HC Deb 25 June 1847 vol 93 cc907-10

On the Motion that the House go into Committee on the Highways Bill,


observed, that the Committee up stairs had gallopped through the Bill. They had made no alteration of importance. There were many provisions of which he approved, but there were others which he deprecated as dangerous, novel, and unconstitutional. The commissioners of highways would not have time to attend to the duties devolved upon them; and he objected to the extent of rating allowed by the Bill. The Government had neglected the subject of turnpike trusts too long; but no measure for regulating the internal communication of the country would be effective which did not include a total revision of the system.


could not think of allowing the Bill to pass through Committee when the attendance was so scanty as at that moment. The Bill gave the way wardens power to impose a rate of 2s. 6d. in the pound. A parish must have four miles of turnpike before it could have a way-warden. But it might be taxed by the waywardens of the union for a road in which it had little or no interest; its rates might be mortgaged as well as those of the other parishes. The parishioners had no effective means of checking the expenditure of the union; they had access to the accounts only after they had gone before the auditor. The inconvenience of such a system had been felt in the Poor Law unions. He objected to the powers of the Central Board in London. If the Bill were only to pass through Committee now, and not be further proceeded with at present, that it might be examined by the country in as perfect a shape as possible during the recess, he would not throw any obstacle in the way; but if the Bill was to be forced through the House and crammed down the throats of the country, its further progress ought to be stopped.


had not the least desire to force the Bill through the House, still less to cram it down the throats of the country. The measure was not a new one. With the view of securing for it that consideration which the hon. Gentleman thought it was not likely to receive in a Committee of the whole House, the Bill had been referred to a Select Committee, which the hon. Baronet said had gallopped through the clauses, and made no alteration of importance. He believed the Bill had undergone very careful consideration before that Committee; and his right hon. Friend who had charge of it would consider any objections which might still be stated. They would be better able to judge of the validity of such objections by going at once into Committee, and considering them in detail. He repeated that he had no wish to force the Bill down the throats of the country; but what he was anxious for at present was to go into Committee to consider the clauses of the Bill, as presented to the House in the amended shape in which it came from the Committee; and then they would be able to see what prospect there was of the Bill being passed this Session.

House in Committee.

On Clause 4, Enclosure Commissioners to fix the number of waywardens, and apportion districts,


opposed it; the interference 'of the Commissioners was unnecessary.


thought the Bill was not understood by the country; the public did not know that the management of the roads was to be wholly taken from the local authorities, and placed under a Government Commission; he thought, at all events, the measure ought not to be pressed in the present Parliament.


considered it was throwing away the time of the House to discuss the several clauses of the Bill without coming to an understanding whether the power was to be given to the Commissioners or not; he thought the word "Commissioners" ought to be struck out of the clause, and he felt it his duty to bring it to the vote; he moved as an Amendment that the word "Commissioners" be omitted, and "justices of peace in quarter-sessions assembled" be substituted.


said, the Amendment did not raise the question fairly, and suggested it should be withdrawn, and the decision taken on the Amendment of the hon. member for Dorsetshire.

The House divided on the question, that the words "said Commissioners" stand part of the clause:—Ayes 48; Noes 50: Majority 2.


said, that as the result of the division on this important clause of the Bill evidenced a disposition on the part of the House to condemn the measure, he would not further press it. The Government had brought the Bill forward with the sole object of remedying what appeared to be a very great evil, and under the belief that it would meet with the general wishes of hon. Gentlemen. He begged to move that the chairman report progress.


did not consider that the Government had met with anything like a defeat. The majority of two might be a triumph to the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment; but it would be looked upon out of doors as a defeat of the wishes of the country. He sincerely regretted that the Government had thought it right to give up the Bill; he had expected from such a measure the greatest advantage to the public at large.


thought the hon. member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby), who was not in the House till a short time ago, could know nothing about the supposed display of triumph which he attributed to Gentlemen on his side of the House. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman should have thought it necessary to abandon the Bill, merely because that House had decided that no Commission should be appointed. He denied that there was anything like party feeling or a wish to oppose the Ministry in the vote that had been given.


regretted that the Government should give it the aspect of a party question by giving up the Bill, because the House had decided that there should be no Commission. The moment the House said there should be no Commission, Her Majesty's Ministers said then there should be no Bill. The House generally were in favour of the measure, though hardly any one had spoken in favour of the great powers proposed to be conferred upon the Commissioners; and for himself he must say, that he hoped it would be introduced again, though without any proposal of a central Commission.


thought that the Government had only themselves to blame in not having taken care to secure a larger attendance of hon. members. Their defeat that morning arose from their having last night pursued the very unwise and injudicious course of taking contested business after twelve o'clock at night. Hon. members were so utterly exhausted, that they were unable to again attend at the noon of the same day. He trusted this would operate as a caution for the future.

House resumed.

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