HC Deb 02 July 1884 vol 289 cc1836-54

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that he was sure that on this subject, at least, he would have the sympathy of every Member of the House, for the question of cheap and ready justice near to the place where the cause of action arose must be a matter of very deep interest to a great trading community like this country. It had occupied the con- sideration of Parliament more or less for many years past, and in the year 1872 a Royal Commission reported on the subject. That Commission recognized the great evils which attended the existing system. They admitted that under the system of centralization which had prevailed for a long time in this country causes of action in the great manufacturing and commercial districts of the country were transferred to the Central Courts in London at a very great expense to the suitors. Now, the port of Liverpool, which he represented, though a great commercial centre, and with an immense mercantile marine business— its tonnage being greater than that of the Metropolis—had, up to the present time, no Admiralty Court, and the causes had to be brought to London at very great expense, and oftentimes with very great difficulty, as in the case of sailors, who had to be kept in order to bring them to London as witnesses. This caused a great amount of dissatisfaction on the part of the commercial community, and for a long time past they had been very anxious to secure for the great towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire and other great commercial centres Courts giving that access to speedy justice which could only be secured in immediate connection with the localities. In their Report, the Judicature Committee of 1872 did recognize the difficulties and expense to which suitors in these great centres were put, and they recommended, with regard to Liverpool and Manchester— That there should be four sittings in each year for the trial of civil causes in the Superior Branch of the Courts of Liverpool and Manchester; that the duration of these sittings should not be limited; neither should it be necessary for the same Judge to be in attendance during the whole sitting; and that two Judges should be empowered to sit at a time when that course should be deemed more convenient. Earl Cairns, who was a great authority on this subject, went a great deal further, and more in the direction to which he asked the assent of the House. His Lordship said— I am of opinion that the arrangements suggested in the Report taken in connection with the thickly-populated part of the country, and especially of the towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, are utterly and entirely inadequate. Now, that pointed to what they desired to accomplish by this Bill. They proposed by the Bill that there should be districts set apart by the Crown in the centre of Lancashire and part of Cheshire if the Crown should think there was no objection to it; and under this Bill there would be power to extend the system to other communities, such as Bristol. There was a unanimous feeling in favour of the Bill. He believed every commercial community had reported in its favour, and every legal Society throughout the country, with one exception, had unanimously supported it. What, then, were the difficulties which presented themselves? In 1879, the present Attorney General brought forward a Motion to the same effect as the present Bill; and, in proposing that Motion, he said that— Continuous sittings in the great centres of industry were the only remedy for the present state of things. The evil had been admitted again and again by the Attorney General, the Home Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and now, he believed, on the part of the Government, by the Lord Chancellor. But its supporters were met by the old cry—"Put it off till a more convenient season." They were told that the Treasury had great difficulty in finding the money; but they believed that that was a difficulty more imaginary than real; for, if he was correctly informed, the fees of the suitors would more than compensate for any addition to the number of Judges. The Attorney General said, last night, in answer to a Question by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), that he admitted that there was a great hardship in Admiralty cases, and that there was no provision whatever with regard to them at Liverpool. Now, what was the provision that they were told was to be given to them? They were told that there was to be in future three Assizes; but he would point out to the Government that it was the recommendation of the Commission that there should be four Assizes to deal with civil causes. He understood that the Attorney General's present idea was to give them three for civil causes and an additional one for criminal business. But even if that was the case, it was really not sufficient to meet the emergencies of business. To give an idea of the causes which arose in connection with Liverpool and Manchester, he might say that last year, at Liverpool Assizes, there were 252 causes actually tried. Besides that, there were 150 Liverpool causes tried in London, owing to the present system of non-continuons sittings; while in the Chancery Division in London there were Liverpool causes to the number of 300, making a total of 702. In Manchester, last year, 203 causes were entered for trial at the Assizes; 150 Manchester causes were tried in London, which otherwise would have been tried at Manchester; and there were no fewer than 487 causes in Chancery which ought to have been tried at Manchester, but which were tried in London; making a total of 840. No provision whatever, he understood, was made for any but civil causes; no provision was to be made for Chancery causes. [Mr. COURTNEY: Oh, yes; there is.] He was misinformed if that was so. He admitted that they had a very eminent Judge in the Chancery Court of Lancashire; but unfortunately, as the House would see from the number of Chancery causes he had quoted as having been transferred to London, they could not avail themselves of that Court to the extent that they desired, because its jurisdiction was confined to the county of Lancaster. There was not the slightest provision made in the Rules of the Judges for the trial of Admiralty causes; but they were to go on in the old fashion of bringing up the witnesses to London at immense expense, and often with great detriment to the cause itself. Their opponents were certainly neither the commercial world nor the suitors, and he believed nine-tenths of the House would say that the case for the Bill was irresistible. He felt that the Judges did the best they could with the time at their disposal; but there were difficulties in the way. They asked, however, that the Treasury should not stand in their way, and that the number of Judges should be increased, especially the number of eminent Judges, to deal with Probate cases. They felt that, in the interest of suitors, such an arrangement was absolutely necessary, and that it was not right that they should again and again be told that the Treasury could not pay, or that the convenience of Her Majesty's Judges should stand in the way. They were told that they were opposed by a section of the Bar. He should be very sorry to find that was the case. He looked upon the Bar as a highly honourable class of men; and while it might be objected by some members of the Bar that it would do away with the old Circuit system, to which they had been accustomed, and cause some inconvenience to them, they would be the first to admit that it should not stand in the way of a Bill which would bring so much advantage to those whose interests were committed to them. He therefore appealed to the members of the Bar to meet the unanimous wish of the commercial community and of the legal bodies throughout the country. He was sure that the proposals of the Bill would in the end be as beneficial to the Bar as to the other classes of the community. At the same time, he had always felt that, if necessary, the interests of any one class must be sacrificed for the general good, and there was no doubt it must be so in some cases; but he did not think that the Bar would contend that their private interests should stand in the way of a great public good. There was not a Member connected with the county of Lancaster who would not speak in the strongest terms as to the way in which this Bill had been urged upon them by their constituents. The support came not from one quarter, but from every quarter. As he had already said, the Attorney General and the Home Secretary had spoken in favour of the principle of the Bill; and he was sure the President of the Board of Trade would, if he had been present, have said that Birmingham had spoken in the strongest way in its favour. He therefore asked the House to assent to the second reading. He would be quite willing to leave the Bill in the hands of the Government for further consideration, and he did not want—particularly at the present time —to unduly press it. But he did ask the House to affirm the principle contained in the Bill—a Bill to which the commercial communities had been looking forward to with the greatest anxiety; and he was sure that the House by supporting the Bill would gain the gratitude of the commercial classes of this country—the classes to whom the prosperity of the country was greatly owing.


