HC Deb 24 July 1846 vol 87 cc1417-32

On the Question, that the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Supply, be read,


moved, as an Amendment, for a Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances connected with the granting of the present contract for the conveyance of the mails from England to Halifax and Boston, and also into the circumstances connected with the granting of any new, or the extension of the existing contract for the same purpose. The hon. Member said it was impossible that the country should be satisfied with the contracts made with the Cunard line. The performances of the Great Western and Great Britain steam ships were well known, and it was important to the mercantile community that they should still run. Yet, although the Government had been in the habit of receiving letters and despatches by these vessels, the company to which they belonged had never received a farthing for the service. It was in his opinion of the greatest consequence that competition should be encouraged, and that the most ample opportunities of communication should be afforded between Liverpool and the United States. The effect of competition had been to reduce the passage-money between this country and North America from 40l. to 30l., and 25l.; but he would venture to say, that if the Great Western Company's ships were now withdrawn, the passage-money would be at once raised to 40l. The pub- lic interests demanded an investigation into this case; for the public had a right to know why so large a sum of money was expended on an undertaking which was not open to public competition. He considered that it was most unjustifiable to add payments of 10,000l. or 5,000l. to the original contract, without acquainting the public with the reason for such augmentation. He maintained that an inquiry ought to be instituted into the actual expense of this communication, in order that, when the existing contract expired, the Government might have some data upon which to proceed in making future arrangements. He would venture to assert that the Great Western Company would continue the communication at an outlay much below that which was now incurred by the country; that company was ready to undertake the contract for a much less sum than was now paid; and he therefore called upon the House to assent to his Motion for a Committee of Inquiry on the subject.


, in rising to second the Motion, assured his hon. Friend that he had great pleasure in at length being enabled to stand side by side with him in manful opposition against monopoly. From hon. Gentlemen opposite (the late Ministers), he knew he ought to receive support, for they had proved themselves stout anti-monopolists; and of all species of monopoly none appeared to him so objectionable, or so detrimental to the public interests, as monopolies in contracts. He considered that the present system of requiring tenders in cases of this kind was a most fictitious and illusory system; and he was the more inclined to think that there was something bad and rotten in that system, from the circumstance that the Great Western Steam Company had been excluded from all these contracts. He must claim the indulgence of the House, if, as the representative of the city of Bristol, he supported the Motion of his hon. Friend with some warmth, for he felt that great injustice had been done to a company whose schemes had been carried out with great spirit, and which deserved as well of the country as any company in the kingdom. He would venture to say, indeed, that no other company in the kingdom had carried out works equal in magnitude and importance to those effected by the Great Western Steam Company. That company was established in 1838; and if they had reason to be proud of the Great Western Railway, they had equal reason to be proud of the magnificent terminus to that railway which had been created to continue the communication to America, viz., the Great Western steam ship. That vessel performed the voyage to America, and solved the important problem whether the difficulties of navigating the Atlantic were to be overcome by the power of steam. The Great Western Company was the first company to build steam vessels of the magnitude which, it was now admitted, was necessary for steamers intended to undertake long voyages. Indeed, all the improvements which had taken place in Her Majesty's navy, and in the commercial marine, with reference to steam ships, were attributable to the example set by this company, which was the first to build steam vessels of sufficient magnitude to cope with the turbulence of the Atlantic. The company followed up their first step by building, on the novel principle of the screw, the largest steam ship in the world, the Great Britain. That vessel was deemed almost a national undertaking; she was visited by persons, not only from every part of England, but from many parts of Europe. Her launch was deemed by his Royal Highness Prince Albert an occasion worthy of his attendance; and Her Majesty the Queen visited this grand specimen of naval architecture on her arrival in the Thames. At the time of the Canadian outbreak, when the speedy conveyance of despatches was of the utmost importance, the first intelligence of the disturbances was brought by the Great Western; and the celerity with which that vessel performed the voyages out and home, was most advantageous to Her Majesty's Government, by enabling them to keep up a constant and rapid communication with the colonial Government. He might observe, also, that the Great Western was the vessel which brought the earliest intelligence of the suppression of the outbreak; and what was the last performance of that noble vessel? When the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Treasury came down to that House, and, on resigning office, made the proud declaration that the Government had concluded a Treaty with the United States on the Oregon question, he was enabled to make that statement in consequence of the celerity with which the despatches of our Minister in the States were conveyed to this country by the Great Western. The Great Britain, the sister vessel to the Great West- ern, also brought home the earliest news of the ratification of that Treaty. It appeared to him that a parallel might be drawn between the fate of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) and that of these splendid vessels—both one and the other were discarded at the very time when they had proved themselves most useful to the country. Hon. Gentlemen would probably remember that it had been stated, that in an interview which took place between the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and a deputation who waited upon him, that right hon. Gentleman declared that the Government had been compelled by the terms of the original contract to give all future contracts for the North American mails to Mr. Cunard. [Mr. GOULBURN: No, no!] Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman had inferred as much. He defied that right hon. Gentleman to show, from any Papers laid before the House, that such an engagement existed, unless it had been made in the last contract—that of 1846. New York was not mentioned in any of the former contracts; but it now appeared that by some conceived understanding — for there was nothing on the face of the Papers to prove such an understanding—Mr. Cunard, who had the Boston and Halifax contract, claimed a right to the contract for the whole of North America—that was, from Boston to Louisiana and Alabama. He considered this a most monstrous case. He maintained, that contracts of this kind ought not to be given away without competition, to the exclusion of a company which had at least as strong claims as any other upon the country. Tenders should be demanded to encourage a fair spirit of emulation, and contracts given without favour to those who would do the work on the most reasonable terms. Without saying one word which could be offensive to Mr. Cunard, or which could reflect on the mode in which that gentleman executed his contract, he must protest against contracts of this kind being made in such a hole-and-corner manner as seemed to have been the case in this instance. He considered that his hon. Friend was fully entitled to ask for the appointment of a Committee to investigate the subject; and he was persuaded that before such a Committee much light would be thrown upon the mode in which these contracts had been made and carried out, which would be advantageous not only to the company whose interests he supported, but to the public.


