HC Deb 16 July 1896 vol 42 cc1614-20

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now considered."

MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthen, E.)

moved to leave out the words "now considered," in order to add instead thereof the words "re-committed to the former Committee in respect of Clause 75."—[Clause 75,—HARBOUR RATES.] The Commissioners may demand and take for or in respect of articles mentioned in the Third Schedule to this Act exported or imported over he Bar any rates not exceeding the respective rates specified in that Schedule. The said rates are in this Act referred to as "Harbour Rates."] He said he should not have moved this Resolution had he not felt that if the Bill passed in its present form it would really cause a very serious injustice to a large number of traders, who traded in a neighbouring port to the port of Llanelly itself. He proposed that the Bill should only be re-committed so far as Clause 75 was concerned, and his Motion did not in any way affect any other part of the Bill. If the clause, or the subject of the clause, had come before either a Committee of the House of Lords or House of Commons, and had been discussed by them, he should have considered the matter had been inquired into, and should have no right to interfere by trying the get the Bill re committed. The position was this: The Llanelly Port and Harbour Commissioners wished to improve their port. The harbour of Llanelly was on an estuary of a river called the Burry River and the Llwchwr River, and above four miles lower down on the mouth of the estuary there was another port called the Burry Port in behalf of the traders of which place he suggested the Bill should be re-committed. The whole object of the Llanelly Port and Harbour Commissioners was to improve their own port, and in no sense could it be understood or thought that they were going to improve the Burry Port. The lines of deviation of any of the alterations they were entitled to make did not come within two miles of the entrance to the Burry Port. For 60 years both the ports had been carrying on business in the estuary, and no harbour dues could be charged upon goods taken into the estuary unless they were shipped or unshipped in the port of Llanelly itself; but by the alteration which had been made in Section 75 any ships in future crossing the bar whether loaded or discharged at Burry Port or Llanelly, would have to pay for coal 2d., and other goods such as tin plates, harbour dues at the rate of 6d. a ton. There were 125,000 tons shipped and unshipped in Burry Port, and the traders would be mulcted to an amount of £1,000 a year for the purpose of improving Llanelly Harbour. When the Bill came before the House of Lords Committee the rights of the Burry Port people were not affected, but when it came to the House of Commons the clause was altered. None of the shippers knew that their rights were going to be interfered with, and consequently were not represented, so that the question was never raised in either House. It was obvious that where Committees were formed they took all the care they possibly could in regard to the clauses of the various Bills which came before them. But there were 137 clauses in this Bill, and however clever the Chairman or Members of the Committee might be, it was utterly impossible for them to go through clause by clause the whole of a Bill of the kind and find out how it would work with respect to one particular class of persons unless their minds were directed to that specific matter. On the promoters' own showing this was never raised, and although he agreed that it was not a good way of doing business to refer matters back to Committees when they had once considered them, if by some accident a really gross injustice would be perpetrated which was never called to their attention, an exceptional case was made out, and it was the duty of the House to refer the Bill back to the Committee that they might reconsider Clause 75. He could not help thinking that when it was seen that the whole of the Bill was intended for the benefit of Llanelly, they would say that it was ridiculous to make Burry Port pay Llanelly £1,200 a year for the pleasure of having their opponents, the Llanelly Harbour people, improving their own works that they might compete with them. He was quite independent in this matter. Burry Port was in his constituency and so was Llanelly, although it was a borough represented in the House. There were as many of his own supporters or the supporters of his opponents living in Llanelly as in Burry Port. He felt that such an injustice was being done to Burry Port that, if it were brought home to the minds of the people in Llanelly, they would be the first to say they did not want to get an improvement to their harbour at the expense of a neighbouring and similar port.

MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.),

in seconding the Motion, said it was clear that the insertion of Clause 75 in the Bill involved great hardship on the traders of Burry Port. They had always been willing to pay for any extra facilities they had ever had; but under this Bill they would have to pay a great deal and get nothing in return. The question was, whether the Burry Port traders had been guilty of such negligence as to disentitle them to have the Bill recommitted that Clause 75 might be reconsidered? When the first Bill was introduced they might have had notice that the question of rates would be raised; but this subsequent Bill contained nothing to indicate that the condition of the traders of Burry Port would be disturbed in any way. The Bill originally introduced contained nothing which prejudicially affected their interest. No fair-minded man would, in such circumstances, consider that they had been guilty of such negligence as would disentitle them to have their case reconsidered. Their attention was never called to the effect of Clause 75, and they had had no fair opportunity to place their views before the Committee. He submitted that they would be very harshly treated if the Bill was not recommitted.

COLONEL GUNTER (York, W.R., Barkstone Ash)

said that, as Chairman of the Committee which considered the Bill upstairs and passed it as long ago as June 22nd, he desired to say a few words on the Motion. The Bill came down to the Committee from the House of Lords. Prior to going up to the Lords the Bill contained a clause dealing with dues, but it was found that there were a number of old Acts of Parliament that it was better to repeal, and so Clause 75 was substituted. The Bill, therefore, contained that clause when it came down from the Lords to the Committee. He understood during the proceedings in Committee that the Bill gave the traders of Burry Port free anchorage and everything else they asked for. The fact was that this opposition to the clause was an afterthought. The traders who were now opposing the clause were in the Committee-room and heard the whole of the evidence.