, in seconding the Motion, acknowledged the great readiness which the Government had shown to make an advance in the direction of the demands which were uni- versally pressed by the Representatives from Lancashire. By pressure which was brought to bear upon the Government by a deputation which waited on the Lord Chancellor they had succeeded in obtaining what he could not but regard as an important step in the direction of their demands, and the desire shown by the Government to consider the object of this Bill was an encouragement to go on. In agreeing to the second reading of the Bill, he did not urge every provision in this Bill so much as he wished to press for still further efforts on the part of the Government to meet the wishes of the great commercial communities. He moved last year for a Return of the surplus of suitors' fees derived from Courts in Salford Hundred and other parts of Lancashire; and the Solicitor General would see from that Return that it supplied him with a sufficient rejoinder to any who were disposed to remark that the adoption of the object of this Bill would entail large cost upon the Treasury. He thought, too, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would admit that there had been a disposition to centralize the administration of our law far more than in any other country, and possibly more than was for the advantage of this country. They were all proud of the conglomeration of population which was called London; but no one could forget that in Lancashire alone there was a population equal to that within the Metropolitan area, and it was not wise or just to demand that population should at all times resort to London for the administration of justice. With regard to the Admiralty causes, there was some force in the objection that might be raised as to the desirability of keeping the Admiralty jurisdiction as far as possible on one line, if not in the same hands, because the administration of justice in the Court of Admiralty was naturally very technical. In the reply which the Attorney General made to him on the 16th June, he said he intended to make considerable change in the Assize arrangements of the county of Lancaster, and that announcement was generally received with satisfaction in the county. He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman announced that there would be one Equity Judge sitting in Manchester for dealing with Chancery cases; but the remark on that point was not very precise, and possibly the Attorney General might be able to give a more certain statement as to what would be done in that direction.

