HC Deb 15 August 1843 vol 71 cc741-4

On the question that the Order of the Day be read for the House to resolve itself into a committee on the affidavit, &c. Commissioners (Scotland and Ireland) Bill.

Mr. Ross

called the attention of the House to the Croal contract, and complained that Mr. Croal had himself departed from his first contract, which superseded Mr. Purcell, and therefore the whole contract ought to be re-opened and left to fair competition. He declared that Lord Lowther's proceedings were not characterised by that straightforward dealing which he might expect from that noble Lord. On the contrary, he thought the noble Lord's conduct partook of the nature of juggling. He had understood, both from Lord Lowther and other Members of the Government, that if Mr. Croat were not ready with his new coaches, Mr. Croal should lose the contract. That understanding was not carried out; and though Mr. Croat had put old coaches on the road, the noble Lord had not fulfilled his implied promises. This was what he complained of. Mr. Croal had received permission to keep old coaches on the by-roads for three months. The three months were elapsed, and the old coaches were not removed; Mr. Croal might now set the Government at defiance, for there was no power in the law to enforce his contract, land the old coaches were to be kept on the road, endangering the lives of her Majesty's subjects. But if this contract were not enforced, there was no reason whatever why any contract should be, or could be enforced. There had been most unjustifiable truckling on the part of the Government to Mr. Croal. The worst part of the matter was, the partiality evinced, which might operate most extensively and unfavourably on the feelings of the Irish. The hon. Member entered into a long history of the transaction, and quoted a great number of details to prove that Mr. Croal had not completed his contract, and that Mr. Parcell had been most unjustly dealt with, while a great injustice had been done to the public by providing imperfect carriages. He would leave at present the House to decide between Lord Lowther, Mr. Parcell, and the public.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that he never heard so much said on so small a foundation. The Government had only one object in view, that of making the best terms for the public. If every disappointed candidate for a contract were to have such eloquent advocates as the hon. Gentleman to bring his case before the House, the Government must give up contracts altogether, for it would lead to a waste of time quite unbearable. The Post-office had done in this case as it was bound to do, accepted the lowest terms which were offered, which were one-third lower than Mr. Purcell's offer. He admitted that some accident, such as the illness of a person in the Post-office department, had prevented all the terms of the contract from being fulfilled. It was not a violation of the contract, however, to keep these coaches on the road, as the hon. Gentleman contended; it was only necessary that the coaches supplied should be supplied agreeably to the pattern, and should be fit for the service. The case was the same in all contracts; and if the contracter did not fulfil the terms the contract was not dissolved, but the parties were prosecuted for the penalties they had incurred by not fulfilling the contract. The hon. Gentleman's representation of Lord Lowther's conduct was most unfair, particularly as Lord Lowther and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had endeavoured to promote a beneficial arrangement between Mr. Purcell and Mr. Croal. The delay of which the hon. Gentleman complained was, in fact, caused by a hope, on the part of Lord Lowther, that these two parties would enter into a mutual arrangement. With respect to the coaches supplied, the proper officers had fully approved of them. Mr. Purcell himself, in 1837, when he entered into the contract, had kept old coaches on the road, and had the Ministers deprived Mr. Croal of a similar advantage the Government would have been liable to Just reprehension. He totally denied that any national feeling had operated in the case, and declared that the only duty of the Government was to take the most beneficial terms which were offered for the public, which it had done. He warned Gentlemen who approved of the contract system, how they encouraged individuals to bring complaints before that House, because the terms they offered were not accepted.

Mr. Williams

said, that the complaint was that the contract had been abused, which the right hon. Gentleman had not answered. He approved of the principle of entering into contracts, but in this case the terms of the contract had been violated. The economy talked o twas erroneous, for the Government would gain 2,000l. a-year by the coaches, and would lose 5,000l. a-year by horsing them.

Mr. W. O'Brien

said, that Mr. Purcell having served the public well, should have had at least fair play, but he had not had fair play. The impression in Ireland was that the contract had not been fairly given, and that Mr. Purcell had lost the contract less by his terms being not so favourable as those of Mr. Croal, than by the mode of conducting the contract.

The Order of the Day was read, and the House went into committee on the Affidavits, &c., (Scotland and Ireland) bill, which passed through the committee with amendments.

The House resumed.

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