§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."—(Mr. Dodds.)
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE
said, he begged to move the re-committal of the Bill. The House would remember that, when the Bill was before them on the second reading, he had opposed it, on the ground that it contained provisions enabling the Company to charge excessive and differential rates for the carriage of artificial manures, and a higher classification for such manures in comparison with that in which manures were classed generally as "dung, compost, and all other kinds of manures." His opposition to the second reading of the Bill was withdrawn, on account of the passing of the Standing Order proposed by his right lion. Friend the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), which provided that any Bill containing provisions in regard to questions relating to new tolls or rates should not be reported by the Committee until a Report by the Board of Trade on the powers sought had been laid before the Committee, and the Committee should have reported, specially, to the House in what manner the recommendations or observations contained in the Report of the Board of Trade, and also in what manner the clauses of the Bill relating to the powers sought had been dealt with by the Committee. By that Standing Order, it was provided that all matters relating to new tolls or rates should be brought under the notice of the Committee, whether they formed the subject of opposition or not; and those who were looking after the agricultural interest in that House were induced to believe that the effect of that Standing Order would be to prevent Committees from imposing any increase of rates with regard to articles necessary for the fertilization of the soil, carried by new Railways. But now this Bill, among others, came down, from a Committee upstairs; and it was found that 733 the charges upon artificial manures were very largely in excess of the vast charge upon "dung, compost, and all other kinds of manures." It was contended in the Report of the Committee upon this Bill that the charges were not in excess of those authorized for like undertakings in previous years; but it appeared to him, although he did not know whether he was right in the supposition or not, that, upon the face of this Report, the Committee, who had the Bill under their consideration, had only looked at the charges which had been asked for in regard to the different classes, and had not turned their attention to the classification of the different articles in those separate classes. In all Railway Bills, except within the last year or two, when he believed that some eight or nine Bills were allowed to pass without these differential rates on manures having been brought to the attention of the House—in all Bills, except those Bills which had been allowed to pass by inadvertence, he was safe in asserting, artificial manures were intended by Parliament to be classed with manures of the lowest class, under the term of "dung, compost, and all other kinds of manures." But, in this Bill, although the attention of the Committee was called to the matter by Standing Order 145A, it appeared that artificial manures were charged at the rate of 3d. per ton. The original charge the Railway Company proposed to levy upon artificial manures was 3½d. per ton; but the Committee had reduced that charge to 3d. a ton. But they had not reduced the class in which artificial manures were here placed to the level of the lowest class given in the Schedule; and he found, also, in the Bill, that "dung, compost, and all other kinds of manures" were charged for at a higher rate than was formerly or generally permitted by the House of Commons. Instead of the charges being, as he believed it used to be, a general rate of 1½d. per ton, it was proposed now to impose, as the lowest charge, a rate of 2½d. a ton. It might be said, perhaps, that the Standing Order having been passed by the House, and the attention of the Committee having been called to the fact, and the Committee having reported upon it, it was not desirable or proper that he should challenge the decision of the Committee; but he should like to call 734 the attention of the House to the fact that all the Committees to which this matter had been referred had not come to the same decision. In fact, the House had that day passed the third reading of a new Railway Bill—the Pewsey, Salisbury, and Southampton Railway Bill, which measure made the charge for artificial manures the same as that for the lowest class of manures. He found in Class 4, which included "coal, culm, cinders, &c.," "all sorts of manures and undressed materials, &c.," a charge of 1¼d. per ton. Therefore, it would be seen that, in the Pewsey, Salisbury, and Southampton Railway Bill, the charge upon the lowest class of manures was more than 1d. less than that proposed to be charged in the Exeter, Teign Valley, and Chagford Bill, which the House was now asked to read a third time. He found that in the class in which he fancied the Committee had permitted, in the Bill now under discussion, artificial manures to be included—namely, sugar, corn, grain, flour, &c., in the Pewsey, Salisbury, and