Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that the Insolvency Bill be read the Second time.
Mr. Speaker, the Bill is part of the process of legal reforms initiated by the Ministry of Justice and aimed at improving the quality of the legal system. It is intended to strengthen the legal system to face up to the existing challenges of our time and more importantly help in ushering in the golden age of business which is the cornerstone of the development process of our Government. Equally, it is in keeping with the philosophy of the Ministry of Justice to sustain a legal system which can resolve disputes quickly and cheaply, which can frame laws in clear, comprehensive language, which can provide the legal support for a vigorous enterprise economy, which guarantees equal access to justice and equal treatment before the law.
Mr. Speaker, insolvency legislation made its impact in the Gold Coast in 1856 and 1857 as well as 1858. None of those pieces of legislation was brought into force. For some reason the Bankruptcy Ordinance of 1858 was repealed in 1893.
In 1806 the Gold Coast Companies Ordinance was passed. It provided for the winding up of insolvent companies, but nothing about personal insolvency. In 1957 a Bankruptcy Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly; it was rejected on the grounds that the formulation of the policy had not been endorsed by the people.
But Mr. Speaker, before 1858 there had been a traditional system of paying debts and the legal luminary, Mr. Mensah Sarbah, had so succinctly written in his book; -- he had chronicle the way debts were being paid in those -- days and it was about the principle of Panyaali where a debtor could have any of his relatives seized by the creditor in satisfaction of the debt.
Mr. Speaker, we have come a long way now and it is about time that an insolvency law was passed in this country. But before then in 1962 an insolvency law was enacted to provide the framework for regulating personal bankruptcy. It was based on the proposals of commissioners appointed under the Commission of Enquiry Ordinance (Cap 249) on the 20th of January, 1960 to inquire into the Insolvency Law. Sadly, Mr. Speaker, it has never been brought into force. The power to make it operative has been in the hands of the Attorney-General of the day; the power has now been removed in the present day. The commencement of the Bill as at large is now subject to the operation of clause 11 of article 106 of the Constitution.
The 1962 Insolvency Act is older by a year than the Companies Code, 1963, (Act 179); but Act 179, Mr. Speaker, is very active and in operation. The Insolvency Act, 1962 was intended also to promote commercial morality, to put a fair playing field for both creditors and debtors, to minimise losses by creditors
and open the broad speedway of progress for competent, impartial administration. The absence of legislation to deal with personal bankruptcy opens a yawning gap in our commercial laws and it is this drawback that this Insolvency Bill is designed to arrest. Mr. Speaker, a great deal of benefits will be reaped from the Insolvency Bill and I would seek your permission to make reference to a few of them and then allow debate to continue.
Mr. Speaker, among the benefits is
that, insolvency proceedings will halt civil proceedings by or against the debtor; and clauses 12 and 19 deal appropriately with this. Again, in clauses 66 and 73 of the Bill, the duties of the representative of the deceased insolvent are taken over by an official trustee that is created under clause 1 of the Bill.
Mr. Speaker, with these few comments I beg to move that the Bill be read a Second time.