HL Deb 16 June 1836 vol 34 cc540-58
The Marquess of Clanricarde

moved that the Birmingham, Bristol, and Thames Junction Railway Bill be read a third time.

The Duke of Wellington

said, he had a clause to propose for the purpose of attaining the object which he had on a former evening explained to their Lordships. He did not understand that there was any objection on the part of their Lordships to some measure of this description being adopted. At the same time he had seen in circulation a paper signed by certain persons interested in railways, in which they set forth their objection to a clause of this nature. He conceived that it was in the power of their Lordships to attach any condition they might think it their duty to impose on any parties who came before them for powers to construct a railway or any other kind of work; and, as railways were in general a novelty in this country, and as they were now carried on to a very great extent, he thought it was expedient that Parliament should have time to consider the subject, in order that they might be able to make such regulations as might he found necessary to render them beneficial to the public, and prevent their becoming monopolies in the hands of particular individuals; for which there would be no remedy whatever except the construction of other railroads, to the great injury of private property, and the comfort and happiness of those living in the line of direction of these works. Under these circumstances, understanding, as he did, that some members of the Government, and gentlemen in the other House of Parliament, had turned their attention to the subject, and intended to bring in a Bill to enable Parliament to regulate these works to a greater extent than it at present had the power to do, he felt it his duty to propose to their Lordships to add a clause to the Bill to the following effect: —Provided always, and be it further enacted, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to the exemption of this or any other railroad from the provisions of any general Act or general Acts for the regulation of railroads, which may be passed with a view to the advantage, protection, and security of the public, before the expiration of one year from the passing of this Act, if Parliament shall be sitting at the expiration of such period of one year, or if Parliament should not be then sitting, before the end of the then next session. The noble Duke concluded by moving that this clause be added to the Bill.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

objected to the clause, not with reference to this particular Bill, but he objected to it because he thought it was inexpedient and unjust for Parliament to introduce such a clause in any of the Railway Bills that were now in progress through Parliament. If it was necessary to adopt any measure whatever for the future regulation of railways, it ought to be made retrospective, and should apply to all Bills that had been passed by Parliament. It was ridiculous to say, that because certain Bills happened to be a few days later than others in their passage through the two Houses, therefore certain restrictive provisions should be applied to them, from which all other Bills were excepted. In point of justice, he contended that the case was as strong in favour of the Bills now pending, as if they had actually passed through Parliament. If their Lordships would turn to the Report of the Select Committee, which sat on the standing orders, with respect to Railway Bills, they would see that the Committee directly stated, that although, on examination of the standing orders, they deeply felt that some change was necessary, yet considering that all the Bills which were then pending had been introduced on the faith of those orders, they thought it advisable to make as little change as possible in any regulations by which those Bills might be affected. Large sums had been subscribed upon the faith of Parliament requiring only their standing orders to be observed, and it would be unjust now to turn round upon the parties and take advantage of the mere circumstance of their Bills not having actually passed into a law. If their Lordships adopted the clause now proposed by the noble Duke, they would hold out to the country the assurance that they were about to pass some new law respecting railroads. Whenever any such measure should be proposed, he should give it full consideration; but he must remark, that no plan had yet been so matured as to be fit to be proposed to Parliament. In the speech of Mr. Morrison, published in the shape of a pamphlet, he found a plan suggested, to which he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had the very greatest objection. He would not, however, discuss that plan at present, but would content himself with saying, that it was most inexpedient to pledge the House to take any future steps on the subject, at a time when they were not able to say in what manner they could do so upon safe grounds. The consequence of so pledging themselves would be the putting a stop to all these undertakings for one or two years. That might be a good, or it might be an evil; but he would contend that it would be of the greatest disservice to the capitalist. There was a great mass of capital in this country that must be employed, and if it had no fair means of being employed here, it would be employed abroad. No doubt some of the speculations that were now on foot had been rashly and foolishly entered into; but all those great and useful works which were undertaken in other countries were undertaken by the Government of the country, and therefore the Government had a right to place what restraints they pleased on the mode of conducting those works; but in this country the case was quite different, joint-stock companies managed all such undertakings, and as a general proposition, those companies might be said to be most useful to the nation. He did not, however, mean to deny that every scheme to which Parliament lent its sanction ought to be well scrutinized; but he would repeat, that it was unjust to those who had embarked in these undertakings, and had entered into large contracts on the faith of Parliament, to subject them to restrictions beyond what the standing orders imposed; while it would be most unwise for Parliament to pledge itself to the adoption of a new course of legislation, without being capable of determining what that course should be.

