§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
* rose to call attention to the Report of the Select Committee on Railway Rates and Fares; and to move—That it is expedient that the Railway Commission be made permanent and a Court of Record; and that, in general conformity with the recommendations of the Committee, the powers of the Commission be extended; and that, on application by a Railway undertaking for Parliamentary powers, a locus standi be afforded to Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture, and similar bodies, and to persons injuriously affected by the rates and fares sought or already authorised in the case of such undertaking.The hon. Gentleman said: We were so frequently reminded, by those Members of the Select Committee of 1881 and 1882 who represented the railway interest, of the large amounts invested in the railways of this country, that I think that, at the outset of the observations which I have to make to the House, it should be stated that I am satisfied that I, and every Member of the House who has paid any attention to the question, must be well aware of the importance of that interest. We know that the amount of property in railways is close upon, if it does not exceed, the amount of the National Debt; and we know, also, that the income amounts to something between £36,000,000 and £40,000,000 sterling. I think it is impossible, therefore, to imagine that the importance of this interest can be underrated either by this House or any portion of this House. But, on the other hand, the income of this property is, in point of fact, derived from the payments of the people of this country; and if the income of the shareholders and bondholders of railways is something like £40,000,000 sterling, the contributions of the traders and passengers who frequent the railway is something between £66,000,000 and £70,000,000. The question, therefore, is one of very great importance, not only to railway shareholders and bondholders, but also to the public; and I think that, when the composition of the Committee of 1881 and 1882 is considered, it will be seen that all the interests were fairly represented on that occasion. At any rate, if there was any want of representation, it was not on the part of the railways. There were on it 1882 eight or nine Gentlemen who were either Railway Directors or who were connected with the railway interest. I do not say, as my hon. Friend reminds me, that those Gentlemen directly interested in railways were in a majority of the Members of the Committee; but they were not constant in their attendance. I think that this was very praiseworthy on their part, and only what might be expected from them. In the course of the evidence, also (we sat 64 days, and called more than 100 witnesses), there was an amount of organization on the part of hon. Gentlemen defending railways, and on the part of the witnesses whom they presented to the Committee, which was perfectly within their right, and of which right they took full and proper advantage; and it may be said with truth that the railway interest was not only fully represented on the Committee, but by their skilled witnesses who were called before us. I make these observations because I do not wish it to be thought that there was not every opportunity for them to be fully heard on the question. Therefore, that being the case, we find that the Resolutions which were adopted, and to some of which I shall call attention, met with the approval of the Committee; and I think that, when these Resolutions met with the approval of the Committee, they may be fairly asked to meet with the approval of the House. It would be tedious, and would detain the House to an unnecessary length, to go into the whole of these Resolutions; but I shall go through the principal ones, and the Motion which I shall make in concluding my observations will be founded chiefly upon these. When I say that I shall deal with all the principal ones, I must make one important exception, and that is the question of the Irish Railways. I believe that to be a most important one, and think it is desirable that it should be taken up by those more competent to do so than I can possibly be. When I state that the Irish Railways, with a capital of £36,000,000, or half that of the Great Western Railway, are ruled by 270 Directors, 37 Secretaries, 20 Managers, and a corresponding number of subordinate officers, whereas the Great Western Railway, with double the capital, has only 18 Directors, one Secretary, and one General Manager, I think it will be admitted that there is 1883 something there which requires some I looking after; and I shall be glad to find that hon. Members from Ireland, amongst their other duties, will not neglect looking after a matter of that importance. The Resolution to which I shall have to call attention may be summarized under two heads. The first is that which deals with the Railway Commissioners; and the second, that which deals with the questions coming before a Select Committee of this House. Now, with respect to the first, it consists mainly of this—"That the Commissioners shall be appointed permanently, and that they shall be made a Court of Record." I am sorry that my legal knowledge is not sufficient to enable me to define precisely what will be the effect of making them a Court of Record; but in the course of my observations I may be able to point out some disadvantages that Court now labours under, and which I am told will be removed by its being made a Court of Record. But, in addition to that, the Committee recommended, and the effect of my Resolution will be to insist, that the Railway Commissioners, being made permanent as I have described, shall thereafter have jurisdiction not only of matters coming under the general Railway Acts, but also under the special and private Acts of the Railway Companies. And it is further recommended, and I think that is also a Resolution which the House will adopt, that traders should have a locus standi before the Railway Commission. The second group of recommendations affects Railway Rates, and I think it may be summarized in this way—that it is desirable, in the first place, that the existing classification, or rather non-classification—and I think I am justified in saying it, and shall be glad to show it by-and-bye—that the classification of rates shall be revised, and in fact that it shall be made, as far as possible, conformable with the classification which the Railway Companies already observe in settling matters amongst themselves. It has been recommended that the Board of Trade should take a more active part in watching the affairs of railways—and on this also I shall have a word to say by-and-bye. Perhaps this is the matter with which I shall have the greatest difficulty in dealing, not on account of some opposition on the part of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board 1884 of Trade; and I may say at once that that opposition is not unnatural, under the circumstances of the case. These circumstances I shall also allude to in the course of my observations. Now, Sir, as to the Railway Commission being made permanent. The Railway Commission, as the House is aware, was instituted on the Report of the Committee of 1872, in place of the Court of Common Pleas, which was previously the Court for dealing with railway matters. The former was found not satisfactory. I shall not go into the reasons, but it was settled in favour of a new Court. That Court has existed now for 10 years. For five years it was established as it were on its trial, and it has since been renewed from year to year. I think, if it is to exist at all, that it ought to be a permanent Court; and my opinion that it should continue to exist rests upon the belief that it has given satisfaction to traders, and that the Railway Companies have not succeeded in bringing any charge against it, or shown any reason why it should not be continued. Now, the Railway Companies, or rather the witnesses brought by gentlemen representing the railways, did certainly attempt to show that this Court was not satisfactory to them; and one most extraordinary charge was made against the Court, and that was, that the Railway Companies, when they appeared in it, were dealt with as if they were in a Criminal Court. Sir Frederick Peel explained that that could scarcely be otherwise, because the Railway Companies could only appear in that Court on some complaint; and therefore it is natural that, being always accused, they should have some sort of feeling as if they were in the position that accused people were placed in. But, beyond this, the matters brought against the Commissioners were very far from being proved. I use no stronger term. It was said that the tendency of their decisions was such as was prejudicial to the trade of the country. It was