HC Deb 04 July 1888 vol 328 cc316-35

Order for Consideration read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."

MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said, he rose to move— That the Bill, so far as it relates to the Torquay Order, be re-committed to a Select Committee to consist of Nine Members, Five to be nominated by the House, and Four by the Committee of Selection. He ventured to submit that Motion to the House on two grounds, which he thought would commend themselves to the acceptance of hon. Members. In the first place, it would be observed that a large number of Amendments were put down to the Bill, some relating to its principle, and some relating to its details; and these were all Amendments which should be referred for consideration to a Select Committee. The other reason was, that the House would observe that in this Amendment he proposed to deal with the vexed question of the legislation which had been passed with reference to Torquay, to which a large amount of attention had been called, and with regard to which hon. Members were as familiar as he was himself. In taking that action upon the present occasion, it would be necessary to occupy the time of the House for a moment or two in giving the history of the case, and in pointing out how Section 38 of "The Torquay Harbour and District Act," came to be inserted in a Private Bill, and how the Committee amending the powers and jurisdiction of the Torquay Local Authority had passed the same. Very early in the Parliament of 1880 the present Recorder of Liverpool called attention to the very large powers which were being asked for by various Municipal Corporations, powers many of which were in excess of the general law, and which would become an engine of considerable oppression. Some debates took place in the House, and it was determined by the Government of the day, with the full sanction of the Opposition, and that of independent Members on both sides of the House, that it was altogether undesirable that general legislation should be carried out piecemeal by law passed for specific towns, and that where the general law required to be altered it should be altered as a whole, and not piecemeal by a Committee sitting upstairs. The House appointed a Committee especially to carry out those views, and he would read the Resolution under which that Committee was appointed, and which was, in fact, the Instruction that defined its duties and powers. He called the attention of the House to the wording of the powers then given to the Committee, and the House would see that it had a considerable bearing on the question under consideration. The Resolution was— That the Committee of Selection do appoint a Committee not exceeding Seven in number to consider and report upon any provision in a Private Bill promoted by municipal and other local authorities, by which it is proposed to create powers relating to police or sanitary regulations which deviate from or are in extension of or subject to the general law, and that it be an Instruction to such Committee to make a special report to this House in respect of any such provision as aforesaid as the Committee may sanction, with the reasons for which they consider such powers were required and recent precedents applicable to the case. The Committee was appointed, and he thought he might say it was a very strong and representative Committee, consisting of Members chosen from various parts of the House. He need hardly say that it was presided over with great ability by Mr. Sclater-Booth, now Lord Basing. He (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) had the honour of being a Member of the Committee, and therefore he could speak with some confidence as to the principles which regulated its action. They considered the special powers which these various Corporations asked for in order to create and establish a Code of such powers. The Committee were, he thought, unanimously of opinion that they should not give an extension of general powers in local legislation; but they agreed that there were points relating to sanitary matters—police and other local concerns—on which the general law was defective, and on which legislation had already been passed, not in Private Bills, but in public measures which might be dealt with. Mr. Sclater-Booth himself drew up a series of clauses, which were subsequently known as model clauses, and he based them, to a very great extent, on the precedent of the Metropolitan Police Act. In fact, the Report of the Committee said that— Whereas applications in excess of the general law of police for powers were made which the Committee felt themselves unable to sanction, except where such powers were already in force in boroughs, clauses, however, dealing with street music and obstruction to the footway were accepted on the precedent of the well-known provisions in the Metropolitan Police Acts. Those clauses were inserted by the Committee, and were brought down to the House. If his recollection served him right, there was a debate in the House on the Report of the Committee. He thought an hon. Gentleman who took great interest in the question, but who was not now a Member of the House, was of opinion that in these clauses the Committee had gone too far, and that the legislation they proposed ought to have had general sanction. That, however, was not the opinion of the House, and the clauses were accepted. And now he would call attention to the clause regarding street music. It was to the effect that any person residing in a street might require any person playing music or any singer to depart, and any person who should sound on a musical instrument or sing in a street, after being required to depart, should be liable to a penalty not exceeding 40s. In 1883 the legislation decided upon in 1882 was looked upon as so satisfactory that no Committee was considered necessary in that year. Parliamentary agents practically accepted the decision the Committee had come to, and the hon. Member to whom he had alluded did not think it necessary to call any further attention to these special powers. But in 1884 it was found necessary to re-appoint the Committee, and it had been annually appointed ever since. In 1884 the Committee specially reported that no local powers should be given that were in excess of the general law, unless strong reasons existed for such powers, and recommended a new general Police Act, with which recommendation he (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) agreed, as he thought the time had arrived when they ought to have a consolidation of the Polite Acts. They added that they strongly advised that, pending the enactment of such a measure, care should be taken in succeeding Sessions to control the attempts which Local Bodies made to arm themselves with powers which the general law had not sanctioned, and in order to carry that out they suggested that the Home Office should make special Reports upon these Bills. Those were proposals generally concurred in by the Local Government Board. The Committee of 1884 recommended that the Home Office should specially report upon these Bills. Well, in 1885, there was a change in the constitution and in the policy of the Committee. In that year the Home Office did report upon various Bills; but the Committee, somehow or other, did not feel itself bound by the views of the Home Office. They specially reported to the House that in cases affecting special wants of the community—such as in watering places, for example, where there was a great influx of summer visitors—larger powers had been granted for the regulation of the pleasure traffic and of the boating and bathing. There was no mention in that section of the Report of any special