§ On the Motion that the Order of the Day be read for the second reading of this Bill,
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member must reserve his objections until the first Order of the Day had been read.
§ Order for Second Reading read; Motion made, and Qestion proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. PUSEY
objected to the order for the second reading of this Bill being placed before that for the Committee upon the Landlord and Tenant Bill, of which, as an independent Member, he had the charge, and which stood No. 4 on the Paper. It was twenty years since he had the honour of first becoming a Member of that House, and so long as he could remember, Wednesday evenings had been given up to in 405 dependent Members. Within the last few years a change had been made on Wednesdays from evening to day sittings; but he did not recollect that any alteration had been made either then or since in the usual custom of the sitting being given up to independent Members. The difficulty of private Members carrying any measure was so well known, that he ventured to put it to the House, whether, with three Government orders standing first to-day, there was any possibility of any Member's Bill being-carried forward? Monday and Friday were Government nights; and if a Member attempted to bring on any measure after twelve o'clock on those nights, he was told it was too late to proceed. In the present week, the Government would have Thursday; but, even if they had not, Tuesday and Thursday only were notice days, and there was already a large number of notices upon the book. Sometimes the House did not come to a determination upon the business with which it commenced till twelve o'clock; and after that it was often absolutely impossible for any Member who took an interest in a particular question to induce his friends to remain for its discussion. On these grounds, he submitted, the House should consider whether it was possible for independent Members to proceed with their measures unless the Government gave to them the same precedence on that day which they themselves enjoyed on other days.
§ SIR J. PAKINGTON
said, in that case he would second the Amendment. Whether or not there was a rule of the House that Wednesdays should be set apart for the consideration of measures introduced by independent Members, he did not know; but, in point of fact, such had been the general understanding. The Government had now a third day, or at least they would have in a short time. Already they had every alternate Thursday. Considering, then, the disadvantages under which independent Members laboured in bringing on their measures, he thought Government ought not to encroach upon Wednesdays.
§ Amendment proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "after other Orders of the Day."406
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
MR. BECKETT DENISON
said, he would not enter into the question raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, but at once consider the main subject of the Bill.
§ SIR G. GREY
observed that, as an ordinary rule, it was desirable that Bills brought forward by the Government should not stand for Wednesday, or be placed in the way of hon. Gentlemen who had obtained leave to introduce measures, any stage of which was appointed for those days. This Bill, however, had been introduced under peculiar circumstances. It was not a Government Bill in the ordinary sense of the word; it was a measure called for by Gentlemen unconnected with Government. They had forced upon the Government the past and present consideration of the question. Great disappointment had been expressed upon a former occasion because he declined to introduce a measure on this subject in the Session before last; but at length he was forced to declare he would as early as possible introduce a Bill upon the subject, because it was urgently called for. It was in redemption of that pledge that the present Bill had been brought forward. He must remind hon. Gentlemen that the House had made an order, by which the proceedings upon all private Bills relative to turnpikes had been suspended, until the House had pronounced an opinion upon this measure. When the Bill first introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Herefordshire was withdrawn at an early period of the Session, a pledge was given by the Government that the amended measure should be submitted to the decision of the House; and he was anxious that the opinion of the House should be expressed upon it as speedily as possible, in order that it might not stand upon the Paper for any length of time. If the House objected to the Bill, and preferred the present system, he would very willingly bow to its decision, but he thought it should be unequivocally pronounced. At the same time, if the House thought the Government had taken an unfair advantage of his hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, or of other hon. Members who had business on the Paper, by placing this Bill first, because it was introduced by a Member of the Government, he was not prepared to press its being proceeded with. He could not, however, fix any early day for the second 407 reading if the present opportunity was not taken.
§ SIR J. PAKINGTON
reminded the right hon. Baronet that the Government had the three first orders to-day.
§ SIR G. GREY
did not apprehend that two, at least, of the orders would lead to any lengthened discussion; but if there was the slightest chance of it, he should have no objection to postpone them to the next Government night. As to Wednesdays, there was no rule of the House by which Bills in the hands of independent Members had precedence. Wednesdays, indeed, were appointed, by rule, for Committee of Supply, which of course must originate with Government.
§ MR. WILSON PATTEN
said, there could be no doubt there had been a general understanding that Government measures should not be brought on upon Wednesdays. At the same time, there were many reasons for proceeding with this Bill. In the first place, a great number of private Turnpike Bills were waiting until it was disposed of; and, in the next, many parties had come up to London expressly in relation to it, who, if it were put off, would have to come again, some from the most distant parts of the kingdom. Altogether there were sufficient circumstances in the case, he hoped, to induce his hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire not to press his opposition to the Bill being proceeded with.
§ MR. PUSEY
said, he would accede to the proposal of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, if he would undertake to facilitate his proceeding with the Landlord and Tenant Bill.
§ MR. SOTHERON
suggested that the Bill should be read the second time pro formâ, and referred to a Select Committee to consider its merits.
§ SIR W. JOLLIFFE
thought great benefit would be derived by referring the Bill to a Select Committee. There was a strong feeling in the country against it, and most likely an inquiry would have the effect of dissipating the objections made to it. At the same it was desirable, for the sake of all parties, that some measure should be immediately taken and therefore, if the 408 Government pressed the second reading, he should vote for it.
§ MR. DISRAELI
rose to notice a very extraordinary dogma of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, that the Government were not to be held responsible for the measures they introduced, because there was a pressure upon them in the House.
§ SIR G. GREY
had asserted no such dogma. The Government were formally but not virtually responsible.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, here was a measure of great public importance, and the names at the back of the Bill were those of the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department; yet the right hon. Baronet told the House that the Government were not responsible for it.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Then what did the right hon. Gentleman say? Everybody on his (Mr. Disraeli's) side of the House understood the right hon. Gentleman to say the measure had been forced upon the Government, and that this Bill was not a Government measure, The Government, he said, were not virtually responsible. That was the dogma laid down by the right hon. Baronet. The other night the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies, with regard to another very important subject, laid it down, that where the Government were compelled, by the feeling of the House, to bring in a measure, and not from their own impulse, they were not responsible for it.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, it seemed to him that that was very much in harmony with his understanding of it. He protested, however, against the principle which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had asserted. It was not to be tolerated that any difference as to responsibility was to be made between measures brought forward by Government, upon account of the original idea having been started by some independent Member, and those which they introduced upon their own impulse. Each were Government measures, and the Government must be held responsible for them.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed—" That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it was not competent for the hon. Member to make that objection. He might have moved an Amendment upon the Order of the Day being read; but the hon. Member had not moved any Amendment by way of postponement; therefore, the question still before the House was, that the Bill be read a second time.
§ SIR G. GREY
observed, that he had already stated that he was prepared to yield to the feeling of the House on the subject. He would remind his hon. Friend that several hon. Members had expressed their opinion in favour of proceeding with this Bill.
§ SIR C. DOUGLAS
felt that it was most desirable that they should, with as little delay as possible, come to some decision on the principle of this measure. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would allow the House to proceed with it.
