Bankruptcy Bill, 1982: Motion.

Wednesday, 4 July 1984

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 104 No. 10

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Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I move:

That Seanad Éireann concurs with Dáil Éireann in its Resolution communicated to Seanad Éireann on 28th June, 1984, that it is expedient that the Bankruptcy Bill, 1982 be referred to the Joint Committee on Legislation pursuant to paragraph (1) (e) of that Committee's Orders of Reference.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The debate on this motion is confined to the general principle of the Bill. It is therefore equivalent to a Second Stage debate on the Bill.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan,: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Limerick East): The object of this Bill, which I am proposing to refer to the Joint Committee on Legislation, is to consolidate with amendments the law relating to bankruptcy and to modernise it. The substantive law is contained primarily in statutes passed in 1857, 1872 and 1889 and supplemented by the Rules of the Superior Courts. In addition, provisions relating to bankruptcy matters are to be found in a variety of later statutes.

While the Bill is based in the main on the recommendations in the 1972 report of the Bankruptcy Law Committee, extensive revision of the draft Bill appended to that report had to be undertaken. The main reasons for this were, first, the negotiations on the draft EEC Bankruptcy Convention, which we had to undertake on our accession to the EEC in 1973. These negotiations had the effect of postponing at least for a time the introduction of new insolvency legislation. There were also the changes made in company law, in particular in the field of preferential payments.

This is the first Bankruptcy Bill to be put before the Oireachtas since the foundation of the State and is necessarily a complex measure. This is clear from the [891] explanatory memorandum accompanying the Bill.

I do not propose to deal with the Bill's provisions in any detail at this stage. I should like, however, to mention some of its features which Senators may consider of particular interest and importance.

The conditions necessary to initiate bankruptcy proceedings have remained relatively unaltered since 1857. For example, one condition is that the debtor shall have committed an act of bankruptcy, that is, one of a number of acts or defaults which are evidence of insolvency or of unwillingness to pay debts. These acts of bankruptcy have been reduced in number, and updated, in section 7.

At present, bankruptcy proceedings can be commenced on the basis of a debt of £40. This situation, which the committee rightly criticised, is being rectified, so that in future the debt owned must not be less than £500.

The procedure entitling a bankrupt to show cause against the validity of the adjudication — a feature of Irish bankruptcy law since 1857 — is being retained in the Bill but its operation is being brought into line with actual practice. Over the last two decades a practice has evolved of making successive adjournments of these “show cause” applications, frequently for quite long periods, even when the validity of adjudications is not disputed. These adjournments are granted by the court in the exercise of its equitable jurisdiction. While they are sometimes warranted in so far as they allow the bankrupt time to enter into a composition with creditors, the fact that the adjudication is not advertised could prejudice persons who continue to give credit in ignorance of the bankruptcy.

Section 16 therefore provides that where the court grants an adjournment in a “show cause” application it will be under a specific duty to have regard to the interests of the bankrupt, his creditors and any person who might advance further credit, and section 17 gives the court power to dispense with advertisement of the adjudication on security [892] being given by the bankrupt or on such conditions as it thinks fit.

The committee were particularly anxious to expedite proceedings and to streamline bankruptcy procedure. Their recommendations in this regard are being implemented. The number of statutory sittings of the court is being reduced from two to one not only in the case of bankruptcy proper, but also in compositions after bankruptcy and in arrangements under the control of the court. Bankruptcy administration, hitherto divided between the examiner and the official assignee and to a lesser extent a creditors' assignee, if appointed, is being centralised in the hands of the official assignee. The functions of the examiner are being abolished, while the role of the creditors' assignee — at present minimal — is being further reduced.

In addition, a major change is being made in the law relating to the assignment of the bankrupt's property on adjudication. Under section 44, where a person is adjudicated all property belonging to him will vest in the official assignee alone and not as hitherto in the official assignee and creditors' assignee jointly.

The enhanced role of the official assignee is further illustrated in section 61, which lists his powers and functions in relation to the administration of bankruptcies. He will have complete freedom in this regard subject only to the overriding control of the court.

