HC Deb 07 March 1881 vol 259 cc427-8

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether he can hold out any hope that the Government will introduce a measure for facilitating and diminishing the cost of Private Bill Legislation, by means of local inquiries to be held in the country, and, as far as possible, in the locality where the subject of inquiry arises?


asked, Whether Her Majesty's Government have it in contemplation to extend further the system of Provisional Orders, whereby so much local legislation has been carried out under the supervision of the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board, with great saving of expense as compared with the ordinary procedure by Private Bills?


I agree with the statement contained in the Question of the hon. Member for Oxford University, both as to the extent of the local legislation to which he refers and as to the great saving of expense that has resulted from its general adoption. It certainly relieves Parliament of a great deal of unnecessary legislation, and helps to reduce the amount of the cost of litigation. By holding local inquiries, by seeing the parties together, by suggesting amendments, it is very often within the power of the Department to make arrangements satisfactory to all the persons concerned. I have no means of exactly comparing the cost of Private Bills and Provisional Orders; but my own experience leads me to believe that the cost of Provisional Orders is not more than one-tenth, and certainly not more than one-fifth, of the average cost of Private Bills. In the 10 years ending 1880 the Board of Trade issued 460 such Orders; and so satisfactory were they, that, although in every case the parties might appeal to a Select Committee, 433 were confirmed—only 27 being rejected or withdrawn. The Local Government Board issue a still larger number of Provisional Orders. Last year they issued 100, of which five only were contested before Select Committees, two of these being withdrawn. Under those circumstances, the Government will take every possible opportunity of extending a system which has proved so satisfactory; and of that intention you have an illustration in the case of the Rivers Conservancy Bill, in which provision is made for dealing with these matters by means of Boards elected under Provisional Orders. At present there are 210 rivers which will be affected by that Bill, and these are governed by no less than 2,000 local Acts. In that way, I hope we may carry out the wishes of the two hon. Members who have put Questions on the subject.