The EARL of DALHOUSIE
said, he had now to submit to their Lordships the Resolutions of which he had given notice on Thursday last, on the subject of Railways. Since that period a Motion had been made in the other House of Parliament, and agreed to, for the adoption of Resolutions similar in terms to those which he had laid on the Table of their Lordships' House. But as some slight additions had been made to the Resolutions in the other House, he would wish, if their Lordships were of opinion that these Resolutions should be passed, to make similar alterations in their Lordships' Order. The noble Lord then mentioned some verbal amendments which he wished to have adopted. In the first Resolution he proposed that the copy of the Bill to be laid before the meeting of scripholders should be presented in the state in which it happened to be before either House of Parliament. In the third Resolution he proposed to insert after the words "producing thereat scrip of the company," the words "or of 1051 bankers' certificates;" and in the second Resolution, having reference to Scotch railways, instead of having the notices of the proposed meetings inserted three times in two Edinburgh newspapers, he proposed that such notices should be inserted twice in each of the three Edinburgh newspapers. In the fourth Resolution, having reference to companies already incorporated, and applying for Bills to empower them to make new branch lines, it was provided in the Resolution, as it now stood, that the meeting should be constituted of shareholders or stockholders competent to vote at the ordinary meetings of the company. It was usual, however, in such cases, to issue certain shares expressly for the new branch, on the understanding that if the Act were obtained the holders of such scrip were to be incorporated with the old company. It was a matter of doubt whether the meetings in such cases should be meetings of the new scripholders, or of the entire of the old company; and he now proposed that the meetings should be held in the same manner as in the case of companies that had not yet obtained their Bills. He proposed to submit another Resolution with respect to the Irish Bills. In the other House of Parliament they had adopted a Resolution that every Railway Bill which now stood for a third reading in that House, should be excepted from the new Standing Order; and he would beg leave to suggest that their Lordships should also adopt a similar Resolution. In answer to the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Clanricarde), he stated a few evenings ago that Her Majesty's Government had in the early part of last Session expressed a desire to avoid all unnecessary delay in the progress, or at least in the consideration of Irish Railway Bills; and in that spirit he would now wish that the Bills fixed for a third reading in their Lordships' House should be excepted from the Resolutions, inasmuch as they would still have to go through the regular form in the other House. The noble Duke on the cross benches had that evening proposed that the Irish Great Western Railway Bill (Dublin to Galway) should be submitted to a still further test; but that question would be in no wise affected by the Resolution which he now proposed.
§ "I. Resolved—That this House will not read a third time any Bill to empower any Company (whether intended to be incorporated by such Bill, or already incorporated by Act of Parliament) to construct a Railway, unless three clear Days before the third reading there shall have been deposited 1052 at the Office of the Clerk of the Parliament, there to be open to the inspection of all parties, a Certificate signed and authenticated in manner hereinafter mentioned, and comprising the particulars hereinafter expressed, and stating the following facts, viz.:—
- "1. That a Copy of the Bill in the state in which it may have been at the time, was submitted to the consideration of a meeting of the holders of scrip, or of bankers' receipts for scrip, of the Company, or (in case of a Company already incorporated) of the shareholders or stockholders of the Company, specially called for that purpose.
- "2. That such meeting was called by advertisements, inserted once in each of two consecutive weeks in the London Gazette (if the Railway be an English Railway), or in the London and Edinburgh Gazettes (if the Railway be a Scotch Railway), or in the London and Dublin Gazettes (if the Railway be an Irish Railway), and in each case in at least three London daily newspapers, and not less than three times in each such paper in each of such two consecutive weeks; and in case the Railway be a Scotch Railway, not less than twice in each of three Edinburgh newspapers in each of such two consecutive weeks; and in case the Railway be an Irish Railway, not less than three times in each of two Dublin daily newspapers in each of such two consecutive weeks.
- "3. In the case of the Company being intended to be incorporated by the Bill—That such meeting was constituted of persons producing thereat scrip, or bankers' receipts for scrip of the Company, representing not less than one third part of the whole capital proposed to be raised by the Company under the Bill (such scrip having been actually issued, or the deposits in respect thereof having been paid before the 31st of March in the present year).
- "4. In the case of the Company being already incorporated—That such meeting was held, except so far as is herein otherwise provided, according to the constitution of the Company, and was constituted of shareholders or stockholders thereof competent to vote at the ordinary meetings of the Company, and representing, either personally or as proxies, not less than one-third part of the whole capital of stock of the Company.
