HC Deb 22 July 1844 vol 76 cc1185-90

On the Motion for going into Committee on the Railways Bill,

Mr. Morison

thought that it would have been better, both for the public and railway proprietors, had Government some years ago taken some such measures as that which they proposed now. Government, however, then appeared to be averse to any such interference; and now, if the present Bill passed, as no doubt it would, the only way in which the public could be benefitted would be by competition, which would be of serious injury to the old established lines. A general tariff of fares might have been early established, and would have been found extremely beneficial to the public. As to the proposed interference with third class passengers, he thought that if some change had not been provided by the Bill, public opinion would soon have necessitated it. He thought that second class carriages had been too much neglected, and that the persons who travelled in them were too much exposed. Another grievance was the partiality of railway directors towards some carriers in preference to others. Railways ought to be compelled to publish the rate of carriage for goods as well as the fare for passengers. As to the liability of railroads to pay for lost goods, he thought that as they loaded, surrounded by their own servants and their own police, that they should be subjected to a greater amount of liability than were coach or waggon proprietors, who were more exposed to depredations upon their journeys. He hoped that great improvements would shortly take place in the construction of railroads. He had great faith in the atmospheric principle superseding locomotives. He could not thoroughly approve of the Government measure, although he quite acknowledged the excellence of its intention.

House in Committee.

On Clause 1,

Mr. Gladstone

admitted that it was proper that a statement of the leading alterations made in the Bill should be laid before the House; and after he had made that statement, he would explain why if appeared to him reasonable that the measure should be at once allowed to proceed. The principal alteration which had been made he would describe as well and as shortly as he could, omitting those of minor importance. The great change in form of the Bill, which had reduced its bulk by one-half, was caused by the omission of twenty Clauses, which consisted of the executory provisions and provisions of detail, laying down the manner in which the option of revision and purchase should be exercised. He confessed that when these Clauses were inserted in the Bill, they had been inserted, as they thought, to give satisfaction to the railway proprietors. However, a body of Gentlemen connected with railways took a different view of the matter. They represented to Government that its profession was, that the question of the policy of this option was to be altogether reserved; if so, why specify the details at present? rather show by the omission of all details, except those essential and fundamental, that the policy question was to be really not merely professedly reserved. He thought that there was much weight in these representations, and he had therefore consented at once, and without reluctance, to abandon the whole of these Clauses. He did not think that the public interest was prejudiced by that abandonment; and he might say that his reason for asking that the Bill might pass through at once, was because he did not think that the public interest had in any degree been prejudiced by any of the alterations which it had undergone. He had heard it stated that as the Bill formerly stood, the option of revision and purchase was made applicable to existing lines of railroads. He could assure hon. Gentlemen that this was not the case. The option of revision and purchase always stood as it did now in the measure, only applicable to new companies. As regarded protection to the poorer classes, the Bill was now applicable not only to future companies, but to all companies future and existing, provided only that they had been during the present, or should be in any future Session, applicants to Parliament for an extension of their powers. Indeed, the practical effect would be, that any company in the kingdom, with a very few exceptions, would be at once subject to the provisions of the Bill with respect to the accommodation of the poorer classes; and he had reason to believe that those companies which would not be compelled to come within the powers of the Bill, would, of their own accord, adopt its provisions. There was, then, in this respect, no change made in the Bill since it had been printed, with the exception of this, that lines of railway under five miles of length should not be deemed new lines under the Bill. There was one material relaxation in the terms of the option of revision and purchase. It was now provided that the right of option and purchase should not accrue until twenty-one years, instead of fifteen years, after the 1st of January, subsequently to the incorporation of the company. This was a material relaxation, but it would be recollected that the committee upon railways had strictly guarded itself against indicating positively any number of years as that after the expiration of which the option of revision and purchase should accrue. They had done so, because in their opinion it was right to avoid the great error of discouraging the application of capital to railway enterprise at home, and turning the public mind towards other modes of investment not so beneficial to British skill and industry. On that account, and considering the great risks run, and the great difficulties experienced in this mode of investment, considering the feeling created out of doors by the measure, and actuated as he was by the strongest desire to give no shock to the formation of new railroads, he thought it was a safe and wise relaxation to extend the term of accruement from fifteen to twenty-one years, and he did not imagine that any gentleman would object to the extension upon the ground of public interest. There were some other changes to which he might shortly allude. It was provided by the Bill as it stood, that if the right of revision had been once exercised, that it was not again to be called into employment for twenty-one years; and that if any company at the end of twenty-one years should be making more than 10 per cent. of profit for the last three years of that period, that instead of the railway being purchasable at a price estimated upon the amount of the then divisible profits—it should be open to the company to require that any other circumstances, such as increasing value of stock or prospects of an increased rate of traffic, should be taken into consideration, and a proper allowance made. By this arrangement railways would be purchased at their real value, whatever that might be. This stipulation was, he believed, an improvement in every respect. He had made this relaxation upon the same principle as that which had guided him in substituting twenty-one for fifteen years as the period before the accruement of the right of option, and, as he believed, in conformity with the pledges given to the House that their intention was not to go beyond the recommendations of the third Report of the Select Committee, as against railroads. That recommendation was to the effect, that railways making 10 per cent. or upwards, might be purchased by Government at a price reckoned upon their divisible profits for a certain number of years, but they did not advise that twenty-five years should be the maximum of that period. He considered that in the alterations made, therefore, he was returning to, rather than departing from, the intentions of the Committee. There was another relaxation deemed essential by Railway Directors, and not as he thought prejudicial to the public, which he had granted. It was this, that if there were a branch line liable to the option of revision and purchase, connected with a main line which was not liable to this option, and if the Legislature should think fit to purchase the branch line, it should be in the power of the company holding the main line to insist that the Government should take it upon similar terms as those upon which they purchased the branch line. This was an equitable provision, and he had no difficulty in acceding to it, the more so as it would not lead, in any respect, to public injury. The Bill now stood on the footing on which it was endeavoured to place it on the second reading. So far as respected the clauses of option, the Bill might be termed an act for reserving the discretion of the Legislature. That was its bonâ fide intention. There was no intention of Government becoming the manager of railways, that it should interfere and purchase one railway to run down another. There was one other alteration, important in itself, but innocent in its effects towards the public, to which he might allude. Words had been introduced by way of preamble, declaring that which had been enounced in debate—that the policy of interposition upon the part of the State was not to be prejudged by the Bill itself. He had acceded to this because it was right that there should be an indication of the views and intention of the Legislature embodied in the Bill. With respect to any useful practice, he looked upon the Bill as exactly corresponding to what it was before the second reading. He did hope that it might be the view of the Committee and of the House that the Bill should be speedily passed through its remaining stages.

