HC Deb 08 February 1831 vol 2 cc309-10
Mr. Hume

moved for returns of the number of Warrants granted for Debt, distinguishing whether for Mesne Process or Execution, by the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, and the Sheriff of Surrey, for the year 1830; also, of the number of prisoners committed for Debt to the King's Bench and Fleet prisons, Whitecross-street, the Marshalsea, and Horsemonger-lane, in 1830; also the number of prisoners committed to the same Gaols, by the Court of Requests, for the year ending January 1831, with the amount of the debt and costs in each case, and classifying the prisoners according to the amount of their debts. In moving for these returns, the hon. Member stated, that imprisonment for debt was demoralizing in the highest degree, and as it had been promised for three years that the law should be altered, he hoped that at length these promises would be kept. The interior of a prison corrupted all its inmates, and when it was known, that in one prison alone of the City of London, 1200 individuals were confined for small sums, the price of an Englishman's freedom being 1s. per day, was it astonishing that the whole community was corrupted by so poisonous a source. The property of the debtor should be taken, but his person should not be touched. But perhaps the worst part of the present system was, that those who owed nothing might be incarcerated by an oath.

Mr. Horace Twiss

took that opportunity of remarking, with reference to what had been said in the former Debates, that the regulation for preventing persons having free access to prisoners in gaol, was intended to prevent their communicating with improper people.

Mr. Alderman Waithman

said, that debtors were not confined by the hard-heartedness of creditors, but as the only means of enforcing the payment of debts due from those who had funds and would not pay their creditors. He should like to see the law of debtor and creditor revised.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, that the expense of confining debtors for small sums would more than pay their debts.

Mr. Warburton

was convinced, that sending a debtor to prison was so sure to be followed by his ruin, that he thought the law could not be altered too soon.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

stated, that in consequence of the situation he now held, he was not prepared to forward the bill of which he had given notice last Session, but he thought that great improvement might be made in the Jaws; and he still retained all his former opinions concerning them.

Motion agreed to.

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