HC Deb 26 June 1940 vol 362 cc490-506

Order for Second Reading read.

5.25 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill amends the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act. The general idea and scope of that Act is familiar to the House, and many Members are also aware of the difficult problems which have been presented in this field, particularly in regard to the effect on owners of business or business premises of evacuation. The Bill deals with certain unrelated matters, and I think my best method of explaining it would be to deal with the different Clauses. It was found that certain courts were making orders restraining landlords from getting possession on default of payment of rent, conditional not only on payment by instalment of the rent in default, but also conditional on the punctual payment of future instalments as they became due. It seemed to us that it would be better that that should not be done because where one is dealing with rent payable, say, by quarterly instalments, it deprives the tenant of the right, if he is so minded, to have his position reconsidered in the light of each instalment, as it falls due and is claimed. For example, his position might have deteriorated since the time of the original judgment, and if the procedure of the Act had to be applied, he might be able to show, on the second occasion, that he was entitled to more lenient treatment than he had received on the first occasion.

Therefore, Clause 1, Sub-section (1) says that orders of that kind shall not be made. It excepts houses to which the Rent Restrictions Act applies. The reason for that is that a tenant of such a house has his own Statutory code of protection and under that code orders can be made, and, as far as I know, there has never been any complaint about it being conditional on punctual payment of future weekly rents. On the whole, in that area it is an advantage to have that power, otherwise the landlord might have to go back to the court each week, which would impose additional cost, in the last resort, on the tenant. In the area of weekly tenancies for dwelling houses the matter is, as far as my information goes, satisfactorily dealt with by the Rent Restrictions code. When we are dealing, as we are in these cases, with business premises, where rent is normally payable quarterly, we do not think that the court by way of conditions should deal with more than the sum for which the judgment exists.

The remaining Sub-sections of Clause 1 deal with a somewhat technical matter. When a landlord issues a writ for possession, for non-payment of rent, there being provisions for forfeiture in the circum- stances under the lease, the writ acts as an automatic forfeiture; and, although the tenant may subsequently pay what is due, the lease remains forfeited unless he makes a separate application to the court for relief of forfeiture. These Sub-sections provide that the lease shall not be forfeited or treated as forfeited, so long as the order remains unenforcable, that is, so long as the conditions imposed by the court are fulfilled. Sub-section (2) deals with the future, and Sub-section (3) enables an application to be made in respect of past orders should it be necessary. Sub-section (4) deals with a special point where a sub-lessee is involved.

Clause 2 deals with a different matter. Under the general scheme of the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act the court is dealing with a particular judgment for a particular debt. We know that if any of us is unfortunate enough to get into a position in which our liabilities exceed our resources, and are likely to continue to do so, there is the unpleasant process of going through the bankruptcy court. No one desires that the people for whose protection this Act is intended should have to go through that process unless it becomes absolutely necessary. It is difficult to have a halfway house, but it is desired that the courts should look round at the debtor's general position when they are considering whether there is inability to pay a debt owing to war circumstances. It may be that a debtor owes £20 and has £25, and if you put your eyes in blinkers and look at nothing else, you may ma say that there is not inability to pay. 'When, however, you consider his other liabilities and the fact that he has to live, and so on, it is clear there is inability to discharge that debt in full, although there may be the actual cash equivalent of it. It was never quite clear under the original Act that the court should have regard to the defendant's other liabilities. Many, if not most, courts did so, but we thought it would be an advantage to declare expressly that in considering the matters which the court has to consider it may take account of the liabilities, whether present or future, of the defendant.

There is a Sub-section in the Clause which provides that rules may make provision for the service of notice of any such application upon persons, other than the applicant, having claims against the debtor. There may be cases in which the debtor may say that he has other liabilities and the plaintiff may not be satisfied that that is so. If rules are made, the other creditors may be brought before the court. There may be cases in which it is desirable to bring other creditors who have been behaving more reasonably than the man who resorted to legal proceedings, and it may be an advantage to the court that they should be present.

