Illingworth v Houldsworth: HL 1904

A clause in a floating charge allowing a company to continue to trade in the assets charged: ‘contemplates not only that it should carry with it the book debts which were then existing, but it contemplates also the possibility of those book debts being extinguished by payment to the company, and that other book debts should come in and take the place of those that had disappeared. That, my Lords, seems to me to be an essential characteristic of what is properly called a floating security. The recitals . . shew an intention on the part of both parties that the business of the company shall continue to be carried on in the ordinary way – that the book debts shall be at the command of, and for the purpose of being used by, the company. Of course, if there was an absolute assignment of them which fixed the property in them, the company would have no right to touch them at all. The minute after the execution of such an assignment they would have no more interest in them, and would not be allowed to touch them, whereas as a matter of fact it seems to me that the whole purport of this instrument is to enable the company to carry on its business in the ordinary way, to receive the book debts that were due to them, to incur new debts, and to carry on their business exactly as if this deed had not been executed at all. That is what we mean by a floating security.’ A floating charge: ‘A specific charge, I think, is one that without more fastens on ascertained and definite property or property capable of being ascertained and defined; a floating charge, on the other hand, is ambulatory and shifting in its nature, hovering over and so to speak floating with the property which it is intended to affect until some event occurs or some act is done which causes it to settle and fasten on the subject of the charge within its reach and grasp.’ (Lord Macnaghten)

Halsbury, Macnaghten LL
[1904] AC 355
England and Wales
Appeal fromIn re Yorkshire Woolcombers Association Ltd CA 2-Jan-1903
Nature of Company’s Debenture Charge
The court considered the nature of a debenture charge. Romer LJ said: ‘I certainly do not intend to attempt to give an exact definition of the term ‘floating charge’, nor am I prepared to say that there will not be a floating charge within the . .
At First InstanceIn re Yorkshire Woolcombers Association Ltd ChD 1903
Farwell J said: ‘A charge on all book debts which may now be, or at any time hereafter become charged or assigned, leaving the mortgagor or assignor free to deal with them as he pleases until the mortgagee or assignee intervenes, is not a specific . .

Cited by:
CitedNational Westminster Bank Plc v Spectrum Plus Ltd and others ChD 15-Jan-2004
The company granted a debenture to the claimant purporting to secure its book debts. The company went into liquidation. The liquidator challenged the bank’s charge.
Held: Siebe was wrongly decided. The charge was ineffective over the book . .
CitedSupercool Refrigeration and Air Conditioning v Hoverd Industries Ltd 1994
(New Zealand) The court noted a greater reluctance in Australia and Ireland than in England to accept the creation of a fixed charge over present and future book debts.
Tompkins J said:’ a requirement to pay the proceeds of the book debts . .
CitedNational Westminster Bank Plc v Spectrum Plus Ltd; In re Spectrum Plus CA 26-May-2004
The court was asked whether a charge given over book debts in a debenture was floating or fixed.
Held: Since the charge asserted some control over receipt of the payments, it was a fixed charge. Upon payment into the account, title to the . .
CitedNational Westminster Bank plc v Spectrum Plus Limited and others HL 30-Jun-2005
Former HL decision in Siebe Gorman overruled
The company had become insolvent. The bank had a debenture and claimed that its charge over the book debts had become a fixed charge. The preferential creditors said that the charge was a floating charge and that they took priority.
Held: The . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Banking, Company

Updated: 13 December 2021; Ref: scu.191955