§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ *MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, he could not allow the Bill to pass without a protest against the policy of the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman promised before Easter that, if some satisfactory arrangements were not made between the Railway Companies and the traders with regard to the new rates, he would put, his foot down, and deal with the question. That promise had not been fulfilled, and he (Mr. Weir) would warn the right hon. Gentleman that unless he stiffened his back, put his foot down firmly, and dealt with the Railway Companies energetically on this matter, there would be some difficulty in getting Railway Bills through this House. He (Mr. Weir) had no desire to press his opinion to a Division; but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman should not allow himself to be captivated and fascinated by those who controlled the great railways.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
said, that, while he had no desire to stop the Bill, he wished to get from the President of the Board of Trade a statement as to the position in which traders and the Railway Companies were at the present moment. He had numerous complaints by traders and agriculturists that the Railway Companies were not carrying out their agreement to go back to the old rates, and to refund the overcharges; and he was afraid the companies were allowing some of the large traders and powerful concerns to go back 610 to the old rates, while the small agriculturists and traders—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is now travelling beyond the particular company whose Bill is before the House.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Both the hon. Member who spoke first and the hon. Member for Peterborough are quite out of Order in thinking that this is an opportunity for discussing the conduct of the Board of Trade with regard to all the companies in the United Kingdom.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he would only ask the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement as to the present position with regard to railway charges, and as to whether the Government could do anything to relieve traders from the present overcharges?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. MUNDELLA,) Sheffield, Brightside
said, that neither the Railway Companies nor he gave any such assurance as the hon. Member suggested. He hoped the House would allow this Bill to pass, and also appoint the Committee on Railway Rates. He might say that the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Company had been most anxious to get, direct access into London in the interest of the public during the past few years.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
quite agreed that it was desirable that there should be as much competition as possible between the great Railway Companies. The only thing he was afraid of was that when they got, another great line running to London the public would get no benefit at all. The Companies had a monopoly for which they paid nothing, and some did well and others badly. The proper course to take with regard to them would be to refuse to pass their Bills if they did not act justly towards the people—when there was an authority appointed to fix fair railway rates just as there were authorities to fix fair rents in Ireland and Scotland.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed. [New Title.]