HC Deb 24 July 1891 vol 356 cc269-99

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."

*(3.15.) MR. P. STANHOPE

I rise to move— That this House, in view of the dissatisfaction expressed by the trading community throughout the Country, while unwilling to decline to adopt the Report of the Select Committee, is of opinion that its conclusions do not afford a final or equitable settlement of Railway Rates and Charges, and that further Amendments in relief trade are urgently required. I am sorry that this important matter should have been postponed until so late a period of the Session. It has become, in consequence, a serious question with the traders what course they ought to take to obtain an amendment of some of the provisions contained in these orders. If there had been sufficient time, instead of the Motion which stands in my name, there would have been a Motion to negative the Provisional Orders altogether, and to refuse to adopt the Report of the Joint Committee. But having regard to the fact that these Bills have been the subject of consideration for so long a period, that they do contain valuable provisions, that for the first time they codify the different laws which deal with railway rates and charges, and bring into one measure what at present is only to be found in something like 1,200 Acts of Parliament—having regard to those facts, and that advantages will undoubtedly be derived by certain classes of traders, instead of meeting the Bills with a direct negative, we propose to allow the Report to be adopted, but to record our condemnation of many of its provisions, and our intention to raise the question again at the earliest opportunity. The first point on which I propose to make a remark has reference to the Department presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I think that the attitude taken up from the beginning of this controversy by the Board of Trade has been the cause of much of the dissatisfaction which exists in regard to the settlement of these rates and charges. The House will remember that the agitation which gave rise to these Bills extended over a long series of years, and it was not until 1888 that the Railway Traffic Act was referred to a Grand Committee, of which I had the honour to be a Member. The question then arose as to what tribunal was to be erected to draw up a scheme of charges and rates between the Railway Companies and the traders. Many of the members of the Grand Committee thought that an independent tribunal ought to be established to draw up a scheme which should be submitted to that House, and that the Board of Trade should be left outside, and able therefore to espouse and support the general cause of the traders. But instead of taking this course Her Majesty's Government and the Board of Trade took the responsibility upon themselves, and the Board of Trade kept the power of drawing up the schedules for the classification of rates and charges. Prom that moment the Board of Trade became so hampered in their action that, instead of being the official representatives of the traders throughout the country, fighting their battle and doing their best to secure their interests, they found themselves with their hands tied and unable to do anything more than support the general conclusions which were arrived at by the special tribunal, over which Lord Balfour of Burleigh and Mr. Courtenay Boyle presided with much ability and industry. We thought, however, that the tribunal was wrong in many essential particulars, and when the Report came before the House on the Second Reading of the Provisional Orders Bills, I took the liberty of discussing it, and raised a question of principle in regard to terminals. The President of the Board of Trade then urged that it was an inconvenient time to discuss this matter of detail, and that it would be better to refer it without further debate to the Joint Committee a subsequent opportunity being afforded for discussion. The consequence has been that all these most important Bills, affecting the trade of the country from one end to the other, have really not been examined at all by this House. In fact, there are only five Members of this House who have any special cognisance of the subject or who have taken any special interest in drawing up these very important Provisional Orders. Having regard to the great dissatisfaction which undoubtedly exists in the country, I think the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised if even now he were to retard the passing of these Bills into law until next Session. The Provisional Orders themselves contain in Clause 2 of the Schedule a stipulation that they should not come into force until August 1, 1892. Therefore, 13 months would elapse from the present time and the date when the new rates and charges would come into actual operation, so that the Railway Companies would suffer no inconvenience if the Provisional Orders were held over until next year, when the House and the country would have had a better opportunity of fully discussing them. These are the remarks which I desire to make as to the general conduct of the Board of Trade. I come now to other matters, to which I wish to invite the attention of the House. The Provisional Orders were referred to a Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons. The Railway Companies appeared before that Committee with a vast array of legal talent, which their great resources enabled them to obtain, and with a remarkable degree of cohesion and unanimity of opinion. In fact, it cannot be denied that the Railway Companies have already a right of entry into the Board of Trade, which the traders have, of course, not established. They go in and come out as a matter of course. It was, perhaps, not unnatural for the Committee, on finding that there were differences of opinion among those who represented the traders, to fall back upon the suggestions of the Board of Trade as a reasonable compromise. There was not that kind of concert and arrangement between the traders which would have added to their strength, and the Railway Companies took advantage of the divided state of feeling, and squared certain most important interests which enabled them to obtain