HL Deb 20 May 1889 vol 336 cc497-8

My Lords, I shall trouble you with very few observations in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. It is intended to codify an important branch of the law. The law relating to bills of exchange and commercial instruments has already been codified to the great advantage of the public. I do not think there can be any question but that that legislation has been a success, and it has, since it became law, been imitated by the Legislatures of some of our Colonies adopting the Act, and it is now proposed to introduce a similar measure in the United States. There can be no question but that the general codification of our law would be an immense advantage. That result can only be arrived at by dealing separately with specific branches of the law which are capable of being treated in that manner. I consider that the sale of goods is one of those subjects. The present Bill has been drafted by the learned Gentleman who drew the Bills of Exchange Act, and I have myself spent a considerable time in its construction. Although I cannot profess to tell the House that the Bill contains an absolutely complete and accurate representation of the law, I believe that substantially it does so, and if it be referred to the Standing Committee on Law, and if that Committee thought fit to refer it to a Sub-Committee, its details could be carefully considered and elaborated.


My Lords, while I have certainly no intention to do anything which would obstruct the progress of the Bill, I desire to point out that there is nothing so dangerous as a codification of the law which is intended to be exhaustive. No human ingenuity can deal by anticipation with every case which may arise. The value of the Common Law, which consists in the application of principles to cases as they arise, lies in it s elasticity; but in the iron framework of legislation it very often happens that an unforeseen question arises, and then it is discovered that, while the Common Law has been excluded, the question which has arisen has not been included. I only point to that as a caution against dealing hastily with the Bill before the House, and not with a view of making any Motion adverse to it.


My Lords, I should like to explain, in reply to my noble and learned Friend, that in the present Bill there is an express provision that the rules of the Common Law should be incorporated with it, save in so far as they were inconsistent with the express provisions of the Bill itself.

Bill read 2a (according to order), and committed to the Standing Committee on Bills relating to law, &c.