said, that he had been requested by some of the shareholders of the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway to present a petition with reference to that which had been brought under their Lordships' notice by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst) on Friday last, when his noble and learned Friend gave notice he should this evening move for a Committee to inquire into the allegations of a petition from the Great Western Railway Company, complaining of the conduct of the 2 London and Birmingham Company, in collusively purchasing shares in the Oxford and Birmingham line. He hoped that he might be able to state the case of the petitioners with the same clearness with which it had been stated to their Lordships by his noble and learned Friend; but he did not think the company had chosen well their representative, because, although he had considerable experience in the passing of Railway Bills through Parliament, he had no knowledge of their workings, and he had never attended any meetings of railway proprietors. The parties before them, who were, in truth, interested in the question, were, on the one hand, the North Western Railway, or London and Birmingham Company; and, on the other baud, the Great Western Railway Company. The petitioners in this case were the shareholders in the Birmingham and Oxford Railway, who held shares long before the passing of the Act enabling the Great Western Company to purchase the line, and they were, consequently, not open to any of the charges which had been brought against other shareholders, of being collusive. There 3 were some facts upon which he did not think that there was any dispute. In the first instance, the Birmingham and Oxford line, which was the subject of so much discussion, was a line contemplated by the Grand Junction and the Birmingham and Liverpool Railways. The Great Western, at the time of that union, was in rivalry, and he might say in hostility, to the London and Birmingham Company, who were the original promoters of the line. That company, however, ceased to be a promoter of the line, and withdrew from the management of it, and established an arrangement by which the London and Birmingham formed a union as the Great Northern and Western. The Birmingham and Oxford then obtained a Bill as an independent line, subject to a provision that the Great Western Railway Company should have the right to purchase the line; and in the event of no agreement being come to by the proprietors and directors of the two companies, they were to have the right to make use of it, without purchase, subject to any agreement that could be made. At the time of passing this Bill, the directors of the Birmingham and Oxford were in the interest of the Great Western Company, and they entered into arrangements to make over the Birmingham and Oxford, and a continuous line, the Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Dudley, to the Great Western Company. The newly formed shareholders had not been permitted the privilege of voting, in consequence of the lateness of the period at which the certificates were issued; while original shareholders, who had no longer any interest in the companies, exercised a right of voting. The result of the arrangement with the Great Western Company was, that the shares of those companies rose, and the directors, taking advantage of the market, sold out 3,000 out of their 4,000 shares at a premium of 10 per cent. The proprietors of the Birmingham and Oxford Company, many of whom, he did not conceal from their Lordships, were also connected with the Grand Junction Company, being dissatisfied with this arrangement, and having received another offer, which they considered more advantageous, they protested against the transfer of the line to the Great Western Company. What the Grand Junction, or rather the North Western Company proposed to do was this: they did not seek to set aside, and had not sought to set aside, the right of the Great Western to purchase the Birmingham and Oxford 4 line, if they could do so with the consent of the shareholders; neither did they seek to set aside, nor had they sought to set aside, the right which the Great Western also possessed, of working over the line. The Great Western had offered 10 per cent, but the North Western subsequently offered 15 per cent; but their offer was not founded upon the basis that they (the North Western), in the event of becoming the purchasers, should interfere with the powers which the Great Western possessed; but founded upon the basis that the Great Western should not have the power of excluding others from working over the line. They proposed to make an arrangement by which the North Western Company should have the use of their line, and work over it in conjunction with the Great Western. On the 4th of December, previous to the issue of the new shares, and before those to whom they belonged had the right of voting, a meeting was called, at which only twenty-one attended, and at which a remonstrance was entered into by many of those present, who wished to have the meeting postponed until the new shareholders became bonâ fide shareholders, and had a right to vote; but the proposition was negatived by the directors of the company, who adopted the original offer, and who had acted throughout in opposition to the opinion of the 40,000 or 50,000 who held shares in the Birmingham and Oxford Company. Now, in consequence of this arrangement, large sums had been made by the directors. They put their shares into the market, and sold them at large premiums. Proceedings had, he understood, been set on foot by the shareholders in a court of equity upon the subject. When the Bill should be brought before Parliament to ratify the agreement with the North Western Company, the matter must be investigated before a Committee of the House of Commons; and should that Bill ever come up to their Lordships' House, their Lordships would have an opportunity of minutely investigating the whole subject; and therefore the petitioners saw no reason for their Lordships departing from the ordinary course of Parliamentary proceeding. The directors, he was instructed, who had sold all but a nominal amount of shares at a considerable profit to themselves, were the parties who had brought in the Bill; and before the proper tribunal the question would be raised, whether they had power to dispose of the line in the manner he had related. It was asserted 5 that the shares were bought up by the capital of the North Western Company; but he was instructed that that assertion was absolutely incorrect; but all these matters would be brought out at the proper time, and in the proper place. The petitioners, under those circumstances, prayed their Lordships to adopt one of two alternatives, either that the preliminary inquiry should not be made, or that it should be extended to all the circumstances connected with the dispute; and he thought their Lordships could not refuse one of them. It appeared to him that the question should not be prejudged by coming before a Committee of their Lordships' House. If his noble Friend pressed for a Committee, he should be unwilling to put himself in opposition; but, as at present advised, he was not predisposed to concur in the Motion of his noble Friend.