HC Deb 20 February 1804 vol 1 cc493-7
Mr. Corry

moved the order of the day for the third reading of the Irish Bank Restriction Bill.

Lord Archibald Hamilton

said, that after the discussion which had taken place the last time the Bill was before the House, he felt himself bound to say a few words before its final departure to the other House. Nothing certainly could be greater than the importance of this measure, not only as affecting Ireland, but because it shewed what must be the consequence in this country, if the restriction should continue to any great length of time. If he had sat silent upon this occasion, it might be supposed that his opinion had been altered by the discussion which took place on the second reading; but although he paid every attention to the arguments which were used on that occasion, his sentiments still remained unchanged. It had been most clearly proved, that there was a great depreciation in the value of paper in Ireland, and that specie could only be procured with great difficulty and at a large premium: it had been urged, that the scarcity of guineas arose rather from factitious than from real causes; this be was inclined not to believe, for it was surely more probable that paper should be depreciated, from so great a quantity having been issued, than that the price of gold should have risen so much beyond its real value. Before he sat down, he wished to mention one or two points to which he hoped he should receive an answer, or at least some explanation from the right hon. gent. opposite him (Mr. Corry.) The rate of exchange had been for some time past increasing against Ireland, and had risen so high as 19½ per cent. Notwithstanding this, it had been asserted, that the Bank of Ireland last year had given a bonus of 5 per cent, to the proprietors of bank stock: this was a subject which certainly required some explanation. There was another circumstance which he had heard, from authority on which he placed great reliance, but which he wished at the same time to state with the greatest diffidence. The circumstance to which he alluded was this, that although the exchange was so great against Ireland, yet that the Lords of the Irish Treasury received their salaries at par. He had before stated, that he did not mean to assert this positively as a fact, but he thought it right to mention it, to give the right hon. gent. opposite to him an opportunity either of contradicting or explaining it, because, if those who might be supposed to have the greatest means of adopting measures for preventing the balance from being so strongly against Ireland felt no inconvenience from it, it might be apprehended that they would not feel much anxiety on the subject. That these evils existed, and that they required remedy, had not been denied, and, therefore, he hoped that some measures would be resorted to; the one that appeared to him the most proper would be to appoint a committee to inquire into the cause of the high state of exchange against Ireland. He lamented that he himself could, not move for such a committee, because there was another inquiry which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had expressed his intention of moving for, respecting the Duty on Malt in Scotland, to which he felt himself bound to devote a great part of his attention; but he hoped it would be taken up by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Foster) whose abilities and experience eminently qualified him for the task.

Mr. Corry

said, he should begin by adverting to what fell from the noble lord towards the latter end of his speech, viz. that certain officers under the Irish government being paid their salaries at par.—On this point he would give the noble lord the most full and explicit information in his power; if the noble lord had done him the honour to have acquainted him with his intention of requiring information upon that subject, he would have taken care that he should have a most distinct and precise answer. At present, however, he wished to state, that certain officers from Ireland, who were employed in this country in the discharge of their public duty, were paid their salaries at par; that the Treasury of Ireland having money in this country, had given orders for the payment of those who were officially employed in this, country, including himself, the Lords of the Treasury, and the inferior officers, who were obliged to attend here during the session of Parliament, in the manner that had been stated. This practice had originated with the Union, and had been continued since, without any observation having been made upon it. With regard to what the noble lord had stated respecting the depreciation of paper in Ireland, he had given his opinion upon that subject, not only on the last discussion on this bill, but in the course of last session. It would be remembered that he had the honour of proposing a bill last session, which met with the approbation of the House, the object of which was, to restrain the circulation of small notes in Ireland, which bill was to commence its operation from the 1st day of this year. Finding, however, at the commencement of the present session, that the members from that part of the United Kingdom could not, in consequence of their military duties attend in Parliament, he had proposed a bill to postpone the operation of that measure till July, in the hopes that before that time he lush members would be enabled to attend in their places, and that the subject might be discussed in the most ample manner. The noble lord and the House would therefore, he hoped, do him the to acknowledge, that upon this subject he had always entertained and professed the same opinion. As to the question of the Restriction on the Bank of Ireland, he supposed the noble lord did not mean to contend that the Restriction ought to be taken of there while it continued here.—[Lord A. Hamilton said, "certainly not"]—Then the noble lord's observations did no apply to the Bank of Ireland; they were general speculations applying to the Bank of England and as that subject was not before the House it was not necessary for him to enter into it. With regard to the situation of Ireland with respect to its circulation, he should certainly be happy to receive the assistance of the abilities of the noble lord, and as the subject must come again under the consideration of Parliament this session, he hoped it would meet with the most ample discussion.

