HC Deb 12 June 1896 vol 41 cc945-52

Order for consideration read.

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

MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs) moved:— That the Bill be re-committed to the former Committee, and that it be an Instruction to the Committee to amend the Bill so as to exclude from the proposed extension of the boundaries of the city of Edinburgh that portion of the added area, extending to about, 122 acres, lying to the north of the centre line of the Ferry Road, and on the west of the burgh of Leith, in which the public health hospital of that burgh is situated.

He said the Motion was to have been made by the hon. Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Holborn), who had been, unhappily, prevented by illness from attending. The hon. Member was for many years a citizen of Leith, and a member of the Leith Town Council, and knew the circumstances of the burgh. He (Mr. Munro Ferguson) thought there were substantial considerations why the Motion should be submitted to the House. In the first place it was an appeal from a casting vote decision of the Committee; secondly, it was from a vote which was arrived at by the Committee without having any evidence led by Leith; thirdly, one of the Members who carried the vote gave a decision under a misapprehension of the facts connected, with the drainage area. That hon. Member, he believed, would address the House. A fourth consideration was the action which Edinburgh had pursued towards the burgh of Leith. There might be some difference of opinion whether Leith and Edinburgh should be united, but there could be no difference of opinion on this fact, that in the past as in the present Edinburgh had been somewhat inclined to carry proceedings with a high hand against what Leith conceived to be her interests. When this Extension Bill was brought out last November, and when it was proposed to annex Leith to Edinburgh, the Leith Town Council pointed out at that time to Edinburgh that it was opposed to the Bill, and begged Edinburgh to save them from the cost of contesting it. That request not having been followed, the result was that the Bill was rejected upon the promoters' case so far as the annexation of Leith was concerned. Therefore, having been badly treated by Edinburgh so far, he held that any Motion made with the view to save further costs to the ratepayers of Leith was one that demanded the consideration of the House. Leith now felt obliged to oppose the partial annexation which had been permitted to Edinburgh, which would interfere, or might interfere, with its own expansion if it desired to extend its boundaries at some future date. There was strong reason for the expansion, because the area lying to the east consisted of irrrigated meadows, which were not very suitable for building purposes. The Committee having disposed of other questions, proceeded to deal with what was left of the case for Midlothian, and they also decided to strike out the county area which lay towards the east of the borough. Ultimately, the Committee were informed that an agreement had been arrived at with the county, and they consented to the annexation of a portion of the county to the west of Leith. That portion included the small area now in dispute. He submitted that the agreement ought not to prejudice the interests of the community of Leith. The Corporation of Leith had constructed a special sewer in the area in question for the exclusive use of the hospital. When the Bill was before the Committee, counsel for the Corporation of Edinburgh made a reflection on this sewer which was believed to have influenced the decision of the Committee. If an opportunity had been afforded to the Corporation of Leith to lead evidence, they would have proved not only that such a reflection was unwarranted, but that the plans of the sewer had been submitted to the Local Government Board and the Board of Trade, and endorsed by these bodies respectively as good. The Corporation of Leith contended that it was not expedient that the hospital and sewer should be placed within the jurisdiction of the City of Edinburgh. The ordinary drainage of that area must be taken through the burgh of Leith, and the sewage plan of the district had been designed accordingly. There was no other means of drainage except by the sewers of Leith, and there was a binding agreement between the owners of property and the burgh of Leith to facilitate the drainage by Leith of the area in question. The area was mainly agricultural land, there being only forty dwelling-houses within it. The petitioners submitted that there was no ground to justify the expansion of the City of Edinburgh in the manner proposed, and they contended that the area in question should not be retained in the present Bill. The Corporation of Leith had already been put to very heavy charges in opposing what they considered to be an aggressive and unnecessary Measure. The revenue of Leith was very small compared with that of Edinburgh, and this Motion was made for the protection of the interests of the ratepayers of Leith.


formally seconded the Motion.


, who was received with Ministerial cheers, said it was little short of lamentable, on an evening when there was a Measure of first-class importance, with which all sections of the House were anxious to make reasonable and substantial progress, that they should have the time of the House practically squandered with the discussion of a small matter of this sort. [Mr. MUNRO FERGUSON: "Oh, oh!" and Ministerial cheers.] The character of the Motion of the hon. Member for Leith was such that he might almost call it a misuse of the forms of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] This Bill had been before the Committee upstairs for 12 days, and had undergone the most careful and ample investigation; and the House was now asked, on a single point which had received the closest examination, to reverse the decision of the Committee, and thus stultify their action. Was the House going to stultify its own forms of procedure by reversing a decision arrived at by one of its own Committees after ample and sufficient investigation? The city of Edinburgh had promoted this Bill to extend its frontiers—first by the absorption of Leith, and secondly by the unification of its own parishes, parts of which had hitherto been within the limits of the county. In the first object Edinburgh had failed, and he would not say whether Leith had merely been struggling against what was ultimately inevitable; but in the second object Edinburgh had succeeded, and yet it was now proposed to detach from the parish an area of 124 acres, because in a remote corner of that area Leith had built or was about to build an hospital. That was no cogent argument, for Edinburgh possessed an hospital within the boundaries of the parish of Leith, and another at Colington, which was in the county of Midlothian; and yet it had never been proposed by Edinburgh to annex these areas simply because they had hospitals there. Leith, indeed, had no locus standi. The parties were the city of Edinburgh, the county of Midlothian, and the ratepayers, who were practically unanimous in desiring to get this Bill as it left the Committee. The truth was that this was an attempt to prove the preamble of a Bill which as yet existed only in the imagination of some people in Leith who desired to extend their own boundaries, and had adopted this expedient as one which might afterwards save them the expense of proving the preamble when the Bill appeared. He hoped that the facts he had stated would be borne out by the hon. Gentleman who presided over the Committee, and that the House would be able to come to a speedy decision.

