HL Deb 07 June 1877 vol 234 cc1431-5

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, its purpose was to supply two great wants in the present system—the first, the want of a uniform system with regard to legal education for the Bar and admissions to the Bar; the other, a better regulated mode of applying discipline to those who had been already called to the Bar. The Inns of Court had, of late years, made great advances towards instituting a system of legal education. They yearly contributed considerable sums for that purpose, and they had voluntarily chosen a Committee from the various Inns, on whom they had imposed the duty of superintending the education for the Bar. But that had all been done voluntarily; there was nothing to compel the continuance of that system—nothing to prevent anyone of the Inns from withdrawing from it—nothing to make contributions compulsory; the system depended entirely on the voluntary action of the Inns of Court. The Inns of Court were willing that that state of things should be improved; and what they proposed was that, following in some degree the example of the Medical Profession, there should be a general Council of Education chosen from the Inns of Court and partly nominated by the Crown, to consist of 30 Members — six appointed by the Crown and 24 by the Inns of Court — each Inn sending six members. Provision was made for the nomination and election of those Members and for their retirement by rotation. It was proposed that the Council should have cognizance of, and jurisdiction in, the following matters: —the legal education and examination of students of any of the four Inns of Court desiring to be called to the Bar or to practise under the Bar;—the censuring and suspending from practice of barristers or persons practising under the Bar, and the disbarring of barristers—all matters which might be referred to them by the Bench of any of the Four Inns of Court for advice or decision. With regard to the education, it was provided that the Council should cause examinations to be held of all Members of the Inns of Court desiring to be called to the Bar, and should appoint Examiners for that purpose; and the Council was to grant a certificate to every person who should pass a satisfactory examination; it would not be lawful for the Benchers of any Inn of Court to call to the Bar any student admitted after the year 1871 who had not obtained a certificate from the Council that he had satisfactorily fulfilled the conditions required by their regulations to qualify him to be called to the Bar. As to debarring or censuring existing members, that power was taken from the Masters of the Bench of the several Inns and vested in the general Council, with an appeal to the Supreme Court of Judicature. The Council would have power to take evidence on oath, if they thought fit, and to require the attendance of witnesses, and the production of documents. This, however, was not to interfere with the internal jurisdiction of the Benchers within their several Inns. With regard to the funds which would be at the disposal of the Council, they would be derived in the first instance from contributions from the several Inns, in settled proportions, but not to exceed in the aggregate £4,600, and of fees on admission of each student; secondly, from fees and payments received by the Council under any rules or regulations to be made by them. These fees on admission, taking the year 1876 as an average, would amount to £1,465, and the fees for lectures, taking the same year, would be £2,063; so that the Council would have an income of £8,128; which would be sufficient for the present system of the Professors and examinations, and for the expenses of the Council, secretary, &c., leaving £1,500 for prizes. He thought such an arrangement would place the system of legal education for the Bar on a satisfactory footing for the present; and, judging from what had happened in the past, he had no doubt, if a still larger sum than that he had mentioned could be usefully expended, the Inns of Court would be willing to supply further funds. Such were the provisions of the Bill. As their Lordships would see, there stood on the Notice Paper two other Bills which his noble and learned Friend (Lord Selborne) had introduced, and had carried through the most important stage, which dealt with the same subject, and went much further than this Bill. With regard to those Bills he would only say, even if he took the view which his noble and learned Friend took, and desired to see a measure going so far ultimately become the law of the land—and he did not go quite so far—he should still be glad to see a limited measure, such as the present, adopted. It was a step in the direction in which his noble and learned Friend wished to go, and it would do much to add to the arrangements which now existed for improving legal education and the discipline of the Bar. He moved that the Bill be read a second time.

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


said, he certainly did regard this Bill as falling very far short of such a measure as, he was convinced, must be adopted, at some time or other, for the promotion of legal education. But if he was unable sufficiently to interest the whole of the Legal Profession in a larger, wider, and more liberal scheme than the one now proposed, he thought the wise course for him to adopt would be to acquiesce, for the present, in what could now be obtained, trusting to the insight and liberality of the great Profession to which he belonged to carry forward hereafter the measures which he had proposed — provided the views he entertained were right. In the present Bill it was a great advantage that the functions now exercised by the Inns of Court, with regard to the admission of students to the Bar, their education and examinations, and also with regard to the discipline of the Bar itself, were at once and for ever to be placed under the guarantee and security of public law. Still, he was disappointed that the Inns of Court, when making up their minds to this great step, had not gone further, and placed themselves in the honourable and great position of a Legal University, as was recommended to them by his noble and learned Friend himself some years ago, as well as by the Royal Commissioners, and which measure he had no doubt would, at some time, follow upon this first step. It was also satisfactory that not only nominees of these four Bodies; but, in addition to them, independent persons to be nominated by the Crown, would henceforth constitute a Council of Legal, Education and Discipline. He must protest against the extreme narrowness of the view expressed in the provision that the business of the Council should only be to attend to the legal education and examination of such students of any of the Four Inns of Court as desired to be called to the Bar, or to practise under the Bar. The great point of difference between this scheme and his own—a difference which he hoped would be finally decided in favour of his own—was that he desired a system of legal education that should be open to all Her Majesty's subjects, whether intending to be called to the Bar or any other branch of the Legal Profession, and whether members of the Four Inns of Court or not. That he considered was the only system of legal education worthy of this country, and calculated to do great good. But in the meantime he was willing that this Bill should pass, and the experiment of its working be tried. The consequence was that he must with reluctance leave to others who might come after him to carry out the larger scheme that he had proposed. The two Orders of the Day in his name—the Inns of Court Bill and the General School of Law Bill, for Committee—must be immediately dropped as the necessary consequence of the second reading of this Bill. He, however, should ask their Lordships first to allow the General School of Law Bill to pass through Committee pro formâ, in order that he might introduce Amendments, so that it might remain on record in the shape he desired to submit it to their Lordships' House.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.