HL Deb 30 July 1846 vol 88 cc197-201

rose to call the attention of their Lordships to the case of those Railway Bills which were now suspended in consequence of that Sessional Order which directed that no Committee should be appointed for the consideration of opposed Bills after the 20th of July. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had a few nights ago presented a petition, of a kind similar to that just presented by the noble Lord (Lord Beaumont) from the Liverpool, Ormskirk, and Preston Railway Company, praying that, for special grounds, their Lordships would suspend the Order in their favour. He (the Earl of Clarendon) had then expressed an opinion that if any favour were to be extended to this particular Bill, it should be extended in the same manner to those other Bills, the promoters of which laboured under a like hardship. The general, if not unanimous, opinion of their Lordships then appeared to be that the Sessional Order should be strictly adhered to; and, as a rule, he concurred entirely in the view of the necessity for this adherence as the only means of securing order and avoiding all irregularity in their proceedings. He, however, thought that there were some instances in which, from the peculiarity of the circumstances, the Order ought to be set aside. On Friday a return had been moved for of the names of those Railway Bills which had been suspended in that House on the 20th of July, distinguishing the opposed from the unopposed Bills, and showing the dates of the several stages of such Bills. From this return it appeared that there were eight Bills which came under the operation of the Sessional Order referred to, and which could not be proceeded with if their Lordships determined on maintaining the Order intact. The promoters of all these several Bills urged special grounds why they should be exempted from this Order. They represented that the delay which had taken place in complying with the Order, arose, not from their proceedings, but from circumstances over which they had no control, and for the occurrence of which they were in no way responsible; and they urged as an additional reason for the exemption, that otherwise they would be put to very great extra expense and inconvenience in carrying their Bills forward. It appeared in the case of the Liverpool, Ormskirk, and Preston Railway, that the Bill was now a second time before Parliament—that it had been read a second time in the House of Commons on the 16th of February—that it had waited four months for a Committee, the promoters the whole of that time having been ready and anxious to bring forward their evidence—that it had been ordered to be read a third time on the 10th of July; but in consequence of delay on the part of the House, it had to be postponed, and was still in a state of postponement on the 20th of July. Similar special circumstances had placed the Swansea Railway, the Glasgow and Belfast Union, the Caledonian Amalgamation, and the Manchester and Southampton Railway Bills, in the same unfortunate position; and on those grounds an exemption was very justly demanded. There had not been given due notice of this Sessional Order; it had not been proposed to their Lordships before the 17th of March, three months after the meeting of Parliament, and only two months before the Order would come into operation. It was intended to have reference only to a Session of the ordinary duration, and thus to prevent that press of business at the close of the Session which the previous year had caused such inconvenience; but, now that it was apparent that Parliament would sit to the third or fourth week of August, it was not necessary that a date so early as the 20th of July should have been fixed upon as the date after which no Bills would be referred to a Committee. The course pursued last Session might be adopted now—that of acceding to an Order that the Bills which could not, in consequence of want of time, be proceeded with this, should be proceeded with in their present stages next Session. He, for his part, could not see that it was at all necessary or advisable to send back these Bills. An enormous additional expense would be entailed upon the several companies in fighting their battles before the House of Commons; this expense would afterwards have to be paid by the public in the shape of heavy tolls; and it was the duty of the House as much as possible to lessen, rather than to increase, that reckless waste of money so common in carrying Bills through Parliament. The Manchester and Southampton, and Liverpool, Ormskirk and Preston Railway Companies, had each been at an expense of between 50,000l. and 60,000l. in going through the House of Commons; and this expense would, of course, if the Order in this case were adhered to, have to be again incurred next Session. He considered that there was imposed upon the House, by the facts which were laid before them, an absolute duty not to deal with these eight Bills summarily; and he would recommend to their Lordships, as the best course, that they refer each of the Bills to a Special Committee to inquire, not into the merits, but into the particular circumstances attending them, with reference to this Sessional Order of the House. He begged leave to move, that a Special Committee be appointed to whom these Bills be referred.


had opposed, the Sessional Order when it was introduced; and he had then told their Lordships that there would happen exactly those difficulties which the noble Earl had now explained. He had always been of opinion that it was most unjust to the public, that, because a certain number of their Lordships would not attend to Railway Committees, they should fix a day after which they would not consider public business. He was bound to say that many noble Lords had been indefatigable in their labours on these Committees. He was quite sure that if those noble Lords who were within reach who had sat at all, or not often sat on Railway Committees, were summoned, they would at once attend.


thought that the Resolution had been timely and wisely proposed, and he, for one, would be most unwilling, were there not special circumstances for consideration, that there should be any departure from it. He would admit that in the case of the Bills mentioned by the noble Earl, there were special and particular ground's for exemption; and he would look upon it as a gross injustice if these Bills were injuriously affected by the Order. The proposition to postpone the Bills to next Session was one which he could not sanction; it would, if adopted, create inconvenience both to the public and to the promoters of the Bills, for it would shut them out from all opportunity of altering or amending; and a very decisive reason for rejecting such a course was, that it would infallibly be followed by gambling and speculation to a very destructive degree.


did not think with the noble Lord (Earl of Wicklow) that there had been anything unjust in the probable effect of the Sessional Order which had been adopted. It was of advantage to the parties themselves, that they should know what chance they had of getting through the House. There never was a rule made that had given so much satisfaction; the agents themselves admitted the advantage and convenience of having a limit to the time at which Bills could be brought up. If the rule was to have any effect, its operation must be absolute, and must not be affected by the fact whether the Session was a week shorter or longer. In another Session, he should certainly move the same resolution at an earlier period; but he totally denied that parties to Bills had not had sufficient notice during the present Session. He could not sanction any relaxation of the rule in favour of a particular Bill; it was impossible to favour one without doing injustice to others. With respect to the appointment of a Committee, they did not require merely five Peers to form the Committee, but they must find a noble Lord competent to act as chairman. The noble Earl (Wicklow) proposed to send for those Peers who had not served this Session; but it would be found that these Peers were those who had never served at all on Committees, and who would be just as competent to inquire into questions of this sort as any five men they might pick up at the corner of the street, certainly as any five men who had no experience whatever on this subject. The willing horses—those who understood the question, had been severely worked, and the amount of business they had got rid of was very great. He considered that the character of the House was saved by this Order. In selecting a Committee, too, it was necessary to consider who ought to be nominated; many might be ready to serve on particular Committees, having certain interests; he was almost inclined to give up his post on the Naming Committee, and asked the noble Earl to take it; the selection required much inquiry. If the Motion was affirmed, he hoped not only that they would be able to appoint the Committee, but that they would do credit to the House.

Motion agreed to.


What are the duties of the Committee?


To inquire into and report on Railway Bills which are opposed, and which claim an exemption from the operation of the Resolution of the 7th May last.

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