HC Deb 02 March 1825 vol 12 cc845-54

On the order of the day for resuming the debate, on the motion for the second reading of this bill, Mr. Macdonald presented a petition from Mr. John Shaw Leigh, complaining that the Standing orders had not been complied with.

General Gascoyne

objected to the presentation of a petition in this stage of the measure.

The Speaker

said, that in any stage of a private bill it was competent for the House to receive a petition, complaining that the first step which ought to be taken, with respect to measures of this kind, namely, a compliance with the standing orders, had been neglected. The ordinary course had been, to refer such a petition to a separate committee. If that committee reported, that the allegations contained in the petition were borne out by facts, the House had the power to stop the further progress of the bill, even though it had been read a second time, and was committed.

Mr. Macdonald

said, the petitioner complained that the standing orders had not been complied with. When notice was given that this bill was about to be brought in, he proceeded to London to examine the sections of the bill in the Private Bill-office, and he found that some of them differed from the sections of the bill which had been deposited with the clerk of the peace for the county. At this time, the committee appointed to inquire whether due legal notice had been given, had made their report in the affirmative; therefore, so far as related to referring his petition to that committee, the door was closed against him. The petitioner stated, that the standing orders were not only complied with in a vague and unsatisfactory manner, but that much irregularity was disclosed in the course of the proceeding. It would scarcely take a moment to decide this question. The committee would only have to compare the bill placed in the Private Bill-office with that deposited in the office of the clerk of the peace, and to report whether there was any difference between them. This would at once decide the question, whether the standing orders had or had not been complied with.

The Speaker

suggested, whether it would not be better, for the convenience of the House, as the original question was, that "this debate be resumed," to urge the contents of the petition as arguments against the second reading of the bill. The statements contained in it might form extremely good grounds for opposing the second reading. If this course were pursued, a motion might be made, after the present question was disposed of, for referring the petition to a committee.

Mr. Macdonald

acquiesced in this arrangement, and the debate proceeded.

Sir J. Newport

said, he had nothing whatever to do with any canal or railroad company, and therefore what he was about to state was perfectly disinterested, and founded on the best view he could form of this measure. In proportion to- the increased commerce of the country, it was necessary that increased facilities of conveyance should be provided. It was said, in the present case, that the canal between Liverpool and Manchester afforded, at this moment, sufficient means of conveyance between those two places. But, looking at the enlarged growth of Liverpool—looking at our increased commerce, which now embraced every quarter of the globe, he was inclined to think, that though the existing modes of conveyance might have been adequate a year or two ago, that was not now the case. This project, therefore, must not be considered as one of those wild and rash speculations, which the House ought to view with jealousy and suspicion, because they could not be serviceable to the country, and must be injurious to those who embarked in them. This plan was supported by the united wealth of Liverpool and Manchester, and the object in view was, to afford additional facilities to commerce. It was not sufficient for those who were connected with canal companies to say, "We have sufficient accommodation for the merchants, and that, too, at a rate to which you cannot object." It was not for them, but for the mercantile body, to form a judgment on the subject. In this case, where a legitimate object was pursued, that object being nearly connected with the commerce of the country, it was just and right for the House to afford every assistance to the encouragement and improvement of the mode of conveying goods, which was the very life and soul of commerce. He had no personal interest in this measure; but, on the part of those who sent him to that House, he claimed the privilege of calling on the legislature to increase the facilities of conveyance. He spoke the sentiments of every commercial body in Ireland, when he said, that an increased conveyance was necessary, to enable them to realize the benefits which the legislature proposed to confer on that country by the union. As they had united the two islands, he hoped they would now set the seal to that great work, by assenting to a measure which would so greatly promote the commercial prosperity of Ireland.

Mr. Green

opposed the second reading of the bill. There were, at present, three canals between Liverpool and Manchester. They were rival companies, interested in opposing each other, and the competition produced a reduction of rates. This plan would interfere very seriously with private property. He knew one individual whose land was bounded by a canal on one side, and by the highroad on the other, and now they were going to run this rail-way through the centre of his estate. They ought to look to the interests of individuals as well as to those of the public; and, unless where the interests of the whole community were concerned, those of individuals ought to be respected.

