§ Order for Third Beading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ MR. MONK,
in rising to move the rejection of the Bill, said, he had to present a Petition from the Executive Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce against this Bill. The Petitioners called attention to the Resolution arrived at by the Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons in 1872; and they also expressed the same opinion as that which was expressed by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) on the second reading of the Bill, when his right hon. Friend stated that the conclusions he had arrived at were entirely in accordance with the views of Parliament, and of those engaged in the commerce of the country— namely, that the amalgamation of Canals with Railway Companies ought to be discouraged; that the control of the Canals ought not to be invested in the Railway Companies; and that, at all events, every precaution should be taken for securing the independence and maintenance of the inland water navigation of the country. He (Mr. Monk) regarded this as the most important Private Bill which had been brought before the House during the present Session; and if any apology were needed for the course he was now taking in calling attention to the measure at this late stage of the Bill, it would be found in the fact that, on the second reading, his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade proposed that it should not be referred to an ordinary Committee of four Members, but to an exceptional Committee—a Hybrid Committee, consisting of nine Members, five of whom 632 were to be appointed by the Committee of Selection. The suggestion of the President of the Board of Trade was adopted. The Bill was referred to a Hybrid Committee, and the House now had before it the Report of that Committee. It would be his duty briefly to call the attention of the House to that Report, and especially to the meagreness of the explanations which it gave. This was a Bill for incorporating the Regent's Canal, City, and Docks Railway Company. That was the ground of Part II. of the Bill, and to that he made no objection. But it went on to provide for the transfer to the newly-created Railway Company of the undertaking called the Regent's Canal Company. That provision was contained, he thought, in Parts III. and IV. of the Bill, and to that provision he most decidedly objected. The Bill had certain other objects in view; but the main object was the transfer of, perhaps, the most important water navigation in the Kingdom to a Railway Company; and, as he had already stated, it was contrary to the recommendations of various Select Committees, of that House, and decidedly antagonistic to the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament in 1872. The President of the Board of Trade, whom he regretted not to see in his place, sent a special Report to the Committee—the Hybrid Committee appointed by the House to inquire into the merits of the Bill. The Select Committee reported simply that they had passed the Preamble of the Bill; and they went on to state that there were no other circumstances of which, in the opinion of the Committee, it was desirable that the House should be informed, and that they had examined the allegations contained in the Preamble of the Bill, and amended the same to make it consistent with the provisions of the Bill as passed by the Committee, and found the same, as amended, to be true, and had gone through the Bill and made Amendments thereunto. It would be seen that the Report contained no reference whatever to the extraordinary circumstances under which the Bill was referred to a Select Committee. So far as ho was able to see, the Report of the Board of Trade was entirely ignored. It was very possible that certain of the recommendations of the Board of Trade had been inserted 633 in some of the clauses of the Bill, and that the requirements of the Board of Trade had, to a certain extent, been safeguarded by the Committee; but nothing whatever was said as to the wisdom of the course now proposed to be taken in transferring this Canal Company to a Railway Company. It was in consequence of the extraordinary nature of this Bill that it was referred to a Special Committee, and on turning to the proceedings, which were placed in the hands of hon. Members a day or two ago, he found that the Committee divided as to the propriety of passing the Preamble of the Bill, and upon that division he found that the Ayes were 4 and the Noes 4 also; whereupon the Chairman declared himself in favour of the Ayes. The minority were composed of the hon. Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel), the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Eathbone), the hon. Member for East Essex (Mr. Round), and the hon. Member for South Warwickshire (Mr. Gilbert Leigh). Now, those were Members of considerable experience in the House, and he thought their opinions were entitled to very great weight. He therefore hoped they should hear either from his hon. Friend the Member for Herefordshire (Sir Joseph Bailey), who was Chairman of the Committee, or from some other Member of it, why it was that they had not reported in reference to the subject-matter which was referred to them—namely, whether it was expedient that the policy recommended by all the Committees which had sat in the House of Commons, and by the Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons, in 1872, should in this instance be departed from. He found that there were no less than 76 Petitions presented against the Bill, and, as far as he was aware, there was not a single Petition in favour of it. His objection —or rather the objection of the Association on behalf of whom he had the honour to speak—was that the transference of this Canal Company into the hands of a Railway Company would place it in the power of the Railway Company to starve the navigation so transferred. It would matter very little what clause they inserted in the Bill for the protection of the navigation, because the Bill would enable the Railway Company to divert the traffic which came from the other Canals in the country 634 into the Regent's Canal system to its own system of railway, instead of to the water communication which formed the general source of the Canal traffic of the country. He would remind the House that the Regent's Canal Company was reported to be in a very flourishing condition. It was altogether a different case from that of other navigations, which had not been able to pay their own expenses, and which had, unfortunately, fallen into the hands of the great Railway Companies. This, so far as he understood, was a paying concern, earning no less than the net sum of £60,000 a-year. Whether that was the actual figure or not, the Company were, at all events, in very flourishing circumstances, and, therefore, there was not the same necessity for transferring it to a Company which might arise in the case of an impoverished Company. He thought it was a national policy to keep the inland navigation open; but it seemed here that the whole question endeavoured to be solved was the best means of dividing good dividends among the proprietors. He believed that the Regent's Canal had branches to the London Docks, and that it there collected a great portion of the traffic which passed over the other Canals of the country. If that were so, it was surely most unwise for the House to depart from the policy it had so frequently recommended, and which certainly seemed to him to be the most desirable one to follow, of keeping the water navigation free and open, especially in a case where the Canal was a perfect solvent concern. He looked upon this Bill as, perhaps, the first, but, at all events, a most vital step towards closing the water navigation of the country. If Parliament consented to pass this Bill, he did not see how they could refuse to transfer any Canal whatever into the hands of a Railway Company which was able to give an undertaking that it would keep open the waterway. He might, further, remind the House that a Committee had now been sitting upstairs for nearly two Sessions, presided over by his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Evelyn Ashley), in order to inquire, among other things, into this very question. That Committee had taken evidence with regard to Canals and with regard to their connection with the railways. He (Mr. Monk) had the honour 635 of being a Member of that Committee; and he believed that they were prepared to report—that they would report very shortly—and that probably they would make some such recommendation as that which was made by the Joint Committee of 1872. There was still another reason. His hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) moved, a few nights ago, for a Select Committee upon Canals. That Committee was granted; and he saw that the names of the Members to be appointed upon it were now upon the Order Book of the House. At a time when his hon. Friend was ready with a Committee to inquire into the connection between Railways and Canals, and to point out to the House the best means of keeping open the navigation of the country, was that a moment when the House ought to place it in the power of any Railway Company, if not to close, at all events, to interfere most prejudicially with the great water communication like that of the Regent's Canal? With these observations, he should move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months, and he did so as a protest against any further absorption of Canals by Railway Companies. He hoped that the House would hear from some Members of the Committee what were the grounds upon which they had adopted this most exceptional course; and he trusted that some weight would be given to the opinion of the minority in the Committee, who were certainly entitled to great weight in the estimation of that House. He begged to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."'—(Mr. Monk.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOSEPH BAILEY
