HC Deb 20 April 1891 vol 352 cc935-7

Order for Second Reading read.

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

(4.34.) MR. COGHILL (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Although this Bill appears to be a very innocent measure, it really embodies a policy the reverse of that which has been adopted in past years. It is said that there is not sufficient accommodation in the present Courts of Justice. May I remind the House what the sittings of the Courts amount to? For four months in the year, during the vacations, there are no Courts sitting, for another four months there are very few sitting, and in the remaining four months there are nearly always one or two of the Judges away. I do not suppose the Attorney General will find that there are six days in the year in which all the Courts are -sitting. This is an attempt to give greater jurisdiction to the City. If the Royal Courts had been erected 150 yards further East, so as to come within the boundaries of the City, 1 do not suppose we should ever have heard of this Bill. It is simply an attempt to give the City a certain amount of prestige which does not properly belong to it.

(4.36.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

I think the Government have taken a very unwise course with regard to this Bill. I have read the two Acts which aro said to render it necessary; but if the Bill is necessary in London it is necessary everywhere else. In my -opinion the measure is of a dangerous character, in view of the arguments that can be based upon it elsewhere. Take the case of the City of Cork. A fire occurred in the Court Houses there, and a number of gentlemen were on trial. The Court was removed to a school house in another portion of the city, and of the gentlemen on trial some were acquitted, and with regard to some there was a disagreement. It is quite open to the argument, that if this Bill is necessary in regard to London it was necessary in that case. In the year 1881 there was a fire in the Court House at Carrick-onShannon, and the Court room was only shifted. Once lay down the proposition that in order to create invalidity at Common Law it is necessary to have an Act of Parliament, and all kinds of arguments may be used for applying that proposition in civil or criminal matters. If anyone reads the two Acts on which this Act is supposed to be founded, he must come to the conclusion that, at any rate, there is nothing in those Acts prohibiting the removal of the Courts. I consider that a hasty step of this kind ought not to be taken by Her Majesty's Government unless it has been fully approved of by a large body of opinion, not only on the Bench but among the practitioners who practise at the Royal Courts. As far as we understand, no necessity has arisen for the Bill. I protest against a step of such gravity being taken without a word from the Attorney General, as the head of the profession in England.

(4.41.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER, Isle of Wight)

I can only repeat the explanation I gave the other night. Great difficulty has been experienced in accommodating all the Judges in the Royal Courts of Justice when the services of all are available, which is only for a very small part of the year. It has been suggested that some Judges might sit for a limited time in the City; but a doubt has been raised whether there is statutory power to issue a Commission to try cases in London. The Bill applies to London only, and the corresponding question does not arise in the Cork case, because the Court removes only from one part of the county to another. When the Act under which the new Courts were constructed was passed, no part of the building was brought into the City of London. It is, therefore, proposed that at the beginning of each sitting the Judges should sit for a limited time in London to try London cases. I say there has been a doubt raised as to whether there is power to issue a Commission to try cases in the City of London, and this Bill is to remove the doubt. It gives no new power, so far as my own opinion is concerned, and in some quarters it is held to be unnecessary. I need not point out, however, how extremely desirable it is that when a trial takes place there should be no question raised about it afterwards.

(4.43.) The House divided:—Ayes 237; Noes 64.—(Div. List, No. 141.)

Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow, at Two of the clock.