The Earl of Dalhousie
having laid on the Table Returns as to the lines determined on by the Railway Department of the Board of Trade,
§ Lord Beaumont
asked whether these were Reports as to the whole of the railways submitted to the adjudication of the Board.
§ Lord Monteagle
should like to know whether these Returns specified the time occupied in disposing of the cases before the Board; for, if the account that appeared in the public prints was true, it was Utterly impossible (without attributing the slightest want of attention to the Board) that the merits of each case should have been duly considered. It must be obvious to any one who ever served on a Committee, that such a quantity of business could not be disposed of, even with the assistance of counsel.
The Earl of Dalhousie
said, it would be impossible to construct a Return, showing the time employed by the Railway Board in the consideration of every scheme; and with regard to the aggregate time, it was quite unnecessary that such a Return should be made, as the matter was sufficiently notorious. It was proposed that 240 Bills should be brought before Parliament; and on those Bills he knew to his cost the Railway Department had been constantly engaged from the last day their Lordships met in that House for the Parliamentary business of the Session. Previously to the 13th of December they could not form any decision, because they found that the schemes multiplied by threes and fours; and as fast as they considered one scheme, two or three competing schemes were sent for their consideration. Whether it was obvious to that House or to the public that it was impossible the Railway Department could have given sufficient attention to the different schemes, it would not be becoming in him to say; but perhaps the House would allow him to suggest that the most reasonable course to be pursued was, for their Lordships to abstain from giving 826 an opinion until they saw the labours of that Department and their Reports. If they should turn out to be worthless, the exertions of the Board would have been futile; but if, on the contrary, the Reports should appear correct on the face of them, and, being subjected to the test and scrutiny of the Committee, should stand the test, then he thought the Board would not have rendered themselves liable to the imputation which the noble Lord had thrown out. Their Lordships would not proceed on any plausible ground suggested on that night, but wait until the labours of the Railway Board were before the House, and had been fairly considered.
§ House adjourned.