HL Deb 17 March 1837 vol 37 cc617-9
Lord Wharncliffe

wished to take that opportunity to put a question to the noble Duke on the cross-bench, relative to a point connected with the Highway Bill. Previous to the new statute, every parish had been obliged to supply a certain portion of statute labour; but, by the new law, statute-labour had been done away with, and the conse- quence was, that much evil had resulted to the turnpike-roads, as the provision extended to them. In many parts of the country, the tolls being insufficient for the maintenance of the roads, the only resource the trustees had was to apply to the common law, and to indict the parishes. He wished to know whether any step would be taken to remedy the evil?

The Duke of Richmond

said, that when the Highway Bill came up from the Commons, it was referred to a Committee of their Lordships' House. That Committee discovered, what had been overlooked in the other House—namely, that by destroying statute-labour entirely, that provision would be extended to turnpike-roads; and the chairman of the Committee was directed to state the existence of that clause. In order to avoid the difficulty, he proposed, as they never in that House altered a money clause, that the Bill should not come into operation until March, 1836, and the statute labour could have been collected before that time. Last Session he had stated the same thing to the first Commissioner of Woods and Forests, as he stated now—namely, that if the Government of the country did not interfere on the subject, many turnpike trusts would be plunged in the greatest distress, and those who had lent their money on such security would be defrauded of it. Statute labour appeared to him to be, of all inventions, the very worst for repairing the roads. In his opinion, there was a great deal more mischief than good done to the roads by that species of labour. He was perfectly aware of the abuse that existed in the management of the turnpike roads. He had repeatedly directed the attention of their Lordships to that subject. He knew, that in many instances the trustees were expending more money than they received, that in some cases they were actually borrowing money to pay the interest—and that they were, in fact, nearly in a state of bankruptcy. His recommendation always had been, that a Bill should be brought in to amend the turnpike laws, and he believed if the measure which had been proposed last Session, which had received a first, if not a second reading, had been carried, the trustees of the roads would not have required any additional tax. That Bill had received considerable opposition in the other House of Parliament. The clerks of the trustees of the roads came up to London, and abused every person who was supposed to be favourable to the measure. The reason of that was, because the operation of the Bill would have reduced the number of clerks from 1,000 to 500. In answer to the question of the noble Lord, he would only say that he did not feel himself in a condition to propose to the House any measure on the subject.

The Marquess of Salisbury

thought it would be a little too hard to inflict on the parishes an expense merely for the purpose of encouraging a system of profligate expenditure. He trusted the Government would take the matter into their early consideration.

The conversation terminated.

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