HC Deb 23 June 1873 vol 216 cc1298-306

Lords' Amendments further considered.


rose to Order. He wished to ask Mr. Speaker a question as to the position in which the House was placed. When last the Bill was under consideration, he (Mr. Hodgson) moved an Amendment to the first of the Lords' Amendments to the Bill. To that Amendment the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) objected, and, as the House seemed unwilling to accept the words he himself proposed, he desired a delay of a few days in order that he might draw up a form of words which would meet the views of hon. Gentlemen generally. He, however, never withdrew his Amendment, although it was mentioned in the Votes of the House as having been withdrawn.


said, he understood that the Amendment of the hon. Mem- ber was withdrawn on the occasion referred to, and therefore it was open to the right hon. Gentleman to bring forward the Motion of which he had given Notice.


remarked that a high authority in the House stated a few days ago that an Amendment moved by any hon. Member must be withdrawn by that hon. Member himself. He had certainly never withdrawn his Amendment, and therefore he trusted it might be considered as still standing for approval.


stated that the hon. Member was understood to have withdrawn his Amendment, and the Amendment having appeared upon the proceedings of the House as being withdrawn, it must be taken to be so.


said, he had understood, on the occasion referred to, that the Amendment spoken of was withdrawn, and that they were to start afresh. Accordingly, in the fulfilment of his promise, he had placed on the Paper the additions which the Government thought fit to make to the Lords' clause. He wished to explain to the House how the matter now stood. The Bill had been sent up to the other House without any provision such as had been inserted there, because the Government thought that no such restriction on the Commissioners was necessary, inasmuch as the rule of Common Law was, that no Judge should sit on a case if he had any interest in the question involved. He believed that rule would have applied to the Commissioners, if the Bill had passed as it left the Lower House; and there was an additional security, because the Lord Chancellor had the power of dismissing any Commissioner if he thought proper. In the other House, however, it was thought necessary to insert this clause, forbidding any Commissioner to hold any stock in railways or canals. Although he was of opinion that the clause was unnecessary, he expressed his willingness to accept it; but Amendments having been proposed by the hon. Members for East Cumberland (Mr. Hodgson) and East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), a conversation ensued, in the course of which some hon. Gentlemen appeared to think that the Commissioners ought to have no interest in any property which could be the subject of railway carriage. Such an enact- ment would be useless, extravagant, and mischievous. The only analogy he had been able to discover, even for the Lords' clause, was the enactment that justices of the peace should have nothing to do with the business of baking or brewing; but if an attempt were made to apply to those cases the analogy which seemed to strike certain hon. Members of the House the other evening with regard to the Railway and Canal Commissioners, a magistrate must not only not be a baker or a brewer, but he must not eat bread or drink beer. He had, however, placed on the Paper some additions to the Lords' clause, the first of them being as follows:— It shall not be lawful for the Commissioners, except by consent of the parties to the proceedings, to exercise any jurisdiction by this Act conferred upon them in any case in which they shall be, directly or indirectly, interested in the matter in question. The next provision was that— The Commissioners shall devote the whole of their time to the performance of their duties under this Act, and shall not accept or hold any office or employment inconsistent with this provision. He submitted to the House that by adding those words everything would be done which could be fairly required, and that they would have taken every precaution that could be conceived to be necessary.

Amendment proposed, At the end of Clause A. (Commissioners not to be interested in Railway or Canal Stock), to add the words "It shall not be lawful for the Commissioners, except by consent of the parties to the proceedings, to exercise any jurisdiction by this Act conferred upon them in any case in which they shall be, directly or indirectly, interested in the matter in question. The Commissioners shall devote the whole of their time to the performance of their duties under this Act, and shall not accept or hold any office or employment inconsistent with this provision."—(Mr. Chichester Fortescue.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, he had not seen the words of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade when he gave Notice to move an Amendment; and he still thought that no Commissioner should be allowed to engage in any business which would be inconsistent with the provisions of the Act. Now, however, that he had seen them, he thought they would, to a great extent, meet the object he had in view, and he was therefore prepared to accept them in lieu of his own.


