§ Standing Order No. 128, which is as follows:—
§ (No interest out of capital to be paid on calls under Railway Bills.)
§ 128. A CLAUSE shall be inserted in every Railway Bill, prohibiting the payment of any interest or dividend out of any capital which they have been or may be authorised to raise, either by means of calls, or of any power of borrowing' to any shareholder on the amount of the calls made in respect of the shares held by him, except such interest on money advanced by any shareholder beyond the amount of the calls actually made as is in conformity with the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, or the Companies Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845, as the case may be:
Considered, in order to its being amended by leaving out in line 2 ("payment of") and inserting ("Company from paying"), and by adding at the end of the Order ("and except such interest (if any) as the Committee on the Bill may, according to the circumstances of the case, think fit to allow, subject always to the following conditions:
(1.) That the rate of interest allowed by the Committee do not in any case exceed four per centum per annum;
(2.) That interest be not allowed to begin until the Railway Company have obtained a certificate of the Board of Trade to the effect that two-thirds at least of the share capital authorised by the Bill, in respect whereof interest may be paid, have been actually issued and accepted, and are held by shareholders, who, or whose executors, administrators, successors, or assigns, are legally liable for the same;
(3.) That interest be allowed to be paid only until the expiration of the time allowed by the Bill for the completion of the railway, or until the half-yearly dividend day next after the opening of the railway for public traffic, whichever shall first happen, or for such less period as the Committee think fit;
(4.) That interest do not accrue in favour of any shareholder for any time during which any call on any of his shares is in arrear;
(5.) That the aggregate amount to be so paid for interest be estimated and stated in the Bill, and that a specific amount of the capital be appropriated by the Bill for that purpose, and that no capital in excess of that amount be so applied, and that such appropriated capital be not deemed capital within Standing Order 112;
(6.) That if any part of the capital specifically appropriated for the payment of interest shall not be required and applied for that purpose, the same may be applied for the general purposes of the Company to which capital is properly applicable;
(7.) That notice of the Company having power so to pay interest be given in every prospectus, advertisement, or other document of the Company, and of any promoter, director, or agent of the Company inviting subscriptions for shares, and in every certificate of shares, and that every such prospectus, advertisement, or other document do distinguish and state in clear terms the amount of capital specifically appropriated for the payment of interest;
(8.) That the half-yearly accounts of the Company do show the amount on which, and the rate at which, interest has been paid,
and the Company shall be authorised by the Bill to pay interest accordingly, but not further or otherwise.
§ "There shall be inserted in every Railway Bill provisions making liable to penalties, recoverable summarily, any director or officer or agent of the Company who shall, directly or indirectly, pay or procure to be paid any interest or dividend contrary to the provisions of the Bill, and making illegal and void any contract entered into by the Company, or the promoters or directors or agents thereof, or any of them, under which payment of any interest or dividend shall be, directly or indirectly, pro- vided for contrary to the provisions of the Bill.
§ "In the case of Bills granting an extended time for the completion of a railway, the conditions fixed by any previous Act of the Company with respect to payment of interest on capital authorized by such Act, shall under no circumstances be enlarged. In any such Bill payment of interest shall be allowed only in respect of additional ordinary capital authorised by the Bill, and the period allowed for such payment shall in no case be extended beyond the period for completion as enlarged by the Bill.
§ "In any case in which payment of interest is allowed under the provisions of this Order, the Committee on the Bill shall take care that the period allowed for the completion of the railway shall not be longer than the longth of the line and the character of the works may render necessary.")