Mr. Huskisson

agreed in the sentiment, that the legislature ought not to sanction the invasion of private property, without being satisfied that the case was one of imperious necessity. On this occasion, if he looked only to the interests of private individuals—if he looked only to the interests of those whose fortunes were connected with the canals between Liverpool and Manchester—if he consulted only his own private feelings—he should be rather inclined to oppose the second reading of this bill; but, like the right hon. baronet, he stood there unconnected with any railway company, or any canal company. He stood there as a public man, considering what was best for the public interest, and he would state the reasons why he did not feel himself called on to oppose this measure. He did not support it as railway opposed to canal. He had no preference, except that which was connected with increased facility, despatch, and economy, in removing merchandise from one place to another. He did not support this measure because it was a profitable thing to those by whom it had been projected. It was nothing to him whether they had embarked their money in it for profit or loss. But he would say, that those who subscribed to it seemed to have a higher object in view, than the mere accumulation of wealth through this channel. They were not, perhaps, likely to obtain very high profits; but they would certainly render a great commercial benefit to the country. The subscribers were the bankers, merchants, traders, and manufacturers of Liverpool and Manchester. They had agreed, that no person should hold more than ten shares each; and if gentlemen, would consider what amount of interest could be realized from so small a number of shares, they would perceive that the profit could not be an object. It was the great interest of the trading community, and not the profits that might be derived from the shares, which mainly actuated those individuals to call for this rail-way. He had seen those parties; and, recollecting the immense tolls and dues which were already levied on the commerce of this country, he told them, that he would not support this measure, unless they were disposed to limit the amount of the dividends and profits they were to derive from the undertaking. They stated, that this was not a matter of individual speculation, but a plan, which had for its object the public advantage; and, as to profit, that was a point of very little importance: their great object was the encouragement of commerce, and if they received 10 per cent (which was not more than a fair commercial profit), or even 5 per cent, they would be satisfied. But it was said, that there were two or three canals, which were sufficient for every purpose of commerce in the districts through which this rail-way was to pass. That assertion, however, was not sufficient to stop the progress of this work. Let the matter go before a committee, and let it be there ascertained, whether the existing conveyance was sufficient, or whether some additional conveyance was demanded, in consequence of an increased commerce. It was well known that, under the present system, cotton had been detained at Liverpool for a fortnight, while the manufacturers at Manchester were obliged to suspend their labours: and goods which had been manufactured at Manchester for foreign parts, could not be transmitted to Liverpool in time, on account of the tardy canal conveyance. Not less than a thousand ton of goods a-day were embarked on these canals between Liverpool and Manchester; and, if the carriage was not immediate, the merchant and manufacturer were placed in a situation of great disadvantage. The Railway company said, they would transmit goods not only at a less charge, but with greater facility, than the Canal companies could do These were the great points to be looked to. We who maintained a commercial rivalship with all the countries in the world, ought to look to despatch and economy for the purpose of securing our present advantages. He would say a word or two with respect to the increased commerce of Liverpool. In 1821, only four years ago, the amount of goods exported from the port of Liverpool—a great part of which, he need not state, was brought by those canals to that town— was 11,500,000l. What was the amount in 1824? It was upwards of 19,000,000l.; and that, too, exclusive of fuel, and other things necessary for the consumption of Liverpool and Manchester, which were carried on those canals. Under these circumstances, he thought the projected railway ought to be carried into effect. Those who were connected with the canals would then be obliged to pay more attention to the mode of conveyance, to lower their tolls, and to use greater despatch. These, however, were all advantages gained by the public; and the proprietors of the canals would find ample remuneration; since there would be sufficient employment, not only for the railway, but for a first, a second, and a third canal. If, however, those who were connected with the canals refused the accommodation which they ought to afford to the public—if, instead of lowering their rates, they thought proper to raise them—the effect would be, to divert the conveyance to some other quarter. He made it a rule, as a public man, never to interfere with private bills. In this project, however, there was no appearance of a desire merely to further private interest, or to realize improper profits. The great object seemed to be to confer a benefit on the commerce of the country. Standing in the situation which he filled, he could not but feel deeply interested in the welfare of the commerce both of England and of Ireland. As this measure was favourable to that commerce, he should give his support to the bill; and, if he had no connexion with Liverpool, he should nevertheless have given the same vote.