The traders were not represented before the Committee.


said he understood the promoters of the Bill had already spent £5,000, and it would be a great hardship to them, as well as a violation of principle, to recommit the Bill.

MR. DAVID RANDELL (Glamorgan, Gower)

opposed the Motion. The Bill had passed the Lords, and also the Committee of the House of Commons, after a full inquiry, lasting ten days or more, during which the petitioners against the Bill were heard. The Burry Port traders pretended to be taken by surprise in regard to the proposed rates on goods. He could not take that view, because when the Bill was first deposited in the House of Lords there was in Clause 66 express and specific reference to these rates. Notice was again given to the traders in the Parliamentary notices of the Bill which were inserted in the local newspapers, and specific reference was made to the powers asked by the promoters of the Bill to deal with rates. A copy of the Bill was served upon the Burry Port Railway Company, who were virtually the opponents of the Bill that afternoon. ["Hear, hear!"] In the House of Lords, also, the principal witnesses for the promoters were partly cross-examined about these rates. He contended that the traders of Burry Port would suffer no injustice whatever from the clause. Three out of four traders opposing were present before the Committee, and had an opportunity of hearing fully the evidence and the speeches of counsel, and not a word of objection was raised by them. He knew the locality well, and ventured to say that Burry Port traders would suffer no injury whatever. On the contrary, they would benefit by the Bill. It was admitted by the opponents of the Bill that the works proposed to be constructed would improve the entrance to their harbour, and would directly benefit the traders of Burry Port. He hoped the House, therefore, would not agree to the Motion. It would be a great hardship if, after the expenditure of something like £5,000, the promoters had to go before a new Committee and re-examine all their witnesses over again. ["Hear, hear!"]


said he had very great difficulty in considering this case. It had been very fairly put before the House by the two hon. Members opposite who moved and seconded the Motion. The difficulty he felt was this. All the Rules which the House had laid down for the guidance of persons approaching it in reference to private legislation had been complied with in this case. Notice was given of the Bill covering this Clause 75 as it now stood. It was quite possible that the traders of Burry Port had been misled by the fact that the Bill as originally deposited, contained Clause 66, which was difficult of construction. He had no doubt himself that the promoters of the Bill, in drafting that clause, intended to impose charges on Burry Fort from which it had up to that time been free. On the other hand, the traders of Bury Port, on reading the clause, might very well have thought that under that clause they were exempt, and would continue to be exempt, from the rates and tolls which the promoters intended to charge. The authorities of the House of Lords, as soon as they saw Clause 66, said that in their opinion it was very involved and very difficult of construction, and they thought such a clause should not stand. Thereupon the promoters of the Bill altered the clause, cut out a portion of it, and inserted Clause 75, their object being to make it perfectly clear that they intended to impose those charges on the trade going to Burry Port which the port up to that time had not been subject to. In the Bill which came before the Committee of the House of Lords this clause stood, it was considered, and passed. In the Bill as it came before this House this clause stood, and he thought it was admitted that, not until the Bill was actually through the Committee stage did the traders of Burry Port discover that possibly they might suffer damages from the Bill. Whether that was so must depend upon evidence which he had not heard. There possibly might be a hard case if the Bill went through in its present form. He did not know, but it might be a great hardship to the traders of Burry Port if they had these charges imposed upon them, without perhaps deriving any advantage from the works proposed to be constructed. But he had not been able to form an opinion on that matter. He was there only as a custodian of the Rules of the House, and as such, he could only advise the House that, however hard the case might be, the Rules had been fully complied with. If the traders of Burry Port did not become aware of the fact that these charges were likely to fall upon them, it was their own fault. The notices of the Bill clearly clearly covered the Bill as it now stood; and it would be a dangerous precedent to allow parties at the eleventh hour, or rather on the stroke of the twelfth, to demand the recommittal of a Bill because they had not appreciated the significance of the notice sent to them. If the House were not to stand by the notices which it required, there was little use in insisting on them. He would advise, on this occasion, as the Rules had been complied with, that the Bill should not be recommitted.

SIR JOHN JONES JENKINS (Carmarthen Boroughs)

hoped that the Bill would not be recommitted. A great advantage to Burry Port would result from the building of the dock. The Commissioners had already been at great trouble to keep the estuary free, and they had spent about £20,000 on the work. All along it had been the view that those who landed or exported goods there could be fairly called upon to con tribute towards the enormous cost of keeping the estuary free. From the first there had been no doubt about the intention of the Commissioners to make this charge, and he hoped the House would not establish a dangerous precedent by recommitting the Bill.

Question, "That the words 'now considered' stand part of the Question," put and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to, Bill considered.

Amendments made; Bill to be read the Third time.