HC Deb 13 August 1896 vol 44 cc716-26

Motion made, by Order, and Question proposed— That the Standing Orders he suspended, and that the Lords' reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Commons' Amendments to the Dublin Corporation Bill [H.L.]. be now considered."—(Dr. Farquharson.)

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

submitted reasons why the House should refuse to suspend the Standing Orders. The House of Lords had refused to suspend their Standing Orders, and this House should be equally emphatic in adhering to theirs. The House of Lords for the first time had taken the point that a franchise clause introduced into the Bill was against its Standing Orders; in other words, they had raised the grave constitutional question that the House of Commons was bound by the Standing Orders of the House of Lords. He asked the hon. Member for Mid Lanark to tell the House what were the Standing Orders which the House was asked to suspend. It was obnoxious that an omnibus motion should be made to suspend the whole of the Standing Orders in order to oblige the other House, which declined to suspend a single Standing Order for the benefit of the House of Commons. He understood that there were no fewer than 150 Standing Orders in that House, and he asked whether it was not preposterous to be asked to do so. That comity which ought to prevail between the two branches of the Legislature was not always observed by the Upper Chamber, and he thought it was absolutely necessary that the Bill should be sent back to the House of Lords, and that their Lordships should be informed, with great and grave respect, that the House of Commons' Standing Orders were not matters to be juggled with at all. On the contrary, they were matters of serious and grave concern, which the House declined on a message from the Peers to set aside. This Bill was of grave importance. It affected the question of the supply of water to the townships around Dublin. If this were an ordinary case of promoters he should be happy to suspend any ordinary Standing Order, but what had been the action of the promoters of the Bill? The House of Commons unanimously, and two Committees with unanimity, passed certain franchise clauses in the Bill. They went up to the House of Lords Standing Orders Committee, and there the promoters of the Bill were represented by an eminent learned gentleman engaged by the Corporation to state their case on the question of the suspension of the Standing Orders. The Corporation of Dublin could easily have had this clause included in the Bill if they had taken the proper course in the House of Lords. The Corporation of Dublin appeared by counsel before the Committee, and they stated no objection whatever to the inclusion of the franchise clauses in the Bill. They were absolutely delighted at the prospect of having 20,000 citizens included, and were especially most anxious to do nothing to hurt the working men. But the working men had a different opinion about the Corporation of Dublin now from what they had on a previous occasion. He had received a telegram that day from the Trades Council of Dublin, representing 20,000 Dublin working men, urging him to stand by all the franchise clauses in the Corporation Bill. He impeached the good faith of the Corporation of Dublin with regard to this Bill, and especially with regard to the franchise clauses. They were entitled to no consideration whatever from the House of Commons. In the House of Lords, Mr. Cameron, representing the Corporation, was reported to have said that the water part of the Bill had received the sanction of both Houses; but, on the Motion of himself and the hon. Member for North Monaghan, instructions were inserted in the Bill. As to Part III. of the Bill, Mr. Cameron said that the Corporation "assumed no paternity." He thought, however, that the Corporation were literally gasping to have the franchise, but from the start their action with regard to these franchise clauses had been hypocritical. [Cheers.] It was said:— If your Lordships saw fit to extend the franchise in the manner proposed, the Corporation would accept it, but they were in no sense responsible for that part of the Bill, and then the Corporation placed itself in the hands of their Lordships. As to the clauses forming Part III. he was silent, and produced no evidence with regard to them. What effect did this declaration produce? The effect was most evident, because the Chairman made a remark of a pregnant character. Mr. Cameron once more intervened in the argument:— Mr. Cameron: I am not supporting this clause; the Corporation of Dublin are not supporting this clause. Whereupon the Earl of Morley said "We understood you to say so." What had been the hypocritical action of the Corporation of Dublin with regard to this franchise question? When this Bill was first thought of last year they announced that they would put in the franchise clauses in order to satisfy the almost unanimous demand of the Dublin working classes.


