§ [THIRD READING].
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [19th June], "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.666
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
said that last Friday, when addressing the House, his remarks were interrupted by the adjournment, and he was very glad of that, because during the past week he had received a letter from a barrister which expressed very well indeed some weighty objections to this Bill. That gentleman in his letter said there was no second opinion among those who practice in the Courts that the Bill would be madness under present conditions. The effect, it was pointed out, would be to add to the costs of small suitors on account of the adjournment of cases through want of time to deal with them. That barrister stated that he had known a case for £19 adjourned four times, owing to the Court being crowded with work. It was said that all solicitors were in favour of the Bill because they practised in the County Court, and that all barristers were against the Bill because it would diminish their practice. He was against all such calumnious, objections. This was a matter that ought not to be regarded from the point of view of those who most expressed the opinion of the commercial classes. Of course the commercial classes were in favour of the Bill. They wanted to get a Court to decide more expeditiously than the High Court in the suits in which they were interested, and it was to them a matter of little concern that small suitors should be put to inconvenience, delay, or expense. It was, he thought, the business of this House to see that that result did not happen. They had been told that the Bill was not workable, and that there would be considerable congestion of business in the Courts. The poor man would be put to considerable difficulty, and he would only have the consolation that those who might have gone to the High Court would gain an advantage from a system of jurisdiction which was originally intended and principally suited for small business. If they set up the system proposed by this Bill they would crowd out the poorer litigants for whom the County Courts were originally intended. Under these circumstances he should feel it to be his duty to give his vote against the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. GALLOWAY (Manchester, S.W.)
said that in view of the remarks made 667 by the Solicitor-General when the Bill was under discussion last week he now proposed to make a Motion which at all events would enable the House to discuss whether or not proper machinery should be provided for the carrying out of this Bill. It had been contended with great truth that the County Court Judges at the present time had sufficient work to do—there were no doubt cases in which they could well do more—and that the extra work entailed upon them by this Bill was greater than they would have time to perform. He had no doubt that County Court Judges could undertake more work in the country districts, but in the large centres they could not do so. It was obvious that provision must be made to enable the County Courts to carry out the extra work which the Bill would entail. If he could prove that, he submitted that he should have made out an overwhelming case for this House considering how the Bill was to be carried out. In regard to the general principle of the Bill, if they were going to deal with the question of County Court jurisdiction the whole system had to be reconsidered. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton said last week that when the Act was passed in 1888 there was a demand for the reconsideration of the whole system Let them be logical, and revise the whole system, and not make the present system more unworkable than it was. They had been told by the Attorney-General that that was what this Bill would do. The Bill proposed to raise the limit from £50 to £100, and it incidentally dealt with the question of the costs of those actions. He was surprised that his hon. friend in charge of the Bill should take up the position he had done in regard to the question of costs. By increasing the limit they were increasing the number of cases where the plaintiff would not get his costs. The whole support of the Bill was based on the assumption that there would be a greater demand for County Court work, and if they were going to compel people to go into the County Courts they were penalising the plaintiffs in successful actions, because if they went into the High Court with cases up to £100 their expenses would be allowed. He understood that the 668 County Court costs which were allowed were very meagre as compared with other costs. A Return laid before the House showed that last year there were 799,930 cases decided by the County Court Judges and that only 10,738 were decided in favour of the defendants. That was one in eighty. That showed that this Bill was going to work very unfairly to the very persons whom it ought to be the duty of this House to protect. That might be a small point, but it was one his hon. friend should consider more seriously than he had done, and he should put some provision in the Bill whereby successful litigants should not be penalised.
