HC Deb 07 July 1885 vol 298 cc1913-34

(2.)£71,135, to complete the sum for Law Charges.


said, he rose to ask for some information with regard to the fees paid to the Attorney General and Solicitor General. The sum charged for the Law Officers of the Crown under the head of fees for non-contentious business was severally £7,000 and £6,000 per annum. He wished to ask the Attorney General what was the amount paid last year to the Attorney General and Solicitor General in respect of business that was of a contentious character; and what other fees were payable to those legal Gentlemen over and above the contentious and non-contentious business? Then there was another point on which, if possible, he desired to have some information. A very large sum was annually paid for the Public Prosecutor, and he should be glad if the hon. and learned Gentleman would state how many public prosecutions there had been during the last 12 months. Further, he would like to have some explanation of the item printed in italics—"Editor of Irish Ante Union Statutes £400"—how far the work had been carried?


said, he regretted that he must plead ignorance in respect of almost the whole of the questions raised by the hon, Member, a circum- stance due to the fact of his having for so short a time held his present Office; but he did not doubt that some other Gentleman on the Treasury Bench would be able to give the hon. Member the information he desired.


in answer to the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Molloy), said, the Committee would probably be aware that an important change had been made with respect to the Office of Public Prosecutor, which was now merged in the Solicitor to the Treasury. Ho was unable to state how many public prosecutions had taken place within the last 12 months, but would make inquiry and communicate the result to the hon. Member. He was informed that the number of such prosecutions in the last three years was about 8,000. An increase would probably arise under the new Act of Parliament and Regulations, which would make it the duty of the authorities of police districts to furnish an account of offences committed in each district to the Public Prosecutor in order that he might decide what cases should be taken up or not, and keep some kind of chock upon the work. He was informed that the work of editing the Irish Statutes referred to by the hon. Member had been completed, and that, therefore, no change was necessary.

Vote agreed to.

(3.)£109,135, to complete the sum for Criminal Prosecutions, Sheriffs' Expenses, &c.


said, he observed by the Estimate that the amount of charge for criminal prosecutions in the shape of repayments to counties and boroughs was for the forthcoming year £140,000, as against £145,000 in the year 188–. It would be extremely satisfactory to the Committee to find that there was some diminution of charge in this respect, and he might remind hon. Members that there was also a diminution of charge in the previous year 188–. He had taken the opportunity last year, when this Vote was under discussion, of calling attention to a matter connected with the Vote from a financial point of view; and he had pointed out that the cost of prosecutions at the Sessions, as compared with the cost of prosecutions at the Assizes, was about one-half. But after discussion had taken place on the matter he had had the advantage, by the kindness of his hon. Friend the then Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney), of seeing a Return which stowed him that his own experience in this matter had led him to a wrong conclusion, and he found that the real difference was as between nearly one and three, instead of one and two, the difference between the two descriptions of trials being, of course, due to the heavy expenses at, the Assizes which did not arise at the Session0. Although it was, of course, gratifying to find that there was a diminution in the charge, ho did not think that diminution was at all proportionate to the number of cases tried this year as compared with the year before. He could not help thinking that the reason why the diminution was not very much greater arose from an evil which Her Majesty's Government might remedy—that was to say, the unfortunate practice which had lately sprung up of the Judges trying Sessional cases. The expense occasioned by that to the country was very great; and he would, with the permission of the Committee, give an instance from his own experience of what took place. The Judges, for their own convenience, went down to places and held Assizes without any regard to the public convenience at all. At the last Winter Assizes at Manchester the Judges who went there had 72 cases for trial, 56 of which were Sessions cases. That practice had been adopted to a very considerable extent. Of course it might be said that eases might be better tried by the Judges than by Recorders, and other Judges of an inferior status. But he objected to this new rule of the Judges trying all the prisoners in gaol, whether committed for trial at the Sessions or at the Assizes. He thought that another course ought to be adopted. Either the jurisdiction should be taken away from the Sessions, or the Judges should not be allowed to try this vast number of Sessi6onal cases as they did at present. He was glad that they had in the present Home Secretary a Gentleman familiar with those matters, and he was sure that they would all be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if he would turn his attention to this practice. Everyone connected with the Northern Circuit would recognize that the right hon. Gentleman was extremely well qualified to deal with it; and he trusted that he would be able to apply same remedy to an evil that was, he believed, generally admitted.


