HC Deb 26 March 1844 vol 73 cc1545-52
Colonel Wood

rose to ask leave to introduce a Bill to exempt Lime from toll conveyed on any turnpike-road in the Principality of Wales. Though he held a large blue book in his hand, the House need not imagine that he would consume its time by a long speech; but as he was advocating the cause of a very poor country he hoped he should receive the sympathy and indulgence of the House. He wished his motion to rest on its own intrinsic merits. By the Ge- neral Turnpike Act, every description of manure, with the exception of lime, was exempted from toll; and thus farmers might send their teams to large towns in the neighbourhood for the purpose of bringing home manure toll free. But the poor farmers in Wales were out of the reach of these great towns, and had no other manure but lime. The charge for lime for a small cart drawn by two small horses was 2s. 6d. and the toll was 6d. a horse; so that when the lime was brought to the farm the farmer had paid 3s. or 4s. in the shape of toll, or more than cent. per cent. the cost of the lime. He might be told that the roads had been constructed for the conveyance of the lime, and if the toll was removed the roads could not be maintained. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to forget the principle upon which these roads were originally made. Turnpike roads were the exception, not the rule, for every road was properly maintained by the parish, and formerly turnpike-acts were only granted for twenty-one years. The tolls were most irritating, and were the cause of the late outrages in Wales. The hon. and gallant Member proceeded to read various documents, purporting to show that even if the toll upon lime was abandoned, the turnpike tolls in the county of Brecon would produce sufficient to maintain the roads, and to allow a surplus. If he were permitted to introduce a Bill, he would not proceed with it if Her Majesty's Ministers would originate any Measure on the subject. The Commissioners had recommended that the debts on the roads should be taken by the landlords, and charged upon the county rates. All he could say was, that as a landlord, he was perfectly willing to take his portion of the debt upon himself, and to exonerate his county from tolls altogether. Some arrangements of that sort must be effected, and the multiplicity of trusts which unfortunately existed in some parts of the principality must be either extinguished or consolidated. He entreated the Government to concede this boon of exoneration from tolls to the inhabitants of Wales, by which they would secure the peace and tranquillity of their mountain glens, and happiness and contentment to a moral, a religious—and though to an excitable—a kind-hearted people.

Mr. Hume

objected to the exemption proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Brecon, because he conceived that no sufficient ground for such exemption had been shown. The relief the hon. Mem- ber proposed to give the farmer would, in fact, be a relief to the landed proprietors, exempting them from a tax which other parties were compelled to pay. But he also objected to the Bill, as involving an interference with established rights. The Turnpike Trusts had been established by Act of Parliament, and the Commissioners stated that the turnpikes could not be maintained without the exaction of these tolls. If this Bill were carried out it would exempt from the payment of toll the very property for the convenience of which the Trusts were erected; it would aggravate the existing evils, and benefit only the landed proprietors.

Mr. M. Sutton

did not rise to oppose the introduction of this Bill. He thought, under the circumstances, the House might give the hon. and gallant Member leave to bring in the Bill; but, at the same time, he was bound to state that this was, he feared, the last occasion on which he could concur with the hon. Mover with regard to this Bill. He did not agree with the hon. Member who had just sat down, that the exemptions proposed by this Measure would give any unfair advantage to the agriculturists. He thought it right to state, however, in order that no false hopes might be raised among farmers interested in this Measure on account of there being no opposition on the part of Government to the introduction of the Bill, that the Government could not support the Measure in its future stages.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

thought, that unless the whole system of Turnpike Trusts in Wales was examined and revised, the people of the Principality would not be satisfied or contented. He considered that the Turnpike Trusts in Wales had been the subject of gross neglect and abuse. If this was the only measure intended to be proposed with a view to allay the existing dissatisfaction in the principality, he thought the House should reject the Motion, for he conceived a great deal snore was required.

Sir J. Walsh

was convinced that great dissatisfaction would be felt in Wales if the House refused to entertain the Measure. But, however desirous he might be to relieve the farmers from the payment of these tolls, be felt it would be extremely difficult to carry the principle to its full extent without involving injustice to some classes in the principality. He wished to take this opportunity of calling the atten- tion of Her Majesty's Government to the subject of the grievances of which the people of Wales complained. The appointment of the Commission of Inquiry by the Government had, he believed, had a most sedative effect upon the very excited state of public feeling which existed some time since in Wales; but the people of South Wales had, he believed, been looking forward with great anxiety to the proposition of some legislative measures founded on the Report of the Commissioners. He knew that the subject was one of great difficulty, and requiring very mature consideration; and he by no means wished to pledge himself to all the recommendations contained in the Commissioners' Report. At the same time, he wished to take this opportunity of assuring Her Majesty's Ministers, that the attention of the people of the southern portion of the Principality was anxiously directed to the proceedings of Parliament during the present Session; and that a very confident expectation was entertained that some legislative measures would originate from the Government, and he was afraid, if that expectation should unfortunately be disappointed, some recurrence of those disturbances which lately occurred in that part of the Principality might again be feared.

