HC Deb 07 March 1882 vol 267 cc360-77

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that he ought to apologize to the House, after such a long discussion on a Private Bill already; but he must say that the Bill which he was about to oppose also involved a principle of great public importance. This was a Bill proposing to transfer the Regent's Canal to a Railway Company. Now, he could quite understand a great number of objections being taken from different quarters against this Bill. He could quite understand the objection being taken that it interfered, if he might use the expression, with the privacy of a public park. He could understand the objection that it displaced houses, and otherwise interfered with the poor inhabitants of the Metropolis; and he could also understand a strong objection coming from the School Board, in consequence of the great number of children who would be ousted from their homes, and obliged to be taken far from the schools they had been in the habit of attending. He could also understand the objection that it interfered with private rights. He did not propose to trouble the House with any of those heads of objection. The objection he took was entirely on a different ground. He had no private interest to serve. He was not connected with either Canals or Railways; but he took his stand solely upon the public principle involved, and on the great fact that if this Bill passed a crushing blow would be dealt to the competition between Railways and Canals. Now, observe that there was a very important point of view to look at in this Bill, and that was the engineering point of view. He had been told, upon good authority, that over the area of the Canal which was proposed to be restricted in its width—over the area of, perhaps, 30 acres in all—no less than one-fourth was permanently taken away from the navigable area of the Canal. And he need not remind the House that to restrict the navigable waterway of any Canal was seriously to interfere with the traffic through its whole length. Now, this principle of the competition of Railways and Canals had been insisted upon over and over again by this House; and he respectfully submitted to the House that if this principle was infringed now, they would be transgressing the recommendations of Committee after Committee and Commission after Commission of this House, and flying in the face of the Joint Committee of Lords and Commons in 1872. The Act of 1845, in its Preamble, recognized expressly the importance of maintaining the competition between Railways and Canals. Then there came the Act called Mr. Cardwell's Act of 1854, expressly providing that through communication should be established on the Railway and Canal systems. In 1858, at the instigation of the Canal Companies themselves, there was an Act passed for the protection of Canals and against their absorption by the powerful Railway Companies of the Kingdom. The combination of Railway Companies which was then in existence was so powerful that it was necessary for the State to interfere. He need not say that from the period of 1858 to the present time the threatened monopoly of the Railway Companies was becoming more and more severe, until at last they would be face to face with a dominant and domineering power, against which no remedy would be available unless the State stepped in to undertake the sole control and management of the Railways. He would state very briefly what were the recommendations of the Joint Committee of Lords and Commons of 1872. They expressly recommended that it was most important to maintain the competition between Railways and Canals. They recommended that inland navigation in the hands of a public trust should not be transferred to, or placed under, the control of a Railway Company. They recommended that no Canal should be transferred to, or placed directly or indirectly under, the control of a Railway Company, nor should any temporary lease to a Railway Company be renewed until it had been conclusively ascertained that the Canal could not be amalgamated with an adjacent Canal or with a trust owning an adjoining inland navigation. Now, he was perfectly aware that the promoters of this Bill offered all sorts of compensations, and were ready to submit to all kinds of conditions. He might say that, without offence to them, they were profuse in the conditions which they offered, and in the limitations of their own powers, and he did not question the good faith of the promoters of the Bill. But this he did say—that when they once placed a Railway Company in the commanding position in which this Railway sought to be placed by absorbing within its system a great Canal, he said that it was against human nature that that great Company, after a time, should not consider rather its own interest than the separate interests of the Canal; that they would come afterwards and apply to Parliament, saying—"Our traffic is enlarged; we are unable to carry the goods submitted to us; let us have a little more—a slice of this Canal;" and so gradually the process of deglutition would go on, and they would absorb the whole existing waterway of this Canal. What was this Canal? There was a vast system of inland navigation extending from the Severn and Staffordshire on the West to the Docks at London on the East. The Warwickshire Canal Companies poured their traffic into this Re-gent's Canal, and a short time ago the Warwickshire Canal—in which he begged to repeat that he had no personal interest—sought to obtain before the Railway Commissioners through rates upon the line of the Regent's Canal. He had heard the objection since stated that the traffic of the Canal Company was diminishing, and that, therefore, in the interests of the public, the Canal ought to be transferred to the Railway Company. But this was not true. On the contrary, the fact was that the traffic on the Canal was in an increasingly flourishing condition. He was not there for a single moment to contend that if the Canal really were in an impecunious condition, it would be wise and politic on the part of the State to say that it should not be transferred to some solvent body—it might be to some Railway Company. He thought, however, that a case might be made out in which the State might be called on to interfere and declare that, in any event, such a Canal, having been once established, ought to be maintained as a waterway. But he did not wish to insist on this point. What he did insist on was this—that the Canal was not only a solvent, but was a really profitable concern. He had already alluded to the conditions which the promoters were willing to impose on themselves, so that the public might disabuse themselves of the idea that there was danger of the Canal being allowed to become useless. He would refer the House to what had been said by the Joint Committee of the Houses of Lords and Commons in 1872; and, for his own part, he thought that any conditions that might be sought to be imposed on the promoters would, in the lapse of time, be found perfectly fruitless. The Report of the Joint Committee, which he had just mentioned, set forth— That the tolls wore fixed by Act of Parliament at a remunerative rate. It is stated in some cases that the Railway Companies holding the Canals not only do not make improvements, but that, by neglecting repairs, by closing the Canal locks, and by failing in the supply of water, they suppress the traffic on the Canals. The amalgamation of the Canals above mentioned with the Bail ways has been strongly opposed, and Parliament has in many cases desired to annex conditions to those amalgamations compelling the Companies to maintain the Canals in an efficient working state; providing for other Canal Companies making through rates. These provisions, however, have almost uniformly failed; and the present state of things appears to be that obligations of this description are much more easily evaded by the owners of the Canals than they can be enforced by the traders. The Committee added this remark— It is difficult to make a Company maintain an effectual competition with itself. Before sitting down he should like to make a remark as to what had been the process of absorption of Canals by Railway Companies, either by temporary lease or in perpetuity. Of 4,000 miles of canal and river communication in England and Wales, there had been 1,500 miles and upwards amalgamated, in some shape or other, with Railway Companies—or, at least, transferred more or less under their control—up to the year 1865. No amalgamations appeared to have taken place between 1865 and 1872; but in 1872 the process of amalgamation began again. At that time the Midland Railway Company sought to acquire the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Since then various attempts had been made to acquire Canals, and the result uniformly had been that the Canals had been practically rendered useless, tolls to such a high rate having been charged as to divert the traffic of the waterways to the Railways. If it had ever been necessary for the House to step in and prevent the continuation of that process, it was necessary now. The fact was that amalgamations had been going on to an extent that had been highly detrimental to the public interests. The legitimate and honest com-petition between Canals and Railways had thereby been undermined; and what he now asked the House to do, by rejecting the second reading of this Bill, was to assert a great public principle, founded on public policy, that it should not be permitted that a Railway Company should make arrangements with a Canal Company for the absorption of a Canal into its Railway system in such a way that the great system of inland navigation could be materially injured or disturbed. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time upon 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. Arthur Feel.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


