HC Deb 20 May 1895 vol 33 cc1570-2

On the Order for the adjourned Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill,


raised the question how far the rights of the public would be affected by the Bill. It was, he said, well known there had been for some time very great dissatisfaction at the treatment by the South Eastern Company of its clients, and he wished to get an expression of opinion and promise from the promoters that no opportunity would he taken advantage of to place the travelling public in a worse position. Of course, the Company might say that they only took the opportunities afforded them by existing general statutes, but they had just ascertained that the Company, in connection with another Company, had altered their tariff so far——

SIR GEORGE RUSSELL (Berks, Wokingham),

rising to Order, submitted that the hon. Gentleman was travelling into matters outside the scope of the Bill.


said, that the hon. Member was entitled to raise the question of rates in so far as it related to the undertaking which the Company by the Bill proposed to take over.


said, the hon. Member was under a complete misapprehension, as under the Bill the Company could charge no other rates than those they were now empowered to charge.


said, that if anything improper was alleged against the Company, the other side would get more advantage by exercising their right of reply than by trying to close his mouth. He had no other interest than to endeavour to safeguard the rights of the public, and everyone was aware—he was bound to use some illustration—that the public Press sometime ago teemed with letters in regard to the treatment by this particular Company and another Company of their third-class passengers. He asked for an assurance from the promoters of this Bill that they would not exact their entire "pound of flesh" from the travelling public. He would refrain from blocking the progress of the Bill on the understanding that an assurance of that kind were given.


feared that he should not be in order were he to digress as the hon. Member had done.


denied that he had digressed.


said, that the Bill could have no effect upon the question of fares. The fares which could be charged were statutory fares, and nothing would be altered by the proposed transference to the South Eastern Company. The sole and exclusive object of the Company was to save the unnecessary expense of a separate Board of Management. The President of the Board of Trade was the guardian angel of the interests of the public in railway matters, and he could be trusted to take care that those interests were not prejudiced by a Bill of this kind. Nothing that this Bill proposed to do would affect or could affect the question to which the hon. Member had drawn attention. He trusted therefore that the Second Reading of the Bill would not be opposed further.

*MR. CYRIL DODD (Essex, Maldon),

hoped that in matters of this kind the President of the Board of Trade would act as the guardian angel, not only of the Railway Companies but also of the public. The representatives of the public in that House desired that the President of the Board of Trade and the officials of his Department should consider Bills of this kind, so as to be in a position to direct the attention of the Committee upstairs to any unfair provisions which they might contain. It was the more necessary that the Board of Trade should discharge that duty, as it was very difficult to discuss adequately Bills of this kind in that House.


said, that it was correct to say that this Bill would not affect the legal aspect of the question of fares on the line which was to be transferred to the South Eastern Company. But what the hon. Member for Finsbury desired was an understanding that the South Eastern Company would not raise the actual fares now charged on the line to be transferred, and he thought the hon. Member was entitled to an assurance that the South Eastern Company would not make use of this Bill to charge maximum fares. If that undertaking were given his hon. Friend would probably be satisfied.


declared that the Company had not the slightest intention or desire to raise the fares, nor did this Bill afford them means of doing so. The sole object of the Company was to secure economy by getting rid of a useless second Board of Management.

MR. ALPHEUS C. MORTON (Peterborough)

observed that the South Eastern Railway wanted looking after more than any other railway in the Kingdom. It was not enough to say that everything was to be as it had been, for there was a good deal that ought to be altered in connection with the South Eastern. He trusted the Committee upstairs, before returning the Bill to the House, would take care that everything that ought to be done in the interests of the public was done. Concessions ought not to be granted to Railway Companies for the benefit of directors and shareholders. They ought only to be granted for the benefit of the public and the country. He hoped that everything that was necessary would be done by the Board of Trade to protect the interests of passengers and others on the lines to which this Bill applied.

Bill read 2°.