§ Order for consideration of Bill (by order), read as amended.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."
§ Sir ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
I beg to move as an Amendment that the Bill be taken into consideration upon this day six months. I think I shall be able to show that there are such exceptional circumstances in the case as will justify the House in taking that view of the matter, especially as I understand that the Select Committee in the decision at which they arrived were not unanimous. It is necessary, in the first place, that I should refer the House to the Standing Order passed in relation to this matter in 1865. It says that no railway company shall have the powers sought by this Bill, except the Committee on the Bill shall report that no restriction ought to be applied to a particular company, with the reason and facts on which their opinion is founded. 780 The position of the matter is this—that the Committee have to make a Report, not only that it is desirable the company should have powers to run steamboats to various places, which is the object of this Bill, but that in the public interests it is desirable that such power should be given to them. I take it that the object of the Standing Order is to enable the House, as the ultimate Court of Appeal upon the subject, to form a judgment as to the propriety of passing a Bill, and the Standing Order itself suggests that the promoters of the Bill should assume the onus of satisfying the House that the powers sought for ought to be granted. This Bill proposes to give the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company power to run steamboats to a large number of places in Europe from Grimsby, including even Norway, much exceeding the scope of any Bill ever previously granted. The Committee reported that the Bill ought to be passed, because it had been shown to the Committee that the railway company had already had powers conceded to them to run steamers to various specified ports, and therefore the Committee were of opinion that such powers might be extended. The Committee added to their Report, formally, that there were no other circumstances which need be brought to the notice of the House. Now, the Committee are under obligations to state the facts and reasons for the information of the House, and it is, therefore, to be assumed that in this case the Committee have dealt in their Report with the whole of the reasons. Consequently, I propose to limit my observations in criticizing the proposals of the Bill to the case of the one precedent which has been stated—namely, the precedent of the Bill of 1864, the reasons for which have been set out in full detail for the information of the House. I would refer the House also to the Report of the Committee which sat on the general question under the Chairmanship of Colonel Wilson Patten (Lord Winmarleigh), then a well-known and able Member of this House, which alleges that the reasons ought to be set out fully in all cases of this description. Now, I submit that the principle upon which the Report of the present Committee is based—namely, that a company which already has 781 certain powers ought to have more, is a principle which may be extended ad infinitum, and in each successive application to Parliament the argument in favour of further powers would become irresistible. But I maintain that that cannot have been the intention of Parliament under the Standing Order, because that Standing Order prescribes certain limitations which have in every case been inserted. I would, therefore, respectfully suggest that the argument on which the Committee based their Report, that because a company have been granted certain powers they ought also to have other powers is altogether a fallacious one, and entirely contrary to the principle on which the Standing Order was passed. Let me ask the House to examine the precedent on which the Committee found their decision. That precedent of 1864 was a most exceptional one, and was created under the most exceptional circumstances. The Act of 1864 was for power to run boats to 11 places Parliament granted the application, since which the company have actually run steamboats to three ports on the coast of Europe, and to no more. A General Committee upon steamboats also sat in that year, 1864, and made a Report, in which they suggested that there was no reason for the Standing Order, and that in future railway companies should have the general power which was asked for on their behalf. Before the Report of the Committee could be presented, the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company obtained their Bill, and between 1864 and 1865, when the Committee reported adversely, there was a change in the policy of Parliament, which rejected the Report of the Committee of 1864, showing that they were not in favour of granting general powers, but only limited powers. Consequently, the Standing Order was enacted in 1865, and Parliament has since required the promoters of Private Bills to put before the Committee the reasons and facts upon which an application is made, the Committee are expressly to state to the House the facts and reasons for the application being granted. Therefore, I maintain that the precedent of 1864 does not apply, inasmuch as it has been superseded by the general law of 1865. I would ask the House next to consider whether we 782 have not gained a vast amount of experience in such matters since 1864. The Mercantile Marine of