HL Deb 12 July 1833 vol 19 cc610-2
The Lord Chancellor

said, it would be recollected, that, in consequence of a bill which he had introduced in the last Session of Parliament, a great number of sinecure places connected with various Courts had been done away with. The annual expense of those places had been 17,600l. Some of these offices had become vacant, and others would, on and after the 15th of August, cease to exist. It would be necessary that some provision should be made for the individuals now holding those situations; that, however, would require a money bill, and must, therefore, be introduced in the other House. In consequence of the decision of their Lordships with respect to the Local Jurisdiction Bill on Tuesday last—a decision which he greatly regretted on every ground, public and private—it was no longer necessary for him to delay bringing in one or two important measures which would not have been called for if the Bill to which he alluded had been carried. He should now state what those measures were. Their Lordships would recollect, that an Ecclesiastical Commission, formed of the Judges of the Ecclesiastical Courts, a most able and learned body of men, had been appointed to inquire into the constitution of these Courts: that Commission had reported about a year ago; and, according to the recommendations of the Commissioners, he had some time ago framed several bills. He had not brought them forward at an earlier period, because he was anxious, in the first instance, to see what progress would be made in the Local Courts' Bill. The recommendation of the Commissioners had been adopted in one most essential point—namely, in abolishing a number of minor ecclesiastical Courts. A vast number of Courts of that description, not less, he believed than 340—were scattered over different parts of the country, several of them having a jurisdiction over a large, and some over a small, district. In several instances the jurisdiction extended over only a single parish or two. That being the case, the House would see the expediency of attending to the recommendation of the commissioners, which was, to transfer the jurisdiction of those Courts—the Bishops' Peculiar Courts—to the Diocesan Courts. He knew this change would be attended with some inconvenience, inasmuch as it would be necessary to do certain acts at a distance from the homes of the parties concerned; but that could not be avoided. If, however, the Local Courts' Bill had passed, no such difficulty would have existed. On the recommendation of the Commissioners, no less than nine bills were originally founded. It had, however, been thought better that the whole of those bills should be consolidated into one measure. Now that the Local Courts Bill had failed in its progress through that House, he would not say a single word on the subject of its provisions, but he would briefly slate the objects of the Bill he was then about to submit to their consideration. In the first place, the Bill abolished the Bishops' Peculiar Courts, and made other changes of equal importance. According to the recommendation of the Commissioners, it deprived the Ecclesiastical Courts of all criminal jurisdiction, and declared, that offences of a criminal nature should, in future, be treated as misdemeanors, punishable by indictment. It regulated the powers of sequestration in the manner suggested by the Commissioners. The defects of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction exercised by the heads of the Church over clerks who misconducted themselves had long been complained of. It was only necessary for him, in stating that fact, to allude to one or two cases, which must be fresh in their Lordships' remembrance, which had travelled through the whole of those Courts, and even up to that House. To obviate the recurrence of such an evil, provision was made in the Bill, conformably with the recommendation of the Commissioners. Various most important regulations with respect to the choice of churchwardens were also adopted in the Bill. He had not considered this part of the subject very minutely, and therefore had not completely made up his mind with respect to it; but as the recommendation came from such very high authority, it was worthy of the serious attention of their Lordships. Provision was also made in the Bill for the amendment of the law relating to the dilapidation and waste of Church property. Perhaps, however, the most important provision contained in the Bill was that which amended the law concerning the proof of wills with respect to real as well as personal property. It gave him great satisfaction, although he deeply regretted the loss of the measure to which he had already alluded, that there was no longer any reason for delaying the introduction of the present Bill. The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving, "That the Bill be read a first time."

Bill read a first time.

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