HC Deb 27 February 1877 vol 232 cc1082-7

called attention to the private Bills introduced in the present Session with the view of employing steam or other mechanical power upon tramways, and moved that a Select Committee be appointed To consider how far, and under what regulations, the employment of steam or other mechanical power may be allowed upon Tramways and public roads. The hon. Gentleman said, his attention was first called to this subject by a report made to him at the commencement of the Session by the Board of Trade, who, finding themselves confronted by a large number of applications for provisional orders for steam tramways, and having observed that there were coming before Parliament also a large number of private Bills relating to steam tramways, thought it was desirable, if possible, to arrive at some harmonious mode of action by which regulations to the same effect should be enforced by the Board of Trade in the case of Provisional Orders, and by Parliament in the case of Bills. The Bills before Parliament for this Session with regard to the application of steam or mechanical power to tramways were nine in number. They were the Birkenhead Tramways Bill, the Dublin Central Tramways Bill, the Edinburgh Street Tramways Bill, the Galway Tramways Bill, a Glasgow Bill, an Ipswich Docks Bill, and Leeds, Leicester, and North Metropolitan Bills. Six of these would come before the House of Commons; the other three would be commenced in the House of Lords. There were also applications before the Board of Trade for Provisional Orders for Bristol, Dewsbury, Nottinghamshire, Sheffield, Swansea, and Wolverhampton. We were therefore on the eve of considerable and important legislation upon a very interesting subject. He might point out the different ways in which these Bills approached the question of regulation of the steam power to be applied to tramways. Birkenhead proposed that the consent of the Board of Trade should be obtained; Dublin proposed that the carriages might be moved by animal, steam, or any other power, but made no reference to the Board of Trade. The Edinburgh Street Tramways Bill proposed to require the consent of the Local Authority to the use of steam. The Galway Bill, like the Dublin one, made no reference to the Board of Trade or Local Authority. The Glasgow and Ibrox Bill provided that the consent of the Board of Trade should be necessary. The Ipswich Bill would require the consent of the Urban Sanitary Authority to the use of steam, but said nothing as to the Board of Trade. Leeds and Leicester both proposed to obtain the Board of Trade's consent to the use of steam or mechani- cal power, and so also did the North Metropolitan Tramway Company. There were thus three or four different modes of procedure contemplated by the different Bills. In the case of the Dublin Tramways Bill it was with considerable difficulty he had found out that there was a clause in the Bill proposing to use steam or mechanical power at all. The House had passed two Acts last year relating to steam tramways, the first in the form of a private Bill—the Vale of Clyde Steam Tramways Bill—which was an unopposed Bill, and in that character it came before him, when he pointed out to the promoters of it that it was only sanctioned as an experiment. The other Bill was passed through the Board of Trade as a Provisional Order Bill, and referred to the Wantage Steam Tramways. These were the only two instances in which Parliament had licensed the application of steam or other mechanical power to tramways, and therefore the Bills that were brought in this year might be said to furnish practically the first occasion on which Parliament had to deal with this question in bulk. By the General Tramways Act, 1870, Clause 34, it was provided that all carriages used on any tramway should be moved by the power prescribed by the special Act, and where no such power had been prescribed that animal power should be employed. From that it appeared that Parliament had in its mind at the time the possibility of other than animal power being employed, but no general principle was laid down as to its desirability or undesirability. What was now wished was that Parliament should lay down some uniform system of dealing with these Bills, and that it should be one which could be dealt with by the Board of Trade by Provisional Order. Some hon. Members might think that by the appointment of this Committee the case might be prejudged; but he had drawn out his Resolution in such terms as not to prejudge the case, and he had only followed upon the lines laid down in the General Tramways Act. In the year 1864 a Committee of this House was appointed to join a Committee of the House of Lords to consider various points in connection with the railways of the metropolis, and they also resolved that it was expedient that an inquiry should be instituted in the following Session, in connection with the Lords, as to the system of metropolitan tramways. In 1872 a Joint Committee was appointed, which resulted in the adoption of the present system. On consulting with Earl Redesdale, Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords, it was considered not desirable to ask for the appointment this year of a Joint Committee, and therefore it was that he now proposed the appointment of this Committee. He hoped that the House would see no difficulty in granting the Committee, and he promised them that he would use his endeavours to secure on that Committee the services of hon. Members who were an authority in that House, and lay down a satisfactory mode of procedure for the future. By the appointment of the Committee at that early period of the Session he believed they would be able to complete their labours before Easter, so as not to interfere with the progress this Session of the different schemes before Parliament. In the meantime, he had suspended proceedings on existing Tramway Bills until the Committee should have reported.


expressed his satisfaction that this subject had been brought before the House. It was a serious question how far tramways should be extended, and whether steam or other mechanical means should be used for the purpose. The Metropolitan Board of Works had considered that it would not be part of their duty to withhold their consent from the bringing of these various schemes before the House, being desirous that the House should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon them; but, at the same time, they reserved to themselves full power to discuss the whole question as it arose. He trusted that the proposed Committee would be appointed, and that the whole of the schemes would be well considered before there was any further legislation in the matter.


also hoped the Committee would be appointed. It was extremely desirable that legislation upon this subject should proceed on a basis that was common and intelligible.


wished to ask whether the proposed Committee would embrace the question of locomotives on public roads generally. The hon. Gentleman confined his re- marks to tramways alone, but the Notice on the Paper went beyond that and included locomotives on roads.


remarked that the question was not whether there were to be tramways, but how they were to be worked? He was by no means clear that steam would be the motive power. Engines might be made to run quite as well on roads as on rails. When the difficulties as to horses were overcome tramways would doubtless increase.


said, that the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society, through their President, last year petitioned the Home Secretary and the Board of Trade for permission for the use of steam power in country districts. It had been found that when steam power had been used it worked remarkably well, and it was found that those who were at one time most opposed to it were now as much in favour of it.


asked whether it was not legal now to use steam engines on roads? His impression was that at the present moment engines could be used on the highways.


said, he did not attach so much importance, so far as this reference was concerned, to the use of steam power on public roads as he did to its use on tramways. The Committee, if appointed, would, however, he had no doubt, find an opportunity of conveying to the House great and important information as to the use of locomotives on roads. The two subjects were closely connected, and it would be difficult to inquire into one without the other. He preferred to leave the terms of reference as he had drawn them. Locomotives could now be used on public roads if they complied with the Act on traction engines. There was a Bill before Parliament proposing to alter the law with regard to locomotives on roads, and he hoped to be able to propose that the hon. Member who was in charge of that Bill should be a Member of this Committee.

Motion agreed to. Select Committee appointed, "to consider how far, and under what regulations, the employment of steam or other mechanical power may be allowed upon Tramways and public roads. And, on March 1, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. SALT, Mr. LYON PLAYFAIR, Mr. GOLDNEY, Mr. B. SAMUELSON, Mr. FLOYER, Mr. MITCHELL HENRY, Mr. PELL, MT. M'LAGAN, MT. JAMES CORRY, Major BEAUMONT, Viscount HOLMESDALE, Mr. COTES, Colonel LOYD LINDSAY, Mr. EVANS, and Mr. HICK:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.—(The Chairman of Ways and Means.)