§ Order for Third Reading read.600
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Sir Charles Forster.)
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he wished to call the attention of the House and of his hon. Friend who had charge of the Bill to certain particulars connected with it which he thought were entitled to the consideration of the House. The Bill was called "The Hull, Barnsley, and West Biding Junction Railway and Dock Bill." There had been five Bills on that interesting subject before the House in the last five years, commencing in 1880, and continuing in 1882, 1883, and 1884. It was now proposed to amalgamate those four Acts into one Act in the present Session. The Bill purported to have been introduced for the purpose of extending the line for the compulsory purchase of land and for the completion of certain of the authorized works of the Company; but it ought to have been added—"and the abandonment and relinquishment of a railway authorized to be made by the Act of 1880." He was sorry that the Chairman of the Company (Colonel Gerard Smith) was not present on that occasion, because last year the hon. and gallant Member was in his place, and, treating the matter in a cavalier manner, the hon. and gallant Member told the House that it was owing to his inexperience of railway management that the expense of this railway had been increased from the sum of £4,000,000, which was originally thought adequate, to £5,500,000. Now, the construction of this railway was a matter which had greatly interested the public for several years. The original Stock of the Company was £3,000,000, and it was shown in the debate which took place last year that so little were the public satisfied with the soundness of this concern that, although it was thought desirable to issue the Company's Stock upon the extraordinarily favourable terms of £80 for every £100 Stock, at 5 per cent, the public only subscribed £75,000 of the money. Consequently, the Company, finding themselves in difficulties, issued Debenture Stock to the extent of £1,000,000. That was before last year; but last year the Company came down to the House of Commons, and the ordinary Rules of Procedure were suspended in favour of a Bill which en- 601 abled the Company to is9ue £1,500,000 of Debentures, making the Debenture Stock, with the £1,000,000 previously issued, £2,500,000, or within £500,000 of the original Share Capital of the Company. That in itself was a very unsatisfactory state of things; but the Company were now asking for an extension of the period provided by the Act of 1882 for the completion of their works. It was distinctly laid down in the House of Commons last year that if the House granted £1,500,000 additional Debenture Stock the railway would be completed for the money. But the Company, in the present Bill, under Clause 8, proposed to abandon one of the railways, for the construction of which they had obtained the public money; and in abandoning that railway they proposed to apply the money which they had raised for one of their lines—namely, Railway No. 1A—to other and entirely different purposes. He would like to know—and he thought the public were entitled to know—what was to be done with this Railway No. 1A, because, if the money had been spent upon it already, it could not be devoted to "other purposes;" and if it had not been spent there had been a direct breach of faith with the House of Commons, because it was stated last year that the sum of £1,500,000 then applied for would be adequate for the construction of this line. It was distinctly laid down in the Act of 1882 that the works were to be completed within a period of three or five years; and now, although £1,500,000 additional was granted last year, on the clear understanding that the railway would be completed for that money, this Bill, called "The Hull, Barnsley, and West Biding Junction Railway and Dock Bill," sought for an extension of time, under Clause 12, for the completion of the works—namely, three years from the passing of the Act. He was bound to say that, after the long discussion they had last year, and the very unsatisfactory appearance made by the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Colonel Gerard Smith), it was to be regretted that the hon. and gallant Member had not favoured the House on that occasion with his presence, seeing that he must, no doubt, have acquired much greater experience than he himself admitted that he had last year. On that occasion the hon. and gallant Mem- 602 ber candidly stated, not without some feeling of shame, that, although he was Chairman of this Railway Company, he knew nothing whatever about railway management. It must be in the recollection of the House that last year this additional sum of £1,500,000 Debenture Stock was asked for; and that Bill was granted because the President of the Board of Trade came down and told the House that it would be a serious thing, at a moment of general depression, to suspend the works. Now, as the promoters of the railway had failed to carry out the scheme they had originally promoted, he thought he was bound to ask his hon. Friend the Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood), whom he saw opposite, and who, he believed, was connected with this railway, to explain to the House the circumstances under which the promoters—under which the Company—now came forward with their new Bill. In his (Sir Robert Peel's) opinion, it had been brought forward in a somewhat surreptitious manner. He had come down there on several occasions for the purpose of opposing it, and in the hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Colonel Gerard Smith) might be in his place to take part in any discussion that was again to be raised. But his noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) and himself had both been treated by the hon. and gallant Member in a most cavalier manner. He might mention