§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [4th December], on Consideration of Bill, as amended.
And which Amendment was,
In page 5, line 25, after the word "Parliament," to insert the words "including stock, shares, or bonds, the dividends or interest on which are guaranteed under 'The Tramways
and Public Companies (Ireland) Act, 1883.'"—(Mr. Murphy.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. COZENS-HARDY (Norfolk, N.)
said, that this was not a Government Bill, and therefore it was impossible to put any pressure on the Government. He trusted that hon. Gentlemen from Ireland below the Gangway would not persevere with this Amendment, because it was quite evident that the Government would not assent to it, and their persistence might lead to the loss of the Bill. The non-passing of the measure would not at all distress the Government, but it would create a great deal of dissatisfaction in the minds of Members in all parts of the House, and of gentlemen in all parts of the country. He trusted that, under the circumstances, hon. Members would allow the clause to proceed without this Amendment, because the clause, even as at present framed, would confer great benefit on Ireland.
§ COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
said, he hoped the Government would see their way to accept this Amendment. It appeared to him that at the time when there was no great influx of capital into Ireland, it was very undesirable that Irish investments of such a sound description as those contemplated in this Amendment should be excluded from the scope of the Bill. He did not believe there was any real objection to the Amendment on the part of any large number of Members of the House, and he could not suppose that the passing of the Bill would be imperilled by the adoption of this Amendment. It was of great importance that these speculations, which were of a sound description, should not be discredited in the way they would be if they were excluded from the action of the Bill.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
said, he was sorry the Government could not accept the Amendment. He need not argue the matter in detail. The stock it was proposed to add to the number of authorized investments was Stock belonging to a different class to those Stocks dealt with in the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Gentleman, having already 1489 spoken, can only speak by the indulgence of the House.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
said, that perhaps he might be allowed to add that the Government would not be able to accept the Amendment.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, that his attention was directed to this question the other night, when the matter came under discussion. There was power under Act of Parliament for Grand Juries to guarantee for a limited term. [Cries of "No!"] He thought there was; but what he was particularly anxious to point out to hon. Members below the Gangway was that there was a possibility of them obtaining their end if, as they said, opinion in Ireland was strong in their favour. If these particular stocks were recommended for investment by the Court of Chancery in Ireland, that Court had power under the Bill to direct that Trust Funds should be invested in such Stock. If, therefore, opinion in Ireland was so strongly in favour of this class of investment, application could be made to the Court of Chancery, and if they considered such investments were desirable they had power to order that trust money might be so invested.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, that the suggestion conveyed in the remarks of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) was one which really solved the difficulty, and in the hope of bringing about a settlement of the question which would be satisfactory to all parties, he proposed to amend this Amendment by introducing words which would carry out the suggestion of the hon. Member. He proposed to insert, after the word "including," the words "with the leave of the Court." The Amendment would then read— 1490Including, with the leave of the Court, stock, shares, or bonds, the dividends or interest on which are guaranteed by the Tramways and Public Companies (Ireland) Act, 1883.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, after the word "including," to insert the words "with leave of the Court."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
said, that the words proposed to be inserted in the Amendment were unnecessary, and, in his opinion, might do harm.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, that all that could be said about the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) was that it was unnecessary. The words, therefore, were at most only surplusage. He submitted that the Amendment could do no harm, but that it would certainly have the effect of pointing out to Trustees that they might do this thing with the leave of the Court. Trustees would examine their powers, and this Amendment would be like an index finger, for it would point out to them investments which might not otherwise strike their mind. The powers of the Court of Chancery were not known to the public generally. There was one other important consideration he desired to point out to the Government, and it was in relation to the Land Purchase Bill which had just been passed through the House. The Government had asked the taxpayers to expend £10,000,000 sterling upon Irish credit, but, at the same time, they maintained that it was inexpedient to allow trustees to invest money in Irish Guaranteed Stock. He begged the Government to extend some consideration to the Irish Members in this matter. Ireland was absolutely unanimous on this point. Hon. Members from Ireland who sat upon the Government Benches, the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), and, he believed, the hon. Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Lea), and hon. Members from Ireland who sat below the Opposition Gangway were at one on this subject. Irishmen of all shades of opinion were united on the point, and yet the Government would not conform to their wishes, on the ground that the Irish Court of Chancery 1491 already possessed ample powers. It might be that the powers of the Court were unknown. Why not make the matter plain, and give the Judges an idea that these things might be done? They might be told that the Amendment was needless. That was the very worst that could be said of the Amendment. He and his hon. Friends contended that the adoption of the Amendment would point to a better state of things in Ireland. The Privy Council would be anxious not to pass schemes hurriedly if they knew that under the Trustees Act Trustees might invest their funds in them; they would be slow and cautious in giving their assent to schemes. Let him point out to the Government the importance of this matter from their own point of view. The Irish Board of Works—the Government's own Imperial purse-holders—had at the present moment nearly £150,000,000 sterling invested in this Stock. The Stock was good enough for the investment of the money of the Irish Board of Works, and yet it was not supposed to be good enough for the money of trustees, the majority of whom probably only held £2,000 or £3,000. There was another point of view from which the matter might fairly be viewed. The Amendment, as amended by the addition of the words suggested by the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall, would confine the Stock to Irish holders. On a former occasion he had said to the Solicitor General for Ireland—"Confine this to Irish stock holders;" and the hon. and learned Gentleman had replied—"No; this is not a purely Irish Bill." He put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that by this Amendment they could not be diverting English securities from the Two and Three-Quarter per Cents, for the leave of the Court would be required for the investment of Irish money in this Stock. If the House adopted this Amendment, the Irish Judges might say—"The House of Commons says that this may be done with our leave; we are acquainted with the Stock, and we will give our leave." He submitted that this was a case in which the Government might very properly yield. He assured the hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill that the Irish Members deeply sympathized with him in regard to this measure, and that they would do their 1492 best to promote its passage. They were not hostile to the Bill; on the contrary, they sincerely hoped it would be passed. Surely the Government could see some way of meeting them in this difficulty. The Session was not yet concluded, and when all sides of the House were agreed on a particular Amendment, the worst of which that could be said was that it was unnecessary, they might with confidence appeal to the Government.
§ MR. WARMINGTON (Monmouth, W.)
said, that a question very much like the present arose during the early part of the Session with regard to the Colonial Stock. They then had an intimation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Law Officers of the Crown that some scheme was under consideration, and that the Judges of the Court were considering a way in which investments in Colonial Stock could be authorized. If the Irish authorities could say there was a scheme under the consideration of the Irish Judges by which this Stock could be included in the authorized Stock, the Representatives of Ireland might, perhaps, be content; but, as far as he understood the present attitude of the Government, they were against this Stock being open to investment by Trustees.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
desired to make a few comments upon the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the guarantee given under the Tramways Act was a contingent guarantee.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
said, that he did not at all contend that it was not in the power of the Grand Jury and other Local Bodies to impose any terms they thought fit. But what he did contend was, in the first place, that it was not a contingent guarantee; and, secondly, that all the guarantees that had been given were not terminable. He had watched very carefully the operation of the Tramways Act in the county in which he lived. There were there no less than five tramways guaranteed by the State, and in not a single instance had the power the hon. Gentleman referred to been acted upon. In every single one of those cases a perpetual power had been given. He thought that if there was anything in 1493 the point which the hon. Gentleman made it could be met by limiting the operation of the Amendment to guarantees which were perpetual. He could not imagine the smallest difficulty in doing that.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, he regarded this Bill as one of the best Bills that had been brought before Parliament this Session. It was of vital importance, not only in Ireland, but in this country. Everyone was most anxious that the Bill should pass, but they could only pass it on certain terms of compromise. The Government were absolute masters of the situation. [Cries of"No!"] But they were, and if this Amendment were pressed there would be a very great chance of the Bill being thrown out. There was great force in what his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. M. Healy) said, as to the possibility of the powers of the Court not being known; but if Gentlemen on the other side of the House said that they would not have this Amendment the Opposition could not help themselves. It, therefore came to this:—Were they to imperil the passing of this most valuable measure for the sake of a point which could practically be secured by an order of the Court of Chancery? He appealed to hon. Members below the Gangway to help in passing this most valuable Bill.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) that the excellent intention of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill should be carried into effect. The hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means had pointed out that the Court of Chancery had power already to authorize the investment of money in this kind of Stock. Was it not advisable that Trustees should be advised, by the language of the Bill, as to the power of the Court? There might be Trustees quite willing to invest in this Stock, and yet be unaware that the Court had power to authorize it. As to the argument about terminable guarantees, his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) had pointed out that in every case in which Grand Juries had given a guarantee the guarantee had been perpetual. But he failed to see why the insertion of this Amendment 1494 should be affected by the fact that the guarantee was perpetual or terminable. Of course the Government had great power. The Session was approaching its end, and if the Government chose to resist the Amendment they might succeed in throwing out the Bill. But that was a position which which the Government ought to be very slow to take up.
§ It being One of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow, and Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.