HC Deb 09 August 1877 vol 236 cc726-37

(Mr. Salt, Mr. Sclater-Booth.)


Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Sclater-Booth.)


, in moving that the House should upon that day three months resolve itself into the said Committee, said, that he found recorded in a Return which had been laid before the House that the entire number of turnpike trusts in Scotland affected by the Bill was 160 or 161, as against between 70 or 80 in England, showing how much more the Bill concerned Scotland than England. Of these, upwards of 100 Acts had expired, and were continued annually by the Turnpike Acts Continuance Bill. Now, there was an essential difference between the mode of treatment of the Scotch and the English expired Acts. In the case of England, each Act was referred to a Committee up-stairs, evidence was heard regarding it, and the Committee reported what was to be done with the Act. In accordance with the decision arrived at by the Committee, some of these Acts were continued in their original form, others were amended, and others again were allowed to expire; but in the case of the Scotch expired Turnpike Acts nothing of the kind took place. There was no inquiry whatever into them, and they were renewed as a matter of course. They were asked in this Bill to renew for two years upwards of 100 expired Turnpike Acts in Scotland, without there having been laid before the House, or before a Committee, a single reason why any one of them should be renewed. That was a state of things almost unprecedented in their experience of legislation. In consequence of these Acts being continued as a matter of course, and without any trouble whatever, all the persons who were interested in maintaining them had opposed every measure that had been brought forward in the interest of road reform. He believed that the majority of Scotch Members were in favour of the abolition of tolls, and that if the matter was referred to a Select Committee it would unanimously recommend their abolition. If the Government would consent to renew these Acts for only another year, instead of two, he should be willing to withdraw his opposition to the passing of the Bill. He thought that would be a fair compromise, and there would then be an opportunity next Session of dealing with these Acts in any way that might be thought desirable. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.


seconded the Amendment, considering it most unjust that the Turnpike Acts should be continued year after year without any attempt being made to settle the matter in a satisfactory way.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words '' this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Dr. Cameron,)—instead thereof.

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


said, the Amendment was far too wide, because it would not only affect Scotch trusts, but also a great number of English trusts, which if it were carried would expire, and the maintenance of the roads would be thrown upon the ratepayers. The better way to raise the question would be by a distinct Amendment relating to Scotland. Nothing, however, could be more unsatisfactory than the existing state of highways in England, and he hoped the Government would pledge themselves to introduce a Bill next Session to abolish the existing anomalies with respect to them.


said, he agreed to a great extent with the views put forward in opposition to the measure; but he did not see how they could deal with Scotch Turnpike Acts in the same manner as they dealt with the Turnpike Acts of England, for this reason, that when an English Turnpike Act expired, the roads were at once thrown upon the parish, and the parish was bound to keep them up. Such was not the case in Scotland. If the Committee were to deal with the Scotch turnpike roads, the effect would be that no person would be bound to keep up the Scotch turnpikes, and the result would be far more inconvenient than had been described. He warmly eulogized the efforts of the Home Secretary to pass a general Bill for Scotland, and attributed its withdrawal to the obstruction with which the measure had been met on the part of the mine owners. He trusted that next year the right hon. Gentleman would be able to pass such a measure as was required.


said, he earnestly desired that his hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) would never have another opportunity of making such a Motion as he had made that night, because he trusted that in the course of next Session, before such an opportunity could possibly occur, they would have passed a Roads and Bridges Bill for Scotland He was happy to say that when the Amendments to the Bill were critically examined, the fact was revealed that they only affected four counties in which the interests of the burghs and the counties had not been practically adjusted. He trusted that the Government would put the Bill in such a position as to ensure its becoming law before the end of next Session, seeing that they were now in a better position to legislate on the subject than they had ever hitherto been. The effect of rejecting the measure before the House would be to take away the means by which the roads were kept in repair, and thus ultimately to inflict a heavy burden upon the ratepayers when a general measure was passed transferring the roads to them.


said, it had only been through untoward circumstances, which could not have been foreseen, that the Roads and Bridges Bill had not been passed this year, and he promised the Government, in the event of their introducing a general measure next Session, a hearty support from that side of the House. As they were a Government pledged especially to domestic, as opposed to sensational measures, he strongly urged them to deal with the highway question as one essentially of the former character, and recommended the county Members, the great majority of whom were supporters of the Government, to press them for legislation upon this subject. He especially urged that an English Highways Bill should be introduced at an early period of the Session, and after the discussion which had taken place, he recommended the hon. Member for Glasgow to withdraw his Amendment, which, without removing the Scotch grievance, would be very inconvenient as regarded the English Turnpike Acts, for which provision was made in the Bill.


said, the question of legislation for the highways and turnpikes of England had long been under the consideration of the Government, and it was certainly expedient, with a view to a settlement of the question that the County Members should be agreed upon that which was proposed to be done. The measure which he had brought forward afforded an opportunity of dealing with the subject in a comprehensive way and upon a satisfactory basis; but, unfortunately, it had had to be withdrawn in consequence of other matters more interesting to Parliament having cropped up.


