§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Lord Advocate.)
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, he wished to bring before the House the important proposals that had been made by Her Majesty's Government since this Bill was before the House last year. In the first place, there was extension of the time to examine the provisions of the measure before the Bill was brought into operation; and, secondly, there was an exclusion of what were called police burghs under 10,000 of a population from operation under the Bill. With regard to the extended time given for the payment of debt, it was a principle which had been recognized repeatedly in connection with tolls in Scotland, and was in itself a just provision. Parliament had repeatedly, as an equitable principle, allowed time in which the debt should be paid off. Thirdly, the Bill enabled them to arrive at some compromise with regard to an important and difficult question—namely, the incidence of taxation between landlord and tenant. This at one period the Commissioners were unable to support; but they now approved of it so strongly, that it was suggested that the proposal to throw half the burden on the landlord and half on the tenant should not come into operation until time was allowed for existing regulations to expire. Believing that the tolls were, to a large extent, a burden on the tenant, he thought the extension of time would be an equitable adjustment. Further, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, in his opening remarks introducing the Bill, said very fairly that the county he (Sir Edward Colebrooke) had the honour of representing exhibited some special peculiarities, which led him and led the Home Secretary formerly to say that he thought it required some exceptional treatment. Anxious to meet the Government in a similar spirit, he wished they could adjust in some way the remaining questions. He had never been a strong advocate of tolls. The first Bill he introduced was for toll abolition. 1852 [An hon. MEMBER: Permissive.] Yes, permissive; but on considering this question, the difficulties with regard to his own county were brought so prominently forward that he had considerably modified his views. He was quite ready to admit that tolls pressed hardly and severely in particular cases. He was also prepared to admit that if they had what were called homogeneous districts, in which there were no great divisions, the variety of property assessment might become a fair and equitable means of meeting the difficulty of separating the roads—that was, with regard to local road, or what were called in England, highways. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate begged the whole question when he said that, in consequence of the introduction of railways into the country, so great a change had come over the country as to lead to the abolition of the distinction between roads for local traffic and roads for through purposes. He denied that in toto. To a certain extent it was the case. There were in Scotland great trunk roads. There were many roads in populous districts that were connected with large towns and districts, extending over considerable areas. It was quite possible to adjust the area in such a way as to make assessment more uniform. His own county made a proposition of that kind to Glasgow some years ago, by which not only turnpike roads but all the roads within the area of the county should be regarded as one great union, and supported by one assessment. But that proposition was refused. That was not the principle of the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. The principle was to draw a hard line between town and country, to give for the tolls a separate management, and to leave what were called land or agricultural districts out to settle the thing for themselves. He contended that that in itself was not a fair principle. It would throw a great burden upon agricultural districts, as compared with towns. This difficulty had, however, been so fully recognized in the Bill which Her Majesty's Government brought in, that they had introduced a special provision to meet the difficulties of the case, and if those provisions were drawn up in such a clear and unexceptionable form as to leave little to be done, his mouth would have been closed; but they were drawn up in so vague a form that, for his 1853 part, he could not gather whether by the 8th clause the Secretary of State was enabled to draw a Provisional Order so as to throw the burden of maintenance of the road on the neighbourhood of burghs, or on the burghs themselves. If it did that, he hoped Her Majesty's Government would persevere; but if it did not, he should attempt in Committee on the Bill to make it answer that purpose. He trusted the Home Secretary would apply his mind earnestly to do justice between man and man. Another reason he had for expressing distrust of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was, that when they came to settle the differences between town and country, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had shown a strong leaning towards the system of mileage. Now, he did not contend that mileage might not, in certain cases, enter into the consideration of this question. There might be burghs—he had one in his own county—which complained of being thrown on their own resources, and which were in a line which would throw a heavy burden upon them. There were other cases where they would merely have the terminus of a line. Would it be contended, as regarded the great Northern line which united Glasgow with England, that the question of debt should be limited to that portion merely within the limits of Glasgow? It was not contended that the mileage alone should be the guide, but he did see a tendency towards that principle. He trusted this would be set right when they came to that portion of the Bill, and that the principle he had brought forward would be fully considered—namely, that a great city should bear its due part of the costs of roads in the neighbourhood, and of the maintenance of those roads. With respect to the remark of the Lord Advocate, that the distinction between local and other roads was neutralized by the existence of railways, railways had, no doubt, caused a great difference in more ways than one. He could point out some instances which would show how unequally a system of assessment would work. Take the case of a tenant-farmer who took his produce into Glasgow by road. Another had the advantage of being in proximity to the railway and paid no toll. One had a heavy burden to pay in toll, but, in case of the abolition of toll, the burden would be thrown on assessment. He 1854 would have sensible relief at the expense of his neighbour who used the railway, who would get no relief at all, but rather an increase of his burdens. There were other cases where the Bill would act very unjustly with regard to the mineral traffic. He knew a gentleman in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, the owner of a large mineral property. All his minerals went by road, and he paid a heavy toll for them. He told him he paid £700 a-year in toll, far more than the increased cost of road, for carrying his traffic. If he were relieved, he would be relieved at the expense of a neighbouring mineral proprietor, all of whose goods went by railway. But there was this peculiarity—that the greater portion of traffic connected with minerals went by rail. There were few who used the road, and many never used the roads at all. There had been some Memorials presented to Her Majesty's Government and also to Parliament on this question, and he thought it was one well deserving of the consideration of the House. They were transferring burdens from a large class of property with a view to the maintenance of roads, and putting them upon property which was entirely independent, or almost entirely independent, of the use of those great lines of traffic. Some of the statements were striking, and were worthy of the attentive consideration of Her Majesty's Government and of the House. It was said that there were no fewer than 365 miles of private railway connected with one district, giving an output of 10,168,000 tons, of which the proportion conveyed by road was only 243,000 tons, being little more than 2½ per cent of the whole output. By the Bill on the Table an endeavour would be made to assess this property, and a great many owners of land throughout the country would get large and sensible relief. There were also difficulties connected with towns where there were tramways. If Her Majesty's Government did not see their way through this, he must ask them to adhere to the principle of former Bills for the settlement of this question—namely, that of extra rates on extra traffic. On that principle Her Majesty's Government in the present year had gone backwards. The proposal made last year was that extra traffic should pay extra rates towards the roads. In the present Bill they had allowed all to 1855 use the roads for experimental and temporary traffic. He trusted they would look to that matter. They were giving large relief to those who principally used the roads, without placing extra burdens on those who caused the principal wear and tear of the roads. He trusted that some security would be given on these points, and on the equitable adjustment of burdens between town and country. He did trust that some effort would be made by the Government to settle the point he had raised. When the suggestion was first made that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, he expressed his concurrence with it, and he still believed that there were matters which could be more fairly dealt with by a Select Committee than a Committee of the Whole House. He hoped, however, that Parliament would endeavour to deal with the subject in an equitable manner; and, if that were done, he would not be under the necessity of asking the House to pass an opinion upon the Bill which he brought forward at the beginning of the Session, but which he had deferred in favour of the Government measure.
