HC Deb 21 March 1881 vol 259 cc1485-92

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. A. M. Sullivan.)


said, he had requested the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Forster), who usually moved the second reading of Private Bills, to lend the aid of his official position to the present stage of the measure. Although that course had not been taken, he had certainly hoped that the hon. and learned Member who volunteered to move the second reading of the Bill would, at the very least, have favoured the House with some of the reasons which, in his opinion, rendered it desirable that the House should pass such a measure. He (Mr. Callan) had given Notice of his intention to move the rejection of the Bill, and it was alleged against him by the promoters of the measure that, although he had given Notice to move that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months, he did not represent the constituency that was interested in the Bill; but was merely Member for the County of Louth. If that was a fair charge to make against him, it would apply with double force to the hon. and learned Member who moved the second reading of the Bill, seeing that the only connection of the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) with the town of Dundalk, or with the county in which it was situated, was that the solicitor, whose name appeared on the back of the Bill, was the expenses agent of the hon. and learned Member in the county of Louth at the last General Election. Indeed, he found that in consequence of the neglect of this gentleman the hon. and learned Member for Meath had been rendered liable to penalties amounting to something like £500, for not having filed his Election Accounts, and for not having given a complete return of the payments made on behalf of the hon. and learned Member. So far as he (Mr. Callan) was concerned, he believed he would be able to give the House a satisfactory explanation of the course he was now about to take. The authority by which he was acting in moving the rejection of the Bill was the request of a considerable number of his constituents; for many of his constituents in the county of Louth were resident in the town of Dundalk, and among them were the principal inhabitants of that town, merchants and magistrates, the Chairman of the Town Board, all the Town Commissioners, and many other persons officially connected with the locality. He held in his hand a letter, which, with the permission of the House, he would read— At a special meeting of the Dundalk Town Commissioners held to-day, the following resolution was adopted:—Resolved that the Private Water Bill now before Parliament, and awaiting second reading, being, in the judgment of this Board, an attempt to supersede the authority of the Dundalk Town Commissioners as the sanitary body, it is our duty to petition Parliament against the Bill; that the Petition now laid on the table be adopted and forwarded at once to Mr. Callan, M.P., for presentation to Parliament, and that we beg him to do what he can to prevent the passing of the Bill. He found that an assertion had been made by the promoters of the Bill that no Petition had been presented against the measure by the Town Commissioners of Dundalk, or the ratepayers of that town. He had not observed that statement until half an hour ago; and in reply to it he had to say that he held in his hand a Petition from the town of Dundalk, largely and influentially signed by the principal ratepayers of the town, which Petition, as well as that of the Town Commissioners, was also against the Bill. It was necessary that he should now state what the facts of the case were. In 1854 the Town Commissioners of Dundalk were authorized to proceed with the construction of water works as a sanitary work; but the machinery had not yet been supplied, and, of course, as the machinery had not been supplied, the Act was not available. In consequence of the expense which attended an application to the House of Commons for a Private Bill, combined with the lobbying and jobbery that went on between the promoters, and solicitors, and Parliamentary agents, Parliament, in its wisdom, passed a general Act in 1878, which provided machinery by which the Town Commissioners in any town in Ireland could promote works for the public advantage, not by going to that House for a Private Bill, but by petitioning for a Provisional Order from the Local Government Board. If, upon such a Petition, a Provisional Order were granted, the local authorities were able to raise the money for carrying out the necessary works, at 3½ Per cent. In the month of August last the Town Commissioners of Dundalk advertised for plans for supplying the town with water, and offered a prize of 100 guineas for the plan that should be selected. He believed that 13 plans were sent in, and the Town Commissioners engaged the services of one of the most eminent water engineers in England—Mr. Hassard. It was to Mr. Hassard that the honour belonged of suggesting the water supply of the City of Dublin, as far back as the year 1854. Mr. Hassard went over to Dundalk to inspect the different plans, and presented a Report upon the subject. He (Mr. Callan) had read that Report, and he could only say that it would appear from that Report that the Bill now submitted to the House was the scheme of a disappointed adventuring engineer, who had, no doubt, had some experience in connection with the promotion of Private Bills in that House, but whose plans were rejected by Mr. Hassard, and who was substantially and in reality the only promoter of the present Bill. After