HC Deb 14 March 1853 vol 125 cc173-4

said, he had a notice on the paper relative to safety in Railway travelling, but since he had entered the House a communication had been made to him which induced him to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. He wished to ask whether it was at all probable that the Select Committee now sitting upon railways would result in such a Resolution on Report as could be practically adopted by the House? If that were the case, he should withdraw his proposed Resolution. If not, he was perfectly prepared to go on with it.


said, that the Motion of which the hon. Gentleman had given notice was one to the wording of which he had no objection to offer. The hon. Member proposed, in the first instance, to declare that it was— The duty of a good Government to propose to that House all such measures as might appear necessary for the public good. To the doctrine thus expressed he was not disposed to take the slightest exception. The hon. Gentleman then proposed to declare, that— The great increase in the number of accidents which have of late occurred on railways demands the special attention of this House, and that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to propose more effectual measures than now exist for securing the safety of the public while travelling on railways. From the sentiment thus expressed he was not inclined to dissent. The Committee which had been appointed by the last Government, on the subject of railways, was now sitting upstairs, and would feel it their duty to extend their inquiries to the question to which the hon. Member's Motion related—a question in which, it was scarcely necessary to say, that Her Majesty's Government, the Members of the Committee, and every Member of that House, felt the deepest possible interest. Since he (Mr. Cardwell) had had the honour of presiding over the Railway Committee, they had examined the most eminent men connected with the railway interests of these countries. They were now going to examine witnesses not connected with railways, and in the course of their deliberations they would, undoubtedly, consider it their duty to devote especial attention to the particular subject which the hon. Member desired to bring under the notice of the House. It was, of course, impossible for him to anticipate the result of the Committee's inquiries. Up to this point they had confined themselves, in the most laborious and painstaking manner, to the collecting of evidence; and, considering the magnitude and importance of the subject, and how early it was in the Session, and how many witnesses yet remained to be examined, he was sure that the hon. Member did not mean to impute it to them as a matter of censure that they had not as yet come before the House with any expression of opinion. Under all the circumstances of the case he was inclined to think that the hon. Member would not be wanting in his duty to the public if he were to permit the Committee to enter into a consideration of the subject to which his notice referred, before proceeding to ascertain the sense of the House upon it. He owed it to the Committee to say, that he had never seen any similar body take in hand the matter upon which they were called to adjudicate, in a manner more earnest and energetic; and he should be greatly disappointed if their labours did not result in a measure beneficial to the public interest.


said, after the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, he was quite content to postpone his Motion for the present, in order to see whether any practical proposition which the House could adopt would result from the labours of the Committee. He confessed he bad very little hope that such would be the case; still he was quite willing, in deference to the wishes of the Government, to postpone the consideration of the question to a very early period after Easter, when, if nothing satisfactory was elicited, he certainly should go on with it.

House adjourned at Eight o'clock.