HC Deb 17 March 1904 vol 131 cc1470-7

said that this Bill was intended to enable the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company to run a line of steamers from the Ports of Goole and Hull to certain foreign ports. This was not the first Bill which one company or another had passed through Parliament and put into operation of a similar kind, and no doubt he was asking Parliament to do with respect to this Bill what had not been done with regard to previous ones. His reason for doing so was that ho thought Parliament might properly consider the question whether more careful provison should not be provided to require companies to set oat their rates at the ports, as he thought in each case there was a tendency to go a little further than any Bill went before. He was justified in saying that, in general, the practice of railway companies to extend their operations to the management of large fleets of mercantile steamers was only made where the railway company owned the port from which steamers were to run, and so had practical control of the traffic from the port. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway were not the owners of either the ports of Hull or Goole, they had termini at those places but there were other lines of steamers already running in connection with either other railway companies or canal companies. Therefore it was quite right that Parliament should be invited to consider whether some condition should not be prescribed in order to prevent the railway company purposely or, as was more probable, inadvertently carrying out this important branch of business in such a manner as to favour foreign producers as against English producers. His object, in his Motion, was to do something to give British producers a better opportunity than they now had of finding out what really the charges of the railway company were. These Bills had usually a reciprocal function to enable foreign producers to bring their goods into this country and British producers to send their goods to foreign countries, but, according to the preamble, this Bill had, for its object, to facilitate the carriage of goods between Continental ports and our railways, rather than the transmission of goods from this country to foreign ports. It was hardly necessary to say that large interests in this country had looked with great suspicion for a long time on the use companies made of the power given to them in the way of favouring foreign trade as against English trade. No doubt the representative of the Board of Trade would say that this question had been disposed of by the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888, which contained provisions to compel the railway companies to divide up their traffic rate and to enable traders, on application to the companies, to see how the charges were apportioned. But in support of his Motion he would point out that many representative bodies connected with trade had asked for an authoritative inquiry to ascertain whether the provisions of that Act were effectual, or whether they should be amended. If an inquiry of that kind were offered by the Board of Trade he would not press his Motion, because that would enable the Board of Trade to do for all Traders what he asked to be done in this particular case. No doubt it was true to a certain extent that this Instruction would put the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in a disadvantageous position with regard to other railway companies having lines of steamers, but it was desirable to watch the general interest when there was a growing system of railway companies extending their management to great lines of steamships. He had no desire to do anything of which the company might have reason to complain; he grounded his action upon the view that this Bill carried the system rather further than it had been carried before, and it was time to intervene and ask the House only to allow the Bill to pass on the terms of the Instruction. This information which traders sought should be entered in the books of the company so that ail who desired could refer to them and not as at present, under the Act of 1888, only after several days notice by a person interested. He failed to see how the railway company could be injured by people who desired to use their railway referring to their traffic rates. It was surely to the interest of the railways to increase, improve, and develop their traffic in this country, and, therefore, to give the information sought. Information on application did not meet the case as was shown by a letter which had been received from the managers of the Caledonian Railway which burked the question altogether.

SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)

asked if it was in order for the hon. Member to discuss the general effect of the Act of 1888.


said the hon. Member had raised a doubt in his mind as to the validity of the Instruction, because it appeared to be a general Instruction for the purpose of dealing with a matter not peculiar to the railway in question, but with alterations of the law. The hon. Member was now showing what was done by public Act. If the hon. Member wished to amend the public Act he must do that by a public Bill.


said he had endeavoured to distinguish this case from others by stating that this system of railway companies starting great lines for sea traffic was a comparatively recent one, and that this had been the first opportunity of considering what ought to be done to increase the stringency of the law.


said the statute of 1888 to which the hon. Member had referred, and which he apparently wished to amend, contemplated the very case the hon. Gentleman had in view. He would not stop the hon. Gentleman on the point of order, but would merely say the practice of attempting to alter public Acts by private Bills was a most objectionable practice.


said he had perhaps in his endeavour to make his point clear pressed his case at too great a length. He hoped, however, he had made the position clear to the House. He begged to move.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said the peculiarity of the case was that this railway was the only one which, not having the port in its own control, proposed to extend its trade in this direction. The only point he wished to mention was that an Instruction of this character was brought before the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, and it was universally admitted to be for the benefit of the agriculturists. He thought there was no objection to the clause, and there could be no injury done by it to the railway; he seconded the Instruction.

