HC Deb 10 August 1896 vol 44 cc455-6

It shall be lawful for the Attorney General to apply to the High Court for an Order under this Act, and if he satisfies the High Court that any person has habitually and persistently instituted vexatious legal proceedings without any reasonable ground for instituting such proceedings, whether in the High Court or in any inferior Court, and whether against the same person or against different persons, the Court may, after hearing such person or giving him an opportunity of being heard, order that no legal proceedings shall be instituted by that person in the High Court or any other Court, unless he obtains the leave of the High Court or some judge thereof, and satisfies the Court or Judge that such legal proceeding is not an abuse of the process of the Court, and that there is prima facie ground for such proceeding.

*MR. J. F. OSWALD (Oldham)

moved the omission of the clause, because he thought that the Bill established a principle unknown to the English law. For the first time in the history of Parliament a Bill had been brought in practically shutting the doors of all Courts of Justice to particular subjects of the Queen, and that because one individual had made himself somewhat obnoxious in bringing proceedings. The Court already possessed powers to stop proceedings which might be considered to be vexatious. He was opposed to officialism—[laughter]—and he objected on behalf of the people of this country to a Bill which established that the Attorney General, himself an official, might come to the Court and make an application to shut the doors of the Courts to the whole of her Majesty's subjects, because Her Majesty's subjects were naturally inclined to be litigious. [Laughter.] The Bill ought to be most carefully considered, and it was not a Measure which ought to be thrust on the country at the last moment of an expiring Session. The Courts of Justice ought to be open to all. This clause actually proposed that a Judge of the High Court, on the application of the Attorney General, should have the power to shut the doors of any inferior Court against any particular person. If an application had to be made it ought to be made to each separate Court. He was opposed to the clause because it infringed the first principle of public justice, namely, that it should be free to all alike. The Queen's Courts were public Courts, and all classes of litigants were entitled to free and unimpeded access thereto. The clause might lead to abuse; the courts had already ample power to summarily and inexpensively stop any vexatious or frivolous action.

Question put, "That Clause 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 144; Noes, 41.—(Division List, No. 405.)

Clause 2,—