HC Deb 25 July 1881 vol 263 cc1880-4

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."—(Lord Frederick Cavendish.)


said, he had given Notice, early in the afternoon, that on the Order for the consideration of the Bill he would raise the question whether the measure should not be referred to a Select Committee. He wished to call attention to the fact that one of the Standing Orders—Order 194—said that every Money Bill presented by the Metropolitan Board of Works should be brought in as a public measure, and, after having been read a second time, should be referred to a Select Committee. The question was, whether or not this Bill was presented by the Metropolitan Board of Works. He did not believe any Member of the House would say that the Bill was not presented by the Metropolitan Board of Works. It was very true that, looking at the back of it, they saw there that it was prepared and brought in by Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. John Holms—in other words, by the Treasury. They saw that it was practically promoted by the Treasury; but that did not meet the question. They know that, virtually, it was promoted by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and he would challenge the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works to rise in his place and deny it. In, 1878, when the Metropolitan Board of Works Loans Bill was brought in, the then Secretary to the Treasury stated that the measure was promoted by the Treasury under an arrangement with the Metropolitan Board of Works; or, in other words, that it was promoted by the Metropolitan Board of Works under that arrangement; but by the authority of an Act of 1875 was brought in by the Treasury. Without saying more, he would leave it to the House to say whether the Bill should not go before a Select Committee.


Does any hon. Member second the Amendment?


said he would do so, and would call the attention of the House to the Act, which alone gave authority to the Metropolitan Board of Works to bring in these Bills. He referred to 38 & 39 Viet. c. 65, s. 12, which said— Where the Board are desirous of obtaining a further Act empowering them to raise money, they shall cause the Bill for the same, as proposed to be submitted to Parliament, to be accompanied with tables giving such information as the Treasury require for the purpose of enabling a comparison to be made between the rateable value of the Metropolis and the liabilities of the Board. He had thought it better to read the whole section before commenting on it. This was a case in which the Board had shown their desire to obtain a further Act empowering them to raise money. The requirements of the Act were that the Board of Works should furnish tables to the Treasury. In no sense could the Treasury be called the promoters. It might be said that the Treasury promoted it because the names of Officials of the Treasury were on the back of it; but they might just as well say, in the case of a Railway Bill, that those whose names were on the back of it were really its promoters. The case of the present Bill was really stronger than that of a railway measure, because here they had the Representative of the Metropolitan Board of Works—its very Chairman—in the House; and yet, for some reason best known to themselves, the Officials of the Treasury had put their names on the back of the Bill. There could not be the slightest shadow of doubt that the Metropolitan Board of Works were the promoters of the Bill. He had only one suggestion to make—namely, that if the House should be of opinion that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, the measure should be put back and taken up at its proper stage.

Amendment proposed, To leave out the words "now considered," in order to insert the words "referred to a Select Committee to be nominated by the Committee of Selection in like manner as Private Bills."—(Mr. Monk.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'now considered' stand part of the Question."


said, the hon. Members who had spoken had based their case on the Standing Orders, and had not at all entered into the question of the policy of referring the Bill to a Select Committee. When the Bill was last under discussion—and there were a good many Members present—this matter was gone into, and there was a general understanding that it would have been well, under ordinary circumstances, to have had the measure referred to a Select Committee; but that, owing to the period of the Session and the Business before the House, it would not be wise to so refer it. The whole question resolved itself into this—What was the meaning of the word "promoter?" In this case, was the measure promoted by the Treasury or the Metropolitan Board of Works? Well, technically speaking, the Metropolitan Board of Works were not the promoters. The Standing Order was brought in in 1877. It was, he believed, part of a scheme of reform of the late Government, the object of which was to give the House greater knowledge and control over the borrowing powers and expenditure of the Board of Works. Every year since a Bill had been brought in by the Government for enabling the Metropolitan Board of Works to borrow money, and on no single occasion had such Bill been referred to a Select Committee. No doubt the Government would have moved the reference of this Bill to a Select Committee if it had been the intention of the Standing Order that a measure of this kind should be so referred. If they regarded the object of the Order they would be led to a safe conclusion. What was the object of the Order? Partly, it was to bring into the purview of the House the whole liabilities and borrowing powers of the Board of Works. Formerly the Board obtained Private Bills enabling them to borrow, and they did not come before the House; but in 1875 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster introduced a Bill which enacted that the borrowing powers should not extend over a year, and that they should all be scheduled in the Act. The object of that Bill might have been defeated if subsequently Private Bills had been introduced by the Board adding to their borrowing powers. This Order was passed to prevent that, and had fully secured its object, and he ventured to say that the object of the Order and the history of recent years showed conclusively that the Order was not intended to apply to Bills of this character.


said, he could fully confirm everything that had fallen from the noble Lord. The sole object of the change was to exhibit to the House Commons a correct statement of the finances of the Board of Works, and of their borrowing powers, in one view. Previously it was the practice of the Board to come to Parliament with sepa- rate Bills, and there were no means of the people in the Metropolis knowing anything of the borrowing powers possessed by the Board. The present Bill was a Government Bill in every sense. It could not be introduced by the Board itself; it was at the discretion of the Secretary to the Treasury whether the Bill should be introduced or not, and, under these circumstances, he thought it was clear that the Bill was not a Bill promoted by the Metropolitan Board of Works.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered; to be read the third time To-morrow, at Two of the clock.