HL Deb 25 February 1879 vol 243 cc1727-9

rose to draw the attention of the Chairman of Committees to the statement in The Times of 6th of February, that Mr. Terry, a contractor, under a writ of elegit, obtained judgment before the Tinder-Sheriff of Oxfordshire against the Banbury and Cheltenham Railway, and that the jury had delivered 15 miles of land, of which they were possessed in that county for the construction of their line, in execution to the plaintiff; and asked the noble Earl, Whether the Parliamentary powers, under which such lands were acquired, in his opinion, allowed such a proceeding? It seemed to him that this case involved a very important principle. Railway Companies came to that House every year for com- pulsory powers to acquire land, and he thought their Lordships might reasonably ask that those from whom the land was thus taken should have some guarantee that its use should not be diverted from the purpose which Parliament had sanctioned. The popular opinion that a railway was the Queen's highway did not seem always to hold good, and especially before it was opened. He did not know if a writ of elegit, which gave the legal but not the actual possession, made any difference. He supposed it was impossible to expect the whole of the capital for carrying out those works to be found when the Company came to that House for their powers; but he thought a miscarriage of the intention of Parliament such as this should be impossible. Perhaps he ought to apologize for addressing the Question to the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees instead of to Her Majesty's Government; but he thought, from his long experience, the noble Earl would be able to give the House a very valuable opinion on the matter.


said, that while not professing to be able to give a legal opinion on the Question asked, he did not think the statement in The Times was strictly accurate. The position of affairs, he believed, was this. Mr. Terry carried on the work intrusted to him in so unsatisfactory a manner that the Company discharged him and took the execution of the work into their own hands, and let the work and materials on the line to other contractors. The question of what Mr. Terry was entitled to receive for the work he had actually done was referred to arbitration. The award had been made, and Mr. Terry was found entitled to £5,000. The money was not paid, and Mr. Terry proceeded to take possession of the land by a writ of elegit. The finding on that writ was that the Company had acquired the land between the fencing to which the writ applied. Mr. Terry could get nothing off the land, there being no chattels on it belonging to the Company, and really he had gained nothing by his movement. It was perfectly obvious that whatever he had got was subject to the conditions under which the land was held by the Company under their Act of Parliament. The landowner, who had not been paid for his land, had the first claim, and next to him the persons to be paid were the debenture holders. He presumed that if the railway was abandoned the land would revert to the original owners. He could give no further information.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.