Motion made, and question proposed, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (Steam Vessels) Bill, that they insert provisions in the Bill requiring the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, in respect of any through rates for the carriage of merchandise between foreign countries and places in the United Kingdom which the company make or charge or to which they are party, to set out in their public rate-books at the ports of Goole and Hull, and any ports which may be hereafter established between those places, how much of each such rate is justly and reasonably appropriated by them, or is paid, payable, or agreed to be paid to or by them for (i.) land carriage abroad, and dock, harbour, and shipping charges abroad, (ii.) conveyance by sea, and (iii.) dock, harbour, and shipping charges at the British port, (iv.) conveyance by railway, either by goods or passenger trains, including any terminal and cartage charges, and cartage in the United Kingdom." —(Sir William Tomlinson).

MR. FIELDEN (Lancashire, Middleton)

desired, as a director of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, to explain to the House the position the company took up with regard to this Instruction. They had not considered whether the Act of 1888 required amendment or not. All they thought was that no case had been made for any special action by this House in respect of this particular Bill. The matter had been referred to a Committee upstairs which had full power to inquire into all questions relating to this proposal, and the hon. Baronet who moved the Instruction might, if he pleased, give evidence before that Committee. He submitted that the Committee was a more competent tribunal to deal with this question than the House. Following what he understood to be the usual practice where Members were directly interested in a particular question before the House, he should abstain from voting on the Motion.

MR. CHARLES MCARTHUR (Liverpool, Exchange)

supported the instruction, observing that the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, a body that had taken a great interest in the matter of railway reform, had considered it and thought it should be passed. In their opinion, judging by the practice o other railways, preferential rates would be charged, in one way or another, on foreign goods to the disadvantage of the home manufacturers. Every endeavour was made to get these through rates analysed, but the railway companies put all kinds of difficulties in their way. The Liverpool Chamber therefore thought it would be a good thing if, in this particular case, a change was made, and the information set out in the rate-book, so that the trader could see exactly how the rate was made up and whether in respect of any component part of it he was placed at a disadvantage compared with other people.

MR. BLACK (Banffshire)

said it had been found, in the past, very difficult, on the part of traders, to obtain this information from railway companies, and he himself had expected to hear from the hon. Member for Middleton some valid reasons why the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company should not be subjected to these conditions. Was there any real inconvenience to the company in their being called upon to do what was asked? He submitted that there was not. He ventured to say that this question, if it left the House, would not be threshed out by the Committee upstairs, which was a narrow tribunal which would be apt to be bamboozled by the hon. Member and his friends. The House, in his opinion, was a far better tribunal to deal with the matter, and under the circumstances he hoped they would pass the Instruction.


said on behalf of the Board of Trade he opposed the Instruction. It was very undesirable that an amendment of the general railway law should be introduced into a private Bill, for there was no doubt whatever from the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Preston that his object was, indirectly, to affect the general railway law if not to deal with this particular railway company. I he hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said that the House was a better tribunal to deal with the question than a Committee upstairs. He did not agree with him. This was an extremely complicated subject, and he did not think anyone was really competent to come to a decision that would be of any value, without a complete examination of the subject, and such an examination was obviously impossible under the conditions that presented themselves in the House that night. On behalf of the Board of Trade ho objected to the Instruction on principle, as it would, in their opinion, have no practical result. The Instruction proposed that a railway company should be bound to divide its rate under five heads. At this very moment every railway company was bound to divide its rates under three heads, and dividing them in the way necessary under the general Act would prevent complaint just as much as dividing them in the way suggested by his hon. friend, even if it were practicable to divide them in that way. But as a matter of fact it was not practicable. All his hon. friend's Instruction added to the existing Instruction was that they should give the separate dock charges on both sides of the Channel.


said he did not ask that foreign dock charges

should be separated from the other foreign charges.


said that showed how extremely complicated the question was. By the Railway Act of 1888, a railway company was bound to give the information to anybody interested within a week of receiving the application. His hon. friend implied that the railway companies did not carry out that Instruction. He ventured to say to him and any other Member of the House that if they would give an instance where a railway company did not comply with the Act, the Board of Trade would be only too glad to take it up and see that the law of the land was properly carried out. He heard it constantly asserted in the House that the railway interest there was very strong. His experience, he was bound to say, was exactly the opposite. Ho did not think he was exaggerating the view of a certain number of hon. Members when he said that, whenever they saw a railway Bill down on the Paper, they asked each other, "Do you know anything about it?" and if the reply was "No" they said "Let us throw a brick at it." The Board of Trade would do nothing to assist railway companies to give the foreigners a preference. But they thought it their duty to protect the railway companies from legislation which would have no practical effect and which would only cause inconvenience and expense.

