HL Deb 07 August 1854 vol 135 cc1369-70

inquired what course it was intended to take in reference to the Common Law Procedure Bill?


said, that the Common Law Procedure Bill, which was now before the House of Commons, contained clauses which gave to the courts of common law the power to deal with and decide the whole dispute between parties, so that it might not, as was the case at present, be requisite to apply to Courts of Equity with respect to some parts which might not come under the jurisdiction of the courts of law. After that Bill had passed the House of Lords, the Commission now occupied with the reform of Chancery Procedure suggested that there ought to be a converse measure, and that clauses should be introduced into it for the purpose of giving the Courts of Chancery also the power of deciding on the whole of every question brought before them. It was thought desirable that they should have the power to summon juries to decide questions of fact and to assess damages without calling in the assistance of a court of law. He (the Lord Chancellor), however, thought that it would not be germane to the subject-matter of the Common Law Procedure Bill to introduce such clauses as these into it; and, accordingly, the Solicitor General introduced the Chancery Amendment Bill to carry out this object, which, however, must contain many more provisions to enable it to work. Without professing to be too much enamoured of the system of juries, yet when there was an issue which required damages to be assessed, he did not feel persuaded that a Judge of a court of equity was the most competent person to assess the damages. To manage this matter well it seemed that they must leave the trial by jury where it now was, and let issues be directed, or they must provide means to enable the Court of Equity to summon juries, and try issues there. As, however, the matter could not be proceeded with this Session, he wished not to commit himself by saying whether it was the fittest that the Court of Chancery should have the power to summon juries, or that matters should be left to be decided, as at present, by issues directed to the Common Law Courts. He did not say that he might not come to be of opinion that it was right to give power to the Court of Chancery to summon juries, but he wished at present to leave the matter Open. In answer to the question of his noble and learned Friend, he must say that he had no power to bring forward the Bill unless their Lordships suspended their Resolution upon the ground that the matter of this Bill was of recent occurrence and urgency, within the exception of the Resolution. But to propose this would net be acting in fairness to the Resolution which their Lordships had come to in the month of May last. He trusted, however, that in a new Session of Parliament some measure would be introduced, either the same Bill as had been already introduced, or some more general measure, as to inquiring into matters of fact in the Court of Chancery.