HL Deb 21 June 1861 vol 163 cc1380-4

moved, that the Standing Order No. 185 (formerly be considered, in order to its being amended in the following:—After paragraph 2, to insert— 3. That no Provision authorizing any Company to raise Money or to subscribe towards or to guarantee any Money in the Undertaking of another Company, shall be introduced into any Bill which is riot brought in by the Company thereby authorized to raise Money op to subscribe or to guarantee, It had been said that such a provision would interfere with fee establishment of branch railways; but he maintained that there would be no such interference in the case of lines which were really required. Such branch lines were frequently got up without first obtaining proper support from the companies of the main line itself. The effect of the adoption of the Amendment to the Standing Order would be that the promoters of small railway schemes must, in the first place, go to the Company from whom they expected to receive assistance, and who would then consider if, and see if fair exertions lad been used to obtain that independent support of the line which it was right that it should receive. And having been satisfied that that had been the case, and that they had failed, they themselves would then bring in the Bill. He had been in communication with several Chairmen of Committees of the House of Commons upon the subject, who generally approved of the Amendment. They agreed that some legislation was required to check the practice of forming small branch line companies without independent capital, and only in the expectation of obtaining the necessary funds from the Company of the main line; and one of these Gentlemen mentioned that in the course of the present Session a railway Bill came before him for the construction of a branch line, which was estimated to cost £400,000. It turned out that in that case, although only £3,300 had been paid up on calls, the sum deposited under the Standing Orders was £37,000. From what fund it was supplied, however, did not appear;' but it came out in the course of the inquiry that the whole of the remainder of the capital, upwards of £300,000, was to be raised by the London and North-Western Railway Company.


said, that his experience of branch lines was that they were usually projected by the residents in particular districts upon their finding that it was almost intolerable to be left without railway communication. They then exerted themselves to get up subscriptions for the purpose, and' very naturally went to the railway company whose line they proposed to join, and with whom the first and main consideration was whether there was any other competing line to which the tragic of the district could go if they did not secure it for themselves. If they found that the traffic could not go upon any line but their own, then they would be in no hurry whatever to assist the new branch line; they would consequently turn their attention to other cases where they feared competition more, and to the district in which they were most exposed to competition, not to that which required a railway most, they would apply their resources. He took quite a different view of the subject from the noble Lord. His opinion was, and it was fortified by his experience throughout the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe, that the wonderful advantage of these instruments in the development of wealth had been proved to such a degree that to encourage the construction of lines in districts which were not at present provided with railways was alike consistent with reason and sound sense. In Ireland the country might be said to be divided between two great companies; and it was notorious in the cases of small branch lines that the only question was in which district would they run? If a company found that a district was bound to them it had small chance of being assisted to form a branch line; or that the line ran into-their rival's district, of course they would have nothing-to do with it; whilst no assistance was to be obtained from the other. He had been assured by several friends in Great Britain that they were very similarly circumstanced; and that the assistance which they were able to get from the great companies mainly depended upon whether they had any chance of rivalry or opposition from other quarters. He was, therefore, very averse to adding another impediment and difficulty in the way of the formation of these branch lines. He had never heard of any branch line doing much mischief, and very few had been given up. The great companies would always take care not to lend their money too hastily; and he did not see why agricultural districts that were without commercial wealth should not have fair facilities offered them for developing their resources. The Amendment to the Order would add to the expense and difficulty of obtaining such branch lines.


said, he did not think the object of the noble Earl would be attained by the Amendment to the Standing Order. There were few great railway companies that had not made arrangements of this kind; and, should the Standing Order be amended as proposed, he feared it would deter those companies from promoting the construction of branch lines that were essential to the completion of the railway system of the country. He thought it was the duty of Parliament to simplify as much as possible the compli- cated system of railway legislation, and diminish its expense. But it was quite clear that the Amendment would augment the expense. Any change had better be made by some general Order in which both Houses could concur; and being unwilling to take the responsibility of the proposed change by this House only, he should oppose the Amendment.


concurred in the remarks which had fallen from the noble Marquess. The effect of the Amendment of the Standing Order would be to protect one great interest in the country, and that was the interest of the law, by increasing the expense of railway Bills and promoting litigation; and he trusted that the noble Marquess's argument would induce his noble Friend to withdraw his proposal.


also opposed the Motion, the adoption of which, he contended, would throw immense difficulties in the way of small railway lines, which could only be constructed by the assistance of the larger companies.


held that the Amendment would have the effect of putting all parties on a just and proper footing, in regard alike to themselves, the public, and Parliament. He granted that without the assistance of the larger companies many smaller schemes could not be carried oat, and he did not object to that assistance being supplied; but what he wanted was that it should, be given in a proper form. His Motion would ensure prudence in the action of the parties at the first starting of the scheme; whereas at present more. than half the schemes which came before Parliament had no foundation whatever.


objected to the introduction of special legislation as regarded railways merely by the [Resolution of one House of Parliament, and the establishment by one Standing Order of a general law applicable to all railways in which the House of Commons was not asked to concur. If legislation of this kind was required it should be provided by the joint action of both Houses, and by a general Order which would be applied by both Houses. He had another objection to the alteration—that it would necessitate the application to Parliament by both companies, the assisting and the assisted, and thus the inconvenience and expense would be greatly increased.


said, he did not per- ceive the force of the noble Lord's objection, as if this House adopted the proposed Amendment it would be quite open to the other House. He thought there was great force in the argument of the noble Lord who had proposed the Amendment.


said, he had the greatest possible respect for the opinion of his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees, and agreed, moreover, in the general policy of his Motion. He could not, however, but think that the terms of the Resolution went beyond the necessity of the case. He would, therefore, suggest to his noble Friend whether his object would not be entirely answered if, instead of the Bill being introduced by the company proposing to advance the money, the Bill were not allowed to pass unless there were an undertaking—which might be inserted in the preamble—binding the company proposing to advance the money to fulfil that stipulation? It would perhaps be sufficient if the assisting company appeared before the Committee and signified its willingness to bind itself, and if its undertaking were then recited in the Bill.


thought that before the Bill was brought in the assent of the company intending to subscribe should be obtained. A Standing Order ought to be adopted requiring satisfactory proof to be given that the other company was willing to bind itself to advance the money.


said, he would endeavour to modify his Resolution in accordance with the suggestion of his noble Friend, as he merely wished to carry the House with him as far as possible. At the same time he retained his opinion that unless the parties who were to advance the money were themselves either joint promoters of the Bill, or in some way concerned in it, the object in view could not be satisfactorily attained. He would, however, not press his Resolution at present, but take time to frame it in another shape.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.