that they could now prove that their original contention was correct, and that there were circumstances connected with this railway which entitled the House to some further information than it had yet received with regard to the object of this Bill, and if that information were not supplied he should certainly oppose the further progress of the Bill. Before he did so, however, he trusted that some hon. Member, whether connected or not connected with this railway, but connected with the railway interest generally, would get up, and, with greater knowledge than the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Colonel Gerard Smith), explain to the House what were some of the main features and proposals of the Bill. Recollecting how the public were—he would not use the word "swindled," because it was not a Parliamentary 603 word—but, remembering how the public had been defrauded—[An hon. MEMBER: No, no!]—well, he would say disappointed—in the expectation they had formed when they invested their money originally in this railway, he did think that some explanation was due to the House before it consented to pass the third rending of the Bill.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, he very much indeed regretted that his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Company (Colonel Gerard Smith) did not happen to be present. Of course, if he had been present, he would have been able, much better than he (Mr. Norwood) was, to deal with the strong expressions which had been used by the right hon. Baronet.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, that the right hon. Baronet had used very strong language indeed, and he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had done so, because it was scarcely justified by anything the Bill contained. He was not pecuniarily interested in the Hull and Barnsley Railway and Dock Company; but, as his name was on the back of the Bill when introduced into the House, he was able to inform the right hon. Baronet that, in the first place, this Bill contained no money power whatever. Nor did it seek power to construct any new work*, except to substitute for an authorized line another line of less than a mile in length, for the purpose of forming: a more convenient junction with the Midland Railway than the line now authorized. It was also necessary to extend the line for the completion of the Hull and Halifax branch, authorized by the Act of 1882. Owing to certain financial difficulties, it had been found impossible to proceed with the construction of that line as rapidly as was originally expected.
§ MR. NORWOOD
believed the Company had not raised any money for that line. The money referred to in the Bill was simply money already authorized to be raised, but which the Company proposed to apply to the construction of the 604 substituted junction. It had no reference whatever to the Hull and Halifax and Huddersfield extension. The Bill was originally opposed by two interested parties, both of whom had been satisfied, and the Bill had been sent to the Chairman of Committees, by whom it had passed as an unopposed measure. It had previously passed a second reading without the slightest manifestation of hostility against it, and the right hon. Baronet was now taking the unusual course of opposing the third reading. He joined in the regret which had been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman at the absence of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Colonel Gernrd Smith); and he thought that the hon. and gallant Member would have been in bis place if he had had the slightest idea that the Bill was to be discussed on that occasion. He believed, however, that there was very little to be explained. The Money Bill of last year passed with the full knowledge of the House. A portion of the capital had been raised, and it had been devoted to the purposes for which it had been raised.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, he believed, subject to correction, that a certain portion of the money had been raised; but there was really nothing in the present Bill which gave the Hull and Barnsley Railway Company any position or power different from that which it already possessed, except a power of extending the period for the construction of the Hull and Halifax Railway, and of substituting the construction of a small junction, less than a mile in length, for a junction with the Midland Railway already authorized. He trusted that the right hon. Baronet would be satisfied with this explanation, and would not deem it necessary to press his opposition further.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he hoped his right hon. Friend would not be satisfied with the very unsatisfactory explanation of the hon. Member who had just sat down. His right hon. Friend and himself bad taken great interest in this Company for the last three Sessions running; and although they had never been able to prevail upon the House of Commons to arrest the downward course of those unfortunate persons who, in their capacity of Directors, were deluding the public 605 year after year, still, at the same time, he felt certain that Parliament would tike on itself a tremendous responsibility if year after year it consented to give large powers to the Company which would more or less enable them to extract money from the public, while time after time the Company came down to the House and confessed that they were unable to avail themselves of their powers for the benefit of the public. This was the last Session of the present Parliament. He did not suppose that his right hon. Friend and himself would be able to stop the depredations of this undertaking; but, at any rate, certain points ought to be noticed. The Company asked, according to the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood), for an extension of time on account of being involved in financial difficulties.
