§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he rose to move that the Committee to inquire into the causes of the late commercial pressure and distress, should consist of twenty-six Members. There were reasons, perhaps, why he should name a smaller number; but as it was necessary to constitute a Committee of persons of different opinions, he must ask permission of the House to allow the number to be increased to twenty-six. That was the number of the Committee on the Bank Charter, &c, in 1841. He therefore proposed that the Committee should consist of the following twenty-six Members:—The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Robert Peel, Lord John Russell, Lord George Bentinck, Mr. Herries, Mr. Goulburn, Mr. Alderman Thompson, Mr. Labouchere, Sir James Graham, Mr. Francis Baring, Mr. Thomas Baring, Mr. Cob-den, Mr. Spooner, Mr. William Beckett, Mr. Cayley, Mr. Cardwell, Mr. Hudson, Mr. Hume, Mr. Ricardo, Mr. Glyn, Sir William Clay, Mr. Disraeli, Mr. Thornely, Mr. James Wilson, Mr. Home Drummond, and Mr. Tennant.
§ The question having been put,
§ MR. HUME
had hoped to have had time to show the reasons why the House ought to dispense with this Committee altogether. He believed there was not a man in the City who had seen what was passing elsewhere, who did not think that the appointment of this Committee would be a mere cloak; and as there was no chance of the Committee sitting till after the recess, he hoped the House would consent to postpone the nomination of the 1031 Committee. He thought it wrong to have more than fifteen Members to elucidate the question at issue. There was no reason to appoint the Committee—they had ample information on the subject, as had been stated by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth on a former occasion. They had had Committees in 1832 and 1836, both of which went fully into the subject. There were about 8,000 questions contained in the reports of the Committees of the last years; in 1840 and 1841 there were 6,700 questions; making between 13,000 and 14,000 questions and answers. The question itself was exhausted. The decision of a Committee would not alter the general wrong in attempting to carry on a monetary system, which system was based on the Bank carrying on its business without capital. The Bank, as the first and largest institution, was supposed to discount for other bankers and for the commercial world, when they had not a shilling to do it with—when they had nothing but credit, as dealing with deposits. This country was worse off by 250,000,000l. in the value of property than it was in the beginning of the year. All the evils which had arisen were owing to our having the Bank founded on wrong principles. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving as an Amendment that the debate be adjourned.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
begged to second the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose, with whom it certainly did not often fall to his lot to agree. This was a piece of what he would call Government deception. To have twenty-six on a Committee, the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted was an unprecedented number. Whenever this Committee should be nominated and commence its deliberations—whenever that occasion should arise—it would only show the total unfitness of Her Majesty's Government to deal with the subject. He was sorry he must include under that category his own relative. Therefore he could not be accused of being actuated by any partial feelings, for he did not spare his relative when he thought he was wrong, however honestly he might be inclined, if he were incapable of discharging the duties which he undertook. They were to adjourn on Monday next, until the 3rd of February. Why should they adjourn at all, if called at an unusual period? He said let them remain. He said that the Government was afraid to meet the difficulty. It was a packed jury that was prepared to 1032 do the business of the Government; and for himself he said that he objected to several of the six-and-twenty names.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that what he proposed was to name the Committee now; that the Committee should then meet and determine what documents should be called for; and having so determined they might be in possession of these documents when they did meet after the recess.
§ MR. EWART
observed, that the question of a free trade in banking was not then before them. The question was, what was to be done at the present moment; and this, he said, might be determined without referring to a Committee. He believed that the practical result of their inquiry would be the appointment of two additional Directors of the Bank, one of them having a seat in that House.
§ MR. FORBES
remarked, that there was a strong feeling amongst the Scotch Members that their country was not fairly treated in this matter. He wished that the Member for Glasgow should be appointed on the Committee; and, if the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were carried, he should propose that the Committee should consist of twenty-seven Members.
