The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER SATURDAY, JULY 24, 1880.
The Bankruptcy Law Committee have at length reported to the House, and in another column we give the telegraphed summary of their recommendations. Tho Committee have been at some pains to collect a variety of views on the important subject they have had to deal with, and although they have not embodied in their report all the valuable suggestions made at their invitation by the judges, Chambers of Commerce, and other competent authorities, [several of the amendments they propose will, if effected, much improve tho existing Debtors and Creditors A.ct. The opening recommendation in their report, viz, that meetings of creditors should be held in the town in which the bankrupt carried on business, or the town nearest his place of residence, if the place of residence is not in the town, is one of which we cordially approve, and meets one of the most vexatious features of tho present measure. The 23rd clause of the Act of 1876 provides that the debtor shall file his declaration of insolvency in a Court for the district in which he has carried on business or resided for the longest period during the preceding six months. Doubtless the intention of the Legislature in framing this section was to locate the proceedings, in the manner recommended by the Committee, but it is defeated by the 7th clause of the same Act, which endows the Supreme Court with jurisdiction throughout New Zealand. The common misuse of this is that debtors who for some discreditable reason wish to avoid contact with their creditors, file in the Supreme Court rather than the District Court, although the higher tribunal may sit at an inconvenient distance from their place of business and the residences of their creditors. It may appear that those interested could readily attend meetings at any reasonable distance, or appoint proxies, but it frequently occurs that circumstances make it highly inconvenient for a business man to devote a whole day to these meetings, and although he may delegate his powers to a proxy, he cannot completely delegate his conception of the particular case, and, as a matter of fact, the affairs of debtors who have adopted the course we have indicated, have raora than once escaped the scrutiny they would have been subjected to if the proceedings had been conducted in the manner now recommended by the Committee.
The second recommendation treats of a more important subject—the appointment of trustee : and here we are not entirely in accord with the Committee. The paragraph, as telegraphed, is difficult to follow, but we gather that it is proposed to appoint an official assignee, who shall act with one or more trustees appointed by the body of creditors, and this is a course of which the evils were made clearly apparent by the Act which preceded the one now in operation. An official trustee appointed by the Government mayor may not be a callable man, but in any case he has not the stimulus of a direct monetary interest in the realisation of the assets, nor has he the technical acquaintance with the class of trade carried on by the debtor, which would probably particularly qualify some one at least of the creditors to conduct the liquidation. The salary and expenses of the official assignee would have to be provided out of the assets, in addition to the other trustee’s commission ; and in estates —which are all too numerous—where the assets are nil, the assignee’s charges would be an additional loss to the suffering creditors. The conditions proposed as to order of discharge are more stringent than those set out in the existing Act, in that a majority in numbers equal to three-fourths in value is suggested, in substitution for a mere majority in number. We do not wholly favor the proposed amendment, even provided some addition is made to guard against dead-locks, which might occur where one creditor, representing three-fourths of the value, was opposed to the remaining creditors. We are of opinion that, .v* far as practical, power should be proportionate to value in treating with the assets, but on questions affecting the debtor personally it would be dangerous to adopt this system, and we think it difficult to make any favorable alteration here, bearing in mind that a decision of the creditors, either for or against the discharge, is subject to revision by the Court. If a majority of creditors vindictively opposed the discharge of any debtor, he should have the right of appeal to the Court, and, on the other hand, a creditor in the minority should enjoy the same same safeguard against a fraudulent or too friendly majority. The abolition of arrangement by deed under the present system we think desirable, and as it is proposed to allow this mode of procedure when determined on by the creditors, we see that no benefits will be lost by the amendment. Of the suggestions made to the Committee, and which are not noticed in the report now before us, those emanating from Judge Ward .and the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce are among tha most valuable. In reference to preferential claims for rent, the Judge of our District Court suggests that where rent is payable quarterly, monthly, or weekly, the landlord should not he allowed the right of distress for more than three payments of rent due. The adoption of this suggestion would have a beneficial effect both on landlord and tenant, and would secure estates from the overwhelming claims so frequently advanced by the former.
The 106th clause of the present Act entitles a clerk to six months’ salary as a preferential claim, and a workman to only one month. The Canterbury Chamber of Commerce suggested that this should be amended to make each three months, but we would go even further, and advocate six months in each case. This extention would create a feeling of greater security amongst employees, which is most desirable, and which does not now exist when the stability of an employer is shaken by critical limes. Mr. Wright has already brought this matter under the attention of the House, and we trust that he will not allow it to rest until the reform he desires is effected. In allowing six months’ salary, it would of course be necessary to limit the amount to say £IOO, as, without this provision, it would be open to serious abuse. The bankruptcy laws of the colony have long called for revision, and we hope that the present Ministry will succeed in framing a measure which will fully meet the requirements of both debtors and creditors for many years hence.