§ SIR A. ROLLIT
Will the President of the Board of Trade state what action the Board of Trade took in the Committee proceedings on this Bill?
§ MR. BRYCE
I will state now what I had intended to state in the House if this matter had been raised, as I expected it would be, on the consideration of the Bill last Tuesday. I may say that I was present at the time of Private Business then for that purpose, but understood from the proceedings then, and from the absence of any notice in the Paper, that nothing further was to be said on the subject. I was, in fact, yesterday within the precincts of the House presiding over a Royal Commission. The action of the Board of Trade was impeded by the fact that all Petitions against the Bill, so far as rates are concerned, were withdrawn, and consequently the Board of Trade had, strictly speaking, no ground for making any representation to the Committee. By the courtesy of the Committee, however, the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade was called before them and made a statement with regard to the question of rates. It appears that considerable concessions had been made by the Companies, not only as regards through but as regards local rates, and although it is possible that some of these concessions do not fully satisfy every one of the traders interested, the withdrawal of all Petitions against the Bill left the Board of Trade no power to press their views more strongly on the attention of the Committee. The persons who will be most 481 affected by the fact that higher maxima obtain on the Severn and Wye Railway than on the Midland Railway will be principally consignors of coal for shipment, and I did not understand that it was on their behalf that the lion. Member for Islington addressed the House; but as I have stated, it was only by the courtesy of the Committee that the Board of Trade, in the absence of any Petition against the Bill, was able to take the action which they did.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
Assuming that the Standing Orders with regard to Private Bills do not permit the Board of Trade to be represented before Committees in support of its own Reports, will the right lion. Gentleman consider the advisability of so altering the Standing Orders as to enable this to be done?
§ MR. BRYCE
That is a very difficult question, and I can only say at present that it is receiving careful consideration. I think there would be no objection on the part of the Board of Trade to place its views before a Committee on Private Bills, but I do not think the Board should appear in conflict with either the opponents or supporters of a Bill. I should very much deprecate that, and indeed I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman intends that. Subject to that, I think it is desirable that the Board of Trade should have every opportunity of being represented.
§ * MR. TOMLINSON
asked if it was not the duty of the Board of Trade to lay before the Committee instances in which the rates and charges proposed to be allowed in a Bill under their consideration deviated from the limits of the Provisional Order Acts previously sanctioned?
§ MR. BRYCE
That is exactly what was done in this case. The Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade called attention to the fact that the maximum rates charged in the Bill were higher than the general maxima.