the country has increased from about £500,000 to about £4,000,000, and the Baltic and Scandinavian trade has been largely developed by private enterprize. The steamship trade in Hull and elsewhere is the growth of private enterprize, and it would be most dangerous to the interests of the country to place any check upon the development of that enterprize. That general observation has a somewhat material bearing upon the particular Bill under consideration, because I wish the House to understand that, although the Bill of 1864 gave the company power to run steamboats to eleven ports, they have actually only used those powers to the extent of running to three ports—Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Antwerp. Yet the House is asked—power having already been given to the company to run to eleven places, and that power having only been exercised with respect to three ports—to extend it to twenty places, all of them at a much larger distance, and being places of a very different character from those included in the previous Bill. Let me ask the House to bear in mind that the non-user of 3–11 the of their power has a material bearing upon the decision of the question. That non-user has, as it were, been held in terrorem over Grimsby, and private owners have not ventured to enter into a competition with the steamship powers possessed by a railway company who, at any moment, might divert the trade from private owners to themselves. We are told that Grimsby has not possessed the private enterprize it ought to have had. That is accounted for by the great effect which the non-user of the railway company's powers has had. There was, however, one place excepted in the Act of 1864 for which powers to run boats was applied for, and that is the port of Dieppe. The consequence has been that to this day between Grimsby and Dieppe there bas existed an extensive service. The fact is, that where the interests of a private company are studied the public interests are, to a considerable extent, not properly considered. The Committee themselves felt the grave danger which might arise to the public interests from allowing such a 783 power to exist without being used. How did the Committee meet that forcible argument? They passed a provision that if the new powers are extended to twenty additional places, and are not exercised for five and a half years, they shall cease to exist. But such a provision must have the effect of crippling private enterprize for the next five and a half years, and will become perfectly illusory in the end, At the same time, I claim the advantage of the conclusion of the Committee that there ought to be some provision to protect a town from the monopoly of a railway company, and I maintain that if this provision is illusory, it is a reason why we should not accept the Report of the Committee or pass the Bill. The Bill seeks to extend the principle of giving a railway company power to run steamboats, and to enjoy the command of the sea; and in this case it is proposed to give the power to a company which already possesses command of the docks and of the land transit. The only competing railway company is the Great Northern, which has a connection south, but there is no competition whatever west, with the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire and the Midland Counties. I respectfully ask the House not to give these extensive powers to a railway company to run steamboats to almost every port in Europe, first of all because it has been proved recently that the policy of all railway companies is one of an essentially non-public character. The negotiations which have taken place in connection with the Railway Rates Bill show the difficulty of treating with companies who are in the position of monopolists, and the Railway and Canal Traffic Act is mainly directed against the onerous conditions which railway companies impose upon those who are under the necessity of making use of them. It is said, although I hardly believe that the statement is made seriously, that the giving of these powers to a railway company will increase competition, by affording a powerful railway company an opportunity of competing with private shipowners. It must be remembered that this railway company possess almost unlimited resources, and it is asked to apply those resources to a very different purpose from that for which they were 784 were at first subscribed. The argument of competition is as fallacious as it is specious. There is no private competition whatever, except at Dieppe. If a competition wore entered into by private steamship owners, the company would be able to charge literally nothing for the sea route, recouping themselves by increasing the railway charges where they would have no competition. At this moment there appears to be a tendency towards the creation of those great monopolies which distinguished the middle ages. We almost seem to be again reverting to that period. We have our trusts and our syndicates, which are the means by which monopolies are created, and I contend that the policy of this Bill is to carrying of articles of necessity, of food and of trade, upon a moderate footing. I beg, therefore, to move that the Bill be considered on this day six months.
MR. KING (Hull, Central)
seconded the Motion.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now" and insert the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir Albert Rollit.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the question."