- "5. That at such meeting the Bill was approved of by persons producing thereat scrip, or bankers' receipts for scrip, equal to at least three-fifths of the total amount of scrip, or bankers' receipts for scrip, produced at the meeting; or, in the case of a Company already incorporated, by three-fifths at least of the meeting, the votes being given and computed according to the constitution of the Company.
- "6. That those cases in which the Bill is promoted by an incorporated Company, but the parties interested are holders of scrip which it is proposed shall be converted into shares or stock, or otherwise become portion of the interest of the incorporated Company on the passing of the Bill, and contingently only on that event, shall, for the purposes of this Resolution, be deemed to be cases of companies not yet incorporated.
§ "II. Resolved—That for the purposes of this Resolution it shall be competent for the chairman of any meeting called in pursuance thereof, in the event of the above prescribed quorum of scrip, shares, or stock (as the case may be) not being represented at such meeting, to cause the votes of the persons constituting the said meeting, approving 1053 or not approving of the Bill, to be taken and recorded, and then to adjourn the same to some day, hour, and place to be declared by the chairman, such day not being less than three days, and not more than one week, from the original day of meeting; and such day, hour, and place being, in the meantime, advertised twice in each of three London daily newspapers, or in the Edinburgh or Dublin newspapers, as above directed in the case of Scotch or Irish railways; and at such adjourned meeting it shall also be competent to the chairman thereof to cause to be taken and recorded the votes of such of the persons constituting the same as have not voted at the original meeting; and the total amount of votes given at the original and adjourned meeting shall be received as if given at one and the same meeting.
§ "III. Resolved—That such certificate shall also comprise, in a tabular form, the following particulars:—
- "1. The day, time, and place of the meeting, and of the adjourned meeting (if any).
- "2. The dates of insertion of the advertisements for the meeting, and the names of the newspapers in which they were inserted.
- "3. The names and addresses of the persons producing scrip, or bankers' receipts for scrip, at the meeting, according to the statements of such persons.
§ "Or, in the case of a company already incorporated,
§ "The names and addresses of the shareholders, or stockholders, present at the meeting, according to the register book of names and addresses.
"4. The denoting numbers, if any, of the scrip, and in the case of the bankers' receipts, the names of the persons from whom the deposit is therein stated to be received, and the amount of the scrip and receipts respectively produced by the persons so producing the same at the meeting.
Or, in case of a company already incorporated,
The respective amounts of shares or stock held or represented by the shareholders or stockholders attending the meeting.
§ "5. The fact of the approval or non-approval of the Bill (as the case may be) by the several persons producing scrip or bankers' receipts at the meeting, or by the several shareholders or stockholders attending the meeting.
"6. The total amount of scrip and bankers' receipts produced at such meeting, and the amount thereof produced by the persons approving of the Bill.
Or, in the case of a company already incorporated,
The total amount of shares of stock represented, either in person or by proxy, at the meeting, and the amount thereof so represented by persons approving of the Bill.
"7. The total amount of the capital proposed to be raised by the Company under the Bill.
Or, in case of a Company already incorporated,
The total amount of the capital or stock of such company.
§ "IV. Resolved—That such certificate shall be signed by the chairman of the meeting and by one of the solicitors of the Company; and the authenticity of such certificate shall be verified by the signature of the Parliamentary agent depositing the same."1054
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that having taken some part in the previous debate on this subject, he would, he trusted, stand excused in addressing himself to the question as it now stood. His noble Friend would allow him to observe, that of the last of the proposed Resolutions they had no notice whatever; and he would therefore suggest, not only as a matter of courtesy to their Lordships, but of Parliamentary convenience, that that question be postponed to a future day. He thought he could show his noble Friend that there were strong reasons why these Amendments ought to be postponed. One thing was certain—that when they were about altering in an essential manner a Sessional Order referring to a great branch of legislation, they ought not to make such essential alteration without any notice or preparation whatever. Their Lordships had no right to relax a restriction which they judged to be generally necessary in favour of particular Bills, in the hope or expectation that that restriction might or might not be applied in another place. He would say such a course was contrary to every principle of Parliamentary usage, and contrary to the dignity of their Lordships' House. If that course were right, it ought to be applicable to every Bill; if it were wrong, it ought not to be applicable to any. But, above all, he would say, that on the ground of public interest they ought to enforce a rule which they believed to be necessary in all instances. He had been himself entrusted with several petitions against some of these Bills; and his reply to the petitioners was, that if they had such good cases as they alleged against the Bills, the proper place for bringing them forward was at the intended meetings of the scripholders. On these grounds, he for one should object to such a course