§ Order for Committee read and discharged.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be committed to a Committee of Seven Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Three by the Committee of Selection; that the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records; that Three be the quorum."—(Mr. Courtney.)
§ MR. W. P. SINCLAIR (Falkirk Burghs)
Notwithstanding the different form of the Motion which stands on the paper in the name of the hon. Member for Manchester (Sir W. Houldsworth), the Constitutional objection raised the other day still remains, that this is foisting into a small Administrative Bill an instruction of a wide-reaching nature. The proposal of the promoters of the Bill was simply to add to the duties of the ordinary Committee appointed to consider the Bill an inquiry into two 1223 questions raised by the hon. Member for Manchester, and no slur was intended to be cast upon the Committee, although the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees used the expression that a limited instruction of that nature would be lame and impotent. We believed that we had met the views of our opponents. We believed in the honesty of their statements, and therefore we adopted the course we did. A Whip was issued on behalf of the opponents and signed by the hon. Member for Manchester and others, in which they asked solely for investigation and inquiry, and did not refer to legislation I hold that Whip in my hand, and it says that the object of the Instruction is to enable the Committee to inquire whether some modification in the convening and election of the Board is not necessary in order to enable the electors freely to exercise their functions. There is not one word in it as to legislation. I also hold in my hand the statement of a Municipal Corporation represented by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. W. L. Bright), in which there is reference to inquiry only and not to legislation. We still think that inquiry should precede legislation, if inquiry is to be instituted now, but if inquiry and legislation are to go together, then we are of opinion that it would be better they should be done in the ordinary way, with the ordinary Parliamentary safeguards, necessitated by the introduction of a Bill, due notice of which is required to be given in the month of November. I do not, however, oppose the Instruction or the Motion of the Chairman of Ways and Means, but I think it is only right on the part of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board that I should enter this protest against the course proposed to be taken.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ *SIR W. N. HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.W.)
I am quite willing merely formally to move this Instruction, especially as the hon. Gentleman opposite says he is prepared to assent to it; But I am very much tempted to reply to some of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman with regard to our original intention of inquiring into the matter only. We always contemplated Legislation, and Legislation by means of the Bill that is now before the House. No 1224 doubt we were willing that there should be a full inquiry before any alteration was made in the Clauses of the Bill, and we were exceeding anxious that those who were opposed to the views we hold should have every facility given to them by the Instruction to appear before the Committee. Our main and primary object was to raise the whole question before the Committee which is to sit upon the Bill, but we never contemplated allowing the matter to rest there if the Committee were of opinion that a legislative alteration was necessary. In that case the Committee ought undoubtedly to have power to make an alteration without the matter being hung up for another year. If the Committee approve of the alteration we suggest it would be manifestly absurd to allow the matter to stand over until a fresh Bill could be brought in simply to add three words to the present Bill and to alter the figure 10 to 50. Those are all the alterations that are required if our views are sustained, and I venture to think that my hon. Friend is taking the right course in accepting this Instruction as a matter that can be fairly fought out upstairs. Our only desire is to place this trust upon such a basis as to give to every elector the fullest opportunity of exercising the franchise which has been conferred upon him. One word more. There is an impression that this is a question which has been raised by the inhabitants of Manchester from a feeling of jealousy towards Liverpool. There is no ground for that impression, and the Chairman of Committees, who seemed to think that there was some feeling of jealousy between the two towns, is entirely mistaken. It is not the case of Manchester endeavouring to get hold of something which belongs to Liverpool. For I hold in my hand a Liverpool paper called the Journal of Commerce, which, I presume, represents the views of commercial men in that town, and which expresses a strong opinion that in regard to the expansion of the present resources of the Trust, and enlarging its present sphere of usefulness, there is very great room for improvement. This journal also says that "many people who have watched the proceedings of the Board, are of opinion that economy is not as well studied as it ought to be." It will, 1225 therefore, be seen that this is not in any respect a question of rivalry between two great and important towns, but a public question which ought to come before the National Legislature. I beg to move the Instruction which stands in my name upon the paper.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Bill that they have power to inquire whether or not any modifications of the constitution or mode of election of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board may be necessary or expedient, and to make provision for the same accordingly; and that all Petitions against the said Bill already presented, and all Petitions which may be presented not later than seven clear days before the sitting of the Committee, relating to matters raised in paragraph 16 of the joint Petition of the Manchester Corporation and others, be referred to the Committee; 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 heard in favour of the Bill against such Petitioners."—(Sir W. H. Houldsworth.)
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
On the last occasion when this question was before the House, the great interest that is taken in it not only by Manchester but by all the large towns in Lancashire, was shown by the presence in the Lobby of many of the Mayors and town clerks of corporate boroughs, who would not have been there if it had not been for the interest felt in the matter by those whom they represented. I wish altogether to repudiate the suggestion which was then made by hon. Members who represent Liverpool, that the directors and shareholders of the Manchester Ship Canal Company wish to some extent to steal a march upon Liverpool by obtaining an alteration of the provisions of the present Bill. I repudiate it, because the question of voting by proxy and enlarging the area from which the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board are to be chosen was one which attracted considerable attention long before the Manchester Ship Canal Scheme had any chance of being carried out. The great object in view has been to strengthen and increase the representation of districts other than Liverpool. At the present moment I believe there is only one member of the Dock Board who resides at any distance from Liverpool, and he is the representative of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. I trust that the House will 1226 support the Instruction which has been moved by my hon. Colleague.
Question put and agreed to.
Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Bill that they have power to inquire whether or not any modifications of the constitution or mode of election of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board may be necessary or expedient, and to make provision for the same accordingly; and that all Petitions against the said Bill already presented, and all Petitions which may be presented not later than seven clear days before the Sitting of the Committee, relating to matters raised in paragraph 16 of the joint Petition of the Manchester Corporation and others, be referred to the Committee; 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 heard in favour of the Bill against such Petitioners.