HC Deb 28 March 1848 vol 97 cc1063-83

, in moving— That in the opinion of this House the powers, rights, and authority, now vested by the Act 9th and 10th Victoria, c. 105, in the Commisioners of Railways, may be so regulated as to secure their efficient execution at a greatly diminished rate of charge to the public,"— observed, that a Commission of such an extent and charge as that which now existed had never been contemplated. It had caused much surprise to those who had never heard of such a project, to find that all of a sudden a Board had sprung into existence consisting of no less than three Commissioners at high salaries, with a large staff of subordinate clerks, messengers, and other contingents, the expense of which, in the estimate for last year, amounted to no less than 17,000l. Another circumstance that had excited much surprise was, that the Act (9th and 10th of Victoria, cap. 105) for the establishment of these Commissioners, containing a great many clauses, and investing these Commissioners with much patronage, had, while it provided for the salaries of the Commissioners and for the payment of the subordinates, made no provision for the duties to be performed by these persons, those duties being to be made the subject of a future Act of Parliament. Such a Bill had, indeed, been brought in by the Gentleman who had been appointed Head Commissioner, but had excited much surprise and apprehension, not only among shareholders in existing railways, but also in the minds of landowners and other proprietors whose property was likely to be affected by the projects of new railway companies. Powers of a most formidable and arbitrary kind were to have been given to the Board of Commissioners, to be by them delegated to their subordinate officers—such as entitling them to go in upon and mark the land in spite of any opposition, and to turn furrows of a certain number of inches from one end of a property to another. Such provisions as these rendered the Bill so objectionable that it fell to the ground under the opposition of railway promoters and landed proprietors, and was at last withdrawn by the propounder of the scheme, the Railway Commissioner himself. From that time to the present no further scheme had been produced, and from that time to the present the Gentleman in question had remained without duties of any sort of importance, for the Act which had constituted him a Commissioner, prescribed none. In point of fact, the Board of Commissioners, with all their contingents of clerks and messengers, had nothing at all to do. The whole experiment had been tried on an unreasonably large scale, and the demand upon the public for expenditure was very great. There was a Chief Commissioner at 2,000l. a year, and two others at 1,500l. a year, with many paid subordinates, who were to have been charged with duties of so responsible a nature, that he was rejoiced they had never been intrusted to persons in an inferior capacity. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Strutt) would have endeavoured to select approved agents for those duties; but persons were not always fortunate in their choice, and it so happened that parties who had been employed by this very Gentleman as agents in another capacity had been so far from acting in conformity with his orders, that he had lost his seat in that House through their intervention. The right hon. Gentleman had given orders that nothing approaching to illegality should be resorted to by his agents; and yet he had been unseated for bribery by those agents, who had acted so entirely contrary to his instructions. But with respect to the question of the Railway Commission, he thought there was no difficulty now in dealing with an experiment that had been tried upwards of a year and a half, and which he (Mr. Bankes) was prepared to allege was a signal failure. It had happened only within a few weeks that two Railway Bills, which had come before the House with the recommendation of the Railway Board, had been negatived by large majorities. Was not such a board, then, an injury rather than a benefit, in so far as it increased the expenses of a Railway Bill by an investigation which, when performed, appeared to carry no warrant of authority in that House? Such a fact proved that the value of the experiment did not correspond with the amount of expense which it entailed. At a time, therefore, when every possible reduction was called for that could be made without injury to the public service, he was enabled to point out this Board as a source from which a saving not altogether inconsiderable might be made. But a reduction of expense was not the only benefit that would ensue, for a board constituted like this answered no beneficial purpose. The functions formerly administered by the Board of Trade might not have been altogether satisfactory; yet, with the additional experience now available, he thought it would be found that administration would be at least as advantageous as by the Railway Commissioners, and with a great saving of expense. When railway matters were first referred to the Board of Trade, the annual expense was 1,972l. That expense was afterwards increased to 3,302l, in consequence of certain new arrangements, by which heavier duties devolved upon the Board of Trade; but under the new arrangement the charge in the first year was 17,000l. It was true that the charge stood in the present estimates at only 12,000l.; but that sum by no means covered the whole amount of charge arising out of the Government control of railways; for, as one of the Member of the Committee which had been appointed to investigate the expenditure of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, he had been surprised to find items in the Navy Estimates relating also to railways. He found that a board had been established for railway duties in connexion with the Admiralty, consisting of three members at 800l. a year, and a chief clerk at 220l. a year; two other clerks, one at 90l. and the other at 70l., making 160l. a year; and a draughtsman at 130l. Then, this board being separate from the Admiralty, house-rent and taxes were charged, and they amounted to 265l.; the other items being, messengers 155l., and travelling expenses 300l.; making a total of this charge appearing in the Navy Estimates of 3,630l., which was to be added to the 12,000l. avowedly for the Railway Board, and which appeared in the Miscellaneous Estimates. Nor, as he believed, was this all; for he had been given to understand that when they came to the Ordnance Estimates something of the same kind would be found there also. He had been