§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ LORD STANLEY OF PRESTON,
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was substantially the same Bill as that introduced into their 1794 Lordships' House last year, and which, after a certain amount of discussion, was amended in some particulars and left their Lordships' House even a better and stronger measure than when introduced. Under these circumstances, it would not be necessary for him upon the present occasion to recapitulate the reasons which led the Government to introduce the Bill, nor to enter at length into its details. It had been his intention to suggest to his noble Friend at the head of the Government that the Bill should this year be introduced in the other House, where it would be submitted to the searching criticism of those who more directly represented the trading, commercial, and agricultural community. But it had been found to be more convenient, having regard to the general course of Public Business, that the Bill should again be introduced in this House. Probably the same reasons that induced their Lordships to pass the Bill last year would actuate their Lordships in the present Session, and he did not think that those of their Lordships who desired to see alterations in the Bill would gain much by again bringing forward their views and again having their Amendments negatived as they were last Session. Last year, however, he promised to give a full and free consideration to any Amendment inserted in the other House, where, no doubt, there were many persons better acquainted with this subject than any of their Lordships could pretend to be. Doubtless many suggestions of great value, which would throw light upon the future working of the provisions of the Bill, would be made in the other House by Members engaged in trade, or representing constituences interested in the matter, and these would be fully and carefully considered. He was not blind to the fact that in the trading, commercial, and agricultural community, there was last year considerable disappointment at the Bill not dealing directly with the question of rates. There seemed to have been a general though unfounded expectation, that there was to be by this measure a lowering of rates throughout the country. This Bill, however, did not do that. It proposed to strengthen the Court of the Railway Commissioners, it provided certain machinery for dealing with appeals, it gave a locus standi before the Commisssioners to certain public 1795 bodies which did not possess it at present, and it provided certain machinery by which, under the sanction of Parliament, the question of rates might be dealt with. He had received many representations from Chambers of Commerce, Chambers of Agriculture, and the like, as to the present extreme inequality of rates, and these certainly were to be found. But he hoped that those cases of inequality of rates would not be discussed upon the floor of that House. Such cases depended upon questions of fact which could not be investigated in that House, but which would rightly come before the Railway Commissioners, the machinery of whose Court it was proposed by this Bill to improve. He would not enter into the details of the Bill, but he desired to impress upon the House the great importance to all classes of the community of this question being speedily settled. It had now been agitated for a considerable number of years, and this was the eighth Bill on the subject which, in one form or another, had been brought before Parliament. No advantage was to be gained by the prolongation of the controversy, and, on the other hand, there were good reasons for desiring its close as soon as possible. In trade there was undoubtedly a revival; but, next to the feeling of general confidence, what seemed to be most essential for re-establishing trade upon a sound basis was that those engaged in it should know with certainty the conditions under which they were to work. He therefore earnestly hoped that, in the interests of the community generally, this question might be pressed forward without delay to a successful issue. He honestly believed that this Bill, though he did not say that every detail was perfect, was a just and fair compromise between opposing interests, and contained the germ of a settlement, and he hoped that upon its lines would be constructed a scheme which would work out the formation of a Court whereby the principles of railway traffic could be consolidated and justice meted out to all interests concerned. He must in some sense apologize for bringing forward the Bill now that he was no longer a Member of the Government; but both the Prime Minister and his Successor at the Board of Trade had desired that he should do so. He was still of 1796 opinion that the Bill as it left their Lordships' House last year and as now introduced was satisfactory; but he should be ready to listen to all suggestions for its improvement, with a strong desire to secure the general success of the measure.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2ª."—(The Lord Stanley of Preston.)