from the Joint Committee larger concessions. The first thing the Joint Committee did was to confirm absolutely and entirely the terminal station charges. When the question was last before the House, there was a case before the Law Courts which has since been decided. That decision does not absolutely determine the Company's claim, but it establishes their right to claim terminal station charges over certain portions of their system. For instance, the London and North-Western have a claim over 800 miles, and the Great Western over 900 out of the 1,200 which constitutes the length of their railways. The decision, therefore, only confirms the right of the companies to impose terminal charges over the smaller part of their system. Yet, acting upon the advice of the Board of Trade, the Joint Committee have now imposed general station terminal charges upon the trading community for all time to come. I am willing to admit that in order to obtain uniformity the step taken by the Joint Committee may, under the circumstances, have been wise; but, inasmuch as the Committee have now accorded to the companies what was a very problematical right before, I think the traders have a right to ask that there should be a correspondingly large diminution of maximum rates and charges over the whole railway system. I now come to the second point, namely, the way in which the maximum rates and charges have been dealt with. The railway company's contention from the beginning has been that whatever is done ought not to interfere with their dividends, but my own view is that the basis of charge should be the actual rates now imposed. I admit that the agriculturists have, by the action of the Joint Committee, obtained valuable concessions, especially in regard to the carriage of milk, and considerable advantage has also been gained by the action of the Committee in regard to smalls. The latter concession is of great interest to small traders throughout the country, but it is more than counterbalanced by the general imposition of terminal charges. I come now to the traders represented by the Lancashire and Cheshire Conference, and certainly the attitude of the Chairman of the Joint Committee towards that interest had the effect of obliging the Conference to withdraw from the Committee altogether. The result is that in these Bills a number of curious clauses have been introduced which have had the effect of squaring—for I can use no other expression—certain large manufacturing interests while the small traders receive a very scanty measure of justice indeed. My contention is that if any advantage was to be given it should have been given to all and not to one large group of traders. The iron interest was represented before the Committee by the South Staffordshire Association, and the only result of their action has been the introduction of a provision which gives the traders a right in the case of undamageable iron to go back to the London and North-Western Act of 1846, which contains special low rates for unmanufactured iron. Having given this special concession to two or three large ironmasters in the district, the Committee then proceeded to raise the general charges upon manufactured iron. (Mr. Hanbury: No.) The consequence of the action of the Committee has been to transfer a large number of articles from class B to class C, thereby increasing the charge by from 30 to 40 per cent. The hon. Gentleman may shake his head, but I maintain that it is so. And I would ask why the Northamptonshire, the North Staffordshire, and other iron works are to suffer simply because certain gentlemen, by a job, have been able to obtain special advantages for themselves. I come now to one other class of articles, the Representatives of which in this House will, I have no doubt, raise their voices in opposition to the way in which it has been dealt with. I refer to the timber trade. Heretofore, timber has always, from time immemorial, been charged according to measurement, but now the Committee have introduced a system of charging by weight that will disturb the whole timber trade of the country. I think it will be found that there is no place in the country where the timber trade exists, which has not sent either telegrams or deputations to its representatives, calling upon them to take steps to oppose the decision of the Committee. From the constituency which I represent every kind of complaint has come; and so also from Walsall, represented by the hon. Baronet (Sir C. Forster) who will, I believe, second this Resolution. I can only say that it is by no means satisfactory that now, in 1891, after the agitation which preceded the Act of 1888, and after legislation which was not then promoted by the Railway Companies, but by the traders of the country, who thought there ought to be a large reduction of rates, we are called upon practically by the course proposed to bring back the rates to those of 1846. In such circumstances, let me ask where the progress is which, it is alleged, has been made in railway legislation during the last 40 years. We find ourselves precisely in the same position—plus a station terminal charge. The Railway Companies and their shareholders used to talk a great deal at their meetings about confiscation; but there is an ominous silence on that point now, and I venture to say that if these Bills pass there will be a loud chorus of jubilation heard among them. Every trade and interest, with one notable exception—that of a class of agriculturists who are satisfied with certain of the provisions—protests against the Bills, and I ask the House to seriously pause before it makes permanent a state of things in regard to rates and charges which will act as a heavy burden on the trade of the country. While not wishing to reject the Report of the Committee, or to retard the progress of the Bills, I ask the House, in accepting the Report, to affirm, at the same time, its dissatisfaction with many of the provisions, and to express an intention to take an early opportunity next year to introduce into the Provisional Order Bills such changes or modifications in the interests of the traders of the country as I think they have a right to demand from a democratic House of Commons.

