§ Bill, as amended, further considered.
MR. ERNEST SPENCER
, resuming, said, that it was with consternation and dismay that the traders saw that the Joint Committee had not only accepted the recommendation of the Board of Trade, but had accepted Amendments which went largely and materially beyond it. The Board of Trade being of opinion that, to a certain extent, an injustice was being done to the Canal Company by its having to carry small loads for short distances by mileage and tonnage rates, had proposed that a minimum should be fixed of 1s. and 3s. when a boat proceeded through a lock. The Joint Committee, however, in addition to this, accepted Amendments by which boats which proceeded to or from a railway basin or railway wharf without passing through a lock should pay a charge of 3s., and by which boats which pass through one or more locks to a rail- 1370 way basin or railway wharf should pay a charge of 5s. It was felt that these additions to the Board of Trade proposals—themselves being a large increase against traders and in favour of the Canal Company—ought to be strenuously opposed, because, in the first place, they established a preferential charge in favour of railway basins, and, in the second place, because they imposed burdens which could not be borne by the traders of South Staffordshire. He, as a consequence, arranged for the Board of Trade to receive a deputation, which he had the honour of introducing. It was a largely representative gathering. He was supported by hon. Members representing Handsworth, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Oldbury, and Walsall. So strong a case was shown that, by the kindness of the Board of Trade, a conference was arranged between the traders and others interested, and an agreement was entered into by means of which the preferential charge to which they objected was withdrawn, and an all-round minimum established — namely, 1s. 6d. per boat, and 3s. when it passed through a lock, this minimum to be universal in character and apply to all cases. He thought that this was a satisfactory conclusion to what would have been a very awkward question. He might say that the traders were grateful for the kindness shown to them in this matter by the officials of the Board of Trade, especially by Sir Courtenay Boyle and Mr. Pelham. It was largely owing to these gentlemen that a matter was settled which, if continued in the condition it left the Joint Committee, would have been fraught with serious if not disastrous consequences to the trade and industries of South Staffordshire, a district already heavily, and in some cases unfairly, handicapped as compared with its more favourably placed rivals, and incapable of bearing fresh burdens, especially at a time of such universal depression that its very existence as a great iron centre was more or less imperilled. He begged to move the Amendment.
§ SIR A. HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
seconded the Amendment. He said that the conference, which was arranged at the instance of the President of the Board of Trade, represented very fairly the traders of the district, and the 1371 arrangement come to was a beneficial one.
Amendment proposed, in Clause 15, page 6, line 7, to leave out
Or where merchandise is conveyed in a boat which does not pass through a lock on the canal to or from a railway basin or railway wharf the Company may charge a minimum toll of three shillings."—(Mr. Ernest Spencer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
MR. LLOYD WILSON (Wednesbury)
remarked that, unfortunately, as the Bill had not yet been printed, it was impossible to examine it. He thought that there should be a few days' delay so that they could get the Bill before them and consider carefully the effect of the alterations which the Committee had made. The Bill might, of course, be perfectly in Order. They had the assurance of the Member for Wolverhampton that it was in Order, but still it was reasonable that before going further they should have the print of the Bill. If they had the print of the Bill they could confer with the traders and discuss the alterations with them. A few days' delay would not in any way imperil the Bill. It was his view and the view of the traders of South Staffordshire that no increase ought to be allowed in the rates of the canal. He trusted that no increase had been attempted, for the state of trade in South Staffordshire was such that it would not bear any increase. They all knew that the relative cost of carriage was enormously increased as compared with what it was years ago. This had come about in this way: that whilst articles such as iron or tubes were now selling at only half what they were 20 years ago, the canal charges which existed 20 years ago were not reduced. It followed that they were in effect double when set against the prices which were obtained to-day. From this point of view it was highly important that no increase of tolls should be granted. That was one of the reasons why he desired that there should be a careful investigation of this Bill before they proceeded to pass it. He moved that the matter be deferred for a week.
§ [There was no response.]
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
said, that he was glad to say that the compromise which had been arrived at in this matter had been effected after every interest concerned had been heard. He thought that the hon. Member (Mr. Lloyd Wilson) would not think that there had been any undue haste in the matter, for certainly the understanding on the part of those who had met at the Board of Trade was that every interest was represented. Every effort had been made to ensure that the matter had been considered from the point of view of every interest, and in this respect he was grateful for the assistance which had been given by the hon. Member for West Bromwich. Under the circumstances, the House might be satisfied that substantial justice had been done.
§ Question put, and negatived.
On Motion of Mr. ERNEST SPENCER the following Amendments were agreed to:—
Clause 15, page 6, line 12, leave out "or where merchandise is conveyed in a boat which passes through one or more locks on the canal to or from a railway basin or railway wharf the Company may charge a minimum toll of five shillings.
Clause 15, page 6, line 6, after "shilling," insert "and sixpence.
Clause 15, page 6, line, 15, after "one shilling," insert "and sixpence.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
said, he did not propose to move the Amendment standing in his name. He understood that various parties interested in the matter had agreed among themselves that it was a proper Amendment to be made, and an endeavour would be made in another place to secure its insertion. Probably, 1373 however, an arrangement would be arrived at by that time.
§ Bill to be read the third time To-morrow.