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
said, that he had been requested to present a petition to their Lordships from the directors of the London and North Western Railway Company, which was opposed to the view of the case taken by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst). He had no personal interest in the question, though he must acknowledge that his prepossessions were in favour of the Great Western Company, theirs being the line on which he habitually travelled, and he observed that it was admirably managed. Nevertheless, as the directors of the London and North Western line had placed their petition in his hands, he felt it his duty to present it to their Lordships. The petitioners represented that they did not wish to exclude the Great Western Company from the Oxford and Birmingham line; all they wanted was to have the joint use of that line with the Great Western Company. Looking at the case as it had been stated to the House by his noble and learned Friend, he confessed that he saw no reason why the directors of one railroad should not buy shares in another line. There was nothing illegal, nor even improper, in such a proceeding. At all events, seeing that there must be an inquiry before a Committee of the other House upon the Bill to which his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had alluded, it appeared to him that any investigation now, on the part of their Lordships, would be premature. Under these circumstances he was inclined to hope that his noble and learned Friend would not press his Motion.
§ LORD HATHERTON
denied that the directors of the amalgamating companies 6 were actuated by merely mercenary motives in the disposal of these shares; and the proof of this was to be found in the fact, that while they realized only 10 per cent from their connexion with the Great Western, they were offered 15 per cent by the North Western. He was very anxious to advert to one part of his noble and learned Friend's speech, of which he had no right to complain, and which was stated with his characteristic perspicuity and clearness. That point was one which the petitioners had no doubt instructed him to state, and it was with reference to the sale of shares by the directors of the Birmingham and Oxford Company. He was not about to enter into any long details upon the subject; but their Lordships were fully aware that the Birmingham and Oxford directors had been accused of endeavouring to make a diversion, by attacking the directors of the other line on the score of their shares. Such a system was pursued, that the directors found it impossible to hold any influence by maintaining a large amount of shares; and many of them sold their shares in order to transfer their interest into the Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Dudley line. No mercenary views were to be attributed to the directors because they sold those shares, for they had fulfilled their agreement with the Great Western at 10l. per share, when the London and North Western Company offered them 15l. per share. He would not go further into the subject then, for when the discussion came on, on his noble and learned Friend's statement, he should have another opportunity of addressing their Lordships.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
admitted that his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had exercised considerable ingenuity in his statement of the case arising out of the petition he had presented; but he was sure their Lordships, when they knew all the circumstances of the case, would be of opinion with him, that the facts stated in the petition presented by his noble Friend, so far from impairing or overthrowing the statements which he (Lord Lyndhurst) made a few nights since in reference to this case, rather strengthened and corroborated them. This was not a dispute in which he was personally concerned. He did not desire to interfere at all in the difference which existed between the two companies, except in so far as the interests of the public were involved in that difference. If there were any dispute as to the facts, 7 would it not be the better course to appoint a Committee to investigate and report on which side the truth was? He admitted that he had no right to expect their Lordships to accede to his Motion on any other ground but this, that the interests of the public were affected, and deeply affected, by the course of proceeding which the North Western Company had thought proper to adopt. It was this consideration alone which induced him to apply for a Committee of Inquiry. As several noble Lords were now in their places who were not present the other night, he might be allowed to recapitulate the material facts of the case as far as the public was concerned. In the course of last Session a Bill was passed authorizing the construction of a line extending from the Oxford and Rugby direct line to Birmingham, and opening, through the medium of the Great Western, a direct line of communication between London and Birmingham. The project, of course, implied a rival line to the old line, the London and Birmingham. The latter company, clearly understanding this, offered the most determined opposition to the measure in its passing through the various stages in both Houses; but their resistance was unavailing. The Legislature sanctioned the passing of the measure, being mainly