SIR C. FORSTER (Walsall)

I beg to second the Amendment. I quite agree with the view of my hon. Friend, that the best course will be to pass the Report, and to hold over the consideration of the question until next Session, when it can be more fully and conveniently discussed.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, in view of the dissatisfaction expressed by the trading community throughout the country, while unwilling to decline to adopt the Report of the Select Committee, is of opinion that its conclusions do not afford a final or equitable settlement of Railway Rates and Charges, and that further Amendments in relief of trade are urgently required."—(Mr. Philip Stanhope.)

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


The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. P. Stanhope) has stated that he does not wish to retard the progress of the Bills, and the hon. Member who has just sat down, who has a wide knowledge of traders as well as of the Railway Companies, and whose opinion on this and other matters I greatly respect, has remarked that it is desired that the Bills should be passed this Session. But the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wednesbury, if adopted, would infallibly kill the Bills for the present Session. What does the Amendment of the hon. Member say? It says— That this House, in view of the dissatisfaction expressed by the trading community throughout the country, while unwilling to decline to adopt the Report of the Select Committee, is of opinion that its conclusions do not afford a final or equitable settlement of Railway Rates and Charges, and that further Amendments in relief of trade are urgently required. The premiss is that the Bills do not afford a final or equitable settlement, and the obvious conclusion is that they should not be proceeded with at all; but I will give the House briefly some reasons why it should not take the course the hon. Member proposes. I must recall to the House the origin of the question. As the hon. Member has himself stated, in 1883 and subsequently, there was a unanimous feeling in Parliament, and I think in the country also, that the maximum rates and charges of the various Companies were in such a chaotic condition that it was absolutely necessary there should be some revision and codification of the powers which Parliament had conferred upon the Railway Companies. In 1888 Parliament accordingly, with practical unanimity, passed a section in the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of that Session, empowering such codification and revision to be made. The first step was that the Railway Companies should be called on to submit a classification of goods and schedules of their proposed maximum rates to the Board of Trade, and when that was done objections were to be invited from the traders. Those objections were subsequently to be heard by the Board of Trade, and, finally, a Provisional Order was to be framed, based upon the opinions of the Board of Trade, submitted to Parliament, and then the matter was to be considered by a Joint Committee of the two Houses. It has taken all the time since August, 1888, to go through these various matters. The House will admit that the subject is one of enormous complication. It is also of enormous importance to the trade of the country that there should be a revision of the law on the matter. The proposals of the Railway Companies, with the objections of the traders, were inquired into by Lord Balfour of Burleigh and Mr. Courtenay Boyle in a sitting of 85 days, during which both sides were heard through some of the ablest Counsel in the Kingdom, and it will be admitted, doubtless, that that inquiry was conducted with great pains, patience, and ability. Further statements were made on both sides to the Board of Trade, and were considered by myself in conjunction with Lord Balfour of Burleigh and Mr. Courtenay Boyle, and the result of our labours was submitted to Parliament early this Session in the shape of the nine Provisional Orders now on the Paper relating to the nine great Companies having termini in the Metropolis. A Debate, originated by the hon. Member, took place on the Second Reading of the Bills, but the House unanimously resolved that it was desirable that the Bills should be submitted to a Joint Committee. That Committee was appointed, and I venture to say that a more impartial or more competent tribunal was never appointed by Parliament to consider a question of this kind. The hon. Member has referred to what he termed the arbitrary conduct of the Chairman of the Committee, but a more able or impartial man, as everybody who knows the Duke of Richmond will readily believe, could not have been obtained for the position. His experience and his disposition, if I may say so, specially fitted him for such a work, and he performed it admirably in the interests of the country. The other Members of the House of Lords on the Committee were also well qualified for the position, and as to the Members of this House upon it, they were not appointed at the instance of the Government, but by the Committee of Selection. The hon. Member for Aberdeen was one of the Members; he is a great authority upon such questions, and he was certainly not biassed in favour of the Railway Companies. The hon. Members for Preston and Hereford, who have great experience on Private Bill Committees, were Members; and they had able Colleagues in the hon. Member for Bath and the hon. Member who represents one of the Divisions of Dublin (Mr. T. A. Dickson). And now, after that Committee has sat for 48 days, after they have heard the whole case on both sides, and have adopted the conclusions set forth in the Provisional Orders, the hon. Member practically asks that the whole of this labour should be rendered useless, and the question restored to the position in which it was in 1880. I venture to ask the House, if it cannot, in a technical and complicated matter of this kind, practically accept the conclusions of such a Committee, how is it possible that any legislation can ever take place on the subject? If Bills of this kind are to be discussed and considered in the House itself, it would not only be an innovation on all previous practice—for these questions of rates and charges have always been settled by Select Committees, and never considered in the House—but it would impose on the House a task which would alone occupy the whole of a Session, and render it impossible to transact any other business. Therefore, if the House cannot practically accept the decisions of such a Committee on such a question, I believe legislation on the subject will be absolutely impossible, and the persons who would suffer by that would not be the Railway Companies, but the traders of the country. The only real objection, so far as I know, to the further progress of the Bills has come from a meeting of Lancashire and Cheshire traders, who have desired the hon. Member to bring forward his Amendment. But those traders do not object to any of the clauses of the Bills; they simply object to some of the conveyance rates. The Committee, however, lowered those rates to the advantage of the traders, though, perhaps, not to the extent desired, and if the decision of the Committee is not accepted they will not be altered at all. It certainly was the intention of Parliament in dealing with the question that not only the actual rates charged should be considered in filing the new maximum rates, but also the powers which Parliament has given to the companies in return for the construction of the lines. The Committee have justly and reasonably taken those matters into consideration in fixing the rates of conveyance. There are some points in these Bills on which I may say, after conference with the Members of the Committee who are in the House, I think the House may, without doing injustice on either side, make some alterations. I refer specially to the question of the timber trade, and to the exceptional rates proposed to be given on certain lines in Wales. On both of those points I shall not be prepared to resist Amendments which I think may meet the views of the parties concerned, but on the main provisions of the Bills as to station and service terminals, short distance clauses, classification, and rates, I must again urge the House to accept the decision of the Committee. I will only say, inconclusion, that I do not think any useful object can be served by the postponement of these Bills. The only result would be that the Board of Trade would again, next Session, have to propose them to the House; and they would again be submitted to a Joint Committee under the provisions of the Statute. But how could that Joint Committee be expected to devote much time or trouble to the work after this House had paid so poor a compliment to the Members who have this year spent 48 long sittings on it as absolutely to decline to proceed with their proposals. Is it fair for this House—I do not speak as a Member of the Government, but of the House—to treat hon. Members who have given their time and ability to such an extent to the service of the country, as if they were incompetent to conduct the inquiry with which they have been intrusted, and as if their conclusions were to be of no effect? I hope the House will not continue the Debate, and will not assent to the proposal of the hon. Member for Wednesbury, but will proceed at once to the consideration of the Bills, and I will undertake on the points to which I have alluded to do my best to satisfy the reasonable wishes of the House.

(3.55.) MR. ATKINSON (Boston)

I was glad to hear the last remark of the right hon. Gentleman, namely, that he was not speaking on behalf of the Government. That will, I hope, set at liberty the 30 Gentlemen who sit on those Benches. In my opinion there are provisions in these Bills which will kill the timber trade of the United Kingdom, and therefore all the right hon. Gentleman's talk about compliment or no compliment to the gentlemen who have sat for 48 days on the Committee must go by the board. They know nothing about the timber trade. I have known the timber trade for 45 years, and I agree with a correspondent of mine who says that rather than the Bills before the House should pass as they stood, it would be better to kick them out altogether.


I have already stated that I am perfectly ready to accept the Amendments on the Paper which affect the timber trade.


I am afraid that that is not sufficient to meet all the requirements of the case, but I am glad to accept the Amendments indicated by the President of the Board of Trade on account, and as an instalment. Still, I heartily support the Resolution of the hon. Member opposite, because I am determined to prevent the Bills passing by every power I possess. If the timber trade is to be knocked on the head, I think the working men of this country will want to know the reason why. I believe the difficulty could easily be got over. If the President of the Board of Trade would refer the Bills to a Select Committee on Tuesday, I am satisfied that by Wednesday such Committee would arrive at a decision which the House would be prepared to accept. I make this proposition to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know who the Parliamentary Leader is; we do not appear to have one just now. If the right hon. Gentleman will consent to refer the Bills to a Select Committee, I will resume my seat at once; but if not, I am prepared to substantiate my case. I may say that I have as much right to be heard on this question as any Railway Director, or as the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Sir J. Pease) who acts as the fugleman of the trades union of Railway Directors, for out of the nine Companies whose Bills are before the House to-day, I am personally interested in six. I warn the House not to pass these Bills in their present shape, and I will certainly use every means in my power to prevent them from passing.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon, &c.)