It was a peculiar fact that the work in the County Courts increased when trade was good, and that there were fewer cases when trade was diminishing. There was a large diminution between 1880 and 1884 which, as was well known, was a period of more or less prosperity. But since then there had been an increase in the quantity of work in every respect, and last year showed the largest increase in the amount of work done by the County Courts that had taken place since they were first established. The House was well aware that cases could be entered for over £50 by agreement between the parties concerned. In the period between 1876 and 1880 there were only 403 of such cases, but in the period from 1897 to 1901 there were 1,604. Of course the supporters of the Bill would assume that that was a sign that there was a desire for the Bill, but surely if it was so, proper provision should be made to enable the Courts to carry out the work. If they passed the Bill and placed this extra work on the County Courts they must increase the staff. He did not say that at present they were overworked, but they were fully worked. The offices were none too big for the work that had to be carried out at present. It might be argued that the County Court Judges were paid sufficiently at present for any extra work which would fall upon them under the Bill. He did not think that was really so, and if extra work were put upon them they would have to get extra pay. Cheap labour in any form was generally not very satisfactory, and, therefore, the £1,500 a year which was given to a County Court Judge with no pension, 669 except in cases of ill-health, would have to be increased if they gave him extra work. If more work was going to be given to these County Court Judges than they could do, then assistance must be also given them. And that would cost money; but there was no provision in the Bill for this extra cost. A great deal more work had been put on the County Court Judges on account of the Workmen's Compensation Act. A very interesting Return was laid on the Table of the House on 25th March last, which showed that during the year 1901 the total number of cases brought into the County Courts under that Act was 1,918 compared with 1,636 in the previous year. And the number of cases brought under the Employers' Liability Act was 590, being a small increase over the previous year. It might, of course, be argued that the Workmen's Compensation Act had brought more work to the County Courts on account of the uncertainty of the drafting of that Act, and the many questions which had been taken from the County Courts to the Court of Appeal. That might be true in regard to law, but his experience was that where the employer disputed a claim—which a good employer never did on a question of law, because he would have to accept the decision of the higher Court—on a question of amount they would still go into the County Court. Therefore he was going to move that the Bill should be recommitted for the insertion of a new clause to provide for the additional expense that would be incurred.
It might be contended that the Motion which he had put down on the Paper was not the proper way of carrying out his purpose. But no private Member could move a Motion which would make a charge on the public funds. The County Court Judges were paid out of the Consolidated Fund and it would therefore be impossible for him to put down a charge on that Fund. Therefore the only thing he could do was to put the charge on the county rate. He admitted frankly, that such a way of dealing with the matter was not the right way; but he must do it somehow. He hoped that his right hon. friend the Attorney-General would move the omission of those words in his Amendment, and take upon himself the responsibility 670 of providing the necessary costs. It might also be argued that all that was necessary to be done could be accomplished by an Order in Council. But that would involve a new clause. His reply to that was that the new clause could be put in in another place. He thought that this House was not doing its duty when it allowed a Bill to pass which, it was within their knowledge, would be unworkable; and leave it to another place to make it workable. It was the duty of this House to consider properly that such Bills as were sent to another place should be in such a state that they were likely to receive approval there. He hoped that his right hon. friend, if he could not agree to his proposed new clause, would sanction the re-committal of the Bill. If the Government thought that this Bill was a desirable Bill to be passed; if they thought that it would facilitate the mercantile community in carrying on their commerce; if they thought that the County Courts should be made more use of, and that that would be of general benefit to the community, it was their bounden duty to see that proper provision was made for carrying it out. If they did not think that the plan he had suggested was the proper way to carry out the object they had in view, his hon. friend was bound to support the re-committal of the Bill. He begged to move.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
said that after the weighty and exhaustive speech of the hon. Member for Manchester it was not necessary for him to take up much of the time of the House in explaining why he supported the Motion just made. The main point of the speech of his hon. friend was one which, it seemed to him, presented insuperable difficulty to those concerned in passing this Bill. In fact, it was unanswerable. The work of the County Courts was already congested; their time was already fully occupied; and it had, of late, been increased by the growing complexity of modern life. Now, no provision had been made in the Bill to do this work by improved machinery; and unless some such provision was made, it was perfectly obvious that it would be unfair not only to the classes of people at present included in the Bill, but to the classes proposed to be included. The 671 poorer class of litigants would find their business delayed, because the time of the County Courts would be occupied with that of the more important clients; while the decision of the cases of the latter class would be delayed by the consideration of the cases of the poorer class. It would, therefore, be unfair to each of these classes separately, and the conjunction of the unfairness to the two classes would aggravate the evil. Under these circumstances he had much pleasure in seconding the Motion of his hon. friend.
