§ The Board of Trade may confirm the Order with or without modifications as the case may require, and an Order so confirmed shall have effect as if enacted by Parliament, and shall be conclusive evidence that all the requirements of this Act in respect of proceedings required to be taken before the making of the Order have been complied with.
§ MR. RENSHAW
said that under this clause the Board of Trade might confirm an Order, and the Order so confirmed would be as effective as any Act of Parliament. This was giving the Board of Trade a legislative power which he thought no Government Department should possess. He, therefore, moved to insert after the word "confirmed" the words:—shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and if neither House of Parliament within thirty days passes a Resolution adverse to the said Order it.Under the Local Government Act of 1894, powers were given to parish councils for the acquisition of land for public purposes without having to come to Parliament. An Order for the purpose had first to be granted by the County Council; and if such Order was refused by the County Council the parish council could appeal to the Local Government Board; but it was provided that if the Local Government Board decided to issue an Order in such circumstances it could only become effective on being passed through both Houses as a Provisional Order. Again, there was at present before the House awaiting its Second Reading, a Public Health (Scotland) Bill. In the clause dealing with the acquisition of land for the purposes of public health—purposes more important than light railways—the Government had carefully safeguarded the 447 interests of owners and occupiers of land. There was also a provision that when the Local Government Board had been approached and had issued an Order for the acquisition of land for public health purposes, if a single person objected, a Provisional Order for the acquisition of land would have to be passed through Parliament. Again, in the Agricultural Rating Bill an Amendment had been inserted on the Motion of the hon. Member for Caithness, providing that any regulation issued by the Local Government Board, not in reference to the acquisition of land but in reference to rating, should lay on the Table of the House ten days before it was made effective. It was because he did not think it was right to give such large powers in regard to the acquisition of land to any Government Department, that he moved his Amendment.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said it was a deliberate part of the policy of the Bill that the Parliamentary supervision which had hitherto applied to the acquisition of land should in the case of light railways be removed, subject to certain safeguards and restrictions and investigation before two tribunals—the Light Railway Commissioners and the Board of Trade—the object in view being to render the acquisition of land more easy and less expensive than it had been before. His hon. Friend was mistaken in thinking that there was no precedent for this course. It was true that under the Original Allotments Act a Provisional Order was necessary where land had to be acquired; but under the Amending Act, the Provisional Order was no longer necessary, nor was any appeal to Parliament necessary. He believed that the safeguards which were set up in the Bill in regard to the acquisition of land for the purposes of light railways were ample and sufficient. He desired that the operation of the Act should be swift, but at the same time he should not have proposed the procedure laid down in the Bill, if he did not believe that under it the interests of all parties concerned would be fully protected. He hoped that in these circumstances the hon. Gentleman would not press his Amendment.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said that one of the chief objects of this Bill was to place a limit upon the expense and delay 448 of the present mode of procedure. It would entirely neutralise the advantage sought to be obtained by this Measure if the action of the Board of Trade in this matter were to be upset by a vote of that House, given without having adequate information before them. He had heard the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade with much satisfaction, and he trusted that the Government would strongly resist this Amendment.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said it was evident that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had more confidence in the Board of Trade than he had in Parliament, but for his own part he had more confidence in Parliament than he had in the Board of Trade. In his view, it would be most dangerous to give large uncontrolled powers of this description to any Department. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and the hon. Gentleman below the gangway both suggested that the Amendment would give rise to great expense and delay. His view, however, was that it would not add a single farthing to the expense, or occasion a day's delay to the procedure. The proposal of the Government was to treat these Orders like a cucumber, that after they had been carefully cut up, salted, and had had pepper, oil, and vinegar added to them, the Board of Trade might throw them out of the window. The Board of Trade might turn the Orders inside out or upside down, and then, having done that, they might forsooth confirm them. The fact was that the Board of Trade already possessed too many of these powers, and they ought to be subject to the control of that House in the exercise of them.