I feel bound to say that unless concessions which will meet the views of the slate trade in Wales are obtained from the President of the Board of Trade, it will be my duty to propose certain Amendments which stand in my name. We strongly object to the present principle of classification, and also to the high terminal charges.

(4.5.) MR. T. ROBINSON (Gloucester)

There can be no doubt that this is a very important matter, to which the traders of the country are looking forward with hope. I regret to say that in different parts of the country great dissatisfaction exists in nearly all the important branches of industry. One thing that they very much object to is the terminal charges. With regard to the timber trade, I think something should be done to conciliate that trade. If serious injury is inflicted on the timber trade it will be a very serious thing. For many years the railways have carried timber by measure. They are now to be compelled to carry by weight. ["No!"] Seven million tons of timber are imported into this country every year, and we have the English timber in addition. The timber merchants buy by measure, and I never understood that the Railway Companies have complained that they were required to carry by measure. I think that some concession should be made in this particular case. I would suggest that the Bill should be limited to two or three years. If it is not a success, then there would be an opportunity to make fresh alterations. No advantage is at present taken of the Railway Companies, and the belief of the timber merchants is that if you get rid of the practice of carrying by measurement, you will virtually destroy the trade. I hope it is not too late to make an appeal to the Government to give some special concession to the trading interests of the country. The President of the Board of Trade says he is prepared to make concessions, but I am afraid they will not go far enough. The timber merchants will certainly not cease their agitation in the hope of getting further concessions another year. I would suggest in the meantime that the timber trade should be altogether excluded from the Bills this year, and as they are not to come into operation for more than twelve months, there would be an ample opportunity for full consideration. I intend to support the Resolution of the hon. Member for Wednesbury, and if the President of the Board of Trade is not satisfied with its terms, I have no doubt my hon. Friend would consent to alter them. We are all interested in the trade of the country, and we feel that it would be better to increase its advantages rather than to curtail them.

*(4.10) MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)

The President of the Board of Trade has reminded the House that the legislation with reference to rates and charges did not arise from any action on the part of the Railway Companies. There was a general complaint that the rates were unequal and harsh. The Railway Companies, I believe, were willing and anxious to do what was right, and to bow to the decision of the Board of Trade. The Provisional Order Bills were referred to a Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, which is admitted on all hands to be an exceptionally good one, and the result has been that we have now a number of Bills under discussion. As a Railway Director I would say we are willing to act loyally by what has been done. I believe that great benefits will result to the traders, and in some respects to the Railway Companies; and it should be remembered that the President of the Board of Trade has expressed his readiness to re-consider the questions of rates on timber and the objections of Welsh traders. It is far better, I think, to settle this long-vexed question at once than to carry it over from year to year. A postponement would only increase the difficulty, and we should be in no better a position next Session to arrive at a settlement. Having referred the matter to a Select Committee, I think we should loyally abide by the decision of that Committee.

*(4.15.) MR. LAFONE (Southwark, Bermondsey)

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who has brought this Motion forward is representing any section of the traders of this country, but it is a fact that at a representative meeting of traders, which was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel, it was decided that, although these Bills might be improved in many respects, yet no steps should be taken that would endanger their passing, seeing that they contain many provisions which would prove beneficial to the trade. No doubt there are certain instances in which the rates and charges have been increased, and it will probably be desirable that they should undergo further consideration; but so far as the question of terminals is concerned, it has been settled, both by the Board of Trade and the joint Committee, and I am afraid that it cannot be re-opened. I think the Committee did not fully appreciate the importance of the question. Speaking generally, I believe that considerable-benefits have been gained by the traders, and particularly by those interested in agricultural pursuits. If the Bills are found to work badly hereafter, an amending Bill can be introduced. Perhaps I ought to point out that although there is a large increase in some of the rates, yet in all cases they are maximum rates, and not the actual rates which the Railway Companies may charge. I believe that the Railway Directors and Manager shave no intention of putting the traders of the country in a worse position than they occupied before. It will be of enormous advantage for the trader to be able to turn to a complete classification and ascertain at once what the rates are and what the carriage of his goods will cost from one station to another. He is unable to do that at present. The only existing classification is the clearing house classification, and no one unacquainted with the details of that classification would be able to find out what he ought to be charged. In future the trader will know precisely what the charges are, and I am satisfied that the Railway Companies in their own interests will deal fairly by the traders. I am quite certain that, so far as the Railway Companies are concerned, they would only be too glad to see the Resolution of the right hon. Member for Wednesbury passed and these Bills be hung up. I certainly will not be a party to the bringing about of any such result.

MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

I hope the hon. Member for Wednesbury will not press his Motion, because, although it does not profess to be hostile to the Bill, yet the House could not logically pass the measure if it accepted the Motion. I wish to give one reason which is conclusive to my mind why the House should pass these Bills. Prior to the year 1885 I should probably have been of a different opinion. When in 1884 the Railway Companies introduced Bills with powers to impose terminal charges, such Bills, owing to the opposition of the traders, were thrown out; but the decision in Hall's case in 1885 altered that state of things. By that decision it was held that the railways are entitled to charge terminals in addition to the maximum charge, and the result is that the Railway Companies are allowed to charge any sum they please. I, therefore, gladly accept such limitations upon the power of the Railway Companies to make charges as are contained in the Bill. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will withdraw his Motion.

(4.26.) The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 64.—(Div. List, No.373.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered.