regretted that the hon. Member for Gloucester should have felt it his duty to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months; and as to the reason adduced by the hon. Member, among others, that a Committee was now sitting upon the general question upstairs, he ventured to say upon that point that it was an objection which should have been raised on the second reading of the Bill, and not upon the third read- 636 ing. The Bill had already been referred to a Select Committee. That Committee had sat upon it for every working day for a month; it had examined some 60 or 70 witnesses, and had put something like 10,000 questions; and the House could well understand that an investigation of so protracted a character could not have been entered into without very great expense to the promoters. He thought that Parliament ought not to put the gentlemen who had embarked in this great undertaking to the expense of making a similar application a second time. With regard to the general subject, he admitted that the question was a very large one; but he would only detain the House by commenting upon the topics introduced by his hon. Friend in opposing the Bill. His hon. Friend had dealt, to a certain extent, with the traffic of the Canal. Now, of the traffic, 70 per cent was local traffic, and only 30 per cent consisted of traffic derived from other canals. Of that 70 per cent, two-thirds, or one-half the entire Canal traffic, came from the London Docks, and consisted of goods distributed to various wharves for the supply of the Metropolis. The Canal Company was not at the present time a Carrying Company, but it was a Toll-Taking Company; and it had no power of diverting any traffic from the Canal to the railway which was proposed to be constructed. But there were provisions inserted in the Bill for the purpose of keeping the Canal open for navigation, and to keep down the tolls at the moderate rate at which they now existed. The Committee were assisted in their investigation by a Report from the Board of Trade. That Report recited at some length the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons in 1872. The Report had been referred to by his hon. Friend, and it said—The plan proposed in this Bill is, upon the face of it, at variance with this recommendation; and the burden lies upon the promoters of showing- that there are special circumstances in this case which take it out of the general rules and principles laid down by the Joint Committee.The Report, at the end, made three suggestions, which he would deal with by-and-bye. What he wished to do at the present moment was to show that there were special circumstances which 637 took this Canal out of the scope of the General Report of the Committee of 1872. The circumstances were—the importance of the line of railway proposed to be made, and the special advantages of the route which it gave. Now, with regard to the advantages of the route, he would say this. Owing to the Canal having been made a very long time ago —for it was constructed under an Act passed in the year 1812—it had been a sort of barrier running through the middle of London for a great number of years; and, owing to the peculiarity of its position, the railway could be built on the north bank of it with less severance of property than by other routes through the Metropolis. It avoided all the complications of gas mains, sewers, and water-pipes, which constituted some of the great difficulties of Metropolitan improvements. It further avoided all severance of roads, and it was a remarkable fact that throughout the whole length of the proposed railway, running on the banks of the Canal for nearly 20 miles through the heart of London, it would only alter the level of one road, the alteration being only seven inches above the existing thoroughfare. Another important point was that if a railway were allowed to be constructed upon this route it could be carried out with less displacement to population than by taking any other route. Moreover, it was a daylight route; and that was a matter which anyone who had travelled by underground railway would know was one of very great importance. Beyond these reasons for taking the Canal, there was this fact—that by selecting this route there would be a saving in the cost of construction of from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000. These, he thought, were very important reasons; and if it could be shown that the railway was one of great importance to the public, they were reasons which ought to take the present Bill entirely out of the recommendations of the Joint Committee of 1872. There were also great advantages afforded by this railway in a public point of view. It proposed to join the Great Western Railway, the Great Northern Railway, and the Midland Railway with the Docks and the City of London. It would be of great advantage to steamships enabling them to coal at the Port of London; and it would perform all the ob- 638 jects of a Metropolitan Railway, as well as being a great convenience to the vast population in the neighbourhood through which it passed. To show the enormous amount of traffic which was likely to pass over such a line, he might state that the North of London Tramway Company proved to the Committee in evidence that in that neighbourhood they were employing from 2,400 to 2,500 horses, and that they carried a moving population of 34,000,000 annually. Beyond this, General Herbert appeared before the Committee on behalf of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, and showed that the proposed line was of very great importance, in a military point of view, from the facilities it would afford for the embarking of troops and stores at the Port of London. These facts would show that the proposed route was an extremely advantageous one, and, consequently, that the railway itself would be of great importance to the Metropolis. The Report of the Board of Trade ended by making three suggestions to the Committee. First of all, that if it was passed into law it would be necessary to provide that the least possible interference with the traffic of the Canal should be protected during the construction of the railway. Upon this point the Committee had inserted a provision