HC Deb 12 August 1846 vol 88 cc638-43

The Railway Gauge Bill was read a Third Time.


moved the insertion of an additional clause. He stated that during the last Session of Parliament a line of railway was granted from Oxford to Worcester on the broad gauge, and that another line was granted from Oxford to Rugby. During the present Session a branch from Oxford and Rugby to Birmingham was granted, as was also a line from Birmingham to Wolverhampton; but no gauge was specified for these two lines. Now, the Bill before the House specified those lines which were excepted from the general principle; but those lines to which he had referred were not mentioned in it, and it was with the view of including them that he now submitted an additional clause to the House. The object of that clause was to provide for the entire line from Oxford to Birmingham having the broad gauge, so that there should not be exhibited the anomaly of two gauges being laid down on this line of railway. The hon. Gentleman then proposed the following clause— Nothing in the Act contained shall prevent the construction of the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway, the Birmingham Extension Railway, and the Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Dudley Railway, including the Line between Wednesbury and Dudley, on the same Gauge or Gauges according to which the Oxford and Rugby, and the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railways may be constructed.

Clause Drought up and read a first time.

On the Question, that the said Clause be now read a second time,


said, the proposition which his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham now made had undergone very full consideration, and he could assure him that the course which the Government thought fit to take with respect to this subject had not been influenced in the least by any sympathy with the London and Birmingham Railway Company, or any other company, but simply with reference to public and general considerations. He must call his hon. Friend's attention to the state of the case. The fact was that a Commission had been appointed to inquire into the Gauge question, and a report was made, upon which certain Resolutions were founded and unanimously passed. The Bill now before the House, and which had reached its third reading (having already passed through the House of Lords), was a Bill to carry those Resolutions which Parliament had deliberately passed into law, and nothing more. But the hon. Member for Birmingham asked them to pause at the third reading of this Bill, and to introduce a clause which would be in complete violation of its principles, and which would, in fact, amount to very little short of making all their previous resolutions and proceedings null and void. However, be that as it may, be would remind his hon. Friend that at the time that the Birmingham and Oxford Railway Bill was before a Committee of that House, the promoters of that Bill were perfectly aware those Resolutions to which he had alluded were passing through the Houses of Parliament; and they were aware that, with the exception of those Bills with reference to which a special clause was inserted, every Bill would come under the control of the general enactment which Parliament was about to adopt. Now, why did they neglect to ask, until the third reading of this general enactment, to have an exception made in their favour? Why did they not take the opportunity of inviting the Committee who sat on this particular Bill, and before whom evidence could be taken, to make a special Report to the House that they had a case which would render them entitled to be excepted from the general operation of this enactment? If they had asked to make such a Report to the House, why had not the Committee made it? It appeared to him (Mr. Gibson) that Parliament would be proceeding in direct opposition to its Resolution, and to the Report of the Gauge Commission, if they were to allow the clause proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham to be now introduced into this Bill.


supported the clause, which he contended could have no other object than to benefit the public. The only reason, indeed, which the right hon. Gentleman had given for opposing it was, that the promoters did not take the proper opportunity for having an exception made in their favour; but in his opinion there was no weight whatever in this objection.


said, if the Oxford and Birmingham line would be rendered useless without the insertion of this clause, as seemed to be supposed, why was that important fact overlooked by the promoters when the Bill was before the Committee? It was then proposed that the broad gauge should be granted on the whole line from Birmingham to London; but that recommendation was thrown out by the Committee. He would be no party to promoting a gauge which he was sure must be withdrawn sooner or later; nor did he wish to see any parties injured by the change. He desired, as did the Commissioners, that means might be found of making an uniform gauge throughout the country by some equitable mode. But the Resolutions had encroached on the principles laid down by the Commissioners, and the present Bill advanced beyond them, and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) went still further in extending the broad gauge. Throughout the continent of Europe there was an uniform gauge with one exception; and an engineer from Heidelberg was this moment here consulting with the most eminent engineers how to get rid of the evil. He implored the House to be more consistent in legislating on this subject than they had been: what they had done must be undone sooner or later, and an uniform gauge established. At any rate he would be no party to extending the broad gauge, as was proposed by the clause of the hon. Member; and on commercial as well as national grounds, he asked the House to adhere to the principles which had already been laid down.


