§ "Any money exceeding the sum of twenty pounds payable by a light railway company in respect of any land, or any interest therein purchased or taken from any limited owner may, notwithstanding the provisions of section sixty-nine of the Lands Clauses Act, 1845, be deposited in a bank or paid to trustees, as provided by section seventy-one of that Act."
He explained that his object was to diminish the cost of constructing light railways as much as possible. If this clause were not added to the Bill any sum exceeding £20 payable in respect
of any interest of a limited owner would have to be paid into the Court of Chancery, a course which would involve the railway company in great expense. It should be observed that his clause was not compulsory. All he asked was that there should be power to order that the money should be paid directly into a bank or to trustees, in order to save the expenses attending a compulsory payment into Court. In the discussion in Committee it was said that this clause was unnecessary, because the 11th Clause of the Bill said:—
An order under this Act may contain provisions consistent with this Act for the incorporation, subject to such exceptions and variations as may be mentioned in the order, of all or any of the provisions of the Clauses Acts as defined by this Act.
That, however, in his opinion was not sufficient, and it was in order that there might be no ambiguity in the matter that he proposed this clause. He held that it was very desirable that no avoidable expense should be incurred in connection with the construction of these light railways.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that the Bill sanctioned the preparation of orders making exceptions and variations in the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts, but did not go as far as this Amendment, which would really negative the provisions of those Acts. The question was whether the Lands Clauses Act should be amended in the way suggested? He hoped that the House would not amend the Act in this way or in this form. If any alteration had to be made, there was no reason why it should not be done by an amendment of the Lands Clauses Act, but this was a much more serious matter than probably the hon. Baronet thought. It would not be within the purview of the object of a Light Railways Measure to sweep away the whole restriction as to the method in which the money should be dealt with.
§ MR. BRYCE
admitted that his sympathies were with the object of the hon. Gentleman opposite. There would be a large number of cases under this Bill in which it would be extremely desirable to save expense and avoid cumbersome procedure. If the Attorney General could hold out any hope of bringing in a one-clause Bill 241 to amend the Lands Clauses Act in the way suggested, there would not be any objection to it, nor would it take up much time.
§ MR. W. T. HOWELL (Denbigh Boroughs)
supported the Amendment. He pointed out that this Bill altered the present system of railway promotion. It was not an argument against the suggestion that they were interfering in a tinkering way with the system which at present existed. He had always understood that the object of the Government was to allow Light Railways to be made immediately in the different districts of the country where they were now longing for better communication with the trunk lines. If they had to wait until another Act was passed to enable these lines to be made cheaply, it seemed to him that the delay would be fatal so far as assistance was to be given to agriculture by the making of Light Railways. But immediately a proposal was made to amend the Lands Clauses Act, other amending suggestions would be brought forward, and the reform would be a more laborious affair than was imagined.
§ MR. BYRNE
pointed out that it was not a question of getting the land more easily or not. The real question involved was whether they were to deal with moneys of a certain amount in a different way in the case of heavy railways and in the case of light railways. It seemed to him that the reasoning of the Attorney General was just, and that the protection of the funds was equally necessary in both cases.
§ MR. LOGAN
suggested that the clause should be amended by inserting the words "any moneys not exceeding the sum of £500 or £1,000." If Light Railways were to be constructed, it was desirable that facilities should be placed in the way of those who promoted them. Corporations, for example, competent to promote light railways would be substantial concerns, and the Board of Trade would have ample power to see that the bodies constructing railways would have ample means to carry out the work. Some sum should be inserted in the clause.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
thought that the Government would do well to accept 242 the clause as it stood, at least as far as the Second Reading of it was concerned, some words being inserted afterwads to make it workable. Chancery proceedings were exceedingly expensive and cumbrous. It was not only a matter of cheapening the process for the constuction of light railways, but also for those who had to sell their land or other property. He invited the Attorney General to say now whether he would introduce the one-clause Bill which had been referred to for amending the Lands Clauses Act. If no such undertaking was given he hoped that the hon. Gentleman opposite would go to a Division.
MR. PARKER SMITH
said there was one distinction under the Lands Clauses Act as to heavy and light railways. When money was paid into Court it waited there and whenever it was reinvested the promoters had to pay the cost. The money often lay in the Court for ten years. If they were dealing with a railway like the South Western or the Great Western, it did not matter whether the costs were paid now or ten years hence, but in the case of a small light railway there might be no capital funds available ten years hence out of which costs could be paid. He hoped, therefore, the Government would reconsider the point.
