Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
Order made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."
said, he very much regretted being obliged to bring again under the notice of the House this somewhat unsavoury subject; but he was compelled to do so on this occasion, on account of what had happened in the House at the time of Private Business yesterday. He had then I moved, as the House would remember, to postpone the consideration of the Bill until Thursday, when he proposed to oppose two other Private Bills, for the same reason as that which induced him to oppose the present one. He was then defeated on a division, and he was now compelled to seem to be separately opposing this Bill, and this Bill alone. He could assure the House, and those interested in the Bill, that his enmity and opposition were not directed against this Bill alone; but that the action he was now taking in the matter was due to what appeared to him to be a question of principle. The reason why he opposed this Bill, and other Bills now down for the consideration of the House, was that there should be no future precedents permitted to be established by the House for altering the classification of the different articles carried by Railway Companies, or for increasing the rates, unless the House should have some specific ground assigned to it for such an alteration and increase, and unless the matter had been brought directly under the notice of the House. Unless that course were taken, he objected to anything done in a Private Bill being used as a precedent for future legislation. The House would be aware that until this year, when a new Standing Order was passed on this subject, at the instance of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), it was impossible for Committees to take any cognizance of rates by the alteration of the classification of articles, unless a Notice of opposition had been distinctly given to the Committee by a Petition being presented on the subject. But now, according to the new Standing Order, it was obligatory on the Committee to take cognizance of such an alteration of classification, and also of any increase proposed in the Rating Clauses. It appeared that this action was necessitated on account of several Bills having been passed last year, with an alteration of classification and of rates, without this having been brought to the notice of the Committees sitting on such Bills, or brought to the notice of the House. The new Standing Order required that the Board of Trade should make a Report to the Committee in regard to the rates and tolls proposed to be charged by any new Railway. He had in his hand a copy of the Report of the Board of Trade, not specially on the Bill they were now considering, but on another Bill. He presumed, however, that the Report of the Board of Trade on one of these Bills was almost, if not quite, identical with their Reports upon the others. In the Report which the Board of Trade had sent out, he found, in Section 3 of that Report, this passage—"A table of some of the rates authorized is appended to this Report;" and then the Report referred to some 35 Railways in an Appendix which had been permitted to obtain differential rates, and an alteration of the classification of guano and artificial manures, as compared with dung and compost, and other manures in times past. He found that no Railway obtained this different classification earlier than the year 1857; and the Report of the Board of Trade stated that other instances were to be found in Acts passed in 1862, 1865, and 1866, but more frequently in those of later years, and more notably in 1882. From the year 1857 down to the year 1882, inclusive, he found there had been 2,600 Railway Bills which had received the Royal Assent, and yet the Board of Trade only mentioned 35 which had made special charges for guano and artificial manures. Now, it appeared to him that if only 35 Railways had obtained this difference of classification since the year 1857, it was hardly an average precedent to fall back upon, because certainly 35 out of the 2,600 Railway Bills which had received the Royal Assent since 1857 was a very small percentage indeed. Further, in the Report of the Board of Trade, he found—
That fact he had already alluded to in showing the small average number of Railways which had got these more favourable terms. Then the Report of the Board of Trade went on to say—"That of the Railway Acts of former years, when guano and artificial manures were less important than they have since become, no distinction was made between artificial manures and ordinary manures, and both were placed in the lowest class at about 1d. per ton per mile. In subsequent years it had been the practice to grant more favourable terms."
It appeared to him, therefore, that if most of the Railway Companies had done this, they had done it in contravention of the clauses of their own Acts. The Board of Trade attached to their Report another Appendix, in which they gave a detail of the tolls, maximum rates, and charges authorized in some of the principal Railway Bills; and they instanced six Bills—first, the Caledonian, in which there was a differential rate, although he saw that the original Act classed dung, compost, and all kinds of manures, and artificial manures, in one category; but the Company were permitted, by a later Act, to charge a higher rate for guano and artificial manures when sent only as samples. The six Acts mentioned by the Board of Trade were those of the Caledonian, with a differential rate; the Great Northern, which had the same rate for all manures—namely, 1½d.; the Lancashire and Yorkshire, which had also the same rate for all manures, and a rate rather less than 1½d.; the Midland, with the same rate; and the Hull, Barnsley, and West Riding Junction Act, passed in 1880, which was one of those Bills which managed to get a different classification without the matter being brought to the notice of the House. An hon. Friend told him yesterday that he was a very large consumer of artificial manures, and he obtained those manures from Liverpool. He used them upon a farm in the neighbourhood of Ely, in the county of Cambridge. They were brought to him over two railway systems from Liverpool, and the annual charge at which they were delivered to him at his farm for railway carriage was about a halfpenny per ton per mile. The hon. Gentleman to whom he referred also told him that he used a great quantity of stable manure, which was brought down to Ely from London; and the rate charged by the Great Eastern Railway Company for that stable manure averaged somewhat less than a farthing per ton per mile. Nevertheless, the Bill they were now discussing authorized a charge for artificial manures of 2½d. per ton, and a maximum charge for stable manures, dung, compost, and common manures, of 1½d. per ton per mile. He had no hostility to this Railway, or to any of the other Railways affected by the