prompted thereto by the consideration that the new line would be a rival line. Regard being had to the enormous quantity of business done on the old line, the Legislature thought it essential to the interests of the public that there should be a competing company. The measure, therefore, was carried in opposition to the wishes of the London and Birmingham Company. There was a clause introduced into the Act by which the Great Western Company was empowered to purchase the new line, and the Great Western alone. It could not be expected that any such power should be conceded to the Birmingham company, for if it were, their Lordships had themselves admitted that all idea of competition would be futile. The authority, however, was conferred on the Great Western Company. After the Bill was passed, the directors of the new company, with the authority of the shareholders, entered into negotiations for a sale of the line. In order that the concurrence of the proprietary might be formally had, and that everything might be done conformably with the provisions of the Act of Parliament, a meeting was held on the 4th of December, when the terms of sale were proposed to 8 the consideration of the shareholders. The matter was discussed, and the shareholders gave their consent. At that meeting a gentleman attended, who was the avowed agent of the London and Birmingham Company, and he offered a higher price for the line than that which had been offered by the Great Western Company. Some discussion took place, and the proprietors decided that they could not accede to the proposal of the London and Birmingham, they having authorized an agreement according to the terms of the Act of Parliament. They therefore rejected the offer altogether, and confirmed the existing agreement. Everything that was done was done in accordance with the provisions of the Act of Parliament. What toot place afterwards? Mr. Glyn, the chairman of the London and Birmingham Company, wrote on the 17th of December, a letter to the chairman of the Oxford and Birmingham line, renewing the offer that had previously been made at the meeting. That offer was again rejected. A meeting was held of the Birmingham proprietors, convened for the purpose of approving the conduct of their chairman. The object, then, of the London and Birmingham Company was this—to obtain possession of this Oxford line, and so get rid of that competition, the importance and necessity of which Parliament had avouched. Having failed, however, in this attempt, they proceeded in the course to which he had adverted the other night, and which would be proved before a Committee, if their Lordships thought proper to grant one. And if that Committee were granted and the facts substantiated, their Lordships would agree that a more irregular and improper transaction had never been entered into by men holding a public position. Immediately after the 16th of December, and when Mr. Glyn had received his answer from the chairman of the Oxford line, the purchase of shares by the London and Birmingham Company began. They then purchased 40,000 out of 50,000 shares. His noble Friend would have it supposed that those shares had been purchased prior to this transaction; but on the contrary, the purchase began after the directors of the Oxford line had refused to accede to the proposal. Then, finding themselves unable to accomplish their object in the way they first proposed, they for the first time began to purchase shares. Forty thousand shares were purchased in the course of a month or six weeks out of the 50,000 forming the 9 capital. It was true that the company themselves could not venture to make the purchases in their own names, because that would have been too flagrant a transaction: it would have exposed their object upon the very surface. But instead of doing that, they employed agents for the purpose. There was Mr. Burton, who purchased 3,000 shares, but under the guarantee of one of the directors. Mr. Hislop purchased, he believed, upwards of 1,500; and Mr. Ellis, a director, also purchased a very large number of shares. The stipulation attending the purchase was, that these shares should be apportioned out in small parcels of ten each, and that the persons to whom they were transferred should give their proxies to Mr. Mozley and Mr. Cobb, two avowed agents of the London and Birmingham Company. The purchases, therefore, were certainly not made in the name of the London and Birmingham Company, but they were made by those who were connected with that company, and under a stipulation that the avowed agents of the company should have the proxies. Having obtained this large number of votes, and having formed this machinery for the purpose of giving effect to their intentions, the next step of this company was to call a special meeting for the purpose of increasing the number of the directors. By the Act of Parliament the number of directors was to be twelve, and there was a power to increase to eighteen, or to reduce to six. That meeting was held, and these parties put in six new directors, so that they had six with them out of eighteen. But at this time four of the old directors were going-out, and if four others could be substituted, there would be a majority of ten directors in this transaction. However, there was some difficulty about this, owing to an uncertainty as to the time when these four directors were going out; and what did the solicitor do? He gave notice that a special meeting would be called for the purpose of reducing the number of directors. They now sought to reduce the number of directors to six, so that they might put in four of their own, by which means they would obtain entire possession of this coveted line—this only competing line, in which the interests of this company were so much concerned—and so, by this complicated machinery, contrive to get hold of it for their own purposes, defeat the intentions of the Legislature, and contravene an Act of Parliament. Was this a case for inquiry, or was it not? And 10 ought not some legislative measure be adopted for the purpose of preventing transactions of this kind, more especially as his noble and learned Friend near him said, that he had a petition from another railway company, setting forth a case in which precisely the same machinery had been put in action for a precisely similar purpose?