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES)
said, he wished to 1534 ask the careful attention of their Lordships to the subject of altering the Standing Order relating to the payment of interest out of capital. The terms of the proposal wore identical with those of the Order already passed in the House of Commons; and he wished most distinctly that their Lordships should determine the matter according to their own judgment, and let him know what their opinion was. He would not have brought the question before their Lordships at that period of the Session were it not for the Order that had been adopted by the House of Commons. The subject was fully debated in the House of Commons, and on a Division the proposed alteration of the Order was carried by 131 to 123. The majority was, therefore, a narrow one, being only 8 in number; but then the whole question was raised, and, as the question was one of great importance, it was desirable that the judgment of the House of Lords should be taken upon it, notwithstanding the late period of the Session. Some slight alterations had been made in the Order as it came from the House of Commons. As their Lordships were aware, the original Standing Order provided that no interest or dividend out of capital should be paid on calls under Railway Bills, except such interest on money advanced by any shareholder beyond the amount of the calls actually made as was in conformity with the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, or the Companies Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845. That Order, as it stood at present, was made in 1848, and had since practically governed the action of that House with regard to Railway Bills. At the same time, in one or two instances, payment of interest out of capital had been allowed. There was no doubt that, at the present moment, there were a number of Railway Companies which desired to have that power, and those engaged in the management of the Business of the House of Commons reported in favour of the change. Certain conditions and restrictions, however, were proposed, and the amended Standing Order, which also excepted such interest as the Committee on the Bill might think fit to allow, laid down several conditions to which the exceptions should be subjected. In the first place, the interest to be allowed was not to be 1535 more than 4 per cent. That that restriction was necessary was shown by the fact that there were several instances in which interest had, properly or improperly been paid at a higher rate than was allowed by this Order. The next portion of the Order was that interest be not allowed to begin until the Railway Company had obtained a certificate of the Board of Trade to the effect that two-thirds, at least, of the share capital authorized by the Bill, in respect whereof interest might be paid, had been actually issued and accepted. Another regulation was that interest be allowed to be paid only until the expiration of the time allowed by the Bill for the completion of the railway, or until the half-yearly dividend day next after the opening of the railway for public traffic, whichever should first happen, or for such less period as the Committee thought fit. That was also a very important condition, intended to secure that the scheme was bonâ fide. It was also provided that interest should not accrue in favour of any shareholder for any time during which his calls were in arrear. That was also a very proper arrangement. The next regulation was that the aggregate amount to be so paid for interest be estimated and stated in the Bill, and that a specific amount of the capital be appropriated by the Bill for that purpose, and that no capital in excess of that amount be so applied, and that such appropriated capital be not deemed capital within Standing Order 112. It was also provided that, if any part of the capital specifically appropriated for the payment of interest should not be required and applied for that purpose, the same might be applied for the general purposes of the Company; that notice of the Company having power so to pay interest be given in every prospectus, advertisement, or other document of the Company, and of any promoter, director, or agent of the Company, inviting subscriptions for shares, and in every certificate of shares, and that every such prospectus, advertisement, or other document, should distinguish and state in clear terms the amount of capital specifically appropriated for the payment of interest; that the half-yearly accounts of the Company should show the amount on which, and the rate at which, interest had been paid, and the Company be authorized by the Bill to pay interest 1536 accordingly, but not further or otherwise. He was extremely anxious that their Lordships should give a fair and impartial consideration to these proposals, and either assent to them or reject them. It was the decision of the House of Commons which induced him to bring the matter forward; and, as he had already stated, if it had not been so decided by the House of Commons, he would not have troubled their Lordships with the subject at that period of the Session. It was a grave question for the consideration of their Lordships' House whether they adopted the proposals or not. He hoped noble Lords would consider what was urged on both sides, and would decide according to what they thought just and best. The Amendment of his noble Friend (Lord Auckland) was to the effect that it was not desirable to alter Standing Order 128, or to substitute for it a new Standing Order, until a Bill had been passed to amend the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, and the Companies Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845, so far as these Acts related to the payment of interest out of capital by Railway or other Companies. That was altogether a matter for their Lordships to consider; and what he desired was, to have their Lordships' opinion upon this Order, which had passed the House of Commons in a very well attended House. Whatever their Lordships' opinions might be, and whether they accepted or rejected it, it was necessary that they should come to some decision at once, as it was inconvenient to have any uncertainty as to what the Standing Orders would be.
§ Moved, to leave out the words ("payment of") and insert ("Company from paying.") — (The Chairman of Committees.)
§ LORD AUCKLAND,
in rising to move the following Amendment, of which ho had given Notice:—That it is not desirable to alter Standing Order 128, or to substitute for Standing Order 128 a new Standing Order, until a Bill has been passed to amend the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, and the Companies Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845, so far as these Acts relate to the payment of interest out of capital by railway or other companies,said, he would venture to remind their Lordships that, for some 35 years, the present Standing Order had governed the railway legislation of the country, 1537 and good results had been obtained, for it put an end to a system of reckless speculation which had formerly done so much harm, and, at ono time, bade fair to ruin the country. Hundreds of millions of money, in the shape of capital, had been expended by Railway Companies under the regulations in force, and which had been supported by the Report of a Select Committee; and, therefore, he considered that in making such a radical alteration as was now proposed, if it wore really necessary to do so, it was but fair that it should be done, not by a Standing Order, but as a Committee had already recommended, by a Public Bill, after full discussion. He hoped that his Amendment would receive the support of the House.Moved, "That it is not desirable to alter Standing Order 128, or to substitute for Standing Order 128 a new Standing Order, until a Bill has been passed to amend the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, and the Companies Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845, so far as these Acts relate to the payment of interest out of capital by railway or other companies."—(The Lord Auckland.)