desired to support the arguments advanced by his hon. Friend the Member for Warwick, and to endorse what he had stated to the House. He considered that the Regent's Canal was placed in rather a peculiar position, and one differing from that of most other Canals in the Kingdom, as it was the means of gathering up the threads of all the existing Canals in the country, so that those Canals which passed through Oxfordshire and other counties could carry their goods by means of it to the Docks and other points with which it was connected. He was aware that the promoters said they were not going to fill up the Canal. It was very possible that they did not mean to do that; but there were other ways of shutting up a Canal besides filling it with earth. He held that one of the greatest protections they had against Railway monopoly was to be found in the Canal system of England, a system which certainly was of the greatest importance to the agriculturists of the country, whose interests would be materially affected if the Canals were allowed to be absorbed into the Railway system. He had been told by some gentlemen in London that one thing which they wished particularly to avoid was the agriculturists bringing their manure along the Canal, and dropping it into the water in the neighbourhood of London. All he could say in answer to that was that the agriculturists would be very glad to receive that manure back again, if they could get it. But, of course, he only referred to this matter by way of joke. He thought that if the Bill were allowed to pass without question, they would soon see, as had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Warwick, the goods that were now brought by Canal from different parts of the Kingdom transferred to the Railways, to the entire destruction of the Canal system. He, for one, therefore, could not allow this measure to pass without uttering his strong protest against it; and if the hon. Member for Warwick should press his opposition to a division he should certainly give him his support.


