HC Deb 21 February 1887 vol 311 cc145-53

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Ambleside Railway Bill, to inquire and report whether the proposed Railway will interfere with the enjoyment of the public, who annually visit the Lake District, by injuriously affecting the scenery in the neighbourhood, or otherwise; and that they have power to receive Evidence upon the subject."—(Mr. Bryce.)

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I am anxious to meet my hon. Friend half-way; but it seems to me that the terms of his Instruction involve the recognition of the principle against which we contended the other day, against(which we divided, and against which the House has already pronounced a clear and decided opinion—namely, that it is not for the House to decide whether a railway is to spoil the scenery of a particular district; but that the construction of a railway is to depend upon whether the interests of the inhabitants demand that it should be made. The last words of this Instruction are— By injuriously affecting the scenery in the neighbourhood, or otherwise; and that they have power to receive Evidence upon the subject. "Evidence upon the subject" means any evidence that may be procurable in regard to the beauties of the scenery of Westmoreland and Cumberland; and we should have hundreds of æsthetes and all sorts of gentlemen, one after another, going before the Committee and wasting their time upon matters in which I do not think it is right they should move. Under these circumstances, I propose to move as an Amendment, to the Instruction of my hon. Friend, to leave out the words after the word "whether" inline 2, and to insert— The scenery in the neighbourhood will be injuriously affected, or otherwise; and that they have power to receive local Evidence on the subject. By the words "local Evidence," the Committee to whom the Bill will be referred will perfectly understand that what is meant is the residents in the neighbourhood. As a matter of fact, I believe that Mr. Ruskin, who takes the strongest views of these railways, does live close by, and he would be included in the word local, if he ventures to give evidence. I beg to move this Amendment.

MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)

seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "whether" to the end of the Question, in order to insert the words "the scenery in the neighbourhood will be injuriously affected or otherwise, and that the Committee have power to receive local Evidence upon the subject."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

I think I have some reason to complain of the conduct of my hon. Friend and those who support him in moving this Amendment. They have done so without any Notice whatever to me, or to any other hon. Member who is opposed to this Bill, until five minutes ago, when I entered the House. The hon. Member has, in the meantime, had an opportunity of bringing up his Friends, which we have not.


Will my hon. Friend allow me, for one moment, to say that I have done nothing of the sort? I consulted with my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) a few minutes ago, and he was aware that it was coming on.


Be that as it may, this Amendment has been sprung upon me, and those who have acted with me in opposing the Bill. If the hon. Member intended to move an Amendment of this kind, he ought, in common courtesy, to have given some Notice of his intention. As I gave full Notice of my intention to propose the Instruction, I think I have good cause to complain, especially in a matter of this kind, the interest taken in which was shown by the large Division which occurred the other day. The second reading was only carried by a narrow majority, and hon. Members have received no Notice whatever that it was intended to propose an Amendment of this kind. The House will remember what passed the other day. After I had moved the rejection of the Bill, the hon. Member for Mid Cumberland (Mr. J. W. Lowther) rose to support the Bill, and, without any suggestion from me he recommended that an Instruction to the Committee should be moved, and asked why I had not moved an Instruction such as that which I moved a few years ago in the case of the Ennerdale Railway Bill. The hon. Member added—"We will accept such an Instruction, and an opportunity will be afforded, in that way, of raising before the Committee the question of the injury to the scenery which you desire to raise." I am far from thinking that an Instruction of that kind is a sufficient or adequate method of raising the question. I submit that a Committee upstairs is not the proper tribunal for dealing with it; but, nevertheless, when that offer was made by the hon. Member, and made in most general terms, because the hon. Member said that it should be some such Instruction as I had moved in the case of the Ennerdale Bill, I considered it my duty, as soon as the second reading was carried, to accept the offer. Accordingly, I put down an Instruction in exactly the same terms as the Instruction which was adopted in the case of the Ennerdale Bill. Then, I think it rather hard, after having made that offer, that the hon. Member should come down to this House, and, without any Notice to me, proceed to oppose it. That is not the way in which the Business of this House has hitherto been conducted. [Cries of "Oh!"] I repeat it. An offer was made to the House, on the faith of that offer the House went to a Division, and, the Bill having been read a second time, I proceed to act upon the offer of the hon. Gentleman and those who support the Bill, and now they come down to oppose the Instruction I have moved. I think these facts ought to be quite sufficient to induce the House to support the Instruction in its present form. Hon. Members will hardly, I imagine, give their assent to the doctrine that, after a suggestion has been made in the hearing of the House, it is to be deliberately rejected by those who made it. Perhaps I may be allowed to say, further, that I have an objection on principle to the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend. The Amendment is intended to negative the principle which has been frequently adopted by this House—that there are other persons interested in the preservation of scenery as well as the inhabitants of the particular locality affected—namely, the people generally. That is a principle which we cannot consent to abandon, and it is the principle which lies at the root of this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton says that the evidence tendered might be very long. Let me tell him what happened in the case of the Committee on the Ennerdale Bill. When they received the Instruction of this House the Committee intimated their readiness to receive evidence; but the only evidence tendered on the question of scenery was that of two three witnesses—at the outside not more than four—and all the evidence these witnesses gave was over in the course of little more than an hour. The idea, therefore, that the time of the Committee would be unduly taken up is utterly groundless. With these few words, I will ask the House to do what it did in the case of the Ennerdale Bill—namely, to pass the Instruction in the terms in which I have moved it.

MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

I hope the House will allow me to say a few words respecting this Bill; I do so, not as a stranger, but as one well acquainted with the district. Some years ago the Manchester Corporation obtained power to construct works in their district for supplying the City of Manchester with water; but the whole of their conduits and operations were required to be carried on along the hillside at considerable expense, instead of being constructed in the usual manner, in order to preserve, as far as possible, the scenery of this unique district. The hon. Member in charge of this Instruction mentioned, in the course of his speech on the occasion of the second reading of the Bill, that this is almost the most beautiful district in England. I wish my right hon. Friend the late Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) was here today; because I have heard him express, on more occasions than one—and he passed his autumns in this neighbourhood—an opinion that the Lake District was not only among the most beautiful in England, but that it was—and he spoke deliberately—the most beautiful in the world. During a long life, much of which was passed in travelling, Mr. Forster spent most of his autumns in the Lake Country. He was a resident in the neighbourhood, and that is the opinion at which he arrived. As regards what fell from the hon. Member for Northampton in defence of the rights of property, I admit that those rights are entitled to the fullest consideration; but I hope the hon. Member will permit me to remind him that that principle of protecting the rights of the public to enjoy beautiful districts has been raised in the House of Commons time after time, and has never been rejected—[Cries of "Oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen have not heard the conclusion of my sentence. I was proceeding to say that in cases where railway schemes have been projected to cross commons and to injure beautiful scenery this House has, on many occasions, either rejected the Bill altogether, or allowed it to pass under such restrictions that the scenery has not been injured, and the rights of the public to the full enjoyment of it have been preserved. This district is frequented year after year by those who live in the centre of the manufacturing districts. It is their recreation ground, and their holiday place. I find that, in the late Division, hon. Members who represent the working classes voted against the second reading of the Bill. I represent a working class district, and I think I am only doing my duty in respectfully asking the House to accept this Instruction, and protect this neighbourhood. The object of a visit to the Lakes is not to hurry through the district by an express train, but to be deposited at some convenient place, and then to enjoy the beauty of the neighbourhood. Ambleside is situated in the very centre of the Lake District, and it is not true to say that the scenery begins to open out at this point. On the contrary, the construction of the projected railway will inflict great injury upon the scenery if it is permitted to pass. I am sorry to interpose in the discussion of a private Bill; but, as I take a warm interest in the neighbourhood, because I know it, I hope the House will not accuse me of having unduly occupied their time. I beg to support the Instruction as originally proposed.

MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)

