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Summary Jurisdiction

Volume 49: debated on Thursday 18 July 1839

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Lord J. Russell moved the order of the day for a Committee on the Summary Jurisdiction Bill.

hoped the noble Lord would not proceed with this bill at so late a period of the Session. This bill introduced totally new provisions respecting matters of rural police; respecting the trial of offences at Petty Sessions; the imprisonment of offenders; it changed the whole jurisdiction of the magistracy from beginning to end; and it ought not to be forced forward at that time. The clauses of the bill were very complex in their nature, and were open to numerous objections, the discussion of which would occupy many hours.

wished to ask whether the noble Lord were determined, in such a House as he had the honour to address, and at that period of the Session, to proceed with this bill? He was sure that the noble Lord did not underrate the importance of this bill. At the present moment a large number of those Members who were in the Commission of the Peace were unavoidably absent. No doubt many of those Members would have felt it their duty to express their opinions with respect to this measure, and whatever might be the merits of the general principle of the measure every clause of it ought to be, and must be, subject to great discussion. He would not say that some good might not come from such a measure as the present; but he must tell Gentlemen opposite that if they thought themselves justified in pressing forward this measure, that opinion was exclusively their own; but he did hope that the further consideration of this bill would be postponed.

said, that this bill, which had been described by the noble Lord opposite as totally new, contained thirty or forty clauses that were taken from a bill which was passed by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, in the year 1829. It certainly contained several other clauses of a very important nature, but with respect to the other clauses it could not be said that, having been brought in in the year 1829, having been amended ten years ago by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, they related to a subject which had never been brought under the consideration of the House. It appeared to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, when he held the office which he now held, that this was a subject upon which some amendment of the law ought to take place. But it was said, why not introduce the bill at an early period of the Session? That remark might be made on any bill on any subject that was introduced; and the real question was, whether there was to be any limited time for the consideration of all those bills which it was expedient that the House should consider in the course of a Session. It frequently happened that he was very anxious to press forward bills, and to bring them under the consideration of the House at an early period of the Session. But what was the remark constantly made on the other side? it was that April or May had elapsed, and that a great many of the supplies for the army, navy, and ordnance had not been brought forward, in pursuance of the pledge that had been given, that they should be brought forward previous to the 5th of April. Well, the Government had taken another course in the present Session; they brought forward the question of the supplies at an early period, and they took a very considerable time in discussion, of which he did not complain. The navy estimates took three or four whole nights of discussion, amounting, as the Government had then but two days in the week, to a fortnight. If the practice were to be pursued, some bills must be kept back. If objection were made to bills of importance being brought on for consideration in July, and Members chose to keep away, and that was to be considered a reason for putting off bills, namely, that Members chose to be absent, he must say, that he did not think that they could proceed in a satisfactory manner with the legislation of the country. They had lengthened debates on the supplies and on motions in the early part of the Session, and it would be impossible, unless they proceeded, now to make laws which all agreed were required. This was not a question of party division or discussion, and he therefore hoped, that there would be no vexatious opposition offered to the bill, and certainly there was no wish on his part to insist upon any clause to; which any reasonable objection could be made. He, therefore, hoped, that the House would proceed to consider this bill, and not treat it as a bill altogether contemptible, seeing the authority in its favour which he had mentioned.

said, that there was one expression made use of by the noble Lord which had just sat down, which he thought was not justified. The noble Lord spoke of Gentlemen choosing to keep away. Now, considering that the House had been sitting since February, he did not think that Members ought to be reproached for non-attendance at this period. The noble Lord might succeed in forcing this bill through the House, but at that late period of the Session, it was utterly impossible that the bill could pass the other House of Parliament.

said, that this bill could not be discussed with advantage at that period of the Session, and he, therefore, must add his entreaties to those that had been already made, that this bill might not be proceeded with. It was generally supposed in the country, that the bill had been abandoned for the present Session, or at least that there was very little prospect of its passing into a law.

hoped, and requested that the noble Lord would persevere with this bill, and for this reason; if the bill had been brought in and discussed for the first time, he should agree with many of those on that side of the House, that at this period of the Session, and in such a House, the noble Lord would not be justified in bringing this bill forward. But he found, that ten years since, the noble Lord himself was Chairman of a Committee which sat to investigate this subject, and a report was drawn up, recommending some measure of this sort. Another Committee subsequently sat, of which the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, was Chairman; and again a report was drawn up, recommending a summary jurisdiction bill of this sort. When he had the honour of being sent to that House in 1832, he also brought in a bill on this subject, and again last year he brought in a bill to the same effect, which underwent considerable discussion. To say, therefore, that this was a new measure, or that it had not been well considered and well known, was a mistake. The subject was perfectly well known, and he hoped the bill would be proceeded with.

reminded the House, that this measure embraced much more than the bill which had been introduced ten years ago, and should not, therefore, be assented to on the ground, that Parliament was familiar with its provisions. He regretted that the noble Lord had determined to persevere with this measure.

thought, that some remedy was required for the evil which this bill proposed to remedy; but he thought it improper to go on with it at the present period of the Session, particularly when the fact of its being postponed for so long a time led the people in the country to believe that it was abandoned altogether.

remarked, that with regard to the latter part of the hon. Member's observation, he always found, that when a bill concerning country matters was introduced, the cry was, "Don't proceed with it until the quarter sessions meet and the justices have time to consider its provisions;" and if it happened to be postponed to a late period of the Session, it was then exclaimed, "The magistrates have no time to consider the measure." If he were to consent to postpone this bill to next Session, the probability was, that the estimates bills relating to Canada, to ecclesiastical revenues, and Church leases, would, as in the present Session, require the immediate consideration of the House, and that he should be compelled to put this measure off until as late a period as that at which it was introduced this Session. He could not, therefore, undertake to bring in the bill next year.

would not offer any objection to the bill going into Committee, as far as he was concerned; but he took it for granted, that the noble Lord, in a matter of so much general importance, if he found, during the progress of the measure, that the House was not well attended, would not persevere without information from all parts of the country in carrying a measure of such an extensive nature.

said, he had found from experience, that most business was done with the fewest number of hands. He hoped the noble Lord would do what the present Government professed to do—bring justice home to every man's door.

House in Committee, and the clauses to the 24th were agreed to. The Committee to sit again.