HC Deb 10 July 1873 vol 217 cc191-5

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [3rd July], That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for rendering compulsory in England and Wales the Highway Acts 1862 and 1864."—(Lord George Cavendish.)

Question again proposed.


said, there were three objections raised to the Instruction before the Committee —namely, that the Highway Acts themselves ought to be first amended; that if they were to be made compulsory, it should be by Bill, not by Instruction; and that it was too late in the Session for either. This last was no fault of the Committee which sat on the subject, and of which he was a Member, nor of the Government. The Bill might have been read a second time on 26th of June, but for the Notice of opposition given by the noble Lord the Member for south Wiltshire (Lord Henry Thynne). To proceed by Instruction was the only course open to the Select Committee after the Government had said they could not find time for a Bill, and to insist on amending the Acts first was equivalent to refusing to do anything. The hon. and learned Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) had suggested that the Government should even at that late period take up the question; but that course was not now practicable, and if the matter was to be dealt with at all this year, it must be done in the way now proposed and no other. The Select Committee had to provide for the extinction of the trusts referred to them as speedily as was consistent with the repayment of a fair proportion of their debts, and with the proper maintenance of the roads for the future. For this purpose the whole or most of the toll-income must be applied to the debts, and the maintenance provided from other sources. There was nothing new in this, as alleged. It had been constantly done for many years. Out of 503 trusts under the Continuance Act in 1867, 107 were wholly or partially repaired by the parishes; and 19 out of the 65, which after certain deductions, had been dealt with by the Select Committee this year. But the Committee thought that when the repair of roads was thrown on the individual parishes, very severe hardship often resulted; but if it were thrown on a highway district instead of the parish, a great portion of that hardship would disappear. Where the district through which the turnpike trust ran was partly under the operation of the Highway Act and partly was not, the greatest difficulty was experienced in coming to any equitable arrangement under those circumstances, and if the Act was made compulsory, many of their difficulties would be removed. Indeed, making the Highway Act compulsory appeared to afford the best and almost the only chance of maintaining the roads in anything like efficient repair. Parishes allowed them to decay partly from the expense, partly from the incompetence of overseers. The Highway Acts were already in force in 34 counties out of 40; and the sooner they wore made compulsory the cheaper it would be, because the expense of them lay not in maintaining, but in bringing up to a proper state roads which had been allowed to decay. When well worked the Acts were economical. He therefore hoped the Committee would adopt the instruction.


said, he was in favour of highway districts, and should like to see the Highway Act made compulsory; but he objected to effect even good objects by a side wind, and he should certainly vote against the present Bill.


thought the present highway system worked well, but under it there were instances of jobbery. The old parochial system, with a proper county administration, would prove, in his opinion, most effective in highway districts. To the present Bill he should offer every opposition.


was in favour of the proposed Instruction to the Committee. In his district the highway system had worked well.


said, the Government seemed to have an utter disregard of the rights of the ratepayers. He maintained that the ratepayers ought not to be taxed for the benefit of those persons who did not maintain the roads in a proper state. The subject could not possibly be discussed at that hour (it was now five minutes past One A.M.) and he moved that the debate be now adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Lord Henry Thynne.)


said, they were placed in an unfair position—a position that the Government ought not to place the House in. He maintained that this Turnpike Acts Continuance Bill was brought forward by a sidewind, by which the Government were trying to impose a heavy compulsory tax upon the whole country. It was now past One o'clock, and he hoped the Government would withdraw the Bill.


said, that this was the natural supplement of the Highway Act, and the turnpikes could not be altogether done away with till the area of taxation was enlarged and fairly adjusted.


said, the Highway Act was most defective. It encouraged jobbery, and if amended there would be no necessity for the Turnpike Continuance Bill.


asked that the Motion for adjournment should be withdrawn, in order that the Instruction might be discussed. ["No."] The Government would be guided by the opinion of the House, and, as far as he was able to judge, the House was in favour of the Instruction. The Government were of opinion that the Highway Acts ought to be amended, and would be prepared to introduce a Bill for that purpose at a sufficiently early period next Session.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 115: Majority 57.

Original Question again proposed.


said, that they were at half-past One in the morning discussing a measure which was of more importance to the rural districts of England than many matters which were mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. It was most unfair to attempt to introduce into a Turnpike Acts Continuance Bill by a sidewind a proposal so important as this which would render the Highway Acts compulsory throughout England and Wales. He protested against the House being called upon to proceed with this important Bill at so advanced an hour. He therefore moved that the House do now adjourn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Clare Read.)


expressed a hope that the House would consent to divide on the Instruction, and that the Amendment would be withdrawn.


also expressed a hope that the House would divide on the Question. The Government in a very little time would become more potent to carry their measures than they were at present, and the present was the best opportunity to divide on the Question.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 44; Noes 116: Majority 72.

Original Question again proposed.

It was now Two of the clock A.M. The discussion was continued by hon. Members, in a continually diminishing House, with alternative Motions for the Adjournment of the House and the Adjournment of the Debate. The opponents of the Motion persistently urged the impropriety of making the existing Highways Acts compulsory, and imposing a permanent burden of Local Taxation, by the "sidewind" of introducing an "Instruction" into a Bill for Turnpike Acts Continuance.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Colonel Parker.)

The House divided:—Ayes 46; Noes 104: Majority 58.

Original Question again proposed.

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Joshua Fielden.)

The House divided:—Ayes 44; Noes 99: Majority 55.

Original Question again proposed.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Colonel Barttelot.)

The House divided:—Ayes 40; Noes 94: Majority 54.

Original Question again proposed.

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."

The House divided:—Ayes 41; Noes 91: Majority 50.

Original Question again proposed.


said, he would consent to the adjournment of the debate, on the understanding that the hon. and gallant Member for East Essex (Colonel Brise) would withdraw his Notice to move—"That this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee," and that it would not be put down on the Paper by any other Member.


was understood to agree to this arrangement so far as his Notice was concerned; but said he could not be answerable for the action of any other hon. Member.

Motion made, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Frederick Walpole.)

At length,

Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put and agreed to.

Debate adjourned, at half-past Three A.M., till this day (Friday).