police powers which had been granted in excess of the general law, and which, as the House would remember, the Committee were required to report upon, with the reasons for adopting them. But in 1885 this clause, which had caused all this controversy, was proposed for the first time, and brought before the Committee. It was carried literally by a majority of two to one, two Members voting for it and one Member voting against it. So that the clause in these Acts, in consequence of the operation of which a large number of people had been sent to prison, and on which so much public interest had been raised, was actually passed by two Members of the House, one Member opposing it. This clause was inserted in Bills affecting Hastings and Eastbourne in 1885; but no special Report was made to the House as to what the Committee had done. Now, he came to the Acts of 1886, when was enacted the clause with which he was proposing to deal. He thought it was fair that it should be generally known that the authorities of Torquay did not themselves ask for, or propose, this clause, about which so much excitement had been roused. The Torquay people asked for a clause—one which, he thought, they ought not to have had, but one which would have been much better than the clause subsequently put into the Bill. They asked to have power to control street processions and street music; but that power was to be subject, if his memory served him right, to the control of the Local Authority; and, therefore, the people of the place would have had, through their representatives, the power of controlling the exercise of the provision. Well, what did the Home Office say of that modified provision? Why this— The Secretary of State strongly objects to the Local Authority applying to Parliament under cover of a Private Bill for separate legislation interfering with the general law. The Secretary of State fully recognizes the value of the broad principle held in Select Committees, that no local powers should be given in excess of the general law; and that, unless strong local reasons existed for such power, no devia- tion should be allowed from the ordinary law and that any statutory enactment should be permitted for purposes which could be effected by bye-laws. Dealing with this particular clause, the Home Office said— This is a question for general legislation, and this clause should be struck out. The Committee reported to the House upon that recommendation of the Home Office, and what they said was this—that the Home Office, in pursuance of its Authority on general Bills, had made the foregoing statement, that the Committee were alive to the inexpediency as a rule of special legislation for objects of general public utility, but had found themselves unable, in every instance, to follow the recommendations of the Home Office. The Committee said it seemed to them unreasonable that Municipal Corporations and other Urban Authorities should be refused the power—and let the House mark this—of providing for the "healthiness of the milk supply and regulating the building of their streets." The Committee agreed that general legislation on such subjects should take place; but in the absence of such legislation and pending its arrival, the Committee did not think themselves justified, as they said, in refusing the special powers asked for by the Local Authorities. But the Committee was appointed for the express purpose of refusing such powers to Local Authorities, and the powers sought and obtained in the clause under discussion were such as could not be said to come under the head of providing for the healthiness of the milk supply or regulating the building of streets. He did not wish to say a word impugning the conduct of the Committee, but with regard to the clause to which he was specially calling attention, it was to this effect— No procession shall take place on Sunday in any street or public place accompanied by any instrumental music, fireworks, discharge of cannon, or other disturbing noise, provided that the foregoing provision should not apply to Her Majesty's Naval, Military, or Volunteer Forces. This effected, and he had no doubt the attention of the House had been mainly called to the case of the Salvation Army. He had received communications from other bodies—namely, the Odd Fellows and Foresters—who urged upon him to say that under the provisions of this clause they had lost a very valuable collection which they had been in the habit of making for their charitable institutions. Everyone who lived in a large town knew that several times in the course of the year the Odd Fellows went to church with considerable publicity and display of their own peculiar kind, and, no doubt, there was a great deal of noise and disturbing influence in connection with these processions. He found no fault with the Torquay Authorities in carrying out the clause which they had not asked for, and which was imposed upon them, and he did not wish to raise a discussion on the general principle of the case, upon which, as the House was aware, very strong feeling was aroused, and as to which a great number of Petitions had been signed, many of which had been held in that House to be out of Order in consequence of the Prayers being lithographed instead of in writing. But upwards of 250,000 signatures had been received against the clause. The course he proposed was that the whole of this Bill should be referred to a Hybrid Committee, with power, if they thought fit, of repealing this disputed section. If the House of Commons were prepared to prohibit open-air processions, it ought to be done by general legislation. He did not wish to raise a general discussion, but he thought what was lawful elsewhere in Devonshire, say Dawlish, Teignmouth, and Exeter ought not to be unlawful in Torquay, or that people should be able to do within a few miles of Torquay what they would be sent to prison for if they did it in Torquay. Under this provision, against which 250,000 persons petitioned, 100 persons had been sentenced, some two or three times over, and a considerable amount had been paid in fines, towards the payment of which he believed several Members of that House had contributed. He believed it to be the view of the Government on the one hand, and of the Torquay Authorities on the other, that it was quite time that the state of things which prevailed at Torquay was brought to an end, and that peace was restored to the town. If street processions were to be prohibited, they should be prohibited by general legislation, in the full light of day, and not in the clause of a local Bill. He had no desire to occupy the further time of the House, but he felt it his duty to make this statement. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. Mallock), who would state his views in the course of the debate, had been in communication with him upon the matter, and they had endeavoured to settle it upon fair and just lines. The Torquay Authorities were very anxious that it should be settled, as they had a very unpleasant duty to discharge. He found no fault with them whatever. It was inaccurate to say that they had surreptitiously obtained the clause. It was imposed upon them, and they were not to blame for enforcing it. He thought there ought to have been a report to the House as to what had been done in the matter, and he was going a step further; he thought the Home Office ought to have called the attention of the House to what had been done. As a matter of fact, there had been a chapter of mistakes all round, and the course now suggested, with the sanction of the President of the Board of Trade, would enable them to bring the dispute to a termination. He begged to move the Instruction which stood in his name.