told that there had been a considerable increase of pay to some of the Ordnance officers, in consequence of services they had performed in connexion with railways. With the particulars he was not yet acquainted; but he believed it would be found that the whole expenditure by the Government on account of railway services would greatly exceed the sum of 17,000l. Under these circumstances, he thought it was necessary to call the attention of the House at once to this as a branch of expense which might be declared surplusage. At the same time, he avowed he was as unwilling as any one to cripple the hands of Government in a branch of the public service at a time of difficulty. The Motion would be allowed to be opportune, inasmuch as they had now a vacancy at this Board, the Chief Commissioner having ceased to hold a seat in the House; and, as one of the principal advantages promised to them was to consist in the head of the department being a Member of the House of Commons, this was the fitting period to consider whether it was not advisable to reinvest the Board of Trade with all its former powers in relation to railway matters, and so do away with the necessity for the new Commission. It might be quite true that, originally, on the first pressure of a novel species of business, the Board of Trade had not proved itself quite competent to deal satisfactorily with the various railway interests which came under its investigation; but perfect facility of working could not have been expected at once; and there was now no reason to suppose that the duties at present discharged by the Railway Board of Trade could not with perfect efficiency, and without injury to the public service, be merged into the functions of the Board of Trade. The President and the Vice-President of that department were already in the House. They were Gentlemen thoroughly competent to the superintendence of all railway subjects; and it was quite plain, that, just now, they had very little to do. It was not easy to say whether or not this evident absence of occupation resulted from the operation of free-trade legislation; but it was quite certain that the Board of Trade was losing much of that prominence and importance which it formerly possessed; and he was therefore justified in assuming that it was not altogether out of the question for that department to undertake again the supervision and control of the various matters connected with railway companies. It was his intention, if this resolution were agreed to, to give notice of a Bill to repeal the 9th and 10th of Victoria, cap. 105; and this was all that it would be necessary to do in order to effect the object which he had in view. The question, it appeared to him, was especially one of economy, and it was for the House to consider if an oppor- tunity was not now offered to them of effecting a judicious reduction in one portion of the expenditure. He wished it to be understood that he did full justice to the character of Mr. Strutt: a more honourable man, or one hotter qualified for the post to which he was appointed, could not have been chosen; but his qualification for the office had been derived solely from experience of Railway Bills in the House, and the merits which distinguished him in this respect were also possessed by the Gentleman presiding at the Board of Trade, in whose judgment and decisions every confidence would be placed both by the railway world and by the public. He believed that the Government were rather "shaky" on this point, and ready enough to give way; and, if they saw no objection to the spirit of his Motion, he would gladly approve of any arrangement based upon that which they might think proper to make.


thought that the hon. Member was mistaken as to the existence of any department of the Ordnance connected with the Railway Board. With regard to the statement of the hon. Gentleman, that some persons under the Admiralty were paid for services rendered only in respect of railways, he would remind him that this was an arrangement which had been carried out in express obedience to the wishes of the House. The House had required, in many cases of Railway Bills, that preliminary reports should be made by the Admiralty, as to the effect of bridges and other works on navigable rivers throughout the country; and, of course, if these reports were deemed indispensable to Committees called upon to grant particular powers to railway companies, it was useless to complain that expense was in consequence incurred. With respect, however, to the observations which had been made upon the Railway Board itself, he would, in the first place, express his decided concurrence in the views of the hon. Gentleman as to the expediency of the utmost possible economy at this moment in every department of the public service. Her Majesty's Government were well disposed to effect every practicable reduction, and they would therefore give due weight to that portion of the argument of the hon. Gentleman on this occasion. The hon. Gentleman said, that he had not been made fully acquainted, in the first instance, with the project for the constitution of the Railway Board. The subject had assuredly been fully discussed before any decisive steps were taken. There were no less than three distinct reports from Committees of the House of Lords and of that House recommending the formation of such a Commission for the especial purpose of superintending railway matters; and that recommendation was enforced upon the Government from many quarters. The proposition to that effect was made to the House at the close of the Session of 1846; and though Mr. Bickham Escott called for a division against the measure, he could obtain no support whatever: not a single Member went into the lobby against the Bill; and it might therefore be said to have received the unanimous approval of the Legislature. These being the circumstances under which the Board was constituted, he could not see on what ground the hon. Member could complain of not having been informed of the intentions of the Government, and of the extent to which they contemplated going with the newly-created department. The hon. Member was greatly mistaken in supposing that the expenses of the Board amounted to so much as 17,000l. per annum. [Mr. BANKES: 17,000l the first year; 12,000l. this year.] The larger sum was for nearly eighteen months in the first instance; but the expense stood on the estimates as 12,000l. a year. He was exceedingly sorry that this Motion should have come on at a period when his right hon. Friend (Mr. Strutt) had ceased to be a Member of the House. His right