§ ADMIRAL SIR WILLIAM EDMONSTONE
desired to say a few words on the Bill on behalf of the constituency which he represented. At their last meeting, the Commissioners of Supply for Stirlingshire, seeing the source from which the measure came, decided not to oppose it, and he was glad that they arrived at the conclusion, because to oppose the Bill, introduced as it was by the Government, would not have been a congenial task to him. He had always been strongly opposed to any road rate, on two grounds—first, the great burden thrown on property, both landlords and occupiers, and also for the good old reason, that those who used the roads should pay for them. There were no two counties in Scotland that were in the same state, and what would suit one county would be altogether unsuited for another. His county was what might be termed a composite one; but the difficulty would be to reconcile antagonistic interests. It was not his intention to discuss the details of the measure on the present occasion; but when it got into Committee he would make one or two suggestions which he trusted would soften down some of the inequalities which the Bill now contained.
§ COLONEL MURE,
looking back at previous attempts at legislation, was obliged to admit that an earnest desire had been evinced to settle the problems with which the Government Bill was intended to deal. In the year 1861, a measure was brought forward for the abolition of tolls, but after being referred to a Select Committee, it fell through. In 1865, another Bill for the same purpose was introduced by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho)—whose absence, and the cause of it, they all regretted. In 1869, a third Bill was brought forward with the same object in view; but, while the former measure was of a permissive character, this was compulsory. Then again, in 1873, the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) introduced a measure which passed a second reading by the narrow majority of 9 votes, but was considered so inequitable to Renfrew and Lanarkshire that it was afterwards dropped. At the present moment there were two Bills before the House—that now considered and the one introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke). The Government Bill provided for the abolition of tolls, the consolidation of trusts, and the creation of a fair representative County Board of management of the roads. The measure of his hon. Friend provided all the machinery for the uniform management of the roads and for the establishment of a fair representative Board.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
rose to Order. Was the hon. and gallant Gentleman entitled to discuss the Bill of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said the hon. and gallant Member was justified in referring to the Bill in question for the purpose of illustrating his meaning.
§ COLONEL MURE
was obliged to the hon. Baronet for his interruption. As a matter of fact, the two Bills related to exactly the same question. The only difference was, that while the Bill of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire prolonged the trust for 21 years, the Government measure prolonged it for 10 years only. There was some further difference on the question of what should be done in the event of the agreement not being arrived at after the lapse of a certain period. It was the county gentlemen who originally made the roads of Scotland. 1857 Many families hampered themselves by the enormous sums of money they expended. In those days Glasgow was glad to recognize that, in order to make commercial progress, it was necessary to have good roads. Since railways, however, had been established, Glasgow had arrived at the conclusion that the highways were not so important as formerly —forgetting that those roads all converged to the railway stations, and were thus indirectly nearly as important as the railways themselves. What he desired to point out was, that if, after a lapse of 10 years, an agreement could not be come to with Glasgow, under the Bill, the whole burden of supporting the roads in the neighbourhood of that city would fall on the occupiers and tenant-farmers in the counties of Renfrew and Lanark. In the event of such a catastrophe occurring, half the burden would fall on the landlord and half on the tenant; but so great was the demand for farms in Scotland, especially in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, that, practically speaking, this heavy burden would in the long run fall upon the tenant. The Government acknowledged, indeed, that the country would suffer. Some time ago the Home Secretary bundled a deputation which waited upon him out of his room. The Home Secretary told them to manage their own affairs, and gave them 10 years to do it. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: I said that I would be glad to assist you in a settlement, by acting as mediator between the parties.] What the right hon. Gentleman told them was, that if they made an arrangement, well and good; but if they did not, a Provisional Order would have to be made, and then an Act of Parliament. His belief was, that at the end of the period they would be unable to arrange with Glasgow, and that the same discontent and antagonism would exist as now. When the Home Secretary was at Glasgow, he received the city authorities, who, of course, desired to throw the support of the roads on the counties; but he had never heard the representations of the county authorities, except when the deputation waited upon him. His right hon. Friend said, in effect, to that deputation, "coûte qui coûte, I mean to abolish tolls." Well, if the existence of tolls produced injustice and conduced to inefficiency, he should be the first to admit that some other means of supporting the roads ought to 1858 be adopted. But in Renfrewshire there was no injustice whatever. The inhabitants of the county really paid a fair proportion of the upkeep of the streets in Glasgow. Everything sold in Glasgow by retail or wholesale was charged according to the burdens of keeping shops and warehouses. Therefore in everything the inhabitants of the county bought, they paid their fair share of the upkeep of the streets of Glasgow. Yet it was proposed that Glasgow was practically to use the countyroads for nothing. He wished to point out to the right hon. Gentleman what had been done in England. They had in the 14th clause of the Bill introduced last Session done exactly what they wished done in Scotland. What they wanted in Scotland was, to have tolls established in the places where tolls were the only means by which they could establish fair proportions, with regard to the rates for the maintenance of the roads, between the inhabitants. It was impossible to deal satisfactorily with the question in the way proposed by the Government; and he would therefore suggest that this Bill and the Bill which had been introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire should be referred to a Select Committee, by whom the matter could be settled on a fair and equitable basis.