Amendment proposed, To leave out the words "be now considered," in order to add the words "so far as it relates to the Torquay Order, be re-committed to a Select Committee to consist of Nine Members, Five to be nominated by the House, and Four by the Committee of Selection,"—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'be now considered' stand part of the Question."

MR. MALLOCK (Devonshire, Torquay)

said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) had referred to this case in its more general aspects. He now wished to trouble the House for a few minutes with the local aspect of the case. He might say at once that he desired to support the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, because he thought it was a step in a direction which would tend to allay a good deal of ill-feeling which had occurred in Torquay through the passing of this clause. The clause which the right hon. Gentleman sought to repeal was, as he had told the House, never asked for by the Torquay Board of Health. It was given to them by the Police and Sanitary Committee upstairs, or rather by Parlia- ment on the Report of the Police and Sanitary Committee. As Parliament gave them the clause, the Torquay Local Board would not be disposed to complain at all if Parliament now saw fit, in its discretion, to withdraw it. The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech told them that all hon. Members of the House were familiar with the question. His own opinion was very different. He had spoken to a good many hon. Members of the House upon the subject, and the right hon. Gentleman was the only one he had found who was in any way familiar with the question. It was only natural enough that hon. Members would not trouble themselves with local matters; but that this was not only of importance to the locality, but of general interest, was shown by the numerous Petitions which had been presented, and the numerous questions that had been asked. He would, therefore, state what had occurred as briefly as he could. In the year 1883 the Torquay Local Board applied to the Local Government Board to know if some authority could not be given to them to regulate street processions with music. The reply received by the Local Authorities was that the matter would receive consideration. As nothing further was heard from the Local Government Board on the subject, in 1885, when the Torquay Authorities were preparing a Bill relating principally to the harbour, they inserted various Police Clauses, and amongst them the one to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. That Bill came before the Police and Sanitary Committee, and the Home Office objected to the clause proposed by the Local Authorities. The Police and Sanitary Committee thereupon struck out that clause, and inserted the clause which had led to all the mischief. Very little discussion occurred in Committee upon the clause. The Chairman said that two years before the matter had been thoroughly gone into in the case of the Hastings Local Act, and it was stated in Committee that such a clause might be necessary in a place where there were a great many invalids, such as Hastings and Torquay and other watering places, which were much frequented by invalids, although it might not be thought desirable to make it the subject of general legislation. Similar clauses, he believed, had been adopted in the case of Eastbourne and Carlisle, as well as in that of Hastings and Torquay, power being given to the Local Authorities to stop processions with music. In the case of Torquay power was asked to stop street processions on Sundays and week days also. The Committee, however, struck out a portion of the provision and confined the clause to a prohibition of processions with music in Torquay on Sundays. That was a very different thing from giving the Local Authorities control over processions. It was an absolute prohibition altogether. If the Local Authorities had had control, there was every room to believe that the present difficulty would not have arisen. If the Local Authority could have stopped the playing of music while a procession was passing a church or Sunday-school, and confined the processions to certain specified times, no difficulty would have occurred. Under this prohibitory clause, the Torquay Local Board considered they were bound to prosecute whenever the police reported to them that a breach of the law had been committed. Of course, if the law were not observed, the police were bound to report that there had been a breach of it. He had heard some hon. Gentleman say—"Why should the law be enforced at all; why should they not let it slide?" It was also said that a great many laws were not enforced, and if they would disinter the old Statute Books it was possible to rake up more than one law which had never been put in force, and with regard to which the particular offence dealt with had not been treated as an offence for many years past. To rake up such old laws would not be defensible for a moment; but here was a brand new law, not yet two years old, and the Torquay Local Authority would have been exceeding its duties if it said that it would not take notice of this section. What would have been thought if the Local Authorities had