HL Deb 19 May 1892 vol 4 cc1245-7

Clause 1.


My Lords, it has already been pointed out to your Lordships by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill now before this House, that this measure by no means aims at altering or reforming the existing law, but is simply put forward to consolidate and to simplify numerous provisions in previous Acts of Parliament. It seems to me that Sub-section (b) of Clause 1 of this Bill would considerably affect the law as to venue of action as it at present stands; for instance, in cases affecting the Inland Revenue Department and the Treasury considerable inconvenience might be caused to their staff of officers in London, by creating difficulty through having actions, which might be brought against those Departments in different parts of the country, tried, as heretofore, in the Queen's Bench. It was therefore for this reason suggested that Sub-section (b) should be left out of the Bill. On further consideration, however, it seems that this Amendment is perhaps of too sweeping a character, and as, after communication with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I understand that he intends at the next stage of this Bill to introduce words, which will be so framed as to effect the object to which I have referred, without unnecessarily disturbing existing arrangements, I now beg leave to withdraw the Amendment which stands on the Notice Paper in my name.


I think I must explain to the noble Earl that the nature of the Amendment which I have proposed is certainly not of the sweeping character of that which he has given notice of. It is quite true that I received from the Inland Revenue Department an intimation that they were rather desirous of standing out- side the Bill altogether. To that I was certainly not prepared to agree; but I am not at all certain that the local venues which I had proposed to consolidate are not to some extent an anachronism. The existence of local venues generally has been very seriously invaded by the Judicature Acts and the Rules made under them. The plaintiff, until those Rules were made, had the right to put his action where he pleased. But under the operation of the Judicature Acts that is subject to the right of the Judge to alter the venue on good ground shown. The only thing I think that the Inland Revenue Department are desirous of obtaining would be obtained by making the clause stand subject to the Rules of Court. I believe that if on sufficient ground the Inland Revenue Department can make out a necessity for their being placed on any other footing, a Rule could be made to that effect. I should hesitate to alter the general law in the direction that the noble Earl seems to suggest; it would seem to be an unreasonable thing to alter the practice as it is, without any alteration of the law, leaving the plaintiff to do what he likes in that respect. The defendant never under our system had the right to select his own venue,—the plaintiff always had; and the power is still reserved to the Court to enable the Judge, for sufficient cause shown, to alter the venue, either upon the ground that prejudice exists in the neighbourhood where the venue was to be, or on one of those grounds that are familiar to lawyers, such as that the witnesses would have to come from a certain locality and that great expense would be incurred in trying the matter elsewhere than in the neighbourhood in which the facts occurred and where the witnesses live. Lately the matter has been debated in a somewhat different spirit; but for some reason or other the framers of the Judicature thought it right to give the plaintiff a right to state no venue at all, but that in such cases the venue should be intended to be in the County of Middlesex. I confess I think it was unfortunate, and I hope that that may be altered. I think the venue ought to be expressly stated, and presumably ought to be where the case can be most speedily and cheaply tried. But in regard to the matter we are now discussing, I think if it were placed under the Rules of Court, every protection that the Inland Revenue Department could require would be given, and that it would not be so inconsistent with the whole course of our legislation as it would be if the sub-section were left out. I understand that the noble Earl withdraws his Amendment.




I have now to propose an Amendment which I brought forward in the Standing Committee where it received the countenance of my noble and learned Friend (Lord Herschell) which I commend to your Lordships: that where a person representing a Public Authority is in the exercise of his duty to the public subjected to an action, and is unjustly and improperly sued and recovers a verdict in consequence, he should be entitled, according to the old practice, to an indemnity against the costs which he is thus improperly put to.

Moved, in Clause 1, page 1, after line 20, insert a new provision— Wherever in such action a verdict and judgment shall be obtained by the defendant, he shall be entitled to costs to be taxed as between solicitor and client.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill reported with Amendments; and to be read 2a To-morrow.