Southampton Railway Bill just road a third time, the charge was 2½d. per ton per mile, which was the same price the Exeter, Teign Valley, and Chagford Railway Bill proposed to charge for their very lowest classes. It seemed to him that the object of the Standing Order, on account of which his opposition and the opposition of other hon. Members to this Bill was withdrawn on the second reading, had been overlooked, and that the Committee had had their attention called to the rating of different classes proposed to be taxed by the Bill, but had not had their attention called to certain subordinate articles which had been placed in other classes. The Railway Company had been enabled, by some means or other, to take artificial manures out of the lowest classes, which, he contended, were the classes in which they ought to be included, and had placed them, by some inadvertence on their part, in a higher class, thereby enabling the Railway Company to charge a higher price for the carriage of manures than had generally been permitted to be done by the legislation of former years. He thought it behoved those who represented the agricultural interest to keep a watchful eye on these attempts on the part of the Railway Companies to charge 735 higher rates than were absolutely necessary for the carriage of agricultural commodities. It was necessary that they should keep a watchful eye upon every endeavour to impose higher charges on these articles; because the House would be aware of the fact that the Railway Companies were not altogether particularly careful of the agricultural interest, while they claimed, on the other hand, to have every care bestowed upon their interest. They had it in evidence, laid on the Table of the House, that the Railway Companies were in the habit of charging much lower rates for the conveyance of foreign produce from the port of debarkation than they charged to those members of the agricultural community who sent to London on the produce grown in this country itself. This difference in charge might not be a heavy loss in money to the agricultural interest. It might not be, in the case of this line, that so large a quantity of artificial manures would be carried as to occasion a very serious loss to the agricultural interest upon it; but hon. Members should remember that this was a precedent, and that it would be made a precedent in future for new Railway Companies to come to Parliament and ask for similar privileges in increasing their rates and charges. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary, for the well-being of the agricultural community, that all attempts of this kind should be carefully watched and guarded against. He might also say this—that the carriage of artificial manures was a matter of vital importance to the Railway Companies themselves; because it would be evident to the House that, the more agricultural manures were carried by the Railway Companies down to the country districts, and the more fertilizing-materials were generally used in those districts, the larger would be the amount of produce that would be raised by the agricultural community in such part of the world and placed upon the Railway Company's line, and sent up to the different markets that might be located within reach of the Railway. It might be that the Railway Company, if they placed their artificial manures in the lowest class, should set themselves right by levying a charge for insurance on artificial manures. They contended that they ought to charge a higher rate, an account of artificial manures being 736 liable to sustain damage in transit. Now, he wished to point out that it would be much better for the agricultural community that artificial manures should be placed in the lower class, and that the Railway Company should charge a certain rate for insurance. He found that the extra cost covered by insurance, supposing artificial manures were to be charged at the same rate as "dung, compost, and other kinds of manures," would be 1s. per £100 in value, or 1s. per cent. If the whole distance of the Railway was 24 miles, it would be a very easy sum to find out what the extra cost for carrying the artificial manures would be—namely, the fourth of 1d. per ton for the whole distance; whereas this Railway Company had come to Parliament to ask it to sanction a charge at an extra rate of 1d. per ton, not for the whole distance which the insurance of 1s. per £100 value would cover, but 1s. per ton for every mile. He thought he was not asking too much of the House, when he asked them to re-commit the Bill for the further consideration of the Committee; because it appeared to him that the Bill, and another Bill which came after it, and which he should oppose for the same reason, had been permitted to be passed by the Committee upstairs, under a misapprehension of the reasons for which the Standing Order was passed by the House, and for which his opposition and that of other hon. Members on both sides of the House was withdrawn. He begged to move that the Bill be re-committed.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Does the noble Viscount propose to follow the usual course of re-committing the Bill to the same Committee?