Mr. Ward

thought that the Bill had been much improved by the alterations made. It should have his support.

Mr. Hawes

expressed his satisfaction with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. He believed that the measure would practically affect all railroads.

Mr. Vernon Smith

said, that after the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade he had no objection to the Bill going through Committee. He supported the option of purchase, as the only mode by which railways could be kept in check and abuses prevented. He thought that the interests of the poorer classes had been very much neglected by railway proprietors, and that some provision for their protection was absolutely necessary.

Clause agreed to.

On clause 6, "Companies to provide on every week day a train for third-class passengers."

Mr. Thornely

suggested an alteration which would make the provisions of the Clause imperative on Sundays as well as week days.

Mr. Gladstone

stated that he would not be a party to compelling a company to run certain trains upon Sundays.

Mr. Warburton

said, that it was only contended that if first and second classes should be run on a Sunday, that third-class carriages ought to be run under the same restrictions.

Mr. Thornely

would then move an Amendment requiring that third-class trains should be run upon all days when first and second-class trains were run.

Mr. V. Smith

supported the Amendment. If the rich man could travel on a Sunday, why should not the poor man also?

Mr. Gladstone

said, that if the hon. Gentleman would persist in his Amendment, he would move that the Chairman report progress.

Mr. Sheil

said, that he could not see why, if Dives was allowed to travel on a Sunday, Lazarus should be prevented.

Mr. Denison

hoped his right hon. Friend would give way on this point. He knew that many working people travelled from one point of the country to another on Sundays, and if they were prevented from doing so, it would be depriving them of a great advantage.

The Committee divided on the question that the words "week day," stand part of the Clause:—Ayes 41; Noes 73; Majority 32.

List of the AYES.
Ashley, Lord Fielden, W.
Baring, hon. W. B. Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.
Barneby, J. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Barrington, Visct. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Beckett, W. Hepburn, Sir T. B.
Boldero, H. G. Hodgson, R.
Bowles, Adm. Hope, hn. C.
Broadley, H. Liddell, hon. H. T.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Lincoln, Earl of
Clerk, Sir G. Mackinnon, W. A.
Collett, W. R. Morgan, O.
Dodd, G. Mundy, E. M.
Eliot, Lord Nicholl, rt. hn. J.
Entwistle, W. Norreys, Lord
Peel, rt. hn. Sir R. Trench, Sir F. W.
Peel, J. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Russell, C. Trollope, Sir J.
Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C. Vernon, G. H.
Somerset, Lord G. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Sutton, hn. H. M. TELLERS.
Taylor, E. Pringle, A.
Thesiger, Sir F. Lennox, Lord A.
List of the NOES.
Adderley, C. B. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Bannerman, A. Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.
Barnard, E. G. McGeachy, F. A.
Bellew, R. M. Manners, Lord C. S.
Borthwick, P. Manners, Lord J.
Brotherton, J. Masterman, J.
Buckley, E. Milnes, R. M.
Buller, C. Mitcalfe, H.
Chute, W. L. W. Morrison, J.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Muntz, G. F.
Collett, J. Napier, Sir C.
Denison, J. E. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Denison, E. B. O'Brien, A. S.
Denistoun, J. O'Connell, M. J.
Dickinson, F. H. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Divett, E. Ogle, S. C. H.
Douglas, Sir H. Pattison, J.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Philips, G. R.
Duncan, G. Philips, M.
Duncombe, T. Plumridge, Capt.
Dundas, Adm. Polhill, F.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Protheroe, E.
Ewart, W. Ross, D. R.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Russell, Lord J.
Forster, M. Scott, R.
Fox, C. R. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Gardner, J. D. Sibthorp, Col.
Gibson, T. M. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Gore, hon. R. Standish, C.
Guest, Sir J. Strutt, E.
Hanmer, Sir J. Thornhill, G.
Hawes, B. Towneley, J.
Heneage, E. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Howard, P. H. Vivian, J. H.
Howick, Visct. Wawn, J. T.
Ingestre, Visct. Warburton, H.
Kelly, F. R. Thornely, T.

Words "days on which passengers are conveyed," inserted. Clause agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported and ordered to be read a third time.