HC Deb 02 May 1809 vol 14 cc335-7
Sir Thomas Turton

rose, agreeably to notice, to move for leave to bring in a bill for the relief of certain Insolvent Debtors. A bill of this description having recently passed for Ireland, the hon. baronet saw no reason why the same indulgence should not be granted to the unfortunate objects of it in this country. He was sorry to say that the number of persons suffering from imprisonment for debt at present were not less than one third more than that which interested the humanity of the legislature upon the last Insolvency bill. Those sufferers, indeed, including the wives and children, and prisoners, amounted to above 18,200 persons; many of whom were enduring a degree of misery which could hardly be imagined by those unacquainted with their situation; many of whom were in fact, actually starving. But no man acquainted with the world could be quite unaware of their circumstances, and no man susceptible of a generous or just feeling could be indifferent to their claims. A conception had, he understood, prevailed, that the act of last session, to facilitate the relief of persons confined for sums under 20l. would have the effect of an Insolvency act. But nothing could be a greater mistake; for that act extended to but a very few indeed. For instance, of 389 prisoners in the King's Bench, there were only 33 confined for a sum under 20l. Therefore, that measure was calculated to afford very little comparative relief.—The hon. baronet stated, that he meant to propose an alteration in the Committee upon this bill. Hitherto the benefit of an Insolvency act was confined to those whose debts did not exceed 1,500l.; but he hoped when the difference in the value of money, combined with other circumstances connected with public distress, were taken into consideration, it would not be deemed inadmissible to extend the limit to 2,000l. It was also his intention to introduce a new clause, extending the advantages of the act to privileged places, such as the Isle of Man. Indeed, he could see no reason why these places should not be included, if the persons confined in them would come forward and surrender their property in the usual way, to claim the benefit of the act.—After remarking upon some delays which he complained of having met with in preparing his bill, in consequence of incivility and obstruction in certain offices of the house, the honourable baronet concluded by making his motion.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not rise to oppose the motion, but to observe that to guard against such obstruction in the progress of business as the hon. bart. alluded to, it might perhaps be proper to have a person appointed to assist members in putting their bills into a regular shape and form; but before such an appointment should be made, it would, of course, be proper to institute an inquiry into the subject by a committee of the house.

The Speaker

stated, that it was the invariable custom for every member to prepare and bring forward his own bill; still if any clerk belonging to the house should refuse to give a member any assistance in his power, when asked to do so, such conduct would be without excuse. Whether any officer should be specially appointed to aid members in drawing up their bills, it would be for the house itself to consider. He only stated the practice, and he would only add, that every member must know from his own experience, here, and elsewhere, that it was not a thing of utter impracticability for any member to write a few sheets of paper.—Leave was given to bring in the bill.