§ MR. JAMES HOWARD
said, he had great pleasure in seconding the proposition of the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Folkestone), for there was no reason whatever why the Railway Company should charge more for guano than they did for farmyard or stable manure. In the first place, guano was only manure in a more highly comminuted and concentrated form; and it was far more easily handled, loaded, and unloaded, than stable manure. Another point was that a great deal more could be put on a truck than in the case of ordinary manure—perhaps two or three times the weight; and, upon these 737 grounds, he should most strongly support the Amendment of the noble Viscount.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "now considered," in order to add the words "re-committed to the former Committee."—(Viscount Folkestone.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'now considered,' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR ARTHUR OTWAY
said, that various questions of an extraneous character had been introduced by the noble Viscount who moved the re-committal of the Bill (Viscount Folkestone). The House would remember that, a short time ago, there was a long discussion upon the question of the charges to be imposed upon the carriage of manures, and the result of that discussion was the passing of a Standing Order, at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), whom he now saw opposite. Now, what did that Standing Order say? It said—In the case of any Bill relating to a Railway, Tramway, Canal, Dock, Harbour, Navigation, Pier, or Port, seeking powers to levy tolls, rates, or duties in excess of those already authorized for that undertaking, or usually authorized in previous years for like undertakings, the Bill shall not be reported by the Committee until a Report from the Board of Trade on the powers so sought has been laid before the Committee, and the Committee shall report specially to the House in what manner the recommendations or observations in the Report of the Board of Trade, and also in what manner the Clauses of the Bill relating to the powers so sought have been dealt with by the Committee.Now, the House would remember that that Standing Order met with considerable favour on the part of the House. It was regarded by hon. Members as a means of avoiding difficulties which might arise, and the waste of time which would be occasioned, if the rates inserted in every Railway Bill were to be considered and discussed over and over again by the House. The Committee upstairs had carried out strictly that which was required by the Standing Order, and its Report was in conformity with all the requirements of the Standing Order and of the Report of the Board of Trade, which was placed before the Committee. The Report of the Board of Trade upon the subject was very short 738 indeed, and he would read one paragraph of it, which said—In the Railway Acts of former years, when guano and artificial manures were less important than they have since become, no distinction was made between those manures and ordinary manures, and both were placed in the lowest class of about 1d. per ton per mile. In subsequent years, it has been the practice to grant more favourable terms. A table of some of the rates so authorized is appended to this Report. One of these Acts, it will be observed, dates as far back as the year 1857; other instances are to be found in Acts passed in 1863, 1865, and 1866; but more frequently in those of later years. Most, if not all, of the larger Companies appear to have made special charges for guano and artificial manures, as for manufactured articles. In this Bill, it is proposed to class guano and artificial manures with manufactured goods at a maximum rate of 3½d. per ton.The question for the House to consider was, whether the Committee had dealt with that Report from the Board of Trade. The House would allow him, for one moment, to assure the noble Viscount opposite that he was not without sympathy with some of the statements which the noble Viscount had made. But he presumed that it was the duty of the Committee, in all matters, to conform to the requirements of the House. He would, therefore, state how far the Committee had conformed to the requirements of the House, and how far they had acted on the recommendations of the Board of Trade. This was the Report of the Committee—That, in pursuance of Standing Order No. 145a, a Report from the Board of Trade was laid before the Committee stating that, subject to the observations in the Report respecting the maximum rate of charge for passengers, the tolls, and the maximum rates of charge for passengers, animals, and goods upon the Railway are not in excess of those authorized for like undertakings in previous years. In the Bill, as submitted to and passed by the Committee, the maximum rate for artificial manure, and other articles classed therewith, has been reduced from 3½d. to 3d. per ton per mile; the charge for parcels exceeding 56 lbs., and not exceeding 1 cwt., has been reduced from 3s. to 1s. 6d., and the charge for short distances has been reduced from four miles to three miles. After hearing evidence—and it has been proved to the Committee that the rates for passengers proposed by the Bill