§ DR. CLARK
said that he must appeal to the members of the Conservative Party not to support their Leaders on this occasion. Where Parliament had devoted its powers to make Orders of this kind to any Commission or Department, it had hitherto always provided that those Orders should not have the force of law until they had lain upon the Tables of both Houses of Parliament for a certain period. In the case of the Agricultural Land Rating Bill, the Government had proposed, for the first time, that the control of that House over Orders made by the Board of Trade 449 under its provisions should be done away with, and that the sale powers with regard to such Orders should be vested in that Board. That proposal was strongly opposed, and the Government were compelled to accept the principle that those regulations should not become law until they had lain upon the Tables of both Houses for 10 days. He could not see that there was the slightest foundation for the suggestion that the Amendment would increase the cost of the procedure. Now, for the second time this Session, a Conservative Government were proposing to take away the control of the House over these matters and to give the sole control over them to a Department. Unless the Amendment were adopted, the only control that hon. Members would have over these matters would be by moving once a year the reduction of the salary of the President of the Board of Trade, and the opportunity for doing so might not come until after the mischief had been done. He hoped and trusted that there were still some Conservatives in existence, and that they would bring pressure to bear upon the Government to induce them to accept this Amendment.
§ MR. E. W. BYRNE (Essex, Walthamstow)
said that this Bill proposed to give large powers to a Government Department, and it was of great importance that that House should keep control over the exercise of those powers by the Department in question, and that every Order which they made should lie upon the Tables of both Houses of Parliament for a certain period before they should come into force. The adoption of such a proposal would involve neither expense nor delay. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
hoped that the Government would not accept the Amendment. It must be remembered that Parliament did not sit all the year round, and therefore the regulations made during the Recess could not be enforced until the re-assembly of Parliament. He certainly did not expect to hear from the hon. Member for Caithness a proposal that the House of Lords should have its 450 veto power increased. The Motion might be moved in the House of Lords, and if carried there would absolutely upset any provision for the construction of a light railway sanctioned by the Board of Trade, and they knew that in the House of Lords there was always a Party majority one way. There were strong restrictions placed on the granting of these Orders, and he did not think there was the least fear of the interests of the local landowners being injuriously affected.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
thought his right hon. Friend might without much loss of dignity give way in this matter. ["Hear, hear!"] The burden of an ill-considered light railway scheme, made without due consideration, would be felt by the locality for a very long time. The Board of Trade was an executive and could not pretend to be a judicial Department.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
said that if he felt that there was any necessity for the safeguard which his hon. Friends behind him desired, he should not venture to appeal to them to give way, but in his opinion it would be entirely illusory, and the Amendment, if carried, would have a damaging effect. He must for once differ from his hon. and learned Friend as to the action of the Board of Trade not being judicial, and he was confident that their duties would be regarded as judicial. To consider such a case as that of a landowner who was not allowed enough compensation, could there be any tribunal worse than the House of Commons after 12 o'clock? He would say when there was a Party majority of Conservatives in the House. [Opposition laughter.] No one could deny that it was not a satisfactory way of dealing with such questions by discussions after 12 o' clock, when the House would not have the evidence before it. On such matters as railway rates and the terms on which the money was to be advanced, the protection which it was proposed to give by the Amendment would not only be illusory, but would give to the majority for the time being the power of rejecting a scheme which a locality might be most anxious to have. An Order could not be laid before the Houses of Parliament 451 from the prorogation in August until the sitting of the House in the following February. But he did not wish to base his opposition on any minor ground, and he thought his right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill had exercised a wise moderation when he said that he could not allow the proposals of the Bill to be impeded by the course of action which this Amendment would involve. This proposal would not take the place of an Inquiry by Provisional Order or by private Act of Parliament, and he hoped the House would not adopt it.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
thought the right hon. Gentleman had gone farther than the Amendment, for his remarks seemed to be directed against the mode of dealing with private Bill legislation. [Opposition cheers.] The argument that there might be delay in dealing with these schemes when Parliament was not sitting appeared to him, as far as it went, to be an argument in favour of the Amendment. It was very undesirable that schemes of this kind should be passed through while Parliament was not sitting, and could have no control over the money which was to be voted. He thought the Amendment was one of very considerable importance, and he regarded these proposals for granting money for local purposes with some amount of apprehension, as in other countries they had led to very great difficulties in finance. Surely it was not unreasonable to ask that that House, which was the guardian of the public purse, should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion, if it thought fit, on one of these grants or loans. What chance would a landowner have, whichever side was in power, if he came to that House to oppose a light railway scheme on the ground that he did not get sufficient compensation himself? ["Hear, hear!"] The real ground of opposition would be that there was not a sufficiently strong case made out for a particular light railway. It would be very difficult to resist a grant once promised by Government, and this would certainly only be done when there was a strong case. In the interests, therefore, of economy and of the public purse, he hoped the Government would accept the Amendment.