§ * MR. HENEAGE (Grimsby)
I do not think there has ever been an occasion on which the House has been asked to take such an unprecedented course as that which is now suggested on such slight grounds. The fact that we are without the evidence which has been taken upstairs gives an advantage to the critic who asks the House only to take a superficial view of the facts of the case. The Committee have, I submit, stated clearly in so many words that the evidence adduced satisfied them, and that it would be to the advantage of the public that the company should possess the powers which are sought, and that Standing Order 156 should not in this case be enforced. What are the real facts of the case? All the Committee have done has been to increase the powers of the railway company. My own opinion is that the right course in respect of the public interest was taken in 1864, and that the right course is being taken now. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Islington (Sir A. Rollit) has stated that the 785 Report of the Committee is not it accordance with previous Reports, but I hold in my hand the Reports of nine Committees who have recommended that the Standing Order should not be enforced, and in none of these nine cases were reasons given. Among these cases are those of the Furness Railway Steamboats, the London and Black wall Railway, the London and South-Western Railway, the Belfast, Holywood, and Bangor Railway, the London and North-Western Railway, and the London Brighton and South Coast Railway. I do not think that either on that point or on any other the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington will hold good. The Bill is promoted in the interests of the great trading centres of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, and the Midland Counties. Those centres of industry desire to have communication with the North Sea and the Baltic ports through Grimsby, believing that route to be the most economical and the best. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington has spoken of railway monopolies, but Grimsby appears to be dominated by a steamship owners' monopoly. The only real opponents of this measure are the companies of two great shipowners of Hull, who now hold at their mercy the whole carrying trade of the Baltic and the North Sea. There is no opposition from Hull itself, though strong influence has been brought to bear to prevent the people of Hull from giving their support to the Bill. They would in truth be only too glad to see some other line of ships running and freights reduced; and it is noteworthy that, although the Committee were compelled to ask the promoters not to bring forward any more witnesses, when they had brought forward not one tithe of the witnesses who were anxious to come forward from the great centres of industry, yet only five witnesses could be called in opposition to this Bill, and of these three were connected with the firm of Messrs. Wilson, of Hull. Another firm—Messrs. Bailey & Leatham—presented a petition against the Bill, but they did not appear as witnesses, and so come to the assistance of Messrs. Wilson. I do not know why this was so. They would have had a very good opportunity of being heard, but doubtless, acting upon the advice of their senior partner, 786 they thought it would be wiser to come before the House rather than subject themselves to cross-examination. This is, I think, a most extraordinary way of doing business. The House remits to its Private Bill Committees the business of looking into all these matters, and if, after a Committee has gone carefully into the questions at issue, the House is to have every single case, however frivolous it may be, brought before it afterwards for review, it will be practically impossible to prosecute the business of the country. For my part, I cannot conceive why my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Islington refrained from going into the chair before the Committee. I have no hesitation in stating that this Bill, although brought forward and promoted by the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company, with which I am in no way connected, is really in the interests of the trade of the whole country. Its object is to relieve an important section of the country from the monopoly which is now going on. These companies, which have been running steamers to the Baltic and North Sea, have had since 1864 power to establish connections with Grimsby and the Northern ports. They have not availed themselves of those powers, but have pursued a selfish, dog-in-the-manger policy, neglecting to establish lines themselves, and refusing to allow anyone else to do so; and now they come to Parliament in forma pauperis, and urge the House to refuse to grant the powers provided by this Bill. These Hull companies are turning over their £60,000 a week, and yet they now come forward and ask that Grimsby should be prevented from having a line of steamers lest they should be ruined. I do not myself believe that these companies will be hurt. The hon. and learned Gentleman talked much of private enterprise. The Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company would be only too glad if private owners would establish these lines and not put them to the necessity of doing so; but as matters stand the House will not, I think, be justified in refusing to sanction this measure. I should like, if the House will permit me,,to add one word on behalf of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway. I should like to remind the House that 787 the company have spent about three millions of money in building docks and promoting the trade of Grimsby and other towns to which their line runs, and it is hard if the company are now to be attacked because they are willing to give these important towns communications which other persons are not willing to give. The House is asked to upset the decision of this Committee for no reason whatever except that the Bill comes in conflict with the interests of two firms of shipowners at Hull. If the decision of a Committee is to be reviewed in every case there will be an end to all Private Bill legislation. I trust that in the interests of the public, as well as of Parliament itself, the House will stand by the decision of their Committee and not permit it to be upset in order to serve private interests.
