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Bankrupt Law Consolidation Bill

Volume 107: debated on Tuesday 31 July 1849

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On the Question for considering the Lords' Amendments to this Bill.

said, that these Amendments amounted virtually to only two. The first was in the eighth section, where power was given to the commissioners to meet together and to make rules with the sanction of the Lord Chancellor; and the Lords had added the words in the part of the clause where the meeting of the commissioners was mentioned, "Of which the senior commissioner shall be one." There could be objection to that Amendment. The other was the insertion of the word "not," which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield had complained of, as having been accidentally omitted. With regard to that omission, it was right, however, to say that it was perfectly immaterial, as the context of the clause would show the object with sufficient distinctness. A complaint had been made elsewhere that the Committee by whom this Bill had been considered, had not a just proportion of equity lawyers upon it, and that it consisted principally of eminent merchants belonging to the House. As, however, the interference with the Bill complained of related not to technical points on which the assistance of legal Members might be necessary, but to clauses affecting matters of trade, it was clear that mercantile men were those best qualified to give an opinion upon such matters. It was also alleged that the Committee had not examined legal witnesses; but they had the benefit of the evidence of Vice-Chancellor Knight Bruce; and as the other learned personages had been examined before the Committee of the House of Lords, and as the printed evidence had been laid before the Commons' Committee, it was unnecessary to examine them over again. He begged leave to add that he considered great credit was due to the noble Lord who had charge originally of this Bill, and he was sure they all felt most grateful to his Lordship for his labours in this matter.

said, that he had on a previous occasion complained of the blunder committed in the Irish Bankruptcy Bill; but he attributed no blame to his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General on the matter, as he had far too much to do to be expected to read through these Bills.

said, it had been stated by a noble and learned Lord in another place, that the only lawyers on the Committee had been the Attorney General and the hon. and learned Member for Midhurst. But his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, the hon. Member for Leominster, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, and himself, who were also Members of the Committee, had all been bred up to the law. The noble and learned Lord had also been represented to have complained that the Bill contained 367 clauses when sent down to this House, and that it came back with only 278 clauses—no less than 89 clauses having been struck out. But it was right the public should know that the clauses struck out had reference to salaries, and, he would add, increased salaries in some cases, and to retiring allowances and pensions, and other matters that they thought ought not to be included in the Bill. There were only two matters of importance with regard to which the clauses had been struck out. These were the "secret transfer "clauses, and the" execution" clauses. He considered that the secret transfer clauses, if they had passed into a law, would have been a greater blow to credit than had ever before been inflicted. The 106th Clause provided that every secret transfer should be in itself an act of bankruptcy; while the 107th Clause provided that all transfers and dealings with property by the bankrupt for two months prior to his bankruptcy, should be deemed a secret transfer and an act of bankruptcy. He had himself put the question to the noble and learned Lord, "Supposing a bankrupt had property mortgaged for 2,000l., and that he should pay off that mortgage, and redeem the property for the benefit of his assignees, would not the effect of these clauses be that the unfortunate mortgagee would be liable to have his money taken from him?" And the answer of the noble and learned Lord was, "Upon my word I believe that would be the effect of them." Another clause, known as the clergyman's clause, had been introduced from the Insolvent Debtors Act by a blunder. With regard to the execution clauses, he had an interview with the noble and learned Lord the night before the Bill passed, and the noble and learned Lord then gave his most unqualified assent to these clauses being struck out. He begged to add on behalf of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, that he was extremely grieved to think that he had inadvertently prevented the Attorney General from looking into the Irish Bankruptcy Bill, to which allusion had been made, by having assured him, on the faith of the parties who had forwarded it from Dublin, that the clauses were all correct, which was afterwards found not to be the case.

said, as one of the mercantile Members of the Committee, he begged to state that he thought that body had been badly treated by a noble and learned Lord in another place. The great offence of the Committee was, that they had not passed the secret transfer clause; but he, for one, was as anxious as any man to prevent secret and fraudulent transfers, but the difficulty which the Committee could not surmount was, how that object could be carried safely into practical effect.

Lords' Amendments agreed to.