Mr. W. Peel

viewed this measure, not as one exclusively beneficial to Liverpool, but as calculated to serve the commerce of the country generally, and more particularly the commerce of Ireland. If this should fail, it would be in vain for any projector, however good the plan laid down, to hope for success. There was about as much reason in the complaints of those who were connected with canals, and who therefore wished to stifle this measure, as there was in the petition of the inn-keepers on the Kent-road, who objected to the steam-packet navigation, because it interfered with their profits. In the neighbourhood of the place where he resided, from twenty to thirty waggons were formerly employed in the carriage of goods; but he believed scarcely one was now occupied in that manner. The alteration must have pressed on the owners of those waggons; but the public derived great advantage from the introduction of a new system. This must always be the case; but it afforded no argument, in policy or justice, against the adoption of an improvement.

Mr. Philips

observed, that this was a great public measure, and he hoped the House would give it the most serious consideration. It appeared, that there was a large body of landed proprietors, through whose estates this rail-way was to be carried; and they complained of it as likely to prove a great annoyance and nuisance. They said that, before such a measure was determined on, a strong case of public necessity and advantage should be made out. They asserted, that such a case had not been made out. On the other side, it was argued, that the measure was required by the public necessity, and that it would be productive of great public advantage; for, though there were three communications by water between the two towns, yet they were not sufficient to meet the immense business which was daily transacted on the line between Liverpool and Manchester. They further stated, that there was, in fact, a monopoly amongst the parties who navigated those canals, and that there were not arrangements sufficiently extensive, for the prompt management of the business which was constantly in progress. It was also said, that the distance between the two towns, by the canals, was 50 miles, while the distance by the rail-road would only be 33 miles. They likewise asserted, that the time spent in conveying goods from Manchester to Liverpool, and vice versa, was not less than 36 hours; whereas, by the rail-road, not more than six hours would be occupied, being a sixth part of the time required by the canal conveyance; and Mr. Saunders, who had been very active in forwarding the measure, and who had written a pamphlet on the subject, asserted, that the goods would be conveyed by the rail-road at one-third of the present expense. The friends of the project further added, that the same advantage was possessed by rail-roads over canals, that the latter possessed over common turnpike-roads. Now, if these assertions and representations were founded in fact, he should certainly be an advocate for the rail-road. Thus he had always determined; and when he came up to town, it was his opinion, that he should have voted for this measure. But on inquiry, it appeared to him, that those assertions and representations were not only not founded in fact, but were at variance therewith. As to the representation made on this subject, that there was no water-communication between Liverpool and Manchester nearer than 50 miles, he understood, that the distance by the Mersey and Irwell canal was only 42 miles; and that the measures now in progress would reduce it to 39 miles; being only six miles more than the rail-road conveyance. As to the second assertion, that the average time consumed in proceeding from Manchester to Liverpool by. water was 36 hours, he understood the fact to be, that by the Mersey and Irwell canal, the time occupied was twelve hours, and that by new arrangements the time would be reduced to nine or ten. With respect to celerity of carriage, they had been told, that on these rail-roads goods were conveyed at the rate of 10 or 12 miles an hour, while on canals the average was four miles an hour. This assertion had been repeated over and over again in pamphlets and newspapers; and, in proof of its truth, an experiment was publicly made. The advocates of the rail-road appointed a day for trying the experiment, with a loco-motive carriage, and the trustees of the rail-road, as well as others who were interested in the business, attended. Now, what was the result? After a fortnight's preparation, and having selected the best loco-motive engine they could find, the average rate, on a plane surface, was not three miles and three quarters per hour, and on an inclination it was not more than four miles and a half per hour. This experiment had completely failed. But when those persons only were present who had no reason to take a very accurate account of the business, a second experiment was made, and then the rate was said to have been doubled. When he was in Lancashire, he was very anxious to procure some information on the subject of rail-ways. He met some gentlemen who had gone to different parts of the country to learn how the rail-ways answered. He asked one of them, who was friendly to this measure, whether he had ascertained the expense of forming, and of keeping the projected rail-way in repair. He stated, that he had not, but that it was, notwithstanding, decided, that a rail-road should be formed. The only person from whom he got any practical information on the subject, was an individual whose knowledge was founded on actual observation and experiment. He had been for many years superintendent of a canal and of a rail-way, and he had said, that a more extraordinary delusion never was known, than that of supposing that a rail-road was superior to a canal. He wondered that such an assertion should be made; and added, that he had, for a series of years, kept an accurate account of the expense of repairs on the canal, and on the railroad; and, though that rail-road was, at the time, the best constructed in England, yet the expense of repairs on it, as compared with the expense of repairs on the canal, was as six to four. He had also the opinion of an eminent surveyor, whom he met accidentally at Manchester, and who was employed to procure information on the relative merits of rail-roads and canals. That gentleman had come down as an unbiassed individual, to survey the Mersey and Irwell navigation, and also the rail-way. He surveyed both; and he also went into Cumberland, and made his observations on the rail-roads there. He had since returned, impressed with a perfect conviction of the superiority of canal conveyance. He was of opinion, that a rail-way could not enter into successful competition with a canal. Even with the best loco-motion engine, the average rate would be but three miles and a half per hour; which was slower than the canal conveyance. If the canals had an ample supply of water, they would be perfectly competent to convey, with sufficient speed, all the merchandise that passed between Manchester and Liverpool. It was alleged, that the canal proprietors had not sufficient wharfs and warehouses for carrying on the business. Yet, in the very face of this assertion, those who were favourable to the present measure, would, if it were agreed to, carry the road through the wharfs and over the site of the warehouses of those persons whom they represented as being ill provided with accommodations of that kind already. He would, under these circumstances, oppose the measure.