The Earl of Mansfield

confessed, that the clause of the noble Duke was not, in his opinion, satisfactory. It was not sufficiently definite in its object. Considering the great number of projected railways, and the vast sums of money embarked in them, he thought it very important that his Majesty's Ministers should take the matter into consideration with a view to bringing forward some plan for the regulation of these undertakings; and he hoped, if they were not able to do so this session, that they would be prepared to propose some measure for that purpose early in the next. If, however, any restrictions should be imposed that were too severe, the spirit and enterprise of the public would be checked, and this country, instead of being pre-eminent for the accumulation of capital, and the judicious employment of it, would be deserted by the capitalists, who would resort to other countries where they would be at liberty to embark unfettered in their speculations. But while he deprecated any unnecessary restraint on the one hand, still some regulation was absolutely necessary for the protection of the public on the other; nor could any moderate restrictions be fairly or reasonably opposed by the joint-stock companies themselves. Those persons claimed a monopoly upon grounds that the undertaking would not only be beneficial to themselves, but would be for the interest of the public. If so, then unquestionably the public had a right to have their interests protected, as well as the interests of the companies in these undertakings. He perfectly agreed with the noble Marquess, that the standing orders of the House were alone the guide to parties who brought forward these Bills; but he was also of opinion that those standing orders required to be modified, so that parties might hereafter know what restrictions and conditions would be required of them, and what were the terms upon which they could apply to Parliament with any hope of success. This was the more necessary in consequence of the manner in which Bills were disposed of in Committee. Things might be introduced into private Bills in Committees, which if proposed in the House would not be sanctioned. The noble Duke endeavoured last year to provide for the better attendance in Committees; but his exertions had failed to produce any material improvement; with respect to the present clause, he thought it would be better to wait for the Report of the Select Committee that was now sitting on the subject, before they adopted it. There was one other point to which he wished to advert. Many of these undertakings, no doubt, might be attended with benefit to the public, though of no benefit to the individuals embarking in them. Still when persons had obtained legislative protection for their monopoly, and had made an acquisition of property by it, the public had a right to insist that the communications which were proposed to be made should be effected within a certain period, to be fixed by Parliament. He knew an instance of a Canal Company being formed, and six miles of the canal being cut, when the undertaking was abandoned, so that the six miles of the canal was rendered totally useless, except being converted into a fish-pond. Some security ought, therefore, to be given to the public, that those communications from one part of the country to another, which was the ground of the monopoly asked for, and of the protection given, should be established and maintained, whatever might be the loss to the projectors; and this only could be done by making the subscribers responsible for a sum in addition to the amount of their own shares. He agreed with the noble Marquess, that it was perfectly impossible to apply this clause to Bills that had already been passed. Those companies had obtained a freehold, and their Lordships could not convert that freehold into a leasehold. It was an inconvenience certainly, but it was one to which they must submit. With regard to other Bills which might hereafter be introduced, it was perfectly true that there was a degree of hardship in having additional restrictions imposed on them, but it was, he believed, inevitable. One party might say, "How fortunate it was for us that these matters did not occur to their Lordships before our Bill was passed;" while the other party might exclaim, "How unfortunate it was that their Lordships did not slumber on for a few days more until our Bill had passed." What he would submit to the noble Duke was, that it would be better to postpone this clause, in order that they might apply to these Bills a positive rather than an unsettled and uncertain regulation. By the Bill as it was now framed, it would not apply in positive and express terms any greater obligation than was imposed upon the parties by the standing orders. But they accompanied it with a clause that held forth the threat of some future restrictions. They, in fact, made the measure like a pair of scales. In the one scale all the advantages were given to the projector, which were contemplated as the result of the speculation; while in the other scale they reserved to themselves the right of putting in a great additional weight, such as might counterbalance all those advantages. Because, after reading this clause, it as impossible for any one to say what it was their Lordships might hereafter be disposed to do. This clause would not give to the projectors of these undertakings the opportunity which they now had, under the positive regulations of the standing orders, of with- drawing from the concern altogether, and of weighing in their minds whether it would not be better for them to submit to the expense which they had already incurred, and abandon the undertaking altogether, than go on with it. But by this clause the parties would be variously influenced. Some would be induced to believe, that the further restrictions that would be imposed on them would be so trifling as not to discourage them in prosecuting their work, while others, less sanguine, would apprehend that the restrictions would be so extensive, that they had better abandon the speculation altogether. Upon the whole, therefore, whether their Lordships should think it right at this moment to interfere with these companies, by any positive enactment or not, he thought it would, at all events, be improper to adopt this clause.

