HL Deb 10 February 1842 vol 60 cc241-3
The Duke of Wellington

moved the second reading of the Appropriation Acts (1841) Amendment Bill. The object of the bill was to provide that certain sums voted the Session before last, and last Session, for certain services, should now be applied to other services. The consequence of passing this bill would be, that the accounts would be simplified and certain expenses he saved in allowing sums to be applied as one fund, instead of as two funds.

Lord Monteagle

concurred with the noble Duke that this bill ought to pass. It was to correct a technical mistake which arose from the inaccurate wording of the second Appropriation Act, which passed last Session, an inaccuracy which was by no means attributable to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He should, however, like to see the bill printed before the third reading, because he understood an Amendment was introduced in the other House after the bill was first printed, and he was anxious to know the nature of that amendment. Before he sat down, he wished to ask the noble Duke whether there would be any objection to lay before the House the proceedings of the Government, under the Act of the last Session, with respect to the funding of Exchequer Bills? By that Act very extraordinary powers were given to the Government—though not greater powers than the peculiar circumstances of the times required. If the operation had been simply the funding Exchequer Bills, there would not have been the necessity of any subsequent Parliamentary information on the subject; but, from the print of the bill, as originally introduced in the Commons, it appeared that the first operation contemplated was partly funding and partly receiving subscriptions in money; in the progress of the bill, however, an alteration of an important character was made—namely, that of giving a power to the Government of selling stock to any amount, to complete the sum of 5,000,000l., which was required to be raised. That was a great power to be given to any Government, and it implied great confidence on the part of the Legislature that gave it, and good sense on the part of the party who marked his forethought in suggesting it; thus anticipating that which actually occurred; the operation of the bill would otherwise have been wholly incomplete. It gave the Government the power to go into the money market, and sell public securities whenever it thought fit; a power, in general, open to great objection, because liable to great abuse. He, however, was satisfied it had not been abused. But this being a power justified only by extreme necessity, a power of going without notice into the market, and disturbing the ordinary value of the public securities, he trusted the noble Duke would not consider he was asking anything unreasonable in requiring that there should be laid before Parliament a full account of the transactions under that bill. He begged to state, that he thought the power given was absolutely necessary; and he only wished that a similar power had been given some years back in reference to the slave compensation. Under the Slave Compensation Act there was a clause which compelled the Government to contract a loan long before the money was required. The inconvenience of that course was extreme. The course taken in the present instance was a much better one; still, inasmuch as it gave a great latitude to the discretion of the Government, he hoped the noble Duke would not object to lay before the House a full account of the manner in which the trust had been exercised.

The Duke of Wellington

did not think there would be any objection in giving the noble Lord whatever information he might think proper to require, still he would suggest to the noble Lord the expediency of his putting his request in the form of a motion.

Bill read a second time.