§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said he rose to move "the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the best method of dealing with the various schemes for the formation of railways within the limits of the metropolis, which were likely to be laid before Parliament during the present Session." He would shortly state to the House the general grounds upon which it had appeared to the Government desirable to take this course. It would be remembered that, during last Session, a Committee of the other House of Parliament was appointed to consider the Metropolitan Railway Bills that were introduced during that Session, and they made that inquiry a preliminary step before any Bill was introduced in the other House, and in point of fact they recommended that some of the schemes then proposed should be stopped. It had appeared to Her Majesty's Government that if an exceptional course of that kind were desirable in reference to this class of Railway Bills, that at any rate it should be concurred in by both Houses of Parliament, and that a Committee of one House, or a Committee of the other, separately, was not so desirable, as a preliminary inquiry 280 would be by a Committee of both Houses, which would give the weight of the whole of the Legislature to the recommendation. With regard to the Metropolitan Railway Bills of last Session, the House of Lords' Committee of last Session recommended that there should be a Committee appointed for the purpose of subjecting the Metropolitan Railway schemes of that Session to a careful inquiry previous to their second reading, and in all probability the other House of Parliament would again adopt that course, whatever might be the course which the Committee of the House of Commons might this Session agree to. Whether that course of proceeding had been suggested or not by the other House, Her Majesty's Government had thought it desirable that, considering the vast importance of the Railway Bills affecting the Metropolis that were proposed to be introduced this Session—the magnitude of the interests with which they proposed to interfere—the great powers asked by them for taking lands and houses—the great interference that would thereby take place with all the public thoroughfares of the Metropolis during the time the works were under construction, and also the great interference with the drainage of the Metropolis that was threatened, it had appeared to the Government that it was most desirable that, independent of what might take place in the other House, there must be a Committee appointed for the purpose of considering these Railway schemes as a whole, and for the purpose of endeavouring to give to Parliament that advice it might, on the whole, appear to them desirable to be followed, in order that, if Metropolitan Railway accommodation be a necessity of the day, at all events that accommodation should be adopted which, after a careful consideration, would give a minimum amount of interference with local interest with a maximum amount of public advantage. If the other House of Parliament considered last Session, when the number of Metropolitan Railway Bills before Parliament were much fewer in number than at present, and so much less important in character, that a somewhat novel and exceptional course should be taken with reference to them, he thought that House would agree with him, that in the circumstances in which they were now placed, that a preliminary inquiry by a Committee of both Houses was most desirable, and that certain general principles might be adopted or recommended which would 281 be a guide to the various Railway Committees, which would ultimately have to decide on the various schemes that would be laid before them. Such general principles, to have any weight with the Railway Committees, should, he thought, have the concurrence and sanction of a Committee of both Houses of the Legislature, because it was most undesirable that the promoters of Bills should, after incurring large expenditure and succeeding in passing their measures through the Committees of one House, have them rejected in the other, because in all probability some rule had been laid down in the other House which would have the effect of rejecting the Bills for want of non-compliance with it, and the time and money be thereby wasted. He had suggested as a remedy what might at first sight appear to be a somewhat novel course, that of a joint Committee of both Houses; and he proposed, in the event of that House assenting to the Committee, that a Message should be sent to the other House of Parliament requesting them to appoint an equal number of Members of the House of Lords to join with the Committee of that House, so that the Members of both Houses would form a united Committee, and would, if possible, be able to concur in a joint Report. The course proposed, though apparently novel, was not without a precedent, there being instances, though certainly not within recent years, of united Committees of both Houses of Parliament similar to that which he now proposed. The subject of metropolitan railway accommodation was one of vast importance, and he considered the Report of a joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament would have more weight and influence than the Reports of separate Committees, and that the Bills about to he introduced concerned both Houses of Parliament, the recommendations which were to guide the Private Committees should have the authority of both Houses. He had not had an opportunity of communicating personally on the subject with more than two or three Peers conversant with the private business of Parliament, but so far as he could judge, the Members of the other House were likely to take a favourable view of the proposal. He, however, by this Resolution, moved a Select Committee of the House of Commons, so that if the other House declined a joint Committee, still their proceedings, so far as they went, would be complete, and they could make the preliminary inquiry that he had suggested. 