§ SIR H. W. BARRON
said, he wished to put a question to the right hon. Baronet. Several of the Irish railway companies had, he believed, made applications to Government for pecuniary advances, to enable them to proceed with their works, on the ground that their Acts of Parliament prevented them from making calls upon their shareholders, except at certain intervals and at long periods. Some of the companies, especially those whose lines would pass through the most distressed districts, had pressed upon the Government the necessity of advancing them a portion of the capital they were empowered to raise, in anticipation of their calls, on proper security being given, and subject to the payment of interest. He wished to ask, whether the Government were prepared to make any such advances to these companies to enable them to afford employment to the people in the distressed districts of Ireland?
§ SIR R. PEEL
was not prepared to give any general assurances as to advances for the execution of railway works in Ireland. A Board had been constituted, known as the Exchequer Bills Loan Commissioners, 8 which had the power of making advances for the execution of public works, on due security being given for repayment, and at a certain rate of interest. He conceived that any railway company desirous of obtaining a loan of money ought to apply to that Board, specifying the nature of the security they could give; and the Board had the power, if satisfied with the security, of making the advance. He was sure the hon. Baronet would see that it was impossible for him (Sir R. Peel) to give a general assurance with respect to the encouragement of all railway schemes in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman had said, that the shareholders in these companies were not prepared to come forward and pay up the calls.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
explained that what he stated was, that the companies could only call on the shareholders for the payment of calls in certain proportions, and at stated intervals, generally every three months. All the calls that had been made by Irish companies had been very punctually paid.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said, the real difficulty as to the payment of these calls in Ireland arose from the same cause which had produced similar difficulties in this country—namely, the enormous extent to which railway speculation had been carried, and the consequent effect upon the market. The House had already passed Resolutions, and the provisions of a measure were under consideration, with the object of affording facilities for winding up improvident speculations, at the discretion of the parties concerned in them. The Government must, therefore, be cautious not to counteract the effect of those Resolutions, by undertaking to make advances to railway companies. A company which had completed a certain portion of its line, and had given evidence not only of its solvency, but of the probability that the undertaking would be remunerative, would, he apprehended, have no difficulty in providing satisfactory security; but many companies were prevented from proceeding in consequence of the number of these speculations, and the inability of the shareholders to pay up the calls. He thought, therefore, that any interference in the way of advances, except under special circumstances, and with full justification, would only add to the existing difficulties. He (Sir R. Peel) could not, as he before stated, give any general assurance on this subject. He could only recommend those companies desirous of obtaining an advance of public money to apply 9 to the Exchequer Bills Loan Commissioners, specifying the nature of the security they could offer; and the Commissioners would then determine what aid could be given in each particular case.