§ Amendment reported (according to order.)
My Lords, there is an Amendment which stands in my name. I have been asked to move it. It was to have been moved by another Member of your Lordships' House. I am not conversant intimately with the subject, but what I am told is that as the Bill now stands it will materially affect a very great and important industry of South Wales. The steel manufacture in South Wales is very extensive. I believe there are about 1,000,000 tons of steel rails produced in South Wales in the course of a year, and I am told that the effect of this Bill as it stands will be to raise considerably the charges for the carriage in that district of steel goods. I am informed that it will nearly double them. If this Amendment were passed it would have the effect simply, as I am told, of leaving the charges as they are now, plus leaving this industry subject to terminal charges. This is the statement made to me; and I believe it was generally the object of the Joint Committee to lower rather than raise charges. Your Lordships-having yesterday given a vote in favour of the railways against lowering charges where they ought not to be excessively lowered, it seems only fair that in this case this alteration should be made, and that this great industry should not be subject to the rise in charges which I am told will be the effect of the Bill.
*THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Lord BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH)
My Lords, with regard to the last point which the noble Lord mentioned, that a 891 rise in charges will be the effect of the Bill, that is an entire misconception. We are not dealing in this Bill with actual rates, we are dealing with the maximum powers of the company, and it does not follow that because any change is made in the maximum powers, therefore the actual rates will be raised. But, my Lords, I do not think it can be made out that the effect of this Order upon the rates of the railway in question will be as the noble Lord seems to think, nothing but the raising of the rates. I have grave doubts of that; in fact I have a belief, amounting almost to certainty, that for the traffic which he mentions, taken as a whole, the powers will be actually lowered rather than raised by the effect of this Order. The Act to which I think the Amendment is intended to refer is what is known as the South Wales Act, 1855. I do not think there is any such Act as the Great Western Act, 1855; at least, I have not been able to trace it. But assuming that I am correct that the noble Lord who has given your Lordships the result of his information in this matter intends to refer to the South Wales Act, I will deal with it as if that were the case. My Lords, this is the same Act which was the subject of discussion yesterday, upon the Amendment of my noble Friend Lord Aberdare, who is not now in his place. The powers for coal and common articles of that kind, and for wrought iron, which is mentioned in the Act, are 2d. a ton a mile, that is inclusive of wagons. The effect of this Order is that for coal the powers in future will be 1½d. per ton per mile exclusive of wagons, with, as I explained yesterday, terminals of 3d., which cannot effect anything in the nature of raising such powers for more than six miles, that is only six half-pennies, and does not include any traffic which goes from siding to siding, which will be the case with a great deal of the heavy traffic. So far for the articles in Class A, but with regard to the steel trade it requires a little more explanation. The first point I should be inclined to take is this: it is rather a technical one. Steel is not an article mentioned in the Act: it is usually as a matter of actual practice classed with iron, and in our amended classifications we have put articles whether made of iron or steel in 892 the same class. As I know I am correct in saying that steel is not mentioned in the Act, it will be an unnamed article, and therefore the highest power which in the case of this Act is, I think, 4d., would be the charge which, strictly speaking, the company would at the present time, be entitled to exact, if they could get it, which probably they cannot. Now, going back to the term used in the Act, "wrought iron," the effect of our Order is that some articles of wrought iron are in Class B and some in Class C. For those articles which are in Class B there is absolutely not only no raising of power, but there is a diminution for those of the articles which have been divided. Under, I venture to say, the more scientific classification which we are bringing into force, some of them will be in Class C, and for them there will be a slight raising of maximum power; but I am entitled to make this point, that, according to the proposal of the Board of Trade, all wrought iron articles, if declared to be undamageable, were in Class B. The Joint Committee, for reasons which seemed good to them, and after a very full discussion, and practically with the consent of both sides, altered the decision on this point, and the Order, as now laid on the Table of the House, is absolutely and in all respects in conformity with the decision of the Joint Committee on this matter; it comes up unaltered from the other House of Parliament, and I venture to think, under those circumstances, that it would be most unwise and injudicious for this House to make the alteration which the noble Lord asks for.
Might I ask the noble Lord one question? He said that under Class C there will be a power of raising the maximum above that paid on the articles previously. Will steel come under Class C now, and did it not do so before?
*LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Steel is not classified. Some articles of steel are in B, some in C, and some are in Class 1. The initial figure for Class C is 1.80d., so that, as far as the conveyance rate is concerned, even for Class C there is no raising of power. As far as the conveyance rate is concerned, any raising of power to which I alluded is the effect of terminal which is given for Class C, and that, after a certain number 893 of miles are run, will be, of course, entirely worked off. Though the initial figures which we have given for Class C was nearly l¼d. less than the existing power for conveyance, it is l.80d. by the scale of graduation which was put in the Bill for conveyance, it will be rapidly reduced; and though I was obliged candidly to say there would, by the conjoint operation of the classification and rate clauses, be some raising of powers, it is certainly very slight in Class C, and certainly not comparable as regards any maximum raising made in the powers of the company by the effect of the other provisions in the Order.
*LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The Amendment being, by leave, withdrawn, I would like, according to the notice that I have given, to ask the House to suspend the Standing Order, No. 39, for the day, in order that this Bill may be read a third time. It cannot, I think, prejudice anybody, and it will be a matter of extreme convenience to everybody concerned, to the Board of Trade, and I believe to the other House of Parliament, if all these Bills can be considered together in any subsequent stage they may have to go through.
Standing Order No. XXXIX considered (according to order) and dispensed with; Bill read 3a, and passed.