HL Deb 29 June 1863 vol 171 cc1594-6




in moving to discharge the Order for the Second Reading of this Bill and presenting another Bill slightly different, for the purpose of effecting similar objects, said, that the measures which had been passed during the last quarter of a century for simplifying law procedure had been attended with the happiest effects. The establishment of the County Courts especially had been productive of the greatest possible good in preventing tedious and expensive litigation to both parties. He wished it to be understood that his anxiety to stop useless litigation was by no means an attack on the profession of which, for above sixty years, he had been a member. Against lawyers he was far from quoting the divine saying, that "they load men with hardens grievous to be borne, which themselves touch not with one of their fingers." Of neither branch of the profession did he so speak. Nor did he say that they alone were to blame for needless litigation. Their clients must share the blame with them. But that such litigation was a great evil to the parties and to the community was plain; and this evil he was anxious by all means to remedy. When bringing in the first County Courts Bill in the other House, he stated, with Sir James Scarlett's concurrence, that at the preceding assizes for Lancaster, including, of course, Liverpool and Manchester, the fifty verdicts returned were for sums averaging less than £14. Though five or six actions were to try rights, yet forty out of the fifty were for debt and damages. Although the sums recovered were under £700, the cost to the parties was above £5,000. The establishment of County Courts and the Act recently passed on bills, notes, and bonds, had considerably reduced the amount of litigation in the Superior Courts. In Scotland, from which both measures were borrowed, 22,000 suits yearly were brought in the local courts; in this country above 400,000, for sums exceeding two millions. The benefits derived from these courts were unspeakable; but they left much litigation, which, either in the inception of suits or their needless continuance, was a grievous matter, and could be effectually remedied. It required no argument to prove the in evitable tendency of parties going before a person wholly impartial and well qualified to advise. In the bulks of cases his advice would be followed, and hopeless actions or groundless defences would be stopped. Experience had abundantly shown that such was the actual result of Conciliation Courts. Whenever they had been fairly tried, they had greatly lessened the amount of litigation. In France, where the system was introduced from Denmark, though with unfortunate alterations, the greater part of the suits brought had been settled without trial. In Switzerland a larger proportion; in Denmark, where this law had existed for above a century, out of 30,000 suits commenced, 3,000 only came to trial, the other 27,000 being either settled under the Judge's advice, or dropped before trial. A code of procedure had lately been framed by Sir B. Pine, Governor of our island of St. Christophers, and he had introduced Conciliation Courts with the entire assent of his law officers, who had no doubts of their success. He had taken it from the neighbouring settlement of St. Thomas, the great emporium of trade with the Spanish Main. In that island, as in Santa Cruz, he had learnt from the Governor (himself like Sir B. Pine, a lawyer), that the effect of the Courts of Conciliation had been almost entirely to extinguish hostile litigation. Could it be wondered at, that he should feel most desirous to introduce this institution, of which the effect would be to substitute the incalculable blessing of peace for angry contentions? If he succeeded in obtaining this end, he should believe, that long as his life had been, he had not lived in vain. He presented this Bill for establishing Courts of Conciliation. The chief change made from the former measure regarded the mode of paying the Judge. In preparing this Bill, he had had the inestimable benefit of the assistance and advice of his learned Friend, Mr. M. Malcolm Kerr, the able Judge of the Sheriff's Court, where above 14,000 cases were tried in a year, and where the want of conciliation proceedings was constantly felt.

Motion agreed to.

Order for Second Reading Tomorrow discharged; and Bill (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Then a Bill to enable Persons between whom Disputes have arisen to settle their Differences without resorting to Litigation, presented, and read 1a. (No. 171.)

Forward to