HC Deb 05 June 1820 vol 1 cc868-9

Upon the motion of lord Althorp, the House resolved itself into a committee of the whole House upon this bill.

Mr. Denman

objected to the appointment of three commissioners instead of one. He said, he was averse, in general to the investing any man or body of men with arbitrary power, but such a measure as this could never be efficient, unless the absolute power of carrying its provisions into effect were lodged in a single hand. Three judges in different places would follow different rules and precedents, and decide upon different principles. He thought there should be no appeal in these cases if an appeal were permitted, there would be great risk of a perpetual disagreement among the three members, or it would become a mere mockery of justice, and nothing more than a mere formal decision of the same case before the same court. It was contended that if only one commissioner were appointed, it would be necessary to have examiners out of court; but he saw no such necessity, nor did the proceedings in insolvent cases involve any investigations which one judge was not fully competent to undertake. Unless creditors exerted themselves to bring the property of their debtors under the control of the court, no exertions on the part of the court would be sufficient for that purpose. Upon public grounds, too, the unnecessary multiplication of judicial and other offices, was a subject which ought to be watched with extreme jealousy, and he could not help thinking, that if the committee suffered this clause of the bill to pass, they would give an indirect sanction to a transaction, which was felt throughout the country to be a very gross job; he alluded to the recent appointment of a fifth baron of the exchequer in Scotland. He moved, therefore, that instead of the words, "three-commissioners," the words "one commissioner"' be substituted.

Mr. Abercromby

observed, that the country was much indebted to the noble lord who had brought this measure before the House. The most essential part of the bill was, that there should be associated with the chief commissioner two commissioners who should examine accounts in private; and this he contended, was most desirable. In conclusion, he paid a high compliment to the present commissioner, with whom he had the honour of being acquainted, and than whom no man could be more devoted to the discharge of his public duties.

Sir F. Ommanney

argued in favour of the appointment of three commissioners.

Mr. D. W. Harvey

objected to the expense of the measure, and contended that from the seventy bankrupt commissioners the offices of the commissioners contemplated by the bill might advantageously be filled up. He admitted that three commissioners were better than one. It would prevent any exercise of arbitrary power, by allowing an appeal from the decision of an individual commissioner to the judgment of the commissioners in court assembled. The great advantage, as he understood it, of the noble lord's proposition was, that there would be two examiners under the name of commissioners, who being employed in examining accounts in private, would leave to the chief commissioner the principal administration of the law.

Mr. Abercromby

maintained, that the expense attendant on the measure would by no means be great, and that it would be most advantageously incurred. He agreed, that it was desirable to reduce the number of bankrupt commissioners, but he contended that the best way of doing so would be to adopt the present measure, which would so reduce the profits of the bankrupt commissioners, as speedily to diminish their number.

Mr. Wrottesley

objected to the bill, on the ground that it would occasion two systems to be going on at the same time. The late bill was a grievous disappointment to the country; for it had turned out to be one of the most mischievous and demoralizing legislative measures that had ever been adopted. If, however, the bill were to be adopted, he was sure that three commissioners would be necessary to administer it, and he trusted that they would be able to remedy some of the evils of the late bill.

After some desultory conversation, Mr. Denman agreed to withdraw his amendment. The original proposition for filling up the blank with the word "three" was agreed to. The other clauses were filled up, and the House resumed.