§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 3.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, lines 22 and 23, to leave out "and any sanitary authority."—(Mr. Hastings.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. GAINFORD BRUCE (Finsbury, Holborn)
I would appeal to my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment, which is subversive of the principle of the Bill. The measure was carefully considered by the Select Committee, which took a large amount of evidence. 629 I feel sure the Amendment would give rise to considerable Debate, if insisted on, and would be fatal to the Bill.
§ MR. J. S. GATHORNE - HARDY (Kent, Medway)
I would support the view expressed by my hon. and learned Friend. I was Chairman of the Committee, and I think we arrived at a very fair compromise on this subject. I think it very unfortunate that an Amendment of this kind should be moved, because, if persisted in, it will wreck the Bill.
§ MR. STORY-MASKELYNE: (Wilts, Cricklade)
I have sat on two Committees on this subject, and I may say that the hon. Member who has brought forward this Amendment himself belonged to, at any rate, a section of those with whom the compromise was made before the Committee. It was a compromise on which there was a considerable amount of yielding on each side, and I think, under such circumstances, it ought to be considered a point of principle with gentlemen who represent the different interests that came before the. Committee to submit to the arrangement that was arrived at. I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment.
§ (12.6.) MR. HASTINGS
I am entirely unaware that I was represented in any way before the Committee, and I never heard of any compromise. I have no interest in the matter except a public interest; but I happen to live in a district where many of these questions arise.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG,) Wilts, Devizes
I would submit to my hon. Friend that the matter with which his Amendment deals is one of great importance, and the proposal would give rise to a general discussion if it were pressed. The Bill is the result of very careful consideration by a Select Committee, and I would submit that there is hardly any good reason why a rural Sanitary Authority should not be allowed to move in the matter. If this Amendment is refused by the Committee the only result will be that the rural Sanitary Authority will have the right of moving in the first instance.' Its action will have to be followed by a local inquiry, and it will rest with the Local Government Board to act. I submit that the power of initiation which the clause 630 gives alike to the landlords and the rural Sanitary Authority is not a dangerous power, and as the tendency of Parliament has been to increase the powers of the local Sanitary Authorities, and as my hon. Friend represents a form of Local Government himself, I am sure he will not desire that the slightest slur should be thrown on the Local Authorities.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Several verbal Amendments agreed to.
§ (12.14.) MR. HASTINGS
I beg to move in Clause 22, page 7, line 12, after "exceed" to insert "one half of." I believe this Amendment would make the Bill more equitable and remove any objections that are at present entertained with regard to it. It is quite true, as has been said, that the Committee took a certain amount of evidence on this Bill, but there was one subject on which they did not take evidence, or took it to a very slight extent, that is to say, with regard to the causes of subsidences. There is great doubt whether a large part of the subsidence is caused by brine-pumping. I went into the question some years ago with one of the most accomplished geologists in this country, who had gone over the brine district in Worcestershire, and the conclusion I then arrived at was that the brine-pumping did not create any great effect upon the subsidences, and that the subsidences were due to natural movements of the earth, which would take place if there was no pumping. I believe a large amount of scientific evidence could be produced in support of that view. If that be so, considerable injustice would be done to the owners of brine property by making them pay the full amount of compensation to those who suffer from the subsidences. It seems to me that the justice of the ' case would be fully met if the amount of the compensation were cut down by 50 per cent.
§ Amendment proposed, in Clause 22, page 7, line 12, after "exceed," to insert "one half of."—(Mr. Hastings.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (12.17.) MR. J. S. GATHORNE-HARDY
I do hope the hon. Member 631 will not press this Amendment. No doubt the Committee over which I presided did not hear any large amount of evidence on this question, but we had before us the evidence presented to the former Committee which went into it very largely. To my mind it is perfectly childish to maintain the view put forward by my hon. Friend opposite. No one who is acquainted with the state of things in the brine-pumping districts would accept the evidence of any expert that these subsidences are due to natural causes. Those natural causes have been at work for many centuries, but it is only during the last 100 years, since brine-pumping has been going on so extensively, that these subsidences have occurred. The Committee took into consideration all the facts of the case, and refused to recognise the claims of a large number of people—such as those who claimed on behalf of the public rights, all public companies and all landlords who make any profit out of the sale of salt—so that, practically, only the small owners of property in these districts will receive full compensation.
§ (12.20.) MR. STORY-MASKELYNE
I am very sorry that when I spoke before I used expressions which made the hon. Member (Mr. Hastings) think I had done him an injustice. I certainly understood that he had a considerable interest in the great salt monopoly, and I assumed, from what I had heard, that his opposition to the Bill arose from that cause. Of course, I perfectly accept his statement that it is only on public grounds that he opposes the Bill. I would ask him to withdraw this Amendment. I believe I am the only Member in the House who sat on the Committee of 1881, when this question was thoroughly gone into, and I can truly say that we then convinced ourselves, as the Committee which sat the other day were perfectly convinced, that these subsidences have occurred in proportion as the brine has been pumped up. As a scientific man, I venture to say that the enormous subsidences of late times have arisen entirely from the exaggerated amount of pumping that has taken place. To adopt the contrary view is simply to go back half a century in our knowledge. I think that in 632 Cheshire there can be no doubt whatever on the question.
§ MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
I want to bear my testimony to the great devotion to work shown by the Committee, which was a perfect microcosm of this House. It is not at all the fact that the Committee refused to receive scientific evidence on this point. The Chairman of the Committee said he hoped the evidence would not be presented at great length, and, thereupon, the counsel representing the Salt Union decided not to offer any scientific evidence at all. It seems to me equitable that if those who pump brine damage their neighbours, they should pay the whole, and not half, the cost. The Committee has decided not to give any compensation to those public bodies who have no legal right to support, but to give it to the small freeholders of Northwich and Winsford. Time after time it has happened that a workman has seen the whole of the savings of his life disappear in consequence of one of these subsidences, at a time when he is no longer able to earn his living. I may say that there is no one so much interested in this matter, and who will pay so much if the Bill passes, as myself. I think, therefore, I have a right to appeal to the hon. Member to allow the clause to stand as it is.
§ (12.25.) MR. HASTINGS
I do not, of course, wish to set myself in opposition to the feeling of the Committee, but I think it will be recognised that I have a right to express my view on the subject—a view which remains unchanged. It may be that the conditions in Cheshire differ from those in Worcestershire. I have spoken from my own knowledge, and I am convinced that, as far as my own county is concerned, I am right. I may say that my personal interest, as far as it goes, would induce me to favour the Bill, because I happen to hold property in a district where these subsidences take place.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Several verbal Amendments agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered to-morrow.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before One o'clock.