§ On the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill,
§ MR. M. GIBSON
said, he would take the liberty of suggesting that it would not be wise to commit the House of Commons to the principle of this measure under existing circumstances. A Committee had been appointed, of which the hon. Member for Inverness was chairman, and they had directed their attention to railway matters; therefore until the House was in possession of the evidence taken before that Committee, and the Committee had made a report to the House, it would, he thought, be premature in the House to commit itself to the principle of this Bill. If the hon. Gentleman who had charge of it would consent to a postponement, it would not be necessary to go into the merits. Persons who were well acquainted with the subject had come to a conclusion that it was a measure which should not be allowed to pass under any circumstances. It contained difficult questions, and several provisions which many railway companies would not be able to comply with, not having contemplated such matters when they obtained their Acts of Parliament. The object of the hon. Member was, he believed, by the application of forcing powers to extinguish companies of an inferior description, but not to allow parties to escape from their engagements. He did not know whether hon. Gentlemen were aware of the precise objects of his hon. Friend, who wished, by limiting the time within which capital should be paid up, and limiting also the time within which the registration of shareholders should take place, to force companies to make their calls, and register their shareholders, and thus extinguish those companies which were not strong enough to bear his forcing process. Under all these circumstances he hoped the House would pause before they agreed to the second reading of this measure. If the hon. Member pressed his Motion, he must, as an amendment, move the previous question.
§ MR. HASTIE
said, his object was to prevent gambling, and if this Bill were allowed to pass he believed it would do much good by opening the market to real bonâ fide undertakings. To show the necessity of compelling companies to complete registration, 1365 he would mention three of the schemes which kept scrip hanging over the market to a very large extent. A Bill had passed the House for making a railway from London to York. That company had issued scrip to the amount of five millions and a half. The Direct Northern Company, which proposed to go the same way, had issued scrip to the amount of five millions; and the Eastern Counties Company had a scheme for going the same way, upon which they had issued four millions of scrip, all of which was kept floating in and greatly disturbing the money market.
§ MR. HAYTER
observed, that the House seemed to suppose that the Bill related solely to railway companies; now, it referred equally to joint-stock companies. [Mr. HASTIE: That objection might be obviated in Committee.] He took the Bill as he found it; and he perceived that it required all the capital to be subscribed within two months, and perfect registration to take place within three months; and if the Bill were to pass, and those regulations were not complied with, the result would be, that any Railway Act, belonging to any company that could be convicted of non-compliance with the provisions of this Bill, would cease to be law. Any shareholder would thus be invested with the power of repealing the Act. He objected to such a power as dangerous and unconstitutional. The Bill proceeded on the assumption that the shareholders were the only parties interested in a given railway; but it should be remembered that the public also were interested; and he objected to the Bill on this further ground, that it had the effect of ex post facto legislation.
§ MR. HUDSON
differed from the hon. Member who last spoke. He was not prepared to say that the Bill in its present shape was the best possible measure; but he thought that in Committee they might so amend it as to obviate any reasonable objection. He thought that they ought to consider the Bill; for it was the duty of Parliament to apply some remedy to the great evils which prevailed.
§ Bill withdrawn.