Ch 1:1 Introduction

June 2000

1.1 History

The office of official receiver was created by the Bankruptcy Act 1883, which also commissioned the then Board of Trade with the supervision of bankruptcy. The objective was to impose greater official control over bankruptcy proceedings generally, and over investigations in particular. The official receiver’s role was extended to compulsory liquidations by the Companies Act 1890, and is today largely set out in the Insolvency Act 1986. Originally, official receivers were a mixture of salaried officers and fee paid local solicitors. Since the 1950s all official receivers have been salaried, and are now appointed from The Insolvency Service (The Service); see paragraph 1.4EA below.


1.2 The Insolvency Service

The Service is an executive agency within the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). The objectives of BIS are to: 

  • promote enterprise, innovation and increased productivity,
  • make the most of the UK’s science, engineering and technology.
  • create strong and competitive markets, and
  • develop a fair and effective legal and regulatory framework.

The Service supports those objectives by maintaining and enforcing an effective framework for commercial activity, and in particular: 

  • Administers compulsory individual and corporate insolvencies;
  • Reports suspected criminal offences to BIS;
  • Brings disqualification cases against unfit directors of failed companies;
  • Regulates the private sector insolvency profession;
  • Manages insolvency funds;
  • Advises Ministers on insolvency issues;
  • Supports the work of the official receiver, as described in this chapter.


1.3 Organisation of offices

The Service operates through 38 offices around the country, each led by an official receiver, and geographically grouped under Regional Managers. There are headquarters units at London, Edinburgh and Birmingham, which also has the Service’s IP and OR Banking Section.


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