§ Order read, for Consideration of Lords' Reasons for disagreeing to one of the Amendments; Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Reasons be now read."
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that this particular Amendment had been carried in the House of Commons by a majority of seventy-seven to fifteen, and they ought to have very weighty reasons urged before they consented to reverse their former deliberate judgment. It would be most preposterous that a landowner should be permitted to exact the same sum for lands which were not at all entered upon, that it had been proposed to give for those lands, on the supposition that the lands would be occupied for the purposes of a railway. Fair compensation was all that landowners could justly demand. He moved as an Amendment that the House do disagree to the Lords' Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LOCKE
supported the Amendment. The Bill, as carried to the House of Lords, gave to landowners adequate compensation in respect of any lands which they might have agreed to sell to a railway company, which lands were not afterwards required in consequence of the railway being abandoned. The fact was that the Bill was merely brought in for the purpose of perpetuating the Railway Commission, by giving it an appearance of being employed. If this proviso were retained, not a railway company in the kingdom would avail itself of the Bill.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
had himself opposed the proviso as most objectionable; but the question was whether the House would have the Bill with the proviso in it, or no Bill at all. If they were to put an end to the Railway Commission to-morrow, this measure would still be perfectly efficient, because the functions now performed by the Railway Commissioners would merely be transferred to the Board of Trade.
§ MR. MULLINGS
cordially concurred 1007 with the hon. Gentleman who proposed the Amendment, assuming that his object was to get rid of the Bill. He considered the provisions of the measure harsh and unjust, and if the Bill was rejected no one would be injured, for the parties would then be in precisely the same situation as if no Bill had been proposed.
§ MR. W. P. WOOD
said, the proviso to which such strong objection was entertained, did not enforce anything, but merely prevented vested rights and interests from being defeated. He cared nothing for the Bill one way or the other; but if it was to pass, he wished that it would be accompanied with this proviso.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, when the Bill came down from the other House, some leading persons connected with railways complained that there was no reason why any description of property should be exempt from liabilities to which all other kinds were liable. There was a reasonable ground of objection in this respect; but the question was whether they should take the Bill with this proviso added to it, or reject it altogether. His own opinion was, that they should take it as it was, rather than incur the risk of its loss. The House had rejected a great many Bills for abandoning specific lines of railway, which it was proposed to carry out, because this Bill was before Parliament; therefore he thought it might be attended with some injustice not to pass it. Several Gentlemen connected with railways in that House had said that they would rather not have the Bill than assent to this proviso; but he believed that there were several railway companies who would take advantage of this Bill as it stood. It should be remembered the adoption of this Bill by a railway company was altogether optional. It was supposed that the proviso might prejudice the case of railway companies in courts of justice with regard to the contracts in question: he had consulted the hon. and learned Attorney General, and had his clear opinion that this could not be so. He was, therefore, for assenting to the Lords' Amendment.
§ MR. MOWATT
could not help asking, after what they had heard from the representatives of the great railway interest in that House, that with this proviso this Bill would be worse than useless, why it should be pressed forward by the Government?
§ MR. TURNER
was satisfied that it was a mistake to suppose that this proviso would be prejudicial to railway companies in courts of justice. It merely declared that railway companies should be able to avoid 1008 the liabilities they had incurred in making agreements for the purchase of land. He hoped the Bill would not pass without the proviso.
§ MR. SCULLY
should much regret the loss of the Bill in consequence of the insertion of the proviso. He felt assured, if it was passed in its present form, it would be productive of much good, both in this country and Ireland. The amount of capital locked up in 59 lines was 2,792,000l., of which the Railway Commissioners reported that 1,000,000l. would never be applied. On these grounds he should vote for the Bill with the proviso.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 32; Noes 15: Majority 17.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Lords' Reasons considered.
§ Resolved—"That this House doth not insist on the Amendment to which The Lords have disagreed."
§ The House adjourned at Two o'clock.