§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, that his object in now moving the second reading of this Bill was that it might be sent upstairs to be considered in connection with the schemes proposed by the London and Brighton Company for attaining a similar object. The only opponents to the Bill, both last year and this, were the London and Brighton Company; the landowners, merchants, traders, and inhabitants of the 636 districts, being in favour of it. Hon. Members had been exposed to considerable annoyance by being privately canvassed by the London and Brighton Company against the Bill; he trusted, however, that they would not allow themselves to be ear-wigged and prejudiced against the scheme of which he was the Chairman. The proposed line was intended to provide railway accommodation for the eastern division of Sussex, which the London and Brighton Company had hitherto neglected. Last year, the Brighton Company appeared to be taken by surprise; but this year, they had presented three Bills of their own to the House, and instead of allowing this Bill to be sent upstairs, as was the usual course, to be considered by a Committee, the Brighton Company had sought to get their own three Bills read yesterday, and if they had been successful—which they probably would have been, had he not been in his place to move that the second reading of those Bills should be postponed— they would have endeavoured to secure that the Bill immediately before the House should not be examined upstairs in conjunction with their own, and thus have prevented that which was, he maintained, the only fair course to adopt. Now it was, he might observe, proved before the Committee to which the scheme which he was advocating was referred last year— when its only opponents were, as at present, the Brighton Company—that the charges made by that Company were higher than the maximum allowed by law, to which limit, however, they were afterwards reduced. Was that then a body which had any claim to come and canvass the Members of that House to pursue, in reference to any scheme, an unusual line of conduct? But it was contended by the Company, who did not hesitate to catch lion. Members by the buttonhole, and to canvass them for their votes, that the present Bill was exactly identical with that which had last year been rejected. Such was not, however, the fact. The present Bill avoided all the objections they had had to encounter last year. They had reduced the number of tunnels one fourth; instead of forty-nine miles of railroad, for which the promoters went last year, they now went for seventy-four; and out of those seventy-four there were only sixteen which were identical with any portion of last year's scheme. The case was one, he might add, in which the landowners, merchants, traders, and inhabitants 637 generally of the district, concurred, and were anxious for the additional accommodation which was proposed. The new line proposed, moreover, to go into the very centre of the town of Brighton, while it would confer the further advantage of giving a direct line to Eastbourne. Under those circumstances, he hoped the House would consent to take the usual course, and would agree to the second reading of the Bill, which he begged to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
opposed the Motion on public grounds, having no private interests in the locality in question. He nevertheless thought it right to inform the House that the Bill was identical with that of last year, which was rejected by the House. The Bill now before the House differed in no material respect from that of last year. The Committee last year sat for thirty-five days. The costs to the parties in that contest were about £75,000. He thought, therefore, that the House should be satisfied that there was a material difference between the Bill of this Session and that of last Session before proceeding with it. He did not see any material difference, and therefore to proceed with the Bill would be merely to encourage a wasteful expenditure. As to the landowners being in favour of the Bill, it certainly passed through some very poor land, and might be expected to improve its value. Holding these views, he moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. PAULL
seconded the Amendment. The Bill was fairly heard and rejected last year; and the Bill which was now before the House was substantially the same as that which was now before it. He was a Member of the Committee appointed last year to inquire into the Private Bill legislation of the House, and there was hardly any point more seriously urged before that Committee than the inconvenience of repeated applications in consecutive Sessions on behalf of the same scheme. The remedy for the evil was to stop the progress of Bills like the present on the second reading. Last year the Committee to which the Bill was referred sat thirty-five days, ninety-three witnesses were examined, and the expenses amounted to £75,000, and he therefore thought this was a Bill as to which the House might properly interfere at the present stage. In pursuing such a 638 course, they would not be acting without precedent, for in the Session of 1863 the South Eastern Railway promoted a Bill which was rejected, on the Motion for the second reading, on the ground of its having been rejected in the previous Session by a Committee of the House of Lords; and in 1862 the Great Northern Railway Bill (No. 2) was rejected on the second reading although an interval of ten years had elapsed since the last previous application.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Hankey.)
§ SIR EDWAED COLEBROOKE,
as a Member of the Committee of last year, the Chairman of which was unfortunately out of town, said, that the question, as presented to that Committee, was one of competition pure and simple. The local case entirely broke down. Now, in his experience, he did not remember that the House had ever sanctioned a scheme for the sole purpose of establishing competition with an existing line without its being shown that the new railway would provide accommodation which was required by the district through which it was to pass; and he did not see why they should do so in the present instance. Some of the grievances alleged against the London and Brighton Railway Company were substantiated before the Committee; but the attempt to show that that Company had made illegal charges entirely failed. It was said that this Bill had been improved since it was last submitted to Parliament. Now he had compared the two Bills, and was prepared to say that they were substantially the same. The present Bill, it was true, proposed to carry the line into the centre of Brighton; but last year, although it did not appear in the Bill, it was understood to be part of the scheme, and was before the Committee. The branch lines were certainly new. Probably a postponement for another year would be attended with still more beneficial results, and if it could be postponed for five years longer, then it might be so improved as to pass without opposition; but it was trifling with the House to bring before it miniature schemes, because, on some future occasion, the promoters might bring them before the House in a more matured form. He asked the House to support the decisions of its own Committees.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he lived in the western division of Sussex, it was true, but he did not think the wise men always came from the east. The Brighton Railway accommodated the western division of the county very well, and if it were allowed time would do the same for the remainder of Sussex. Two direct lines to Brighton might serve the interests of that town very well; but for the county at large one long line with lateral branches was infinitely better. The new line which the Brighton Company were about to open would be nearly a direct line, and would take off all the western and Portsmouth traffic. He saw no reason which required interference with the Brighton Company, and should vote against the second reading of this Bill.
§ MR. DUTTON
said, the Brighton Company had voluntarily lowered its fares and was within its Parliamentary powers. He knew of no company in the South of England that was better managed; and could not see the necessity of competition.
§ MR. MASSEY
said, he thought the weight of evidence was against the further progress of the Bill. The promoters had been recently heard, and the decision against them was unanimous. They had been told that the Bill was substantially different from the preceding one, but after the statement of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke), the House could scarcely come to that conclusion. There might be some features of distinction, but he thought he must be a very inexpert draughtsman who could not prepare some superficial differences from a previous Bill. He looked on the Bill as substantially the same project promoted by the same parties as that presented last Session, and if it went to a Committee they could not anticipate a different result to that of last Session. The district was in the hands of a large public company, and he did think it was an abuse of the indulgence the House extended to parties bringing projects before it to reproduce this Bill, the further progress of which could only lead to unnecessary expense.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, it was capable of demonstration that the objections urged against the Bill of last year had all been met in the Bill before the House. It was true that the proposed line ran through the same towns as the line of last year; but, with the exception 640 of sixteen miles, there was no portion of the two schemes identical. The present line ran through new ground. However, after the opinion expressed by the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Massey), and seeing that the general feeling of the House was against the scheme, he would bow to what he considered to be an unfair decision, and would not waste time by going to a division. But if the Brighton Company did not do more to serve the district eastward of their main line, he would take care, if he had a seat in the House, that no long time should elapse before they had the same subject before them again.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.