HC Deb 07 July 1819 vol 40 cc1540-2
Mr. Abercromby

rose to obtain leave to bring in a bill for the purpose of continuing the act now in existence for a limited term. The House was aware, that the new bill, prepared by a committee of its own appointment, and approved after long and repeated discussions, by the House itself, had been rejected in another place. The general principle of that bill was one for rendering the administration of justice with respect to insolvent debtors analogous to that of the bankrupt laws. In the circumstances, however, under which the House was now placed, it appeared to him, that the most advisable course which could be pursued was, to pass a short bill, extending the duration of the present act till the expiration of three months after the commencement of the next session. The general object appeared to him so manifestly desirable, the evil of overflowing gaols and the demands of humanity and justice so obvious, that he could not doubt what would be the decision of the House. He then moved for leave to bring in a bill, for continuing, during a limited period, the acts of the 53rd, 54th, and 56th of his present majesty, relative to the law of Insolvent Debtors.

Sir W. Curtis

feared, that too many persons already in gaol were there as voluntary inhabitants, and thought it would be much more expedient to let the present act die a natural death.

Mr. Waithmun

conceived that no ground whatever had been laid for the course proposed. The committee that sat during the present session, had received evidence which clearly established all the grievances complained of in the various petitions winch had been presented to the House. He felt satisfied, that the authors of the rejected bill were the best friends to the unfortunate debtor; and that it was the duty of the House to resist the course of legislation which it was now attempted to introduce.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that when he found that if no new law could be perfected, the consequence must be a return to the old, with all its acknowledged inconveniences, he could not hesitate to give his support to the present motion.

Mr. Calcraft

declared, that he felt a little sore at the manner in which the old law had been treated, nor was he satisfied with the reasons assigned for renewing the present act. Under all the circumstances, however, he should vote for the motion.

Mr. G. Lamb

declared his aversion to any continuance of the existing law. Parliament had temporised too long upon this subject, and he should certainly prefer a return for a limited time to the old system.

Mr. Serjeant Onslow

disapproved of any adjournment till some understanding on this subject had been come to with the other House.

Lord Ebrington, though he regretted to oppose what was intended as an act of grace to many unfortunate individuals, yet could not but complain of such a proposition as this, after the numerous petitions, showing the gross system of fraud and abuse produced by the operation of this bill. To remedy these evils, a measure had been framed by the labours of a most industrious and effective committee, which appeared to reconcile the contending interests and opinions of all parties affected by it; but which, after receiving the unanimous concurrence of that House, was now thrown out by the Lords, because at that period of the session, they could not afford sufficient time for its discussion. And under these circumstances, we were invited to renew the former act, stigmatized as it was by the complaints of our constituents, and by our own recorded opinion of its mischief and absurdity. As to the objection about the funds in the hands of the court, he thought it would be much more expedient to bring in a specific bill to guard those funds, and to revert to the old law till next session.

Mr. Courtenay

was strongly disposed to concur with the sentiments of his noble friend who had just sat down. It was impossible to overlook the evil consequences of the law as it now stood.

Sir James Mackintosh

considered the present measure the best, under existing circumstances, that could be suggested, for carrying into effect the petitions of the people. The wish of the public was, either that the present law should be amended, or that a new one should be enacted; but they did not expect that this was to be done in a day. Sufficient time must be allowed to enable the legislature to give effect to this wish; and that time, the measure of his hon. and learned friend was calculated to afford. If we once got under the operation of the old law, we should find it extremely difficult to revert to that principle which constituted the best part of the present act—the cessio bonorum. At present the prisons were crowded with debtors, who had been led to expect liberation under the act; and there was, therefore, a sort of parliamentary pledge that these expectations should, not be disappointed. He could not refrain from observing, that in his opinion the law of debtor and creditor looked too little to property, and too much to the person.

Sir R. Wilson

said, that the measure of his hon. and learned friend met with his entire approbation.

After some further conversation, the House divided: Ayes, 80; Noes, 26. A bill was then brought in, which was allowed to go through the several stages, and passed.

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