HL Deb 05 February 1852 vol 119 cc178-9

said, he had to move their Lordships for certain returns respecting the Court of Chancery, and in doing so he would take that opportunity of giving notice that on Tuesday next he would state the course he intended to pursue relative to an important Bill which last year received the sanction of their Lordships, and also the sanction of the other House, with some alteration, but which Bill was only prevented from passing owing to the late period of the Session when the Commons' Amendments came on for consideration, He alluded to the County Courts Further Extension Bill, which, by the courtesy of their Lordships, had received a first reading last Tuesday. The measure was, in fact, the same measure which their Lordships agreed to last year, the alterations made upon it in the other House not affecting the principle, but only the modus operandi. He would read to their Lordships a communication from one of the Judges who presided over the County Courts, in which that gentleman, a most learned and able person, expressed his thankfulness and satisfaction at the benefits derived from the justice administered in those courts. The learned Judge stated that, strongly as he had always been led to think in favour of the County Courts in consequence of the reports which he had heard respecting them, now that he had seen more nearly the working of the system by experience, he was astonished at the protection and comfort which they afforded to the people. He added, that out of the numerous cases which had come before him, he had met with only one bad case of perjury. That was a highly satisfactory testimony to the good effects and the efficient working of those courts; and he reckoned his learned Friend singularly fortunate in having met with but one case of perjury in the course of his experience. In all probability his statement was confined to the cases of the parties examined. He had now to move for returns showing the state of business in the country Courts of Bankruptcy, and in doing so he must remind their Lordships of the measure he had introduced in the last Session, having for its object the consolidation of the bankruptcy jurisdiction with the County Courts jurisdiction. The only chance of effecting that consolidation was by not filling up the vacancies in the offices of the Courts of Bankruptcy as they occurred, or, if they were filled up, that the persons who were appointed to them should receive their appointment to such offices upon terms similar to those on which other office-bearers, including the Welsh Judges, had sometimes been appointed, namely, that in case of their accepting the office, they were to have no claim to compensation if it should please Parliament in its wisdom to abolish those offices. He considered that either the vacancies should not be filled up, or, if filled up, it should be in that manner and on those terms. When the returns which he now moved for should be laid upon the table, their Lordships would see that in some of the country Courts of Bankruptcy there really was very little, indeed, of business transacted. It was stated that in some of those Courts a period of two months sometimes elapsed without any meetings being held for despatching business. Whether that representation was well founded or not, he would not undertake to say: they would be able to judge when the returns were made; but at the same time they could not always rely on the returns of the number of meetings as affording an indication of the real amount of business transacted, for he knew by what had formerly occurred that it was customary to set down notices of meetings in these Courts when there was little or no business to be brought forward, and the meeting was merely nominal. At all events, the returns for which he moved would furnish much important, and indeed absolutely necessary, information with regard to the country Courts of Bankruptcy.

The Returns moved for by the noble Lord were ordered to be laid before the House.