proved that if these decisions were prejudicial to the trade of the country, they were such as had been previously given on previous cases in the Court of Common Pleas; and it was further proved that in all questions, or at any rate in the majority of cases dealing with questions of fact, where an appeal had been granted, their decisions had been confirmed, and 1885 not only so, but by far the great majority of cases which were questions of law were also confirmed by the Court of Appeal. The main exceptions wore those where their jurisdiction were concerned; and it was perfectly true that there were some cases where the Superior Courts held that their jurisdiction did not extend to these cases. But with regard to them I may say this—that it was simply that their jurisdiction did not, but ought to have extended to them. I do not think that it was shown that in any case their decision would not have been confirmed if their jurisdiction had so extended. Now, it was also said that there had been few cases brought into their Court. Well, that is very true; but it was avowed—I think, at any rate, it was not contradicted when statements were made by witnesses—that numberless cases which would have arisen in which the public had reason to complain about the Railway Companies were settled before they were brought into Court, because the Railway Companies preferred rather to settle than to come into Court. Still, with all that, many grievances remain; and it is with regard to these grievances that I shall have to speak this evening. But I should like to allude for a moment to some of the cases which were decided by the Commissioners within the last year. They appeared in the Report of the Railway Commissioners, recently circulated, for 1882. It has been laid on the Table of the House, and it is to be found in the Library. Now one of these cases was a large Company's refusal to allow the public to use their railways as a continuous line of communication with another, a smaller line which had been recently opened; in fact, the case was between the Great Western Railway and the new line from Swindon to Andovor. It appears that the reason, and the only reason, which could be alleged why the public were not to avail themselves of this communication between those two lines was because the two Companies differed as to what was to be the Act under which the arbitrator was to give the award. They did not pretend that it was not possible to accommodate the public; but it was simply a question of what was the Act of Parliament under which the arbitrators were to be appointed, and to give their award. The Railway Commissioners very soon set- 1886 tled that matter, and immediately the public had full advantage of the facilities of which they ought not to be deprived. Then there was an Irish case, to which I shall not allude; and there was a second Irish case, in which certain facilities which one Company had given to another were withdrawn. There, again, the decision of the Railway Commissioners settled the matter, and settled it in the interests of the public. I mention these cases because they are cases in which it is peculiarly desirable that the Court should have the advantage of an expert. These are cases in which, if, instead of an expert judge, we had had expert witnesses, and if there was any discrepancy in the evidence, the question is, whether the matter would have been settled in the best way? Then there is another case where two Railway Companies refused to carry traffic by a certain route. Between those two Railway Companies another small Railway Company was, to use an expression which has become classical of late, sandwiched; and when the small Railway Company applied for a through rate, they were told, in the first place, that they were not entitled to ask the through rate because they were not a terminal Company; and, secondly, because there was an arrangement between the two great Companies which prevented their granting the rate. Now, one of the powers of the Commission is to control the traffic agreements between railways. That, again, is one of those matters in which it is peculiarly desirable that the Court should be continued in its powers. And there are various cases—one especially, the Corporation of Huddersfield, opposed against two Companies, I think the Great Northern and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways. In the case above referred to, the arrangement made by the Railway Commissioners has been of the greatest public advantage. Now, I do not think it is necessary for me to pursue this matter further in order to prove that it is desirable that this Railway Commission should continue to exist. I may here refer incidentally to some evidence given by Mr. Balfour Browne. I do not know whether I should call it given on behalf of the Railway Companies. It related to the question why Railway Companies did not avail themselves of the power of using the Railway Com- 1887 mission as arbitrators; and this is what Mr. Balfour Browne said. He said that Railway Companies object to go before the Railway Commission as arbitrators between the Companies, because the Commissioners can use their knowledge acquired as arbitrators on every case that goes before them. Subsequently, in cases of complaint of undue preference, I think that that really was a most valuable piece of evidence, which slipped out quite unawares. I say that the number of cases decided is no criterion of the value of the Court; and I do not think that it is necessary for me to labour this question any further, because, if the Railway Companies did show a little animus against the Commission, it must disappear when they see that there is no chance of their getting rid of it. And I think I need also scarcely ask my right hon. Friend whether or not it is his intention to make it permanent. I think that I may take it for granted that, so far as my Resolution follows that recommendation, he will be with me. Well, now, as regards the extension of the powers of the Railway Commissioners to the Private Acts of the Railway Companies, and having all the usual powers of a Court of Record. My hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex is, I see, in his place, and he probably will be able to explain what will be the effect of making the Railway Commissioners a Court of Record. But I would just say this—that, if I understand the matter aright, the Railway Commission may now decide that a Railway Company is giving an undue preference, and that this undue preference should not be given. But, in the meantime, in this Court the successful plaintiff receives no damages. I believe that it is not in the power of the Railway Commissioners to award any damages to the plaintiff in such a case as the law now stands. I am told that there is a case of undue preference proved in 1880, where the plaintiffs are now litigating in the ordinary Courts, in order to get damages for the undue preference which was proved in the Court of the Commission. That has now gone on for three years outside the Railway Commissioners' Court, after they have given their decision, and when it will be determined nobody knows. But, under the special Acts of the Railway Companies, the Commissioners have no power 1888 whatever; and this is, perhaps, the most important point with regard to the Railway Commissioners which we have to consider. They may give an award in case of undue preference; but in case of overcharge, no matter how flagrant, they have no power. With regard to passengers, a railway passenger may be overcharged to any extent by a Railway Company, and the Railway Commissioners have no power to say you have charged this man too much; but they have power to say—"You deprive him of undue facilities;" and it is only in this roundabout way that the Railway Commissioners have jurisdiction with reference to that matter. Now, I think that if there be any case for the necessity of a Railway Court, it is as necessary as to the special Acts as to the general Acts, and I confess it is extraordinary how this was overlooked when the Court was established. Now, as to the charge against the Railway Companies. I believe that the Railway Companies, on the whole, do their duty to the public—that they do their duty according to their lights; and that, in general, they are well advised in their dealings with the public. But if, in the majority of cases, the Railway Companies could be shown to act in the public interest, there are also numerous cases in which the public are sufferers at the hands of the Railway Companies. I do not say that traders are not unreasonable, It is natural that they should be, because they look only to their individual interest; but Railway Companies also look properly to their own interests, but they do not look always far enough as to what is their permanent interest, and, in