in the Bill—That no part of the waterway shall he closed, nor shall the free navigation, or the use of any part thereof, he interrupted for a longer period at any one time than ten days, nor shall such interruption occur more than twice in any one year, one occasion to be at Whitsuntide, and in such case the Company shall give ample notice to all parties concerned.As at the present moment it was necessary to clear the Canal annually at Whitsuntide for repairs, it would be obvious that there would be no very great additional amount of obstruction. Then they had provided that, whereas by the Canal Companies' Act they were only obliged to keep the Canal open 12 hours a-day, henceforth it should be kept open during the whole 24 hours, except on Sunday. They had also provided that any Canal Company, wharfinger, carrier, or trader should recover damages for any special damage sustained by them by the closing of the Canal at only other than the stipulated time, or by any other act, neglect, or default of the Company. The second recommendation of the Board of Trade was to provide that ample provision be 639 made for the rights of all those who now used the Canal, both with regard to rates and convenience of traffic. Upon that heading the Committee had inserted in the Bill a provision that ample security should be given to the Grand Junction Canal Company against accident by loss of water in the Paddington Long Level by fine, gate, or otherwise. It was also provided that the tolls should not exceed those actually taken during the last 12 months, except with the permission of the Board of Trade. The Committee had also inserted a clause to enable other Canal Companies to secure through rates over this Canal, and against excessive tolls at Limehouse Docks, which formed the entrance to the Canal. It was further provided that, whore it was necessary to widen or narrow the Canal in consequence of the construction of the railway, both sides should be retained by walls, giving a waterway equivalent to that at present provided. There were other conveniences provided in connection with the use of the Canal for the purpose of traffic, with which he would not trouble the House. The third suggestion of the Board of Trade was a very important one. It was this—Still more important will it be to consider whether power should not be given to the Grand Junction Canal and other Canal Companies, at some future time and on terms to be arranged by arbitration, to purchase the Canal undertaking.To meet this suggestion the Committee had provided—That power should be given to the Grand J unction Canal Company and other Canal Companies, at any future time after the construction of the railway and on terms to be arranged by arbitration, to purchase the Canal undertaking, including Limehouse Dock.He hoped he had shown to the House— first, that this route possessed special advantages; and, secondly, that the railway, when constructed, would be of immense advantage to the public, and that for these reasons it ought to be removed from the action of the Joint Committee of 1872. He hoped, further, that he had shown to his hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill that the Committee had taken every possible care to secure the use of the Canal to all persons who could be now engaged in conducting the traffic over it.
§ MR. ARTHUR PEEL
said, ho would not detain the House for more than a few moments; but having taken con- 640 siderable interest in this question, he felt himself called upon to make a few observations in regard to the Bill as it had left the Select Committee. He fully agreed with the views expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), who opposed the Bill at this stage, and he thought the course his hon. Friend had taken was justified by the exceptional nature of the Bill. The hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House was Chairman of the Committee, and a most able and impartial Chairman too. The hon. Baronet stated that a great number of questions were asked by the Committee, and that a great number of days were occupied in considering its merits. Now, his (Mr. A. Peel's) opinion as to the great issue involved in the Bill was, that it was nothing more nor less than the competition of Canals with Railways; and nothing which passed in the Committee had impaired, in the slightest degree, the necessity of upholding that principle, or would, in his humble judgment, warrant the House in giving up the recommendation of the Joint Committee of 1872. The long and short of the question was this—they were placing the key of a vast system of Canal traffic in the hands of a Railway Company, and if they consented to place the key of the door in the hands of a Railway Company, he knew on which side of the door the Canals and those who were interested in maintaining water communication would be left. And it must not be forgotten that, at this present moment, a Committee had been appointed to inquire into the whole question of Canals, and their relation to the Railway interest. Of that Committee his hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) was to be the Chairman, and he trusted the House would not stultify itself by sending that question to a Select Committee for inquiry, and, at the same time, by this Bill, handing over practically one-third of the whole system of Canal navigation to a Railway Company. He certainly hoped that if this Bill was