§ MR. RITCHIE
warned hon. Gentlemen who desired amendments in various Acts of Parliament connected with railways, that it would be extremely inconvenient to attempt to do so by means of the Light Railways Bill. If, however, his hon. Friend would consent to a limitation of the amount to £500, he should be prepared to aceept the principle of this particular Amendment.
§ The clause having been read a Second time,
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
, in pursuance of the declaration of the President of the Board of Trade, moved to amend the Amendment by inserting the wordsany Order under this Act may, notwithstanding anything in the Lands Clauses Act, authorise the payment to trustees of any purchase money or compensation not exceeding £500.
§ Amendment agreed to; clause as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.243
§ SIR H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.) moved an Amendment to provide that one of the Light Railway Commissioners should be one of the Railway and Canal Commissioners appointed under Section 2 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act 1888. His object, he said, was to protect the funds of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom by providing that no new officer should be created by the Bill, but that an existing officer should be utilised for the purposes of the Act. In 1873 Parliament, being dissatisfied with the mode in which the then existing Railway and Canal Traffic Act was being carried out, decided to appoint, as a temporary experiment, a Railway Commission, and it was constituted of three Commissioners. The Parliament of that day was exceedingly liberal, and gave a salary of £3,000 a year to each of these three Commissioners. The Commission being a temporary one, possibly it might have been pleaded as a justification for giving so large a salary that the gentlemen who undertook the post were not obtaining a post which they would occupy for the remainder of their lives. Parliament, however, kept on renewing the Commission until 1888, when the right hon. Gentleman now the Chancellor of the Exchequer passed a new Act and altered the constitution of the Commission. He made the Commission a permanent body; he took away the legal Commissioner and imposed the duty upon one of the Judges of the High Court—that was, he appointed three ex-officio Commissioners, one a Judge in England, one in Scotland, and one in Ireland. From that time also the two lay Commissioners were permanently given a salary of £3,000 a year each. He proposed that one of the paid Railway Commissioners should be substituted for the new Light Railway Commissioner, the one who was to receive £1,000 a year, and should discharge the duties which would be imposed on the gentleman who by this Bill was to receive £1,000 a year. The first question to be considered was, were the existing Railway Commissioners overworked, and would this be a fair addition to make to their labours? On that subject he had had a Return moved for, and he was sure the House and the country were not aware of the interesting figures it revealed. It showed that in 1889 these gentlemen, who were 244 receiving £3,000 a year each, sat 15 days; in 1890, 28 days; in 1891, 28 days; 1892, 22 days; 1893, 11 days; 1894, 24 days; and in 1895, 41 days. The total number of sittings in seven years was 169, and during that period they had received a remuneration far in excess of the salaries of most Cabinet Ministers, and far in excess of the salaries of the great heads of the permanent Departments of the State. He made no personal reflection on the Commissioners, who were in no way responsible for the state of things which he had indicated; but there was no greater scandal in the official administration of the country than the payment of £3,000 a year for the work done by the Railway Commissioners. [Cheers.] Now there was an opportunity of utilising this vast reservoir of paid energy for the general advantage of the State. He would not propose to put upon the senior member of the Commission any additional labour; but it would be difficult to find any one more competent to discharge the duties of the paid Commissioner under the Bill than Lord Cobham, who had had most valuable experience as chairman of the Great Western Railway, and whose high sense of public honour would make him glad to redeem his office from the charge of being a sinecure. The only objection was that there might be a conflict of jurisdiction when the decisions of the Light Railway Commissioners came before the Railway Commissioners. But the same argument would prevent a Judge from trying a case at Nisi Prius because he was a member of the High Court above, to which an appeal would lie. Of course the days when a Judge would sit to hear an appeal from his own decision were gone by; and in like manner, in the railway cases, the Railway Commissioner, who was also a Light Railway Commissioner, would leave the appeal to be decided by the two other Railway Commissioners. But such appeals would be very rare; and in any case the decision of the majority prevailed and in questions of law the decision of the Judge was final. The Government had shown that they had no wish to press provisions against the sense of the House, and this was a question which ought to be left to the House to decide on its merits. It was 245 certain that the salary of the Light Railway Commissioner would not remain at £1,000 a year; and the House would not go on year after year voting these large salaries without debate and discontent. The Railway Commissioners existed, and it was in the public interest to concentrate as far as possible in that one office not only the work of this Bill, but that of a great many other remedial and cheapening measures which would follow in the wake of the Bill. He begged to move his Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. RITCHIE
