§ Lords' Amendments considered.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
asked whether it was in Order to take this Bill at the time for Private Bills? It had been treated as a Public Bill in the Upper House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Bill is a Public Bill; but it is customary to take Provisional Order Bills at this time.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, this Bill was a Bill to confirm Provisional Orders made by the Local Government Board of Ireland relating merely to the method of fixing the water charge between Dublin and the townships upon the basis of population. The Amendment of the Lords related to a distinct and fresh matter—namely, the allowance per head of water. He submitted that this Amendment was not within the scope of the Bill, and should not be considered by this House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is within the competence of this House to agree or disagree with what the Lords have inserted. There is nothing on the face of the Amendment to prevent the Lords from inserting it, or of this House from discussing it.
§ Amendment, Clause A (As to Order being retrospective).
§ MR. GRAY
said, he did not propose to ask the House to give any formal opposition to this Amendment; but he wished to point out to the House that though he understood the Corporation were willing, for the sake of peace, to agree to it, still it imposed a considerable hardship upon the citizens of Dublin. For a number of years past the townships concerned in this Provisional Order had been taking a quantity of water largely in excess of the quantity for which they had contracted, or for which they had paid. They now proposed, or it was now proposed by the Lords, to introduce an Amendment spe- 1559 cifying that the townships should not be required to pay for the water which they had got at their own request, and which they had used and not paid for. Of course, some persons had to pay the cost, and the cost must be borne by the citizens of Dublin instead of by those who had benefited by the extra supply. As this legal difficulty had arisen, he supposed it was better to allow the past to take care of itself, and so the Corporation did not object to allowing the Bill not to be retrospective.
§ Question, "That this House do agree with the Lords in the said Amendment, put, and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Amendment, Clause B (As to statutable supply of water).
§ Question proposed, "That this House do agree with the Lords m the said Amendment."
§ MR. WALKER
said, he wished to move that the House disagree with the Lords in this Amendment under circumstances which he would describe. This Amendment altered the amount of water to be supplied by the Corporation of Dublin to the various townships surrounding the City, without making any provision for an increase in price. The amount of supply was regulated by-solemn bargains, ratified by legislation, entered into between the Dublin Corporation and the townships. The circumstances under which this came before the House, which he would briefly state, were very curious. Tinder the Act of 1861 Dublin had its present supply of water from the Vartry, and the citizens of Dublin paid for that supply 1s. 3 d. on the Government valuation. By various Acts of Parliament the townships—of which the Kingstown Corporation was the one which had been most prominent in opposition to the Corporation of Dublin—were entitled to a supply of 20 gallons per head of the population, the population to be from time to time determined. Unfortunately, when these Acts of Parliament came to be worked, it was found that no provision was made in them for furnishing a legal basis for determining the population, and when litigation was opened it was found legally impossible to work, the clause, because the Census was not made the legal basis for ascertaining the population. Of course, they knew 1560 that the population of these places varied, not only from day to day, but from hour to hour; therefore, under existing circumstances, it was impossible to fix the number of people to whom these 20 gallons of water per head per day were to be given. Kingstown paid only 5d. in the pound on the valuation for its supply. The bargain was made in 1869 by Act of Parliament; but in 1874 the Corporation of Dublin, being willing to supply the townships with an excess of water over and above 20 gallons per head on the reasonable terms of their paying for it, a Provisional Order was passed, which was ratified by an Act of Parliament, declaring that it should be lawful for the Dublin Corporation, instead of supplying merely the 20 gallons per head per day which they were obliged by the existing Statutes to give, to allow the Commissioners of the townships to draw water in excess at a price to be fixed, which was, in the case of Kingstown, 3½d. per 1,000 gallons. But there was no legal method of satisfactorily determining what was excess, seeing that there was no legal means of estimating the population. After some time the Corporation of Kingstown resisted the claim for excess water, and an action was brought against them by the Corporation of Dublin in order to recover the price which the township had agreed to pay for that excess. The action, in which he (Mr. Walker) happened to be counsel, failed, and failed naturally, because the population of Kingstown could not be legally ascertained, the Census not having been made, as it ought to have been, the basis for estimating the population. The township took advantage of that, find did not pay for the excess water that, under the Act of 1874, they were obliged to pay for; and on that breakdown appearing in the machinery of the Act, the Dublin Corporation applied to the Local Government Board to amend the Provisional Order of 1874 by furnishing a legal basis by which the population should be ascertained—namely, the Census of 1881, and giving also considerable advantages to the townships, because they proposed that the increment of population in the previous decade should be taken into account, and, further, that in the case of seaside resorts like Kingstown, a further allowance should be made for the summer 1561 population. This was a natural and fair course, and one would have imagined that the Kingstown Corporation would have been glad to fall in with it. However, they tried to stop this application to the Local Government Board for this Provisional Order, and brought the matter before the Court of Exchequer and the Court of Appeal, and in each case were beaten. The Local Government Board, after the fullest inquiry, and after hearing all the evidence on both sides, made the Provisional Order which it was the object of the Act of Parliament to confirm. It passed this House, after full inquiry which lasted three days, without opposition, and went up to the House of Lords. Before the Select Committee of the House of Lords the same objection was taken which had been raised before the House of Commons' Committee. A Member of the House of Lords' Committee proposed an Amendment substantially the same as the Amendment now before the House. That Amendment was opposed by the Corporation, and was not accepted. From the Select Committee it was passed to the Committee of the House of Lords itself, where a proposal of precisely the same character as that Amendment was moved and negatived by a majority of 1–20 votes to 19. On the next day, however, it appeared that the matter was again brought forward, and the numbers reversed—21 voting for the Amendment and 19 against it. Under all these circumstances, the matter now came before the House of Commons, and he felt justified in asking it to disagree to the Amendment. The Amendment was not germane to the Provisional Order—which really purported to supply a legal basis for ascertaining what the Census was—it would alter without notice the solemn compact entered into by the townships and the Corporation, and ratified by legislation; and it would impose heavy charges on the Corporation of Dublin by compelling them to supply gratuitously a quantity of water which had cost them a great deal of money. The clause was not germane to the subject-matter of the Bill upon which it had been engrafted. The object of the Bill was to provide a basis for settling the local rates between the townships. It was said in "another place" that the supply to Dublin itself was much larger than that to these 1562 townships per head of population; but then they paid a much higher price for it. Those who were acquainted with the subject the best, water engineers, said the reason why Kingstown could not do with the supply of 20 gallons per head per day was because there was much waste in the system of supply. For the reasons he had given he hoped the House would disagree with the Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. Walker.)
