HC Deb 15 February 1850 vol 108 cc882-5

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed—"That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, that as there had been so strong a manifestation for law reform by the Government, he hoped a change had not come over the spirit of their dream, as he feared it had if he were to judge from the provisions of this measure. He felt himself compelled to call the attention of the House to one of the offices connected with the office of Lord Chancellor—namely, that of Secretary of Bankrupts. The 5th and 6th Victoria created certain deputy-registrars, and made this provision, that in the event of the decease of the person called registrar, the Lord Chancellor should fill up the office of registrar from these deputy-registrars. There were in the London district six commissioners of bankrupts. By the Act which passed last year, the Legislature was of opinion that four commissioners of bankrupts were capable of doing that which six had now to do. There also existed an officer called secretary of bankrupts. He had something to do in the shape of taking fees from the fiat; but now the fiat was done away with, in the Bankruptcy Bill of last year, he (Mr. Henley) could not understand what the secretary of bankrupts had to do. This person received a salary of 1,200l., his chief clerk 500l., and the second clerk 300l. a year. All the duties of secretary of bankrupts were capable of being done by one of the six gentlemen in the London district. To show that this was the case, he thought it fair to the House to let this matter be referred to a Select Committee to inquire how the duties could be best and most economically performed.

Amendment proposed— To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'a Select Committee be appointed, to consider the best mode of dealing with the office of Registrar of Bankrupts, now vacant,' instead thereof.


said, he did not think the hon. Gentleman gave the House much encouragement in the progress of those reforms into which they had embarked, when he met the first measure for the abolition of an office and the reduction of a salary of 1,200l. a year by a direct negative; for his resolution was, not that it be referred to a Select Committee that the office should be abolished, but as to the best mode of filling up that office. What mode could be more acceptable to his hon. Friend or the House than to abolish the office and the salary attached to it? It appeared to him that when the office was abolished, and the salary of 1,200l. a year, the most satisfactory mode had been arrived at. His hon. Friend was mistaken as to the statute; but if it were as he stated, the Act was necessary for abolishing the office, and cutting down the rate. He quite agreed that the office of chief registrar was a sinecure, and that was a main reason why it should be abolished. It was proposed by the Bill, and it came before the House in a former Session, that on the death of the chief registrar the office should be filled by the secretary of bankruptcy. There was then no occasion for going into Committee, for they proposed to abolish the office. It was true, the secretary of bankruptcy did not discharge the duties that officer had formerly done. But that officer was necessary, as he knew from his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor; there were many eases in which he had extensive correspondence in his official and responsible situation of secretary, and it was therefore that the office was to be conferred upon him, it being absolutely necessary that there should be an officer of that description. It did not appear to him there was any ground for an inquiry that that office should be immediately filled, and the country fixed with a salary of 1,200l. a year.


objected to the Bill, because it would make the secretary of bankrupts chief registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy, and would so perpetuate the latter office. He agreed in the necessity of abolishing the office of chief registrar as an absolute sinecure, for all the business the registrar was expected to do was performed by the accountant of bankruptcy, who had a salary of 1,500l. a year. But the question was, why should the secretary of bankrupts be appointed to an office the duties of which were nil? It had been shown before a Select Committee, which inquired into this subject some time ago, that the office of secretary of bankrupts was also a sinecure; for before the Bankruptcy Act of last year was passed, that officer had nothing to do. He thought the best course would be to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, with the power of hearing evidence; but if the Bill went on, he would, on third reading, move such amendments as would altogether abolish the office of registrar of bankrupts.


said, it had been truly stated that under the Act 5th and 6th Victoria, there were to be six registrars; and it was provided by that statute that at the death of the chief registrar one of the other registrars should fill the office. If, therefore, instead of perpetuating the office of secretary of bankruptcy by promoting him to the office of chief registrar, they filled that office by advancing one of the deputy registrars, a saving of 1,000l. a year would be effected. It was provided by the statute passed last year that the registrars should be reduced to four; if, therefore, one of the six deputy registrars be appointed to the chief registrar ship he gets 1,200l. a year, and the office of secretary of bankruptcy—admittedly a sinecure—would not be perpetuated. He considered by the arrangement he proposed, a saving of 1,9001. a year would be effected.