hon. Friend had naturally been conversant with the business of the Board, and would have been able to give a much more satisfactory account of its operations than it was in his power to furnish to the House. He would not go into any of the details as to the actual functions of the Commission; but the hon. Member would probably recollect, that in the course of last Session very important additional duties were imposed upon it, and that the reports which it was then determined it should supply upon the proceedings, and particularly upon the financial proceedings of railway companies, had since proved to be of most essential service to the Committees. The business transacted by the Railway Board last year had been exactly twice the amount of the business transacted by the Railway Department of the Board of Trade in 1845; and this year, up to this time, the business done by the Railway Board was about one-third of the en- tire business brought before it in the whole twelve months of 1847. This statement would at once show to the House that the duties of the Commission were considerably on the increase; and this being the case it would hardly appear possible to reduce very considerably the establishment at present maintained for railway purposes. He was sure that the House would join with him in the expression of sincere regret at the circumstances which had led to the removal from Parliament of Mr. Strutt. His right hon. Friend had been appointed to the presidency of the Board, mainly in consequence of his great experience in Private Bills, which now engaged so large a portion of the time of the House; and his absence could not but be found a loss by all parties. When the report of the Derby Election Committee was made known to him, his right hon. Friend at once sent in his resignation to his noble Friend at the head of the Government, stating, while tendering it, that the object of having a Parliamentary representative of the Board having now been defeated so far as he was concerned, he considered that he ought not to continue to hold the situation. This argument was deemed conclusive: and his noble Friend, however, sorry we were to lose Mr. Strutt's services, immediately accepted his resignation, and decided, moreover, on not at present filling up the vacancy. The Government proposed to appoint some Member of the Board of Trade, as an unpaid Commissioner, to take part in the proceedings of the Railway Board; and they would then, after trying this experiment, be put in a position to judge whether or not it was advisable to name any successor to Mr. Strutt in the same capacity. This subject, the House was aware, would come under the consideration of the Committee appointed to inquire into the Miscellaneous Expenditure. This Committee would investigate the expenses of the different departments; and, if it should recommend a reduction in the establishment of this particular department, there would be no indisposition on the part of the Government to see that due economy was observed. It would be far better for the House to wait until the report of the Committee was before them before taking such a stop as that suggested by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire; and he could assure them the Government would be quite ready to acquiesce in any recommendation which might be made by the Committee after full investigation of the subject. He hoped that his hon. Friend would be satisfied with this assurance, and would withdraw his Motion.


congratulated the House upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He had no wish whatever to deprive the Government of the supervision over railway matters which they at present exercised; all he desired was in supporting this Motion that that supervision should be more economically administered. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the heavy duties which the Railway Commission was called upon to discharge. He (Mr. Hudson) would give the House an instance of the activity of this Board. The other day an accident happened to a train in which he was travelling; the wheel of one of the carriages broke, and there was, of course, great alarm. Some gentleman who was in the train wrote an anonymous letter to the Times, describing the occurrence, and stating that the accident was attributable to Mr. Hudson having detained the train at Derby. The fact was, that they had had to change the engine at Derby, and that he had nothing to do with the delay; but what was the consequence? The Board cut the letter out of the Times, sent it down to the secretary of the company, and begged to ask if the directors had any explanation to give? Of course, no explanation was given; the letter was anonymous; the statement, as might be supposed, was utterly untrue; and if it was the custom of the Commission to take notice of such letters as these, it was not surprising that their business should be greatly on the increase. It was his opinion that if the duties of the office were not exceeded, one man of common sense could do all the work, and give more satisfaction, too, than at present resulted from the labours of the distinguished Gentlemen who received 12,000l. a year. He was prepared to say that when the superintendence was exercised by the Board of Trade, it was better done and more efficiently exercised; and he could assign a very good reason. The Railway Commissioners had not sufficient employment for their time; and he had found, when in business, that when there was little to do things were neglected, and when there was plenty of employment everything went right. He was satisfied that a very large saving might be made by the abolition of the Railway Board; the railway superintendence ought not to cost more than 3,000l. a year. He did not blame the Government for the Act establishing the Railway Board; it was experimental, and Parliament was at that time in an excited state, and determined to manage every person's business, and railways amongst the rest. Why not send the business to the Board of Trade at once? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman admit that the experiment had been tried and found useless; that the Government and Parliament had done wrong? He thought it most unwise to refer this matter to a Committee. It was not that railway men found fault with the Board; they did not think it injurious to them as railway people; but, looking at the organisation of the Board, he was sure the hon. Member for Montrose must see that the superintendence could be managed at considerably less expense, and he did not see why the Board should be continued for one hour longer.


