§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, he rose to move the second reading of this Bill. The select Committee which sat last Session to consider the general question of the rating of public property had stated in their report with reference to the peculiar case of the Liverpool Docks Trust Property, that its exemption from rating depended on the special provisions of a local Act, and on the construction which had been put thereon by the Court of Queen's Bench, independently of the general law upon the subject; and that therefore if there was an injustice in that particular case it should be dealt with by a private Bill.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
said, he should move as an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. Its object was to make the docks liable to pay rates from which they were at present exempt. There was no body of shareholders or other persons having a beneficial interest in the funds derived from these docks, but all those funds were applied solely to defray the cost of maintaining the docks, and if after that there was a surplus of income the charges for the admission of ships were to be lowered. The effect of the Bill would thus he to impose on the merchants, manufacturers, and shipowners interested in the trade of the port of Liverpool, the payment of a large sum, to the advantage of the rate-payers of that place. There was no special reason why these docks, any more than others, should be rated, and within the last year £1,500,000 had been paid by the dock trustees, virtually to the corporation of Liverpool.
§ MR. TURNER
seconded the Amendment.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ MR. J. C. EWART
said, he should support the Bill. The Birkenhead Docks were rated, and the dock warehouses of Liverpool were rated, though no one had a beneficial interest in them. By a late decision of Lord Campbell's, the Tyne Docks were also rated. It was desirable, in his opinion, to let this case go before a Committee up stairs.
§ MR. SAMUELSON
said, he also was disposed to support the Bill; there was a beneficial occupancy, if not a beneficial ownership, in the Liverpool Docks; they were the only docks in the kingdom exempt from poor rate, and he did not see why that exemption should not be removed.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, that having in the Select Committee devoted much toil to a thorough investigation of the Mersey Docks question, he apprehended the state of the matter to be this—the Court of Queen's Bench, by a decision of Lord Tenterden's, had declared that there was no beneficial interest in the dock trustees, rendering them, as the law now stood, liable to the rate. If that were a false interpretation of the law, the remedy was to appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench, and try whether Lord Chief Justice Campbell was of the same opinion. But a Bill was now introduced by the Government to alter the general law, and render trust property liable to rating. If that alteration of the general law were made, the special question as to whether these particular docks were not exempt under the local Act might be afterwards raised; but until then he thought it would be a hard and extreme measure to charge the Liverpool Docks with a liability which the general law did not impose; and he therefore thought that the Bill should be withdrawn.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that in the unfortunate absence of his right hon. Friend the late President of the Board of Trade, it fell to him to express what he believed had been the views of his right hon. Friend upon the subject. The Government entirely coincided with the views just expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. The general question of the exemption of property of this description from rating should be considered by the House in connection with the Bill which had been introduced by his right hon. Friend the President of the Poor-law Board. It would then be a further question, with regard to the Liverpool Docks, whether, in consideration of the great expenditure which had been incurred upon them, and with which the trade of the country was burthened, they should not be allowed some exemption; but it would be unjust to prejudge this special case, in which the objections to making the property liable were stronger than elsewhere, before the general question had been disposed of.
§ MR. TURNER
said, he wished to re- 1053 mind the House of the long and painful contest between Manchester with the manufacturing districts of the north of England on the one side, and the Liverpool Corporation on the other, about the town dues, which the Corporation had levied upon the trade and shipping of the port, and had applied to the benefit of the ratepayers of the town of Liverpool. That question had finally been settled by the grant of £1,500,000 of property to the corporation of Liverpool, instead of those town dues; yet in the following year the Corporation introduced a Bill to reimpose those dues in the shape of dock rating. There was already a debt of £6,500,000 on the docks of Liverpool, in addition to what was provided as compensation for the town dues, and to complete the docks £5,000,000 more would have to be expended, so that the bondholders might have reason to look to the credit of the dock trustees. They already paid for the lighting of their docks and of the streets adjoining; they paid a large sum for their own police; and they ought not to be called upon to pay one third of the rates of the town of Liverpool in addition to their present charges.
§ MR. HORSFALL
, in reply said, that it was an utter fallacy to represent that the Liverpool Corporation had received £1,500,000 of property from the dock estate; the fact being that the dock estate had received an advantage to the amount of £3,000,000. If the Bill were to be rejected, be did not see how the House could afterwards sanction any general measure for rating similar property.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived. Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.