wished to ask a question of his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack. On the 2nd February, the commissioners authorised by her Majesty, and in her name, gave this intimation:—We are commanded by her Majesty to acquaint you, that measures connected with the improvement of the law will be submitted for your consideration.He had been waiting with impatience and anxiety to know what those measures might be. No measures, however, connected with the improvement of the law had been submitted to their Lordships till last night, when his noble and learned Friend laid on the Table a bill enabling 1384 the Lord Chancellor to have affidavits in the Court of Chancery, which were sworn in Ireland and in Scotland, taken before commissioners appointed by him, instead as hitherto had been done, by judges and magistrates in Ireland and in Scotland. He should be glad to know whether this were the bill referred to by the Lords' commissioners in their speech in her Majesty's name at the opening of the Session? He confessed that he had rather expected his noble and learned Friend would have submitted a bill, founded on the report of the commission for inquiring into the bankruptcy and insolvency laws, and for consolidating the law and the tribunals by which the law was administered. Such an alteration had been strongly recommended by a commission appointed by the Government. He had likewise thought that some bill would have been introduced for remedying the enormous inconvenience to the country parts of England, relative to the new law for the administration of bankruptcy proceedings, whereby fixed tribunals were placed at such immense distances, that in many places the whole estates were swallowed up, and in some instances the parties had to travel 150 miles. He had expected that such measures would have been introduced with all expedition; but the only bill for the improvement of the law was this bill about affidavits. The question he had to ask was, whether this bill, brought forward at last on the 27th of July, was the "measures" announced by the commissioners in the name of her Majesty, on the 2nd of February. If it were. the bill was introduced rather late, and contrary to the doctrine which his noble and learned Friend used to enforce so strongly, that important measures should be introduced at the early part of the Session. He did not object to the hill, he was glad to see it, and would be glad to see any others in the right direction, but he wished to know whether this was the bill referred to in the commissioners' speech in the name of her Majesty, and if others were to come, when they might expect to have them brought forward?
The Lord Chancellor
begged to say, that the bill had been once or twice already before their Lordships' House; and it had not passed only because of some objection in point of form relative to its extension to Scotland. it was not 1385 his own bill; it was the bill of his noble and learned Friend who had preceded him on the Woolsack. The bill was founded upon one already passed with respect to the Court of Queen's Bench. It had never been considered a Government measure, and his noble and learned Friend, by the facetious way in which he put his questions, obviously did not understand that this was meant as one of the measures of law reform. With respect to the Bankruptcy Bill, at which his noble and learned Friend had made a sly hit, the merits of the bill had been discussed by his noble and learned Friend, and the result was, that he had not dreamt of going to a division; he had been so beat and damaged in the discussion, that the motion was withdrawn. There was, however, an important measure pending the House of Commons for improvement of the County courts, and for the trial of small claims, founded on a bill which he (the Lord Chancellor) had introduced last Session, but not going so far, and therefore in his opinion, not so good. Another measure had been also introduced there, recommended by a committee and a commission, after much inquiry, and which was one of the measures of law reform alluded to in her Majesty's speech. He meant the bill for the reform of the ecclesiastical courts. Objections had been made to it. Those objections had been obviated; but it had not made any progress on account of the course taken by parties connected with his noble and learned Friend. He rejoiced that his noble and learned Friend had mentioned the subject, and he hoped there would be an opportunity of discussing the obstructions offered to the course of Government, and the legislative business of the empire.
had made no objection to the bill already introduced. His noble and learned Friend dexterously knew how, when he had no defence on the question under discussion, to raise another question which it was not meant to discuss. The affidavit bill might be a very good bill, but why had no other law reform been proposed? His noble and learned Friend had referrrd to what had taken place in the other House of Parliament, but he wanted to know, in the first place, why the bills were not introduced into the House of Lords? Why was not the County Courts Dill brought into the 1386 Lords? He apprehended that they were as capable of discussing the law bills as the other House of Parliament; but, said his noble and learned Friend, "there has been a course of obstruction." Was it from his noble and learned Friend, that he heard complaints of "obstruction?" Had there, however, been any obstruction in their Lordships' House? Had not his noble and learned Friend had the power at any time of bringing the County Courts Bill and the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill into their Lordships' House, where, as his noble and learned Friend well remarked, he had such a commanding majority as to make it quite useless to divide the House? It was hardly possible to expect, with the strength of his noble and learned Friend, that a division should have been demanded on the bankruptcy motion. His noble and learned Friend could, indeed, command such a majority in that House as would enable him to carry any measure he proposed, and if he had brought into their Lordships' House the County Courts Bill, and the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, he would have carried both. Then, however, his noble and learned Friend said, "There has been obstruction from those with whom you are connected." He gloried in that obstruction, if his noble and learned Friend referred to the discussions which took place on the Irish Arms Bill. He regretted sincerely that he was no longer a Member of the other House, to take a part in those discussions. Did his noble and learned Friend know the merits of the bill, and that it was so badly drawn, that even his own Attorney-General could hardly interpret a single clause? He had a regard for an Attorney-General having an esprit du corps, and he was sorry to find any Attorney-General placed in such a position as hardly to be able to construe a single clause of a bill he was obliged to support. The obstruction arose from an imperfect and bad measure being introduced, and it had been obstructed in a constitutional manner. It should be recollected also, that an offer was made to the Government when the bill was first introduced, that if they would be content with the same bill as had been passed in former times, there would not be the smallest opposition to its passage through both Houses of Parliament. No excuse had been offered, nor anything like one, for the remissness of his noble 1387 and learned Friend in not bringing forward measures of law reform in the beginning of the Session.
