§ MR. SERJEANT SPINKS
rose to call the attention of the House to the manner in which the Railway Passenger Duty injuriously affected the interests of the Railways and the public, and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the Railway Passenger Duty ought to he reduced at an early date, with a view to its ultimate repeal.Having traced the history of the Railway Passenger Duty, and pointed out how the Stage-coach Duty had been repealed in 1869, and the Horse Duty in 1874, the hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to argue that railways and stage-coaches had been placed in a false position towards each other, and that railway companies were subjected to a great injustice. It was often said, in justification of the continuance of this tax, that railways were a monopoly; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), in his Budget speech in 1870, had spoken of them as a somewhat qualified monopoly. The monopoly was certainly qualified, for it was difficult to point out in what it consisted. All the great centres of industry—Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow—had not only two but three railways competing with one another; and if in any case the injurious effects of monopoly were produced, there would be no difficulty in getting the House of Commons to bring the monopolists to their senses by wholesome competition. Besides stage-coaches, tramways, omnibuses, and canals competed with railways much more than hon. Gentlemen supposed. The average railway fare for all classes of passengers was 10½d. a journey. It followed, therefore, that a very large proportion of railway traffic must be at rates considerably less than 10½d. The average of passenger fares of all classes 1587 on the London and North-Western, with its great length, was 1s. 5½d., and of the third class 1s. 1d. The average fare of all classes on the London, Chatham, and Dover was 7d., and of the third class 5½d.; and on the Sheffield line it was very nearly the same. Omnibuses and tramways competed materially with the Metropolitan Railway, which carried passengers at an average of 2½d. per journey, and the Metropolitan District and the North London and South London lines were in much the same position as the Metropolitan. But it was not London only, but every great city of the Empire had its system of suburban railways, carrying an enormous number of people short distances at exceedingly low fares. It was argued that the railway companies were rich and could afford to pay this tax. That, however, was an argument which appeared to him to be the first step towards Communism, tending to dangerous results. The way in which he dealt with that argument was to deny that it was true. The railway companies, as a body, were not rich. In 1874 £38,000,000 of railway property paid no dividend whatever, and he did not believe that that figure had since been much lessened, and the average dividend of all the railway companies only amounted to £4 8s. per cent. There might be some sense if you were taxing companies which were really rich, but where was the propriety of taxing a company like the Great Eastern, which, after a great struggle, had paid a half per cent upon its ordinary stock; or the Cornwall Railway, which could only pay its preference shares by borrowing; or the Torbay Railway, which paid nothing even on its debentures? He supposed the tax would be exacted even if a company were unable to pay its working expenses. In the Report of the South Devon Railway Company for 1872 reference was made to the "undue and exceptional taxation to which this description of property is subjected," and at that time the Chancellor of the Exchequer and another Member of the Government were directors of the company. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, did not frame the Report, but it must have received his sanction, and railway shareholders might hope that he was still of the same opinion. The tax was not only an exceptional one; it restricted locomotion, and thus materially interfered with the commercial 1588 prosperity of the country. The late Sir Robert Peel, when stating his celebrated Budget in 1842, said that—Nothing but a hard necessity would induce him to derive revenue from locomotion;" and again, that "he should contemplate with great reluctance and regret the necessity of increased taxation upon railroads."