To leave out all the words after the word 'be' and add the words 'recommitted to a Committee of the whole House in respect of a new clause (Increase of Courts).'"—(Mr. Galloway.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said that no one could find fault with his hon. friend for the temper and ability with which he had stated his case against the Bill. But there were two points on which he was disposed to differ from his hon. friend. His hon. friend protested against doing anything in a hurry. He quite agreed; and if the hon. Member had been helping them at an early stage of the Bill they would have been less open to the charge of exhibiting undue haste. The Bill passed its Second Reading without a division; it went through Committee without a division; and on the Report stage there was one division on an Amendment which was defeated by 197 to 52. His hon. friend the Member for Oldham said that the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester was unanswerable.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL
said he did not allege that the speech was unanswerable, but that if it was not unanswerable it would have to be answered.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said he could only attempt to answer it on the point raised by the hon. Member. He might point to an hon. Gentleman opposite who had himself been a County Court Judge, and who had given an unswerving support to this Bill. He himself had been a practitioner in the County Court, 672 and was registrar of a County Court for twelve or fourteen years, and during that time it was his business to try to become acquainted with the matter. In his experience the County Courts had served a great purpose both in the interests of the poor and of the commercial community. Nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand cases passing through County Courts involved small amounts, and were practically not heard at all. They were practically undefended cases. He himself disposed of 700 or 800 of such cases, each involving only one minute's consideration, in a day. A great fact in the history of County Courts was that it had been the policy of Parliament, ever since 1847, to gradually increase their jurisdiction. The jurisdiction was increased from £20 to £50, and at that time the same arguments were employed against the proposal which had now been amply shown to be fallacious. In one form or another Parliament had placed on the County Court duties which they admirably fulfilled, as a rule. Figures showed that the smaller cases had not been neglected. Equally, cases involving commercial questions had been decided at infinitely less cost though not without proper remuneration to solicitors and others, the cost being less because witnesses had not to be taken to linger in London for days and days. The witnesses were on the spot, and the local administration of justice was in evidence. His hon. friend had appealed to the law officers of the Crown to make this Bill a workable measure. From the first moment of the introduction of the Bill they had begged the law officers of the Crown to state where it was not workable, and to help to provide the necessary machinery; and though his hon. and learned friend the Attorney-General had deemed it his duty to take up a more or less neutral position in connection with the Bill, he was sure that his hon. and learned friend's knowledge of Scottish procedure must have satisfied him that there was a case even for unlimited jurisdiction with, of course, the right of removal. The only question in the Committee was whether the jurisdiction should not be £500 instead of £100, and the £100 was ultimately adopted in great measure as a compromise. He hoped in another place the Government would supply any deficiencies that might exist, although he himself did not admit any. 673 Up to the present that had not been the attitude of the Government. The attitude of the Government, as expressed by the Lord Chancellor in connection with this reform, was to object to the principle of the extension of jurisdiction. In Chambers of Commerce and elsewhere they had tried to meet the views of the Government. His right hon. friend and himself introduced a Bill of numerous clauses with adequate machinery, and he had a letter from the Lord Chancellor written in 1898 in which he stated that if the occasion should arrive for discussing the subject with a view to legislation, his Lordship would consider the question of receiving a deputation. He had also a letter from the Lord Chancellor in which he objected entirely to the extension of jurisdiction. The House of Commons had, however, decided otherwise and had emphatically approved the feeling in the country that local Courts should have expended jurisdiction.