282 On examining the Bills that were to be laid before Parliament during the present Session, he could assure the House that the attempt to group them, to put side by side such as could best be considered together, was perplexing in the extreme. Yet the proper grouping of the Bills was a matter of the greatest importance, and it could not be done without the most careful examination. It was not for him to offer any opinion upon the merits of the projected schemes. He would not prejudge any question, but when it could be stated that the estimated expense of the schemes to be considered in the present Session was something like £34,000,000 or £35,000,000 within the limited area of the metropolis alone, and when he was told, as he had been, by a deputation introduced by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite), that one-fourth of the whole area of the city proper was scheduled for railway purposes, he thought the House would feel that the Government had done no more than their duty in perhaps going beyond the usual practice in private business, and themselves taking the responsibility of recommending a preliminary inquiry by a joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. He would not detain the House by pointing out the many useful functions the Committee would perform, because it must be obvious to every one that such an inquiry must be most valuable. It might be in their power to indicate certain general principles for adoption—he did not mean a final and permanent system, to suit the growing wants of the population for any definite time, because he knew they could only see but a short distance before them—but they could see some distance in advance, and he said that when parties came to Parliament for compulsory powers to take lands and houses and to interfere with the commercial interests and the property of such a community, that Parliament ought to exercise the utmost caution and take such a course as should appear to them most calculated to secure the public advantage and private interests. He should be sorry to see any crude system of metropolitan railway accommodation adopted, and therefore he hoped the House would agree to his Motion, and it was to prevent those Bills from being handed over to separate and independent Committees, who probably would decide on different principles, and probably give them railway communication of a most anomalous character—one, perhaps, conflicting with another—that he had been induced to bring 283 it forward on the part of the Government. He wished to see adopted, if possible, something like intercommunication within the limits of the metropolis, suited to the present times, without pretending that they could lay down anything final and permanent. It might be that most of the schemes, if not all of them, ought to be carried out, but at any rate let them first have the advice of the joint Committee for the guidance of those of the Committees who would afterwards he called upon to decide on the relative proposals that would come before them, and which would enable them to proceed with their duties with much greater confidence and with a better chance of their taking a more safe and judicious step.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the best method of dealing with the Railway Schemes proposed to be sanctioned within the limits of the Metropolis by Bills to be introduced in the present Session, and to report their opinion whether any, and if any, what schemes should not be proceeded with during the present Session."— (Mr. Milner Gibson.)
said, he confessed that lie had read the terms of the Motion with some disappointment and apprehension, because the proposed order of reference, as he understood its wording, would relegate to the Committee part only of a very large and comprehensive question, which at the present time imperiously demanded a settlement at the hands of Parliament. The effect of the limitation put upon the reference would be that the Committee would be at liberty to bestow its attention only on those particular schemes for which Bills had been sent before Parliament, and that its duty would be simply to determine which of those Bills should be allowed to be proceeded with, and which should be thrown aside, and he had heard nothing in the right hon. Gentleman's speech which tended to allay that apprehension. The present was perhaps the most important subject connected with the metropolis which could be submitted to the Legislature, and whatever interest other parts of the metropolis might have in the question was nothing compared to the vital interest that the City Proper, which he had the honour to represent, had in it, no less than one quarter of its entire area being, as the right hon. Member said, scheduled in the Bills now claiming their attention. Scheme upon scheme was submitted to Parliament for literally destroying the City. The object sought was to get into the City 284 to transact one's business there; but when the City itself was mutilated or destroyed by railways, what business would remain to be done there? That reminded him of the saying of Juvenal, Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas. The matter to be considered was not one of mere engineering, it involved many question of social economy, and the well-being of a very large population, whose interests would be sacrificed if these railway companies were permitted to cut and carve, hack and hew the metropolis at their pleasure. Hon. Members might not be aware of the extent of railway accommodation already existing, and being provided for those who wished for quick and easy access to the City. The great