as that of adopting a rule in one moment, and relaxing that rule in favour of four or five Bills which chance or accident had brought to a particular stage before their Lordships' House, in the next. Now, with regard to the general question, he should say that he thought the proposition of Her Majesty's Government would do good as far as it went. It was a proposition to which he was extremely favourable; but he thought it ought to be fully acted upon. He thought they had at least a right to demand whether the parties who were the applicants for the Bills were or were not in earnest before the power of Parliament was applied to for passing a 1055 Bill which would be inapplicable and inoperative when it became law. Their Lordships should recollect that it was not the parties applying for these Bills who would be affected by them. In assenting to them, the House gave the companies an enormous power of controlling private property, not only of Members of their Lordships' House, but of every subject in the realm through whose lands these railways were carried. They gave them a power of compulsory purchase, which was to be suspended over the heads of parties for years after the passing of the Bills. They should consider, besides, how often parties were interested in getting these Bills passed, without having any intention of carrying them into immediate operation. They were actuated by the desire of occupying the ground, and preventing rival schemes from being brought forward: thus, the undertaking of a branch might be sufficient for preventing a competing line from being established. Perhaps the Committee of his noble Friend on this subject would give them an opportunity of inquiring how many of the Railway Bills that passed in former Sessions had been acted on at all. Some of these companies either found that the money market would not enable them to realize the profits they had anticipated, or else they were actuated by the feeling to which he had just alluded, and were merely anxious to obtain possession of the ground. By adopting the course proposed by his noble Friend in this new Resolution, their Lordships would be taking a course that was neither wise nor manly. They would be shrinking from a duty which they were bound to perform, and that too in a manner neither creditable to the Legislature nor satisfactory to the public. At the commencement of the Session, when he had alluded to the necessity of taking active steps on this subject, they were told to wait until the Standing Orders would reduce the number of schemes—to wait, in fact, for anything rather than to do what was their real duty, namely, to stop at once the Railway Bills that ought not to be carried, and to assist those projects which ought to be supported. No doubt there had been great impartiality and a strong desire to do what was just on the part of their Lordships' Committees; but in the proceedings before these Committees, were there business-like views, and wisdom, and knowledge in the guidance of their labours? What could a Committee do? They had no means of consulting 1056 the general interests of the community. They had no means of considering the matter as a whole, or in a national point of view. Take, for instance, the most important and pressing of all views connected with railways—the military defence of the country—and how was it attended to on Committees? A Committee might be appointed on a railway from London to Portsmouth. But could that Committee combine with the question hefore them the subject of railway communication with Dover, or with Harwich, or with Plymouth? They could do no such thing. They could do, and no doubt would do, what was right with regard to the matter before them, but what was absolutely wrong as affecting the great interests of the country. Another subject of which he had to complain was, that in case a Railway Bill did not happen to be opposed, it was allowed to pass almost as a matter of course; whereas nothing could be more absurd than such a course. It was plain that the present system of railway legislation was one which could not be defended. It should not, therefore, be adhered to. They were at present shifting the responsibility from themselves to the shareholders; but they seemed to forget that by a confederacy the worst lines might even yet be carried by the opposition not being pressed. It was now three weeks or a fortnight since his noble Friend made his statement; the course proposed to be taken by Her Majesty's Government was then made known to the world at large. He (Lord Monteagle) wanted at that time that the measure should affect only the existing holders, but his suggestion had not been acted upon. But what was the effect of postponing these Resolutions since that time? Why, that companies having an object in defeating particular Bills in Parliament had had an opportunity afforded them of buying up scrip and acquiring votes, not for the purpose of protecting the interests of the real shareholders, but of prejudicing those interests. It would also have the opposite effect. Their Lordships must be aware that a most ingenious mode had been adopted by directors and others of obtaining profits at the establishment of these schemes. If, for instance, a company was to consist of 1,000 shares, the directors reserved 500 for their own use. Now, supposing they paid deposits on these 500 shares, they had, in consequence of the delay that had taken place in the passing of these Resolutions, an opportunity of dividing these reserved 1057 shares among a great number of voters, and thus acquiring an influence in the votes of the company which they would otherwise not have possessed. He therefore thought there was great ground of complaint that the propositions had not been sooner brought under the notice of Parliament, affecting, as they did, so materially the most important improvement that science and Providence had conferred upon the world within the memory of any man now living.
The MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said, he entirely agreed in one view which had been taken by his noble Friend who had just sat down, in reference to the measures now proposed by Government. He thought it was a very great oversight on the part of the Executive, that a more direct and comprehensive system of legislation was not adopted with regard to railways generally, but that they were left to be dealt with by the Committees of the two Houses, who were really quite unable to take a comprehensive and proper view of the whole subject, and to enter into a minute examination of its details. He entirely agreed in the Resolutions that had been proposed; and, with regard to the objections of his noble Friend, he understood they were likely to be met by a proposition which had been adopted elsewhere. It was certainly a most powerful objection—namely, that under these Sessional Orders, a competing railway, on the one hand, might traffic in the stock of another railway to which it was opposed, in order to defeat it; and, on the other hand, that the directors might, by a particular issue of stock for the occasion, defeat the wish of the bonâ fide subscribers, so far as to carry the continuance of the project. He understood it had been proposed that, at these meetings, a certificate should be produced that the scrip had been purchased previous to the 31st of March, or at any rate at a time previous to the annunciation of this scheme of restraint. He knew not how far such a plan might be feasible or effectual; but, undoubtedly, on a first view of the case, it appeared as though it would have a great effect on any such speculation. While agreeing in these Resolutions, he could not concur in the general view taken by his noble Friend of the subject of railways, nor in his objections to the new Order now proposed, of which notice had been given on Friday night—namely, that the Bills now standing for a third reading should not be stopped in their way to the 1058 House of Commons by the operation of these Orders. He heartily joined in the sentiment of his noble Friend who had just spoken, who said, "If you apply this Order at all, let it be applied to all alike." But the noble Lord should look to what happened out of this House; and if he would attend to it, he would see that, in contemplation of this Sessional Order being passed, and of the Bills coming up to this House being subjected to it, the House of Commons had sent up to their Lordships, since they met, about a dozen of those very Bills which stood in that House for a third reading, and which had been read a third time that afternoon. This was the proper and rational view of the matter, as the companies had had no notice whatever of any such Order, and could not have expected anything of the kind to be carried; they had gone through one House of Parliament in accordance with the usual Orders, up to this stage; and they ought not to be subjected to a double operation of this Order, when, in point of fact, a single operation would be quite sufficient. He therefore trusted their Lordships would adopt the additional Order, and that these Bills would not be delayed. His noble Friend said, if they did that, it would be necessary to have separate Committees on certain Bills. This he utterly denied; to do so, would be to stultify all the proceedings of the House, and its Standing Orders. Petitions were required to be lodged before a certain time, and Committees were appointed to try their merits; but if they decided that, on particular petitions presented, no matter at what time, into the motives of the subscribers, to which they could not stop to inquire, of the truth of the allegations of which they had no knowledge whatever, and no voucher—they would again and again subject Bills to Committees, and to examination upon the various points; they would expose the parties to vexation to which they would not have subjected themselves in the first instance, had they known that the Government would take this course; and they would stop the perfection of great public works—a point which their Lordships had certainly lost sight of in debating this subject. They should recollect that the works they were proposing to stop, and which, under the circumstances of the country, it was perhaps wise to limit, were the great communications of the country. There ought to be some unobjectionable mode of carrying them out; and the Executive, or that 1059 branch of the Government which so impeded private speculation, ought to be prepared to satisfy the public wants by executing these works itself. Under these circumstances, he hoped that the proposition of the noble Lord, with the additional Order, would be agreed to, considering what had been done by the other House of Parliament; but he thought with his noble Friend near him (Lord Monteagle), that the sooner they adopted a new mode of proceeding on this subject the better. He had thought so for the last three years; he had thought so particularly with regard to Ireland, where the ground being, until this year, comparatively unoccupied, the Government might have begun, and might have fairly tried, the operation of a new system. A kind of attempt had been made, two years ago, by the appointment of the Railway Committee of the Board of Trade, over which the noble Lord (Lord Dalhousie) had so ably and industriously presided. No man was more impressed than he (Lord Clanricarde) with the great ability and industry with which that noble Lord had applied himself to that business, and the great merit which he had exhibited on that Board. But, in point of fact, the advantage of that Board to the public was little or nothing; its decisions had been over and over again set aside; and Committees, uninformed, as his noble Friend said, on the whole subject, had taken a directly contrary view of the wants of a district of country, and of what were the best lines of railway, to that taken by the Board over which the noble Earl presided; because they had not the means of going into the inquiry which he had gone into with so much industry, and had not the means of forming the views which he always took so accurately.