Mr. Labouchere

said, they had heard from the hon. Baronet who had just sat down, that this was a subject on which great excitement and expectation prevailed in the Principality of Wales—that the people were anxiously looking forward to the adoption by this House of some legislative measures to redress the evils of which they complained. The hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wood) now introduced a measure, not relating to tolls generally, but to exempt lime from the payment of that impost. The hon. Gentleman the under Secretary of State (Mr. M. Sutton) had said that he would vote for the introduction of this Bill; but he added, "I give notice to the gallant Officer that this is the last vote he will get from me; I intend to oppose the Bill in its future stages." Now he feared that while the people of Wales saw that the hon. and gallant Officer had introduced a measure of this nature, they would not be acquainted with the grounds on which the Government, supporting the Bill in its present stage, declared their intention of opposing it in future. If it was the opin- ion of the Government that no beneficial effects could be produced by this measure, he doubted whether the House would act a judicious part in assenting to its introduction; for such a course might produce great disappointment in Wales. As far as he understood the Bill, he must say that he thought wholly to exempt lime from toll, while toll in other respects was left unaltered, was a course which would be far from satisfactory. Unless, therefore, some reasons were given by the Government for the course they proposed to adopt, he should be inclined to vote against the introduction of the Bill. This was a measure of a very simple description, and if the Government had made up their minds to resist its principle, he thought they would act the fairest part in saying so, and taking the opinion of the House on the subject.

Sir J. Graham

said, the House would recollect that, on a former occasion, when the hon. and gallant Member had given notice of his intention to move for the introduction of this Bill, the Motion was, at his instance, postponed till this evening. He had suggested that postponement, because he was anxious that his hon. Friend and the House should have the advantage of seeing the Report of the Commissioners, which dealt with this very subject. He had hoped that after the perusal of that Report, his hon. and gallant Friend would not have persevered in his Motion. He was most decidedly opposed to the remission of toll on lime in South Wales; and he must repeat the declaration of his hon. Friend (Mr. M. Sutton) that it would be his duty to oppose this Bill. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) must however, be aware that it was not unusual, under such circumstances as existed in the present case, to permit the introduction of a Bill. The hon. Mover (Colonel Wood) represented a Welsh county, and had long enjoyed the confidence of its constituency, and he thought there could be no objection to the introduction of his Bill, with a view to its being printed and circulated in the Principality. An opportunity would thus be afforded of ascertaining the feelings of the parties whose interests this Measure would affect.

Mr. F. T. Baring

was sure the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wood) would not suppose that the Opposition to the introduction of this Bill arose from any want of courtesy towards him. He thought that in common cases there might be grounds for allowing the introduction of a Bill, to which objections might exist. But they must consider what was the present state of the Principality of Wales, and what expectations they were raising when they allowed the introduction of a measure of this nature. This Bill referred to a subject of great interest in Wales; and he thought they would not be acting wisely in allowing the introduction of the Bill with the intention of rejecting it in its second stage. The Report of the Commissioners had been presented, and that Report, he apprehended, must come under the consideration of the Government, and he thought it would not be prudent to introduce such a Bill as this, which dealt with one of the smallest questions noticed in the Report, if they intended to reject it in its next stage.

Mr. Morris

supported the Motion, but observed, that in many cases money had been borrowed from widows and persons in comparatively humble circumstances upon the trusts, and he wished to know if the hon. and gallant Member was prepared to introduce into this Bill some provision for affording compensation to such persons.

Sir W. Jolliffe

thought the principle sought to be introduced into Wales by this Bill ought also to be applied to England. On some Trusts lime was exempted from toll for agricultural purposes; but in other cases the small tenants were prevented from obtaining that material, which was cheaper than any other manure, in consequence of heavy tolls.

Mr. Darby

said, that in many cases parties had advanced money on Turnpike Trusts on the faith of this toll on lime; and if they at once abolished that toll, the parties who had made such advances would be deprived of any return for their capital.

