HL Deb 04 August 1840 vol 55 cc1251-3

The Earl of Clarendon moved the second reading of the Railways Bill.

The Marquess of Salisbury

begged to direct the noble Earl's attention to the 16th clause, which gave, in his estimation, too extensive powers to the railway officers over persons charged with obstructing or otherwise interfering with them. These underlings were but too apt at present to exceed the powers with which they were intrusted by the law.

Lord Wharncliffe

thought it advisable, that there should be a board of inspection, but was of opinion that there was an important omission in the 5th clause, by which the board was to be constituted. He thought, that the operation of the clause should be made retrospective, and that persons having held any office of emolument connected with any railway for the space of one year previously should be made ineligible.

The Earl of Clarendon

thought, that it would be better to leave the responsibility in the hands of the Board of Trade.

The Marquess of Salisbury

said, that by the 16th clause it was provided, that if any person was found trespassing upon a railway, or if any person impeded any of the officers, that officer should have the power of taking the person offending into custody and detaining him. That he thought was an extent of power with which these railway officers ought not to be intrusted. He could not think, that it was right to give an unlimited power of detaining offenders.

The Earl of Clarendon

said, the officer must of necessity detain the offender till he could be taken before a magistrate.

The Duke of Wellington

had often turned his attention to this subject, and be was glad that at last something was to be done. He had formerly proposed the insertion of clauses in the different railway bills which had passed the House, placing those undertakings under the control of the Government, but the course which he had proposed had not been adopted, and, in fact, the Government had done nothing in the matter. The consequence had been, that those railway companies had got a monopoly of the whole carriage along the different lines, and he was therefore happy to see, that at last a measure was proposed taking the management of those concerns into the hands of the Government. This measure, however, did not in his opinion go far enough. By the bill the Government would have the power of inspecting the rules and regulations of the different companies, but those rules and regula- tions were not sufficient for the management of those concerns, and there was no power given to make additional rules. There were two railways passed near his house, and he must say, that he derived no advantage from either. In fact, he had been almost obliged to establish a stage coach for his own use. Those railway companies had driven the carriers and stage coaches off the road, and but for the exertions which he and a few other gentlemen had made, the West of England would have been put to the greatest inconvenience. He must say, that the Government ought to look after the rules and regulations of railway companies as respected the carriage department, for by the present bill, as it stood, the Government would have no power to order any new regulations. He was, however, glad, that the powers of the inspectors were to be carried further, and he hoped the measure would be productive of good effect.

The Earl of Clarendon

said, it had been proved before a committee of the House of Commons, that the railway companies had obtained a complete monopoly, and that the interference of Parliament was now absolutely necessary. A compromise however, had been made, and it had been agreed that this bill should be considered only as an experimental measure. There was, however, a clear understanding, that if the powers granted by this bill were found insufficient by the Board of Trade, further powers should at once be asked for.

The Earl of Glengall

said, that nothing could be more scandalous than the system of the railway companies as respected carriage.

Bill read a second time.