HC Deb 01 March 1855 vol 136 cc2084-7

Order for Second Reading read; Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that in opposing this stage of the Bill he would remind the House that of the 11,000,000l. capital of this Company, only 4,500,000l. was original share capital, and that upon the original shareholders the whole of this outlay would fall. It appeared that in the progress of the works which the Company had found it necessary to erect at Doncaster—a town which rejoiced in being the residence of the chairman—a large working population bad been collected, and these people the directors considered should be provided with church and educational accommodation. This of course was a legitimate object, but in carrying it out, the directors sought to introduce a novel and unjust principle, namely, that of diverting the funds of the Company from the purposes for which they had been originally subscribed. On that ground he (Mr. Fenwick) opposed the, Bill.


seconded the Amendment. He could only add his regret that to all the misfortunes of this Company was now added the bitterness of sectarian strife. The Great Northern Company shareholders had debated this subject with extraordinary vehemence for upwards of two hours on the previous day, and ultimately the show of hands was against the Bill. The Bill proposed to expend about 35,000l. on church, schools, and clergymen and teachers' salaries, and this was to be forced from the shareholders, no matter what might be their objections, either on religious or economic grounds. For those reasons he must also vote against the Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, the Motion for reading the Bill a second time was only to enable it to go before a Committee. The works of the Great Northern Railway were fixed at Doncaster because it was the most convenient place for their iron and coal trade. They employed upwards of 1,000 hands, who lived in houses built near the works by other parties, and it was evidently necessary to provide some educational and religious provision for them. The proposal was agreed to by a majority of the property of the shareholders, and the object of the Bill was to enable them to erect a church and schools if they thought proper. He hoped the House would let the Bill go before a Committee, for there would be plenty of opportunities for any Member, or the shareholders, to oppose it at future stages. He appealed to the House if it was not right for a great mercantile concern to make such provisions for those whom they employed, who without it would he in a most destitute state?


said, that the principle now sought to be introduced was an entirely new one. And the House had to consider whether it would permit the money of the shareholders to be diverted from the purposes for which it had been originally subscribed. He might refer the House to the case of Crewe, which was supplied with eight places of worship without a single compulsory advance from the shareholders of the North Western Company. The directors in that case, when anxious to build a church, called only the members of the Church of England together, and from them obtained a voluntary subscription quite sufficient for their purposes. They did not ask for, or require, an Act of Parliament.


said, that this was a case in which his feelings were on one side, and his reason on the other. This was not a question for a Select Committee, but a question of principle which the House was bound to decide. If, as it appeared, the majority of the shareholders were favourable to the proposed appropriation of the Company's money, there would be no difficulty in raising the funds, without taking the money of those shareholders who objected to the payment. Considering the principle involved, he had no choice in the matter, but felt bound to vote against the second reading.


said, it must be borne in mind that the Company had no power without a Bill to grant a site for the church and schools. They heard a great deal lately of the duties as well as the rights of property, and surely it was one of the first duties of property to provide for the religious and moral education of those connected with it. The Great Northern Railway were not in a position to make a voluntary effort to do this.


said, he thought that great evils would arise from the adoption of the principle involved in the Bill. The House would be doing a great injury to the Church of England herself by passing this Bill, and the population intended to be benefited by it would be, he had no doubt, better provided for by not introducing this subject of dissension. Suppose an Irish railway Company came to Parliament for a similar Bill. The shareholders of that company would be, perhaps, Protestants, while the workmen would be Roman Catholics. Was the Church in such a case to be Protestant or Roman Catholic? He hoped the House would not agree to the second reading of the Bill.


said, he must congratulate the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Beckett Denison) on having taken this step, for it would conduce greatly to the interests of railway companies. In the railway in which he had taken a prominent part the directors had tried the voluntary system for their hands at the works at Stratford with very little success. It was a very different case some time ago When railways were paying 10 per cent.; but now the shareholders grudge every shilling, and look at their property merely as a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence.


said, the argument of the hon. Member Who had just sat down was, he considered, fatal to the Bill. Was it fair for a portion of the directors to come and ask Parliament to take away the money of the shareholders for a purpose for which they were unwilling to give it freely themselves? He considered the principle to be what had hitherto never been heard of with respect to any commercial establishment whatever; and what he had seen on other lines would be done voluntarily by the shareholders, be they Church of England or Dissenters.


said, he could state that the same question had to be decided by the directors of the London and North Western Railway after a large population had been collected at Wolverton. The directors, after due consideration, did not think it right to call upon the great body of the proprietors to erect a place of worship at Wolverton for those who were members of the Church of England. The directors, therefore, called together the members of the Church of England connected with the railway and put the case before them, and they had not the least difficulty in raising a sum of money sufficient for the erection of a church and the stipend of the minister for all time to come. If a similar course were adopted, he was persuaded there would be no difficulty in raising the money required on the Great Northern Railway, without any breach of principle or hardship upon the proprietors.


said, that as Chairman of the London and Brighton Railway, he wished to state that the directors of that railway had always come to the conclusion that it would not be right for them, as trustees for the shareholders, to tax them for an object of this kind.


said, that as he had sufficiently ascertained the opinion of the House, he would withdraw the Bill.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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