§ Order for Committee read: House in Committee.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he must complain that no proper explanation had been given of the provisions of the Bill. He did not understand whether power was to be taken by it to advance still more money for the drainage of land. The House had already voted £3,000,000 to the landowners of Great Britain and Ireland for the drainage of land, and the country had lost by those loans, as the interest charged was no greater than that borne by Exchequer bills.
§ MR. WILSON
said, the hon. Member was mistaken in supposing that the interest charged on those loans was at the rate of that of the Exchequer bills of the day. The Act provided that the rates of interest charged upon all loans should be 5 per cent; but power was given to the Treasury to reduce it from time to time to a rate not lower than that borne by the Exchequer bills of the day. For the last three years, however, the Treasury had acted upon the principle of granting no loans at a lower rate than 5 per cent. The object of the bill was twofold. At the present moment, supposing that the Drainage Commissioners obtained authority from the Treasury to grant a loan of £20,000 to a landowner, they were obliged to come to the Treasury for fresh authority for each instalment of it which they issued, and it was proposed by the Bill that, authority having been once obtained for the whole loan, the Commissioners might issue each instalment without further application. Under the present law, too, a landowner who obtained a loan only paid interest upon each instalment as he drew it from the bank, not when he received the cheque, while the Drainage Commissioners, on the other hand, having once signed the cheque, were obliged to consider the money as appropriated, and could make no further use of it. The Bill provided that interest should accrue from the time when the cheque was drawn.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he thought that the Bill, instead of being a boon to the landed interest, rather put the screw upon them. No doubt it was a great convenience to landowners to have those loans, but, at the same time, they had always paid a larger rate of interest upon them than the Government paid upon Exchequer bills. With regard to the second object of the Bill, he quite agreed that the Commissioners ought to receive interest on the instalments from the moment they issued them.
§ Mr. W. WILLIAMS
said, the hon. Secretary would find that the Act of Parliament had imposed an interest of 6½ per cent on those loans.
§ MR. WILSON
said, he must acknowledge that he was mistaken in his former statement, and that the rate of interest mentioned in the Act was not 5 but 6½ per cent.
§ The Bill then passed through Committee.
§ House resumed.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after One o'Clock.