centre of attraction was the spot surrounded by the Bank, the Royal Exchange, and the Mansion House. When the railway schemes now in course of actual execution were completed, when the stations in Cannon Street, in Liverpool Street, and in Moorgate Street were finished, there would be three termini from which persons could walk to the Bank in five minutes. Besides these, there were the Fenchurch Street, the Shoreditch, and the London Bridge stations, from which people could walk to the Bank in ten minutes. Then, again, there were three more new stations at Farringdon Street, Blackfriars, and Smithfield, in course of construction by the London, Chatham, and Dover, and other Railway Companies, so that there would be nine stations in all from which persons could get to or from their places of business in the City. In addition to that they would have the new street to be opened from Blackfriars to the Mansion House, which would go far to obviate the delay and inconvenience arising from any overcrowding of the traffic. He believed that that delay and inconvenience was greatly exaggerated, and was more of a sentimental grievance than anything else. He was himself one of the 700,000 persons who went into the City every morning and left it in the evening, and during the last five months ho had not been inconvenienced by a delay of more than five minutes at a time. So much for the passenger traffic. As to the transit of goods, unless they were to have a railway to every man's door the multiplication of railways would not effectually relieve the streets. He contended, then, that the City had now in prospect, from schemes which had already been sanctioned by Parliament, and for which money was being 285 laid out, all the railway accommodation that could possibly be required, and that, therefore, the further reduplication of lines and junctions and stations was not only useless, but positively mischievous. The terms of the present Motion were objectionable, because they implied that railways were the sole remedy for existing inconveniences. No allusion was made to the opening of new thoroughfares. He held in his hand a memorial from the Institute of British Architects, who, perhaps, desired an opportunity of displaying their talents in this matter, and certainly there was nothing like leather. But that memorial, in condemning these crude railway projects, as based on no uniform or recognized principle, as having no reference to the public welfare, but as being merely designed "to serve the interests of the promoters," only stated what was strictly true. He had had occasional opportunities of looking behind the scenes and seeing the manner in which these projects were got up, and he could not think that the parties concerned had much claim to the consideration of that House. It might be said that they had deposited large sums of money, but he maintained that the intentions of Parliament had been evaded. So far as any damage might be occasioned to those parties by delay, they had not much claim for any consideration at the hands of that House, for the deposits were not paid as required, as Parliament intended they should be, out of capital raised legitimately to carry out the undertakings, but with money borrowed for the express purpose of depositing. The House, therefore, should lay aside all idea as to hardship ensuing from delaying this question. Not only were the interests of the trade and commerce of the City here involved, but the well-being of the poorer inhabitants was seriously affected. Anybody who went to see the demolitions going on in Cannon Street for the South Eastern Station would find acre upon acre being cleared, and warehouses, shops, and dwellings of all kinds undergoing destruction. Where were the poor persons who were thus turned out of house and home to go to? Only a few days ago he saw in a paper the report of a case at a Police Court, in which the owner of a house applied to a magistrate to turn out a woman who had been a lodger in his house. She had five children, and no place to go to with them. She could not get a lodging. Her husband worked in the City. She was asked why 286 she could not get another lodging, and her answer was the railways had destroyed all the houses where lodgings could be had. An amount of personal inconvenience, loss, and misery had been inflicted by railways in this way of which the House could have no conception. The very incommensurate compensation that had been awarded by the railways where house property was taken showed the intolerable hardship which had been inflicted. The City Press mentioned a number of these which deserved attention. He had observed the case of a publican who had taken the remaining term of a lease and put the premises in good repair. Being an industrious man, he had improved his income; and, after making proper arrangements with his brewer, he suddenly got notice that his house was required for the construction of one of these railways. He went before the Court and claimed compensation, hut he was dealt with only on the principle of being a yearly tenant, although the custom of the trade was that a man having a public-house, so long as he behaved and paid his rent, his tenure was equal to a holding of his premises for life. This was only one of scores of cases occurring in the City, in which intolerable hardships had been inflicted. Some provision, he held, should be made in carrying out such schemes on behalf of the poorer classes who were turned out of their houses. Wherever railways dispossessed any considerable number of persons they should be bound to provide other suitable accommodation for them in the neighbourhood. He should, therefore, have been glad if the order of reference in this case had been to consider the whole question of metropolitan intercommunication in connection with these railways.
