HC Deb 13 July 1831 vol 4 cc1185-7
Colonel Torrens

presented a Petition from Mr. Goldsworthy Gurney, for placing Steam Carriages on the same terms, as to Turnpike Tolls, with Horse Coaches; and complaining that the tolls to be exacted on Steam Carriages, by many Turnpike Bills, would amount to a prohibition of that species of vehicle. It was impossible, the hon. Member said, to suppose the House wished to suppress the infant powers of steam, as applied to loco-motive carriages. He should as little expect them to do so, as to impose a prohibitory duty on an improvement in manufactures, or on a measure intended for the advantage of agriculture.

Mr. Hume

thought the petition deserved the peculiar attention of the House; for it appeared that bills had passed which contained clauses that would have the effect of checking such great improvements as were now in a course of trial between Liverpool and Manchester. These clauses would prevent steam carriages from being used on that road. The House could not have contemplated any thing of the sort, when they passed the bills. The House ought to appoint an officer to examine all private bills, with instructions to call their attention to any clauses likely to be burthensome to the subject, or else such enactments, as were at present complained of, would creep in.

Mr. George Dawson

said, that if such Turnpike Bills were allowed to pass, steam-carriages would, in fact, be put down altogether. By these bills it was provided, that four-wheeled carriages were to pay a toll of 2s., while steam-carriages were to pay a toll of 1Is. He hoped the hon. Member would not be satisfied with presenting the petition, but would endeavour to provide a remedy for the grievance. If the House altered the amount of the tolls, it would endanger the bills; it was quite evident that such clauses would prevent the full developement of the important invention which then occupied the attention of the most eminent and scientific men in the country. He knew, that the steam carriages running between Cheltenham and Gloucester were great public conveniences.

Mr. Stuart Wortley

thought, that as steam-carriages did more injury to roads than other carriages, they ought to be liable to a heavier toll; they had eight wheels instead of four, as in a carriage drawn by horses, and therefore ought to pay an additional toll.

Sir M. W. Ridley

said, the toll of 11s. was preposterous, although he thought some difference should be made between the toll charged on carriages drawn by horses, and those propelled by steam. The former, it should be remembered, paid a heavy duty to Government, from which the latter were exempt. The principal objection to steam-carriages was, the inconvenience they occasioned on a turnpike-road. He had witnessed several accidents from horses being frightened at steam-carriages. With respect to the bills which had passed that House, he hoped that the House of Lords would be able to amend the objectionable clauses, under the resolution recently adopted, which enabled them to deal with money-clauses on certain occasions.

Colonel Torrens

said, that a steam-carriage had been running for some time between Gloucester and Cheltenham, which had not occasioned any accidents. The horses on the road were at first alarmed, but were now becoming accustomed to it. The petitioners proposed that the toll on steam-carriages should be put on the same footing as horse carriages of equal power.

Mr. Hume

recommended the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the subject in all its bearings. He could assure his hon. friend, that no individual Member whatever could do adequate justice to this important subject. A Committee would have the means of going into a full inquiry; it would make a report, and that report would be the best and safest foundation for any further measures.

Mr. Wilks

said, it would be a pity that any course should be adopted that was likely to create a prejudice against these carriages, which were gradually coming into public use. There were, at present, four or five of them running every day from Whitechapel to places east of London, with great public advantage, and with no inconvenience to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.

Petition laid on the Table, on moving that it be printed,

Colonel Torrens

said, that after hearing these observations, and the recommendation of his hon. friend, he would, on the 20th instant, move for a Select Committee to institute a thorough inquiry into the subject.

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