HL Deb 01 March 1804 vol 1 cc642-6
Lord Grenvilie

called the attention of the House to a subject on which he had on former occasions given notice on his intention to bring forward a motion. He alluded to the enormous paper circulation of the country: on this important topic he should probably take the opportunity which the second reading of the Bank of Ireland bill would afford, to deliver his sentiments. After expatiating generally; upon the subject, as connected with the general defence of the country, and in other points of view, he observed, it was unnecessary to point out the propriety of having every practical information upon the subject. In that view, he should now move for the production of an Account of all cash, bank: and private paper, received in their official capacities, by the receivers general of the land-tax for the year ending the 5th of Jan. 1804. His lordship then moved accordingly, and that the quantities of cash, batik and private paper, should be distinctly set forth, as well as the quantity received within certain given periods in the course of the year.

Lord Hawkesbury

observed, that he should be under the necessity of opposing the mo- tion made by the noble lord on two grounds; 1st, it not appear to him likely to produce the information sought for. The production of these papers, if obtained, would is a very imperfect criterion of the respective proportion of cash, bank notes, and private paper cow in circulation, and, therefore, the motion appeared inadequate to its own purpose. At the same time, in order of this kind, issuing from government, would ere ate great apprehension throughout the kingdom, and might occasion a great run on private Banks. On the subject now before, the House, namely, the Irish bank restriction bill, it could not be necessary. There was, indeed, another subject of which the noble lord Lad given notice (an inquiry into the circulation, of private paper in England), to winch it might have some reference, but, before the motion could he agreed to, it would be necessary to consider, whether the inquiry to which it led, was or was not expedient at the present juncture. Whatever might be its utility at any other period, his lordship was convinced, that at this period in could have no beneficial purpose; and when the inquiry should be moved for, he had no doubt he should be prepared to meet the noble lord on that subject. Such being his opinion, he conceived the motion either useless or injurious, and therefore should be under the necessity of opposing it.

Lord Grenville

expressed his surprise that the coble lord should so confidently pronounce on the inferences which he might attempt to draw from the accounts he had moved form and it was the first time he had heard the production of papers opposed, which tended to give information to that House, because his Majesty's ministers did not draw the same conclusion from them which was sought to be established by the mover. Equally astonished was he, that when the question was on the propriety or impropriety of continuing the restriction on the Bank of Ireland, which necessarily involved the consideration of the comparative issue of paper in both countries, that his Majesty's ministers should refuse the House a document so necessary to the foil and just investigation of the subject before them. As to the noble lord's disapprobation of bringing forward the motion of which he had given notice previous to the recess, that surely would have to tendency on the present question. His lordship's arguments on the occasion seemed to be, "I will not let the House have documents en a point immediately before them, be cause these documents may have some bearing on an inquiry of which I disapprove, and which may hereafter be moved for." With respect to the alarm throughout the country, referred to by the noble lord, his lordship said he wished to put it fairly and directly to the hearts of their lordships, whether any thing would create so injurious an alarm, as the notion that our danger was so great, that the House of Lords was fearful of looking it full in the face. He on the contrary, would seek safety in a different mode of conduct. He would examine oar situation in all its dependencies, and not shrink from the inquiry with timid apprehensions that the country was unequal to its trial. This direct and open mode of proceeding was the only one be could inspire solid confidence. Let ministers recollect what might soon be our state. Supposing as invasion actually had taken place, the soldiers that were to repel it must be paid in cash. Was it therefore needless or too early to enter on an inquiry that would ascertain what dependence we could have on that fund which was to constitute the source of our security? If half the taxes were paid in cash, that would be sufficient for all necessary purposes. If less than half, and the rest in bank notes, then it would behave the legislature to advert to the security of the Bank, and should any considerable proportion be paid in private paper (and his lordship was convinced that more than half was) then would it seriously concern the government of the country, to adopt some measure that might extend to private paper a kind of common security. If the taxes were in a great proportion paid in private bills, let the House consider what must become of the public income, in case the enemy effect a landing. Wherever they touch, ail the properly in that district must fall. It was, therefore, with the utmost astonishment, that he heard one of his Majesty's ministers deprecate the inquiry which led to the consideration of a remedy to an evil of such important magnitude.

Lord Hawkesbury

alleged that the noble lord had mistaken his meaning from beginning to end. He had not spoken of any inference from the accounts, but only said, that they would not establish the facts required, and were therefore useless. For the point, he had only meant that the documents being useful on another inquiry, the expediency of that inquiry should first be determined, before they were granted, as the production of them might create much trouble and alarm. Though the accounts might have been useful on the first passing of the bill, yet as, whatever was the original policy of that measure, it was not intimated that any doubt existed on the propriety of continuing it, he could not think them then needful, in the investigation of that subject. As to the proposed inquiry of the noble lord, he hoped he should convince the House, when the motion crime forward, that his lordship's facts were mistaken, and his apprehensions needless. Certain he was, that the proposed inquiry would lend 10 no good at this lime.

Lord Carnarvon

supported the motion, and strenuously followed the line of observation taken by Lord Grenville.

Lord Hobart

defended his noble colleague and friend, and seemed to conceive the argument would end, upon his observing, that it was impossible to produce, the accounts before the 2d reading of the bill on Monday, and that the termination of the act would admit of no further delay.

Lord Grenville

said, the noble lord would hive spared himself that observation had he looked at the title of the bill. In fact it had six weeks to continue.

The Lard Chancellor

professed some doubt, whether the accounts would, if produced, ascertain the facts required. The great mischief of private paper arose, in his opinion, from the pernicious practice of fictitious credit, and accommodation bills. The practice in this case was for a set of gentlemen; o distribute themselves in different parts of the country: they then connected themselves with a corresponding set of acquaintances in London, and commenced undertakings, by drawing bills on each other. The evils of this practice were great, and never should have been permitted to exist. As it was established, he was aware it could not be abolished without serious evil, but he thought it the duty of the legislature to inquire, whether the evil of its removal was not preferable to the evil of its existence? It was surely too much to permit the circulation of bills drawn for value received, en persons who had no effects. As to the immediate subject, he doubted, whether, should the bill continue six. weeks, it would be time enough to procure the returns from the receivers general. He also conceived it would not be in their power to make them our. All they received was put indiscriminately into a common mass, and was sent to London through the medium of private bids; he, therefore, could not see what purpose the motion could possibly answer.

Earl spencer

thought the observations made by his noble friend (Lord Grenville) were not sufficiently answered by the noble lord opposite him. His noble friend had expressly stated, that the accounts moved for might not be perfect, but that they were the best, facts that could be obtained on the subject; and this the noble lord opposite did not attempt to disprove, and certainly had not pointed our where better could be obtained. His lordship thought, considering how widely spread and general these accounts would be, that they would constitute a very good criterion of the facts. He was surprised the noble lord should object to the motion on the ground of disseminating alarm, and wished purposely to enter his protest against any such doctrine as that of with holding information from the House on motives of that nature. He also objected to his lordship's argument which referred to the notice given by his noble friend. Whatever his lordship might think on that subject, when brought forward, it could be no ground of discussion, now. As the motives assigned by the noble lord for dissenting from the motion were, in his mind, insufficient, he, of course, should give it the support he thought it entitled to.

Lord Hobart

said, on inquiry, he understood the bill did expire the 26th inst. as he first mentioned, and did not subsist six weeks longer.

The Lord Chancellor

said, he rather believed that was the case, as months in acts of Parliament were reckoned by lunar, and not calendar months, which made the difference.—The question was then put, and negatived without a division.—Adjourned.