§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
moved that the Standing Orders of this House, Nos. 18, 38, and 40, be suspended in the case of the Petition for this Bill. He said, that the Standing Orders Committee had objected that the promoters of the Bill, a section of the debenture-holders of this company, had not given proper notice to the parties whose interests this Bill affected: but the circumstances which gave rise to the Bill did not originate until after the proper time for giving such notice had expired. The case was one of urgency, and a compliance with the Orders ought not to be insisted upon. There were twenty-four debenture-stocks in this company, twenty-nine share-stocks, and three special share-capitals charged on specific funds. The consequence was that every one of these bodies had rights which conflicted more or less with the rest of them, which made it impossible for more than one set to join together in suits for having their rights established. A large number of suits had been already instituted of a most expensive description, and many more would be instituted unless the House would think it right to allow the present Bill to go before the Committee which was sitting upon other Bills relating to the company, and would find out some way of enabling the company to go to compulsory arbitration, for that was the object of the Bill to which this Motion referred. The object of the Bill was well described in its title—to transfer all litigation respecting the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company, and all matters arising out of the Act constituting and defining the powers of the company, and out of the Acts of other companies over whose line the company's line now runs, to the decision of a tribunal of arbitration which should have special power to prepare a scheme to relieve the company from its present embarrassments. The House was aware that a railway company could not commit an act of bankruptcy in ordinary form, nor could it be wound up in the Court of Chancery. The House, therefore, would admit that to allow a great railway company in the con- 1170 dition of this company to go to arbitration was the only just way of dealing with it. Unless arbitration took place there would be hopeless and endless litigation.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Standing Orders of this House, Nos. 18, 38, and 40, be suspended in the case of the Petition for the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway (No. 3) Bill."—(Mr. Thomas Hughes.)
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, that the company had come before the Standing Orders Committee on the 27th of March without having given due notice to the several parties who were interested in the passing of the Bill. It was the duty of that Committee to take care that persons who were likely to be affected by the legislation of the House should have in such cases ample notice, and they had in the present instance, therefore, come to the conclusion that they could not, in the absence of such notice, recommend the Standing Orders established to secure that object to be dispensed with. The House itself or the Government, of course, might decide that the case under discussion was one which warranted a departure from that rule. If the Government thought that this was a question worthy of being settled by a Special Committee to be appointed for the purpose he would offer no opposition to a proposal to that effect; but the Standing Orders Committee were bound to act as they had done, or they would have lost the confidence of the House.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, that the question was, whether there was any good ground for dispensing with the rules of the House, which ought not to be set aside without full and sufficient cause shown. The promoters said that non-compliance with these rules was not their fault; that the circumstances which induced them to bring forward this measure did not arise before a period at which it was impossible for them so to comply with those rules. It seemed to him that this was a strong argument. He quite agreed that the object of Standing Orders was to give full notice to all parties whose interests might be affected. This notice, no doubt, had not been given in this case: but the dissentient parties could not be said to be taken at a disadvantage, as they were fully represented. In fact, they had the start, and had their own measure advanced several stages. It was possible, no doubt, for the promoters of this scheme to be heard against the one already before Parliament, 1171 but the Committee could not take cognizance of the alternative scheme unless it was before them, and, if the promoters proved their point, could only reject the first Bill, by which much time would be lost, and the great object of staying ruinous suits unattained. Upon these grounds, while carefully refraining from expressing any opinion on the merits, he could not help thinking on the whole that it would be advisable to let this Bill go before the Committee, and that it would be a harsh measure to reject this Motion. With regard to the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson Patten), it was, he confessed, one which had often occurred to himself, and which, in his humble opinion, the House should seriously consider. Apart from the weight justly due to the hon. and gallant Member's authority, and without wearying the House with arguments which must suggest themselves to every one, he thought that an exceptional case like this justified and required exceptional treatment. He recommended that both Bills be referred to a Committee to be carefully selected by the House, in order that, if possible, some useful measure might be passed and come into operation at the earliest possible moment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.