said that he always differed from the right hon. Gentleman with hesitation and regret, but on this occasion he could not agree with him. As to whether the Railway Commissioners were fully employed or not he would not argue; but the last figure quoted by the right hon. Gentleman showed a very remarkable increase upon the sittings in any previous year, although even then the number of sittings was I not formidable. He was informed, however, that the Commissioners had many other duties, and that it was extremely likely that in future the number of cases which they had to hear would be largely increased. But whether these gentlemen were fully employed or not, he did not think that to appoint one of them as the paid Commissioner under the Bill would conduce to the proper working of the Measure, or to the solution of the many difficulties which would arise. No doubt Lord Cobham, the Commissioner suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, had had valuable experience as the chairman of the Great Western Railway, but that was not quite the experience which would be required by the paid Commissioner under the Bill. It was not so much experience of railway management as knowledge of railway construction that was wanted; and that could only be found in some eminent engineer who had superintended the construction and working of light railways, and who would have a thorough knowledge of all questions affecting expenditure. He must be able to advise those who came before the Light Railway Commissioners as to the best means of carrying out their projects. If Lord Cobham were appointed as paid Commissioner it would be impossible to find a gentleman with sufficient engineering 246 experience to act unpaid. Then, as the right hon. Gentleman had suggested, it might very well be that cases would come before the Railway Commissioners for review which had been settled by one of their number under an Order under the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Railway Commissioner who was concerned with the Light Railways would take no part in reviewing his own decisions. But that would mean, in the case of Lord Cobham, that the very man who thoroughly understood railway affairs would not be able to hear appeals from the Light Railway Commissioners. Then it was expected that those Commissioners would travel about the country for different purposes.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said the House was indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton for drawing attention to a great scandal in the administration of the Railway Commission. The matter had been discussed frequently in Supply and the answer always was that though the Commission sat only 20, 30, or 40 times in the year they had other work to do. If the cost of the Commission was calculated it would be found that each sitting, apart from administrative expenses, cost between £300 and £400. That, he thought, was a very serious matter. But he found from the Report of the Commission that their whole work consisted of receiving and reviewing 104 applications during the year. Indeed if one was to accept their own Report to Parliament they had done nothing at all. It was a very brief Report. It simply said, "May it please your Majesty, we the Commissioners under the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888, beg to make our Report of our proceedings during the year." There was not one word more. That sentence was only followed by an appendix to the so-called Report containing a tabulated list of 104 cases. But, nevertheless most important questions had been brought before the Commissioners. The hon. Member for Scarborough, for instance, brought before them the attempt of the railway companies to increase their rates indirectly by a reduction of the quantities to be carried. The hon. Member succeeded in upsetting that attempt; but in the report of the Commission there was not one word of allusion to that leading case. 247 That was a striking indication that the manner of transacting work by the Railway Commission was very perfunctory. Therefore as it was of vital importance that all applications in respect of light railways should be disposed of speedily, he believed that the worst fate that could happen to the light railways was to hand them over to a Commission against whose administrative work many of them had been protesting for many years. He doubted, too, whether an ex-chairman of a great railway company would be a good element to introduce into the Light Railways Commission. Such a man would be imbued with the old spirit of railway management and would regard rates and charges in dividends instead of in the interest of the public. For those reasons he doubted whether it would be an economy either in time or money to hand over the light railways to the Railway Commission. He desired to see the light railways speedily constructed not in the interest of agriculture alone, but in the interest of the towns, and of fishing and other industries as well, and he consequently thought that what was needed was a body which would be speedy and practical in its operations and which would set its face strongly against technicalities, and especially against any idea of unduly increasing the rates.
MR. PARKER SMITH
said it seemed to him that the Amendment afforded the only opportunity the House would have of discussing the whole nature of the proposed Commission with a view to strengthening it, because under the rules and orders they were not at liberty to move any increase in the salaries of the Commissioners. The advantage of the Amendment was that it would put the Commission on a more adequate footing than was proposed by the Bill. The scheme of the Bill by which one gentleman was to be paid £1,000 a year and two other gentlemen sitting with him were to be paid nothing at all would not give a strong Commission; and he thought that if one of the Railway Commissioners was added to it he would command more respect through the country. The President of the Board of Trade had argued that it was necessary to have an engineer of skill as the paid member 248 of the Commission. What sort of an engineer did the right hon. Gentleman expect to get for a salary of £1,000 a year?
