§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Lord Claud Hamilton.)
§ MR. QUILTER (Suffolk, Sudbury)
It will be remembered by the House that on two previous occasions a Bill was considered entitled the Felixstowe, Ipswich, and Midland Railway Bill. On those two occasions the House was good enough to affirm the principle that that Bill was entitled to go before a Committee upstairs. The present Bill, promoted by the Great Eastern Railway Company, proposes now to absorb that railway, and to put an end to the possibility of any other railway being constructed to serve the interests of the constituents whom I represent; so that the prospect of securing the making of a line through the heart of the division will become extremely remote. It is a division which, at the present moment, is extremely badly served in the shape of railway accommodation. Although it is 46 miles in length, it has no railway whatever except on its external borders; and I must say, in the interests of my constituents, that I feel alarmed at the idea of the injury that will ensue by this great unserved district being absorbed by the Felixstowe Railway, which in no sense whatever accommodates the district. If I may be allowed, in the interests of a large agricultural constituency and by a county which has only a poor and struggling manufacturing industry, to make some appeal for increased accommodation to the district, before a Bill is sanctioned which will for ever hereafter prevent them from having a claim on the consideration of the powerful Railway Company who are now bringing this Bill before the House, I know that I have no right to appeal to the House in favour of such a vague idea as that which I have pointed to on the ground that no covenant has been broken; but I do think, and I trust that many hon. Members will agree with me, that the great privileges granted to 438 railway companies entail upon them also a corresponding amount of duties. Therefore, I hope from the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton), whom I see in his place, to receive some assurance that if this Bill is permitted to pass unopposed, the reasonable wants of this large district, and the powerful consideration of the large amount of unemployed labour in the district entails on all who have the welfare of the agricultural population at heart—therefore, I hope we shall have some slight promise from him that the wants of this important district shall not remain for ever unconsidered, and that the question of the benefit of so large a number of people will be studied. Anything that may be done in this direction will tend materially to revive the struggling industries of the county and its drooping manufactures, instead of leaving them, by the action which this House may take on the present occasion, with out hope for the future. Therefore, I venture to make an appeal to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill to give some assurance that those interests which I believe will be prejudicially affected if the Bill is allowed to pass without some such assurance will be carefully guarded.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON (Liverpool, West Derby)
I have had the honour of a seat for many years in this House, and I am bound to say that the opposition to this Bill is based upon the most flimsy proposal it has ever been my lot to listen to in this House. The Bill in itself is one of an exceedingly simple character. It asks Parliament to affirm an agreement come to by the Great Eastern Railway Company, whom I have the honour to represent, on the one hand, and Colonel Tomline on the other, for the sale of aline of railway constructed by Colonel Tomline to the Great Eastern Railway Company. Now, what is the history of that line? In 1877 this line was projected by Colonel Tomline, and afterwards constructed by him. It was completed about the year 1879, and opened for traffic. Colonel Tomline, however, found that he was unable himself to work the line either for his own profit or for the advantage of the public, and he therefore asked the Great Eastern Railway Company to undertake the working of it on his behalf, which they did, and they have continued to do so with great advantage to the 439 public and to the development of the traffic of the district. Colonel Tomline now wishes to sell the line absolutely to the Great Eastern Railway Company, and the district through which the line passes is entirely in favour of that sale, subject to some small details which can only be settled by a Committee of this House. There is no opposition whatever on the part of the district to the Bill. My hon. Friend opposite comes forward, nevertheless, and says that if the Bill is sanctioned by the House of Commons and this line is sold to the Great Eastern Railway Company, some other line in a totally different part of the county which may be projected in some future day may never be made. Now, I say that the duty of the House of Commons is to consider a measure on its merits, and nobody can say a word against the principle or the details of the Bill we are now asked to read a second time. We are asked to reject this Bill because there may be some measure at the present moment entirely in nubibus, which may be projected in the future. Now, this House has already twice rejected this proposed railway. In 1875 it was projected in the interests of that portion of the country, and it fell through for want of funds. Last year it was projected, and was rejected on the Standing Orders. An hon. Member moved that it be re-committed, and be considered by a Committee upstairs. The Bill was re-committed, and was considered by a Committee of the House, of which the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) was Chairman. The promoters having been heard, and a mass of evidence taken from the inhabitants of the district through which it was intended to pass, and who are represented by my hon. Friend opposite, the Bill was rejected by the Committee on its merits. Therefore, I say that this Bill, which is intended to serve a different portion of the country altogether, which is approved of by the people of the district through which it will pass, is sought to be rejected in order that a proposal which has been twice brought forward and rejected on its merits should be adopted. That is not a proposition that ought to be considered for one moment by this House. If the landowners in that part of the 440 country or the inhabitants choose to bring forward a measure the country still exists for them to make their line, and the House of Commons will be ready to hear any proposal they may make on its own merits. But to say that this Bill should be rejected on such frivolous grounds as those which have been put forward by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Quilter) is an assertion which I am sure will not receive the assent of the House. I implore the House in the interests of this part of the country, and in accordance with all precedent, to pass the second reading of the Bill.
§ COLONEL ANSTRUTHER (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
As the Member for the constituency through which this Felix-stowe and Ipswich Line passes I desire to say a word, and I will only detain the House for a very few minutes in the interests of Felixstowe and the neighbourhood which is concerned in this railway. The line itself is only about nine miles in length. It was constructed by a public-spirited gentleman—Colonel Tomline—who found that he was unable to work it, and it has been worked ever since by the Great Eastern Railway Company. The prosperity of Felixstowe and the surrounding villages depends considerably on the through traffic over the main line; and there can be no doubt that if this short line of nine miles becomes part of the Great Eastern system the traffic arrangements with regard to Felixstowe and the district will be very much improved. Moreover, I fail to see how in any way whatever the purchase of this small line of railway can interfere with any line that may be projected from Cambridge to Ipswich, or Felixstowe, or any other part of the coast. Therefore, I have no hesitation in asking the House to assent to the second reading of this Bill.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.