HC Deb 10 June 1817 vol 36 cc932-3
Mr. John Smith

said, he had no intention, in the motion which he was about to submit to the House, to reflect in the slightest degree on those gentlemen who held the situations of commissioners of bankrupts. He knew the numerous difficulties under which they laboured, and he was aware, that, in the circumstances in which they were placed, they performed their duty better than could be expected from them. The evils, however, of the present system were intolerable. In proof of this he referred to the numerously and respectably signed petition which he had presented to the House on the subject, and which conveyed the sense of all the commercial interest of the metropolis, complaining that the place allotted in Guildhall for the business was totally inadequate for the purpose. The crowd and the noise rendered it impossible to enter into a proper investigation of the proof of debts. This might easily be remedied. But the most material evil was, that a system of horrible and scandalous fraud existed in the administration of the Bankrupt Laws—to such a degree, indeed, that of the number of bankruptcies within the last two or three years, half the bankrupts made no dividends at all. Many other grievances he would not detail; but they proved the total inadequacy of the bankrupt laws to protect the creditors, and even the bankrupt himself. The hon. gentleman then entered into a detailed history of a proceeding in a case of bankruptcy, and dwelt particularly on the difficulty which assignees experienced in the discharge of their duty; on the great frauds which occurred in the obtaining of certificates; and on the want of all distinction between moral and immoral bankrupts; and concluded by moving, "That a select committee be appointed to consider the bankrupt laws, and of the operation thereof."

Mr. Wrottesley

was far from wishing to object to the motion; but he begged to suggest to the hon. gentleman, whether he thought any public advantage could be reaped by entering upon an inquiry into so extensive a subject at so late a period of the session. Might it not be more expedient to move a resolution, that the House would take the matter into consideration early in the next session.

Mr. Serjeant Onslow

was persuaded that a Select Committee might make great progress in investigating the subject during the present session; and, certainly, there was no subject which more loudly demanded immediate investigation.

Mr. Grenfell

thought, that the best mode of securing the attention of parliament to this important subject, in the next session, would be to appoint a committee, and to proceed in the inquiry, as far as possible, during the present session.

The motion was agreed to.