moved the order of the day upon this bill for the purpose of postponing it. Understanding, he said, front what passed in the house in consequence of the opinions delivered by the Judges, that there was an intention of framing a declaratory act as to what the law really was respecting the liability of a witness to answer questions of the nature stated in the questions referred to the Judges, he did not wish to press this bill at the present moment. He must confess, however, that he had not any very sanguine expectation of 343 an effectual law being framed upon this subject, and therefore he did not like to let go his bill altogether as, in case the noble and learned lords could not agree in framing a declaratory law sufficient for the purpose, he should then consider it necessary to press on their lordships' consideration the indemnity bill, which it would in that case be expedient to pass. He moved to discharge the order for summoning their lordships and to renew it for Friday.
§ Lord Eldon
assured the noble lord that his noble and learned friend on the woolsack had lost no time in preparing a declaratory bill, which the difference of opinion amongst the Judges had rendered necessary. His noble and learned friend had submitted the bill to his consideration; and he, thinking there were several objections to it, framed another, which, however, on consideration, he thought was more objectionable than that drawn by his noble and learned friend. The subject was involved in considerable difficulties, and he had great doubts whether a bill could be so framed as to provide against the exceptions Which necessarily occurred to the general rule.
The Lord Chancellor
thought there would be little difficulty in framing a general declaratory law upon the subject. It was obvious that some measure was necessary, in consequence of the opinions delivered by the Judges. Had the questions arose out of a proceeding by writ of error to that house, their lordships would have had to decide judicially upon the law, and would most probably have decided according to the opinion of the majority of the Judges; in that case, the law upon the subject would have been settled for ever. The mode, however, in which these questions had been put to the Judges, and the answer they had given, rendered it absolutely necessary to resort to a declaratory law upon the subject, which was the only method of proceeding they could now adopt. He held in his hand a bill which he had framed, and which he thought would answer the purpose, declaring that it was, and ever had been the law, that a witness was bound to answer any question, although such answer might acknowledge, or tend to acknowledge a debt, or render him liable to a civil suit, He was aware, however, of the necessity of having a proviso, with respect to the exceptions to this general rule and he hoped his noble and learned friend (lord Eldon) would take the subject into 344 his consideration.—Some further conversation ensued between lords Holland, Eldon, Auckland, and the lord Chancellor. Lord Holland reminded the house that a bill upon this subject was already before their lordships, brought in by a noble earl (Stanhope). Lord Eldon condemned altogether the principle of that bill. The lord chancellor expressed a Wish that lord Eldon would, at a private interview, assist him in adding to the bill he had already drawn, a proper proviso. Lord Eldon said, if his noble and learned friend would present his bill, he would then propose a proviso. Lord Holland observed, that the two noble and learned lords seemed to differ widely with respect to the intended bill, and the noble and learned lord on the other side the house to differ from himself. He thought it absolutely necessary there should be some understanding as to whether such a bill would be brought in or not. The lord chancellor undertook to present a bill of that description to the house as soon as he had had a private interview on the subject with his noble and learned (lord Eldon).