§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
My Lords, this is a Bill which has received the assent of the other House, and its object is to make some Amendments in the proceedings of our Courts of Justice, which have been suggested by the experience gained since the Judicature Act came into operation. I need only detain your Lordships for a minute or two in., explaining the changes which it is proposed to make. The main charge is this. At the present time, if a case is tried by a Judge without a Jury, all questions of law go at once direct to the Court of Appeal, and are determined there. If the case is tried by a Judge with a Jury, then any questions as to the law, as laid down by the Judge at the trial, or the finding of the Jury, goes to a Divisional Court, generally consisting of two Judges, with an appeal 1251 from their decision to the Court of Appeal. I need hardly point out that a double appeal of that description, in the cases in which it takes place, causes very considerable expense to the parties, in addition to some amount of delay. The proposal made by this Bill is that, in future, all applications for a new trial, in eases tried by a Judge with a Jury, shall go direct to the Court of Appeal, instead of only going to the Court of Appeal after passing through the Divisional Court. I think there can be only one possible objection of substance to such a proposal, and that would be that the Court of Appeal would be too much occupied with its existing work to be able to attend in due time to the additional work imposed upon it by this Bill. But I may tell your Lordships that, happily, the Court of Appeal has of late got so well forward with its work that it has been able at times to assist the Courts of the Queen's Bench Division in the disposal of the cases that come before them. I think experience has shown that the additional work that will be cast upon the Court of Appeal by this Bill is not such as they will not be able satisfactorily to deal with. The only other matter with which I need trouble your Lordships is a proposal to enable certain cases which hitherto could only be heard by two Judges forming a Divisional Court to be heard by one Judge. There will, of course, still be an appeal to the Court of Appeal; but there does not seem to be any reason why certain cases should be heard only by two Judges which can be equally well heard by one. There are other matters dealt with in the Bill, but, as they are only matters of detail, I need not detain your Lordships further with them now.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Herschell.)
§ LORD ESHER
My Lords, the Court of Appeal finds itself in the usual happy position of people who work hard. The Court of Appeal has worked extremely hard, and reduced the arrears before it, and the result is that they are asked immediately to take a great deal more work. I shall not object to the Second Reading of this Bill, as far as the first clause is concerned, which will send the new trials, of which my noble and learned Friend 1252 has spoken, directly to the Court of Appeal. As to the other parts of the Bill, I have a strong objection to them, for I cannot agree to the statement that it would be advisable that special cases which are intended to be taken before a single Judge by the Bill should be so taken. But that is a matter which may be discussed in Committee. I am sorry this Bill is pressed, for a particular reason. I think it is very much as if you were to put a patch on one corner of a large counterpane. This Bill will not satisfy anybody. There are discussions and complaints about the administration of the law in a dozen other points even much more important than this. But I do not think this is an occasion upon which it would be advisable for me to make a speech with regard to law, for I suspect if I did it would not be very agreeable to the House in its present position, therefore I propose not to talk any more law to-night; but, if I may be permitted, I will give notice that I shall, on this day week, call your Lordships' attention to alleged defects in the administration of the law, and ask Her Majesty's Government whether, after hearing that statement, they will not grant a Royal Commission for the purpose of inquiring into those defects, so that with regard to such of them as shall be found really to exist, the Commission may propose remedies, with the object of bringing forward immediate legislation.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I heartily concur with the proposal of my noble and learned Friend who has moved the Second Reading of the Bill. There is no sense or reason in preventing a case from going direct to the Court of Appeal after being tried by a Judge and Jury, and thus causing additional expense. It seems to me very reasonable that it should go immediately to the Court of Appeal, and that it should be there decided whether there should be a new trial or not. With regard to the other points of the Bill, I am not quite sure that I approve of them.
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a (according to order), and committed to the Standing Committee for Bills relating to Law, &c.