§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. BRADY
moved an Amendment that the Douse do go into Committee on the Bill on that day three months. He did so because ho was convinced that the Bill proposed to inflict great injustice upon large districts of the Metropolis. He did not wish to reflect upon the Commissioners of Sewers, for they were now happily a defunct body; but they had borrowed a sum of no less than £200,000 for the purpose of carrying out the drainage of the Metropolis. The whole, or the greater part of this sum, had been expended on the districts bordering the river—in Camber-well the sum expended was no more than £350, and in Wandsworth not a single farthing. Yet now this Bill proposed that these outlying districts should repay a large portion of the money that had been borrowed by the extinct Commissioners. But was it right and fair that these parishes should be mulcted to pay money that had not been expended for their benefit, and for works which could do them no possible good, while at the same time they were required to carry on their own works at their own expense? The Bill, moreover, gave the most arbitrary powers to the Board of Works—powers which were wholly unconstitutional, and which might be exercised to the injury of property in the Metropolis. The powers which the Bill proposed to give to auditors were of a most astounding character, and such as ought not to be conferred on any unpaid officers who were not responsible. A power, for instance, was given to the Board of Works to assess parishes; and if the authorities of the parish did not make a rate 451 to raise that assessment, the Board had the power of making a rate themselves and of enforcing it by distress warrant. The Board of Works had also power to institute legal proceedings against parishes which objected to conform to their arbitrary behests, and not only to oblige them to pay the rates imposed on them, but also the costs and expenses of the legal proceedings. There was one clause in the Bill which he would call the confiscation Clause. It proposed to confer a power on the Board of Works of a most outrageous and unconstitutional character, inasmuch as it would enable them to effect the forcible removal of any houses which did not come within the circle of their approval. He knew that the House was always, and properly, reluctant to override what had been done by a Committee of the House; but he thought that the present was an exceptional case, and that there was quite sufficient to induce the House to take the course which he by his Amendment proposed.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
seconded the Amendment. The House had just decided that a Bill brought in by a private Member containing only four clauses and recommended by a Committee and assented to by Her Majesty's Government (the Votes for Disqualified Candidates Bill) ought not to be considered at this late period of the Session. It would, therefore, be inconsistent to go into the consideration of the present Bill, which was also brought in by a private Member, but contained no less than one hundred clauses.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee.
said, he did not wish to say one word upon the general merits of the Bill; it partook of the nature of a private Bill, dealt with a very difficult and complicated subject, and had excited great difference of opinion. It was not likely that the House of Lords would look at such a measure at this period of the Session. He observed that there were no fewer than twelve Amendments upon the paper, each of which would probably require a whole day to itself, and all of which had, perhaps, been rejected by the Select Committee. It would he a mere waste of time to proceed further with the Bill, with the perfect certainty that it could not be entertained by the. other House this Session.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, the Bill gave extraordinary powers to the Board of Works, at whose instigation it had been brought forward, and sufficient time had not been allowed for its consideration by the different parishes. He would ask the Home Secretary whether if the Bill passed this House there was any chance of its being passed by the other House?
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, he did not see any resemblance between the present measure and that which the House had just postponed. The Votes for Disqualified Candidates Bill was admitted not to be urgent, and might he delayed without harm until next Session; but the present measure, which was substantially a private Bill, bad been fourteen days before a Select Committee, great expense had been incurred both by the promoters and the opponents; and if the House refused to proceed with it, the whole of that labour and expense would be thrown away. Unless a ease of necessity existed, the House should not refuse to go into Committee upon the Bill. Some Gentlemen had talked as if the rule of the Lords was inflexible. To what extent it could be shown that the Bill was an urgent one, or whether the House of Lords, in applying what he must call an extremely inconvenient rule, would take into consideration the expenses which had been incurred, he could not pretend to say; but if a case of urgency could be made out for the Bill, and if, as he believed, there was no material opposition to a large number of the clauses, be saw no reason why the House should not agree to the Motion for going into Committee. The Amendments, to which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Oxfordshire had referred, consisted of new clauses, which formed no part of the Bill itself, and which might be negatived. If the promoters, by omitting a few clauses, and modifying others, could in a moderate time induce the House to pass the Bill, he thought it would be worth their while to go into Committee at once. The House was now asked to postpone everything; but he doubted whether they would have more time to discuss this Bill next Session than they had now.
