§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. W. B. BEACH,
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that it was a Bill which proposed various projects for the improvement of the South Western Railway system in various parts of the country; but, as most of them were practically unopposed, it was not desirable that he should trouble the House with any detail on the subject. It was sufficient to say that the projects in question were considered essential for the good working of the line in future. But there was one portion of the line which proposed to give increased accommodation between Surbiton, Cobham, and Guildford; and, to a considerable extent, the Bill in that respect would be in competition to the line proposed by another Bill, the second reading of which received the sanction of the House yesterday, and which had been referred to a Select Committee. All that he now asked was that the House would consent to the present Bill being referred to the same Committee, so that there might be a full opportunity afforded for judging of the merits of the measure. The only objection to the second reading 453 of the Bill, so far as he was aware, was on account of some interference with a common land. It was pointed out yesterday that it would be extremely difficult to touch the county of Surrey at all without interfering in some way with commons. So far as the present line went, from Surbiton to Cobham and Guildford, it only proposed to interfere with two commons. Goose Green would not be interfered with at all; but Ockham Common, and Great and Little Bookham Common, would be interfered with to a certain extent, although the interference would be very small indeed. There was no act of severance whatever, but the line would merely skirt these commons; and the Company gave an undertaking that the same amount of land that was taken away from the common in one direction should be added to it in another. Therefore, he was bound to say that, as far as this portion of the line went, there was very little substantial objection on the score of the commons. But, with regard to railroad number two, which proposed to go to Leatherhead, there was also, no doubt, some interference with common laud; but the same course was proposed to be taken by the Company who were promoting the Bill. As he had already stated, it would be difficult to make that or almost any other line in the county of Surrey without interfering with common lands to some extent; but, at the same time, there was this to be said in regard to the second part of the scheme, that the common which it was proposed to interfere with was situated on very low land, a great deal of it being upon marshy ground. The portion of the common through which the proposed line would pass was upon land that was of a particularly low and marshy description. That the interference with the common land was not great was proved by the fact that the majority of the inhabitants of the district, and of those who possessed the common rights, had presented a Petition to the Secretary of State for the Home Department in favour of the line being made—because, as they said, it would tend to promote good drainage, and render the rest of the common more useful for other purposes. There was, therefore, a strong feeling in the neighbourhood in favour of the line being made, provided that when the sanction 454 of Parliament was given to it, or before that sanction was given, an undertaking was given by the Railway Company that they would abide by the decision of the Secretary of State for the Home Department as to the execution of such works in the nature of planting, draining, or providing accommodation for getting from one side of the line to the other, as he, or any other properly constituted authority, might prescribe. Such an undertaking might, he thought, be extended to any other commons which the Railway Company might desire to touch. Such an undertaking would, he thought, render any interference with common land much less injurious than it might otherwise be; and, considering that the inhabitants of the neighbourhood were in favour of the Bill, he did not think the objections which were raised against it, on the ground of its interference with common lands, was an objection of a very valid description. All the promoters asked was that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee upstairs, so that there might be a full opportunity afforded of considering it and deciding it upon its merits. What they desired was that the Committee, to whom a Bill upon the same subject had already been referred, should also have the present measure referred to them. Such a Committee would have an ample opportunity for judging of the merits of the respective schemes, and of arriving at a fair and impartial decision. He begged, without further preface, to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. B. Beach.)
§ MR. BRYCE,
who had a Notice on the Paper of his intention to move that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months, said, the reason why he had given Notice of a Motion for the rejection of the Bill on the second reading was that the measure proposed to inflict very serious and permanent injury on some of the most valuable Surrey commons. It proposed altogether to interfere with five of them; and as regarded two of the five, it would take no less than 11 acres, and would not only intersect and sever them, but would most prejudicially affect pieces of scenery which were among the most beautiful in the comity of Surrey. The 455 case against the Bill in respect of these commons was so strong that, if the matter rested merely on that point alone, he would feel much confidence in asking the House to reject the Bill. He was, however, bound to say that the matter did not rest there. There was another scheme before the House for the construction of a railway in this district. The Guildford, Kingston, and London Railway Bill was discussed yesterday, when the House gave it a second reading, and sent it to a Select Committee. It might be said, with some force, that, under those circumstances, it would be unfair that the rival scheme of the London and South Western Railway Company should not be referred to a Select Committee at the same time; and, therefore, he did not think it right that he should press his opposition to the Bill. At the same time, he believed that the decision of the House yesterday was not arrived at in any spirit of indifference to the preservation of these commons, but because large concessions were proposed to be made by those who brought the measure forward, and because the House believed that if the suggested improvements were made the railway would be useful in the way of opening up the common lands in Surrey for the recreation and enjoyment of the great masses of the people of London. He should certainly insist upon his opposition to the present Bill, if it were not for the fact that the two schemes which had been submitted to the House ought, in fairness, to be heard and tried together. He was fortified by the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. W. B. Beach) in the supposition that the South Western Railway Company were also ready to do something to remove the objections which those who were interested in the preservation of commons took against the Bill. At the same time, he thought he ought to say that if the present measure passed, and came back to the House containing provisions so objectionable as those which now appeared in it, it would be the duty of those who valued these commons for the benefit and enjoyment of the people to offer to the measure the most strenuous opposition on the third reading. He certainly hoped, if the Bill was read a second time now, that such provisions would be inserted 456 in it as would render it unnecessary to take that course on a future stage.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.