HC Deb 16 March 1841 vol 57 cc291-4
Mr. Bernal

brought up the Report of the committee on the South Western Railway Bill.

Mr. Blake

rose to move, that certain clauses be added to the bill, the object of which was, to enable the Company to take possession of lands for the purpose of making repairs. The accidents which occurred rendered it quite necessary that such powers should be given. One instance had occurred, in which, if the landowner had refused permission, the railway must have been stopped. It was not refused by him; but other landowners had prevented the Company from coming upon their lands to make repairs. He had no intention, by taking this course, to infringe upon the Standing Orders of the House.

On the question that the first clause be read a second time,

Mr. Sheil

should feel it his duty to object to the introduction of these clauses, because, when the bill was originally introduced, no notice was given that such powers would be sought for. These clauses departed very materially from the bill of which notice had been given, and on behalf of the department to which he had the honour to belong, he should feel it his duty to resist them. He believed that an attempt had been made in committee to introduce clauses of a similar nature, but they had been objected to; and surely it was not upon bringing up the report of the bill, at a time when the parties had no notice whatever, that such clauses should be introduced.

Mr. W. Patten

would also resist the clauses. In his experience upon Railway Committees, he could state, that similar propositions had been frequently made, but, in every case, they had been resisted; and he believed such power had never been allowed in any railway bill.

Mr. Pease

thought some power ought to be given to the railway proprietors, to make repairs in cases of accident, but, at the same time, he could not say, that he entirely approved of these clauses. It should not, however, be supposed, that because they wished to prevent an attempt being made to obtain powers of an objectionable nature, they also wished to restrain the enterprise of the country.

Mr. Estcourt

wished to express his great objection to the introduction of such clauses as that now before the House. It had been attempted on former occasions, but the House had rejected them. When the bill was printed, and proposed in the first instance, it did not contain these objectionable clauses, and he believed parties in the vicinity of railways, were not aware of the intention to introduce them. He could not allow the opportunity to pass, without congratulating the House upon the appointment of his hon. Friend, as Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. They owed it to the vigilance of his hon. Friend, that this subject had been brought under the consideration of the House. He was sure that it was satisfactory to the public that it was so brought to light, and that attempts were resisted to introduce measures in committee, of which the public had not received ample notice. It was now known, that such attempts would be vigilantly watched, and that his hon. Friend would bring them before the House, and give the House an opportunity of examining them, and of rejecting them if deemed objectionable.

Mr. Bernal

said, he was glad this matter was brought before the House. He was satisfied that the original evil of this proposition lay in the form in which the notices in the country newspapers were worded. The words were so comprehensive, that they would include almost anything. Persons interested could not be sufficiently apprised of clauses sought to be introduced in this manner. The bill as it stood before the House, was a bill to raise an additional capital. He thought the House should take into consideration the propriety of improving the form of notice. It should be reduced to a Standing Order, that the notices should be more distinct, if such a step was decided upon, the House could then order the petition to be referred to the committee on Standing Orders, it should stand on the same ground as the notice, and thus they would not be satisfied with vague and loose allegation, With respect to the clauses denominated modern clauses, doubts were entertained whether, in legal tendency, they were for perpetuity, or a limited space of years; and ii was on that account these clauses were introduced, to do away with any doubt as to the construction of the act.

Mr. B. Wood

said, that having acted in the committee, he concurred entirely in the opinion that had been expressed by his hon. Friend. He felt that a vast improvement had lately taken place in the manner in which unopposed bills were conducted, but, at the same time, he thought, on the present question, they were treating the Railway Company with some harshness. The clause which was now before the House, was one which was absolutely necessary for the purpose of enabling the Company to keep up the repair of the road. Without that power, it was quite clear, that the road must either be at the mercy of the landowners, or fall to decay. If they had come with the proper notice, there would be no difficulty, he apprehended, in passing the bill. It had been mentioned on the other side of the House, that that was an unheard-of clause. Now he believed, that the clause was introduced into every bill relative to the subject passed within the last one or two years. It was a clause which was established as a model clause, as he understood, and it appeared to him to be a clause essential to the maintenance of railways, and different in no degree from that attached to bills relating to turnpike roads. The reason of the promoters of the bill coming before the House, at that stage, was simply on account of the formation of a new read. He thought that it was rather hard that the Company should now be opposed, because parties said, they were taken by surprise. They came to the House with a clause arising out of circumstances which they could not foresee, which occurred since the first bill was printed—circumstances which involved them in law suits, and might involve them in great difficulty; even between the present time and next year, when they could come anew before the House, the Company might be essentially injured, and the public greatly inconvenienced. Under these circumstances, he was inclined to press the House to agree to the clause.

Lord G. Somerset

thought, that if the effect of the clause would be to adjudicate in favour of one party, and against the other, that was a sufficient reason against the granting of the clause. The Directors of the Southampton Railway were to have a power of taking 500 yards along the whole line of railway, without taking immediate possession of it, but always keeping- the powers thus vested in them hanging over the heads of the landed proprietors. So monstrous a power as that, in whatever shape it might be brought before the House, was, he thought, certain of being negatived.

Mr. Blake,

after the opposition which he had met with from both sides of the House, would withdraw his proposed clauses.

Clauses withdrawn,

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