HC Deb 21 May 1860 vol 158 cc1560-4

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.


wished the Attorney General would give sonic fuller explanation of the financial part of his plan of Reform in the Bankruptcy Law, and state what were the prospects of a revenue being derived from the Court itself, and what would be its ultimate effect on the Consolidated Fund. The Bill placed on the Consolidated Fund a charge of £20,000 a year; it then dealt in a sweeping manner with the existing sources of revenue from the Court; and he should he surprised if in the end the rest of the charges of the Court were not thrown on the Exchequer. Many complaints were made of the constant increase of the expenditure. A chief cause of the increase was the practice of the House itself, in continually passing Bills throwing additional charges on the Consolidated Fund, which, collectively, amounted to enormous sums. Exclusive of the compensations now charged on the Revenues of the Court, amounting to more than £20,000 a year, the expenses of the Court of Bankruptcy were £58,000. To meet this, at present there wore three sources of revenue,—the percentage fees, paid in by the official assignees, amounting to £30,000 a year; these fees the Bill swept away. Then there were the stamp duties, amounting to £14,000 a year; and lastly, the main source of the revenue of the Court, the interest of the Bankruptcy Fund Account, being the interest of £1,500,000, money in the Court, belonging to bankrupt estates invested in Consols. It amounted to about £46,000. But the new charges of the Court would be £106,000, or nearly double the existing charge of £58,000. On one hand the charge was doubled, and on the other some of the sources of income were swept away, while the Consolidated Fund would be called on to make up the difference. By the operation of the Bill, the revenue from the Bankruptcy Account Fund would probably dwindle away, and become comparatively small, as the fund was no longer to be collected and paid in by officers of the Court, but by the creditors' assignees. He thought there was cause for alarm, and he objected to the possible prospect of placing such a heavy charge on the Consolidated Fund.


said, that the whole matter was fully discussed on the second reading of the Bill, and it was with the approbation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he proposed to transfer the retiring annuity and compensation fund to the Consolidated Fund. It was quite true that in consequence of the changes which had been made in the Bankruptcy Laws and the adoption of a new system the compensation fund had increased. Hitherto that fund had been charged on the future revenue of the Court; but that was an error which he had attempted to rectify by transferring that charge to the Consolidated Fund. The change which had taken place in accordance with the recommendation of the Select Committee by which trust deeds were registered produced a large sum, and if they took the average every year of those trust deeds and composition deeds, which he now proposed to bring within the range of the Bankruptcy Law, they would find that an additional revenue was produced of at least £60,000 a year. The augmentation of salaries would come out of the suitors' fund, and if any one took the trouble of looking at the returns, they would see that the augmentation of revenue was placed very much below what the additional income would actually be. He did not think that any apprehension need be felt, because putting the augmentation of revenue at £50,000 instead of £60,000 a year, there were other items which would give a sum of £80,000 a year; after abolishing the charges in the shape of per centages and stamps, there would still be a surplus of £15,000 a year. There was, he therefore thought, no fear on the score of financial grounds.


observed, that if the principle on which the hon. and learned Gentleman had based his calculation was right, there could be no necessity whatever for charging the Consolidated Fund with the £20,000 for compensation, because there would be an actual surplus of £15,000 per annum.


observed, that a sum amounting to upwards of £20,000 a year had been charged by former Parliaments, not upon any sound system of reason or precedent, upon what was termed the Bankruptcy Fund, and was awarded as compensation to persons for emoluments of which they had been deprived. He thought that Parliament should, in the first instance, have placed that charge upon the Consolidated Fund. He would beg the right hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bouverie) to remember what the Fund was upon which these charges were placed. If there was one Fund that ought to be left unfettered, it was the Bankruptcy Fund. He could not but express his astonishment that the House of Commons, consisting among others of so many mercantile men, should have allowed this charge to continue for so great a number of years. By its means a charge fell upon the very smallest bankrupt estate. One of the greatest benefits his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had proposed by this Bill was the withdrawal of this charge from the Bankruptcy Fund and placing it where it ought to be placed, on the general funds of the country. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock seemed to have forgotten that, by a slight charge, which would scarcely be felt by any of the creditors who would come within its operation, the hon. and learned Gentleman had provided a fund largo enough to meet any deficiencies that might arise. He hoped the Committee would feel that there was no objection to the transfer of this charge, which would only be an act of justice to the commercial interests of the country.