—Sir, I do not rise to express any opinion upon the subject of metropolitan communication, for that is the very question the Committee is to deal with, and it would, therefore, be very improper for a member of that Committee to prejudge it. What I wish to say is, that I do not object in this particular case to the plan of a joint Committee of the two Houses; but I hope it will be distinctly understood, that if we adopt it on this occasion we do so as an experimental arrangement, and not necessarily to be regarded as a precedent. I say that for this reason. The plan of a joint Committee is practically an absolute novelty. I say practically, for I know 287 there are precedents in existence, but the latest of these dates from 1690, and even before that time joint Committees were not frequent. There are half-a-dozen cases quoted in Hatsell, but these joint Committees were altogether different from that which it is proposed to constitute now. In those Committees this House sent a number of Members double that sent by the Peers, and it naturally followed that no divisions were taken and no discussions took place loading to any Report. The business of these joint Committees in former days was simply to investigate evidence, so that identical evidence should be laid before the two Houses. Therefore, what we are doing now is absolutely a novelty. I do not say that in this peculiar and exceptional case of the metropolitan railways it will not be right, but I must remind the House that last year a Committee sat on the subject of Private Bill legislation, and after a good deal of inquiry recommended a different mode of proceeding. It was recommended, to save the expense of double inquiries, to reduce the number of Members serving on each Committee from five to three; that before that tribunal Bills should be examined into, and that by an understanding between the two Houses, if a Bill passed through Committee of this House it should not, as a matter of course, be submitted to a Committee in the other House of Parliament. A power of rehearing the case was given if it pleased the other House specially to appoint one, hut the intention was that one hearing should suffice as a general rule. It was proposed that the House of Lords should accept the decision of the House of Commons, and we should do the same with theirs. I believe, if the private railway business be retained in Parliament at all, that is the only way in which practically to deal with it, and I am sure it is a much better plan than joint Committees. Certain difficulties will attend these joint Committees—for instance, in the choice of a Chairman—and there may also be the risk of a difference between the two Houses if it should happen that a great majority, or perhaps an unanimity, of the Members of one House went one way, and those of the other House went another way." No doubt the case of the London railways is peculiar. It may fairly be pleaded as an exception; and if you intend only to deal with them I do not object. I think, however, it would have been better, under the circumstances, if for once the general prin- 288 ciple of leaving the initiative to private enterprise had been departed from. No doubt the late Sir Robert Peel was right in declining, on behalf of the Executive, to undertake the initiative in railway matters; but the case of London is peculiar, and I think it would have been better if some body, such as a Royal Commission, whose opinion would have been listened to with respect, had, after carefully examining the whole question, laid down a plan without reference to these competing schemes of railway companies. The Government might then have brought forward that plan as their own, to be afterwards carried into effect by any company that would undertake it. In that way we should have had a much more complete and homogeneous scheme than we are likely to have now. But the opportunity for such a scheme seems now likely to have gone by. ["No, no!"] Well, if it is still to be thought of, although I apprehend such is not the view of the House, I can only say so much the better. But what I rose to say was simply to protest against this plan of a joint Committee, except for the special case of the metropolitan railways.
§ MR. MASSEY
said, he thought that the course which his right hon. Friend proposed to adopt was one warranted by the special circumstances of the case. He did not pretend to say that the Committee would interpret their duty in the restricted sense suggested by the hon. Member for London (Mr. Crawford). He apprehended the functions of the Committee would be to consider some principle or general rule upon which railways in the metropolis could be constructed, and if none of the schemes proposed were in accordance with that rule, the result would be that the Committee would recommend the rejection of these schemes, and the question would remain open. Although he was quite willing that the scheme should be considered by a preliminary Committee before being sent for separate examination by Committees upstairs, he was not quite sure of the soundness of the plan which had been proposed. He agreed very much with the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) in doubting the practical utility of a joint Committee. It might be desirable that Parliament should express an authoritative opinion as to the various schemes for metropolitan railways, and it might also be desirable that the opinion of the House should be expressed concurrently with that of the other House, but there were difficul- 289 ties in the way of such concurrence. The other House had instituted an extensive inquiry, and had arrived at certain important conclusions. Those conclusions had been communicated to the House in the shape of a Report, together with the evidence upon which it was founded, and he believed there would be a difficulty when a Committee of the House came to confer with the Committee of the other House, they would be invited to examine the question upon the basis of the conclusions arrived at by the other House. He was not prepared to assent to those conclusions. Having carefully examined the evidence upon which those conclusions were founded, he could not agree that the evidence was sufficient to warrant them. The two leading suggestions of the Lords' Committee were two lines of railways encircling the metropolis, one for the heavy traffic, and the other for the passenger traffic. That plan, which was of a very gigantic nature, was calculated, from its symmetry, to recommend itself to some minds, but he could not but think that it far exceeded the exigencies of the case. In the first place, the termini of the great lines were already in communication with each other. Certain works of great magnitude were in progress, some just completed, and the practical test of experience could soon be applied, which would afford the best guide for Parliamentary action. He thought the adoption of a general comprehensive scheme was altogether premature. It would be better to wait until the great works now in progress round London were completed, and then ascertain how far they would meet the object in view, and what, if any, additions would be required. That was not merely his opinion, but it was also the opinion of the most experienced engineers who gave evidence