§ Order for Committee read.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, since the second reading of this measure he found there had been so many suggestions made, and so many points raised, that he thought there would be great difficulty in discussing them properly in a Committee of the whole House until the Bill had been first considered by a more select number of hon. Members. He was therefore inclined to accept the proposal of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. He did not know what course the hon. and learned Attorney General intended to take with respect to the Debtor and Creditor Bill. He would suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman that not only this Bill, but also the Bill from the House of Lords, should be referred to the same Select Committee. If that course should be adopted he hoped that the Select Committee would consist of persons who were fully competent, from their legal knowledge and mercantile experience, to come to a right conclusion upon the matter. He should therefore take leave to move that the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill be referred to a Select Committee.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he entirely agreed with the noble Lord in the expediency of the course he proposed to take in reference to his own Bill. The number of questions and points involved in the Bill were such as to render it most advisable that they should be first dealt with by a Select Committee. Indeed, the House would hardly be in a position to do justice to the entire subject without the aid such a Committee would afford. In regard to the Government Bill which had come down from the House of Lords, and was waiting for a second reading in that House on Friday next, he proposed that it should be then read a second time pro formâ. He should be afterwards prepared to state to the House the course he proposed to pursure regarding it. He did not, however, apprehend that there would be any objection to refer the Bill to the same Select Committee as the noble Lord's measure, so that by the assistance of such a Committee a satisfactory measure might be framed on the subject.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, he was quite satisfied that the course now taken was the only way to obtain a Bill on this important subject which would he at all satisfactory to the House or country. The subject was so important that it deserved the consideration of one of the ablest and most comprehensive Select Committees that could possibly be appointed. He would suggest that the Committee should have power to call witnesses, who might be able to give both information and advice.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he was glad that the noble Lord had determined to refer his Bill to a Select Committee. He could also assure the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General that the large constituency which he represented reposed the greatest confidence in him, and felt convinced that the interests of the commercial community would be properly attended to so long as the matter rested in his hands.
said, the subject was one which excited the greatest interest throughout the country, and it was most desirable that some measure should be passed in the present Session. The subject had already been inquired into, and he was persuaded that if the Committee were to be allowed to enter into an examination of witnesses, there would be no Bill on the subject during the present Session.
said, he also was glad the Bill was to be referred to a Select 1143 Committee. He was also opposed to going into any evidence at that stage, inasmuch as he believed all the facts bearing upon the subject were already recorded in documents to be found in the library of the House. He hoped that the hon. and learned Attorney General would assent to act upon this Committee.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he also concurred in the propriety of referring the Bill to a Select Committee. If evidence were to be gone into, however, he should much prefer the appointment of a Royal Commission to a Committee. Still, considering the mass of evidence already before the House, on the whole he should prefer to adopt the recommendation of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Headlam), and proceed with the Bill at once.
§ MR. VANCE
observed, that if the Committee were composed of lawyers and experienced mercantile men it would not be necessary to call witnesses, the hearing of whose evidence would prolong the inquiry indefinitely. The mercantile community of Ireland were anxious for the passing of an English Bill on this subject, because they were aware that it would form a basis for legislation for Ireland.
§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
said, that the only point on which there was a difference of opinion was, as to whether the Committee should take evidence or not. That was a matter on which the Committee could exercise a judgment of their own, and could, if they thought fit, apply at any moment to the House for power to examine witnesses. It might, perhaps, be desirable to obtain evidence on minor points of the Bill, though not as to its general principles. The matter, therefore, had better be left to the discretion of the Committee. With respect to the noble Lord who had brought this subject before the House, he begged to offer to him his humble tribute of respect for the attention he had bestowed on this important matter.
§ MR. LOWE
said, he quite agreed that it would not be necessary to go into the general law of bankruptcy; at the same time there were many questions of practice with respect to which it would be absolutely necessary to obtain information, in order that the Committee might deal with the two Bills in a satisfactory manner. He could not, therefore, see that any good purpose would be attained by turning the Committee adrift without the power of calling witnesses.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, 1144 the difference between hon. Members was lather one of words than of substance. The objections to a general inquiry were no doubt obvious; for, if that were done, there could be no hope of legislation during the present Session. He agreed, however, with the right hon. Member for Kidderminster in thinking that there might be some minor points to be considered upon which the Committee would feel it desirable to call for more evidence. If they accompanied the appointment of this Committee with the power of calling witnesses, the Committee would probably proceed to examine into the whole question. Whereas, if they allowed the Committee to wait until they considered the channels through which the inquiry was to run, there would be ample time for them to come clown to the House and to ask for further power to call witnesses at that particular stage of the inquiry.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that he quite concurred in the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. If the Select Committee, in going through these Bills, should think further evidence was necessary, they could apply to the House for power to call witnesses; but to give them that power in the first instance might induce them to think that they ought not to confine their attention to the Bills, but ought to embark into an inquiry as to what should be the basis of legislation on the subject.
§ Order discharged.
§ Bill committed to a Select Committee.