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, he did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman had put the case quite fairly to the House; he had rather slurred over the action in regard to the Bill in Committee in "another place." He had spoken as if on the very slightest opposition this clause the House was now debating was rejected; whereas the fact of the matter was that, after several hours' consideration, the Committee were unanimous in opinion that such a clause should be inserted, but, owing to some difficulty betwen counsel as to the terms of the Amendment, the matter was allowed to drop. In the House of Lords the Amendment was rejected by a majority of 1, and on a later stage of the Bill, on the Motion of Lord Fitzgerald, the clause was inserted, being carried on a division by a majority of 2 in a not very full House. It was a matter of no very great expense to the Dublin Corporation, but of great importance to the townships concerned; in these times a full water supply was a matter of great urgency and importance. Everyone must allow that 20 gallons per head to an important and rising township was an exceedingly small supply, and to increase that to 25 gallons seemed to him almost a matter of necessity. He had not had an opportunity of inquiring into the usual supply in large towns; but wherever he had obtained the information he found that the proportion was never less than 30 gallons. In Dublin it was 38 gallons, whereas the Dublin Corporation only proposed to allow to these townships the wretched amount of 20 gallons. It really seemed scarcely worth while for the Corporation to fight this matter of five gallons per head. The townships, however, looked upon it as a matter of great importance; 1563 their population was increasing, and their houses increasing in valuation and numbers year by year. When it was said that the citizens of Dublin paid a higher rate, it should also be stated that in 1909 the citizens of Dublin would cease to pay anything at all; whereas the rate now imposed on the townships would attach to them perpetually. It seemed to him the best thing the Corporation could do would be to allow this Amendment to pass; and the next best thing to that would be to allow this Provisional Order to drop altogether, and next year to bring in a full and sufficent Bill settling the basis of water supply for the county.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS (Sir ARTHUR OTWAY)
said, he felt it his duty to advise the House to disagree with the Amendment. The matter had been so fully described by his hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Walker) that it was unnecessary for him to go into the facts. He only wished to correct two particulars—one in the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Dublin County (Colonel King-Harman), and in a small degree one statement by the late Attorney General for Ireland. As a matter of fact, there was no Motion made in Select Committee of the House of Lords on this question. What happened was this. One of the Members of the Committee—the Duke of Marlborough, he believed—being of opinion that the supply might be increased, made a suggestion to that effect; but so much objection was found that the Bill would probably have been withdrawn had the suggestion been adopted, and it was withdrawn; it was not moved in Committee. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel King - Harman) spoke of the miserable allowance of 20 gallons per head; but that was the usual quantity in matters of this kind—25 gallons was quite an exceptional quantity. Further, he had to say that if the House did not reject the clause, the greatest possible confusion would be occasioned. It would necessitate the amendment of no less than eight Acts of Parliament, and interfere with a great number of contracts. The circumstances under which the clause was introduced in "another place" had been detailed by his hon. and learned Friend—how 1564 it was rejected by a very narrow majority, whose decision was upset by another narrow majority the next day. He could fully bear out the statement of his hon. and learned Friend as to the great confusion that must ensue if the clause remained, and he joined in asking the House to disagree with the Amendment.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir WILLIAM HART DYKE)
said, he concurred in the view just expressed. Not entering into the controversial matter, it seemed to him the action taken might become a dangerous precedent for tacking on to a Provisional Order, passed through Committee on a very narrow issue, a clause which, if not amounting to a breach of contract, at all events would be a re-opening of all contracts. For that reason, he should vote for disagreeing with the Lords' Amendment.
§ Motion agreed to.
Clause disagreed to.
Committee appointed, "to draw up Reasons to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to the Amendment to which this House hath disagreed:"—Sir WILLIAM HART DYKE, Mr. WALKER, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND, Sir HENRY' HOLLAND, Mr. DALRYMPLE, Mr. DWYEII GRAY, Mr. MAURICE BROOKS, Mr. Alderman MEAGHER, and Mr. SULLIVAN:—To withdraw immediately:—Three to be the quorum.