HC Deb 08 April 1846 vol 85 cc700-2

On the Motion for going into a Committee of Supply,


said, he would take the opportunity of calling the attention of the First Lord of the Treasury to an important point upon which it was desirable the House should know the intentions of the Government before it separated. He referred to the proceedings about to be taken with respect to the railway business of the country, in conformity with the announcement of the right hon. Baronet on Monday night. The House was going to separate without a Bill being introduced into Parliament, and parties who might wish to take advantage of the facilities proposed to be given them, and to withdraw from railway schemes, ought to know during the recess what course they ought to take. But, unless directions were given to them, they would be at a loss to know how to proceed, and the in- terval between the present time and the 27th of this month, on which the Committee, he believed, resumed their sittings—not a long period,—would be lost. He was not sure how the difficulty could be best met, nor did he urge the right hon. Gentleman, if he had not considered the subject, to give a definite answer to his question; but the parties concerned would be glad to hear that the Government would give their serious consideration to the subject, and take such steps as appeared to them expedient.


I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for calling the attention of the House and the Government to this important subject. I assure him that no time will be lost by the Board of Trade in considering the legislative measure necessary to give effect to the general views which I stated to the House the day before yesterday. Any law connected with the law of partnership must necessarily go into some nice details, and it is therefore desirable that the Bill, before it is introduced, should receive the sanction of the highest legal authorities. I may state, that in the course of yesterday some of the highest legal authorities connected with the law of property gave the subject their consideration. It is obvious that the details of such a measure are quite a different question from the general intention of the Government; and when time is so precious, and the interests concerned are so important, it would be most unwise, I think, to stand on official etiquette. I incline to think that the best course would be for the department more immediately connected with railways—the Board of Trade—to issue a circular to the heads of companies, containing not the minute details of the measure proposed by the Government, but its general principles. For instance, it would be proper to notify that the opinions of the majority of the holders of shares, that is to say, of persons holding half the shares in a company—against any further proceedings upon any Bill, would avail to prevent legislation upon it. The Board of Trade might, I repeat, notify that if the holders of half the shares, by however small a sum that is exceeded, express a wish to withdraw their Bill, the Government will advise the Legislature not to proceed upon it. I will communicate immediately with the President and the Vice-President of the Board of Trade; and I consider that if some public notification is immediately made by Government— which cannot, however, of course, be binding upon the Legislature—that would intimate to directors, and through them to the shareholders, what course the Government intended to propose on the reassembling of Parliament.

Order of the Day read, and Committee of Supply postponed.

House adjourned at half-past Three o'clock, to Friday, the 17th inst.