§ EARL CAIRNS
said, he perfectly agreed with his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees (the Earl of Redesdale) that the question was one of the utmost importance to all who were concerned in Railway enterprize, and he regretted that it had come before the notice of the House in its present form. It was felt last year that this Standing Order would have to be reconsidered; and in March, 15 months ago, a small Select Committee of five Members of the other House was appointed to consider and take evidence on the subject. That Committee, no doubt, reported in favour of the general principle on which Parliament had hitherto acted; but held that exceptions might very well be made in particular cases, and that the alteration, if made at all, should be made by an Act of Parliament, and not by a now Standing Order. As far as the other House was concerned, there appeared to be a disposition to alter the law; and, as he understood, several new undertakings were launched during the Recess on the faith that some alterations would be made in the Standing Orders; and, that being so, he thought that this year the judgment of both Houses ought to have been taken as soon as possible. A good way of doing that would have been to 1538 appoint a Joint Committee; but nothing whatever was done, neither last Session nor the present, till the other day, when this important question was disposed of as Private Business at a Wednesday Sitting. It was much to be regretted that the subject had now to be considered at a comparatively late period of the Session. He regretted that that House should have anything to say in the matter; but, with regard to the main point, there was, no doubt, a great deal to be said on both sides of the question as to whether interest should be paid or not. The practice of allowing interest to be paid out of capital during construction was, no doubt, a wrong practice, and one very apt to mislead the unwary, who bought shares without looking much below the surface of the investment, who were captivated with the idea that they would get 4 or 5 per cent from the very outset, and were under the impression that the money came, not from capital, but from some kind of profit; but, on the other hand, the position of all the old great Railway Companies had to be taken into account. They had the power of issuing capital and obtaining money at a discount—that was, they could issue shares at £80 and let them stand for £100 stock, thus paying 4 per cent on the £100, as well as giving the proprietors £20 per share. It would, in fact, be much the same thing as issuing the stock at par, on the understanding that interest should be paid out of capital for five years at 4 per cent, seeing that, in either case, the proprietor would have paid no more than £80. Therefore, if they wanted to make a new line, all they had to do was to issue new capital at a discount for that purpose. A question had been asked as to the result that would occur if this new Standing Order were not agreed to, and which must be answered in the negative, for if new Companies could neither issue shares at a discount nor pay interest out of capital, they could not be placed on the same footing as the old Companies. It had sometimes been said, also, that if Railway Companies were allowed to pay interest out of capital, the same permission must be extended to other Companies also, including those formed for trading purposes. It seemed to him, however, that there was no very complete analogy between trading Companies and Companies 1539 formed for the purpose of constructing works. In the former case, the law simply ordered the Companies not to diminish their capital by the payment of interest; but, in the latter case, this principle did not apply in the slightest degree, for Parliament could ascertain the amount wanted for a given undertaking, and could specify the sum, if any, to be allowed for the payment of interest during construction. He mentioned these considerations to show that the question was not as simple as it had sometimes been assumed to be. He hoped that their Lordships would not do anything now which would finally, either one way or the other, settle the question; but that they would postpone the consideration of it till the beginning of the next Session, and then do it by a Joint Committee in connection with an examination of the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, as he had suggested, in order that they might see whether there should be a new Standing Order on the matter, or that a general Bill dealing with the whole should be introduced. But they must take care not to do an injustice, and they must bear in mind that the course taken by the other House, if their Lordships simply refused to assent to it, would greatly tend to injure undertakings launched in view of the alteration of the Standing Order; and he should accordingly suggest to their Lordships that, with regard to the Railway Bills of the present Session, the alteration might be made, and the Standing Order of the other House might be acted upon, but only so far as regarded the present Session, on clear proof that the proposed lines were desirable, and could not otherwise be constructed. In order to meet the point, he would suggest an addition to one of the clauses, to the effect that in the case of the Railway Bills which had been passed that Session of 1883, such a rate of interest, if any, might be allowed as according to the circumstances could be made. By that means, all injustice would be avoided. He hoped that his suggestion would be approved by their Lordships, but upon the clear understanding that, in next Session, there should be a Joint Committee to examine the whole matter, and determine upon what course should be taken in the future. Ho believed that that would be the better 1540 course. He might mention one other point. Of late years several Acts had been passed authorizing trust funds to be invested in railway stock; and such provisions were very common in trust deeds and wills, but with the qualification that the investment should be in the debenture stock of Companies which had paid a dividend on their ordinary stock for a certain number of years. If the change were made, that qualification would not hold good any longer.