Section 76 and the First Schedule provide an entirely new, simplified procedure for the proof and admission of debts under the supervision of the official assignee. In future, the normal method by which creditors will prove their debts will be by sending the required evidence by post to the official assignee and by attending at his office where necessary.

The committee recommended that all preferential payments in bankruptcy should be abolished. Under this system certain debts such as unpaid taxes, wages and social welfare contributions are paid in priority to the debts of ordinary creditors. A cardinal principle of bankruptcy law, namely, equal distribution among creditors, was thus being infringed. The [893] committee could see no reason for allowing this to continue.

While their view has undoubted merit, it is a counsel of perfection which is impossible to achieve in the present social and economic climate. Preferences are a distinctive characteristic of modern bankruptcy legislation. They are part and parcel of company law in this country and elsewhere. If preferences were abolished in bankruptcy, their retention in company law could hardly be justified.

In reality, taxes, wages, social welfare and other contributions account for a major part of the debts due when an individual becomes a bankrupt or a company goes into liquidation. For these reasons, the present system of preferential payments is being retained, subject however to their being brought into line with those in the Companies Acts. That is the effect of section 81.

I should like to draw attention to two further features of the Bill, which should make for more efficient administration. These are sections 82 and 85, which provide a simpler method of distributing a bankrupt's property and for early discharge or annulment of bankruptcies.

Finally, Part V carries out the committee's recommendation that the estates of persons who die insolvent should be capable of being wound up in bankruptcy. Part VI, which replaces the antiquated provisions of the Debtors Act, 1872, contains a list of bankruptcy offences, some of which are new and all of which carry stiff penalties.

I mentioned at the outset that the Bill was a consolidating and modernising measure. However, it re-enacts only those elements in the existing law which are relevant to present day requirements. Accordingly, the trustee clauses of the 1872 Act, which allow a bankrupt's property to be administered by a trustee and a committee of inspection rather than by assignees, are not being re-enacted. Nor is the Local Bankruptcy (Ireland) Act, 1888, which conferred bankruptcy jurisdiction on the Cork Circuit Court.

When the Bill came before the Dáil on Second Stage there was general agreement that, because of its very complex [894] nature, it should be referred to a special committee. Since then the Joint Committee on Legislation has been established and paragraph 1 (e) of its Orders of Reference empowers it “to consider any Bill referred to it by either House with the concurrence of the other”.

Last week the Dáil decided that the Bill should be referred to the Joint Committee and passed the appropriate resolution. I hope that this House will also agree that it is an appropriate Bill to refer to that committee.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  I agree that this is a Bill which should be referred to the Joint Committee on Legislation. On a number of occasions in this House we have received Bills far too late and proper discussion of them has not taken place. For this reason a number of Bills passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas have been found later not to be suitable or adequate for their purposes, as had been anticipated in the beginning. The work of the Houses of the Oireachtas will be enhanced if this committee system is extended to all Bills.

As the Minister said, it is not before time that we are consolidating Acts of 1857, 1872 and 1889 because practices in the commercial field have changed enormously in those 120 odd years.

I totally agree with the part of the Bill that takes away the rights of preferential creditors which have obtained to date. I have never understood how a Government, in terms of their tax, should be treated more preferentially than a person who has given credit in the normal way. For example, why should unpaid taxes be any more preferential than moneys that are due for goods supplied or services rendered? The Minister mentioned a cardinal principle of bankruptcy law, namely, equal distribution among creditors and which was being infringed to date. The Bankruptcy Law Committee could see no reason for allowing this practice continue and I concur totally with that. I have seen many companies throughout this country give credit to companies or individuals who subsequently became insolvent and found that they had no rights to collect what [895] was rightfully theirs because the State had been regarded as the preferential creditor. If the State was equally as good at collecting their debts as are people in normal business there would be no need for them to have preferential treatment.