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


rose to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. He did not object to the Bill as a member of the Legal Profession, but as a Member for a Welsh constituency, and that because it proposed to absorb either the whole or a portion of North Wales in the Liverpool scheme. That was a proposal to which the people of North Wales, or the larger proportion of them, strongly objected; and he believed that it would be equally objected to by the great county of Chester, which it was proposed to include within it. He thought that any scheme for altering the method of the administration of justice should be undertaken by the Government—for it was impossible for any private Member to carry out a scheme calculated to affect the country at large. This scheme was evidently brought forward in the interests of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham being added just to strengthen the case of Liverpool. He did not object to any extension of judicial power as far as Liverpool, or Manchester, or Birmingham were concerned; but he did object to this piecemeal attempt to deal with the matter. The Circuit system had worked well hitherto. Whether there was some change desired in the system he did not at that time propose to inquire; but there was less necessity for local centres than there was before the development of railways. The Bill proposed to establish Courts at Liverpool, which were to be independent of London, except so far as the right of appeal was concerned; but they ought to consider what was to happen to the rest of the country. It was clear that the people of North Wales would have to go to Liverpool to get justice, and if they did not choose to go to Liverpool for it they would have to do without it; and the Bill, therefore, seemed to have been drawn utterly regardless of the convenience of the people of North Wales. If they were to have continuous sittings at Liverpool, there ought to be a reconstruction of the whole Circuit system. But whatever might be said with regard to an alteration of the present system, the Bill seemed to him so thoroughly objectionable that it would not be safe even to read it a second time; and he did not think it could be so amended in Committee as to be made a satisfactory measure.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Morgan Lloyd.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, he wished to make a few observations on the ground that he had had a longer experience of the working of the administration of justice in Lancashire than most people in the House. He had often remarked that Lancashire was the most long-suffering-population he knew in the whole Kingdom with regard to the administration of the law. He had frequently remarked from the Bench and elsewhere that they had for many years put up with a system which was not at all adequate to the demands of a population so large, so wealthy—he would not say so litigious; but a population which liked to settle their matters in dispute in Courts of Law quite as well as any other part of the country. His hon. Friend who last spoke had used an argument which he thought was a very good one, when he said a magnificent and entire scheme for a more satisfactory administration of the law all over the country would be better than this Bill. He quite agreed with him in that; but if Lancashire had to wait until such a scheme were prepared, it might have to wait many years. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) said the people of Lancashire were grateful to Her Majesty's Government for the way in which they had taken in hand proposals for giving greater facilities for the administration of justice. He would like to point out what were the great advantages for which the hon. Member for Salford was so grateful. Lancashire had for a considerable time complained that it had only four Assizes in the course of the year, and that the time allowed at these Assizes was not sufficient. He (Mr. West) did not agree with many persons who said that those times were altogether inadequate. They were very inadequate at times; but that was not the normal condition of affairs. Two years ago the time allowed was perfectly inadequate. He hardly liked to say the time was scandalously insufficient; but his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Charles Russell), who had more business there than he had, would remember that the actual number of oases tried in Court did not equal the number of remanets when the Judges left Manchester. At Manchester and Liverpool there were four Assizes a-year; but it was now proposed that instead of four there should in future be only three Assizes; and it might be assumed that the sittings of the Court would be more protracted; but instead of being longer the sittings were to be shorter.


No; that is not so.


