HC Deb 01 April 1908 vol 187 cc557-60

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving the Second Reading said that he thought it would be convenient to hon. Members if he explained the general purport of the Bill. There was no contest about it he was glad to say, and therefore he could compress his observations within a very small compress. The object of the Bill was to consolidate the present law, which was in a very chaotic state and dealt with costs in criminal cases, of trials upon indictment at Assizes, and at Quarter Sessions, and the preliminary inquiries in regard to indictable offences before justices. Of course, it did not touch costs in civil cases and matters arising before justices in a Court of summary jurisdiction where they could deal with the matter finally. The provisions with regard to the payment of these costs out of public or local funds depended entirely upon Acts of Parliament, and the Statutes were very numerous and very complicated. For a long time past it had been a puzzle to Judges and all those who dealt with the law to find out whether in particular cases of felony or misdemeanour the costs of the prosecution or defence should be paid at all. A Departmental Committee was appointed in the year 1902, by the late Lord Ritchie, when Home Secretary. That Committee reported in 1903, and the Bill which he now introduced, and which he asked the House to read a second time, was based upon the unanimous recommendations of that Committee. They did not agree upon all points referred to them, but they did agree upon the points embodied in this Bill. He could not go in detail into the various provisions of the Bill except by occupying some considerable time, for he could not explain in a short time all the complicated questions which arose in a case of this nature. It was obvious that if the law could be consolidated, and if the few Amendments required could be made, it would be for the public convenience. Having said so much with regard to the general scope and character of the Bill, he hoped the House would agree to give it a Second Reading so that it might be referred to a Committee. It was essentially a Committee Bill, and there the sections could be considered by those who could bring their practical knowledge to bear on the subject. He begged to move.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Solicitor-General.)


thought it would be desirable that they should have some more detail of the amendments which were to be made in the law by this Bill. It would be better if some one could tell them what the more important Amendments were. If that were done they be would be able to form an opinion as to whether or not they should resist them.


said he could not speak again without the leave of the House, but perhaps he might be permitted to say that a Memorandum had been prepared showing exactly the alterations proposed in various parts of the Bill. It was a very complicated matter, and he would be prepared to give a copy of the Memorandum to anyone interested so that he could see what the amendments were.


asked whether they might not have the information now. If the Memorandum were before them it would be a great convenience to the House. If they assented to the Second Reading they would have no means of knowing what the important amendments were as they would be dealt with in a Committee upstairs.


thought the House was not being quite fairly treated. The only Memorandum he had seen was that which he now had before him. Now the hon. Gentleman told the House there was another Memorandum which had not been circulated. The Bill was far more than a mere Consolidation Bill, and the House was entitled before it consented to its Second Reading to more information and more guidance from the hon. Gentleman. He protested strenuously against the way in which they were being treated.


pointed out that when Bills were brought in which were partly Consolidation Bills and partly new legislation it was very difficult for a private Member to find out what was merely consolidation of old matter and what was new matter. The suggestion which under these circumstances he would like to offer to the Government was that when they introduced such Bills the new matter included in them should be in print differing from that which dealt with the consolidation matter. That would at once enable private Members to see what was new and what was already the law.