HC Deb 05 April 1883 vol 277 cc1469-76

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of this Bill on behalf of his hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. M'Minnies), who, owing to suffering from a severe cold, was not able to address the House. He did so under somewhat peculiar circumstances, because he found that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade had given Notice of opposition to the Bill. He wished to point out that this was a very unusual course to take on the part of the Board of Trade; because, although the Board claimed to have a right of making representations to a Select Committtee in regard to any point contained in a Private Bill, yet it had never been the practice for a leading Member of the Government, and the Head of a Department, to come down to the House in order to move the rejection of a Private Bill. His right hon. Friend would probably tell the House that the promoters of the Bill had applied to the Board of Trade for a Provisional Order, and that that Order, on certain grounds, was refused; and that it was for that reason he was taking the unusual course of opposing the second reading of the present Bill. But he (Mr. Rylands) contended that there were no circumstances which justified the exceptional course pursued in regard to the Bill; and he thought the House should not allow the Board of Trade to have such an absolute command over the local business of the country; that because the Board refused to grant a Provisional Order, Parliament should be debarred from entertaining any project that might be brought before them, or the promoters of Private Bills be debarred from submitting their case to the House of Commons. He understood that the objection of the Board of Trade to this Bill was, that certain streets in the town of Warrington, through which it was proposed to carry tramways, were narrower than the requirements of the Board of Trade demanded. If that were so, he would not feel disposed to suggest that it was not reasonable for the Board of Trade to bring under the attention of a Select Committee of the House of Commons, in the event of the Bill being referred to a Committee, the arrangement proposed to be carried out by the Bill. But he was informed by the promoters that if the Bill was sent to a Select Committee, they would be prepared to submit certain modifications of the measure for the approval of the Committee which would, in their opinion, have the effect of removing the objections entertained to the Bill by the Board of Trade. He was not at all advocating that the Bill should be adopted in the exact form in which it would be submitted to a Select Committee. What he complained of, on behalf of the House, was, that when the promoters brought forward a Bill, with the consent of the Corporation of the Borough of Warrington, in which borough it was proposed that these tramways should be constructed, the House of Commons ought not, by refusing the second reading of the Bill, at the instance of the Board of Trade, to prevent the Select Committee from having before them the whole facts of the case, and from coming to such a conclusion as they might deem most desirable. If the Bill were sent to a Committee upstairs, they would pass it with modifications of such a character as would meet the objections of the Board of Trade, or they would reject the Bill altogether, in which case there would be an end of the matter. But he must say that he looked with extreme jealousy on any action of the Board of Trade that went beyond this. It was their duty to give every information to a Select Committee of the House with regard to Private Bills; but he should look with jealousy at the action of the Board of Trade if they brought their influence to bear on the House in order to reject the Bill. Therefore, simply on the ground that he thought this Bill ought to be referred to a Select Committee, and that a Select Committee would be able to deal with it, he would move the second reading, and he hoped that the House would accept the Motion.

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


, in moving that the Bill be read a second time upon that day six months, said, he agreed with his hon. Friend that the course he was going to take was somewhat unusual, and was only to be justified by the exceptional circumstances under which the Bill was brought before the House. His hon. Friend was quite mistaken if he supposed that this was in any sense a question between the Board of Trade, on the part of the Government, and the promoters of the Bill. The Board of Trade were acting only Ministerially in the matter; and what they were endeavouring to do was simply to give effect to the decision and intention of both Houses of Parliament. The Bill raised a question not altogether dissimilar from that which excited considerable interest a little while ago in reference to railway rates. It was then pointed out that, in spite of the evident intention of the Legislature, it had been possible for the railway interests to promote Private Bills which had passed Committees upstair per in curiam, and which introduced modifications of the general principle and intention of the House and Parliament. In the same way, he contended, in regard to this Bill, that if it were allowed to pass the House of Commons, Parliament would stultify itself. They had been at great pains to appoint a Committee, and laid down the general principles on which this legislation should proceed, and they had instructed a Department of the Government to watch and see that the regulations laid down were observed. If they allowed any private persons interested in the promotion of Private Bills to put aside with contempt the regulations laid down by Parliament, and trust to the possibility of their terms being accepted, owing, perhaps, to the inattention of a Committee upstairs, Parliament would be stultified, and it would be futile in future to appoint Committees to lay down any principle on which Private Bills were to be conducted. The House would, perhaps, allow him to give an illustration of what might happen. Only last Session both Houses passed an Electric Lighting Bill. It was anew enterprize, and it was a question of great importance to decide whether private authorities and public companies should be allowed to carry out electric lighting in the cities and large towns of the Kingdom. A Select Committee was appointed by the House, which went into the whole matter with the greatest care, taking evidence and laying down certain principles. Those principles were embodied in a Bill, and the Bill was adopted by the House of Commons; but when the Board of Trade, who were instructed to carry out the Bill, came to put it in force, they were met, almost in the very first stage, by one of the parties promoting a measure for electric lighting, with the threat that if they did not consent to certain provisions of the Bill, they would be carried before a Committee upstairs, notwithstanding the fact, that, after a careful inquiry, such provisions had been refused by a Special Committee, and it had been decided that they should not be included in any Act of Parliament relating to the subject. He sent word to the promoters, that if they did anything of the sort he certainly should move the rejection of their Bill in the House of Commons, and should further ask the question whether the House wished its legislation to be rendered null in that way. The present case was precisely of the same kind. There were several previous Committees; but in 1879 there was a very important Committee of the House of Lords, of which the Marquess of Ripon was Chairman, to consider upon what conditions tramway enterprize should be allowed to be conducted. That Committee laid down a number of regulations, and among them the minimum width of the streets through which these tramways were to pass was fixed at 24 feet. That was not made a matter of absolute obligation; but the Committee recommended that the Board of Trade should be allowed to exercise a discretion in the matter, and, on inquiry, declare whether any less width would be sufficient. The Warrington Tramway Company had applied to the Board of Trade for a Provisional Order, and they asked to be allowed to construct tramways in streets which were only 13½ feet wide instead of 24. The Board of Trade sent down an officer to inquire into the matter; and, in the opinion of the Board of Trade Inspector, the construction of tramways as proposed, in streets so narrow, would be a public nuisance, and a source of public danger. The Inspector reported accordingly to the Board of Trade; whereupon the Board of Trade said they would only sanction tramways in streets which were 16 feet wide, that being eight feet less than the minimum suggested by the House of Lords. But in such a case they also required that the cars must be of a width not exceeding five feet, and that the tramway rails should be laid at a distance not exceeding three feet. After considerable discussion with the promoters, the promotors declined to go on with the Provisional Order upon those terms; and they now came before the House with a Private Bill altogether contrary to, and in flagrant contradiction of, the recommendations of the Committee of the House of Lords. Under these circumstances, it was his duty to call the attention of the House to the matter, and to raise the question by moving that the Bill be road a second time upon 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. Chamberlain.)