§ MR. TITE
said, he introduced this Bill at the end of last Session, with the distinct purpose that it should be referred to every vestry in the Metropolitan district. It was so referred; the vestries, amounting to thirty-seven, forwarded to the Board of 453 Works their objections, amendments, and suggestions; and that body, after long discussion, agreed to the Bill in the shape in which it was sent to the Select Committee. It was before the Committee fourteen days, and thirty counsel were employed upon it. For some time it was entirely unopposed; and even now there was no great opposition to the Bill as it stood. The matter pressed extremely. Parliament had empowered the Board of Works to make seventy miles of sewers for the general drainage of the Metropolis, and to raise and spend £3,000,000. The Board was raising £300,000 a year; it was under contracts to the amount of £1,000,000; and, with the assistance of the Legislature, it would soon be able to complete the whole of the great work intrusted to it. But there were some minute difficulties in the way, which the present Bill proposed to remove. The Board of Works required no arbitrary powers; they wished only for the removal of obstacles which prevented the completion of a great work. He trusted the House of Lords would relax their rule in favour of a measure of great public importance.
§ MR. LIDDELL
suggested that the promoters of the Bill should ascertain, as a matter of fact, whether the Lords would entertain the Bill before the Commons were asked to proceed further with it.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
denied the assertion of the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Brady) that the Bill would inflict any injustice upon the outlying districts of the Metropolis. All the Metropolitan parishes had been benefited by the expenditure of the Commissioners of Sewers; and it was only fair that they should contribute towards it. The Bill simply left the law in its present state. He thought it very desirable that they should proceed with the Bill.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
thought, injustice to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite), who had taken great trouble with this measure, that they should go into Committee. There were clauses in the Bill to which he had serious objection; but if the hon. Member for Bath would consent to modify these clauses, he thought they were bound to go into Committee and endeavour to pass the measure, which was absolutely necessary for the prosecution of works that had already been undertaken. It was not becoming that that House should refuse to proceed with a measure because the Lords might refuse to entertain it.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he had at first been 454 disposed to vote in favour of the Amendment; but after hearing the statement of the hon. Member for Bath, he must recommend the House to consider the Bill in Committee.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Quession.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 13: Majority 58.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee; Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.
§ Clause 1 (Debt in respect of Counters Creek Works, and Part of Debt in respect of Ravenshourne Works, redistributed and made payable out of Moneys borrowed on the Security of the Main Drainage Rate).
§ After some discussion, Motion withdrawn, and clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 to 45 were also agreed to.
§ Clause 46 (Communications with Main Sewers).
§ MR. GRANT DUFF
said, the House was too thin to discuss a measure of so much importance, and, therefore, moved that the Chairman report progress.
§ Motion negatived. Clause added.
§ Clauses 47 to 107 agreed to.
moved a clause providing that the Board of Works should not charge Chiswick to the extent of more than £1,251 7s. 6d., instead of £5,344 10s. 5d., at present charged and apportioned against that parish.
§ Clause (Metropolitan Board of Works not to charge Chiswick beyond £1,251 7s. 6d)
§ Brought up, and read 1°.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause ho now read a second time."
§ MR. FREDERICK PEEL
did not deny that a hardship was inflicted upon Chiswick, as well as upon other parishes, by the proposed apportionment; but if some parishes were relieved, others must be proportionately burdened. The Select Committee, after fully investigating this question, pronounced unanimously against the new principle of parochial distribution, and against the clause now moved. They thus left the law precisely as it stood before; for what was now asked was that the assessment under the old system should be altered, although it was distinctly ratified by the Act of 1855.
