§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a"
said, that this Session of Parliament was expected to be shorter than usual; but it would be more remarkable in the history of England in reference to the amendment of the law than almost any other Session. They had had a full inquiry made into the administration of the Common Law, such as had not taken place since the time of Edward III. The most deliberate examination had been made into matters affecting the administration of justice in every department, by the most competent persons; and measures had been prepared to carry into effect their recommendations. Parliament had therefore done the utmost that the public could expect of it. It was impossible that such measures could be framed in a perfect manner in the first instance, but every thing that was possible had been done in deliberately examining into matters affecting the administration of justice in every department. With respect to the present Bill, which had reference to the Court of Chancery, he hoped it would become law in the present Session. The Chancery Commission had been appointed in the latter part of 1850. They inquired and deliberated twelve months, and prepared a most ela- 1289 borate Report, which he would recommend those who objected to any part of the present Bill to read. He (Lord Truro) had come into office in July last, and had entered into communications with them as to the amendment of the proceedings in the Court of Chancery. On the 27th January last the Commission presented a most elaborate and learned Report, and on the 27th February he (Lord Truro) retired from office, so that the Report had only been in his hands for one month previous to his retirement, and Bills were then being prepared to carry the Report into effect. His noble and learned Friend had received the seals in February, and had laid this Bill upon the table during the present Parliament, which was much more than could have been expected from him. The Bill had also been approved of by a Select Committee. The progress of these measures had been most expeditious: it had marked an earnest desire to meet the wishes of the country on the subject, and he trusted they would pass into law during the present Session.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
concurred in believing that the Bill now before their Lordships would on the whole contribute most materially indeed to the improvement of the administration of justice. The Report of the Chancery Commissioners not having been presented, as his noble and learned Friend had stated, till just before the meeting of Parliament, unfortunately there had not been the same opportunity for considering their recommendations as was afforded in the case of the Report of the Common Law Commissioners. He was afraid therefore that it might turn out that the enactments proposed might not be found so complete and so free from cavil as those of the measure relating to the Common Law Procedure. For this, however, no one was to blame; and certainly the noble and learned Lord now on the woolsack had devoted the utmost attention that the limited opportunity he had had admitted of, to the improvement of our Equity practice and procedure, and he (Lord Cranworth) believed that the measures of the Government were as nearly perfect as, under the circumstances, they possibly could be. So long as no step was made in a wrong direction, the public need not complain, under the circumstances, that the measure did not go to the full extent to which it might go. He shared in the wish that the Bills now passing 1290 their Lordships' House would become law in the present Session. They would tend to dispel what he believed to be a vulgar prejudice, that persons connected with the administration of the law had a sort of feeling for resisting improvements in anything relating to their own particular profession.
§ On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative. Bill read 3a accordingly.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
moved the omission of the 50th Clause, which he said did not come within the scope of the Bill. This clause authorised the Court of Chancery to direct that certain books of account should be held to be primâ facie evidence, although these documents, according to the ordinary law of the land, were not evidence. It was clear that the clause enacted something for the Court of Chancery, which, if it was right to enact for that Court, it was right to enact for any other Court. He must say that he thought it a matter of the most dangerous precedent to enact that it should be lawful for a Court to order that to be evidence which was not evidence on general principles. He therefore would move that the clause be omitted.
was understood to say that he could not help thinking that this enactment of the Bill was of a dangerous character.
The LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he did not understand his noble and learned Friends as wishing to divide the House, but as protesting against a certain clause in the Bill. He (the Lord Chancellor) admitted the clause in operation was a very doubtful one; but the opinions of the seven learned Judges who had gone into this Bill as a kind of Select Committee had been delivered in favour of the clause, and the clause was consequently retained. The Bill which he held in his hand was copied from the Report to which he had just referred, and, therefore, he was not at liberty to cut out that clause without the consent of those learned persons; but the Bill might be so amended in the other House. It did so happen that very often an executor to a will might for a very great number of years have filed all his bills, and a man might have kept his accounts regularly, but not expecting to be called on at the end of fifteen or sixteen or twenty years, had not kept all the vouchers. The object, therefore, of his (the Lord Chancellor's Bill) was to enable the Court to give effect 1291 to the evidence on both sides. That there were cases which required this, no one could deny; hut that there were cases also to which it ought not to be extended, he was perfectly ready to allow.
§ Amendment negatived: Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.
§ House adjourned to Thursday next.