HC Deb 19 March 1845 vol 78 cc1150-1
Lord Duncan

wished to ask a question of the right hon. Baronet upon a subject of some importance to the trading interests of this country; he alluded to an Act of Lord Brougham's, which was passed last Session, to amend the Law of Bankruptcy. In Section 57 of that Act, the power of arrest upon actions for debt not exceeding the sum of 20l. was entirely abolished from and after the passing of the said Act, which was the 9th August, 1844. The words exempting such persons after the date of the Bill were, however, accidentally omitted from this clause. The consequence is, that there were about 1,200 tradesmen in Bath who were greatly inconvenienced by many persons who, having contracted debts with them previous to the passing of this Act, now refused to pay the claims that are made upon them. He wished to ask the right hon. Baronet whether it were his intention to remove those evils which were complained of, and to relieve those tradesmen from the hardship they were thus unfairly exposed to?

Sir J. Graham

said, that he was not made aware of the nature of the question which it appeared the noble Lord was about to put to him. The statement, however, of the noble Lord rather confirmed the view which had been taken by the hon. Member for Portsmouth last night. With respect to the question itself, he was not aware that any general inconvenience had arisen from the measure of last Session. He only knew this fact, that the gaols of this country had been heretofore crowded by a large number of poor debtors, from whom it was, he believed, hopeless to expect payment of the debts for which they had been incarcerated. These gaols were no longer filled by such a class of persons. Neither was he aware that the effect of the measure was to reduce to any extent the amount of credit which had been usually given to the working classes. Under these circumstances he must say that he was not at all prepared to recommend any material alterations in the Bill.

Lord Duncan

, seeing the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General present, begged leave to call to his recollection the conversation which had ensued on the occasion of his accompanying a deputation lately in an interview which the hon. and learned Gentleman had granted. The hon. and learned Gentleman then stated that great inconveniences, he was aware, had arisen in consequence of the passing of this Act.

The Solicitor General

said, he did not think that he should be called upon to answer this question. He hardly thought it fair (a conversation having taken place upon an interview with a deputation) to state in this House the casual observations which might have dropped from him when these tradesmen had waited upon him. He did not recollect exactly what he had said at that interview; but he did state that they must have suffered great inconvenience indeed if, as they had declared, they were not able to recover the debts that were due to them, and he asked them whether they could suggest any remedy. He certainly threw out several suggestions himself, most of which were rejected by them. Nothing at all tangible was agreed upon.