There is a suggestion that taxes, wages, social welfare and other contributions account for a major part of the debts due when an individual becomes bankrupt or a company goes into liquidation. That suggestion would not be borne out by what we see in the commercial world. Normally debts are owed on taxes, wages and social welfare contributions but, apart from those, there will be a number of other debts which may become due by virtue of services rendered or of materials supplied to an individual or company. For this reason I am glad that at long last there is a bit of commercial realism. I sincerely hope that when the committee sit, they will abolish this preferential treatment which has been given to the Government because of their lack of enterprise or lack of interest in collecting the debts due to them by a company or individual.

I am glad that this Bill will be referred to the Joint Committee on Legislation because it is a matter which needs more than just a run though both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on Sean A OLeary  Zoom on Sean A OLeary  On behalf of the Fine Gael Party I should like to support the motion that Seanad Éireann concurs with Dáil Éireann in its Resolution that it is expedient that the Bankruptcy Bill, 1982, be referred to the Joint Committee on Legislation pursuant to paragraph 1 (e) of the committee's orders of reference.

Before we deal in a general way with the provisions of the Bill and indicate the areas which we find acceptable in this legislation, a number of points should be made. First of all, this is totally non-controversial and apolitical legislation and, in addition, is the most technical legislation which has come before the Seanad during the two periods that I have had the privilege of being a Member. Consideration of technical legislation such as this is quite inappropriate on the [896] floor of either House of the Oireachtas and I am sure that a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Legislation are the proper body to pursue the detailed points necessary in consideration of this Bill.

It is proper that I refer to the Minister's speech where he seeks to explain the extraordinary delay in putting this legislation before the House. The explanation which the Minister gives is tied up in some way with our accession to the EEC in 1973. I have too much regard for the Minister's ability to think that he really expects us to believe that that is the reason. It is inexplicable that this admittedly complicated legislation should have taken 12 years to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas — ten years if one takes into account when it was introduced — from the time in which the report on which it is based was delivered to the then Minister.

The report of the Bankruptcy Law Committee was delivered in 1972 and included in that report was a draft Bill. That draft Bill to a large extent contains most of the provisions contained in this legislation, although there are differences. It is totally unacceptable that a Department presented with draft legislation, with which obviously they did not disagree fundamentally, should take ten years before putting the Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The responsibility rested with the Ministers from time to time during that period and there were successive and different Ministers and administrations then. I do not know whether the Ministers in examining how the delay took place would come to the conclusion that it was on the part of the political people in the Department or of somebody else, but it is inexplicable that it should take ten years to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas. After all, it is non-controversial and just a few decisions in principle had to be made prior to the adoption of the legislation which is included in draft at the end of that excellent report.

As the Minister has said, the law in Ireland concerning bankruptcy is contained in a number of pieces of legislation, the Irish Bankrupt and Insolvent [897] Act, 1857, the Bankruptcy (Ireland) Amendment Act, 1872, the Debtors (Ireland) Act, 1872, the Deeds of Arrangements Acts, 1887 and 1890 and the Preferential Payments in Bankruptcy (Ireland) Act, 1889. These form the core of the body of law which deals with bankruptcy. Reading the 1972 report to which I have already referred, it appears to me that the practice of the law of bankruptcy has developed beyond what is contained in the statutes. In the exercise of the inherent equitable jurisdiction which the courts have in these matters various practices have arisen which change significantly the way in which the various Acts of Parliament which I have outlined are administered by the courts. In that regard the updating of this legislation and the patching up, so to speak, of the practice in ordinary day-to-day commercial activities and the commercial way in which these things are now administered is to be welcomed, and I welcome it for that reason.

As the Minister has identified, the core of this legislation is Part III which represents the central portion of the Bill and everything else revolves around Part III. Part III deals with the administration of property. Any Member would be well advised in consideration of this legislation to have before him or her, in addition to the Bankruptcy Bill itself, the excellent explanatory memorandum produced by the Minister and circulated with the Bill. I will refer to the circulation of the Bill shortly.