same question, in any shape or form whatever. His hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Sir Gabriel Goldney) spoke to him yesterday, and criticized, in no unmeasured terms, the action he was taking in regard to this Bill. He could quite understand his hon. Friend being indignant with him for taking this action if he were actuated by hostility towards the Bill; but, as he had said before, his action was not on account of hostility to this Bill, or to any other Bill, but he merely wanted to prevent a precedent being established in future for charging differential rates, or higher rates, for these manures than the majority of Railway Companies had been permitted to charge in times past. However, he should not take any notice of the expressions used by his hon. Friend. He should not send him a cartel, nor bring what his hon. Friend had said to him before the House as a matter of Privilege; but what he maintained was that, unless sufficient cause were shown, Railway Companies should not generally be allowed to alter the classification of goods, or to raise their rates. If sufficient cause were shown to a Committee that it was necessary for a Railway Company, in the conduct of their business, to do so, then the Committee before whom such Railway Companies appeared should report the reasons why they had come to the conclusion that such an alteration of classification, and such a raising of rates, ought to be allowed, and the House should be informed of those reasons, so that the alteration should not be made in Railway Bills, and passed by the House without notice, with the possibility of it being used as a precedent for the action of Committees in future. It appeared to him that if precedents were allowed to accumulate in this way for altering the classification and raising the rates, it would be impossible, and, indeed, unfair, on the part of the House, to prevent the great Railway Companies, and, indeed, all other Railway Companies, who were satisfied, and had been obliged to be satisfied, with the original charge authorized in former years, coming to the House and obtaining its sanction to an increase of rates. Whenever they came to the House of Commons for further powers to increase their rates and alter their classification, he did not see on what principle of justice, if this Bill were allowed to pass with the full cognizance of the House, they would be able to deny the same claim in other instances. He had only one other point in regard to this matter. It had been said that this was a manufacturer's question. Now, he could not see how it was a manufacturer's question at all. It was purely and entirely an agricultural question. If the Railway Companies were allowed to charge these rates, did the House suppose that the manufacturers would charge 1d. less to the farmers? It was not a question of lowering the rates, but a question altogether of raising the rates; and, therefore, he said it would be the consignee who would have to pay these extraordinary charges in regard to guanos and artificial manures, and not the consignor. He presumed that it was a general case in respect of these articles that the consignee paid the railway charge for carriage, or, if the consignor paid it originally, he charged it to the consignee when he sent in his bill. Therefore, it was clear that if the rates were raised the amount of the increase would fall upon the agricultural community, who were those who bought the articles in question. He knew that some people said, and said very justly, too, that there should not be the same charge made for artificial manures, which required great care in carriage, as was made for dung and compost and common manures, which were chucked into a truck, carried away, and chucked out again, without the necessity for any care being exercised in regard to them. They were told the other day that the Great Northern Railway Company were mulcted in the sum of £10 on account of some damage done to artificial manures or guano in the course of transit. But let the House say there should be a difference between artificial manures and common manures; and let the House decide upon some maximum of rate beyond which Railway Companies should not charge for artificial manures. Let them, also, decide that there should be a maximum rate beyond which the Railway Companies should not charge for the carriage of dung, compost, and common manures. But it appeared to him that if the House was prepared to decide that there should be a difference in classification between artificial manures and common manures, they should also go into the whole question of classification. He believed the question of classification now remained the same as when these Railway Companies first came before Parliament for the powers they now possessed; and it was not at all clear to his own mind that it was not desirable for the Railway Companies to accept the classification made originally, which included artificial manures and common manures in one category, rather than reopen the question of the whole classification of all articles they were now permitted to carry by their Acts of Parliament. Now, one of the Railway Bills to which he took objection had actually placed artificial manures in the same class as sugar. He was informed that sugar was worth £25 a-ton, while artificial manures and guano were worth, at the very utmost, about £6 or £7 a-ton. If it was unfair that the Railway Companies should be obliged to carry artificial manures at the same price as dung, compost, and common manures, being so much more valuable than common manures, surely it was unfair, on the other hand, that any Railway Company should be permitted to class articles, such as artificial manures, worth £7 a-ton, in the same category as sugar, which was worth £25 a-ton. What was sauce for the goose was certainly sauce for the gander. It only remained for him to emphasize what he had said before, that he was not taking this course from any hostile feeling whatever towards those Railways. He had had a conversation, not very long ago, in the Lobby with the manager of one of the largest Railways in England; and the gentleman in question was kind enough to say, after he had explained his action to him, that he considered it was perfectly legitimate. All he wished to do was to stop a precedent being established in future without the fact being brought to the cognizance of the House, in order to prevent the enhancement of rates, or a difference of classification being de- veloped, to any great extent, to the detriment of the agricultural interest. He begged to move the Motion which stood in his name—"Most, if not all, of the larger Companies appeared to have made special charges for guano and artificial manures, as for manufactured articles."
"That the Bill be re-committed to the former Committee, and that it be an Instruction to the Committee to reduce the rates proposed by the Bill to be charged for guano and artificial manures."