§ MR. ATKINSON (Boston)
If ever there was a case for the interference of the House this is that case, for it is not a question of one freight against another; but the great question is whether a railway company, having raised money for a specific purpose, shall be allowed to divert that money to another purpose. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman who represents Grimsby, and is therefore specially retained to speak on behalf of that port, to tell us what benefactors the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company are to that port. It is quite certain that if there had been no Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company there would be a very small Grimsby. But that is not the point. I have no interest in any firm in Hull now, but I was interested in the shipping of that port, until 15 years ago, for five and twenty years, and the reason why I retired was that I knew that no shipping business can be properly managed except by experts, and, although I was an expert once, when I ceased to occupy that position I declined to be responsible for a business over which I had no personal control. My hon. Friend opposite, the Gladstonian Member for Hull (Mr. C. Wilson), although sneered at by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), is the largest private shipowner in the world. If he wanted 80 or 90 ships in addition to the 80 or 90 he possesses already, he has 788 transacted the business of a shipowner in so satisfactory a manner that he would find no difficulty in obtaining them. But if my hon. Friend's paper stood at the same discount as that of the, clients of the right hon. Gentleman he would not be able to obtain another vessel. Why on earth should this House be asked to place more money in the hands of this railway company in order that they may be able to transact the risky business of shipowners? No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will tell me that the Chairman of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company is a most talented man, and so say I; but if that Gentleman is not as good an expert in shipping business as he is in the management of railways, I would advise him to stick to the work which he really understands, and not interfere with matters which he does not understand. In 1864, when the company promoted their Bill, I came up to tight it, and although after great consideration the powers they asked for were conceded, they have never since shown much anxiety to benefit the manufacturers of Lancashire or anybody else. Does the right hon. Member for Grimsby forget that at that time we succeeded in disinterring an agreement which showed that, instead of desiring to serve the manufacturers by providing an alternative route, they were ready to amalgamate with another company in putting a stop to competition. ["Divide," and "Short speeches."]
§ MR. ATKINSON
yes, Sir; and I trust that you will procure order for me so that I may speak to the point.
§ MR. ATKINSON
The point raised by the right hon. Member for Grimsby is that two firms are largely interested. in this question—namely, Wilson & Co. and Bailey & Leatham. Those companies represent a great part of the trade of Hull, but not by any means the whole of it, and although they may be considered interested, the right hon. Gentleman is just as much interested as those firms are. I maintain that it is contrary to public policy to place in the hands of a railway company the monopoly for which they now ask. The 789 remarks which have been made by the right hon. Member for Grimsby as to private interests, do not in the least affect me, although at one time I happened to be an expert, and I trust the House will not be led away by that sort of argument. On the contrary, I hope this House will plainly tell the railway companies that having had certain powers conceded to them 25 years ago, they must use those powers before coming here again.
§ * MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
I think the House must have listened with great interest to the prolonged remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just brought in a Bill to limit the duration of speeches.
