Mr. Stuart Wortley
moved the Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned debate on the subject of his Motion relating to railways.
The Resolution, that the following Clause be inserted in all Railway Bills passing through this House was again read, as follows:—And be it further Enacted, That nothing herein contained shall be deemed or construed to exempt the Railway by this or the said recited Acts authorised to be made from the provisions of any general Act relating to such Bills, or of any general Act relating to Railways which may hereafter pass during the present or any future Session of Parliament.And also the following addition by Lord Howick—and which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words—Or, from any future revision and alteration, under the authority of Parliament, of the maximum rates of fares and charges authorised by this Act.
§ Mr. Wilson Patten
was very doubtful whether the House would pass these Resolutions as they now stood. He did not deny the right of the House to make what regulations it might think fit with respect to railways; but they ought to be so framed as to meet other times, when money might not be in such plenty in the market as at present. He also doubted whether the House in all cases should interfere with the rate of charges by railways; but it ought not to pass such regulations as would operate as a discouragement to the investment of capital. He could not concur in the principle that this Resolution should be operative on every railway company. If a company which had already got its Act of Parliament 852 should come again to the House for a branch extension or for additional powers, he would not object to have the proposed Clause made applicable to them, and of course to all new companies.
§ Mr. Hawes
objected to the Resolution, on the ground that it would affect all rail, way companies from the first which had passed, down to the present time. He did not think that the hon. Member who moved the Resolution intended to go so far. But if it were intended to apply to all Railway Acts, past as well as future, he could not support it; but if it were so modified as to affect only future Bills, then he would not object to it.
§ Mr. Francis T. Baring
understood that the proposition of the hon. Member for the West Riding of York was not intended to apply to all railway companies whatever, but was merely applicable to all Railway Bills which might come before the House hereafter. He did admit that the House never intended to give that monopoly which some companies had since enjoyed; yet he did not think that the House ought to interfere with such companies, unless they came to it for additional powers or greater extension by means of branch railways; in either of which cases he thought the House would be fully justified in bringing them within the operation of any rules which it might make with respect to railways generally. That the House had a right to adopt some general measures which would secure to the public the greatest advantages from railways, nobody would deny; and he hoped that the Government would by the next Session have prepared some measure on the subject. It ought not to be a departmental measure, but one emanating from the Government itself, and to be introduced with all its authority and influence. Most certainly it would be little to the credit of the House or the Government to leave the regulations affecting railways as they now stood.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that as he understood, the Resolution and the addition to it, involved two distinct principles. The first was, that in the case of any existing railways which should come to the House for greater extension or additional powers, the Resolution would apply; and secondly, that all future Railway Bills would be dealt with so as to have their rates of charges and accommodation to the public generally subject to any regulations which 853 the Legislature might think proper to make. Considering the claims of the public for the best accommodation which railway companies could give, he did think that old railways coming for additional powers or greater extension should be brought within the rule applicable to companies coming for the first time before Parliament; but except in those two cases he did not think the House should interfere with the tolls and rates of charge; and he did not understand that such was the object of the noble Lord's (Lord Howick) proposed addition. With respect to any future railway, the Legislature might say, in effect, to its promoters, "We have not time now to enter into all the details of your Bill: but we shall pass it, giving you at the same time due notice that you take it subject to any regulation which may be adopted with respect to all railways." To these two principles he did not object.
§ Mr. J. Parker
was understood to say, that much time was lost in Committees in going into preliminary inquiries as to probable traffic, and other matters connected with, the proposed line. He suggested that such inquiries might be made by the Board of Trade or some other body, by which a great deal of the time of hon. Members on Committees would be saved.
§ Mr. Mangles
wished to impress on the House that it ought not to legislate piecemeal on a question of such importance as that connected with railways. He fully concurred with the right hon. Gentleman who had suggested that the question should be taken up by Government, and with all its weight and influence. He had always heard, and fully concurred in the statement, that one great ingredient in the prosperity of the country was the complete freedom of individual enterprise from legislative restriction or interference. To that principle he should wish to see the Legislature adhere as a general rule; but the great public interests involved in railways ought to make that species of enterprise an exception, and the Government ought to take up the question as one great whole.
§ Viscount Ebrington
considered the Motion then before the House as equivalent to adjourning the subject to a more convenient 854 season; and on that ground he would support it.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
, in reply, defended the principle of his Clause, and contended for the necessity of having it applied to all future Railway Bills. He begged the House to recollect, that he was not presuming to legislate on railways. All he asked was, that this Clause should be applied to each future Railway Bill, until the subject should be taken up by the Government, with the view of devising some general measure respecting them. The House would bear in mind that this was not a notion of his own. It had been recommended by the Select Committee on Railway Bills which had sat last Session.
§ Resolution, with the addition, agreed to.