was of opinion, that under the Act there was no efficient control over railway companies, whereas the object of the Act was to supply a greater and more efficient control over those bodies. He hoped that, although the Act of last Session had not, as the hon. Member stated, given the necessary powers. Parliament would be disposed to give greater power to the public over railway companies. The hon. Member for Sunderland considered that no control was requisite; but the powers which were given by the Act might be more beneficially exercised. In the part of the country he lived in the communication from west to east was completely useless, because of the disagreement or misunderstanding between two companies, which caused a stoppage between two termini. [Mr. HUDSON: There is no misunderstanding.] Then there is a very bad understanding. He was content with what had been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he hoped Parliament would not lose sight of the subject, of establishing a more efficient control over railway companies, for the speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland had laid sufficient ground for requiring a better control.


said, that the question was not whether there should be a cessation of control over railway companies, or whether there should be from time to time an extension of that control, nor had it anything to do with the amount of duties to be performed, but it related to the organ or instrument by which those duties were to be performed. After having heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he fully agreed contained an announcement, as far as it went, satisfactory to the House, and the spirit of which was intended to be conciliatory, he scarcely wished for the withdrawal of his Motion. As to the origin of this Commission, the House was not about to censure anybody; their object was to make the best arrangements. The Act for the establishment of the Railway Commission, although it passed at the end of the Session, and when few Members were present, yet passed with the almost universal concurrence of Parliament; and if there had been a very full attendance the Act would have been passed either unanimously or by an overwhelming majority. It appeared to him that a great error was then committed. An Act was passed which the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last said proceeded on the supposition you were to alter the existing system as to railways, and to take into the hands of Government a larger amount of control than it had before thought fit to assume. Parliament created a great error in creating a body to exercise that control before it determined what the control was to be; and the consequence had been a state of things which was unsatisfactory. Even if it were admitted that Parliament did wisely, and that Government acted wisely, still the day was now come when the axe must be laid to the root of this Commission, because the Bill for creating the Commission proceeded upon the supposition that new powers were to be created. Had the new powers been created? Efforts were made last year by the Gentleman who was placed at the head of the Railway Commission—and this House had few more honourable or intelligent men—and therefore it was not in the Gentleman who had charge of the department that he should seek for the cause of the failure; but still the House declined to give those powers. Two Bills were introduced in 1847, and the powers were not given. We had now come to 1848. Parliament met in November. The Session had lasted for four months. Had those powers been given yet? Had they been asked for? Had there been an indication on the part of the Government of an intention to ask for those new powers? No Bill was before the House; no necessity had been felt by the public out of doors. On the whole, it was found that the system worked well. The control of Government over railways might admit of being extended in this particular, or contracted in that but on the whole it was a sound and safe system. Parliament since 1847 had changed its mind as to the powers to be exercised over railway companies; it was then disposed to ask for a great deal; it was perfectly plain that it was now disposed to retain the present system; and if Government was to ask for large additional powers, Parliament was not prepared to give them. Then the whole basis on which the House had erected the Commission failed. He did not hesitate to say that it appeared to him that the plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a bad plan. He admitted that it was an improvement as far as expense was concerned; but he did not understand why the President or the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, who were responsible officers, holding a recognised position in the Government, should not assume the duty of carrying on the Commission as he believed they would carry it on. Was the Commission in itself the most convenient organ for the transaction of executive business of this kind? He thought, on the contrary, you had business much better done in proportion as you could connect it with individual responsibility. Divided responsibility, in cases of this kind, was a great disadvantage to an office; and unless it could be shown that the President and Vice-President of the Board of Trade were overcharged with official or Parliamentary duties, you might constrain them to some exercise of their functions. Were they overcharged with Parliamentary business? The President of the Board of Trade had been usefully and actively occupied during the present Session of Parliament in carrying several Bills of importance through the House; but not one of the Bills had to do with his department. He was locum tenens of the Colonial Department, and in a most satisfactory manner had discharged his duties; and the Under Secretary of State must feel great obligations towards him; but these acts seemed to show that the railway business might be discharged by him and by his right hon. Friend the Vice-President. In 1846, duties were discharged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, which up to last week were discharged in the House of Commons, not with an in- crease, but rather with a diminution in each branch, by no less than four right hon. Gentlemen. There was the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President, the right hon. Gentleman the Master of the Mint, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of the Railway Commission; and all these four right hon. Gentlemen had been sedulously and laboriously employed up to last week in executing the duties which were executed, without any complaint of inefficiency that he had ever heard of, by his right hon. Friend the Member for Dover in 1846. The House had been giving votes, under the dictates of political necessity, for large and heavy establishments; but he must say, that the obligations of economy, even if they were not very stringently interpreted, and even if we were in ordinary times, would require some change in the state of facts, and that it was necessary to inquire whether four right hen. Gentlemen—nay, he wont further, and said that it was necessary to inquire even whether three right hon. Gentlemen were absolutely necessary, in order to discharge the duties which were discharged by the hon. Member for Dover in 1846, and which had been discharged for many years before that by a single individual in the House? