HL Deb 10 March 1881 vol 259 cc697-9

My Lords, I wish to put a Question to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, of which I have given him private Notice. It is with regard to the Court of Session (Scotland) Bill; and it is to ask him, Whether he will be prepared to give your Lordships an opportunity for discussing the principles of the Bill? The circumstances of the case, as I understand them, are these. The noble Lord introduced the Bill last Friday; but it was printed and circulated last Monday, and read a second time last Tuesday. Well, that strikes me as a somewhat precipitate course of action with regard to a Bill as to which public opinion is by no means unanimous. That it should be read a second time the day after it is printed does seem to me, perhaps, rather a more speedy course than might be recommended. Since the Bill has been printed, the Faculty of Advocates have made a protest almost unanimously against its provisions; and without expressing my own opinion—which would be worth nothing—as to the value of that protest, I wish to ask the noble and learned Lord, Whether, on going into Committee, or at some other time, he will make a statement which will enable your Lordships to discuss the principle of the Bill?


My Lords, in reply to the noble Earl, I have to say that not only am I fully prepared to make a statement, and give your Lordships an opportunity of discussing the measure, but it is my duty to do it. I certainly should not have put down the Bill for second reading on such an early day had it not been for the conviction I had—after communication with some eminent persons who I had reason to believe might be taken as expressing a trustworthy opinion on the subject—that the general principles of the Bill, at all events, were likely to be accepted, and that any discussions which might arise would be as to detail rather than principle. I should have liked to make a statement on the second reading, and I intended to do so; but the Bill stood last on the Orders for the Day, and by the time it was reached there were scarcely any noble Lords in the House to whom I could address that statement. It now stands for Committee on Tuesday. As the noble Earl has mentioned the subject, I have to say that I should like to make one explanation. The question, if this Bill passes, whether advantage should be taken of the opportunity of increasing the salaries of the Judges of the Court of Session, has been under the consideration of the Government, who have not yet arrived at any conclusion upon that subject. It is one for the House of Commons, and not for your Lordships; and no doubt the Government will be prepared to state the view which they may take of it at the proper time, in the event of this measure reaching the House of Commons.