Clause 3 deals with a number of minor and rather technical points. Sub-section (1) refers to the words in the original Act, "the person liable to pay the rent." It was always intended that that person should be the defendant in the action, but where a lease has been assigned or where there is a guarantor, the assignor may be liable to pay the rent as well as the assignee in possession. That point arose and this Sub-section makes it clear that the person liable to pay the rent is the person against whom the judgment has been obtained. Sub-section (2) deals with the case, which might be called uncommon but which has arisen, in which two houses, originally let under one lease to one person, have subsequently, by an assignment of one house, come into the possession and occupation of different persons, although there is still only one lease. There being only one lease, a default by one person might give rise to a writ of forfeiture. This Sub-section enables the two parcels to be treated separately and the necessary apportionments to be made. Sub-section (3) provides that certain sheriff's charges, which obviously are costs in the ordinary case, should be included in the word "costs" in the Sub-section referred to in the original Act. Since this Bill was introduced in another place, our attention has been drawn to certain other matters, and we propose to ask the House to accept, on the Committee stage, certain Amendments dealing with those points.

5.37 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)

I rise with a great deal of diffidence to follow the learned Attorney-General, because a great deal of what he has said is hieroglyphic to me. I noticed, however, that he was fortified by being able to read from a memorandum.

The Attorney-General

indicated dissent.

Mr. Davies

If that is not so, I must congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on being much more clever than I thought he was. Although under a great disadvantage in dealing with technical legal questions of this kind, I am authorised to say on behalf of those who sit behind me that we support this Measure. In principle, it is simple, and a person of ordinary common sense, of which I do not possess very much, can see that the Government have found out that there are people who are still suffering because the courts are interpreting the Act passed some time ago in a way in which Parliament never intended. Hon. Members will have come across some tragic cases of professional people and shopkeepers, for instance, who have suffered through the war, particularly in districts where there has been wholesale evacuation. In Manchester, for example, many shopkeepers have felt the pinch because their customers have gone away. An extension of the law to meet cases of that kind must be welcomed by everybody. I was surprised to learn that the courts do not take into account the future prospects of debtors in these cases. The courts ought to understand that when evacuation is finished and the people return to normal life again a business which is not paying its way to-day may again be a success.

While unemployment is declining among workpeople and artisans, it is not true of professional people, such as architects, surveyors, shopkeepers and the like. There are cases within my knowledge in which not one penny has been earned since the war began. If they fall into debt, it would be foolish if the courts were unable to take into account the future prospects of, say, an architect. We must presume that when this terrible war is over, building will begin again on a large scale, and I imagine that the architect will then come into his own again. The legal profession, I understand, are having a hard time, too. Some of them do not probably deserve a better time, and on looking round Members of Parliament of all parties who are in this profession, I often wonder how they earn their 6s. 8d. at all. All that apart, Parliament is doing the right thing in extending its generosity to these cases, because it is a startling thing that while unemployment is declining among the wage-earners, there is severe hardship among some small business and professional people, such as they have never known before, and, I trust, will never know again, when this war is over.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Kingsley Griffith (Middlesbrough, West)

I should like to thank the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) for saying a kind word for the legal profession. It so rarely happens in this House that the slightest charity is extended to this deserving class. I am in favour of this Bill, and the only question that has occurred to me is why Clause 2 was found necessary. I had some experience in conducting these cases and I generally found that the court went into the financial situation of the applicant. There has been evidence not only of the actual debt and whether the applicant has the money to meet it, but as to other possible calls upon him, such as his rent and the standard of living he has to keep up. I wonder whether there have been actual difficulties in practice and whether any courts have found themselves in doubt whether they have power to take these other matters into consideration. It is right that they should do so, but I am wondering whether it was necessary to have a Clause to declare something which was inherently right.

5.44 p.m.

Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)

I welcome this Bill, for it will undoubtedly give greater protection to many people who are sorely in need of it. I would like to draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend to one or two points. It is true that the proprietor who has an action against him by a single landlord receives protection, but I want to put the case, which has already been brought to his notice, in which there are three landlords and one proprietor. An agreement has been come to on behalf of two of the landlords who have consented to a reduction of rent. The third landlord refuses to take a reduction and says the case must go to court. That landlord is able to prove conclusively that the man whom he is suing for rent is capable of paying him in full, and as the law stands the court has, I understand, no option but to give judgment in favour of that landlord. That does not seem to be right. The other landlords were prepared to be reasonable and to allow the man to carry on business on the basis of a reduced rent, but because this one landlord stands out then the whole arrangement falls to the ground and the man's business is ruined. It is a very unjust proceeding, and I hope that 'between now and the Committee stage my right hon. and learned Friend will consider whether something cannot be done to give further protection to the proprietor of blocks of flats, under several landlords, who is placed in that position.

I want to refer also to other liabilities. Under the Act there is protection against a landlord obtaining possession of a house or flat or seizing the furniture in payment of debt and thereby rendering it impossible for the place to be inhabited, if let furnished, and so possibly destroying a business. Furniture is one of the necessary amenities in a flat, but there are other equally necessary amenities, like gas, water, electricity and to-day the telephone, and there is no thing in the Act which will give protection against either gas companies, the Metropolitan Water Board, electricity companies or the telephone service cutting off supplies. Those undertakings simply say, "You are unable to pay? All right; if you do not pay we cut off the supply." They use that threat. It does not seem to me that there is any difference between a landlord removing the furniture and a gas, water, or electricity undertaking cutting off supplies. Each is necessary if the flat is to continue to be habitable. If the water, gas, electricity or telephone service is cut off the flat is uninhabitable, just as it is uninhabitable if the furniture is removed.

There may be difficulties in this matter, but I know from information which I have received that gas companies have met this difficult situation in a very satisfactory manner, and have been reasonable and generous in dealing with their customers. Not so the Metropolitan Water Board, not so electricity undertakings, not so the telephone service. They have been adamant. On Second Reading I cannot give any details, but I hope to put them forward on Committee stage. There is much which these undertakings could do to help their customers, but they do not do it. It is no argument to say that a person might equally well ask for protection against the butcher, the baker and others from whom he obtains supplies. That is not a parallel case at all, because in such a case a customer can go to some other shop if the shop with which he has been trading will not provide what he requires; whereas gas, water and electricity undertakings are monopolies protected by Statute and the customer can go nowhere else. If water, gas and electricity supplies are cut off a house is rendered absolutely uninhabitable, or a whole business may be destroyed, and the man may end up in the bankruptcy court because all possibility of his making a living has been taken away.

I sincerely hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will consider whether he cannot extend the scope of the Bill to cover these matters. There is a great deal which could be done to help these unfortunate people. Although my right hon. and learned Friend has told us that certain Amendments are to be introduced, we do not know what they are, and I do not know whether the points which I have raised are included, but if not I hope that some sympathetic consideration will be given to them.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)

In every part of the House there is a welcome for this Bill, but I feel there is the qualification that we are sorry that it does not go further in meeting the difficulties of the people concerned. I have a certain amount of sympathy with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because the problem is a very complicated one. There are hundreds of thousands of people whose businesses have been practically destroyed since the war broke out. They were people who had been able to make a decent living out of their businesses, but by reason of the evacuation or other circumstances they have found their living practically taken from them. I think there would be a general desire in the House that as far as possible such people should be put into the position of being able to maintain themselves in decency, and I suggest to the Attorney-General that the Government might consider whether they could not be assisted to move into the reception areas or whether financial or other assistance might not be given to them to start again elsewhere. I had also intended to raise the case of public utility services, gas, electricity and so on, which was dealt with by the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor). Those undertakings are in a monopolist position and can bring pressure to bear on people by threatening to cut off supplies. I think something ought to be done to find a modus vivendi in those cases. If it were a case of supplies from the butcher or baker a person could take his custom somewhere else, but in the case of water, gas or electricity there is no other source of supply.