to pass the House, it would leave the House with a protest hanging around its neck, and if his hon. Friend thought fit to divide the House he should certainly go with him into the Lobby. He believed, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Hereford (Sir Joseph Bailey) had truly said, that the intention of the Bill was to provide a new and cheap Metro- 641 politan route; but he knew no reason why, if it was the intention of the promoters of the Bill to provide a Metropolitan route, that they should take the whole of this Canal into their possession. As it was, the Canal itself was handed over. There was no reason why the promoters should not have asked to run a line along the banks of the Canal, leaving the Canal to occupy its present independent position. The promoters, however, had not done so; but they proposed to absorb the Canal into their own system. In point of fact, the whole of this Canal was placed in such a position that hereafter the Regent's Canal and its feeders would be at the absolute mercy and control of the Railway Company. Under these circumstances, he would support the Amendment.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, he was surprised that his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), with the great experience he possessed of the Business of that House, should raise this question on the third reading of the Bill. It was, in reality, a question of the principle of the Bill, and that question was settled, after a full debate of the House, upon the second reading. The House then determined that the Bill should go to a Committee. It was thought that as there was a great principle at issue it ought to go to a Select Committee. That Committee had been sitting for a long time; it had taken a considerable amount of evidence, and it had passed the Bill, which now came down to the House for a third reading, and he hoped the House would consent to read it a third time. It was not a question between Railways and Canals, but there were other and more important questions involved. This was the case of a Canal running through a very thickly-inhabited district, and the time had now come when it ought to be considered whether Canals, running through thickly-populated towns, should be encouraged or not, especially when, in its place, it was proposed to construct a railway which would carry 100 times as many people and goods; and there was one even more strong reason which he had ventured to put before the House when the second reading of the Bill was under discussion. During the past 10 years the population of London had enormously increased, and Parliament 642 had been considering various methods for enabling the working classes, whose work brought them into London, but who were obliged to live outside, to get from their work to their homes. One of the great problems of the day was, how to get the working people out of the centre of London to their homes. A private Company now came forward and said—"We can make 13 miles of railway running to the North and North-West of London, and we can take people by that railway from your Docks and the City to the outer districts." Why should this offer be refused? Unless Parliament sanctioned some such means of enabling the working population to get in and out of London, the difficulties that they had now to contend with would be increased year by year. If only for this reason, he hoped the House would read the Bill a third time, so that there might be another cheap and rapid route provided for the convenience of the working classes.
§ MR. D. JENKINS
wished to say a word in regard to the bearing of the question upon the Grand Junction and other Canals. A very large portion of the goods brought from the inland Canals did not reach the Regent's Canal at all. The great bulk of the goods bought by inland water traffic passed into the Thames at Brentford, and out of a revenue of £60,000 a-year, which was said to be the net income derived by the Canal Company at present, a large portion was earned by Dock dues at Limehouse Docks, which were not affected by this scheme. It had been said, in regard to the description of goods carried by means of this Canal, that 70 per cent consisted of goods connected with local traffic, which could not possibly be carried by railway, such as bricks and goods of a very low value. With regard to the scheme as a Metropolitan improvement, he believed that it would be of immense advantage to the large population situated in the North of London. What was the case now? If a man wished to go to the North of London from the extreme East he had to make two or three changes of carriages, and, considering the time occupied and the extra expense, that alone was a matter deserving consideration. Then, again, as regarded the coal traffic from South Wales and the Midland districts, it had to pass over two or three 643 lines of railway at a great additional expense. For these reasons, he thought, on the whole, considering the great amount of traffic from day to day, that the House ought to pass the third reading of this Bill. So far as the water was concerned, it would be improved by the Bill, because the Canal would he deepened and rendered more safe for the navigation than it was at present. In point of fact, a much larger amount of traffic could be left over it than was possible at the present moment. He trusted that the House would consent to read the Bill a third time.