said, there could be no doubt that the question under discussion involved the safety of a very large amount of property. In any case, whatever decision might be come to, he regarded it as a remarkable testimony of the soundness of Railway finance, that the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees (the Earl of Redesdale) should consider that the time had come when, by the adoption of the provisions he had recommended, the Standing Order of 1818 might, with safety, be relaxed. The great Railway Companies would, ho (Lord Houghton) believed, be perfectly ready to accept the provisional arrangement suggested by the noble and learned Earl opposite (Earl Cairns); and next Session, the House could proceed in the proper way, by passing a general Bill on the subject.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he considered that, in approaching this subject, the House should deal with the proposal according to its own deliberate opinion, and not attach too much importance to a Resolution passed "elsewhere" by a not considerable majority. As to the advice given to them by his noble and learned Friend (Earl Cairns), from whom he seldom or never differed—especially on subjects in which no Party feeling could be involved—without some misgiving as to whether he (the Lord Chancellor) himself might not be mistaken, it seemed to him that the reason given by his noble and learned Friend for the opinion, in which he (the Lord Chancellor) thoroughly concurred, that the time had not yet arrived for a permanent change of the Standing Order, went further than his noble and learned Friend had suggested. He (the Lord Chancellor) did not think that the question could be left unprejudiced till another Session, if the suggestion was agreed to; and if they did not decide it one way or another now, it 1541 ought to be left untouched; but that would hardly be done by his noble and learned Friend's proposal. His noble and learned Friend had not expressed a positive opinion on the general question one way or the other. Ho had stated that there was a great deal to be said on both sides; but he (the Lord Chancellor) thought that his observations tended more in the direction of this change than of the existing Rule. If he had dwelt at equal longth on the other side of the question, he thought the noble and learned Earl might have been able to suggest reasons of equal force on the other side of the question. He could not help thinking that they ought to proceed with great care, for it was a very serious thing to change, without ample deliberation, a Rule founded on the sound principle of letting it be understood that when Parliament sanctioned a certain amount of capital, it meant what it said, and not something else. If they were to permit the deduction of 20 per cent from £100 of nominal capital, as a dividend, that would reduce the real capital to £80 instead of £100, and would be a delusion; it was simply returning to the subscriber 20 per cent out of the money which he had nominally invested. He might just as well keep the £20 in his pocket, and let the capital be called £80. His noble and learned Friend had stated that the same thing might be accomplished by the issue of shares at a discount, for which purpose powers were seldom, if ever, given to a Company when first authorized; but when a Company had erected its works, and secured its credit, Parliament did frequently authorize it to raise further capital in that manner on such terms as might be thought proper. But the distinction was this, that the issue of shares at a discount was after, and not before, and when the work had been done for which the Company was formed, when everyone knew with whom he was dealing and the real state of the credit of the Company; whereas the proposition now in question was that a similar course should be taken at the very beginning of the undertaking, when it might turn out, as such undertakings, unfortunately, did sometimes, to be a bubble, and when shares were being floated in the market by persons who might turn out to have no real interest in the practical success of 1542 the concern, and who never intended to have any permanent connection with it. If a discount on the capital which Parliament required to be deposited were allowed, certainly, as regarded the word to be used, it would be more correct to use the word discount, than the word interest. Nobody would be deceived in the one case; but, in the other case, inconsiderate persons might imagine that they were putting money into a secure investment, from which they would get a return in the shape of interest. His noble and learned Friend had stated the arguments on one side of the case rather than the other; and he (the Lord Chanceller) had so far followed that example, as to put the arguments on the other side. Coming to the question of the principle involved in the proposition of his noble and learned Friend, that this matter should be treated as not fit to be determined now, at the end of the Session, without deliberate consideration by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, then it ought to be remitted to such Committee without the prejudice which must necessarily arise if, in the meantime, their Lordships were to say that the now principle should be adopted ad interim in the case of Bills which had passed the other House this Session. On what ground could it be said that good faith required anything of the kind? These who had introduced the Bills were perfectly well acquainted with the Standing Orders of both Houses; and they had no right to reckon upon any change in either, merely because a Committee of one House had recommended that the subject should be considered. He could not help thinking, therefore, that that consideration must be dismissed, and that there