§ * MR. DUFF
It is not necessary that I should discuss that point with the hon. Gentleman, I think he has given a practical illustration of the necessity of his Bill. To return to the question before the House, I wish to say as Chairman of the Committee upstairs, that the hon. Member for South Islington has criticised our Report somewhat severely. He complains that we have assigned no reasons for not complying with the Standing Order, the reasons stated in the Committee's Report, and in accordance with precedents. As to whether the Committee of 1864 were right in conceding steamship powers to this company was not the question we had to deal with. What we found was that a Committee of this House had granted powers to the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company to run steamboats to certain ports, and the granting of that power had encouraged the company to lay out a very large sum of money, amounting to £2,300,000, for the construction of docks at Grimsby. These docks have not afforded to the town of Grimsby and the surrounding district the accommodation which was expected from them. It appears that the steamboat traffic goes past Grimsby to Hull, and is then brought down the Humber for a distance of 18 or 20 miles to Grimsby, As Grimsby possesses many natural advantages, it is thought that it would be of advantage to have direct communication, seeing that the Hull steamers have practically ceased to call 790 at Grimsby to deliver part cargoes ["No."] Well, the evidence before the Committee was that, although in 1886 20 ships called at Grimsby, in 1888 the number had dwindled down to two. Not only is Grimsby affected but all the towns to the West and Midland Counties. Evidence from Barnsley, Sheffield, and other towns abundantly proved the necessity of this communication. The Committee went closely into the matte and the impression left on my mind was that the opposition to the Bill was due entirely to local feeling between Grimsby and Hull. That was the whole nature of the opposition. There was one argument used by the hon Member for South Islington which I should like to refer to. He said that if Parliament grants these powers to the railway company they will be able to run their steamers at a loss and to make it up by their charges as carriers by railway. That is quite a mistake, because the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway is not the only railway that goes to Grimsby. The Grew Northern Railway goes there as well, and the land and the sea rates are quit separate, being arranged by the rail. way companies interested and a conference of shipowners.
§ SIR A. ROLLIT
What I said was that for the communication to Lancashire, Yorkshire, and the West, there was practically only one railway.
§ * MR. DUFF
As a matter of fact, the Great Northern Railway goes to Grimsby and carries on a trade which amounts to something like 78,000 tons annually. It has been further stated that although the company obtained power to run steamboats to 11 places they have only availed themselves of the privilege in three cases—Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Antwerp. Surely if the object of the Company is to compete with private shipowners and to destroy their property they would avail themselves of all the powers which the Legislature has conferred upon them. The Committee had to consider whether in granting a further extension of the powers of the company, they were acting in the public interests. They sat for four days; they went into the matter most exhaustively and they came to the conclusion that the public interests would be best served by ranting the powers asked for. I do 791 not think that anything has passed in the discussion to-day which tends to shake the decision at which the Committee arrived. Personally, I can say with confidence that I never had a more simple case put before me, and I make a strong appeal to the House to support the decision of the Committee.
§ * MR. HULSE (Salisbury)
As a Member of the Committee, I rise for the purpose of opposing the Motion of the hon. Member for South Islington, and to support my hon Friend the Member for Banff, who, as Chairman of the Committee with whom I recently served, paid the closest attention to the question at issue. I will not presume to trouble the House with any personal explanation of the reasons which induced me to come to the decision I did. I have simply risen for the purpose of entering a protest, in the strongest possible terms,against the personal element which has been introduced in the matter by an opposition hailing from Hull. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for South Islington, I would remind him that a Committee of this House is not bound to consider personal or private interests, and I do not think the House need be alarmed at the prospect of the port of Hull having another rival in the steamboat carrying trade to the Baltic and Norwegian Coasts. Seeing that the great landed interest of this country has been ruined by foreign competition and by undue preference for foreign transport, it is a matter of some astonishment to find all the forces of the shipping interest in this House mustering its forces to secure a monopoly, and to prevent competition with the corn-growing countries of the North. The existing facilities for the Baltic and Scandinavian trade are altogether insufficient, and additional facilities are required. Certainly, the evidence placed before the Committee in favour of extending the powers granted to the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln Railway Company in 1864 was overwhelming. Sir, I venture to think the House will stultify its independence if it takes the course which has been suggested, after the Committee has given four days' careful consideration to the Bill. This House has hitherto risen superior to all private interests, but if great shipowners who have amassed 792 large fortunes by high rates—and all lack of competition—are to be allowed to come down and dictate to the House, then the independence and usefulness of the good work of the Committees will be at an end. I am sure that no hon. Member can judge without being acquainted with the evidence which was tendered before the Committee of the practical result of the monopoly possessed by Hull, to which allusion has been made. I will only add that if competition is the life of business, and if Free Trade is the source of commercial prosperity, I venture to think that the House has no right to suppress one body of traders for the benefit of another. Hon. Members may think I have spoken somewhat strongly, but I am sure they will acquit me of any personal motives or personal feeling in the matter. I only trust that the personal agitation of an interested clique will receive at the hands of honourable Members that reproof which is justly deserved, and that the decision of the Committee may be upheld.
