§ Lords Amendments considered.
§ Amendments, as far as Clause 56, agreed to.
§ Leave out Clause 56, the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he had given Notice that he should move—To disagree with so much of the Lords Amendments thereof as proposes to leave out Clause 56 and the Fourth Article of the Agreement between the Corporation of Edinburgh and the Promoters, contained in Schedule C.He thought he should be able to state very shortly the reasons which induced him to ask the House to disagree with the Lords' Amendments. The Bill was one for the construction of cable tramways in the Northern part of the City of Edinburgh, where the gradients were so steep that they were unable to have a system of horse tramways. The object of the Bill was undoubtedly a good one, and would confer a great public boon on the inhabitants of that locality. Therefore, it was not at all in any spirit of opposition to the merits of the Bill that he was obliged to take the action he was about to take in asking the House to disagree with the Lords' 1097 Amendments. The House was aware that for the promotion of a Bill of this kind the Standing Orders required the assent of the local authority. That consent was given by the Corporation of Edinburgh; but prior to its being given certain negotiations were entered into, and eventually an agreement was come to between the local authority, which was the City of Edinburgh, and the pro-motors of the Company, which agreement was incorporated partly in the Bill and partly in Schedule C attached to the Bill. The Bill came before the House of Commons, and was referred to a Committee of that House of which the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) was Chairman; and the Members of that Committee, if he might be permitted to say so, were specially well qualified to deal with this system of cable tramways. The Bill was carefully considered by the Committee in all its details, and was passed. He thought he was justified in saying that they were satisfied with regard to the question of the agreement, and they were satisfied that the object which was in view by the agreement was the public interest of the ratepayers, and that its terms appeared designed to safegard those interests. After the Bill had been passed by the Commons it went before the House of Lords, where it appeared first, as an opposed Bill, but the opposition was withdrawn, and it was referred as an unopposed Bill to Lord Redesdale the Chairman of Committees of the other House. The Chairman of Committees proceeded to draw his pen through Clause 56 of the Bill, and also paragraph 4 of Schedule C, which thus materially modified the position between the City of Edinburgh and the promoters of the Company. By Clause 56 the consent of the local authorities was made necessary, in addition to that of the Board of Trade, for the sale of the undertaking to any other Company, or for any amalgamation; and by Article 4 of the Schedule, rent or way-leave was to be paid by the promoters of the Company for the use of the streets, beginning with a sum of £20 a-year, and increasing to about £100 per year per mile at the expiry of five years, starting within two years after the passing of the Act. It was these two clauses he asked the House to restore to the Bill, and he did so simply 1098 on this ground—that their excision in the House of Lords substantially altered the conditions of the agreement come to by the Corporation of Edinburgh and the promoters of the Company, and on the faith of which and in consideration of which the former consented to the introduction of the Bill. He would like to put one or two other considerations before the House with regard to the way in which this question had been dealt with. The Bill, as he had already stated, was carefully considered by the Committee of that House, and these clauses, among others, were passed. In the other House these clauses were struck out, if he might say so—and he meant no disrespect—on the ipse dixit of the Chairman of Committees of that House. Lord Redesdale did not give any reasons for his action, and he was rather a man of action than a man of words; but he understood that the grounds of Lord Redesdale were—first of all, want of precedent; and, secondly, on the ground of public policy. As regards precedent, he had been furnished with a number of precedents bearing on this point; but he would not detain the House by reading them. To go no further, in a Bill which passed through Parliament this Session there was a clause substantially the same as that struck out by Lord Redesdale. On the ground of public policy he was bound to say he found himself under certain difficulty in discussing the question upon an occasion such as this. He should have been quite prepared to discuss the question of public policy in regard to the insertion of Clause 56, and it must be remembered that there was always the power of veto enjoyed by the Board of Trade. Under ordinary circumstances there would also be the veto of the local authority in the transfer of an undertaking of this character, as the local authority would know something about the people to whom it was proposed to make a transference. He had nothing to complain of his own knowledge of the action of the promoters with regard to the matter; but it did seem to him a mistake if they agreed to the Lords' Amendments, and that they would take a very wide step in regard to this principle if they, in fact, laid down that the local authority, in no case whatever, should have power in any degree with regard to any undertaking, and that 1099 there should only be a power of veto on the part of the Board of Trade. As regarded the question of public policy, he was entirely at one with those who argued, and who urged with very considerable force, that there should be no encouragement given to any attempt to screw money out of any person, public Company, or those engaged in industrial undertakings, because, if for no other reason, it would militate against the prosecution of useful undertakings; but there had not been a shadow of allegation that there was any such