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, he thought it due to his noble Friend at the head of the Board of Trade to bear his testimony to the excellent manner in which he had conducted the business of his department in the last Session of Parliament; and he was quite satisfied that, had it not been for a speech made early in that Session of Parliament, throwing his noble Friend entirely overboard, most of the recommendations of the Board of Trade would have been carried into effect. This was done by the Prime Minister, in the other House, who said that every line must be again discussed; in short, he entirely abandoned all the recommendations of the noble Earl at the head of the Board of 1060 Trade. He knew for a positive fact that the promoters of many lines, who were intending to withdraw their schemes in consequence of the decision come to by the Board of Trade, did, after that speech of Sir Robert Peel's, determine to take their chance in the chapter of accidents, and many of them were actually passed; notwithstanding that those recommended by the Board of Trade were the best for the public and the parties concerned. His reason for objecting to the clause now introduced, with respect to Bills about to be read a third time, was simply this. It had been stated by the noble Earl who proposed the Orders, that if any of those Bills were in the condition contemplated—if a large majority of the subscribers, thinking it was a bad concern, wanted to be let out of it, they might be let out in the House of Commons. But why not give them the opportunity of being let out in that House? Suppose that the House of Commons allowed the Bills to pass: what would be the consequence? Though the Act was obtained, the works could not be completed; directors would certainly be elected, and thus the provisional committee-men would get themselves into office. It was his belief that not half the schemes now on foot would have come before the Legislature, had there been an Act providing that no provisional committee-men should derive any benefit when the Acts for their schemes were obtained. As it was, these parties would meet, supposing the Acts to be obtained, and choose their directors, from whom they would exact the pledge—and at all elections pledges would be given much more than they had been—not to go on with the works. The powers given by the Acts continued for five years; and thus would the districts in which these lines were proposed to be made, and the public generally, be deprived for that long period of any extension of the great means of communication. It was highly desirable that if these Bills were to be got rid of anywhere, it should be, not in the House of Commons, but in that House. He agreed generally with what had been said by his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) as to the duty of the Executive to adopt a more decided course on this subject; they ought, in fact, to have done this long ago. He would not now inquire into the motives why this had not been done—whether it had not been to cause a temporary prosperity in the country, from the adoption of these great works, and then to make 1061 use of it to usher in some new measure.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
was understood to say that the number of railway schemes was so inordinately great, that they had injuriously competed with each other, as evinced by the rise in the prices of labour and materials; and that for the Legislature to sanction the whole or any considerable part of the schemes now projected, would be to create the greatest confusion, and to prevent any of them being carried out. Allowing for the number that might fall to the ground, in consequence of the adoption of these Resolutions, the evil would not be materially checked; there would still remain a greater mass of these adventures than the means of the country could possibly carry out. And if these only were passed, great confusion would be created, not only among all concerned in promoting them, but amongst those engaged in all departments of trade. It was only lately that the House had been made aware of the extent of the dealings of the commercial part of the community in this respect, and of the impossibility of finding means to carry out the adventures that had been entered upon. Early in the Session, the Legislature proceeded upon the principle of letting every person alone, as being the best judge of his own particular interest, reserving only the right which Parliament had always exercised of deciding whether the scheme proposed was likely to prove a beneficial one. But nothing could be more unfair than to throw the consequences of this want of foresight in the speculators upon the Government; for the Government had acted with foresight all along. The reports of the Board of Trade, last Session, had distinctly given sentence upon the various projects that came before it, recommending some to pass, others to be rejected, and others to be delayed. In the present Session a Committee had sat for the purpose of making some such classification; he had attended that Committee, and urged it upon them, but they had turned a deaf ear to his recommendations, and had satisfied themselves with merely grouping the Bills. It would have been desirable to have considered, first, those projects which supplied railway communication to districts where none yet existed, as in the county of Cornwall; second, those lines connected with the defence of the country; and, lastly, those which would merely shorten the distance by existing lines, most of which might have been advantageously postponed. 1062 The Committee had certainly come to one important conclusion—that, under the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, it was desirable first to go on with the Bills for railways in that country; but with respect to all others, the principle had been adopted that these adventures could not be too far extended, and that the disproportion between the amount of adventures and the amount of means at the country's disposal should not be taken into consideration. At length, however, the public had begun to open their eyes to the consequences of this proceeding: and the interference of the Legislature was now earnestly sought. But after the number of schemes had been reduced by these Resolutions, they would still be vastly out of proportion to the means of the public. Talk of one hundred or two hundred millions! They might as well talk of two thousand millions: it was not to be got. The result would be, if any large proportion of these schemes were sanctioned by Parliament, that those engaged in them would begin to be distressed, particularly the smaller capitalists; they would affect others; and this would cause that sort of panic of which there had occurred half a dozen in his recollection; and nothing was more likely to produce such a panic, to show up what was the tremendous prosperity that had been so much talked of, which was so much vaunted, and which was so easily destroyed. As an instance of the way in which the interest of money had advanced, he might state that one of the most powerful companies, the Great Western, had advertised to borrow money at 5 per cent, for the purpose of forming an atmospheric line between Exeter and Plymouth—their usual rate of interest having been two and a half per cent for the last seven years. He wished to impress on his noble Friends, who were anxious to promote the interest of Ireland, that, so far from benefiting that country by pushing forward railway undertakings too rapidly, a directly opposite effect would be produced.
