HL Deb 09 July 1855 vol 139 cc616-8

Bill read 3a, according to Order.

THE EARL OF EGLINTON moved the omission of Clause 2, which gave the Bill a retrospective operation. The noble Earl said it would be a great injustice to oblige railway companies which, had expended large sums of money upon the construction of level crossings, to make an additional outlay upon the building of bridges.


said, that a provision which Parliament thought necessary for the public safety with regard to railways about to be made, must also be necessary for the public safety with regard to railways already in existence. He did not think the clause would do any injury to railway companies, and he proposed to give them an appeal from the decision of the Board of Trade to the Privy Council.


opposed the clause, on the ground that it was a direct infringement of the rights of property. Railways were now one of the great material interests of the country; they had become a legitimate investment for money; thousands of families were dependent upon them for support, and they ought not to be tampered with by ex post facto legislation of this kind.


said, that after the high and exaggerated tone adopted by the noble and learned Lord, with regard to interference with private property, he could not help reminding their Lordships that last year the noble and learned Lord had, by inducing the House to pass his measure for the suppression of dog-carts, perpetrated a retrospective act which affected the property of the poorest classes in the community. He did not think the clause would operate so injuriously as the noble and learned Lord had represented. The Board of Trade would consider the interests of the railway companies as well as those of the public, and in addition, the former would have the protection of an appeal to the Privy Council.


opposed the retrospective operation of the clause.


supported the clause, and reminded their Lordships that in many instances they had felt justified in enacting measures which, though they were attended with expense to some parties, were necessary for the public health and safety. Since the rule laid down in this matter in 1848 not a single railway company had hesitated to assent to the introduction of this clause; neither had its operation made any difference in regard, to railway speculation. This Bill enabled railway companies to call upon the inhabitants of particular districts to contribute towards the expense of bridges which they were required by the Board of Trade to, erect. He would suggest that the Government should consider the propriety of inserting a clause enabling a district to contribute the amount imposed upon it by, annual payments, instead of in one total sum.


having said a few words in reply,

On the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill, their Lordships divided:—Content 30; Not Content 21: Majority 9.

On Clause 5, relating to the responsibility of railway companies for the acts of their servants,


took occasion to renew his objections to the clause. Upon a former occasion his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor had quoted the authority of Baron Parke in support of the alteration in the law which was contemplated by the clause; but his noble and learned Friend must have laboured under some misapprehension with respect to the matter, inasmuch as he (Lord Lyndhurst) had in his hand a letter of Baron Parke's, in which he expressed himself as unfavourable to any change in the existing state of the law; adding, at the same time, that if the Legislature determined upon altering it, the change might be made as satisfactorily as possible by the operation of the clause in question.


thought the clause one of the very best portions of the Bill.


admitted that he had in some respect misapprehended the views upon the matter which Baron Parke entertained.

Clause agreed to.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

House adjourned till To-morrow.