receiving the Report of Mr. Hassard the Town Commissioners of Dundalk applied to the Local Government Board for an inquiry; and the inquiry, which was to be preliminary to the issue of a Provisional Order for supplying Dundalk with water, was held the week before last. These gentlemen, the Town Commissioners, would have come before the House long before this if it had not been in consequence of the declaration of urgency with regard to public measures, which declarations had led to the postponement of all Private Business that was contested. He would now state the grounds upon which the Town Commissioners asked the House to adhere to the spirit of the legislation passed by Parliament in 1878. It was stated by the Town Commissioners, in their Petition— A Bill has been introduced and is awaiting a second reading in your Honourable House to incorporate a Company for supplying with water the town of Dundalk, and for other purposes. The main object of the Bill is to incorporate a Company, and to empower such Company to trade in water, which it is proposed to supply to your petitioners and the other inhabitants of Dundalk. The promotion of the Bill is a pure speculation on the part of the promoters, who have brought the same forward, not only not with the sanction of, but in direct antagonism to, and in rivalry with, your petitioners, who are the local governing body, and who are themselves now seeking from the Local Government Board (Ireland), under the above recited Act and by virtue of its provisions, powers to establish a water supply for the said town and district. The speculative character of the Bill is shown by Clauses 39–48, which empower the proposed Company to sell and your petitioners to purchase the undertaking and powers of the Bill, if the same should become law, on the terms therein mentioned; and your petitioners allege that one of the objects of the promoters of said is to force upon your petitioners the adoption of their pet scheme of water supply, which is not alone repugnant to the great majority, if not every member of your petitioners' Board, who are the sanitary authority, but to the great bulk of the inhabitants whose representatives your petitioners are—and, therefore, to supersede the authority of your petitioners. Another object of the promoters is to make perforce a profit out of this speculation by compelling your petitioners under the above Act, should the Bill pass into law, to purchase up their scheme (which your petitioners bonâ fide believe will prove an abortion), and by that means snake profit on the transaction at the expense of the ratepayers. Under the circumstances above mentioned, and having regard to the whole tendency of modern legislation, which has been to vest the supply of water and gas and market management in the hands not of private Companies, but of the local governing bodies, it would not only be opposed to public policy and against the interests of your petitioners, but also be a reversal of the principles of modern legislation in such matters to pass the said Bill into law. No doubt it would be said that the Town Commissioners might oppose the Bill when it came on in the usual form. That was not, however, the case, because, as the petitioners themselves pointed out, they had no power to apply any of their funds to the opposition of any speculative scheme that might be promoted in Parliament by any enterprizing professional gentleman. Having no power to apply their funds in the opposition of a Private Bill in Committee, the Town Commissioners felt themselves called upon to oppose the present measure upon the second reading. He had already stated that there had been an inquiry in Dundalk. That inquiry was held the other day, and one of the gentlemen who was interested in the promotion of the Bill stated distinctly in his evidence that there was no pressing necessity for the measure. He himself (Mr. Callan) was not wedded to any particular scheme for the supply of water to Dundalk. He knew every inch of the country, and what he wanted to see was a satisfactory scheme modelled and cast upon the suggestions of Mr. Hassard. Mr. Hassard's suggestions for modifying the scheme for supplying the City of Dublin with water had the effect of postponing the supply for some years, but had also the effect of securing for Dublin, in the end, one of the best water supplies at present existing in the United Kingdom. He had no doubt that if the House would consent to accept his Amendment for the rejection of the Bill the defeat of the measure would be for the benefit of the town and inhabitants of Dundalk. As he had said, the Petition presented to the House in support of the Bill stated that the hon. Member who had given Notice to move that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months did not represent the constituency of Dundalk. That was quite true; but he was well acquainted with the borough of Dundalk and its wants and requirements, and had formerly represented it in Parliament. He had not the honour of representing that borough now, having been promoted to the higher position of representing the County of Louth, in which Dundalk was situated. The Bill itself was opposed by the principal owners and occupiers in Dundalk, and the gentleman who occupied the position of lord of the soil had also presented a Petition against it. The Town Commissioners, the Poor Law Guardians, the large majority of the respectable inhabitants, and all the representative bodies in Dundalk, opposed the Bill. Under these circumstances, he would 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."—(Mr. Callan.)

