HC Deb 10 March 1884 vol 285 cc1179-83

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Solicitor General.)


said, he did not propose to offer any opposition to the Motion for going into Committee on the Bill; but he desired to take that opportunity of expressing his regret that the Government had thought it necessary to introduce the measure. He believed that the supposed necessity for it had not been experienced, and that the Bill was prematurely brought in; he thought also that the Preamble of the Bill was open to the most serious objection. Now, so far from thinking, as he had heard it said, that this Bill was no reflection upon the Bankruptcy Act of last Session, he thought, on the contrary, that this Bill undid one of the most valuable parts of the work done by the Standing Committee in the course of the discussion on the provisions on the Bankruptcy Bill. One of those provisions was to provide one General Court of Appeal for bankruptcy cases. Instead of allowing the country bankruptcy cases from County Courts to go first before the Judge, and afterwards to a Court of Appeal, thereby making a double Court of Appeal for country cases for every district, except London, they had established, as they thought, a General Court of Appeal. Well, then, before that system was brought into operation, this Bill was introduced, and the reason alleged was a supposed block in the Court of Appeal. He thought it would have been worth while to show whether the bringing of appeals from County Courts made such an addition to the work of the Court of Appeal as to render this Bill necessary. At present, they had experienced nothing of this kind; it was purely a matter of surmise. He did not believe that the Act would cast any additional work on the Court of Appeal; because, tinder the old system, the County Court Bankruptcy appeals were heard in London, and the Court by sitting one day a-week was able to get through all the County Court appeals, and, at the same time, to do a large portion of the business of the London Court. Therefore, he thought that the supposed necessity for the Bill, on the ground of additional labour being cast upon the Court of Appeal, had not been made out. But the provisions of the Bill seemed to be open to more or less serious objection; it was proposed that all appeals from County Courts in bankruptcy matters should go to a Court composed of the Chief Judge in Bankruptcy and another Judge in the same Division. Well, he believed that to be a perfectly illusory proposal; it was nothing more than an appeal to the Chief Judge in Bankruptcy. The Chief Judge was, of course, a Judge who had the greatest experience in bankruptcy, and to whom any one of his colleagues would naturally defer; and, therefore, he said that the appeal under the Bill would be merely an appeal to the Chief Judge, who would, in fact, be sitting alone. Under the old system, there was at least an appeal to the Court of Appeal; but, under this Bill, it was proposed that there should be no appeal to the Court of Appeal, unless the Chief Judge gave leave. Therefore, unless the Chief Judge felt sufficient hesitation about his decision, leave would not be granted. His (Mr. Davey's) impression was, that this system would be found intolerable by the people who had to go to County Courts for jurisdiction in bankruptcy, and that Parliament would be asked before long to recur to what he had thought a Standing Committee had established last year—namely, one uniform Court of Appeal for the country. He did not propose to ask the House to divide against the Motion for going into Committee, particularly at that late hour (2.15 A.M.); but he could not allow that stage to be taken without at least expressing his humble opinion that there was no necessity for the Bill before them.


said, he supposed the House was bound to take the assurance of Her Majesty's Government that there was a necessity for this Bill, on the ground of there being a block of business in the Court of Appeal. It seemed to him to be rather a hand-to-mouth proceeding to transfer, in this way, business from one Court to another, the effect of which could only be to create another block. Under the present system, the Judge who presided over the Court of Bankruptcy was sent out on Circuit, and the result was a block in that Court, which was entirely due to the Judge's absence. He hoped before the debate closed that they should have some assurance from the hon. and learned Solicitor General that the Government intended to make an arrangement which would render it unnecessary to allow that Judge to go on Circuit, and, at the same time, make it unnecessary to institute another Court of Appeal.


said, there was considerable force in the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Christ-church (Mr. Horace Davey). He (Mr. Warton) himself strongly objected to the idea of the Court of Appeal proposed to be established; one reason being that the one Judge associated with the Chief Judge would probably agree with him, and, if he did not, he would hardly like to express dissent from him. They knew well what had taken place when the appeal was to a Chief Judge and two other Judges. Lord Penzance said that it was well known that two ordinary Judges would not venture to put their opinion against his; and he (Mr. Warton) was equally sure that one ordinary Judge would not venture to put his opinion against the Chief Judge. It appeared to have been forgotten that the second Judge on the Court of Appeal was to be taken from some other Court, the result of which would be that one of the Law Courts would, some day, be closed to suitors, on the ground that the Judge was sitting as a Court of Appeal in Bankruptcy. The Bill would have the effect of removing one block and creating another. It was a very strange thing, after all they had heard about Standing Committees, to find that their sole success—the Bankruptcy Bill—no sooner came into operation than it created a block of business, particularly as, on account of that Bill, the Standing Committee had received so much praise for the work it had gone through. He did not like the principle of the Judge giving leave to appeal from his own decisions, which, he believed, by degrees would give rise to a vicious system. Appeal, in his opinion, ought to be a matter of right, and not a matter of law.


said, he would point out that the Bill assimilated the appeal from the Bankruptcy County Court Judge to the appeal in other cases. No objection had been taken to the Bill when it was read a second time, and he had heard of no objection being taken to it since.

Question put, and agreed, to.

Bill considered in Committee.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.