HC Deb 16 March 1883 vol 277 cc685-91

Order for Second Reading read.

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


said, he did not rise for the purpose of offering any opposition to the second reading of the Bill; but, at the same time, he was anxious to call the attention of the House, and, not the least, that of his hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Arthur Otway), to the rather remarkable circumstances under which this very important measure came before them. The Manchester Ship Canal Bill was one which proposed to create a Company for the purpose of carrying out a very important and extraordinary public work; and for that purpose it proposed to raise a capital, in the first instance, of £6,000,000. To the subscription of that money it was proposed to enable Municipal Corporations and other public bodies in the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire to contribute. In fact, the measure was one of the very most important which had ever engaged the attention of Parliament as a Private Bill. That being the case, they had heard, judging from the ordinary channels of information, of rather an unusual circumstance connected with the introduction, at least, of a measure so important; and he should, anyhow, have felt it his duty to advert to it. He had provided himself with a copy of the Bill in its present state, showing the alteration which it had undergone in consequence of the Resolution come to by the Committee on Standing Orders before whom it had been upstairs upon a point of Order. It appeared that the promoters of this measure omitted to deposit plans for that part of their scheme which was to have rendered the River Mersey navigable for ships of large burden between Garston and Runcorn; and as they had omitted to supply that information, which was clearly necessary in order to enable any Committee of the House to form an opinion upon the entire scheme, the Committee on Standing Orders took a course which he believed they invariably took under such circumstances, and recommended that that part of the scheme should be abandoned. The result was that the House was now confronted with a proposal to create this enormous capital, and to sanction only a part of that very important work by constructing a Ship Canal from the town of Runcorn to the City of Manchester; while they had no materials to enable them to judge as to whether it would ever be practicable or possible to construct the lower part of the scheme, which was to connect the Canal with the sea. He did not wish at all to anticipate the opinion which might be formed by the Committee upstairs as to an important scheme of this sort truncated in the manner he had described. That, he presumed, would be a matter to which the best attention would be devoted. Still less did he propose in any way to question the action of the Committee on Standing Orders, which, he imagined, had been strictly in accordance with the precedents by which they were guided; but he did think that when the House came to deal with a matter of such great importance, and when they found the capital which it was proposed originally to create for the purpose of carrying out that scheme was still to be created, although an important part of the scheme was to be abandoned; when they found that, towards the creation of that capital, it was proposed to authorize the great Municipalities of Lancashire and Cheshire, if they were willing, to contribute; and when they had also to consider the possible vicissitudes which might prevent the scheme hereafter from being submitted to Parliament, or carried out as a whole, he thought it was an occasion on which the House would be glad to hear from his hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means what course he recommended them to adopt in order that they might, at all events, take action under the sanction of some responsible authority. In that view he had risen for the purpose of eliciting an expression of opinion. If any Member of the Standing Orders Committee was inclined to favour the House with any observations as to the course to be taken by them on that occasion he had no doubt the House would listen with great interest to such remarks; but there was one question which he thought he must specially call attention to. He had been told that it was possible that that part of the scheme which had been abandoned, and which related to the deepening of the sea channel through the waters of the Mersey between Garston and Runcorn, was a matter in regard to which Her Majesty's Admiralty might, perhaps, be in possession of some jurisdiction, and that it was not improbable that their jurisdiction, if exercised, might remove the matter altogether from the consideration of that House. If that were the case—and he did not know whether they were in a position to obtain further information upon it or not—it would become, he thought, a matter for additional consideration for Members of that House how far it would be desirable to sanction a scheme and to give the authority of an Act of Parliament to it, by which it was proposed to raise so enormous a sum of money, if it were possible that the necessary complement of the scheme should at any time hereafter be prevented from being carried into effect by the exercise of the jurisdiction of a Department of the Government. That was a point to which the attention of his hon. Friend should be directed; and without, in the slightest degree, wishing to interpose any objection to what he believed to be a very important work, and one which, if carried out, would add greatly to the prosperity of South Lancashire and Cheshire, he thought the House would forgive him if he had interposed for one moment, in order to invite some explanation as to the course which the House should be advised to adopt in a state of circumstances so remarkable, with regard to a measure involving so very largo a demand upon public confidence.