§ MR. PUSEY
trusted that he had not unduly persisted in an endeavour to carry the measure which he had introduced. He believed that he had now established the principle that private Members should have precedence on Wednesdays. He would not, therefore, press his Amendment, but he trusted that the House would give him an early day to proceed with this Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
MR. BECKETT DENISON
rose to move an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. In the measure before the House it was proposed in the first place to reduce, and ultimately to pay off, the mortgage debts of all the turnpike trusts in the kingdom; and in the 410 second place, the management of all under one machinery. He would ask them whether they thought that this was the most happy time that could be selected to carry out the first part of the proposition? He thought the present time the most infelicitous for endeavouring to effect this object, and he confessed he saw no occasion whatever for making the proposition. He believed that the security of these trusts was as good now as ever it was. He felt he had a right to assume, from the document before him, the turnpike trusts were not at all in the desponding state to justify such a measure as the present. According to the figures before him, it must be considered that they were tolerably well managed, for it appeared that they were enabled to pay off a large sum of money annually in liquidation of the debt. The bond debt, it was said, was increasing. Now, on the contrary, the bond debt taken by itself was decreasing. It was proposed to pay off this bond debt by a sinking fund of 7 per cent upon that debt when it was ascertained. And in order to ascertain this fact, it appeared that commissioners were to be appointed to make the necessary inquiries upon the subject. He considered it possible that the debt might be reduced to 7,000,000l Assuming it to be such, it was proposed by the Bill, that in the course of the next 30 years the occupiers of property in the country should be called upon to pay off this debt. [Mr. CORNEWALL LEWIS: Not the occupiers.] He was glad to hear it. But he understood that the ratepayers would ultimately be the parties upon whom this burden was to be thrown. He knew it was intended that the tolls should be made available for this purpose; but if the tolls were not sufficient, then who was to pay the difference? He thought that when he said the ratepayers would be called upon to bear the burden, he was not very far away from the truth. He would challenge the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill to prove by his plan how this debt was to be paid in any other way than by the ratepayers. He would show the House in what position the ratepayers stood. By the Bill it was proposed that 7 per cent should be taken as the first fruits of the tolls, and the ratepayers should then be held liable to make up the additions which might ensue from time to time. It was, therefore, clear that the ratepayers would have to bear the burden. While he stated his objections to the present measure, he was willing to 411 admit that some alterations ought to take place in the way of amending the system respecting turnpike trusts. He thought it, however, highly injudicious to bring such a measure as the present one forward at a time while the agricultural community was in such a low and distressed condition; for if it passed into a law, it would have the effect of adding most seriously to their already oppressive burdens. He was but reiterating the language that had been already expressed in the numerous petitions he had himself presented from Yorkshire. The petitioners, while stating their objections to the Bill, expressed at the same time their wish to see some reformation made in the present unsatisfactory state of the law. If the Government would arrange with the mortgagees, so as to give them good security that they would be paid the interest regularly upon the debt, he believed that they would be fully satisfied. He should like to know why they were to pay off this 7,000,000l., for the mere benefit of those that were to come after them? He was quite willing that every care should be taken to have the interest duly paid, but he objected altogether to the proposition to pay off the whole debt. He was now going to the other part of the measure, which proposed, that, after having disposed of all the trusts, the management of these roads should be placed under entirely different machinery—that a committee of magistrates, varying from eight to twelve in each county, should be appointed to lay down rules, which the several boards of guardians were ultimately to carry out. The central committee, consisting of eight or twelve justices, having one member from each board of guardians to assist them, was to law down rules for the management of all the turnpike roads. Having done so much, the charge of carrying those rules into operation would be placed upon the shoulders of the guardians of the poor, who would then supersede all the trustees of the turnpike roads. Then a surveyor was to be appointed, who was to have the superintendence, management, mending, and making of all the roads. Looking at the union with which he was connected, he found that the surveyor for the district, under this Bill, would have the disbursement of from 4,000l. to 5,000l. a year, which the repairs of highways at present cost. He did not know whether the money for the repair of highways was to be raised as it was at present, or by a union rate. The surveyor would, he be- 412 lieved, have to raise the money from the different parishes by a union rate, based upon the valuation of the county rate, and not according to the existing exigencies of the particular parish. He must say, upon this subject of union rate, he was clearly of opinion that it was a most unfair principle to go on, and would lead to endless discontent and confusion. He put it to the good sense of the House whether this was a fair proposition, that one parish, in which the roads were well managed, should be made to pay equally with another in which the roads were neglected, and in wretched condition? He had seen a good deal of the management of public roads, and he knew how difficult it was to test the accuracy of the accounts of the surveyor. He would ask the House to consider how much more difficult would it be to test the accuracy of the surveyor's accounts under this Bill? He was, therefore, not prepared, as far as his district was concerned, to put into the hands of a surveyor the application of 5,000l. annually. He would defy the poor-law auditor to examine this man's accounts so as to satisfy himself that the money had been properly expended. He could not see his way through the plan proposed. Now in respect to the poor-law guardians, who it was proposed were ultimately to have the management of all these matters, he was equally opposed to this part of this Bill. The poor-law guardians were most unfitted, by the nature of their duties and the circumstances of their position, to undertake the onerous duties which this measure proposed to throw upon them. He viewed the first portion of the Bill with the greatest dissatisfaction, and he was confident that the latter portion of it would never work smoothly. He would suggest the propriety of withdrawing this Bill, as the country had very generally stated the strongest objections to it. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
was very desirous that the Bill should pass, after undergoing such amendments in Committee as, in his opinion, would render it a more efficient measure in carrying out the objects which it had in view. He confessed he had been one of those that had endeavoured to press this subject upon the attention of the Go- 413 vernment; and he concurred in the general opinion that had been expressed, that something ought to be immediately done upon the subject. He believed that the hardships were much greater now than could possibly exist even if the measure passed in its present form. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire complained of the difficulty of auditing the surveyor's accounts under this Bill; but he (Mr. Rice) would ask him whether he knew of any audit of the accounts being made at present? [Mr. BECKETT DENISON expressed his belief that they were audited.] He was of opinion that they were not fairly audited. He was quite sure, if this Bill were prevented from going into Committee, where it could be amended, there would be no hope of getting any measure on the subject passed at all. He believed that by the introduction of certain amendments into the Bill, it would have the effect, if passed, of decreasing the expenses considerably to the ratepayers, instead of throwing upon them any burden to which they were not at present liable. At the present time, if the tolls were not sufficient, the ratepayers were obliged to make up the difference. He believed that they would be saving them greatly, if they improved the management of their roads. He would support the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR J. PAKINGTON
was sorry that he did not find himself able to support the second reading of the Bill; at the same time he must, in fairness and candour, say that he thought this Bill had excited a feeling in the country beyond that for which there was any occasion. It was, no doubt, most desirable that measures should be adopted which would have the effect of consolidating the trusts, and of gradually liquidating the debt. He knew of several districts where there were separate trusts of only five, six, and eight miles apart. He thought the House must feel it monstrous to have separate machinery—separate Acts of Parliament for each of those little trusts, only five or six miles apart. By consolidating them, they could have these trusts much better and cheaper managed than they were at present. In respect to highways, he did not quite concur with the views expressed by the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire as to the combination of parishes. He thought that if they amalgamated the parishes they would have much better roads than they had at present. This 414 question of roads was one in which a whole neighbourhood must have a common interest. He would suggest that instead of combining all these objects in the one Bill, they should be divided into two—the one Bill for combining the parishes in highway districts, and the other for consolidating the trusts and for the gradual payment of the debt. In respect to that part of the measure which referred to the poor-law guardians, he regarded any attempt to throw burdens upon those boards foreign to those which they were originally intended to bear as most injudicious. Those hoards of guardians would not be found competent bodies for the management of roads or highway districts, from the fact of the members being changed every year, and therefore being in a great measure ignorant of that information which it was necessary they should possess for the proper discharge of their functions as prescribed by this Bill. They would thus practically fall into the hands of the surveyor, who would be able to twist the boards around his finger, and carry on any jobbery he pleased. By the wording of one of the clauses, it would be found that the same duties, as nearly as possible, would be thrown on the district board as on the central board. This would lead to the greatest confusion, as it would be impossible to carry on the operations of the district boards and central board, unless they made the central board take cognisance of the turnpike roads and the district boards of highways. It was quite clear that by the Bill as it stood, there would be a heavy charge thrown ultimately upon the ratepayers. The complaints which had been made by the mortgagees were undoubtedly well founded. This Bill would send the claims of those, whether they were good or bad, to the arbitrary decision of the commissioners it was proposed should be appointed. The turnpike trusts were in a state of progressive improvement. He therefore protested against their being subject to the operations of this measure, because there were one or two found to he in a bad or insolvent state. He thought that this Bill contained the elements—if it was considerably altered—of a good measure; but so long as it was subject to the objections he had stated, he could not support it.