said, as the contract with Mr. Cunard had been entered into under his advice while he held a responsible situation under the Crown, he thought it right to state the circumstances of the case, and he would then leave the House to decide what course they might think proper to adopt. In order that the House might clearly understand the subject, it would be necessary for him to state the whole of the proceedings with respect to the conveyance of the mails to North America. He should feel great regret if injury had incidentally been done to the Great Western Steam Company, or to any other company engaged in the traffic with North America by any public transaction; but he was satisfied, if the House would attend to the statement he was about to make, they would be convinced that such an arrangement had been effected as had been considered decidedly most advantageous for the public interests. They would admit, that that arrangement had not violated the just rights of any individuals, and that if individuals had sustained injury, it was in consequence of an arrangement which was indispensably necessary for the proper conduct of the public service. In the year 1838, it was judged advisable to attempt to establish a communication by steam for the conveyance of the mails across the Atlantic, and a general tender was then publicly advertised, calling upon any parties who might be inclined to undertake the service to send in tenders for its execution. The service to which he referred was the conveyance of mails between England, Halifax, and Nova Scotia, and between England, Halifax, and Now York. In reply to that advertisement, two propositions only were made—one by the Great Western Company, and the other by the St. George's Company. The details of those tenders were given in the Papers which had been laid before the House; and the House would observe, that neither tender fulfilled the conditions advertised. Neither of those companies was prepared to execute the service with vessels of the size and strength, or with engines of the power required by the Board of Admiralty. Those tenders, therefore, fell to the ground, and there was an end of any arrangement in that case. Shortly after that period Mr. Cunard, a spirited inhabitant of one of the North American Colonies, came forward, and made a proposition to the Government to supply three vessels of 300 horse-power each, for the purpose of conveying the mails once a fortnight to Halifax and Boston, and also up the St. Lawrence, for 55,000l. a year, a sum somewhat below that required by one of the companies which had formerly tendered. It was found, on considering the subject, that three vessels of that particular size and strength would not be adequate to the proper fulfilment of the required duty; and, therefore, an alteration was made in the first contract by a second contract, under which Mr. Cunard was to provide four vessels of 300 horse-power each, and a corresponding augmentation was to be made in the payment. At a later period, however, the difficulties of navigation during the winter were judged to be so great, that Mr. Cunard said he feared vessels of 300 horse-power would not be adequate to the safe conveyance of the mails across the Atlantic; and he made a proposal to the Government, which they agreed to, that instead of four vessels of 300 horsepower each, five vessels of 400 horsepower should be employed. The Government annexed to that contract the condition that the vessels should be so built that, in the event of a war, they would be capable of carrying guns of the heaviest calibre, and of being employed against a hostile Power. In consideration of this augmentation in the number and power of the vessels, an increase was made in the payment to Mr. Cunard, and it was determined that he should receive 80,000l. for twenty voyages to be annually performed by vessels of the description agreed upon. Mr. Cunard's accounts for the former contract had previously been submitted to the Admiralty, that they might be enabled to form an accurate estimate of the proper charges for the service he had undertaken; they were examined most minutely by a most faithful and efficient public servant, the Accountant General of the Navy, and the additional payment made to Mr. Cunard, in consequence of the augmentation he had mentioned, was founded upon the report of the accountant. A condition was inserted in the contract which he would read to the House. The right hon. Gentleman read the conditions under which Mr. Cunard covenanted, that on receiving nine calendar months' notice in writing from the Board of Admiralty, or such shorter notice as might be agreed upon, he would provide and constantly employ in convoying the mails, from the date of the expiration of such notice and subsequently, such an additional number of similar vessels as in the opinion of the Admi- ralty would