was much to be said for the proposal of the noble Lord (Lord Auckland)—That it is not desirable to alter Standing Order 128, or to substitute for Standing Order 128 a new Standing Order, until a Bill has been passed to amend the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, and the Companies Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845, so far as these Acts relate to the payment of interest out of capital by railway or other companies.There was certainly great force in that view. It was in the power of Parliament, in any particular Act, to determine that the existing provision should not apply; but, on the other hand, the 1543 general rule was that the law as laid down by the Act should be applied, and a suspension of the Standing Order was necessary to enable any deviation to take place. If the general rule were not right, the Act of 1845 ought to be amended. He was not prepared to lay down the contrary rule, as they would do by adopting this Resolution; and he did not think any sufficient reason had been given why it should be done in favour of Bills now before Parliament. He did not think either that their Lordships were bound to alter this Standing Order, because the other House had done so.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, that the noble and learned Earl beside him (Earl Cairns) had thought that he would follow the advice and promote the wishes of the Government. This change, he (the Marquess of Salisbury) believed, had been proposed and supported by the President of the Board of Trade in the other House, and his noble and learned Friend, no doubt, imagined that, in providing a middle course, by which, without entirely differing from the President of the Board of Trade, we could protect the principles of existing legislation, he should be complying with the wishes and following in the path proscribed by the Government; but his noble and learned Friend must have forgotten, for the moment, sufficiently to reflect on that remarkable phenomenon of modern politics—namely, the dual personality of Mr. Chamberlain. Ho did not suppose the Government was divided; such a thing never occurred; but Mr. Chamberlain was two personalities; he was not the same man in Birmingham that he was in Downing Street; nor was he the same man on Mondays and Wednesdays that ho was on Tuesdays and Fridays. That was to say, he was not the same man on Government nights as he was on nights devoted to Private Business. He had a double personality of time and of place. It was, doubtless, through overlooking this obvious peculiarity of Mr. Chamberlain's remarkable career, that his noble and learned Friend found himself in his present position. At the same time, it appeared to him (the Marquess of Salisbury) that the arguments of the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack were very convincing, and ho thought they had better leave the matter unprejudiced, especially as there seemed to be no 1544 anxiety on the other side of the House to spare Mr. Chamberlain's feelings. Considering the enormous amount of property affected, this was one of the gravest Resolutions the House could pass. As regarded it, there was an obvious objection which must strike everyone, for it was really a proposal to enable a certain number of investors to practise upon themselves a species of wholly innocent self-deceit, and to take, in the form of interest, what was really a little of their own capital returned to them. That was what struck one at first sight, and he was far from saying there might not be reason of public policy in favour of the change. But, apart from that, the reasons of public) policy were of two kinds, and might operate in two different directions. This was entirely a question whether the kind of railway, which its friends called a contractors' railway, and its enemies called a bogus railway, was a kind of railway which it was desirable to multiply. If railways would pay, the capital would, no doubt, speedily be found, as there was great want of safe investments at the present time. But railways were very often wanted by a district, or by certain persons in a district, which would not only not pay, but which would not pay even their working expenses. If they passed this Rule, and amended their Standing Orders in the way now suggested, they would, no doubt, facilitate the construction of railways of this kind. While these railways, however, would benefit a district, or some of its inhabitants, it was only fair to remember that considerable injury might be inflicted upon the main railway to which the district belonged, and a blow of that kind might result in injury to the public. -What would occur would be that ono of these small contractors' railways, that did not pay its own expenses, must, in the long run, be bought up by the main railway of the district through which it passed. It would offer itself to some neighbouring railway, and it had a thousand modes of pressure by which it could force the main railway to buy it up. That was really like presenting, by Act of Parliament, a father of a family, already overburdened with spendthrift sons, whom he himself had engendered and brought up, a new prodigal son for whose existence he was not responsible. It was 1545 a matter that might be necessary as a point of policy to be done; but it ought not to be done hastily, or with a light heart. If they passed this proposal they would be simply inflicting heavy burdens upon the main line railways, which, in the end, the public would find to be practically imposed upon themselves, when they came to pay the increased fares, and experienced the diminished accommodation which would probably be the result. Although he confessed that his feeling was rather against it, he was anxious not to prejudice the