before the Lords' Committee, Messrs. Fowler and Hawkshaw, who had themselves submitted extensive schemes of metropolitan railway communication. Those gentlemen said that so imperfect was the advance of railway science, that a scheme made five or ten years since had become obsolete, and they warned Parliament not to commit itself to extensive schemes, but to go by steps. The House would do well also to notice the statements in the Report of the Board of Trade recently issued, and the opinions expressed by the Directors of the London and North-Western Railway, that the suggestions of the Lords' Committee might be accom- 290 plished by means of the lines already constructed and authorized. Surely, after such advice, Parliament would not sanction a wild and extravagant scheme, the carrying out of which would destroy house property of enormous value, and interfere with the great work of sewage, which was infinitely more important than any system of railway communication which, up to the present time, had been suggested. The Report of the London and North-Western Directors was not yet before Parliament, and until it was they would be anticipating their duty in sanctioning extensive schemes such as were proposed by the Committee of the other House. What had been proposed as a desideratum was some scheme to relieve the streets of the metropolis from the overwhelming and daily increasing traffic thrown upon them. The question was, how far railways were calculated to effect that object? They had the experience afforded by the Metropolitan Railway to assist them, and they had been told by the manager of that line that its traffic was almost entirely what was called "omnibus traffic"—passengers, and not heavy goods, being conveyed. The Deputy Chairman of that company had told the Committee that the traffic upon the line was, as far as could be ascertained, new traffic, and that he had ascertained from the omnibus proprietors that their business had not been at all diminished by the railway. The real remedy for meeting the increasing traffic was to provide new streets, and as far as possible widening the existing thoroughfares. He would therefore like the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) to abstain from entering further into the subject, as he understood he was to be proposed as a member of the Committee.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade need apologize for interfering upon the subject. The regret should be that the interference of the Government had not taken place three or four years since. He fully agreed with his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) that now the question was taken up, the most practical way of dealing with it was by a Royal Commission to inquire not only into the best mode of supplying the metropolis with railway communication, but generally into all the communications, whether by railways, streets, or by the river. He regretted that that course had not been taken by the Government, and even if all the marvellous schemes now proposed were 291 postponed for a year or two lie did not think the metropolis would be very much aggrieved. It was ridiculous to talk of the convenience of Yorkshire and Ireland being concerned in attempts to riddle London with railways in the course of the next year. If, however, the Government thought their new-fangled scheme of a joint Committee would meet the requirements of the case, he would not take upon himself the responsibility of opposing it, although he doubted whether anything practical would arise from it. The subject of metropolitan railways must be treated in a comprehensive spirit, but he feared, from the language of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that the inquiries of the Committee would be restricted in a manner that would be unsatisfactory to the public, and not at all calculated to probe the question to the bottom. These railways must be divided into two classes—those intended for metropolitan communication, and those intended for the benefit of those who wished to pass through London without the trouble of transhipment. As to the first, if the Committee were only to have regard to railways themselves, the result would be unsatisfactory and shadowy. He agreed with the hon. Member for London (Mr. Crawford), that, to assist the traffic of the metropolis, relief must be afforded by new streets, by the Thames Embankment, and by the River. Cheap river traffic would be more advantageous than any system of underground railway. But when it was proposed, as it now was, to riddle London with railways, for the alleged benefit of those who travelled through London, it really became a question of London against the rest of the community, and the metropolis might be regarded as a besieged city and the rest of the country as an army of besiegers. He was struck with the fact that no gentleman connected with the City or the metropolis, and who might therefore be assumed to be conversant with its wishes and wants, was to be placed upon the Committee. The five Members who were to serve were gentlemen of great ability and experience; but he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, after hearing the evident opinion of both sides of the House, would give a wider scope to the inquiry, and would place upon the Committee some gentlemen whose presence there would induce confidence in its decisions on the part of the metropolis.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, that any 292 person coming into the House during the course of the debate would have been surprised to find that no Amendment had been proposed. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), and the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Massey), had both attacked the scheme proposed by the Government, and, in fact, no hon. Member who had addressed the House, had concurred in the anticipations of the President of the Board of Trade, that any good could result from the appointment of a joint Committee. He thought that a very small increase of the present railway accommodation was all that was required in the metropolis. If time were given for the development of the existing lines and of those in course of construction, and if the railway companies in general came to an understanding, little addition need be made to the accommodation now enjoyed by the public. What was to become of the wretched individuals who had gone to vast expenditure in promoting new schemes and in making the necessary deposits when money was at 8 or 10 per cent interest? Were they to have their money locked up until the Committee had decided as to the schemes which were not to be sanctioned? Surely the proper course to adopt would be to appoint a Royal Commission, by whom the whole question could be thoroughly considered, excluding from the constitution of that Commission the civil engineer element. Having regard to the fact that the Lords' Committee had already arrived at a foregone conclusion, he thought there was little chance of the proposed hybrid Committee coming to a satisfactory decision. The proper course, he considered, was to move that the debate be adjourned, in order that the Government might have a further opportunity of considering the subject, and he would therefore move the adjournment of the debate.
