§ On the Order for the Third Reading of this Bill—
§ MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
said, that feeling that the Rules of the House, and the circumstances under which the Bill was carried over from last Session, prevented him from making a Motion for its recommittal, he proposed to move its rejection on the Third Reading.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said the Motion for recommittal would not be in order, but that the hon. Member would be in order in moving that the Bill be read that day six months.
§ MR. FIELD
said he moved the rejection of the Bill on public grounds. It was proposed by the Bill to transfer as a monopoly a public market for the gain of private shareholders, for the market in question was private property. The proposed removal would mean an increase of taxation on the sale of native produce. With the exception of a market at Crewe, this was the only such private cattle market in the whole of the North of England, and the majority of the Members would doubtless agree that such a market in so large a city as 720 Liverpool should be controlled by the Corporation, for the protection of the public interests. Under this private ownership illegal charges had been levied in the market for 20 years past, four-pence per head on beasts and 2s. per score on sheep being charged where only half that amount should have been levied. But these extortionate charges were made the basis of the future schedule of charges to be imposed at Bootle, and the result would be that a protective rate would be paid at Birkenhead on foreign imports to the disadvantage of the native or Irish produce. He was not a Protectionist, but at least the common sense of the House would condemn any system of Protection as against the native producer. The reason why the market was to be changed was that the owners had found it convenient to sell or change the position of the market rather than to embark upon an expenditure of £5,000 or £6,000 to meet modern requirements, now that the market was included within the Liverpool boundaries, the sanitary conditions of the market having been neglected in the past. The whole of the trade were opposed to the change, and it was an extraordinary thing that by this change a large city like Liverpool should be deprived of a market for the sale of native produce. The market was for the sale of Irish and Scotch live stock, not only for Liverpool, but for all the great commercial and industrial centres of the North, and it was proposed to change the market from a position where it had given satisfaction for a number of years in order that the owners might escape the expenses necessary to comply with modern requirements. He asked the House to consider these important points—that 1,000,000 people of Liverpool were to be without a market for the sale of native produce in future, that their native produce was to be at a disadvantage, and that foreign importations should be sold in Birkenhead at a lesser cost and with more convenience than their own produce at Liverpool. The retention of the market in Liverpool was an absolute necessity for English, Irish, and Scotch producers of stock, and he would like to remind the House that although they heard a great deal about foreign competition, as a matter of fact Ireland sent more live stock to Great Britain than all 721 the other countries in the world, and yet, here was Liverpool, which was the greatest market for Irish stock in the three kingdoms, proposing to disestablish the market and place the dealers in Irish stock at a disadvantage as compared with foreign competitors. That he thought was a very strong argument which should weigh with the House in its consideration of this matter. It might be asked how it came about that this market should be moved. It was alleged that where the new market was to be placed in Bootle would be more convenient for the importation of Irish live stock, but that all hung upon one circumstance, and that was that a landing stage should be established lower down the river. The Irish sea captains who brought over the stock, swore before the Committee of the House of Lords that they could not land the live stock, particularly at the season of the year when the larger portion came from Ireland, at the landing stage opposite Bootle. But in addition there was opposition to the Bill by reason of the fact that the live stock would have to be driven through the streets of Liverpool for a long distance. The London and North Western Railway Company had provided facilities at the Prince's Landing Stage, so that any one desirous of avoiding the driving of the cattle through the streets could, with a very little extra cost, have the stock brought up to the market from the stage by train. The Railway Company had a splendid service from Stanley Market to all parts of the kingdom, and by reason of that fact there was no cattle market so suitable as the Liverpool one for the Irish or Scotch live stock trade. Failing a landing stage at Bootle, he would like to point out that the live stock would have to be driven right along all the most congested portion of the