HC Deb 20 July 1863 vol 172 cc1048-52

said, he rose to move that in the case of the Great Eastern Railway (Steamboats) Bill, Standing Orders 184, 192, and 220 be suspended, and that the Bill be considered forthwith.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the case of the Great Eastern Railway (Steamboats) Bill, Standing Orders 184, 192, and 220, be suspended, and that the Bill be now taken into Consideration.


said, he understood that the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. A. Egerton), who had given notice of an Amendment, was from an unavoidable cause obliged to be absent, and he was desirous, if such was the pleasure of the House, that the Motion should stand for the following day. He (Mr. Massey) moved, therefore, that the consideration of this Bill be postponed till to-morrow.

Amendment proposed, To leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "To-morrow, at Six of the Clock."—(Mr. Massey.)


said, that many hon. Members had come down to the House that day in the expectation that the Bill would be considered, and it would be very inconvenient to them that the consideration of it should be postponed.

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

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be read the third time."


said, that in the absence of the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. A. Egerton), he would then move that the Bill be read a third time on that day two months. The whole principle involved in the Bill had been fully discussed on a recent occasion, and he would only say that the Bill was opposed on the ground that it was contrary to public policy that railway companies should be invested with powers to run steamboats on voyages not of what might be termed a ferry character.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day two months."—(Mr. Crawford.)


said, that as the Committee had laid their Report on the table, and as the Report fully substantiated the necessity for the Bill, he trusted that the Motion would be negatived.


said, the question involved in the Bill was one of public policy; and it was desirable, therefore, that the House should, on a future day, have an opportunity of discussing it, and deliberately making up their minds upon the proper view to be taken of it. He apprehended the meaning of the Standing Orders of that House on the subject to be, that, as a general rule, the House did not approve of railway companies being allowed to own or subsidize steamboats. He thought that no special case had been made out in favour of the Great Eastern Company, and therefore it was impossible to treat the measure as one standing on exceptional grounds. He might also mention, on the authority of the opponents, that they were prevented from adducing evidence against the Bill by an intimation from the Committee that they did not desire to deal with the case as a special case, but wished the question to be argued on principle. After that declaration, and after the admission of witnesses for the promoters that other railway companies would be entitled to apply for similar powers, and that steamboat proprietors must submit to be swept from the sea, they satisfied themselves with a speech from their leading counsel, and did not attempt to go into the details of the Bill. In their second Report the Committee had been led into statements which could not be substantiated. He was not aware that the money expended on Harwich harbour was expended by the Government with any view to the Great Eastern Railway Company becoming steamboat proprietors; nor was it correct to state that private enterprise had failed to establish steam communication between Silloth, near Carlisle, and the north of Ireland.


said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had treated the Committee with great unfairness, in not only impugning their judgment but impugning their statements. The Committee had minutely considered the details of each case; and it was entirely on the ground of their exceptional character that they had come to the conclusion which they had done.


said, he should not have interfered in the discussion but for the Report of the Department with which he was connected upon the general question as to how far railway companies should be permitted to be proprietors of steamboats. The Board of Trade, in stating the limits within which they thought such powers should be granted, recommended that when a railway company was in possession of a line terminating at a port in an important district, the import and export trade of which was shown to need development, and which was not supplied by private enterprise with the requisite steam communication, the company should be permitted to become proprietors of steamboats. The case before them came exactly under that principle. There was not a single steamboat leaving the eastern coast of England between London and Hull; private enterprise had not, and was not likely to, supply the steam communication between that important coast and the opposite coast of Holland; and when a railway company undertook to supply the want, it was said that they should not, because a steam navigation company had boats running from London to Holland. He thought the reasons given by the Committee for making that case an exception to the ordinary rule were well founded, and they had precedents for granting such powers, in the communication between Newhaven and Dieppe, between Dover and Calais, and Dover and Boulogne, and between Holyhead and Kingstown. The Bill had been sanctioned by Committees of both Houses, and he hoped that it would be allowed to pass.


said, that, as a Member of the Committee, he hoped the House would support the decision at which, after hearing both sides of the question, he and his Colleagues had arrived. The Committee passed the Bill because it was proved that it would confer a great benefit upon the public. He supported it on free trade principles, as there was no doubt it would develop a very considerable trade. His right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had, on a former occasion, asked for some facts in support of the Bill. He would therefore furnish him with one or two. Supposing his right hon. Friend wished to go to Rotterdam for change of air, he could not get there from London at present in less than twenty-three hours, whereas the journey by the Harwich route would occupy only twelve hours. Moreover, if his right hon. Friend should happen, contrary to his usual methodical habits, to leave his portmanteau behind, he must now pay £1 17s. to get it sent to him, whereas the carriage viâ Harwich would be 6s. 6d. He hoped the House would support the decision of its Committee.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had stated the only reason that could be given for the passing of the Bill—namely, that no individual shipowners and no steamboat companies would start a line of ships between Harwich and the Continent. And why did they object to do so? Because the entrance to the harbour had been blocked up by continual silting. But a Bill had been passed which gave the Government money to remedy that; and in a short time there would be no hesitation on the part of shipowners to start a line of steamers from the harbour. He undertook to say that the General Steam Navigation Company would have no objection to furnish ships. He was the chairman of a railway which adjoined a very great port, and he was much interested in other railways similarly situated, and therefore if he were to consult his private interests he should desire the passing of this Bill. But, as a Member of Parliament, he had to perform a duty of far higher importance than his own private interests, and he should view with the greatest alarm any relaxation of the old principle that Parliament should not allow railway companies to become shipowners. Individual shipowners would be unable to compete for a moment with the enormous capital of railways.


said, that if the Bill were passed, attempts would be made hereafter by other railway companies to get steamboat powers, and ultimately the steamboat companies all round their coasts would thus be run down by the competition of railway companies.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided:—Ayes 59; Noes 121: Majority 62.

Main Question put, and agreed to.