MR. PARKER SMITH
doubted whether it was possible to get for such a salary a man for whom those whose interests would be involved in the work of the Commission would have respect. He doubted also whether it would be possible to get two other gentlemen with the necessary qualifications who would be willing to become members of the Commission and to go over the country holding local inquiries without any recompense for their services. He thought the Commission which the Bill proposed to constitute was not likely to command respect in the country, and as the Amendment would do much towards giving it the qualifications that would command that respect he hoped the Government would still see their way to accepting it.
§ MR. ROBINSON SOUTTAR (Dumfriesshire)
said he would naturally desire to be on the side of economy, but he could not but feel that the President of the Board of Trade had taken up an impregnable position in regard to the Amendment. In the first place the Railway and Canal Commissioners were not men of special experience in regard to light railways. If the Act was to be a success there must be at least one man of experience on the Commission and that man must be paid. It was also essential to the success of the Act that the members of the Commission must be men of a considerable amount of energy. He did not think the greatest enemy of the Railway and Canal Commissioners could accuse them of a superabundance of energy. He did not think it would be possible to get a competent practising engineer for £1,000 a year; but there were men of first-rate engineering ability who had retired with pensions from service in India who would be uncommonly glad to have this post at £1,000 a year. It would not be wise to hamper the experiments to be made under this Bill with the supervision of a Commission whose position did not seem to be a satisfactory one.
§ * SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman meant that a member of the Railway Commission was to take the place of the paid member of this Commission. (Sir H. FOWLER: "Yes.") He did not think the experience of a member of the Railway Commission would be of a kind which would enable him advantageously to take the place of a professional engineer on the new Commission. When applications were made to it, it would be absolutely necessary for a member to go down to the locality in possession of certain technical knowledge which would enable him to advise whether a primâ facie case had been made out. If a man with certain special knowledge and experience was not appointed, expense otherwise unnecessary would have to be incurred. He should have been inclined to offer a high salary, but he was content with the assurance of the President of the Board of Trade that he would have no difficulty in obtaining the services of a qualified man for the salary named.
§ MR. J. L. WHARTON (Yorks, W.R. Ripon)
inquired what class of man the head member of the Commission was to be, and whether he was to be skilled in agriculture?
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
asked whether the names of the Commissioners could not be given. It was usual to give names during the Committee stage of a Bill appointing them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said he was not in a position at present to give all the names. He expected to have been able to do so; and he yet trusted that difficulties might be overcome with respect to two gentlemen who he hoped would permit themselves to be named. The Earl of Jersey had consented to be chairman of the Commission—[cheers]—and he was sure the noble Lord would be acceptable to the House as a gentleman eminently fitted for the position. [Cheers.] One member of the Commission would be an engineer, and he had not the slightest hesitation in assuring the House that he should be able to obtain for the salary named a man of eminence who had had a large experience in matters connected with light railways. He did not believe that any sum he could name would 250 obtain the services of a better man. For the third position he did not doubt that he should be able to obtain the services of a patriotic lawyer [laughter] who I would be content to devote his ability and some portion of his time to the service of the country in this capacity.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.
§ MR. CALDWELL moved an Amendment to provide that the Commissioners should hold office during the pleasure of the Board of Trade. He said, as the Bill stood, the Commissioners would practically be appointed for life, and that would be a serious innovation. They had had cases of Bills being rejected by one Committee and passed by another; and in this case it was expected there should be some flexibility, and the possibility of having applications that had been refused referred to a fresh tribunal after an interval of four or five years.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said he was willing to accept an Amendment providing that the Commissioners should "be removable" as well as appointed by the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Mr. Ritchie's proposed Amendment postponed to the Report stage.