His hon. and learned Friend said they were not; he would therefore give the dates according to the scale published in the Schedule of the Order in Council. His experience was a good deal older than that of the Solicitor General, and he had known in times long gone by the sittings extended by the Judges returning to an Assize town after they had finished the work elsewhere. The dates which had been fixed were—Manchester, October 25; Liverpool, November 5. That was only eleven days, although the usual time had been a fortnight. There were to be no Winter Assizes, and persons who would otherwise have had their cases tried in January would now have to wait to the Assizes which commenced on February 15th and extended to March 1st. The April Assizes were to be done away with, and in its place there was to be a sitting on the 15th of June, the 26th of June being fixed for Liverpool Assizes. This was the great change for which the hon. Member for Salford was so grateful. He thought he could remedy the present evil in a very simple and effectual way; but he would not at present detain the House with his plan. He was opposed to continuous sittings, for which he did not believe there was sufficient business in Lancashire whatever local practitioners might think. But when he knew what was the scheme which the Government had offered to Lancashire in exchange for the proposal of continuous sittings, he considered it a mockery. The scheme of the Government was utterly destructive of the interests of the Bar. Gentlemen would be taken from London in the midst of the most pressing times of business to go to Lancashire. As the only alternative to such a proposal as that proposed by the Government, he would give his hearty support to the second reading of the Bill.


said, he thought the speech of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. West) had rather been in condemnation of the scheme of the Judges and the Lord Chancellor for the re-arrangement of the Circuits than a speech in support of the Bill. Now, it was inconvenient to discuss a scheme that was not before the House. He agreed with the remark made by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Whitley), that neither the interests of the Bar nor the interests of any class should stand in the way of necessary change in the interest of the public convenience; but first there must be a demonstrated necessity for the change, and it must be shown that the proposed remedy was efficient. He wished it to be distinctly understood that he did not say the present arrangements in Manchester and Liverpool were adequate and satisfactory, He did not think they were adequate or satisfactory. He did not think the new scheme of the Lord Chancellor met at all the needs of the case; but he thought, at any rate, it would serve as some means of testing the reliability of the figures which the hon. Member for Liverpool had put before the House, and of testing more accurately the extent of the evil which existed and the necessity for dealing with it, and whether the measure now before them was adequate. The figures of the hon. Member did not fairly represent the case—they were vitiated by the assumption that the Admiralty, Chancery, and Probate cases which were now heard in London would hereafter be heard at Liverpool and Manchester. He grouped together a number of cases tried at Manchester and Liverpool respectively, to which he added the number of cases emanating from Manchester and Liverpool, and tried in London. He proceeded, without any sort of classification of these cases, on the assumption that if there were continuous sittings in Manchester and Liverpool all these cases would be tried there; but a closer examination of the various categories of cases showed that very many of them would still be tried with greater convenience and advantage in London, and not in Manchester and Liverpool. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. West) had objected to the Government scheme on the ground that it did not give longer, but shorter, sittings of the Judges in Manchester and Liverpool; but, as he understood, the Judges would be not only empowered, but enjoined, to continue their sittings until they had finished the cause lists, going back to Manchester, if necessary, after the Liverpool business had been finished. He was not prepared to say that this scheme was adequate to the needs of the case; but he thought if put in force it would serve as some means of testing more accurately the extent of the existing evil, and of providing a means of remedying it. As to the scheme proposed in the Bill, there were some difficulties which the promoters had not faced. The Bill started with the initial and insuperable difficulty that it did not ask for an increase of Judges who should devote their time to dealing with the litigation which arose in Manchester and Liverpool; but it proposed that the Judges who were to hold almost continuous sittings should be selected from the existing Judges. Was it to be supposed, in the face of the statements made by the Lord Chancellor again and again, that Judges could be spared from London and the other Circuits to go on those sittings? He thought it was perfectly clear that they could not, and it was quite obvious that no practical effect could be given to that scheme at all, unless there was a provision for additional Judges to serve. That being so, the question arose, If the Bill passed would it meet the needs of the case? He thought it would not; and, in his opinion, the case of Lancashire, of Birmingham, Leeds, and Newcastle—in fact, of all the great centres—needed a consideration which they had hitherto failed to attain. He thought the Bill was crude and imperfect, and that it did not provide a remedy for the evils which existed, though he thought these evils had been exaggerated, and therefore he thought it was unworthy the acceptance of the House.