quays and it would be next to impossible to get live stock down to Bootle from the Prince's Landing Stage. This was a more important question than would seem at first sight. It meant this, that the greatest market in England for Irish stock was about to be disestablished upon false and flimsy pretences. The reason why he had been desirous of re-committing the Bill was that new matters of fact had arisen which ought to be brought under the consideration of the House or of the 722 Committee which would have to consider the subject. The cattle salesmen who were most interested, did not appear before either House. The gentlemen had been paying double tolls for a period of 20 years, and they had paid these illegal tolls believing them to be legal. They never saw the Act of Parliament which was passed in 1832, and when they appealed to the directors of the market upon the matter, they were told that there was an Act of Parliament which enabled them to charge these double tolls. The salesmen took their word for it, but after the Committee of the House of Lords had given their decision on the Bill they found that they were being charged double tolls. They then appealed to a magistrate at Liverpool, but the case was dismissed. Then they were advised to take proceedings in the Court of Chancery of the County of Lancaster. This they did, and on the 29th of November last the Vice-Chancellor of that Court declared that the owners of the market were only entitled to charge 2d. per beast and 1s. per score of sheep, instead of 4d. and 2s. respectively as they had been doing all this time. The owners of the market were not satisfied with this decision and they appealed to the Court of Appeal. That Court had unanimously affirmed the decision of the Vice-Chancellor and declared the tolls that they had been charging were illegal. There ought to be an objection in a popular assembly like the House of Commons to handing over any monopoly of public rights to private individuals, and whatever might have been the tenour of things in 1832, surely those who represented popular constituencies in the House should not perpetuate a monopoly by handing over a public market to a private company. There was one extraordinary point which he had almost omitted to mention. It was this, that the owners of the Liverpool Cattle Market absolutely controlled for seven miles from the centre of that city the sale of everything in the nature of live stock. They levied a charge upon the sales whether they took place in the market or outside of it, and they did this absolutely without the power being conferred upon them by Act of Parliament. He wanted to know whether in the year 1896, the House of Commons 723 was going, by solemn Resolution, to perpetuate a monopoly and powers which ought not to be granted to private individuals for the purpose of private gain. That was an absurd proposition and he trusted the verdict of the House would show it was so. He trusted all those Members who represented the march of progress would declare war against monopoly, against private gain upon public interests, and would assist him in the endeavour he was making to put an end to this system, which had so long been the curse and bane of Liverpool. He would remind his hon. Friends from Ireland that this meant an imposition upon what unfortunately was almost the only trade they had left to them, and it would be another tax put upon the shoulders of Irish producers for the benefit of a body of private speculators. He, therefore, begged to move that the Bill be read that day six months.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
seconded the Motion for rejection. He thought there were two observations of his hon. Friend which would meet with the assent of all sections of the House. The first was that it was desirable, as a general principle, that such a municipal want as a market should be in the hands of a public rather than of a private body. The second was that as between the cattle of Ireland and the cattle of foreign countries, if any preference was to be given in accommodation and facility for sale, it should be in favour of Irish cattle, and not of foreign cattle. The danger his hon. Friend pointed out was this. The present cattle market was comparatively close to the docks where the cattle were landed. The new market was at a very considerable distance from where the cattle were usually landed. The fear of his hon. Friend was that the inconvenience of getting Irish cattle to the new market would act as an inducement to a large number of salesmen to buy American cattle rather than Irish cattle. It was not to be supposed that any hon. Member would desire to increase the sale of American cattle at the expense of the Irish cattle trade. The second point in his hon. Friend's complaint was that the amount of tolls and charges upon the landing of cattle must have very considerable influence on the cattle trade, and the schedule of tolls 724 fixed for the new market were based on the charges hitherto illegally charged. The tolls originally fixed were 2d. per head of cattle, and 1s. per score of sheep, and these were raised