HL Deb 29 April 1887 vol 314 cc329-35

in moving that the following clause be inserted as the first of the Traffic Clauses:— The maximum toll, rate, or charge contained in every existing Act of Parliament relating to railways and canals in the United Kingdom shall include the charges for station accommodation, use of sidings, and wharves; and no railway or canal company shall be entitled to make any additional charges therefor, excepting in all cases where a specific charge in respect of such matters, or either of them, is expressly authorised by such existing railway or canal Act, said, as representing the traders, they did not much object to all terminal charges, as some of them were fair; but those were protected in the latter part of his clause. At the present hour the Railway Companies could erect a large station and apportion the price of the station over the traffic, so as to pay the interest on the outlay upon the station. The traders objected to this. No such power was contemplated in the earlier Acts of Parliament. It was never intended that they should charge, not only for the line, but also for the stations. It was not so many years ago that terminal charges were unknown in this country. The idea of the charges came from America, where the Companies merely constructed an iron road, and then built the stations as private speculations, recouping themselves for their outlay by terminal charges. At a comparatively recent date the practice of terminal charges was introduced into this country. He had considerably modified his former proposal, yielding largely to the Railway Companies, and hoped that his clause, as amended, might be accepted by Her Majesty's Government.

Amendment moved, In page 7, line 26, after (" Part II.- Traffic") insert new clause—"The maximum toll, rate, or charge contained in every existing Act of Parliament relating to railways and canals in the United Kingdom shall include the charges for station accommodation, use of sidings, and wharves; and no railway or canal company shall be entitled to make any additional charges therefor, excepting in all cases where a specific charge in respect of such matters, or either of them, is expressly authorised by such existing railway or canal Act."—(The Earl of Crawford.)


said, he did not object to the clause, but thought the first portion of it was unnecessary, inasmuch as under the existing law a Railway Company could not make terminal charges unless it were empowered to do so by a special Statute.


said, that he thought the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell) was wrong on this point to some extent. No doubt the law had always been laid down as he had said—namely, that maximum rates included terminals. This, however, had all been reversed by a recent case—Hall's case—and the law was now in a very unsatisfactory condition. The decision in this case was not really on the merits, but as to whether an appeal would lie from the Divisional Court. By an accident, the Railway Commissioners were the only inferior Court from which an appeal to the highest Court did not lie; and so the judicial decisions and the law, as established for many years, was reversed on a technical point. He was of opinion, therefore, that the present position of the question was most unsatisfactory, and that, as the present law was by no means clear on the subject, this clause ought to be added to the Bill.


remarked, that some Companies had the power to charge terminals while others had not, and where they had the power they ought to keep it.


said, he could not accept the clause which the noble Earl proposed to introduce. A change had taken place since the first days of railways. It was at first supposed that Railway Companies were merely owners of the way; but they became carriers, and then other duties were assumed by them. Having pointed out other considerations, they finally said that whatever was necessary for the use of the Railway as carriers should be covered by the carriage rate, and whatever fell within the exception might be the subject of special charge. If Railway Companies provided accommodation of a character or extent far beyond that required for the actual traffic, then the terminal charges were not to be considered with reference to the cost, but with reference to the accommodation really necessary. The question of terminal charges was to be considered by the Railway Companies in framing their schedules, which they would have to submit to the Board of Trade; the parties would be heard on both sides, and he believed that in many cases perfectly fair arrangements would be come to. Those schedules and rates would be embodied in Bills which would come before Parliament in the usual manner, and in dealing with which the fullest opportunity of being heard would be afforded to the parties. He hoped his noble Friend would not press his Amendment, which he could not assent to.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 22 (Revised classification of traffic, and schedule of rates).

On the Motion of The Lord STANLEY of PRESTON, the following Amendment made:— In page 7, line 35, at end of line insert ("In the determination of terminal charges of any railway company regard shall he had only to the expenditure reasonably necessary to provide the accommodation in respect of which such charges are made, irrespective of the outlay which may have been actually incurred by the railway company in providing that accommodation").

Clause 23 (Undue preference in case of unequal rates and charges, and unequal service performed).

THE EARL OF JERSEY moved, in page 9, line 34, to insert the words "except in the case of foreign goods." In support of his Amendment, he referred to the differential charges given by the Companies in favour of foreign and colonial beef as against home beef from Liverpool to London. This difference, it was argued, was necessary in order to secure the traffic in the interest of the public; but it was a great hardship that the producers in this country should find themselves placed in competition with foreigners who did not pay the same rates and taxes, and who had frequently a bounty besides. He could not look upon the arrangement in any other light than as unfair preference. It was contrary to the principles of fair trade, if not even contrary to common sense; and it was certainly highly injurious to the home trade. He hoped the noble Lord would have some regard to the interest of the home trade, and not permit the Railway Companies to give this preference to foreigners.

Amendment moved, in page 9, line 34, after ("may") to insert ("except in the case of foreign goods").—(The Earl of Jersey.)