The hon. and learned Member is now going into a matter which may be more properly discussed if and when this question is decided in the affirmative, and when the question of the Lords' Amendment is before the House striking out Part III. The only question now is whether the Lords' Amendment should be considered. Since the hon. Member referred to the Standing Orders I have made inquiry, and I find that, though the words "the Standing Order be suspended" were necessary at the time this Motion was set down, they are unnecessary now, and I shall therefore not put them to the House.


said that if the Motion was unnecessary, it ought to be withdrawn. He submitted that the hon. Member for Mid Lanark should have stated what the reasons were for disagreement on the part of the Lords, and why they should now be considered. It was undesirable at this stage that further heat should be developed between the two Houses at a moment when the Irish Land Bill was trembling in the balance. When a public Bill was introduced last year, the Lords threw it out, and now, when a private Bill was brought in it was thrown out on the ground that it ought to have been a public Bill. As a whole he took the view that the Lords' reasons for disagreeing with the Commons on the question of the franchise ought not to be now considered. They would be told that this was a Bill of great importance to the Corporation of Dublin. The price they were charging the Corporation of Dublin for the sum of £9,000 a year, which they wanted for their water—the price that they asked was the admission of the citizens of Dublin as a whole to the franchise. The House had already passed franchise clauses this year in three Bills, the Corporation of Drogheda Bill, the Waterford Bill, and the Bill relating to Armagh. In the case of Drogheda the House inserted a franchise clause in a Provisional Order Bill, and the Lords actually swallowed it, and they would have swallowed this clause in the same way if any attempt had been made to induce them to do so. But they had not swallowed the franchise clauses in the case of this Bill because the Dublin Corporation were hostile to them. The Earl of Morley was not a greater Chairman of Committees than the late Lord Redesdale, and when the Rathmines Bill came before Lord Redesdale in 1885, that noble Lord made no difficulty about suspending the Standing Order.


The hon. Member is not keeping to the question before the House, which is that these Amendments be now considered.


said that he was arguing that the Bill ought not to have been sent down to them at all at this stage, but as the Corporation of Dublin had insisted upon its being sent down they must take the consequences. They had flouted the decision of the House of Commons, for the House had unanimously passed the franchise clauses.

MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)

said he was glad to find himself for once in accord with the hon. and learned Member. He agreed that it would be impossible at this stage of the Session to consider properly the important questions that arose on the Lords' Amendments. He thought it, however, right to say, in justification of the course taken in another place, that no one appeared before the Standing Committee of the other House to support these franchise clauses.


said that he would gladly Lave attended to support them had he thought that he would be listened to.


said that the promoters of the Bill appeared and disclaimed practically all knowledge of these clauses. They disclaimed all desire to pass them, and no one said a word in their favour. In the circumstances he did not see how even the hon. and learned Member opposite could contend that the House of Lords could have done anything but what they did do. The hon. and learned Member said that they ought not to proceed to discuss these clauses, and he agreed with him. The hon. Member said that the question raised was of great constitutional importance, and that the conflict between the two Houses might become intensified if these clauses were proceeded with. If there was any probability of anything of that kind, it certainly appeared to him that it would be an absurd thing, when the House of Commons was about to disperse for the holidays, to enter into a conflict with the other House. The question which had been raised was merely a question of price between two different bodies, and it might well stand over until a more convenient time, and until they could find out what was the view of the Dublin Corporation and the view of the Irish Executive as to the importance or necessity of having these franchise clauses tacked on to a simple Water Bill. They ought to hear from some member of the Government some reason for the proposal to suspend the Standing Orders. He took that opportunity of welcoming back to the Ministerialist side of the House the hon. Member for Mid Lanark, who seemed to have taken his seat on the Treasury Bench as if he knew that the Irish Executive were determined not to give the House any information on this subject.


said that the only question between the Dublin Corporation and the surrounding townships was a question as to the price which was to be paid for, and the amount of water which was to be given by the Corporation to those townships. His reasons for agreeing with the hon. and learned Member for North Louth were the following. It had been laid down in the House of Lords, and also in the House of Commons, that it was inexpedient that communities should be supplied with water by trading companies.


