HC Deb 22 July 1834 vol 25 cc334-9

Lord G. Somerset moved, that the Amendments made in the Committee be read a second time.

Mr. Robert Palmer

rose to oppose the Motion. The principal grounds of objection to the proposed rail-road were, that the line was incomplete, and that no security was afforded to those who embarked their capital in the project that it would ever be completed. The original prospectus stated, that the line of road would extend from London to Bristol, whereas it was now proposed to carry it from London to Reading, and from Bath to Bristol only, leaving no sort of communication between Reading and Bath. He had opposed the principle of the Bill, upon the second reading, on these grounds, that it was suffered to go into a Committee, and after having been there for the unprecedented space of fifty-seven days, it presented a much stronger case in favour of the opponents to the measure than existed before. It was originally proposed, that Vauxhall should be the London terminus of the projected line; but in order to avoid the opposition of two noble Lords and some hon. Gentlemen, that course was abandoned, and it was now proposed, that it should have one termination at Brompton. It became necessary for the promoters of the measure to show, in the next place, the great public utility of carrying the road only as far as Reading in the first instance, contrary to the scheme proposed in the original prospectus. For this purpose, a great variety of evidence was entered into by the promoters of the Bill, and when their case had closed, and the evidence on the part of the opponents of the Bill was brought forward, the parties who bore testimony to the injurious effects of the project were as respectable in their character, and as well acquainted with the interests of the town of Reading, as those who had given evidence in its support. It was proved by them, that there was no town in the kingdom more conveniently situated for commercial intercourse, both by land and water, than the town of Reading, nor any place that stood less in need of the proposed rail-road. It was a somewhat curious fact, that in the list of subscribers to the scheme which proposed to carry the line no further than Reading, there was a very small number of persons residing there whose names appeared as shareholders in a project which was to confer such inestimable benefits on the town. It was commonly the case, that where great advantages were expected to result from any proposed scheme, the inhabitants of the town were extremely eager to become subscribers to it. He recollected very well when it was proposed to light the town with gas, and 10,000l. was required for the purpose, it was not found necessary to resort to persons residing at a distance from the town to complete the subscription. No; it was raised in the town, because it really was a benefit to it; and if this scheme were of any real advantage to the people generally, the subscribers would have been as numerous as they were in London or any other part of the country. There was a great difference of opinion among those who had made an estimate of the sum required to carry the railroad into effect, as to the amount that would be actually necessary, and the evidence given upon that part of the question was of a most conflicting character. It appeared also, from the evidence, that of the proprietors of the soil through which the rail-way was proposed to run, those who possessed by far the greater portion were hostile to the project. It was shown, that out of twenty miles of the line the landed proprietors to whom two miles belonged assented to the rail-road, those dissenting possessed fifteen miles, and the neutrals, three miles. From the county of Middlesex alone, seventeen petitions had been presented against it, which showed the feeling entertained by the proprietors of the soil in the small part of that county through which it would pass. It was said the south of Ireland would experience great benefit from the railway, and he did not deny that a perfect line of road to Bristol would be of considerable advantage; but he would ask whether that benefit would not be conferred by a measure to which the House had al- ready given its sanction—he alluded to the London and Southampton Rail-way? The objections to the Bill were so numerous, that he hoped the House would never give its sanction to it, particularly when it was considered that this was not a "great western rail-way," and that no assurance was given to the public, that the line would ever be completed, or the money necessary for that purpose would be raised. The hon. Member concluded by moving, that the Amendments be read a second time that day six months.

The Marquess of Chandos

seconded the Amendment. The Bill, as now shaped, was totally different from the original project, and he concurred in what had fallen from the hon. member for Berkshire.

Mr. Gore Langton

gave his most strenuous opposition to the measure. Instead of proving advantageous to the West of England, it would have a diametrically opposite effect. Moreover, it was a most unconstitutional proceeding, and a gross invasion of the rights of private property.