said, he wished briefly to point out that the delay of legal business in London was very great, in consequence of the Circuit arrangement of the Judges. He had intended to go into that matter more fully; but, understanding that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken intended to deal with it at a later stage, and feeling that the question would he better handled by him, ha should postpone the remarks he had to make upon it.


said, he ventured to detain the Committee for a short time while he drew attention to the Petitions presented to that House from many counties complaining not so much of Sessional cases being tried at the Assizes, but of the very great hardship which all those connected with the administration of the Criminal Law were exposed to by there being four Assizes every year, at which grand jurors, common jurors, and witnesses had to attend, although, as was very frequently the case, there were only two or three cases to be tried. He himself, last Thursday, was on the Grand Jury for the county he had the honour to represent (Cambridge), and within three days of the Assizes there were only two cases for trial; and of these two, one was a Quarter Sessions case. He considered it a very great hardship that jurors and witnesses should be called from long distances at all times of the year. He thought that a smaller number of Assizes, as was the system before the last change, would be sufficient to meet the exigencies of the Criminal Law in nearly all the counties of England.


said, that the cause of the arrangement complained of by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Hicks) was the rule under which the Judges had to try a very large number of Quarter Session prisoners. With regard to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. West), it would not be easy to remedy it without legislation.


said, he had not quite understood what was the precise objec- tion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich. His hon. and learned Friend had pointed out that the expenses of trial at the Assizes were greater than the expenses at Quarter Sessions, and he had given an instance of the Winter Assizes at Manchester, in which case the Judges, out of 72 cases for trial, had 5G Quarter Session cases; but, as the hon. and learned Gentleman below him (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) had pointed out, that was due to the Act of Parliament, which required the Judges to deliver the gaols every quarter. Everyone was aware that a trial at the Assizes cost more than a trial at Quarter Sessions, because witnesses had to remain longer in attendance, and the trials, as a rule, occupied more time. But if the present arrangement were changed, and if the Judges did not try Quarter Session cases, the result would be that the prisoners would have to remain in gaol until the next Session, and he did not know that that would be a saving to the country. He did not know how the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. West) made out his case by showing that the prisoners who were not tried at the Sessions were tried at the Assizes.


said, he had intended to give an answer on a subsequent Vote; but, with the permission of the Committee, he would raise the question on this Vote as well as on the subsequent one. He would give an explanation of what his views were as to the existing evil and the remedy that ought to be applied to it—a remedy which ought to be applied to this evil, but which would also prove a remedy for other evils even greater than that of expense. As he had said, he had intended to wait for a subsequent Vote, but—


As the hon. and learned Member has given Notice of a Motion in reference to this subject under a subsequent Vote, it would be more in Order for him to wait for that Vote.


Certainly, Sir; I will abide by your ruling and wait for the subsequent Vote.


said, he should like to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Sir R. Assheton Cross) on a subject which the hon. and learned Gentleman the late Solicitor General, whom he saw in his place opposite (Sir Farrer Herschell), would remember was raised last year. He wished to know whether steps had been taken to insure the 1rial of all the prisoners awaiting trial when the Judge opened the Assizes in a town? He believed that the Judge had gone down to Lewes to try prisoners. Having sat several days, although there were still several prisoners untried, the Assizes were adjourned, and the remaining prisoners were sent back to gaol to be tried on a future day. It had been stated by the late Attorney General (Sir Henry James) that this state of things was going to be remedied. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) would ask whether provision had been made so that when a Judge went to try prisoners at an Assize in any town he would try all who were there before going to other towns?


I was under the impression that a Judge was bound to try all the prisoners awaiting trial. I cannot understand how a case such as that referred to by the hon. and gallant Baronet can arise, and I will promise to make inquiries in the matter.

Vote agreed to.