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
said, he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Stirlingshire (Sir William Edmonstone) that he should be very sorry to oppose any measure introduced by the Government; but without doing that, there were certain occasions when the interests of the constituents might be considered paramount even to the interests of a Government. All that he would ask was what the hon. and gallant Admiral had asked—namely, that from an obligatory Bill, the measure might at once be converted into a permissive one. He (Colonel Alexander) confessed that, as a general rule, he did not much relish permissive legislation, which was apt to result in no legislation at all; but there were exceptions to every rule, and that was pre-eminently the case with regard to that measure, which was decidedly one suitable for permissive legislation, especially as the various counties themselves were not unanimous upon the subject, it being earnestly desired in some, and as strongly opposed in others. And the cause of the widely differing 1859 sentiment was not difficult to see; but the circumstances and the interests of counties differed as widely as the circumstances and interests of the inhabitants of these counties, and as there were certain purely agricultural and pastoral counties where the interests were identical, so there were also counties described by the hon. and gallant Member as composite counties, where there were pastoral, agricultural, mineral, and urban interests, and where to compare the advantages of assessment as against tolls would be to institute a comparison between the little finger of Rehoboam and the loins of Solomon. He must point out that permissive legislation on the subject had already been recognized and approved by the House, and already a considerable number of counties in Scotland had obtained private Acts, under which they substituted assessment for tolls; and if other counties had not followed their example, it might surely be inferred that they had not found it their interest to do so. There was a little group of counties that occupied a very peculiar position, and the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Edward Colebrooke), in mentioning those counties, left Ayrshire out in the dark. So far as regarded the pastoral portion of the county, the tenants had very little in the shape of tolls, because they used the turnpike roads to a very small extent, transporting their cattle by means of the railway. Now, as the rental of these farms had increased very much during the last few years, it could easily be understood how greatly the burden of assessment would fall upon those poor occupiers. The roads in Ayrshire were very good highways, leading from Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire into Dumfriesshire and Wigtownshire, and surely it was only equitable that those who made use. of these roads should contribute something to their support. He believed that in the counties in which tolls had beeen abolished and assessment established, the roads had not been maintained in such good order as in the counties where tolls had been retained; but, be that as it might, he had no difficulty in proving the exceptional position of his county, and the hardships that would be inflicted upon the landlords of the county if the system of assessment were adopted. He contended that while tolls were a hardship to no 1860 one, the assessment for the purpose of rates would be very heavy. The total length of the roads was 1,448 miles, and it had been ascertained that on an average for a period extending over 24 years, the cost of maintenance per mile had been £14 12s. 8d. Now, assuming the county to keep the roads in as good order as they were at present, it would be necessary for the county to provide annually a sum of £20,189, which would have to be levied upon the total valuation of the county, which amounted to £955,208, and in order to meet that, the assessment would amount to nearly 6d. in the pound, and when they remembered that the total assessment of lands and heritages in the county, for all purposes, was only 3d. in the pound, they would readily understand the reluctance, even the positive dislike, on the part of the county to adopt the system of assessment upon their lands and heritages. The agricultural tenants, whose farms were rising in value, would have to pay sums of money wholly disproportionate to the use they made of the roads; while with regard to another question—the mineral interest, which in his county was very large indeed, and which, he was sure, if that Bill were allowed to pass would be injuriously affected, he had to say that the greater portion of the mineral traffic was carried over the railways and the canals, and where these did not exist, private railways had been constructed and maintained at great cost by mineral proprietors and their lessees. Now, it had been proved by statistics that, upon a total traffic of more than 10,000,000 tons, the portion passing over the roads, and therefore subject to tolls, was only 2.4 per cent, and therefore the enormous increase of burden which, under the Act, would be thrown upon the mineral proprietors might be readily understood from the fact that, whereas they had hitherto paid for the maintenance of turnpike and statute labour roads a sum not above £2,500, under the provisions of that Bill they would be assessed upon a gross rental of nearly £400,000 per annum. That would be a real hardship, and it appeared to him to be monstrously unfair that they should be so heavily taxed to maintain roads which to them were of little moment, and which they so little used. He did not desire to stand in the way of other counties adopting that Act; 1861 but he thought some improvement might be effected in the present system without the drastic measure of a total abolition of tolls. He only asked that the county he had the honour to represent, and which 30 years ago obtained an Act under which they were permitted to levy tolls, and under which they had confessedly maintained their roads in most admirable order, might not be forced to adopt an Act which would compel the parties concerned to adopt a system which was totally unsuitable to their requirements, and which would impose grievous hardships on owners and occupiers of land.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that he had for many years taken a great interest in this question, having been one of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the expediency of abolishing tolls in Scotland. One of the Royal Commissioners was the then Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson), of whom he need not say, in the presence of those who knew him, that there was not a more intelligent man in Scotland. Mr. Smyth, of Methven Castle, the Convener of the county of Perth, was another Commissioner, along with Sir John MacNeil and Sir Andrew Orr, and those Gentlemen went all over Scotland, and having heard all that was to be said, reported unanimously that the tolls ought to be abolished. Now, a Notice had appeared on the Paper of a Motion to refer this Bill to a Select Committee, and two or three hon. Members had supported the view. He (Mr. M'Laren) thought it would have been far more manly and straightforward to move that the Bill be rejected at once. The idea of referring the Bill to a Select Committee on the 15th of June would be a perfect mockery, as it would never get through. Having given the subject a great deal of attention, he was of the same opinion that he held 14 or 15 years ago, when the Royal Commission sat. He had read a great many articles and pamphlets on the subject. He remembered to have seen in one of the pamphlets that the law agent for one of the counties had spent so much time in London looking after these Bills that his account for expenses amounted to £1,200. Now, if the tolls were at once abolished, there would be no need to come to Parliament to watch over such Bills. All that machinery could be done away with 1862 and every one of the multitude of officers could be dispensed with, such as surveyors, clerks, and toll-keepers. Abjuring, however, as he did, the principle of tolls, he had to complain of some of the provisions of the Bill as being most unjust and unfair. He need not mention more than two clauses, one of which—Clause 4—provided that the tolls should be continued for 10 years. He thought that the effect of that, especially in his own county, would be most injurious. In that case, an Act was obtained to continue the tolls for 31 years. There was then a debt of £95,000 upon the roads. The whole of that debt had been paid off. The 31 years expired seven or eight years ago, and that trust was continued by the annual Continuance Bill. The Bill now before the House was called a permissive Bill; but the whole power of deciding whether it should be adopted or not was virtually given to the counties, and the towns would have no voice in the matter. He would illustrate that by taking the case of the county of Edinburgh and that of the boroughs in that same county. The population of the county was 74,000, while that of the boroughs was 254,000. That was to say, the population of the boroughs, which had practically no power, was as three-and-a-half to one compared with the population of the county. Then, as to wealth, the rental of the county was £588,000, while the rental of the towns was £1,833,000, the rental of the City of Edinburgh alone being £1,468,000, or nearly £1,500,000. Thus the Bill was so framed that those who formed the small minority had the whole power to adopt or reject it; and those who had the great preponderance of wealth and numbers, and paid by far the largest share of the tolls, were to have no power at all. That, in his opinion, was a most unjust provision, and unless it was altered, lie should prefer to have no measure at all. As to continuing the trusts for 10 years, nothing could be more unjust. Instead of doing that, a Bill might be introduced, if needful, or, perhaps, a Resolution of the House would be sufficient, for the purpose of letting all expired turnpike trusts in Scotland come before a Committee, as was done in the case of similar English trusts, and then the Committee could decide whether those trusts should be extinguished or continued; but this had 1863 never been done in the case of Scotch Bills. He could not see why the practice followed in England in regard to Continuance Bills should not in that matter be extended to Scotland. So far as the Bill went its provisions went in the right direction, but unless satisfactory Amendments were made upon it in these respects, he would feel it his duty to oppose its progress.