, as one who had put his name on the back of the Bill, desired to make some answer to what had been said by the hon. Member for Warwick. From what the House had just heard from that hon. Gentleman, it might be supposed that the Regent's Canal was about to be absorbed by the Railway, and that, in point of fact, an end was to be put to the Canal. This, however, was not at all the case. The Resolutions of the Joint Committee of Lords and Commons of 1872 pointed to the contingency of powerful Railway Companies absorbing and putting an end to the Canals; but this was not the proposal made by the Bill. The pro- posal was merely that Parliament should give power, by passing the Regent's Canal, City, and Docks Railway Bill, to the incorporation of the Canal with the Railway, for the double purposes of Railway and Canal. Every word that had been uttered by the hon. Member for Warwick as to the disadvantages that would arise if the great system of internal navigation which communicated with the Docks in London and the Grand Junction Canal were put in peril was totally without foundation. The provisions contained in the Bill sought to impose upon the Railway Company the most stringent obligations to maintain the Canal as a navigable waterway—provisions just as stringent as were those requiring them to maintain the proposed Railway as a Railway. By the provisions of the Bill—which the Railway Company would modify in any way that the Committee to whom it might be referred might think fit, in order to meet the objections taken on the part of the Canal system of Great Britain—the Railway Company had an overwhelming interest in maintaining the Canal. It was said by the hon. Member for Warwick, and it was quite true, that this Canal was not a declining property. On the contrary, it was a very valuable property. As much, he believed, as £60,000 a-year was earned by the Canal; and he asked—was it to be supposed that a new Company, constituted for the purpose of taking up this Canal and making a Railway alongside it, would be willing to sacrifice such an enormous income as that? The Railway was to start from Paddington, communicate with the Great Northern and Midland lines, and run down to the Docks—not only to the Limehouse and Victoria Docks, but also to the immense new Docks further down the Thames, known as the Royal Albert Docks—mainly for the purpose of taking up the goods traffic, which now had to be conveyed through the streets of London, and which helped to render the streets almost impassable. He thought there would be a double communication for a certain district; but for three miles of the Canal the Railway would not interfere with it at all, and where it was close to the Canal it was only because there the surplus land might be had at a price that would make the speculation remunerative. Would a Committee sitting upstairs be inadequate for the comprehension of the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Warwick? Certainly not. All the Canal proprietors, whose locus standi might have been disputed by the promoters of the Bill, were to be admitted, and would have the opportunity of offering their evidence upstairs. Would they, he asked, be unable to impose upon the Railway and Canal Company the necessary obligations to maintain the Canal and prevent its being destroyed? If the arguments that had been used against the Bill had any foundation in fact, they would constitute reasons for its rejection, but they were nothing of the kind; on the contrary, every objection raised by the hon. Member for Warwick was not supported by the facts.


rose to support the second reading of the Bill, and he did so on the ground of public policy, the same ground as that which had been alleged by the hon. Member who had moved the rejection of the Bill. He did not think that anyone who was conversant with the terminal accommodation of London and its requirements, and also the terminal accommodation of the vast system of Railways throughout the country, could look at this measure without seeing that it was not a scheme to diminish, but rather to increase public accommodation. It had been stated that the proposed Railway would interfere with the Canal navigation of the country. Having seen the vast number of Petitions presented against the Bill he had, as a mere matter of professional interest, been to the Private Bill Office to examine the details of the scheme, and he was of opinion that it provided amply for the continuation of the navigation afforded by the inland system of waterways. He said this as the result of his own observation. But surely it was, after all, a question of fact, and the question of fact was a matter for inquiry; but if the House accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warwick they would be refusing inquiry. It was a matter of evidence as to whether the Canal traffic was to be interfered with, or as to what amount of additional competition would be afforded to the public by means of the railway. There was a great deal of public traffic that the Canal could not carry. He was connected with a mining property in North Wales, which sent a large quantity of coal to London, and if they were sent by the Great Western Railway to Padding-ton they could then be carried by the proposed line, should it be made, down to the Docks, thus giving the owners of the mine the benefit of the terminal accommodation that would thus be created, and which the Canal did not give. Again, if, as an engineer, he was sending a locomotive for shipment to India, of what use was the Canal to him? None at all; but if there were a Railway added to the Canal, and running alongside it to the Docks, a beneficial competition would be set up with other Railways. Every one who knew what need there was for it would appreciate the advantage of having another Railway running from Paddington into the City—a Railway which, it should be remembered, would present the advantage of being made without any large interference with property in London. He had said he supported this Bill on the ground of public policy; and he would put it to the House—supposing the Canal Company were a large and powerful body, and came to Parliament to ask for additional capital to enable them to make a Railway alongside the banks of the Canal, where then, he asked, would have been the question of public policy that had now been raised, and would they then have heard of the Report of the Joint Committee on Railway and Canal Amalgamation? The House would have made no objection to the Company's request that they should have the power to help themselves by making a Railway. But in the present case they would have two forms of competition on one property. The object was not to destroy the Canal, or to divert traffic from it; but to create two distributing sources of traffic by adding a Railway to the Canal, with the intention that each should be made to do the best it could in furnishing the means for this distribution. For these reasons he begged to support the second reading of the Bill.


said, if he thought for one moment that the interests of the public could be endangered by the passage of this Bill, he should have given his cordial support to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel); but having been engaged in transactions similar to that before the House, he knew that, so far from the interests of the public being injured, they would be very largely benefited if the measure were allowed to pass. He remembered their narrowing the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, which had been already referred to, and the effect of that had been that instead of damaging the navigation, the navigation had been improved. He conceived that the Regent's Canal was made in a similar manner to that of which he had spoken, with shelving sides, so that there was a difficulty in getting close to the towing path; and what was done in the case of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal was to wall up the sides, by which means, while leaving sufficient space for the navigation, enough land was obtained to make a railway by the side of the Canal, a Railway which came into the centre of the town of Birmingham, and brought in goods and merchandize that could not be so conveyed before, thereby proving a decided benefit to the town, while, at the same time, the canal traffic was still kept open between the Trent and the Severn. With regard to the present measure, as there was no intention to close the Regent's Canal, the Railway would be the means of conferring great additional benefit on the inhabitants. There was plenty of spare land alongside the Canal for the purposes of the Railway; and as he held that the proposed line would be very useful instead of detrimental to the public interests, he should give his support to the Motion for the second reading of the Bill.


said, he had put an Amendment on the Paper with a view of enlarging the scope and composition of the Committee to which the Bill, if it passed a second reading, would be referred; and he should be glad if the Government could see their way to the adoption of his proposal. Although he could not move his Amendment at the present moment, he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade whether it would not meet the exigencies of the case to appoint a Committee composed, as he had indicated in his proposal, of 15 Members, 10 of whom should be nominated by the House and five by the Committee of Selection. He certainly could not think it sufficient to leave to the discretion of an ordinary Committee on a Private Bill the question of compensation for the damage that might be done to hundreds of houses in the Metropolis if this Bill were passed. He also thought that the occupants of these houses, who could not possibly obtain a hearing under the ordinary Rules of the House, ought to be able to go before the Committee.


The question before the House is one of great importance and also of considerable difficulty. This Bill has been under the consideration of the Board of Trade for some time, and I have seen both the promoters of the measure and some of those who are its opponents. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel) will rest satisfied with having raised the points he has submitted to the House at this stage, and will not press his Amendment to a division. There is no doubt that the Bill does raise a question of public policy of the highest kind; and the hon. Member for Warwick has stated with accuracy the conclusions that were arrived at by the Joint Committee of the Houses of Lords and Commons in 1872. In my opinion, those conclusions are still in entire accord with the views entertained by the House of Commons and by the commercial class generally, which are to the effect that the amalgamation of Canals with Railway Companies, or the giving to Railway Companies the control over the Canals of this country, ought as far as possible to be discouraged, and, whenever permitted, all necessary precautions should be taken to secure the maintenance of our inland water navigation. I must say that the present case is a strong one, and is in flagrant opposition to the policy so laid down. This is not one of the cases in which Canal navigation has been conducted under great difficulties, and in which, if amalgamation be not permitted, it will probably be impossible for the navigation to be carried on; it is, on the contrary, the case of a really profitable and going undertaking which has been maintained for a long time, and might, apparently, be maintained for any length of time in profitable existence. Under these circumstances, if this were the first time such a Bill had come before the House, I should be inclined to object to it; but I cannot leave out of view the fact that many similar amalgamations have been conisidered by the House, allowed to go before a Select Committee, and then passed into law. The Joint Committee of 1872 contemplated a set of exceptional circumstances—namely, where it is conclusively proved that the Canal in question cannot be amalgamated with any other system of water navigation; and it does not appear to me that the House is in a position to decide without hearing the evidence whether this is one of the cases in which such an amalgamation as suggested by the Joint Committee could or could not be brought about. It is a question of evidence as to what are the facts, which I think ought to be referred to a Select Committee. For my own part, though I do not venture to offer any advice to the House on the matter, I have come to the conclusion that I ought to vote for the second reading of the Bill. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens), I think that, considering the importance of the matter, it would be desirable that the Bill should go before a Hybrid Committee; but I regard the number stated in his Amendment as too large, and am of opinion that seven, or at any rate nine, Members would be quite sufficient. If it is the pleasure of the House that the Bill should go to a Committee, it will be the duty of the Board of Trade to make a full and particular Report to that Committee, setting forth the facts which I have already stated, quoting the remarks made by the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, calling special attention to the particular circumstances of the case, stating what are the exceptional conditions, if any, to justify the proposals of the Bill, and what in their opinion will be necessary in order, if the proposed amalgamation be allowed, to preserve an independent and navigable waterway.


said, that one reason why this Bill should be allowed to pass was this—that in order to develop the trade and commerce of the City, and to secure public improvements, something must be done. People were migrating out of the City year by year, going further and further away, and there was not only the labour and difficulty of bringing them to their work in the morning, not only in tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands; but there was the further difficulty of taking them back again, and that was constantly and weekly increasing. They all recollected that a sad accident lately occurred near Canon-bury, which was caused by the pressure in trying to bring the people in with sufficient speed by means of trains running behind one another every two minutes. Beyond all doubt that was a dangerous proceeding; but still it was almost necessary. What was proposed by this Bill? The Company proposed to construct 13 miles of Metropolitan Railway, running through the North Eastern suburbs of London, and they would bring the people up to the very edge of the City—namely, to the borders of the Barbican. If any Company bonâ fide proposed to do that work, the House ought not, in the interest of the public, and in the interest of the people who had to go in and out of the City, to stop a Bill by which this could be accomplished, but ought, in the interests of the public necessity, to allow it to have a fair hearing before a Committee upstairs, in order to see whether such a line could be constructed. In some way or other, means must be taken for getting the people into the suburbs. He ventured, therefore, to think that the House should allow the Bill to go through a second reading.


said, he did not wish to address the House at any length. He only desired, as a Metropolitan Member, to call attention to one point of considerable importance, which was closely related to that which had been mentioned by the hon. Member who had just spoken (Sir Sydney Waterlow). This Bill proposed to displace a very large part of the population of London, he believed no less than 11,000. He was not certain of the exact figure, but that was the number which had been given to him; and, considering the line that the Railway took, it was not at all improbable. Now, there was a Standing Order which required that every Bill which proposed to take labourers' dwellings should have a clause providing for the accommodation of the same number that would be displaced under the provisions of the Bill. It was important, then, to consider whether the Clause required by that Standing Order was one that was sufficient for the occasion. Now, the clause was Clause 70. It was a clause sufficiently familiar to those who studied Private Bill legislation; but he contended that it was altogether illusory, and that it did not give sufficient protection. It was a clause which the Companies, when formed, were able to wriggle out of and evade, and something more strict and precise was required. He took this opportunity of saying that unless the promoters of the Bill, when they got upstairs, brought up a better clause, and made more adequate provision for the labourings classes, it would be the duty of himself, or some other Metropolitan Member, to move that the Bill be recommitted, for the purpose of introducing a satisfactory clause.


said, he thought that the hon. Member (Mr. Bryce) had been about to raise another objection to the Bill, as he had on former occasions, on the ground that the line proposed to run through open spaces. The hon. Member had taken Epping Forest and Wimbledon Common in hand, and only that afternoon he had said a good word for the Newcastle Town Moor. But the hon. Member had forgotten Regent's Park. There were people living near Regent's Park, to whom it was quite as necessary to have an open space to go to, as it was to those who lived in the East End of London. He (Colonel Makins) hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would do something to preserve the quietude of Regent's Park, by the usual provision which he sought for other open spaces—namely, requiring the Railway to be carried through a tunnel. He (Colonel Makins) thought that this proposed Railway was objected to by the poorer portions of the community, who were not able to appear before the Committee.


asked the permission of the House to make one remark in answer to what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down. He had satisfied himself that in the whole of this Bill there was no such interference with Regent's Park or Victoria Park, or any other open space, as called for the intervention of those who were concerned to preserve commons and open spaces.


said, he had some knowledge of the requirements of the inland navigation of the country, and he believed that the necessities of that kind of business would be sufficiently met if, as proposed by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens) and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, this Bill were read a second time and sent to a Hybrid Committee. The great object with regard to the inland navigation of the country was that the communication with London should be maintained absolutely free and unchecked. Therefore, he was in favour of this going to a strong Hybrid Committee, which would take a wider view than an ordinary Select Committee of the matter. If he received such a guarantee, he should not object to the second reading of the Bill.


said, his Amendment had elicited from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade the admission that this was a flagrant violation of the policy of the Committee of 1872. The question he had to ask the House was, whether a division should be taken? He should be inclined himself to accept the offer which had been made to refer the Bill to a Committee of the nature indicated by the right hon. Gentleman; and he (Mr. A. Peel) must rely upon a Report being made by the Board of Trade, which he trusted would point out, in unmistakeable terms, that this was a departure from the avowed policy of Parliament. If the Bill passed, another blow would be dealt at Canal competition. He did not propose to put the House to the trouble of a division.


(who was received with cries of "Oh!") said, that he did not come there to speak on behalf of any body of capitalists; but he came there to call attention to the strange fact that, it having been admitted that this Bill was, generally speaking, in flagrant violation of public policy, there was to be no division taken to express the sense of the House upon the question. He confessed that he saw many objections to leaving a question of public policy to the consideration of a jury of experts—for a jury of experts a Committee of the kind proposed undoubtedly was. There were many advantages in having the opinion of experts on various occasions; but he was not in favour of taking the opinion of experts on a question which ought to be one of broad common sense and broad public policy. He was sorry to see that so little attention was apparently given to the very important question raised by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce)—namely, the point as to the provision for the housing of the very large number of persons likely to be rendered houseless and homeless by this Bill The Artizans' Dwellings Act had, by the operation of Bills of this kind, been rendered practically, in many cases, a mere dead letter. Railway Bills offering tempting opportunities and promises to the capitalists were, year by year, brought to that House. They met the applause of the capitalist class; tens and scores of thousands of poor people were rendered homeless and. placed in a most disadvantageous position in consequence. As a matter of general policy they had their Irish experience, which showed them that they had allowed the Irish Canals to be sacrificed to Railway enter-prize. He thought that the agricultural constituencies would have just cause to complain if the agricultural Representatives did not make a vigorous protest, expressed in a proper form—namely, by taking a division against the Bill. He objected to this growing tendency to hand matters of public policy over either to private Committees or mongrel Committees. It was not the way to test questions of public policy. Not only theoretically, but practically, one man was quite as good as another in matters of this kind. When they appointed a Committee of experts these experts must be biassed, more or less, in the direction of the enterprize in the prosecution of which they had gained their special experience. It was precisely a class of authorities of that description which at all times had been, with the best of intentions, the most dangerous to the public interests. Capital had too much weight in that House; and he objected just as much to delegate the powers of the House to a jury of capitalists as he would object to delegate the interests of justice to a special jury of lawyers. He was additionally inclined to press the proposal that a jury of experts or a Hybrid Committee should not be employed, in view of the threat impending over the House, that a large portion of the House would be practically deprived of its powers if certain proposals of the Government were carried out, and that a permanent jury of experts should be ap- pointed for dealing with a large class of Public Bills instead of the House of Commons. This was not a Private Bill. It was a Public Bill, which went to the root of public interests of the very gravest importance. The very fact that it had been admitted by the President of the Board of Trade, who had at heart, to such a large extent, the capitalist enterprize in that House—the very fact that the Board of Trade had admitted that the Bill was, in its general character, a flagrant violation of public policy, was quite enough to justify the throwing of it out, for this year at any rate. There had been no sufficient public preliminary discussion; the question had not been before the London public; it had not been before the agricultural constituencies, who were vitally interested in the matter; and there was no sufficient reason why a Bill of this magnitude, involving a fundamental violation of public policy, should be hurried through the House, even on the ipse dixit of the President of the Board of Trade. He had listened with admiration to the speech of the hon. Member who opposed the Bill, and he would not by any means decry the valuable character of that speech; but if the hon. Member who opposed this Bill was aiming at no other object than to get the opinion of highly respectable Members of the House, he could have got that opinion just as well somewhere else, in the Committee Rooms of the House, or in the Library, or in any other room of the House. Here they had been occupied for an hour in getting the opinions of half-a-dozen highly respectable Members of this House, and, after all, there was to be no division. He should oppose the withdrawal of the opposition to the Bill; and, as far as he could do so, he would see that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon these questions.


said, he wished very shortly to draw the attention of hon. Members who represented agricultural constituencies to the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member below him (Mr. O'Donnell). There had been great complaints, and complaints well founded, of the way in which agricultural produce had been treated by the great Railway Companies. This Canal, with which they were now called upon to deal, was by itself a very short Canal extending over a short distance; but it was the last and most important link of the great Midland waterway of the country. It was the last link of the series of Canals which extended from Hull in the East to Liverpool in the West; and if this Canal was handed over to the Bail-way Companies, and if it was no longer to be useful to the great Canal traffic, it would be not a loss simply of four or five miles of Canal, but it would have the effect of shutting up the whole Canal communication of this country between the Port of London and the Ports of Liverpool and Hull on the East and West. He certainly hoped the House would go to a division.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 244; Noes 50: Majority 194.—(Div. List, No. 40.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

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