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the business passing through the Railway Department was about double the business of the Board of Trade in 1845. He (Mr. Gladstone) did not question the literal accuracy of that statement; but the right hon. Gentleman applied to a most fallacious criterion, namely, the number-of papers. Until you come to know the importance of the papers, and the affairs with which they were connected, if you took the number of papers as the criterion, you would fall into most deplorable error. We must expect the number of papers to go on with the increase of railways, and you would require, from time to time, an increasing number of clerks and subordinate officers; but it was not to do the duties of clerks and subordinate officers that the House appointed the Railway Commission; it was because they contemplated the creation of now, arduous, and responsible functions. You had now, as a matter of fact, looking at the question in a practical point of view, given up all idea of creating these new, arduous, and responsible functions. Therefore, he said that the state of these duties fell back to what it was under the Board of Trade. There was every prospect that for the next three years it would be easier than it had been for the last ten years; but unless you could show that the Railway Commission was the most convenient organ for transacting business, you could not continue its exercise. In two or three rooms of the Board of Trade, this business would be transacted with satisfaction to the public. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would transact it as efficiently as it could be done by any other hands; he thought he would transact it more efficiently if he did it as President of the Board of Trade, than if he did it with a number of unpaid clerks, as head of the Commission.


said, that it was quite refreshing to hear such advocacy of economy from such parties; he hoped that a new era had taken place, and that it would have many repetitions. With reference to the question before the House, viz., the establishment of the Board, he, as Member of the Committee recommending it, was as much to blame as any man in the House; but he must say that he agreed to it under the statement made of the necessity of certain powers of control and coercion; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was upon the same Committee, agreed to it under a strong impression that greater powers were requisite, and that if the Board was appointed they would be given. He agreed that those powers had not been given, and he ventured last Session to ask a right hon. Gentleman, now no longer in the House, whether the department was worth continuing? He had now come to the conclusion that the department might merge altogether into the Board of Trade; and he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that individual responsibility would secure a better performance of the duties. The Commission had been appointed with an intention to perform certain duties; they had not done it, and the question was, whether they might not come back to the department of the Board of Trade. He believed that there was sufficient leisure in the department of the President or Vice-President of the Board of Trade to do all that was requisite. He took it for granted that the Commission was broken up; the principal issue, therefore, was amalgamation with the Board of Trade. As to another department which had been spoken of by the hon. Member who brought forward this Motion, viz., the new board called the Railway and Harbour Board, which it was said had incurred an expense of 3,000l., he could state that, so far from that board having been constituted at that expense, it had not cost more than 3501. Her Majesty had appointed a Commission to inquire into the state of the tidal harbours. It was proved to that Commission that many of the harbours had been injured by bridges crossing them, and greatly impeded in their usefulness, and the Commission recommended certain alterations. What were those alterations? The Admiralty, by an Act of Charles II., and the prerogative of the Crown, ought to have exercised a power over the erection of all buildings within the flow of high water. That had been neglected, and it was recommended that the Admiralty should resume their superintendence. What had been done? There was an important department called the Hydrographers' Department. The House had put on the Admiralty the right of inquiring and taking care that no bridges should be built across navigable waters or harbours; they had pressed it upon them in 1845, 1846, and 1847; and the Admiralty threw it on the hydrographers, who were Captain Bethune and Major Beche. The effect of throwing the business of the department on them was, that Admiral Beaufort declared that three-fourths of the time which ought to have been devoted to his own department had been taken up in superintending Bills connected with rivers and harbours. He (Mr. Hume) considered the change which had now taken place a most important one. It was called the Railroad and Harbour Board, because railroads had crossed harbours and impeded the navigation. And what was the enormous expense? 800l. was the whole amount of this extraordinary expenditure. There was no department so likely to be productive of benefit as the Committee of these throe Gentlemen: every means to prevent encroachment would be used; and he did not believe that any department which could be appointed was likely to do so much good.