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
said, he rose to second the Amendment, believing that a short delay would prove disadvantageous neither to the public nor to the railway companies. The President of the Board of Trade deserved credit for endeavouring to grapple with the subject, but he did not meet the difficulty in the right way. The Committee of the House of Lords had already pronounced an opinion. But the five Gentlemen who were to be appointed by that House would not have time to devote to so important a subject, and as the promoters of these schemes had paid 293 their money and were anxious for a decision, it was to be feared that a consideration of this fact would make the Committee give a hastier judgment than would be desirable on the question referred to them. On the other hand, a Royal Commission, with no civil engineers as, Members, but able to hear these gentlemen as witnesses, would be able to make a more deliberate inquiry, and if a delay of a year or a year and a half took place no one would suffer. On the contrary, it would be more likely that full justice would then be done both to the railway interest and to the public.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
said, he fully concurred in the opinion generally expressed as to the excessive rashness of all the railway plans proposed with regard to the metropolis; indeed, it was a question whether railway extension generally throughout the country should not undergo consideration. As Chairman of the Hartlepool Railway Committee, which sat last year, such irregularities came to his notice that he should be sorry if some steps were not taken to prevent any such irregularities for the future before Parliament sanctioned any great extension of the railway system. Some step ought to be taken to make the deposit system what it was intended to be —a test of the bona fides of the scheme. At present, many schemes were got up merely for the purpose of occupying ground and being bought off. With regard to the question, whether the inquiry now proposed should be by a Committee or a Royal Commission, he did not wish to give any positive opinion; but he hoped that, pending the general inquiry, no step should be taken to pass particular schemes.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, he thought that the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) and the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Massey) indicated that Parliament was approaching this important subject in a Conservative spirit; and he was further of opinion that if instead of moving the adjournment of the debate, the hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster (Sir John Shelley) had asked for the addition to the Committee of the hon. Member for London (Mr. Crawford), and the hon. Member for Coventry (Sir Joseph Paxton) he would be doing better. The House ought to bear in mind 294 that many of these schemes were duplicate schemes, and that the whole subject was not so extensive a one as on the first blush it appeared to be. He did not think, therefore, that there would be that great difficulty in arriving at a conclusion which some hon. Members seemed to apprehend. On the contrary, he thought the proposed Committee would be able to dissect the subject very soon, and to arrive at a result that would be satisfactory to the House. He believed they could not do better than adopt the proposal of the Government, which appeared to him to be the only plan likely to bring about a union between the two Houses of Parliament. At the same time, he quite agreed with the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, that this joint Committee ought not to be adopted as a precedent, but that for general purposes they ought to keep in the path which they had trodden for so many years. He also hoped that the Committee would not be confined within the limits sketched out for them that night by the right hon. President of the Board of Trade, but that they would be able to take into their consideration street communication, and every other auxiliary question bearing on the great question at issue. Railways had produced a great revolution in the metropolis; the greater number of those who now carried on business in London lived out of town; but as yet only the middle classes had benefited by the change. Railway companies had done great mischief to themselves and great injustice to the people by not having put on cheap morning and evening trains for the poor man. Had they done justice to the people in that respect their own dividends would have been greatly augmented. What the Committee would have to do would be to take up the whole subject in the broadest possible sense. Ho therefore supported the proposal of the Government, and had the greatest confidence in the Gentlemen whom they intended to nominate on the Committee; but, at the same time, he hoped they would add to the names by putting on the Members he had indicated.
