HC Deb 14 March 1819 vol 41 cc1122-4

Mr. Alderman Wood moved for leave to bring in a bill to promote the employment of the poor in Ireland in fisheries and manu- factories, by the encouragement of partnerships. The worthy alderman said, that this bill stood over from last session. It was only an amendment of the old law. The alteration was actually necessary to induce English capitalists to embark their property in trade in Ireland; there were many errors and ambiguities in the existing act, which it would be well to amend and obviate.

Mr. Leslie Foster

said, that the bill professed to encourage fisheries and manufactures, and yet in it there was not one word about either. It was not however of the omissions, but of the contents of the bill that he complained. It had for a long time been the practice of Ireland to admit occult, partnerships, and wherever any ambiguities formerly occurred, they had been in so many recent instances pointed out and explained by decisions in courts of equity, that the practice in such partnerships was rendered quite clear and intelligible. He could not therefore see the utility of the worthy alderman's proposition.

Mr. W. Parnell

, that though these matters might be clear enough in Ireland, yet it did not follow that people in England were equally conversant in the decisions of Irish courts of equity. In the present state of Ireland, it was very desirable to encourage English capitalists, and he was therefore in favour of any explanatory measure which could have that tendency.

Mr. Plunkett

said, that this was not a bill of regulation, but one which went at once to sweep away, by an unqualified repeal, whatever had grown systematic in a code of commercial law which was perfectly understood by the people. He had had great experience in the equity courts of Ireland, and he could assure the House that he had not observed any difficulty in the operation of the existing law. The worthy alderman had not pointed out the defects in the existing code. Had he done so, it was competent for him to propose a specific remedy, instead of which he called upon parliament to repeal the whole code.

Mr. Alderman Wood

replied, that he had stated, as he conceived, the real object of his bill, which was to remove the prevailing uncertainties respecting partnerships in the courts of law, which prevented, in a great degree, English capitalists embarking in Irish trade. He could state a specific evil, as the law stood, which he was ready to prove. If an occult or sleeping partner went into the counting house of the firm in which he was engaged to look over the books, he was liable, according to a decision in the courts to be set down as an active partner, and his whole property to be responsible for the affairs of the concern. Now, the fair, and, as in England, the legal principle was, that an occult partner should be merely liable for the property he had embarked, the amount of which was registered, where any man could see it for one shilling. There was, it was true, not one word about fisheries in the old bill, but he meant to introduce the subject in the amendment. In introducing this topic, he had no other wish than to serve the trade of Ireland, and augment its prosperity; knowing, as he did, many capitalists who would, if the proposed alterations were adopted, embark a part of their property with the Irish resident. But if the gentlemen of Ireland had no feeling for the interests of their own country, nor any desire to increase its wealth by the introduction of English capital, he could not help it; if the Irish gentleman would not interfere for their own country, it was no fault of his! he was ready to withdraw his motion.

Lord Jocelyn

hoped the worthy alderman would not withdraw the bill. He certainly should, in the first instance, support the motion of the worthy alderman, as he felt himself bound to support any measure which had a tendency to encourage the embarkation of the capital of an English merchant in Irish trade.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.