HC Deb 06 April 1842 vol 61 cc1339-46
Lord Worsley

brought up the Report of the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway Bill Amendment made by the Committee, read a first time. On the question that they be read a second time.

Mr. Lawson

moved, that the bill be recommitted. The present bill had been in- troduced by the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway Company in direct breach of an agreement entered into by that Company with the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway Company. In 1836, these companies had each obtained an act of Parliament—the Birmingham and Gloucester Company for the construction of a railway from Birmingham to Gloucester, and the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Company, for the formation of a line from Cheltenham, to join the Great Western line near Swindon. The lines of these two railways ran parallel to each other from Cheltenham to Gloucester; and it was agreed between the two companies that only one line of railway should be constructed between Cheltenham and Gloucester, such line to be constructed for the joint use, and at the joint expense of the two companies, the Birmingham and Gloucester Company being the owners of the one half of the line lying next Gloucester and Cheltenham, and the Great Western Union Company being owners of the half nearest to Cheltenham. The time granted by the act to the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Company for the purchase of lands, was two years, and for the completion of the railway, seven years. They applied for an extension of these periods in the year 1838. This application was opposed by the Birmingham and Gloucester Company for the purpose of procuring the insertion of clauses, securing the completion of the line from Cheltenham to Gloucester, a matter of the utmost importance to the Birmingham Company, inasmuch as they had no power to form that portion of the line under their own bill. The committee on that bill intimated an opinion that the clauses required by the Birmingham and Gloucester Company ought to be inserted, and accordingly an agreement was entered into between the two companies, the second clause of which was to the following effect:— If the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway Company do not complete their line between Cheltenham and Gloucester by Midsummer-day, 1840, the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway Company may enter on the same, and do all such works as may be necessary to complete it, or to concur in completing it for their own benefit, so as to insure its opening at the earliest possible period; but the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway Company to be entitled to re-purchase all their rights under the existing acts, by payment of one-half of what may have been expended by the Birmingham and Glou- cester Railway Company, in the completion of that portion of the line between Cheltenham and Gloucester,' provided a continuous line of railway from the Great Western Railway to Gloucester shall have been completed within a period to be limited for that purpose by the bill now before Parliament. The period fixed upon for the completion of the line was the 21st of June, 1845, and upon the faith of that agreement the Birmingham and Gloucester Company withdrew their opposition. In June, 1840, the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Company, not having completed the line, gave it over, under the provisions of this act, to the Birmingham and Gloucester Company, receiving from that company a large sum of money for the works they had already constructed on that line, and the line was completed by the Birmingham and Gloucester Company at a considerable additional expense. He held in his hand a copy of the agreement entered into between the two companies, in which it was distinctly stated, that the time for the completion of the railway should expire on the 21st June, 1845, so that they had three years yet unexpired, in which they could complete this railway. Now, by the present bill, which was, in fact, an amendment of an already amended act, they sought not only for a still further extension of the time for the completion of their line, and consequently for the redemption of that portion of it between Cheltenham and Gloucester from the Birmingham Company, in violation of their agreement, but they also sought to have the power of disposing of their line, or of any portions of it, to any other parties or companies they might see fit. Now, as it appeared that the line might be finished in two years, which was within the time limited by their present act, and at a cost under 200,000l., and as they had not raised all the money they had the power to raise under their present act, he was of opinion, that the powers they now sought were totally unnecessary, and therefore he thought the bill ought to be re-committed. As the three selected Members serving on that committee were unanimous against the report, he thought, that the time taken up by the hon. Members employed on that committee had been entirely wasted; if this report were received, he should consider that they had been roost unprofitably employed, and he, must say, that if the time of hon. Members on committee were thus to be wasted, he for one must decline, unless by order of the Speaker, again sitting on one. He trusted, that the House would support the motion which he had to make, for if they did not, he should not entertain that high opinion of the justness and fairness of the House which he at present held.