It is vital that each member of the Joint Committee on Legislation or at least each member of their relevant sub-committee would be supplied with a copy of the 1972 report. I asked that a copy of the 1972 report would be made available by the office here, but unfortunately they were unable to do so. Of course, I was able to get a copy from the Oireachtas Library, but that means that one's capacity to note and to make comments on the side is limited by this fact because obviously the Library copy must be preserved intact. However, it is important that the proper raw material for the examination of legislation would be made available. In [898] addition, I would like the Minister to examine the practice which appears to exist when a Bill is circulated prior to the Oireachtas in which the matter is being discussed. For example, this Bill was circulated in July 1982, in an interim when I was not a Member of the Houses of the Oireachtas during the period 1981 and 1983 when I was a Member. The Bankruptcy Bill was not circulated to the Members who came in in the interim period. That is not the only Bill concerning which that has happened and it is by no means restricted to the Minister's portfolio. It has happened in the Houses of the Oireachtas previously that Bills were not circulated to Members who came in in an intervening period. That is not right, and quite a number of Members of this House have found themselves in that situation.

Regarding Part III of the Bill, I would like to bring a number of points to the Minister's attention to indicate to him the reason for our support of the very significant reform which he has before the House. The Minister himself is to be commended on grasping this nettle after such a long time. By no means do I intend to examine the Bill section by section, but section 45 indicates the change of atmosphere and the updating which the committee propose and the Minister is continuing. At present a person who is bankrupt or going through the process of bankruptcy is entitled to retain certain household goods, tools of his trade and so on for the purpose of maintaining a certain standard of dignity and the capacity to earn money. At the moment it is set at the now ridiculous sum of £20 — in other words, goods to the value of £20 can be retained by the individual for the purpose of clothing himself and earning a living if he is a tradesman. The committee suggested an increase to £100 and the Minister is suggesting an increase to £1,000 in the Bill. That is the kind of development we like to see continuing and it shows that whoever examined the legislation did so in a critical fashion not just automatically accepting what was coming from the committee, excellent as that was.

I would like to refer briefly to section [899] 49 and the effects of the proposal to abolish the operation of any covenant on a lease where the lease would be forfeit in the event of a bankruptcy. That is far-reaching law. I do not really object to it as long as it is clearly understood — this is something the committee might consider in due course — that there remains on the official assignee or any person who is acting in respect of the lease which is being retained the obligation to pay rent and that in the event of the assignee not being in a position to pay rent for the State there would be no question of the lease continuing indefinitely pending the conclusion of the bankruptcy. It would be very unfortunate if a property was held in abeyance for a period of time, until the bankruptcy was concluded. As you will hear from what I have to say later, that could be a very lengthy time indeed. While the proposal in section 49 conforms with the proposal in chapter 30 of the report of the Bankruptcy Law Committee, there are problems associated with its implementation which must be considered.

Of very great significance also are the suggested rules with regard to the conclusion of a bankruptcy and the discharge of a bankrupt. The proposal is that there should be a change in the system whereby the process of annulment and discharge, two ways of terminating the bankruptcy, should be changed. That is a principle to which we should subscribe. Basically, annulment seems to convey the idea that somebody is saying that the court in exercise of its jurisdiction decided that in all the circumstances this did not or should not have happened. That seems to be extended in one regard, in that it is proposed in the Bill, and this is also proposed in the appropriate and corresponding section of the law committee report, that any person who is bankrupt for a period of approximately 20 years prior to the passage of the Bill should automatically have his bankruptcy annulled. It was set at 1950 and because of the intervening ten years it is now suggested that it should be 1960, which is reasonable enough.

What is being suggested is that any bankruptcy which had not been concluded [900] prior to 1960 and which had started prior to 1960 should be cancelled. That is a good idea and it should be done without there being an onus on any person to make an application to the court. The bankrupt would not be under an obligation to show cause to the courts as to why this should be done; it should just happen automatically. In that way we are establishing a new principle, after 20 years, irrespective of fault or anything like that, the bankruptcy should be cancelled. That is something with which I agree but in the Bill it refers only to bankruptcies prior to 1960. There is no suggestion that, as the years go by, 1960 should be progressively brought forward so that all bankruptcies starting 20 years before the date at which one would be considered in the future would in fact be annulled. That is something the committee might consider.

