§ House in Committee (according to order).
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ *LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I have an Amendment, the effect of which I admit at once is very considerable; but if it does nothing else, it will give the noble Lord who has charge of the Bill an opportunity of stating why it is that charges so exceptionally heavy upon the chief article of commerce in the South of Wales should have been inserted in this Bill. I will at once state what is the difference between the charges over the South Wales portion of the line and those on other parts of the Great Western system, and upon lines in other parts of England and Wales. The South Wales Railway was made in 1845–46 years ago. It ran from a place called Grange Court, not very far to the west of Gloucester, through the whole county of Monmouth, and the counties of Glamorganshire, Carmarthenshire, and Pembrokeshire, until it reached Milford. Its length was 164 miles, of which about half, that is to say, from Grange Court to Newport, was mainly through agricultural country, and another portion was also agricultural, from Carmarthen to Newport; but the railway between those two points, that is, between Newport and Carmarthen, traversed the rich basin of the South Wales Coalfield. In 1846 this basin was very slightly developed, and the population of Glamorgan, the most populous and important of all those counties, was very different to what it is now. I hold in my hand a 708 statement of the gradual rise in population in Glamorgan. I am not going to trouble your Lordships with it beyond saying this, that the population in Glamorganshire in 1841 was 171,000, and in 1891 it is 687,000, so that the population has quadrupled. The wealth of the district has increased in still greater proportion, and the coal trade, which was then very inconsiderable, has been stated, I believe not inaccurately, by persons who have the opportunity of knowing (that is, the coal trade which runs over that portion of the Great Western Railway which belongs to the South Wales district), as about 10,000,000 tons. The railways were amalgamated in 1855. At that time it is not a matter of surprise if the rate for carrying coal was somewhat high. The coal was undeveloped, and the district was, on the whole, a poor one, and the rate was fixed at 2d. It was fixed at 2d., however, I may add, without any terminal charge, and the railway found the wagons. In 1888 a Bill, as your Lordships well know, was passed, called the Railway Traffic and Canals Act, the object of which I have always understood was to assimilate as much as possible the charges for carrying goods of various descriptions in different parts of England. Now, to a great extent, with respect to five or six classes, this most desirable object has been effected, and the rates are the same everywhere. But the important articles of commerce in South Wales are coal and iron, and here one finds a very broad discrepancy. I daresay the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill will be able to explain it, but it is a matter which in the opinion of the South Wales traders affects them rather grievously. Over the general system of the Great Western Railway, for instance, from London to Bristol and Gloucester, and from Didcot into Stafford shire and on to Birkenhead, the charge is something near 1d. a ton, 0.95d. per ton; but when you come to South Wales the charge has been diminished, indeed, from what it was, but it remains still at 1½d. a ton, and in addition to this there are terminal charges in London. Now, I need not say that this great difference of 55/100ths affects very heavily the South Wales traffic in competition with other districts. That a heavy charge should have been originally authorised is 709 natural and right. When traffic is small the charge must naturally be high, and the Committees which have been sitting considering this matter have recognised that distinction in making on various railways heavier charges for short distances, and where the circumstances are adverse to a large trade. But where you come to long lines, and especially a line of the length and importance of the South Wales line, the case is different. Now, I will read to the House what are the charges over the other railways for conveyance of coal. I have told your Lordships that in South Wales the charge along the main line is 1½d.—1.50d.;on the Midland it is 1.15d., without making any exception; on the Great Northern it is 0.95d. for main lines and certain limited branches; on the North Western it is 0.95 over all the lines. Now, I well know that all these charges have received very careful attention. We know that they were referred to two Members of the Board of Trade—to the noble Lord opposite (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) and to Mr. Courtenay Boyle; and I think we must all have heard but one expression of approbation of the manner in which their duties were discharged. They sat over 80 days, they worked most laboriously, and their work was marked with great ability. But that was not all. These rates and charges, so important both to the trading interest and to the Railway Companies themselves, were further considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses, and I, for one, would naturally have been inclined to accept, without any further discussion, whatever was found was right and proper by a powerful Committee representing the best business heads of both Houses. But when I look at the subsequent history of this case, I am bound to say that however able the men, and however great the attention they may have given to the subject, such is the complexity of these affairs that error may slip in. In fact, two Members of the House of Commons (Mr. Hanbury and Dr. Hunter) who were members of this Joint Committee stated that had they known there had been no terminal charge made under the South Wales Act previously to