B A N K R U P T C Y 129 cases (or 92 per cent.) escaping the provisions which refer inexpensive administration of small estates where the assets to the examination and discharge of bankrupts, and to do not exceed £300 by the Official Receiver, unless a majorthe accounts, charges, and conduct of the agents em- ity in number and three-fourths in value of the creditors ployed.” It is not to be supposed that all the cases in voting resolve to appoint a trustee; (4) Full control in the latter class were marked by the abuses which have other cases by a majority in value, over the appointment of a been here described. In a large number the proceedings trustee and a committee of inspection; (5) Strict investiwere conducted by agents of high character and standing, gation of proofs of debt, with regulations as to proxies, and with a due regard to the interests of the creditors. and votes of creditors; (6) An independent audit and But the facilities for fraudulent and collusive arrangements general supervision of the proceedings, and control of afforded by the Act, and the want of effective control the funds in all cases. Besides amending and consoliover administration, inevitably tended to lower the morale dating previous bankruptcy legislation, the measure also of the latter, and to throw it into the hands of the less contains special provisions for the administration under scrupulous members of the profession. The demand for bankruptcy law of the estates of persons dying insolvent reform, therefore, came from all classes of the business (§125); and for enabling county courts to make adcommunity. No fewer than thirteen bills dealing with ministration orders for payment by instalments in lieu of the subject were introduced into the House of Commons committal to prison, in the case of judgment debtors during the ten years succeeding 1869. At length in 1879 whose total indebtedness does not exceed £50 (§ 122). a memorial, which was authoritatively described as “ one It also provides for the getting in and administration by of the most influential memorials ever presented to any the Board of Trade of unclaimed dividends and undistriGovernment,” was forwarded to the Prime Minister by a buted balances on estates wound up under previous Banklarge body of bankers and merchants in the City of ruptcy Acts (§ 162). Lastly, it amends the procedure London. The matter was then referred to the President under the Debtors Act of 1869, dealing with criminal of the Board of Trade (Mr Chamberlain), who made ex- offences, by enacting that when the court orders a prosehaustive inquiries, and in 1881 introduced a measure cution of any person for an offence under that Act, it which, with some amendments, finally became law under shall be the duty of the director of public prosecutions to the title of the “Bankruptcy Act, 1883.” Hitherto the institute and carry on the prosecution. question had been dealt with as one of legal procedure; An Amending Act, under the title of the “ Bankruptcy it was now treated as an act of commercial legislation, the Act, 1890” (53 and 54 Viet. c. 71), was passed in that main object of which, while providing by carefully framed year, mainly with the view of supplementing regulations for the equitable distribution of a debtor’s and strengthening some of the provisions of o//S90 assets, was to promote and enforce the principles of com- the Act of 1883, more particularly with regard ° mercial morality in the general interests of the trading com- to the conditions under which a bankrupt should munity. One of the chief features of the Act be discharged, and requiring that schemes of arrangeof 1883. 1^83 is the separation which it has effected ment or composition should be approved by the court. between the judicial and the administrative It also dealt with a variety of matters of detail which functions which had previously been exercised by the experience had shown to require amendment, with the court, and the transfer of the latter to the Board of view of more fully carrying out the intentions of the Trade as a public department of the state directly Legislature as embodied in the principal Act. These two responsible to Parliament. Under the powers conferred Acts are to be construed as one, and may be cited colby the Act a new department was subsequently created, lectively as the Bankruptcy Acts 1883 and 1890. They under the title of the Bankruptcy Department of the are further supplemented by a large body of general rules Board of Trade, with an officer at its head called the made by the Lord Chancellor with the concurrence of the Inspector-General in Bankruptcy. This department exer- President of the Board of Trade, which may be added cises, under the direction of the Board of Trade, a general to, revoked, or altered from time to time by the same supervision over all the administrative work arising under authority. These rules are laid before Parliament and the Act. It has extensive powers of control over the have the force of law. appointment of trustees, and conducts an audit of Besides these general Acts, various measures dealing their accounts; and it may, subject to appeal to the with special interests connected with bankruptcy procourt, remove them from office for misconduct, neglect, or cedure have from time to time been passed unfitness. A report upon the proceedings under the since 1883, the chief of which are as follow, special cts Act is annually presented to Parliament by the Board of viz., the Bankruptcy Appeals (County Courts) ' Trade, and although the department is practically self- Act, 1884 ; the Preferential Payments in Bankruptcy supporting, a nominal vote is each year placed upon the Act, 1888, regulating the priority of the claims of workmen public Estimates, thus bringing the administration under and clerks, &c., for wages and salaries; and the Bankdirect parliamentary criticism and control. The Act also ruptcy (Discharge and Closure) Act, 1887, dealing with provides for the appointment and removal by the Board unclosed bankruptcies under previous Acts. of Trade of a body of officers entitled Official Receivers, It would be out of place in this article to attempt to with certain prescribed duties having relation both to the answer the question how far this latest legislation has conduct of bankrupts and to the administration of their solved the difficult problems which prior to Results estates, including the interim management of the latter 1883 were found so intractable. The annual of legislauntil the creditors can be consulted. These officers act reports of the Board of Trade, which are accom- t'on. in their respective districts under the general authority panied by elaborate tables of statistics, and by copious and directions of the Board of Trade, being also clothed illustrations both of the working of the system and with the status of officers of the courts to which they are of the characteristic features and causes of current inattached. While effecting this supervision and contro1 by solvency, are published as parliamentary papers, and a public department directly responsible to Parliament, the may be usefully consulted by those interested in the mam objects of the measure were to secure—(1) An inde- subject. It appears from these reports that the total pendent and public investigation of the debtor’s conduct; number of insolvencies dealt with under the Bankruptcy The punishment of commercial misconduct and fraud Acts during the ten years ending 31st December 1900, iu the interests of public morality; (3) The summary and was 43,895, involving estimated liabilities amounting S, IL —17
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