HC Deb 20 June 1877 vol 235 cc39-57

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that the object of the measure was to consolidate the existing law and to introduce some Amendments into it. That the present Bill was perfect he did not pretend to say—on the contrary, he believed many improvements might be introduced in Committee. He might fairly say that the existing law relating to locomotives on common roads was faulty:—nor was this to be wondered at when they reflected on the enormous strides that had taken place within the last few years in machinery of every description, and remembered that the Act regulating the use of locomotives on roads was passed in 1861, and that since that time, with the exception of an amending Act in 1865, no legislation had taken place on the subject. It seemed to him, therefore, that the subject required and deserved immediate attention not only in the interest of those who used locomotives, but for the safety of the whole community. The first object to be aimed at in dealing with the question was the safety and convenience of the public; and the second should be the expansion of the general industry of the country, so far as they could do so. Some years ago great prejudices existed against the introduction of steam engines on common roads, and some persons who had heard that he had brought in a Bill on that subject had expressed a wish that he would put a stop to those nasty things altogether. That had been said partly under the idea that those machines damaged the roads, but mainly because they were ugly, and also because they might frighten horses. Those prejudices still existed, though perhaps in a modified form; and he thought that by judicious legislation that unsatisfactory state of things might be put an end to altogether. He did not, however, believe that either the House or the country would listen to a proposal for prohibiting altogether the use of loco- motives on public roads—they were now so extensively used throughout the country that they might be said to have become a necessity. As to the last objection—he had had considerable experience in regard to horses both on town and country roads, and his conviction was that the danger apprehended in that case generally arose much more from the ignorance of those who had charge of horses than from any real danger through the use of locomotives. He thought that bicycles were really more dangerous than locomotives. Considering the rapid progress made in our days by mechanical science, it was obviously impossible to frame a law on that subject which would endure for all time, without requiring a revision; and early this Session a Select Committee was appointed to consider how far, and under what regulations, steam or other mechanical power might be allowed to be employed on tramways and public roads. That Committee had before it the Report made by a similar Committee which sat in 1873, and gave it as their opinion that in that Report there were sufficient materials to form the foundation of future legislation. They expressed their concurrence in its main recommendations, among which were these—that the direct legislation affecting the use of locomotives on common roads should be consolidated into one Act, and that that Act should not be temporary in its duration. He hoped, therefore, he was not presumptuous in now endeavouring to consolidate the law on that subject. With regard to the duration of the Act, he understood the recommendation to which he had referred to mean that they should pass a law which would last as long as possible, not one that could be expected to last for all time. The inquiry made by the Committee of 1873 appeared to have been exhaustive and complete. They took evidence, among other things, as to the large amount of capital invested in those engines, which rendered the question involved one of importance to the employers of labour. Four years had since elapsed, and it was the unanimous testimony of all the manufacturers of those machines that the ratio of increase in their use in this country within the last five years had greatly exceeded that of any former period. The evidence taken in 1873 with respect to horses was somewhat contradictory, as was only to be expected when different interests were concerned; but the Committee found that even those witnesses who were opposed to the employment of locomotives on public roads admitted that horses soon got used to the sight and the sound of those engines. That entirely agreed with his own experience; and he maintained that any infinitesimal danger which might arise in spite of proper regulations and precautions could not for a moment counterbalance the enormous advantages resulting from the use of steam power on the roads. As to the question of the damage done to the roads by the wheels and tires of locomotives coming in contact with them, the Act of 1861—the first Act regulating the use of locomotives on common roads — dealt with that matter. Since then, however, immense improvements had been made in the construction of wheels, and he thought that our legislation on that head should have due regard to the present conditions of mechanical science. The object, of course, should be to secure the roads against all unnecessary and avoidable injury from the passing of locomotives along their surfaces. The result of the operation of the law as it existed was that the owners of engines were often compelled to break it, and it was monstrous, in his opinion, that they should be obliged to use wheels by which unnecessary damage was done to the roads. Then there was the system of licensing, to which, for his own part, he was rather opposed, as tending to relieve the owners of engines from that sense of responsibility by which it was desirable they should be influenced. As to the requirement that a red flag should be carried 60 yards in advance of an engine, he thought it an useless precaution—and, more than that, the evidence which had been given before the Committee showed that it had the effect of frightening horses to a considerable extent. He had introduced a clause into the Bill providing for an appeal to the President of the Local Government Board. These and many other matters of detail could be advantageously dealt with in Committee. It only remained for him to say that, although he believed there were some persons who desired to see the use of locomotives on our roads done away with altogether, yet that was not the view taken by the community generally, who believed them to be a necessity to the country: and, moreover, the experience which had been already gained in working them had shown that they could be constructed on an improved plan, so that they might be employed without doing any injury to the roads. The question really was—whether Parliament should or should not sanction the permanent use of locomotives on common roads, and whether the time had not come when such sanction should not be legislatively given?

