HL Deb 01 August 1848 vol 100 cc1069-73

, in moving the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate upon the Amendment moved on the Third Reading of this Bill, briefly recapitulated the circumstances under which the Bill now came before their Lordships. A Committee had been appointed at the beginning of the Session, by the House of Commons, to consider the nature of the' Railway Bills which were to be introduced during the Session. That Committee was composed of hon. Members who were fully conversant with all these matters. The Commissioners of Railways thought it their duty to suggest to that Committee that there were four Railway Bills before Parliament, in each of which unusual powers were asked, and which, consequently, demanded their special consideration, those companies seeking the authority of Parliament to become steam-packet proprietors. A report was drawn up by the Board of Trade in connexion with the Railway Department, which, after stating certain general principles, went into the question of those four Bills, and stated that, in regard to the South Western Railway, although it was not so strong a case as the Chester and Holyhead, yet they thought that there was sufficient evidence in relation to it to make it exceptional from the general rules, and that the powers asked for should be granted. It was, at the same time, recommended that the company should be limited to a certain maximum amount of fares. The whole matter was then submitted to a Committee of the other House of Parliament, over which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth presided. After a careful examination of all the facts connected with the Railway Bill, the Committee made their report, arriving exactly at the same result as the Board of Trade. The question then came up in the usual form to their Lordships' House, when a Committee was appointed, who, after an equally careful examination of all the facts, made a similar report. He believed that the objections to this Bill were, in the first place, that the company should not be incorporated with limited liability to do that which an unincorporated company of private individuals was competent to perform. In the second place, it was said that this Bill was likely' to give a monopoly to a company that would prove injurious to the public. He did not think that there was any thing in the first objection; for it was a common case to sec two competing companies running for a short time against each other, when an. arrangement was effected, by which the competition was destroyed, and the public exposed to all the inconveniences and exactions of a monopoly. He did not mean to deny that this Bill would have the effect of giving a monopoly to one company; but he contended that it would be a monopoly that was likely to prove of the greatest advantage to the public. In the first place, it was to be limited to fourteen years; and, in the second place, the maximum rate of fares was limited. It was also the interest of the company to establish the greatest amount of comfort and accommodation for the pub- lic. He asked their Lordships' support to this Bill, because its merits were already decided by a Committee of their Lordships' House, and by two distinct Committees in the other House of Parliament. If there were any objections to be urged against this Bill, they should have been stated upon the second reading. He thought that it would he a great hardship to the company, and it would lower the character of their Lordships' House in respect to the mode in which they conducted the legislation of the country, if at this stage of their proceedings they threw out this measure.


said, that he took the liberty of stating, on a former occasion, that whatever was done with the measure itself, they ought to be furnished with more information in respect to the decision to which the Committee of their Lordships' House had come. With that view, he had moved for the production of papers containing such information. In the course he took he did not intend to offer any opposition upon the merits; but what he felt was this, that, unquestionably, the course which had been taken in respect to the two Railway Bills in question, era-powering them to have steamers in connexion with their other works, was very unusual. If Parliament felt that it was desirable to give them these powers, proper precautions should be taken to protect the interest of the public, and to provide against those cases being made precedents for future applications. He admitted that these objections ought to have been urged at an earlier stage of this measure; and he regretted that his attention had not been sooner called to these facts, when he should have certainly moved that the Committee should report specially upon this case, and should state that these were powers that should not be conferred in all cases. He did not wish to quarrel with the decision that had been come to in respect to the Holyhead and Chester line. He believed, indeed, that that decision was beyond their reach, as the Bill had been passed. He should much like to ask their Lordships to recommit this Bill for a day or two, with the view of obtaining from the Committee a statement of the specific grounds of their decision. He felt, however, that it was impossible for him to take this course now, and he, therefore, did not mean to offer any thing like opposition to the Motion of the noble Lord.


was opposed to this Bill, because he felt that the result of its passing would he to interfere with all private capital and enterprise, by giving a monopoly to one particular company. This, too, would furnish a precedent which would induce railway companies to make similar applications, so that by and by these companies would, step by step, obtain a monopoly of all their steam navigation. There was a great principle here which was well worthy of their deepest attention. They had had communications by sea between Havre and Southampton, for a great number of years, which, though perhaps not as good as were likely to be conferred by this Bill, yet were well adapted to suit the convenience of the public. He had such faith in the private capital and enterprise of the country in effecting every object that was desirable, that he should object very strongly to give his consent to any measure that would confer such a monopoly as this Bill proposed. However strong he might be impressed with the importance of the proposition, he would not give their Lordships the trouble of dividing.


thought that they should not lay down any positive general rule. Each individual case ought to be judged upon its own merits, and those merits formed the subject of consideration in the Committee. His vote would he governed by the report of the Committee upon the case; for he thought it absurd to appoint Committees at all if they did not abide by their decisions. There were some instances in which the giving of powers to railroad companies to become proprietors of steam packets had been attended with consequences unfavourable to the public interest. In others, they had been productive of great advantage. He thought they had done wrong in giving those powers to the Brighton Company, who had placed boats that had been built only for the river Thames upon the passage between Brighton and Dieppe, one of the most stormy portions of the Channel. But, in the case of the Holyhead Company, although the giving of those powers conferred a sort of perfect monopoly of the passage between Holyhead and Dublin upon them, the consequence had been that the interests of the public had been vastly benefited. If the public convenience and advantage were likely to be consulted, their Lordships should sometimes run the risk of conferring a monopoly.

They should not lay down a stringent rule from which they would not depart.

Amendment disagreed to.

Bill read 3a and passed.

House adjourned.

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