The Instruction of the noble Viscount will be a separate Motion if the House agrees to re-commit the Bill.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "now considered," in order to add the words "recommitted to the former Committee,"—( Viscount Folkestone,)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "that the words 'now considered' stand part of the Question."
said, the principal objection he had to this Motion, and he thought the objection which the House would have to the Motion also, was this—that, in the event of its being carried, he did not see how it would be possible for any Member of the House, who had a proper respect for his own character, to serve upon a Private Bill Committee. The case was this. It was the case of a very small Railway, the merits of which he would not go into at that moment. It had been opposed on several occasions before by the noble Viscount (Viscount Folkestone), and by one or two other hon. Members acting with him. It was introduced as a local line purely, and really involved no question which ought to have attracted the attention of the House. Nevertheless, there had been a considerable consumption of time in discussing the question of the rates introduced into the Bill. It would, however, be recollected that before the Bill was referred to a Committee for consideration a Resolution was proposed by his right hon. Friend the Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth), in the early part of the Session, that the Board of Trade should report on every Railway Bill referred to a Select Committee as to whether it proposed to charge differential rates, and that the Committee should take those Reports into their consideration, and make a special Report to the House upon them. There had been, he thought, according to the list he held in his hand, at least 40 Railway Bills brought into the House containing a similar paragraph to that which was objected to in regard to this Bill; and in regard to most of them there had been a Report from the Chairman of the Committee, that they had considered the Report of the Board of Trade referred to them under the Standing Order, but they saw no necessity for altering the rates contained in the Bill, which were in accordance with those sanctioned by Parliament on other occasions. About a fortnight ago the noble Viscount the Member for North Wilts (Viscount Folkestone) placed a Notice on the Paper almost similar to that which he had just moved, asking the House to re-commit the Bill to the Committee which had already considered it, in order that they might again consider the question of rates and charges, especially in reference to guano and artificial manures. His hon. Friend who sat below him, the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Sel-win-Ibbetson), was the Chairman of the Committee, who presented a Report to the House, only two or three days ago, which he would venture to read to the House. It was made with reference to an Instruction the Committee had received from the House in regard to the present Bill—
That was a Report from a properly constituted Committee. This particular subject had been before the House during a greater part of the Session upon this and other Railway Bills, not only as to this particular charge of a maximum rate, but also in reference to the reconsideration of rates and charges, and the classification of tolls in relation to the Report of the Board of Trade. Well, this Committee had reconsidered the matter, and had presented another Re- port, in which, as a matter of fact, they had reduced the tolls. Now, was it possible that hon. Members would consent to act upon Private Bill Committees in future, if, after giving patient and careful consideration to questions of this kind, Motions were to be made without the slightest evidence being adduced, but on a mere statement that certain individuals were dissatisfied with the result? Would the House consent to have its time occupied by debates of this sort, and to re-commit a Bill back again to the same Committee, time after time, simply because a few hon. Members chose to say—" We do not like what you have done, and, therefore, you must do something else; and unless you do something else we will press forward these Motions day after day." He thought the House ought to set its face, in a determined manner, against proceedings of this kind, irrespective of the question whether guano and artificial manures ought to be carried for the same price as common dung and ordinary manures. He was speaking there as an independent country gentleman, having no interest in any Railway whatever. All he knew with regard to this line was that it was a local one of about nine miles in length; and the only reason he had for opposing the Motion was because he considered that the proper course for the House to adopt. The noble Viscount had made use of a singular argument. He said that some Railway Company had placed guano and sugar in the same category, whereas sugar was worth £25 a-ton, and guano only worth £7 or £8 a-ton. Therefore, he contended that guano and artificial mauures ought to be carried at a cheaper rate; while, at the same time, he was arguing that common dung, which was only worth 2s. or 2s. 6d. a-ton, ought to be put into the same category as guano and artificial manures which were worth £7 a-ton. If the arguments of the noble Viscount were worth anything, the charge for carrying artificial manures ought to be raised in price, and, instead of being 2d., the proper proportion ought to be something like 1s. He had no doubt that the Committee to whom the Bill was referred had fully considered all the arguments brought forward. Everyone knew that in the case of a short line the expenses were much greater in proportion than they were to a long line; and it was quite possible to engage a ship and take a freight all the way to Australia almost at ballast rates, because it was wanted to take the vessel there in order to employ it in bringing other articles home. So in the case of the Railway Companies mentioned by the noble Viscount, who carried common manures at a farthing or halfpenny per ton per mile. It might easily be that they did so in order that they should not send trucks back again entirely empty. Now, the true way of getting a particular class of goods carried cheaply was not to ask for a subsidy for one particular interest at the expense of the community, but to give the Railway Company what they could obtain. In that way the question was left to the result of competition in trade, and they introduced a good commercial principle, which really tended to cheapen rates. He had no wish to detain the House longer; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House ought to set his face against Motions of this sort. The present case was taken up by the agricultural interest. To-morrow they might have another taken up by the coal interest, then another affecting the iron interest, or the timber interest, or the Manchester interest. It had long been the custom to have matters of this kind properly relegated to Select Committees; and in this particular instance the Bill had been relegated a second time to a Committee, in order that further consideration might be given to it. "Unless the old course were continued, they might in future have matters of this sort dealt with purely as class questions, instead of being dealt with on the merits of the case. All these rates proposed to be in-sorted in the Bill were fair and equal, and not unusual; and if agricultural produce or manures were to be carried at a loss to the Railway Company, those who were interested in other commodities would inevitably suffer. This was a case in which the House, in its wisdom, had remitted the matter again, and had presented the Report which had been laid on the Table and accepted by the House. He thought it would be exceedingly unwise and improper for the House again to perform the operation of saying that, because certain Gentlemen were not satisfied with the result, the Select Committee should go through the same process again."Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson reported from the Committee on the Windsor, Ascot, and Aldershot Railway (re-committed) Bill: That they had made further Amendments thereunto by reducing the rates to he charged for the conveyance of common manure and compost, and all undressed materials for the repair of highways, as well as coke, culm, slack, and clay from twopence halfpenny to one penny halfpenny per ton per mile as the maximum rate, and also by reducing the maximum charge for the carriage of guano and artificial manure from threepence to twopence halfpenny per ton per mile."
