HC Deb 03 April 1873 vol 215 cc590-8

Amendment [31st March] again proposed, in page 9, line 17, to leave out from the words "They may, by themselves," to the words "inspection of which appears to them requisite," in line 20 (Mr. Muntz).

Question proposed, "that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

Motion negatived.

Clause 21 (Powers of Commisssioners. See 34 & 35 Vict. c. 78. s. 7),


moved, in page 9, line 26, after "document," to insert "belonging to any Railway or Canal Company, or other public Company."


said, he could not accept the Amendment, as there would be two parties to every case brought before the Commissioners, and it ought to be in the power of the Commissioners to compel the production of documents on both sides. The proper course would be to define the documents to be called for as those which related to the matter before the Commissioners. He would therefore move in page 9, line 26, to leave out "which they consider important," and insert "relating to the matters before them."

Amendment (Mr. Muntz) by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22 (Orders of Commissioners).


moved in page 10, line 13, after "any of them," insert— The Commissioners may also, if they think fit, at the instance of any party to the proceedings before them, and upon such security being given by the appellant as the Commissioners may direct, state a case in writing for the opinion of any superior court upon any question which in the opinion of the Commissioners is a question of law. The court to which the case is transmitted shall hear and determine the question or questions of law arising thereon, and shall thereupon reverse, affirm, or amend the determination in respect of which the case has been stated, or remit the matter to the Commissioners with the opinion of the court thereon, or may make such other order in relation to the matter, and may make such order as to costs as to the court may seem fit, and all such orders shall be final and conclusive on all parties: Provided—That the Commissioners shall not be liable to any costs in respect or by reason of any such appeal. The operation of any order made by the Commissioners shall not be stayed pending the decision of any such appeal.


objected to the proposal, and suggested the insertion of words which would have the effect of making it imperative on the Commissioners to grant an appeal.


said, it was perfectly impossible for the Railway Companies to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and they were united and determined upon that point. Nobody knew who were to be the Commissioners, and he would not trust any three men in the kingdom with despotic powers of interpretation without any appeal unless they chose to grant it. He could not make any compromise in this matter, and Railway Companies would abnegate the duties which they owed to their shareholders if they permitted the Government to carry such clauses as this, and take their rights away from them.


said, that the language of the hon. Gentleman was somewhat strong, and he was afraid that if Railway Companies were to come to the House with more assumption, they might not get that amount of justice to which they were entitled. On the general question it must be remembered that the individual trader had to deal with powerful Companies, holding very long purses, and that unnecessary liberty of appeal might thus place the trader practically at the mercy of the carrier. He thought, on the part of the Government, that there was a great deal in the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for South-West Lancashire (Mr. Cross), but they would ask the Committee to pass the clause in the shape in which it was now proposed, undertaking to consider that suggestion before the Report, and if possible to propose words in accordance with it.


contended that the clause, by taking away the right of appeal, deprived the Companies of the right which belonged to every subject of this realm. ["No, no."] It was said that there was to be only a right of appeal if the tribunal should think fit. But the Chief Commissioner and another of the Commissioners were not to be lawyers, and while this was so there was to be no right of appeal from their decision, even on points of law. An appeal as a question of fact was not asked at all. He would appeal to the House on a matter of justice not to deprive Companies of a right of appeal.


said, that the right of appeal which existed in the ordinary Courts should be permitted in the case of this new tribunal also.


said, he thought the Railway Companies were not asking anything but justice in asking a right of appeal, especially in questions of pure law which were not complicated with matters of fact.


remarked that there were many cases where the right of appeal depended on the leave of the Court, and there was a very large number of cases in which no right of appeal existed at all. In very many instances the amount involved would be very small, and it would be very oppressive to give a right of appeal merely because one of the parties was a great and wealthy corporation. Again, in many cases the law was perfectly well settled. There was no occasion for distrusting the proposed tribunal so far as to suppose that it would prevent the opinion Of a Court of Law being taken on any question, the decision of which might be requisite for the future guidance of the tribunal itself. The question of the necessity of appeal might fairly be left to the lawyer who would be one of the Commissioners.


agreed that the Solicitor General had stated the case very fairly, but his statement went against the Bill altogether. For his own part, he strongly objected both to the Bill and the tribunal under it. He believed the tribunal proposed would either meddle too much, and become intolerable, or be useless, and do nothing at all. The Court of Common Pleas might have been continued to act as the tribunal, if it were strengthened by assessors appointed to assist in its decisions. If, however, the new tribunal was to decide these matters, it should be made as strong as possible, which it would not be if there should be given a power of appeal to a Superior Court in all cases.


said, that the Government were of opinion that there was a great deal in the suggestion of the hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Mr. Cross), and without binding themselves to any particular words, they would introduce a provision which would make an appeal absolute in those cases in which the Commissioners were not unanimous.

Amendment amended and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 23 (Sittings of Commissioners).


moved in page 10, after line 21, to insert— Provided that if it appears to the President of the Board of Trade for the time being that it is expedient in the public interest that the Commissioners, or any of them, shall sit at any particular place for the discharge of any of their duties, it shall be lawful for him to give directions to that effect in writing, and the Commissioners shall act accordingly.


asked what was the object of this Proviso?


said, the Proviso was proposed in the public interest. It might be of great advantage that causes should be heard out of London, and if the Commissioners were disinclined to take that course he proposed to give the Board of Trade power to direct them to do so.


said, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have less confidence in the Commissioners than the Railway Companies.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 24 (Power of Commissioners to make general orders).


moved, in page 10, line 22, after "may," insert "with the approval of the Lord Chancellor."

