§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Milner Gibson.)
§ LORD ALFRED CHURCHILL moved an Amendment, that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. He did so upon the ground that the House had confined themselves to the discussion of the details only, and had not discussed the principle of the measure. He believed this Bill was founded upon the United Kingdom Telegraph Companies Act, and because it was so similar to that Act he had nut attempted to raise any discussion upon the principle of this Bill; but he was sorry to find that during its passage through the House it had been so mutilated that it would restrict the operations of the Company—which was intended to establish cheap, or people's telegraphs, as they might be called, throughout the country—with which he was connected, and it would virtually affirm the monopoly obtained by the other telegraph companies. He believed the Amendments made in this Bill had been promoted by the agents of the other companies, who had stated that the provisions of the United Kingdom Telegraph Companies Act enabled the directors to pass through drawing-rooms, and over property of the most private kind, in the hope of defeating the operations of the company. Their Act did not enable them to go over private property, but to pass along public roads, and for doing that the company had to pay their share of the highway and poor rates The wires so much complained of by the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir John Shelley) were erected by the company presided over by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. J. C. Ewart), and the United Kingdom Telegraph Company had not interfered with the hon. Baronet's property at Preston. The provisions of the Bill before the House would virtually repeal the provisions of the United Kingdom Telegraph Companies Act, which was passed only last year, after being fully examined by a Committee of each House of Parliament and opposed by 1035 the other companies. This measure was in a very crude and imperfect state, and before leaving that House it ought to be amended. He would instance the 10th clause, which enacted that no telegraph line should pass within ten yards of a dwelling-house, which might be construed to mean a small country lodge or a factory. He thought the law in reference to telegraph lines should be assimilated in the same way as the law in regard to railways, and that the whole of the Acts of telegraph companies should be consolidated by consideration in reference to a Committee of the Whole House. Instead of passing the Bill, the Government should bring in another, placing telegraphs under the control of the Board of Trade.
§ 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."
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, that the advice tendered by the noble Lord, that the House should obey the dictates of a Committee upstairs, was entirely in keeping with what were said to be the tactics of the telegraph companies upstairs. As for the companies being earwigged, as the phrase was, by Members of Parliament, he certainly thought that the earwigging, if there had been any, was quite the other way. If the Bill were imperfect, it was competent to the noble Lord to move any Amendments he thought necessary; but that was no reason why the Bill should not now be read a third time; and he felt sure that the House would not regret the labour it had spent upon it.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, he was connected with no company, cheap or dear, but he was in favour of cheap companies rather than dear, because he thought they were favourable to commerce. The cheap companies, he thought, would bring down the prices of dear ones. He should vote for the noble Lord's Motion if he went into the lobby.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
believed, that while various useful Amendments had been introduced relating to procedure, the principle of the Bill remained unchanged. That principle was to afford protection against private property being interfered with without the consent of the owner, and 1036 without compensation; but whatever rights were given were given to all companies, and whatever restrictions were imposed were imposed on all companies, whether old or new. He could not see how the Bill could be said to favour monopoly, and he hoped the noble Lord would not insist upon a division.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 3°, and passed.