§ SECOND READING.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
moved, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He said, he hoped that some information would be given to the House by the replies of the Board of Trade with regard to the measure, and particularly whether it authorised the charging of the prohibitive rates on this railway which were charged on other railways. The Bill appeared to be a very innocent one in the guise in which it was presented to the House. Of course, if it were only a Bill affecting the Easingwold Railway, he did not suppose that he would have found occasion for interference, but as a matter of fact he found that the words "et cetera" indicated that the Bill applied to quite a number of railways in England, and Scotland, and Ireland. The House would remember that the Railway Rates and Charges Bill came into operation in 1893. Some of the charges were opposed by various Members of the House in 1892; but Parliament voted the revised rates in ignorance of what their effect would be, and there was a general increase of rates all through the country, to the very serious damage of the traders and agriculturists. Ever since that time efforts had been made with the intention of reducing the rates, and at length a Bill had been introduced into Parliament as the result of very much agitation which would prevent the continuance of such charges by railway monopolies as were 1258 injurious to trade. That Bill was now before the House. It proposed to do something for the relief of the classes to which he had referred. He did not know whether it would come to anything, or if it would he useful in any case. However, the Bill was intended to do good to the traders and agriculturists, and he must say that he was very much astonished that, at the moment it was before the House, the Board of Trade permitted another Bill to be brought forward which would confer upon half a dozen Railway Companies the very powers of making maximum charges to which so much objection was taken. He knew they would be told by the Board of Trade that the Companies had power to make these charges under the Act of 1891–92, but it appeared to him that in common decency they ought to ask that the particular Companies affected by this Bill should at least wait until they saw what was likely to become of the Public Bill promoted in that House. Surely no serious difficulty could arise from a delay of that kind. He was not going to labour this question. Probably the majority of hon. Members of that House had been asked by their constituents to do something with regard to this matter; and promises having been made that the traders and the agriculturalists should be relieved, he contended that the Government ought not to grant the Railway Companies any powers in excess of those which they possessed at present. They had a right to protest against the action of these monopolist railways; and in the interests of the public, and especially having regard to the fact that the Bill dealing with the public interests in the matter was to be brought before the House, he hoped that the House would reject the Motion.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. A. C. Morton?)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BURT, Morpeth)
said, that notices had been issued to the traders affected inquiring whether they had any objections to this Bill, and no such objec- 1259 tions had been received. He appreciated the efforts of his hon. Friend (Mr. Morton) in the protection of the interests of the traders and of the community at large, but he would point out to him, and assure him of the fact, that this Bill would reduce and not increase the powers of the Railway Companies in respect of their charges. He had no doubt that the opposition of his hon. Friend to the Bill would win the gratitude of the Railway Companies.
§ DR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
said, the railways affected by this Bill were very small ones, and it would be extremely inconvenient and objectionable if these lines, which formed part of the large systems, were treated differently to the general system of railways. The reason why no traders had objected to this Bill was that the measure was one that was advantageous to them.
§ * SIR J. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said, the Easingwold Railway was owned and kept up by the landlords and agriculturists of the district, and the North Eastern Company afforded them every facility, but the tolls and charges were in the hands of the proprietors of the district. The railway was a very useful one that ought to be encouraged in every possible manner.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 147; Noes 12.—(Division List, No. 57.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.