THE EARL OF JERSEY
, in rising to move the following Amendment:—That no general measure dealing with railway traffic can be considered satisfactory which does not prevent preferential rates in favour of foreign imports;said, the Amendment was not hostile to the general scope of the Bill, for it was generally acknowledged that some measure of this kind was much required; but he desired to call attention to the bearing of this Bill on the subject of preferential rates. This Bill would not only not prevent preferential rates, but would authorize them in some cases where they were now, in the opinion of certain persons, illegal. The Canal and Railway Traffic Act, 1854, enacted—That no railway company shall make or give an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to or in favour of any particular person or company, or any particular description of traffic, in any respect whatsoever;but the 25th clause of the present Bill was a double-minded one, and, as it stood, would work disadvantageously. It prohibited, first of all, undue preference, and then proceeded to allow, under certain conditions, that undue preference. He desired to elicit distinctly the opinion of their Lordships as to whether they were in favour of equal treatment being established as between home and foreign produce. For some time the irritation against the injustice of our railways being used as a means of developing foreign trade while crushing local trade had been increasing. He would cite some instances to show the extent of the evil. In his evidence given before the Commission on the Depression of Trade, Mr. Rowlandson, a farmer in the North, said that the rate from Newcastle to London for home cattle in small waggons was £5 19s. 3d.,, while the rate for foreign cattle was only £4. The witness was asked—Do you mean that when they are taking a cargo of cattle from Newcastle to London the railway companies say 'these are English and 1797 they shall be charged at a higher rate, and those are foreign and they shall be charged at a lower rate?'He replied—"That is so." Mr. Rowlandson also showed that the rate from Newcastle to Leeds was for home cattle 65s., and for foreign cattle 41s.; from Newcastle to Wakefield, for home cattle 66s., and for foreign cattle 41s. The rate for fresh meat from Liverpool to London, about 200 miles, was 25s. per ton for foreign meat and 50s. for home meat. The rate of 25s. was also applicable to foreign cattle slaughtered in the abattoirs of the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board. It was interesting to compare with the rates between Liverpool and London the charge of 30s. per ton for the carriage of meat between London and Oxford, a distance of only 63 miles. Taking another instance out of the many that presented themselves, he found that the rate for home produce between Tamworth and Derby, 26 miles, was 18s. 4d. The rate for wheat, barley, and oats between West Hartlepool and Leeds, 72 miles, was 10s. for home produce and 6s. 3d. for foreign. From Newcastle to Leeds the rate for iron castings was 20s. for the home produce and 12s. 6d. for the foreign. This list of typical anomalies might well be closed with the following:—The rate of carriage between Liverpool and London for home-made pianos was 70s.; the rate for foreign pianos was only 25s. Could it be a matter for surprise that people interested in trade felt very strongly upon the subject of rates? It should be noted that these charges were exacted, notwithstanding the Act of 1854. The Companies did not attempt to deny that they had two distinct rates, a low foreign and a high local rate; but it was possible that the representatives of the railways would raise the objection that Parliament had no right to interfere. The Companies, however, were constantly applying to Parliament for fresh powers and advantages, and Parliament was bound to take care that any privileges which it might grant were not used to the detriment of the State. The Government in their measure put forward the plea that they were safeguarding the interests of the public. But the real interests of the public would only be served by low rates. They wanted equal and not unequal rates. The measure would authorize the exac- 1798 tion of preferential rates, to the detriment of our native industries and in favour of the foreigner. He feared that the Bill would be a source of much litigation. And with reference to that point he might say that it would be a great boon if more powers were given to the Board of Trade to enforce the law when it was violated. Semi-lunatics would get their heads broken in Trafalgar Square in order to gain notoriety for their views and to affirm their principles, but a prudent man would hesitate before entering into a lawsuit with a wealthy Railway Company. Quite recently a Company had fought a case right up to their Lordships' House, although the sum involved was only £18. In these days of struggling trade it was important that it should be relieved of every unjust burden. Not even foreign goods were carried at a loss, and yet he found that sometimes 100 per cent more was charged upon British goods than was charged to carry foreign. This was not only unjust but impolitic, for the home producer's margin of profit, small enough in these days, might be swallowed up, with the result of driving him altogether from the field. It often struck him as strange that cheap facilities for the conveyance of local supplies were not granted. In many towns it