Where was the lack of machinery? Was it a question of expenditure? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton had frequently stated that money could be obtained through the Estimates without the necessity for legislation at all. The Treasury would take the fees; and if the fees were too high the ruling Committee of Judges could alter them. If the Treasury took the fees then the Treasury was bound to provide the necessary machinery. Then his hon. friend referred to the necessity for buildings. There was no necessity for that. Every locality was bound to place the town hall or the parish hall at the disposal of a County Court Judge; and the vast increase in cities and parishes of local government provided ample accommodation without the necessity of spending a penny on Courts. Take the Westminster County Court district. Both the present town hall and the Caxton Hall would be available. There was no need for any expenditure in that direction. Then it was said that the Judges would be inadequate for the work. He had heard so many general statements of that character that he had taken the trouble to get the actual figures with reference to the employment of Judges. He might be allowed to state, with a large experience, that there might be exceptions which were difficult to deal with among County Court Judges; but there were 674 other Judges equally difficult to deal with, and not at all more competent. What was required was really a redistribution of the work. There was power by Order in Council to alter the time and place where the Court sat and to provide additional assistance, either an additional Judge or an additional registrar. He was not impeaching the devotion to duty displayed by the Judges. Very much the contrary, but he found that in the Metropolis, out of say 300 available working days, the average number of sittings was 171. In the country the average number of sittings was only 146, and it was quite evident that if the average was only 146, there must have been many cases in which the number of sittings was below that. That showed that it was redistribution and re-arrangement that was wanted, and that could be done without the necessity for legislation.
His hon. friend also referred to the question of remuneration. He thought that underpaid judicial work was as bad and as disadvantageous as any other underpaid work, and he quite agreed that if as the result of experience there was undue pressure on any Court, it would have to be redressed. But surely they might ask for experience first as to how far the existing margin would be available. His hon. friend said that there would be no pension. That was not correct practically, because, if the Judge were permanently disabled, the Lord Chancellor could grant him two-thirds of his salary, and, as a matter of fact, that happened. He quite agreed that in some cases, but by no means in all, certainly not in cases where the Judges were under-worked, there might be a claim for remuneration, and that claim would have to be attended to. If it were a question of too high fees, the Committee of the Judges with the Treasury and the Lord Chancellor could reduce them, and if it were a question of unequal work that could be remedied by redistribution. He quite admitted that if an increase of work fell upon the Judges, they would have an equitable claim to consideration. At present there was a great stagnation of justice in consequence of the impossibility of prosecuting cases involving only £100 in the High Courts. That was a most costly and unwise proceeding which no 675 solicitor would advise, unless the question of principle was involved. Adequate machinery could be provided if the Government would only help. The reform proposed in the Bill was supported by the whole commercial community. It affected the administration of justice in this country, and it would remove a great sense of injustice owing to the cost of prosecuting cases in the High Courts. On those grounds he hoped that the House would re-affirm the principle that there was need for legislation, and that all the suggested Amendments were corollary to the passage of the measure; and if experience justified it, they would follow as incidents of a Bill which he believed to be a large step in the direction of law and reform.