§ * MR. J. C. STEVENSON (South Shields)
I will not detain the House one single minute except to ask it to remember that this is a much wider question than any mere local dispute. I see in the Bill a long list of ports to which the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln Company intends to run vessels and compete with the general shipowners of the country in the trade with those ports. I wish to say that the shipowners of the Tyne feel very strongly in this matter. Ships are trading regularly to nearly all these ports, to which the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln seek power to send their vessels. I hope the House will carefully guard the rights of private owners. A Standing Order controlling this kind of power has been made, and when powers are granted the special reasons for doing so are to be set forth by the Chairman of the Committee. I never saw a weaker Report than that of the Chairman of the Committee on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln (Steamboats) Bill, and I have heard that the Committee were not unanimous in the matter. There is no monopoly on the sea, but it is possible to get a monopoly of access to ports, and this is what the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln Company are striving after. 793 Being owners of docks, are they to become shipowners, and as shipowners are they to become merchants, to make cargoes for their ships? I think Parliament should carefully guard against any proposal of this kind. I maintain that an exceptional case has not been proved, and I shall vote for the rejection of the Bill.
§ * MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, West)
I must ask for the indulgence of the House for a short time, because I have been personally referred to. One hon. Member talked about large shipowners coming down and dictating to the House. If the hon. Member had been in the House as long as I have he would hardly have made such a remark. I can hardly imagine that any Member accustomed to the usages of the House would be so foolish as to attempt to dictate to hon. Members. The hon. Member for Grimsby has told the House that this is a frivolous opposition, and that is one of the main reasons why he objected to the course which has been taken. But is it a frivolous opposition? It appears to me to be connected with a question which possibly aims at the supremacy of England on the sea. We have been told by the supporters of this Railway Bill that shipowners are monopolists, but the real monopolists are the railway companies themselves. The sea is open to every one. We have been told that this is a question for Hull only, but it is nothing of the sort. Every hon. Member connected with the north-east coast of England knows that in these districts the people are more interested even than the people of Hull themselves. I believed that these powers, if put into force, will injure the interests of north-eastern ports much more than those of Hull. If it were Parliamentary to say so, there appears to me to be a lamentable amount of ignorance displayed by certain hon. Gentlemen whom I will not name. I am very much surprised to hear that Grimsby is the most direct route for Lancashire and Manchester. The most direct route into the interior of England, as far as the Humber ports are concerned, is the port of Goole. The port of Goole is 40 miles nearer manufacturing districts than the port of Grimsby, and the port of Goole is in connection with the 794 powerful railway company of the Lancashire and Yorkshire, and also the Aire and Calder Canal, and there is a sufficient supply of steamers at that port for the trade without giving power to the railway company. Grimsby, too, would have had an ample supply of steamers if it had not been for the course the directors of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln took in 1864. In that year, before the enormous development of the Mercantile Marine of England, this company, having also a monopoly of the docks at Grimsby, obtained powers to run to eleven ports, but of these eleven ports, after 25 years they have used their powers to three only, and now they come before Parliament and ask for practically unlimited power to, run to every port where private shipowners have, after hard work, succeeded in establishing and developing trades. They now say, "We shall come and use our capital to take away the trades from the private owners." That may be fair, and it may not; but the end of it will be that if they obtain these powers the railway company, with the profits on their railway rates, will be able to run their vessels on much cheaper rates than the private owners, and will ultimately drive the latter out of the field. That will not tend much to the benefit of the general public. Once this monopoly is established it will do away with private enterprise, which I unhesitatingly maintain has made the greatness of this country and instead establish a huge railway monopoly. I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield has been urging hon. Members to vote for this Bill. [Mr. MUNDELLA dissented.] I have heard such is the case. I also believe the right hon. Gentleman has stated that his constituents are much interested in this Bill, but I think he has made a mistake. The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Company