HL Deb 19 June 1862 vol 167 cc728-30

On Order of the Day for the Third Reading,


said, it had been objected on a previous occasion that the Bill gave the sanction of Parliament not merely to the old, but also to the new Company; and with the view of meeting this objection he now proposed to omit the three first lines of the 1st clause, which confirmed the arrangement between the two Companies, and to insert a recital of the arrangement which would be set out in the schedule, and which was embodied in the Treasury Minute. The effect would be to give the sanction of Parliament to that part of the agreement between the two Companies which required such sanction, and the transfer of the property and the conversion of the money payment given by the statute.


was anxious that the new agreement should be produced. It might be the best or worst agreement in the world, but which he could not tell until he had the opportunity of seeing it.


defied anybody to see how the matter stood by looking at the Correspondence; and he complained of the loose way of transacting business of this kind by Treasury Minute which referred to Correspondence as embodying the agreement. The more business-like way would be to have a regular formal agreement prepared, though he could understand that Companies preferred having informal arrangements, because they knew that the result was that it would tend to their interest and against that of the public. Another circumstance was that probably the parties interested would not be satisfied with the alteration now proposed. His own opinion was that the Bill should be recommitted in order to introduce the Amendment, because the effect of this would be to give the parties interested an opportunity of seeing the precise shape in which the Bill would pass.


joined in requesting their Lordships not to read the Bill a third time until they had seen the agreement set out in a clear and intelligible form.


said, it was only intended to give the sanction of Parliament to that part of the agreement which required its sanction. It was supposed that expressions were used in the preamble and clauses which left it ambiguous, and he proposed to strike out the words to which exception had been taken. The Bill had passed through the Commons without objection, and it threw no additional burden upon the public funds.


agreed in the objection that had been taken as to the difficulty of ascertaining what the agreement really was. He objected to indirect allusions to engagements entered into by the Crown. They ought to be clearly and intelligibly stated. Private companies were fond of loose agreements; and if difficulty occurred, the Crown was called upon as a point of honour to make good every expectation.


trusted the noble Duke would adopt the suggestion of the Chairman of Committees, and recommit the Bill. The Committee might be adjourned for a few days, and the Government would then have time to look into the matter.


thought there was no necessity for this; but still, if noble Lords were of a contrary opinion, he had no objection to postpone the Bill again.


recommended their Lordships to accede to the suggestion that the Bill be recommitted, in order that they might have full information upon the subject, and be enabled to agree upon such amendments as would prevent the necessity of the Bill being rejected by the House of Commons.


said, the jealousy he felt was that the Treasury, or any public Department, should have the power to make agreements involving a large expenditure of public money without bringing them before Parliament. The province and duty of the House of Commons he had always understood to be to inquire into such questions as these.


asked whether the Government were in a position to oblige the contractors to fulfil the clause of their agreement, which made them re- sponsible if the telegraph was not in working order? He believe that such a clause was in the contract embodied in the Treasury Minute, and he would therefore ask the noble Duke to lay that document on the table.


said, the original agreement, signed by Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli, was already printed in extenso in an Act of Parliament. The present arrangement was simply with a view to make the best of a bad bargain; for, so carelessly was the first agreement drawn up that there was no doubt that the Government had bound themselves to pay £36,000 a year, whether the telegraph was laid down successfully or not. There was not the slightest wish on his part to conceal any documents which bore directly or indirectly upon the subject; and, in conformity with what appeared to be the wish of the House, he would consent that the Bill should be now recommitted with a view to its being reprinted with the amendments he had suggested.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read, and discharged; and Bill re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House in Committee; Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received on Monday the 27th instant; and to be printed as amended [No. 109].

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, to Monday next, half-past Eleven o'clock.