said, he could assure his noble Friend that it had been the great object of the Government to mitigate and do away with the grievances to which he had called attention. They had taken great pains in the wording of this clause, and they certainly thought they had attained the result at which his noble Friend aimed in the Amendment he had pro- posed. He did not in the least differ from the noble Lord in the inference he drew from the illustration he had given. He thought great injury had been done to British trade in various articles by the inequality of railway rates. But he wished to call the noble Lord's attention to some words at the end of the clause, which appeared to him to make all the difference. The noble Lord would observe that the wording of the clause was this—that if there was a difference in the treatment of British goods or foreign goods, which was the case submitted by the noble Lord, the burden of proof would be on the Railway Company to show that no undue preference existed, and they were to be allowed to show that an undue preference did not exist. In certain cases—and this was what his noble Friend objected to—where this lower charge and difference of treatment were necessary for the security of the traffic in respect of which they were given, it might not be an undue preference. He wanted his noble Friend to observe that there were two most important qualifications which, it seemed to him, would utterly prevent the occurrence of those cases to which the noble Earl had very justly taken objection. There were two safeguards in the clause; in the first place, the Commissioners were only to do this so far as they thought reasonable, and then the larger one, that the Railway Company might only do it to secure the traffic in the interests of the public. They could not do it merely to swell their own receipts and make their dividends larger; they must show that there was a distinct public interest in carrying traffic from, say, Liverpool to London by rail instead of by sea. He hoped the noble Lord would not press his Amendment, because if consumers once got the idea that, in consequence of legislation which they considered in favour of the agricultural interest, wheat was made dearer, they would find such a state of things as would be very difficult to cope with. What they desired was fairplay for the British producer, without any suspicion that they were asking for Protection. There were many people ready enough to fix that stigma upon them. By the noble Lord's Amendment foreign goods were to be placed on a distinctly lower level than home goods.


No; on the same level.


No, no. There was a special provision given in the case of home goods, which the noble Lord struck out in the case of foreign goods. It would be impossible, with those words, to disclaim the repeated charge of Protection which would be infallibly made against them. He would make no promise; but the Government wore very much disposed to see whether they could not, in the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord (the Earl of Selborne), find some further security for the grievance complained of by his noble Friend. If any further security could be got, it must be through some legislation of the kind. He earnestly hoped the noble Lord would not stamp the Bill with the opprobrium of Protection by moving the insertion of his Amendment.


said, he disclaimed any idea of Protection, but only desired to point out that at present American and other foreign goods were placed on the English market on more favourable terms than those of the English producer.


said, the only effect of putting higher rates on foreign goods would be that they would come by sea to London at higher cost, and the price of meat to the consuming classes in London would be higher than it was now. Railway Companies did not charge those rates out of any love for foreigners, but because they were the best rates they could get without driving the trade from Liverpool to London. To adopt the clause would be as much Protection as possibly could be. "What right has Parliament to take away this right from Railway Companies without compensation?


did not agree with the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down. He hoped this matter would go to a Division.


said, the noble and learned Lord had conclusively shown that, owing to the preferential rates accorded by the Railway Companies to foreign produce, the price was artificially brought down below that at which that produce could be profitably conveyed by sea to the port of sale. These preferential rates constituted a practical bounty on foreign as against English produce, and were, therefore, in his opinion, distinctly opposed to the principles of Free Trade. We censured foreign Governments for giving bounties to their subjects; but that was less objectionable than giving bounties, as we thus did, to foreigners.

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 11; Not-Contents 23: Majority 12.

Bath, M. Ravensworth, E.
Beauchamp, E. Harlech, L.
Camperdown, E. [Teller.] Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Fortescue, E. Sinclair, L.
Jersey, E. [Teller.] Wigan, L. (E. Crawford and Balcarres.)
Lindsay, E.
Halsbury, L. (L. Chancellor.) Elphinstone, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)[Teller.]
Salisbury, M. Harris, L.
Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.)
Mount Edgcumbe, E. (L. Steward.)
Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.) [Teller.]
Powis, E.
Waldegrave, E. Lyttleton, L.
Poltimore, L.
Balfour of Burley, L. Stanley of Preston, L.
Brabourne, L. Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)
Bramwell, L.
Burton, L. Winmarleigh, L.
Colville of Culross, L. Wynford, L..
Denman, L.

Resolved in the negative.

On the Motion of The Lord STANLEY of PRESTON, the following Amendment made:—After Clause 23, insert the following Clause:—

(Extension of enactments as to undue preference to goods carried by sea.)

"The provisions of section two of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1854, and of any enactment amending and extending that section, shall apply to traffic by sea in any vessels belonging to or chartered by any railway company, in the same manner and to the like extent as they apply to the land traffic of a railway company."

On the Motion of The Lord STANLEY of PRESTON, the following Amendment made:—In page 10, leave out Clause 25, and insert the following Clause:—

(Classification table to be open for inspection. Copies to be sold.)

"(1.) The book, tables, or other document in use for the time being containing the general classification of merchandise carried by goods train on the railway of any company, shall, during all reasonable hours, be open to the inspection of any person without the payment of any fee at every station at which merchandise is received for conveyance, and the said book, tables, or other document as annually revised shall be kept on sale at the principal office of the company at a price not exceeding one shilling.

"(2.) The company shall within one week after application in writing made to the secretary of any railway company by any person interested in the carriage of any merchandise which have been or are intended to be carried over the railway of such company, render an account to the person so applying in which the charge made or claimed by the company for the carriage of such merchandise shall be divided, and the charge for conveyance over the railway shall be distinguished from the terminal charge (if any), and if any terminal charge is included in such account the nature and detail of the terminal expenses in respect of which it is made shall be specified.

"(3.) Every railway company shall publish at every station at which merchandise is received for conveyance, a notice, in such form as may be from time to time prescribed by the Board of Trade, to the effect that such book, tables, and document touching the classification of merchandise and the rates as they are required by this section and section fourteen of the Regulations of Railways Act, 1873, to keep at that station, are open to public inspection, and that information as to any charge can be obtained by application to the secretary or other officer at the address stated in such notice.

"(4.) Any company failing to comply with the provisions of this section, shall, for each offence, and in the case of a continuing offence for every day during which the offence continues, be liable, on summary conviction, to a penalty not exceeding five pounds."

Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next; and to be printed as amended. (No. 74.)

House adjourned at half past Eight o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.