We ought also to consider how different creditors act. As the law stands I feel that a certain advantage is given to the more exorbitant creditor, and no one wishes that to be so. He threatens to take the debtor to court, and with the knowledge that he may be involved in law costs and other charges the debtor tries to appease him by making him some payment whereas other creditors who have not followed that course find themselves getting nothing. I realise that it is difficult to find a legal solution for all the difficulties involved, but I welcome the Bill, and I hope the Attorney-General will give sympathetic consideration to the representations which have been made to him by various bodies, for example the Small Traders Defence League and individuals, and that on the Committee stage he will be generous in accepting Amendments to help those who are in difficulty.

5.57 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

This Bill obviously has the full support of almost everyone in the House. It is a pity that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when he told us that he would introduce certain Amendments on the Committee stage, did not give us some indication of what those Amendments would be, because it is possible that it might have cut short the Debate which is now taking place. I should like to stress the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor). We here, I am glad to say, try to protect the ordinary individual in this time of emergency against eviction and against his landlord; but that is only part of the story. There are large numbers of people who keep boarding-houses, lodging-houses and hotels who are going through a very, difficult time just now. They are people who for 20 or 30 years have never defaulted, who have prided themselves on the fact that they have always paid up to the last shilling, but now, as a result of the war, they find themselves completely at the mercy of these public utility undertakings and large undertakings of another kind, and I beg the Attorney-General to see whether he cannot widen the scope of this Measure in order to give them more protection.

I agree with the hon. and learned Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) that Clause 2 seems hardly necessary if, up to now, the courts have always taken into account all of an individual's liabilities when assessing his ability to pay. If Clause 2 is included in order to put this matter completely beyond doubt, why is the action made permissive and not obligatory? In page 2, line 42, we read that the appropriate court may take account of other liabilites, whether present or future, of that person. I know it is usual to make it permissive, but, as it is intended that the court should take notice of this Clause, why not make the matter obligatory and put in "must" for "may"?

6.1 p.m.

Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Like everybody else, I welcome the Bill and the principle of the Bill. With the object of the Bill everybody is in complete sympathy. I take that object to be to prevent people from exercising, during the period of the war, remedies against others without first obtaining the leave of some court. I agree with all those who have spoken in thinking that this Bill does not remedy anything like all the deficiencies of the principal Act, and that the scope of the original Act was by no means wide enough to achieve the purpose that everybody wanted to see achieved. I do not want at this time, especially as the Attorney-General has indicated that a number of other points are to be added in Committee, to go into those matters, but I wish to make two suggestions of principle to the Attorney-General.

I have no doubt that this is not by any means the last of the amending Bills that will be required. As these provisions are operated, scores of small or smallish points arise, and are continually being brought to people's notice, and from time to time legislation is required. I want to suggest that it might be extremely useful if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had a small advisory com- mittee continually reviewing the operation of this kind of legislation and making reports to him, so that the time-lag would be short and the period during which deficiencies existed in the scope and applicability of the legislation might be more quickly curtailed. It is impossible for injustice not to be done if we have to wait months for this to take place. Everybody who has to practise in these matters knows that dozens of small points cry out for some kind of readjustment.

The other suggestion is this. Is it not possible, for the purpose of this legislation, to increase largely the jurisdiction of the county courts, which are far more accustomed than is the High Court or a Master in the High Court, to dealing with debts and the collection of debts? The registrar and the judge of a county court have always had power, where the debt was under £20, to order that it might be paid by instalments, and in exercising that power they always have before them the creditor and the debtor and go very carefully, by viva voce evidence, into the actual means of the debtor and what it is reasonable to expect him to pay. Where the debt is above £20, they have not had, by law, any such discretion, although often, as a result of agreement between the parties, they have been given discretion, and they exercise it in the same way.

