§ EARL FITZHARDINGE
rose to inquire whether the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers had been drawn to a late attempt to murder a policeman in a railway carriage? and whether, in consequence, they had any intention to introduce a measure to compel the railway companies to adopt some means of enabling the guard to communicate with the engine driver when trains were in motion? The noble Earl then referred to a circumstance which occurred, on the 10th May last, upon the Manchester and Sheffield Railway, and which had been noticed in all the public papers about that time. The facts were shortly these:— While two prisoners, who were handcuffed, were being conveyed upon that railway, in custody of a policeman, one of them succeeded in removing the handcuffs from his wrists, and in effecting his escape by jumping from the carriage. The other attacked the policeman, beating him about the head and body with his irons, and inflicting severe wounds. A fearful struggle took place between the two, the policeman vainly endeavouring by his cries to obtain assistance. Although seriously injured, he succeeded in retaining the custody of the prisoner until the train stopped at the usual station, where the necessary assistance was afforded him. At the trial which took place, it was clearly admitted that there was no means at present of communicating with the driver to stop the engine, unless he happened to look back. It, therefore, became necessary that legislation should be resorted to, in order to compel railway companies to furnish the means of communication between the front and rear of a train, or between the driver and guard; for, as matters now stood, the surest place in which a man could with impunity commit an offence of the greatest magnitude, such as murder, robbery, or violence to women, was a railway carriage. It was generally said, that there were insurmountable difficulties in the way of effecting this communication between guard and driver. He, however, was unable to see why that should be; for he had been informed that neither Mr. Brunel, Mr. Stephenson, or Mr. Locke shared in that opinion, and that, on the contrary, they believed all the difficulties in the way might be easily overcome by mechanical contrivances. He trusted, then, that of not this Session, at 697 least next Session of Parliament, the subject would be taken up by the Government with a view to legislation.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
was fully sensible of the importance of the subject which the noble Earl had brought under the notice of the House, and he could assure him that it was a matter which had received the fullest consideration of the Government. The noble Earl was aware that a Committee of the other House of Parliament had been appointed to consider the subject of railway accidents, and that that Committee had strongly recommended that it should be obligatory on railway companies to establish some ready and easy communication between the guard and the driver. The railway companies themselves had also expressed their readiness to adopt any scheme that might best promote the object aimed at. It was highly desirable, however, that whatever mode was adopted should be applicable to all railways alike, and be adopted on fresh lines as they were constructed. He believed a mode had been adopted on the South Western line of communicating with the driver by means of a rope running along the carriages, and worked upon a winch at one end. A report had, in the course of the present year, been made to the Board of Trade by Captain Wynne, on the subject of Professor Gluckman 's invention, in which he stated that Professor Gluckman had satisfactorily established an effective means of communication between guard and driver. That plan had been tried for a short time on the North Western Railway, and had been in operation for about four months on the Great Northern line:— and in a second Report of Captain Wynne, which he had seen, his opinion of the invention was still satisfactory; and he might state that he had himself been informed that evening by a Member of the other House, connected with the London and North Western Railway, that that company was under an engagement to use Professor Gluckman's patent. As the noble Earl probably knew, a Bill had been introduced into the House of Commons this Session into which a clause was introduced making it compulsory on railway companies to establish the means of communication between the guard and the driver; but the precise mode in which it was to be accomplished could not be pointed out either by the Government or the Legislature—it must be left to the companies themselves. From the great pres- 698 sure of business the Bill had been withdrawn. He might say, however, that in the next Session of Parliament a Bill would be presented to their Lordships to carry that object into effect. At the same time it was but fair to state that they had ample evidence to show that the officers connected with the various railways manifested the greatest possible care to provide against accidents, and that they paid the utmost attention to the management of the railways committed to their care; inasmuch as that during the last six months not one fatal accident had occurred from causes over which the companies could have any control.
§ EARL FITZHARDINGE
was quite willing to join in testifying to the efficient manner in which railways were now managed; at least, nothing could be more complete than the arrangements of the Great Western Company, which was the line he was best acquainted with. But all those arrangements had reference merely to the prevention of accidents; and, therefore, allusions to them bore in no way upon the evil which he wished to see remedied—namely, the perpetration of great crimes in railway carriages.
thought that the public ought to be very much indebted to the noble Earl for having brought the subject under the notice of their Lordships. He must say there was very great reason to complain that the Bill on the subject of railways alluded to by the noble Lord had not been laid upon their Lordships' table. The Session before last he himself had pointed out several defects in the law relative to railways requiring to be urgently corrected. Amongst other points held out by the Judges as requiring a remedy was, that railway companies were not held liable for anything done by their servants, although those servants acted under the most complete idea that they were but fulfilling the orders given to them; and, therefore, unless it could be proved that a particular act was done by the authority and under the seal of time company, the injured party had no remedy against them. On a recent occasion, a respectable tradesman, who had provided himself with a return ticket, happened to return by an express train, when, on landing on the platform, a demand was made on him by a servant of the company for a sum of half-a-crown additional, in consequence of his having journeyed by an express train. On the man demurring to 699 comply with the demand, he was actually conveyed away, and locked up in jail for twenty-four hours; and when, subsequently, he brought an action against the company for false imprisonment, he could get no redress, because it was contended that the servant had acted beyond his instructions. Now, he (Lord Campbell) had ventured to point out on that occasion, that it would be most reasonable that a railway should be held responsible for the acts of its servants, where it could be clearly shown that they believed they were bonâ fide executing the orders of their employers. He was very sorry that the intention of the Government had not been carried into effect in reference to railway legislation, and the circumstance of the delay only served to remind him of the existence of a certain place said to be paved with good intentions. But the fact was, the whole machinery of legislation seemed wholly out of gear this Session of Parliament, and the public interests had suffered accordingly.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
reiterated his assurance that legislation this Session had only been thrown over in consequence of the pressure of business. The noble and learned Lord, however, might rely upon it that a measure would be introduced next Session of Parliament.
§ House adjourned to Thursday next.