said, it appeared to him that the hon. Baronet who had just sat down had quite overlooked the real issue before the House. It was not a question whether Railway Companies were to carry at a loss or not, or whether favour should be shown to one particular interest or another; but whether the House was, upon a special issue, to alter the whole course of Railway legislation for the last 40 years. It appeared to him that the Committee had no reason to complain if the House sent this Bill back again to them; because they seemed to have overlooked the real point at issue, which was not so much whether the rates were higher or lower, but whether the classification of goods had been altered. From the very earliest times of Railways certain goods had been placed in the lowest class of rates. This classification, as had been pointed out by his noble Friend the Member for North Wilts (Viscount Folkestone), on all the great Railways was the same. For instance, the London and North Western, the Great Northern, the Great Eastern, the London and South Western, and other Railways, although they might differ in some small degree as to the amount of tolls and rates, were almost universal in the classification of goods; and hon. Members who objected to the decision of the Committee were now asking to alter the classification they had fixed, and to alter, not merely the maximum rate charged upon artificial manures, but to alter it in a great many other particulars. He held in his hand the original Act of the London and South Western Railway. That Act was an Act of 4 & 5 Will. IV., c. 88, so that it was nearly 50 years old. Now, the present Bill, which professed to be promoted by a private Company, contained clauses empowering them to hand over their Railway to the London and South Western Railway Company.
said, he was satisfied that his hon. Friend would not wish to make an incorrect statement. This line had no connection at all with the London and South Western Railway Company. On the contrary, it had been opposed by the London and South Western Company throughout; and if it was likely to be handed over to anybody it would be the Great Western, and not the London and South Western.
said, he had not read the Bill carefully; but in Clause 56 he thought some reference was made to some controlling power which was to be exercised by the London and South Western Railway Company. He did not think, however, that that point would have any great effect on the argument he was trying to bring before the House; because he believed that in the Great Western Act would be found identically the same provision which placed in the same category the carriage of coal, culm, charcoal, cinders, building, and pitching, and paving stones, bricks, tiles, slates, clay, sand, dung, compost, all sorts of manures, lime, limestone, and all undressed materials for the repair of roads, the rate being upon all these articles the sum of 2d. per ton per mile. The toll, however, had nothing whatever to do with that matter. It was the classification to which he desired to draw the attention of the House. Under the present Bill, not only were all sorts of manures, except common dung, removed from Class I, but building, pitching, and paving stones, bricks, tiles, common slates, and other materials were removed from Class I. to Class II. If this Railway Company were to do that, as had been said by the noble Viscount, then, in common justice and in common sense, all Railways must be allowed to do the same thing. If it were a good and honest and just classification of the raw materials carried through this country, let the old law stand; but, if not, let them have a Select Committee to go into the question thoroughly and report to the House, when, no doubt, the House would pass a new classification, which should be applicable to all these articles. He certainly hoped the House would not, on that occasion—upon a Wednesday's Sitting, with a comparatively small attendance—pass a Bill which deliberately upset all the previous legislation upon these important matters. It had been pointed out that there were only 20 in all, out of very nearly 3,000 Rail-way Bills, which had been considered thoroughly and deliberately during the last 50 years, in which an alteration of, classification had been permitted. He begged to support the Amendment moved by his noble Friend the Member for South Wilts (Viscount Folkestone).
said, he thought the House might be in some difficulty in coming to a decision on the question, especially after what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Sir Gabriel Goldney). His hon. Friend had said, and said with some truth, that it was hardly prudent to encourage the practice of taking up the time of the House of Commons with Private Bills in the interest of certain large industries, however large they might be. But the industry of agriculture was one which was in a somewhat different position from any other one. It was not concentrated in any way, and it was not represented by any organization before a Committee on Private Bills; and its case was not presented before a Committee, as it would be in the instance of any other industry connected with any large and important town which was likely to be affected. Therefore, he ventured to submit that it was only in the House itself, in a full Assembly, that the agricultural interest could have an opportunity of bringing their grievances forward. Nothing had yet been brought under the notice of the House, although he certainly hoped to hear some statement from the Chairman of the Committee to justify this extraordinary, and he thought he might say this extravagant rate charged for the conveyance of a class of goods which was essential, or considered to be essential, now to the successful carrying on of the operations of husbandry. Therefore, upon that ground alone, if there were no other, he thought those whom his hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Sir Gabriel Goldney) described as one two Gentlemen acting together were ustified in opposing the further progress of the Bill. The one or two Gentlemen who were described as acting together were one or two Gentlemen who spoke on behalf of some score of other Members of the House, and many hundreds of thousands outside the House. It was perfectly obvious that if the principle were adopted of making these differential rates in the Bills of small Railway Companies, the Railway interest, so prominently represented in the House, would not be long before it succeeded in extending the principle, and in get- ting the higher rates allowed to the larger and more important lines. He, therefore, thought it would be better, even as regarded the consumption of time, that this question should be settled in 1883, rather than left to be brought up in future years. It might be said that this was a small line, and that, after all, so far as the present Bill was concerned, it was not a matter of very much moment. Now, this line was to be worked, he believed, in concert with the Great Western Railway Company. At any rate, he gathered that from the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson). It did not, however, matter to his argument what Company would have to work the line. Through rates would have to be established on the small line, and the larger line which worked the traffic, and those through rates must be raised. Agreements would have to be entered into between the large parent Hue and the one which he might call the small child—namely, the Windsor, Ascot, and Aldershot line; and no hon. Member could be so blind as not to see that all these arrangements had been made between the larger Company and the smaller Company before the Bill went upstairs to the Committee, and that the promoters of these high rates upon small lines might be Directors and shareholders of the larger Railway Company. Therefore, it was not right that they should confine the question to a consideration of the interests of the small line, when they knew perfectly well that the proprietors of the larger Railway were interested. Unless some adequate and satisfactory explanation was given by the Chairman of the Committee to justify the establishment of these higher rates and this attention of classification, he should certainly feel bound to do as much as he was able to arrest the further progress of the Bill.
