HC Deb 07 June 1858 vol 150 cc1601-6

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now taken in consideration."


said, that this was the first time a Bill had come before Parliament by which it was proposed to amalgamate two lines of railway which were originally sanctioned as competing lines. The proposed measure was an unwarrantable interference with the principle contained in the recommendation of the fifth Report of the Select Committee on Railway Bills of 1853. That recommendation went distinctly to assert that amalgamations ought not to be allowed except in minor and special cases; and the present, so far from being a minor case, was a case of three hundred miles of railway, with a capital of twenty millions of money, and if any special reason existed it ought to be stated. Moreover, the measure had been proposed solely upon the evidence of the officials and servants of the two companies, and without any evidence on the part of a single individual member of the public who complained that he was ill-served by the action of the existing arrangements. He should, therefore, move that the further consideration of the Bill be postponed for six months.

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

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


said, the Committee on the Bill of which he was the Chairman had sat for eighteen days, and had given the Bill their fullest and fairest consideration. A more painstaking and attentive Committee had never been selected; and he was quite satisfied that, in the decision they arrived at, they had done justice alike to the public and the parties immediately interested. That decision, he might add, was unanimous, and he should, therefore, oppose the Amendment.


said, he would give full credit to the Committee for the care and attention they had displayed in conducting their inquiries into the merits of the Bill. He would do them the justice of saying that he believed their decision was not only unanimous, but was also conscientiously agreed to by every member of their body. The present Motion, however, was not to rescind their judgment, but merely to suspend it until the House should have had all opportunity given it of laying down some definite principle with regard to these amalgamations. He did not complain that the Committee had come to a wrong decision, but he contended that it was the duty of the House before Bills of this kind were passed to inquire whether the Report of 1853 had been acted up to in its spirit, and also to see whether they could not lay down some broad general principle for the guidance of their Select Committees on Railway Bills in matters of this kind hereafter. He also thought that the Bill even as a Bill of amalgamation was defective, as the House ought at any rate to lay down the principle that the rate should be uniform over every portion of the amalgamated lines.


said, he had no doubt the House would be disposed to abide by the Resolution of their Committee. He understood that by that Resolution the Committee affirmed that the proposed arrangement between the two railway companies would be beneficial to the public in the districts through which the lines passed; but the question to be determined was, the precise mode in which the arrangement should be carried into effect. Last week, when the Great Northern Bill came before the House, they ordered it to be adjourned for a week, and the ob- ject of that was to exchange a working arrangement of twenty years for one of ten years, because a working arrangement of twenty years might be regarded as equivalent to amalgamation, and was, therefore, objectionable. He thought the House would act discreetly if they adopted a similar course in this instance, and adjourned the Bill for a like period, in order that instead of amalgamation a working arrangement of limited duration might be carried out, so that Parliament should not shut out from itself the power of securing by revisal from time to time that control which they now knew, from bitter experience, they had parted with too lightly on former occasions. The amalgamation proposed was between 15,000,000 and 5,000,000 sterling, together about 20,000,000; and he was afraid, unless they reserved some control over it, they might find that the freedom of transit between Hull and Liverpool, and the cast and west of the kingdom, might be affected by the Bill in a manner that they did not contemplate; and he was sure they might give effect to what he believed to be the ciple of the Committee, by adhering to the policy which had hitherto been followed, and avoiding the mischief which appeared to threaten them now.


said, he thought the public interest would be served by at once agreeing to the amalgamation. The lines were not so much competing schemes as portions of one great chain of communication, which could be much more economically carried on under a single management.


regretted that the opposition to the Bill had not been raised upon the second reading, because the promoters must have understood from the Bill being read a second time that the principle of it was conceded, and that it was only for them to give proof of good grounds for the amalgamation to obtain the report of the Committee in their favour. It was said that these lines were granted originally as competing lines; but even if that were so the Committee had evidence to show that all competition was dead, and that the traffic of the district was carried on by combination. The amalgamation would give tile public the advantage of improved accommodation at several important stations, greater facilities of traffic, and more economical rates.


