HL Deb 11 March 1859 vol 153 cc5-10

Amendments reported according to Order.


said, there were some alterations made in the Bill, and also some clauses which he proposed to add. The alterations were merely intended to meet some minor objections which had been raised by some of his noble and learned Friends when the Bill passed through Committee. With regard to the clauses, they were of a penal nature, and referred to judgment debtors keeping out of the way to avoid judgment, and also to concealing their property. These he thought were necessary when the power of the creditor to imprison his debtor were taken away. There were also penal clauses as to vexatious losses and making false representations with regard to property. There was another clause in the Bill of some considerable importance. The clause in the Bankrupt Act which enabled a landlord to receive a twelvemonths' rent from a bankrupt's estate was proposed to be altered in the Bill to six months. That proposition, however, had been objected to; and when he came to consider that parties not subject to the bankrupt law—such as farmers—would now be subject to the law, he felt that he ought to omit the new clause, and allow landlords to receive the twelvemonths' rent under the Insolvent Act.


was of opinion that a case which had lately come before one of the Courts showed the necessity for a clause such as he had proposed in Committee, to guard against the fraudulent transfer of property by an insolvent to his wife or daughter.


said, he believed the noble and learned Lord referred to a particular case, that of Mr. Stephens and the Eastern Banking Corporation; but, in that case, Mr. Stephens made the settlement on his marriage, and at that time was in good credit and circumstances, having no reason to suspect that he would ever be insolvent. Afterwards the trust money was dealt with in a way which amounted to a breach of trust, and on the insolvency of the bank the creditors filed a bill for the purpose of making the trust property available in satisfaction of their debts. It was decided in the Court of Chancery that, although there had been an improper dealing with the trust money, it would not affect the original bond fides of the settlement. There were no grounds for impeaching the settlement, and the judgment of the Court of Chancery was, therefore, in favour of its validity. His noble and learned Friend founded his argument for the necessity of introducing a clause making settlements of that description penal on this case, but it did not apply, and he was not aware of any public grievance which rendered it desirable that such a clause should be introduced.


said, that cases might often occur in which such a provision would be desirable.


said, he should renew his Motion for the omission of certain clauses on the Third Reading.


in rising to propose a clause relative to the sequestrations of livings, said that if a young clergyman went into a living a little embarrassed in circumstances the expense of stamps upon his presentation, institution, and induction, and the outlay in furnishing his house frequently compelled him to borrow money. If he got into the hands of a common money-lender his fate was sealed; but if he went to a respectable office and obtained money on fair terms, what happened? He could not give a satisfactory security, and the office covered the risk by requiring him to insure his life. As these assurances were made for more than the whole sum advanced, it happened that, although every year the debt became less and less, yet the payment of the policy of insurance was a given quantity. It frequently occurred, too, that the office did not like to take the whole risk, and applied to another office to guarantee them the payment of the interest and of the premium on the policy. Each office required for its protection deeds of security, covenants, and the right of sequestration; and when the clergyman received his income he frequently found it inadequate to meet the demands thus made upon him. The result was his utter ruin. He had in the meanwhile become involved in debts with the tradesmen of his vicinity, and when the crash came—as come it must—the office stepped in and obtained the first sequestration. The whole tithe rent-charge was then taken into the hands of the sequestrator. The sequestration was that of the particular debtor, and he took the whole of the tithe rent-charge for the extinguishment of his particular debt. The result was that all the honest tradesmen were excluded from the payment of their debts. A curate was appointed by the diocesan at a small salary to discharge the duties, and the great office swept away the rest. Some of the offices obtained a lease of the tithe, in order to insure a percentage for the collection of the tithe rent-charge. The lessees, after deducting their commission, paid the money to the sequestrator, he charged his commission, and in this way a sum amounting to 9 or 10 per cent was deducted for the mere receipt of the tithe rent-charge. The residue was paid to the registrar, who also took a certain allowance, and he paid the balance back to the very man who originally received it. As arrest for debt was not at present abolished, a clergyman who was in debt had no other resource but to leave the country, and his diocesan usually gave him a licence to reside abroad, where he lived the life of an outlaw, not daring to come home. If the present Bill passed, that clergyman could not be prevented from coming into his parish and performing his duty. But in the meanwhile all the proceeds of the levy would still go to one creditor, to the exclusion of the rest, and of the incumbent. He should propose that after this Bill passed no clergyman should be enabled to charge his living in favour of one or more of his creditors. What he proposed was that so long as a clergyman's conduct had not rendered him unworthy of the pulpit his diocesan should be authorized to pay to him the same income as he was now by law authorized to assign to the curate who would otherwise perform the duty. The noble Lord concluded by moving the insertion of the following clause:— The sequestrator shall allow out of the profits of the benefice or curacy to the insolvent, whilst he performs the duties of the parish or place, such an annual sum, payable quarterly, as the Bishop of the diocese in which the living is situated shall direct; and it shall be lawful for the Bishop to appoint to such insolvent such or the like stipend as by law he might have appointed to a curate duly licensed to serve such benefice in case the insolvent had been non-resident; and no sequestration, except under the last foregoing provision, for any debt of any clergyman or curate, shall issue; and every sequestrator appointed after the 11th day of October, 1859, shall hold the profits of the benefice or curacy, wholly discharged of any lease which the insolvent may have granted, or attempted to grant, of his tithe rent-charge.