The hon. Member is entitled to argue that the Bill is in the main a Water Bill, and that it is important that the water clauses should be passed, and that opposition would result in destroying the Bill, but he is not entitled to pursue the line of argument upon which he is entering.


asked whether he could argue that the water clauses ought not to be passed?


said the hon. Member could not enter into that argument.


said that a large principle was involved in the Bill which ought not to have been dealt with by a Private Committee, that principle being that communities ought to have some representation upon the bodies which supplied them with water.


said that to argue the point would be out of order. It was not competent for the hon. Member to initiate a discussion as to the constitution of the Water Companies.


said that in those circumstunces he must content himself with supporting the hon. and learned Member for North Louth in his opposition to the Motion before the House. He might observe that a large number of Members had put down notices of opposition upon the Paper.

MR. J. L. CAREW (Dublin, College Green)

said that the hon. and learned Member for Louth had made a bitter attack on the Corporation of Dublin. He had described the action of the Corporation as hypocritical. He (Mr. Carew) thought that the hon. and learned Member's own action towards the working men of Dublin deserved that epithet to a greater degree. What were the facts? At the eleventh hour, on a Bill which was a Water Bill, the hon. and learned Member tabled two Instructions, one for the purpose of extending the franchise to the citizens of Dublin, and the other to take it away from them. The hon. and learned Member first appealed to the working men of Dublin, saying "we are going to extend the franchise to you," and now he appealed for support to Members on the other side of the House on the ground principally that he was going to increase the number of Conservatives on the Dublin Corporation from 11 to 20. The attitude of the hon. and learned Member for North Louth would be fatal to this Bill and to his own franchise clauses. He wanted the Corporation of Dublin either to lose the £12,000 which they had spent in promoting this Water Bill, or to accept franchise clauses which they did not approve. It should be borne in mind that the Corporation had spent £12,000, and if the Bill were defeated they would have to spend a similar sum next year in the promotion of another Bill. He trusted, therefore, that the Bill might be saved.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

said that the epithet "hypocritical" applied to the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin and to him alone. It was the hon. Member for the Harbour Division, and not the hon. Member for North Louth who was responsible for the position in which the Dublin Corporation found themselves. The hon. Member for North Louth put down certain Instructions on the Paper for the Committee that first considered the Bill. These Instructions had remained on the Paper for seven days because the hon. Member for Louth was not present to move them, and when at length they were brought forward there was nobody there to oppose them on behalf of the Corporation of Dublin. The consequence was that, when the hon. Member for the Harbour Division arrived on the scene, all this trouble about the franchise arose, and he dragged the other Members for Dublin into opposing the extension of the franchise to the working men of Dublin. If anybody should be described as hypocritical in this matter, it was the hon. Member for the Harbour Division, and he regretted to say that he was not present now. The hon. Member professed the most intense anxiety to give his fellow cititens the franchise, and yet had taken every opportunity to defeat that object. He desired earnestly to support the hon. Member for Louth. The Corporation of Dublin professed to represent the citizens of Dublin, but yet they were afraid to give them those means of electing them, which were conferred on every other citizen in this kingdom.

MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin Co. N.)

said he could not listen in silence to an attack on the hon. Member for the Harbour Division. The hon. Member had, he thought, chose a singularly unhappy moment for attacking his hon. Friend—namely, in his absence.


I said I regretted his absence.


replied that, at all events, when the hon. Member was present no attack was made upon him by the hon. Gentleman. He appealed to the Government for some direction in this matter. As for himself, he intended to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Louth, and did so on the grounds that this Bill had cost the citizens of Dublin £12,000, and another Bill next year would cost them £12,000 more probably. The franchise portion of the Bill would be killed by the kindly work of the hon. Member for Louth; but if his Motion were defeated, opportunity would arise to consider the franchise clauses. He appealed to the Government to give some direction and not to leave the House in the position it now was.