§ LORD HATHERTON
was understood to say that it was not the solicitor to the London and Birmingham Company who had suggested the meeting to reduce the number of directors, but the solicitor to Mr. Mozley.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
said, that Mr. Mozley was the agent to the company, through the whole transaction, if Mr. Field was his solicitor. The noble and learned Lord then proceeded to observe, that as to referring this matter to the Railway Board, that board had no power of examining upon oath, and it would be idle to enter upon an inquiry of this kind unless the tribunal had that power. With respect to the hint of pending legal proceedings, he had not much faith in that as a substitute for the Committee he proposed. But as regarded the suggestion that a Bill was before the House of Commons, during the proceedings upon which this matter would be fully investigated, the case stood thus: By an Act of Parliament of last Session, the Great Western Company were entitled to enter into a contract, and they entered into that contract, and the matter was settled—finished—binding. Another contract was entered into with the Wolverhampton and Dudley line, which they had no authority to enter into. That contract, therefore, would not be binding unless ratified by Act of Parliament. The Bill before the Commons, therefore, was not for the purpose of ratifying a contract already legalized by an Act of Parliament, but for the purpose of confirming another contract that had been entered into. Now, whether Parliament decided that the contract with the Wolverhampton and Dudley line should or should not be carried into effect, could not affect the transaction as it stood with respect to the Oxford and Birmingham line. And then, any meeting of proprietors now called, must necessarily be composed of those who had been created by the means he had been stating. It would be idle to expect any effective investigation to be entered into upon this transaction through the medium of the Bill before the House of Commons. The noble 11 and learned Lord concluded by disclaiming all personal interest in the matter; but if these proceedings could be justified and established, then the policy of the Legislature, and the Act which they passed last Session to carry out that policy, would be entirely defeated.
explained. He controverted the opinion that the transaction could not be investigated by the Committee of the House of Commons on the Bill before them. He held in his hand the terms of an agreement entered into, not with the Oxford and Birmingham Company, but with the amalgamated company. It was between the directors of the Great Western Company and the Birmingham and Oxford, and Birmingham, Woverhampton, and Dudley Company—not two agreements, but one, and that made subsequent to the amalgamation; and the agreement was not for the purchase of one line, but, with the amalgamated company, for the purchase of the two lines. That fact materially affected the case. Assuming his noble and learned Friend to be correct in all his statements—which he was informed his noble and learned Friend was not—and that, through their agents, the North Western Company had actually purchased these shares—and supposing that fact perfectly established, he (Lord Stanley) then asked what their Lordships meant to do? Did they mean to say that a transaction entered into months ago, by which shareholders in the North Western Company purchased shares in another company in the open market, was to be set aside and neutralised by an Act of their Lordships? Was that what they meant to do? And if they did not, he then asked his noble and learned Friend what he meant to do? His noble and learned Friend, before asking for a Committee, ought to show what end he proposed to himself to accomplish. His noble and learned Friend had said, that the object was to prevent a monopoly. He (Lord Stanley) said, that there was no monopoly at all sought to be established by the North Western Company, because a Bill had passed last year authorizing the Great Western Company to buy, and in any case to make use of the line by their carriages and for their traffic; and the North Western Company did not seek to deprive them of that advantage, nor indeed could they do so by any mode of proceeding. The right of travelling on the line from Oxford to Birmingham was secured to the Great Western Company by Act. 12 The right was invested in them, and the other company did not seek to deprive them of it. But what his noble and learned Friend desired was, that the Great Western Company should have the power of purchasing a line, four-fifths of the shareholders in which dissented from that purchase, and intended to oppose it in Parliament. He (Lord Stanley) left the matter in the hands of their Lordships. Personally he had no interest in it whatsoever.