§ MR. ORR EWING
, in reply to some remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure), pointed out that, if the outlying districts contributed to the maintenance of the roads in Glasgow, the citizens of Glasgow, on the other hand, had raised the value of property in those districts to its present value by purchasing its produce. He (Mr. Orr Ewing) did not know that the argument was of any weight, but it might be used on both sides. The hon. and gallant Member for Stirlingshire (Sir William Edmonstone) had informed the House that he spoke on behalf of his constituency of Stirlingshire. His (Mr. Orr Ewing's) knowledge might not be so great as the hon. and gallant Admiral's; but from what he did know, he differed from the hon. and gallant Gentleman entirely. It was quite true that the Commissioners of Supply in the county of Stirling, by a majority of 1, opposed this Bill, and passed some resolutions as truisms which he considered to be utterly fallacious, but he mixed a good deal with the farmers of Stirlingshire, and he found among them a general, if not a unanimous feeling that the Bill should be supported; he did not mean to say exactly as it was, but that the Bill was correct in principle, and likely to be made a good Bill by some Amendments in Committee. He was not surprised at that approval, because what was the state of matters in the country at present? Through all Scotland they had two kinds of roads—one was the turnpike road, and the other was the statute-labour road. The turnpike roads were formed at the time when communications between the great towns and cities were required to be made, where the traffic was supported by tolls. The statute-labour roads were made in the country and rural districts for the convenience of farm produce, for driving cattle and sheep, and purposes entirely of farming operations. But now those statute-labour roads in Stirlingshire, and 1864 in almost every county, were no longer merely subsidiary roads, but in many cases were the most important roads in the county. He knew that in one district where he lived the principal traffic was carried on on the statute-labour roads. Well, how were these roads managed and supported? They were supported by an assessment limited to 3 per cent. That assessment was so small and so trifling, and the amount raised was so insufficient for the maintenance of the roads, that they were in the most disgraceful condition, and often almost impassable. He said it was absolutely necessary that the Bill should pass, although the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire, who began his speech by saying he was in favour of the principle of the Bill, ended by declaring that he was for the maintenance of the system of tolls. The hon. and gallant Member twitted the Home Secretary with that threat which he (Mr. Orr Ewing) sincerely hoped the right hon. Gentleman would abide by—that in some way or other he was determined he would get rid of the unjust and antiquated system of tolls, and substitute assessments.
§ COLONEL MURE
explained that he did not indiscriminately support either system. The fact was, that the circumstances of no two counties were exactly alike.
§ MR. ORR EWING
understood that the hon. and gallant Member was in favour of maintaining the tolls. He wished to inform the House that that assessment of 3 per cent for the maintenance of the statute-labour roads was only paid by the tenant-farmers, and he asked would they continue that system which was a burden of taxation upon the tenant-farmers of Scotland, who had no voice at all in the management of these roads? The county which he had the honour to represent (Dumbartonshire), although there were some differences of opinion with regard to the existing bridges, was unanimous in supporting the Bill, with certain amendments. But the Bill was, no doubt, met with great opposition. That opposition proceeded from the manufacturers and owners of minerals, and also from counties which had many burghs and populous places. The iron and coal masters said only 3 per cent of their enormous traffic passed over the roads. No doubt that was a very small proportion in that 1865 sense, but it was a very large proportion of the total amount of traffic which passed over the roads, and they did not take into consideration that part of their traffic which passed over statute-labour roads where there were no tolls. He wished to ask if they were to make any difference between manufacturers and ironmasters and coal owners? Why should other manufacturers pay full assessment if the ironmasters did not? He had railway communication for the whole of his works, and this Bill would impose a heavier assessment upon him than he now paid for tolls; but he took a broad view of the question, and therefore he supported the Bill. He looked upon tolls as unjust, and as interfering with the liberty of people going about, and he was sure, when the Bill passed, everyone of the coal and ironmasters would be thankful to see the system changed. As to the opposition of the county gentlemen, who felt that if this Bill were passed it would relieve the inhabitants of the large towns and cities who at present paid a large proportion of the tolls which were collected at the entrance to those towns and cities, he thought that would be unjust. He thought the just principle to have got over this difficulty would have been to have made all kinds of property in all counties and districts, urban and rural, pay one assessment both for streets and roads, and that committees should have been formed in each town, or city, or district for the management of the roads. That, no doubt, was somewhat cumbersome, and might lead to extravagance, but he had suggested another system which had met with very general approval in his own county. That was that all burghs should extend their charge of the roads for two miles beyond their boundaries, taking the properties which were within the radius, but outside the burgh, into the assessment. He thought that would be a just and fair principle, when this Bill would entirely relieve the inhabitants of the towns from paying tolls. They would thus save a great deal of money which they were at present paying, and at the same time it would be just and fair that the counties should be relieved of a part of the enormously increased expense in the neighbourhood of towns from the large traffic of those towns. He hoped one of those systems would be introduced into the Bill, without which he 1866 could not give it his support. He also objected very much to the 4th clause, which made it necessary that four years should go over before this Bill should be brought into operation, even in a county that was anxious to have it at once. He did think that liberty ought to be given to every county, if they thought fit, to adopt the Bill immediately it had passed, and he objected very seriously to that part of the 4th clause which made it permissive for 10 years. That might be necessary for some counties which had a Road Act still in operation; but he thought wherever the Road Act had expired—and he knew it had expired in Dumbartonshire for the last 13 years—the county should not only be allowed, but it should be compulsory to put this Act in operation immediately. He also thought it would be an improvement on Clause 15 to give power to divide counties into