Lord Hatherton

said, that even if it were admitted that their Lordships had authority to introduce a clause of this kind into the Bill, still he would submit to the noble Duke, that this was not the proper time for effecting his object. It was clearly desirable that all parties who were now prosecuting Railway Bills through Parliament should have notice that a similar clause would be applied to them. They were arrived, it was true, at a late period of the session, but it was equally certain that the session must last sufficiently long to allow the subscribers to these different projects to hold meetings, in order to consider whether it would be for their interest to accept their Bills on the terms proposed by this clause. To be sure, that proposition was open to one objection—namely, that even if they agreed to accept the Bill with this clause, they would still be kept in a state of uncertainty as to what measure of restriction they would be subjected to. The question then was, whether it was right or fair, at this period, to insert any such clause. He was of opinion that their Lordships could not, with justice, insert a clause of this description. There was no precedent in the case of private Bills, where the House had enforced on the parties any regulation or restriction of which they had not been given full notice in the course of the previous session. It was impossible to entertain this Clause without adverting to the principle of the measure to which the Clause itself had reference. He thought their Lordships would be committing an act of folly to support a Clause of this description, because they would be supporting that which could have no effect. He did not agree with the noble Earl (Mansfield) that Railway Companies were likely to become monopolies. For his own part he saw no difference between a Railway Company and a Canal Company; and he should be glad to know from the noble Duke why he did not propose to apply this principle to canals as well as to railways? It was, no doubt, true that seventy or eighty years ago, when branch canals were beginning to be formed in different parts of the country, persons opposed them as being monopolies. The road trustees and the mortgagees of tolls opposed them with the greatest violence, and denounced them as monopolies. He would take, for instance, the Mersey canal, which ran through a great part of Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and Cheshire. It was stated in another place that a 50l. share in that canal now sold for 600l. No doubt during the war the profits of that canal were very great. But at the conclusion of the war, when the capital of the country was necessarily applied to projects of domestic enterprise, some parties suggested a railroad, for the purpose of competing with that canal. What was the result? The parties opposed it, and then a canal was cut between Liverpool and Manchester. But that was not all. No sooner had a new canal been cut, than a railroad was also formed, and thus three lines of communication were established; and yet this was called a monopoly. By these means the share which during the war had become worth 1,200l., had been actually brought down to 600l. The same result would happen with respect to railroads; when they had been established fifteen or twenty years, they would be subject to a like competition, and would cease, as canals had done, being monopolies. The proposal now made was scarcely a new one. When the Manchester and Liverpool Railway Bill was first introduced, it was rejected, and Mr. Huskisson turned the matter in his mind with a view to conciliate the opposition to it. It was proposed either to limit the time of the Act or the profits of the Company. Mr. Huskisson immediately felt it would be most unjust to check a speculation of this description by endeavouring to limit the time of the Act. It was a perfectly new principle. He therefore proposed to restrict the amount of the dividends, and that the tolls should be reduced when the profits yielded more than 10 per cent. But he (Lord Hatherton) had often heard Mr. Huskisson himself acknowledge that that was a perfectly futile step, and must entirely fail, because there would always be means found for disposing of the profits, without the owners ever dividing more than 10 percent.; so that, in point of fact, all that was gained by the measure was the passing of the Bill without further expense to the parties. It was a proposition for taxing the stock of the railway companies. If they did so capitalists would go to Brussels, and even to Paris, and invest their money where they could do so without having it taxed. He had heard it said, that lighthouses were granted only for a term; but there was no analogy between the case of lighthouses and the case of railroads. It was also said, that the interests in turnpike roads were also limited; but still there was no analogy between turnpike roads and railroads. Turnpike roads were made by gentlemen for the benefit of their own estates, and who did not mind expending 1,000l. or 2,000l, for that purpose. But, unfortunately for the noble Duke, there was a complete analogy in the case of canals and railroads; but it never had been attempted to limit the profits of canals, and therefore they, ought not to do so with respect to railroads. References had also been made to the railways in the United States of North America; but then, again, there was no analogy between the two cases. The railways in America were not of the same description as this country. They were not constructed on the nicest regard to the gradients as they were here, nor were they attended with that enormous expense to obtain levels as in England. They were worked principally by horse power. They could never induce persons in this country to incur expense on these great undertakings, unless they gave them the fullest security for any profit that might result from them. He believed that the right plan for their Lordships to adopt would be, to scrutinise with great care all the projects that came before them, and unceremoniously to reject those which did not promise to confer some subtantial advantage on the public. He thought their Lordships would do only that which was prudent and right, if they rejected at once all projects of this description which were not strongly recommended by convincing evidence of public utility. By adopting this course the public would be fully protected, whilst the parties more immediately engaged in the enterprise would only undergo the inconvenience of a year's delay; it being perfectly competent to them to bring the subject forward again in another session of Parliament. On the other hand, if their Lordships inserted a clause of this description in every Bill that came before them, they would be robbing the public of all that advantage which arose from competition. He, therefore, was disposed to think, that the clause proposed by the noble Duke, having reference to a measure not yet before Parliament, and of the provisions of which it was as yet impossible to form any judgment, was a Clause which could not be supported on the ground either of principle or sound policy.

