§ Question again proposed.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that he was remarking that the House would probably expect him, as Chairman of the Committee, to mention the reasons which had induced the Committee to make the alterations contained in the Report which he had just presented. He had considered, and the Committee thought, that the House desired to have a special Report from the Committee, not only as to the classification of particular goods for which rates were charged, but of the rates themselves, which were charged for such goods. The Committee had gone very carefully into both these questions. He was quite aware that many Members of the House seemed to be of opinion that all manures were classed in the lowest class and carried for the cheapest rates. But the House should, he thought, remember that this particular class of artificial manures required a greater amount of care in handling, and that they were, from their nature, so much more liable to have damage done to 1298 them, which might entail upon the Railway Companies considerable loss, in the event of actions being brought against them for damage than ordinary manures. He believed he was stating a known fact, when he said that within the last few days a considerable sum of money had been recovered from a Railway Company in consequence of damage done to a consignment of guano in the course of transit. That being the case, and seeing that this particular class of manures did suffer from exposure to the weather, and that it had to be carried in covered vans instead of open trucks, and, further, that it was liable to deterioration if allowed to be exposed to the outward air, he thought they were reasons sufficient to satisfy the Committee, at all events, that, as far as the question of classification was concerned, they were justified in maintaining a difference between artificial manures and common dung and other manures carried in trucks. Therefore, they had maintained that classification. What they had done was to reconsider the rates in both cases; and they had reduced, in the present Bill, the rate on common manures to the lowest possible sum that was charged. The maximum had now been placed at 1½d., instead of 2½d., as it stood in the Bill originally. They had also brought under that class a number of other articles—such as chalk, and materials for the repair of highways; and with regard to artificial manures and guanos, they had taken them from Class 9, in which they stood in the Bill, and placed them in Class 8, where the maximum charge was 2½d., instead of 3d., which was originally charged on these particular commodities, so that, practically, the Committee had made a reduction of the rates on artificial manures of ½d., and of 1d. upon common manures, leaving the distinction between the two classes now at 1d.He thanked the House for permitting him to make this short statement. He could assure the House that the Committee had gone most carefully into the whole question of the charges. It must be borne in mind that, in addition to the greater care required to be exercised in the carriage of artificial manures, the Railway Companies were required to do a certain amount of work at their termini. Upon all these points the Committee had evidence before them, notwithstanding the fact that they had gone 1299 thoroughly into the question before. They had considered it necessary to take further evidence; and, having gone very fully and carefully into the whole question, the conclusion they had arrived at was the one he had just announced.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he thought the House ought to understand thoroughly the proposal which had just been submitted to them by the lion. Baronet opposite, because it appeared to him that it embodied an entirely new line of policy. Up to this date it had been the practice of Parliament to class all sorts of measures together, and to fix one maximum rate for the whole. That was the policy adopted in old times; and if hon. Members would compare the Returns of the Board of Trade, they would find that there were only some 12 or 15 instances in all the Railway Acts now in existence throughout the Kingdom in which artificial manures were taken out of the class of all sorts of manures and put in a higher class. The new system had crept into Railway Bills, more particularly in the last few years; and it had never been the subject of a discussion in the House as far as he was aware. He therefore thought that the House ought to understand that the proposal now submitted to it was a new departure and a new line of policy. There were several Bills now before the House containing this new principle; but the House ought to be acquainted with the fact that there had been a great many more Railway Bills before the House during the Session, some of which had already passed, which adopted the old system; and if the arguments of the hon. Baronet were sound, the House must have done great injustice to those Railways which were content to carry manures at the old rates. The difference between the value of ordinary manures and artificial manures was said to be so considerable as to justify a difference in the maximum rate of carriage the Railway Companies were allowed to charge. The hon. Baronet said that 1½d. per ton per mile was the lowest rate authorized; but if the hon. Baronet had consulted the Report of the Board of Trade, he would have found that they expressly stated that the usual rate of ordinary manures was about 1d. per ton per mile. He believed, unless he was greatly mistaken, that a declaration to that effect would be found in the Report of the 1300 Board of Trade upon this very Bill. That was the maximum rate for ordinary manures, and not 1½d. per ton per mile; and, in point of fact, the Railways never got more than 1d. per mile, because if they did not carry common manures at a low rate, they did not get any to carry. But in the case of artificial manures the Railway Companies had, practically, a monopoly; and when that was the case the Railway Companies almost invariably charged the maximum rate. They had no competition; and, therefore, they made the farmers pay the highest rate they could possibly charge them. In point of fact, in some instances, they even charged more than the maximum rate. Now, there was nothing exceptional in the case of this Railway which afforded substantial ground for the imposition of any exceptional rate. The capital of the Company was not large, the line was only a short one, and it passed through an agricultural district towards the South Coast. It was, therefore, to its interest to carry artificial manures at the lowest rate, in order to stimulate the production of the crops