said, that most undoubtedly it was intended that greater control should be given to the Board over railways than Parliament had; and if it was the intention of Parliament that no further powers over railways should be given, he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the Board was an instrument too large and too expensive; but, on the other hand, the House would see that, under the cover of this Motion, they were coming to a resolution that they never would grant further powers. ["No, no!"] Did not the right hon. Gentleman state that he took it for granted that Parliament had abandoned that course, and therefore that they considered such a Railway Board unnecessary? Ho, for one, did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. His impression was, that the House would by and by give further powers to some Member of the Government; but admitting, for the sake of argument, that the right hon. Gentleman was correct, he did not agree with him as to the mode in which he proposed to administer the powers which now remained. He had always thought that it was a mistake to combine the Railway Department with the Board of Trade. His impression was, that the combination of the Railway Department with the Board of Trade was making two bad offices. The duties of the Board of Trade were different; and it was infinitely better to create a department under which you might place all business of a similar character, such as the business of the Board of Works, and Woods and Forests. There was no great civil department looking over public works. This was a great subject of inquiry; and he hoped that House would wait till the Committees had reported whether better arrangement might not be made. The right hon. Gentleman had said that Earl Dalhousie had broken down his health in performing the duties. He should be glad to hear the opinion of the right hon. Member for Dover, and should like to have heard Earl Dalhousie's opinion. Although he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman that a saving might be made in the arrangement, yet he would rather prefer waiting until the Committee had reported, to see whether a better arrangement could not be made than by handing over the matter to the Board of Trade. It was worthy the attention of the Committee, to whom the estimates were referred, whether it was not better to combine the business with the Woods and Forests, than to throw it on the Board of Trade.


said, he agreed with those who thought that the true question before the House was not that which had been raised by the right hon. Member for Northampton, namely, whether the extensive powers of supervision, as regarded railways, exercised by the Commissioners, should continue to be vested in their hands, or be transferred to those of other parties. He also did not think that the present was the exact opportunity for considering whether a new Minister of Public Works should be appointed. In his opinion there was much to be said in favour of such a course. At present there were four officers whose duty it was to exercise a supervision in the matter of railways, and one of those officers was to have a seat in Parliament. Till within a very few years the labours gone through by these Gentlemen were directly performed by one Member of that House. He could not avoid observing that the hon. Member for Montrose took the trouble to inform the House that a new era of economy had arisen. Now, he would venture to affirm that it was nothing but the revival of an old era. At the present moment every one concurred in thinking there was the utmost need that the public expenditure should be restrained by a firm hand on the part of Parliament. What was the state of the present case? Parliament created officers two years ago without any duties being assigned to them, and two attempts had subsequently been made to find them business. No duty whatever had boon assigned by Parliament to officers created by Parliament in the year 1846. The Bill creating this Board was necessarily passed about the end of the month of August. At what period of the year it might not have been passed formed another question; but this every one who heard him remembered, that it was passed late in the Session, and at a time when very few Members were present; still he would not say but that it might have passed even though there had been a full attendance of Members. The time, however, had arrived when they were all sensible that they had committed an error—they now discovered that they had sinned on both sides; that the time of repentance was common to both; and that from making reparation some important advantages might be expected to accrue, though not exactly of the kind anticipated by his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, who could never be too highly commended for the manner in which at all times he enforced sound principles of economy. During his long public career he had never either directly or indirectly sought patronage for himself he would fain believe that the services of his hon. Friend to this country would not be forgotten; and doubtless their value would be more felt, and would be more highly appreciated, when they should have lost him, than while he continued amongst them. But then his hon. Friend had a hobby, and that hobby was tidal harbours. He put upon his hobby three riders, at an expense to the country of 800l. each, with an establishment of 3,000l. a year. It happened that this hobby had the very vice complained of in the case of the Commissioners of Railways. The Admiralty sat under the same roof with those gentlemen, who constituted a Board of Railways and a Harbour Board, though all the duties which they discharged might he performed under the direction of the Board of Admiralty, just as the duties of the present Railway Commission might be performed