§ MR. HERRIES
concurred with the hon. Member for Montrose that the proposed Committee would not answer the objects for which it was professedly designed. He thought that, so far as inquiry was concerned, the subject had been exhausted by former Committees on similar subjects. It was now proposed that the Committee of Inquiry should consist of twenty-six Members. It was an unfortunate example they had selected. It was undoubtedly the Committee which had put the largest number of questions, and elicited the largest number of answers, and that was the best that could be said of it. But what did that Committee produce? There was no report—no statement—no, not an opinion. Perhaps they had not time. Well, they sat for two years. What, then, did that Committee, selected as a model for this one, in reality produce? Why a mere registry of questions and answers. It was apparently appointed, no doubt, like this, for the purpose of devising some scheme; but, if so, it proved utterly and entirely abortive. At the close of two years, he repeated, that Committee gravely proceeded to lay before the House a series of questions and answers, without offering 1033 the slightest opinion. Was the result to be the same in this instance? and was the House really prepared, after all their experience, after witnessing the results of these different Committees on banking affairs, to engage again in the same endless and unprofitable inquiry? And, above all, was the House prepared, in such an emergency as the present—without offering any opinion, without adopting any measure to relieve the public apprehension, without suggesting any course calculated to be useful, or even to allay the fears of the public mind—to launch again into the sea of inquiry? He could not avoid saying that he thought it would appear to the public as if Government and the House wished, by the appointment of this Committee, to evade the question—that they were indisposed to come to a decision upon this most important subject. Well, but it might be said that they had already agreed to go into a Committee of Inquiry: he admitted the fact; but he might add that it was not with his consent. The House could not now negative the course it had resolved upon, and therefore he supposed hon. Gentlemen opposite would say the time was past for discussion. But in his opinion, it was a very proper time for any Member to discuss the utility of such a Committee. At all events, he would not shrink from the expression of his opinion; and he avowed his conviction that the appointment of this Committee would lead to no satisfactory result. What was more, he did not think the Committee was so constituted as to give satisfaction either to the House or to the public. When he saw the various names of which a majority of that Committee was composed, he did not think there would be that confidence amongst men of different opinions as to its impartiality. Upon this latter ground he would recommend the Government to postpone the consideration of this question. He would not now have them fix upon twenty-six as the number of which the Committee should be composed, or that all the individuals nominated should remain. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had done him the honour of putting his name upon it. He begged to be excused from the difficult, onerous, and, as he believed, useless task, and would be glad to see any person more competent put in nomination. If the hon. Member for Montrose would persist in his Motion, and if the Government refused to postpone the appointment of the Com- 1034 mittee, he must say he would vote with the hon. Gentleman against the Government.
§ The House divided on the question that the debate be adjourned:—Ayes 57; Noes 146: Majority 89.
|List of the AYES.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Hildyard, R. C.|
|Arkwright, G.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Baring, T.||Lockhart, W.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Lowther, H.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||M'Naghten, Sir E.|
|Bremridge, R.||Masterman, J.|
|Broadley, H.||Morgan, O.|
|Broadwood, H.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Mure, Col.|
|Clive, Visct.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Coles, H. B.||Osborne, R.|
|Deering, J.||Pilkington, J.|
|Disraeli, B.||Renton, J. C.|
|Duff, G. S.||Reynolds, J.|
|Duncan, G.||Rufford, F.|
|Edwards, H.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Ewart, W.||Scully, F.|
|Fagan, W.||Seeley, C.|
|Ffolliott, J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Forbes, W.||Smollett, A.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Stanley, E.|
|Forster, M.||Stuart, J.|
|Greene, J.||Urquhart, D.|
|Grogan, E.||Wakley, T.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Hastie, A.||Williams, J.|
|Henley, J. W.||Hume, J.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Craig, W. G.|
|Anderson, A.||Devereux, J. T.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Drummond, H.|
|Duke, Sir J.|
|Baines, M. T.||Duncuft, J.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Dundas, Sir D.|
|Beckett, W.||Dunne, F. P.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Evans, W.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Blake, M. J.||Fitzpatrick, J. W.|
|Bouverie, E. P.||Fortescue, C.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Fortescue, hon. J. W.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Fox, R M.|
|Brotherton, J.||Fox, W. J.|
|Brown, H.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Cardwell, E.||Gower, hon. F. L.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Grace, O. D. J.|
|Carter, J. B.||Grattan, H.|
|Clay, J.||Greene, T.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Gregson, S.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Grenfell, C. W.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Haggitt, F. R.|
|Hallyburton, Lord J. F.||Pigott, F.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Headlam, T. E.||Raphael, A.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Heywood, J.||Ricardo, O.|
|Hodges, T. T.||Rich, H.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Hutt, W.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||St. George, C.|
|Jervis, J,||Salwey, Col.|