§ MR. NORWOOD
I am not aware that I used those words. If I did so, I will withdraw them. I merely meant that they had not yet raised the money.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, his hon. Friend knew perfectly well that there was no difficulty in raising money at the present day if the securities were sound. Indeed, money was cheaper than ever it was before if there was good security; but this wretched Hull and Barnsley Railway had not got 6d. on its own account, and yet it was continually coming to Parliament for fresh powers in the endeavour to offer some kind of security to the public. The Company, in their present Hill, asked for an extension of time; last year they also asked for an extension of time, and also for an extension of their powers, in order that they might complete a certain line of railway. This year they came down to Parliament and announced that a considerable portion of the railway they had undertaken last year to complete was to be abandoned. Clause 8 of the Bill gave them power to abandon Railway No. 1A, which was originally authorized by the Act of 1880; and now they asked, in addition, for a further extension of time to enable them to complete other portions of the line. In fact, this line would never be completed by the present Directors. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood), and every other hen. Member who ever had a connection with this Company, knew that not a single original shareholder would ever receive back a single 606 6d. he had embarked in it, and which would never have been embarked but for the dangerous and special facilities which Parliament had granted to this Company. He would direct the attention of the House to some passages in the Preamble of the Bill. It said—And whereas the last-mentioned sum of £1,500,000 has been duly raised, and the principal works authorized by the said Act of 1880 will shortly be completed;and then it went on to say—And, whereas by reason of the difficulty in raising the necessary funds for that purpose until the completion of the aforesaid works authorized by the Act of 1880.There was a complete contradiction between the two statements; and, as a matter of fact, there was a contradiction between the statement of the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood), and the view of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dover (Major Dickson), who sat below him. The hon. Member opposite said that only a portion of the money had been raised, whereas his hon. and gallant Friend (Major Dickson) said that the whole of it had been raised. In the Preamble of the Bill it was certainly distinctly admitted that the money authorized to be raised had been raised. He trusted that his right hon. Friend, if he received further encouragement, would take the sense of the House upon the third reading of the Bill, in order that a protest might be recorded in the Journals of the House as to the extremely unsatisfactory manner in which Parliament had accorded special facilities to this Company.
§ MR. DODDS
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the discussion had expressed a hope that he would receive an explanation from an official Member of the House, or from someone connected with railways generally. Now, he (Mr. Dodds) begged to say that he was not in any way, directly or indirectly, connected with this railway or with railways generally. He was, therefore, able to speak simply in the public interest as to the facts disclosed in this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman began by saying that the Company had obtained various Acts up to the present time for raising money; but he did not find that that assertion was justified by the provisions of the Bill. The Bill must, no doubt, be read in connection with other Acts, but it contained no 607 powers for increasing its capital. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill involved the abandonment of some works contemplated by previous Acts of the Company. That was true in this sense, and in this sense only—that this Bill authorized the abandonment of a spur line of railway which was to effect a junction with the Midland Railway at Cudworth; but it authorized the construction of another line as a substitute for the one abandoned, and therefore, so far as the Bill sought to abandon anything originally contemplated, it merely sought to abandon a small piece of line for the purpose of substituting another means of junction with the Midland Railway, which would be of a less expensive character. Then it was said that the Bill enabled the Company to raise additional capital. From the beginning to the end of the Bill there was nothing whatever to disturb the arrangement entered into last year as to capital, except to this extent—that the capital of the Company already authorized to be raised might be applied to the construction of another junction. In no other way did it interfere with the arrangement as to capital which received the sanction of Parliament last year. It neither enlarged nor diminished the power of the Company in that respect.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Has not money been already spent on the line which is now proposed to be abandoned?MR. DODDS said, he believed that no money had been expended on the abandoned railway; but the line sought to be abandoned was, of course, subject to the rights of such owners of land as might be affected by the abandonment in anyway whatever. It was one of the most ordinary of the Bills which came before Parliament from time to time, at the instance of Railway Companies who had been delayed in raising their capital. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) said there was an apparent contradiction in the Preamble—that it said in one paragraph that the authorized capital had been raised, while in another it asked for an extension of time in which to raise it. That simply meant that the money would not be raised immediately, and that it was not needed for immediate expenditure; and, therefore, an extension was asked of the time in which, by 608 previous Acts, the Company were required to raise the money. As he had pointed out, the only deviation from former Acts was the proposal to abandon a small junction in order to substitute a fresh, one. It would not alter the capital arrangement in the smallest degree; but it simply extended the time within which the money was to be raised. He knew nothing about the shareholders of the Company, nor had he the slightest interest in the railway; but he would say that persons who took shares in undertakings of this kind did so on their own responsibility, and must take the consequences. The Bill did not affect their position in any way whatever, but was confined to the two very small provisions he had explained. This was the last stage of the Bill, and he failed to see why it should be opposed by the right hon. Baronet, who had no interest in it. It was also opposed by the noble Lord, who was equally disinterested in the undertaking; and he could not understand why they should offer this opposition. If there were any grounds of opposition on the part of the public interest, such opposition would have been more properly raised elsewhere, if raised at all. He trusted that the House would consent to read the Bill a third time.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
