HC Deb 21 June 1839 vol 48 cc712-5

A vote was proposed for a sum not exceeding 70,000l. to enable her Majesty to defray the civil contingencies of the year 1839.

Mr. Hume

objected to one of the items in the vote, for the expense incurred in granting the charters to Manchester and Birmingham.

Mr. Courtenay

was also opposed to it. In his opinion the parties applying for the charters ought to defray the expense attending them.

Mr. P. Thomson

said, that it was necessary to make inquiries before any charters were granted, and how could they be paid for but in this manner? It was on account of these inquiries that the present sum was to be voted.

Mr. Goulburn

thought, that the expense of these inquiries ought to fall upon the parties applying for the charters, and not be defrayed by the public money.

Viscount Howick

said, it was of the utmost importance, that municipal institutions should be granted to all the great cities in the kingdom, and no difficulty, therefore, ought to be thrown in the way. It was absolutely necessary, that inquiries should be made, and, as persons could not be compelled to subscribe for that purpose, the expense must be paid by a public vote.

Sir T. Fremantle

thought, that the money ought not to be paid by the public. The Privy Council was a court before which the parties came. Let them, then, pay their own expenses, and do not let the Government say, "If you cannot make out a case, we will send down commissioners to make out one for you."

Mr. Brotherton

said, the vote was properly asked. He knew that in the case of one application for a charter, a great many forgeries were committed with respect to the names of the petitioners, and the Privy Council found it necessary to send down commissioners to inquire. The Government was bound to pay the expenses of those commissioners.

The Attorney-General

said the expenses under consideration were not the expenses of the parties petitioning for or opposing a charter, but of the Privy Council. That body had to decide, not merely for the different parties, but for the public, and it was impossible for them to know whether they should grant a charter until they had investigated all the circumstances of the case. It was more economical to send down a commission to the country, than to bring all the witnesses up to London.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that if the expenses to the parties were lessened by sending down a commission, that was another reason why the diminished expense should be paid by them.

Mr. Williams

felt so strongly the impropriety of the vote, that he moved its rejection. If Manchester acquired a charter, Manchester ought to pay for it, and not expect all the other cities in the country, which were not benefited by the incorporation of that town, to contribute to the expense.

The Solicitor-General

reminded the hon. Member, that Manchester and Birmingham had been obliged to contribute to the expense incident to inquiring into the state of the corporation of Coventry. Nothing but a necessary expense had been incurred, and if the House refused to sanction this vote, it would be tantamount to a declaration that no more charters should be granted.

Mr. W. Williams

said, that Coventry had enjoyed a charter for 400 years, so that the cases were not analogous.

Mr. Wakley

said, they were told, that there would be a great number of these applications for charters, and he thought, that if they were to sanction this expenditure, they would be only opening a fruitful source of patronage for the Government. These expenses were for objects purely local, and to make the public pay for such objects was neither fair nor just. The Government had sent down commissioners to the various towns, but they had not been told what those commissioners had done, and he would call upon any hon. Gentleman to show any other body of men acting judicially who were entitled to send out persons at the public expense to make inquiries relative to the cases that came before them for decision. He really did not understand these estimates, for in one place, he found a sum of 11l. 5s. 2d. for conveying the Prince and Princess Hohenlohe from Woolwich to Ostend, If his Highness had come over to this country in order to work some miraculous cure, he mi surely pay the expense of the journey back.

Sir S. Canning

said, he had been formerly in possession of the committee, but had yielded his right in order to allow hon. Gentlemen to run down the hare which they had started. He had allowed the discussion relative to the corporation charters to go on for an hour and a half, but the hon. Gentleman had started a new hare, and he thought it was now time to assert his right.

Mr. Wakley

said, the right hon. Gentleman was completely mistaken. It was not a hare he had started, but a Prince and a Princess. In regard to the expense of obtaining charters, he thought the burden ought to be borne by the parties who applied for them, and he hoped the hon. Member for Coventry would divide the House against the vote.

Mr. C. Buller

thought the establishment of corporations in large towns was of great importance to the public, as well as to the towns themselves. The Bristol riots had shown the effect of a want of a good police and a good municipal executive. These riots had cost the country many thousand pounds, and had a good municipal executive existed, all that expense might have been spared.

Mr. Pringle

said, every town requiring a police force was obliged to come to that House and bear the expense of obtaining a bill, and he thought in the same way that they ought also to pay for a charter of incorporation. In his opinion, it would be introducing a bad precedent if the House were to consent that the public should pay for those charters.

Mr. W. Williams

would not divide the Committee on the question.