§ SIR W. JOLLIFFE
objected to some of the alterations which had been made in the Bill since last Session, and was at a loss to conceive why they had been made at all. 415 None of them had been, as he recollected, urged by any Member of the Committee, all of whom had been at the utmost pains to perfect the measure, which then had only reference to the highways. Many of the clauses in the Bill now proposed would not work satisfactorily to the country. He objected to the clause relating to the poor-law divisions. He thought that the boards of guardians were most improper bodies for the purpose of satisfactorily carrying out the duties of waywarden. Their duties were sufficiently onerous at present, and there was no necessity for adding to them. There were other details of the measure, which had caused great dissatisfaction in the country. The principal objections had been urged by the mortgagees and paid officers of the trusts. With respect to the mortgagees, the greatest insecurity existed with regard to their property. It was stated, that the tolls had fallen 100,000l. a year, and that the repairs of the roads had been correspondingly neglected. Many of the roads were in a very bad state, and there existed the greatest possible prospect that when they were repaired there would be a diminution in the value of the property of the mortgagees, and a considerable reduction in the interest on their bonds. Even now a number of the turnpike trusts were not paying any interest at all. He thought that provision in the Bill was a most outrageous one which provided that whilst the debts which had been incurred to the Exchequer Loan Commissioners should be paid off in full, every other description of bondholders' claims should not be similarly provided for. He saw by a return he had moved for, that a sum of 5,000l. had been borrowed from the Exchequer Loan Commissioners for the purpose of maintaining a road in Surrey 4½ miles in length; and it appeared that, after deducting the salary of the collector, who was the only paid officer, the income received from the tolls was, in 1844, 93l.; in 1845, 62l.; in 1846, 41l.; in 1847, 33l.; and in the past year it had dwindled down to 29l. That road was at present in a wretched state, and he thought that it must be evident that the proposition with regard to such loans was most preposterous. The great objection made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich was, that highways and turnpike trusts were not dealt with by two separate Bills; but he (Sir W. Jolliffe) thought that those questions of detail might be settled more satisfactorily in 416 Committee. He was certainly of opinion that localities which were burdened for maintaining the public roads should have control over the expenditure connected with them. He fully concurred in thinking that great public advantage would result if some cross roads, the maintenance of which fell on the district, were converted into first-class roads. With regard to the claims of the clerks and other officers for compensation, too many of these trusts had unfortunately become insolvent; and in those cases where the tolls were seized by the mortgagees, there was no power given by the law as it now stands, to pay the clerks and officers, and it would require a large sum to provide for their remuneration. With respect to the principle of the Bill, he thought, that unless they now settled to go into Committee to consider the details of it, they must despair of doing anything during the present Session to remedy the inconveniences arising out of the present state of the turnpike trusts. He hoped, therefore, that the House would consent to the Motion before it, and also allow the Bill to be committed. But at the same time, as the subject was a new and a difficult one, he thought that the questions connected with it might be better dealt with, and more satisfactorily arranged by a Committee upstairs.
§ MR. BANKES
entirely agreed with the hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, that the chief point the House had at present to consider was, whether the management of turnpike roads and other highways should be dealt with by a single measure; and he must confess he had heard nothing stated as yet which was favourable to the proposed combination. He thought that the House should now have an answer from Her Majesty's Government to the question why it was that, having consented to the appointment of a Committee on the subject, and obtained a report from that Committee, they had departed from the recommendation in the report, and adopted the principles of amalgamation? What could be the use of sending the matter to be considered by a Select Committee, if the Government acted in direct opposition to the course recommended by that Committee? He therefore called on the Government, at this stage of the proceedings, to give their reasons for the course they had pursued in combining in one measure the management of turnpike roads and other highways. For, unless they made out a good case, he 417 thought that the House would do well to follow the suggestions made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, and deal with the questions by two separate Bills. He did not think it would be honest or honourable to amalgamate trusts which were insolvent with others that were solvent. The question was certainly a most difficult one to deal with; but he thought that the subject of turnpike trusts could not be fairly mixed up with the question of maintaining highways. He might be told that the Government thought it necessary to appoint a commission for the purpose of carrying on the principle of centralisation, and that they were anxious the commissioners should have enough to do; but he did not think that a commission of the kind would be of any public advantage—that the people would derive any benefit from throwing this complex duty upon the shoulders of commissioners. The question of separating the two subjects with which the Bill proposed to deal, might perhaps be fairly considered in Committee; but he was convinced that if the measure was pressed in its present shape, it would never pass through that House.
MR. CORNEWALL LEWIS
said, that before he answered the various objections which had been raised both to the principle and the details of the Bill, he should state what were the views of the Government in attempting to deal with the present question. When he introduced his first Bill to the House, he stated that he did not consider that the Government, as a Government, had any peculiar vocation to prepare or introduce a measure upon public roads; but that, as it was a subject of great extent, importance, and difficulty, and one as to which, by common consent, it was important that some attempt at improvement should be made, there appeared to he reasons why the Government, having a greater amount of official information than private Members could be possessed of, should prepare a measure and submit it to the House. He did not, in introducing that measure, by any means understand that it was a Government measure in the sense of one connected with the immediate executive duties of the Government. That was the statement which he then made, and that was, he believed, the meaning of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department in the few remarks which he had that day addressed to the House. He would now refer, in answer to the question of the hon. Member 418 for Droitwich, to the origin of the present measure. In the course of last Session the Government introduced a general Bill relating to highways exclusively, and having nothing to do with turnpike roads. That measure was referred to a Committee upstairs, upon which he himself had the honour of serving. The Bill was carefully gone through in the Committee—many valuable amendments were made, and, as amended, it was reprinted and submitted to the House. In consequence of the late period of the Session, however, the Bill was not then proceeded with; but in the course of the short discussion which took place after it came out of the Select Committee, there was a general expression of opinion that the measure was an imperfect one, that it was not sufficiently comprehensive, and that the Government had omitted to deal with one of the most difficult parts of the question in which improvement was most undoubtedly needed—namely, the turnpike roads, and in particular the state of the insolvent trusts. He appealed to the recollection of hon. Gentlemen present, whether those remarks were not made at the end of last Session. During the recess the attention of his right hon. Friend and himself was given to the subject; and after carefully reviewing the whole question, it was thought desirable, in deference to the opinion expressed by many whoso opinion was entitled to great weight, and without implying the slightest disrespect to the Committee, to engraft upon that measure a Bill relating to turnpike roads. One reason which led to that conclusion was, that by separating them the expense of a double machinery was incurred, although there was no very wide and intelligible distinction between the two. Upon the whole, it was thought that the most economical and efficient management of the two classes of roads would be attained by their consolidation; and, under those circumstances, the Government determined to lay before the House a measure in which both classes should be combined. The turnpike roads were nothing more than a set of roads that had been taken arbitrarily by persons locally interested, for which private Act shad been obtained, and which had been placed under the management of trustees. But those roads did not cease to be highways; and when the funds derived from tolls were found to he insufficient for their maintenance, recourse was had to the highway rate for that purpose. The persons who selected the roads 419 to be included in turnpike trusts selected them in the course of the last and beginning of the present century, according to what they conceived to be the exigencies of the traffic; they took what might then be regarded as the main arterial roads. Since the introduction of railways, however, many of those roads which were before the main lines of communication, had sunk into secondary or tertiary importance, and were now become mere means of communication between neighbouring parishes. Nevertheless, those roads still retained their character of turnpike roads. On the other hand, many highways abutting upon railway stations had become some of the most important lines of communication in the country. Therefore, taking into consideration the great revolution in our system of internal communication which railways had occasioned, he thought the House would agree with him that the line which was formerly drawn between highways and turnpike roads had to a great extent been effaced, and had rendered it inexpedient that the Legislature, looking to the future, and laying the foundation of a permanent and prospective system of road legislation, should stereotype and render perpetual the existing very arbitrary and capricious distinction between highways and turnpike roads—a distinction founded upon previously existing circumstances which no longer prevailed. A great many remarks had been made with regard to the measure before the House, upon points which he thought might have been very properly considered in Committee, had the measure met with a more