HC Deb 09 March 1897 vol 47 cc271-6

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)

proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months." He said that he had occasion to bring this matter before the House a few days ago on a question of noncompliance with the Standing Orders; but, by the advice of the Chairman of Committees, he withdrew his Motion, because he was then precluded from discussing, and indeed did not intend to discuss, the merits of the Bill. The point he brought before the House was, that the main feature of the Bill was the construction of a line from Great Yarmouth to Lowestoft, and that a large part of the line—two miles—traversed what were known as the Gunton and Lowestoft Denes to the north of Lowestoft, which were a public recreation ground, on which were rights of common and other rights which had been enjoyed from time immemorial. The point he raised the other day was, that where common lands were to be taken for public work, the Standing Orders required that certain notices should be given by advertisements, the depositing of plans, and otherwise so that the public, and all persons whose rights were interfered with, should have ample notice of the intention. The Chairman of Committees on that occasion stated that the promoters denied that these were common lands. He did not propose to go into that question to-day. He would only say that he thought that if the Chairman of Committees had had in his possession the evidence which he (Mr. Foster) possessed he would not have ventured to make such a statement. ["Hear, hear!"] It was, of course, merely the statement of the promoters. The Bill had been described by the Chairman of Committees as an Omnibus Bill, and if it were an Omnibus Bill in the ordinary sense it would manifestly be unfair to reject the whole Bill because some part, of it was unsatisfactory; the more proper course would be to allow it to be dealt with and amended, if necessary, by the Committee upstairs. The Bill, without doubt, did authorise other work at King's Lynn and at Yarmouth, but the main feature was the construction of the line from Great Yarmouth to Lowestoft. Apart from the question of the interference with common lands, he had to object that this was a proposal for the construction of a single line of railway only. Down in the Eastern Counties they had had sad experience of the extreme danger of such lines, whatever precautions might be taken. They had had two or three very terrible accidents—one of them in his own constituency on a Christmas Eve, some three years ago, where, notwithstanding the precautions of the staff system, one of the trains went, in a fog, past a double siding and came into collision with a train coining in the opposite direction, with loss of life and serious injury to survivors. On public grounds, and apart from any local interest, these single line railways were objectionable, and it was clear that. Parliament should not sanction the making of a single line where a double line was practicable. He might say that the majority of the inhabitants of Lowestoft were not opposed to the making of a new line in itself. Provided the conditions were satisfactory, they were not opposed to the advent of any number of competing lines to Lowestoft. They would welcome the Midland, the Great Northern, or any other system. But they did object to certain of the conditions in this case. With regard to the fact that this was to be a single line, he might point out that there was a Bill before the House, which had passed its Second Reading, promoted by the Great Eastern Railway Company, which would give Lowestoft better facilities and more direct communication with Great Yarmouth by a double, not a single, line, and which would not interfere with the Denes or any public right thereon. This proposed line would pass for a distance of something like two miles over the Denes, which were not only a healthy recreation ground, but a very beautiful piece of landscape highly prized by the inhabitants and by visitors. They also furnished the only available ground at Lowestoft for the fishermen to dry their nets, and for this purpose they had been used from time immemorial. The more important to remember for Lowestoft in respect to the magnitude of its fishing industry, was second only to Great Grimsby, and in respect to the value of the fish brought in was second only to London. ["Hear, hear!"] In addition to the public advantages of the Denes which he had enumerated, they were a useful and attractive camping ground for the Volunteers, of whom 7,000 were welcomed by the people of Lowestoft last year alone during their summer outing. A large part of the Denes were required by the Corporation for the benefit of the public. Mr. Colman, who resided in the neighbourhood, subscribed £750 towards the purchase money on the understanding that these Denes should be reserved to the use of the public for ever. The Local Government Board, after an inquiry, sanctioned a loan to enable the purchase to be completed, and one of the grounds on which that loan Was sanctioned were that the Denes should be purchased for the use of the public for ever. ["Hear, hear!"] A public fleeting at Lowestoft, attended by some 600 people, had, on the 12th February, with only six dissentients, condemned this Bill, and requested the Corporation to petition for its rejection. Under all circumstances, he hoped that Parliament would reject the Bill at this stage, and that the people of Lowestoft would not be put to the expense of opposing the Bill in Committee. In view of the fact that the double line of the Great Eastern was almost sure to be sanctioned, he thought it possible that even if the Bill now under discussion were passed, the line it was to authorise would not be made, for how could a single line compete against a double line? ["Hear, hear!"] There were other portions of the Bill, with which he had no concern, and which certainly he did not desire to oppose but they were but a small part of the Bill. If the promoters would intimate that they did not intend to proceed with the objectionable part of the Bill he should withdraw any opposition to it and allow it to go to the Committee upstairs. He begged to move the rejection of the Bill.


