HC Deb 15 June 1815 vol 31 cc842-5
Mr. Birch

rose to submit a motion to the House, founded on the transaction, which had come to his cognizance, between the Treasury and the Corporation of Liverpool. It appeared that the Treasury had lent to the Corporation of Liverpool, without the authority of Parliament, two sums—of 30,000l. and of 20,000l. It was the more remarkable also that the second sum had been lent, although the interest of the first sum had not been paid. The security on which this sum was lent was a warehouse, or father shed, rented by Government for the purpose of warehousing tobacco, of which the value could not be above 10,000l. It was true the rent which Government paid for this place was 5,000l.; but this rent was fixed between the two parties, and was, he thought, an extravagant charge. The rent of the warehouse before rented by Government for the same purpose, was only 700l. a year, and at the same rate this warehouse would not be worth more than 2,000l. It was for the House to say whether this was sufficient security. The principle, however, of the loan, which was open to the imputation of being made subservient to the purpose of electioneering influence, was the most objectionable. The authority of Parliament had not been given, and the transaction could only be compared to the Joan to Boyd and Benfield, for which the minister of the day was obliged to ask an Act of Indemnity from Parliament. Loans to individuals, even when the authority of Parliament was not required, were not justifiable, except in such cases as the loans to the manufacturers some years ago, and that to the planters of Grenada. He should therefore move, "That there be laid before this House an account of any loan of money which may have been Advanced by the public for the docks at Liverpool."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he did not intend to oppose the motion; but he should enter into a short explanation of the transaction. The loan to the house of Boyd and Benfield was very different from the present case; that was a loan of money which was in the hands of the Treasurer of the Navy, for navy purposes, to the contractors for the loan for the year; so that it was a loan justified no doubt by the circumstances of the case, of money, by the Government to those who again lent it to the Government. But in the present instance, the Government having contracted for a warehouse at Liverpool, for which they were to pay an annual rent, which was thought more convenient than to pay a large sum for purchase-money, the Corporation, of Liverpool, who were the contractors, represented that their funds would not enable them to proceed without a loan. They also slated, that on account of the circumstances of the times, they could not procure money at 5 per cent. from private individuals. The Government considering the security unexceptionable, a second application was afterwards made, which, though there was not the same claim on the Government, yet, as the money was to be applied to build a dock, which would materially assist in preventing smuggling, the Government thought fit to comply with it. Besides the rent paid by Government for the warehouse, which was double the interest of both the sums, they had the security of the Corporation estates, which produced a rent of 51,000l. a year, and were worth much more than a million of money. The Government had always made use of its discretion in the purchase or building of warehouses for the purpose of collecting the revenue, and the present case came within the ordinary exercise of that discretion, as it was, in principle, no way different from a purchase of the warehouse in question. He ridiculed the idea of the loan having been made with a view to any influence on any election.

Mr. Wynn

thought this advance of money most unconstitutional, and observed that it would, if acquiesced in, open a door to abuses of which no man could see the end. The same might be done for Bristol, or any other town which happened to be in favour with the Treasury. The town would first get the money from the Treasury, and then it would only remain to be justified to the House, which was easier than to make out a case for obtaining it from Parliament. Under a Government less pure, the loan might be open to the charge of being granted for the sake of parliamentary influence.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that the loan was merely an anticipation of the rent.

General Gascoyne

contended, that the warehouse in question afforded most ample security to the Government, as more than 50,000l. had been laid out on it before the money was borrowed from Government. The part which was not used by Government was let out by them, and had produced sometimes 10,000l. a year.—so much for the overcharge of rent. He could not speak as to the law of the case; but as to the usage, the loan to Liverpool was by no means singular. Money had been granted to the London and other Dock Companies. The money which should hare been applied to build a walled dock, had been diverted to the purpose of building a warehouse foe the Government, and of course the Corporation was justified in applying to the Parliament, or rather the Treasury.

Sir J. Newport

said, that though the hon. general did not profess to be acquainted with the constitution, he seemed well acquainted with the best way of procuring money for his constituents. The hon. member for Liverpool had asserted, that large sums had formerly been granted to the London Dock and other companies. But then they had been granted by the authority of Parliament. If the precedent of Liverpool were admitted, why might it not be extended to Bristol, to Glasgow, to Dublin, or to Cork?

Mr. Bankes

expressed his conviction that his right hon. friend had acted from the purest motives, but argued that the principle on which he had so acted was utterly inadmissible. It was high time that such a practice, if it had prevailed to any extent, should be stopped; and he expressed his satisfaction to find that the motion was to be acceded to; as it would put Parliament in possession of the fact on that point.

Mr. Benson

warmly defended the conduct of the Corporation of Liverpool. An ample security had been given by them for the money advanced, the interest had been paid, and the whole transaction was one not of secresy, but of perfect, publicity.

Mr. W. Smith

reprobated placing the disposal of any part of the public revenue at the discretion of the Treasury, instead of the discretion of Parliament. At the same time, he did not attribute any blame to Government but that inadvertence.

Mr. Birch

in reply stated, that the Corporation of Liverpool bad applied, or had intended to apply, for a remission of the interest, amounting to 4,000l. He denied that the transaction had been so public as it had been described.

The motion was then agreed to.