MR. LEVESON GOWER
said, that a 455 gross injustice, almost amounting to confiscation, would be inflicted upon the parishioners of Chiswick if this clause were rejected. The money they were now called upon to pay was for works which had not given them any direct or indirect benefit whatever. Chiswick had not had a fair opportunity of being heard before the Committee. With regard to the Bill, there had been a strong impression out of doors that it would not be proceeded with, and many hon. Members were accordingly absent who would otherwise have been most anxious to take part in the proceedings. To go on with the Bill now would be a mere waste of time. Something had been said about it being referred to a Select Committee of the other House when it was sent up there; but at this period of the Session was there the most remote chance of the appointment of any such Committee? At all events, if the House resolved to proceed with the measure, they ought to perform a manifest act of justice towards Chiswick by inserting this clause.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, that his difficulty in assenting to this clause was, that Chiswick did not stand alone, and that if this clause were agreed to the Committee would have no option but to reinsert the clauses in favour of other parishes which had been rejected by the Select Committee, after mature investigation of all the circumstances connected with the history of the Metropolitan sewage. The question had been fully discussed by the Select Committee, and, under the circumstances, he thought the House had no option but to abide by their decision.
§ MR. BRADY
thought it a singular argument to lay down, that because an equal injustice had been done to other parishes that sustained by Chiswick should not be redressed. It must be remembered that the parishes whose claims had been so summarily rejected by the Select Committee had not been permitted the opportunity of being heard.
§ MR. H. B. SHERIDAN
was surprised that a Bill of such importance had pass ed through Committee so quietly. On the part of the parishioners of Fulham he protested against their being called upon to pay debts to which they had been no parties whatever, and for which they had received no return. He moved that the Chairman do leave the Chair, not because he opposed the clause proposed, but with a view to prevent further discussion on this measure.
said, that this was what called a hybrid measure, being of neither an exclusively private nor public character. Now, in the case of private Bills, it would be necessary that any new clause proposed should have been approved by the Select Committee; and he wished to ask the Chairman whether the same precautions were not necessary in regard to Bills of this nature.
said, the law and practice of the House with respect to hybrid Bills was so confused and undefined that he should feel it difficult to lay down any rule on the subject. It did appear inconsistent that clauses should be proposed in a general Committee of the House upon a Bill the clauses of which had undergone investigation before a Select Committee. As this, however, had been introduced as a public Bill, he could not say that such a course was inadmissible.
§ MR. AYRTON
hoped that the whole proceedings of the Select Committee to which the Bill had been referred would not be reversed upon one case of alleged hardship, such as that now brought under their notice. It was impossible to consider the clause proposed without recommitting the Bill, and going over the whole investigation again. Chiswick would derive immense advantage from the operations of the Board of Works, and it ought to be thankful that it had such a body to attend to its interests.
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
supported the clause, not only in the interests of Chiswick, but of the whole Metropolis. He was quite certain that if the House generally had known that a Bill of this important character was coining on, affecting the vital interests of the Metropolis, there would have been a much fuller attendance. The measure was fraught with injustice to many parts of London, and other cases of hardship besides that of Chiswick might have been brought forward if fuller time had been given. He should therefore support the Motion to report progress.
§ MR. HUBBARD
also thought that time should be given to consider what was the true character of the Bill. As an instance of the injustice done by it he might cite the case of the great docks. The cost of drainage of the parishes in which they were situated was a mere trifle, hut that source of expense would now be multiplied twofold, fourfold, nay, tenfold. Why should those properties be taxed for the advantage of districts lying outside their barriers?
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
did not know what length of time for the consideration of a Bill would satisfy some hon. Members. This measure had been before the House for a whole Session; it had been referred to a Select Committee, where it had undergone the most deliberate investigation, and the Committee decided on rejecting the principle contained in these clauses. If the Bill were passed in its present shape, it would pass without prejudice, and the hon. Member's proposal might be renewed in another Session. But the Motion that the Chairman do leave the chair would defeat the whole Bill, merely because it did not contain certain clauses which some hon. Members thought it ought to have. In his opinion that would be very unreasonable. He did not pretend that he had gone into the details of the measure. He founded his judgment upon the decision of the Committee, which was the usual course adopted by the House with respect to difficult and intricate questions of this sort. If the House at large attempted to decide such questions, not 365 days and 365 nights would suffice to get through the business; but if any Gentleman thought that this debt should be repartitioned among the various parishes they might re vive the question next year.
