HC Deb 19 August 1846 vol 88 cc891-3

, pursuant to the notice which he had given, rose to move for leave to introduce a Bill to enable Her Majesty to appoint a Railway Board. The subject was one which had been pressed on Her Majesty's Government by both Houses of Parliament. The Committee of the House of Lords which sat on railways had come to a resolution urging the appointment of such a Board; and the House of Commons had lately adopted a similar resolution. Fortified, therefore, with these resolutions, Her Majesty's Government had determined to come to Parliament and ask the House to pass a Bill which would carry into effect the object which those resolutions contemplated. He was well aware that at this period of the Session such a Bill could only be carried by the common consent of the whole House; but it was in reliance upon that common consent that the Government proposed to introduce this Bill. The Bill was very short in itself, and he would briefly state its main provisions. The Government proposed that a Board should be constituted, consisting of not more than five Commissioners, one of whom should be the president. It was proposed that the president of the Board should be paid for his services, and that he should be a Member of one of the two Houses of Parliament. It was also proposed that he should be connected with the Government so far as to be removable on any change of Administration. The other Commissioners were to be made up of two paid members and two unpaid members of the Board. The two paid Commissioners would not have seats in Parliament; and the object in appointing two unpaid members of the Board was, that there should be at least one Commissioner in either House of Parliament, to answer any questions that might be put with respect to the acts of the Board. The two unpaid members of the Commission would also be members of the Government, of course receiving emolument in that capacity, but not as members of the Railway Board. The result, therefore, would be, that in both Houses of Parliament there would be a member of the Board competent to answer questions, and to take upon him the conduct of railway business in either House. It was further proposed by the Bill to enable the Commissioners, with the sanction of the Treasury, to transfer to their own office the clerks and other subordinate officers at present employed in the Railway Department of the Board of Trade. It was proposed also to transfer to the Board the whole of the powers and duties which now devolved upon the Railway Department of the Board of Trade. It was intended to give the new Railway Board what the Board of Trade had not at present—the power of enforcing the execution of the terms upon which Bills were granted to railway companies. Upon the new Board would be imposed the duty of seeing that every existing railway company strictly complied with the provisions of the Act under which it was incorporated. The Government further proposed to enable the Board to carry on any inquiry which might be referred to it by either House of Parliament. He would not then enter into a minute statement of the provisions of the Bill, but merely say it would be a great advantage that this Board should be constituted. There was one subject which, though not part of this Bill, he thought it would be desirable to revise during the recess—he meant the Standing Orders of the House relating to railways. One thing in particular he thought should be considered—whether a longer time should not be allowed to elapse between the first proposal to construct a railway and the bringing the Bill before the consideration of Parliament, so as to afford time to make such inquiries as might be deemed necessary during the interval. He believed there would be no objection to a measure which all admitted was necessary in the present state of the railway business of the country.


thought there ought to be something more than the mere transference of the present powers of the Board of Trade to the Commissioners, to do any amount of good. He wished to know if the proposed Board would have the power to send for papers and records, because without this, little good could be done.


said, that subject had not been considered by the Government, but it would be, and an answer would be given in the next stage of the Bill. The Government only proposed now that which the whole House might consent to; and with regard to more extensive powers, the whole subject would be fully discussed and considered in the next Session of Parliament.

Leave given.

Bill brought in, and read a First Time.

House adjourned at a quarter to Four o'clock.