said—"It is quite true that clause has been passed by Parliament, but we do not intend to take any notice of it whatever." There were many other Police Clauses in the Act, and it was held that it would not be right for them to pick and choose which clauses they would enforce and which they would not enforce. The members of the Salvation Army had been the chief but not the only sufferers from the clause. Very soon after the passing of the Act a certain other body was prosecuted, although he could not at the moment remember what body it was. The Salvation Army, however, had continually and persistently broken the law as laid down in the clause, and the Torquay Local Board, as, in his opinion, they were bound to do, had taken proceedings against the Salvation Army from time to time, and numerous convictions, involving fine and imprisonment, had followed. When he said that the Local Authority were bound to carry out the law laid down in the clause, he did not say that in some instances exceptions might not be made in the enforcement of the law. From time to time the Local Authority had made exceptions. They had not prosecuted in every case, but on several occasions had allowed considerable intervals to elapse between these prosecutions, when, for instance, cases had been stated for the opinion of a superior Court. He was sorry to say that the Salvation Army had not encouraged the Local Government Board in this practice, because they had carried on their processions and music notwithstanding the fact that an inquiry by a Superior Court was pending. That had especially been the case on the last two Sundays, although they were advised by the counsel who came down to defend them that they ought not to carry on the processions until the case then pending was decided. He had heard it stated that it was a case of religious persecution. He presumed that hon. Gentlemen who made that statement meant by religious persecution that persons had been prosecuted on account of their religion. He denied most emphatically that there had been anything in the nature of religious persecution. He did not for one moment believe it, and the Salvation Army were not the only persons who had been prosecuted because they had broken this law, and if any other body had broken the law in the way the Salvation Army had done, they would have been prosecuted in exactly the same way. In regard to the Justices of Torquay, he did not think, it was at all necessary that he should defend them. The Home Office had upheld their decision in every case, and, for his part, he had never been able to understand why hon. Gentlemen, because they could write M.P. after their names, should think they knew more about such cases when they came before the Law Courts than equally qualified gentlemen who heard the evidence. There had naturally been great difference of opinion in Torquay, but it was only right that he should say that the majority had supported the Torquay Local Government Board in their action. A Local Board election, in which this was made a test question, took place a short time ago, and the majority returned, not only by the cumulative vote, but by the one man one vote, were in favour of the action of the Local Board. Nevertheless, notwithstanding all that had taken place at Torquay, there was no desire whatever to oppose this Motion. As he had said before, seeing that Parliament had given them the power, the Local Board felt bound to use it; but if Parliament should think fit to take away the power they had given to them, they would not in any way complain. They were of opinion, and he quite agreed with them, that the Police and Sanitary Committee of the Parliament of 1886 had been the cause of all the trouble that had taken place. He could not resume his seat without referring to some features of the case, which made these proceedings appear to be specially hard upon the members of the Salvation Army who had been prosecuted. In the first place, it was well known that the Home Office had reported against the clause, and said that it was a clause which certainly ought not to have been inserted in the Bill. Secondly, the clause was inserted in three other Bills, and yet Torquay, for some reason or other, was the only place in which there had been trouble. In the third place, in various local Bills which had been brought in since and which contained the same sort of clause, it had, he understood, been invariably struck out by the Police and Sanitary Committee upstairs. Therefore, knowing these facts, the Salvation Army thought they had been treated with special harshness in this matter. He trusted that the House would accept the Motion, and he had very little doubt that the Committee before whom the Bill would go would come to a right decision. At any rate, the Torquay Authority would be satisfied with any decision they came to. He had only one word more to say. There were a great many Amendments down on the Paper in regard to this Provisional Order Bill. He believed that an understanding had been come to as to three or four of those Amendments, which there was no objection to insert in the Bill, and which the Board of Trade would see carried out. He, therefore, hoped the House would agree to refer the matter to a Select Committee.