be sufficient to perform twice the number of voyages to, from, and between all the ports of embarkation and delivery of the mails, or to such other places and ports as the Board of Admiralty might appoint. The contract of 1841 stipulated not only for the conveyance of the mails twenty times in a year, but gave the Admiralty a power of calling upon Mr. Cunard at nine months' notice, or less, to provide the vessels necessary for the conveyance of the mails double the number of times specified in the original agreement, for a payment equal to that which he received under the former agreement; and thus, from 1841, Mr. Cunard stood in this situation, that he was engaged by the Government to carry the mails to North America twenty times in the year thenceforward, and as much oftener (not exceeding double that number) as the Government might require, during the period of the contract. Afterwards, upon a statement made in that House, the House consented to make an addition of 10,000l. a year to the contract, in consequence of a fifth vessel being applied to this service by Mr. Cunard, who, upon an examination of the accounts, had proved the deficiency of the former allotment; but the Government subsequently withdrew from that a sum of 5,000l., in consequence of the withdrawal of Mr. Cunard's obligation to keep up a certain number of vessels for the service in the St. Lawrence. Before the year in which the contract complained of was entered into a discussion arose as to the best mode of conveying the mails to the North American Colonies; and in 1845, be (Mr. Goulburn) believed, an arrangement was made with the American Government, which had been for some time under consideration, for conveying across the United States, in closed boxes, the mails which were to go to our Colonies there; and under that arrangement it became advisable that the mails should be taken by New York, instead of by Boston. A great pressure also was made upon the Government to double the number of communications between this country and North America; and under these circumstances, looking to the previous contract with Mr. Cunard, in which he was under engagement, when required, to go double the number of voyages, the Government entered into correspondence with him for the purpose of establishing that weekly communication with our Colonies there during the summer months, and fortnightly during the winter, which would give forty-four communications in the year. It was upon that contract that the present question had arisen. Many circumstances made it most important that these repeated communications should take place. The former expenditure under the contract had, in fact, been no expenditure to the public; for, by means of Mr. Cunard's regularity and industry, the postage received upon the letters to and from the North American Colonies, more than defrayed the 90,000l. a year payable to him; it was a gain to the public, notwithstanding the extent of the payment—a gain principally caused by his insuring what no other contractor had ever then, or even up to the present moment achieved—a regularity of steam communication across the Atlantic, not merely during the five months when the voyages were more easy and certain, but during the winter months. The Great Western Company had studiously avoided sending their vessels across the Atlantic during those months which every one knew to be most difficult and dangerous, and in which principally the risk of any undertaking to cross the Atlantic existed. It was the duty of the Government to take care that the public were served on the best possible terms, and they did not propose to Mr. Cunard to give him to the full extent to which he might have been entitled by doubling the number of voyages; but they reduced the amount, so that instead of 180,000l., to which he would have been entitled under the contract of 1841, they gave him 145,000l. for forty-four voyages; and in order that the Government might transmit the mails with most convenience to all parties interested in the regular conveyance and delivery of letters, they allowed him to make alternate voyages to Halifax and New York, subject to a power in the Government, in case of necessity, to divert him to the one point or the other; and, having established a communication across the United States, by New York, it would have been idle indeed to establish a mail that did not alternately embrace both these. The hon. Member had stated, that the payment to Mr. Cunard was 4,500l. a voyage. [Mr. P. MILES: I stated that it had been that amount.] But if the hon. Member would look at the figures, he would find that it was 3,290l., in fact. It was proposed in the other tenders that the payment should be in the one case, 3,750l., and in the other 4,500l.; and therefore, upon the question of economy, Mr. Cunard had a superiority over every other offer. But