* MAJOR BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)

said that in the Committee Edinburgh had arranged the rating difficulty in connection with the Leith Hospital, and that had removed one objection which he at first entertained to giving this triangular area to Edinburgh. Another objection in Committee was that this seemed to be hemming Leith in on the west. But the consideration of drainage overcame his objection. This ground was feuing land, and ought to cease to belong to a county authority, and become part of an urban authority, either Edinburgh or Leith. Leith had no Bill before them, and there were strong reasons for putting this area into Edinburgh. It was not brought before the Committee that Leith had come to an agreement with the owner of this feuing land to carry the drainage of the district through the Leith drains, as the Member for Leith stated. Leith had chosen to leave its case on that point to the county of Midlothian, and when the county came to an agreement with the city of Edinburgh the county did not carry on the case further. Therefore it was the fault of Leith in joining with the county if its evidence was not heard. This triangular portion would be very advantageous to Edinburgh, enabling it, instead of sending its drainage into Leith sewers, to conduct its drainage down to within 400 yards of the sea, and thence out into the middle of the Firth. That was one reason for giving that area to Edinburgh; and another was that the inhabitants in and around that area were shown to be in favour of amalgamation with Edinburgh. On all these considerations he thought the House would see that the Committee had acted rightly in this matter.

MR. WILLIAM ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

said he was a member of the Committee who considerd this Bill, and to his mind there were overwhelming considerations why this area should be excluded from the Edinburgh Extension. For a long time there had been antagonism between Leith and Edinburgh, and the authorities of the latter had declared again and again that they would either absorb Leith or hem it in on every side, so as hereafter to force Leith to come within the Edinburgh boundary. The Committee had safeguarded Leith on the east, but on the question of this particular area, it was only by the casting vote of the Chairman that it was given to Edinburgh. On that land Leith had built its hospital, and under the Public Health (Scotland) Act of 1890 it was laid down that the hospital, for public health purposes, was part of Leith. If that land was included in the city of Edinburgh, the result would be that the portion on which the hospital stood, and the hospital itself, would be for public health purposes in Leith, and for other purposes it would be in Edinburgh. There would thus be two jurisdictions, which would be a most inconvenient arrangement. The House had a strong precedent for adopting the course proposed by the Member for Leith, in the case of the attempts made by Glasgow to incorporate Govan.

MR. ARTHUR PEASE (Darlington)

said that, as Chairman of the Committee, he wished the House to understand that this area was a portion of the landward part of the parish of Edinburgh. The whole of the landward parts of the parish had, by agreement with the county, now been absorbed in the city of Edinburgh, and when they came to deal with this particular portion the Committee had these considerations before them. At present the county had no sanitary or building regulations, and no power to make them. They had also the fact that this land was at present being devoted to feuing and building, and, therefore, if it were built upon, a nuisance might be created in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh if houses were improperly built, or no proper sanitary regulations were made. Another fact should also weigh with the House, and that was that the western portion of the burgh of Leith was favourable to incorporation with Edinburgh. Indeed, at a recent municipal election in Leith, the candidate opposed to amalgamation was defeated. The only question, therefore, was whether there were any circumstances which should prevent them assenting to an arrangement made between Edinburgh and the county of Midlothian, which was perfectly satisfactory to those parties, because of some prospective interest the burgh of Leith might have in this property. All the circumstances were thoroughly gone into by the Committee. His opinion was very strongly in favour of the decision of the Committee, and he hoped the House would support that decision.

MR. ROBERT WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

said he wished in a few words to give expression to the feeling of Edinburgh in the matter. The hon. Member for Leith had spoken very strongly on the other side of the question, and he must say that he was surprised that a gentleman of the hon. Member's traditions should undertake, upon such slight grounds, to oppose what was the general rule of the House—that a vote of a Select Committee should be accepted by the House. ["Hear, hear!"] And he ventured to put forward that general principle as one of the strong prevailing reasons why the House should reject the proposal made by his hon. Friend. Further than that, great weight ought to be attached by the House to the general consensus of opinion in Edinburgh in favour of the proposed extension. One hon. Member who opposed it had mentioned that 70,000 people—the population of Leith—were opposed to it; but on the other hand there were 270,000 persons in Edinburgh who were in favour of it. ["Hear, hear!"] Surely, that fact ought to be taken into account. He was satisfied that there was no injustice whatever involved in the desire by Edinburgh to acquire the extension in question. All that Edinburgh was asking for was that with the extension of its boundaries should go the power over its own water supply. For him that was a very important consideration, and he would point out further that there was no diversity of opinion whatever among the representatives of Edinburgh on both sides of the House on the matter. Under those circumstances he confidently appealed to the House to follow the general rule and affirm the decision of the Select Committee. [Hear, hear!"]

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

The House divided:—Ayes, 249; Noes, 81.—(Division List, No. 238.)

Main Question put, and agreed to; Bill considered.

Clause added.

Bill to be read the Third time.

Forward to