HC Deb 12 February 1891 vol 350 cc454-5

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

(3.10.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

Although I have no objection to allowing this Bill to proceed, I think the attention of the House ought to be directed to it. It is a Bill promoted by the Lancashire County Council. Last year it was proposed that County Councils should have power to promote Bills in this House, but the proposal was rejected. It is, nevertheless, contended that by the nature of their existence they have power to promote Private Bills, and I do not think that in an ordinary case this House would interfere with them. If they were to introduce an improper measure there would be the means of stopping them, and it is within the power of the Local Government Board to disallow expenses that have been improperly incurred. In this case the Lancashire County Council are proceeding at their own risk, and I do not suggest that the House ought to interfere with them, because if they are incurring expenses they have no right to incur, there will be means of correcting the evil. I only think that it ought to be brought distinctly to the knowledge of the House that this is a Bill which is promoted by the Lancashire County Council.

(3.13.) MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)

I wish to ask whether, in the event of the expenses incurred in promoting the Bill being disallowed by the Local Government Board, they would have to be borne by the individual members of the Lancashire County Council? Is it contended that they would not have the power of introducing an indemnity Bill?


I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has called attention to this Bill. Like himself, I am entirely in favour of the principle of the measure, but while I am in favour of the principle I also agree that neither the Lancashire County Council nor any other County Council has power to spend money upon the promotion of a Private Bill. The question was raised during the discussion of the Local Government Act, and it was decided that no such power should be conferred. Notwithstanding that fact, the Lancashire County Council are promoting this Bill, the object of which is a very good one. Other authorities have incurred expense in promoting Bills which they had no power to promote. If the Auditor in auditing the accounts of a Local Authority sees that expenditure has been incurred which the Local Authority was not warranted by law in incurring, it would be his duty to disallow it. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Lawson) asks me what would be the consequence in the case of this particular Bill if the auditor were to disallow the expenses. I imagine that the amount would be surcharged on the members who were responsible for the expenditure and who had signed the accounts. I do not think it would be necessary in that case to bring in a bill of indemnity, but an appeal from the decision of the auditor to the Local Government Board would probably be preferred. The Local Government Board would then look into the matter, both from a legal and an equitable point of view, and if they thought proper they would remit the surcharge. It is quite clear that a County Council has no right to promote such a Bill, and if they incur any expenditure in such a case it is at their own risk.

Question put, and agreed to.