HC Deb 11 May 1883 vol 279 cc526-7

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, If he would explain on what grounds he stated that when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster sits by himself he is the Council of the Duchy; and, on what grounds afforded by Charter, Act of Parliament, or otherwise, it is considered necessary that the members of the Council of the Duchy of Lancaster should be convened for the purpose of exercising the statutory powers conferred by "The Duchy of Lancaster Lands Act, 1855?"


Sir, the practice in question rests upon usage of 200 years and upwards, The matter was investigated by a Committee of the House of Commons, who stated in their Report, in 1857, two years after the passing of the Act in question, that it appeared by the evidence of the Law Officers of the Duchy— That the absolute power rests in the Chancellor; that he is not obliged to consult his Council on any matter, and that a minute passed by him alone is equivalent to a minute passed by the Chancellor and Council. They further stated— That certain persons were added to the Council by the advice of Lord Campbell, but that they have no independent power, and are consulted only by the Chancellor when he desires their advice. This opinion is confirmed by the researches of the Clerk of Records. The Law Officers of the Duchy at that time were that erudite lawyer, Mr. Ellis (Adolphus and Ellis), and Mr., after Lord Justice, James—and the Clerk of the Records referred to is Mr. Hardy, the present well-known Deputy Keeper of the Public Records. The evidence of the Law Officers and of Mr. Hardy will be found in the Blue Book and is most full and explicit. I find that Lord Campbell during the four years that he was Chancellor of the Duchy, on 21 different occasions, sitting alone as Chancellor and Council, dealt with land by sale or purchase; and on cursorily inspecting the Minutes of the Duchy Court I find that in the four years immediately succeeding the passing of the Act of 1855 no fewer than 22 cases of sales of property were sanctioned by the Chancellor sitting alone.