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Colonel Chaplin.)


said, that he had always taken an interest in this subject; and although he had opposed a Bill dealing with it introduced by the late Mr. Cawley, he was now of opinion that some measure with respect to it ought to be passed. Such a measure should, however, in his opinion, be brought forward by the Government, and should not be in the hands of a private Member; and, further, the question had to be considered whether, under the present disorganized state of the law in reference to highways and turnpike trusts, it was at present practicable to pass any useful measure in reference to the use of road locomotive engines upon them. The hon. and gallant Member had referred to the evidence taken before the Select Committee of 1873 and its favourable character; but he believed that out of the 15 witnesses examined, 12 of them were interested in manufacturing, and in otherwise promoting the use of locomotives on common roads. He did not say that this necessarily gave a bias to their views; but still they must keep the fact in view in weighing the evidence. He could from his own experience state that a great deal of damage was done to roads by locomotives, and it was no wonder it should be so, seeing that they were not constructed to bear such heavy burdens. To render them fit for the purpose would cost a large sum of money. He did not know whether any active opposition was intended to the Bill; but if no more cogent arguments were adduced in its favour than had yet been offered, he felt disposed to ask his hon. and gallant Friend to withdraw the Bill.


said, he was strongly opposed to machines of this description being allowed upon our public roads, the surface of which they ruthlessly cut up, and broke down the bridges. So far as Scotland was concerned, he was sure the roads were not sufficiently strongly made to bear the enormous weights put upon them by these machines. At the present moment they had a Bill before the House of Commons—the Roads and Bridges Bill—and it was a very important matter for the country to consider whether, if a Bill of the description they were now considering should be sanctioned by the House, the whole country would not soon be covered with engines of that description. But he objected to it also in the interests of horses—indeed, he was much surprised that an hon. and gallant Member, who was so much interested in horses, should have brought in this Bill. It was all very well to say that horses would get accustomed to the machines —he himself had known instances over and over again where horses could never get accustomed to them. While, however, objecting strongly to the use of these engines, he was not at the present moment prepared formally to oppose the second reading of the Bill, but merely wished to enter his protest against it.


said, he was sorry that his attention had not been earlier called to the provisions of this Bill. He agreed that it would be well if they could pass a consolidation Bill upon this subject: but this Bill did more—it proposed many alterations in the law; and, moreover, it was very defective—it did not provide for the consumption of the smoke, nor propose any limitation to the weight of the engines; nor did it propose any means by which those who used them should compensate for the enormous damage they did to the roads. He also thought that a measure of this sort could only be introduced with advantage on the authority of the Government, for it would be utterly impossible for a private Member to obtain the information necessary to guide the House in dealing with it. Under the circumstances, he did not think that it would be desirable to read the Bill a second time.