was impossible to buy flowers and vegetables at reasonable prices, in consequence of the great cost of the carriage from the neighbouring places where they grew. All the while, however, flowers and vegetables could be sent here from the South of France. The existing state of things amounted to a system of bounty, which placed foreign goods in our markets under the most favoured conditions, and kept our own goods out. He would read an extract from an article which had appeared in The Economist upon this subject—At present the Government are engaged in a crusade against bounties, even when these are paid by foreign tax payers and go into the pockets of British consumers. Important 'public interests' here are served by the sugar bounties. By means of these, millions of pounds have been taken out of the pockets of foreign tax payers and virtually put into the pockets of consumers of sugar in this country. Yet, because they hold the system of bounties to be economically unsound, our Government are using all their influence to induce foreign Governments to discontinue it When it is a question of foreigners benefiting us by means of bounties, Ministers say that we do wrong to 1799 accept the gift; whereas, when it is a question of benefiting foreigners at our expense, they tell us that in the 'interest of the public' the sacrifice should be permitted.The other day the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord John Manners) said—The Railway Rates Bill would be introduced by the Government in the sincerest hope and expectation that it would have a most practical effect in the way of putting an end to the bounties which now existed upon the introduction of foreign produce, and that the agriculturists of the country would be relieved, at any rate, from that unjust burden.These words could have but one meaning, and it gave him great pleasure to read them; but how could they be made to square with the provisions of the Bill before their Lordships? If this measure returned from the other House of Parliament, he ventured to anticipate that the 25th clause would be changed. To apply a simile which had been used by a noble Lord opposite, he would say that the Railway Company had put a twitch on the nose of British trade, and it was high time that Parliament should take it off. Parliament never intended that preferential rates should be charged in the way they had been, notwithstanding the Act of 1854. He asked their Lordships to decide a very simple issue, which was whether they were in favour of the equal treatment of home and foreign produce. Both the associated Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers of Agriculture throughout the country had passed resolutions against preferential rates, as had also the Municipal Corporations of Lancashire and Cheshire. There was hardly any body of persons interested in trade and industry who had not moved against these rates. He asked their Lordships to declare that this system of unequal treatment should no longer be continued, and to say that they would not support any measure which authorized bounties upon foreign produce and placed a burden upon trade and agriculture. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Amendment which stood in his name.
To leave out all the words after ("that") for the purpose of inserting ("no general measure dealing with railway traffic can be considered satisfactory which does not prohibit preferential rates in favour of foreign imports.")—(The Earl of Jersey.)
§ LORD BRAMWELL
said, he hoped their Lordships would not agree to this abstract Resolution. It was very likely that a Bill would not be considered satisfactory which did not deprive Railway Companies of the right they now possessed to make the charges that were objected to, and other rights as well; but he would warn their Lordships that if they interfered with one kind of property they would find they were making a precedent which would be used as an argument why they should interfere with others. It would be rather difficult to give a good reason why a man should not be deprived of his acres that would not apply to these railway rates. But he would not argue the matter in the interest of the Railway Companies, but in that of the consumer. If Railway Companies brought foreign cattle cheaper than home cattle from Newcastle to London, it was not because of the love that the Railway Companies had for the foreigner or because they disliked the Northumberland or Durham graziers, but it was because they had the right to make the heavier charge on the home cattle, and they could get it, but they could not get that heavier charge upon the foreign cattle. If they attempted to make that heavier charge on foreign cattle the trade would be diverted, and the cattle would be taken by water direct to London, at greater risk of injury and at greater expense. The lower rate paid the railways, because they had the lines, the engines, and the staff, and, having these, they could make a small profit out of the small charges they could make in competition with the steamboats. But it did not follow they could conduct all the traffic at the same rates. If he hired a cab to take him to Richmond for £1, and the driver then let a man ride on the box for 1s., it would be ridiculous for him to say to the driver—'"You can carry that man for 1s.; why do you charge me £1?"
THE EARL OF JERSEY
said, the conditions of the two riders would be different, as one would be inside and the other outside.
