HC Deb 12 February 1839 vol 45 cc340-3

Sir E. Sugden moved for leave to bring in a bill for the better Protection of Purchasers against Judgments, Crown debts, and fiats in Bankruptcy. The result of the bill would be to lessen the expenses of the delays attending purchases, and avoid a great mass of litigation. With respect to the question of judgments. As the law stood until a recent period, judgments could be had in all the Courts, and each Court had a register of its own judgments; and as these judgments would he for a great many years, a purchaser who wanted to see that there was no judgment on the estates, had to resort to every Court, and examine its registers to see if there was a judgment against the person selling them. One great difficulty was, that the names were entered generally, so, that if a man rejoiced in the name of John King, the person buying them would find perhaps 200 judgments against the same name, and would have to find out the true one. The effect of this was, that the judgments bound the estates which a different person afterwards bought. In a bill brought in last year, there was a provision, that all judgments for the time to come should be put upon one register, and the description and residence of the persons against whom they were entered should also be stated there. This was a great improvement, but what he proposed upon the point was this. The evil still existed as to those judgments which were entered up previously to the passing of the bill of last Session. He proposed, that the judgments already entered up should within a year be brought upon a new register, where they were intended to affect estates in the hands of bonâ fide purchasers. He had another proposition to make, which was rendered still more necessary from the provisions of the recent Act; which altered the character of judgments as regarded estates. Formerly a judgment was not a lien upon the estate, but the creditor had it in his election to go against the estate, if he thought proper, and it was considered rather as a general lien than a particular charge. The late Act had made every judgment entered up a charge upon the estate, which involved the purchaser in greater difficulties than existed before. He proposed in order to lessen the difficulty, that every five years a person who wished to keep any judgments alive against estates, should re-enter his judgment. The effect would be, that the purchaser would have to go to one Court only, and have only to search for five years. There was a question of a different nature which also led to great difficulties on the part of the purchasers, and which men of com- mon sense could not understand which was called a lis pendens. The absurdity of the laws was this, that if the proceeding went on to a decree, there was no notice at all, but the mere filing of the bill, and the proceeding in court was a notice—upon this antiquated notion, that every body was present during the proceedings of a court of justice, and that every body knew what had happened in the past decrees of the court. The result was frightful. A man who had not the slightest notion of litigation was suddenly told there was a lis pendens, and when he asked the meaning of that he was told it was a suit in Chancery. He proposed a very ample remedy for that, which was, to make every man who filed a bill put his case upon this register of judgments which he had already mentioned. The next subject to which he had to call the attention of the House was one of a very important nature. By the law of this country every accountant of the Crown had his estates bound to the Crown during the whole time of his liability, and if he should sell an estate at the time he did not owe a shilling, and twenty years afterwards was seized for a debt subsequently incurred, the purchaser who had bought the estate would be liable to the Crown for every shilling of debt incurred by the tenant. How he proposed to obviate the objection was this—that in the Court of Exchequer there should be a register similar to the register of judgment, to which he had adverted, and that the Crown should in that register enter the names alphabetically, of all the accountants and debtors to the Crown. He did not think there would be any opposition to what he had proposed on the subject. The next was a very difficult question—it related to the operation of lists in bankruptcy on estates of traders. The law as it now stood was this, that if he bought an estate from a trader, and there was a prior act of bankruptcy, of which he had no notice, and if a commission issued within two months after he had bought the estate then he would lose it. Now that appeared to him to be altogether without defence. It was manifestly absurd. If a trader was not prevented buying an estate, why should he be prevented from selling an estate? What he wished to provide was, that a bona fide purchaser for value, without notice of bankruptcy, should not be affected by a commission of bankruptcy after he had bought and paid for the es- tate. The present law prevented a man turning his money into estates, and his estates into money, as he had a right to do if he chose. The present law provided that if a man had notice when purchasing an estate, of a commission issued within twelve months of the purchase, that should bind him. He saw no objection to that, because if a man chose to speculate with his eyes open he must take the chance of any creditor of the bankrupt pouncing on him and the estate he had bought. These were the principal objects he had for asking the House for leave to bring in this bill. He would not have taken the liberty of doing so had he not thought that such a bill would facilitate the transfer of property, without taking from any man the right he ought to enjoy, while it gave the purchaser a degree of security and safety which he thought it was the bounden duty of the House to provide for him.

The Solicitor-General

would not detain the House on the present occasion, but he could not let that opportunity pass without tendering his thanks to his right hon. Friend for the useful and material alteration in the law, which he proposed to introduce. It was, no doubt, a most material alteration, most desirable in itself, but he could not help looking at the two first propositions of making a more effectual register of judgments and Crown debts as at least one important step to the panacea—the real medicine and remedy for a great many of these evils, the establishment of a good system of general registry—He looked to this as a most important advance, he did not treat it as an immaterial matter in the benefit which it contained itself, but he looked at it with most satisfaction as an advance, and an advance in the right direction, towards that which was the only effectual remedy for our present complicated and expensive system of real property.

Leave given.