§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
said, he had to move that the Order for the committal of this Bill should be discharged, and that the Bill should be committed to a Select Committee of 11 Members, six to be nominated by the House, and five by the Committee of Selection. If hon. Members examined the Bill they would see that it affected a large number of interests and was of wide extent, and he thought they would agree with him it was one which should be dealt with as a, Public rather than a Private Bill. He had to complain of the comparative secrecy with which Bills of this kind were dealt with, and he might point out in reference to this Bill that had he not taken the present course of moving to refer it to a large Committee very few of those affected by this Bill would have known anything of its existence. He wished to make known a fact that might surprise the House as much as it surprised him. The Bill was read a second time on March 22, the day before Good Friday, when very few hon. Members were present. The Vestry of Chelsea had made application for a copy of the Bill, and were told that it was under revision, and that a copy would not serve their purpose at that particular time. A second application having been made, the clerk of the London County Council, in a, reply dated on the very day on which the Second Reading was taken, stated that the revision of the Bill was not sufficiently advanced to enable a copy to be furnished to the Vestry. That he held to be a very serious statement. The importance of the measure might be estimated by the fact that it- repealed 10 Public Acts, including Metropolitan Building Acts and Metropolis Manage- 1427 ment Acts. It professed to be a Consolidation Act. Hon. Members were aware that he was a strong advocate of consolidation, but this was a Consolidation Bill of a very peculiar character, changing the whole aspect of the law in relation to the matters to which he had referred. That being so, and looking to its wide-reaching nature, he wished to see the Bill referred to a large Committee. He appealed to his friends on the London County Council to support the Motion. It would be remembered that last April they had to call in question Acts relating to Eastbourne, Ower Darwen, and Reading, and to complain that in Private Bills legislation was introduced dealing with Public Acts. The tendency of late years in the House had been to minimise Private Bill legislation and to maximise legislation by Public Act, and it was in pursuance of that policy he asked for the appointment of this Committee. Hon. Members very seldom saw the Bills which were submitted to the House. Although they very properly trusted the Committees upstairs, they had a perfect right to see the Bill, and, having examined this measure, he had come to the conclusion that in consequence of its far-reaching character this was not one which should be left in the hands of an ordinary Committee. He appealed to the House not only to pass this Motion, but also to be always on the alert to see that private legislation was not allowed to overshadow public laws.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Order for Committal be read, and discharged.
That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Eleven Members, Six to be nominated by the House and Five by the Committee of Selection.
That all Petitions against the Bill presented six clear days before the meeting of the Committee 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 against the Bill, if they think fit, and Counsel heard in support of the Bill against such Petitioners.
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.
That Seven be the quorum."—(Mr. Howell.)
§ * THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir C. RUSSELL,) Hackney, S.
said, he had only a word or two in supporting the Motion. He wished to state that he had had communications from different parts of the Metropolis pointing out the ob- 1428 jections urged by his hon. Friend, and he hoped the House would see fit to support the Motion.
§ MR. COHEN) (Islington, E.
said, he did not intend to oppose the Motion; but while sympathising with the general objections against attempts to alter public law by means of Private Bills, he submitted that in this case it was not only right, but almost the duty of the County Council to proceed in this matter by Private Bill. He had not been an advocate of the action of the London County Council in attempting to pass measures by means of private procedure, but he did fear that this Bill, which contained many valuable provisions affecting the health of the inhabitants of the Metropolis, would not have had the remotest chance of being passed if left to struggle in the crowd of public measures. He did appeal to hon. Members opposite to be a little consistent in these matters, and he would remind them that only this week the House decided that a Bill embodying very novel principles should go through by private procedure. Why should not this Bill have been treated in the same way. They had been told that in the last Parliament there were plenty of means of getting Bills like this through in the form of public legislation, and it was claimed that what was done by the last Parliament could be done by this. But he would reply to that that they now had not only a new Parliament but a new Government which was literally besieged by competitive claimants for Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and it was probable that in the competition Bills to which nobody could object would lose all chance of becoming law. It was for this unfortunate but irresistible reason that he believed the London County Council were right in proceeding with that urgent measure by means of Private Bill legislation. Still, he welcomed the Motion of the hon. Member opposite, because he wished to see carefully examined some objectionable clauses which were contained in the Bill.
§ * MR. J. STUART
said, he was sure the House would be glad to hear he had no opposition to offer to that proposal. He was only sorry that advantage had been taken of that occasion to find fault with the action of the London County Council in their procedure in this matter, 1429 it being a difficult question to decide whether this ought to be a Public or a Private Bill. In making the present Motion his hon. Friend had only anticipated a step which the County Council themselves were prepared to take, as he had intended to move a Motion which would have secured the result aimed at by his hon. Friend. Under the circumstances, however, he would accept the Motion now moved.
§ Motion agreed to.