§ LORD BRAMWELL
Yes; and some would think the outside place the better. But if the Railway Companies gave up the profitable business they would have to give up altogether. The Economist asserted that these differential rates put money into the pockets of the foreign 1801 producer; but they did nothing of the sort. If they taxed a foreign product it was the country into which it was imported that paid the tax, and not the country from which it came. The importer bought an article at its market price in a foreign country and bore the expenses of importation, and it was a mistake to suppose that a light railway charge put money into the pocket of the foreign producer. Both the reasons given in support of the Amendment were thoroughly bad ones. As to the action of the Government against foreign bounties, which practically gave £2,000,000 to the consumers of sugar, he was not sure that that action was due to dislike of bounties. There might be other considerations, such as the interests of our Colonies as sugar producers and those of the manufacturers and refiners in this country. The bounties on sugar were a good thing for us as consumers, but unwise for the people who paid the bounty. What the noble Lord proposed by the Amendment would positively be Protection, for it would be Protection to say that foreign cattle should be sent by an expensive rate as compared with a cheaper rate. It was as sheer a case of Protection as could be. If the present state of things could be described as being an objectionable system of bounties, which it was not, then the Motion which the noble Earl had proposed was open to the reproach that it would give Protection to the home grazier. It was to the interest of the consumer that he should get the articles he required at as low a rate as possible, and if it was declared that cattle should not come by railway from the port at a low rate the consequence would be, not that other rates on the line would be lowered—if that were done a gross injustice would be inflicted—but that the cattle would be carried to London by other means, and thus the price would be raised and the cattle injured. He hoped that in the interests of the consumers their Lordships would not agree to the noble Earl's Motion.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said, that the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down had made use of a very extraordinary argument. He said that these preferential rates, or, in other words, practically giving a bounty to the foreigner, did not bring any practical 1802 advantage to the foreigner. The noble and learned Lord further said that it was admitted by all political economists that in a case where import duties were levied, the importing nation paid the tax. In his opinion this was not the case. In the United States the import duties, to a great extent, perhaps to the greatest extent, were paid by the exporter. If they asked an American, whether statesman or working man, how it was that there was a large surplus accumulated in the American Treasury, he would say—"Because the people of England are kind enough to pay us a large tax in order to get into our markets." That, however, was an academical matter, and did not bear on the case before their Lordships. What he wanted to point out, with all deference to the noble and learned Lord, was that it was almost absurd to argue that the giving of a large preference to the foreign producer was of no benefit to him. The noble and learned Lord, imagined himself going down to dine at the "Star and Garter," Richmond—a very pleasant occupation — and suggested that he having himself paid £1 for the vehicle, it would be hard not to allow the coachman, if he chose, to take up somebody on the box for 1s. That had nothing at all to do with the case in point; but he would give a better metaphor. If he himself were anxious to go to Richmond, and the noble and learned Lord was also anxious to go, it would be rather hard upon him if he were charged 30s. and the noble and learned Lord only £1. He should consider that somewhat unjust; moreover, owing to agricultural depression and other reasons, it was exceedingly probable that the extra charge would prevent him from going at all. That was what had been done. The foreign producer had been able to send goods to our markets in consequence of the preferential rates in his favour, while the home producer, in consequence of high rates, had not been able to reach the markets. The noble Earl had made out a strong case. Even if the consumer benefited by these foreign goods coming into the markets, he could not think that the people would hold that it was advantageous to the whole community that such a state of things should exist. As a matter of fact, he did not believe that equalizing 1803 the charges would increase the general price of articles, and he sincerely hoped that the Resolution of the noble Earl would be agreed to by their Lordships.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
