§ 1. The resolution of approving of the intention to make the application must be passed at a meeting of the Council.
§ 2. The resolution shall not be passed unless a month's previous notice of the resolution has been given in manner in which notices of meetings of the Council are usually given.
§ 3. The resolution shall not he passed unless two-thirds of the members of the Council present and voting concur in the resolution.
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester) moved, in paragraph 3, after the word "Council" to insert the word "are." He said that his object was to restore the Bill to the condition in which it was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman. All that the Amendment sought to attain was that in the final approval of an application to construct a light railway in a county, there should be a reasonable number of County Councillors present and taking part in the proceedings. It was possible, if the schedule was allowed to stand in its present form, that an application might be made at the end of a long agenda paper, and when a large number of councillors might be compelled to leave the meeting. As the schedule stood it might be possible for four members out of half-a-dozen members of the Council to pass the final application for the construction of a light railway. It would thus be absurd to give four members out of a total Council membership of 50 or 60 power to pledge the county rates for an indefinite time at the end of a long day's business.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said he must confess that he thought the proposal of the hon. Member was rather startling, and—he said so without any idea of giving offence—rather absurd. ["Hear, hear!"] For the hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose 618 that after a month's notice had been given of the meeting to consider this question, after it had been placed on the agenda paper, and after all the members present at the meeting had been made aware of the matter coming on, that the great body of them would run away, and leave only half-a-dozen of their colleagues to deal with the matter. [Laughter.] He did not believe the members of the councils would so overlook the matter; but even if they did, and went away, it would be a proof that they had no strong objections to urge. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] But, notice having been given, the members would attend to consider the question, and he was confident that the clause in the Schedule of the Bill as it now stood would give sufficient protection to everyone. The Amendment, if adopted, would give rise to enormous inconvenience, and he therefore asked the House to reject it.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
said the proposal as it stood was not quite satisfactory, and he did not think the Amendment quite met the case. It was a fact, undoubtedly, that in many cases County Councils put off any extraordinary business until after the ordinary business had been disposed of, when members left the meeting, and thus it often happened that important resolutions of this sort were carried by the votes of a small number of members. ["Hear, hear!"] In his experience, at any rate, resolutions had been passed without due consideration being given to them. His own opinion was that the procedure under the Local Government Act of 1888 was not satisfactory. He would urge on the right hon. Gentleman that he might take an opportunity, before the Bill went to the other House, to reconsider the whole question with regard to the motion referred to being passed by the County Council—["Hear, hear!"]—for he thought that more than one opportunity should be given to the councillors of recording their opinion on important resolutions. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. BRYCE
thought that the Bill as it stood did not give sufficient protection to the ratepayers. It was quite possible, under present conditions, that a resolution of the kind in question, imposing a serious burden on the ratepayers, might be carried in the County Councils by a small vote. ["Hear, hear!"] Moreover, the position was a little different since the acceptance of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Argyllshire. Before that Amendment was accepted, the application would have to be made at a special meeting; now it would not be so. He was doubtful whether it was wise to go so far in leaving the action of the County Council in this matter open, possibly, to a chance majority, and he thoroughly approved the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Holderness, that the right hon. Gentleman should take an opportunity of reconsidering the question. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. RITCHIE
said that, regarding the matter from that point of view, he would undertake to reconsider it. ["Hear, hear!"] There were only two other Amendments on the Paper now which would be accepted, and he hoped the Committee would now come to a decision, and get the Committee stage of the Bill finished. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. CALDWELL
concurred in the statement that very important business in the County Councils was often left to the end of the meeting, and he thought it would be much better if it was provided that special and important business should be taken at the commencement.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said if the right hon. Gentleman would consider the matter "with the view of providing" he would withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said an Amendment had been inserted which some hon. Gentleman thought somewhat altered the position. That being so he should be glad to consider the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman together with the Amendment which had been made that night. He could not say that it would be with the view of doing certain things. When he said he would consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, he meant it was with the view of seeing whether he could do something to meet it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.