HL Deb 28 May 1875 vol 224 cc997-1002

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


said, that as both that Bill and the Inns of Court Bill had been before the country for some weeks, he had been much surprised to find that neither to himself individually, nor, so far as appeared to any Member of their Lordships' House, had any communication been made of the views of the four Inns of Court with regard to the proposed legislation. As the two Bills had an intimate relation to each other, and both stood on the Paper for the second reading that evening, he would refer to both measures. As to the Inns of Court Bill, he had no reason whatever to object to it. Last year, when his noble and learned Friend (Lord Selborne) introduced a Bill of a somewhat similar description, he stated the objections he had to that measure. He told his noble and learned Friend that he would have preferred a Bill which dealt with the Inns of Court somewhat after the manner in which the Colleges and the Universities had been dealt with—namely, that the Inns of Court should be required and empowered to make statutes for their own regulation as places of learning and discipline; and that, if they failed to prepare such statutes as should be approved of by the Queen in Council, Commissioners should be empowered to frame statutes for that purpose, which should be binding on them. Now, that was the course proposed in the Inns of Court Bill which his noble and learned Friend had now before their Lordships' House; and he was bound to say that, whether, speaking in his official character, or as a Member of their Lordships' House, or a Bencher of one of the Inns of Court, he thought the Bill was a desirable one, and that it ought to receive the assent of Parliament. He said that, reserving to himself at the same time the right to make some objections as to certain points of detail, as to which he thought alteration necessary. But as regarded the other Bill—the General School of Law Bill—he could not go so far. He held, and he must repeat, that it was not the business of Parliament, or of the State, to create or constitute a school for the teaching of Law. Probably his noble and learned Friend would say that if their Lordships would look at the Bill, they would find that he proposed only that there should be an Examining Body in the first instance, and that there was to be a teaching body only in certain events—that was to say, when sufficient funds could be obtained for the purpose. But when he found that the Bill was entitled one to establish a School of Law in London, he (the Lord Chancellor) must say he did not know the meaning of words, unless it meant an institution in which Law was to be taught. He thought the State should do in the case of the legal profession what it did in that of the profession of Medicine—establish an examining tribunal, through which it took security that there should be a standard which must be reached by all candidates before their admission to the profession. At present, we had the four Inns of Court for those who proposed to go to the Bar, and we had the Incorporated Law Society for those who intended to become attorneys and solicitors. In his opinion, those bodies required to be supplemented by an Examining Body, which should provide a standard of examination, such as should give security that the teaching in the subsidiary institutions should be of a kind adequate for those who were to be admitted into these professions. If they established a new body as a teaching body, they would put a cheek upon the rivalry which existed with the existing bodies where Law was taught, and which might have the effect of condemning the existing education. The Bill pointed to a teaching institution of some kind, but its provisions did not point out with sufficient clearness how it should be done. He had no desire to oppose the second reading of a Bill that was intended for so excellent a purpose as was in his noble and learned Friend's mind; but he thought it would be better to confine it to a much more moderate proposition—that of establishing an Examining Body, such as existed with regard to Medicine and Surgery. Whether such a body should be called an Examining Council or a Legal University was a matter of no importance—but, he thought, that the Bill proposing, as it did, to institute a General School of Law, contained a much too ambitious project. He would not, however, oppose the second reading.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Sellorne.)


thought that the necessity for a separate School of Law would depend very much on how the Inns of Court Bill was worked; but he was also of opinion that it would not be amiss to have by the side of the Inns of Court a body established by Act of Parliament which could take a part in the promotion of any scheme for the promotion of legal education. He was happy to say there was a growing feeling in favour of means being afforded to young men who did not intend to practise at the Bar, whereby they might obtain a good practical knowledge of the laws of the country. It was highly desirable that there should be an adequate knowledge of the Law among those classes who might be called upon to perform the duties of country magistrates, or of municipal officers; and it was a significant fact that several officers of the Army had got called to the Bar with the view of fitting themselves for the discharge of their duties on courts-martial. Examination had not had the effect of deterring gentlemen from presenting themselves for call who did not intend to practise. For those who did intend to practise he should wish to see the application of a uniform and complete system of legal instruction and examination.