was of opinion that the Bill as it stood would lead to a considerable waste of valuable judicial power. The proposal to make these Courts hold continuous sittings during the whole period when the High Court was sitting was a great waste of power; and he thought it would be much more advantageous that an Order in Council should be passed directing that the Judges should sit in these towns as long as there was any business to bring before them. He did not think there would be the amount of business which his hon. Friend anticipated. He did not think his hon. Friend had a right to assume that all the local cases which were now tried in London would under his Bill be tried in their respective localities. On the contrary, there would be found to be many reasons why certain cases should be tried in London. He appreciated the efforts of his hon. Friend in endeavouring to meet existing evils in the Bill; but he must protest against the waste of judicial power which it entailed.


said, the object of the Bill was one in which he was interested as representing a borough in Lancashire (Preston). He should say nothing about the part of the Bill which dealt with the Queen's Bench Division, as he had had little experience of that branch of the Judicature. He had had some experience, however, of the working of the Chancery Courts, particularly of the Chancery Court of the County Palatine, which was at present in full vigour, notwithstanding that, as at present constituted, it did not meet all the wants of the district. He should support the second reading, in order to express his sense of the insufficiency of' the mode proposed the other clay by the Attorney General of dealing with trials in the County Palatine of Lancaster. He believed that the proper system of dealing with the cases which would come properly before the Chancery Division would be to take the County Palatine Court as the model, and extend it so as to make it a branch of the High Court, and then in other parts of the country establish tribunals of a similar kind. He would let the Judges have London and also district sittings, and in that way a great deal of the existing evil might be met. That, or some such arrangement as that, was, he believed, the only one which would meet the wants of the Chancery Division in Lancashire. He would not go into the other branches of the Judicature with which he was less acquainted; but the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold), he thought, inadequately appreciated the necessity of sittings of the Admiralty Court. Perhaps that might be owing to the fact that Manchester was not yet a seaport, and that his attention had not been directed to the subject. He considered that a provision for the trial of causes in the Admiralty Division was quite as much a necessity as for Courts of Chancery. He should give his support to the Bill, which, however, he thought required amendment in many details.


supported the Bill on the ground of the expediency of having local tribunals at which causes arising in the districts could be conveniently heard; and he would point to the hardships felt by the people of Birmingham in having to go to Warwick, 20 miles away, to try the most miserable causes. There could be no harm in passing the second rending of the Bill as proof of the earnestness of the demand for reform.


said, the Bill very deeply interested the constituency which he represented (South-West Lancashire), and it had fallen to his lot to introduce a deputation from Manchester and Liverpool to the Lord Chancellor in favour of continuous sittings in those towns. The Lord Chancellor and the other authorities received them very kindly, and listened to all that was said, but, at the same time, intimated that the demand could not be acceded to. Now, it appeared, the Government were going to reduce the number of Civil Assizes from four to three; and, at the same time, as far as Manchester was concerned, they were going to shorten the time during which these sittings would be held. He had himself once or twice put Questions to the Attorney General on the subject of advancing the Admiralty and Probate causes which were for hearing in the district; but the Attorney General, in reply, though he hoped something might be done, had always said he did not think a Judge could be spared from London for that purpose. He contended that it would be an enormous advantage for a Judge to go there and try the cases as long as they came up. It was one of the matters which had been most strongly pressed on him by the magistrates of the County of Lancaster, and he believed every Member for that county would tell the same tale. He was quite aware of the objections raised to the present proposal. In the first place, it was said there was the scheme brought forward by the Government; but he contended that that scheme being incomplete, the hon. Member for Liverpool had no course to pursue but to bring forward his Bill. Then it was said they should wait for the whole scheme of the Government; but while they were doing so they would have no scheme at all. Again, when they were dealing with a Profession like the Bar, they must remember that nothing could be more inconvenient for suitors than to make such regulations as would prevent them, from selecting the most able counsel. He was bound to say they would have a Bar at Liverpool and Manchester; but all the leaders of the Bar must necessarily be in London, and nothing could be more unfortunate for the suitor.


