HC Deb 18 April 1845 vol 79 cc936-8
Lord G. Somerset

brought up the Second Report of the Committee on Railways, which was read as follows:—

  1. "1. That Counsel appearing before Railway Committees shall be entitled to open the case, but not to sum up the evidence.
  2. "2. That Committees on Railway Bills have leave to sit in the present Session, notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, if the Committees shall so think fit.
  3. "3. That such of the Standing Orders as relate to the composition of the Committees on Private Bills, and the orders consequent thereon, be suspended so far as regards Railway Bills pending in the course of the present Session."
Moved that the first Resolution, that counsel be allowed to open the case, but not to sum up the evidence, be agreed to. The other Resolutions were entirely as to matters of form.

Viscount Howick

should not oppose the proposition; but he regretted that the Government had not, in the first instance, laid down some general rule for the guidance of all Committees, instead of leaving each Committee to act as it might on its own rules.

Mr. Wilson Patten

doubled whether the Resolution would be productive of the advantages which the noble Lord anticipated.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that as there, seemed to be a considerable difference of opinion on the subject, he would for the present withdraw the Resolution. As to laying down general rules, he saw much difficulty in adopting that principle.

Motion withdrawn. The second and third Resolutions were agreed to.

Viscount Howick

wished to ask a question of the noble Lord, with respect to the subject of railways. Some of the Committees on Railways were to commence their labours on Monday, and he was desirous to ascertain if any Order was to be made by the House to refer to those Committees the Reports of the Board of Trade on the Railways the Bills for which were to come before them.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that no such Order had as yet been made, but it was his intention to bring forward a Motion to the effect that the Reports of the Board of Trade be referred to those Committees.

Viscount Howick

hoped that no Motion on so important a subject would be made at a late hour of the night, when few Members were present.

Sir G. Grey

said, that if the Order were not made before Monday, the Committees would have to adjourn to a future day, and thus much time must be lost. It was, therefore, desirable that the Order should be made before the adjournment of the House.

Mr. Aglionby

feared that there had been great negligence displayed with respect to this subject. The Motion for sending those Reports to the Committees ought to have been made before this time. It was a most unjustifiable course to oblige the Committees to adjourn from Monday to Tuesday, in order that the Committees might have the Reports before them; and if the Motion were made to-night, it must be made without notice.

Lord G. Somerset

intended to move that all the Reports which affected Railways that were to be brought before the Committees which would sit next week, should be ordered by the House to be produced before those Committees; and he thought it would be the better course, with the permission of the House, that he should move without further delay for the Order. He would, therefore, move— That the Reports of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade, relating to the Groups of Railway Bills upon which Committees are appointed to meet upon Monday and Tuesday next, be respectively referred to the said Committees.

Mr. Duncombe

did not think that the Motion of the noble Lord went far enough. He was of opinion that the Reports ought to be accompanied with certain statements and documents which were in the possession of the Board of Trade, and on which their decisions were founded. They had been told that a strong feeling existed in the public mind with reference to the alleged reception of ex parte statements by the Board of Trade, and gross partiality in acting on them. What he wished was, that the promoters and upholders of every Bill should be enabled to peruse those documents, and he would therefore move as an Amendment to the noble Lord's Resolution, as well as the Report to the Committees, to refer to those documents.

The Speaker

informed the hon. Member that it was competent for the House to refer the Reports of which it was in possession to the Committees, but it could not so refer the papers and documents alluded to in the hon. Member's Amendment, they not being in the possession of the House.

Viscount Howick

had no objection to the Motion of the noble Lord; but if it had come before the House at an earlier period, he should have taken the opportunity of calling the attention of the House to the nature of the Reports of the Board of Trade, and of protesting against the House lending its authority to them. He thought the House had great reason to complain of the want of care on the part of the organ of the Board of Trade. The Gentleman who represented the Board of Trade in that House ought to have given a regular notice of this Motion at a time sufficiently early to allow hon. Members to make the necessary inquiries on the subject. This was another example of the system of carelessness which had, from first to last, characterized the business of that Department upon an important question.

The Motion to refer the Reports of the Board of Trade to the Committees agreed to.

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