HL Deb 19 December 1854 vol 136 cc494-7

presented a Bill to permit the registration of dishonoured bills of exchange and promissory notes in England, and to allow execution thereon. The noble and learned Lord said the object of the Bill was to assimilate the law of England to that of Scotland in respect of bills of exchange by giving to the creditor upon bills of exchange and promissory notes the relief of summary execution instead of, as at present, driving him into a court of law to prove his claim. The principle of the measure had always obtained in most countries on the Continent of Europe, in France, Holland, Belgium, the Italian States, and it had received the sanction of the practice of the sister kingdom of Scotland for the last 150 years. He had introduced a measure for the same purpose into that House in the last Session of Parliament, which had received their Lordships' unanimous approbation in all its stages; and the principle had also been approved of by the other House, but it had been sent down at too late a period of the Session to be passed into law. He might, therefore, be asked why he had not reintroduced the same measure in the present Session. He had opposed the Bill of his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) by which it was proposed to enable either House of Parliament to take up any measure which had passed through one House, but had failed to pass into law, owing to the advanced period of the Session or other accidental interruptions, at the stage where it was dropped, without the necessity of again discussing it through all its stages. He had thought that proposition objectionable, inasmuch as circumstances might have changed since the preceding Session; because it was legislating upon the Standing Orders, and because it was unnecessary, since the advantage would be equally obtained in cases of urgency by a suspension of the Standing Orders. But in a published letter he had addressed to his venerated Friend now no more, Lord Denman, he had suggested that considerable advantage would be gained by the two Houses so far making their Standing Orders give way as at once, and with a single reading, to pass any Bill in either House which had gone through all its stages in that House the Session before; though, should circumstances have altered, the Bill might be suffered to follow the ordinary course: and he instanced the Bills of Exchange Bill as an illustration; because he had thought that thus passing the Bill might be made into a useful precedent, since the principle of the measure had received the cordial assent of his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, and of the Lord Chief Justice, as well as of their Lordships generally. But, during its progress through the other House, the Bill had received some alterations and amendments, of which he fully approved, and which had been embodied in the present measure. As, therefore, the Bill was no longer in the same state as when it left their Lordships' House, he had thought it expedient to introduce it as an entirely new Bill, and he hoped the measure would meet with the same approbation from their Lordships, would be passed speedily through their Lordships' House, and be sent down to the Commons in order to become the law of the land with as little delay as possible.


said, he could assure their Lordships that this Bill would be a striking improvement in our mercantile law. No one had had so good an opportunity as himself of seeing the monstrous mischief that arose from the existing law; by which the acceptor of a bill, who had put his name to it for value received, might oblige his creditor, when the date arrived of its falling due, to bring an action upon it, and might then plead, either that he never accepted the bill, or that he had paid it, or that the holder had given no value for it, or that a release had been given; or he might put in all manner of other pleas, equally false and groundless; and when, a few months afterwards, the trial came on, the cause might not be defended at all. He (Lord Campbell) had a paper before him, on the first day of every sitting, with ten or fifteen such undefended causes on it; and so the creditor was defrauded, because it was with the creditor's money that expensive litigation was carried on. Now, according to this bill, if the party who was sued on a bill of exchange had any reasonable ground of defence he need only go before a Judge, and give security—or, in certain circumstances, that security would be waived—and he would then have ample opportunity of making his defence. He hoped this Bill would, at an early period of the Session, pass into law.


also expressed his cordial approval of the measure, which he had considered attentively last Session. He was not yet aware what were the alterations made in the other House; he would therefore now only express his concurrence with what had been said on the general principle. As to Bills of this nature, upon matters of legal reform, which had been once considered in that House, and had gone down to the other House, and, from some delays in the previous Session, had not become law, he did not see why they should be discussed over again in their Lordships' House, as if they had not been discussed before. Practical good sense would dictate, that a Bill, which had once received their Lordships' sanction, should pass without any further discussion in another Session; of course any noble Lord might ask any questions, or make any observations on it, and a discussion might arise out of any matter subsequently introduced.


said, nothing could be more gratifying to the great mercantile community, who felt a deep interest in this matter, than the reception this Bill had from their Lordships, and from his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chief Justice. We were obliged to proceed sometimes far more slowly than might be wished in our legal improvements. He would remind the House that an important Bill introduced by him, which he believed had the unanimous assent of their Lordships, enabling persons to give evidence who were parties to a suit, had been first brought in by him ten years ago, in 1845, and again a year or two afterwards, and at last only in 1851, it was again brought in and happily passed, and was now, most happily, the law of the land, all Judges agreeing in confessing the benefits which it had bestowed upon the administration of justice. So it was with the present measure as to its past history, and so he trusted would it be as to its beneficial operation. Deferred one Session, he did hope and trust that it would not run the risk of so long a delay in becoming law as had attended the former Bill.

Bill read 1a.

House adjourned to Thursday next.