said, he very much concurred in the remarks of the last speaker, and wished the Government could have taken up the subject; but, seeing that their hands were already so full of business, he thought the House was indebted to his hon. and gallant Friend for the pains he had bestowed on the subject. As to the danger arising from the frightening of horses, he was not disposed to attach very much importance to that point—what frightened them was the snorting of the engine; but there would be no difficulty in providing that an engine should be noiseless, as he had been informed was the case in Paris. The red flag, too, ought, in his opinion, to be done away with; and as to the damage to bridges, those who subjected them to the strain of unreasonably heavy loads ought to repair them. He might also observe that the regulation as to the rate of speed of locomotives sometimes operated very harshly; so that it would be well that no hard-and-fast line as to pace should be laid down. He hoped, he might add, to see light passenger locomotives soon running on our roads, going at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour. That would be no novelty, for in 1834 or 1835 an engine constructed in Glasgow used to run a short distance from that city with passengers, and was very successful; but so great was the opposition offered by the trustees of the road to the experiment, that it had to be given up. They raised the tolls; and, that step failing, they covered the road with new broken stone, so that the wheels were shattered daily, and had to be replaced by others made during the night. At last, so great was the strain that a boiler blew out and all the passengers were killed. It was clear, however, that but for the opposition which had been offered to it, the experiment would have gone on satisfactorily; and, entertaining that view, he should vote for the present Bill if the second reading were pressed; although, considering the large interests involved in the question, and the amount of consideration which it required, he hoped the House would not be put to the trouble of a division.


said, this seemed to him to be a very crude Bill, and required a great deal of adjustment. He thought, indeed, that no Bill could be satisfactory on this subject unless it was introduced on the responsibility of Government. As an instance of the careless way in which the clauses were framed, he might mention that by Clause 9 the authorities of any borough or town in England with a population of 5,000, or upwards, by the last Census, might regulate the speed of locomotives through their streets; but the very next sub-section applied to Scotland, and said that this power should only be vested in the authorities of any town of 10,000 inhabitants or upwards. Therefore, the framers of the Bill seemed to contemplate that the interests of less than 10,000 people in Scotch towns were not worth taking care of. He was sorry that so many of the Home Rule Members were not present to look after the interests of their country—there was no restriction whatever in the Bill as to the towns of Ireland, and therefore no authority there had power to remedy any evil connected with the use of locomotives on roads; although Clause 13 said that the county surveyors in Ireland might regulate other kinds of locomotives than those stated in the Act. He thought that the Bill, apart altogether from the principle of allowing locomotives to run on public roads, was so crudely drawn up, that it should either be withdrawn by its promoters or negatived by the House.