The Earl of Wicklow, without any knowledge of the different Railway Bills which then lay upon their Lordships' table, thought that the effect of such a clause as that proposed by the noble Duke would be to paralyse the exertions of those who had embarked in those great enterprises from which, under proper regulations, so much national benefit was to be expected. At all events he felt convinced, that this must be the effect of the clause as long as the nature and character of the measure to which it was ultimately to apply, remained unknown. By adopting such a resolution, too, their Lordships must remember that they would be frustrating one of the great objects of their own Standing Orders, of which it was declared, that before any Bill in the nature of a Railway Bill should be allowed to pass through Committee, it should first be clearly ascertained, that there was a sufficient number of bonâ fide subscribers to complete the undertaking. As it was impossible that any one could know the nature of the Bill to which this resolution would hereafter apply, persons, however much they might otherwise be disposed to embark in enterprises of this description, would, whilst the uncertainty remained, be shy of becoming subscribers to any project of the kind. He, besides, conceived that nothing could be more unjust than to attach a condition of this kind to all Bills before the House, unless it were also made to have a retrospective effect, and to apply equally to all Bills which had already passed. The noble Earl (the Earl of Mansfield) who spoke from the table, said, that he thought a Committee of their Lordships ought to be appointed to give a full and fair consideration to the matter. He agreed with the noble Earl in that opinion. He thought that their Lordships should appoint, at a very early period, a Committee for the purpose of considering how, consistently with the well-being of the country, with the maintenance of private property, and the interest of the public, they could so frame and model their Standing Orders as to meet the pressing demands which at present arose out of questions of this description. Unless this were done, he thought their Lordships would incur the blame of throwing great impediments in the way of those useful measures which were now in progress through the country. He was most anxious that that House should not be supposed to throw unnecessary obstacles in the way of such measures.