said, it must be remembered that the question with which they were dealing was not a new one, and had not arisen only since the present Government came into power. He remembered a discussion on the question some years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down held a position in the Government; and he had no doubt that if he considered it a subject to be dealt with he and those associated with him would have dealt with it. But the right hon. Gentleman and those who were associated with him considered it a matter not easily to be dealt with; and, considering the fact that the matter had not been dealt with since, he thought that circumstance might be accepted as evidence that the question was not one to be disposed of readily. They must be careful that in trying to do away with one evil they did not get another. No doubt in a certain sense they were all agreed that hitherto the provision made for the administration of justice in Lancashire and in other populous parts of the country had been inadequate. That fact, he believed, was not contested, and that difficulty was proposed to be dealt with in this Bill, and it proposed to deal with it in a particular way. His objection was not to dealing with the evil, but to the manner of dealing with it. The Bill proposed to have a Judge at Liverpool to sit the whole legal year there, the same thing to be done in Manchester, and the same thing in Birmingham. If that were done, he was of opinion that they would do a great deal more than was necessary in those centres, and it would be to the prejudice of London and the rest of the country. There was not, as far as experience went, sufficient work to keep a Judge at work in each of those centres the whole of the year. The experience of Birmingham was that there was not sufficient business to keep a Judge at work except for comparatively a small part of the legal year. The proposal of the Bill was not merely that further provision should be made for those three centres; but that provision amounted to the necessity of a Judge sitting in each of them throughout the entire year. But this was more than was necessary for each of these places; and if it were sanctioned it would be to the public detriment, for Judges would have to be taken from places where they were wanted. There were, however, some extraordinary omissions from the Bill. By the Bill, Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham were to have Judges; but Yorkshire, for some inscrutable reason, was altogether left out in the cold. He should have thought Yorkshire at least should be included, as the business at Leeds, Sheffield, and York far exceeded that in the neighbourhood of Warwickshire. If the House agreed to this Bill, of course they must not stop at its proposals, and the whole country would have to be carved out into districts for the administration of justice, and that was one of his objections to the Bill. If the scheme was to be absolutely to localize the administration of justice, and to carve out the country, he would point out the difficulties that would arise. When they had all the parties to a cause, the witnesses and the solicitors residing in the same place, it would be convenient to try the cause there; but where they had some of the parties and some of the witnesses at Liverpool, and others at other places, it was not cheaper to try in Liverpool than in London; and if they had district centres, with Judges going there at a particular time, where they had not sufficient business to occupy a Judge the whole time, then, they would only come to a modification of the Circuit system. He would remind the hon. Gentleman of the subject of the expenses of litigation. Where they had to take counsel down from London to places where the Judge held continuous sitting, the expenses would be largely increased. Litigants might be wise, or they might be foolish; but they would take counsel down from London. It was thought when they localized the trial of Election Petitions they would make the expenses of the litigation much cheaper than when they were tried in London. Experience had proved that it was more expensive, for the simple reason that they would take special counsel down and give them a large fee, and also that, having the witnesses on the spot, they were not careful in their selection of evidence, but summoned all manner of people. They must look at both sides of the question. If they had those continuous sittings instead of sittings at particular times they would have local Bars and nothing but local Bars. There were, no doubt, men of ability and experience at those local Bars; but the advantage of the present system was that the learned gentlemen went Circuit, and the suitors got the very best advocacy a man could have for a moderate fee. That was one of the advantages of the Circuit system, not to the Bar, but to the suitor. It could not be of advantage that only the rich should get the most able counsel. The present was not a question for the Bar, but for the suitor. He approved of the principle that there should be greater facilities for the local administration of justice in these great centres. Having pointed out that the Bill went, as he considered, beyond what was necessary, he would call attention to what it was proposed to do. One great complaint undoubtedly was not only that the Judges did not come often enough, but that, when they did come, the time was so short that the causes were to some extent scamped; or that when it was felt that cases could not be properly tried on a Circuit, they were made remanets. Efforts had been made to remedy that complaint. The essential object was that where cases were set down to be tried at a particular place they should be fully and fairly tried out at those sittings; and when the difficulty arose, assistance should be sent in the shape of an additional Judge from London. Another part of the scheme was that a Judge should not be more than 35 days away from London on Circuit. Like other people the Judges liked their homes, and there had been a tendency to bring business to an end in order to shorten their stay at a particular place. Feeling that more than 35 days was too long to be on Circuit, and that cases set down for certain sittings should be finished at those sittings, another Judge was, if the Judge on Circuit desired it, to be sent down at the end of that time. Attention had been called to the particular days having been fixed. This was done subject to variation, according to the requirements of business, and not as setting a hard-and-fast line. The scheme would no doubt need considerable alteration, and they must see how it would work in judicial economy before fixing on a final scheme. The present system was tentative merely. With regard to the Assizes, Government had the desire to meet the difficulties which had been suggested; but there had been another concession to meet the view of gentlemen from Liverpool, who said it was not Common Law business, but the Chancery business that they were concerned with, where all the parties and the witnesses were brought up to London. He believed that to be a great and serious evil, and they had endeavoured and intended to meet it. Where the cause of action arose in Liverpool or in Manchester, and all the parties and witnesses were resident there, the case could now be heard there; but there were cases where all the parties did not live there, but where that was the most convenient place of trial, and for this purpose there were to be sittings at Manchester and Liverpool. That was doing something to meet some of the grievances. The only other matter was the trial of Admiralty cases. They could not have a sitting for a definite time for the Admiralty causes, because some of the witnesses would always be absent at different places, and if the cause were not heard immediately, there would be difficulty in collecting them at any one time. It was only when both vessels belonged to Liverpool that it would be necessary or desirable to try in Liverpool; but when one vessel be- longed to London and the other to Liverpool, it would be of advantage to try in London. He thought it would be an immense advantage to the public to have the same Judge, in order that there might be a definite course of decision. If they used Judges who did not know much about the subject, there would be a danger of a difference of idea as to what ought to be done under different circumstances. The very best possible thing they could have was that those who were navigating vessels should know what was the mind of those who dealt with those cases. While sympathizing with the objects of the hon. Gentleman, he could not assent to the second reading of the Bill until the efforts of the Government in the same direction had received a fair trial, and had proved inadequate to meet the requirements of justice.


