§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. John Holms.)951
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
, who had a Notice on the Paper of his intention to move—That the Bill be referred to the same Committee to which Electric Lighting Provisional Orders Bills Nos. 1, 4, and 5 are to be referred; That all Petitions against the Bill, or Orders, be referred to the said Committee; and that such of the Petitioners as pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents, be heard upon their Petition, if they think fit, and Counsel heard in favour of the Bill against such Petitions,said, he was anxious to know whether the Bills were opposed. He was told they were not, and, therefore, that it was not proposed to refer them to the Hybrid Committee already appointed to consider various other Electric Lighting Bills. He understood the view of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain), and it was one in which he (Sir George Campbell) concurred, that Parliament had quite enough to do without discussing unopposed Bills, and, in ordinary circumstances, he would quite assent to that view; but this was a very new subject, and he understood that they proposed to hand over to the Brush Electric Company a very large portion of the Metropolis, almost one-half of it. The Local Government of London was in a somewhat weak state, being unable to make up its mind on the question—especially the Vestry of Kensington which represented him. They had been refused further time, and were required to come to terms with the particular Company to whom their district was assigned, by an arrangement made between the large Companies which had at present a monopoly, in order to prevent anyone applying for similar powers after the passing of the Bill. He decidedly objected to such an arrangement. He should be quite content, if he thought the interests of the ratepayers were sufficiently guarded, either by their own local government or by the Board of Trade. But what he had been much struck by in the matter was the extreme difference between the terms extorted from the Vestries of London and those which Municipal Bodies were able to make for themselves. When he compared the Metropolitan Bill with the Birmingham Bill—and they understood the principle of local government thoroughly in Birmingham—he found there was an enormous difference. The Birming- 952 ham Scheme was set forth in the Electric Lighting Provisional Order (No. 3) Bill. Under the present Bills, the Brush Companies had obtained six months in which they could hawk about hundreds of Provisional Orders, selling their privileges wherever they could; and they would suffer no penalty if they did not succeed in selling them. [Mr. CHAMBERLAIN dissented.] That was what he understood. They had powers to carry out their works in a certain area named; and the only penalty, if they did not succeed, was that their powers would drop. In this instance, the only sum they proposed to set by as a guarantee for the completion of their works was £10,000. Let the House compare those conditions with the terms Birmingham made for itself, and they would find there was an extraordinary difference. There was an A area in the Birmingham Bill, and no B area at all; and, instead of laying down £5,000 or £10,000, a sum of £100,000 was secured, so that, while the area of the Birmingham Bill was confined, the security for the bonâ fide construction of the works was very large. He had addressed these observations to the House, in order that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade might make the matter perfectly clear. He did not propose to move the Resolution which he had put upon the Paper.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, his hon. Friend (Sir George Campbell) was acting entirely within his right of raising the question; but not in calling on the House to go into all the details of schemes which had been deliberately relegated to a different tribunal. Both of these Bills were unopposed, and the details of them had been settled between the Companies concerned, and the local authorities, who had been fully heard, and were satisfied with the concessions which had been made. There was no longer any opposition at all, and yet his hon. Friend proposed that the Bill should go before a Hybrid Committee, to which the ordinary Standing Orders of the House would not apply, and which would be required to hear the opposition of everybody, however factious it might be. Such a course would destroy altogether the value of a Provisional Order, because the whole object of this legislation was to cheapen the tremendous cost of obtaining Private Bills; 953 and in a case like this, where there was no opposition on the part of the authorities, it would be most unwise to tempt opposition from other persons. His hon. Friend had gone into a number of details, which it would be very difficult for the House to appreciate, and he had stated that the terms in these Bills were different from those in the Birmingham Order. Of course, every one of these things had to be considered separately, according to the conditions of the locality. But the information which his hon. Friend had given to the House was entirely inaccurate. He said that the Brush Company had obtained an Order which would enable them, for six months, to hawk Provisional Orders about the country for sale to the highest bidder. They had no power to do anything of the kind, and they themselves would come under an obligation to carry out such Orders as they obtained; and it did not at all follow that the Board of Trade, or the local authorities, would be willing to accept the nominees of the Company, although they would be willing to accept the Company themselves. It was also a mistake to suppose that Birmingham would have to put down £100,000 and this Company only £5,000. The proposal of the Board of Trade was that a sum should be deposited and drawn out as the works were completed; but the London authorities objected to that proposal, and asked that a certain sum should be left perfectly idle until the whole of the work was completed, and that it should not be drawn out during the progress of the construction. That was the proposal of the local authorities, and not of the Board of Trade, and it had been inserted in this and other Orders to satisfy their wishes. In either case, the intention was not to load the Company with the necessity of keeping a large amount of capital idle, but of taking some security that it was intended bonâ fide to proceed with the work, and that an application for a Provisional Order was not made for the purpose of keeping other persons out. There were other points; but he did not suppose the House would desire that he should enter into an elaborate discussion upon the matter. No injustice would be done by allowing these Bills, which were unopposed, to go before the Chairman of Ways and Means. On the last occasion when the question was before the 954 House, they were dealing with an opposed Bill; and then, although a little against his own judgment, he had yielded to the desire expressed by the House, and had agreed to refer them to a Hybrid Committee. Any other opposed Order would be treated in the same way; but a really unopposed Bill should go through the ordinary course.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.