HL Deb 07 July 1859 vol 154 cc773-5

presented a Petition of the Mayor, Magistrates, and other Inhabitants of Llanidloes, praying for maintaining the power of Imprisonment in County Courts. The noble and learned Lord said he would take the opportunity of referring to the great costs to which suitors were still put in suing for small debts, as well as to the number, diversity, and irre- gularity of the commitments from these Courts. It appeared from a Return which he had obtained, that in the year 1857, the number of commitments was upwards of 10,000. Of these a very large proportion—between 7,000 and 8,000—were for non-attendance to the summons, not for non-payment or refusal to pay. But he wished to call the attention of the House to the remarkable diversity in the amount of commitments by different Judges. He did not mean to blame the Judges, but it was evident that they bad widely different views as to the exigency of the case which would justify a commitment, and it was highly desirable that some inquiry should be made into the causes of this difference. In one County Court there had been no fewer than 750 commitments in the year, and in another only 26; though it was true that the first mentioned Court had tried 20,000 cases, and the other a much smaller number; but the proportion of commitments to actions tried in the former case was 1 in 26, and in the other, 1 in 230. He rejoiced to find that the County Courts were so much used, as he believed they saved an enormous amount of delay and expense to the poor, but he thought it desirable that there should be an inquiry into the practice with regard to commitments.


said, that his attention was called to this subject while he was Lord Chancellor, and recognizing its importance, he requested the learned Judges of the County Courts to report to him concerning these commitments. He believed that such a report had been prepared, but he was not aware whether it had yet been received by his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack.


agreed in thinking the subject a most important one, especially since imprisonment for debt was now virtually at an end, except so far as regarded the powers of the County Courts. The effect of going further in that direction might be to deter tradesmen from giving credit to the poor.


thought it would be much better if they did not give credit so freely to the labouring classes. One of the most sensible men he ever knew—the late Lord Althorp—was of opinion that, below a certain amount there ought to be no remedy whatever against a debtor, and then credit would not be given. This might be going too far; but the facilities of obtaining credit produced great injure and no little injustice. Return of the Number of Plaints entered in, in 1858, with the Sums for which entered; Number tried; Number tried above £20 and under £50; Amount of Money recovered by Judgments; and Amount of Money paid into Court, wag ordered to be laid before the House.

[On the following day this Order was discharged, and an Address for the same agreed to].