said, that, in his opinion, preferential rates were both unjust and impolitic. The natural means of transport from a foreign country was by ship to the nearest port; but the Railway Companies had diverted a great deal of the traffic by underbidding the shipowners, and the amount of that underbidding was a distinct bounty given, at the expense of the home producer, to the owner of the foreign goods, which had been placed in our markets at a thus artificially lowered price. As an old Free-Trader he could not agree with the noble and learned Lord on the matter of bounties; they seemed to him to be unsound; but if bounties were to be given at all, it would be more reasonable to give them, as they were given by many of our own colonies as well as foreign nations, in favour of their own fellow-citizens against foreigners, than, as we gave them, to foreigners against our own countrymen.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I shall not venture to interpose in this pitched battle between Free Traders and Protectionists. Previous declarations that I have made on this subject have not been received by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) in a spirit that is calculated to encourage further declarations. I do not rise to pronounce any sentiments or doctrines upon Free Trade or Protection, lest the noble Earl should tie a tin kettle to me and send me forth with the cry "Protectionist!" I want, however, to suggest the question whether or not we have selected precisely the most convenient time and season for this very important controversy. We are dealing with the second reading of a Bill, and my noble Friend (the Earl of Jersey) selects one (single clause in that Bill and lays down an abstract proposition with respect to it. That abstract proposition states that, practically, preferential rates ought to be forbidden by the Bill. Now, we do believe that we are forbidding preferential rates by this Bill. I do not mean to say that we forbid all preferential rates, because there is a certain kind of preferential rate that must be admitted— 1804 such a rate, for example, as is given in favour of a man who imports a great deal as against the man who imports very little; a preference generally admitted in all trades. But we do forbid by this Bill undue preference, and we do our best to forbid it completely; and we have no doubt that, whether we forbid it completely or not, at all events when this Bill is passed the home producer will be in a very considerably better position than he is now. My noble Friend (the Earl of Jersey) says that our Bill does not achieve our object, that it does not forbid undue preferences, and he criticizes our wording very severely. He is very angry that in referring the matter to a tribunal they are directed to consider the facts of the case, he seems to think that the facts of the case are precisely the things that ought not to be considered by the tribunal which is to be the judge of the case. But criticisms of that kind are very much out of place in a discussion on the second reading. When we get into Committee, if our draughtsman has been unskilful and our thoughts have been confused, it will be open to my noble Friend to move words that will effect his object, and the House will then be called upon to decide between the two. We believe that undue preferences are completely excluded by this Bill. What would my noble Friend do supposing that he carried his Resolution? He would kill the Bill and we should have no further railway legislation this Session, and the result of his valiant endeavour on behalf of the British farmer would be that the passing of the Bill which we have brought in to promote the interests of the British trader will be rendered absolutely impossible, and we shall have to go on for another 12 months under the present unjust system. I cannot conceive that the House will adopt a proceeding so much at variance with their usual course of conduct, or that they will take the occasion of the second reading in order to lay down an abstract proposition with a view to effect an object which we believe is effected already by this Bill. By so doing the House would undoubtedly effect this further object, the prevention of legislation and the postponement of the removal of grievances altogether for another year.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he was glad to see that the noble Marquess was 1805 somewhat sensitive on the subject of his principles with regard to Free Trade and Protection. But the declarations made the other night were more agreeable to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Dunraven) than to the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell). The noble Marquess, however, was, he thought, quite right in what he had just said with respect to the inconvenience of this time for dealing with the question raised by the present Resolution. It appeared to him quite premature at this stage of the Bill, before the House had got into Committee, to attempt the consideration of a clause that would have the effect desired by the noble Earl opposite.
THE EARL OF JERSEY
said, that the reason why he brought forward the Resolution was that he wished to affirm its principle. If the noble Marquess would say that when the Bill got into Committee they would so word the clause bearing on that point as to secure that foreign preferential rates would be prohibited, there would be no occasion for him to press his Resolution. But the question at issue was a question of principle. Were they going to affirm the principle that foreign preferential rates should henceforth be sanctioned by Parliament, or that they thought that foreign goods should be treated in the same manner and under the same conditions by the railway companies as English produce?