are the same as those authorized by the Teign Valley Railway Act, 1863, for the use of the Teign Valley Railway, of which the proposed Railway will form an extension—the Committee are of opinion that the rates proposed by the Bill, as amended, should be sanctioned.He submitted to the House that there would be very considerable inconvenience 739 if, in the case of every Railway Bill which came down from a Committee upstairs, they were to go into all these questions of rates again. He was afraid they might find themselves engaged in interminable discussions without producing any good result. Wherever a Bill allowed a Railway Company to make a higher charge than another Company was allowed to make, they would have this story repeated over and over again. He understood that it was in order to save the valuable time of the House that his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had proposed the Standing Order as a mode of terminating the difficulties to which he had alluded. Personally, he (Sir Arthur Otway) had only one wish, and that was to carry out what he considered to be the requirements of the House in dealing justly with the matter. He found, when the Bill came before him upstairs, that the rates of the new Railway were exactly those already in existence in the case of other Companies. He and his Colleagues had, however, taken off altogether a not inconsiderable sum from the charge originally proposed for the carriage of manures; and, on the whole, he submitted that the rates as now authorized by the Bill were no higher than they ought to be under the circumstances. The noble Viscount asked that the Committee should reconsider the Bill; but he frankly confessed that he was afraid they would be unable to come to any other conclusion than that which they had already arrived at. They had heard all the evidence with great care, and not without reference to the Birmingham case; and he had given his decision in conjunction with others who acted with him. He would appeal to the House whether they were prepared to sanction a course which would undoubtedly lead to great inconvenience, after having so recently determined how to avoid that inconvenience? If the Amendment of the noble Viscount were assented to, they would certainly have the re-committal of Railway Bills moved wherever the rates and charges appeared to those who represented the agricultural interest to be in excess of those which they would like to see imposed. If the House entered upon such a course, he was afraid they would be altogether departing from the most excellent arrangement for the settlement 740 of the question they had adopted only a short time ago.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he could not agree with the hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Arthur Otway) that the observations of the noble Viscount the Member for South Wilts (Viscount Folkestone) were in the least degree extraneous. He (Mr. Chaplin) thought, on the contrary, that they were very much to the point, and he was of opinion that those who represented the agricultural interest in that House were much indebted to the noble Viscount for raising the question again upon the present Bill. He was quite aware of the Standing Order, which had recently been passed by the House; but he demurred to the proposition that that Standing Order, even at the time it was proposed, was universally considered to be satisfactory, or that it was received with universal favour. Whatever might have been the feeling at the time, undoubtedly, if the result of the Standing Order was to be that Bills were to come down to the House from Committees upstairs, containing clauses which were considered most detrimental to the agricultural interest, he, for one, objected to be bound in any way whatever by the decision of the Committee upstairs. The facts of the case were extremely simple, and nothing that had been said by the hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means altered, in the least degree, the decision those hon. Members who opposed the second reading of the Bill had arrived at. The House had before them the plain fact that, in the Bill, there was a certain class of commodities necessary for the development of the agriculture of the country upon the carriage of which such a price was charged as must be most adverse to that agricultural development. That being the case, they really had no alternative but to oppose the further progress of the measure. The hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means had been lavish in his protestations of regard for the agricultural interest. Now, he (Mr. Chaplin) desired to see some practical effect given to those protestations, and he hoped the noble Viscount would press his Amendment to a division. He (Mr. Chaplin) felt convinced that if the noble Viscount did so, be would receive a very large amount of support, and he trusted 741 that his noble Friend would be successful in carrying his proposition that the Bill be sent back again to the Committee upstairs. He believed it was highly probable that, in such a case, it would meet with a much more favourable consideration than it had received at present. Certainly, if it did not, the question would have to be raised over and over again.