said, he was gratified at the manner in which his two Bills had been discussed by his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack. As to the General School of Law Bill, he was happy to find that his noble and learned Friend, though not assenting to all its proposals, would not oppose the second reading:—and as to the other Bill, the Inns of Court Bill, it was still more satisfactory to him to find, that his noble and learned Friend quite approved the course proposed to be taken. Under these circumstances, he had good hopes that these measures would, either in their present, or in some modified form, at no distant period become law. He need hardly say that nothing could be further from his mind than the wish to take any course which would be hostile or in any way unfriendly to the Inns of Court. Like his noble and learned Friend, he had the honour of belonging to the Governing Body of one of those institutions. Although he had a strong opinion that those great societies were not all that they might be, and ought to be, for effectuating the objects for which they existed, yet he was disposed to hold them in honour—he desired that every good should happen to them, and to that end he sought to enable them to do all that was required of them in the best possible manner. He thought that those were the best friends of institutions who wished to see their public utility enlarged. This was his object with respect to the Inns of Court. As to the next stage of both his Bills, he would fix an earlier day for the Committee on the Inns of Court Bill than that for the Committee on the Bill now before their Lordships' House. He was glad that he found himself, so far as he did, in in agreement with his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack; and he regretted when he found that their views differed as to one important part of this Bill. He could not acquiesce in what his noble and learned Friend had said against the teaching clause of the Bill, and against the title of a General School of Law, if it was not to be a Teaching Body. The Inns of Court had been likened to Colleges; but it should be remembered that they were not at present bound together by any common connection—they were not members of any general organization in the nature of a University. The Incorporated Law Society, which represented another and most important branch of the legal profession, was also a separate institution. The Committee of the House of Commons which a good many years ago inquired into the entire subject, more especially as regarded the Inns of Court, recommended that they should be united into a Legal University; and the Royal Commission which afterwards sat made a similar recommendation; and his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) had himself expressed concurrence in that view. But the larger institution—that which was to be in the nature of an University—was an institution which must be created, for it did not now exist; and if it were created he hoped it would extend to, and embrace, the Incorporated Law Society—and the mode in which, as it appeared to him, that could best be done, he had attempted to embody in the General School of Law Bill. His noble and learned Friend, however, thought it would be better to confine such an institution—though he would still call it a University—to the duty of examination, and not extend its powers to the office of teaching. He did not agree with his noble and learned Friend on that point; but if such should be their Lordships' view also, there really was nothing in the provisions of the Bill or in its title which need stand in the way of giving effect in Committee to the suggestion of his noble and learned Friend. The title, it was said, implied teaching. On the contrary, he ventured to say that the title "General School" no more implied teaching than did the title "University." The University of London, for example, was an examining body and did not teach. The phrase "General School" or Schola Generalis was merely the ancient name for what we now called a University: the original meaning of the word "University" being identical with that of the modern word "Corporation." But why should there not be teaching in the General School, as well as in the Inns of Court? The argument against it seemed to him to rest on misconceptions. It was no part of his proposal that the State should teach Law. If the School were founded, professors and lecturers would only be appointed when funds and endowments came in—the Crown would have a voice in the nomination of some members of the Senate, but would have no further power. The Bill, too, did not propose, for the purpose of calls to the Bar or any other purpose, to compel students to attend a single lecture in connection with the School of Law. All that was sought by it was to provide means by which, when funds were forthcoming, a system of Academical teaching of Law might be established. The Inns of Court and the Incorporated Law Society had, no doubt, each a system of teaching; but, with respect to the teaching at the Inns of Court, he could not speak of it as efficient. The attendance of students at public lectures and private classes had fallen off in an extraordinary manner, and he thought their Lordships would agree with him that at least no harm could be done by rendering it possible by some general organization to make the system of teaching Law larger, more liberal, and less exclusive than it was at present. He believed that all persons who had recorded their opinions on the subject, and who had studied it in a manner which entitled them to speak with authority had said, that Law might be, and ought to be, taught upon scientific principles and in a more liberal manner than had been the custom—at least in modern times—in this country. He wished to see that done, and had made the proposals contained in the Bill with that view. At the same time, if their Lord-ships concurred with his noble and learned Friend that the establishment of a mere Examining Council was preferable, he confessed he would rather see that opinion given effect to, than that things should be allowed to remain as they were at present; although he should regret the loss of that which he considered by no means the least important part of his own proposal.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday the 8th June next.


INNS OF COURT BILL read 2a (according to Order), and committed to a Committee of the "Whole House on Tuesday the 8th June next.