, while he should be one of the very last to say that the use of locomotives should be entirely prohibited on roads, thought that notwithstanding the provisions of the Bill as to the regulations local authorities would be empowered to make to ensure safe passage along the streets of large towns, he feared that if these locomotives were once permitted to be taken through them we should get into a difficulty out of which it would be impossible to see our way. Not only the streets had to be considered, but there were the passengers on foot and horses and carriages. It should be remembered how in our larger mercantile cities there were continually passing day and night lorries carrying scores of loads from the manufactories to the railway depôts, and that in these towns the passing of locomotives along their streets became a question of the gravest importance. The traffic should be developed, he admitted—no one was more anxious to assist in this — but, at the same time, it must be done safely. He entertained no unreasonable objection to traffic being conducted through the streets, if only it could be so carried on, and upon regulations framed, not by a private Member, but by the responsible Government of the country. In all these matters public safety, irrespective of all other considerations, first claimed attention; and when he looked at the streets of his own borough, even though they had been so largely improved during the last 30 years, and when he remembered the large towns in the West Riding of Yorkshire, with their comparatively narrow streets formed long ago, he was compelled to come to the opinion that, unless under the strictest regulations were imposed by Government, it might be endangering the lives of the inhabitants. In referring to the population of the towns he had indicated, it must be remembered that flocks of people—men, women, and children—had to pass along the streets at certain hours, often in the dark, or the grey of the winter mornings or evenings, some miles perhaps between the factories and their homes, and on their way these crowds would have to pass these engines. He did not speak of country districts. He could quite understand that provisions ought to be made to meet agricultural requirements and agrarian interests as far as it was desirable. But he was speaking from what he had observed, that the danger to horse and carriage traffic and to foot passengers inflicted by steam engines might be something no one could fully appreciate who had not lived, as he had for some months every year, in one of the largest manufacturing towns in Yorkshire. As he understood the Bill, any person owning an engine or employing one would be at liberty to take it through the streets, no matter what might be the damage caused to the roads, and there was nothing requiring those persons to pay for the repair of such roads so damaged. The only exception was in case of damage to bridges. But were the ratepayers to be called upon to repair the roads so broken up? Most of them did not care about the engines, which were used for a limited interest only, the general public having no concern in them. In fact, if the public were consulted the general feeling would be found that they would rather not see the engines. They made horses restive and endangered carriage traffic. It was not unreasonable, then, that they should object to repair the roads damaged by the locomotives. It was no individual instance he was placing before the House; but they were dealing with a question so large that every aspect of the case should be presented and put responsibility of doing anything the upon the shoulders of the Government. With all deference to the introducer of the Bill, he doubted whether any private Member could get at the information necessary to initiate a Bill of this kind. The Board of Trade, the Local Government Board, and the Select Committee could hardly gather enough information; how, then, could such a duty be satisfactorily undertaken by a private Member? He ventured to submit to the House that the whole of the information desirable in dealing with such a subject was not before them. There were just one or two other matters worth attention. There seemed to be an attempt in the Bill to change the present law in reference to standing engines and factories being required to consume their own smoke. These locomotives were not to be so required, and persons who went through the streets of our manufacturing towns, or even went down the Embankment now, and remembered the feeling of having his head only a little lower than the fumes from the chimneys, would have a slight experience of what would be the state of things if these engines in the streets, at all hours, by day and night, were puffing their smoke over passers by. It might be said this was putting the matter too broadly, and that there would only be an engine here and there. But they all knew that the development of trade since 1861 taught a different lesson, and it was impossible to say what the end of this seeming small beginning might be. There was another matter in the Bill which required to be looked after. He had no objection to the red flag, and saw no difficulty a man carrying a red flag would have in using both hands on an emergency; but there was no doubt the attempt made in the Bill to substitute something else for the flag was simply useless. It had been said that the red flag now often became a coloured rag on a little stick; but here it was proposed to have a red band on the hat of a man walking somewhere in the same street with the engine, and on the band in white letters the word "Locomotive." Surely this was mere playing. If there should be a man to precede the engine, he must be distinguished in such a way that he was at once known among a crowd. If not, what was the use of having a man so engaged? With reference to the distinction made between the towns in Scotland and those in England, he thought that at least the application of the Bill should be to Scotch towns not less in number of population, but rather the other way. Whether the Bill was to apply to Ireland he did not know; but he could not see that the measure was adequate to the requirement of the case. Looking to the whole of the circumstances, and anxious as he was at all times—and speaking more especially for the district he represented —that there should be no unreasonable attempt made to restrict trade and limit traffic, he trusted that the Bill would be withdrawn, in the hope that when the necessities and requirements of the case were brought to bear upon the Administration the Government would take on themselves either to introduce a new Bill or one having for its object a consolidation of the old measures. While anxious that this subject should be well ventilated, he was extremely desirous that the responsibility should be on the shoulders of the Government.


thought a great many of the objections to the Bill would be removed if power were given to the local authorities not only to regulate the traffic, but to prohibit entirely the use of these traction engines where it was evident that the disadvantages would be much greater than the advantages. It would be well also if the same power of regulating the traffic were given to the Local Boards of Health in the rural districts as to the Town Councils in the towns. In his opinion, the use of these locomotives would result in many cases in driving private carriage traffic off the roads to a great extent—such he could state had been the result in the neighbourhood of Hull. In a great many cases, no doubt, the use of these engines would, be productive of economy, but they were liable to abuses, and while they were of benefit to their owners might do much harm to others. At present, the number of these engines was comparatively few, and he would suggest that the Board of Trade should have authority to give certificates as to safety to locomotives to be used on common roads. On the whole he would support the second reading of the Bill.


pointed out that the Bill imposed no limit as to the length of the train which might be drawn by the traction engines. If a train consisting of six or seven waggons overtook a loaded waggon on a country road where, as was often the case, there was hardly room for more than two carriages to pass, there might in consequence be a complete block. He thought that, at all events, there should be a regulation in such a case that the loaded waggon should remain stationary till the train passed. Nor was there any provision as to the rate of speed while passing vehicles drawn by horses. It was desirable also that there should be a provision to prevent the trains from using bridges which were not very secure, and to insure the prompt repair of a bridge which might happen to be damaged. In the district where he lived, and where there were many small bridges over brooks, this was a matter of considerable importance; for by an accident of this kind, a whole district might be put to inconvenience by the destruction of their means of communication.