(4.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £291,673, 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 1886, for such of the Salaries and Expenses of the Supreme Court of Judicature as are not charged on the Consolidated fund.


said, he rose to move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £5,000. He did that because he took that to be, roughly—he did not pretend to have the right amount—the sum that enabled the Government to employ one of the chief clerks and his staff in the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice. He desired, in moving this reduction, to call attention to the unsatisfactory, and, as he thought, wasteful mode in which the business of the Chancery Division was in this respect conducted. The Committee were, no doubt, aware that the Chancery Division consisted of live Judges. All of those Judges had attached to their Courts a staff, consisting of a chief clerk and his officers. Well, the Judges had different degrees of aptitude. They were all very eminent and very learned men; but one Judge would, unhappily or happily, as the case might he, go through his work a great deal faster than another Judge. He (Mr. Ince) was not talking entirely without warrant. He had looked into the matter and had ascertained—and here he might say that, for obvious reasons, it was not possible for him to give names—that at a period in the present year, whilst one Judge was disposing of 11 witness cases, another had got through 30 or 40. And, so far as he could discover, the cases, which were not tried by witnesses in Court which came before those two Judges were in about the same ratio. The result of that, and other causes combined, was that in some of the Chambers of the Judges there was a large amount of work, and in others a smaller amount. This difference in the amount of work from time to time did not arise from temporary causes, and yet every Judge had precisely the same staff and precisely the same number of clerks and assistant clerks. Now, he ventured to suggest to the Committee that a much more rational and reasonable plan would be to make the chief clerks chief clerks to the Court generally without being attached to any particular Judge. In that way the business would be distributed equally amongst them; and here, again, he would give the Committee an instance to show that he was not speaking without book. Again, he would ask them to excuse him, for obvious reasons, for not mentioning names. There was lately, in one of the Courts of Chancery, a nuisance case, which, he believed, affected, in some way or other, the private residence of one of the chief clerks—at all events, he was very much interested in the case. To his (Mr. Ince's) knowledge, this hard-working gentleman contrived to be 18 days in attendance in Court in order to be present during the hearing of this case. No doubt, suitors were not damnified by this gentleman's absence from his official post. Doubtless, someone else did a little more work in order to supply the place of this chief clerk; but the moral of the thing was this—that sometimes in one Division they had too many men to do the work, whilst in another Division they had not men enough. If they equalized the work, so to speak, and appointed a certain number of clerks to the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice without attaching them to individual Judges, no one would be overwhelmed with work, and no one would be underworked. They could not do that at once; but he was sure that, in course of time, they would be able to reduce the present staff. The course he suggested would enable the Government of the day to effect another and a greater improvement, which there could be no doubt, as regarded the actual trial of cases and final disposition of matters in dispute between plaintiff and defendant in each particular case, was very much delayed in Chancery. It was clear that they could not dispense with a single Judge. On the contrary, he was of opinion that they needed an additional Judge. If they adopted the course he suggested they would derive from it this advantage—that they would be able to always spare a Judge to sit in Chambers and to keep control over the officials there. This system would, furthermore, enable them to hand over to Chambers many matters now disposed of in Court—matters which now came on in the shape of motions, and which cost a vast sum of money. Those matters, instead of costing many pounds, could be settled for a few shillings. He would give an instance of what he meant. The Attorney General would, he was sure, accede to the accuracy of what he was about to say. There was a class of cases that many Members of that House were acquainted with which were known as "patent cases." When a patent case came on the first thing done was to move for an injunction. The Court invariably granted that injunction unless the patent in question was an old one, or one that could be easily established. But yet they always had, solemnly, a motion for an injunction, and on that motion a leading counsel was briefed, a junior counsel was briefed, and there was brought in a sort of expert counsel on one side which necessitated the bringing in of an expert counsel on the other side. Well, the point to be decided by all this array of legal talent was one which could be settled by two lawyer's clerks in Chambers at a cost of a few pounds. Under the present process a motion for an injunction cost something like £100 or £200. If they had a Judge constantly sitting in Chambers they might relegate to him a great deal of business, and thus relieve the Court of Chancery which, nine times out of ten, was occupied with interlocutory proceedings, and endeavouring to see how not to decide the matter in hand. Those cases would, by Judges being liberated from these matters, go as quickly as possible to trial by action. He commended those views to the Committee, as he believed that a vast saving might be effected in connection with Chambers and the internal arrangements of the Courts. There were many details that it would not be right for him to go into, and which he would not go into—there was a vast deal of technical matter which would have to be gone into in order to render the matter intelligible to the Committee. He would content himself with saying this—that, having taken some pains to investigate the matter, from his knowledge he could say that there was a vast amount of saving to be brought about by the system he advocated—that was to say, if the whole of the chief clerks were made one body, and Chambers were left for a particular Judge. They would improve their administration of justice by allowing one Judge to be always sitting in Chambers disposing of interlocutory matters cheaply and easily. In that way they would do that which he confessed, to his regret and shame, was greatly required in the Chancery Division—they would be expediting the hearing of cases. He moved the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £5,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £286,673, 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 1886, for such of the Salaries and Expenses of the Supreme Court of Judicature as are not charged on the Consolidated Fund."—(Mr. Ince.)