order to secure temporary revenue from traffic, permit injustice to be done. Now, this is the case especially with regard to preferential charges; and I believe that those who have complained most of the preferential charges are the agricultural community. It was in the evidence before us that Railway Companies, who cannot generally be accused of unfair dealing, have certainly arranged their rates for traffic in agricultural produce in such a way as to bear very hardly indeed upon the British as compared with the Continental producer. According to Mr. Rowlandson's evidence before the Committee, with reference to the rates for cattle from Newcastle to inland towns—and I 1889 believe also to one of the seaports—it was stated—and his evidence, I think, was not controverted—that cattle imported from abroad were conveyed from Newcastle to inland markets at rates considerably less than those charged for the same termini for English traffic. His evidence went to show that from Newcastle to Manchester foreign cattle in small waggons are charged £2 4s. 3d., home cattle £3 7s.; in medium waggons, foreign cattle, £2 9s. 9d.,home £3 13s. 6d. From Newcastle to Leeds foreign cattle are charged £1 11s., home cattle £2 8s. 6d., in small waggons; and in medium waggons foreign cattle are charged £1 16s., and home cattle £2 4s. 9d. From Newcastle to Wakefield foreign cattle are charged £1 11s., and home cattle £2 10s. 6d., in small waggons; and in a medium waggon foreign cattle £1 16s., and home cattle £2 17s. 3d. Now the same thing occurs with regard to cattle imported as against British cattle, and also as to dead meat, between Glasgow and London. Foreign cattle are charged £1 19s. 6d. per truck less than the Scotch cattle to London. With regard to dead meat there is a difference of 25s. per ton—foreign dead meat is charged 45s. per ton, whereas the Scotch dead meat is charged 70s. per ton. If I am not mistaken, that applies not only to foreign dead meat when it is imported, but actually to the meat of foreign cattle when they are slaughtered in Glasgow. ["No, no!"] I am not quite certain of that. At any rate, I do not think it is necessary to press that point, because the principle is involved as much in the one case as in the other. I now understand the hon. Gentleman says that it is the case that foreign meat is charged 45s.; I mean that the dead meat slaughtered on the wharves in Glasgow is charged 45s., whereas the dead meat taken, not from the wharves but from stations not a great many yards from the wharves—a mile and a-half or two miles—is charged 77s. Well now, there is the case of hops. No doubt, hon. Members opposite will have something to say on the subject of hops. Evidence has been given, and it was not contradicted, that German hops from Flushing viâ Queenborough, that is to say, a distance of 155 miles, including 50 miles by rail, are charged 25s. per ton. But if those hops, or similar hops, are put into a truck at Sitting bourne, which 1890 is on the same line, but three or four miles nearer to London than Queen-borough, the same line over which the hops from Flushing have to pass, then that, instead of the charge of 25s. per ton for those 47 miles out of 50 on the same line, is charged 36s. as against 25s. on the whole distance. Then we were told that if Bradford goods are sent to London and exported from London, that they are charged at a considerably lower rate than if sent into London to the wholesale warehouses. This is a peculiarly hard case, because we know that the competition between Bradford and the Continental manufacturers happens, in this instance, to be rather in the home trade than in the foreign. Those soft foreign goods, which have recently been used so largely and have become so fashionable, meet the Bradford goods in the home market—in the London market—and, in spite of that fact, the Railway Companies charge higher rates upon goods to be delivered in the City of London than they do if taken to the wharves in the City of London. Well, similar complaints were made with respect to wire to and from Belgium. It was shown that if you sent wire to a port in Belgium it was charged more than from Belgium, first by ship and then by rail to this country. And the same complaint was made about glass; another complaint was made with regard to coal. It was one which was urged by Mr. Muspratt. He stated that the coal was raised from a pit and taken past the manufacturer's door to a shipping port at a lower rate than he is charged for the shorter distance. And there was a number of similar cases. Some defence was, of course, made that it was the desire to encourage the import trade, and it was attempted to be proved that no one was hurt by this, but that some people were benefited by it; and the plea generally—and I am sorry to say that it was supported by one witness from the Board of Trade, Mr. Farrer—was this, that if the Railway Companies wore compelled to charge the same rate in all cases, they would not level down, but level up. I think that that is very easily met, because the Railway Companies already charge as high a rate as the people can pay. That is their guiding principle—they charge as much as the traffic will bear; but if the traffic 1891 will not bear more they cannot increase their rates—that is, they cannot level up. But this thing has been attempted. When the Denaby Main Colliery Company got a decision against the Sheffield and Lincoln Railway, there was an attempt to level up; instead of lowering the rate, they raised the Denaby Company and raised the rate to other parties. What was the effect of that? The traffic was enormously diminished in three months, and they had to level down again after having tried levelling up; and the same with other cases, I believe. But my answer, apart from what may be expected as to whether the Companies will level down or level up, is that the railways are the public highways of the country, and it is not to be tolerated that the Railway Companies should be able to arrange the rates in such a way as to favour one trade, or one country, or one district against another. So long as this is in their power, without any check, railway managers may be capable and may be honest, but they may be incapable or corrupt. I do not accuse any man; but I do say that that state of things which permits men, who may be incapable, to influence, for good or evil, the trade of the country by arbitrary acts, is not a state of things which can be tolerated, and that some remedy must be provided. But it may be said, with regard to the case of undue preference, that there are already sufficient powers—why do not traders go before the Railway Commissioners? I think Mr. Farrer put that well. He said that the London Tavern is open to everyone, but that it is a very expensive place to go into. But it is not only a question of expense. And moreover, with regard to that, it is hardly to be expected that individuals will fight cases by which all their neighbours will profit. But it is not only a question of expense. Individual members of the public are afraid to encounter Railway Companies; and this was specially emphasized by Mr. Balfour Browne. He said that the Railway Companies have opportunities of making traders suffer, which prevent them from coming into the Railway Commissioners' Court. I can give instances, but I will not do so. But I see my Friend the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. Howard). He had a little encounter with the Midland and North-Western Companies, the proceed- 1892 ings of which may be instructive if he should think fit to bring them before the House this evening. Now I should have been glad if the Board of Trade had been disposed to take up this question in the public interest; but we are told that it is difficult to decide what are public and what are private interests, and we are told also that the Board of Trade are not always able to do as they would like, and that the Treasury sometimes puts a veto upon proceedings which might otherwise be taken; and on this subject Mr. Farrer gave some very valuable evidence, which, however, I do not think it necessary to for me to quote. But I believe that, even as regards this, we may hope that a change will come over the spirit of the Board of Trade. They have already assumed the responsibility of calling the attention of the Railway Companies to cases where Railway Companies ask for rates which are unusual. I think that that is a step in advance, and I should not be surprised if my right hon. Friend, although he may not express his concurrence with me in what I think ought to be done this evening, I should not be surprised if, with a little gentle pressure, the new Minister of Agriculture may be inclined to take cases before the Railway Commissioners which are really of public interest. But this I do recommend, and this I am