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


ventured to think that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had not made out a case for the rejection of the Bill upon the second reading. The right hon. Gentleman had himself pointed out that the regulations of the House of Lords would have been contravened if the Provisional Order the Board of Trade consented to grant had been accepted. Now, what had the Board of Trade done in this case? They sent down an Inspector to Warrington, who reported against the width of the streets in which it was proposed to construct tramways, and in favour of a width of 16 feet. Now, he could understand the opposition of the right hon. Gentleman if the proposal of the Tramway Company at Warrington had been opposed by the Corporation of Warrington; but the Corporation of Warrington, consisting of a body of gentlemen elected by the ratepayers of Warrington, consented to the Bill; and they were, in his humble judgment, the best judges of the question, whether or not the proposed tramways would be, as the right hon. Gentleman had described them, a public nuisance and a public danger. Surely, if the Corporation of Warrington, and the people of Warrington, did not object to the construction of these tramways, it was not unreasonable, at all events, to allow the Bill to go to a Select Committee upstairs, in order that the whole question might be considered. It was not very likely that in such a case as this a Select Committee, owing to inattention, would pass a measure which might become a public nuisance and a public danger; because he had no doubt that the Board of Trade would exercise its proper function of calling the attention of the Committee specially to the circumstances of the case. Having done that, it seemed to him that the Board of Trade would have fully discharged its duty; and any future question should be left to the consideration of the Committee, when full evidence was brought before them by the promoters, supported by the Corporation on the one hand, and the opponents, if there were any, on the other. The Committee would decide upon that evidence, and the result of their decision would come down to the House; and, notwithstanding all that might have taken place, it would still be open to the right hon. Gentleman to move the rejection of the Bill. He thought, on the present occasion, that the House would do well to allow the Bill to be referred to the ordinary Private Bill Committee upstairs, where such observations as the Board of Trade might think it their duty to lay before the Committee, in order that there might be no limitation to the inquiry of the Committee, could be presented, and the subject would be fully discussed. Upon these grounds, he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) if he carried it to a division.


supported the views expressed by his hon. Friends the Members for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) and Stockton (Mr. Dodds), on the ground of local self-government. They were told that the Corporation were in favour of the Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who knew "Warrington intimately, and the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. M'Minnies), were also advocates of the Bill; and he would point out to the President of the Board of Trade that the view of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to tramways not passing through streets that were not of a particular width was not one that was acceptable everywhere. In America it frequently happened that tramways were run expressly through the smaller streets, where there were scarcely any foot passengers, as the most simple means of getting rid of the block which might be occasioned in the large thoroughfares. It really did seem to him that hon. Members sitting in that House could know nothing as to what was the best tramway to run in the town of Warrington. Surely the people of Warrington were not fools; they must themselves know whether they wanted a tramway. The Corporation of Warrington represented the town, and the Corporation were in favour of the Bill. He, therefore, trusted that his hon. Friend would go to a division, and that he would obtain sufficient support to enable the Bill to be read a second time.


said, he thought that this was an exaggerated outcry on the part of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade had the power absolutely to prevent any tramway being made by means of a Provisional Order; but it certainly never was intended that the Board of Trade, or any other Government Department, should have the power of preventing the tramways being made by an Act of Parliament, if Parliament chose to sanction it. He should support the Board of Trade and the Government most decidedly in preventing this scheme from going forward if it was proposed to be done by means of a Provisional Order. But to prevent the Bill from being read a second time when they had the tribunal of that House, which had considered Bills of a much more important character, was contrary to the recognized practice of the House, and it appeared to him to be an abuse of the powers of the Government. He should, therefore, on general principles, support the second reading of the Bill. There would be an end of all principle of local self-government if Bills of this kind were not allowed to go before Select Committees to be threshed out properly upstairs, especially when it was known that they had the support of the Corporate authorities.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 123: Majority 55.—(Div. List, No. 51.)

Words added.

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

Second Reading put off for six months.

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