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been taken to the proposal of an appeal to the House of Lords. He did not think it a bad thing. Over and over again he had known decisions reversed by the House of Lords and he never recalled any in which the reversal of the House of Lords was not right. That was natural because when the case went from the House of Commons to the House of Lords and received a second hearing it came naturally to be better understood. It would be a mistake to make one Standing Committee which could give only one hearing because second hearings in cases of great importance were very valuable." (Speech in House of Commons, March, 1872.) We believe that that opinion is shared by every counsel and agent of experience at the Parliamentary Bar. This is what Sir Theodore Martin says of it in his Notes on Private Bill Legislation (published in 1872), p. II: “The interests dealt with by Private Bills are of such magnitude as to entitle them to the review of a second tribunal : and promoters who are seeking great privileges from Parliament have no right to complain of an appeal against an adverse decision by those whose rights or properties are affected by it. Committees, whether of Lords or Commons, may be misled, as even tribunals purely judicial are liable to be, by circumstances which prevent the discovery of truth—such, for example, as partial representations, or evidence which has come upon one of the parties by surprise. A tribunal of appeal before which the true issue is raised more clearly, and on sifted evidence, is not liable to the same chances of error." A similar opinion has too been expressed by Mr. Alexander Grahame when he was Chairman of the Society of Parliamentary Agents, and his opinion is weighty, for he is himself a Parliamentary Agent of extensive practice and wide and thorough experience. The arguments in favour of this second hearing in the Second House, as against a single hearing by a Joint Committee seem to be, shortly, these :
1. Many persons, it is said, notwithstanding the publication of notices, do not become aware of the promotion of Private Bills until the public hearing of the case in Parliament. If there was only one hearing such persons would be precluded from opposing and protecting their interests which may be affected by the measure in question. We confess that this argument has little weight with us. The same might possibly be said of a second or third hearing as of a first. The fact that some people are uninformed of the proposed Bill by the existing means, points rather to a revised means of publishing notices than to the necessity of a second hearing. 2. Modifications are introduced into Bills in Committee, against which, it is only fair, that objectors should have an opportunity of being heard. This argument seems to us to have more weight. 3. The interests dealt with by Private Bills are very great, and the review of a second tribunal is a very wholesome precaution. This seems to us a fair consideration, and it has been urged, as we have seen, by the present Home Secretary. 4. A Bill once rejected may be re-introduced, so that the promoters have an appeal, while the objectors—unless there are two hearings—have not. 5. The real merits of a case are much more likely to be understood upon a second hearing. 6. Besides, it is not so certain that a joint hearing would be a saving of time. The Committee, composed of members of the two Houses, would be larger than a Committee of the House of Commons; therefore, there would be more time expended on each hearing than is at present necessarily spent. Besides, at present, Bills are often opposed in one House, and the opponents being satisfied, unopposed in the other.
In that way the time of the members of the second House is saved. If they are to sit together that saving would not be effected. When we consider the weight of these arguments, and the weight of the authorities by which they have been urged, we cannot
but think that the case is stronger for two hearings than for one. The rule holds with regard to Public Legislation, why should it not be equally good for Private. The interests involved in the latter are sometimes quite as great as those which are affected by the former. It has not been proposed hitherto that the Houses of Lords and Commons should sit together with the view of saving time at present wasted in futilely discussing the same measure twice over. Why should Committees of these Houses do so? We confess we have looked in vain for any arguments in Mr. Dodson's speech or in those of any of the members who supported his resolutions. But let us examine what would seem to be the main ground for this very sweeping change. Sir William Harcourt said, with his usual pungent pleasantry, that the only persons who would suffer by the change would be the barristers and solicitors. We are far from believing, that they would be the sufferers. The proposal was that the new tribunal should hear counsel and witnesses, and if we may take the scale of fees paid to counsel practising before the Railway Commissioners as any criterion of what would be given to members of the Bar practising before the proposed tribunal, we may say that the Bar would certainly not be the losers. Indeed, it is well known that most of the attempts which have been made to cheapen legal proceedings by the creation of new tribunals have failed. We might instance, if we were pressed for an illustration, the changes introduced by the Judicature Acts; but it is now known that the Railway Commission is, and must necessarily always be, an expensive tribunal. Arbitrations are, it is a matter of notoriety, much more expensive than actions, and a well-known arbitration to settle the terms of purchase of a company's undertaking by a Corporation, although it only lasted some fourteen days, cost more than the whole of the Parliamentary proceedings which had made the arbitration necessary, although the inquiry in
both Houses extended over a period of not less than thirty-eight days. If Sir William Harcourt was right, and the profession suffered, that would be no argument, against the proposed change. Unless the profession lives by benefiting the public, it ought not to live at all. Any system of rules or method of procedure which serves to continue a profession which is not beneficial to the interests of the community ought, of course, to be swept away. The question is not will the change be a detriment to the profession ; but will it be a benefit to the public. If it is true, as Mr. Dodson says, that Committees do their work badly, if they; are overawed by the Bar practising before them, there are strong grounds for some change, and possibly that change would have to be in the direction proposed. First, let us deal with the minor point. Are Committees unfitted to "control an active and energetic bar, and to decide what evidence should be excluded or admitted.” That is a question of fact, and can only be determined by evidence. Sir Theodore Martin in speaking of Committees, says: “Carefully selected from the picked men of the country, usually presided over by a member of experience in such inquiries ; always composed of gentlemen conversant with the various affairs of life; aided, but, I can safely say, in no wise controlled by a Bar who are the repositories of precedents for procedure, these Committees listen with unvarying courtesy to all relevant matter which is submitted to them." This opinion is shared by all persons who have had any experience of the Proceedings before Committees of Parliament. Indeed in the House itself, if we remember right, it was suggested that Parliamentary Counsel had quite enough to do to "over-bear one another without attempting to over-bear the Committee too." But the condemnation, if it applies to Committees, applies to all lay tribunals, before which members of the Bar appear, and in very few arbitrations are the parties
satisfied unless they are represented by counsel. Then as to the reception or rejection of evidence, quite undue weight is given in many courts to the technical rules of evidence. Indeed it is, in such questions as come before Committees, an advantage that the tribunal should not be bound by the strict rules which are applicable to judicial inquiries. A little flexibility or laxity in such matters in such a tribunal, so long as it is governed by common sense and practical experience, is worth all the rules, and all the precedents in Taylor or Best. But in this connexion it is worth while alluding to one of the counts of the indictment against Committees, and that is that owing to the varying and fluctuating nature of the Committees you cannot ensure uniformity of decision. Uniformity of decision is, as was said by an able writer in the Saturday Review, to be as much or as little desired in such cases as in trials at nisi prius, and Sir Edmund Beckett, with his usual directness of expression, has said,
"Uniformity of decision,' which can only be opinion on the balance of evidence on different questions of fact and expediency, is a phrase that has no meaning. Uniformity of practice is quite another thing, and the suitors in every court have a right to expect that the practice should be uniform and not capricious.” But in truth this demand for uniformity of decision shows an entire ignorance of the nature of the proceedings before Committees. The questions, as we have seen, which are submitted to them are not judicial, in relation to which uniformity might be required and expected, but involve questions of policy in relation to which uniformity would be altogether out of place. This complaint of uncertainty is altogether a mistaken one. Uncertain, of course the results are uncertain. The facts in every case vary, the considerations of expediency which arise in one arise in no other inquiry, the facts proved in one are entirely different from those in every other, and what may