by maintaining the rates on. the canal to Sheffield, which is their property, so as to keep up the railway rates, have acted very prejudicially to the interests of Sheffield manufacturers and the collieries in the district, so much so that a powerful company has been formed, and they are before Parliament with their scheme to endeavour to get the canal out of the hands of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln 795 Company, and so break down this monopoly. Although the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln Company now come to Parliament and say what great things they are going to do for the traders. They have in some instances almost destroyed trades. Trades have had to be given up and removed to the west coast in consequence of these high rates of carriage. What was the object of the Railway Rates Bill of last year? As far as I can grasp the feeling of the Committee on that Bill, there was a strong opinion that the monopolist powers of railway companies should be restricted, but here in the House if I am able to gauge the feeling of the majority of Members present, they with their eyes open are going to grant an increased monopoly to one railway company which I unhesitatingly said will not be in the interests of manufacturers and traders of this country, but will in the end be detrimental to their interests and the great interests of the Mercantile Marine of this country. I may also say another thing. If the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Company want to do all these great things for the traders of England, they at the present moment have their railway station in Hull, they can run from Hull as cheaply as they could from Grimsby, they have equal facilities for doing work at Hull and at Grimsby, and that is one very good reason why this scheme should not be sanctioned. I could say a great deal more, but time is limited, and knowing that the House does not like to have its time occupied with private business of this sort, it is not advisable to go further into argument. I maintain unhesitatingly that this is not the case of a Hull monopoly. The fact that one firm alone has three times the steam tonnage that these trades require is in itself a strong argument against the alleged necessity for further shipping power to this company. I say unhesitatingly it is not required in the interest of traders, and it will be granting an increased monopoly to railway companies in this country if it is to be taken as a precedent. I hope hon. Members will consider very carefully before they give their vote in favour of this great railway monopoly.
§ MR. LEONARD COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
No one can complain of personal or local jealousy in matters of 796 trade, but I think the House has a right to remember that when Bills are committed to the care of Members upstairs, and evidence is entered into there at full length upon every point which arises, it may reasonably complain if an attempt is made to re-open the Bill after a decision has been arrived at by the Committee to which it was referred, upon grounds which that Committee have had brought before them at very great length. Any attempt of that kind should come from persons who are so far removed from any suggestion of mere rival interests as to command the attention of the House. We have heard the opposition to this Bill. It is first of all moved by the hon. Member for Islington, who is not disconnected with Hull, and seconded by the hon. Member opposite, who is one of the Members for Hull. It is supported by another hon. Member for Hull, and the last speaker was another hon. Member for the same constituency, the latter having also been heard at full length before the Committee to whom the Bill was referred. Everything that hon. Members have said now, and a great deal more, was said then. There, all the evidence could be examined and tested, and the Committee having done so came to a full and clear decision on the point. For my part, I refuse to enter into the merits of the case when nothing new is presented, and under such circumstances I hope the House will by a sufficient majority show its sense of the inconvenience, to say nothing more, of attempts to revise a decision so arrived at, or to prevent such a course being repeated rashly in the future.
§ MR. T. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I rise for the purpose of expressing my entire dissent from the doctrine laid down by the distinguished Chairman of Committees. I do so on the ground that I decline to accept the doctrine that three or four gentlemen in a room upstairs and a number of lawyers nagging at them are in a far better position for deciding upon a question than hon. Members are here. I take my stand upon the ground that this is an attempt by a large Corporation which has quite sufficient money to pay its shareholders a reasonable amount of interest already, to prevent ordinary private traders from getting that reasonable 797 amount of gain on their undertakings to which, I think, as ordinary citizens of the country, they are entitled, independent of the interests of great Corporations.
The House divided:—Ayes 175; Noes 85.—(Division List, No. 125)
Main question put; Bill considered; to be read the third time.