said, he thought it would save time if his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Ince) would allow him to interpose for a minute, because the question raised was undoubtedly one of considerable importance. It was whether chief clerks should be engaged for all the Judges together, or remain, as at present, attached to particular Judges, one Judge retaining a cause with his chief clerk throughout. There was a deal to be said for his hon. and learned Friend's view, and there would be, in one way, a great deal of advantage in appointing chief clerks and their staffs for the whole of the Judges. But, on the other hand, there was a great deal to be said for the other system—for a Judge having the same chief clerk, who would be familiar with the business which had been brought before him, and would be able to remind him of circumstances attending cases. He (Sir Farrer Herschell) did not wish to express an opinion one way or the other; but he thought it would save time if he stated that the question had been under the consideration of a Committee appointed by the late Lord Chancellor, over which the Master of the Rolls had, for a considerable time, presided. He felt sure that the Committee would think that, until they had a Report from that Committee, they were not in a position to discuss the subject.


said, he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would not press his Amendment, as the matter was one of much difficulty, and his proposal would give rise to a good deal of confusion, and, if he did, great antagonism would be caused. He (Mr. Gregory) was not wedded to the system the hon. and learned Gentleman proposed. He thought it was more desirable to keep chief clerks in touch with the Judges to whom they belonged than to associate them with the Judges collectively. One thing which made the Court of Chancery efficient was that the Judge had control over his chief clerk, and that the suitor had ready access to him.


said, that, before the Vote was put to the Committee, he wished to ask whether there was any prospect of certain items, which he would mention, being either omitted or reduced? He saw, under the heading "Personal Officers of the Judges," such items as "Secretary of Presentations, £400;" "Secretary of Presentations for Expenses of Office, 3 and 4 Will. IV. c. 84, s. 4, £50;" "Secretary of Presentations for Expenses of Office of Clerk of Dispensations and Faculties, 3 & 4 Will. IV. c. 84, s. 4, £50." Who were those Secretaries of Presentations—what were their functions? Then there was an item, "Pursebearer and Clerk of the Chamber, £400." Was he a necessary official—what did he do? There was another questionable item, "Trainbearer, £200;" another, "Messenger of the Great Seal;" and another, under the head of "Chancery Division," "Clerk of the Petty Bag." Other items were for "second-class clerks" and "third-class clerks." Surely they should have modern phraseology for appointments entailing payments of this kind. There should be something, at any rate, to account for what appeared to him to be a mass of medieval rubbish. He did not know who those appointments were reserved for—whether, for instance, such a man as the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) was going to be made "Messenger of the Great Seal."


said, he rose to move a reduction of the Vote.


The hon. and learned Member for Hastings (Mr. Ince) has not withdrawn his Amendment.


said, he should perhaps be voted a nuisance by the Committee if he pressed his Motion to a division. He must say, however, that he was not satisfied with the explanation that the matter was "under consideration." To his own knowledge, it had been under consideration nine months, and he did not know how much longer it was likely to remain so. The recent change which had transferred the Liberal Party to the Opposition side of the House would not tend to hasten matters, and there would doubtless now be fresh meetings of the Judges and reconsiderations. His hon. and learned Friend opposite the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) would have to be taken into counsel, and he was afraid it would be some considerable time before any result would be arrived at. If he thought he could do good thereby he should certainly go to a division. As to the statement made by an hon. Member opposite (Mr. Gregory) with regard to the chief clerks being "in touch" with the Judges, he thought there was a great deal of superstition talked about that. The hon. Gentleman must remember that a Judge in Chancery had not merely one or two or a dozen cases to attend to. He had scores of cases to dispose of; and to suppose that in his leisure moments he was always thinking of the matters he had to dispose of in his Chambers, and discussing those matters with his chief clerk, was to suppose him to be a much more simpleminded man than one generally found by experience that he was. The active superintendance of a Judge over a particular case was one of those nonsensical ideas which were handed down from time to time, and were not worth consideration. It was absurd to suppose that the Judges were in the habit of talking over cases with their chief clerks for the purpose of refreshing their minds and keeping themselves alive as to the progress of certain cases; and even if they did that his contention was that the plan he recommended would be the better, inasmuch as a Judge would be likely to reap more advantage from having fresh minds and fresh intelligence brought to bear upon the matters he was considering. He begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.


