§ On the Question that this Bill be now read a Third Time,
§ MR. J. STUART
said, it was his intention to oppose the third reading of the Bill; and he sincerely wished he could impress upon the Government the importance of the proposed measure, and the necessity of more fully considering its details. It was a Bill which ought not to be lightly passed, or upon trifling considerations. The great object it proposed was to abolish the Court of Review; and by the third clause of the Bill, they were about to give the authority of Acts of Parliament to every subsisting order of the Court of Review in acts of bankruptcy. The Act was framed in such a way as to render it impossible to put it into proper shape this Session. The principle laid down in the first three clauses was, that the jurisdiction of the Court of Review should be abolished. But what good was to be the result of this alteration? We should not get a better Judge; for we had at present an able and experienced Judge, and could not expect a better. Then, if it were urged that the Court of Chancery had not enough to do, he maintained the contrary opinion, and asserted the Court had already more than enough to do, It was urged that the abolition of the Court of Review would get rid of fees that were a burden on the suitor. But, so far from this evil being remedied by the alteration, he found that the fees taken in the Court of Review were to be continued when the business was removed to the Court of Chancery. There was no pretence for saying that any saving by the change would be gained, cither by the suitor or the litigating public. Now, as there was a Committee sitting at the present moment on the subject of fees, he thought it would have been right to have 635 waited until the Committee had given their report before the stipulation about fees had been inserted. He had not heard any reason, good or bad, for restoring the jurisdiction of the Bankrupty Court again to the Court of Chancery. The change was made without due consideration, and the only result would be inconvenience to all parties, and no saving to any one; but the contrary. These were his objections to the first part of the Bill. There was a growing opinion that distinctions between insolvency and bankruptcy should be done away with. The Bill, however, did not favour this opinion. The proposition in the Bill to take from the Bankruptcy Court certain powers with respect to the administration of assets, and to throw those powers back into the Insolvent Court, was in the highest degree faulty. He contended this was throwing back the law into its former confusion, and making separate jurisdictions for that line of business which ought to have only one common jurisdiction. With respect to the proposal to extend the jurisdiction of the county courts, that was a question open to discussion. He had never heard any good ground stated for this proceeding; but he could state very good grounds for not transferring the jurisdiction now exercised by the Court of Bankruptcy to the county courts. One of his reasons was because these county courts were hardly yet constituted, and had no settled or regulated mode of proceeding. The first four sections of the Act were full of absurdities and incongruities, as he had shown; and this afforded a sufficient reason for asking the House to pause before it passed the Bill. The thousand rules of the Courts of Chancery of late established were nothing more than stumbling-blocks of justice; and this evil would be increased in another direction if the proposal with respect to the county courts were suffered to pass. The only argument he had heard used in favour of this Bill was the saving of the expense of the Bankruptcy Commissioners on their circuits; but that would be an advantage that would be dearly purchased by the passing of the measure. It was said that there would be no great amount of property from insolvent debtors received. Within the last ten days, he knew that the property of an insolvent had been sold for 50,000l. Let the House look at the strange confusion of matter comprised in this Act, involving subjects too many to be involved in one Act; let them recollect, 636 also, that the subject of bankruptcy and insolvency could not long remain as at present. Instead of such cobbling legislation as we had had from year to year, let us have such Acts as that framed by Lord Henley, after years of consideration—the 6th George IV.—regulating the rights of creditors, and of the bankrupt. It was an inconsiderate piece of legislation, mixing up three subjects that ought not to be included in one Bill; or, if included, it ought to be done on a more extensive view of the subject. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.
