HL Deb 15 June 1875 vol 224 cc1891-4

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee upon the said Bill.


presented Petitions from the Council of Benchers of the Hon. Societies of the Inner Temple and of Lincoln's Inn, protesting against the measure. They represented that by superseding the system of legal education established by the Inns of Court the Bill was obviously calculated to destroy those institutions altogether, inasmuch as it would be said, after it came into operation, that the very object of their existence had ceased, and that they had become mere instruments of call to the Bar. On the occasion of the second reading he (the Lord Chancellor) had stated certain objections he had to this Bill, as distinguished from the Bill for the Regulation of the Inns of Court. The latter, he believed, ought to become law, and might be extremely beneficial to the Inns of Court themselves. As to the Bill at present before the House, it proposed that for the present there should be established merely a body to conduct examinations in connection with call to the Bar; but, at the same time, it contemplated that as soon as funds could be obtained there should be really a School formed for the purpose of teaching law. Now, he held that a measure for that purpose was not only unnecessary, but entirely antagonistic to the other measure. By the Bill which had already passed their Lordships' House, powers had been given to the Inns of Court—much in the same way as powers had some time ago been given to the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge—with a view to the improvement and development of legal education. It was provided that if within a limited time the Inns of Court did not provide an adequate system of legal education, the Commissioners appointed by the Bill should have power to make the regulations necessary for that purpose. Now, look at the effect of the present measure, in connection with the operation of the Bill which had already passed their Lordships' House. The Bill for the government of the Inns of Court proposed that those Societies should themselves pass regulations, and draw up rules for establishing the best and most judicious system of teaching law; whereas the present measure proposed to set up an antagonistic and rival School of Law—such a step must paralyze and bring to naught such efforts as the Inns of Court might make for the purpose of improving legal education. He entirely agreed with his noble and learned Friend (Lord Selborne) in desiring that some Examining Body should have the power of declaring who were properly qualified for admission to the Bar. Knowing as he did how anxious his noble and learned Friend was to do what was most expedient in this matter, he felt extremely unwilling to appear to take issue with him on the subject of this Bill, and, therefore, what he proposed was that the noble and learned Lord should rest satisfied with having passed this Bill through its second reading—or, at all events, with going into Committee upon it pro formâ—and should wait and see whether the Bill for the Regulation of the Inns of Court was successful in passing the other House of Parliament. If the measure did not pass into law during the present Session, it would be open to the noble and learned Lord to re-introduce this measure next year, with such amendments as he might deem it necessary to make in it.


said, he thought that the Bar generally was much indebted to the noble and learned Lord (Lord Selborne) for bringing forward this measure, which, in his opinion, ought to become law at some future period—unless in the meantime a suitable scheme for the improvement of legal education was adopted under the provisions of the Bill for the regulation of the Inns of Court. He regarded it as an untoward circumstance that certain members of the Inner Temple should have presented a Petition to that House in almost identical terms with that which had been read to-night by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He regretted extremely that the terms of those Petitions showed that some members of the Inns of Court, at all events, regarded this Bill as calculated to have a mischievous and damaging effect upon those institutions. At the same time, however, he trusted that the noble and learned Lord would excuse him for expressing the opinion that, believing as he did that some larger measure would ultimately be necessary, it would be unwise to press this Bill forward at the present time, seeing that by doing so he might imperil the success of the Bill for the Regulation of the Inns of Court, which he believed would prove a really useful measure.


said, he had taken the greatest interest in the subject of the improvement of legal education for several years, but his experience in life had taught him that patience was one of the most valuable qualities a man could possess. He had already borne a delay of five years, and he could bear some further delay, rather than unnecessarily widen any differences which might exist on this subject, between himself and others, with whom it was his desire to agree. Under the circumstances, therefore, he felt bound to adopt the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and would not further press this measure in the present Session, after their Lordships had gone, pro formâ, into Committee upon it. He hoped, however, that the Bill for the Regulation of the Inns of Court might pass into law in the course of the present Session. Before he sat down he must defend the Bill against certain misconstructions which had been put upon it in the Petitions that had been presented against it to their Lordships' House. The main object was to collect together and to give an aggregate constitution to the several learned bodies which were now separated. The interest the country had in proper provision being made for the best possible legal education for all persons, whether they practised the profession or not, ought not to be left out of sight in the consideration of the subject. He altogether denied the unworthy suggestion that the Bill was meant to be antagonistic to the Inns of Court. The object in view was that all the legal institutions should co-operate and become constituents of a legal University or School of Law—he cared not by what name it was called—it would virtually be a University, and the relation of those bodies to it would be similar to that which existed between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the Colleges they contained. He retained the opinion that it was desirous an aggregate body of the kind he contemplated should have power to contribute to the public teaching of the law; and he could not undertake that in any Bill which he might introduce in another Session, this subject should be wholly left out of sight, though he was quite willing to consider how far he could consistently go, for the sake of meeting, as far as possible, the views of his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack.

Motion agreed to; House in Committee accordingly; House resumed.