HL Deb 17 July 1866 vol 184 cc927-9

(The Earl Nelson.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


said, he had been requested to take charge of this Bill which was one of those that had come up from the other House without any natural parent, and that when he did so he believed that the evil it sought to remedy was sufficient to justify his so doing. Their Lordships might remember that the voting in public companies was carried on by means of proxies as well as by voting in person, and the object of the present measure was to permit the adoption of a third plan—that of using voting papers. The objection to the present mode of voting by proxy was that by the regulation providing that the proxies should be sent in to the Secretary forty-eight hours before the holding of the meeting, the Directors were enabled, knowing the number of proxies held by themselves and the number held by their opponents, to frame such a report as was likely to be carried. In 1864 it was stated by the Chairman of the Great Western Railway that the Directors held proxies representing nearly £8,000,000, before they drew up their report, for the consideration of which the meeting was called; and in 1865, in the case of the Great Eastern Railway, a great wrong would have been committed under the existing system. The Vice Chairman of that company had withdrawn from the direction, and brought some charges against the Directors, who refused the committee which was asked for. A poll was demanded and refused by the Directors, who would have succeeded but for some informality which was detected in some of the proxies. This vitiated the proceedings; the consequence was that as the matter came to be ventilated many of the proxies which the Directors possessed were not replaced by the shareholders, and the Directors were obliged to grant the Committee, and the charges were proved to be correct, involving the constitution of a new Board of Directors. The Bill, when first introduced, appeared to be calculated to remedy the evil complained of, but unfortunately in its progress through the House of Commons the clause permitting the voting by voting papers to be applied to the poll was struck out. He could not, therefore press the second reading, unless he proposed the restoration of that clause in Committee, and such a restoration it would scarcely be possible to carry at the present late period of the Session. He should, however, be glad if their Lordships would affirm the principle of the Bill by reading it a second time.


thought that if the objection to the present method was the fact that proxies must be lodged with the Secretary forty-eight hours before the holding of a meeting, the objection would be obviated by dispensing with the neces- sity of sending in the proxies forty-eight hours before the holding of the meeting, and not by the establishing of a third system of voting.


said, that in its original form the Bill might perhaps have raised the question of voting by proxies fairly enough; but as it at present stood, he hoped the noble Earl would not press its second reading. He did not think it would act satisfactorily.


said, he had no wish to press the second reading, and would move that the Order be discharged.

Order discharged.

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