HC Deb 17 June 1823 vol 9 cc1014-7

Mr. Serjeant Onslow moved, that the bill be committed. On the question, "that the Speaker do leave the Chair,"

Mr. Davenport

opposed the motion. He contended, that a more disastrous measure for the country could not possibly be introduced. The present bill proved more than any proposition he ever recollected to have been made to the House, the modern rage for legislation. What did the bill go to do? To overturn, at one blow, that system which their ancestors, for ages, had been anxious to establish. It would raise the interest of money to an unprecedented height, and the effect would be injurious to all classes of society. Those who wished to borrow money on the mortgage of lands, would be more especially affected by it. At present, they could procure money at the rate of 5 per cent; but let this did pass, and they would be charged an exorbitant rate of interest. Gentlemen might say, "If one person in the market won't lend money at a reasonable rate, another will." But this did not apply to persons residing at a remote distance from town, who knew nothing about the money market. He would move as an amendment—"That the bill be committed upon this day three months."

Mr. Ricardo

argued, that money ought to be placed on the same footing as any other commodity. The lender and borrower ought to be allowed to bargain together, as freely as the buyer and seller did when goods were to be disposed of. The hon. member who spoke last, feared that this measure would place the borrower entirely in the power of the lender. But, did the present laws alter his situation? Certainly not. Means were found to evade the law; for though the law said, "You shall not take more than a certain interest for your money," it could not compel a man to lend at that particular rate; and, therefore, he who wished to borrow at all events, and he who wished to lend at as high a rate of interest as he could get, both conspired to evade the law. These laws operated precisely in the same way as the laws against exporting the coin of the realm. Now, notwithstanding those laws, did not the, exportation of that coin take place? The only, effect of the statutes in that case was, to place the traffic in the hands of characters who had no scruples against taking a false oath. They were encouraged to evade the law and made a great profit by so doing.

Mr. J. Smith

said, that so far from thinking this measure injurious to the country gentlemen, he were called on to devise a bill for their relief, it should be precisely such a one as was then before the House. It had been shown before a committee of that House, that in consequence of the usury laws, individuals were driven to raise money by annuities; and the consequence was, that the various charges amounted to not less than 15 per cent. He could state the cases of many persons who had been reduced to beggary, in consequence of the recent failure of certain individuals who dealt largely in transactions of this nature. He happened to be chairman of the committee of bankers, and could state, that they wished this measure not to pass, for a reason very different from that which influenced the hon. member. He thought it would raise, but they were afraid it would lower the rate of interest. What was the case with respect to foreign countries, where no such laws were known? The rate of interest in Holland was now lighter than in any other part of the: world. There was no necessity whatever for laws to check usury; for, with all their efforts, they could not prevent it.

Mr. Philips

hoped the bill would pass. The Committee by which the question was discussed, saw clearly the folly of those laws. Why should the person who had money to lend be placed under more disadvantageous circumstances than his hon. friend would be in regard to transactions in landed property He had heard nothing which could warrant the continuance of the existing law.

Mr. T. Wilson

agreed with what had fallen from the last speaker. Perhaps, in the present, state of the money market, he should not be entirely disposed to support this measure; but, thinking the existing law highly objectionable, he should vote for it. In Holland, where commercial interests were well understood, there were no usury laws. The fact was, that the interest of money could never be kept at a high rate, while it was left to it self.

Captain Maberly

, seeing the total inefficacy and impolicy of the existing law would also support the measure.

Mr. F. Palmer

opposed it, conceiving it to be most ruinous to the agricultural interest.

Mr. W. Smith

supported the motion.

Mr. Wynn

spoke on the same side, though he would be the last man to support the motion, if he thought it could lead to those prejudicial consequences which had been anticipated.

Mr. Benett

, of Wilts, thought that if ever the interest of money should rise in this country above 5 per cent, the bill would be singularly beneficial to the landed interest.

The House divided: For going into a committee, 38. For the Amendment, 15.

List of the Minority.
Blackburne, J. Palmer, C. F.
Cheere, E. M. Powell, W. E.
Desborough,— Plummer, J.
Douglas, W. R. K. Pryse, P.
Estcourt, T. G. Taylor, M. A.
Heathcote, J. G. Webbe, E.
Jervoise, G. P. TELLERS.
Kennedy, T. F. Davenport, D.
Mundy, F. Williams, sir R.