The discharge of a bankrupt is different from an annulment in that he is discharged because he paid his debts fully. The suggestion that the provision whereby a bankrupt is discharged by reason of the fact that he has paid a sum of 50p in the £ should be re-enacted and improved upon is to be welcomed.

There is a provision in the Bill — this is a continuing provision so it will go forward from year to year — that any bankrupt after a period of 12 years will be in a position to make an application to the court to have himself discharged from bankruptcy, but the onus will be on the bankrupt to make that application.

I was rather surprised to hear what Senator Lanigan said about preferential payments because I have no doubt that he arrived at that conclusion having diligently examined the recommendations of the Bankruptcy Law Committee rather than the recommendations in the Bill because that is one very significant difference between the law committee's report and the Bill. The law committee basically suggested, and their recommendation was simple in the extreme — it is in page 355 of the report — that preferential payments of all kinds should be abolished. The Minister in his statement has correctly pointed out that the Bill seeks to continue the system of [901] preferential payments. In that regard Senator Lanigan was a little in error in depending on the law committee's reports for his information rather than on the draft of the Bill. The law committee had obviously a very sustainable argument. I see from the way the Minister has spoken in the introduction that he might at least be in some way sympathetic to what the committee have suggested. This is an area of difference between the committee's recommendations and the Bill as drafted. I mention section 80 in relation to which the legislation committee should give particular attention to what is the proper way to move forward. There are, as the Minister quite rightly points out, certain longer-term consequences or certain collateral consequences of doing away with the system of preferential payments. It could be seen to be the thin end of the wedge to applying it to limited liability companies and various other things like that. That would be a substantial advance in the law even in that area. We are really talking here about a difference in principle. We are talking about a difference between those on the one hand who say preferential payments, which now means largely the State, should be maintained and those on the other hand who say they should be abolished. That is something the committee should examine.

The Minister should seek the advice of his colleagues in Government in this regard because are as he said, this has implications far beyond the bankruptcy area. Obviously it has implications in the area of company law, but merely because it has these implications does not mean that we should not examine it when the time comes. I should like the Minister to maintain an open mind in this regard because it is important that we should examine it constructively and logically in the months ahead.

There are a number of other matters which are also important. There is a new system of arrangements about fraudulent and involuntary conveyances which we need not examine here but they will need further examination by the committee. It [902] is important that it should be noted here that that examination is expected of the committee.

Part IV of the Bill which deals with the arrangements under the control of the court is another very important section. It deals with the actual happenings on the ground and what happens on the ground is that private arrangements under the control of the court are, in fact, very normal arrangements. It is something which is continuing all the time and which I think we should examine before confirming the new legislation.

The Minister says that the procedure entitling a bankrupt to show cause against the validity of adjudication is being retained. He said that over the last two decades the practice has evolved of making successive adjournments of “show cause” applications, frequently for quite long periods even where the validity of adjudications is not disputed. The committee's report is very long and I was not able to find some information in it. It is possible that it is in the report and I just have not seen it. There are 589 pages in it. I should like those who will be advising the Minister at the committee to indicate to us the frequency with which this system is being used.

I have never practised in this area as a lawyer and, therefore, I am no more skilled in this area than any private individual. It appears that bankrupts are people who are considered bankrupt in the eyes of the public. In other words, they may be people who are the subject of these successive “show cause” applications. They appear to be in a state of limbo over a period of years. Successive adjournments of the show cause applications last not in terms of months but in terms of years. I should like to know how many people are in that state of limbo. If it is a significant number of people, as I suspect it might be, then a more careful examination of the procedure might be required, the jurisdiction of the court in this regard might have to be tightened up and statute law might have to come into play. More background information as to the number of people who are in this intermediary stage is vital. What is also required is considerably more information [903] concerning the number of applications which are being made now. Who is making the applications? A lot of that background information would be very helpful to the committee when they consider the matter.

