§ Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
called attention to the powers conferred by this Bill, and inquired whether their Lordships considered that the Board of Trade were entitled to exercise such authority, under a private Bill, as would issue in the granting of a complete monopoly, with respect to the harbour of Ramsgate, to a private company. The attention of the Steam Shipowners' Association had been called to the subject, and the Board of Trade had expunged the 6th clause, which especially bore upon this question, but 582 by the 4th clause powers of a more extensive character were conferred than could have been exercised under the abandoned clause. Under the powers granted by this Bill the Kent Coast Railway Company would be entitled to run a tramway on to the pier at Ramsgate, and would practically obtain a monopoly of the harbour traffic. As the Bill was first introduced this clause was in the Bill, and in consequence the second reading was opposed by the Steamship Owners' Association; but upon a written undertaking being given by the Member who had charge of the Bill in the House of Commons that the clause should be expunged, the opposition was withdrawn. Subsequently, however, by an arrangement with the Board of Trade the same powers were given by the eleventh clause, upon the ground, he believed, that the proposed works were necessary, and that that Department had not funds to execute them. That, however, was no justification for a public Department handing over its functions to a private company, even were it the case; but that was not so—the Board had ample means from the rents, tolls, and accumulated capital derived from the late Harbor Commissioners. Two reports had been made to the Government on the subject; from the first of which, made by Sir John Rennie, it appeared that £7,000 a year would be sufficient to maintain the harbour in repair; but desires being expressed for further inquiry, Sir William Cubitt prosecuted one, and reported that the annual expenditure of £7,500 would be amply sufficient for the proper maintenance of the harbour, while the annual revenue derivable from various sources applicable to the keeping up of the harbor was £9,000. Under all the circumstances of the case he thought that their Lordships ought to pause before they agreed to pass the Bill as it stood. There was no ground whatever why the Board of Trade should transfer the powers it possessed over Ramsgate harbour to a private railway company, and he objected to the mode in which it was attempted to be done—namely, by the insertion of a clause in a private Bill instead of by bringing in a Bill for that purpose, which must needs attract the attention of Parliament. He was of opinion that the 11th clause ought not to stand part of the Bill, and therefore he should move that it be struck out.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, that all the Board of Trade undertook to 583 do was to oppose any clause which transferred the harbour to the railway company, and the Bill merely gave power to the Board of Trade and the railway company to construct such a tramway as the Board of Trade might think convenient for the public in coming down to the harbour. The opposition was chiefly got up by a steam-packet company, who desired to deprive the public of the advantage of going to Ramsgate by railway, in the hope that they would continue to go by water. That company appeared before the Committee, and were declared to have no locus standi, and he trusted their Lordships would affirm the decision of the Committee. To show that the Board of Trade had not the ample funds mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, he would state that the harbour had been a losing concern, and that it had coat the public £3,000 a year. There were, in truth, no funds available for making a tramway or other works. It would be doing great injustice if their Lordships rejected this clause, which the town council of Ramsgate had approved of, and to which no opposition at all had been raised. He would appeal to their Lordships to stand by their Select Committee and to retain the clause.
THE DUKE OF MONTROSE
, as Chairman of the Committee, wished to say a few words on the subject. He entirely disagreed with the remark of the noble and learned Lord that the clause would transfer the harbour to a private company and create a monopoly. The Board of Trade was answerable to Parliament if it did anything detrimental to the public interests. Could any one say that enabling railway passengers to ride in their carriages to the pier was an act contrary to the public interests? Public steamers only could use the pier. The railway company possessed no steamers. The town was greatly in favour of the scheme, and the whole question resolved itself into thia:—Should the Board of Trade put down this tramway themselves, or allow this railway company or any other company to do so? As regarded a breach of faith, he did not think that any had been committed.
§ LORD KINGSDOWN
said, that being a shareholder in the company, he should be unable to vote on the question. He might, however, observe that the clause would only enable the Board of Trade to enter into an arrangement with this company 584 or any other company for the laying down of a tramway.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said, that the Board of Trade, as trustees for the public, had no right to transfer their powers over any public property without coming to Parliament for such a purpose, and it was most objectionable that they should have done so by a clause in a private Bill.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
expressed a hope that the House would give its assent to the clause, and support the unanimous decision at which the Select Committee to which the Bill had been referred had arrived.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, he knew nothing more of the Bill than he had heard in the course of the debate; but having listened attentively to the discussion which had taken place, he was of opinion that his noble and learned Friend (Lord Chelmsford) was fully justified in bringing the matter before the House. A Bill containing such extensive powers ought to have been brought forward as a public measure. He hoped that his noble and learned Friend would not give their Lordships the trouble of dividing, and that the noble Lord opposite would consent to the addition of a proviso for the more effectual protection of the public.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, he would not press the Motion for the rejection of the clause; but he thought that they ought to add to it a proviso for the purpose of protecting the right of the public in that matter.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, that it would be a special duty of the Board of Trade to take the necessary steps for protecting the rights and interests of the public.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.