said, the Bill had not been sufficiently circulated in the country to allow of its provisions being properly considered. Steam engines were now indispensable for agricultural work, and therefore it was extremely important that there should be some legislative regulations for their use. The two points dealt with in the Bill were the danger to the general public and the hindrance of road traffic. With regard to danger, he thought that had been much exaggerated, as horses were now generally accustomed to these engines; and the red flag was only a signal to those approaching, and was not waved as they passed by. As to the danger of bridges, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire had referred, there already existed a provision that if a notice was put up that a bridge was not safe for a traction engine to pass over, it would not be allowed to do so. The great fault of the Bill was its inadequacy to meet the damage done to roads by locomotives. The day of tolls was rapidly growing to a close, and therefore tolls would be an inadequate provision. He was of opinion that the case would be better met by a system of licences, the produce of which should be placed at the disposal of the local authorities for the maintenance of the roads, and if the area of highway districts were increased, it would be easy to pay the amount to the proper local authorities. The damage done to roads depended much on the season of the year; and as steam engines had now come into general use for farming purposes, it would be extremely detrimental if any undue restriction were placed on the use of them. The matter, however, ought to be in the hands of Government, and not of a private Member. The hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Chaplin) might be very well satisfied with the discussion that had taken place, and he (Mr. Beach) trusted the Government would bring in next Session a measure which, while it effectually provided for the safety of the public, would rather promote than discourage the use of locomotives, which every day were becoming more and more essential to agriculture.


said, he agreed with those who thought it would have been well if legislation on this subject had been brought in by Government. Considering the difficulties that the occupiers of land had to deal with, that the acreage under wheat was now 20 per cent less than formerly, and that heavy-soil farms were a drug in the market, and were continually being thrown upon their landlords, it was obvious that no unnecessary obstacle should be placed in the way of any machinery which would facilitate agricultural operations. At the same time, the interests of the public ought to receive the fullest consideration, and due provision should be made that these engines should be used and not abused. In many respects this Bill was a great improvement upon the present law, and particularly with regard to the consumption of smoke. It was impossible to avoid a little smoke when fuel was first put on the fires; but magistrates were now in the invidious position of being obliged to convict although the nuisance was unavoidable. The Bill proposed a more reasonable regulation. Something had been said of giving more power to local authorities to stop the employment of locomotives. It would be most disastrous if local authorities had any such power. Local authorities should be fully empowered to do those things of which they were the best judges; but if they had power to stop the traffic of a county, or stifle improvements, great mischief would be the result. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Local Government Board would give the House some assurance that the Government would take up the question—in which case he hoped his hon. and gallant Friend would be content with the second reading, without going further with his Bill.


hoped the House would not challenge the second reading of the Bill, the object of which was simply to remove certain objectionable features in the existing law. The Bill itself seemed a reasonable one, not at all in excess of the requirements of the time or of the matters it dealt with, and was in strict conformity with the Report of the Committee of 1873, which sat expressly to consider this subject. He did not believe that these locomotives were so dangerous to the public or so injurious to the roads as some asserted. It would be most unwise to drive agricultural engines off the roads, inasmuch as their employment was attended with great advantage, and the cost of maintaining the roads they passed over fell chiefly upon the very persons who used them. The case of traction engines, which were constructed for hauling great weights over roads not constructed for such traffic, occupied a different position; but as they were valuable in some kinds of work, it would not do to prevent their use. He doubted whether, having regard to the expenses they involved and the damage they inflicted upon the highways, they effected any saving at all. If they continued in use, it was only because their owners paid nothing towards the maintenance of the roads. He thought a contribution for this purpose might fairly be exacted from those persons, and that some restriction ought to be placed upon the use of traction engines, by means of licences or tolls. He hoped his hon. and gallant Friend would not go to a division; but if he did, he should vote for the second reading.


said, he saw no objection to the use of traction engines on roads provided they did not exceed a reasonable weight, and that they were properly constructed. In his opinion, the roads were, as a rule, improved rather than cut up by the pressure upon them of traction engines—in that respect, he thought the fears of hon. Members unnecessary. There was certainly some difficulty as to the passing of traction engines by other vehicles—especially where the roads were narrow—because it would sometimes happen that the engines could only travel in the middle of the road; but this difficulty could be obviated. He further admitted that horses were often frightened by them; but speaking from experience he declared that by degrees animals got quite accustomed to the engines and were not at all disturbed by them. In short, he knew no difficulties connected with the use of these engines that could not be overcome.