I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name, and I think it will save the time of the House if I mention the Amendments which my Colleagues and I especially desire the right hon. Gentleman to accept. The first is the exclusion of the Welsh Railways from Scale 1, Class A; the second is their exclusion from Scale 1, Class B; and the third is that which relates to terminals. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts these, we are prepared to withdraw the rest of our Amendments. This is a Bill of very great importance. It will injuriously affect the slate industries of North Wales, and in the course of the next two months it will be impossible for the traders to state the case before the Railway Commission, or to get the reductions to which they think they are entitled.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 23, to leave out the words "passing of this Act," in order to insert the words "first day of January, 1893."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'passing of this Act' stand part of the Bill."

* (4.40.) SIR M. HICKS BEACH

I do not think I need say very much about this Amendment. The hon. Member proposes to extend the time before the Bill comes into operation. Such a proposal is certainly not to the interest of the traders, and I do not think it is to the interest of the Railway Companies. I cannot undertake to accept any proposal for special terminals for particular lines, the terminals having been fixed by the Committee for application uniformly throughout the country. With regard to excepting certain Welsh lines from the high conveyance rates, I think that some concession may be made on that point.


Will the right hon. Gentleman extend that to Class A?


I am not prepared to say that.


I beg to support this Amendment, on the principle of voting against these Bills from beginning to end.

(4.44.) MR. T. ELLIS (Merionethshire)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in order to facilitate the speedy passage of this measure, he will make a concession with regard to the exceptions from Class A. I think one of the main objects of the Bill is to protect traders in districts where there is little competition. In places where there is severe competition the rates have been beaten down, but in the outlying districts, and more especially in North and South Wales, where the competition is comparatively small, these high rates will be stereotyped by Parliament. It seems to me that this will defeat one of the main purposes of all the agitation of the last four or five years.


These remarks are not in order on the present Amendment, but at the same time, of course, such observations can be made with the indulgence of the House.


I am bound by the decisions of the Select Committee. If the Members of the Committee will consent to the omission of the special rates in Class A, in the case of the lines to which the hon. Member refers, I will raise no objection.


Will the right hon. Gentleman also assent to the elimination of the timber trade?

Question put, and agreed to.


In reference to the next Amendment that stands in my name, I will appeal to the Members of the Committee to state their views respecting the schedule of Class A. I am prepared to withdraw my Amendments as to terminals if the right hon. Gentleman consents to accept those on Class A.


I have said to the hon. Member all I can say.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 31 (Schedule of maximum rates and charges), to leave out sub-head 3.—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)

Question proposed, "That sub-head 3 stand part of the Bill."

(4.50.) MR. HANBURY

As I understand it, the main objection of the hon. Member is not so much to the terminals as to the special rates on Welsh lines. Surely that would be more properly discussed on a subsequent clause.


We object to the rates in Class A, and we also object to the terminal station charges. If we do not get a concession as to the rates, we hope we shall be able to do so as to the terminal charges.


As far as I can see, the Amendment of the hon. Member could very well come in on page 11.

Question put, and agreed to.


I understand from the President of the Board of Trade, that he is prepared to except the North Wales lines from Scale 2, Class A.


That is so.

*SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

I must disclaim the slightest desire to obstruct the Bill, but I move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 20, after the words "other light timber," to insert the words "and 60 ft. of deals, battens, and boards."—(Sir A. Rollit.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I approve of this Amendment, but I cannot regard it as a concession of any importance, unless a later Amendment which stands in my name is also accepted. The Amendment embodies what is known in the trade as the St. Petersburgh standard, which is, no doubt, a fair standard. The proposal will only operate if timber is carried by measurement weight, and it becomes absolutely useless if by other clauses of the Bill you compel traders to consign timber by machine weight.

(4.59.) MR. ATKINSON

I quite agree with the hon. Member that the concession is acceptable but not sufficient. This I can prove by means of a letter from the witness of whom I spoke, and who is quite willing to give evidence before a Committee. I should like to ask the President of the Board of Trade what authority he has for making a change which will prove ruinous to the great timber trade of this country? If the right hon. Gentleman, as President of the Board of Trade, has a conscience, which I do not believe [cries of "Oh!"]—as Member for Bristol he has a very good conscience, no doubt—if, as President, he has a conscience, it ought to have troubled him on this point. As far as I am concerned I will obstruct and divide whenever there is a chance on these Bills [cries of "Oh!"] Well, I will say I feel it my duty to divide on these Bills without using the other word. It comes very badly from Gentlemen opposite—


The hon. Member must confine his remarks to the Amendment.


Yes, I will.


I have warned the hon. Gentleman that he must conduct himself according to the usages of this House.


Some time ago, when I had a Bill which I wanted to carry with reference to seamen's votes, I was made to walk 16 times round the Lobbies—20 minutes each time. [Cries of "Order!"]


The hon. Gentleman is not keeping to the question.


Well, then, I will make those remarks in the next speech I deliver. I intend to divide the House upon this Motion and upon every other Motion which goes in the same direction.

(5.4.) MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I would suggest that "cubic" should be inserted before "feet."


What the Committee did was to provide that so many feet should go to a ton. I think we must add after "light timber" in line 20, "other than deals, battens, and boards."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 20, after "timber," to insert, "other than deals, battens, and boards."—(Sir A. Rollit.)

Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.


I beg now to move the words that originally stood in my name, with the addition of the word "cubic."

Amendment proposed, after the words last inserted, to insert the words "and 66 cubic feet of deals, battens, and boards."—(Sir A. Rollit.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


There seems to be nothing for me but to divide the House against this Amendment, which I will do.


I would point out to the hon. Member that the Amendment is really in favour of the argument he has been using.

(5.8.) Question put. The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. ATKINSON was appointed a Teller for the Noes, but no Member being willing to act as second Teller, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.