§ MR. WATNEY
said, he desired to call attention to a remark made by the hon. Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel), which he thought might mislead the House. The hon. Member had told them that it was proposed to lay a railway by the side of the Canal, and that the Canal was to be kept open all the year, with the exception of a certain number of days at Whitsuntide. It was proposed, even then, to leave the Canal in such a position that two barges could pass at the same time. Now, the largest traffic on that part of the Canal amounted to about 81 barges a-day, and by leaving room for two to pass the Committee had taken care that the roadway of the Canal should always be kept open. He thought there could not be a suspicion that this railway would be hostile to the Canal traffic. It was impossible to put the inland Canal traffic in the power of any Railway Company, because the Grand Junction Canal had an opening into the Thames by way of Brentford, and three-fourths of the inland traffic went in that direction. There was satisfactory evidence brought before the Committee that only 30,000 tons a-year of traffic came from the inland system to this Canal; and as they had taken precautions for keeping the Canal open in a better state than it now was, no power possessed by any Railway Company could very materially interfere with it; and it should also be borne in mind that the Associated Canal Companies could at any time purchase the Canal if they thought proper. He therefore hoped the House would not hesitate to affirm the principle they had laid down by reading the Bill a third time, but that they would pass the third reading now, and he felt sure that by so doing they would not only help the general traffic of 644 London, but, at the same time, assist the ordinary traffic of the Canal.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he wished the House to remember that this was not the Report of an ordinary Private Bill Committee that they were asked to affirm, but the Report of a Hybrid Committee. It was all very well for the Chairman of the Committee to come forward and make explanations now; but what he complained of was that the Committee themselves had not presented a Report sufficiently ample to guide the House upon the matter. The adoption of the Preamble of the Bill was a vote in which the Committee was equally divided, and it was only decided by the casting vote of the Chairman of the Committee. As he had said, it was a Hybrid Committee. The object of sending the Bill to a Hybrid Committee was that the interests of the public, which would not be watched over by those who had a locus standi before a Private Bill Committee, might be in a Hybrid Committee better protected; and a Hybrid Committee ought to have reported to the House, in order that the House might be certain whether those public interests had been duly protected in this instance or not. He knew very well that if a Canal got into the hands of a Railway Company, especially a Canal through which a great deal of outside traffic passed to the London Docks, that the public interest would be placed in very great jeopardy indeed. Under these circumstances, he should support the Amendment moved by his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester.
§ BARON DE FERRIERES
said, he had been requested by the Ross Dock and Railway Company to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk). The Bill involved a very serious question for the Canals of the West of England. All those Canals concentrated at Padding-ton, and they there came into communication with the Regent's Canal. Hitherto it had been possible for them to pass their traffic at once to the London Docks; but if this Bill passed they would be placed at the mercy of the Railway Company. He knew that it was very easy to pass a clause in a Private Bill; but, as a matter of practice, it was just as easy to nullify such a clause in its operation, and instead of a Railway Company being compelled to keep open a Canal, in the course of a 645 few years, if this Bill passed, it would be found that the Canal Companies in the West of England were unable to communicate with the Docks in the East of London. He therefore thought that those who opposed this Bill were justified in departing from the usual custom of the House; and he entertained a strong hope that the Bill would not be allowed to pass in its present shape. If the Railway Company wished to construct a new line in this direction, let it avail itself of the usual course, and bring in a Bill for the purchase of the land and the construction of the line. The only explanation given to the House by the Chairman of the Committee for granting this concession to a Railway Company was that it would save the Company a sum of £2,500,000; and for the sake of effecting that saving the whole of the Canal traffic of the West of England was to be sacrificed. He trusted that the House would divide against the unjustifiable mode of action proposed by the Bill.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said, he intended to be very brief in his remarks, as he knew the House did not regard with much favour a protracted debate upon a Private Bill. All he wished to call the attention of the House to was that this was not the absorption of a Canal by a Railway Company. It might be so according to the letter, but it was certainly not according to the spirit. This was a case of an existing Canal which had already a railway constructed along a portion of its banks, and it was now desired to utilize the whole of the property not only as a Canal, but as a railway. By sanctioning the construction of the railway the Canal would not be destroyed; but it would be converted into a better Canal for the purpose of traffic than it was now. He spoke from facts that were proved before the Committee, and from facts within his own knowledge; and he altogether repudiated the assertion that the passing of this Bill would involve the destruction or even the slightest injury to the Regent's Canal. The question, however, was whether the House in this case was to be governed