said, the Vote the reduction of which he was about to propose was a comparatively new one. It was one which the Committee was not familiar with, as it had only arisen within the past few years, and he thought it required some explanation. On page 198 they would see the item, "G. Circuit Allowances and Expenses, £16,680." One part of this was new, and this year was £6,500 as against £2,500 last year, a substancial increase, which, no doubt, could be easily explained in some way or other. It was not to that part of the case which he wished to call attention. He desired to direct the attention of the Committee to this new Vote. The way it had arisen he believed to be this. No doubt, the Committee were aware that in former days the Judges were paid from the ordinary revenues of the Crown; and that in the Reign of William IV. an Act was passed fixing their salaries. Those salaries had since that time been in several instances considerably reduced; but the salaries of the ordinary puisne Judges had been fixed at £5,000, at which sum they, nominally, remained at the present time, for none of the intermediate changes which had taken place bore on the question of the salaries of what were called the puisne Judges. The salaries were fixed at that sum on the understanding that each of the Judges appointed at that time should go two Cir- cuits a-year and pay his own expenses out of his own pocket; and it had been calculated as a rough kind of estimate that that would cost him £500 a-year, and, therefore, that his net salary would be £4,500 a-year. After that, as many hon. Members were aware, the number of Circuits was increased from two to three, and then from three to four, in the course of the year. Then it was thought desirable that as the salaries of the Judges had been fixed on the calculation that they were only to go two Circuits a-year, their salaries were so fixed by Parliament—in 1876 he thought—as to cover the expenses they were put to in the two extra Circuits. After that the Judicature Act passed. It was considered necessary that all the Judges should go on Circuit—one or two exceptions being made with which he need not trouble the Committee. That arrangement was carried out for some time. It was found to be extremely inconvenient, however, for gentlemen of great experience at the Chancery Bar who were appointed Judges; though very good Judges for Chancery business, they were not so well able to deal with criminal matters or Nisi Prius cases, as gentlemen of experience in those branches of the Profession. It was, therefore, found to be advantageous that Common Law Judges should go on Circuit and that Equity Judges should not. Then there arose this difficulty. Common Law Judges naturally said—"It is rather hard that we should be compelled to go on Circuit and receive only £5,000, without having our expenses paid for us, whilst the Chancery Judges, who do not go on Circuit, receive the same salary—virtually £500 more than we." An arrangement was made with these Common Law Judges, the nature of which he would explain. It did not seem to occur to the Judges, when they came to consider the question of these salaries, that one way to equalize them would be to reduce the salaries of those who did not go on Circuit to £4,500 and keep the salaries of those who did at £5,000. They took the other view and said—"Do not level down, but level up, and let the Common Law Judges have the expenses of all the Circuits paid for them." He could not help thinking that that ought to have been done openly and in an Act of Parliament, if done at all. He did not think it consistent with the character of the Judges to make a bargain with the Secretary to the Treasury for the time being by which they obtained an addition of £500 a-year to their salaries. That, however, was what they did. Those old enough to remember Lord Denman and the Judges of his day, would not be able to understand the possibility of any of them going privately to the Government to arrange for an addition to their salaries. No doubt, in the ease he was referring to, the addition to the Vote necessary in consequence of the increase was discussed in the House of Commons; but it was not brought forward in the regular way in the form of a Bill. He thought it would have been better if the additional payment had been made on a distinct footing. An arrangement, of which he could not approve, had been made, whereby a certain sum per day was now paid to the Judges on Circuit for their expenses. He did not complain of the expenditure on the administration of justice. He did not think they should administer it too cheaply, or should attempt to administer it too cheaply; but what he did say was that he should be able to show to demonstration that the public had lost considerably in the conveniences accorded to them by the Judges in consequence of this arrangement. In the first place, it was not a dignified way to pay the Judges to pay them by the day. In the first place, it led persons of vulgar minds, who believed that Judges were liable to the same temptations as ordinary mortals, to think that they prolonged the Circuits unnecessarily. There could be no doubt, whatever the cause of it might be—and he should be corroborated on this point by Members on all sides of the House—that the Circuits had become extraordinarily prolonged since those daily allowances were given. He would give an illustration of that. When he was young, and when his two hon. and learned Friends opposite first went on Circuit, the Judges always sat at 9 o'clock in the morning. Well, he would call attention to the Assizes held at Manchester last winter—for one example was better than 1,000 general statements. The Judge there had been in the habit of sitting at half-past 10 o'clock in the morning, a circumstance which had increased the length of the Assizes, and had put all the parties brought together to great inconvenience. He knew very well there was an answer to that—the answer that Charles Lamb gave to his employers when he was employed by the South Sea Commissioners—he being a clerk in the office of the Commissioners. Lamb had become extremely irregular in his hours of attendance, and at last the Commissioners felt themselves bound to call upon him for an explanation. Those gentlemen liked him—as we all liked the Judges—and were reluctant to find fault with him; but his irregularities were so serious that they felt bound at last to take notice of them. They said to him—"We are obliged to complain to you about your attendance, it is so irregular; we must call your attention to it." In a way that was characteristic, he replied—"I must confess I do come down very late indeed in the morning; but, then, I always go away very early in the afternoon." The Judges had that excuse, no doubt. As they now sat later in the morning, they rose much earlier in the afternoon than they used to do formerly. Let him show the Committee how that system operated. Before he did that he would quote a great authority for the proposition he would make, which he thought should be adopted. After the Judicature Act was passed, Earl Cairns—whose loss all law reformers deeply deplored—thought that a great object