HC Deb 23 August 1883 vol 283 cc1719-24

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the case of the Milford Docks Bill, Standing Order 246 be suspended, and that the Lords' Amendments to the Bill be now taken into Consideration."'—(Sir Charles Forster.)


said, some documents had been placed in his hands within the last quarter of an hour which were really of a startling nature, and he thought that, under the circumstances disclosed in those documents, the House ought not to consent to suspend the Standing Order. Standing Order 246 provided that when Amendments made by the House of Lords to any Private Bill were to be considered, one clear days' Notice thereof should be given. Now, that was a very wise provision, because it allowed the parties concerned time to prepare their respective cases. He would not have risen to oppose the present Motion were it not for a statutory Declaration which had been made by a celebrated officer in the Army. [Captain AYLMER: Oh, oh!] Notwithstanding the interruption of the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone, he maintained that, unlike the hon. and gallant Member himself, Lieutenant Colonel Hope was a celebrated officer in the Army, and did not belong to the Militia. Lieutenant Colonel Hope had earned the Victoria Cross, and his words, therefore, were in his (Mr. Callan's) opinion worthy of great respect. The statutory Declaration to which he referred was as follows:— I, Lieutenant Colonel William Hope, V.C., of the Army and Navy Club, Pall Mall, in the City of Westminster, do solemnly and sincerely declare that I have read the Petition of Samuel Lake to the House of Lords, praying for an investigation into the charges brought by him against the officials of the Milford Docks Company, and into the effect of the provisions of the Bill now pending. I have also read two 'Statements' circulated by the promoters of the Bill in reply to the said Petition, and I do solemnly and sincerely declare that, as my name is mentioned by both sides, I consider it my duty to come forward and declare that almost every one of the allegations in the said Petition is true to my personal knowledge. That was a clear and specific statement made by a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army, holding the Victoria Cross. Lieutenant Colonel Hope went on to say:— I also declare that complete legal evidence exists to prove the said allegations. I also declare that the 'Statements' of the promoters are almost, without exception, wholly untrue, often to the knowledge of the promoters and of their solicitor, even when appearing to be supported by documents mendaciously alluded to. Such was the Declaration made in regard to a Bill for which the House of Commons were asked at the end of a Session to suspend a Standing Order. And that the 'Statements' also contain matters of the nature of a suppressio veri or of a suggestio falsi. I further solemnly and sincerely declare that I consider it my clear and paramount duty to Her Majesty the Queen to make this Declaration for the purpose of endeavouring to prevent the Royal Assent being asked to the Milford Docks Bill in its present form. And I make this solemn Declaration, conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act, 1835. That was a very important statement; and now he (Mr. Callan) would read to the House a Statement which he would not have read had it not been substantiated by that Declaration of the holder of the Victoria Cross. The Statement was presented to the House of Lords, and was as follows:— The most humble Petition of Samuel Lake, late of No. 1, Victoria Street, in the City of Westminster, in the county of Middlesex, and of Milford Haven, in the county of Pembroke, and of Felixstowe, in the county of Suffolk, late a contractor for public works, railway lessee, and landed proprietor, and now a bankrupt, sheweth— 1. That a Bill is now pending in your Right Honourable House intituled the 'Mil-ford Docks Bill.' 2. That your Petitioner was, among other things, contractor for the Milford Docks by deed under seal. 3, That the present Bill is promoted for the purpose of covering and consecrating a series of forgeries, frauds, perjuries, and malversations, and that it is against public policy and public morality that it should become law. 4. That your Petitioner undertakes to prove by documentary evidence and oral testimony:— A. That the funds authorized by Parliament to be raised have been diverted from the works of the Company. B. That the sum of £5,000 was paid by the previous contractor to the promoters. C. That only £12,000 of the ordinary shares was subscribed for by the public, upon which one of the Directors, Mr. Frederick Pope, a man of straw, subscribed for £120,000, upon which he never paid one shilling. That was a grave allegation, and he (Mr. Callan) did not think the House would be inclined to suspend one of its Standing Orders in favour of a Bill against which such an allegation was made, and supported, as it was, on the oath of an eminent officer of Her Majesty's Army. D. That upon the strength of this fraudulent subscription the Directors procured a false affidavit to be made before a Justice, and issued debentures. Did the Directors make such an affidavit, and did they issue debentures? If they did, they certainly committed fraud, forgery, and perjury. E. That they then paid about £190,000 to Mr. Appleby, the previous contractor, for work not worth more than £50,000 at the contract prices. F. That they then procured to be made forged progress sections and drawings showing much more work than had actually been done. G. That the work at the entrance having utterly collapsed, your Petitioner was then called in to remedy it, with the promise of cash payments as follows:—In preference shares at 85, equal to £27,000 in cash; cash from Great Western Railway, £50,000; cash from Great Eastern Steamship Company, £3,000. H. That the statement as to the Great Western Company's subscription and the Great Eastern Steamship Company's was false and untrue. Would any Member of the House get up in his place and state, of his own knowledge, that the Great Western were prepared to pay £50,000, and that the Great Eastern Steamship Company was prepared to pay £3,000? If not, he thought the House would scout this attempt to suspend a Standing Order in favour of a Bill promoted under such circumstances as were disclosed in these Declarations. I. That the Company has not yet paid one farthing for the land and foreshore upon which the Docks stand, and of which your Petitioner has a lease for 999 years. And then there was a charge made against a Public Company. He did not know whether any of the Directors of that Company were present or not; in fact, he did not know who they were; he did not see the statements to which he had called attention until a quarter of an hour ago. [Captain A.YLMER: Hear, hear!] The statements, however, were very important in his eyes, because they were supported by the affidavit of a holder of the Victoria Cross, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Regular Army, and not in the Militia; and it was to the latter, he understood, the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Captain Aylmer belonged. The Petition of Lake went on— K. That they owe large sums of money as compensation to the landowners and occupiers whoso frontage they have cut off. L. That they have issued £96,000 of forged debentures. M. That a series of Petitions to wind up the Company have been presented to the Court of Chancery. If so, why should this House step in to interfere between litigants in the Court of Chancery? It would be well that the House should leave the settlement of the matters to the Court of Chancery. N. That the Directors procured an affidavit from the late Chairman, Sir E. J. Reed, K.C.B., M.P., to the effect that the Company was perfectly solvent and had funds to the extent of a quarter of a million sterling, when at that time, as it now turns out, the balance at their hankers was £1 17s. 6d., upon the faith of which affidavit the said Petitions were ordered to stand over. That was a startling statement; and it was certainly not for the House of Commons to inquire whether it was true or false. The matter was one to be gone into by the Court of Chancery, and not by the House. It was then stated— O. That a similar affidavit was made in support of an action of ejectment which the Directors brought against me, and upon which Mr. Justice Pearson granted a decree. P. That when the issue of the forged debentures was discovered and denounced by me, the broker who had been instrumental in issuing them, and who is now a Director of the Company and promoter of the present Bill, applied ex parte to the Court of Chancery and got himself appointed Receiver. There were a number of other statements made in the Petition with which he (Mr. Callan) would not weary the House by reading. He thought he had quoted sufficient to show that the House ought not to accede to the present Motion. In the first place, he would ask, as a point of Order, whether this Motion, being objected to, it must not be put off until to-morrow? If that were so, he would not proceed further.


