§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."—(Mr. Dodds.)
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
said, that, not with standing the very large majority by which the Amendment in regard to the last Bill was carried, he would venture to say a word, in order to show the extreme inconvenience of the course now being pursued, if it were to be considered that every Bill dealing with Railway charges, after it came down from a Select Committee, was to be discussed again in that House. He thought the House ought to do one of two things—either to give a locus standi to some authority representing the public to be heard before Railway Committees, or to abide by the decision of the Committee when that decision was reported. He thought the last case could not be regarded as a fair illustration of the present one. In this instance, all the landowners and persons interested in the carriage of agricultural commodities were in favour of the Bill, which would effect a considerable saving in the charges they now had to pay in sending their goods to market. He hoped the noble Viscount who proposed to move the re-committal of the Bill (Viscount Folkestone) would bear in mind that it was not always the agricultural interest that was benefited in these matters. They all knew very well that when the cost of carriage was diminished, the price of the article itself would immediately rise; and, even in this particular case, the profits would not go into the pockets of the agriculturists, but into those of the manufacturers, who were at the bottom of this agitation. At all events, he trusted that whatever the House did that day, they would consider carefully the gravity of the course they proposed to enter upon, and would, at any rate, in the first instance, alter the Standing Order passed a short time ago. Perhaps the best course would be to repeal the Standing Order, and to give certain authorities a locus standi to be heard in the different Committees, so that the question might be fought out with the Railway Companies 750 in Committee, and the House might not be converted into an arena for settling disputes between one party and another.
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE,
in moving that the Bill be re-committed in the same way as the last one, said, it would not be necessary for him to detain the House by repeating the observations he had made on the Exeter Bill, the grounds of his present opposition being almost identical with those which applied to the last case. He should like, however, to make one remark in regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Robertson). The hon. Member appeared to think that it was invidious for the House to take cognizance of anything that had been decided by a Committee upstairs. Now, he (Viscount Folkestone) begged to remind the House that one of the objects of passing the Standing Order this year was that by that means the House should be allowed to decide whether it agreed with any Committee in allowing the charges and tolls of a Railway Company to be increased. He understood his hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Sir Gabriel Goldney) to say that this was a question which affected the manufacturers of artificial manures more than the agricultural community. He begged to deny that assertion in toto; because, if the rates were raised on artificial manures, they would not be borne by the manufacturer at all, but by the agricultural community. If the price of manures was now £5 per ton, and the rates for carriage were raised by 1s. per ton, the manufacturer would not allow that additional sum to come out of his own pocket, but would throw the extra 1s. upon the unfortunate man who was compelled to purchase the article. His hon. Friend who reported the present Bill (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) said that this Bill had not been passed as it was submitted to the Select Committee, but the maximum had been reduced to 3d. per ton. Now, that was the rate which was charged for the carriage of sugar, grain, corn, flour, &c.; and, by imposing that rate on the carriage of guano and artificial manures, it was plain that the Committee had placed those articles in a higher class than that in which they were formerly placed. Guano and artificial manures were formerly in the lowest class, whilst sugar, grain, and other articles were in the 751 highest class. It was, therefore, evident that in this Bill the attention of the Committee had been called to the rates charged in the different classes, and not to the classification of the articles themselves. He begged to move the re-committal of the Bill.
§ 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 HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that, after the discussion which had taken place, and the decision which had been come to on the previous Bill, he did not propose to detain the House for more that a few minutes. At the same time, he thought that, as Chairman of the Committee which made the Report in this particular instance, it would be hardly proper or courteous to the House if he allowed the matter to pass without making one or two remarks. He did not think that his noble Friend who moved the re-committal of the Bill (Viscount Folkestone) would, for one moment, suppose that the interests of agriculturists had not been considered, at all events, by himself, the Member for West Essex. But what the Committee had to deal with was a Report from the Board of Trade, submitted to them in consequence of Standing Order 145a; and, as he imagined, the object of that Standing Order was to call the attention of Committees to the classification, as well as to the rates charged upon different articles, so that, in their Report to the House, they should call the attention of the House to certain particular facts, in order that the House, as it was doing that day, might, if it thought fit, reverse the decision of the Committee. So far as the Committee were themselves concerned, it was certainly shown, to their satisfaction, that, on a short line of this kind, the carriage of this particular article of artificial manures would not be remunerative except at a given price; and it was shown, also, that there was an amount of care required in the carriage of this particular class of manures, and in the storage of it in trucks, which took it out of the class of ordinary manures, and justified, in their opinion, the higher charge which the Railway Company 752 stated was necessary in order to enable them to carry at a profit this particular article of commerce. That matter came before the Committee, and they also took into consideration the fact that the Board of Trade, in their Report, pointed out to them that, in other instances, a similar charge had already been authorized in Railway Bills. Under those circumstances, the Committee felt justified in allowing a rate which seemed to be necessary for the proper carriage of these particular articles, and which did not seem unreasonable, when they considered the evidence brought before them as to the necessity of exercising greater care in the carriage of artificial manures as compared with the carriage of common manures. Those were the reasons which, he thought, justified the Committee in coming to the conclusion they had arrived at; and he could not help feeling that, if the House was of opinion that another course should be adopted, and that artificial manures should be placed in the lower class as common manures, they ought to go further, and instruct the Board of Trade to make representations to that effect before the Committee, instead of simply calling the attention of the Committee, as they had done in the present instance, to the Standing Order, and allowing the Committee to judge from the evidence whether the charge submitted by the Railway Company was a proper one or not. In this instance, the Committee had, upon the grounds he had mentioned, come to the conclusion set forth in their Report. They thought they had sufficient evidence before them to justify that Report. At the same time, the Committee would be perfectly prepared to reconsider the question if the House desired them to do so; but, on the evidence before them, they were of opinion that they were justified in the decision they came to. He could only repeat that, if the House had made up its mind that these particular manures were not to be classed with the higher description of goods which required special care and attention, it would do well to make a special Order to that effect, and thus prevent the constant recurrence of discussions in the House upon the decisions of Railway Committees.
§ Question put, and negatived.753
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill re-committed to the former Committee.