Sir Richard Vyvyan

gave the Bill his most cordial support. The evidence taken before the Committee was, he stated, of a most conflicting nature; yet it established this fact beyond dispute, that fifty-eight miles of the whole extent of road passed through the lands of those who either assented to the measure or stood neuter, and twenty-one miles through the lands of those who dissented. He would remind the House, that in the Birmingham rail-way the possessors of seventy miles of the road dissented, and forty-two only assented, and yet that Bill had passed, by a great majority. The case made out in support of that Bill was far inferior to the claim of the supporters of this. The hon. member for Berkshire had expressed his surprise that no interest had been taken by the town of Reading, upon which so much benefit would be conferred. He denied, however, that no interest had been taken by that town in the project. Had not a petition, signed by the mayor and 800 of the inhabitants, been presented in favour of the measure? One of the hon. members for Reading had taken a very active part in the Committee on behalf of the scheme; and it could not be supposed he would have done so if it would have been of no advantage to his constituents. He supported the measure because he believed it would not only confer great benefit on the city of Bristol, but because it would confer equal advantages upon Devonshire, Cornwall, Somersetshire, and the whole of the west of England, as well as that it would be of the utmost importance to the south of Ireland. He believed the objection of the great landed proprietors of Berkshire was not confined to this particular road; but that they opposed in the abstract every improvement effected by means of a rail-road throughout the kingdom. He was fully aware, the original intention was to have carried the line of road directly from London to Bristol; but it was afterwards considered inexpedient, and that it would be much better to proceed according to the course now proposed, inasmuch as it was considered that the permission to establish a rail-way between London and Bristol having once been obtained, there would be less difficulty in obtaining the means to complete the entire line. He trusted, that the Bill would come as safely out of the House as it had out of the Committee, feeling convinced it would confer as much benefit upon the west of England as the Liverpool rail-way had conferred on that part of the country through which it ran.

Mr. Mildmay

was of opinion it would be much better for the south of Ireland if the Bill were not suffered to pass. The House had given its consent to the establishment of a line of rail-road, which would be entirely destroyed if the present scheme succeeded. The landowners had been taunted with coming forward from interested motives, merely to protect their own interests. This was a very serious complaint, because it so seldom happened that the manufacturers, or any other class, were actuated by similar motives. He hoped the House would never sanction so imperfect a measure, which, like a "scotched" snake, with only a head and a tail, and no middle, the projectors imagined would join together of itself, and which, instead of conferring any benefit on the west of England and the south of Ireland, would destroy itself, and another rail-way, that promised the greatest advantages.

Mr. Methuen

did not impute to the promoters of this measure any intention wilfully to deceive the public; but he assured the House the inhabitants were deluded into a belief that the rail-road would pass through those towns, or they would never have given their support to the project. He had just received a letter from Trowbridge, and he believed it fairly represented the feelings of all the towns in that part of Wiltshire, declaring they had been grossly deceived, and calling upon him to give the measure his most decided resistance. Seeing, therefore, that the general feeling of his constituents was opposed to the Bill, he considered it his duty to give it all the opposition in his power.

Lord Lowther

was not one of those who were hostile to the formation of rail-roads in the country. He had himself afforded considerable assistance in passing the Birmingham and Liverpool rail-road, considering them a great improvement to the commerce of the country; but he should oppose the present Bill, because he viewed it as the most offensive and annoying line that could possibly have been proposed. He was of opinion, if the line had commenced at Paddington instead of Brompton, it would have produced much greater advantages to the metropolis, from being a more central point.

Lord Granville Somerset

totally differed from the view taken by the noble Lord who last addressed the House. The noble Lord had said this was the worst line of road that could have been selected. He gave the noble Lord credit for a great deal of general information, but if he had heard the evidence of ten or twelve very eminent civil engineers, who entertained very different opinions, each having a proposition of his own, and treating the others with contempt, the noble Lord would agree with him, that the recommendation of the Committee was the best course that could be pursued. He believed there was no measure more calculated to be productive of benefit to that part of the country through which it was intended to pass, as well as the whole of the west of England and the south of Ireland; and yet no scheme had ever met with such great and unwearied opposition.

Mr. Baring

was friendly to a rail-road communication between the metropolis and the west of England, but thought, if two schemes of the same kind were attempted, they would necessarily destroy each other. He did not know which was the best, but as one had already been sanctioned by the Legislature with little or no opposition, and as the other was hostile to the wishes of nine-tenths of those whose property would be affected by it, and was imperfect, he should vote against it.

Sir Charles Burrell

supported the Amendment, observing, that as the measure had only passed the Committee by a majority of six out of fifty-eight, the decision of the Committee ought not to have very great weight with the House.

Mr. Pease

said, he should vote for the principle of the Bill, as it had passed the Committee by what he considered a great majority, after a long and deep consideration.

The House divided on the original Question:—Ayes 83; Noes 55: Majority 28.

The Amendments were read a second time.

Back to