said, he objected very strongly to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate and the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan) raising bugbears which had nothing whatever to do with the question before the House. He complained that the present Bill had no Schedule of their Scotch roads, as of the English, merely a general clause which provided, in a sweeping manner, the continuance of all expiring turnpike Acts within Great Britain. The Turnpike Acts Continuance Bill, brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Sclater-Booth), and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) the Secretary of the Board, failed to state the Acts and roads of Scotland which were to be temporarily maintained, with turnpikes; but the Bill stated, in seven Schedules, every road and every expiring turnpike Act of England to be kept up. That was to be accounted for by the fact of the Local Government Board having no duties to perform relating to Scotland, and thus, under cover of a purely English Bill, the roads of Scotland were kept up as turnpikes under a general clause; and he told the Government that they were not acting fairly towards Scotland. But it was not only so far as the Roads and Bridges Bill was concerned that the Scotch Representatives had been badly treated, and he told the Home Secretary that Scotch Business had been shamefully neglected. ["Oh, oh!"] He spoke his mind on the subject—he was in the habit of doing so, and he would not say behind the Home Secretary's back what he would not say to his face. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: Hear, hear!] Much as he regretted the course taken by the Irish Members, which he considered improper and wrong, the Scotch Members had even more reason for complaint. He repeated, that the Scotch Members had infinitely more reason for complaint, because they had by their attendance in the House, and by their moderation and good sense, aided the House of Commons to transact the business for which they were elected. He deplored the course some of the Irish Members had adopted, and he could not vote with them, because he would never be a party to anything like factious conduct; but, at the same time, he appealed to English Members to say whether Scotch Members had been properly treated? As far as he was concerned, he would not give up a single mile of the 22,000 miles of roads of all descriptions within the landward parts of all Scotland. These cost, by the former Returns of the Commission on Roads, about £250,000 per annum, and with economy and improved management, which could easily be introduced when turnpikes were abolished, all the roads could be kept up at a much lower rate, but the present complication and costly division of roads into statute and turnpike communications must cease to exist. All he desired to see was an equitable arrangement arrived at between the tenants, the owners, the towns, and the holders of mortgage bonds, and he could not help saying to the Home Secretary—"You have not done what you ought to have done." To his right hon. Friend in front of him (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), who had offered his assistance, he would say that he hoped he would try and prevent the Scotch trusts going before an English Committee. There was only one Scotch Member on the Committee this year, and it was unreasonable to expect that hon. Gentlemen chosen by English constituencies could act impartially and efficiently in respect to the continuance of all expired Acts of turnpike roads. Let them be referred to a Committee of Scotch Members, and then the purely Scotch questions might be satisfactorily dealt with. He appealed to the English Members to vote for the Motion now before the House.


said, he had simply stated the difference between the law of Scotland and England, and had pointed out, that whereas in England, if the trusts expired, the parish had to keep up the roads, in Scotland, if they expired, there was no one responsible for their maintenance.


complained of the course pursued by the Government in endeavouring to pass that Continuance Act, which, so far at any rate as England was concerned; was a gross fraud upon the public, and he therefore hoped that the Motion of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) would be accepted. He found fault with the speech of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, who had an authoritative, a categoric, and an oppressive way of addressing the House, but who had given no reason why the Motion of the hon. Member should not be carried. [Cries of "Order!"] No doubt Mr. Speaker would call him to Order when he was wrong. He had been present at the death of 2,000 or 3,000 miles of road, and he had never heard a single complaint from a landowner on the subject.


The opposition to this Bill has arisen out of a feeling for Scotch Business; but I think it would have been better if it had taken place in Committee, as the Motion, if passed now, would have the effect, not only of stopping the Scotch, but also the English measure. What is wanted is, an assurance that early next Session a Bill will be brought in and passed through the House dealing with the case of Scotland by a Roads and Bridges Bill. I hope the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) will withdraw his Motion, and raise his opposition with regard to Scotland upon the question as to whether the Bill shall extend to Great Britain, or to England only. If he does that I will support him.


complained that the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had not been noticed by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate. There was no assurance on the part of the Government that promises and hopes would be fulfilled next Session, and some friendly coercion of this kind was necessary to influence the Government.


said, it would be presumption to say the Government would not only introduce a Bill but pass a Bill, and he was bound to say the number of Amendments—400 —placed on the Paper by hon. Members on both sides of the House to the Roads and Bridges Bill made it improbable that the Bill could be passed. But, as his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate had said, the opposition practically arose from four counties in Scotland, and it was to meet these obstacles that he had the other day proposed a special inquiry by persons nominated during the Recess to meet these special difficulties, and he understood that hon. Members specially interested received the proposal with favour, and there was no doubt this inquiry would smooth the way for the passing of the Act next year.


said, he did not wish to divide the House on a false issue, and, accepting the recommendations which had been made, he would withdraw his objection to going into Committee; but from what he had learned of the feelings of Scotch Members, he could assure the Government that if a Roads and Bridges Bill were not passed next year, there would be as much difficulty in passing this Continuance Bill next year as there would have been in proceeding with the Roads and Bridges Bill that Session.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 8 (Continuance of all the Turnpike Acts).

