HC Deb 06 February 1846 vol 83 cc518-26

rose to call the attention of the House to the first Report of the Select Committee appointed to consider the mode in which the House should deal with Railway Bills in the present Session. Two points had to be brought under consideration. In the first place, with regard to Irish Railway Bills, it was the opinion of the Committee that great facility would be afforded to them by having them considered first in the House of Lords; if one of those Bills originated in the House of Commons, and another in the House of Lords, it might not be possible properly to consider one Bill until the other arrived from the House in which it was introduced. In the next place, with regard to those Bills which had reached a certain point last Session, but were prevented from receiving the consideration of the other House, it was thought that, though the number was very small, it was of great importance to the parties to retain their privilege of not having to go through all their evidence again before the House of Commons, and, at the same time, it would be very unfair if any rival Bills now introduced were not to be considered in the House of Lords at the same time. In the case of this class of Bills, therefore, as well as the Irish Bills, the Committee recommended that facility be granted by their being introduced into the House of Lords at once. As to any other Bills, the Committee gave no opinion. These two classes had seemed entitled to a separate consideration. In the case of the Irish Bills the Committee felt that there was so great a demand for employment, that it was right to facilitate their passing speedily. The noble Lord then moved the further consideration of the Report brought up on the previous evening.


said, he wished to offer a few words to the House on the subject of the Motion of the noble Lord, which appeared to him particularly to affect two classes of Railway Bills—namely, Irish Bills, and such as in this country were in the same class as the London and York Bill. In these cases it was proposed by the plan suggested, that they should commence in the House of Lords. Now he objected to that first part of the Resolution which rendered it compulsory on the promoters of such measures as had completed all their arrangements for proceeding before the House of Commons, to commence their Parliamentary course in the Lords. He did not see why the Irish Bills should meet with any particular favour or encouragement over English or Scotch Bills; neither could he conceive why Irish Bills should be placed in any situation different from that of English and Scotch Bills. He did not want this announcement made with such a flourish of trumpets that Irish business was to be given a greater facility than any other, and that this would be advantageous for Ireland. He denied that there was any substantial advantage to be derived from the proposed change. It appeared to him that this putting the Irish Bills first into the House of Lords would not facilitate their passing. He wished to ask the noble Lord, whether it would be necessary, before any Bill went through the House of Lords, for the promoters of it to show that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons had been complied with. He found in the Report, that after a Bill, having originated in the House of Lords, had been brought down to the Commons, and read a first time, it was recommended that it should be referred to the Committee on Petitions to ascertain whether it had or not substantially complied with the Standing Orders of the Commons. He would be glad to know what a substantial compliance with the Standing Orders meant. There was a difference in the practice of both Houses with respect to the proofs of compliance. The services of notices, lodgment of plans and sections, and all that was preliminary, might be proved in one place by the certificate of an assistant barrister. That was not the case in the other respect; but in many cases forty or fifty people had to be brought, at an immense expense, to prove that which ought to be admitted upon producing an affidavit sworn before a judge. This was the point wherein a material benefit might be conferred upon Ireland, and here was a matter to which the attention of the Legislature had never properly directed itself, but which would be calculated to do great service to the people of Ireland. He had before suggested the expediency of doing something to meet this evil, but it had not been taken up as he wished.


said, the labours of the Committees were only in their infancy, or perhaps merely yet in parturition. He rather approved of the proposition contained in the Resolutions with respect to those Bills which were to be originated in the House of Lords, and felt inclined to waive any objections of a technical character which he might otherwise have felt towards the adoption of such a course. But with respect to the preference which was to be given to the Irish Bills, he confessed he could see neither the justice, the advantage, the policy, nor the utility of such a mode of proceeding. There was at present a great desire in the public mind of this country to know for certain what railway projects would be perfected, and what would not. And if this plan for preferring the Irish Railway Bills to the English and Scotch were to be proceeded in, they might do great injustice to a large portion of the community of this country. The House should recollect the large amount of deposits which was that day paid into the Bank of England—an amount which could scarcely be less than 11½ millions, exclusive of the amount to be paid on Irish and Scotch Bills; and they should consider the effect of having this large sum of money thus, as it were, locked up from the industry of the country. He confessed he was disappointed in the Report. He did not think that the English or Scotch labourers would jump at these measures for facilitating the passing of Railway Bills as such a great boon. It appeared to him a mistaken delusion to suppose that the construction of railways would give a good deal of employment to the poor. If there was such great employment to be had here in England, there would be a large influx of Irish labourers come over to compete with them. What the people of Ireland wanted most particularly was food. What he would like to see the noble Lord opposite, and the Railway Committee with whom he acted, come down to that House to propose, would be some plan for limiting the expense of English railways. There should be some means devised for lessening the enormous costs of those proceedings, which went on from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month; and this was the chief and most important consideration to which the attention of the Committee should be particularly directed.