favourable reception than it had encountered. Now, he would state what he understood the present measure to do. He understood that its principle was the combined management of all the roads in the country. He understood that every Gentleman who voted in its favour assented to the principle that the present distinction between turnpike roads and highways should, if not now, at all events prospectively, be abolished. [Sir R. PEEL: In what sense do you mean prospectively?] He understood, that by the present measure turnpike trusts would be retained to a considerable extent. It did not repeal local Acts immediately, except so far as related to the trustees, and not as related to the rates of toll and other provisions. He also understood, that by the present Bill the management should be by the counties, and not either by turnpike 420 trusts or parishes—that there should be a general board for a county—and that the county should be divided into districts, in each of which again there should be a local board; but of the constitution of those boards at present he should say nothing. He further understood, that the measure involved some plan for the prospective and ultimate discharge of the existing turnpike debt, so that when it should be agreed to, the House would be enabled to say, that means had been taken ultimately to cancel the principal, as well as to provide for the payment of the interest of the existing debt of the turnpike trusts. He also understood that the House would agree further to the principle that the system of local legislation for turnpike trusts should be abandoned, and that the foundation of a permanent system of legislation for all classes of roads should be laid. Beyond these points which he had now enumerated, he did not understand that any hon. Gentleman who voted for the second reading of this Bill would be pledged. All the rest was open to further consideration, and he should be ready to listen to any modifications that might be suggested. It was asked by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire and by the hon. Baronet the Member for Droit-wich, "Why do you not introduce one Bill for the management of turnpike trusts, and another for the management of highways? "The answer he had to give was, that that mode of proceeding had been already tried, and had not given much satisfaction. One Bill with respect to turnpike trusts was introduced by his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, thirteen years ago, in which the Speaker also had some share; but it did not succeed. Another Bill was introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon; and several other measures for dealing with highways separately from turnpike roads were since brought forward; but they all met with a similar fate as that of his right hon. Friend's the Secretary at War. And, therefore, it could not be said, that a plan for dealing with these matters separately had not been tried. Again, if they took the turnpike trusts as the foundation of a new measure, and attempted to engraft thereon the management of the highways, they would be at once met with this difficulty. Turnpike trusts had no boundary. They were merely aggregates of lines of roads placed under the management of trustees; they were not territorial divisions, and one could not say that any parish was within the boun- 421 dary of a turnpike trust. There would be, therefore, no means of annexing any specific parish roads to a particular trust—it could only be done arbitrarily, either by saying what parishes were to be included by enumeration, or by giving to somebody the power of defining the boundary. Another difficulty, which was quite insurmountable, was the extremely small size of some of the turnpike trusts; and on the whole he must say that it had appeared to him impossible to frame any measure by which the management of the highways and turnpike trusts should be incorporated, taking the latter as the foundation of the measure. He therefore proposed, by the present Bill, that the county, which was the best known territorial division, should be taken as the basis of the arrangement. He believed in general, if they asked any person which expenditure he believed to be the greatest, that of the highways or that of the turnpike trusts, that he would answer, in an off-hand manner, that he believed the expenditure of the turnpike trusts was considerably greater than that of the highways. A return which had been lately presented, however, showed that the expenditure of highways in England, exclusive of Wales, amounted in 1845 to 1,668,134l.; and in Wales, according to an estimate (the returns not being perfect), to 49,200l.; making altogether for the kingdom nearly 1,717,000l. for the highways. The total turnpike expenditure for 1846, the last year up to which the returns extended, was 1,344,000l.; making a total for both of 3,061,000l. He believed it was scarcely necessary for him to state that the management of the highways was on the whole much loss economical and much less efficient than that of turnpike roads had been. He was perfectly willing to pay that tribute to the trustees of the turnpike roads, whom this measure was accused of setting aside in so unceremonious a manner. The great defect, as he conceived it, of our present system was, that more than half of the whole of the expenditure in the maintenance of roads was for highways, and that at the same time the security for good management was most imperfect. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding had made some remarks as to the time of introducing the present measure. In answer to that, he would state that the Bill was promised at the end of last Session, and that the Government considered itself bound, partly in deference to wishes expressed, and partly by promises made, 422 to introduce a general measure at as early a period as possible. He was ready to admit that the present was not a very favourable opportunity for discussing any measure which was likely to affect the ratepayers in rural parishes, for this was not a moment when they were likely to give a very calm and temperate consideration to measures involving such large changes as the present; and he could easily understand that they would prefer listening to persons who might seek to mislead them into the belief that now burdens would be imposed upon them, although he fully believed himself that it would impose no new burdens upon the agricultural interest, but would tend both immediately and prospectively to the gradual diminution of those burdens. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding then asked why were the present generation to he called upon to make any sacrifices for the payment of the turnpike debt, and why should they not be contented with paying the interest, leaving the principal uncared for? Certainly, it might be a very pleasant and consolatory doctrine with regard to public, as no doubt it would be with regard to private, debts, if we could always dispense with the payment of the principal of a debt. On a former occasion he had shown, however, that, with regard to workhouses, to county gaols, to shire halls, to lunatic asylums, wherever the Legislature had given powers to local bodies to charge the rates with a debt, they had invariably fixed a term for the extinction of that debt—that they had invariably required the creation of a sinking fund with a view to the repayment of the capital. He must say that he looked upon such a principle as a sound one; though it implied a present sacrifice, it was a sacrifice due to posterity, and he regretted that it had not been introduced into the general Turnpike Act some years ago. He looked upon the six and a half millions of debt, and one and a half millions of unpaid interest, as a legacy which their predecessors had bequeathed to them by not having made provisions which they should have made. The hon. Gentleman argued, moreover, that the effect of the present Bill would be to impose additional burdens upon the counties. He prefixed, however, to that remark rather a singular introduction, because he read from returns which showed that, on the whole, the turnpike trusts were a solvent concern, and that they were in process of 423 diminishing the principal of their debt. But if the turnpike trusts were, as he (Mr. Lewis) fully admitted them to he, solvent concerns, and they had an excess of means beyond the payment of the interest of the debt, he was at a loss to see how the arrangement proposed to he made could throw any additional burden upon the counties. Now he would read a short statement, in order to illustrate the operation of the Bill. The interest paid in the year 1846 was 272,133l., and the principal paid was 168,826l.—altogether, 440,959l. The amount which he called upon the trusts to pay by the present Bill was 7 per cent upon 6,609,000l., the whole bonded debt, which would give 462,639l. as compared with 440,959l., being an addition of only 22,000l. He would still further illustrate the operation of the Bill by reference to particular counties, and he would first take Lancashire, which had one of the largest debts. The interest paid by Lancashire in 1846 was 34,658l., and the principal paid was 28,097l.—together, 62,000l. According to the Bill before the House, the annual payment would be 50,694l. however, being 12,000l. less for Lancashire than it now paid voluntarily. Under these circumstances, he did not see that Lancashire had much cause to complain; he did not see that any bondholder would be deprived of his security, or that any ratepayer would be called upon to pay more towards the county rate than he paid at present. In Sussex, the interest paid was 9,641l.; the principal, 4,121l.—total, 13,762l. In Oxford, the interest was 4,807l. It would, under this Bill, have to pay 5,930l. This would be an increase of 1,123l., but it would not be attended with any serious detriment to any class. As to Essex, that was one of those counties in which the debt was the smallest. It only had to pay 1,185l., and would, under this Bill, pay 1,518l. He had been asked by several Gentlemen what the effect of the valuation of the debt, and of the other similar measures of the plan contemplated in this Bill, was in six counties of South Wales. He had obtained from the superintendent of roads in South Wales an official statement of the results of the South Wales Act. As to the expense entailed on the counties by the South Wales Turnpike Act, the following statement showed the expenses of repairs, and other charges, in 1843, previous to the introduction of the present system, and what the expenses were last year. For 424 repairs, interest on the debts, debt paid off, the total expenditure in 1843 was 35,482l. In 1848, subsequent to the change of the law, the expenditure was 35,002l., by which it appeared that the expenditure under the Act was less than before, although the extinction of the debt was provided for at the end of thirty years. The South Wales system bore a considerable resemblance to the present, with this difference, that an additional burden was thrown on the county rate, but no equivalent was given by the abolition of highway rates. He had a statement of the additional charges thrown on the county rates by the measure: in one county it was 1d., in another 1½d., and in another 5–8ths of a penny. They had not been compensated by any equivalent. The hon. Member for the West Riding had