Mr. Cunard had from the commencement of his contract executed it with a fidelity and regularity which, considering all the difficulties of his position, were indeed most extraordinary: during the whole period, the winter months as well as the summer, he had fulfilled his contract with a regularity not to be exceeded by any mode of conveyance unattended with difficulty in any part of the world. Mr. Cunard having thus proved to all what no other company had ever yet proved—that it was possible to maintain this communication regularly during the winter; and having, therefore, a claim upon the public, that if the letters were to be conveyed twice as often, he should have the carrying of them, there did not appear to him (Mr. Goulburn), looking to the best mode of conducting the public service, to be room for hesitation in giving to Mr. Cunard the additional contract, offering as he did lower terms than any previously offered; and under that gentleman's able management and administration, he had little doubt that the increased amount of postage which would flow to the public from these additional communications, would more than compensate for the additional payment which was to be made. But the hon. Member complained that the Great Western Company was not included in the arrangement, and that the Government did not maintain two separate lines across the Atlantic for carrying the North American mails. Why, what must necessarily have been the effect of that? Was it not obvious that the employment of two companies for accomplishing the same object would have been more expensive to the public, and probably less effective, even supposing them both able to face the difficulties of the undertaking? But the Great Western Company had never attempted to cross the Atlantic during the winter months. The latest period when they ever sailed from any port was November the 6th, and the earliest date at which they commenced their voyages was in April; from November to April that company had made no attempt to face the difficulties of navigation through the ice. These difficulties were never faced by any one but Mr. Cunard; and therefore, having overcome them, he was fairly entitled to a preference, and had, under the terms of his agreement, a claim to the first offer of an additional contract of this description. Nor let the House he deluded by supposing that the Great Western Company were thereby deprived of the opportunity of making the profits in this traffic upon which they had calculated. There was an American company on foot for establishing, from New York to certain ports in Europe, a communication by large steam vessels calculated to run with the British vessels employed upon that and other North American stations; the profits of the Great Western Company would necessarily have been affected by that, and the whole communication with America might have been materially injured if there had been a divided contract. The terms awarded to Mr. Cunard, however, were, in comparison with those of the new company, favourable to the public. But he (Mr. Goulburn) did not believe that this competition would prove injurious to the companies embarked in it. The effect of increased facility of communication was not that the number of passengers remained stationary. The additional regularity, the power of going any fortnight during the winter across the Atlantic with a moral certainty of safety, must be to increase the number of those who travelled; and the Great Western Company would find that the introduction of another competitor into the line carrying the mails, would not diminish their profits more than temporarily, but would rather give an additional incitement to a constant traffic with America, and enable them in the months during which alone they crossed the Atlantic to obtain a share of the additional traffic which must take place in the summer months. One other point must be mentioned. By the terms of the contract with Mr. Cunard, and by the power under it of diverting the course of the vessels to the ports of the North American Colonics, provision was made for the efficiency of the system during war as well as in peace; and though certainly there was no apprehension of any hostilities taking place to interfere with the peaceable transmission of letters, yet this was an advantage not to be overlooked in entering into a public contract. Such were the facts of this case. Mr. Cunard was not backed by any powerful influence in that House. He was a native of one of our North American Colonies; and it would have been much to be regretted, if, in deference to interests in this country, any unfairness or injury had been done to him, after executing this service with a regularity which had excited the ad- migration of every one, and showing in all communications had with him, a spirit of fairness and liberality highly honourable to him.