Lord Worsley,

as Chairman of the Committee on this bill, must say, that he went into the committee-room without knowing anything of the local circumstances of the line of railway, but from hearing counsel on both sides of the question, he must say that he came to the conclusion which would have led him, had he been in a position to vote, to have voted in direct opposition to the hon. Member. When the bill was before the House, it was considered desirable that a certain portion of the line should be finished at the same time that the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway finished their line, so that the communication between Birmingham and Bristol might be complete; and he believed it was agreed that if the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Company did not complete that portion by the specified time, the Birmingham and Gloucester Company were to be, at liberty to purchase their portion of the other line, and finish it. It appeared to him, under all these circumstances, that it was not preposterous to ask for an extension of time. He might state, that in the committee, there was a large majority in favour of the bill, and that he agreed with them in their opinion. He trusted, therefore, that the House would not consent to the motion of the hon. Member,

Mr. Craven Berkeley

was a member of the committee, and as such he thought it right to support the motion of the hon. Member opposite. His reason for doing so was, that when they got through the bill, the Parliamentary agents brought in a great number of clauses which were read at. the Table, so that it was impossible for Members to ascertain what they contained; that he considered was not a proper way to conduct private bills, and it was very unsatisfactory both to the Members who composed the committee and to the public. When he knew the composition of the committee who sat on the bill, he knew that the interests of his hon. Friends were so preponderating that the bill, no matter what was the evidence brought forward, would pass. One of the clauses to which he objected was that important one relating to money at 6 per cent. That was an imposition on the public, and one that ought not to be sanctioned by the House. The bill was a contest between two companies, and two engineers were examined —Mr. Brunei on the part of one company, and Mr. Wishaw on the part of the other —and when one gentleman stated that white was black, the other said that black was white. He should, therefore, support the motion of the hon. Member for Knaresborough.

Mr. Scott

said, that it appeared to him that the company were not in a position to be able to raise the funds necessary for completing the line. It was complete in part, and they were not able to obtain the money necessary for finishing the remainder. The line was of great importance, as it was to convey goods between Birmingham and Bristol. It appeared to him most important to the public that the line of traffic should not be interfered with. The company were not able to raise more than 20,000l. of the 250,000l. which they sought to raise, and the shares had fallen to 2l. 10l They had, however, declared a dividend of 1l. to the shareholders. And what object could they have in so acting, except to raise the snares in the market when the company were actually insolvent, and not able to carry on their works? It was his belief that the company were not able to complete the works. They had already had ample time to bring the works to a conclusion, if they had been enabled properly to conduct the undertaking. The powers of the company would terminate in 1845; and they now asked that those powers should be extended to the year 1848. But the undertaking had first been contemplated in 1836, so that it appeared that a period of twelve years was not sufficient to enable them to finish the work. He was sure that the House would now come to the conclusion that they were not deserving of the powers which they asked for; and for these reasons he should most willingly support the amendment.

Mr. Masters

said, that he thought it would not now be advisable to thwart the progress of the undertaking, and he should, therefore, oppose the motion for a recommittal of the bill.

Mr. P. Scrope

said, as far as his information entitled him to judge, he believed that motions for recommittal were never made, unless there were some informality which required that the bill should be recommitted and re-argued. He thought that if the House agreed to the motion, they would be casting an unmerited stigma on the committee which had already investigated the matter.

Lord Granville Somerset

said, he would pronounce no opinion whatever with respect to the committee which had already investigated the merits of the bill. His object in rising was to propose that the evidence brought before the committee should be laid on the Table of the House before they were called upon to pronounce their decision. He thought neither party could fairly object to that proposal. He would take this opportunity of deprecating the practice of making extensive manuscript alterations, which was now so prevalent. He thought it was very desirable that that practice should be discontinued. In addition to the proposal for having the minutes of the committee laid on the Table of the House, he should also propose that the bill so committed be recommitted, in order that Members might have an opportunity of looking at those clauses. If it should appear that those clauses were of an important character, he trusted that a strong case would be made out for the bill; on the contrary, if it should appear that they were not of the slightest importance, then he should he prepared to express his opinion with regard to the measure. He thought it his duty, under all the circumstances, to oppose the committal of the bill, and should, therefore, move that the debate be adjourned.

