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Media Release - Set-off (23 March 2000) ​

Report recommends reintroduction of 18th century law

The New South Wales Law Reform Commission today released a report recommending the re-introduction of the law originally established by the Statutes of Set-off. Set-off - a mechanism that allows parties to litigation to discharge mutual debts simply and inexpensively - was made possible at common law by two statutes passed in England in 1729 and 1735. The repeal of these statutes in New South Wales more than thirty years ago as part of a major review of old English laws left a gap in the law which has not been filled by modern procedural reforms. This has particular implications for costs and litigation involving guarantees, assignees of debts and the administration of deceased estates.

The proposed Civil Procedure (Set-off) Bill is a plain English restatement of the 18th century statutes but with amendments necessary bring that law up to date and accommodate modern commercial practices.

This new Bill, the result of detailed consultation with interested parties, if enacted, will:

1. make it easier for people to set off debts in legal proceedings; and

2. allow parties to agree to exclude the operation of set-off (this reform is necessary to protect the increasingly important securitisation market).

Copies of the report are available from the Commission and may be viewed on the Commission's website:

Media contact: Joseph Waugh, Legal Officer, (02) 9228 8230.