*MR. MACONOCHIE (Aberdeenshire, E.)

said that this was a subject on which he had some experience, and which was of vital interest to the country. British traders were handicapped by low rates for imports from abroad, and heavy rates for exports.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 79: Noes, 103. (Division List No. 61.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.) Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Clive, Captain Percy A.
Balcarres, Lord Caldwell, James Crean, Eugene
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Cameron, Robert Cremer, William Randal
Beaumont, Wentworth, C. B. Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)
Black, Alexander William Channing, Francis Allston Dickinson, Robert Edmond
Digby, John K. D. Wingfield- Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth) Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Macdona, John Cumming Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Esmonde, Sir Thomas M'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Slack, John Bamford
Fenwick, Charles M'Crae, George Spear, John Ward
Gardner, Ernest Markham, Arthur Basil Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R(Northants
Gretton, John Morrell, George Herbert Stock, James Henry
Hammond, John Morrison James Archibald Sullivan, Donal
Hay, Hon. Claude George Mount, William Arthur Tuff, Charles
Hayden, John Patrick Murnaghan, George Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)
Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.) O'Brien, Kendal(Tipperary Mid Weir, James Galloway
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.) Welby, Sir Charles G. E.(Notts.)
Hickman, Sir Alfred O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.) White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Hobhouse, C.E. H. (Bristol, E.) Parrott, William Whiteley, George (York, W.R.)
Holland, Sir William Henry Pym, C. Guy Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Hoult, Joseph Reddy, M. Wilson-Todd, Sir W.H. (Yorks.)
Howard, John(Kent Faversham Ridley, S. Forde(Bethnal Green) Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Hudson, George Bickersteth Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong
Jones, David Brynmor(Swansea Roche, John
Jones, William (Carnarvonshire Runciman, Walter TELLERS FOR THE AYES
King, Sir Henry Seymour Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool) Sir William Tomlinson and
Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham) Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland) Mr. Warner.
Lough, Thomas Shackleton, David James
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon Peel, Hn. Wm. Robert Wellesley
Anson, Sir William Reynell Flannery, Sir Fortescue Percy, Earl
Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O. Flower, Sir Ernest Pilkington, Colonel Richard
Atherley-Jones, L. Forster, Henry William Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Fyler, John Arthur Pretyman, Ernest George
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Gordon, Hn. J.E. (Elgin&Nairn) Randles, John S.
Bain, Colonel James Robert Gore, Hn G. R.C. Ormsby-(Salop Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne
Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Reid, James (Greenock)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Groves, James Grimble Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Hamilton, Marq. of(L'nd'nderry Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Bignold, Arthur Harris, Dr. Fredk. R. (Dulwich) Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Bigwood, James Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Seton-Karr, Sir Henry
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hope, J.F.(Sheffield, Brightside Sharpe, William Edward T.
Burns, John Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) Simeon, Sir Barrington
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Horniman, Frederick John Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire) Hunt, Rowland Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.
Cawley, Frederick Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.(Salop Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Coghill, Douglas Harry Kerr, John Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr)
Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Kitson, Sir James Thorburn, Sir Walter
Compton, Lord Alwyne Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Toulmin, George
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Lawrence, Sir Joseph(Monm'th) Tritton, Charles Ernest
Cripps, Charles Alfred Lawson, John Grant(Yorks, N. R Tuke, Sir John Batty
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile Lee, Arthur H.(Hants., Fareham Valentia, Viscount
Dalkeith, Earl of Lonsdale, John Brownlee Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.
Davenport, William Bromley Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred Walton, John Lawson, Leeds, S.
Denny, Colonel MacIver, David (Liverpool) Warde, Colonel C. E.
Dewar, Sir T. R.(Tower Hamlets) Maconochie, A. W. Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Dickson, Charles Scott Meysey-Thompson, Sir H.M. Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E.R.(Bath
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Ffrench, Peter Newdegate, Francis A. N. Colonel Lockwood and
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Nolan, Col. John P.(Galway, N.) Colonel Royds.
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)

Resolution agreed to.