HL Deb 26 May 1865 vol 179 cc867-72

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, its object was to amend an Act passed in the 24th and 25th of the present reign for the purpose of restricting and regulating the use of locomotives on highways, by striking out certain clauses and inserting fuller provisions. The traction engine was a very powerful machine, capable of drawing a great weight; but, at the same time, it was from its nature the cause of much alarm to horses and other animals. On this consideration the 24 & 25 Vict, gave to the Secretary of State power to prohibit or restrain, on the representation of the local authorities, the use of the engine in any locality where it might be attended with danger. The effect of this provision was that the Secretary of State had been appealed to so frequently to exercise this power that a valuable mode of traction was now almost entirely put a stop to. The present Bill attempted to provide a remedy for that state of things. It proposed, among other things, to repeal the 5th clause of the former Act, which gave to the Secretary of State the power which he had described; then the 9th clause, which provided that two persons should be always present with the locomotive; and the 11th, which enacted that the rate of speed should not be more than ten miles in the country and five miles in the town. By the present Bill it was proposed that, instead of two persons, three should be in charge of the engine, one of whom must always be sixty yards in advance, in order to warn the public, and stop the engine when it should be thought necessary. The driver was not to be permitted to sound his whistle for any purpose whatever, or to blow off his steam when the locomotive was on the road. He was also to take care that there should be plenty of space to enable vehicles to pass and to stop whenever signalled to do so by any person using a horse or carriage on the road. The engine was also to carry two efficient lights in front from sunset to sunrise. It was further enacted that a locomotive should not travel at a greater speed than four miles an hour on any turnpike road, or two miles an hour in any town; that no engine shall exceed 9 feet in width and 14 tons in weight. Instead of being placed under the control of the Secretary of State, those engines were in towns to be put under the charge of the local authorities; in the City of London, under that of the Court of Aldermen; and in the metropolis, under the Board of Works. He thought the magistrates in the country should have a corresponding power. If the Bill passed into law, it was to be read together with the former Act, and both were to constitute one Act.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Hardwicke.)


said, that his noble Friend had stated very clearly the objects of the Bill, but he had passed over the objections to it. The Act which the present Bill proposed to consolidate and amend was in itself objectionable; but inasmuch as the present Bill proposed to remove some of the most valuable restrictions and safeguards with which the Act was guarded, the legislation proposed seemed of much more questionable expediency. In the original Act it was provided that the Secretary of State should have the power of prohibiting or restricting the use of those engines on common roads wherever they were found to be dangerous or inconvenient. That clause was distinctly proposed to be repealed by the Bill; but the House ought to pause before sanctioning so dangerous a proceeding. When they came to consider the precautions provided by the Bill the case did not seem to be much improved. The first was that three persons should accompany the engine, and that there should be a combination of arrangements by which the man in front should signal with his hand to warn those who were approaching, and also to indicate to the driver that he was to stop. The man was not to be more than sixty yards in front; but, under the terms of the provision, he might be not more than five or ten yards, and therefore quite unable to provide against danger; and if so, what became of the safeguard which was to be provided? There was an absolute diminution of safety. Then it was provided that the engine should give as much space as possible, so as to allow vehicles to pass. But inasmuch as those engines were 9 feet wide, it would be exceedingly difficult in the narrow roads which were to be found in so many parts of the country to find any available space for the passage of vehicles. It was forbidden that the drivers should blow off steam; but it was not necessary that the engines should consume their own smoke, and it was quite as dangerous that one of those monsters should puff its smoke in the face of a spirited horse as that the driver should let off the steam. And then the provision with respect to lights appeared only to augment the elements of danger. The precautions, in short, were too elaborate to be practicable, the penalty of £5 was too small, and it would be exceedingly diffi- cult to prove a violation of the law. Under these circumstances, he should strongly recommend his noble Friend to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, where it might be considered together with the Act now in force, and a measure might be the result which would be free from the objections which he had pointed out.