The EARL of WICKLOW
agreed in the propriety of not making any distinction between one class of Railway Bills and another; but would not altogether agree with the objections of the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) until he knew what was actually intended by this Resolution. It was stated that the House of Commons had adopted a similar Resolution, and that it was immaterial whether they admitted 1063 those Irish Bills which had already arrived at their last stage to be read a third time, because they would be met by a similar Resolution in the other House. But though these Resolutions were adopted by both Houses, he did not understand it to be the intention to require meetings to answer both; otherwise, two meetings of the subscribers in each case would be required, which would be to incur a useless expense. To attain the object of the Resolutions, one such meeting would be quite sufficient. His noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) had expressed a hope that, although the result of a meeting of scripholders might be to approve of a Bill, the House would not therefore pass the Bill as a matter of course. But the expression of such a hope was nugatory; for, under the Resolutions, the meeting did not take place till previous to the third reading; and it was the invariable practice of the House, when a private Bill had passed through all the previous stages, to read it a third time as a matter of course. He thought the Resolution might have been so framed, that the meeting of the shareholders might take place before the Bill went into Committee, and not before the third reading. There was nothing to prevent the Select Committee from sitting previous to the meeting being held. This ought to be clearly defined, particularly as the question of expense of opposing Bills was involved. If the Committee was selected and sat, and the expense attendant on it was incurred before the meeting was held, and their decision was against the passing of the Bill, then a useless expense would have been incurred, and the Members of their Lordships' House would have been put to a useless trouble. There were two points to which he hoped to receive a reply from his noble Friend; first, if it was to be understood that the meeting of shareholders might be held before the Bill was brought before the Select Committee; and secondly, if it was necessary that two meetings should be held in order to comply with the Sessional Orders of both Houses of Parliament.
§ LORD REDESDALE
differed with his noble Friend who had just sat down, with regard to the time when the meeting of shareholders was to be held, so far as the proceedings of Parliament were concerned. It was in the power of any one connected with a railway company to direct the provisional committee to call a meeting to decide whether a Bill should be proceeded with, which might be held before it went 1064 into Committee; but what their Lordships had to consider was, that after the Bill had gone through the Committee, and had undergone extensive alterations, the subscribers might decide on its not being carried on. Many circumstances before the Committee might cause a difference in their opinion on that point, as, for instance, the question of fares. The fault, in his (Lord Redesdale's) opinion, of the Resolution was, that it did not compel them to decide after the Bill had gone through Committee, and when it was not in the same state as that in which it was introduced by the parties. He, however, considered that the subject was involved in all sorts of difficulties; and he was very doubtful if the proposed remedies would adequately meet the evil. He was strongly of opinion that if they had, in the first instance, given support to the admirable Reports of the Board of Trade, they would have found themselves in a very different and certainly a better position. Every one now acknowledged the excellence of those Reports, and every one regretted they had not more fully been supported; but it had been thought proper to ridicule and to oppose them, and they had consequently fallen to the ground. He did not wonder, seeing that that had been the case, that the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie) had said, "he would have nothing more to do with the matter." And he was quite right; for his labour had been completely thrown away. He (Lord Redesdale), however, thought that there were still available the means by which they might prevent effectually the recurrence of so pernicious a system as that the results of which were now under consideration. As a check upon railways he would not allow them to borrow at all; he did not see why the whole capital of a railway should not be subscribed in shares—why it should not be insisted upon that the whole amount required should be absolutely produced, instead of two-thirds of it.
