HC Deb 26 June 1860 vol 159 cc1045-50

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 (Home Office to appoint Officer to certify as to Construction of Wheels of Locomotives.)


said, the clause required the Secretary of State to ascertain the weight and to register locomotives running on the highways, as well as to give a badge, charging a certain fee. He did not think this such a duty as could be properly cast on the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had no staff to fulfil it. He should move the rejection of the clause unless the right hon. Gentleman agreed to accept the duty it threw on him.


said, the duty of registering locomotives and charging fees for them was certainly a new one to east upon the Secretary of State, and such as he thought most objectionable. The duty was one that fell more properly within the jurisdiction of a Commissioner of police. The next clause authorized either the Secretary of State or some other Member of the executive Government to stop any dangerous locomotive which might be running under this Bill. He was told there was a certain class of locomotive engines which had been used to a considerable extent in the north for the transport of coals from railway stations to towns, and which were found running at a moderate pace very economical, while they did not frighten horses, or crush or destroy the surface of the roads. It might be advantageous to all parties that this particular form of locomotives should be used; but if some new form of locomotives should be introduced and run in the Metropolis or crowded places under the provisions of this Bill, they would, no doubt, be dangerous. It would be a just subject of reproach to Parliament if, in a matter of this kind, it did not give the Executive power to interpose a speedy check to a nuisance the suppression of which could hardly a wait the slow process of an indictment. Some such provision as that contained in the 5th section was therefore necessary to make the Bill a safe measure, but he was certainly disposed to vote for the omission of the 4th clause.


said, that these locomotives were, after all, an experiment, as it was hardly known what would be their effect upon the roads. Some Government office ought, therefore, to have the power of putting a stop to their employment if they inflicted an amount of damage on the roads exceeding the wear and tear produced by ordinary vehicles.


submitted that it was impossible for the Secretary of State to discharge all the functions which the Bill threw upon him. The attempt to invest him with such general authority was contrary to that principle which the House be jealously maintained of giving to local bodies control over matters which immediately affected their interests. The justices in counties and the municipal authorities in towns, possessing a knowledge of all the circumstances of their respective localities, would be far more competent to regulate these matters. Moreover, the Bill ought to provide that locomotives should not be employed where they would prove inconvenient or injurious to the public interests. He, for one, should object to see them used in the Metropolis, or in any large towns. Still as a mere tentative measure he thought that the Bill might be passed.


said, the Bill was merely intended as a tentative measure. There was no wish to force the use of machines in any places where they would be likely to cause inconvenience or injury. He had no objection to relieve the Home Office from the duty of certifying the machine, at the same time he thought that some authority should be compelled to inspect the machines, and to affix some indication of their weight on the outside, because it was according to the weight that toll was levied.


suggested that the Bill should be postponed, and said that he could not for his part consent to the principle of the Bill, unless the interference of the Home Office were secured under it. They did not know what effect those locomotives would have on roads, or what damage was to be calculated on from them.

Clause withdrawn.

Clause 5 (Plate to be affixed on Engine.)


said, he should move the omission of the clause. He believed that strict limitations ought to be put on the employment of locomotives upon public roads.


said, the great question involved was whether these engines could be admitted to the roads without danger to the public. If the experiment was to be tried, as he supposed it was intended it should by reading the Bill a second time, the clause was essential, and it would leave to the Secretary of State the responsibility of putting a stop to the use of the locomotives if they were dangerous to the public.


insisted that it was absolutely necessary for the public convenience and safety that the locomotives should be licensed for particular roads and particular purposes.


pointed out that the Bill gave the Secretary of State power to impose the restrictions the hon. Member desired.


said, he saw no objection to the Secretary of State exercising the power that was proposed to be conferred on him. At present he did exercise a certain control over turnpike trusts, and the clause seemed to refer to occasions which, though not likely often to arise, might occasionally do so, and in which the immediate interference of the Secretary of State would be more advantageous and satisfactory than the decision of the Quarter Sessions, which would, perhaps, be necessarily delayed.


said, it appeared to him that the clause introduced a rather anomalous power into the hands of the Home Secretary. The House ought to be very cautious in passing the Bill. They did not attempt to put down larceny by giving the Secretary of State power to prohibit it; but they punished those who were guilty of the offence. In like manner, what they wanted was to forbid, under a penalty, the employment of dangerous locomotives, or of locomotives causing excessive wear and tear to the roads. The penalty would then be recoverable by ordinary operation of law, and with this view he proposed to omit the words relating to the Secretary of State.

Amendment proposed, in pag, line 4, to leave out the words "to one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State that."


said, he would own that at first he had been disposed to think that a locomotive with its train of waggons could never be allowed on the public highways; but on finding that these engines were actually in use in many parts of the country, he had consented to legalize them, provided summary powers were provided for the protection of the public.


suggested that the Quarter Sessions should certify to the Secretary of State the roads to be used.


said, it would be absurd and dangerous for a large machine, twice as large as the table of the House, to be turning the corners of the Metropolitan streets with perhaps a train of half-a-dozen waggons after it.


said, he agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southwark that it would be most unsafe to run locomotives in the Metropolis; and he had to add that he thought the power of regulating that species of traffic, if it were to be tolerated at all, ought to be vested in the Metropolitan Board of Works, and not in the Secretary of State.


expressed a hope that the clause would be reconstructed with the view of placing the regulations of the roads under the justices. He moved the omission of the clause.


said, he thought that when the question was one of danger to the public from the use of locomotives, the regulation of them ought to be, not with the justices, but with the Secretary of State. Neither did he think that the Metropolitan Board of Works, which had never managed anything yet, was the proper body to which to intrust the management of these locomotives. The clause, therefore, ought to stand.


said, he thought the interference of the Secretary of State ought to be only so far as to pronounce what locomotives would not cause danger to the public.


remarked that locomotives could use turnpike roads anywhere, and it was the purpose of the Bill that on roads where they paid no toll they should be charged with toll. The Bill, therefore, was necessary, and the clause was necessary to the Bill. He might add that the vehicles were under perfect control, and could be stopped in a moment.


contended that the clause would prove useful to the public. The only means of regulating the use of locomotives on common roads was through the Secretary of State; if it were left to local authorities, the result would be considerable confusion.


said, it should be remembered that these locomotives were to draw each three waggons, and thus a train would actually pass through the streets. He asked how that would work in Fleet Street? He thought the fitness or unfitness of those engines should be determined by local authority.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause," put, and agreed to.


said, he believed that there could be no use in their proceeding any further with the Bill, and he should therefore move that the Chairman do leave the Chair.

Motion made and Question put, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 83: Majority 44.


said he would move that the Chairman report progress.


said, he hoped the Motion would not be pressed, but that the clause would be passed, after which he should not ask the Committee to proceed further that night.


said, he would withdraw his Motion.

Clause agreed to.

The House resumed. Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday 9th July.