—[3 Hansard, lxi. 435–6.]This was an authority always listened to in that House with respect. There were other reasons why it was inexpedient at this time to impose these burdens on railways. New scientific appliances were costing the companies large sums. The block system cost the North-Western Company £250,000 a-year; and at the late inquiry into the Great Northern accident it was said by the officials that that company paid £80,000 a-year for the purpose of the block system. The price of labour, too, was largely increasing. In the Report of the North-Eastern Company for the last half-year the increased expenditure from this cause was set down at £46,000 a-year, and the Chairman of the Midland Railway Company indicated a somewhat similar sum. Nor was the tax itself small in amount, as was sometimes said. The London and North-Western paid in 1875 on this account £143,000; the Great Western, £92,000; the Great Eastern, £43,500, being rather more than they distributed in dividend; and the Great Northern, £36,400. The tax tended to become a perpetual annuity upon railways; and if capitalized at 4 per cent, at which sum the leading companies could borrow money, the tax would represent to the London and North-Western a capital sum of £3,600,000; to the Great Western, £2,300,000; to the Great Eastern, £1,100,000; and to the Great Northern, £920,000. If the companies raised these sums at 4 per cent, they would have to pay the interest, but would be able to expend the capital in improving their means of communication and increasing accommodation. The Great Northern Company were told, after the recent accident, that they should construct a new line. Such a line would cost more than £1,000,000, and the whole sum would be furnished if the duty were remitted, and the capital which it represented were raised by the company at the rate of 4 per cent. A 1589 recent judicial decision with reference to the Cheap Trains Act had brought the railway world and also the public to the conclusion that the time had come when the matter should be taken into consideration and finally and satisfactorily disposed of. The provision that in order to be exempt from that duty trains containing third class passengers must stop at every station on the line operated in the most absurd and oppressive manner, especially at a period when the railway companies had abandoned their formerly somewhat narrow and exacting spirit, and were now pursuing a more liberal policy towards the public, offering to the working classes, in particular, increased facilities for cheap and expeditious travelling, whereby their time, their only capital, was economized, their expenses on their journeys were reduced, and their personal comfort and convenience much increased. The short observation made by a man extremely well versed in railway affairs on the effect of that tax was that it greatly hampered managers in framing their time-tables. It also hindered their attempts to reduce fares and give increased accommodation, and its abolition would be as much for the interest of the public as for that of the shareholders. He hoped, therefore, that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would be enabled to inaugurate a more sagacious policy, which would incite railway directors to a generous rivalry in the career of reduction and concession; and he confidently predicted that any immediate sacrifice which might thus be entailed on the Revenue would be recouped over and over again through the stimulus that would be imparted to the general trade and commerce of the country. It had been suggested that if the tax were reduced the railway companies ought to bind themselves to make some concessions to the public; but in bringing forward the question on behalf of the railway companies, and of the public, he assured the House that they asked, not for any favour, but only for justice, which in any country ought not even in appearance to be either bought or sold; and he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would adhere to the constitutional declaration—"We will deny justice to no man, neither will we sell it." The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
, in seconding the Motion, expressed a hope that the Government would see their way to accept it, or, at least, to agree to the proposal which was to be made by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Rodwell) for a Select Committee to inquire into the subject.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the Railway Passenger Duty ought to be reduced at an early date, with a view to its ultimate repeal."—(Mr. Serjeant Spinks.)