at the Board of Trade, though in separate rooms. Those who recollected the manner in which Lord Dalhousie and his right hon. Friend near him, the Member for the University of Oxford, both as President and Vice-President of the Board of Trade, transacted an almost overwhelming amount of railway business quite separate from the ordinary business of the Board of Trade, could not for a moment doubt the practicability of the President and Vice-President still continuing to transact the business of the railways in immediate connexion with the Board of Trade. The noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman to whom he had referred transacted that business during the time that it was most weighty and important. They performed the duty most efficiently, and in a manner highly creditable to themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth did not seem to be quite satisfied with the mode in which the business was likely to be transacted if left in the hands of the President and Vice-President of the Board of Trade. But, from the long experience which he had of the talents and great industry of the right hon. Member for Taunton, he could not doubt that that right hon. Gentleman, aided by the diligence and ability of the right hon. Member for Manchester, would find no difficulty in transacting the business of the railways with the assistance only of a certain number of additional clerks. But the most efficient and, in the end, the most economical way would be, to pay engineer officers occasionally employed handsomely and liberally, but not to make any addition to the existing establishment. It was the tendency to add to the permanent establishments which, in the course of the last fifteen or twenty years had added so enormously to the public expenditure; and this was the first opportunity which had arisen in this new Parliament for the House of Commons to attempt the introduction of a principle of a saving in this respect. If he could understand, as the hon. Member for Montrose seemed to understand, that it was the intention of the Government to put an end to this Railway Board, and within a short time to come forward with a system connecting the existing control of railways, such as it was, with the Board of Trade; and adding, subject to the will of Parliament, further powers of supervision over railways, then he should say that the present Motion was superfluous. But unless that assurance was distinctly given to the House; and if it was intended to adhere to that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had opened, and to keep up the present Railway Board, merely placing the nominal superintendence or headship of it in the President of the Board of Trade; then he thought the resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire would be a salutary resolution, as it would express the opinion of the House of Commons that another course must be adopted without delay; and, under such circumstances, he should feel it his duty to vote in favour of the Motion.


felt strongly the great disadvantage the House laboured under in discussing the present question in the absence of Mr. Strutt, who lately filled the office of President of the Railway Commission, and who, as that office had been held by no other person, was the only individual capable of giving the House a satisfactory account of the duties imposed on the Commission. He freely admitted to the right hon. Member for Oxford University, that when the present Railway Commission was constituted, it certainly was in contemplation that the duties to be devolved on it should be very considerably extended; but experience had convinced him that it was very difficult to please that House on the subject of railway legislation. He had always found a disposition to exist to quarrel with that which existed; to demand a change; and then immediately to quarrel with the alteration. Under these circumstances, he did not know that the opinion expressed by hon. Gentlemen in the course of the present debate could be taken as the final decision of the House. It had been said that the duties of the Railway Commission could not be expected to increase. It might be imprudent in the House to come to such an opinion; but if such were the opinion of the House, they might decide that a separate Commission for railway affairs was unnecessary and inexpedient. Consequently, his chief objection to the present Motion was; that it prejudged the question, which the House in a short interval of time would be better able to consider and decide upon. It was intended, as he had been informed by Mr. Strutt, to lay on the table of the House, immediately before or after Easter, a full and detailed report, giving an account of what the duties of the Railway Commission had been, which he (Mr. Labouchere) thought would be found more arduous and considerable than had been described, and also what was suggested as the future course of legislation with respect to the management of railways. The House would also, at a future period, be in possession of the report of the Committee on the Miscellaneous Estimates; and this information, taken together, would enable the House to consider the whole subject with greater advantage than at present. If the Government had announced any intention of taking a course which might hamper the free action of the House, he could then understand the eagerness of hon. Members to intervene in this matter; but the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was of a different character. His right hon. Friend had admitted that enough of doubt existed on the subject to render it improper to fill up the vacancy now existing at the Railway Board; and he knew that it was the intention of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to insert in the new Commission to be issued, the name