§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF GRANARD
My Lords, this is a short Bill the object of which is to continue and amend the Light Railways Act of 1896. By Section 6 of that Act the sum which was advanced by the Treasury was £1,000,000, and of this sum £250,000 was made available for special advances, free grants, etc. That sum is now nearly exhausted, and the powers we ask under this Bill is to increase the amount to £750,000, leaving £250,000 for the purpose of loans at 3½ per cent. Your Lordships are aware of the advantages to be gained in vastly-populated districts from light railways, and with these few words I move the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Granard.)
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, the noble Earl in moving the Second Reading of this Bill stated very truly what it is at the present moment, but he has not told your Lordships what at one time it was. Originally there was a clause in the Bill dealing with what is known as trackless trolleys, and when the Bill was in another place there were alterations made in it in the interests of county councils and 105 other road authorities. These Amendments, which were carried in Select Committee in opposition to the Government, had further Amendments proposed to them because the Government, while accepting the general policy of the Amendments inserted in the Select Committee, thought that they went too far, and that, while throwing on the promoters of trackless trolley systems the duty and responsibility of making good the damage they did to the roads, the original Amendments went somewhat too far and threw upon them onus and responsibility for damage which might really in point of fact have not occurred. They, therefore, were prepared to accept, and had I believe drafted, other Amendments which were not open to these charges and which it was their intention to put in on the Report stage. Those who were interested in the promotion of trackless trolleys, however, represented to the Government that sooner than have these Amendments put in they would have what was then Clause 2 deleted altogether and be left in the position in which they previously were, a position which leaves the road authority to oppose separately every private Bill in Parliament brought in for the promotion of trackless trolleys.
This is a position to which, speaking on behalf of the County Councils Association, we strongly object. We think that the matter ought to be dealt with generally, that trackless trolleys should be sanctioned by Order of the Board of Trade, and that certain conditions of a general nature should be attached to each of these Orders in support of the road authorities, who, I need not at this stage point out, would be gravely damaged by anything in the nature of trackless trolleys, which necessarily must do considerable damage to the roads and are not under the liability which ordinary tramways are of maintaining those portions of the roads which they use. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade represented, very truly, that the proper way of legislating on this subject was by a general Act dealing with trackless trolleys in the same way that tramways are dealt with; but until this is done we object very strongly to being left in the position of having to oppose private Bills upon every system of trackless trolleys which may be promoted. In these circumstances it is my intention when this Bill goes into Committee to put down the Amendments which the Government were prepared to accept in 106 the other House. Of course, our action upon those Amendments would be considerably altered if the Government, when the Bill is in Committee, are prepared to give us any substantial undertaking that the matter will in a reasonable time be dealt with in the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary recommended that it should be dealt with, and which we entirely agree is the proper way in which the question should be met.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.