The Duke of Wellington

was of opinion, that if their Lordships appointed a Committee for the purpose of considering their standing orders, and of applying the result of that consideration to the Railway Bills then before the House, they would be adopting a much harsher measure towards them, than if they acquiesced in the clause which he proposed. The consequence of adopting the mode of proceeding suggested by the noble Earl, would be to stop all the Railroad Bills then before the House, until the result of the Committees' consideration of the standing orders should be made known. That which he proposed to their Lordships was, that they should insert into each of these Bills a clause, which should render the works proposed to be accomplished under them liable to any future general provision which Parliament in its wisdom should think fit to adopt for the regulation of all undertakings of this kind. The noble Lord (Hatherton) who spoke from the opposite side of the House, contemplated the possibility of rejecting these Bills, and of postponing the consideration of them till another session of Parliament, by which time some general provision might be adopted. But he did not desire to reject these Bills. He desired that they should go on; but since they had been before Parliament, it had been the universal opinion that some general provision should be made for their regulation. That had been the expressed opinion of the other House of Parliament, and it appeared from what had been stated by his noble Friend near him, that it was the opinion of their Lordships' House also. He asked their Lordships, then, to adopt this clause, with the view of giving the public the advantage of the future consideration of Parliament, with respect to all those vast undertakings in the shape of railways which were at present advancing. The noble Lord (Hatherton) who spoke just now, said, that there was no chance of these establishments becoming monopolies. But he thought, that the noble Lord, at the very time that he made that assertion, stated enough to show that where successful these establishments were likely to become monopolies, and, moreover, that the remedy for the monopoly would consist of that very thing to which he (the Duke of Wellington)had objected, and expressed his anxiety to avoid, namely, the construction of other roads of the same description in the same parts of the country. This was the very thing which it was one of the chief objects of his clause to prevent. He had no objection whatever to the construction of these works where-ever it could be proved to the satisfaction of both Houses of Parliament that they would be useful; but what he desired was, that they might not have the country cut up in all directions by roads of this description, merely for the purpose of getting rid of monopolies, the establishment of which it should be the care of Parliament to prevent in the first instance. That was all that he wished their Lordships to provide for. He did not ask them to go into a long inquiry, or to frame for themselves regulations which might throw impediments in the way of these works. That which he asked them to do was, to provide the means of applying any regulation which Parliament, after due consideration, might think proper to adopt. Was it not better that they should adopt such a course than follow the suggestion of the noble Lord (Hatherton) opposite, and throw all these Bills over till another session of Parliament. That noble Lord had adverted to the case of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway, in which a limitation of profits was imposed by the Legislature. He (the Duke of Wellington) did not now recommend any such measure to their Lordships. In point of fact, he did not recommend any thing to them. All that he desired was, that Parliament might hereafter have the opportunity of applying to all the Bills now in progress any general regulation which it might think proper to adopt. He said that there was a growing feeling in that House, and in the other House of Parliament, that the Legislature had gone too fast upon this subject, and that the subject did require further and more mature consideration. All that he entreated their Lordships to do was, to enable themselves and the other House of Parliament to consider the subject maturely in the course of this and the next session of Parliament.

