HC Deb 26 June 1855 vol 139 cc154-7

On consideration of the Report,


said, he wished to move as an Amendment the insertion of the words "such dues and such right," to prevent ambiguity in a clause which had been inserted, in order to preclude the question of the Liverpool town dues from being affected by the Bill. A Commission had been engaged in inquiring into the local dues levied upon ships and goods in various parts of England; and doubtless it was the intention of Parliament to legislate on the subject. The Board of Trade had likewise recommended that, in any Bill of this kind, for the amalgamation of the Liverpool and Birkenhead Docks, an object no doubt of great public utility, care should be taken that Parliament should not be fettered in dealing freely with any dues which were now levied, inasmuch as those dues would become security for the money to be raised under the Bill. The Select Committee upon the Bill, in their Report, stated that the question of the Liverpool town dues had only come incidentally before them, as a portion of the existing revenues of the corporation. The Board of Trade sent down a clause, which they advised to be inserted, "that nothing contained or to be done under the provisions of this Act shall be held to prevent any dues now forming part of the borough fund being dealt with by Parliament." The Committee, however, instead of accepting that clause, inserted another, which the counsel for the Liverpool corporation had so drawn up as if what it was sought to guarantee were the power of the courts of law to judge of the title of the Liverpool corporation to these dues. Now, that was not the real issue; and as great public interests were involved, he wished to move this Amendment to give the clause the effect which was intended.


said, that as Chairman of the Committee, he hoped the House would not allow any alteration to be made which might hazard the passing of this most important Bill. There had been two Bills introduced, the Birkenhead Docks Bill and the Liverpool Docks Bill; the former of which involved works on the Birkenhead side of the river, at an expense of 1,500,000l.; and the latter Bill to enlarge the dock accommodation on the Liverpool side of the river, the expense of which: would be not less than 3,500,000l. It was evident that this immense extension on the Liverpool side was caused only by the jealousy which had been excited by the rising prosperity of Birkenhead. Under these circumstances, the Commitee took the unusual step of recommending the parties, instead of spending their money in a fruitless contest, to amalgamate the property on both sides of the river, and put the docks on the Birkenhead side and the Liverpool docks together under one public trust, elected by a public constituency, and responsible for the good management of the whole. The result of that arrangement was, that the expenditure to be authorised by the Liverpool Docks Bill was reduced to 800,000l. It would, therefore, be much to be regretted, if the House should, upon any point of secondary importance, prevent the conclusion of an arrangement which was equally calculated to promote the prosperity of Liverpool, and of the great manufacturing district of which it was the outport.


said, he should support the Amendment, and he would at the same time remind the House, that the question involved amounted to no less than a matter of 150,000l, a year, raised by the corporation of Liverpool upon goods which belonged not only to Manchester, but to the whole manufacturing district of the north of England, and was expended for municipal purposes in the town.


said, if the clause of the Bill fully carried out the views of the Committee, and also the wishes of the Board of Trade, he would support it; but believing that the corporation of Liverpool had out-generaled both the Board of Trade and the Committee, he considered it his duty, on the part of the public, to see that the intentions of the Board of Trade were fully carried out, and that without any ambiguity of expression; therefore he should support the Amendment. He believed the Committee were unanimous in respect to this question. The real object which the Board of Trade had, was to Secure the right of Parliament hereafter to deal with the town dues which the Corporation of Liverpool now possessed. The clause in the Bill created an ambiguity and doubt as to the future appropriation of these town dues, and the amended clause no proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) would obviate that ambiguity and protect the public rights.


said, he regretted the use by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken of the expression that the promoters of the Bill had out-generaled the Board of Trade. The hon. Gentleman had stated that there was no Opposition in the Committee, but there was a division in the Committee on this very question, and he trusted that the House would support the decision of the Committee. The promoters of this Bill never would have: gone into this undertaking if they had supposed that this clause would be altered in the way proposed in the Amendment.


said, he thought that if they did hot agree to the Amendment, parties who advanced their money might, when Parliament came to deal with the question of town dues, say that they had been unfairly dealt with.


said, he very much regretted that the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) had thought it necessary to move this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman forgot that the Bill was before the Committee three months, and it was after full consideration that they adopted the clause. The clause was of that importance, that the promoters were advised that if the Amendment were carried it would be fatal to the Bill. [Mr. M, GIBSON: Why?] Because they felt that if it were carried, they must withdraw the Bill. [Mr. M. GIBSON: Why?] Because it would prejudice the rights of the corporation of Liverpool. The object of the Committee was to insert a clause which should not prejudge the rights of the corporation, and he therefore asked the House to support the clause which the Committee had framed for that Object.


said, he was responsible for the clause as it stood. They altered the phrase, "the right of the corporation;" to "any right of the corporation," in order not to prejudice the question. There was no difference of opinion in the Committee as to the principle of the Bill.


said, he had listened with great interest to this debate, and it appeared to him there was one clear meaning that pervaded the House and the Committee—namely, that this Bill should stand on its own merits, to effect its own objects, and that there should be nothing in the Bill that might be pleaded in bar hereafter to any public measure that might be introduced in conformity with the Report of the Commission on the table. Now, they were not a good tribunal for the exact legal definition of different words, and he acknowledged for himself that he felt great difficulty in appreciating the precise difference of the meaning of these two words; but he did not expect, if the House passed this clause as it stood—he did not believe that at a future period his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) would get up in the House of Commons and say, the clause had an effect which they did not intend. He believed that when a measure affecting this subject was brought forward in the House of Commons that measure would receive a full and dispassionate consideration, and that they would utterly ignore the fact that this clause had been inserted in a private Bill. He should be sorry that they should prejudice the understanding by a division, and therefore he thought that his right hon. Friend would do well to accept the clause without a division.


If that is the understanding clearly, that we all mean the same, that Parliament does not mean to prejudice the question of these dues, I will not divide the House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

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