Mr. G. R. Trevor

had no doubt that the Motion for leave to introduce this Bill was made by his hon. and gallant Friend from the best possible motives, but he was afraid it would be the cause of great difficulties in that part of the country to which they were both most warmly attached. It was impossible not to see that there was considerable difficulty in dealing with this question, looking to the amount of debt which had been incurred in the majority of cases, necessarily, no doubt, for the im- provement of the roads of the Principality. Considering how great an amount of the interest of this debt had to be provided for from the toll on lime, and how great a portion would be deficient if the whole toll were abrogated, he thought his hon. and gallant Friend would have done better if he had abstained from bringing in the Bill, especially after the Commissioners' Report had been laid before the House, recommending a specific remedy. Of that remedy he would say nothing until he saw it embodied in a Bill; but with respect to much contained in the Report he went along with the Commissioners. He did not believe that this toll upon lime had anything to do with the commencement of the disturbances. Of that he was positive; he knew that the first gate attacked was one through which scarcely any lime was ever carried, and the greatest multiplicity of gates and side bars appeared to exist in the neighbourhood of lime rocks almost the last attacked at all. The effects of this Bill, would be, first to injure the credit of the Trusts, and to add most materially to the burthens pressing on the poor farmers in one part of the country, for the purpose of relieving the others who resided in another part. He would not oppose the introduction of the Bill, but for the reasons he had stated, he could not give it his support.

Lord Ebrington

said, that were it not that an opportunity would, he understood, be afforded for a general discussion upon the subject of Turnpike Trusts in the course of the present Session, he should have embraced the opportunity of calling the attention of the House to the evils arising from the exemption from tolls of all coaches and carriages carrying the mails. The subject was slightly glanced at in this Report, but he could show that this exemption materially diminished the funds of the Trusts, and obliged the Commissioners to inflict much heavier tolls on other wheels. With reference to the proposition of the hon. and gallant Member for Brecon, he must say, without wishing to be discourteous, that in the present excited state of the Principality, it was undesirable that such a Bill should be brought forward; he therefore felt himself compelled to vote against its introduction.

Mr. S. Davies

was understood to express his regret that he could not support the measure proposed by his hon. and gallant Friend, because the revenues arising at present from the tolls would not admit of further reduction; he trusted, however, Her Majesty's Government would introduce some general measure on the subject.

Mr. Vivian

remarked, that in the Swansea trust, with which he was connected, lime had been exempted from toll ever since the year 1764.

Colonel Wood

in reply, denied that the proposition was a Government measure. He assured the House it was nothing of the kind, but he hoped Government would bring forward other measures to remedy the existing grievances in Wales in the course of the present Session. The House divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 42: Majority 26.

List of the AYES.
Adare, Visct. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Lefroy, A.
Bankes, G. Lincoln, Earl of
Baring, hon. W. B. Lindsay, H. H.
Barnard, E. G. McGeachy, F. A.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Mackenzie, T.
Bentinck, Lord G. Macnamara, Major
Boldero, H. G. Manners, Lord J.
Borthwick, P. Miles, P. W. S.
Browne, hon. W. Morris, D.
Bruce, Lord E. O'Brien, A. S.
Buckley, E. Palmer, G.
Clerk, Sir G. Patten, J. W.
Corry, rt. hn. H. Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.
Damer, hon. Col. Plumptre, J. P.
Davies, D. A. S. Pollock, Sir F.
Divett, E. Pringle, A.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Pusey, P.
Eliot, Lord Reid, Sir J. R.
Ferrand, W. B. Rushbrooke, Col.
Fremantle, Sir T. Sibthorp, Col.
French, F. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Fuller, A. E. Stanley, Lord
Gladstone, rt. hn. W E. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Gladstone, Capt. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Trench, Sir F. W.
Goulburn, rt. hn. H. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Vivian, J. H.
Greenall, P. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Heathcote, G. J. Wawn, J. T.
Hope, hon. C. Wodehouse, E.
Hope, G. W. Wood, Col. T.
Irving, J.
James, Sir W. C. TELLERS.
Jermyn, Earl Wood, Col.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Powell, Col.
List of the NOES.
Aldam, W. Busfeild, W.
Baring, rt. hn. F. T. Cobden, R.
Bellew, R. M. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Brotherton, J. Craig, W. G.
Darby, G. Marjoribanks, S.
Dennistoun, J. Marsham, Visct.
Duncan, G. Morison, Gen.
Ebrington, Visct. Scholefield, J.
Estcourt, T.G. B. Scrope, G. P.
Ewart, W. Strickland, Sir G.
Forster, M. Strutt, E.
Hastie, A. Thompson, Ald.
Hawes, B. Thornly, T.
Henley, J. W. Trelawny, J. S.
Hodgson, R Tufnell, H.
Horsman, E. Wall, C. B.
Hutt, W. Warburton, H.
Johnston, A. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Labouchere, rt. hn. H Yorke, H. R.
Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Lygon, hon. Gen. TELLERS.
McTaggart, Sir J. Hume, J.
Mangles, R. D. Ward, H. G.
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