§ Ordered, That Mr. Hubbard be added to the Select Committee on London Water Supply.—(Secretary Sir William Harcourt.)1528
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Corporation of the City of London, the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the Metropolitan Water Companies, be heard by themselves, their counsel and agents, before the Select Committee, if they think fit."—(Secretary Sir William Harcourt.)
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he rose to a point of Order. On the appointment of a Committee the other day, the Prime Minister informed the House that a Gentleman who made application to be heard by counsel might obtain permission from the Chairman of the Committee. He desired to know why another course had been taken on that occasion. It had seemed to him that other parties than those named might desire to. be heard by counsel before the Select Committee—the vestries, for instance, who were largely interested in the question of water supply. But the Motion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman limited the hearing by counsel to certain parties whom he had selected. He could not but think that there must be some order upon this point.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, his desire had been to pursue the course indicated by the hon. Member. But his Predecessor in Office, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, had desired and pressed upon him that the course proposed in the Motion should be taken. The right hon. Gentleman had pressed the latter course upon him, as being the right one, so strongly that he had had no alternative but to accept it.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he had stated on a former occasion that the Water Companies and the Corporation of the City of London had urged that it ought to be assured to them that, if they thought fit, they should be heard by counsel, and it was upon the distinct understanding that they should be so heard that they consented to attend. But he had also pointed out to the House that there were other parties who had a right to be heard, and had named first the vestries, and, secondly, the large number of persons who were water consumers outside the area of the Metropolitan district. His opinion was that everybody who had a direct interest in the settlement of the question ought to be heard.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, if he had rightly apprehended the complaint of the hon. 1529 Member for Portsmouth, it was, not that the parties indicated in the Motion were about to be heard by counsel, but that they were not to obtain the sanction of the Chairman of the Committee to that course. In other words, whereas in another case permission was only to be obtained by application of the Chairman of the Committee, it was in the present case moved for by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It would seem, therefore, that the reply of the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not meet this objection of the hon. Member. He understood that it had been ruled that it was undesirable that persons having great interests at stake should be allowed to serve on Committees. If that was the case it was sufficient for him; but the necessity arose that where those interests were at stake the parties interested must be heard either by themselves or by their agents. In the present case, property worth millions of money was at stake, and was threatened by the irresponsible proceedings of the Select Committee. Under those circumstances, the parties interested were clearly entitled to an opportunity of stating their case, although the procedure might, in the present instance, have differed from that which had taken taken place with respect to another Committee. That being so, he did not think it was of very great importance whether the sanction came from the Chairman of the Committee or from the Motion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that both the Corporation of the City of London and the Water Companies had told him that unless it was understood that permission would be given to appear by counsel they would not appear at all.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he had been of opinion that he had no right to determine the parties to be heard; that, he thought, should be left to the Committee when they met. He had certainly desired to reserve that question; but a strong feeling had been expressed on the subject the other day, and when the right hon. Gentleman opposite told him that it was the proper course to take he accepted that view of the matter.
§ Question put, and agreed to.