said, he was sure that he was only repeating the sense of the legal mind of Liverpool and Manchester when he thanked the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Solicitor General) for the very courteous and considerate manner in which he had received the proposals of his hon. Friend. There was no doubt that, though he had been unable to accept the Bill or the principle it involved, at the same time, he had given them an assurance of the most important character—namely, that the proposals contained in the Judicature Bill were only tentative in character in regard to Manchester and Liverpool, and that the Government would be ready to entertain the consideration of further Amendments. After such an assurance, he thought it might be doubtful whether his hon. Friend would be wise in pressing on the second reading, as he thought that Her Majesty's Government had gone a long way in endeavouring to meet the objections which the people of Manchester and Liverpool obviously entertained as to the present system of administration of justice in those cities. Although his name was on the back of the Bill, he should advise his hon. Friend not to press it to the second reading, but rest content with the assurance of the Government. Should, however, his hon. Friend deem it right to go to a Division, he would, of course, support him; but he thought it might probably be better, under the circumstances, not to press for a Division.


said, he would venture to add his appeal to that of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Claud Hamilton). If they were recasting the whole judicial system of the country, he should not find much objection to take to the views of the hon. Member as embodied in the Bill before the House, nor was he prepared to say that they were not ideally and theoretically perfect. But to ask the House to reconstruct the whole administration of justice to meet the grievances of one or two places was rather a large proposal. If the Government had not shown a real desire to remedy the grievances which the Bill was designed to meet, he should vote for the second reading. As it was, however, he thought the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill would best serve the cause which he represented by refraining from dividing the House.


said, he was sorry that he could not see his way to accede to the appeal of his noble Friend (Lord Claud Hamilton). He wanted to place on record that the present commercial centres were not satisfied wtth the present arrangements for conducting the legal business of those districts, and to strengthen the hands of the Government in dealing with the question. Whilst acknowledging to the full the courtesy with which the Bill had been received by the Government and by all quarters of the House, yet he was compelled to ask the House to affirm the principle of the Bill; and then he would leave it in the hands of the Government, for them to do what they liked with it.


said, whilst the Government were spending money in all directions, they objected to spending a paltry £15,000 or £20,000 in improving the administration of justice. He could not trust the assurances of the Government, because they shut their eyes and ears to the real state of the case. No mere shuffling of the cards—no mere alteration of the Circuits — would do. What was wanted was more Judges.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 87; Noes 64: Majority 23.—(Div. List, No. 149.)

Main Question put, and agreed to,

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

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