§ MR. J. CALDWELL moved to amend the clause by inserting the words "the Chairman of the Commissioners shall be appointed by the President of the Board of Trade." The President of the Board of Trade for the time being was responsible to that House, and therefore he ought to appoint the Chairman of the Commission.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that he could not accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark. The Board of Trade had already sufficient work on its hands without having to appoint the Chairman of this Commission. He wished to say that he thought that he himself and the Committee had been very hardly treated by the hon. Gentleman, who had handed in a long string of written Amendments to the Bill, which he had full opportunity for placing upon the Paper.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said that in the circumstances he would not press his Amendment, which he begged leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN moved an Amendment (which he apologised to the Committee for not having placed upon the Paper) that would have the effect of enabling Parish Councils as well as District and County Councils in Wales to take part in providing the capital for the construction of light railways. The Amendment raised a very simple issue, and therefore he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would be able to accept it. He desired to point out that whereas the practice of compounding for the rates was very general in the southwest of England, that was not the case in Wales, where the practice of compounding was almost unknown. He had in his mind a case in which a light railway might be constructed to run up a valley which contained two or three parishes only which were within a rural district, the greater part of which was separated from them by high hills. Those parishes, therefore, had no more interest in the rest of the rural district than the inhabitants of Harrow had in the inhabitants of Hornsey. The practical result therefore would be that no public money would be obtained from either the District or the County Councils for the construction of such a line because the majority of the parishes in the district or county would obtain no benefit from it. In such circumstances he did not see why those parishes which were willing to provide the capital for the construction of such a line should not be allowed to do so. The only way, however, by which the necessary capital could be raised was by means of a rate, and if the majority of the ratepayers of the parishes interested were willing to impose a rate upon themselves for the purpose, he could see no difficulty about letting them take that course. He begged to move the Amendment of which he had given notice.
§ * SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
said that he cordially supported the Amendment, which he considered met the 252 requirements of the north of Scotland where the parishes were large, and the Parish Councils occupied the position in many respects of District Councils in England. In his district there were schemes for more than one light railway which mostly would run through one or two parishes only. He thought that Parish Councils should be allowed to take the initiative. The intervention in such cases of the County Council was like a fifth wheel in a coach.
§ MR. J. SAMUEL (Stockton)
said that he understood that under the Bill County Councils, Borough Councils, and District Councils would all have power to provide the necessary capital for the construction of these light railways. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade whether parishes would be liable to pay rates in respect of the action under this Bill of all those bodies.
§ MR. RENSHAW
said it would be exceedingly unwise and undesirable to extend to parishes in Scotland what the Committee had agreed to extend to District and County Councils. He hoped the Government would not agree to this proposal.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said it was strange that a liability should be placed on parishes, and yet that parishes should have no say in the carrying out of the order. It was invidious that parishes should not have the power to apply for light railways. The only object of the Amendment was that as parishes might be assessed in respect of these light railways they should be able to be applicants for them when their interests required it.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
supported the Amendment. He thought the cases given by the hon. Mover were extremely strong. The Bill itself permitted the application to be made by the Council of a Borough, and there were a large number of boroughs in this country which were very small in population and very restricted in area. A parish might be in great need of a light railway, whereas the district of which it formed a part might take no interest whatever in the proposal. The interests of a rural parish would, in many cases, be greater in such an undertaking than those of a municipal borough.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said the Government could not consent to enlarge the area any further. Parishes were of varying size, and some had an extremely small population. They were trying an experiment, and he thought they should endeavour as far as possible to make quite sure that the bodies applying for these powers should be bodies representing a large number of interests. It would be extremely injudicious to authorise parishes to apply. He was aware that there were large parishes, but he could not conceive that a District Council, which, after all, was elected by the same electors, could be indifferent to the establishment of a light railway in a district.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
regretted very much the decision of the Government. He could not see that any harm would be done by the Amendment, because they had in Scotland parishes with interests quite separate from those of the county. He instanced the cases of the parishes of Lairg and Wick. The former parish, which was 20 miles from the sea coast, was very anxious to have a railway for the fish traffic, but as far as the rest of the county was concerned, the inland counties did not want such a railway, although they might want a railway for agricultural purposes. In such cases as this the fishermen on the coast might object to an inland railway for agricultural purposes, while the agricultural interest might oppose a railway for the fish traffic. This was principally a question affecting Scotland, as the Parish Councils there were of an entirely different character to those in England, with much more extensive powers. He had had a number of letters from the Parish Councils of Scotland desiring that this change should be made.
§ MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
hoped his right hon. Friend would not give way on this point. He would rather that the word "district" should be excluded than that the word "parish" should be included. This matter had been thoroughly discussed in the Committee, and the Committee decided to omit the very word "parish" which it was now proposed to insert. There were many Parish Councils in England where there was not a single ratepayer, and it would be a monstrous thing that such a parish should be able 254 to saddle the ratepayers with the cost. As far as he could see, there was no demand for this proposal, at all events, in England.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said the Amendment was simply to enable Parish Councils also to have powers for asking for light railways.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said that if a single individual, or a number of individuals applied, they had no power to make any portion of the cost fall on the ratepayer.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said the Amendment, as he understood it, was to give that power to a Parish Council which was given by the clause as it stood to a single individual—namely, to apply for the construction of a light railway. He could not see what harm would be done by giving Parish Councils this power, and if the Bill was to be operative in the large parishes of Scotland such a provision must be inserted.
§ * MR. LOGAN
said the attempt now being made by the Bill before the House to legislate on similar lines for England, Scotland and Wales, although the wants of the localities interested were so absolutely different, afforded an interesting object lesson as to the necessity for what was known as "Home Rule all round." [Laughter.] Now, speaking as one who, during the short time he had been in that House, had endeavoured to extend the powers given to Parish Councils, and believing that the powers they now enjoyed were far too limited, he approached this question from, he hoped, a disinterested point of view. He saw a great deal of difference between giving the Parish Councils the power and compelling them to use it. He saw no objection to the insertion of the words; he did not think the power would be used in England, but in Scotland the power might be used, and he desired to join with the Scotch Members in pressing this Amendment on the Government. It could not possibly do any harm.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said he regarded the proposal as most dangerous, and he hoped the House would not accept the Amendment.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
pointed out that the first question which would be asked would be, "Have you got the money?"
§ MR. WARNER
said the inference was that the persons who applied would be able to carry out the scheme. He did not see what harm would be done. Some of the parishes were large enough to build railways which would be very useful for fish or agriculture.
§ MR. BRYCE
said this was one of the curious cases which showed that the same rule should not apply all round. They had had from England strong opposition to the proposal, but from Wales and Scotland there was a strong advocacy of the Amendment. There would be no good in giving the power if it could not be carried out. They had gone a long way already. They had given a recognition to local authorities which they had never had before. In England the parishes were so small that they could hardly be expected to get advantage from this Bill, and he confessed he could not see his way to take the great additional step of supporting this Amendment if it were applied to England. They were in a different position altogether with regard to Scotland and Wales, where the parishes were larger. He would suggest, therefore, that the Amendment should exclude England, and deal with the other two countries only.
MR. PARKER SMITH
did not think there was a single parish in Scotland capable of carrying through light railways. The parishes that might be able to do it would not make light railways, and those that wished to have light railways would not be capable of doing it. The opinion of Scotland on the subject had already been clearly expressed.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said it was a question of the combination of Parish Councils. [An HON. MEMBER: "District Councils."] They did not cover it. If this Bill were passed in its present form rural and urban parishes could not combine to have a light railway.
§ MR. RITCHIE
explained that if a District Council applied for an Order to make a light railway and made a light 256 railway in certain parishes of their district, the Order might confine the expense connected with the railway to those parishes through which the line ran.
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN
said he would be glad to respond to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, and, if the House would allow him, withdraw the Amendment. [Cries of "No, no!"]
§ Question put: "That the word 'or' stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 145; Noes, 49.—(Division List, No. 197.)
MR. CALDWELL moved to insert after "order" in line 22:—
But in the case of share capital not exceeding one-third of the total amount required for the purpose of the light railway, and not exceeding the amount of the share capital which has been subscribed and paid up by persons other than local authorities.
