HC Deb 16 July 1840 vol 55 cc766-71
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

, in stating his intentions with respect to the Bank of Ireland, felt that it was necessary to explain the object of the bill which he proposed to ask for leave to introduce. The charter of the Bank of Ireland was granted for a certain time, which terminated in 1837. After that period the condition was, that it should continue, but be terminable at a year's notice. At the present moment, the charter would cease at the end of twelve months, after notice duly given by the Government. There were two sums of money lent under different conditions by the Bank of Ireland to the Government. One of those sums amounted to about 1,000,000l., which bore interest at five per cent. That sum was payable upon the termination of the charter. There was no power on the part of Government to repay that sum before the charter of the Bank terminated. If the Government desired to repay it, they could not do so until they had dissolved the charter. The other sum amounted to l,615,000l., and was originally repayable in 1838, but the repayment had subsequently been postponed from year to year, and had not as yet taken place. It was this sum, still unpaid, that rendered it necessary for him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to come to Parliament. As far as regarded the charter, no Act of Parliament would have been necessary; but as this sum of upwards of a million and a half was repayable on the 1st of January next, it was necessary that he should come to Parliament, either to postpone the payment or to obtain the means of effecting rt. This was the position in which the question now stood; and he had felt it necessary to explain it, because he found, that a very erroneous impression existed with respect to the terms on which the charter of the Bank of Ireland was now held. He would now call the attention of the House to the points which he proposed to effect by the bill he sought to introduce. First, with regard to the charter itself. It was a question whether it were desirable, under present circumstances, to bring in any measure that would make a permanent provision with respect to the charter. His noble Friend, who preceded him in the Exchequer, originally proposed that up to the time when Parliament had it in its power to terminate the Bank of England charter, the same arrangement that existed with respect to that institution should apply also to the Bank of Ireland. That view, however, was abandoned. Soon after the commencement of the present Session, the House appointed a committee to inquire into the whole question of the monetary circulation of the country, and amongst other matters that came under its consideration, the effect of the issuing of notes payable by the Bank of Ireland was necessarily one. That committee was still continuing its inquiries, and one of the reasons why he had deferred till this late period of the Session the bringing in of any measure relating to the Bank of Ireland, arose from the circumstance, that he had waited to see whether it was likely that the committee would report during the present Session, or offer any opinion or suggestion which might serve as a guide to him in introducing any bill which he might think it advisable to call upon the House to adopt in reference to this question. From the advanced period of the year, however, at which he was now speaking, it was quite clear that no such recommendation could come from them during the present Session, as could be of any service to him in dealing with the subject. It was necessary, therefore, that he should lose no further time in making such an arrangement as, under the circumstances, should seem to be most desirable. It appeared to him that, with the inquiry still going on before the committee, it would not be advisable to come to any decision with regard to this question which might afterwards interfere with the permanent arrangement to be made in reference to the Bank of Ireland charter. Whatever opinions he might personally entertain upon the subject, it appeared to him that it would justly be open to the strongest objection if any permanent arrangement of the points to which he had referred were proposed whilst a committee expressly appointed by the House to investigate the whole matter was still prosecuting its inquiries. The various points connected with this subject, such as whether they should content themselves with the present machinery of the Bank, or whether it would be expedient to extend the circulation, or whether they should continue in existence a partial monopoly—on all such points as these it clearly appeared to him to be absurd to come to any decision while the committee were still pursuing their inquiries. The charter of the Bank of Ireland continued in force unless Government gave a year's notice to the contrary. This was a provision which, he thought, might fairly be allowed to remain till Parliament had all the information they could get before them. It was not necessary, therefore, to introduce any new enactment in respect of the charter, nor was it his intention now, or at any other time, to give such a notice without first bringing the case before Parliament. In reference to the sums lent to the Government, the one which bore 4 per cent, interest was payable on the 1st January next. He had stated that these sums were not connected with the charter, and might be payable without affecting rt. He thought, however, that the present conditions annexed to the charter gave rise to much inconvenience and uncertainty, to which he did not think any establishment like the Bank of Ireland ought to be subject. He proposed to consolidate the two sums. The one bearing interest at five per cent, was payable on the termination of the charter; but if Parliament, under all the circumstances, thought it advisable to continue the charter until they received the report of the committee, he could not conceive that they would be told that they could not make payment of this money without putting an end to the charter. Under these circumstances he proposed to take a power to repay the whole of the money now advanced upon the condition of giving the Bank six months' notice of their intention, to repay them the sum. Between the present time and the 1st January he should have frequent opportunities of communicating with the parties, and it might not be necessary to give the six months' notice before the repayment. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by asking for leave to bring in a bill to regulate the repayment of certain sums advanced by the Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland.

Leave given.