HL Deb 06 March 1804 vol 1 cc714-8

Their lordships then went upon the order of the day for committing the Bank of Ireland Restriction bill, and accordingly the House resolved into a committee, Lord Walsingham in the chair.

Lord Auckland

took the opportunity afforded by the reading of one of the clauses, to offer a few observations upon the measure. He was of opinion that some limitation should be set to the issue of the Bank of Ireland paper; and he should have felt it a serious public duty to have called the attention of the House forcibly to the subject, were it not that the provisions in the bill set his mind at ease, under the present circumstances, upon that part of the subject. Of that clause which empowered the legislature to alter, modify, or repeal the bill, in the course of the present session, he particularly approved. Without these salutary provisions, he was open to acknowledge, that he should feel some apprehensions respecting the issue of Irish Bank paper: the excessive issue of which, he entertained no doubt, was the principal cause of the great depreciation of the currency in that part of the United Kingdom. He calculated there was at present six times the amount of paper in circulation that there had been prior to she restriction upon the Bank; indeed, that an excessive issue should cause a depreciation, resulted from the very nature of things, as a glut in (he market of any commodity tended to lower the price.

Lord Hawkesbury

expressed his coincidence in opinion with the noble lord, as to a part of his observations, but not with respect to the whole of them. He was at present averse from giving an opinion their affirmatively or negatively, as to the real cause of the depreciation of the Irish currency; and in like manner, he would then refrain from stating a decided opinion upon the point of an inquiry being set on foot in that House, similar to what was instituted in the other House of Parliament. With respect to a general investigation of the subject, the inclination of his opinion was, that under the present circumstances of the country, such a proceeding would be, upon the whole, rather injurious than beneficial. He thought, however, it would be preferable to wait the result of the pending inquiry, before any proceeding or measure of importance, relative to the subject, should be adopted in that House. He was of the noble lord's opinion as to the expediency of a provision is the bill, enabling Parliament to modify or alter the measure during the present session.

Lord King

stated, that he had to propose the insertion of a cause in the bill, explanatory or a provision which had been made in the bill of restriction, originally passed in the Parliament of Ireland, and had been since regularly enacted in the subsequent bills: the effect of this provision, his lordship described, went to prohibit the recovery of costs in actions brought against the Irish Bank directors, but which he understood had I been acted upon in such a way in some of the Irish courts of law, as he was inclined to think, could not have been the sense of the Irish legislature at the period of the enactment. His lordship instanced the case where a note was suspected to be fictitious, by one of the clerks of the Bank: it was the custom to refuse payment of the note, in the first instance at least; and these notes were frequently marked, in red ink, "forged," by the clerk. In some instances of this kind, payment was insisted upon by the presenter of the note, who, in the event of recurrence to a court of justice, proved the goodness of the note, at least in the opinion of the Jury; or sometimes the validity of the note was acknowledged on the part of the Bank. In the cases he alluded to, the costs were with held, by reason of the clause in question. Such he understood to have been the practice, and he doubted not the concurrence of their lordships in opinion with him, that such a provision ought to be properly explained, and in the particular cases to which he had alluded, to enact the recovery of costs.

Lord Carleton

observed, that this was the first time he had heard of the proceedings stated by the noble lord, as far as related to the with-holding costs; possibly such decisions might have taken place in the Irish law courts, He did not pledge himself to the negative, but he assured the committee he had never heard of any such. Upon the authority before their lordships he thought it would be going too far to enact the provision; proposed by the noble lord. In the state of darkness, in that respect, in which they then were, he thought it would be preferable to let the act remain as it stood, and that they should wait until inquiries shall have been made, and the facts ascertained, previous to their taking any legislative steps upon the subject.

The Lord Chancellor

expressed his thorough acquiescence in what fell from the noble and learned lord: he thought the subject one of very serious importance; it would be preferable, as things stood, to let the bill remain as it was, than to enact the provision proposed by the noble lord. The suitors, in the alternative alluded to, had the appellants jurisdiction to resort to. His lordship also was adverse to such a step being taken, without full and adequate information on the subject, relating to the character of the administration of justice in another part of the United Kingdom, which was a point of considerable importance. He concluded by recommending the noble lord, under the present circumstances, to withdraw the motion.—Lord King, after a few words in explanation, consented to withdraw his motion.—When one or the subsequent clauses was come to,

Lord King

again rose, and made some general observations upon the injurious effects of excessive issue of paper in Ireland, as well in reference to the course of exchange, as the depreciation of the currency. Under these impressions, he proposed the introduction of a clause tending to set a limit to the issue of paper by 'he Bank of Ireland: his clause would go to fix the limit of the paper issue to the amount it was on the 25th of Nov. last, the latest period to which the accounts were made up: this would give room even for an excessive issue, as it was upwards of 2,900,000l. which was 300,000l. more than what it was in the year 1802 He entered into calculations respecting the injurious effect the increased issue had on the state of the exchange, and concluded by moving a clause to the above effect.

Lord Hawkesbury

deemed it his duty to resist the adoption of the clause proposed by the noble lord, against which he argued, chiefly on the ground of the impropriety of legislating on such a principle, in bills of the description of that before the House. It would go to legalize and to sanction the issue of paper to a particular amount, to a degree beyond what the legislature could intend to do in such a case; and further, it would be giving an express opinion on the part of the legislature, as to the precise amount to which the issue of bills should extend. Under the present circumstance's, he thought it would be preferable to trust to the discretion of the bank directors, which he thought would be soundly used, and their issue regulated according to circumstances, which was the case with the Bank of England, sometimes more and sometimes less; fluctuating in their issues, with a reference to existing circumstances. Such a provision was the less necessary, when the controlling powers of the clauses in the bill alluded to in an early part of the discussion, were considered. He hoped the noble lord did not mean to press the clause.

Earl Darnley

said, be did not mean then to give any opinion upon the points under discussion. He entertained a favourable opinion of the Irish Bank directors, who he trusted would not make an improper use of the discretion vested in them; but he thought it would be best to wait until the result of the pending inquiry was known, and not to take any legislative step which, may have the appearance of prejudging the question.—Lord King shortly explained his reasons for wishing to adhere to his proposition. The question thereon was put, and negatived. The remaining parts of the bill were then agreed to by the committee, and the House resuming, ordered the report to be received to-morrow.

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