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


Generally speaking, I am prepared to admit that it should require a very strong case to induce the House to refuse to allow a Private Bill of this nature to go before a Committee. But in this particular case I cannot help thinking that it would be better to postpone the Bill until another year. I do not say this from anything that I know personally of the matter; but I am informed by the President of the Local Government Board that the position of the case is this—The Town Commissioners of Dundalk, who are opposing the Bill, have applied to the Local Government Board for a Provisional Order, and there has not yet been time to have their application considered. I certainly think that that matter ought to be decided, and that on principle it ought to be accepted, for there are very strong reasons why the Town Commissioners should have such matters as these in their own hands. Under the circumstances, it will certainly be advantageous to postpone the consideration of the present Bill for a year rather than to proceed with it now. It is, I believe, the policy of this House to place all questions of this sort, as far as possible, in the hands of the corporate authorities of a town; and it is quite true that in this instance the Town Commissioners, who are the local authorities, oppose the second reading of the Bill.


said, he had himself a feeling in the direction just expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and it was one of the reasons why he had abstained from offering any observations to the House in moving the second reading of the Bill. At the same time he thought that, primâ facie, the Bill was entitled to go before a Committee upstairs; but he quite concurred with the Chief Secretary that the local authorities, wherever it could fairly be done, should have the control of the water supply. His only anxiety was to secure a proper hearing of the case before a Committee upstairs; and he would, therefore, point out to the consideration of the Chief Secretary that probably the wisest course would be to defer the second reading of the Bill for a couple of weeks. An inquiry had already taken place at Dundalk, and the decision of the Local Government Board upon that inquiry would be made known in the course of a few days. If it should turn out that the scheme laid before the Local Government Board by the Town Commissioners of Dundalk was an objectionable scheme, he thought it would then be fair that the proposal contained in the present Bill should go before a Committee, where its merits could be discussed; and, if desirable and necessary, the whole matter might be transferred to the local authorities upon an equitable arrangement. He should like to hear a word in regard to this suggestion, which cer- tainly went in the direction of the view expressed by the Chief Secretary, from the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees. A word from the right hon. Gentleman, bearing in mind his experience in matters of this kind, might have considerable weight in finding the opinion of the House.


I have had the advantage of seeing the promoters and opponents of this Bill this afternoon, and there are certainly some considerable difficulties in regard to it. It is quite true that the Commissioners, at the present moment, have a scheme before the Local Government Board, and it is desirable that that scheme should be considered by this House; but I should be very much inclined to recommend the House to allow the Bill to be read a second time, and also to allow the Provisional Order to be read a second time, and then refer both to the same Committee. But the Town Commissioners, I believe, have lost their right to appear before the Committee. They ought to have petitioned within 10 days after the first reading of the Bill, which took place on the 10th of January; but they failed to do so. The Standing Orders Committee might allow the Standing Orders in this respect to be suspended; but, of course, that is by no means certain. Although I should have been inclined to recommend such a course as I have suggested, still, after the statement made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the intimation he has conveyed of the feeling of the President of the Local Government Board, I am not prepared to say that there might not be great inconvenience in reading the Bill a second time at the present moment. On the whole, perhaps, the best course will be to allow the matter to remain over for another year.


was very much opposed to the principle of preventing a Private Bill from going before a Committee upstairs in order that its merits might be inquired into. There were, however, special circumstances in the present case which rendered it exceedingly desirable that the second reading should be postponed. In the first place, the Town Commissioners of Dundalk had not petitioned against the Bill, and therefore, could not be heard before the Committee in opposition to it; and if the second reading were now assented to, the measure, in the ordinary course, would become an unopposed Bill. Perhaps this difficulty might be met by allowing the Town Commissioners an extension of time for the purpose of presenting a Petition. There was, however, another difficulty—namely, that the Town Commissioners had no power to apply any of the local rates towards the cost of opposing any Private Bill that might be promoted in Parliament. This was a very wise provision, for it would be a monstrous thing that the Town Commissioners should be allowed to go to Parliament and spend the money of the ratepayers without stint in opposing speculative Bills. He felt inclined to ask if such a Bill as this would be for an instant tolerated in England. The whole course of legislation for years had been to vest in the local authorities all powers of this kind, and in England it would not be tolerated that private persons should be entitled to ask for powers directly proposed to the requirements of the Public Health Act, and the other Acts which conferred all powers in regard to sanitary matters upon the local authorities, and in this case it should be recollected that the Town Commissioners were themselves applying for power to supply the town of Dundalk with water. At the present moment their application was under consideration by the Local Government Board, and there could be no hardship in determining that the Bill of a private speculative company like this should be postponed until another year. For these reasons he would support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan).

Question put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.

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