DR. CAMERON moved an Amendment, in page 2, line 21, to leave out "Great Britain," and insert "England." This would not have the effect of throwing the existing machinery in Scotland out of gear; because, as had been already explained, the existing Acts would continue in force until the end of next Session, and ample time would thus be afforded to discuss a Bill introduced early next Session.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 21, to leave out the words "Great Britain," and insert the word "England."—(Dr. Cameron.)


expressed his surprise, and thought it was under- stood the opposition was withdrawn. [Dr. CAMERON: Only so far as going into Committee.] Well, it seemed the Amendment was the same thing over again. He must oppose it on the ground that tolls were let for the year, and that the effect of this change would be to abolish tolls in the middle of the year for which they were let.


thought it was quite other than the same thing, and if the Scotch Members were prepared to undertake the responsibility of this he should support them.


said, the feeling in Scotland was that it was necessary to obtain a distinct pledge from the Government in regard to roads and bridges, and the most certain pledge would be that the operation of the Continuance Act should not extend to Scotland.


pointed out the difficulty there was in the fact that tolls were let from spring to spring.


thought there was reason to complain of the way in which Scotch Business had been treated, but it was no use crying over spilt milk, and what they now desired was a guarantee for better treatment next Session. That guarantee was found in the Amendment on the Paper to restrict the operation of the Act to November, 1878, and he hoped that the present Motion would be withdrawn in favour of that standing in the name of. the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren).


took the same view, but


thought it right to insist on the protest by dividing the House.

Question put, "That the words 'Great Britain' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 42: Majority 26.—(Div. List, No. 312.)


then moved an Amendment to restrict the operation of the Act to November 1st, 1878.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 27, at end, to add the words "Provided, That, in the case of Acts applicable to Scotland only, they shall be continued only till the first day of November one thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight." —(Mr. M'Laren.)

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


expressed astonishment that the Government should resist this Amendment, and give no reason for doing so. It surely was one that must commend itself to the House.


said, the result of the Amendment being accepted had been already pointed out, and there was not the slightest disrespect towards Scotch Members in not repeating these arguments.


said, that the hon. and gallant Member for South Ayrshire (Colonel Alexander) had intimated that there would not be the least difficulty in letting tolls for half a year. If there was a bonâ fide intention on the part of the Government to bring in a Roads and Bridges Bill next Session, he did not see the least difficulty in the way of their accepting this Amendment. If the Government brought in a Bill, surely with a majority of 60 in the House, that would be equivalent to passing the Bill.


declared his intention to support the Amendment.


, said, that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Leith) had misrepresented him; he had stated that there would be extreme difficulty in letting the tolls from spring until November.


said, that it might not be possible to bring in a Bill. He should vote against the Amendment.


hoped the Government would accept the Amendment.


said, that if the Government insisted on defeating the Amendment, he could only say that if ever there was a case in which a Government carried their point by the bayonet it was the present.


supported the Amendment. He believed this was a species of attempts by a majority to silence the voice of Scotch Gentlemen, for whom he had the deepest respect, on a question in which he took the deepest interest. When he found that the hon. Members for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) and Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) were supporting the Amendment of a particular clause, he must say they had not re- ceived the consideration to which they were entitled. Though he was not in favour of obstruction, he must say he would support the Scotch Members in that course. He maintained that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate for Scotland could have no difficulty in passing a Roads and Bridges Bill for Scotland before the letting of the tolls next spring.


said, a large number of Scotch Members desired that the Bill should not be extended to Scotland. He would therefore urge the Government to accept the Amendment in deference to their wishes.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 68: Majority 29.—(Div. List, No. 313.)



asked why the various Acts relating to the Scotch Turnpike Road Trusts ,of Scotland were not detailed in Schedules in the same manner as for the English Trusts?


said, that nothing that had happened would prevent the Government doing that which was stated in the beginning of the evening.


stated that the reason why he sought a guarantee for the promise of the Government was, that three years ago the then right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, in the presence of the Home Secretary, promised that the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Bill should be passed, and it was not passed until this year.


expressed great indignation at the course pursued by the Government, in their neglectful treatment of Scotch business, and remarked that he saw the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sclater-Booth) laughing. ["Oh, oh!"] But there was no justification for mirth, except as to including in a Bill—prepared by himself and the Secretary of the Local Government Board—relating to England a general clause which kept in force the turnpike expiring laws of Scotland, with which the right hon. Gentleman's Department had no right to interfere with, as his functions were restricted solely to England and Wales.


pointed out that these remarks were rather remote from the subject at issue.


made an appeal to Scotch Members with reference to the Roads and Bridges Bill. As he had before stated, upwards of 400 Amendments had been prepared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and many of them raised points of considerable importance, some of which he had himself mentioned in conversation with hon. Gentlemen. He now appealed to them that they would, during the Recess, have those questions discussed in the several counties concerned, and thus assist the Government in making the Bill acceptable to the House next year.

Schedules agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.