That brings me back to the question of the arrangements under the control of the courts, which are similar arrangements, but they are really private arrangements under the control of the courts. They allow a trader to continue trading. Paragraph 87 of the memorandum states:

These arrangements allow a trader to continue trading, to maintain his place in the commercial world and to be helped by his friends. Moreover, he is assisted by the Court and its officers and the minority creditors are protected by the Court's power to refuse to sanction a proposal.

It would be important to know the number of people who are under the control of the court so that we could see if it is important in the scheme of bankruptcy and the application of bankruptcy law.

I note that in Part V of the Bill the Minister proposes to deal in a different fashion with the estates of people who die insolvent. That is very wise indeed. There are considerable changes in that area. There is a degree of court supervision which requires excessive numbers of applications to court to be made which I do not think should be necessary. It makes the administration of these estates quite difficult. The possibility of entering into an arrangement with creditors in the event of a person dying insolvent should be considered and extended. Part V of the Bill has to be examined against that background.

Part VI of the Bill deals with the question of offences and the amount of fines and terms of imprisonment. They are all routine matters which can be considered during the course of the Committee Stage examination of the Bill.

I welcome the Bill. The way in which it differs from the proposals contained in the Bankruptcy Law Committee's report of 1972 must be highlighted. I suggest, for the assistance of those people who [904] will be examining this in committee, that, in addition to the excellent memorandum which outlines in each and every case the recommendations of the Bankruptcy Law Committee's report where they have been adopted, a similar table should be produced which would show where the recommendations of the Bankruptcy Law Committee had not been adopted. That would be excellent. I do not mean in terms of substituting £100 for £200 because I do not think that is a significant change. I am talking about where a decision was taken not to accept a recommendation of the committee. The recommendations of the committee are vast and they are in an order which is not necessarily the same as the order in the memorandum to the Bill. The provision of a list which would show in a concise way the recommendations of the committee which were not adopted would be very helpful in regard to assisting the Committee on Legislation to balance the various interests which need to be balanced for a proper examination of a technical Bill of this kind.

For all these reasons, and with these provisos, the general principle of the Bill should be welcomed by the House. Therefore, we should concur with Dáil Éireann in its decision to refer this Bill to the Joint Committee on Legislation for a proper Committee Stage examination while retaining the right to amend the Bill when it comes back to us on Report Stage.

Mr. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  We all support what is involved here. By virtue of the fact that we have not implemented certain directives or enacted or amended the law in connection with company law, will this Bill curb in any way the activities of fly-by-night operators who, having become bankrupt, re-establish themselves in another guise? Is there anything in this Bill which will, in the absence of changing company law, do anything to limit these activities?

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan,: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Limerick East): I thank the three Senators who contributed. I am pleased that the House has co-operated with me in [905] referring this to the Committee on Legislation. It is a very complex Bill which needs to be teased out. It is a very important one. Many Senators do not have a great knowledge of this area or a great interest in it, so it is an ideal Bill for a specialist committee where proceedings can move forward in a less formal manner than they would on Committee Stage in either the Dáil or Seanad.

Senator Lanigan supported the Bill in general and talked about the idea of preferential payment. As Senator O'Leary rightly pointed out, the Bankruptcy Law Committee report recommends against preferential payment but it was decided to maintain preferential payment in the provisions of the Bill. In my introductory remarks I said that in reality taxes, wages, social welfare and other contributions account for a major part of the debts due when an individual becomes bankrupt or a company goes into liquidation. For these reasons the present system of preferential payments is being retained, subject however to their being brought into line with those in the Companies Acts which is the effect of section 81. Obviously, people may have different views about this. It is a matter of principle and something that can be dealt with at greater length in the Committee on Legislation.

