§ MR. WARNER
said, he wished to ask the right hon. President of the Board of Trade whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to bring in a Bill early next Session to amend the present law of partnership, with a view to facilitate the formation of companies or partnerships with limited liability, without the necessity of a charter or Act of incorporation; and, if this was not their intention, whether the Government intended to lay down any, or what, principle for their future guidance in giving or refusing charters with limited liability?
§ MR. CARDWELL
, in reply, said, that as the law at present stood, incorporated joint-stock companies had not limited liabilities. There was power in special cases for the Queen in Council to grant charters with limited liability. The practice with respect to these charters was this: They were sent to the Committee of Privy Council for Trade. Those consisting of financial questions—for instance, colonial and banking charters—were disposed of under the responsibility of the Treasury. Charters, neither commercial nor financial, were under the responsibility of the Home Office, and the ordinary charters were disposed of under the Committee of Privy Council for Trade. With respect to those charters, the rule had been to grant them only in cases where the enterprise, from its magnitude, demanded a very large capital, and where the benefit to the nation from the undertaking was evident. That rule was not of easy application, and the course of precedent had not been uniform. The pre- 1599 sent Government had only granted charters in two classes of cases—one the Australian Voyage, and the other the Submarine Telegraph. He found that charters had been obtained by the following companies:—Royal Mail Pacific Steam, Peninsular and Oriental, Indian and Australian, General Screw, Eastern Steam, South American General, African Royal Mail, and Liverpool and Australian. Two Committees had been appointed to inquire into the subject, and recommended the issue of a Commission. That Commission was now proceeding with its inquiry. He understood that the Lord Chancellor would be able to lay the Report before Parliament early in the next Session; and it would be manifestly improper to make any declaration in anticipation of that Commission. With regard to the course to be pursued by the Board of Trade in the interval, all he could say was, that it would keep the question in the most advantageous position for the House to deal with, and every question would be dealt with in conformity with established precedent.