said, he would call the attention of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Callan) to Standing Order 224, which said—"Except due notice thereof shall have been given." Notice had been given in the House, and, therefore, the present proceedings were quite regular.


said, he was not astonished at the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Callan) when he said that he had only had the documents from which he had quoted in his possession for a quarter of an hour. It was only necessary to say that this Bill was brought forward on the suspension of the Standing Orders in both Houses of Parliament because the bankrupt contractor left the works in such a state that if Parliament did not come to the rescue they would be washed away during the coming winter. The Standing Orders were suspended when the Bill came before the Committee of the House of Commons, and in the House of Lords the only opposition to the Bill came from the trustees of the bankrupt contractor. At the contractor's instigation, and in order that any claim that he might have under this Bill might be respected, clauses were brought up in the House of Lords which this House was now asked to approve of. Lord Mill-town opposed the third reading of the Bill in the other House upon the ground of the allegations of Mr. Lake and Lieutenant Colonel Hope, though he said he would not sully the ears of the House by reading them. Lord Redesdale said there were no grounds to object to the further progress of the Bill, and, therefore, he called upon Lord Milltown to withdraw his opposition. Lord Milltown acceded to the request, and the Bill was read a third time. The object of the hon. Member (Mr. Callan) was that the Standing Order should not be suspended, in order that the Bill should be thrown out. The Bill had passed its third reading in both Houses, and was now only opposed, on the Amendments introduced by the House of Lords, by a Gentleman who was not satisfied were certain clauses inserted. The objection to the Bill was such that the House ought not to listen to for one moment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords' Amendments agreed to.

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