§ MR. RODWELL
rose to move, as an Amendment—That a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into and report upon the operation of the present Law relating to the Railway Passenger Duty, and especially as to its effect upon the working of the cheap trains.The Amendment was by no means antagonistic to the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend, for he fully agreed with him in the views which he entertained and he prayed in aid of the facts which had been laid before the House; but he thought that the plan which he suggested was the proper way to deal with the question, as it would pave the way for future legislation. Injustice at present was inflicted in three ways—injustice on the railways in general, on the railways in particular, and on the public at large. The operation of the law was perfectly at variance with the spirit on which the Cheap Trains Act was framed—namely, to enable the working classes to have greater advantages in railway travelling. They were now in this position—they must either travel by stopping trains or pay something extra for their fare, for many lines had added 5 per cent to the third-class fares. The persons for whom cheap trains were originally intended had to suffer either in time or in money. This was not a matter which could be dealt with by an abstract Resolution. If there was a grievance it would be redressed, and the feeling had now grown up, not simply on the part of the railway shareholders, but on the part of the public, that the time had arrived when something should be done. He trusted that the Government would agree to the appointment of the Committee for which he asked.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the operation of the present Law relating to the Railway Passenger Duty, and especially as to its effect upon the working of cheap trains,"—(Mr. Rodwell,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he did not think the House would desire him at that moment to enter at large upon the question of the railway passenger duty. It was a large and difficult subject; and if he had only to deal with the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Mr. Serjeant Spinks), it would, of course, be necessary to enter at some length into it. But they had the alternative proposal of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Rodwell), and it seemed to him that the course which would be most convenient would be that he should accept the Amendment and agree to the appointment of a Select Committee for the purpose of—Inquiring into and reporting upon the operation of the present Law relating to the Railway Passenger Duty, and especially as to its effect upon the working of the cheap trains.The question of the railway passenger duty had been several times brought under his notice, and he had carefully considered whether the claims advanced by those who pleaded for the abolition of that duty were claims which he could recognize; but on looking closely into the matter, with a view to practical action, he found it by no means easy for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with it. One of the difficulties which he had always felt was this—that a question had been raised whether the tax ought to be taken off in the interests of the companies or of the travelling public. So far as the interests of the shareholders were concerned, the question, no doubt, was one which would deserve consideration; but if they were to be relieved of the burden which had been borne since railways began, and which had been voluntarily undertaken, it was reasonable and fair to ask on behalf of the public what advantage the public were to derive in return from the abolition of the tax. Besides that question, there was the further one, which was more directly 1592 pointed at in the Amendment. When first the railway system was brought under the serious notice of Parliament, a desire was felt on the part of the Legislature to promote travelling, and it was at that time supposed that railway travelling must necessarily be expensive, and that, therefore, it would never be worth the while of the companies to run trains at low rates to suit the working classes. It was thought desirable to introduce clauses into the Act of Parliament requiring the railway companies to run trains likely to be useful to the working classes; and in order to make that obligation less unpalatable to the companies it was accompanied in the case of those particular trains by the remission of the railway passenger duty. It now became a question with regard to the working classes themselves whether the particular stipulations made for the benefit of those classes really conduced to their benefit or not, and whether it might not be actually to the advantage of the travelling public that the companies should be set free to make the best provision they could, untrammelled by any legislation on the subject. He felt that, under the circumstances of the present day, it was exceedingly probable that the obligations laid upon the directors and managers of railway companies, especially as they had now been interpreted by Courts of Law, might interfere with their making the best possible arrangements for the convenience of the working classes, and they might also lead to unnecessary inconvenience to the railway companies themselves. That was a point they would have to consider. They had also to bear in mind that since railways were introduced a great change had occurred in the circumstances under which the working classes used the railways. It was impossible in dealing with the question to leave out of sight the cognate question of the dwellings of the working classes. The House must see that legislation and the efforts of the Government were now directed towards removing to a great extent the working classes from the centres of industry and sending them, very much for the benefit of their health, to some little distance from the place of their employment; but unless they could have the advantage of cheap, rapid, and frequent locomotion that benefit would be considerably diminished 1593 and neutralized. The difficulty was to devise some means by which to mitigate and meet this inconvenience; and on one occasion when a deputation connected with the metropolitan railways discussed this question he asked them whether they could propose any plan by which passengers by third class trains should receive a greater benefit than they did. He was, however, afraid that they were not at that time able to make any practical suggestion for the attainment of the object which they had in view; but he was prepared to have the question fully sifted, to see whether some practical solution of it could not be found. Nothing would give him greater pleasure than that the Government should be able so to re-arrange the system of passenger duty as to give encouragement to workmen's trains and greater facilities to those by whom they were used. Leaving, then, the large question open, he had great satisfaction in supporting the Amendment.
