HL Deb 18 August 1857 vol 147 cc1773-5

said, it would be in the recollection of the House that when the Government announced their intention to bring in a Bill to punish fraudulent trustees he suggested to his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack that the measure ought to be accompanied by another for the purpose of affording relief to trustees, who would otherwise be visited with very considerable damages, although they had acted honestly, and without the slightest benefit to themselves, in the execution of their trusts. He thought it was the duty of the Government to undertake a measure of that nature in connection with one the object of which was to inflict punishment on fraudulent trustees. But when he made that suggestion to his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, his noble and learned Friend said it was impracticable. He (Lord St. Leonards) stated in answer that the suggestion was attended with difficulty, but that he did not admit it was impracticable; and he added that if the Government did not do what he thought they ought to do in this matter, he himself would endeavour to frame a measure which he hoped would meet the exigencies of the case. He did accordingly frame such a measure with great pains and care, and with the assistance of competent persons, and that measure lay on the table for many weeks for the express purpose that it might be fully investigated:—and he believed that public opinion had pronounced in favour of the measure. The Bill afterwards passed through Committee, and, having been read a third time, was seat down to the House of Commons, where it was read a second time, and then last night it was proposed in that House to put it into Committee. On that occasion, however, the learned organ of the Government in the House of Commons stated that the measure was so inaccurate and obscure, and so inadequate for the purpose for which it was intended, that it would require at least three days to make it right. That learned person then added, with the confidence which belonged to him, and by which he was led to imagine that he could make that clear which was obscure, substitute light for darkness, and make that adequate which was inadequate, that he himself would undertake to introduce a suitable measure on the subject in the next Session of Parliament. He certainly was astonished to learn that that learned person had spoken in those terms of a measure which had been prepared with such great care and deliberation, and which had passed through their Lordships' House without tiny great objection, and would venture to suggest that it was not open to the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman. That measure, however, was now before the public and the profession, and they would form their own opinion of it. In framing that measure he had but one object in view, namely, to relieve trustees from the danger which now surrounded them in the execution of their trusts, and he now gave notice that early in the next Session he should re-introduce the Bill in question.


said, he thought his noble and learned Friend must have misunderstood him when he stated that he (the Lord Chancellor) had said a measure of the kind suggested by him was impracticable. What he said was, that he thought it impracticable to leave the duties of trustees such as they were and to relieve them by saying that, though they had committed breaches of trust, they should not be responsible. Certainly he did not go with his noble and learned Friend in thinking that the introduction of this Bill was necessary to the effective working of the Fraudulent Trustees Bill. As to what had passed in the other House of Parliament, he must say, the time was when even to allude to any measure in progress in that House was an infringement of their Lordships' rules, and he thought for his noble and learned Friend to sanction with his weight and station in their Lordships' House the practice of raising discussions upon reports of debates in the other House, that had appeared in the public prints, was most inconvenient. Whether what his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had stated in the other House on the occasion in question was accurately or inaccurately reported he would not stop to inquire, for their Lordships' House was not the proper place to discuss the matter. He could only say that in the next Session he would be ready to give his most anxious attention to any Bill which the noble and learned Lord might introduce on the subject.