attempt or object in view by the insertion of these provisions in this Bill. He did not wish to go into the question of the construction of these cable tramways; but he was informed that, owing to their construction, and the large masses of concrete which, as he understood, were inserted in the middle of the street, it was very probable that the cost of maintainence of the rest of the street outside the tramway would be greater than in the case of ordinary tramways. However, he did not wish to press that, as he had personally no special knowledge of the subject. But he would submit that a Committee of this House had satisfied themselves that by this agreement and these clauses the interests of the public and the ratepayers were safeguarded; and, of course, as trustees of the ratepayers, the Corporation of Edinburgh had to look to their interest in making such an agreement. If they were to come to the conclusion of Lord Redesdale, and were to agree to the Lords' Amendments, they should go much further than knocking these provisions out of the Bill, because, as he understood, Lord Redesdale had expressly laid down that, in the future, on no occasion whatever, should rent be paid by any public Company for the use of the streets. That question might be argued at very great length; but if they were to come to a conclusion on such a very wide matter as this, it should be done by the question being raised regularly and by being discussed before a Committee of this House, and before a Committee of the other House. It was not discussed before a Committee of the House of Commons, and it was not discussed fully before the Committee of the other House. He therefore ventured to think that they would be taking an exceedingly unwise course if, by 1100 assenting to the Lords' Amendments, they were to bind themselves for the future to the declaration that no rent should be paid for the use of the streets. He had only one other point to submit to the House. And it was this—He did not know whether his hon. Friend the Member for the Haddington Burghs (Mr. Craig Sellar) was in his place; but he understood that his hon. Friend and other hon. Members took a great interest in Private Bill Legislation, especially with a view of cheapening it. As he understood the present arrangement, it had been entered into in order to pro-vent opposition to the Bill; but if such agreements, when made, were to be set aside in "another place," it would be of no use in future to enter into agreements at all with public Companies promoting Private Bills. The Corporation had assented to this Bill, and entered into an agreement, before it came to Parliament; and when it became an unopposed measure in the House of Lords, they were placed at a disadvantage. It seemed to him it was probable that in the future local authorities would not put themselves in such a position of disadvantage, but would rather take the course of giving a general assent to the introduction of a Bill, reserving other matters for the Committees of Parliament, which would undoubtedly involve a great expense to the ratepayers. He ventured to hope that the House would agree with him in disagreeing with the two Amendments which the Lords had inserted in the Bill, and would reinsert the 56th clause, and the 4th paragraph of Schedule C, simply on the ground, first of all, that it was impolitic to lay down a general rule; and, secondly, that the terms of the agreement formed the bargain on which the Corporation of Edinburgh abstained from objecting to the Bill. He did not want in any way to oppose the Bill, and he did not wish that it should fall through; but he wished that it should be replaced in the condition in which it was, so that it might pass into law with those conditions in consideration of which the local authority had given its assent.
§ MR. ANDREW GRANT
, who had the following Notice on the Paper:—To disagree with so much thereof as proposes to leave out Clause 56 and the Fourth Article of the Agreement between the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council of the Burgh of 1101 Leith and the Promoters, contained in Schedule C.said, he should second the Motion which his hon. Friend had just made. His hon. Friend had explained to the House the circumstances under which the stipulations were orginally inserted in the Bill, and he would not therefore occupy the time of the House by entering further into that question. He was quite aware this was a somewhat unusual step to take; but he thought, in this case, there was just reason for it. He agreed with his hon. Friend that the scheme was a very desirable one, and likely to be extremely useful to the inhabitants. He should confine himself, therefore, to the case as it affected his constituents—the Corporation of Leith. As the House very well knew, in coming before Parliament with a Private Bill of such a nature as this—namely, a Tramways Bill—the promoters were obliged by the Standing Orders of the House, first, to get the consent of the local authority of the district through which the proposed tramway was to pass. In accordance with that arrangement, the promoters of this Bill came to the Corporation of Leith and applied for their consent. The terms proposed to the Corporation of Leith were not such as the Corporation felt themselves warranted in accepting, and, accordingly, negotiations for a time came to a close. Shortly afterwards, the promoters again approached the Corporation of Leith with a considerable alteration in the terms they proposed to embody in their Bill. The two principal alterations were those which his hon. Friend had already referred to, one of which provided that the consent of the Corporation of Leith should be necessary for any transfer or any amalgamation of the Tramway Company, and the other was that rent should be paid by the Company on account of the tramway passing along the streets of the burgh. The Corporation, on viewing these terms, found they could accept them; and after some negotiations the terms were embodied in an agreement, mutually and voluntarily come to, by the Corporation and the Company, and that