prepared to support, and it is that associations like Chambers of Agriculture and Chambers of Commerce should have a locus standi before the Railway Commissioners in the interests of the traders who are members of their associations. I have presented some 20 Petitions in favour of that course from Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture, and some other Petitions have been presented by other hon. Members. There is one recommendation which the Committee made, and about which there was considerable contest, and that was the recommendation that there should be an appeal on questions of fact from the Railway Commission to another tribunal. Now that really means dragging traders from one Court to another, and we have had instances of how far that has been carried by Railway Companies which should make us hesitate before giving that power. At any rate, if they are to have that power, I think that the Railway Commission should be entitled to say 1893 that, in any circumstance, the costs should be borne by the Railway Companies. There may be questions of great public interest which have to be decided. If the decision has been come to on a question of fact against a Company, and they elect to appeal on account of the case being a typical one, I think that the Railway Company should pay the costs of the further litigation. But this is, after all, a minor point. There is another way in which the Railway Companies punish the public, and that is the claim to charge for terminals. I believe that terminals have been exacted in cases where they were not entitled to charge for terminals at all. That is a very complicated question; but, at any rate, they have in some cases so strained the claim for those terminals as to more than double the rate which they were actually authorized to charge. They make such an unauthorized charge as 15s. 6d. up to 36s. or 37s., and they account for the remainder of the charge as terminals. Now that question of terminals wants looking into. I am not prepared to say how it is to be settled; but it is a question well worth the attention of the President of the Board of Trade. But then there is another question, and that is the last with which it is for me to deal with in reference to these recommendations, and that is how Railway Companies are enabled to make such great variations on different parts of their lines, and how it is that Liverpool was able to come before the Committee and say we are placed at a great disadvantage by the differential rate which is charged us as compared with Barrow and Fleetwood. Well, the reason is this, that the only protection that the traders have in these cases is by the maximum rates, and these maximum rates are really in point of fact obsolete. They wore established at a time when people did not know what the cost of conveyance would be, and what the traffic would be able to bear, and the rates which were first established in 1840 or 1844 have been continued by a sort of tradition in subsequent Railway Acts. It also has arisen in a natural way. The contests before the Railway Committees have only been between Railway Companies; but whenever it has been said, "The preamble is proved," the opponents have withdrawn. They have never ob- 1894 jected to the tolls or rates being unfair. It was not to the interest of any opposing Company that the railway applying for powers should have the tolls lowered; on the contrary, the higher the tolls the better their old opponents, when they had squared, were satisfied. I think that there should be a revision of the tolls and rates, and there should be a revision, in the first place, of the classification. I wish to show how complicated this is. I would, in the first place, mention that the London and North-Western Railway Company had no less than 105 Acts—for I took the trouble of going over them—authorizing tolls and rates of various kinds, and it is so with the other Company. Now as to the classification. In the Great Eastern Act of 1862, the following articles are charged in the same class—hay, straw, tea, and silk. In one of the Great Western Acts—I am sorry I have not got the date—grain, dung, and sheet iron are in the same class. In other cases—as the Midland Railway—to show how obsolete these railway rates are, manufacturers are charged in the manufacturing district 3d. to 5d. per ton per mile; and so for cotton also, on the North. Western I believe, the maximum charge is 2½d. to 3d. per mile. When these Acts were passed neither Parliament nor the customers knew what the rates should be. In many cases they were taken from the old Canal Company's tolls, and they have been stereotyped in the Acts, and they are really of no use now but to enable the Railway Companies to manipulate the rates in any way they please, to the detriment, it may be, of the public. Then, that being so, I think that whenever a railway undertaking applies for powers, the traders affected should have a locus standi, and that they should have an opportunity of complaining of the existing rates. I say nothing about new Companies, because their rates, as a matter of course, are subject to this control now, but in the case of old Railway Companies asking for new powers; and if the Railway Companies will take this matter of the revision of the rates into their ownhands, and not wait till the public make them, it would be better for them. There is just one other point—although I am not prepared to go into it except to say that this question of the claim of the public to make representations to the Commit- 1895 tee with regard to the rates should not be lost sight of—and that is with regard to the much higher rates charged on many articles carried by the English railways than by the railways abroad. I think I can find one or two cases which will establish that point. In France coal is charged under 4/10d.; in Belgium, 3/10d.; in Germany, ¼d. per ton. Sheet iron is charged ⅔d., and hardware ⅘d. In England the maximum rates are very much higher, and not only the maximum rates, but the rates actually charged. Another thing is that the railways—I do not say on the pretext, but in consequence of the rise of coal—increased their rates very considerably after 1870; but in most cases they have taken care not to lower them again. I will give you a very curious example, and at the same time of the curious mode with which they deal with rates generally. In the case of Dockyards, evidence was given before us that the traffic rates from Staffordshire to the Dockyards increased 50 per cent some years ago, and that whilst the rates to other places about the same distance were lowered, that these rates never had been lowered. Since this was before the Committee some modification has taken place; but up to that time it was simply this—that private traders have done what they could to get a reduction and the Dockyard had not paid any attention to the matter, and the consequence was that those rates were not reduced, and they were 50 per cent, on the average, higher than for similar distances to the trading ports. Well, Sir, I think it is not necessary that I should go any further into the evidence. I believe that no one in this House desires to do anything that should shako the confidence of railway shareholders in the good faith of Parliament; but I do feel sure that it is necessary, for the sake of the maintenance of our position as traders in this country in competition with other countries, that those matters should be strictly looked into. For that purpose it is necessary that the utmost facilities should be provided for redress in cases in which the Railway Companies have been justly complained of, and it is necessary that the classification, and in many cases that the rates, should be revised. That is the scope beyond which I shall not go—that is the scope of the Resolution which I shall submit to the House, I bag to move— 1896That it is expedient that the Railway Commission be made permanent and a Court of Record; and that, in general conformity with the recommendations of the Committee, the powers of the Commission he extended; and that, on application by a Railway undertaking for Parliamentary powers, a locus standi be afforded to Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture, and similar bodies, and to persons injuriously affected by the rates and fares sought or already authorised in the case of such undertaking.If the House should think fit to adopt this Resolution, as I hope it will do, it will be necessary to give effect by a Standing Order to that portion which relates to the locus standi of traders and others before Railway Committees. With respect to that matter, I shall be only to glad to communicate with the Chairman of the Committee on locus standi, and also with the President of the Board of Trade as to the best way of giving effect to this Resolution.
