HL Deb 20 March 1899 vol 68 cc1294-6

Motion made and Question proposed— That, this Bill be read a second time."—(Lord Hereage.)


My Lords, this is a very simple Bill, and a very local Bill, but I think I should be wanting in courtesy to your Lordships if in moving that it be read a second time I did not say why the Bill is necessary for the county of Lincolnshire and not for the rest of England. The Bill is drawn on the same lines as the Yorkshire Bill, and its object is to abolish the anomalous state of things existing with regard to coroners in the county of Lincolnshire. The Yorkshire Bill became law last year, and this Bill is introduced, under the advice of the Home Office, by the Lincolnshire County Committee, which was constituted under the Act of 1888 for the three divisions of Lincolnshire. The divisions of Lindsey, Kesteven, and Holland are represented on that Committee. I do not propose to enter fully into this Bill, which is really of a very technical character. Under the Statute Law Revision Act, 1891, the latter part of section 38 of the Coroners Act of 1844 relating to the counties of Lincoln and York was repealed. These are the only two counties in which there are three different divisions which are separate administrative counties. Under the Coroners Act of 1887 it is provided by section 38 that the whole of Lincolnshire shall be a county for the purposes of that Act, and section 41 constitutes the justices in gaol sessions the "local authority." But in direct contradiction to that it is enacted under the Local Government Act of 1888 that the divisions of Lincolnshire shall respectively be separate administrative counties, and that the business of gaol sessions in regard to coroners shall be transacted by the joint committee of the three county councils of Lindsey, Kesteven, and Holland. The exact effect of that is not clear even to lawyers, much less to laymen, but in practice coroners whose districts are situate wholly in one division of Lincolnshire are appointed and their salaries paid by the county council of that division, whilst their disbursements are rendered to and paid by another body, formerly the gaol sessions, but now the joint committee of the county councils of the three divisions. To remove this anomaly, it is desirable to provide that cach division of Lincolnshire shall be a scparate administrative county for all the purposes of the Coroners Acts. It is also desirable to remove the doubt at present existing as to the proper authority to arrange for any alteration of the coroners' districts which are situate wholly within one administrative county, and to provide that such alteration may be made by the respective county councils. That is, in short, the purport of this Bill, and I have now to ask your Lordships to give it a Second Reading.


I am afraid I cannot ask your Lordships to take this Bill so shortly as my noble Friend has done. The Bill seems to me to raise very important and serious questions which are in the highest degree technical. I have not seen the Bill before now, and I am of opinion that its provisions might be attended with serious consequences. It repeals two sections of an Act of Parliament which was passed with very great care and after considerable discussion, and I would ask the noble Lord whether it would not be proper to adjourn this matter in order that the Bill might be carefully examined. I do not think any of your Lordships, except the noble Lord himself, has had any notice of it, and the light and airy fashion, if I may say so, with which he has dealt with the Bill is likely to mislead the House as to the effect of it. The Bill seems to me to raise very serious and important questions, and I think the Second Reading should be adjourned.


My Lords, I do not know whether I am in order in replying to the remarks of the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack, but I should like to say that this Bill is on exactly the same lines as the Bill which was passed last year for Yorkshire, and in which the Home Office invited Lincolnshire to join. Unfortunately, however, through some delay in the meeting of the county authority, Lincolnshire was unable to be included in the Bill. The Bill which I am now asking your Lordships to read a second time is brought in not only by the advice, but at the request of the Home Office, and I am authorised to say that they support the Bill in every respect, but they thought it would be better that it should be brought in by the local authority. If the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack thinks I was wanting in courtesy to the House in not going more fully into the provisions of this Bill, I apologise to the House, but I spoke briefly on the subject because the Bill is a highly technical one, and because an explanaion would involve reference to such a lot of statutes. I thought it would be for the convenience of the House that I should not go into them, especially as this Bill is on exactly the same lines as the Yorkshire Bill which was passed last year.


My Lords, the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack is one of your Lordships whose duty it is to look through that number of statutes which I think the noble Lord opposite spoke of with horror, if not with some contempt, and I feel that unless he who is the guardian of the law has properly looked into this matter it would be rather rash on our part to give this Bill a Second Reading to-day, especially when the amount of work is not so pressing as to prevent the Bill being taken up at a later period. Although the noble Lord who represents the Home Office, who is away owing to illness, is, I believe, an assenting party to the introduction of this Bill, I think it would be wiser on the whole to accept the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and adjourn it.


I see the noble and learned Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in his place, and I think we should be glad to hear his view. Probably he will understand the Bill.


No doubt I shall understand it when I have had an opportunity of reading it, and I should have that opportunity if the Bill was adjourned.

Second Reading adjourned to Thursday next.

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