HC Deb 03 August 1898 vol 15 cc1175-9

As amended, considered.

* SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

said, there were several Amendments upon this and three other Canal Bills standing in his name upon the Paper. Though they looked formidable and were highly technical, he was glad to say they were not very formidable. A meeting had taken place at the Board of Trade between the promoters, the traders, and the Permanent Secretary, at whose intervention, through the President of the Board of Trade, an arrangement had been arrived at. The Amendments which were now upon the Paper were different to those which appeared upon the last consideration of the Bills, but they represented an agreement that had been arrived at, and which was satisfactory both to the traders and the promoters of the Bills. The general effect of the arrangement was to assimilate the system of carrying timber on canals to that employed on the railways, and especially in the direction of making the tolls chargeable for timber to be determined by measurement and not by machine weight. He might remind the House that when the Railway Rates Bill was under discussion this point was raised, and an alteration was made in the law by which timber was to be carried by actual machine weight. At the same time, a distinction was made between the rate for timber goods carried by measurement and the rate by machine weight, the former being under Class 1, and the latter under Class C. The arrangement now arrived at was in accordance with the practice that had prevailed, notwithstanding the change in the law, and was that the toll should be the same as had taken place in regard to railwaycarried timber—namely, the continuance of the shipping and carriage of timber by computed or measurement weight; that was, ascertaining the weight by the measurement of timber instead of by machine weight. That was satisfactory to the trade, and met generally the views entertained by the traders. The only other material change was that equality was established between the charges made by the companies for carrying timber and the charges for what was known as the bye-trade; that was, through a carrier acting for third parties. The Bill, as he thought, gave an advantage to the companies; but as it was proposed to be altered, it would keep on foot that competition which was essential to proper rates. The other Amendments dealt with the mode of measuring timber for the purpose of ascertaining the weight, but that was so technical that he need not now enter into it. Then concessions had been made on the other side which would prevent, by means of new clauses, those frauds which had been attributed, he believed wrongly, but which had been attributed to the traders, and enabled the Railway Companies to test whether the computed weight had been properly and accurately rendered to the company. Some new concessions had also been made as to tolls except in the case of the Aire and Calder Company. He thought even the Joint Committee—of which the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) was a Member— would not be disinclined to approve an arrangement that was sanctioned all round. When before the Committee, the Committee themselves saw the difficulty of dealing with these technical points, and suggested it might form the subject of an arrangement which, thanks to the good offices of the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella) and his staff, had been arrived at, and the House was now asked to ratify Amendments which expressed the general feeling of the trade. He begged to move the Amendments standing in his name.

Page 7, after Clause 19, insert the following Clause:— (Provisions as to declarations.) The company may demand that any trader or bye-trader shall forward a declaration to the company, setting forth the true dimensions of timber conveyed by or for him and the cubic contents of the same. In the event of doubt as to the correctness of such declaration, the company may insist upon measuring the timber the cost of which measuring and of the necessary unloading and reloading shall be borne by the party in error, or the company may demand either from the consignor or consignee of such timber, or from the bye-trader, a copy of the invoice of the timber, and a statutory declaration of the correctness of the same. Upon failure or refusal, after reasonable notice, to furnish any of the aforesaid documents, the company shall have power to charge either the consignor or consignee, or the bye-trader according to the avoirdupois weight of the timber, to be ascertained in the same manner as the weight of other merchandise. Clause, page 7, line 4, leave out "and timber. Line 5, after "measurement," insert "and except as hereinafter provided as to timber. Line 10, leave out "when timber is charged by measurement weight. Line 17, leave out "elm, birch. Line 18, after "fir," insert "elm, birch, lancewood, and walnut. Line 20, after "boards," leave out "may," and insert "shall. Line 20, after "quantities." leave out "may," and insert "shall. Lines 21 and 22, leave out "consigned by measurement weight," and insert "other than round timber. Line 22, leave out "most accurate. Line 23, after "being," insert "the cubic contents of round timber shall be ascertained by quarter girth, and the divisor of one hundred and forty-four, measurement being taken by tape over bark. Page 10, Table A, part 2, line 33, after "C," insert "(except timber). Between Class C, and Class 1, insert.—

"For Timber 0.85 0.65 0.55 0.35 3 For Timber"

MR. HANBURY (Preston)

said, that as a Member of the Joint Committee, he ought to have noticed that the Amendments were down, but having been away he did not do so. What struck him about the Amendments was that they involved a complete reversal of policy on the part of the Board of Trade. When these came before them in the Joint Committee undoubtedly the Board of Trade inserted in the Schedules exactly the same provisions with regard to canals that they had inserted with regard to railways. What his hon. Friend below the Gangway (Sir A. Rollit) said might be true, that they were only doing for the canals what was the practice on the railways; but they would be in this extraordinary position: that they would have the law regulating the canals in one state and the law regulating the railways in another. Whatever might be the effect on the English railways, his impression was that on the Scotch railways the sys- tem of carrying by weight and by measure would still go on; that timber would not be carried only by measurement, as his hon. Friend said; and if that was the case, they should have the law in the two cases different, which seemed to him an objection. But, after all, they were technical objections; and if the Board of Trade was satisfied and reversed its policy, he did not know that he need, on behalf of the Joint Committee, object to it. But there was this objection to all Amendments of this kind: and it was, that before the Committee they were able to hear evidence on which they could judge whether there was that agreement between the Canal Companies and the traders that his hon. Friend spoke of, and unless they were quite sure of that agreement they ought to hesitate before they accepted the Amendments.


I have the original and minuted agreements.


said, it was all very well to say that, but it was difficult to say who represented the trade. They were constantly having before the Committee merchants who said they represented the trade when they might only represent particular portions of it, and the interests of the different classes were different. Before agreeing to these Amendments — although he could not but recognise the persistent way in which his hon. Friend had carried out his programme in this matter and that of some of his constituents—he thought they ought to have a precise pledge from the Board of Trade that his hon. Friend, when he said he had the agreement of the traders, was really able to speak on behalf of the great bulk of the traders connected with the timber trade. If the Board of Trade supported the hon. Member in that view, there was nothing to be gained by opposing the Amendments. There was this difficulty, however: that there would be a distinction in law; and inasmuch as a good many of the canals were under the control of the Railway Companies, it struck him that was an inconvenient arrangement, but he was perfectly willing to be convinced.


said, there was no doubt this was not merely desired by a few or by those represented by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir A. Rollit), but it was desired by all the timber trade throughout the country. Deputations representing the timber trade, both in the North of England and elsewhere, were in favour of making the law in accordance with the general practice. The traders and the Canal Companies had come to an agreement to support the Amendments and the clause, so that the rates might be put on the same footing and the law brought into harmony with the practice that had prevailed for the last 20 years. There was no doubt that the system of measurement weight was the one most convenient to the traders and the companies, and he thought it was desirable that the Amendments should be adopted.


asked if he was to understand that even on the railways the carriage of timber by measurement was the universal practice?


Yes, and on canals it is the legal practice.

Amendments agreed to.

Bill to be read the third time Tomorrow.

Forward to