said, he did not rise to offer any opposition to the clause proposed by the noble and learned Lord. He wished it, however, to be understood, on his own part and that of several of his right rev. Brethren whom he had consulted on the subject, that it appeared to them that somewhat of a wrong principle was involved in the noble and learned Lord's proposal. They thought the point to be regarded was the spiritual interest of the parishioners, and that that was not distinctly brought out as the object of giving the discretionary power in question to the Bishop of the diocese. He (the Bishop of London) felt as much as anyone the present miserable state of things; and he fully concurred in what the noble and learned Lord had said, that some legislative measure was required for the cure of this very great evil; but he hardly thought it wise to encourage the young clergy, whether they incurred liabilities either by the process described by the noble and learned Lord, or by any other process, to consider that they were not subject to the same responsibility in respect to their debts as all other people. The spiritual interest of the parish it was the bounden duty of the Legislature to guard, and he should be very glad if a remedy could be devised for the present unsatisfactory state of things. He should like to see a larger portion of the stipend assigned to the person who had to do the work of the parish. But he thought it would be a preferable course to the one now proposed, if the noble and learned Lord would bring in a Bill with a view to settle the whole question. Such a measure would receive his fullest concurrence.


said, that his noble and learned Friend, by the clause which be proposed, was making use of his Bill for a totally different purpose to that for which it was really intended. He had never by his measure proposed to consider the effect of sequestration. The Bill was one for the alteration of the law of debtor and creditor, Under the present Bankruptcy Law, there was no provision for sequestration. A clergyman could not become a trader, and consequently could not be made a bankrupt; but he might become an insolvent, and his object was to leave the law as it at present stood. He had, in fact, transplanted the clause from the present Insolvency Act into his Bill, without alteration. He must guard his Bill from being diverted from its original objects by the introduction of the clause of his noble and learned Friend. He hoped, however, that his noble and learned Friend would bring forward the question involved as a separate measure, when it should receive his most careful attention.


said, when they authorized the sequestration to issue, it was his endeavour to provide for the proper application of the money in the hands of the sequestrator. His object was to pre-vent a clergyman from borrowing money on the credit of his preferment, and if he became insolvent to do for him what any honest man would do if he could—live, performing his duty on a diminished income, and apply the surplus amongst all his creditors equally. There was no weight in the objection of his noble and learned Friend. The sequestration clause was copied from 1 & 2 Vict., and properly admitted of the addition of his clause. How could this divert the Bill from its original object? There never was a Bill which altered existing law so much—it classed together bankrupts and insolvents, it rendered it optional to retain the official assignee, it rendered the future estates of insolvents free from the debts, and limited the right of the creditors against some of the present property of insolvents. Surely, then, a new appropriation of the tithe-rent charge of an insolvent clergyman amongst all his creditors might well find its place in this Bill. He could assure the right rev. Prelate that nothing could be further from his intention than to advise any step that was at all calculated to introduce into a cure any person that was not competent and acceptable for the performance of the spiritual duties of the place. He should certainly take the sense of the House upon his Amendment, if it were the intention of the Government to oppose it.


said, he did not pretend to know more about this matter than what had been stated, but it appeared to him that the stipend of an incumbent ought to be divided amongst men who were his honest creditors, if it were to be spent out of the parish at all. If his noble and learned Friend (Lord St. Leonards) went to a division, be should support the clause.

On Question "whether the said Clause shall be there inserted?"

Contents 9; Not-Contents 18: Majority 9.

Ellenborough, E. Overstone, L.
Saint Germans, E. Saint Leonards, L. [Teller.]
Carlisle, Bp. Teynham, L.
London, Bp. Wynford, L. [Teller.]
Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.) Rosslyn, E.
Stanhope, E.
Marlborough, D. Strathallan, V.
Salisbury, M. Colchester, L.
Carnarvon, E. Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]
Derby, E.
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)) De Ross, L.
Feversham, L.
Hardwicke, E. Redesdale, L. [Teller.]
Malmesbury, E Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Portarlington, E.

Amendments made. Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next.