HC Deb 10 March 1881 vol 259 cc723-5

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether his attention has been called to the constitution of the Committee on Railways recently appointed by this House; whether it is a fact that it includes at least eight Railway directors; and, whether, as a Committee so constituted will not be a satisfactory tribunal to decide upon the complaints made by the agricultural interest against the rates for the carriage of goods at present charged by the Railway Companies, he will undertake to ask the House to reconstitute the Committee?


, in reply, said, that, with the permission of the House, he would at the same time answer the Questions of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) and of the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) on this subject. In the first place, it would be well to call the attention of the House to the fact that the appointment of the Committee did not rest primarily with the Government, and that in regard to nearly half of the Committee the Government had no influence in their nomination. Probably the House would regard with jealousy anything like interference on the part of the Government with the composition of the Committee, as Committees so ap- pointed would not have the confidence of the public. Notice of the nomination of this Committee was given 10 days before the appointment was made, and the proper time to have contested the constitution of the Committee would have been when the nomination was made. It was very difficult to specify the qualifications of the Committee, because it was difficult to say what was the chief ground on which any Member had been placed on the Committee. He had carefully considered the matter; and, as far as he had been able to find out, after making allowance for dual qualifications, he found that its composition was as follows:—One hon. Member represented the Board of Trade, two were connected with the Legal Profession, four represented agricultural interests, five represented the interests of coal and iron, six the interests of manufactures and commerce, seven were supposed to be principally connected with railways, and one remained—the right hon. Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth)—whom, he confessed, he was unable to classify without permission. Under these circumstances, he did not think the railway interests unduly prominent or predominant, or that the agricultural or the manufacturing interest, or the interest of the large towns, was insufficiently or inadequately represented. At the same time, he recognized that there was a feeling, probably general on both sides of the House, that those interests should be strengthened. The proposition, therefore, he had to make was that if the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) would withdraw his opposition he would himself place on the Paper a Motion to increase the number of the Committee to 27, and would add the names of the hon. Member for East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine), who also represented the commercial interests of Liverpool, the hon. Member for South Shropshire (Sir Baldwyn Leighton) and the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Mr. Phipps), one representing the coal trade, two the agricultural interest, and one a large commercial constituency.



asked, Whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that he had named 26 Members, whereas the Committee consisted of only 23, and whether it was not probable that he had counted some of the Members twice over?


Yes, Sir; it is not only probable but certain. I explained to the House that several Members of the Committee had dual qualifications, and it was impossible for me to classify them as having one qualification only.