HL Deb 04 August 1845 vol 82 cc1350-3
The Earl of Hardwicke

moved the consideration of the Report of the Direct London and Portsmouth Railway Bill.

The Duke of Richmond

proposed that the Bill be recommitted. The Board of Trade had reported in favour of the Guildford Line, and the Committee of their Lordships had decided in favour of the Direct London and Portsmouth line, without hearing the evidence in favour of the Guildford line. Such a course was contrary to the principles of English justice, and would establish a very bad precedent; he should therefore persist in his Motion that the Bill before the House be recommitted.

The Marquess of Northampton,

as a Member of the Select Committee to whom the Bill before their Lordships had been referred, defended the course which the Committee had adopted. The Committee had made a Special Report, in order to enable the House to come to an early decision on the subject. They were anxious to have the directions of the House whether they should hear the evidence in favour of the Guildford line or not. If the noble Duke had consented to have the evidence printed when the matter was brought before their Lordships nine days ago, the House might have come to a determination before this. Their Lordships would not now be justified in taking the decision of the case out of the hands of the five Judges, whom they had selected as disinterested parties, and who had decided that the promoters of the Guildford line had no locus standi. The noble Marquess proceeded to discuss the relative merits of the two lines, and contended that the course which the Committee had adopted was the only one, under the circumstances, which they could pursue. He should oppose the Motion of the noble Lord.

The Earl of Devon

said, the Guildford line was not now directly before the House, but certainly Committees ought to have all parties before them, and to consider all proper information. The Committee in this case thought the conduct of the parties in question precluded them from being heard. There was a great difference between a Committee deciding after hearing all parties, and a Committee coming to a decision after excluding one of the competing plans.

The Earl of Lovelace

trusted their Lordships would not reverse the decision of the Committee. If the noble Duke had moved an instruction to the Committee eight or ten days ago, the matter might have been reconsidered; but at this late period of the Session to recommit the Bill, would be virtually to defeat it altogether.

The Earl of Wicklow

regretted that earlier notice had not been given of this application on the part of the petitioners, and that any delay should have occurred in the printing of the evidence of the competing lines. But was this a fatal error? In his opinion it was. The Committee believed that there was an amalgamation of the parties; but there was no evidence of that fact. He thought there was yet sufficient time to reconsider the subject.

The Earl of Hardwicke

said, the Committee had endeavoured to do their duty in the best way they could. In the case which was brought under their consideration, the question was not as to the necessity of considering any competing lines, but those lines which were brought before them by arrangement. The Bills con- tained clauses drawn in such a way as left no doubt that they were the effect of some arrangement between the parties creating the Bills. The parties who made the complaint had many opportunities of bringing forward their objections before the Committee on those clauses, if they had thought proper to do so. As to the possibility of re-opening the question with a view of settling it this Session, from what he himself saw in the Committee, he was quite sure that the lawyers and those other parties who were interested, would take good care that the Session should close without coming to any final arrangement.

Lord Beaumont

said, the question before their Lordships was simply whether these parties could appear before them in two different characters; for they now took a different position to that which they had occupied on a former occasion. It was now contended that they were entitled to be heard by the Committee, as being the promoters of a competing line; but there was no competing project brought before the Committee. There was no competing project; the petitioners were parties to a distinct Bill, and they had already been heard. If their Lordships acceded to the Amendment, they would be establishing a most ridiculous precedent—that of allowing persons to appear both as parties to the Bill, and as opponents to it.

Lord Redesdale

supported the Amendment.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

was also in favour of the Amendment, but if it should be rejected, he then thought the petition ought to be referred to a Select Committee.

The Earl of Haddington

considered, that everything depended upon the question, whether this was a competing line or not. If the petitioners agreed to take scrip, and so far acquiesced in the Bill, then they could not afterwards be considered as competing parties; but if the House of Commons had taken the three Bills, and had amalgamated them as they thought fit, without the consent of the parties, then he thought it was hard that the parties should be excluded from being heard against the Bill. He should like to hear from some noble Lord who was a Member of the Committee, whether it was the impression of the Committee that there had been any compromise between the parties?

The Duke of Richmond

could undertake to declare, on the part of the South Western Company, that no compromise was ever made by them. The thing had never been even hinted at by any of its opponents. The fact was, the House of Commons took the three Bills, and cut and carved them as they thought proper, and the Guildford line had no power to oppose the insertion of these clauses.

The Duke of Grafton

opposed the Amendment.

After a few words more from the Duke of Richmond,

Their Lordships divided: — Contents 13; Non-contents 11: Majority 2.

Bill re-committed.