§ MR. BRADY
said, he should give the Bill all the opposition in his power, knowing perfectly well that it would perpetrate a grievous wrong upon a large portion of the Metropolis. Then again, as the Chairman had given no decision upon the point referred to him, they were legislating in the dark, without knowing whether they had power to discuss these clauses or not.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
said, that if the Bill were even defeated, Chiswick and other parishes would stand in no better position. The Metropolitan Board in 1855 decided the ratio in which these parishes should be taxed, and if the Bill passed it would not make the slightest difference in the proportion which they had to contribute. With regard to the docks, he was told that they did more to pollute the Thames than any manufactory on its banks. In the docks the water was cooped up, and after receiving all sorts of abominations was discharged into the river to make that worse which was bad enough before. Chiswick itself would derive great benefit if the Thames were made a pellucid stream. It was monstrous to say that any injustice had been done to any parish through not being heard before the Committee.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he should support the Motion that (he Chairman do leave the chair, because he thought the Bill involved an important question which a Committee of that House was not in a position to decide. An enormous taxing power would be conferred by the Biil, and at this late period of the Session he did not think such a measure could be properly dealt with. The 6th Clause gave the Metropolitan Board of Works power to assess in any part of the Metropolis such sums as in its judgment it should think fit. he admitted that the Act of 1855 required amendment; but, looking at the period of the Session, he did not think this was the time to deal with a Bill containing upwards of 100 clauses. He should, therefore, support the Motion of the hon. Member for Dudley, in order that the subject might be properly considered in the next Session of Parliament.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, he thought. nothing could be more irregular than the course which was now taken. The hon. Member (Sir Henry Willoughby) supported the Motion that the Chairman do leave the chair, upon the question of an additional Clause, and gave as a reason for supporting that Motion that he objected to the 6th clause, which had already been agreed to. He (Sir George Lewis) was informed that, substantially, that 6th clause was in the existing Act. The Metropolitan Board of Works had submitted a long Bill to the consideration of a Select Committee. There were in that Bill some clauses referring to a repartition of an existing debt, which had been contracted under the powers of the present Act. The question was argued before the Committee, who did not think a repartition was desirable. That was no reason for rejecting a Bill which contained many clauses not touching that question in any way. If this Bill were thrown out, the Metropolitan Board of Works would come next Session with a Bill substantially the same, but would probably refrain from introducing those clauses; so that even if hon. Gentlemen should succeed in this most unusual proceeding it was doubtful whether they would obtain the object they had in view.
§ MR. H. B. SHERIDAN
said, the objection was that the clause would enable the Metropolitan Board of Works to call upon all the parishes of London for old assessments to pay off old debts. The parish of Fulham had asked to be heard before the Committee, but was refused.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 4.6; Noes 93: Majority 47.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
said, it was quite open to hon. Members to propose additional clauses to the Bill. The fact of its being a hybrid Bill, and having been examined by a Select Committee, did not deprive a Committee of the Whole House of the power of entertaining the question of new clauses.
§ MR. H. B. SHERIDAN
said, that as the parish of Fulham had been refused a hearing, he should move that the Chairman report progress.
§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
understood that the question now raised had been raised before the Committee. ["No."] The Bill was one which the House had felt itself unable to determine upon, and therefore intrusted it to a Select Committee. It was true that this was a hybrid Bill, and that fact necessarily caused some inconvenience in dealing with it. The Bill was partly a private and partly a public Bill, and inasmuch as it affected private interests, it was necessary that it should undergo a preliminary inquiry before the Examiner, in order to ascertain whether private interests were sufficiently guarded, and it was then sent to a Select Committee. If a Committee of the Whole House were to assent to the clause now proposed, they might be taking upon themselves to insert a clause which affected private interests, but which had not passed through the usual stages of preliminary inquiry, and therefore ho hoped the clause would not he agreed to, lie was inclined to accept the Bill as the Select Committee had a reed to it, having no reason to infer that they had not maturely and fairly considered it.
hoped the Motion for reporting progress would not be pressed. The point which they were now discussing had not been discussed before the Select Committee, as Chiswick was not represented by counsel.
