HC Deb 18 July 1856 vol 143 cc1040-2

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it was his intention to institute an inquiry, by way of Committee or otherwise, in the next Session of Parliament, into the commercial, monetary, and financial operation of the Charter of the Bank of England, and of the departments of banking and issue respectively, under the provisions of the Act 7 & 8 Vict. c. 42? It would be in the recollection of the House that early in the Session, the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Glyn) had asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it was the intention of the Government to institute any inquiry before a Committee of that House, or otherwise, into the working and effect of the Act?—and that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman was, that if there should be a general wish for such an inquiry the Government would not oppose it; but that at the same time, under the extraordinary and exceptional state of things caused by the war, that would not be a favourable moment for an examination into the affairs of the Bank. In another place it had, however, been recently stated that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose to the House any Motion for the appointment of such a Committee. It appeared, therefore, that the Government were contented with the present state of things, and apprehensions were consequently entertained in the commercial world that no inquiry would be instituted into the operation of the Bank Charter Act which was passed in 1844. According to the provisions of that Act, the Bank Charter might be revoked after the 1st of August, 1855, upon twelve months' notice being given by the Speaker after a Vote of the House, and he thought it most undesirable that a body like the Bank of England should be placed in a position of such uncertainty. In 1847, the Bank was subjected to a severe pressure, and Committees were appointed to inquire into the matter without, however, coming to any result; and it appeared that since 1844 the fluctuations in the value of money had been greater than they were between 1819 and 1844? and from 1844 to the present time there had been no less than forty-four different rates of discount. Such a state of things was very inconvenient to the commercial community, and it was desirable to ascertain whether it was attributable to the Bank Charter Act or to other causes. He would, therefore, now put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the question of which he had given notice.


said that in the early part of the session when a similar question was put to him, by the hon. Member for Kendal, he stated that as the country was at that time engaged in hostilities, and as various financial and pecuniary operations were in progress of an extraordinary and exceptional nature, it was not a convenient moment for instituting any inquiry. Later in the Session the same question was again put to him, and his answer was, that, looking to the period of the Session and the extent of the inquiry which a subject of this nature would necessitate—that it was not his intention to propose appointment of a Committee; but that, if any hon. Gentleman moved the appointment of such a Committee, and the proposal received the support of the House, the Government would not feel it to be their duty to oppose the appointment. No such Motion had been made, and accordingly the Session was approaching an end without any Committee having been appointed. The hon. Gentleman now asked whether it was the intention of the Government to move, at the beginning or early in the next Session, for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the Bank Charter Act. The only answer it was in his power to give was that the question was one which the Government had not yet considered with reference to the proceedings to be taken next Session, and that consequently they had come to no decision upon the subject.

Motion for the adjournment of the House was then agreed to.