hoped the House would permit him to make an observation or two, in consequence of what had fallen from his hon. Colleague. It was well known how impossible it was to satisfy every one; but he thought it only his duty, as an Irish Member, to state, in his place in the House, that both the Committee of the Lords and that of the Commons had manifested the greatest anxiety to meet the exigency at present unfortunately existing in Ireland. They both considered that it would be of great importance dining the period intervening between May and August next, that provision should be made for the condition of the people through the medium of employment; and they had conceived that if, by the facilitating of Irish Railway Bills through Parliament, employment would be thus secured for the poor, it would be of much service to do so. They had felt those reasons for giving increased facility to Irish Railway Bills weigh strongly with them; but while they did so they by no means wished to throw any impediments in the progress of English or Scotch Bills. The Committee had considered then that the Irish railways might be advanced were they originated in the House of Lords. With respect to what the hon. Member who last spoke had said, about an influx of Irish labourers coming upon England, he could only observe that it would be much better for the Irish labourer to be employed at home, and near his own family, than anywhere else. He could not but feel the greatest possible sympathy and compassion with the condition of many of his poorer fellow countrymen, which, from the accounts he lately received from Sligo and other parts, must be very wretched and distressed. The reports of the prevalence of the potato disease were but too well founded. The poor labouring people of Ireland wanted only employment that would fairly remunerate them, and not any gratuitous charity. The promotion of railways would give them that, and therefore he approved of any course which might tend to that effect.


said, one object was quite clear in the present Resolutions, and it was one that every Member of the House, he believed, would concur in, that it was expedient to afford every facility to the passing of Irish Railway Bills through the Legislature. But then came the question, do you give these facilities by the proposed measures? It was recommended by the Resolutions that all Irish Railway Bills should commence in the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Roscommon, who ought to know something of the matter, being an Irish Representative, said that this object of facilitating the passing of such Irish Bills would not be effected by such a course. He had been on a Railway Committee that day, before which an Irish Bill had come in its preliminary stages. He would ask the noble Lord opposite, and the Railway Committee who acted with him, would they not attain their object better by not compelling such promoters of Irish Railway Bills as were ready at present to go before the Commons, to commence in the Lords? Would it not be more advisable to allow such to commence in that House, as they were prepared to do? If it was true that it was easier to originate a Bill in the Commons than the Lords, he would ask them not to compel the adoption of the latter course.


was at a loss to know what possible impediment was thrown in the way of an Irish Railway Bill by appointing its commencement in the Lords instead of the Commons. It was said that it would be more expensive to adopt this course, particularly with Bills which were ready to go before the House of Commons. This allegation he could not concur in. It should be recollected the length of time which should elapse between different stages of the Bill. There was another point to be considered in discussing the present question, and that was the great inconvenience and awkwardness which might result from the fact of the House of Commons giving its consent to one Bill, and the House of Lords doing the same with respect to a competing line. Now, if there was no competing line, and if a Bill was obliged to pass through the ordeal of the two Houses, no substantial injustice could be done to the parties by beginning their case before one tribunal sooner than another; and the whole of the terms of the Standing Orders of both Houses should be complied with. Under such circumstances, he considered no practical inconvenience whatever could ever arise from these propositions.


suggested that all Bills which had made any progress in that House, with the exception of Bills relating to competing lines, should be allowed to be proceeded with; and that all Bills relating to competing lines, or which had not made any progress in that House, should be referred immediately to the House of Lords.


said that Bills could not be placed in a worse position, by their being immediately referred to the House of Lords. Many Bills would probably be brought back from the House of Lords at as early a period as the consideration of them could be commenced in the House of Commons.


wished to remind the House that the promoters of railways could not commence the works until some months after they had obtained their Bills. He thought that the Government ought to take some means for further expediting the progress of railway business.