proceeded to make some remarks upon the county hoard, and had said that he objected to the constitution of the county board as proposed by this Bill, inasmuch as it provided for a certain number of elective members who would be able to control the power of the magistrates by too large a mixture of the elective principle. In the Bill now before the House, the number had been reduced to one. Bach district board would elect only one member of the county board; and he entertained little doubt, as the hon. Member had himself suggested, that in most cases they would be inclined to elect the chairman of their hoard, who was very generally a magistrate and landowner. He did not think that too great a democratic influence would be infused into the constitution of the county hoard. That was a matter, however, which he considered more a matter of detail; he merely wished, in moving the second reading of the Bill, to understand that the House agreed in the principle of a county board. The hon. Member further objected to making the board of guardians a board for the district. Last Session, when the Highway Bill was considered by the Committee, a district board was proposed, the constitution of which was exactly similar to that of the board of guardians. There were to be ex officio waywardens and elective waywardens for each parish, chosen by the same franchise by which poor-law guardians were elected. When this Bill came to be discussed in Committee, it was said that we were creating a set of duplicate boards, which would be a mere repetition of each other, with the trouble and expense of a double election; 425 and it was suggested that power should be inserted in the Bill of adopting the board of guardians for the district board. On further consideration, it appeared that there was no valid reason for creating a set of boards all over the country, the constitution of which should be similar to that of the board of guardians. It seemed to be the most efficacious and economical course to adopt the board of guardians. He was sensible that strong objections could be made to the adoption of boards of guardians. Previously he had stated, that if the House preferred another constitution of the local board, he was perfectly ready to modify the Bill in any manner which the majority of the House might think proper. He thought that the objections to the board of guardians were not so great as some imagined, and he felt great difficulty in assenting to any of the substitutes he had heard, such as that of petty sessional divisions; that magistrates attending petty sessions should be a board for the management of highways. He doubted whether that plan would be assented to by the House, but that was a question quite open to consideration. The hon. Member went further into an elaborate argument on the subject of a parish rate and a union rate for the maintenance of the highway. That, again, was a question which he preferred not to discuss at length on the second reading; it involved a great many questions, and he acknowledged that fair arguments might be adduced for maintaining parochial rating, and strong arguments could be urged in favour of union rating. His own opinion was that the arguments were in favour of union rating. The hon. Member for the West Riding asked whether the rate was for the whole district or for the whole parish. The meaning was that there should be a rate levied on each parish in proportion to its valuation. The hon. Member appeared to prefer a separate parish charge. No doubt arguments might be advanced in favour of a separate parochial charge, and if the House should prefer keeping up the rating of separate parishes for highway purposes, nothing would be easier than to alter the Bill in accordance with that system. He deliberately preferred a union rate for the maintenance of a highway to a parish rate. He did not concur in the views of those who would wish a union rate for poor-law purposes, but he thought a union rate for highway purposes on the whole the preferable course. The main reason for the 426 creation of turnpike trusts, which began in the reign of Charles II., and were multiplied to the present time, by a succession of local Acts, was the inconvenience of parochial rating for highway purposes. It was found that separate parishes could not maintain the great communications of the country, without some additional assistance by a tax levied on the passengers, and a power of raising a loan; and it was the failure of the separate parochial principle of maintaining highways that had led to the introduction of turnpike trusts. As to smaller roads there might be reasons why a parochial rate was more reasonable. There was a discretionary power, given in the present Bill, to the county board, of assigning the district over which the expenditure was to be levied. That provision was, to a certain extent, borrowed from the Irish Grand Jury Act. By that Act grand juries had the power of determining the part of the county on which the expense of the rate might be levied, and he understood that the regulations had been found beneficial in Ireland. It might be desirable to carry it further, to give the county board the power to enable the board of guardians to impose a parish rate in cases where a parish rate was advisable. The hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich had misunderstood the duties of the county board and of the district board. The meaning of the Bill was that the district board should superintend the immediate repair of all the roads within the district, and that the county board should exercise a general superintendence over all district boards; and if the definition of district board was not sufficiently clear, that might be considered hereafter. It was intended that the whole management of each district should be confided to the district board, and that the general superintendence over all the roads of the county should be confided to the county board. The hon. Baronet the Member for Petersfield had called attention to a provision which enabled the Exchequer Loan Commissioners to recover all their loans in full. The provision in question was copied from the South Wales Act, in which the Exchequer Loan Commissioners were authorised to recover the whole amount which had been advanced by them. In South Wales all the debts of the Exchequer Loan Commissioners were good debts, and therefore no injustice was committed by requiring that they should be paid in full; but some of the debts of the Exchequer Loan Commissioners in English trusts were not 427 only not good debts, but were in the highest degree bad debts. He believed that there was extremely little chance of recovering the money they had advanced; and, after conferring with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was enabled to state that there was no proposition on the part of the Government to throw on the body of the country the obligation of paying the debts of the insolvent trusts, and that the clause to which the hon. Member so much objected would be modified. The hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich had said, that there were two classes of persons from whom the opposition to this Bill proceeded; namely, the mortgagees and the officers and clerks. As to the mortgagees, his experience did not lead him to believe that the present measure was, on the whole, distasteful to the mortgagees. He did not believe that the bondholders of the solvent trusts, still less that the bondholders of the insolvent trusts, objected to the principle of this measure. He thought this measure was not one that had created any alarm among the bondholders, nor was it one to the principle of which they objected. He was enabled to state that the objections of the mortgagees were not general or strong, but there was a class of persons who entertained a most decided objection to the measure, and they were the officers of existing turnpike trusts. They were prepared to offer a general opposition to this measure, and considered that it dealt with them very hardly. He freely bore testimony to the general good management of turnpike trusts; he believed that the present unsatisfactory state of many turnpike trusts was owing to circumstances over which the officers exercised no sort of control, and that they had claims to the consideration both of the Government and of the House. The withdrawal of the first Bill, and the introduction of the new Bill, had afforded an opportunity of considering the claims of the existing officers to compensation, although, with the exception of one or two Gentlemen, he did not remember that the subject had been at all pressed on his attention. The salaries of the officers were, for the most part, small; from 20l. to 30l. was the common salary. He had been led to believe that professional gentlemen of eminence who held the office, were not willing to attach much importance to it, and would allow the Bill to proceed; but since the adjournment of the House, and during the recess, he had received a formal communication 428 from a body who represented the clerks of turnpike trusts, who made to him a well-reasoned and temperate statement in favour of the claim of all the clerks to compensation. On ooking further into the matter, he found that the clerks by law stood on no different footing from other officers of turnpike trusts. They were enumerated in the general Turnpike Act, which empowered the trustees to appoint officers; and therefore whatever principle the House might lay down as to compensation to clerks of turnpike trusts, must inevitably extend to the whole class. On inquiry he was prepared to admit that he was unable to distinguish between the claims of existing officers of turnpike trusts and other officers whose claims for compensation had been admitted. If the House should be inclined to entertain the question of compensation to the existing officers of turnpike trusts, there was no other fund from which the compensation could come than the produce of the tolls. The sum would be so large, that it would defeat all the calculations he had made, and would convert what he believed to be an economical measure into an extremely expensive one. It therefore at once raised this consideration, whether it would be worth while to pay a new set of officers and to compensate the old set. If the House should think that was bad economy, it would be necessary to consider whether some means might not be devised by which the services of existing officers might be turned to account under some different administrative arrangement. He was not prepared to say, that some plan might not be devised. A portion of the existing officers might be retained. That involved a very extensive change in the local machinery of the present measure, and he was not prepared, without consideration, to submit any plan to the House on the subject. He had stated the question with perfect fairness, and explained the difficulty. Assuming that the question of the employment of the existing officers, and the fair consideration of their claims, could be settled without incurring any large additional charge on their account, he repeated the assertion which he had deliberately made to the House, that, after the fullest consideration of this measure, having gone into it with the assistance of persons more competent than himself to form an opinion, he did not believe it would impose any additional burden worth specifying