House of Lords Debate, 25 July 1834
Lord Wharncliffe moved the second reading of the Great Western Railway Bill.
The Earl of Cadogan rose to oppose the Motion. He observed, that the road front Windsor to London was the first which had been projected through this part of the country, and this road, which on that account deserved their Lordships’ favour, would be materially affected, and its projectors injured by this Bill. There were roads extending along different parts of this line, which only required to be connected together in order to render them perfect. That object might be effected at less expense, and with greater advantage, than the road which was called by the high-sounding appellation of the great Western Railway. This project had been so altered in the Committee in the Commons, that it was no longer capable of performing the promise at first held out, but would, at least at the London end, leave the parties at a distance of three or four miles from London, to bring their goods hither how they could. The road was now to terminate at Brompton, which would have the effect he had stated. This was his first objection. His next objection was, that the line now contemplated was not a complete line, as the road came from Bristol to Bath, but left goods between Bath and Reading to be brought by the Kennet and Avon Canal Company, and from Reading to Brompton by the Rail-road. The third objection he had was, that the number of the assents was not so great, nor was their property so considerable, as that of the dissents; and the fourth objection was, that their Lordships had already given their assent to the London and Southampton Railway Bill, which would be rendered almost good for nothing, for at least a considerable part of the distance, if this Bill should be carried. Under these circumstances he should move, “That the Bill be read a second time this day six Months.”
Lord Wharncliffe hoped that their Lordships would read this Bill a second time, and allow the case of the promoters of the Bill to be put forward in the Committee. The noble Earl opposite had started four objections to the Bill. The first was one which neither the noble Earl nor a noble 461 Marquess who was in the same situation with him, should ever have thought of putting forward. It related to the terminus of the road at London. The noble Earl objected that the road would not come into London, but would leave the goods to be brought hither from Brompton. Why, the fact was, that the promoters of the Bill were prevented from bringing the road to London by the noble Earl, through whose estates at Chelsea it would have passed, but who would not consent to allow it to do so; otherwise it would have been carried, as at first intended, to Southwark-bridge. But surely after preventing it coming to London, the noble Earl ought not to turn round and object to the whole measure, because it did not come here. The second objection was the strongest; but then there was a good canal from Bath to Reading, and at least the parties were entitled to be heard against this objection, and he for one was prepared to say, that if they did not make the communication complete, he should not be prepared to give his assent to the measure. As to the third objection, he declared, that the assents exceeded the dissents, both in their numbers, and in the value of their property. The noble Earl and he were, therefore, at issue on that point, and he asked for the Committee to inquire into the difference. As to the last point, he declared, that he did not believe the scheme of the Southampton Railway Bill would ever be put in execution; but whether it were or not, he did not believe that that was a reason why the Kennet and Avon Canal people should be disappointed in their expectations of opening a direct communication between Bristol and London. It was not usual, in matters of this kind, to refuse a second reading to a Bill, and he hoped that the usual custom would not now be departed from. The line of the proposed rail-way was objected to by some, and it was said, that a better line could be found; but that line would have to pass through the long walk at Windsor, and he for one would never consent to spoil in that manner the finest domain in the kingdom. As to the line ending at Brompton, he repeated, that it was not the fault of the projectors that that terminus had been adopted; and, if the noble Earl would consent to the line of road passing through his estate at Chelsea; the projectors would make good that part of their original plan.
The Earl of Cadogan thought, that the noble Lord opposite had pressed him unfairly on the point last referred to. He had, like other men, resisted a proceeding of one of the details of the Bill, that would materially injure his property; but he denied, that his opposition to the Bill itself arose out of any but public grounds. The question now put to him had been so pressed upon him by the projectors of the rail-road, that he had at last been obliged to say, that he should consider the question in future as an insult, and to desire that it might not be repeated. That part of the matter he was ready to answer as a private individual; but as to the rest, his conduct in this, as on other occasions, was decided by a consideration of what seemed to him the balance of public good, as against injury to private individuals, and in this case he did not think the balance in favour of the Bill.
Lord Teynham supported the Bill, which he thought would be a public benefit.
The Duke of Cumberland said, that from their having sat as many as six weeks on another measure the same description, and from the length of time this Bill had been passing the other House, he was sure it was impossible that there would be time enough for them to get through with the Bill in what remained of the present Session. It appeared to him, therefore, that it would he deluding and cheating the parties interested, to lead them to a belief that, even if they should be able to prove their case, it would, under the existing circumstances, avail them any thing.
Lord Ellenborough was inclined to think, that, if the Bill had occupied so much time already, the parties must have exhausted what they had to say on the subject. He must declare, that it appeared to him a little hard on the parties who had been at the trouble and expense of promoting the Bill through the other House of Parliament, that their Lordships, on its getting into this House, should cut the neck of it at once. The Bill was a very important one to many parts of the country; if passed, it would be the means ultimately of opening a communication between London and Bristol, and consequently with the south of Ireland. He trusted their Lordships would consent to go into a Committee on the Bill.
The Earl of Radnor must confess, that he, for one, was inclined to cut the neck of the Bill, for the sake of the parties themselves. The Bill was not what it pretended to be. It professed to be a measure for the formation of a great Western Railroad, but it was no such thing. It was in fact a measure for the formation of a rail-road from London to Reading, and then (there being an intermediate line of considerable distance of the Kennet and Avon canal) from Bath to Bristol.
The Duke of Buckingham said, that the noble Lord was mistaken in saying, that the Bill appeared under false colours. In the preamble, it was distinctly stated, that the Bill was for the formation of a rail-road from London to Reading, and from Bath to Bristol. He thought, that such a rail-road would be a great public convenience.
The Marquess of Londonderry thought their Lordships had better allow the Bill to be read a second time, and leave the parties to take their chance of its being passed through the Committee.
Their Lordships divided on the question, that the Bill be read a second time:
Contents 30; Not-contents 47—Majority 17.
The Duke of Cumberland begged to be understood as not having declared himself contrary to the Bill, having voted against it solely because it had been delayed to so late a period of the Session.
Lord Wharncliffe said, he feared that the determination to which the House had come would occasion great discontent among the people, which would be increased by the reason now given for the determination. What did that determination hold out, but that if parties could by any means, no matter how vexatious, delay the progress of a Bill, this House would not entertain any inquiry into the merits of a measure so delayed at an advanced period of the Session? It would lessen the confidence of the people in the justice of the House.
The Earl of Eldon begged to tell the noble Lord, that he had given his vote on conscientious grounds, and he was not to be told that such a vote would be injurious to their Lordships in the estimation of the people.
Lord Wharncliffe said, he did not charge any of their Lordships with not having given a conscientious vote on this occasion. He claimed for himself that he had done so; for though he advocated this Bill, he had no private interest in it, and he believed that their Lordships’ votes had been equally conscientious. At the same time he must declare, that be considered their decision on the question could not prove a good precedent. It would have the effect of showing that parties might be defeated by a pertinacious opposition, involving a loss of time.
The Duke of Cumberland said, that the effect of their Lordships’ decision would be to give a lesson on the expediency of forwarding Bills, instead of procrastinating them.
The Earl of Radnor said, that he performed his duty conscientiously, trusting to Providence for the consequences, and he thought he ought not to be reproached with his vote.
The Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, was agreed to.
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