would be gained if all Circuits and local sittings of Courts could be fixed at the commencement of the year, and included in a Calendar. The noble and learned Earl had been unable to carry the good object he had in view into effect. The late Government wished to carry it out, and, therefore, under several Acts of Parliament they advised Her Majesty to pass an Order in Council on the 26th of June in last year. In the observations he was about to make on that Order in Council, he did not wish it to be supposed that he thought that Order was a well-considered or a wise one. He did not think it was a good scheme, but it had become the law of the land. What did it say—and he would here, again, beg pardon of the Committee if he happened to speak of one part of the country only. He believed that other parts could be referred to, but he limited himself to that part with which he was specially familiar. With regard to the Order in Council of the 26th of June, he especially drew the attention of the Attorney General to the matter, because, though, he was not going to ask him to give an opinion against the Judges, he could not help thinking that they had rendered themselves liable to an indictment for breach of the Order. No doubt his hon. and learned Friend, who would defend them, would find some words at the end of the Order which would defeat any indictment which might be brought against the Judges for having violated the Order. The Order said— The Assizes shall be held at Manchester and Liverpool at times to be fixed, as far as may be practicable and the business to be done may allow, according to the scheme of the second Schedule hereto attached for the Summer and Winter Assizes. That Schedule stated that these dates should be February 15th at Manchester and March 1st at Liverpool. There was a note at the end stating that the dates might be altered by the Judges at a meeting held for the purpose of fixing dates. He was sure his hon. and learned Friend, whose candour he relied upon, would not for a moment contend that it was for the convenience of the public that the dates of the Assizes in Manchester and Liverpool contained in the Schedule of the Order in Council were altered in the way he was about to mention. The dates were altered in direct opposition to and in violation of that Order in Council. The Judges were determined not to obey that Order in Council, which he supposed had been prepared by persons for whom they had no great respect. The Judges deliberately met together, and, instead of fixing the Assizes as they were bound to fix them according to the Order in Council, they fixed them quite differently. The consequence of that in South Lancashire was that the public experienced very great inconvenience. The public naturally assumed, in the absence of any reason to the contrary, that the Assizes would be held in accordance with the Order in Council—would be held on the days appointed in that Order. He (Mr. West) himself, even with his experience of Judges and the law, had certainly thought that on the first occasion on which the new law came into operation it would be obeyed by their Lordships. He had the honour of holding several Courts of some importance in Lancashire, and he had fixed the dates of his sittings in accordance with the Order in Council. He was sorry to detain the Committee, hut this was really a most important matter as affecting the administration of justice throughout Lancashire. On the 22nd of December—and he hoped hon. Gentlemen would mark the date—there appeared in the newspapers an announcement to the effect that the Judges had decided to hold Assizes at Manchester on the 24th of January—in direct violation not only of the words of the Order in Council, but of the meaning of that Order, which was that the Judges who went on the Northern Circuits should not start until the other Judges had finished their Circuits, so that the whole of the Judges might not be away from London at the same time. What was the consequence? Why, as everyone familiar with the matter was aware, the 22nd of December, the date on which the announcement appeared, was on the eve of the Christmas holidays. How was it possible that people could be ready to go on with cases on the 24th of January? He ought to add that his Court was appointed to be held on the 9th of February, in order to enable the Judges to hold their Assizes, which should have been held on the 15th of February, and so have enabled him to clear the gaol for the prisoners who came to be tried before the Judges. As it was, he had been unable to clear his Court. When the Judges came down, only 56 out of a total of 72 prisoners had been tried, and the Judges managed to spin the period of their stay to over a fortnight. Naturally enough, that circumstance excited a considerable amount of attention and discussion in Lancashire, and he was given to understand that it had been alleged by someone in defence of the Judges that they had acted for the convenience of the public, and not for their own convenience. For that reason he had taken the trouble to investigate the matter. The Judges who thus altered the law and made this change would, one would have thought, have consulted some person capable of giving an opinion on the question of public convenience. As he said, he had made inquiries on this head, and he had been informed that the Chairman of Quarter Sessions in Lancashire was never consulted, nor was the Recorder of Liverpool. He (Mr. West), holding two Courts in Manchester, was never consulted, and the Mayor of Manchester was never consulted. He understood that the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) was consulted, as well as another gentleman, but their advice was not taken. So far as he could learn, that was all the consultation which took place. More than that, the Assizes sat on Saturday, and the Grand Jury and the Petty Jury being summoned on that day enormous inconvenience was occasioned to the public. All that inconvenience, so far as he knew, was wholly and solely occasioned out of consideration for the convenience of particular Judges. He hoped that in making those observations it would not be supposed that he was referring to all the Judges. He was very much obliged to the Committee for allowing him to address them at such great length; but he did think that there were no more ill-used people in the country than the unfortunate litigants. They never knew when the Assizes were coming on, or when they were likely to be called upon to try their cases. He considered that to be an injustice, and he hoped that a settlement would be arrived at some way or other. He was quite sure that if the Judges were not paid those large sums for Circuit expenses, and were not paid at all unless they fixed the Circuit to suit the convenience of the public rather than their own personal convenience, much good would come of it. He begged to move that the Vote be reduced by £4,000.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £287,673, 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 1886, for such of the Salaries and Expenses of the Supreme Court of Judicature as are not charged on the Consolidated Fund."—(Mr. West.)


