§ LORD LYNDHURST moved to name the Select Committee on the petitions respecting this Bill.
§ LORD REDESDALE
rose to move that the order for the appointment of the said Committee be discharged. The directors of the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway had presented a petition against their own company; and having lost the confidence of the entire body, now called upon the House to uphold their proceedings. It would be a dangerous thing thus to allow a body of directors to act in opposition to the wishes of the body for whom they were elected to act. He belived that one of the directors had put from 15,000l. to 20,000l. in his pocket by the sale of his shares, and this gentleman now asked for powers to prevent the persons who had bought his shares from enjoying the privileges and benefits of that purchase. He hoped their Lordships would reconsider the vote they had come to on a former occasion, and discharge the Order of the Day for the appointment of this Committee.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
thought he had reason to complain of the course taken by his noble Friend. It was now two months since the subject came under the consideration of their Lordships, on a petition presented by the noble Earl who was the Chairman of the Committee. The subject was then fully discussed; he (Lord Lynd- 1287 hurst) entered into the details of the case, and the subject was most anxiously considered by their Lordships. There was, then, no foundation whatever for saying that the appointment of the Committee was lightly ordered by their Lordships. He denied that any bad precedent would be established by the course it was proposed to adopt.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
said, that the appointment of a Committee would do no good, for it would not decide the questions pending between these two companies, the North-Western and the Great Western. It was no part of the duty of the House to interpret Acts of Parliament.
§ LORD WHARNCLIFFE
said, if a company was allowed to devote its corporate funds to the purchase of an interest in another railway, it was obvious that the intentions of Parliament could in many cases easily be defeated.
said, that he thought it would be unwise to enter into an investigation which could lead to no practical result. It appeared to him that the directors of this railway had pursued a very extraordinary course in first amalgamating and then selling. The directors sold their shares at a great premium, and then they sold the property in which they had parted with their interest to the Great Western Railway. He must deny that the Great Western Company had purchased any shares with its corporate funds. The shares had been purchased in the open market by individuals. As no advantage would be derived from any investigation, he must urge upon their Lordships to reconsider the decision to which they had come for the appointment of a Committee.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
said, that Railway Bills affected the great interests of the country, and, not being like private concerns, the Legislature had a right to demand that a public convenience should be secured. In the present case it was clear that that public convenience had not been secured, and it was therefore most important to see how the intention of the Legislature had been defeated, in order to prevent a recurrence of such mistakes in future. The inquiry was also important, in order that it might be seen whether these great railway companies overstepped the powers conferred by the Act, or neglected its requirements. It was doubtful whether 38,000 out of 50,000 shares had not been purchased by the one party, to control the proceedings of the other; in 1288 which case it would be ridiculous to say that the transaction was fair, and that the buyers had the right of private parties thus to purchase. He therefore considered that it was fairly a subject for further inquiry.
rose to defend the former decision of their Lordships, which had been not lightly arrived at, but was the result of long consideration, in which there was one adjournment for the purpose of inquiring into the matter still further. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) had stated for the third time, in his usually clear manner, all the arguments and facts upon which the House had arrived at its former decision; and that he considered quite sufficient, or rather, that not a shadow of a reason had been urged for a reconsideration. He also reminded the House, that no circumstances except those of the most insuperable necessity ought to induce their Lordships to set aside any former decision deliberately arrived at; a contrary course would destroy the respect with which their Lordships' judgments ought to be received. There was not in this case the slightest grounds for saying, and he believed it was not pretended to be said, that the former decision had been lightly arrived at; and therefore it ought to be supported and confirmed.
The EARL of WICKLOW
considered there was nothing of culpability whatever in the conduct of the Great Western Company; they had only done what the Legislature allowed them. The Committee granted in the first instance had only been granted in consequence of the clear statement made by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), who moved the appointment of that Committee, and because there was no opposition whatever. He believed that there was not in the first instance the slightest necessity for the appointment of a Committee, and he should therefore vote with his noble Friend (Lord Redesdale).
explained that there had been an opposition and a discussion on the former occasion alluded to by the noble Earl.
§ Their Lordships divided:—For naming the Committee 29; Against it 22: Majority 7.