entirely dissented from the statistical details brought forward by the hon. Gentleman opposite, and contended that by the Bill before the House a saving of 1,200l. a year would be produced.


said, it appeared to him that neither the chief registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy nor the secretary of bankrupts had anything to do, and he therefore did not see how the House, with any pretensions to economy, could perpetuate such offices.


commenced his observations by reading an extract from the evidence of the present secretary of bank-' ruptcy, the object of which was to show that when the fiats would be abolished, there would be nothing for the clerks to do. It was perfectly true that by the Bill before them a saving would be effected, but by that Bill they were perpetuating the office of chief registrar, and were attaching one useless office to another to perpetuate one of them. As long as the present secretary of bankruptcy continued to fill the office, there would be a saving; but then, again, the Lord Chancellor will be in a position to appoint a perpetual chief registrar. They might not detach him as long as he held the office, but he believed the days of that office were numbered.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 61: Majority 4.

List of the AYES.
Abdy, T. N. Keppel, hon. G. T.
Anson, hon. Col. Kildare, Marq. of
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Bellew, R. M. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Lewis, G. C.
Boyle, hon. Col. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Brockman, E. D. Martin, C. W.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Caulfeild, J. M. Mulgrave, Earl of
Cockburn, A. J. E. Ogle, S. C. H.
Craig, W. G. Paget, Lord A.
Dundas, Adm. Palmerston, Visct.
Ebrington, Vise. Parker, J.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Pelham, Capt.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Rich, H.
Freestun, Col. Romilly, Sir J.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Russell, Lord J.
Grey, R. W. Russell, F. C. H.
Hatchell, J. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Hawes, B. Shelburne, Earl of
Hayter, rt. hon. W. G. Simeon, J.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Hobhouse, T. B. Spearman, H. J.
Howard, Lord E. Stuart, Lord D.
Howard, Sir R. Tennent, R. J.
Jervis, Sir J. Townshend, Capt.
Watkins, Col. L. Wyvill, M.
Willcox, B. M. TELLERS.
Wilson, J. Tufnell, H.
Wyld, J. Hill, Lord M.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Macnaghten, Sir E.
Best, J. Mangles, R. D.
Blair, S. Manners, Lord J.
Brotherton, J. Matheson, Col.
Brown, W. Morris, D.
Bunbury, E. H. Mullings, J. R.
Carter, J. B. Palmer, R.
Clay, J. Patten, J. W.
Cobbold, J. C. Pilkington, J.
Cocks, T. S. Plowden, W. H. C.
Currie. H. Rawdon, Col.
Dodd, G. Ricardo, O.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Salwey, Col.
Duff, G. S. Scholefield, W.
Duke, Sir J. Scully, F.
Duncan, G. Shafto, R. D.
Duncuft, J. Spooner, R.
Evelyn, W. J. Stanford, J. F.
Fagan, W. Stanton, W. H.
Filmer, Sir E. Stuart, J.
Forster, M. Sullivan, M.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Tancred, H. W.
Grattan, H. Thicknesse, R. A.
Greene, J. Thompson, Col.
Gwyn, H. Thornely, T.
Hardcastle, J. A. Turner, G. J.
Headlam, T. E. Willoughby, Sir H.
Heald, J. Wilson, M.
Hudson, G. Wood, W. P.
Keogh, W. TELLERS.
Kershaw, J. Henley, J. W.
King, hon. P. J. L. Bouverie, E. P.

Words added;Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Select Committee appointed, "to consider the best mode of dealing with the office of Registrar of Bankrupts, now vacant."

The House adjourned at Twelve o'clock till Monday next.