§ *MR. DUKE (Plymouth)
said he desired to inform his hon. and learned friend the Attorney-General that, as far as he was aware, commercial men looked with a great deal of anxiety to the attitude which the Government had adopted in connection with this Bill. There was a sense of injustice and of wrong which, if not removed by this Bill or some other Bill, would very formidably react against those who were responsible for its continuance. He could assure his hon. and learned friend that commercial men did not think that on a question of this kind it was sufficient for the Government to maintain a policy of splendid detachment and inaction. It was a matter in which settled convictions were expected, and if they were not found the responsibility for not possessing them would not be regarded as insignificant. It had never been denied, it could not be denied, that the commercial community of this country, to the well being of which they attached so much consequence, was practically unanimous in its dissatisfaction at the present mode of dealing with a certain class of actions at law. Chambers of Commerce were unanimous in the matter ever since he had known anything about them, now some twenty years. One branch of the legal profession which was in direct contact with litigants in this country, and which was to a great extent responsible for the opinions which had been ex- 676 pressed by the Chambers of Commerce, was entirely in accord with that opinion. The other branch of the profession, of which he himself had the honour of being a member, showed divided opinion. At the present time common law cases involving over £50 could be remitted to the County Courts, and cases involving larger amounts could be remitted under certain technical restrictions. The average number of cases remitted by consent between 1876 and 1880 was about 400, but between 1897 and 1901 the average was 16,004 per annum. That showed that at any rate in the great centres of population there was absolute confidence in the capacity of County Court Judges to deal with that class of action. There was also power in a district registry and the central office in the High Court to remit to the County Court Judges other common law actions not limited in amount to £100. In the last year for which there were statistics 16,000 such actions were remitted, 2,000 being from the Metropolitan County Courts, and the County Courts of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, and Brighton. That showed that there was great anxiety on the part of litigants to have their litigation disposed of as near as possible to their own residences and with reasonable cheapness. He did not see how it could be seriously suggested in the face of those facts that the demand of the representatives of the commercial community did not disclose a real evil which should be dealt with. To his mind it was not enough, and he spoke with all respect, that the Government, charged with the administration of justice as one of the first concerns of a civilised community, should merely say with reference to a measure of this kind that it would not do. This was not a competition upon a prize puzzle. Reform of the administration of justice should not be settled by a sort of guessing competition. It was not enough to say to the competitors "You are wrong." Somebody was responsible in the matter, and he hoped the question would not be looked upon entirely from the point of view of the imperfections of the present Bill.
For his part, he believed that this Bill in its present form would practically 677 wreck the ancient system of the administration of civil justice in this country, by the trial of causes on the Circuits, and he looked at the prospect with something like dismay. For the greater part of his working life he had been engaged in attempting to help in the administration of justice, and he might be pardoned if he felt concern at any such prospect. But this country did not exist for the sake of the judicial system or the legal profession. They existed to meet the necessities of the country. The great question he should like to see debated was what ought to be done with an admitted administrative evil. It was also said that this Bill would wreck the County Court system. He thought there was risk of that. It should be remembered that 50,000 actions passed through these Courts every year. They were actions of little people who came into Court very frequently from their work, and to whom it was a very serious question whether they lost half a day's work or perhaps a day's work. Dozens, sometimes scores, of such cases were disposed of in the course of the day, usually to the satisfaction of the litigants. It was a very serious matter to those poor people whether a change of procedure in the judicial forum established to deal with disputes which affected their social life and interest as vitally as the great disputes of commercial men affected theirs, should result in the denial of justice to them. What would happen under this Bill? At the present time, and he believed any hon. Member who had practical experience in the administration of the law would agree, any case which had anything in it would practically occupy a working day. Some cases occupied three or four days, and he had known cases adjourned from sitting to sitting and which ultimately had to be heard in instalments of one day at a time until the inconvenience disgusted the suitors. The serious question with regard to County Court jurisdiction was whether Parliament would put on County Court Judges who were created to act as Judges of small debt Courts in this country cases which would occupy days to the interruption of the business for which the Court was created. As the representative of a commercial constituency he 678 regarded the interests of the community with great concern, but in the form in which it was now the Bill would be a mockery both for suitors in the High Court and suitors in the County Court. He had received a letter from a gentleman who had very great experience on the subject, and who stated that for years the commercial community had been trying to have steps taken to have disputes for moderate amounts settled in the County Courts and that they were supported by every newspaper of standing in the country. His correspondent added that the present circuit system was practically moribund, that many actions were remitted to the County Court, with the result that "the proper business of those Courts is blocked and the responsibility of the Judges more than doubled." That was the statement of a man who knew the facts as well, and perhaps better, than any other man in this country. In his opinion it would not be proper on the part of the Government to permit this Bill to be passed in a form in which it would prevent County Courts from discharging to a great extent the special work they were established to discharge.
