§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. MULLINGS
said, that the object of this Bill was to protect the fair trader against the fraudulent preference, by which, when pressure came and they could no longer meet their engagements, debtors were in the habit of transferring to particular and favourite creditors the goods and chattels, on the strength of which they had obtained credit, those goods and chattels remaining in possession of the party up to the time when his going on was hopeless; and a bill of sale, carefully concealed from the world up to the last moment, being then put in force, by which the goods and chattels were withdrawn from equal distribution among the creditors generally. The Bill would compel persons, who might hereafter take bills of sale, to register them within twenty-one days from the date of 475 execution, in the same manner as persons were now obliged to do in the case of judgments or warrants of attorney. The Bill had come down from the House of Lords, into which it had been introduced at the instance of a trade protection society in the north of England. In its operation the Bill was limited to persons engaged in trade and liable to the bankrupt law. When the Bill was placed in his hands, he objected to its limitation to traders; but he waved his objection on being informed that the Government did not wish to go further at present. Although the measure had received much consideration in another place, he feared that when the House came to deal with the question of registration, it would be found extremely difficult to carry that principle into effect without inflicting grievous injury upon persons engaged in trade. Gentlemen connected with Liverpool and other towns in the north had represented that, in the case of a person who might give a bill of sale on goods in bond for a temporary advance, the knowledge of the fact would prove ruinous to the borrower because it would be the means of blasting his character. Anxious to avoid this evil, he had consulted with the Solicitor General on the subject, and he concurred with that hon. and learned Gentleman in thinking that it would be difficult to exclude the class of cases in question without opening the door to frauds in other cases. All he wished the House to do now was to allow the Bill to pass through Committee pro formâ, in order that the numerous Amendments which he and others intended to propose might be embodied in the measure and printed.
§ MR. PHINN
said, that the Bill would unquestionably promote the object of encouraging legitimate transactions, by giving protection to the fair trader and providing checks on fraudulent dealing. He therefore trusted that the House would consent to give a greater extension to the measure than it now possessed, in order to avoid having two codes of law on this subject—one for persons engaged in trade, and another for those who were not. With that view he had given notice of an Amendment, which he should move at the proper season, for extending the Bill to those who did not come within the scope of the bankrupt law.
§ MR. G. BUTT
said, he would be happy to contribute towards preventing needless litigation, but he hoped care would be 476 taken that this Bill should not fetter the fair transactions of trade. The Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Bath would be a very important extension of the measure, and would require great consideration. If they applied this principle to mortgages or sales of personal property, it would be exceedingly difficult not to apply it to mortgages on real property.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, he thought the measure calculated for the exigencies of a large class of society, but no legislative Acts required greater care or caution than the category to which this belonged, as otherwise most injurious and mischievous impediments might be interposed to the course of commercial transactions. If this principle were applied to personal property, it did not follow that it must be extended to real property. He agreed that the mischief arising from transactions of a fraudulent kind was more extensive, and required more to be guarded against, in the case of the non-trader than in that of the trader. He hoped the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Mullinms), to whom they were greatly indebted for the attention he had bestowed on this subject, would succeed in making the Bill completely useful and effective.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, he was glad to find that the bearing of the Bill on ordinary mercantile transactions was likely to obtain due consideration, and be confidently relied on the exertions of the hon. Member for Cirencester and the hon. and learned Solicitor General, to render the measure an unalloyed advantage to the commercial community.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
hoped that due provision would be made respecting fees, so that the officers of the courts might be adequately remunerated for their trouble, without receiving more than they were properly entitled to.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, he considered that the benefit of the measure should be made to extend to all parts of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he cordially approved of the Bill, and he was extremely glad that the hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Phinn) had proposed to introduce a clause to do away with the distinction between traders and non-traders. He considered that the Bill would be of great beneficial consequence to the country. MR. MALINS said, he highly approved of the principle of the Bill. Persons were 477 in the habit of obtaining credit upon the supposition that they possessed valuable property in the shape of furniture and stock in trade, but, when the creditor had obtained judgment and the officer came to levy execution, it oftentimes turned out that the debtor had given a bill of sale of all he possessed. As the Bill at present stood it applied only to traders, but, if the practice of giving these bills was dishonest in traders, he knew not why it was not equally dishonest in non-traders; he therefore very much approved of the Amendment which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bath intended to introduce.
The House then went into Committee. The Bill was considered pro formâ. House resumed. Bill reported; to be printed as amended.