|Keating, R.||Sandars, G.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Langston, J. H.||Smith, J. A.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Spooner, R.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Lockhart, A. E.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Mahon, The O'Gorman||Talfourd, Serj.|
|Maitland, T.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Marshall, J. G.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Marshall, W.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Martin, S.||Thompson, Col.|
|Matheson, Col.||Thornely, T.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Townley, R. G.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Turner, G. J.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Moffatt, G.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Monsell, W.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Morpeth, Visct.||West, F. R.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Westhead, J. P.|
|Mulgrave, Earl of||Willcox, B. M.|
|Nugent, Sir P.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|O'Brien, Sir L.||Wilson, J.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Wilson, M.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Wood, W. P.|
|Paget, Lord G.||Wyld, J.|
|Palmer, R.||Wyvill, M.|
|Parker, J.||Young, J.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Peel, Col.||Tufnell, H.|
§ Original question again proposed.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: Sir, I am not disposed to resist the feeling of the House; but on this occasion, I am confident I speak the sentiments not only of a great many commercial Members in this House, but of the whole commercial country out of it, when I say that the constitution of this Committee will not be satisfactory to the House or to the country. It has been observed—and, perhaps, justly—that the Committee is already very large in point of numbers. Perhaps it might be better constituted upon a more reduced scale. But it is an invidious thing to strike out the names of any Gentlemen already put forward; and as I do not wish to do anything in any degree invidious, or which might prove hurtful to the feelings of any hon. Member, the only recourse I have is to propose that other names should be added in order to equalise the Committee. Now, in the first instance, there stand 1036 upon it the names of no less than eight Members of the present and late Governments. It is perfectly well known, both in this House and out of it, that those eight Members will be banded together as one man, in order to maintain their opinions upon the Bank Charter Act. On a former occasion I observed that there is one most remarkable exclusion in the nomination of this Committee, and that is, that every Member who opposed the Bill in 1844 has been carefully omitted. Now, Sir, if any Member more than another ought to be nominated on this Committee, it should be those who, in 1844, when opposing the Bill then passed, predicted that every circumstance would arise which has arisen—that every consequence would follow that has followed the passing of that Bill. All those predictions have been fulfilled within the last six months; but the men who had the foresight to predict them, are assiduously excluded. I might particularly remark upon the exclusion of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), to whom all sides of the House will be ready to give credit for strong-minded views of every measure which comes before him. My hon. Friend predicted the consequences which would follow from the working of this Bill. I must also observe of the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Hastie), who, with almost prophetic vision, foretold exactly the events which have come to pass: he said that upon the very first occasion of a drain of gold by a demand for foreign corn, that the Bill would fail. The hon. Gentleman is not of my party: I cannot number him among my friends; but it must be admitted that there is no Gentleman in the House who pays more attention to commercial questions, or who has been instrumental in procuring more valuable returns on all commercial subjects, than the hon. Member for Paisley. And how is Scotland represented? Scotland, which feels so deep an interest in this question, is represented in this Committee by two Members only. The West Riding of Yorkshire has three Members upon it; Scotland two. I must express my surprise that not a single commercial Member connected with Scotland is placed on the Committee. The hon. Member for Montrose is one of the Scotch Members so nominated, and the hon. Member for Perthshire the other. The hon. Member for Perthshire in connected with the Charter Bank in Scotland; but there is no Member 1037 in any way connected with the joint-stock banks in Scotland, and none with the commercial interest. Therefore, I must say that Scotland has just reason to be discontented with the constitution of this Committee. How is Ireland treated? Ireland, with 105 Members, is only permitted to have one Member on this Committee; and though, I doubt not, the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Tennant) is perfectly competent, and that he represents the commercial interests of the North of Ireland, I believe he has had no practical knowledge of banking in that country, and that, if he represents any banking interest at all, it is the existing monopoly in Belfast. I think, therefore, that Ireland is ill represented on this Committee, and has a just demand for additional Members. There is one hon. Gentleman, the Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Reynolds), who is perfectly conversant with this question. He has been put upon his defence by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth, and I think it only reasonable that that hon. Gentleman should have a seat on the Committee. But, at all events, a large number of the Members of the House are of opinion that neither Ireland nor Scotland are sufficiently represented. Many think that Lancashire ought to have been better represented; and there are those, too, who are of opinion that the Bank of England has also been overlooked. The Bank of England is to be put upon its defence; and, with the exception of the hon. Member for Westmoreland, it is not represented. I observe that the hon. Member for Finsbury proposes to add the name of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz). Well, I must say, that that Gentleman has been long distinguished for the prominent part he has taken in those matters. He is also well known to those who have been members of previous Committees for the shrewdness with which he can cross-examine a bullionist theorist. But perhaps that is the reason why he has been excluded. If we permit the Committee to be constituted in this way, the whole country will say that they can write the report of the Committee before it is adopted. Under these circumstances, and not wishing, as I twice already stated, to make any invidious distinctions by leaving out any of the present number, all I can do is to propose that the word "twenty-six" be omitted from the proposition, and that "thirty" be substituted in its stead.