was in favour of facilitating, as far as possible, the use of locomotives, but he was afraid that at present the roads were not in a sufficiently favourable condition to sustain the great weight of the engines—certainly that was so in the district with which he was acquainted. His great difficulty in connection with the Bill was that great trouble would be experienced in getting the owners and users of these engines to contribute towards the maintenance of the roads. He believed that the only way in which this difficulty could properly be met would be by compelling the owners of such machines to take out licences for their use—but then in what way was the money to be distributed? He thought there were several matters in the Bill deserving of consideration; but he hoped the hon. and gallant Member would not proceed further with it this Session.


agreed with hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, that the subject should be taken up and dealt with by the Government. He thought the Local Government Board was competent to deal with the question and form adequate regulations to govern the use of locomotives. He held it was inadvisable for the Government to be going on year after year passing, as it were, an Act of indemnity in connection with these engines. He suggested that much of the difficulty might be met if some plan were devised by means of which owners of engines might be made to contribute towards the maintenance of the roads.


said, he did not think that a very strong case had been made out in favour of giving the Bill a second reading. Much more time would be required to make it a thoroughly useful and practical measure than the House had at its disposal this Session. At the same time, he admitted that his hon. and gallant Friend had done good service in drawing attention to the subject. A great deal had been said respecting the imperfections of the law; but they were not so very numerous as to demand attention until they could be grappled with effectually. There were several important omissions from the Bill as it was drawn. Some specific enactment, for instance, ought to have been included with reference to the weight of the engines. The Government had no desire unduly or vexatiously to limit the use of road locomotives. On the contrary, they desired to do what was judicious in this matter. But the difficulty was to hold the balance even. The interests of inventors and agriculturists required that no unnecessary impediment should be placed to their use: but the interests of the public were not identical with those of the owners and farmers, and demanded that nothing should be done which would interfere with the free use of the Queen's highway. The interests of the ratepayers had also to be considered. The Bill under consideration was defective in many respects. Such a Bill ought certainly to lay down regulations with respect to the weight of the engines, the construction of the wheels, and the hours during which the locomotives should be allowed to ply upon the roads. His opinion was that some reasonable compromise ought to be sought for in the matter. Supposing the Government made concessions to the owners of the locomotives, the latter ought to submit to further regulations than those to which they were now subject. These and other matters involved could no doubt be dealt with by regulations made by a competent authority; but at present there was no uniform road authority throughout the Kingdom. He recognized the fact that some contribution towards the maintenance of the roads should be made by the proprietors of engines. With respect to the question of whether the Government should not take up the matter and deal with it, he would explain that the debate now proceeding had not been necessary to direct his attention to it— he could assure his hon. and gallant Friend that he had given this subject a great deal of consideration. He had hoped to introduce a Bill this Session to consolidate the Acts of 1861 and 1865 which dealt with road locomotives, and a measure had been actually prepared for that purpose; but he felt that it was necessary that any Bill dealing with road locomotives should follow another Bill dealing with the highways and establishing a uniform road authority; and as he saw no prospect of such a Bill becoming law this Session he had not introduced it. If there had been a reasonable probability of obtaining sufficient time for a full discussion of the details of the Bill he should be glad to avail himself of his hon. and gallant Friend's aid in legislating on this subject; but considering the period of the Session and the serious omissions from the Bill, he could not think any useful purpose could be served by reading it a second time.


would vote for the second reading of the Bill. Speaking from personal experience, he could say that in the county of Kent traction engines were nearly as common as carriers' carts, and while useful to the agriculturists they did not do any serious injury to the roads. In Warwickshire, with which he was also connected, there were very few of these engines, and their want was greatly felt in those districts where the farmers had few facilities for delivering their produce. There were parts of the country in which thousands of acres of land remained unlet because there were no means of taking the produce to market, and the introduction of locomotive engines on the turnpike roads would tend greatly to the advantage of those places. There were certain points on which regulations would be necessary; but these were points of detail which could be arranged without difficulty. The regulation of the hours during which the engines were to be permitted was an important point; but it would be unreasonable to restrict the rate of speed to four miles an hour.


