HC Deb 04 March 1845 vol 78 cc263-71

House in Committee on the Railway Clauses Consolidation Bill.

On the 15th Clause,

Lord G. Somerset

said, that after a good deal of consideration he had come to the determination to leave out from the words "such hinds" to the end of the clause, if the House would permit him. The clause, as it would then stand, would give everything to which either the company or the parties with whom they had to deal, might feel necessary for the preservation of their respective rights. The power of deviation would be sufficient for the purposes of any company, and if there were any peculiar circumstances which would affect the proceedings of any parties in a particular case, they could easily be provided for by the Private Bill for the institution and government of the company. On these accounts, and especially as the clause would then be sufficient to answer the purposes of a Consolidation Bill, he thought it better to yield to the opposition offered to the clause, and strike out all the words from "such land" to the end of the clause.

Mr. Hayter

said, that he regretted the noble Lord had expressed a wish to leave out these words, for he believed that they were necessary, in order to define the limits of the deviation. If not forming part of this clause, they must be introduced into some other clause; and if not introduced into this Bill, must be introduced into every other Private Bill that came before the House. Now, the object of a Consolidation Bill was to obviate all this reiteration; and, therefore, he conceived that it would be better to give the power at once in this Bill, especially as the same power must be allowed to every railway company that should hereafter be formed.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that the observations of the hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Hayter) with respect to the power, were perfectly correct. But the feelings of opposition to this clause on both sides of the House were very strong; and although he believed that it was very desirable to introduce the power into this Bill, yet there were difficulties about it—which perhaps might be obviated quite as well in the Committees on Private Bills. In many Railway Bills there would be very peculiar circumstances to be considered which would greatly affect the operation of this clause, and on this account he thought it would be better to strike them out.

The words omitted. Clause as amended agreed to.

On the 18th Clause,

Mr. Spooner

said, he did not think the clause afforded sufficient protection to gas companies and water companies, or the consumers of gas and water. All the houses in a town, say Birmingham, were lighted with gas; and if a railway company in their operations should interrupt the supplying of gas or water for a day, see what a serious inconvenience it would be to a whole town. The clause gave 20l. a-day compensation for any unnecessary interruption; but he would ask what compensation would 20l. be for the stoppage of gas or water for a day to a manufacturer or tradesman?

Mr. Hawes

concurred with the hon. Member for Birmingham, but he presumed that he only wanted to guard against a railway company doing anything of the sort wantonly or unnecessarily.

Mr. Spooner

would propose that, instead of 20l. a-day, the penalty be made 50l.; either that or substitute the word "hour" for "day;" for he would again repeat, that 20l. would be no compensation to a manufacturer for the loss of his supply of gas or water for one day. And as to the remedy by action, why in some cases the expanse of taking the action would amount to more than the sum to be recovered. He would therefore move that the penalty be 20l. an hour, if any hon. Member would second it.

Mr. Fox Maule

said, this was certainly a very important point; but he perceived by the preceding clause that a power was given to gas and water companies to take actions against railway companies, in the event of the latter causing damage to the works of the former. Now, he would wish to know if tradesmen and manufacturers had any easy mode of getting compensation for the deprivation of gas or water for a day?

Lord G. Somerset

said, there was a clause in the Bill giving compensation to such persons for any damage unfairly occasioned. But it should be remembered that neither gas companies, nor water companies, nor extensive manufacturers, were generally so impoverished as not to be able to sustain an action in a court of law in such cases.

Mr. Spooner

The noble Lord had stated that the clause gave a remedy against all damages "unfairly" done. But he would ask how that could be said to be "unfairly" done which was done under the sanction of an Act of Parliament and the direction of an engineer? He knew an instance where a gentleman's park palings had been broken down by a railway company, and when he sought compensation for the injury, the answer he received was, that nothing had been done that was not necessary and unavoidable. And as to the gas and water companies not being impoverished, why that was very true; but what remedy were individuals of small means to have in case of such injuries?

Sir George Strickland

conceived that 20l. a day was not a very severe penalty; but he thought if it were made 20l. an hour, very vexatious use might be made of it. And as to a remedy by an action at law being too expensive, he could not see how any remedy was to be had by any other means.

Lord G. Somerset

said, there were subsequent clauses in the Bill, by which a Summary mode of recovery was provided for all injuries sustained under the value of 20l.

The Committee divided on the question, that the word "day" stand part of the clause:—Ayes 30; Noes 7:—Majority 23.

