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complaining of defects in the government | ed exertions as would enable the Govern thereof, and praying for amendment. The ment to deal with the question hereafter in request of the petitioners was, that at the a manner more favourable to the claims expiration of the Hudson's Bay Company's they might put forward than they could do charter, the Crown should appoint a gover- at the present moment. He could assure nor for the island. This possession was of his noble Friend that the attention of the great importance, in consequence of the Government would continue to be directed large supply of coal which it contained. to the subject. He had reason to believe that no coal was to be found on the north-western coast of America except upon this island.
THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE said, that the interval since he had ceased to belong to the Colonial Office was not so long as to have caused him to have entirely forgotten everything connected with that department. He was quite aware of the importance which was rightly attached by the noble Earl to the Colony of Vancouver's Island, little as was at the present moment the comparative interest with which it was regarded in this country, on account of the small number of inhabitants it contained. The subject was by no means new to him, as, at the time when it was originally proposed to make a grant of the island to the Hudson's Bay Company, he had called the attention of the House of Commons to it. He was quite aware that the colonisation of the island had not made that progress which it was important that it should make, not only on account of its proximity to the Russian possessions, but also to the British possessions of North America; but it must be borne in mind, when we considered the transactions of the Hudson's Bay Company, that they had laboured under disadvantages which could not have been anticipated when the grant was made. Since the grant had been made, the discovery of gold in California had taken place, and it was extremely difficult to colonise an island like this, the climate of which was not very temperate, situated near gold diggings, although, no doubt, its mineral advantages were more likely to enrich those who turned their attention to them than gold digging. The immense importance attaching to this island on account of the supply of coal which it contained rendered it one of the most valuable possessions of the British Crown; but at the same time, although he thought that due exertions might not have been made by the Hudson's Bay Company, he also thought that some allowance must be made for the great disadvantages under which they had laboured from the peculiar circumstances to which he had referred; and he only trusted that they would make such increas
Petition ordered to lie upon the table.
THE NEW SECRETARY OF STATE-
THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH: I wish to call the attention of the noble Earl at the head of the Government to a question which arises out of the appointment of the new Secretary of State. Your Lordships are, of course, aware that, according to the Act of Anne, not more than two Secretaries of State can sit in the Ilouse of Commons. Now that a fourth Secretary of State has been created, there will be two in the Commons, and two in this House. At present no practical inconvenience will arise from this arrangement; but great practical inconvenience might arise, in the event of another considerable change taking place in the present Government-and still more on the constitution of a new Government-from the law which prevents three Secretaries of State from sitting in the House of Commons. The existing limitation might materially interfere with the formation of a new Government. I am of opinion, therefore, that a Bill should be introduced to enable three Secretaries of State to sit in the House of Commons-for it would be most inconvenient to wait for the passing of such a measure if a new Administration should succeed to office requiring such a change. I therefore beg to ask the noble Earl whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill to enable three Secretaries of State to sit in the House of Commons?
THE EARL OF ABERDEEN: My Lords, I have to state there is no intention at present to bring in a Bill on the subject. The question was duly considered, and was attended with some doubt; but we took the proper advice, and consulted the best authorities. It appears to us that there is no reason for proceeding by Bill to effect that which has already taken place, inasmuch as only two Secretaries of State now sit in the House of Cominous; and the Queen, in the exercise of her prerogative, can, if she think proper, place a fourth Secretary of State in your Lordships' House. I admit with my noble Friend, that I can
conceive a case in which inconvenience might arise from the absence of a power enabling a third Secretary of State to sit in the House of Commons; but no such inconvenience has yet arisen, and there is no necessity to remedy a grievance which has no existence. At the same time I concur with my noble Friend that the subject is one worthy of consideration.
RAILWAY AND CANAL TRAFFIC REGULATION BILL.
Bill read 3a (according to order) with the Amendments.
LORD LYNDHURST said, he had suggested the introduction of a clause into this Bill, the object of which was to limit the liabilities of railway companies, so that they should not be dealt with precisely as common carriers, but he saw no chance of enforcing his views in this respect against the large majority hostile to railway companies in that House. He had, however, ventured to suggest an amendment of the second clause to the noble Lord who had charge of the Bill. This clause prohibited railway companies from limiting their liability as carriers by any forms or conditions which they might set forth upon tickets issued by them. It occurred to him that great inconvenience and injustice would arise from making this invariable rule applicable to all circumstances, and he had suggested that the Board of Trade should have power to allow a railway company to introduce such conditions as the Board might think proper under the circumstances. The noble Lord who had charge of the Bill had prepared a proviso to the clause, which imposed upon railway companies in the first instance the burden of declaring the conditions, and then required the Court of Common Pleas to pronounce an opinion as to whether those conditions were reasonable. This arrangement was objectionable, because it rendered litigation and expense inevitable, and also because there might not be an uniformity of decision between the Courts of Dublin, Edinburgh, and London.