§ MR. DUCKHAM
said, they had been told by the hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Arthur Otway) that, in the early days of Railway legislation, 1d. per ton was considered a fair charge for the carriage of manures. They were now called upon by this Bill to pay 3d. per ton per mile, and they had not heard any statement yet which would justify a three-fold charge being imposed upon the agricultural interest. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. James Howard) had stated, quite correctly, that artificial manures were more easily packed together in railway trucks, and that they did not occupy one-half the space of ordinary farmyard manures of the same weight. Then, why should the agriculturists be required to pay a greatly increased charge for carriage? He thought it behoved the House to look with a great amount of jealousy on any increased charge being placed by Railway Companies upon the carriage of agricultural produce, or upon commodities necessary for agricultural development. They had before them the Report of a Select Committee, which had taken great pains in investigating Railway rates and charges, and that Committee found that there was a great diversity in the amount of charge made for the carriage of the agricultural produce of the farmers of this country and the agricultural produce sent in from foreign countries. They were told that that was in consequence of the competition with water carriage. Nevertheless, the fact remained that the great Railway Companies were reducing the charges upon foreign produce which were formerly imposed; and, after buying up and closing our internal water carriage, thus creating a powerful monopoly, they were now seeking to place a three-fold charge upon the carriage of our own agricultural produce. Despite the opinion which had been expressed by the hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways 742 and Means (Sir Arthur Otway), he thought it behoved the House to look carefully into the matter, and to see that excessive charges were not sanctioned by any Act of Parliament.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he wished to assure his hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Arthur Otway) that no blame was attached to him in respect of the complaints that were made in regard to the Bill. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend that it might be better if a Government Department had been empowered to settle these questions of rates without requiring them to be discussed by the House. At the same time, he submitted, that no private Bill should be allowed to pass through the House without being brought under the notice of those who were concerned in watching over the public interests, if it contained a proposal to increase the rates, or to establish a difference of classification. There was no desire to cast any reflection upon his hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means. The question had been discussed fully in the House, upon the second reading of this and other Bills, and a desire was then expressed that the Board of Trade should deal with the subject. Nevertheless, the Board of Trade simply presented a Report to the Committee; and the Chairman of Ways and Means, on the strength of that Report, said there was nothing unusual in the Bill. No doubt, the Report of the Board of Trade, that there were precedents for the charges made in the Bill, was correct; but he (Mr. J. W. Barclay) thought it might fairly be said that they were very few. There were two complaints against the present Bill; first, in respect of common manures being charged the excessive rate of 2½d. per ton per mile, whereas the maximum charge in a large majority of cases was 1d. or 1½d. per ton per mile; and, in the second place, it was complained that the Railway Company, in this instance, sought power to charge a much higher rate for artificial manures than for ordinary kinds of manure. No doubt there were precedents for that; but the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade told thorn, when the question was under discussion on the second reading, that the eight Bills in which these differential charges were sanctioned had 743 been passed in consequence of inadvertence, and that it was owing to the passing of those eight Bills that the necessity had arisen for the further consideration of the matter, with a view to the prevention of increased and differential rates on manures in future without the sanction of the House. If there was anything to be said in favour of uniformity of practice, he would call the attention of his hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means to the fact that there were other Railway Bills now before the House in respect of which the rate asked was only one-half of what was asked by the Railway Company promoting the present Bill. He might instance the Plymouth, Devonport, and South-Western Railway, a line of 30 miles, which cost £43,000 a-mile. This Railway was a line of 18 miles, and would only cost £18,000 a-mile, and the charges proposed to be levied in this case were almost double those which the other Railway proposed to levy. Now, he contended, and he understood the House desired, from the discussion which took place the other day, that there should be some uniformity of charge—that some principle should be laid down on which rates and charges should be fixed, and that they should not depend on the will of the agents promoting these Bills, which was very much the case at present. If one Railway Company, in every respect similar to another Railway Company, wished to charge twice as much as the other for the same amount of work, he thought a strong primâ facie case was made out that the one Company was asking too much. Several Railway Companies, whose Bills had been called in question, had deferred to the views expressed by the House, and he contended that it would be wise on the part of the House to adopt a uniform practice of charging all manures alike. This Company had inserted very high rates indeed in their Bill; and, as it was the first time the question had come before the House in this manner, he thought if the House were to express a decided opinion on the subject, it would form a good precedent for the guidance of the Chairman of Ways and Means, and for Members of the House who might be called upon to serve on these Committees in future. At the same time, it ought to be made clear to the Board of Trade that the House of Commons would look 744 to them to some extent to protect the public interests, and not to show themselves, as he was afraid they did, in too many cases, to be more anxious to protect the Railway Companies from the public than to protect the public from the Railway Companies.