§ LORD HATHERTON
said, he felt it absolutely incumbent upon him to trouble their Lordships for a few minutes. He would, therefore, in the first place, state the reasons which had induced him to take the steps he had done in the establishment of this line. The Birmingham and Oxford and the Dudley lines were necessarily to be considered, for every practical purpose, as one and the same line. The promoters were for the most part originally the same, the directors were, with few exceptions, identical, and their objects were to serve the same districts; they were supported throughout by the same evidence, and they would have been included in one line except that it was not found possible for the Birmingham, Dudley, and Wolverhampton Bill to be prepared in time for the purpose. These two lines, he might say emphatically, were the creation of the local exigencies of the district, and of public opinion in that part of England. The proprietors of the Dudley line and the directors of the Grand Junction Company, as their Lordships had been told at the outset, were before their amalgamation active promoters of this line. Mr. Moss, their chairman, was an active promoter of it, and a large proprietor. Mr. Lawrence was also a promoter of it; Mr. Gladstone, an important director in both companies, was a large shareholder; and other large proprietors of the Grand Junction Company took an active interest in the proceedings for acquiring the line, and they avowed a strong sense of the importance of establishing a competing line from London and Birmingham to Oxford. The Bills, so supported, were sustained by a Select Committee of the Houses of Parliament upon the evidence of all the most enlightened merchants, manufacturers, and proprietors of the central district of England, with the exception—and he admitted it to be an important one—of those whom the London and North Western had secured to their side by the various interests 13 they might have in particular parts of the line, as laid out. Now, he would state to the House what that evidence was. It was simply this: That the district in question was the central district in England; that the period had arrived when the general arrangements respecting conveyance ought to convince the inhabitants of that district that the manufacturing interest in England were about to take a new position; that the manufacture of iron was the great staple manufacture of that district; that the manufacturers saw, with great uneasiness, that the Scotch manufacturers were increasing their establishments on the Clyde, where they could ship their produce at an almost nominal cost; that the manufacturers in Wales were able to ship their produce in the estuaries of the Severn, also at a merely nominal cost; and that it was clear, therefore, unless they were able to obtain conveyance at equally cheap rates, they would be thrown into the back ground, and the district would permanently suffer. It was upon this evidence that the Select Committees of both Houses sanctioned the principle of competition. Parliament, as stated by his noble and learned Friend, was so struck by the importance of it, that they devised an unusual mode of securing it. It was stated openly in the other House that the London and North Western Company would attempt, by an extensive purchase of shares, to abrogate the power given to the Birmingham and Oxford Company to sell to the Great Western, and to them only, to which power Parliament had added a proviso that in case they did not do so, or grant a lease, the Great Western Company should be empowered to run trains on their line. The Bill having passed, the London and Birmingham Company were obliged to have recourse to other projects. They first proposed an equal participation by an equal lease. But how fatal, as far as the public interests were concerned, would the effect have been? It would have destroyed at once the principle of competition; for if the Great Western had the power of running on the same rails to London, what would the North Western do? They would have the power to clear the main line as far as they could of all the heavy trains, and send them on to the Birmingham and Oxford line, and, by these means, and putting on slow trains, of obstructing, as far as they could, all competition on the part of the Great Western. This proposition, therefore, was refused; and then 14 came the offer of Mr. Mozley, who, he would not say, was employed for the purpose, but who came to Birmingham, and after a long speech, in which he urged the impolicy of selling to the Great Western on such terms, drew from his pocket and read at length a letter from Mr. Glyn, in which he stated the terms the London and North Western were willing to give for the London and Oxford line, if they would abandon the agreement with the Great Western. It must, of course, be presumed that Mr. Mozley was authorized to communicate that proposition to the meeting; but when it was scouted by them, Mr. Glyn, he was sorry to say, so far forgot himself as to repeat the proposal to a body of gentlemen who had signed the agreement with the Great Western Company—certainly a most extraordinary thing to be done by a gentleman of his position in society. He would not follow up all that had since passed, his noble and learned Friend having stated it most correctly. It was clear the parties were determined in every way to obstruct the proceedings, and that unless their Lordships should interfere, the London and Birmingham Company would grow more and more important, until they were able to dictate to Parliament, and thus finally realize their project. He did not think it necessary to trouble their Lordships at greater length; but there was one more very important point that ought to be adverted to. One condition which Parliament had attached to the Great Western Company, if they made the purchase, was, that the tolls of the Great Western Company should be reduced from Birmingham to Oxford and Loudon, and on the whole length of country to the western coast to the level of the Birmingham and North Western. This, as he understood, would be a reduction of no less than 25 per cent, and was, therefore, a matter of great public importance, not merely to the trading interests, but to the interests of the public from the centre of England to the Land's End. He was sure, when their Lordships understood this, they would feel that this was a subject which fully justified the importance the public attached to it.