List of the AYES.
Arkwright, G. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Brotherton, J. Loch, J.
Bruges, W. H. L. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Carew, W. H. P. Parker, J.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Pulsford, R.
Cripps, W. Rice, E. R.
Egerton, W. T. Russell, C.
Entwisle, W. Somerset, Lord G.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Hawes, B. Stanton, W. H.
Henley, J. W. Thornely, T.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Trotter, J.
Hussey, A. Wawn, J. T.
Hutt, W.
Irton, S. TELLERS.
Jermyn, Earl Young, J.
Johnstone, H. Hayter, W. G.
List of the NOES.
Butler, hon. Col. Strickland, Sir G.
Copeland, Ald. Wodehouse, E.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. TELLERS.
Plumptre, J. P. Spooner, J.
Stansfield, W. R. C. Sibthorp, Col.

Clause agreed to.

On the 20th Clause, company to have the power of taking certain lands, &c., for the erection of spoil banks and other purposes, within a thousand yards, in some cases, of the centre of the railway, and within two hundred and fifty yards, in other cases, of the centre of the railway,

Sir W. Jolliffe

said, as the clause stood it was highly objectionable. He did not wonder at landed proprietors complaining of the encroachments made upon their property by railway companies, for it was impossible to say to what extent a company might, not carry the powers contained in this clause. As to a landed proprietor obtaining anything like compensation for the injury done to his property, it was out of the question. No idea could ever be formed of the amount or description of damage likely to be done, as that rested almost entirely with the engineer of the company, who seldom or never gave a proper notice of the proposed encroachments. The extent to which the power conferred by these clauses was acted upon was most incredible. A piece of land might be covered with chalk, and there it remained not only for a short period of time, but to the permanent injury of the lands and the general disfigurement of a fertile and verdant estate. Such a system as this, all must admit, was most injurious to the rights of individuals; and he, therefore, hoped some Amendment would be made in the clause to put a stop to it.

Colonel Sibthorp

fully concurred in what had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down. The injuries done by the engineers of railway companies to the property of private individuals was most unjust, and called loudly for a remedy. Not content with making encroachments in the day-time, these marauders of engineers took advantage of the darkness to commit those trespasses which their modesty would not suffer them to do at another period. Only a short time back an hon. Friend of his rose one morning and found a flag stuck up before his door. And were such depredations as this to be tolerated? Whenever a gentleman met a stranger upon his lands he would certainly turn out to be the engineer of some railway company or other. They had nothing to do but to ask, "Who are you?" then the party replied, "I am the engineer of such and such a railway, and am acting under the law." But if he were the owner of the land, he would take care that the fellow should be promptly conveyed before a neighbouring magistrate. The hon. Gentleman had very properly asked, "Where or how are you to get compensation?" "Go to law" was the reply. Go to law, indeed! How was a poor farmer to contend against an irresponsible body! Well, then, if they conferred such enormous powers upon a railway company, why should they not compel them to afford full and ample compensation for the injury they did to the rights of private property.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that he should propose that the first blank in the clause, limiting the distance at which the company could interfere with private roads, should be filled up with 500 yards instead of 1,000, and the second blank with 200 yards instead of 250, This was an important alteration. As to the remuneration for damage done, he should propose some alterations on that head in the 29th Clause. With regard to the present clause, he could not see that any alteration could be made beyond that which he had just mentioned.

Mr. Aglionby

said, it seemed as if the clause was meant to give a bonus and advantage to laxity of engineering. It said if the line was properly laid down, it was well; but if it was carelessly laid down, it was well also; and the railway company might have the benefit of its own carelessness. He should wish the engineers to be compelled to be as strict as possible in the first instance, that the public might know how far they were injured by any railway. In the first Bill they had a power of deviation of one hundred yards; then there was a further power of deviation, and now they came for 500 yards more.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that his attention had not been drawn to the former, but to the latter part of the clause. By the Amendment which he intended to propose to the 29th Clause, he had provided all the compensation for private rights which money could give.

Sir W. Jolliffe

said, that this clause was so utterly objectionable that he did not think either the House or the country would suffer it to be introduced into any Bill. He did not wish to place a railway company in a worse position than any other company, but by having the power of making a deviation of two hundred and fifty yards, they would be acquiring a right which might prove of the utmost detriment to an estate. This deviation might bring the centre of a tunnel close to a mansion, or it might fall upon a lot of brick earth. He knew of an instance in which a plot of twenty-three acres was taken in the very centre of a property. In the middle of this was a clay pit, with its brick kilns and other buildings, that covered the whole of this area of twenty-three acres. And not only was there the nuisance of making the bricks, of which not less than 13,000,000 were made during the occupation of the land, but there was not less than 300 labourers encamped upon it for the space of three years; and this nuisance might have existed for seven years, for that was the time allowed for the construction of the railway. For half a mile on all sides the trees and shrubs on the estate were injured and checked in their growth. This he conceived to be an immense nuisance. But there was a further evil, for he understood that while the labourers were domiciled on this property, the small-pox broke out among them, and created a serious danger, not only to the family of the proprietor of the land, but also to all the other residents in the neighbourhood.