§ MR. SELWYN
said, it did not appear to him that there was any necessary antagonism between the proposal for a Committee and the other proposition, which seemed to meet with so much favour in the House—namely, a Royal Commission, which could be appointed subsequently, and which might perhaps form one of the recommendations of the Committee. The 295 proposal of the Government involved, in his opinion, the suspension of the numerous schemes now before Parliament, and to that he had no objection; but he should like to know what were the limits which were to form the boundary of the schemes to be considered by the Committee. Last year the Committee of the House of Lords referred in their Report to "the limits of the Metropolitan Railways," but those limits were not accurately defined. There was another limit—namely, that of the Metropolis Local Management Act; there was then the limit of the Metropolitan Police; and lastly there was the limit of the taxation—especially the Coal Tax— for the benefit of the metropolis. He was not surprised at the panic which had been described by the hon. Member for the City, as existing on the subject of these schemes; but those who lived or had property in the suburbs had a deep interest in the subject also. He was the owner of two small properties in the suburbs, and for the last ten years he had not had one year of peace. This year he was threatened by five railways. The inhabitants of the suburbs were subject to a state of chronic invasion. He thought that the Government ought not to limit the inquiry of the Committee within a narrow boundary. Several of the new schemes were merely junctions, or were intended to be accessories to existing lines. The principles ought to be arranged before the accessories were discussed, and the lines which it was proposed to join ought to be finally settled before the things to be joined to them were considered. The Motion gave rise to a wider question—namely, the mode in which schemes of this kind ought to be dealt with. It might be presumptuous in him to offer an opinion in the presence of Members of larger experience in the House; but he had had a five-fold experience—as petitioner, as opponent, as witness, as counsel, and as Member of Parliament—and, viewed from each and every of those five points, he did not hesitate to say it was difficult, if not impossible, to find a tribunal more uncertain, more expensive, or more unsatisfactory than a Select Committee on a Railway Bill. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Milner Gibson) said there would be the greatest difficulty in putting all these schemes into groups. But there would be the same difficulty when this proposed combined Committee had made its Report, and the same difficulty in avoiding decisions upon adverse 296 principles in different Committee rooms. He would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should define with more accuracy what he meant by the limits of the metropolis, or, at least, give an assurance that dependent schemes should not be allowed to proceed while the main metropolitan schemes were under discussion; and that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government should direct their attention to some plan by which all such schemes should be referred to a more satisfactory tribunal, which by a provisional order, subject to the final decision of Parliament, should relieve landowners from the perpetual vexation of having to oppose the same schemes they had already successfully opposed, though without any other satisfaction than paying their own costs. The plan of provisional orders, afterwards sanctioned by Parliament, had already been adopted in several instances, and had proved successful. With respect to those metropolitan schemes there could be no harm to anybody in a little delay. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Morton Peto) had spoken of the hardship to the persons who had made the deposits for these schemes; but there was no real hardship, for in most of the cases the deposits were made in stock, which was borrowed for the time being, the person to whom it belonged receiving the dividends, and a small percentage beside for the use of it; and the result of this practice of borrowing stock was to render altogether illusory the system of deposits which had been devised by Parliament as a protection to the landowners.
§ LORD FERMOY
said, he could say with perfect safety that the constituent body which he represented would be greatly relieved on finding that the Government had taken up this question. He did not fear this exceptional remedy, seeing that the circumstances were exceptional, nor would he object to a Royal Commission or a Committee, provided that either would be of sufficient scope to deal with the subject. If they gave a Committee power enough, they ought to strike out the scheme which was required for the whole metropolitan area. The question of compensation was a matter of great importance, and one which required consideration, for it was no uncommon thing for an industrious, struggling tradesman to be absolutely ruined by such railways as the Metropolitan. A tradesman whose property was not touched might have a railway running in front of him, cutting off his customers from his 297 shop, and he had no remedy. He (Lord Fermoy) did not know whether the proposed Committee would be able to deal with that subject, but it was a question that ought to be dealt with. The schemes which were now before Parliament must be dealt with at once, in order to set people's minds at rest. Fancy a tradesman receiving notices from three or four different companies. He must be in a state of perpetual anxiety, and therefore this proposition of the right hon. Gentleman would be satisfactory to the public. Parliament was called upon to decide at once with respect to the thirty-one metropolitan schemes now before them, and the proposed Committee would not be satisfactory unless it possessed ample powers. He supposed that the Committee, after considering the schemes and taking evidence, would report that evidence to the House, and the House would then be called upon to act. It was very difficult to decide upon a principle with regard to railway schemes, and in proof of this he referred to the fact that Messrs. Fowler and Hawkshaw, in entire opposition to the opinion they expressed last year, were now the great promoters of rival metropolitan lines. In the interest of the struggling middle classes and unfortunate labouring classes, who found it difficult to obtain a lodging, he would say that whilst he was most anxious to promote any measure calculated to overcome the difficulty in which they were placed with regard to metropolitan railways, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, had taken hold of a subject which would lead him into some embarrassment, and he should be glad if the Government were more explicit as to what was meant to be done in the proposed Committee.