Lord Ashburton

thought, although the matter came before them in the shape of a private measure, that a more important subject could not occupy their Lordships' attention. As regarded the question immediately before them, he confessed that after having looked at it with the best attention he could bestow, it did appear to him to be one of very considerable embarrassment, and he certainly could not take the very positive view of it either on one side or the other, that some noble Lords seemed disposed to do. The Bills, of which a number were then on their Lordships' table, had gone through the forms of both Houses, and stood, some of them, for a third reading that night. Of their Lordships' right, even in that last stage, to insert a clause of this description, he had not the smallest doubt. Their Lordships had not only the right, but it was their duty, before these Bills were passed into laws, to adopt any course with respect to them which they thought would be just to the parties, and advantageous to the public. Parties engaged in private Bills could not be considered as having any Parliamentary pledge, or any equitable pledge of any kind whatever, for the success of their undertaking, until those Bills had been read a third time by both Houses of Parliament. It would indeed be a bad precedent for their Lordships to establish, to say that any party should have a right to speculate, or to rely on what the decision of Parliament should be until that decision was finally given. But with regard to the present subject, Parliament stood in this position—that having passed some of these measures, scruples came over the other branch of the Legislature, as to whether the public were sufficiently protected against monopoly, or something else which might operate pre- judicially; and a sort of reliance was thrown upon their Lordships for the adoption of some general provision, by which those anticipated evils might be avoided. He apprehended, therefore, that, if their Lordships read these Bills a third time without coming to some conclusion upon the point, the Commons would think that they had not given to the subject the consideration which its great importance demanded and required. He totally differed from the noble Lord (Hatherton) opposite, when he stated that there was no precedent for the insertion of a restrictive clause in measures of this description. He thought that a precedent was to be found in the very Bill to which the noble Lord had referred—that under which the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was constructed. In that Bill Mr. Huskisson introduced a clause to limit the profits. [Lord Hatherton: With the consent of the Company.] The Company were not brought very voluntarily to give their consent to a restriction of that kind. The Company certainly would not desire a clause of that description; and if they were induced to give their consent to it, he fancied there must have been exercised some strong persuasion, or perhaps even a little gentle enforcement. He thought, therefore, he might take the Manchester and Liverpool Railway as an instance in which a precedent was established for the insertion of a restrictive clause. The question for their Lordships to consider was, whether it were wise and prudent to insert into all Bills a clause of that description. He (Lord Ashburton) had a very strong feeling, not only that it was not the duty of Parliament to check the spirit of adventure in works of this nature, but that it should give every encouragement that a Legislature could give to the enterprise of the country, consistent with a due regard to the security of private property. When he first read the clause proposed by the noble Duke, it appeared to him to be most unobjectionable; but the difficulty attending it was this, that it would create uncertainty and doubt in the minds of those who had embarked in works in which the whole country might now be said to be interested. The clause imposed no specific restriction which the adventurers could know and understand before their works were commenced; but rendered them liable to any restraint which Parliament, in the course of another year, might think fit to impose. This would have the effect of deterring parties from investing their capital in works of this description until the ultimate determination of Parliament were made known. He therefore thought that their Lordships should appoint a Committee to clear the matter up, and to hear the opinions of the parties who had suggested the necessity of this precaution. He thought that a Committee, sitting eight or ten days, would as satisfactorily settle the question as their Lordships could possibly do, by leaving it to be bandied about from this time till the next Session of Parliament. He thought it would be fairer to the parties, and more beneficial to the country, to give eight or ten days to a thorough sifting of the matter, than to leave it in a state of uncertainty for another year. To any limitation of time, he thought there would be many objections, but he saw none of the same reasons for objecting to a limitation of profits. The noble Lord (Hatherton) had stated, that the provision for limiting the profits of the Company in the case of the Liverpool and Manchester railway had been constantly evaded; but that must have been from the awkwardness of the manner in which the clause was framed. Any person of ordinary capacity, he thought, would be able to frame a clause which should be effectual. This, he thought would be a fit matter of consideration before a Committee. Then the noble Duke had stated a difficulty, and a very serious one it was—namely, that of having the country cut up by a variety of railroads running between the same places. This, again, was a fit subject for inquiry and consideration. Under all the circumstances, therefore, he thought it would be their Lordships best course to appoint a Committee, which would not sit more than eight or ten days, for the purpose of determining upon some general regulation which should be applicable to all Bills of this description. By adopting that course their Lordships would remove all the doubt or apprehension which would naturally exist in the minds of the parties engaged in these undertakings as long as they were rendered liable to some ulterior measure, with the provisions of which they were wholly unacquainted.