The county court is a tribunal used to dealing with this kind of matter and dealing with it very well. You have people there in the witness box, where you can listen to them and look at them and make up your mind what it is reasonable to expect. In the High Court, where a good deal of this legislation is administered, it is quite different, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows. You have appearance before the Master, in the "bear garden," where people are standing about. You have overcrowded lists, with all sorts of people waiting in the background wanting to get forward, and there is only an hour or an hour-and-a-half to do the whole job. Very often the Master is not there at all, and the work is done by somebody else. The creditor files an affidavit, in which he says that the defendant's means are so and so, and the defendant, if he has enough money to do so, files a counter-affidavit. It is not in that spirit that this kind of legislation can properly be administered. The county court is already experienced and accustomed to doing the very kind of job that the courts are called upon to do, under the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, and which is certainly not effectively done in the High Court, where, with all respect to them, there are not the right conditions. It is not a tribunal with the same experience of working-class life as the county court.

Working-class people are commonly affected by this legislation and I include in that term those middle-class people to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has referred. These are the people mostly affected, and it is more practical and just, and the objective of the legislation is more effectively attained, if you leave to the county courts a much wider jurisdiction than they have at present. I do not know how it would be done. It would obviously need further legislation, but it would be worth while to provide that, applications to exercise the remedy which, under this legislation, cannot be exercised without the leave of the court, should be made to the county court, in every case where the subject-matter of the litigation was below a certain amount. You might fix a substantial amount.

6.9 p.m.

The Attorney-General

By the leave of the House I should like to say a word or two in answer to some of the points which have been raised. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) raised a point, also referred to by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), whether this Clause should remain permissive. It is a Clause for the removal of doubts. Most courts have felt that their discretion might be affected by the words in the original Act. unable immediately to do so by reason of circumstances directly or indirectly attributable. The words in the Clause make it clear that there was no misconception. Arguments about "may" and "shall" were started a long time ago, and will probably go on till the end of time. Here we are dealing with what obviously must be a discretion, and "may" is probably the right word here.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) cited the case of three landlords. The Clause does not completely cover this point, but the probabilities of what may happen under rules made under Clause 2 go some way to meet the point. If the court were satisfied that the payments being made to a reasonable landlord were all that the defendant was reasonably able to make in his circumstances, that would be a good ground for preventing the enforcement by an unreasonable landlord of his right to forfeiture, so long as he was getting the same as the other landlord.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

May I ask a question on that point? Does my right hon. and learned Friend approve of the principle which I put forward that something should be done to protect the proprietor, who would be excluded? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it certain by putting in "shall"? Do not let us have any question about it. Between now and the Committee stage will he put something into the Bill to make the position quite clear?

The Attorney-General

I hesitate to say that I agree with what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, because I am not quite sure of what he has said. One of the difficulties about this subject-matter is that every case is different, and the result depends upon the exact circumstances. All I was saying was that he took the case of three landlords, two reasonable and one unreasonable. If the resources of the tenant are such that he can say to the court, "What I am giving to the reasonable landlord is all that I can afford, because I am unable, owing to the war, to pay more, and they are willing to accept it," it would, I should think, afford very strong ground for asking the court to see that the unreasonable landlord did not get more than the reasonable landlords. But you could not put that into a Bill, to the extent of saying that it should apply automatically to every case. The landlords might not only be reasonable but be friends of the tenant, and the terms arranged with another landlord might not reflect merely the economic needs of the tenant. You could not put into a Bill, as a matter of law, that because one landlord would accept a certain sum, other landlords should be compelled to accept the same sum.

The next point was with regard to public utilities. This point was raised before, and the difficulty was pointed out of dealing with this matter by law, partly because many of the contracts are of such short duration. Various Ministers presiding over the Departments concerned have said that they would be very willing to look into cases, where it was thought that public utilities had been using their power unreasonably. All I can say at the moment is that I hope hon. Gentlemen who have cases in mind have put them to the various Departments to see whether there was hardship which could be dealt with administratively.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but this is an important point. The point is that the threat is used by these monopoly organisations to obtain payment in full. By hook or by crook the tenant makes that payment in full, but, of course, that is at the expense of the other people who are owed money, and it is most unfair.

The Attorney-General

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred to what he regards as improper threats—

Vice-Admiral Taylor

I did not say "improper."