said, it was most essential that the new Railway Commission should be one which had the entire confidence of the country, and he had been most anxious that the members of it should have the same position and receive the same salaries as the Judges of the land. Unfortunately, the salaries had not been fixed at that amount. The House of Lords had pointed out that the blot of the Bill was, that it left it open to the Commissioners to be holders of railway stock or traders, and that was a blot which it was most essential to remove. The Amendment, of which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade gave Notice the other day, would not have met the object in view; but he was glad to say that the words of that Amendment had since been modified to some extent. He thought that the words now proposed by the right hon. Gentleman might be fairly adopted, and that some such words as the following should be inserted in addition—namely, that he shall not actively carry on or exercise any trade or business. He would move such an addition.

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, by inserting after the word "employment," the words "or actively carry on or exercise any trade or business."—(Mr. Cross.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


agreed with almost all that the hon. Gentleman the Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) had just said, except with his conclusion. The Bill was an experiment, and everyone was desirous that it should have a fair trial. But if still more stringent limitations were made, it could not succeed; for the Government would not be able to get a good and efficient class of men to perform the duties, and the whole success of the measure depended upon their being able to get the very best men they could. He hoped his hon. Friend would not press his Amendment.


also appealed to the hon. Member for Southwest Lancashire (Mr. Cross) not to divide the House upon the Amendment. The great objection to his proposal was twofold. The words were much too wide, and they were also inconsistent with their whole object, for they implied that certain trades were consistent with the provisions of the Bill, by affirming that certain trades were not. Everybody desired that these Commissioners should be independent persons; that they should bring to the consideration of the questions involved impartial minds, and should have the confidence of the public. They would stand in the position of Judges; but the hon. Member was going further in this Amendment than any rule that existed in connection with the Judges. These words would create evils rather than remove them, and he hoped they would not be pressed.


said, there were two or three objections to the words which the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the President of the Board of Trade proposed. Supposing a Commissioner carried on a large timber trade, or a large iron trade, or a trade in any article of which railways were large consumers, would it not be a contravention of the ordinary principle which regulated the appointment of judicial officers? What would be said if any of the Judges occupied such a position? He thought that the words which he had proposed when the subject was under discussion on a former occasion would meet the case; but he had no objection to the terms proposed by the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire.


preferred the clause proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fortescue) to any of the Amendments which had been proposed. The words were sufficiently clear. The clause would prevent any Commissioners, except by the consent of the parties exercising any jurisdiction in cases in which they might be personally interested, and further required that they should devote the whole of their time to the performance of their duties. He did not see any reason for further limitation or conditions. The powers granted to the Lord Chancellor, in addition to those of the Commissioners, were a sufficient security to the public. He thought it would be persecution to say that a Commissioner should not carry on any trade or business, directly or indirectly, because he might be a director of a water company, a gas company, or of a bank. Moreover, in point of fact, the Amendment would not allow a Commissioner to keep a horse or cow, or cultivate a farm.


said, the clause proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade ought to be more clearly drawn. Its terms were that a Commissioner "should not accept or hold any office or employment inconsistent with this provision." "Employment" was not a word much used in legal language, and he should interpret it to mean anything that a man was employed in. His criticism was that the term "employment" was of very extensive import in itself. The business of a carrier was entirely inconsistent with the office, and he thought that every precaution should be taken to prevent any personal interest on the part of the Commissioners clashing with the discharge of their public duties. There was no objection to the three gentlemen who had been appointed, but they ought clearly to define the qualifications as regarded their successors.


thought the Amendment of the Amendment did not go far enough.


urged the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) not to press his Amendment to a division. As far as he knew, the railway interest would deprecate any exclusion of the commercial element from the Commission.


supported the appeal. He should be sorry to see any gentleman deprived of a seat on the tribunal, merely because he might happen to have some commercial interest. He must further say, that as the names of the three Commissioners had been already divulged, an impression might, perhaps, be entertained in some quarters that the objections were aimed personally at one of those gentlemen. Now, he had the fullest confidence in the gentlemen who had been nominated, and believing that the words which the right hon. Gentleman had placed on the Paper would carry out the object in view, he trusted that the Amendment would not be further pressed.


said, nothing was farther from his intention.