agreement, including the two clauses now alluded to, was embodied in the Bill. The Corporation felt that when that was done their interest was sufficiently protected; but what was their surprise, when the Bill was brought before the Committee 1102 of the House of Commons, to find that the promoters did not stick to the agreement which they had voluntarily made with the Corporation, but endeavoured to persuade the Committee of the House of Commons that the agreement should be set aside, and these clauses expunged. Fortunately, the Corporation were able to contest the matter, and, after hearing both sides, the Committee of this House, of which the hon. Gentleman (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), whom he saw opposite, was Chairman, practically unanimously came to the conclusion that it was not part of their duty to interfere with an agreement that had been voluntarily come to between the parties. The Bill thus left the House of Commons with the agreement intact; but as the Corporation of Leith had consented to the clauses, they were, by the practice of Parliament, prevented from appearing against the Preamble of the Bill in the House of Lords. The other opponents having withdrawn their opposition, the Preamble was taken as unopposed, and the Bill went as an unopposed measure to Lord Redesdale. Lord Redesdale, having considered it, and having before him the result of the consideration of the Committee of the House of Commons, to the surprise of his (Mr. A. Grant's) constituents, came to the extraordinary conclusion that these two clauses must be deleted, on the ground that they were inconsistent with the public interest. The complaint his constituents made was that they and the promoters of the Bill came to a certain agreement together, and that the terms of that agreement were ratified between them, and that if it had not been so the Corporation of Leith would never have given their consent to this Bill, and, consequently, the promoters of the Bill would never have appeared in Parliament at all. As far as he knew, the only objection to these clauses had been made by Lord Redesdale, on the ground that they were inconsistent with the public interest. But was that so? Take the first, in which the consent of the Corporation was declared to be necessary to any transfer or amalgamation of the Tramway Company. In the Bill itself, by a special clause, power was given to the Corporation of Edinburgh and the Corporation of Leith to take over and acquire the Tramway Company and its undertaking upon certain rather onerous terms; and he asked 1103 the House whether it was not a most reasonable provision that the Corporations, which were allowed to take over the undertaking under certain conditions, should have power to withhold their consent from the Company making any other arrangement which might altogether alter the conditions under which the undertaking was to be acquired by the Corporation? It seemed to him to be a most reasonable arrangement; and, further than that, it seemed to the Board of Trade also to be a reasonable arrangement. The Board of Trade saw no difficulty whatever in associating the consent of the Corporation with their own to such transfer or amalgamation; and he might say there was an example in a Bill which received the Royal Assent yesterday—a Cardiff Bill—which contained a provision on all fours with the provision in this Bill which Lord Redesdale had struck out, providing that—No sale or assignment of the undertaking shall have any effect until after the approval of the Board of Trade and of the Corporation respectively, to such sale or assignment in writing, signed by the Secretary," &c.With regard to the charge for way-leave, he submitted that this, also, was a most reasonable arrangement. It must be remembered that these cable tramways were almost entirely of an experimental nature in this country, and undoubtedly the laying down of a cable tramway led to a much larger alteration and interference with the roadway than tramways of an ordinary character. Again, in the case of Leith they had an especial claim for making some charge on the Tramway Company for allowing them to go along the streets. He would not allude to that special claim further than to say that the upkeeping of a seawall and bulwarks was involved, and that Lord Redesdale had given protection clauses to another interest situated similarly to Leith, providing that the Tramway Company should pay them for all the damage they did. With regard to Lord Redesdale's contention that these clauses were against public interest, he might say that his Lordship had given no rational ground for such an assertion; and he might say also that if it were so, and the public interest had suffered, it had been to a very large extent with Lord Redesdale's express concurrence. During the last 14 or 15 1104 years there had been at least 20 Tramway Bills passed, and in each of them there was a provision of one kind or another to show that Corporations were entitled to make a charge on the tramways for passing through their streets. He would not occupy the time of the House by going through the list; but he held in his hand a list of more than 20 Bills, in which provision was made for the payment of an annual rent to the Corporation—in one case of £75 a-year, in another of £20 a-mile, and so on. He had nothing to say against Lord Redesdale; on the contrary, he believed the public were deeply indebted to him for the watchful care he took of the public interest in connection with Private Bills; but it seemed to him that in this case his Lordship had made a mistake, and that he could not have thoroughly examined the whole position. Considering that a Committee of this House, before whom both sides laid their case, were unanimous in allowing these clauses to remain, and considering that his Lordship's dictum upset a voluntary agreement between the Corporations of Edinburgh and Leith and the Tramway Company, he thought they were entitled to ask the House to disagree with the Lords in these Amendments.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. Buchanan.)
