HC Deb 01 August 1839 vol 49 cc1102-6

On the motion that the report on the Bank of Ireland, resolutions be read,

Mr. O'Connell

said, he felt justified it taking every opportunity of resisting this bill, for if it had been brought in at an earlier period, he should have had a fair chance of the support of Members at both sides of the House on a question having no relation to party views. All he asked for the other banks was a participation in the power of issuing 1,100,000l. The present system was pernicious in its effects. The manufactories of Dublin had dwindled down to fifteen or twenty from a hundred whilst new manufactories had sprung up in Belfast, which enjoyed freedom in banking. The revenue of the post-office, too, had increased twenty-five per cent. in such towns as Belfast, whilst it had diminished twenty-five per cent. in Dublin. He protested against the monopoly which it was proposed to continue in the Bank of Ire. land, and would divide against the reception of the report.

Mr. Yates

would oppose the further progress of the bill, being strongly of opinion that the Bank of Ireland had no right or title to the monopoly which it was proposed to perpetuate.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

would confine himself strictly to the new matter which had been introduced that evening, as he was unwilling to trespass longer upon the time of the House than was absolutely necessary. The hon. Member, who bad spoken last, wished to separate the trade of banking from the prerogative of issuing promissory notes. He thought that a most important distinction, and the nearer they approached to one central issue, the nearer would they approach the application of that principle. He did not deny, that there were many inconveniences connected with Joint-stock Banks, but he did not, on that account, undervalue the application of the joint-stock principle. It was, he believed, the safest principle on which banking could be carried on. The cases of abuse which had occurred, so far from shaking the confidence of the public, confirmed the principle of Joint-stock Banks, if they were well regulated, It would be a great misfortune, if the shareholders were to withdraw their capital from these banks and the public were to withdraw their confidence. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin bad inquired as to the amount of the capital of the Bank of Ireland. All the accounts which could be rendered on this subject had been already laid on the table, but if the hon. Member wished for any further details he should be happy to furnish them. In the report on Joint-stock Banks, in 1837, the amount of the Bank of Ireland capital was stated, being the debt between them and the Government. The first debt contracted in 1783 amounted to 600,000l. Irish currency.

Mr. O'Connell

had not asked for the amount, but what was to be done with it now.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

would state the amount and the period of payment, and then what was to be done as to the repayment. The 600,000l. to which he had just referred, was to be repaid on the Corporation being dissolved. In 1797 the sum of 500,000l was advanced, to be repaid at the same time. In 1808, 1,250,000l. was advanced, to be repaid at the dissolution of the Corporation, or at the pleasure of the Government, on six months notice being given. In 1821, there were advanced 500,000l., to be paid on the 1st of January, 1838. The hon. Member had suggested, that he might have dealt with this on cheaper terms than he could at present; but he thought the debt could not now be paid off on better terms than those which he now proposed. In round numbers, he would assume they were paying 4½ per cent. He proposed to reduce this debt at once to 3½ per cent.; and if the hon. Member thought he could obtain 3,000,000l. on lower terms, he entertained a very different opinion of the state of the money market from that which he entertained, and it was very doubtful whether better terms could have been obtained at a previous time. The hon. Member had stated, that some offer had been made by private parties to provide funds for the payment of this debt, but he was not conscious of any such offer. He wished to bring this question forward fairly; and whilst he had done justice to the Bank of Ireland, he had not withheld any censure which he thought its conduct justly deserved. It was utterly impossible, he thought, with a view to the safe management of the Joint-stock Banks having numerous and distant branches that they could be made secure in any other way than by a central agency, that agency being unfettered by any local circulation of its own. This he had endeavoured to prove when the subject was formerly before the House. The hon. Member had said, that the decay of certain branches of manufacture in Dublin was a proof of the mischief of the Bank of Ireland, but it was to be traced altogether to other sources. The metropolis of a country was not the most favourable situation for manufactures under any circumstances. Dublin was overmatched by Belfast; as Macclesfield and Manchester had beaten Spitalfields. Causes might account for the alteration of the postage of Dublin, other than those alluded to by the hon. and learned Member, changes which had taken place in the mode of charging letters may have lessened the revenue in one place and increased it in another. He now wished to call the attention of the House to the present state of the proceedings. He was now asking for leave to introduce a bill, and if he was not allowed to do so the monopoly complained of would be continued, and Joint-stock Banks would be refused those privileges which were essential to their prosperity. As it was impossible to alter the state of the law as affecting the Bank of England till 1844, the same duration ought to be given to the privileges of the Bank of Ireland, in order that they might then be placed on the same footing and the whole subject considered together. On these grounds, he trusted the House would see no objection to agree to the resolutions.

