HC Deb 04 December 1890 vol 349 cc622-7

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 16 agreed to.

Clause 17.

(10.59.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

I listened with a great deal of patience to the different clauses being read from the Chair, and made no objection to them, because I know they are formal, but Clause 17 stands in an entirely different position, and I am surprised that it should be passed over in silence by the Minister in charge of the Bill. The object of the Bill is to transfer the undertaking of certain Tramway Companies to existing Railway Companies. Clause 17 is, however, of a different character. I will read the clause:— Where the Treasury in pursuance of the Light Railways (Ireland) Act, 1889, have agreed with the promoters of any light railway that the undertaking of the promoters shall be aided by a capital sum out of public money, the sections of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, with respect to the entry upon lands by the promoters of the undertaking shall apply to the land which the promoters are authorised to take, and the Treasury, on the request of the promoters, shall cause to be paid into the Bank, out of such capital sum, any sum required to be deposited in the Bank for the purpose of those sections, and where the sum claimed, or if no sum is claimed, the total value of every estate and interest in the land does not exceed one hundred pounds, the amount to be deposited may be determined by two justices. This clause relates to an entirely different set of light railways to that with which the rest of the Bill deals. The rest of the Bill deals with existing undertakings, the construction of none of which has been wholly provided by public money—given not lent. ["No, no!"] We shall see that as the discussion proceeds. There is not a single undertaking that I know of where the whole of the money is provided for out of public money, with the single exception of a railway to be made under the "Light Railways Act" of 1889, and although it may be desirable to transfer the powers of existing promoters under the old arrangements, yet it cannot be desirable that the House should without full explanation consent to a clause such as this. The clause deals with lines the cost of which is borne by the Public Exchequer—a free gift. We know that in a large number of cases the barony provides nothing, the county provides nothing, the ratepayers nothing, and the promoters nothing, the Railway Company nothing—the whole of the money is to be given. ["No, no!"] I know as a matter of fact it is so. Perhaps the hon. Member for South Tyrone can give us an explanation. It was said that it was impossible to make the railway as a paying speculation, and, therefore, the public were asked to give the whole of the cost. ["No, no!"] I take the most glaring instance—this Galway and Clifden Railway. This is a railway that includes 76 miles of line, and I am not incorrect in saying that the total cost is something like £440,000, and every penny of that is coming out of the Public Exchequer as a free gift. There was an idea of a small sum being guaranteed, but even that has been abandoned; and the fact stands that the railway is to be made by public money alone. I say it is improper to interpolate in a Bill dealing with a different class of cases a clause having this effect, that it enlarges the power already given by the Act of 1889 and Act passed last August, and makes further arrangements under which the money to be paid for the land on which the railway shall be constructed shall be provided by the Public Exchequer. I am going to contest the clause by way of an Amendment, that if the public provide the cost of construction the landlords through whose land the railway runs should give the land for nothing, or, at the outside, at something like 16 years' purchase of the net agricultural value of the land. In order that I may have time and opportunity, as we ought to have in such a matter, to put Amendments in form, I beg to move that you, Sir, do now report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed' "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Storey.)


I am very sorry that the hon. Member before making the statement he has made should not have taken some pains to inform himself, as he might easily have done, of the facts of the case by reading the clause to which he takes exception. The hon. Member states that the clause relates to an entirely different class of railways to those in other parts of the Bill. Now, if he will read the clause he will find that all it does is really to give power to get earlier possession of the land necessary to be acquired for the railway. It is merely a machinery clause. The hon. Member shakes his head, but if he will only read the clause he will find I am correct. I think, as a rule, we may anticipate that there will not be much difficulty in getting possession of the land for the railway. The hon. Member has spoken as if the difficulty was in dealing with the landlords interest, but the difficulty is not with the landlord, but the occupier. All the clause does is to give us power, on payment into the bank of the sum of money assessed by a valuer to be appointed, to take possession of the land at once. It deprives the occupier of none of his rights, it leaves him full power to traverse the valuation, but what it is intended to do, and what I hope it will do, is to facilitate matters in the case of an occupier who might stick out for exobitant terms, and provide that the construction of the line shall not he delayed until all processes are gone through. That is all the clause does, and really the question the hon. Member has raised, drawing a distinction between promoters and others, has nothing to do with the clause. The clause applies to existing Railway Companies as to promoters of a line under the Act. Of course, there are promoters on existing Railway Companies and other bodies. When the time comes to discuss this freely, I shall be prepared to defend the arrangements made as regards all the railways, feeling satisfied that the judgment of the House will approve them.

(11.13.) Question put, and negatived. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Clause 17 stand part of the Bill."

(11.15.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I take it that the explanation is that when the Treasury has agreed with the promoters to find all the money, this clause permits them to find the money to pay for land. My hon. Friend wants to provide a limitation that they shall not provide 30 years' purchase. There ought to be some limitation in the price to be paid for the land, the tenant's right, and the landlord's right. It is an important point, and demands discussion on amendment now or on Report.

*(11.15.) MR. JACKSON

So far as the Treasury is concerned, there cannot be an exorbitant price paid for the land. There is no limitation, because the amount agreed upon between the Treasury and the promoters is in itself a limited sum, and, therefore, whether the promoters pay a high rate or a low rate for the land is immaterial to the Treasury.

(11.16.) MR. STOREY

That is a fair statement in regard to all the arrangements already made. Take the railway to which I have referred. The Treasury have agreed upon a sum, and it is clear that is the whole sum that the Railway Company will get, and if they pay too large a sum for the land it is clear there will be a loss to the promoters. But the clause not only relates to agreements already made, it may relate to agreements yet to be made, and a limitation will enable the Treasury to make better bargains in the future. I think the right hon. Gentleman knows that he has made a shocking bargain with this Galway line, and has spent far more public money than he had need. This was partly due to the absurd provisions in the Light Railways Bill, the Bill we tried to kill. But for those provisions independent promoters might have made the line. But by the provisions of their Bill the Government were thrown back on the Railway Company, and the company, taking advantage of the position, exacted a large sum. A limitation would strengthen the Government in making a better bargain next time, and, therefore, I move this limitation to the clause— Such sum shall not exceed 16 years' purchase of the net agricultural value of the land.


The question has been put that the clause stand part of the Bill, and it is too late to move an Amendment to the clause. Moreover, such an Amendment as is proposed would not be relevant to the clause.

(11.17.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N)

I think the hon. Member has created some confusion in reference to the line in question by lumping the property together. It is true the Berridge property is worth very little—


This discussion is entirely wide of the clause.

(11.20.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 224; Noes 22.—(Div. List, No. 10.)

Bill reported, without amendment.

*(11.31.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH, Strand, Westminster)

I wish to make an appeal to the House to read this Bill a third time. It is exceedingly important that the provisions of this measure should become law without any possible delay. The House is aware that the present Sittings may be limited. The Bill hag to go to another place, and it will therefore be very desirable indeed that we should read it a third time to-night.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)

(11.32.) MR. STOREY

I thought it necessary to make the protest I did make against one clause of the Bill, but, personally, I have no objection to the Third Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time and passed.