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said as far as he was concerned, he hoped he had made his meaning perfectly clear. He considered that if this Amendment were accepted by the House it would be an enormous blow to the whole Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] It should be clearly understood that he was entirely opposed to the Amendment.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said this was not a mere question between locality and locality; it might be a question between landlord and landlord, company and company. It was simply a plan for getting more public money. But there was another point of much more importance. Under the 5th Clause, special grants might be made to certain railway companies for making railways. No doubt the sum was limited; it was only £250,000. There would be considerable competition between locality and locality, and between company and company, and there would be tremendous pressure put on the Board of Trade, the Railway Commission, and even Members of the Government, to favour one against the other. That was not a mere prospective danger. He could point to a case where it had absolutely occurred. It was that of the West Highland Railway. ["Hear, hear!"] In 1891, there was an election in that district, and the agent of the Conservative Party stated "if you put in——"
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
pointed out that his argument was that where there was a job of that kind, there ought to be an appeal to the House of Commons.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said then he would ask the House to suppose that in a district in the Highlands or elsewhere a light railway was required to be made. One political Party might say "We will press the Board of Trade to give a special grant to this district." Electioneering capital was made out of it. He was making no suggestion of jobbery against the Board of Trade, but they could prove that the Treasury was amenable to pressure of that kind. To guard against such cases, the House of Commons should be constituted a Court 453 of Appeal. Take the case of a district controlled by two powerful railway companies, and a district with a weak company. The latter might need the railway most, but the former, with its representatives in that House, no doubt, would get the grant. They were told that this matter would be gone into as a judicial question, but no one knew better than the Attorney General that the Board of Trade was not trained for that work. If it was the Railway Commission that would be a different matter. He did not see whore the Light Railway Commissioners came in. The only safe course was to come to the House of Commons. As the Amendment proposed to give power to the House of Lords to deal with the granting of public money, he should make an Amendment which would make the clause constitutional. He therefore moved to omit the words "of neither House of Parliament," and insert instead the words "unless the House of Commons."
§ MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
hoped his right hon. Friend would adhere to his decision, and would resist this Amendment, which, he thought, would be more objectionable, instead of being improved by the alteration suggested in the Amendment of the hon. Member who had just sat down. He had listened carefully to the arguments of his hon. Friends behind him, and his hon. Friend the Member for the Walthamstow Division know that he always distrusted—though he did not surrender—his judgment when it differed from his, as he had the greatest respect for his opinion. But really, he thought the misgivings of his hon. Friends arose from a misapprehension of the effect of the Amendment which they were going to support. They advocated this Amendment because, forsooth, the Board of Trade, or, indeed, he thought they said any Government Department was not a judicial tribunal. Perhaps they were right. But that was not the issue involved in this Amendment. Suppose he conceded—and he was far from admitting it, on the contrary, he denied it; ["Hear, hear!"] he believed indeed that the Board of Trade would approach these matters with the impartiality they demanded—and suppose he admitted that the Board of Trade would not view these questions judicially, did his hon. 454 Friends believe, would they state in that House that in their opinion, the House of Commons, after 12 o'clock at night without any evidence before it, could, if it wanted, approach and decide these questions more judicially or more impartially than the Board of Trade, with evidence, and counsel representing both sides and all parties, before it, in the more reasonable, and certainly in the more judicial moments of the day. He opposed this Amendment, principally because it would add to, whilst he desired to relieve the burdens which paralyse this House. [Cheers.] He recognised that this was a consideration which would not appeal to the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. But even he—perhaps he more than any other Member—must know that the discussions in that House, after midnight, were often heated, were rarely dispassionate, and never judicial. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Caithness said we were taking away from this House the control of the legislative power which was its proper prerogative. He did not think that was an accurate description of the effect of the clause under discussion. In his view this Amendment would give further opportunity to Members to resort to the forms of the House for the purpose of occupying its time, and though he quite recognised that was not a reason which would constitute an objection in the eyes of some hon. Members opposite, it was for that reason that he strongly hoped the Amendment would be rejected by a decisive majority. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. BRYCE
said the Member for the University of London and the Member for Carnarvon argued this Amendment as if it only applied to light railways receiving Treasury aid. If the object of the Amendment was merely to safeguard public money, he should vote for it, and it would have the support of the House; but the Amendment went much further than that. It intended, in the words of the Mover of it, to constitute the House a Court of Appeal from the Light Railways Commissioners and the Board of Trade. Was that House competent to act as a Court of Appeal? They had had some experience. There were a good many cases which came before the House even from public authorities, and they knew that there 455 was a very scanty attendance as a rule. Those who were requested by friends to stay did stay, and the decisions were given, not upon the statements of witnesses, not upon advice given, but upon a series of allegations which could not be tested. He thought that those who had watched these proceedings would agree with him that the House was not the proper tribunal to pronounce upon schemes of that kind. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Board of Trade was fit to carry out the work which the Bill put upon it, it was fit to make these Orders. It must not be supposed that the Board of Trade was not a judicial body. Its inspectors had a great deal of judicial experience, and did their work in a judicial way; while a great deal of the other work of the Department was judicial work. The Parliamentary head was constantly in touch with public opinion, and was amenable to the House. He could not imagine any circumstances under which the Parliamentary head would be likely to override private rights in the heedless and dangerous way suggested by the mover of the Amendment. The position of landlords and of localities and the safety of the public would be perfectly well cared for, and he agreed with the President of the Board of Trade the adoption of the Amendment would strike a grave blow at the whole frame of the Bill. He hoped the House would not undertake the very dangerous functions which the hon. Member proposed to give it; and if it did introduce the principle it would restrict the appeal to cases in which financial aid was given by the Treasury—cases in which, no doubt, the House would have a right of interference.