Lord Worsley

hoped the noble Lord would not press his motion, as the adjournment would put the parties to very great expense. He hoped the House would do him the credit of believing that he had done his utmost to give the bill a fair and candid examination, and the committee having come to a conclusion on the bill, he did not think it necessary that the House should put off the committal.

Mr. Scholefield

said, he thought the reasons given by the noble Lord for deferring the consideration of this bill, were good reasons. In the committee it had been proved that one party had brought up clauses containing most important matter, which had been introduced, the other party not being aware of them. He should, therefore, vote for the adjournment moved by the noble Lord.

Mr. T. B. Estcourt

said, no practice was so much to be deprecated, so far as the public interest was concerned, as the practice of bringing up clauses in a bill in the manner alluded to. The noble Lord had stated that in this case the clauses were not of very great importance. [Lord Worsley: The clauses referred to another company.] The practice of the House in such cases was to reject the report on the bringing it up, and to compel the parties to begin de novo. He thought they ought to take that course now, but under the peculiar circumstances of the case, he would yield to the more indulgent course proposed by the noble Lord (Lord G. Somerset) and adjourn the consideration of it.

Sir R. H. Inglis

differed from his hon. Friend and Colleague, who certainly had an advantage that he had not, namely, local knowledge, which might possibly alter his view of the case. He desired to speak, not in reference to this peculiar railway, but in reference to the practice of this House. He could not understand for what purpose they delegated their functions of inquiry to a committee, and afterwards, when it had made its report by the hands of the Chairman, himself a selected Member, that they should have to re-discuss the matter. If it were contended that there had been any great irregularity in the proceedings of the committee, he could understand why the motion for re-committal should be made. It had been said by an hon. Gentleman that the proceedings were singular, because clauses in manuscript had been introduced into the bill. He would appeal to the youngest Member of the House, if twenty or thirty clauses were not frequently introduced in manuscript into bills. His noble Friend wanted to have the evidence taken before the committee printed. Why, it was printed already; besides, it was never sought to have such evidence printed, except for the purpose of impugning the decision come to by a committee. His noble Friend, in fact, sought to impugn the decision of this committee. The House was bound to respect the decision of its committees, and should not, without sufficient cause, reverse their decisions. He should, therefore, support the original proposition, that the report be now brought up.

Mr. Labouchere

thought, there was a great tendency evinced on the part of the House during the present Session to relax the rules laid down in such cases as the present. It was a matter of the greatest consequence to adhere to these rules; so much so, that it was not a mere prima facie case that ought to make the House depart from them. The case for reversing the decision of a committee must be very strong indeed that should induce the House to depart from these rules. He thought that no case was made out, and therefore he would oppose the amendment.

Lord G. Somerset

thought, as it was said that the local Members had a bias in favour of this measure, the best course was to move the adjournment of the debate until the minutes of the committee were laid before the House, so that they might be able to judge whether the accusations were true or not. Another reason he had for moving the adjournment was, that at the very last moment of the sitting of the committee some important clauses were brought up, in manuscript. It was necessary also that the House should have an opportunity of considering those clauses. Until they had had those documents before them, it would be impossible for the House to discern the real facts and merits of the case between the accusations and recriminations of the opposing parties.

Sir R. Peel

fully concurred in the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, as a departure from fixed rules must tend to shake the authority of the House. But, not as yet knowing so much on the subject as he desired to know, he would abstain from voting at present.

Mr. Lawson

also agreed with the general principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere); still he felt obliged to divide the House on his motion.

