§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. WATSON)
said, he was in hopes that this Bill, which was very generally approved of by the mercantile community of Scotland, and which would be a check upon fraudulent debtors, might have been passed; but as it was impossible to make any progress with it under present circumstances, he felt it his duty to move that the Order be read and discharged.
§ MR. ANDERSON
wished to say why he had put down a Notice of opposition to the Bill. He admitted that the measure was approved of by a great part of the mercantile community; but he disputed that it was approved by all or by the rest of the community. At the same time, he should not have objected to the Bill, if it had followed the lines of the English Act on the same subject. They passed in 1869 an Act for the punishment of fraudulent debtors, a thing which he was most desirous of doing; but he wanted to do it, now for Scotland on the same lines that it was done in England, The first thing they did in the English Act was to abolish imprisonment for mere debt. By that means a wide distinction was drawn between fraudulent debt and simple debt, and it was made possible to punish and attach a stigma to debt that was in any shape fraudulent. The Lord Advocate had followed the lines of the English Act in everything but that one feature; he had failed to take in the clause abolishing imprisonment for mere debt. Consequently, although there was no imprisonment for debt in England, the Lord Advocate meant to retain imprisonment for debt in Scotland. Not only did he consider that a most improper thing to do; but he considered it utterly baffled the attempt of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to punish fraudulent debt, because, at present, creditors could imprison debtors in Scotland for any length of time—it might be 20 years. By this Bill it was proposed to imprison fraudulent debtors for two years. Well, where was the stigma there? People outside did not draw fine distinctions.
§ MR. SPEAKER
pointed out that the Bill was not before the House. The Lord Advocate had moved that the Order be discharged, and, therefore, it was irregular to discuss the merits of the Bill.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Order discharged; Bill withdrawn.