§ MR. BRADY
urged the hon. Member for Dudley to persist in his Motion. The 460 right hon. Member for Wilts said he was disposed to accept the decision of the Select Committee, although the Chairman of that Committee admitted that injustice had been done to some parties. The fact was, he repeated, that those parties were not represented before the Committee.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
supported the Motion for reporting progress. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had said substantially that the same clause as the 6th Clause of (his Bill was in the Act of 1855; but the 6th Clause of the Bill repealed the 170th section of the Act of 1855, and conferred wider discretionary powers upon the Metropolitan Board of Works.
said, ho had before expressed an opinion that the Committee would find a difficulty in dealing with twelve new clauses, which were to be proposed, and he was confirmed in that opinion by the present discussion. They were not now asked to take the Bill as it came from the Committee, but to adopt new clauses. This was the second of those clauses, and, he would ask, what chance was there of disposing of all of them? There were varying statements as to the parties having been heard; and with a knowledge of that fact he would put it to the supporters of this Bill whether there was any chance of its passing in "another place." If there was no chance, was it not worse than useless to consume further time in discussing it now?
§ VISCOUINT ENFIELD
said, he bad opposed the Bill, but, after the last division, he would not seek further to obstruct its progress. He would, however, remind the hon. Member for Bath that there were eleven new clauses still to be discussed, and ventured to ask the hon. Member whether ho had any assurance that in "another place" this Bill would be regarded as one of such urgency as to be accepted at this period of the Session.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
wished to put a question of a similar nature. Had the hon. Member for Bath the least expectation that a Bill which effected a total revolution in the entire system of taxation of the Metropolis would be able to pass into law this Session?
§ MR. MALINS
said, he had supported the Bill, believing it to be a measure of urgency, and accepting the decision of the Select Committee upon it; but the question now raised was not one which (he Committee had decided upon. If the liability was 461 to be thrown on the outlying parishes without their having been heard, he certainly would oppose the Bill.
§ MR. PEEL
said, the liability continued exactly as it was laid down in the Act of 1855. It was true that at almost the last meeting of the Committee one or more of these parishes prayed to be heard; but the Committee had already decided the question at issue on general grounds, and declined to enter into particular cases.
§ MR. TITE
said, that in a certain sense every one of these parishes had been beard, though technically they might not have been before the Committee, because that view of their position which they urged, was the same as that introduced into the Bill itself by the Metropolitan Board. The intent of the Bill was to effect a very important Amendment in the Acts which constituted the Metropolitan Board of Works, and to remove certain difficulties which lay in the way of carrying out the main drainage system of the Metropolis. he believed the Bill to ho a very useful measure; but he must, of course, leave the House to decide upon it on its own merits. As to the question proposed to him as to what the House of Lords might or might not do, he was unable to give the House any information, but it appeared to him that all they had to do, was to proceed with a measure of great public value without reference to such considerations.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
was in favour of the Bill, which had been much improved since it was first introduced.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 22; Noes 114: Majority 92.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 26; Noes 110: Majority 84.
§ Viscount ENFIELD, Sir JOHN SHELLEY, and Mr. DEEDES, deprecated such a mode of opposition.
§ Motion negatived.
§ MR. HUBBARD
moved the following clause:—No order for payment of any sum of money shall be made by any district board upon any parish or place enumerated in Schedule B to the 462 Act firstly above recited, except for the amount of expenses actually incurred, or about to be incurred, within each parish or place respectively for which a general rate or a lighting rate may, under the 158th and 161 St sections of the said Act be raised and levied, or for an amount of sewerage expenses equal to the outlay incurred, or about to be incurred, on behalf of each parish or place, or for an amount named in a precept from the Metropolitan Board of Works as charged upon the specific parish or place; and if any dispute arise as to what are expenses or outlay incurred within or on behalf of any parish or place, the parish or place on which any order shall have been made for payment may, within two months after the service of such order, appeal to the Metropolitan Board of Works, which shall hear both sides in open Court, and whose decision upon the matter shall be final.