§ * MR. T. T. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
said that if the Board of Trade were simply to confirm, or refuse to confirm, an Order made by the Light Railway Commissioners he did not think he would vote in favour of the Amendment. But, under the 10th Clause, the Board of Trade might confirm an Order with or without modification, as the case might require. They might entirely remodel an Order without laying that Order before Parliament. The Attorney General preferred the Board of Trade between the hours of 10 and 4 to the House of Commons after midnight. He saw no reason for saying 456 that the House of Commons was not competent to deal with a question of this sort after midnight.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
What I said was that the Board of Trade, having the evidence before it, and having heard the witnesses, was in a far better position to judge of the merits than the House of Commons which had no materials before it.
§ * MR. BUCKNILL
said the Government were making a new departure on a most important matter; and the only reasons they had put forward were, first, a saving of time, and, secondly, that the Board of Trade was the best tribunal to settle these matters. He asserted that the Board of Trade, although, of course, competent to deal with such a matter as this, ought not to have the power given to it, to modify and put into an altogether different shape an Order of the Light Railway Commissioners; it ought to be confined to confirming or rejecting the Orders of the Commissioners.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said that several Members on the opposite side, including his right hon. Friend below him, had argued as if all Orders laid on the Table must be discussed. But that was not so. The Amendment was drawn to safeguard the public interest, as represented by the Treasury and by the locality. Four members of any County Council might put the machinery of the Bill into operation; public money might be handed over to a great railway company, and the credit of the locality might be pledged. The Amendment would give the people of a county an opportunity of appealing to the House of Commons if they disagreed with the action of their County Council. There was no intention to cast doubt on the judicial capacity of the Board of Trade, but it was the House of Commons itself that should hold the purse strings and have the last word with the granting of public money. He hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite would take an independent line, and insist upon the House of Commons being in a position to safeguard not in the interests of the taxpayers, but in the interests of the ratepayers in the counties affected by the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said if it was a question between the sanction of Parliament by Provisional Order and the proposal in the Bill a very strong argument might 457 be made for the former. In the case of a Provisional Order, the whole question, if there was opposition, came before a Committee, evidence was taken, and the whole matter was investigated and dealt with in the same way as in an ordinary Railway Bill. But when a former Light Railway Bill came before the House it was agreed on both sides that if procedure by Provisional Order were adopted it would cause such expense and such delay as would prevent light railways being built at all. What was the procedure under this Bill? There was, first of all, to be a public Inquiry before the Light Railway Commissioners. Every person must be informed as to how their interests were to be affected, and the Commissioners would be bound to hear all the objections which might be stated. The Commissioners would not represent any official opinion at all, and would not be dependent upon the votes of one Party or another. They would be a perfectly independent body representing the public, and would judge on public grounds of the propositions which might be laid before them. The Order would then come before the Board of Trade, who would be bound to consider again any objections to any of the propositions in the Order, and would, if necessary, hear counsel and evidence upon the matter. His hon. Friend the Member for Epsom objected to the power of the Board of Trade to modify any Order of the Commissioners. How would it be possible for the Board of Trade to act as a Court of Appeal if they had not the power to make modifications? To suppose, as his hon. Friend did, that this power of modification meant reconstruction of the whole framework of the Order, was to make a supposition of the wildest possible character. He was sure that any one who was aware of what the procedure was in matters of this kind would know that no such operation would take place. The Amendment proposed that after the Order had been carefully considered and assented to by these two tribunals, it should be placed on the Table of the House and decided, perhaps by a Party vote, one way or the other, after 12 o'clock at night, without hearing any evidence whatever and without the power of modification. He could conceive no tribunal less capable of performing such a judicial office as this. It 458 was said that there was no question of expense involved in this proposal. He maintained that there was a very large question of expense involved. What might be the result of this procedure? It might mean the destruction of the whole of the work which had been carried on for months, and the waste of the enormous expense which had been incurred in surveying, investigating, and getting up the case. He believed that if any company or body of persons knew they were liable to have the whole of their labour destroyed and their expenditure wasted by a Party vote in the House of Commons, it would materially affect the number of Orders applied for, and would, in his opinion, greatly and almost fatally damage the operations of the Act. ["Hear, hear!"] These were the reasons which prompted him to decline to accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend, and he hoped the House would agree to the Bill as it stood.
