HC Deb 27 July 1885 vol 300 cc37-40

Bill, as amended, considered.


in moving to insert the following subsection in Clause 36 (for protection of estate of Craigen-tinny):— (4.) Nothing in this section contained shall limit or affect the provisions of any public Act of Parliament relating to the suppression of nuisance, or for the preservation of the public health, said, he proposed the Amendment on behalf of his hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. A. Grant), who was unable to be present. He supported the Amendment because it enunciated a distinct principle which it was essential, in the interests of every largo community, to carry out; and he felt the House would not object to the few observations he proposed to make in bringing the matter under their consideration. In the first place, he wished to say that nothing could be further from his intention than to complain in the slightest degree of the Committee which had inquired into the merits of the Bill. The object of the Bill, which was promoted by the Municipal Corporation of Edinburgh, was to extend the municipal and police boundaries of that city, to purify certain streams in the locality, and to intercept and convey the sewage from the Jordan or Powburn to the sea. The rider which he proposed to insert in the Bill had been sent to the Corporation of Leith by the Corporation of Edinburgh, as one to be proposed by Edinburgh in Committee; but it had not been laid before the Committee at all. That formed the objection to the Bill as it stood, and the justification for the explanation he was about to give to the House. The misunderstanding on the subject between the Corporation of Edinburgh and the public health sanitary authority of Leith had arisen out of a letter addressed by the Parliamentary agent of the promoters on the 14th instant to the Parliamentary agent of the Corporation of Leith. The Bill proposed to construct a sewer to carry the sewage of the south districts of Edinburgh to the territory of the local public health authorities of Leith, discharging it in the sea at Leith. As guardians of the public health, the Corporation of Leith considered that this proposal was detrimental to Leith in a sanitary respect; and they opposed the Bill both in the House of Lords, where it originated, and in the Select Committee of the House of Commons, who considered it on the 15th and 16th In the House of Lords an arrangement had been made with Mr. Christie Miller, an opponent outside the Royal burgh of Leith, the owner of the well-known meadows of Craigentinny, through which the sewage was to pass. It was arranged that Mr. Miller was to have free access to the contents of the sewer in order that he might withdraw those contents for the irrigation of his meadows. Dr. Lethe by, in 1872, spoke in condemnation of the scheme of irrigation then carried on as prejudicial to public health, and the proposal of the Bill to give Mr. Miller free access to the contents of this sewer, could only he an aggravation of the evil. The Preamble of the Bill was passed by the House of Lords, and the 36th clause was also passed notwithstanding the opposition of the Corporation of Leith. The Bill was to come before a Select Committee of the House of Commons on the 15th of July. On the 14th the Parliamentary agent for the promoters addressed a letter to the Corporation of Leith which formed the groundwork of the present Motion. The letter was addressed to the Parliamentary agent of the Corporation of Leith, and was as follows:—

"Westminster, 14th July, 1885.


"Dear Sir,—I inclose copy of an addition which will be proposed in Committee to Clause 36.—Yours, &c.,




Rider to Clause 36.

"(4.) Nothing in this section contained shall limit or affect the provisions of any public Act of Parliament relating to the suppression of nuisance or for the preservation of the public health."

He asked the House to notice that this was exactly the proposal he intended to submit, and the Corporation of Leith had implicitly relied on the statement of Mr. Graham that the rider to Clause 36 would be proposed to the Committee by the promoters themselves. Relying upon that understanding the Corporation of Leith withdrew from further opposition to the Preamble of the Bill; but after the Preamble was affirmed they opposed Clause 36, which gave the right to intercept the sewage in its passage down the sewer to Mr. Miller for the purpose of being distributed upon the Craigen-tinny meadows. As soon as Clause 36 was passed by the Committee the Cor- poration of Leith retired from all further opposition to the Bill, trusting to the unqualified undertaking of the promoters, unasked for, and without condition, that this rider would be proposed, and, of course, inserted. But it was not so—the rider was not proposed or submitted to the Committee at all, and the Bill passed without it. So entirely had the Corporation of Leith trusted to the undertaking of the Parliamentary agent of the promoters of the Bill that although the Bill passed without it on the 11th of July, it was not until the 24th of July when the Bill came to be examined by the Commissioners for the Port of Leith that it was discovered, for the first time, that the rider had not been inserted. Mr. Beveridge, the Parliamentary agent of the Corporation of Leith, immediately complained and asked for an explanation; but in the correspondence which followed between the two Parliamentary agents he (Mr. Webster) could not see that the least explanation of the omission to carry out the unqualified undertaking to the Corporation of Leith to induce them to withdraw their opposition to the Bill was given. It was not necessary to read all the letters which passed; but on the 24th of July Mr. Graham wrote this letter to Mr. Beveridge—