on any class of the 429 community. He did not believe it would be detrimental to the manufacturing or agricultural interests; and he believed it would lay the foundation for the extinction of debts immediately as well as prospectively. As to the expediency of referring this measure to a Select Committee, there was no wish on the part of the Government to urge the House to a precipitate decision on this important subject. He was aware of the difficulties; he was also aware that the present was not the most favourable moment for considering it; at the same time he was bound to state that he thought the condition of the trusts which were insolvent was such as imperatively to require that this House should no longer stand by as a passive spectator, and allow things to continue as they were. He must call the attention of the House to the fact that a large number of local Acts had expired, and that they were annually renewed, uno flatu, by a Bill introduced by the Government; that the Government was thereby required, on its responsibility, to propose an annual renewal of local Acts, as to the necessity of which there was no satisfactory means of forming an opinion, when objections were made as to the propriety of including particular Acts in the renewing Act. If this Bill should not pass, it would be the duty of Government to bring in a Bill to renew some 150 Acts that had now expired. That was a responsibility which the Government, in its present position, had no means of satisfactorily undertaking. If, therefore, some general measure was not likely to pass, he should certainly state to the House that it would be necessary to take some steps for dealing separately with those insolvent trusts which Government was called upon to renew. He was aware of the invidious duty which Government would have to undertake, in attempting to discriminate between trusts which were solvent, and trusts which were not solvent; but if the House refused its assent to any general measure, they must undertake to discriminate between those Acts which ought to be renewed without investigation, and those which ought not to he renewed. If the House was willing to give a provisional assent to those general principles which he had stated at the commencement of his speech, and if they would allow this Bill to be read a second time, and to be referred to a Select Committee, he should have no objection, on referring the Bill to the Select Committee, to go carefully through the whole subject. Whilst the 430 question of highways had been considered by a Select Committee, the question of turnpike roads had not been so considered. He admitted that this was the most difficult part of the subject, as involving the greatest number of vested rights. He was ready to consent to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, on the understanding that the Committee would go into the general question of dealing with turnpike roads and highways, together or separately. At the same time, if, at this period of the Session, a Bill of this kind was sent to a Select Committee, there was very little prospect of any legislation on the subject during the present Session.
§ SIR R. PEEL
was sure that, whatever opinion might be held in the House with regard to the merits of the measure which had been brought forward under the auspices of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department, there could be but one feeling as to the obligations they owed him for the very great attention he had paid to this subject—a subject not immediately or necessarily connected with the executive duties of the office which he held, but overburdened as that office was with labour, which the hon. Gentleman had undertaken from a desire to advance the public good. He felt every disposition to acknowledge the fairness and candour with which the hon. Gentleman had discussed the matter; and he should not have said a word, if his hon. Friend had not professed an intention to answer the various objections urged to this measure, and at the same time had omitted to notice certain objections of a totally different character from those to which he had referred, and entitled to greater consideration. The hon. Gentleman had referred to objections on the part of the mortgagees, and of the clerks and other officers connected with the turnpike trusts. The objections on which he (Sir R. Peel) relied were of a different character, proceeding from a different motive, totally unconnected with any questions of personal interest. Those objections were urged by Gentlemen who had undertaken functions of an important and invidious character, imposed by Act of Parliament—namely, the administration of turnpike trusts in their immediate neighbourhood. He would take two cases with the particulars of which he was acquainted; one of an agricultural, the other of a manufacturing district. In one part of Lancashire the trustees had administered their functions with perfect satis- 431 faction to all the neighbourhood; and that part of Lancashire complained that it would be made responsible for the default of other districts with which it had no sort of connexion. If the House had entrusted certain parties with certain functions, and these functions had been discharged with exemplary success, caution ought to be evinced before such parties were deprived of the fruits of their good management. The following were the circumstances of the case to which he referred—a case in the heart of the manufacturing district of Lancashire. There, when the trust began its functions in 1838, it was encumbered with a debt of 57,519l. The revenue of the trust was 10,759l., it was now reduced to 8,293l.; and yet, with a diminished income, the trust had succeeded in lowering the debt by annual reduction from 57,519l. to 23,160l. It confidently expected to be able to reduce the whole of the debt in the course of six years. The parties who resided within the limits of the district were anxiously looking forward to the complete reduction. They had willingly submitted to the heavy burden of the toll, in order to liquidate the debt; and they had been eminently successful in their endeavours, as the figures demonstrated. He would now take the case of a turnpike trust in a rural district in another county, which in 1834 began with a debt of 7,800l. That debt was now reduced to 2,800l.; and in six years hence it was expected that it would be entirely paid off. The parties in that district had relied upon an implied assurance from Parliament, that if they were enabled to pay off their debt, they would then be entitled to reap the benefits of its liquidation, by paying lower tolls, and thus facilitating communication between one part of the country and another. There were in the same county other trusts which had not paid, and could not pay, their debt; and upon what principle of equity would Parliament interfere between those two classes of trusts? Upon what principle would they raise the toll within the limits of the first class—a toll which was now, in many cases, about to be reduced—in order to meet the deficiencies of the second class? Talk of a rate in aid indeed! [Cheers.] This Was a rate in aid with a vengeance. The county of Lancaster was an immense county; comprising districts which had no common sympathies or interests. Were they to make an economical and perfectly successful district responsible for the debt 432 of an unsuccessful one? Were they to mix up the interests of such a place as Garstang in the north of Lancashire, with the interests of Manchester in the south—to step over all the adjoining districts, and to increase the tolls of one trust, in order to make good the default of some other? This was the objection he had heard to the measure under discussion, and he was surprised it had not reached his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State, because if it had, he would have noticed it with his usual candour. It was an objection urged—not upon the part of mortgagees or officers of trusts—but upon the part of those who had performed their duty for the benefit of the districts committed to their charge, and looked for the natural return of prudent management—a diminished rate of toll. The subject was altogether one of so much importance that, if the Bill were to be sent to a Select Committee, he hoped it would receive ample consideration. Not having been present at the commencement of the debate, he knew not how other hon. Gentlemen might have expressed themselves; but, for one, he could not give his consent to a measure which would inflict so much injustice. Indeed, his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State did not hold out much eneouragement to the House to support the second reading of the Bill, because he had insisted that those who voted for the second reading would be considered as pledged to four principles. He (Sir R. Peel) felt disinclined to support the second reading upon such terms. He should hold himself at liberty, though assenting to a second reading, to vote against the third reading, unless full justice were done to all the interests concerned. Several parts of the Bill deserved very serious consideration. He was inclined to think that it would be better to keep the highways separate from the turnpike trusts. He thought there might be the moans of diminishing the expenses attending the administration of highways. By appointing a common surveyor, and submitting the control of highways to persons practically acquainted with road-making—they might greatly improve the highway system. He doubted, however, the policy of entrusting the management of the highways to the poor-law guardians. In bad times the duties of poor-law guardians were performed with great difficulty, and at all times they were separate and distinct from 433 the duties pertaining to highways. It was very possible that gentlemen might administer the affairs of a poor-law union satisfactorily without being qualified to administer the affairs of the highways. He was at a loss to know why the poor-law guardians should be more versed in highways than the parochial authorities who now had charge of them; and if they were not so versed, then he hoped the poor-law guardians would be kept, as at present to the discharge of functions entirely distinct and separate. He was not arguing against the adoption of the area of the poor-law union as the districts within which the highways should be consolidated; but if the distinction were continued between the highway and the parochial rate, then he greatly doubted whether his hon. Friend would not find it better to place the administration of the highways under a perfectly distinct charge and superintendence, even if he made the highway district coterminous with the poor-law union. Upon a subject of so much importance, and to the consideration of which so much attention had been bestowed, he was not inclined to give hastily an adverse vote; but he never would consent, whatever might be the other enactments of the Bill, to those enactments which would make solvent and well-conducted trusts responsible for the misfortune or the negligence, or—it might be—the dishonesty, of insolvent ones. The House would be acting in opposition to a principle they ought to hold in honour, if they did not permit parties who had discharged their duties honestly to reap the advantages which were the natural result and just reward of prudence and good management.