Mr. Hayter

said, that he did not object to the words of the right hon. Gentleman; but, before they were inserted, he thought it was advisable to ascertain what was the provision of the clause. The thing to be considered was, whether it were better to use a private road or no road at all? Which would occasion mast damage? By the 43rd Clause full compensation was given to those who suffered, and this was one of the two parts into which the clause naturally divided itself. The second part referred to the deviation. Now it was necessary to take this deviation, for the company required it for four purposes—for side-cuttings, for depositing their spoil earth, for private roads for the railway, and for agricultural roads. The first object for which they required the deviation was for side-cuttings. Now, by the evidence of the most eminent engineers last Session, it was proved that it was utterly impossible for human wisdom to foresee the precise line which a railway ought to take, for it was not until they arrived at a particular place that they could ascertain what cuttings were necessary. He thought that there could be no objection to the provisions for enabling the makers of railways to deposit the spoil somewhere, and to draw materials from the immediate neighbourhood of the line, especially as care was taken to secure compensation for the injury they might do. The clause had been taken from the model Bill, and had been hitherto uniformly acted on.

Mr. Tatton Egerton

had sat on railway committees for several years, and he was convinced that the clause would be unnecessary, if the engineers were required to state before the Committee precisely what land they would require for the objects of their line—cuttings, the deposit of spoil, the raising of materials, or whether for the formation of temporary roads. But the statements of these Gentlemen before the committees were always of the most vague and unsatisfactory nature, so that no person along the whole line could ever tell to what extent his land might be damaged. He would move the omission of the clause.

Mr. Stansfield

said, that it was too much to extend those powers to a distance of two thousand yards. He thought it ought to be limited to the distance in the deviation clauses.

Mr. Darby

complained of the power given to engineers to go in upon land, and the consequence was, that the engineer invariably complained that he had "too little land." He contended that the engineer ought to know how much land he would require to deviate upon, and if he could not tell that, then he contended that the engineer did not know his business.

Sir G. Strickland

agreed that there was much to be complained of on this point, but there was great difficulty to be met with in trying to remedy the evil. He thought it would be well to have all remedies for such grievances put into one Consolidated Bill, in order that, when they did occur, parties might not be put to the trouble of trying to find out in what particular Bill the remedy lay. He had heard of an instance where an excavation had been made by a railway company, and they left a pond of water that they never filled up, so that the owners, instead of having the vacancy filled up, got a swamp instead of land. However, he feared that temporary occupation of the land in this way would always be necessary.

Mr. Hawes

defended the clause. It provided ample compensation to the landowner, to whom it also gave the option of compelling the railway company to purchase his land out and out. He could not see what good would result by expunging this clause; for when a company went before a Private Committee it would cirtainly obtain (if this limitation clause were not inserted) as much land on both sides of the railway as they could prove to be necessary for the purposes enumerated in this clause. He could not conceive that they could adopt any clause better calculated to afford ample security to the landowner.

Mr. Darby

said, the hon. Member for Lambeth had entirely avoided the point he had raised. What he objected to was this, they gave indiscriminate powers to the engineer, who invariably omitted to mention the quantity of land he should require, and after the Bill was passed he turned round and said he wanted this and that land, which had never been thought of before, either by the Committee or the owner. Now, what he wanted them to do was, to let the engineer decide in the Committee the quantity of land he would require, and afterwards confine him to this quantity, without giving the unlimited powers contained in the clause they were then discussing.

Mr. Gladstone

was for making the best arrangement possible; and he thought there was some reason in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Sussex, to the effect that these powers should only be given in cases where they might be necessary to make use of them. In the case of brickwork also, it was impossible for any engineer to foresee how many bricks would be required, and therefore, in his opinion, the power of deviation ought to be given. If this clause were to be expunged the effect would be that the small proprietor would be disregarded, and the wealthy classes alone would be cared for.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that he would consider the proposition of the hon. Member for Sussex (Mr. Darby), and he would move that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again on Thursday. In the meantime, he would take an opportunity of communicating with his hon. Friend, and try if they could not frame a clause which should obviate the difficulty which was felt on all sides of the House to the clause as it now stood.

House resumed.

Committee to sit again.

House adjourned and met again at five o'clock.

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