§ Mr. M. Philips
said, it was his intention, in consequence of representations that had been made to him on the subject by individuals who were much interested in this measure, to move a clause, by which it should be provided, that instead of application being made for the fiat in London, in all cases, however remote from the metropolis, the Court of Bankruptcy in the country, or the place where any commissioner of bankruptcy might sit, should be deemed places where matters connected with bankruptcy, the validity of the act of bankruptcy, &c., might be inquired into, and the party declared liable to the bankrupt laws, as if a fiat in bankruptcy had issued against him, This would save a great deal of expense and delay, which was unavoidable, when the application for the fiat must, be made in London. The hon. Member moved the following clause—That it shall not be necessary to strike a docket, or sue out or prosecute any fiat in bankruptcy against any person subject to the bankrupt laws, to authorize the Court of Bankruptcy, or any commissioner thereof, to hear evidence and proceed to adjudge any person so liable a bankrupt, but it shall be lawful for such court or commissioner to proceed to hear evidence, and adjudge and declare any person liable to the bankrupt laws a bankrupt in the same way and manner as though a fiat in bankruptcy had been issued against such person.
§ Clause read a first time.
§ On the question that it be read a second time,
§ The Solicitor-General
said, the process was regulated by a former act of Parliament, and could not be altered by the 1181 clause proposed by the hon. Member. If they did away with the clause pointed out by the hon. Member, and permitted by this new clause the commissioners in the country to proceed at once with cases of bankruptcy, very great irregularities might take place. There would be no one authority having a controlling power, as at present, over these proceedings. The benefit that was derived from some one responsible party taking the initiatory in such proceedings was manifest; but if the clause of the hon. Member were agreed to, there would be an end to that controlling authority, and various applications might be made in bankruptcy cases in every part of the country without the knowledge of those who were most interested in them. Upon reflection, the hon. Member would perceive that the alteration which he proposed would not be useful either in lessening the expense or in avoiding delay.
§ Sir T. Wilde
said, the object of the proposed clause was two-fold—to avoid delay, and to diminish expense in bankruptcy cases. Formerly 1l. was paid to each of three commissioners at each meeting, and 1l. on executing the commission. In the country an additional fee was given, and pretty generally, until lately, travelling expenses were paid. The first alteration of the bankrupt laws annihilated these fees in London, and, in lieu of them, a salary was granted, which was paid by the public. It was afterwards thought right that the public should not bear the expense, and the estate was charged with it. That which was formerly payable by the public was now discontinued. The question then was whether it were proper that this sum should be paid by persons availing themselves of the law, and who as part of the public, had been relieved from the expenses formerly incurred? Whether the fiat was sued out in town or country, the question remained the same. In either case the estate could not be relieved from this charge; and he did not think it was at all unjust that a small fund should be appropriated out of the estate to meet those expenses, whether the fiat was sued out in London or in the country. Now, what was the flat? It was a supposed consent to an application to declare an individual bankrupt, which was regularly entered in a hook, to which access might easily be had. Surely such an important proceeding, which stripped a man of all control over his property, should not be effected in secret. It ought not to take place in an 1182 inn before a country commissioner, as might be the case, if this clause were agreed to. How, then, with reference to publicity, could a more proper place be found than London for issuing a fiat, declaring a trader bankrupt? It was certainly the most accessible point—the point where information was most easily attainable—for all parties He was sorry to hear that the bond, in cases of fiat, was to be dispensed with. When a charge was made against a man—a charge of insolvency—by which, if it were unfounded, he might be ruined, surely something in the way of security should be exacted from the individual who initiated such a proceeding, in order to render parties cautious. Therefore it was proposed that a bond of 200l. should he demanded, and the person applying for a fiat was bound in that sum to prove an act of bankruptcy against him whom he sought to deprive of all control over his property. Such a provision ought not, in his opinion, to have been abandoned. As to the delay which was to be avoided, it was only the delay of porting up and posting down. Any individual might leave that House, and in the course of two hours initiate proceedings in bankruptcy, which could be speedily be transmitted to any part of the country. The balance of inconvenience which a few individuals might be exposed to was nothing when weighed against the inconvenience which the public generally would sustain, if they were deprived of those means of information with respect to bankruptcy cases which they now possessed, in consequence of the initiatory process being restricted to London. In London, the different cases were entered in a book, from which all who made inquiry received the necessary information, and learned at once who were bankrupts. It was, he conceived, absolutely necessary that a public record should be kept, in the most accessible place in the kingdom, of all initiatory processes in cases of bankruptcy. There was no necessity for such a clause, either with reference to delay or to expense.
§ Mr. M. Philips
begged leave, after what had fallen from the Solicitor-general and the hon. and learned Member for Worcester, he would not press the clause.
§ Second reading negatived. Report with amendments adopted.
§ Bill to be read a third time.