With regard to the Assize system, statistics showed that at the present time the bulk of the business was concerned with cases between £50 and £100 and if an average were taken it would be found that the amount involved in the majority of such cases was nearer £50 than £100. In some towns the Assizes were little more than a solemn pageant. There were two Assize towns in the country where since 1889 the combined number of cases to talled three. That was a very serious matter. There was a yearly increasing resort to the County Courts, whereas the ancient forum of justice was substantially deserted. It showed a condition of things to which it was not possible that any Government should be indifferent. A good deal had been said about the attitude of solicitors and of the bar. At the annual general meeting of the bar, on the Motion of Sir Edward Clarke this Bill was criticised but no veto was put upon it. It was criticised because of its defects and the absolute absence of machinery. He would respectfully urge the Government to deal with this question as a practical question. He 679 hoped that the attention which this Bill had evoked would have the effect of introducing some prospect of an early change in the judicial system such as would enable the County Courts to be utilised as far as they could, but which would, at any rate, provide a forum in the great towns in connection with the High Court which would satisfy the demand of the commercial community of the country. Although he thought that the Bill in the form in which it stood would have a mischievous effect on the judicial system he could not vote against the Third Heading because he regarded it as a protest against a policy of inaction in face of a serious and reasonable public demand.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs
said his hon. and learned friend had just announced his intention of voting for the Bill although he regarded it as an impossible measure and one which, if it became law, would wreck the administration of justice not only in the High Court but in the County Court.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
thought the hon. and learned Gentleman went further. Undoubtedly the circumstances were very peculiar, for they had one Member moving the recommittal of the Bill to insert a clause which he knew to be impossible, and another declining to vote against the Third Reading, though he believed it would wreck the judicial administration of the country. The only question before the House concerned the merits of this particular Bill, and he could not accept the invitation to enter into a general discussion of the whole question of the judicial arrangements of the country. It was said that Chambers of Commerce throughout the country were in favour of the Bill. But there was one important exception to the approval of the Bill by the Chambers of Commerce. Liverpool had passed a Resolution against it.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
said other large towns and cities also had local Courts of their own. He considered that the opinion of Liverpool in any case was entitled to weight; and he thought the Chambers of Commerce, who had petitioned in favour of the Bill, intended rather to express a general aspiration to have an extension of County Court jurisdiction than an opinion on the merits of the Bill.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said that with the one exception referred to by the Attorney-General, the Chambers of Commerce had petitioned in favour of the Bill.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
said he was afraid that they did not fully appreciate the effect the Bill would have in penalising those who might desire to bring actions into the High Court, and who might fail to obtain High Court costs if the amount could have been recovered in the County Courts. There was a, means under Order 14 by which, summary procedure could be obtained in the High Court in cases in which there was no real defence, and there was a danger that if this Bill were carried. High Court costs would be withheld.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said that if judgment was obtained under Order 14 full costs were now recoverable.
§ SIR ROBERT FINLAY
said this did not affect his observation that, if it were made possible to obtain judgment for sums up to £100 in County Courts, the High Court costs might not be given. This Bill, in any case, would seriously injure the County Court system, although he was not prepared to go quite so far as the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, who said the Bill was calculated to wreck the whole system of the administration of justice. A County Court Judge, of great experience and ability, assured him that the effect of the Bill on the working of the County Court system in the Metropolis would be most serious. The County Courts were introduced as Courts for the recovery of small debts. If other actions, involving a prolonged hearing, were admitted, there would be serious interference with that 681 work. There was a danger of overstraining the machine. If such a change were to be contemplated by the Government it would be necessary to see what additions to the judgeships, the office staffs, and the building accommodation were necessary. The country could not be committed to the additional expenditure thus involved without in quiry and a well-considered plan. It would be seen, therefore, that this measure dealt only with a very small part of a large subject; and he was not at all surprised that the Treasury had not given authority for incurring expenditure in the promotion of such a measure as this, which, however well meant, did not and could not deal with the whole subject. He was unable to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for South-West Manchester because he looked on it as quite as unworkable as the Bill itself.