had heard it rumoured that the real object of the Bill was not the avowed one. He had inquired into the matter himself, and he was satisfied the rumour was without foundation. He should support the third reading.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
had always understood that the opposition to the Bill was confined to the first three clauses; two divisions having been taken on those first clauses, the rest of the Bill passed without a single observation: though the hon. and learned Gentleman was present, he made no objection to the rest of the Bill at the time. If it was necessary all changes in the administration of the law should be considered years before they were made, he admitted that this measure had not received sufficient consideration; but it was the result of a mature inquiry before a Committee of the House of Lords, was recommended by the report of that Committee, and had the sanction of the highest legal authority. One great object of the Bill was to abolish the Court of Review. He judged of the results of the former measure, which empowered the Lord Chancellor to appoint four Judges in Bankruptcy, by its result; that result was that the Judges had nothing to do. The business was done by one of the Vice Chancellors, sitting in a nominal court, which by the present Act would be abolished. The Lord Chancellor would now be enabled to give the bankruptcy business to either of the Vice Chancellors he might think fit; in some cases, such a transfer of the business was very expedient and desirable. The fees would remain subject to the same regulation as if the Court of Review continued to exist, should the Committee of Inquiry into the subject of fees think they ought to be altered. It was stated there were no grounds for the measure; he ap- 637 prehended there were quite sufficient grounds for it in the fact that the Court of Review had fallen into disuse. The Bill would do away with an anomaly to which there was also this objection—that as long as the court existed its officers must he kept up, and expectations would be formed that might he an obstacle in the way of any future change in the law of bankruptcy. He must oppose the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
, on a former occasion, was under a misapprehension when he mentioned that he had reason to believe that Lord Brougham was not favourable to the transference to the Court of Chancery of the jurisdiction now exercised by the Court of Review. The noble and learned Lord had assured him that he was wrong on this point; and the noble and learned Lord claimed the proposition as his own. He had listened to the reasons in favour of the transference; but he confessed that he could not regard them as satisfactory. He had the authority of Mr. W. Ellis, who was on the Commission which recommended the severance from the Court of Chancery of those duties exercised now by the Court of Review, for saying that he still entertained his original opinion as to the impolicy of connecting the jurisdiction with the Court of Chancery; and he had every reason to believe that his Colleagues in that Commission shared his opinion on that point.
§ On the question that the word "now" stand part of the Question, the House divided:—Ayes 45; Noes 18: Majority 27.
|List of the AYES.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Antrobus, E.||Labouchere, rt. hn. H.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Brotherton, J.||Morris, D.|
|Brown, W.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Buller, C.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Craig, W. G.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Denison, J. E.||Parker, J.|
|Dodd, G.||Philipps, Sir R. B. P.|
|Dundas, Sir D.||Rich, H.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Russell, Lord E.|
|Etwall, R.||Russell, Lord C. J. F.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Fox, C. R.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Thornely, T.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Ward, H. G.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Hallyburton, Lord J. F.||TELLERS.|
|Hatton, Capt. V.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Tufnell, H.|
|List of the AYES.|
|Bankes, G.||Neeld, J.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Palmer, G.|
|Bentinck, Lord H.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Taylor, E.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Trotter, J.|
|Fox, S. L.||Vyse, H.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Fuller, A. E.|
|Henley, J. W.||TELLERS.|
|Hudson, G.||Borthwick, P.|
|Law, hon. C. E.||Stuart, J,|
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
then moved the insertion of the following clause:—And be it Enacted, That no judge of any County Court who has been appointed, or who shall hereafter be appointed to that office, under or by virtue of the hereinbefore recited Act, passed in the 10th year of the reign of Her Majesty, intituled, 'An Act for the more easy recovery of Small Debts and Demands in England,' shall, during his continuance in such office, be capable of being elected, or of sitting as a Member of the House of Commons.
SIR R. PRICE
objected to the clause, and proposed that the judges of the metropolitan county courts should be excluded from its operation. He moved the insertion of the words, "save and except any judge of the county courts in the metropolitan district."
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
thought the hon. Gentleman could not have heard what was stated by the Attorney General the other night, when he stated that there was great doubt whether, by the operation of the law as it now stood, these judges could have seats in Parliament, though it was not the intention of the Government that they should have scats in that House. It would be shorter and much better for the hon. Baronet to introduce the name of the Judge he proposed to have a seat in the House nominatim. If there were any persons who possessed power of a most suspicious kind in respect to election purposes, they were the judges of the county courts, who might (he did not say would) be indulgent to debtors, and punish or favour creditors. If the House had the slightest regard for the experiment they had made, if they did not desire to mar it, they would not adopt the proposition of the hon. Baronet in favour of certain county judges in immediate connexion with the metropolis.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Bill passed.
§ House adjourned at Twelve o'clock.