HC Deb 12 June 1820 vol 1 cc1041-2

On the motion of lord Althorp, this bill was recommitted.

Mr. Bright

proposed a clause for extending the benefit of the measure to Crown-debtors, as well as to other insolvent persons. He could not imagine any good reason why the former should be placed in a worse situation than the latter, or why the Crown should exercise the power of confining the person of its debtor, after he no longer possessed any property. He should therefore submit a clause, exempting Crown-debtors from; imprisonment, after a full disclosure, and a discharge of all claims beyond the sum of 200l.

The Attorney General

was surprised that his hon. and learned friend should wish to discontinue a provision which had appeared in all former acts of this nature. Some cases ought at least to have been mentioned, as actually proving inconvenience to have arisen from the former state of the law. Had the commissioners, in the exercise of their discretion, ever been known to refuse indulgence to an honest man? If the law were altered, as it now applied to smugglers, be would venture to state, that the revenue would be defrauded with impunity, as it often happened that when the smuggler himself was not a man of property, individuals on the other side of the water would pay down sums of 700l. and 500l. in order to procure his discharge—a practice which could hot be expected to continue, if he could be released by other means.

Mr. Bright

said, there were two descriptions of Crown debtors; one indebted upon civil process, and the other in penalties. He had a separate proposition for this latter class, and could see no objection why, when a penal sum was owing, and the debtor had no means of discharging it, he should not be enabled to bring himself before the court of King's-bench, and there submit, in lieu of the fine, to some more definite punishment. As for the first class of cases, he had not minutely inquired into them; he referred to the general principle of law, and could see no reason why in debts of small amount, the Crown should have an unrestricted power of continuing a debtor in prison. At the same time he had no desire to press his clauses against the general sense of the committee.

The proposition was withdrawn.