HC Deb 15 March 1826 vol 14 cc1371-2
Sir Robert Wilson

rose to bring forward the motion of which he had given notice. It was one of considerable importance to the trading world, as being a feature in the heavy list of charges to which the estate of a bankrupt was liable in transitu to his creditors. The tavern expenses incurred by commissioners of bankrupt in working commissions in the country were enormous and illegal. It was desirable that so wanton an expense should be put a stop to. The best means of judging of the extent to which this abuse had been carried, was by ascertaining the amount of expenses incurred within the last three years. This might be attended with difficulty, but it was not impracticable. There Was an officer called the secretary of bankrupts, upon whom the House might call for all the information in his power, and he again might be required to address circulars to all the solicitors for country commissions within the last three years, to deduct from the mass of items the particular expense of each commission, and the whole might be arranged by the secretary and presented to this House. He concluded by moving, "That there be laid before the House an account of all Tavern Expenses incurred by commissioners of bankrupts under commissions executed in the country for the last three years."

The Solicitor General

observed first, upon the difficulty of complying with the motion; and, Secondly, upon its irrelevancy, as all the abuses (if any existed) were provided against by act of parliament. If the commissioners were guilty of any abuse, they were liable to be disqualified, upon complaint made to the Chancellor. The law was riot, therefore, defective, and there appeared to him be necessity for the returns.

Mr. Abercromby

reprobated the wanton accumulation of expense which these illegal indulgences of the commissioners occasioned. He held in his hand the bill of costs of a bankrupt commission, in which there were dinner bills to the amount of 47l. Now this was a serious abuse. He was aware that if the commissioners participated in the abuse, they were disqualified from acting; but what he complained of was this, that the commissioners themselves were made judges of their own conduct; for the bills of costs in which these expenses were charged were positively taxed before the commissioners. So much for the legal redress. The whole amount of costs in the commission to which he had alluded was 2,000l.

Mr. W. J. Bankes

contended, that the law as it stood was sufficiently remedial. It should not be forgotten that the commissioners acted under an oath, and that if they winked at abuses, they would be guilty of perjury.

Mr. Hume

said, it was no answer that there existed a law on the subject, if that law was not Carried into effect. Two years ago a return was laid on the table, by which it appeared that 224,000l. had been expended by the commissioners of land tax, in open defiance of five acts of parliament.

Mr. S. Bourne

thought the gallant member should confine the return to the year which had elapsed since the passing of the act alluded to. The abuses complained of were a gross violation of the law, and he did not know why proceedings should not be instituted against the persons guilty of them.

Mr. Bankes

said, if the gallant member would confine himself to the date when the law began to operate, he would not object to it.

Mr. Wynn

said that, according to the terms of the motion, the parties were bound to make a return, even of the expenses which they paid out of their own pockets. Now, it would be better to direct prosecutions to be instituted against the persons guilty of such offences, than to call upon the whole body to make admissions which would expose them to prosecutions.

Sir R. Wilson

said, he had no objection to Confine the return to the time when the act came into operation last year.

The motion was agreed to.