§ House in Committee (according to order).
§ Clause 1 (Appointment of coroners to be made by the Lord Chancellor).
§ THE EARL OF POWIS
said, he begged to move, as an Amendment, to except the appointment of County Coroners from the operation of the clause. He objected to give to the Crown the patronage of an appointment paid out of the County Rates.
§ Moved, in page 1, line 5, leave out ("coroners for counties").—(The Earl of Pawis.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HALSBURY)
said, their Lordships would remember that in introducing the Bill he said more than once that he was not enamoured of the functions he proposed to confer on the Lord Chancellor. His noble and learned Friend opposite had also on the Paper an Amendment providing that the County Coroners should be appointed by the "County Authority." The question was, what was the "County Authority?" If it were proposed to place this matter in the hands of a joint committee of the County Councils which were to be created and the Justices at Quarter Sessions, he would gladly agree to that. Everybody, he thought, was agreed that the present system of election by freeholders, as far as County Coroners were concerned, could not be continued, and a late election had called particular attention to the matter; but the question was with whom the duty of appointment was to rest. At present, however minute a man's freehold interest might be, or however short might have been his tenure of that interest, he was entitled to vote. No doubt, a scrutiny was incident to every right of voting, but in the election of Coroners it 957 would have to be conducted without a register, so that every person voting would have to be tried before the Sheriff as the Returning Officer.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
said, that, of course, he had not had time to consider the proposal of his noble and learned Friend, but he did not quite like it. In boroughs the Coroner was appointed by the Borough Council, and he trusted that the County Councils about to be created would be no less worthy of confidence. It seemed to him rather a reflection on the latter Bodies if, at the outset, the Government showed them that they were not prepared to trust them with powers which for years past had been exorcised by the Councils of boroughs. What was to be done in the case of places like Liverpool and Manchester, which would be counties in themselves? Hitherto they had always elected their own Coroners. Were they to continue to do so? If so, there would be this curious state of things—that the Councils of Liverpool and Manchester would appoint their Coroners, but the other Councils in the same county would not. Surely there were great anomalies and inconveniences in such a system as that? The best system would surely be the uniform system of leaving it to the County Councils throughout the country. He would also like to point out that this question of electing Coroners involved a certain amount of sentiment, and, though it was clear the present system of election could not go on, it struck him that the wisest course would be to make the Coroner as much as possible a representative officer. That would best be done by putting the election in the hands of a Representative Body like the County Council.
THE EARL OF JERSEY
thought that as the salary of the County Coroner would be paid by the County Council that would be the best authority in whom to vest the appointment.
§ EARL COWPER
said, he hoped that the appointment would be given to the County Council. This was a matter which would most legitimately fall within its control.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, it would be somewhat peculiar for the House at the present moment to place the appointment in the hands of the County Council, having regard to the fact that no such Body was in existence.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, as the Bill was brought in it proposed to vest this appointment in the Lord Chancellor. The noble and learned Lord had now brought forward a new proposal. Under those circumstances, he thought it should be deferred for some time, so that it might be fully considered in the interval.
§ LORD HALSBURY
admitted that the Bill originally proposed to vest the appointment in the Lord Chancellor; but when introducing the Bill he distinctly stated that he should be glad to accept some other proposal that would relieve the Lord Chancellor of this task. He could not agree that the matter was not urgent. There had been an election of a Coroner within the last week which had been the subject of the greatest possible complaint. If this Bill was postponed until the passing of another Bill in "another place," which might or might not come here, he did not think that it would then receive much attention. In his opinion, the joint committee of Quarter Sessions and County Council would make an excellent electoral body for this purpose.
§ LORD BASING
said, that if there was a doubt as to the existence of the County Councils, the joint committee suggested was even more shadowy.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
thought the election should be placed in the bands of the County Council. He was astonished at the amount of distrust of the County Council which was manifested. Why should it be feared that the County Council would not be as excellent a body as the Town Council? If anything, there was reason to think that the men elected on to the County Councils would be even more trustworthy men.
§ LORD HALSBURY
said, he was quite prepared to accept the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend placing the appointment in the hands of "the County Authority," and to postpone the discussion of what "the County Authority" should mean.
§ THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
thought the appointment would best be placed in the hands of Quarter Sessions. He hoped the Government would not withdraw the Bill, which contained provisions of great value.
§ Moved, "That the House do now resume," agreed to; House resumed accordingly.