§ EARL STANHOPE
trusted that his noble Friend would press his Motion to a Division. Though, from what had fallen from the Prime Minister and the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, he did not think that the Motion would be carried, still it was of great importance to make a protest as to the preference given to foreign produce in the 25th clause of the Bill. It was all very well to say that the clause could be amended in Committee, but such a course was attempted last Session, and proved an utter failure. As a protest in favour of an equal rate for foreign and home produce, he, for one, intended to follow his noble Friend into the Lobby.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
said, that for many years past undue preference on the part of the railways had been prohibited. No one could determine à priori whether it was an undue, that was to 1806 say an unjust, preference to carry foreign cattle under certain circumstances cheaper than English cattle. If the Company in a given case did not establish to the satisfaction of the Court that they were acting justly, the onus probandi resting upon them, the decision would go against them. But the noble Earl (the Earl of Jersey) wanted something more than that. He wanted to provide that under no circumstances whatever should it be allowed that foreign goods should be carried cheaper than English goods. If that was not Protection he did not know what was. It seemed to him that everybody was a Protectionist for what he had to sell and a Free Trader for what he wanted to buy.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said, that what was objected to was not low rates but unequal rates. However, he appealed to the noble Earl opposite, after what had fallen from the noble Marquess and from the noble Earl on the Front Opposition Bench, not to take a Division on that occasion, as that was not a convenient opportunity of raising the question. At the present stage they ought not to risk the loss of the Bill.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
said, he thought the argument as to the loss of the Bill if the Resolution were passed did not possess so much weight as seemed to be supposed. They were now at a period of the Session when there need be no great difficulty in getting an amended Bill introduced. No one would persuade him that it was in the interests of the consumers of this country that the agricultural produce and cattle trade should be placed at a great disadvantage by the present charges made by the Railway Companies. The interests of the consumers required that such unjust treatment should not be inflicted on the agricultural interest of this country. He hoped a Division would be taken.
§ On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion?"
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents 72; Not-Contents 45: Majority 27.1807
|Halsbury, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Bedford, D.|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.|
|Cranbrook, V. (L. President.)|
|Richmond, D.||Colville of Culross, L.|
|Westminster, D.||de Ros, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)|
|Mount-Edgcumbe, E. (L. Steward.)||FitzGerald, L.|
|Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.) [Teller.]|
|Lathom, E. (L. Chamberlain.)|
|Belmore, E.||Harris, L.|
|Brownlow, E.||Herschell, L.|
|Cairns, E.||Hothfield, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Hylton, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Derby, E.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.) [Teller.]|
|Hardwicke, E.||Knutsford, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Lingen, L.|
|Kingston, E.||Lyveden, L.|
|Milltown, E.||Monk-Bretton, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Monkswell, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Northbourne, L.|
|Waldegrave, E.||Northington, L. (L. Henley.)|
|Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.||Poltimore, L.|
|Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Cross, V.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)|
|Oxenbridge, V.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Stanley of Preston, L.|
|Stewart of Garlies, L.(E. Galloway.)|
|Balfour of Burley, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Brassey, L.||Thring, L.|
|Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Wantage, L.|
|Bath, M.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Amherst, E.||De Mauley, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Egerton, E.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)|
|Ilchester, E.||Gerard, L.|
|Jersey, E. [Teller.]||Harlech, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Northesk, E.||Lamington, L.|
|Romney, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Lovaine, L. (E. Percy.)|
|Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Torrington, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Norton, L.|
|Armstrong, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Arundell of Wardour, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Aveland, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Bateman, L. [Teller.]||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Boston, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Suffield, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative.1808
§ LORD HENNIKER
