HC Deb 19 March 1846 vol 84 cc1221-7

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the Sixth Report of the Railways Classification Committee, said that he was directed by the Committee to state that they had nearly come to the termination of their labours. They had placed the different Railway Bills sent before them in groups; but on coming to those, the objects of which were to make lines through, and have termini, in the metropolis, they had resolved that they formed so peculiar a class, and had bearings of so important a nature, that they ought to make it the subject of an Address to the Crown for the appointment of a Commission to investigate and report upon them. The Committee found the question so important, that it could not come to the same resolutions with regard to them as it had arrived at in other cases, and thought that its duty required it to bring the question before the House. The metropolitan lines the Committee had divided into three classes: first, those that were originally-intended to have been brought before Parliament during the present Session, but which were, for various reasons, postponed to another Session; second, those that had been proposed, but withdrawn; third, and finally, those that were to be brought before Parliament during the present Session. In the consideration of those Bills there appeared so much good and so much evil to the metropolis, that the Committee thought they should be carried before another tribunal, where they could be exclusively considered. He had brought with him a map, on which was marked all the proposed stations in the metropolis, and he could not call the attention of the House more forcibly to the effects which would be produced by their erection, than by stating that the mere surface of the ground to be occupied by them would amount to 200 acres; that the works would involve the necessity of taking down between 9,000 and 10,000 houses; and that the property to be taken, had the schemes all been carried out, would have been in value about 15,000,000l. He should not state the case fairly to the House if he did not explain that that was the total estimate for all the plans originally proposed, including those withdrawn and postponed, but that by no means so great an amount remained to be considered. However, some of those that remained involved matters of very serious consideration. Some of the proposed termini were to be placed in the very heart of the city. One was to be in Farringdon-street; another was proposed to be placed in Thames-street; another on Cornhill; and another, or rather two, in Holborn; another—but it would be unnecessary to go through the enumeration of them all. There were several to be erected in various places. He hoped he had said enough to show the necessity for the establishment of such a tribunal as that recommended by the Committee. It had been given in evidence that from one station alone, on the other side of the Thames, 400,000 passengers were last year despatched. The object was to send these and many more from the heart of the metropolis; and the Committee thought it much better that the subject should be investigated by persons of science, and practical as well as local knowledge, than by a Committee upon the more exhibition of maps and plans. By the orders of the House it was also provided that no Member connected with the district of a railway should sit upon a Committee, so that in this instance the Members for London, Southwark, &c., who possessed local information, were necessarily excluded. It had been suggested that public accommodation might be obtained without going into the heart of the metropolis, and a Committee had met to determine whether some central point could not be fixed upon from which the lines of the railways leading from London might diverge; but he doubted how far this was practicable. At all events, this and other matters were fit questions for inquiry by a Commission. The more regular mode would have been for the Classification Committee to have made this recommendation in writing; but as delay was on all accounts to be avoided, the Committee had instructed him to make this Motion at once. If the House should be of opinion that a Commission was not expedient, of course the Committee would proceed with its duty, and would group the various Bills relating to railways intended to have their termini in the metropolis. He moved an Address to her Majesty, for the appointment of a Commission to investigate and report upon the various railway projects of which the termini are proposed to be established within or in the immediate vicinity of the metropolis.


had no doubt that the Committee had been influenced by sufficient reasons for the course it had pursued, rather leaving their Chairman to state the grounds of the Motion than to embody them in a report; the consequence, however, was, that it precluded the House frommaturely considering a question, which, submitted by such Committee, could not fail to deserve every respect. He doubted whether the House could conveniently proceed at once to decide the matter merely on the verbal statements of a Member. Where so many interests were involved, it seemed expedient that the House and the Government should have time to deliberate, and if the debate were now adjourned it might be resumed on an early day. He proposed, therefore, that the present discussion be deferred until Monday, when he should be prepared to state the course Ministers were disposed to take after communicating with those who had Railway Bills connected with stations near the metropolis.


remarked, that if the Classification Committee, of which he was a Member, had made a formal written report, it must have been accompanied by maps and plans, and when they were put into the hands of an engraver, it was impossible to say when they would be ready to be brought before the House; it had therefore been deemed best that the Chairman should state the case, leaving it to the House, if it saw sufficient reason, at once to agree to the Motion for the appointment of a body capable of forming the most sound and practical judgment, accompanied also by due consideration of the sanatory effect of the proposed scheme upon the metropolis. Whatever was done should be accomplished in the least possible time, in order that business now in progress should be interrupted as little as possible. The proposal of the right hon. Baronet to give the decision of Government on Monday was perfectly satisfactory; but he had no doubt that it would see reason to appoint a Commission.