I think a serious injustice will be caused by the Bill if the provisions regarding the carrying of timber are insisted on. My Amendment will meet the difficulty in the case of all timber the carriage of which requires more than one wagon. If the Bill is left as it is, the timber trade will be absolutely at the mercy of the Railway Companies. My Amendment is as follows:— All timber requiring two or more wagons for conveyance mast in all cases be charged at measurement weight with a minimum charge as for one ton per wagon, whether carrying part of the load, or used as a safety wagon only. I understand that the word "minimum" in the Amendment has caused some misgiving in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I think it arises solely from ignorance as to the operation of the Amendment. The operation would be this: Supposing that timber is carried upon two trucks, the weight of the timber must be ascertained by measurement; and if it should only be 1½ tons, then the Railway Company would be enabled to charge as for 2 tons. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, is prepared to accept what he calls the spirit of this Amendment. But the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to substitute for it would have this effect: Whereas my Amendment establishes uniformity and requires the trader to consign his timber by weight ascertained by measurement, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman will give an option to the trader either to assign it by actual machine weight, or by weight computed in the ordinary way by measurement. I confess I do not like the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment so well as my own, but I am not disposed to divide the House on the matter, and though I cannot accept the words suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, I shall content myself with simply moving my Amendment in the words on the Paper without taking a Division.

Amendment proposed, In page 6, line 24, after the word "being," to insert the words "All timber requiring two or more wagons for conveyance must in all cases be charged at measurement weight, with a minimum charge as for one ton per wagon, whether carrying part of the load, or used as a safety wagon only."—(Mr. Pickersgill.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.


I presume the right hon. Gentleman will propose his Amendment.


Yes, at the proper time.

Other Amendments made.

*MR. W. PRITCHARD MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)

I beg to move the Amendment in my name.

Amendment proposed, in page 18, column 2, line 19, after the words "limestone in bulk," to insert the words "lime in bulk and loam."—(Mr. Pritchard Morgan.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I am afraid that I cannot accept the Amendment. The alteration of one article in classification will lead to the alteration of others; indeed, if the House once undertakes to interfere with the classification it would be an endless task. Many hon. Members can hardly be aware of the extraordinary and intricate way in which these matters are mixed up with one another, and hon. Members who move the alterations in classification can hardly be aware themselves of the results to which their action may lead.

Question put, and negatived.


I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. As far as I can understand the system of classification, everything that comes from the earth in a natural condition, which is not in any way manufactured, or which has not been made of great value or damageable by expenditure, is to be placed in the other class with coal and iron ore. Now, we have large zinc and copper mines in Wales, and zinc and copper are sent away to great distances, and if one class of mineral ore is to be in a different classification from another, it will unjustly handicap the industry of mining for that ore. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will see his way be accept the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, In page 18, column 2, line 24, after the words "night soil," to insert the words "peat, and ores of gold, silver, copper, tin, sulphur, and zinc, dressed or undressed."—(Mr. Pritchard Morgan.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


It is impossible to compare iron ore with gold. In dealing with the several ores the Committee have classified them differently.

Question put, and negatived.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the next Amendment, with regard to slates, &c.?


We have practically largely reduced the charges for slates by the alterations we have made.


I have an Amendment to move which is not on the Paper, namely, in page 19, line 41, after "bar iron or steel," to leave out the words "exceeding 1 cwt. per bar." The restriction if it be maintained will affect a large proportion of the iron trade.

Amendment proposed, in page 19, line 41, to leave out the words "exceeding 1 cwt. per bar."—(Mr. Philip Stanhope.)

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


I will consider that in consultation with the Members of the Committee, and if I have their approval, I shall not object to the omission of the words.


As far as I am concerned, I have no objection whatever, and I do not think any real damage will accrue to the Railway Companies.

SIR J. BAILEY (Hereford)

I think the proposal ought to be considered as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(5.36.) MR. P. STANHOPE

The next Amendment is in connection with the transfer of a large number of articles connected with the iron industry from Class B to Class C by the decision of the Committee. This transfer was apparently made because the Committee thought they had made a considerable number of concessions by introducing provisions giving certain districts the right to revert back to old Railway Acts. The effect of the transfer is to increase the charge, and it is very much resented by the people in the iron trade, who are desirous that the House should restore these articles to the same class as they were in on the Second Reading of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, In page 19, column 2, line 14, to insert the words:—"Angle bars or plates; bar, e.o.h.p.; beams; bolts and nuts. Bridgework—cantilevers; cross and longitudinal girders: floor-plates; girders, whole or in part; joists; lattice bars; screw and other piles, both hollow and solid; struts and ties; bundles of bars; caissons; columns; engine bed plates; girders; girder bars. Hoop-iron; hoop-steel; hoops, iron; hoops, weldless, in the rough; nail-rods and sheets; nails and spikes. Plates—Annealing; armour; black, in boxes or packed; boiler; furnaca; hoe-head, in the rough; plough, in the rough; railway fish; rough flooring; ships; shovel; tank. Railway carriage and wagon work; railway chairs; railway points, crossings, or joints; railway rails; rivets; rods, common; rods, wire, rolled, not drawn; scrap, minimum load three tons per truck; sheet-iron, not packed; sleepers; tyres and tyre-bars, in the rough; wire (iron) not packed or wrappered; wire-iron, rolled in rods or coils, not packed; wire (steel) not packed or wrappered; pitwood for mining purposes."—(Mr. Philip Stanhope.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(5.38.) MR. HANBURY

This clause constitutes one of the most important Amendments which the Select Committee made on the original proposals of the Board of Trade. Two things weighed with the Committee in taking the articles in question out of one class and putting them in another. In the first place, the articles in Class B are, for the most part, not manufactured articles at all. Class B has such things in it as gypsum, granite, lime in bulk, and so on. It would be ridiculous to put in the same class articles of a manufactured character. But we had a much stronger eason for striking out these articles. All of them stood in the original Schedule of the Board of Trade, both in Class B and in Class C, the difference between the two being that when a trader declared the articles to be undamageable they would go into the cheaper class. There was a serious objection made to that. It was a totally new principle, and one that was applied to no other articles whatever throughout the whole Schedule. I am not quite sure how far the Amendment of the hon. Member goes. Does he propose to put these articles back again in Class B as undamageable articles or as damageable articles?