The EARL of RADNOR
took a different view of the Sessional Resolutions from that taken by the noble Lords who had addressed the House on the subject. It was said that they were proposed as a method for purging the list of railroads proposed to be made of those of an improper and objectionable character; but he apprehended that the Sessional Orders were introduced for no purpose of the kind. His opinion was, that they were brought forward to relieve persons who had got themselves into 1065 a scrape from the difficulties in which they were involved. Now, he (Lord Radnor) objected on principle to Parliament doing anything of the kind; for, by so doing, Parliament would be stultifying itself altogether. Parliament had laid down rules to regulate the introduction of those measures, and directed that certain steps were to be taken by those persons who wished to construct railways and enter into those schemes. Those rules had been well considered by Parliament; and the persons who were to be affected by those Sessional Orders had observed all those rules: if not, their Bills would have been thrown out as a matter of course. Some persons had very foolishly, and through a rage for gambling, improvidently entered into those bargains; and now the House proposed to go out of its way to relieve those persons from the consequences of their improvidence. By so doing, he repeated, the House was stultifying itself, and also holding out inducements for future gambling of the same description. Nothing could give greater confidence to persons in trade than to know with certainty the rules by which they were to be guided, and the propositions before Parliament were to be regulated; and therefore, though he might be sorry for those people, he felt that the character of Parliament, and the principles by which they should act, were of more consequence than the difficulties of those people. If they were to be at all relieved, he thought they would, by these Resolutions be proceeding exactly the wrong way. The statement was, that there were a great many of those people who wished to get out of those difficulties; why, if so, let them apply to Parliament to get out of them—let them actively move, by petition or otherwise, to get out of those difficulties. But then it had been said, that there were persons engaged in those transactions to whom it would be disagreeable to have it known that they were engaged in them, and therefore they would not actively exert themselves; and now Parliament was telling them that if they did nothing they might be relieved from their difficulties. But what probably might be the consequence? The engineer and the lawyer would be very active; and if the persons wished not to be known remained passive, and sat still, they would let the others have their own way. He apprehended that the proposed measure would enable parties to dissolve their companies, and to cease the speculations in which they were engaged; 1066 and if that was so, why, he asked, were they to go out of their way to pass those Resolutions in order to tell the country, "if you embark in wild speculation, Parliament will depart from the usual mode of proceeding to give you relief?" He (Lord Radnor), on the grounds he had stated, objected altogether to those Resolutions.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
said, that if the object of the Resolution was to relieve persons from the difficulties in which they had involved themselves by railway speculations, why then, undoubtedly, he would agree with the noble Lord who had last addressed the House; but he apprehended that the real object of the Resolutions was to diminish the number of railway schemes which would come before the Houses of Parliament during the present Session. That, he apprehended, was the real and ultimate object of the Resolutions; and, now, let them see what a satire it was on their whole proceedings, to come forward with a proposition for a measure which was to be applied at the very last stage of the Bill. This was a satire on the conduct of Parliament, and, he would say, on the conduct of the Executive Government. All the parties who were concerned in the administration of this great Empire, were, he conceived, very much to blame for the way in which they had acted with reference to those great schemes of national communication. Let them take twenty of those schemes, and suppose that eleven of them were rejected: they had no security from the proceedings which they caused to be instituted by those Resolutions, that the eleven that were to be withdrawn were bad schemes; neither had they any security that the lines which were to be permitted to go on were good schemes. They might be the contrary. He (Earl Fitzwilliam) should move, on the next day, for an account of all the estimates that were deposited for different railway schemes that were brought before Parliament. It was desirable they should know the amount of capital the expenditure of which they might by possibility be called upon to sanction during the present Session. He wished that the Government would see the difficulties into which they had got by the mode in which they proceeded. He should view with great pleasure the instituting of some authority on railway matters analogous in construction and principle to the Board of Trade. The whole railway system was of great national importance; and it was incumbent on the Government, or Parliament, 1067 to form some authoritative board under which the system ought to be placed. That board should have a staff of surveyors and engineers, above all suspicion, under its control; the country ought to be surveyed by the Government, and upon that survey the lines ought to be laid down. By proceeding in that way an immense mass of expense would be saved, and a great deal of ill feeling and squabbling would be avoided. He should move, on the following day, for an account of the estimates of all the different lines of railways that were deposited in the course of the present Session.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