districts for management; but there should be one uniform rate throughout the county, or great hardship would be perpetrated. For instance, there were two parishes in the county of Dumbarton, in one of which there would be an assessment of 1s. 2d. in the pound, according to the statistics of Mr. Smollett. That was in the North-west. There were other parishes in the neighbourhood of Glasgow that would be assessed at 2¾d. He thought, looking at the circumstances of those parishes being near Glasgow, having an enormous valuation and a very short distance of roads, it would be unfair that in the same county such a great discrepancy should exist. He also objected to Clause 41, which provided that boroughs under 10,000 of population should be treated differently from boroughs of 10,000 and upwards. He thought that was an invidious distinction, and that it would be better to adopt what he proposed, that these boroughs should support the roads two miles beyond their boundaries. Then he thought that some of the provisions for special cases were very unfair. Take the case of the carriage of wood, for instance. Suppose a gentleman cut down a large quantity of wood one year, and cut up the roads to a considerable extent in carrying it, it would be very unfair to come down on him heavily for that one matter, when for the 30 or 40 previous years during which the wood had been growing he had never used the roads at all. Such distinctions should be knocked 1867 on the head, and the Bill should be made at once simple and effective.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he should not have taken any part in the debate but for some remarks that had been made and some extraordinary fallacies that had been brought forward. He promised the right hon. and learned Gentleman a more cordial support for the Bill than he had received from some hon Members on his own side of the House. The hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Orr Ewing) had made a suggestion, which, to his (Mr. Anderson's) mind, was of a very unfair character, and entirely impracticable, and, at the same time, he said that unless it was adopted he could not support the Bill. He agreed that it was a difficult subject, and he congratulated the right hon. and learned Gentleman on having approached the subject and, generally, on having dealt with it with fairness. Tolls could not be long sustained. They were an antiquated system and most expensive; but it could not be denied that to change a system which had been maintained so long was very difficult, involving, as it appeared, an alteration in the incidence of taxation. The Bill would alter the old plan that those who used the roads should pay for them—a plan which, it could not be denied, was kept up in the more modern system of railroads. He should have been content if the Bill had adopted the method of raising some part of the assessment by a general tax on horses, and to that extent it would have followed the old rule to which he had just referred; but he could not deny that those counties which had adopted Road Acts of their own had not followed that course, and he presumed had seen strong reasons for not doing so. The incidence of taxation would fall heavily on the mineral proprietors, and he thought that some consideration would have to be shown to them. Clause 49 gave power to make an extra charge for extra traffic on the roads. If that principle were admitted, it followed as a logical consequence that they were bound to allow diminished taxation for diminished traffic. Those who had all their traffic done by railways undoubtedly had a good claim to ask for some abatement, if an extra charge were made on account of extra traffic. With regard to the proposal to make the large towns nay for the maintenance of the 1868 roads outside their own boundary, he considered it was utterly unjust, and it was the present most unfair system of tolls which had hitherto caused the largo towns to pay an undue share of the taxation, and it was thus to keep up what was at present an injustice that that proposal was made. It had been said that the counties made the roads; but he would ask who made the value of the county property outside the great towns? The great towns had raised the value of the property in their neighbourhoods to eight or ten times what it would have been if they had not been there. The counties were not asked to pay the cost of maintaining the streets. The hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure) had talked about the people of Renfrew paying for the streets of Glasgow, because they sent their produce there, and it was consumed in Glasgow. But every school-boy should know now that the consumer paid the whole cost of an article, and it was undoubtedly the consumer—that was to say, the people of Glasgow—that paid the cost. It was a perfect fallacy to suppose that the people of Renfrew had anything to do with keeping up the streets of Glasgow. The hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew produced a 10-years-old document, showing the enormous burden that would be cast on Renfrewshire by this Bill. He (Mr. Anderson) remembered how that document was got up, and how fallacious it was shown to be at the time. It was got up to make as strong a case as possible for the landed proprietors of Renfrewshire, and was not worth the paper it was printed on, even at that time, and was worse now. The change proposed was more apparent than real, for the reason that it was in reality the consumer of every article that ultimately paid the cost of it. For the reasons he had stated, and others, he should cordially support the Bill. He should like to see some Amendments introduced, but carrying out the rule he had laid down for others, he would reserve any remarks about them until the Bill was in Committee.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, he hoped the Government, when the Bill went into Committee, would see their way to making one change—the applicability of the Bill to burghs of a smaller population than 10,000. A re- 1869 striction such as that now proposed was not in the Bill of last year. No populous place of less than 10,000 inhabitants could take advantage of the present Bill; but, by a singular contradiction, the Bill allowed all Royal burghs to take advantage of it. Now there were about 70 Royal burghs in Scotland, and of those, he thought, only about 12 had a population over 10,000, while there were 110 less than 25 Royal burghs with a population of under 2,000. If by the Bill a Royal burgh with a population of only 2,000 was held competent to manage its own roads, surely a burgh which was not a Royal burgh, but which came under the denomination of a populous place, was equally fit to manage its own roads. These places now assessed themselves, and managed their own affairs for lighting, draining, and police purposes, and they should be allowed to manage the roads which passed through them. Now, the county maintained these roads, but it was the interest of the county to maintain only the main roads, leaving the side streets to be maintained as they could; and as these small places had no power to assess themselves, the bye streets were in a state of great disrepair. It would be his duty in Committee to propose an Amendment to make that change, and he hoped the Government would consent to it.
§ MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN
said, that until that day he had been under the impression that there was almost unanimity on this subject amongst Scotch Members, and he was sure the people of Scotland were unanimously in favour of assessment as against tolls. For his part, it appeared to him to be almost enough to consider the wasteful character of the toll system in order to condemn it. When they were told of the old system that those who used the roads should pay for them, that was surely set aside by the consideration that it was not those who used the roads who paid for them even with the toll system, because one man might have a toll at his gate, and another might drive 15 or 20 miles without a toll. He thought they might say with confidence that the whole of Scotland was in favour of the abolition of tolls. But when they came to apply that principle to particular districts they were met with difficulties, and on that account it always seemed to him that a Bill of this 1870 kind was peculiarly one to refer to a Select Committee. If at the beginning of the Session the Government had referred the Bill to a Select Committee, the conflicting interests would have had an opportunity of being heard, and the details could have been thoroughly discussed, and by this time they should probably have been engaged in passing a satisfactory Bill. But he was not so sure of the advantage of sending the Bill to a Select Committee now, because the people of Scotland were anxious to see a Bill on the subject pass; and if they could be sure that they would have time for ample consideration of the clauses in Committee, he thought it would be unsatisfactory at this late period of the Session to send the Bill before a Select Committee. If the Government could promise a sufficient opportunity of discussing the details in Committee, he thought they might very well allow the second reading to pass without moving any Amendment, as they were all agreed on the principle of the Bill.
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
said, his constituents had a great grievance in respect to the present state of the toll question. They had to pay heavy assessments for the tolls in their own districts, and the people complained to him that when they crossed the Border to another county there they found the toll system in operation, and they thought this was a great grievance. The time had come when tolls ought to be abolished. Ever since the late Mr. Pagan, of Cupar, brought this question forward, he had been a party to Bills with the object of abolishing tolls, and he did not think he had ever seen so nearly perfect a Bill as the one which the Government had now introduced, which dealt with the whole question in a very practical way. In the first place, it fixed the period when tolls must be abolished entirely for the year 1887, because that was the date of the expiry of the last Toll Act in Scotland. It was, however, open to the counties and boroughs to agree to abolish tolls before that time, but in that year the whole question would finally be settled. It was a great advantage to the counties that they should have a machinery for abolishing tolls without going for a private Act, which was very expensive. This Act would enable them to do it by a Provisional Order, confirming the terms on which they arranged that the 1871 tolls should be abolished. To those who had objected to their abolition he might say that he did not think any county had a vested right in tolls. Tolls were created by Act of Parliament, and Parliament could therefore take them away. This Parliament believed the tolls ought to go. The best course for those who objected to their abolition would be to help to carry this Bill, so that the abolition might be made as equitable as possible. He would like to call the attention of the Home Secretary to this point. Mileage was to be one of the criterions by which counties must pay road debts. In Kinross-shire there was the Great North Road, the trustees of which made a new road, but kept up the old road as well; consequently that county had a double mileage, and therefore the principle of mileage would be unfair to apply to that county. He hoped attention would be paid to that grievance. The way in which the Bill dealt with the extraordinary traffic was one of its best features. It was a fair proposal that the trustees and the parties proposed to be assessed should go before the Sheriff and have the matter settled by him. As to the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee at this period of the Session that meant to shelve the Bill altogether. Let them try whether at some Morning Sitting they could not by concessions on both sides come to a satisfactory decision on this question.
§ MR. ERNEST NOEL
said, he had put on the Paper a Notice that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, and lie should be glad if the Home Secretary would give an assurance that he would agree to that course. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS dissented.] Then he would offer some reasons why he proposed that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. He had hardly ever heard a better speech in favour of the object he had in view than that of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren). The hon. Member approved of the general principle of the Bill. So did he (Mr. Noel); but there were provisions exceedingly difficult to deal with, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh thought them so bad that, if they were not amended, he would oppose the Bill. There could be no stronger argument for referring it to a Select Committee. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) also said he was strongly in favour of the Bill, 1872 and he went into details to which he was as thoroughly opposed as was the hon. Member for Edinburgh. Every hon. Member who had spoken had said that they were dealing with a question of great difficulty. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could give time this Session for the discussion in Committee of a Bill which presented such difficulties? He was quite certain that a Bill pressed forward in that way would result in something unsatisfactory to two-thirds of the people of Scotland. While hon. Members from Scotland were anxious to see a Roads and Bridges Bill passed, there were still questions involved upon which it was desirable that evidence should be taken. The present measure was, to a certain extent, permissive, and its operation might be postponed for 10 years. He would ask, then what Scotland would lese by postponing legislation for another year, and meanwhile the wants of particular districts might be carefully examined into, and due consideration paid to them. It seemed to him a most reasonable request that at this period of the Session the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. It would be most unwise to press forward a measure which affected large interests without having such an examination of details as he held was essential, in order to render any Bill which might be passed satisfactory to the large majority of the people of Scotland.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he quite admitted that the question was surrounded with very great difficulties; but, at the same time, he could not concur with the observations that had fallen from the hon. Member who had last addressed the House (Mr. Noel) as to the inexpediency of the House proceeding in Committee to deal directly with the objections raised to the Bill, and not through the agency of a Select Committee. He quite admitted that where questions had not been thoroughly probed, where there was a lack of information on the subject, and where there had been a want of attention to that subject on the part of the public, it might be exceedingly expedient, before proceeding to legislate, that a thorough investigation should take place before a Select Committee of that House. But he could not think that the present subject was analogous in any one particular 1873 to such a case. The questions connected with road reform and road legislation in Scotland had been before the public and before that House for at least 15 or 16 years past, and he entirely disputed that there were any facts still requiring investigation, even down to the smallest details of burgh management. He could hardly concur with the observations of the hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), to the effect that the afternoon had been entirely thrown away. He thought some good might come of the discussion which they had had, because the main difficulties which arose upon the Bill had been fairly brought before the House. He did not think they should meet with so much difficulty in dealing with details, if certain of those leading questions upon which there was considerable diversity of opinion were fairly discussed and settled. They had undergone a good deal of discussion that day. There was an entire contrariety of opinion on some points, and he thought that in these circumstances such questions ought to be settled by a vote of the House, and not by the Report of a Select Committee. He knew very well there