§ *SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton E.)
said there was something about the debate which was altogether outside the Bill under discussion. When speeches were delivered in such a debate by some of the most distinguished of the younger Members of the House who, while they might have a wide acquaintance with many things, had very little acquaintance with the administration of justice, but felt very strongly about other Bills, Members generally might perhaps form their own conclusions. Without further alluding to that point, he would turn to the speech of the Attorney-General, which he was bound to gay he did not understand. He altogether denied the proposition of the hon. and learned Member that the Bill was unworkable and would break down for want of necessary additional machinery. There was no necessity to appoint any additional Judges. There were at present fifty-nine County Court Judges, and the Act of 1888 provided for the appointment of sixty. What was really wanted was a redistribution of judicial work. On that point he would have to trouble the House with a few figures, especially after the speech of the hon. Member for South-West Manchester, who had spoken almost with tears of the enormous amount of work performed in the district with which he was most familiar. 682 There was a district in Lancashire in which only five Courts were held. What were the figures concerning that district last year? The average number of days in the judicial year of a High Court Judge was from 200 to 210. In this district, which included the towns of Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale, and Wigan, there were only 146 sittings in the year before the Judge. How could an increase in the number of Judges be asked for under such circumstances? No doubt London was exceptional, but the Lord Chancellor had power to transfer any of the Judges, to redistribute the sittings as he liked, or to take a Judge from a district where he was not doing sufficient work and add him to another. Even with the jurisdiction extended, he was not prepared to admit there was any necessity to increase the number of County Court Judges. Originally, no doubt, these Courts were instituted to take the place of the small debt Courts, but that position had long since passed away. There were not small debt Courts now. In several respects the jurisdiction of the County Courts had been extended by the Act of 1888 to cases up to £500, and there were men sitting on the County Court Bench who were quite competent to sit in the High Court, and whose appointment to the High Court would be hailed with satisfaction by the public. Where, then, was the machinery to break down?
He admitted the case of London would have to be considered by itself. He thought additional Judges would be wanted in London, but there would be no difficulty in securing them. As to the buildings, that question would settle itself. The judicial accommodation produced by the County Courts would compare very favourably with the judicial accommodation provided for the superior Courts thirty years ago. But supposing these difficulties did exist, they could be dealt with in another place. The House of Lords had a form by which they dealt provisionally for expenditure, and there were in that chamber a large number of Judges and ex-Judges, and other eminent lawyers, who could remedy every defect which had been pointed out. He was not, however, advocating any addition. He thought it much better that the principle of the extended jurisdiction should be affirmed, and the experiment 683 fairly tried, before the country was committed to any extra expenditure. He would certainly oppose any addition to the judicial staff until the experiment had been tested. Since 1888 and before the Associated Chambers of Commerce had been asking for this Bill. For years all the mysterious delays attending private Members' legislation had been suffered, but now at last the Bill had a chance. The question was so undebatable that the Measure passed its Second Reading and through the Grand Committee without a division, and he had ventured to say, perhaps somewhat boldly, that it was the duty of the Attorney-General, as the first law officer of the Crown, and the law officer of the House of Commons, under these circumstances, if he thought the Bill needed amending, to prepare clauses for the purpose. If the hon. and learned Member had not had time he could doubtless have obtained assistance from his two young friends who had taken so much interest in the debate and who had shown such strikingability in the matter of drafting Amendments. But the Attorney-General had not done so, although the House, by an immense majority, composed of all shades of political opinion, had expressed its desire that the Bill should pass. He thought the debate had now served its purpose; having lasted an hour and a half, it had paid sufficient toll to the exigencies of the situation. But there was something due to the House itself, and to the commercial community outside, and it was with perfect confidence he asked the House to proceed at once to read the Bill a third time.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.)