by its ordinary Rules, or to establish a new precedent in the interest of special constituencies either in the West of England, Warwickshire, or any other part of the country. With regard to the resolution of the Chambers of 646 Commerce represented by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), he certainly could have no great feeling in its favour when he found that it was a general resolution respecting Canals generally, and calling upon the House to pursue a certain course in regard to them. The hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) said that the public were not represented before the Committee. He evidently was ignorant of the fact that 76 Petitions were presented against the Bill, and that the Committee sat for 20 days upon it. He had never seen so many counsel assembled, and, so far as he was able to judge, every interest was represented and fully inquired into. Then, in regard to the Report, all the special recommendations of the Board of Trade were given effect to in the Report of the Committee. The hon. Member for Glasgow said they made no special Report; that was altogether a mistake. They not only made a special Report, but they reported that they had inserted clauses in the Bill to carry out the recommendations of the Board of Trade. Under these circumstances, he would ask the House, in justice to those who had obtained a decision of a Committee upstairs, not to be tempted to enter into an analysis of the composition of the majority by whom the Preamble was passed, but to adopt the recommendations which were arrived at. If they were to enter into an analysis of this kind, where were they to stop? Were they to inquire into the character of the Chairman? If so, the character of the hon. Member for Herefordshire (Sir Joseph Bailey) was above all suspicion, and were his views to have no effect at all? He contended that this was too late to discuss the general merits of the Bill. The House had assented to its principle on the second reading, and had referred the consideration of its details to a Committee upstairs; and they were bound now to support the decision their own Committee had arrived at. He hoped the House would adhere in this case to the ordinary practice and custom, and would allow the Bill to be read a third time.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
said, he knew that important Business was about to be brought before the House, and the value of the time which was now at the disposal of the House; and he would, therefore, not occupy the attention of the 647 House for more than a few moments. Ho thought, however, that the House ought to consider that a grave question was raised when they were asked to reject a Bill which the Committee and the House had sanctioned. He had heard the statement of the hon. Baronet who presided over the Committee (Sir Joseph Bailey), and also that of the hon. Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel), who admitted that a more able Chairman could not have been appointed, although he advocated the other side of the question. The whole of these matters had been fully investigated. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) said the Committee was a Hybrid Committee. No doubt, it was a Hybrid Committee, but that made the decision of the Committee of greater importance. The Bill was not submitted to an ordinary Committee of four Members, but to a Committee of nine, five of whom were added by the Committee of Selection. The hon. Member said that the Bill was passed by the casting vote of the Chairman. It was not passed by the casting vote of the Chairman; but the fact was that, when the numbers were equal, the Chairman voted in the majority. Therefore, the majority was five against four. Then, what was the result? The result was, that they were having the whole matter argued out again on the floor of the House by the advocates of both sides of the question. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Baron De Ferrieres) came forward, and without any experience of the investigations of a Select Committee —for he believed the hon. Member had never sat on a Select Committee in his life—came forward now and asked the House to constitute him a Court of Appeal, and on his representation to throw out the result of an inquiry by a Committee which had sat for 16 days, and had inquired most carefully into the whole of the questions submitted to them. If the House would only consider the labour and difficulty the Committee of Selection had in getting hon. Members to undertake the onerous duty of serving upon Select Committees, he thought they would see the necessity of supporting the Committee when they had arrived at a conclusion. If the Committee had exercised their discretion wrongly, there was still a Court of Review in "another place." He called upon the House not to reject the Bill 648 on an ex parte statement, either from the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Baron De Ferrieres), or the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), or the hon. Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel), or from hon. Members who were interested in the West of England; but to sustain the decision arrived at after careful inquiry by an able and impartial Committee.