§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
said, the question which had been raised was one which affected not only the agricultural interest, but the whole community. It was not simply whether the Railway Companies were to impose exorbitant charges upon persons who were chiefly concerned in agricultural pursuits, but whether Railway Companies were to be allowed, at their pleasure, to charge rates which were considerably above those which had hitherto been considered to be sufficient. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), that there was no intention to convey a reflection upon the hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means, because it was clear that the Report of the Board of Trade did not afford sufficient materials to guide the hon. Baronet in regard to the rates which he ought to sanction. But if a Standing Order had been passed, and which, he hoped, would soon be passed, in conformity with the Resolution of the House on Railway charges—namely, one empowering the public to be represented before Railway Committees—then such a difficulty as had arisen in the present case would not have arisen at all. What had happened in this case was that the hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means had not had his attention called sufficiently to the fact that the charges proposed to be made by this Railway Company were very considerably in excess of the charges usually levied on the articles to which they were intended to apply; and, although it was not desirable that they should, on ordinary occasions, review the decision of Committees of that House, still it must be considered, having regard to the new Standing Order moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), that this was a case for referring the decision of the Committee back again. It was desirable, if possible, to have nothing authorized beyond the maximum Railway charges now sanctioned and if they now wished to insist in this Bill that no increase of the rates should be allowed, 745 the attempt would, probably, never be made in any future Bill. If they did allow it, they would establish a precedent which, he was afraid, would be a bad augury for any attempt they might make hereafter to have the charges reviewed generally, and to lower the maximum rates in the interests of the public. He saw no reason whatever why they should not, in the present case, make an exception to the wholesome rule of abstaining from reviewing the decision of a Select Committee; and he thought it would be better to set aside the decision of the Committee in this case, in consequence of the extraordinary circumstances which had arisen. If they allowed the present rate fixed in the Bill to pass, they would be told hereafter that these rates had been sanctioned, and other Railway Companies would ask for similar high rates. He thought the value of the article did not justify them, in accepting the rate, nor was there any reason for a high rate on account of the space taken up. In point of fact, no reason whatever was given by the Railway Company to justify any exceptional favour being conferred upon them. If this precedent were now allowed, any general review of Railway rates in the public interest would be rendered very difficult, if not impossible.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said, he disputed the wisdom of reviewing a decision which had already been arrived at by a Select Committee of the House. As a matter of common sense, he thought that when the question of what the charge should be was referred to a Committee, they should support the decision of the Committee. It was most unwise, in his opinion, for the House to re-open the special questions referred to a Committee, and again to discuss the principle upon which charges were to be levied upon articles of different bulk and different value. It was stated that these charges would be detrimental to the interests of agriculture. Now, he was sure that if any one interest in the country had been more benefited by the construction of railways than another, that interest was agriculture; and, in view of the depression which had come upon agriculture of late years, he was perfectly satisfied that if there had been no railways the agricultural community would have been far less able to bear it. 746 They were in a position now to have their produce carried much more cheaply than formerly, and they were able also to get better prices for everything they produced. He could speak from personal experience. He had now to pay 12s. per ton for coal where he was living in Wales, which would have cost formerly 22s. per ton; and, in regard to agricultural produce, there was not only a reduction in the price of carriage, but the farmers got double the price they were able to obtain formerly. But, in point of fact, there were two sides to everything; and it was, indeed, too much the fashion for any interest which felt it had a grievance to come to that House to ventilate it. He asked the House, in the interests of public legislation as applied to Public Bills, not to agree to the Amendment proposed by the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Folkestone). They had every year to deal with millions of money expended in public measures, and he thought they ought to secure the pockets of the investing community from being improperly attacked. He hoped the House would not consent to send back the Bill to the Committee.
