HC Deb 08 May 1840 vol 53 cc1327-30

On the question that a sum of 7,000l. be granted as a compensation to the Messrs. Fourdrinier,

Mr. Hume

would not oppose the vole, but he felt that the sum was too scanty.

Mr. Mackinnon

concurred in the opinion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. He had himself been a Member of the committee which had investigated the claims of the Messrs. Fourdrinier, and that committee had been unanimously of opinion that 20,000l. should be awarded to those gentlemen for the services they had rendered to the country. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer had expressed his intention of granting them the sum of 15,000l and under those circumstances, he (Mr. Mackinnon) felt surprised at the smallness of the present vote.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

had felt great hesitation in proposing the vote at all, as he thought it might tend to encourage individuals to look for compensation to the public funds, which he thought would be a very serious evil.

Mr. G. Knight

was astonished that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not think it just to reward those whose inventions, as in this instance, had added greatly to the revenue. There had been a breach of good faith here. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that "if this matter was left to him he would see to it," and now, after the Messrs. Fourdrinier had expended 40,000l. on the invention, and it saved 25 per cent, in the manufacture of paper, and nearly 40,000l. a-year to the Government, they only offered them 7,000l

Mr. M. Philips

said, no man could be more opposed than he was to undue grants of public money, but the gentlemen in question had conferred great benefit on the public, and had been deprived by the merest technicality of law, of that advantage which they would otherwise have derived from their ingenuity and skill. They had saved 10s. a ream in paper, which, in the quantity used by the House alone, for the printing of Parliamentary documents, 20,000 reams, would save 10,000l. a year. Was he not justified in asking that the vote should be at least 10,000l, especially when the son of Mr. Fourdrinier had expended 3,000l. in urging his father's claims on Parliament with the most creditable anxiety for his interest? Having presented numerous petitions from the public in favour of a large grant, he felt himself on every principle justified in urging the augmentation of the grant to 10,000l

Lord Sandon

could add nothing to the concise yet powerful statement of his hon. Friend, the Member for Manchester. He would only say, that the Messrs. Fourdrinier had literally ruined themselves, and lost a large fortune by their valuable invention, which had altered the character of the whole paper manufacture, and thereby conferred also the greatest benefits on every branch of trade. These gentlemen had not only benefitted the public generally, but the Government in particular, and therefore he thought they were entitled to more than the miserable pittance proposed to be given to them. He would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider his decision.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the cases of Messrs. Fourdrinier and that of Mr. Brunei were different. Mr. Brunei had given up a positive right. He drew his information with regard to the Messrs. Fourdrinier from the papers before the House, and from those it appeared that they were not the original inventors, nor even the original patentees. Mr. Gamble was the original patentee, and had sold his patent to Messrs. Fourdrinier. He did not wish to deteriorate from the merits of those gentlemen, but they were neither the inventors nor the introducers of the invention into England. To neither belonged the merit of having perfected the invention, but all the arguments he had heard, convinced him of the difficulty of laying down a principle that any inventor benefiting the public should be entitled to a certain rate per cent, on the saving effected by the invention. Was it intended to lay down, as a principle, that every patentee, who, by a decision of a court of law, should be deprived of the profits of his invention, in consequence of the mistake of his own lawyer, should be entitled to claim compensation from the public. He found that Mr. Carmichael Smith, Captain Manby, and others, had received rewards from the public. Mr. Crompton, the inventor of the spinning mule, had only received 5,000l. for his invention, and he thought that 7,000l. was sufficient for the improvers of a patent. If his noble Friend thought it insufficient, he had it in his power to propose to the House to address the Crown to grant a further reward. As for himself he was not at present prepared to go further. If there were persons who had derived such great benefit from this invention, it was not very generous in them to press upon the public, instead of making some remuneration themselves to these gentlemen from whose labours they had derived such advantages.

Mr. Baines

said that the revenue had derived a benefit of 20,000l. from this invention, and therefore the Messrs. Fourdrinier had a claim upon the Government at least for the amount of one year's saving, as they had expended their fortune in bringing this invention to perfection, and had ruined themselves in consequence.

Mr. Godson

said, the Government offices alone saved a sum of 60.000l by the invention of Messrs. Fourdrinier, and he thought the remuneration of 10,000l. was by no means too large; in fact, they should receive at the very least 20,000l. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would postpone the vote in order to its being brought forward on a future occasion in an enlarged form.

Mr. Gally Knight

said, these gentlemen had been ruined by the use of the word "machine," for "machines," the singular for the plural, in their patent, and after the forbearance exercised by the House on a former occasion, in not pressing a motion in their favour, he had hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have complied with the general wish.

Mr. George William Wood

supported an increased vote, on the grounds of the benefit afforded to the public in general.

Mr. Finch

said, that the doctrine laid down by the hon. Gentleman would extend remuneration to every person who had conferred any benefit on the public by any invention. And if the vote were placed on the ground of the saving to the Government, he thought that a vote ought, upon the same ground, to be given to those who had brought the steam-engine to perfection.

Vote agreed to.