MR. HASTINGS (Worcestershire, E.)

said, as Chairman of the Committee to whom the Torquay and similar Bills had been referred, he wished to say a few words in order to remove the misapprehension as to what had been said in regard to the course followed by the Committee. Personally, he thought the description given by his right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) of the particular functions of that Committee was somewhat too narrow in regard to their real importance. The Committee was appointed, not merely to see that no enactments contrary to the general law were permitted to pass in these local and personal Bills—because if that were all there would be no reason for its existence—it was appointed also to make careful inquiry into each particular case, and to maintain the general law, unless strong evidence was produced from the locality to show that some deviation from the general law was required. That was the real function of the Committee; and if the House were never to allow any deviation from the general law under peculiar circumstances, no inquiry on the part of the Committee would have been necessary. The Committee, however, were appointed by the House for the special purpose of making inquiries and of ascertaining whether a case was made out for a deviation from the general law. He took part in the debate which led to the appointment of the Committee in the Session of 1882, and he well remembered that that was the view taken by the House on that occasion, and that it was the main object for which the Bill was appointed. Far be it from him to say that the Committee, in the six years of its existence, had always been necessarily right in every single decision it had arrived at; but on the whole—in regard to their conduct of the business which had been brought before them from the year 1882 to the present Session—he thought they had exercised their authority so as to prevent a large amount of needless and vexatious legislation. They had rejected clauses over and over again, which, if the House could have known their importance, would have been generally disapproved of. He wished to add that he was not Chairman of the Committee when either the Hastings Bill or the Torquay Bill was brought up, nor was he present on the Committee when the Hastings Clause was adopted. Therefore, he was not speaking in his own personal self-defence in the matter. He thought the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) was Chairman of the Committee that inquired into the Hastings Bill. There was undoubtedly strong evidence produced by the Mayor and the Local Authorities that, as there was a large number of invalid residents in Hastings, it was very desirable to keep the town quiet, if possible, for at any rate one day in the week, and it was thought that Sunday was the most suitable day for that purpose. It was only on that ground that the clause was proposed, and after considerable discussion it was assented to by the Committee. A similar clause was inserted in the same Session in the Eastbourne Bill. The question came up again in the Torquay Bill in 1886, the Session before last, when Mr. Sclater-Booth (now Lord Basing) was Chairman of the Committee. The arguments used by the Torquay Board of Health were the same as those which had been used in the case of the Hastings Bill—namely, that there were a great number of invalid residents in the town, and that it was desirable to adopt the clause in order that the town might be kept quiet. What was the position of the Committee under such circumstances? The clause had been passed for two towns already in preceding Sessions, and no complaint had been made as to the working of the clause. It was quite clear, as his right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton had said, that the Torquay Clause was not in the exact form of the clause which had been passed in the case of Hastings and Eastbourne. The Committee, as an invariable rule, insisted that when a clause was proposed for a particular purpose it should not deviate from the form which had been adopted in other cases. He thought that was a sound principle of legislation. If they were to have constant deviations nobody would know where they were, and it was because the Hastings and Eastbourne Clauses had been passed that the same clause was adopted in regard to the town of Torquay. He was able to corroborate what had been stated by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. Mallock) that there was no theological or religious element in the question, either in reference to the Salvation Army or any other body—certainly no such question was raised before the Committee. He asked the House to remember that the Comlocal election which turned upon this mittee had since been supported in that view by the inhabitants of Torquay themselves, for there had been a question, and by a large majority the inhabitants had decided in favour of the Local Authorities who had been engaged in carrying out the Act. He certainly could not see that the Committee were at all to blame in the matter. At the same time, he must say that if any offence had been given to the people generally through inadvertance it ought to be removed, and if it was considered desirable to repeal this clause of the Torquay Harbour Act, it was not by him that any objection would be raised.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Cambourne)

