HC Deb 03 April 1849 vol 104 cc284-7

moved for leave to bring in a Bill to secure to the public on Sundays a limited and reasonable use of all railways which convey passengers on the other days of the week. There was nothing in this Bill inimical to the feelings of those who were opposed to the desecration of the Sabbath; but all he asked the House was not to let the recess pass over without giving him an opportunity to remove the misapprehensions which prevailed among some portions of the public, more especially in Scotland, with regard to this Bill, reserving all discussion on the principle of the Bill until the second reading.

Motion made, and Question put— That leave be given to bring in a Bill to regulate Railway Travelling on Sundays.


opposed the introduction of the Bill, and thought that the petitioners against it laboured under no misconception whatever. The object of the measure was to force railway directors, against their conscientious convictions, to carry passengers, and to oblige workmen to labour on the Lord's day who entertained a religious feeling against it. He asked the Government if they would give their sanction to such an interference with the religious liberties of a people? He would move that the Bill he read a second time that day six months.


was very unwilling to act in any way uncourteous to the hon. Member who brought in the Bill; but he felt that he ought not to have introduced the measure, which was contrary to the recommendation of the Sabbath Observance Committee of 1832. He hoped his hon. Friend, taking into account the state of public feeling in Scotland, would not press it. He would not now oppose the customary allowance of bringing in the Bill, but would oppose it in all its subsequent stages.


said, at an earlier period of the Session the hon. Gentleman who brought in this Bill asked him whether the Government intended to introduce a measure in order to compel railway companies in Scotland to carry passengers on the Sabbath under certain limitations and restrictions. The reply he made to the hon. Gentleman, was that, speaking from his own personal convictions, he thought it was quite consistent with the sanctity of the Sabbath to allow, under particular regulations, trains to run on a Sunday. But, seeing the opinion that prevailed in Scotland, he was not prepared to bring in a Bill to compel railway companies to adopt a course in opposition to the opinions and the strongly entertained feelings of a large class of the community of that country. In consistency with the opinion he then expressed, he must now say that he did entertain great doubts whether it was expedient or right for that House to sanction any measure which compelled the Scotch railways to take such a course. He thought the object of the hon. Gentleman would be best achieved by leaving the matter to the discretion and good sense of the companies themselves, and that that would be a much more prudent course than forcing a measure of this sort on an unwilling public. He would not oppose the introduction of the Bill, but could not pledge himself to vote for the second reading.


bore testimony to the strong feeling which prevailed in Scotland against the Bill, but thought that if its provisions were known, there might be less objection to it.


said, that he thought a very dangerous precedent was about to be established, viz., that any hon. Member might get leave to bring in a Bill, provided he concealed the nature and objects of it. The noble Lord at the head of the Government having said to-night that he would vote against the Bill brought in by the hon. Member for Stroud, in a few minutes afterwards, by a singular tergiversation, changed his mind and voted for it. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down entirely protested against the principle of the Bill, and, therefore, voted for its being read a first time. The hon. Member for Dundee voted for the introduction of the Bill, in order to gratify his curiosity by seeing it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who always advocated economy, although they disapproved of the principle of a Bill, were yet quite willing to go to the expense of printing it. The occupants of the benches opposite were continually declaiming in favour of two principles—perfect freedom of trade, and perfect freedom of religious opinions—and yet they wore now about to coerce and restrict both.


thought the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had not quite recovered from the mortification he must have experienced at the late division. The inconvenience which this Bill was intended to remedy, was illustrated not very long ago in the case of a noble lady, who was prevented from attending the deathbed of her parent by those absurd regulations. Turnpike roads were now altogether disused. Railway companies had a perfect monopoly, and surely something ought to be conceded to public convenience.


would oppose the introduction of the Bill, and should certainly vote against the second reading, because he considered it a direct infringement of the rights of private property.


must protest against the last observation of the hon. and learned Gentleman, lest it might be supposed that that House had abdicated any of its un doubted authority to control railway companies, upon the regulations of which the convenience of the public so much depended. It was not a question now as to the running of trains on Sundays in Scotland. All the companies in Scotland were compellable to run the mail trains on Sundays; but, undoubtedly, there was a strong feeling among the Scotch people against the carriage of passengers, and he was not prepared to legislate against that feeling. He would however support the introduction of the Bill, although, according to his present convictions, he should feel bound to oppose it in its subsequent stages.


was opposed to the Bill, not because he disliked Sunday travelling, but because he thought the inconvenience would be gradually rectified. He might mention, for instance, that the railway company on whose line the noble lady had been refused, whose case had been alluded to, had since rescinded the resolution against Sunday travelling.


objected to the Bill on the ground that it was an interference with the sincere and conscientious religious feeling of a considerable portion of the Scotch people.


said, that one train was at present allowed to travel on Sundays for the conveyance of the mails; it seemed as if the point of conscience with Scotchmen lay between one carriage and two.

The House divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 20:

Majority 38.

List of the AYES.
Anderson, A. Grenfell, C. P.
Armstrong, R. B. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Earing, rt. hn. Sir F. T. Grey, R. W.
Bass, M. T. Hawes, B.
Bellew, R. M. Heywood, J.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Heyworth, L.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Hill, Lord M.
Blackall, S. W. Hobhouse, T. B.
Blake, M. J. Horsman, E.
Brotherton, J. Howard, Lord E.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Bunbury, E. H. Hume, J.
Childers, J. W. Jervis, Sir J.
Cobbold, J. C. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Drummond, H. Mahon, The O'Gorraan
Dunne, F. P. Mangles, R. D.
Ebrington, Visct. Melgund, Visct.
Ellis, J. Moftatt, G.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Nugent, Sir P.
Fortescue, hon. J. W. Paget, Lord A.
Palraerston, Visct. Thicknesse, R. A.
Parker, J. Thompson, Col.
Peto, S. M. Thornely, T.
Pigott, F. Townshend, Capt.
Rich, H. Westhead, J. P.
Romilly, Sir J. Willoughby, Sir H.
Russell, F. C. H. Wilson, J.
Sandars, J.
Scrope, G. P. TELLERS.
Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W. Locke, J.
Stuart, Lord D. Aglionby, H. A.
List of the NOES.
Addorley, C. B. Seymer, H. K.
Baldock, E. H. Smollett, A.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Spooner, R.
Conolly, T. Stafford, A.
Duncan, G. Stuart, Lord J.
Egerton, Sir P. Taylor, T. E.
Ellice, E. Vesey, hon. T.
Fordyce, A. D. Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.
Herbert, H. A.
Hindley, C. TELLERS.
Lockhart, W. Cowan, C.
Palmer, R. Forbes, W.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Locke and Mr. Peto.

The House adjourned at Two o'clock.