asked, if the lion, and learned Gentleman would consent to place this amount on the Civil Service Estimates, so as to be voted annually, and that the House might see exactly how the accounts stood? Because, if it was transferred to the Consolidated Fund, the House would have no control whatever over it.


said, that what he desired to be done was, that Parliament should, year by year, be made acquainted with the state of these funds, and there was a particular provision requiring that a return of revenue and expenditure of the Court should be made annually, which should he in the most distinct form, specifying the various items. It was necessary that these payments should be made regularly, and therefore it would be inconvenient to have them placed on the Votes, but it would be competent to any Member of Parliament at any time to call attention to the Return, and to propose a Resolution with respect to it.


thought the charge ought to appear annually in the Civil Service Estimates. Everybody knew how difficult it was for Members to get an opportunity of bringing charges on the Consolidated Fund before the House.


said, that in cases of compensation the grants were generally made by Parliament, and therefore the cases must already have received the assent of Parliament, as it was at the will of Parliament such compensations were granted. He thought therefore these grants were fairly placed on the Consolidated Fund. He did not see how they could be put upon the Estimates as the parties were absolutely entitled to the compensation given to them.


entered his protest against the doctrine of the hon. Member for Lambeth. Why was this to form an exceptional case? By the same course of reasoning they might make the salaries of the Judges and other high officials dependent upon the vote of the House year by year. He thought these compensations and allowances were properly placed on the Consolidated Fund.

1. Resolved, That the Salaries, Allowances, Remunerations, Retiring Annuities, and Compensations which may become payable to certain persons ap- pointed under or affected by any Act of the present Session for amending the Law relating to Bankruptcy and Insolvency in England, shall be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

2. Resolved, That the Order for vesting any Estate or Interest in any Copyhold or Customary Land belonging to a Bankrupt, shall be chargeable with the same Stamp Duty as would be chargeable on a like disposition of the same Land by the ordinary mode of Assurance.

3. Resolved, That the following Stamp duties in lieu of Fees shall be charged in eases of Bankruptcy and Insolvency in England:—

Document. Stamp Duty in lieu of Fees.
? s. d.
Every Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, or for arrangement between any debtor and his creditors, or for the distribution of the estates and effects of a deceased debtor subject to the repayment to the assignee by the chief registrar of one-half of the said Stamp Duty, if the assets realized under the Bankruptcy shall not exceed the sum of three hundred pounds 5 0 0
Every such Petition as aforesaid when presented to the London District Court or a County Court 1 0 0
Every declaration of Insolvency 0 2 6
Every summons of debtor. 0 2 6
Every admission of such debtor. 0 2 6
Every bond with sureties 0 5 0
Every application for search for Petition or other proceeding. 0 1 0
Every application for appointment of sitting or meeting in any matter of arrangement under this Act 0 5 0
Every allocatur by any officer of the Court for any costs, charges, or disbursements,— where such Bill of Costs shall not exceed £5 0 1 6
Exceeding £5 and not exceeding £10 0 2 6
Exceeding £10 and not exceeding £20 0 5 0
Exceeding £20 and not exceeding £30 0 7 6
Exceeding £30 and not exceeding £50 0 10 0
Exceeding £50 and not exceeding £100 0 15 0
Exceeding £100 and not exceeding £150 1 0 0
Exceeding £150 and not exceeding £200 1 10 0
Exceeding £200 and not exceeding £300 2 0 0
Exceeding £300 and not exceeding £500 3 0 0
Exceeding £500 and not exceeding£ 5 0 0

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.

The House resumed.