HC Deb 25 May 1809 vol 14 c695
Sir Thomas Turton

presented, pursuant to leave given, a bill for the relief of Insolvent Debtors in England. The hon. baronet expatiated at some length upon the necessity for this bill, in the miseries long sustained, and still suffered, by the unfortunate persons for whose relief it was intended. The prisons in every part of the kingdom were crowded by those unfortunate persons, in the aggregate proportion of five to three, compared to the number of prisoners for debt at the passing of the last insolvent bill. The prisons of the metropolis especially were crowded almost beyond example; in so much, that in one prison there were no less than thirteen persons crowded into a room, only fifteen feet by sixteen square, and in no room of that prison were there less than three at this hot season of the year; so that, in fact, the passing of such a bill was not only a measure of humanity and justice, but of sound policy. The bill was, as nearly as was consistent with its objects, a transcript of the last insolvent bill. He was aware it was at best but a temporary and palliative measure towards alleviating that system of misery and oppression which had so loug subsisted under our statute law, namely imprisonment for debt, which was a disgrace to our civil code, and ought to be abolished altogether; a consummation, he hoped, ere long, to see effected. The principal difference in the present bill from the last was, to extend the limitation of debt, up to which prisoners were to be relieved, from 1500l. to 2000l. and to allow the prisoner surrendering his property to obtain his liberation, to retain 10l. instead of 5l. and furniture and working tools to the amount of 40l. instead of 30l. with some minor regulations in favour of persons committed by courts of conscience; and he trusted to the humanity and benevolence of the legislature, for the adoption of a measure which was to rescue so many hundreds of unfortunate and meritorious men from a rigorous imprisonment, which could answer no other end than to gratify the vindictive spirit of persecuting creditors; and thereby restore them to society, and to the means of industry for the support of their families; for the bill did pot propose to relieve any fraudulent debtor.

The bill was read the first time.