THE EARL OF DERBY complained of a proviso being introduced into a clause by private arrangement; the House knew nothing about it.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY said, that in his opinion the Court of Common Pleas was the best tribunal to decide upon the point raised by the noble and learned Lord.
The Earl of Aberdeen
The EARL OF HARROWBY wished the clause to be postponed in order that it might be considered by their Lordships.
LORD REDESDALE said, the object of the railway companies was to introduce matter into the Bill which should limit their liabilities. Now he (Lord Redesdale) would allow railway companies no power to impose conditions upon travellers. clause would be of no avail if the proviso should be added to it, for it would only afford a loophole to the companies to escape from their liabilities.
LORD WHARNCLIFFE recommended the postponement of the clause.
LOBD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY said, that this was not his clause. He believed it was proposed by the noble and learned Lord opposite, and if he wished to amend his own clause there could be no objection. Indeed, he should prefer the omission of the clause altogether, for he considered the Bill to be much better in its original shape. If, however, the noble Lord (the Earl of Derby) felt himself taken by surprise at the introduction of the proviso which had been inserted in it, he (Lord Stanley) had no objection to postpone the passing of the Bill till to-morrow, and in the meantime have the proviso printed for further consideration.
The EARL OF DERBY thought the proviso should not appear in the second clause, but should be introduced in another part of the Bill.
Further debate adjourned till To-morrow. House adjourned till To-morrow.
HOUSE OF COMMONS,
Monday, June 12, 1854.
MINUTES.] NEW WRIT.-For Morpeth, v. Right Hon. Sir George Grey, Bart., Secretary of State. PUBLIC BILLS.-2° Excise Duties (Sugar); Landlord and Tenant (Ireland); Leasing Powers (Ireland).
STAMP DUTIES BILL.
MR. HUME said, he rose to submit some objections, which he thought ought to be valid in a free trade House of Commons. This Bill was a matter affecting the currency of the country, and a matter which he believed would have the worst possible effect upon the commercial world. If stamp duties on bills of exchange could not be taken off and replaced by some uniform tax of a small sum on all bills, of
whatever amount they might be, he had no objection to the first clause. He admitted that the schedule annexed to the Bill was in itself an improvement, because it gave relief to smaller bills, which had hitherto been heavily taxed. But with respect to the second clause, imposing duties upon foreign bills of exchange, he entertained the strongest objections, because any additional restrictions upon foreign bills of exchange must be very injurious to the general commerce of the country. In his opinion by far the best course would be to impose a small tax of 3d. or 6d. on all bills. whether inland or foreign, which might be done with little loss to the revenue; but if that was not done, then the distinction which had hitherto existed between foreign and inland bills ought still to be maintained. If the tax on bills of exchange were a good tax, it would have increased proportionately with the increase of commercial transactions, but it appeared the revenue from that source, which in 1815 was about 800,000l., had actually fallen last year to 596,000l. By Sir Robert Peel's Bills of 1844 and 1845, the currency of the country was positively limited, bankers being prevented issuing notes except on metal foundation, and since the latter date banks which issued between 700,000l. and 800,000l. in notes had entirely ceased operations, so that the currency was so much deficient. Every hon. Gentleman who had attended at all to the subject must be aware that our bills of exchange were a great commercial advantage, and that there had been times when, without them, our trade would have been at a standstill, and the whole country would have become bankrupt. With a largely increased trade and a restricted currency, it was more than ever important that no new impediments should be thrown in the way of the free circulation of commercial bills. His own opinion was that an uniform tax of sixpence, or something of that kind, upon all such bills, would tend to give much greater facilities to trade than were afforded by the present system; but if they could not come to that, let them at least not lay a new tax upon foreign bills, which had never been taxed before. Free trade was making England the emporium of the world-the great depôt for the world's produce; but if they passed this Bill and imposed this duty upon bills drawn abroad, they would be limiting their own means of paying for this produce, and preventing this country from becoming the
emporium of the money market, as she was already the emporium of commerce. He saw by to-day's papers, that upwards of 500,000l. sterling in dollars had been imported into this country in the course of the last week from various parts of the world. Of this large amount, probably not more than 50,0007. would remain to pay debts in this country, while the remainder would be drawn upon from France, and Germany, and Holland, and other parts of Europe; and it was easy to see that the imposition of a stamp duty upon such drafts would materially interfere with the freedom of our exchanges, and put impediments in the way of commerce. It was for this reason that he intended to propose in Committee that the second portion of this Bill should be expunged.