The Attorney-General

Well, "threats" has a rather sinister sound. I hope that he has drawn the attention of the Minister of Transport to cases where this undue pressure or these threats have been made. My right hon. Friend said, or I said it on his behalf, that he was willing to look into cases where he thought this power was being used in circumstances where it ought not to be used. It is unfortunate if those who are interested in this matter have not followed out that avenue, to use a colloquialism.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that it is any use making representations in this way? Everybody knows—it is a matter of common sense—that if a utility company provide you with water and you get behind with your payment—it is not a question of giving one instance or another, it is general—they say, "If you do not pay, we will cut the water off." There is no point in seeing the Ministry of Transport or any other Department then.

The Attorney-General

That is a very unconvincing observation, particularly in the light of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just told the House in regard to gas. He said that the gas companies with the same power have treated people extremely reasonably. It is now suggested that the Metropolitan Water Board, the electricity companies and telephone companies, have not taken the reasonable course which the gas companies have taken. I should have thought that there was every reason for taking the matter up with the heads of Departments who have influence, if not statutory powers, to suggest that these other undertakings should adopt the same general and reasonable policy as is adopted by the gas companies.

Mr. Silverman

Why not put it in the Bill?

The Attorney-General

You cannot put it in the Bill that people should act reasonably. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that the Ministry in charge of these services invited information on matters of this kind, and it would lighten our task if the invitation was accepted. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) had two suggestions, and we are advising the Committee to consider both courses. My Noble Friend's Department has kept and is keeping this matter under constant review. We receive a great deal of information, and when we have not dealt with some cases it is not because we have not considered them, but because the subject-matter in some cases is very difficult to deal with. We get many more hard cases than suggestions as to how they should be dealt with. An Advisory Committee might, I think, put another cog in the machine. However, I will certainly consider it. If the hon. Member has any practical suggestions, I am sure that my Noble Friend's Department or I myself will be very glad to have them.

The hon. Member also spoke of the increased jurisdiction in county courts, and I will also consider that matter. I am bound to say, however, that there is a certain difficulty in departing from the general principle of the Bill, that the court to grant the leave is the court where you get the judgment. I think it will result in increased jurisdiction, but I will certainly look into that point. I welcome the general attitude of the House to the Bill, and I hope that it will grant the Second Reading.

6.21 p.m.

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

I wish the Attorney-General would use his persuasive appeal with his colleagues, the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Transport. During the time that this trouble was becoming a little inflamed I remember meeting the then Postmaster-General, who has now been transferred to a higher status. I know he was very anxious to be nice with everybody, but it was always almost impossible for a deputation to see him. I appealed to him personally to meet a deputation about telephones, and he suggested that they might see somebody else who would be at the Post Office when he was not there. I tried two or three ways to get him fixed in some place where these people could meet him by deputation, and it was almost impossible. It may be that the changes that have now taken place in that Department are such that the present Postmaster-General would be more inclined to hear a deputation. All I am asking is that the Attorney-General will ask his colleagues to listen to these appeals. I can assure him from my knowledge and information that it has been very difficult to arrange for a deputation to see the Postmaster-General. It has been no use appealing. We have also had a change in regard to the Minister of Transport. It may be that the new Minister of Transport will not be so afraid to meet deputations and discuss difficulties there.

May I also say that it is a great advance that this forfeiture of the lease shall no longer take place? There are other difficulties which will challenge the strongest spirit. One of those difficulties is that of contracts made after the war started. There are people who thought they had a secure contract and were warranted in believing so from the general policy of the Government. They have entered into contracts with their eyes open, believing everything will be all right, but now, with these parachutists and other things falling from the blue heavens of the night, conditions apparently have been entirely changed. I hope I am not asking too much in requesting that something be done to consider the cases of people who have entered into contracts after the war started, in areas which have been directly affected by some new technique arising out of the prosecution of the war. I am adumbrating that point in view of the Committee stage coming later. I want to thank the Attorney-General, because I know that he has been preoccupied with this matter, and he deserves some thanks. His late colleague also deserves some measure of thanks, because he, as well as the Attorney-General, put his hands to this rather difficult task and a distinct improvement has been made.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Tuesday next.—[Mr. Grimston.]