were questions regarding borough revenues; but the House would be able to deal with them in a manner that would be quite satisfactory to the general public of Scotland, if not to both of the sets of the population which had different interests in the matter. He was unwilling to occupy the time of the House; but, at the same time, he thought it proper that he should say a word or two in regard to what the Bill proposed, and the issue it raised upon several points that had been mooted by hon. Members. Undoubtedly, one great question was as to the 10 years clause. The difference of opinion on that point was very manifest; but he did not intend to detain the House by entering into the merits of that clause. The argument on the one side and the other was very plain. Many desired to have legislation immediately operating; whilst, on the other hand, he thought that some time must reasonably be given to those counties which had not yet adopted by private Act the abolition of tolls; because it was very well known that unless some time was given the effect of the immediate operation of the Bill would be to throw upon certain districts, which did not make the roads, part 1874 of the expense of roads made by other districts where the debt was not paid off, and those who had made their own roads at their own expense would have to share with others the expense of roads which the latter ought to have paid. Then, again, to some extent the Bill, if it became immediately operative, would interfere with existing covenants, with the existing contracts between landlord and tenant, and with the rights of tenants amongst themselves. These were matters which the House would be able to take into consideration, and on which it would arrive at a correct judgment. Then there was undoubtedly a very important question in regard to the division between burgh and county. He could not think that any scheme would be satisfactory to that House or to the people of Scotland that did not give to certain burghs the control of their own roads. It must be kept in view that where at this moment there were turnpike roads and statute-labour roads within a burgh, under the management of two separate sets of trustees, the Government proposed to combine them, but even then they had the municipality or Commissioners who represented the inhabitants—a body well fitted to be entrusted with the duty. He should say nothing about the area to be made over to the keeping of the burgh authorities beyond this — that the Bill proposed that, nothing to the contrary being stipulated, the area of the burgh should be the area taken charge of by the municipality. If there were any case in which the road authorities of the county were of opinion that to adopt the area according to the burgh limit would be productive of injustice to the county ratepayers, they might approach the burghs and offer to make an arrangement, or failing to come to an understanding, the county authority, after four years, would be entitled to approach the Home Secretary and demand, after the facts on both sides had been ascertained, that a boundary should be laid down by Provisional Order, which Order would have to be brought before that House and sanctioned in the usual form. As regarded the question of rating, he was happy to perceive that the principle of laying one-half on the landlord and one-half on the tenant had been pretty generally approved. And really that rule now obtained so univer- 1875 sally in all local and other rates in Scotland, that it would be hardly possible to dispute the propriety of proposing the rate according to that measure. But there were important general questions as to what subjects were to be included in the rate, which, in his opinion, ought not to be left to the decision of a Select Committee. He had done his best to endeavour to devise some means by which anything like a fair differential rate in this matter could be attained, without committing any injustice; but he did not believe it was practically possible to attain it, since every individual case would require to be dealt with upon its merits. The Valuation Act was the basis of all taxation, and much difficulty would ensue, if any other scale were adopted. As for mineral traffic, he could not think it fair that a man who did not use roads at all for the purposes of his mineral traffic in one place, should be made to pay a largely increased rate when he used the roads for the purposes of his property in another place. There might be a clause to the effect that a man paying an ordinary rate for roads ought, when he makes an excessive use of them, to pay for any damage done. With regard to the tax upon horses, he thought that really was only another system of levying toll. It was going to the stable to collect it instead of taking it at the toll-bar. He did not require to say anything upon the subject of tolls themselves, because he thought there was very great unanimity on the part of the people of Scotland in the desire that tolls should be abolished, and although some hon. Members of the House were not of that opinion, yet they had not, he was very glad to say, expressed in that House that day an active and persevering dissent.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
contended that the sound principle upon which roads ought to be maintained was that those who paid for their maintenance should benefit by them. It would be generally admitted that no class throughout Scotland had benefited more by the making and maintenance of roads than the proprietors of land. There was no doubt that the proprietors in a good many instances made the roads, but they had been paid interest on their money, and in many cases the money expended by them had been repaid many times over, 1876 either directly or indirectly. Therefore, he did not think the proprietors were entitled to lay any weight upon that argument. But even if they had not been paid directly, their properties had been so largely improved by the making of roads as to repay them ten times over for any outlay they had made. At all events, no system of assessment would do absolute and theoretical justice. He drew attention to the fact that in the county of Renfrew the law charges incurred for several years past were about one-tenth of the whole expenditure of maintaining the roads. The case was still worse in the county of Lanark. Moreover, the present system of managing turnpike trusts was very inefficient, and anything but economical. There was no responsible authority to look after the management of the roads. They were almost entirely delegated to surveyors, and the consequence was that the money went, and nobody seemed to know how. With an improved system of management, and with trustees elected by, and responsible to, the ratepayers, very great economy might be effected, and greater efficiency secured. He thought the Board proposed by the Bill would be cumbersome and unsuitable for the management of roads. Those counties which had obtained private Acts had left the management of roads to proprietors and farmers, and as that system of management had worked exceedingly well, he thought the Government would have acted wisely if they had adopted that system. With regard to the provision of the Bill, that police boroughs having a population above a certain number should form parts of counties for the purpose of this Bill, he thought no advantage would be gained by the counties under that provision, and that unless an agreement could be come to between counties and such boroughs on the subject, it would be as well that they should remain separate. He expressed great fear that if 10 years' grace were given before tolls were entirely abolished, those at present charged with the management of the roads would allow them to fall into disrepair, in consequence of their bestirring themselves to get as much interest as possible. ["Oh, oh!"] [Colonel MURE protested against the hon. Member's insinuation.] He did not know exactly the value of the hon. and gallant Member's protest; 1877 but in the county of Forfar the complaint was general that the statute-labour roads had been starved. Unless the Home Secretary could give the House some satisfaction on these points, it would be a question whether it would not be better to postpone the Bill in the hope of getting in a year or two a Bill which would be more satisfactory.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
hoped an opportunity would be given of dividing on the Question that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, even if they took three years in arriving at a decision upon the subject. There was evidently a great difference of opinion with regard to the Bill, and he thought it very desirable there should be something like agreement. For his part, he could not see why a measure raising so many difficult questions had been introduced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Many of the counties were perfectly satisfied with the existing state of things. It was a right principle that those who used the roads should pay for them, and so far as he was concerned, he thought that if tolls did not exist, they ought to be invented, as they appeared to him to constitute the fairest way of maintaining the roads in proper condition. The consideration of the Bill in Committee of the Whole House would, he believed, take weeks.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he could bear testimony to the fact that the Bill under discussion was one which was very much desired by the great majority of the people of Scotland, and he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that, not content with having devoted one Morning Sitting to Scotch Business, he would tell the House fairly and frankly whether the Government really meant to push it through this Session.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