thought that the object of the Commission, if appointed, ought to be clearly defined. From the observations of the right hon. Baronet, and from those of the hon. Mover, it might be supposed that it was intended to supersede the functions of the Committee of Classification; but the Commission ought only to be appointed for the purpose of furnishing information, which ought to be referred back to the Committee.


wished to direct attention to one point not unimportant. He understood that two or three schemes, not abandoned, were intended to terminate in the city itself, and not to be extended to the Thames, the greatest highway in the world. In his opinion this stopping short of the river would deprive the station of half its utility. One station was to be immediately opposite Hungerford-market, and another in Farringdon-street; but if the latter were not carried to the banks of the river, it would only imperfectly accomplish the objects in view.


held it extremely desirable, in the present state of railway business, that Government should exercise a more powerful interference. Every portion of the information before the Classification Committee had been in the hands of Ministers in November last, and they might then have made up their minds that the appointment of a Commission would be the best mode of investigating this subject. The plan for the purpose, ought to have been prepared and organized at the beginning of the Session, and much delay would have been avoided. He had been told that it was of the utmost importance to decide the question speedily; for if the parties were thrown over to next year, the price of the necessary land would be enormously raised by speculators, and the promoters exposed to the greatest possible disadvantage. After the manner in which the interference of the Board of Trade was received last year, he was not much surprised that Government had taken no steps in this matter; the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade had been exposed, first, to the great difficulty of their undertaking; and, secondly, to the powerful railway interest in the House; but it was unfortunate that Government did not earlier take the course it was now about to adopt. It was proposed by the right hon. Baronet to postpone the question till Monday; but he confessed that his mind was now made up on the question. He was clearly of opinion, that the subject would be better investigated by a Commission than by a Committee; and again he expressed his regret that the Commission had not been appointed at an earlier period: even the delay that had occurred might interpose considerable difficulties.


observed, that as to the particular proposal, his mind also was made up; and for two or three days past, since the notice had been given, Government had directed its best attention to the subject. It had gone so far as to enter into communication with persons well qualified to form the Commission: so that, although the decision of the House should be postponed till Monday, no time would be lost. As the matter was left to the Chairman of the Committee, it seemed to him a novel course at once to proceed to a decision; it would be establishing, as he thought, a dangerous precedent. This was his ground for proposing an adjournment; and he considered it sufficient. His right hon. Friend would to-morrow give notice of the course to be pursued on Monday; so that all parties would have full knowledge of the intentions of Government.


admitted that the course was on some accounts objectionable; and if time had allowed, the Committee would have made a written Report, accompanied by maps and plans.


seemed to think that the right hon. Member (Mr. Labouchere) had thrown a reflection on the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade. He was of opinion that it was not deserved. He had never spoken to the noble Lord at the head of it last year for five minutes in his life; but he must say that he had devoted his time to the subject with most praiseworthy diligence and remarkable ability. Mr. Porter also had done his duty; the only objection being, that he had been taken away from his own department. They had done their work in a most independent and laborious manner; and he hoped that his right hon. Friend would say that he did not mean to cast any such reflection: such a course was most discouraging to public men.


had never intended to cast any reflection; but he thanked his hon. Friend for giving him the opportunity of setting himself right if he had been misunderstood. From his own connexion with the Board of Trade, he was well acquainted with several of the Members of the Railway Committee: some he knew personally, others by character, and of the integrity and talent of all he entertained the highest opinion—to them the public was deeply indebted. To the noble Lord who presided, the country was under great obligations. His opinion had been, last year, and he continued to hold it still, that the constitution of that body was not such as it ought to have been, considering the enormous interests with which it had to deal. In so saying, he hoped he should not be understood as implying the slightest personal reflection on the character of any Gentleman.


had not been a Member of the Committee of the Board of Trade, and begged to add his testimony in favour of the indefatigable zeal and irreproachable fidelity with which it had discharged its duties. The interference of Government last year had been viewed with much jealousy; and some of the decisions of the Committee of the Board of Trade had been overruled, which would have been highly beneficial if they had been confirmed. On this account Ministers could not originate a Commission: however constituted, and whatever it recommended, there would have been a strong prejudice against it. Circumstances were now different; and as the suggestion came from the Committee, he saw no difficulty in complying with it. The hon. Member (Mr. W. Patten) was slightly mistaken as to the Gauge Commission; for it had not been appointed until after a debate and a division, and until parties had had due notice. He trusted on Monday that the House would be prepared to come to a decision; for delay at the present moment must be highly injurious.

The debate adjourned until Monday.