§ SIR EDWARD WATKIN
said, he did not propose to oppose the Amendment, because to do so would be useless, as it was to have the support of the Government; but if the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Mr. Serjeant Spinks) took a division on the Main Question he should certainly vote with him, because he looked upon a tax on locomotion as next to one on food—as almost the worst that could be imposed; and he should like to have it plainly seen whether the Government were in favour of such an imposition or not, while if a Committee were appointed, the House and the country would remain in happy ignorance of their views on the subject.
§ MR. FAWCETT
also expressed a hope that the hon. and learned Member for Oldham would press his motion to a division—not for the same reason assigned by the hon. Member who had just sat down, but in order to afford Her Majesty's Government an opportunity of meeting the proposal not by a side wind but by a direct negative, so that the country might ascertain the opinion of the House on the subject. He protested against the Select Committee policy of a Government which called itself strong, but which did not appear to be capable of making up its mind on a single subject. Representing as he did a constituency (Hackney) in which there were a 1594 great number of working men, he had not received a single application asking him to support the repeal of the passenger duty, while he could not go into the Lobby of the House without being pestered with solicitations from railway directors and others interested in railways to lend his assistance to get rid of the tax. Now, let him suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced it that evening to be his intention to repeal it; what would be the result? Would there be the smallest security that the public would receive one bit better railway accommodation? No; but the evening papers to-morrow would certainly contain statements to the effect that the railway market was remarkably firm, and that there was a rise of 3 or 4 per cent in Metropolitan, South Eastern, and London and Brighton stock. He did not, he might add, know what the Report of the proposed Committee would be, or how many railway directors would be upon it; but in order to give the public fair warning not to speculate in railway shares because of its appointment, he thought that, as a matter of common honesty, it could not be too explicitly stated that there were some hon. Members in the House who would resist as strenuously as they could the remission of an important branch of revenue in order to benefit those who happened to have invested in a particular kind of property. This was a question in which railway directors and shareholders were much more interested than the public. He was filled with the utmost astonishment that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose finance was generally sound, did not meet this proposition in a bolder spirit. What was the argument for it? It was said that the railways were unjustly treated and exceptionally taxed, because they had to pay a certain duty from which omnibus and cab proprietors and other owners of locomotion were exempt. But that was an obvious fallacy. The railways were a monopoly. That House gave them a locus standi to oppose any Bill for the purpose of making a competing line. Suppose the London and Brighton Railway was paying 10 per cent and a new line were projected, the House had given the company the right to step in and oppose it—a right which had been frequently exercised under such circumstances by the existing companies. But if the General Omnibus Company 1595 were paying 10 per cent there was nothing to prevent anybody from starting fresh omnibuses and participating in that profitable trade. The one was a monopoly and the other was perfectly open, and that distinction made all the difference as to burdens placed upon locomotion. This duty produced £700,000, which, capitalized at 30 years' purchase, would produce £20,000,000; and the proposal meant simply to transfer that sum to the pockets of the shareholders, for not a penny of it would ever reach the public. The Government did not like to meet the proposition with a direct negative, and the Amendment afforded them a convenient means of escape. The plea of injustice was utterly untenable. When the proprietors of the Metropolitan, which was always put forward as the strongest case, came to that House and asked permission to make a railway, they knew perfectly well that their line would not carry goods, but chiefly passengers, and they knew also that this duty would be charged upon them. They said nothing then of injustice or harsh treatment—or of being subject to special taxation—it was not till they had made their rail-was that they spoke in that tone. No injustice, therefore, was done either to investors or constructors, unless some new conditions or burdens had been imposed since they obtained their line. The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Rodwell) was drawn in such elastic language that it would permit the whole subject to be opened by the Committee, which might—so far as the terms of the reference went—report that they had taken evidence, and upon that recommend the total abolition of the passenger tax. They might add, "especially having view to the working classes," but that would only be a bit of empty ornamentation. What would be the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or of his possible successor, when he had not got a shilling of