hoped it would be an instruction to the Committee to consider whether it would not be preferable to have the packets to Halifax start from the western coast of Ireland—the nearest point to America.


felt a strong impression of the excellence of the arrangement sanctioned by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he had overlooked one strong point in the case. It had been stated, and not denied, that this contract was signed by the late Government two days after they had tendered their resignations, and while only holding office until their successors were appointed; and yet, previous to these resignations, this arrangement, which was known to be in contemplation, had been discussed and disputed in the House, and the Government were asked whether they would undertake that this contract should not be signed until certain Papers then moved for had been laid on the Table. The answer to that question, he believed, was deferred to a subsequent day. It seemed now that the Great Western Company also went to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and asked from him an assurance that the contract should not be signed till the House and the public were in possession of further information, and that the noble Lord gave that assurance. This being unexplained, there ought to be a Committee to inquire into the circumstances under which the contract was signed.


said, that he stated distinctly, on the question being put to him, that whether the contract was signed or not, it had been substantially made before he was asked the question, and only required the mere formality of signing to be complete.


said, that the consequence of entering into this contract was, that it was utterly impossible for the Great Western and Great Britain steam ships to run in competition with the Government packets; because the sum paid to the Government packets was so large, that the others, from the want of similar aid, could not keep on the line, and thus the advantage gained by the manufacturing districts from competition in the lowering of the rate of freights was lost. The right hon. Gentleman said that Mr. Cunard's ships crossed the Atlantic during the winter months; but the reason of that was that he was well paid for so doing, and the others could not do the same, because they were not paid. Paying one set of packets a large sum for carrying the mails destroyed competition; and the fair way would be to offer others a share in carrying the mails. This might be done without additional expense, as the different companies might carry the mail alternately. There was not the least accusation against Mr. Cunard for the manner in which he carried out his contract; for he had performed it with great punctuality; but that was no reason why the country should be deprived of the benefit of competition. The whole of this contract had been entered into otherwise than by public tender; and he thought that all Government contracts should be made by public tender. The Government had advertised for tenders for carrying the mails to Boston and Halifax; and two tenders were sent in, neither of which came within the terms of the advertisement. The terms were then altered; but the Government concluded the contract without offering those terms to the public. He thought that a case was made out for granting a Committee of Inquiry.


thought the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) to the question of the right hon. Member of Weymouth, as to the signing of the contract, was satisfactory; but under all the circumstances of the case, he should feel bound to vote for a Parliamentary inquiry, in order that the public might be satisfied that the Government had done the best for the general interests.


did not wish to express any decided opinion, because he was not in possession of sufficient information. He saw the difficulty in which the Government had been placed; and when they entered into a contract for the safety and security of the transmission of letters across the Atlantic by steam communication, they wisely and properly took care to err on the right side, and to choose vessels of proper power and size. Hence arose the first difficulty. A modification of the provisional arrangements, he understood, took place; but there appeared only one party able to conform to the rules and suggestions of the Government, and the contract was accordingly placed in the hands of that individual. He believed that Mr. Cunard had performed his duty to the letter, and the commer- cial interests were greatly indebted to him for the accurate and safe manner in which that duty had been discharged. It was obvious, however, that any other individual was deprived of the power of performing the same duty unless similar advantages were granted him. This, then, did give to the transaction a certain aspect of monopoly, though he was aware that the contract must be given to one individual; for he differed from the hon. Member for Birmingham, who thought that the contract ought to be divided. He was anxious that this Committee should be granted, in order that the commercial interests should feel assured that they had been properly attended to; but he did not mean to let fall one word against the perfect good faith with which Mr. Cunard had carried out the contract.


sincerely hoped that no objection would be made to the appointment of this Committee. He should decidedly vote for inquiry. The Treasury gave this contract to Mr. Cunard, not only because they felt that he, a person without any interest whatever, had strong claims on the Treasury for rendering important public service, but also because they thought that at the period at which the original contract was entered into, engagements were formed which entitled Mr. Cunard to this indulgence. It was said that the contract was signed after the resignation of the late Ministers had been tendered; but it must be borne in mind that they had all the power to conduct the public business, and, the contract being made, there was an obligation in honour to sign it. He was perfectly confident that the Government succeeding the late Government would, had the contract been left unsigned, have signed it, under the impression that the public faith was pledged thereto. It was a mere formality whether the late or the present Lords of the Treasury executed the deed; but it would have been a shabby act in the late Government to shrink from the responsibility of signing the contract, leaving that duty to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who might be unaware of all the circumstances which had previously taken place. Even supposing that there had been an error, he was sure that that House would respect public faith, and take care that Mr. Cunard should not be a sufferer; and of this he was perfectly certain, that if in any case any sort of question should arise out of a public contract, it was the duty of the department making that contract to facilitate inquiry, Feeling, therefore, that the interests of Mr. Cunard would be protected, he claimed inquiry on the part of the Treasury. He hoped, therefore, that there would be no opposition to the appointment of the Committee, and at any rate, he would give his vote most cordially in favour of its appointment.