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he thought that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, had made the only proposal practicable, and he could not see why the consideration of new lines of streets and of those various railway schemes should not be submitted simultaneously to a Committee. It was true his constituents in Southwark had not much to fear from any of the proposals, for nearly all the harm that could be done to them had been already done. Still he could not help pointing to the fact, that when the Borough of Southwark was about to be cut up, like a chess-board, as it were, only not near so regularly, no one raised a voice of compassion in its favour; but now, when the ob- 298 ject was to get to the Bank of England— where everybody, by the way, wanted to go—all this opposition sprung up. He would suggest to this Committee to go across the water and see what had been done in Southwark before they came to any conclusion on these schemes; and, likewise, that they should have power, not only to approve of the construction of certain lines, but to obtain guarantees as to the mode in which they were carried out, so as the public might be protected against such frightful structures as the new viaduct in Southwark.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
, in reply, said, he wished to state, in the first place, in answer to the question of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Selwyn), that he believed there would be no difficulty in determining what was the area that was to be embraced within the metropolitan district. The Royal Commission of 1846 had described what should be the limits of the metropolis, and he had no doubt the Committee would take the area as settled by the House of Lords Committee of last Session, which was an extension of the boundaries traced by the Royal Commission. As to the point of a suburban line being projected, with the view of making a junction with a metropolitan railway which itself was not about to be made, the House would not allow such a Bill to be read a second time. With regard to the question of the order of reference not being sufficiently explicit, he thought it would have been a mistake if they had attempted to define exactly what should be its duties. In attempting definitions very often restrictions not intended were introduced. He believed that the words of the Resolution were sufficient to carry all that came justly within the scope of the inquiry. They had thirty Railway Bills before them, and either those Bills must be read a second time, and referred to Committees in the ordinary way, or some mode of dealing with them must be provided, which would prevent any what might be termed haphazard metropolitan railway communication. The hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster (Sir John Shelley) had recommended that they should throw out all these Bills. That was too strong a measure for him; he should like to have a preliminary inquiry into the various schemes, with the view of ascertaining how, in justice to the promoters and to the public, they ought to be dealt with. A Royal Commission might 299 be advisable, and the Committee might recommend the appointment of a Commission, for it was open to deal with the question referred to them in that way. But they were in the position that something must be done at once; these Bills would come forward for second reading in two or three days, and what he suggested was the parliamentary and rational course of instituting a deliberate inquiry with the view of bringing about a concurrence between the two Houses of the Legislature upon the subject. The Committee would consist of ten Members, five of each House; and he was not inclined to add to the number. Many persons thought that small Committees were quite as likely to discharge responsible duties with satisfaction as large Committees, and he rather inclined to that opinion, in which he was confirmed by those Members of the House of Peers with whom he had communicated in reference to this matter. With regard to the particular Members who should be nominated, he thought it the better course that those who were connected with the metropolitan districts should not form part of the Committee, because they would be placed in difficulties by the inquiry, and would not be so free and unbiassed as those who were entirely unconnected with the metropolis. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) a6ked him to be explicit as to his own principles in reference to railway communication in the metropolis, and he must, with all respect, decline the invitation. He was very shy of committing himself to any principles with regard to that most difficult and complicated question; and if he were to commit himself by propounding any bold principle of his own, he doubted whether it would have much weight, and he was sure it would not be allowed in this way to bind the Committee. The Government had no desire to prejudge any scheme, their only wish being to prevent such a mass of legislation being Bent haphazard before a number of private Committees. He therefore hoped the hon. Member for Westminster would withdraw his Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
That a Select Committee be appointed to con-eider the best method of dealing with the Railway
Schemes proposed to be sanctioned within the limits of the Metropolis by Bills to be introduced in the present Session, and to report their opinion whether any, and if any, what Schemes should not be proceeded with during the present Session.
Committee nominated:—Mr. MILNER GIBSON, Lord STANLEY, Mr. MASSEY, Colonel WILSON PATTEN, and Mr. HERBERT.—Power to send for persons, papers, and records. Three to be the quorum.
That a Message be sent to the Lords to acquaint their Lordships that this House hath appointed a Committee, consisting of Five Members, to join with a Committee of The Lords "to consider the best method of dealing with the Railway Schemes proposed to be sanctioned within the limits of the Metropolis by Bills to be introduced in the present Session, and to report their opinion whether any, and if any, what schemes should not be proceeded with during the present Session;" and to request that their Lordships will be pleased to appoint an equal number of Lords to be joined with the Members of this House.