HC Deb 09 March 1812 vol 21 cc1214-5

On the question for the second reading of the Bankers' Embezzlement Bill,

Mr. Morris

rose with a wish to add a few observations to those which he had already made on the first introduction of the Bill. He felt that the measure was not such as the House ought to adopt. It went to effect, by penal enactments, what every individual, with an ordinary degree of circumspection was able to do for himself, by using proper caution in the choice of his agents and attornies. He believed that the original intention of the framer of the Bill had been to make the offence of embezzling securities a felony, but that he had been deterred from going to that length by the consideration, that in that case the civil claim would merge in the criminal prosecution. But he did not see how the case was much mended by making he offence a misdemeanour. The same objection as to civil redress still applied, in all cases, in equity; for in those courts parties obtained confession of trust, by answers on oath; and, as it was the pride of the English jurisprudence that no man could be compelled in any court to criminate himself, should the Bill pass in its present state, no party could be compelled to give an answer to a Bill for misapplication of trust. In this they would have even the protection of the courts.

Mr. Wilson

agreed in the principles laid down by his hon. and learned friend, but thought it possible to obviate his objections. He himself intended, should the Bill be suffered to go to a committee, to move for a clause limiting the power of prosecution to six months, or twelve months, after the commitment of the offence. This, he conceived, would put equity suits totally out of the question.

Mr. H. Smith

maintained, that the Bill would defeat the very object which the framers of it had in view.

Mr. Drummond

supported the second reading, on the principle, that the magnitude of the evil having been generally acknowledged, the rejection of the Bill, in the present instance; would amount to a confession, that the House could find no remedy to it. The Bill, in its present state, might be imperfect, but it might be improved in a committee. For instance, the inconveniencies apprehended as to Chancery suits, and which he thought greatly exaggerated, might be totally done away. In short, he did not see how the House could refuse going into a committee on a measure, intended to remedy an evil so generally felt.

The Bill was then read a second time, and a motion made, that it be committed to-morrow.

Mr. Morris

did not wish to divide the House, but hoped that some further delay would be granted. From consultations he had held with some friends of the learned profession, he was desirous to have as full an attendance as possible on the committee, and hoped that this Bill would not pass as a common enclosure or private Bill.

The commitment of the Bill was then fixed for Friday se'nnight.