the present Bill, their decision would have been influenced by the knowledge of that fact. I know it is stated that if 710 they did not know it, it is their own fault; but that is not the real question. The question is, did they, or did they not, know it, and if they did not know it would this knowledge have affected their decision? They themselves say it would. But I think I have a much stronger argument in my favour in the fact that the Bill as it stood was considered a hardship by no less a person than the President of the Board of Trade himself, because he suggested—admitting that the South Wales traders did labour under disadvantages—a clause which is now in the Bill, and the effect of which is that if for any three consecutive years a dividend of 6 per cent. shall be paid upon the ordinary stock of a Railway Company, then that the charges shall no longer be 1½d. per ton, but shall be diminished to 0.95d. Now, the two provisoes hang together. I see that my noble Friend (the Earl of Cork) has given notice of an Amendment for striking out the clause which was proposed by the President of the Board of Trade, and as to which many questions were asked him. For instance, he was asked whether it applied to the ordinary stock of the Railway Company or to the dividends upon the entire property of the railway's—upon other Stocks; and he said No. He took the view that it applied only to the original capital of the company. Then, again, the question was raised when it should come into operation. And he stated that it should come into operation whenever after the passing of this Act it could be shown that the Great Western Company had provided 6 per cent. upon its ordinary capital. Now, these two Amendments hang together. I beg to move the first, and I shall be very glad to hear what the noble Lord has to say against propositions which, upon the face of them, I think must be admitted to be so reasonable as those I suggest. That is to say, what reason there is why this great distinction to the disadvantage of South Wales should be made, and why over every other railway, except the South Wales line, and even over the Great Western line in its other portions, a lower charge is made than that which is made upon coal carried through South Wales. I may add that the same difference exists in the case of iron, and that iron under 711 this Bill is carried at a higher rate throughout South Wales than it is carried at over any of the other principal lines in Great Britain. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
*THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Lord BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH)
My Lords, I am sorry I shall not be able to accept the Amendment which the noble Lord has proposed. At the same time I should like to say at the outset I am not surprised that anyone who is so much interested in South Wales as is the noble Lord should have thought it right to bring it forward, upon this occasion; and least of all should I desire to complain of the manner in which he has brought it forward, which has been courteous and temperate in the extreme. As a matter of fact I gravely doubt whether the Amendment proposed would effect the purpose which the noble Lord has in view. The Act of 1845 has long ago been repealed, and, therefore, no railway can be said to be governed by it. But, of course, all of us who have been accustomed to discuss these matters know that the railway which the noble Lord intends to put into this lower scale of charges is that governed by the South Wales and Great Western Amalgamation Act of 1855. But the noble Lord does not take the whole of it. I have every reason to believe that the noble Lord does not wish to ask for more than is reasonable. He admits that the district was mainly agricultural between Gloucester and Chepstow, and it is that part of the line upon which the heavy traffic of coal and iron is carried in South Wales. I have some doubt whether the effect of the Amendment would be as he supposes, and whether it would have any effect at all. But I do not desire to meet this as a matter of form. I desire to go at once to the merits of the matter, and to say, on the merits, that I do not think that it is possible the Amendment can be accepted, and, in as few words as possible, I will endeavour to tell the House why. The noble Lord said, in the course of his speech, that the object of the Act of 1888 was to assimilate as 712 much as possible the charges upon railways. I cannot accept that remark without some qualification. I do not think the noble Lord intended to say that the Act of 1888 intended to prescribe what are known as equal mileage rates. What was intended by it was, as far as possible, to secure a greater amount of uniformity between the maximum rates which might be charged by the different railways. But, my Lords, while uniformity is a good thing in itself, and one which we set before us to be attained as much as possible, it must not be acquired at the expense of justice either to the companies or to the traders. In considering these matters there is one important element to be taken into account, and that is, what are the present powers which are enjoyed by any Railway Company those under which they have constructed their railway, and which Parliament has given to them in their Act? Most of the lines which the noble Lord quoted, the main line of the Great Western governed by the Act of 1847, the main line of the London and North Western, and the main line of the Great Northern, which he instanced as being placed on a lower scale than this one, have now much lower powers. But it is different in the case of the South Wales line. There the power is 2d. for coal and the other minerals which have been mentioned. I am speaking now—and I put this in here to avoid any chance of misrepresentation—of the Rate Clauses and not of the Toll Clauses. We have nothing to do here with the Toll Clauses, which are entirely