HC Deb 28 March 1899 vol 69 cc654-5
* MR. PURVIS (Peterborough)

I am very unwilling to occupy the attention of the House at this moment upon the question of automatic couplings to railway wagons, and I hope I shall stand excused in presuming to bring it forward. The owners, as we all know, desire that the question of automatic couplings should be left to a Royal Commission, and I thought yesterday, perhaps the wish was father to the thought, that the President of the Board of Trade was inclined to accede to their request, and yesterday that idea was confirmed, when the right honourable Gentleman said he did not intend to proceed further with this Bill during the present Session and that he intended to have an enquiry into the whole subject, and consequently rising hopes of thousands of railway men have suddenly been dashed to pieces like a pitcher dropped upon the ground. Of course, if compulsory automatic couplings are unnecessary it would be an intolerable hardship upon the railway Companies to have to adopt them, but where we are puzzled is that we think the right honourable Gentleman ought to have ascertained the facts before bringing in his Bill. The Government makes enquiries, and upon the result of those enquiries they bring in a Bill; then having brought it in the right honourable Gentleman is approached by the owners, and he comes here stating that he is not going to proceed further with the Bill and asks us to enter into or consent to an enquiry into the whole matter. I am lost in amazement at the way in which the right honourable Gentleman's native hue of resolution has thus been "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," and I think we have a ground for complaint of his treatment of us and the action he has taken. He says he has tried to please all concerned, but I may tell him that the man who undertakes to please everybody ends by pleasing nobody. In order to make a long story short I feel that the duty is cast upon me to express the deep regret and indignation of at least 3,000 railway men that this present railway Bill has come to so lame and impotent a conclusion; though I am convinced that their disappointment is only temporary.