HL Deb 03 June 1851 vol 117 cc396-8

, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill said, its object was simply to transfer to the County Courts the jurisdiction in bankruptcy. These Courts had already a jurisdiction in insolvency; and the purpose of the Bill was to absorb, as it were, the existing jurisdiction in bankruptcy into the County Courts, so that there should be a great saving of expense to the public ultimately, he would not say immediately, and a vastly amended course of procedure. Their Lordships would recollect that, in 1831, the Act was made to transfer the bankruptcy jurisdiction to a new tribunal: this was confined to London and the neighbouring counties; but as, at that time, no County Courts, such as they now existed, were established, it was not deemed expedient to appoint Courts of Bankruptcy for the country, but to wait until the Local Courts Bill, then before Parliament, should pass. In 1833, that Bill, which gave the local courts jurisdiction in bankruptcy, was unfortunately thrown out by a very narrow majority; consequently, when the new bankruptcy system was some years after extended by Lord Lyndhurst's Bill to the country, there being still no local courts, it became necessary that twelve District Bankruptcy Courts should be founded. There could be no doubt that, however ably these Bankruptcy Courts might be conducted, they entailed large expense on the country. His proposition now was, to leave the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Bankruptcy Courts untouched, and, through the County Courts, now happily established, gradually to absorb the county bankruptcy business, thus effecting a saving to the public of between 50,000l. and 60,000l. a year, and avoiding the evils of two conflicting jurisdictions. By the aid of many valuable communications he had received from different parts of the country, the details of the Bill had been materially improved, but the principle remained precisely the same. He now proposed to have the Bill read, pro formâ, a second time, and to have it committed at the next meeting of the House. He should then be able to give the Amendments which he meant to introduce into it; and, the Committee being then taken also pro formâ, he should move that the Bill, with the Amendments, be reprinted—a course which would not commit their Lordships to its details. He might observe that the Bill united the bankruptcy and insolvency jurisdiction as regarded the provinces; but in London there would still be Insolvent and Bankruptcy Courts. He would, however, ask his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack to turn his attention towards the consolidation of the bankruptcy and insolvency jurisdiction in London, as well as in the country. That was a favourite theory of the late Lord Cottenham; but his noble and learned Friend could not succeed (as he always told him), because he was desirous of abolishing all distinctions in the law between traders and non-traders; that all, in fact, should be subject to the bankruptcy jurisdiction—a thing quite impossible to carry, even if it were admitted to be desirable. An objection had been taken that Bills of this nature ought to be originated in the other House of Parliament, and then brought up to their Lordships' House; but to that he might reply that the Bankruptcy Jurisdiction Bill of 1831 originated in this House. He wished the amended Bill they were now to have for improving the Administration of Justice in the Court of Chancery had also originated in this House, where clearly it ought to have begun; although certainly he spoke against his own interest in society; for he could hardly conceive a greater relief to his noble and learned Friends and himself than to be spared the labour of discussing, amending, and altering that Bill, and beating it into shape, instead of receiving it prepared in the other House. Not only was the Bankruptcy Bill of 1831 originated in this House, and, he believed, only discussed there, at least only fully discussed; but the Central Criminal Courts Bill was brought in there also, and sent down to the House of Commons, where it passed, he believed, without a single word of objection. Last of all, the Judicial Committee Bill had also been introduced into their Lordships' House, whence it was sent down to the other House, whore, he believed, not a single observation was made upon it. It passed, he believed, unanimously, and entirely sub silentio. The observation was consequently not borne out, that the Chancery Amendment Bill would only have a chance of success by being introduced in the other House of Parliament. With respect to the Judicial Committee Bill, though defective in one respect, it had worked admirably well; and there was only one thing wanting to complete that important jurisdiction—he meant the appointment of a professional President of that Court, not with the view of superseding his noble Friend the Lord President of the Council, but to relieve him from the trouble of attending to cases before the Court with which he could not be supposed to be conversant. The want of this presiding officer had been so much felt, that in 1841 it had been intended to supply the defect; and his noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst), as he more than once had stated in the House, had pressed upon him (Lord Brougham) the acceptance of the office—which he had for reasons wholly personal to himself declined—but with the full conviction that such an office should be created. The want of it seemed to him (Lord Brougham) to he the only defect in that jurisdiction. The attention of their Lordships had been called yesterday incidentally to the important subject of the criminal law, with a view to its consolidation and amendment, by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst); but he (Lord Brougham) might take that opportunity of saying that, so long as the Criminal Law remained in the barbarous state of having no public prosecutor answerable for its execution, he had no hope of its amendment. Until that great blot was effaced from our criminal system, they might amend and digest the law for ever, but it would remain imperfect in the greatest possible degree. He had taken this opportunity of directing the attention of the House to these matters, as it was very possible he might not be able to continue his attendance until the Chancery Bill should reach their Lordships The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

Bill read 2a.

House adjourned to Thursday next.