It would be of advantage to these industries if they were put in Class B as damageable articles, but I am quite willing to divide them into two classes, and treat some as damageable and the rest as undamageable.


The language of the Board of Trade was very ambiguous. It was "if and when declared by the trader to be undamageable." All the old difficulties between the Railway Company and the South Staffordshire traders arose on what constituted "damageable" and what "undamageable." If there is one thing more than another which Parliament should try to avoid it is ambiguity and litigation as to the meaning of the language used. Apart from that, the proviso is absolutely nugatory, because it was contended by the counsel for the Railway Company, and I do not think it was denied on the other side, that under the Act of 1854, although a trader declared that certain goods were undamageable, and so got them carried at the cheaper rate, still, if damage actually occurred in transit, the Railway Company might not be held free from liability. That was grossly unfair to the Railway Company. What the Committee, therefore, really did was to take away from the trader the right of declaring the articles in question at "owners' risk" or "undamageable," and so of having them carried at the lower rate, but if carried on the old conditions, as damageable, the Committee left them precisely as they were left by the Board of Trade. What will be the effect of the proposal of the Board of Trade even upon the iron rates of the Railway Companies? The losses of the companies will be considerable. Mr. Findlay, the traffic manager of the London and North-Western, gave the Committee most excellent evidence on this particular point, evidence which, I think, will be absolutely conclusive to the House that the Committee could not have acted otherwise than they have acted. Mr. Findlay showed that the company would lose on iron and steel £27,000, or 1 per cent. of their nett dividend. With this fact before us we cannot reduce the rates lower than we have done. Mr. Findlay said also that the Provisional Order would cut down the low, exceptional rates which had been adopted to foster the trade of the country in certain cases. That was admittted by the Board of Trade themselves. But it is not only the London and North Western line that will be affected. The other great mineral lines will also suffer. The Great Western will lose £10,000, and the loss on the Midland will actually amount to £47,000. That is a very heavy fine indeed when it is put on top of losses on the coal traffic. The evidence we had before us was that the most important thing we had to keep in Class 3 was bar-iron. We have kept it in Class 3, and we have treated it much more favourably to the traders than the Board of Trade had done. I do not quite know where the opposition brought forward by the hon. Member comes from, because practically all we did was almost agreed to before the Committee. The iron interest was represented by the Lancashire and Cheshire Conference, which stood aloof in this matter, by the Mansion House Committee, who said they would offer no opposition, and by Swansea and South Wales Traders, who said practically that if bar and steel and iron rails were left in Class B, they would have no objection. We did not meet the whole of their demands, but we did as far as iron was concerned. Sir A. Hickman, who with great ability argued the case of the South Staffordshire traders, was satisfied with our proposals. I think the Hon. Member (Mr. P. Stanhope) is acting in opposition to the wishes of the great body of iron traders themselves, and I hope that he will support the Committee on this point.

Question put, and negatived.


The proposal I have now to make is intended to give substantial effect to the proposal made by the hon. Member for South Islington (Sir A. Rollit) a little while ago. This Bill contains two classes of rates for timber, one class applicable to timber, the weight of which is ascertained by placing it on the machine, and another applicable to timber, of which the weight is computed from the measurement. The rates for timber carried by computed weight are 25 per cent. in excess of that of which the weight is ascertained by machining. The system of computation, by which so many cubic feet of timber are supposed to go to the ton, is a rough-and-ready mode of ascertaining the weight; but, as between the two parties to the transaction, it is perfectly fair. It is true that sometimes the computed weight will tell against the company, and at other times against the trader, but, like all general averages, it is as fair to one party as to the other. The object of the provision by which a much higher rate is charged for timber of which the weight has been computed than for timber which has been weighed by machinery is to force traders in all cases to consign timber by actual machine weight. That will, however, upset all existing arrangements in the timber trade. At present timber is bought and sold by measurement and shipped by measurement, and, with a few trifling exceptions, it is carried on always by measurement. This proposal will therefore have the effect of revolutionising the timber trade. In order to some extent to meet the views which I understand were pressed by the officials of the Board of Trade-in the inquiry which took place on this matter, I am disposed to limit my Amendment to deals, battens, and boards. It is perhaps hardly necessary for me to set forth in detail the fact that there are greater objections to the computed measurement system in the case of rough timber than in the case of deals, battens, and boards. I am told that deals, battens, and boards amount to 75 per cent. of the timber trade, and I propose to insert "deals, battens, and boards, whether by machine or measurement weight."

Amendment proposed, in page 20, Class C, after the word "Cutch," in column 2, line 44, to insert the words "deals, battens, and boards, whether by machine or measurement weight."—(Mr. Pickersgill.)

Question proposed, "That these words-be there inserted."

*(5.58.) SIR A. ROLLIT

I shall be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman can see his way to accept the Amendment. At the same time, as the right hon. Gentleman has dealt so reasonably with the point raised by my Amendment, I could not see my way to vote against him if he opposed the present Amendment. The timber trade is one of the most important in the country, and there is a very strong feeling on this question. There are two reasons why this revised classification is desired. In the first place, it is the principle of the Board of Trade that there should be an option on the part of consignors between machine weight and measurement weight. But I would suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that the option ostensibly given by the Bill is not a real option, because timber carried by machine weight is placed in a better scale of classification, and hence it must be sent by machine weight. In dealing with deals, battens, and boards, as compared with other timber, a saving is effected because of the facility with which they can be handled. I believe deals and the like are carried for 1s. less a load as compared with other classes of timber. That concession is made by shipowners in various branches of trade, and that is bound to be taken into account. The importation of deals is very great, and the principle of measurement is that which is adopted abroad. To make this change would lead to great disorganisation of trade. The consignment is made by measurement, and altogether the trade would be placed on a materially different footing to what it has been in the past if the change be made as proposed by the Bill.


