§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Gathorne Hardy.)
§ COLONEL W. STUART
said, that if any trust which was in debt was not allowed to be renewed for more than one or two years, he was convinced there would be a 969 more satisfactory state of things than at present. As long as the present system was continued they would never get rid of the Turnpike Act. He suggested that the Bill should he referred to a Select Committee for the purpose of allowing certain persons to he heard with regard to it.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be committed to a Select Committee,"—(Colonel William Stuart,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to he left out stand part of the Question."
doubted whether any benefit would arise from referring the Bill to a Select Committee at this period of the year; otherwise, he thought it might be advisable to do so. The practice into which the House had gradually fallen upon this subject was very objectionable. Persons had lent money for making turnpike roads, and obtained a lien over the tolls for a certain number of years. He could not conceive anything more clear in principle than that those persons were bound by their bargain for a term of years, and that that bargain affected no other persons whatever. If they had had to deal with individuals, did anyone think that an individual standing in the place of the trust who had entered into a covenant of that kind would have allowed the term to be renewed and the tolls to be continued for the benefit of the other party to the contract who had entered into a wrong bargain? But here the bargain was between an individual, on the one side, and that patient animal the public, on the other. When individual claims came into contact with public rights, they obtained a sanction to which they were not entitled, and the public went to the wall. They had thus got into a difficulty with respect to a series of facts for which the right hon. Gentleman was no more responsible than others who had gone before him; but abuses so gross derived a certain amount of authority from the long lapse of time and the repetition of the oftence. Any proceeding adopted on the impulse of the moment would probably substitute a practical injustice for what was a gross injustice in principle; but he hoped the House would be prepared, when there was time for consideration of the subject, to take some serious proceeding for the settlement 970 of the whole question. He knew that the tolls in Lancashire, for instance, were not maintained for the benefit of the public, but simply for the purpose of reimbursing creditors who had advanced their money upon a security which had expired. If there was a case which deserved the application of such epithets as monstrous, it was a case like this. He hoped, therefore, that there would be a consensus amongst official men for the practical examination of these matters, and to consider what, on the whole, was the course that ought to be adopted; and that thus the practice into which the House had probably slidden imperceptibly would be brought to a conclusion, as soon as any fair and legitimate plan for the purpose could be devised.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, that all who, like himself, took an interest in the state of turnpike trusts would be happy to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the explanation he had given of his views on the subject. The Turnpike Continuance Act had grown to be considered a matter of course; and at present no less a sum than £400,000 was paid annually under it. A certain indefinite time might be fixed for its termination, and a Schedule of particulars annexed, so that parties connected with the trusts would know at what time they would expire; and he hoped that a measure for this purpose would be introduced next Session.
§ MR. NEATE
thought that the statement of the case by the light hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire a very unjust one. He contended that a limit was fixed in the first instance, not with a view to the discontinuance of the tolls at the end of the period, but in order to give Parliament a power of revision where that might be necessary.
§ MR. LOCKE
remarked that the invariable plea urged by turnpikes for an extension of the period allowed them was that they were in debt. In all cases where this was alleged strict inquiry ought to be made, because in several instances an investigation had shown that turnpikes which pleaded indebtedness were perfectly solvent.
§ MR. KNIGHT
reminded the House that 620,000 per annum, which was formerly expended in Private Bills for renewing turnpike trusts, was saved by the present procedure. He hoped that if a Select Committee was appointed all the trusts in the kingdom would be referred to it, and that some solution of the question other 971 than that of throwing the roads on the parishes would be arrived at.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
explained that his object in framing the present measure had been to facilitate a settlement of this controversy. He admitted the force of the objection to what was called the secret examination into the trusts at the Home Office, and he had added the Schedules to the Bill with the view of referring them next Session to a Committee, so that the real condition of the trusts might be ascertained, and inquiry might be made as to what ought to be done. There would be great hardship in throwing the maintenance of the roads on small parishes, some of which had comparatively little interest in them. He hoped the House would go into Committee, and he should then consent to reporting Progress.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee. Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ House adjourned at Two o'clock.