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, he wished simply to bear his humble testimony to that which had been so well expressed by his hon. Friend opposite in deprecating most earnestly this new practice. The House was sought to be seduced into putting great questions of legislation regarding traffic and property literally to a "Whip" on both sides of the dispute as a Court of Appeal. Was this a time to ask the House that they should subject themselves even to a suspicion of such a mode of dealing with public interests? There had been the greatest difficulty in getting the House to agree to a decision on the second reading of the Bill, and it was at his instance that it was referred to a Hybrid Committee. His hon. Friend the Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel), than whom there was no sounder authority in the House, came down on that occasion and opposed the Bill on general grounds of public principle. His hon. Friend opposed its reference to an ordinary Select Committee; but, on the other hand, there were very strong representations made of public interests that required the Bill not to go to a Committee in the ordinary way. The House was in a state of doubt, when he (Mr. Torrens) humbly suggested, with the entire concurrence of the Government, who approved of the course taken, that there should be an appeal to that peculiar tribunal called a Hybrid Committee. The Committee of Selection were able to introduce a certain number of men of experience and ability to act along with the four Members usually appointed to inquire into a Private Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Warwick acquiesced in that course, and he believed that his hon. Friend was satisfied that there was reason and justice in that alternative. Well, then, having used that mode of arriving at an independent conclusion, were they now to throw over all that the Committee had done? Were they to disregard all the evidence that had been taken? Were they to set aside 649 their own decision on the second reading, and by merely appealing to votes in the Lobby, whipped up on behalf of the great Companies concerned, were they to say they were not really capable of giving an independent judgment themselves on the second reading? There was no doubt whatever that the public at large would regard with great doubt and misgiving such a course on the part of the House. He hoped he would not be misapprehended when he said he thought the present moment peculiarly unfitted for taking such a course, because, if he was not greatly misinformed, something of a similar kind had been done "elsewhere," and from somewhat similar reasons. If Parliament was to follow that course and set up that new system of a chance-medley tribunal, he believed they would soon lose the confidence of the country. Before he sat down he would mention one point which he thought the House did not thoroughly appreciate. It was said that the traffic of the Western Canals might be injured by the control that would be exercised by this Railway Company if it obtained dominion over the Regent's Canal. Now, the truth was this—the great bulk of the Western traffic went into the Thames at Brentford, and therefore there would be no injury to that traffic at all.
§ MR. CAINE
remarked that this was a Bill to enable the Regent's Canal to acquire one of the most important waterways of the country. Now, he had sat upon a Select Committee of that House during the greater portion of the Session, and the whole of last Session, to inquire into the question of Railway Rates. Witness after witness had come forward to complain of the great evil inflicted upon the trade of the country by enabling Railway Companies to acquire waterways. On that ground he should vote against any measure brought into that House to enable a Railway Company to acquire the waterway of any Canal.
§ MR. LALOR
said, he wished to warn the House against the great danger of allowing Railway Companies to monopolize the waterways of the country, and he would give a reason from what had occurred in his own country a few years ago. There was a Canal in Dublin which ran to the West of Ireland, and the line of the Great Western Railway ran by the side of the Canal down to 650 Mullingar. A few years ago the Railway Company sought to obtain possession of the Canal from Dublin to Mullingar. It succeeded in doing; so, and what had been the result? The Railway between Mullingar and Dublin had monopolized the whole carrying' trade of the district of the whole of the West of Ireland from Dublin, and the Canal was left absolutely idle. And when he said that the railway had monopolized the whole trade of that great district, it was scarcely necessary that he should add that as there was no competition it had increased its carrying prices nearly double.
§ MR. HICKS
said, that many remarks had fallen from hon. Members on both sides of the House as to to the propriety of the question being entered into by the House. They had been told that the Committee was not a Private Committee, but a Hybrid Committee, and that the Report of the Committee was only carried by a majority of 1, and, further than that, there ought to be a full Report of their proceedings. Now, he would like to ask the House what was the use of having a Report of the proceedings of the Committee if they were not allowed to consider it? He was of opinion that the questions raised by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) affected the whole of the waterways of the country. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Baron De Ferrieres) had stated with great force the way in which the handing over of the Canals to the Great Western Company would, in effect, place the whole of the Canal system of the West of England at the mercy of that Company. But in pointing out the effects which would result from such a course, the hon. Member had omitted to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the evil did not stop with the West of England, but that it would extend to the whole of the Canal system from London to Liverpool and Manchester, and also from London to Hull. In point of fact, the whole network of the Canal and water system of this country was to be handed over to one railway, in order to enable that railway to save a small sum in the cost of constructing a new line. He trusted the House would never consent to do that, but that, bearing in mind the great and serious complaints that were made by all the trading and commercial Associa- 651 tions in the Kingdom in reference to the way in which the railways treated traders in regard to differential rates, they would reject this proposal and decide upon keeping up the freedom of the water communication.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 220; Noes 74: Majority 146.—(Div. List, No. 120.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to (Queen's Consent signified).
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.