MR. CORNEWALL LEWIS
, in explanation, promised to confine himself to an answer to the question proposed by the right hon. Baronet who had just resumed his seat. The House would remember that he (Mr. Lewis) had undertaken merely to answer the objections made in the course of the debate; and that he had not undertaken to reply to all the objections which he had received, for he had received a very large number. He certainly had heard from many quarters the objection which the right hon. Baronet had stated with great fairness; but he did not before think himself called upon to give a succinct answer to it. He would now, however, do so. It was quite true that the Bill before the House would throw all the turnpike trusts of a 434 county into hodge-podge with respect to the payment of the debt; and it was equally true that when the interest of that debt was paid, the existing bonds would be submitted to a process of valuation. The bonds of the solvent would bear their proportionate value, and the bonds of the insolvent would suffer a diminution in their value. The holders of existing bonds would receive certain debentures to be called "road notes," which, in case of trusts notoriously insolvent, would be loss than 100l.; and, in all probability, each trust would be able out of its local receipts to pay the interest upon the bonds which would be reduced by the process of valuation, He therefore did not see how, according to the provisions of the Bill, the solvent trusts would be called upon to pay for the insolvent; and he believed, that if the counties were not thrown into hodge-podge, great unfairness would be done.
§ MR. HUME
was glad to see the interest excited in the House in respect to roads, for he had long considered that the system of highways in this country was attended with great waste; it had subjected the agricultural interest to heavy taxation. Fourteen years ago he had unsuccessfully endeavoured to introduce a measure to rectify the evil of having, as they still had, so many separate trusts. He approved of consolidation, but not consolidation in the manner now proposed. He was aware of an instance, which occurred in the year 1826, in which no fewer than eighteen turnpike trusts had been consolidated, and the greatest accommodation to the public interest bad resulted; and he saw no reason why the same process might not be effectually carried out in every other county in England. He objected to the plan proposed by the present Bill, of throwing the whole expense attending the consolidation upon the Consolidated Fund. According to Clauses 8 and 18, that expense might amount to 70,000l. or 80,000l. He wondered where the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was—for his exchequer was not solvent at the present moment, so far as he (Mr. Hume) knew; and certainly any attempt ought to be resisted which would have the effect of throwing additional expense upon the Consolidated Fund. He also objected to the imposition of rates upon the counties, believing that they were already sufficiently taxed; and upon these two grounds he considered the Bill objectionable. He should like to see the counties freed from 435 turnpike trusts; but, for the present, the House must deal first with the highways, and then with those interests which were tied up by the Acts of the turnpike trusts. If a county of its own will and accord were able to consolidate the highways and turnpike trusts, without throwing any additional expense whatever upon the Consolidated Fund, he would be willing to confer such a power upon it; but he submitted to the Government that, after the many valid and unanswered objections made to many points of the present Bill, he thought it hopeless to carry the measure through the House. He thought a Committee ought to be appointed to inquire respecting turnpike trusts and the mode in which the highways could be consolidated. He believed that the agricultural interest was subjected to very heavy charges for highways, and that they might be relieved from a large portion of it under different management, economically conducted; but he warned the House against dealing with the public money in reference to matters of this kind, which were of a local nature, and the expense of which ought to be borne by the interests which were benefited by the changes proposed.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that concurring in every word which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth on this subject, very little was left for him to address to the House. From every quarter in the part of the country with which he was connected—from Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, and other places—communications poured in upon him from turnpike trusts complaining that after, by great care and management of their roads, they had acquired a surplus, which they intended to apply to the reduction of their debt, the Government stepped in, and by their measure proposed a blending of insolvent with solvent trusts, to the obvious injury of the latter. But the mortgagees had also reason to complain. They had advanced their money for the formation of roads, partly for profit, and partly to benefit the localities, and they had done so in the full belief that their advances would be repaid to them within a given time, and in integral sums. But the present Bill proposed to merge the particular securities upon which the money had been advanced into one general and mixed security, over which, of course, the mortgagees could not have such direct control; and it was proposed that, instead of the sums being repaid as a whole, they should 436 be paid by instalments. With respect to the opposition which this measure had met with from solicitors, clerks, and others, he might say that, having been in communication with such individuals, residing in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and elsewhere, they had declared that they declined putting forward any claims to compensation under this Bill, lest they should be suspected of being actuated by interested motives. Now, those gentlemen in the course they had pursued, had alone considered the interests of their clients, the trustees and the mortgagees, and had not been actuated by personal motives. All the petitions which he had presented on this subject complained of the combination of highway with turnpike trusts, as proposed by the Bill. The petitioners objected to the proposal to take the power at present exercised by the local boards out of the hands of those boards, and to establish a system of centralisation. As the law at present stood, the tolls were first liable to the payment of the interest on the debt, the surplus remaining being devoted to the repair of the roads; but the present measure would most unfairly throw the expense of such repairs upon the district rate. Considering the objections which from all parts of the country were pouring in against the measure, he trusted that the Government would see the necessity of withdrawing it.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
trusted that the Government, in deference to the objections which had been urged to the measure in its present shape, both in the House and out of it, would see the propriety of withdrawing it. Parties in Cumberland, and in other of the northern counties, declared that they would not have this Bill on any consideration. They objected to it because it mixed up turnpike roads with highways; but their main objection to it was, that it would throw an additional burden on the county rates. But there was still a very strong feeling abroad that the present law required alteration.