Lord Kenyon

thought it would be most unjust that their Lordships should apply any restrictive clause to the Bills now in progress which was not made equally applicable to all Bills of the same description which had already passed. He had great doubt as to the good policy of the clause proposed by the noble Duke. The subject was one which undoubtedly ought not to be hastily determined upon, and he therefore trusted that the Government would take it into their serious consideration.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

would endeavour, in as few words as possible, to state the grounds on which he did not feel inclined to oppose the motion of the noble Duke. Although the matter came before them in the shape of a private Bill, he was not surprised, seeing the important view in which it had been taken up by the noble Duke, that it had attracted the general attention of the House, and been considered, as indeed it was, a public question of the first magnitude. He therefore was extremely glad to perceive the general attention which had been paid to it. Although the resolution proposed by the noble Duke contained some few words which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would rather see omitted, yet he must say that, looking at the general terms in which that resolution was framed, he did not perceive a design on the part of the noble Duke (nor did he think that there ought at that moment to be a design entertained by Parliament) to limit the parties engaged in these undertakings, in any one respect, with a view to any future enactment on this subject. He did not understand that the noble Duke wished even to prejudge so much of the question as might apply to the Bills which had not yet passed into a law. If there were any advantage to be gained by undertakings of this kind, which had already been completed, not being subject to any proposed new law which might be enacted upon the subject, he confessed he should not grudge to them any advantages they might gain from the exemption. He regarded these early undertakings as pioneers in the march of improvement, and in the advances of measures of public utility, necessarily encountering risks greater than any that could attach to those which followed after them, and consequently well entitled to any advantage which the comparatively different state of the law at the time they were undertaken might afford them. But when he said, that he did not grudge to those earlier undertakings any advantage they might possess, he did not mean to admit that by any new law that Parliament might adopt, any material disadvantage would be thrown on the undertakings now in progress, or under the considera- tion of the Legislature, or even that they! might not derive a distinct advantage from the new regulations which the Legislature might adopt. It was on that account that he confessed he should rather see some of the words introduced by the noble Duke in his motion omitted, and that the clause should confine itself merely to this—that the parties should continue subject to any general Act or Acts for the regulation of railroads, &c, omitting the words, "with a view to the protection, advantage, and security of the public." It was possible, he thought, that these words might be interpreted out of the House in a way to create alarm in the minds of persons about to embark in such undertakings; and this assertion applied particularly to the word "advantage," because it might be stated that it would be for the advantage of the public that the tolls on railroads should be reduced to a degree which would entirely deprive the proprietors of the fair and just remuneration which they would have a right to expect. But to make all railways subject to any provision or regulation which the interests of the public might demand, and which, in fact, might be taken as including the interests of the Company also, he could not conceive the slightest objection. He was well aware of the immense advantage which the rapid mode of transit presented by railways afforded to commerce and manufactures; and he was sure Parliament would pause before it did anything to deprive the public of the advantage to be gained from such undertakings. He did not see that a railroad could in any way be compared with a turnpike road; they were, in fact, entirely different. The public could enter upon a turnpike road, and take possession of it at once; but how could the public take possession or make use of a railroad? Railroads were also different in their nature from canals; for on the latter the public were their own carriers. Still he thought it desirable that Parliament should take precautions to prevent the locking-up of a railroad, which might happen to be, in the particular district where it was placed, the best possible means of intercourse. He did not mean to discuss the measure, which, it was understood, would be introduced in another place; but he was glad to have the opportunity of stating that, in his opinion, such an enactment should not insist on certain periodical revisions being made. It would be unjust to throw upon the parties engaged in railroad undertakings the burden of getting Acts of such a nature passed into law. The Acts ought to be considered as public instead of private, and there ought to be some competent authority to judge whether within a given time a revision ought to be instituted with reference to the public interest.

