§ (3.0.) MR. HASTINGS (Worcester, E.)
I beg to move a new Standing Order, giving to the Councils the right to appear and oppose Private Bills. At the present moment Town Councils and Local Boards have a locus standi to oppose any Private Bill which, in their opinion, injuriously affects their locality, and my proposition is that, subject to the decision of the Court of Referees, the County Councils should have the same privilege.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the following New Standing Order be adopted to follow Standing Order 134A—
'134B. Ordered, That it shall be competent to the Referees on Private Bills to admit the Petitioners, being the Council of any Administrative County or County Borough, the whole or any part of which is alleged to be injuriously affected by a Bill, to be heard against such Bill if they think fit.'"—(Mr. Hastings.)
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I do not rise for the purpose of opposing this Standing Order, nor the Standing Order which is to follow, but I think it is right the House should understand exactly what is proposed to be done. It is quite true that this Motion follows very much the lines of the Standing Order which applies to municipal towns, but there is a substantial difference to which I think attention ought to be called. Under the Local Government Act the County Councils are invested with many of the privileges of municipal towns, but they have no authority in respect to the water of a town, except to prevent the pollution of a river. The only question at issue is whether a County Council should have a right to appear in opposition to a Bill which may affect a particular district of a county, and it is proposed to leave it to the Court of Referees to say whether the County Council has a locus standi. 107 At present the locus standi must depend upon the possession of a right or interest, and the Local Government Act does not give to the County Councils a right or interest in respect of the water of a county. Early this Session the question arose as to the right of County Councils to appear in opposition to a Water Bill which affected the interests of the county, and the Court of Referees, after considerable argument and not without some difference of opinion, came to the conclusion that the Councils had no locus standi. The locus standi must depend upon a right, and a County Council has no general right of supervision, control, and management of the water supply of the county. Therefore, to admit them to a locus standi would be to give them a right and interest which Parliament has not given. I am not prepared to deny that there may be cases in which it is not only convenient, but proper, that a County Council should be able to appear for the county beyond the interest of an Urban and Local Authority. But if we are to give this right, it should be understood that we are deliberately giving, by a Standing Order, what Parliament itself has refrained from giving. As to the second Standing Order which the hon. Member proposes to move, and which alleges that the administrative county may be injuriously affected by the provisions of a Bill relating to the water supply of any town or district, I think they ought to be entitled to be heard against the Bill.
§ *(3.10.) MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)
As Chairman of the Court of Referees on ordinary occasions, I have very little to add to what has been stated by the Chairman of Committees, but I think it is only right to remind the House that the proposed Standing Order would apply not only to Water Bills, to which he has specially referred, but to Railway and all other Private Bills alleged injuriously to affect the county. It would be a new function for County Councils, but I see no reason why they should not be admitted to be heard against any such Bill, subject to the judgment of the Court of Referees, as to whether the alleged injury is of such a nature and degree as to justify the intervention.
§ MR. MILNES GASKELL (York, W. R., Morley)
, who was imperfectly heard 108 in the Gallery, was understood to support the proposed Standing Order.
§ MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
I understood when the Local Government Bill was passing through the House that the President of the Local Government Board promised to consider this question. I should be glad to learn what the result of that consideration has been.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
I do not remember having given any undertaking of the kind referred to by the hon. Member, but as far as the Government are concerned they have no objection to offer to the proposed Standing Order.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the said Order be a Standing Order of this House.
§ MR. HASTINGS
I beg now to move a new Standing Order entitling County Councils to be heard against Bills dealing with water supply. In so important a matter as the pollution of water, I think that any County Council whose district is likely to be injuriously affected should have the right to be heard. I am aware that the proposed Standing Order differs in some degree from the existing Standing Order in regard to the rights of Local Boards, but I think it docs so rightly, inasmuch as the area of a county is much larger. A stream may have its source in one county and flow through another. I hope the House will agree to the proposal.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the following New Standing Order be adopted to follow Standing Order 134B.
134c. Ordered, that the Council of any-Administrative County alleging in their Petition that such Administrative County or any part thereof, may be injuriously affected by the provisions of any Bill relating to the water supply of any town or district, whether situate within or without such County, shall be entitled to be heard against such Bill"—(Mr. Hastings.)
§ *MR. C. S. PARKER
The difference between this and the previous Standing Order is that this relates to water only, and is not permissive but imperative, taking the question altogether out of the jurisdiction of the Court of Referees. Urban Local Authorities have such a right to be heard, and what this Standing Order does, is to place County Councils 109 in as good a position. They are certainly the natural defenders of the interests of the county as a whole, and where there are matters that require joint action, such as the interests of small towns and villages, the county may well protect them. Therefore, if it is to remain imperative upon the Court of Referees to admit Urban Authorities to be heard as regards water supply, I think the same privilege may well be enjoyed by the County Councils.
§ (3.15.) Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the said Order be a Standing Order of this House.