§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. FIELDEN
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, observed, that of late a practice had been growing 1704 up of rejecting Private Bills upon the second reading. He should be sorry to advocate any restriction of the right to reject Private Bills upon the second reading; but, still, it was a right that he thought ought to be most carefully exercised. He was himself a Director of the South-Eastern Railway Company, which company proposed by this Bill to acquire power to enlarge their station at Charing Cross, because the traffic had so increased that the station was no longer large enough to enable them to deal with it. It could not be doubted or denied that additional accommodation at Charing Cross would not only be a great convenience to persons arriving from the Continent, but also to the hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants of the metropolis who used the station daily. He could understand that the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir Charles Russell) might have some objection to the way in which this was to be carried out; but he could not understand why on this account he should wish to reject the whole Bill, which contained several other provisions. It proposed that the South-Eastern line should be extended from Sandgate to Folkestone, and that the harbour at Folkestone should be enlarged. It was intended not merely to make a railway in England, but to improve the communication between this country and the Continent of Europe. The Company had for the last 10 years been in communication with the French Government and the authorities at Boulogne, with the view of bringing about a better communication between England and France; and had met with delay after delay. It was not until the wreck of last year blocked up the harbour for about a fortnight that the Boulogne authorities were brought to their senses; but now they were almost agreed as to forming a large harbour at Boulogne. The railway authorities could not improve the channel passage unless they had bigger boats; and they wanted more harbour accommodation, so that they might put on boats of the size of those which ran between Holyhead and Kingstown. In this way they hoped to shorten the journey between London and Paris by half an hour. If, however, the House should reject the Bill, the Company would be relieved from a great trouble and anxiety, and they would have the satisfaction of saying that they had done 1705 all that they could, but that the House of Commons would not listen to them.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Fielden.)
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he was not a railway director, nor in any way interested in that Bill, except in so far as it affected his constituents. He opposed the second reading, and held it to very important that hon. Members should assert their right to do so. At a quarter to 4 that afternoon the solicitor who was guarding the interests of his constituents told him that the promoters of that Bill were ready to surrender all that was objected to in it provided he would withdraw his opposition to the second reading. That proposal had taken him completely by surprise, and he had accordingly asked the other side to postpone the Bill in order to give him time for consideration; but they had refused to do so. The reason his constituents looked on the Bill with distrust was this. On a previous occasion of a similar kind they were served with notice that their buildings would be required for certain alterations, and after they had been at the trouble and expense of acquiring other premises, the railway company abandoned their scheme and left them to seek what compensation they could find. He was aware that Committees of the House could inflict penalties in such cases; but he would appeal to the House to say whether those penalties were ever enforced? He had no desire to prevent any improvement of the harbour at Folkestone. In the hope that the House would aid him in gaining time to see that the proposed arrangement was fair to both parties, he begged to move that the debate on the Bill be adjourned for a week.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, that with the view of eliciting full information with respect to Private Bills, he was in the habit of bringing about a conference between the agents of both sides; but in the present case the agents, for some reason or other, had not met him, and he was, therefore, without the information which it was desirable the House should have. The present Bill, so far as he had been able to judge, was one of considerable importance, both from a public and private point of view; and in the circum 1706 stances he thought it would be well to adjourn the debate.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
protested against the further postponement of this Bill for a week. The hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Russell) had confined his opposition to one part of the Bill alone. Upon that part the South-Eastern Railway Company had conceded, and they were now asked to postpone their Bill, because they had made the concession which was asked. If there were no other secret reasons for opposing the Bill, for which the opposition of the hon. Baronet was the shield and pretext, his demand was really unreasonable. If the House wished to revert to the old system, and would hear evidence at the Bar of the House, it could of course do so; but, otherwise, he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) would pledge himself to make such a statement to the House as should convince every reasonable man that this Bill was one which should be sent to that Tribunal to which the House ordinarily delegated its functions in these cases—namely, to a Select Committee. He was too old a Member of the House to oppose the expressed opinion of the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Raikes) and the evident feeling of the House; but he suggested that an adjournment for a week was unreasonably long, and that the matter might stand over only till Monday.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he scarcely considered the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Russell) a hostile one, and advised the right hon. Gentleman to accept it. The adjournment until Thursday next would not materially delay the measure.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday next.