seconded the Amendment.

THE CHAIRMAN or WAYS AND MEANS (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER,) Cumberland, Penrith

observed that he did not on the former occasion, neither did he now, speak on behalf of the promoters of the Bill. He had no authority to do so and was not in the least concerned whether the Bill went through or not, except so far as he was responsible for the good conduct of the private Bills that came before that House. The hon. Member for Lowestoft had stated that his constituents took an objection to a certain portion of the Bill. He thought it only fair to remind the House that this was an Omnibus Bill. He was perfectly prepared to admit that the chief point of the Bill related to the construction of a railway, but there were other parts which were important, such as the construction of a dock at Gorleston, the widening of the line at King's Lynn, and other works. All these were works which the hon. Member said were unobjectionable, but all these would be destroyed if the hon. Gentleman were successful in throwing out the Bill on the Second Reading. He submitted that the hon. Member had shown no good reason why the Bill should not go in the ordinary course to a, Committee upstairs, so that its merits might be inquired into. The hon. Member's constituents had presented a petition against the Bill, and so had the Corporation of Lowestoft, and all concerned would be entitled to be heard before the Committee. If the grounds upon which the hon. Member raised his objections, when the evidence was examined before the Committee, turned out to be good grounds, he had very little doubt the Committee would reject the Bill. On the other hand, if it appeared that the general benefit which would be derived by Lowestoft from this fresh railway communication outweighed any injury which might be inflicted by the bi-section of this portion of the Denes, then he thought the Committee would probably pass the preamble of the Bill. It might perhaps modify the action of the hon. Member if he stated that if the Bill were read a Second time he would be prepared to support an Instruction which stood in the name of the Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Price) to the following effect:— That it be an instruction to the Committee that they have power to inquire and report whether any commons or common lands are proposed to be taken under the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]

SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

as representing a constituency with which the Bill dealt, hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw his opposition. It was proposed by the Bill that docks should be constructed at Yarmouth, which were greatly needed at that port, and were very desirable in its interest. He hoped, therefore, the hon. Member would allow the Bill to be Read a Second time, so that it might be sent to a Committee upstairs.


also appealed to the hon. Member to withdraw his opposition. He was surprised to see the hon. Member set himself against the increase of railway facilities in that part of the country. The hon. Gentleman did not ask that the petition should be looked into, and the good parts of the Bill left whilst the bad parts were taken away, but the present Motion was that the whole Bill should be rejected. He could not help remarking that the Bill proposed the construction of a dock at Yarmouth, and that dock might possibly compete with Lowestoft. He did not know whether that was the reason for the hon. Member's action.


No; it is not.


would assume it was not, and confidently expected that the hon. Member would give way to the appeal which had been made to him. This was eminently a case for consideration by a Committee upstairs. It was quite different from the Bill of the London County Council. It was a case in, which the railways would spend their own money, take their own responsibility, and if there was injustice, to be done the Committee upstairs, which acted in a judicial way, would undoubtedly see that right was done.


remarked that after the statement of the Chairman of Committees, that he would support the Instruction standing in the name of Mr. Price, he would ask leave to withdraw his own Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill read a Second time.