HC Deb 01 July 1897 vol 50 cc857-8

On the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill,


said that the position of Belfast in regard to its water supply was peculiar, as the supply was under the control, not of the Corporation, but of a special Board of Commissioners. A large number of applications had been made to Parliament during the last 20 years by the Board for authority to increase their borrowing powers, and the present Measure had a similar object in view. The point to which he desired specially to draw attention was this: As would be in the recollection of the House, the district governed by the Corporation of Belfast had been recently extended, and had been divided into 15 wards, which was the result of a compromise between the Catholics, the Protestants, and other religious denominations of Belfast. The result of the compromise was to give the Catholics, who had never previously been represented on the Municipal Council, such a representation as would ensure their voice being heard, although he would not say that they received a fair share of the representation. The present Bill contained clauses which were drafted in view of the alteration of the wards of Belfast, and Clause 15 provided that there should only be one representative from each of the 15 wards on the Water Board. It would be remembered that after the discussion that took place on the Municipal Bill, two of the wards were so limited as to give them practically to the Catholics, which would give the Catholics six members on the Municipal Council, namely, three for each ward. But under the provisions of the present Bill the Catholics would only obtain two members on the Water Board, namely, one for each of the two wards appropriated to them, and consequently a large section of the Nationalists of Belfast thought that they would not be in as good a position on the Water Board as they were in regard to the Municipal Council. Unless some satisfactory settlement could be arrived at upon this point, he should be compelled to move an Instruction to the Committee as to altering the number of the Commissioners. He could see no ground on which the Water Board could object to an increase of the numbers, especially now that the district itself had been largely extended. He should suggest, in order to meet the point raised, that the numbers of the Water Commissioners should be increased from 15 to 30 or 45, so as to give the Catholics a representation of from four to six on the Board. Furthermore, he thought that it would be an improvement to incorporate the provisions in Clause 68 of the Municipal Act, which provided for the retirement of the Commissioners. By that clause it was provided that all the Commissioners should retire once in three years, but he should suggest that only one-third should retire every year. He should not attempt to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, but he should like to know what were the views of those in charge of the Bill, because if they could not arrive at some satisfactory agreement upon the point, he should be compelled to move the Instruction which he had indicated.

Bill read a Second time, and committed.

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