said, he did not think that any useful purpose would be served, certainly at that time, if they followed his hon. and learned Friend through all the various matters he had gone into. The hon. and learned Gentleman was no doubt aware that, as far as the system which he had complained of was in force, it was in consequence of the Treasury Minute of June, 1884, and he could not think that that Minute was made without due consideration. The present occasion was not the time to go into the general question as to the grounds upon which the Minute was made. With respect to the particular transactions of last February, to which his hon. and learned Friend had referred, he did not think there was any real grievance to complain of. He had no doubt that after consultation amongst the Judges it was found necessary to fix certain days, and that that was done to the best of their ability and with a view to the convenience of all parties. He did not think, therefore, that attacks should be made on Her Majesty's Judges or on a particular Judge, in this manner, for having made certain fixtures, or that it should be suggested that the arrangements were made solely with a view to the personal convenience of any Judge.


said, if that was not a proper occasion to bring on a matter of this sort he did not know what was. All those Rules and Regulations for the guidance of the Judges were based on Treasury Minutes. The hon. and learned Member seemed to think that the salaries of the Judges should be cut down; but he (Mr. A. O'Connor) did not think so at all. He did not consider that the Judges were too highly paid when the nature and the importance of the offices they filled were taken into consideration. For instance, an Attorney General received more than the Judges, and a minor Secretary of State got as much as any of them. Some time ago, Mr. Digby Seymour proposed in the country a system which seemed to him to be a very reasonable one. He proposed that the country should be divided into districts, and that a Recorder, with similar powers as those possessed by the Recorder of London, should be appointed over each district, thus saving the expense and inconvenience of the periodical departure of the Judges into the country. By that means the Judges would get rid of those small cases for which at present the suitors at the Law Courts suffered. Under the present system, it was impossible also for a suitor to know when his case was coming on. If anyone looked at the list, they would see that there was a miscellaneous sort of business before each Judge which went on each week. On one day there would be petitions, on another cases with juries or cases without juries. Then, again, it sometimes happened that 50 witness cases were transferred from one Judge to another, and later on they were transferred back again to the first Judge. By that process it might occasionally happen that cases which stood very low down on the list, came on first, in consequence of those cases which were before them having been transferred. He knew of one particular case in which a cause was listed and transferred backwards and forwards in that way for many months. The grievance was that the amount of expense which suitors were put to by those delays was out of all proportion to the interest involved. Under the present system, moreover, great expense was caused in regard to motions. As the senior members of the Bar had certain rights of priority in bringing on motions, younger men had no chance, and the consequence was that the whole of the work came into the hands of a few men, and ridiculously high expenses were charged for the simplest matters. If each Judge took motions every day for a certain time, that absurd custom would be got rid of, and those eminent lawyers would be able to be occupying their time with work more worthy of them. Last year the then Attorney General (Sir Henry James) had promised him to make inquiries into the delay which occurred in the Taxing Office; but he was not aware if anything had been done in the matter.