Revenue to spare—when the expenditure was increasing, and the Revenue not particularly prosperous—when he would be at his wits' end for money to carry out his grandiloquent scheme for getting rid of the National Debt—if this Committee came down and recommended the immediate repeal of this tax, which produced £700,000 a-year? The Chancellor of the Exchequer would then be convinced he had been guilty of a dangerous abnegation 1596 of power in referring this question to a Select Committee instead of at once deciding against it for himself. Now, at railway meetings directors occasionally indulged in tall language, threatening to abolish workmen's trains and do other things to diminish the accommodation of travellers. He thought, however, that the working men and the public might be quite comfortable, for the more inconvenient and costly travelling was made, the worse it was for the railway companies themselves. If this condition did not apply, the monopoly of railway companies could not continue for a week. It was said that an additional 5 per cent had been charged by some railway companies upon a portion of their traffic, and that this was the price which the working classes must pay as long as the tax continued. But what security was there that, if the tax were repealed, fares would be reduced? It would be as reasonable to expect a tailor or a boot-maker to work from philanthropic motives as it was to expect a railway company to charge under any circumstances any other fares than those which would pay the best. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of the public, should exact some definite equivalent from the railway companies in lower fares or better accommodation before surrendering this £700,000; but he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman did not, in answer to this Motion for a Select Committee, adopt the unanswerable arguments which he had urged earlier in the evening against the appointment of a Select Committee upon the Wine Duties.
§ MR. HERMON
said, that he knew from experience that the working classes were well able to take care of themselves, and did not value the patronage of hon. Members in that House. He thought the better course to adopt would be for the House to leave altogether out of consideration the reference to a Select Committee, and vote on the direct Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Old-ham (Mr. Serjeant Spinks). Railway companies had gone into business of late years with their eyes open, and they could not complain of injustice by the continuance of the duty. Many trades had to pay duty for the privilege of their being carried on, and the railway companies having taken upon themselves the carrying monopoly they must submit to 1597 the terms that had been imposed and the public must put up with the inconvenience. If a Committee was appointed it should be entrusted to inquire not merely as to the reduction or repeal of the tax, but as to the benefits which the public were to have in return for the surrender of so much annual Revenue.
§ MR. LAING
said, he would advise the hon. and learned Member for Oldham to withdraw his Motion, and let a division be taken on the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire for a Select Committee. If ever there was a question proper for a Select Committee, it was this question of the passenger duty. The speech of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) afforded the strongest argument for reference to a Select Committee, for a speech more full of fallacies and misstatements he had never heard. If a Select Committee was agreed to, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would be a Member of that Committee, and he (Mr. Laing) would undertake to produce evidence that would refute every one of the assumptions which pervaded his speech. The hon. Gentleman contended that the travelling public had no interest in the remission of the duty. But the fact was the travelling public would be benefited immediately by its abolition to the extent of one-third, though the chief advantage would be that it would cease to hamper the time table. In the Brighton Railway, with which he (Mr. Laing) was more immediately connected, they had not waited for the action of Parliament or of the Government, though the burden was felt; but out of the 22,000,000 of passengers annually carried 20,000,000 were third-class passengers, and the average fare of each passenger was only 10½d. Was it to be supposed that they would not be benefited? The hon. Gentleman had himself admitted that it would be a hardship on railway proprietors if they found themselves in a different position from what they were in when they applied to Parliament for permission to make their lines. But what railway proprietors complained of was that they were in a different position, because until lately there was a duty on all other kinds of locomotion, and the railway tax had been fixed in relation to that duty, and imposed exactly as an equivalent. But while the taxes on locomotion generally had been abolished the railway 1598 passenger duty remained. In his judgment, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not have acted fairly, either to the railway interest or to the public, if he refused a Select Committee to investigate all the circumstances, and see whether it was not possible to devise some modification of the laws relating to cheap trains which would enable the companies to give larger accommodation to the public without seriously trenching on the revenue.
