HC Deb 27 July 1885 vol 300 cc40-4

"Dear Sir,—I have received your second letter. The rider to Clause 36 was originally intended to be inserted in Committee; but as the Committee passed the Preamble without qualification, and as Mr. Christie Miller, the person with whom Clause 36 was agreed, strongly objected to the rider, we did not propose it to the Committee, I decline, on behalf of my clients, to insert it now.—Yours, &c,


In other words, the promoters found that everything in the Bill suited their purpose. The Preamble had been passed, Mr. Miller had been squared, and Clause 36 had been passed; and, notwithstanding the undertaking which had been given to the Corporation of Leith, the rider to protect that Corporation had been omitted. The Parliamentary agent did not even say that the Corporation of Edinburgh had any objection to the insertion of the rider. He said that Mr. Miller strongly objected to it; but tint objection was never communicated to the Corporation of Leith. It was quite clear that they were purposely left in ignorance of it, and the omission took place entirely behind their backs. Mr. Miller, the owner of the Craigentinny meadows, desired to have access to the sewage, and it was only natural that he should object to the insertion of this sub-section, the object of which was to prevent the general sanitary provisions of the law from being over-ridden by a Private Act of Parliament. Mr. Miller was a man who gained by the omission; and, therefore, he would not object to the silence of the Corporation of Edinburgh, and to the fact that they said nothing in defence of having broken their promise. Mr. Miller's demands were altogether antagonistic to those of the Corporation of Leith; and he (Mr. Webster) asked whether the House should not now remedy this omission, which, to say the least of it, bore the appearance of an act of injustice to the Corporation of Leith? It could only be remedied by inserting the rider in the Bill in some form or other. There would be no delay in the passing of the Bill. He would only say, in conclusion, that the Corporation of Leith feared that without this rider they might, in some sense, be deprived of the benefit of the public Statutes which they enjoyed at present; and they were strengthened in this belief by the statement that Mr. Miller, whom the omission of the rider would benefit, had strongly objected to its being inserted. Mr. Miller would not take that course unless he had obtained the point he desired. He begged now to move the insertion of the sub-section which he had placed upon the Paper.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, In page 15, after line 22, to insert, as new sub-section, the words—"(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."—(Mr. Webster.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, it was, perhaps, desirable that he should state the course which he thought the House ought to pursue. He was sure the question had lost nothing by the advocacy of the hon. Member in the absence of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. A. Grant). His hon. Friend had stated his case with great clearness. There was no difference of opinion as to the result—the only difference was, how that result had been brought about. No doubt any matter that affected the sanitary condition of a population as large as that of Leith was of the greatest importance; but the course proposed by his hon. Friend was an unusual one; and, as the result he wished to attain could be brought about in another mode, he was sure his hon. Friend would readily agree with the course he was about to propose. The insertion of a clause, or of a proviso to a clause, touching the interests of a petitioner who had been settled with by the promoters, would be a most unusual course, and it was by no means desirable to include the provision of the Public Health Act in a Private Bill. The Bill itself ought to be so drawn as not to touch public interests protected by a Public Act, and he understood that the clause complained of did not exempt the promoters of the Bill from the provisions of the Public Health Act. The Committee, he was informed, had declined to touch Clause 36 for very excellent reasons. They were of opinion that if the terms made with Mr. Christie Miller were altered the agreement would be rendered invalid. The course he recommended, and which would really effect the purpose of his hon. friend, was at once more respectful to the Committee, who were Members of considerable experience, and more in conformity with the usages and procedure of the House. Instead of inserting the sub-section moved by his hon. Friend, he proposed to move the re-committal of the Bill in order that the Committee might again consider the question, with an Instruction to them to deal with the matter, and this matter only. By that means the whole question would be fairly considered; the Committee would take those steps which they were most competent to take, and there would be no abuse of the Forms of the House. He, therefore, asked his hon. Friend to withdraw his proposition, and to accept his (Sir Arthur Otway's)—namely, that the Bill should be recommitted, with an Instruction to the Committee to deal with the sanitary question only.


said that, as one of the Committee who had considered the Bill, he saw no objection to the course proposed by his right hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means, unless it were on the score of time. The sanitary interests of Leith had not been overlooked. The clause in question was arranged by Edinburgh with a landed proprietor; but the Committee—and he was speaking in the presence of his Colleagues, who would correct him if he were wrong—would not have sanctioned it without further inquiry, if they had not been assured of this—that it would not override the general law and the general power of the Sanitary Authority at Leith to protect Leith. That point was expressly discussed before the Committee. A Member of the Committee asked if words could not be inserted in the clause to protect the rights of the Corporation of Leith, and the counsel for the promoters said they could. So if that provision had been omitted on account of some misunderstanding, and if the Bill were sent back to the Committee as proposed, he had no doubt the matter would be satisfactorily dealt with, time permitting.


observed, that the Committee could obtain leave to proceed forthwith, so that there would be no loss of time at all.


said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means would give some assurance to the House that the interests of the Bill would not be prejudiced by the delay involved in its re-commitment. Anything that would endanger the Bill would be a very serious matter; but if there had been an oversight, and there was time to rectify it, after the opinion which had been expressed by the Chairman of Ways and Means and the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Parker), he thought the best course would be to recommit the Bill.


said, as Chairman of the Committee on Police and Sanitary Regulations, to whom this Bill had been referred, he wished to endorse what had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Parker). He must, however, protest against the course taken by the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Webster) as an evil precedent, disturbing the decisions of a Committee carefully arrived at. Such a course could only be justified under very exceptional circumstances. He thought the course proposed by the Chairman of Ways and Means was a very reasonable one. He was still of opinion that the clause which had been inserted in the Bill would not prejudice the powers of the Corporation of Leith under the provisions of the Public Health Act; but to prevent any misunderstanding between the two Corporations of Edinburgh and Leith, if words saving the rights of the Corporation of Leith had been accidentally omitted he saw no objection to their being inserted. The Committee would see that no damage was done to the Corporation of Leith. What the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Parker) had said was perfectly true, that the Committee were unwilling to interfere with the arrangement which had been come to between the promoters of the Bill and Mr. Miller, because any such interference might have led to misunderstanding and to the revival of the whole opposition. That was the main ground on which the Committee declined to go into the question. If there had been any misunderstanding with regard to the Corporation of Leith, the Committee would go into it and see what was the best way in which justice could be done. As to the danger of losing the Bill, he would remind the House that this was a Bill which had come from the House of Lords, and that the Committee would only have this one question to consider; therefore he did not think there was any ground for the fear of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) that there would be any delay in the passing of the Bill.


said, that he would withdraw his Amendment in favour of the proposal of the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Bill be re-committed, in respect of Clause 36, to the former Committee,"—(Sir Arthur Otway,)—put, and agreed to.

Leave to the Committee to sit and proceed forthwith.