said, that in the present Bill there were two exceptions admitted which had not been mentioned in the Gauge Commissioners' Report: they had not been brought before the Committee, and had not had a special report made in their favour; and why then should the lines mentioned in the clause be refused a similar advantage? With respect to what had been said about the time when the present proposition ought to have been made, all that could be said on that matter was, that if the Government had not inserted the two lines in the Bill, the present was the only occasion when the parties could bring their proposition forward. Then it was said that the adoption of the clause would be inconsistent with the Report of the Gauge Commissioners, in which it was stated that the break of gauge was a most serious evil. But the House should know that unless the clause was introduced, there would be a much greater break of gauge than if the Bill passed without it. They asked for no exclusive privileges with respect to the adoption of the broad gauge, as they wished to lay down a narrow-gauge rail by the side of it. All they asked for was what was given to the other lines to which he had referred.


observed, that this might be looked upon as a question between two great railways, the Great Western and the London and Birmingham; and he hoped that hon. Members, in deciding the question, would dismiss from their minds all considerations with reference to the peculiar interests that might be involved in promoting those separate lines, and that they would look only to the public interest. He would remind the House of the charges that were made on the London and Birmingham line, until a competition was established; and he urged them to afford the public that accommodation which they ought to have by the competition of this railway, to which their attention was now directed. He called upon the Vice President of the Board of Trade to point out to him any inconvenience the public could sustain by laying down the broad gauge on this line; and let him show how any individual could be injured by doing so, except perhaps the London and Birmingham Railway.


said, the question appeared to him to be, whether this was the proper time to insert this clause, contrary to what had been contemplated by the Committee on the Bill, or by the Committees on the Bills for those railways themselves? He must express his hostility to the idea of the broad gauge being brought into connexion with the narrow gauge north of Oxford. He had no interest in either line; all he was anxious for was, that the public should have as much accommodation as possible, and he should oppose the insertion of the clause.


expressed his regret that the question of the gauges should have been raised on the present occasion. The subject was fully discussed in the House upon the Resolutions introduced by the late Vice President of the Board of Trade, on the part of the Government some months ago, which Resolutions were adopted as a sort of compromise between the different interests concerned in the gauge question. The House accepted that compromise. After those Resolutions were adopted, he had asked the late Vice President of the Board of Trade whether it were the intention of the Government to bring in a Bill in order to give effect to them? He replied that it was. That intention, however, was not carried into effect while the last Government were in office; but the noble Lord, the present President of the Board of Trade, acting upon the assurance given by the previous Government, introduced a Bill into the other House of Parliament founded upon the Resolutions. That Bill had passed through its various stages in the other House, and had arrived at its third reading in this, when the inconvenient course had been adopted of moving a clause which had not even been printed, and the terms of which he knew nothing about till he saw them in manuscript a few minutes ago, making another exception in addition to those originally introduced by the Board of Trade—an exception which was now proposed for the first time, and which had not been mentioned in the previous discussion on the subject. Without entering into the merits of the case, he would merely say that the safest way would be for the House to adhere to the Bill as it now stood, and which had been framed in strict conformity to the Resolutions of the House.


did not think that it was the province of the Committee to which this subject was referred to state the exceptions which should be made. He considered that this clause came within the spirit of the exceptions allowed by the Bill.


observed, that the parties had had ample opportunities of being heard before the Gauge Commissioners, but they either did not appear, or if they did, they made no impression upon those officers, who were looking only to the interest of the public. The Board of Trade again decided on this question, after due consideration; and he denied that it was competent for the House, at that stage of the Bill, to adopt such a claim. He could not conceive on what ground they brought forward the subject again at that period of the Session.

House divided:—Ayes 15; Noes 46: Majority 31.

List of the AYES.
Bernal, R. Layard, Capt.
Bridgeman, H. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Crawford, W. S. Rolleston, Col.
Cripps, W. Thornely, T.
Duncan, G. Wawn, J. T.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Williams, W.
Harcourt, G. G. TELLERS.
Hayter, W. G. Muntz, G. F.
Henley, J. W. Spooner, R.
List of the NOES.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Howard, P. H.
Mangles, R. D.
Bateson, T. Masterman, J.
Beresford, Major Morpeth, Visct.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. O'Conor Don
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Palmer, G.
Blackburne, J. I. Parker, J.
Bodkin, W. H. Philips, M.
Brocklehurst, J. Pigott, rt. hon. D.
Brotherton, J. Plumridge, Capt.
Brown, W. Rich, H.
Buller, C. Rumbold, C. E.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Scott, hon. F.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Seymour, Sir H. B.
Douglas, Sir H. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Duncannon, Visct. Stewart, P. M.
Dundas, Adm. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Ebrington, Visct. Turner, E.
Escott, B. Ward, H. G.
Etwall, R. Wilshere, W.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Wood, rt. hon. C.
Gore, M. Wyse, T.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. TELLERS.
Hawes, B. Tufnell, H.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Craig, W. G.

Bill passed.