HL Deb 27 April 1863 vol 170 cc767-70

rose to call the attention of the House to the Report from the Select Committee on Charging of Entailed Estates for Railways [Parl P. No. 80], and to the Evidence given before that Committee. The noble Lord, who was very imperfectly heard, was understood to point to several recommendations of the Report, as showing the difficulty of dealing with the subject by legislation. Lord St. Leonards, who was unable to attend in his place that evening, had written to him to say that nothing could be more objectionable than the scheme which the Committee had recommended. He (Lord Redesdale) had not put himself in opposition to the Report of the Committee; he had done all in his power to see it carried out, and he would continue to do so. But his recommendation would be, that nothing more should be done until the House should be prepared to pass some well-considered public Bill on the subject.


said, it had been clearly proved, before the Select Committee, that the formation of the railway about which this particular question arose was as certain to improve the land in its neighbourhood as drainage, buildings, or any other works; and there was no more difficulty in ascertaining the improved value of land arising from the construction of a railway, than there was in estimating the effect of any other improvements. It had been also clearly proved that there was very great difficulty in obtaining capital for the construction of this railway without the assistance of the landowners; and though some landowners were able to take shares to a large amount, many wore not in a situation to do so unless they were enabled to raise money for that purpose upon their estates. The conclusions of the Committee were unanimous, and derived additional weight from the fact that the Committee was composed of noble Lords who had had great experience in similar matters.


said, that great doubts were entertained by Mr. Derby, the Commissioner for Drainage Works, whether it was practicable to fix the additional value given to estates by railways running through them; and if legislative powers were given, they should be clearly defined in a separate Bill brought in for that purpose; and that it should not be left to each separate Railway Bill to insert clauses, differing from each other in each case; and that the powers of each general Act should be inserted in each particular measure, in the same manner as the Land Clauses Act is applied.


thought, in respect of the particular measure which had given rise to this inquiry, as considerable expense had been incurred by the promoters of this Bill, and the evidence was favourable, it would not be unreasonable to allow the measure to proceed to a second reading. It might then be left to the Select Committee which had considered this subject, to say whether the provisions were sufficient to secure that no injury would be done to existing or future rights.


considered that it would be a dangerous precedent to introduce into a Private Bill a principle which it might prove would not be desirable for general adoption.


would warn their Lordships, from the experience he had had in Ireland, that unless some definite rules were laid down, numberless Bills would be brought in by landed proprietors next Session asking permission to encumber their estates for the objects proposed. At the same time, he was rather in favour of the principle proposed to be introduced into the present Bill.


said, that no doubt in passing a Private Bill with a provision of this kind they would be sanctioning a general principle; and therefore they ought to do it with their eyes open. He admitted he did not see how it would be possible to refuse the introduction of similar Bills if this measure were agreed to. He thought it could not be disputed that a railway would in most cases confer a great benefit upon the property through which it passed; but the essential point was, that there should be security that the owners should receive in increased rents as much as would be sufficient to pay off the money advanced to the railway company. They had already sanctioned this principle in the case of drainage and buildings, and an improvement such as a railway was, in fact, even more permanent, except in the case of a railway not being worked, which, though just possible, was very unlikely. He argued, however, that it would be better that a general measure should be introduced.


said, there could be no question of the value to a particular district of railway communication, but he thought it was to be regretted that the Committee had not more largely considered what guarantees ought to be taken for the efficient working of the lines after they had been opened. That appeared to be the weak part of the scheme, and the evidence with regard to it was meagre and unsatisfactory, It was often the policy of large lines to stifle instead of facilitate short landowners' lines running into theirs, either because they brought too small a profit to the main line, or else in the hope of purchasing the branch on easy terms. Sometimes, too, a portion of the stock was issued on the express condition that the holders should not be called on to pay for their shares, the object being to comply with the Act of Parliament and bring into play the borrowing powers, which could not be exercised till two-thirds of the shares had been taken. By this means the line became hampered with a large amount of debt. He hoped, therefore, that if any general measure were introduced, care would be taken, not only to insure prudence in the construction of lines, but their efficient working afterwards.


thought that it would be desirable that steps should be taken to obtain a decision of their Lordships' House upon this subject, but that no good would result from continuing a discussion by which that object would not be attained.


wished to urge upon their Lordships the importance of not allowing powers, such as had been referred to, to be introduced in any Private Bill; for if they did, they might depend upon it that they would not obtain public legislation upon it. If such power were granted to one Company this Session, they would have fifty applications for similar powers next year; and if it were found that they could go on in this way, there would be no public legislation, and a crude and bad system would grow up. On the other hand, if they refused to grant powers by Private Bills, there would be a probability of their passing a Public Act, which was a thing much to be desired. If the noble Earl (Earl Granville) wished it, he (Lord Redesdale) would himself bring the matter definitely before the House—probably by way of Resolution.