said, his original inclination was to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months; for, objectionable as the present Act might be, the Bill now before the House, by taking away his powers from the Secretary of State, was still more objectionable. Under all the circumstances, however, he thought it would be wise to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.


said, he thought the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, as it appeared that its objects and the nature of the provisions of the present Act were not very well understood by their Lordships. At the same time he was convinced that alterations like those proposed by the Bill were very much required. In the first place, the restriction of the hours of travelling to the hours between twelve o'clock at night and six in the morning rendered it almost impracticable to use these machines for agricultural purposes. For instance, it was exceedingly difficult to get the machines into the fields in the darkness of night. He had two machines of his own; but, as his farms laid five miles apart, if the restriction he had mentioned was enforced he should be obliged to abandon the use of these engines. If the Act regulating the travelling of locomotives was allowed to remain unaltered it was impossible that the farmers should bring them into general use. Therefore, while he approved the suggestion to send the Bill to a Select Committee, he also entertained a decided opinion that such a Bill as this was absolutely necessary.


pointed out that this Bill was an instance of an evil which he had pointed out in other legislation. Clauses and parts of clauses were repealed without any intimation of their effect—other provisions were inserted referring to the provisions of former Acts; and the several Acts were directed to be read together. For instance, in the 5th clause it was provided that "the wheels of such locomotive be constructed according to the requirements of the said recited Act," so that the new Act could not be understood without reference to the former Act, a great part of which was repealed. He could not understand why, in cases of this kind, the existing Acts should not be repealed altogether, and the enactments intended to be continued inserted in the new Bill, so that every Act should be complete in itself.


wished, as one who had had experience in the management of locomotives on common roads, to say a few words. He had himself driven an engine from Inverness to John o'Groat's, a distance of 160 miles, without frightening a single horse. He had no doubt frightened many people; but any horse that had been alarmed had been so by the efforts made to get it out of the way so that it might not see the engine, which was thought to be a very formidable object. When a carter saw the engine coming the first thing he did was to seize hold of his horse's head and give it a tremendous shaking. To say that these engines could travel upon common roads free from the danger of frightening horses would not be correct; but if they were driven with proper care, and with proper regard to what might be met upon the road, he believed that they could pass along with perfect safety. He thought that the provision that there should be a man sixty yards in front of the engine was a good one; but still if the driver would do as he (the Earl of Caithn e) had done when he saw a horse ahead—shut off the steam—that would be all that was required. To show the importance of these engines he would mention that the cost of haulage was as ten to one in favour of engines as compared with horses. He was much more in favour of locomotives travelling by day than by night, for by night he thought that accidents were most likely to occur. He thought that power should be given to some authority to place certain restrictions upon the use of these engines; but still some of the restrictions which now existed tended to prevent farmers from making use of them. Mr. Howard, of Bedford, had informed him that he had driven locomotives on common roads for years without any accident; and any carelessness on the part of drivers could be guarded against by penalties. Another point to consider was, that one of these engines could draw forty tons within the space of the engine, while with horse power they would want a team of thirty or forty horses covering the space of a quarter of a mile. Sometimes railways ran fifty or sixty miles by the side of the common road, and he never knew a case in which horses had been frightened by the engines, and surely locomotives travelling on common roads were not so dangerous as railway engines travelling on the railway at the rate of thirty or forty miles an hour. He supported the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee; for lie thought that if undue obstructions were thrown on the travelling of these engines on the roads the farmers would be compelled to abandon the use of them.


said, that in deference to the wishes of their Lordships he would consent to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2ª, and referred to a Select Committee.

And on Monday, June 12, the Lords following were named of the Committee—

D. Richmond. E. Romney.
D. Sutherland. V. Melville.
M. Salisbury. V. Eversley.
E. Caithness. L. Silchester.
E. Hardwicke. L. Rossie.
E. Carnarvon. L. Stanley of Alderley.

And on Tuesday, June 13, L. Harris added in the Place of D. Sutherland, E. De Grey in the Place of L. Stanley of Alderley, and E. Ducie, V. Strathallan, L. Calthorpe, and L. Wenlock added.