said, he was exceedingly loth to intervene between the House and the important Bill they were about to discuss in Committee. At the same time, he thought it was necessary that he should say one or two words upon this question. He entirely corroborated what had been stated by his right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton and the hon. Member for Torquay as to the conduct of the Local Board of Torquay. No blame whatever attached to them in the matter, and it might be fairly stated that if there had been any ground for that suspicion the result of the recent election would be a sufficient answer. They were not, however, charged with any blame. What was complained of was the practice by which clauses of this kind were able to be passed without the people of the district knowing anything about them. It was with this view that he desired to call the attention of the House to several complaints which had reached him. He would not trouble the House by reading the letters he had received in considerable detail; but he had had one from certain inhabitants of Torquay who said they knew absolutely nothing about the contents of the Bill which had been promoted by the Local Board of Torquay. He thought that was a grave matter, and should engage the attention of the House when they come to consider the passing of Provisional Order Bills. It was supposed that these local Bills were advertised at the time they were promoted; but although there were two old established local papers in Torquay, the organ chosen for the insertion of advertisements in this instance was a newspaper published in Paington—not in Torquay at all, but a considerable distance from it. The consequence was that the inhabitants had no possibility of knowing what the provisions of the Bill were. The hon. Member for Torquay stated a short time ago that the Salvation Army was not the only body that had been affected. He had received information that a number of friendly societies had been similarly affected, with the result that they were unable to hold their usual Hospital Sunday, and they were losing annually a sum of about £30 which used to be collected on those occasions. One individual had been placed in a felon's dock for collecting 10s., and two band-masters had been fined, as well as tradesmen who had taken part in the proceedings. His informants told him that at the time proceedings were taken against them they were not aware that such a clause had ever been inserted in the Torquay Harbour Act. That showed the loose manner in which these clauses were passed and put into operation against people who were absolutely ignorant of the effect of them. It was quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton had said, that friendly societies were allowed to have these processions in the Metropolis, and only a few days ago he saw a procession with hands and banners and arrangements for collecting money through the streets in which the procession passed. He wished now to advert to another phase of the subject, which had no reference to this provision of the Act of 1886. He had placed an Amendment on the Paper in reference to the fish traffic on the local piers and quays affected by the Bill. He understood it had been agreed between the hon. Member for Torquay and the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who represented the Government in the matter, that the Amendments in reference to the fish rates and the rights of the fishermen should be accepted, as, also, another Amendment in reference to the power of the Local Board to lease the harbour to lessees. He mentioned these matters in order to draw the attention of the Government to the desirability of considering them in the Select Committee. He had a letter in his hand which related to the tolls levied upon the landing of fish and for the use of the piers. He trusted that the Committee would give to those rates their earnest consideration, and would impose such rates as would enable the piers and quays to be used by all classes. He trusted that the Members of the Committee and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would see that the rates imposed were not so high as to prevent the very poor classes from enjoying the use of the piers and harbours, for the construction of which all were taxed alike. Only that morning he had received a letter in support of the Instruction which appeared upon the Paper in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division of Derby (Sir Walter Foster), which was directed, in view of the passing of the Local Government Bill, against granting to the present Local Board the extensive powers of borrowing contemplated by the Bill. It was too late to press that Instruction now, but it was only fair that the House should understand that the town of Torquay was not even yet unanimous on the question of adding to the large rating powers now possessed by Torquay. He understood that the Local Authorities had already borrowed £290,000, and it was proposed to raise an additional loan for harbour works of £75,000. He only mentioned the matter now in order to call attention to the subject, so that the Select Committee to whom the Bill was referred might understand that there were other very important questions in connection with this Provisional Order Bill which deserved consideration, and especially that which affected the fishing industry. As he had no wish to stand between the House and the consideration of the Oaths Bill in Committee, he would only reiterate his complaint that it was a scandalous abuse of the system of passing Provisional Order Bills not to make the people of the locality fully acquainted with the provisions of such Bills.


