HL Deb 31 May 1853 vol 127 cc835-8

said, he wished to call the attention of his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack (the Lord Chancellor) to the same subject as that upon which he put a question to him yesterday, namely, the effect of his recent order with reference to the conversion of stock belonging to suitors in the Court of Chancery. He understood, that under the Act of Parliament his noble and learned Friend had directed that suitors who had not elected to have money before the very day appointed for signifying their wish, should take the 2½ per cent stock at 110 l. Now, the time allowed to persons to make their option was decidedly too short, and very many persons entitled to hundreds and thousands of pounds would not have a proper opportunity, or indeed any opportunity at all, of making the election which had been tendered to them. If the noble and learned Lord's order, therefore, remained unrepealed, the effect would be that, not only would the interest on the money belonging to those persons be reduced 5s. per 100l., but their capital would be reduced at least 7 per cent. The rate of interest in the market at the present moment was 3 per cent, and it was obvious, therefore, that if the funds belonging to Chancery suitors should be invested in the new 2½ per cent stock, a loss would accrue both upon the interest and the capital. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had entirely failed in his scheme, because he had misunderstood the rate of interest in the market. He had evidently supposed that the rate of interest in the market was 2½ per cent, whereas in point of fact it was 3 per cent, and hence the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman had failed. At this moment the Consolidated Annuities and Reduced Annuities were selling below par, so that 100l. of money would pay 100l. 3 per cent stock with an actual profit over, including the accruing; dividend. It was quite clear, then, that nobody in his senses would take the 2½ per cent stock who could get the money instead. If the order of his noble and learned Friend, therefore, was carried out, the loss to the suitors would be inevitable, and they would have deep reason to complain, and no doubt would complain of it.


said, he could only repeat what he had said yesterday. He had never felt so incompetent for anything in his life as to know what course to take in respect to the suitors in this matter; he had accordingly taken the best advice he could get. That very day he had seen the broker of the Court of Chancery and the Accountant General on the subject; and he could not help believing, from the information conveyed to him, that his noble and learned Friend must be labouring under some mistake with respect to the value of investments in the 2½ per cent stock. He had given directions to the broker of the Court of Chancery to ascertain, as well as he could, what was its value in the market. Some of it had been sold, and the broker had brought him a list of the prices, which, however, were merely "nominal," as they called them on the Stock Exchange—there not having yet been sufficient for a general quotation—but, as nearly as he could estimate, the value of the stock at 2½ per cent was from 90l. to 92l., and the 3½ per cent stock 120l. That being so, it was quite true that if the 2½ per cent stock was selling at 90l., 100l. in money would be better for the suitor; but if it rose to 91l. or 92l. it would be a better speculation than getting the money. His noble and learned Friend must also be mistaken in assuming that there would be a loss on the capital of 7 or 8 per cent; for it was quite clear that some of the stock had been taken; but none of it would have been taken by the brokers if there had been a loss of 8 or 9 per cent. As he had stated yesterday, he had adopted the course which bad been followed by all his predecessors—namely, that of taking the lowest species of stock. He would just state to the House what had happened. There stood, to the credit of the suitors in the Court of Chancery in South Sea Annuities, and other minor stock, a sum of 469,000l. He had made an order that any party who wished to have money, or any of the different species of stock which was offered, should apply immediately. Only two applications, however, had been made—one to take money, and the other to take the 3½ per cent stock; but the two sums together did not amount to more than 9,000l.; so that there remained 460,000l., with respect to which no application had yet been made. He did not disguise from his noble and learned Friend that it was probable the circumstances of the case had not yet reached the minds of many of the suitors; but the matter did not rest here, for the Accountant General's chief clerk, Mr. Parkinson, had told him that he had had a great number of applications from solicitors for different suitors to know exactly what the effect of his (the Lord Chancellor's) order was, and saying that they wished to have the 2½ per cent stock; so that these parties were passive on the subject. With respect to the 460,000l. which remained undisposed of, he had desired the Accountant General not to signify his assent to its conversion until Friday next, the last day for signifying assent or dissent, and to let him know on Thursday evening what was the then state of the market. If by any chance there should then be a material alteration of the funds for the worse, he would revoke his order.


still believed he was strictly correct in his calculations, for which he had the authority of, among others well qualified to speak on such subjects, one of the first bankers in London, who assured him that morning it was a perfectly settled point in the City that the loss of capital upon the 2½ per cent stock would be at least 7 per cent. His advice to Chancery suitors was to take their 100l. in money, and invest either in the consolidated or reduced annuities, rejecting, like sensible men who knew their own interests, the 2½ per cent stock.

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