HC Deb 14 April 1904 vol 133 cc271-4

As amended, considered.

MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

said he wished to draw the attention of the House to an attempt on the part of the company to deliberately annex by physical force certain lands near their railway at Holywell Station. The company employed a number of navvies to take and hold possession of the land which they claimed. The title to a portion of that land was the subject of litigation, but another portion without doubt or question belonged to Mr. John Philip Jones of Holywell, the title having been admitted by the railway company. For several months up to June last men were stationed as sentries near the land day and night to watch Mr. Jones; when he appeared a whistle was blown and men, sometimes numbering 100 would muster to occupy the land and prevent Mr. Jones from committing any act of ownership on it. On 13th June, 1903, Mr. Jones removed a fence erected by the company and instructed two workmen to level the ground. Later in the day, having received a message, he returned with ten men. He found about eighty navvies who, acting on instructions, had forcibly prevented his men from doing their work. The navvies, all strangers to the locality, were in charge of a railway inspector, who, in turn, acted under telegraphic instructions from headquarters. Mr. Jones warned the men they were trespassers, told them what he was going to do, and tried to make a gap in the fence. It had since been found, and the company had admitted' that he had a right to do this and that the company had no right to obstruct him. He was violently assaulted; the men whom he had taken with him were similarly treated. The company called this a technical assault. Unfortunately Mr. Jones and some of those with him bore the marks of this technical assault to this day. The wrongfulness of this action had been admitted in the most practical manner by the company, who had agreed to pay substantial damages for the assault. There was no question as to their having been entirely in the wrong. The blame did not rest with the navvies who only acted under orders. When they were appealed to some of them said, "We are paid for doing this, we would not do it of our own accord." He was sure they would not, because so far as his own experience had gone the employees of the company with whom the public came in contact in stations and on the railway treated the public with the greatest courtesy. The real responsibility rested with the people in high places who gave the instructions and who ought to have known better. Apart from the illegality of it, this was, to say the very least, a most undignified proceeding on the part of a powerful and wealthy corporation. Let the House just think of the procedure adopted-posting sentries to give warning of Mr. Jones's approach, manoeuvring a hundred navvies to prevent him from having access to what had been admitted to be his own property, culminating in a physical contest lasting several hours in which Mr. Jones and several men with him were severely injured. He was afraid that in matters of this kind it was the deliberate policy of the company to crush small people who stood in their way. In this particular instance they had come across a man who refused to be trampled on, and if anything of the kind was attempted again, he hoped that Parliament would take drastic action to prevent its recurrence. There were other questions under the Bill which were the subject of litigation, and upon them he made no comment. But be feared that the acquisition of some of the land in- cluded in the Bill boded no good to the port of Greenfield. It had been the settled policy of the company to do all they could to block up the small ports on the Dee. From their own business standpoint it might be to the advantage of the company to abolish competition by water, but the public had a right to protest against it. He did not propose to divide the House against the Bill which contained some useful and necessary powers in regard to the company's undertakings in various parts of the county, but he thought that Parliament which had granted a valuable monopoly to the company should be made cognisant of proceedings of the kind which he had described.

Bill to be read the third time.