HC Deb 11 March 1881 vol 259 cc797-801

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Charles Forster.)

SIR HENRY TYLER moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months. He remarked that, in rising to oppose the second reading, he was quite aware that he was taking an exceptional course; but he was induced to do so in consequence of the exceptional character of the Bill. It was entirely without precedent for a Bill of this sort to be presented to the House. The object of the measure was to divide the local board district into two local board districts. Now, the Local Board District of Edmonton was comparatively a small district, comprising, in round numbers, about 7,500 acres; and it was proposed by the present Bill to separate the west end of the district, containing something like 3,500 acres, from the eastern part, which contained about 4,000 acres. The population of the western part was about 7,000, while that of the eastern part was about 14,000. There was every reason why the proposed division should not take place, and he was not acquainted with one valid reason in favour of it. The drainage ran from the higher ground in the western part of the district to the lower ground in the eastern part; and the proposed separation would, in point of fact, involve a line of division cutting right across the entire area. Then, again, there was the question of the roads and of the lighting and other matters, all of which would be very much interfered with by a separation. The main road from London ran through Edmonton, in the eastern part of the district. He was sorry to say that in reality the Bill bore the nature of a Home Rule movement; and he was sure the House would sympathize, at the present time, with any Board which was subjected to anything of that kind. The Home Rulers in ate west were endeavouring to separate from the general district, and in doing so they had also, he regretted to say, re- sorted to the objectionable practice, adopted mainly in another country, of sending threatening letters. They had even gone so far as to subject the members of the Local Board to a threatening letter of a most improper character, in which the threat was directly made of saddling upon individual members the whole cost of the proceedings in the event of failure. As regarded the feeling of the Local Board itself, he might say that the Board was composed of 12 members, and of these 12 members 10 had signed a Petition against the Bill which he (Sir Henry Tyler) had had the honour to present to the House. In point of fact, there was only one member of the Local Board in favour of the Bill. The remaining member, not wishing to go with either party, had declined to sign the Petition against the Bill. These were the facts of the case, and he begged to move that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir Henry Tyler.)

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


opposed the Amendment on the ground that it involved a change in the mode in which the House had hitherto been content to conduct its Private Bill legislation. They were asked to come to a decision upon the local affairs of a certain district with regard to which they were entirely ignorant, and upon which, with the exception of the statement which had just been made by his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Henry Tyler), they had no information which would enable them to come to a decision. But if it were necessary to adduce an argument in favour of referring the Bill to a Select Committee, it would be sufficient to refer to the very last statement made by his hon. and gallant Friend in regard to the Local Board of Edmonton, who, although they had had the management of the affairs of the locality and were thoroughly acquainted with the whole matter, appeared to have been unable to arrive at an agreement. He saw the late President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Sclater-Booth) in the House, and also the present Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Hibbert). Probably they would be able to bear testimony whether the Local Government Board approved of the arrangements contemplated by the Bill. Hitherto it had been the practice of the House to confide all inquiries of this nature to a Select Committee, who had full power delegated to them by the House for ascertaining the truth of the allegations made by the promoters of a Private Bill. He never remembered a more unreasonable request than that now made by his hon. and gallant Friend since he (General Sir George Balfour) had been a Member of the House of Commons; and he felt satisfied that if his hon. and gallant Friend had only been in the House as long as he (General Sir George Balfour) had, he would have abstained from this mode of opposing the progress of a Private Bill. If a similar course were adopted in other cases, the whole of the Public Business of the House would be obstructed and paralyzed, and they would have imposed upon them the consideration of another kind of Business altogether new to them. Under these circumstances, he entreated the House not to agree to the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend. If his hon. and gallant Friend had anything to say against the Bill, let him go before the Select Committee. He hoped the House would reject the Amendment.


also regretted the course which had been taken by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harwich (Sir Henry Tyler). It seemed to him that the course taken by his hon. and gallant Friend was one that was full of objection. In the first place, his hon. and gallant Friend had not stated to the House what he (Mr. Lewis) was bound to state—namely, that his hon. and gallant Friend was one of the parties actually engaged in opposing the Bill, and that he was one of the majority of the Local Board who had signed the Petition against the measure, and who were now seeking to stifle the minority. Being also a Member of the House of Commons, his hon. Friend had taken advantage of his position in order to endeavour by a side wind to secure the rejection of the Bill. Time dispute which the House was asked to settle at 10 minutes past 4, with the Public Business waiting to commence at half-past 4, was a simple dispute whether the parish of Edmonton should be divided into two parts, one part healthy and the other unhealthy: one part poor and weak, and the other rich and powerful. And they were asked to settle these small parochial disputes without having the slightest opportunity of taking evidence. Notwithstanding that the state of Public Business had been declared to be urgent, they were asked to launch into a discussion which, if it had any merits at all, would require a considerable amount of evidence in order to confute the statements made by his hon. and gallant Friend, and they would not have got through the debate by half-past 5 if they were seriously disposed to do justice to it. During the whole of his Parliamentary experience he had never heard a more inopportune or unjust proposal. The House was actually asked to reject the Bill at the instigation of one of the parties concerned in it, because he happened at the time to be a Member of Parliament. He did not believe that the House for a moment would be prepared to listen to the proposal of his hon. and gallant Friend.


Of course, in the position which I hold, I have nothing to do with the merits of the Bill before the House. All that I have to do is, as far as I am able, to tell the House if there is primâ facie evidence that the Bill ought to go before a Committee. I believe that there has already been an official investigation by the Local Government Board into the facts of the matter. The Local Government Board have reported that the two districts of Edmonton are different, and that the sanitary condition of the district, even as recently as 1880, was extremely unsatisfactory. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Sclater-Booth) is in his place, and that my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Hibbert) is also present. They will, doubtless, give their view of the matter; and I will simply say that, as far as I have been able to judge, after hearing the promoters and opponents of the Bill, I think there is a very fair case to go before a Committee, and that there is no cause for the House to interfere and prevent the usual course of a Select Committee examining into the merits of the question.


remarked, that if ever there was a case which ought to go before a Committee of Inquiry, this was one. He had risen, however, not so much for the purpose of saying that, as of calling attention to a paper issued by the opponents of the Bill, and to a statement contained in it in regard to the Local Government Board. It was alleged that the question had been twice inquired into by the Local Government Board, and that the Board, which was fully competent to deal with the subject, had not recommended a separation. Now, that was a very misleading statement. The reason why the Local Government Board had not recommended separation was that there was no legal power for them to do so. The Local Government Board had on two occasions held an inquiry; and, on the last occasion, on an objection being raised, it was found that the Local Government Board, in this particular instance, had no power to interfere. The way in which the separation of a Local Board district was made was this—In the first place, it was the locality was divided into one or more districts, and placed under a rural sanitary authority. But in this case there was no rural sanitary authority in which to merge the Local Board of Edmonton, and the Local Government Board found it quite impossible to deal with the question. They certainly would have dealt with it on its merits if they had been able to do so; but not having been able, they were of opinion that it was a very proper case to go before a Committee.


would not detain the House, but he thought it right to corroborate the statement made by his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Hibbert), having been familiar with the matter when it first came under the notice of the Local Government Board. He certainly thought that it was quite a proper case to go before a Committee.


said, he was not afraid of the Bill going before a Committee; but he had been anxious to save the parties concerned the time and expense that would be occupied in giving evidence before a Committee. As, however, there seemed to be a feeling on both sides of the House against his proposition, he would withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.