§ * MR. BUCKNILL
asked if it was not a fact that as the Bill was drawn at present the Board of Trade were excluded from hearing viva voce evidence on the objections lodged?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said he had an Amendment down on the Paper on Clause 9, page 6, line 23, to insert after the word "objection" the words "and give those by whom it is made an opportunity of being heard."
§ MR. SOUTTAR
said he felt that if this Amendment were carried the President of the Board of Trade might just as well drop the Bill altogether. The greatest part of the value of the Bill was that the matter was taken out of the hands of Parliament. It was the Parliamentary trouble and complication and expense that made it so hard to get a railway passed nowadays. This Measure had got rid of that Parliamentary complication and expense so far as light railways were concerned. It had not got rid of Parliamentary power. Nothing could prevent the House of Commons from passing a Resolution with regard to any light railway, if it was so disposed. The Amendment invited every railway company to lay its scheme upon the Table, in order that it might be considered by the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Some hon. Members probably thought that would not very often be done. He believed it 459 would be done in the great majority of cases, and he could well conceive that scheme after scheme would be rejected. Before the scheme would be laid on the Table of the House hundreds of pounds would be spent by the promoters, and the President of the Board of Trade very truly said that they would not get promoters to run that risk if they had to lay the matter again in the Parliamentary cauldron, and stand the chance of a Party vote. He felt the President of the Board of Trade was absolutely right in the position he had taken up, and he would gladly support him.
§ MR. LOUGH
said the President of the Board of Trade had admitted that a scheme might be materially altered by his Department, and that for all practical purposes the Board of Trade might assent to a new scheme; and if the Board of Trade demanded the right to supervise every scheme, surely there should be some authority which should investigate the schemes of which the Board of Trade had finally approved. He believed the House was capable of giving votes which were not Party votes, and of distinguishing the subjects on which it was right and proper to give a Party vote. The difficulty which this Bill aimed at obviating was the expense of the present system of promotion in the House of Commons. The Bill very properly obviated all that expense, and why should they not be satisfied with that reward, instead of carrying it so far as to suspend the judgment of the House of Commons altogether? He thought the Amendment might with great safety be accepted by the Government. It was quite possible that jobbery of all kinds might occur in the administration of the drastic powers which they were giving to the Board of Trade and to the Treasury, and he said that if there was a disposition to facilitate a scheme that involved jobbery of any kind, the House of Commons would be, on the whole, a very safe tribunal to submit the investigation of the matter to. He believed the opinion of this House would be of the greatest value and would exercise a correcting influence on schemes which otherwise might have a prejudicial effect on the districts concerned. He thought, considering the vast scope of the provisions involved in the Measure, the Government ought to accept this 460 Amendment. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it would not be necessary to do anything, but he thought it was well this protection should be given.
§ COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
supported the Amendment. He observed that the Board of Trade consisted of a number of permanent salaried gentlemen, and the only responsible man was the President for the time being. He should have every confidence in the present President of the Board of Trade, but cases might arise in which the permanent officials might induce a President to carry out a scheme which would not be for the benefit of the country at large. He was in favour of limiting government by permanent officials, and that was why he should give his support to the Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
had not heard one single substantial argument in favour of the Amendment before the House. It seemed to him that the only case that could be made for the Amendment would be if all these light railways were to be made out of free grants. In that event, of course, Parliament would naturally have to take the matter into consideration. But that was not the case; and he agreed with the views which had been presented by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. It was perfectly obvious that they could not reinstate Parliament again without at once re-opening all the questions of evidence and expenditure, and of testing the whole of these proposals, so that they would re-enact and re-start all the cost and expenditure which the machinery of this Bill was intended to obviate. On the other hand, what were local authorities introduced into the matter for except to guard and protect local interests? If the House cared for the Bill at all they would reject the Amendment by a decisive majority.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK rose to speak, when—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said that, although the question before the House was the Amendment to the Amendment, he had allowed the Debate to cover both Amendments, because it was somewhat difficult to distinguish between what was specially pertinent to each. The right hon. Gentleman had already spoken upon the main question, and, if he proposed to 461 speak again, he must confine himself to the Amendment to the Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MARK OLDROYD (Dewsbury)
said it seemed to him that the Amendment would reader the Bill nugatory, and therefore he should oppose it. The question of Parliamentary control over the public purse was an important one. But here the amount to be dealt with was limited to a certain sum, and there was no danger of financial abuse from the Board of Trade having it committed to their discretion. The adoption of the Amendment would be a serious blow to a Bill which he should very much like to see tried, and, therefore, it was his intention to support the Government.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
, whilst admitting the importance of the question raised, thought the Debate had gone on long enough, and, as both sides of the case had been stated, he appealed to the House to come to a decision.
MR. PARKER SMITH
remarked that, as the Government were not prepared to accept the general Amendment, he should like to ask if they would be prepared to accept an Amendment covering those cases only in which special grants were being made?
§ MR. M. BIDDULPH (Herefordshire, Ross)
considered the objections raised by the supporters of the Amendment were wholly illusory, and contended that there was no real danger from putting this matter in the hands of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. LOGAN
said, he had a strong objection to light railways being made out of public money, but if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to bringing the Orders before the House in regard to the railways that were to be constructed by the aid of these free grants, it would disarm his opposition. Looking at this Bill, he was bound to rise in his place to say it was his intention to support the Amendment. He did so because he strongly objected to free grants being given out of the public funds of this country for the making of railways without the greatest possible checks being placed upon the 462 grants. This Bill was entirely a new departure, and that seemed to him an additional reason why they should not be satisfied with an Order from the Board of Trade sanctioning the making of these railways, but should insist that that Order should be brought for sanction and approval to the House of Commons. He took this action because he believed it was certain the results of the Bill would be detrimental to the best interests of the country. [Cries of "Question!"] That was the question. He had seen hon. Members, who were thus calling out, vote in favour of free grants, because they had admitted to him that among their constituents were a large number of freeholders who would benefit under the Bill. He was astonished at the warmth of the right hon. Gentleman at the idea of bringing forward a Provisional Order to be laid on the Table for the sanction of the House. What did the right hon. Gentleman do when it was a question of supplying the agricultural labourers with a few allotments whereby they might help to eke out a precarious livlihood? Provisional Orders in such cases must be laid on the Table of the House; the labourers might starve in the meantime, but still they must wait until a Provisional Order had passed the House. But now, when it was a case of taxing the poor of this country to find money to make railways in out-of-the-way places where no men of business would think of making them, it was said it was quite good enough that the Order sanctioning the expenditure of the public money should not be laid upon the Table of the House. He should support the Amendment.
§ MR. T. R. LEUTY (Leeds, E.)
could have supported the Amendment to the Amendment had it come before the House. But on the question of the Amendment to the Bill he should have to give his support to the Government, for reasons which he would briefly state. It was provided in the Bill that certain minor legislation should be put into operation by a Government Department. Over this Government Department the House of Commons had a certain control. Surely, also, when the grant included in the Bill was exhausted, the House of Commons would have to vote further money in the way proposed by the Bill. But when for the purpose of making the 463 control of Parliament more complete in every individual case, it was proposed to give the same control to the House of Lords as to the House of Commons, he was bound to vote against a proposal of that kind. Under the present regime the opportunities that would be presented to them of indulging in the happy task of clipping the wings of the other House would be so few, that he did not wish to waste one when it came in his way.
§ Main Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 70; Noes, 167.—(Division List, No. 219.)
§ Clause 11,—