§ MR. TREEBY
said, the Resolution he wished to propose had been rendered necessary by the Railway Act passed in 1867, which gave to insolvent railway companies the power of applying to the Court of Chancery for a scheme of arrangement with their creditors, which had all the effect of an Act of Parliament. This was done without giving any notice to the outside creditors and landowners, and without even making them aware of what was being done. If the Resolution he had submitted to the House were adopted he believed it would be the means of preventing dishonest railway companies from again preying upon the public, and he hoped the House would co-operate with him in the achievement of so desirable an object. He might be permitted to explain that the scheme in Chancery was obtained by an ex parte statement, no notice, as he had already said, being given to the creditors or others forming part of the company. It was true that they were obliged to make known their intentions by publication in The Gazette; but this was not a sufficient protection, as comparatively few people read that newspaper. Insolvent companies had thus power virtually given to them to confiscate the property of all outside creditors—a privilege which was granted to no other debtor in England. Granted that the creditors could apply to Parliament by petition, it did not decrease the evil, for the expenses of such a proceeding were almost ruinous. He held that it was the interest of all legitimate companies to defeat the schemes of dishonest companies, which entailed both loss and discredit upon the community. People had very little idea of how some of the companies he was complaining of were got up. For instance, a meeting would be called of Parliamentary agents, contractors, and engineers. One of these gentlemen was probably acquainted with some rich landowner who possessed an estate through which it was proposed to carry the line. It might be of the greatest importance to the landowner that the pro- 1885 jected railway should be made, and upon solicitation he was easily induced to become chairman of the company. Upon the guarantee of the respectable name of this landowner the public were tempted to purchase shares, and the scheme by this means was put into operation. He felt assured that procedures of such a character would not obtain the sanction of the House. He would not have troubled the House with his Resolution had it not been for the great importance of the subject, the deep interest taken in it by a large number of persons, and the conviction that its adoption by Parliament would remedy the evils of which he complained.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That in case of an Insolvent Railway Company applying for an extension of time or for any other power, and where such Railway Company have applied to the Court of Chancery for a scheme of arrangement under the Railway Act of 1867, such Railway Company shall on or before the 30th of November immediately preceding the application for the Bill, deposit in the Private Bill Office a Schedule setting forth the full detailed particulars disclosing all transactions of such Company, and to answer all and every question or questions hereunder set out:—
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
thought the new Standing Order submitted by the hon. Member was one that would not hold water. The greater part of the information which he desiderated could be easily obtained under the law as it at present stood. There was really no necessity for such a Resolution as that now under discussion. The explanation of the matter was, that the hon. Member had bought property in his (Sir Lawrence Palk's) county close to where a railway was about to pass, and there were certain arrangements with the railway company which had been acquiesced in by the hon. Member's predecessor, which the hon. Member declined to accept.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
maintained that the hon. Member had no right to come to that House to defeat arrangements which his predecessor in the property had acquiesced in. The hon. Member complained of resident county gentlemen for giving the sanction of their names to speculative railway schemes. Perhaps, when the hon. Member had been as long a resident county gentleman as he (Sir Lawrence Palk) had been, he would speak more charitably of his neighbours. He did not think that the hon. Member had offered the slightest grounds for the change he proposed.
§ LORD HOTHAM
suggested that the hon. Member for Lyme Regis should postpone his Motion. Even if the proposal were adopted, it was too late in the Session for any action to be taken upon it. Moreover, it was probable that before the present Session closed some further alteration would be made in the Standing Orders.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.