The remarks of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Powell) show very clearly that he has not altogether appreciated the point under discussion at the present moment. He seems to be under the impression that if the House accepts the Instruction of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) it will succeed in putting an end to the Ambleside Railway Bill. [Mr. F. S. POWELL: I never said so.] I know the hon. Member never said so; but that is a fair construction to put upon the remarks which have just fallen from him. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Aberdeen has brought forward this Instruction with that particular view, and in that way he seeks to reverse the decision the House came to on Thursday last. The hon. Member for Aberdeen went out of his way to make an unprovoked, unnecessary, and unusual attack upon myself. He accused me of a breach of faith. Now, what are the exact facts of the case? When I spoke in this House last Thursday, I said the proper course for the hon. Member to take was to withdraw his opposition to the second reading of the Bill; and I added that if he would do that I would have no objection to an Instruction being given to the Committee to whom the Bill would be referred. But did the hon. Member do so? Not in the least. The hon. Member pressed his Motion to a Division, and he was defeated. Now, Sir, if the hon. Member had withdrawn his opposition, and had then brought forward this Instruction, he might have complained of my conduct if I had opposed him. I oppose this Instruction in the interests of the local inhabitants of the district. I said last Thursday—and I repeat it again today—that this Bill is a local Bill, promoted by the inhabitants of the district, and that when it comes to a competition between the local inhabitants of Ambleside and the district and the Commons' Preservation Society in the Gallery upstairs, of course it is in the power of hon. Members opposite, who belong to that Society, to make the proceedings extremely protracted, and the guineas of the hon. Member and his Friends must eventually overcome the half-crowns of the working men of Ambleside and the district. I say that the form in which the hon. Member for Northampton wishes this Instruction to leave this House is a far more reasonable and fair one, because it allows all the inhabitants of the district, and those most affected by the construction of the railway, to give evidence before the Committee as to whether or no it will spoil the scenery; and surely those who are inhabitants of the district the whole year round are in a better position to state their views as to whether the scenery will be affected or not than those whom I spoke of recently as "trippers," who just go into the district for a very few hours. The Instruction which the hon. Member has moved would permit of a large number of witnesses being called, beginning with Sir Frederick Leighton, and ending with the hon. Member for North-west Lanarkshire (Mr. Cunningham Graham). I maintain that it would be improper to impose such a burden upon the promoters of the Bill, and for these reasons I shall support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Northampton.

MR. W. H. JAMES (Gateshead)

I hope the House will not accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton. That Amendment provides that the Committee shall only receive local evidence on the question. I do not know what "local" would be in the view of the Committee. I represent a constituency in the North East of England, and an immense number of excursion trains start annually from the Tyne and the North Eastern Counties for the purpose of excursion trips to the neighbourhood of the Lakes. It is well known in my neighbourhood how the beauty of a neighbourhood is blemished and mutilated by railroads, and the people are only too glad to take advantage of resorting to the Lake District for recreation, and they have no desire to be exposed to the disadvantages which have been pointed out. I know the hon. Gentleman who spoke last would be the last person in the world to take an improper advantage in forcing on a debate. Now, there was certainly left upon my mind, and also on the minds of other hon. Members last Thursday, the distinct impression that an Instruction of this sort to the Committee upon the Bill would be submitted. I am sure there will be no wish to call the President of the Royal Academy or Mr. Ruskin; but the desire is to enable those to be heard who will otherwise have no locus standi, and who may be said to represent the general interests of the public. As the House has hardly had time to consider the matter, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."(Mr. W. H. James.)


I rise to express a hope that the debate will not be allowed to proceed further; and that the proposal to adjourn it will be acceded to. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) has stated that the Amendment has been sprung upon him as a complete surprise. I presume there has been a misunderstanding, and it is desirable; if any engagement has been made in good faith, that no steps should be taken to give colour for the statement that there has been a surprise. If it is desired to amend the Instruction, it is a matter which ought to be duly considered, so that the principle which is to guide the Committee may be clearly ascertained and settled. In order that the whole matter may be fairly considered, I hope that the House, without further debate, will agree to the Motion for Adjournment.


After the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees, I desire to confirm the statement which has been made by my hon Friend the Member for Penrith (Mr. J. W. Lowther). My hon. Friend says that he made an offer to the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), that if he would not oppose the second reading of the Bill, and would move an Instruction to the Committee, such Instruction would be accepted. But that offer was not accepted by the hon. Member for Aberdeen. If there is any ground for complaint at all, it should come from this side of the House, and not from that. The hon. Member seemed to treat the matter as if it were of little gravity. Now, I think it is one of great gravity, and the hon. Member ought to have risen in his place, and said that he intended to move an Instruction. He talks of a surprise. All I can say is that I never knew of his intention to move this Instruction until I saw the Instruction itself in the Votes on Saturday, and probably my attention would not have been called to it then but for a letter I had received on the subject. Under these circumstances, I see no ground whatever why the debate should be adjourned, especially when we know that the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees, who has just spoken, addressed the House also on Thursday, and supported the second reading of the Bill. Whatever course my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith proposes to take I am prepared to support.

Question put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned until Thursday.

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