forgery might be encouraged. I do not see how the clause can be imperilled, by the objection that forgery would be rendered easier. Statutory declarations and affidavits are never registered except when proceedings take place on them, and the justices could describe the name and place of swearing, &c. His object was to save expense to poor people, which object he believed would be safely obtained by the passing of the clause.

Question put, and negatived.

Bill to be read the third time Tomorrow.