§ Clause brought up, and read 1°.
§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
wished to know how the clause would work in the ease of a sewer passing through two parishes of equal rateable value. Suppose the sewer were a mile long in one parish and only half a mile in the other. It might be assumed that both parishes would he equally benefited; but under the clause would not one parish pay twice as much as another?
§ MR. PEEL
said, that the Select Committee had carefully considered the question now mooted, and had decided against this clause. They held that the expenditure within a parish was not a just measure of the benefit derived by the inhabitants. Such a principle as was now sought to be affirmed was at variance with all past legislation.
§ MR. AYRTON
imagined that the clause had been moved in the interest of the St. Katharine Docks Company. Those docks were conterminous with the parish, and the effect of the clause would be that the Company would have all the benefit of the roads in the neighbourhood, and would not have to pay anything for them.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, that this clause raised a question of great magnitude and importance. There were two descriptions of rates, the difference between which it was important to keep in mind, and it was necessary that the Committee should consider them both separately. The first was the district rate, comprising the expenses of paving, lighting, and watching. The uniform principle had prevailed that each parish should provide for its own expenditure under these heads. It was known to many Members of that House that when the Metropolitan Act of 1855 was under consideration the question of principle involved by this clause was 463 discussed. The prevailing opinion was that each parish ought to pay its own paving, watching, and lighting rate as heretofore. The Act of 1855 was passed under the impression that it did not alter the law in this respect, and that, although the management of all the parishes might be vested in one united Board, still that each parish was to continue to pay the expenses of its own paving, watching, and lighting. Within the last two years one or two districts adopted another interpretation, and the question arising whether, under the terms of the Metropolitan Act of 1855 each parish was only bound to provide for its own expenditure, a court of law held the true construction of the Act of Parliament to be that one general rate was to be imposed in proportion to the rateable value of each parish. The Court of law thus held that that was to be done which Parliament had determined ought not to be done, and the present Bill would perpetuate the decision of the court of law. As an illustration of the working of the new principle now embodied in the Act he would take two parishes—Aldgate, a small and rich parish, and Whitechapel, a large and poor parish. If these two parishes were thrown into one district and an ex penditure of £5,000 had to be levied—Aldgate, if it paid according to the ex penditure within it, would have to raise £1,000, and Whitechapel £4,000. But the change of law consequent upon the decision of the court, and which it was proposed to continue by the Bill, would reverse these proportions, and White chapel would probably have to pay only £2,000, while Aldgate, on account of its greater rateable value, would have to pay £3,000. The Committee were therefore called upon to decide a question of great importance—namely, whether the decision of the Legislature in 1855 should be re versed, or whether the law should remain as it had always been, that each parish should pay its own expenditure out of the rates to be imposed on that particular parish. If the principle of the Bill were affirmed, he saw no reason why hon. Members who were favourable to an equalization of poor rate should not demand, with precisely the same justice, that, although Aldgate might have very few poor and Whitechapel a great many, yet that Aid gate should pay £17,000 a year for poor rates, and Whitechapel only £6,000 or £7,000. But while from the earliest times each parish had not only supported its 464 own poor but provided for its own paving, lighting, and watching;, the law regulating sewerage proceeded upon a different principle. The first Act passed on this subject was in the reign of Henry VIII., and this and all other Acts relating to sewers recognized the principle that, as every one derived benefit from a common sewer, each parish should contribute rate-ably in proportion to the benefit it derived. But the principle, "no benefit, no sewer rate," was equally just and unvarying. The effect of the clause now proposed he imagined would be, not that each parish would henceforth pay, whether deriving benefit from the sewers or not, but to continue the law as it had existed since the time of Henry VIII., that the sewer rate should be levied on those parishes, districts or properties which benefited by the rate. Would the Committee provide by this Bill that the owners of large property should be liable to contribute large sums to sewer rates when they derived no benefit from the sewers? If that were the pleasure of the Committee, they must reject the clause of his hon. Friend (Mr. Hubbard); but if they were of opinion that sewer rates should be imposed upon the old principle of law, they would provide that the rate should be levied upon the owners of such property only as derived benefit from the sewers.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
trusted that the House would support the decision of the Select Committee up stairs, which heard the whole question argued, and had decided against a similar clause. They certainly ought not, upon an incidental Motion of this description, to reverse a principle which had always hitherto prevailed, and had received the repeated and deliberate sanction of the Legislature.
