HC Deb 05 November 1902 vol 114 cc252-4

Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Question [21st October], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

said that, since the Bill was before the House, he had been inquiring as to feeling in regard to it; and he thought that there was a pretty general concensus of opinion in favour of the Bill as a measure to meet an emergency. According to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, the Appeal Court in England was constituted in two divisions with three judges each. Under the Act it was necessary that three judges should sit in the case of a final judgment, but that two judges could hear interlocutory motions, and although the Supreme Court could draw on ex officio judges, it was not intended that they should be brought in except in cases of emergency. With reference to the object of the present Bill, he understood that the Workmen's Compensation Act had caused a considerable block in the Court of Appeal. When the Act was passing through the House they were told that its object was to prevent litigation; but, in the result, it had produced very considerable litigation and a considerable block in the Court of Appeal. The object of the Bill was to enable that Court to sit in three divisions, instead of in two. If the Court sat in three divisions, it would necessarily be, to a certain extent, weaker than it was at present. But he gathered that there was no intention, so far as the present Bill was concerned, to interfere with there being three judges sitting in all cases of final judgment in the Court of Appeal. The difficulty that suggested itself to him was that they often found, when Bills were brought in to meet an emergency, that the Act was taken advantage of to apply it to a great many other cases, for which it was not specially intended. The present Bill was promoted by the Lord Chancellor, and he, of all judges, would be the judge who would have to sit almost continuously, as long as there were three divisions sitting at the one time. Some time ago a Bill was introduced for the purpose of reducing the number of judges who were to sit on final judgments from three to two; but it did not pass. If they could get an assurance to the effect that the present Bill was merely to meet an emergency, and that there was no ulterior object in view, he would not oppose the Second Reading. He might mention that the reason he objected at the first stage to the Bill, was that it was introduced without any explanation, and he thought that in a Bill of this kind, the legal profession should be consulted before the Bill went through the House.


said there was really nothing to be added to what had been said by the hon. Member. The whole effect of the Bill would be to enable the Court of Appeal to sit in three divisions, whereas at present it was confined to sitting in two divisions. The Bill did not contain a word which would enable any one of these three Courts to consist of less than three judges. On the contrary the part of the section requiring three judges to sit was left untouched.