§ MR. HICKS
said, he wished to draw the attention of the House to the only question before it, which was simply this—whether a certain class of articles which, from the very introduction of railways, had been placed in the cheapest class, should now, in these days, when agriculture was so depressed, and at a time when the House had, over and over again, professed its desire to improve agriculture and increase the production of the country, should be now placed in a higher class—were they likely to effect that object by allowing the Railway Companies to charge 50 or 100 per cent more for the carriage of agricultural commodities than they had been allowed to charge in times past? The hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Arthur Otway) told them there had been some few instances in which this alteration of charges had been allowed; but he (Mr. Hicks) was sure there was no hon. Member of that House who would not admit that such alterations had been made without the knowledge of the House. It was only this year that the attention of the House was openly drawn to the fact that, within the last year or two, several Railway Companies had 747 succeeded in getting artificial manures removed from Class 8 to Class 9, and that was the real question now before the House. Were they going to allow one Railway after another, until it included the whole Railway system of the country, to depart from the original bargain made with Parliament? He thought it his duty cordially to support the Amendment.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he wished to ask the House, if it was going to stultify itself, by allowing the Bill in its present shape to be read a third time, after the discussion which took place the other day, and after a Standing Order had been passed as the result of that discussion. Either that Standing Order was intended to protect the public, or it was not; if it did not, then they ought to come to the conclusion at once that it was utterly futile. His own opinion, however, was that it would be extremely dangerous and inconvenient if, after having passed that Standing Order, they now allowed a Bill to receive the sanction of the House which increased a certain class of rates by 200 per cent, and thus form a precedent which would be quoted hereafter as done under the sanction of the new Standing Order.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he could not agree with what had just been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), nor yet with the language of the hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Arthur Otway). The hon. Member for Grimsby said the Standing Order was futile; but, if so, how was it that they were then discussing that Bill, seeing that all the Standing Order provided was that these matters should be brought to the attention of the House? Again, his hon. Friend opposite the Chairman of Ways and Means looked upon the Standing Order as a compromise. It was no compromise at all. It was merely a means of curing the grievance that a Private Bill Committee, whether dealing with an opposed or an unopposed Bill, should be allowed per in-curiam to sanction the introduction of changes relating to tolls and rates without the knowledge of Parliament. The Standing Order provided a remedy for that particular complaint; and he was satisfied himself that in this and in other cases 748 the Reports which had been sent down from the Committees upstairs effectually secured the object which the House had in view in passing the Standing Order. If Parliament desired to go further, and to alter the rates upon these commodities, or to give a locus standi to persons to be heard before Railway Committees on behalf of the public interests, it would require fresh legislation, or some other means beyond the Standing Order. His hon. Friend opposite (Mr. J. W. Barclay) stated that if anybody was to be complained of in the matter, it was the Board of Trade, who were instructed to report to the Committee, and recommend what should be done. In this case, that Bill came before the hon. Baronet the Chairman of Ways and Means as an unopposed Bill, and the hon. Gentleman stated that he had acted in accordance with the Standing Order sanctioned by the House, and that he bad given effect to the recommendations of the Board of Trade. The Bill, no doubt, contained provisions which increased certain charges, and as the hon. Baronet said, there were precedents for that; but the question was, whether the statements made by hon. Members wore correct, that the effect of this Bill, as passed by the Committee, was practically to double or treble the charges upon the carriage of certain articles compared with those originally allowed to be charged by other Railway Companies in the same position. The point was, whether that should be allowed to pass without question. He certainly felt that the House was placed in a position of considerable difficulty; and if the Standing Order had answered the very limited purpose that these things should not be done without the knowledge of the House, he thought it was still free for the House to express its opinion upon the issue now raised before it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 177: Majority 108.—(Div. List, No. 98.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and aqreed to.
§ Bill re-committed to the former Committee.