§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ MR. STEVENSON
regretted very much to oppose the Motion for the third reading of the annual Bill, which provided not only the money to be expended on public works, but also re-appointed for five years the Gentlemen to whom that duty had been intrusted. He had no objection to urge against the name of any Member of the 16 contained in the list to be appointed; but he would point out that in 1875 the list contained six Members of Parliament, while that which was now submitted contained those of two only—namely, the present Members for Glamorganshire and West Kent. Again, a very important change had been made in 1875, when a new system had been established, which did away with the appeal that lay to the Treasury, which had power to overrule the opinion of the Board and sanction loans which the Board had refused to make. But it was then provided that the Commissioners should supply an annual Report of their proceedings which had to be presented within two months of the end of March, the close of the financial year, so that the House might discuss the administration of the Board in the stages of the Annual Money Bill. But it had been found that the Report of last year had been for a long time delayed, and this year it had not yet been presented, which was entirely contrary to the intention of Parliament. He had frequently complained that the Board had not given effect to the intention of Parliament in regard to loans to harbours. He suggested that two other Members of Parliament, whose services would be very valuable to the proceedings and deliberations of the Board, should be added to the list which had been sub- 737 mitted; further, as they were not bound to appoint the Commissioners for five years, for the Act only provided that they should hold office for a term not exceeding that period, he suggested that they should now renew the appointment for one year only at this time. To enable the Government to re-consider the whole matter, and the House to go into the question of the policy of the Board, he begged to move that the Bill be recommitted, in order to make the present re-appointment for one year.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "be" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "re-committed in respect of Clause 2,"—(Mr. Stevenson,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
said, he thought that the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson) ought not to be adopted without great deliberation. The Commission had been established for the purpose of diminishing, as much as possible, the political pressure which might be brought to bear in obtaining the loans; and he could no help thinking that the attainment of that object would be rendered more difficult by the appointment of the Commission for a shorter time than that named in the Bill. His hon. Friend had also spoken of the disadvantage of the Commission including but two Members of Parliament; but, considering the great extent of the loans, it was most desirable that the members of the Board should be as independent as possible of all political influence, and look solely to the security on which the loans were to be advanced. With regard to the delay which had occurred in the presentation of the Re-port, the subject should be inquired into, and the Report presented at the earliest moment possible; but he could not give his support to the Motion for the re-commitment of the Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he cordially supported the noble Lord the Secretary to the Treasury in his objection to the Motion of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson). There could be no greater danger than that to which the noble Lord had referred—namely, 738 the pressure which might be brought to bean on the issue of loans for considerations altogether apart from the validity of the security upon which they were granted. During his experience at the Treasury, he had found that in past times the pressure alluded to by the noble Lord had been exercised upon the Government of the day. He believed that a strong Board such as had been constituted, with a sense of responsibility, was likely to tend greatly to the advantage of the public at large, which had to be considered before the interests of particular localities, which were always brought to bear very prominently on the Government of the day. This Commission, in his opinion, was the better constituted, inasmuch as it did not include many Members of Parliament; and he would, perhaps, prefer that it should include no Members of Parliament at all. The duties of the Board were of a very important character, involving trust and responsibility, and were akin to those of a banker. They had to invest the funds at their disposal strictly upon the lines of the Act of Parliament, and in accordance with the trust reposed in them, and no pressure should be exercised upon them inconsistent with the proper discharge of their public duty. He cordially supported the view of the noble Lord, and trusted that the House would adopt that view and secure to the Commission the full responsibility which belonged to them, and which an annual appointment would certainly not give them.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time.
§ Verbal Amendment made: Bill passed.