13 JULY 1850, Page 13


.A..GBFAT improvement is announced', in the intention to divide the office of Lord Chancellor into two parts, severally devoted to the political and the strictly judicial functions of that Minister. Ten years' study of this reform ought to have prepared Lord John Russell for makrag it effectual when it does come. But it would be de- sirable to consider with it a further reform, whipli should create a new but much needed office—that of Minister 'of Justice. This suggestion received the distinct and emphatic fipproval of Lord Langdale?, irt his evidence before the Fees Committee of the Cora- mon.s,,isi 1848; and it is usefully revived and 'enforced now by a pamphlet of that year, to which Mr. Commissioner Fane, the writer, has given renewed circulation.* The functions of such a Minister are In part.porformed by the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, but its duties are really divided between him, the Lord Chancellor, and the - Attorney-General; leaving very much alto-

gether neglected. '

"The only instrument of legislation is Parliament ; and; as there is no Minister whose peculiar and exclusive duty it is to consider, mature, and bring before Parliament all proper amendment of the law, and there is no one man, or class of men, whose peouliar and recognized duty it is to frame those acts of the Legislature by which amendments are to be effected, our legisla- tion is really and truly haphazard legislation. It is mere matter of chance what measures shall be brought forward, and equally so whether the legis- lative language shall be intelligible or nonsensical. "It may be said this is not true. The Lord Chancellor is the Minister of Justice, and all bills bronght into Parliament bear the endorsement of particu- lar Members, who are responsible for the language of the bill. But is the Lord Chancellor' the Minister of Justice ? We profess to have the same knowledge of the constitution that the educated classes generally possess, and we protest we do not kneiw whether the Lord Chancellor is the Minister of

*Ministry of Justice: its Necessity as an Instrument of Law Reform. By C. rane, Esq., one of the Commissioners of her Majesty's Court of Bankruptcy.

Justice, or not. To us it seems that the assertion that the Home Secretary is the Minister of Justice, sounds at least as plausible as that the Lord Chan- cellor is. Now surely, it is a strange state of things, if persons of education, upon being asked by a foreigner, who was the Minister of Justice in Eng- land, should be unable to answer the question plainly and positively : yet we confess we should hardly know what answer to give."

The difficulty will be increased if the Irish duties should be placed, according to Sir Robert Peel's suggestion, in the hands of the English Home Secretary: but the sketch of a plan is before us for combining the three reforms—the abolition of the Irish Lord-Lieutenant, the division of the Chancellorship, and the crea- tion of a Justice Minister.

"1. If the fourth Secretary of State were made Secretary of State for the affairs of Justice, as proposed by Lord Langdale, (see his Lordship's evidence, Fees Committee, H. of Corn., 7 Feb. 1948, QQ. 1427-29, 30, 1491 to 1500,) he might superintend the whole administration of justice, both in England and Ireland. The preparation of new laws for the better administration of justice would naturally belong to his department.

"2. If the above arrangement were made, it would withdraw a large por- tion of its business from the office of Secretary of State for the Home De- partment ; and then that department might act for Ireland as well as Eng- land.

" These arrangements would tend to consolidate the union between England and Ireland. A Secretary of State exclusively for Irish affairs, seems incon- sistent with the notion of an entire union between the two countries.

"3. It is assumed that the head of the Court of Chancery will be a judicial officer only. His position, though higher than that of the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, would be analogous to it.

"4. If it is essential that an eminent lawyer should assist at Cabinet deli- berations, the Attorney-General might be a Cabinet Minister. It see= fitter that the most eminent counsel should be consulted on Cabinet questions than the most eminent judge.. "5. It has long been doubted, whether the ultimate appellate jurisdic- tion should remain vested in the House of Lords, or be transferred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. But, whatever tribunal may be made the ultimate Court of Appeal, it seems clear that such Court should have a permanent President. Every Judge of the Superior Courts might be made a member of the Court ; and the President might summon, from time to time, such members as seemed to him most likely to give valuable as- sistance, having regard to the subject in debate. Under such an arrange- ment, if the arrear of appeals became considerable, the Judicial Committee might form itself into two tribunals, the second having a President appointed for the occasion.

"6 Such of the patronage of the Lord Chancellor as concerns the adminis- tration of justice, might be transferred to the Secretary of State for the affairs of Justice and such as concerns the Church to the Prime Minister. "7. lie House of Lords might choose its own Speaker, or the President of the ultimate Court of Appeal might act as such."

When Sir Robert Peel, three weeks ago, was discussing the abolition of the Lord-Lieutenancy and the remodelling of the lime Secretaryship, some such idea may have been present to his pro- vident mind. The measure has indeed, for our present Ministry, the disadvantage of being eminently " comprehensive " • but then it is also eminently compact, it is supported by the highest sanc- tion, and it could now be carried out with the most valuable as- sistance.