by the Acts of 1869 and 1876 to double that amount. The charges for the Stanley Market were not considered exorbitant by traders, but since then litigation had been carried from court to court, and it had been found that the authorities of the old Stanley Market had acted illegally, that in fact they had charged double the amount they were entitled to, and therefore the whole basis of the proposed charges was removed. What his hon. Friend desired was that the new schedule of tolls in the new market should be fixed, not upon the exorbitant and illegal rate, but upon the old and legal rate of 2d. per head for cattle and 1s. per score of sheep. But his hon. Friend was in the difficulty that the Committee had decided, and it was unlikely that the House would reverse the decision of its Committee. His hon. Friend was precluded by the Rules of procedure from moving the recommittal of the Bill. Under the circumstances all that he could expect was that the Minister of the Crown who was responsible for matters of this kind—the Minister for Agriculture—would bring his influence to bear in favour of the view of his hon. Friend, and in the interest of the Irish cattle trade, and those responsible for the Bill should give an assurance that the views of his hon. Friend should have full consideration in another place.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)
observed that as he had the honour of introducing the Bill to the House, and as it affected his constituency, he had felt it incumbent upon him to ask the House to agree to the Third Reading. The request that had been made by the hon. Member for Dublin was one which ought not to have been put forward, and he would shortly state why. This new Liverpool Cattle Market was to supplant the old or Stanley Market. The old market was insanitary, badly situated, it was not roofed, the soil was pervious to every kind of moisture, it was in the midst of a densely crowded part of Liverpool, had been objected to by the medical authorities and the District Council and though it had 14 years of a lease to run, 725 granted by the Corporation, the latter did not intend to renew the lease. The site of the old market was 7½ acres. The site of the new market was 30 acres and power was given to take 15 additional acres, if it should be requisite. The old market was four miles from the landing stage, cattle were now landed in a weak state from the ships, and had to be driven in herds through crowded streets to the market. So much for the question of convenience. On the other hand, the new market was close to the North Docks of the River Mersey, the cattle could easily be landed, a special landing stage would be built for the purpose and the market would be provided with every modern convenience and every humane appliance. There was another reason why the Bill should be read a Third time. A great deal had been made by its opponents of the increase of toll as illegal. He would point out that this Bill was before a Committee of the House for six days and its opponents did not then think it worth while to allude to the increase of toll. The Bill was read a Third time in that House without opposition; it went to the House of Lords, passed its Second Reading there and was for four days before the Committee in the other House, and not one word was said about the increase of toll. Indeed the Measure would have been read a Third time in the Lords, but for the Dissolution, at which time it only wanted one day to complete its final stage. It was in these circumstances that the Bill now came before them, and to make this opposition to it was practically an abuse of the forms of the House. The Bill had already, as he had explained, been read a Third time by the House of Commons, and if it were to be thrown out now the House would be stultifying the verdict it had previously given.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
did not intend to go into the general question, but the question of tariff was an important one and one of which the House should have cognisance. The standing charge of the Stanley Market had been found to be 50 per cent. higher than was the legal charge. In the Bill promoted by the new company the Stanley Market shareholders were entitled for every £20 value in that concern to rank as holding 726 £100 in the new market. That calculation was made on the basis of the fees which the Court of Appeal had declared to be 50 per cent. above those legally due. If the company came into existence with the shares of the Stanley Market capitalised in the new market at that figure, then the new company would be over-capitalised, with the result that in its fees to the new market the public must pay an extra tax in order to provide the increased dividends for the overcapitalised stock. He submitted, therefore, that this matter ought to be fully gone into and on public grounds this was a question which ought not to be overlooked. It was important that the fees of the cattle market should not be excessive, and in the long run the general consumer was keenly interested in seeing that such fees were fixed on a fair and equitable basis.
