§ Sir T. Lethbridge
moved the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Report upon the General Turnpike Act Amendment bill.
declared himself hostile to the principle of the bill. Nothing could be more monstrous than the powers which it proposed to give the commissioners, to sell and exchange, and barter and dispose of, the property of parishes to suit their ideas of convenience or propriety. The commissioners of Turnpike Trusts had too much power already, and he must, unless some very strong ground was shewn, oppose any attempt to give them more. He had given himself the trouble to inquire rather minutely into the circumstances under which the bill came before them, and he understood it arose solely from the failure of an attempt to shut up an old road near the hon. baronet's country residence. His informants were very respectable men; and their testimony had been corroborated by the hon. baronet's colleague before whom the matter came, as a magistrate, at quarter sessions. He believed, indeed, that but for that failure the House would never have heard of the hon. baronet's attempt to amend the Turnpike-laws.
§ Sir T. Lethbridge
repelled, with some warmth, the insinuations of the, hon. member, that he was actuated by any selfish motives in bringing the bill under the consideration of the House. He was surprised that the hon. member, who seemed to have taken his instructions from a paper which had been circulated pretty freely in the vicinity of the House, could lend himself to such charges, without first making himself better acquainted with their truth. The paper to which he alluded he could trace to a party, whose conduct he did not hesitate to pronounce base and scandalous, and whose assertions he could prove, if he thought it worth his while, to be mean, 109 false, and malicious. He had no hesitation, in saying, that he was confident he could, if he pleased, have induced the House to vindicate, by its privileges, the character of one of its members, as falsely and injuriously assailed. The whole of the paper was, he repeated, a foul misrepresentation; and he did not envy the feelings of the hon. member for Callington, when he thought it fit to allude to the circumstances it detailed, as likely to influence his judgment in bringing in the present bill. As to his hon. colleague, if he had any statement to make, he ought to have been present in that House, to put them in possession of his information from his place. He once more asserted, that there was not the slightest foundation for the charge, that he was at all influenced by any private feeling in the discharge of a public duty. The hon. baronet then entered into a defence of the bill, and contended, that so far from giving any new power to the commissioners of Turnpike-trusts, it was merely declaratory, and in explanation, of two immensely long and obscure statutes, the 3rd and 4th of Geo. 4th, both of which gave the very same power of selling and exchanging to which the hon. member so strongly objected. He concluded by declaring, that the whole of the statement of the hon. member was false; not as regarded him, but with reference to the authority from which he received his information.
expressed himself very unwilling to give offence to the hon. baronet, and very sorry if he had stated what was not true; but he had received his information from some of the most respectable men in Somersetshire. The hon. baronet did not deny that the matter had been before the quarter-sessions. The fact was, that the commissioners having made a new line of road over the hon. baronet's property, wished to shut the old one, but the inhabitants resisted that measure, on the ground that there were a great many avenues from that line to various farms and grounds, which must be consequently shut up too: and the quarter-sessions, upon being appealed to, confirmed the propriety of the resistance. The hon. baronet said, the act gave no new power: he was not well versed in such things, but he found on referring to the old act, that it gave a power, in the case of making a new line of road, to sell or break up 110 the old one, subject, however, to the very right of avenue or way to which he had alluded. Now, he apprehended, that the hon. baronet's object was to get rid of that clause; and if he saw good grounds for thinking that it was inconvenient, and ought to be repealed, or that the acts were so voluminous and obscure that they could not be properly construed, he would recommend him, instead of pushing forward the present bill, to move for a committee to examine the whole of the acts, in order to have them consolidated and amended after the recess.
agreed with the hon. member, that it would be better to withdraw the present bill; which could only be said to add another to those statutes which were already too voluminous. By the labour of a committee, he thought he might very well be in a situation to submit a proposal after Easter, for the consolidation of the whole of the Turnpike-laws.
Mr. R. Gordon
did not think it right, that the House should govern its opposition or consent to any measure by a reference to the hon. baronet's disputes with his neighbours in the country. He would recommend him to withdraw the bill, and move for a committee. if that committee examined the subject as it ought, he hoped that it would take into its consideration the expense of Turnpike-acts, and adopt some measure by which they might be made public instead of private bills. At present they were private bills, in force for a term of only twenty-one years; so that at the end of that time the whole of the enormous expense attendant upon their enactment was to be incurred anew.
§ Mr. F. Lewis
strongly recommended, in preference to the present measure, the consolidation of the laws on the subject. The system of Turnpike-roads in this country became every day more and more important. When it was considered that the commissioners of the roads were empowered to tax the people to the amount of a million and a half annually, and that until the recent act of parliament they could not be called to account for the manner in which they expended the money, it was evident that the whole was a tremendous machine, which called loudly for legislative regulation. The proper nature of that regulation, however, so as at once to render the system one of greater facility, and to check the abuse of it, could be considered only in a committee above 111 stairs. The matter could not be accomplished in the present session; but if the hon. baronet would withdraw his bill, he would endeavour, by the next session, to prepare a consolidation of the existing laws, for the purpose of submitting it to the consideration of a committee above stairs.
§ Sir T. Lethbridge
said, that with the understanding that the hon. gentleman would next session move to refer all the laws on the subject to a committee above stairs, he was quite ready to withdraw his bill.
§ Mr. F. Lewis
observed, that it would be impracticable to attempt to do any thing in the present session.