§ MR. GREGORY
, in seconding the Motion, said, the public were indebted to the hon. Member for Banbury for having called the attention of the House to this question, which was undoubtedly one of great importance. To the agricultural interest of the country it was at least as important as the questions of Local Taxation and of County Government, for it was obvious that by equitable rates of charge and proper facilities for traffic, that great interest must be deeply affected. The Committee of 1881 took a mass of evidence as to the constitution of the tribunal, and as to the subjects to be submitted to it, and there was no doubt there were many defects in its constitution. The judgment of the Commissioners could only be enforced by an action brought in another Court, they themselves being absolutely powerless to enforce it. The Commissioners wore also subject to the prohibition of the Courts of higher jurisdiction, and it had been the constant practice of the Railway Companies to move for a writ of prohibition so as to remove cases into the ordinary Courts of Law. Again, the Act of 1873 only gave power to Local Boards and Municipal Authorities to appear before the Commissioners on anything like a general question. It was true that individuals might make complaint, but matters of public interest could only be promoted by Railway Companies inter se or by some Municipal Authority. He was of opinion that the Commissioners had discharged their 1897 functions with great ability; they had had something like 100 cases before them, and they had decided them, on the whole, in a very satisfactory manner.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. GREGORY
, resuming, said, he contended, therefore, that the Commissioners should be constituted a permanent Body with extended powers. The question of railway rates was a very serious one for the agricultural interest. Hops, for instance, had to pay 36s. per ton for carriage between London and Ashford, but they were brought from Boulogne for 21s. That was a very considerable extra charge; but when the difference between the distances was considered, English hops would be found to pay nearly double the amount paid by foreign hops. So again with cheese. American cheese came from Liverpool to London for 25s., while English cheese paid 45s. from Chester to London. Railway Companies justified these charges partly by the competition they had to contend with by sea, and partly in terminal charges. They charged for the money expended on stations and sidings on the assumption that they wore special works to which the rates imposed by Parliament did not apply. But the Railway Companies were not authorized to levy terminal charges at all, except a reasonable sum for loading and unloading, and for services incidental to the trade of the carrier, and he contended that the construction of stations and sidings was part of the railway itself, and that the maximum rates authorized by the Special Acts were intended to cover these, whilst the Railway Companies made a heavy addition to their terminal charges on account of the money laid out on these works. It was clear that the charges to which he had referred were prejudicial to the commercial interests of the country, and that there ought to be some fixed tribunal to regulate these matters. It was very difficult for an individual to go before the Commissioners and contend against a Railway Company; it might seriously prejudice him in his business, and to meet this, it was proposed by the Resolution of his hon. Friend that the Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture, and similar associa- 1898 tions, should have that power, and that proposal, as well as the other proposals of his hon. Friend, he cordially supported.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is expedient that the Railway Commission be made permanent and a Court of Record; and that, in general conformity with the recommendations of the Committee, the powers of the Commission he extended; and that, on application by a Railway undertaking for Parliamentary powers, a locus standi be afforded to Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture, and similar bodies, and to persons injuriously affected by the rates and fares sought or already authorised in the case of such undertaking,"—(Mr. B. Samuelson,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. JAMES HOWARD
said, that the hon. Members for Banbury and East Sussex had urged so many conclusive reasons in favour of the Motion that it was unnecessary for him to go fully into the question. As, however, his hon. Friend the Member for Banbury had referred to him, he would explain that the firm of which he was a member had, some four or five years ago, a claim for terminals against the Midland and London and North-Western Companies, and that, after much fruitless negotiation, upon the firm giving notice of their intention to proceed before the Railway Commissioners to have the question settled, the Companies retorted by raising the rates payable by the firm most enormously, a course which, when the case was before the Commissioners, Mr. Pope, Q.C., the counsel for the Midland Company, denounced most emphatically. In his opinion, the Commission should not only be continued, but its powers should, in the interests of the trade, the commerce, and the agriculture of the country, be greatly enlarged. Experience had proved the necessity of the measures shadowed forth in the Motion of his hon. Friend, which he had much pleasure in supporting.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, he felt satisfied that his hon. Friend was perfectly justified in bringing this matter 1899 before the House, and at the same time that he did not intend to bring a general indictment against the Railway Companies of the United Kingdom; for when he considered the mode in which the enormous business of their undertakings was conducted, as compared with the manner in which similar undertakings in foreign countries were conducted, he was strongly of opinion that those Companies deserved well of the country, and he did not think that it would be desirable, in the interests of the community generally, to render uncertain the investment in these undertakings. His hon. Friend had spoken of the large amount of capital risked in these undertakings; but he had not stated that the return even now was, on the average, only a fraction over 4 per cent. He did not think a less return would justify investment in this kind of property. His hon. Friend was, of course, aware that the nature of the tribunal before which Companies should go had been the subject of consideration by the present Government and its Predecessors for a number of years, and that the settlement of the question had only been delayed by the presence of other Business. He thought he might now say that the question was now within a measureable distance of solution; and if he should have the honour of holding his present Office next Session, he might see his way to introduce a measure dealing with it. Looking at the Resolution of which his hon. Friend had given Notice, he might say he saw nothing in it to which he could take exception; and, therefore, speaking on behalf of the Government, he would offer no opposition to its acceptance by the House. His hon. Friend proposed that the Railway Commission should be made permanent. To that proposition he gave his unqualified adherence. The Commission had done its duty uncommonly well, and its work was thoroughly appreciated by the public. The only questions which he would reserve were questions of detail—as to the salaries to Railway Commissioners, and the exact character of future appointments. What he pledged himself to was a permanent Court, with such powers and conditions as would make it a Court of Record. The next point in the Resolution was that, in general conformity with the recommendations of the Committee, the powers of the Com- 1900 missioners should be extended. He was glad the hon. Member had used the words "in general comformity," because he did not wish at that stage to pledge himself to the details of a Bill which might be introduced hereafter; but, speaking generally, he could fairly accept the recommendation of the Railway Committee with regard to the proposed extension of powers. The question most open to doubt was as to a power to order through rates on the application of traders. That was a matter in regard to which there would be considerable difficulty; but still lie was not altogether without hope that it might be arranged in practical accordance with the suggestions of the Railway Committee. The cases to which the hon. Member referred had been cases in which traders generally and individuals were injured by existing railway rates, and chiefly cases arising out of the inequality of rates which undoubtedly existed. But inequality of rates did not necessarily involve anything in the shape of undue preference. To take the case of the agricultural interest, cattle and agricultural produce brought from abroad, and especially the United States, were conveyed over English lines for lower rates than were charged for exactly the same produce when carried entirely within the United Kingdom. It was urged, however, on behalf of the Railway Companies, that if they were not to make these special rates the goods would be conveyed exclusively by sea. It was also urged that in the case of foreign produce it frequently happened that the quantities conveyed were very much larger than in the case of homo produce, and was, therefore, entitled to special rates. He did not offer any opinion on the validity of this defence; but it was evident that the matter was one for separate and full investigation, because, though there was an unequal rate, they must not necessarily assume that there was an undue preference. He agreed, at the same time, that the question as to whether an undue preference had been given was a proper subject for inquiry by the Railway Commission. By whom, then, were these matters to be brought before the Commission? He agreed that as a rule it was not a duty that ought to be thrown upon private individuals. The expense would be such that a private individual could 1901 hardly be expected to undertake it; and, under those circumstances, it did appear fair that representative bodies which were authorized to speak to some extent in the name and on behalf of commerce should have, ex officio as it were, a locus standi before the Railway Commission. If that wore the case, he had no doubt that many questions would be taken up and decided which were not at present raised at all. But his hon. Friend went a little further in his speech, and expressed the hope that the time would come when he (Mr. Chamberlain) would