HL Deb 06 August 1857 vol 147 cc1121-2

LORD ST. LEONARDS rose to complain that this Bill had been read a third time rather by surprise on Tuesday last, and that he had been thus prevented from proposing the insertion of two clauses which he thought it of importance to introduce, and of which he had given notice to the noble Lord opposite. One of the clauses which he wished to insert was intended to provide that joint-stock banks should be compelled to publish their accounts, as they were at present, and the other had reference to the bankruptcy of banks in Ireland. He very much lamented that the noble Lord should have hurried the Bill through without a word, although he was aware that he (Lord St. Leonards) intended to take the sense of the House on his Amendments. That was not the mode in which the Government ought to conduct the business of the House. Hitherto there had been but one code applicable exclusively to joint-stock banks; they were now about to sweep away the whole of that law, and to make joint-stock banking companies subject to all the laws and regulations affecting joint-stock companies generally. This was a great alteration to effect by a measure of this nature, and he ventured to say that very few of their Lordships were aware of the nature of its enactments. Under it any seven persons might establish a joint-stock banking company with £100 each subscribed, but not one penny paid. They might advertise themselves as being incorporated under this Act some fine day, and then unfortunate people in all parts of the country would be swindled out of their property, and would be deprived of all those safeguards which they had hitherto possessed.


said, he would express his regret that the noble and learned Lord should have been prevented from expressing his views on the Bill; but at the same time he must remind the noble and learned Lord that on two former occasions he had postponed this Bill for the noble and learned Lord's express convenience, and that on Monday night he informed him that he could not postpone it any longer, because the Session was getting on, and if these measures were postponed indefinitely from time to time it would be impossible to pass them. With reference to joint-stock banks in Ireland, he told the noble and learned Lord that a clause to effect the object which he had in view had been introduced by the Attorney General for Ireland in the other House, and he stated that if that clause did not carry out to the full extent the wish of the noble and learned Lord, another might be introduced for the purpose. With regard to the other clause he stated that the Bill was intended to assimilate the law with respect to joint-stock banks to the Joint-stock Companies Act of last year, with this single exception, that, whereas joint-stock companies under the Act of last year might be formed with limited liability, banks would continue to be formed, as they had always hitherto been, under unlimited liability. With regard to the publication of accounts, he stated that that was not required by the Joint-stock Companies Act of last year, to which banks were, under this Bill, to be assimilated. He added that be considered the publication of accounts to be a completely fallacious test, and that it enabled the British Bank, the Tipperary Bank, and every swindling concern which had failed of late years, to bear upon their face an assumption of security which it was so far from affording that it only deluded the public who confided in them. On the whole, he thought it desirable that there should be no compulsory publication of accounts, although the shareholders might, if they deemed it advisable for the sake of security, by their memorandum of association, require it as one of the conditions of the company. If it were thought that such publication would add to the security of the concern, and would inspire confidence in the public, no doubt the shareholders and directors of most banks which desired to obtain such confidence would take measures for the publication of their accounts.