§ MR. GREGORY
, though seldom agreeing in the views of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), confessed that he concurred in a great deal of what had fallen from him on this subject. The question simply involved one main point. It was whether £700,000 a-year which was now paid by the railway companies should be taken off their shoulders and shifted on to the shoulders of somebody else. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could certainly not afford such a reduction, and if there was any change it must be of the nature he had suggested. But why should railway companies be excepted from special taxation? There were many other classes in this country who had to pay special taxes. Brewers, auctioneers, publicans, and others had to do so. The profession to which he belonged had to pay special taxes, both while students were preparing to enter it and after they had entered it. The common notion was that there was a monopoly in these cases which justified the special tax, but in fact in the legal profession the road was open to all; in the railways it was only open to those who could comply with the conditions laid down by the companies, and they were therefore close and practical monopolies. He could not help thinking that if the railway companies had avoided their internecine quarrels and contests they would have been under no necessity of asking for a remission of taxation to make up their dividends. He quite agreed that if any inquiry was made by a Select Committee it should distinctly include what the public were to receive in return for the surrender of the £700,000 a-year to the railway companies.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
would not have taken part in the debate but for the speeches of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) and the hon. Member for West Sussex (Mr. Gregory). 1599 The latter hon. gentleman had found fault with the South Eastern Railway Company; but speaking as a director of that Company he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) would say that it had no desire to avoid but would rather court investigation into its affairs and management. The hon. Member for Hackney, giving his opinions with great confidence and as if they were such as could not be controverted, was very vehement in his condemnation of railway shareholders and directors. But the principle of a tax upon locomotion was either right or wrong, and if wrong, why should it be retained in one particular instance, merely because, whilst the public would be benefited by its abolition railway shareholders would also be incidentally benefited at the same time. But he begged to ask, if the hon. Member for Hackney was in favour of a tax on locomotion, where was that hon. Gentleman when the duty was taken off omnibuses and stage coaches? Was his voice equally raised against the repeal of the latter tax as it was raised that night in favour of the retention of the railway passenger duty? On the other hand, if taxes on locomotion were objectionable in principle, on what just ground were railway companies to remain subject to them while their competitors had been relieved from them? The hon. Member for Hackney might feel a particular aversion to railway directors and shareholders, but they were persons who stood in the van of a great public improvement, for the execution of which they had risked their capital; and it could not be denied that they had secured to the country enormous national benefits. Moreover, it should be recollected that whilst the omnibuses and stage-coaches paid nothing towards the maintenance and repair of the roads upon which they travelled, and which they cut up considerably, the contrary was the case with the railway companies. They not only bore the whole expense of repairing and maintaining the roads on which their trains ran, but those very roads were rated to the poor rates to a very large amount. This rating was based upon no principle such as regulated general rating, but a railroad which so far from injuring a rural parish, brought to it wealth and prosperity, afforded employment to its inhabitants and added largely to its rateable value, was itself in many instances exceedingly highly 1600 rated in proportion to other property, and in every case contributed very largely to local taxation. The passenger duty was placed on them at a time when it was deemed desirable to equalize the taxes on locomotion, and now that their rivals had been freed from those imposts the railway companies only expected to be treated with fair play. As, moreover, the effect of a recent judicial decision had been greatly to increase their burdens, they were surely entitled to ask the House whether it really intended them to labour under that aggravated disadvantage. On a great question of policy it might not be right for the Government to have recourse to a Select Committee; but this was a matter of a social nature, and one well fitted to be referred to such a body. The hon. Member for Hackney, when he contended that the money would go into the pockets of the shareholders, was probably judging from what occurred on the repeal of the omnibus and stage coach duty, which he did not oppose. For his own part, he could not help thinking that this burden on railways was unjust, considering the great amount of wealth and prosperity which they had spread throughout the country—and he would recommend the House to agree to the appointment of the Committee.
said, the General Omnibus Company had reduced their fares 50, nay in some instances, 100 per cent when the stage carriage duty was abolished, and he wished to know if the railway companies would, if they got rid of the passenger duty, act with the same amount of liberality?