The first two Resolutions were agreed to:—

  1. "1. Resolved—That with respect to any Railway Bills which shall be brought from the House of Lords during this Session, this House will not insist on their privilege with regard to the Clauses fixing and regulating rates and tolls in such Bills.
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  3. "2. Resolved—That with a view of affording early and increased means of employment in Ireland, it is expedient to give facilities for the early consideration of Irish Railway Bills; and that, for the attainment of this object, all such Railway Bills should, in the present Session, commence in the House of Lords."

The Third Resolution having been put,


thought that Resolution would, if adopted, lead to very unfair results. It was proposed by that Resolution that "all Bills which compete with, or ought to be considered in connexion with, any Bills, the promoters of which shall prove themselves entitled to the privileges agreed to be granted in certain cases by the Resolutions of this House of the 7th July last, shall commence in the House of Lords." Now, the result of that Resolution would be, that the London and York Bill, which had passed that House, would be placed in a more unfavourable position than the competing schemes which they had last year rejected; for the promoters of those competing schemes would have had an opportunity of altering their Bills since last Session, and could at once launch them in the House of Lords. In fact they would have the same privileges in the House of Lords as if they had passed the Commons in the present Session. There were at present two schemes competing with the London and York line—namely, the Direct Northern, and the lines from Cambridge to York. There were but two lines from London to York under the consideration of the Committee of that House last Session; and as that Committee had sat during eighty days, he was much afraid that the Committee of the House of Lords, which would have three projects to consider, might have to sit 120 days. But he had risen for the purpose of stating that, although he was convinced that the Select Committee had been actuated by an earnest desire to discharge their duties impartially, the Resolution then before the House might produce very unfair results.


believed that the Resolution would operate fairly for all parties. There had been a complaint last year that the Select Committee of that House had been unable, from want of time, to hear the whole of the evidence in the case referred to their consideration. It had been said, however, that there was a place of refuge for the discontented parties—namely, the House of Lords. The three schemes of communication between London and York were at present about to be brought before a Committee of the Lords; and he believed that by that means justice would be best done to all the parties interested, and the advantage of the public would be best promoted, The subject was one of immense importance: the line of communication in question involved a larger outlay than any other project then before Parliament; and it was evidently desirable that it should undergo the fullest investigation.


wished to observe, that the projects now competing with the London and York line were not the same as the projects competing with it last Session. If they had been the same, he should not on that occasion have uttered one word of complaint.


believed that by that Resolution the public interest would be promoted, while ample justice would be done to all the parties interested. It was quite clear that as the other House of Parliament had not yet considered the London and York, or any of the competing schemes, they must, under any circumstances, have before them all the rival projects. His opinion was that the course proposed was the course which would be most advantageous for the promoters of the London and York line, if that line were the best. The public would also be benefited by a thorough investigation of the different proposed schemes of communication between London and York.


wished to remind the House and the Government that it was impossible that the works on a line could be commenced at an earlier period than three months after a Bill had been obtained. In the first place, there must be calls made, and notices given of those calls; in the second place, possession of the ground must be got, which involved a very tedious process; and, in the third place, there must be contracts advertised, so that a considerable time would necessarily elapse before the works on any railway could be commenced. The House would, therefore, be deceived if they thought they could give employment in Ireland during the spring, or early in the summer, by passing any Railway Bill this Session in a manner consistent with the usual forms of the House; for it would then be impossible that the works could be commenced before August or September next.

The remaining Resolutions, as follows, were agreed to:— 3. Resolved—That all Bills which compete with or ought to be considered in connexion with any Bills, the promoters of which shall prove themselves entitled to the privileges agreed to be granted in certain cases by the Resolutions of this House of the 7th July last, shall commence in the House of Lords. 4. Resolved—That the parties promoting Railway Bills which, by the above Resolutions, are to commence in the House of Lords, may (notwithstanding any proceeding respecting such Bills in the House of Lords) prove before the Committee on Petitions of the House of Commons that they have complied with the Standing Orders of this House, and the Report of such Committee shall be ordered to lie on the Table. If the Committee should report that the Standing Orders have not been complied with, their Report shall be referred to the Committee on Standing Orders, whose Report shall be ordered to lie on the Table. 5. Resolved—That when a Railway Bill shall have been brought from the Lords, it shall be read a first time, and referred to the Select Committee on Petitions for Private Bills, who shall report whether the Standing Orders have been complied with, or whether any Report with reference to substantially the same Bill has been previously laid on the Table of the House.

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