The House divided that the debate be adjourned.—Ayes 74; Noes 110: Majority 36.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Fitzroy, Capt.
A'Court, Capt. Forster, M.
Adderley, C. B. Goring, C.
Allix, J. P. Hamilton, W. J.
Anson, hon. Col. Hamilton, Lord C.
Berkeley, hon. C. Holmes, hn. W. A 'Ct.
Bernard, Visct. Ingestre, Visct.
Boldero, II. G. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Botfield, B. Kemble, H.
Bradshaw, J. Knight, H. G.
Bridgeman, H. Knight, F. W.
Brotherton, J. Lawson, A.
Bullet, Sir J. Y. Lowther, J. H.
Campbell, A. Lygon, hon. General
Chapman, B. Mackenzie, W. F.
Chute, W. L. W. Mc Geachy, F. A.
Clive, hon. R. H. Mahon, Visct.
Cochrane, A. Marsham, Visct.
D'Israeli, B. Marton, G.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Mitcalfe, H.
Duncan, G. Mitchell, T. A.
Eliot, Lord Mordaunt, Sir J.
Ewart, W. Morison, General
Fielden, J. Packe, C. W.
Ferrand, W. B. Peel, J. 2X
Pinney, W. Thornely, T.
Pringle, A. Tollemache, J.
Reade, W. M. Trollope, Sir J,
Richards, R. Trotter, J.
Round, C. G. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Russell, J. D. W. Vane, Lord H.
Scholefield, J. Vernon, G. H.
Scott, R. Wall, C. B.
Sheppard, T. Wodehouse, E.
Shirley, E. J. Wyndham, Col. C.
Smythe, hon. G.
Sotheron, T. H. S. TELLERS.
Sutton, hon. H. M. Somerset, Lord G.
Taylor, J. A. Estcourt, T. G. B.
List of the NOES.
Ainsworth, P. Grimston, Visct.
Antrobus, E. Guest, Sir J.
Arkwright, G. Hale, R. B.
Baldwin, C. B. Hawes, B.
Balfour, J. M. Hayes, Sir E.
Baring, H. B. Hayter, W. G.
Barnard, E. G. Heneage. G. H. W.
Barrington, Visct. Hepburn, Sir T. B.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Hodgson, R.
Bentinck, Lord G. Houldsworth, T.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Howard, hon. J. K.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Howard, hon. H.
Borthwick, P. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Bowring, Dr. James, W.
Brownrigg, J. S. Jocelyn,
Buck, L. W. Johnston, A.
Buckley, E. Kelburne, Visct.
Buller, E. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Burrell, Sit C. M. Lambton, H.
Butler, hon. Col. Lockhart, W.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Mackinnon, W. A.
Charteris, hon. F. Manners, Lord J.
Cholmondeley,hon.H. Majoribanks, S.
Christmas, W. Martin, J.
Codrington, C. W. Master, T. W. C.
Colborne.hn.W.N.R. Maunsell, T. P.
Colvile, C. R. Meynell, Capt.
Compton, H. C. Miles, P. W. S.
Copeland, Mr. Aid. Morris, D.
Darner, hon. Col. Napier, Sir C.
Dick, Q. Neeld, J.
Divett, E. Neville, R.
Dugdale, W. S. Norreys, Lord
Duncan, Visct. Ord, W.
Duncombe, T. Palmer, R.
Duncombe, hon. A Rashleigh, W.
Easthope, Sir J. Rawdon,Col.
Escott, B. Ricardo, J. L.
Evans, W. Rous, hon. Capt.
Farnham, E. B. Russell, C.
Ferguson, Col. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Filmer, Sir E. Stanton, W. H.
Forbes, W. Stewart,P.M.
Forester,hn. G.C. W. Strickland, Sir G.
Forman, T. S. Strutt, E.
Fox, C. R. Sturt, H. C.
French, F. Towneley, J.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Gore, hon. R. Turner, E.
Greenall, P. Villiers, hon. C.
Grey, rt, hon, Sir G, Vivian, hon. Major
Vivian, hon. Capt. Wynn, Sir W. W.
Waddington, H. S. Young, J.
Wakley, T.
Wallace, R. TELLERS.
Wilde, Sir T. Scrope, P.
Wood, B. Worsley, Lord

The question that the amendments made by the committee be read a second time, was agreed to. Bill to be engrossed.

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