*MR. JAMES O'CONNOR (Wicklow, W.)

moved to omit the word "now," in order to insert "on this day three months." He opposed this Bill for reasons that had already been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. It was, as far as he was concerned as one of the Members for the County of Wicklow, a question of the price to be paid by the town of Bray for the water supplied by the Dublin Corporation. The price of water to them would be trebled. For that reason he was opposed to the consideration of these Amendments now. He heard hon. Members talk about the cost to the Corporation of Dublin, but what he thought about was the money the townships in Wicklow and South Dublin would have to pay under this Bill.


The hon. Member is now going into a part of the Bill which is not affected by the Lords' Amendments.


I shall not further pursue that line of argument, so I will content myself by moving to omit "now," in order to insert "on this day three months."

MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)

seconded the Motion because he believed it was justified in precedent. On a previous occasion, when a Corporation representing a small fraction of the citizens, had asked for largely increased powers, the House of Commons had taken the line that increased powers should not be given until that small and narrow Corporation consented to extend the franchise. That was the course taken in the case of the Belfast Main Drainage Bill. This Bill was merely a question of money disputes between the Dublin Corporation on one side and the townships around on the other. If the Bill was lost it did not mean that any one within or without Dublin would be any the worse off for water; therefore, its rejection would not do any harm to any human being. The Belfast Bill was postponed from time to time until the Corporation of Belfast agreed to introduce clauses for the extension of the franchise. What was sauce for the goose in Belfast was sauce for the gander in Dublin, and the Corporation of Dublin ought to be made to take the same course if they wanted to get their Bill through the House.


said he told the Dublin Corporation in the most straightforward manner that unless these franchise clauses were introduced by the House of Lords, he would do his best to kill the Bill when it came before the Commons. He made no secret of that. What the House imposed upon Belfast it ought to impose also upon Dublin. They refused to allow the Belfast Improvement Bill to go through the House until the Corporation consented to extend the franchise. Why, then, should they allow a narrow oligarchy in Dublin to come to them for a Bill seeking to impose a charge of about £9,000 on the surrounding populations until that narrow oligarchy was content to do for its citizens what the Orangemen of Belfast consented to do for theirs? The action of the Corporation disentitled them to all claims for consideration in the House. The House of Commons unanimously passed the franchise clauses, and was he to be told that for the sake of £12,000, they were to give to the Corporation of Dublin what they asked for instead of delaying them for a single year. It was stated by a famous French monarch, "Paris is well worth a mass"; he thought the franchise was well worth £12,000 to Dublin. [Laughter.]

MR. L. P. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)

reminded the hon. and learned Member for Louth that there was the strongest opposition to extend the franchise in Belfast on the occasion to which he had alluded.


Order, order! The hon. Member is not entitled to go into the question of Belfast.

MR. HAYDEN (continuing)

said he thought it was unfair that the Corporation of Dublin should be put to further expense when they were prepared to extend the franchise next year. He appealed to the House not to throw this money away.


said the Corporation of Dublin were bound to supply water to the surrounding townships, and they asked the House of Commons to enable them to do it. He was quite as anxious as the hon. Member for Louth to extend the franchise in Dublin, but he was unwilling that this Bill should be lost because it did not extend the franchise. It was not the Corporation of Dublin who refused to extend the franchise, but the House of Lords. He hoped that the House would not reject the Bill merely to compel the Corporation of Dublin to come forward next year with a Bill containing a franchise provision. Even if the Corporation did bring forward such a Bill next year what security had they that it would pass. In his opinion it was a monstrous injustice if all the money which the Corporation had spent on promoting this Bill were to be wasted. He urgently appealed to hon. Members opposite to allow the Measure to pass and to let the question relating to the franchise come up next year. Those who were opposing the Measure were not supported by a single member of the Dublin Corporation.


said that the Corporation of Dublin were not supporting this clause.


asked whether he should be in order in moving the adjournment of the Debate.


The effect of such a Motion, if successful, would, at this period of the Session, be to destroy the Bill, and under the circumstances I ought not to accept it.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 62; Noes, 65.—(Division List, No. 415.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Consideration of Lords' Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Commons Amendments put off for three months.

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