said, he understood that, a Committee was to be appointed on the Motion of his hon. Friend (Colonel W. Patten), to consider the effects of railway legislation, and to deal with the various questions which were referred to in the Report of the Committee of 1853. But he would ask the House what would be the result if the further consideration of this Bill were delayed until that Committee had presented its Report? Why, that the parties promoting the Bill would be put to serious expense for its recommittal, that it would have to be placed perhaps in a new group, and be Subjected to the consideration of a new tribunal, whose Report would be presented to this House too late to enable them to send the Bill to the House of Lords. He would, therefore, strongly urge the House to adopt the recommendations of the Committee, who, after eighteen days' inquiry, must know more about the matter than the general body of Members.


said, the Committee of 1853 did not lay down a general rule, but stated a principle from which they had excepted certain minor and special cases, to which they called the attention of Select Committees. Now, in the present instance he thought there was a case for pausing a week or ten days, in order to consider, not the question of amalgamation, but another very important question connected with the Bill. The Department of the Board of Trade had called the attention of the Committee to the great inequality of tolls which existed throughout the whole of the district proposed to be amalgamated. Those tolls were very unequal, some of the districts having special privileges, whilst others were left to take their chance with the companies. Now, if it were right that there should be amalgamation, it was also right that all parties within the territory amalgamated should be put upon the same footing. For his part he could not understand why that should not be the case, and it was mainly on that ground he should ask the House to agree to a short postponement of the Bill; because he was certain if the toll clause were not revised, the parties placed upon an equal footing, and these exceptions done away with, he should have great difficulty in giving his assent to the Bill. As it was, no reason whatever had been given by the Committee for continuing certain exceptions which existed in the districts proposed to be amalgamated.


said, the present rate of tolls was very unequal, and was felt as a great grievance in the district with which he was connected.


said, he had not charge of the Bill, but he had seen the Gentlemen who were interested in the matter, and he found they were quite willing to meet the President of the Board of Trade to effect an arrangement. What they objected to, however, was any delay, which might jeopardise the Bill for the present Session by making it too late to go up to the House of Lords.


said, that the Committee had devoted two whole days to the revision of the tolls.


explained that the sole object he had in view in supporting a Motion for delay was to put the tolls upon an equal footing throughout the district.


said, the Bill had been very patiently and attentively considered in Committee with respect to both points—amalgamation and equalization of tolls; and he should be sorry to see its unanimous decision upset by the opinion of the President and ex-President of the Board of Trade.


said, it appeared that the opposition to the Bill turned chiefly on the difference in the rates of tolls, which his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade considered would be detrimental to the public. To recommit the question on that point would involve considerable expense, and would be hard upon the parties. He would therefore suggest that the matter should be postponed for a few days, to allow the promoters of the Bill an opportunity of conferring with his right hon. Friend, with a view to modify the present arrangements.


was understood to say that the opinion of the Committee ought to be supported.


said, he believed it would be for the public advantage that this amalgamation should take place, but he knew that the different rate of the tolls in different districts had given great dissatisfaction. As the matter had gone through the Committee, however, he doubted whether his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade would be able to effect an arrangement if it were referred to him, as he believed that in order to effect a satisfactory arrangement the tolls must be lowered some districts and raised in others. According to the Standing Orders rates could only be raised in Committee. He should support the decision of the Committee, though he regretted they had not settled this question, and he believed that if the hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill would consult the President of the Board of Trade some means of arrangement might be found.


said, he believed that those who were most active in the promotion of the Bill had no objection to confer with the President of the Board of Trade as to the rectification of any part of the Bill which might be thought to be unreasonable.


said, the promoters had no objection to the Bill being referred to a Committee, if an assurance were given that such reference should not delay the progress of the Bill more than a week.


said, he did not think that public business would be promoted by the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade.


suggested, that the consideration of the Report should be postponed till the following day, in order that the President of the Board of Trade might have an opportunity of conferring with the parties.

Amendment and Motion by leave withdrawn.

Consideration, as amended, deferred till To-morrow.

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