HL Deb 04 July 1845 vol 82 cc9-11
Lord Brougham

presented a petition from various parties praying to be heard by counsel against the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway.

Lord Redesdale

said, he would take this opportunity of stating that a gross fraud had been practised upon the public by the Oxford and Worcester Company, which had adopted the broad gauge. When canvassing the public, they offered to carry iron ore at a penny per mile; but when they drove the rival line out of the field, they raised the charge to three-halfpence per mile.

Lord Hatherton

did not think it likely that the Committee of the House of Commons could have been duped in the manner the noble Lord seemed to suppose; and he believed that the ironmasters of Staffordshire were much too sharp in looking after their own interests to allow any measure to be carried which might be prejudicial to those interests. It was required that a maximum toll clause should be inserted in all Railway Bills; but he believed nine-tenths of the manufacturers were very well satisfied with the low rate of charges which had hitherto been levied upon coal and iron. He believed that the rejection by the other House of Parliament of a line of railway projected by the London and Birmingham Company had had the good effect of preventing that company from possessing the monopoly they would otherwise have enjoyed in the iron districts.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

said, it was worth while, as a matter of curiosity, to refer to the prospectus originally issued by the London and Birmingham Company, and the promises they then made, and to compare them with the prices charged by that company during part of the last and the preceding year. It would then be evident that no company had ever made such an attempt to deal unfairly by the public; for at the very time they raised their charges to a most unjustifiable height, their dividends were very great, and the price of the stock was immensely high. It was only because the attention of the country was called to the subject, and because threats were held out that means would be taken to compel them to lower their charges, that those charges were reduced.

Lord Brougham

did not think it had been shown that the Committee of the House of Commons had not been duped. He knew that two instances had lately occurred in which the grossest frauds had been practised on Committees of the House of Commons. In one case, a gentleman named Whateley, a barrister, who intended to oppose the Bill, withdrew his opposition on the company promising to introduce a clause which would prevent the line of railway from passing close to his house; but when the Bill was passed, no such clause had been inserted. Another similar case had also occurred.

Lord Redesdale

was understood to say, that the London and Birmingham Company had never raised their rate of charges, except in the case of the mail trains. The petition presented by the noble and learned Lord could be referred to the Committee, who would inquire into the matter.

After a few words in explanation from Lord Hatherton and Lord Redesdale,

The Duke of Richmond

said, he considered it most desirable that Parliament should come to some understanding as to the tolls to be charged by railway companies. Scarcely two Bills had been introduced into Parliament in which it was proposed to charge similar rates of toll. It appeared to him that the best mode of remedying the difficulty would be to pass an Act providing that they would revise the rate of tolls charged by railway companies every five years. That step, in his opinion, would prevent the injurious results of monopoly, and secure the public interests; but, as one of the selected Members, he wished to guard himself against being supposed to express any opinion on this or any other Railway Bill which came before that House.

Subject at an end.