HL Deb 19 June 1862 vol 167 cc725-8

Order of the day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, he believed it was now thirty-one years since a noble Friend of his, now present, proposed a Bill in the other House of Parliament to amend the law relating to highways. Since that time there had been frequent attempts to legislate on the subject, and a Bill had at length successfully passed the other House of Parliament, and was now brought up to their Lordships' House in a shape which he trusted would secure their approbation. It had been carefully investigated by a Select Committee of the House of Commons. It was very desirable to establish some system by which they could secure the formation and maintenance of good roads throughout the country. The principle of this Bill had already been adopted with great success in South Wales, where, the roads had been considerably improved and the expense had not been increased. The mode of procedure proposed to be enacted under this Bill was, that any five justices of the county might present a requisition to the Court of Quarter Sessions, and the court might make an order requiring that the whole county, or any part of the county, might be formed into districts. That provisional order had to be confirmed at another Court of Quarter Sessions, and the additional confirmation of the Secretary of State was then required. Power was given to appoint a paid surveyor and a paid treasurer, and each parish was to appoint a waywarden, in the same way that the surveyors of highways were appointed now. He would not go further into the details of the measure, which could be more appropriately considered in Committee; but he trusted that on the present occasion he should receive the assent of their Lordships to the second reading of the Bill.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


objected to the Bill, on the ground that it took the power of taxation out of the hands of parishes, and transferred it to an irresponsible body. He thought it would be best that the Bill should be sent by their Lordships to a Select Committee.


said, that great efforts, in which a noble Duke opposite and himself had borne a part, had been made in former years in the other House of Parliament to pass some such measure as the present, which was urgently needed. The Bill was little more than an enlargement of some clauses which were now the law; but the area of management was not sufficiently large. It was extremely desirable that this measure, which had come down from the House of Commons, should be considered and amended by their Lordships, if it required amendment, and he hoped that it would become law this Session. To refer it to a Select Committee would not be a convenient mode of discussing it. Two or three of the clauses demanded careful consideration, which could be bestowed upon them in a Committee of the Whole House. On the whole, the Bill would, he believe, tend to give the country better roads than it had at present, and at a much less cost.


agreed very much in what had fallen from the noble Lord who spoke last as to the necessity of passing some such measure as this, and could corroborate from his personal knowledge the statement that its subject had received a considerable degree of attention from the other House of Parliament. Concurring in the principles of the Bill, he thought that all the Amendments necessary to make it a good and useful measure could be made in Committee of the Whole House.


was glad to see a Highway Bill that had some chance of passing, because it had also been his lot, in common with many others, to labour in this cause without success in the House of Commons. He believed that no Bill would be effectual that was not compulsory; but he was willing to see this measure adopted, because it would extend the area of management and give them surveyor with larger districts under their charge. Improvement in this respect was urgently called for in his own county, which paid £37,000 for the repairs of its highways, and yet the greater part of them were impassable in the winter.


said, he thought this essentially a Bill of detail, which could be more conveniently dealt with in Committee than on the second reading. He perfectly agreed in its general principle, but there were one or two points which deserved consideration at the present stage. The mode in which it was proposed that the parishes should contribute to the common highway fund, was in some respects very objectionable. The average expenditure incurred by each parish during the three preceding years was the basis on which its contribution was to be computed. That rule would operate most unfairly towards those parishes which had made a large outlay upon the improvement of their roads, while it would let those parishes which had neglected their duty go almost scot-free. The second point to which he wished to advert related to the power which the Bill would give the Secretary of State over the order of the Court of Quarter Sessions in respect to the new highway districts. This he thought interfered too much with the local management. The order must be submitted to the Secretary of State before it was binding; but what could the Secretary of State know of the necessities of the various localities? Such an interference was not only unnecessary, but would be mischievous, inasmuch as it relieved the justices of a responsibility which fairly belonged to them. At the same time, he must say, there could be but one wish on the part of their Lordships—to make the measure as practicable as possible.


thought the present law quite sufficient for all practical purposes. The remedies when a road got out of repair were ample; but the fact was that persons refrained from indicting bad roads because of the odium they would be certain to incur. All that was really necessary to accomplish all they desired was that some officer should be appointed to go over the country, and where the roads were found out of repair to indict the parties liable. The Bill would only entail unnecessary expense, supersede local authority, and increase the influence of the Secretary of State's office.


maintained that a measure of this kind ought to be compulsory.


considered the measure entirely experimental, and no doubt before it was long in operation it would require Amendments in a variety of particulars. He supported the Bill.


said, he was glad to observe the general disposition of their Lordships in favour of the principle of the Bill. He should be happy to consider any suggestions that might be made to simplify or improve its machinery.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday, the 30th instant.