said, he had not hitherto taken any part whatever in the discussion on the merits of this question of the charges for agricultural manure; but he thought it right to do so now, because his Department was specially concerned in the Report which had been presented, in the first place, to the Select Committee to which it was referred. In the discussion which oc- curred some time ago the fact was mentioned that the Committee might pass rates that were injurious to the agricultural interest, because their attention was not drawn by any responsible body to the fact that certain Bills which had been introduced contained provisions authorizing higher rates and altering the classification of goods; and, under those circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth) proposed a Standing Order, requiring the Board of Trade to present a Report to the Select Committee upon such Bill; but the right hon. Gentleman did not cast upon the Board of Trade the duty of expressing any opinion upon the matter. That was left to the Committee themselves; and in the Reports which the Board of Trade made they had endeavoured strictly to confine themselves to the duty of calling attention to all the essential facts, leaving the Committee themselves to decide on the merits. In the Bill before the House to-day there were two questions raised—first, as to the merits of the particular proposal in the Bill, and whether the classification was fair; and, secondly, a question of general principle and some importance—namely, whether the House was going to undertake the duty of inquiring into the details of Bills which had been relegated to Committees upstairs and carefully considered by them, after hearing evidence that was not in the possession of the House? Further, whether the House, in all these cases, was to undertake to do over again the work prudently remitted to a Committee? It appeared to him that the greatest possible inconvenience would arise from the adoption of any principle such as that; and the strongest case should be shown, and the clearest proof should be given, that the Committee had failed in its duty, before the House undertook to review its decision. Now, what was the case in regard to the present Bill? The proposal of the noble Viscount (Viscount Folkestone) was this—that in the case of artificial manures of considerable value, a rate as low as it was possible to impose should be in all cases imposed. Now, it did appear to him a very strong proposition indeed. No doubt, originally, what Committees on Railway Bills had in view was the ordinary manure, which was supposed to be worth some- thing like 5s. a-ton, and which was carried with little difficulty and expense. No possible injury could arise to them from the wet; and they were in a position altogether different from that of artificial manures, which required great care in conducting the transit, and which were of considerable value. It therefore appeared to him that the Railway Companies, primâ facie, at all events, were entitled to have a higher sum for carrying them.
said, he thought that in what the right hon. Gentleman was pointing out to the House he was labouring under a misapprehension. He (Viscount Folkestone) did not propose that this Railway Company should be obliged to carry artificial manures at a rate which did not pay them. Far from that, what he desired was that the Committee should decide the matter, and inform the House if it was necessary for this Railway to charge a higher rate, so as to prevent a precedent being created in future. If the Committee found, on the evidence brought before them, that the Railway Company could not carry these artificial manures at a profit at the ordinary average rate of 1½d. per ton, then by all means let them say so, and inform the House of the fact.
said, that, no doubt, the Chairman of the Committee would inform the House of the reason which induced the Committee to come to their decision; but he had no doubt that all these facts were brought under the notice of the Committee, and that they had given their consideration to the question whether this Railway Company should be called upon to carry these artificial manures at the same rate as ordinary manures. The noble Viscount had spoken of the classification which had been adopted, and had pointed out in his statement that manures which were worth more than £5 or £6 a-ton were placed in the same category as sugar, which was worth £25 a-ton. Perhaps he might be allowed to point out that the classes in this Bill dealt with a considerable number of articles, and that they could not multiply indefinitely the number of classes. Therefore, they must include a number of things in the same class. If, according to the contention of the noble Viscount, an article worth £5 a-ton should not be carried at the same rate as an article worth £25 a-ton, or five times as much, how much more unfair would it be that an article worth £5 a-ton should be carried at the same rate as an article worth only 5s. a-ton, or 1–20th? The noble Viscount might just as well claim for the farmer and the farm labourer that they should all be carried at half-price. Was the agricultural interest to be favoured, to the injury of every other interest concerned, because it wanted to have lower rates? The only result would be one of two things—either the Railway Companies which adopted the proposal would be obliged to charge higher rates for other articles, and other industries would be mulcted in order to confer a benefit upon the agricultural interest by carrying artificial manures at an unfair advantage, or the Railway would not be made at all. Now, it was said that this line was required for the convenience of the district. It was, to a large extent, an agricultural line. It was in the interest of the farmers and agricultural interests generally that it should be made, and no opposition came from the district to this, proposal to charge higher rates for artificial manures. The objection came from persons who were not connected with the district at all, but who were altogether outside it, the immediate interest concerned being quite satisfied. Under all these circumstances, he thought the House, as a general principle, ought not to rashly interfere with the decisions of its Committees upstairs; and, keeping in view the merits of this particular case, he did not think the House would act wisely if they were to send back the Bill to a Committee which had not only once, but twice, already considered it. If the noble Viscount went to a division, he (Mr. Chamberlain) should vote against him.
