HC Deb 28 June 1871 vol 207 cc698-700

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [15th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words" upon this day three months."—(Mr. Leeman.)

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


said, that since the debate on this subject was adjourned the whole circumstances of the case had been very much altered. Many of the railway companies which were before endeavouring to do away with certain causes which led to accidents had continued in that course, and public attention having been drawn to the subject, two important matters had been very largely adopted—he referred to the use of the block system, and to interlocking signals and points. In addition to that, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had fulfilled his sort of promise to deal with one portion of the subject, by introducing another Bill which, though it scarcely went far enough, would yet form an important addition to the security of the public in railway trevelling. Under these circumstances, he would now move—"That the Order for the second reading of the Bill be discharged."


said, his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade stated when the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) was under discussion, that though there was much in it which he could not accept, yet there were many points of which he approved, and he had accordingly introduced a Bill to carry out the pledge which he had given. With regard to compensation for accidents, his right hon. Friend felt that it would not be advisable to fix a limit, particularly in the way proposed by the hon. Baronet, for there would be something invidious in limiting compensation according as people were first, second, or third-class passengers. His own opinion was, that the best remedy would be found in insurance. That would be the best test of the value which people put upon their lives. But though it was not possible for his right hon. Friend to agree with the scheme of compensation proposed by the hon. Baronet, he had taken into consideration the relation between masters and servants, a matter surrounded by great legal difficulties. He was hopeful that his right hon. Friend would be able at some future time to bring in a Bill which would do away with a great many of the figments of law which prevented responsibility from attaching to the right parties, and the persons injured from obtaining that compensation to which they were entitled.


said, he was glad to hear that the Bill was to be withdrawn. For the information and satisfaction of the public at large, he begged to confirm what had been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) as to the course pursued by the leading railway companies, who had on all the crowded portions of their lines, where the block system could be of use, largely adopted it, and also the system of interlocking. That he (Mr. Leeman) considered sufficient, for it would be useless to incur the cost of applying those systems to branch and main lines, where the traffic was frequently very light. While the companies considered that the Government Bill would impose on them many onerous obligations, they were, in deference to public feeling, content with the measure, and therefore no opposition would be offered on their part to the second reading, nor any Amendments proposed to the Bill as it stood.


said, the railway companies owed a great debt of gratitude to the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) for having presented them in that Bill with inducements, and, indeed, obligations, to correct their very imperfect system. Under present circumstances, the hon. Baronet had no alternative but to withdraw the Bill. For his own part, he could not express entire satisfaction with the Bill of the Board of Trade; but then it was matter for congratulation that it was the intention of the President of the Board of Trade to take into consideration some mode of bringing home to employers responsibility for injuries and deaths caused by their servants. Since that Bill had come under discussion the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Price), who was Chairman of the Midland Railway Company, had taken exception to a statement which he made about the servants of that company being overworked. His hon. Friend said there was no foundation for that statement. A subsequent conversation had led him to believe that that was a hasty expression of opinion on the part of his hon. Friend. He had desired his hon. Friend to point out a single point in which he was inaccurate, and his hon. Friend assured him that he could not. He regretted his hon. Friend was not present to acknowledge that he had not said a single word which was not fully justified.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.