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MR. HOBHOUSE'S SPEECHES,
THE HON'BLE MR. HOBHOUSE
ON THE CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.
The Honorable MR. HOBHOUSE presented the further Report of the Select Committee on the Bill to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the Procedure of the Courts of Civil Judicature. He said :-" There is no motion on the list of business, and it is not strictly necessary to make one. But this is a bulky matter, as anybody can see who will cast his eye on the Bill that I have before me. It is full of details, which are as the stars of heaven for multitude, and by no means so brilliant or interesting. Most of those details concern the technical mechanism by which a suit is conducted from its beginning to its end; and those are matters
which criticism and advice cannot be very usefully offered by anybody who has not undergone the labor of studying the Code as a whole, and with some professional knowledge to start with. Embedded in those details, and underlying them, are various principles of considerable importance—some of them of very great importance-and those are just the points upon which we may receive useful criticism and advice from persons who are unable or unwilling to undergo the labor of studying the Code as a whole. Now in such cases we generally find it a useful thing, on the presentation of a Report, to call attention to the points of principle on which we propose alterations, although there may be no discussion on hand, and although we are asking the Council to take no step beyond suspending their judgment until after the publication of the Report of the Committee and of the new draft. Therefore I propose to call the attention of the Council to the main points in which the law will be altered, if the Council think fit to pass this Code into law in the shape in which the Committee have now prepared the draft. Some others of my honorable friends have also some information to impart on points which, owing to their greater experience, they can
explain more accurately and clearly than I can; and in order to put myself and them in more strict order, I will, with His Excellency the President's permission, make a formal motion when I have finished what I have to say, to the effect that the Report be published as recommended by the Committee.
I have before had occasion to observe that, constituted as our Legislature is, our proceedings in Committee often had more of the essentials of a public discussion than our proceedings at this table, and I never knew that to be the case more certainly than now.
The Bill which we prepared last year was published in the month of March 1875.
We asked the local Governments to be good enough, each of them, to submit it to a few skilled officers. They have discharged that task with great judgment, and the result is that, besides the opinions given by the local Governments themselves, we have a body of comment and criticism, I may say, upon almost every sentence of our Bill, proceeding from about fifty gentlemen well competent from their position and antecedents to give advice, and many of whom have brought great zeal, industry, and acuteness to their work. That work is rather bulky. It consists of the two volumes which I hold in my hand, and which contain about 450 folio pages of close print. It has been carefully and methodically perused and digested by our Secretary, and by my honorable friend Mr. Cockerell
, who have winnowed the chaff from the wheat; and it has been examined, I am sorry to say in a more fragmentary way, and mostly with reference to the more important parts of the Code, but still to a considerable extent, by myself. And I have no hesitation in saying that it contains as valuable a public discussion and criticism of our work as it is possible for a Legislature like ours to obtain on a subject of this kind-a subject of great magnitude, great intricacy, abounding with details, and requiring professional and practical knowledge at every turn.
We have upon the face of our Report expressed our obligations to the gentlemen who have been good enough to favor us with papers, and we have endeavoured to indicate what seemed to us the most able and useful papers among
the number. But there are many others that are able and useful, and I am not quite sure that we have been wise in making distinctions.
I have only to add on this point that, as I anticipated when moving for the Committee, the number of small alterations consequent on the criticisms is something enormous. I cannot tell the Council how large it is, and indeed nobody can tell, excepting a person who will take the Bill of last year, which is labelled Bill No. III, and the new draft, which is labelled Bill No. IV,' into his hands, and will compare them sentence by sentence. But the gentlemen who have been good enough to bestow pains on this matter will find that, in whatever shape the Code is passed, their work has passed very largely into the frame-work of the law.
Now I proceed to mention what are the principal alterations that the Committee are proposing; and the Council will find that most of them-in fact, nearly all of great importance-are connected with that critical part of the Code which regulates the execution of decrees; the execution of a decree being the ultima ratio by which the law enforces the rights of the creditor against the debtor. Now, it is very generally thought that our existing Code is too rigid and mechanical in its operation, and that it bears too hardly and incisively upon the debtor. By our Bill No. III we proposed certain relaxations of the Code in that respect, which I explained to the Council last year. The result of the comments we have received bas been to induce us to go further in the same direction, and to propose some further relaxations and some further facilities for the debtor to discharge his obligations to the creditor, without being what is commonly called 'sold up.'
The principal point to which I drew attention last yeara point mentioned both in our Report and in my speech to the Council-related to the sales of land in execution of decrees for money. This is, indeed, in my judgment by far the most important point of all the matters of debateable policy involved in the Code. Every Member of this Council must be familiar with the discussions which arise from time to time about the rapid transfer of land from the poor cultivator to the rich, or comparatively rich, lender of money. The discussion crops up in all directions. A few