said, he thought that his right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Sir Robert Peel) and the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) had done some public service in calling attention to this Bill; but, at the same time, he thought the explanations of the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds) and the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) were perfectly satisfactory. It was not a matter to be wondered at that anybody who knew the history of this Company should display a certain amount of jealousy in regard to its proceedings. He had himself endeavoured, in the last Session of Parliament, to point out the unfair character of the legislation of the House in granting special facilities to this Company for raising capital on Preference Shares on Debentures; and he had called attention to the fact that many of the shareholders had been brought into the undertaking, as his right hon. Friend had stated, by being told that they would have 5 per cent 609 out of the capital during the construction of works. This Bill, however, did not affect that point, but it was simply a measure to enable the Company to finish their undertaking by bringing it into connection with the Midland Railway, and by extending the time for the completion of works. The Bill was certainly one which the House would feel bound to pass, seeing that it only granted to the Company reasonable facilities for the completion of their works.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he should not have risen to say a word upon the present occasion if it had not been for the extraordinary speech of the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds), who began and ended with one key-note—namely, that the hon. Member did not know what respect ought to be paid to the views of the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord, because they had no interest in the matter. He (Mr. Lewis) certainly recollected a case where the disinterestedness of an hon. Member with reference to a Private Bill assumed a somewhat different aspect, and he had not expected that the hon. Member for Stockton, of all persons in the world, would have used such an argument. The hon. Member now contended that the disinterestedness of the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord disqualified them from offering an opinion to the House, whereas he claimed for himself the right of guiding the verdict of the House on the ground of his own disinterestedness. As he (Mr. Lewis) knew a little of the proceedings of the hon. Member, who acted as a sort of deputy for the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir Charles Forster) in connection with Private Bill legislation, he was not disposed to take advice from the hon. Member, but would prefer that of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Sir Arthur Otway). He certainly knew enough of the Hull and Barnsley Railway Company to feel that any additional powers they sought to obtain ought to be jealousy watched. He hoped the House would assert their own disinterestedness in the matter, and display it in a rather more reasonable and consistent fashion than the hon. Gentleman—namely, in the Division Lobby.
§ SIR ARTHUR OTWAY
trusted that there would be no necessity for going 610 into the Lobby at all on the present occasion. He could not say that there was no justification for the inquiries which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had made. No doubt, the circumstances of this Company really had been of a very exceptional character, and on a previous occasion he had himself proposed that exceptional steps should be taken in order to facilitate certain proceedings on the part of the Company, having been influenced by the statement that a large number of persons would be thrown out of employment if the Bill then introduced were not passed. He had not understood the right hon. Baronet to conclude with any Motion?
§ SIR AETHUR OTWAY
said, he did not think the right hon. Baronet would desire to do so after he received the information which he (Sir Arthur Otway) was able to give as to the nature of the Bill. He would first explain that the Bill had not been before him, but that, at a time when he was engaged with Public Business in the Chair, it had been passed by a Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee and Member for the University of Oxford (Sir John E. Mowbray). What remained for the House to consider was whether the Bill, as it was now proposed, really contained in it any provisions of such an unusual character as to require its rejection on the third reading. He could assure the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord that it contained nothing whatever to excite their suspicions. It was quite true that the capital authorized by the Act of 1884 was to be applied to certain purposes, and that the present Bill involved an apparent deviation from those purposes; but it did not do so in fact. By the 19th clause, the Company were authorized to apply the money which might have been lawfully applied for the purposes of the railway authorized by the Act of 1880, and by the present Bill authorized to be abandoned, to the construction of a line in substitution, and the money already sanctioned was directed to be applied to the construction of the substituted line. What was proposed was simply an arrangement for a junction with the Midland Railway 611 which would be more convenient and less expensive than the one now authorized at Cudworth. The whole length of it was under a mile. The cost of construction would be very small—about £5,000—and there would be a saving effected of about £500. He did not think the right hon. Baronet would feel it necessary, therefore, to persevere with his opposition.
§ SIR ARTHUR OTWAY
said, he really did not know how far any portion of the line originally authorized had been completed, but he was speaking simply of that part of the line which was before the House in the present Bill. He would repeat that he was not at all surprised that information had been sought for, because he must say that the circumstances of this railway in the past had been of a peculiar character; but in every respect, except in those which had been mentioned, the provisions of the Act of 1884 were completely adhered to.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he hoped that, after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, he might be allowed to say that, of course, he did not mean to put the House to the inconvenience of a division. He had merely been anxious to bring the case of this unfortunate railway, from which the public had suffered so much, under the notice of the House. He did not say that the Company were defrauding, but that they were disappointing the public, who had been induced to invest in the undertaking by the 5 per cent they expected to receive for every £80 representing £100 Stock they took up. Certainly, the explanation given by the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds), if it had not been supplemented by the further explanation of the Chairman of Committees, would have induced him to persist in his opposition. He begged now, having entered his protest against the proceedings of this Company generally, to withdraw any further opposition.
§ Motion agreed to (Queen's Consent signified).
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.