The crux of the matter is that bankruptcy law cannot differ in this respect from company law. One of the main objects of the Bill is to align as far as possible these branches of the law and, in particular, these preferential payments. The preferential status granted to wages and salaries and revenue debts and social welfare contributions is a fact of modern life. The draft EEC bankruptcy convention recognises it and its relevant provisions are framed on that basis.

Senator O'Leary brought up a number of points, first of all, the reason for the long delay and the explanation which I gave of it. When we acceded to the EEC we were obliged to participate in negotiating a draft EEC bankruptcy convention. The draft Bill appended to the committee's report was not proceeded with at that time because of the possibility that [906] national bankruptcy laws would be affected by the negotiations on the draft EEC bankruptcy convenction. As these negotiations progressed, it became clear that the Bankruptcy Bill could not be proceeded with. The draft Bill appended to the committee's report was examined in detail, as Senator O'Leary acknowledged. A number of revisions had to be undertaken to keep it in line with changes in other areas, particularly company law.

Again, this Bill by its nature needs a political push to get it through both Houses and on to the Statute Book. Politicians respond to political pressure and there is very little political pressure to change the bankruptcy laws, even though the changes are very necessary. The original committee began their deliberations in 1962. They reported ten years later in 1972. Then a Bill was published in 1982 and two years later we are now talking about going into Committee Stage on the Bill.

This Bill as circulated here was published on 6 July 1982. Again you can see the kind of delay that has taken place. First of all, proceeding from that point, I got Second Stage taken in the Dáil at the start of 1983 and we have been trying to arrange an appropriate forum for the consideration of Committee Stage. Now it is agreed by the Dáil and we are in the process of agreeing in the Seanad that Committee Stage will be taken by the Legislation Committee.

I would hope that I shall have the co-operation of the Deputies and Senators and am quite sure that I shall, in processing this very important legislation. It is a large, enormously complex Bill as Deputies and Senators will realise. I hope that the explanatory memorandum will be of help to everybody considering this legislation.

Most of Senator O'Leary's contribution, at least a major proportion of it, dealt with the desirability of providing committee members with the maximum possible information for the consideration of this Bill. Certainly, the explanatory memorandum is of benefit. The Senator requested that we supply to the committee, or at least to a possible sub-committee deliberating on the matter, [907] copies of the sub-committee report on the Bankruptcy Law Committee's report. I shall consider if that is possible. I am not sure whether there are physical problems about their availability of it or not, but certainly I shall check that out. It seems to be a rather good idea. I had not realised that there was any difficulty in acquiring copies of the Bill or copies of the explanatory memorandum. The point the Senator made was that it was circulated in 1982 and the administrations changed subsequently and that there are new Members both in the Dáil and Seanad and by the circulation method used for this and indeed for other Bills, current Deputies and Senators were not on the original circulation list. That is a point worth making and worth taking up, certainly. The Senator referred to particular sections of the Bill. I do not intend to talk about those sections here. That can very well be done on Committee Stage.

Again, Senator O'Leary was looking for particular pieces of information — for example, the numbers involved in bankruptcy show cause applications. I shall try to have that information available for the committee. He also requested that, as well as the information supplied in the explanatory memorandum indicating what recommendations of the committee were accepted, similar information would be supplied for those recommendations of the committee which were rejected. Again, I shall try to have that information available on Committee Stage.

As I say, I do not intend dealing with the particular sections and, indeed, apart from Senator O'Leary, other Senators did not refer to them. Senator Smith raised a point there at the end. The Bill is dealing with individual insolvency and not corporate insolvencies. It would not be appropriate to include in it matters which belong primarily to company law. The Bill includes a number of bankruptcy offences which are designed to deal with fraudulent debtors and bankrupts. I hope that answers the point made by Senator Smith.

I would like to thank the House for its co-operation in this matter. I hope that [908] we can proceed reasonably expeditiously to deal with Committee Stage. The complexity of this particular legislation tends to intimidate even Ministers dealing with it. I hope I have the co-operation of all Senators and Deputies in getting this through the Legislation Committee and back to both Houses on Report Stage as quickly as possible.

Question put and agreed to.


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