HC Deb 16 April 1861 vol 162 cc639-42

Order for second Reading read.


said, that at the request of the promoters he wished to move that the second reading of this Bill be postponed to that day fortnight.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be read a second time upon this day fortnight."


said, he would move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He opposed the Bill on public grounds. No person who had examined the Bill could suppose seriously that it could be entertained by the House. The practical effect of the Bill would be to give an entire monopoly to one particular company to possess itself of all the streets and roads in all the towns and cities in the United Kingdom. The proposed tramway might be a great public convenience, but the Bill was in its nature a public measure, and as such ought to be in the hands of the Government. He protested against it being postponed one night after another until the end of the Session, when it might perhaps be passed after the bulk of the House had left town. Let them, now that they were all there, dispose of it at once.

Amendment proposed to leave out the word "fortnight," and to insert the words "six months," instead thereof.


seconded the Amendment. He had put himself to some trouble in order to find out whether the proposal was feasible, and he had no hesitation in saying that if the House of Commons sanctioned such a proposal to lay down tramways in the crowded streets and thoroughfares of this Metropolis he should not by his vote make himself responsible for the consequences that might follow. Mr. Train, by hook or by crook, had got hold of a member of the Board of Works in his (Sir John Shelley's) district, and had obtained permission to put down the rails in Victoria Street. He bad inspected the rails, and considered them dangerous in crowded thoroughfares. He had heard that a serious accident had occurred that morning on the Bayswater Line from the want of power to prevent the horses from running away with the omnibus. He also objected to the Bill as establishing a gross monopoly that ought not to be permitted by the House.


observed that the arguments used by his hon. Friend, the Mem- ber for the county of Cork, and his hon. Friend, the Member for Westminster, against the Bill were of the most antiquated description. The same arguments had been used against railways by people who had an objection to traverse the country by that mode of conveyance some thirty years ago. His hon. Friend, the Member for Westminster, had told them that an accident had occurred that morning on the tramway laid down to Bayswater. He (Mr. Bright) would undertake to say that no man—unless such as ought not to be allowed to go out without a keeper—who observed the traffic upon these tramways, but must see that the probability of accident was infinitely less than by the ordinary means of transit in the City. The Bill was merely permissive in its nature, and allowed the company to make arrangements for laying down those tramways with the persons who were supposed to have an absolute authority with regard to what should be done in the roads and streets. The Bill conferred no power on the company to do anything until they first obtained the sanction of the parties who at present had power to do that which was intended by the Bill to be done. By one clause in the Bill it was intended to give remuneration to the promoters of this new system of railways, by restricting to the company the right of running carriages on those rails with flange wheels. No doubt that amounted to a species of monopoly. ["Hear, hear!" from the Opposition.] He was glad to find that hon. Gentlemen opposite were opposed to monopoly. But that was the mode in which the promoters of the Bill proposed they should be remunerated for their expenditure. The House knew perfectly well that no one would go to the expense of putting down tramways without being remunerated. The question for the House to consider was what was the mode by which any company doing that work for the public should be remunerated? That clause, then, was one which the House ought to refer to a Select Committee; to take evidence and consider the subject fully, so as to indicate to the House what should be its policy in matters of this kind for the future. It should be remembered that the proposed mode of transit was found to be of great advantage in the towns and cities of other countries. He should be sorry that the House should, by a hasty vote, prevent that which might turn out to be a great improvement. He should, therefore, support the original Motion.


said, that if the post-ponement of the Rill for a fortnight would; assist the object of the promoters he should have no objection to that course, but his objection to the Bill was one that arose from the forms and practice of the House. All the arguments urged in favour of laying down the rails would be extremely apposite if the Bill had been brought before the House as a public Bill. The Bill, however comprised subjects that did not belong to the province of private legislation. It was essentially a public Bill, and dealt with important public interest. He said that in the most decided manner, in the discharge of his duty as Chairman of Ways and Means, who was bound by Standing Order to call the attention of the House to all private Bills that trenched on public rights. One of the clauses empowered all public bodies having the control of the great highways of the country to sanction the laying down by a particular company of a system of transit, thus conferring on that company a monopoly of the roads. If that were desirable, it was a subject of great public interest; and the Bill ought to be introduced with the sanction of the Government. He should, therefore, support the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork.


said, he had merely proposed the postponement of the second reading in order to give hon. Members an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the system of street railways to which it referred. He had himself seen it in operation on a large scale in the United States, where 13,000,000 persons had been carried by it in one year with scarcely any accidents to themselves, and with a very trifling amount of accidents to the passers by. After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chairman of Committees, however, he would withdraw the Bill, on the understanding that the question would be taken up by the House as soon as possible with the view of seeing how such a beneficial object as laying down Street railways could be carried out.


said, that although the hon. Gentleman had expressed his wish to withdraw the Bill, he could not entertain that question until the Amendment was withdrawn.


said, he thought that before the Bill was withdrawn the House ought to have a clearer understanding on the subject. He did not think that the House had been fairly treated in respect to this Bill. The Bill had been before the House for a long time, and had been postponed from week to week, and it had been proposed to postpone it again for another fortnight. Anything seemed desired but the decision of the House. If the question were withdrawn, there would be no record of the matter, and, therefore, he for one should wish to see it disposed of in accordance with the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork.


said, that his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham was practically adopting a principle of monopoly with regard to the proposed mode of conveyance. That was a rather remarkable proceeding for the apostle of free trade. The real question was whether the Bill before the House ought to be treated as a private or as a public Bill. He could not consent to allow the Amendment to be withdrawn.


said, he consented to the Bill being negatived.

Question, "That the word 'fortnight' stand part of the Question."

Put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.