MR. GREGSON said, he approved of the Government proposal, and dissented from the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) as to the effects of the duty on bills of exchange.
MR. THORNELY said, he objected to the tax on foreign and colonial bills. amount would be very considerable; for he had heard an American merchant in the City of London say that in his office alone the stamps would be 6,000l. a year. It was not, however, the amount so much as the vexatious manner in which the tax was to be imposed that the commercial world complained of; and he did wish that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose financial propositions had been so liberally met by the House, had refrained from laying on a new tax which he thought would be very prejudicial to the foreign trade of the country.
MR. JOHN MACGREGOR said, his objections to the difference of duty was to be found in the four schedules. To be fair, the duty ought to be uniform. He objected to the principle of taxing bills of exchange; but if such securities were to be taxed at home, he confessed he could not see on what principle of justice or consistency they should be exempted abroad.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER said, he would suggest that as this was a Bill, not for the purpose of imposing a tax upon foreign bills of exchange, but for the purpose of amending the stamp laws in various particulars, of which this was only one, and as he did not apprehend that it was intended to take any vote upon the question "that the Speaker do leave the Chair," the better course would
be to go into Committee at once, and to take the discussion upon the schedules when they came to them.
House in Committee, Mr. BOUVERIE in the Chair.
Clauses 1, 2, and 3 were agreed to. Clause 4 (The holder of a bill drawn out of the United Kingdom to affix an adhesive stamp thereupon before negotiating it).
MR. HUME said, that as this was the clause by which it was intended to impose the duty, it was his intention to take the sense of the Committee.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER said, he would put it to the Committee whether the more preferable course would not be to agree to the clauses, and raise the question of the hon. Member for Montrose on the schedules. It would be competent for the hon. Member to move the omission of "foreign bills of exchange" from the schedule.
MR. MASTERMAN said, that these clauses involved the whole question, and submitted that the more direct and convenient course would be to take the sense of the Committee on the clause, for then the decision of the Committee would at once touch the principle of the proposal, which could not be the case if the question were merely treated as a part of the schedule.
MR. T. BARING said, he took the same view of the case, for there could be no doubt that the fourth clause raised the whole question whether there was to be a stamp on foreign bills. The principle was involved in this clause.
MR. HUME said, he should now move that the clause be expunged from the Bill. He did not know whether the Committee was at all aware of the large amount of bills of exchange in circulation in this country. He confessed that he himself had had no accurate idea until he had inquired into the subject of the extent to which the commerce of the country was dependent on them. The amount of banknotes in circulation was as nothing when compared with them. According to the estimate of Mr. Newmarch, a gentleman who had paid considerable attention to the subject, there were drawn for the purposes of the small farmer and the retail tradesmen bills of exchange of the average amount of 21. 2s., having an average time to run of two months and seven days, to no less an amount than 6,325,000l. The amount of bills of the average amount of 1407., with an average time to run of The Chancellor of the Exchequer
three months and six days, drawn chiefly upon parties who supply themselves with goods directly from the importer or manufacturer, was 35,800,000l. a year, while the larger bills, of the average amount of 1,9657., reached to no less an amount than 51,000,0001. Of the total amount of bills
of exchange in circulation in this country, estimated at 160,000,000l. or 170,000,000l., it might fairly be calculated that one-fourth were bills drawn abroad; and as he thought we ought to do everything in our power to invite trade, instead of imposing additional restrictions upon it, he hoped the Committee would mark its opinion upon the subject by assenting to his Motion to strike out the clause.