He said the object of the Amendment was to place a restriction upon the amount that any County Council might be authorised to advance as share capital. The tax which would be levied to meet any loss that might arise from an advance of money, either by way of loan or share capita, would be levied on the ratepayers of the county or district as a whole, and many of them would not participate in any way in any benefit the right hon. Gentleman might give to agriculture. The power of the County Council to subscribe towards the share capital of the railway company should be restricted. In Clause 4, money would only be advanced by the Treasury by way of loan, and the Treasury would not lend money to any railway unless at least one-half of the total sum required was subscribed as share capital by the general public. He did not propose to interfere with the latitude which the sub-section gave to County Councils to subscribe as much as might be authorised under the Order of the Board of Trade, but where the railway was not constructed by them, the share of capital taken by the County Council was not to exceed one-third of the total cost, and even then not unless an equal amount was subscribed by the general public. This precaution was much needed in the interest of the general taxpayer. If
every member of the community would be benefited, there would be something to be said for having no limit, but when the benefit of the Bill would be participated in by only a section of the community, it was only reasonable that a limit should be fixed. If the majority of those who would benefit by the Bill were agriculturists they should not saddle the available rating property liable to be assessed, such as dwelling houses, factories and public works, which would receive no benefit.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said the hon. Member was prepared to give the local authority power to construct and work any light railway, and find the whole of the capital. But if the local authority, not desiring to take the responsibility upon itself of constructing and working a light railway were met by a body of gentlemen who were desirous of taking upon themselves a large share of the responsibility, then the local authority would be limited to a contribution which, according to the hon. Member, would be such as would give no controlling or guiding power whatever to the County Council that had embarked its money. If the House were to accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, the result would be that the whole of the controlling power of the light railways in which the local authorities had embarked a large share of capital would be in the hands not of the County or District Council, but of someone else altogether. If the County Council, not desirous of constructing and working the line, should be desirous of investing local money in an undertaking promoted by others, it was desirable that they should not be restricted to such an amount as would give them no power in controlling the policy or expenditure of the railway. If they were to embark capital it would be better they should embark such a sum as would give them a controlling power, not only with regard to expenditure, but administration, and a power to see that the line was worked in the interests of the districts they represented.
§ MR. LOGAN
said he objected to the Bill altogether, and was therefore in favour of limiting as far as possible the amount of money which the County Councils should subscribe. The effect of the Bill must be to enhance the value of land, and so benefit the owners of 258 land, and these were the persons who should pay. If the powers of the Bill were applied at all it would be purely in the rural districts. If a light railway would benefit any urban district he was convinced that any number of our railway companies would be only too willing to construct it. The Amendment was aimed at limiting the amount of money which District Councils might subscribe towards the share capital of any railway. He had no fear that District Councils would undertake the making, working, and maintenance of light railways. His only fear was that they might be tempted to subscribe towards the making of them, and this Amendment was aimed at limiting their power of doing so.
§ DR. CLARK
said that in his county the Bill would not benefit the landlords, but the occupiers. Hence he was in favour of the Bill being passed on as broad and liberal lines as possible, and he did not wish to see the power of the County Council limited by Parliament. The principle of democracy demanded that whatever the County Councils desired to do with their own money they should be allowed to do.
§ MR. LEWIS
observed that the objection of the right hon. Gentleman to this Amendment seemed to be that the majority of the directors would not belong to the County Council, and, therefore, so far as the power of the majority was concerned, it would not reside in the County Council. He would suggest that the objection should be met by making the proportion two-thirds instead of one-third, and if he was in order he would move to amend the Amendment by striking out "one-third" and inserting "two-thirds." He thought it very undesirable that after incurring the whole of the expense of constructing a railway a County Council should be allowed to farm out that railway to a private body of persons. There ought to be some restriction on the power of the County Council to advance the whole of the loan or share capital that would be required; and if it was right to restrict the Treasury to the extent of 50 per cent., it would also be right to restrict the local authority to the extent of 33 per cent. He therefore moved to amend the Amendment by omitting "one-third" and inserting "two-thirds."
§ * MR. SPEAKER
suggested that the shorter way of dealing with the matter would be for the hon. Member for Mid Lanark, if he agreed to this proposal, to withdraw his Amendment and allow the present proposal to come up by way of a new Amendment.
§ MR. CALDWELL
, assenting to this clause, by leave, withdrew his Amendment, and the proposal of Mr. Lewis to insert "two-thirds" in place of "one-third," was submitted as a new Amendment.
§ MR. RITCHIE
intimated that the Government could not accept the Amendment. Having given the local authority the power to find the whole of the capital, they could not in the very next clause say it should only find two-thirds.
§ Question put: "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:— Ayes, 31; Noes, 102.—(Division List, No. 198.)
§ MR. CALDWELL moved after "council" to insert "or councils if more than one."
§ MR. RITCHIE
assured the hon. Gentleman that this Amendment was really unnecessary. The word "council" under the Interpretation Act, would include more than one council.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CALDWELL moved to leave out "so doing," and to insert "being entitled or authorised so to do."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said he would accept the Amendment without the words "entitled or," so that it would read "in the event of their being authorised so to do."
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval,
§ Clause 4,—