said, that, with their Lordships' permission, he should be glad to say a few words on this question, as he took a great interest in it. He was, besides, the Chairman of an important representative Committee which was formed some time ago to deal with this subject. The question was thoroughly threshed out in that House last year, and he had had several opportunities of addressing their Lordships upon it. There was, however, one point which he thought it most important to bring before the House. It was a part of the question which traders and agriculturists felt to be of the greatest possible importance. He spoke of terminal charges. What traders wanted was that the practice of Parliament, the decisions of Courts of Law, and, in fact, the system on which terminals had always been hitherto charged, with very few exceptions, should be that of the future. He meant that maximum rates should include terminals, not extra work done, but terminals properly so called. Unfortunately the Bill of last year and the measure before the House were based on a decision of a Divisional Court of Law. He should be glad if he might be allowed to repeat to the House what that decision was, and to tell their Lordships what had passed since last Session. A decision was given by the Railway Commissioners in a well-known case—"Hall against the London and Brighton Railway"—in accordance with all previous decisions. The judgment of the Commissioners was appealed against, and reversed by the Divisional Court. Of course, traders were not contented that the practice of former years should be entirely reversed without an appeal to a higher tribunal. They were anxious to carry the case further. However, when they tried to do so, it could not be done; and for the following reasons:—The Judicature Act was passed in August, 1873, and was to come into force at once. The Railway Bill creating the Commissioners' Court was passed in July, 1873, but was not to come into force till the September of that year. The 45th clause of the Judicature Act gave an appeal to the higher Courts from any inferior Court then in existence. The Judicature Act was afterwards not brought into force at once, but its operation was postponed until November, 1875. This Act was passed at first to 1809 come into force before the Railway Act. It was, therefore, held that the Commissioners' Court was not a Court in existence. So there was an inferior Court set up and in full work long before the Judicature Act came into force, and yet it was decided that no appeal would he from its decisions to a higher tribunal. In fact, it was the only inferior Court from which an appeal to the higher tribunals would not lie. All the decisions of years, all the practice of Parliament, were, therefore, upset by a Divisional Court. He must say that he thought this state of things most unsatisfactory. Of course it was claimed that this was a decision on the merits. He ventured to think, however, that it was nothing of the sort, but that it was a decision on a purely technical point. Surely it was most unsatisfactory that a most important clause in the Bill should be based as it was on this decision. But to carry the matter further, the traders determined to make another effort to test the point in a higher tribunal. The only way this could be done was to take a case to the County Court from which an appeal lay. Two cases were taken into Court with a view to break down the former decision, and the Railway Company in both cases paid the claim. Of course the Companies might say, "These are small cases; they are not worth fighting; we are content with the decision in our favour;" but he thought he was quite justified in putting another construction upon their action. He sent a letter to the newspapers challenging the Railway Companies on this point at the instance of the Committee over which he presided; but they treated the challenge on the part of the traders much in the same way as they did the test cases before the County Court. They never took it up or replied to it in any way. They probably had no answer to give. He maintained, therefore, that the success of the traders in these actions in the County Court was just as important as the decision of the Divisional Court; in fact, more important, as the Railway Companies gave way on the merits. It was all very well to say the cases were small; the principle involved was the same, and he thought he might fairly say that the action of the companies showed that they feared to go to a higher tribunal, not because of ex- 1810 pense, for every one knew that the expense of legal proceedings was much loss to a Railway Company than to a private suitor, or even to any body of traders. They had their own counsel, solicitors, and so on, regularly employed. He thought, therefore, that he might fairly appeal to the House and to the noble Lord who had charge of the Bill to reconsider the decision of last year—namely, that this clause should not be based on the decision of last year. If the decision of last year was not a fair and just basis to go upon, surely what had happened since greatly strengthened his contention. He was sure no clause framed as this clause was could be satisfactory to the traders, and he would point out that this part of the question was considered to be second to no other part of it in importance by the largo traders of the country. There were other parts of the Bill which he would gladly see altered, but they had been discussed before and would no doubt be fully discussed in "another place." He warmly sympathized with the Motion made by his noble Friend. Another point of great importance to his mind was that the Court set up should not be so expensive as to prohibit traders from appealing freely to it. He could not help thinking, however, that it would not be as accessible as he would like to see it. However, his object in rising was to call attention to the question of terminals, and he earnestly hoped that his noble Friend would consider what the traders put forward, and, if not, then that the House would entertain an Amendment which he should venture to bring forward when the Bill was before the House in Committee.
§ Original Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday the 9th instant.