§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF GRANARD
My Lords, the Bill which I have the honour of presenting to your Lordships' notice to-night is similar in nearly all respects to the Bill which I presented last session, and which was very fully discussed in this House. Owing, however, to the limited time at the disposal of the Government it never got on the Statute Book, and was reintroduced into the House of Commons this session in the exact terms in which it left your Lordships' House in the previous session. I therefore think it will meet the convenience of your Lordships if I state in as few words as possible what the actual changes are which have been made in the Bill in the House of Commons during the present session. Your Lordships are doubtless fully aware that the Bill is founded on the Report of a Departmental Committee, and that it is supported by the commercial community in this country.
The first change made in the Bill is that which was desired by the bankers, headed by Lord Goschen, who wished their position made clear as regards accounts opened by undischarged bankrupts. We have in Clause 11 met this point and protected them as they desired. The Associated Chambers of Commerce also approached us with regard to the difficulties of winding up limited partnerships, which is at present conducted under the Joint Stock Companies Act. They pressed very strongly that the procedure would be much more simple and easier in all respects if these estates were conducted under the Bankruptcy Bill, and although the cases of limited partnerships are very few the Government have agreed to their proposals, which are embodied in Clause 24 of the Bill now before your Lordships.
1725 The next point raised was the point as to authors. They put forward their hardships in this form. They stated that if an author sells his book to a publisher on royalties and the publisher goes bankrupt, the trustee in bankruptcy is under no obligation whatever to pay him any proceeds that may be earned from his book, or whatever the subject happens to be. The author's only safeguard was to apply to the Court and to sue for damages. The Lord Chancellor touched on this subject last night when he characterised the law in this respect as monstrous, and I feel sure your Lordships will agree with that opinion. Clause 25, therefore, is moved to remedy this defect. There was another point, too, raised by traders generally, and specially by the Birmingham Jewellers' Association. They were anxious to give the trustee in bankruptcy power to inspect goods pawned by a bankrupt, and they very rightly said that it must be of interest to the creditors to know whether it was worth while for them to redeem these particular articles pledged, and without any change in the law the trustee in bankruptcy had no right to inspect the stock.
Another point was raised by the Trades Protection Society, and we have met them also. At present a debtor under the Deed of Arrangement Act can omit some of his creditors, and the Trades Protection Society brought to our notice the case of a debtor who under this Act had omitted some of his creditors from the arrangement. The Master of the Rolls in a case the other day called attention to this, and recommended that the law should be amended in this respect. That has been done in this Bill. Those are the chief changes in the Bill since it left your Lordships' House. I may tell your Lordships that we have received a great many letters from Chambers of Commerce and other commercial interests in this country expressing apprehension lest the Bill should not become law this year. The Bill is in all respects an agreed Bill, and it is one that is wanted very badly by the commercial community. I sincerely trust, therefore, that your Lordships will see your way to allow it to pass into law this session.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Granard.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.