said, he could assure the noble Viscount at starting that he was not desirous of entering into any controversy with him that might lead to unpleasant results; but, at the same time, he hoped the House would really weigh very carefully what it was asked to do on this occasion. If Committees on Private Bills were to be conducted at all, then, he said, the House was bound to support those Committees, unless very strong cause was shown that they had neglected their duty. On what was the opposition to the Bill they were asked to consider now based? It was a Bill for a short line of railway, connecting a particular local district with an important main line; it was a Bill promoted by a private Company. The Committee, when it came to the consideration of the Report of the Board of Trade, had, in his opinion, as Chairman of the Committee, two things to consider. One was the question of classification, and the other the question of the rates to be imposed. They went carefully through both of those questions, and heard the evidence laid before them with the greatest attention. It was shown, at all events to their satisfaction, that with regard to the question of classification on a great line of railway, where the work could be done at the terminus by a very different proportion of cost in reference to the carrying results of the line itself, compared with the cost of the same work on smaller and shorter lines, that the smaller line could not possibly carry remuneratively articles at the same rate they could be carried for by a larger line, which had a considerable number of miles on which to recover the amount of earnings. That being the case before them, they came unanimously to the conclusion that on the point of classification, which was one of the points referred to them by the Board of Trade, a difference ought to be allowed on an article which compared in regard to the amount of care in carriage very strongly, as had been shown by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, with other articles with which it was proposed to be classed. It did seem to the Committee that where agricultural manures, which were of a given value and required delicate handling on the journey, and were liable to deterioration by exposure to wet, had to be dealt with, they required more care on the part of the Railway Company than common manures, which might almost be left to take care of themselves. It appeared to the Committee that in such a case they were justified in not classing artificial manures with common manures and ordinary dung, especially when they heard from the Railway Company themselves that they could not carry them at the price remuneratively to themselves. They, therefore, considered that it would be unfair towards the Railway Company to class artificial manures in the lowest class in which common manures and dung were put. That was the reason they arrived at the first Report which they presented to the House. The House, in its wisdom, thought it well to send that Report back to the Committee for further consideration; and although the Committee had gone very carefully into the case on the evidence they had before them on the first occasion, he, as Chairman, and he thought the rest of his Colleagues upon the Committee, felt the Instruction of the House was an Instruction to them to go again over that evidence, and reduce the rates to the lowest possible amount. They went into the question of classification again, and he need not say that the same evidence which justified them in placing the two descriptions of articles in different classes in the first instance weighed strongly with him in their second Report, in which they maintained the classification, but reduced both of the rates. They reduced the rate on common manures to the lowest maximum rate charged by any line, and they reduced the rate on artificial manures to 2½d., making a difference of 1d. between common articles carried in ordinary trucks and artificial manures which required care and watching in their transit. The noble Viscount said that it was not right to classify artificial manures with such articles as silk, or sugar, or other more valuable articles. But in the second Report of the Committee they took artificial manures out of that class, and put them into the class next to the lowest class—the class in which pig iron, bar iron, iron castings not manufactured, and other articles of that heavy description were dealt with. They took them out of the class in which sugar, corn, grain, flour, &c. were included, and placed them in a class between those articles and the lowest class, showing, by that very fact, that they had gone carefully into the question of classification as well as into the question of rates. That having been the action of the Committee, and their second Report having been presented after a most careful investigation by the Committee, the House was now asked to send back that Report to the same Committee, with an Instruction to them again to reduce the rates. Now, he ventured to think it would be exceedingly difficult to get Members to give that attention to the Private Bill Business of the House which it undoubtedly deserved and required, if the House was on every occasion, at the instigation of any particular trade or interes—the did not care what it might be—which happened to command a certain amount of influence, or a certain number of votes, in the House to take into its own hands what were properly the duties of a Committee upstairs, and if the House was, on its mere ipse dixit, to reverse a decision of a Committee arrived at upon evidence which had been carefully considered. He did not for a moment say that he objected to the Bill being sent back to the Committee in the first instance. They might have made a mistake. It was evident they had not reduced the charges to so low a point as, on further consideration, they thought it possible to reduce them after the decision of the House; but after the second careful consideration given by the Committee to the whole of the case, and feeling that they had done everything they could to meet the views expressed by the House, it would be most unwise to refer the Bill back again a second time. He understood the noble Viscount to say he wished this step to be taken in order not to create a precedent in regard to future legislation for the larger lines of railway. He thought, if the House laid down a rule that their Committees were to go carefully into all these considerations, every Committee would be bound to look into all the details of any question submitted to them; and it must be borne in mind that these differential rates had already been allowed in regard to a number of other lines connected with the larger Railway Companies. Of course, they would hardly ever be able to show the same case which the shorter lines could show to justify them in asking for a higher rate of carriage. The noble Viscount had stated that there were considerably more than 2,000 Railway Bills—he thought the noble Viscount put the figure at 2,600—which had passed the House since 1857, and that it was only of late years that the classification had been altered. But the noble Viscount went back to 1857 when artificial manures were not so much a necessity to the agricultural community as they were at present. The alteration had been made more rapidly within the last few years, especially since 1879; and he did not think it could be found, in any instance since 1879, that the ori- ginal classification had been formed. But most of the lines to which the alteration applied were short lines; and, no doubt, that fact had pressed upon the Committees in coming to that conclusion. He did not think the question of the number of lines of railway which been sanctioned since 1857, and the small percentage which contained these altered charges, was a matter of much importance. The total number of Railway Acts would be much reduced when they took into consideration the fact that a number of these Bills were merely Bills containing continuing powers, and that they were not for new lines of railway, but for additional powers granted to existing Railway Companies. If that fact were inquired into, he thought the number of 2,600 would be very considerably reduced, and that it would be found that a very much smaller number of new lines had been sanctioned than the number of Railway Acts which had been passed by Parliament. Looking at all the circumstances which surrounded the case, he must say that he thought the wishes of the House had been carried out as carefully as possible, and that it would be a most dangerous precedent to enable any class of individuals in the House, who had an interest in the carriage of particular articles, to compel Select Committees of the House to perpetually undertake the reconsideration of decisions which they had carefully arrived at.
