HL Deb 04 May 1888 vol 325 cc1332-5

said, he rose to call attention to the subject of the establishment of local Courts of Bank- ruptcy in Ireland, with a view to presenting a Bill. This subject had from time to time within the last 10 or 11 years occupied the attention of Parliament and of successive Governments. The Bill which he had to present to their Lordships proceeded on the lines of, and was largely identical with, those previously introduced. At present the only bankruptcy jurisdiction in Ireland was the Bankruptcy Court of Dublin, which did very good and efficient work and enjoyed the confidence of those who had to avail themselves of its jurisdiction. But Belfast, a great mercantile community, the capital of the North of Ireland, a great centre of commerce and a great seat of manufactures, also had been anxious for a great number of years to have at its door and within its own geographical boundaries an efficient and working Bankruptcy Court. Belfast, which had a growing population and an increasing commerce, had likewise asked from time to time that in addition to having a local Bankruptcy Court the area of the jurisdiction of its Recorder and its County Court Judge should be re-adjusted. Again, Cork, the capital of Munster, also desired, and fairly and reasonably desired, to have a local Court to administer its bankruptcy business. With that wish successive Governments had sympathized, and he thought that as far back as 1879 a Bill was brought in and was reintroduced by the next Government in 1883, and he knew that last year several Bills were brought in to deal with this subject. Now he had to ask their Lordships to allow him to present a Bill dealing with this important subject and to give a first reading to it. The Bill which he sought to introduce proposed at once to introduce local Bankruptcy Courts in Belfast and Cork. It proposed also to take power to establish local Bankruptcy Courts by Order in Council in Londonderry, Galway, Waterford, and Limerick, as expediency and the state of business might require. He might also take power of adding to and varying these districts as the exigencies of business or changes in population might demand. It was also proposed to authorize the Lord Lieutenant in Council to join on part of Antrim to Down on the next vacancy in the County Court Judgeship, and also of adding on a portion of Down to Antrim, and also similarly of adding portions of East I Cork to West Cork. Powers were also taken of transferring cases on the application of any suitor from the Bankruptcy Court in Dublin to the rural bankruptcy jurisdiction and vice versâ. There were other clauses dealing with machinery with which he would not trouble the House, and which could be I discussed at a later stage of the Bill. He hoped the Bill would be printed and distributed in the course of a few days, and he proposed to fix the second reading for this day week.

Bill to provide for the establishment of local courts of bankruptcy in Ireland—Presented(The Lord ASIIBOURNE).


said, he was rather disappointed at the statement of his noble and learned Friend. While he objected to the fantastic clauses proposed last year in the Land Bill, ho was in favour of a small local bankruptcy jurisdiction, under which a small tenant might at once realize and distribute his property among his creditors, and in a short time be a free man again. To these men this Bill would give no relief whatever. To relieve the tenants from their rent or to I give them additional privileges was useless, if it was really done, not for the benefit of the tenant, but for that of the money lenders. Let them enable the tenant to give up his farm and at once become a free man. If a tenant farmer had an interest in his farm that was put up for sale—and it would probably be bought in for him by his friends—he got at once an absolute discharge from all his debts, and his property was realized and distributed. He would reserve any further criticism till he had had an opportunity of examining the Bill; but he would warn the noble and learned Lord that that project of establishing local Bankruptcy Courts in Belfast and Cork was one which he would not find it easy to carry out. It had always met with opposition on this side of the water. If there were a Bankruptcy Court in Belfast it affected not only Belfast but Manchester, Liverpool, and other commercial centres. So far back as 1857 he had a conference with the late Lord Cairns—then Mr. Cairns—on this subject in reference to a Bankruptcy Bill he himself was conducting in the House of Commons. He explained to the noble Lord the ground on which he did not think the creation of local Bankruptcy Courts was expedient. It was that there was not sufficient Bankruptcy business in the country to maintain one Court. Lord Cairns was satisfied with a provision then inserted in the Bill that in case of bankruptcy a local inquiry might be carried out at Belfast or Cork or elsewhere, to save the creditor's expenses, but the general administration should be in one central Court. The proposal in this Bill had always met with opposition in Dublin and in England. If they asked the opinion of the English creditors in such cases, they would be told that it would be most inconvenient to have such local Courts, and that one Court at Dublin would be much more accessible. He was not pledging his final opinion on the Bill, which he wished to form after a candid examination of its details.


did not wish to enter upon a discussion of the Bill, which would be more conveniently taken when they had the Bill before them; but he would like to say this in regard to the subject, that he was well aware that what the noble and learned Lord who spoke last said was quite true. There would be considerable difficulty in carrying the Bill; but, on the other hand, he wished to add that from the knowledge he gained when they were trying to deal with the subject in 1883, ho would say that there was a strong feeling in different parts of Ireland, particularly in Londonderry and Belfast, in favour of the erection of local Courts beyond those in Dublin. But for that feeling it was probable that they would have taken measures in 1886 to carry out the project.

Bill read 1a. (No. 93.)