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE- QUER
said, he felt bound to resist the Motion of his noble Friend, because if they added to the number of the Committee, they would go far to verify the prediction of those who said no good could result from its appointment. The smaller the number forming a Committee the more likely was it to do good; and he had very reluctantly acquiesced in so large a number as twenty-six; but the importance of the case demanded it—nor was he without precedent for it. He would not go into the question of names, the only question before the House being the number which should constitute the Committee. He could assure his noble Friend and the House that he had had no wish to prevent any great interest from being properly represented in the Committee; and on looking at the names proposed he was sure no one would say that the opponents of the measure of 1844 were not adequately and fully represented.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, if he understood the right hon. Gentleman rightly, Her Majesty's Government had no plan of their own to lay before the House, and, therefore, they wished to throw the whole of their proper responsibility upon the labours of the Committee. Now what result could be expected from a Committee of twenty-six, who were not at all likely to agree to any report? The only result would be, that a great mass of evidence would be taken and presented to the House. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether a smaller Committee might be named, say of the eight Members on the list who belonged to the late and present Government, and who supported the Act of 1844. He would have them inquire into the working of that Act, and be responsible for the evidence taken, and the report they might make. He believed the examination of witnesses would be more practical by such a Committee—their report would be more speedily made—and the House would have an opportunity before the end of the Session of proposing a remedy if the Government should fail to propose one.
§ The House divided on the question that the word "twenty-six" stand part of the question:—Ayes 136; Noes 45: Majority 91.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Anson, hon. Col.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Arundel and Surrey, Earl of|
|Aglionby, H. A.|
|Anderson, A.||Baines, M. T.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Beckett, W.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Mahon, The O'Gorman|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Maitland, T.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Marshall, J. G.|
|Blake, M. J.||Marshall, W.|
|Bouverie, E. P.||Martin, S.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Matheson, Col.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Brotherton, J.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Brown, H.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Mostyn, hn. E. M. L.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Cardwell, E.||Nugent, Sir P.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Carter, J. B.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Clay, J.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Paget, Lord G.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Palmer, R.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Parker, J.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Pearson, C.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Craig, W. G.||Peel, Col.|
|Drummond, H.||Pigott, F.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Pilkington, J.|
|Duncuft, J.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Raphael, A.|
|Dundas, Sir D.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Ricardo, O.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Rich, H.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Evans, W.||Salwey, Col.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Smith, J. A.|
|Fitzpatrick, J. W.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Forster, M.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Fortescue, hon. J. W.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Fox, R. M.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Fox, W. J.||Talfourd, Serj.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Tennent, R. J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Thompson, Col.|
|Grace, O. D. J.||Thornely, T.|
|Greene, T.||Townley, R. G.|
|Gregson, S.||Turner, G. J.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Haggitt, F. R.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Hall, Sir B.||West, F. R.|
|Hallyburton, Lord J. F.||Westhead, J. P.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Wilcox, B. M.|
|Headlam, T. E.||Williams, J.|
|Heathcoat, Sir W.||Wilson, J.|
|Heywood, J.||Wilson, M.|
|Hodges, T. T.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Wood, W. P.|
|Hutt, W.||Wyld, J.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Wyvill, M.|
|Jervis, J.||Young, J.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||TELLERS.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Tufnell, H.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Broadwood, H.|
|Arkwright, G.||Cayley, E. S.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Clive, Visct.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Coles, H. B.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Deering, J. P.|
