§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (University of London)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that in conferences between traders and railway managers (arranged in compliance with the Board of Trade Circular of 10th June last), the railway managers contended that the classification mentioned in the Act was a Parliamentary classification which could not be arranged as a working classification; that traders are of opinion that the classification can be compiled as a working classification; and that as a result of this difference of opinion the conferences between the leading groups of traders and the railway managers have proved abortive; and, whether he can take any 549 steps to secure that the Parliamentary classification of "The Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888," shall be adapted or compiled so as to serve as a working classification?
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
The conferences referred to by the hon. Member have by no means proved abortive in all cases, but, on the contrary, in several instances have produced results apparently satisfactory to the traders. I am aware of the contention alluded to by the hon. Member which has been put forward by an important section of traders. But the contention appears to me to be based on a misapprehension. When the Parliamentary classification is fixed there will be nothing to prevent the Railway Companies, subject to the provisions of the law as regards undue preference, from charging a lower rate for any article or group of articles than the maximum rate authorised by Parliament, and if they choose to arrange to charge for any of the articles placed by Parliament in a certain class the rates authorised for a lower class, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so, nor is it in the interests of trade that they should be prevented from doing so. A letter embodying the views of the Department on this point will be shortly addressed to the traders, and so also will a circular announcing the procedure the Board of Trade will adopt at the hearing of objections, and the time when they will commence to hear objections.