§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ MR ROEBUCK
said, that last year he had presented a Petition from a gentleman named Coleman in reference to the affairs of the company, in which he stated that the chairman (Mr. Jackson) had imposed, not only upon the public, but upon the House. Power had been given to the company, under certain circumstances, to borrow £700,000. The chairman, had, however, employed his ingenuity to induce the public to lend two million and some odd hundred thousand pounds. When he brought the matter forward, he asked the House to grant a Select Committee to inquire into the allegations of Mr. Coleman's Petition. But the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Farrer) then got up and said he was the personal friend of the chairman of the company, that that chairman was a perfectly honourable man, and that he (Mr. Farrer) was ready to vouch for it that the allegations in the Petition were untrue. Now, those allegations had been proved to be true before a Committee of the House, and he (Mr. Roebuck) defied the hon. Member to deny that assertion. It also appeared that an agreement between Mr. Coleman and the company had been drawn up by the brother of the hon. Member for South Durham. That agreement, a copy of which he (Mr. Roebuck) held in his hand, clearly showed that Mr. Coleman was not in any way amenable to the assertions made by the hon. Gentleman to whom he alluded. At a recent meeting of the company, a report of the directors was read, in which it was stated—The Directors are, however, happy to report that Mr. Coleman's suit in Chancery has been terminated by an arrangement between him and the late Directors, and the Board concurs in the following statement, which forms part of the arrangement:—The defendants (the company) admit that the proceedings of Mr Coleman have not been taken by him from any motive of private gain, and that the charges made by him in his Bill in Chancery have been supported by the evidence, and that the institution of these proceedings was not in violation of any antecedent contract or engagement by him, and that they have been calculated to place the affairs of the company on the present sound and legal basis.He (Mr. Roebuck) thought it would have been graceful on the part of the Member for South Durham (Mr. Farrer), who had 303 twitted him with his conduct in presenting the Petition, if, after the allegations in that Petition were proved to be true, he had risen arid admitted the fact. The Bill before them was the result of the proceedings of the chairman. On the part of the company, that gentleman, had issued debenture stock, as it was imagined under the sanction of an Act of Parliament, and by the Bill it was intended to deprive the holders of that stock of the preferential right to which they were entitled, and to place all demands against the company on a footing of perfect equality. The subject was one of great importance in the country, many people having invested large sums of money in debenture stocks. The Bill, however, was the first step in the business of repudiation, which ought to be carefully watched by the House. He had nothing further to say except that the allegations in the Petition he had presented had been shown to be true, that the assertions of the hon. Member (Mr. Fairer) in respect to those allegations had turned out to be incorrect, and that no apology had been made for the incorrectness of those assertions.
§ MR. FARRER
said, he was surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman had taken that opportunity of making a personal attack on himself, without giving him the slightest notice that it was the intention of the hon. and learned Gentleman to impugn his conduct before the House. He was, however, prepared to reply to the attack which had been made upon him. The hon. and learned Gentleman imputed to him (Mr. Farrer), as a fault, that his brother had been instrumental in drawing up the agreement between Mr. Coleman and the company. He was no lawyer, and he need hardly say he did not interfere in any way with his brother's professional affairs. Further, he denied that when he spoke upon the Petition presented by the hon. and learned Gentleman, he had made any attack upon him. All he then stated was that the grounds upon which the Petition was framed were not such as to require the intervention of the House, in the shape of a Select Committee. With reference to the document quoted by the hon. Gentleman (Mr Roebuck), he must remind the House that it did not admit that all the allegations of Mr. Coleman were correct. Moreover, he understood that the report of the directors, which had been quoted, was not agreed to unanimously by the boards. He (Mr. Farrer) had never 304 disputed that Mr. Jackson's proceedings had been very irregular; but what he had said had been based on sound documentary evidence, which he should be glad to show the hon. and learned Member. He trusted the House would throw no impediment in the way of the passing the Bill, which was calculated to remove great difficulties, to repair much irregularity, and to place on a sound and firm basis the affairs of a large and thriving company, who were adopting the most strenuous measures for the development of the resources of a highly important district. The port of Hartlepool stood upon its own merits, and it was therefore unnecessary for him to defend its interests. In conclusion, he apologized to the House for occupying their attention in a matter personal to himself.
§ MR. PEASE
said, he was prepared to defend the integrity of both the hon. Members opposite, each of whom he believed to be influenced by the most honourable motives in the matter, and to be justified in the course he had taken, from the impressions under which he acted. Although some of the provisions of the Bill were of an unusual character, the circumstances under which they were framed were also unusual. He trusted, therefore, that no opposition would be thrown in the way of the passing of the Bill, which was calculated to prevent much litigation, and be a great boon to the bondholders.
§ Bill read.3°, and passed.