|Devereux, J. T.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Disraeli, B.||Osborne, R.|
|Edwards, H.||Renton, J. C.|
|Fagan, W.||Reynolds, J.|
|Forbes, W.||Rufford, F.|
|Greene, J.||St. George, C.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Sandars, G.|
|Hastie, A.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Hastie, A.||Scully, F.|
|Henley, J. W.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C,||Smyth, J. B.|
|Hildyard, R. C.||Smollett, A.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Stanley, E.|
|Keating, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Lockhart, W.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|M'Naghten, Sir E.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Muntz, G: F.||Spooner, R.|
|Mure, Col.||Stuart, J.|
§ Original question again put.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
reminded the hon. Member for Stirlingshire that his objections were to the names of individuals, while the question before them was simply whether the Committee should consist of twenty-six Members? He trusted, therefore, the hon. Gentleman would not persist in his Motion of adjournment.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
apprehended that by the forms of the House no new names could be inserted without notice; and that, unless the debate were adjourned, it would not be competent to the House to reconstitute the Committee.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
would have preferred a smaller number, if the Committee had been fairly constituted. It was, as he had said before, to the constitution of the Committee which he objected. He objected to such a great number of placemen and ex-placemen being upon it. The city of London was not fairly represented in the list of names before the House. It was true the name of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets, were upon it; but when it was considered that so much difference of opinion existed in the City on this question, surely some other Members, whose opinions differed from those entertained by the noble Lord and the hon. Member, ought also to be included in the Committee. He would support the Motion for an adjournment.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE- QUER
said, the question before the House was, that the Committee should consist of twenty-six Members. When that question was decided, it would be competent for the noble Lord to move the substitution of any other names for those which he already suggested. The most convenient course would be to take the questions in their order.
§ MR. WAKLEY
would certainly vote for the adjournment of the debate. He thought that the House and the Government were at present placed in a very unfortunate position. Parliament had been called together on the 23rd of November, for the purpose, as it was stated, of taking into consideration the question of commercial distress; and they were now, at the end of three weeks, told that a Committee was to be appointed to examine into the subject, and that all legislation was to be postponed till February. Now, he thought that in such an emergency the Government ought to have been prepared to take a more decided and a more active course. But if the proposed plan was to be acted upon, there was, in his opinion, not the slightest chance of having any measures of relief in this or even in the next Session of Parliament. He complained that there was only one manufacturer's name on the list of the Committee—the name of Mr. Alderman Thompson. [Cries of "Mr. Cobden."] Mr. Cobden was no longer in business; and he believed that Mr. Alderman Thompson's name was proposed, not because he was a manufacturer, but because he was a Bank Director. It was plain to him that the Government knew no more of the condition of the small tradesmen and the middle classes of the country than they did of what was taking place in Siberia, else they would act differently. They did not propose the name of any Member connected with the silk trade, the cotton trade, or the woollen trade; and yet the Committee was to inquire into the cause of the commercial distress in the country. The conduct of the Government appeared to be absurd in that respect; he was sure that they could not have reflected before they put forward the names proposed to be placed on the Committee. He should be glad to know why Mr. Muntz's name was excluded? He had a thorough practical knowledge of the subject; he had spoken upon it in 1844 and in 1846; and what he then prophesied as the result of the Banking Act had actually come to pass. It 1042 was an invidious thing for the House to be called upon to exclude a name which the Government had proposed; but he must say that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to consent to the postponement suggested, in order that he should have an opportunity of reconsidering the subject, and seeing if he could not replace some of the names with others in which the working millions of this country had more confidence. He had lately been considering the question of the currency, and his opinions with respect to it had undergone a change. He was now convinced that the present system could not last, and that if it was not soon altered, great confusion would be the consequence. It was not right, nor was it natural, that we should have free trade in everything except money. Eighteen out of the twenty-six whose names were proposed to serve on the Committee had, it was well known, their minds made up on the question. That was extremely objectionable, and he trusted, therefore, that the Government would give way, and defer the appointment of the Committee to another night.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
believed that he did not state clearly what he intended before he last sat down. He was anxious not to say anything calculated to excite angry feelings. The House had already decided that a Committee should be appointed, and that it should consist of twenty-six members. He did not wish to proceed with the naming of the Committee to-night: he proposed to name the members to-morrow; and, in the meantime, the noble Lord or any other hon. Member might give notice of their intention to propose the substitution of other names.