be persuaded that it was expedient for the Board of Trade or some Public Department to take up these questions on behalf of the public. He confessed he did not think that time was likely to come soon. His experience showed that wherever the duty was thrown upon a Public Department of undertaking prosecutions, the action of the Department tended to wear the appearance not so much of prosecution as of persecution. Speaking especially of his connection with shipping legislation, where this duty had been thrown upon him, not in the interest of property, but of life, he was bound to say he did not think the result had been so satisfactory as to justify any large extension of the practice. His hon. Friend proposed that individuals affected by alleged unequal and unfair rates should also have a locus standi; but, of course, he would not wish that whenever a Railway Company applied for powers, even when they were in the nature of an extension for the public benefit, that every private individual should have the right to harass them by going into every single rate or fare. Therefore, it might be necessary to protect Railway Companies against frivolous complaints by a restriction similar to those in the case of criminal prosecutions where the fiat of the Attorney General was required. In conclusion, in regard to the Amendment on the Paper by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson), he would say generally that the terminal charges constituted a question of importance. He believed that the maximum charges now established were in many cases altogether unsuited to the existing requirements of the traders. They were extremely arbitrary, and the classification undoubtedly required revision. He did not think it necessary to say more 1902 on this occasion; but he hoped in a subsequent Session to be able to give effect to the pledges he had given in regard to the subject brought before the House on the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, that, considering the course of the debate and what had been said by the President of the Board of Trade, he did not think it would be necessary or desirable that he should move the Amendment which stood in his name in favour of one uniform classification of goods and the recognition of terminal charges subject to their publication by Railway Companies. He entirely accepted the view of the right hon. Gentleman as to the immense importance of the question of terminal charges. He had occasion to consider the question practically, having been personally interested in the due apportionment of these charges. But, like the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard), he had been a litigant before the Railway Commission, and, as a result of the litigation, had succeeded, to a great extent, in inducing the Companies to allot him proper terminals. He was, therefore, now affected by them in the same way that his constituents were. He concurred in the suggestion that the Commission should be made permanent, and that it should be a Court of Record. But it was an expensive Court, a fact that was due to the necessity of calling skilled witnesses, who were required on account of the uncertainty of the law. The mere reconstitution of the Court would do little to reduce the grievance of undue cost. With reference to the question of an unlimited right of appeal, or what might more strictly be called a right of rehearing, he thought it ought to be pointed out that this was a provision made entirely in the interest of the Railway Companies. The suitors in the Railway Commissioners Court were, on the whole, very well satisfied with the decisions of that Body, and when appeals had been allowed it had generally been at the instance of the Railway Companies. By the Act of 1873 the right of appeal was limited on account of the great abuse which had been made by some Railway Companies of that right. It was, therefore, desirable that the right of appeal should continue to be in some way limited. The difficulty of dealing with rates, on account of 1903 their number, of which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken, would be diminished, if, instead of considering all, attention were fixed on the maximum charges, as to which it would be useful to introduce something like certainty and simplicity. The question had been partly dealt with by the Standing Order moved by the hon. Member for North Hants, which affected new Companies, and old Companies seeking to increase their rates. Under the Standing Order the Board of Trade was called upon to report on the question of rates, before a Bill was read a second time. In a similar manner Companies seeking fresh powers might be called upon to simplify their rates. The practicability of this was illustrated by a Return made some years ago to the House of Lords, in which the charges of some Companies oocupied several pages, and those of others only as many lines. Preston was peculiarly affected, because it was at the junction of two great systems, and inconvenience and loss resulted from uncertainty as to the railway charges. If he found he were supported by the feeling of the House, he should move a Standing Order requiring the Board of Trade, in the case of existing Companies seeking further powers, to make a similar Report to that which they were now required to make with respect to new Companies, stating whether their existing rates required simplification. A great deal of ambiguity seemed to prevail as to terminal charges, which sometimes were taken to mean the charges a Company was entitled to make over and above the maximum rates and fares, but had a totally different signification under the Clearing House system. It was his belief that the public would never be fairly dealt with under the Clearing House system until the arrangements which the Companies found it convenient to make among themselves were made binding as between them and the public. It might be worth while considering whether, when the Railway Commission was reconstituted, there should not be a Department of an administrative kind established, to which some of the functions of the Railway Clearing House with reference to classification should be attached. The Railway Clearing House was a voluntary association, to begin with; but it had since obtained Parliamentary powers. 1904 The result had been the formation of a great monopoly, which it was not conducive to the public interest to leave without public control. He thought, also, there ought to be some inexpensive method of bringing before the Railway Commissioners questions which could be easily settled by reference to the Company's books, and for that purpose an office something like that of the Chief Clerk in the Court of Chancery might be established. He agreed with a former speaker that this question of the relations between the public and the Railway Companies was of as vast importance as any of the great questions before the House this year. At the same time, after what had boon said, he did not think it necessary to press his Amendment, although it was his intention this Session to move the Standing Order of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. CRAIG
I think, Sir, after the very satisfactory and fair way in which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) has received this Motion, that there need be little more said now on this subject. This is a very important question, though it has been brought forward in a thin House. At the same time, I am quite sure that there is no question which has excited the attention of the country generally more than this. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Samuelson) stated that the Committee on Railway Rates examined something like 100 witnesses. There might have been three or four times that number, if it had been necessary to call them. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech, made reference to competition, and he said that that was sometimes brought about by the Railway Companies very fairly, and that it benefited the consumer. Well, that, generally, may be so. At the same time, I think that the hon. Member for Banbury is quite correct when he sets forth the view that it is wrong to give to any body of men the power to induce competition between traders, without some public control. There is just one case to which I would call attention, in order to show how unfairly that power is sometimes exercised. It is a case which is stated in the Report of the Railway Committee, and that is the carriage of sugar from Greenock to something like 39 towns, at a distance of 292 miles, and the same 1905 charge is made for carriage as from London, at a distance of 150 miles—in other words, the Railway Companies are carrying sugar for the Greenock refiners at something like one-half of the cost per ton per mile that they are carrying for the London refiners. We have it on the highest authority—and the trading public generally accept this view—that the power to construct a railway is actually a contract between the Railway Companies and the public, and that, although it is carried out by the machinery of an Act of Parliament, it is yet understood that the powers granted, and by which alone they can become business Companies for their own profit, are to be exercised fairly and for the public good—that is, that they will give no undue preference, and that they will give equal advantages to all traders similarly circumstanced. Now, it is impossible to say how far these Greenock refiners have an advantage in the labour market and in other items which affect the cost of refining sugar; and, if they have an advantage over the London refiners, it is clearly wrong to disturb the trade of the latter by bringing the Greenock people into competition with them by carrying their sugar 292 miles at the same rate as they carry the London sugar 150 miles. Well, there is, again, the case of meat from Glasgow to London. The same Railway Companies charge, as was said by the hon. Member for Banbury, 77s. per ton for home-grown meat from Glasgow to London, and only 45s. per ton for meat which is brought from America, landed at Glasgow, and carried to London under precisely the same conditions as to quantity and other circumstances. Well, Sir, that seems to be a violation of the spirit of the law, at any rate, which, prohibits the giving of undue preference. Now, unless the Railway Companies can show that the producers in each case are similary circumstanced when equal rates are given for unequal distances, or dissimilar when unequal rates are given for equal distances, it is clearly a wrong inflicted upon the traders, either individually or in classes, to disturb their trade by bringing this competition upon them. The contract, as it