MR. GLYN said, he might well agree with the opinion of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, that all stamp duties were in some degree impediments to commercial transactions, and under some circumstances he might probably concur with him in thinking that an uniform rate of duty might, perhaps, be expedient. Considering, however, that these were questions which involve the loss of a very large amount of revenue, and considering that these were not times when they could call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give up any tax, which was collected without much difficulty, he could not support his hon. Friend in the view which he took of the measure now before the Committee. He did not think that the reasons which had induced the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to propose that measure had been quite accurately stated. As he understoood the object of the Bill, it was intended to obviate two great evils which existed under the present system. The first was a legal difficulty which had arisen, and which materially affected the holders of foreign and colonial bills; and the second was the grievance which had been felt for many years by the holders of small bills of exchange, not only on account of the pressure of the tax as it stands, but on account of the disadvantage at which they were placed with reference to their neighbours who were holders of foreign bills, and who were able to use them without being subject to any tax at all. With respect to the first difficulty, his hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) had very truly stated the total amount of bills in circulation in this country at about 160,000,000l., of which he (Mr. Glyn) estimated that about one-fifth were foreign or colonial bills; but his hon. Friend had
omitted to speak of a third class, upon which this proposition of the Government mainly rested of those bills which, purporting to be drawn in the Colonies, were in fact drawn in this country, and the innocent holders of which had, in a great number of instances, sustained severe loss, against which it had been wholly impossible for them to protect themselves. IIe spoke in the presence of Gentlemen who had suffered from this system, which had been carried on to a much greater extent than hon. Members probably had any idea of, and which penalties had been found altogether ineffectual to repress. With respect to the second point, he had himself presented petitions from several places relative to this subject, and he knew that there was a decided objection on the part of small dealers in the country to the manner in which this tax was at present levied. They complained, and justly complained, that it was unfair in its proportions, and bore very heavily upon them. Referring to the petition which had been presented against this Bill by his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Masterman) the Member for the City of London, he was sure his hon. Friend would not deny that, upon this question, he did not represent the interests or the opinions of those large dealers in bills of exchange in the City of London, and elsewhere, who were so largely interested in it. They had caused it to be communicated to his hon. Friend that they disagreed with his views upon this subject. There might be something in the objec-| tion which was made upon the score of "trouble" if the Government had proposed that the holder of the bill should be compelled to send it to the Stamp Office, and to part with it out of his possession for the purpose of the stamp being affixed; but this difficulty was effectually disposed of by the simple provision in the Bill for affixing an adhesive stamp. He was quite aware of the complaints of trouble and inconvenience that were made when the postage stamp was first introduced, but he never heard of any complaints nowadays on that subject. If there was any ground for apprehending that the measure would materially interfere, as his hon. Friend had suggested, with the foreign operations of the country, he should be very sorry to say anything in its favour, or to take any steps to promote it; but what could be the effect of a duty of 1s. per cent upon the foreign bills of exchange negotiated in this country? At the very outside it would
be only a small deduction from the commission, and would not, he felt confident, have the slightest effect upon the general transactions of the country. They knew that in the case of marine and fire insurances, although much heavier duties were imposed than that which was here proposed, foreigners still came to this country to insure; and so they would continue to do as long as England sustained her credit and her character for industry, integrity, and capital. Considering that the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to remove a grievance from the holders of foreign bills of exchange, and to relieve the internal trade of the country from a very heavy impost, he had the greatest pleasure in supporting the proposition.
MB. MASTERMAN said, he differed entirely from the statement of the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Glyn), that the great majority of the merchants of the City of London regarded the proposal of the Government with favour. He believed, on the contrary, that they were altogether opposed to the imposition of a tax upon bills drawn out of the United Kingdom. Nor could he agree in the principle that long and short dated bills should be taxed to the same extent. It had been the policy of Parliament of late years to unshackle foreign trade in every possible way, and now they were called upon to legislate in an opposite direction, and to place a tax upon that which had never been taxed before.
MR. W. BROWN said, that believing that it had been the aim of Parliament by recent legislation to make London, if possible, the money market of the world, he must regard this proposal to tax foreign bills of exchange as an interference with that most desirable object. Nor could he help thinking that it was a most severe blow against the manufacturing and agricultural industry of the country.
MR. J. WILSON said, this had been denominated a new tax, but so far from that being the case, it was in the main a great reduction of an old tax, in fact it was a proposal to bring about an equalisation of duties upon home and foreign transactions. At present all bills drawn in the United Kingdom on places out of the United Kingdom, ånd therefore representing the whole of the exports of the country, were subject to rates in the following proportions :-All bills under 100l. were chargeable with a stamp duty of 1s. 6d., but by the new scale they would be chargeable