HL Deb 06 August 1878 vol 242 cc1282-4

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.


expressed his regret at the course taken with respect to this Bill in striking out the clauses with reference to the use of steam power. He must say that, in his opinion, the promoters had been hardly dealt with. The question was not whether to give general powers for the use of steam upon tramways, but when any locality unanimously desired that tramways in their district should use steam power, he thought it rather hard that their wish should be interfered with by Parliament. He thought that the effect of leaving out these clauses had hardly been sufficiently considered, and wished to point out that the probable result of striking them out would be exactly contrary to that which was intended, because it would lead to any locality that wished to have tramways with steam power having them without the authority of Parliament; and, consequently, without any of those restrictions and regulations which were thought so necessary, and which it was the object of these clauses to provide. He knew that this was the case already to a considerable extent, and he thought that the striking out of these clauses would have the effect of still further increasing the use of steam unauthorized and unregulated by Parliament. The judgment in the Swansea case showed distinctly that where any use of steam was a private nuisance, the existing law was quite sufficient to put it down; but wherever the localities were unanimous in desiring the use of steam in tramways no prosecution was likely to take place. He really thought that if their Lordships considered what had passed upon this subject, they would hardly insist upon the rejection of these clauses. The hardship upon Tramway Companies would be very little mitigated by allowing them to come with these clauses again next year without making any further deposit. The Tramways Act of 1870 contemplated the possible use of steam, and of any other than animal power, and in the year 1876, the Wantage Bill and the Vale of Clyde Provisional Order Bill granted the use of steam in both cases under certain conditions; and the success of these Bills was so great that, in the following year, numerous applications for the use of steam power were made. Those applications, however, were deferred expressly on the ground that further inquiries should be first made. That further inquiry was immediately made by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, and their Report was favourable to the use of steam power on tramways; but they suggested certain restrictions, and recommended that the Board of Trade should have the power of licensing tramways for experiments in the use of steam. Bills were brought into both Houses for that purpose, but dropped for want of time. After what had passed, it seemed to him that there was a sort of expectation held out which could not be withdrawn, except on fresh ground. Everything asked for having been favourably reported on by the Committee, these promoters ought to be allowed to proceed with the clauses authorizing the use of steam power on stated terms where the locality desired it? Another Select Committee of the House of Commons sat this year, and their Report was that the evidence was overwhelming against refusing leave. It appeared to him that that Report was perfectly unanswerable. It recommended that steam should be used when unanimously desired under certain stringent conditions; and he really did think that if at the last moment they threw these clauses over, it would be something very like a breach of faith sufficient to make the promoters despair of ever obtaining any Parliamentary sanction or authority. Those who argued that streets in towns belonged to the public at large were altogether against tramways, not specially against them; and the arguments of those of their Lordships who, in the last discussion in that House, spoke on the part of the railways, and objected to have the competition of the tramways argued in favour of an objection which they never admitted on the part of the road traffic as against themselves. In his opinion, no weight could be attached to arguments against steam trams founded on the fear that they would be competitors with the railways. The question was whether there should be authorized or unauthorized use of steam in those places where no objection to it was entertained, and, consequently, no prosecution could be apprehended.

House in Committee (according to Order).


stated that the Amendments which he proposed were framed simply for the purpose of carrying out the wishes of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees and the wishes of their Lordships' House, which were agreed to on a former occasion, and would allow of further inquiry.

Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received on Thursday next; and Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 193.)