HL Deb 19 July 1831 vol 5 cc4-6
The Lord Chancellor

reminded their Lordships, that he had given notice, some days ago, of his intention to lay before their Lordships, on this day, a Bill for the abolition of the Court of Exchequer in Scotland, and for substituting some other mode for the discharge of its duties. He then rose to fulfil that notice, though he would abstain from entering into any particular statement of the provisions of the Bill at present, and content himself with moving, that it be read a first time, and printed. It was probably known to their Lordships, that at the Union between England and Scotland, a provision was made, by treaty, that a Court of Exchequer should be appointed in Scotland, after the model of the Court of Exchequer in England. This Court was accordingly afterwards established by a Statute of the 9th of Anne, by which its powers and duties were defined. But the judicial powers of this Court were not in all respects assimilated to those of the English Court of Exchequer, which was competent, by a fiction of law, to take cognizance of all civil causes, in the same manner as the Court of Common Pleas. The Scotch Court of Exchequer concerned itself with no processes, either civil or criminal, except with such civil processes as were connected with the revenue of the Crown. On inquiry it had been found, that this Court had exceedingly little business to do—indeed, next to none. In the course of three months out of the six months of which the Session consisted, it had happened that only one defended cause had come before the Court, and it was manifest that the whole of the business might be easily done by one Baron sitting for only one day in each week during the time that the Session lasted. In consequence of this, it had occurred to his Majesty's Ministers that the country might be relieved from the burthen of this Court in its present shape, in which it consisted of a Chief Baron and four Puisne Barons; and in this he need not say, that he concurred, having himself taken some steps towards an endeavour to get the same object effected while he was a Member of the other House. As the law stood at present, the Chief Baron was entitled to retire on an allowance at the end of fifteen years' service, and the other Barons had the same privilege. The present Chief Baron had served only three years; but one of the other Barons had served eleven years, and another nine years. But in order to induce the Barons to retire, it was proposed that the Act, called the Pension Act, should be modified, and a certain provision made for those retiring before the expiration of their regular time of retiring, or their becoming afflicted with any infirmity. And in case they should not retire, the plan was, that as the Barons died, their places should not be filled up, leaving the duties to be performed by the remainder, until only one should be left, who could easily perform the whole of the duty, as he had before stated. And then, when the last should die off, it was proposed, that the duty should be performed by a Judge of the Court of Session, not being also a Judge of the Court, of Justiciary. There were seven Judges of the Court of Session, who were not Judges of the Justiciary Court, and one of them could well sit in the Court of Exchequer on the Mondays during the Session, which were the days on which the Justiciary Court sat, during the sitting of which there was no sitting in the Court of Session. One of the duties of the Court of Exchequer was the expediting Crown Charters, and that was a duty for which a Judge of the Court of Session was peculiarly well fitted. An officer of the Exchequer Court, who held his place for life, was perfectly well qualified to audit the public accounts; and another officer, with a small salary, would answer the purpose of assisting the Judge of the Court of Session in such duties as he would have to perform. The details would be more particularly considered hereafter, In the meantime he moved, that the Bill be read a first time and printed.

Ordered accordingly.