§ MR. MACDONALD
believed that the movement had been set on foot by railway directors, railway managers, and railway shareholders, to increase their profits or dividends, and expressed his regret that the Government had consented to the appointment of a Committee, for the Motion did not afford the slightest hope that the case of the working classes would receive proper consideration. The tax every railway company knew of when they got their Bills—in fact, they bought them with those conditions. It was no answer that some of them did not pay; all trades might as well come under the Government and ask to be relieved of their legal obligations because they did not pay as railway companies.
said, that if railways were to be taxed because they were a monopoly, he did not see why tramways should not be taxed also. He approved the appointment of a Committee.
§ MR. M'LAREN
would vote against both the Motion and the Amendment. It would be a most improper and ill-judged thing to reduce the tax. He quite agreed with those hon. Members who had complained that the working classes had been put forward as a sort of stalking-horse. He did not believe, if the duty were reduced, that it would materially affect the working classes. He could not understand why there should be this patronizing of the work-classes. The working classes were, in his opinion, the most independent class in the country. There was no class better able to take care of itself. The working classes did not need to be patronized—they did not want to be patronized. They did not want any favour—nothing but equal justice, and if that was given them they would ask for nothing more. If the Amendment did not indicate a reduction of the duty and a desire to abolish it, then it was altogether meaningless and a mockery. Why should there be a Committee at all? The question had been so well argued, and his views had been so well expressed by the hon. Member for Preston, that he felt he should be wearying the House if he proceeded further; but, in conclusion, he wished to say that he should vote both against the original Motion and against the Amendment.
§ MR. SERJEANT SPINKS
said, he was willing to withdraw his Resolution in favour of the Amendment. ["No!"]
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
That the words 'a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the operation of the present Law relating to the Railway Passenger Duty, and especially as to its effect upon the working of cheap trains,' be added, instead thereof.
§ MR. FAWCETT
, in order to render the appointment of a Select Committee as little injurious as possible, moved to add the following words—And further to inquire what additional accommodation for the public may fairly be demanded 1602 from the Railway Companies as an equivalent for the reduction or the abolition of the Duty.Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to add, at the end thereof, the wordsand further to inquire what additional accommodation for the public may fairly be demanded from the Railway Companies as an equivalent for a reduction or the abolition of the Duty."—(Mr. Fawcett.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had heard the speech of the hon. Member with surprise, but he had heard his Amendment with astonishment. He had declared his object was to restrict the inquiries for the Committee, but his Amendment would greatly enlarge them. If they were to get into the question of what railway companies should give in return for the reduction of the tax, they would be dealing with that which he was anxious the Committee should avoid. He should certainly oppose the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be added at the end of the proposed Amendment."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 41; Noes 113: Majority 72.
That the words 'a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the operation of the present Law relating to the Railway Passenger Duty, and especially as to its effects upon the working of cheap trains,' be added to the word 'That' in the Original Question.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 137; Noes 23: Majority 144.
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ Ordered, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the operation of the present Law relating to the Railway Passenger Duty, and especially as to its effect upon the working of cheap trains.
§ And, on March 23, Committee nominated as follows:—Lord CLAUD HAMILTON, Sir HARCOURT JOHNSTONE, Earl PERCY, Mr. ARTHUR PEEL, Mr. BRUCE, Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN, Mr. JAMES CORRY, Mr. ASHLEY, Mr. EDWARD STANHOPE, Mr. SAMUDA, Mr. Serjeant SPINKS, Mr. SULLIVAN, Sir JOHN KENNAWAY, Mr. M'LAGAN, and Mr. RODWELL:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Three to be the quorum.
§ And, on March 29, Sir JOHN KENNAWAY disch., Mr. MACDONALD, Viscount CRICHTON, and Mr. LEIGHTON added.