feared that the effect of certain clauses would be that the roads would be taken out of the hands of the surveyors and be put under irresponsible persons. If this was intended he greatly objected to it, as he found that the Bill was to be extended to Ire- land. He felt confident that the roads in the North of Ireland were not such as could be used by traction engines;— from the geological formation of the country, and certain peculiarities in the traffic, the roads would be fearfully cut up. The evidence given before the Committee confirmed this view.


opposed the Bill on account of the dangers attending the employment of locomotives on the public highways. Such accidents were of frequent occurrence, and he thought the subject ought to be taken up by the President of the Board of Trade.


said, he knew very little about the Bill before it was now proposed for the second reading; but, after looking through it, he thought everyone must arrive at the conclusion that the Bill, as it now stood, was most unsatisfactory. He would not oppose the measure if he really did not think it a bad one—but there were so many omissions that he did not see how it could be satisfactorily amended in Committee. In respect of Scotland, he thought that, since the House would probably be engaged to-morrow on a Bill for the abolition of tolls in Scotland, it was very unreasonable to discuss the present Bill so far as it was applicable to that country. He had known considerable damage to be done by traction engines. He drew a very large distinction between the engines which were used for agricultural purposes and those which were used by traders in pursuit of gain, or were used in the construction of public works. Whilst agreeing with the principle that traction engines might be used under proper regulations—and, in fact, were found to be so valuable an adjunct to husbandry that farmers in many districts could not do without them—he maintained that this Bill would be of no practical use.


said, that the Bill had been anxiously looked for by the agricultural classes. It should be remembered that all the objections raised to locomotives had been originally used against railways. The Bill might, perhaps, be improved in Committee, but it ought to be read a second time. The great argument in its favour was that heavy land could not be cultivated without steam, and in many parts of the country where heavy weights had to be moved, the use of traction engines had become almost indspensable.


regretted that the Government had not clearly stated the course they intended to take with regard to this Bill. For his own part, he considered the Bill bad in principle, inopportune in time, and one-sided in detail. The question was really a financial one, yet the financial points had been omitted from the discussion. There was no insuperable objection to locomotives being used on common roads if their owners paid a sum towards the repairs adequate to the damage they caused. The Preamble declared that experience proved that the use of locomotives was not injurious to roads. His own experience proved exactly the contrary. He knew a road which formerly cost £23 a-mile, and now, since a locomotive had been placed upon it, was costing £119 a-mile. He knew another road, under similar circumstances, which formerly cost £35 a-mile, and was now costing between £300 and £400. He would not press too far the argument based on the danger of these engines to life and limb, though no one could doubt that they were dangerous. The mode of exacting a proper contribution towards the repairs of the roads from the owners of locomotives was a simple one. There could be no very great difficulty in creating a system of licences to be granted by the road authority, whatever that authority might be. But in the Bill there was no attempt to provide any machinery of that sort. The importance of the whole question was enormously increased by the gradual discontinuance of turnpikes. There was one unanimous opinion expressed from all sides of the House in which he joined, and that was that the Government should without delay legislate on the whole subject of roads in a comprehensive spirit.


remarked that a Highway Bill had been promised from year to year, but always postponed; and he hoped that in dealing with this measure his right hon. Friend would not make one Bill wait for the other. The time had come for the use of locomotives, and engineers could easily overcome mechanical difficulties.


approved of the principle of the Bill as a measure of protection, but he thought the subject was one which ought to be taken up by the Government as a whole, and the use of locomotives on roads be included in general legislation for highways. There was no doubt that these engines injured the roads to some extent. With regard to horses, what frightened them was the sight of things they were not accustomed to, and he would suggest that if the drivers of locomotives were to put in front of the engine two of those grey horses which were to be seen outside harness makers' shops he believed the real horses would be perfectly satisfied. There were other things besides engines which frightened horses—bicycles, for example; and he spoke feelingly on the matter, for his son had sustained a serious injury owing to his horses having been frightened by a bicycle.


said, that in consequence of the statement of his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board he would withdraw the Bill.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.