HL Deb 20 September 1841 vol 59 cc611-3
Lord Cottenham

observed, that it might be convenient to the House if he at once stated the course which he intended to pursue with regard to these bills, relating to the administration of justice, which he had laid on the Table at the commencement of the Session. He did not suppose that it would be possible before the close of the Session to obtain sufficient time to give them that ample consideration which their importance required; he should therefore withdraw them for the present Session. He was anxious, however, to ensure the attention of the House to the subject matter of these bills, and more especially that of his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, so that these measures might—if the principle was adopted by the House—be carried out as completely as possible. The chief object of these bills was the establishment of courts with local jurisdiction throughout the country, not only for the recovery of small debts, but also for the trial of questions connected with properly to a certain amount. He conceived that the greatest possible public benefit would be derived from the establishment of these courts, which also might be constituted in such a way as to be most useful for several legal purposes. For instance, in proceedings in the Court of Chancery it was necessary very often to institute inquiries in the country which at present were conducted in a way not the most satisfactory, and which at the same time were attended with very great expense. Now, these courts might be rendered most useful in investigations of this nature. Again, the greatest advantages had resulted from the constitution of the present Court of Bankruptcy in London, and many of the advantages which were experienced in the metropolis from this court might be extended to the country, by giving to those local courts some of the powers now exercised by the Bankruptcy Court. Jurisdiction also in inquiries in lunacy cases might safely be entrusted to these courts. He also proposed that the judges of these courts should have power of hearing and determining in insolvent cases. Another provision of the measures which he had prepared was to unite the Insolvent Court and the Court of Bankruptcy. The latter, as regarded the Court of Review, had hardly any business, while the Insolvent Court was overpressed. The House was aware that there had been a great diminution in the number of judges in the Court of Review. The number of judges in that court constituted by the Bankruptcy Act was five; one vacancy had occurred which had not been filled up, and he (Lord Cottenham), during the period in which he had the honour of holding the seals, had transferred two of the other judges of this court to other judicial offices, where their services were required. Under these circumstances there was only one judge in the Court of Review, while the business was not sufficient to occupy his time. He had already stated, that the pressure of business was very great in the Insolvent Court, and a considerable portion of the time of the judges of that court was taken up in the circuits. Now, if the local courts had jurisdiction in insolvency, it would greatly relieve the Insolvent Court in London. It would be in the recollection of many noble Lords, that he had appointed a commission composed of a number of Gentlemen engaged in various branches of trade, as well as in other pursuits. These commissioners had made a report, which was a very valuable document, and many of the recommendations in it he had embodied in these bills. He had felt it to be his duty to bring under the consideration of the House the results of the investigation of these gentlemen, and he trusted that noble Lords during the recess would turn their attention to the report he had alluded to, as well as to other documents on the subject, with the view to the full consideration of these bills, or others having a similar object in view. He would only further add, that he should not at present press these bills, but should bring them forward at an early period next Session.

Bills put off sine die.—Adjourned.