would not complain that this matter had been brought under discussion, he would rather complain of disappointment at the frustration of hopes encouraged by the terms of the speech from the Throne. The bright prospect had been clouded over only within the last three or four days; the cup of legal reform had been suddenly dashed from his lips just as it was approaching them, and the question was why, how, and by whom? He agreed that those measures might have been introduced here, but that would have made no material difference in the passing of them; he had formerly made a similar objection, and the effect had been, that the law reform bills of last Session, seven in number, had been first introduced into the House of Lords, where they met with no opposition, and were sent down to the Commons, where they were allowed to fall to the bottom of the well, and were not fished up again until near the end of the Session. The consequence was, only two or three were passed, and the others were abandoned on account of the state of public business. Thus the course recommended by his noble and learned Friend had been tried and had failed. Nevertheless, the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill and other bills had been brought in early in the present Session, but in consequence of the opposition to other measures, it had been impossible to proceed with them. The Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, the Poor-law Bill, and the Factory Bill had therefore not been passed, and, looking at the state of public business, he for one, had but little hope that the County Courts Bill would become law this year. He looked at the votes of the other House, and he saw that thirteen, sixteen, and eighteen divisions had taken place in one night upon matters of comparatively little importance; and some of these were not upon the novel parts of the Irish Arms Bill of this Session, but upon old clauses, such as were in the bill when it was supported by his noble and learned Friend, when he was Attorney-general. He had heard it said in the streets that one individual who had taken a leading and merciless part against the Irish Arms Bill—merciless not so much towards the measure, as towards those 1388 who were compelled to attend its no-progress night after night—had said that he would resist not only every clause, but every line, word, and letter of the bill. He had carried his threat of opposition into effect, and his noble and learned Friend (Lord Campbell) had said that he gloried in this opposition; on the contrary, he deeply deplored it, because the consequence had been the loss of three or four measures of most valuable legal reform, such reform as had not been seen within the walls of Parliament for many years. He had been told by a noble Friend that the new parts of the Irish Arms Bill were most important improvements upon the old law; that the additions were better than all the rest of the bill, which, without them, would be inoperative. Such might be the fact; he should be able to see whether it were so, when the measure came from the Commons, and in the mean time he would only say, that his objection to it was, that it was restricted to Ireland. It ought to have been extended over the whole empire for lie did not see how any part of the kingdom could have a right to complain if such a law were passed.
adverted to the zeal with which his noble and learned Friend had rushed forward in defence of the Lord Chancellor. The fellow feeling between them on these subjects was remarkable. It was just as if the Woolsack were divided between them—or at least as if his noble and learned Friend wished to divide it. Ere long, perhaps, a joint commission would be made out for them both, and the House would then have the advantage of two Lords Chancellor.
§ The Duke of Wellington
doubted whether that would remedy the irregularity. The discussion had begun by asking a question, which had been answered. The noble and learned Lord had given no notice of motion, and the whole seemed to him irregular.
said, that when he thought the whole matter at an end, up started his noble and learned Friend to the rescue of the Lord Chancellor. [Lord Brougham: You spoke a second time.] The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had not gained much by the defence 1389 set up by his double, inasmuch as he had forgotten the facts and circumstances of the last Session. The Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, for instance, had not been introduced into the House of Lords at all, it had only been laid upon the Table of the House of Commons. In the same way he had been mistaken as to other measures, for the Bankruptcy and Lunacy Bills had not been passed by their Lordships until quite at the close of the Session. If the measures of legal reform had been first brought forward in this House, and sent down to the Commons before Easter, the cup would not have been so cruelly dashed from the lips of his noble and learned Friend. With regard to the Irish Arms Bill, the new clauses might make some of the old ones objectionable; the provisions for branding arms and for domiciliary visits might make clauses, otherwise innocent and harmless, most oppressive and injurious. He moved that the House do adjourn.
§ The motion was not put and the subject dropped.