§ MR. ALBERT SPICER (Monmouth Boroughs),
as one who sat for six days on the Committee before whom this Bill was considered, desired to say a word or two, as he might possibly take a more impartial view than either the hon. Member for Dublin, who had moved the rejection of the Bill, or the hon. Member for Bootle, who had supported the Third Reading. It was perfectly true that this was merely a question of one monopoly or another. There was an old company and a new one. The next question was that of the suitability of the site. All who sat on the Committee had been convinced that Liverpool had outgrown the present site of the Stanley Market, which on several grounds was unsuitable, one great objection being that the cattle had now to be driven through a residential district. He did not say that the Bootle site was a perfect site. There was a doubt in the minds of the Committee on the subject. But the site would be suitable if a proper landing stage could be arranged for cattle. There was conflicting evidence as to this and consequently the Committee only passed the preamble of the Bill subject to the insertion of a clause that the cattle market at Stanley should be kept open and in working order for the space 727 of at least two years after the completion of the new cattle market, etc. The term ''plant'' was to be deemed to include the erection, with the approval of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, of suitable landing stages conveniently near the site of the market, and the certificate of the Board of Agriculture was to be conclusive evidence that such landing accommodation had been provided. That clause showed there was doubt in the minds of the Committee as to the perfect suitability of this site. With regard to tolls, he was informed that it had been proved that since the Committee sat the tolls at Stanley Market had exceeded the legal amount. But he understood that only the legal charges would be permitted by this Act. The weight of evidence before the Committee was distinct as to the unsuitability of the Stanley Market site, and that provided proper landing stages could be arranged, Bootle Market would be better than Stanley Market.
MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
said, he would not enter in any respect into the merits of the Bill. But before the House decided to reject the Bill it should bear in mind that this Bill went through all its stages last year; that a Committee sat six days upon it in that House, that it passed the Report stage and its Third Reading, and then went to another place where it also passed all its stages except the final one. Under the new Standing Order the House was seised of the Bill again, and he ventured to submit that before the House rejected a Bill with such a history, an overwhelming case should be made out, and it should be shown that something or other had happened in the interval which would justify the House in throwing out a Bill which had passed through all its successive stages. Had such an overwhelming case been made out?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
reminded the hon. Member that legal proceedings with regard to the amount of tolls were pending at the moment the Bill was before the two Houses, and therefore the opponents of the Bill were unable to oppose the part of the Measure relating to them. They were only now able to do so by a decision of the Court of Appeal.
MR. J. W. LOWTHER
said he was coming to that point. As a matter of fact, he believed that while the Bill was in the House no question had arisen as to the legality of the charges. The question did not arise until June or July. Had any overwhelming case been made out for the rejection of this Bill? The question of legality of charges was litigated. A decision was given which had recently been upheld to the effect that these charges were excessive. But, for the future, the charges at the Stanley Market would continue, not on the old basis, but on a new basis. The Stanley Market would no longer be able to make charges which a Court of Law had declared excessive. The charges would be those laid down in the original Act of Parliament. Not only that, but by a clause of this very Bill these charges were to be continued by the new company, during the period of erection of their new premises, and two years besides. The question arose whether the Committee which settled these charges and tolls had all the material upon which to arrive at a decision? The Committee considered the tolls and charges levied in similar markets in other parts of the country. The markets in Glasgow and Birmingham were specially referred to and the scale was fixed after considering these. The Local Government Board had also drawn their attention to them. He had only entered into the merits of the case to show that no such overwhelming case had been made out which would justify the House in throwing out a Bill which, in the ordinary course, but for the interposition of the General Election, would have become law. It would be a dangerous thing, whatever their view of the merits of the case might be, to throw out a Bill which had passed all its stages in that House, and nearly all its stages in another place. He hoped the House would read the Bill a third time, leaving the opponents of the Measure to raise their points in another place.
§ MR. ELLIOTT LEES (Birkenhead)
said the House would not take the extraordinary course it was asked to do, of rejecting a Bill of this kind unless exceptional circumstances were shown. If some new matter had arisen or some great principle was involved, the House might 729 possibly reverse the decision of its Private Bill Committee, which gave painstaking and judicial consideration to every matter brought before them. The only argument the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill had advanced was that the effect of the Bill would be to drive the business in cattle from Bootle to Birkenhead. He only hoped the hon. Member was a true prophet, but for himself he had never heard that the people of Birkenhead anticipated any extraordinary flow of benefit from this Bill. He hoped the House, considering all the circumstances and recognising that only grave arguments should induce it to upset the decision of its Private Bill Committee, would read this Bill a third time.
§ MR. W. FIELD
said, that having heard the discussion, in deference to the wishes of the House he would withdraw his Motion.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question:"—Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to:—Bill read 3a, and passed.