HC Deb 11 May 1837 vol 38 cc802-6
Sir S. Whalley

rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the division which had taken place on the motion of the hon. Member for Shoreham (Sir C. Burrell) on the 9th inst, for an instruction to the Committee on the Brighton Railways. In the majority on that occasion he found the names of several hon. Members whose names also appeared on the subscription-list for one of the lines of Brighton railway for considerable sums, and according to the rules of the House he considered that the votes of those Gentlemen ought not to have been allowed. Last year he had been a shareholder in one of the railways before the House and his vote had been struck out of a division in regard to that railway in consequence. He brought forward the motion purely On public grounds, and would not offer any opinion as to the practice of the House; but, considering the small amount of the majority on the occasion to which his motion alluded, and also disapproving of the motion itself, he thought he had only done his duty in affording the House an opportunity of revising its decision. He would beg to move, "That the resolution respecting the Brighton Railways of the 9th instant, which was carried by a majority of five, be entered on the journals as negatived, in consequence of the following six Members having voted for it, who have subscribed the Parliamentary contract for Stephenson's line, viz. Matthias Attwood, Esq., 4,000l., Archibald Hastie, Esq., 2,000l., Joseph Pease, Esq., 20,000l., Joshua Scholefield, Esq., 8,000l., William Tooke, Esq., 1,000l., and Sir Andrew Leith Hay, 5,000l., who has subscribed the Parliamentary contract for Gibbs's line."

Mr. Pease

said, that it was extremely painful for him to present himself to the House on a matter purely personal; but he had been injured by the motion which had just been submitted to the House, and he was convinced that, under the circumstances, some indulgence would be shown him. He had never been in any way, directly or indirectly, concerned with any one of the Brighton railways—he had never held shares in any of those undertakings—he had never subscribed the Parliamentary contract for any of them, and had no personal interest in the success of one line more than another. The shares alluded to in the motion were not in his name, but in the name of a relation, and the hon. Member might easily have known that such was the case, as the usual addition of M.P. was not attached to the name on the subscription list, but which would have been the case had it been his (Mr. Pease's) signature. Having stated this much, he would only add further, that he had given a conscientious vote on the occasion to which the motion referred, but he thought he had just cause to complain of want of courtesy on the part of the hon. Mover, for although he had taken tea with him upstairs last night, the hon. Gentleman had not given him any intimation of his intention to bring forward the present motion.

Mr. Hastie

considered that he had been most uncourteously dealt with, as he had received no notice of the present motion till he had seen it in the votes of the House. Before his election he had purchased twenty shares, but in March of last year, having been returned a Member of that House, he disposed of those hares in the following April, and he had now no connexion with any of the lines of railway to Brighton. Having stated this much, he thought it was unnecessary for him to say more, as the House would see that he had violated no rule, and his vote had been given from a conviction that he was only discharging his duty to the public, and not from any personal or interested motives.

Mr. Tooke

had no connexion with, nor any personal interest in, any of the railways to Brighton, or if he could be said to have any private interest in the success or defeat of any of the lines, it would have been in the defeat of Stephenson's line, the very one on the Parliamentary contract of which his name appeared as a subscriber. He had at one time held a share in that undertaking, but had long ago disposed of it, and was now in no way connected with either of the lines. That such was the case might easily have been ascertained, had the hon. mover of the present motion acted with the usual courtesy, and he thought he ought to have made himself acquainted with the facts of the case before placing his (Mr. Tooke's) name, and those of other hon. Gentlemen, on the votes of the House in connexion with such a motion.

Mr. Charles Barclay

thought it was a farce to lay down a rule that no person should vote on motions regarding railways or other undertakings, who were shareholders, as Members, though not shareholders, might be actuated by a feeling stronger even than one which was purely personal. It was impossible to find out the actual motives which influenced any one to vote, and it would, in his opinion, be better to leave it to hon. Members themselves to determine on all occasions whether they ought or ought not to vote, and never to call in question the vote of any Member, on the ground of his being a shareholder in any undertaking which might be the subject of a division.

Sir J. Graham

could not agree with the hon. Member for West Surrey, that the votes of Members should never be questioned, and should the hon. Member bring forward a specific motion, embodying the principle for which he had contended, he (Sir J. Graham) should be prepared to contend by argument against such doctrines, and by his vote to support a contrary motion, for it was his opinion, that whenever a pecuniary interest could be established, the vote should be struck off. In the present case, however, he did think that it would have been only courteous for the hon. Member, who had brought forward the motion, to have given some intimation of his intentions before placing such a personal notice on the votes of the House, and he further considered, that he ought to have made himself better acquainted with the facts of the case, for in three out of the six instances specified in the motion, the facts of his position had been distinctly negatived.

Lord G. Lennox

said, that if the hon. Member brought forward his motion solely on public grounds, he should like to know why he had confined himself to railways on one side. Then were the names of hon. Members to be found on the list for Rennie's line, as well as on that of Stephenson's, and the hon. Member's motion ought, if it was brought forward on public grounds, to have embraced both.

Mr. T. Attwood

observed, that he had seen the names of his colleague, and a near relative of his own, in the motion, and as both were absent, he considered it his duty to state, that he was perfectly persuaded they would be able to give as satisfactory an explanation of their conduct as had been given by other hon. Members. He thought the hon. Member who had brought forward the motion, had acted rashly in not making himself better acquainted with the facts of the case, and that he had been wanting in courtesy in giving no intimation of his intentions to those who were so prominently brought forward in his motion.

Sir C. Burrell

thought the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the motion, ought not to be allowed to withdraw it, and that it ought in justice to the Gentlemen who had been so prominently noticed, to receive a decided negative by the House. The motion had been most improperly brought forward, and it was a case of very great hardship that no notice had been given, as some of those who were deeply interested in the matter were, as he understood, in the country, and had no opportunity of vindicating their conduct.

Captain Alsager

supported the motion, and said that, although some of the hon. Members, whose names appeared in the motion, had denied all connexion with the Brighton railway, yet their names still stood on the subscription list. Now, that subscription list was the one by which the House was to be guided in forming its opinion as to the probability of the undertaking being completed, should the Bill pass the House. It was the guarantee which the House had required for the protection of the public against gambling speculations, and if hon. Members had actually withdrawn their subscriptions, and their names still stood on the contract for large sums, then the list was no longer a bona Jide one, and did not give the security which the House intended it should.

Mr. Pease

said, his name was not on the list, it was the name of a relation.

Sir S. Whalley

said, that the hon. Members who had stated that they had withdrawn were still, in point of" law, shareholders, and responsible for the amount opposite their names.

Sir A. L. Hay

entered the House, and said, that till the moment he entered the House, he was totally unaware of the motion which had been submitted to its consideration. The vote he had given had no reference to the adoption or rejection of any particular line out of the competing railways, but was given with a view of bringing before the House sufficient evidence to enable the House to decide as to the merits of the rival lines. In regard to his name being on the subscription list, he acknowledged that he was a shareholder, and still continued to be so, but his vote on the occasion alluded to was given conscientiously, and were the same motion before the House, he would again give his vote in its favour.

Sir E. Wilmot

thought it only justice to the hon. Member who had last spoken, to state, that as his name had on a former occasion been mentioned in connexion with the Deptford and Dover railway, there was not a tittle of evidence to connect the hon. Gentleman with any improper proceedings in regard to that railway. He, as a Member of the Deptford and Dover Committee, thought he only discharged his duty in making that fact known to the House.

Motion negatived.

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