said, he scarcely knew whether, after the speech of his right hon. Friend, it was expected that he should rise to say a word on behalf of the Select Committee on Standing Orders; because, although at the end of his speech his right hon. Friend invited an expression of opinion on the part of the Committee, he said, in an earlier part of it, that he had no fault to find with them, and that they had come to the only decision they could arrive at in accordance with the precedents they had before them. He (Sir John E. Mowbray) only wished to say that, in the first place, he thought it somewhat unusual at the end of the fortnight, after the Report of the Select Committee had been laid upon the Table of the House—after it had been submitted to the House, and a vote might have been taken on it—it was unusual and irregular for any hon. Member to raise a question upon it. If he had been called upon at the proper time, when he brought the Report before the House, it would have been his duty to have given an explanation; and, even now, if the House wished it, he was ready to go into any amount of detail—["No, no!"]—as to the course taken by the Committee on Standing Orders. This he would say—that they gave most careful and anxious attention to the case, and they had nine Members out of the 11 present; that they were experienced Members of the Standing Order Committee; that the junior Member was his right hon. Friend who, for three years past, had filled the post of Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Lyon Playfair), and that, after carefully discussing the Bill, those who had entertained some doubt about it said they were convinced. The decision of the Committee was unanimous, and he trusted that the House would be of opinion that it was unnecessary for him to say more, and that he might safely leave the matter in the hands of his hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means.


said, he was not going to enter into the point raised by his right hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Raikes), or to say a single word about the merits of the Bill. It was a matter, no doubt, that would require considerable discussion. Some portion of his own constituents were opposed to it, and some part of them were in favour of it; and what he rose for the purpose of saying was this—that on behalf of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board—who, no doubt, saw great objection to the Bill, which objection they would bring before the Committee—they wished to express their opinion that the Bill ought not to be stopped on the second reading.


said, that, on behalf of the London and North-Western Railway Company, who were also very much opposed to the Bill, he wished to express the same view as his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Assheton Cross), that there ought not to be any opposition to the measure on its second reading.


said, that, after the observations which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes), it was necessary that he (Sir Arthur Otway) should say a word or two. He had heard with great gratification that the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to continue his opposition to the second reading of the Bill.


wished to explain. He had never intended to offer any opposition to the second reading of the Bill.


said, he was glad to hear that. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had no desire to oppose the second reading of the Bill. If it had been opposed, it would have been his (Sir Arthur Otway's) duty to point out to the House the special and peculiar character of the measure. It was one of a most interesting and important nature, and it proposed to connect two of the largest cities of the Empire next to that in which they were now residing, and to open a great seat of manufacture and commerce to all parts of the world. His right hon. Friend had represented certain matters and called his attention to them. It would be his duty to bear them fully in mind. He was somewhat new to the Office, and he was glad that his attention had been drawn to the matter. But with regard to the observations which the right hon. Gentleman had made in reference to the Bill, they referred principally to engineering questions, and to matters which it was essentially desirable to send to a Committee for investigation. So far as his (Sir Arthur Otway's) opinion went in regard to the suggestions thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman, there was nothing in them to prevent the Bill being read a second time and inquired into by a Committee. With regard to the Standing Orders Committee, it seemed to him that the duties of the Chairman of Ways and Means were very simple in a case of this kind. There had been delegated to the Committee of Standing Orders, by the House, certain duties; and that Committee of Standing Orders was perfectly satisfied with the compliance, by the promoters of the Bill, with the conditions laid down by the House for the regulation of Private Bills. Under these circumstances, the Report of the Standing Orders Committee was only what was to be expected of them; and it appeared to him that the duties of the Chairman of Ways and Means were much simplified by their action. He was glad to find that the opposition to the Bill had been withdrawn, and he hoped the House would consent to read the Bill a second time.


said, that, as one of the Representatives of the City of Manchester, he had no fault to find with what had occurred in regard to the Bill. It appeared before the House in obedience to the unanimous decision of the Standing Order Committee; and, on the present occasion, it further appeared that there was no real opposition to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) had taken a somewhat curious course in regard to the measure. He certainly thought that if the right hon. Gentleman had remained Member for Preston, instead of being Member for the University of Cambridge, they would have had his hearty co-operation in the matter. It obliged him (Mr. Jacob Bright) to say that at least in Lancashire there was an overwhelming feeling in favour of the Bill, and not upon slight grounds. There was a belief that the industry and commerce of that county depended largely on more ready access to the sea, and on lower rates of carriage for goods. It should be remembered that the county of Lancaster during the past 10 years had increased in a double ratio to the rest of England, and that increase of population had been accompanied by a corresponding increase of commerce, for which the present means of carriage were altogether inadequate. What they wanted in Lancashire was a real competition in the carrying trade.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

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