also bore testimony to the desire that existed amongst Scotch people that the Bill should be passed into law, and said, he should like to see some provision made whereby burghs with a population lower than 10,000 might obtain the same advantages as burghs with that number of inhabitants and upwards. There was another point alluded to by the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) in regard to the qualification of road trustees. That appeared to be the same as the qualifications of the Commis- 1878 sioners of Supply. In many counties that qualification was far too high, and consequently many excellent men of business among a comparatively lower class of tenant-farmers would be always unrepresented at the road meetings. There were some other points which would come up in detail when the House went into Committee; but he rose chiefly to direct the attention of the Government to the point that this Bill might be allowed partially to apply. As the Bill was drawn it could only be made to apply wholly, and thus few of those counties would be found willing to adopt it, which had gone to the great expense of obtaining private Acts of Parliament for themselves. He trusted that the Bill would become law in the present Session.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL - HUGESSEN
said, that as no English voice had as yet been raised in the debate, he would ask leave to say a few words. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) was in favour of a system of tolls, because, he said, that by that system those paid for the roads who used them. That was a transparent fallacy which ought not to be left unanswered. It was quite true that under the toll system those who paid tolls were persons who used the roads; but it was equally true that an enormous number of persons used the roads who never paid tolls; and, place your turnpike gates where you would, you could never get rid of this fact, and of the consequent inequality of the toll system. It was on that account that he was always opposed to a system of tolls. The chief reason why he rose, however, was to request his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Noel) not to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. There were two reasons why Bills were ordinarily referred to Select Committees. One reason was, when it was desired to "shelve" a Bill; but that purpose had been disavowed in the present case. The other was, when information was sought to be obtained by evidence upon points within the Bill upon which difference of opinion existed. Now he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), having carefully listened to the debate, was of opinion that no evidence or additional information was necessary to enable hon. Members to fully understand the points in dispute. There was, no doubt, much difference of opinion as to many details of the Bill; 1879 but those differences might best be decided in Committee of the Whole House. He was sorry the debate had already wandered from the principle of the Bill into many questions which were rather for Committee; but he thought that if they now allowed the Bill to be read a second time, they might be sure that the Home Secretary, for his own credit's sake, would be anxious to pass it, and might be trusted to do his best to give ample time for its discussion in Committee.
§ SIR WINDHAM ANSTRUTHER
asked the Home Secretary whether he would give an assurance that the Bill would come on for discussion on the day fixed for going into Committee. For the last four months, Scotch Members had on many nights been detained at the House at great inconvenience to themselves for the purpose of watching this Bill.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, that for the last 30 years he had lived in a county in which the provisions of this Bill had been in operation. In that county the operation of the local Act had been satisfactory to all concerned, and he believed that the present Bill, if it became law, would give satisfaction to the people of Scotland generally. He would appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give ample time for the discussion of details in Committee.
§ MR. YEAMAN
said, it had been truly asserted that this was a matter which had agitated Scotland for a great many years. As the Representative of a constituency which would be largely affected by the Bill, notwithstanding there were some inequalities in it, which might be remedied in Committee—still he thought that, on the whole, the Bill would be satisfactory to the people of Scotland. He thought it ought not to be referred to the consideration of a Select Committee, and trusted the hon. Member for the Dumfries Burghs (Mr. Noel) would not persevere with his Motion.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
also begged the hon. Member for the Dumfries Burghs not to divide on the question of referring the Bill to a Select Committee. Approving the principle of the Bill he hoped the Home Secretary would give ample time for discussion of the details in Committee. He thought the 10 years' grace was against the interest of the proprietors, and he trusted the right hon. Gentle- 1880 man would re-consider the clause on the subject. The extraordinary assessment to be put on certain kinds of property under the 49th clause was unjust. The Report on which this Bill was founded was 15 years old, and a Report on the subject now by the same men would be very different, as there had been great alterations in Scotland within the last 15 years.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
I have to say that, on the whole, I am bound to bear my testimony to the fact that the Bill has been very favourably received by both sides of the House. As this matter has been before the Scotch people so long, I am quite certain that the time has come when it ought to be settled, and I do not think that anybody would gain by delaying the settlement. When I was in Scotland some years ago, I had the honour of receiving a deputation to which the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Mure) has alluded. I certainly heard both sides of the case very strongly stated, and I did not expect at that time that opinions would be so modified on both sides of the House as they are now, for the difference of opinions which we have heard to-day from that which I heard when I received the deputation is perfectly startling. The hon. and gallant Member opposite will excuse me for saying that he was not "surrounded by both parties" when he appeared before me. I received two perfectly distinct deputations, one from one side and one from another, and the hon. and gallant Member appeared on both. I am bound, however, to say for his comfort that when he appeared on one side, he frankly stated that he was not in accord with the gentlemen who came before me on the other side of the question. I believe that the Bill which was brought forward by the Government last Session has done very much to bring people's minds together on this question; and I believe that in the Bill now before us there are the elements of a very fair settlement of the question, which might be effected in the course of the present Session. I am quite certain in my own mind that the place to fight out whatever has to be fought out is the floor of the House of Commons. There are points of difference, and whatever might be the determination of a Committee upstairs, they would have to be decided on the floor of the 1881 House. When the Report came down, my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) gave a most frank reason for referring this measure to a Select Committee, for he said that it did not matter, so far as he was concerned, if it took three years to consider the subject. For my own part, however, I do not want to shelve the Bill. I should not have asked the House to read it a second time at this period of the Session if it were not the determination of the Government, as far as they can, to pass it into law. One hon. Member asks me to name a day, and to stick to it, for going into Committee. That would be impossible, because no one can tell how much other debates may be protracted; but if the Government can by any possibility pass the Bill into law during this Session, it is their intention to do so. In order to effect that object, I must appeal to the House on both sides to assist us in discussing in Committee fully but fairly the points that will arise.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday next, at Two of the clock.