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325
BANKRUPTCY

not exceed £50 (§ 122). It also provides for the getting in and administration by the Board of Trade of unclaimed dividends and undistributed balances on estates wound up under previous bankruptcy acts (§ 162). Lastly, it amends the procedure under the Debtors Act of 1869, dealing with criminal offences committed by bankrupts (which, prior to 1869, had been treated as part of the bankruptcy law), by enacting that when the court orders a prosecution of any person for an offence under that act, it shall be the duty of the director of public prosecutions to institute and carry on the prosecution.

An amending act, under the title of the Bankruptcy Act Act of 1890. 1890 was passed in that year, mainly with the view of supplementing and strengthening some of the provisions of the act of 1883, more particularly with regard to the conditions under which a bankrupt should be discharged or schemes of arrangement or composition be approved by the court. It also dealt with a variety of matters of detail which experience had shown to require amendment, with the view of more fully carrying out the intentions of the legislature as embodied in the principal act. These two acts are to be construed as one and may be cited collectively as the Bankruptcy Acts 1883 and 1890. They are further supplemented by a large body of general rules made by the lord chancellor with the concurrence of the president of the Board of Trade, which may be added to, revoked or altered from time to time by the same authority. These rules are laid before parliament and have the force of law.

Besides these general acts, various measures dealing with Special Acts. special interests connected with bankruptcy procedure have from time to time been passed since 1883, the chief of which are as follows, viz., the Bankruptcy Appeals (County Courts) Act 1884; the Preferential Payments in Bankruptcy Act 1888, regulating the priority of the claims of workmen and clerks, &c. for wages and salaries; and the Bankruptcy (Discharge and Closure) Act 1887, dealing with unclosed bankruptcies under previous acts.

It would be out of place in this article to attempt to answer Inquiry of 1906. the question how far later legislation has solved the difficult problems which prior to 1883 were found so intractable, but it may be mentioned that in 1906 the Board of Trade appointed a committee to inquire into and report upon the effect of the provisions of the laws in force at the time in the United Kingdom in relation to bankruptcy, deeds of arrangement and composition by insolvent debtors with their creditors, and the prevention and punishment of frauds by debtors on their creditors, and any points and matters upon which the existing laws seemed to require amendment. The committee received a vast amount of evidence as well as documents and memoranda from chambers of commerce, trade protection societies and influential public bodies. The scope of the inquiry was not limited to English law and procedure, but also embraced that of Germany, France, Australia, Scotland and Ireland. The report of the committee was issued in 1908 (Cd. 4068), and reference may be made to it for much valuable information. The committee reported that the result of their inquiry did not disclose any dissatisfaction on the part of the commercial community with the main features of the existing law and procedure. But there were certain special incidents of the law and branches of its administration upon which the committee made recommendations. One was the prosecution and punishment of debtors who had committed fraud on their creditors or caused loss to them by improper and reckless trading. The existing procedure was complained of as being dilatory, cumbersome and expensive, and the committee were of an opinion that where a debtor had committed an offence for which he could and ought to be prosecuted, prosecution and conviction, with adequate punishment, ought to follow speedily and decisively, and the chief recommendation of the committee was that, while the existing procedure should be left untouched, offences ought also to be punishable on summary conviction before magistrates and justices, and the provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction Acts applied to them, and that where an order for a prosecution is made on an application by the official receiver of a bankruptcy court and based on his report, that court should have power to order the official receiver to conduct the prosecution before the court of summary jurisdiction. The committee also reported that numerous delinquencies by insolvent debtors in the conduct of their affairs, or which had contributed to the losses sustained by their creditors, were not punishable or even cognizable by courts having bankruptcy jurisdiction unless or until a debtor who had a receiving order against him, or became a bankrupt, applied for an order sanctioning a composition or scheme of arrangement with his creditors, or for an order discharging him from his debts. The most prominent of these delinquencies which were brought to the notice of the committee were—failure by a debtor to keep any books or any proper or adequate books of account in his business; trading with knowledge of insolvency; gambling and speculation leading to, or contributing to, the debtor's insolvency or bankruptcy; failure properly to account for any substantial deficiency of assets. The committee received a large body of evidence in favour of making delinquencies such as have been described punishable by imprisonment. Evidence was also given as to the laws in force in Germany, France and Scotland, from which it appeared that such delinquencies, especially that of keeping no books of account, can be severely dealt with as criminal offences.

After carefully weighing the evidence on both sides the committee recommended that the failure or omission by a debtor who becomes bankrupt to have kept any books of account, or proper books of account, within two years next preceding his bankruptcy, in a trade or business carried on by him, if without excuse, should be made by law an offence punishable on summary conviction by imprisonment, subject to four important limitations, namely, that the law should define what books of account a person carrying on a trade or business must keep, following in this respect the law in force in France and Germany; that failure or omission by a debtor to have kept the required books should only be punishable in the event of a debtor becoming bankrupt and of the liquidated debts proved in the bankruptcy exceeding £200 in amount; that no prosecution of a debtor for failure or omission to keep books of account should take place before the lapse of two years from the passing of the law; that a debtor should not be punished if he could show that his failure or omission to keep proper books was honest and excusable and did not contribute to his insolvency, and that no prosecution should be instituted for the offence except by order of the bankruptcy court. The committee made recommendations of much the same character with regard to punishing some of the other delinquencies mentioned above. There were also recommendations by the committee as to trading by undischarged bankrupts, as to the realization of estate on bankruptcy, as to the operation of the law of relation back of a bankruptcy trustee's title, as to the law relating to the after-acquired property of an undischarged bankrupt, and dealings with such property, and with respect to married women and their liabilities under bankruptcy law. The committee also reported on the law and practice relating to voluntary deeds of arrangement between a debtor and his creditors and on the compulsory regulation of assignments of book debts, and of agreements for the hire and purchase of chattels.

In addition to this report the annual reports of the Board of Results of legislation. Trade, which are accompanied by elaborate tables of statistics, and by copious illustrations both of the working of the system and of the characteristic features and causes of current insolvency, are published as parliamentary papers, and may be usefully consulted by those interested in the subject. It appears