§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire),
said, he should be sorry to oppose a Bill promoted by the London County Council, but he felt bound to call attention to some provisions of the Bill, and particularly to Clause 41.
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch),
having charge of the Bill, wished to explain that Clauses 41 and 42 were introduced into the Bill of last year, and they were struck out at the wish of the Home Office. After reconsideration, they had been re-introduced this year, in order that there might be a further opportunity of discussing them. They had again been before the Home Secretary, who said that he would oppose Clause 41, but not Clause 42, and therefore Clause 41 would be withdrawn.
§ SIR H. JAMES
said, he did not quite appreciate at once what the result of that 1067 might be, but the effect of Clauses 41, 42, 43, and 44, was to give to the London County Council the power of altering the polling districts for the Parliamentary Elections in the Metropolis. This was a most serious power, the exercise of which might be used to affect the representation of the Metropolis in this House. If an objector wished to place his objection before the Committee, and to propose any Amendment of the Clauses, he could only do it by appearing before the Committee by Counsel. Therefore, he asked the House to consider whether a power so important, if it were to be conferred on the County Council, should not be given by public Bill, and not by private Bill, so that it might be discussed in that House like any other change in public law. He did not wish to appear to be opposing the general policy of the London County Council, but he objected to private Bills being introduced in this way. Some pledge should be given that the Clauses he had named would be withdrawn, even if the rest of the Bill passed. In the absence of that pledge, he hoped the House would not allow the Bill to proceed.
§ MR. J. CALDWELL (Mid Lanark)
On a point of Order, may I ask whether it is competent in a private. Bill to interfere in any way with a franchise established under a public Bill, or to alter the boundaries of that franchise? I think it has been held not to be so.
*MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
That is a question for the House, and after the recent ruling of the Speaker, I cannot say that this is a question of order.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, he wished to endorse the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bury. It was a peculiar fact that these Bills were introduced at this early period of the Session. As a rule London County Council Bills had been introduced later in the Session, when hon. Members had had an opportunity of carefully examining them. Why was this Bill introduced so early in the Session? The Bill would have passed the Second Reading on the previous day if an hon. Member had not interposed and objected. On Saturday, when Members took up their Notice Papers, they found that the matter was to be decided on Monday. None of the sixty-two Members who represented London had had an oppor- 1068 tunity of considering these various Bills. The House should remember that these Bills had been drafted by a Parliamentary Committee of the present London County Council. An important Election was pending, in which the policy of the Council would be discussed, and this being the case, he thought it would be wiser to postpone the further consideration of the Bill until after the Election, when they knew the judgment of London with regard to the policy of the Council. If the House found that the views of the majority of the present Council were the views of London, undoubtedly opposition to the Bill would be diminished.
§ *SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, that when he first had the honour of a seat in that House he understood that private Bills referred exclusively to private matters. But from time to time he had noticed a great tendency to alter public Acts by means of private Bills. It was a serious matter, because the result would naturally be that they would not know what the law was. He had not had time carefully to examine these London County Council Bills, but he was convinced that the principle of the particular Clauses, to which objection had been taken, was a bad one, because they altered a public Act. It was desirable that the House should lay down a stringent rule for the future, that it would not allow public Acts of Parliament to be altered by private Acts. If any safeguard were needed in a public Act it should be proposed and discussed in Committee.
§ *MR. J. F. MOULTON (Hackney, S.) moved the Adjournment of the Debate so that the Clauses objected to might be looked into. The County Council only sought power to do in the case of the few districts in which Petty Sessions are the authority that which in the case of districts under the control of Quarter Sessions they can do in the same circumstances.
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
suggested, that the further consideration of the Bill should be postponed for a month. The County Council Elections would shortly take place. These Bills were the subject of platform speeches. The Elections were on Saturday week, and a postponement for a month would enable the new Council to examine, these Bills, and see 1069 whether they approved of the policy of those who represented the Council in that House.
§ MR. J. POWELL WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
reminded the House that certain Government Departments had the right to pass Provisional Orders. It had always been understood that Provisional Orders could only deal with local private Acts, and not interfere with public general Acts. He submitted that no private Bill should be allowed to interfere with a public Act of Parliament.
§ SIR H. JAMES
remarked that there should be give and take in these matters, and to save the trouble of dividing the House he would accept the Motion for Adjournment.
§ Debate adjourned until 26th February.