HC Deb 24 May 1811 vol 20 cc303-5
Sir John Newport

presented a Petition from the Merchants and traders of the city of Waterford; setting forth,

"That the petitioners having new, for a series of years, felt the pernicious influence and injurious operation of the present system of administering the bankrupt laws, and experienced, in many instances, the inefficient nature of these laws themselves, having witnessed the increased frequency and too often triumphant impunity of fraud under a code enacted for its prevention, and having Suffered from the very heavy expences and tedious delays attendant on all attempts at the detection and prosecution thereof, beg leave most humbly to entreat the attention of the House to a subject of such vital importance in a commercial and trading country; and they entreat it under a conviction that the evils of which they complain take their rise in part from an inefficient code, but principally from the very defective and injudicious nature of its administration; under this conviction, the petitioners humbly pray a revision and amendment of the bankrupt laws for the following amongst other reasons: first, because the administration of the laws is entrusted to commissioners, who, by reason of their scanty allowance, are compelled, in a great degree, to depend on general practice at the bar for their support, and are therefore unable to devote little more than an hour at any one time to the investigation of accounts, however complicated, or detection of frauds, however subtle, because the commissioners are paid according to the number and not according to the duration of their sittings, and are consequently not uninterested in according to every proposal of adjournment, that great source of delay and expense; second, because the expenses of a commission, which in all cases are considerable, and in many most enormous, are uniformly charged upon the bankrupt's fund, a fund which, from its nature, instead of being taxed in so oppressive a manner, and thereby so seriously diminished, ought to be relieved from every burthen, and rendered as productive as possible; third, because too great difficulty attends the proof of acts of bankruptcy, even in cases of unequivocal insolvency, and in the obtaining a joint commission, whence fraudulent references are had on mortgages and other securities, and considerable impediments raised against the recovery of the bankrupt's effects, and their collection thereby rendered most difficult and expensive; fourth, because the property of a trader, taken under execution, is constantly sold at a most ruinous undervalue in consequence of the precipitancy of sheriffs in the sale thereof, caused by their apprehensions of some being rescued from their hands by the issuing of a commission of bankruptcy, by which sale the creditors of such trader are most grievously injured; fifth, because punishment of death, to which nonconforming and fraudulent bankrupts are indiscriminately liable, confers impunity by preventing prosecution, and because there is no sufficient penalty against persons who shall harbour a concealed bankrupt, or shall assist in embezzling or concealing his effects, or in withdrawing them out of the realm; sixth, because the punishment in fabricating fraudulent liens and covers on property in contemplation of bankruptcy is not sufficiently comprehensive or penal, and does not extend to agents and accessaries as well as principals; seventh, because bankrupts have not now any fair means of support during the progress of a commission, and therefore under strong temptations to be guilty of concealment, and to commit perjury for the preservation of their existence, and because they are often deprived of their legal and merited allowance, when entitled thereto, by the uncontrouled prodigality of expence attending commissions of bankruptcy, and because commissioners have not the power of encouraging good conduct in bankrupts, by ordering the expence of their certificate to be paid from their effects; and that the petitioners, having now detailed some of the numerous imperfections in the bankrupt code, and of the evils of its practical administration, and being persuaded of the incalculable injury they have and must ever produce in a trading country, by destroying the security and confidence of commercial dealings, most earnestly entreat the House to take the same into its most serious consideration, and to enact such regulations therein as to its wisdom shall seem best calculated for the more effectual prevention of the same in future."

Ordered to lie upon the table.