HC Deb 04 June 1847 vol 93 cc131-8

On the Question that the Order of the Day for the Third Reading of the Loan Discount Bill be read,


rose and said, that in the course of the previous debates on this Bill the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made no fewer than four speeches, which had occupied about six hours, with respect to the Bank Charter Bill of 1844. There had been also two speeches from the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) the author of that Bill, besides speeches from other Members. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated last night that the discussion to-night would take up a very short time; and he (Mr. Gisborne) hoped it would be so. If it was the pleasure of the House, he had no objection to continue the currency debate, and to afford hon. Members an opportunity of explaining what a pound was; although he would advise the hon. Member for Birmingham to avoid that topic; for, as he understood, it was advantageous to the Birmingham system not to have an accurate definition of a pound. He was informed last night that a distinct Motion would be submitted to the House relative to the currency; and if that should prove to be the case, it would be unnecessary to continue the debate on the Loan Discount Bill that evening. Perhaps the noble Member for Lynn would be good enough to state whether he meant to bring forward a Motion on the subject of the currency.


felt it necessary to address a few words to the House, after the extraordinary statement made by the hon. Member relative to what fell from him last night. He fixed the Order of the Day for that evening in the full expectation that the debate would go on, and did not utter a syllable of what the hon. Member had attributed to him. When he came down to the House again about ten or eleven o'clock, he learned, for the first time, that it was intended to originate a substantive currency debate, and that therefore it was not likely that the debate on the Loan Discount Bill would be continued.


was sorry he had misrepresented the right hon. Baronet; but the right hon. Secretary for the Homo Department did positively state last night, in answer to a question put by him, that the discussion on the Loan Discount Bill would not occupy much time.


said, he gave that assurance in consequence of having heard that a distinct Motion on the subject of the currency was about to be submitted to the House at an early period.


said, that having been asked last night whether the debate on the Loan Discount Bill would be a protracted one, he could answer only for himself that he would not be a party to protracting it, because an hon. Friend, who was much more able to handle the subject than he was, intended to bring forward a substantive measure relative to the currency—that instead of mere desultory talk it would be a word and a blow. He added, that if the Friend to whom he alluded should not bring the measure forward, he himself would introduce a Bill for the partial or entire repeal of the Bank Charter Act of 1844. Answering only for himself, therefore, and not pledging himself as to the conduct of others, he said that he would not waste the time of the House in desultory talk.


said, it appeared to him that the course which the noble Lord proposed to pursue was the best which could be taken. It was very well with respect to a question which excited great immediate interest, and with respect to which the public was anxious to know the opinions of Parliament, that some conversation should take place in order to afford different Members an opportunity of explaining their views; but if there really existed an intention of altering or repealing the Act of 1844, it was very desirable that a desultory discussion, which could lead to no definite result, should not be continued. He therefore hoped hon. Members would refrain from entering into a currency debate on the question before the House, but would reserve themselves for the occasion when a distinct Motion would be brought before them, and then let the House decide whether it would adhere to the Act of 1844, or abandon it.


said, that important as the question was acknowledged to be, he feared that by the course about to be pursued, there would be no discussion upon it at all.


understood the noble Lord the Member for Lynn to have given a distinct assurance that the question should be brought before the House in a substantive form by himself or some other Member moving for the repeal of the Act of 1844. If that were the case, he trusted that hon. Gentlemen who might persist in speaking upon the question fixed for that evening, would not think it a mark of disrespect if others refrained from answering their arguments. It would be much better to have the question before the House in a practical shape; and he would, therefore, abstain altogether from taking part in any discussion which might ensue that evening.


expressed an opinion, that in the present position of the question, it was desirable there should be no discussion that evening.


said, it was very easy for the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who had already spoken on the question, to announce his intended abstinence from further discussion; but he, who had not yet addressed the House on the subject, was anxious to have the opportunity of bringing what little knowledge he happened to possess to bear upon it; and therefore he hoped that his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham would exercise his right of resuming the debate.


begged to assure the hon. Gentleman that it was not his wish that the House should be deprived of the advantage of hearing the hon. Member explain the bearing which the investment of capital in railways had upon the question; his observations were applied generally.


had not spoken on the question, and he was willing to pair off with the hon. Member for Sunderland. It was infinitely better to have a discussion upon a practical question than mere loose talk; and he hoped that hon. Members who had intended to address the House that evening, would, after what had passed, refrain from doing so.


said, that on his Motion the debate was adjourned, and he was now prepared to recommence it; but he would not like to occupy the time of the House by going at length into the question, if his arguments were not to be met by Other Members. He was prepared to answer the question which the right hon. Member for Tamworth put to him on a former evening; but he would bow to the wish of the House if they desired that the discussion should not be continued. If the Motion promised by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn should not be brought forward, he ought to have an opportunity of addressing the House on the question.


had understood his noble Friend the Member for Lynn to give an explicit assurance that the question would be brought forward either by himself or another hon. Member. If, however, that should not be the case, he (Lord J. Russell) would undertake to give the hon. Member for Birmingham an opportunity of making a full exposition of his views on the subject; but of course he could not engage that other hon. Members should reply to him.


repeated his declaration, that an hon. Friend intended to introduce a Bill to repeal or limit the operation of the Bank Charter Act of 1844; and that if his hon. Friend should not do so, he would introduce the measure himself. At the same time he was bound to inform the hon. Member for Birmingham that the measure would be much more limited than would suit his views.