Amendment agreed to.


moved, in page 10, line 24, after "them," insert Including applications for and the stating of cases for appeal; also for enabling the Commissioners in cases to be specified in such general orders to exercise their jurisdiction by any one or two of their number: Provided, That any person aggrieved by any decision or order made in any case so specified, may require a rehearing by all the Commissioners.

Amendment agreed to.


referring to the provision, which required certain rules to be placed before Parliament for the space of two months, expressed a hope that words would be inserted with a view of preventing difficulties similar to those which had arisen in the case of schemes proposed by the Endowed School Commissioners.


suggested that the words "one month" should be omitted from the clause, and "two months" inserted.


said, he would consider the question.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 25 to 32, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 33 (Duration of office and powers of Commissioners).


asked how it would be possible to get men at a salary of £3,000 a-year to undertake these duties if their appointment was only for five years. It would be better not to limit the duration of the Commission, leaving Parliament free to deal with the matter. This showed the impolicy of a doubtful experiment. He did not object to a high salary, because he thought public servants were generally underpaid, but he did not like pensions, and Commissioners had a tendency to become pensioners.


said, he had believed that he was acting in conformity with the feeling of the House. This was more or less an experiment, and he had thought it unadvisable to make the Act permanent and give the Commissioners a perpetual lease of office. He had no particular affection for the term of five years; but he still believed that the House would prefer to retain that term in the Bill.


said, he should like to know what sort of men the right hon. Gentleman expected to get for five years, and what he meant to do with them at the end of that time. Was the lawyer-member to go back to his profession, and did the right hon. Gentleman expect to get the right sort of railway-member for £3,000 a-year, if at the end of that time he was to be turned adrift?


agreed that it would be more desirable to give salaries of £5,000 than £3,000. The success of this Bill would very much depend on the way it was worked. If the Commissioners made their offices useless or pernicious, they must take the consequences. If, on the contrary, they did their duty well, it was most likely their appointments would be permanent.


said, he thought that few good men would give up a position for another of only three years.


said, the Committee could not do better than accept the proposition of the Government. The statement made by the President of the Board of Trade led to the inference that able men were ready to accept the office, one being a barrister of 14 years' standing.


observed that it would be impossible if the duration of the Commission was only for five years that they could re-place any Member who happened to die at the end of three or four years.


said, he was in favour of the clause, which, as it stood, would relieve the country from all claim to compensation in case the Bill should not prove a success.


said, that the Committee were in this difficulty. If they made permanent appointments they might, of course, be called upon for compensation if they abolished the Commission; if they made the appointments for five years only, they ran the risk of not getting the best men. The Government would have to choose between two evils, and he wished them joy of the choice.


said, he was at a loss to know who would accept the duties. A barrister of 14 years' standing with anything like talent and energy would make more money by his profession than the salary proposed to be given.


said, the tribunal should be such as would command the confidence of the public. The Committee ought to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Mr. Cross).


said, there would be no difficulty in finding competent men. It was not salary alone that guided men in accepting offices of this kind, but positions of credit and importance.


suggested that perhaps the appointments were already made.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 29: Majority 104.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.


moved a now clause giving the Board of Trade power from time to time to appoint net more than two Assistant Commissioners.

New Clause (Duties of Assistant Commissioner,)—(Mr. Chichester Fortescue,)—brought up, and read the first time.


said, he thought it would be far better to empower the Commissioners, with the sanction of the Treasury, to appoint the Assistant Commissioners, and at the proper time he would move to leave out the words "Board of Trade," and insert the word "Commissioners."


said, he would take the sense of the Committee upon the proposed clause.


looked upon the Assistant Commissioners as a very important part of the whole system, inasmuch as it would be impossible for the Commissioners to perform the whole of the duties.


said, he had not the slightest wish to retain the patronage of the appointments in question in the hands of the Board of Trade, and should be very willing that the Assistant Commissioners should be appointed by the Commissioners with the approval of the Treasury; but he would consider before the Report the best mode of appointing them. He would also propose the insertion in the clause of words permitting the Assistant Commissioners to undertake arbitrations under the Act with the assent of both parties.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 126; Noes 27: Majority 99.

Clause, as amended, agreed to, and added to the Bill.


moved, after Clause 10, to insert the following clause:—(Provision for complaint by public authority in certain cases).

New Clause brought up, and read the first time.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "or by not less than ten inhabitant traders."—(Mr. Childers.)

Question put, "That the words or by not less than ten' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: — Ayes 43; Noes 98: Majority 55.


moved the following clause:—(Commissioners to report upon rates under Bills for amalgamation or traffic arrangements).


said, he thought it would be unwise to throw such functions — at all events, without further consideration — on the Commissioners.

Clause negatived.


moved the following clause:—(Power to Commissioners to fix terminal charges).

New Clause—(Mr. Gregory,)—brought up, and read the first time.


opposed the clause, on the ground that it was utterly alien to the general objects and scope of the Bill.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The Committee divided: — Ayes 81; Noes 51: Majority 30.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 121.]