said, an extra Taxing Master had been added to the Office.


remarked that, however that was, nothing seemed to have resulted from the additional appointment, and the delay was the cause of much expense and annoyance to solicitors.


thought it only right, after the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had moved the reduction (Mr. West), that he should make a few remarks as to the departure from the scheme regulating the days of the departure of the Judges for Circuit. On the whole, the regulation had worked well; but it was only meant as a temporary arrangement, and not intended to be a cast-iron rule. It was not in- tended to fix absolutely the dates at which the Judges should go on Circuit, but to fix dates which would indicate the period about which they would take their departure. When the Rule was made, he knew that there were a great many complaints from the members of the Circuit which included Liverpool and Manchester, and with whom he had come in contact. It was in consequence of the difficulties of the work in London that it was thought well to depart from the scheme in some cases. The scheme was really departed from because it was believed that the work could be done very much better by such departure, and not for the convenience of the Judges, as his hon. and learned Friend seemed to believe. Any one day might have been altered for the convenience of an individual Judge; but the alteration in the scheme was certainly not done by one Judge, but with the consent of all the Judges, and it was acquiesced in by the Lord Chancellor. If they were to propose legislation on the subject, they would be met by all sorts of difficulties, and possibly those gentlemen who now complained would be loudest in their criticisms. In the meantime, until they could get a Bill through Parliament, no better arrangement could be made than that which had been made.


entirely agreed with what had fallen from the late Solicitor General (Sir Farrer Herschell); but his point was this, that this Order ought to be adhered to, or repealed if it was not of any use, and not absolutely set at defiance as it was. With regard to legislation, he did not think that any was necessary for it, for if another Order in Council, properly drawn up and considered, were issued, all the difficulties would be got rid of. He was much obliged to the Committee for having listened to him. He did not desire to detain them further, and would not put them to the trouble of a division. He wished to withdraw his Amendment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.


said, his hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers) had pointed to several sinecures included in this Vote, on which he hoped to receive some explanation from the Government. He asked the Attorney General whether he would do his best to suppress the offices to which his hon. Friend had alluded—namely, that of Trainbearer, Pursebearer, and Clerk of the Petty Bag? It was all the more essential that that should be done now, because they had a new Lord Chancellor who would probably be enjoying a pension of £5,000 per annum after the next three months. He did not ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to explain to the Committee what a trainbearer was, but only that he would look into the matter in order to see what offices of that kind could be suppressed. Then there was the charge of £225 for the Preacher of the Rolls Chapel. Could the hon. and learned Gentleman say who the preacher was; whether he preached to the Master of the Rolls, and why they were called on to pay for these religious duties in connection with the Master of the Rolls? Then there was the Clerk of the Petty Bag. It was thoroughly admitted that that clerk had nothing to do, and that he would disappear from the Estimates; but instead of that, it appeared that the charge had increased. Perhaps the Attorney General would excuse him for saying that "a new broom sweeps clean," and for again expressing the hope that he would sweep away some of the sinecures in those Offices.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again To-morrow.


rose to Order. He understood the Clerk to read the third Order of the Day, the second Order not having been disposed of.


In consequence of the Resolution passed this evening, the third Order has precedence, and the remaining Orders follow in their proper sequence.