either of himself (Mr. Labouchere) or of his right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade-consequently, the business of the Railway Department would be carried on in conjunction with the Board of Trade. At a future period, he repeated, the House would have better materials for judging on the question; and in the meantime he expressed a doubt, not biassed, he hoped, by what he knew to be the painful and invidious nature of the duties connected with railway affairs, whether they were satisfactorily providing for the performance of those duties, or improving the Board of Trade, by altogether merging in it the Railway Department. Something had been said about the Board of Trade not having had onerous duties to perform, and that it might easily undertake this additional business. He hoped he had exhibited no disposition to shrink from any labour that might be cast upon him; and if, on experience, it should be found that the Board of Trade could satisfactorily transact the business referred to, no one would more cheerfully acknowledge the circumstance than himself. However, if it should be the pleasure of the House to unite these duties with the Board of Trade, he thought he should be deceiving the House if he held out much prospect of considerable economy from such an arrangement. His experience did not induce him to conclude that this business could be satisfactorily discharged by any head of department, whether a President of the Railway Commission, or the President of the Board of Trade, unless he had the assistance of men not only holding the highest professional, but the highest personal character, and occupying a considerable station in life. It was not business that could be satisfactorily discharged in reference to the public by any persons not being men of known character and reputation. He need not mere particularly allude to circumstances that rendered this necessary. If the only persons to whom the Board could have access for professional advice on these matters, were not known to the public, then, whatever might be their integrity, suspicion would be cast upon them, and the public business could not be satisfactorily performed. He had had the assistance at the Board of Trade of some individuals exceedingly competent to advise on these subjects; but the ample remuneration which those gentlemen obtained was not sufficient to keep them at the Board of Trade, for they were lured away by still higher salaries offered by railway companies. Without casting the least blame on these gentlemen, he thought that that was not a seemly thing to occur; and therefore he conceived it would be much better and cheaper to the public to retain the services of such well-known men as Sir E. Ryan, Captain Harness, and the hon. Gentleman lately at the head of the Railway Department, whose characters were above all suspicion. With respect to the Motion before the House, he thought it would he better not to express any opinion on the present occasion; as the postponement of the consideration of the question would enable the House to come to a decision on it in a more satisfactory manner. He would not meet the Motion by a direct negative, but should propose the previous question.

The House divided on the question, that the question be put. The numbers were:—Ayes 56; Noes 75: Majority 19.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Hood, Sir A.
Adderley, C. B. Hume, J.
Arkwright, G. Ingestre, Visct.
Baldock, E. H. Kershaw, J.
Bennet, P. Lowther, hon. Col.
Bentinck, Lord G. Meagher, T.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Mahon, Visct.
Boldero, H. G. Napier, J.
Bremridge, R. Newdegate, C. N.
Bruce, C. L. C. O'Connor, F.
Clay, J. Packe, C. W.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Pilkington, J.
Clive, H. B. Pugh, D.
Cobbold, J. C. Renton, J. C.
Currie, H. Rufford, F.
Davies, D. A. S. Spooner, R.
Disraeli, B. Stuart, J.
Duncan, Visct. Sullivan, M.
Floyer, J. Thesiger, Sir F.
Forbes, W. Thompson, Col.
Fuller, A. E. Thompson, Ald.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Vivian, J. E.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Gwyn, H. Walmsley, Sir J.
Heald, J. Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.
Henley, J. W.
Henry, A. TELLERS.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Bankes, G.
Hildyard, R. C. Hudson, G.
List of the NOES.
Abdy, T. N. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Aglionby, H. A. Langston, J. H.
Anson, Visct. Littleton, hon. E. R.
Armstrong, Sir A. Macnamara, Maj.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of M'Cullagh, W. T.
M'Gregor, J.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Mitchell, T. A.
Barnard, E. G. Morpeth, Visct.
Bellew, R. M. Morison, Gen.
Boyle, hon. Col. Nugent, Sir P.
Brockman, E. D. O'Connell, M. J.
Brotherton, J. Palmerston, Visct.
Butler, C. Parker, J.
Busfeild, W. Pigott, F.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Power, N.
Clifford, H. M. Price, Sir R.
Coke, hon. E. K. Raphael, A.
Craig, W. G. Ricardo, O.
Dundas, Adm. Rice, E. R.
Dundas, Sir D. Sadleir, J.
Dunne, F. P. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Ebrington, Visct. Shelburne, Earl of
Elliot, hon. J. E. Slaney, R. A.
Fitz Patrick, rt. hn. J. W. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Foley, J. H. H. Strickland, Sir G.
Fordyce, A. D. Tancred, H. W.
Forster, M. Tenison, E. K.
Fox, R. M. Tennent, R. J.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Thicknesse, R. A.
Grace, O. D. J. Thornely, T.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Tynte, Col. C. J. K.
Guest, Sir J. Verney, Sir H.
Hawes, B. Ward, H. G.
Hayter, W. G. Watkins, Col.
Heathcote, J. Wilson, M.
Heywood, J. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Hobhouse, T. B.
Hedges, T. L. TELLERS.
Jervis, Sir J. Tufnell, H.
Keppel, hon. G. T. Hill, Lord M.