I would remind the House that I have already made two very considerable concessions to the timber trade—one with reference to the charge for a second truck for large timber, and the other that deals, battens, and boards shall be carried at 66 cubic feet to the ton, measurement weight. That is a very considerable concession to foreign timber. I could not lower the classification of this foreign timber alone without acting unfairly to the grower of English timber. After the consideration of the subject by the Board of Trade and by a Select Committee, I do not think I shall be justified in accepting the Amendment.


The Board of Trade are perfectly justified in standing out against this particular Amendment. As far as I recollect the evidence before the Committee, it was that although the weight of deals, battens, and boards is conventionally treated as 2 tons 10 cwt., it is, as a matter of fact, considerably over 3 tons. In dealing with the Railway Companies, I think it is not fair to assume that this 2 tons 10 cwt. is the real weight, while it is really 3 tons 10 cwt., which the companies are compelled to carry at the lower rate.


I cannot, of course, refer to the evidence, not having been a member of the Joint Committee, and the hon. Member, having been one of the Committee, knows better than I do; but the Railway Companies have always dealt with deals, battens, and boards under the classification to which I have referred.


The hon. Member and the Vice President seem to be under the impression that we have to consider the Railway Companies. One says it will be interfering with the Railway Companies to do this, and the other says it will be detrimental to the Railway Companies to do that. That is not an argument at all. The Bill as it stands is largely detrimental to one of the chief trades of the United Kingdom, and consequently I will do my utmost to prevent it passing.


I would like to point out, with regard to the timber trade, that the rates which are given in this Bill are lower than the maximum rates which the companies are at present entitled to charge. That is a circumstance which, I think, ought not to be forgotten.


I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman has granted concessions; but, still, the whole difficulty with regard to deals, battens, and boards will have to be dealt with. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the point, for I can assure him that there is a very strong feeling on the part of the trade.

*COLONEL HILL (Bristol, S.)

I feel very much in the position of my hon. Friend the Member for South Islington. I do not like to vote against the Government, after the manner in which the President of the Board of Trade has met us; but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that in my constituency the timber trade is of very great importance, and those engaged in it assure me it will be placed at a very great disadvantage if the Bill be passed without the additional words proposed be added.

(6.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 79; Noes 125.—(Div. List, No. 374.)

(6.20.) MR. P. STANHOPE

On behalf of my hon. Friend Sir Charles Forster, I beg formally to move this Amendment, with the view of affording the President of the Board of Trade an opportunity of making some reply.

Amendment proposed, In page 33, column 2, after line 22, to insert the words "saddlery-hardware in waterproof lined wooden cases or casks. Packages consigned as saddlery-hardware may include any leather or metal articles set out in classes here in before mentioned or in this class, and the following articles in Class 3:—American or leather cloth (for harness fronts); awl blades; bells (small for harness); bits; blankets (for horses); buckets and pails; buckles; buttons; carpet bag frames; chains, curb; clasps (for belts); clothing, waterproof; collars, dog; collars, rush; combs (for manes); curry combs; cotton and linen thread; cotton wool (for padding); cutlery (horse scissors and leather cutting knives); elastic webbing (for braces); eyelets (for straps); ferules (for whips); flax (for stitching); gloves (for labourers); grindery; hair (for stuffing saddles); India rubber goods (for horses and vehicles); laces, leather (for harness); lanterns (stable); leather, e.o.h.p.; locks and keys (for leather bags); military ornaments; mops (for stables); nails, rivets (brass or copper); netting cotton and twine (for horses); oils (for harness); ornaments for saddlery; pliers; powder flasks; saddle trees; screws (brass); shears (sheep); sheepskins, e.o.h.p.; shot belts; spanners; sours; stable fittings and mangers (enamelled iron); stirrups; tacks; terrets; turnery ware (manger logs, whip reels, and tool handles); varnish; washers; washleather; wire (brass or copper); wool (dyed or carded); woollen cloth. And the following in Class 4:—Harness; leggings; plated goods appertaining to harness or saddlery; saddlery."—(Mr. Philip Stanhope.)

Question proposed, "That those words Toe there inserted."


Such a provision would involve the alteration of the whole Bill, and for reasons I have already given I cannot consent to the Amendment.


I beg to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg now to move, Sir, that the Bill be read a third time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Sir M. Hicks Beach.)

(6.30.) MR. ATKINSON

I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name, namely, that the Third Reading of the Bill be postponed until three months to-day, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it, or that, at all events, he will shorten the case by accepting my statement with regard to the timber trade. If a Select Committee were appointed it would ascertain the truth of my statement in an hour. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, who is a Member of one of the most talented Governments we have had for many years, not to go on in this task of destroying, wittingly or unwittingly, the timber trade of this country. I have been in that trade for 45 years, and I can myself, of my own personal knowledge, prove that what I say is correct, and I know more about it than all the permanent officials of the Board of Trade put together.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Atkinson.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


In answer to my hon. Friend, I venture to point out to him and to the House that in the first place I do not really believe that the timber trade will suffer anything under this Bill. As the hon. Member for Aberdeen has already stated, the rates for timber will be lower in future than the present maximum rate. These rates will not come into operation before August, 1892. If, during next Session, those who represent the timber trade feel alarmed, they can easily bring forward a Motion on the subject.

The House proceeded to a Division.


was appointed a Teller for the Noes, but no Member being willing to act as the Second Teller, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.