were, between the public and the Railway Companies is, at present, in a most unsatisfactory state. We had it before the Committee that 1906 the Railway Companies considered themselves entitled to charge anything that was belew their maximum rate. They also said that they had a right to carry for different consignors at different rates, although the article was the same and under similar circumstances. Well, that seems to be a wrong—it seems to be inviting competition and to disturb trade; and although it may, in a sense, benefit the consumer, yet it cannot be a permanent public benefit, for it disturbs trade arrangements made by private traders, and causes uncertainty to every class of producers. I think, therefore, that the Railway Companies, before they ought to be entitled to make those great differences in charges, should be required to show before the Court the circumstances which justify such departure from the spirit of the law, and that they are inflicting no injustice upon any class of traders. The whole question is in a very unsatisfactory state; and it would be much more satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to have promised some Bill this Session upon the subject, for it is a long time to wait for another Session, and we cannot tell what may take place before then. But this is a question which is most urgent. Trade continues in a had state throughout the country, and we know that the condition of agriculture could not possibly be worse; and yet we have this, what many believe to be a cause of great injustice, continued at least for another Session. Now, with regard to those terminals to which the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) has alluded. This is one thing which affects adversely the whole question. So far as the trader is concerned, it is perfectly impossible for him to ascertain his position with regard to terminals, or even to rates. If he goes to the railway station to ask what any particular rates are, he finds that he is confused with alleged terminal charges. Again, classification ought to be dealt with, because it is impossible to derive from any one rate book what the trader wants to get at. He is referred not only to a rate book, but also to a classification book, and this classification is exceedingly imperfect. Therefore, it is to be hoped that, when the Government takes this up, they will not leave too much power in the hands of the Railway Companies, 1907 because, although, generally, they may fairly be said to work honestly, yet they are not a class of people different from the generality of mankind—they are liable to the same passions and the same feelings; and we have abundant proof that they often allow feelings rather than deliberate judgment to dictate their actions, as in the case of the disputed coal rates between two Railway Companies in 1871 and 1872. This was a case of coal rates between the Midland Counties and London; and we know that this dispute between the Midland Company and the Great Northern in 1871–2 raged for a considerable time, and the rates were reduced 2s. per ton less than what they are at the present time. Well, supposing that the Railway Companies were induced to compete against the sea carriage, or against each other, for this foreign trade, and that they lowered that rate proportionately, what position would the English farmer be in? They are had enough now by being charged 77s. against 45s. to the foreigner; but the Railway Companies might, to secure foreign traffic, with as much justice, still further reduce the rates on these articles 3s. or 5s. per ton, as was done with the se coal rates in that battle between the Midland and the Great Northern. It is, therefore, clearly the duty of the Government to take this question up as early as possible, and to place it beyond the power of any Railway Company to injure any class of traders upon the plea that competition is cheapening the article and benefiting the consumer. Consumers are producers; and when any class of producers is injured, the wages of the workmen are, by consequence, reduced, the whole condition of things is thrown into confusion, and it cannot be regarded as a permanent good to anyone. I thank the House for the patient manner in which they have listened to my observations.
§ MR. HICKS
was glad that the Resolution had received the approbation of the Government, the ugh he failed to understand that portion of the speech of the President of the Board of Trade which declared that differential rates were justified by the superiority of English over foreign railways. The President of the Board of Trade also said that, the ugh the differential rates on foreign corn might be unjust, still they did not injure the English farmers, inas- 1908 much as the foreign corn would get to London, whether carried by rail or sea. Well, that might be so; but, on behalf of the agricultural interest, he was ready to take the chance, and he only desired that both should be healed alike, and that justice should be done. He would now come to the main question. Some years ago he sat on a Railway Committee, dealing with railways South of London, and it appeared in evidence before it that a Railway Company, who said they were then desirous of giving increased facilities to the inhabitants of Kent of visiting Maidstone, were charging 3½d. per mile for local passengers for short distances to that town, and 2½d. a mile for through passengers for long distances. He suggested at that time that a rate should be uniform throughout the whole extent of the railway, but was told such a provision was beyond the scope of the Committee. Had these Resolutions been in force, he would have been able to enforce that system on the Company. He trusted that before long they would see their way to prevent further injustice being done by Railway Companies to British producers whether agricultural or manufacturing.
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE
said, as the Representative of an agricultural constituency, he wished to express his satisfaction at the manner in which the President of the Board of Trade had received the Resolution of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson). He only trusted that the right hon. Gentleman's definition of a measurable distance within which the solution of this question was to be reached was a right one, the ugh, considering the state of Public Business at present, he feared agriculturists would have to wait some time yet before their interests were considered in connection with railway rates. The recommendation of the Railway Commission to inquire into the existing rates and fares was one which was virtually essential to the agricultural community. With regard to differential rates, it would be far more equitable and fair that the foreign producer should be charged more than that the home producer should. He was glad that the Government had accepted the Motion, more particularly the latter portion of it. He thought it extremely desirable that in each case which came 1909 before the Commission an inquiry should be made, and that they should decide whether the charges were excessive or not. The President of the Board of Trade appeared to have overlooked one very important recommendation of the Royal Commission relating to the uniform classification of goods over the whole railway system. If that recommendation were adopted, he thought it would help very materially in carrying out the other objects to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred.
§ MR. MONK
was glad that Her Majesty's Government had consented to deal with this subject, although legislation for the purpose of making the Railway Commission permanent had been promised before and had come to nothing. The Railway Commission had given great satisfaction to the commercial community; and, therefore, he considered it was highly desirable that it should be made permanent and a Court of Record. With regard to the recommendation of the Committee that Select Committees should have some authority to deal with the existing rates and fares of Companies coming to Parliament for further powers, he thought it was open to the criticism of the President of the Board of Trade, that it would be quite sufficient to give Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture a locus standi before the Railway Commission on all questions affecting rates and fares, he the roughly agreed with the recommendation that there ought to be one uniform classification of goods all over the country. With respect to differential rates, he could not see the justice of charging lower rates to the foreign than the home producers and manufacturers. Foreign corn, cattle, timber, and many other commodities from abroad were thus carried cheaper than home-produced articles. For instance, foreign hops from Boulogne were now brought from Folkestone to London for 17s. 6d. per ton, while hops from Ashford to London, half the distance, were charged double that amount—35s. per ton. Railway Companies justified these anomalies by saying that they were for the advantage of the consumer. In his opinion, the se differential rates should be abolished.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,1910
§ MR. MONK
, continuing, observed that great anomalies also prevailed in passenger rates. He thought it most desirable to adopt the recommendation of the Committee that the Commissioners should have power to decide questions of passenger fares, and this power might be conferred upon them by the measure that was to be introduced by the Board of Trade. He would also suggest that the passenger fares should be printed on the railway tickets. This was done all over the Continent, and was found to be a great check against fraud. Evidence that this could be done without difficulty, beyond the necessary expense at the outset, had been given by railway managers before the Committee. He was glad the House was prepared to accept the Resolution.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
pointed out that the manufacturers of Sheffield had great reason to complain of the unfair rates charged by the Railway Companies, and practically the foreign manufacturer gained advantages in the matter of carriage at the expense of the English manufacturer. The manufacturers of Sheffield had to complain of the differential rates charged on certain railways, by which iron ore and pig iron were conveyed from Cumberland to Goole and Hull for shipment to Germany at a cheaper rate than they could get it at Sheffield from the same mining district. He did not think it for the benefit of the community that railway shareholders alone should be considered, or that the preferential rates should he maintained to the detriment of the home manufacturer.
