§ Order for Consideration read.
§ MR. HANKEY
said, he would take that occasion to state that he had been absent when the Bill had been under consideration upon the previous evening, simply because he was under the impression that, owing to the assurance which had been given some time since by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the effect that no opposed business should be taken after twelve o'clock, the measure would not be proceeded with after that hour. For his own part, he regarded the Bill as anything but satisfactory. It had originally consisted of two clauses, one of which provided that the crossing upon a cheque should be held to be a material part of the cheque, if the crossing were put on at the time of issue; the second clause giving to any person receiving a cheque the right of putting on the crossing, provided it was done by the lawful holder thereof. Now, he had opposed the Bill in that shape, because he believed it to be really impossible that any banker could carry on business if he were obliged to 2053 examine every cheque, and to ascertain in the first place whether it had been crossed at all at the time of issue, or at any subsequent time, by the lawful holder. He looked upon the measure as imposing difficulties in the way of the due discharge of business which were not at all justifiable. The bankers of London—forty-three out of forty-five of whom had signed a petition against this Bill—had no wish to throw any obstacle in the way of crossing cheques, but merely to simplify the operation. Therefore, as an Amendment, moved by the hon. and learned Member for Guildford (Mr. Bovill), had relieved the bankers from much of the dilemma in which they were placed, he would offer no opposition to the passing of the Bill, though it was still far from being satisfactory.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he wished to draw the attention of the House to a suggestion which had been made by a gentleman named Chorley, a solicitor, who proposed that at the end of the cheque next the counterfoil there should be printed the words "uncrossed cheque," and that it should be enacted that no cheque without these words should be paid, except through a banker. Any person, whether drawer or holder, desiring it to be treated as a crossed cheque, would simply have to tear off those words. That suggestion had been most favourably received by many bankers, and appeared likely to meet all the difficulties attaching to this subject.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he regretted the misapprehension which had arisen should have led to the absence of any hon. Members on the occasion of the second reading, but he had suggested that any Amendment which might be proposed in the Bill should be made on the third reading. He would take the opportunity of saying a few words on the object of the Bill. It was well known by every man who had a banker that for nearly a quarter of a century a custom had prevailed in London of crossing cheques, with a view to prevent any loss from the cheque being lost or stolen. It was thought that the crossing of the cheque afforded a protection, but it turned out some few years ago that this pratice was unavailable, for a cheque which had been crossed with the name of a banker, and the name of another banker substituted being presented at Coutts and Co's, the question arose and was tried at law, and it was decided that the crossing of the cheque was not a binding part of the instrument, and that it was lawful for a 2054 banker, whether the cheque was crossed or not, to pay it across the counter. Of course the whole benefit of the system was then lost. Under these circumstances a Bill was brought in by Mr. Apsley Pellatt to legalize the system, and to provide that no crossed cheque should be paid except through the banker to whom it was crossed. But some little time after that Bill had been passed a cheque, the crossing of which had been obliterated by chemical means, was presented and paid. An action was brought, and the question arose whether the banker was liable, and it was found that the Bill was not entirely effectual. Under these circumstances he had brought forward this Bill at the request of a great many mercantile men of the City of London, and when the hon. Member (Mr. Hankey) said that forty-three bankers had petitioned against the Bill, he was bound to say that he (the Attorney General) had presented a petition signed by 1,300 persons in favour of it. This Bill made the crossing a cheque a material part of the cheque itself, and made it forgery to obliterate the crossing, and hereafter it would be compulsory when a cheque was crossed with the name of a banker to pay the cheque to the banker with whose name it was crossed and to no other person. The only point was as to whether they could provide for the case of paying a cheque the crossing of which had been forged or obliterated. That was a case which did not happen once in fifty years, and therefore did not seem to require legislation; but the House had thought fit to admit a clause, on the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Guildford, (Mr. Bovill) providing that if the obliteration was such that the banker could not reasonably be expected to detect it he should not be liable. The object of the hon. Member therefore had been obtained.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he regretted that the Amendment had been agreed to. He would have preferred that it should have been made imperative upon bankers to print their cheques upon paper on which no obliteration could be effected without being detected. There was such paper.
§ MR. INGRAM
suggested, that obliteration would be impossible if cheques were printed upon paper bearing a water-mark.
§ MR. PULLER
remarked, that cheques were often drawn upon pieces of plain paper, backs of letters, &c.
§ Bill to be read 3o To-morrow.