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I am grateful to Professor Rebecca Parry of Nottingham Law School for providing the following guest post on the 5th Insolvency Research Conference which was hosted jointly by the Insolvency Service and Nottingham Law School on Tuesday 5th April 2011, at Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University:
"The annual research conferences held by the Insolvency Service are, justifiably, popular offering attendees the opportunity to hear the results of research projects on a wide range of aspects of insolvency law and practice. The conference travelled north to Nottingham this year and was jointly hosted with Nottingham Trent University. This was a natural partnership as the relationship between the Insolvency Service and Nottingham Trent University, in both research programmes and the provision of training, is long standing. The event was well attended by representatives from the Insolvency Service, practitioners and academics, including a good number of doctoral research students. An introductory address was given by Stephen Speed, Agency Chief Executive of the Insolvency Service, outlining the difficulties faced by the Service in the current economic climate.
The first research paper of the day was presented by Adrian Walters and Sandra Frisby and concerned company voluntary arrangements. There have only tended to be small numbers of company voluntary arrangements each year, although CVAs are regarded as having the potential to play an important role in particular cases. Walters and Frisby have carried out research into the outcomes of company voluntary arrangements, analysing a large sample of cases in which CVAs have been concluded. They found that these arrangements had enabled a good number of companies to continue trading and that they could result in healthy returns to creditors in appropriate cases. They found limited use of the “CVA with moratorium” option for small companies, although noted that it might be that small companies were able to restructure without the protection of a moratorium.
Margaret Sims of the Insolvency Service showed that a presentation on insolvency statistics need not be dull, highlighting the range of statistical information that was available and demonstrating interactive maps showing the levels of indebtedness in various regions of the UK. Philip O'Donnell an economist with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills then presented survey data on indebtedness, including measures of consumer confidence, such as whether consumers were anticipating large purchases or fearing that they would be petitioning for bankruptcy soon.
Irit Mevorach considered European Insolvency Law in a Global Context, noting that considerable progress had been made by UNCITRAL in problem areas, notably in relation to corporate groups, and contending that the European Union was lagging behind in these areas and could benefit from studying the work of UNCITRAL in this area.
The papers in the remainder of the day concentrated on personal insolvency. Janet Watson reviewed IVAs and debt management, presenting a strong view that debtors should be encouraged to pay their debts where they were able to do so.
The final paper was given by Ian Ramsay and considered approaches to personal insolvency in France and the UK, noting the differing levels of public administration in this area and the significant role played by the private sector in the UK. His difficulty in answering a question as to the jurisdiction in which he would prefer to become bankrupt suggests that if he has creditors they may rest easy in the knowledge that he does not have a route already mapped out for escaping their clutches.
All papers were enjoyable and informative and often prompted lively discussion. The conference was well organised and smooth running, a credit to the organising team at NTU and Louis Gorham of the Insolvency Service."
"This is the ultimate statement of where the law on IVAs is to be found in our great common law...