which would have to be carried for consumption in the towns. There was another means by which the House would be able to estimate the amount of risk which the Railway Company were put to in carrying goods. They carried goods, and insured their safe arrival at any point between two stations in the United Kingdom, at a cost of 1s. per £100. The total charge for such insurance on this line would only amount, for the whole line, to 1d. per ton. Nevertheless, in this instance, the Railway Company were seeking to charge the sum of 1d. per ton per mile extra, which was altogether out of the question. It was said that these articles carried under the name of artificial manures were of more value than common manures. That might be so; but was it fair to charge for artificial manures as high a rate as was charged for sugar—the two articles being put in the same classification? He had, so far, heard no reason which ought to induce Parliament to deviate from the policy in regard to this question which it had hitherto adopted.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
remarked, that in the Bill artificial manures were not included in the same class as sugar.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, that might possibly be so. They would probably be in a class by themselves; but he knew that in the other Bills objected to artificial manures had been included in the same classification as sugar. Surely it was much more absurd to place thorn in the same classification as sugar than it would be to include them in the same classification as all other manures. He hoped the House would adhere to its old policy, and not sanction the new policy now sought to be introduced.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR
said, he only wished to correct a mistake into which his hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) had fallen. In former legislation it was not the case that the rates for artificial manures had invariably been the same as those for common manures. On the contrary, in recent years there had been numerous alterations. He held in his hand a list of cases, dating from the year 1857 down to the present time, of Bills in which differential rates had been sanctioned between artificial manures and common manures. He might add that, both in the case which his hon. Friend opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) now brought before the House, and in another instance in which he (Sir Lyon Playfair) was Chairman, the Committee, after hearing the evidence, and after taking the opinion of the district which was satisfied with the differential rate, thought it desirable to sanction the difference. It must be remembered that artificial manures required care in storing and in transit; and, therefore, that the rate for carriage should be higher than that charged for common manures, in regard to which the same care was not required. In many of the cases which had occurred since 1857 the rate had been 3d., where it was previously 2d. per mile. The Committee, in this instance, had granted 2½d. per mile, which was less than the charge originally sanctioned, and a reduction of the rate which the Committee themselves had originally agreed to.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he thought it would be of advantage to the House if the right hon. Gentleman would state how many exceptions there had been.
§ VISCOUNT FOLKESTONE
asked to be permitted to point out that the list to 1302 which the right hon. Gentleman had just referred was a list of some small Railway Companies which had been allowed, by some means or other, to obtain from Parliament in certain Bills power to change the ordinary classification of artificial manures. In former years no attempt of this kind was sought to be made; but latterly, when a differential charge was proposed, and no objection was taken to it, the Committee to which the Bill was referred found themselves unable to take notice of it. The consequence had been that, of late years—and he believed the instances referred to applied to recent years only—there had been Bills passed by Parliament which sanctioned an alteration in the classification of manures, and permitted the Rail-way Companies to place manures in a higher class than that in which they stood formerly. The result was that in most of the recent Reports upon Railway Bills the Committees were induced to report that the charges for passengers, animals, and goods upon such Railways were not in excess of those passed for like undertakings in previous years. It might be that they were not in excess of some like undertakings in previous years; but he maintained that they were in excess of the average rate which had been permitted by Parliament during the whole time that Railway Bills had been brought under its consideration. He and those who wore acting with him, therefore, considered it their duty to do everything in their power to prevent the rates being raised in any inordinate manner, and to prevent the rates so raised by Railway Bills receiving the sanction of Parliament, without fair recognition being taken of the fact. Unless this course were taken, there was no knowing to what extent the Railway Companies might not endeavour to raise the charges upon these articles hereafter. He wished, by bringing the question before the House, to prevent any question being raised in the future as to the continual increase of rates, tolls, and charges.
§ MR. DUCKHAM
said, he rose for the purpose of correcting an erroneous impression which had been produced by the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson). In the speech of the hon. Baronet he alluded to porterage, storage, loading, and unloading, and other services performed by Railway 1303 Companies in connection with artificial manures. Now, the Railway Company had nothing to do with anything of the kind, either in regard to artificial manures or ordinary manures. If the carriage was charged upon a mileage rate, they never performed any duty in regard to loading or unloading. The goods were loaded by the consignor, and unloaded by the person to whom they were consigned. He thought the question ought to be thoroughly understood by the House. They had already had the matter before them within a recent period, and the Bill had been referred back to the former Committee, in consequence of differential rates being charged. He, therefore, trusted that the question would be so settled that there would be no more discussion upon this point in the future. This was certainly not the time for raising the rates and charges on such articles as the manures required for the purpose of fertilizing the land.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Report to be printed.