said, that when this case was first brought under the consideration of their Lordships, he felt rather disposed to resist the appointment of a Committee, because he did not clearly see his way to a remedy, although he saw very clearly the abuse; but upon further consideration, 15 being perfectly convinced that there had been very great jobbing, contrivance, and intrigue, not to say fraud, in this railway transaction, he did not feel prepared, merely because he did not clearly see his way to a remedy as the result of the inquiry, to advise their Lordships to withhold or stifle the inquiry. On the contrary, he thought they ought to adopt this course, both because it was possible they might discover a remedy fit to be applied, and because it would have a certain tendency to check such proceedings in other cases. He knew it was said that the parties were anxious for an inquiry, that they did not dislike an inquiry, and were prepared to meet it. The fact was, that in all his Parliamentary experience—and it was not short—he had never known a single instance in which an abuse had been denounced, and an inquiry requested, that the parties—the defendants, as he might call them—did not say, "We are far from deprecating inquiry; we are willing to have the matter inquired into; we court inquiry; we pray for inquiry; but do not on any account take this mode of inquiry. Do not inquire in this particular way, or at this particular time." Or, in the language of the petitioners in the present case, they prayed that the inquiry might be postponed. This was the language of the parties in the present case. They did not wish to avoid inquiry, they wished only to avoid this inquiry. Then it was said that there was a Bill in another place which would come down, he should rather say come up, to their Lordships, but which might also not come up; and it was said, that, therefore, the case would be inquired into elsewhere. He doubted that; he had great confidence in that other place: he entertained the greatest respect possible towards it and all its proceedings; but when he recollected of whom it was composed—when he recollected who were the inhabitants of that other place—when he recollected the numberless shareholders to be found in that other place—when he know the sort of little, mutual, reciprocal conveniences which passed, the compliments and courtesies which passed, between the shareholders of one railway, who could not sit upon the affairs of that railway, but who could sit upon the affairs of some other in which they had no concern—when he knew the mutual, reciprocal, and grateful courtesies which passed between them and the shareholders of that other railway, who could not sit upon the affairs of their own, 16 but who, in their turn, could sit upon the affairs of their neighbours' line—when he knew the course of proceeding which went on, he would not say in that other place, but in some other place, he was forced to arrive at the conclusion that it would be safer and better—he would not say more—that they should keep the inquiry in this place (the House of Lords). If their Lordships should in their wisdom please to say that they would do nothing to stop the inquiry, or rather, that they would do all that in them lay to enable it to go on, he trusted that they would carry it on in the way in which they had resolved many years ago to carry on such inquiries, and that they would not leave the Committee to be named by the House generally; for he was not sure that it would be right for their Lordships to assume a monopoly of public virtue, and assert that "they were not as other men were," but that they would apply the self-denying ordinance which he had moved, and which their Lordships had accepted some years ago, and allow a Committee of Five to be named by the Selecting Committee of that House.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, he wished to say a few words merely in the character of an individual Peer, and to ask his noble and learned Friend, whether he would object to refer the matter to a Committee to be named by the Committee of Selection, in the same manner as Committees were nominated to sit upon particular Railway Bills? It was most material that, if this Committee were appointed, it should, from the mode of being nominated, preserve the character of a perfectly impartial tribunal; and he knew of no means by which that object could be so well attained as by adopting that mode of nomination which had been hitherto found so effectual. He trusted, therefore, that his noble and learned Friend would have no objection to this course.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
quite agreed that an inquiry should take place; but he had very grave doubts whether the Committee ought to be of the same description as upon an individual Bill. He thought it should be a Committee embracing a much larger number of persons, in which a greater number of views might be taken than you could expect to find in one consisting of five. He apprehended that this would secure a very important result as regarded the public at large, bringing clearly under the view of Parliament transactions of this description, and would have 17 a tendency to impress on Parliament that it would ultimately he absolutely necessary for the security of the public that those railways should be all of them taken, or to a much greater degree than they now were, into the hands, or, at least, into the control, of the Executive power. They had now become the chief modes of communication all over the empire: was it fit, then, that the public of this great empire should be left in the hands of three or four companies as regarded this most important matter? There was no instance in the history of the world in which the communications of a country had been committed to the hands of a few parties. His noble Friend had indeed suggested that an inquiry must take place before a Committee of the other House; that was to say, before a tribunal which had not the power of administering an oath, in a case in which, if in any, the sanction of an oath would be necessary.
merely rose to suggest, that if the noble and learned Lord had other cases, he ought to bring them forward, and have them referred to this committee, so that the inquiry might be general.
said, if their Lordships pleased to appoint a Committee on this subject—and he should rejoice exceedingly in not being a member of it—he should not give their Lordships the trouble of dividing.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned.