HC Deb 08 July 1845 vol 82 cc138-40
Mr. Warburton

moved that the Order of the Day be read for the consideration of the petition of Captain Craven Berkeley relative to the East India Steam Ship Company Bill, and the action brought against him by Mr. Scott. The hon. Member presented the petition from the gallant Captain, praying that the House would allow its officers to attend a trial, in which he was defendant, in the Court of Common Pleas, and moved that the prayer of the petition be complied with.

Mr. Baine

was understood to say that he had been requested by Messrs. Scott, the plaintiffs in the action to which the petition referred, to state to the House the facts of this case. In 1840 Messrs. Scott had entered into a contract with the company in question to furnish them with a ship for India, at an expense of 35,000l. The manner in which the ship was built increased the expense to 40,000l. Messrs. Scott, in entering upon this contract, had had before them the prospectus of this company, containing the name of the hon. Member for Cheltenham. That prospectus had been extensively circulated, with the name of the hon. Member in it. In addition to this they had had before them an Act of Parliament authorizing the formation of the company, and also including amongst its original subscribers the name of the hon. and gallant Member. They had all along, therefore, thought that they might come upon him as a partner in the contract, if the other contractors failed to perform their part of their contract. The contract had not been fulfilled, and the Messrs. Scott had lost 50,000l. by it. Under these circumstances they had brought an action against the Secretary of the Company, and had got judgment against him. They had since brought an action against the hon. and gallant Member for Cheltenham, as the only director within their reach. On the former trial, the evidence of the officers of the House had been requested, but the House had thought fit to refuse it. The defendant now, however, said, that their absence would be prejudicial to his cause. He did not know how this might be; but whether so or not, Messrs. Scott had no desire that the evidence of the officers should be withheld.

Lord G. Somerset

said, when the petition was presented the other night, he was opposed to it, only because he thought that what was sought to be proved could be proved by other means than the attendance of the officers of the House. As the hon. Member for Cheltenham, however, feared that the withholding these witnesses might prejudice his case, he saw no reason why the House should not alter its decision.

Mr. C. Berkeley

said, he was now, as he had been when the petition of the plaintiffs was presented, only anxious for the fullest inquiry. He desired the attendance of the parties in question, only because he thought that the plaintiffs' counsel would be able to prejudice the case in the eyes of the jury, if the powerful shield of that House appeared to be thrown over one of its Members. With regard to the case itself, he could assure the House that he was no more conscious of his name having been inserted in the Act of Parliament as a director of the company, than any other hon. Member of that House. As the question was now a judicial one, he would, however, add no more upon it.

Sir R. Inglis

took the opportunity of suggesting that it would be desirable to make an addition to the Standing Or- ders, that no Company proposing to include, in the act of its incorporation, a list of the directors, should be permitted to do so, till the Standing Orders' Committee should have received a list of such directors. And no Company should be permitted to use the name of any director, unless such director should have given his written consent, which should be registered in a book accessible to all the world. This was an act of a public nature, that was to say, it might be pleaded as a public act; and if all men were bound to know the laws, more especially were they bound to know the laws who had a voice in passing them; therefore they ought to know what names were inserted in every Bill.

Motion agreed to.