§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
said, that on Friday evening a Message had come up from the Commons that they had arrived at the following Resolutions:—That all Bills of the present Session which include among their main provisions any of the following objects;He now asked their Lordships to take that Message into consideration, and if they agreed to that Motion he would then ask their Lordships to pass a Resolution similar to that which had been come to by the House of Commons in respect of a Joint Committee. It would be in the recollection of their Lordships that the very strong Joint Committee which sat last Session recommended the appointment of such a Joint Committee as that to which the Resolution of the Commons referred. Bills for amalgamations of great magnitude were to come before Parliament during the present Session. He thought, therefore, the appointment of such a Committee was very desirable, and he submitted to their Lordships that it did not at all involve the principle of referring ordinary Railway Bills or other Bills generally to a Joint Committee.
shall be referred to a joint Committee of Lords and Commons.
- (1.) The transfer to any railway or canal company of the undertaking or part of the undertaking of any other such company; or
- (2.) The transfer to any railway or canal company of any harbour; or
- (3.) The amalgamation of the undertaking or any part of the undertaking of any railway or canal company with the undertaking of any other such company;
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Then it was moved that the House do concur in the Resolution communicated by the Commons.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
said, he did not rise for the purpose of opposing the Motion, for he concurred in thinking that the Committee of last year was a very strong one, and as its Members devoted considerable time and attention to the subject, he should be unwilling to offer any opposition to the recommendation arrived at unanimously by such a Committee. At the same time, he did not wish to be understood as giving his adherence to the principle of Joint Committees dealing with matters connected with the Private Business of that or the other House of Parliament, and especially in reference to railway schemes—water schemes would of course follow. Again, he desired to point out that the Committee of last year recommended that these Amalgamation Bills, &c., should be referred to "a permanent and special Joint Committee;" but the Message from the other House merely dealt with questions arising in the present Session, and therefore did not entirely carry out the recommendation of the Committee, whose desire probably was to secure uniformity of practice on this question. But he was the more induced not to oppose the proposition of the noble Marquess because he believed the schemes for amalgamation of railways now before Parliament did not stand on all fours with other schemes promoted by railway companies. When railway companies came before Parliament with ordinary schemes and proposed to take land, it was objectionable that they should be submitted to the decision of one tribunal only—it was an advantage that persons whose land the companies wished to take should have an opportunity of appeal, or at any rate of going before a second Court. The landowner, on going before a Committee of the House of Commons in the first instance, might see what were the weak points of his case, and thus be prepared for the second tribunal; and in this manner injustice or injury would frequently be prevented. It was sometimes stated that one tribunal would save 888 much expense; but as the landowner was not compelled to go before the second tribunal, if he did not think it desirable—if he did so he incurred expense voluntarily—and he did not think it any hardship that railway companies proposing to take land by the force of an Act of Parliament should be obliged to show before two tribunals that it was absolutely necessary to their schemes. The interests of the public appeared only to be provided for in a cursory manner by the Joint Committee now proposed. It was true there was an intention of allowing traders and others interested a locus standi; but it seemed to him to be necessary to give some direct instructions to this Joint tribunal to look more after public interests. Where amalgamations were allowed a monopoly would probably be created, and in certain districts rates would at once go up; and, therefore, the Committee should make it their business to inquire as to the position in which the public would be placed by amalgamations. The President of the Board of Trade, in moving a Resolution on this subject in the other House, stated that it would not be taken as a precedent for Joint Committees in other cases; and having now entered his protest on the same point, he need say nothing further.
§ LORD REDESDALE
stated that the effect of the evidence given before the Committee last year had been to materially change his opinion on the subject of railway amalgamation, and after much consideration he had arrived at the conclusion that generally large railway amalgamations ought to be refused. It was important, no doubt, in many instances, that branch lines should be amalgamated with the larger undertakings, such arrangements being probably beneficial alike to the public and to the railway companies. He felt convinced, however, that amalgamation had already gone far enough, and that it should not be allowed to proceed further. The only competition which now existed was the competition of service between great lines; but the moment amalgamation took place that competition ceased. In the case of the London and North-Western and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Companies, for instance, which sought to amalgamate last year, and which were again seeking that end this year, he was told that, notwith- 889 standing the strict alliance between the two companies, there was the competition of service still existing between them. Another good object attained by preventing amalgamation was found in the comparison of service, which was a matter of great importance. At present one railway was known to do much better service than another, and there was wanted a standard of some sort to which good service might be brought up. As an instance in point, he might refer to the carriages of the London and North-Western Railway Company, which were very much better than the carriages of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company. Now, if one company did not serve the public properly in the matter of its carriages, there should be some means of compelling the proper performance of that service; and if the tribunal to be constituted by a measure now before the House of Commons were an efficient tribunal, it would be able to do much good to the public by securing proper service and proper accommodation on railways. He had no objection to the Joint Committee proposed by the noble Marquess for the purpose of considering amalgamation schemes; but he thought with the noble Duke that, with regard to the ordinary Railway Bills, there ought to be a double inquiry. He wished to know how many Members the proposed Committee would consist of, and, if it should consist of an equal number from each House, how would its decisions be ruled in cases where the numbers were equally divided? There was one other question which he wished to refer to—he meant the absorption of railways by the State. He himself was not favourable to any such scheme, but he could not shut his eyes to the possibility that the time might come when it would be necessary to carry out a proposal of that kind. He was much amused at some of the demands made in that way by persons in Ireland who were anxious to get the Government to purchase the railways. If the State took the railways the Government ought to work them on paying terms. He did not advocate any such wholesale measure; but he thought it might be worth the consideration of the Government whether some of the surplus revenue now applied to the reduction of the National Debt might not with advantage be applied to the purchase of 890 shares in railway companies, and in this manner the State might gradually absorb the ownership of the railways and obtain a larger interest for its investments than the Chancellor of the Exchequer was now able to secure.
expressed a hope that the Joint Committee would be appointed at once, and that it would proceed at once to the consideration of the Bills submitted to them without any prejudice arising from the larger question now before the House of Commons. He agreed with the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) that a clear distinction ought to be drawn between amalgamation schemes and ordinary railway Bills, for in amalgamation schemes the benefit of the public was the sole thing to be considered, while ordinary railway Bills were affected by a number of private considerations, and the consideration of such Bills by separate and independent Committees was the best system. With reference to the proposed amalgamation of the London and North-Western and Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Companies, he understood the alliance between them was already so great that the amalgamation was of no great importance to the companies themselves; but he thought that, for the convenience of the public, it was important that it should be pressed forward. In such a case he was of opinion that identity of interest between the companies was almost the same thing as identity of service. As to what the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees had said with regard to the carriages used on the Lancashire and Yorkshire line, it should be borne in mind that the line passed through the dirtiest country in England, and it was very difficult to preserve either carriages or passengers in a very presentable appearance.
§ EARL COWPER,
said, that from his experience as a Member of the Joint Committee which sat last year, lie believed it was impossible to stop railway amalgamation. In spite of all that could be done, amalgamations would take place, and instead of attempting to stop them it would be wiser to attempt only to regulate them, and see that the interests of the public were duly cared for. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) had complained that the recommendation of the Committee of last year was not followed in making 891 this Joint Committee a permanent tribunal. But he thought that, pending the decision Parliament might come to in respect of various points which would be raised by the Bill of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, it would not be well to appoint a permanent Joint Committee to consider amalgamations.
§ Motion agreed to; and a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.
§ House adjourned at Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.