§ MR. DUCKHAM
thought that no difference should be made in the rates for artifical and ordinary manures. Home agricultural produce paid much higher rates than foreign; and now it was attempted further to handicap the British farmer by doubling the rates for his manures.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he congratulated the hon. Member for Ban-bury on the success of his Motion, and assured the President of the Board of Trade that this was a great and a growing question. Owing to the depression and suffering in late years, farmers and traders generally had looked very closely into the matter, and they found that the Railway Companies were acting in an anomalous and arbitrary manner in the 1911 fixing of their rates. Every one of the railway managers who gave evidence before the Committee on Rates and Fares stated that the Companies did not know what was the cost of any particular service, or when they were charging too much or too little, and that the system—or rather no system—which guided them was that they should take all they could get, so long as they kept within their maximum rates. There was no other business in the country carried on upon such a principle. The farmers did not ask the Railway Companies to carry for them at a loss; but they complained that they wore charged 3d. per mile for service for which other traders were charged only Id. The Railway Companies had endeavoured by low rates to divert the trade from its natural channel; but this was for them an unfortunate policy, because it led to the crowding of their lines, and to heavy outlay for additional stations and rails. In some cases the difference between their charges for home and foreign produce was equal to 10s. an acre additional rent to the farmer in this country. He could have wished that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade could have gone a step further and brought in a Bill to carry out the views of the Committee, so far as they wore embodied in the Resolution now before the House. The only point he wished to refer to was that with reference to granting an appeal to the Companies upon questions of fact as well as of law. If that were done, it would have the effect of abolishing the Railway Commission altogether; and therefore he hoped, before any new Bill was introduced, this matter would be carefully considered. He should be glad if the Board of Trade would go further, and take up the question of enforcing the law, and seeing that the Companies did not exceed the powers conferred upon them. The public should not be charged in excess of the rates which the Companies were authorized to charge. The necessity for some body taking cognizance of the charges made by Railway Companies was become more and more clamant. He hoped the Railway Commission would be made permanent, with extended powers to enable them to deal with all questions arising under their Private Acts.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
remarked, that this was a very complicated 1912 question as well as a very important one. What the farmers and traders objected to was seeing a protective or preferential rate put on the foreign producer—not only corn, cattle, fruit, and vegetables, but timber and iron. He recommended the right hon. Gentleman to consider it well before next year, with a view to the introduction of a Bill which would be satisfactory to all parties.
§ MR. BOLTON
said, the debate had proceeded pretty much on the assumption that railway managers were entirely ignorant of their business, and the hon. Members who had taken part in it had spoken as if they alone knew how to conduct railway business. He did not rise to oppose the Resolution, because he was perfectly satisfied that when this question came before the House in the shape of a Bill, railway Representatives in the House would be quite able to prove that they had managed the railway business of the country in a manner which would meet with the approval of the House. But he rose to correct certain misstatements that had been made with respect to the Railway Commission, and with respect to what were called preferential rates, which misstatements, if they went forth uncontradicted, would lead to great misapprehension. Hon. Members had shown, or tried to show, that preferential rates were the rule, and equal rates the exception. As the Railway Commission had complete power to correct the preferential rates, and they had not done so, how could it be said that it was desirable that the Railway Commission should be made permanent? He believed the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion inadvertently said that the Railway Companies entered the Commissioners' Court with an animus against the Commissioners. [Mr. B. SAMUELSON: I did not say that.] He was glad to hear the denial from the hon. Member, because he begged to assure the House that the only animus that the Companies had against the Commissioners was the fact that there was not a light of appeal. He would now say a few words as to the so-called preferential rates. Take the rates for beef from New York as compared with Glasgow. As a matter of fact, Glasgow was not a place where beef was grown, but for the sake of argument it did not matter. It was true that the rate for home-grown dead meat from Glasgow to London was 1913 very much higher than for foreign meat; but how did that affect adversely the farmer who grew beef in the neighbourhood of Glasgow or anywhere else? It was not competition with the homegrown meat in any sense whatever, because if foreign meat was not sent to Glasgow, to be afterwards conveyed to other ports, it would be sent direct from New York to the various ports. By whichever route the meat went the rates would be exactly the same. Sugar was another article, and it was said, as one of the iniquities of railway management, that sugar was carried from Greenock to towns in England at a lower rate per mile than it was carried from Liverpool to the same town. That simply meant that if the sugar was not taken by railway from Greenock to those inland towns, the sugar from Greenock would not go at all, or if it went, it would go by sea to Liverpool, and thence by railway to the Midland Counties. The fact was, that the railway rates for sugar from Greenock to the Midland towns was identical with the rate by sea to Liverpool and thence by railway to its destination. And who was injured by that? Certainly it was not the refiner in Greenock; it was not the consumer in the Midland town; it was not the refiner in Liverpool, for there was the same competition by sea. The fact was that no one was injured. Another hon. Member referred to timber, and said that foreign timber was carried at a lower rate than homegrown timber. But the articles were not the same. The foreign timber was cut and stowed easily, whilst the home-grown timber was as it fell, and therefore was carried at a very great cost. That was the reason for the difference of charge between home-grown and foreign timber. Another hon. Member spoke of manure, and said that artificial manure was charged a higher rate than the common manures. Now, the artificial manure that the hon. Member wanted to be carried at the same rate, and at the risk of the Companies, was an article worth nearly 200 times as much per ton, and required great care in the carriage in order to keep it dry and in good order. Under such circumstances, was it strange that Committee after Committee upstairs had authorized Railway Companies to charge higher rates for artificial manure than for street sweepings and common manure? 1914 He merely rose, however, for the purpose of correcting the misstatements which had been made that evening, and to express his belief that the Railway Companies would not object to a Bill founded upon the Report of the Railway Rates Committee of 1881–2, and that they would not object in any sense to the Railway Commission being made permanent, provided they had the right of appeal.
§ MR. RAMSAY
thought that his hon. Friend had failed to recognize the ground of complaint. The reasons assigned might explain, but could not justify, the charges complained of. The farmers round Glasgow, and the people whom they supplied, did not see why the Railway Company should be allowed to charge them more for the conveyance of articles of home produce than for goods of the same description coming from New York or other foreign ports. With regard to manures, the object was to secure that all kinds of manure should be conveyed into the country at the same rate of charge.
§ MR. FINDLATER
said, the Commission had ably and impartially discharged their duties, and hoped that powers would be given them to enforce their orders. The necessity of having this power was brought home strongly to his mind by the action of the Midland Great Western Company of Ireland towards a small Company, the Dublin and Meath, of whose line they were lessees. The Midland Company had consistently pursued a policy of starving the leased line, with the object of being able to purchase it at a reduced price. An order was recently made by the Railway Commissioners, directing the Midland Company to accelerate the trains upon the; leased line by 20 minutes, and the way in which they obeyed the order was by slowing them for the same time. He cordially supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Banbury.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That it is expedient that the Railway Commission be made permanent and a Court of Record; and that, in general conformity with the recommendations of the Committee, the powers of the Commission be extended; and, that, on application by a Railway undertaking 1915 for Parliamentary powers, a locus standi be afforded to Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture, and similar bodies, and to persons injuriously affected by the rates and fares sought or already authorised in the case of such undertaking.