notwithstanding his hon. Friend on his left (Mr. Spooner) had been rather coy in giving information to the House with respect to his intentions, he had said something in an undertone after sitting down which reached his (Sir Robert Peel's) ears, and which was calculated to throw some light on the matter. He had said that it was his intention to apply himself to the task of answering the question—"what was a pound?" and, furthermore, his hon. Friend had declared his conviction that the interrogatory was one which it would take a long time to solve. Now he (Sir Robert Peel) wished to state that the question which he had proposed some evenings since was not precisely the one that the hon. Gentleman proposed answering. He had not asked—"What is a pound?" What he asked was this— "When a man writes the words, 'I promise to pay a pound,' how and in what manner does he intend fulfilling his promise?" That was the question he had asked.


denied having declared that the question he intended to answer was one which would necessarily occupy a long time. The question which the right hon. Baronet had just now stated was not the same that he had proposed to him (Mr. Spooner) on a former occasion. On that occasion he asked him—"What do you say is a pound?" To that interrogatory he was prepared to give a clear answer; but what he had said was, that that answer would devolve on him the necessity of entering very fully into the whole question. [Laughter.] He was at a loss to think what hon. Members saw in that declaration to promote their merriment. There was nothing contradictory in it. The opinions he had held on this subject he had held for a very long period, and he had always expressed them respectfully and with deference to others. He certainly would claim the right of explaining his views fully, for the subject was one of much importance.

Order of the Day read.

On the Question that the Bill be read a Second Time,


said, he would take the opportunity of making only one observation. His noble Friend had stated on a former occasion that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would get no money under the Bill; now he begged to state that he had already received in anticipation of the enactment no less a sum than 2,678,000l.


observed, that it appeared to him exceedingly strange that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had neglected to avail himself of the offer made to him at the time of contracting the loan to pay a portion of the money, provided discount were allowed. Upon that occasion he informed the Gentleman contracting for the loan, that he did not require the money in advance. This declaration showed considerable want of due foresight, and ignorance of the actual condition of his finances. It was, he repeated, most strange that when the loan was contracted, in the month of March or April last, the right hon. Gentleman did not see that the measure suggested to him by the contractors would have been a prudent one for him to have accepted, and would have enabled him to meet the forthcoming dividends without an advance on deficiency bills. Having refused to take the money in advance, although he knew there would be a drain upon the Exchequer to meet the deficiency bills, it was unaccountable that the right hon. Gentleman should blame others with not acting with care and caution in guarding against a drain for gold. He could not forbear thinking that the gentlemen who contracted for the loan had considerable grounds for complaint against the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They were, of course, after what had passed at the interview, led to conclude that the right hon. Gentleman did not want money to meet the deficiency bills; and they left the room under the impression that no advance was required. He was not now speaking without some knowledge of the facts, for he had it from one of the contractors that he left the room under the full impression that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not want the money before the stated period for the payment of the instalments. He would not follow up the subject further, but content himself by saying that the relief afforded by prompt payment would be no practical relief at all, for the money would have to come out of the circulating capital of the country. He knew the right hon. Gentleman fancied that the opinions of hon. Gentlemen who had not the official knowledge he possessed were not worthy of attending to—that feeling he had expressed in more than one instance—but he could only say that all practical men, that all men who judged the affairs of business, and acted by those rules which ought to guide the conduct of all hon. men, were unanimous in thinking that the course pursued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in refusing the payment in advance of the instalments, was not that which was regulated either by prudence or by a knowledge of the financial position of the country.


observed, that accusations had been made against him that evening in respect of matters which he had hoped he had satisfactorily explained on previous occasions. He had only now to repeat what he had stated frequently before—namely, that at the time he made the loan he did not anticipate that any portion of the money would be required in advance of the instalments then agreed on. He had no object in concealing information, and if any question had been asked him by the contractors respecting earlier payment, he would not have hesitated to give them the most satisfactory answer in his power; but no such question had been asked. he certainly had not expected that any occasion would arise which would render it necessary that the money should be paid otherwise than by instalments as agreed upon. It was only in consequence of a change of circumstances, which was not in any degree attributable to anything he had done, and which he could not fairly be expected to have foreseen, that he had found it necessary to propose the measure now under consideration. he had never held out any expectation that the mere requiring the payments to be made by instalments would have the effect of relieving the money market. He could not well suppose that the taking money out of the money market would make the pressure on the market lighter; but he did express a hope that the two measures—this, and the one of lending money on Exchequer bills—taken together, would have conjointly the effect of causing some relief. And he way happy to say, that this expectation had been realized. The result of what had taken place of late had been to cause very considerable relief to the money market. The utmost amount of Exchequer bills sent in, and for which payment in money was required, up to yesterday, did not exceed 15,000l. A further demand to the amount of 5,000l. had come in that day, making in all 20,000l. That was the only sum that they had been asked to pay in money. On the other hand, the quantity of Exchequer bills that had been sent in for exchange, fully equalled the quantity which was presented at a similar period of former years.


rejoiced that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in his speech, announced a more favourable bulletin as to the health of the Old Lady of Threadneedle-street, although it was quite clear that, after all, she had only passed an easy day. He considered his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham had been rather too hard upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he had expected greater foresight and caution from him, than even from the most experienced merchants and bankers of the day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had, after all, only suffered from the depressing influence of the Bank Charter Bill of 1844; and therefore it was hard to blame him for not having that perception which was superhuman. It was clear that neither the contractors for the loan, the commercial world, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor, he believed, the hon. Member for Birmingham himself, had the slightest idea of the state of the market likely to ensue, aggravated probably by the pressure of the provisions of that Bill. He was glad the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) intended to bring the question substantially before the House, and he should defer any observations he had to make till he had a practical opportunity of doing so.

Bill read a third time and passed.