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, it might, perhaps, be expected that he, as Chairman of the Committee of the House of Commons before which the Bill came, should state the reasons which he thought influenced them in their decision. The Bill was considered at considerable length, and they came to the decision which was recorded on the Minutes of Evidence that they were not prepared to go behind an agreement come to formally by the promoters of this scheme and the Corporations of Edinburgh and Leith, especially as it was shown to them by the speeches of counsel that the interest of the public was in no way prejudiced. He would remind the House, as had already been stated, that this particular tramway was almost a novelty in this country. There was considerable doubt as to whether it might not interfere much more with the highway in its construction than ordi 1105 nary tramways did. There was only one instance in England of its having been attempted, and that was the tramway opened only the other day at High-gate. One of the points struck out of this Bill by Lord Redesdale in "another place" was that in regard to the concession of way-leave which was agreed to by the Corporations and the Company themselves, as the Corporations had declined to entertain the proposal without some such terms being inserted in the Bill; and, as the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. A. Grant) had said, there were precedents without end bearing upon that point. There was an especial precedent in the instance of this Highgate Cable Tramway, which was the only instance of a tramway of a similar construction, and in the Highgate case the Company were allowed to go beyond the clauses of the Tramways Act which specified the amount of roadway the Company were in future to maintain at their own expense, and there was a larger amount of charge as to repair of roadway imposed on that particular Company because of the special nature of the undertaking than was ordinarily laid down in the Tramways Act. He believed the Company in this instance had agreed to, and Parliament had sanctioned, a clause requiring them to maintain the whole of the roadway instead of that portion only which ran for 18 inches on each side of the tramway, which was the ordinary practice. Therefore, a larger amount of charge was imposed upon the Company outside the conditions imposed by the ordinary Tramways Act. There were numberless other instances. There was the instance of Swansea, in 1882, in which an amount of charge was allowed in addition to the maintenance of the road, such amount of charge to be paid to the local authority. Certainly, the precedents were in favour of the course which the Committee had adopted, and the Committee had adopted that course entirely in the interests of the public both in the case of Edinburgh and Leith. Clearly, it could not have been in opposition to the interests of the Company, or the Company would not have voluntarily agreed to the insertion of these clauses. He could not for a moment imagine the ground of public policy on which they were opposed in "another place," and the Bill sent down to the House of Commons without them. 1106 The public were protected in every respect both as regards the interests of the ratepayers and the interests of the travelling public, who, of course, were protected by the ordinary clauses. He believed that, in this case, the public interest was in no way prejudiced except by the decision of the House of Lords. The case was carefully considered by the Committee of this House; their decision was practically unanimous; and as such he asked the House to maintain that decision, and to reinsert these clauses in the Bill.
wished to say a few words, in order to explain why he was unable to support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan). He regarded the Motion, if carried, as equivalent to a rejection of the Bill. He had no doubt if they sent the Bill back to the House of Lords the Bill would fail this year. His hon. Friend who had spoken on that side of the House had borne testimony to the great value of the undertaking to the community of Edinburgh. No one could fail to see that the formation of this tramway would be a great improvement and convenience. His hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh had not entered at any length into the question of public policy, and, therefore, he (Mr. Dick-Peddie) would abstain from doing so. The Company were willing that the clauses which Lord Redesdale struck out should stand part of the Bill, if that could be done without the Bill being thrown out in "another place;" but Lord Redesdale would not have the agreement. With regard to the other Bills to which reference had been made, in which payment for way-leave was allowed to be inserted, they were cases in which the Corporations concerned had given something in the way of outlay in the improvement of streets as an equivalent for the rent; but in the case of the present Bill he understood there was no consideration given at all. He did not understand that any charge was made against the Company of breach of agreement. They had carried the Bill through the House of Commons as it was originally introduced, and they had endeavoured to carry it through the House of Lords, but had failed through the opposition of Lord Redesdale. He might tell the House that when the agreement 1107 was first entered into, it was proposed to the Company that there should be this condition, that if Parliament refused to accept those clauses of the Bill, the Bill should not be further proceeded with. The Tramway Company, however, refused to accept that condition; and, under the circumstances, he thought it would be very hard on the Company, after having done all they could, and after all the expense of coming to Parliament had been incurred, if their scheme should now fail, and the result of their labours be rendered entirely nugatory. He did not think the tramway was promoted more in the interest of the Company than of the public. This was the only part of Edinburgh in which there were no tramways at present, because it was a part in which an ordinary tramway could not, on account of the very steep gradient, be worked, and anyone who witnessed the daily cruelty to animals caused by omnibuses endeavouring to ascend the steep gradients, would at once see that the passing of such a Bill as this was of very great importance in the interests of humanity. He would not detain the House further; but he trusted they would look on the Bill as a question of serving the public of the City of Edinburgh, and that they would refuse their assent to the Amendment of his hon. Friend, because the reinsertion of these clauses would amount virtually to the rejection of the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Amendments, as far as Schedule C, agreed to.
§ Amendments to Schedules C and E disagreed to.
§ Subsequent Amendments agreed to.
§ Committee appointed, "to draw up Reasons to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing with certain of the Amendments to which this House hath disagreed:"—Mr. BUCHANAN, Mr. ANDREW GRANT, Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON, Dr. FARQUHARSON, Lord RICHARD GROSYENOR, and Mr. COTES:—To withdraw immediately:—Three to be the quorum.