was understood to say that he had no hesitation in speaking to the propriety of the contract in question. The hon. Members for Bristol and Birmingham had said that all contracts should be made by public tender. On the whole that was the right principle; but it could not be adopted universally, and it sometimes happened that the Government was obliged to return to the system of private arrangement. When the first attempt was made to establish steam communication with our North American Colonies, independent of the United States, the Government called for tenders for carrying the mails to Halifax. At that time the only steamboat likely to run acros the Atlantic was the Great Western, and that ran to New York, and then the words "New York" were put in the advertisement tenders, for the purpose of not excluding the Great Western. But the answers to the advertisement were not such as the Government felt justified in accepting. Very soon afterwards Mr. Cunard, who was perfectly well known as engaged for a considerable time in public affairs connected with Nova Scotia, came to Mr. Baring, and to him, he being then Secretary to the Admiralty, stated his desire, for the sake of the Colony in which he was interested, to undertake the communication; and he thought it not only important to connect the Colony with this country by steam communication, conducted by the most active person in the Colony, but he also thought that the offer of Mr. Cunard was a very advantageeus offer for the public, infinitely more advantageous than the other tenders received. The most advantageous previously received was for 45,000l. a year for a monthly communication; but Mr. Cunard tendered for 55,000l. for a fortnightly communication; and subsequently a further sum of 5,000l. was given for the addition of a communication up the St. Lawrence to Quebec, making the whole amount of the contract 60,000l., including the communication with Quebec. That was better than any other tender, and was the most beneficial bargain that could then be made for the public. It was to some extent experimental; because the only steam vessels that had then crossed the Atlantic were the Syrius and the Great Western. There was however, great difficulty in keeping up the communication in the winter months, on account of the weather and the ice; and a relaxation of the contract was allowed on that account, and instead of the vessels being obliged to go once a fortnight all the year round, in the winter it was permitted that they should go only once a month, that was to say, they went once a month for four months in the year, and twice a month for the other eight months. Mr. Cunard had performed the service he had undertaken most creditably to himself, and also with the greatest advantage and profit to the public. It was, he believed, the only line of communication with distant countries where the postage on letters more than defrayed the expense. He certainly thought Mr. Cunard had a fair claim to the contract, which was an exceedingly beneficial one to the country, the rate of carrying being 460l. per voyage lower than the lowest tender that could be got when first put up. He had not the remotest wish to throw any reflection upon the Great Western Company. That company, he thought, deserved well of the public for sending at their own cost large vessels across the Atlantic; and whatever might be the result of the present question, he should be sorry that any injury should be done to that company. Nevertheless, this was not to prevent Government making the best bargain for the public. It was not the duty of Government to consider whether one company or another was entitled to obtain the contract, but what was the best arrangement for the public service; and he believed that the arrangement made was decidedly the best. As to the time at which the contract was signed, it was in reality all arranged before the resignation of the late Government was settled; and whether it was signed two days before or two days after that resignation, was really a matter of no moment. Most undoubtedly, if he had found the contract arranged by the late Government, and not signed, he should have considered it his duty to sign it. It had been stated by the hon. Member for Bristol that a deputation had waited upon the noble Lord at the head of the Government, requesting that if the contract was not signed it should not be so till an inquiry took place. The noble Lord at that time did not know the fact that the contract had been signed, and agreed to the request of the deputation. If the gentlemen, however, had waited upon him, he could have told them that, at the time they asked for delay and inquiry, the contract had been already signed. He was satisfied with the whole transactions; but he would be the last person to object to the fullest inquiry being made, and he believed that any Committee of that House could not but come to one conclusion—that the public had throughout obtained the benefit of the best arrangement that could have been made. He was quite ready to go into Committee on the question, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman would allow this to be done at once.


said, he would now withdraw his Motion, on the understanding, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman, that the Committee would be granted.

Motion by leave, withdrawn.