HC Deb 17 February 1863 vol 169 cc401-5

Order for Second Reading read.


moved that the Bill be now read the second time. The object of the Bill was to shorten the time consumed in the transit between this country and the Continent. He trusted that the House would not, on account of the opposition to the measure, object to the second reading, but would say that the opposition should be heard and determined on by a Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, he rose to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. In so doing he wished to disclaim being actuated by private interest, or hostility to the promoters, the South Eastern Railway Company. The object of the Bill was to take power to make a branch line about two miles long near Folkstone Harbour, the alleged advantage of which was that it would shorten the distance to London three-quarters of a mile in the whole distance of eighty-three miles. The existing arrangements had been deemed sufficient from the formation of the line up to two years ago, when the Bill passed for the formation of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway. In 1861 the South Eastern Company brought in a Bill, which was opposed by Sir John Bligh on the ground that the projected branch would pass within 100 yards of his house, and separate the house from the entrance lodge; by General Hankey, because the branch would pass within twelve yards of his house, cut through his kitchen garden and offices, and, in fact, render the house uninhabitable; by the Corporation of Folkestone, and by other parties, on the ground that it would destroy the lower road to Sandgate. Lord Radnor, whose property would be traversed by the proposed branch, was also an opponent of that Bill. The Bill passed the House of Commons; but on being taken to the Lords a Select Committee of their Lord ships threw it out, and that without call- ing on the opponents to open their case. That Bill the company had revived. The Bill before the House was to construct a branch railway between the same points as those of the Bill of 1861; and it was open to the same objections as the former Bill, except in one respect only—namely, that Lord Radnor, formerly an opponent, having made terms with the company, had withdrawn his opposition. There was an important difference in the present circumstances and those of the Bill of 1861 — that the opponents of the Bill suggested an alternative line, not of greater length, and with the same advantages as that of the promoters; but that suggestion had been rejected by the promoters on the ground that it would entail a larger expense. The promoters had declared, that if defeated, they would renew their application again and again till they wore out the opposition. He asked the House whether, in the absence of any new advantages, they were prepared to allow the opponents of a Bill to be again put to the trouble and expense they were put to in 1861? If so, it would be establishing the principle that the longest purse would win, the game being "beggar my neighbour," and the better plan would be for the parties, instead of submitting their differences to Committees, to place their purses in the scales, and the owner of the purse which kicked the beam to give in.

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


contended that the statement of the hon. Member for Sussex ought to induce the House not to refuse to read the Bill a second time, but specially to refer it to investigation before a Committee. Had the hon. Member investigated the alternative line? In all probability he had not. He (Mr. Gilpin) had, and he was therefore in a position to deny that it was equally good with that of the promoters. If the hon. Member argued, that because a Bill which had passed the Commons had been rejected by the Lords, it ought not to be reintroduced into the Commons, he could understand the logic, but he should entirely dissent from the conclusion. In 1861 the Bill passed the Commons, notwithstanding the opposition of Lord Radnor, the largest landowner whose property was affected by the measure; but that opposition was now withdrawn, and to that extent the present circumstances were better than those of 1861.


said, that this was one of those cases which the House would be called upon some time or other to meet by general legislation. A strong feeling prevailed not only in the country, but in that House, that these unseemly conflicts between Committees and private parties should be terminated, and that it was unjust to permit wealthy companies to come before Parliament year after year with the view of exhausting the patience and the pockets of private individuals opposed to their schemes.


remarked that the entire merits of the case were sifted with more than ordinary strictness before a Committee in 1861, when the Bill received the sanction of the House, but was afterwards rejected by the Lords. If, then, there was a conflict at all, it was between the Committees of the two Houses.


said, he should be unwilling that any measure which had been deliberately decided upon should be re-introduced when heavy expenses were involved. He must maintain, however, that a Committee of the Commons was quite as competent as a Committee of the Lords to decide upon the merits of the Bill; and as the Commons passed the Bill in 1861 he thought it ought to be again adopted. It was said that landowners were opposed to the Bill. Their case was fully heard by the Commons' Committee in 1861. It was not a case in which a decision had been pronounced by the House on a previous occasion adversely to the promoters; and if the Bill were not now allowed to proceed, the company, and not private landowners, would be the aggrieved parties, because the company were successful in 1861.


said, that having been on the Committee in 1861, he could bear witness that the Bill was thoroughly investigated. It had been stated that there was a conflict between the Lords and Commons; and it was therefore right that the House should know that the Committee of the Commons was divided in opinion on the subject. The question seemed to him to be really this, whether a railway with large resources was to come again and again to Parliament and wear out the opposition by the enormous expenses.


said, that he had allowed his name to be placed on the back of the Bill, which he would not have done if it had not been a case in which public interests were involved. The largest of the three landowners who opposed in 1861 did not oppose now; indeed, the Bill was not the same as that then before the House; and if the House refused to send it upstairs, the company would be placed in an unfair position.


said, that the company had not made any proposition to conciliate their opponents except in one instance. The Bill proposed to go through the grounds and houses of gentlemen both resident and non-resident; and as he did not think twenty minutes could be saved by three quarters of a mile of railway, he hoped the House would take a more generous view than the hon. Member who had just sat down, and reject the Bill.


said, that he knew the locality, and he did not wish the House to be misled in regard to the importance of the public interests involved. It was allowed by the supporters of the measure that the distance saved would be only three-quarters of a mile; and they also said that it was impossible to save more than a quarter of an hour; but it was rather difficult to conceive how a quarter of an hour could be saved by three-quarters of a mile. With reference to the private interests involved, they had before them the fact that in all important particulars it was precisely the same proposition that had been before the House on previous occasions, and it destroyed the privacy of two residential proprietors merely for a saving of three-quarters of a mile. It was true that at the end of a long period of agitation one of the largest proprietors had agreed with the company, but he was not a residential proprietor; and was it to be in the power of one large landowner, by thus agreeing with a company, to injure smaller proprietors, unless the interests of the public were really involved? If they were involved, the case would come before the House on a very different footing. The opponents of the measure were put in a very unfair and disadvantageous position on the score of expense. They spent £5,000 in proving their case before a perfectly unexceptionable tribunal; the Bill passed the Committee of that House only by the casting vote of one Member; and it was thrown out of the other House. There fore, the preponderance of authority was against it; and the company ought to have adopted the alternative route, at the larger expense, rather than have involved the par- ties in the expense they had been put to and would be put to in again opposing the measure.


said, that the facts just mentioned exhibited a feature of private legislation which demanded immediate revision, and illustrated the necessity of that railway tribunal the creation of which he advocated a few nights before. He trusted that the Government measure on the subject would include a remedy by which the expenses of proceedings in regard to Private Bills would be reduced so as to give fair play to the opponents of such a Bill as this when contending against a great company.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 122: Majority 11.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.