different to what we are dealing with. The Rate Clauses of the South Wales Act gave a power to the Great Western Company upon amalgamation, of charging 2d. inclusive of the provision of wagons. The proposal which the Board of Trade has made upon the inquiry which was conducted by the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament gives an unusual figure of 1½d. per ton per mile exclusive of wagons. There is, therefore, at the worst, a reduction in the power of the company of ½d. per ton per mile, leaving out the charge for wagons which probably may be estimated at about one-eighth of 1d. per ton per mile. The noble Lord stated in the course of his remarks that some Members of the other House had intimated that had 713 they known that the terminal power in the South Wales Act was not very distinct, they would have in all probability been influenced by that fact to give a decision different to what they did. I think it right to point out that at the time at which the Committee gave their decision the fact that there was no terminal power in this Act must have been known to them, because a very few minutes before the decision was given the last witness who was examined was asked by Counsel—In that Act are there any terminals—is there a clause similar to Hall's Clause?and he replied—There are no terminals in that Act at all.That question was asked, and that answer was given within a few minutes prior to the decision being come to by the Committee. After that the representative of the Board of Trade was called upon, and he did not specially mention that there was no terminal in the Act. I think, under the circumstances, it having been mentioned only a very few minutes previously, it is not surprising, considering the magnitude of the inquiry as a whole that the representative of the Board of Trade did not go out of his way to state a thing which he had a right to presume was present to the minds of the Committee at the moment. But as regards these common articles, important as they are, iron and coal, the question of terminals does not arise so much as it does in the other classes. The whole terminal of Class A, which is under discussion, is 3d., and as we have reduced the conveyance power of the company from 2d. to 1½d., your Lordships will see that a very few miles indeed of run will more than compensate the trader for any definiteness and exigibility as to terminal charges. I have only one other point to refer to, and that is as regards even the terminal power—no great point must be made of it because those heavy articles, as a rule, go from siding to siding, or from station to station, and when it is from siding to siding simply, there are no terminal charges at all because there are provisions for that purpose in our schedule. Therefore, whenever traffic goes from siding to siding there is no point to be made of the terminals being made definite and exigible, because even 714 under our proposal no terminal can be chargeable. Another reason why I cannot accept this Amendment is that I think it would be unduly hard upon the Railway Company. The noble Lord said there were important articles in Classes A and B to which he especially referred. If the articles are important to the trader they are not less important to the Railway Company as a means of earning their revenue. It was stated in evidence by the representative of the Great Western Railway Company that under the proposal as they now stand the Great Western will lose £2,500 a year on coal and coke alone, besides their other losses on Classes A and B, and if the proposal of the noble Lord is given effect to they would in addition lose £1,750 more and an additional loss upon Class B. I have nothing more to say upon this Amendment, which I hope your Lordships will not accept. When we come to the other part of it, which the noble Lord wishes to amend in one respect, and which another noble Lord wishes to strike out altogether, we can have a discussion upon it. Bat it points out this moral. No sooner does the President of the Board of Trade in the other House accept a fair measure of equity between the two parties than the Representatives on the one side in this House wish to amend it in one way and the Representatives on the other side in this House wish to amend it in the other. So that it is not very easy in these circumstances to reach finality in discussing an important measure of this character, and I ask your Lordships, under these circumstances, not to accept the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, the noble Lord has gone very fully into the comparatively insignificant matter of the 3d. for the terminal charge, but upon the other point that whereas the Great Western has only power to charge this sum, while other Railway Companies have power to charge Id., he has given no reason why this great difference exists between coal carried over the South Wales line and that carried over lines in other parts of the country. It is certainly not on account of distance, or the distance being a short one, because the coal travels to London, Southampton, and Birkenhead, 715 and other places, going to considerable distances off. But I understand the Board have the power to make an arrangement which would be fair as between the Companies. As it stands under this Bill, the great bulk of the coal carried over the Great Western which comes from South Wales will be carried at least at a 50 per cent. higher rate than over other railways in England; and, more than that, higher than over the other portions of the Great Western line itself. I do not think the noble Lord has explained the reason of that very large difference, or that he has given any other explanation than that the charge was fixed in 1846, since which many extraordinary changes have taken place in the population and wealth and commerce in coal and iron in that part of the country, or why so exceptionally high a charge should be allowed to continue.
*THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, as I was a member of the Joint Committee, which was appointed by your Lordships to inquire into this matter, and which did inquire into it at very great length, I should like to say a word, and only a word or two in support of what has been said by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) and in opposition to this Amendment. The point I will address myself to is the point which has just been put forward by the noble Lord near me (Lord Aberdare), namely, why a higher charge is allowed in the case of South Wales than in the case of some of the other companies.
*THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
All the others. Now, my Lords, in the first place, in anything I say to your Lordships upon these Bills I hope your Lordships will understand that I am speaking as not at all advocating the conclusions of the Committee, but from another point of view altogether. I believe that your Lordships intended we should act as judges, perfectly impartial and fair as between the railways and the traders, and for the purpose of reviewing the proposal which had in the first place been made by the Board of Trade according to the Act of 1888. Of course, it is very natural that the railways in some cases, and the traders in 716 others, should think that the charges which were either proposed in the Bills or which are in the Bills as they are now before Parliament are unfair to them, and, of course, the case of South Wales is one of the more prominent cases. That Committee heard the argument which has been heard by your Lordships to-night from Lord Aberdare at very considerable length, and they finally decided that it was desirable to retain in the Bill the figures which the Board of Trade have proposed. I think that all the members of the Committee took a much more active part in the examination during the inquiry than is ordinarily taken by members of a Committee, and in many of the cases many of the conclusions were arrived at after long examinations of the witnesses, and even I might almost say of the Counsel by the various members of the Committee. This is one of the cases in point, and it does so happen that the individual who asked the particular question in this case was myself; and after a long inquiry, and when we had called upon the Board of Trade representatives, as we did in almost every case, to state what were their reasons for inserting the figures which they had inserted in the schedule, they gave certain answers which your Lordships will find at Question 27,717 of the evidence. Perhaps the House will allow me to read a few of the questions which were put. The Chairman asked the Board of Trade representatives if they had anything to say. Mr. Hanbury said—I should like to ask this question: Is there anything exceptional in the position of the South Wales Railway which we are now asked to take out of Class 2 where the Board of Trade have put it, and to put it into Class 1 besides the original high maximum price?Mr. Courtenay Boyle said—That was a great factor in our decision; I am sorry to say the position of this railway gave us very anxious consideration and some sleepless nights. First of all, we found the great factor of the Act of 1885, the 2d. per ton; "—that is the original maximum charge—secondly, we found a great number of small rates—coal rates—along the line, and where there were a number of coal rates along the line. The consequence was those rates have been piled, involving a considerable amount and involving a decided loss of revenue to the company if the maximum was very largely cat down.717 Then he pursues that for some time, and his conclusion is—We could not, as far as our view went, in fairness to the company cut down the 2d. per ton to 0.95d. for a long portion of the railway.Your Lordships will see what an enormous reduction is asked for, from the maximum rate of 2d. to 0.95d.—more than 50 per cent. That is simply the broad question. Then I asked him this question—Did you make a calculation whether your proposed maximum would cover the actual rates charged at short distances on those lines?And he said—I cannot pledge myself to every actual rate; it is impossible for any human being to do that; but, as far as I can say, 2d. covers the entire rate, and 0.95d. does not.So that your Lordships will see, if you were to adopt the proposal now made by my noble Friend Lord Aberdare, you would adopt a rate which, according to the best knowledge that could be obtained by the Board of Trade, is a rate not covered by the entire rate now charged by the Railway Company; and your Lordships will remember what we are now speaking about is not the rate to be charged, but the maximum rate beyond which the company cannot go, and which, of course, is subject in cases where there is competition—I am bound to say there is not very much competition in this case—but which in such cases is guarded by the competition. It is for that reason that, to the best of my recollection, the Committee mainly determined to confirm the figures of the Board of Trade, and that, I believe, was the reason why we did so.
§ *LORD ABERDARE
I shall not give your Lordships the trouble of dividing upon this matter. I beg to withdraw the first Amendment and move the other one which stands in my name.
§ Amendment (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.
*LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Before the noble Lord goes on I have an Amendment. This is rather technical. It is on page 11, lines 28 to 33. As your Lordships will see, three paragraphs in small print dealing with certain railways between Bala and Festiniog, Corwen and Bala, and Corwen and Llangollen—those 718 three paragraphs were inserted in the Provisional Order during its passage through the other House. They were inserted on the Motion of an individual Member who is interested in the district, and at the time they were accepted by the Board of Trade. Further inquiry, however, has shown us that it is impossible in fairness to accept this Amendment, and impossible in the terms of the Statute to deal with the railway there mentioned within the four corners of this Provisional Order. That is a fact I do not elaborate, because it will not be denied; and a communication has been made to the hon. Member who moved the insertion of those three paragraphs, and I have no reason to doubt he will be satisfied with the explanation which has been given. The object of my Amendment is to omit from this Schedule four railways which ought not to be there and to leave in the one which should be there—the Bala and Dolgelly—which is owned and worked by the Great Western. I therefore move the omission of the railways I have mentioned, and to insert the railway governed by the Bala and Dolgelly Railway Act, 1862.
§ Amendment moved, in page 11, lines 28 to 33, to leave out from ("Railways" to…, 1873), paragraphs numbered 18, 19, and 20, and to insert 18 ("Railway governed by the Bala and Dolgelly Act, 1862").—(The Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I stated that during the discussion in the other House the President of the Board of Trade, who had charge of the Bill, himself suggested what he thought a means of diminishing, at any rate, the injustice of which I have just been complaining.
THE CHAIRMAN (The Earl of) MORLEY
I think the Amendment of the other noble Lord comes first.
THE EARL OF CORK
My Lords, the object of my Amendment, and I think the noble Lord opposite will consider it a very fair one, is to strike out the word "hereafter" and to insert "after the commencement of this Act." The object of the Amendment is that if the change which has been made in this Bill in the House of 719 Commons is to come into force it will work very hardly indeed upon the Great Western Railway Company. As the clause is now worded, I think there can be no doubt that, inasmuch as that company have recently paid, and supposing to pay, a dividend at the rate of 6 per cent. for the last half-year, the additional rates will immediately come into force. I think your Lordships will see that is a very great hardship this Company should not have had the opportunity of seeing what will be the effect upon the working of the line consequent upon the great reduction of rates which have been made by the Joint Committee. For that reason, my Lords, it would be only fair that the Company should have time to consider the matter, and I think your Lordships will agree, therefore, that my proposal is only a fair one, and that the question of past dividends should not be taken into account at all, but that it should only, as I understand it, take effect after the commencement of this Act. I hope the noble Lord will agree to that Amendment, as I have said I think it is a very fair one. I think it would be better to leave out from "provided" to the end of the clause. My object is exactly what I have stated. The clause runs—Provided that if at any time hereafter the clear annual profits divisible upon the whole subscribed and paid-up capital ordinary stock of the Great Western Railway Company, upon an average of the three then last preceding years, shall equal or exceed the rate of £6 for every £100 by such paid-up capital stock, scale I., shall become and shall continue to be applicable to the railways governed by the South Wales Railway Act, 1845.That is the object of my Amendment. I propose to leave out the whole of that, my Lords, for the reasons I have before stated: that I think it would be very hard, considering the Company have been pay-ign 6 per cent. for several years past, that that should be brought into the calculations made. I, therefore, do hope that the noble and learned Lord will allow the latter part of the clause to be struck out.
§ Amendment moved, in page 11, line 49, to leave out from ("provided ") to the end of the Clause.—(The Earl of Cork.)
§ *LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, when I gave way to ray noble Friend, I did it with the full understanding not that he 720 was going to move the rejection of the whole clause, but that my Amendment would come first.
The Question will be that the words down to "hereafter" be omitted, and then the noble Lord will have the opportunity of moving his Amendment.
*THE EARL OF CORK
I think the noble Lord will find I was perfectly in, order the first time. I move to leave out from "provided" to the end of the clause. Then I have an amended clause which I propose to put in instead of it—to omit "hereafter" and insert "after the passing of this Act." That is an Amendment upon the amended clause, and that is the Amendment which I propose to make. I do not know-whether the noble Lord has seen it.
*LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Lord Aberdare is moving to make what he contends is the meaning of the clause quite clear in one way, and the noble Lord who is now moving wants it in one alternative to be struck out altogether, and in the other to amend it. Under those circumstances, I do not think it would be a breach of order if we take the discussion upon the original Amendment, which I understood the noble Lord moved at first, to leave out the first three lines of this part of the Schedule, because, being on the Schedule and not on a Clause, I think that is the way we must proceed. As far as the intention of the noble Lord is concerned his Amendment on the Paper, is to leave out the clause as a whole, that I certainly could not con sent to. It was accepted deliberately by the President of the Board of Trade in the other House of Parliament. It was pointed out to the President of the Board of Trade that in the Amalgamation Act there was a clause giving authority to the Board of Trade—the exact words of it I need not read—but that gave power to the Board of Trade to fix such new rates, and such a scale of charges as they might think fit to apply to the company, provided the dividend on the ordinary Stock of the Great Western had been an average of 6 per cent. for the preceding three years; provided that the charges 721 so fixed were not to be below the scale of the Great Western Railway Company under the Act of 1847. It was pointed out to the President of the Board of Trade that if this high scale to which Lord Aberdare has referred were allowed without any such proviso, the South Wales traders would be in a worse position in future than they have been in the past. To meet that view the President of the Board of Trade consented to insert the proviso as it appears in the Bill. There must, therefore, be a proviso of some such kind as this. I understand the noble Earl now to suggest, by what he has said, that it shall not take effect as from the passing of the Act, but that it shall only take effect after the new regulations have been in force for three years, or for a sufficient time, to show the Board of Trade, the traders, and the Railway Company what the effect of the new scale will be upon the dividends of that company. I think there is something to be said for that view. I should not like to pledge myself absolutely to accept it, but at the present time I am inclined to do so. I do not like to speak definitely about it, because if I accepted it offhand at the present time, I should prevent the noble Lord opposite having the opportunity of expressing his opinion before I commit myself to it. My bias is rather to accept the second Amendment of the noble Earl, but before doing so I should like to give an opportunity to the noble Lord opposite of expressing his opinion on the subject.
§ *LORD ABERDARE
I think the difference between the noble Lord and myself is simply this: that I want the direction to be made whenever it I can be shown that for three consecutive years the Great Western has declared a dividend upon its ordinary capital of 6 per cent. The noble Earl is desirous that this reduction shall not take effect until three years after what is practically the passing of this Act.
§ *LORD ABERDARE
I daresay my noble Friend has read the discussion which took place in the other House, which I have taken the opportunity of reading in Hansard, as well as that which is given very fully in the Times. There the question was put most clearly 722 by Sir Hussey Vivian, on the part of the traders as to whether, in the first instance, the dividend was to be on the ordinary Stock, and the President admitted it was to be on the ordinary Stock. The next question was, whether the reduction was to take place immediately upon its being shown that for three consecutive years there had been a dividend at the rate of 6 per cent., and to that he gave just as clear and distinct an answer as in the other case, and an answer in the affirmative. I came here to support the Amendment, and my Amendment is only an explanation, and, as I thought, putting in a clearer way the undertaking given by the President of the Board of Trade. Of course, a great deal may be said, especially on behalf of the Railway Companies, for the postponement for three years. All I can say is, if that postponement is made it is in violation of that undertaking upon which my noble Friend withdrew his Amendment immediately afterwards. Nothing could be more distinct and clear than the statement of the President of the Board of Trade upon that point. If the President of the Board of Trade had made the suggestion which I understand to be the gist of my noble Friend Lord Cork's Amendment, I should not be here to dispute it; but he made altogether another suggestion, and gave that explanation which the traders were anxious for in the fullest and clearest manner. How, therefore, the noble Lord, in the face of this direction of the President of the Board of Trade, can propose to accept the Amendment of my noble Friend I cannot understand.
*LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I think the noble Lord has not sufficiently recognised this fact: that the original clause provided that the Board of Trade could reduce the rates after a dividend had been paid for three consecutive years at the rate of 6 per cent., to the scale of rates in the Act of 1847. If this proviso stands as it is in the Bill, it will reduce in the same event the payment of a dividend of 6 per cent. upon the ordinary Stock for three years to a lower scale than the scale in the Act of 1847, because there is no doubt whatever that the main line scale of the Great Western Railway under this Order is lower than the scale in the Act of 1847. That 723 point was brought prominently to the notice of the Board of Trade, and as there will be very considerable changes in the rates of the Great Western in consequence of the passing of this Order, it is not thought unfair that the Amendment should provide that this new scale of rates for the South Wales line should not be brought into effect until the Great Western Railway Company has paid 6 per cent. upon its ordinary Stock for three years after the commencement of the new system. I should be sorry if the noble Lord thought that to be a breach of faith. To my mind, it is not. It seems to me to be a necessary corollary upon a state of circumstances which was not fully present to those dealing with the matter when the Amendment was made in the other House of Parliament. As I have told the noble Earl, I cannot accept his first Amendment, but I do think there is matter for consideration, and what I propose is to accept the Amendment of the noble Earl, subject to that consideration, because if we allow this clause to pass without amending it, and the Bill goes back to the other House without being amended, there will be no possibility of putting it in the Bill at all. I do, therefore, think it necessary to keep the matter open for consideration, and, as the matter stands, I propose to resist the noble Lord's proposal to strike out the clause altogether, maintaining that part of the Amendment which provides with regard to the payment of dividend, and to maintain that part of it as to the three years after the commencement of the new order of things, in case we should inflict, as I believe might be the great and unintentional injustice on the Great Western Company.
§ Amendment of Lord Aberdare negatived; and the words, "after the commencement of this Order," inserted.
*LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Then, my Lords, on page 11, line 51, I move to omit the words "the three then last preceding," and to insert "three consecutive."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
My Lords, I merely desire to say one word upon this. It is no doubt a matter of great delicacy and difficulty dealing between 724 the carrying industries and the other industries of this country, because, of course, it is perfectly intelligible that those who are carrying on the trade of carriers desire to get as much from their customers as possible, and, on the other hand, those who have to get goods carried like to get them carried for as little as possible, and even for nothing if they possibly can. But for reasons of policy it has been considered right to undertake this extremely delicate and difficult task of adjusting the respective rights of these parties. It is a very delicate and somewhat dangerous proceeding, but nevertheless, being undertaken, the matter was submitted to an impartial Committee, composed of Members of both Houses. They revised the consideration of it by the Board of Trade; but I cannot help thinking it is extremely unfortunate, as a precedent, that where the matter has been considered in that way it should be made by other parties interested a matter for discussion in this or in the other House of Parliament. Because you do, after all, get something like a judicial determination when it is submitted to the Board of Trade or to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. But when after it has been discussed in that way such a question as this has to be re-considered in a popular assembly or even in your Lordships' House there is great risk of injustice being done, because it is obvious that everybody likes to get the best terms he can for himself. The public are only affected and somewhat remotely interested in many of the questions which have been raised here. I only desire as the result of this discussion, rather as a matter of precedent than otherwise, to utter a warning voice, because it seems to me to be entering upon a somewhat dangerous course if these matters, after they have been considered by a judicial Committee are to be discussed, and perhaps varied in the manner now sought.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
The noble and learned Lord has laid down with his customary clearness some exceedingly sound maxims, and if there was not in the matter a suggestion of application in their conduct, I should 725 have nothing to do except to express my full agreement in the general doctrine laid down by the noble and learned Lord. I believe up to this point all we have done is to sustain the opinions of the Hybrid Committee. All cases have their exceptions—I do not bind myself absolutely in all cases to follow the view which the noble and learned Lord has taken; but I cannot refuse my very full assent to his doctrine in its general aspect, that when you have the decision of an influential Hybrid Committee such as this, which was eminently capable of adjusting claims between conflicting parties, to give due weight to each of those claims, and to solve that difficult problem of deciding between past pledges and present necessities with which we all have to contend, I quite agree with him that neither the crowded Benches in the other House nor the less crowded Benches in this House are suitable tribunals to reverse its decision.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I am not rising in the least for the purpose of disputing the position laid down by the noble and learned Lord and the noble Marquess opposite. I simply wish to point out that these Bills come here amended from the House of Commons, and that it was in consequence of those Amendments being inserted that I have ventured to introduce the Amendments I have brought forward.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Standing Committee negatived.
§ The Report of Amendments to be received to-morrow: and Standing Order No. XXXIX. to be considered in order to its being dispensed with. Bill to be printed as amended. (No 285.)