§ MR. SCOTT
wished that Scotland should be fairly represented in the Committee; but he agreed with the hon. Member for Finsbury that it would be invidious to exclude any name which had been placed on the list by the Government. He conceived that a Committee constituted as the present one would not give satisfaction to the people of Scotland, as the report which they would be likely to give might be of a partial character.
An HON. MEMBER
expressed his opinion that the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury ought to be supported, because all the different views entertained on the present subject, of which no less than five or six existed in this country, were not 1043 sufficiently represented in the proposed Committee,
§ SIR G. GREY
could see no advantage that could be gained by an adjournment of the debate, inasmuch as the House had already decided that the number of the Committee was to be twenty-six. They might discuss the question of any nomination of members on a future day.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Lynn that Ireland, which had suffered so much from ill-regulated systems of banking, was not properly represented on the proposed Committee; but at the same time he thought they might agree to the number without naming the Committee. If the Motion for adjournment, however, were pressed, he would vote for it.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, the difference between them was not so trifling as the hon. Gentleman seemed to think. He agreed with the noble Lord that it was inexpedient to dispose of such a question at the fag-end of a debate, and at an unexpected moment, when many hon. Gentlemen had left the House, thinking that no decision would have been come to, as it had not been come to at an earlier period on that which was, in fact, the main point of the Bill. The point in question had not been settled, and he wished to impress that fact upon the Government.
§ MR. OSBORNE
begged to move that the name of Mr. Hume be omitted from the Committee, and that of Mr. Reynolds substituted for it.
§ MR. CAYLEY
said, the real question at issue was, whether the Committee was to be a fair one or not? for it should be borne in mind that there never had been a fair Committee on this subject. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in point of fact, moved the appointment of the Committee who sat in 1841 on the Bank Charter. The present was not a Bank Charter question. It was, he apprehended, intended to be an inquiry into the commercial distress. He considered the proper plan to adopt would be to follow the usual judicial course, and reject the Committee of 1841 as the very last persons who ought to be nominated to sit in judgment on their own delinquencies. The composition of the Committee appeared to him to be this. There were twelve or thirteen Members of it in favour of the Government, six or seven followers of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Peel), and six adherents of the noble Lord the Member for 1044 Lynn. This was making the question one of party. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER intimated dissent.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was not; and if it was not, surely the whole question resolved itself into this—"who did or who did not support the Act of 1844?" In his opinion, the fair way would be to let one-half of the Committee be nominated by those who approved of the Act of 1844, and the other half by those who opposed it. Let it be remembered that this was a question upon which the leaders of both parties expressed the greatest confidence; but they showed that confidence by never proposing a committee of inquiry until they had two to one in favour of their own views. He believed the Committee was not fairly nominated, and he would support the Motion for adjournment in order that other names might be proposed.
§ CAPTAIN HARRIS
appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to consent to the debate being adjourned for the purpose of considering the reconstruction of the Committee.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he thought he had stated before that he did not intend to press the nomination of the Committee to-night. He had already said that it would be perfectly open to any hon. Gentleman to propose any Member he pleased to serve on it. He declared most solemnly that the names he had mentioned to sit on that Committee, as far as he could form an opinion, were as fairly selected as possible. As well as he could judge their probable opinions upon the question, he believed if they were selected they would be as fairly balanced as the House could desire. He had to the best of his judgment named those who he thought were the most competent persons to conduct this important investigation. It would be utterly impossible to put representatives of every interest on that Committee. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Amendment, and the names of the Members of the Committee could then be left open for nomination on another night.
§ MR. HERRIES
wished to understand distinctly whether the number was to be twenty-six, and whether the nomination of the members was to be postponed until Wednesday? He also wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to allow any alterations that might be suggested, without requiring the usual notice to be given? He knew that 1045 this latter proposition was not consistent with the general usage of the House; but the right hon. Gentleman, if he pleased, could acquiesce in this understanding, as it was impossible that any notice could be given to-night upon the subject.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was only anxious that this matter should be amicably settled. If the House should prefer the discussion upon this subject to take place on Wednesday, instead of to-morrow, he should have no objection. Though it was usual to give notice of any alterations that it was intended to propose, there was no rule of the House that rendered such notice necessary.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Original Motion agreed to.
§ Committeed to be nominated.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.