HL Deb 29 March 1844 vol 73 cc1598-600
Lord Brougham

said, he begged to lay a very important document upon their Lordships' Table. He stood there merely as the organ of the Criminal Law Commission, from whom this document emanated; and he acted in such capacity the more readily, as he had the custody of the Great Seal at the time this Commission was issued, which had led the way to this important and satisfactory result. The Report of this Commission contained a digest of the whole Criminal Law of the country, that was, of England and Wales; but not extending to Scotland or Ireland. It comprised the complete code of Criminal Law, excluding procedure, which he thought was a branch of the subject which might much more conveniently and perfectly be treated of in a distinct measure. This measure, so framed, he begged to lay before their Lordships, asking of them the usual courtesy of a first reading for it; where upon he should be happy to consign it to their Lordships or to Her Majesty's Government, hoping that they would give it as much countenance and support as they might think it deserved; their Lordships, of course, not being in any way pledged to the adoption of it by allowing it to be read a first time. With respect to the separation of the law of procedure from the pure law upon criminal matters, they had the example of Napoleon's Code for such a mode of proceeding, and he thought there was a manifest advantage in adopting it. Again, expressing a hope that the Bill would meet with the support of Her Majesty's Government, he begged to move that this Bill be read a first time.

Lord Campbell

said, he rejoiced to see a proposition made for establishing a criminal code; but he must say he had some apprehension as to the fate of this measure, from the irregular manner in which it had been introduced. His noble and learned Friend said that he presented this Bill "as the organ." He (Lord Campbell) expected to hear him go on and say "of Her Majesty's Government;" and he should have been very much rejoiced if he had said so; because, feeling very great anxiety upon this subject, he felt that no measure of the kind could hope to be carried into effect, except with the cordial assent and co-operation of the Government. But his noble and learned Friend did not say he stood here as the "organ of the Government," but as the "organ of the Criminal Law Commission." This was a position which he could not quite understand. The Commissioners, having been appointed by the Crown, had reported the result of their inquiries to the Queen's Government, and having done so, were to all intents and purposes, functi officio. They had nothing more to do with the matter. It was for the Government, if they thought proper, to introduce a measure in accordance with their recommendations. It would seem, however, that Her Majesty's Government had either not seen this Report or had not thought proper to adopt its recommendations in the form of a Bill. This task they had abandoned to his noble and learned Friend, who did not hold any office under Government at present. He (Lord Campbell), therefore, felt some alarm at the manner in which this Bill had been brought in, but still he hoped that it would meet with the support of Her Majesty's Government, and that the country would not long be suffered to remain under the disgrace of having no criminal code.

Lord Brougham

denied that there was any irregularity in the mode in which this Bill had been brought before their Lordships. His noble and learned Friend ought to be aware, that the Report upon which it was framed was a public one, and one to which, for the last twelve months, every Member of either House of Parliament could have had access. His noble and learned Friend seemed also to forget his constitutional law. The Constitution was one thing, the Government another. The Government might introduce Bills, but the Parliament passed them. He did not understand that there was any maxim of constitutional law which required that a Bill of this or any other nature should be introduced by the Government of the Crown. This might be the most effectual mode by which a Measure could be carried through Parliament; but there was not the shadow of a charge of irregularity in his (Lord Brougham) or any other Member of their Lordships' House bringing in any Bill which he thought proper. He concurred with his noble and learned Friend, in the hope that this Bill would be taken up with favour and consideration by Her Majesty's Government; but he had only to add, that if they did not, he should continue to take care of it himself.