HC Deb 25 February 1828 vol 18 cc649-51

The Report of this bill was brought up. On the motion, that the amendments made by the committee be read a second time,

Mr. Hume

opposed the bill, on the ground that the company had not complied with the provisions of the bill which they had obtained in a former session. By that bill they had agreed, whenever a dividend was made, that one-eighth of such profits should be invested in government security, until the sum so obtained should have accumulated to 250,000l., which was to be funded for the purpose of meeting all legal demands against the company. This arrangement had been shamefully departed from, and the company had the front, notwithstanding, to come to parliament for the purpose of acquiring an increase of power, and an extension of their funds. This company possessed an advantage over all other gas companies, as each member was liable only to the amount of the share he had adventured, whereas others incurred the risk of their entire fortunes. On these grounds he moved, that the report be read on that day six months. He opposed the bill on public motives, not knowing any thing of the parties concerned, but by their past conduct.

Mr. G. Robinson

seconded the amendment. The directors of this company, instead of vesting in the public funds one- eighth of their annual dividends for the public security, as required by a clause in their bill, had, he said, taken care to keep the whole in their own funds. Now, would parliament consent to grant to this company additional privileges, when the directors had not complied with that clause in the bill? He was the more opposed to it, because he found among the directors and managers many names which figured in the concoction of the Arigna Mining Company, and various other fraudulent schemes. He hoped that the House would not concur in the report, as the directors had proved themselves unworthy of confidence.

Mr. Clinton

hoped the House would examine the amendments recommended by this report, before they adopted the course now suggested. He admitted that the dividends had not been applied as required by the act; and it was to provide a remedy for that misapplication, that these clauses were now offered by the committee. If the directors should hereafter dispose of the one-eighth of the dividends otherwise than as directed by the bill, they would be subjected to a penalty of 500l. each. Another clause called upon the directors to lay their accounts annually before parliament. The only additional power that these amendments in the act was to give the company was the power of raising 150,000l. to enable the directors to carry the provisions of the former act into effect. The company lighted all the north-west of the metropolis, extending over several miles of turnpike-road; and their finances were insufficient for that purpose. He knew nothing of the company until the present session; and had now come forward because the hon. gentleman who had obtained the former acts was not now a member.

Mr. Calcraft

thought it would be highly improper to trust those who had already abused the confidence of the public, and set at nought the acts of the legislature. The hon. member, who spoke last, confessed that the company had been guilty of flagrant abuses. This was now the third time of their coming to that House for purposes of aggrandizement. On the first occasion they had obtained 250,000l. on the understanding that a contingent fund should be established. On the second application they received 250,000l. more, although the condition had proved a dead letter; and they now came a third time for an additional 150,000l.; and still there was no contingent fund. He thought the company had gained exceedingly by the change of support in that House; for, if this bill had been brought in by the hon. gentleman who had brought in the former bill, no man in the House would support it, as that hon. member (Mr. Peter Moore) was known to have concocted many of these fraudulent schemes. He hoped the bill would not be allowed to proceed any further. Instead of granting new powers, parliament ought to repeal the former act.

Mr. Alderman Waithman

said, that the fact of a connexion with the Arigna Mining Company, and those other public cheats which had so materially injured the community, together with the admission, by the chairman of the committee, that abuses had been practised for so considerable a period, were fully sufficient to warrant their rejection of the present demand. Seeing that the company had so grossly abused their trust for the sake of emolument, the House ought not to listen to any proposal which had for its object any addition to their finances. Even if the bill were in itself a desirable measure, he would not consent to enlarge the powers of the company.

Mr. Maberly

opposed the second reading of the report. The company enjoyed, he said, a charter which gave them a great monopoly; and they had endeavoured to make that monopoly still greater, by evading the condition's with which they were bound to comply.

The House divided: For the original motion 6; For the amendment 75. The bill was consequently lost.