said, he wished to say, in justice to the Department he represented in that House, that the Provisional Order now before the House had nothing to do with the point raised by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton. Whether what was done in the year 1886 was done rightly or wrongly, the only connection between the present Provisional Order and the Act passed in that year was that the present Order necessarily embodied the provisions of previous Local Acts. He quite agreed with the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), that the matter should be referred to such a Select Committee as the right hon. Gentleman had proposed, where the whole question could be properly and fully investigated. He could only say, in regard to other points which had been raised as to the Provisional Order, that for the convenience of the House, when once the matter had been fully discussed before a Select Committee, the decision of that Committee should be accepted as final, and that the House should not be asked to discuss either the question of processions or other points which the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) had alluded to. He entirely dissented from the statement of the hon. Member that insufficient publicity was given to these Bills. He believed that every reasonable publicity was given to Provisional Order Bills locally, and it was in the power of the Committee appointed to consider each Order, to make any alterations in them which were deemed desirable. He did not think, however, that these matters could be discussed now, or that he ought to be asked to give any pledge in regard to them. The duty of the Government was simply to see that the requirements of the law were carried out, and that no Provisional Order went beyond what Parliament intended to sanction. He intended to support the Motion which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He hoped that no further time would be devoted to the discussion of the matter.

MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)

said, that he was Chairman of the Police and Sanitary Committee at the time the Eastbourne and Hastings Acts were passed. At that time the Committee had not the advantage which was enjoyed now of having a Report from the Home Office. But the Committee over which he presided drew attention to the subject, and asked for a Report from the Home Office in the same manner as Reports were given by the Local Government Bill on matters which came within their jurisdiction. He asked the House to bear in mind that, whether the decisions in the case of Hastings and Eastbourne were right or wrong, no complaint had been made in regard to either of them, nor had they, so far as he was informed, caused any feeling of jealousy or heart-burning. Whether the Local Authority in those places were more lenient than the Local Authority in Torquay he did not know, but he thought it was only fair to say that the action which the Committee had taken in this important matter did not appear to be contrary to the feelings of the inhabitants. He entirely concurred in the view which had been expressed, that so far as possible such things should not be dealt with as local matters, but that general principles of legislation should be adopted; with this limitation, however, that where there was any special local reason, as, for instance, there might be in these seaside places and health resorts, special enactments might be permitted. He had great pleasure in supporting the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.

MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)

said, he could not allow the hon. Member for the Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) to speak of the people of Hastings as being in favour of what had been inserted in their Bill. He had himself been present at a large meeting in the locality at which a strong feeling against the clause was expressed.

Question put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put. Ordered, That the Bill, so far as it relates to the Torquay Order, be re-committed to a Select Committee to consist of Nine Members, Five to be nominated by the House, and Four by the Committee of Selection. Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power, if they think fit, to insert provisions in the Bill to repeal the 38th section of "The Torquay Harbour and District Act, 1886," and that all Petitions praying to be heard against the same, presented not later than four clear days from the date hereof, be referred to the Committee on the Bill, and that such of the Petitioners as pray to be heard by themselves, their counsel, agents, or witnesses, be heard on their Petitions, if they think fit, and counsel be heard in favour of the Bill against such Petitions. Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records. Ordered, That Five be the quorum of the Committee.