Mr. Gisborne

differed from the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that it would be convenient to extend the privileges of the Bank of Ireland as long as the privileges of the Bank of England continued. He had no doubt that the Bank of England would have its charter renewed. It was only for the Bank to get up a bit of a panic, and then the Chancellor of the Exchequer would come down to the House, and propose the renewal of the charter immediately. He therefore wished to deal with the Bank of Ireland singly. He would rather kill the small viper first, if possible; because he was quite sure that the large serpent would prove too strong for them, when they should begin to combat with it. When a bill was introduced in the month of August to create a monopoly over the heads of his constituents, he thought, almost per fas aut nefas, it was allowable to object to and reject it by every means that the forms of Parliament would admit of. He should therefore vote with the hon. and learned Member for Dublin.

Mr. Clay

was in favour of the proposition to take the whole system of banking both in Ireland and England under consideration at one and the same time. An inquiry into the concerns of the Bank of England in 1844, or at an earlier period, must necessarily lead to an inquiry into the concerns of the Bank of Ireland. What advantage, then, would hon. Gentlemen gain by opposing the present measure? The monopoly of the Bank of Ireland would go on, the public would lose 23,000l. a year in interest, and the joint-stock banks in Ireland would fail to obtain several important advantages which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to give them.

Mr. T. Attwood

felt called upon to support the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken a great deal about the danger of allowing banks to issue "paper money." That was a phrase which was often used, and certainly the issues of the Bank of England, when made a legal tender, might be properly enough designated as "paper money;" but when any gentleman issued a note, a bond, or a mortgage deed, he must beg to deny that such issue was an issuing of "paper money." It was merely issuing an acknowledgement of a debt; and every individual was allowed by the law of England to get into debt. If so, he wished to know by what policy it was that hon. Members could denounce or deny the right of any man giving an acknowledgment of a debt once contracted; or by what right they would prevent persons from transferring that acknowledgment from one to the other? This was a species of acknowledgment which he would contend the House had no right whatever to interfere with. They never could interfere beneficially in these matters. In assuming these paper acknowledgments to be paper money, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not correct. He denied that a note payable on demand was of less security than a bill of Exchange payable at three months. With respect to the joint-stock banks in this country, he considered them to have produced good effects, and he knew of no reason why they should not be introduced into Dublin. It was not the joint-stock banks, nor the banks of England or Ireland, but the cruel and murderous metallic standard, which had done all the mischief. It was not in the power of any banker to issue notes without limitation. No bank and no individual could issue more money than the absolute wants of his neighbours and the public wants of the country might require. Bankers were the mere creatures of public necessity, and could only issue to the extent of the existing healthy demand. If they exceeded that limit, their paper would soon come back upon them.

Mr. O'Connell

would address himself to the only argument which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had advanced on this subject, that the trade in banking in Ireland was carried on by branch banks, and therefore, they required a central house of issue in Dublin, and that therefore they could not carry on the trade of issue in Dublin, and also attend to business in these branch banks. Surely if that argument was good as regarded branch banks it was equally valid against the Bank of Ireland. He would divide the House on every stage of the bill.

The House divided on the question that the Report be read. Ayes 61: Noes 20; Majority 41.

List of the AYES.
A'Court, Captain Hogg, J. W.
Adam, Admiral Hope, hon. C.
Baring, F. T. Hoskins, K.
Barnard, E. G. Hutton, R.
Bernal, R. Kemble, H.
Blair, J. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Briscoe, J. I. Lowther, J. H.
Broadley, H. Lushington, rt. hn. S.
Brotherton, J. Maule, hon. F.
Chichester, J. P. B. Morpeth, Viscount
Clay, W. Morris, D.
Clerk, Sir G. Packe, C. W.
Cripps, J. Palmer, C. F.
Dalmeny, Lord Palmer, R.
Dick, Q. Palmer, G.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Parker, R. T.
Fremantle, Sir T. Perceval, Colonel
Freshfield, J. W. Philips, M.
Gaskell, J. M. Pigot, D. R.
Gordon, R. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Richards, R.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Rose, rt. hn. Sir G.
Harcourt,. G. Round, J.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Russell, Lord J.
Hinde, J. H. Rutherford, rt. hn. A
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Sheppard, T.
Hodges, T. L. Surrey, Earl of
Hodgson, F. Teignmouth, Lord
Hodgson, R. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Wilbraham, G. Steuart, R.
Wood, C. Parker, J.
List of the NOES.
Attwood, T. Stock, Dr.
Bridgeman, H. Vigors, N. A.
Duncombe, T. Villiers, hon. C. P.
Ellis, J. Wakley, T.
Finch, F. Warburton, H.
Hindley, C. Williams, W.
Leader, J. T. Wyse, T.
Martin, J. Yates, J. A.
Muskett, G. A.
O'Brien, W. S. TELLERS.
O'Connell, J. O'Connell, D.
Somerville, Sir W. M. Gisborne, T.

On the question that a bill founded on the resolutions be brought in,

The House again divided. Ayes 68: Noes 16; Majority 52.

Bill to be brought in.