remarked, that if any justification was necessary—and he admitted that justification was necessary—for the course the opponents of the Bill had pursued, it was to be found in the fact that the Railway Companies were the aggressors in this case. They proposed to change the policy which had hitherto been pursued from the beginning of the history of railways. With a very few exceptions, artificial manures had always been classed along with all other kinds of manures. No doubt, a few exceptions had crept in through inadvertence on the part of the House of Commons; but out of the vast number of Railway Bills which had passed the House from 1857 up to 1869 there were only 17 exceptions. In 1869 artificial manures were used nearly as much as they were now; but Parliament adopted a certain arrangement for their classification, and from 1869 down to 1878 that classification was adhered to. In 1878 a few exceptions were made; and since then, from 1878 down to 1882, there were only 17 exceptions to the general rule. Therefore, in this instance, as far as classification was concerned, the Hallway Companies were the aggressors, in endeavouring to introduce a new line of policy. As one who was a Member of the Rates Committee of the House for two years, he was able to say that that Committee had brought before them very great anomalies which existed in the classification of goods; and if it were desirable for the Railway Company to change the classification in this particular instance, then, in the interest of the public, it was desirable that there should be a general re-classification altogether. He objected to the alteration of classification without those interested on the other side of the question being heard before the House. No doubt the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had the evidence of the Railway Companies; but did the Committee hear any evidence whatever on behalf of farmers, or those interested on the other side of the question? This whole subject was fought out by the traders and agricultural interest before a Committee of the House of Lords, in the case of the Great North of Scotland Railway Bill, at very great expense to the traders a year or two ago, and the House of Lords refused to adopt the proposal of the Railway Company on that occasion to put artificial manures in a separate classification. The question for the House to determine was, whether this proposal, which was altogether an exception, should now be adopted, and that without the whole question of classification being discussed, and those interested on the other side heard before a Committee of the House. In regard to the rates, they had heard a great deal about the difference between various kinds of manures, and the propriety of their being charged different rates. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had told the House accurately enough that a great variety of articles were entered under one classification, although they were of different value. The fact was that common sorts of manures were charged almost invariably below the maximum which the Railway Company could charge, because they knew very well that they would not get them to carry at all if they charged a higher rate; and the practice was to charge for common manures very considerably under the maximum; and, on the other hand, to charge for artificial manures the full maximum rate, so that a fair equality was established. Thirty-six Railway Bills had been introduced into the House this Session. In 18 of these Bills the promoters were satisfied with the old classification; and in the other 18 the promoters wished for a new classification in respect of artificial manures. Now, there was nothing special in those Bills to justify any departure from the ordinary rule of Parliament; and it seemed to him that the change depended very much more upon the Parliamentary Agent who prepared the Bill in fixing the classification than on the necessities of the case. Three or four of these Railway Companies had deferred to the opinion of the House, as expressed in previous divisions, and had gone back to the old classification; but two or three were endeavouring to establish this new policy of making a different classification. There was a great deal to be said in reference to what the right hon. Gentleman had stated as to short lines being unable to carry at the same rate as long lines; but provision was made for that in the present Bill by giving a higher maximum rate for common manures. If reference were made to the Report of the Board of Trade, it would be found that it had hitherto been the practice to make no distinction. The Board of Trade said—
In the present Bill it was proposed, in consequence of the shortness of the railway, to increase the rate for common manures by 50 per cent; and that was certainly a very large increase in respect of the shortness of the line. He was entirely at a loss to understand on what evidence the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade could say that the old rates were not remunerative; because the managers of every Railway Company examined before the Rates Committee told the Committee most distinctly that they did not know the cost to the Railway Company of the carriage of any kind of goods. That statement was repeated over and over again; and if that were so—and certainly it was upon the evidence before the Railway Rates Committee—he did not see how it was possible for the President of the Board of Trade to come to the conclusion that any particular rate was remunerative or unremunerative. He asserted most distinctly that they had it on evidence, in the statements of the Railway Companies themselves, given by their own managers, that they did not know what the cost of performing any particular service was. He did not desire, and would certainly strongly deprecate, the idea of all special rates being brought under the consideration of the House in passing Private Bills; but he contended that this was a question of policy— namely, whether, at the request of two or three Railway Companies, the House would deviate from the course it had adopted from the very commencement of railway legislation, without hearing the evidence of both parties interested in the question?"In the Railway Acts of former years, when guano and artificial manures were less important than they have since become, no distinction was made between those manures and ordinary manures, and both were placed in the lowest class of about 1d. per ton per mile. In subsequent years it has been the practice to grant more favourable terms."