§ MR. HENLEY
thought it would be wise to withdraw the Bill, as there did not appear to be anything left of it to send to a Select Committee. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department had said, that by sending the Bill before a Select Committee, the House would be considered as pledging itself on four points: he said that three of those points would be dependent on the fourth, and that those three points must be con- 437 ceded—somehow. Now, that was a very loose phrase, and seemed to argue that the Government had not the power of making up their minds on the subject. He thought that the hon. Gentleman had made too low an estimate of the charge which this measure would entail upon the county rates. This Bill did not propose to continue the existing tolls at all. It proposed an entirely new schedule of tolls, pointed out in the schedule to this Act, and which laid down a maximum that might be imposed for every seven miles of road. Who could tell whether in the aggregate, or in the respective counties, the sum would be more, or whether it would be less, than the respective tolls? And if there was any deficiency, it would have entirely to be made up out of the county rates. It was not fair to ask the House to go into a Select Committee on a Bill like this, upon which the Government had already changed their minds twice during the present Session. The hon. Gentleman said there were 150 trusts in the condition which he had stated, requiring annual renewal; and he had said it was hard that the Government should have to renew these Bills every year without examination; but the House was asked by this Bill to perpetuate them for thirty years without investigation of any kind—the House was asked, at one fell swoop, to perpetuate these Bills, which at present hung upon the breath of Parliament, for thirty years, during which the tolls were to be levied without any chance of revision. Let the House consider that the turnpike roads cost the country about 42l. per mile, and the present highways about 16l. per mile; and if they were both combined together, the expense of the highways would be raised to the same level as the turnpikes, and the burden would be thrown on the county rates. Then, again, there being no local supervision, there would be no local control, because the central county board was to fix upon the sums to be laid out, upon the report of a public inspector; and the district would merely raise the money, and appropriate the sum, having no voice at all in fixing the amount. For these reasons he must support the Amendment for reading this Bill a second time that day six months.
§ MR. MANGLES
said, he had been the first to mention the case of the clerks in that House; and he could not see why the same principle of compensation which had been recognised in the Municipal Bill and the Health of Towns Bill, should not be 438 equally recognised in favour of the claims of the clerks of turnpike trusts and highways. It had been strongly argued that it would be unjust to make the well-conducted and solvent trusts boar the burdens of the insolvent and ill-managed trusts; but it should be remembered that the clerks had often been the parties most instrumental in reducing the debt of the well-administered and solvent trusts, and it would be most unjust that all the advantage should be transferred from them to other parties who had done nothing at all to deserve it. Formerly, the high roads leading to large towns and to the metropolis were the most used; but since the introduction of railways had been so general, the cross country roads had become the most important of the two. Many of these cross roads led to railway termini, and were therefore of great public advantage; and yet the burden of keeping them up for the general advantage was entirely thrown upon the parishes.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that after the appeal which had been made to Her Majesty's Government, and after the discussion which had taken place, he felt bound to address a few observations to the House; and he must, in the first place, say that, considering the many attempts that had been made by the Government during the last four or five years to deal with the subject of highways and turnpike trusts, and the manner in which all those attempts had failed, it was not very encouraging to any Government to undertake such a task again. Every successive attempt had proved the very complicated nature of the subject, and had shown the vast number of interests that were involved in it, which, though not very apparent when the demand for the amendment of the law was first made, yet became sufficiently obvious when the details of the measure came to be discussed by the House. Several hon. Gentlemen had stated that a great desire had been expressed by the country for some alteration in the existing law. He (Sir G. Grey) knew that such a desire had been repeatedly and very generally expressed; yet it had always hitherto happened that, as soon as the Government endeavoured to frame and propose to the House the details of any Bill relating to highways and turnpike trusts, most persons opposed the Bill, and declared that they would rather the law-should remain in its present state than that the proposed amendment should be adopted. The hon. and learned Member for Cocker- 439 mouth had expressed a wish that the present Bill should be withdrawn, though at the same time the hon. and learned Gentleman said, that his county would never rest satisfied until some change in the existing law took place, and until Government were prepared to deal with the two subjects separately. A Select Committee had sat upon the subject of the consolidation of turnpike trusts and highways, and it was a remarkable fact that a very general concurrence of opinion existed in that Committee; but the Bill, notwithstanding, never afterwards made any progress in the House, owing to the various objections, founded upon local circumstances, which were made against it by each hon. Member in reference to what concerned his own immediate interest and that of his neighbours. He granted to the hon. Member for Warwickshire, that the opinion of the House had been very clearly expressed upon the main principle of the Bill, and he freely admitted that that opinion had been expressed adversely to the principle of the measure. What he considered to be the main principle of the Bill was this, that the combined management of the turnpike trusts and highways should be placed in a county board, superseding the present management of those trusts and highways. As to the question whether the present Bill should be withdrawn, or read a second time and referred to a Select Committee, he must say that he objected to Bills being read a second time pro formâ, which it could not be denied was a step which implied an opinion favourable to the principle of the measure, and then sent to a Select Committee, not to revise the details merely, but to frame a new Bill upon quite another principle. He should not be acting fairly to the House if he were to avail himself of the suggestion which had been made, because he felt that they could not read the Bill a second time without impliedly expressing an opinion favourable to its principle, namely, a combined management of the highways and turnpike trusts under a county board. It was quite clear that the opinion of the House was adverse to that principle, and that any attempt to consolidate the management of turnpike trusts and highways, or to apply any remedy founded on that principle to the inconveniences arising from the present state of the law, would be generally objected to. The Government, as his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State had observed, had been induced to propose this measure 440 not only because they thought it was the best course that could be adopted, but because at the end of last Session a very general opinion was expressed by the House that the Government ought to bring forward a perfect and complete measure, embracing both the management of the highways and the turnpike trusts. In compliance with that suggestion, his hon. Friend had applied himself with very great ability and zeal to the subject. He had communicated with all parties who were interested in it, and had been anxious, in all that he had done, to keep the principle which had been suggested constantly in view. In short, he had bestowed the utmost care and attention in preparing a measure for carrying out, in detail, what was considered to be the best principle that could be adopted, and what the Government understood to be the opinion of the House at the end of last Session. But he must say, whether owing to some new mode of viewing this question, or whether owing to the exaggerated alarm that had been created as to the amount of the burden that would be thrown on the county rates by the enactment of this measure, a very great change of opinion had come over the mind of the House. He could not, however, help reminding the House, that when, two months ago, a Bill, founded upon exactly the same principle, was under consideration, he never heard any objection made to the combined management of these trusts. Indeed, his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose very reluctantly consented, upon that occasion, to the withdrawal of the Bill, because he deemed it to be one of so much importance, and because he was afraid that the Government were going to abandon that principle which his hon. Friend now considered to be so objectionable. As to the clerks and other officers of the turnpike trusts, he was not aware that a single word of complaint had been uttered by his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State with regard to those gentlemen. It was true he did state that he understood there was a committee of those gentlemen sitting in London, and which committee was in communication with the hon. Member for Warwickshire. That hon. Member had distinctly stated that these parties had strong grounds for claiming compensation, and that it was the duty of the Government to take those claims into consideration. At the same time, the hon. Gentlemen said that those 441 officers were prepared to forego their claims rather than that their opposition to the present Bill should be attributed to selfish motives; but when he (Sir G. Grey) referred to the petitions which those persons had presented to the House, he could hardly find one in which a claim for compensation was not put forth. Should the Bill he now withdrawn, he confessed he could not sec his way clearly how any other measure upon the subject was to be introduced. With regard to the highways, so long as the opinion which now prevailed existed, it would be impossible that any measure respecting them could receive a fair and dispassionate consideration—he alluded to the opinion which had been recently encouraged, that any alteration in the law in regard to highways would impose a largo additional charge upon the county rates. Now, his belief was, that a measure founded upon the principle of this Bill as to highways might, for the moment, impose some additional expense; but he was fully persuaded that the benefit which would accrue from such a measure would far more than compensate the parties who would have to pay that additional expense. In assenting, as he did, to withdraw this Bill on the present occasion, he owned he could not hold out a hope of being able to introduce any other measure, or of providing any substitute for the Bill, during the present Session.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.