had great satisfaction in observing, that the object of the Resolutions, and the main outline of the plan which he proposed for effecting that object, had met with the approbation of their Lordships, with one exception; for, with that exception, they had all expressed their concurrence in the objects of the Resolutions, though they had arrived at that conclusion on different grounds. Many noble Lords who had addressed the House had remarked upon the system which it appeared to them desirable to adopt in reference to railways in general; and they had commented, with more or less severity, on the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government in relation to that system. He hoped their Lordships would not think he meant them any disrespect if he abstained from going, at present, in detail into a question which would be a subject for consideration at another and a proper time; and when that proper time arrived, he should be ready to defend the course the Government had taken. He should, therefore, restrict the remarks with which he had to trouble their Lordships to the Resolutions that were immediately the subject of consideration before the House, and should reply to the questions that had been put to him, as to the intention and effect of the various clauses of those Resolutions. An objection had been made, that parties, having obtained scrip for the purpose of having votes, would thus become possessed of an unjust and unfair advantage, which would injuriously affect other parties. He felt bound to say, that trafficking might take place in these affairs for a double purpose; first, for a matter of mere speculation, on the chance of a residue remaining that might be divided among the parties who possessed the scrip; and, in the next place, where scrip would be purchased with the intention and in the hope 1068 of influencing the fate of those lines. That such attempts would be made he had no doubt; and that there might be cases in which they would be successfully made he was not prepared to deny; but that it would be practised to such an extent as to constitute a great objection to the measure, or influence the fate of great and important concerns, he entirely denied. He had taken every means in his power to acquire information on the matter. He had sought information from persons instructed on the subject, and they stated their conviction that the practice could not be exercised to such an extent in the manner suggested, namely, by the outlay of small sums of money, as to influence the fate of important concerns; and he also understood that it had not been practised up to the present time. But the gravest objection made was with reference to the period at which the Resolution was intimated; and it was said that advantage would be taken in the mean time of the intentions of the Government; and a noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) supposed the case of the directors of a company who, having a numbers of shares in their own hands, might now use them for the purpose of influencing the fate of that company. So far as that was concerned, that could not be had recourse to. The Resolution provided, that no scrip certificate not issued, or the deposits in respect thereof paid before the 31st of March, shall entitle a person to vote. The proof of the deposit being made was the banker's receipt, and therefore the scrip certificate could not be issued unfairly, because the banker's receipt proved the payment of the deposit. So far, therefore, as the shares were retained in the hands of the directors, he apprehended that his noble Friend would find that the trick to which he referred could not be tried; but so far as related to the scrip that had been purchased in the market, he admitted there might be ground of complaint. But his answer was that all endeavour to counteract it was impossible, inasmuch, as the scrip certificate bore no date—it passed from hand to hand like a bank note—there was no memorandum to trace it. Another objection had been made to the Resolution, because it was said that the object of it was to shelter the persons who were engaged in these speculations, and to protect them from the consequences of their own imprudence and folly. It was said, also, that the object was to get rid of those railways. Now, 1069 he would say it was desirable that those parties who wished to bring their affairs to a conclusion should have the means of doing so; and the intention of the Bill was to enable parties to affect that object. It was to prevent provisional directors from forcing on a Bill when it was represented by the shareholders to be contrary to their interests to have it proceeded with, that the Resolutions were proposed. There were many reasons which rendered a negative expression of opinion unavailing, and which induced Her Majesty's Government to require that there should be an affirmative expression of opinion before the Bill was permitted to pass. He (Earl of Dalhousie) could not feel the force of the objection which had been made with reference to the Irish Bills. It was said, deal out justice to all alike, and do not except those particular schemes from the operation of the proposed measure. Now, if the other House of Parliament had not already adopted Resolutions the counterparts of those which he held in his hand, he would be the last person to assent to the proposition that those Bills should now be read there a third time. When the Bill was read there a third time it went down to the other House, and if that House did not give its assent to the third reading, the company could not get its corporate powers until it was exposed to the test which they meant to apply to all the others. It was said, that it would be offensive to the dignity of that House to agree to the Resolution; but in reply to that assertion he begged to say that it was not necessary they should stand upon their dignity. The other House had not displayed any such tenderness for its dignity. That House had passed that Resolution; they allowed Bills that stood for their third reading to be passed; they did that before the Resolutions were proposed in that House; they ought, therefore, without any sacrifice of their dignity in that House, to allow Bills that stood for their third reading to pass. When the Bill went to the other House the test would be applied there, and the application of the test in the other House would fully answer every purpose of justice. It was thought that the Bills would be subjected to a double test; but there was not one word to show that Bills would be twice subjected to this test; or that any such double test would be proposed to be applied. With respect to the stage of the Bill at which the parties were to interfere, he admitted that it was felt to 1070 be undesirable that the Members of both. Houses of Parliament should be asked to sit on Committees on a measure that might not afterward be proceeded with, and their labour consequently thrown away. On the other hand it was said, if you declare there shall be no further progress to a measure until you apply this test, it is to say you shall not go further, and therefore it was thought better to let the Members of both Houses run the risk of some inconvenience rather than propose to stop the progress of a Bill at an earlier stage.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
inquired if the privileges that were extended to Bills that had been partly gone through at the close of last Session, would be also extended to similiar Bills in the present Session?
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
replied, it was not the intention of the Government that what had been done with reference to the Bills referred to by the noble Lord last Session, should be drawn into precedent. In conclusion, he (the Earl of Dalhousie) expressed a hope that the House would not object to the passing of the Resolutions.
§ Resolutions agreed to. Several Amendments moved and agreed to. Resolutions as amended ordered to be printed.
§ Hsuse adjourned.