said, he thought that the supporters of the Motion must show a very strong case to justify an application of this nature, and to convince the House of the desirability of referring back a Private Bill for a second time to a Select Committee which had had charge of it. He felt very strongly the inconvenience which would arise if that course were to be adopted with anything like frequency. At the same time, he thought the House was indebted to the noble Viscount the Member for North Wilts (Viscount Folkestone) for introducing this matter to their notice, and for having raised a debate upon it. It must be remembered that the first reference back to the Committee had already been justified, because the Committee, on reconsideration, had materially reduced the rates. The question now before the House was, whether there was sufficient reason to justify them in referring the matter back again? They had had the opportunity of hearing the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), who acted as Chairman of the Committee; and, therefore, the House was now, for the first time, put in possession of the reasons which had induced the Committee to arrive at their decision. He thought it was valuable that they had that fact on record in the debates of the House.
said, he wished to justify himself in the matter. When he brought up the Report it was moved that it be read by the Clerk at the Table; and after that had been done he made a speech to the House, stating many of the facts which formed the prominent reasons wiry the Committee had been induced to alter their original decision. Many of those facts he had only repeated to the House in the course of the debate that day.
remarked, that it was now before the House that the reason which had induced the Committee to act as they had done was that they were dealing, not with a large and important railway, but with a small line promoted under special circumstances, which, in their mind, fully justified the exceptional rates they had introduced into the Bill. There was only one remark that he would venture to make upon that point, and it was this—that the whole of the case of those who opposed these Bills could be placed in a nutshell. The interest they were endeavouring to protect had no locus standi to appear before a Railway Committee, and that was the sole point. If the interests of the agriculturists were attacked in regard to the carriage of manures, they had no locus standi to appear before the Committee and be heard. The Railway Rates Committee, which sat for upwards of two years, recommended that such a locus standi should be given, and that the farmers interested in these points should be entitled to appear before the Committee, and have their case heard by calling witnesses, who might be examined and cross-examined. If that were done, no doubt the House would hesitate to re-open a question when a Bill came down to them. The sole thing that could be urged on behalf of those who opposed the present Bill was this—that they had no opportunity of opposing the proposals contained in the Bill in the place where they ought to have been heard—namely, the Select Committee itself. The fear which the noble Viscount the Member for South Wilts (Viscount Folkestone) had was that, if these alterations in classification were permitted to take place in these Bills, they would be immediately extended to all the great lines of railway. He thought that fear might now be said to be without foundation; because the House was now in possession of the reasons which had alone induced the Committee to consent to this change of classification being introduced. Under these circumstances, he would put it to the noble Viscount whether he thought it would be wise to trouble the House with a division upon the matter? They had had a full discussion, and the noble Viscount had had an opportunity of stating his case completely; and he thought that everyone who had heard the noble Viscount would feel satisfied that he acted, not from any private feeling of opposition to the Bill, or to this Railway Company, but that he had taken the case up solely upon grounds of public interest, which, in his opinion, required that the question should be brought before the House. After the House had had an opportunity of hearing all that had been said, he trusted the noble Viscount would be satisfied with the good work he had done, and would not put hon. Members to the necessity of dividing.
said, that after the appeal of his hon. Friend above the Gangway (Mr. R. H. Paget), he should like, with the permission of the House, to be allowed to withdraw his Amendment. ["No!"] He had no wish to go to a division; but, at the same time, he could not regret having brought the matter before the House. He thought they had had a most admirable discussion; but he could not insist upon asking the House to recommit the Bill again to the Committee to which it had already been committed before. Indeed, that was not his object in having brought on the discussion.
confessed that he was unable to see why the noble Viscount should propose a Motion of this kind if he did not intend to go on with it.
said, he thought the noble Viscount was well advised in deferring to the general wish of the House, and in yielding to the request made to him by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. R. H. Paget). He (Mr. Chamberlain) would make a further appeal to him. For some reason or other, he found that the noble vis- count had on the Notice Paper for tomorrow a Motion in regard to two other Bills in the same terms as that which he had introduced that day. It was undesirable that the matter should be continually raised, seeing that it was precisely the same question; and he thought the House ought to understand, if the Motion were now withdrawn by leave of the House, that the whole matter was finally settled as far as the noble Viscount was concerned, and that his objection to the other Bills would not be pressed.
said, that, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman, he would give the matter his fullest consideration; and, no doubt, before the end of the Sitting it would be in his power to state what action he intended to take. He must have a short time for considering what that action ought to be.
said, he wished to make an appeal to the House and to his noble Friend (Viscount Folkestone). He thought the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had placed the matter very fairly before the House. He felt certain that the House did not wish to force the noble Viscount to go to a division. He imagined the House would be generous enough to allow the noble Viscount to withdraw his Motion; and when he had considered the question fairly, he trusted the noble Viscount would intimate that it was not his intention to proceed with his opposition to the other Bills.
said, he was particularly interested in the Bill coming on to-morrow, having been Chairman of the Committee to which it was referred. He therefore wished to have an assurance from the noble Viscount that he did not intend to raise all this discussion over again, having taken the opinion of the House that day upon a question which was precisely similar.
remarked, that he would make this suggestion to his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Sir Lyon Playfair) and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade—that he should consult with them privately on the matter.
said, he wished to point out to the noble Viscount that no object could be gained by a further discussion. The House, therefore, ought to know at once whether it was the intention of the noble Viscount to re-open the matter again to-morrow, or upon any other day, the matter itself having already been decided by the discussion which had taken place, and the points being exactly the same.
remarked, that if it were the same point he would not proceed with his opposition to the other Bills; but it might turn out that the point was not the same.
said, there was one other matter which it was important to consider. Hon. Members who had been present during the debate that day, and had heard the whole of the discussion, and who might wish to take part in a decision upon it, might not be present to-morrow.
Question, "That the words 'now considered' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill considered; to be read the third time.