§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, this is also a measure which passed through the sub-Committee of the Statute Committee during the last Parliament. It is for the purpose of placing the law relating to bills of sale on a more satisfactory footing than it is at present, its present condition being agreed by all to be eminently unsatisfactory. There is only one provision to which I will invite your Lordships' attention now, because it is a matter which has given rise to considerable controversy, and I should not be inclined to insist upon it if it is likely to create any very acute difference of opinion, for I think, apart from that particular question, the Bill will be found to be generally acceptable. That provision which has been now introduced relates to a matter which my noble and learned Friend who preceded me and myself have been very much pressed should be legislated upon. A system has grown up, as your Lordships are no doubt aware, of hiring and purchase, by which goods are supplied by tradesmen upon terms that it is to be a hiring only until they are paid for, when the hiring becomes a sale; so that if any of the hiring instalments remain unpaid a right exists on the part of the tradesman to resume possession of the goods he has supplied. The consequence, of course, is that such furniture in a house, which has nothing to distinguish it from other furniture which is the debtor's own pro- 6 perty becomes the property of the tradesman, and when an execution is put in by another creditor, under the impression that he is dealing with his debtor's furniture, he is met by a claim on behalf of the tradesman who has supplied furniture, and who insists that he shall withdraw from possession; and, of course, when part of the furniture has been acquired on this hire and sale system, and part of it is the debtor's own property, it is extremely difficult to ascertain which belongs to the debtor and which has been acquired by him under the hire and sale agreement. Representations have been made to me by traders that great injustice is thus done to them, inasmuch as they are never able to tell whether the furniture or goods in a house is the debtor's own property, or is that of the tradesman who has supplied him. There can be no doubt that this comes to a considerable extent within the mischief against which the law relating to bills of sale is intended to strike, because while the possession and apparent ownership is in one person the property is really in another. Of course, I do not mean to say that this is entirely on all fours with the cases intended to be provided for by the Bills of Sale Act. I have now stated to your Lordships the case for legislation on the subject. But then, on the other hand, it is represented that this system of hire and sale has so far become in common use that it would be a great blow to the system if you were to compel registration of the transactions by which these arrangements are carried out; that people who have bought on the hire and sale system would not like registration, and that they would cease to enter into these agreements if a tradesman was compelled to effect such registration so as not to run the risk of having his goods taken in case of an execution against or of the bankruptcy of the hirer. That, my Lords, is the case on the one side and on the other. I have thought it well to introduce into the Bill a provision meeting the case; but, as I have said, it would certainly not be expedient to risk the passing of the Bill on account of acute controversy on a matter of that description. If it appears that is likely to be the effect of retaining it in the Bill I am afraid that matter must be left for legislation on another occasion, and the Bill must be confined to the mere consolida- 7 tion with some improvements of existing law on the subject.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Chancellor).
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
My Lords, there is no doubt that this Bill which has been introduced by the noble and learned Lord will be a very useful measure. As to the particular case to which he has, I think, rightly directed your Lordships' special attention, that is a matter as to which there is considerable difference of opinion, and as to which it would be well for us to be quite sure we are legislating in consonance with the opinions of those interested in it. Therefore, I hope the noble and learned Lord will allow some little time to elapse before the Committee stage of the Bill, in order that we may know what is likely to be considered by them best to be done in the matter.
Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.