§ MR. H. B. SHERIDAN
thought it reasonable to enact that parishes and districts in which no expenditure took place, should pay no portion of the sewer rate. There were Metropolitan districts that had nothing to do with the main drainage works.
§ MR. HUBBARD
would answer the question of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Estcourt) by replying that if his clause were agreed to, parishes would pay according to the benefit they derived. There was no other way of testing this benefit, except by taking the amount of work done within that parish. He was not now asking for a new principle of legislation, but only that the law might be left as it was previous to the Act of 1855.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
said, that the principle upon which the court of law had I decided was, that it was impossible to appreciate the precise benefit which one particular portion of a district derived from measures of sanitary improvement. That was the only common-sense view, and it ought to be adopted by the House.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That I the Clause be now read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 8; Noes 114: Majority 106.
§ MR. CAVE
moved the following clause,(Former exemptions in respect of Paving Rates to be allowed.)And whereas, by the one hundred and sixty-fourth and one hundred and sixty-fifth sections of the said recited Act, the then existing exemptions in respect of sewers rates and lighting rates were continued; and it is just and expedient that the like provision should be made in respect of rates for paving expenses; therefore, notwithstanding anything in the said recited Acts contained, all property, which at the time of the passing of the said first recited Act was not liable to be rated for paving expenses, shall be exempted from all rates to be hereafter made, so far as respects any paving expenses.He stated that by the Act of 1855 exemptions from lighting and sewerage rates had been continued; that exemptions from paving rates were not specifically continued; but the duty was thrown on the Vestry by Sect. 159, to assess paving rates according to the benefit enjoyed. Now, in the case of Dock Companies, a large area was covered with water, and a large profit obtained from ships and bonded warehouses, for which no use of the pavements was made. Before the Act of 1855 by arrangement with the parish, £15,000 was fixed as the fair assessment; but when that Act passed the Vestry raised this to £75,000, the amount of the assessment to the Poor Rate; and though the Dock Company had obtained relief by a decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, confirmed, after appeal, by the Court of Error, yet as that applied to one rate only, and there were doubts expressed as to the jurisdiction of the Courts, the Vestry had again raised the assessment. This clause, therefore, simply followed the judgment of the Law Courts; and there could be no argument in favour of exemptions from lighting and sewerage rates, which would not apply with equal force to a paving rate.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, legislation was not necessary in reference to the Dock Companies; but if they bad any complaints to make of the operation of the law, they should have appeared before the Select 466 Committee. It would be dangerous to alter the Act in the manner proposed.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
advocated the clause, on the ground that it only designed to give effect to a decision of the Court of Queen's Bench.
§ MR. BOVILL
could not agree with his hon. and learned Friend (Sir Fitzroy Kelly) as to the exact bearing of the decision in the Queen's Bench as to the question of rateability upon the clause under consideration.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
asked the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cave) whether the question was raised before the Select Committee; and if not, why not?
§ After a few words from Sir JOHN SHELLEY against the clause,
§ Clause negatived.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
suggested that hon. Members should reserve any further Amendments for the Report, and let the Bill pass through Committee. It was very doubtful whether the Bill would pass this Session; but the adoption of the course he suggested would give it a chance of passing.
§ The House resumed; Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.
§ And it being Six of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House till Tomorrow, without putting the Question.