said it was a novel doctrine to come from the right hon. Gentleman that a Bill should be sent to the House of Lords in an imperfect state in order that it might be put right there.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
said the right hon. Gentleman had been rather accustomed to resent such proceedings on the part of the House of Lords. However, he had come to the House with the intention of seeing this Bill through, as he had received many communications from his constituents in favour of the passage of the Measure. Addressing a lay intelligence only to the question, he totally failed to see the constitutional dangers in the way of extending the ordinary jurisdiction of County Courts up to £100. In Scotland the Sheriff Courts dealt with higher values with great success, and they wanted law as cheap as they could get it. To increase the limit should be a great boon to a numerous class of suitors, and he did not know why there would be such terrible dangers as had been predicted. He hoped the Attorney-General would vote for the Third Reading, and not lead into the division lobby a large number of hon. Members against the Bill.
§ MR. GALLOWAY
said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton was mistaken in regard to his object in opposing the Bill. After what had fallen from the Attorney-General, and in view of the fact that the Government; were not willing to put in clauses to make the Bill workable, he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment and divide the House on the Third Reading.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put:
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 160; Noes, 10. (Division List No. 133.)685
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Barran, Rowland Hirst||Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton|
|Allan, Sir William (Gateshead)||Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Causton, Richard Knight|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Channing, Francis Allston|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bond, Edward||Clive, Captain Percy A.|
|Asher, Alexander||Brigg, John||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Brown, Geo. M. (Edinburgh)||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Austin, Sir John||Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Cohen, Benjamin Louis|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Collings, Right Hon. Jesse|
|Balcarres, Lord||Burt, Thomas||Crean, Eugene|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch||Caldwell, James||Cremer, William Randal|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Campbell, Rt Hn J. A. (Glasg.)||Crombie, John William|
|Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Johnstone, Heywood||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardign||Joicey, Sir James||Rigg, Richard|
|Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway||Jones, David B. (Swansea)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Joyce, Michael||Runciman, Walter|
|Doughty, George||Kennedy, Patrick James||Russell, T. W.|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Edwards, Frank||Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington)||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles|
|Emmott, Alfred||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Evans, Sir F. H. (Maidstone)||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Man'r)||Lundon, W.||Smith, H. C. (North'mb. Tyneside|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Macdona, John Cumming||Spear John Ward|
|Flower, Ernest||M'Kenna, Reginald||Sullivan, Donal|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Taylor, Theo. C. (Radcliffe)|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Mitchell, William (Burnley)||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Thomas, F. Freeman- (Hastings|
|Garfit, William||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Thomas, J. A. (Glam., Gower)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||Mount, William Arthur||Toulmin, George|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Walrond, Rt. H. Sir William H.|
|Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Walton, J. Lawson (Leeds, S.)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Groves, James Grimble||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Wason, J. Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||O'Doherty, William||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. Lloyd|
|Hammond, John||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||O'Kelly, J. (Roscommon, N.)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)||O'Shee, James John||Wood, James|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Partington, Oswald||Worsley-Taylor, Hry. Wilson|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Pemberton, John S. G.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Philipps, John Wynford||Yerburgh, Robt. Armstrong|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hn. H. (Somrst E.||Pilkington, Lt.-Col. Richard||Young, Samuel|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Howard, J. (Midd., Tott'ham||Purvis, Robert|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Pym, C. Guy||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.||Rattigan, Sir William Henry||Sir Albert Rollit and Sir|
|Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Rea, Russell||James Woodhouse.|
|Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Forster, Henry William|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (Lynn Regis)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||Mr. Galloway and Mr.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Welby, Lt.-Col A. C. E. (Taunton||Winston Churchill.|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
Question put and agreed to.