HL Deb 21 June 1844 vol 75 cc1204-7
Lord Cottenham

said, he should now move that this Bill be read a third time.

The Lord Chancellor

moved, by way of Amendment that the Order for the third reading be discharged, and that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.

Lord Denman

had hoped that, during the present Session, Imprisonment for Debt would have been totally abolished. When the present Bill was introduced, the principle of it was adopted by their Lordships; but then his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had since introduced another Bill on the Law of Insolvency, stating that it would produce the same result but in a different manner. He (Lord Denman) regretted that that Bill had not been presented at an earlier period, when they might both have been referred to a Committee, and their Lordships might then have been able to have arrived at some reasonable conclusion during the present Session. He (Lord Denman) confessed he feared that the very principle of the abolition of imprisonment for debt was now placed in great jeopardy. Even the delay that would take place would in itself be a great evil, and that that principle should be jeopardized was what their Lordships could not consent to without extreme danger, and was a course greatly to be deprecated. If it was not the intention of his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) to abolish imprisonment for debt, then he (Lord Denman) would press it upon the noble Duke, personally, and with the greatest energy, that he, as a Minister of this country, should lend all the weight of his high character and station to bring this matter to a real and decisive issue; in order that they might not go on from month to month, and from year to year, playing with the feelings of a great body of persons in this country, who were entitled to their Lordships commiseration, and also leaving in doubt what the actual law of the country was to be. He would entreat that the noble Duke should put an end to this suspense, and that the Government would be pleased to take proceedings to have the principle again as- serted by the same unanimous vote by which it had already been adopted, or that at least some other system should be manfully avowed, in order that the people whom it concerned might know what was the law of the country.

The Lord Chancellor

said, that if his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cottenham) would accede to the course which he (the Lord Chancellor) had suggested, he would propose that the Select Committee be appointed on Monday and they should meet de die in diem, till they made their report. He conceived that a Report could be made in a few days, so that there would really be no loss of time by the appointment of the Committee.

The Duke of Wellington

said, as the noble and learned Lord had particularly addressed himself to him, he must say that he understood from his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) that the intention of the Amendment was not to reject the third reading of the Bill, but was to inquire with respect to the two measures under the consideration of the House which was the preferable measure, and whether one measure could not be framed founded on these two Bills which would meet with general approbation. He (the Duke of Wellington) was sure that it was not the intention of his noble and learned Friend, nor of any noble Lord, to reject the principle which had been adopted.

Lord Cottenham

was strongly opposed to the delay which the appointment of a Committee would occasion; yet having the object so much at heart, he would follow the measure to any tribunal in order to do his best endeavours to afford some relief to those unfortunate persons who were so deeply interested in this matter.

Lord Campbell

was willing to give full credit to the sincerity of the noble Duke, when he declared that there was no intention to reject the principle of this Bill; but it would be in vain to attach the smallest consequence to that declaration because, arrived as they were to the 21st of June, what was now proposed could not in the slightest degree, in the present Session, be effected. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had complained of the impossibility of getting noble Lords to attend Select Committees for purposes in which they had no immediate interests, and yet, with an inconsistency which excited his (Lord Campbell's) wonder, his noble and learned Friend at this late period of the Session, had proposed to refer to a Select Committee two Bills in which it was not possible for any of their Lordships to have any personal interest whatever. He (Lord Campbell) rejoiced that his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cottenham) was opposed to the Amendment, and if his noble and learned Friend should be defeated on a division, his (Lord Campbell's) advice to him would be to wash his hands of the measure altogether. Whatever the noble Duke's opinion might be as to the intention of this Amendment, still he (Lord Campbell) thought the better course would have been, instead of proposing the appointment of a Committee, to have moved that this Bill should be read a third time this day six months.

Lord Kenyon

stated, that the delay in the proceedings of the Committee appointed to consider the Bill relating to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was caused by the difficult nature of the subjects it was their duty to investigate.

Lord Cottenham

begged it to be distinctly understood that when he said he should follow this subject to any place where he thought there was the least chance of doing good to those whose interests he wished to serve, still he did not mean to encourage the least hope that anything would be done this Session; but that he considered that the Amendment, if carried, would be conclusive against the Bill this Session. He could only say to those who had been most cruelly and unjustly treated by the existing system of the law of Debtor and Creditor that he had done his best endeavours to forward the object they so anxiously desired.

The Earl of Minto

wished to explain the grounds of the vote he should give on this occasion. If the object of the Amendment was to gain information necessary to enable their Lordships, or more properly speaking, to enable the noble and learned leaders of their Lordships' House to form their opinions upon the subject, he should certainly, even at the hazard of some risk of the success of the Bill, be disposed to acquiesce in the appointment of a Committee, but he could look at that proposal as nothing but an indirect mode of deferring the Bill altogether. Looking at this Bill as a measure to make a great change in the law, it must have engaged the attention of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and he could not but express his surprise at that noble and learned Lord having sat in their Lordships' House during the previous discussions of this Bill, he should not now be able to say 'aye,' or 'no,' about the passing of it, without going tip to a Committee to settle his opinion. If he (the Earl of Minto) did not think that the opinion of the noble and learned Lord was already thoroughly formed, and that their Lordships' opinions would be ultimately decided by the opinions of the noble and learned Lord, he should be disposed to go into Committee, but viewing the matter as he had already stated, he should certainly vote for the third reading of the Bill.

The question was then put, and their Lordships divided. For the third reading: —Contents 4; Not-Contents 28: Majority against the third reading 24.

The Bill was then referred to a Select Committee, and the same noble Lords were named of the Committee that were named of the Committee on the Insolvent Debtors Act Amendment Bill.

House adjourned.