thought the Government had exercised a wise discretion in the course they had adopted with respect to the emoluments of those who were to constitute the railway tribunal.


expressed a hope that the Amendment would be withdrawn. He wished at the same time to say a word as to the manner in which the business of the Commission should be conducted with respect to Ireland. There was a strong feeling in Ireland that all important questions relating to that country which might come before the Commission should be decided there, and not here—that in these cases of importance, the Commissioners should go over to Ireland, instead of bringing the witnesses over to England. He trusted the Government might be able to hold out some hope of this being done.


was afraid that the 55th clause would enable an unsuccessful litigant to set aside proceedings taken against him, in the event of his being able to show that any Commissioner had an interest, however indirect, in the matter in dispute.


admitted, with reference to the remarks of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the clause was stringent, but did not think it was too stringent; and he was instructed by the highest authority that it accurately represented the present law on the subject.


said, the first consideration was to keep the area of selection as wide as possible, because otherwise the choice of the Government must be limited to a purely professional class.


warned the House against tying up the office with too many restrictions. He thought they ought rather to trust to the honour and good feeling of those persons whom the Government should think fit to recommend for the office, than to rely on provisions for keeping out the possibility of any personal interest being connected with the administration, when such provisions would be wholly ineffectual.


said, he should withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment to proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Words added.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 10, line 41, "after 'as,' insert 'general,'" read a second time.

Several agreed to.

One amended, and agreed to.

Page 11, line 3, "leave out 'may also, if they think fit,' and insert 'shall,'" the next Amendment, read a second time.


said, it was no doubt in the recollection of the House, that when the Bill was before them in Committee, it was decided that the Commissioners might at their option allow an appeal on points of law, but that that appeal should be imperative whenever the Commissioners were not unanimous. The House of Lords had made the appeal imperative in all cases. He much regretted that change. Even if the Amendment were to be accepted in substance, it went too far, going beyond the properly judicial purposes of the Bill; and it would cover appeals even from arbitrations—a thing unknown at present. He therefore proposed to modify the Lords' Amendment by accepting the word "shall," but inserting after it "in all proceedings before them under sections 5, 10, 11, and 12" (the properly judicial sections of the Act), "and may, if they think fit, in all other proceedings before them under this Act;" thus making the appeal imperative in regard to questions of law, and optional in regard to other questions.

Amendment proposed, To insert after the word "shall," the words "in all proceedings before them under sections 5, 10, 11, and 12 of this Act, and may, if they think fit, in all other proceedings before them under this Act."—(Mr. Chichester Fortescue.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


hoped the House would not accept the Amendment proposed by the Lords, because it was really calculated to destroy entirely the good effects of the Bill. All the Amendments made by the Lords had been in the interests of the companies and not of the public, and he felt so strongly upon it, that he should divide the House, if necessary.


also hoped the Government would abide by the Bill as it originally stood in this respect.


differed from the Amendment made in the House of Lords, and he hoped the Amendment of his right hon. Friend would be agreed to.


said, that as there was no manifestation of feeling on the part of the House in favour of the Lords' Amendment, he was willing to disagree with it entirely.

Proposed Amendment to Lords Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lords Amendment disagreed to.


referring to the suggestion made by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Clare (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) that the Commissioners should hear Irish railway cases in Ireland, expressed his own great confidence that that would be the view taken by the Commissioners, and that they would consult the convenience of the Irish public quite as much as that of any other part of the kingdom. It would be difficult to impose absolute orders on such a body on that subject; but the Bill enabled the Commissioners to make rules and general orders for the proper transaction of their business, which rules and orders would be laid on the Table of the House, and it, moreover, required them to fix on the places at which they would transact it.


thought there ought to be some more definite understanding come to that Irish railway business under the Commission should be disposed of in Ireland, and, with that view, would suggest that words to that purpose should be inserted in the Bill.

Subsequent Amendments agreed to. Committee appointed, "to draw up Reasons to he assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to the Amendment to which this House hath disagreed:"—Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE, Mr. ARTHUR PEEL, Mr. BAXTER, Mr. GLYN, Mr. ADAM, Mr. MONK, and Mr. CROSS:—To withdraw immediately; Three to be the quorum.