consideration of a subject upon which sufficient argument had not been heard; and it was not the duty of Parliament, permanently, to take the course proposed, without giving to so grave a matter the utmost consideration in its power. For these reasons, he should support the view of the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that the statement of the noble Marquess was not quite accurate. He had said this amended Standing Order had been brought forward in the other House by the Government, and supported by them. The fact, however, was that the proposition was made, not by the Government, but by the Chairman of Committees in the other House; and it was supported by Mr. Chamberlain, who had expressly stated that he did not speak for the Government in the matter, though, he added, most of his Colleagues agreed with him in favour of the change. When the noble Marquess criticized apparent differences of opinion, it must be remembered that that was not the first time, this Session, that such differences had been exhibited by the speeches of the noble Marquess and those of the noble and learned Earl by his side (Earl Cairns). In this matter they had nothing to do with any question as between old and new railways. The Legislature had thought fit to impose the conditions on which Railway Companies could borrow money, and a good many years ago Parliament came to the conclusion that it was unsound in principle to sanction a nominal payment of interest, which was only a return of a portion of the capital. For his own part, ho (Earl Granville) thought it was a matter that affected this House very much, as well as the other House; and, therefore, it was one that ought to 1546 be very carefully considered. In these circumstances, he was inclined to agree with his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) that the question should be left entirely open; and he could not see why the necessary consideration should not be obtained by the simple adoption of the Amendment of the noble Lord behind him (Lord Auckland). He could not conceive any question which could possibly bear less of a Party character than this; and, individually, he should vote for that noble Lord's Amendment.
§ EARL CAIRNS
said, he was under the impression that this was a proposal which was supported by the Government; and he thought he was justified in saying that the Government came there in order to maintain, as they had maintained in the other House, the alteration of the Standing Order.
§ EARL CAIRNS
said, it was supported by Mr. Chamberlain; and what was Mr. Chamberlain? He was the President of the Board of Trade, and, in that capacity, he was at the head of the Railway Department of the country, for the Board of Trade was practically the Railway Department. Did the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) mean to say it was competent for the President of the Railway Department to support a proposition in the House of Commons, and then to turn round and say it had not been supported by the Government? Did he not commit the Government, by what he said in regard to the Business of that Department? What would the noble Earl himself (Earl Granville), or the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby), think, if either of them answered a Question in regard to the Business of his Department, and then Mr. Chamberlain, or someone else, were to say—"Oh ! the noble Earl did not speak on behalf of the Government?" Could the other Members of the Government throw over the foreign policy of the noble Earl, and say it was not their policy? Or could they take up a similar attitude with regard to the policy of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies? What was the Board of Trade for, except to give advice to the House of Commons, or the House of Lords, upon 1547 the policy that ought to be pursued in regard to railway matters. And it was absurd to say that, when the President of the Board of Trade advised Parliament on these matters, he did not speak on behalf of the Government. He (Earl Cairns) was entitled to view this as a proposition of the Government; and he had ventured to suggest an Amendment which would remove some of the objections to the proposal. If it was not their proposition, by no means let it be adopted.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, ho wished to point out that that was not a proposition of the Government which they now repudiated. It had never been their proposal. It was simply a question of Standing Orders; and it had never been the custom of the Government of the day to take up these questions, but rather to leave them to the discretion of the House. It seemed to him contrary to all sound practice, besides being inconvenient, that such matters should be made Party questions; and he maintained that, in a matter of this kind, they were justified in acting individually.
§ Motion (The Chairman of Committees) negatived.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, it was, in his opinion, undesirable that they should pass a Resolution, stating that they should not alter their Standing Orders except by Act of Parliament; and he would, therefore, suggest that as the noble Lord opposite (Lord Auckland) had now attained his main object, it would be expedient for him to withdraw his Amendment.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he was also of opinion that it would be better that the Amendment should be withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES)
said, he would consent to his proposition being withdrawn.
Motion (The Lord Auckland) (by leave of the House) withdrawn.
Then it was moved, "That it is not desirable to alter Standing Order No. 128, or to substitute for Standing Order No. 128, a new Standing Order."—(The Lord Auckland.)
§ Motion agreed to.