Mr. Doherty

said, he should vote for the second reading of the bill, because he thought the assertions on one side were as much to be relied on as those advanced on the other. He was, therefore, desirous that the truth of those assertions should be investigated before a committee of the House. The commerce of Liverpool had now increased so much, that if there were six canals and six rail-roads there would be employment for all of them.

Mr. Macdonald

recommended gentlemen not to commit themselves hastily on a subject which had elicited statements so diametrically opposite. He felt obliged to say, out of respect for the memory of the late duke of Bridgewater, that he had ventured in the most generous manner all the property he possessed, for the accomplishment of a great and useful public purpose, and that he was entitled to a grateful and honourable remembrance.

Mr. Calcraft

agreed with what had been said respecting the late duke of Bridge-water. The objection was not one which could detract from his memory, but that those who had come after him had increased the tolls to an unjust extent. He should vote for the committee.

Mr. Brougham

said, he had great satisfaction in supporting the present bill. No one could say there was any thing objectionable in a proposal to carry goods cheaper, easier, and quicker than they could now be carried. He entirely concurred in the hope, that gentlemen would consider this to be an exception to the ordinary practice on private bills, and would once for all try to redeem their credit with the country, and not job the matter. They should look upon it as a great public question, and not vote on it because a shareholder, or Mrs. Such-a-one, the wife of a great canal shareholder, asked their vote. He hoped they would attend the committee from day to day, and that those only would vote who had so attended. He pledged himself, if a contrary course were followed, that he would bring the matter before the House. He bore testimony to the great benefits which the public had derived from the project of the duke of Bridgewater. He felt it to be a duty, since that great benefactor of the country was no more, to take care that his memory should not be impugned.

The bill was read a second time; and the petition was referred to a committee.