HC Deb 23 February 1880 vol 250 cc1185-6

asked the President of the Board of Trade, What steps the Board have taken in the case of the Warwick and Birmingham and Warwick and Napton Canal Companies and the London and North Western Railway and Birmingham Canal Companies; and whether he proposes to deal with the relation between the canals and the Company; and, if so, whether by a special or general measure?


Sir, the subject raised by the hon. Gentleman's Question excites very great interest among the trading community, and, in dealing with this case and with similar ones, I feel bound to bear constantly in mind the strong opinion expressed by the important joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament in 1872, in favour of maintaining the competition between the canals and the railways. To make my reply intelligible, I must mention that the Warwick Canal Company instituted proceedings before the Railway Commissioners against the London and North Western Railway Company for through rates over the Birmingham Canal, which is in the hands of the London and North Western Railway, that the Commissioners made an Order in favour of such through rates, but that this Order was quashed by the Court of Exchequer on the ground that it was in excess of the Commissioners' jurisdiction. The Act under which the management of the Birmingham Canal is vested in the London and North Western Railway Company provides— That if it appears to the Board of Trade to be necessary for the interests of the public, they may require the Company to remedy any specified inconvenience or evils either by introducing a Bill or otherwise, and upon the failure of the said Company to comply with the requisition, may introduce a Bill themselves at the expense of the said Company. The Warwick Canal Company appealed to me to act under that section. I consequently communicated with the Railway Company and with the Birmingham Canal Company; but those Companies declined to give me any reply on the merits of the case, on the ground that an appeal from the decision of the Court of Exchequer was still pending. I also thought it undesirable, while an appeal was pending, to take any decisive action. I am now, however, informed that the notice of appeal will be withdrawn, and I trust I shall receive very shortly from the Railway Company a reply showing that they intend to take such steps as may render action on my part unnecessary. Until I receive those replies, I think the hon. Gentleman will feel that it would be premature for me to say what course the Government will pursue. But I am fully aware of the importance of the case, and as soon as I receive the replies from the Railway Companies, and have had time to consider them, I shall be prepared to announce the course that we shall think it right to take in this serious matter.