Lord Wharncliffe

trusted, that whatever general measure might be passed, it would apply to the railroads which had already been sanctioned by the Legislature, otherwise great injustice would be done to those who had engaged in new under takings.

The Earl of Winchilsea

thought the House ought to feel indebted to the noble Duke for the proposition he had made. The subject was a most important one, for not less than 60,000,000l. was embarked in railroad speculations. He was of opinion that some steps should be taken to protect the interests of those Gentlemen who were obliged to give up their property to enable these railroads to be formed, and who sometimes suffered considerably in consequence of the undertaking not being completed.

The Marquess of Londonderry

thought that railroads forming under Bills which had already passed, ought to be subject to the operation of any general measure which might be introduced. The object of the present Bill was to extend the Birmingham and London Railroad into the heart of the city, and unless the general measure which had been alluded to had a retrospective effect, the consequence would be, that one portion of the railroad would be subject to its operation, while the remainder of the line would be entirely exempt from it.

The Duke of Richmond

took the present opportunity of observing, that one of the great grievances of which the public had a right to complain was the manner in which railroads were first undertaken. The House could not but be aware that the first step taken by the promoters of any railway was to apply to the great landed proprietors, and if they opposed the undertaking, their lands were purchased at more than ten times the value, and they then became supporters of the proposed railroad, while the small occupiers were compelled to take the promoters' price. He thought that some alteration ought to be made in the standing orders, to the effect that, previous to the third reading of such Bills, the promoters ought to state to the House the agreements entered into between them and the land-Owners whose property was affected. If this were done, it would be seen that agreements for purchases had been made by them at sixty and seventy years' purchase. While he did not think it right now to interfere with parties who had expended between 50,000l. and 60,000l. on the faith of the standing orders and practice of Parliament, he should support the proposition of the noble Duke, and he should at the proper time also give his support to the motion of the noble Marquess (Salisbury) for the appointment of a Committee on the subject.

Lord Ellenborough

trusted, that he never should give a vote that was not founded on equity, and he felt satisfied that he was not acting contrary to equity in giving his support to the proposition of the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Wellington). He saw a great distinction between Bills which had passed, and Bills which were to be passed, and he was convinced that it was infinitely better for the country that compensation—monstrous in amount as it might be—should be given, rather than that the faith of Parliament should be compromised. Noble Lords seemed to forget that there were always two parties to measures like the present—the promoters of the work, and the parties whose property was to be affected and injured, and it was for the protection of their interests and those of the public that he (Lord Ellenborough) acquiesced in the proposition of the noble Duke. It was said, that railroads had been most beneficial in manufacturing and commercial districts. He would not attempt to question that assertion, but simply ask what would be their effect in agricultural districts? There they would cut off the present easy means of communication; they would form an impassable torrent, an Alpine mountain of difficulty in that respect, and the parties whose lands were intersected would be compelled to come to Parliament for private Bills to enable them to construct and open new means of communication to the various parts of their lands. The promoters of this Bill received a been by its becoming law, and the clause proposed did nothing more than intimate to them that the been con- ferred was to be accompanied by restrictions.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

said, he would not withdraw his opposition to the clause proposed by the noble Duke. He stood upon the faith of the standing orders, upon which the promoters had relied.

The House divided on the question that "the clause be inserted," when there appeared, Content 33; Not Content 15: Majority 18.

List of the NOT-CONTENTS.
Dukes. Rodney.
Richmond. Scarborough.
Marquesses. Wicklow.
Clanricarde. (Lord Lords.
Somerhill.) Glenelg.
Earls. Hatherton.
Burlington. Kenyon.
Chichester. Teynham.
Dartmouth. Bishop
Mansfield. Exeter.

Clause added, Bill read a third time, and passed.

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