HL Deb 17 March 1891 vol 351 cc1181-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, which has for its object to bring into a single Code the law relating to the sale of goods, I do not intend to detain your Lordships with any observations upon the subject of codification generally. I think that whilst at one time there was a disposition, perhaps, to exaggerate the effect and advantage of bringing the law on any particular subject into a Code, and to suggest that if you could only codify the law the necessity for lawyers and litigation would be at an end; on the other hand, there was, perhaps, a disposition to depreciate the advantage of codification, which I think are very real. There can be no doubt that at if the law can be put into such a shape that by reference to a single Act of Parliament containing, perliaps, not a great many sections, you may ascertain what the law is on particular points where otherwise you would have to consult the text books and verify all the authorities cited. Great advantages are likely to result, and it would be likely to diminish the amount of litigation. But the experience which has been derived from the passing of the Bills of Exchange Act, which codified the law relating to mercantile instruments, has shown that there is another and unexpected advantage to be derived from codification. It may be that your Lordships know that the Bills of Exchange Act which was passed in 1882 in this country was adopted by the Colony of New Zealand in 1883, by the Colony of Victoria in the same year, by the Colonies of South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania in the following year, by New South Wales in 1887, and by the Dominion of Canada in 1890; and thus the consequence has been that upon an important branch of Mercantile Law—and it is one of very pressing importance—we have obtained now a uniform law in the Mother Country and in the greater proportion of self-governing colonies. I think your Lordships will feel that is an advantage derived from codification of no small importance; and that if we could have a similar Mercantile Law for all parts of Her Majesty's dominions where English laws prevail, and where there is not some special system, it would undoubtedly be very much for the benefit of commerce. In this connection I would venture to suggest whether some communication might not be made to the Crown Colonies, where the adoption of this Code would be appropriate—I mean those not having a special system, to which it would be inapplicable—with the view of seeing whether in those colonies the Code could not be adopted in the same way as it has been in the whole of the Australasian Colonies and in Canada. Obviously there would be an advantage in extending the area of such a system as that. The present Code which I have to submit to your Lordships deals with the law of the sale of goods, a branch of the Commercial Law, which is of great importance and interest. I do not intend to trouble your Lordships for a moment upon the general details of the Bill. I will only say that the Bill was drawn by Judge Chalmers, of the Birmingham County Court, the draftsman of the Bills of Exchange Act, which will afford your Lordships a guarantee of its being a faithful representation of the law on the subject. It was considered after the first draft was prepared by my noble and learned Friend Lord Bramwell, who made various suggestions upon it. With the like assistance I went with the draftsman carefully through all its provisions, and, therefore, I am in a position to make myself responsible for the Bill. I do not suppose, of course, that it is without some imperfections; probably it would be impossible for anybody to produce any Code of which that could be said; but I can say that it has been made as perfect as was possible, and in recommending it for Second Reading I can assure your Lordships it has received no small amount of pains and care.

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


I understand the noble and learned Lord to suggest that when the Bill is passed and has become law I should recommend it for the consideration of the Crown Colonies.


Seeing that the Bills of Exchange Act has been adopted by the Australian Colonies and by the Dominion of Canada, I suggested whether some communication might not be made with Crown Colonies where the adoption of this Code would be appropriate—where, of course, a different system of law does not prevail.


Certainly; I will take immediate steps to that effect.


I entirely agree with everything the noble and learned Lord has said about this Bill in particular and about codification in general; but I should like to ask him what he proposes should be done with this Bill if your Lordships read it, as doubtless you will, a second time; whether he proposes that it should go before your Lordships in Grand Committee? I cannot help thinking that, however carefully the Bill may have been drawn, and it certainly, in my judgment, is uncommonly well drawn, it is exceedingly desirable that it should go before a Select Com- mittee to be considered, as in the case of the Partnership Bill.


I quite agree. It certainly was my intention, when it went in the ordinary course to Committee, to move that it should be at once-referred to a Sub-Committee of the Standing Committee.

On Question, agreed to.

Bill read 2a (according to order), and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.