Lord A. Hamilton.

In explanation, disclaimed any improper motives in the observations he had thrown out.

Mr. Curwen

said, that the interference of Parliament was certainly necessary to put an end to this evil, which was of very great magnitude. There appeared to him various ways in which it might be done: the two countries being united, he saw no reason why the bunks should not be united; or a bill might be passed to limit the circulation of paper in Ireland. These, certainly, were delicate measures, and required much consideration; but, with regard to the issue of private Bank paper in Ireland, which, was very great, he saw no reason why they should not be obliged to pay their notes in Bank of England paper.

Sir John Newport

said, the proposition of the boa. gent. was the most extraordinary he had ever heard; if his object was to put a stop lo all the private Banks in Ireland, it would certainly be a very efficacious way of doing it; because it could not be supposed that an Irish banker, who issued his notes at par, could pay those notes the next day in Bank: of England paper, at a loss of 18 or 19 per cent. But he did not agree with those, gentlemen, who attributed the balance of exchange against Ireland entirely to the restriction on the Bank of Ireland. If they would look back to the years 1795 and 1796, they would had that the exchange was very high against Ireland, although there was then no restriction on payment in specie. The cause of this balance would perhaps be more readily found in the situation of the trade of Ireland with this country. Gentleman forgot when they spoke upon this subject, the large amount of the absentee rents drawn from Ireland. They forgot that since the union several large loans for that country had been negotiated in England, the interest of which, to the amount of one million and a hah, was annually drawn from Ireland. The absentee rents he estimated at little less than three millions, therefore the balance of trade in favour of Ireland must be great indeed, to supply such a continual drain. It had been said that the Bank of England had a greater controul over the private bankers than the Bank of Ireland had. This was a proposition he could not assent to, because the Bank of England had no other controul over the bankers except by refusing to discount their paper, and the Bank of Ireland had the same power. There was, however, a material difference between the situation of the two countries. In Ireland they had not only to combat with the general disposition of mankind to hoard specie, but there were in that country obvious causes which made that disposition almost universal. He did not speak of the North of Ireland, where fide was carried on almost all with specie, and the people had a confidence in each other, which, he was sorry to say, was not the case in the other provinces. The object of the lower classes of people in Ireland was to get specie, and the moment it was obtained it was buried, without the person so secreting it communicating it even to his wife or children, the consequence of this were, that immense quantities was lost. This disposition had produced the most fatal effects in Ireland. Tenants before they would pay their rents in specie would suffer themselves to be distrained and their cattle sold. They had no objection to pay in paper, because they thought, in rise of a successful convulsion, it would be of no value. But long before the restriction on the Bank, there was a great scarcity of specie arising from its being hoarded. He hoped, therefore, when gentlemen were discussing these subjects; they would bear in mind the great difference between the two countries, and not suffer themselves to decide too hastily upon general principles.

Mr. Faster

paid, he would not add much to the of the discussion: he rose in consequence of what had fallen from the noble lord, to whom he paid some high compliments. He was sorry he could hot undertake ill it which the noble lord had recommended to him. viz. to move for a committee inquire into this subject. He trusted, however, that all that had passed upon this and a former occasion, would impress upon ministers the necessity of speedily adopting some measure for the relief of that country, and lie was sure could be done much more effectually by the gentlemen on the Bench below him (the Treasury Bench) than by himself.—The bill was then read a third time; and on the motion "that the bill do pass,"

Mr. Foster

said, he did entertain a hope that ministers would have expressed an intention of taking up this subject, but as they remained silent, he felt the call upon him so imperiously, that he would, on a future day. bring the matter under the consideration of Parliament, at the same time he should be glad if ministers would take the task oat of his hands.